Posts tagged ‘pop’

January 2, 2013

top books of 2012

Some for work; some for fun; most not published in 2012, merely read by me in that year.

Music:

The Last Party by John Harris. Britpop was the dominant music movement of my mid-teens, and I never got into it at all. This came out ten years ago and even by then Britpop already seemed like a relic, an oxbow lake off the river of popular music. It’s well worth reading just to make yourself feel relieved that the 90s are well behind us, and to giggle at the self-importance of Justine Frischmann, whose musical legacy is, as far as I can tell, the theme to Trigger Happy TV.

How Music Works by David Byrne. It’s uneven, but when it is good, it is very good. I particularly enjoyed the chapters about the mechanics of how music works, eg how the different types of venue influenced the form.
Also I can’t remember the last book I had which had been manufacturered to this standard: thick pages, padded cover, even the Canongate business card had three different coloured layers. I wasn’t aware these things mattered until they did.

The Castrato and His Wife by Helen Berry. Worshipped by society but not accepted. Fetishised by women but forbidden to marry them. Irreversably physically altered as children for a slim chance of musical superstardom. Being a castrato was no picnic, right guys? And as this book demonstrates, it was also considerably more complicated and interesting than just having your nuts removed so you kept singing like Bieber forever.

Mid-20th century fiction about pairs of unhappy sisters:

Thanks, I’ll take two: Easter Parade by Richard Yates, and Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker.

Self-serving memoirs:

The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans. Sure, Evans is a tool, but he’s a very entertaining tool when he’s describing his short sharp rise to Hollywood success followed by the long, bumpy decline. Evans is anxious to set the record straight – most of that was not his fault, OK? When your ego is the size of a planet and it gets bruised, you have a LOT of beef; wealthy, coke-fuelled Hollywood beef is the best beef.

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir by Cyndi Lauper with Jancee Dunn. Somebody has even more scores to settle than Robert Evans. All the people who over the decades have overridden Lauper, or forced her to ignore her instincts, or are Madonna – up yours! Oh, and by the way, Lady Gaga and all you other outlandish pop stars of now – CYNDI DID IT THIRTY YEARS AGO AND BETTER.
When she’s not moaning, or being amusingly bitchy, Lauper gives a vibrant account of the New York scene in the 70s and 80s, following a rough childhood (and adulthood, frankly). With indomitable spirit throughout, she remains a fresh lunatic even now she’s pushing 60.

Not self-serving not-exactly-memoirs:

It’s Not Me, It’s You! by Jon Richardson. I don’t think many writers could make this work, but Richardson is intelligent, funny and painfully observant enough to do so. The book evolved out of this 2010 Guardian article; it goes into near-molecular detail of a fairly ordinary day, the humdrum providing a backdrop to relentless self-flagellation, epic loneliness and minute obsession.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. I know it’s technically fiction, a ‘thinly veiled’ memoir, but Ephron herself makes it plain how very thin the veil is. The bitter disintegration of a marriage was rarely so wrily depicted.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. Shortly before Christmas I visited Savannah, Georgia and this is THE Savannah book so I took it with me. Then I was too embarrassed to read it in public in Savannah because I hate to acknowledge how predictable I am like all the other tourists. Anyway: murder mystery, courtroom drama, drag queens and the history of town planning make an irresistable combination, no wonder everyone went so crazy for this book.

Your suggestions for books I should read this year are very welcome. If you’re looking for more titles, here are my top books of 2011.

October 16, 2012

Readable music videos: Taylor Swift

I watched the video of Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’, so you don’t have to.

We open on Taylor’s apartment. The wallpaper is giant cable knitting. That’s right: Taylor Swift – estimated worth $80m – lives in a tea cosy.

Taylor is in her jimjams, but also wearing immaculate red lipstick, thus issuing a conflicting message to her suitor. Are you receiving guests or are you not, Taylor? It is no wonder you’re being jerked about by your boyfriend when you are unable to make up your own mind.

Immediately from this scene, we can already see why Taylor’s boyfriend keeps dumping her. Firstly, the TV is showing a Taylor Swift video. She’s too self-obsessed to have a proper long-term relationship with somebody else. Secondly, everywhere she goes, Taylor is followed by a gang of plushies. As if this were not offputting enough, add the ‘wacky rubber doll’ facial expression worn by the chief plushy.

“Still feeling sexy? Thought not.”

The plushies possess a plethora of instruments – keytar, autoharp, white violin, a Gretsch Bo Diddley guitar – but they are wearing big furry paws so cannot play them. This is OK because the song does not seem to have much keytar in the backing track anyway.

While they’re busy gurning and miming, over in the Cheeseplant Room, Taylor has a cross chat with her man, who is wisely wearing earphones to block out her nagging. In case you’re wondering just who is this fellow who has caused Taylor such heartache on repeat, he is holding a 12″ record. Consider his character established!

“Oh, so it’s OK for you to define yourself with retro-whimsical objects, but I’m not allowed?”
“Tee hee! Why don’t you ask my Felix the Cat clock?”

Taylor answers a call on the wall phone that she has, because she’s 22 so not old enough to remember that landlines are not actually cool at all. On the other end of the line, her gentleman caller is on a payphone – are we really to believe that neither of them have decent mobile reception?

The action moves to a place we are supposed to believe is a bar because on the wall there is a neon sign saying ‘BAR’. A case of ‘The bar doth protest too much’, for surely if a bar has succeeded in being a bar, it does not need to declare its bar-ness in such an obvious way? This leads me to believe that this is in fact a church hall which self-identifies as a bar and wishes to be treated as such by the world at large.

“I so am a bar!”

Check out the autoharp-strumming plushy wearing sunglasses in the dark bar. What a tool. He will shortly be roadkill, as Taylor and her gentleman friend zoom up in their cardboard car. “Give us a ride!” plead the plushies. “Damn, I can NOT catch a break today,” sighs Taylor’s boyfriend’s penis, as they pile into the boot.

The on-again-off-again couple finally have some alone time outside a garden centre or something, but Taylor’s mood swings strike again: she veers from ‘amorous’ to ‘way unimpressed’ in the time it takes to put a scarf on, so she scampers off for a lie-down and a big phone-moan to her interested friendthe speaking clock. Yet again, she’s using the landline, but at least this time it is a portable phone. Baby steps, Taylor.

Perhaps ‘baby’ is a risky word to use in a Swiftian context, as on her pillow is a stripy knitted toy that would wilt the boner of any adult man who ends up in that bed.

“Sorry, Casanova, I don’t do threesomes. Like EVER.”

We return to Taylor’s flat, where the plushies lure us in for a party: jumping now, dry-humping later. A man-squirrel nearly knocks a picture off the wall, but doesn’t, which is lucky, because Taylor can’t take any more upset today.

‘Knock knock!’ Taylor’s man is at the door – but oh dear, he’s not dressed as a woodland creature, so he can’t come in. HA. Finally, Taylor has managed to close the door (literally and figuratively #clever) on her relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal John Mayer Joe Jonas Taylor Lautner vinyl guy.

Then, as Taylor turns back to the party, we see that all the revellers have vanished. They may have been a product of Taylor’s overheated imagination all along, a fantasy to help her through this traumatic break-up. But she’s not alone; we see her flirting with a knitted bird outside the window.

“Wanna come in and see my etchings?”

Sadly, Taylor seems to relate better to inanimate objects, which will be an obstacle to her forming meaningful relationships with an actual human adult anytime soon. Best of luck to the person who breaks this cycle.

NB don’t break this cycle, which is standing in the kitchen NOT as another self-conscious indication of Cute Hipsterism, but because Taylor has a pedal-powered microwave.

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