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

 
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
Former drug store clerk Elliott Yamin scored high on the American Idol charts. His first album, Elliott Yamin (Hickory, March 2007) went gold in the US and Japan, and was the highest independent debut for a new artist on the Billboard charts. His sophomore album, Fight for Love, released this month.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Tuesdays With Morrie.  It’s a great story about finding yourself and what really matters in life.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Don’t really know any fictional characters, or at least followed any. So I don’t really know what each one does or stands for.  Never really got into any animated shows or cartoons.


3. The greatest album, ever?
Donny Hathaway’s i>These Song For You Live!’. Stevie Wonders’ Signed, Sealed and Delivered and Marvin Gayes’ I Want You album are tied for a close second place!


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Saturday, May 23, 2009
Pete Townshend is selling (his soul), but who's buying? Not I.

There is a reason the Beatles are considered the greatest band ever. It’s simple, really: they are the greatest band ever. After them, it’s a fair fight for second place, and fans of the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and the Kinks can duke it out for eternity. (And that’s just the British bands.) It would not be terribly enjoyable, or edifying, to argue about which band warrants consideration as runners-up, but since the Stones tend to be the ones most often considered just under the Fab Four’s thumbs, how about the Who? Who knows what might have happened if Keith Moon had not kicked off for that great pub in the sky? (Based on what these other bands did, or did not do, after 1980, it’s safe to propose nothing terribly earth shattering was portended.)


But the output from their first decade goes toe-to-toe with any of these other bands’ best work. And if you want to go deep, what tri-fecta can possibly touch Tommy, Who’s Next and Quadrophenia? In terms of albums released in a row, that is a tough list to top. The Stones, of course, came close with Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street (and in terms of the immediate precursors, I would personally rank The Who Sell Out as every bit as good, if not slightly better, than the somewhat overrated Beggar’s Banquet). What else do you got? I wouldn’t fight to the death arguing that Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper aren’t the most important (if least perfect) consecutive albums to drop in rock history. Of course there is also the entirety of Hendrix’s studio output (while he lived, that is; the good, the bad and the ugly that still spills out of the vaults is a mostly positive mixed blessing), Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. Fans of the underdogs will get plenty of mileage endorsing The Kinks’ Face to Face,  Something Else by the Kinks and The Village Green Preservation Society.


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Thursday, May 21, 2009
by Robin Cook

Last autumn, this vidblogger caught Ha Ha Tonka’s stunning show at a Bloodshot Records showcase in Brooklyn. They didn’t disappoint in Austin, either.  Here, guitarist Brett Anderson talks a little about the band’s history. Ha Ha Tonka’s new album, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South is out now.



Tagged as: ha ha tonka, sxsw
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The way that the films Notorious, 8 Mile, Walk The Line, and Ray lead up to scenes of performances shows the remarkable and subtle endurance of troubling racial stereotypes and ideals.

I’ve done a bad bad thing
Cut my brother in half

—Little Dewey Cox in Walk Hard


The new millenium has been kind to biopics of musicians. We have, most of us, seen the blockbusters, including Walk the Line, Ray, and Notorious, and these have been accompanied by more minor films like Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, Cadillac Records, and Jenna Maroney’s unforgettable Sing Them Blues, White Girl: The Jackie Jomp-Jomp Story. Some of the recurrent themes of these films, such as drug abuse, became so predictable that they were easily satirized in Walk Hard.


But in thinking about how these films diverge, after finally reaching the (somewhat confused) end of Notorious, I realized that in both the earlier film 8 Mile, the semi-fictional story of Eminem’s life, and in Walk the Line, the white performer comes to a moment of emotional overload that threatens his very ability to get on stage. In Cash’s case, this is because he is re-living his brother’s death; in Eminem’s case, it is because he has to face a hostile, mostly African-American crowd as a white rapper.


By contrast, in their respective films, neither Ray Charles nor Biggie experience this kind of stage fright. Instead, particularly in Notorious, there is an utterly natural transition from the private work of practicing and writing to the public arena of performance. This is even the case despite Ray’s having undergone, like Cash, the death of a brother while very young.


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Thursday, May 14, 2009
by PopMatters Staff
The Royal College of Music trained Jon Hopkins released his latest album Insides on Domino on May 5th and he tells us about his inspiration.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?
Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster. And when I saw Mulholland Drive for the second time.


2. The fictional character most like you?
Popeye.


3. The greatest album, ever?
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. Ridiculously beautiful psychadelic monster.


4. Star Trek or Star Wars?
Neither actually. I quite liked Quantum Leap though.


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