The Next Joe Millionaire
November 24, 2003
DJ Cyberian Tyger and I have been puzzled by the anti-"Next Joe Millionaire" attitude that has saturated our media and even our favorite blogs. I will no longer be silent!
First, the premise of the show: A bevy of European beauties are vying for a rodeo cowboy's heart. Week by week girls are eliminated. The last woman standing gets the opportunity to marry the guy. The now well-known twist is that our "Joe" must convince these girls that he is worth $80 million when in fact he has "only $20 in the bank."
After just the very first week, when the show's ratings were inexplicably dismal, the show itself was blamed for its failure to perform. People! The first episode was aired, obviously, before any other episodes had been! So it was not the quality of the show that killed it! You morons!
Perhaps FOX screwed up in the way it promoted it. Perhaps Americans aren't interested in European women (although I should think one look at Anique would fix that). Or perhaps folks are no longer entertained by the Joe Millionaire premise. But it was not the quality of the show itself that killed its ratings during its first outing.
After that first failed episode, Joe's fate was certain: a speedy retirement. And after accelerating the season by doubling up episodes, the finale airs tonight on FOX, not that you will be watching.
"The Next Joe Millionaire" has been great. Perhaps we (DJ Cyberian Tyger and I) think this because we ourselves are enthralled with European cultureand because of our intimate familiarity with European women (ask any European womanANYabout me and she will say, "I love Mr. Lava. Because he understands me"). Perhaps we think this because we stayed with it and were never anything less than massively entertained by it from start to finish. And perhaps because we ignored the idiot media we may have taken especial delight in the program.
In any case, here are six reasons why we love the show:
1) The women are (on average) a hundred times hotter than those we've seen on any other reality show. Anique. Linda. Cat. Wow.We'll be watching the season finale with a couple bottles of red wine, but for most of you it is too late to enjoy "The Next Joe Millionaire." Oh well. Your lives really won't be much the worse for having missed it. But for whoever has stayed along for the ride, let's party!
August 5, 2003
Hardcore Eurodance legends Scooter have weighed in with their own perspective on our responsibilities to the Iraqi people. Here is their editorial in full:
"Rebuilding Iraq: We Must Maintain a Steady Course"
New York Times
August 5, 2003
FASTER THAN A HEAD OF LETTUCE!!!!!! MORE POWERFUL THAN THE MAN IN THE ICE CREAM VAN!!!!!! SCOO-TUH IS BACK WITH THE BOOM-BOOM BEATS!!!!!
ONCE AGAIN MY FRIEND WE ROCK THE HOUSE LIKE A LOUSE!!!! FASTER THAN PLASTER I'M THE FUNK SOUL MASTER!!!!!! FRY THOSE SHOES WITH YOUR FEET ON HEAT!!!!!!!
MONKEYS EXPLODING FROM THE BEATS WE'RE UPLOADING!!!!!! BREAK-DANCING BABIES IN TRAINERS AND GRAVY!!!!!!! WAVE TO THE TEACHER, RESPECT TO YOUR MOTHER!!!!!!! MADONNA!!?!?? WHERE'S THE BEEEEFFFFFF!?!?!?!?????!!????
WE'RE BURSTING YOUR BUTTONS AND WE'RE ZIPPING IT UP!!!!! HYPA SAYS IT WILL TAKE AT LEAST TWELVE YEARS TO REBUILD IRAQ, BUT WE MUST NOT LET THAT DISSUADE US FROM DOING WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO CREATE A STABLE DEMOCRACY IN THAT REGION!!!! WE CANNOT TURN OUR BACKS NOW, FOR WHAT WILL HAVE BEEN THE POINT OF THIS ENDEAVOR IF WE ULTIMATELY FAIL THE IRAQI PEOPLE?!!?!!?! ALTHOUGH WE HAVEN'T FOUND ANY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION YET, MAYBE WE WILL SOMEDAYONLY HYPA KNOWS FOR SURE!!!!!
SIBERIA!!!!! EAT TO THIS BEAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
June 25, 2003
Hoorah! Italo singer Erika De Bonis, who warbled the hit "Relations" in addition to "Save My Heart" (one of my favorite Eurodance tunes) will see her wonderful new single "I Don't Know" released stateside on July 29! You can pre-order the CD single off of Amazon.
"I Don't Know" is a strangely wistful dancefloor song, with lyrics that are certain to elicit tears while its beats shake your ass. It's just lovely, really.
Erika expressed her concerns about file-swapping in this Italian interview. Here's the Google Manglish version:
Question: What is for you Internet?
Answer: It is a way comfortable and easy in order to communicate, to inquire itself and to amuse itself! Unfortunately, like all the things, Internet have brought great advantages from a part but from the other it is damaging a record market gia' in crisis. The high cost of discs and the lack of productions originate push them the young people free of charge to unload numerous rows mp3 from the situated ones that offer to these services to total disadvantage of that as me they live with music.
Not a graceful translation, but I think you probably get the gist. I know that for most of us Americans it's hard (or impossible) to feast our ears on these tunes without resorting to file-swapping. American labels just won't release many Euro-songs, special ordering a tune from Europe is especially pricey, and if the track is only available on vinyl and you don't have a turntable, too bad.
So this is a wonderful opportunity. At less than $7, you might as well pick up the excellent "I Don't Know." We've already pre-ordered our copy.
P.S. Thanks again, Radikal Records.
June 8, 2003
After listening to snippets of the tracks on Master Blaster's We Love Italo Disco, which is reviewed at the always excellent Eurodancehits.com (click the Real Audio icon over the review to hear the samples), it seems very possible that the year's best full-length Italo dance album will be by this trio.
The featured songs are not original tunes; they are covers of Italo disco hits of the past, reaching back into the 1980's. They include the infectious "Another Life," the gorgeous "Get Closer," and the already well-received stompers "How Old R U?" and "Hypnotic Tango." These tracks borrow heavily from the blueprint of another cover fanatic, the mighty Gigi D'Agostino, resulting in songs good enough to tide us over while we (continue to) wait for another Gigi album.
In addition to the good dance choons, Master Blaster wrap their work up in a sexy album cover (oh yeah) and give the collection a cheeky title. It appears that the group has a summer hit on their hands. (Hopefully, Amazon will be stocking these soon.)
Now here's the interesting part: Master Blaster aren't Italian. They hail from Germany. And with fellow Germans Scooter finding success covering another Italo classic, "The Night," it looks like Italy is finally getting the song-writing kudos it so thoroughly deserves. (You can read about the trend at this Italo Dance website authored by a guy in Poland who knows a hell of a lot more about this stuff than we do.)
What makes Italo disco so special that it has its own label? The formula seems to be simple: combine big hooks with big beats, then shake. Italo songs are usually melody-focused, whereas other electronic genres tend to focus on "production." And Italians, famous for their passion, infuse their music with dramaor melodrama depending on where you stand. At worst the results are silly (a recent cover of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall Part II," for example, seemed ill-advised). But the best tunes are breathtaking.
Where are the Italians finding all their hooks? It seems they've horded the vast majority of Europe's catchiest tunesand now Master Blaster and Scooter have launched an invasion to take some back!
Gigi, dude! You're a full-blooded Italian! How can you let the Germans outdo you in the Italo disco department? I know you're busy DJ'ing and doing some remixes, but where's a new album of original material? For the honor of Italy, Gigi, you can't let this go unanswered!!!!!!!
June 4, 2003
Far from the hoot it promised America it would be, last night's "American Juniors" was a depressing hour of television, replete with wriggling 6 year olds dressed like whores, stage moms from hell who made you feel sorry for their fucked up kids, and melismatic interpretations of the same 25 songs we've heard over and over since the "Idol" phenomenon got started.
From a Eurotrash perspective, it was interesting to watch 19 Productions' Simon Fuller transform his program into a one hour advertisement for his S Club Juniors. For example, the overly-played "American Juniors" theme song is the S Club Juniors' "One Step Closer." And while explaining that the goal of the show was to assemble a five person teeny-bop group, host Ryan Seacrest said, "This isn't the first time this has been done. Britain's S Club Juniors went on to become a European sensation." (This voiced over a slow pan across the S Club Juniors CD cover.) Hmm, I wonder if Mr. Fuller is fishing for another distribution deal here in America?
Actually, the S Club Juniors weren't assembled on national television the way the American Juniors are going to be, so the analogy is not a particularly good one. Also, much of the success S Club Juniors enjoyed came from trading on the "S Club" name, which had already been made huge by the original (and, as we've recently learned, underpaid) S Club 7. Duh. But the intended suggestion was clear: "What you are about to see tonight was already done in Britain with the S Club Juniors."
"American Juniors" would be better compared to the UK's "Popstars: The Rivals," wherein a boy band and a girl band (in this case with post-pubescent personnel), were assembled. That's where Girls Aloud came from.* But of course, that analogy couldn't be used, since 19 Productions had nothing to do with "Popstars: The Rivals."
As for the show itself, "American Juniors" attempted to criticize (i.e. ridicule) the pushy parents who entered their kids "for the wrong reasons" while accepting none of the responsibility for having created this disturbing trend in the first place. "American Juniors" promises mega-stardom and big bucks for the winners of the competition (which, like winning the lottery, sounds pretty appealing in our crumbling economy), but also ridicules contestants and their parents who admit to being in pursuit of the same thing. What, I must ask the show's creators, are the right reasons for entering your talent competition?
Last night's "American Juniors," taken along with the masturbatory (and simultaneously, err, anticlimactic) finale of "American Idol 2," demonstrates how creepy this phenomenon has become. And if I, who was once captivated by "Idol," am beginning to think that, millions of others must be thinking it, too. The bubble must soon burst.
* As for the boy band, I don't give a shit about them, since adorable alcoholic Cheryl Tweedy obviously isn't in it.
May 15, 2003
A new phenomenon in German dance musicsongs that build and build only to come to a complete haltare the result of catering to the needs of fatter clubbers, researchers at the University of Milan announced today.
"It used to be that clubbers wanted to experience the adrenaline rush of a song that maintained a steady BPM throughout its length," explains Dr. Roberto Belmondo. "The builds would segue smoothly into releases. The result: The dancer's heart rate shot up and the song's consistency offered an excellent cardiovascular work-out."
It's a different story today. Now, a typical German dance song builds and builds, then stops completely, leaving confused clubbers with no recourse but to stop moving (they'd look silly otherwise). Clubbers fill in the pause either by looking around at one another, cheering the DJ, or cursing the DJ because they are under the mistaken impression that a mistake has occurred on the decks.
Dr. Belmondo believes that the pause has been added for a reason: obesity is on the rise throughout Europe, thanks in part to increased consumption of fast food. "Today's clubbers just don't have the stamina they used to," Dr. Belmondo explains. "The pauses give them time to catch their breath." Indeed, without those pauses, Dr. Belmondo believes that the results would be "Murder on the Dancefloor"and legal precedent suggests that the DJ would be held accountable.*
[The United States, a nation famously associated with fatness, has long shunned Eurodance in favor of the mellow musical offerings of acts like Blues Traveler. Indeed, recent health studies suggest that dance music has a dark future in that country.]
What comes after the pause varies. Sometimes it's a heavily filtered melody that becomes clearer as it progresses. On other occasions it's a full return of beat and melody.
Either way, the pause is upsetting to older clubbers, who fondly remember the year 2001 when dance songs didn't stop. Often, their nostalgia makes them a subject of ridicule for their younger, fatter peers.
* Bonn vs. DJ Tomcraft, 12 March 2001
May 11, 2003
The ABC/Britain alliance has brought Atomic Kitten to our shores. The release of AK's first US album (which plucks tracks from their two UK releases), coincides with the opening of the Lizzie McGuire Movie (the soundtrack of which features AK's stellar "The Tide is High (Get the Feeling"). So, in the interest of cross promotion, those lovable kittens bounced into ABC's Good Morning America studio on Friday, May 9 to perform "The Tide is High."
They turned in half an excellent performancis. Fortunately, the second half was the better one.
Audio difficulties made for an awkward first minute (the background vocal track for the song came up, but none of the kittens were singing, which looked rather strange; then the girls crept in with shaky, unsure voices). To be honest, we at Fortress King Pigeon were amazed that they were singing live at all, and the rocky start resurrected horrible memories of S Club Juniors' disastrous "One Step Closer" performance on Top of the Pops, which proved that lip-synching is sometimes the better option to exercise.
But lo! When the "Get the Feeling" part of the song kicked in, a marvelous transformation occurred! The girls got into the swing of things, their vocal confidence grew, and the enchanted studio audience clapped and swayed (and moreanchor Diane Sawyer busted some dance moves with members of the TV crew). And so the Kittens cruised through to a fine finish.
After the performance, the girls, sharing a stage with the ABC anchors, bounced up and down in an effort to see over the much taller Charles Gibson's shoulders. Omigod, it was sssooooo cute!
Here's hoping that America discovers the virtues of tapping into "Atomic Kitten Power" as an alternative pop energy source!
March 11, 2003
Girls Aloud looks like your typical British girl group: three attractive chicks singing infectious pop tunes. But what is the title to their Euro-smash hit single? Why it's "Sound of the Underground." Buoyed by massive surf guitar riffs atop sputtering drum and bass (err, I think they're calling it "garage" these days), the song does possess something of an "underground" feel. Yet one can't help feeling that Girls Aloud is just a girl group in "edgy" packaging. In fact, they are a product of yet another reality TV/talent show series: Britain's "Popstars: The Rivals."
Sugababes go further. Their enormously popular "Round Round" showcases, well, three attractive chicks singing an infectious pop tune. But there is something wondrous strange about the key changes from verse to chorus. More impressively, three quarters of the way in, the song comes to a jarring halt, a soulful R&B interlude follows, and then the crunching beats return. An earlier single, "Freak Like Me," is just as odda massive, martial tune punctuated by brutal synth stabs (courtesy of music-mishmasher Richard X's clever samplings). "Freak's" song structure begins as verse chorus verse, but in its final minute the song spirals into the stratosphere with what would once have been "the bridge," but here becomes a bridge to nowhere.
Upon hearing Sugababes, I marveled at how courageously unorthodox their song structures were. It seemed like only yesterday girl groups performed harmless R&B sounding numbers (All Saints) or bouncy bubblegum pop (Spice Girls). Bending the time-honored rules of pop on a pop stage is a risky venture (the first Sugababes album tanked in England and they were dropped from their label; the new album, however, is a smash).
Is this the beginning of a new age in innovative pop? Probably not. But I do wonder how Girls Aloud could claim enough street credibility to sing about "the sound of the underground" and, more importantly, what this might suggest about the state of the underground itself. Let us take a survey of today's pop music climate.
The Impending End of the Music Industry as We Know It
How changed the world of music is from that of ten years ago. Thanks to an economic slump and a rise in peer-to-peer programs, record sales are plummeting. Now the music industry is on the prowl for an increasingly elusive audience, and when the tried and true no longer works the suits are more easily persuaded to take risks.
For a while, bubblegum pop fueled the music industry. In those days, the key to selling more records was easy: produce more bubblegum pop. But Mandy Moore's fans are growing up, and to their ears "Candy" no longer resonates with profundity. Some producers are betting that while Spice Girls' original fans are now seeking edgier sounds, they still want a trace of that familiar bubblegum pop past. May I present to you: Sugababes!
Revivalism Run Amok
One might suggest that modern rockers Nickelback are the early 90's grunge rock revival. A supposed 80's revival has been going on for a very long time. 70's revivalism is reflected both in the disco influenced tunes of today's dance music and castrated pop punk. The hazy psychedelia of the 1960's wafts through today's electronic music. And as we take the Way Way Back Machine even further, we find that Elvis was recently back on the charts with his last greatest hits compilation. Swing dancing is still popular.
In short, the pace of revivalism has sped up to the point where there are no revivals at all (after all, something has to be brought back from the dead in order to be "revived"). Musical ideas, between eras and contemporaries, are being swapped at an increasingly kinetic pace. In this sort of an environment, what lies in the underground can rise to the surface much more rapidly.
[Secam notes that the increased pace of revivalism was observed in The Onion in an article archived here. And I say without irony that if The Onion observes it it must be true.]
The Underground is Everywhere
Anybody who has a strong opinion about music will tell you that they are down with the underground, whether they be fans of hip hop, electroclash, punk, IDM, or Eurodance. If you like the multi-Grammy winning Norah Jones, you might proudly point out that her album received little radio airplay. Modern rock is marketed as alternative. I tell Americans that Eurodance is the true underground, because it's a lot easier to hear Boards of Canada on these shores than, say, Scooter. The question all this poses, of course, is not "What is really underground?" but rather "Why are we all so eager to be underground?"
"Underground" is a term strongly associated with "credibility." Credibility sells records. Nirvana reluctantly demonstrated this when they became pop darlings. Today's desire for credibility is why pop stars like Avril Lavigne and Pink boldly display their supposed underground qualifications in every photograph, mostly by wearing punkish clothes, not smiling, and sticking their tongues out.
A decade ago, "Girl Power" was an intense underground rallying cry associated with the likes of radio-unfriendly punk rockers like Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear. Then it became a slogan for the Spice Girls. Recently, I watched in amazement as the Cheeky Girls, those Transylvanian twins in the hot pants who do the utterly disgraceful "Cheeky Dance," declared on Top of the Pops their desire to dethrone Robbie Williams from the number one slot on the singles chartin the name of "girl power."
So, everybody and everything is now Underground ®, including you and me.
Whatever Became of the True Underground? You Know, the One That Was, Like, Real, Dude?
Was there ever really an underground? Yes, there wasand it was demonstrably vital. Once, unsigned artists cut their own records and sold them through ma and pop stores. Some of those records explored territory too experimental for the conservative pop mainstream. The techno revolution, which has changed the face of music more than any other music revolution in the last quarter century, existed exclusively in the underground for years before the major labels took notice.
[Because ma and pop are now out of business, online music distribution has become the primary means for the unsigned act to seek recognition. The cheapness of this method of dissemination has resulted in a flood of material too vast for most of us to wade through. Thus, we are still in need of a filtering device (word of mouth, or the discretion of a record label) to sort through the pile. Fundamentally, nothing much has changed; today's goal is still, for most artists, to get signed to a label that will foot the cost of music production (and maybe toss in a paycheck as well), and bands must demonstrate that they have enough of a fan base in order to justify getting signed to that label.]
Whereas the underground used to undergo a changing of the guard every few years (i.e. punk rock to industrial, industrial to techno) it is now stalled. This is due to the limits of today's music technology, which seems to have been milked for all it can, and an associated lack of new ideas. While music is changing incrementally (bass is getting progressively heavier; beat production is becoming crisper), these are not revolutions. The possibilities of the four minute pop song no longer seem endless. This will one day change, when a new instrument or piece of technology sends music careening in a new direction. But for now, we are waiting.
While the underground sits on its hands, some of the boldest producers in the pop mainstream are marrying the "anything goes" underground ethos with pop hooks. They are betting that Sugababes' latest album will be the IDM fan's guilty pleasure. And so what were once separate worldspop and undergroundare blurring into one.
Taking all of the above into consideration, we can only conclude one thing:
The underground is dead.
Long live the underground.
October 14, 2002
More and more Eurodance singles are being released in the United States. This is great news both for the artists and for those of us who are frustrated by the sometimes crappy quality of the MP3's we download. Most of the singles are cheap (at Tower Records they usually retail for $4.99 or $5.99 apiece), probably because nobody's sure if there's a market for this stuff in the U.S.
Obviously, if you can afford to, go out on occassion (or visit your favorite online music retailer) and buy the Eurodance music that you like. If you are a U.S. citizen, be especially kind to American record labels. It's the best way to send a signal to the labels that we are pleased with their work. Any American label distributing Italian songstress Neja in the U.S. is taking a big chancelet 'em know what a good job they're doing through the gesture they appreciate the most: the handing over of your hard-earned moola. Believe in the power of positive reinforcement!
Among the American labels on the Euro honor roll are Radikal Records, who are carrying Scooter, ATB, Mauro Picotto, Sunbeam, Rhythm Gangstar, and many other delights. Tommy Boy Silver Label is carrying some of the better Euro house stuff, including the seductively scintillating Bel Amour (no mention of this on their Web site, however; what's up with that?). Robbins Entertainment has been very impressive; I was amazed and delighted to find Laut Sprecher's "Omnibus" and a Neja single being distributed by them (although Neja's mightiest effort, "Time Flies," seems never to have made a U.S. appearance, sadly). Nettwerk America is also releasing lots of Eurodance output, including Raven Maize and DJ Tiestoand some of that label's singles have been marked WAY down at Atlanta's Tower Records (we're talking less than a dollar).
And MCA is carrying One-T's charming "Music is the One-T ODC." The MCA version contains a smashing remix not available on the European releases (Giuseppe D's New York City Odyssey mix, a real stomper), plus it contains the video, allowing you to gawk at the leather mini-skirted Virginie Tesniere all the more. Great marketing, great packaging, great price. Long may Eurodance live in the hearts of Americans everywhere! PREACH IT, SISTUH!!!! PREEEAAAACH IT!!!!
Most recent news
News from June - October 2002 (Captain Jack, Brooklyn Bounce not keepin' it real, Stefano Sorrentino [Danich] interview, Crowd noise in dance songs)
News from February - April 2002 (Chris Menzi [Wavetraxx] interview, Alice DeeJay, Snow Parrot, Eurodance Summit on Life, Cheney and the Clown Song, Grammy Awards, ATC)