Nicki Minaj/Macy Gray
Both Badder Than Donna Summer, and in Such Different Ways
Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded: Deluxe Edition (Cash Money/Universal Republic)
Since the positive and negative reviews say pretty much the same thing, we can agree that this is an overstuffed, musically manipulative, thematically directionless bid to put the pink-haired alien on the singles charts until Katy Perry absconds to rehab. She isn't "the female Weezy" or some ill-defined male alter ego. She's an aspiring and most likely inevitable pop queen who raps exceptionally well, sings quite well, rhymes inconsistently but sometimes superbly, and will do anything to be rich and famous. This obviously doesn't make her a heroine. But if you enjoy contemporary pop whose market-tested blare offends both rockist philistines and IDM aesthetes, her second album is a worthwhile investment. It begins strong and, counting the three bonus tracks, ends strong. In between it tends mawkish and loud, neither of which precludes fun, especially with the right cameos. There is, however, a Chris Brown track. (Hey‑-I said anything.) A MINUS
Macy Gray: Covered (429)
Ten non-Gray songs, three comedy skits, and three brief cameos for her kids and their high school pals. The songs are all post-1980, meaning post-song‑-from the era when bands began distinguishing themselves by sound. Credit producer Hal Wilner with isolating the melodically verbal in Metallica, Radiohead, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime, My Chemical Romance, and lesser lights. But 1) the high point is the opening "Here Comes the Rain Again," an anthem on the face of it that Gray wrests from Annie Lennox forever; 2) a low point is the closer from the anthemic-on-the-face-of-it Arcade Fire, a major structural mishap; and 3) an even lower point is the Metallica centerpiece, which could be my problem but I bet isn't. Casting directors should note that the comedy skits are genuinely funny; Gray should note that I'm omitting the cameos when I put this in iTunes. But both are distractions. Fun as it is to hear her do "Creep," "Teenagers," and "Smoke Two Joints," this is a bigger mess than it had to be. B PLUS
I never get the rave over Super Bass(even pitchfork pitched in)
but listening to RR did make me realize how great her older songs like "Right Thru Me" or "Fly" are.
Also, new poster greets!
contemporary pop whose market-tested blare offends both rockist philistines and IDM aesthetes
it's not entirely Katy's fault generic Christian c0cktease is the lucrative niche she fell naturally into
A century ago Freud inspired similar talk among intellectuals. Smarter than that Italian, I'll warrant. How'd that one work out?
Plus Parks is talking novels and I'm a music critic. In music, there's always the send-more-Chuck-Berry, got-ants-in-my-pants-and-I need-to-dance factor. Even in New Zealand.
So the wife of the great journalist who wrote a whole book about cheating on her with various hussies and utopians didn't like Parks's guilty-infidelity novel. Gosh, what a surprise.
Years ago I heard Ntozake Shange give a reading from her then new novel Liliane. She introduced it by saying that she really wanted to create an African American character who was in psychoanalysis because too often African Americans function as the Id in American cultural life. She wanted her character to have a manifestly complex and dynamic inner life and not just be a screen for the projections of others.
I'm really interested in the characters created by the two African American women under review here. And I'm especially taken by this character "Macy Gray" who represents on this record. By turns ecstatic, self-loathing, funny, and slightly befuddled (especially in the fabulous skit with Nicole Scherzinger), she makes us a killer mixtape, in the older-fashioned sense of the term.
The Id is the only Macy Gray record I don't much play--though I still love that duet with Erykah Badu. This one has plenty of id, but plenty of the rest of this character's psyche too. I want to urge folks who are favorably inclined toward Macy Gray to give this one a spin. I think it is just the right size mess
Random question, but does anybody have opinions on Dave Marsh's The Heart of Rock and Soul?
Great, great book when Marsh is writing about stuff he likes and understands, very annoying when he isn't. "Album rock" is a very odd category to attempt to marginalize, and claiming that all the music that resulted from punk isn't rock and roll is just nuts. I wish he liked the 70s and 80s more, and he cares about marginal 60s r&b way more than I do, but as far as the songs that he does pick, his batting average is extraordinarily high - there are very few stinkers in there. When he's on, the book does convey what it's like to be in love with rock and roll and have your life improved by it and grow up with it better than almost anything else I've read.
Yet an hour after seeing and hearing this spot I’m still nauseous. Someone make sense out of this please.
the reductionism in Parks looks pretty silly. I was hoping for more, er, nuance in the idea than parents they f**k you up, but maybe there isn't much there.
Actually there is quite a great deal more there (there being systems theory as it applies to relationships, from families of origin to couples to work units to neighborhood associations to gangs to rock and roll bands, sports teams, crews on airplanes, the staff at your favorite restaurant and all other sociological units), and the common assertion that it is all about how our parents f us up is only one factor in the system. Most likely they also helped you in many different ways, not to mention that other family members influenced you as well. Among other things, the function of birth order is quite compelling, though none of this is fixed and unmovable.
During the 20th Century, most of the movements that rebelled against layers of paternalism -- the labor movement, feminism, civil rights, even rock and roll itself -- can easily be described by Systems Psychology and Sociology.
What it has to do with the creation of specific and unique works of art, literature or music is certainly open for discussion, and in fact, good criticism does just that. Not to mention considering somatic chemistry, class and yes, even Freud as someone we know demonstrated ably in Barnes and Noble two years ago.
My take is that Parks' reductionism comes simply from trying to fit complex sociological and psychological ideas about equally complex literature into a relatively brief article. Added to the notion that he's still working out the concept. Personally, I think it clearly describes why some people are nearly magically devoted to Bruce Springsteen and other people see him as corny, as just one example. Nicky's story about his friends and Kanye West would be a second.
It's actually "at black masses." But even after having sung it with a bunch of strangers at a rough-ish bar in Austin, I never realized there was a masses/masses "rhyme."
Here's one from Tim Dog's "Fu(k Compton":
(Why you dissing Eazy?)
'Cause the boy ain't $h!t
Chew him with tobacco, an' spit him in $h!t
P.S. Miss Prada has another siiiiiiiiiick track up. NSFW, obv.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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