Friday, August 24, 2012

Video: Nicki Minaj - I am your leader

The Hip-Hop tracks on Nicki's Roman Reloaded were some of the best of the year, and this one was no different.  It's synth lines oscillate wildly, allowing Minaj's off-kilter flow to shine on the verses, whilst the snares and horns in the chorus give her an authoritarian backdrop to keep pace with.  In that way it's both silly and loose and yet, it's reigns you back into line with it's chorus. It's the sign of a great track.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Video: Kanye West and DJ Khaled - I Wish You Would / Cold

The song is pretty good, but the clip is a disappointment.  It's possible the shakey cam effect will leave you feeling nauseous.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Essay: I went to Planet Pit and all I got was this lousy bottle of Vodka

I have just finished reading the new GQ interview with rapper-turned-pop singer Pitbull, and I find myself in a predicament.

I want to hate the guy because I detest his music, but I can’t hate him, because I respect his entrepreneurial endeavor.

‘Pitbull is a brand, man’, he espouses (in the third person), which immediately sets me against him, but he goes on.  He talks about adapting to prevailing trends and makes pains to point out that artists that don’t try and keep up are the ones that fall behind.

It’s a capitalist dream, the one that 50 Cent was talking about in ‘I Get Money’.  I guess the line I drew is that I like the 50 Cent track, but I don’t like anything Pitbull has done (Sorry Pitbull fans).

Thinking about it, I guess I don’t have a problem with career-driven ‘artists’ like Pitbull, except when their artistic decisions and career decision completely overlap.

We are (and have been for a while) in the era where you can drop a ‘Burger King’ line in a song, or flash that bottle of ‘Absolut’ in your video’s and no-one bats an eyelid, because we all realise that the music video is a transaction now, and that product placement is something that we need to get used to enjoy our favourite tracks.  Except that we don’t.

I don’t disparage Pitbull for ‘getting that money’; the capitalist in me supports that notion fully.  I just can’t enjoy it.

Much in the same way I can’t stand Facebook when it pummels me with ads about bodybuilding and low interest rates, I can’t enjoy music videos and songs that sell part of themselves to promote. 

Yes, Run-DMC started it all way back when by writing songs about their sneakers (MyAdidas), but it would be remiss to not mention that the promotion started with Run-DMC and not Adidas.  Let’s not also forget the fact that the group’s standard Adidas outfits became old very quickly as well.  Had they have formed in our current nano-fad society; I suspect Run-DMC’s reign would’ve been over a lot quicker.

I don’t know what these guys get paid for their video clips, or for the products drops in the songs, but it must be worth it, otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

Personally, am I’m aware how hypocritical this sounds, I prefer something like Jay-Z andKanye’s ‘Otis’.  Whilst I could tell you Planet Pits products from the video (those logo’s!), the rappers are a little more subtle.

I could probably have guessed the vehicle they stripped and modified was a Maybach, but they stripped and modified it!  It makes you wonder whether it was even sanctioned by Maybach (it was eventually auctioned for charity). 

Jay-Z where’s a Balmain V-Neck shirt, but I had to look that up (as well as his Hublotwatch). 

My point is, if you have to, there are ways of combining art and commerce that are interesting and/or subtle.  Pitbulls does not seem to care, which is likely dictated by his record company and choice of video directors.

The line between art and commerce is razor thin, but in the two examples I’ve mentioned, each artist is clearly toeing it a little better than the other.

Pitbull, time to step up your game, son.

Review: Lone - Galaxy Garden

Review: Lone – Galaxy Garden

I don’t know much about Lone.  His contempories are supposed to be maximalist sound-bombers like Skrillex and Rustie, but like the Sesame Street shapes, his thing is not like the others. 

The one way you can draw parallels to those other artists is they none of them hold back when it comes to sound.  You find a melody for your song?  What if we chuck another three melodies over the top of that?  You have a drum track?  How about we add multiple drum tracks, and have each one falling over the other to be the top dog?

Reading the above, you’re probably thinking that his music is too busy.  It is busy, but Lone is able to juggle the juxtaposed sounds deftly, so that each melody, drum track and sound effect is prominent in the mix. 

I’ve heard the album recalls the heady (and hedonistic) jungle rave sounds of the early 90’s, and it’s definitely there.  Obviously there are certain musical choices that defined those early Jungle records, and they all get a run here.  What this record does that other records influenced by that era don’t do is capture the feelings of hope and happiness (however short-lived that may have been) at the core of the early rave tracks.

Don’t get it twisted though, this is no retro record.  ‘Lying in the reeds’ comes early in the albums 14 track run, and it defines Lone’s sound perfectly.  The melodies are layered often and early, and the effect of slowing, rewinding and re-starting the lead melody has a trance-like effect.  It’s like waking up in Osaka at 2am wandering down the Dotombori, it’s trippy.

‘Crystal Caverns 1991’ is an evocative title, and it is one of the ‘happy house’ infused tracks.  It bangs, playing out like a dupstep version of ‘Wearing My Rolex’ with Blade-Runner synths slapped across the top of it. 

If you like your ‘loud’ music to be tuneful and melodic, rather than abrasive, then this is for you.  It’s an alternative to the ballistics and a great record for those times when you just aren’t up for the moshpit.