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Posts Tagged ‘Christina Aguilera’

Yes, I did pay $55 to see Christina Aguilera

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

Okay, those of you who just don’t give a damn about my concert reviews can rest easy: this is the last one I’ll do for at least… a week. No shows between now and April 10th, when Zombi and Trans Am hit the Black Cat; in this concert-filled year, that seems like an abnormally long drought for me.

Last night was the big show: maybe the biggest show I’ve ever seen or ever will see. Yes, it was Christina Aguilera at the Verizon Center, with openers Danity Kane (who were terrible) and The Pussycat Dolls (who were worse than terrible). This was only the second stadium concert I’ve ever been to, actually, and the first is hardly worth counting — I saw Phish when I was fifteen or sixteen years old (and amusingly enough, I remember writing a long rant on my then-website about the show, complaining that Phish couldn’t hold a candle to King Crimson as rock improvisers). I went with my housemate, an indie-rock fan with a soft spot for good pop music, and as we approached the venue we were overwhelmed by the amount of makeup slathered over the faces of folks heading into the stadium. I half-expected to see some ironic hipsters in the crowd, but nope, the vast majority was what you’d expect: girls between the ages of, I don’t know, 8-18 or so. Some with parents and some with boyfriends.

My friend and I intentionally missed most of Danity Kane (hearing their album of really atrociously bad pop music makes me appreciate good pop music that much more), and settled into our “cheap” (don’t ask) seats just as they were starting their last song. It was forgettable, of course. Next up was The Pussycat Dolls, a six-piece girl-band taking their roots from a Vegas burlesque show, if I’ve got my facts straight. This was a bit of a weird experience: the stage show made its Vegas roots pretty clear, as the girls were hardly wearing anything and the dancing was, uh, provocative. I would NOT have been comfortable taking my 10-year-old daughter to this performance. Man, I’m getting old. Anyway, I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I think The Pussycat Dolls‘ sole studio album, PCD, is actually pretty entertaining (especially the Timbaland-produced songs). This did not translate at all live: their live musical performance was awful and surprisingly, given their roots, so was their choreography and dancing.

Once the main act started, though, it was clear there was a whole different level of production value and talent at hand. Aguilera has a pretty astounding voice, and her over-the-top vocals were complemented by a seriously over-the-top stage show. I mean, there were three outfit changes in the first three songs alone (this puts Within Temptation to shame). The jazzy big band backing her was probably 15 members strong. The songs from the second disc of Back to Basics were accompanied by the most gimmickry — a decadent circus-themed extravaganza featuring guys on stilts, acrobatic stunts, a carousel horse, and more. All this flash made up a little for the fact that the songs off of that disc are terrible: generic backing music with embarrassingly juvenile lyrics.

Her other songs, though, came off pretty well, although she does have a penchant for over-singing. And, refreshingly enough, there was one huge surprise: halfway through the set, the dancers stepped aside and the big band melted into the shadows, leaving just Aguilera and a pianist on stage. Aguilera proceeded to spend what was probably a good two minutes introducing “Oh Mother,” talking about how domestic violence affected her life, and then went into a pretty emotional rendition of the song — backed by a seriously intense video on the enormous screen behind her of a man yelling at his wife, the wife crying, the man shoving and hitting her. It was actually a little over the line, I thought, but simply awesome that this kind of slow, devastating statement song was in the middle of her set. Aguilera may have been in full entertainer mode throughout, but this song was a memorable exception, when music, lyrics and message took the front seat and spectacle was nowhere to be found.

Overall, this show was something that was definitely worth seeing once, if only for the ridiculous, gaudy spectacle of it all, “Oh Mother” excepted. It was really fascinating to see major-label corporate music in all its “glory” — I’ll always be much more comfortable in a dingy rock club or a tiny jazz club, but seeing what the majority of the country thinks of when they think of “live music” was quite the eye-opener.

What’s spinning, individual songs edition

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I’ve recently been listening to some albums with clear standout tracks and as a result have been trying to compile a kind of greatest-hits CD with the music that’s been spinning in my room for the past month or two. There’s a mix of new and not particularly new, and it’s a generally genre-less affair. The songs I have chosen so far (in no particular order):

  • Yo La Tengo - “The Story of Yo La Tango” (I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass): Classic epic noisy stuff from these guys that I’m going to see live tonight. Great way to end a pretty great new album.
  • Mastodon - “Sleeping Giant” (Blood Mountain): The obvious highlight on this album that I’m otherwise still a bit lukewarm about. Some unforgettably majestic guitar melodies here.
  • Christina Aguilera - “Still Dirrty” (Back to Basics): Dumb lyrics (actually not the norm on this album, at least on the first disc — but let’s not talk about the atrocious second disc) mitigated by a seriously bumpin’ production job.
  • Espers - “Moon Occults the Sun” (II): Melancholy, dignified indie-folk that should appeal to a lot of prog fans with their adventurous arrangements and crystal-clear, seductive vocals (both male and female). Another great album closer of a song.
  • Final Fantasy - “This Lamb Sells Condos” (He Poos Clouds): The album title is awful and some of the songs are, too. This is a hugely (over-)hyped album, but on this song at least they get it right.
  • Amon Tobin - “Sordid” (Permutation): Not new at all, but a barn-burner of a breakbeat song thrown into Tobin’s otherwise pretty jazzy sophomore album. Funny, I first got into Tobin through, of all things, a Coke TV ad (that used “Deo” from the next album).
  • Black Bonzo - “Brave Young Soldier” (Lady of the Light): This stuff isn’t generally my thing — this album was a perfect eMusic download rather than CD purchase for me — but there’s some cool stuff going on in this song.
  • Ephel Duath - “The Unpoetic Circle” (The Painter’s Palette): Any band that reminds me by turns of Cynic, Opeth and Pan-Thy-Monium can’t be anything but stone-cold awesome. This is one of the more accessible tracks from what is IMHO their best album.
  • The Coup - “My Favorite Mutiny” (Pick a Bigger Weapon): Disappointing album overall; I think Boots Riley and co. are really losing it. But this would have been a great song even on their old classic records.
  • Tim Berne’s Hard Cell - “BG uh-oh” (Feign): One of the more hyper-kinetic tracks on this album, and one that I was lucky enough to see live (performed by a slightly different ensemble). Berne is still one of my absolute favorite currently active “jazz” artists.
  • Boris - “Pink” (Pink): The title track from this album is one of the more aggressive tracks on a very aggressive record. Sludgy metal at its finest, with a touch of Japanese noise-rock zaniness.

New Yorker: “Does anything need bringing back less than sexy?”

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

I’ve been on a pretty severe music-buying hiatus for a couple months now; the only CDs I’ve bought in recent memory were in a gift-certificate funded order from that included, incongruously, Boris‘ sludge/doom-metal epic Pink and Christina Aguilera’s new double album Back to Basics. Most of this is a function of the fact that I took a pretty expensive vacation this month (also explaining the infrequency of site updates).

In any case, in searching around for reviews of these two albums that I bought, I came across a review of Back to Basics and the new Justin Timberlake album (which I have not heard) in The New Yorker, which is typically, for that publication, well-written and amusing:

Justin Timberlake is under an equally strange impression on “SexyBack,” the first single from his modest but satisfying new album, “FutureSex / LoveSounds,” where he bafflingly claims to be “bringing sexy back.” Does anything need bringing back less than sexy? It’s like proposing to bring back petroleum, or the N.F.L.

In one of the songs on Back to Basics — which is premised as a kind of tribute to old-school R&B and jazz artists — Aguilera name-drops like crazy, giving props to James Brown, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and on and on… the last name made me imagine a Coltrane sheets-of-sound solo inserted ungracefully into a modern hip-hop-based pop song. I actually think that could be pretty awesome: a heavy, hypnotic beat dropping out to make room for a ferocious Coltrane tenor solo? Maybe I’ll go download some mash-up software and make it happen.

Headphone listening

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

Some preliminary thoughts from my headphone listening the past couple days. Two surprising observations, in particular. First (brace yourselves all ye prog snobs :), “Get Mine, Get Yours” by Christina Aguilera sounds brilliant on the Sony V6s. There’s a separation of instruments I’d never heard before, particularly in the bass, that doesn’t come through in the Grados. Second, “The Package” by A Perfect Circle sounds similarly brilliant on the Grados - the dynamic range is fantastic for a rock recording, and - this is the surprising part - the Grados are well able to reproduce the incredible bone-jarringly deep bass in the early part of the song. It’s not boomy bass; it’s tight and controlled, but still powerful.

On the other hand, Kind of Blue is hiss-and-crackle central. It almost sounds worse on these headphones than on my crappy speakers, if only because I can hear how poorly it’s recorded. And I have the relatively new remastered version, too. Finally, Gorecki’s 3rd (I know, I know, but I like it) is gorgeous on the Grados. These phones do wonderful things with female vocals.