Takeaways from the VMA’s

Moon Man

Well, unlike most of the cable TV viewing public, I chose to watch the best drama on TV live last Sunday (that would be Breaking Bad) and catch the MTV Video Music Awards on one of its countless repeats…which conveniently started about five seconds after the VMA’s ended!

Here’s what I took away from this controversial (purely for the sake of being controversial) telecast…

VMA Logo

Let’s start with the hypocrisy of MTV still televising anything called “Video Music Awards” since they no longer air videos and seem to be too preoccupied with teen moms, catfishers and other forms of ridiculousness to even cover music, let alone award any.  Their name doesn’t even stand for “Music TeleVision” anymore…it’s just three arbitrary letters now.

Katy Perry - The Boxer

The most sexy and attractive female on the entire telecast was the one who tried the LEAST:  Katy Perry.  Her performance was well done, the song, “Roar”, is thoroughly catchy, and she was just so damn cute in that boxer get-up.  No “twerking”.  No Gene Simmons-like snake-tongue lashing out.  No sea shells stuck to her tits.  No progressively skimpier and skimpier costume changes.  Brava, Katy.

Miley

Miley…Miley…Miley…enough has been written about you on the interwebs, so I’ll just say this:  you can be sexy without being slutty.  Look at Katy.  Look, even, at GaGa.  Unless you actually want to be the featured act at Rick’s Cabaret, in which case you’re about a “twerk” or two away.

JT

There’s a reason (besides a trumped up award) Justin TImberlake got to perform for 15 minutes of a 90 minute show:  he is the best pop performer and showman we have today.  He is classy, self-deprecating, and most of all, talented.  Timberlake owned those 15 minutes, and did not disappoint, using every inch of the arena (even the entrance and the escalators) flawlessly.  The bone he threw *NSYNC was nice enough, and long enough – I’m not sure they could have gotten through much else after “Bye (huff) Bye (puff) Bye (wheeze)”.  Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick are probably still taking a knee as you read this.   But there’s a reason JT is still viable and bankable and they’re not (see above).  (Also…nice use of “zaftig” dancers.  Hopefully starts a trend.)

GaGa

Lady GaGa actually got booed at the very beginning of her show kick-off performance.  That was rude.  She actually gave a great performance of an OK song.  Just like Madonna used to do back in the day.  I’ll say one thing for GaGa, she’s never looked better.  That’s the way to show off your body, Miley.

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Honestly, no one else mattered much.  Bruno Mars was Bruno Mars (charming, workmanlike)…Macklemore & Ryan Lewis proved once again why they’re currently at the top of the Pop-Rap game (until Eminem returns anyway…did you catch that Beats commercial, or the entire “Berzerk” track on YouTube? Whoa…he’s hungry again)…Kanye phoned it in…Drake had more charm offstage than on (and his second-rate music isn’t helping him)…and Robin Thicke was upstaged by you-know-who.  Nope, the night belonged to Justin Timberlake, and he wasn’t letting anyone take it back.

See for yourself.

Elvis Presley – 42 years live, 36 years gone…

I became a fan by assignment.

One night over drinks in 2004, my boss at the time told me of his decision to have me create the imaging production for the first artist-only channel at Sirius (still separate from XM, and pre-Howard Stern).  It was to be “Elvis Radio”, to which I replied, “Hell yeah, I love Elvis Costello!”

I was being facetious.  I did love Elvis Costello, but Elvis Presley?  I’m doing an Oldies channel of nothing but Elvis?  And, being that what Elvis Presley Enterprises wanted was for Elvis’s speaking voice to be ever-present in the imaging – like he’s still alive, almost a “host” – I knew that meant I’d have to digest everything Elvis.  EVERY.  THING.  That meant all the music (do you have any idea how many official and unofficial CDs there are?), all 33 movies (’cause I needed isolated clips of Elvis dialogue), and even some books to get some background for the VO scripts.

I devoured everything whole, and spit out some of the finest work I’ve ever done (if I say so myself).

And, in the process, I became a HUGE fan.

My brain is still healing from overloading it with much of his inane cinematic oeuvre (I’m looking at you, Harum Scarum and Double Trouble), but I remain endlessly fascinated with this man’s life.  I’ve now read countless books – from Peter Guralnick’s excellent and well-balanced two-volume biography “Last Train To Memphis” and “Careless Love”, to touching on-the-scene accounts from his close associates Jerry Schilling (“Me and a Guy Named Elvis”) and Alan Fortas (“Elvis: From Memphis to Hollywood”), and the more sensational stories from his Memphis Mafia cronies (“Elvis: What Happened?” and “Elvis and the Memphis Mafia”), and none of them have a happy ending.  No detox and rehab that finally took.  No ill-advised Disco smash.  No Rick Rubin-produced return-to-form comeback album.  Just a very sick man dying in his personal bathroom, finally released from his own demons to reunite with his terribly-missed Mama.

In the end, a modern Greek tragedy.

The Elvis I choose to remember is not the bloated, belt-buckled, jumpsuit-splitting, karate-chopping, cape-wearing, President-badged cartoon character he became.  Nor is it the controversial young buck, or the leather-clad comeback kid (though that last one runs a close second).  It’s the guy in the YouTube bloopers reel posted above.  It’s the guy you hear on the between-takes studio chatter unearthed on countless reissues (like the just-released Elvis at Stax), cutting it up with friends and colleagues in the only place he ever totally felt in-command and in-control – the recording studio.

That’s where he was alive.  Human.  Taking care of business.

TCP

Random Thoughts – 8/5/13

I haven’t had a chance to update the blog in a couple weeks, thanks to real-life getting in the way, but I have been listening to a good deal of music throughout and thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve had along my not-so-merry way.  Some may get expounded in their own postings in the near future, some are fleeting, but here they go…

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  • Where has Ed Motta been hiding all my life?  The Brazilian soul/funk/jazz man just recently came to my attention thanks to his new album AOR, which is a tribute to the music genre known as ’70s/’80s Westcoast, or the pithier and spot-on “Yacht Rock”.  I first heard it sung in Portuguese, but recently bought the rare English version, and it is an exact replica of Aja/Gaucho-era Steely Dan if I’ve ever heard one.  He’ll tell you that himself here.  A modern retro classic.

Daft Punk RAM

  • I think modern dance music, especially the genre known EDM, is just an endless, mindless dirge of brain-numbing noise.  And, by extension, that could go for much of today’s Pop music as well, since that seems to have been the current Pop trend over the last few years.  So it is with great pleasure and surprise that I am thoroughly enjoying the latest releases by Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Mayer Hawthorne (look him UP!).  They seem to be tilting the trend back toward Soul and (dare I say) Disco with more organic sounds made with real instruments and just a general sense of fun I haven’t heard in years.  When the sounds of Nile Rodgers and Marvin Gaye return to the top of the charts, I say it’s a good moment in Pop music.

Nilsson

  • Just took delivery of my long-awaited Harry Nilsson The RCA Albums Collection boxed set, and if this doesn’t get a Grammy nomination and win for Best Historical Album, I don’t know what will.  Not even halfway through, and I gotta say Vic Anesini‘s ears should be bronzed – but not before he can use them to bestow more remastering excellence on us all.

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  • Speaking of remastering excellence, I’ve rediscovered Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray’s excellent work on the Creedence Clearwater Revival catalog via their 2003 box Absolute Originals.  The recent 40th Anniversary reissues and their overly-compressed sound sent me searching for more natural-sounding alternatives.  These are it.  In spades.

Rush_VaporTrails_Remix_Cover

  • Just read that Rush have remixed their 2002 album Vapor Trails, which I have been bitching about, sound-wise, since its original release.  On October 1st, maybe we’ll finally get to hear some clarity from that squashed mess.  Not that I’ve really dug anything they’ve done since 1996…