Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The All The Lovers clip is here, and it is very satisfying, if not the genre defining moment we had all hoped for. In a sense there's not much too it that the various 'making-of' pics hadn't already revealed - Kylie looking tarted up atop a mountain of underwear-clad LA hopefuls, making out in an appropriately sanitised manner. But in contrast to the usually wilfully ridiculous imagery of most vids these days, this one's pleasingly 'on message', with its casting of K as a modern day Aphrodite seducing the aforementioned LA actors into their sanitised orgy. This I like, particularly in the wonderfully celebratory final moments.

But haven't we seen these heaving piles (hmm, that sounds iffy) of young people before? Hasn't there been some kind of soccer ad, or Nike ad, that's done this already? Or is it this I'm thinking of? Anyway, that's an aside. My biggest criticism would be that, visually at least, it feels a bit like some kind of big budget Bravia ad. Something about the light? Some might call it soulless, but instead I'll choose to see it as 'crisp'. Otherwise I think it's pretty great, and a wonderfully non- age appropriate direction for her to be treading after the rather cautious X era imagery. Good on her for being blasted in fake tan, airbrushed to death and having the courage to shake it with a bunch of desperate 20-something actors. I think it's her best clip since Slow.

Oh my.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is this pop? Or fripper[ous]? No. But what started as garden-variety homophobia has descended into some beautiful farce. The more this man talks the funner it gets. While initially Jason Akermanis' argument as to why gay men in the AFL should stay in the closet revolved around their own well-being, the potential disruption to team morale an outing might cause, and the rather strange suggestion that the AFL need not strive to be role models. But in subsequent interviews the emphasis seems to be on one thing and one thing only. That male footballers are naked together much of the time. And that they enjoy special things like slapping each other on the arse and 'just having a bit of fun'. And if there were to be gay men in their midst, these activities might start to seem a little bit gay. Core argument: to allow football to remain homoerotic, gay men should stay in the closet. Wow.

'When you're slapping blokes on the bum and just having a bit of fun, what would that do to a man in there when you actually work out, 'Oh wait a second, wait a second. I don't know if I can handle that guy'
Jason Akermanis, The Age.

Not Myself Tonight

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm reluctant to slag this off, because a) I think Xtina has done some really good stuff (albeit mostly in the Stripped period) and b) it's too easy in the era of Lady GaGa to assume that those who've come before her are now stealing her moves. That might be partly true, but the reality is more reciprocal, and I'm sure Xtina has also in a sense paved the way for GaGa (just as Kylie has -- there I said it).

But enough moderation. Not Myself Tonight is pretty shit. It's in no way a memorable song -- certainly not a lead single -- and I find its premise a little lame. In that it fits too well with Xtina's new role as a wholesome mother who's still a little diiirtttty underneath. Not that there's anything wrong with that (and it's probably quite balanced and so forth), but for some reason I get the sense that she presses the 'conservative' button between albums, and then presses the 'skank' button to crank up the pre-release hype, which is perhaps a little cynical.

And the clip is limp. It reminds me of various Janet Jackson vids which, if you take them at face value, are hyper-sexual, but if you look at them from another angle, they're extremely cold, controlled and non-sexual. From this I get a similar sense of her going through the motions. Who knows, maybe before The Fame Monster I would have thought differently. I think GaGa has certainly pushed the boundaries in the sense that, even within her context of high artifice, there's a really raw sexuality that comes through. Anyway, tangent. And, as a final snide comment, the Express Yourself references simply reinforce that, at this point in her career [bring on grand concluding statement] Xtina's not leading, but following.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

I was hoping to get my shit together before the Aphrodite juggernaut kicked in, so I could have something nuanced to say. But Kylie beat me to the punch. And All the Lovers is so great, I need to blurt out how it’s *sob* [reaches for tissues], making me feel… which is very good indeed. Such a simple, perfect song. Lovely, delicate sentiment that feels more real than all the "freaky-mode/boombox" talk of X. Just a simple statement about how scary love is. And the spoken word bit inexplicably makes me teary. So yay for the world. And, as for the business end of things, everything seems to be building up nicely. There seems to be actual momentum this time, unlike the clunky start to the X era. Not sure if Parlophone have got their shit together, or whether it's just the power of a genuinely good song. But this certainly feels like the most effortless Kylie album since Fever.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I'm excited. But also scared and afraid of disappointment.

GaGa: Verdict

Saturday, April 10, 2010

OK, so I didn't enjoy GaGa. This is either because my stadium pop tour expectations are high, as a function of my intelligence and evolved aesthetics, or because I am now old. Old things first: it was just too loud. So loud that a) my eyes were uncontrollably blinking to the rhythm, b) the sound horribly distorted into a deafening scream, and c) I was indeed somewhat deaf after the show, and well into the next morning. Does it make me old to want my hearing? Possibly, but not necessarily erroneously.

It wasn't just my extreme age dulling my enjoyment. Basically, it wasn't a great show. Or, rather, it wasn't a show great enough to match the truly great things GaGa is doing in every other sphere - her clips, visual imagery, appearances etc. Because the production was merely mediocre, everything seemed slightly duller than one would expect: her costumes weren't nearly as interesting or avant garde as her award show costumery, the imagery seemed timid compared to her clips and there was the distinct scent of mediocre American pop stadium tour hanging in the air - or maybe that had seeped into the walls after Britney let off her giant mediocre stink bomb a few months back.

It wasn't so much that GaGa was mediocre, but the production surrounding her was cheap and clunky. Rather than seamless costume changes, curtains were dropped between sets. The stage seemed straight out of Dracula's theatre restaurant. The dance troupe veered awfully close to Britney stumbling around the stage. There were pyrotechnics. And oh so many guitars. Annoyingly, what made this mediocrity even more obvious were the flashes of genius scattered throughout - mostly in the pre-recorded GaGa imagery - that teased you with how the show could have been. Stark (to use my favourite pop word), adventurous, and musically aligned to dance rather than Jacko's big-haired guitar drones (who seemed to have been cloned and released on stage, in a slightly dazed manner). Basically I wanted a show put together by Haus of GaGa but what I got was a show put together by (I assume) merely average touring veterans.

What I should keep in mind though is that even while the Monster Ball Tour was being put together, GaGa was evolving at a fast pace. I just don't think the scope of the show, as it was conceived at that point in time, could handle how awesome, and artistically adventurous, she's gone on to become. In future she needs to put Haus of GaGa in charge of everything, and conjure the anal perfectionism of Kylie's creative team. That would then create the perfect arena spectacular.
Monday, April 5, 2010

Gabriella Cilmi has blindsided me with this. I sort of liked Sweet Like Me until it was played to death, and until I got the vaguest sense that she was just a little bit annoying. But On a Mission has really grown on me. I think musically it's a backward step, but the very fact it sounds so regressive makes it fun.

The bizarre thing is that with the first album Cilmi had instantly captured the kind of international sound that most Australian artists strive for. But with this (not having heard the album), it sounds so Australian, in the S2S vein -- polished but banal. And so trashy. I think she deserves some credit for presenting just a little bit of Chapel Street to the world...

Heidi Montag

Monday, February 8, 2010

Has she had work done?

While Heidi Montag is a vacant starlet in the truest sense (see this), nonetheless her complete plastic surgery makeover is a bold move, and raises some interesting questions about, umm, the boundaries of identity. While I'm tempted to say that in becoming a completely different person, Montag is making a profound political statement, she's most likely playing out some kind of body dysmorphia to tragic effect. But whatever the motivation, her physical transformation is intense. She has actually become a different person, extracting the essence of transgender surgery to rebuild her face and body rather than tweak it.

Unfortunately her face is so bruised she's unable to promote her new album Superficial, suggesting her planning skills are somewhat underdeveloped. But seriously, ever since starlets caught wind of this Warhol(ian?) notion that even the most superficial fame has its own innate meaning, I'm really bad at picking the idiots from the canny ones.

I love this so much.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Seventh Tree was unfairly maligned, but nonetheless I love the new Goldfrapp direction with Rocket, particularly the brilliant but inane lyrics ('I've got a rocket/you're goin' on it'). Jaunty, smiley bass, rockety bleepy sounds, a Light Years style countdown and a final rocket blast -- these are all very good things. And the new Xanadu inspired styling is ace, if somewhat derivative these days. But if there's anyone who deserves to do Xanadu, it's Alison Goldfrapp.
Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sade seems to be only slightly more productive than Kate Bush, but Soldier of Love is a really promising taste of her/their first album since 2000's Lover's Rock. Whereas By Your Side, one of my all time favourite songs, carried a beautifully soft sentiment of compassion and loyalty (complemented by Sophie Muller's perfectly judged clip), Soldier of Love lays its cards on the table from the opening lyric: "I've lost the use of my heart but I'm still alive". Yikes. The arrangement has a real bite to it, and while the metaphors verge on the trite, there's at least a real honesty to their sentiment. Not sure if I'm according things with more artistry than strictly present -- it's hard not to confuse Sade's beauty and presence with the actual work. Indeed, shocking that she's now 51. Shows one can age gracefully even without giant cheek-orbs and filler.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Courtesy of Tim. Not sure what I think yet.

The Circus Tour

I've been meaning to properly recap 2009 (a good year in pop indeed), but recapping 2009 has meant writing up Britney's Circus tour, which is an act that I've put somewhere down around 'tax return' and 'check if I have diabetes' on my 'to-do' list. Because what is there to say really -- it was awful. Stunningly awful. But bizarrely, not at all enjoyable. If I'd spent $200 on a spectacularly entertaining debacle, that would have been fine (such as I imagine Victoria Beckham gigs would have been, if they'd happened). But this was deeply boring, which is quite an achievement -- to create a spectacular that fails to entertain. There's a long essay in why these sorts of shows often fall over (their alienating slickness for one thing), but to wrap this up quickly, and to provide an outline of the show using effort levels similar to that which Britters put in to the show, dot points are in order:
  • Proceedings started dubiously with a series of people with disabilities performing circus tricks. On one level empowering to see such amazing physical achievements, but then, this is the opening of the 'Circus' tour. I'm not sure Britters' fully thought through the cultural baggage attached to that...
  • Rather than dancing per se, Britters' tended to strut, shake her shoulders and point to the ground, all the while lazily miming. As in opening and shutting her mouth with no apparent relation to the words...
  • Occasionally you'd lose her on the stage, and then realise the person you thought was a slightly tipsy backup dancer was actually the star.
  • The show had no taste or subtlety. Even William Baker's efforts on costume design seemed tainted by tack.
  • Each tack sounded the same. The show was relentless. Tim fell asleep.
  • Many 12 year old girls were in attendence. They took over the men's toilets, leading to an unfortunate experience in which I was literally urinating in front of 12 year old girls.
  • She didn't bother performing 3, the single she was, like, promoting.
  • Britney Spears has absolutely no star quality in the flesh. The end.
The 'Spiritual' section...