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Sound And Vision: Celebrity Feuds — Pop Is a Battlefield, World War II

“Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ‘em all some place to go”

— Tom Petty, “Jammin’ Me” (1987)

“Fuck Tom Petty!”—Eddie Murphy

Oh, those crazy stars! What will they say next? And will they ever learn? What a tangled web they weave when they start to take pot shots at each other.

Celebrity feuds have existed since before the dawn of the pop charts. Eminem owes much of his early notoriety to cutting down to size the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync and Moby in videos and on record. Meanwhile, off the record (though always totally for attribution), Katy Perry has never met a fellow chart-topper she wouldn’t slag off.

But lately, stars keep colliding and disturbing the peace in the music galaxy. Liam Gallagher just filed suit against his brother Noel over the latter’s claim that Liam pulled out of a high-profile Oasis gig in 2009 due to a hangover and over comments Noel made blaming Liam for the demise of the band. But then brothers in arms have engaged in verbal—and occasionally, physical— combat since the heyday of the Kinks, which featured the dueling Davies, Ray and Dave. Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, William and Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Kings of Leon‘s Followill brothers have the battle scars to prove it.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Celebrity Feuds — Pop Is a Battlefield, World War II’

Soundcheck: Who Was Victorious At The VMA’s?

The MTV Video Music Awards always serve up big surprises and this year was no different.  From Beyoncé’s big news to Lady Gaga’s dragged-up, stand-in, this year’s show didn’t skimp on the stumpers.

Lady Gaga kicked off the show with a monologue from her male alter ego, ‘Jo Calderone’. “She left me! She said it always starts out good and then the guys—meaning me, I’m one of the guys—we get crazy. I did. I got crazy. But she’s f—ing crazy too, right?” The narrative was hard to follow at first, and I’m guessing die-hard Gaga fans figured it out before the rest of us.  Still, she delivered an intense performance of “You And I” with a guest appearance by legendary guitarist, Brian May of Queen. What you didn’t see on television was the tumble Gaga took off her piano towards the end of her performance.  Ever the pro, she moved on before the crowd even noticed her slip up.  Her video for “Born This Way” earned her two awards; Best Female Video and the newly created Best Video with a Message category.

Jay-Z and Kanye West took the stage for an unexpected performance of their Watch The Throne hit, “Otis”.  While it was instantly exciting to see the two onstage together, the performance was not as magical as expected.  The best part of their set was when security bum-rushed a stage-crasher who tried to interrupt the  lackluster performance.

Nicki Minaj was nominated in three categories and  nabbed the Moon man for Best Hip Hop Video for “Super Bass”. She presented the first award of the night to tour mate, Britney Spears for “Til The World Ends” for  Best Pop Video. In her speech, a healthy, happy-looking Spears thanked God, her kids, and ex-agent boyfriend, Jason Traiwick.  Gaga presented Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award telling the crowd, “I used to hang posters of her on my wall and touch myself when I was laying in bed,” before introducing an awesome montage of Britney’s videos, complete with a legion of dancers donning her most iconic outfits and legendary dance moves.

After accepting her award, Britney introduced Beyoncé, who sang “Love On Top” in a suspiciously body-conscious outfit of black pants and an oversized blazer.  While those of us on the black carpet had already seen the secret bulge at arrivals, she teased the crowd during her intro saying, “I want you to stand up on your feet, I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside of me.” At the end of her set she opened her blazer to reveal a shockingly developed baby bump.  The smile on her face as she rubbed her belly was the highlight of the night, as husband Jay-Z and Kanye West celebrated from the front row. Her video for “Girls (Run The World)” won in the Best Choreography category, but lost to Katy Perry for Video Of The Year.

Perry (who had a whopping ten nominations this year) also took home the Best Collaboration title for “E.T.” with Kanye West. Her husband and past VMA host, Russell Brand, kicked off a touching tribute to Amy Winehouse who died last month at twenty-seven.  He highlighted her amazing voice, which he called “a timeless sound like a roar from the guts of humanity,” telling the crowd, “When a talent like Amy Winehouse comes along, it affects everybody.” He was joined by Tony Bennett, who likened her to prolific jazz singers, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald before debuting a duet he recently recorded with Amy. Bruno Mars delivered a loving performance of her cover of “Valerie” ending it with a final farewell, singing, “Say Amy, oh Amy/ I love you darling, I love you darling/ Say Amy, whoa Amy, we’ll miss you baby.”

Other stand-out performances came from Chris Brown, who didn’t win a trophy, but wowed the crowd with his stellar dance moves and Adele, who belted out “ Someone Like You” so effortlessly, it’s no wonder she’s every artist’s favorite artist. Odd Future’s Tyler ‘The Creator’ won the coveted Best New Artist award, beating out newbies Kreayshawn, Big Sean and Wiz Khalifa with his hit,  “Yonkers” prompting a profanity-ridden acceptance speech from the Wolfpack front-man.

Lil Wayne closed the show with a bang-literally, when he smashed the guitar he was using at the end of his set.  He started off with an auto-tune assisted rendition of “How To Love” and followed up with a rocked-out version of “John”, set to Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”  Weezy dropped the digital version of his highly anticipated Carter IV album following the show, with the physical album in stores yesterday.

 

Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs

I’ll never forget the day Basia lied to me. Twice. I was interviewing the Polish singer (best known for her 1988 hit “Time and Tide”) shortly before the release of her 1994 album, The Sweetest Illusion, which was coming five years after her previous album, London Warsaw New York. That day, she promised me two things: First, she would never again make me wait so long for new music. Second, she’d never release a run-of-the-mill greatest hits album featuring, well, her greatest hits. She felt that at the very least, artists owed it to their fans to reprise their hits as brand-new tunes, not just repackage the same old songs.

Her next studio album, It’s That Girl Again, wouldn’t arrive until 2009, nine years after she had released Clear Horizon—The Best of Basia, one of those run-of-the-mill greatest hits albums featuring, well, her greatest hits.

The morals of this story: 1) You can’t rush inspiration. 2) The first cut isn’t only the deepest—sometimes it’s the best, too. That’s a lesson Mariah Carey may have learned last year when she scrapped plans to release Angels Advocate, a remixed version of her Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel album, after a new version of “Up Out My Face” (Memoirs‘ best song) featuring Nicki Minaj limped onto Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 100 and refused to go any further.

But apparently, Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of remix albums and EPs, still hasn’t received the memo. When she released Born This Way back in May, she put out a special edition that included a separate disc with remixes of five of the album’s songs. (Bryan Ferry did a similar thing with last year’s Olympia.) Divine inspiration or clever marketing ploy? Perhaps a little of both, but “Born This Way”-with-a-twang never would have spent six weeks at No. 1. The “Country Road Version” makes for an interesting one-time listen, but I never need to hear it again.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs’

 


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