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A little late on this, but, yes, BEYONCE: A Walk-Through

Posted on 02 January 2014 by Steph

8:03 PM

I don’t really buy music anymore, and I expect that many of y’all don’t either. It’s not a good habit, I know, but if I get something purely digitally then I forget it exists, and I have a strange habit of losing CDs that I actually care about. Nowadays I usually just listen to music in the station and put up with awful spotify ads. However, I somehow still receive an iTunes giftcard about once a year and manage to find a digital album or two that I decide is worthy of a proper purchase.

This year, it is BEYONCE, by Beyonce. It was an easy choice – 14 audio files at $1.29 a piece plus 18 videos at $1.99 each, a strangely-derived iTunes value of $53.88 (does iTunes have tax?), available for only $15.99 as a united purchase. Plus, none of it is on spotify (which I didn’t expect). Over half of the annual giftcard, but the buzz already has made clear that the purchase will be VERY worth it – not that I ever had any doubts.

8:08 PM

omg the digital booklet is SO GORGEOUS. Like, I didn’t even think about it but worth the album purchase. The first song is just generally Beyonce, sounds classic and is beautiful. This is where I’ll point out that I’m a terrible music reviewer and don’t really enjoy it, I’m treating this more as a stream-of-consciousness cultural review. I don’t know Beyonce’s music that well, but I think that she is an incredible cultural force, and, as folks pointed out, this album was instantly a HUGE success, despite a complete lack of advertising – and, yes, folks especially pointed this out in light of the crazy-extensive ARTPOP promotions, expected to lose Interscope $25 million, which sold less than a third as many albums in its first week as B did.

8:26 PM

I’ve been passively listening and reading about the album, there’s obviously a lot out there to read. There’s such a great range of sounds and songs, but they’re all very Beyonce (though I feel unqualified to use such a descriptor).

8:34 PM

Really, each song has such a wide range of sounds and influences, but all walks well into the zone of innovation – taking influences and going further. The songs blend together (I’m not watching the tracks change over on iTunes, but will keep a more watchful eye for the videos) such that I miss the break between each but very clearly notice each song. I want to say that a lot of the album, specific beats and styles, are unlike music I’ve really heard before – but to be honest, I’m REALLY unaware of the modern hip-hop/dance/pop/etc world. I’m sure there are a lot of wonderful artists doing things like Beyonce, but I haven’t really noticed them, they haven’t been thrust into view. There’s a wide variety of reasons for this, but I’m sure none of them are very good reasons.

Also, I have counted now, she is the first-listed writer on three songs on the album, and second-listed on seven, which is neat.

9:22 PM

I’m through a few of the videos and oh mannnn they’re so gorgeous, really incredible filming and hair and makeup and styling, totally complete and diverse scenes and moods, oh man. Especially since I read somewhere that most of the filming was done while they were on the Mrs. Carter tour, there are some bits filmed on a beach in Brazil I guess? This way each of the songs is a lot more separate, I was thinking  while listening to the audio set that the transitions are really incredible and the album is really, truly, an ALBUM. One of the effects of the surprise release, I guess, is that there were no singles ahead of time, so, while a few were technically released as singles, the effect of the complete album is really different. Viewing the visual version is pretty different to me, though, the stories seem more separate. Mostly they’re just gorgeous.

9:31 PM

I know that I read it on the internet beforehand, but really, it feels so good to finally watch Bey skating around an apparent roller disco in a wonderwoman shirt singing about cunnilingus. This is a good direction for music and music videos of the future. It’s not one of my favorite songs, frankly, but def a contender for favorite video.

Later

Okay, honestly, I forgot that this would be a really long endeavor, like over an hour of just the videos, so I got kinda distracted and started playing candy crush, so I have less detailed notes and I was really tired. Next time I want to do a full watch-through, I will need to mentally prepare for it. Anyway, the videos kept having really varied storylines and were gorgeous, I looooved Yonce, though, like I was hoping there would be some Diva equivalent, and it’s not really, but definitely an evolution – a really interesting different kind of sexy, I like that there was just a little bit of queer hot thrown in there even though it was def still male-gaze oriented.

There are a lot of self-referential lines and images and it’s really interesting, really great that she’s at that point and has done so well. And it really does interest me, the way that she has gone to such stardom, I idolize her all the time and it’s probably not a good thing, and I know she’s really great but don’t actually know that much about her life and music, and that’s just a part of pop culture, and it has a LOT of repercussions, probably plenty of bad ones. I was also really impressed how her and Jay-Z kept Blue Ivy’s life really private, it took months for the first footage of her to get out, and even then her face wasn’t shown. Now in this album she’s quite featured and out there, but it’s rare to have such control over your exposure, Bey seems to be among the few to reach musical stardom that seems to be really in control of her life in this world and culture.

Summary: I need to keep watching and listening to it, and will likely host a viewing or two once we’re back at LU – I suggest you come. She’s done incredible, her stardom and position are totally unique and very intertwined with the state of the music world and social world. I’m pretty surprised there’s only one result under her name in google scholar.

And here’s a little extra content! Happy New Year, folks.

NONONO, Foals, Arctic Monkeys Concert Review

Posted on 22 December 2013 by Taylor Dodson

My luck came close to running out last week as my best friend and I struggled with finding proper transportation and therefore nearly had to sell our tickets – two tickets I had spent $80 on so that my best friend had a great Christmas present instead of Swedish Fish and nail polish – to a show I, personally, had been looking forward to ever since it was announced: Arctic Monkeys at The Rave. Thankfully, everything fell into place and my Friday the 13th turned out to be pretty freakin’ awesome.

Arriving to The Rave at a little after 5, we waited in line for an hour and enjoyed the Moon Taxi pre-show, gazing up at the lit stage that held a man with a slight resemblance to Kurt Cobain…who I may have tweeted about…which the band may have seen. And favorited.

Twitter famous, ya’ll.

Once doors to the Eagles Ballroom had opened, the rush inside began. The line weaved through lobbies and stairwells and angry (bitter? jealous?) Rave employees until, finally, we were in. This was my first time in the Eagles Ballroom specifically, despite many past trips to The Rave itself. Needless to say, I was pretty blown away by the room. It was both extremely large and very beautiful. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a handy dandy photo for some perspective:

It’s pretty fisheye’d (excuse my lack of proper terminology and phrasing), but it’s something visual. From my Google image search heart to yours.

After waiting for about three hours (one of the bands were late and threw off the whole set by an hour, but it was well worth the wait), we were finally treated to the first opening act: NONONO. Upon entering the venue, I had no idea who this band was, but they’re super catchy and worth checking out; the chorus of ‘Pumpin’ Blood’ may be somewhat recognizable due to a commercial for Sparkling Ice. I will say that I prefer this Swedish dance-pop live compared to the tracked versions of their work, but it’s decent nonetheless and you’ll enjoy it if you like unique vocals mixed in with lots of synth and whistles. Live, the vocals actually immediately reminded me of Swedish rock band The Sounds, who I enjoy immensely. NONONO lead singer Stina’s voice is deeper and more passionate during her live performances and the band brings along some good, contagious energy.

After a set that seems to be a collection of…well, all of their work since they only have one EP out, NONONO left the stage to the second opener: Foals. Hailing from the UK just like the Arctic Monkeys, Foals has apparently won some really awesome award for “Best Live Act” as of this year and were nominated for “Best Act In The World Today” as well. When the show’s announcer shared this with us, the smartass inside me initially thought “They’re either going to be incredible or they’re going to be disappointing thanks to the high expectations this radio personality/concert host just gave us.” Never again will I let myself have the doubts I did that night. WHAT. A. SHOW. They were insane. With a guitar intro nearly parallel to the likes of psychadelic rock bands of the past, Foals put on one of the most energetic and fantastic shows I’ve ever seen. While hits like ‘My Number’ come off as retro disco-pop on the tracks rather than intense indie-rock, I can assure you they are a blast to hear live. Complete with a crazy light show, crowd surfing by lead singer Andrew, and amazing guitar-solos, the show was absolutely paralyzing. I would present you with a selfie of my dropped jaw and un-interrupted stare that lasted the whole set, but I didn’t take one because I was busy experiencing the barely-explainable wonder that was happening in front of my very eyes.

That hour of great intensity passed, and at long last I was about to see Alex Turner (and Alex Turner’s hair, which is so distinct that it is often described as a separate member of the band) put on the moves and serenade me (recklessly? I’m sorry, I had to) as the red lights and constant smokiness gave off a magnificent silhouette of the band. Starting the night off sultry and slow, ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ echoed throughout the ballroom as the screams bounced off the curved ceiling. Following up with the ever-energetic ‘Brianstorm’ was the perfect choice, as the formerly mentioned slower show-starting hit suddenly melted into something fast-paced and wild. By wild, not only do I mean the brilliant vocal effects and guitar solos, but also the crowd, who had then chosen to send waves upon violent waves of somehow-synched pushes towards the front of the room, trapping everyone’s ankles and nearly causing us all to kiss the concrete on multiple occasions. Keeping the energy going with the slams of chords (a weird description yet the only accurate one I can come up with) during the scream-inducing ‘Dancing Shoes’, AM proved that they knew just how to pace the entire show perfectly. ‘Dancing Shoes’ was followed up by “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, ‘Old Yellow Bricks’, ‘Crying Lightning’, ‘Snap Out Of It’, ‘Reckless Serenade’, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’, ‘Arabella’, and ‘Pretty Visitors’ before Turner decided to let everyone know that he was indeed focused on the lovely ladies in the audience. Loudly repeating “How are the LADIES doin’ tonight, Milwaukee?!” before declaring that the next song was for us specifically (‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, naturally), the energy jumped yet again on the scale from sexy to party. The spirit of Young Taylor went absolutely insane, let me tell you. I heard that song when it first came out seven or so years ago, and it’s the reason I decided to check out the rest of their work a few months ago. As you can tell, I’m not exactly a “lifetime fan”, but simply a ‘fan of their beginning turned fan of everything they’ve ever done, ever’. As the main set ended with ‘Knee Socks’, ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’, and ’505′, the couples standing directly in front of me were, uh, mingling so hard that they were close to creating life. That’s what these jams do to people, you know? I mean, what are boundaries anyway? I sure don’t mind you brushing against me as you try to do everything except keep it in your pants. However, all was forgiven as I reminded myself I was 100 feet away from such incredible musicians who returned two minutes later for an encore; “I’ve only got time for ‘One For The Road’, Milwaukee!”, Alex yelled, going right into another fantastic hit off their latest album, AM. Immediately after, he goes “I’ve only got one question for you.” and ended the night with a powerful performance of “R U Mine?”, making me wish for the millionth time that night that I could gaze into his eyes and say “Why, yes, Alex Turner. I am yours. Yes. Play with my hair and sing me to sleep, would you?”

Ultimately, it was one of the best shows I’ve been to. Ever. Don’t let the live performances on internet-land fool you, because this show greatly surpassed any of the video representations I looked into beforehand. The band was spot on, the vocals were spot on, the visuals were…well…you know…they were sort of like this:

And like this:

A little bit like this:

And a lot like this:

You’re welcome.

Review: Fitz and the Tantrums’ New Album

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Taylor Dodson

 

Fitz and the Tantrums are back with a brand new style!

Releasing their second album, More Than Just A Dream, a few years after their debut (Pickin’ Up The Pieces), they’ve added plenty of new vocal effects and synthesizers to the mix. Whether this is good or bad, though, is up for interpretation.

Jumping into a track-by-track analyzation, the first track released from the new collection is Out of My League, a song with an extremely poppy sound and some seemingly off-pitch “ooh”s from the always-vibrant Noelle in the background. This came off as incredibly annoying at first. It’s one of those things that grows on you as you become more familiar with the song, but no promises on the likability for a Fitz first-timer. The song is decent overall and the strength of the chorus manages to keep you interested for the full three and a half minutes.

Track number 2, Break The Walls, starts off with a sound that is much more familiar to someone who is a Pickin’ Up The Pieces fan with more crisp piano and organ parts rather than pure synth…until you get to the bridge, which consists of a synth solo. This song is followed with The Walker, a quick-paced tune that keeps things simple with background beats and whistles until the chorus. It also holds some refreshing horn solos a little after halfway through. This song seems to keep the old sound in check yet keeps things fresh at the same time, making it a personal favorite for me.

Moving on, song number four is Spark. With a blend of old Fitz vocals and Nick-Waterhouse-style guitar in the verses, the chorus could and probably should be stronger than what it is, but overall this is a pretty good song that holds promise and shows off the variety of styles that this band has, along with track number 6, entitled 6am. A slow-disco jam, Noelle gets her own verse and the chance to add even more soul into the duet. But of course, a background synth solo comes in at the end, making sure you remember that this band isn’t entirely what they used to be. Fools Gold comes around after this and keeps the background simple enough for there to be an emphasis on the vocals.

Keepin Our Eyes out holds something very, very familiar in the intro…ah, yes! It is basically the EXACT same type of intro as their Pickin’ Up The Pieces song Don’t Gotta Work It Out! Just in an entirely different key (Or…pitch? Don’t tear me apart for mistaking technical terms. I’m not a Connie!). There is an effect over the vocals for this song, but it makes them sound very crisp and nice. The way the chorus picks up is a nice refresher after a mild verse and repetitive pre-chorus. As expected, there is some synth in the bridge as well as an outer-space-like effect over the vocals.

Next we have Last Raindrop, a song with plenty of synth and another soulful duet by Fitz and Noelle. This track has a different sound than most of their work and shows a little bit more variety in their overall style. They follow this up with House on Fire, a Fitz solo with radiating emotion. I’m not a fan of the way the pre-chorus sounds, but maybe it will grow on me like the rest of the album continues to do. I applaud the tone of the vocals, though, because I find myself really listening to what Fitz has to say, which I didn’t really do naturally during a lot of the other tracks (and I’m one who usually really digs into the lyrics of a song).

The End is the tenth track, with a somewhat groovy background but nothing that really jumped out at me apart from the Noelle solo during the bridge. This is another song that has the potential of becoming catchy after hitting repeat on the track a few times. After this we have Get Away, an upbeat jam that I found myself tapping my fingers to. The chorus-that-sounds-more-like-a-pre-chorus caught my attention with the rise in volume and attitude of the vocals, but this gets to be quite repetitive. The final track (before the bonus track, that is), MerryGoRound, is surprisingly slow starting off but is enjoyable as a whole. I thoroughly appreciate the lyrics as well as the sound of the entire song. The pace is interesting and the synth is soft with a carnival-like sound, which relates back to the track title. The bonus track is called Tell Me What Ya Here For. It’s fast-paced and…fun. It’s a really different vocal pace with Fitz singing in a rhythm that might as well consist of some raps and rhymes. It’s an interesting change from the rest of their work and the melody in the background is catchy as ever. Overall one of the better songs in the lineup.

As a whole, this is an okay album. Definitely not their best set of work, but it has a few golden songs that are promising in the sense that this is still a good band with style and flair. This album comes across as a giant set of experimentation with new background noise and vocal mixes here and there, which is perfectly normal for an artist to try out. The more I listen to this work, the more it grows on me. While I prefer the old album by far, I’m really into songs like The Walker, Spark, Keepin Our Eyes Out, and MerryGoRound and I know that the band will go far in their future endeavors because they truly are talented, put on extremely fun shows, and they earned my respect long ago. I recommend checking out at least a few of these songs if not the entire album, and I’m curious to see what comes next from the group!

Day Dreamer Interview!

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Taylor Dodson

Hailing from the southeastern WI/IL border, Day Dreamer is something special. With clever, relatable lyrics and a strong, unique sound to match, this band has a lot to offer. The passion in their work is undeniable, and if you don’t believe me you can watch this:

Losing Track – Acoustic

Their EP is up for download on their bandcamp and they also have a music video for what is my personal favorite song they’ve recorded thus far, Violet. If you like indie, emo, punk rock, or anything in between, you should give this band a chance. They’re going places for sure, and I’m not just talking about on tour.

The four talented individuals who make up this blend of musical fusion are Chris Sorenson, Brandon Boozer, Zack DiPersio, and Tyler Koutny. I was able to ask three of the four some questions about their music, past experiences, and their “Best Wishes” for where this experience takes them.

1. What are the first three adjectives or words that come to mind when thinking about Day Dreamer?
Chris: Hm, punk rock, punk rock, and most importantly punk rock.
Brandon: Emotion, honesty, and drive.
Zack: I would say the same thing as Brandon. Emotion, honesty, and drive.

2. How have you learned from previous musical experiences, and what do you hope to accomplish with this one?
Chris: I have learned from playing music in local bands for my entire teenage life that you really need to stop caring what people think of your music. Once you stop trying to emulate another’s voice, writing style, what have you, you really start to feel fulfilled in writing your music and that really is the point of all of this, isn’t it? So yeah, I hope to accomplish fulfillment through our music and I guess in the most vague sense, I really hope that this band acts as a catalyst to travel.
Brandon: I was in a pop punk band early on in high school, and we got fairly big in the local scene, but I never felt too creative. It was all really just for fun. Along with Day Dreamer, I am in a hardcore band called Loose Ends. With these bands I am working not only towards a better understanding of my instrument and my voice (which still needs much work), but also [towards] gaining a better understanding of myself, my words, and my thoughts.
Zack: I learned from doing solo acoustic stuff and watching other bands perform. I was [also] in another band with Chris and Brandon, Get Well Cards, as the drummer but I didn’t find myself energetic. So what I wish to accomplish in Day Dreamer is to be able to perform with enthusiasm and express the way I feel about our music.

3. What’s your favorite thing about Day Dreamer?
Chris: My favorite thing about Day Dreamer has got to be the fact that I thoroughly enjoy the writing process as opposed to other bands that I have been apart of.
Brandon: I think my favorite part about Day Dreamer is probably the same as Chris’. We all work very well together.
Zack: I can say so many things about how much I love being in this band, but my two favorite things are everybody has such a deep appreciation for the music, not just our own, and also how well we work together. I mean, there’s nothing better than working with your good friends.

4. What is something you’ve done or learned as an artist that you’re proud of?
Chris: I have learned as an artist that to write good music, you must appreciate every single type of music no matter what your personal opinion on the genre or sound may be. You’ve got to appreciate that not everybody listens to the same thing and so you have to meet people halfway. I will admit when a band is good even if I don’t enjoy their music. You’ve got to learn to grow up and appreciate all forms of art so that you can truly grasp the concept of making your own.
Brandon: I have gotten a lot better at my instrument than I was when I first actually started playing guitar. The first band I played guitar in was called Get Well Cards and honestly, I was a shitty guitar player. To let your mind expand and to let your abilities expand, you do have to take a step back and stop saying “This band sucks.” In most cases, the band doesn’t suck. You just need to take it for what it is and appreciate it. My musical taste has widened way more than I ever thought it would.
Zack: I have learned that you have to be open minded [with] what you listen to and appreciate all types of music. it helped me become a better artist and a better songwriter.

5. What is something you would like to become better at individually?
Chris: I would like to get better at pacing myself while singing. Not too interesting of an answer, I know.
Brandon: I want to learn how to play all different styles of music, mostly old blues guitar. Blues rules.
Zack: What I would like to become better at is my stage presence. I am a very shy guy and just need to be able to jump the gun.

6. What would be your dream venue to play in and tour to be a part of?
Venue:
Chris: Honestly, it would be insane to play a packed show at the Metro in Chicago.
Brandon: Realistically right now, I would love to play a show at the Subterranean in Chicago. Playing a sold out show at like, the Bradley Center or something would be absolutely insane, but I’m not sure the fan base for this type of music will ever get that huge. Hahaha.
Zack: I would love to play at the House of Blues. I just love it in there. To be able to play there would be amazing.
Tour:
Chris: It would absolutely rule to play shows with Daylight, Saves The Day, and my all-time favorite, Brand New.
Brandon: Touring with bands like Daylight, Tigers Jaw, Seahaven, Title Fight, or Balance & Composure would be damn wild.
Zack: I would love to tour with Tigers Jaw and Daylight; that would be amazing.

7. What inspires you?
Chris: When I find myself submerged in a great album, I get a feeling that nothing else can ever compare to. When I see a band that I love live, that feeling is multiplied. I am inspired by my wish to provide that feeling to other people as it has so graciously been gifted to me.
Brandon: I just want to make music that I can listen to and get the same feeling that I get when listening to some of my favorite bands, and if I can do that for someone else, that is great. But honestly, I think it may be more for myself than anyone else. I just want something that I can say I did a good job on and that I can show my parents and have them know that their support in my musical endeavors over the years hasn’t been wasted.
Zack: I’m inspired by music in general [as well as] writing it. Just being able to play is something I want to do for the rest of my life. Having people listen to the music that we have is just amazing. As a band I can say that it inspires us to write even more, even better songs than we have now. I couldn’t be happier.

On Music Dickery;

Posted on 18 February 2013 by Steph

My goal, in this article and in life, is to ultimately undermine any notion you have of music or art that is inherently or objectively good.

Rachele wrote an article about a year ago related to this – she basically said that her ears have been so washed over with noises, noises that have a lot of similarities to eachother and some unique qualities, and her judgement has been contrary to majority judgement often enough that she was questioning her own ability and power to judge them, as is necessary in radio-station-running life (I didn’t give it a full re-read, I’ll admit, but that about covers it). As the RPM and weird-other-things MD, I don’t have that job, which I’m pretty glad about, as I tasted it last term and felt totally unprepared. And sometimes, to be frank, I did turn to reviews and rankings if I was totally unsure of my own power to decide the WLFM-related fate of an album.

Especially at this school, with a conservatory, and a thousand hobby-musicians, and a billion bands, there are a gillion people who feel really very strongly about the music around them. That’s awesome, for sure. I’ve found myself feeling a little lackluster about it in my years here, mostly because my ADD ensures that I absolutely cannot have sounds around me if I want to successfully read geochemistry, and I spend most of my time reading geochemistry (must be why I don’t mind hanging around in the buried, cave-like inferno of the WLFM station, hehe). My radio show  is really the only strongly devoted time I have to seeking out new music, sharing it with peers, etc. And certainly, I feel positively and negatively about some of it. I’ve fallen in love with bands who don’t sound a hell of a lot different from other bands that I don’t care about, and I never figured out why.

So, the only “why” I can muster is that it totally doesn’t mean anything or matter at all!

Honestly, I think my arguments for the complete subjectivity of music sprang out of wanting to subvert and annoy my friends. Boy, have I got some music-snob friends (<3). I’ve had some pretty good discussions that started with my jumping on someone about calling a song/artist “bad” just because I knew I could do pretty well in the argument. However, it also partly stems from my discovered-in-college-ethics-class love of hedonism. Exclusive valuation of pleasure and the absence of pain, where the pleasure it totally experiential to each involved person, there are no actual better or worse pleasures, and it is up to the judgment of each person affected. AKA you don’t know better than anyone else, just do what makes you feel good without making others feel worse. The third foundation of my argument is basically in just not-giving-a-shit; what do my preferences have to do with other human beings making music and having a career and living their lives? The answer is very little, if anything.

Of course I’ve found myself in hypocrisy of it since deciding that I was the ultimate musical utilitarian – if I like the music a lot, or am listening to music created by someone looking for feedback, etc, sure, I’ll call it “good” and genuinely mean it. What I try to avoid though, is ever calling something “bad”. At a school like ours, with people like ours, this most often comes up in relation to POP MUSIC~~*~~*~~. There are people that despise Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, just kindof on principle. It seems to transcend any actual distaste or disrespect for their music or accomplishments – you can tell when someone really, without any explicable justification, hates them. And frankly, this is always born completely of a superiority complex or a distaste for the people at large that are making J-Biebz successful, which is equally dumb (hating J-Biebz for his not-uncommon misogynistic quotes, on the other hand, is fine). I really like one or two of the Biebs’ songs, and I really don’t like others. I made myself give him a chance. It went alright. But then spotify published it to facebook because I forgot to turn on secret-mode.

Mostly I think that no one ever can rag on pop music in any objective sense because it IS popular – a lot of people have expressed their like of it, and the result is the song becoming popular. Great. I trust the judgment of those athletic, optimistic, 13-year-old girls running the capitalist music industry just as much as I trust the judgment of some 24-year-old dude with hip glasses who has heard a thousand times more songs than her. 13-year-old girls are awesome, and super smart and learning about the world and it’s great. Each song has a purpose and a place and an audience, so long as it makes someone happy, then we’re good! The world is grand!

This is where I get into the muckier water of completely unpopular bands – I have been basing the subjective valuation of music in whether myself or others like it. This seems to imply that music that is liked by a smaller audience has less value. As a utilitarian, that probably is the actual conclusion I have to draw, but the not-giving-a-shit side of me wants to disagree. The not-giving-a-shit side of me says that the creation is making the artist happy, and then I just feel bad that they’re not finding more audience support, and mostly it doesn’t matter and hopefully they’ll be alright. Or, going further, there really is no value at all (sounds harsh, but science).

Further, a problem of the modern music industry (well, and music throughout time), is that musical success is not very closely tied to the degree to which people actually find joy and value in that music (flawed capitalism! [I'm not literally ragging on all of capitalism here, just saying that it's not a perfect market if there is not a close relationship between the demand and the market gains]). In a perfect world (market), every person would be able to listen to every artist, without any bias, and figure out how much they really like it and invest in it appropriately. Recently, the music world is such that artists can be a lot more successful with some luck – you can plaster your songs and band all over the internet as much as you want. I can’t even fathom what it was like to try to start a music career pre-internet. But, frankly, there are other aspects (which I hesitate to call “negative aspects”) that allow people to literally pay for musical success (Ark Music Factory). Then again, Ark Music Factory turns out a lot of music videos, and only a very few have seen popular success, so RBlack must have been doing something right.

Ark Music Factory is the thing that the music-objectifiers (that’s not quite the term I mean, what I really mean is “people who are sure that there is “good” and “bad” music and that they know the difference best”) hate the most. This is because of the nature of art. I don’t really know how to approach this, because I’m too much a scientific-skeptic (good ol’ geochemistry) to even understand the philosophy enough to explain it well. Basically it is the valuation of art/music that is made “genuinely”, out of “sincere emotions”, made to “express those emotions”, etc. Any music that is made TO BE POPULAR is bad. Music made FOR THE ARTIST, is good, but I don’t think it’s all that’s good? Any music made for monetary gain is bad.  I’ve made a lot of art, and even a fair amount of music, and I still don’t understand this one, but those are my best guesses. These ideologies are supported more by artists/musicians than by the people that tend to consume (rather than create) the music and art. This is why paying to make music is devalued, this is why performing music that you didn’t write (and benefitting from it) is devalued, this is why “ungenuine”, “dumb” artists (lay off T-Swift and Lana or else) are insulted and devalued. However, these all depend on a notion of art that is very narrow, and that, I argue, is useless, unless you admit you can only decide whether to categorize something as “art” by interviewing the artist while they’re connected to a lie-detector about their true motivation and intentions. I’m fine with anything being “art”, any song, whatever. I’ve written songs that I rather like but am embarassed about, and I think that’s stupid. It doesn’t matter.

I  have some “cool” favorite bands, but I’m never really sure when they’re cool or why, and it’s really all just confusing and I have become a bit of a hermit when it comes to musical discourse. I also have some “guilty pleasure” music tastes (mentioned above), but I hate that they’re “guilty” – the guilt is not related to their actual value, especially their value to me. I’m trying to make them less guilty – because, let’s be real, if there is such a thing as objectively good music, then there are few better examples than the whole TLC radio station on Pandora.

 Oh and this.

-Steph

RPM MD, Webmaster, Promotions, Scheduling and other Organizational-Tasks-person; RLM of Artistic Expression House; Proud Geology Major, less proud probably Philosophy minor;

Nick Waterhouse Review

Posted on 02 February 2013 by Taylor Dodson

I’m not one to dance. Ever. But Nick Waterhouse makes me want to shake my tail feather.

I get nothing but good vibes from this guy. With an extremely classic style, Waterhouse puts a modern twist on it with his smooth vocals and just the right amount of energy. It’s hard to believe this type of music is coming from a 25 year old Californian, but it’s an incredibly pleasant surprise.

Waterhouse opens his debut album, Time’s All Gone, with a hit called Say I Wanna Know. When listening to this song, I find myself sitting here snapping my fingers and tapping my foot. This guy is pure class. The chants of the girls in the background give off a major oldies feel, and the beat is irresistible. “Have you ever made the best of a bad situation? Maybe gone and taken somethin’ of yours for the taking?” The vibes from track 1 flow perfectly into track 2, Some Place, which is actually the first song I ever heard off of this record. The vocals lean even more towards an oldies style this time, but the tempo is quick enough to keep that young feel that naturally shines through Waterhouse’s tunes. Don’t You Forget It is song number 3, a jam about a new girl in the young artist’s life that is much better for him than his current seemingly-selfish lady friend. This is followed with yet another fast-paced song, (If) You Want Trouble, that has a blast of energy peaking here and there.  One of my personal favorites, Raina is track number 5 on Time’s All Gone. Experimenting with deeper vocals, I want to say Waterhouse makes this song sound just like it’s straight out of our parents’ generations.  The overall direction of the song and the female background vocals drag me towards that feeling, but the thing that stops me could be the pace-change when the chorus comes around, or the way the tone seems to change as the chorus plays; something about the mechanics of this song is holding me back. It’s like I want to travel back in time and show this guy off to the world, and something tells me everyone would love him, but at the same time something tells me they’d be shocked at his style. I just can’t figure it out, but maybe I’m not supposed to be able to pick apart his songs so easily. Maybe it’s all a part of his plan.

Indian Love Call slows it down a little bit but keeps that perfect blend of background vocals and Hawaiian guitar, and then we’ve got Is That Clear to really complete the sound with powerful drums, mini guitar solos, and a perfect touch of the sax to jazz things up a bit. Slowing into a new track, Teardrop Will Follow You, we’ve got a song that gives me a mental picture of Waterhouse in a suit creepin’ along down the street one step at a time, fingers snappin’, footsteps in sync with the sax. And then, last but not least, we’ve got a sped-up ending to the album with Time’s All Gone parts 1 and 2.

Track-by-track analyzation, I find, is more difficult when an entire album is so smooth and fantastic, so I feel as though I’ve been repeating myself quite a bit. I apologize for that. I would like to mention, though, Waterhouse’s great performance on Live From Daryl’s House. For those of you who don’t know, Daryl Hall of Hall and Oates has his own show on Palladia where he invites an artist over to jam with his band and enjoy a nice home-cooked meal. Waterhouse made an appearance on this show in late 2012 and did a phenomenal job during the live performance, as well as in showing that he’s just an all-around good guy full of refreshing character. In the episode, he states that he “likes having an amateur approach to things” and he is curious to see how the “pros” do it. It was proven on this day that Nick Waterhouse is no amateur. This guy is classy and cool, sophisticated and spicy, fresh and talented, and most definitely hip to the jive.

If you are looking for someone catchy and cool to listen to, there’s a good chance Nick Waterhouse may be the guy for you.

The Likes Of Lana Del Rey

Posted on 14 November 2012 by Taylor Dodson

In my eighteen years of life, I’ve been exposed to many different types of music. My dad introduced me to Bruce Springsteen at a very young age, and my mom liked to talk about the Beatles as I grew up. I used to fall asleep in my dad’s arms as he danced me around to Chris Isaak and Frank Sinatra. On road trips we always turn on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, jamming to the most random yet awesome selection of songs ranging from Tracey Ullman’s old school They Don’t Know to The Dollyrots’ hit Because I’m Awesome. I’ve got a huge appreciation for older music of all kinds as well as newer hits found on stations like Little Steven’s, but I also find myself taking a look at the Top 100 every so often and trying to find some type of actual talent because, let’s face it, I can’t sit there and tell you that a song like Stupid Hoe gives me hope for humankind. Despite my lack of interest in music such as that, I still do my best to keep an open mind upon hearing something new, and I don’t let popularity of an artist (or lack of popularity) get in the way of my opinion. Whether 13 year old girls or the elderly are into a specific artist, I base my thoughts around what I have come to know about good music and I look at many different aspects of the overall song, album, or artist at hand.

Recently, I decided to take a look at an artist who I had been curious to learn more about for quite a while: Lana Del Rey. I was shocked to discover that what reeled me in at first was her vocal resemblance to Stevie Nicks, although Lana’s voice is much more pure. Her voice also has an interesting range, making her sound like an entirely different person at times. It’s debatable, though, whether her talent is used in a productive way or not. I came across a link on this site about her debut album, Born To Die (http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/lana-del-rey-born-die), and discovered that Lana has implied that she just desires fame because she doesn’t want to be alone. For some reason, people think this (as well as her beauty) makes her a goddess when really she just seems to outright admit she isn’t really doing this for a respectable purpose. If I’m reading into it too much, let me know. I just think all forms of art should be very personal and meaningful to the artist and while that may be how Lana feels when writing, she doesn’t really help herself out when she acts like that doesn’t play a big role in her desire to release her work.

While I didn’t like a good chunk of Born To Die and agree with those who say it’s incredibly depressing as a whole, I was looking forward to the release of Paradise because the single she put out earlier, Ride, gave me a really good feeling about what would come next from the singer. While the music video for the song was all-around strange due to the dialogue and just added to my impression that Lana only craves a few things in life (fame, sex, getting high, much older men, sex, being reckless, party dresses, and sex), the song itself showed off her talent in a way I appreciated and I thought “hey, maybe this album will have less fluff and more quality”. This song makes me feel really good about her overall, because I see that she has the ability to showcase her voice beautifully. It’s still a bit depressing, that’s undeniable, but the chorus picks up and just makes you feel…good. It’s a freeing song. It’s nice. Because of this, I had high hopes for the second track on the newly-released Paradise, titled American. I’ll be honest, I can’t really tell where Lana is going with this song. However, I do think it shows off her vocals in a very flattering way much like Ride does, and she hooked me in when she complimented Springsteen by calling him “the king” (which is ironic considering she talks about Elvis in the second verse). Considering Springsteen is my favorite artist of all time, I was happy she could recognize good music and my heart felt all fuzzy inside and I thought “I knew this would be a great album! I knew it!”, which may have been a bit naive but I’m a sucker for Springsteen compliments. The track ended and my hopes were higher than ever as I eagerly awaited hearing the beginning line of the next song…

“My pussy tastes like Pepsi-Cola…”

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.

THIS is what it has come down to?! My literal thought was “WTF?!” Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. I can’t say I’m surprised because after all, it’s Lana Del Rey! But I really thought I was getting something different with this album, and she had led me on for two whole tracks. She’s also apparently trying to get the current man in her life (one of many) to cheat on his wife because his wife “wouldn’t mind”. She follows this up a bit later with “I pledge allegiance to my dad for teaching me everything he knows”. All I know is, if I was Lana’s dad, I would either be pissed at her for saying such a thing…or I’d be upset with my life choices because it would appear that I did something very very wrong.

Alright, next track: Body Electric. A track giving off false family history (close relations to both Elvis and Marilyn Monroe) and sharing Lana’s partying experiences with Jesus, who is her “bestest friend”. Enough said.

Up next we have Blue Velvet, which is nothing special but it’s a nice, calming song that I could probably pass out listening to if I wanted. It is followed by a song called Gods & Monsters, about how Lana wants to be “fucked hard” and how she’s just an “angel” living in a “garden of evil”. Literally the entire song is about how she wants it to be given to her…hard. It’s “innocence lost” despite how many other times she’s sung about her sex cravings and experiences. But my favorite part is the part where she goes “Like a groupie incognito posing as a real singer. Life imitates art.” Again, I might be reading into her quotes too deeply but it doesn’t get any more blunt than that. This is why “I’ve got a war in my mind” too, Lana. I can’t tell if I hate what you stand for because you have an amazing voice. They don’t exactly go hand in hand, but I can’t bring myself away from your music even though some of it makes me mad. The next track has a type of beauty to it; Yayo is suggestive but at least we don’t have to hear anything in-depth about her personal…er, flavor. Bel Air is what we end with, another track that isn’t so bad. Nothing about either track really stuck out to me besides Yayo having some impressive vocal range.

Overall, I can’t say I love this album. I expected it to be ten times better than what it is, but I’m also not surprised with the result. I guess that’s what you get with Lana Del Ray. I’m starting to wonder if she does this on purpose, how she mixes the really intense, weird stuff right in between some lighter, nicer tunes. What I can respect is that she supposedly writes every word she releases. I don’t know what to believe since I’ve read otherwise, but I’ve seen quotes from her about how she is the sole creator of every line. If she truly comes up with it all, that’s great, and in that way she isn’t putting her voice to waste. That almost makes up for the ridiculous path to which some of her lyrics travel. I will say, though, that if any of her crazier songs get to be the more popular singles that I hear on the radio, I’ll be pretty upset with whoever voted for them over something like Ride. I know that crazy things have become more of the norm, but why? Why do such ridiculous songs become so popular? If they were well-known because they are outright ridiculous, that’d make sense and I wouldn’t think twice about it. I get the whole “release it for shock-value” thing. Sure, go right ahead. It’ll give you fifteen minutes of fame and you can be on your way. But the idea that songs that have absolutely no point, are degrading, and have artists with absolutely no talent and that don’t put any work into the music…the idea that these songs are thoroughly enjoyed by the general public is what makes me sick. (Clearly I’m talking about things beyond the likes of Lana Del Rey at this point.) When I say “artists with absolutely no talent and that don’t put any work into the music” I do really like to put those two together because an artist with no strong vocal abilities can still manage to put out something great, especially in genres like rock n roll, punk, and metal. It’s an acquired taste, sure, but at least those artists still stand for something and get their points across the table. All I’m sayin’ is I’d like to see someone with a voice like Lana’s get recognition for the things she’s doing right rather than wrong.

Before this turns into any more of a semi-irrelevant rant on the modern-day music industry, I’ll conclude my review on this young lady by saying that I will probably purchase the Born To Die: Paradise Edition bundle simply because I do enjoy listening to her good work. I’m a person that likes having physical copies of CDs, so I’d rather buy the whole thing than just a few songs I REALLY like, because her other work is decent even though some of it is just weird. If I was her (even though I’d choose being Taylor Dodson over her any day), I would have just released the following lineup as ONE CD, maybe self titled or just called Born To Die or Paradise, whatever the hell sounds best:

1. Born To Die
2. Video Games
3. Dark Paradise
4. Million Dollar Man
5. Summertime Sadness
6. Ride
7. American
8. Yayo

Naturally, her other work would have a setlist like this:

1. Off To The Races
2. Blue Jeans
3. Diet Mountain Dew
4. National Anthem
5. Radio
6. Carmen
7. This Is What Makes Us Girls
8. Without You
9. Lolita
10. Lucky Ones
11. Cola
12. Body Electric
13. Blue Velvet
14. Gods & Monsters
15. Bel Air

The title of that collection?

Other Shit. 

 

 

 

 

Feminism and Music: The Hip-Hop Director’s Perspective on Sexism and the Music

Posted on 04 May 2012 by Casper

The only picture I could find of Jay-Z's ass. This becomes relevant later.

I woke up this morning to find our server on fire.  Why?  Rachele, our industrious and hardworking Top 200 manager wrote an article called, “Feminism and Music: A Post That Is Going to Make a Lot of Girls Try and Make Me Burn the Bras I Practically Never Wear“, which after spending about 2 weeks unmolested on our site was discovered by the Facebook PC police and subsequently torn a new one.  And I don’t blame them, there is almost too much wrong with this article to respond to, but at the same time Rachele’s views are completely understandable if you break them down into their component parts, and if anybody should be blamed for this article it is feminism itself for its failure to relate to modern women.

Rachele’s argument consists of basically 3 parts: she has never been discriminated against as a result of her gender/sex, she hates feminism, doesn’t believe in the relevance of the feminist movement or in the existence of sexism and that she can support these claims using the contents of her Ipod.  Instead of crucifying her for making these claims, we should look at why she believes them, and understand what we can do to change them.

The crux to understanding her article itself lies in the title (which might as well be, “Feminism is no longer relevant to me because society doesn’t care if I wear a bra or not”); Rachele still associates feminism with bra burning, and while this is completely misinformed, the fault lies not with Rachele,  but with feminism itself.  The first time a feminist burned a bra, she set feminism in opposition to femininity, setting up a situation where if a woman wanted to be feminine, she couldn’t be a feminist  Modern feminism isn’t about not wearing bras, it is about women making their own choices, but to Rachele (and a lot of other people) feminism is still about burning bras.

My motivation for writing this article is that I’ve read both sides, and I feel that neither side has done a good job of making their point.  The problem modern feminism is that sexism is no longer about people saying, “No, you can’t do that because you are a woman.”  I’m sure that Rachele is 100% correct when she says that no one has ever told her she can’t do something because she is a woman.  She grew up in a fairly progressive time, and she goes to a fairly progressive school, and for the most any obvious sexism in our society has been stamped out.

Even less obvious forms of sexism have gotten harder to find.  For instance my good friend, who I’ll call Hilde, is doing a project on sexism in the media and she asked me to help her think of examples of recent popular songs that objectify women. You know what?  It’s really fucking hard.  For instance, at the time of this article, “We Are Young” by fun. is #2 on the billboard top 200 charts.  Watch the video (it’s a great song) and then tell me what about it is sexist:

Having trouble?  If you aren’t it’s probably because you have taken a class or two on feminism.  Up until recently, I wouldn’t have found any problems with the video.  There is so much right about this video and song.  Unlike song of yore, this guy doesn’t expect this girl to love him, he understands that she has other people.  The song even has Janelle Monae in it, who is like the poster child of modern feminism.

What is wrong with this video is what you can’t see, and what you can only get by putting this song in context with all of the rest of the songs that came out this year, and the music industry in general.  What Rachele doesn’t see when she looks at the names on her Ipod, and what you don’t hear when you listen to the lyrics of that song are all of the little ways in which sexism is still present.  I will personally guarantee that that song is produced by a male producer, as are probably 95% of other songs on the radio.  And even though Rachele’s Ipod is 50% women, I’ll bet less than 25% of the women in the bands overall are women.  While society might have accepted women as the lead singers of bands, how many bands have drummers or guitarists that are women?  Most of the other examples of women in music I can think of are bassists (Deerhoof, Drive-By Truckers, etc.), who are almost always in the background in a band.  From the looks of the video, fun. has one person in their band who is a woman, and she plays keyboard, and we see her for about 10 seconds in the entire video.  The camera focuses entirely on the male members in the band.

Let’s talk a little bit about the camera, and how that relates to sexism.  Rachele is mostly right when she says that naked is naked, but at the same time, when women are put in front of a camera they are much more naked than when a man is put in front of a camera.  Sure, Beyonce’s net worth might be than the net worth of Jay-Z, and that might say something about equality in our culture, but try finding a picture of Jay-Z’s ass.  When we put Beyonce in front of a camera, she becomes an object, and the same does not happen for Jay-Z.  If you want proof of this, watch this Vizio ad:

Sure the point of the commercial is that the Vizio is more lifelike than life, but at the same time it does a great job of proving my point.  Beyonce is nothing more than an object in this video.  At one point the “scientist” in the video turns up the “Beyonce” and the camera cuts back to the actual Beyonce, and we are forced to accept the premise that somehow this dial affected the actual Beyonce’s sex appeal in order to understand the commercial.  Not only is Beyonce’s sex appeal affected by the knob, but the “scientist” who is control of the knob is a male.  This might seem to be a small point, but of the 4 people in the video (the two people in the booth, and the man the test is being performed on), Beyonce is the only woman.  And what makes this video sexist is that if any of the people in the video were replaced with a member of the opposite sex, the video wouldn’t work, it depends entirely on everyone fulfilling their gender roles.  We can’t imagine the man looking at the TV instead of say, Jay-Z, and we can’t imagine a woman watching the TV instead of watching Beyonce herself.  Additionally Beyonce doesn’t exist in video because they want to showcase her music, she exists in the video for her sex appeal. The video would have the same point if It’s a small world were playing instead of whatever Beyonce song is playing.  In fact the fact that the man doesn’t look a Beyonce and instead looks at the TV actually does more to objectify her than anything else, because he is concentrating on Beyonce the image instead of Beyonce the person.

But like I said, If you really want an easy way to prove that there is still sexism in the music industry, (or in general) try to find a picture of Beyonce’s ass, and then do the same thing for Jay-Z.

The point of all of this is that even if no-one ever tells another woman they can’t do something because they are a woman, it doesn’t mean that feminism has achieved its goals.  Sexism exists in many forms, and they aren’t something that they you would necessarily be able to notice without someone telling you what to look for.  Just because you don’t notice it, doesn’t mean sexism doesn’t exist, but it also doesn’t mean that people who don’t notice it should be crucified.  That does nothing except to alienate them.  If we really want to make a difference we need to guide people to the answer instead of alienating them, and I hope I have guided a few people to what I think is the right path with this article.

 

Please post your comments.  I’m sure I screwed something up with my theory (probably the part where I claimed feminism itself is partially to blame) and I’m interested in your take.

Edit – A good point was made, which was that bra burning is largely a media construction; bra burning was never a big part of the feminist movement and is much (or more) a creation of media sensationalism as it is a creation of the feminist movement.  I don’t know enough to comment either way, but this seems plausible.  Either way feminism does suffer in public perception from the bra burning thing (but maybe it is as much the media’s fault) and the overall point stands.