Posted in Advice, Economics, Explaining the Strange Behavior, music

Sara Bareilles, Katy Perry, and Selling Out.

Today, I want to eat everything in the world, but only if it is a carb.  I think I could eat a whole basket of bagels without feeling a morsel of regret.  Maybe a twinge of it, but only because I would realize the whole basket was gone, and I wanted more.

Normally, I’m not much of a bread person, but today I want to find a giant bread mountain and just start gnawing my way through it. 

What else is new?

My boy turns 8 this weekend.  I have no idea where the time has gone.  I have no idea where the summer has gone.  He starts school again in two weeks, and all those good intentions I had of doing flashcards and times tables?  Listen, my road to hell is extremely well paved.  It is the yellow brick road of roads to hell.

Katy Perry may have ripped off two different artists in writing and creating a video for her new song Roar.  First of all, I cannot get the song out of my head, and I don’t really mind.  I kind of like it.  I caught myself humming it earlier.  I listened to the Sara Bareilles “version” last night and it is stunningly similar.  Stunningly to the point of Perry’s really being a cover version with new lyrics.  And that’s the difference mass market appeal makes.

You sing your song, and no1curr.  Elvis Presley sings your song, and it’s an overnight sensation.  Bareilles is too serious a musician to ever dress like a smurf and date Russell Brand.  This is why Katy Perry will always have better market appeal.  That and the fact that Bareilles is indistinguishable from Anne Ramsay, whereas Perry is indistinguishable from Zoe Deschanel.  You are now asking yourself, “Who is Anne Ramsay?”  Exactly*.

If you’re an artist like Bareilles, you have a choice to make:  Always be a solid, reputable, decent selling indie artist, or just write songs for Katy Perry and become a multi-millionaire without ever having to tour the country on a stale smelling coach again.  I am lazy, so I would just write songs for Perry and feel moderately annoyed that I wasn’t getting the fame/recognition for them.  Then, I would go dive into my swimming pool filled with hundred dollar bills, and do the backstroke until I felt better.  That should take about as long as it would for me to remember I had a swimming pool filled with hundred dollar bills.

I have no concerns about being a sell out.  I would love to be a sell out.  Corporate America, call me!  I will totally sell you that little song I made up for Thor.  He won’t mind.  Or, he might mind for about as long as it takes for him to remember that he has a swimming pool filled with legos.

*Anne Ramsay played Helen Hunt’s older sister on Mad About You.





Posted in A Day in the Life, music

Kidd Kraddick–Hang it all, I’m crying again

In 1984, Kidd Kraddick was giving out Von Erich wrestling family posters at the big, first dance of the year at my junior high school.  We kicked 8th grade off right, with this scrawny, loud DJ, who kept yelling things like, “Let’s get buck naked!”  And, “Let’s go craaAAaazy!”  I was disappointed he didn’t have any Duran Duran posters, but he played great music–only school dance I’ve ever been to where you got Adam Ant and Van Halen in the same set (Goody Two Shoes, and Jump–why can I remember things like this, but not where I parked my car?)

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard him.  No, I used to sit and listen to his show on KEGL, blank cassette in the “record” side of my boom box, waiting with my fingers over the record and play buttons, hoping to catch a clean cut of my favorite songs.  Kidd was one of the first DJs to resonate with me.  He and Stoobie Doak were my DJs, and I used to call up to their shows all the time, using my middle name, just in case. 

Kidd always took my calls, always remembered me as soon as I told him my [middle] name, and every time told me how much he loved it, and how he had considered it for his daughter.  The last time I talked to him was a few years ago.  B and I had run into him at a restaurant, and we hadn’t talked to him because he was there with his family, but Kidd and I had shared a wink and nod.  The old, “I know who you are, listen your show, not going to interrupt,” chin jerk and smile, reciprocated with a, “Thanks for listening, have a good circus,” grin.  I called in to the show to say hello, and he remembered my [middle–yes, I still used my middle name because…well, just in case] name from all those teenaged call-ins. 

I’ve had Kidd Kraddick in my house, or in my car since I was 13 years old.  Nearly 30 years of that man’s voice in my world.  I’ve heard great things about him, and I’ve heard horrible things about him, but all of it washed out to what amounted to be an above average human being, who was truly invested in making his community a better place, and in making the lives of the less fortunate better.

The last bit I heard Kidd do, was him reading a letter a listener had sent in about having been helped out of a hard spot by fellow show personality, J-Si.  He was so proud of J-Si, and J-Si was effusive that it was Kidd’s example that had inspired him to live up to that level.  WIth Kidd’s Kids, and with the Christmas Break-ins, and all the other wonderful things that Kidd did through his platform on KISS, I think a lot of people have been inspired to do more for the world around them.

You can be a legend in your field without ever making a real difference in the world.  Kidd is a radio legend in DFW, who has made many, many differences in the lives of families here and beyond.

I think it is fitting that he spent his last day working to promote Kidd’s Kids.   If you’ve got to go out suddenly, and you can’t do it with your family, doing it for other people’s families is the next best thing.

Thanks for everything, Kidd.  I’m going to miss you.

Posted in music, Religion

Jesus on Toast, and in Music Videos

I hope David Bowie never turns normal.  I would be very sad for him to stop being David Bowie.  That said, I’m going to complain about his latest music video (you can find a link to the video there), but probably not for the reasons you might think.

In Bowie’s latest video, a priestly Gary Oldman (words you never thought you’d see together, right?) walks us into a seedy bar, where several other priests and bishops/cardinals (they’re wearing red, but no hats, so how can I tell?) are debauching themselves with variously undressed women, including the lovely Marion Cotillard.  Bowie, dressed as a Jesus figure, and his band play from the stage.

Oldman, as anyone would, finds Cotillard’s form fetching and selects her to join him on the dancefloor–validating the theory that old, white guys can’t dance.  Cotillard experiences what a Charismatic might call a slaying of the spirit, then presents with stigmata that goes off like geysers from her palms, hosing down herself, Oldman, a saint/angel figure, and the dancefloor (rendering it useless.  Pity.)

His plans for the evening foiled by this fountain, Oldman shakes an angry fist at Bowie, yelling, “You did this!” 

All along, Bowie has been singing these lyrics, so he’s obviously got something serious to say, and he’s got a real bone to pick with how religious leaders treat their flocks.  I’m down with that.  I couldn’t agree more.  Even as a zealot, the worst of my anger and offense was always reserved for religious people who abused their power. 

But here’s the trouble:  When you use religious imagery to address serious issues with misuse and abuse of power, you’re attacking the wrong people.

Do you think any one of those pedophile priests gives a rat’s butt what you do with a crucifix?  Do you think the church leaders who are stealing money from the elderly or the mentally ill care how you interpret stigmata?  Do you think that the warmongering, hate-filled church is worried about David Bowie dressed as Jesus?  No.  Not a whit. 

Why?  Because they know that’s all bunk.

You know who it hurts?  The faithful masses who are already being hurt and whipped.  It’s a pile-on.

The Borgia Pope/Jim Bakker/Bill Carney wouldn’t care if you painted Jesus doing Mary–they’d probably hang it in the bedroom.  You know who cares about that, and who is hurt by that?  The lady who thinks Jesus lives in her toaster.  That little woman who is staring at her toast, thinking God has blessed her is the one who is hurt by that imagery.

And, it is mean, it is bullying, and it is a total missed point to abuse that woman.  Bless her heart.

Only the blind faithful, and the ignorant followers of hatemongers like that church whose name I refuse to give any attention are hurt, or stirred up by it.  Otherwise, it’s just a lazy grab for publicity–and worse, it gives the wrongdoers something to point at, so that people look away from what is happening to the altar boys to throw rocks at a rockstar.

When you’re out there licking a crucifix (that doesn’t happen in this video, surprisingly, since everything else did), you aren’t making a statement about abuse of power, you’re giving the abuser something solid to take away attention from what people only suspect he is doing.  “Your daughter came home crying from that mission trip?  Oh!  All these rock musicians are ruining our youth and confusing them with their sacrilege!  It’s the devil!  Look at this video.  We should protest.  And send your daughter back over to my office tomorrow night at 8pm.  I’ll get her involved in making it happen.  That will give her a purpose.”

We end up thanking the Problem for offering up a solution.

So here is my plea to legitimate artists everywhere:  Don’t focus on what Toaster Lady loves, because when you stomp on her Jesus Toast, her pastor is going to tell her that you are the problem.  Keep the focus on the ministers, and keep yanking on that curtain that hides what’s going on behind the baptismal.

And, David Bowie, stay weird.

Posted in books, Lancient History, music, Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Reading John and Feeling Groovy

Groovy and quite pleasurable.

I really didn’t expect much from John Taylor’s memoir.  Maybe it was because Andy Taylor had already dished all the dirt in his tell-all, a couple of years ago.  Maybe it was because having been a long time, fairly well plugged-in stan, I didn’t think there was much John could tell me that I hadn’t already heard.  Maybe it was because I’m still mad at him for not coming to sign me out of 9th grade Algebra, saving me from the fate of Mrs. Potts and all that x+y=wtf tosh she was trying to stuff into my head. 


I can tell you exactly what I expected from In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death & Duran Duran.  I expected to read about John’s childhood, with some minor foreshadowing of what would turn him to drug use, then abuse.  I expected him to talk about the fun of the band (Duran Duran, in case you were born post-1990), the excesses of the band, and how much for granted he took their success.  I expected him to talk about hitting rock bottom, finding The Process, trusting it, and then getting a second chance at the brass ring.  I expected him to talk about deferred gratitude and his current, happy life.  


I was exactly right.  He covered all that, and no more.  But, I had expected it to be only moderately readable, full of navel gazing and platitudes. I was exactly wrong there.  It was an easy, enjoyable read and turned out to be introspective, and interesting. I did not expect the book to be so thoughtful, sweet, and kind. 


Where Andy’s book was lighting people on fire and daring them to stop, drop, and roll, John’s book was gentle with the lives that touched his.  Where Andy’s book was about how awesome he was, John’s book was about how hard he worked, and how fortunate he was to connect with wonderful, like-minded workers.  Where Andy’s book blamed the world, John’s book accepted responsibility for his own behavior. 


I told a friend, after reading the first few chapters, that it was “a lovely book.”  It really is.  It is a book that his daughter should be proud to read, that his various exes can read without worry, that his current wife can read with delight, that his coworkers and friends can read and smile, and that a longtime fan can read and enjoy as though they were finally getting that sit-down with the Bass God that they’d always wanted. 


What it lacks in detail, it makes up for in lyrical quality.  It isn’t about facts and figures, so much as it is about overall impressions.  John gives you a feeling for the times, writes you into the atmosphere of the clubs, the craziness, and the driving work.  When he has to talk about people, he finds their best. 


Like I said, it is a kind work. My favorite things about the book are the way he gives insight into the mind of a success.  No room for failure, only plans to succeed.  I enjoyed reading about how he approached relationships (if you’d like a peek into the mind of how men look at romance…) and I loved how respectfully he treated his daughter’s mother. 


I would liked to have read more about the lean years between Medazzaland and Astronaut.  I’d like to have read about his foray into film and television.  I’d like to have read more about his time as a solo artist, the process that went into writing his solo albums and how that changed him as a group-based artist. 


As a memoir for Duran Duran fans, it is a great, nostalgic read.  I couldn’t help thinking, “Oh, that was the year Jamie and I were junior counselors.”  “Hey, Karen bought me that for Christmas one year!”  “I still remember the first time I heard that on the radio.” 


As a memoir for John Taylor fans, I feel like it could have been twice as long.  I’d like to have read more about the sober artist, feeling his way around himself and the world, finding ways to create and contribute, and be relevant as an adult, than the Tiger Beat, Brummie born boy with burgundy bangs.  I am especially interested in that now, having read how sweetly he wrote this book. 


If Andy’s book was a Screamo song, shouted at the Duranies, John’s is a lullabye sung to us. 


4 out of 5 stars if you’re a Duranie


3 out of 5 if you’re not

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, music, songs to learn and sing

Fight, Fight, Fight for This Swagger Jagger

Cheryl Cole, nee Tweedy, is one fifth of a British girl group (Girls Aloud), manufactured on a competitive reality show, turned celebrity/solo artist.  Cher Lloyd is a British solo artist, mentored by Cheryl Cole on a competitive reality show.  Cheryl is huge is the UK.  Depending upon your level of interest in British pop culture, you may or may not have heard of her.  She sputtered when she tried to break the market in America.  Cher is well known in the UK, but has achieved a global success that Cheryl was not able to attain, breaking the American market with a re-released single from her first album–on her first try.

This is Cheryl Cole:

This is Cher Lloyd:

They are remarkably similar physically.  Both are tiny, pretty, brown-eyed girls with sweet features, and great smiles.  They are remarkably similar as vocalists, as well.  Neither are great shakes as singers, but both have released funky, poppy, can-dance-to-them tunes, produced by some of the biggest names in the business.  Both have been taken under the wings of major rap and hip-hop artists, and they share very similar management.

So why did one work in the American market and not the other?

I would wager that the reason Cher Lloyd broke the states, and Cheryl Cole didn’t is the same reason that the Spice Girls are still US favorites, and most of the US has no idea what Girls Aloud are. 

If you head over to YouTube and listen to some Girls Aloud [this is one of my favorites], you’ll come away thinking, “Ah–obvious successors to the Spice Girls throne.” [and for fairness, my favorite Spice Girls video]  But, for all their trying, they weren’t.

The Spices (Posh having been name-linked to Cheryl Cole through shared interest in their husbands’ professions.  Posh is married to soccer god David Beckham, and Cheryl Cole is divorced from Becks’ former teammate Ashley Cole–why do I know this?!) were a manufactured girl group from nowhere, who burst onto the scene with color, and excitement, and posturing, and nonsensical lyrics, and “Girl Power, feminism, blah blah blah!”  They were all platform heels, insane hair, and performance art, comprised of one really good vocalist (Melanie Chisolm, Mel C a/k/a Sporty, sadly, also the least charismatic of the group), three decent vocalists, and Posh (the one who struggled in all areas, save looking good.) 

Girls Aloud were formed by process of elimination on Popstars the Rivals, a precursor to the X Factor (from when Cher Lloyd came), with one of the Spice Girls (Gerri Haliwell a/k/a Ginger Spice) as part of the judging panel (again, why do I know this?!)  They burst onto the scene with glorious beauty, and lip gloss, and nonsensical lyrics, and erm…lip gloss!  They were all luscious hair extensions, and false eyelashes, and wind machines, comprised of one excellent vocalist (Nadine Coyle), three middling vocalists, and Cheryl Cole (the one who struggled in all areas, save looking good.  Even Ginger Spice said so!)

The Spice Girls were in on the joke.  They had carefully and definitively cultivated images, but they weren’t just the image.  They came to work.  They came to perform.  They came to show you a good time.  And if you laughed?  Well, they were laughing, too.  Spice World, anyone?  (If you have not seen Spice World, you are truly missing out.  I mean this sincerely.)  They were successful because they came to entertain YOU.  They were focused on pleasing YOU.  They played to the audience.

Girls Aloud had little to no sense of humor.  Their carefully cultivated image was glossy video sex appeal.  Aside from Nadine’s vocals, the group didn’t have anything much different from lingere models, and their imaged was propped up for the audience to admire.  They were serious about achieving celebrity, and there was no joking about their images.  (I cannot find the interview they did with Russell Brand, where he throws them for a loop, calling the least attractive of the group the most beautiful, and ignoring the two most popular.  He negs Nadine so effectively, I expected her to climb into his lap for attention the first time I saw it.)

So which would you rather go see?  A group of middling singers who perform and engage, and work to bring you entertainment, or a group of middling singers who perform and pose, and work to look attractive, expecting that to be enough?  And don’t get me wrong, Girls Aloud are gorgeous, but no way in hell would Nadine Coyle be making Spice World.

It’s the same thing with Cher and Cheryl.  Cher, though a poor singer, is a brilliant performer.  She is engaging and energetic, and she is working her tail feathers off to bring you a good time.  She wants to perform because she loves the audience.  Cheryl is beautiful, and she clearly works at making the best of what she has vocally, and she clearly works hard at learning her performance.  But she performs because she wants you to love her.

Spice Girls/Cher Lloyd=Want You to Love the Show They are Doing for You

Girls Aloud/Cheryl Cole=Want You to Love Them

And you know what the American market loves?  A good time.  You show us a good time, and we will love you.  We will zigga-zig-ah your socks off with appreciation, no matter how goofy your hair is.

That’s how to break the American market.  Just like a helicopter!