Steve J. Moore

Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Walk This Way Kanye

In Music, Radio, TV on December 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Minor disclaimer: I do not like Kanye West  as a person (just see his blog). Mine is far from perfect, but if you actually find a post where he writes, you will get an idea of just how childish and spoiled this overly-produced mega star is. I do, however, have room to appreciate him as an artist.

 

I do like hip-hop and rap (see post on Atomosphere). My tastes in music vary greatly and I credit myself as a person who gives people chances. So, I listened to Mr. West’s entire new album 808s & Heartbreak (I applaud him for his grammatical ommission of an apostrophe in plural but not possessive “808s”) and tried to sincerely block out my usual desire to laugh, cry out in pain, or sigh in disgust.

 

I need music to have a reason behind it. I need to believe that the person or group I’m listening to believes in a message of some sort, even if that message is “we have no message.” As I see it (before hearing 808s), Kanye believes in only himself and his continued ability to make money.

 

808

 

The track list is as follows:

1. “Say You Will”  

2. “Welcome to Heartbreak” (feat. Kid Cudi)

3. “Heartless”  

4. “Amazing” (feat. Young Jeezy)

5. “Love Lockdown”  

6. “Paranoid” (feat. Mr Hudson)

7. “RoboCop”  

8. “Street Lights”  

9. “Bad News”  

10. “See You in My Nightmares” (feat. Lil’ Wayne)

11. “Coldest Winter”  

12. “Pinocchio Story”

 

While listening, I kept thinking to myself,

 

“Geez… who wrote these lyrics…

they’re so boring…”

 

Then I realized that Kanye wrote all of it himself (of course!). Perhaps the only well-produced parts of Mr. West are his beats. Most of the words rapped in the album wouldn’t get you through a high school talent assembly. When you usually get infusions from incredible groups like Daft Punk in songs past ( I keep telling myself they just did it for the money) and you only get acclaim for your sampling feats, there’s a problem with your talent.

 

But moving back to 808s, there were several tracks that started with promise. I couldn’t help but thump my foot and bob my head in time with a few musical phrases here and there. A cool beat would develop… some nice synth motion…that’s not bad… and then BOOM— the Auto-Tune takes over and all you can hear is Kanye’s unsinging, unrapping, whine (it’s something like cats being stepped on during a bowel movement):

 

ugh.

 

It would be different if the well-managed drum machine was interrupted by someone who could either actually rap, like Mos Def, or someone who can actually sing, like John Legend. Sadly, there is no such reprieve with Kanye.

 

I know things like black lights, venetian-blind sunglasses, and pretending you’re as cool as Jesus (or John Lennon) are important, but when did making good music take a back seat to meaningless (albeit highly sellable) personalities?

 

kanye1

 

Most of 808’s is, sadly, exactly what I thought it’d be: ignorable, forgettable, and some of it just plain bad. I won’t start a separate rant here, but I’m tired of songs “feat. ‘so-and-so'” that you would have no idea of unless you were in the studio during the session and you saw them bring in lunch. Sadly, Hip-hop has become somewhat dependent upon name-dropping lately.

 

Here’s the game: lay down one hot track…

*beat boxes while holding tin foil*

release the “song” under a cool pseudonym ignoring spelling and reason (probably with Asian influence for good measure) like:

“Sh4ng Sung”shang_tsung

Then, sell your marketable moniker to big names in need of a quick shot in the arm.

“Bounce ‘dat” by Beyonce feat. Sh4ng Sung

Ca$h in!

 

 

I’m not trying to say hip-hoppers/rappers need to stop collaborating, but just save your thanks for the liner notes unles your act is like Run DMC and Aerosmith.

 

 

I’ll end with a quote:

“Unfortunately for certain media outlets, you will never be able 2 ‘Michael Jackson’ me. That means 2 make it seem like everything I do is so weird or out of place…they always try 2 make it seem like everything is about my ego! That joke is getting old.”

Advertisements

Words for Music, A Sonnet for “The Management”

In Film, Music, Radio, TV, Writing on December 12, 2008 at 11:48 pm

One Strange Title to Another


“Oracular Spectacular” alone is a whopping four iambs,
but I hate counting syllables, hand to my throat
bumping into my chin awkwardly. I’m always left laughing
and I lose count. Better to stick with number of lines
as I listen to the Brooklyn breeding psych pop dancing
of The Management. The only rhyming happens between keys,
as the electric feel wages weekend wars with the youth
and the handshake kids decide “it’s time to pretend”
with pieces of what, I cannot tell. The speaker foam
hides a prision for Bob Dylan, condemned to jamming
with the Sex Pistols using only old church organs,
a hand-me-down strat and Barry Gibb’s larynx. Voices
transport me in a telephone booth to a discotech arcade
where pac-man does lines, trying to escape the ghosts.

.

.

The MGMT’s newest album, “Oracular Spectacular.”

oracular_spectacular_2008

If a Prat Falls in Space…

In Film, Writing on December 8, 2008 at 6:36 pm

On any Monday, I try to find as many tiny reasons to bring the corners of my mouth a little closer to my ears.

Personally, I’m a sucker for the exploitation of Star Wars in any case, especially video games (see KOTOR), but usually not anything containing the term “fan-produced.” Today, I found one exception though:

Gotta thank io9 for posting the goods where I saw them.

The silent film piano score really makes this bit feel the part. The images of Vader remind me of Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator as he plays on the likes of Nazi Germany.

the_great_dictator1

The Storm Toopers hussling back and forth are echoes of policemen running to and from a black and white bank heist scene in vain, or maybe they are just chasing after Laurel and Hardy. I suppose this very short film presents us with a question, if Darth Vader is Charlie Chaplin, what place would he come in if he entered an Anakin Skywalker look-alike contest?

On My Way Home from Normal

In Writing on December 2, 2008 at 10:24 pm

It’s been a long couple of weeks and student teaching is coming to a close: papers due, assignments to grade, and time records to double and triple-check (in pencil of course). Driving home from Republic, Ben Folds banged on 88 piano keys and rang loudly in my ears. His new album, Way to Normal, has been out for several weeks now and I’ve heard a lot of good.

If I could give the album three adjectives to describe it:

Wistful

Organ-grinder

Philarious

Ok, that last one is cheating, but I wanted to say philosophical+hilarious! Wistful, is probably too soft of an adjective to describe the entire album per se, but the elements that are so foil the artist I think. Folds has always been full of…wist…to me.

Expectantly or yearningly eager, watchful, or intent; mournfully expectant or longing. (Chiefly in reference to the look.)

Thanks OED, don’t know what I’d do without you! Just looking at Ben Folds you get a sense of his style. His constant half-smirk is always wispering something melodic, existential, and half-cursing, into my ear. I ordered Whatever and Ever Amen from Columbia House (13 CDs for ONE CENT!!!!) back in 1997. I was 13, what can I say? But the album has always stuck with me. His lyrics are raw not like a shank of uncooked beef, but rather like a California roll from a hole-in-the wall suburban take-out place.

Maybe Organ-grinder isn’t an adjective, but I’m adopting it into my musical lexicon of description. Listen to You Don’t Know Me, featuring the incomparable Regina Spektor.

It’s so wonderfully full of noncannon sound. The little five-piece group backing Ben and Regina makes the song my favorite toy in the box. It’s fun, brightly colored, and it hasn’t bored me yet.