Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009

Dale Watson is an unrepentant hard country traditionalist from Austin who comes firmly from the George Jones and Merle Haggard school of musical hard knocks. His regular shows at the Continental Club in Austin are always packed affairs (tour dates after the jump) and his live albums are generally some of his best efforts. In true country tradition, Watson also sings trucking songs and has a second volume of road rambling tunes releasing on Hyena Records next week (April 21st.)


Dale Watson
“Truckin’ Man” [MP3]
     


 



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Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009
Certainly, my wet dreams aren’t of some wanton tragic mulatto naked on her hands and knees, projecting that very old Plantation style racial order (See the next-to-last scene of Monster’s Ball). Rather, I fantasize about Mariah, Barack and Alicia.

I’ve started to capitalize ‘White’ in my lexicon, elevating it to an anti-racist category, like Black. Undoubtedly, ‘white’ as a racial category grew out of imperialism and dominance- a holistic ideology to squash others. It is rare that folks reclaim the identity, forming it into anything other than what pop culture has said: bland, mainstream (See 1999’s American Beauty- WASPY asses hung out to dry!). Further aiding whiteness evaporate into nothingness, came the lexicon celebrating ethnicity, diversity and inclusion, which understandably even further silenced and effaced ‘white’.  Interestingly, Martin Luther King always affirmed the category of White and Black, and as cable of engaging in dialogue. Beyond King’s dream, what happens when the ‘white kids and black kids’ playing together (inevitably) grow up and decide to play parents together?


Certainly, my wet dreams aren’t of some wanton tragic mulatto naked on her hands and knees, projecting that very old Plantation style racial order (See the next to last scene of Monster’s Ball). Rather, I fantasize about Mariah, Barack and Alicia. I wonder what it would be like if Mariah took piano lessons from Alicia Keys, and actually started belting out, stomping and mashing the keyboard all at once. How fierce would that diva be then? Or what magic would the two composers compose together? Imagine them rocking the White House. Do you wonder about the kinds of dialogue they would have, and how much it would benefit the public? Imagine a Save the Music concert not sponsored by VH1’s corporate sponsors, but by ‘the people’. Imagine government investing in art education at all levels on behalf of us, ‘the people’. Imagine the Queen of Soul praising a Black president, in dialogue with a nation, before the world stage at his inauguration. Hey Lover, as LL fantasized, it’s no longer just one-way love, anymore.


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Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009
by PopMatters Staff

Lars von Trier’s newest project is either a thriller or a horror film depending on your outlook. Antichrist stars Willem Dafoe and singer/actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. The film is scheduled for release first in France on 19 August and a trailer was just released.



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Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009

Singular singer-songwriter Jill Sobule pursued an innovative approach for the development of her new album California Years in working with her fans to finance the recording sessions. In tomorrow’s review of the record, Jill Labrack says of Sobule: “like her musical peers Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson, Sobule delves into the pervasive sadness of living with a sense of humor that makes it all okay, even magnetic.” “San Francisco” is the new video from the project directed by comedienne Margaret Cho and featuring a lyrical riff on Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”.


Jill Sobule
“A Good Life” [MP3]
     



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Monday, Apr 13, 2009
Following in the steps of Joaquin Phoenix, Billy Bob Thornton proves rude and surly (not to mention unbelievably cryptic) in an interview with a Canadian DJ. Once again, we ask: why?

In case you didn’t know, Billy Bob Thornton’s music career hasn’t exactly taken off. Though often marginalized in the same way that Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, Kevin Spacey, and Keanu Reeves’ musical ventures have been, Thornton at least made a stab at something a bit more legitimate when he decided to form the Boxmasters: a swinging country-pop group that relies heavy on nostalgic “golden age” country production without giving too much consideration for the present. The result? Our own Charles A. Hohman gave the Boxmasters’ debut album the much-dreaded 1/10 score.


Some Hohman’s score this stems from the fact that Thornton—the band’s principal songwriter—often relies on base, juvenile humor to get his point across, unrelenting with the sheer number of vulgarities at his disposal, all in the name of supposed humor.  Naturally, a “celebrity band” is going to take quite a drubbing from the press, and, as such, it’s up to the celebrity in question to do whatever he can to raise the profile of the group in order to get exposure.  Now a few days after the QTV interview, many people know of the Boxmasters—but for all the wrong reasons.


Appearing on The Q Show on CBC, host Jian Ghomeshi happily introduces the Boxmasters, noting how the group has put out three albums of the past 12 months—two of which were double-disc affairs—and soon finds out that the band has at least three more discs already in the can. Things start off like a normal interview, but then, of course, Thornton has to open his mouth. Some of his stories are completely unrelated to the music-oriented discussion that Ghomeshi is leading the band towards, and Thornton, at times, becomes livid over the fact that Ghomeshi mentions his acting career. Best of all, however, is when Ghomeshi makes passing mention about how Thornton is passionate about his music, to which Thorton fires back, asking if he’d ask the same question to Tom Petty.


Confused yet? The world is right there with you. Ghomeshi, it should be noted, does his best to handle things, but also makes sure that the questions he’s asking—the ones that deal with the music, specifically—get answered. Thornton had absolutely no reason to become as introverted and cryptic as he did, which has lead to much widespread speculation that this strange interview (which achieves an Office-level of listener discomfort) is on par with Joaquin Phoenix’s infamous encounter with David Letterman a few months earlier.


The real question, though, is why Thornton chose to act the way that he did. Being irritated over something like mentioning his cinematic achievements is slightly forgivable (we’ve all had bad days, haven’t we?), but going on about building models for a magazine contest without once answering a question about the music he listened to when growing up—it’s curious, to say the least.


Yet was Thornton conscious of his actions? Does he know that behavior like this tends to generate more negative publicity than good word-of-mouth? (Or, to put it another way: does this appearance make you want to actually go out and see the Boxmasters live?) Strangest of all, however, is that the Phoenix and Thornton interviews are both based on the same thing: a noted Hollywood actor turning to a music career and doing a media appearance to promote it. It would be more of an epidemic were it not for the fact that Zooey Deschanel, Jason Schwartzman, and
Scarlett Johansson have all pulled off the transition without this wave of media-crazy—those albums have all achieved respectable amounts of acclaim, even.


So what is Thornton accomplishing with his antics?  More importantly: why do we care?  Until we get some answers, we can at least take solace in the fact that this train wreck is admittedly pretty fun to watch ...



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