Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hard Fail

One year ago today Madonna's most recent album Hard Candy was released in the US (it came out internationally the day before) with the intention of reestablishing herself on the US pop market. US radio stations had pretty much had not been playing the singles off her last two albums American Life and Confession On A Dancefloor so it was decided that Madonna would work the biggest producers in hip-hop-hop such as Timbaland (and his boy bitch Justin Timberlake) and Pharrel to get the rap-mad US Top 40 radio stations to play her music.

Unfortuneately Hard Candy wound up not getting the desired effect. The first single "4 Minutes" would go to number 3 on the US pop chart, but it pratically had to be disguised as a Timberland/Timberlake single to do that--even with the single getting increased US radio airplay in comparison to her last several singles, it was download sales of the single that was fueling its chart position (like "Hung Up" and "Sorry" before it), not the airplay.

The following singles "Give It 2 Me" and "Miles Away" failed to get the US radio airplay. The Paul Oakenfold remix of "Give it" did get to #57 on US Billboard's Hot 100 Chart for one week, but again it was download sales fueling its position. The following week the track fell off the chart.

While the album did debut at #1 on the US album chart with sales of 280,000 copies, it wound up being a commercial disappointment with as of this writing 714,000 copies in America. It would be the first major studio Madonna album not to go Platinum in the US, even with "4 Minutes (To Get My Music Back On Clear Channel)" being a Top 5 hit. (Compare that to the sales of her last CD Confession On A Dancefloor; with its first week US sales of 350,000 copies and a total of over 1.6 millions sold in her home country.)

That lack of success could be partially blamed the lack of aggressive promo in the US by both Madonna and her record company Warner Brothers. This would be the first era where she did not bother to appear on any TV show to perform a current single. (Imagine the extra album and download sales if she had appeared on Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show, or American Idol--considering that the last show was doing its current season at the same time Hard Candy came out, it was a blown opprotunity.) She did do three promo tour gigs that were webcastted, including one in New York, but the exposure was limited in compared to a TV show performance, so she was basiclly playing to the hard-core fans. And in the interviews she gave during this period, the music more often that not wound up taking a back seat to other issues like directing movies, helping poor Africans, and the like; another blown opprotunity to tell about the new album she had out.

Even though it was likely that Warner Brothers influenced Madonna to do a hip-hop-pop album since they wanted something that could get onto US 40 radio, (the Pet Shop Boys were initally asked by the record company to write and produce some of that album, but were quickly uninvited; "We got told to forget it as they decided to shove her down the R&B route," said Neil Tennant), the company also wound up dropping the ball on promoting it as well. While Madonna was recording hard Candy in late 2007, she announced her departure from Warner Bros. Records and a new $120 million, ten year contract with Live Nation, which included a recording contract with Live nation's new label, once her contract with Warner Brother was completed. One can imagine Warners Brothers getting pissy at turning down their offer to stay at the label and signing with Live Nation. So the results was that both Madonna and Warners did not really feel excited about this album and that would have a negative effect on its promotion. Given that the label (along with the rest of the record industry) having to dealing with falling album sales and to have gotten another US pop hit single from Hard Candy would have been some help financally. Instead they got cranky at the Madonna/Live Nation deal and cut off their nose to spite their face.

Hard Candy would be the first major Madonna album to produce less than three music videos. Looking at the video to her second single "Give It 2 Me," one can see the result of the disconnect between her and record company, and neither side winding up to put some effort and care to it, making it look like something that Britney Spears would have knocked off in a few hours. And by that time Madonna was moving away from her boxing/pro-wrestling look that was featrued on her album cover and her video "4 Minutes," which wouldn't be much help to record sales. If "Give" was a better made video with Madonna retaining that boxer look--something in the league of something like the Pointer Sisters' "Dare Me," it would brought the single better exposure in the US. And there would no video for "Miles Away" period; when it was starting to look like it was not going to be a US radio hit, it was decdied that it wouldn't be worth the money and effort to do one.

And Madonna's personal life at that time was no help. Her brother Christopher Ciccone released a tell-all book that July. Her marriage to Guy Ritchie was falling apart and they would divorce that fall. She also made some public appearances looking quite haggard.

That summer she also was preparing for the Sticky & Sweet tour, which woukld start that August and go on into December, so she was more into working on that tour instead of focusing on further promoting the album. With record sales falling, it she figured she could make more money by touring instead.

Poor Madonna. IMHO she sold her artistic dance-music soul, but the album wound up not selling in her home country. Hard Candy was an album that was more expensive to make than Confession On A Dancefloor (considering said big-name R&B producers) but wound up selling less than half of the previous studio album. An album that was meant to restore Madonna's status on the current US pop music scape, but it wound up diminishing her clout even further instead. Instead of looking frssh like a daisy, she instead would look like a worn-out prositute with her wrestling oufit looking a couple of sizes too small that she wore on the cover of Hard Candy.

Let's hope once her contract with Warner Brothers ends with the release of a "greatest hits" collection this fall, she'll be free to make an album without having the commercial pressure to conform to what's being passing for pop music on American radio these days.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Don't Be Jealous Of My Boogie!

I love this video clip of the new RuPaul single "Don't Be Jealous Of My Boogie," which is from his new album Champion.

The description of this hilar clip on the YouTube page it's from tells it better than I could:

"The brief was simple. Ru was inspired by the techno mash-up phenomenon currently sweeping Japan, whereby kids are splicing old gay porno footage of Billy Herrington with mad Japanese graphics, plus the occasional baby head to cover any exposed goodies.

"A fairly typical assignment for World of Wonder, we speed-dialed our friends over at Vivid for some Tommy Gunn porno footage, which genius editor Justin Hurvitz cut together with Ru, plus some of Steven Corfe's ace graphics thrown in for good measure."

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Never Said Nothing...

Yesterday I was surfing on Facebook and I came across an App-type quiz that said "Which 90's Alt-Rock goddess are you?" and I took it and hoping that I'd get Courtnmey Love. So I answered the question and hit the submit button and I got Liz Phair. The anylsis the came with that was actually quite interesting because it did sound a lot like myself:

"That girl-next-door thing you've been doing, it's just a front. You're actually an intensely self-aware, sexualized being who sees the darker side of human nature. Truth be told, it rattles you. You've got perceptive abilities that you don't quite have control of, and thus you can be shy, insecure, or callous. You wish you were truly able to say "fuck you" to your detractors, but in reality it hurts you to be judged and/or rejected. Deeply. You wonder sometimes if life might be easier if you were just a guy. When people see you at parties, they might assume you're a snob or a bitch, but once they get you talking your candor and heartfeltness disarms them. If you can just desensitize yourself a bit, you'll have a chance at peace and happiness. If not, you'll make yourself miserable for the rest of your life."

As long as I'm not posing with a guitar like some Barbie-blob mess on an album cover several years down the line, I'm happy.

BTW here is the video from "Never Said," which is taken from her 1993 album Exile In Guyville.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Reflections on Gay Culture Column

The latest edition of my Philly Gay Calendar column is now up. It's actually a continuation of the post I did back in June last year on what is going on with gay culture today. Since that inital post several events have happened, such as gay bookstores and gay bars either closing or rumors about them closing. So I thought I'd write a more detail version of my views on gay culture, like what's happening to it, and not neccessarily for the better, and why it should be perserved.


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François Sagat banned from YouTube

Recently YouTube decided that porn hottie François Sagat had posted one too many racy videos, so they deleted his account and banned him from making new ones. He responded on his blog saying "All that shit for a video of me wet, dressed in white underwear in the swimming pool, waouh so shocking" and told YouTube to "GO FUCK YOURSELF." Will Clark, a former porn star who runs the Gay Porn Bingo Night up in NYC, and whose Facebook account was shut down last month, remarked that YouTube's action was "typical of a company that starts out on the fringe and then aims for a "family friendly" crowd."

Anyhow, François does grant us one final YouTube apperance. Shame that we won't be seeing his handsome visage on that website as much as before.

And now this gives me the excuse of posting some of my favorite François photographs:

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The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Thirty years ago this Easter weekend, The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were founded in San Francisco. A drag troupe that champions gay and safe-sex issues and does it with a sense of camp and humor, they were the first organization, gay or straight, to distribute a safe-sex pamphlet during the beginning of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco in 1982. In celebration of their 30th anniversary, there are events throughout the city including an exhibit of archival photos, an annual Easter Bonnet Contest, and even a Hunky Jesus Contest.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Happy Ethel Merman Disco Album Day!

I've posted about The Ethel Merman Disco Album three years ago on this very day. So today I'd like to present a clip of Ethel going on The Tonight Show in 1979 to sing "Alexander's Ragtime Band" from that imfamous album. Love the wah-wah "Shaft"-like guitar strumming on this version!

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