East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Hit count: Kicking it live like it ain't no thang

Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling": Where "Boom Boom Pow" was genius-dumb, this is just stupid-stupid. Hey Will, you wouldn't wreck one of your own productions with vocals and lyrics so repetitive that they get boring before the first verse, would you?

Keri Hilson ft. Kanye West & Ne-Yo, "Knock You Down": Enjoyable starpowered trifle most notable for providing most fodder for the "can Kanye actually rap?" debate. He may rhyme "OMG" with "woe is me", but he also rhymes "Michael Jackson" with "Joe Jackson". At some point in history that will be acceptable, but not this one.

Kids of 88, "My House": Yeah, '88 was pretty different in New Zealand. These guys don't quite have the groove, but they should manage a few hits on shamelessness alone.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Not knowing what else to do, man writes Michael Jackson blog post

Because too many young people of my acquaintance have a limited knowledge of his work, here's a shortlist of the good stuff.

The Jackson 5, Greatest Hits (1971): MJ had the finest preteen voice in the history of recorded music. A fine voice doesn't necessarily make a fine singer, but MJ, since at age eleven he couldn't be reasonably expected to interpret, got by on a mix on commitment and fakery. This alone was sufficient well into his twenties to make him a fine singer, though he never ever topped his performance in "I Want You Back".

"Got to Be There", "Rockin' Robin", "I Wanna Be Where You Are" (1971-1972): The first solo singles, often overlooked, follow the same winning Motown formula as the J5 hits. And then comes "Ben", and you want to break out the rat poison.

Off the Wall (1979): Like most, MJ spent his teenage years trying to find himself, and while this utterly failed in terms of his personal life, musically he struck gold. He wanted to be a superstar, sure, but he also refused to shortchange his listeners on pleasure, and with Quincy Jones he found the ideal svengali for achieving this end. As M. Matos says, "all-the-songs-are-hits meant that all the songs should be great -- and if they aren't, they should sparkle just as brightly as the ones that are."

The Jacksons, "This Place Hotel" (1980): Practically a solo joint, this is intriguing as it's where his paranoia really starts to be expressed. Also, unfortunately, his misogyny.

Thriller (1982): This is what put him up with super-duper stars Bing, Elvis and the Beatles -- the first black face in the constellation, and perhaps only his sometime co-star, the basketball-playing Michael, has joined him there since. Jody Rosen is surely not the first to point out that half the time the record is borderline disturbing. That's the same half the time that the record is great.

"Leave Me Alone" (1987): Thriller is weird, but the Bad album is weird in a bad way: his stunted inner life and self-loathing are rarely fascinating, just sad, and some have argued racially problematic. Still, there are moments of sublime groove, of which "Leave Me Alone" is the most honest. And yet he couldn't stand to be left alone.

Dangerous (1991): This marks MJ's brief recorded interest in hip hop and sex; not coincidentally, it's his last first-rate album. Everyone remembers the car-smashing video to "Black or White", but "In the Closet" has Naomi Campbell in it.

"2000 Watts" (2001): Jackson's last couple of albums had their moments, but no one cared because of, well, all that stuff that happened. Scholars will no doubt re-evaluate the material in years to come, but for now, know that the Invincible album has the hardest beats of his career, and "2000 Watts" features MJ singing like a grown-up.