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Musings

There is something ill-fitting, discomforting about the manner in which the legendary Gil Scott-Heron’s passing has been treated by print media, particularly in Britain.

Scott-Heron was largely ignored in his lifetime by traditional media and by the mainstream in general. He had hits, undoubtedly, and his classic screed ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ has entered the pop culture lexicon almost without acknowledgement. However, until a recent revival on Richard Russell’s XL Recordings and a remix album chaired by Jamie of the xx, his cultural cache was cult – a musician whose influence far overreached his renown. Five years ago, his death would have been notable, but not this notable.

Much of it has to do with the success of his return to music – he hadn’t released a thing between 1994’s  Spirits and 2010’s sardonically-titled I’m New Here – and some is due to print journalism sourcing more and more of its content from social media. But that doesn’t quite account for everything – some of the coverage given to Scott-Heron’s death has gone beyond hagiography, effectively crediting the man with creating the entire culture of hip hop (but only the nice, positive parts, of course).

It took me a while to figure it out, but then it all made sense: Barack Obama. While the President’s standing in the world has diminished somewhat since taking office, he remains an object of utter fascination for most Europeans, particularly in the English-speaking countries. Obama swept into the UK last week, leaving…

Following on from his cover of Willow Smith’s ‘Whip My Hair’ last year, late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon has once more grabbed his hat, guitar and harmonica to portray Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young.

Choosing to cover a song from a much more mature artist this time around, Fallon turns his attention to Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus. And what better way to ‘Party in the U.S.A’ than with a couple of Rock’N’Roll hall of famers in David Crosby and Graham Nash.

“Nodding my head like yeah, moving my hips like yeah”.

No press please.

One of the celeb-spotting highlights of my time at Coachella 2011 was seeing pop starlet Katy Perry, or should I say Katy Perry surrounded by a fat entourage of men allowing only the slightest glimpse of her pixie-sized body, walking across the field towards the VIP area. I found it mildly fascinating that, in a festival where numerous stars could be seen hobnobbing and generally enjoying themselves, Perry found it necessary to travel in a way that would paradoxically maximize not only her protection but also her visibility. There’s few things better suited to announcing to the world that HEY! PLATINUM POP STAR PASSING THROUGH! than traveling in a caravan.

Luckily, one of those few things is tour riders, one of the best ways to determine whether a pop star’s desire for control is beginning to spiral a bit out of reach. The Smoking Gun recently got a hold of Perry’s 2011 rider, and it delivers. We’ve all heard the “only brown M&Ms” horror stories common in the industry, but Perry, who prefers organic snacks, takes things to a diva-tastic level. Demands run the gamut from precisely delineated types of chairs (cream-colored armchairs, God help you if they’re in eggshell white) to a somewhat disturbing repulsion towards carnations (underlined AND capitalized, indicating potential harm to Katy if she is indeed exposed to such flowery trifles) to a comprehensive list of things her driver is NOT allowed to do, including…

Channing Freeman’s existential review of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way has received much attention on the Twitter Machine and elsewhere, however we’ve never before received criticism so thoughtful and so immaculately-presented as what follows. Mr./Mrs. Freeman will be licking his/her wounds after this one.

And, yes, those are pictures of the inimitable Gagster.

Victory Records, I am disappoint…

23.24: p.s. if at any point I came across as a less gay or less Irish alternative to Graham Norton, that wasn’t my intention. I apologise.

23.22: Has all this been worth it? Has it fuck. Next year I’m going and getting stoned. Goodnight!

23.21: And Azerbaijan win by a mile. Decent song to be honest.

23.14: As suspected, 12 from Ireland to the singers who looked the most like Jedward.

23.13: 6 for the UK from Ireland. Take that!

23.12: Oh fuck off Mooney.

23.08: Despite a spirited bolt from Italy, Azerbaijan are walking it.

23.03: Fucked over by the French again. The hand of Henry was at work in this.

22.59: Fuck this.

22.56: No points exchanged between Turkey and Greece. Grudge.

22.50: Got my lipstick on, here I come, da da da…

22.47: Sweden!

22.46: Haha they gave 12 to Lithuania. It’s a badly-kept secret that Polish people listen to shit music, usually out of their cars.

22.45: Only one from Poland. We give you jobs and this is the thanks we get? OVER.

22.44: Yes Denmark, YES!

22.43: I’ve always loved the UK.

22.42: Seriously UK… if you don’t give Jedward 12 we are OVER.

22.41: Sweden? Really?

22.37: Seems the eastern European states aren’t huge Jedward fans. We should never have let them join.

22.25: Why is Stefan Raab… I mean just why is he even?

22.24: I think the lines are still open. I don’t know. You might still have time to vote…

Those who knew of Lady GaGa before she got big with The Fame were certainly witness to a musician and songwriter with much potential. Sure her debut single Just Dance may have benefitted from the guest appearance of Akon, but by the time the single Poker Face was released, there were no doubts that Lady GaGa was going to become one of the biggest names in the pop world. One hit wonder she definitely is not.

The Fame Monster was a rather fitting sequel. Not surprising given that it was originally planned as additional content on a re-release of The Fame. Yet despite two very solid releases, the barometer is signalling some rough weather ahead with the release of the forthcoming album Born This Way.

So the big question to ask is why the worry? Yes the face and body attachments she has been wearing lately are weird, but GaGa has never really been one to build her fame on looking attractive, and this isn’t exactly the first video we have seen in which her appearance has been rather bizarre.  Yes you would actually have to be one of her most loyal monsters to actually like the music video for Born This Way. Perhaps from a creative standpoint it is great that she has abandoned the generic approach of many other pop music videos. But from a commercial standpoint, it is hard to imagine it attracting more fans than it scares away. Even using a…

“It’s not like I ran for President and I said something really bad…”

Note: At some point in the last month or so, we may have given the impression that Rebecca Black hasn’t deserved all of the abuse and death threats that have been levelled at her. In light of this interview, we can see that some of the criticism was coming from the right place.

Note 2: She’s only 13. Give her a break. But fuck those are some dumb ass answers.

It’s been about a month since Rebecca Black’s wonderfully inane ode to the JFK assassination, Friday, hit Youtube and became immediately immortalized as one of the greatest memes of all time. Naturally, it’s spawned countless parodies, some genuinely funny, others interesting novelties. But on this Friday, I wanted to share with you the best of them all: the Hell Version. This incredibly well edited cut of Black’s video, which is kind of like if Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy” was directed by Marilyn Manson on the worst day of his life, is genuinely terrifying. Bet you never thought you’d hear Aphex Twin, Marilyn Manson, and Rebecca Black mentioned in the same sentence, did you? Check out the video below:

Scary, no?

“I think Kid A is a bit weird…”

Running the business end of a website online, you tend to be confronted with the odd dubious proposition, always conducted by email. We’re all familiar with the most venerable exiled Princes of Nigeria, but fewer will be familiar with the Twitter follower scam.

The Twitter follower scam is probably best explained here (in fact, keep a tab of this page open because it crops up later), but in essence it’s a “service” offered by certain professional internet people, whereby they will access your Twitter account and, over the course of a week, begin to follow a large number of automated accounts that will follow you back, thus boosting your headline “follow” figure – until, that is, they all begin to unfollow you within a few days.

Anybody with a Twitter account will be aware of just how ubiquitous these bots are… now imagine you’re following them.

Usually I ignore these offers, as well as the numerous pittance-paying ad companies that contact us daily, but today was particularly humid and I had nothing better to do. I got an email from Glyn Berrington of UK mail order company Sturnam Clothing, offering me the opportunity to gain 500 new Twitter followers in just one week for the low, low price of $40, or £25. I just couldn’t resist.

(Apologies for the low text visibility – think of it as an artistic commentary on the shoddiness of the scheme.)

Intrigued by the possibility of connecting so many lines of generic…

I struggled for awhile with the second part to this little discourse. The struggle was that, to be in full disclosure, I had no idea really where I was going with the argument. I simply knew that my first part was not enough and as a failsafe I put that “Part 1” at the end of the title. I had a rough idea at what I was trying to get at, but in terms of putting something together—well I was at a loss. So I’ve decided to structure this second part in a very Hegelian manner. Hegel’s method of discourse, for those of you who do not know it, is essentially to have a thesis, then an antithesis, and finally a synthesis. For, the first part of this blog post laid out my essential problem: where have all the big ideas gone? My suggestion, if it may not have been clear, was that the increasingly factional categorization—I believe nitpicking was the word I used—of genre labels by communities of music lovers such as ourselves here at Sputnik, is symptomatic of the endangerment of these big ideas. A ‘big idea’, as I see it, is an attempt to illustrate something specific in a way that transcends experience and connects to the mind of the audience. This is not to say platitudes or other generalizations, in fact that’s the opposite of what I mean. No, a big idea is one that makes you think beyond the way you normally do.

I believe…

Meet Alexandra Wallace. Anybody who’s attended a reasonably high-profile university (or maybe even a crappy one) knows Alexandra’s type: pretty, rich and pig ignorant of the world beyond her gated lifestyle.

Earlier this month, the UCLA student and part-time swimsuit model posted a video on Youtube complaining about Asians at college. About how they have their families come over at the weekend to cook their meals for the week (not everyone can afford to eat out all the time) and disturb all her epiphanies at the library with their “ching chong ling long” phone conversations.

Oh and, seriously, you should go outside if you’re scared your relatives might have died in the tsunami because, honestly, some of us are trying to have an epiphany here.

Alexandra’s probably not a racist. As outlined above, she’s of a fairly common variety of over-privileged, entitled moron that congregates at almost every institution of higher learning because money > intelligence. Unfortunately for her, her stupidity earned her death threats from the usual throngs of anti-social idiots on the internet and she’s had to leave the school. Nobody should celebrate that.

What we should celebrate, however, is this rather delightful bitch-slap delivered courtesy of LA musician Jimmy Wong. The set-up is perfect, and the music is an oddly satisfying mix of Lonely Island-style perv-R&B parody and, er, Jason Mraz. The chorus is infectious and, barring some vocal blips, it’s really nicely recorded. Boyce Avenue got a record deal for a…

In the hours following my blog post on Black Robot vs. Bl_ck R_b_ts, I received an email from the former’s PR person, Jenn. She’s given me permission to publish our correspondence verbatim.

Hi Dave,

As someone who works for the band in the US, I just wanted to clarify a few things that your story missed:

First, the Irish band came to our attention after someone posted about them on Black Robot’s Facebook page.  They appeared to be getting ready to release a new CD and it’s pretty impossible for two bands to share a name (as you can imagine).  We initially tried to deal with the Irish band privately.  From the start,  they were mocking the US band and making a joke of it.  They also published all private messages.  We realized we would get no cooperation and had no other choice but to let FB and Myspace review and handle it.  This was a decision of management, first and foremost.

Second, you refer to “cyber bullying” in your article, when in fact, it was NOT on our part.  We have had to ban no less than 25 people including band members (all from Waterford or nearby) for coming to Black Robot’s page and posting negative comments including insults to their music, age, appearance, etc.  No band member, friend or fan of Black Robot (US band) went to the Irish band’s pages and retaliated that we were ever aware of,

I miss big ideas. I lament their loss, in fact. I miss the sweeping gestures once made that attempted to understand oneself, a body of people, humanity as a whole, the very world entire. I was not around for these grand ideas (or, at least not in the intellectual capacity I possess now), yet I feel moved to write in elegiac prose as if I mourn the loss of something very dear. Before falling into a vast pit of hyperbole, I will make clear exactly what I mean by a ‘big idea’ through examples. Hegel’s dialectic is a big idea; Marx’s proletariat is a big idea; Freud’s archive is a big idea; Spivak’s postcolonial readings of Victorian texts are a big idea; these are attempts to explain the metanarrative of the human condition, the human struggle, the way in which the human acts and thinks and why. I do not necessarily lament the passing of the ideas themselves—any good close reading of these ideas reveals there many contradictions and faults—but rather I miss the attempt implied by these ideas. It seems to me that in our great postmodern idiom we have narrowed ourselves into a tautological spiral of refining and redefining and infinitely categorizing these ideas into sub-ideas and sub-sub-ideas. It is a phenomenon that is plaguing the music community as well, and this is what I lament the most.

I am not, nor am I attempting to, bringing anything new to the discussion at this point. Anyone who…

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