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Rising to #1 on the Billboard Charts: TARP Commentary from Flo Rida and Britney Spears

Throughout the history of music, we’ve always had a knack for uncovering subliminal messages hidden in our favorite songs. Sometimes the discovery was subtle and unexpected, like playing the Beatles’ record backwards to hear “Paul is dead.” Sometimes the messaging was not as subtle, like hearing Britney Spears beg for someone to “If You Seek Amy” in her new salacious (and radio-censored) song.

Most of the time, pop music is like Brit-Brit: it’s quite literal. Thus when the pop diva asks us to satisfy her penchant for four-letter words, we know what she means. When Beyonce implores the male species to “put a ring on it,” she’s giving our deadbeat boyfriends a pretty clear directive. And when Lady Gaga sings “Just Dance”, well, we…just dance. But for every straight shooter in the music business, there’s always someone out there who just wants to if-you-seek-ay-with our heads.

The following are some examples of masterful, even Shakespearean, trickery; behind the poppy lyrics and tempo beats, we have discovered their true intentions:

volcanoBurnin’ Up (Jonas Brothers): “I’m slipping into the lava / And I’m trying to keep from going under / Baby who turned the temperature hotter / ‘Cause I’m burning up, burning up”

  • Take it literally: The musically-gifted but awfully-coiffed trio is on the precipice of an exploding volcano. An exploding volcano of love.
  • Think about it: If the brothers were to actually slip into lava, they would immediately die. So this song isn’t about love at all; it’s about an extreme fear of love. After all, who wants to burn to death in a pool of flaming magma? Not anyone I know.

akonRight Now (Akon): “I wanna make up right now na na / I wanna make up right now na na / Wish we never broke up right now na na / We need to link up right now na na”

marketcrashRight Round (Flo Rida ft. Katy Perry): “You spin my head right round / Right round / When you go down / When you go down down”

  • Take it literally: So yeah, it sounds like he maaayy be talking about fellatio… Or stripping.  Either way, adult activities.
  • Think about it: It’s a recession, people. And Katy Perry clearly has a thing for girls. So what else is going down down, and making our heads spin right round? Of course… the stock market. The Dow just can’t keep it up, and with all the painful pullbacks, it’s been one wild ride on the Street. There’s nothing sexual about it. And if you seek proof, just ask for Amy.
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Oh, Womanizer, Oh, You’re a Womanizer Baby

Over the years, we’ve always had a soft spot for the bad boys, the jocks, the rebels, and the reformed. There was something about the guys’ guy that whet our appetite for a challenge. The reluctant hero beguiled us, and the tortured soul tugged on our heartstrings. The ultra macho he-men made us want to watch Bowflex commercials on repeat. These are the men who made us laugh, made us cry, and made us want to take them home. They compelled us ladies to demand nothing less than a great sense of humor and an eight-pack of abs.

Of course, even if we didn’t have AC Slater’s pecs, we made up for it with Pacey’s charm. Or Dylan’s earnestness. Or Ryan’s from-the-streets sensibilities. Either way, the heartthrobs from 90210, Saved by the Bell, Dawson’s Creek, and The O.C. refined our collective taste for good men. If guys wanted a lady in the street but a freak in the sheets, then girls wanted chocolate bonbons: hard on the outside, but soft on the inside.

badboys

With all their personality, charisma, and good looks, our favorite bad boys always got the girl in the end. Dylan finally reconciled with Kelly, Slater stuck with pill-poppin’ Jessie, Joey chose Pacey, and Ryan… well, that show crashed and burned after season 3, so it’s fair to say that barring car chases and death, Ryan got Marissa.

greysgeorgeconquestsgreysgeorgeBut nowadays, a new group of men have replaced the earnest anti-heroes of the past. Our enigmatic soul searchers have given way to male characters who, well, just can’t keep it in their pants. There’s George (T.R. Knight) from Grey’s Anatomy, the awkward, bumbly intern at Seattle Grace who has inexplicably slept with more female leads than the character they call McSteamy (Eric Dane). Three to two, Dr. Sloan. Then there’s Nate Archibald (Chace Crawford), the feel-bad-for-me rich kid from the Upper East Side, who has slept with all three of the teenage female leads on Gossip Girl… and there are four in total. Don’t feel bad for little J, though — she made out with Nate earlier this season (Jenny’s brother broke it up before they could get too serious). Now that Nate’s 4/4 with the young girls, we’ll see if he moves on to the mothers soon… If you watch the show, you know that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

ggnatesconquestsWith George knocking boots with half the female doctors in Seattle, and Nate batting 1.000 while still in high school, it got me thinking… what happened? Is it a sign of the times that we demand philandering doctors and promiscuous pretty boys? Does the 18-34 demographic really want to see these guys rotating through the female leads like cowboys at the rodeo?

Perhaps our standards have loosened. Or maybe we’re just championing a character that we haven’t quite embraced before. Indeed, nothing deifies a new persona like a Britney Spears song…

It seems womanizers are the champion of the new young and hip generation. But personally, I’m not ready to let go of my chocolate bonbons yet — I’d rather stick to the hardened softie, the one-woman Ryan Atwood, over the womanizing polygamist Nate Archibald.  Because if you trade in a good thing for a mystery box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…  what disease, that is.  XOXO.

Daddy-O / You got the swagger of champion
Too bad for you / Just can’t find the right companion
I guess when you have one too many, makes it hard / It could be easy
Who you are, that’s who you are, baby

Womanizer, Woman-Womanizer / You’re a womanizer
Oh womanizer, Oh / You’re a womanizer, baby
You, you, you are / You, you, you are
Womanizer, womanizer, womanizer

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Random Thoughts on… Comedy

A Consultant’s Interpretation of Comedy

consultingmatrix

A Layman’s Interpretation of a Consultant’s Matrix

STARS: These jokes have the potential of getting big laughs from a widespread audience. Classic bathroom humor, fashion faux pas, Amy-Winehouse-style cocaine addiction, and making fun of Ryan Seacrest? …Topical, relevant, and always hilarious.

CASH COWS: These are the jokes that just fall into our laps… they’re still crowd pleasers, but there’s not much else to say. We’ve already tapped everything Britney has to offer, and Sarah Palin has been completely comedically vetted, from her grandma hairstyle to her moose-skin Timbs. And even though we’ve heard the same Ohio jokes over and over, it’s still easy to enjoy making fun of the state’s finest: undecided voters, Cleveland, and Joe the Plumber.

QUESTION MARKS: There’s a lot of comic potential here, but will people actually find it funny? With all the layoffs, is it too painful to joke about the recession right now? Is it too soon to make fun of our golden boy president? And is Helen Keller permanently off limits? Say it ain’t so, HK… or, well… never mind.

DOGS: Death, funerals, and killing of cute, cuddly animals (like penguins) is generally not funny. And while Jersey has seen its cash cow heyday in the past, it’s not the butt of all jokes anymore… Well actually, that’s untrue: the only reason why the dirty Jerz is in the “Dogs” quadrant is to place it near the pictures of the gun and the funeral. Naturally.

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Random Thoughts on… Irony

In Politics

  • Exxon Mobil sponsoring CNN’s broadcast of the VP debate last night, especially given that both candidates embraced the populist approach of bashing “big oil”. (1)
  • Sarah Palin’s performance in the debate being considered a success because she was able to (mostly) complete coherent sentences. (2)
  • When being smart and knowledgeable is actually a handicap to winning an election… Who knew?
  • So, conservatives are conservative when it comes to the economy (favoring less government intervention), but not when it comes to social issues (favoring more intervention in the areas of women’s rights, stem cell research, gay marriage, censorship, etc.)  Liberals are exactly the opposite, favoring more government oversight on policy, but less intervention when it comes to social issues.  Thus, neither party can claim consistency in a truly conservative or liberal approach.

In the Economy

  • In Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella”, Jay-Z raps: ” No clouds in my storms / Let it rain / I hydroplane in the bank / Coming down like the Dow Jones…” Prophetic.(3)
  • Wall Street bigwigs pushing for more government intervention in the market through the bailout. Yes, it’s necessary, but still, weren’t these the same guys who argued that Adam Smith’s invisible hand would solve all worries? Well, the invisible hand has struck.
  • Even though the Republicans are supposed to be the pro-business party, the two wealthiest men in the U.S., Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are Democrats. So is billionaire George Soros, Lloyd Blankfein (CEO of Goldman), Steve Jobs (Apple), and several other money-making businessmen too.  So the argument that Democrats (and their policies) are totally anti-business may fall flat…
  • While on the topic of the financial crisis, President Bush is the only president in history to have received an MBA… and from Harvard Business School no less. Bush most likely will fall into the same chute as Jeff Skilling (convicted CEO of Enron) when it comes to disreputable HBS alums.

In Everyday Life

  • Non-drowsy Mucinex commercials making mucus seem cute. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.
  • The Jonas Brothers succeeding. How come Hanson flamed out ten years ago? Hmm…bop.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays are in the MLB playoffs while the Yankees are sitting at home.(4) And the Rays made the playoffs a year after they got rid of the “Devil” in their name. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Britney making headlines for a song, of all things. Where did all the K-Fed, hair-shaving, alcohol abusin’, baby mama drama go? I think I prefer that to her singing.

(1) If you were wondering, the Exxon Mobil PAC has contributed 87% to Republicans this year, vs. 13% to Democrats.

(2) Sidenote: When did we start celebrating mediocrity and requiring down-home folksiness as a path to the Presidency? Shoot, I haven’t prepared for this question… help! Maybe I can just wink my way out of this one. Or divert the question to something about energy… Think it’ll work? You betcha!

(3) “Umbrella” was released on March 29, 2007. Since then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 2,195 points, or about 17%.

(4) Yankee payroll: $207m (#1 in Major League Baseball)… Tampa Bay payroll: $43m (second to last). In fact, the 3 other AL playoff teams are #4 (Red Sox), #5 (White Sox), and #6 (Angels) in payroll.

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Justifying Our Love for David, Justin, Britney, And Of Course, Madonna

It starts with shortness of breath. Next comes the hyperventilating, the eye twitches, the body spasms, and mangled speech. The flailing arms come out soon after, trying to seek reassurance from anyone passing by: “Did you see that? Did you see him? That was him! That was him!” Deep breaths. Regain composure. Put the crazy face away, and try to look nonplussed that David Beckham just walked RIGHT by you, and grazed your shirt with his arm. David Beckham. His arm. Your shirt. That shirt will never get washed again.

Sound familiar, or likely?

It can be easily argued that we live in a celebrity culture. With resources like People.com, TMZ, and the ever-infallible Perez Hilton, we know more intimate details about celebrities than we do our own friends and family. I may not know the name of my best friend’s ex, but I do know that Jared Leto used to date Cameron Diaz, who used to date Justin Timberlake, who used to date Britney Spears, who used to date Kevin Federline, who used to date nobody famous… that is, before dating, impregnating, marrying, and divorcing, Britney Spears. Through the celebrity-stalking bible known as Us Weekly, I’ve learned that Michael Phelps likes Chinese food, Ricky Martin likes boxer briefs, and Lindsay Lohan likes women. From watching E! News and listening to Ryan Seacrest on the radio, I have developed a wealth of celebrity trivia that would make my high school US history teacher cringe. What year did Madonna’s first album come out? 1983. Who played the little girl in Remember the Titans? Hayden Panettiere. What did Jessie take that got her “so excited” but yet “so scared”? Caffeine pills. No, I may not know exactly what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do, or where to find Pakistan on a map, but I can tell you that back when they were married, Dennis Quaid cheated on Meg Ryan. (Plus, I’m guessing that Fannie/Freddie and Pakistan/Iraq aren’t all that important anyways.) It may be hard to justify, but celebrity stories trump news stories every time.

For many of us, celebrities are just incredibly fascinating. Typically most of us would think that it’s crazy to camp out on the sidewalk for hours, just to get within screaming distance of a children’s book author. We would find it odd to reach out and grab at random strangers’ arms, legs, and (other) body parts. Perhaps we want to get close enough to verify that celebrities are, indeed, human. And so we change our shopping route to follow them at the supermarket. We stare at them, enraptured, as they do mundane things that all of a sudden seem fascinating. We try to take a picture of them buying carrots with our camera phone. Maybe all of it is just to confirm that they too eat food, walk places, and have boring days. Maybe it’s to reassure us that they are, kind of, just like us.

Then again, if they were really just like us, they wouldn’t be celebrities. So we live vicariously through their awards nights, champagne parties, airport rampages, and drug busts. We dedicate our whole day to wait in line for tickets to see Madonna, and we set aside The Shirt That David Beckham Touched for framing. It may not be right that we place celebrities on a higher pedestal than prime ministers, Congressmen, royalty, philanthropists, teachers, doctors, firefighters, police officers, community organizers, war veterans, environmentalists, public defenders, public servants, social workers, human rights activists, and often in the case of young people, parents… BUT, celebrities have brought us entertainment in the form of Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. So, I feel quite justified.

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