Thursday, February 24, 2011

Two ways to use "The Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Turned Black"

If you have a song, with lyrics, you would think that a video presentation of the song would be pretty straightforward.

But compare these two interpretations of a Johann Johannsson song.

Magnus Helgason:

Battle:Los Angeles:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Update on attempts to preserve the Pussycat Dolls brand

Remember the Sugababes? They were the band that had significant membership turnover, so that by 2009 there were no original members in the band, prompting one biographer to refer to the band as the Sugafakes. That particular edit has long since been removed from the Sugababes' biography, and life goes on.

Well, another band's biography has been edited, though not that dramatically.

You'll recall that in June 2010, I blogged about the Pussycat Dolls.

For those who are not familar with this band, they're a bunch of half-naked women who sing and dance. Actually, the Pussycat Dolls band is an extension of the overall Pussycat Dolls brand, which initially started as a dance troupe before any music was released. Now this sounds like it could be a formula for disaster, but they've actually put out some pretty good music.

But, as I noted in my post, there appeared to be two schools of thought concerning the band. On the one hand, band members such as Ashley Roberts were making public statements saying that the band had broken up. Band manager Robin Antin, however, denied that those words were accurate, even after most of the band members had left.

Note the semantic difference. If the Pussycat Dolls had broken up, then they would no longer exist and the brand would be dead. If the Pussycat Dolls merely changed 80% of its membership, then it would still be a going concern, no different than before.

So at the time of my June post, a new set of Pussycat Dolls was performing - lead singer Nicole, and new members Kherington, Rino, Vanessa, and Jamie. I figured that band manager Robin Antin would take steps to get the band into the studio, get some recordings out, and do whatever possible to ensure that people thought of the Pussycat Dolls as a brand, and forgot all about Kimberly, Melody, Jessica, and Ashley, just like most Beatle fans have forgotten about Tommy Moore (who?), who preceded Norman Chapman (who?) as drummer. Chapman was followed by Pete Best as drummer, but Best is primarily remembered by IBM Watson and other trivia maniacs. So if Antin could get an album out with the new Pussycat Dolls, all would be fine.

One night I was scrobbling stuff on, and I happened to peek at's Pussycat Dolls page, which included the following title:

The Pussycat Dolls

(2003 – 2010)

The biography included a December 11 edit from user wadamz:

On December 5 2010, Nicole Scherzinger, the lead singer of The Pussycat Dolls, announced that she is leaving the band to concentrate on her solo career and acting projects. Scherzinger follows the four other members - Kimberly Wyatt, Melody Thornton, Jessica Sutta and Ashley Roberts in exiting the group. is not really set up to include citations in biographies, so I had to search for the story. I found a post in The A Music Blog, which referenced a News of the World interview. The interview is now behind a paywall, but Scherzinger reportedly said:

We had our time. Some of the girls left the group. That was out of my hands. I wouldn't want to be in a group with other girls -- we were like a tight family.

So I figured I'd get Robin Antin's side of the story, starting at the Pussycat Dolls' website. The site's news page, however, hasn't been updated since September 2009, and doesn't even mention new members Kherington et al. I did find a mention of the new members on the blog Homorazzi, but somehow I suspect that this wasn't an authorized press release from Antin:

The new line-up consists of a SYTYCD alum, ABDC alum, Girlicious reject and a Laker Girl. Warning girls, you don’t want to piss of the HBIC (Head Bitch In Charge) Nicole or else you might be the new Melody, Kimberly, Jessica or Ashley.

Read more at:

Homorazzi lists the Twitter accounts for the new members:

Because we're in the home stretch of the NBA season, I figured that I'd see what former Laker Girl Vanessa Curry was saying about Robin Antin's fabulous band. And I found a tweet in which Curry retweeted Antin:

Oh sugz so precious!RT @robinantinpcd: My little Sugar baby, she's such a Lady! ♥

The tweet goes to a picture of...a dog. I went through several weeks of tweets, and Curry never explicitly mentioned the band at all.

But Antin is keeping up the publicity, with this January 22 tweet about a Dolls performance. It links to a Twitpic, but unfortunately for Antin, someone chose to leave the following comment:

What the F*ck???? OMG They Are NOT PCD

Apparently Antin needs to do a little more work to sell this thing.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Beatles as hacks

I was thinking about the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team one night, and its ability to produce merchandising product.

Now this flies in the face of most of us who think of the Beatles as pure artists supreme, but the fact remains that they got their start by being very talented practitioners of Tin Pan Alley techniques.

Think about it, based upon what we know about the Beatles today. By late 1963, the Beatles and Rory Storm's Hurricanes (and their drummer Richie) had torn both Liverpool and Hamburg apart, playing for hours on end, getting smashed on booze and pills, and having an unknown number of sexual conquests. Lennon had already done the proper thing by becoming a married man so his son would have a father. And what were he and his songwriting partner writing about? What was the subject matter of the song that was about to dominate America?

Holding hands.

Now Lennon and McCartney could have written about Hamburg gangsters or who knows what, but that wouldn't have moved product for Parlophone and Capitol. Songs about holding hands, however, would be bought in mass quantities, so that's what Lennon and McCartney produced.

In short, the two were hacks. Very good hacks, but hacks nonetheless. It would be several years before Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison realized that they could write songs about any dang thing that they pleased. If Harrison had told the Parlophone brass in 1962 that he wanted to write a song about the tax rates in Britain, they would have been laughed out of Abbey Road.

Speaking of Abbey Road, the famous picture inspired a comment thread in Free Republic. And not surprisingly, given the political orientation of Free Republic, the Beatles were not universally admired by all.

I don't hate the Beatles as a group, during their time they were great.

What ticks me off tho is the accolades that have been thrown on the individual artists John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr after the Beatles. Individually they were hacks with nothing noteworthy being produced by themselves but because they were "Beatles", they were still idolized......

I happen to disagree, and in fact think that the reverse is true. Anything that Harrison, or Lennon, or Starr, or McCartney released on their own is often denigrated because the other three are not present. (For this reason, "Ringo" stands out as the best album ever among certain fans.)

But because of my age, and the fact that I was too young to catch the Beatles in their heyday, I personally was able to enjoy the ex-Beatles on their own terms, without immediately comparing it to what had gone before. During the early 1970s, AM radio was defined by the guitar work of George Harrison, songs like "It Don't Come Easy" were enjoyed by all, and that band called Wings was releasing stuff like "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five." Only later did I discover that these guys had all been in a former band, kinda like the Monkees but even more zany.

Now I'll grant that the solo Beatles never set out to do concept albums - unless you consider "Double Fantasy" a concept album, and that of course is a collaboration. But all four of them were clearly able to create some great songs on their own.

In fact, I much prefer Ringo's solo work to his work within the Beatles - "What Goes On" is outstanding, but much of the rest is good at best. "You were in a car crash and you lost your hair" over organ and fiddle? Suitably bizarre, but not something that a hackmaster would use to dominate the charts.

In fact, if the Beatles HAD reunited, I suspect that the best part of the reunion concerts would have been the Beatles playing post-Beatles songs. McCartney playing piano on "Imagine." Lennon taking Eric Idle's lines on "This Song." Or better still, a medley of two songs - McCartney's "Too Many People" and Lennon's response, "How Do You Sleep." Now that would make for riveting stagework as Lennon and Harrison joined guitars for McCartney's attack, followed by wild McCartney bass lines on Lennon's attack.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why the music industry hates itself, part two (try watching the Grammys TODAY)

Presumably NARAL - whoops, I mean NARAS - wants people to know about their awards and how wonderful all of their music performers are. But they don't make it easy.

As I noted in a post that I shared this morning, the Grammy awards are broadcast live - if you live in the eastern half of the United States. If you live in the western half, NARAS would prefer that you lock yourself away from the Internet for three hours, and THEN watch the Grammy awards on tape delay.

But, as Peter Kafka noted in a post this morning, it gets even more ridiculous.

The official Grammy site, run by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, has plenty of clips, but none from the CBS broadcast itself–it’s all backstage, or red carpet or other footage I don’t care about. doesn’t have anything, and neither does, CBS’s mini-Hulu.

Meanwhile, Google’s YouTube, the place where I really expect to see clips, is doing a very good/frustrating job of keeping the site scrubbed free of amateur uploads. You can find some stuff, but it takes work, and the quality is poor, and I’m pretty sure it’s getting removed quickly after it goes up.

So not only were west coasters such as myself forced to wait three hours to see the Grammy awards - it turns out that was the only time that we could have seen the Grammy awards.

Way to go, NARAS.

So if I wanted to see how this danged egg thing actually played out, I need to rely upon the people who tweeted about it.

At least until NARAS and the RIAA try to shut Twitter down for distributing copyrighted material.

P.S. It's illustrative to compare the entertainment industry with the sports industry. Sure, the leagues put up some roadblocks so that I can't watch a Redskins game any time I want, but at least all (well, most) sporting events are shown live no matter where you live. Can you imagine the furor if the Super Bowl organizers decided to delay the west coast feed for three hours?

And, unlike awards shows, there are certain sporting events that you can see online, for free. As I noted in an Empoprise-BI business blog post last Friday, I could have watched the Lakers basketball game on ESPN3 had I chosen to do so. ESPN3 could have gotten my eyeballs and could have bombarded me with online commercials.

But apparently that's too edgy for NARAS. Maybe Grammy winners Jethro Tull could talk NARAS into it.

Why the music industry hates itself (Grammy tape delays tell you all you need to know)

On Sunday evening, Dave Winer (who is currently residing in New York) tweeted the following):

So much fun to watch west coast people tweeting the grammies three hours late. #not

You see, there are a number of Twitter users on the west coast of the United States, and all of these people (not including me) had to wait three hours to watch the Grammys, even though they took place on the west coast.

This reminded me of something that I wrote several years ago in another context. This mrontemp post, written under my Ontario Emperor pseudonym, has been cited as one of the semi-important documents in the development of hashtagging. No, it's not like I'm Stowe Boyd or Chris Messina or anything like that, but I did contribute an interesting observation to the discussion - what happens if two people are using hashtags to describe an event that occurs at different times? My example was the Rose Parade, and people observing the parade from two different vantage points on the parade route. In my example, I was tweeting about stuff happening at the beginning of the parade route, while Philip Hodgen was tweeting from the end of the parade route. Because hashtagged text is presented in a linear fashion, my tweets and Hodgen's tweets were juxtaposed against each other, giving a false impression of the parade.

In a similar fashion, Sunday night's Grammy tweets, when taken in toto, gave a false impression of the Grammy awards, since things appeared out of order.

And why did that happen? Because The Powers That Be determined that the Grammy awards should not be shown live on the west coast. Theoretically this ensures that they will get the maximum viewing audience on the west coast by having a prime time slot, but the whole thing rests on the assumption that people on the west coast are either (a) unable to figure out how to get on the Internet and find out who won three hours in advance, or (b) disciplined enough to stay away from all Internet feeds, just to make sure that they're surprised when the television shows the announcements of winners that were already announced three hours ago.

This model may have worked in 1971, but it's not going to work in 2011.

This is especially ironic because these are music awards, and much of the music industry is based in the Los Angeles, California area. Granted that the top names in the music industry were actually at the awards, but many of the worker bees who actually do the work in Los Angeles' music industry were unable to see the awards live.

But the music industry believes that it's perfectly fine to keep the awards presentation locked up and make people wait to see it.

Then again, the music industry likes to lock up a lot of stuff and make people wait to hear it, so why should the industry's awards show be any different?

Oh, and by the way, my early 2008 post discussed the tape-delaying of televised events:

This [discussion of two Rose Parade vantage points] is probably a strange example, since most disasters/events occur at the same time for all people (exceptions being parades, and certain televised events which are tape delayed on the West Coast). However, in the odd case in which people are using the same hashtag for events occurring at different times in different locations, how is one to make sense of the mess?

How, indeed?