Wednesday, September 29, 2004


File under "better late than never"...this album review was originallly supposed to run closer to mid-summer but got delayed. I get the feeling that only a handful of folks checked for the CD anyway: Mash Out Posse by M.O.P. and Shiner Massive, for The Village Voice.

  • Sasha breaks down the pop life in an exclusive online interview at the New Yorker's web site. Some interesting tidbits for your consideration:
      -"Pop songs are short and not always expensive to make—not that artists necessarily enjoy the benefits of that economy—and the pop cycle turns around faster. There’s been a constant droning since I was four years old about pop all sounding the same, but that “same” changes pretty quickly. Lil Jon’s hegemony will be replaced in a few months by someone else’s. And that’s good."
      -"commercial pressure is a great spur for artists. Record executives, even if they pray to Mammon, tend to have the same taste as I do: big hooks, lots of energy, and a general sense of vigor. Musicians are lazy, entitled people, and they need something to push them."
      -"I think it's no coincidence that ambient electronic music came up during the economic boom of the nineties. It's very untroubled music, good to listen to while working on your laptop or shopping. Now we have lots of high-impact, shiny hip-hop aimed at drinking and dancing, not unlike the swing and hot jazz made during the Second World War. There's an awful lot to be distracted from, and pop works as an anodyne before it acts as anything else."
      -"teen-age girls are the new teen-age guys. Guys today are too busy pouting and finding their pain to assert their egos in a bouncy and hummable way. So the girls are doing it. From Avril Lavigne on, pop-rock girls are now the ones asserting will and confidence."
      -""Dangerously in Love" is the kind of ballad no one should ever have to sing."

    I recently sat in on a graduate seminar at UC Berkeley that dealt with popular music theory and what I always forget is that even among presumably intelligent and educated people, many ascribe to the firm belief that "pop sucks" and "the music industry = evil." I'm simplifying but you get down to it and the sentiments are in plain view.

    That's what I like about Sasha's comments above: they are far more nuanced and insightful about the nature of pop music without remotely being overly naive nor cynical. It also contradicts 90% of conventional wisdom around what most think about the relationship between industry and artistry, i.e. that industry recycles formulas and crushes the agency/autonomy of the artist to do so. The portrait that Sasha paints is simultaneously more complex yet oddly, far simpler than what most think about pop...which is precisely why I think pop is so amazing to begin with.

    After all, I think Sasha nails it down when he suggests what we like about pop is that it's got "big hooks, lots of energy, and a general sense of vigor" which I'd further simmer down into "it makes you feel good." On an intellectual level, I might understand why people want to hate on Britney from now until Gabriel's horn blows but putting aside what we might think of Spears' life-as-train-wreck-in-progress, physically, I don't know how one can't respond to "Toxic". Or Nina Sky rockin' Coolie Dance riddims on "Move Your Body." Or Snoop rhyming over the Neptunes' pops and clicks on "Drop It Like It's Hot"

    I'm not mad at artists trying to free my mind but if my ass doesn't get moved as part of the bargain, I'd rather read a book.

  • Junichi comes out to defend his alum. As exciting as that probably sounds (or not), believe me - this is on some movie of the week-type drama. All I can say is that Junichi hits it on the head with this comment: "I don't see much of a moral difference between my classmates who choose to become prostitutes and those who whore themselves out to corporate interests."

  • So this explains Barry White...Sound of voice may explain sexual behavior

  • Awwwdamn on the Pixies show at the Greek Theater.

  • File under: Good intentions, uneven results. Least Likely is an ad campaign that encourages Asian Americans to vote since we're the "least likely" of all Americans to actually do so. Remember, you can't spell "apathy" without A.P.A. (that's Asian Pacific Americans for you non-yeller/brown folk).

    This campaign serves the same purpose but is more club-friendly. Well, at least in NY or LA.
    (credit: Angry Asian Man)

  • Also spotted over at Angry's: There's an exhibit of 10,000 Chinese restaurant menus at the Museum of the Chinese in America. What I find interesting about this is how there seems to be a synchronicity of different projects, all oriented (ha, pun intended) around the Chinese restaurant as a social and cultural symbol. S and I have been watching Cheuk Kwan's Chinese Restaurants documentary series - Kwan, a Chinese Canadian filmmaker, travels around the world: Trinidad, South Africa, Cuba, Madagascar, Turkey, etc. and explores the spread of the Chinese immigrant diaspora by visiting Chinese restaurants in each city.

    Kwan's idea is brilliant. For any inteprid grad students out there: watch these films, apply for some travel grants, and retrace his steps as a dissertation project and I can practically guarantee you that schools will be falling over themselves to hire you. Seriously though, there is perhaps no symbol of transnational Chinese-ness more ubiquitious than the Chinese restaurant and for immigrants moving through all these nations, restaurants become part of a symbolic and material link to the notion of "home" - as a place to find people who look/speak like you. But what Kwan's series also demonstrates is that the people who run these restaurants are evolving a notion of "home", away from an essentialist idea of transporting China, wholesale, to another country. Instead, Kwan's work takes note of the transformations that happen as second and third generation Chinese-Cuban/Trinidadian/South African/etc. grow up and become part of a country/society's greater social make-up. As anyone can tell you 'round here, Chinese restaurants in America are nothing like Chinese restaurants in China: these are all adapations, adjustments, and in true hybrid fashion, something new comes out of the making.

    It's something we take for granted when we order our spicy chicken wings but as a social/cultural institution, Chinese restaurants are incredibly important. I'm glad more folks are starting to recognize.

  • We taking over TV: Pacific Fusion