lovehate: Songs feat.

I don't think it's just the nostalgia in me that remembers a time when an artist or band wrote a song and performed it... on their own!

Is it really necessary that fourteen out of the top fifty hits on the Billboard Top 100 are songs that could not be performed by artists on their own but needed someone else to pump the sales? I have to blame the trend squarely on the Rap genre, because when you jump to the Rap Top Ten a full 70% of the list contains featured add-ons. You see, it's not that I don't enjoy rap, hip-hop or however many different sub-genres one wants to break it down into. I'm being a stickler on language here and I realize it. It's strictly a semantic issue for me because my formative years were spent listening to music where an ampersand accompanied any collaboration between musicians and, in such cases, there was an assumed equity between them instead of the inevitable leeching quality that most feat. formations currently have. I suppose one can trace the problem back to the historic Run DMC featuring Steve Tyler and Joe Perry rendition of Walk This Way. While the walk seemed to be slow at first, now it seems rap labels and producers (I'm not blaming the artists here) are afraid to let any performer walk alone.

Let's at least acknowledge the fact, for the most part, the "feat." tag is used in one of two ways. First, largely unknown artist uses very well-known artist to pump their song by letting them spit out thirty seconds worth of bridge verbage. Of course the established artist is invariably producing the neophyte's CD or owes the producer something. Second, well-established artist throws a bone to a young up-and-comer (which he or she is invariably producing). In either case the concept of "buy-in" to an artist's performance suffers largely when every minute I'm wondering "who the hell is that guy?" Three to four years ago the answer, without fail, was L'il Jon. Two years ago the answer, again without fail, was Timbaland. Last year I was too disgusted after watching Jay-Z's thirty second introductory pimp job of Rihanna's "Umbrella" to keep track. This year Lil Wayne seems to want to cash in on every second of cross promotion available.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't keep up on all of the current names and faces in rap. The gangsta movement, quite frankly, bored me to tears soon after NWA called it quits. It's no surprise then that other than their infamous Oscar win, I'm not really familiar with Three 6 Mafia. And while I'm sure they're a bunch of well-intentioned artists with no more or less integrity than any other group slogging away at making a living in a brutal business, was it really necessary for DJ Paul and Juicy J to include a roster of accompanyists on their current single that's larger that the Three 6 Mafia itself? Do I need really need the talents of Project Pat, Young D & Superpower to deliver a socially-conscious message like:

They call me the juice when I'm at the strip club uh uh uh uh
I front, then I hundred on dub uh uh uh uh
In the mack, to a player I'mma stun uh uh uh
Cause when I leave the club, I'mma **** uh uh uh

Later in the track they do throw a shout out to Barack Obama though... major pundit props there!

In fact, thirteen of the twenty songs on their latest CD feature someone else or, in many cases, an entire roster of relative unknowns (rap afficanados, don't get your shorts in a knot because the world doesn't know the artistic output of UGK's Bun B and the late Pimp C - although it's a shame, because if Pimp C had stuck around I'm sure we could've got F'n A and Vitamin D to hook up with B and C to form the AlphaBitz Cru). My favorite roster includes the Three 6 duo (feat. Project Pat, Spanish Fly, Al Kapone, Eightball & MJG) on First 48.

Is it any wonder I've lost my step in keeping up with the genre. Keith Urban obviously doesn't need any help on the Country charts when waxing poetic with "You Look Good in My Shirt". The Pussycat Dolls certainly don't need help on "When I Grow Up" on the Pop charts, but, then again, it's hard to find an artist that will do the gig without a body condom. And Slipknot just plain weirded the shit out of any potential collaborator on the Rock chart.

I'm not saying don't collaborate. I love the concept of artistic collaboration. Musically, there's nothing cooler than being at a show and having a surprise guest come out to join the band that you love. I remember loving the fact Snow came out during a Ben Folds Five show I was at. I hadn't heard of Snow in a decade and yet there he was kickin' out "Informer" with Ben and the boys. I thought the Anthrax/Public Enemy mashup was a great pairing. Hell, I even dug Ray Charles and Billy Joel chillin' during My Baby Grand. But these moments are special because they're unexpected and unique. I get the feeling rap has become the Boggle of the music industry - give it a shake and see what line-up we can put together. If you're going to work with someone, then truly work with them. I'm sick and tired of seeing performers parachuted in for their own version of the song's commercial break. Producers, cut young artists some slack and let them fly solo.

Hell, what does this say about the ever-expanding ourobouros of podcasters who feature each other endlessly... well, I'll find someone else to add their 50 cents in another time.


lovehate: lists

As I was cruising my way through elementary education, my school, as most, had a monthly "book club" whereby a flyer was given to each student to take home and parents would then be pressured to buy a book or two for their child. Let's preclude an incoming argument by immediately saying that it's never a bad thing for a parent to buy books for their kids, but what I didn't realize, until long after, was the manipulation going on. The school was taking a cut on the backs of every book ordered and, to make it worse, the sales force behind pushing students to buy at least a book a month. It begs a larger question about fundraising for public education which I don't want to get into now, but, simply, for a school board to advertise and sell books to students to better their bottom line is disgraceful. Moral issues aside, perhaps the most anticipated publication that my friends and I scoured the order forms for, year after year, was the Book of Lists.

For some reason, there was a small group of us at least that loved to digest compartmentalized information under a simple heading and then debate, argue, and add our two cents worth. The Book of Lists contained relatively generic pop culture minutae like "Top Ten Bands with Two or More Guitarists" or "Top Science Fiction Films". All innocuous, but engrossing enough for a budding media cynic like myself to sink my teeth into. Many years later I find that not much has changed in terms of the attraction of lists. I do, however, with a much more critical (and cynical) eye examine not only the context of many lists, but often the motivation for the list itself.

Let's face it, lists are value statements, and the more generic the title at the top of the list, the more contentious and swirling the banter around the "accuracy" or "efficacy" of the contents. But I've, of course, left out the best part. The contention does not arise, for the most part, from unranked lists. [On the flipside the more specific the title, the less widespread contention, but likely the more intense debate among topic afficionados. If I put out a list called "Top Ten Debian Distros", 99.99% of the world won't give a damn, but the people who do will fight bitterly.]  If, back in January 2008, I published an unranked list titled "Candidates for President of the United States", and listed John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney, not many people would have said much other than, "Congratulations! you watched CNN for five minutes." I could really stir up several people, however, if I reworked the list to say:

"Best Candidates for President of the United States"

1) John McCain
2) Mitt Romney
3) Hillary Clinton
4) Barack Obama

But where does the antagonism come from? A great deal of it certainly comes from disagreement, but that feeling gets intensified when a level of trust or respect is given to author of the list. If TIME magazine puts out a list that you disagree with, and you're a devoted reader of the publication, odds are you'

ll be far more upset that their values aren't reflected in yours. Much of the impact, however, comes from the surprise. No one bats an eye if someone on Fox News claims a Republican candidate would make the best president, but if they ever advanced the reverse position, sparks would fly.

The web is rife with lists of all kinds and it's often semantics that will turn a passing read of interest into a halting thought of "are you kidding?" If I put the word "my" before any list I publish, some people will read with interest, all will disagree with some aspect, and all will move on their marry way to the next thing. If I remove that subjective qualifier, things take a turn.

Consider the following titles for lists and think about which ones you'll be most ready to argue over with a friend or anonymous author:

My Favorite Bands
The Best Bands in the World
The Best Musicians in the World
Most Over-Rated Bands
Bands that Suck

If I'm pumping out any of these lists, no one's really going to care too much except maybe start to think of me as a more pompous than they do already. If a journalist for Rolling Stone, Spin, or Vibe puts out this list, more people start to react and take offense (let's face it, we're generally very defensive about our music preferences). If one of your favorite artists puts out a list that slams other artists you like, you notice. If an artist you've never liked before all of the sudden has a list that's almost identical to yours, you sit up and notice as well.

It almost always comes down to authority, and how much of it you grant the author. There are some times when I can genuinely say that I'm proud to have disagreed with a list completely. If Paris Hilton put out a list of "Bands That Suck", I think I would find some solace in my favorite bands occupying every spot.

And the value judgement that is implicit in a favorite band is no different than for a writer, a politician or a religion. Our lives are made up of choices based on subjective opinion that can often be maddeningly justified, or, even more infuriating, not justified at all. How many of us have had this discussion with a friend or family member?

"What could you like about this song?"

"I don't know. I just like it."

"I mean, don't you find the lyrics disturbing?"

"Oh, I don't listen to the lyrics. I just like the beat."

Our lives are based on lists. We itemize, rationalize, prioritize not only based on what we like, but sometimes even on what we think we should like. Lists can be halting and infuriating but they have an intrinsic value that is palpable. They are the quickest way to allow us to re-examine our values and beliefs. Such is the vanguard of learning. How many of us have gained through a friend's recommendation or even suggestions from online streaming music providers: "You said you liked this - you might like this too!" As much as differing forms of the list are often the greatest cause of conflict in society (try shouting out that my religion or politics are "better" than yours) we could not live without them. So while I often hate the results that come from lists, I love the lists themselves.

thinglets: lovehate creed

I believe that people are too loud.
I believe we are loathe to admit weakness.
I believe that all problems can be solved.
I believe that communication can change the world.

I believe mustard is the best hot dog condiment.
I believe cheese makes everything better.
I believe that if lettuce tasted like pizza, I'd be much healthier.

I believe that anyone who thinks Robert Downey Jr. is just finding his stride should go watch Chaplin.
I believe that the 1970's was the Golden Age of Hollywood films.
I believe Spielberg will never be Kubrick.

I believe the White Stripes are over-rated.
I believe Oasis should have disbanded five years ago.
I believe Dave Grohl was the most talented member of Nirvana.
I believe Madonna is playing us all for fools.
I believe popular music has no farther to sink.
I believe rap begins and ends with Chuck D.
I believe time has run out on Flav.
I believe Gil Scott-Heron knew how to speak to power.
I believe Tom Waits speaks in tongues.
I believe Jeff Buckley was John the Baptist.
I believe Bill Hicks died for our sins.
I believe that Jacques Derrida's epitaph is morphing to WTF?
I believe McLuhan parsed the divine.

I believe Reality TV and reality are coming closer together, and it's not the shows that are changing.
I believe we create myths and monsters so that we can think of ourselves as heroes.
I believe too much good television gets cancelled because of its originality.

I believe there is nothing heroic about wielding a plastic guitar.
I believe that platform gaming is built on very few archetypes that got stale fifteen years ago.
I believe that within two years major podcasts will be purchased, re-packaged and subsequently destroyed through tinkering by major media networks.
I believe that social networks negatively impact society.
I believe we are staying home more often.

I believe art is giving way to craft.
I believe craft is giving way mass production.
I believe mass production is being bought and sold through the toil of Chinese factory workers earning $50 a month.

I believe that no matter how much leaders preach about the good of humanity, the good of the individual will always come first.
I believe that altruism and self-interest often get packaged as good and evil.
I believe that democracy is a noble illusion.

I believe that most of the untapped mystery on earth lies within humanity.
I believe even our most insignificant creations speak volumes about us.
I believe almost all of the world's problems are caused by self-esteem issues.
I believe unencumbered creativity is growing cobwebs.
I believe that love and hate are borne on tempestuous waters.

I believe we can find comfort in the smallest things.
I believe that everything is everything.
I believe that life has rhythm.
I believe we should listen harder.


thinglets: Tangerine Frankenstein

Tangerine Frankenstein

I am a paradigm.
Sense scores by a nose.
Blue sails sucking up the sun.
I am the iconographer reduced to stick figures - crass acrobat underneath the gun.

Circus freak columbine pumped by the multi-facet ball.
Ecstasy Clementine spooned by the grease monkey alcohol.

Holiday, do you care I been waiting for his call?
An’ til he’s had his toast and jam, make a beeline for Havana singing songs of Old Susanna.

I am semiotic, symbolic signifier, verbal ectoplasmagraphic goo.
I am syntheseismic, tectonic normalizer, cabalistic paranormal stew.

Couture chic valentine, runway-pathic optioneering slim.
Tangerine Frankenstein, autostatic flailing seraphim.

I seek the cosmic rototiller foraging through the underbrush.
Undiscovered tangleweed pulling at my boots.
I leak orgasmic motor oil and I’m OHC/FI.
Son uncovered creator’s creed grasping for my roots.

Reykjavik I’m coming home, back to the land of the ice and snow.
Reykjavik I’m coming home.
I’ll be on Friday’s floe.

I am cyberotic. 
Infested technocratic literal command structure chew.
I’m phantasmagoric, dense rationalizer, exodermal jigsaw puzzle brew.

Couture chic valentine, runway-pathic optioneering slim.
Tangerine Frankenstein, autostatic flailing seraphim.

Systematic peel.