Archive for the 'Theory' Category

Oh, my.

The Sith is out.

Hits Daily Double

ABC News

From the ABC story:

The 49-year-old Weiss oversaw several labels as president and CEO of the Zomba Label Group. He helped grow Jive Records from a small imprint to a major force with such blockbuster acts as Britney Spears, Usher, the Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake and ‘N Sync. Recent successes include teen sensation Chris Brown and singer-songwriter T-Pain.

It’s not particularly promising that Weiss appears to have cut his teeth on teen pop, but it will be interesting to see how things shake out, and what relevance this will hold for this year’s Idol winner and those already on the label or still bound by right-of-first-refusal deals.

There’s also been some speculation that SonyBMG may be headed for a breakup, which would be interesting indeed. I’m a strong advocate (well, if by “advocating” one means “logging my stream of consciousness on a free weblog”) for music industry reform, and dissolution of the behemoth labels is certainly a step in the right direction.

So let’s celebrate this potentially good news by sampling some good music that is, regrettably, not yet available in the States.


No art can come from American Idol.

Oh, those aren’t my sentiments–they’re Clive Davis’s. Hoping that Taylor Hicks’ second album digs deep into his emotional center, allowing him to employ his subtle blues-tinged phrasing and inflection? Still jonesing for Katharine McPhee to put out that sultry, smoky, Norah Jones-meets-Madeleing Peyroux album that we all know she’s capable of? (Hey, just ’cause I don’t like her doesn’t mean I don’t think she could pull that off. She could.) Well…in that case, you better hope that another label comes along and buys these kids out of their contracts. In a new article, Clive Davis offers his definitive opinion on how he views American Idol as part of the BMG “family”:

“I’m well aware that all the success of ‘American Idol’ puts a taint with some people on my other history, which began with Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen and Carlos Santana,” the bespectacled Davis says, looking sharp in his nicely tailored slacks and sweater.

“But a discerning person recognizes that when you are running a company, you’re dealing with a mixture of commerce and art. The important thing is to know when you are dealing with art and when you are dealing with commerce, and I know that difference.”

So in other words, the Idols cannot and will not be viewed as “artists;” no, that would tarnish Clive’s street cred. So to maintain his reputation, Clive apparently views them as nothing more than commercial products, mere business investments, but not potential outlets of art or creativity. Contrast that viewpoint with his description of Alicia Keyes:

Another of Davis’ cornerstone artists simply walked in the front door: Alicia Keys. Still in her teens when she sat down to play three songs in Davis’ office, Keys was such a natural that Davis was momentarily angered when Peter Edge, one of his A&R aides, and Jeff Robinson, Keys’ manager, told him that the young singer was under contract to Columbia.

Alicia was a bona-fide artistic find, no doubt. Had she won American Idol, however, instead of simply walking through Clive’s front door, we wouldn’t have gotten a Songs in A Minor. We would have gotten Alicia–the same girl, the same phenomenal talent, the same voice–singing “Truth Is” or “Over It” or “Dream Myself Awake.”

But not all hope is lost…at least, not on the commercial “dancing with the devil” side. A beacon of hope exists for Taylor’s latest album, which according to this quote, is currently selling only as well–moreso, actually–than Clive expects it to:

“The mistake people make about ‘American Idol’ is that they think the show itself is enough to make anyone a bestseller, so there is no creativity involved,” Davis, a guest judge on the TV program, says in his deliberate, thorough way. “But the show’s exposure is only worth about 350,000 to 500,000 record sales for an artist.

“To go beyond that, you have to have hit songs to get on the radio.”

You mean that many record-buyers actually tune into radio, and that’s how they find out about new albums on the market? You mean the news of Taylor Hicks’ debut release isn’t going to be distributed to the mass public via osmosis or subliminal transmission? Huh. Who knew? [/sarcasm]

Just breathtaking.

The following was posted at MJ’s Big Blog, and is reprinted with permissio of the original poster, thedingoateyobaby. The story centers around the introduction of Taylor Hicks’ music to someone new…

…I went to check in on my neighbors. Many of you have heard the story I told about the elderly man and his elderly wife. Both are ill. One physically one mentally. The man, beginnings of Alzheimer’s, sometimes sharp as a tack and other times barely in this realm. He can play the harmonica like nobody’s business as I found out around Thanksgiving when he did the most fucking moving rendition of Danny Boy, standing beside his wife’s bedside, winded from playing but never missing a note. Incredible.

Anyways I go there today and I am wearing my iPod around my neck. I was in the middle of Taylor’s ANS (ed. note–that’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”) and I had been thinking about Taylor and Chris. How much I really dont like the quality of Chris’s voice and how he doesnt move me at all and how Taylor, with the rough edges and the growls just does it to me every damn time he does what it is he was born to do. I began to think that its quite possible that Chris has a better voice than Taylor. I use the word better for lack of a better word but when he sings, he doesnt make me FEEL anything and I want to FEEL. The older I get, the more I want to FEEL. The pleading and the angst and the rawness of emotion in a song like ANS for example, well I could sit down and weep. Chris makes me weep but in a different way and Im betting that those who love Chris are younger than I am, a lot younger. Not all of them of course but most of them I bet are and maybe its that quality in Taylor mixed with my age and experience with sorrow and loss that pierces my heart.

OK, back to the story. So I walk in the front door and he is there to greet me with that sweet smile of his and I go make sure his wife is safe and sound and if she needs anything and blah blah blah. He sees my iPod around my neck. “Whats that?” he asks. I tell him its a “music box” filled with about 200 of my favorite songs. He looks at me quizically, 200 songs? In that little thing? I say yep, I tell him there is this one musician I am crazy for, his name is Taylor Hicks. He cant hear for shit so I have to go around to his good ear and YELL the name again. He says, “let me see that if its ok with you”, I say SURE!. He rolls it around in his hands and I ask him if he wants to hear the guy Im crazy about and that he too, plays a wicked harmonica. He says SURE! and he is eager to test out this new fangled gizmo I have. I set it to ANS and I put it into his good ear. I walk away to check on his wife and just let him listen, not expecting much just wanting him to experience Taylor and the iPod.

I walk back into the living room and his eyes are closed and he has a smile on his face. I figure he’s sleeping cause he tends to drift off easily. I sit on the couch next to his chair, trying not to wake him. After several minutes he takes the headphones off. I say, so? Whadya think? He says, (I hope this does not offend anyone but remember, the man is in his mid eighties and doesnt have a mean bone in his body) he says, boy, God sure did bless those old time Black musicians. I laugh. I say he sure did but he’s not Black. What made ya think he was? Well he says, he plays the harmonica, in my day only me and Black folk played them and he sounds like he’s been around for a while and his voice, I mean….. you kids call it something, as he searches the archives of his ragged and torn brain to find the word. I say to him, soul? Is that what you mean? he says, yes, that’ll do. He has soul when he sings. Like he is very old and has been hurt many times over. He laughs and says to me, he almost sounds like a wounded animal. I laugh cause I know exactly what he is saying.

Once again, Im floored. He had been in a blues band many many years ago when he was in his 20’s, he was a photographer at The Nuremburg trials, he has still black and white photos of some of the worlds biggest monsters, on trial. He is a man who is highly intelligent and musical and spiritual. I mull what he just said over in my mind, I go to ask him another question and he is sound asleep, in the chair.

I have no idea what any of this means but I know one thing. A man who can play harmonica like this man can, a man that can bring me to tears with Danny Boy via that damn harp, knows a little about life and talent and good music.

You can read the original post here.

Folks, no matter how fun it can be to analyze sales, media appearances, Idol’s personalities and song choices, this is the important stuff. If anyone has any similar stories, with regards to ANY Idol, please feel free to send them in and share them.

Ahh, this must explain Fergie.

I’ve got some traveling to do today, so I leave you with a brief article bemoaning the rise of crappy music in today’s society. The writer is not a Nickelback fan, so presumably, if Daughtry winds up at the top of next year’s list, he won’t be impressed.

There are some surprises on the list of top-selling artists for 2006, though. Not all hope is lost. Here’s the list, and my own judgment of whether the music is good or crappy:

1. Rascal Flatts (Crappy. Country music dumbed down for mass consumption).
2. Johnny Cash (Good. Cash was a genius. He also, interestingly enough, didn’t believe that country music was going “too pop.” But I still don’t think he would have liked Rascal Flatts.)
3. Nickelback (Crappy…despite the fact that I do practice harmony to the chorus of “Photograph.” What? It’s perfect for practicing your thirds!)
4. Carrie Underwood (Undecided. I haven’t heard enough of her stuff.)
5. The Beatles (Objectively good, although I was never much of a fan.)
6. Tim McGraw (Hmm….)
7. Andrea Bocelli (Right now, crappy. I really liked him when he first came out, but then he went the David Foster route and it all went to hell.)
8. Mary J. Blige (Alternately good and crappy. And she gave us the word “hateration,” which is cool.)
9. Keith Urban (Actually never heard Mr. Kidman’s stuff.)
10. Justin Timberlake (CRA-PPY. Crappy crappy crappy. Overrated as hell. And obnoxius. And punchable. Which means he’ll probably go home with at least four Grammys.)

Also, High School Musical was the top-selling album, followed by Me and My Gang by Rascal Flatts (seriously, that sounds like a Sesame Street episode), Carrie Underwood’s Some Hearts, Nickelback’s All the Right Reasons, Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds (one day he’ll fade into obscurity…I just know it), James Blunt’s Back to Bedlam (Reeeeally? I thought his single did well but his album tanked. Or maybe that was Daniel Powter), Beyonce’s B-Day (good luck going up against that, Kat), the Hannah Montana soundtrack, The Dixie Chick’s Taking the Long Way (yeah, I know they got death threats and all, and Bush hasn’t been on my list of favorite people for a while now, and Adrian Pasdar’s pretty hot, but will they shut up now?), and finally, Hinder’s Extreme Behavior. I had never heard of Hinder before reviewers started calling DAUGHTRY a Nickelback/Hinder rip-off, so I doubt I’m missing much.

Thoughts? Chris is well on his way to making next year’s list; does that say more about his individual talent, or (given this years’ list) the popularity of his genre of music? And what of McPhee? Will she replace Beyonce next year, or is she more of a Cassie, with a hot single, a video in heavy rotation, but only 270K in sales under her belt? Will we ever see Taylor on this list? Do we care? Does it matter?

Et tu, Mom?

My vacation is coming to an end; in a few days, it’ll be time to pack up and head back home to begin yet another five months of classes, papers, and practice. But I’ve enjoyed spending these few weeks with my parents, especially my mom, who (almost) shares my passion for all things American Idol. We sat in the family room tonight, munching on a casual dinner and enjoying those American Idol Rewind episodes (I’ve actually never seen the first season of the show). The New York auditions were being featured, and as seemed to be the theme of the first season, pretty girls with unremarkable vocals kept sailing through the audition process.

There was a respite from the parade of half-shirts and glitter eyeshadow for a moment, though. A young woman with a reddish pixie haircut and a large tattoo walked through the doors and began singing for the judges. Her voice didn’t blow me away; in fact, these days, she probably wouldn’t have even made it to Hollywood. But her voice was just as good, if not better, as any of the girls who Simon kept pronouncing as having “the look.” Predictably, she was not put through to the next round; the judges told her that they just weren’t sure what category she fit in to (snerk).

“Well, that sucks,” I said. “She was just as good as the rest of them.” That prompted an unusual response from my father, a man who prides himself on not even knowing the bare necessities of pop culture (“Tom Cruise had a baby? The guy from Forrest Gump?”), and who hasn’t really held American Idol in high esteem since Ruben beat out Clay. “Well, how far did she expect to get with that kind of look?”

“Yeah, but it’s a singing competition, though. So what if she’s got a tattoo? If she can sing as well as the rest of them, she should go through. If you don’t like her tattoo, don’t vote for her.”

“It’s not about that,” interjected my mom. Now, Mom’s a big Taylor Hicks supporter. About midway through the season (I’d call her from home halfway through each episode to make sure she was watching), she decided that Taylor was the only interesting and unique performer on the show, and threw all her support behind him. So what she had to say next was, needless to say, surprising. “The ‘American Idol’ is supposed to have a certain look. It’s about the total package.”

“Well, Taylor didn’t exactly have the total package,” I retorted. “He wasn’t a pretty boy, he wasn’t a beauty queen. He was kind of a schlubby guy with an unfortunate haircut and bad taste in menswear when he made the top 24.”

“He WAS the total package. He was sexy (Dad seemed mildly amused by this), he was interesting, he could sing, and he performed like no one else,” said Mom, kind of inadvertently proving my point for me. The conversation ended there, interrupted by our beagle’s unfortunate gastrointestinal reaction to some marinated steak he’d stolen off my father’s dinner plate. But I thought a lot about what my mom had said. Taylor was not “the total package” by mainstream standards. He had gray hair, a bit of a paunch, and crazy dance moves. Instead of muscle-hugging T-shirts, he favored blazers and untucked button-downs. His voice was distinct and gravelly, not clear yet bland. He certainly didn’t fit the traditional, mainstream-media idea of “the total package” the way Ace, Kellie or Lisa did (at least before their vocal shortcomings overcame their visual appeal), and certainly not the way Katharine seemed custom-made for it. And yet, he appealed to my mom. He connected with her (and with a bunch of other people who were willing to cast 63 million votes) despite TPTB constantly knocking him around, despite critics around the country lacking the ability to write a sentence about him without making an old-man joke, and despite other contestants bringing out their guns, so to speak, with low-cut dresses, hair extensions and flexed biceps. He was no one’s idea of what an Idol should look like, and yet so many people, Mom and myself included, simply didn’t care, because for us, he was the total package…just like Tattoo Girl might have been the total package for someone else (or a million someone elses willing to cast a whole bunch of votes), just as much as Ryan Starr and her killer abs or Tamyra Gray in her teeny-tiny handkerchief tops apparently represented the pinnacle of marketability to Simon and Nigel during the Season 1 auditions. And yet, my mom still isn’t able to separate her personal affection for a very unorthodox contestant from some kind of archetype of what an “American Idol” should look and sound like. It’ll be interesting to see if she has a favorite this coming season, and where they fit on the spectrum of “the total package.”

I’ll be watching next season too, of course, but not so much for the sheer entertainment value, or even for the snarkworthiness. Oh, I’ll probably pick a favorite (though only time will tell if I’ll get as invested this year as I did last year; I’d been watching Idol for four years, and Taylor was the first contestant I “fell for”), but I’ll be looking to see the inner workings of the show–who’s getting pimped, who’s not, who gets criticized for stepping out of their box, who gets criticized for not stepping out of their box, who the judges seem to think deserves to have their face slapped on an album cover versus who American seems to think should get the honor. I’ll be paying very specific attention to theme night choices and song selection this year, I think. But most importantly, I’m just awful curious to see if this show will let another Taylor Hicks grace its stage, let alone win the damn thing, or whether the Katharines and the Carries (not to detract from their talent)–pretty people with good but not necessarily distinctive voices–get an extra-strong push.

And, of course, I want to see who Mom roots for.

You want reviews? I got yer reviews. And opinions. And analysis. And kvetching.

From The Rocky Mountain News:

If not for the show, Hicks might have landed an indie contract by now. He could be a modestly successful singer-songwriter eking out a living with what credibility he could muster from his mediocre songwriting talents and undeniable vocal charisma. Yet the Idol victory adds pressure on Hicks to be more than that, though to be fair, less has come to be expected of Idol contestants over the years. That’s good for the Alabama singer, because Taylor Hicks is paint-by-numbers neo-soul with a slightly more vivid palette than usual.

Taylor Hicks’ songwriting is rather mediocre, but he does show glimpses of brilliance with songs like “Somehow.” I’d luurve to see him get picked up by American Recordings and work with producer Rick Rubin, who is widely known as a slave driver willing to beat good songs out of his artists, if that’s what it takes. (Just ask Neil Diamond. No, seriously, ask Neil Diamond. And then go listen to his 12 Songs album.)

And this from Mary Colurso (although yeah…she may not be the most even-handed reviewer):

During an interview in late November, Hicks was evasive about radio play, saying his team wasn’t going to force a single onto the public airwaves. The right song, he hinted, would somehow pop to the surface and appear more naturally. (Ed. note–you mean an Arista focus group team that floated and tested four songs for public consumption is “natural?” Heh.)

Granted, he’s worked hard and done a very decent job with this 12-track debut, produced in a six-week flurry after the “Idol” tour concluded. It’s a highly professional CD, with enough of Hicks’ gritty personality to please fans and enough of a pop focus to satisfy the record company. But it’s as simple as this: You can’t see him. As his TV appearances prove, Hicks’ essential appeal has a strong visual component. Watching him sing makes the vocals really hit home. It adds to the pleasure. It makes “eh” turn to “ooh!” Any recording artist needs the right material ” Hicks’ disc scores in that regard about 50 percent of the time ” but the fact remains that he’s a highly physical performer. For maximum oomph, you need to use eyeballs as well as eardrums.

No. I disagree. I do enjoy watching Taylor perform, but at the same time, I find his best moments to be undoubtely purely vocal. “Somehow” and “In Your Time” from his first CD; “Hell of a Day” from his second; “In the Ghetto,” “Something” and “You Are So Beautiful” from Idol are my favorite Taylor Hicks performances…all performances where his sweet, sweet growl is the star, and his crazy antics are…well, not there. I think that was part of the mistake of this album–many of these songs are “whomp”-y and high-octane, and they are performing songs. There’s simply not enough of Taylor’s vocals on this CD.

Trouble arises, however, when Hicks attempts to pull off songs I can only characterize as filler ballads. Diane Warren’s drippy “Places I’ve Been,” for example, plays to his weaknesses instead of his strengths. Hicks’ vocal limitations come to the fore, and you just don’t buy the performance. Same goes for the forgettable “Just to Feel That Way,” which usually induces my finger to push the skip button. Hicks fares better with “The Right Place,” vocally shaping the number into a tender Ray Charles homage.

Yeah, “Places I’ve Been” sucks, and Taylor does nothing with it. But I do like “Just To Feel That Way,” and I hate sappy pop ballads, because Taylor works it. And why Colurso is including the Brother Ray gospel number “The Right Place” in a list of pop songs is beyond me.

Clive could have made better decisions here. He could have shipped Taylor off to, say, the Burgundy devision of Sony/BMG, enrolled him in an intense crash-course in songwriting, let him churn out a John Legend or John Mayer-ish album, and marketed him as Idol’s answer to neo-soul, tailor-made for the Starbucks crowd. Instead, the album Taylor wound up putting out (whether it was Taylor’s idea from the get-go, or Clive’s, or some kind of compromise) did nothing other than reinforce the stereotypes that people already held about him. If you loved his monkey dancing and penchant for upbeat music on Idol, you ate this CD up with a spoon. If you saw him as nothing more than an unfortunate Tourette’s case, this album didn’t change your mind. And that’s one hell of a missed opportunity.

Waiting, ooh waiting on the world to change.

Here come some numbers.

15 36 HICKS*TAYLOR TAYLOR HICKS 38,585 -81 201,881 539,619

Well, before anyone freaks out, it looks like all the albums took a predictable tumble the week after Christmas. Here are some other numbers:

31 3 DREAMGIRLS SOUNDTRACK 104,366 -17 125,272 385,638

That’s only a small tumble, but the movie was only recently released, so of course it’s picking up steam that way, too.

8 11 DAUGHTRY DAUGHTRY 76,262 -69 249,537 1,121,033

He’ll probably be back up next week, propelled by buzz surrounding his New Years’ Eve performance. Taylor will probably get a similar boost from his Orange Bowl show, though I don’t expect it to be as big as Daughtry’s.

And as of now, both Clay and Ruben have fallen completely off the Billboard 200.

But back to Taylor Hicks for a minute. Gray Charles blogged today about Taylor’s upcoming single. Apparently, four songs from the album (which ones, we don’t know) are being floated to focus groups. As of now, the push is to Top 40 radio, not to the Adult Contemporary format. Now, I’m no marketing expert (hell, I never so much as took a class in college), but this seems silly to me. Taylor’s just not Top 40 material. Sure, every now and then something completely new and different is embraced by the ClearChannel gods, such as Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy,” but I doubt that anyone bearing the American Idol stigma is going to be the harbinger of pop music innovation. So why not release “The Right Place” and market him to A/C? “The Right Place” is widely critically regarded as one of the best songs on the album, and besides, it’s common knowledge that the bulk of the American Idol viewing demographic is not made up of teens, but of 18-49-year-olds, many of whom would probably appreciate the various throwback styles on the album, from the 60’s-era “Heaven Knows” to the 80’s-synth-soul of “Wherever I Lay My Hat.” After all, artists like John Mayer, Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and Josh Groban all had fantastic years saleswise, and none of them had Top 40 hits (save for Mayer’s insipid “Daughters,” which I still hear on rotation every now and then). Norah Jones’ album is one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2007, and you won’t hear her sandwiched between The Pussycat Dolls and Justin Timberlake. Why, why, why, Clive, why, AI gods, must you make this unnecessary push? Gah.

June 2019
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What the kids are sayin’

"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."

"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."

"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "