I’m bored so this is happening.
What’s there for me to honestly enjoy about the Princess of (country) Pop’s music. Not much. Despite releasing four well-received albums, selling a googol of records, and becoming the poster child of mainstream righteousness after being “victimized” by a inebriated Kanye West at the 2009 MTV Awards (which don’t really matter guys, come on), there’s not much for me, a 20-year old Nigerian-American male, to relate to or find fascinating in her music. And for the most part, that’s OK.
But on other terms, there’s the ever-present struggle between solid musicianship and corporate success that molds most pop acts, including Swift. She probably started out as the brave, rootin’-tootin’ country yarn-burner when starting out her career at fourteen, but those days are long gone. At 22, she’s run through a legion of male celebrities, using the essence of those failed trysts and the marrow from their dead, lifeless corpses to churn out hits while buying Dolce & Gabarino or drinking an appletini, whatever the hell that is.
Exhibit A: “22,” her age when her last album Red dropped and possibly some special time in her life. It’s also her latest single, of which the music video for said song has already amassed 6,000,000 in four days (not a small feat, regardless of her fame) and will surely be forced down my gullet in the ensuing months. The song has lyrics that dance around frivolous topics with no real aim: “It feels like a perfect night/to dress up like hipsters,” Swift sings in a somewhat sardonic tone, putting on black nerd glasses and hoping that the viewer “gets” it. She also notes that a collective “we” is “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time,” hoping not to exclude those suffering from schizophrenia from connecting to her intricate words. A couple “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY’s” here and a few “yeah’s” there, and she’s effectively earwormed another chemically catchy soundbite in the minds of the beholders.
The musical skeleton is just as uniform and cleanly constructed. There is the soft strum of guitar that keep those synapses in our heads firing whenever a “yeehaw” or “how y’all dern” is spoken, but its quickly buried under strong blasts of synthesizer and bass. Not overly offensive or shocking, but trying to call this a “new single” would be as useless as calling Ke$ha the new Britney Spears. They’re both essentially the same person, but one crawled from the deep and the other from the lagoon. And likewise, nothing separates this song from the “Live Like We’re Youngs” and the “We R Who We Rs” of the world besides the vocal presence. Even that that is absent, the sonic differences between each are minute.
Yet, like I said before about me being 20 yadayada, the song doesn’t appeal to me. She clearly doesn’t care about my demographic either, the last time she rapped was to “Super Bass” and the last time she beatboxed, my head exploded. But more importantly, to those who do enjoy her music even in the light of her exodus from Honkytonkville: why does her music still get to you? Has she not “sold out,” or did you notice how well she so properly focused on dominating the industry that you tend to give her a lift whenever Tay-Tay rolls through with another batch of jingles?
All I’m saying is that even though I enjoyed Flo-Rida’s “Low,” I left him in the dirt with all this “Whistle” nonsense. Same with Pitbull, Lil’ Wayne, Lady Gaga (she still exists right?), Katy Perry, Bruno- nah not Bruno he’s harmless. Harmlessly evil.
Anyway, I suppose the moral of the story is to scrutinize the music you want to enjoy so by the time you actually do, you realize that it is horrible and you learn about good stuff like Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Ward. Also, eat your peas and carrots.
This post now has 678 words so I am stopping now. I give the song 2 Caramel Macchiatos out of 5.
One of the most disconcerting things I’ve noticed as a music lover is how ill-equipped others seem when scooping their friends on a new sound.
Friend 1: Hey, you got anything new on your iPod?
Friend 2: Yeah man, The Smiths! Check’em out, they’re great!
Friend 1: Oh, OK. What do they sound like?
Friend 2: *too busy being an asshole and not caring out his friend’s feeling while jamming out to Morrissey & co*
Friend 1: Eh, whatever. Might as well listen to Rebecca Black for the thirtieth time…
It’s similar to a father, grinning ear to ear, picking up his young son by the ears and casting him in the the deep blue and hoping he learns how to swim instantly.
Guess what - he doesn’t; the only result of that open ended and harrowing dive is phobia and an aversion of something great. But I digress.
Here are some great ways to (properly) share new music in hopes of actually winning over a listener and not giving their exploration up to ghastly chance.
But no matter what method you choose, even if you try your own method, keep the crucial tenet of specificity in mind. Give that person a tangible idea or song to start from and make sure they know what to expect.
I’ve missed out on some really great music, only to retread back in boredom and find out that I loved it (sorry 21, Nocturne, Visions, Strange Mercy, Breakup Song, Teflon Don, xx, et cetera).
This a review of a Nigerian film that I wrote yesterday for a friend’s site. It was a bit elevated for the blog’s taste, however, so here it is in all of its femdoggish glory.
A dusty courtyard, littered with young socialites chatting away about pressing matters such as who’s dating who or “what dance is d latess ting mehn,” soon turns into a riotous ruckus as a limosine enters and pulls up near a beige cantina. Two men jump out of the vehicle, furiously berating the overly dressed members of this horde who continously jump about and claw at the car as if the risen Michael Jackson wait inside of it. After what seems like an eternity, a purple-haired woman, painted in makeup and working those white boots, casually limps her way to the building.
The crowd now aggressively follows with an awkwardly set distance of two feet. She finally slips inside, the two bodyguards pouting like the fake thugs they were hired to portray as the rabid horde continues to shit itself in insane ecstasy. All of a sudden, the same woman, although stripped of her splendor, lay in a bed, awoken from her hellish fever dream. “Ah, if only the dream were a reality,” she sighs sadly. Welcome to the sloth-paced, harshly toned and crudely acted epic dramedy that is Lady Gagaa.
Please excuse the tedious set up, but it accurately displays how much self-importance the film puts into tired cliches, mediocre directing and a real lack of talent from the cast. In fact, when the film actually manages to offer glimpses of well-manicured struggle or poetic depth, it promptly gets destroyed by the ham-fisted dose of Nollywood nonsense that comes before and after it.
Lady Gagaa’s plot in itself has some interesting bits to offer viewers, but not much. Stefani (Oge Okoye Duru) lives in the River State area of Nigeria, near a general highway (which they frequently use to connect otherwise unrelated scenes) but she most definitely dwells in a village environment.
She lives in perfect dissonance with her balloon-shaped, perpetually scowling gremlin of a mother, who takes time out of her own lousy schedule to put Stefani down and make her truly feel like the “cheap harlot” everyone believes she is.
She’s been slandered as such because of her boyfriend Chris’s (Johnpaul Nwadike) musically barren mates, all of whom have tried to sleep with her, and one of whom, Drake (Chigozie Atuanya) sluggishly attempted to rape her in a flashback.
Nonetheless, her deep-seated morals and reasonable self-esteem does not resonate well with the group as they spread lies like “yeah, I totally banged that broad” around the village.
Stefani truly receives nothing but hatred and disdain throughout the entire film, as if she were a bruised piece of fruit consecutively stepped on by a circle of farmers. Chris does his best to defend her honor, but at the end of the day, shouting “stop” into the belligerent face of ignorance which is Drake begets nothing but more insults. Her only pastime that gives little comfort, singing along to Lady Gaga videos (with a Wii remote in hand…?) brings about more wahala from her mother.
Keep in mind that this directional and neat-sounding plot plays out in a way more lumbering and abrupt fashion than it sounds. Similar to the introduction’s questionable run of events, each scene has the painfully slow pace of an SAT test, while each one forcefully cuts to the next as if shoving the viewer’s head into a cold bucket of water.
Equally jarring and cumbersome, the acting really makes one wonder how certain cast members secured their roles. That’s some blatant ass corruption if Atuanya simply got his role by bribery or nepotism, because MY GAWD he’s atrocious.
It’s understandable that he portrays a useless speck of a man who connives and womanizes, but there’s no excuse for improper word inflection. This guys talks like a drunk Microsoft Sam, and he acts like a knockoff of Charlie Sheen who snorts a boatload of cocaine between each take.
Thankfully Stefani and Chris, arguably the main characters, put in stable performances which remain anchored by their believable love for each other. Stefani, the battered center of the film, still finds herself drawn to Chris, and he to her despite the niggativity raining down on them by his buffoonish companions.
And oh, lest I forget the startlingly poor performance from one Funke Akindele, a veritable Nollywood actress worthy of memory. She gives a little bit of the Funke Factor in her initial moments as the stubborn assistant Luisa to the “biggest rap spitter in d wo’d,” Ray Martins (Yemi Blaq), but she soons coasts her role into common trivial bickering and even reality show-level skankitry as she lets the boss hit to secure her job. Ugh, it’s bit of a sting to see an otherwise established actress pander to the film’s local aesthetic in such a way.
But Lady Gagaa truly deserves no bit of blame on its own. Many of the film’s flaws — the avalanche of cliches, half-assed acting, shoddy camera work, trifling character interactions, overuse of wardrobe, incredibly long scenes involving mundane tasks such as people walking or putting on clothes — rest solely on the shoulders of Nollywood’s aggressive production system.
Don’t worry about subtlety in theme, camera tricks, dramatic readings, proper scene preparation or even a bigger soundtrack budget. Get people together, shoot the scenes, slap it together, burn it to a VCD, wash, rinse, repeat.
This erroneous system works much like a runaway train. They hastily speed towards the destination, never taking the time to check the dials, fix the engine and lubricate the wheels and axles, so that when the huge bundle of mass finally needs to stop and reflect, the pent-up acceleration laughs in the face of artistic truth and slings the disheveled monstrosity to its shitty and underwhelming conclusion.
Lady Gagaa is not a good film, but the quality of its outcome may not have been on the mind of director Obong Bassy Inyan or anyone else involved in the process, which makes the loss of an hour from my life much more painful.
2012 is the year that I push further beyond the limits of what I consider to be good music.
I already have a small foothold in heavy metal, as my favorite hardcore album is Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave.” But its not that hard for me to get the fact that out in the dark recesses of metaldom lies some dirty, sludgy, grinding viscera that demands to be enjoyed.
Of course, a good amount of metal deals with certain beliefs that I do not agree with. The second objective will be to assess those ideologies and find out why they are important to that band.
Here is the list of albums I will tackle this year:
We need more Swedish chefs and less Nordic crazy people.
Film adaptations of books can be a tough challenge to sort out. Not only should the resulting film be able to captivate the multitudes who are not familiar with the subject matter, but they must also win the approval of the existing fans. Obviously, not every project goes as well as the fabled Harry Potter series.
That being said, it piqued my interest to hear that David Fincher was at the helm of the English adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the symbolic, modern crime thriller written by the late Stieg Larsson. As director of the cult favorite “Fight Club,” the compelling yet tedious “Benjamin Button,” and the contemporary classic “The Social Network,” all of which are based on literature, he would have no real qualms about taking the reins of a project similar in tone to his previous work.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that this film felt extremely esoteric and equally dry in many spots. Take note that this film as a whole is a brutal and very visceral portrait of humans committing awful atrocities on other humans; however, there are too many long stretches of minutiae and insanely detailed book rendering that may leave a fresh-faced onlooker with a bad impression of the source material.
Aside from the overall sore thumb of the varying accents, the cast of GWDT is a quite fitting portrayal of its literary counterpart. Not as a slight to Noomi Rapace, who played Salander in the Swedish version, but Mara’s performance displayed the emotionally distant “psychopath” with a bit more panache and determination. Her body alone has the exact gaunt definition that I envisioned in Larsson’s prose. Of course, this is a tough opinion to hold, considering I consider both performances to be short of a true rendition of the complex character. Daniel Craig was, in terms of build, a good choice for Blomkvist, but his acting was pretty general.
Plummer, who stole every scene he was was in with his earnest and inconceivably spot-on portrayal of Henrik Vanger, was a great choice for this rather limited character, and Stellan Skarsgaard as Martin Vanger initially came off as underwhelming, but paid off in the end. Advokat Bjurman, Salander’s slimeball guardian, is more than fleshed out by Yorick van Wageningen. He is just slimy and awful, a true archetype of the novel’s symbol for those who destroy the people they are endowed to protect.
GWDT from a sensory standpoint benefits from being under Fincher’s care. From the beginning, an intense CG credits sequence alludes to the story in very sharp ways. The use of digital photography in the film proper provides a clarity and extraordinary level of depth to the snow-capped visuals that Sweden has to offer. And appropriately, the score done by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is a near-perfect interpretation of the persistent sense of distrust and unease displayed amongst the characters. The Nine Inch Nails-style instrumentation atop a haunting electronic drone sound is able to manipulate the events of a scene in ways that a ubiquitous orchestral score is not equipped to do.
The rape scene exemplifies the truest combination of faithfulness to story with an artistic license. Even though I knew about this particular part- and had even seen it brought to life in the Swedish version- this particular event begins with a deceptive mind trick that pretends to conceal such a tragedy from the viewer, before pulling them back in during the worst part. It was terrifying to watch, and I was a hyperventilating, watery-eyed shell of my former self by the end of it.
Yet while the movie grips your attention viscerally, the plot and pacing do leave a bit to be desired. It’s honestly a blessing and a curse really, as Fincher’s insane attention to detail not only included parts of the book that really interested me or kept out parts that felt like filler, but also develops the story in the way that the book did to the exact, laborious letter. Larsson’s books were an omniscient third-person playground, with each character being examined from every angle even during the most mundane task. This made the books less of a chore when Blomkvist and Salander ended up in a government database poring over thousands of old photos and newspaper cutups… but in the film you simply see them look at this evidence with no dialogue. The elongated epilogue is also included in the film, and although the succeeding events are quite enticing and set up the plot for the sequel, they only dilute the power of the more deserving conclusion.
I may be held back by my knowledge of the books. It might be my special criteria regarding film adaptations of books, and the dangerous crevasse they tread regarding the average moviegoer and die hard fans. In either case, GWDT sadly teeters on the edge of this crevasse, possibly pumping too much emphasis in parts that would deter newcomers from the source material, while also splaying every little bit of information that may have been better suited for a montage sequence.
In fact, this film is perfectly suited for the person who refuses to read, as they recieve the gorgeous visual treatment of the film as well as the lengthy and tedious parts that would otherwise be tucked away on a shelf. The English adaptation of this modern story, where Sherlock Holmes himself is just as seedy as the criminal he pursues, is definitely worth the watch, but probably not for the faint of heart or for the exuberant nerd.
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