Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ten Greatest Pop Music Moments of 2009



10. The First Five Seconds of Susan Boyle's Big Coup

While I've recently made clear my overall opinion of the phenomenon that is Susan Boyle, how could anyone deny the power of that knockout punch moment the ugly duckling opened her mouth and proved everyone within sight and earshot an utter ass? The Grimm Brothers could have hired Shakespeare, Aesop, Hans Christian Anderson, J.K. Rowling, and ten thousand trained monkeys with typewriters and would never have dreamed up a more perfect fairy tale. Of course, five seconds into that dreadful Les Miz cliche - about the moment the entire population of England apparently relapsed into infancy and offered the most inflated (and decibel-intensive) mea culpa that five million plus albums later shows no sign of ebbing, is about where the fairy tale ended for this apparently more discerning Scrooge.




9. Beyoncé Croons the Obamas Into the White House

In easily the most touching performance of the then-27 year old superstar's landmark career, the not yet oversaturated Beyoncé outsang even Etta James (whom she had recently portrayed in the film Cadillac Records, with the singer's supposed blessing) at the Neighborhood Ball on the thrilling inauguration day of the first black American president when she provided a heartfelt, soulful rendition of "At Last" as the beautiful new First Couple shared a dance that mirrored the passionate romance Americans had at the time for the new Commander in Chief. Aside from Queen Latifah's tear-jerking performance of "I'll Be Seeing You" during the Look Who's Dead segment of this year's Oscars, it was probably the most moving musical moment of 2009, if not the decade. What a shame that Etta later painted her legacy an ugly color when she told an audience that the almost unanimously beloved young singer "gonna get her ass whupped....I can't stand Beyoncé." Heart wrapped up in clover, indeed.




8. The Lonely Island Gets On a Motherfucking Boat

After you've put your Dick in a Box and Jizzed in Your Pants, what better way to follow up by getting on a boat with T-Pain? That's what the gorgeous Andy Samberg and Lonely Island bandmate/fellow Saturday Night Live cast member Akiva Schaffer did in the February 7 episode of the revitalized weekend comedy haven, and goodness if they didn't make sure we knew about it. With hilariously hyperbolic profanity interlaced with the fantastically mundane ("I got my swim trunks, and my flippie-floppies!"), not only was the new Digital Short an unqualified success, it recently garnered the fictional trio (with Jorma Taccone, who was humorously passed up for the third fortuitous admission ticket for the dreadlocked Auto-Tune champion T-Pain) a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Oh shit, get your towels ready!




7. Lady Gaga's Tits Explode

On June 21 Lady Gaga was still months away from blowing our minds with her bad romances, which is one reason we were so unprepared for the fiery new lingirie she unleashed upon an astonished world at the MuchMusic Awards (the what? Yeah, exactly) during a performance of her then-biggest hits "Poker Face" and "Paparazzi." Sure, we've seen Janet Jackson's boobies, and seen Britney dance with a giant snake and swap spit with Madonna, but I'm pretty sure no one had previously experienced the sight of someone's breasts spewing out fire mid-song. Although I admit I missed Courtney Love's last tour, so I can't be sure.





6. Pink Demonstrably NOT Safe Up High

The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards will always be remembered for an entirely different jaw-dropping moment (more on that in a moment), but easily the most thrilling live performance of that far too intense evening came by way ofthe ever-fantastic rocker Pink, who performed her great single "Sober" while swinging from the ceiling of Radio City Music Hall. The legitimately hardcore acrobatics were as intense and riveting as the powerful ballad she gamely sang - live - as her aerialist partner (who was barely her size, even) held her by one ankle as the trapeze swung wildly.




5. Britney Spears Actually Sings Something

Many many months into her grueling and spellbinding comeback tour, famed lip-synch burlesque artist Britney Spears nearly caused pop culture bloggers to have simultaneous nationwide aneurysms when at the September 5 show in Greensboro, North Carolina (of all places) she deviated from her set list - without the aid of a prerecorded vocal track! - to unleash a howling cover of Alanis Morissette's timeless thrasher "You Oughta Know." Sure, she sounded pretty awful, and no one still can explain the song choice, but really, who gives a crap: Britney was SINGING. BRITNEY. Though the semi-spontaneous karaoke session was repeated in several subsequent North American stops, it's too bad Brit didn't bring the act on her Australian leg, where a mild to-do was made when apparently some high-paying "fans" in Perth walked out after expectations of live singing were of course unmet (apparently they forgot they were going to see Britney Spears).

After noticing my rapturous Facebook chatter following the initial incident, a friend of mine who was to see a Detroit date several days later, was kind enough to take some video of the Michigan version (scores of amateur videos of this phenomenon from audience members abound on YouTube) so the incredulous among you can witness the moment for yourselves.





4. Lady Gaga's Claws Heroically Rescue Flaming Piano

By the time the American Music Awards rolled around November 22 at the NOKIA Theater in Los Angeles, the world had had two weeks to recover from the tsunami of greatness that hit when the video for Bad Romance caused heads to explode worldwide earlier that month. So in a way, we were somewhat more at ease as the blonde performance artist/pop icon traipsed around the stage wrapped in an ACE bandage, hair like a banshee. But when "Bad Romance" segued into her upcoming power ballad "Speechless" and the Gaga began to smash the glass box that enslaved the black piano that subsequently caught fire as she pounded away and sang her explosive boobs off, we were reminded never to underestimate the baffling power of Lady Gaga.




3. M.I.A. Manages Not to Give Birth at Grammys (Barely)

Being as enamored of Catherine Zeta-Jones as I am, I adored seeing her looking stunning at nine months pregnant as she accepted her Oscar for Chicago in 2003. Sure, she looked fantastic, but all she had to do was waddle up and talk for half a minute; British-Indian pop empress M.I.A. made that feat look like a foot massage when she brought down the packed Staples Center with her Record of the Year-nominated behemoth "Paper Planes" with an infant practically halfway out of her uterus. Though "Paper Planes" failed to bring home the Grammy, as her nominated contribution to the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire also fell short of the Oscar, M.I.A. emerged that night a bonafide winner simply for not going into labor mid-performance (and easily takes the prize for most kickass awards show stint of the year). Instead, she popped out her first son two days later in the comfort of a hospital birthing ward.




2. Kanye West Momentarily Stops the Madness (But Starts a Lot More)

I alluded earlier to the real jaw-dropping event for which the 2009 VMAs will always be known, and of course by that I refer to the farcically mad moment Kanye West leapt onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall (drunk? high? truly that self-important?) and stripped the microphone from the hand of throw rug-clad country bumpkin Taylor Swift in the middle of her acceptance speech for Top Female Video and essentially announce that the wrong lady was standing on the stage holding a Moonman. The incident instantly caused a majority of the shocked audience members and the millions more viewing the fiasco on television to side with the dissed 19-year-old and vehemently react against West with more than just angry tweets: the ill-timed announcement days afterward of a planned partnership tour with the far more beloved Lady Gaga was hastily followed shortly thereafter by a major change in plans that amounted to Gaga touring solo while West was reduced to apologizing on the new (and much maligned) Jay Leno show before retreating from public appearances for a spell.

So why does this well-publicized tempest land at the penultimate spot on this list of great moments? Well, because while the man may be an egomaniacal ass (or "jackass," as the President famously called him following the incident), he was for the most part absolutely RIGHT. Swift had no more business winning that rather meaningless award than she does receiving the number of top Grammy nominations she did this month for her charming yet juvenile and simplistic schlockfest "You Belong With Me;" and that Swift's video bested Beyoncé's for Top Female Video only to lose to the latter in the "Video of the Year" race exceeds basic logic, never mind opinion. As Entertainment Weekly shrewdly pointed out in its analysis of the aftermath, West, who has always had his nose bent out of shape about awards, may well be right when he bemoans injustices such as the one that fateful night, but what he really ought to do is stop expecting peer-voted awards (or worse, niche group-voted a la the VMAs or the Golden Globes) to bear any resemblance to actual fact. That's the only reason I can still watch the Oscars.

But in any case, enough time has now passed that I feel completely comfortable applauding Kanye West for even momentarily managing what no one else has seemed to do this year: make Taylor Swift go away.




1. Lady Gaga Releases Video for "Bad Romance"

Sure, we loved "Just Dance," even if it took us the better part of a year to figure that out; we dug the dark beat and the "bluffin' with my muffin" of "Poker Face;" everyone wanted a ride on a disco stick, and soon there were many who were Lady Gaga's biggest fans, willing to follow her until she loved them like papa... paparazzi. In fact, when the release of the eagerly-awaited new single and video "Bad Romance" suffered a last-minute, one-day delay, fans nearly panicked.

A day later, though, no one could even remember how things had been; such was the impressively giant leap Gaga had managed from exciting if not quite groundbreaking new dance-pop maven to dominant, trend-setting and -smashing force who was no longer succeeding on existing terms but rather defining the terms herself. Such a feat is hardly unprecedented: Madonna, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, and perhaps Beyonce have all managed to go from trend product to trendsetter at some tangible point in their respective careers. But rarely has such a bold and yet almost universally praised artistic statement been at the same time so much damn FUN: everything from the giant dilated alien eyes to the fantastic choreography (fantastic in the "what the crap did she just do?" way) to the ultra couture designs by Alexander McQueen to the fact that the singer is, for the first time, both eminently watchable and yet also accessible.

In her previous videos (several of which were shot long before anyone knew who she was) Lady Gaga maintains a good deal of distance, but in "Bad Romance" the closeup shots of her lightly made-up face, eyes uncovered by the sunglasses she loves so much, for the first time she seems almost to look back at us as we inevitably look at her. By all evidence, it was a connection that solidified the old fans and won over plenty new ones as well, but regardless of one's personal taste for Lady Gaga, it would be hard to deny that the release of "Bad Romance" wasn't one of the big events of the relatively lackluster year in music. Fortunately, with Gaga it seems there is infinitely more still to come.




Auld Lang Syne - A Personal Note

As 2010 crashes onto the scene on the East coast and advances rapidly towards my noticeably mellow Left Coast surroundings, I juggled scores of potential year-end summary post topics and decided that, if nothing else, I wanted the final Vertigo Shtick post of "Oh. Nine" to be a celebration of some of the events and occurrences over the past year that, to me, demonstrate the greatest things about pop music. It's the kind of stuff that helped drive me to finally explore my heretofore unrealized dream of becoming some sort of player in an industry and an art form that has entranced and enthralled me my entire life, even though I accepted long ago that my path in life would likely not include sold-out arenas, sophisticated recording studios, glamorous album cover photoshoots, and getting my microphone taken away by Kanye West as I win my first Grammy so that he can point out for the record that it really should have gone to Beyonce. And I hope you enjoy(ed) it, too!

I have never looked forward to an upcoming year with as much hope, excitement, and sense of possibility (to quote the Streep) as I currently do towards 2010. I dearly hope that in the year to come I can manage, through my work on this blog and whatever may come to be from or of it, to amuse, inform, provoke, or, best of all, to entertain whomsoever happens to come across my work, whether it be a solitary devotee or a legion. And I hope you'll join me as I try.

Happy New Year, and best wishes for a happy, fortuitous and successful 2010.

David

You Wanna Rumble In My Jungle?

Back in 1997 I was totally smitten with what to me at the time was a faceless Swede behind my favorite song, "Do You Know (What It Takes)." It helped that she shared a name (and, more importantly, a spelling of said name) with my godsister and close friend Robyn, and perhaps that was the reason that despite never hearing anything from the artist again over the next twelve years, I still felt a fondness for her. Thankfully, a friend of mine with her Europop radar much stronger than my own, introduced me earlier this year to the bonafide masterpiece of a self-titled pop album Robyn put out in 2005 (in Sweden), 2007 (Europe and Australia), and 2008 (US, kind of). Robyn is an embarassment of pop riches, but for the final day of 2009 I think I want most to be rocking to this sweetly foul-mouthed joy.



"Konichiwa Bitches"
Robyn
Robyn
Konichiwa Records, 2007


Konichiwa Bitches/CobrastyleTrivia: The reason I hadn't heard anything from this fantastic artist for so long was that poor Robyn has gone through the messiest of quagmires with her former labels, before finally getting fed up, buying herself out of her contract, starting her own label, and sending Robyn out into the world in bits and pieces however she can. Multiple tracks from the album appear on Pitchfork's notoriously indie rock-centric Top Singles lists, including their Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s megalist, and Robyn receives almost unanimous praise from any US critic who manages to come across her recent work. But even if all that weren't true, I'd still adore this woman for the brilliant video that accompanies this surprisingly raunchy track...but it gets better. Once after one of my repeated viewings I felt inclined to express my approval via Twitter, jokingly asking where I might get a similar killer bee outfit. I almost died when I received a reply from Robyn herself: "it´s in my attic babes locked up saving it for a rainy day."




DEFINITELY get the fantastic self-titled pop opus by Robyn.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Song for the Day: Dannii Minogue "Put the Needle On It"

Everyone knows (or should know) the Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue, but at least stateside there is far less awareness about the other Minogue in the dance-pop biz with an even stranger first name. Dannii Minogue has enjoyed considerable success in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, but so far only one track from Kylie's little sis has made any headway into the US, and even then its play was limited mainly to the dance club circuit. This was fortunately happening just around the time I was an 18 year old freshly out gay boy in L.A. getting my elementary homo education via the 18+ dance club Tigerheat, and now I pass it on to you.



"Put the Needle On It"
Dannii Minogue
London Records, Warner Music UK, Ultra Records, 2002

Put the Needle on It 2Trivia: Minogue currently serves as a judge on The X Factor, the British reality singing competition show created by Simon Cowell, best known on this end of the Atlantic as the crotchety hardass judge on American Idol, on which The X Factor is based and which is itself based on another British reality singing competition show called Pop Idol, which ran for two seasons before giving way to its American cousin and later to the new British incarnation that brought us Leona Lewis. In her Assassin comedy tour and its live DVD recording, Margaret Cho lets off a zinger about how then-president George W. Bush "sent Jeb Bush to aid the [Hurricane] Katrina victims...which is like sending Dannii Minogue."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rhythm. You Have It Or You Don't? That's a Fallacy

I don't pretend to fully understand the concept of the Gorillaz. I know that it (they?) is (are?) a fictional, or as some call it, "virtual" band of animated musicians, and that at least three notable singles from said creation have made decent dents in the American pop music consciousness over the last decade. But beyond that it's a bit metaphysical for me. So much so that until very recently I was unaware that these digital dynamos were behind a 2001 song that creeped the snot out of me.



"Clint Eastwood"
Gorillaz
Parlophone, 2001


Clint EastwoodTrivia: Gorillaz are the creation of musician Damon Albarn (of the band Blur) and Jamie Hewlett, the co-creator of the Tank Girl comic book (which was also developed into a movie whose trailer creeped the snot out of me). The "band members" are named 2D (vocals and keyboard), Noodle (lead guitar), Murdoc (bass guitar), and Russel (drums). And before you write them off as imaginary, don't forget that these virtual creatures have won more Grammy awards than you have (2006 Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Feel Good Inc.," which was also nominated for Record of the Year). Take that as you will.


Get Gorillaz' 2005 sophomore album Demon Days, which features "Feel Good Inc." and "DARE."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Susan Boyle - "I Dreamed a Dream" (Album Review)

Cry Whom a River? 


Okay, I'll level with you: I've never been one you could reasonably count among the fans and admirers of Susan Boyle. That is not to say that I ever bore any ill will or particular distaste toward Ms. Boyle, as surely it would take a critic far more jaded and immune to the occasional poetry of the human experience than I to refuse or fail to appreciate, if not outwardly admire, the real life storybook tale that contains her. I shall also admit to one of my less ingratiating personality traits: that any reaction to a particular artist or work that, from the outside, resembles mass (positive) hysteria, particularly regarding an artist or work I have yet to sample for myself, has a cruel tendency to force my whims stubbornly in the opposite direction (at times simply in spite of myself). With that said, I feel I should impress upon the reader that I have, in this extraordinary circumstance, made every attempt to ensure that when and if I found a quiet spot in time in which to adjudicate the Scottish phenomenon that is Susan Boyle, I would do so with as close to neutrality as possible.

Playlist of the Week: Party Like It Was 1999!

Hello all, and here's hoping everyone had a Merry Christmakwanzukkah this weekend, and that at least some of you get to enjoy, as I do, a long-awaited (and hard-earned!) week (or more) off as we prepare to ring in the new year!

In that spirit, I hereby present you with the third installment of Vertigo Shtick's Playlist of the Week, which for those of you just joining us is the weekly themed playlist created by yours truly for your free enjoyment (thanks to the fabulous Lala.com, although I am still hunting around for alternative playlist host ideas, in case anyone has one to throw my way). In 1984, the year George Orwell envisioned a Big Brother that did not involve CBS (we think), Los Angeles hosted a rather half-assed Summer Olympics without any communists, and I happened to be born one June afternoon in a Southern California hospital, an artist who was then on the first of his many monikers sang invited us all to party as though we'd traveled fifteen years into the future.

But such is the genius of Prince that the song "1999," now dated not just in fact but also in terms of its futuristic vision, is still the perfect addition to any New Year's Eve party soundtrack in 2009. Therefore I thought it might be fun to take a note from the man in purple, and indeed party like we did back in 1999 as we bid goodbye (and good riddance) to 2009. Get ready, folks, it's time for some intense flashbacks!



1. "1999" Prince (1999, Warner Bros, 1984)
See above, silly.

2. "Larger Than Life" Backstreet Boys (Millenium, Jive, 1998)
The original boy band of the bubblegum pop era (New Kids don't count) always seemed so huge when their albums dropped...until the next *NSYNC album hit the stores. We rocked to their seductive fan-appreciation anthem whenever the Boys weren't showing us the meaning of being lonely.

3. "(You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop Remix)" Britney Spears (...Baby One More Time, Jive, 1999)
Okay, so the real biggie from the instant ruler of the teen pop age (you know, where she asked us to hit her, baby, one more time) was also a 1999 monster smash, but hey, that fantastic track already graced the first Playlist of the Week just two weeks ago. Instead, how about reminiscing about when Clarissa/Sabrina the Teenage Witch was mixing milkshakes with a pre-Entourage Adrian Grenier as Britney and company showed us how to dance with chairs...and how to STOP!

4. "Livin' La Vida Loca" Ricky Martin (Ricky Martin, C2 Records/Columbia, 1999)
Yes, we're that old. Lest we forget, this was also the year the ambiguously gay Latin hottie got us all shaking our bon-bons and shouting "Ale, ale, ale!" For a minute, and then he disappeared. Sad.

5. "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" Shania Twain (Come On Over, Mercury Nashville, 1999)
The best thing about being a woman (or a sexually confused boy) was this country-pop crossover smash that brought the word "prerogative" into the new generation of music years before Britney loused it up for her first greatest hits album. "Men, shirts, short skirts?" Oh-oh oh oh!

6. "American Woman" Lenny Kravitz (5, Virgin, 1999)
Back when Lenny Kravitz was hot and not attached to a decidedly non-American woman (he later hitched up with Aussie Nicole Kidman), he burned up the soundwaves with this great, Springsteen-lite summer rock anthem.

7. "What a Girl Wants" Christina Aguilera (Christina Aguilera, RCA Records, 1999)
The perennial pop runner-up also had another big hit in 1999 that has already graced Vertigo Shtick's playlists...and in hindsight, that one really blew. This was the first time we were introduced to a thoroughly talented, then-charming pop starlet who rode the wave of her second single all the way to a Grammy for Best New Artist, besting rival Spears in at least one contest.

8. "Every Morning" Sugar Ray (14:59, Rhino Atlantic, 1999)
In 1999, what many a girl wanted was the lead singer of this brief blip on the pop landscape; namely, Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray. Yum. This song and several others later on this list were probably the last songs to be played comfortably on both Star 98.7 (back when it was Ryan Seacrest: For the Ride Home rather than Ryan Seacrest: You Can't Escape Him) and KIIS-FM in Los Angeles.

9. "Believe" Cher (Believe, Warner Bros., 1998)
It was a good thing that Britney and Christina were training a new generation of gays in 1999, because at the same time a force arrived over the airwaves that caused millions of homosexual heads to explode. Yes, Cher, the ultimate diva, dropped a vocoder-styled (remember that thing before Auto-Tune?) gay anthem to end all gay anthems just in time for the new millenium, and "Believe" appropriately remains her biggest hit.

10. "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" Eiffel 65 (Europop, Universal Records, 1999)
The only other song that could probably have managed to get in a few spins at the clubs in Cher- and Britney-dominated 1999 was about...Smurfs? Well, not officially, but that was the general consensus regarding this pre-Daft Punk Euro-dance pop hit that made its way handily over the Atlantic to a both enthralled and slightly confused American audience.

11. "No Scrubs" TLC (Fanmail, Arista/LaFace Records, 1999)
The trio that had largely defined hip-hop/pop crossovers in the '90s delivered one heck of a last hurrah with Fanmail, TLC's multi-Grammy nominated 1999 hit followup to CrazySexyCool. The predecessor of the subsequent Destiny's Child smash "Independent Women Part I," "No Scrubs" was the most succinct (and successful) girl power kissoff up to its time, and led the way for a female takeover of the pop charts in the 2000s. It also makes me feel incredibly unworthy now that I'm temporarily between vehicles...oh yes, son, they're talkin' to me.

12. "Smooth" Santana feat. Rob Thomas (Supernatural, Arista, 1999)
While most great rock icons of the past few decades seemed content with releasing little-known albums that somehow managed to bring home the Record of the Year Grammy (Steely Dan, anyone?), Santana not only released his newest album Supernatural in June of 1999 (on my birthday, actually), but he took over all of the charts for the summer as well. The album's wide popularity was thanks in part to popular figures like Michelle Branch and Smashmouth's Rob Thomas, the latter of whom is featured here on a track ten times better than anything his own band ever put out.

13. "Waiting for Tonight" Jennifer Lopez (On the 6, Work, 1999)
Okay, this might be a tricky one: try to remember when Jennifer Lopez hadn't married Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Sean Combs or Marc Anthony, hadn't had twins, hadn't fallen on her ass at the AMAs, hadn't starred in the worst movie of all time, hadn't rocked the greatest Oscar dress since Bob Makke simultaneously vomited on and electrocuted Cher in 1986...hadn't even taken on the inescapable moniker J.Lo; back when we thought it was rather crazy for this B-list actress (yes, she used to be an ACTRESS!) to try making a pop album. Well, that was 1999, and for better or for worse, Jenny from the Block's first go at the music scene wasn't half bad, and only got better...for a few years.

14. "Wild Wild West" Will Smith (Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1999)
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air-turned enjoyable action/comedy film star/rapper of sorts proved that as enjoyable as the wild wild west may seem in a totally out-of-context listen ten years later to this rap fiasco, lightning wasn't going to strike again for Smith after his brilliant performances in both the film and song "Men in Black." This film was dreadful by any standards, although its theme song isn't a total loss. Whatever, Big Willie just shrugged it all off and moved on to his current career as multi-Oscar nominated "serious" actor.

15. "Candy" Mandy Moore (So Real, Epic/550 Music, 1999)
As some of my early anti-Britney friends emphatically pointed out, before Britney did it again ("yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah") there was another (then) blonde wannabe teen pop starlet in town whose "ooh oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" predated Spears' sophomore album and its accompanying smash lead single by at least a year. Mandy Moore was never a particularly successful music star (her first album did so poorly it was repackaged, reordered, re-cover art-ed, and re-released after months of stagnant sales), and eventually she dyed her hair brown (because that's what you do when you grow up, natch) and turned to the movies, where she has done marginally better. But she did leave us this great little 1999 ditty (and one of the two great covers of Rihanna's "Umbrella," - the other being Marie Digby - which you can and should find on YouTube).

16. "Praise You" Fatboy Slim (You've Come A Long Way Baby, Caroline Astralwerks -Cat, 2000)
You may know this one if you had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar in the late '90s, or for whatever other reason happened to be a consumer of Buffy and Cruel Intentions, the soundtracks to both of which featured this relaxed, upbeat number from an otherwise very much not Top 40 Mainstream artist.

17. "What's My Age Again?" blink-182 (Enema of the State, Geffen, 1999)
Back when I neither knew what an enema was nor how to properly pronounce the word (I have since been enlightened, thank you), this raucusly fun and accessible alt-punk-rock trio joined the Offspring, Sugar Ray, and others in the last hurrah of the boy bands where the boys played instruments and shouted rather than danced to canned beats and showed off their slickly gelled hairstyles and sticky-sweet falsetto. I always found blink-182 intriguing if not among my favorites as an act, and this was certainly one of their more fun productions.

18. "Steal My Sunshine" LEN (You Can't Stop the Bum Rush, Work Music, 1999)
Don't blink or you'll miss the one-hit wonder of 1999! This Canadian group popped down across the border to drop off this fantastic easy summer track, but someone stole their sunshine, and while their album title might have said otherwise, LEN apparently couldn't stop the bum rush once this song hit its peak on the US charts and they vanished, never to be heard from again (except on the soundtrack to Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but I'm not sure that's really something to highlight as an achievement). Too bad.

19. "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" The Offspring (Americana, Columbia, 1998)
Gringos everywhere were trying in vain to impress the Latina beauties with their mad skillz at counting in Spanish, but sadly, reciting "uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, cinco, seis" was definitely not fly, even for a white guy. Damned Offspring! Possibly the single most enjoyable three minutes and five seconds of music playing the airwaves in 1999 followed the misadventures of the poser, a joke made more brilliant by the fact that the only people who didn't get the joke were those at whom fun was being poked. Also notable for spawning perhaps the best Weird Al knockoff ever, "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi," surpassed only by the uncredited knockoff of THAT knockoff, "Pretty Fly (For a Jedi)" ("Give it to me Obi! uh huh! uh huh! Obi-Wan Kenobi! uh huh! uh huh!).*

Enjoy, and happy 2010! See you in ten years to make fun of all the stuff we think is hot in 2009...you think you feel old NOW?!






*[Note] The previously published version of this post incorrectly attributed "Pretty Fly (For a Jedi)" to Weird Al Yankovic. Yankovic's parody is "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi" (Running With Scissors, Volcano, 1999) The "Jedi" parody is not credited to a particular artist via common knowledge and moderate research. I apologize for the inaccuracy.

Now I'm Wishing That I Didn't Wear These Shoes

You may have seen the Black Eyed Peas around somewhere over the past year, I imagine...at least if you weren't comatose or hiding out with bin Laden in his apparently un-findable cave, seeing as they were EVERY. WHERE. But hopefully no one is too burnt out with the edgy rap-pop group to reminisce about the summer a few years back when the fabulous female and lead singer Pea, Fergie, stomped onto the charts with her solo debut, starting with this classic bit of lyrical genius. OH SHIT!



"London Bridge"
Fergie
A&M Records, 2006


London BridgeTrivia: Although The Dutchess is generally considered to have been only a moderate success at best, three of its singles hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, including "London Bridge." Though I personally hold Fergie in rather high esteem, I can't help but be amused at some of the more egregious goofs contained in this album and its offspring. To begin with, the album title is misspelled and no reasonable evidence it was intentional; indeed, on the track "Fergalicious," guest backup singer and fellow Pea Will.I.Am spells out how delicious and tasty Fergie is, except that he misspells the latter T-A-S-T-E-Y. The chorus to "Big Girls Don't Cry" has a grammatical error so glaring that I subconsciously correct it any time I sing along; and then there's the fantastic fact that the supposedly titular bridge that appears throughout the video for "London Bridge" is in fact the Tower Bridge, a common mistake among those who've never been to London, which Fergie clearly had. But what can you do?

Since you've likely memorized The Dutchess by now, why not check out that album the Black Eyed Peas have been hawking all year that you haven't bothered to listen to because you're so sick of "I Gotta Feeling?" (Trust me, I know how you feel.) Because surprise surprise, it's really good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Follow the Charts!

Those of you viewing Vertigo Shtick via its home page (still undergoing some startup fine tuning) may have noticed the handy lists in the left sidebar, which display a quick view of the current top ten spots on several Billboard charts I've selected as particularly relevant to our work and concerns here on this blog. These would be, namely, the following five:
  • The Billboard Hot 100
    • When a song is said to have hit "#1," the ranking in question generally comes from this chart, sort of the "Granddaddy of Them All" in the world of popular music singles charts. Rankings are calculated based primarily on radio airplay and sales (see below for more), although there are a number of other minor factors that occasionally come into play, such as streaming. 
  • The Billboard 200
    • This is the other main music industry chart, the Billboard 200 ranks the highest-selling music albums and EPs in the U.S. Based solely on sales (digital and retail), this is still the most accurate of the charts, even if today's singles-centric pop music scene does render it a bit less relevant in determining the present state of pop music. 
  • Billboard Radio Songs (aka The Hot 100 Airplay)
    • One of the two component charts that largely make up the Hot 100, this chart ranks singles of all genres by radio airplay audience impressions, a vague term for a calculation of the number of times a song is played relative to the audience size of the station playing it (measured by Nielsen BDS, similar to the way television ratings are compiled).
  • Billboard Digital Songs (aka Hot Digital Songs)
    • The other of the two component charts that largely make up the Hot 100, this chart ranks the top downloaded songs from all genres (that is, legally purchased and downloaded from iTunes, Amazon, etc.) from sales data compiled by Nielsen SoundScan.
  • Billboard Pop Songs
    • This chart means little, but rather serves as a fancy way of detailing the Radio Songs down from "all genres" to just what Billboard calls "mainstream Top 40 radio airplay," in other words a calculation based on 132 "Top 40 Mainstream" radio stations and their listener data (audience size). Basically it tells you what KIIS-FM, Z100 and other major Clear Channel-owned Top 40 stations are playing. I keep this up mainly to help defend my negative opinion of Clear Channel, when such defense becomes convenient.

    Song for the Day: Corinne Bailey Rae - "I'd Like To"

    Before the Grammy Awards were drooling with typical Brit fetishism over Amy Winehouse and Adele, the charming singer/songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae found herself in the running for top prizes two years in a row for tracks from her self-titled debut album. "Put Your Records On" and "Like a Star," the two tracks that brought Rae her Grammy noms (but sadly no wins) in 2007 and 2008, respectively, are certainly lovely, but it's this track she contributed to the soundtrack of He's Just Not That Into You that I find I enjoy the most.


    "I'd Like To"
    Corinne Bailey Rae
    EMI Records, 2007


    I'd Like To, Pt. 2Trivia: Although she garnered a sizeable fan base after the success of her debut album, Rae went on a nearly two-year hiatus from performing or recording in 2008 after her husband, musician Jason Rae, was found dead from a drug overdose. After some uncertainty as to whether she would return to music at all, Rae's sophomore album, The Sea, is set to be released in February 2010.

    Saturday, December 26, 2009

    What's Love Gotta Do With a Little Ménage?

    For the second day of Christmas, I had something else for you, but those damn doves flew away and escaped. Instead, here's another little throwback courtesy of two names I bet you haven't heard in a while: Fat Joe and Ashanti.



    "What's Luv?"
    Fat Joe feat. Ashanti
    Atlantic Records/Murder Inc., 2002


    What's LuvTrivia: "What's Luv" has the somewhat dubious honor of belonging to the "#2 Club," having spent five consecutive weeks in the second spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2002 but never quite making it all the way to the peak. That may have only been a bummer for one of the two collaborators, however: the pesky single whose two-month reign atop the chart prevented "What's Luv" from claiming the crown was "Foolish," the smash hit of 2002 by none other than Ashanti.

    Friday, December 25, 2009

    The Only Place You'll Wanna Be (Is Underneath Her Christmas Tree)

    Now, don't look too much into the fact that the first of what I assure you will be many times the incomparable Lady Gaga shows up on this blog: just look at the date. Of the scores of opportunistic holiday-themed products created over the years by typically new to new-ish pop stars or wannabes, most of which I wouldn't wish on prisoners at Guantanamo, I challenge you to find one that's more joyous and true to the spirit of the season than this.



    "Christmas Tree"
    Lady Gaga feat. Space Cowboy
    Streamline, Kon Live, Interscope, Cherrytree Records, 2008 (Digital Download)


    Trivia: Although it garnered significantly more attention this holiday season, this satirical pop Christmas carol was released as a digital download during the winter of 2008, when,Christmas Tree if you can imagine, Gaga's debut single "Just Dance," which had been out since that April and had been inching its way largely unnoticed up the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, "Just Dance" didn't hit the top spot on the chart until January 10 of this year. Gaga's subsequent four top ten singles (including a second #1 with "Poker Face" and a current #3 for "Bad Romance"), six Grammy noms, fascinatingly bizarre televised performances, two headlining tours and intense critical adoration make it easy to forget how little the industry cared about her a year ago.


    Get Lady Gaga's amazing debut album as rereleased as The Fame Monster, featuring eight new and incredible tracks.

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