Lady Gaga’s “incubation” bit was extraordinary, and her courage to be herself—creative and singular—must be respected; and she won three awards. At the same time, in terms of sheer substance, tonight her rendition of her new single “Born This Way” was, while intriguing, not relatively grand. In fact, it was problematic—several of the lyrics just were not sung by her live, and this was quite evident, as the song would go on while she turned her head from her microphone. It’s difficult to maintain both “off the wall” theatre and efficacious song renditions. It’s also difficult to beat her own performance last year—which included much more theatre—a bird nest, zombies, Gaga tossed into a burner, Elton John—alongside potent, substantive renditions. Instead, in my view, Kansas Citian Janelle Monáe stole the show, ironically, by using little to no overt drama: her “Cold War” bit exuded vocal strength, keen dance moves, and she did not require a quasi-uterus prop to achieve any credibility or success.
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For Brooklyn-based Xavier, Valentine’s Day means more than flower bouquets and Russell Stover Chocolates. Each year since 2007, the dance-soul artist has recorded a special song for the holiday, offering it for free on his website. 2011, however, might just be the most special Valentine’s Day yet: not only has Xavier recorded a new song (“The Makings of You”), he’s making all of the previous Valentine’s Day downloads available, gratis!
Historically, the Valentine’s Day songs not only enamor thousands of listeners, they take on a life of their own. Upon hearing “Baltimore” (2009), renowned fashion photographer Marc Baptiste asked to shoot a video especially for the song (to be released later in 2011). Mattie Safer, former bassist of The Rapture, also loved what he heard on past Valentine’s Day efforts and joined Xavier with Shaquanda Cocoa Mullatta (a.k.a. Andre Springer) on last year’s offering, “Don’t Let Me Down”. Xavier fans will have an opportunity to download both cuts, plus “Something About Us” and “Strawberry Blonde”, on a special site dedicated to the Valentine’s Day songs, accessible through Xavier’s website.
Recently, Xavier has been seen and heard in a variety of musical contexts. In addition to singing in the Bread & Puppet Theater’s opera The Return of Ulysses, he joined Grammy winner Lady Rizo at Joe’s Pub and performed with the Veveritse Brass Band. He also recorded with Prince’s New Power Generation and co-wrote songs with Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters.
On 14 February, however, Xavier’s honeyed voice will grace “The Makings of You”, a Curtis Mayfield cover whose combination of percussion, bass, strings, and clarinet will enchant both lovers and lovers of music alike. Quietly gripping and compulsively listenable, “The Makings of You” is a gift for the other 364 days of the year, too.
What a winter we’re having in the Northeast with three major snowstorms and another one last week. At least some new releases along with some holiday gifts (CDs of all things) are keeping all this indoor time interesting. Here’s my picks for a new music listening session whatever the weather may be…
The religious controversy surrounding the 1979 film Monty Python’s Life of Brian upon its release is well documented and almost as notorious as the film itself. Many religious groups (please see Robert Hewison’s book, Monty Python: The Case Against, for a partial list) protested the film’s depiction of Jesus of Nazareth, and the film’s defenders were quick to point out that Jesus himself is never made light of, but it is instead his followers who bear the brunt of the famous British comedy troupe’s witty social commentary. And perhaps this is where the ire of those protestors was truly raised.
Jesus only appears in one scene in the film, listing the Beatitudes chronicled in the Book of Matthew. The camera pans almost immediately back to the outer reaches of the crowd, who are frustrated with their spot away from the action. The heated “Big Nose” exchange between Michael Palin and Eric Idle is funny enough on its own, but given the background soundtrack of a man of peace attempting to instill love for one’s fellow man in the hearts of those gathered, this petty bickering is raised to monumental satirical heights. Add to that the upper-class couple, portrayed by Terence Bayler and Python mainstay Carol Cleveland, and their gross misinterpretations of the Gospel, and we see how immediately the wisdom of the Sermon on the Mount could have been lost on those present. And then, of course, the whole thing degenerates into violence.
A fistfight at the Sermon on the Mount could be considered offensive on its own, one supposes. But really the most offensive aspect of this all seems to be how plausible it is. Especially to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of human nature.
Maybe we should just go to the stoning.
That pesky Pitchfork website scooped us with this story, but hey, something this cool warrants repeating. Watch below as Joy Division’s performance of “Transmission” on the show Something Else is revamped by Playmobil figurines.
Now, I know everyone’s a critic and all, but my drum teacher always taught me that good drumming comes from the wrists, not the arms. Oh well, I’m not a famous musician—or a Playmobil figurine—so what do I know?
// Notes from the Road
"The Joshua Tree tour highlights U2's classic album with an epic and unforgettable new experience.READ the article