Monday, March 26, 2007

Ten Songs Fuse Thinks You Should Know

When you're sick, you do weird things. When it's your fifth day being sick, and no sign of any of the conditions letting up, you do even weirder things. Today, I spent Monday morning watching Fuse. For all those that don't know, Fuse is the music channel that used to be called MuchMusic, but was taken over by some other Canadian music like network and turned into Fuse. They pride themselves on being a different music channel than the likes of MTV or VH1, and claim that they actually show good music videos. I guess they mean in between reruns of "Pants-Off Dance-Off." Anyway, since graduating and leaving the Chronicle, I've kind of lost track of a lot of the new music scene, so I figured I'd tune in a see what the mainstream is ingesting these days. Here are my findings, ten songs Fuse thinks you should know:

Avril Lavigne- "Girlfriend":

Well, her lyrics haven't gotten any better since the last time I actually bothered to listen to them. She's still doing easy rhymes that remind me of a pre-school sing-a-long, or even worse like "Life's Been Good."

Anyway, I can't deny that this song is full of energy. Since she's finally embraced her bubblegum pop status, instead of the "Punk Rocker" image that she was given initially by her record label, she seems to be having a lot more fun doing the music. In the video, she's jumping around, strutting about, and basically, acting like a teenage girl going wild. And even though I'm pretty sure she's 22 and not a teenager anymore, that teenage girl energy is exactly what her music needed. It helps this song greatly.

And I might regret saying this, but the song's hook of "Hey (hey) You (you) I don't like your girlfriend" is decently catchy. I can't honestly recommend the song for people who want good pop music, but if she keeps this energy up, maybe in the future Avril will doing something that I won't be able to find fault in.

Mims- "This Is Why I'm Hot":

Now this is just complete trash. It's every rap cliché from the 90s thrown into one song, and it sounds like what happens when Pharrell falls asleep on his synthesizer. The pointless sample of "Jesus Walks" just made me hate this song even more, because how I interpret it, it implies that he's calling himself the savior of New York hip-hop. Either that, or he's trying to ride Kanye's coat tails. That's all this song does really: ride every past New York rapper's coat tails. ( I know Kanye's from Georgia). This song is what happens when someone thinks they understand a genre, and tries to imitate it by just grabbing the surface images, and forgets what was truly behind them.

Christina Aguilera- "Candyman":

Maybe I held her to too high a standard after the aural pleasure of "Ain't No Other Man", cause as much as I wanna like "Candyman", I just don't think it's that great. Yes, she does the Andrews Sisters vocal jazz style perfectly, but when I hear it, I can't help but think it's just filler. I mean, it's not bad, not by any means, and her "Back To Basics" albums (at least what I've heard from it) I've enjoyed more than I can say I've ever enjoyed anything she's done previously. I don't know, maybe I'm just being too hard on her. I should be giving her credit for holding out that note at the end of the song and NOT bouncing it annoyingly like she always does. I should also give her credit for the video. It's just a perfect counterpiece to the song, style, imagery and everything. I think she may have her eras mixed up though…that scene where she's in that pink dress dancing the jitterbug with those G.I.s and looking the happiest she is in the whole video? That's more fifties than forties, but minor error.

Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole- "Last Night":

No real surprise here. Nothing that amazing by any means…in all honesty, it was just a boring piece of music. Diddy's vocals in the chorus are kinda interesting, but past that, the song lags for too long just reiterating the same boring structure. It's like he dragged the length of the song out just so he could finish the plot in the video. Not recommended.

Pink- "U + UR Hand":

I've never liked Pink, but I've been waiting for her to make a musical resurgence, open to see if her songs have gone up in quality. Unfortunately, this is exactly the same Pink of old, and just like exactly the same Pink of old, the song is completely harmless, but also completely forgettable. There's nothing memorable about anything in this song at all. It's Pink by-the-numbers. Even right after the song ended, I had already forgotten how the melody went or what the song was even about. Not recommended.

Gym Class Heroes- "Cupid's Chokehold":

The use of Supertramp's "Breakfast In America" gave me the impression that I wasn't going to like the song initially. Thankfully, I was wrong there. The sample is used well, the tune (a variation of "Breakfast") is also done well. Add to that some pretty good lyrics, and a really funny video. My favorite lyric here: "If I had to choose between her or the sun, I'd be one nocturnal son-of-a-gun." The a capella stuck in the middle of the song for about three seconds (I don't mean the free style), was a nice little addition that pushed this song onto my favorite songs of the year so far list. Definitely recommended.

Beyonce- "Irreplaceable":

This is a case where the video adds another layer to the song. No, not in plot, the lyrics match up with the plot of the video quite fine, it's more like the meaning. In the first half of the video, Beyonce acts all smug, and holier-than-thou, kicking her boyfriend out of the house, straddling the car she just told him was hers and evilly seducing him again, all just to get the shirt off his back. If you just watch the first half of the video, you can't help but think "Beyonce is a huge bitch!" The diva dress-up scenes that follow it immediately don't help that image, as they just complete the theory that her old boyfriend is probably better off without having to deal with someone that diabolical. He's gone for 10 minutes and already she's getting all pretty for his replacement. Now this is all fine and good, it's a simple "you did something wrong, I'm kicking you out, you're not irreplaceable" meaning…but then Beyonce takes it a step in a different direction.

The second half of the video forms around what might at first seem like a big lesbian jam, but turns into instead a powerful statement about feminism. Beyonce is seen smiling, bouncing around, dancing and of course singing with her all female back-up band. The diva dress-up we just saw wasn't to go meet another guy, it was to look good for her all-girls jam session. In other words, women don't need guys to be happy, all they need is a bunch of other women playing instruments.

Of course the final scene in the video, which shows Beyonce opening her door to a new man, negates all this but I guess it can't all be perfect. Highly recommended.

Akon- "Don't Matter":

This is a nice smooth reggae song, that, yes maybe a little indebted to the past maste—hey! Wait a minute! That verse…I've heard that melody before. It sounds so familiar….Oh My God, it's R. Kelly! It's "Ignition (Remix)." Instead of the "nobody wanna see us together/nobody thought we'd last forever" at the 1:13 mark sing "It's the remix to Ignition/Hot and Fresh Out the Kitchen…" It's the same song!

Well, that took me out of the song, but I guess I can look past it. What made me enjoy the song though was the complete breakdown into the driving drumbeat around 3:12 and the instrumentation that followed it. I'll recommend the song, but beware of it's sampling.

Justin Timberlake- "What Goes Around…Comes Around":

Very nice song. Not the best Justin Timberlake's ever done, but a nice song still. The video is epic, at 9 minutes in length it tells a story of love, and deceit and jealously and insanity. Plus, Scarlett Johansson gives a much better performance here than she did in "The Island".

Daughtry- "It's Not Over":

I had heard this song before, and I thought it was Nickelback. The fact that it sounds this bad and isn't Nickelback, but instead one of their neo-grunge copycat cohorts makes it even worse. We didn't need another radio-rock Xeroxed band again, and we especially didn't need another "Psuedo-Political/Social Commentary" video where there's a happy ending amidst all the problems, showing that through the bad times the good always pulls through. This is why I hate watching channels like this.

Alright, so I guess that was a mixed group. True, a bunch of these songs I had heard previous to this (I have the Beyonce and Timberlake songs on my itunes), but watching the video with them gives in a completely difference feel. Maybe I'll do this again soon. It feels good to analyze music again. Hope you enjoyed this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

It's ok. He's not dead. You can go back to hating him.

Something very strange happened last week. Stand-up comedian Sinbad was reported dead. Here is the article via imdb. Read it. It's only like 30 words.

According to the article, some mystery editor over at wikipedia wrote on Sinbad's entry that the comedian had a heart attack last Saturday. Then suddenly, "hundreds" of people contacted Sinbad to make sure that he wasn't dead.

Did I read this right? This all started from a wikipedia entry? This means that on this particular Saturday at least one hundred people were viewing Sinbad's wikipedia page...somehow I don't believe that.

You know what I think? That mystery editor wasn't a mystery editor at all, but rather was the man in question himself. Yeah, I bet Sinbad edited his own page. Why? Well, what better way to get back in the media? I'd believe that more than people were reading about the influence of "Jingle All The Way".

Maybe Sinbad had recently caught a late night showing of "Pauly Shore Is Dead."

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Media and Captain America

I just typed a whole long blog post only to lose it. I'm kinda pissed right now, so it might come out in this article that I now need to retype.

Anyway, if you haven’t heard already (and that means that you have been shunning every major news outlet) Captain America #25 came out today, and Cap is dead. He was shot by a sniper. Woopie.

Now, I'm not pissed that Marvel killed off one of my favorite characters, no...I'm sure that Ed Brubaker (the current writer of Cap) will be able to make good stories surrounding this and make the title work just as well as he had in the past. (Brubaker is one of the best comic book writers out there today, so I don’t have any doubts).

No, what I'm pissed at is the media reaction to Cap's death. The CBS News at Noon put my contempt best when they introduced the article: "First it was Superman, and now, Captain America is dead."

Yes, Superman...who died in the early 90s, and then came back less than a half a year later...I guess the media hasn't learned anything since those days...back then the New York Times was embarrassed when they placed this comic book event on their front page with the headline: "Superman Dead!". I quote DC Comics own Bob Rozakis on his reaction to seeing the Times: "I was looking at it thinking: Are they serious? Do they think this is real? Do they think we'd really permanently kill off our best selling character for good?" And sure enough, as was always the plan, Superman was back only a few issues later. I guess he wasn't quite dead yet.

No comic company would kill off their most popular characters (and even when they had the very misguided sense to even try this, it usually backfired with fans reacting in ways no one ever thought possible, i.e. The Spiderman Clone Saga). And yes, I know DC has killed off characters and replaced them many times before, but there is a major difference between killing permanently an icon like Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman, and making Rene Montoya the new Question. (and yes, I know that DC has successfully killed off and replaced popular characters such as Green Lantern, The Flash and Green Arrow, but there were different circumstances in place there: Barry's book was already cancelled, They always planned on bringing Hal back, and Ollie cheated on Black Canary, so no one cared). Captain America isn't a B-lister along the lines of Green Arrow, no...he's one of Marvels signature characters. Along with Spiderman and the Hulk, he is their icon. There's no way he's dead. And the media should know that by now.

If the past jumping to conclusions with Superman wasn't good enough, here are some other reasons why thinking Cap is forever dead might not be a smart move:

Firstly, Marvel is making a movie of Captain America probably next year. Now, it would be completely ignorant of Marvel to have a movie about a character that no longer exists. When some new fan goes to see the movie and says "hey, that was great, I wonder what the comic book is like" and goes to the store only to find out that Steve Rogers isn't Captain America anymore, do you think he will be happy? Do you think he would buy that comic? No. Never. Whenever a movie comes out for a character, the comic always returns to the status quo! They always have the iconic portrait of the character in the book when getting new fans is possible. Hell, they even brought back an ongoing Ghost Rider book with Johnny Blaze in the drivers seat just in time for the new movie...and Ghost Rider hasn't been popular (or able to sustain an ongoing book) since the 90s comic boom.

Here's another reason: Cap's book is still an ongoing. The book isn't over, Brubaker is still writing it, so, it's likely that he isn't dead. Now, I know this isn't as good a point as it could be...Green Arrow's book continued after Ollie died in issue 100...they just made his son the new Green Arrow (it would take quite a few years, and Kevin Smith with a good story, for Ollie to return from the dead), but more than likely, when an ongoing title goes on, the character is probably still around in some capacity...especially in Cap's case when they haven’t named any successors yet.

But lets go back to what exactly they said on the News At Noon. Just when you thought they couldn’t get any stupider, the anchors had to converse with one another: "Is there any word yet on why they did this?" "No, no one is saying any reasons why yet..." WHAT? Is the noon edition of the news too early to do any research? Ask anyone with even any fading knowledge of comic books today and they can tell you he died because of Marvel's "Universe Changing Event" Civil War. I mean, c’mon, even DC people know that one...but wait, it get's worse:

"No, No one is saying any reasons why yet. The creator of Captain America is 93, I guess he just got tired with the character."...{silence after I heard that...} A simple internet search brings me to Captain America's wikipedia page, in which I am able to tell you that Captain America was created in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Kirby died almost fifteen years ago, and Simon hasn't been in the comic business since the 70s. Reading a little further down on the page, one could figure out that the current writer of the book is one Ed Brubaker, and clicking on his link, one could read that he is very active in comics today, and no where near 93 (the 93 year old is Joe Simon). In fact, the information of the current writer can even be found on the cover of the comic in question...clearly, the names Joe Simon or Jack Kirby do not appear there (they might appear on the mast head inside the book with the words "Captain America created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby", I will give them that). Anyway, this information is readily available, and for that blatant showing of a lack of reporting skills to go on air...honestly what the hell? Did they think they didn’t need to fact check because it was a comic book story? Is that why they made it a top story? They should take a look at Jonathan Hickman's book for Image, "The Nightly News" . That might scare them enough to do a report on it.

To CBS' credit, they did seem to get most of their facts straight for their five o'clock edition...even calling Marvel editors Tom Brevhort and Joe Quesada out on doing this just for the money. At least there's still some integrity in reporting. (and if anyone saw the CBS five o'clock news article, I did find it hysterical that reporter Pablo Guzman was dressed as incognito as he could in trench coat and fedora as he stood outside of Midtown Comics).

Anyway, I avoided talking about the ending to Marvel's Civil War because I didn't want to alienate the few readers I have of this blog (hey Steph and Carsi! lol), but since this is about my contempt for the news media, I figure I'll let it slide right now.

I was one of the few that actually thought the ending to Civil War was appropriate, and was not a cop out by Marvel. Yes, it was anti-climatic, and yes, in my opinion, the bad guys won, and yes, it certainly puts a twist on everything, but as Joss Whedon put it, it's basically the way it has to end. Cap's team had no real strategy other than round up all the cool heroes and fight all the heroes I don’t give a damn about. Which, yes, is pretty cool as it is, but it's not a plan. Now, I'm not defending the whole series of Civil War. I think there was more to be desired through much of the series. The fact that they didn’t have a clear plan is one of the biggest errors in the whole thing. Also the fact that no one questions how Mar-Vell is still alive, or why the prisoners in the negative zone were never taken out of their costumes.

But now I have another problem. If they were going to kill Cap as a result of Civil War, why wait till two weeks after the Civil War to do it. Wouldn't it have been a lot easier for him to die during the event, rather than in a book that maybe not everyone who read Civil War might buy? Maybe I answered my own question earlier when I said that he might be back...I think the fact that it's happening in Cap's own book is a clear sign that this isn't a death as much as a way to go underground.

I haven’t read the book yet (I wait for the trades when it comes to Captain America), but did they officially pronounce him dead? Were the people who did that official doctors? Could there be more than meets the eye here? This could be his way to get him to the underground, and away from the media spotlight, having everyone think he's dead. I guess we'll see in upcoming issues.

Originally I guessed that Cap, since he was arrested, might become the new leader of The Thunderbolts. That would have made for an interesting issue. But alas, I guess not. Another idea I had was that the government might do what they did so long ago and get another person to be Captain America while the Steve Rogers version works the underground with the New Avengers. Or at the very least, get USAgent (who supported the registration) to be the government's Cap again. It makes sense. The other obvious choices were the Winter Soldier (formerly Bucky) or The Punisher. Bucky is probably the most obvious choice since the next issue seems to focus on him, and Brubaker kind of brought him back from the dead, so he's sort of responsible for him. Punisher might be because he was the one who picked up Cap's mask at the end of Civil War. Actually, having both of them be rival Captain America's would be pretty damn cool.

Ok, I'm done ranting about this. Cap seems dead now, but I bet he isn't. No one ever stays dead in comics. Get back to your life.