Archive for January, 2012

MADONNA IS A JOKE

January 15, 2012

Madonna must be laughing at us.
Do you think that maybe, just maybe her insinuation that Lady Gaga imitated her with ‘Born This Way’ was a calculated ruse – again – to get us talking about Madonna? That’s her history isn’t it? The religious imagery for ‘Like A Virgin’. The nude book. Dropping the “F’ word on Letterman. The Britney Spears kiss. It’s the way Madonna works. Guess who’s got a new album about to be released? If you didn’t know before the Lady Gaga quote you know now.

But who is Madonna to accused Lady Gaga of being derivative? Was or is Madonna SO original? No. She rode the dance disco wave without taking too many chances, making too many inovations. Where Madonna WAS different was the WAY she presented her songs, not the songs themselves. We weren’t left wondering what she’d do next musically. We were left wondering what she’d look like, what her video would be like, what she’d say. There’s no doubt Madonna was a groundbreaker, but not with what she did on record. She exploited the media like no-one before, and obviously still does. Madonna gave birth to the Pop Tart. It’s Britney Spears, Ke$ha and Rihanna who must bow to their “creator” Madonna, not Gaga.

Where Lada Gaga IS the same as Madonna is that she is also a groundbreaker, and not musically, but as a packager of music. Gaga has opened the door to the next generation and closed the door on Madonna and her offspring – and that’s why Madonna needs to bring Gaga down a peg or two. Look at the web reports and you’ll see that we’re all singing Madonna’s tune perfectly. She must be laughing. I hope Lady Gaga can see through Madonna and is laughing too.

Gaga has a new album coming out too. Whose will be more relevant? Whose will you be more intrigued to hear?

GETTING DIRTY WITH MICHAEL JACKSON

January 8, 2012

Maybe we owe Michael Jackson an apology. Hands up who believed that he MUST have molested those young boys, even though he was found not guilty in that famous trial!

We live in a litigious world. The smell of money brings out all sorts of legal claims. The music business reports a new one almost every day. Michael Jackson’s honey pot unearthed them all, the almost obligatory song theft claims, even “wives” wanting their share – but since his death NO child has come forward to say they were inappropriately dealt with by Jackson. If ever there’s been a “window of opportunity” it’s been during the last year and a half. Even his grubby family keep putting their hands out in one way or another, but there’s been a significant silence in this area. You’d think that if there was a claim out there – legitimate or malicious – we would have heard of it by now.

OUR problem was that we live in a corrupt filthy-minded world. We see threats and evil everywhere. We COULDN’T believe that an adult could possibly be playing with children without being a predator.

I’m NOT saying that Michael Jackson was probably as pure as he might have had us believe. Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone to so much trouble – and expense – to silence his first accuser, Jordie Chandler. He never allowed that charge to be tested in court. That was his big mistake. But it’s rather telling that during the media assault he embarked on afterwards to defend his honour Jackson quite openly and innocently declared that that he was sharing his bed with children and saw nothing wrong with it. He really did believe that and WE couldn’t believe it.

Michael Jackson loved the Peter Pan concept – the Boy who never grew up – but truth is he was a tarnished youth from the beginning. That he couldn’t change. He couldn’t change that he’d seen and heard things no “child” should see and hear. Before they became famous the Jacksons played in strip joints where women exposed themselves to him. His brothers and father thought nothing of having sex around Michael. We know that Michael Jackson a distorted outlook on sex. Fellow child star Brooke Shield tells us the first thing Michael wanted to talk about when he got her alone was sex. Nothing happened.

We also know that off stage Michael Jackson was unbelievably shy, another outcome of his upbringing. That shyness wasn’t an act. So, there’s every chance that Michael Jackson DID look at pornography with his little friends, that he DID get himself and them drunk, and maybe he exposed himself to them – but THAT’s as far as it probably went. The shyness would have got in the way. In that respect he WAS the child that never grew up. There has always been a question mark over his sexual relationship with his wives Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley. We know that his three children were begat without intercourse.

While he was alive that was all a very sensitive aspect of Michael Jackson’s existence, and the moment there was any suggestion of impropriety he threw everything he had – and he had plenty – to bury it. Michael’s not around any more. I don’t think the Michael Jackson Industry that his death has produced would or could be bothered to be as defensive as Jackson himself. We’ve heard nothing. Maybe our suspicious were misplaced. Maybe we had dirtier minds than he had. Things DID happen, but probably not THAT.

NEWS OF ROCK’S DEATH MAY BE EXAGGERATED

January 5, 2012

Is rock dead? It is according to the Black Keys and Ke$ha.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney said “Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world”. At the same time pop singer Ke$ha told MTV News.” People say that rock and roll is dead, and it is my mission and my goal to resurrect it in the form of my pop music.”

The raw facts however suggest that rock isn’t dead, or least is breathing easier. According to Nielsen SoundScan, in America Rock was the biggest music genre of 2011. Rock music had a 1.9% sales increase during 2011 and sold almost double total R&B sales.
It comes down semantics of course. The Black Keys and Ke$ha aren’t talking about the same thing when they talk about “rock”. For Nielsen SoundScan it’s a genre rather than a musical spirit. And that’s where The Black Keys and Ke$ha are in unison. “Rock” used to be that music which had an edge, the music that pushed at the boundaries. Rap has been the new “rock”.

I’m not a fan of bands like Nickleback and Maroon 5, but it’s too easy to make them a target fore derision. There have always been bland bands– Electric Light Orchestra, Chicago – acts which radio gravitate towards because they are safe and non-confrontational. They serve a purpose. We remember them, and we’ll remember Nickelback, for their success rather than their contribution. The bands that define “rock” were more often than not NOT successful in sales terms. Their importance is measured by impact and influence. It’s hard to find that kind of artist amongst today’s “rock” fraternity. Rock doesn’t have an Eminem. I can’t think of a contemporary rocker who might inspire the future. Dave Groel and Jack White are contenders, but they’re keeping the flame alive not lighting new fires.

In those terms rock IS dead but look and listen hard enough there’s some exceptional rock music being written and recorded – The National, Cold War Kids, The Kills, Death Cab For Cutie – and while there’s a band around of the calibre of Radiohead you can’t say rock is dead.

What’s dead is rock music that’s “dangerous”.

LAUGHING THEIR FUCKING ASSES OFF

January 2, 2012

LMFAO’s ‘Sexy And I Know It’ is America’s No.1 song. Significantly their previous No.1 has nudged back into the top 10 in its 40th week of charting. Nothing SO startling about that. Songs just stay and stay these days. In the days of physical singles whether we liked it or not record companies had the ability to delete singles from sale to force us to concentrate on a follow-up single or send us to the album containing that popular song. They can’t or won’t do that any more. Nine of the current American Top 40 songs have been around for more than half a year.

‘Sexy And I Know It’ is also back at No.1 in Australia. In 2011 between this No.1 and ‘Party Rock Anthem’ LMFAO spent 17 week at No.1 in Australia. No-one has accumulated such a dominant 12 month run in Australia since Abba in the 70s, and the Beatles in the 60s. No-one else!

We have to take LMFAO seriously. They’re not the decade’s Village People or KLF. They’re doing the business and are symptomatic of the times, not exactly perfomers, not exactly a group – a “project” created by two DJs with an interesting heritage.

Stefan Gordy (Redfoo) and Skyler Gordy (Sky Blu) were born 11 years apart. Stefan, the younger of the two, is Skyler’s uncle. Skyler is Stefen’s father’s grandson. Stefan’s father is Berry Gordy IV, the second of three children from Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr’s second marriage. Gordy (the father) married three times. He didn’t marry Stefan’s mother, like he didn’t marry Motown star Diana Ross, who also secretly bore a child to him. Berry Gordy Jr fathered eight children altogether, four inside marriages, four outside. Stefen is his youngest child. He’s the product of a brief relationship Berry Gordy Jr had with Nancy Leiviska, a Motown executive for 18 years. Leiviska did more than sleep with the boss. She came to Motown as Sammy Davis Jr’s personal assistant, and at Motown saw the company into the video age – long before the advent of MTV. When it came to MTV Leiviska wrote and produced a cutting edge video for Rockwell’s ‘Somebody’s Watching Me’, the first Motown clip aired by MTV. Rockwell, incidentally, was another of Gordy’s sons, another of the non-marriage children. Leiviska also directed and shot Rick James’ landmark ‘Superfreak’ video. She’s not watching her son’s worldwide success with LMFAO from the sidelines. Stefan’s mum administers the ‘Party Rock Anthem’ copyright.

One last family connection. The name LMFAO was accidentally coined by Skyler’s grandmother. When the messaged her to say the duo planned to call itself Sexe (pronounced Sex-say) Dudes, her response was LMFAO, a more profane extension of the Internet acronym LOL (laughing out loud). One could safely assumed that it was the grandmother on Berry Gordy IV’s mother’s side of the family. IV’s mum Raynoma has been the whistle blower on Berry Gordy Jr’s “interesting” history. She was the one who revealed for the first time the child Berry had had with Diana Ross – who had quickly married her manager when she discovered she was with child. Raynoma was there at the start of the Motown story. She helped her husband establish his recording empire. After they divorced and she remarried, Raynoma went back to the company, only to find herself sacked during a cost-cutting exercise. The final cruel blow came when Berry Gordy Jr sold Motown for $61 million in 1988 she expected a “little something. Her name had been on the original company documents but Berry had persuaded her to take it off for the good of the company. In 1988 she didn’t get a cent. SO she wrote a book instead. Now Berry is taking about creating a Broadway musical about his life. How much of the above will feature? The official Motown story is filled with fiction covering over a much more sordid reality.

More of that some other time. Let’s get back to LMFAO, worlds away from the original Gordy family empire. If we dare to attempt to predict the future we shouldn’t expect RedFoo and SkyBlu to party on for much longer. They’ll become a hit factory for others, as producers and maybe even as record label executives. In recent history there’s a long list of hitmakers who’ve been handed the keys to the front office, often a case of being prompted out of their depth. In the Gordy boys’ case their father paved the way.

Like the Black Eyed Peas – Will.I.Am was RedFoo’s junior high school friend and an early supporter –LMFAO, together or separately will become a money spinning corporation. RedFoo also has business background in investment and money. While their father’s Motown Records’ music will always remind us of the 60s and 70s, in a very different way LMFAO already have and will continue to shape the times were living through right now. Whether ‘Party Rock Anthem’ is the new ‘Lambada’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is yet to be determined.

2011 – WE WERE ROLLING IN THE DEEP

January 1, 2012

When we look back on 2011 in time to come we’ll see it as a watershed year for the music industry, when amidst  all the confusion and uncertainty the success of Adele will be recognized as either a turning point or a last gasp reminder of what was lost. Adele’s ‘21’ not only defied all the odds – the biggest selling album in the US since 2004, the UK the biggest selling album of the 21st century – when all the indicators seemed to be pointing in the other direction. And it’s a global story, so universal there’s no escaping its significance. Not even Kanye West would dare grab a Grammy from Adele’s hands in February.

Adele’s  is a story without the celebrity seeking Twitter fuelled orgy surrounding her contemporaries, an oasis of reality in a sea  of falsehood and audience manipulation, a distinctive voice in a time of autotune mediocrity. Adele has charmed the world with honesty all along the way, a refreshing nakedness. Our every contact with her has shone with integrity. It’s in her songs. It’s there with every performance, on stage or on television. It’s there in her every contact with the press.

As the major record companies shrink in number and pour their dollars into fewer artists, Adele has risen without them and amongst them, like a flower from a wasteland.

While Adele MUST be celebrated, at this point in time an aspiring musician coming into the “business” can’t hope for a living. A recent study  told  us that for an American artist to make minimum wage ($US1,160 per month) by just selling downloads, they would have to move 12,399 tracks on iTunes. There you see one of the problems. While the U2s and Paul McCartneys praised Steve Jobs loudly after his death, Jobs can be seen as one of the great villains in this story. When the record industry was at a loss at how to handle the digital age, running around like the proverbial headless chickens, Jobs offered them a one-fix solution – iTunes. In reality iTunes was a Trojan Horse. Apple’s priority wasn’t and isn’t selling music. iTunes exists to provide content to Apple’s other products. The cheaper the music the more viable the phones, etc etc. The record companies just handed over the whole shebang, getting sued in the aftermath for violating contracts they had with their artists.

Yes there’s been other successful artists in 2011, each of them in some other way illustrating the state of play. Lady Gaga’s multi-media assault. Her songs, her albums are one part of a complex success equation. Gaga’s using what exists to her advantage. Rihanna is slave to it. Katy Perry is a more playful participant. LMFAO point to the trend towards a single track music industry rather than one based on “bundled” albums. Good for the record companies, not so good for creativity and building careers. Harder for us to form relationships with artists and their music, artists becoming as disposable as hit songs.

Once apon a time a successful artist opened doors for others. A record company with a successful artist found themselves in a position of strength, able to grow and take chances. Those days are gone. Successful artists are now enterprises in their own right. That’s where the growth will go. There’s no trickle down.

The digital age has also made music much more global at the top level. If you take a look however  you’ll notice that the world’s audiences are in fact quite territorial. Wherever we live we are very still and increasingly keen to enjoy our local produce, but we have to do so under the growing weight of the need of the major international labels to make as much out of their stars as they can – and that (Adele again against the tide) means American stars.

So here’s another problem for the rest of the world. What America wants is not necessarily what the world wants. Country music is an American staple. It isn’t and never has been for the rest of the world. Same applies to a lot of rap. This is music that America wants, needs and will support, so that’s what THEIR record companies NEED to and DO provide. That’s THEIR territorial music, but because of the American industry’s strength and place in the music industry, THEIR record companies are also EVERYBODY ELSE’s record companies. Adele could not have come out of America!

That’s leaving less and less room for what the rest of the world might want. What we’re looking at is what Hollywood has done to the movie industry. With Hollywood dominating available screens other countries struggle to sustain healthy movie industries.

At the end of each year there are the inevitable ‘best of’ lists. 2011 wasn’t an impressive year for music. It was out there but we’re being denied access to it, and it’s being denied access to us – an ironic thing to say in the days of YouTube. Five minutes of fame is not what we’re talking about.

Music is in era of great change. We’ll look back and see this time as being as significant (maybe more) as the change from 78s to 45s, vinyl to compact disc. Change is change. It isn’t necessarily progress. The introduction of the CD was when record companies started killing our engagement with music, not intentionally but in effect. The change into the digital age could have been exciting. It may still become exciting. But it didn’t have to be like this. It didn’t have to force so much out of reach of consumers. It didn’t have to drive so many of music-makers into poverty.

There were a lot of factors, but a lot of the blame has to lie with the music industry itself. No courage. No imagination. No love for music?