Posted by: zhak39 | December 2, 2009

Adam Bombs

The airwaves have become saturated, cyberworld inundated with the commentary about the former AmIdol Adam Lambert’s performance at the American Music Awards. If you’re interested it’s not hard to find. Being a fan of his vocals and style, I looked it up after the furor didn’t fade after four or five days. I won’t put a link to it just because it’s too sad.

It was bad.

I wasn’t going to mention it here for a number of reasons but a trip to my parents’ house and a reunion with siblings became a trigger and I’ve given it a lot of thought. First of all, it wasn’t the spectacle. If you haven’t seen it and didn’t take the time to look it up just now, it was your typical pole dancing, thrusting, sex as loveless punishment and control and pain kind of choreography. It’s not my thing. I thought Madonna looked totally stupid in 1985 in her traffic cone bra and fake hair.

I'd rather hug a porcupine

I wasn’t keen on the movement in live music performance that placed more import on dance and visual style then musicianship. Not that I dislike dance. In fact during college and until I got married I was taking dance classes or just out dancing every spare moment. It was how I kept sane, how I connected to the universe. Music truly moves me. Modern, contemporary, jazz, fusion, funk– joy. Then something shifted. Popular dance went from celebration to vertical masturbation. By the late-80s I was pretty sure that this ludicrous spectacle was not going to go away.

It hasn’t. In fact it has proliferated. Some of it is actually pretty good dance. If you turn the sound off, Beyonce’s (ow) ‘Put a Ring on it’ has remnants of Bob Fosse. But come on. Janet Jackson looks like a Leanan-Sidhe (those pesky Celtic fairies that inspire poets but feed on blood).

I'd quote 'Luv me, Luv me' but you'll have to look it up yourself.

Lady Gaga at least has a sense of humor. Britney? (Big sigh). Have the trailer trash really taken over?

So Adam Lambert’s first response was hey, all these women get to simulate sex on stage and everyone loves it. A gay man does it and it’s censored and condemned. Pure discrimination.

Now I am not sure why Adam wants to emulate trash but whatever. That’s not the point. The reason he bombed was he didn’t sing well. He has a great big voice and a super range and loads of style. And he got caught up in the moment and forgot to use any of it.

So to be fair, a couple of weeks ago I listened to his album and I was a little smirky about it. Why, this is pop. And I don’t listen to pop. I’m too discriminating to be bothered with popular fare. ‘For Your Entertainment’? Meh. Boring. Some of it, ‘If I Had You’ brought me right back to Clyde’s and Eightball (gay discos in Albany where I went to college). Some nice vocals, backgrounds sounding like a guy in a polyester suit and mustache trying to sell Hammonds one touch orchestra systems. One track ‘Broken Open’ had that smooth, hair-raising, sussurant sound I had come to appreciate. So not bad for a top 40.

My little constructed bubble burst on Thanksgiving weekend. I brought my laptop so I could get everyone to put different music on it. I asked people to pick their favorites and I went through cd collections. My sweet nephew Nick spent the bulk of a day loading 20 hours worth into I-Tunes. And I-Tunes is one of those handy programs that categorize and organize for you. And guess what? Two of my favorite artists from teen years are classified as pop.

Now it’s pretty easy to dismiss 70s pop. Remember these two?

Aye Captain

And this fella.

Shiny

Or don’t forget the King of Saccharine.

I am way too cool for that. But how can this be? Joni Mitchell, Hissing of Summer Lawns. Not Top 40. I refuse to accept it. Call it a fluke. But then there is that other one, my guilty pleasure. I had Nick load Netherlands by Dan Fogelburg. I haven’t heard it since I went to college but had dug a groove in that album at one time (note: if you don’t know what putting a groove in an album is go to an ancient history text and look up ‘hi-fi’).

So I found some time alone, stuck some buds in my ears and turned it on.

Oh dear. I mean it’s not exactly Mantovani’s cascading strings. Not quite, exactly. Definitely light orchestra. Yup. Definitely pop music.

So am I qualified to poo-poo Adam Lambert’s debut album? Well yes I am. Because the popular music from a couple of decades ago was just kinder. There were romantic songs and broken heart songs and sad songs and joyous happy songs. There were stalker songs (Police I think has the record) but I don’t remember lyrics like ‘Baby, I’m in control, take the pain.’

All in all, I think I have just gained old fart status.

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Responses

  1. The term, “old fart” . . . .

    . . . . leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Changing topics now — “Now for something completely different” —

    Look, pop music has its place. For one thing, it fills the void in the otherwise vacuous lives of fruitless people who, on the one hand, hate our current president but can’t really say why, and try to pretend they’re all serious about the state of the world, though they can’t really explain it, except to say it’s because we have “that guy” in the White House, and who spend their lives in conservative chat rooms making watermelon jokes, and then, at night, when the family’s home, religiously watch Dancing with the Stars and Jon & Kate with 8 and The Apprentice, and care what happens on those shows.

    Oh yeah, and because there are so many folks like that, the other significance of popular music is, quite simply, it makes money.

    Popular music sucked in the 50s. That’s why we got Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins and, later, Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Popular music sucked in the 60s, which is what brought about Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. Popular music sucked in the 70s, opening the way for Elton John and the Allman Brothers, Bruce Springsteen, peter gabriel’s Genesis and Bob Marley.

    All music sucked in the 80s, particularly Elton John and Phil Collins’ Genesis. There was nothing redeemable about that decade. King Crimson, maybe. Naah. Nothing redeemable.

    Nothing.

    Popular music in the 90s sucked, but out of it came Pearl Jam. Because 90s pop music sucked, a brilliant star called Eddie Vedder arose from the dung heap. Enough said about that.

    I don’t listen to music anymore but the drivel my 12 year old daughter listens to leads me to conclude popular music still sucks. But something good will come of it.

    I never cared much for U2, and suddenly they’re becoming the wise old guys on the block — which to me is rather silly. I think U2’s Joshua Tree album, and the song, “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” were brilliant. But I saw nothing after that, really.

    My point is, necessity is the mother of invention. The fact Adam Lambert is even relevant begs the question, “When is it coming?” Fear not — it’s out there.

    The “big news” yesterday was that Meredith Baxter Birney, a B actress at best 25 years ago, has “come out” as a lesbian.

    Again: why is she relevant? HOW is she relevant?

    Her ex-husband, David Birney, had a laughable talk show a few years ago. Laughable because he was an awful host. Ill-conceived too, because his 15 minutes were up a quarter century ago as well.

    Just keep dancing to your own drummer. He or she has more rhythm and polish than all of them combined.

  2. One of the advantages of getting older is that you can look back at pop music and understand how trends and styles get recycled.

    Lady Gaga’s performance at the VMA’s: straight out of the Alice Cooper play book. Gwar and Slipknot, you would never recognize them on the street, sort of like……..KISS. Tabloids followed them everywhere trying to find out their true identity. Kind of like Batman. In reality, their music really sucked, and when the make up came off, you found out that they were ugly.

    The Beatles started as a boy band.

    Add an ingredient of outrage from your parents, and you have something that the kids will eat up. Little Richard. (Pat Boone doing Little Richard songs were laughably lame. )

    Alice Cooper. A grown man sporting a woman’s name, supposedly biting the heads of chickens. What’s for a parent not to love?

    The PMRC hearings during the 80’s (music advisory labels) was brilliant marketing. It was also a smoke screen to distract you from the added tax Congress passed on blank recording media to combat illegal duplication of music. Sound familiar?

    Pat Boone’s “In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy” (still laughably lame)

    Than there’s “The Night Chicago Died” or any song by Morris Albert or Journey. (Sigh)

    It’s someone’s favorite.

    There is, was and will be a lot of crap, with intermittent bits of musical brilliance. All you can do smile and grin at the change all around.

    (Which brings us back to a previous discussion on this blog. Hmmmmm.)

  3. I have a friend who’s a retired dialysis doctor who lived in a very nice home in a very wealthy part of town.

    It’s now owned by one of the Slipknot boys. Actually good looking guy, very polite, respectful. A great neighbor for the lock-jawed set.

  4. Hi Crabby.

    Good eye on Lady Gaga and Alice Cooper. I can see it, sort of, now that you pointed it out. What fun! Slipknot is a hoot because like Batman and KISS, they really do seem to take themselves seriously even if we….more experienced…people cannot.

    Pat Boone doing metal…ummm…ok. If you want to see another interesting cross-genre look up ‘cannibal corpse andrew hansen’ on youtube. I would link it but it’s a little too much for me–and something has too be pretty far out there to offend my poor taste.

    I’ve been having fun poking around this website, http://www.popculturemadness.com/Music/ which “Pop Culture Madness strives to give readers a true list of songs that have outlasted the rest from their era.” I am also willing to muck out the barnyard with the faith that there is musical brilliance to be found.

  5. Bill,

    That’s interesting about Slipknot. I used to work for a minister that was a fan of Alice Cooper. He said ‘Vincent Furnier’ (wonder why he changed his name?) was actually a minister’s son and a devout christian with a quirky sense of humor.

  6. I love the site you mentioned.

    My impression is, Slipknot is having a great time getting paid for doing Halloween three or four nights a week.

    I appreciate the cynicism and the fact they’re having fun for a living.

  7. I vote we all have fun for a living!

  8. Tell me where to send the job application. I’m there.

  9. Yeah, Netherlands was an album that I had a hard time letting go of, even though I no longer own a turntable.

    Whoa, you got snow coming down on this page. Cool.

  10. Why am I not surprised?


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