Reviews

JC Chasez

Devon Powers
JC Chasez

JC Chasez

City: New York
Venue: Roseland Ballroom
Date: 2004-05-12

JC Chasez
In America, the only thing more contentious than politics is pop music. Pop music -- the stuff that's mainstream but not hip-hop, urban, rock, dance, or anything else that might give it a shred of cred on another chart -- is highly controversial, its high profile always eliciting fervent and unqualified reactions both in support and disdain. The music's accessibility is either read as a sign of populism -- the apple of democratic values -- or formulism -- an emblem of the numbing effects of a cookie cutter-prone music biz. Moreover, because some critics often go after pop for its apparent lack of the elements necessary to make music worth its salt (such as artists adept at instruments, guitars, or a largely male fan base), championing the sheer joy created by listening to pop music often resembles chalking up the nutritional value of Twinkies. Unlike rock, pop fans have to argue for the music, justify their appreciation, and somehow explain how to listen to it as something heartier than fluff. Even this introduction, in a way, is a testament to the dangerous terrain that a potential pop enthusiast faces. Especially dangerous indeed: the subject currently at issue is JC Chasez, who is one of the most, if not the most, difficult pop icons to defend. A recent addition to the solo artist circuit, Mr. Chasez has two humungous strikes against him: 1) he was a member of the widely hated (or else, unabashedly adored/ironically appreciated) boy band (boo! hiss!) *NSYNC; and 2) he has released his solo album in the wake of the outstanding success of his former groupmate Justin Timberlake. Thus discussing Chasez on his own merit is a difficult task indeed. To mix metaphors, homeboy is not only plagued by a 900-pound gorilla, but he's got an albatross around his neck and there's a huge pink elephant chilling up in his crib. But while undoubtedly informed by these markers, Chasez's Schizophrenic (Jive, 2004) far transcends them to be, quite simply, an ambitious, creative, and highly enjoyable endeavor, so above and beyond the aforementioned output that comparison seems silly. If J.T. has been likened by some to Michael Jackson -- as much for his saucy singing and dance spasms as for his appeals across the racial divide -- then JC has his roots with none other than Prince: soulful flows that meld seamlessly with post-orgasmic screams, race (and gender and sexuality) so fucked that the issue becomes moot. And like the notorious Artist, Chasez unties pop's straightlaces to become something not only naughtier but also far more subversive. While remaining firmly seated in its traditions (which these days mandate firm nods to hip-hop, R&B, dance, rock, and electronic motifs), his mélange is so varied that it also unhinges them. For a listener, the album demands a wide and varied listening palette. For a performer, it demands and even wider one, not to mention a hugely flexible performing capabilities. Such diversity, breadth, and dynamism were on full display during his go at New York's Roseland Ballroom. Though the club was shockingly underattended, what it lacked in volume it made up in variety, running the gamut from yuppie to groupie and hipster to hippie. And Chasez's years of performing multiple nights to crowds ten times as large were put to good use. Complete with dancers, costume changes, lights, and props, Chasez crossed the line from sheer musician to pure entertainer, justifying at every turn the somewhat steep $35 ticket price. Even the somewhat canned jokes gave the night an air of professionalism. If the music business is a circus, Chasez set out to produce The Greatest Show on Earth. All of this is just gravy, however, when coupled with the monstrous force of Chasez as a vocalist. Opening the night with single "All Day Long I Dream About Sex", Chasez thrusted, jerked, and pumped his way through an aerobic set, both physically as well as vocally. His voice is, without question, a miracle: elastic and tough, it can move from curdling to coddling in an instant, pushing the limits of what one would think is humanely possible. "If You Were My Girl"'s excitable screams, for instance, did not bruise him for the night's sweeter fare; the ballads and slow songs which followed it were as downy as lullabies. Indeed, as Schizophrenic's variance presented a potentially tough pool of songs to draw from, Chasez's steadfast vocals marked a parallel between them that was at once dynamic and constant. Chasez can sing. He can sing anything-any style, any genre, any speed. And apparently, any order, on record or in real time. The show promoted most of Schizophrenic, but a cover of "Let's Go Crazy" solidified Chasez's kinship with the Velvet One. Though the reference clearly seemed to be lost on the bulk of the crowd, most of whom were skirting just below their 20s. No matter: another truism of a Chasez concert is that his is a fanbase of believers, willing to go with him through stylistic deviations and amalgamations. Never have I seen a crowd seem equally thrilled for guitar noise and technofunk. And for those who disparage pop music for its inability to challenge audiences, I'll ask you this: how many rock bands do you know that can get diehard b-girls to thrash? Schizophrenic is an appropriate title for an album (and live performance) that's all over the place -- one that fractures genres like a stroboscope fractures light. But JC Chasez's head is firmly atop his shoulders. While visionary might be too strong a word, the man clearly sees the links across artificial musical subdivisions, and has put together an album which transcends and obliterates them not as a novelty, but as a necessity. For him, a certain schizophrenia is not only natural and logical, but also beyond question. It is only us that seem to think there's something to argue about.
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image