SUNRISE by the Olson Bros, Donald Trump and the power of authenticity

SUNRISE by Olson Bros

Good stuff, right? I’m not a country fan, and I’ve played this song a zillion times.

You probably haven’t heard of the Olson Bros, which is the point of the post: there’s all kinds of buried talent out there, even if they’ve won a national songwriting contest.

I saw the Olson brothers (and they are real-life brothers) at their first show at Savory Faire, and they’ve gotten better every year. Saw them again this weekend at Charlie’s, and they’re great live.

These are local college kids who’ve practiced hard. The giant bull they use as a stands on a field in Mud Bay on the way to Olympia.

Here’s the deal: The great thing about the Series of Tubes is there’s so much stuff out there, you can find whatever you like. The horrible thing about the Series of Tubes is there’s so much stuff out there, it’s crazy hard to separate the brilliant from the banal.

That’s why name ID and PR are so important. It’s why people with zero talent (Snooki, the Situation, the Kardashians) make millions while great musicians, artists and writers toil away, thinking talent is all that matters. If they’re good enough, people will notice.

Except the real formula is Artistic Talent x Publicity Skill Squared.

Donald Trump is proving the effectiveness of great publicity in the presidential race. He doesn’t know a thing about foreign policy or the Federal Reserve and it doesn’t matter right now, because he’s far better at PR than Jeb! and the others running, even after Jeb! wasted $24 million on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

This is why real press coverage (earned media) is still hugely important. Trump hasn’t had to respond to the Jeb! advertising assault. Why? Because every day, Trump is getting far more than $24 million in free media coverage by picking fights and saying outrageous things.

HOWEVER: Social media gives me hope.

There’s so much advertising today it’s becoming white noise to people. I thought there couldn’t be more ads on TV than during the 2008 presidential campaign, then 2012 proved me wrong. Billions of dollars will blanket the airwaves in 2016.

My prediction is they’ll run out of ad slots. Karl Rove will have to buy a struggling TV shopping network and split it into three just to find airtime.

Mainstream media and social media are a counterweight this advertising juggernaut. And I think social media’s power is growing. It’s more authentic and powerful to hear your friends and family say, “That band rocks, see them live” or “Buy IMAX tickets to that new movie, don’t wait for Netflix” instead of getting told that from paid announcer on a TV ad.

To get technical, the ethos of journalists and social media is strong, because these are people you know, trust and who don’t have a self-interest in the outcome. The reverse is true for random advertisements: you don’t know them, don’t trust them and they want your money.

So the Olson Bros did the right thing by making a good music video on a shoestring budget. I don’t need a slick music video that cost $850,000 and took a week to shoot on a Nashville set. The music is great and the visuals match. The energy and enthusiasm of the Olson brothers feels real.

There are some things you can’t buy.

DOWNTOWN by Macklemore is daring and different

DOWNTOWN by Macklemore

Note: Macklemore uses a few bad words. 

Macklemore is a Seattle treasure, a smart artist who figured out his producer, Ryan Lewis, is the secret to success–so he gives Ryan credit and co-billing all the time.

I’ve seen Macklemore’s old videos, before he partnered up with Ryan, and you could see the talent and imagination. It just wasn’t quite there. Ryan Lewis gave him polish and took him over the top.

Three things I love about DOWNTOWN:

1) Guest star goodness

Every video, Macklemore and Ryan find new guest singers.

This time, they brought in old-school rappers and made a star out of Eric Nally, who’s been around a while and for some reason never took off. He will now.

Ryan’s amazing at this. I’ve watched videos of other guest singers, and they sounded good in their original videos. Ryan made them sound like angels. It’s a gift.

2) Unafraid to be epic

Conventional wisdom says to keep your song short and radio-friendly. The longer the song, the less likely you’ll get played.

This video is long, different and daring.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis aren’t afraid to take chances with music videos, to swing hard, knowing they’ll miss sometimes.

They’re also smart enough to take things that should be lame–like thrift shops and mopeds–and turn them hip. That takes talent.

3) Local gems

Macklemore travels around the Northwest to shoot his videos, this time in Spokane, where I lived for a few years.

Most of this is shot downtown. Spokane has a great downtown, including Riverfront Park, and I hear Macklemore used local actors, dancers and extras.

This is smart. Who wouldn’t be excited about a music video being shot in your town, and having the chance to be in it?

Verdict: Macklemore keeps coming up with excellent music videos. THRIFT SHOP and SAME LOVE are classics. This is another good one, well-thought out and executed. If MTV still played music videos instead of Jersey Shore marathons, they’d have this running all the time.

CARL POPPA by Bad Lip Reading is a brilliant parody–and you can DANCE to it

How much do I love this?

Here’s how much: I could not adore it more, or find a single serious way to improve the lyrics or the music.

Seriously. Four out of four stars. Perfection.

For a parody of pop culture, it’s edited with style. And for a song, it’s better than 90 percent of what’s out there on the radios. But it’s main job is to be funny, and though I’ve seen it five times, it still makes me laugh.

Verdict: Give us moar moar MOAR.

Here are the lyrics:

Beat

I hurt the Gingerbread Boy,
Cuz he’s pretend-bread boy.
Little cookie man never waved to me,
So he got knocked out.

Man, cuz I flow.
La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.
Man, I just flow.

Shoe Shine,
No one wanted your stinking tiara,
Cuz no one wanted your sticky chair.
And why you always talk about the cool kids who take archery,
Yeah, you’re a shrinky dink.
You’ll get a funeral if you don’t wise up and call me Carl Poppa,
(oh,oh-oh,oh)
La Jiggy Jar Jar Do,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.

I threw a brick in the air,
(what kind of brick?)
That shouldn’t matter cuz a brick is just a brick,
(Word.)

Dark days, darker nights,
Found my way down a hall without a light,
Because I flow,
La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur.

This whole thing where random dead people try to kill me’s gotta go.

They keep walking, walking my way. If they’re talking, can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, over stuff in their way. Dead dudes walking can ruin your day.

(oh,oh-oh,oh)

La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur,

Now all the walkers sing!

(oh,oh-oh,oh [x3])

Yeah, I just like to dance.

Carl Poppa

Cellblock wisdom, french braid tabletop,
If you mess with Carl Poppa,
I’m coming at you like, one, two, walkers in the back of the club,
I’m guessing it’s a club where everyone dies,
If they try to dance to the music that doesn’t play,
Cuz we don’t got no electricity.

What we got is bones, bones, bones.
Piles of bones, bones, bones, bones, bones.
If you try to step to me, hit you in the femur,
With another femur that is laying on the ground.

Yeah,
Wordsmith,
Rhymes.

Hama Lama Sima Lama Hama Lama,
Someone had to cut my baby sister out my mama.

They keep walking, walking my way.
If they’re talking, can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, over stuff in their way.
Dead dudes walking can ruin your day.

They keep walking, (no one wanted your stinking tiara) walking my way.
If they’re talking, (cuz no one wanted your sticky chair) can’t tell what they say.
They keep falling, (why you always talking about the cool kids, who take archery. You’re a shrinky dink) over stuff in their way. Dead dudes walking (If you don’t wise up and call me Carl Poppa) can ruin your day.

La Jiggy Jar Jar Doo,
Dur Dur Dur Dee Dur,
Man, I just flow.

(Carl Poppa [x2])

Man I just flow.

(Carl Poppa [x3])

I can barely remember pre-apocalypse. (Carl Poppa)
I guess nothing rhymes with that, except maybe “taco lips”.

Man, I just flow.
(Carl Poppa [x2])
Man I just flow.

(Carl Poppa)

You cannot handle the flow, son.

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Why WATCH ME by Silento is simple and viral

Now, music majors and people with taste around the world will sniff that this song is far too simple and boring. Give us something complex and interesting, a song that’s less repetitive and more complex.

I agree with that criticism. It’s a very simple song and not really meant to crank up on your stereo as you’re driving around.

As a dance song, though, it’s beautifully done.

Here’s why: Continue reading

THE SEVENTH ELEMENT by Vitas is inspired crazytown

music video meme sound of music

How do I love this? Let me count the ways.

1) It’s completely and utterly different. Have you ever seen or heard anything like this? No. 

This is what would happen if you took a nightclub scene from THE MATRIX and crossed it with an episode of Teletubbies.

2) It’s completely and utterly ridiculous.

Which is probably the point. The singer knows and embraces the craziness. He’s having a blast.

Why not? You’re on stage. Put on a show. And this is definitely a show.

3) The backup non-dancers slay me. 

Backup dancers who energetically gyrate are fine for Brittney Spears, the Backstreet Boys 7th comeback tour and the bourgeoisie. But dancers who dance do not
surprise and shock you. They are inherently Boring.

So this man gets backup dancers, dressed in rejected costumes for Power Ranger minions, who don’t dance. At all.
Continue reading “THE SEVENTH ELEMENT by Vitas is inspired crazytown”

7 reasons why music videos possess tremendous power

music video meme sound of music

This is about why lectures never work, poetry is powerful, even instrumental music can make you cry and the humble, silly music video can be one of the most devastating weapons of persuasion and change on this little rock orbiting a ginormous burning ball of nuclear fusion and fire.

1) Lectures never work

If you have a toddler, or a teenager, or are married, you are well aware of this fact.

Lectures are basically journalism, writing or speaking to inform. If your purpose is to persuade, journalism and lectures won’t do the job.

It’s common to hear, “If I just had more TIME to explain the facts, they’d understand and agree with me.”

No. The longer you stretch out a lecture or bit of journalism, the more bored and hostile your audience will become. Because structurally, writing and speaking to inform is a horrible format for anything of length and not designed to persuade at all. (Related: Why the Inverted Pyramid must DIE) Continue reading “7 reasons why music videos possess tremendous power”

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SAY IT RIGHT by Nelly Furtado is just right

This is how to you do it: simple, elegant, beautifully shot, with quick cuts done right to the beat and nothing insane, like the singer’s best friend’s cousin thought would be great to have fire-breathing monster trucks jump a yellow school bus with cheerleaders on the roof doing acrobatics.

Knew this song but hadn’t seen the video until now. NOT TOO SHABBY.

Nelly Furtado isn’t a huge star, nor is she some unknown talent, waiting tables to pay for her guitar lessons. But she’s got pipes, looks like a supermodel and hasn’t been in the papers of news for 17 zillion stupid things like other pop stars. I give her props. Also, instead of featuring a rapper to growl and act tough while she hit octaves we didn’t know existed, the rapper gets to do high notes while she keeps it low. I like that. Changes things up.

Nelly the Furtado, give us more like this.

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YOU SPIN ME ROUND by Dead or Alive is the best of the ’80s worst

When you take a popular song and add an insanely bad video, you get ’80s gold.

I think it was Larry the Clark who spotted this gem. There’s no creativity here, no story, no theme.

This is my theory of what happened: the band showed up and the video’s director said, “Hey, we’ve got a picture frame and five acres of blue fabric. Just do weird stuff and I’ll keep the cameras rolling.”

Is there anything from the ’90s, 2000’s or today that even compares? (Note: videos by Adam Ant do not count, because that’s too easy.)

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Top 3 reasons why YOUR LOVE by The Outfield epitomizes classic ’80s videos

So I’ve been MIA for eons, (a) working hard at the work, (b) injuring myself and going to PT–deadlifts are evil, do not do them–and (c) at home, madly finishing & rewriting a new novel, which is crazy fun. Sometime soon, I’ll need to do laundry. Maybe even the dishes. I AM A DANGEROUS MAN.

Happy to say I can walk again without looking like it’s torture, or being asked by little old ladies if they can carry my stuff.

Today’s music video is a classic I heard on the radio and had to find on the interwebs. Because it’s interesting and a great microcosm of the ’80s, and the entire genre of music videos.

Have a listen and a look, then we’ll talk smack.

 

Reason # 3: Single Dangly Earring

Everybody had one. Punk rockers, lead singers, crooners, country singers.

A single earring sent many messages. On a male rocker, it told the world you were a rebel. Combine it with a tiny cross for irony: rebellious believer.

Single earring on a female singer? Rebellion, sure, but also, “Couldn’t find the other earring and hey, I don’t care.” Not caring, by coincidence, is the essence of cool.

Reason # 2: Sincere Imitation of Sting

For a long time, one rock band stood atop the musical world: The Police.

After they broke up, and Sting went solo, I heard this exact song on the radio and thought, “Huh, that’s cool, The Police got back together. I should see them in concert before they split up again.”

This song is the best imitation of The Police, ever. It’s not even close. Sorry, Bruno Mars.

Also: I saw The Police in concert when they actually did get back together, and it was beautiful. Sting’s son has a band and opened for them. Sounds a lot like his dad. Maybe he could join The Outfield if they ever do a reunion tour. I WOULD LOVE THIS.

Reason # 1: Epic Feathered Hair

Everybody has it: the lead singer, the drummer, even the random set girl who makes goo-goo eyes right back at Flirty McFlirty Pants.

You can’t be an ’80s rock story without feathered hair. If record label executives looking to sign new acts had a checklist, Feathered Hair was the first thing on it.

In fact, I can classify any band from the ’80s simply by the length of their feathered hair:

a) Modest Bleached Feathery Goodness = punk rocker

b) Feathery MacGyver Mullet = pop crooner (Richard Marx!) or mainstream country star

c) Long Feathered Hair + Mall Bangs = pop starlet

d) Bleach Job + Crazy Long Hair + Spandex = metal band.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH by Hozier is film-noir goodness

music video meme sound of music

Here’s the acid test, for me: I drive MANY MILES each day, listening to the radios, and if a song is good, I don’t care who sings it.

Only then do I check out the music video, and maybe blog about it on the WordPress machines.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH rocks on the radio.

However, having watched 4,092 bazillion music videos in my life, including a brief period where MTV actually played music videos, I’ve learned not to expect much from the actual video part, except for (a) boy bands dancing, (b) pop divas dancing in front of backup dancers who are far better at the dancing thing, (c) rock stars trying dance with the microphone stand or (d) hipster bands trying to be artsy and deep while mostly being bizarre.

Good music videos are rare.

I’m not talking “Bigfoot is in my backyard and I shot thirty minutes of film of him playing with my dog” kind of rare.

No. I’m talking about “Snooki is at a philosophy conference at Yale, presenting a paper on Nietzsche” rare.

So here are two music videos, both black-and-white, and both surprises.

First up is Hozier, the one from the headline. Great song on the radio, different and strong. The video makes it ever better, wonderfully shot in true film-noir style, it’s not afraid to have a non-Hollywood ending. Well played, Hozier.

The second song and video is also black-and-white and the same kind of slow burn. Had no idea who sang it when it played on the radio. Good stuff, full of pain and longing, and not your usual “baby baby” bubblegum pop nonsense with a guest rapper to give it some grit and soul. (How many times can pop stars go to that well? Apparently, forever.)

This second video shocked me by being by Selena Gomez, not known for this sort of song. And yes, she looks like every bartender in the world would card her, and the song is about Justin Bieber, who simply needs to go away. Despite those handicaps, which are huge, it works. So let’s give it props. Watch and listen.