Posts Tagged ‘son’

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Christina Aguilera – Bionic. (album review)

June 14, 2010

As you can tell from my current blog layout, I am very much feeling the imagery of Christina Aguilera’s current Bionic era.  It’s fierce, severe and pushes the envelope.  Artwork such as the front cover (above) and other graffiti-inspired cyborg manipulations handled by D*Face push the envelope and also serve to symbolise Christina as human machine which creates fine music hence “Bionic”.  Various analyses of this robotic imagery could be and have been made: on the one hand, Christina Aguilera in her superhuman form triumphs over all her competitors and makes superior , near-perfect music because she has this bionic element to her; on the other hand, as part-robot, Christina can only ever produce a facsimile of what music is supposed to be, while never quite getting close enough to the organic, human qualities in music that elevate it beyond the calculable – qualities which cannot be quantified or mechanised.  In Bionic, as in life, the truth lies somewhere between these two opinions.

Bionic the album is a long listen – 18 tracks in its standard version, 23 in its deluxe (with iTunes bonus track “Little Dreamer”, a likeable but throwaway confection, making a grand total of 24).  I’ll dispense with the additional 5 bonus tracks first: they are, by and large, bonus tracks for a reason: either they are not strong enough to be considered for the main album (“Monday Morning” is pleasant but lackadaisical; “Birds Of Prey” is lyrically mysterious and interesting, but musically and vocally it’s too much mainstream dance that Kelis would do a lot better with on her current Flesh Tone project), or they don’t fit thematically with the empowering / sexual / carefree / mature feel of the album.  “Bobblehead” is a thrilling production that stutters and races to its climax with the wonderful lyric: “I never play dumb to get what I want / and always come out the one that’s on top”; however, its main hook is a nonsensical mumble that may be the point of the lyrics, dissing idiot girls who dumb themselves down and preferring to deploy her own intelligence, but it’s still a nonsensical mumble which fails to use Christina’s vocals to much effect.  “Stronger Than Ever” is a ballad that is lyrically strong (and embodies my current struggle with my parents) and vocally able, but it just lacks that something.  “I Am (Stripped)” is a lovely album closer but is a more acoustic version of one of the main album tracks, and so it’s understandable why it’s relegated to bonus status.

So, to the main event. To my ear, Bionic moves in three arcs.  In its first, it goes for the jugular with relentless, futuristic uptempos; it then cools down into a sensuous, emotionally vulnerable, mature ballad section; finally, it picks up again for a closing triad of uptempo songs that epitomise fun.  While it’s possible that the album could be trimmed down to make a more concise, compelling listen, it flows very nicely throughout and only has a couple of stumbling points.  Christina Aguilera said that she wanted something which sounded futuristic, but with elements of the organic; something which integrated her new emotional maturity as a mother with her desire to remain playful and sexy.  On this point, she has succeeded: Bionic has elements of all of this.  Tracks such as “Bionic” and “Elastic Love” incorporate computerised effects to distort Christina’s voice, along with buzzing, whirring productions that sonically embody the bionic cyborg face of her album cover. However, on tracks such as standout “You Lost Me” and “All I Need”, Christina is stripped of the musical gloss of the faster tracks to be backed by little more than a piano.  “All I Need” is also a touching, mature tribute to her son, which nicely avoids being mawkish or saccharine like Britney Spears’ unlistenable “My Baby” from Circus.  Finally, sex is all over this album, and from the enticing “Woohoo” to the seductive “Sex For Breakfast” (which I have yet to play for my boyfriend, but when I next see him in July, I am using this song on him!), it’s explicit without being pornographic, edgy without crossing that line.  In this respect, the Christina Aguilera of “Dirrty” is still present, knowing how to be provocative while still being musically relevant.

However, in the video for “Not Myself Tonight”, Xtina makes her return and perhaps pushes the envelope a little too far.  S&M get-ups, Madonna tributes aplenty, and bisexual flirtations are almost par for the course at this point, and Christina Aguilera is more than entitled to use them considering her influence on current female artists in the mainstream over the past 10 years.*  However, although “Not Myself Tonight” is an understandable choice as Bionic‘s lead single considering its radio-friendly sound, it’s not futuristic and it’s not exciting enough to merit the edgy, sex-fuelled imagery.  Rather than hookless, it sounds like a bunch of hooks jostling together for attention over a dance beat (which has a couple of exciting tribal flourishes), the result of which means that sometimes the song sticks, on other listens it doesn’t quite get there.  A better first single might have been the thrilling, soaring title track, or uptempo album standout and follow-up single “Woohoo”, on which Xtina extols the virtues of good oral sex, recruits Nicki Minaj for a fine rap segment, uses her vagina (the titular “Woohoo!”) for a cowbell, and tops it off with a throbbing, buzzing dance break coda for good measure.  Along with “You Lost Me”, “Lift Me Up” and album closer “Vanity”, “Woohoo” is an album standout where all of Christina’s chemical ambitions for Bionic come together perfectly to produce some exemplary pop.

Bionic itself has no bad songs, but there is some filler: “Prima Donna” comes at the end of the first album arc of jugular-ripping uptempos, and is the weakest of them, with little lyrical know-how or production excitement to give it its own identity after the tracks preceding it.  “My Girls” is a ‘riding in the car with your top down’ sort of song, but comes off as fluffy compared to the album’s meatier offerings: although Christina proves (responding to criticisms that she oversings) that she can vocally restrain herself on songs such as “Elastic Love” with its amusing and witty stationery metaphors, and the tender “All I Need”, “My Girls” needs the vocal melisma to give it some spark; as it stands, it’s a little too laid back.  Nevertheless, 2 out of 18 songs (or 15, excluding interludes) is not bad and perhaps a better result than I was expecting.  Sure, several songs on the album are not immediate: “Glam” takes a few listens to hit its stride with its subtle, fibrillating beats and “Vogue”-esque spoken-word verses, while “Vanity” initially startles the listener with its unbridled use of the word “bitch”, references to Christina making herself “wetter” before marrying herself as her “lawfully wedded bitch” and effectively giving the finger to everyone who doesn’t have such bravado.  Only by the song’s end (and possibly a couple of repeat listens) does it sink in that the track is a storming highlight, a perfect album closer, utterly hilarious and ridiculous (and knowingly so), with a vocal flourish that knocks all competition to the floor before her son’s voice confirms all suspicions: his mother really is the shit.

At the end of the day, it’s this kind of confidence that makes Bionic a great success – Christina Aguilera believes that she rules the world, and this kind of ambition almost single-handedly propels her music to heady heights.  It’s a new page for Christina, and she’s secure enough in her ability to try different things: the mélange of styles is a little disorientating until repeated listens expose the subtleties and intricacies in her vocals, lyrics and the songs themselves.  “Lift Me Up” is another beautiful, soaring track that was slightly superior in its stripped down live version performed on the Haiti telethon, but still thrills within the album.  “I Am” is a declaration of humanity, imperfection and adulthood that lends substance to the polished sheen of Bionic‘s robotic side, deployed confidently, efficiently and effectively for example on clubsong “Desnúdate” (which neatly remembers and includes Christina’s Spanish-speaking audience and heritage).  If Christina experiments with textures in her voice, sometimes preferring subdued rumbles to soaring melismas, she still shows that she can do both better than most other female artists.  At the end of the day, Christina Aguilera is an musical artist with a personal and professional vision that she fulfils 85% of the time.  Her misfires are excusable and never in poor taste so much as merely a little bland or inconsistent – in time, Christina will learn to totally excise these from her projects.  Most importantly, while some of Bionic indeed caters to current mainstream tastes and is hardly an obscure sonic revelation, the majority of it is interesting and thrilling, and rings true as Christina Aguilera’s own personality and intention which doesn’t give a fuck about current radio trends (in my opinion, less than half of Bionic would get spins on mainstream radio).  For this, her sales might suffer, but her artistic integrity remains intact and hopefully the mainstream radio audiences and buying public one day will catch up.

* I’ll address this once and only once: anyone who thinks that Christina Aguilera is copying Lady GaGa is a) suffering from memory loss and should go back to Christina Aguilera’s last two album eras which were mired with controversy and blazed with exciting fashions and imagery, b) suffering from hearing loss as Christina can sing GaGa – and pretty much anyone else – under the table, c) has no respect for what Aguilera has achieved over the past 10 years – while GaGa has had a fantastic 2-year run and displays much potential (her music and videos are definitely getting more intriguing), she’s still only been around 2 years and more respect should be shown to anyone who successfully completes a decade in the music industry, and d) completely overlooking Gwen Stefani, whose hairstyle Christina mimics in her “Not Myself Tonight” video, and whose image, sound and career Lady GaGa has borrowed liberally from, mixed with a bunch of fashion designers, and passed off as her own to those too young, too unaware or too amnesiac to know any better.

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surveillance.

March 18, 2010

Tonight, I got home about 8:30 after seeing Karina and talking about our love lives, her work, my uni, and other topics in between.  We had a really good time, and I ended up having a panini in Costa for dinner as I was hungry and it transpired that I was gonna be there until 8ish.  I called home during my time with Karina to let my mother know that although I wouldn’t be home late, I wouldn’t be having dinner with my parents as I was eating out.  Bearing in mind that I rarely am home to eat with my parents, but I let them know this every night (or they ask me in the morning prior to me leaving the house), this usually works fine and they respect me doing whatever I’m doing.  However, tonight as soon as I got in the door, my mother asked me for no apparent reason “is that all you’ve eaten today then?” Like wtf? Bearing in mind last week my mother practically called me a bulimic junkie, again for no logical reason, it’s getting on my nerves.  Nevertheless, I had to give her a rundown of exactly what I had eaten during the day, and then we debated whether I actually liked tuna or cucumber (because I had a tuna and cucumber sandwich at lunchtime).  I’m 24 years old, I pay rent to my parents (admittedly a token amount, but rent nonetheless) so in theory if I’m not eating at home, it’s more money in their pocket.  We have a good relationship, and I come and go as I please.  I’m tidy, I respect the house and clean up after my father where necessary (this has always been the case).

So one minute, they respect my privacy.  I appreciate this when it occurs, as I haven’t come clean about my current relationship (until it’s firmly established, I don’t see why I have to tell my parents about my sex life or my love life – it’s not their business. And to be fair to them, they don’t ask) and so the fact I don’t need to make up excuses about why I don’t get home most evenings before 11pm is a weight off my shoulders.  But then, the next minute they take that respect away with bizarre questions or requests for information about my private and personal life, and I feel like I’m a little kid again.  Am I respected as an adult or not?

Things have been intensified by the return of my grandmother last week from Australia.  Now, me and my nan have always been extremely close, and it’s pretty clear that I was both of my grandparents’ favourite grandchild (although the fact that my competition was halfway across the world in Australia meant that I did have an advantage).  My nan and I have called each other during the day and at night to converse, or at least to say hello or goodnight as appropriate to the time of day.  But now that I’ve been free of my nan for 3 months while she’s been in Australia, it’s hard to adjust back to this constant feeling of being under surveillance and having to answer questions on who, what, where, when and why.  I’m a pretty decent grandson – I’m 24 and I still visit my grandmother every week and spend time with her.  Most people my age (and a lot younger) barely see their grandparents except on special occasions.  I genuinely love her, feel close to her and treat her with dignity and respect, and so aren’t I a good grandson that I deserve some respect also?  I mean, I feel awful saying that because she does love me to pieces, spoil me and she does respect my intelligence but also the person that I am.  But she doesn’t seem to respect my privacy or boundaries, and wants to know every little thing I do.  I’m 24 years old, I’m a good grandson and a good human being, but I’m also a grown man – am I not entitled to my own life?

Talking to my friends, it’s apparent that I have to move out.  Not because any relationships are strained – I don’t believe they are.  I do my own thing, and the fact that my life seems to be clicking into place at last – career, relationship, driving, general happiness – means that I’m fast outgrowing my bedroom at home.  When I’m at Toby’s house, although he shares with 4 other people, it’s nice just to have the ease that nobody cares whether I’m in or out, what I’m eating, what I’m doing and with whom.  I guess that also, my parents and I seem to get on a lot better generally when I’m actually not here – largely because I don’t have to listen to their arguments (or “discussions”), and I have little chance of becoming embroiled in them.  I miss my grandmother, but I guess I’m really a man now – I handle my own business and I no longer need anyone else in my family to do that.  I have enough close friends, good friends, to whom I can talk about any problem or issue, big or small – for a long time, there’ve been things I didn’t want to discuss with my family, but now there’s nothing I feel I need to run by them.  And I guess I get confused when one minute, they don’t expect me to run things by them, couldn’t care less what I do and barely seem to notice my existence – and then the next, I’m guilty of some big crime (which I haven’t committed) without even being made aware of it.  I don’t want to be under this surveillance, and I feel that I’ve been a good enough son and grandson that not only does my family not realise how lucky they are, but I’ve earned respect and freedom, and the right to lead my life the way I choose without any repercussions.

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the one.

January 28, 2010

The most honest and one of the most difficult things that I have come to realise about the whole Mike situation (read back if you don’t know, although this entry will no doubt catch you up more or less anyway) is that he is The One.  Not that I actually believe in the concept of “the One”: I find it extremely improbable that out of the billions of everyone on earth, there is only one single person with whom you are meant to be happy.  I don’t believe in God, so I don’t believe in that sort of destiny or pre-determined fate.  I don’t find it logical in the sense of considering issues like gender, sexuality, race, religion, culture, even people of different languages?  I mean, what if my one meant-to-be person happened to be a female homophobic person from a tribe with their own language, living in the middle of the African desert?  I’d be more than a bit screwed, and it’s an unlikely match to start with.  So I don’t believe that there is one soulmate.

So let me clarify: when I say that Mike is “the One”, I mean that in my 24 years of living, he is the most important and closest thing to a soulmate with whom I could imagine spending my life with, that I’ve ever met.  Of course, he’s straight, he’s 11 years older than me, he’s married, he’s a father – so again, it’s not going to happen.  Last week we were discussing our feelings, the situation and so forth, and he said “I truly wish I could reciprocate your feelings.”  That meant a lot to me, and what else could I say but be honest and reply “I wish you could too”? I know that if things were different and he could be with me somehow, we would do it and that would be it, end of story, happily ever after thankyou very much.  But things aren’t different, and I ended the conversation with “In another life, maybe.” and left it at that, and proceeded to talk about other, less serious things (and I later got very drunk, vomited over a bridge near a swan and then stayed at T’s place).  Nevertheless, that discussion will be one of the many things that I never forget about Mike – there are so many even after just 5 months of knowing each other.  And before you say it, I don’t know if I believe in reincarnation either, but my mind is a little more open to that than the “one sole soulmate in the world” concept.

After starting the week with some insecurities over my friendship with the third member of our little love triangle (which were proven unfounded – I overthink things, misinterpret little subtle gestures and take them far too personally), I’ve made a real effort to be the best friend I can be to both Mike and V, and to focus on my burgeoning friendship with T.  Things look good, and although I’m not really comfortable at letting someone get close to me in a more-than-friends way, I’m starting to feel a little more at ease with it.  I’d still like to slow down the pace somewhat, but I enjoy spending time with him and I feel so flattered that he appears to think so much of me.  I’d be a fool to just throw that away, and I’m glad (most of the time) that I haven’t.  He’s a really good guy, so why not see if it leads somewhere?  My feelings for Mike are there and I acknowledge that, but there’s no need for T to know about them because that would just cause needless questions and possible hurt.  I am glad to say that I consider Mike one of my closest, best friends, and everything I’ve been through and we’ve been through has ultimately contributed to that rather than broken it down, which I think is testament to the both of us.

I spent the day with Mike today as we walked his son up and down Bristol docks on the train tracks (he educated me about trains, I taught him about raspberries), got Mike’s first tattoo (it looks fantastic, and watching him get inked up was a tiny bit sexy but mainly really interesting – as well as enthusing to play off his jubilation when he saw it in the mirror and was so happy – just like my reaction!), booked my second tattoo – the revolver – for next week (arrrrgh here we go AGAIN! No doubt I’ll post up the picture just like with the first one 😉 ), spent time with his family, had chilli and smoked lots, and watched Snow White with his son.  I was so privileged that they wanted to spend time with me – not just Mike, but his whole family – and that really means a lot to me.  He is one of my very best friends, and I hope to death that that is something that never changes, because losing him would be a catastrophe.  I feel close to his son, his wife is absolutely lovely, and although sometimes I feel that it might be weird considering the way that I feel about Mike, I adore watching his family interact (especially considering my own family’s ups and downs in terms of emotional push and pull) and feeling as if I am part of them.  Knowing his wife so well, rather than infuriating me in terms of “damn, you got my man first!” (I occasionally feel that, but really very rarely), seems to normalise me and I don’t think of Mike romantically so much when I’m in his family’s presence – it’s just not appropriate and doesn’t enter my head.  He’ll always be a sexy man, he’ll always have a sexual magnetism for me, but in that kind of situation the pull is less.  And considering my possible relationship with T, my close friendship with Mike which I don’t want to jeopardise, and the many ways in which my romantic feelings are inappropriate, whatever minimises my attraction to him is welcome.

So I hope that T and me work well, I hope that Mike and me are best friends for many years to come (as well as tattoo buddies!), I hope that I can always feel comfortable with his family and that they can always feel comfortable with me.  Within one month of 2010, I’ve got one tattoo, one on the way, a possible new boyfriend, and I’m working on passing my driving test – all with strengthening my bond with Mike.  I sense a lot of positive accomplishments to come, and that makes me really happy. 🙂

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fear.

November 12, 2009

“I’m scared to look cuz I’m scared to see
I’m scared of you cuz I’m scared of me”

“Fear” – Jazmine Sullivan

I could have quoted the whole damn song for this post, to be honest – the lyrics are so well-written and true. (Give it a listen sometime – I’m sure it’s on youtube.) The last few days, I’ve been thinking that I sorta scare myself in some ways.  The intensity of the feelings I have for the man I want, whom I can never have.  But it’s not really about that.

He’s not single.  If we ever did get together, it would be the destruction of a family, the trust and love and everything that’s been built into that.  I’ve been privileged enough, even after us only knowing each other for 2 months, to witness that first hand when I’ve been invited round to his house.  When I was a child, I used to resent my father for never being there, and I used to be somewhat scared of him when he was.  To see the kind of man, husband and father that my friend is, really tells me that that he is who I want to be in 10 years.  He’s an inspiration.  And yet, why can’t I stop these feelings?  Why am I so selfish as to even consider risking destroying the family he’s built, and depriving a young son (3 years old) of the very same things I didn’t have, when I know first-hand how miserable it is to grow up with a father who is only physically there a small amount of the time, and emotionally absent during even those times?  That’s what scares me about myself.

He’s in my dreams near enough every night. We text each other a lot when we’re not physically together. I haven’t felt this way about anyone since the teenage crushes I went through (you know what it’s like – we’ve all been there), and it scares me that rather than having grown up and gotten past these kinds of feelings, I can still get wrapped up in them.  Most of the time, to have such a close bond with someone and to share the same sense of humour and emotional insights (despite our different lives) brings me such joy and security. In my current desolate home situation (and the lengthy boredom that is my placement at the moment!), it’s a light in the darkness.  But occasionally, when I’m alone I miss him so much.  When he texts me, it lights up my morning or evening. It feels like we are linked, even across the distance. And when he doesn’t text me, I’m almost devastated and I start getting paranoid that I’ve done something to harm our friendship.  Yep, it’s textbook infatuation. So what do I do with it?

It scares me that I don’t know.  Feelings aren’t something you can just make go away with the click of a finger.  And I don’t want to change anything about our relationship – it’s precious and rare! Although I guess I’m quite a popular person, I still consider myself to have but a handful of truly close friends, and I don’t want to stop him from becoming one of them. So I am not willing to be apart from him, and I don’t know if that is necessarily the answer. I’m never going to reveal my feelings for fear of alienating him – not that we don’t flirt! Our relationship can be quite suggestive and flirtatious. But I try and monitor myself so it’s not OTT – and he reciprocates plenty!  So there’s an innocence and a fun to it, which is enjoyable. I don’t want to jeopardise that either by being too honest and full-on, nor by suddenly becoming aloof. It would hurt him and it would not be genuine.  So I guess I have to continue and wait for my feelings to fade and rationale to win out… and try not to do anything stupid. And while I may be scared at the fantasies in my head possibly coming true, I know that I can hold back.  Most of the time. Hopefully my fears are unfounded.