“Full of Evil Clowns”

That might possibly be one of my favorite song lyrics EVAR, from an artist who has somehow made her way very high on my list of music awesome: P!nk.

To be honest, I’m not really sure how this happened. I remember barely registering her arrival on the music scene back in…good grief! 2000? That long ago? “There You Go” was probably the only song I heard from her debut CD. It was okay, but I wasn’t really sure how to process her or her music. Honestly, I don’t really think her record label knew what to do with her then either.

Thankfully, someone let her evolve naturally, and what she’s been coming out with in recent years has grabbed me in ways that most mainstream music simply doesn’t anymore. What really rocketed her into my consciousness was her video for “Stupid Girls,” which, simply put, is exactly how I feel about what’s happening with girls today. When did it become law that girls had to sacrifice their intelligence and their dignity in order to be popular? Oh. Never mind.

I’m so glad that I’ll never fit in
That will never be me
Outcasts and girls with ambition
That’s what I wanna see

So, yeah, P!nk. Let me say here that it should drive me crazy that she spells her nom de musique with an exclamation point, which is a bit too cutesy for her own damn good. But she’s just so adorably bad-ass that I can let this one slide. I love her voice as well. It’s got a Janis Joplin-esque rawness that she can temper into a surprising tenderness. Plus, she rocks the catchy hook like no one’s business.

And her music videos are fun. I find videos in which all they do is show nutrient-deprived, lethargic pretty people pouting their way through a bunch of boring undulations and lip-syncing….well, boring. P!nk is definitely not boring. Her latest video to make the OnDemand rounds is for “Funhouse,” the song from which the eponymous lyrics of this post come. Watch her bounce and kick her way through the remnants of a burned-down relationship. Watch her hair. Watch out for the evil clowns.

Actually, most of her videos are fun to watch. I’d highly recommend heading over to YouTube and checking out some of her others, like “So What” or “Sober,” which puts a whole different spin on the familiar message that you can’t really find true happiness unless you, um, love yourself.

And there you go. To quote Aerosmith, “P!nk is my new obsession.”

Heh. 😉

Bevan Break: Red

Craig Bevan revisited. Like what you hear? Then visit his YouTube channel to hear his other covers, including a very fun cover of Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It.” Love the hat flip, by the way, Big G 😉

And if you’d like to hear something original from Mr. Bevan, listen here. These are his songs, posted to his MySpace page. I love all these original songs, but I think my favorite is “Every Day She Told Me.” Although I love the richness and layers presented in “I Think We’ve Made It.” They’re all wonderful, really. Listen to each one. You won’t regret it.

Great Talent, Greater Heart

songsforjenny

I’m very lucky to have some incredibly talented ImagiFriendsTM. I come now to praise the efforts of one such talent. His name is Tony and he’s a rockin’ musician/poet/podcaster from the Land of 10,000 Lakes (and a million mosquitoes).

Last year, Tony’s sister Jenny passed away from ALS, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” To honor his sister’s life and strength, Tony gathered together some ultra-fine musicians from around the world and created a tribute CD, Songs for Jenny. I’ve been listening to my copy for several days now. I’m listening to it right now, actually. It’s a tight collection of songs that weaves a beautiful pastiche of love, hope, honor, and remembering.

Even greater is the fact that all the proceeds from the sale of this CD will go to the ALS Association of Minnesota, to help further research that will hopefully one day find a cure for this disease.

So, enough of my blathering. Head on over to SongsforJenny.com and order your own copy. You’ll be buying what I can assure you is a great compilation of music and you’ll be giving money to a very worthy cause…double karma points, my friends.

Turning On the Goblin King

bowiejareth

Ah, look at that androgynous sexyback of Jareth the Goblin King. This, for years, was my only exposure to David Bowie. Somehow, he fell completely off my musical radar. I even missed the Ziggy Stardust years!

However, a while ago I found a David Bowie CD at our library, so I decided that it was time to fix this gap in my musical knowledge. Let me rephrase that…my musical exposure. I have no musical knowledge beyond knowing what I like (which many will argue is a truly subjective cross-section of music 😉 ).

So I burned the CD to my iPod…and subsequently proceeded to forget about it. Until today. It was another long-stretch roadtrip for Sammy and me. I listened to podcasts for a good chunk of the journey, but I needed a musical interlude along with a granola bar and some cold air to shake off the unexpected sleepiness I experienced from those lovely, lulling British accents to which I was listening. So I started searching through my music lists…and there was David Bowie. The CD from the library was his 1997 release Earthling.

I really enjoyed it! I realize that this is far enough into Bowie’s career that it’s probably not considered to be one of his great releases, but I thought it was a solid collection of music. It’s only nine songs, which I dig. So many of today’s artists release CDs with a gajillion songs on them, and only nine of them are usually worth listening to. This showed me that Bowie knew what he was capable of and stuck with that number. Good call.

The music has a sound that I very much enjoy, what some might describe as the sound of a “clanking, clattering collection of kaligenous junk.” Drums, bass, electronic enhancements…I love that stuff. I think I liked “Dead Man Walking” and “I’m Afraid of Americans” the best, but each of the songs was listenable. I have to say, though, that I was already in the mood for something heavy, so this fit the bill. Had I not been in the mood for lots of bass, this might have fallen far from the mark of enjoyability.

So, here’s my question to you: Where should I go next in Bowie’s oeuvre? I’m intrigued and would like to hear more. I trust you won’t steer me wrong…

Your Avatar Is Hawt

I first read about this video on Wil Wheaton’s blog, but I didn’t check it out at the time. Now, I’m sad that I missed out on watching it more times than I have since I rediscovered it this morning.

To anyone who has spent as much time “living” online as I have, this is so very funny. Funny because it’s true. What better way to release the creatively deceptive (or deceptively creative) fires within than by coming up with avatars that resemble the you on the inside? Yeah, you might be a boring government contractor IRL, but online there are no limits. You can be whoever, or whatever you’d like, whether it’s a a nameless lupine lover of locution or perhaps an ever-intoxicated alien officer with an anger management problem.

Whatever. Just watch the video and shut up.

Brain Dump

That heading sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that’s what I’m about to drop on you now. I promise it won’t be too messy though. I’m just in a bit of a work maelstrom right now and am finding it difficult to surface for long periods of time. For those familiar with my mirror universe existence, this time of year is always one of the busiest work-wise. It’s one of two major drawbacks to a job that I’m still mostly loving (those of you who know the mirror universe me also already know what the other major drawback is, but that’s not for public airing ;-)).

So what’s been going on since we last chatted? Well, first off I spent a wonderful weekend in the company of a great friend who flew in to spend a few days in Lobalandia. She moved to the cold nether regions of the American heartland a bit more than a year ago, which I have to say stinks for us here. However, this weekend was solid evidence that great friendships are like your favorite University of Maryland hoodie: Even though you don’t get to wear it as often as you’d like, when you do slip back into it, it’s just as warm and comfortable as you always remembered it being (and it smells Downy fresh, too!).

The highlight of the weekend (and the reason for my friend’s return) was the Tori Amos concert on Saturday evening. In case you’ve missed this, I love Tori. This was concert number 9, I believe, and it was wonderful. Truth be told, the last few times I’ve seen her haven’t been stellar because of poor sound quality at the last one and poor sound and fan quality at the one before that. But this concert was market-worthy, it sounded so pristine. Plus, it’s an extra special treat to see her when she comes to D.C., because that means she’s come home (face it, Tori…it doesn’t matter how far away you move, your heart belongs to the Dirty City). The set list for the evening was as follows:

  1. Give (Abnormally Attracted to Sin)
  2. Body and Soul (American Doll Posse)
  3. Cornflake Girl (Under the Pink)
  4. Flavor (Abnormally Attracted to Sin)
  5. Space Dog (Under the Pink)
  6. Hotel (From The Choirgirl Hotel)
  7. Jamaica Inn (The Beekeeper)
  8. Icicle (Under the Pink)
  9. Carbon (Scarlet’s Walk)
  10. Mary Jane (Abnormally Attracted to Sin)
  11. Gold Dust (Scarlet’s Walk)
  12. Pretty Good Year (Under the Pink)
  13. a sorta fairytale (Scarlet’s Walk)
  14. Fast Horse (Abnormally Attracted to Sin)
  15. Precious Things (Little Earthquakes)
  16. Strong Black Vine (Abnormally Attracted to Sin)
  17. Bouncing off Clouds (American Doll Posse)
  18. Raspberry Swirl (From The Choirgirl Hotel)
  19. Big Wheel (American Doll Posse)

As you can tell, it was a pretty solid set with lots of perennial favorites mixed with some of the stronger offerings from her latest CD. I wish she had done more than just “Precious Things” from her first CD, but I was happy to hear so much from Under the Pink. Noticeably missing were any songs from Boys for Pele and Strange Little Girls, two CDs that I consider to be weaker links in the Tori musical chain.

I think the only major criticism I have of this concert is fan-related: I hate when people stand/sway/dance. I get that some people simply cannot resist the pull of the rhythm. But, dammit, I paid for a seat. Seats are for sitting so that I can comfortably listen to the music. Seats are not for getting an eye-level view of the woman in front of me pulling her underwear out of her bum crack as she stands dancing to practically every song (yes, I am talking about you with the navy blue pleated skirt and matching button-down vest; perhaps if you fed your ass before a concert, it wouldn’t get so hungry and try to devour your underwear every time you got up).

Small complaint, I suppose, for what was otherwise an excellent concert. If you’d like to see what I saw and hear what I heard, head on over to Undented.com’s review of the show. This is where I got the set list for that night; I personally don’t see how Twittering, texting, snapping photos, and recording video makes for an enjoyable concert experience, but obviously there are lots of people out there who don’t feel the same.

Okay, I need to split now. Hopefully, I’ll be back later this afternoon to make my latest 50BC09 entry. Finally, halfway there!!

Sweet Rapture

I came here to the den early this morning with a completely different mission in mind. And then I became so wonderfully sidetracked by this video. This is Craig Bevan. He’s a singer, songwriter, and podcaster from jolly old England. I know that one day I’m going to point at a poster for his latest international tour and tell everyone around me, “I’ve been his fan from the beginning.” Of course, they will all roll their eyes because it will have been the umpteen-bajillionth time they will have heard me say this. But I don’t care.

This is the voice that gods summon to soothe their weary hearts. Here, the talented Mr. Bevan is covering a trance song by iiO that I’ve heard a hundred times before if I’ve heard it once. I love trance. I love Craig’s cover of this song WAY more.

So listen. I’d say listen and enjoy, but I already know you’re going to enjoy this. Yes, he’s just that awesome 🙂

Tone of Everyday

This video is proof that you don’t have to understand the lyrics to really enjoy the experience. This is one of the most amazing and amusing music videos I’ve seen in a while.

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

mj_sparkle

People always told me be careful of what you do
And don’t go around breaking young girl’s hearts
And mother always told me be careful of who you love
And be careful of what you do cause the lie becomes the truth

I fell off the grid for a while this weekend. Got off the plane on Thursday evening and every television screen throughout the terminal was ablaze with images of Michael Jackson.

Dead? At 50?

No, scratch that. At any age, it just sounds wrong.

Truth be told, this has been a really bad week for a lot of our beloved media icons. How would Johnny Carson have ever found the stage without Ed McMahon to herald his way? Farrah Fawcett? How can an Angel die? Say it ain’t so, Charlie.

But Michael Jackson?

I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’
I said you wanna be startin’ somethin’
You got to be startin’ somethin’

Pop music wasn’t part of my childhood. But Michael Jackson wasn’t pop music. Michael Jackson was…Michael Jackson. MJ. The Gloved One. The King of Pop. It was an accolade that no one dared question, because it was fact. Was any artist more pervasive, more talented, more representative of an entire decade? Madonna maybe. But Madonna was not the King.

Michael Jackson was.

That this is thriller, thriller night
‘Cause I can thrill you more than any ghost would dare to try
Girl, this is thriller, thriller night
So let me hold you tight and share a killer, diller, chiller
Thriller here tonight

Pepsi, Disney, MTV. At times it seemed he held the entire world in that bedazzled gloved hand of his. Quirky, eccentric, odd, or just downright bizarre—he was all those things and more. But there was something so heartbreakingly innocent about this man child, this real-life Peter Pan, with the unblemished voice and the body that moved in ways that made dancing seem as autonomic and as simple as breathing. It was only when we tried those moves ourselves that we realized that moonwalking was something reserved for two types of people: astronauts and Michael Jackson. We mere mortals could simply stay here on earth and watch.

As the decade waned, the strangeness increased. While we all were growing up, he seemed forever frozen in a mental Neverland. In reality he was aging, and what was forgivable in youth became damnable with age. The physical changes didn’t help. MJ 2.0 was acceptable. 3.0 was still recognizable. But the alterations seemed unceasing as he sought some form of subjective perfection that apparently no one but he could imagine. That didn’t stop the doctors from whittling away, seeking their pound of flesh in whatever way they could. None of them told him no. Who says no to a King (especially when the King can pay their hefty ransom)?

They’re out to get you, better leave while you can
Don’t wanna be a boy, you wanna be a man
You wanna stay alive, better do what you can
So beat it, just beat it

The world will tolerate celebrity proclivities when they come in waves. Michael Jackson was a tsunami of eccentricity wrapped in increasingly White parchment skin and tied with a baby boy blue bow. And the shadow cast by that level of eccentricity is impenetrable, even by talent unmatched even today. He was just too unusual, and none of us could accept his penchant for being a middle-aged man who surrounded himself with little boys.

Don’t tell me you agree with me
When I saw you kicking dirt in my eye
But if you’re thinkin’ about my baby
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

The King of Pop soon became nothing more than the punchline to increasingly cruel jokes. It was an unspoken yet universally accepted dethronement by fans who could no longer hear the music over the roar of the spectacle that he had made of his life. We forgot his genius. We forgot his humanitarian efforts, his compassion for those we didn’t care about until he put their struggle to song.

Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me
And the entire human race

Untimely death does not wash clean the slate and cause me to grant forgiveness for unforgivable sins he may have committed in this life. I do think, however, that there was within his aging body a broken boy, as fragile as the surgery-damaged face we saw on the outside. If there had been doctors as willing to fix him on the inside as there were to mangle him on the outside, we might not even be here right now having this conversation.

But “if” is the largest little word in the world and in the end, the most powerless.

Well they say the sky’s the limit
And to me that’s really true
But my friend you have seen nothing
Just wait til I get through . . .

I dusted off my Michael Jackson playlist yesterday on the plane ride home. All the craziness sloughed away as those familiar beats washed over me: “Beat It,” “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Smooth Criminal.” They were all there, reminding me once again that he was…he is…he always will be the King of Pop. My generation’s Elvis Presley—equal parts unmatchable talent and controversy, gone too soon but eternally alive through talent that changed the face of music forever.

It took me a while to find the right photo of MJ for this entry. I knew the image that I wanted. It was the image that stands in my mind as perfectly Michael Jackson. To find it, I had to wade through page after page of images that time will hopefully fade into oblivion. But beneath the shallow surface of surreal spectacle, he was there, as he always has been.

Don’t stop ’til you get enough.

mj-toes2

Abnormally Attracted to Tori

Two pianos at once? Not a problem!
Two pianos at once? Not a problem!

Is it sad that of the three posts that I have made about music thus far, two of them have been about Tori Amos? Is it sad that this is the second post in a row in which I blather on insipidly about red-haired icons of my misspent nerdy youth (never mind that the red hair isn’t real in this instance; these Titian tresses are bottle-born)? Even stranger, another red head who goes by a name other than the one granted her at birth (she was born Myra Ellen; “Tori” is a misspelled and odd reference to the Tories of British political persuasion)?

Ah, screw it. I don’t care. I know very little about music. I know only what I like. And I like Tori. Beyond the gorgeous vocals and a skill at piano playing that would make Beethoven weep, there is a wellspring of strength and complexity within Tori Amos that envelops you instantly. Plus, she radiates this hypnotic omnisexual magnetism that I daresay not even Ann Coulter could resist (though I’m sure Ms. Amos would prefer if she did).

But let’s reel it back for a moment to the topic at hand: Tori’s latest release, Abnormally Attracted to Sin. I’ve been giving it a steady listen since its release on May 19. It’s not her greatest release. I think, though, that an artist who has been at her craft as long as Tori has been is allowed ebbs and flows. I think this is the beginning of a flow, a recovery from American Doll Posse, which was the tail end of an ebb begun with The Beekeeper.

Personally, I did like a lot of The Beekeeper. But it was in desperate need of an editor. That seems to be the problem with AAtS as well. While I’m glad that Tori has pulled back a bit from the more experimental existence of American Doll Posse (a place she dips into every now and again, as she did with Strange Little Girls and Boys for Pele), I long for a bit more of a tight ship, so to speak. I appreciate her desire to give me a lotta bang for my buck with tons of songs and videos, but I’m a strong believer of the “less is more” argument. Plus, you always want to leave your audience wanting for more.

Another thing that I’ve found both comforting and distracting about AAtS is that it’s so very reminiscent of some of my favorite previous Tori releases, like From the Choirgirl Hotel or the new portion of To Venus and Back. It’s another rare instance in which she allows outside musicians to merge with her enviable piano skills, to a moderately successful end. The CD, in fact, starts out with several strong electronica-chill pieces, with “Strong Black Vine” breaking out at the beginning with strings vaguely reminiscent of the hook from Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”

Still, it loses its way toward the end, and even at the height of its greatness, it makes me wistful for these earlier works; several times, in fact, I’ve abandoned AAtS to listen to one or the other of these previous favorites. I’d still recommend AAtS to die hard Tori fans. If I were introducing someone to Tori’s music, though, I would dig all the way back to the beginning and Little Earthquakes. Even with all her releases since her debut, this remains not only my favorite Tori CD, but one of my favorite CDs of all time.

I guess the bottom line with me is that I can find something to enjoy on each of Tori’s releases (granted, I only have one song on my iPod from Strange Little Girls and I skip around quite a bit on Boys for Pele and American Doll Posse). And, before you assume, no, it’s not a guarantee that I will remain faithful to those musicians from my adolescence who are still making music. I abandoned Aerosmith not long after they decided it would be a good idea to let former RATT songwriters start scripting their warbling. And Madonna? Oh noes. I think Confessions on a Dance Floor was a last gasp at the fringes of former greatness. If she continues to make the music she made on her last release, I’m going to humbly decline to listen anymore.

I suppose I can be a little more forgiving of Ms. Amos because she’s not center stage, but still she perseveres. This is obviously something that she loves to do. She is obviously overflowing with ideas and concepts and mythologies that scream to be released. She is the original “strange little girl,” with a quirky, keen intellect and a deliciously dirty humor. Plus, she’s a Maryland-raised hometown girl who once walked the same streets that I now call my home. What’s not to love about that?