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Trying to start a conversation over on [livejournal.com profile] poptimists about the new IU video ("Good Day"):

http://community.livejournal.com/poptimists/793519.html

By the way, what would you say are the best IU tracks? I've heard very few of them. I like the one variously translated as "MIA," "Missing Child," and "Lost Child"; and I totally love her live version of "Gee"/"Sorry, Sorry."



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I just discovered My First Love Story, a Tumblr whose author, Maddie, describes the blog's objectives as: "My ideas about/analyses of K-pop in relation to feminism, the music industry (both North American and Korean), and the portrayal of Asian femininity in media (both North American and Korean). Continued exploration of my diminished and/or burgeoning identity as a Korean/Chinese-Canadian woman who has never visited the country my mother came from over 40 years ago. Relations between K-pop and above exploration. Songs that I'm obsessed with. Pictures of idols that I'm obsessed with."

If you're like me (that's about three of you), you have now instantly bookmarked that blog and are this moment reading it, or are about to. For one thing, a lot about the look of the girl teen idols will make most of us immediately go "PROBLEMATIC PROBLEMATIC" but I, for one, feel way too ignorant of Korea or K-pop to think I have anything knowledgeable to say on the subject (which of course doesn't stop me from trying). So someone who knows and loves the music but doesn't duck the problems has my immediate esteem.

On that subject, I recommend that you go read anhh's heartfelt disaffection: "To be honest, lately I can't stand K-pop. I still consume it on the same way: enjoy the music (music videos, albums, etc.) you can enjoy, avoid the rest (fans, media, the propaganda). To be fair, I don't think that you can separate one from the other. Some of the things I like about K-pop (the belief that a song can be an event and/or can change your life, how this treatment applied on the producer side can make a song you don't care about something that you never want to get out of it, etc.) go hand in hand with the propaganda side of it." And on.

I'd say that the K-pop convos are the best to have occurred on my livejournal over the last year, thanks mostly to anhh and Mat, and since the conversations often will extend for days or weeks on a particular thread I urge you to periodically click my K-pop tag and revisit the threads (some of these being commentary on quarterly or year-end lists, with the K-pop content being rudimentary in my original post and only really developing down in the comments).

Back to Maddie's blog, a theme that's developing is that if you're Asian or Asian American in North America, Asianness will become an issue whether you want it to or not, and any attempt to break the Korean groups here will have to take this into account. I'll add a corollary, though, which is that if part of someone's heritage is black, everything changes, and the Asianness may even go unnoticed.

[EDIT: Add "or Latin American" after black in the previous sentence, or you can make it "black or Latin American or even though you've got no Latin American ancestry you played someone with a Latina name in High School Musical."]
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Tom asks on Blue Lines Revisited: "If you could have reviewed any record in history at the time it first came out, which would you choose and why?" This is my response, which will shock no one:

Ashlee Simpson's Autobiography. Who knows if I'd have reviewed it with insight, arriving cold; Mikael Wood's review in the Voice was excellent; the point is, if I'd been assigned to review it I wouldn't have known what was coming, I'd have been surprised down to my socks. Just what would it have been like to be hit right at the start with this young woman declaring, "I walked a thousand miles while everyone was asleep," a mystery and a pheenom in her first fanfare, and then two songs later clawing and ripping at herself and her family and trying to resurrect it simultaneously? Maybe I'd have been up to the job, or maybe I wouldn't have grasped what I was hearing. But it would have been nice to to be the one who shows up with a fresh face, the first writer to feel the wind.

(Of course millions of girls had seen her reality show on MTV already, but, interesting as the show was, I'm glad I caught her first through the music, the reflectiveness and the struggle deeper there.)

I did put on a promo copy of Miranda Lambert's Kerosene with no idea who she was or what to expect, and went "Holy amazing shit!" as the title song started it off. Someone else did the review, though.

On Rolling Teenpop I was the first person in my universe to write about Marit Larsen as a solo artist, catching her "Don't Save Me" shortly out of the gate; and I had fun observing other people independently showing up on Rolling Teenpop with the news, a phenomenon in our little world. And I did get the review in the Voice, one of the last ones they let me do, though I was allowed little more than a blurb.

I was also the first person in my universe to post about Taylor Swift, on my MySpace and on Rolling Teenpop, though I'd heard the single months earlier and Jimmy Draper had talked her up in an email to me, which is what got me interested. I was the first one on Rolling Teenpop to hear and post about the "Greatest Time Of Year"/"Not This Year" dialectic from Aly & AJ. Think of what utter fucking dipshits the Voice people were for not having me and Dave and Mike and Tim and Erika and Chuck etc. blogging all this music on launch.
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Songs from 2006 that people need to nominate for the [livejournal.com profile] poptimists Best Of 2000s poll (that I probably won't have the room to nominate myself) - EDIT: But no rush, since you'll have a couple of weeks to contemplate these tracks, as Kat in the meantime has some special fun and games planned. Click on the comments to see.

Taylor Swift - Cold As You
Ashley Monroe - Satisfied
Rock Jack - Toilet Master
Sally Shapiro - I'll Be By Your Side
K-Sis - Beijos, Blues E Poesia
Paris Hilton - I Want You
Lillix - Sweet Temptation
Young Jeezy - Trap Star
Cham - Ghetto Story
Simian Mobile Disco - Hustler
Marit Larsen - Don’t Save Me
Fergie - Fergalicious
Wir Sind Helden - Von Hier An Blind
Snook - Snook Svett Och Tarar
Brooke Hogan - About Us
Eric Church - How ’Bout You
Dierks Bentley - Settle For A Slowdown

K-Sis )

UPDATE: Here's another link for Beijos, Blues e Poesia:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TrRtXIkmC4
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More convo with Tom on his Tumblr, this time as to whether or not Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" is indiepop. I say not, though I can hear the potential indieness that he hears. (Also, more generally, I can hear parallels between country and indie in that country is up to its eyeballs in alienation and social resentment; one thing I find inspiring about Taylor, beyond the craftsmanship that insists you tell a story rather than simply allude to one while hoping that the listener will do your work for you, is that, though she's personally hurt - it's all over her lyrics - and she hangs on to her bitterness, she's not head deep in social resentment.*)

The reason You Belong With Me is not indie )

*Which isn't to say that one can't do great stuff with social resentment, mind you, as long as it doesn't devolve into an easy shtick.
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Was going to do this October 1st, then November 1st, now here it is.

1. Danity Kane Welcome To The Dollhouse
2. Ashlee Simpson Bittersweet World
3. María Daniela Y Su Sonido Lasser Juventud En Éxtasis
4. Vanessa Hudgens Identified
5. Buraka Som Sistema Black Diamond
6. Willie Nelson Moment Of Forever
7. Ne-Yo Year Of The Gentleman
8. Santogold Santogold
9. Cansei De Ser Sexy Donkey
10. Marit Larsen The Chase
11 through 18 )

Housefire of the Danitys )
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A truncated chord and a held tone, and I immediately said to myself, "The tone is not going to hold long, and the melody will rise to a particular note," a note I heard in my head. And I was right! I don't know how I did it, but this nonetheless is evidence that Marit has characteristic melodic habits. Of course, almost every melodist has characteristic melodic habits, but this is evidence that I have a growing sense of what Marit's are, even if I've not been able to conceptualize to myself what they are. Anyhow, the beginning tone is sol and the note that follows - the one I predicted - is re. These are played on harmonica, I think - if not harmonica, then melodica - but the instrument feels like a flute. That tells you something about Marit, that sometimes her harmonicas and melodicas sound like flutes. Lyrics are about personal/interpersonal fences (barriers) growing delicately but relentlessly.

Are fences made of re and of timbres that converge on flute?

"In the heat of the battle," she sings at the end, delicately.
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This time she's lush right at the start! However, she goes uncluttered soon enough and into what I'd call a typical Marit Larsen melody - though I can't specify what's typical about it, maybe not the melody but the half-offhand, half-blithe, barely inflected delivery, syllables cutting off quickly, sans melisma.* Of course, lushness returns, this song doing the contrast between her slight voice and the large orchestration even more than usual. Lyrics seem to be about song messages being subject to further review, or their applicability being contingent, or something. The "you" who writes the songs under question probably isn't the same "you" she yearns for.

http://www.myspace.com/maritlarsen

*She tends to save vocal embellishments for the choruses
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Love the start: exciting, dark chord progression over which a barrelhouse piano rollicks. Then the melody enters as if this intense beginning hadn't existed, though the bass keeps dancing and pumping, interrupted by occasional moments of dreaminess. Mostly this is sing-songy, though with formal complexity, as the verse runs through several parts, and then we fade out on a harmonica and a vamp, just as if this had been a regular old country tune.

http://www.myspace.com/maritlarsen
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Starts w/ acoustic strums on a blues riff, and one expects or fears that the inevitable curlicues and orchestrations will come along and envelope it, but no, she's pickin' and strummin' all through with no embellishment. Her melody stays with the basic chord until it rises up on "takes fuel to light the tiniest star," and in the third verse (or is that a "middle eight" that happens to come at the end?) she goes way high and into a new chord, then finishes fast at 2 minutes, airy and quick and out. Credits the person or entity she's addressing as the source of her fuel, though this being Marit, one suspects that hanging around just offstage is her worry that the fuel/person/entity will run out.

http://www.myspace.com/maritlarsen
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First of the tracks that seems relatively normal, but this proves deceptive, as 53 seconds in she asks "Is it love?" and the question rises in repeated little puffs above chimneys and tree tops. "I thought we just had the time of our lives/One word from her and you're back in her arms" is the entire situation. But an interesting side issue appears when introverted Marit confesses to the lengths she'll go for love: "Look at all that we've overcome/I was social, it wasn't for fun." (Reminds me of Shakira back on Laundry Service describing how her love affair had gotten her to face her kitchen phobia.)

http://www.myspace.com/maritlarsen
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Still with the plinks, these ones pizzicati from old Hollywood comedy. Again, country touches in the melody, and again the arrangement refuses to emphasize the countryness.* Called "Steal My Heart," but "Steel My Heart" would be just as accurate: "For now the love we made is a razor blade/And I don't want to hurt any longer."

http://www.myspace.com/maritlarsen

*Mandolin used more as waterfall tremelo than as southwestern haze.
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Now more directly into country - though still not very direct. Starts w/ plinks and drones from darkest Scots-Irish Appalachia, but the music stays resolutely upbeat and major key, refusing the journey into pentatonic mysteries. So the hint of menace subsides, and it's up to the words alone to carry the sorrow. "Just in case you haven't noticed, I'm about to break your heart, or so I hope," sung with a la-di-da lilt. "Ten steps from your bed to your door, ten steps and I'll see you no more..." Strings add riffs as we go onward, and then she commands the guy to stay still, and all that's left is an orchestral chord holding itself with the dignity and sadness that the music hadn't previously allowed.

(She's previewing the new songs one per day on her MySpace.)
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She continues to stream them, one per day, on her MySpace:

"Your skin feels like counting the bricks in the city"? She seems to be going for an even lighter touch than in Under The Surface. Meringue upon meringue. But already, on repeat plays, this gains weight. Same set-up as "The Chase": flighty in the early verse, then heavier elements show in the chorus, and strings and weeping steel cling to the later iterations. Despite the basic spriteliness of her voice, there's a risk that as the songs pile up on each other in similarity she'll end up with an emotional hush she mostly avoided on the first alb. But we'll see if the songs do pile up in similarity.

"Our love it is reduced to this is me, this is you." First time through this seems like connection, second time like estrangement: "There's nothing left to lose. Our love it is reduced to this is me, this is you." But I'm not sure. Could mean - third time? - they've found their way to the basics, bricks and cities discarded (sadly lost? or no longer necessary?). Sudden shift to a dark chord at the end, then resolving on one that's not-so-dark.
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Marit Larsen has started previewing her new album one song per day on her MySpace:

First one up, "The Chase": Blithe kiddie-cabaret piano, her voice a cheerful chirp, the lyrics contrastingly bitter ("With you it's about the chase/You're not gettin' anythin' from me"). Unexpected swell of sound in the chorus, country-style instruments - harmonica and mandolin - with lyrics a country audience would respond well to, though tune and delivery aren't remotely trying to be country. (Don't know if there's much of a country audience in Norway, anyway.)
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With my ballot for the Nashville Scene's country music critics poll due in a little under 32 hours, I'm posting my leading 20 candidates for my singles list. Help! What have I left off that I shouldn't have? Especially, what alt-country/Americana stuff am I overlooking? (I am trying to vote for actual singles/focus tracks, though I'm willing to define those terms loosely. If something acts like a single - lots of people make a big deal over it, basically - then I'm counting it. I also define "country" loosely; e.g., choice number 8.)

1. Marit Larsen "Only A Fool"
2. Carrie Underwood "Before He Cheats"
3. Taylor Swift "Tim McGraw"
4. Eric Church "How 'Bout You"
5. Ashley Monroe "Satisfied"
6. Dierks Bentley "Settle For A Slowdown"
7. Dixie Chicks "Not Ready To Make Nice"
8. LeAnn Rimes "And It Feels Like"
9. Little Big Town "Good As Gone"
10. Toby Keith "A Little Too Late"
11. Bomshel "Bomshel Stomp"
12. Alan Jackson "Like Red On A Rose"
13. Eric Church "Two Pink Lines"
14. Tim McGraw "When The Stars Go Blue"
15. LeAnn Rimes "Strong"
16. Jace Everett "That's The Kind Of Love I'm In"
17. Hacienda Brothers "Different Today"
18. Keith Urban "Stupid Boy"
19. Bob Dylan "Someday Baby"
20. Jace Everett "Bad Things"

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