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Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Jack White releases copies of new single via balloon

If you happen to see a deflated blue balloon in your trees with a record attached to it, then you are likely the proud recipient of Jack White’s newest single, Freedom at 21. In true Willy Wonka fashion, the team at Third Man Records released 1,000 copies of the new track via balloons from their headquarters in Nashville. The flexi discs have instructions for finders to submit photos and discovery location. We like to imagine the older gent in Huntsville, Alabama, rocking out. Try it.

Helena Bonham Carter stars in new Rufus Wainwright video

HBC channels her sexually frustrated librarian in the moody new video for Rufus Wainwright’s Out of the Game. And Rufus, well he channels a bunch of personalities: glam cowboy, blonde lady-dude and Kurt Cobain. Enjoy the angst below.

The Bad

Weird Al Yankovic suing Sony Music

As they say, life imitates an imitation of art (ed. note: no one says that). Music parody master Weird Al Yankovic once wrote a Rage Against the Machine parody called I’ll Sue Ya, and he’s finally making good on his threat. Yankovic filed a suit against Sony Music for $5 million, alleging that the label underpaid his royalties. Read all about the beef here.

Whitney Houston’s autopsy report released

It looks like a combination of cocaine, alcohol and heart disease led to Whitney Houston’s accidental drowning in a hotel bathtub on February 11. The late singer’s autopsy report also revealed traces of Xanax, marijuana, Flexeril and Benadryl. In conclusion, DON’T DO DRUGS, KIDS.

The Ugly

Boy George gets poked in the eye

There are probably many folks out there who have wanted to pop Boy George in the eye at some point. Some bloke actually did this weekend during a club scuffle, forcing George’s makeup artist to get creative. Check out his one-eyed swagger here.

The Fray sissify the national anthem

People weren’t too keen on The Fray’s rendition of The Star Spangled Banner for the NCAA championships. Apparently adding lots of jangling acoustic guitar parts and plaintive vocals can really lame up a war ballad. Judge for yourself by watching their performance below.

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Weird Al Yankovic, Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper ring in NYE

Lots of big names played shows on New Year’s Eve, but no stage packed more star power into a smaller square footage than this one in Maui. Watch the holiday’s oddest trifecta play Come Together below.

Justin Timberlake off the market

NOOOOOOOO!!!! That’s us quoting every woman (and a fair share of dudes, too) who heard the rumor that Justin Timberlake got engaged to Jessica Biel this week. Let’s hope he put a ring in the box this time.

The Bad

Rihanna and Chris Brown spark speculation

Tweeps following Chris Brown and Rihanna picked up on some heat waves this week when Brown tweeted a cryptic Love U more than u know!” followed a minute later by a similar tweet from Rihanna that read “I’ll always love u #1LOVE.” This wouldn’t be so weird if not for the fact that Chris Brown’s mother, Joyce Hawkins, tweeted this, which Rihanna seemed to respond to a minute later with this. You can read more about the antics of these two crazy kids here.

Miley Cyrus punks Khloe Kardashian

Miley Cyrus and Kelly Osbourne got Khloe Kardashian good for an upcoming episode of Punk’d. The two invited Kardashian over for a girl’s night, where a delivery boy accidentally zips up his ¦ well, just watch the clip.

The Ugly

Sinead O’Connor’s marriage back on

Sinead O’Connor has continued her tradition of over-sharing. After announcing last week that her marriage was over, the singer announced this week that it was back on with a bang. Her tweet was too TMI even for us, but if you simply must know what it said, you can read it here.

Katy Perry and Russell Brand split

After only eighteen months of marriage, loveable wack-jobs Katy Perry and Russell Brand are headed to splitsville. Brand filed for divorce this week, citing irreconcilable differences. Rumor has it the split is mutual, but Brand filed the paperwork due to Perry’s very religious beliefs. R.I.P., teenage dreamers.

Miscellany

Sound And Vision: Guns N' Roses? Joan Jett? Why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is on the Verge of Becoming a Joke?

Last month when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced its fifteen nominees for induction in 2012, the organization really outdid itself”and not in a good way! Donovan? Not again! Erik B. & Rakim? Not before LL Cool J! Joan Jett and the Blackhearts?

What? No “Weird Al” Yankovic? Hasn’t he been eligible for four years?

The Hall of Fame has been scraping from the B-list for a while now, but the voting body should take a closer look at the A-list. There’s still a lot of unheralded talent there, and that would not include Joan Jett. Yes, Jett’s former band, The Runaways, deserves credit for introducing girl power to hard rock, but did Joan Jett and the Blackhearts really earn a spot in the hallowed Hall based on the strength of one really awesome No. 1 smash, 1981’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which the band didn’t even write? In the general scheme of things, aren’t they sort of a rock & roll footnote?

Not Linda Ronstadt. Perhaps the most influential female in ’70s rock, who spent the ’80s juggling genres from new wave to mariachi to the great American songbook, she’s the most deserving artist never to be nominated. And let’s talk about Pat Benatar and Stevie Nicks, who is already in the Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac but whose solo career is far more worthy of the honor than Jett’s post-Runaways. At least the nominating committee finally had the good sense to give props to Heart, though I’ll eat my copy of the “Alone” Cassingle if the Wilson sisters actually get in.

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Neuman's Own: Music About Food Gains Some Weight

In the two weeks since it’s been posted, Vegan Black Metal Chef: Episode 1 Pad Thai has been viewed over one million times. Ostensibly a parody of cooking culture today, the viral video surprisingly doesn’t play out like much of a punch line. It’s unclear how many of the one million viewings have lasted the duration of the fourteen-minute long video, but for those who do make it past nine minutes of shtick, it’s easy to forget, for example, when Black Metal Chef slices a tomato with a dagger.  And that’s precisely the point”the vid isn’t intended to be received as just a comedy sketch, but as the first in an ongoing series. According to the Why Vegan? section of the Vegan Black Metal Chef Web site, Veganism is perhaps the most beneficial non spiritual (and sometimes spiritual) thing you can do. At the end of the Web site mission statement are three embedded PETA vids, one about KFC’s main ingredient (cruelty) narrated by a suitably somber-for-the-occasion Pamela Anderson.

If you allow me to digress for a moment: With so much lip flapping about organic, bio-tech, locally-grown, cholesterol-lowering, cancer-inducing foods, our popular culturehas (not surprisingly) become very serious about food. It’s a strange turn since just a generation ago food seemed like a funny thing. Think of the pie that Soupy Sales used to throw into the faces of the unsuspecting guest or John Belushi yelling food fight! in Animal House. Food, for one reason or another, was shorthand for the mundane, the lowbrow.  And yes, that extended to the culture’s popular music. Going back to the cover of Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Band’s Whipped Cream And Other Delights (A&M, 1965) with its cream-covered model to Iggy Pop’s 1977 track Dog Food (1977) to REO Speedwagon’s You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish (Epic/Legacy, 1978), food signifiers functioned to make it clear when a musician wasn’t taking his work too seriously.  The everyday nature of food was a counter-weight to anyone attributing lofty (nay, artistic) intentions to a music-maker.

The trend continued through the ’80s, perhaps reaching its crescendo with Weird Al Yankovic’s The Food Album (Rock ˜n Roll, 1993), a compilation of ten previously released songs about sustenance. There was My Bologna (a parody of My Sharona), Addicted to Spuds (Addicted to Love) and, of course, the song that might have been the first to put him on the map, Eat It (Beat It), which began with the refrain: How come you’re always such a fussy young man?/Don’t want no Cap’n’ Crunch/ Don’t want no Raisin Bran/ Don’t you know that other kids are starving in Japan?/So eat it, just eat it

What all of this music had in common was the way it positioned food as part of larger cultural jokes, and in the case of Yankovic, as a tried and true punchline. But today, amidst the serious business of raising food consciousness, food’s role in popular music has changed. Reflecting what’s gone on in the larger society, its invocations feel much weightier.

Just a small sample serving illustrates the point. Think of R. Kelly’s The Chocolate Factory (Jive, 2003), which invoked food to riff dangerously close to the singer’s alleged sexual propensities and, perhaps in a nod to Dahl’s masterpiece, to reference childhood fantasies (the singer was eventually acquitted in a child pornography case that lasted six years). Or Matthew Herbert’s Plat Du Jour (Accidental, 2005), a veritable sonic Fast Food Nation, which samples real-life nature snippets like chickens being prepared for slaughter and weaves them into songs.

Meanwhile, indie rockers are taking the food movement as seriously in the twenty-first century as their predecessors took the Civil Rights Movement in the twentieth. TakeKara Zuaro’s 2007 cookbook I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen With Your Favorite Bands or Kay Bozich Owens and Lynn Owens’ 2008 Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook (Soft Skull). If that’s not enough Steve Albini, member of iconic acts Big Black and Rapeman and producer of such legendary acts as Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey, has just launched his own food blog.

Vegan Black Metal Chef could only come about in a culture that takes food as seriously as ours. Watch the video yourself and you will undoubtedly find yourself chuckling aloud when the demonically-clad chef inadvertently drops too much tamarind into his serving bowl and snarls, I hate it when that happens, but the context couldn’t be more serious.  In the words of VBMC, Most animals raised for food live in what I would consider a darker hell than one even I could ever imagine¦. I could go on and on with this, but I will just post some videos instead. The message couldn’t be clearer: even in the world of a dark, rubber-clad vegan offering up cooking tips, food is no laughing matter.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Kanye provides pithy content for New Yorker cartoons

We’ve entered the New Yorker cartoon caption contest just under a bazillion times, and have never won. Then Kanye West joins Twitter, says something trite, and all of a sudden his inane observations are New Yorker captions. Rage! OK, in all of our defenses, it’s not real. Comedy writers Paul Sabourin and Josh Cagen have taken West’s tweets and turned them into ersatz New Yorker cartoons. It’s funny stuff. Follow @KanyeWest for fresh tweets, check out BuzzFeed to see them put to art, and chat about them with the hashtag #kanyenewyorkertweets.

Alicia Keys and producer Swizz Beatz get married

This is good news for everyone, except maybe Swizz Beatz’s ex wife Mashonda? Dunno, seems like it might bum her out a little, seeing as how the couple had a two-year affair on the sly while he was still married to her. OK, now we’re starting to sound judgmental. We’re happy for them, really, but mostly because of the whole “Keys and Beatz” thing. Make beautiful music together, guys! We’ll stop now.

The Bad

will.i.am not thrilled about Michael Jackson’s new album

When Michael Jackson’s posthumous album of unreleased material drops by the end of 2010, there will be one person who doesn’t immediately go stand in line at Best Buy or start downloading”Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am. The producer/MC collaborated with Jackson on the 2008 rerelease of Thriller, and discovered that the King of Pop was very particular about his music. I don’t think that should ever come out. That’s bad,” he said, “He was a perfectionist and he wouldn’t have wanted it that way. How you gonna release Michael Jackson when Michael Jackson ain’t here to bless it?” The Black Eyed Pea went on to call the album project disrespectful and Jackson’s avid fans parasites. He seems displeased.

The Ugly

Aretha Franklin breaks two ribs

The iconic soul singer was scheduled to perform two concerts in Brooklyn, but had to cancel after falling at her home and breaking two ribs. This is the part where we don’t make a joke about that.

Get better soon, A-Frank!

Miscellany

Nicki Minaj announces debut album
M.I.A.’s “XXXO” video preview = WTF
Katy Perry gets uncovered for the cover of Rolling Stone
Nominees announced for VMAs
J-Lo and Steven Tyler to host American Idol?
Weird Al Yankovic to co-headline Fun Fun Fun Fest with Dirty Projectors and Devo
Kings of Leon announce fifth album, Come Sundown
Cursive’s Tim Kasher releases The Game of Monogamy