Thursday’s Top Ten

January 31, 2008

—Happy birthday to Justin Timberlake, who turns 27 today. Justin is still living high off of Futuresex/Lovesounds, his 2006 CD that spawned six (!) Top 20 singles — including three Number Ones. What will he do for an encore? Appear in the Super Bowl Pepsi commercial streaming below.

—Republican presidential candidate John McCain hits Leno tonight. It will be his first visit to any talk show where he’s actually the frontrunner, so expect more small talk than Straight Talk.

—Britney Spears has been rushed to UCLA Medical Center in what the hospital is calling “another Thursday.”

Lost returns tonight, and one has to wonder if it might eclipse this year’s ratings for American Idol. For one thing, ABC has been hyping the show like crazy, running a constant countdown in the lower right corner of every ABC show and going so far as to rerun the Season 3 finale last night. On top of that, critics love the Season 4 debut and fans everywhere are gabbing like mad. Put down your drink, Paula. And Randy, put down Paula’s backup drink. I’m calling a Lost premier audience of more than 30 million.

Montel Williams is leaving the daytime talk schedule after 17 years of The Montel Williams Show. Countless questions are circulating — does he have a book deal? Who will replace him in ’09? And why is he leaving now? But most importantly: how will I know who’s the daddy?!?

—In other talk show news, Marie Osmond will premier Marie, her brand new daytime talk show, in Fall of 2009. Don’t expect a Mormon version of “Who’s The Daddy,” as no one’s willing to run DNA tests on hundreds of children and dozens of wives.

Bill Cosby is recording his own rap album called State of Emergency, which will feature no profanity, drug references or degradation of women. True or not, that sentence alone is funnier than the entirety of Bill’s latest standup routine.

The Roots, Philadelphia’s premier hip-hop group, will release Rising Down later this year — and the list of guest appearances on the new disc is set. Among the guests are Common, Mos Def and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy. Common, Mos Def and Pat Stump? What, was Bill Cosby busy?

Jennifer Lopez is on pregnancy watch, as rumours about her delivery have been circulating since Monday. Some say she’s in the hospital, others say she won’t give birth until next week. Either way, this has to be the least pornographic reference to “J. Lo’s twins” in recent memory.

—And in political news, Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards dropped out of the presidential race this week.


Pop Music’s Super Tuesday

January 31, 2008

Josh Groban represents everything that was wrong with the music industry in 2007. His Noel, a Christmas CD initially released in October, became the best-selling album of the year — moving 2.8 million copies in eleven short weeks. Sales wise, Noel beat out the soundtrack to High School Musical 2 (2.7 mill) as well as Daughtry’s Daughtry (2.3 mill).

So what’s the big deal with a Christmas album taking the top spot in a troubled year for the music industry? Just one thing: Groban didn’t sell any records until Oprah named Noel a must-have Xmas album. That means that three of the bestselling discs of 2007 were inherently tied to other media: Groban’s sales, obviously, were Oprah-induced; the soundtrack to HSM 2 was inevitably tied to its Disney TV film; and Daughtry owes the entirety of its success to American Idol, the biggest show on television.

The real moral, then, is that no one is buying music for the sake of music anymore. 2007 saw numerous big releases from even bigger artists — Kanye West (Graduation); Fall Out Boy (Infinity on High); Norah Jones (Not Too Late); 50 Cent (Curtis); Bon Jovi (Lost Highway); Avril Lavigne (The Best Damn Thing); Maroon 5 (It Won’t Be Soon Before Long); Carrie Underwood (Carnival Ride); even Linkin Park (Minutes to Midnight). But they all lost out to a Christmas crooner because of an Oprah endorsement.

So how does the music industry recover? It learns from past mistakes. All of those CDs that I just named, with the exception of two, got their own release date in 2007. (That is, no two were released on the same day.) But the best single week for sales in ’07 aligns with the exception: the release week for Kanye’s Graduation and 50 Cent’s Curtis. In a famous media event, the two rappers went head-to-head on Sept. 11, 2007. Kanye won the battle; the music industry won the war. That week, Curtis and Graduation combined for more than 1.5 million albums sold – over half of Groban’s sales for all of 2007. So instead of making head-to-head weeks the exception, the music industry should make them the rule in ‘08. Enter February 5, 2008, or the music industry’s first Super Tuesday.

Next Tuesday, the same day as the all those presidential primaries, record companies will release three major records — the first three big pop records of 2008. The first is Jack Johnson’s Sleeping Through The Static, the second is Sheryl Crow’s Detours, and the third is Lenny Kravitz’s It’s Time For A Love Revolution.

Who’ll come out on top? Major record labels doesn’t really care, so long as loyal fans of all three artists flock to record stores the day the albums are released. But if you’re confused as to what you should or shouldn’t get, check out my Super Tuesday Buyer’s Guide after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

21 Days of Grammies: Part 11

January 31, 2008

Why should you care about the Grammy Awards? Very valid question. But let’s face it: as the Writer’s Strike threatens to shut down more and more red carpet events, the 50th Annual Grammies may be the only constant in this year’s lagging awards season. In that light, the following is the eleventh installment in my three-week countdown to February 10. Read below for my picks & pans in one of ’08’s many Grammy categories.

The award: Best Rock Album

Past five winners: Red Hot Chili Peppers (Stadium Arcadium); U2 (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb); Green Day (American Idiot); Foo Fighters (One By One); Bruce Springsteen (The Rising)

2008 Nominees
Daughtry, Daughtry
Revival, John Fogerty
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters
Magic, Bruce Springsteen
Sky Blue Sky, Wilco

Who’s Missing: The Grammy voters — notorious for nominating the most popular music over the best popular music — left three huge hitters out of this year’s Rock Album category: Fall Out Boy (Infinity on High), Linkin Park (Minutes to Midnight) and Avril Lavigne (The Best Damn Thing). They also ignored critical favorites Queens of the Stone Age (Era Vulgaris) and Nine Inch Nails (Year Zero); although, to be fair, so did the mass public.

Who Shouldn’t Be There: Wilco. Don’t get me wrong; Sky Blue Sky is a fantastic record, it’s just in the wrong group. Nominated as a Rock Album, it has no shot at winning a Grammy. But placed in the Best Alternative Album category — where Wilco won for A Ghost is Born in 2004 — it has more than a chance to take home a golden record. One has to wonder what morphs an alternative band into a rock band in the eyes of Grammy voters. It’s kind of reminiscent of how the Killers lost to Green Day in ’05 in this category, as the Killers are an alternative band that plays primarily synthesizers and wears eye-makeup. (Although Green Day wear eye makeup too.)

Who Should Win: Bruce Springsteen. Magic has all the elements that Grammy voters love: critics waxed hyperbolic when it came out in October (including five stars from Rolling Stone); it achieved commercial success in topping the Billboard Chart; and it comes from a Grammy all star — Springsteen has won 14 awards since ’84. In fact, this year’s biggest Grammy shock was that Bruce wasn’t nominated for Album of the Year.

Who Will Win: Going by Grammy history, this is a tough call. Typically, Grammy voters nominate one rock album for Album of the Year — in 2008, it’s the Foo Fighters. This album rarely takes home Album of the Year, but it naturally becomes the winner of Best Rock Album as a sort of “consolation” prize. In fact, the only time this pattern hasn’t repeated in the last decade was 2004, when Evanescence’s Fallen lost in both the Album of the Year and Best Rock Album categories. Who won Best Rock, you ask? The Foo Fighters for One By One. So in a just universe, the Foo Fighters would lose both Album of the Year and Best Rock Album this year, giving the Rock reward to Bruce Springsteen. But the Grammies ain’t fair. (Evidence: Dave Grohl won one Grammy with Nirvana; he’s won four with the Foo Fighters.) For that reason, I’m voting Foo for Best Rock Album.

Wednesday’s Top Ten

January 30, 2008

Christian Bale turns 34 today, which is about 5 years older than I would have expected. While Bale has been around Hollywood a long time, Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” remakes have introduced him as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Bale has also since then done an incredible job at selecting parts consisting only of quietly intense characters, be it Bruce Wayne, Dan Evans (3:10 to Yuma) or even Jim Luther Davis in “Harsh Times.”

— In political news, John McCain won the Florida primary yesterday, inching closer to winning the GOP presidential bid. His friend Rudy Giuliani is expected to get out of the race and throw his endorsement in McCain’s direction. It appears Super Tuesday might only be interesting on the Democratic side, even though John Edwards has also dropped out of the race.

— There was talk “Falling Slowly” from Once would be dismissed from the Oscars because of eligibility issues, but the Academy ruled the song would be considered. However, this would seem to make it a long shot for Best Original Song, which is too bad, because if nothing else, it’s a category “Once” deserved to win.

— A Cambridge newspaper survey was released claiming the university’s kinkiest college was their medical students, who had an average of 7 sexual partners. Math majors were the least sexual active. It appears “Grey’s Anatomy” really resonated with the intelligent English crowd.

— FOX continued to be the largest profiteer of the writer’s strike yesterday as “American Idol” had 28.1 million viewers, beating ABC/CBS/NBC combined. House, which came after, had 22.5 million viewers. FOX has dominated the last few weeks with the return of “Idol”, and the unexplainable popularity of “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and “Moment of Truth”. My guess is that FOX executives are doing whatever they can to continue the writer’s strike.

— The soundtrack from Juno became the first soundtrack from a motion picture to grab the top album spot in America this week, selling 65,000 copies. Indie rock is a lot cooler when Hollywood is telling you to listen to it. Just wait until Josh Schwartz and Diablo Cody team up!

Freddy Krueger will return to Hollywood as New Line Cimema looks to continue the Hollywood trend of remaking successful horrors, like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Halloween”, “The Hills Have Eyes” and “The Birds”. Somewhere, costume storeowners rejoice as Krueger mask sales will undoubtedly rise. Pretty much everyone else in the nation doesn’t care.

— Phil Gallo at Variety is willing to lay 75-1 odds that a Omaha tryout from “American Idol” makes the top 12. I certainly didn’t feel yesterday’s show was quite as bad as Charleston the week before, and actually, I thought the kid who couldn’t remember his lyrics (name anyone?) was a pretty damn good singer. Remember, the competition sadly does need guys.

— Us Weekly is confirming that Angelina Jolie is pregnant, as rumors heated up in the previous weeks and especially with her “baggier” dress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. It really might be the biggest loss of awards season, but congratulations to Brad and Angelina in progressing towards their stated goal of 8-12 children. Here’s guaranteeing they regret it in 8-12 years.

Ruben Studdard is suing concert promoter Peachez Inc for $45,000 for breach of contract. Studdard was recently fired from his record label after his last album was a disaster. Somehow, I don’t think this news finds its way onto tonight’s episode of “American Idol”.

Painfully Generic Collegiate TV Schedule, Part 2

January 30, 2008

For whatever reason, in my apartment, I have the worst luck getting the remote control. I come home, and at any given time, one of the roomates is sitting on the couch, watching his show, unmoving. This leaves me with one of two options: watch television, or do some kind of work. So I punish myself…

…I watch TV. I say I punish myself because, well, my roomates don’t have the best taste in television. Here’s the second half-day in the life of our television:

4-4:30: Real Housewives of Orange County, Bravo. Seriously, to these people, this show is like crack. I’ve never seen anything like it, but really, which already-rich gold-digger sells a house in her spare time real estate company actually intrigues people. It’s an astounding symbol of the state of this country.

4:30-5: Rob & Big, MTV. Hey, he’s white and skinny, and he’s black and fat! What a hilarious, unlikely combination! This may or may not be the real fascination for this show.

5-6: Cash Cab, Discovery. If you’re going to make me watch the Discovery Channel, please let this be the show on at the time. While Ben Bailey isn’t nearly as funny as he thinks he is, and the double-or-nothing doesn’t get taken nearly enough (and really, when it does, you know it’s rich New Yorkers that you then root against), this is one of the better, more intelligent game shows on TV. And the further you can get me from the Bravo Channel after 2-4:30, the better.

6-6:30: How It’s Made, Discovery. Inevitably, after Cash Cab ends everyday, the roommates are too lazy to raise their arms, and use the remote to change channels. That kind of energy demands a half-hour preperation. So in this time slot, I’m subjected to watching a factory work, often spitting out millions of the same boring product. For an engineer, this would still not be interesting. For anyone else, watching is a test of patience.

6:30-7: America’s Funniest Home Videos, WGN. I really thought that people had given up on this show after Bob Saget left, but now, the trite home videos never stop! In the days of the Internet and YouTube, I could literally spend 4 hours per day for a year watching funnier material than I get at any point during this show.

Primetime means different things on different days, but I’ll go with Tuesday, since I was subjected to it just last night…

7-8: American Idol, FOX. And really, if watching this wasn’t allowed by the roommates, I would move out. But they like it, too. However, the difference really lies in what we like: I have one roommate who would kill for the entire show to be about the rejects. It’s trite, it’s predictable, it’s annoying, but hey, it’s funny?

8-8:30: Dirty Jobs, Discovery. Why would a person in the world apply to be on this show? Don’t they realize that the show completely objectifies jobs by rating them as the worst in America? More than anything, we watch and we’re just upset that anyone has that job, and glad we’re in college. For the people not in college that watch it, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

8:30-9: Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Food. Well, my biases have shown a little bit during this mini-series, because I admitted to kind of liking “Everyday Italian”, and I kind of like this show, too. But Bobby Flay is a very unlikable character, so I find myself rooting against him every show. The nice thing is that he loses on most shows, and then attributes it to challenging people who specialize in one area. Isn’t that the point?

9-10: Girls Next Door, E!. To my roommate’s credit, if TBS is airing what they label a good “Office” episode (but really, they’re all good), then we might get that. If not, we get a hotter variant of “Real Housewives”. Annoying women battling annoying problems, but at least in this show they’re hot, and E! really pushes the nudity label. God bless them for that, I suppose.

10-11: Mythbusters, Discovery. Why God, why did you allow the Discovery Channel to be invented? Besides “Cash Cab”, there is not a single good thing that comes from the channel, yet I’m subjected to this, and to Dirty Jobs, and to How It’s Made, and to Survivorman, and to a dozen other shows. Mythbusters might be my second-least favorite behind How It’s Made, because I never care whether the myth is true or not. I suppose that’s because I lie a lot.

21 Days of Grammies: Part 10

January 30, 2008

Why should you care about the Grammy Awards? Very valid question. But let’s face it: as the Writer’s Strike threatens to shut down more and more red carpet events, the 50th Annual Grammies may be the only constant in this year’s lagging awards season. In that light, the following is the tenth installment in my three-week countdown to February 10. Read below for my picks and pans in one of 2008’s many Grammy categories.

The award: Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals

Past five winners: Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Dani California”); U2 (“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”); U2 (“Vertigo”); Warren Zevon & Springsteen (“Disorder in the House”); Coldplay (“In My Place”)

2008 Nominees
“It’s Not Over,” Daughtry
“Working Class Hero,” Green Day
“If Everyone Cared,” Nickelback
“Instant Karma,” U2
“Icky Thump,” The White Stripes

Who’s Missing: It’s interesting this year that Grammy voters caustically ignored one of 2007’s biggest rock bands: Fall Out Boy. Their Infinity on High is left out of every album category, and neither “This Ain’t a Scene” nor “Thnks fr th Mmrs” is up for Best Rock Performance by a Group. Particularly interesting is the snub of “Thnks,” which was produced by critical darling Babyface — he’s won 10 Grammies over the last 15 years.

Who Shouldn’t Be There: Green Day and U2. Last year, both groups were nominated together in this category for “The Saints Are Coming,” their touching tribute to Hurricane Katrina victims. This time around, they get individual noms for tracks they recorded in tribute to John Lennon (“Working Class Hero” and “Instant Karma” are Lennon covers.) If they didn’t win for the Katrina song, they certainly shouldn’t win for Lennon songs — so these nominations are more or less out of pity.

Who Should Win: The White Stripes. I already called their Icky Thump a flawed record, but its first single — also titled “Icky Thump — is a rib-rattling guitar ‘n bagpipe workout that deserves the Grammy for its title alone. It also features the follow lyrics, however, which may inspire more alienation than adoration from Grammy voters.

White Americans, what, nothing better to do?
Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.
Who’s using who, what should we do,
Well you can’t be a pimp and a prostitute too.

Who Will Win: Daughtry. Daughtry was the third best-selling album of 2007, and “It’s Not Over” was the fuel behind that fire. Good thing too, ‘cause the day that Nickelback wins a Grammy is the day that it is over.

The Painfully Generic Collegiate TV Schedule

January 29, 2008

For whatever reason, in my apartment, I have the worst luck getting the remote control. I come home, and at any given time, one of the roomates is sitting on the couch, watching his show, unmoving. This leaves me with one of two options: watch television, or do some kind of work. So I punish myself…

…I watch TV. I say I punish myself because, well, my roomates don’t have the best taste in television. Here’s a half-day in the life of our television:

10-11: Price is Right, CBS. Once upon a time this would have been acceptable, but now, with Drew Carey and girls that no longer seem hot, it’s getting unwatchable. Have we gotten a reason why Drew Carey rushes through the show so much? Can’t he just eat during commercial breaks?

11-12: Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, VH1. In our sad sadistic society, watching drug addicts is becoming entertainment. This show is painful, but I’d watch Dr. Drew anyday before enduring “Intervention”.

12-12:30: Making the Band 4, MTV. There’s a simple rule in this apartment. When nothing is on, watch MTV or the Discovery Channel. And I promise you: if I could erase two channels from TV forever, it would be MTV and the Discovery Channel.

12:30-1: Everyday Italian, Food Network. One of the times I don’t complain. But I have to say, my roomate’s reaction to Giada’s moans after trying her own food are a bit strange. But I guess he says what we’re all thinking, right?

1-1:30: Daily Show, Comedy Central. Actually, between 12:30 and 1:30 I’m pretty happy, because like any white college kid, I do love me some Jon Stewart. I agree with most that the show has suffered some as a result of the Colbert Report, which leads me to 1:30…

1:30-2: Colbert Report, Comedy Central. Ugh. In my opinion, the most overrated current TV personality alive. Colbert is so over the top — yes, I know, that’s his shtick! — that I can’t watch him for more than five minutes without wanting to gouge my eyes out. Sorry, not a fan.

2-4: Real Housewives of Orance County, Bravo. Now, there’s no one more than me than can appreciate a guilty pleasure, or a MILF. But this show really is neither, it’s ugly women trying desperately to look younger, which only makes them uglier. This has all the good parts of My Super Sweet 16, without the hot chicks. Oh, wait, they’re really 16? Hey Chris Hanson!

I’ll be back tomorrow with the upsetting second half…