Last week, in fiscal desperation, my fellow Doll Susan and I stopped by a downtown Austin, Texas bar known more for its dollar wells than its ambience and quality clientele. Yes, it was on 6th street, and yes, we may have been the oldest ladies in the place. But it's hard to go wrong with a strongly poured whiskey-Coke. And so we sat at the bar trying not to make eye contact with anyone, sucking down our drinks and watching some kind of bar satellite television-ads-with-music-videos-thing. I don't know. Are we in the future now? I guess. Anyway, after Biggie and Fergie played, Hole's classic "Celebrity Skin" vid came on.
And I wondered aloud, "I wonder if that other woman is tired of putting up with Courtney Love yet?" For I was but young and dorky and listening exclusively to The Beatles and Jewel when Hole was popular, so knowing the name of Melissa Auf Der Maur would have been well beyond my station. But Auf Der Maur gave an interview to The Guardian yesterday, and she pretty much answered my question.
Peter Gabriel wants to be your sledgehammer--if you're a thug in Juarez who murders women in the border town plagued by drug violence. Actually, he wants to be Mexican president Felipe Calderon's sledgehammer against said thugs. Actually he's just going to petition the president to do more to solve the hundreds of unsolved murder cases in the city. Sigh. Referential eighties pop metaphor FAIL.
The LA Times' La Plaza blog reports today that Gabriel, who's long been a human rights activist in addition to the dude who brought you "Solsbury Hill," intends to strong-arm the Mexican president by handing over a petition against the murders that contains over 1,000 signatures! If there's one thing Mexican drug lords fear, it's white guilt and self-righteous posturing. You show 'em who's boss, Gabriel!
Still, the situation in Ciudad Juarez is mighty sobering--violence against women there is rampant and unresolved, much of it tied to the drug trade. Gabriel's performing in Mexico City on March 27 and plans to use the opportunity to speak out against the violence. And I'm performing right here, right now on this blog, and I'm planning to use this opportunity to link to this YouTube video:
Can you imagine the line "Teenage suicide, don't do it!" echoing plaintively in a Broadway theater? Try. Because Heathers: The Musical is stagebound in 2010.
Andy Fickman (Reefer Madness) is developing a play about the 1988 mean-girl dark comedy, which starred Winona Ryder and our own Regression Obsession Christian Slater. Fickman is working with Kevin Murphy, who will develop the lyrics and book, and composer Larry O'Keefe -- the latter earned a Tony nod for the score of Legally Blonde.
It's been under-the-radar for some time now, but the production did some early readings this week: Kristen Bell played Veronica and Christian Campbell took on J.D. We're not sure about Veronica Mars as Veronica Sawyer, but we're withholding full judgment until the real cast is announced. And how can we worry when the project has been given the blessing of screenwriter Dan Waters, who clearly recognizes the movie's adaptable potential?
" 'I love my dead gay son'," Fickman quoted. "If you can get that
into a song, then that is just perfect."
"It made sense that the visuals would take you on a journey and keep
you on the move -- no sitting still for too long in the city landscape
of bright lights, dark alleys and glittering streets. 'Zero''s
sentiment is to revel in being you -- you're a zero so screw it! It's
the underdogs, the rebels, the outsiders that have always captivated me
growing up so I decided why not flaunt that side of myself in the
Karen O loves the underdogs, we love Karen O. As well as the bedazzled monogrammed leather jacket she's rocking. But did the bit with the shopping carts seem strongly reminiscent of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" video? (The YYY's even shot a scene in a supermarket, though the carts were gone by the time they got there.) Karen O cites Bjork's "All Is Full Of Love" and "Thriller" as her two favorite videos, but there must have been a little Thom Yorke inspiration up in this piece.
Last night, right after Nick Mitchell belted the Dreamgirls show-stopper "And I Am Telling You" on American Idol, I was beside myself with glee, hoping that the rest of the country felt similarly. Holding on to the possibility that Mitchell's disco-shirt loving alter-ego Normund Gentle somehow makes it to season eight's Top Twelve, here are five contemporary lady torch songs that this dark-horse contestant could sing that would, to paraphrase Randy, blow us all of the box.
5. Paramore - "Misery Business"
God, does it feel so good, cause I got him where I want him now! Save it for Emo Week, Gentle, and knock it out of the park.
Not even charmed celebrity fashion lines are safe from the the Greatest Depression. Mandy Moore, who is about to release a new record, Amanda Leigh (May 26), offered Japanese fashion editors an exclusive preview of the album at Coach's new Tokyo headquarters, reports WWD. But while Mandy moves ahead with her music -- her last album, Wild Hope, involved a collaboration with indie duo The Weepies, and she describes her latest disc as "a really quintessential southern California pop record
from the '70s" -- she's taking a step back from her role as a designer. Or "designer." Either way, her clothing line, Mblem, which she launched in 2005, will be shut down:
"I love the fashion
world. I'm fascinated by it. I'm humbled by it," she said. "If I were
to dip my toe back in there, it would have to be the right situation... a
great partnership that could represent a true reflection of me and my
ideas and you know that wasn't happening. So next go round, that needs
to be top of the list."
"A great partnership," eh? Hmm. If Mandy Moore were to design a fashion line with anyone, who would you make her share a sewing machine with? Our vote is for Ashlee Simpson. Her Wet Seal t-shirts kinda sucked, but we think the two of them would totally find some kind of neo-goth classical punk vibe. And make magic.
There was enough pre-Grammys gossip to keep us speculating before the awards show even got under way last night. First, we wondered whether Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. would pop out her first child -- technically due on Sunday -- while she performed on stage. (She didn't. But she did rock out with her baby bump, like a true heroine.) Then, the gossip rags breathlessly switched their attention to the reported arrest of artist Chris Brown for the alleged assault of his girlfriend, R&B singer Rihanna. Both were scheduled to perform at the Grammys, and, not surprisingly, neither appeared.
But since our hope/fear of a live childbirth set to "Paper Planes" and "Swagga Like Us" was thwarted, our favorite moment of the evening went to Radiohead's rendition of "15 Step" with the entire USC marching band. Stereogum has a YouTube collection of many musical highlights for your video-skimming pleasure, not to mention a full list of all the winners. The Times has your red carpet photographs, as does People, and US Weekly has some live stage shots.
On the front page of the Times today is a story about the current layoff surge, which is leaving women poised to surpass men on the nation's payrolls. 82 percent of the job losses have hit men, heavily represented in manufacturing and construction. The disproportion is partially attributed to the fact that women tend to be employed in the education and health care industries, which are less sensitive to economic highs and lows.
It's not just about workplace culture, though; these issues are, of course, mirrored in the home. According to the piece, while women appear to be sole breadwinners in greater numbers, they are
likely to remain responsible for the majority of domestic duties -- cooking dinner, cleaning the house, just generally keeping running smoothly. But what about when they're out of work? Says the Times:
When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men's child care duties, by contrast, are virtually
identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead
spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with
other domestic activities.
This seems somewhat off. Is there statistical proof that the vast majority unemployed dudes and Dads just sit around like sloths, enjoying their loaf-time, refusing to grocery shop or push a vacuum, while the women trudge to their lower-paying jobs that don't offer good benefits? Because, there's also this:
Women are much more likely to be in part-time jobs without health insurance or unemployment insurance.
Even in full-time jobs, women earn 80 cents for each dollar of their
male counterparts' income, according to the government data.
Is it possible the layoff surge could change that, or will it merely make it worse?
Max Martin and Dr. Luke have attempted to bring Kelly Clarkson back from her dead-inside failure! "My Life Would Suck Without You," the first single off Kelly's forthcoming album, All I Ever Wanted (March 17) has all the ingredients for being a lollipop-rock chart-topper. I like it okay. I'd love it, though, if there was some kind of a catharsis exploding out from underneath the histrionics.
See what I mean? My initial reaction to "My Life" was that it was a complete reprise to the Breakaway days, filled with existential longing and a sub-textual, fuck-this-shit medicine Kelly knew just how to sneak into the sugar choruses. Clearly, Miss Independent had her proverbial tail between her legs this time, rightly choosing to take a bit of a break from the micro-managing "I'm a songwriter, just me, me, me, no help, kthxbai go away Clive Davis," that tanked her last album, My December. The beat-svengalis stepped in to clean up the mess! But have they, really? Ann Powers, over at the L.A. Times' Pop and Hiss, writes:
You will be singing this song by your
third listen, and that third listen will be unavoidable, because
without a bridge or even one blue note, it's perfectly suited to the
formats that support 21st century pop -- especially YouTube parodies
and singing toothbrushes.
But is Kelly in there, amid the syn-drums and keyboard bleeps? To paraphrase Bill Clinton, that depends on the meaning of "in."
And yeah, this is pretty much exactly what I'm feeling by listen three, four, five, twenty. When "My Life" climaxes, it's too compressed, and emotionally, it's all wrong. Even if the hooks -- or lack thereof -- on My December left something to be desired, we were given a glimpse of Kelly's future possibilities in its last track. "Irvine" made her sound as if she could swing to the other side of the charts toward alt-country songstress, and write the sort of quiet torch song that might make Jenny Lewis furrow her brows, and everyone else forget, for a moment, that we like Kelly best when her throat opens wide to the grit and darkness.
Of course, it's too soon to tell whether the rest of All I Ever Wanted will photocopy the plunging, short-lived high of "My Life." But forget the fact that everyone is freaking over the kitschy cover art; just look at actual lyrics: "Being with you is so dysfunctional/ I really shouldn't miss you, but I can't let go." It doesn't make me want to sing along, it makes me want to turn it down, and feel slightly ashamed of myself. Perhaps her apology to her labelis what forced her to dump her muse. Why else would someone who could bellow "I've been free for the first time" in "Since U Been Gone" like she truly meant it agree to go back to, like, Facebook-stalking her ex and wondering if she should settle, Lori Gottlieb-style?
If All I Ever Wanted was the next step in Kelly's growth not just as an artist, but as a girl who got her heart busted open, she wouldn't try to win back the one that she kissed-off so eloquently and with so much dunzo passion throughout the finest cuts on Breakaway. That's why, to answer Powers' question, we don't think Kelly is in this, at least not yet.