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Showing posts from October, 2009

241. "Weird Al" Yankovic: Dare To Be Stupid (1985)

I hate to go all curmudgeoney, but remember the days when it was common practice to let a hot and prolific artist release an album a year? Why was this ever deemed to be NOT a worthwhile approach? Now, we typically wait 4 years between albums. Anyway, on his third album in as many years, Al continues his commercial and artistic hot streak. While a definite step backwards in quality from In 3-D, Dare To Be Stupid is still a very satisfying album.

Song Parodies
Like a Surgeon, Al's take on Madonna's Like a Virgin, may have kept him in the spotlight, but stands today as one of his lesser parodies. Reportedly, the idea for the song came from Madonna herself, when she wondered aloud why no one had made Like a Surgeon yet. I do like the line: "I'm a quack / it's a fact / The disgrace / Of the AMA / 'Cause my patients die / Before they can pay" and the use of the EKG monitor for rhythm, but otherwise it doesn't do much for me. Then, I'm not a huge fan of t…

240. "Weird Al" Yankovic: In 3-D (1984)

In 3-D, "Weird Al" Yankovic's second album, represents the beginning of a golden age. I say this knowing full well that my bias is toward Al's work from 1984 - 1993. Those were my formative years, and the years he could do no wrong in my eyes. Fortunately, that period also represents a huge chunk of his catalog.

Anyway, top to bottom, In 3-D may be Al's greatest accomplishment.

Song Parodies
The album begins with Eat It, a parody of Michael Jackson's Beat It. Basically, this is the song that gave Al a long-term career; it's how most people first heard of him. And it's not even that clever of a song! Jackson's Thriller was so white hot that anything riding its coattails became popular as well. Anyway, the big story with Eat It (and the rest of the parodies on the album) is the new coat of polish on the arrangements. Unlike on the first album, where accordion dominated every song, Al's band does a great job of replicating the instrumentation. And …

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic: Final Grades

Welcome to the end of So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that provided you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I took these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com. I also read many pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I did not shy away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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And so we've reached then end. I've taught you everything I know. If I were giving a final exam to my middle school students, I would have them write a music review using everything they've learned. Instead of waiting for submissions, I've instead decided to pretend that David Browne (Entertainment Weekly) and Ann Powers (Spin) have read the entire So You Wanna Be a…

239. "Weird Al" Yankovic: "Weird Al" Yankovic (1983)

You never forget your first love. Mine was "Weird Al" Yankovic. Sure, as a young boy I listened to top 40 occasionally, and I regularly grooved to my mom's Elton John, Billy Joel, and James Taylor records, but I didn't know the grip of musical obsession until 1984, when I first heard Eat It on a 45 RPM single at my daycare.

From there, I got every "Weird Al" tape I could find and listened to them incessantly. It's not odd that a prepubescent boy whose life ambition was to become Editor-In-Chief of Mad Magazine found Al's songs to be the pinnacle of comedy. But it is strange that I responded so strongly to parodies of songs I had never heard. That's right, a kind word for my musical awareness at this time in my life is "non-existent."

Now as I look at it, I wonder if I don't have Al to thank for my eclectic, expansive taste in music, heck even my interest in becoming educated about music history. Think about it, just by listening to h…

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic: Lesson 8

Welcome to So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I've taken these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I've looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com. I also read many pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I have not shied away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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Lesson 8: Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

Let's cut to the chase here: Being a music critic means never having to say you're sorry.

Are you going to be flat-out wrong in your assessment of an album, song, or band from time to time? Well, yes and no. Yes, because you are, and no because you'll never admit it.

It's a music critic's job to make sweeping,…

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic: Lesson 7

Welcome to So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n Roll Critic, a ten-part instructional feature that will provide you with all the tips and tricks you need to become a real life music reviewer. As a matter of process, I've taken these lessons from exhaustive research into printed music reviews in Entertainment Weekly, Q, The New Yorker, Musician, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Additionally, I've looked into the uberhip perspective of Pitchfork.com. I read many pieces by the godfather of music reviewing, Lester Bangs. And finally, I have not shied away from an examination of my own work here on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds.

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Lesson 7: Three the Hard Way

We're nearing the end of this feature, and thus lesson 7 features three mini-lessons that serve as a catch-all. One could be a very serviceable music critic mastering only lessons 1 - 6, but the three tidbits presented here (along with the forthcoming Lesson 8) are that little something extra - the pineapple on the cottage cheese, if you will -…