Klinger: Few mainstream artists this side of the Eagles took as consistent a critical beating as Billy Joel. Throughout his career, critics have taken immense delight in razzing and belittling him. When he wrote polished ballads, they accused him of not knowing how to rock. When he’d record more rock material, they teased him for being a poser. The poor bastard just couldn’t win. Of course, part of the reason critics kept picking on Billy Joel was he made it so much fun for them. Joel would actually go so far as to read his bad reviews onstage, which had be a perverse delight for the writer who got that far in his head.
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While everyone knows that their iconic 2003 hair-pop confection “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” will outlive most millennials, that overindulgent sophomore disc One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back sank most chances of the group rising above One Hit Wonder status. Frustrated, the group ventured off into other bands, with high-pitched vocalist Justin Hawkins trying his hand with the group Hot Leg, while guitarist Dan Hawkins and bassist Richie Edwards formed Stone Gods, both outfits releasing albums within a year of each other. Yet fate had other plans in store, and in 2012, the band released a long-awaited third disc, Hot Cakes, which contains what is arguably the greatest song they have ever done, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us”.
With solid sales and a fanbase that never really left them, the band made their way out Valentia Island to record the aptly-titled Last of Our Kind, a disc which spends its time talking about barbarians and ancient conquests while still delivering the roaring riff rockers that have become their signature. As if that wasn’t enough, the group even crowdsourced some group vocals on the soaring title track to their fans, known as The Darkness Army, who were more than happy to comply.
To celebrate the disc’s release, Dan Hawkins took on PopMatters’ 20 Questions and revealed to us a love of Watership Down, Yves Saint Laurent, and why he’d want to take a peek at what’s going on in the year 3000.
For the longest time, it looked as if pop metal (or glam metal, or hair metal: pick your term) was dead in the water, relegated to being just another oldies channel on satellite radio. Many bands from that era between 1983 and 1991 kept soldiering on through the ‘90s and early-‘00s, but they all sounded so hopelessly lost, desperately trying to keep up with the times by resorting to such gimmicks as tuning down to grunge that sound more, or employ more blatantly pandering ideas to make it seem they were more “alternative”. In the process, they all lost touch with what made them so great, so fun in the process, and by 1996 MTV was running a “where are they now?” special about pop metal bands that remains one of the saddest metal docs I’ve seen since The Decline of Civilization Part Two. All the musicians they interviewed sounded so lost, almost in disbelief that decade of decadence had ended so abruptly.
Jun Hyoseong—“Into You”
After making her solo debut last year with “Goodnight Kiss”, Secret’s Hyoseong is back with a new mini-album, Fantasia. But the songs are more Fantasia 2000 than the Disney original, focusing on a throwback ‘90s sound. The title track, “Into You”, practically lifts its chord progression and synth melody from the Spice Girls classic “Say You’ll Be There”. Despite the similarity, “Into You” stands on its own as a catchy, sexy song to showcase Hyoseong’s talents.
The video in particular is sure to show off her… um, talents, as well. Hyoseong is known for being confident and self-assured in her sex appeal and curvy body, which the “Into You” music video makes perfectly clear. There seems to be some sort of framing device of someone watching old VHS tapes, but mostly this is an excuse to get the singer into different sexy outfits and leer seductively into the camera. It works for the song, which is about Hyoseong falling deep in lust-at-first-sight. “Into You” might not be the most innovative song to be released in K-pop lately, and it might not even be stronger than her solo debut, but it’s fun and sexy. Plus, we can always use more Spice Girls allusions.
”Fill me innocently / When I have caved completely / With your talk of chances / The ones you never take.”
The third song on Kill the Lights, “Severance Denied”, fixates on spiritual and literal malnourishment. With the harrowing specter of “Slightly Dazed” still very much present, almost unwilling to recede, the thought of going through something like it all over again is off-putting. It would seem that the band felt much the same way, and as such, “Severance Denied” brings the tempo and the mood up a bit—although here, “up” is a very relative term.