Posts Tagged ‘Lady GaGa’

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90s baby.

August 27, 2009

Okay, I confess, I was born in the 1980s.  But apart from a few songs, the majority of what I grew up with was 90s music.  As you know, Mariah Carey is a massive influence on me, and my mother bought her very first single, “Vision Of Love”, on vinyl back in 1990.  Right through “Dreamlover”, “Without You” and “Fantasy” to the  Butterfly and Rainbow albums which closed the 90s, she was an epic atom bomb dropped on my life.  But if you know me, or you’ve read certain previous entries, you already know that and I’m not going to delve into it further here.

As a preteen and young teenager bearing the combined musical influence of my mother and my school friends, I would listen to songs by the Honeyz, En Vogue, Shola Ama, Backstreet Boys, No Doubt, Solid Harmonie, Peter Andre, Blur *shudder*, Aqua *cringe*, Aaliyah, Monica, Brandy and Usher, to name but a very select few.  The magazines I read (Smash Hits, TVHits, Top Of The Pops) were aimed squarely at teenagers who were of a sunny pop disposition, and although I was much more aware of the charts then than I am now, I still felt a little bit like there had to be something more.  Beyond straightforward manufactured pop (however good a product it may be), I started to lean towards more urban music.  I discovered garage (2-step) music, R&B, rap and hip hop.  Ms. Dynamite, Shola Ama (and the remixes), Honeyz and Kele Le Roc represented British R&B to me, while the American singers such as Toni Braxton, Aaliyah, Brandy, Usher, Monica, TLC and Jennifer Lopez were an emblem of something smoother, sexier and edgier.  Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope opened my eyes to how well an album could be constructed, seguing effortlessly between different moods, concepts and tempos.  Missy Elliott’s Da Real World smacked me upside the head with a combination of weird bassy dark production and super-explicit lyrics that I wasn’t familiar with.  Jennifer Lopez’s video for “If You Had My Love” left me with the undeniable impression that a star was born, from her ridiculous beautiful looks to her insanely polished and expressive dancing.  Brandy & Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” ended up on my cd player before it dawned on me just how much of a classic that song was going to be.  TLC’s Fanmail sounded like the future.  Aaliyah’s One In A Million album sounded like effortless sexuality, and sounded like nothing and nobody else.

All the aforementioned artists, albums and songs still hold that exact same resonance for me.  Perhaps it’s just the fact that I was growing up and those singers played an integral part in my adolescence, but music just isn’t the same anymore.  Show me a singer as effortlessly sexy and sophisticated as Aaliyah.  Show me a group as fiercely cool as TLC.  Find me a singer with a voice, body and songwriting skills like Mariah’s.  A rapper as off the wall as Busta Rhymes, as influential as 2pac or Notorious BIG.  I mean no disrespect to all the musicians and artists in the game today, because they have a hard job living up to these stars, who to me represent the golden age of urban music.  Ciara, Beyoncé, The-Dream, Electrik Red, Robin Thicke, Pitbull, Lil’ Wayne, Black Eyed Peas all hold down the front line.  Perhaps it’s just that I’m older, but despite their best efforts, I can’t help reminiscing.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because I’ve found music in the last 3-4 years to be somewhat dry, I’ve discovered music from that golden age that passed me by the first time round.  Unbelievably, until 2 years ago, I had never listened to a Jodeci song.  Obviously I’d heard of them and their songs must have played very occasionally on the radio or tv, but I’d never really listened. Now I know where Dru Hill got their ideas from!  R. Kelly and his protégée Sparkle crafted some classic 90s R&B.  SWV and Total were some bad-ass girl groups!  Listening to the Notorious BIG’s albums and Puff Daddy’s older output allows me to see where Diddy, Lil’ Kim and Bad Boy Entertainment stand today and plot the journey and progress in between.  The joy of this has been that it is an entirely personal quest, because nobody else, in my past or present, is into the exact same music as me.  I’ve managed to convert some of my friends to some urban music, but I don’t really know anyone in person who’s into in the same depth.  The people who seem to understand most where I come from musically are on the internet, in forums and on urban music blogs.  Quite often, different posts educate me.

And that’s why I get so frustrated at the state of music today.  For one, every song seems to be a recycle of something else.  Beyoncé’s “Halo” = Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” = Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” = Jordin Sparks’ “Battlefield”.  Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” = Britney Spears’ “Gimme More” = Eva Simons’ “Silly Boy” = Rihanna’s “Shut Up And Drive” + “Umbrella” = a large part of The-Dream’s subsequent output = Electrik Red.  LeToya’s “Not Anymore” = Ciara’s “Never Ever” = Monica’s “Still Standing” = Nicole Scherzinger’s “Happily Never After” = Ne-Yo’s “So Sick” = Rihanna & Ne-Yo’s “Hate That I Love You” = Ne-Yo’s “Because Of You” = Ne-Yo’s “Sexy Love” = Ne-Yo’s “Mad”.  So damn formulaic.  And as Jay-Z has finally noticed, auto-tune is everywhere.

Another thing: why does music being released right now sound like it is 20 years old?  Aaliyah’s self-titled album sounds like an edgy, modern masterclass nearly 10 years on.  TLC’s Fanmail sounds more futuristic than Keri Hilson’s In A Perfect World…despite the former being released in 1999 and the latter released in 2009.  Whitney Houston’s latest “greatest” “comeback” album I Look To You is an utter mess, because instead of a graceful attempt to keep up with the times as on My Love Is Your Love (a burnished masterpiece) and even Just Whitney (which has held up surprisingly well), she decides to go time-travelling.  The ballads fare well, with “Call You Tonight” a classy modern song, while “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” and “I Look To You” are classic ballads which are strong, even without the power of Whitney’s old voice.  “Salute” is the best song on the album for me, because it is pure timeless R&B.  But the uptempos…. oh no.  “Million Dollar Bill” revisits old-school R&B and falls asleep, “Nothin’ But Love” presses the 90s synth button repeatedly, “Like I Never Left” should be titled “Like I Never Left The 80s”.  The major disaster is “A Song For You”, which was performed sublimely by Herbie Hancock and Christina Aguilera a couple of years ago.  Here, the first half of the song is typically piano led, but Whitney seems to jump through the hoops a little bit.  No matter, it’s not a problem compared to what happens at 1:30.  Hex Hector and Peter Rauhofer must have cried a river when they heard this tepid 90s-dance mess. I listened to this and had to skip to the next track, because Whitney was done a pure disservice with this song.  Words fail me…

Whitney Houston is not the only victim of this dated-modern fad… even on Trey Songz’ fantastic third album Ready, the melodically lovely “Love Lost” boasts a musical backing that sounds like it was created in 1987.  And Monica’s latest leaked song “Betcha She Don’t Love You” sounds like Missy Elliott vomited up an old record and told Monica to sing over it.  (Aaliyah would never have stood for it, I’m sure.) I have no problem with being inspired by the past and appreciating heritage and history.  You can honour the classics in a tasteful way. But when it seems that it’s so difficult for artists to be forward thinking that they recycle old songs and pass them off as ‘new’ or ‘retro-cool’ when in reality they are just lazy, that really pisses me off and makes me rifle through my older CDs, listening to music that is forward thinking, doesn’t sound at all dated, but is timeless.  There’s a big difference between the two that a lot of today’s music industry (both A&R honchos and artists alike) would do very well to learn.

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dream.

July 11, 2009

Okay, I’ve literally just woken up and I have to write this all down before I forget it. Last night I had this epic dream which has stayed with me as I’ve woken up, so I wanted to get it all recorded for my own interest as well as so that you can analyse it and see how much of a freak I am, haha.

Basically, my friend from uni Aiman was getting married (this is happening in real life next month, I need to get the train tickets to Wolverhampton and back any day now) so my dad had driven me to this random town where the wedding was happening.  It transpired that I was there for the wedding rehearsal, but before I went to the rehearsal, me and my father ended up in a massive dvd shop.  After browsing quite a few of the titles, I remember going to the bargain section and picking up some sort of Street Fighter dvd.  The cover was a brown brick background, with a picture of Ryu looking fierce in the foreground.  Anyways, I took the dvd to the counter to find out how much it was, and the shop assistant told me £19.99.  I was quite miffed because that obviously wasn’t a bargain, so I went and put the dvd back.  For some reason (I don’t know what provoked me, but then this is a dream so logic basically flies out of the window) I started comparing the barcodes of the Street Fighter dvds and realised that the one I had picked up was different to others with the same cover.  So I took another one of the dvds over to the cashier and enquired about that price.  Of course, that one turned out to be £7.99, so much more of a bargain.

I don’t remember if I ended up purchasing the dvd, and I don’t remember where my dad went, but I ended up talking to the shop assistant for ages.  He was the same age as me, his name was Robbie, he had slightly unkempt blonde hair, he looked kinda indie-ish (not really my type under normal circumstances) and was a really funny, nice guy.  So we were chatting, and we ended up leaving the shop and walking for a while, getting to know one another, and the situation started to become more and more romantic.  But obviously I had this wedding rehearsal to go to!  So I don’t know what I told Robbie, but I rushed to the rehearsal where I was apparently late-but-not-too-late, and my group of university friends including Nana, Andrew, Daria (wearing very interesting white knee-length pvc killer heel boots!!!!  Which is something Daria would never ever wear in a million years) were in a circle waiting for me.  We chatted for a while, Aiman came over (at first she was in normal dress, but I presume she got changed for wedding things later on.. I never saw…) and said hello.  Then I snuck away from my friends for a while and went down this stone staircase at the end of the church garden, and found Robbie standing waiting for me (not sure if he was smoking a cigarette or just waiting for me).

I don’t know if we had pre-arranged to meet, but we ended up talking for a while, and it was clear that we were falling in love (hey! I move quickly if I know what I want, and what I want includes discounted dvds) because we ended up kissing (this was to be a chaste dream) for ages, and talking some more.  I think we may have mentioned eloping, who knows.  After talking for enough time, I remembered that I was not there to find the love of my life, but because one of my friends was having her wedding rehearsal and I had better go back.  So we parted, he was going to wait for me there at the stone staircase, and I ran back to the church where my friends was the tail end of a procession which had nearly filed inside.  I was just in time, and tagged onto the end of the queue where Nana raised her eyebrow at me and asked me where I had been.

And that is all I remember about this dream because my mother woke me up to ask my plans for the day before she went to work!!!  Such a shame, I’ve not remembered a dream so vividly in a little while now (I usually remember 1-2 a week on average, but lately they’ve been lacking in creativity – no holidays with Ciara, no being abandoned at the bus stop, no cannibal children, no exercise dvds with Beyoncé). But I drifted back off to sleep for another hour and I had another dream where I was at school in this cloakroom with one of my close friends of the time, Liam.  I had acquired, for some reason, this massive French dictionary (like a ridiculous size, bigger than the ones they had in Oxford university library) and was wondering where to put it, since I obviously couldn’t cart it around with me.  I think between me and Liam, we decided to leave it directly on the table in front of me (clearly, our intelligence had yet to blossom in this dream) and then we went to some sort of concert in this giant auditorium.  There was a world theme, and I remember being sat for a long while watching mediocre acts and not paying any attention.

Then suddenly, the music from Shakira’s “Ojos Así” began to play, and a Hindi woman stood up and began to sing and dance a traditional-looking dance (I wouldn’t really know though, so I don’t claim to).  There was murmuring, and Liam told me that the favourite to win the competition was this song, with a guy called “Menacing Louie” who drank a ridiculous amount during his performances.  And lo and behold, this hobo-looking man stood up on the right-hand side of the stage, a complete contrast to the Hindi woman dancing delicately and in a manner more befitting of the song.  And my dream zoomed in close up on Menacing Louie’s face as he raised a bottle of cola (obviously laced with goodness knows what alcohol, I could practically smell it coming off him despite being sat in the audience!) and drowned his mouth, tongue and throat with it, staining them a brownish colour (nice.).  I was quite unimpressed.

Then next, a murmuring began to rise amidst the crowd scandalised by Menacing Louie’s performance.  The sounds of Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” began to reverberate through the auditorium, and my friends started to chatter excitedly among themselves.  I remember feeling “alone in a crowd” and this is the miraculous thing.  Although this was apparently a separate dream to the wedding rehearsal dream, I remembered Robbie, and I missed him and wished he were there with me.  So obviously, we were still together in this dream, and it was ‘love’.  Or dream love, anyway.  Anyways, Lady GaGa appeared on the stage and did a medley of “Poker Face” and “Again Again”, it was fine, and I think that must have been it because I woke up and went straight to the laptop and typed this now-epic entry out.  Oops, I did it again!  I suppose the last couple have been more succinct though 😉

The most remarkable thing to me, more remarkable than being best friends with Ciara and going on holiday together, more remarkable than Beyoncé inviting me up on stage, was that I seemed to find true love (overnight, literally! Haha!) in this dream, and the memory and the feeling of it stayed with me.  I’m almost sad to be awake because I remember exactly what Robbie was like, and though he wasn’t my usual type (indie isn’t my typical) I remember how well we got on and how much feelings I had for him, and feeling that that was reciprocated.  After the last brief relationship I had, which ended in disaster, I began to think that maybe love just wasn’t for me, but it’s reassuring that I have the capacity to give love and receive it in return, even if it’s just a dream – I was still “me”. I guess it’s because I’ve been talking to someone online and it’s been a much more impressive conversation than usual, we were up until 2am talking about silly things and deep things and everything in between; perhaps Robbie was a manifestation of the best case scenario of what this person might be like.  Of course, I try to remain realistic about these things, and usually the reality is a disappointment, but I live in hope.  After all, we can but dream!

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faggotry.

July 7, 2009

Something which I don’t understand, beyond pure and simple prejudice (which is of course a large part of the answer, but humour me), is why gay men generally are stereotyped as not being able to keep it in their pants.  In The Informers any gay person has multiple lovers, smiles lasciviously at young surfer boys, and talks with a lisp and a limp wrist.  My limited experience of gay bars sorta betrays the same stereotype.  But of course, it’s a generalisation, and not every single gay male is like that.

In the UK, the word “fag” is not used, and we have “poof” instead.  But in the US, “fag” is used more for very effeminate gays (or “queens”, another word I hate!), the type I have briefly summarised in the above paragraph.  (In the UK, “poof” is used for more or less anyone who is gay, and “fag” is a cigarette.) It’s considered an offensive term, for obvious reasons, but at the same time, it is also used as an effective summary of fey gay behaviour.  Even gay people such as Perez Hilton use the term (setting back gay equality fights about 30 years in the process), though that particular situation resulted in Perez getting punched in the face by will.i.am’s tour manager, and the rest of the world cheering and wondering why it had taken so long for Perez to get even just a taste of his own medicine.  And this leads me onto a different exploration of how a stereotypical gay man (“gurrrrl!!!!”) behaves.

In gay clubs, the more camp people seem to equate being a “bitch” with being “fierce”.  Exhibit A: the existence of Sasha Fierce (Beyoncé’s alter ego), who is in turn a garish caricature and a fabulous performer.  Exhibit B: Ex-Pussycat Doll Carmit Bachar’s new song:

I can empathise with having a no-mess attitude and looking fantastic and fashionable – those things are undeniably great.  But why idolise sleeping around, stabbing people in the back, spreading rumours and getting a bad reputation?  I mean, those things are each individual’s choice but not really an attractive choice IMO.  And apart from the sleeping around (as far as we know), that’s exactly what Perez Hilton does, making a fantastic living in the process.  I stopped reading his blog a couple of weeks ago because although his news scoops were quite interesting, I detested his attitude, his blatant favouritism of Lady GaGa and Katy Perry (who are not all that) and utter hatred of others without any rationalisation.  And I thought, rather than feed into his way of life and his success, I would make a point of getting my news elsewhere.

In using the derogatory term in the title, I’m trying to understand or explore not only why all gay men are stereotyped in such an unflattering way, but also why certain gay men seem to embrace this stereotype, apparently in order to “fulfill their gayness” and put themselves in the correct box.  I would never want to be defined by a stereotype, let alone such an offensive one, and I think that it’s important to aim to be more than a generalisation, and aim to be yourself and the best you can be.