Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sacha Baron Cohen confirmed to portray Freddie Mercury - Orlando Rock Music

Brian May has confirmed that Sacha Baron Cohen will portray Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury in an upcoming biopic.

You didn't really think I'd let this go at just a news blurb, did yeh?

I mean, we're talking about my favorite band in history, here. EVER. And now I see this?

A lot of people are gonna be pissed. And I can understand why. Me, I'm Not.

I get it. In playing Borat and (much more to the point) Bruno, Cohen can do over-the-top flamboyant. That's been proven. He could probably play the public/performing side of Mercury better than most actors working right now.

Away from all that, though, Mercury was an intensely private person. A little more subdued; not like a night-and-day difference or anything, but certainly not the bombastic force of nature people saw in a public setting. I think Cohen could do that, as well. He seems like a rather underrated actor, truth be told.

I'm looking forward to it, really. Seems like an awful long wait, since they don't even start shooting until next year...

Friday, September 17, 2010

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Am I the only one that's noticed that the "L" in "Glee" is the same hand signal as...?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Battle Of Evermore: Apple vs. Google

Article first published on BlogCritics as The Battle Of Evermore: Apple vs. Google

Do you think that, when Led Zeppelin recorded “The Battle Of Evermore”, that they ever envisioned a digital battlefield?

The Apple King took his bow and then surveyed his gold
The Google Prince embraced the gloom and challenged the iPhone

Oh, digital services fight to the music industry’s delight
The Android rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all

Oh, throw down your mouse and keyboard, race now to my mobile phone
Side by side we wait to see who’s the biggest of them all

On September 7, the story broke from that Google is getting serious about its oft-rumored challenge to the Apple iTunes/iPod/iAnythingElse dynasty. The internet giant is in talks with several major record labels preparing to launch its own digital music service - which would be available not only online through Google but through the iPhone’s biggest competition to date, the Android OS - by year’s end.

Many have tried to end Apple’s stranglehold on the digital music market and to force the gadget giant to relinquish some of its control over the music industry. Amazon, (the legitimized) Napster, and many others have failed to cut in to iTunes’s 70% of the digital market share.

Many in the music industry would love to see someone make it happen, as Apple has reportedly become very restrictive in its demands to labels when offering their music. With the lion’s share of the sales, Apple also has the lion’s share of the power to dictate file format, quality, pricing, you name it. With an much more established presence on the world wide web and, thanks to Android-based phones selling at the rate of 200,000 a day, Google now stands as the biggest challenge to Apple’s music industry dominance - and they’re gearing up for a Middle Earth-sized battle.

I hear consumers clicking down in the valley below
They’re waiting for an end to monopoly, waiting for Google to go

The Apple corporation now holds the seeds of happiness
Their coffers are rich from innovation there, which they do not forget (no, no)

Oh, digital services fight to the music industry’s delight
The Apples turn to brown and black, Steve Jobs's face is red

Oh, the war upon us nigh, choose your service and buy
Who will win - Android or iPad? Labels want to know

Oh well, the hour is long, but downloads never slow
Apple now has the prize, that Google has coveted so

Looking to capitalize on the oncoming storm sure to rage when digital giants clash, many within the music industry can’t wait for Google to throw down the gauntlet.

Former Universal Music Group executive (now a counsel at Loeb & Loeb) Larry Kenswil illustrates how the battle can spill over to the mobile market, explaining, “There’s no dearth of music available on a computer right now, but Google can still have an impact on the cellphone or any connected device.”

Simon Wheeler, who heads up the digital end of the London-based Beggars Banquet label, says, “Google has a wealth of data, from YouTube, as well as from search, that can inform on what people are consuming and looking for music wise.”

Taking it a step further, an unidentified label executive says, “Finally here’s an entity with the reach, resources and wherewithal to take on iTunes as a formidable competitor by tying it into search and Android mobile platform. What you’ll have is a very powerful player in the market that’s good for the music business.”

Another unidentified executive for a label currently in negotiations with Google is a little more careful. “We’re cautiously optimistic because Google has great scale and reach but doesn’t have a track record in selling stuff.”

The pain of war matters not, as long as you have the most cash
For one shall stand, one shall fall, when these giants clash

Sing as you click and buy with more confidence than before
Take comfort that the Apple/Google brawl will be so bold

Oh, digital services fight to the music industry’s delight
The Industry’s coffers writ in gold to take the power back (take it back)

At last the sun is shining, the market’s open wide
With digital offers from companies, on a whim you can buy

Oh, take it back, take it back...

While the archaic debate rages on from dinosaurs like U2’s manager Paul McGuinness about illegal file-sharing, it’s clear that Apple has turned a huge profit - not to mention revolutionized the music industry - by regulating the practice in a form that many consumers now can not do without. Google looks to take the challenge head-on by applying its mastery of web (and now phone) applications to the digital download market, hoping the buying public can rally around a known and trusted name other than Apple. The Battle of Evermore begins this Christmas, and it may not end for a long time.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Axl Rose’s Appetite For The Destruction Of Guns N’ Roses

Article first published as Axl Rose’s Appetite For The Destruction Of Guns N’ Roses on Blogcritics, of course...

No sooner than right after the first post goes live, it happens again. So much for the “odd cosmic coincidence happening in threes” theory.

This time, it was at Dublin, Ireland’s O2 Arena. Guns N’ Roses had arrived three hours late (translated to GN’R time: right on schedule) to play a show there.

Partway in to their most famous song, “Welcome To The Jungle”, an errant bottle flies toward the stage. (Whether or not it hit Axl or anyone else is unknown.) Axl Rose stops the song and tells the crowd, “Here’s the deal - one more bottle and we go home. It’s up to you. We would like to stay - do you want us to stay? We want to stay. We want to have fun. If you don’t want to have fun, all you gotta do is let us know. We’ve got no problem; we’ll be on our way.” Despite a chorus of boos, the band restarted the song - only this time the response is hundreds of plastic bottles being hurled. Guns N’ Roses, instead of living up to Axl’s word, stuck it out for another 20 minutes.

After the continuous volley wouldn’t stop, Axl Rose walks off the stage with the rest of the band. The promoters take to the stage, explain that they are having “technical difficulties” (read: a problem with keeping stuff from being launched at the stage and desperately trying to talk the band in to going back out) and asked the crowd to refrain from throwing anything at the performers. After half an hour of no show - during which many people left - the band took the stage again and played another 90 minutes (to, by that point, an almost half-empty arena).

The promoters spoke to the press after the debacle, saying that, "Despite his continued appeals, having tried to continue performing for 22 minutes, people continued throwing unknown substances leaving artist with no choice but to leave the stage." The fact that Guns N’ Roses had a "long history for being late on stage" was acknowledged, but the promoters also added, "NO artist should be subjected to missiles and unknown substances being thrown at them."

It’s already been established that, in that respect, they’re 100% right. And, no matter how late he was or how terrible Rose’s performance was (which seems to be the other factor in the bottle barrage), that attack wasn’t even called for, much less earned. All the credit in the world should be given to Rose and the band (who tried valiantly to salvage the show despite the crowd’s - and Rose’s - best efforts) for carrying on in the face of a full-on revolt that could have gotten dangerously out-of-hand.

However, by this stage in the game, some of the blame also has to be laid at Rose’s feet. This isn’t 1991 anymore. Back then, Rose could get away with being that late because they were the biggest band in the world. That and the blame for the consistent tardiness could be laid at the feet of others.

Nineteen years later, Chinese Democracy - an album that took eighteen years to see the light of day - became modern music’s equivalent of the Hindenberg. The band would have lost its lustre if they were still together, but that decline is compounded by the fact that Axl is the only one left. He’s the only common factor in the band being late to perform almost two decades ago and today. He also seems to believe that Guns N’ Roses is still the biggest thing going today and that he can get away with having that same arrogant swagger.

Buying a day planner of some sort wouldn’t hurt the man one bit. Hell, Google Maps will tell you how long it takes to get somewhere! Technology has removed that excuse altogether! More than that, though, Axl Rose needs to sharpen his performance skills and realize that the Guns N’ Roses name is not only not what it once was, but that it needs to be salvaged after this set of European shows if it even has a chance of surviving.

When they were the biggest band on the planet, Guns N’ Roses could barely get booked anywhere because of the trouble they brought to the table. Times are vastly different, but yet Rose is still carrying on as if this is his heyday. If this band has a chance of playing future shows...if Guns N’ Roses even has a chance of surviving...Axl Rose is going to have to do a lot of work on turning around his reputation.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When Performing Turns Dangerous

The following was my first piece for Blogcritics Music, just published today. You'll see a lot more of this sort of thing, as I am leaving 411 Music (amicably) to write for them as well as another outlet. But, enough of the jibber-jabber - let's get in to this...

With the recent blow-up over Guns N’ Roses at the Reading Festival in the UK, a pattern has definitely emerged. This now marks the third recent incident where an audience has had a severe issue (in some way shape or form) with a performer.

Strike one: Billy Corgan cut a gig at the Viper Room short due to heckling. Strike two: Tila Tequila is attacked (no, seriously) at the Gathering of the Juggalos. Strike three: Guns N’ Roses at Reading (and, to a lesser extent, Leeds).

Let’s do this in chronological order. Corgan, by all accounts played a great show before his incident. He’d played some newer stuff, sure, but he kept the stage banter to a minimum and brought quite a few of the hits that people (in all likelihood) came to hear. He did his part to entertain; it was when he wanted the audience to follow him in doing something different - in this case, breaking out a ukulele to do a new song. Not the most “rock and roll” thing to do, granted, but nothing too out there. The audience, who had been in to the show up to this point, turned like a pack of vipers (no pun intend--aw, who as I kidding?) and basically booed him off the stage.

Tila Tequila...there are quite a few circumstances surrounding what happened to her. You could argue that she trashed the Juggalo crowd before the festival (which, apparently, didn’t happen) could argue why was she booked for a crowd like that in the first could argue that she was warned ahead of time that things were gonna get ugly...BUT, at the end of the day, she went out and gave it the ol’ college try. The music may have sucked out loud (and, trust me, it did), but...throwing rocks at her on stage and chasing her back to her trailer and do what they could to continue the assault? That’s flat-out uncalled for.

Guns N’ Roses showed up at Reading an hour late. Which, for Guns N’ Roses, is early, really. The problem seems to be there that the crowd was booing even the mention of their name throughout the day, let alone once they finally arrived. (It didn’t help that several other bands that day mocked them as the festival went on - including Blink 182 who, frankly, don’t have a whole lot of room to be casting stones.) Be that as it may, the problem didn’t seem to be so much with Guns N’ Roses as it was with Axl Rose. By all accounts, the band was pretty good, but Axl changed outfits five or six times, and then met the crowd’s hostility...well, the only way he knows how - by reflecting that hostility and throwing it back at them. Stories of whether or not their Reading set was sabotaged from jump (Rose certainly seems to think it was) could be argued, but the fact that the crowd was against him even before they showed up can’t.

Three different performers. Three different sets of circumstances. All having the same result - a performer giving their all is rejected by the crowd that came to see them (especially in Corgan’s case, since that wasn’t a festival appearance). The concert industry has taken a hit this season; between exorbitant ticket prices and a struggling economy, many artists have had to cancel shows or, in some cases like Christina Aguilera, entire tours.

However, the question has to be asked: what does a concert-going audience expect out of its performers? Have we been so built up by various media and PR stunts to think that what we’re supposed to see live is the greatest thing we’ll ever see, bar none? Or do those same PR stunts hurt a performer’s reputation that the audience is showing up simply to witness a train wreck - and getting so antsy at not seeing one that they’re willing to do their part to create one?

Looking at outlets like TMZ and Perez Hilton (why exactly is he famous again? Can somebody help me out with that one?), instances of scandal, shock, and general trashiness seem to rule the day. And outlets like that have become so popular (you’ve seen the TMZ TV show, right?), that it seems that that sort of “news reporting” is the norm. The damage it may be doing to those being reported about in such a fashion could have affected the collective consciousness enough that, now, it’s all the ticket-buying general public is interested in. Sad to see that going to a concert may not even be about the music anymore.

Bringing the ticket prices in to the equation, is it fair to expect the show of a lifetime (or possibly some sexual favors) after having to spend $200-300 on a single ticket? Having no idea what the price of a ticket was for any of the above, it may still be safe to say that, in the three instances above, ticket prices don’t seem to be a factor in expectations.

Were all three of these some sort of odd, cosmic coincidence that will blow over, letting the atmosphere of concerts return to normal? Or will these sort of instances continue with performers putting their reputations - or, in Tila’s case, lives - on the line to entertain a crowd that has no interest in being entertained? (which begs the question, why are they there in the first place?)

It’s a disturbing trend, to be sure. And one that, for the sake of the industry and those that ply their trade in it, is going to have to be monitored to see where we all go from here. It would be nice to go back to a time when concerts - especially festivals - were great to go to.

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Collect them none.