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[Wrote this for Left Hip a whole bunch of court appearances ago, but the mag had a change of format and couldn't run it.]

In Herbie: Fully Loaded Lindsay wavers between hesitancy and purpose as she plays a character who isn't sure she has a right to her own talent and destiny. So it's a shock after the end credits when the video to "First" rolls in and there she is being needy and demanding Lindsay Lohan. The song was written by others, and it too may be just an act, but it's the one I fall for and the one that defines her for me. She's got a thin singing voice but it doesn't feel thin, with her command and charisma always front and center.

For "Confessions Of A Broken Heart" she sent Kara DioGuardi emails about missing the attention of her absent dad, and she and Kara worked those emails into lyrics. On the alb, Lindsay wants us to want her, does so more convincingly than Cheap Trick ever did. She splashes around hilariously in "Who Loves You?" and she lives for the day when we'll be desperate and dying inside. She's got two masterpieces, "I Live For The Day" and "Nobody 'Til You," all centered on her vortex of need, the only girl in the room. But now she's caught in the criminal justice system, and once you're in you gotta do what the judges and POs say, gotta show up for court dates and classes, and you can't cut it close or function without a plan b, 'cause bad luck's not an excuse, and you gotta listen to them but they don't have to listen to you.

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"Nobody 'Til You" by John Shanks and Kara DioGuardi
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The series... will follow 12 musicians as they compete in songwriting challenges across a variety of genres — everything from dance tracks to love ballads... — and perform these self-penned tracks for the cameras.

I think that Kara likes to think of herself as a teacher and would like to give substantive advice in a way that American Idol didn't really permit. But I don't know if this sort of reality-show format will permit it either; it does have potential, however, since it might actually take one into the process of how good songs are constructed. But I'm skeptical about how telegenic that process is. What's going to grab the viewer? I would expect it's pretty rare to find an Ashlee-quality person with live-wire self-expression and an obvious connection between life and song, much less a houseful of such Ashlees.
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Since someone recently spammed Dave's old Alexandra Slate post on Bedbugs 2006, I went back and listened to Slate's MySpace. She's good, at least on the evidence of three songs. Her voice reminds me of Kara DioGuardi's, rich and deep and pained; so do her melodies, actually, and she has a similar guileless directness in her lyrics - guilelessly direct like such Platinum Weird tracks as "Taking Chances" and "Happiness" and "Nobody Sees," that is, words about falling down and getting up, and so forth, as if no one else will quite understand what this is like.* (Slate is cowriter on "Bad Girl" according to Allmusic, while the other two MySpace tracks aren't on her album** and I haven't found any credits, but DioGuardi had nothing to do with them, at least they're not listed in her credits at BMI; DioGuardi wasn't a big deal then so Slate may well have come up with the style without knowing Kara's work. Johnny Loftus at Allmusic compared and contrasted her to Lucy Woodward when he reviewed Edge Of The Girl.)

Does anyone have any idea what became of Slate? Her album is 2003, and she hasn't posted on her MySpace blog since 2006. Google is no help (at least not the first 80 links), though it did turn up an interview with Hollywood Records A&R guy Jason Jordan who said that Alexandra Slate and Tina Sugandh were a couple of brilliant signings of his that never saw the light of day. (The interview reads as if it had been conducted in some language other than English and then translated.)

*Kara is perfectly capable of indirection; at least I've never really figured out "Avalanche," other than that it seems to be about the frustrations of falling in love with a dreamer, or something.

**EDIT: Actually, "Clumsy On The Wall" is also on the album as a hidden track, though I only found that out from cheapo Russian download sites; neither Allmusic nor Amazon list it.
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Paul Krugman ("The New Economic Geography, Now Middle-Aged"), arguing in favor of economists' tendency to simplify and go abstract, to use mathematical modeling and quantitative methods: "The geographers themselves probably won't like this: the economics profession's simultaneous love for rigor and contempt for realism will surely prove infuriating."

I don't think Krugman is fair to himself when he says contempt for realism )

Until the 1930s and to some extent into the 1940s, institutional economics, with a strong emphasis on "historico-institutional factors," was a major force in American economics. But when the Depression struck, there was a desperate need for answers – and the answers wanted were to the question, "What do we do?" not "How did we get here?" Faced with that question, the institutional economists couldn't deliver; all they could offer was, well, persuasive discourse on the complex historical roots of the problem.

The person who did deliver was John Maynard Keynes. Now, Keynes is a protean figure, whose writings can be read to provide support for many schools of thought. But
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, despite occasional historical asides, essentially presents an abstract, ahistorical model of the economy; at its core is a little two-equation equilibrium model of the level of employment. And here's the thing: Keynesian economics, unlike institutional economics, was able to answer the question about what to do: it told you to boost demand with deficit spending.

How would things be different if X happened instead of Y? )
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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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Last month I linked the "radio edit" of my decade's end piece, the version that was printed in the Las Vegas Weekly. Here under the cut is the "extended freestyle mix" (a.k.a. director's cut), a full one thousand words longer – that's 60 percent more, for the same price! To put it in brief, I'm suggesting that the musical story of the Web is words, but that this Web word story can be one of distance and isolation.

Microwaving A Tragedy: The marriage of romance and romanticism in '00s pop )
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My decade's end piece in the Las Vegas Weekly, though after I'd pitched it I rebelled against the idea of trying to fairly sum up, hence no mention of Timbaland or Max Martin, whom I'd peg as the two most important figures in '00s music. (The Club Mix has brief mentions of "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Since U Been Gone," though not in regard to Max's input.) In about a month I'll post an Extended Freestyle Mix, and I'd welcome any suggestions as to what you think it should contain.

Microwaving A Tragedy: The marriage of romance and romanticism in '00s pop

(Links to my old Las Vegas Weekly columns are here, if you're interested.)
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Singles (as opposed to nonsingles). OK, here's where the decade barrier gets in the way: for me the arc of modern music starts in approximately '97 when Timbaland begins hitting with Missy and when Max Martin scores in the U.S. with the Backstreet Boys, and the Dirty South is bubbling up nationally, though I didn't connect to most of this other than Missy until '99 when Chuck enticed me back into the public eye. '99 is one node, with "...Baby One More Time" and "Back That Azz Up" and "Nann Nigga" and the flowering of the Ruff Ryders sound. Incredible year. '03 is another node — the top three on my list! — among other things for the dominance by the Dirty South, crunk coming to the fore. Then '04 and '05 are the peak of the rock confessional, what we've been calling "teenpop" but it's really young-woman pop that teens and tweens were lucky enough to be the prime consumers of, shepherded by men and women like John Shanks and Kara DioGuardi and the Matrix etc.; it brought my heart back into the business in a way that no one earlier in the decade except Eminem had done. I really needed Ashlee et al.'s lyrics, 'cause there's only so far I can care about whether someone gets low or not. The end of the decade doesn't have a node, exactly; country bumps in and out of the other stories, dallying with hip-hop in '04 and then Taylor Swift leaps into the rock confessional gap with her Taylorness, which is pretty much its own genre. Despite having written what I think was one of the significant bits about Destiny's Child, and liking Mya etc., I didn't start really clicking with — or on — r&b until '06, reaching back into the late '90s from there and then Lex has been a big help in my feeling it now.

Top Ten Singles Of The '00s

1. Panjabi MC ft. Jay-Z "Beware Of The Boys"
2. Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz ft. Ying Yang Twins "Get Low"
3. 50 Cent "In Da Club"
4. Hilary Duff "Come Clean"
5. Missy Elliott "Get Ur Freak On"
6. Jay-Z ft. UGK "Big Pimpin'"
7. Eminem "The Real Slim Shady"
8. Kelly Clarkson "Since U Been Gone"
9. ATC "Around The World"
10. Kelly Clarkson "Because Of You"
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I have made a decision for the remainder of 2009 to listen to no more Albums I Haven't Heard Yet. So, a trifle early, here is my decade's end albums list:

Top Ten Albums Of The '00s

1. Ashlee Simpson Autobiography
2. Montgomery Gentry Carrying On
3. Big & Rich Horse Of A Different Color
4. Britney Spears Blackout
5. t.A.T.u. Dangerous & Moving
6. Various Artists Global Hits 2002
7. Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP
8. Ying Yang Twins Me & My Brother
9. Fannypack See You Next Tuesday
10. Paris Hilton Paris

Exuberance )
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Thought that Adam was decisively better than Kris last night, but most voters probably had made their decision on whom to vote for long since, and dialidol has it too close to call. Neither performer came to grips with "No Boundaries," both did fine on their reprise songs ("Mad World" for Adam and "Ain't No Sunshine" for Kris), though Adam's performance was richer, and Adam actually - and surprisingly - nailed "A Change Is Gonna Come" while Kris was respectable but weak on "What's Going On." On "No Boundaries" I may have slightly preferred Kris, who muffed a few of the words and strained at the high notes but seemed steadier with his mood. But "A Change Is Gonna Come" floored me, Adam powerful but restrained most of the way, and then when he let loose with the schmaltz at the end it really was a release and a resolution - as well as by subtext helping to use a black empowerment song as a gay empowerment song. ("A Change Is Gonna Come" and "What's Going On" were picked by the producer, not the performers, but even if the men had chosen the songs themselves and there were no gay overtones with Adam, I have no trouble with the idea of white guys singing those songs in this context; it's not like they're doing it on behalf of the Republican National Committee. But for the other view, see Leonard.) I liked "Mad World" even more, but we'd heard it before.

Allison still the true talent )

Bob Dylan

Apr. 10th, 2009 11:24 am
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Paste's online version of the Dylan blurb I wrote for their best-living-songwriters issue back in '06 gets rid of the paragraph breaks, to the piece's detriment. So I'm reprinting here.

By the way, Dylan might well make my top ten but it was Paste who put him at the top. I'd probably have chosen Jagger-Richards (Paste's #12), or maybe Johansen-Thunders (not on their list). A still-living James Brown (#56, behind such titans as James Taylor, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, etc.) would have been in my top five and I'd have trouble defending my not ranking him number one (the designation being "best," not "favorite"). As for this decade, Timbaland and Collipark and Eminem and Simpson-Shanks-DioGuardi and Max Martin would all be contenders (none on the Paste list, of course), though for the last couple of years I'd say the spot is empty.

Whom would you guys choose?

#1 Bob Dylan )
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"Some of her favorite past contestants were Clarkson and season-seven finalist BROOK WHITE."


On the other hand, as [livejournal.com profile] girlboymusic points out, she doesn't know how to pronounce her own name:

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More Ashlee. I try to do right by the craftsmanship and the poetry. (Thanks to Nia for inspiration.) I also pose a question that I suppose is really "Why do we care about artistry?" Any thoughts?

The Rules of the Game No. 11: Toothpaste and Coffee

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )
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The Rules Of The Game #10: Embracing The Ashlee Whirlpool

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Still think my writing suffers from a bit of stage fright at LVW, and I've only scratched the surface with Ashlee and don't say much about the sound. But I like this, hope it'll open up Ashlee for some of you the way my Pazz & Jop piece opened up Eminem for some people back in early 2001.

Links to my other Rules Of The Game columns )

(Oh, and to answer the question that LVW poses in the subhead, I way prefer Ashlee to Alanis, but I think Ashlee's best, "La La" and "Shadow" and "I Am Me," gets edged out by my favorite couple of Beatles songs ("She Loves You" and "You Can't Do That"). I've always hated "Let It Be," however.)
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Another Nonapology Apology From Britney:

I apologize to the pap for a stunt that was done 4 months ago regarding an umbrella. I was preparing my character for a role in a movie where the husband never plays his part so they switch places accidentally. I take all my roles very seriously and got a little carried away. Unfortunately I didn't get the part.


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