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Tuesday, Nov 16, 2010
Taylor Swift's popularity has been bubbling for years now, and if the first-week US sales of her latest release, Speak Now, prove to be the climax, they could also prove to be historical. Think about it: who else has the potential to break the million-in-a-week mark ever again?

Jake Gyllenhaal better have thick skin, and it’s not just because Brothers wasn’t nearly as good of a movie as it should have been.


Actually, it’s because his latest muse—the “whenever a relationship I’m in ends, and I’m mad, I write about it” singer/songwriter Taylor Swift—recently did the one thing I, along with most of the other geeks who follow this kind of stuff with pertinent attention, never thought would be done again: she sold a million copies of her latest release, Speak Now, in its first week.


Swift has long been a curious case for me. I was admittedly resistant of her success when she first found her way onto the charts. I then fell completely head over heels for her when I stumbled across her performance of “Fifteen” with Miley Cyrus at the Grammy Awards nearly two years ago. Now? Well, now, she just kind of exits within my own personal musical orbit, at this point not really warranting an emotion either way.


I will always find her shtick endearing, but that’s mostly because I’m probably a 16-year-old girl at heart. She writes her own songs (though I’ve never truly believed such a statement, even when it’s insisted upon). She seems to prefer performing with a guitar strapped across her torso more than she does, say, performing with two free hands and a slew of dancers behind her. She sings about heartbreak (and who doesn’t love that?). It appears as though she’s nice enough, constantly willing to sign autographs, and making appearances and granting interviews basically whenever she’s asked. She killed it on Saturday Night Live with a spot-on Shakira impersonation. And she loves vinyl. And if you love vinyl, I love you.


So it’s clear that she’s someone I find myself rooting for, regardless of how “cool” or “uncool” it may be for a 26-year-old dude to partake in such activities. All of that now considered, though, the entire notion of her achieving such a feat as selling a million records in a week utterly transcends any preconceived notion one may have of the singer/songwriter. I mean, my goodness.


Tagged as: taylor swift
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Friday, Jul 30, 2010
Using a newspaper promotion to get an album out to the masses might be a mutually beneficial arrangement for artist and publication, but what happens to the listener's perception of the music?

As huge a presence as he is, Prince is not a musician who has ever loomed particularly large in my world. We’re only a product of our influences after all, and for whatever reason mine have not led me to explore Prince’s purple path in much detail. Prince worked his way into my attentions recently, however, when on July 10th, he released his latest album 20Ten as a free gift with a number of European newspapers, including the British Daily Mirror. The copy of the paper which brought the CD to me was one of 334,000 copies by which the publication’s sales soared that day. It’s not the first time Prince has used this method to distribute his music—he gave his 2007 record Planet Earth away with the papers, too—but am I the only one that feels that such a strategy cheapens the music and even Prince himself?


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Thursday, Jul 22, 2010
EMI, like so many major labels, is circling the drain, buried beneath a mountain of debt and public indifference. The label is wise to plumb the back catalog and offer fans of its key artists the opportunity to pick up fancy versions of their favorite albums with loads of extra stuff. But has its attitude soured the fans on future purchases?

Ever since their foppish heroes burst in the scene in the early ‘80s, fans of Duran Duran have long been derided by “serious” music fans as unsophisticated nitwits in thrall to a band built on a platform of flashy videos, high cheekbones, and a sense of style which wavered between pure androgyny and cut-rate drag queen.


But all was never as it seems, especially where it regards Duran Duran. Witness the response to the band’s former label, EMI, which sorta-kinda acknowledged an error in a recent deluxe reissue of Duran Duran’s seminal debut in the Ask Katy section of the band’s official website…


“It has come to our attention that some fans have suggested that the mastering on the recently reissued editions of Duran Duran and Seven and the Ragged Tiger is incorrect. Mastering is always subjective, and we acknowledge that the mastering on these versions is different to that of previous remasters, however that does not necessarily make it wrong. We have received both positive and negative comments about the mastering which is usual for any project – although those that don’t like the sound of these new records are by far in the minority. We will always take on board constructive criticism and act upon it, where we believe it appropriate, and we respect the opinions of the fans. However, in this case there have been some personal comments about the mastering engineer that were highly offensive, wholly inappropriate and unjustified.


“There is a glitch due to tape deterioration in the camera clicks at the very start of ‘Girls on Film’ on the Duran Duran album. Whilst this glitch is not ideal, as it is in the camera clicks and not within the main body of the music, there are no plans to replace any discs.”



Tagged as: arcadia, duran duran, emi
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Monday, Jul 19, 2010
The television and radio commercials that we see every day are selling more than just the products in the ad -- sometimes they're selling an artist as well. It may not be the traditional way for musicians to get their songs to their listeners, but it works.

Countless sums of money are spent worldwide every year on advertising, constantly bombarding us everywhere we go. Whether it is on television, radio, in print, or online, every day we see ads that encourage us to buy one product or another. I do have to admit that every so often the pitch works, and I find myself spending money on something that I don’t really need, but that I do really want. I’m not talking about buying any of the products, though—I’m talking about buying the music that I’ve heard used in the commercials. Whether it’s a current hit or an old classic, advertisers have been using pop music in commercials for decades, and have been doing so more and more in recent years. 


One such instance that will forever stick in my head was the use of Van Halen’s “Right Now” in the ad campaign for Crystal Pepsi in the early 1990s. In fact, the commercial was even shot in a similar style to the music video, complete with the “Right now…” statements:


I really wasn’t a fan of Crystal Pepsi (or of Sammy Hagar-era Van Halen), but the two will be forever intertwined in my mind. Crystal Pepsi disappeared from the shelves in 1993, and I didn’t even get the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album until a few months ago. However, there have been a few instances since then when hearing a song in a commercial has made me say to myself, “I need to find out who that band is and get their album immediately”.


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Monday, Jul 12, 2010
An album is purchased (via in a store or online) and is quickly ripped to your iPod. Does this practice make it harder for an album to grow on a listener? Or is the iPod just forcing us to become more disciplined listeners?

Right now, Beach House’s Teen Dream is my favorite album of the year. The Baltimore duo has crafted a phenomenal arrangement of baroque pop. Sadly, I’ve only listened to it three times. The National’s High Violent is another great album, but since purchasing the album, I’ve only listened to it once. One major reason was because I listened to it repeatedly when it was available for streaming weeks before the release.


I shouldn’t feel guilty for voting an album “one of the best of the year” and then watch it collect dust. After all, people have no problem dubbing a movie or book as the best they’ve seen or read this year after a single viewing or reading. But it seems that music is the only major form of pop culture that requires an unspoken demand that an album be absorbed multiple times before dubbing it “the best” of the year.


Tagged as: albums, ipod, ipod shuffle
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