Saturday, September 26, 2009

Janeane Garafalo Does Dublin

Not only did I got to see comedian/actress/activist Janeane Garafalo do her first ever Irish standup show in Dublin this week I also had the pleasure of meeting her. Lovely! Garafalo is T.I.N.Y. in person and looks nowhere her 45 years. I was intrigued to see what kind of style her stand up would take figuring that whatever happened it was bound to be interesting. And I wasn't wrong.

Garafalo was undoubtedly funny but she was also fascinating and though provoking too. Veering from topic to topic and completely aware of her lack of focus she cut a charming and likeable figure. She touched off her experience in Ireland, her relationship with alcohol, her own self image, the origin of the universe (No. really.) and wrapped up with cute puppies and man sandals.

Her material on her own battles with alcohol/food/moderation were the most illuminating. Her unwillingness to subscribe to the advice willingly suggests someone who is glad to be sober and "healthy" but misses the ease with which alcohol allowed her to live her life.

I loved the blunt and refreshing way she talks about how it made her feel. It feel particularly apt for an Irish audience where much of what she said could be true for so many of us. Garafalo remembers fondly the ease with which she could talk to others, be sexy and generally function with alcohol after the closed off, religious upbringing she initially embraced. The show regularly felt like a therapy session played out on stage as Garafalo talks about her own problems with both the rehab process and the difficulty she has with life now. This is the material that has stuck with me as funny as Garafalo was and I think thats the biggest indication of how good she was. The ability to make one think and laugh is a real feat. And I didn't even go in to her (brilliant!) Natalie Portman material.

Garafalo is undoubtedly a comedy force to be reckoned with and I felt lucky to see someone so obviously talented in action. Hopefully she'll return for another visit sooner rather than later. Until then I now have a new YouTube obsession. Lovely!

New Video Alert X 5

There has been a bumper batch of new videos from various pop ladies in the last week or so which means its about time for a quick rundown of these new offerings.

Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love

For this worried that Cheryl's rather lovely but rather sedate solo single lacked punch this video should go some way towards changing your mind. I love the colours and the styling (lets overlook the leopard print dance trousers shall we?) and it looks and feels like the arrival of Cheryl as a Proper Popstar. She oozes charisma and I like the use of graphics and set ups too with military garb Cheryl and "writhing against a wall" Cheryl being my favourites. Lets hope her next single is a stomper so that she can do another video as good as this.

Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys

There is something awfully 80s action movie about this video but that's no bad thing. It also underlines quite clearly the "She's not Leona, she can dance!" vibe that has become a large part of Alex's appeal. I like the strange mix of would be bad ass hip hop guys and the Broadway show esque dancing through every sequence. Its the kind of mix that is perfect for a pop video. If I were being churlish I would point out that Alex looks a little stiff but its her first proper video so I'll let her off. Its a confident and bold video though and anything that isn't Leona doing 90s Mariah is fine by me. And besides the bit where the music drops out, Ms Burke kicks a wall down and struts into some dance off related showdown is quite fantastic. The rest of the video could have been utter shit and I would have liked it for that part alone.

Amerie - Heard 'Em All

Great video attached to not so great song alert! This is clearly Amerie's big budget re-entry to the music scene. The tune is listenable but hardly groundbreaking and I fully expect it to disappear which is a shame but the video! My god, talk about slick. Directed by Anthony Mandler (who has worked with a slew of hip-hop heavyweights and most recently did Run This Town for Jay Z) this video looks and feels like every inch the mini movie and I love the image of Amerie as this hooded agressive figure stalking her way through some kind of factory/abandoned warehouse/derelict building. The choreography is great too. The song will pass you by but its nice to see people can still rustle up big budgets for music videos these days.

Kesha - Tik Tok

In one way nothing really happens in this video but its awfully good fun nonetheless. The debut single from Uffie meets Britney pop starlet Kesha it does a fine job of introducing her messy locks and thrown together look. The clever edits at the start tease the eventual party scene that we get to look at but not before Kesha hangs around with some dodgy looking guys and shocks a white picket fence family. The best bit is undoubtedly Kesha wobbling around during the middle eight before making her way to the inevitable hipster hoedown. While I can't help but wish for a more eye popping video this does a fine job of letting us see that Kesha is both a hot mess and a fine popstar. And who could ask for more than that?

Miley Cyrus - Party In The USA

Given that both this track and Kesha's were produced by Dr. Luke they sound fairly similar. In fact Party In The USA is like Tik Tok's more responsible but still fun loving younger sister. This video ain't too exciting either but Miley is oddly charming. In fact its the best shes ever looked in a video. Fun lovin' but grown up, not winding around a pole (thank you Teen Choice Awards) and flanked by some backup dancers who've got ten years on Miley and seem to think they're in a Flo Rida video this is another step on the ladder for Miley to become a big league popstar as opposed to a teen star done good.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Madonna, Felix Da Housecat and Fashion Photography

Today saw the release of Madonna’s new Greatest hits compilation “Celebration” in various parts of Europe. With the album now leaking online and readying itself for release across the world within in the next few days the hype has kicked in as Warner’s pimp out the M back catalogue for what I’m sure won’t be the last time. Looking at how things have gone with the

campaign got me thinking about various things, that seemed apt to discuss as the album takes off worldwide.

Along with the recently released video for “Celebration”, a new cut was unveiled this week. It still uses the Benny Benassi remix but this time alongside Madonna we see plenty of fans (many

of whom make a complete tit of themselves. There, I said it.) and Lourdes in the Like A Virgin wedding dress, following in her mother’s footsteps, future popstar blah blah blah.

Soon to come too is a double DVD of Madonna videos, which will have many a super fan all in a lather. I do love the coverart for the DVD, my favourite of the images presented in this campaign so far (image via MadonnaTribe) :

Anyway the roundabout reason for this post is a thought that occurred to me awhile back while watching the new Felix Da Housecat video, which feels like what Celebration should have looked like:

Both videos are aiming for “sweaty, sexy, people gyrate to some dance music” as a vibe but only one of them really gets it right. And it ain’t Madonna. Both videos feel like riffs on the hip people partying vibe portrayed by photographers on sites like I Can Teach You How To Do It and its Irish equivalent (I think anyway, I’m sure some would say it’s a bit classier) Can’t Leave Now. Off the cuff photos of the fashion/music/hipster types getting on down in various situations is always fascinating to me and its interesting to imagine what would have happened if Madonna had done something more like the Felix track in terms of visuals. Just a thought.

There are photos of one of Madonna’s recent shows in Europe on I Can Teach You How To Do It funnily enough which is my reason for this post, how all these seemingly separate pieces of popular culture all rub off each other. And isn’t that a more interesting thought than just musing over the (bit patchy if I’m being honest) new material on the new Madonna best of?

Britney Album Cover Exclusive! (maybe)

Britney is rumoured to be releasing a new singles collection within in the next few months, a move that excites me (new Britney tunes!) and bores me (new album would be better B!) in equal measure.


A photo I just found on the Popjustice forums has me thinking about how great the album cover could be.

Feast your eyes on this, I'm envisioning it free of text, slapped across CD boxes the globe :

I'll let you come up with your own titles, although I think "OH CRAP! I'M RELEASING ANOTHER BEST OF!" would be an appropriate one.

Songs, Songs, Songs: Some of the Music I'm digging at the moment

Natalie Imbruglia - Want : Slinky, moody and infectious this is a slice of downbeat electro pop that should hopefully be huge, I also love the Cassette Club remix which is well worth a listen

Janet Jackson - Make Me : Funky, edgy dance cut produced by Rodney Jerkins that sounds like Feedback Part 2. This is a good thing!

Madonna- Revolver feat. Lil Wayne : Her vocals are phoned in, the lyrics are guff but I find this strangely appealing! Same can be said of other new track It's So Cool, clearly when it comes to Madonna, I don't set the bar very high!

Dragonette - Pick Up The Phone: Gorgeous! Melancholic blockbuster pop that should be huge (but probably won't be sadly). There is also a rather amazing Richard X mix which always helps matters.

Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love : Sweet, mid tempo R&B pop that is a nice start to the solo misadventures of the former Miss Tweedy

Sugababes - About A Girl : They may or may not be about to undergo a reshuffle, but this unapolgetically catchy number is one of their best singles in ages.

Mini Viva - Left My Heart In Tokyo : One of the best fusions of dance track and a big hook in ages, this is thrilling, exuberant stuff.

30H!3 feat. Katy Perry - Starstrukk : Stupidly catchy trashy electro pop and the best Katy Perry has sounded in quite awhile.

Alexandra Burke feat. Flo Rida - Bad Boys : HUGE SMASH HIT ALERT. Like Womanizer with a better melody. Brilliant.

BoA - Crazy About : Slick new track from the re-issue of her superb English language debut.

New US TV Delights: Gossip Girl, The Beautiful Life and Melrose Place

I indulged in some new US TV this week with two newbie shows "Melrose Place" and "The Beautiful Life" (its being called "The Beautiful Life: TBL" but I refuse to acknowledge that awful AWFUL title) and the return of one of my fave's "Gossip Girl".

"The Beautiful Life" was a huge disappointment. The idea is solid, Mischa Barton as the reigning super model/super bitch returning to NYC while newbie models attempt to make their name. Sadly for all the promise of the premise the pilot was mawkish, unconvincing and (worst crime of all!) boring stuff. Biggest offender is Chris, the Iowa bred farm boy who falls into modelling (Ashton Kutcher is an exec producer on this and this incidental detail is a dead giveaway) with scenes so cheesy you half expect the whole thing to be some kind of an elaborate spoof on stupid dramas. But alas its not. Not only is the show incredibly cheesy, it also looks flat and most of the cast don't look like models. There are glimmers of a good show here, Mischa Barton's character Sonja has the potential to be a complex and interesting hellraiser and lead character Raina could be moulded into an interesting heroine with some decent scripting but I can't see the show going that far. With piss poor ratings to start off and such a lacklustre approach it wouldn't surprise me if The Beautiful Life ended up on the CW scrapheap faster than you can say "Smile With Your Eyes".

"Melrose Place" thankfully was a pleasant surprise. Maybe its because I've seen two episodes but I'm already hooked on this show and hoping it lasts the season. A glossy reboot of the 90s hit, in the vein of last year's "90210" remake, this places a bunch of glamorous 20 somethings in a swanky L.A. apartment complex. Within minutes of the first episode, Sydney of the previous incarnation is found dead in the complex's pool and a season long mystery is set in motion. There is a nice array of characters, the obvious highlight being Ella, the bitchy but likeable publicity whose rampant sexuality and sharp tongue set her apart from some of the more drippy characters on display. Ashlee Simpson Wentz (as the credits refer to her as) seems awkward and stilted but this seems like a deliberate move for her twitchy and probably unhinged character Violet. The plot lines are suitably ludicrous too. Before she died Sydney had a connection to everyone in the complex it seems, meaning the season long mystery is sure to have plenty of turns, Lauren the eager med student has accidentally become a high class hooker and we have a feeling that Violet will go fairly psycho by episode 13, if not earlier. This is shaping up to be fantastic trashy drama, not far removed from the slick thrills of Gossip Girl and if it can build a decent word of mouth this could be one of most enjoyable debuts of the new TV season.

Now onto the return of an established fave, Gossip Girl. Although most season openers can be a slow affair the GG crew managed to fit lots in. Without going into too much plot details (to keep things spoiler free) the writers have managed to put a fresher spin on things after the rather muddled and rushed feeling to Season 2. Using last season's "back from summer" device allows us to catch up with the main characters before college comes into change things up. Blair and Chuck are already interesting, equal parts sexy and sweet and a nice change from the Dan and Serena's of this world. Dan is moving on up and Serena is fast becoming a US Sienna in a slightly ludicrous bit of plotting that we hope isn't dragged out all season. And for some reason both Jenny and Vanessa have been subjected to the same, rather horrid Christina Aguilera circa 2003 ratty hair extensions which hopefully will be shorn off soon. This was a bold and fresh opening and I'm quite excited to see where things go this season on Gossip Girl.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The VMAs 2009: A Return to Form

I always watch The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) every year and sadly the last few years have been a tad disappointing. Last year's sojourn in L.A. with Britney being showered in awards was a marker improvement but it still didn't feel like a killer show. With the news that this year was to see the show return to Radio City Music Hall in New York, the place where the show started, then I got excited. When the list of nominees was announced there was also some excitementan. Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Britney competing for trophies meant that finally some genuinely huge videos (Single Ladies, Poker Face, Womanizer) were go to go up against each other. Also the line up of performers was suitably diverse and lead me to believe some prime entertainment was on the way.

And thankfully, the show didn't disappoint. A slick, entertaining and brilliantly judged piece of pure pop spectacle, this years VMAs was a true return to form. From the decent spread of winners (Best Pop Video for Womanizer felt just right and Single Ladies, in its all conquering glory, was a well deserving Video of the Year winner). Obviously Kanye West and Taylor Swift stole most of the show in their respective ways but everybody brought their A Game.

Madonna's opening speech was a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson and a great way of reminding of us why he was so loved and what he meant to others. The following tribute was eye popping but the lack of introduction for the dancers made it feel a little anonymous until Janet turned up. Although she seemed a tad rusty, her mix of emotion and pure charisma was a joy to watch and the audience reaction was priceless.

The rest of the performers uniformly gave their all. Taylor Swift was a tad cheesey but effectively showed us why the US teens have taken her to heart with her subway,out door dance fest, Beyonce felt a little bit rehashed but THAT dance will always be a show stopper, Pink reminded us why she is still a consistent and brilliant popstar giving plenty of emotion while flailing about the arena during a visually stunning "Sober". Green Day were enjoyable, if run of the mill and Muse were hard to resist as they worked their magic on a spellbound bunch of eager US fans and Jay Z and Alicia Keyes closing the proceedings was a powerful and glittering event bursting with star power. At this stage enough has been said about Kayne but needless to say he provided the defining moment of this years show even upstaging Russell Brand who did a good job even if his humour seems to fly high above the heads of most Americans.

To me though Lady Gaga brought the killer (no pun intended) performance of the night. A gothic meets Britney extravanganza she managed to cement her position as THE popstar of the last 12 months with a simple snarl. The re-arrangement of Paparazzi was epic and powerful and a canny reminder of what a great song it is. Also after all her talk of "The Fame: Monster" and her new fascination with horror movie images this performance places it all in context. It says alot that when the blood appeared on her stomach as I watched the performance for the first time that I actually gasped and for a second felt frightened. Gaga sold the emotion so much that you went on the journey of the bashed and beaten starlet been devoured by the fame machine. The little catch in her voice as she staggered around the stage was powerful stuff. And given how the whole ceremony focussed on the passing of a great pop icon it felt timely. The price that Michael Jackson paid was written all over the tableau Gaga brought us. And all this while busting out the dance moves and layering some lovely harmonies together. Fierce. Watch it here

Overall it was a fantastic show and easily the most talked about in years. The ratings for this years show are particularly strong and I can only hope that MTV continue to reach for the stars and make next years show even better

Thursday, September 10, 2009

La Clique Light Up The Speigeltent

I ended up heading to the preview performance by La Clique at the Speigeltent this week and was suitably blown away. Its La Clique final year performing in Dublin so it really is your last chance to experience their show. And what a show it is. A heady mix of humour, physicality, sexual energy and the offbeat it’s a unique experience. The show consists of each of the performers performing their various routines across the course of the evening. Its fast paced and its hard to pick a highlight. From the awfully bendy Mr Frodo to the bizarre but enthralling Le Gateau Chocolat the show offers up a million different reasons for you to be entertained. If you want to see a group of performers pushing the boundaries of what their bodies can do while making you laugh, cry and wince (you will wince. At least once) then this is the perfect show for you. If you don’t you should get down to this anyway because it needs to be seen to be believed.

See for more on this show, including bookings, and the rest of this year's program.

Shutting It Down: Why I Love The Rachel Zoe Project

I’m not sure what I imagined the life of a celebrity stylist to entail but I don’t think it was ever as melodramatic or as full of catchphrases as The Rachel Zoe Project.

A fly on the wall reality series that is equal parts fashion porn and camp-y injokes its one of the most entertaining reality shows I’ve come across.

You’ll know Rachel Zoe’s work if you’ve any familiarity with celebrity culture. One of the best known stylists she gained prominence when she styled Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan during their uber-skinny uber-stylish phases, she now works with well known stars such as Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner (swoon) and Cameron Diaz. She’s also a famous figure in her own right, keen to develop her “brand” and always giving interviews at fashion events.

The show follows Zoe and her team namely her two assistants, the long suffering Taylor who is filled with attitude and bad-ass style and an undeniable work ethic and Brad, the newly hired and slightly green assistant in training who regularly comes under fire for not quite knowing the ropes at Team Zoe. There’s also Rachel’s long suffering husband Roger who seems to see his wife for a total of 5 seconds per episode such is her work load.

Anyway the show is entertaining to see the frantic planning that goes into organising clothes for celebs and more importantly for the hilarious banter between Rachel and her assistants. Rachel talks in this crazy over exaggerated voice that makes Everything. Seem. Really. Important. And her assistants find everything tough as well. Watching Rachel declare a black tulle dress “BANANAS” or that “that cream jacket is so cute, I wanna die!” is endlessly entertaining. Zoe’s crazy work ethic makes her an interesting figure, who when not covering her face in enormous sunnies is regularly pointing out how exhausted she is.

What makes this such an enjoyable watch is that perfect reality TV mix of ridiculous people and the more human moments. Rachel might think a certain piece is “BANANAS” but you get a hint of the struggle she goes through to keep her ridiculous job going aswell. This is fluff, no doubt about it, but fluff that will keep you sucked in.

This spoof also does a great job summing up the ridiculous side of the show:

How I Learned To Love Festivals: Electric Picnic 2009

I had the pleasure of experiencing both my first ever festival and my first ever Electric Picnic last weekend and after years of rolling my eyes at people harping on about festivals, groaning at the mention of “festival chic” and plugging my ears at blanket radio coverage I finally get it. What a weird, wonderful and utterly surreal way to spend a few days. Tramping around a field, finding yourself at outdoor raves in the middle of the night, throwing shapes to Chic in a crowded tent, accepting the fact that you haven’t showered in days, using face wipes every five seconds… the festival experience really has it all.

Music wise I didn’t experience much but what I did was very good. Marina and The Diamonds really impressed me. Gorgeous pop songs and a charismatic lady fronting them who oozed charm and down to earth presence, she was a real surprise and I can’t wait to hear more from her.

Chic were mindblowing. I’ve never seen so many people so upbeat and enthralled in music. It might sound hippie tastic but it was a genuinely uplifting experience. 2 Many DJs did a set of truly epic proportions and Imelda May was every inch the polished star in the best possible way, bashing out an effortless and totally enjoyable set. What I remember (ahem) of Passion Pit was also great and The Big Bang at Poptopia proved that there is stardom due for Veda Beaux Reeves, Bitches With Wolves and Neosupervital and not a moment too soon.Just a quick mention as well to LoveAction the charity that had me down there. Raising awareness for equality in Ireland, they did a stellar job and got a great response. Find out more here.

All in all I had a blast. Lets do it all again next year.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Madonna: Celebration, The Video: More Crotch Thrusting Than You'll Know What To Do With Do With

Madonna has unleashed the new video for "Celebration" after multiple online teasers the last few weeks.

I like the video although I don't love it (yet). The general concept, everybody dancing and being ker-azy is fine and its hard to fault Madonna rocking a fashion forward Balmain dress with big shoulders and those (rather fug) Diorette shades. And Lourdes steals the show for a few seconds with her Yoga For Teens moves. The dancing is also suitably kick ass, which is always nice.


I kind of wish Madonna would try the softer tack. I like her brash, unapolgetic "I'm hot, I'm sexy, I have the best body you've ever seen" schtick because it has an air of attitude and balls about that is very Madonna. But also its becoming old. She's been rocking this style in different variations for ages so it'd be nice to see Madonna try a little less hard. When you see Madonna de-wigged and enjoying the moment in the crowd with her dancers in the final scenes she looks ten times better. The best Madonna has looked in ages is still the scene in the Hung Up video where she struts down the street in jeans and a leather jacket. I was hoping that the video would reflect the single cover, a simple, stripped down Madonna letting herself go and being in the music. I want to see Madonna tap into that simplicity for the next release. It'd be an interesting change of tack.

and another thing...

As much as I like the Benassi take on this tune, it would be nice to have seen the single edit get the video treatment. just saying.

The video is tricky to stream right now. If you are in the US get to iTunes sharpish for your free download. Not sure if this works outside of Ireland:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Is The Trashy Teen Slasher Back?

I'm awfully excited about the release of both Sorority Row and Jennifer's Body.

Sorority Row screams grade A trash, with its cast of lovely ladies (Audrina from The Hills! The Tomboy from Step Up 2, eh.. Rumer Willis!?), a ghoulish and gory outlook (I'm assuming from the trailer) and whiff of "Urban Legend" (a film which put Jared Leto and Tara Reid together, lest we forget). Its being released here and in the US at the same time which makes me think someone sees this as a cash cow and of all the recent horror remakes (you didn't think this was a new idea did you?) this looks like the most fun. I just hope there are some self aware jokes in the vein of "Scream". Sigh.

"Jennifer's Body" is going to be a cult classic whatever happens. The Diablo Cody script, the general Megan Fox factor, the playing on high school cliches in a horror format.. this all reminds me of Buffy and I can't help but expect big things from this one. And Megan Fox is a bit of a dark horse I think. Blantantly sexual and refreshingly upfront, there is something so uncensored and unusual about Megan Fox that subverts her inherent Maxim qualities. In fact the rather obvious point of the film, that sexy Jennifer isn't what she seems is Megan Fox writ large. She's a geeky, unapolgetically brash teen boy in a incredibly hot female body. Here's hoping "Jennifer's Body" lets that shine through.