27th Aug2010

Why Do You All Hate This Boy?

by Will

Seriously, I don’t really understand what has become of humanity. In a world where there are natural disasters, Wall Street corruption, and Sarah Palin to worry about, why are people directing their anger at this child? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, then you’re already familiar with Justin Bieber. He’s the pop star du jour, adored by teenage girls from coast to coast. Like many North American heartthrobs, he’s a cute blond kid, with a slightly prepubescent voice. For some reason, though, he has become quite the hate magnet. People love to hate this kid! Why? I think it says a lot about our society when people just full on hate someone/thing, even though they really have nothing at stake in the matter.

When we were in middle school, it was the “masculine” thing to hate on a pop star. “Eww, the New Kids are gay!” Yes, this was an ignorant and homophobic time, but you grew up, learned the error of your ways, and laughed whenever you saw that same band on I Love the 90s. Today, however, it’s an older crowd getting in on all the ridicule. I don’t feel that Bieber is so pervasive that he interrupts the flow of your daily life. I haven’t heard him on the radio in months. Sure, I see his face on magazines in the store, but I also see Angelina Jolie equally as much. Why doesn’t someone tell her to stop adopting babies, so Mila Kunis can have a shot at a magazine cover?

Can someone over the age of 21 honestly tell me what their beef is with Justin Bieber? Seriously, don’t you have better shit to do with your life? Don’t you have a job and bills to pay? He’s a kid. Sure, he’s beloved by millions, and he’s worth more than you, but he’s a kid. Yes, his voice is shrill, but it’s changing. For all of his perceived “faults”, you still can’t justify your irrational hatred of him. Plainly put, you’re a hater. Just own up to it, rather than waste the time to unravel the mystery of his celebrity. Teen Heartthrobs aren’t supposed to make sense. They aren’t. There are few requirements: cute, no aversion to attending Teen Choice Awards, and did I mention “cute”? That’s it. If you’re an adult, you’re already out of your wheelhouse, as he’s not for you. Teen Heartthrobs prey on the irrational hormones of teenage girls. If you’re a grown man or woman, weighing in on how you feel about something made for children, you might as well go off and “spread democracy” in some 3rd world country, since you know everything.

How old are you? 30, you say? How about I call your parents, and ask them about those phone bills when you kept calling the Coreys on that hotline? You forgot about that dumb shit, didn’t you? But we let you off the hook, ’cause you were young. At least “Beliebers” have the internet, so their shit is free. You kept Ma & Pa Bell in business with your shenanigans! Sure, grown ups probably thought there was something wrong with you, but they remembered what it was like to fawn over Frankie Avalon or whatever. They had bigger shit to worry about, like The Cold War and New Coke, than to weigh in on how much of a waste of space Corey Feldman may have been.

Sure, you see Bieber’s name a LOT. You also see his picture a LOT. As far as music goes, you kinda have to work to hear a Justin Bieber song. They’re not played in every gas station or Dennys. If you hear a Bieber song, you’re either in Claires or you’re listening to pop radio. If you’re so anti-Bieber, you had no business doing either of those things.

Anti-Bieber Fever seems to have even spread to corporate levels, as demonstrated by Twitter’s recent changes to their Trending Topic algorithm. Say what you will, at the end of the day, it was an anti-Bieber initiative. People had complained that they were tired of seeing him trending all the time. If that’s what people were tweeting about MOST, why shouldn’t it trend? I’m tired of hearing about the various wars we’re fighting, but I can’t complain to NBC and ask them to shift shit around so we only get news about anything other than the wars. Sure, Twitter gave some PR response about how and why the change took place, but now we’re left with runner-up Trending Topics, which are usually about some obscure Korean boyband and their new song “Jelly Rainbow Overdrive (Love Stars)” or something.

Nobody hates Hanna Montana this much, and the same people would say that she “sucks”. Is Disney protecting her? Just from a purely business standpoint, this is a kid who built his way up from YouTube, sparking a bidding war between Usher and Justin Timberlake. It’s a technological Horatio Alger story! Those are two guys who know something about the music business, so they must see something in him. Had he been some kind of money grab promoted by Joe Francis, I’d probably be on the side of the haters. That’s just not a union that I would be able to get behind – like if Chris Brown opened a Pilates studio.

Is it his look that bothers you? It’s not all that uncommon these days, but I still encounter people who can’t stand his look. Well, he looks just like that lesbian barista at that fair trade coffee place you pretend to like. So, maybe you should stop boycotting Target and take some time to deal with your issues.

Something odd has happened with this generation, where passion has paved the way to elitism. In music criticism, as well as that of comics and movies, no one is willing to agree to disagree anymore. You can’t have an intelligent exchange with anyone who disagrees with you – it quickly descends into who can say “that sucks! You have no taste” first. This is bad enough with the layperson – spurred along by gamer culture and the prevalence of high-speed internet. It gets FAR worse with the opinionated, self-proclaimed “expert”, spouting, “I am right and you are wrong. And dumb. And shouldn’t be allowed to breed.” I’ve seen this shit happen! Life’s too short, and there’s too much to really worry about, than to devote the amount of time and hatred that many do toward Justin Bieber and the like. A lot of this is coming from the “cultural elite”, but why is their shit protected while everyone else is fair game? How’d you like it if I started raging on how fat Hurley was on Lost? Motherfucker was on that island for how long, and never lost a pound. “But he was hoarding food…” FUCK YOU! I’m shitting in your sandbox now, and you don’t like it, do you?

So, before everyone starts running their mouths about who does and doesn’t have talent, as well as what is and isn’t culturally worthwhile, why don’t you take a minute to process all the bullshit that you’ve been involved with that didn’t hold much water? Leave Justin alone. He’s not for you. That’s fine. Just be classy about it. You’re an adult, so act like one.

P.S. Stop getting high and watching Spongebob. That shit’s played out.

25th Aug2010

RePlay: Natural – Keep It Natural

by Will

When last we met, I covered Solid Harmonie and their place in the long line of forgotten groups from Trans Continental Records. For every ‘NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and Jordan Knight, there was C-Note, The Lyte Funky Ones (LFO), and Natural. Well, this week, I want to talk about that last group, Natural.

When it came to bubblegum pop, one of the biggest gripes from the “music snob community” was that the artists didn’t play their own instruments. As far as boybands went, Lou Pearlman had already delivered the harmony group (BSB), the dance group (‘NSYNC), and he decided to finally give the critics what they felt had been lacking: a boyband where the members played their own instruments. Since their acoustic foundation would give them a more “natural” sound, that became their group name.

Natural came about after Lou’s boyband empire had peaked, post-BSB/’NSYNC lawsuits, and right around the time of O-Town. There are conflicting reports as to how the group actually got together, but the main point is that Lou did what he did with most of his boybands: he sent them off to Germany for grooming. When you get down to their look, they were just like every other boyband: there was the blond, sensitive one; the edgy one, with the spiky hair; the one who’s your mom’s favorite, etc. The gimmick, of course, was that they were a band made of boys, but not a boyband. To break it down, they acted as if the music came first, while avoiding some of the common tropes of that era’s boyband, such as smooth dance moves. In execution, the music came off as “BBMak, by way of California Dreams“.  It’s very reminiscent of Guys Next Door (am I the only one who remembers that old NBC show?).There’s definitely a camp factor, as the songs are cheesier than Velveeta, but they’re damn catchy! It was a different sound, as this period was still dominated by the sound of Max Martin, and the rest of the guys are Cheiron Studios. While there were cutsey pop acts of the time who depended on a more acoustic sound (The Moffats, the afore-mentioned BBMak), most of those groups failed to really make a dent in the landscape. Trying something different may have been the wrong call for Natural.

Keep It Natural, like so many other lost Trans Con albums, was released in Germany. Here’s the video for their first single, “Put Your Arms Around Me”. Hey, remember the days when every TV show/movie ripped off The Matrix, even in cases where it didn’t fit? Wait for it

Bet they’re wishing they hadn’t taken the red pill…

In the US, the single was released as a promo in Claires stores, yet wasn’t universally released until the exclusivity window closed, resulting in Natural not getting much airplay outside of Orlando.

Musically, Natural weren’t “bad”, per se – especially in the pop climate of the time. It just seemed that they were being molded, visually, into something that they were not. The next single, “Will It Ever”, wouldn’t have been out of place on Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album. You’ll notice, however, the addition of another forced dance break. The cut scenes and wacky angles are meant to mask the fact they they are not ‘NSYNC 2: Electric Boogaloo.

This video is a crane shotstravaganza! With a hint of Liquid Dreams…

One of the final singles from their debut was “Let Me Count The Ways”, which ended up as their highest charting German single (#11). Again, this is a pretty catchy song, but it’s not the kind of thing being delivered by their labelmates in the States. I will admit, though, that this video may have hurt them. I know Europe is a bit more liberal with things, but what is she, like, 14? These boys are so lucky they were out in a pre-Chris Hansen world…

We were just gonna watch some movies and hang out. Well, yeah, I brought beer…

Natural went on to release another album, It’s Only Natural, before parting ways with Lou. That’s when things really got ugly. Lou tried to keep the “Natural” name, as he was going to replace the guys who had broken his boyband rules (no facial hair, no girlfriends, etc). Meanwhile, the guys tried to rebrand themselves as more of a rock group, but nothing came from it. Neither album was released in the US, and Natural’s only real impact on North America was that their 2 lead singers provided the singing voices for Bart & Millhouse in the boyband episode of The Simpsons.

At the end of the day, Keep It Natural is a really enjoyable pop album. It’s not representative of the “2000 Boyband Sound”, and that may have been a blessing and a curse. It set Natural apart from the countless other boybands, but it simply wasn’t what the audience wanted at the time. I always feel I have to reiterate that the reason I do this column isn’t as a “This Is A Thing That Exists” piece, but rather it’s an attempt to show value in something that may have originally been overlooked. This music isn’t going to change the world, and it’s not groundbreaking. At the same time, it also doesn’t require you to follow a tweets for hidden meaning, nor does it force you to wonder if the guys eat truffle fries. It’s good old fashioned “Hey, ‘phone’ rhymes with ‘alone'” pop. It’s catchy and it’s fun – definitely earworm material. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and pop is just pop. I, for one, don’t see anything wrong with that.

08th Aug2010

RePlay: Solid HarmoniE (S/T)

by Will

Solid_HarmoniE

In this installment, I bring you the self-titled debut (and only) album from Solid HarmoniE. Aww, look how cute it is that they misspell it as “HarmoniE” – that’s so the capital letters spell out “SHE”. Yup, this group’s all about women’s empowerment, or as empowering as you can be while doing flips in a sports bra and track pants. Before we get to that, let’s rewind a bit. You see, Lou Pearlman’s Transcontinental Records wasn’t ALL boybands. Lou wanted to conquer all corners of pop, and he had an assembly line in place to do just that. Former NKOTB manager Johnny Wright handled the boybands, while his wife, Donna, handled the female groups. Of those female groups, only two were notable: Innosense, due to the fact that Britney Spears was briefly a member prior to going solo, and Solid HarmoniE.

Solid HarmoniE was a four-woman pop group, with most of its members hailing from the UK. They followed the Lou Pearlman Model, which meant going over to Germany to gain an audience before being unleashed upon other countries (he had previously done this with Backstreet Boys,*NSYNC, and would later do it with Natural) . This album comes from that stint in Germany. Despite being teased on a Jive Records VHS sampler from ’98, the album never got its US release.

As far as sound goes, Solid HarmoniE is pretty representative of the bubblegum era, yet it brings something new to the table, as there wasn’t a defined “FEMALE bubblegum sound” at the time. So, this allowed them a lot of wiggle room, as far as genre was concerned. At its core, Solid HarmoniE is a fusion of Wilson Philips harmonies, combined with that last drop of Girl Power the group managed to suckle from the spent teats of the Spice Girls. It also doesn’t hurt that they worked with the producer who helped define the 90s bubblegum sound, Max Martin. As a result, this album is chock FULL of hits, all of which you’ve heard before, but with different lyrics. I was going to post the video for their first single, “I’ll Be There For You”, as it’s built over the chord progression of one of my favorite pop songs of all time, “Tearin’ Up My Heart”. Unfortunately, the video’s a piece of shit, even by 90’s standards, filled with the aforementioned track pants and…is that a crystal ball? So, here’s one of their better songs, “I Want You To Want Me”:


My favorite was the one who looked like she probably worked the front desk at the nail place. Yeah, the thick one.

The Wilson Philips influence comes through on “I Wanna Love You”:


Hey, Look! Production Values!

After failing to break out internationally, the group broke up around ’99, with its members scattered across other soon-to-fail girl groups. Seriously, the bubblegum era was not a good time for girl groups; that fan base LOVED seeing 5 cute guys dancing, but they didn’t give a shit about the girlband equivalent (see: SheMoves, Wild Orchid, Innosense; exception: B*Witched). If you wanna learn more about SHE, well,good luck -there are only about 2 websites dedicated to them on the entire internet. I mean, I had to knife a hobo and solve a riddle before I could track this thing down. As a collector of all things 90’s-Era Max Martin, I have to say that it was totally worth it. At the end of the day, I still don’t understand what caused the Powers That Be to pull the plug on the US release. I mean, in a world that tolerates the Pussycat Dolls, there’s sure as Hell a place for Solid HarmoniE.

Oh, what the Hell…

We’ve got a variety of fun & flirty women, just waiting to talk to you. Call now!

28th Jun2010

It’s Been A While But We’re Back With Style…

by Will

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We’re coming up on the 7th anniversary of my entry into the world of blogging. Seven years ago, I was 2 months out of college, looking for something to pass the time during my temporary data entry job. Fast forward 7 years, and it’s now something to pass the time during my unemployment. Hmm…As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been gone a while in order to work out some kinks behind the scenes.

Ya see, It all started when I found out I had to move platforms. I’d been using Blogger since the beginning, but they no longer want to waste time on anyone publishing via FTP. So, we had to move on over to WordPress (hence the new look and features). After migration, I realized that the site really wasn’t that searchable. There were things I’d think about writing, but I would find myself wondering if I’d actually already written it and just plain forgot. So, I took a LOOONG stroll down memory lane, and reread each post, adding searchable tags to everything.

Over the course of this project, certain things stood out to me. For example, I apologize a LOT. Whether it was apologizing for not writing enough, for writing too much, or just for having a public pity party, it was all pretty pathetic. So, going forward, I’m going to make a conscious effort not to do that. I don’t owe y’all nothin’.

I also deleted some posts, be it they contained dead links or they were just unnecessary. There was a time when I adopted a “write like no one’s reading” mentality because, well, no one was reading. At that point, the site devolved into a bit of a livejournal clone. A lot of “Why doesn’t she notice me?” or “Happy first day at work, baby” posts. I had honestly forgotten how some of the stuff read, but I would have people say, “So, I was reading some of your old posts…” Those relationships ended, the world kept on spinning, no need of leaving all that up there. I’ve got NOTHING against self-deprecating humor, but a lot of those posts didn’t accomplish anything. They weren’t funny, and they were usually written in response to a “Why don’t you ever write about me on your site?” conversation. So, most of those are gone, but I doubt you’ll even miss them.

I also used to make a lot of promises: “The San Diego posts are coming soon” or “I’ll get to that story later”. I haven’t gotten to my Toy Fair experience YET, and that was in 2008! If I don’t feel like writing it then, I probably won’t feel like it later. I shouldn’t tease posts, as I can only write when I *feel* like writing about something. I can’t force it. So, certain “teased posts” tend to come out 6 months later or, in many cases, never at all.

Even worse are all of the promises of an upcoming redesign or renewal of interest in the blog. I don’t do the design stuff, so I’m at the mercy of my friend, Jenn. Most of the times I posted those promises of a new layout, they happened to coincide with times when she had absolutely no time to even care about this site. The site has really only had about 3 different incarnations, yet I promised redesigns like they were annual treats. So, I made a lot of empty promises, and ended up looking like more of a huckster than a poor man’s Stan Lee.

What really stuck out to me were all of the things I’ve actually *never* written about. For example, I thought I’d written more about my time at Diamond, but I guess I didn’t want it to become fodder for comic gossip sites, so I kept a lot of it to myself. Now that I’m pretty much never working in that industry again, maybe there are some good post ideas there.

Anyway, I also notice that I do a lot of these introspective posts, like the one you’re reading now, usually on a “milestone”. As narcissistic as I may be, I really don’t like these kinds of posts. You don’t wanna read this kind of shit! In the words of Depeche Mode, “Though things like this make me sick, in a case like this I’ll get away with it”. Now that it’s all out of my system, I know why you’re here: you want to read about my love for TNBC, comics and boybands. That’s the stuff I love to write about, and if this ain’t your first time here, then you already know it’s the kind of stuff you came here to see. I just needed to get this out as a bit of a “state of the union”. To steal from a played out United Negro College Fund commercial, “We can’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been.” So, on with the show. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

18th Sep2008

Fall Out Boy Mixtape and An Insider’s View of Diamond

by Will

“We believe in Barack Obama! He loves you and he loves your mama!”

citizensfobmixtape

Could it be? Is that an Obama endorsement from Williambrucewest.com? No, it’s not. But it does lead into this little tidbit: Major props go out to my man, Marcus, for recommending “Welcome to the New Administration”, the new, FREE mixtape from Fall Out Boy. A thinly-disguised prObama project, the collection not only drops snippets of the upcoming Fall Out Boy album, Folie A Deux, but it also introduces you to the music of some of their musical friends, like Panic at the Disco, Tyga, The Cab, and others. The new FOB album sounds tight, and I certainly wanna hear more from Tyga. EVERYONE should download this package, and you can get it free right here: http://www.friendsorenemies.com/web/foe/users/falloutboy/ It’s worth it just for Luda’s interlude alone.

Did y’all realize there’s a rapper named “Niggalas Cage”? I shit you not! In fact, he’s even got a track with Akon right now, called “You’re the Reason”. If you ask me, they should’ve recorded a track called “Kon Air”.

Speaking of Akon, he’s on one of the hottest tracks on NKOTB’s new album, “Put It On My Tab”. I recently posted a Facebook status saying that the album “doesn’t suck”, but after repeated listenings, I’ve got to admit that it’s HOT. It’s got that ‘NSYNC circa “No Strings Attached” vibe going on. And the guests on it are pretty surprising: Akon, New Edition, Pussycat Dolls, Lady Gaga, Ne-Yo. It’s a great dance album, and one of the best pop albums released in recent years.

While we’re on pop, TRL is shutting down. Man, that kills me, but it’s time. The TRL model isn’t appropriate for what passes as “pop” these days. Before, it was a crowd full of screaming teenage girls, clogging up Times Square, for the chance to catch a glimpse of dye-job, curly-q Justin Timberlake. TRL works best when pop is at its most “bubblegum”. Sure, you can still have Chris Brown drop by, but Daughtry and the rest of Top 40 radio are more suited for VH-1. Even the teen stars being cranked out, like Jordin Sparks, are more suited for an older crowd. TRL, like the early WB, used to MAKE stars. Now, it’s merely a shadow of its past self. MTV claims the show is just “going on a break”, but anyone who’s ever been in a relationship knows what that can mean. I think it’ll reappear, though. The UK had a similar show, Top of the Pops, which was on the air for over 42 years (!). Eventually, the formula got stale, and they put it on time out. Like TRL, the BBC promises it, too, will one day return. Maybe their returns will coincide.

That BET R. Kelly interview is priceless! I love the look on Toure’s face. The entire interview, his face is screaming, “Is this nigga for real?!”

So, last night, I watched The Temptations for what must’ve been the 10th time. I don’t know if VH-1 planned to show it all along, or if it was to honor Norman Whitfield, the prolific Motown writer/producer who passed away yesterday. Let’s hope the reason is the former, as the miniseries doesn’t exactly portray Whit in the best light. Hell, I just realized that it doesn’t portray anyone in a positive light…except for Otis Williams. Seeing as how Otis is the only surviving founding member of the group, the movie was written from his perspective. That said, it took me all these years to realize that it is the most masturbatory, self-congratulatory thing I’ve ever seen. There are WAY too many private scenes between Otis and random characters, as they have heart to heart talks where the other person thanks Otis for being the force that holds the group together, or thanks Otis for putting on the pressure when the less-disciplined needed that sort of monitoring. Everyone dies in the most heart-wrenching, tragic ways, even though most of the Temps’ families have disputed the accounts of their relatives’ demise, especially in the sensationalized account of David Ruffin, who’s shown thrown in front of an emergency room, from a moving limo, after overdosing. They say karma’s a bitch, so it Otis did make this stuff up, I’d say he’d better watch his back. Nothing like having 4 ghosts in leisure suits coming to get you, dancing slowly in formation. That reminds me, though – I’ve been working on a Leon/David Ruffin post for the better part of 2 years now. I should probably do something about that.

Watched Baby Mama the other night. This comes as no surprise, but I LOVE Tina Fey. She’s pretty much playing Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, which is what I’ve come to believe is the real Tina. The sexy, smart, insecure funnywoman. This movie, however, not that great. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. I don’t think it makes the most of any of the cast’s strengths, and it could’ve been better, Honestly, it’s about what I’d expect from an SNL movie, but I kinda wanted more, considering Tina wrote it, and she WAS head writer of SNL for about 9 years.

Got a lot on my mind, but I’m gonna wrap things up with this thought: a lot of people go through life with a dream. They go on with their day-to-day lives, but in the backs of their minds, they have a “what if?” idea that they never act on. Now, what happens when you act on that, and you find you’re not good at it? Are you better off knowing that? One of my dreams was to work in comics. I felt that it was something I was BORN to do, and I’d kick ass at it. 2 years later, and I realize I wasn’t that good at it. I always said I’d write a book about that experience, called Diamond in the Rough: My Life in Comics, but I don’t have the patience, plus nobody’d want to read it except those in the industry, and it’s gonna piss off most of them. Instead, I’m sure my ideas for said book will probably trickle onto the site over time.

Anyway, how did I come to this conclusion? Well, if any of you have ever read the Previews catalog (NOTE: Previews is a catalog that ships ever month, informing retailers/fans of upcoming comic books so they can place orders – I used to help make that catalog), you might’ve seen a segment in the middle called “Featured Items”. Those were the 16 items, NOT from Marvel or DC, that we felt “every store should buy”. We’d have monthly meetings where we’d sit down and go to war over who should receive this honor, even though John Q. Public really didn’t give a shit. Us giving an “FI” to Red Sonja #25 isn’t gonna make retailers buy more copies. If Sonja dies, or flashes a tit, THEN retailers are gonna buy more and sell them for 3x cover price right out of the box – they ain’t doing it because of some faceless company in Maryland.

These “discussions” (and I use the term lightly) always got heated because no one respected anyone else’s choice. Plus, there were the politics. Certain publishers are guaranteed a certain amount of FI’s due to their contracts with Diamond, so our hands were a bit tied at times. I can’t tell you how many times we gave an FI to Dynamite for “To Be Determined”. They might have this book ready, but it’s more likely it’s gonna be late, so we’ll give it to Book X. We got into the business of supporting companies rather than books. We were given the explanation that certain companies were poised to be the next Marvel or DC, so we needed to support those. I understand the need for growth and encouragement, but who would replace those companies that were about to “graduate”. We were so focused on Dynamite and IDW becoming the next Marvel and DC, but I always felt we lost sight of the fact that someone would need to groom the next IDW and Dynamite (which ain’t necessarily a good thing – grooming the “new Dynamite” is akin to discovering Super AIDS). I like to think a lot of my FI choices were focused on “the next generation”, yet we were always told that we “weren’t looking at the bigger picture”. Eventually, it got to the point where the meetings were no longer seen as productive, and were done away with. Instead, we had to send our choices/arguments to the team managers, and they would decide based on the evidence we’d provided. Seeing as how this took place behind closed doors, we never really knew what went down. We were simply to trust that they’d make the right decision. That’s how things were when I left.

Well, the other day, I found out that the FI meetings had been reinstated. It seems that the main reason the meetings had been done away with was because the FI picks submitted by me, as well as another former brand manager, weren’t seen as strong or deserving. Now, I don’t know if that’s true, or if I was easy to blame because I’m no longer there to defend myself. Even still, it kind of hurts (and somewhat surprising) that I was divisive enough to derail a process that had been working for years, which is magically reinstated the minute I’m gone. I stand by my decisions, as I think some of the most surprising, engaging stuff is going to be coming from the Oni’s and the First Second’s. Because so many of those situations were presented in vagueries, I had no idea it was my ideas that were hindering the process. If someone had just told me… That said, I still think Scott Pilgrim 4, even though it’s the 4th in a series (a bestselling series, mind you) trumps the adaptation of some videogame sequel that’s delayed by months. That’s how I played the game, and how I felt it should be played. I don’t know if it’s the bloggers or the small press crowd getting to me or what, but I thought I was looking out for the industry, while the gatekeepers of the industry weren’t on the same page. So, was I truly born to work in comics? I don’t know. I don’t think so. If I was, it certainly wasn’t in the capacity in which I was working before. Langston Hughes once pondered what happened to a dream deferred. I, on the other hand, am trying to figure out what happens to a dream deflated…

30th Jul2008

Life Lessons of “As Long As You Love Me” & My Introduction to Hulu

by Will

“Never go ‘Full Retard’.”

What a day, what a day…I’ve decided that a good chunk of commercial real estate brokers are assholes. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, as we’re here for other reasons.

– Saw Tropic Thunder tonight and it was HILARIOUS. There’s slight buzz about this movie, due to Robert Downey Jr.’s blackface role. Truth be told, the role is supposed to be uncomfortable, as that’s part of the movie. Anyway, I really think that 2008 is shaping up to be the Year of the Downey, while Stiller whips out “Blue Steel” one more time, AKA you get the same from him as you’ve come to expect. One of the best parts of the movie is at the very beginning, with the faux trailers. Where else can you watch Iron Man put the moves on Spidey?

-So, I was driving home tonight, and “As Long As You Love Me”, by Backstreet Boys, came on the radio. Now, a lot of people already know this, but when I was 15 I was a boyband fanatic. I wasn’t gay for them or anything, but I kinda saw it as something that I could do one day. After all, boybands were popping up each week, but it wasn’t until O-Town (well, 5ive, if you count those bi-racial dudes) that we got a group with a black member. I always kinda wanted to be the first.

Anyway, “ALAYLM” was MY song. When I was all of 15 and lonely, I’d put that song on repeat and just think of how nice it would be to find a girl who just loves you for you. I’ve learned, in the 11 years since, that that song is a BIG case of “be careful what you wish for”. Sure, I wouldn’t care what they had done, as long as long as they loved me. Then, I got involved with a string of girls whose pasts I couldn’t get over. It turns out I did care. Whether it was drugs, promiscuity, or racial friction, I learned the hard way that, for me, it did matter where they were from and what they had done. So, that makes me shallow. Maybe I’m immature. At least I know who I am now. I learned that I hold myself to a certain standard, not that I’m better than anyone, but I have my expectations, as does everyone else. These days, I really think that song is 3 minutes and 42 seconds of bad advice. Sure, it’s got good intentions: don’t judge – love will find a way, but that’s bullshit. Love conquers a lot, but it don’t conquer all. Remember that.

– I believe that Hulu.com might be the greatest site on the internet. Not only did it introduce me to Joss Whedon’s full Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog (God, I wish I’d seen Rent when Neil Patrick Harris was in it!), but it also streams 2 things that I’ve been searching years for: Team Knight Rider and Son of the Beach Season 3. I’m sure that Universal will one day get around to releasing TKR (we just missed its 10th anniversary), but I doubt we’ll ever get a release of SotB Season 3. The first 2 seasons were released at the dawn of TV DVD releases, and the sales were pretty bad. I figure if That’s My Bush made it to DVD, we deserve to have a complete set of Son of the Beach! And California Dreams and USA High, while we’re at it!

Another gem on Hulu is the complete series of Young Hercules. The forgotten 3rd series in the Hercules/Xena Saga, it stars Ryan Gosling as a young Kevin Sorbo. Now, when Hercules: The Legendary Journeys began, I was kinda pissed because I didn’t feel that Sorbo was jacked enough. He had brawn, but I expected him to be built. Well, imagine how much worse it was when we were given scrawny-ass Ryan Gosling to play a younger version. I’m probably the biggest male Young Ryan Gosling fan., but I’m not quite sure this show was the best use of his talents. Forget The Notebook; that guy was oozing charisma on the Mickey Mouse Club. Sure, Britney, Justin and Christina went on to be stars first, but when you see Ryan, he knows he’s too good to be there and he just looks bored. Next, check out Breaker High, where he “out-Zack Morrises” Zack Morris. Anyway, Young Hercules is still a pretty damn good show, especially considering it was created for kids, to fill the timeslot following Power Rangers. I highly suggest you check it out if you’re a fan of the Action Pack shows.

– New Knight Rider series trailer released at San Diego Comic Con. Apparently, K.I.T.T. will transform into different Ford vehicles, he gains a new Super Pursuit Mode, and the Turbo Boost is coming back. I also love the new logo. That said, I still stand by the fact that this is not a network show. Sure, they’ll benefit from the larger budget, but this thing just feels like a Saturday afternoon syndicated show on your local CW affiliate- one of the bad shows, that used to come on between The Lost World and Mutant X. NBC, it’s no longer 1982! You don’t have Brandon Tartikoff at the helm anymore and that shit just won’t fly. Stop rehashing your old ideas! Next, they’ll be casting Dakota Fanning in a Punky Brewster remake, only they’ll make her an edgy runaway or something.

-Speaking of San Diego, maybe it’s just the way that it’s being reported, but I get the impression that this year’s con wasn’t so hot. The comic announcements were pretty mediocre, and the movie stuff surrounded projects we already knew about, such as Wolverine: Origins. I’m not hearing anything about record attendance, or even seeing any good pictures. I know blogs, like Newsarama, are moving to Video Blogs and Twitter feeds, but I’m just not really hearing anything necessarily positive about this year’s show.

-Can anyone tell me the whereabouts of Natalie Merchant? We haven’t heard from her in ages. Something tells me she’s busy in a cabin somewhere, cutting up magazines and creating death threat notes to send to Norah Jones.

-I simply had to share a conversation I had with Keith tonight. The power’s out in parts of Timonium, and I was trying to convince him that this was a sign for him to go hook up with this chick who’s clearly bad news (why do I want him messing with a girl who’s so bad? I like drama).
Keith: So, you’re trying to tell me that this is a sign from God that I should go hook up with this girl?

Me: Not “God” God. A lesser god. I think it’s the Egyptian god of pussy, Pusiris.

Well, I thought it was funny…

-I’ll end tonight with a note on family. A few weeks ago, I attended a family reunion on my dad’s side. While there, I learned that Buffy’s principal is my cousin. Yeah, the black one who banged Faith. Turns out David Bryant Woodside, AKA D.B. Woodside, AKA The Bad President Palmer, has got some West blood in him! That was pretty cool to hear. Too bad he wasn’t there. Also, today would’ve been my dad’s birthday. 82 years old. I shit you not. I hope to God I have my kids at a “normal” age…

03rd Apr2008

Some Random Pop Analysis: NKOTB Comeback, OneRepublic, 90s Rock

by Will

“He loves you”

Yeah, that quote isn’t as proselytizing as you might think – it’ll make sense to my “comic people”. See? I haven’t totally given up talking about comics! Anyway, seeing as how only 1 person reading this even reads comics, let’s move on to music:

-So, the New Kids are getting back together. Who the fuck cares? This might come as a surprise to some, seeing as how I’m “Mr. Boyband”, but NKOTB sucked. Sure, I love all of Joey McIntyre’s albums, and I still love some “Give It To You” from Jordan Knight, but vocally the New Kids were a shitty group. Just like the Jonas Brothers. The songs are catchy, but not well-sung. I understand the hype and girls thought they were cute, but I am only looking forward to this if their music has matured. Knight and McIntyre have put out a handful of impressive albums over the last 10 years, and I’d like to see this reunion take that approach. Instead, though, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a bunch of 40 year old men, revisiting their “hits”, telling me I’ve got The Right Stuff. Anyway, we already have an old-ass group for that; they’re called The Backstreet Boys…

-Um, excuse me…Mr. Webbie? So, she “never smells like onion rings”? Oh, that is romantic as Hell. You, sir, are truly a poet! Gotta say, though, I think I’d prefer her smelling like onion rings rather than Parmesan cheese. Been there…

-A lot of shit can go down in a club. You can kiss. You can grind. Hell, you can fuck. But let’s get our semantics straight. You cannot, however, make love in the club. I don’t care if you suggest it through song; it ain’t happening. The chick who would agree to it is just gonna wanna fuck, plus the singing would weird her out. Meanwhile, the chick who’d appreciate the song is just gonna be offended that you want to do such a “special thing” in such a filthy environment. Nice try, though, Usher.

-Damn, Sara, I get it; you’re not gonna write me a love song. I got it during the first verse, but you just never know when to let shit go!

-You ever stopped and stared at someone? It freaks people the fuck out. I wonder how many fights that song has started. It’s the same way “Apologize” was run into the ground against dudes who didn’t even know they’d done anything wrong. Across the country, female Myspace profiles were ablaze with the song, while guys were left wondering, “What did I even do to your crazy ass?”. It was one of those revenge songs just begging for a reason to be put into action. That song was the musical equivalent of the red phone…

-Suffocation’s a big theme in pop right now. Sara Bareilles has her head underwater, as the breathing get’s harder. Jordin Sparks is trying to figure out how to breathe with no air. Is this a cry for help? Should Clive Davis be worried?

-If that song is the 4 minutes that we’ve got to save the world, then we’re already doomed. Plus, the radio version’s only about 3 minutes and 26 seconds, so there’s a trick timer on whatever doomsday device we’re up against. Thanks, Madge…

-I’ve fought loving early 90’s rock with a passion, but I’ve always secretly liked it. I mean, I was there. I like some Better Than Ezra. Was a fool for some Oasis. However, I’m just learning that DC 101 might be the best station on air right now. Oh, remembering the times when dances and book reports were your biggest problems. Listening to Green Day before they became all political. And don’t forget “Black Hole Sun”. That genre revolves around “Black Hole Sun”, and anyone who says otherwise is a damn liar!

-This is a bit older, but Mario Vasquez’s “Gallery” always rubbed me the wrong way. So, you’re basically telling her that her man has got a ton of girl’s who’re just as hot or hotter than she is, so she should leave him and come with you instead? Sure, you’re trying to empower her by telling her that she’s worth more than that, but it’s also a whiny, low blow. “C’mon, he’s got a ton of girls! Let me get a shot!” It’s the song equivalent of some dude’s last call attempt at getting a girl to go home with him. Newsflash: she’s still going home with the dude with the Gallery. But you and Usher can do some shots over your lack of success that night.

03rd Mar2008

Jonas Bros, MTV Dating Shows, and College Road Trip

by Will

“That girl is nuttier than a Porta-Potty at a peanut festival.”

Yeah, I promised an answer to the whole “why did I expect to die last weekend?” cliffhanger, but I don’t really feel like writing about that. Don’t worry – like San Diego, I’ll get to it, but that’s not where my head is right now. After all, that was 2 weeks ago! Anyway, here is where my head is right now:

-It seems that every year, around this time, I write a post that’s supposed to be introspective. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I name names, or come off as bitter, it comes back to bite me. Anyway, these posts are merely me having a breakthrough. Regardless, I have a feeling this is going to be misconstrued as one of those posts: “Make Up Sex”? Really? That exists? Well, let me just inform you that, when your fights are based around the lack of sex, there’s no such thing as Make Up Sex. That’s got to be the one fight that’s not worth having. Or is it the only fight worth having? Think on that for a moment…

Now, on to the pop culture part of our game:

– I don’t like Craig Bierko. You might not know him by name, but you’ll know his face. I always rememeber him as the scumbag husband in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. I just hate looking at him. It’s something about his face. I feel the same way about Kyle McLachlan and Gwyneth Paltrow; just seeing them throws me into a violent rage! Why was I thinking about Bierko? Well, I was watching Unhitched, on Fox, about 4 friends recently thrown back into the single game. On the plus side, it’s a “Fox show”. I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I love a good “Fox show”. It’s the kind of show that panders to the lowest common denominator, and it’s usually characterized by the fact that it has no laugh-track. Fox was the network to really get onboard the single camera, no-studio-audience sitcom that’s everywhere these days. On the con side, it’s a “Fox show”. As much as I love the style of Fox remembering its roots, very rarely is the quality any good. Instead, there’s usually one really funny/controversial episode that gets enough attention for you to remember it years down the road as some kind of cult hit. Unhitched will be unhitched from Fox’s schedule within the next 6 weeks. Count on it.

-I was really into “When You Look Me in the Eyes”, by The Jonas Brothers, and I really couldn’t figure out why. Then, it hit me: for all of you lovers of crapy pop, the next time the song comes on, try singing the lyrics to Lonestar’s “I’m Already There”. Go ahead, I’ll wait…Hear what I mean? I hate to admit, but I was a Lonestar fan. They only had 2 hits that I cared about, but it was a pretty unmistakable melody. Plus, the whole “singing different lyrics over old melody” game can be fun. Next time you hear Celine Dion’s “That’s The Way It Is”, let her rip with the lyrics from BSB’s “I Want It That Way”. You’ll thank me in the morning!

-Janet, Janet, Janet…MTV, you know your “Artist of the Week” is too old for your demographic when she doesn’t even know the name of your shows. Janet, it’s Making the Band , NOT Making OF the Band. I would’ve let it go if you’d only said it once, but you say it about 7 times during one 30-second commercial. Read the cue cards, baby, read the cue cards…

-While on Making the Band, I’m loving Danity Kane’s “Damaged”. Last week, Diddy told ’em he was going to turn them into an international dance pop group, and this single is a good step in that direction. It’s got an interesting message, too: “Yeah, I’ve got a lot of baggage, which caused my heart some damage, so how’re you gonna fix it?” I love the idea that it’s the other person’s job to fix it. It’s like, “hey, if you want me, this is what you’re getting yourself into”. I’m a big fan of a “buyer beware” warning…

– Speaking of MTV, I kinda like Domenico, in that I think he’s a good guy. I think we all have that foreign-friend-with-questionable-social-skills. I know that everyone in Last Call is thinking of the same guy right now. That said, I’m really sick of the Viacom Dating Show Formula: the whole MTV/VH-1 deal where you get some washed up/pseudo celeb, put them in a mini mansion with roughly 30 members of the same/oppsite sex, and wittle down the list as you have them prove their love through foolish challenges and backstabbing.

I miss the old dating game formula, where you had a bunch of “normal people” (or as normal as you can find in southern California) use alcohol as an excuse for some hot tub centered, stress reduction sex. Seriously, I miss the old dating show archtypes: the weird, hippy new age chick; the wacky foreigner; the player; the busted, fake tits chick who’s a “model”. There were starving actors and actresses in LA who used to do nothing but make the dating show rounds. The timeline was shorter: you met, went to Bucca de Beppo or Medieval Times, and you got drunk; there was none of this 12-week nonsense. Plus, the stakes were lower back then: you just wanted sex. Who cared about another date? Nowadays, everyone’s looking for The One. On national television. Out of a pool of candidates comprised of strippers, former beauty queens, and/or biker chicks. Looking for a soulmate in a group of soulless people. The frontrunner is only making a scene so that she can wow the network execs into giving her a spin-off when everything’s said and done. And the cycle begins anew.

Back to Domenico, though. I liked the idea of him getting his own show, because I liked the dude. That said, I was over it when I watched the Preview Special, where all they did as show him in front of bluescreened stereotypical Italian scenes, like cafes and monuments.Ashley’s back?! For real? Were he and Domenico even that close during A Shot At Love? Plus, I get that Ashley came off as dumb, but I’m sick of his hillbilly minstrel act. I mean, it’s not as funny when the target isn’t exactly in on the joke. Watching the show is like a white Flavor of Love 3, as Domenico’s choices are just as busted as those that Flav’s got available to him this season. Although, I kinda liked Hunter, the au naturale chick they kicked off last night, except for those bags under her eyes…

-I’ve loved Usher’s “Make Love In This Club” since it leaked online two months back. That said, I don’t really like that it’s Usher. On the one hand, I guess I should applaud him for choosing a new style. I mean, Mariah hasn’t had an original sound since Fantasy (seriously, Touch My Body is new? It sounds like every single she’s put out over the past 10 yrs), so it’s good when an artist decides to branch out. It’s just that Usher’s been in the game long enough that I expect more from him. As far as the sound, this song is a Sean Kingston song. Rather, if you want it done right, it’s an Akon song. Just close your eyes and listen to it. That’s Akon, circa Spring 2007. I get the feeling that Usher’s grasping at straws, trying to regain his footing. After all, back in 2003, it was a heated battle between Usher and JT, as to who would be the Prince of R&B. Nobody was really taking Justin all that seriously yet, as he was still working on losing the ‘Nsync stigma. In the meantime, Usher did the a-holest/ballsiest thing by releasing Confessions. Justin had a song about how he was better than his ex, but Usher wrote a whole album about it! I’m not sure if a lot of people realize how heated the battle was; if JT and Usher were in the same club, it always ended up in a dance-off. Over the years, Usher had to deal with the drama of dropping his mom as his manager, his wedding, the backlash of Confessions, while Justin’s star simply rose. Now, you can’t swing a dead cat in music without hitting JT or Timbaland, while “Make Love In This Club” is the musical equivalent of that old man in the club, with the earring and the gold chain, thinking no one can smell the “Old Man Stench” on him. Go home, old man!

-Can I just say that I’m blown away by the concept of College Road Trip? No, it’s not the plot of the movie, but the mechanics behind the movie. First of all, did you ever, in a million years, think you’d see a Disney movie starring Martin Lawrence? Then, did you ever think you’d see a Disney movie starring Martin Lawrence and Donnie Osmond? Then, if you’re still with me, did you ever think you would see a Disney movie, starring Martin Lawrence, Donnie Osmond, AND had a G Rating?! Seriously, this is a big deal. The G Rating, alone, is a kicker. Think of this: the way the MPAA works, simply by virtue of having live actors, you typically get a PG rating. If you ever have some free time on your hands, try to research the number of live action, G-rated movies. The majority of G-rated movies are animated features. Hell, in recent years, even the Disney animated blockbusters, like The Incredibles, have been rated PG. So, in order to have a live action, G-rated movie, Martin can’t even say “Damn, Gina!”. He might not even be able to say “heck”. I might see this movie just to marvel at how they pull it off.

– There was an episode of Clean House on last night, and Niecy wasn’t on it. Now, I’m used to that set-up, as she doesn’t waste her time with the Clean House aftershow, Clean House Comes Clean, so I know that sometimes Brunetz, Trish, and Matt get together. What killed me, though, was the fact they they never acknowledged her absence. Sure, she might’ve been sick or on vacation. Hell, it might have been when she was recording her lines for Horton Hears A Who. I just get worried when I see that kind of stuff because it makes me think there might be a contract dispute going on. I mean, if you’ve ever watched anything on TLC or Style, you know that they have no problem recasting a show’s host, with nary an announcement or second thought. Where’s Thom’s sidekick on Dress My Nest? Where’s the original guy from What Not To Wear? Plus, there’s the notorious example of Blair from Queer Eye, being replaced by Jay between the pilot and the regular episodes. That said, Clean House has no flair without Niecy. If they ever try to oust her, a la Paige from Trading Spaces, she only needs to show them last night’s episode to prove how valuable she is to the show.

Anyway, I might be on a daily schedule this week. I’ve got a lot to say, and this was only the tip of the iceberg…

09th Nov2007

80s Sax Solos, Intro To Sunny, and JC Producing BSB

by Will

“They’re too commercial to be real Dutch. I don’t trust them.”

-There’s nothing quite like Friday’s on The Knot. Hmm…that might make a good Style Network show.

-I really miss the art of the saxophone solo. Back in the ’80s, every hit song had a saxophone solo. I’m gonna give you a short list of some of the best:

(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
True – Spandau Ballet
You Belong to the City – Glenn Frey
Hungry Eyes – Eric Carmen
Caribbean Queen – Billy Ocean
Who Can It Be Now? – Men at Work
The Glamourous Life – Sheila E.
Careless Whisper – Wham
Never Surrender – Corey Hart
Back in Time – Huey Lewis & The News
Livin’ in America – James Brown
If You Leave – Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
Hands to Heaven – Breathe

-Where are all the great comedians of the ’80s? OK, I’m stretching the definition of “great”, but I really hope there’s some stage show in Branson, Missouri comprised of Gilbert Gottfried, Yakov Smirnoff, Joe Isuzu (David Leisure), and Sinbad. It could be like the “Has-beens of Comedy Tour”. You think I’m being snarky, but I would pay good money to see that show. What a country!

– My new favorite show is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. How did I not know about this show? It’s been on for 3 seasons! It’s great because it’s like Seinfeld starring assholes. A show about nothing, starring a bunch of people who…really aren’t good people. That was my problem with Seinfeld, where they always kind of straddled this ethical line, but I never saw them as bad people. When the finale came along, and they go on trial for all of the asshole things they’d done over 9 years, it just seemed kind of heavy-handed. Sure, they were self-serving and whatnot, but a lot of their stuff was madcap. I’d never seen them as “bad”, per se. I think that’s why the finale left a bad taste in my mouth. Not so on It’s Always Sunny… These guys are assholes. And it’s hilarious.

-Can someone shed some light on Reverend Run for me? Is he really ordained? I mean, in this day and age, anyone with an internet connection can become an ordained minister. I just wonder if he’s for real. Like, maybe with a congregation somewhere. ‘Cause I’ve been watching Run’s House for a few years, and he’s the most secular minister since Reverend Camden. It’s not a knock or anything, as I understand that’s not what the show’s about. Still make me curious, though.

– Another music post callback, there’s a track on BSB’s new album that’s produced by JC Chasez. Yes, an ‘NSYNC’er produced a BSB track. This is a pretty major development. You see, ‘NSYNC & BSB are *not* friends. Or at least, they weren’t originally. I think that, over time, they bonded over the fact that they were both cheated by Lou Pearlman. In the beginning, though, BSB were upset because they felt that Lou was just trying to capitalize on their fame so soon after they hit it big with “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. Then, the shit really hit the fan when ‘NSYNC’s No Strings Attached album set the U.S. record for album sales in one week (2.4 million). If you look back, you’d say that ‘NSYNC came out on top, via a door opened by BSB. Everyone likes to go back to the NKOTB/New Edition era, but love ’em or hate ’em, BSB begat the 21st century wave of boyband pop.

Here’s where it gets tricky, though. People never realize that Lou simply recruited guys. He didn’t recruit groups. There were all these young guys, working at theme parks in Orlando, and he’d snatch them up. So, he’d have a stable of guys, and he’d just shuffle the arrangement to see what worked best. We almost had BSB with Chris Kirkpatrick, Nick Carter, Howie D. & AJ. Phoenix Stone was in BSB, and then spun off as a solo guy (who went on to do nothing major but a Jenny Jones performance). And those are the major successes; people sometimes forget Take 5 (“Shake It Off”), Lyte Funky Ones AKA L.F.O. (“Summer Girls”), O-Town (Making the Band 1), Natural (provided Bart & Milhouse’s singing voices on the boyband ep of the Simpsons), C-Note…With this is mind, they’re all the same guys, doing the same thing. Some just came out sooner than others. Once again, though, ‘NSYNC come out on top. Not only were they able to diversify their sound with the times, but they also had more “after-group” success, with JT becoming Pop Jesus, saving pop music, and vowing to return one day to take us all to pop heaven, where he’ll rock our bodies to the break of day…

01st Nov2007

2007 In Music

by Will

“You may look all nice, and sing all nice, but you are not nice.”

So, my good friend, Marcus, went and stole my idea for a post. You see, I’ve had a music post in me for the past couple of days, but I just needed a chance to sit down and hammer it out. He, on the other hand, snatched the concept right out my brain for his myspace blog. Whatever. A myspace blog is a step up from a livejournal…

Anyway, he’s the only one who’ll probably read this, so it’ll really just keep me from having to pick up a phone and call him. God bless technology!

First of all, I need to admit defeat in one area. Back in May, I declared Sean Kingston‘s “Beautiful Girls” as the song of the summer. I really thought I was on to something, but people were sick of that song about a week after that post. I hate to do it, but I really think “The Way I Are” took that title. Was there any other song that got more airplay over the past 3 months? Timbo was everywhere this summer, but this song was part of every long music stretch on Top 40 radio. They even tried to switch things up halfway through the summer by replacing the regular album version with the hook-laden radio edit. The whole massive repeat of the hook was done for the extended version, but why anyone thought you could just cut the song there and omit Timbo’s rap is beyond me. It’s not like it had to be cut for content. Either way, this song is still riding high on the charts.

Now, Marcus goes on to call Rihanna’s “Umbrella” the song of the year. I will say it was the most remixed/covered song of the year, but I don’t think I’m willing to give it his distinction just yet.

He also says that there was no album of the year. His criteria include the fact that it has to be enjoyable from beginning to end. I beg to differ on that. I still say that Fall-Out Boy’s Infinity on High is the sleeper hit of the year. It has had its singles, and its questionable videos (a chimpanzee? Uganda? Really?), but there is not a bad track on that album. Especially, I love that they come up with the BEST names for songs. My personal favorite at the moment is “It’s Hard to Say ‘I Do’ When I Don’t” (bonus track on the Wal-Mart version). Close runner up: G.I.N.A.S.F.S. (Gay Is Not A Synonym For Shitty)” (bonus track on international version).

Daughtry – I really hated this guy and all he stood for. I wanted to write him off as “the bald Bo Bice”, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love “Over You”. Like “Rockstar”, it’s got such a singable chorus, and I want to think it’s the male answer to “Before He Cheats”.

Nickelback – “Rockstar” is a funny song to me. Moreso, the video to Rockstar is funny to me. You see, they’ve got cameos by a whole bunch of people who, I’m sure, hate Nickelback. I wonder if these people were even told that they would be lipsynching to a Nickelback video. I can write some of them off, like Gretzky & Taryn Manning, but Kid Rock? Gene Simmons? Nelly Furtado? Really? It’s a fun song, which I’m sure is ALL THE RAGE in your neighborhood redneck karaoke bar. It’s officially the White “The Way I Are” for the year.

BSB vs. Britney – A face-off between Britney & Backstreet. Man, that takes me back. It’s also pretty f’ed up on the part of Jive. It sucks because Brit’s album was leaked, so they had to get whatever sales they possibly could. In the meantime, they’ve been flying Backstreet around the world since May just trying to drum up international support for their release. They’d really dumped too much money into the BSB Machine to move their release date. I didn’t get Britney’s album because it’s not a “destination album” to me. I can always download it, or buy it from a used store in 3 months. Hell, I just bought her last CD about 2 months ago for $4, and it was well-worth it. It’s not a bad album, but it’s totally a “fuckin’ album” Not “love-makin'”, but FUCKING. It’s what you put on when your drunk sorority girlfriend wants to “do it like in that movie with that guy”.

Anyway, I did get Unbreakable by BSB. It’s a longstanding tradition that I buy all BSB albums on release day. Sad, I know. I’m really getting sick of their whole “we’re still here” gimmick with the album titles. First, was Black & Blue, which signified all they’d been through from their label and the press. Then, there was their last album, Never Gone, which made some people wish they would go somewhere. It was too soft-rock for their own good. Now, they come back with Unbreakable. We get it, guys. While it might pertain to the fact that they’re still around even though Kevin left the group, let’s be honest: vocally, he never contributed much to the group. He’s the bass, but they never sing 5-part harmony, so it didn’t matter. Plus, none of his singles were ever released on the American versions of their albums.

Sadly, Unbreakable is just more of the Never Gone stuff. I don’t know what’s wrong with songwriters, but it’s like they’ve run out of lyrics. At the beginning of the year, Nick Lachey gave us “What’s Left of Me”, with the hook, “I don’t wanna waste another day.” BSB’s lead single, “Inconsolable”, gives us the hook, “I don’t wanna waste another day.” But, the VERY NEXT SONG on the album (“Something That I Already Know”) gives us the hook, “I don’t wanna waste another minute.” Really? Are you kidding me? You mean to tell me that no one even considered moving that track to later on the disc?!

J. Holiday – I think R&B might be on an upswing, as Omarion’s “Ice Box” was the hotness, but J. Holiday had to come along and give us a good old-fashioned I’m-gonna-do-you-dirty-but-still-act-like-we’re-just-makin’-love song. “Bed” is just smooth. I really don’t want J to be a one-hit wonder, especially being a DC boy. This isn’t his debut, but it’s definitely gonna be the song that puts him on the map. This has LSG written all over it, and it’s refreshing to here after we’ve been through the whole “Confessions/Trapped in the Closet” phase of R&B, of “I’m sorry I cheated on you, but I’ve still somehow managed to come out ‘the good guy’.”

Soulja Boy – What can I say? “Crank Dat” is the Seinfeld of Hip-Hop: A song about nothing. And that’s just want ignorant folks want, to not have to think about their music. You can’t be thinking about deep lyrics when you’re trying to get the dance right. You worry about the words after the dance is down. That’s what works for Britney. Who’da thunk a song about just busting on a woman would be such a hit? Oh right, we already knew because it worked so well for Lil John on “Get Low”. The kids love their moneyshots!

Beyonce – “Get Me Bodied”: Wow, Beyonce made a song that I like. I won’t lie; I’ve liked other stuff, but honestly, her solo stuff has left me cold. I was way more into Destiny’s Child than The ‘Yonce. Yes, there are subtle differences in the song choices of the two. Anyway, “Get Me Bodied” makes you move. You can’t fight it. And it works everywhere. Close your eyes and it’s that high school dance, that birthday party, or that family reunion (you know the kind, where black folks rent out the local community center and hook up an old Aiwa stereo as the music choice). The best way to experience this is the extended version, which also doubles as a commercial for her clothing line, House of Dereon”. I didn’t even know the song was still going. i’m sitting there thinking, wow that was a smooth transition. Little did I know she’d come roaring back, telling me to shake my derrier in the House of Dereon. It makes you want to get up in church and testify. it’s got such a “Pick a Bale O’ Cotton” vibe to it near the end.

Alicia Keys – “No One”: This song is just on the verge of hotness. What it needs is an uptempo remix. It’s almost there. I’m feeling the laid-back old school groove, but I can just hear the potential in this song. The funny thing about Alicia is that her gimmick was “the black piano girl”, but in recent years, though, she’s moved more from Vanessa Carlton to pre-crack Whitney. She doesn’t have the vocal range, but the piano is taking a backseat in her songs of late. She was killing those keys in “Fallin'”, while the background of No One is pretty much comprised of practice scales. I still think the song is hot, but it could be hotter.

Colbie Caillat – “Bubbly”: I really didn’t want to like this song. I give her the same credit I give Tila Tequila & OneRepublic, in realizing that it takes a lot of work to build a true fanbase through Myspace. She did it and got her album out. She could either go the Sheryl Crow route or the early Nelly Furtado route (ya know, before she started hanging out with Black guys, i.e. “Like A Bird”). If she can stay pure, we might have something here. I really don’t want her to be a one-hit wonder, but I’d prefer that than having any chance of hearing the Bubbly remix, feat. T-Pain, Akon, Timbaland & JT.

Thriller – A Halloween mainstay, I heard this song about 3 times yesterday, and it’s STILL HOT. I swear on Great Odin’s Beard, this song never gets old. Sure, I could do without the campy Vincent Price part at the end, but the song MAKES you move. And everybody wants to learn that dance. Before I die, I want to be part of a large-scale, choreographed dance. I don’t know if I have to go on Broadway, or just plan a party of equally geek-minded people. But dammit, I’m gonna learn that dance.

I have a song, which many refer to as “The Biebl” that is my therapy. It’s a version of “Ave Maria”, arranged by a composer by the name of Franz Biebl. It was given as a gift to the Cornell Glee Club back in the 70s while they were on tour. Many people laugh at the notion, but I truly believe that it is the most beautiful piece of music ever. It’s my therapy. If I hit rock bottom, that song brings me back. You don’t have to know Latin, you don’t need to really believe the “message”. All you need to do is let go to the music. To me, Thriller is the Pop Biebl. You hear that, and you refuse to believe that Michael ever touched those kids. You refuse to believe that he’s ever gonna go crazy and marry Elvis’s daughter, resulting in a half-nekkid video. You forget that he’s going to blow all his money and create a zoo/amusement park at his house. All you know is you need to dance, because you’re listening to the rockin’est song of the past 25 years. Yeah, I said it. The entire album was unstoppable, but this song, and it’s incredible/incredibly expensive video were a driving force in making it the greatest selling album of all time.