Archive for the 'Music' Category


Nothing addictive about MDNA

MDNA might stand for "most definitely not awesome."

Since my first listen on Monday, I have been dying to kvetch about Madonna’s new album MDNA. I’ve been listening all week, and I am having a hard time with it.

Don’t let the title or the parental warning label fool you. There is nothing subversive or edgy about this album.

The allusion to party drug MDMA made me hope this would at least be a solid dance album, a Confessions on the Dance Floor mark II.


I think of two things now when I listen to her new stuff:
1.) What would it be like recording this song? Would it be embarrassing to be in the studio? Before all the production, is the song just empty and meaningless and dumb?

2.) What would Kylie do? How would Kylie Minogue have done this song? Would she have done it?

For most of this album, Madonna fails or comes close to failing.

Continue reading ‘Nothing addictive about MDNA’


tweedle-dee, tweedle-douche

It has been a long day. I need a little sit-down where everybody knows your name. Funny enough, I know none of the names of the half-dozen or so fellas scattered around the bar, and I suspect none of them knows mine. So I figure I’ll make it a quick one and head home.

I’m sitting there with a lager, and a guy down the bar gets into an impassioned discussion with his companion about ’90s music. It’s ’90s music, I think. Why bother?

His friend pushes out from the bar to throw some money in the jukebox.

He calls out to the bartender to get his attention. “Hey, Vince. I have two problems,” he says, loud enough for everyone to hear. “We need a couple more drinks. And … all I have are large bills.”

He ceremoniously hands over a 50, slowly. I can see Grant’s stern, almost reproachful, gaze from six seats away. I think he must want me to see it.

Oh, Jesus, I think. What a problem. Oh, you poor thing and your burdensome cash flow. Please, honey. A 50 is not so huge.

Continue reading ‘tweedle-dee, tweedle-douche’


Madonna’s ‘Celebration’ (of abs)

Madonna released her newest video, for the title single from her forthcoming retrospective album Celebration, today for free on iTunes.

The song itself is kind of a yawn, even in this remixed form, but the video features several shirtless dancers whose perky nipples and ripped abs make it all so very worthwhile.

Par exemple:

Madonna - Celebration - 1

Madonna - Celebration - 2

Madonna - Celebration - 3

They must be so cold in the winter!


You Better Work

Start with a strong-woman ensemble piece like the 1980 film 9 to 5. Add music written by gay-fave country diva Dolly Parton. Throw in an orchestra, some sequins and a bit of razzle-dazzle, and you should have a recipe for a little slice of gay heaven.

9 to 5: The Musical,” which opened at New York’s Marriott Marquis Theater last night, comes pretty close.



If “Space Invaders” Was Real

Who knows what this is supposed to mean. But it sure is fun!


Water Pressure

“I’ll tell you something for nothing,” the bartender said. “You want to buy water.”

“Water,” I said.

“It’s the cheapest thing we sell. And you don’t have to finish it here. You can take it with you.”

I considered what he was saying, fingering the label on my $6 beer. “Water counts?”

“Sure. I tell you what. Towards the end of this competition, people are buying whole cases of water and taking them home with them.”

A friend of mine is competing in an American Idol-style singing competition at the venerable old, historic Stonewall Inn. It’s a little silly. A little shabby. The sound goes out at intervals. The lighting is bad. But it’s precisely that silliness, that shabbiness, that gives those West Village gay bars their charm.

Each week, someone gets eliminated based on the previous week’s voting. It’s all very democratic. Everyone in the audience can vote. And you get a ballot for every drink you buy. Every drink. So the trick, it would seem, is to round up all the drunks you can find. Finally they’ll do you some good!

The competition is real, and the contestants are talented. By and by, they reveal their strengths and their personalities. There’s a different theme every week, so everyone’s bound to expose some weaknesses, too. Over time, the competitors become friends. The same folks who come every week in support become familiar. It’s a little Wednesday night community.

So the water trick seems a little cynical to me. (Almost worse than exploiting your friends’ alcoholism!) Whole cases of water, really? Can’t we trust ourselves to suss out the winner based on talent? And do we have so little faith in our friends that we’d rather stack the deck to be safe?

These things can’t always be based on merit, can they? Sometimes a real stinker gets the votes. Sometimes the person who gets cut wasn’t the worst one. Sometimes the judges say useful, thoughtful things; and sometimes they’re more interested in getting a laugh. In the end, no matter who gets cut, it’s a love fest every time.

The closer we get to the end, I feel the heightened sense of danger that the person who ultimately wins may not actually “deserve” it. Boo-hoo. I guess in that way the competition is a very good representation of reality indeed.


Half-Pint Lives! Little House on the Prairie — The Musical!

Here’s something I wrote for someone else.


Lessons in Mortality, with Pizza

    A little airy-fairy.
A little airy-fairy.

This cute musical duo called MGMT has a new video for “Electric Feel,” the second single off their debut album, that I am obsessed with a little bit.

I’m always a sucker for thin, cute, scruffy boys. And these guys seem to perpetually have their shirts off. They’re a little airy-fairy for my taste. They’re, like, all mystic pagan and stuff. Which I’m sure is, like, really cool and stuff. But I’m willing to go along with them, up to a point.


They dance in the woods with their cute human and animal friends. They pull the moon down and cut it open like a boiled egg and spread moon juice on each other. Then they put the moon back in the sky. What could be more adorable — and responsible — right?

The creepiest part of the video is about a minute and a half into the clip, when we get a glimpse of something that brings me back to an uncomfortable childhood memory. We see a hillbilly bear strumming a rough-hewn banjo, a space dog on drums, a disco gorilla on keyboards, and who knows what else, acting as their band. They are the animatronic characters from Showbiz Pizza Place (called the Rock-afire Explosion, I have recently learned), and they terrified me as a little kid.

Rock-afire Explosion
Yikes! Who can keep down their dinner with this staring out at them?

Showbiz Pizza and Chuck E. Cheese’s and establishments of that ilk were fun for two reasons: mass quantities of pizza, and video games.

But they’d also stage these little rock shows where the robotic house band would perform some reworked pop songs and tell jokes and banter with each other. I sort of looked forward to it, they way you look forward to the money shot in a slasher movie. But, like those movies, when the money shot came, I found I could not look any more.

Whenever a character spoke, a spotlight would shine on it, revealing an eerily glowing plastic and fur behemoth with a curve to the mouth and a roundness of the eye that was meant to suggest friendliness but always came off as much more sinister. Their eyes and mouths snapped open and shut. Their movements appeared jerky and repetitive. Stand close enough and you could hear the mechanical skeletons clicking and clacking. The mouse cheerleader was the worst! And when the whole mess of them was moving at the same time, it felt like at any moment they might leap off the stage and carry me off to their evil robot lair where they would tear me to pieces and use me for spare parts.

They’re all over YouTube now in videos where they have been programmed with songs hilariously inappropriate for their pre-pubescent audience. It is brilliant, and it underscores their unavoidable creepiness.

See what I mean? “Electric Feel” by MGMT



Shh! I Can’t See!

One of the finest examples of those things that make remember why you love New York City is the New York Philharmonic’s free Concerts in the Park series. (Other cool free stuff in parks includes Shakespeare in the Park, Broadway Under the Stars, Bryant Park Summer Film Festival and the River to River Festival.)

One could go for the performance alone. It is one of the world’s finest concert orchestras. But plunked down at one end of Central Park’s Great Lawn, and playing to a crowd in excess of 60,000 and relying on a speaker system distributed throughout 13 acres, the full range and power of the orchestra is lost. The music on Tuesday night was fine, a simple roster of crowd-pleasers, a little “1812 Overture,” a couple of standard-issue Sousa marches — nothing too challenging.

But what makes the event is the gathering of friends, the wine and cheese and chips and wine and baguettes and wine, the crossover of strangers from picnic blanket to picnic blanket. It’s a rare moment when we all stop fussing with our super-important lives, take a breather to appreciate some of the beauty we literally pass by every day, and come together like a real community. It’s when New York is New York. Thousands of us all there for one thing: each other. And, by extension, the other guy. And, by extension, the other guy…

I brought five bottles of wine with me, a nice mix of reds and chilled whites, including a nice soave my friend Jamie seemed particularly delighted by. So much picnicking! So much conversation! So many people wandering around on cell phones trying to find their friends!

Seriously — “What did we do before cell phones?” We arrived on time.

A star-filled night (as star-filled as you get in the City) overtook the dusk, and soon we were surrounded by citronella candles and miniature flashlights and glowing cell phones and those infernal multi-colored phosphorescent plastic whips parents are powerless against purchasing for their kids. The Philharmonic stopped, and the fireworks began.

Fireworks never fail to delight me. They are so pointless and wasteful … but they are so brilliant! It’s like, we’re so happy to be alive and to be there that all we can think to do is light stuff on fire and hurl it up into the sky and watch tiny bits of metal burn and fall back to the earth.

The funniest part about the fireworks was the silence in the crowd. All through the performance, there was a low roar of chatter. People were talking about the workday, their vacation, their friends and family, the performance. Laughing. Shouting, “I’m right here waving my arms. See? No. Next to the tree on the other side of the speaker. No, the one with the pink and blue balloons — yeah — see me n— Yeah. Yeah. I’m right here. See me?” into their bloody cell phones. We even saw some guy propose to his girlfriend. We presume she said yes. Or at least that she would consider it.

But as soon as the instrument cases were latched tight, and the Philharmonic loosened their neckties, and we all turned southward to face the fireworks, everyone shut up. It was as if we had to … so we could see.

It reminds me of that line line in Ghostbusters when Ray says, “Listen! Do you smell something?”

It makes the eventual “Oh!” and “Ooh!” stand out. It sounds funny. Like we’re surprised. Like we haven’t seen it all a hundred times before. So my drunk friends and I started saying other vowel sounds, just for the sake of variety. “Aye!” “Uuuuh!” “Eeee!” They seemed as legitimate as the old standbys.

Then we moved on to consonants. “Fffff!” “Kkkhhh!” (which sounds a lot like a sneeze.) “Mmmm!”

It quickly degenerated into animal sounds. “Baa-aa-aah!” “Rrreeow!” “Waak waak!” “Moooo!”

We had killed the silence with our own performance. And the people nearby could hear us more clearly than they could hear the orchestra. I secretly dared someone to shush me. “Why?” I would ask. “Can you not see over the noise?” Annoyance with us would seem hypocritical to me, following a performance that many of them hadn’t even really listened to.

But apparently they had not come to see us, and no one said a word about it. They just continued to gaze back up into the sky, their eyes and mouths wide open, holding each other or holding themselves in the chilly summer night air.

And then it was over.


So Vein

I owe a big thanks to my friend Jon for pointing this out to me. It is a brilliant observation that requires really very little further explanation.

Separated at birth?

You’re So Vain
Carly Simon

Bleeding Love

the untallied hours