Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, June 30, 2006

A trend that has lasted 30 years

Eugene Kane of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote an interesting column about the lack (again) of hip-hop acts at Summerfest this year. But even more interesting is this blog post about reader reaction to the column.

Some agreed with me there isn't a great range of diversity in this year's line-up, but many others said it was smart to avoid hip-hop music because of the threat of violence.

It made me realize, many of you simply don't understand what hip-hop music is.
It's not a "fad" or "trend". Hip-hop music has been around for THIRTY YEARS now!!

It's the music used on popular movie soundtracks, MacDonald's commercials and as bumper music for sports talk shows.

Many hip-hop icons like P-Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West and others are the biggest stars in music today.

All the time I talk to people who treat hip-hop/rap music like it's some passing fancy that will (hopefully) fade at any moment, or music that only African-Americans listen to. I don't get it. How can people be this clueless? I bet at least as many white people buy Jay-Z and Kanye West records as black people. And it's not all teenagers. I'm 28, and rap music has been on the radio and MTV almost my entire life. I remember going to the roller rink in third grade and hearing the Beastie Boys, Fat Boys and Run-DMC. It doesn't get any more mainstream than that, and that was 20 years ago!

Did people treat rock 'n' roll the same way when it was 30 years old? That would have been about 1985. I was only 8 at the time, so I could be wrong about this, but I don't think so. Ronald Reagan, not exactly the most socially progressive guy around, was yapping (cluelessly, but still yapping) about Bruce Springsteen, the biggest rock star in the world at the time, in his campaign speeches the year before.

I can't imagine George W. Bush doing a shout-out to Jigga on the campaign trail. "Loved 'The Black Album,' Hov!"

The difference between rock and rap at 30 is that rap still is made mainly by black Americans while the roots of rock had been completely whitewashed by the mid-1980s.
Not coincidentally, while rap has been assimiliated into pop culture (or, more accurately, taken it over),it still scares the hell out of a lot of white Americans who long for the dulcet tones of the Eagles and REO Speedwagon.

Wake up, people! Hip-hop/rap IS pop music now. Rock music (which I love, but still) is jazz.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Check out Sam Roberts

There are two kinds of obscure musicians. The first kind is obscure on purpose. He basically does whatever is neccesary to not sell records, whether it’s recording albums full of feedback and monkey noises or getting drunk on stage and berating the audience for applauding too much. Most people hate him, but a select few passionately don’t hate him and fool people into buying his albums by writing hyperbolic reviews in hip music magazines.

The second kind of obscure musician is like Sam Roberts, a pop-rocker whose second album “Chemical City” is one of my favorite CDs of the year. Roberts is obscure for no reason whatsoever. He writes easy-to-understand rock songs, sings like Paul McCartney and comes across like a decent guy in interviews. Oh, and his music is really, really good, too.

Initially I was tempted to dock Roberts a few points because he makes rather basic T-shirt-and-jeans classic rock, and it seemed a little too easy. But that straight-forwardness is precisely Roberts’ appeal. “Chemical City” is the equivilant of a really well-made action movie. Roberts takes a formula that’s been done death and makes it entertaining one more time. (The title even sounds a little like an action movie.)

With its sharp hooks and production slicker than Pat Riley, “Chemical City” clearly was made with the radio in mind. In other words, there’s nothing here the average matchbox twenty or Nickelback fan can’t understand and like after hearing a few times. Unfortunately, Roberts probably couldn’t pack the men’s room at the local bus station, much less the friendly neighborhood rock club, in most cities. While Roberts is largely unknown in this country, the Montreal native has been a star in his native Canada since his fine debut “We Were Born in a Flame” was released in 2004.

Quick sidenote: Canada has produced some of the decade’s best rock bands, most notably the New Pornographers and Arcade Fire. There also are old-schoolers like Sloan, who failed to make a name in the U.S. despite making a series of wonderful power-pop albums in the late ’90s and early ’00s. (If you can find 1996’s “One Chord to Another” or 1998’s “Navy Blues” and you like white dude guitar rock, buy them immediately.)

Don’t let Sam Roberts be the next Canadian rocker us Americans don’t get. If we embraced Bryan Adams, we can embrace this guy.

Shameless self-promotion

In Today's Under 30, I write about people trying to bring about the end of the world. Only in a funny way. I think.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Will someone get this walking carpet out of my way?"

Slate has a fun feature asking writers and directors what movie they have seen the most times. This isn't necessarily your favorite movie, just the most endlessly watchable. (Who knew Spike Lee was a "West Side Story" fan?)

For me, I have seen "Star Wars" the most. No other movie comes close. When I was kid I saw it at least 20 times. It's not my favorite movie anymore, but I watched it again for the first time recently when I finally caved and bought a used copy of the DVD, and it still holds up for the most part. (I don't buy the argument that people of my generation hate the new ones because we grew up with the old ones. Yes, the old ones are cheesy, but Han Solo redeemed them.) Plus, I still most of the dialogue.

What movie have you seen the most times?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Axl Rose still drunk, batcrap insane

You have got to hand it to Axl Rose. The man is still crazy after all these years. Perhaps blowing off some steam after working on "Chinese Democracy" since the Woodrow Wilson administration, Rose was arrested last night Stockholm for allegedly biting a security guard in the leg outside a hotel.

Rose — who performed in the Swedish capital on Monday evening — was being held on suspicion of attacking and threatening the guard, as well as causing damage to the Berns Hotel where the alleged scuffle took place, police spokeswoman Towe Hagg said.

Hagg told The Associated Press that Rose was intoxicated during the confrontation, which broke out around 8 a.m., and would face questioning after he sobers up.

"He was deemed too intoxicated to be questioned right away," she said.

A prosecutor will then decide whether to press charges against him, Hagg also said.

It was unclear what caused the fight, but Swedish tabloids said the guard tried to intervene when Rose started arguing with a woman in the hotel lobby.

Will somebody please get this guy a reality show, stat?!

Act now! Still one slur that's somewhat acceptable!

If you follow sports or media news, you probably have heard a lot about the "Ozzie Guillen calling Jay Mariotti a 'fag'" story. This thing has been going on for a week now but not for the reason you would expect. Basically, a guy everybody loves called another guy everybody hates a word everybody is supposed to hate, but maybe not really.

In all the stories about the Guillen/Mariotti flap, writers pay lip service to how "fag" is a "horrible," "reprehensible," "bigoted" and all sorts of other stuff word. But nobody is really all that worked about it. The debate now is centered on whether a columnist can criticize people without ever facing them and still be considered a man. (You know, not a "fag.")

It's obvious the situation would be much different if the n-word (rhymes with ligger) or the b-word (rhymes iwth itch) had been directed at an African-American or a woman. Not only is nobody seriously calling for Ozzie's head (though strangely and awesomely enough, White Sox GM Ken Williams has come close), but the media has accepted his terms for framing the debate.

So, if you don't like gay people, be sure to get all your anti-gay slurs out while you can. Apparently there's still time to do it and not get punished.