Archive for the 'Entertainment' Category

KANYE WEST: THE MORON OF A GENERATION

kanye-west1Earlier this week, Pop/R&B star Kanye West proclaimed himself  “The voice of this generation”.  He also managed to get more bad PR by having an altercation with a paparazzi outside a nightclub.  Over the last few years, Kanye West has shown that he has extremely abundant talent when it comes to arrogance and ignorance, whether it’s throwing tantrums after losing at awards shows, or making ridiculously conceited statements.  Is West a talented singer and musician?  Of course.  Does he have the ability to sell a lot of hit recordings?  Certainly.  Is he an arrogant jackass?  Completely.  The one aspect of music history that West is apparently ignorant of is the fact that legends, no matter who they are or when they exist, can only be anointed as such by the hand of Time as it slowly passes along through history, and eventually reveals who is worthy of legendary status.  No artist, not in music, film, or any other medium, can officially proclaim themselves as relevant or important in any way to any period of time.  Yet, Kanye West believes that if he proclaims it,  then it is so.  A few years ago,  West said in an interview that the reason he didn’t win at an awards ceremony was because “they don’t realize who I am”.  He added a proclamation that he’s here to take music to “the next level”.  But so far his music doesn’t sound much different than most other performers.  Arrogance has been a common trait in the entertainment business ever since the industry first began.  So far, if Kanye West is leaving any sort of  historical mark on the music business at all, it’s undoubtedly as being the most arrogant and conceited artist of all time.

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WHO KILLED HORROR FILMS?

Another Halloween has come and gone, and with it the usual gorefest of horror films strewn across cable TV.  Michael Meyers, Jason, and a myriad of unknown psychopaths butchered their victims once again to the delight of horror fans everywhere.  I am not a fan of the horror film genre.  At least, I’m not a fan anymore.  I was fortunate enough to have grown up on the classic horror films of Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), Bela Lagosi (Dracula), and Lon Chaney Jr. (The Werewolf), along with classics like “The Creature from The Black Lagoon”,  the original “Mummy”, and many lesser known B-grade films that supplied scary thrills.  The horror films of that era were mostly just for fun.  The intent of those early films was to create a creepy, scary atmosphere in which monsters roamed.  Audiences were made to feel chills just by the mere thought of what might be lurking in the shadows.  But today, as with nearly EVERYTHING else,  the horror genre has digressed into nothing more than graphic, violent, blood letting nonsense perpetrated not by monsters, but by psychopathic murderers.

I went into a store called “The Halloween Experience” in a local mall.  They had a large selection of costumes and make up,  and in the back of the store they had what was supposed to be a “scary” display,  which consisted of bloody, severed limbs and heads placed around the floor.  I commented to one of the staff that the display was disgusting, and she said “I think it’s scary”.   Scary?  So let’s see,  if there’s some sort of disaster like a tornado or a plane crash, and the bloody dismembered limbs and heads of victims are strewn around a field in much the same manner as that display,  we should consider the terrible and tragic disaster scene as “scary”,  as in horror entertainment scary, right?  To today’s audiences, Halloween makes that which under any other circumstances would be a terribly tragic scene,  supposedly “scary”!

You see, that’s the problem with what passes for horror entertainment today.  Unlike the classic horror films,  which gave audiences thrills by presenting imaginative monsters (wolfman, vampire, etc.) who were lurking to “get” their victims and turn them into monsters too,  today we have nothing more than serial killers in masks committing what is basically criminal homicide.  Since when did watching someone being murdered with a butcher knife become fun Halloween entertainment?  Put on the evening news almost any day of the week and you’ll hear about some poor crime victim somewhere who was murdered by a nut with a knife.  Oh,  but suddenly on Halloween this crime becomes “scary horror entertainment”!  How wonderful.  The monster of Frankenstein was not a psychotic murderer.  He was actually depicted as a poor, sad creature with no soul, who only killed to protect himself or his creator.

The change from classic spooky horror to today’s violent,  criminal horror began in the 60s and 70s with films such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.  Now we have complete crap like “Saw”,  which again depicts the criminal acts of a psychotic murderer, and not ANYTHING that could even remotely be called “horror entertainment”.  But, as with everything else, today’s audiences are numb from the neck up,  having been forced fed crap from the cradle with no concept of anything else.

THE SECRET OF COUNTRY MUSIC’S SUCCESS

Country music has been around for quite some time.  In the beginning,  it was known as “Country and Western” music because of it’s obvious relation to rural areas and the music of the old west, which was primarily folk music. The early country stars were storytellers in the folk music tradition, relating stories of life’s struggles and strife.  As time passed, country music changed with the times, took on a more contemporary sound, and dropped “western” from it’s name.  In recent years, country music has seen it’s sales figures rise to unprecedented numbers, with acts such as Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, and Shania Twain rivaling and even matching sales of pop legends The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.

But to what does country music owe it’s current success?  Is it to such intellectually stimulating accomplishments as “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” and “Man, I Feel Like A Woman”?  It may come as a shock to today’s country fans, but country music’s rise to the top is not really a result of the wonderful “talent”of Nashville’s stars and songwriters, but more a product of perfect timing and changing sounds.

In the late 1980s, pop music, which had always been the dominate musical genre, was going through drastic changes.  Older pop and rock stars were  slowly being displaced by the young, up and coming stars of two new styles of music:  rap and grunge. These two new sounds proved to be divisive in their effect on the music buying public.  Young audiences  embraced  the new sounds, while older pop fans were turned off by the sheer lack of musical integrity to be found in both rap and grunge. It was during this period of transition that today’s version of country music entered the scene.

Country music had always flirted with copying pop and rock style.  In the 1970s, after denouncing the shaggy haired hippies of the 60s, many country stars began growing long hair and beards, adopting the look of the rock stars they had earlier criticized.  In the 1980s, country stars added synthesizers and electronic drums to their recordings, wore puffed up 80s hair, and copied a lot of the pop sounds of the day.  By the early 90s,  country stars like Travis Tritt and Sawyer Brown were blatantly mimicking classic rock styles and sounds.  Garth Brooks has said many times that he grew up listening to rock music, not country music.  But because of his rural Oklahoma upbringing,  he felt he could not succeed in rock,  so his idea was to perform a country version of a rock show.  Shania Twain’s first recording was a little known pop/rock album produced in the late 80s.  It failed, and she went country.  It was this type of new,  pop influenced country musician who opportunistically filled the void created by rap and grunge, giving displaced older pop and rock music fans something they could relate to, something that sounded familiar.  It was this initial shift in musical styles that led to the eventual success and popularity of today’s country music,  NOT the irresistible appeal of country twang .  Country simply moved into the space once occupied by classic pop and rock music by imitating it’s sound, and taking over it’s audience. Which is why we see classic rock acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Bon Jovi, The Eagles, and others appearing side by side with today’s country acts.  Rock bands like these had previously been unwelcome in Nashville during their heyday.  Many young country singers site these classic rock acts as major influences rather than old time country stars.  Country purists have bemoaned the fact that today’s country is little more than twanged up pop music with cowboy hats, but Nashville has no intentions of stopping the gravy train. So in reality, country music owes it’s current mainstream popularity and large sales numbers not so much to the incredible “talent” of today’s country singers and songwriters, but rather to the extinction of classic pop and rock music.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A COUNTRY SONGWRITER?
Unlike other forms of music which often deal with any number of diverse subjects and views,  country songwriters apparently only need four or five topics to round out their collection of songs.  There are exceptions, of course.  Some country stars such as Keith Urban (who is actually an ex-pop star from Australia, not a redneck from Tennessee) have managed to make some appealing music over the years with more interesting lyrical content than your typical Nashville product.  But the fact is most country songwriters follow a paint by numbers pattern of simplified storytelling, and country fans, oblivious to it all, don’t seem to mind.  Most likely, it’s because country fans see the world from such a limited, narrow, one dimensional viewpoint, the same repetitive song topics are actually what they expect to hear. Here is a breakdown of the typical country song topics,  male and female:

MALE SINGERS

Honky Tonk party songs

Broken heart songs

Happy love songs

Proud country “attitude” songs

Patriotic or religious songs

FEMALE SINGERS

Leavin’ songs

He cheated, is cheating, or will cheat songs

Comical, silly “the way men are” songs

Family songs (children, babies, etc.)

Religious songs

Just mix and match any of these topics with any singer and you’ve got a bonafide modern country hit.  Again, there are exceptions, and some of these topics have been expanded by creative songwriters over the years, but in general, this is all you need if you are a country songwriter.  Of course, fans of country music will say “So what if this is all that country singers sing about?  That’s what makes it country”!  But to non-country fans who prefer music with a wider scope of thought, the constant repetition of these topics, copied many times over, only exposes country music for the limited,  small minded genre that it is. The fact is country songwriters only tell narrow, one dimensional stories that reflect the views of narrow,  one dimensional rednecks.  Country star Trace Adkins said it plainly in his hit “Songs About Me”, which seeks to describe the appeal of country music to a non-fan; “It’s songs about livin’, lovin’, family, and God”,  Adkins bellows in the main chorus.  Livin’, lovin’, family, and God?  See the above list of topics.  I rest my case.

COUNTRY MUSIC EMBARRASSES ITSELF…..AGAIN

As if country music needed any more help embarrassing itself, now there’s country singer Aaron Tippin’s latest single, “Drill here, drill now”.  Yes, we can always count on country songwriters to take serious, important national issues such as the current economic energy crisis, and turn them into trivialized, silly, low brow radio jingles for the culturally challenged. Tippin’s musical catalog is chock full of redneck neanderthalism, and country music fans just can’t get enough of his Gomer Pyle-esque vocal stylings.  Now if only fellow redneck Toby Keith would just write a song about gun totin’ Sarah Palin, heck, the country charts would be bursting with social relevance!  Wooooey!  Break out the beer, the shotgun, and the pickup truck, and let’s go lynch ourselves a liberal!  Hot dog!   

In this photo, we see Tippin proudly posed over the dead carcass of an Elk he hunted down and shot with a high calibre rifle. Of course, the macho and manly Tippin did not confront the animal in the open field and subdue it with the sheer force of his bare hands, thereby proving his manliness.  Instead,  Tippin hid in the brush and snuck up on the unsuspecting, unknowing beast while it was wandering around looking for food,  then killed it with a weapon from a safe distance.  Tippin even wore camouflaged clothing so as not to give the Elk the unfair advantage of actually seeing him.  Yes,  Tippin proudly proved that the long, sharp, mighty antlers of this wild beast are no match for an unseen disguised stalker with a high powered weapon, hiding in thick brush,  shooting bullets from several hundred yards away.  How manly.  Hey, maybe next time Tippin could sneak up on a 12 year old kid, punch him in the face and take his lunch money!  How macho!  Isn’t it interesting that when a sniper shoots unsuspecting, innocent people from a hidden location he’s called a psychotic murderer,  but a guy hiding in the bushes picking off unsuspecting, innocent animals is a “sportsman”?   Yes, the human race has a long way to go.  A very long way.

MOST IDIOTIC NAME FOR A BAND IN HISTORY

Once upon a time, bands tried to choose names that audiences would think were cool and impressive, such as Journey, Motley Crue, the Eagles, KISS, The Doors, etc.,  with images and sounds to match.  Today, we have “Puddle Of Mudd”, a name supposedly chosen by this group when their rehearsal studio was flooded in a rain storm and literally became a puddle of mud.  So I guess if a pack of wild dogs had somehow gotten into the studio and crapped all over the place they would be called “Pile Of Manure”, right?  How creative!  How inspiring! And how appropriate!

Of course, today’s audiences DO think that “Puddle Of Mudd” is a cool and impressive name.  Heck, in today’s world of total and complete lack of style and class, they are practically trend setting fashion plates!

Yes, I know fans of this band (and other bands like them) will say “listen to the music, it’s all about the music”.  Really?  Okay, I’ve listened to the music, and guess what; they sound just like all of the other whiny, one dimensional,  repetitive,  generic bands of today. The guitar work is generic, the songwriting  generic, and the vocals are generic.  They could be any one of a dozen other bands of the same mold.

I truly feel sorry for today’s generation for having this as their musical entertainment.  But just looking at this picture of the band tells the whole story.  These guys are rock stars ?  In their sneekers and t-shirts,  looking like dopey,  blank faced dorks who just fell off of their skateboards?   Wait, didn’t I see one of these clowns sitting on the curb in front of the local 7-11 the other day eating a 99 cent burrito?  Heck,  could’ve been!  No style, no class, no talent.  Congratulations folks, we have now hit “rock bottom”!

HYPOCRISY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN COUNTRY MUSIC

The Academy of Country Music Awards were broadcast this past week live from Las Vegas on CBS-TV. It was a cast of the usual suspects, with stars such as Kenny Chesney and Brooks and Dunn, along with the obligatory fresh faced generic newcomers, all polished up and ready to be sold to rural America by the Nashville hit machine. But the most interesting thing about  the whole spectacle was how the fine lines between country, Hollywood, and rock n’ roll were constantly being blurred throughout the production. Anyone who listens to even a little country music will undoubtedly have heard the repetitious message proudly proclaimed by every twangster of how different and opposite country folks are from those city people out west in tinsel town, and how their down home traditional values set them apart from the rock n’ roll lifestyle.  Country stars such as Trace Adkins not only record songs about it, but also drive the point home in interviews, proudly touting the virtues of being “country”.  Yet, there were country music’s biggest names arriving in limos at the MGM grand hotel in Las Vegas like Hollywood celebs at the Oscars.  Female country singers, who normally sing about their country roots, flashed diamond earrings and designer gowns. Rock style guitar riffs echoed in almost every song, while the audience pumped fists in the air as if KISS had just taken the stage. There was even a mohawk on stage at one point. So while the nice little pretend world of country music sells itself to the redneck masses, the apparent reality is everyone wants to rock n’ roll in Hollywood!  And if you say repeatedly that you are NOT something, and then act exactly like the thing you say you are not, the word for that is HYPOCRISY!  So the next time a country singer blows air in a song about how much better and virtuous they are because they’re “country”, maybe he or she had better think twice about rocking out on stage in Vegas like a city slicker or the “H” word could be tattooed across their forehead before they go on back “down home”.


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