When an app has a 4.5 star rating only a month after release, you know you’re on to something special. Joining the likes of Bjork and Blur in the recent trend of musicians diving into the app business, Radiohead have unveiled a mysterious, not to mention trippy new app called PolyFauna.
Describing the new app, Thom Yorke says, “PolyFauna is an experimental collaboration between us (Radiohead) & Universal Everything, born out of The King of Limbs sessions and using the imagery and the sounds from the song Bloom. It comes from an interest in early computer life-experiments and the imagined creatures of our subconscious. Your screen is the window into an evolving world. Move around to look around. You can follow the red dot. You can wear headphones.”
Bjí¶rk took some time out to share her incredibly fantastic theory on television. At first, it’s as though an alien came to Earth, cracked open a TV, and tried to make sense of it. Then she goes on to suggest that an Icelandic poet had made her very afraid of television by lying to her that it is is actually lots of beams of light shooting into lots of little boxes, all focused at your head. This is, in fact, a very accurate description of what televisions do, but that really doesn’t matter when Bjí¶rk is telling you how much she’s come to appreciate it. Just enjoy. Transcript below.
Hello. It is Christmas time and I am sitting here by my TV. I’ve been watching it very much lately because I’m on holiday. And I’ve been seeing all these programs about all sorts of things. About Icelandics being very happy about Christmas, very gay, and also very serious and spiritual. And also seeing Icelandic comic people making jokes. Which they are very good at.
But now I’m curious. I’ve switched the TV off and now I want to see how it operates. How it can make, put me into all those weird situations. So… It’s about time.
This is what it looks like. Look at this. This looks like a city. Like a little model of a city. The houses, which are here, and streets. This is maybe an elevator to go up there. And here are all the wires. These wires, they really take care of all the electrons when they come through there. They take care that they are powerful enough to get all the way through to here. I read that in a Danish book. This morning.
This beautiful television has put me, like I said before, in all sorts of situations. I remember being very scared because an Icelandic poet told me that not like in cinemas, where the thing that throws the picture from it just sends light on the screen, but this is different. This is millions and millions of little screens that send light, some sort of electric light, I’m not really sure. But because there are so many of them, and in fact you are watching very many things when you are watching TV. Your head is very busy all the time to calculate and put it all together into one picture. And then because you’re so busy doing that, you don’t watch very carefully what the program you are watching is really about. So you become hypnotized. So all that’s on TV, it just goes directly into your brain and you stop judging it’s right or not.
You just swallow and swallow. This is what an Icelandic poet told me. And I became so scared to television that I always got headaches when I watched it. Then, later on, when I got my Danish book on television, I stopped being afraid because I read the truth, the scientifical truth and it was much better.
You shouldn’t let poets lie to you.
This morning, inside of a Russian court surrounded outside by furious protesters, a judge declared Russian punk band Pussy Riot guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The charge ultimately came with a sentence of two years in jail, and the ruling comes five months after band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were initially imprisoned for performing a “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In the February 2012 performance, the group donned neon“colored balaclavas and played a song entitled “Mother of God, Chase Putin Out,” which resulted in their immediate arrest and detention at the hands of Russian police.
Over the course of their time in custody, the band members have received support from numerous high“profile musicians, including Paul McCartney, Peaches, Madonna, Sting, Peter Gabriel, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bjí¶rk. Despite the mounting global pressure from celebrity musicians and human rights organizations on Russian authorities to release the women, the judge declared that the two“year sentence is a “caution to others” according to the Wall Street Journal’s live blogging of the trial.
In their closing statements preceding the sentencing, band members defended their actions against the prosecution’s accusations of religious hatred. Samutsevich declared that Vladimir Putin‘s government had appropriated the Orthodox Church as a political tool in order to control the Russian populace, and repress human rights and civil liberties. The band’s performance, Samutsevich continued, was an attempt to reclaim the Orthodox culture, which the government had co“opted as an oppressive arm of the Putin regime. Contrary to the charges against them, the band members claim, their performance was meant to reunite the church with the Russian spirit of “civic revolt and protest.” Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova also drew parallels with persecuted Soviet“era poet Joseph Brodsky and the absurdist Oberiu poets of the 1920s and ’30s. Brodsky was denounced and eventually expelled from the USSR, while the Oberiu poets were condemned for “literary hooliganism” and arrested.
Russia’s notably troubled history with media censorship has been worsening, as the trial’s outcome suggests. The Huffington Post claims that recent laws have increased fines to almost $9,000 for those who take part in unauthorized demonstrations, and that NGOs must register as “foreign agents” if they are to engage in any political activity. Though the three members of Pussy Riot supposedly laughed after their sentence was announced, it remains to be seen whether their sentencing will trigger a larger backlash against Russia’s draconian censorship laws, as they implied in their closing statements.
Below, watch a bystander video of the protest gig that resulted in the band’s arrest.
After sentencing, the band remained defiant, with Alyokhina stating bluntly, “I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ˜so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.”
More like this:
Music documentaries abound this year, with works in progress by The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, and Bjí¶rk.
According to Rolling Stone, HBO will be airing a documentary this fall about The Rolling Stones, “as part of the band’s 50th anniversary.” Each of the four current band members will be involved, as will former band members, all of whom are being interviewed extensively for the film. Directed by documentary filmmaker Brett Morgan (director of The Kid Stays in the Picture), the feature will trace the band’s career from their inception to present.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Beyoncé is also working on a documentary. The pop/R&B diva will be producing, directing, and starring in a biographical/concert film chronicling her life and music career, similar to the recent Katy Perry and Justin Bieber films. For more updates, possible sneak peak photos, and film clips, visit her personal Tumblr page.
The most unique documentary news, however, might be that regarding Icelandic experimental singer Bjí¶rk, who has decided to team up with famed nature filmmaker and broadcaster David Attenborough for a music documentary. According to NME.com, “Attenborough and Bjork: The Nature of Music looks at the evolution of music, our relationship with music and how technology could impact this relationship in the future.” This is very much in-line with the theme of Bjí¶rk’s newest album, Biophilia, and its accompanying iPhone app, which explore the connections between nature and music, including the many ways in which music is created naturally throughout the world and universe.
More Like This:
In a forward-thinking move, Bjí¶rk has teamed up with a group of programmers and designers to launch her new album in a new format: as an iPad app. As described in its iTunes app store page, “Biophilia is an extraordinary and innovative multimedia exploration of music, nature and technology by the musician Bjí¶rk.” The album is visualized as a galaxy, and the individual tracks are scattered in different star constellations (acquired as in-app purchases). Within each track there are multiple assorted goodies; features range from games and interactive artwork to music notation and lyrics. Whether you’re a casual listener or a professional musician, there’s something there for you.
Bjí¶rk has always been an artist known for being ahead of the game. And, in this case, she isn’t just giving us art: this is music, technology and science, all packaged into a one beautiful bundle. The question is how long will it take before other artists adapt a similar method to their own releases? Is it only a matter of time until the app store is flooded with mediocre attempts to capitalize on this new format as an innovative marketing tool? Or will this present itself as another creative outlet for the scores of talented musicians and visual artists? All we can say is that we can’t wait for this to be out and about for the world to explore.
The Biophilia album is set to be released September 26, with each song being released as a single on the iTunes app store independently. The first single, “Crystalline”, was released with a video; treat it as a sneak peak for what’s to come.
Though we’re at least two decades removed from MTV‘s prime, never underestimate the enduring power of music videos. They can send singles zooming up the charts (Katy Perry’s latest jumped from No. 31 to No. 4 the week after the video hit YouTube), make intolerable songs must-hear and must-see (as Ke$ha‘s “Blow” recently did) and drum up just enough controversy to make fairly mainstream acts seem edgy (take a bow, Lady Gaga). But unlike the days when Michael Jackson and MTV ruled, for the most part, they’re no longer trying to change music or do much more beyond promoting the artists whose names are attached to them.
Lady Gaga and Beyoncé still take the art of making videos seriously; Ke$ha, who owes her entire career to a carefully cultivated video image, put an MTV VMA-worthy effort into “Blow” (my pick for the best pop clip of 2011 so far); and Katy Perry shines brightest onscreen. Still, when it comes to videos, most of today’s pop stars offer little more than what’s expected of them. They show up, look fantastic and lip-sync to the best of their ability.
It’s been years since the once always-dependable Madonna has given us the wow factor. Annie Lennox and Bjí¶rk are from a now-bygone era. Michael Jackson is dead. And Adele, who could have done so much with “Rolling in the Deep,” didn’t even bother to get off her ass!
Which pop stars are making the biggest impressions”for better and for worse”on MTV and on YouTube these days? I like Nicki Minaj, but she’s all styling”without the bells and whistles, she’d probably blend into the woodwork. And Jennifer Lopez has never been sexier than she is in “I’m Into You,” but the video is only about how great she looks. The song is throwaway, and the video doesn’t make it sound any better. So who are video’s latest MVPs? Here are my picks for who’s Hot and Not.
Debbie Gibson in Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” The fifth video from Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream album really pulls its weight, doing precisely what a good video should do: It sells the song. It’s a true transformer, turning “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” from a mediocre album track into a Teenage Dream highlight. Interestingly, the best moment involves neither the song nor the star. The usually dependable Perry overplays her geek alter-ego throughout, but toward the end, when ’80s teen queen Debbie Gibson shows up as her mom, the clip morphs from Glee meets Party Girl and Can’t Hardly Wait into a sort of video roast of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. Gibson does the perfectly pressed upper-crust glamour mom/wife with confidence and humor. Hollywood! Quick! Get this woman her own sitcom!
Rihanna in “Man Down” Music videos rarely require acting chops. If you’ve got the look”and Rihanna certainly does”three-quarters of the battle is won. In “Man Down,” a controversial gothic drama about the ripple effect of sexual abuse, Rihanna creates a complete character without uttering a single word of dialogue. Watching her tragic response after she’s sexually assualted outside of a club, I find myself wishing that she were making her film debut next year in a dramatic showcase that would require more from her than Battleship, a Hollywood wannabe-blockbuster set for release next Memorial Day weekend.
Kelly Rowland in “Motivation” I’ve never listened to the first hit single from Rowland’s third album, Here I Am, without the benefit of the video visual, so I couldn’t tell you if it stands on its own. But for the first time in her solo career, Rowland does. I’d make some crack about how she’s bringing sexy back, but it’s the first time we’ve seen Rowland bring it period (ah, the wonders of a blue lighting and impossibly sculpted male dancers). After so many years of being a second banana in Destiny’s Child, living her pop life in Beyoncé’s shadow, Rowland at last is the star of her own show.
Jennifer Hudson in “No One Gonna Love You” Hudson proves that her Oscar win for Dreamgirls may have been a fluke, and her underwhelming follow-up performance in the first Sex and the City movie wasn’t. In her (flimsy) defense, the dialogue that begins her latest clip is as awkward as the song’s grammatically challenged title. But a great Academy Award-winning actress should be able to transcend a poor script. Hudson looks amazing, but her sass sounds forced, and she tries too hard to channel Beyoncé in too-the-left-to-the-left female-empowerment mode. Instead, she comes across as kind of cranky and annoyed. No wonder her man can’t get away from her fast enough! Next time Hudson should skip the pillow talk and just sing.
Britney Spears in “I Wanna Go” Where’s Britney Spears’s pop-star spark? Look closely at her in any video from her last three albums: She’s dead behind the eyes. The zombie act continues in the third clip from the Femme Fatale album. Being Britney Spears is hard work, so now she’s trying to be Ke$ha (the attitude at the press conference that kicks off the video is straight out of “Blow”) with a touch of Avril Lavigne (her purposeful strut as she stalks the streets seems to have been lifted from “What the Hell”). Instead, she comes across as a third-string pop star (Mandy Moore or Jessica Simpson back when Britney was on top). Though she gets bonus points for not falling back on the same dance routines that dominate her videography, if she wants to show us that it’s not easy being Britney (yawn, yes, there we go again), the least she could do is be Britney.
Enrique Iglesias in “Dirty Dancer” They don’t make male solo pop stars the way they did back when Michael Jackson and Prince ruled the world. Bruno Mars and Jason Derülo are nice to look at but hardly potentially iconic video stars. Then there’s Iglesias”gorgeous, talented and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of sizing up face to face. But it’s time for him to do something new with his. You can take him out of any of the videos he’s made since his English-language breakthrough in 1999 with “Bailamos,” drop him into another one, and the videos all remain the same. I’m not saying those come hither looks don’t work”only the most justifiably confident pop star would dare to name a song “Tonight I’m F**kin´ You” and probably be right”but when I’m starting to tire of looking at Enrique Iglesias head shots (tilt it just so, look up slightly, smolder), we’ve got a serious problem.