Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Video #73: IML 1986

Since this weekend the annual International Mr. Leather Contest is happening in Chicago, I'd like to show a clip of the highlights from the 1986 IML contest, courtesy of the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago. BTW that would be the only year that a contestant from Philadelphia would win that title (so far). (P.S. it's kind of NSFW.)

I wish I could say that I was going there this year, but I'm not. Hopefully I'll be there sometime before I die.

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Baltimore Gay Bookstore closes

Earlier this month I went down to Baltimore to attend the COMMAND MC's 20th anniversary dinner (which was a blast). While I was down there I found out that the Lambda Rising bookstore there was closing its doors (they were having a 30% off sale on their books). I guess that they could no longer take the competition with the big-chain bookstores and the internet. Which is a shame really. (There are no plans to close the Lambda Rising bookstores in DC and Rehoboth Beach fortuneately.)

It seems like a lot of place I like to frequent are now closing or are in danger of closing. If it's not gay bookstores (I hope that Giovanni's Room here in Philly won't close their doors anytime soon), it's record stores (good-bye Tower Records, Spaceboy Music, etc.). And if it's not that, it's gay bars; Last week I heard that the Raven in New Hope have closed up, and just before the summer starts, talk about bad timing. Sometimes it feels the circles I go around in are under siege these days.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Pre-Mom's Day Philadelphians MC social Saturday!

The Philadelphians MC’s Pre-Mom's Day Social will be on Saturday May 3 from 9PM to 1AM on the main floor of the Bike Stop, which is on 206 South Quince Street in Philly. 50/50 raffle, Michelob Beer, the usual bells and whistles. See you there!

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Hot Candy Mess

Okay the new Madonna album Hard Candy finally came out on Tuesday. So far after a few listens I'm 50/50 on it. Better than I thought it would be, but still I think that this is one of her weaker albums. It's a little too slavishly faithful to the hip-hop-pop formula for my tastes. The tracks that comes off the best IMHO are the ones that stray the furthest from that formula.

There has been some comparisons between this album and Bedtime Stories, and I think that they are kind of off. While both employed up-to-the-minute "urban" producers, the two have very different vibes. BS has a smooth, laid-back vibe, while HC goes in the opposite direction with a more assertive, in-your-face, and "hard" feeling. Plus when Madonna did Bedtime Stories she pretty much could do whatever she wanted she could get US radio airplay. That's no longer the case given in the past few years the Hot 100 chart positions of singles like "Hung Up" and "American Life" were more fueled singles and download sales rather than airplay. With Hard Candy, Madonna clearly wants to have a US radio hit and she's more than willing--desperate even--to submerge her own identity in the shadow of the name hip-hop producers in order to get some airtime along with the Pussycat Dolls of the US airwaves.

Here's my impression of the tracks:

1. Candy Shop - It's an improvement on the leaked version that came out last year, but still it's a bit of a weak kick-off for the album, and the candy-as-sex theme has already used in pop/rap records in the past couple of years, such as 50 Cent's "Candy Shop," Mika's "Lollipop," and most recently,Lil Wayne's "Lollipop." Though I think that given the type of songs that get played on US pop radio these days, if this becomes a single, it will become mind-numbingly big on the US charts.

2. 4 Minutes - I've kind of warmed up to this, but I still think that it's a hot mess. This would have worked better if Madonna had done this as a solo record instead of a duet with Justin Timberlake/Timbaland. With all three singing lead it becomes a bit too much.

3. Give It 2 Me - Not a bad choice for the second single. This is Madge's version of "Maneater," only with a more synthy sound. Funny considering that this track actually was produced by Pharrell Williams, not by Timbaland who produced that Nelly Futardo single.

4. Heartbeat - would have made a better impression on me if there was less of that hippity-hoppity-clappity production.

5. Miles Away - This is probably my favorite song the album. It sounds like something from the American Life era, only it's filtered through Timbaland.

6. She's Not Me - With a joyous vibe that harks back to her debut album, this would have been great if it was edited down to four minutes. At 6+ minutes it a bit of a drag.

7. Incredible - Also could have been edited down to 3-4 minutes as well.

8. The Beat Goes On - The album version no longer sounds the knock-off of Justin's "Like I Love You" like the leaked version was last year, but still it's not all that interesting. Not worthy single material.

9. Dance 2night - Another duet with Timberlake. The track that uses the most hip-hop-pop cliches and ends up being the creative nadir of the album IMHO.

10. Spanish Lesson - Pharrell Williams gets all Evita. Nuf said.

11. Devil Wouldn't Recognize You - The devil should have edited this one down instead; it too drags at its 5+ minute length.

12. Voices - This track reminds me of that Paul Oakenfold remix of Mark Ronson/Daniel Merriweather's "Stop Me" with its moody synths over the drum loop. Still, this closer is one of the highlights of the album for me.

Madonna clearly wants to make Hard Candy her "ghetto pass" back to US pop radio. And she might end up getting that. Oh well at least she's getting some air time with "4 Minutes (To Get My Music Back Onto Clear Channel)", though it seems Top 40 radio's interest in that track has already peaked by now. As someone who loved her last album Confessions On A Dance Floor, I just wish that she didn't have to "sell out" her artistic instincts by conforming to what Clear Channel determines what is an acceptable pop song in the 2000's.

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