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.


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.