OurStage’s Top Ten Fictional Music Movies: There are many film scripts that invent bands as part of the narrative. Most are just an afterthought, and many more are forgettable and awful, even as a figment of a screenwriter’s imagination. These films created the best, funniest, most realistic, lived-in bands in film.
10. Light of Day (1987)
Who in 1987 wasn’t waiting for the Michael J. Fox – Joan Jett big screen pairing? The only question was what the vehicle would be. A rom-com? Sci-fi thriller? A Tango & Cash“esque buddy cop action-comedy? A Back to the Future sequel where Marty meets The Runaways in 1977? What we actually got was an unexpectedly gritty family drama, centering on the relationship between brother and sister Joe and Patty (Fox and Jett), who perform together in a struggling E Street-esque bar band called The Barbusters. I have just told you the worst part of the movie. The band is called The Barbusters. This blow is softened by the appearance of the great Michael McKean as a band member”one of McKean’s THREE appearances on this list.
Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, wrote and directed this film and in fact commissioned a song by Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen came back with Born In The U.S.A. but decided to keep that one for himself. Too bad, it could have been a hit. The Barbusters do a decent job with his alternate effort, the title song, Light of Day.” And, hey, look, Michael J. Fox can sing. This begs the question”what the hell, Robert Zemeckis? The idea that it’s Fox’ voice singing Johnny B. Goode in Back to the Future is the least credible part of a movie about a time traveling DeLorean that runs on plutonium.
9. 8 Mile (2002)
People say that Eminem was basically playing himself in this film about an aspiring rapper from Detroit with a fucked-up mom and few prospects aside from an innate and unique lyrical flow. But it’s a mistake to go into this thinking it’s the Eminem Story. Em and director Curtis Hanson wisely keep the character of B-Rabbit sullen and low-key. The rapper is not a great actor, but he plays this one just right, with visibly crippling insecurity and remarkably restrained rage. The cleverness of the “improvised” rhymes staged on street corners and at club battles is just short of believable, but (spoiler alert) at the end, when B-Rabbit destroys all comers with Eminem’s signature delivery, disbelief is easily suspended. This won an Oscar for the great lead song Lose Yourself.
If you’re looking for it, it’s actually not too hard to find a new band you really dig. Most often, those artists are doing something that resonates with you because of your established tastes. It sounds familiar, it feels comfortable, and maybe there’s even an aspect of the music that’s unique. Much more rare, though, is to come across an act doing something completely different than what you might otherwise find in your music collection and still be affected by it. Such is the case with The Shills, a band that seems to blend so many varied influences as to produce music that cannot be so easily pigeonholed. Fresh off a second win in our Indie Pop channel, they are our latest Artist of the Week.
If you’re a rock fan, and especially one disheartened by the state of music as represented, say, in the recent Grammy Awards, you might find yourself thinking that the world could use an antidote, and maybe a heavy dose at that. The Fratellis might have been thinking the same thing when they titled their newest album We Need Medicine, and delivered a blast of thoughtful, authentic rock and roll. The UK trio blazed onto the US scene when their song “Flathead” appeared in a 2007 iPod commercial. They’ve been steadily building up a devoted fan base since then, and We Need Medicine, their first album after an extended hiatus, is the gem that really should put them over the top stateside. We spoke with singer and guitarist Jon Fratelli about his approach to writing songs, making videos, and how much influence current pop music has on the band (SPOILER: none).
OS: You’ve spoken about the songs on We Need Medicine in terms of how they serve the record, that you’ve written songs of a certain type because the record needed it. This somewhat business-like approach calls to mind songwriters like Paul McCartney, who can write heartbreaking or joyous songs simply having set out to fill a requirement. Indeed, many of your new songs sound positively exuberant. Has songwriting always worked that way for you, or has that ability to just sit down and do a job developed along with you as songwriters?
Jon: I think it’s really just about having a vague idea of somewhere you’d like to go. I learned that by having no idea where to go on the second Fratellis record; it ends with a mediocre album and with songs that, a year later, you don’t want to play anymore. I didn’t want that to be the case this time so only concentrated on writing in a style that know I’ll always be able to connect to.
OS: You guys are great at style or genre exercise songs, but what song would you pick from your catalogue that is stylistically most uniquely you?
Jon: I hope never to write that song. There’ll always be songs that other people connect you with more than others, but I don’t think musicians really do that with their own music. If you write something that perfectly sums up everything you’ve ever wanted to say then you have no reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Billboard today has a piece regarding the highs and (more recently) lows of American Idol and the show’s upcoming season. It rather sadly exposes the whole production as a microcosm of the floundering, old-school end of the music industry. The players are scrambling behind the scenes to figure out why ratings plummeted in later seasons, changes are being made, and the faces of the show are desperately trying to make us remember Idol‘s former glory as a ratings bonanza and a legitimate factor in the music industry. Harry Connick Jr., a former mentor and now judge on the show (along with Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban), says:
Remember when they came out with new Coke and everybody was upset by it? It couldn’t have teed up the return of Coke Classic any better. When Coke Classic came out, it exploded even bigger than it was before because it created this void and people missed it. And I think that’s what this year can potentially do for this brand. People sort of missed their classic ‘American Idol.’ And it’s back.
Yeesh. New executive producer Per Blankens, who had great success running the Swedish version of the show, similarly stresses a “back to basics” formula. We think that this is the best show there is — the original that’s inspired others,” he says, “so it’s not that viewers necessarily want that big gimmicky change in order to come back to the TV couches. They want to see the show they’ve grown to love.
For years now, Freeway Rick Ross, the real life drug dealer upon whom rapper Rick Ross bases his stage persona and kingpin image, has been trying to nail Ross (the latter) for making millions by selling his music under an appropriated drug lord persona. Last week, a California judge dismissed Freeway Rick’s most recent appeal, citing the rapper’s creation of original works that only used the name as a jumping-off point. Freeway Rick was not amused.
In a statement issued following the judge’s rejection of his appeal, the real Freeway Rick Ross remarked: “There is a teachable moment about the state of our community when a man who has a respectable job as a correctional officer, has to recreate himself in my former image as a large-scale kingpin to gain what he feels is social acceptance as a successful man.” Though Freeway Rick’s indignation does have a point here, he misunderstands Ross’ motivations. Ross was never thinking about perceived social acceptance as a successful man. He was thinking about actual success. And he actually achieved it by making insane amounts of money because he understands the fan inclination to want to believe that artists’ music reflects a truthful depiction of their lives.
Hip-hop culture has always been based on the appropriation and re-interpretation of communal objects from the past. It’s called sampling. And hip-hop artists have been doing it in with their stage personas forever, pretending to be harder and more dangerous than they actually are. So when Ross took on the symbolic identity of a historical drug dealer, he was doing just that: “sampling” someone else’s life and then turning it into something new. And that is exactly why Rick Ross’ recent lawsuit against LMFAO for interpolating the lyric “Every day I’m hustlin” from his 2006 song “Hustlin” is so ironic, because when LMFAO jokingly altered that line, they were doing the exact same thing. Though Ross’ lawsuit states that LMFAO’s similar lyric is “an obvious attempt to capitalize on the fame and success of “Hustlin,” the reality of the situation is a bit more nuanced.
Jack White effectively effed up a whole bunch of “most anticipated in 2014” lists when, in a chat with fans this weekend, he casually announced that he’s almost finished recording a new album. This is why it pays to procrastinate, people — get those lists in late! Since we here at OurStage are huge fans of waiting until the last possible minute to get stuff done, we’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that we’re all anticipating the new Jack White record. So hard.
And, uh, it’s probably time that we tell you about some of the other albums slated for release this year that have us really excited. You can only put these things off for so long. Without further ado, here are 10 more records we’re super pumped to get our ears on in 2014.
1. Against Me!
When Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, formerly known as Tom Gabel, announced her transition back in 2012, some fans wondered if a female-fronted iteration of the band would have the same intensity and infectiousness as its predecessor. The answer: Yes, of course. Last year’s acoustic True Trans EP was beautiful, and if the first few singles from the upcoming Transgender Dysphoria Blues are any indication, that record will absolutely rip as well.