TV

'Same Name' Series Premiere

The concept of Same Name is simple – a celebrity and an ordinary person who share the same name switch places for a couple days. It’s The Prince and the Pauper with cameras rolling.

Same Name

Airtime: Sundays, 9pm ET
Cast: David Hasselhoff
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: CBS
Air date: 2011-07-24
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Blame Ozzy Osbourne. In 2002, The Osbournes became a cultural phenomenon, grafting the reality genre onto actual celebrities, rather than just turning previously unknown people into pseudo-celebrities. In the process, a washed up, drug-addled rock star got a complete image makeover, turning overnight into a warped but likeable sitcom dad who needed a little help with the remote control. Parents still weren’t going to ask him to babysit for their own kids, but at least they weren’t afraid he was inducing them to worship Satan.

Agents and publicists throughout Hollywood saw endless opportunities: suddenly, all those former celebrities who couldn’t get jobs were untapped resources. But Ozzy’s transformation from dope-head to dopey dad also demonstrated the dangers of reality TV for its subjects. Did he really want to be more relevant to the cultural conversation as a reality star than a musician?

In the years that followed, few if any celebrities benefited from such exposure the way the Osbournes did. Most of the time, reality shows did little more than reinforce negative images (as happened to Jessica Simpson, known forever now as a blonde airhead) or shine a harsh spotlight on a slow moving train wreck (most tragically in the case of Whitney Houston). Many successful stars stayed away, having better things to do, leaving the genre to their B-, C- and D-list brethren.

The shows associated with these folks have always had more than a whiff of desperation to them, a means to the drug called fame, however petty and embarrassing. Why else would they would allow themselves to be put through this wringer? Yes, some have needed the money, but no one could ever believe such a show was "good," either as entertainment or therapy. At some point, celebrities (and their agents and publicists) mst have realized that they weren’t getting the results they might have hoped for. (Turns out that notoriety doesn’t always translate into success. Go figure.)

If we might still find Meatloaf yelling at Gary Busey on Celebrity Apprentice, the rules of the celebrity reality game have changed, in large part thanks to the success of Dancing with the Stars. This show casts the familiar assortment of second-tier celebrities, but instead of just watching them struggle through their actual lives, it gives them something to do. They dance, which is not always pretty, but they get to do what made most of them famous in the first place, which is perform. And most of them come out looking better because of it.

Into this new environment -- which includes the good effects of The Voice and the revamped American Idol -- comes Same Name. The concept is simple – a celebrity and an ordinary person who share the same name switch places for a couple days. It’s The Prince and the Pauper with cameras rolling.

The first episode introduces a not-famous David Hasselhoff from small town Texas to the Hoff. Famous Hasselhoff is a safe choice for the show, but not one that bodes well for it. He has always struggled to stay on the B-list in the U.S., though he has had A-list moments as a singer in Europe. And he’s already gone the reality route as a competitor on Dancing with the Stars and a judge on America’s Got Talent.

Famous Hasselhoff moves in with not-famous Hasselhoff’s family. He cleans out an industrial tank. He helps mow a lawn as part of the family business. Though he says he works really hard, it never seems like that’s really true. Famous Hasselhoff goes to a series of other staged events with other family members, and by the end he says that he has grown to love them. Pretty much the story arc we expect.

Clearly, the intent is to show how down to earth the Texas family is. And how generous and real Hasselhoff is. Neither can be completely true, though they succeed more at the first. When famous Hasselhoff gives the Texas family some parting gifts, including new lawnmowers for the business and a college scholarship for the baby, it is hard not to feel that these things will make a real difference in this ordinary family’s life. But it's hard to believe that these gestures are anything more than a publicity stunt for famous Hasselhoff, despite his tears at the end.

Not-famous Hasselhoff’s trip to L.A. is a better story. Not because famous Hasselhoff’s life is so wonderful, but because it seems so lonely. Famous Hasselhoff has a big house and lots of staff to cook and clean for him, as well as an agent, a manager, and a personal trainer. But nothing seems genuine. Family members are trotted out too, but they seem uncomfortable to be dragged onto the show.

The L.A. portion of the show reveals that the experience is not truly a swap of daily experiences. Not-famous Hasselhoff is not given access to famous Hasselhoff’s life or even a reasonable facsimile of it. It is more like he has been taken on a multi-day guided tour of the Hasselhoff museum. At the end of the episode, not-famous Hasselhoff earnestly says that he really admires celebrities now and that they earn everything they’ve got. The statement sounds like a contractual obligation, required to allow his family to keep the lawn mowers.

It is hard to know what Same Name will be like week to week. Some celebrities will surely offer better material to edit than Hasselhoff, famous and not. Future episodes promise encounters with Reggie Bush, Kathy Griffin, and Mike Tyson. Tyson in particular may bring just enough crazy to the table to tip the genre scales back to train wreck.

But for famous Hasselhoff, unlike, say, Ozzy Osbourne, this show isn’t going to make many people see him in a different light (or buy his albums). Honestly, not-famous Dave summed up the feeling most viewers will have watching the show when he says, “This is weird.”

4

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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