Saturday, January 18, 2014

Madonna now very much the James Arthur of race relations

Hmm. So Madonna happily threw around the N-word on Instagram, and has got round to apologising. But, much as James Arthur tried to suggest his homophobic grunting wasn't bad because of how he did it, Madonna's apology tries to suggest that there's somehow a context in which it's all okay. NPR brings us up to speed:

On Friday night, the singer posted a picture of her 13-year-old son, Rocco, boxing and included the comment, "No one messes with Dirty Soap! Mama said knock you out!" She then added a variation of the N-word.

She quickly deleted the comment when outraged Instagram users berated her for the use of the word, and was initially defiant. But in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday, a contrite Madonna said: "Forgive me."

"I am sorry if I offended anyone with my use of the N word on Instagram. It was not meant as a racial slur. I am not a racist. There's no way to defend the use of the word. It was all about intention," she said. "It was used as a term of endearment toward my son who is white. I appreciate that it's a provocative word and I apologize if it gave people the wrong impression."
Extra points, there, for saying that there's no way you can defend using the word, before going on to attempt to defend using the word.

But it's okay, see, because her son is white. That's so alright, then, yeah?

Triple J killing Australian music, or possibly reflecting moribund music scene

There's a battle going on in Australia between Triple J, the "youth" radio station, and some other parts of the media.

It started last week when The Age "investigated" the station:

Triple J is [...] the most supportive of emerging Australian artists, with an average weekly reach of 1.8 million listeners across the country.
It's popular and supports emerging artists. That's a good thing, right?

Hang on a moment, though. The Age is published by a commercial media organisation, Fairfax. Triple J is part of the public broadcaster ABC. It is scientifically impossible for a commercial media organisation to look at a public broadcaster and report that things are going well.

For The Age, then, Triple J has a 'sound'. New bands form, and either through a shrewd desire to please the station, or else from having absorbed this sound growing up, the bands all mould to fit that sound.

Meanwhile, because it's good at what it does, the station's popularity is growing, and thus its taste becomes the dominant taste in the marketplace:
The Basics’ Kris Schroeder says: ‘‘Basically if you put it in a metaphor of the stockmarket, Triple J is the insider that says ‘Buy these shares’ and everybody rushes to buy them. There’s stuff that just falls by the wayside consequentially. It’s about alternatives and there aren’t many alternatives in this business because most people prefer to be followers rather than leaders.

‘‘It’s just a shame that the industry is so obsessed with the decisions that a couple of people [at Triple J] make,’’ he says.

‘‘Maybe if the industry wasn’t so f---ing lazy and so narrow-minded ... the industry itself needs a shake-up.’’
Oddly, although The Age ends on that suggestion that the problem is that music is lazy, the headline still focuses on the idea that the problem is the station, not the culture in which it operates.

In its fightback, Triple J is quick to blame the artists:
Station Manager Chris[Station Manager Chris] “We’d much prefer bands to go out and find their own style. There are so many exciting new artists out there at the moment, doing their own thing and making something quite unique, it’s really exciting. We’re never looking for one particular sound, we’re looking for songs that stand out and resonate with our audience. Basically we’re looking for good music, as shown by the range of artists and styles currently played on triple j.”
Yes, that's a radio station doing the 'we just play what we play and if anyone else likes it it's a bonus' line.

It's hard to know where the truth sits, although experience suggests it will probably be closer to the side that isn't a massive media conglomerate.

Triple J is growing an audience in a competitive market, and while that could purely be down to the muscle of a national broadcaster, it seems unlikely that if the audience didn't want the bands they'd turn up in such large numbers. And "the state broadcaster is supporting dozens and dozens of new artists" is an odd complaint.

Even if Triple J closed tomorrow, there'd still be some dominant force where the audience would gather. Surely?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Twittergem: HMV

HMV downsizing in progress:

Alfie Boe is a bit of an asshat

Okay, it's a pain when people go to a gig, don't switch their phones off, and they ring during the event.

But should the price for this should be public humiliation?:

The singer told the newspaper he was halfway through a concert in Cardiff when he heard a “loud ringing noise and spotted a woman trying to switch of her phone”.

So I walked down into the audience, made my way along her row, and introduced myself,” he said. “I asked if I could have a look at her phone and pressed the redial button. It started buzzing at the other end. Then someone picked up, and it was the woman’s mother.”

He added he had put the phone onto its loudspeaker, asking the audience to shout out his name to convince her he was mid-concert.
Apparently Boe does this a lot.

I think we're meant to be applauding his actions.

But hang on a moment.

Fair enough, this woman made a mistake, but even as Boe tells the story, she was always embarrassed and trying to switch the phone off when he did his little stunt. And he knows nothing about the context - maybe the mother was lying on the floor with a broken hip, or ringing because she was babysitting and the child had swallowed a gallon of bleach.
Boe made the disclosure in an interview with the Yorkshire Post, saying: “The lady with the phone was so incredibly embarrassed that I don’t think she’ll ever take a phone to a concert again.”
Or possibly, thanks to you giving her an public dressing down for having forgotten to switch the phone to silent, she might now suffer from crippling social anxiety and never go to an event again.

Boe's manager is keen to stress it's all a bit fun:
“People think he’s really angry and go bright red with real embarrassment, but it’s just his sense of humour. He always gets a massive round of applause for doing it and gives it back with a hug.”

He added: “I think people forget to turn their mobiles off, and then when it rings they can never find it in time to answer it or switch it off and get brighter and brighter red.”
I imagine some people might take it on the chin, but for other people, suddenly being treated this way in front of 10,000 people might not be such big yuks.

Maybe if someone answers the phone, it's a proportionate response. But for forgetting silent? Seems a bit much.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Secretly depressing

CBC have created a YouTube playlist of secretly depressing songs.

Songs that, as you're dancing to them, you suddenly realise have crushing lyrics.

It's not a bad list, but somewhat oddly, they include Girlfriend In A Coma.

Secretly depressing? It's a Smiths song for a start, which surely means if you'd never heard it you'd swallow hard before pressing play.

More importantly, it's called Girlfriend In A Coma. Surely nobody playing a song called Girlfriend In A Coma is going to be surprised it doesn't turn out to be a partner piece to If You're Happy And You Know It?

We have yet to reach the bottom of the musical barrel

There are still terrible, terrible ideas for musicals left to be discovered.

Here's the latest:

Country music songwriters Brandy Clark and Shane Mcanally are developing a new musical based on American variety show Hee Haw.
Yes. A sketch-and-tunes TV programme is being adapted into a musical. How, exactly?
Clark and MCAnally are the composers for the musical, which is about a "wily sexpot from (Hee Haw's fictional rural town) Kornfield Kounty" who wants to explore the world before walking down the aisle with her boyfriend.
A wily sexpot, eh? There must have been a lot of thought poured into developing that well-rounded character.

If this sounds terrible, the real fear is that it might be a success. And if 'musical based on variety TV' becomes a thing, we're only two years away from Seaside Special: The Musical.

Be afraid people. Be afraid.

The Bieber "crime" is investigated

The puzzling question about the egging of Justin Bieber's house is what the hell were the police searching Justin's house for?

"We were looking at things that would put him or anything else at the scene," [Sheriff's Lt. David] Thompson said, adding that Bieber's attorneys were not present during the search and the singer was not questioned.
The next door neighbour's house was hit with eggs. What were the police doing? Looking in the fridge?

Turns out they did find something, though:
A police search of teen pop star Justin Bieber's California home on Tuesday in a vandalism case linked to the singer resulted in the arrest of a man after drugs were found in the house, the Los Angeles County Sheriff said.
The police justify the search because the egging caused - it's claimed - over USD20,000 worth of damage.

How many bloody eggs were thrown? Or were they ostrich eggs or something?
Thompson said the cost of damages was high because the exterior of Bieber's neighbor's home was made of imported wood and brick.
That makes sense, assuming that non-American wood and brick disintegrates upon contact with albumen.

There is no way everyone involved is making way too much of this.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

NME Awards 2014: The shortlist

This years NME awards are a bit of an oddity. Not so much the shortlisted bands - although the magazine's love for Lily Allen's Hard Out Here video is surprising - but the sponsorship:

Arctic Monkeys lead the nominations for the NME Awards 2014 with Austin, Texas, with a total of eight nominations split between the band and singer Alex Turner, including Best Album, Best Live Band and Best British Band.
The NME Awards 2014 with Austin, Texas. The awards are sponsored by a town in Texas.

Okay, it's a step forward from Lynx and weak lager and the other typical sponsors, and it's Austin rather than, oooh, Wichita Falls or Lubbock. But... is it just me, or is the phrase "the NME Awards with Austin Texas" really bizarre?

How bad are these nominations? Paul McCartney is on the list for best solo artist. Paul McCartney. Who made an album last year which - even with uncharacteristic generosity from the NME - was only worth 7/10 when the magazine reviewed it.

Chvrches only get on nomination; Savages get three but one of those is for 'best blog or twitter'.

Here's the shortlist in full:
Best British Band
Arctic Monkeys
Biffy Clyro
Palma Violets
Two Door Cinema Club

Best International Band supported by Austin, Texas
Arcade Fire
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Vampire Weekend
Queens Of The Stone Age

Best Solo Artist
David Bowie
Jake Bugg
Kanye West
Lily Allen
Paul McCartney

Best New Band supported by Mossimo
Courtney Barnett
Jagwar Ma
Swim Deep
Wolf Alice

Best Live Band
Arctic Monkeys
Biffy Clyro
Palma Violets
Queens Of The Stone Age

Best Album
Arctic Monkeys – 'AM'
Drenge – 'Drenge'
Kanye West – 'Yeezus'
Peace – 'In Love'
QOTSA – '…Like Clockwork'
Savages – 'Silence Yourself'

Best Track supported by Blackstar Amplification
Arcade Fire – 'Reflektor'
Arctic Monkeys – 'Do I Wanna Know?'
Daft Punk – 'Get Lucky'
Disclosure – 'White Noise'
Lily Allen – 'Hard Out Here'
Primal Scream – '2013'

Best Music Video
Arcade Fire – 'Reflektor'
Arctic Monkeys – 'Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?'
Eagulls – 'Nerve Endings'
Haim – 'Falling'
Lily Allen – 'Hard Out Here'
Pharell – 'Happy'

Best Festival
Reading & Leeds
T In The Park

Best TV Show
Breaking Bad
Doctor Who
Fresh Meat
Game Of Thrones

Best Music Film
Good Vibrations
Made Of Stone
Muscle Shoals
Muse - Live At Rome Olympic Stadium
The National: Mistaken For Strangers
Sound City

Best Reissue
The Beta Band, 'The Regal Years: 1997–2004'
The Breeders, 'LSXX (Last Splash 20th Anniversary Edition)'
Bob Dylan, 'Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)'
The Clash, 'Sound System'
Nirvana, 'In Utero: 20th Anniversary Edition'
The Velvet Underground, ‘White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition’

Best Band Blog Or Twitter
Alana Haim, Haim
Albert Hammond Jr
James Blunt
Jehnny Beth – Savages
Theo Hutchcraft, Hurts

Best Book
Alan McGee – 'Creation Stories'
Beck – 'Song Reader'
Bob Stanley – 'Yeah Yeah Yeah'
Mark Lewisohn – 'The Beatles – All These Years: Volume One: Tune In'
Morrissey – 'Autobiography'
Richard Hell – 'I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp'

Best Small Festival
Green Man
Festival Number 6
Kendall Calling
Y Not

Best Fan Community
Arctic Monkeys

Music Moment Of The Year
Arctic Monkeys headline Glastonbury
Kanye West brings Jesus on stage
Morrissey's autobiography is released
Noel and Damon come together for Teenage Cancer Trust
Pussy Riot are freed
Rolling Stones headline Glastonbury

Worst Band
30 Seconds To Mars
The 1975
Imagine Dragons
One Direction
The Wanted

Hero Of The Year
Alex Turner
David Bowie
Este Haim
Lou Reed
Pussy Riot
Russell Brand

Villain Of The Year
David Cameron
Harry Styles
Miley Cyrus
Robin Thicke
Russell Brand
Vladimir Putin

There's apparently something called "the Gary Barlow effect", which is leading people to wear more suits. According to the Telegraph.

Can the paper illustrate this 'Gary Barlow effect' by showing us pictures of men, usually more casually dressed, out and about on the town looking smarter than we're used to seeing?

Oh, hang about. Those might be two separate stories on the front page of today's paper. There isn't any suggestion that that is the Gary Barlow effect.

What is this effect, then?
"When you look at boy bands and television presenters, they all look smart. Look at Gary Barlow on New Year's Eve," Brian Brick, Moss Bros chief executive, said.

"Men are not just wearing suits for work, but going out in the evening. They are going out in a jacket and jeans. We have certainly benefited from that."
Men wearing jeans on nights out? There's a trend. Why haven't we heard more of this?

The trouble with this theory is that Brian Brick seems to be assume Gary Barlow is some sort of dangerous, wild rock figure who has embraced the suit as an act of counterintuitive rebellion.

More honestly, though, Gary Barlow is dressing like an accountancy firm's middle manager because that's kind of what he is, surely?

Two reasons to love Lorde

I think the most interesting thing about this report from kpopstarz is the way it's written to make it sound like Lorde's being in some way unreasonable:

Royals Singer Lorde maybe the first ever New Zealander to reach the top spot in the US Billboards, however her fame certainly does not get in her head, as the teen pop sensation reportedly does not want to be called a "teen hottie" nor her fans to be named as "disciples."
The 17-year old singer believes that "pun centric" nicknames for fans are undignified, think about Katy Perry's KatyCats or Lady Gaga's Little Monsters.
Or the way fans of The Wanted are called Wanters. I think it was "wanters" that people were shouting at them.
From her interview with New York Times via Skype, Lord made it clear that she is not a "teen hottie," saying: "The phrase 'teen hottie' literally makes me want to throw up."
It's not surprising it makes her want to hurl, given the phrase gives off decaying Humbert Humbert fumes.

Kanye West not happy at being on the money

It used to be that appearing on currency gave some sort of lasting fame - just ask Elizabeth Fry. Or the Queen.

Kanye West, though, isn't happy about his appearance on some sort of bitcoin. The Associated Press reports on a coming legal battle:

The lawsuit says the creators of the digital coins "brazenly admit" that they used West's name and likeness to associate their new currency with West because he is a trendsetter.

The lawsuit says entrepreneurs boasted that the currency can't be stopped whether it "looks like a dollar, a dog or a cartoon picture of a rapper." The virtual currency's creators are using a cartoon image of a coin featuring the rapper in large sunglasses.
It's not entirely clear why anyone would want to invest in coins named for Kanye anyway - after all, the value of the coins keeps falling whenever they're used to settle Kim Credit Cardashian bills.

Giles Peterson attempts a similie

"... you know, the sort where it tastes good but you have your doubts about how clean the kitchens are, and then one day you walk past and there's men in suits inside with clipboards and the next day it's closed and three weeks later you get a minicab and it's being driven by the bloke who used to own the place? One of those. That's me."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tiffany: Let's go to the mall

Maybe she just wants to relive old times; maybe it's all a post-modern joke. Maybe you can't be fussy in this economy.

Whatever the reason, Tiffany is back where she started, doing free gigs in suburban shopping malls.

She's not quite alone now - the Dallas Observer says she managed to get a crowd of 200 - but it all seems a little strange.

Oh, good, a Dire Straits spin-off band

Here's some news to brighten the cold winter night, assuming your nights are easily brightened:

Dire Straits' Alan Clark and Chris White with five hand-picked, world class musicians - Terence Reis, Steve Ferrone from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mickey Féat, Adam Phillips and Jamie Squire – are set to perform at venues in the United States starting in late February.
That's the keyboard player who joined after the Making Movies sessions, and the saxophonist who joined in 1985. So, yes, Dire Straits members unquestionably. But perhaps not the names you'd reach for first.

Obviously, they can't tour under the name Dire Straits, so they've dropped half the name.

They've gone with The Straits; that might not have been the half that's most honest to retain.

The headline on the PR blurb is kind of interesting, too:
The Straits played the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, so the "formation" not quite the breaking news the press release would suggest it is.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Alex James goes flat

Where were you on Monday, 19th December, 1994? The day Rolls Royce announced they would henceforward source their engines from BMW. The Whitewater investigations were started. More importantly, Thurman released the single Talk To Myself, thereby making this the last possible day that you could make a joke about calling a brand of fizzy drink "Britpop" and it still seeming - just, marginally - witty.

It's a joke that Alex James has just thought of, attempting to register Britpop as a trademark for pop made in Britain. Yes, in 2014.

The kindest interpretation is that James is attempting to use the patent office as a massive trolling device; sadly, the most likely explanation is that James thinks this is what a good idea sounds like.

Besides: it's Tizer, isn't it?

Yoghurt advert pulled after, but not because, Duran complained

So Yoplait were running an advert (presumably only in the US) which put Hungry Like The Wolf on the soundtrack.

Because, you see, if you were hungry like a wolf, a tiny little pot of fermented milk would fill you right up. Apparently.

Duran Duran were unhappy:

Many of you have written to us, voicing your dismay about the recent license of our song Hungry Like the Wolf, to a yoghurt commercial. Please know, Duran Duran do not support this usage of their music and unfortunately, this particular license was granted without any prior notification to any of us. Had we known, under no circumstances would we have backed it.

Thankfully, the ad has now been taken off the air and moving forward we hope to avoid any further situations like this.
Well, yes. The advert has been taken off the air, but not because of LeBon et al's objections. Slicing Up Eyeballs explains:
On the yogurt maker’s Facebook page, a number of people posted complaints in recent days about the use of “Hungry Like the Wolf” because of its connection to the Diane Downs murder case 30 years ago. In May 1983, Downs shot her three children in the back of her car in Springfield, Ore., killing one of them. “Hungry Like the Wolf” was playing on the car’s radio at the time.

Initially, Yoplait reps responded by defending the song’s use, writing:

“We chose the music because it’s a popular song that felt right for this ad. The Yoplait team has discussed this quite a bit and found that the large majority of people have only positive connections to this song, given that the Diane Downs incident was more than 30 years ago.”

By late this past week, though, Yoplait had changed its tune, saying the ad was being removed from the air:

“When we chose the song, we had no idea of its connection to this terrible event. We take your feedback seriously, and yes, we have decided to remove this ad from the air while we consider other versions. Please know that it may take a couple of days until the ad is fully removed. We’re again sorry that it’s upset you and promise there was no intention to cause such disappointment.”
Given the ad was pulled because someone killed their family while listening to the song, I'm not sure I'd have gone with the word "thankfully" if I'd been in Duran Duran. Mind you, if I'd worked for Yoplait I'm not entirely sure I'd have described the shooting of three children by their mother as an "incident", like it was the theft of a traffic cone.

Miley Cyrus may have a footnote in history

There's currently an interesting piece on Today about the BBFC, which includes the possibility that - for the first time - pop videos might come under the ratings board's duties; perhaps only when being sold. (Google and the BPI, meanwhile, are talking about ratings for YouTube pop videos.)

Miley Cyrus might prove to have been the naked-look straw which broke the camel's tolerant back.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Let's all think about Rod Stewart having sex

It's too late now. The thought is there.

Apparently, Penny Lancaster's been talking about how Rod does it:

The 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' rocker may be 68, but he's still got the right moves in bed to please his wife, Penny Lancaster, 42.
Yeah, ContactMusic quoting National Enquirer. Your cock doesn't fall over when you reach 57. Who knew?
Penny reportedly told a friend: ''Rod's voracious! I knew he was a ladies man, but he usually tires me out!''
Nobody has ever said anything like that to a friend ever. That's not how people talk about fucking when they're with their mates. And nobody, outside of letters to porn magazines which were made up anyway, talks like that, ever, at any time.
The source said: ''Rod wrote a song about Penny called 'She Makes Me Happy' and two or three times a month he'll have the nanny watch the boys so he can whisk her off for a romantic night out. Sometimes they'll just take a walk on the beach, but other times he'll treat her to a lovely dinner followed by a night of passion in a hotel.''
Once every ten-to-fifteen days isn't really voracious, is it? Also, at their age, having a slap-up dinner followed by slap-and-tickle is just going to end up with a fumbling for the Pepcid.
The source added reformed ladies' man Rod - who has eight kids with five women - can't believe his luck and would never even think of cheating on his beautiful wife.
Hang about, though; this is meant to be Penny's mate, isn't it? Did Penny really say "Rod would never dream of cheating on his beautiful wife i.e. me?"

Ricky Wilson stopped finding the Kaiser Chiefs interesting

It's hard to believe - by which I mean easy to believe - that anyone could get bored of being a Kaiser Chief, isn't it?

He recalled: ''Personally, a few years ago I got a little bit lazy and stopped taking as much interest in it [the band] as I should.

''I think my ambition meter got full and I thought I'd done everything, ticked all the boxes.
Yes, he did talk about ticking all the boxes, like he was being shown round a house by Kirstie and Phil and had spotted that there was a separate laundry room and an outhouse for a business he never quite explains.

You might wonder what made him suddenly interested in the band again. Or, you might assume that it was a realisation that I Predict A Riot had stopped being the go-to soundtrack song for any footage of boisterous behaviour on TV, and that gravy train was about to dry up. Or, you could pretend to be interested:
''Nick, my best pal and drummer left and I suddenly realised I didn't want to live without it [the band]. It gave me a kick up the a**e. I can't speak for the rest of the band but I think it gave us all the same kind of feeling.''
It sounds like Nick Hodgson was more bored with the band than Ricky was. Which suggests that Wilson couldn't even be wholehearted about being bored shitless.

This week just gone

Actually, it's an annual round-up, as the full year figures for 2013 are in...

These were the most-read stories published in 2013:

1. The curious case of the Telegraph piece that read like one from The Observer
2. Ronnie Biggs dies; maybe now music will stop being so impressed by him
3. Liveblog: Brits 2013
4. Liveblog: Eurovision 2013
5. iPad man becomes the most hated person at Glastonbury
6. Why did Robbie Williams fall out with Oasis?
7. Charlotte Church takes down Louise Mensch with a single tweet
8. Videos: NME's best singles of 1993
9. David Bowie's new album: first reviews
10. Salon frets that people make jokes about Bruce Springsteen

These were the most-read pages from across the entire site in 2013:

1. KT Tunstall figures out why people think she's gay
2. Tatu can't figure out why people think they're gay
3. Sort-of liveblog: The last Mark & Lard show
4. Neil McCormick files piece from Observer for the Telegraph
5. RI"P": Ronnie Biggs
6. Thom Yorke fails to treat Ronan Keating with deference
7. Court to be forced to watch R Kelly having sex
8. Jo O'Meara doesn't understand why she should say sorry
9. Liveblog: Brits 2013
10. Gordon Smart gets very excited by the Tulisa sex tape

[Concludes 2013 steps to nowhere