Would You Rather…
Friday, May 30, 2014
TMI Questions – Classic Edition:
Would You Rather…
Would You Rather…
Hmmm. I feel the need, so I went back and found myself one of Sean’s old posts – from Tuesday, July 17, 2012, to be exact. So get ready for a Classic Edition of TMI Questions.
We all day dream about the choices we would make if we could; especially when it comes to altering our past. But sometimes it’s fun to explore the choices we would never in a million years have a say in.
There are so many things I would like to have control over and change, but ultimately that would be robbing life of doing what life does. As I’ve matured, I’ve managed to recognize that which I have no control over and accept it. Trust me; filling our lives with that kind of delusion isn’t helping anybody. Much better to let life do its thing.
Sure, we can influence it, but ultimately… life is in control, and the sooner we respect that, the happier we will be.
Questions designed to reveal Too Much Information
TMI Questions: Would You Rather…
Have eyes that always smile or a voice that makes people calm?
I would choose the voice. I dislike mine, very much, and would love to have the kind of purr that John Malkovich is able to summon, or Patrick Stewart, or Jeremy Irons, or Hugh Laurie.
I don’t know if others find those type of creepy / sophisticated tones comforting, but I do, and it seems to be the sort of thing that creates a sustainable career, something I had hoped for back in the day.
I would like to think that I have that ability – to purr in that manner, but I’m afraid my vocal cords are too damaged and therefore my instrument too unreliable. My voice simply exhausts so much easier these days. And with all my sinus issues, it’s so nasal, so ugly. It’s why I have given up singing in public and one of the reasons I’ve turned my back on the theatre.
I recently had the horrible experience of sitting down and watching a taped performance of my last foray in the theatre. My boyfriend wanted to see it. I sat and cringed the whole time, as it was the first time I had sat through it. My voice, my choices… ugh. I hated everything about my performance. The only thing I had going for me was I was loud and energetic and kept things moving toward the end.
That last thing? Moving the show toward the end? Yeah, that was probably the only thing the audience appreciated about my performance, too.
Have an affair and your partner catches you or he has an affair and you catch him?
I’d rather catch the boyfriend.
At this point, I can’t imagine having an affair or a relationship with someone else. I mean, that could happen… I don’t know what the future holds. The boyfriend could decide that we’re not what he had in mind, or something, sending me packing.
But for me, this is it. I don’t see myself going anywhere or wanting anything more.
That certainly was not the case in the past. But that was all about sex and exploration, as I avoided any and all emotional attachment in those situations.
If the boyfriend cheated on me – and I don’t have any reason to think that he would – I would be hurt, but, perhaps, not very surprised. I mean, men are men… we simply crave things that aren’t ours and we always wonder what we might be missing. Also, for some, sex is merely a physical act, which is something I more than understand. But that is also maybe a lie we tell ourselves because we don’t want to risk more.
I think it’s a lie I told myself.
I thought I was above it: emotional attachment. I thought I could exist quite happily keeping everything casual, fun and temporary. But now that I’m on this side of things, I must confess, that horribly romantic, and dare I say, emotionally needy adolescent still lives inside me – and requires sustenance and care.
Now, the adult in me can keep him in his place, and the adult me can analyze and rationalize and explain away and accept the behavior of others – something the adult in me has to do in order to protect that rather damaged adolescent. But that adolescent still yearns for all the things that a young heart yearns for, and it has been rather cruel of me to starve him all these years.
It’s a strange relationship – but at some point, and maybe this is true for all of us – at some point I had to become my own parent. And part of being a good parent is making sure the child has all his basic needs met and that includes his emotional needs.
Which is why, I suspect, I would be rather forgiving if the boyfriend did cheat on me.
You have to be understanding when it comes to the behavior of another person’s child. As a parent, the only thing you can be responsible for and have a modicum of control over is your own child.
I’m now trying to be a good parent. I think we all should.
Better parenting yields happier children.
Have better sex or more money?
Oh, better sex, please. I mean, the sex I am having is great, but I love those ‘over the moon’ moments – you know, the kind of swoon one can achieve without a bottle of poppers shoved under your nostril.
Money? Eh. I see how much value people place on it and I simply can’t relate. I am unimpressed by wealth, or flash, or bling, or artifice. It’s boring. Anybody can have that stuff. It’s just crap – future landfill. It means nothing and to thirst and strive for money so you can have supposed power or acquire things? What an empty melon of a world that person lives in. How sad.
I feel bad for celebrities who are so far removed from being actual flesh and blood people. Their values are shite. They live such wasted lives. Their lives are nothing but a distraction. And sorry to go there, but when I think of that stupid wedding that Kanye West and that prostitute of his laid out for the world to sort of witness… that’s not love. That whole thing is so devoid of any human emotion – human kind should be ashamed that we hold value in such nonsense.
I certainly don’t wish them ill, but I do wish that life would remind them of what it is to be human. What a waste of a life.
Which is also what I think of the pursuit of money and fame these days: what a waste of a life.
Be able to read everyone's mind all the time or always know the future?
Read minds, of course.
In a way, I believe I already can. I’m super intuitive and empathetic when it comes to the human condition. It’s very rare that someone’s overall motivation remains a secret to me. I suss it out, like a detective.
One of my strengths as a director and acting coach was my ability to understand what makes people tic. At times, that felt very manipulative on my part, and I think that is one of the reasons I stopped directing. Any actor worth working with has a bit of, well; I’ll term it ‘damage’. And sometimes opening Pandora’s Box turned out to be a matter where the ends didn’t justify the means.
But even in business, I have the ability to see all sides of an issue and take in account their personalities and personal motivations. Then I play devil’s advocate, in an effort to get everyone on the same page. It’s a painful way to work with people… I mean, sometimes you simply want to (and need to) put your foot down or be horribly blunt.
But I find people generally like it much better when they come to see a certain point of view on their own – you know, with a little help.
As for knowing the future. Ugh. That would take all the fun out of everything, wouldn’t it? Unless you could alter the future. But that would prove to be not a great deal of fun either. It would be like cheating life.
As Baby James once sang: “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”
Your partner has sex with someone else or falls in love with someone else?
Have sex. Sex is just sex. Save the love for me!
What one thing, big or small, would you change in your life if granted one wish by a lamp-bound genie?
That’s a hard question. If I changed anything, I would want to change a lot of things.
So, I think I will keep everything as is, because I don’t know how my story ends yet.
And I really feel the need to find out what happens.
Me? I’m hoping for something good!
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Ushering in More Hits: Pop Music Reviews for the Dawning of Summer Part III
A couple bright spots on the horizon, though it remains to be seen if DJ Cassidy has what it takes to break into the mainstream. With the help of Robin Thicke and Jessie J, and one of the most joyous dance odes in ages, one would hope that would become a reality, but I've been wrong so many times before.
Also, Tensnake, with a great deal of help from Chic's Nile Rodgers and in a move that would make Daft Punk proud, manages to borrow from the past with an eye on the now. Their slinky beauty is sublime, indeed.
On the down side, Usher continues to hide behind a battalion of clever tricks and vocal tics instead of offering anything of substance, ZZ Ward and Katy Tiz mimic Adele, and My Crazy Girlfriend fail to deliver on the promise of their breakthrough hit.
Nope, I'm still not hearing the song of the summer, nor is it anywhere on that horizon... but then, the season is young, so we got time, right?
A ton of razor sharp synths bite into your skull as punkish, treated female vocals threaten to “burn down the disco”. Those synths – which vacillate between radio frequency squelch and chugging, chunky dance fodder - get to be a bit much, as in, annoying as hell, especially between verse / chorus.
Check out the ‘Mad Max’ inspired video and see if it doesn’t bring to mind Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatic; which is apt, given that this is a piece of calculated manufactured dance punk delivered without apologies – a rarity in the clubs, for sure, but if this ear-shredder got a spin, I wouldn’t be headed toward the dance floor - I’d be headed toward the nearest exit.
Tensnake Featuring Nile Rodgers And Fiora
This has a marvelous old school feel to it, no doubt thanks to the Nile Rogers ‘Chic’ era guitar that anchors this ghostly smooth groove. The handclap click track and occasional ‘Thriller’ like flourishes also add to the atmosphere, creating a piece that feels nostalgic and relevant at the same time.
Fiora’s vocals on the verses are reminiscent of Lorde’s, while the chorus gloriously opens up, echoing the glory days of Rodger’s classic band. Daft Punk has mined a similar sound to great success, so this one will probably find its way onto my I-Pod.
Tell It To My Heart
Jason Walker Featuring Bimbo Jones
Boy, it’s been awhile since I’ve heard from Mr. Walker. Last time I was obsessed with him, he hit the number one spot on Billboard’s Club Play Chart twice with ‘Set It Free’ and ‘Foolish Mind Games’. His unique voice was a revelation and I’ve always wondered what became of him. I’d see his name occasionally pop up on the charts, but it would disappear before I had a chance to check him out.
And he was such a cutie back then.
His looks have changed significantly, as his sound has become more industrial. A storm of icy synths propel this hyper-energetic remake of the Taylor Dayne classic, sending Jason’s helium vocals into the stratosphere. This setting clearly robs the song of its soulfulness. Yes, it’s loud and perhaps a tad too strident, though it must play well in the clubs, as it has been shooting up the Club Play chart at warp speed.
Last Love Song
With an Adele like ache in her voice, ZZ declares that ‘this is the last love song I will write for you’. In fact, everything about this one, from the restrained strings, to the subject material screams of Adele’s last effort ‘21’. So much so, that had I not known it was ZZ Ward, I would have thought it Adele. It isn’t until near the end of the song that Ms. Ward exhibits a sign of her uniqueness, and by then it’s too late.
If mimicry were something to strive for, than this is sort of an amazing accomplishment. In this case, it makes for a pleasant listen and certainly helps fill the gap as we all(?) wait breathlessly for Adele to drop some new material.
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about this than that, but… eh. I wouldn’t kick it out of bed, but I also wouldn’t want to admit to dating it. Maybe it works better as a dance mix, because it has been doing really well on the Club Play chart, and, yes, it sort of does – oddly enough all those Dave Aude whooshes and swirls actually unmask a bit of ZZ’s own personality in the process.
The Big Bang
A little retro-Russian gypsy pop gem. The song sounds a bit like Kylie Minogue’s ‘Red Blooded Woman’, while Ms. Tiz’s voice reminds me of Res (remember her?) with a bit of Adele (again) thrown in the mix. It sounds fresh – as in, different from everything else – on the radio, so it has that going in its favor. Harmless enough, but not the sort of thing that’s going to launch a career… but then, I could be wrong. I ‘Heart’ Radio has been spotlighting it on several of their shows, so it’s anybody’s guess. Worst things (looking in your direction Coldplay) have happened.
Crazy Stupid Love
My Crazy Girlfriend
Aww. I was hoping for another ‘Go F**k Yourself’, instead, this colorful, highly photogenic quartet aims right at the middle of everything and end up sounding like something the Disney Channel might build a television show around. The chorus is all rather by the numbers punchy pop while the lame raps certainly don’t help matters (“We could be groovy… we could make a movie”).
At this point, MCG are all image and little else. And, hey… will somebody tell me what the blue haired girl does? I mean, I know she’s part of the group, but… she just seems to be there as eye candy and to guarantee a demographic.
I don’t know. Sometimes I like me some Usher, sometimes I hates me some Usher. At this point he’s chased so many trends and incorporated so much of whatever is working on the radio at the moment that all I can truly say is, I don’t know me some Usher. I mean, really… who is he?
He certainly is talented. His falsetto is out of this world. He can out Marvin Mr. Gaye. He can hold his own on the dance floor with a hologram of Michael Jackson. But his sound? His POV? I don’t see it. It’s like he takes the temperature of the room before deciding who he’s gonna be this time.
‘Good Kisser’ is a lot of fun. It’s all over the place with a scatter shot approach that will keep you guessing. But that isn’t the same thing as etching its way into your psyche or having that indelible stamp that declares this is Usher. This… could be anybody. This could be Chris Brown. This could be Jason Derulo.
One would think that at this late date in his well-established career we could point to something that is uniquely Usher, but, based on this little trifle of a song, clever as it is, well performed as it is, something tells me that ain’t happening anytime soon.
Aftermath (Here We Go)
Dave Aude Featuring Andy Bell
Oh, this is a shame. Andy Bell is one of the finest, purist vocalists of all time. His is an instrument that can make the most mundane pop song come alive. A voice such as his needs the proper musical surroundings in order to do that.
He’s in great form here, but sadly, Dave Aude brings nothing to the table that adds any weight to this little fling of a song. As is, it doesn’t work as dance floor fodder or great pop, but ends up existing in a sort of musical limbo where it fails to make any impact. Should have worked, doesn’t. A wasted opportunity here.
This is so slight, with vocals pitched so incredibly high it almost fails to register as anything but an annoyance. Still, there is a lot of air in there between space bleeps, so, I can’t look away. And there’s plenty of room for remixers to put their stamp all over it.
Somebody needs to. This is one faceless piece of flotsam. And I’ve seen the video: a sort of homage to countless club /dance crazes. At one point she strikes one of Cyndi Lauper’s signature poses… and I’m still asking myself ‘why’?
Calling All Hearts
DJ Cassidy Featuring Robin Thicke & Jessie J
Oh my gosh… I so wanted to bash on Robin Thicke, but… guess what? This is a total winner.
It’s disco, without apologies, with plenty of funky horns to keep the joint jumping. Jessie J morphs into yet another persona and, based on the video, has never looked or sounded better. The presence of Robin Thicke even fails to smarm up the proceedings.
DJ Cassidy helms it all, making it feels like an updated version of KC and the Sunshine Band at their zippy best. I find this joyous fun – something that will have everybody running to the dance floor.
(Does anybody else think Robin Thicke is the modern day Tom Jones? Think about it).
Sia – Chandelier
She’s no longer ‘just the girl you lost to cocaine’. Sia has come a long way. When I first heard 'Titanium', I could not believe how much she had grown as a vocalist. It ended up being one of my favorite songs of that year.
‘Chandelier’ finds her in fine form, treading the same waters as many of Rihanna’s biggest hits. It works. It’s not all that original, but there is that distinctive rasp within Sia’s ‘little girl’ voice that lends a great deal of credence to this rather bombastic, dramatic slice of modern pop. Whether it finds a place on the radio remains to be seen, but stranger things have certainly been happening.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Really the Very Worst Thing Ever...
People are really the very worst thing ever.
That’s how I feel sometimes. I think we all do. After being disappointed. Let down. Disillusioned.
And it’s not simply people out there, in the news, that cause one to question one’s loyalty to humankind. Frequently it’s our family members, or best friends who we consider family. In other words, it’s our very personal experience that leads us to that conclusion.
That’s how I felt this morning, when my ex casually mentioned his dinner plans for tonight.
My ex and I know this gay couple, people we considered our best friends. I was acquainted with one member of the couple before my ex and I became a couple, so we have a long history together; over seventeen years.
It has been one of those friendships where we see each other, typically, only once a season, but still consider ourselves ‘best buds’.
Theirs has been a weirdly functional dysfunctional relationship. Lots of issues. Lots of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ kind of antics. I’ll leave it to your imaginations to fill in the blanks.
Ironically, it was the four of us having dinner at their house one evening which caused me to realize that I needed to end my relationship with my ex. You see, I didn’t want to end up like them; taking verbal swipes at one another in front of others, denigrating one another – living, loving, and loathing while finding solace in a bevy of alcoholic beverages.
So, that last dinner party was the last dinner party.
Within days, I informed my ex that it was over between us and that we needed to sort things out in order to live independently of one another. It was a difficult decision to make, setting off all kinds of shockwaves in our various circles, but it had to be done. As it was, our relationship simply wasn’t healthy anymore.
And maybe that ended up being the takeaway message of our whole break up; one that wasn’t very popular among those in functional dysfunctional relationships.
Based on recent events, it would seem that my ex got ‘them’ in the divorce. After the break up, I reached out to them and got no response. Instead, they contacted him and the three of them have been going out to dinner on and off since.
Which surprised me. I used to go out with these friends of ours a lot more often than my ex. They liked to drink and he doesn’t. Me? As you may know, I don’t mind the occasional cocktail.
Inevitably, these evenings would turn into a kind of bitch session where I would hear all about how much they loathed each other, and, in turn, they would hear all about the many irritating things my ex was doing to drive me up the wall.
And we’d laugh.
Because they knew all too well how ridiculous my ex could be about some things. They constantly marveled at my ability to put up with it all. .
So, I thought they would agree with my decision to leave him.
I am the stinky cheese left in the corner.
I know, I know – I’m probably well rid of them. But still… seventeen years is a long time.
And I get it… I do. I’ve been left out on the doorstep by others before. No doubt, my need for a healthier relationship clearly threatens their ‘whatever you want to call it’. In light of that, their rejection of me really shouldn’t have come as such a shock.
But it did.
It always does.
I could say something to them. But won’t. I don’t want to stir the pot, creating more drama. There’s enough as is and I don’t have the bandwidth these days.
Nor do I know what kind of picture my ex is painting for them - not that it’s any of my business anymore. He did mention to me they felt my timing was horrible.
But, then, I ask you… is there ever a good time to break someone’s heart?
In the end, what they think really shouldn’t matter to me. And it doesn’t. Standing on this side of the break-up, I well know I’m better off without them.
So, maybe people really aren’t the very worst thing ever.
Maybe break-ups are.
Because someone always ends up feeling rejected.
And in the end, we all have to be okay with it, get over it, and get on with it, don’t we?
As a dear friend who is no longer a friend once told me…
…keep peddlin’, Skippy.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Blame It On Coldplay: Pop Music Reviews for the Dawning of Summer II
Three day weekend! Three day weekend! Yay! What’s not to like?
Check out the bulk of today’s song reviews.
It’s not all hopeless.
There are some bright spots, thanks to the likes of Cole Plante and the much beloved Martha Wash.
And there are surprises, too. Like I don’t think I could ever get tired of listening to Audra Mae’s vocal performance on Avicii’s latest.
But, sadly, that would be about the extent of my enthusiasm.
Let’s blame it all on Coldplay.
Have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day Weekend!
It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from one of the most powerful voices in dance music history. She’s doing it for the music, she’s doing it for the love… once again. A voice like no other, she has a history of taking subpar material and turning it into absolutely amazing sonic masterpieces.
The Tony Moran mix of this one finds her in fine diva form on this relatively relaxed, uplifting ballad. I’ve long thought that ballads make for the best dance music. And okay, I must admit: it’s a total cheese-fest, but one that will certainly be finding a home on my Ipod.
I don’t know exactly why it’s so easy to rip on Coldplay. I believe if I heard the same song delivered under the guise of some up and coming band, I would be championing it. Maybe it’s their incredible success or Chris Martin’s annoying persona – but in any case, I am among those that rather despise this group.
Let’s take ‘Midnight’ as an example of why. It’s all atmosphere, a smoke and mirrors affair that takes its sweet time getting absolutely nowhere. Why this is even in the top 40, I will never know. But there it is, stinking up the joint like Mr. Martin lurching about, over-emoting on SNL. Ishtah, Merlin…
Ugh. It’s an epidemic… like a zombie virus outbreak. This one finds the group in the Top Ten this week, embracing the current synth / dance bombast which actually brings a little energy to the table. But the vague, predictable lyrics, consisting pretty much of the very pretty title being repeated, feel like an afterthought.
Martin’s vocals are rather weak, even a bit under the note on his final throaty yowls. It’s a strain, to be sure. However, remixed for the clubs, this one could be a lot of fun. You know, except for the fact that it’s Coldplay.
Ariana Grande Featuring Iggy Azalea
This feels like three ideas grafted onto one another and I find it confusing. Is it the guy that has one less problem, or Ariana? I guess it could be both… they both have to contend with the grating presence of Ms. Iggy. Grande’s vocals seem nasally, pitched too high in her range, and processed in such a way that they claw their way into the bone of your skull. In other words: yeah, not very pleasant at all, which is surprising, because this young vocalist can sound as lush as Toni Braxton if she wants to.
As for Azalea, her shtick was done better ages ago by Salt ‘N Pepa. She also can’t seem to get through a damn song without being self-referential, using her first name as filler. As contributions go, hers is slight. But, hey… at least it’s not Coldplay.
Honestly, I would not have pegged this as a OneRepublic song. But then they seem hell-bent on morphing themselves, digesting and regurgitating every era and genre before serving it all up as shiny Top 40 contenders. As upbeat, white boy, retro soul goes, this one is harmless if a tad cadged.
It goes exactly where you expect it to, so the only thing surprising about it is the mouth it’s coming out of. That said, it sounds great on the airwaves, and the first time I heard it on the radio I thought it was some fresh, one-off, potential one-hit wonder group. But that’s to be expected, since OneRepublic doesn’t seem to have any interest in producing a unique identity of its own.
And speaking of lacking an identity… poor, Avril seems adrift without a clue. What the hell is this? I know she is huge in Japan, and this is her way of pandering to that market, tongue firmly planted in cheek, but damn, girl: this is one cold, calculated, bloodless piece of marketing which wears out its welcome thirty seconds in.
Musically, it is all over the road map, aping dance, hip hop, and rap clichés like there was a fire sale. When Gwen Stefani did this same crap back in the day, it worked… but this feels like a rather futile exercise, kind of like that rather dull duet she released with her boring Nickleback hubby.
Future Featuring Kanye West
Future is the flavor of the moment in the hip hop world, so, of course, Kanye has to mooch his creepy fish face in there somewhere. After a rather calm opening featuring the crying of seagulls, the whole thing quickly devolves into a rap about women as trophies to be won (hence the title) and how the state of her vaginal cavity is one of Future’s primary concerns. His treated ‘vocals’ are a tad annoying, as is the every present catch in his throat.
Best line comes from Kanye: ‘Until I put an angel in your ultra sound’ – you know, because he’s a breeder and he’s now marrying that prostitute he bought – just in case you forgot. Yeah, they should both be real proud of this one.
Phillips’ whole Springsteen-light act bores the hell out of me, and clearly I am not alone.
This one failed to catch fire, though it’s been floating around the chart for ages, having peaked just outside the top 40. It’s pleasant enough, if a tad platitude driven.
That whole common man thing plays well in the Midwest, I guess, but he’s no Cougar-Mellencamp. He might surprise us by developing a personality someday, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m thinking this is just part of the slow fade that is his career.
Already having peaked at number one on the Club Play Chart, this is the fourth single to be released from Avicii’s latest, a CD, a piece of work that has catapulted the DJ to new commercial heights.
The uncredited vocalist - American folk/rock artist Audra Mae - is the reason this one works. She wrestles a ton of emotion out of this rather slight, Russian retro sounding song. Without her, I’m afraid it wouldn’t register as much of anything. With her? It definitely pricks up the ears.
Havana Brown can always be counted on to bring something gutsy to the dance floor. In this case, she’s going to “dance, dance, dance” like a warrior, which is apparently something warriors do. Drum-driven, the song feels rather cheesy with squelching synths filling in as needed.
It hit number one this week on Billboard’s Club Play Chart… and hopefully that will be the end of this one. Love Havana Brown. Dislike this song.
Cole Plante With Myon & Shane 54 Featuring Ruby O'Dell
Oh, dear, I am such a sucker for shit like this. DJ Cole Plante hits my personal sweet spot with this one. Wispy, airy female vocals? Check. Empowering theme? Check. Build and release? Check.
This is a very Zedd-like moment which succeeds on an emotional and musical level. No, it’s not terribly original, but it is very pleasant, very likeable. And considering how inarticulate and forced eighty percent of pop is these days, you could do much worse.