Month: May 2013

Ninety 90’s Songs: Lisa Loeb Should Stay, Not Rihanna…

So, Rihanna has another hit single called “Stay”. Isn’t that such a common song title? U2 has one. Miley Cyrus has one. Even Pink Floyd has one. It’s easy to suppose that yearning for someone to remain with you rather than abandoning you is a common feeling. Then again, Rihanna also liked taking a bow like Madonna, the artist she emulated in the video for “Umbrella”.

Okay, Rihanna, we get it. You are easily inspired by the past, a.k.a. not very creative.

#73 “Stay (I Missed You) by Lisa Loeb and Nine Stories. Congratulations are in order for Lisa Loeb for being the first artist without a record deal to have a song top the charts. Guess we have Ben Stiller and Ethan Hawke to thank for that, who got Lisa’s song into their film “Reality Bites”. I would bet money those two gents were competing with each other to see who could get her to “stay”.

Lisa Loeb represented indie-hipster-chic when it was a fashion faux pas and even gave being a sad cat lady a try as evidenced by her video to the song. Her horn rimmed glasses, in retrospect, actually make her look ahead of her time since even people without vision impairment are going out and snagging a pair.

Lisa Loeb, whether by intention or chance, was part of an emerging trend of singer-songwriter songstresses that garnered fame and street cred by performing acoustic versions in coffee shops and singing unabashedly about their feelings. Jewel, Alanis Morissette, Paula Cole, and the like filled the airwaves with a gentler sound that was a refreshing change of pace if one was emotionally encumbered by gloomy grunge, or audibly maimed by the melismatic musings of “quiet storm” R&B.

By sticking to the basics and keeping things musically clean, but not overly simple, “Stay (I Missed You)” ages quite well and gives us a glimpse of true talent not burdened by attempts to be trendy and commercialized. Ironically, nowadays being indie and hip is trendy and commercialized.

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Ninety 90’s Songs: Please Un-Inform Me

Oh, Canada. As majestic as you may be, like the glittering crown atop the New World’s head, there are some mightily confusing things about you. You are English and loyal to the crown, yet some of you speak French. Your idea of bacon confuses the rest of the world. And when you produce music, it sounds Jamaican.

#74 “Informer” by Snow. From the album “12 Inches of Snow” (which means he’s either very lucky or does a lot of cocaine), this song delivered reggae to the multitude of WASPs in the world. Snow had finally brought to every home what people only expected to hear during a Caribbean cruise.

Snow, so aptly named for his ethnic Irish-Canadian heritage, based this song on what he called a bar fight. A bar fight during which he attempted to murder people. Well isn’t that just pleasant. I’m pretty sure all of the half-baked reggae artists of the West Indies are way too laid back to sing of such stressful things, but the song won an award for best reggae song anyway.

Once you see the video and his rather blanched visage, you will also realize that he has more eye wear than a Sunglass Hut. And what’s with that pair of readers he wears during the “indoor” shots? I feel like Clark Kent is rapping and gesticulating at me. He’s rather non-threatening, despite his record, until the end of the video when he looks at his cell mate with come hither eyes.

Watch out! He’ll lick your boom boom!

Ninety 90’s Songs: Mister Who?

So Eurodance-electropop is a thing now in the United States. Back in the 90’s Americans had to import this stuff along with Italian clothing and French brie. Now almost every American artist, whether they be R&B, Rap, or Pop are taking a long dip in the sea of synthetic sounds, and a lot of them come back out drenched in auto-tune, hoping that you don’t notice the vanity of such an act. Vanity is in no short supply, as noted by a certain 90’s track.

#75 “Mr. Vain” by Culture Beat. While making some impact in the US, it was quite the smash in the Old World, hitting number one in several countries. Even Canada jumped in with their friends across the pond. Of course, Europe was inundated with both a supply and a demand for this sound.

Synth arpeggios, ceaseless percussion, female melodic vocals contesting with a male rap break were the the hallmarks of the genre. “Mr. Vain” is a fairly by the numbers track, and once it stacks on the layers of music at the beginning it does very little dynamically. It’s main feature is the singers.

Both the lyrics and the video depict the lead singer mocking her rapper counterpart’s douchiness, and he just keeps on after her, face flakes and all. You have to admire his confidence, no matter how bloated, because even with a bad case of  eczema he still chases the ladies. You have to wonder how many nights in the 90’s women spent living out the lyrics of this song at the clubs.

“Oh jeez, not “Mr. Vain” again. Here comes that skeezy guy, too. What’s wrong with his face!?”

If current some current musicians were to look at themselves in the mirror, what would they see? A copycat or a true artist? Vanity or confidence? Dermatitis?

“Lost” Hope

This scene epitomizes my feelings for the television series Lost. A while back on my blog, an entry indicated that I would be doing a season by season review of the series, and since then while debating the different methods of reviewing and what criteria I would use, I kept running into one problem: I hated how the show ended.

The finale to Lost was polarizing and I am one of those who hated it. It was a cop out. It was cheap. It was unfulfilling. It said, “To hell with the loose ends, let’s toss it all into the heavenly ether and hope you take it as gospel”. Yeah, mmhmm… bad!

Flashback

Upon beginning the show I was instantly hooked. There were so many elements that had congealed so perfectly that it was hard to tell where one ended and another began. The characters all had back stories which were, mostly, interesting and thematically relevant to the ongoing plot, and the setting was beautiful if you’re into the whole crashed-on-the-beach-bum scene. Even the gorgeous soundtrack aided in extracting not only the emotions the actors were portraying, but also from the audience (me).

Yeah, the soundtrack got to me sometimes. Several times.

It was hard to imagine the show running out of steam, since every episode added new mysteries and differing shades of grey to the characters and their motives. Even the island itself was a character in many ways, and it had its own secretive and terrifying ways of manipulating the survivors of Oceanic Airlines Flight 815. Then once meeting The Others and discovering inhabitants on the island (scary natives?) who come and go at will (scary scientists?) or want to return (scary rich people?), things really ramped up.

Flashsideways

No that’s not a scene from Lost, despite the beachy setting, but it may as well have been because there was a moment that equaled Fonzy jumping the shark in its incredulity. At the end of season 4, the infamous and duplicitous Ben turns a wheel and *ahem* moves the island. Not like a boat, which might have been more plausible, but like a time machine. Thus began a series of flashing all over the frickin’ place, but mostly sideways between alternate and past realities.

By this point the writers had run out of directions to flash. Gone were the days of using flashback to paint pretty backstories for us, which they nearly over-did anyway. I mean, how many memories can some of these people have without living some kind of Hinduistic past life? Then they flashed forwards, which was supposed to be a surprise. So sideways was all that was left.

It was by this point that I was running out of patience. In their attempt the keep things fresh, the writers began to abandon some of the early mysteries of the show in favor of developing new ones around characters that came on stage later and demanded too much screen time. It was exhausting, and I was really thinking about “breaking up” with Lost since it was treating me so badly.

Flashforwards

I persevered thinking that my diligence would have been rewarded.

That was a silly mistake.

Dead people kept coming back to life, and black smoke became all too familiar and less sinister, and the whole feud between ancient brothers who like tanning together at the foot of a three-toed leg statue was finally explained in some kind of Cain and Abel storyline.

The writers were definitely aiming for epic territory (which they achieved if epic failure counts) but it was all too strained and far removed from the feel of the first two seasons. The show always bordered on a sci-fi feel, but the last seasons were way too much in the vein of Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology” fan fiction.

Duck Your Head!

The finale confirmed that our friends on the island were playing an overlong game in limbo. During their odd celebration of this I noticed all the characters smiling. They were so happy about something. What must it be? That all their actions on the island were completely meaningless because they were already dead? No, that’s not funny. Was there some kind of joke I was missing?

Guess the joke was on us for spending six seasons waiting for them to walk through a damn door.

Ninety 90’s Songs: Damn, I Wish I Was In Color

Oh wait, it was. Apparently MTV, which was in the process of scaling back its music video aspect in favor of crappy reality TV, found the original too erotic or something. Really, MTV? So this awesome song had to re-shoot, and do so in all black and white? There are already so many monochromatic videos! You’re making it worse!

#76 “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” by Sophie B. Hawkins. Damn, what a song. Seriously. Did the 90’s have brazen female artists, or what?   Passionate vocals, electric guitar, a solid back beat, and even a brass line, with all these elements it’s easy to see why this single did so well.  I’ve never heard a singer pull off the word “shucks” like Sophie did and her “damn”s are purely sexual.

The video, composed of some gorgeous dance numbers that are equally as passionate as the delivery of the lyrics, used a mix of lighting and coloring effects. Unfortunately MTV didn’t go for it. Maybe she did look like she was wearing some kind of diaper, but the mix of modern dance and burlesque was clever and engaging. Damn, I wish MTV didn’t suck.

Obviously a decent amount of money was invested in the first, because the second video is hum drum in comparison. It’s monotone and Sophie is tailored in grungy sleeveless flannel and some jeans with the 90’s-obligatory rips at the knee. They couldn’t even afford to give her shoes for most of the video and we have to see the dirty bottoms of her feet when she tries to recreate her writhing choreography.

Regardless, she still looks sexy and it’s fun to see her groove with the band and backup singers. While she hit her peak early in the decade, Sophie continues her career to this day, even appearing on NBC’s “Community” where she performed this single and another hit of hers. Here are *both* videos, so you can decide if MTV was just being provincial and prudish.

Re-Khan-aissance

I will admit it: I was scared of J.J. Abrams doing Star Trek. I was afraid he would distort it in his attempt to modernize it, neuter it in his attempt to revitalize it, and lobotomize it in his attempt to add more action. While it still may be argued whether or not he did these things, I can now say I mostly like what he’s done with the franchise.

My reticence to accept Abrams’ reiteration carried over when speculation about the sequel began. As people clamored for “Wrath of Khan” to be remade, I staunchly resisted such thoughts. How can Ricardo Montalban’s masterful portrayal be out done? Then I realized something…

This new Star Trek universe, an alternate reality if you will, is essentially one big game of “What If”. What if Kirk and Spock were rivals, instead of friends? What if the planet Vulcan were destroyed? What if Uhura finally got to have some Vulcan green-blooded goodness? More importantly, what if ,despite everything being different, certain meetings were a temporal absolute no matter the circumstances?

Of course, I am referring to the ongoing John Harrison/Khan debate. For the longest time I was sure John Harrison was some form of Gary Mitchell, the psychic menace who challenged Kirk in the second pilot episode. As big a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch as I am (yay Sherlock!), he’s not Sikh superman material. But, what if?

What if he were?

While we have yet to discover who John Harrison really is, and everyone is denying the hell out of him being Khan, I am reminded by another denial which was relevant to the plot of a film. Marion Cotillard also refused to admit her character’s true identity (which I had guessed) in “The Dark Knight Rises”. This obfuscation was meant to preserve some element of surprise pertaining to a plot twist, but I wasn’t convinced and I enjoyed the revelation all the same.

Knowing that, are we really to believe in the attempts to misdirect us? Are we being carefully veered away from something in order intensify a surprising turn of plot? Unlike with “The Dark Knight Rises”, my conviction on this case is admittedly lacking. There is, however, some evidence that is striking in its implications:

John Harrison was a crewmember aboard the Enterprise in the Original Series, and he was involved with the Khan debacle in the episode “Space Seed”. It is also noted during the episode that of the 84 in suspended-animation aboard Khan’s ship the Botany Bay, only 72 survived.

72…

I’m not saying he is Khan, but I am tired of fighting against that theory. John Harrison is clearly related somehow. No matter how much the magnificent Benedict Cumberbatch (cumbersome name to type) is not the menacing Ricardo Montalban, I will be interested to see how the “What If” scenarios unravel in Star Trek Into Darkness.

72… Remember that and watch.