Consider so-called “self-publishing” for the past several years and you’ll find that every year, someone writes that its “stigma” is disappearing. Perfunctory research dug up this 2002 Wired article, and articles every year following up until now, including this one at the Washington Post. What’s odd is that extensive searches for stigmas associated with either indie filmmaking or indie music-making yield no such results—in fact, the closest I came when Googling for any stigma associated with indie filmmaking were results lamenting the difficulty of an NC-17 film-rating. I thought, at first, I might be using invalid search terms, so I tried “independent”—rather than “indie”—filmmaking; ironically, I found only this Yahoo! question-and-answer post regarding the distinction between the stigma associated with self-publishing and the lack of any associated with independent filmmaking.
What’s interesting about that question is the response thereto: the poster proposes that the distinction is that, when considering writing, often the author is the only person associated with the work (say, a novel, or memoir, or book of poetry). The general thought seems to be that filmmaking can only be collaborative—with a producer and writer and director and actors—while a self-published novel’s creation is isolative—just one writer, in one room, with one keyboard and one screen.
If that is the case, however, wouldn’t it be true that, except in very rare circumstances, neither filmmaking nor music are ever truly “independent”? How often does one encounter a movie written, produced, and directed by one actor in one room? And that doesn’t even mention lighting, sound, and crafts.
Really, sounds like those self-shot YouTube videos one sees, in which users turn on their webcams and talk/rant at it for a few minutes.
(Regardless of your feelings concerning authors who have published their own books—through whatever means—it’s simply not equivalent to ranting at a webcam.)
What it comes down to is simple: for some reason, people respect independence when associated with music recording or filmmaking but not writing, even though writing is the only endeavor of the three that is ever actually accomplished independently.
Seems like this week is always rather retrospective. Years in review, all that. Lots of sites running “Top Stories of 2010″ posts, as though what wouldn’t have been news again last week suddenly is solely by virtue of when it was news. It’s like the East Coast blizzard froze the whole world, which is stuck hoping for thaw to begin tomorrow.
I thought about doing some best-of posts. The decade-best lists are some of the most popular posts on this site. Yesterday, however, I glanced through a list of movies that came out in 2011 and found precisely two I thought were remarkable: How to Train Your Dragon and The Social Network. The former was a surprise; it had a lot of heart and was a lot of fun, and it managed that rare thing of being a movie aimed at a younger audience that appealed across a wider age range without using irreverent humor and other such innuendo-based means. With Shrek, one of the things that increased its appeal was jokes that kids wouldn’t have gotten; it worked on multiple levels; Dragon, on the other hand, stuck mainly consistent in just trying to tell its story, and I think it was a better movie for it.
The Social Network demonstrates that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Panic Room were flukes from a guy who’s been getting better since the beginning, by which I mean that David Fincher had shown signs of improvement over his career and development as a director in years previous by making movies that were consistently better than the ones before. Se7en was fantastic after Alien3. The Game is underrated, and then there’s Fight Club, and then, just when you think that he’s got a style, signature shots, all that, Zodiac, which was the first time he just turned the camera on and followed the story (which isn’t to say his obvious style didn’t serve his other movies). And now The Social Network the rise and continued rise of Zuckerberg and Facebook, which was, on all levels, fantastic.
I read other movies people were raving about, but didn’t much like them when I sat down to check them out. Inception, in particular . . . just didn’t do it for me. Funny: I remember when The Matrix came out, and all the people who claimed not to “get it,” that it just never made sense to them, all that, and then watching Inception . . . my initial thought was “So it’s The Matrix but with dreams and less action?”
That thought never went away. It eventually became more negative, in fact, but one of my resolutions this year is to be more positive. Exciting is not about negativity, after all.
What a difficult list to compile. Especially since, glancing down at my iTunes running, there are 33,773 songs in my library. According to iTunes, it will take me more than 100 days of continuous listening (with no sleep, now I realize) to listen to them all. It’s rather extensive, and it’s the sort of collection that makes my taste in music suspect at best, beginning as it does with A-Ha (because any collection without “Take On Me” is incomplete) and ending (before it reaches songs without proper ID3 tags and lumps them all) with “Skin Up Pin Up” by 808 State/Mansun from Spawn: The Album (iTunes is the first organization system I’ve seen that puts numbers after letters, rather than before; if it did, the first songs would be by 1 Giant Leap or 12 Rounds). In between those few, there’s everything from Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle, and Bon Jovi to all of Clapton, the Beatles, and Sinatra.
So it’s pretty expansive.
But expansive as it is, I tend to stick to some favorites. Lately it’s been a lot of Wolfmother (and Jet; what is it about Australia that inspires such great rock music from its bands?), Vanessa Mae, and, as always, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Also, Adam Lambert and Matt Wertz.
So there’s a lot. But I winnowed. I winnowed after I kept reading other lists that fawned over, like, Radiohead and such. I mean, has Radiohead ever managed to be as good as Pablo, Honey? They’re like Pearl Jam and Matchbox Twenty, with fantastic debut CDs but output that has gotten subsequently less terrific with each title. For me, anyway. Your listening may vary. Also, dear Rolling Stone: The Strokes and Wilco in number 2 and number 3 spots, respectively. No offense, but seriously? No wonder people debate the continued relevance of the magazine. I mean, how safe.
Why not stretch a bit? Why not reach for some choices few people would expect? Then again, this from a guy who doesn’t really enjoy any of those three bands. I know lots of reviewers fell over themselves to heap a lot of praise on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but there wasn’t a single song on it that made me want to listen to the CD again. I get the impression it’s all just, like, hey, everyone else likes it, so we should, too, but to cite one of the artists who earned a spot on my list by way of a great CD, “You don’t know what love is, you just do as you’re told.”
So, suspect taste noted, shall we? My top ten albums of the last ten years, in order:
This past decade may have been the one that most changed music, both as an industry and in general (will we even have albums anymore, at the close of our new decade?). Apple introduced its iPod in 2001 and then its iPhone in 2007, both of which helped the Cupertino-based company located at One Infinite Loop become the largest music retailer in the industry. Before we go on, let that sink in a moment: iTunes Store is a larger retailer of music than Wal-Mart or Amazon. Part of it is convenience—the iPod dominates the digital music player category, while the iPhone continues to grow as a cell phone—but there’s more to it than simply that people just want something to plug in and forget. It’s changed browsing, publishing, and exclusivity, not to mention access; more musicians have more access to put up their music. It no longer takes the likes of Sony and BMG to reach an audience; now, anyone with a microphone and a guitar can record their music in their basement and charge a buck a track to anyone who wants them.
Which is not to say that anyone with a microphone and a guitar should (although at times it’s sounds like many have and still are); as with movies and books, few people ever want to believe they’re just not that good at what they want to do. Most publishers, be they of music, movies, or books, want the general public to believe they act something like gatekeepers, which may be one of the biggest PR con jobs in the history of people making stuff up for other people to enjoy.
But the past ten years have been really good to music. Spectacular, even, with introductions to fantastic new bands and new releases from ones we hadn’t heard from in a lot of years. So good a top-ten list is tough, and again, filled with lots of CDs that very nearly make it but either way certainly deserve a mention as elevens. In no particular order:
When I got my loan disbursement this time around, I took care of all my education-related bills and such, and had a bit left over. Which was a nice relief after having been waiting to receive on so many accounts, and I decided to celebrate. To indulge, in fact, in two things I’d been wanting for a while.
The first was a new pair of headphones. Several years ago, after hearing very positive things about them, I invested in a pair of Grado SR80s. Grado is known among audiophiles as having totally premium cans of the sort that can often run into the thousands of dollars for a single pair of their most high-end product. The SR80s are not; they’re just a step above entry level, but I loved them. They sounded so good. Listening to my music really was different when I used them, as opposed the the earbuds I had been using.
And then they broke. They served well for several years, but the wire frayed and the right-side can sputtered, and I could have fixed them, probably, but it might have cost nearly as much as new cans, anyway. Besides the fact that I had bought a pair of Sennheiser earbuds to use with my iPod, and they were sufficient even if they weren’t quite as spectacular.
I’ve been wanting a pair of headphones since then, though, and so I bought a pair last week. I did some quite extensive shopping around, and noticed some spectacular deals around Christmas, including one particular pair of earbuds that normally retail for $500 but had been discounted by 50%. I admit I almost took that plunge, but I had already decided I wanted real cans again. Big, open, circumnaural cans to go over my head. I mean, mind you, I’m no more an audiophile than I might be an oenophile, but I like my music nearly as much as I like my wine (I prefer the term “lush”), and after having owned those Grados . . . I missed them. They had sounded so good. One thing about them, though, is that Grados are kind of retro in terms of design and really aren’t the most comfortable headphones in the world.
Given that I like my Sennheiser earbuds, I thought I’d give their headphones a shot. They have several series, but I stumbled upon their HD595 model. Nice design. Velvet ear cushions. Good, dynamic driving for all types of music. I consistently read people remark on their versatility. And their price was just about at the most I was willing to spend.
They came today. And ZOMG. Seriously.
Usually, higher-end cans need what audiophiles call “burn-in time.” Apparently, whatever in the cans works needs a while to equalize, or something. Most times, you hear that you want to play some music through them for, like, 24 hours straight before you really listen to them, as they reach some balance in their sound. I’ve heard some people open the package, hook them up, and then put them in a drawer for a week.
Readers of this blog, however, are probably well aware of my admittedly limited patience. Knowing me, does putting them in a drawer sound like something I’d be able to do?
Of course not. Come on, a brief tour of my music collection.
Also worth remembering: that tomorrow is not so much a victory as an opportunity. That it is not nearly so much a culmination as it is a beginning. My greatest hope for the coming Obama administration is that it will help to remind us that the struggle hasn’t ended and may never be over, and that its burden is on our shoulders. That we shall not be lifted lest we lift each other up.
“Forgive that they teared down my soul
Bless them that they might grow old
A dream that’s forgotten may know
That it’s never too late.”
-”Madagascar,” lyrics by W. Axl Rose.
Is that not perhaps the greatest whistle of all time? Pretty rad.
That was mid-Guns ‘n Roses, wasn’t it? I have to admit I don’t remember; I was 2 in 1980, and my early childhood was spent loving Bon Jovi more than anyone else, ever. If Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987, I was all of 9 at the time, and I fear I was always more into books and reading than music, anyway. The first thing I remember about Guns ‘n Roses is dancing with Jennifer Harwood to “November Rain.” I was, like, 14, maybe?
Still, love them now. Chinese Democracy? I have to post a review of that one of these days; it immediately became one of my favorite CDs ever. “Madagascar” alone would have been worth two decades.
But I bring all this up because I found something yesterday. Just happened across it.
Now, you wouldn’t think something could be more awesome than Axl doing “Patience”. I mean, Guns became nearly as synonymous with his slithery-dance delivery as with his howl and Slash’s riffs. How often can you apply an adjective like “awesome” to a whistle? And even the lyrics are pretty good. I mean, they aren’t Roger Clyne-level good, but not everyone can be the poet laureate of peace, love, and Rock & Roll, can they be?
But say you wanted to improve on “Patience”. Say we wanted to make it cooler. Wouldn’t your first thought be to rock it harder? Mine would be. I mean, to make “Black Betty” cooler, Spiderbait had to race a vintage truck on a jet-powered drumkit.
Surprisingly, though, the answer, apparently, is to go backward. It makes sense if you think about it; “Patience” is all about yearning. It’s a sort of desperate song, and are strumming guitars and a band more known for hookers and blow than for its body of work really all that desperate?
(In some ways they are, actually. I’d venture few people are as familiar with desperation as Axl Rose. Which I don’t mean to deride him, mind. I think Axl’s a genius who’s had to work through a lot of shit)
I bring all this up, though, because yesterday, I saw this:
I mean, for real. Candles and a piano in what appears to be some kind of Beauty and the Beast-esque underground lair, with a pretty brunette singing “Patience” like she means it.
That’s Terra Naomi, of whom I’d never heard, sadly. Following to her website, seems she’s an independent musician building her audience and using really interesting ways to support herself (see the “Help Make My New Album” section of her website).
What would Axl read, indeed. Somehow his list of four (?!) books surprises me a little, at least given the presence of Dick (whom I’ve always found a little weird) and Stephenson (whom I’ve always found a little baroque).
The article fixates on the similarities between Rose and J.D. Salinger, basically on the whole “reclusive genius” thing. Me, I just like that someone’s saying Rose is a genius. Too often, I think, people who create extraordinarily popular work are looked down on, which has never made sense to me; people acknowledge the Beatles are geniuses, but Stephen King is not?
NB- I would love to somehow get The Prodigal Hour into Rose’s hands. That’d be so rad.
I have to admit that in the past few years, I’ve become less interested in Christmas and holiday festivities. I’d say it began two years ago, the first Christmas I spent alone in Hollywood, but really I think it started before that. Thing is, it’s happened, in a way, to all holidays, at least for me; I’ve always been the sort of person who gets totally excited about doing things right up until the very moment you tell me I have to do them, at which point I get all stubborn like the Taurus I am and dig in my heels and refuse to budge. Thanksgiving, anymore, only makes me wonder why more people aren’t grateful every day of the year, for example, and Christmas? Christmas, just lately, only reminds me I live in a society where people shoot people in a Toys ‘R Us and frenzied shoppers trample employees at Walmart.
This particular Christmas seems particularly turbulent, in fact, mainly because of the economy. I read the comics page of the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning, and no less than three of the comics contained “jokes” about the current “financial crisis.” The headlines are all over the place today; jobless claims are way up, while consumer spending is way down, and most analysts say we’re just in for tougher times ahead.
I think the embedding for YouTube is different on self-hosted WordPress blogs than over at WordPress.com, so I thought I’d test it out. Which is nicely coincidental, because there was a commercial I caught while taking a break that, on sight, I knew belonged on my blog.
Because it’s awesome:
I mean, seriously! It’s Heidi Klum! Playing video games!
In her underwear.
(excuse me while I wipe my chin. There. Much better)
It is, apparently, one of a series of Guitar Hero commercials, all based on the iconic scene from Risky Business:
Which is also awesome. Watching it, one can see why he became the star he did, who was awesome right up until Mission: Impossible III, and who desperately needs not only a better role but also to cut loose a little. Anyone else see his interview with Barbara Walters recently? Since when is Tom Cruise restrained?
I have to admit, I’ve not understood the allure of Guitar Hero; seems like an awful lot of work to invest in mastery over buttons when one could actually master a real musical instrument one wouldn’t have to plug in to a console for it to work. I’ve been contemplating picking up a guitar this spring; it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn but never managed to.
All that said, though, I found a video of a drummer using a modded controller to master an insane song:
But then again, looks like a dude who could probably actually play the real drums, too.
Besides two quotes, one from The Prince and one from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” those are the first three words of my novel. They occur as a thought when the protagonist, Chance Sowin, crosses his parents’ front lawn and sees that the front-door lock has been shattered. He’s been there before, you see, and in several ways, all of which those of you who know that it’s a time-travel novel might be able to conjecture, but it’s more than that.
When I was eleven or twelve, I stole Stephen King’s Needful Things from my father’s small bookcase and began to read it. It was the first adult-level novel I had ever read, and it rewired me in some very important ways. Not only was it the book that confirmed my lifelong addiction to reading and words, but it was also the book that made me realize I wanted to write. I had read the Hardy Boys series and A Wrinkle in Time, but they never suckerpunched me quite like Needful Things did. I felt that moment in the same way I realized I wanted to go to grad school; moments like that come with some absolute and incontrovertible certainty.
It is, perhaps, not altogether ironic that my first novel begins with the same words as Needful Things. There are so many cliches to go along with it: the circle of life, and what goes around comes around, and etc.
Apparently, the Rock Gods heard my plea, and Rolling Stone has a review of Chinese Democracy, which will be out in a couple of weeks. David Fricke uses “Was It Worth the Wait” to lead but never really gets around to his own question, so I will:
Chinese Democracy is an epic, sprawling CD that epitomizes for albums what some dude once said about novels; that they’re long fiction with flaws. Chinese Democracy (from what I’ve heard) isn’t flawless, but what great art is?
And yes, I’ll call it art. It’s a term I usually eschew, because most of the time I think it’s pretentious at best and absurd at worst, but I think it’s excellent for what it is. It’s not Beethoven’s 9th, but it is, approximately, Rose’s 5th, and it is absolutely excellent for what it is. It’s loud and blunt and rocking with little restraint, and that’s very much why it’s magic.
I think one of the reasons I felt the catharsis I mentioned was that we’ve gotten beyond the noise and chatter. No more political ads, no more proposition whatever, no more signs on people’s lawns. Used to be that it was difficult to separate the static from the noise; seems like now there’s too much noise, and it’s more difficult to separate the stupid from the real.
There are few things that excite me more than ambition. A lot of music critics complained that The Killers’ Sam’s Town was too Springsteen-esque/epic, and while I’d be the first to admit it is, in places, sprawling and messy, well, so is sex a lot of the time, and I think we can all agree ain’t nothing wrong with that. “Read My Mind” is one of my favorite songs in recent memory:
And now a new Killers’ CD on the horizon, comin’ up soon: Day & Age drops in late November (the 25th to be exact), and I simply can’t imagine I’m the only one totally looking forward to it.
pay my respects to grace and virtue
send my condolences to good
give my regards to soul and romance
they always did the best they could
and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know
wave good bye, wish me well.
Back in the day, I used to read Hot Chicks with Douchebags, which I think is a site best enjoyed in small doses; continued reading results in SNL-sketch syndrome, the Internet equivalent of an overextended joke.
But it was through Hot Chicks with Douchebags that I discovered Ram Jam and “Black Betty”.
This is Ram Jam playing “Black Betty,” a video which may be the most cliched 70s-tastic thing I have ever seen. I mean, look at his sweater:
In the spirit of lightening things up here a bit, I figured I’d post something more cheerful. To quote Tom Hanks in That Thing You Do! (which is certainly one of the most underrated movies of all time), I thought I’d give you something happy, something poppy.
Because it’s a perfect day for a ride, ain’t it?
I should really just sell the damned thing. Manhattan just isn’t a place for such a beast, much less the Village. New York’s a walking town. A subway town. Sometimes a bus town, and some other times still a taxi town. It’s a bustling town and a jogging town, a drinking and dancing and staying-out-till-4-am town, and in fact it’s a different kind of town just about every minute for just about every person in it, but it’s not so much a driving town. There are too many cabs, too many long limousines with precious celebrity cargo, too many delivery trucks and big buses, too many Lincoln Town Cars shuttling CEOs to the office and back. The air is too bright and the sounds are too vibrant and the color is too loud to be shuttered away from the world by four windows and a growling engine, but still I keep the dilapidated duster.
I tell myself I keep it because I wouldn’t get much for it. The old lady who used to own it never did know much about anything she put a key into, and the engine’s hoarse in her memory. The duck tape on the torn cloth top; the old, nearly bald tires; the muffler that might as well not exist—selling it might cover a month’s rent or a fancy night on the City, but not much more.
That’s what I tell myself, anyway.
But I know the truth. I don’t keep it because selling it wouldn’t make enough; I keep it for days like this.
I’m not so worried about that. It’s a legal grey area since it wasn’t for download, it wasn’t a finished product. We aren’t sure who owns the recordings. I feel like I might survive this.
And I’m sure he probably will, but one might wonder precisely how.
Apparently, the songs were only on his website for a little while before two things happened: first, it sounds like the host’s server crashed (which makes sense, because ZOMG NOO GNR!!!111!!!), and second, someone associated with GN’R asked the guy to take the songs down and erase the digital files, which he did (which was why he couldn’t supply the FBI with the original files when they later asked). So, really, no telling how many people managed to catch the audio stream at exactly the right time. In the meantime, after the songs were taken down at GN’R's request, copies managed to make their way around the tubes. It was one of those copies a friend of mine convinced me to listen to.
I had mixed feelings about doing so. I’ve heard a few people call Axl names for suing the guy who posted them, but I just can’t help seeing the situation from Axl’s perspective: here’s a guy whose name is on two of the greatest rock albums of all time (Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion). I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have to try to make a follow up to Illusion; both CDs are, first minute to last, terrific. I still listen to them all the time. And Appetite? It’s turbo-charged summer on vinyl, barbecues and beers and bonfires, the groin-tightening excitement of making out for the first time, knowing you want to use your body but having not a clue what you want to use it for. So he’s got both those albums under his belt, and now everyone’s been waiting for the follow-up for, what, like, 13 years or something?
Not to mention all the press he’s gotten in the meantime. People who have probably never actually seen him in real life, even on a stage, writing about his “neuroses” and “depression” and “erratic behavior,” and etc. And I’m not saying his behavior hasn’t been erratic at times, but I am saying I can totally understand why he’d want to become total recluse. With pretty much everyone scrutinizing your every move, would you want to leave your house?
I wouldn’t. I’d sit down in the studio and I’d spend a decade trying to write something better than what I had done before, and it would probably take that long, too, because let’s face it; what he’d done before was awesome. So Axl spends more than a decade trying to get it right, trying to get it better, and then some random dude posts the unfinished work on his random website.
Heck, I’d be pissed, too.
But, then, as a fan, man, do I want to hear what he’s working on. Which was why I had mixed feelings about listening to the songs; on one hand, I’m just dying to. On the other, I know that if they’re not out yet, there’s a reason they’re not out yet, and Axl probably doesn’t think they’re finished yet. And I’ll admit I ain’t musical enough to detect an extra note here or a more produced layer there, most of the time, but then again, I’m not cinematic enough to really know anything about lighting or whathaveyou, and I wouldn’t presume to try to view, say, Quantum of Solace before I sit down to watch it in a theater.
In the end, the GN’R fan in me won out, and yes, I listened to those 9 songs. I thought it’d be neat to do a review of them, but then I thought: as a writer, would I want someone to review an unpublished novel I didn’t feel I had finished revising yet?
Of course I wouldn’t.
Hell, I’m not even sure I should tell you that I thought they were awesome. The kind of awesome, in fact, that’s worth waiting nearly a decade and a half for.
So I won’t. I’m not going to tell you that I think it’s the best thing the man behind Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion (I & II) has ever done.
Not right now.
Maybe when it comes out.
In the meantime, I think we should all wish Mr. Rose luck in finishing what he’s started.
The day: Southern California just south of Santa Monica, warm and oppressive as Los Angeles so often is. I’m in my old beater of a Mazda (which has served me oh-so-well through the years) playing the rock station I think Butch Walker introduced me to, if I’m not mistaken, when I hear a song by Katy Perry. It’s obviously pretty purely pop confection, with the kind of heavy, thuddy beat that masks the fact that there’s really nothing going on and then kind of vocal enhancement that tries to conceal that the vocalist can’t actually sing.
But don’t take my word for it:
My first thought on hearing it was: “Jill Sobule called. She wants her song back.”
Which is, I think, actually charitable. Because really, it doesn’t really rip Sobule off so much as insult homosexuality and the GLBT community in general.
Here’s Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl”:
You know what I love about Jill Sobule? She looks so happy and joyful. She’s having so much fun playing her guitar she nearly falls backward in her bed, and there’s her feet not reaching the floor. I love her facial expressions, and the way she sings, like kissing a girl was, for her, a revelation. An epiphany.
“They can have their diamonds while we have our pearls.”
It’s a rather defiant statement but one without anger or resentment behind it. It’s like she gets the fact that the most powerful and influential revolutionary, and the one who will most change the world, is the one who’s smiling.
And then there’s Katy Perry.
So the video opens with her on the bed, stroking her pussy (cat). Already, it goes, arguably, a little more toward crude and tasteless than Sobule’s. And okay, I get that we can’t really exactly compare the two videos, because videos are less about the artist and the song than they are about the record companies and the marketing.
So fair play. How about that song?
The first time I heard it was driving down that sunny California street (I was actually on Romaine, a block south of Santa Monica). Quiet residential streets flooded with hard sunshine. Which I tell you because I had no visual to go with it. All I had was the song and the lyrics. Which start off mostly okay; I didn’t take issue with her lack of planning or intentions. So it was sorta spontaneous. Took her by surprise. All right. It’s not what she’s used to, she just wants to “try you on.”
Not quite the best metaphor, I don’t think. Doesn’t “try you on” objectify the recipient? You don’t “try” a person “on”; people are not blouses that are not going to fit correctly and which you have to bring to your tailor to take in the sides. People are not high heels that look great but are totally uncomfortable.
Peoples, as I learned from The Muppets Take Manhattan, is peoples.
“I kissed a girl and I liked it/the taste of cherry chapstick.” And hey, sure, I identify with that. I’ve kissed girls and it’s generally something I like, as well. Some have tasted of cherry chapstick. Or vanilla. I like kisses sans flavor, personally, but that’s a personal proclivity we’ll not discuss farther because it has little to do with the topic at hand.
“I kissed a girl just to try it.” I’ve kissed a couple girls “just to try it.” I prefer to be romantically interested in the girl, because I kinda think just kissing someone you’re not actually interested in dating is leading them on, but then again I’ve gone on first dates I wasn’t entirely certain were going to lead to second dates but still ended with a kiss. Only a couple, mind, but still.
“I hope my boyfriend don’t [sic] mind it.”
Oh, now hold the phone. You’re romantically involved with someone enough to call him your boyfriend but still kissed someone else? Infidelity much? Sorry, here’s where I take real issues. Not saying, of course, that one can’t be in a romantic relationship and kiss someone else; lots of people have open relationships, but the “rules,” so to speak, of such relationships are generally clearly delineated ahead of time, no? I mean, it’s not something that you just go to a bar and start making out with random people, unless you’ve clearly established that’s okay beforehand. Otherwise, it’s really kinda cheating, ain’t it? And sure, I know lots of guys wouldn’t mind it if their girlfriends started making out with other girls, but the reason there, of course, is the visions of threesomes dancing like sugarplums in their heads.
Well, mostly, anyway. Probably. My point is, she kissed a girl without first discussing it with her boyfriend.
And then the next stanza:
“No I don’t even know your name
It doesn’t matter
You’re my experimental game
Just human nature.”
So on one hand: I agree about homosexuality. I don’t believe it’s a lifestyle choice, and I think anyone who does is bisexual (it seems to me that anyone who thinks gay people made a choice about which gender to be attracted to probably, at some point, made that choice themselves. Stands to reason, I think), which means that yes, I agree it’s human nature.
What I don’t agree with is “experimental.” I think there’s a Bill Maher or Chris Rock joke that goes something along the lines of “experiment my ass. Unless you’re wearing a lab coat and goggles, it’s not an experiment. An experiment? Really? So what was your hypothesis, Heisenberg?” To me, again, it goes back to objectification and just trying a person on.
I mean, again, it doesn’t have to be so, but only with the consent of both parties. And given that Katy Perry doesn’t even know the name of the girl she kissed, how can she know she has her consent to do so? The song states there’s alcohol involved; what if this poor girl Katy Perry kissed and whose name she never knew starts to struggle with depression and anxiety due to the questions about her sexuality kissing Perry raises?
“It’s not what good girls do
Not how they should behave.”
Oh, really? Kissing other girls is not what “good girls” do? So all lesbians are, by opposition, bad girls? Good girls shouldn’t be lesbians?
Which, in addition, led me to her other music video for “Ur so Gay”:
1) she’s not talking about gay; she’s talking about emo.
2) she opens by wishing someone would accidentally kill themselves by suffocating on their H&M scarf while masturbating (to Mozart? zuh?).
3) Zooey Deschanel called. She wants her look back, because, like with Jill Sobule, you stole it and don’t even do it right.
4) It sounds like she’s just bitter because emo dude with whom she fell in love and who later dumped her is prettier than she is, thinner than she is, wears make-up better than she does, and dresses better than she does.
And the only reason I link to that video is so you know I’m not making any of that up.
(well. Except for the prettier thing and all that, because obviously it’s just dolls in the video, so I’m just assuming that based on her looks/style)
And look, the funny thing is that I must confess I’m kinda completely a dude when it comes to lesbians (ZOMGLEZBIENSWOOTFTWBBQ!!!!111!). Like Charlie Sheen in Being John Malkovich: “Hot lesbian witches? That’s fucking genius!” And even though Perry never actually kisses a girl in her video, there’s a sequence where lingerie models have a pillowfight, and we all know what happens when lingerie models pillowfight.
What, no? But I thought—
Man, next thing you’re going to tell me is there’s no Easter bunny!
No, but in all seriousness, one of the major objections raised to Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy was that it implied that all lesbians really needed was a good, hard dickin’ to “cure them of their ways,” so to speak, and I think Perry perpetuates this somehow. Because the way I read the song, she’s doing it for attention and basically because she’s bored, as an experiment. And (and I can’t stress this enough) she already has a boyfriend.
So really, homosexuality is just confusion and experimentation and boredom, because it’s not what good people do, not the way good people behave. (/sarcasm)
I mean, can you imagine if a guy sang a song like this? Can you imagine if Justin Timberlake came out with a song called “Tickle Kiss” about making out with a guy who hadn’t shaved for a week? Nevermind that it’s all the news channels would talk about for a month while whatever evangelical preacher who cared lamented that it was a sign of the moral degradation of society and a signal that the end is NIGH!
But is it okay because it’s a chic–I’m sorry–girl? Am I making too much of girls making out, or do you take some umbrage, too? Why is what’s good for the goose not good for the gander?
It’s not really that eclectic a list, but, then, Paste focuses mainly on independent “artists.” Even though most of the musicians they cover have major label record deals (I am, in fact, not entirely sure any of the songwriters they mention are truly independent). But that’s a side-issue.
Here’s their top ten:
9. Joni Mitchell
8. Elvis Costello
7. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
6. Leonard Cohen
5. Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
4. Tom Waits & Kathleen Brennan
3. Bruce Springsteen
2. Neil Young (Buffalo Sprinfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
1. Bob Dylan
Not really all that inspiring, you ask me. Seems a bit safe, to me. Nobody on there who really makes you say, “really?”
But still I think they’re ignoring a lot of great artists on the list as a whole. For example, I think my personal top ten greatest living songwriters would be:
1. Roger Clyne
3. Paul McCartney
4. Axl Rose
5. Leonard Cohen
6. Tori Amos
7. Bon Jovi
8. Billy Joel
9. Tom Petty
10. Kevin Griffin (Better Than Ezra)
Also on my list would be Dave Matthews, Marshall Mathers (Eminem), Ben Lee, Jack White, Dr. Dre, Joni Mitchell, and Lili Haydn.
I mean, don’t get me wrong; I get most of Paste‘s choices. But Bob Dylan as number one? Really?
That’s a big “meh.”
But as always, I’m looking for recommendations, so who would your choices be?
I’ve been a huge fan of Clyne since 1995, and the Refreshments; Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big, & Buzzy was the first CD I ever owned I loved beginning to end. I played the shit out of that bad boy. Over and over. I passed up a chance to see the Refreshments in New York, once, and they subsequently broke up. Clyne reformed a band not long afterward with a few members of other bands from the Tempe music scene, and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers released Honky Tonk Union.
RC&tPM are the most successful independent band in the country, from what I’ve read. I think they deserve it; I love pretty much everything I hear from them. Not everything, mind you; I think it’s rare to find an artist whose entire output one loves, but they come pretty close. Clyne reminds me equally of Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Bruce Springsteen, but to my mind surpasses all three with a unique vision of the southwest, peace, love, and rock ‘n roll. This new one, Turbo Ocho, is really good; not as awesome as !Americano!, but certainly among their best (though really, which isn’t?).
I’ve also just received the new Arsenal CD, Outsides, their follow up to Oyebo Soul (the latter of which apparently most accurately translates to “White Boy Soul,” which, being a white boy, I find amusing). They’re a bit of a fusion band; as nearly as I can figure, the members of the band are from El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Boston, or somesuch; really, they’re a terrific mixture of some very different styles. They’re a bit electronica, but a little lounge-y, with some rock thrown in for a sexy groove. I dig them lots.
And finally, Steve Acho. I found Steve by accident; I’d been searching on iTunes for different versions of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (the greatest lyrics in the history of music? Discuss), and his covers CDs came up. I like his style and delivery; I’ve seen comparisons to Elton John and Billy Joel, but I think they’re superficial at best–just because he’s a dude with a piano doesn’t make him comparable. He lacks the ostentation of the former, certainly, and seems more passionate than the latter.