Zombie Politics

I drank your milkshake.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Flip a Coin

I weigh in on the whole 50 Cent/Kanye West brouhaha in this Week's Weekly.

My article is here, but sadly missing are some jokes. So I've printed my original version below, and made sure you know where the extra jokes are (they're in bold)!

The transparency behind the 50 Cent (nee Curtis Jackson)/Kanye West feud, both of them with high-profile albums that came out on September 11th, came to light when numbers were released for that week’s album sales. It served as the culmination of weeks, if not months, of an endless, carefully orchestrated hype storm, one that included the face-off on the cover of Rolling Stone, the showdown at the MTV Video Music Awards, the real-time sales comparisons on Amazon, and the big-ass claim that 50 Cent would retire from music if Kanye outsold him. It was exhausting.

The least publicized aspect of this old school rap-world pissing contest is that monolithic corporation Universal Music employs both artists. Um, okay. The boasting, the exaggerated name calling, the raucous fun that you could easily find yourself getting caught up in, is nullified. They’re both working for the same soulless machine, so either way your money is going to one place. Maybe it’d help to order a ring tone, too?

That was Universal’s thinking, anyway. When the staggering numbers were released (Kanye’s Graduation came in at first place with 957,000 copies sold, with 50 Cent’s Curtis in second with 631,000), it was noted that Universal occupied a whopping 50% of the total US market share.

This is not only amazing for the company, but for music in general – look at those numbers again – 957,000 physical copies of Graduation were sold and tracked by SoundScan. That’s a lot of fucking records. Especially since both albums leaked more than two weeks ago – on the same day! The numbers fly in the face of common music-industry logic. After all, I keep hearing that the physical album was dead; that people didn’t pay for music anymore; plus other carefully worded sound bites. This apparently isn’t the case for rap fans engaged in a corporately run dust-up (or fans of High School Musical, for that matter – that shit’s unstoppable!)

But what about the albums? With everyone worried about who sold what, did anyone stop to think about what they actually, sounded like?

The short answer is, the right man won.

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, or an album by its sleeve, but just looking at the outside of these records tells you what lies inside. 50 Cent’s Curtis features a stark picture of, looking agonized in a slick, black-and-white photo that could have been taken in prison. It is doubly offensive: grim and unoriginal. Kanye West’s Graduation, on the other hand, is a psychedelic delight. Takashi Murakami, an influential Japanese artist and designer, did the jacket illustration. The bear on the cover, a staple of Kanye’s, is wearing Nike Air McFlys. They’re the shoes Michael J. Fox wore in the “future” section of Back to the Future, Part II. What part of this isn’t awesome?

The dizzying, Day-Glo futurism of the sleeve permeates much of the musical innards of Graduation; it’s a pop masterpiece that stands as Kanye West’s most mature, accomplished album to date. Gone is the overwhelming sonic opulence of Last Registration. It’s been replaced by a gooey kind of electro fuzz. Sure, the soul samples are still there, as are some of the strings, but it’s been processed and refined into a more easily digestible (thirteen tracks, clocking in at less than an hour, with only a handful of guest vocalists), but no less fascinating (he samples Can!), pop music package. It’s almost unbelievably great.

Curtis, on the other hand, is the same old shit. A bunch of rickety, rattling beats by a host of big rap producers (Dr. Dre, Timbaland) adorned with lyrics about girls who know how to “work the pole.” I’m not sure what pole he’s referring to, but one thing is for sure: it’s an album full of songs that exotic dancers will be undressing to for years to come. I guess that’s something. It’s just not a great album, or even a particularly listenable one.

The battle’s done. The sales have been totaled and one evil corporation made lots and lots of money off of a trusting public. It’s the American dream. At least we got one great album out of it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gimme More

Here's my newest article for the Fairfield Weekly, all about Britney. Fun!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kanye West Just Got Geniusier

Goddamn I love Kanye.

I’ve been a big fan of his previous two records, his production work, his amazing sense of style, but I’ve never been as consistently impressed and in awe of him as I am now.

Graduation is a modern masterpiece, a wacky, whirligig pop tour de force that easily belongs in the Top 5 of 2007 (yeah, “Everything I Am” is kind of dull but I’ve accepted its quaintness and moved on.org). I could go on and on about the record and I probably will, but later.

What’s so interesting, and has been expounded upon on many blogs read by many more people than mine, is his fascination with French dance music. Obviously the Daft Punk sample on “Stronger” is a pretty clear cut example of this, and to a certain extent the official “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” video (the one without the guys with beards) does much to reproduce Daft Punk’s desert storming show at Coachella last year.

But the video for “The Good Life…”


Directed by So_Me, who designs all of the record sleeves, tour tee-shirts, music videos and graphic designs for the Ed Banger record label (home to Justice, SebastiAn, etc.), well, it’s just SO FUCKING GOOD.

(Also – the song’s not too shabby either.)

What’s next – a Justice remix of “Flashing Lights?” Oh god, I can hardly imagine…


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Resurrecting the Champ

I previewed the new HBO series True Blood in this week's Weekly.

Sink your teeth in here!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ronson Don't Need No Stinking Winehouse

Here's the video for Mark Ronson's "Valerie" (which is really The Zuton's "Valerie," but we're not hear to get into the nitty-gritty).

If you'll recall, on the album, Amy Winehouse does the vocals, but since she's busy snorting things and stabbing people, he used a bunch fo stand-ins. It's kind of an iffy concept, but he pulls it off with the usual Ronson style - walking that fine line between charming kitsch and cloying insincerity and coming out (adorably) on top.

It also does a good job capturing the spirit of his amazing live Version show.

I was bummed to hear as part of his "house band" gig at the god awful VMAs on Sunday that he was going to do a version of "D.A.N.C.E." with Justice. Oh baby oh baby that would've been sweet.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's Going to Be an Amazing Fall Movie Season

The Shoes the Bear is Wearing on the "Graduation" Cover

So the shoes that the bear is wearing on the amazing Takashi Murakami cover for Kanye West's amazing Graduation are the Air McFlys. They are supposedly a prototype shoe designed by Nike to resemble the shoes Michael J. Fox wore in the "future" portion of Back to the Future, Part II ("Power laces! Alright!"). It's not known if these are actually going to go into production (probably not), but it's still fucking cool and adds to the whole quasi-futuristic vibe of Graduation.

Images shamelessly stolen from Sneaker Hunt.

The Difficult Second Album...

... Hard Fi just made one. It's even more overblown and pretentious as Sam's Town was last year.

And yes, that's the cover artwork. Seriously.

My article: Read me!

From this week's Weekly.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Yet Another Reason Why I Should Drop Out of School (As If I Needed One)

From that amazing resource Facebook. Oy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Bentley Little is the Most Underrated Author in America

Here's why.

From this week's Weekly.