Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Video #46: Vacation

Since I'm off to the beach at Ocean City MD/Rehoboth Beach DE this weekend, I thought I'd post a couple of vacation-themed music videos.

First here's "V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N" by Puffy AmiYumi. This track originally appeared on Solo Solo as a solo track by Yumi Yoshimura back in 1997. It also appeared on their 2004 compilation album Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi.

It was twenty-five years ago this summer that the Go-Go's "Vacation" was released, which would hit #8 on the US pop charts. Here is the is the classic video clip where they are done up as water skiers, with stunt doubles doing the actual water skiing.

Have a fun (and safe) Labor Day weekend!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Summer by the Raven's poolside finally!

Believe it or not yesterday was the first day i've been poolside at the Raven in New Hope PA this summer. I've been meaning to be up there earlier but I wasn't able to for a couple of different reasons. But recently I've been doing some extra work so I figured I might as well go up there now before the summer's over. So yesterday I drove into Center City Philly to pick up my friend Richard and then we headed up on I-95 North up to New Hope. We arrived at the Raven about 11AM and we found out that we had to pay $10.00 each to be at the pool during weekends now, where it was $5 in previous years. (They still charge $5 during weekdays.) The sky was cloudy and overcast that morning, even thought it was humid and the tempature was in the 80s. But the sun kept peeking out of the clouds as the day went on and by three in the afternoon, the sky had pretty much cleared and the sun was out in full force. Not many people were there at the pool when we arrived, but the crowd trickled in during the afternoon. Richard and I had a blast there. We stayed until five, where I drove him back to Philly (we did stop along the way at McDonald's in Levitown for dinner) and dropped him off before going home myself.

BTW I'm going to be doing quite a bit of housework this week before I go down to the shore on Labor Day weekend. I'll be doing some cleaning out in both the physical and mental sense so I won't have a lot on my mind when I'm on vacation. Housework can be theraputic, no?


Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday VIdeo #45: The Go-Go's

You can't talk about summer music if you don't include some Go-Go's. Here is the video to their 1984 single "Turn To You," which was the second single off their Talk Show album. Here the members of the band both portray debutantes from the early 60s and the male members of the prom band. (Gender-bending was really big in pop music at that time, such as Boy George and Annie Lennox riding high on the pop charts.) The video was directed by Mary Lambert, who also directed several Madonna videos such as "Borderline" and "Like A Prayer." Notice that Rob Lowe also makes an appearance in the clip.

Below is a behind-the-scenes look at making the video, which I think was done for Radio 1990, a music video program that ran on USA network (the same channel that also ran Night Flight).

"Turn To You" would hit #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the summer of 1984. It would be their last single to hit the US Top 40. The following year the band broke up and wouldn't do their first reunion until 1990.

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The beat may go on for Madonna, but not for me

A new Madonna song "The Beat Goes On," featuring the production of Pharrell Williams, has been leaked to the net. No word if this is supposed to be the first single from her upcoming album, which I like to call My Ghetto Pass To Clear Channel, or even if it'll be on the album at all.

After hearing this I wasn't all that impressed. The whole "let's do something different" spoken word intro between Madonna and Pharrell is so canned and phoney. It would have been more honest if they said something like "Let's do something that US radio will play the shit out of." It sounds like a knock-off of Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You" (itself no great shakes, being a knock-off of Michael Jackson's shitck).

After hearing this, I miss Confessions Madonna already. Wish that she covered the Sonny and Cher song by the same name instead.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday VIdeo #44: BearForce1

Meet what's claimed as "the world's first bearband," BearForce1. Already their video of their first single, which is a medley of 80s Euro-dance-pop hits, has gotten a lot of buzz on the gay blogosphere. Kind of cheesy, but it's fun!

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Summer Of Frustration

I have to say that this summer has been a bit of a frustating one. Though it started out fine with Memorial Day weekend down at the beach and the Gay Pride events in June, but by July money had become so tight that there wasn't a whole lot I could do, thus I had to pass up a couple of events I would have loved to be at. (Such as Rufus Wainwright playing at the Mann Center in Philly tonight; I really couldn't afford a ticket.) In addition I've had a health problem (I'll tell you more about that sometime) where I couldn't go on dates or whatever, so it's had a negative effect on my social life. Never have I felt so grounded during summer. Fortunately things have been looking up in the past couple of weeks--healthwise I'm better, and I've gotten some extra hours at my day job (which means more money). So hopefully summer will end up on a good note at least, and there are some things I want to do before fall comes around.

On a side note, I went to see the Dumpsta' Players at Bob and Barbara's Wednesday night and I had a blast. Great show!


Explaining the title of this blog

I know I've explained this before when I first started this blog two years ago, but I figured that not everyone had gone that far back to read it, so I'll explain again why I chose the title. It's meant to be quite tounge in cheek. When I started this I needed a title. I had recently read Painfully Obvious by Robert Davolt and I remembered one passage where he was talking about journalism for the leather press and community journalism, and then he started get sarcastc on how the Internet affected it:

"Now there is the Internet--Man's highest achievement in communications. Twenty-eight million websites all screaming into the cosmic void: 'I EXIST!...and I have a cat.'"

Already a lot people were already blogging and when I started this I had my doubts that the world really needed another blogger. So the Robert Davolt quote sounded like a good idea for a blog title.

And in case you've asked: yes, I do have a cat. A black American Shorthair.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Disco 1979 = Rap 2008 = Overkill?

Back in 1979 it seemed like everyone and their mother had a disco album out that year. The mega success of Saturday Night Fever the previous year prompted record companies to try to mass produce disco hits. This often meant that a musical act was shoehorned into a disco song regardless if the genre was appropriate for the artist or not. With some acts it was a career builder ("Heart Of Glass" gave Blondie their breakthrough hit in the US, while "Take Me Home" was Cher's first Top Ten hit in five years). Other times it turned out just to be a desperate attempt to catch up with the times (The Ethel Merman Disco Album!) that failed to set the world afire. Such overkill was one of the reasons why disco's mainstream popularity died out in the end of the decade.

Nowadays record companies are desperate to crank out hits that cater to the rap crowd, particularly with productions by Timbaland. You turn on Top 40 radio and it just seemed to be the same old hippity-hoppity-clappity groove these days. Madonna, figuring that she wanted to get massive US radio airplay and noticed that the bouncy Euro-dance rhythms of her last album pretty much weren't doing the job, hired Timbaland and hip-hop/pop posterboy Justin Timberlake, as well as fellow hip-hop producer Pharrell, to work on tracks for her lastest album, which is planned for release this November. Duran Duran also hired Timbaland and Timberlake on their most recent album as well; on the album's first single "Night Runner" you can hear T&T's fingerprints all over that damn song, and at the expense of the band's musical identity. But the real indicator that we might be headed for a big hip-hop overkill is that Celine Dion has been threatening to work with Timbaland as well. (I don't know if this is true but this sounds like a Ethel Merman Disco Album moment waiting to happen!) Again artists are shoehorned into working in a genre that might not be appropriate from them, just so they can get some Clear Channel radio play in the short-run. Pretty soon it'll seem like everyone and their mother will have a record that's produced by Timbaland. Different decade, different musical genre, same old record company overkill.



I recently decided to change my blogroll by cancelling a couple of links that don't work anymore and adding a couple of new blog links to it. Just added are XO's Middle Eight, which is a music blog, and Pax Romano's Ramblings.

I'm also considering putting the links to the blogs in one section, and the links to the regular websites in another. Right now they're both on the same blogroll. Would it be better if they're in separate "Blogs" and "Other Links" listings?


Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Video #43: She's Homeless

Designer Jay McCarroll, the first season winner of Project Runway, was one of the people featured in a new article by New York Magazine on what happens to Bravo reality show contestants after their fifteen minutes are up. It declared that Jay was "homeless." He said that “I haven’t been living anywhere for two years...I sleep at other people’s houses. I sleep here [in my studio] if I’m drunk.”

The same day the article came out, a video was posted on YouTube where Jay, wearing a tacky wig and mismatched outfit, wanders the streets of NYC carrying a sign that says "Will Design For Food." To the tune of Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)." Reality TV stars can have a sense of humor!

UPDATE: Page Six of the New York Post reaveled that Jay's comments to New York magazine were meant to be sarcastic. A friend said that “Jay is not homeless. He lives in a beautiful building on the Upper West Side, and has recently been tapped to head up the re-launch of classic ’80s sportswear brand Camp Beverly Hills, and also has his own line and show premiering on QVC this fall.”

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Second Anniversary

Didn't think of this until now, but it was two years ago today that I did my first blog post. I admit that there has been a dry spell here in the past few months but hopefully that's past now and I'll be posting more stuff here now. I want to write more music stuff. I want to uise my blogging as an opprotunity for getting out and exploring the world some more. I want to get a digital camera to take more pictures (I've used those disposable digital cameras from CVS in the past). I want blah blah blah. Anyway hope that you'll stick around in the future, I've got more and better stuff on the way.


My latest Philly Gay Calendar column

The latest edition of my column is up and running. Here I talk about the Dumspta' Players and their upcoming August 15th show, Chardonna Jenkins: Pari$$$ Or Bust!


This is why the music industry is in the crapper

Up until now you could buy Amy Winehouse's debut CD Frank (which released back in 2003) in shops as an import. But recently Amy's US label Universal has sent letters threatening to sue retailers if they keep selling import copies of that album, since the label plans to release a US version of the album in November.

Excuse me, but couldn't Universal bump up the release date of Frank instead of making Amy's American fans wait for it? Instead of waiting for it, those fans will either go download it on P2P networks, have a friend who already has a copy to burn one for them, or go to a foreign retailer's website like and order it for there. The album is already done, considering that it's been out there for almost four years now. Are the staff at Universal US too lazy to bother to release it here now instead of taking their damn sweet time to release it here in November? And in the meantime they are making the stores stop selling physical product that paying customers want.

And they wonder why the record industry is going down the toilet.

Hell, this could drive you to drink. Which will mean that you'll have some interesting company.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Video #42: Deee-Lite

Fifteen years ago the soundtrack of my summer was Deee-lite's Infinity Within, the follow-up to their 1990 hit album World Clique (which included "Groove Is In The Heart"). The album, released in June 1992, had their usually good house beats, but this time around they were starting to give interviews that they wanted to write material that had a message as well, like "We're not just marshmellows, we really care." This turned up in a few songs here, including ones on safe sex ("Rubber Lover," which had a good techno/rave beat that was all the rage that summer), the corruption of the judicial system ("Fuddy Duddy Judge"), the enviroment ("I Had A Dream I Was Falling Through A Hole In The Ozone Layer," which was actually a leftover from the World Clique sessions) and the voting public service announcement("Vote Baby Vote"). Reviews of the album focused on those songs at the expense of the other songs of the disc, which gave the appearance that Deee-Lite was starting to get preachy. Actually they had some "fun" stuff as well"--"Pussycat Meow" was a fun techno-pop romp in the same league as "What Is Love?" from their previous album. "Electric Shock" was a mellow house number that was great to play on a rainy day, amd "Two Clouds Above Nine" had some good ragga-chanting. Also a lot was written about the CD being originally issued in an "eco-pack" that was mostly paper packaging that the customer folded into the shape of a digpack CD case once purchased. (Remember when CD's were being sold in cardboard longboxes that you just threw away when you've opened it?)

The video shown here, "Runaway," was the first single from Infinity Within. Even though the video did get some airplay on MTV and BET and the song did get to #1 on Billboard's Dance chart, it failed to cross over to the pop charts. Two more singles ("Thank You Everyday" and "Pussycat Meow") would be released but just appeared on the dance charts as well. Deee-Lite would release one more album before breaking up in 1996. Vocalist Lady Miss Kier is now DJing these days, including a gig she did at the opening party of the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last month.

Note near the end of this video you can also hear a snippet of the first track from Infinity Within, "I.F.O.(Identified Flying Object)." Also notice Miss Kier's resembling a little bit like Bridget Bardot-gone-beatnik here, as opposed to the Mary Tyler Moore-circa-1962-gone-pyschedelic look from the "Groove Is In The Heart" days.

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A Bad Summer For Paula and Kelly

This summer hasn't been a good one for the two biggest women associated with the hit TV show American Idol.

Recently I have been watching Hey Paula, a "reality" TV show on the Bravo Network that covers the behind-the-scenes of the life of Paula Abdul. (Last night was the season's final episode.) She prepares for another season of promoting and judging American Idol, develops the movie Bratz, works on creating her perfume, selling her jewelery line, accepting awards, etc. etc.

Needless to say, Paula is very busy. And exhausted. And hungry. And she's often late to pick up all those damn piss-ant awards she's getting. She suffers from insomia and half the time when she talks her mouth doesn't open and her teeth and clenched. She acts like she has a big sense of entitlement and relies on her assistants very often--at one point when a crisis happens she cries "Who is going to train her to take care of me? ME?" And she tends to break down into a crying fit over some mess-up every now and then. In a nutshell, her life is very topsy-turvy.

Paula goes to a perfume lab to work on creating her perfume and is seen sniffing so many chemicals that you'd think that she was making a designer line of poppers instead. While promoting American Idol she gives a bunch of TV interviews when she behaves erraticly and it is assumed that she's drunk, crazy, or both. Team Paula attempts to give their own spin on the incident, saying that Paula was not drunk when she gave those interviews. (It is explained that Paula was exhausted and coming down with the flu.) She goes to QVC Home Shopping Network (which BTW is practically down the street where I live, oh to be a fly on the wall there) to sell her jewelery and when she finds out that her request to set some jewelery aside for her was not followed she whines "I'm tired of people not treating me like the gift that I am."

As the clip below shows you, her craziness and self-absorption rises to a fever pitch when she comes back from her QVC stint and finds out that she is not wanted for the Bratz movie (she wanted to executive produce, choreograph and design the costumes), she has yet another meltdown crying "Where's God when you need him?" When her assistants try to comfort her, she screams "I'M TRYING TO TELL A GODDAMN STORY!" A trainwreck that's just a rung below Anna Nicole Smith. (And you can bet that when the film's execs saw this they thought "That just confirms that the bitch is crazy, thank Christ that we dumped her before she made a mess with the production of this movie.")

If Hey Paula is meant to be damage control, saying that Paula is just a regular working girl who's not strung out on pills or drunk or whatever, then the show failed its mission grandly. One cannot believe that she allow cameras to tape her every move in the state she was in. Certainly the folks at Fox and American Idol are not happy about the bad PR. What Paula needs to do is to step back, stop insisting on packing so much stuff into each day, and fix her schedule so that she has time to eat and sleep. If she did just that she might not be living in drama 24/7.

Speaking of AI alumni, this isn't a good time for first season's winner Kelly Clarkson either. During the spring and summer she mostly has been on the receiving end of a very public feud with Clive Davis, the head of her record company Sony-BMG. It seemed that Clive didn't think that her latest album My December was up to snuff and made some behind-the-scenes comments about that. He even went so far to suggest scrapping the album and record a whole new album featuring tunes that he'd approve of instead. Kelly insisted on releasing My December as it was and went public with her feud with Davis by giving interviews stating her struggle to record the album on her terms. She said that she was being handed songs that were rejected by the likes of Lindsey Lohan and (rightly) refused to record them, insisting that she could write better material than Lindsey's sloppy seconds. She said,"I am a good singer, so I can't possibly be a good writer. Women can't possibly be good at two things. I haven't lost my temper about it. It only drives me more. If your thing is to bring me down, cool. I'll just work harder." My December would be a more aggressively rock-sounding album than her previous efforts, and she would write or co-write on every track on the album this time around. She was aiming to truly be Miss Independent this time around.

However, a few things happened to mess up her plans. She fired her manager shortly before the album was released, which sent out distress signals that the album was not going to be a commercial blockbuster. Plans for a summer all-stadium tour were cancelled because ticket sales were low. And Kelly herself wound up being caught up in her own bravado making a couple of comments that were less tactful than they needed to be. In an interview with Blender she described her fighting with Clive: “I was like, 'I don't know you very well, and I am not a bullshitter. I get you don't like the album. You're eighty; you're not supposed to like my album.' ” In another interview she, by implication, upped Clive's age by twenty years. (Clive Davis is actually 74.)

Then there was the reception of My December. The album's first single, "Never Again," hit the US Top Ten, but that more due to sales from downloads rather than by radio airplay. The second single, "Sober," did worse, probably because the subject matter she was singing about was deemed too downbeat for US pop radio. The album sold 291,000 copies in its first week in the US but it failed to take the top spot of the album chart (that went to the Hanna Montana CD, a product of the Disney company). So far the album went on to sell 536,000 copies in the United States and 840,000 copies worldwide. But with declining sales each additional week passed by and the lack of a radio hit this time around, My December was starting to be perceived as a commercal turkey. (In comparison her previous album had sold 5.7 millions copies in the US alone.)

(I've heard the album when it came out. After reading about the controversy with the label politics, hearing the actual album turned out to be a big anti-climax. You read about the feud and think that her album is going to a great album that'll break new ground, but it mostly ends up sounding like someone who was trying to be the chick singer for Evanscence. Mostly typical stuff in a commercial rock vein that doesn't stand out all that much. It seems that as a songwriter Kelly's ambitions were higher than her actual grasp. There were a couple cuts from My December I did like--"Never Again" was a good first single with its nervous-sounding guitar strumming (and a great dance remix by Dave Aude to boot) and "One Minute" is a catchy dance-rock groove a la Franz Ferdinand. In the end, overall it just sounds like another rock record on your typical coporate radio station.)

Another theory why this album didn't perform to previous expectations is that maybe the public considered that Kelly went too much in a rock direction for them to handle; they likely perferred to dote on the faux-rock pop of Avril Lavigne instead. Also these days there aren't that many spots for female rock performers (as opposed to pop) on coporate radio stations, and since Kelly gained her fame through what was a glorified karoke contest, the rock audience would have trouble seeing the authenticity in her new musical direction. Maybe that was why Clive didn't see the album as something with great commercial potential as it was.

With new management in tow, efforts were made to save Kelly's career. Kelly stopped giving interviews. She made a public statement on her website saying that all of the fuss regarding her "feud" with her label has been "blown way out of proportion." She (or the new management?) wrote: "Contrary to recent characterizations in the press, I’m well aware that Clive is one of the great record men of all time...He has also given me respect by releasing my new album when he was not obligated to do so. I really regret how this has turned out and I apologize to those whom I have done disservice. I would never intentionally hurt anyone. I love music, and I love the people I am blessed to work with. I am happy that my team is behind me and I look forward to the future." Some people perceived this statement that Clive was now the winner of this feud.

Kelly is now slated to a make an apperance on fifth season of Canadian Idol, coaching the top five contestants and performing on the results show the next night. A club tour in the fall is also planned. Plus she has agreed to start working on a new album right away, which will be released in 2008. It's back to pop for her, and no doubt Clive will be picking the tunes this time around. "A Moment Like This, Part 13" anyone?

Poor Kelly, who wanted to been seen as more than just a voice that sang whatever was handed to her. But thanks to an industry that believes that, as the Depeche Mode songs goes, "Everything counts in large amounts," she was going to be now seen as someone who tried to "stick it to the man" but wound up as Clive's bitch instead. It sounds like a Shakesparean tragedy in the making.

Like I said before, this hasn't been a good summer for the women of American Idol, where Paula and Kelly had to learn the hard way that the "Any publicity is good publicity" statement doesn't always work. You can likely bet that Carrie Underwood, another AI winner who has a new album coming out in the fall, is crossing her fingers that the jinx that those two are having doesn't spread to her as well!

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Elton Says Get Off The Net!

Legendary pop star Elton John has been known to throw an occasional shit-fit every now and then. His latest one was on the effect the internet was having on music:

“The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff."

“Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision."

“It’s just a means to an end."

“We’re talking about things that are going to change the world and change the way people listen to music and that’s not going to happen with people blogging on the internet.

“I mean, get out there — communicate."

"Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet."

“Let’s get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging!"

Even though I personally have gotten to know people and make new friends through my blogging, I have to agree he does has a point. The interent is not a subsitute for human contact.

Elton admits that “I am the biggest technophobe of all time. I don’t have a mobile phone or an iPod or anything. I am such a Luddite when it comes to making music. All I can do is write at the piano.”

He suggested that "it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span--I’m sure, as far as music goes, it would be much more interesting than it is today.”

“In the early Seventies there were at least ten albums released every week that were fantastic."

“Now you’re lucky to find ten albums a year of that quality. And there are more albums released each week now than there were then.”

But I'd have to say that increasingly bad coporate radio and the demand that musicians to create music to be played on the guidelines of what those corporations want would be more to blame for the decline of music than the internet itself...

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