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Showing posts from November, 2009

No More Songs About...California

Yes, that's right, here comes another new feature on 3 Minutes, 49 Seconds. Following in the footsteps of 12 By... and Rock Bottom, I'm proud to introduce No More Songs About.

This one is just like its title sounds. Each time, I'll pick a topic about which I believe there are already too many songs written. I'll look at some of the best songs, some of the worst, and the ones that broke the camel's back.

My first target is the 31st state in the union, California.

Before I get into it, here's my disclaimer. I have nothing against California. I've visited twice (L.A. and San Diego) and loved it both times. I have friends who live there. Inspired by the pioneering visions of Romantic novelists, I really really wanted to move there after I graduated college. And the Beach Boys have a permanent place in my Top 5 Artists of All Time.

But I don't want to hear any more songs about it.

We've gotta start with what should probably be the state anthem, California Lov…

Baby, I'm A Star

In July of 2004 I created a sister blog called Baby, I'm A Star. It took its name from song on/in Prince's Purple Rainalbum/film. The mission of the blog was always intended to be a limited one. I would watch 30 pop music movies from across various categories (biopics, fictional films, documentaries, concerts, etc.) and write a recap/review of each.

Somewhere in 2005 I lost steam and left the project unfinished.

I picked it back up this past July, 5 years later. Since then I've watched 17 additional films, bringing the grand total to 37. Having surpassed the original goal, I now bring the project to a close. It's a bittersweet feeling, and truthfully, I could have gone on forever. As it is, I missed several key films, like Gimmie Shelter, A Hard Day's Night (though I think Help! is better), and Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

From now on the results of this project can be found in the "Related Content" sidebar at the right of your screen, and you can peruse it …

245. "Weird Al" Yankovic: Even Worse (1988)

Here it is, the one that started it all for me. If I gave the impression that I experienced any of the first 4 "Weird Al" albums upon their initial release (well, besides that 45 of Eat It), I'm sorry. That wasn't the case. Even Worse was my first Al album.

I don't remember what attracted me to the Even Worse tape at Kohl's (back when they actually had a music department), but it probably had something to do with the cover. I was a Michael Jackson kid and the proud owner of the Bad album, the cover of which is parodied on Even Worse. No matter, I bought it, and that was that.

But how does it hold up against the odometer of time and with a whole career perspective? Let's find out.

Song Parodies:
There's an interesting pattern in the song's Al chose to parody on Even Worse. I'll see if you can figure it out before I get to the end of this section.

First up is Fat, a take on Michael Jackson's Bad. Al admitted that he formulated the idea for th…

244. Weezer: Raditude (2009)

Two questions:

1) Can an artist who made his name on being an awkward outsider become a everyman populist?
2) Is it possible to write a review of a new Weezer album without negatively comparing it to their first two records?

Surprisingly, the answer to both is yes.

Raditude, Weezer's new album, comes hot on the heels of last year's disappointing Red Album, and it continues (one might even say it cements) the band's curious transformation from intelligent geek rockers to block-headed geek rockers. Weezer's early appeal was frontman Rivers Cuomo's kooky outsider personality, but since the band's return to active duty in 2001, he's been steadily moving away from that. His lyrics have gotten more and more simplistic and generic, even if the sentiment behind the songs was genuine.

Now it seems the opposite has happened. Many of the songs on Ratitude contain that attention to oddly specific detail that distinguished the band's debut and Pinkerton, but what they…

243. "Weird Al" Yankovic: Polka Party! (1986)

Into the life of every musician a little commercial and critical failure must fall, and so it was with Polka Party! It's not Al's Rock Bottom (we'll get to that eventually), but it is definitely ranks with his worst. Tellingly, he didn't even tour behind the album (though he did do a string of dates opening for the reunited Monkees). What happened? The inevitable letdown? Lack of inspiration? Burnout? (It was his fourth album in as many years).
Let's see what we can learn.

Song Parodies
The album opens with Living With a Hernia, a parody of James Brown's Rocky IV song, Living In America (in the film Brown performs it before Apollo Creed comes out and gets beaten to death by Ivan Drago). It's a spirited tune, and Al's actual research into hernias is so impressive that the song could probably be used by medical students to study for their exams (Check out the song's bridge: "You may not be familiar with the common types of hernias that you could get…

Rock Bottom: Paul Simon

The one constant in every established artist's oeuvre is the bad album, the one that's reviled by both fans and critics. Those unlovable albums are the ones this feature, Rock Bottom, is concerned with.

Here's how it works: I've consulted two main sources, the AllMusic Guide (for the critical point-of-view) and Amazon.com (for the fan perspective*). The album with the lowest combined rating from both sources is the one I'll consider the worst. I may not alwaysagree with the choice, and my reviews will reflect that. I'll also offer a considered alternative.Finally, there are some limits. The following types of albums don't count: 1) b-sides or remix compilations, 2) live albums, 3) albums recorded when the band was missing a vital member, and 4) forays into a different genres (i.e. classical).

*A note about Amazon.com. I consider this the fan perspective, because most people who choose to review albums on this site are adoring fans of the artist in question.

* …