Tag Archives: justin timberlake

And Now, The Latest News… To Music

Even in the post-Napster age, music piracy is still on the rise.  Record companies are hemorrhaging money.  Artists are forced to drink tap instead of Fiji.  The only bright spot in the music industry is in publishing: owning the rights to songs that will be licensed to radio, television, video games, commercials, etc.

A local nightly news program may pay $1,000 to $4,000 for some horn-and-drum opening music and use it whenever it wants. The same goes for background, mood-setting music on a daytime soap opera. But using a song just once in a major motion picture can cost $25,000 to $1 million. Companies like J. Crew even pay fees for music played on their Web sites. (From NY Times)

If this is where the money is, then why not alter the product?  Let’s make songs for our newscasts and political debates.  We don’t necessarily have to sacrifice our “art” in order to make it topical:

WHITNEY-2

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An Hegelian Analysis of Pop Culture, With Commentary on Flava Flav

(To be honest, I don’t know who Hegel was, but I’m the preeminent Flav scholar this side of West Texas.)

A few years ago, an interviewer asked me what my favorite movie was. In any other circumstance, the answer would have been easy: Miss Congeniality, a story about an undercover cop-turned beauty queen who saves Miss Rhode Island from exploding onstage, as William Shatner dances and serenades the crowd. A true classic, in my opinion. However, in that moment, I reckoned that Miss Congeniality would be about as well-received as an outbreak of swine flu.  A Beautiful Mind, I decided, was a safer bet. It’s my favorite movie, I told the interviewer, because it depicts how Nash overcame the psychological struggle within himself to bring about one of the most important mathematical theorems of our time.

And on that load of crap, I got myself into college.

Looking back now, it’s easy to see how this little white lie could have been conceived. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where classical music and Jane Austen are seen as culturally superior to “Boom Boom Pow” and Agatha Christie. Our society favors the New Yorker over Us Weekly, Italian wines over Franzia, and opera over Oprah. A line is drawn between “high” culture and “low” culture, based on some ephemeral idea of quality as defined by tradition, or reputation, or, more likely, some really old guys. Many of us have accepted this order, convincing ourselves that we too are high class: the smartest, most accomplished, and best-looking scholars and future leaders of America… the creme de la creme. Why then, should we debase our exceptionally-gifted minds with the crap of the masses? Why should we indulge in tabloid reading and Britney Spears?

Some might argue that there is value in consuming “low” culture just as there is value in consuming “high” culture. As future leaders, perhaps we should study and understand the whole of American society. Bad TV, movies, and music are as much reflections upon the audience as they are vehicles of culture. Lindsay Lohan’s boozing can tell us a lot about the current attitude toward alcohol in America’s youth, which is important, because, as Whitney said, the children are our future.

Of course, it’s obvious that most people don’t watch The Real World to isolate the psychological impact of seven strangers, picked to live in a house. So here’s a new approach: instead of trying to find intellectual ways to justify consuming pop culture, why not embrace it? Don’t sneak your Cosmo behind The Economist at the gym. Don’t pretend to channel surf on Flavor of Love. Don’t be embarrassed that you know all the songs on the Miley Cyrus CD. Almost everyone is affected by pop culture: we all know who Brangelina is and who K-Fed is not. We all know the words to “SexyBack” (they’re not hard…). So instead of fighting it, belt out “See You Again” unashamedly. Indulge in a little Flava Flav… and follow up with a Sandra Bullock TBS marathon. Enjoy the undeep, unanalytical, unintellectual publications like InTouch Weekly, filled with uncompoundable compound words.

So, I am finally ready to proclaim Gracie Lou Freebush, rogue cop, as my cinematic heroine. After all, the mindless crap that is pop culture today does not seem that mindless anymore. Whether that’s because it has made me dumber, or because I have learned to justify it in my own weird way, no one should feel guilty for their entertainment preferences (unless, of course, you’re a fan of Gigli). Don’t be that uptight, humorless guy who wears argyle socks, quotes Ayn Rand, and looks down on the rest of us while we get fitted for our grillz. Instead, dump the math, forget the opera, stop being polite… and start getting real.

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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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An Hegelian Analysis of Pop Culture with Commentary on Flava Flav

(To be honest, I don’t know who Hegel was, but I’m the preeminent Flav scholar this side of West Texas.)

A few years ago, an interviewer asked me what my favorite movie was. In any other circumstance, the answer would have been easy: Miss Congeniality, a story about an undercover cop-turned beauty queen who saves Miss Rhode Island from exploding onstage, as William Shatner dances and serenades the crowd. A true classic, in my opinion. However, in that moment, I reckoned that Miss Congeniality would be about as well-received as an outbreak of herpes… or, perhaps, a screening of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. A Beautiful Mind, I decided, was a safer bet. It’s my favorite movie, I told the interviewer, because it depicts how Nash overcame the psychological struggle within himself to bring about one of the most important mathematical theorems of our time.

And on that load of crap, I got myself into college.

Looking back now, it’s easy to see how this little white lie could have been conceived. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world where classical music and Jane Austen are seen as culturally superior to “Lollipop” and Agatha Christie. Our society favors the New Yorker over Us Weekly, Italian wines over Franzia, and opera over Oprah. A line is drawn between “high” culture and “low” culture, based on some ephemeral idea of quality as defined by tradition, or reputation, or, more likely, some really old guys. Many of us have accepted this order, convincing ourselves that we too are high class: the smartest, most accomplished, and best-looking scholars and future leaders of America… the creme de la creme. Why then, should we debase our exceptionally-gifted minds with the crap of the masses? Why should we indulge in tabloid reading and Britney Spears and The House Bunny?

Some might argue that there is value in consuming “low” culture just as there is value in consuming “high” culture. As future leaders, perhaps we should study and understand the whole of American society. Bad TV, movies, and music are as much reflections upon the audience as they are vehicles of culture. Lindsay Lohan’s boozing can tell us a lot about the current attitude toward alcohol in America’s youth, which is important, because, as Whitney said, the children are our future.

Of course, it’s obvious that most people don’t watch The Real World to isolate the psychological impact of seven strangers, picked to live in a house. So here’s a new approach: instead of trying to find intellectual ways to justify consuming pop culture, why not embrace it? Don’t sneak your Cosmo behind The Economist at the gym. Don’t pretend to channel surf on Flavor of Love. Don’t be embarrassed that you know all the songs on the Miley Cyrus CD. Almost everyone is affected by pop culture: we all know who Brangelina is and who K-Fed is not. We all know the words to “SexyBack” (they’re not hard…). We all love sensational stories of six-foot lizards and the guy who ate 23,000 Big Macs. So instead of fighting it, belt out “See You Again” unashamedly. Indulge in a little Flava Flav (yeah boy!)… and follow up with a Sandra Bullock TBS marathon. Enjoy the undeep, unanalytical, unintellectual publications like InTouch Weekly, filled with uncompoundable compound words and phrases only found in strategerical presidential speeches.

So, I am finally ready to proclaim Gracie Lou Freebush, rogue cop, as my cinematic heroine. After all, the mindless crap that is pop culture today does not seem that mindless anymore. Whether that’s because it has made me dumber, or because I have learned to justify it in my own weird way, no one should feel guilty for their entertainment preferences (unless, of course, it involves talking chihuahuas). Don’t be that uptight, humorless guy who wears argyle socks, quotes Ayn Rand, and looks down on the rest of us while we get fitted for our grillz. Instead, dump the math, forget the opera, stop being polite… and start getting real.

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Random Thoughts on… Grammar

In 1946, George Orwell called for a rehaul of the English language in line with the traditional rules of grammar: “One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.”

Fifty-plus years later, President George W. Bush addressed a crowd in South Carolina with the following: “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?”

Obviously much progress has been made.

When the former President of the United States is frequently making hillbilly blunders of the English language, what can we expect from the rest of Americans?  What example are we setting for the children sitting in grammar classes?  What could we possibly teach the Chinese food delivery guy taking English as a second language?  According to George W., we need to ensure that they is learning proper grammar, but our grammar is deteriorating ourselves.

Personally, my favorite example of the “decay of language” is from Justin Timberlake, in his song “What Goes Around.”  Now, even though music is art and may not fall by the same conventions as speech, I always appreciate it when someone makes up a word so that it can rhyme in a song:

From Justin Timberlake’s song, “What Goes Around“,

“I heard you found out / That he’s doing to you / What you did to me / Ain’t that the way it goes / You cheated girl / My heart bleeded girl…”

Looking at these lyrics with our grammar glasses on (we are so cool), most of us know that Justin means “bleeded,” given the context of hearts “bleeding.”  However, the past tense of “bleed” is “bled.”  Therefore, a grammatically-correct lyrical translation would be “bleated,” like what sheep do.   So, when singing along to the song, we either ignore the grammatical error but get the overall message (“bleeded”), or misunderstand Justin’s message but use the correct word (“bleated”).

Even though this may be a frivolous example, it shows that bad grammar anywhere may lead to confusion: we risk distorting the language which carries the message, or we may miss the message completely.  Some may end up believing that “bleeded” is a word, or that the cries of Justin’s heart sound like sheep. So to mitigate these risks, should we just let the grammar police run wild?  Should we round up all the language offenders and send them off to reeducation camps?  Even though there are indicators that we should (Timbaland’s hit “The Way I Are” comes to mind), language can also be exclusive if we are stringent on the rules, and we can easily alienate one another based on our definition of what is “correct”.  Plus, it would be embarrassing to deport our own President because of linking verbs.

However, there are real dangers when we just let anything go.  As Orwell noted, the future of our society depends on our ability to clearly convey ideas and thought.  If we cannot do so (here’s to you, President Bush), or if we confuse the audience with our words (“my heart bleated, girl”), we not only perpetuate the problem, but we pass it on to others.  This is the greatest risk, at its extreme: as our bad habits become others’ bad habits, and these bad habits are passed down to our children, a whole new language develops.  People start saying “bleeded” instead of “bled,” and thousands of words are replaced or replicated with new words that sound right to some, but are unintelligible to others.  This then raises the communication barrier, as those outside the realm of understanding will have to re-learn a changing language that has been so distorted that we barely know what’s right and what’s wrong.

With how we’re butchering it, who knows if English will be the dominant language in the future.  Thus if you ever feel the urge to laugh at the Chinese delivery guy’s broken English, refrain yourself: after all, what goes around…

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