Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scott Weiland's Miserable and We Love It

Scott Weiland, 41, has cleaned up pretty well. Not only in his outerwear, as onstage of the American Music Awards, but also on his second solo album Happy in Galoshes. Selling over 35 million records worldwide - with Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver - getting clean might have helped. Ironically titled, Happy in Galoshes - nobody's ever seen Scott peep a smile and he rarely ever needs to wear galoshes living in Southern California - is released today and has received better criticisms than 12 Bar Blues (1998). If we have to wait another 10 years, it's fine by me. He'll be even more clean, more sober, and have more grunge in his voice than Gary Busey. 

In SPIN Magazine, Weiland admits he hasn't laughed uncontrollably for over a year, during a scene from "Wedding Crashers." This could be due to his younger brother, Michael's, death from a drug overdose, his mother's recent diagnosis of cancer, his separation from his wife, or Velvet Revolver's split in April. The past year has tested his sobriety and while he has not turned back to heroin in almost six years (December 5th), he had a short binge with cocaine and was thrown in jail for a DUI. 

As selfish as it sounds, his misery has brought out the best in him. Happy brings back all the elements of STP but has a twist of sensitivity. In "Missing Cleveland" Weiland belts out his nostalgia for his hometown, where in fact he did where galoshes. The Beatles' psychedelic euphoria is reintroduced on "She Sold Her System." He sheds all of his shame on a cover of David Bowie's "Fame," where Weiland sounds eerily identical to Bowie. They kind of look alike - Weiland just a bit less feminine. The catchy, bouncy rock tune "Beautiful Day" might take a few seconds to sink in that it is the same guy who was lead singer of the best 90's grunge band.

Grab the deluxe edition and you'll hear 10 additional tracks, including a cover of the Smiths' "Reel Around the Fountain." Sweet!

John Forte is Pardoned

President Bush pardoned 14 jailed individuals, fewer than President Clinton or President Reagan, and commuted 2 others whose misdeeds included evading taxes, killing bald eagles and mishandling toxic waste. Among those pardoned crimes included embezzlement, making false statements to the government, concealing knowledge of a crime, drug distribution, unauthorized acquisition of food stamps, income tax evasion, bank fraud, and John E. Forte. Yes, the Grammy-Award winning rapper and producer of two of tracks from the Fugees' The Score.

Forte was arrested at the Newark Airport in 2000 carrying a briefcase containing $1.4 million worth of cocaine. He was sentenced 14 years in prison. He has always protested his innocence and joined a campaign for his pardon, stating he was not given a fair trial. Forte will be released after only serving half of his sentence.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meet The Real Kanye West

At last night's awards, it was refreshing to see a mature side of Kanye. Four years ago he threw a tantrum at the American Music Awards when he did not receive the best new artist award. This year AMA switched it up. They allowed fans to vote, which is what it's all about in the first place. Kanye walked away with two awards - Rap/Hip-Hop Album (Graduation) and Rap/Hip-Hop Male - the day before Kanye releases 808's & Heartbreaks. The entire album was posted on Myspace and Kanye has stepped it up yet again.

There is no doubt that next year 808's & Heartbreaks will be nominated. Kanye has pushed all genres to the max and if he really wants to be the next Elvis, he can't stop. It's been a tumultuous year for Kanye. Following his mother's tragic death after two cosmetic surgical procedures, he blamed himself for her death due to his fame. We don't, however, hear much from the surgeon who risked it all for a bribe. In April, his fiance Alexis Phifer called off their engagement and ended their 6-year relationship. Poor Kanye. It's just fuel for his fire.

All of the vocals on Heartbreaks are digitally enhanced. Kanye's voice is hidden over layers of electronic distortion. Could it be a metaphor? Has he recorded this album under cloudy conditions - teary-eyed and a foggy heart? All of the songs deal with loss, "heartbreak", pain, and other "Bad News." While he never explicitly mentions neither his mother or ex, I think a depressed spirit lingers throughout the entire album. He reflects on his lavish lifestyle and whether or not he has missed life's simple joys in "Welcome to Heartbreak."
"My friend showed me pictures of his kids,
and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs.
He said his daughter got a brand new report card,
and all I got was a brand new sportscar."

The lighthearted, Kanye-esque track, "Paranoid," restores our faith and maybe we don't have to encourage him to take anti-depressants. Or maybe he's already began taking them. Either way, Kanye hasn't lost it. 808's & Heartbreaks is by far his most soulful album to date. Maybe it's the first album where we learn more about the man behind the music, rather than the flashy fluff that Kanye wants us to believe he is.

Kanye's boredom drives him to innovate. Who can blame him? The whole music industry is so stagnant. Especially hip hop. If something's broken, fix it. That's his motto.

Flashback: Who can forget the battle between Kanye and 50 Cent about sharing a release date last year? This year, it's Taco Bell vs. 50 Cent.
Trivia: "808" as in "Roland TR-808" is an analogue synthesiser created in 1981 and it was used in many 80's tunes. The sounds, when not processed by other equipment, has a trademark "hollow/tinny" sound. The trademark sound of this synth is the "cowbell".

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conor Oberst Heals, Again

I know, I know. His album has been out for months (August 5th) but I finally got around to reading his feature in Relix from a couple months back. There's something about Conor Oberst that makes me hate him. However, everytime I listen to a new song, I become obsessed. Each tune fills me with so much emotion that it's like being wrapped up in a dysfunctional love affair. It's abusive and most of the time he makes me cry, but I just can't resist myself from pressing play. Ugh.

Anyways, the only reason I admit this unhealthy relationship is because he mentioned something in the article that I felt I should share. It shed a lot of light on Conor's melancholy perception of life:

“I’m not a big fan of change,” Oberst reveals. “I don’t really like saying goodbye to things and people, and that’s what you’re forced to do, no matter what; growing older and living your life and people living theirs. It’s not always going to be the same and you’re going to lose stuff you love and you’re going to gain other things you love, I suppose. But it’s that idea: You can’t really hold onto anything. I guess I am somewhat obsessed with that.” - Relix, September 2008

I get it now. What I don't get is that the track "Lenders In the Temple" sounds hauntingly familiar?

Listen to Conor Oberst (and the Mystic Valley Band) on Myspace

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Race Phenomenon

The word race has played a pivotal role this year; not just in the presidential race but also in ethnicity. Out with the red, in with the blue. It is truly joyous to see this country take such a drastic turn. It was less than 50 years ago that African Americans didn't even have basic human rights. Today, it's proven, we are ready to put all of our trust and confidence in an African American. So is it true, once you go black, you never go back? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Seriously speaking, it seems that being racially "different" in America is the new black. Wait. You know what I mean - the new cool.

Take Santogold for instance. She might be a very unlikely candidate for comparison, but it amazes me how this super diva created an empire for herself in less than a year. Don't get me wrong, she is extraordinarily talented but what new artist becomes the basis for Ford and Budweiser commercials before her album's songs make it to the radio. Actually, they still don't play her songs on the radio. MTV introduced her first single "L.E.S. Artistes" as a music video and as a pretty big production. What made her so desirable, so quickly? She released her self-titled album in January. A dangerous move. Most new mainstream artists hold off until third-quarter, the holiday season, to release their album. She, however, had an album of unbelievable material - eclectic, outlandish, innovative, dance grooves. If this is the direction the music scene is taking, I love it!

M.I.A. might have had a premature tip. With her kooky, ethnic flavor she broke out from the title "underground." She hasn't drifted too far away from her Sri Lanka roots. Her upbeat, bouncy pop meets electronica tunes will either drive you wild or crazy - for better or for worse. Her fame, with thanks to Timbaland for the hit "Paper Planes" in Pineapple Express, is long overdue. POW!! M.I.A. has blown up. It's no surprise that she's about to marry Ben Brewer, the son of the Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. and is pregnant. Aw, what a cute mum!

For more about M.I.A. read her article in December's SPIN Magazine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What does Axl Rose really know about "Chinese Democracy?"

After waiting two long decades - life still went on, believe you me - for the Guns N' Roses new album, Axl seems to have lost his edge. With a title like Chinese Democracy, one would think "this is going to be a deep album." Hello, people! A lot has happened in the past 20 years and Mr. Rose seems to have been asleep. He likes China so much, but doesn't mention anything about them killing babies with their cheap toys. Odd, no?

For any real GNR fans, this album might be relevant if it would have been released as the band's final fall, the last album that pushes popular hair bands off the pedestal. With songs like "Madagascar" and "Prostitute" nobody knows what to expect, until you listen. Axl definitely still has got the same lovely crooning vocals but his lyrics are shallow. In "Street of Dreams" he sounds more like a rebellious Seal, rather than the 80's rocker who lullabied us all with "November Rain." He's lost the rockstar appeal and, well, that's what happen when you continuously let down loyal fans...for 20 years!

The only track worth a listen is "Better," probably sums up my whole perspective of the album. Axl, the next time you make your fans wait this long, don't belly out songs like "I.R.S." It's not like you. Plus, if you'd been awake, you'd know we're all really sick of hearing about it.

Listen for yourself at GNR Myspace Page

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nat King Cole Remembered

Nat King Cole's last album L-O-V-E released in December 1964 was only 2 months prior to his death from lung cancer the day after Valentine's Day in 1965. He surely was loved and will be remembered on an album titled Re:Generations. Artists including Cee-Lo, TV on the Radio, the Roots, Nas, Stephen and Damian Marley, Brazilian Girls, Cut Chemist, Just Blaze, and daughter Natalie Cole among others will recreate his hits:


1 Lush Life [ft. Cee-Lo]
2 Straighten Up and Fly Right [ft. and Natalie Cole]
3 Day In Day Out [ft. Cut Chemist]
4 Brazilian Love Song [ft. Michaelangelo L'Acqua and Bebel Gilberto]
5 The Game of Love [ft. Nas and Salaam Remi]
6 Walkin' My Baby Back Home [ft. The Roots]
7 Hit That Jive, Jack [ft. Souldiggaz and Izza Kizza]
8 Calypso Blues [ft. Stephen and Damian Marley]
9 More and More of Your Amour [ft. Bitter:Sweet]
10 El Choclo [ft. Brazilian Girls]
11 Pick-up [ft. Just Blaze]
12 Anytime Anyday Anywhere [ft. Amp Fiddler]
13 Nature Boy [ft. TV on the Radio]

The album's expected release date is March 10, 2009. Re:Generations is also a visual arts project, with multiple Los Angeles artists drawing inspiration from the singer for the album's artwork. Cole's eldest grandson Sage designed the album's cover image.