"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Battle of the bands?

I've been listening to a couple of new albums recently, and it's been an interesting contrast. I'm going to include samples of each in this post so you can judge for yourself.

First out of the gate, we have the woman known (for better or worse) as the World's Most Famous Pop Tart, Ms. Britney Spears, with her new CD "Blackout". For reasons which I fail to comprehend, this album shot to the #1 position on the pop charts from the moment of its release two weeks ago. Of course, interest in the album was no doubt piqued by Brit's extremely bizarre public behavior over the last year or so, and many people perhaps bought it out of curiosity. However, some folks actually kind of like it, and since this blog faithfully follows social and pop culture trends (hah!), I decided to listen to the album for myself to see what the hoopla was all about. It's a fact that early in her career Britney was something of a legitimate sensation; so has she still "got it", musically speaking?

The answer, at least according to my ears, is not just "no", but "hell no".

Her music (and I use the term loosely) consists of white trash wannabe hip-hop/rap/crunk that, according to one reviewer, sounds like "what you would expect to hear if a plastic blow-up sex doll could sing." Says another:
"Britney's had a lot of drama, so naturally, it's time to make a new album, right? And what better title than, say, "Blackout," which doesn't evoke her substance-fueled club binges at all? At any rate, "Blackout" (Jive) is her fifth and most hilarious record, thanks largely to the contrast between the often-brilliant musical production and Spears' steadfast insistence on taking herself seriously and expecting you will, too on songs called "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)," "Freakshow" and "Why Should I Be Sad?" Oh, no reason. It's as if a beautiful Vaudevillian theater is collapsing around her and she refuses to leave the stage."
In virtually every track she expresses a minor variation of the following theme: "I am Britney, bitch, the hottest, most sexy-licious woman ever to walk the planet. Girls all wish they could be like me. Guys all want to make it with me, and if you're lucky I might choose one of you to donate your bodily fluids so I can make yet another baby, which some asshat judge will most likely take away from me. Whatever."

If only I were making this up.

Mind you, Britney does not so much sing these lyrics as she coos, moans, groans, and giggles them. In fact, the 12 tracks on "Blackout" are so mind-numbingly similar that I decided to dust off my old radio production skills and edit them together for your listening pleasure. That's right folks, there's no need to go out and spend your hard-earned cash: you can hear the entire album condensed down to a mere four minutes right here! Plus, as an extra added bonus I even threw in a couple of "oldies but goodies" in places where they seemed especially appropriate in the mash-up. Note: you might want to listen with a good set of headphones, in order to pick up the subtle nuances of Ms. Spear's delicate vocal stylings. Seriously. It's pretty hard to figure out what the hell she's saying otherwise. Check it out:

And then on the other hand, we have probably the greatest American rock band ever, The Eagles. To be fair, their new album has also received mixed reviews since its release last week, but nevertheless, compared to Britney this is not unlike being offered two glasses: one containing a 2003 Château Léoville St.-Julien Bordeaux and the other containing liquefied industrial waste, and being asked to choose which you'd rather drink. The eagerly-anticipated "Long Road Out of Eden" -- a two-disk CD set, no less -- is their first studio album since 1979's "The Long Run", yet listening to the tracks, it's hard to believe that nearly thirty years has elapsed; to me, the music sounds as fresh, intense, and enjoyable as ever. It's filled with their trademark soaring harmonies and guitar-fueled rockers, and many of the lyrics crackle with resident cynic Don Henley's environmental sensitivity. Consider, for example, the first cut on CD1 entitled "No More Walks In The Woods":

Makes you want to just go out and hug a tree, don't it? The album gets even better from there on out; the first disk features more of their goosebump-inducing harmonies, while the second disk cuts loose with kick-ass country rockers that invoke memories of songs like "Life In The Fast Lane", "Already Gone", and "Heartache Tonight".

Admittedly, there's a few misfires. Henly's preachiness, while of noble intent, begins to wears thin when you consider that the album is being sold in an exclusive marketing deal with Wal-Mart -- which makes the line "we worship at the marketplace while common sense is going out of style" in "Business As Usual" ring a bit hollow. I would be way more impressed if the band had bypassed the record company/retailer conglomerate and sold the disk solely from their web site, but I guess it must be pretty difficult to be that eglatarian (pun intended) when mega-corporations are throwing huge bags of cash at you. Also, in dishing up two CD's worth of material the band included a few songs (the too-long "Waiting In The Weeds" and the vaguely creepy "I Love To Watch A Woman Dance", for example) that might not have made the cut had they been going for a really excellent single disk.

But The Eagles vs. Britney? The musical styles are so different that it's really impossible to compare them; Henley, Frey, & Co. are pretty damn good even if they don't quite reach the level of brilliance I'd hoped for, and Brit's well-produced album might not be so bad if only she didn't sing on it. Unfortunately, she does.

I'd rather have the Bordeaux, thank you.


  • At 11/13/2007 08:50:00 AM, Blogger Sphincter said…

    I, too, was astonished that Brit's album made this kind of debut. Sorry, but I thought she had reached the strictly mocking stage and that nobody would actually LISTEN to her. People kick her every time she's down (which is most of the time) and then rush out to buy her crap? I'm confused.

    Like that old Woody Allen line about the two old women in a restaurant:
    Woman 1: The food in this place is horrible!
    Woman 2: Yes, and the portions are SO small.

  • At 11/13/2007 01:33:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    I have to admit that I was a bit curious (aka the "train wreck" syndrome), especially since some of the reviews said it was actually pretty decent dance music, which I have been known to like. The production is OK, but her so-called "singing" totally ruins it.

    At least I didn't have to shell out any actual money; I still have contacts in "the biz" and scored a free promo copy. The worst part, though, is that some of her vapid lyrics are now stuck playing over and over in my head. Arrgh!


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