10 Music Stories We Wish We'd Ignored This Year
We in the alternative media - not necessarily the Houston Press and/or Rocks Off, not all the time - enjoy calling out our mainstream brethren. Whether it's ten books that didn't make The New York Times' "Best of 2010" list, or "10 Stories Our Print Version Accidentally Overlooked," us "underground" bloggers like to pretend we're more immediate, thorough and relevant than the folks in the mainstream print-centric press.
However, there are times when we wish we were able to skip right over certain stories the way our more middle-of-the-road competition does, times when the story we're covering makes us so sad and depressed we want to run away and work on a puppy farm. Instead, we slogged through and, unfortunately, forced ourselves to bring you the following stories.
Photo Illustration by John Seaborn Gray
10. Pigeons Poop On Kings of Leon: The Kings of Leon have been experiencing quite a backlash over the past year or two. Their massive success on the backs of twin hit singles "Sex On Fire" and "Use Somebody," combined with their sound having slowly grown poppier after their twangy Southern-rock debut, led to the Nashville band's being ridiculed and resented almost as much as your Nickelbacks and your Creeds.
Deserved or not, the anti-Kings sentiment seemed to reach an apex this year when they played a pigeon-infested Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in St. Louis. After watching their opening acts get covered in pigeon shit, the Kings went out anyway to attempt a set, only to have a pigeon poop directly into the mouth of bassist Jared Followill. The Kings left the stage, understandably we think, and proceeded to get mocked and ridiculed all over the place for their misfortune.
It blew up into a huge story, and this is now the third time we've had to mention an animal shitting into the mouth of a rock star. Tiresome for everyone, we're pretty sure.
Photo Illustration by John Seaborn Gray
9. Kanye and Taylor's Increasingly Boring "Feud": Last year, during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Music Video Awards, a visibly drunk Kanye West leapt to the stage, body-tackled Swift, put her in a perfect Iron Sheik-style Camel Clutch, ripped the award from her hands and wrapped it in a burning American flag, which he then fired out of a T-shirt launcher directly into Beyonce's face, before flipping Swift off with both hands while using a grappling hook and smoke bombs to escape the scene to the strains of Stone Cold Steve Austin's theme music.
Or at least that's how West and Swift both treated last year's admittedly douchey but relatively minor VMA stagecrash. Both performers alluded to the incident in interviews, Kanye took to Twitter in one of his epic stream-of-consciousness rants ending with an apology, and Swift performed a gigantic, overwrought, melodramatic song referencing the event at this year's VMAs, a full year after the incident.
Guys! It really wasn't that big a deal. Never before have two performers involved in a "feud" seemed less interested in actually attacking one another. Whatever animosity there was seems to have died down, and hopefully this is the last time we'll have to write about it.
8. Katy Perry Too Boob-a-Licious For Sesame Street: Katy Perry's breasts stand alongside the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, the films of Akira Kurosawa, the art of René Magritte, and green apple Jolly Ranchers as the likeliest proof that there is, in fact, a benevolent God in control of the universe.
We're big fans of Perry's habit of prominently displaying them every chance she gets, although even we have to admit she may have gotten a little carried away with them when she filmed a version of her song "Hot and Cold" for Sesame Street alongside popular helium-voiced Muppet Elmo . In the segment, she wore a low-cut dress which wouldn't have been a big deal on someone like, say, Olivia Wilde, but on Perry made us and everyone who previewed the clip on YouTube wonder when Elmo was gonna walk over and start motorboating.
The segment was pulled from the Sesame television broadcast, and kids all over the world were robbed of Perry's luscious, luscious jugs. Well, until they pulled the video up on their iPhones, at least.
7. The New American Idol Judges: We despise American Idol and everything it stands for, but even we must admit that we looked forward to the start of every season, because in the beginning there would always be one or two aggressively insane social outcasts who don't have any friends loyal enough to let them in on the fact that, although they may have many excellent qualities, they should never, ever open their mouths to sing in public under pain of death.
Watching Simon Cowell rip down their delusions and over-inflated self-esteem with just a few choice words was immensely satisfying. The only other entertaining part of the show, as far as we were concerned, was watching Paula Abdul slur and stutter her way around her own habitually numbed tongue. Abdul disappeared after the 2009 season, and Cowell bowed out at the end of this past one, leaving us with their replacements Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Ugh.
It's bad enough we were forced to pay attention to what was going on in the increasingly irrelevant American Idol universe; have you ever heard the name Lee DeWyze? No? Well, he was this year's winner. Adding to that is the fact that we genuinely could not give one hot fuck about anything Jennifer Lopez or Steven Tyler does or says.
The only possible saving grace of this season will be if Lopez turns out to be as mean and spoiled as she seems, but even that would get old quickly. The only witty, articulate judge remaining, Ellen DeGeneres, is gone too, so look forward to a whole lot of poorly-thought-out critiques this year. If American Idol was a dog, they'd sadly march it out to the woods and shoot it in the head.
Photo illustration by John Seaborn Gray
6. Chillwave: No new genre was hyped as much as chillwave was in 2010. The result of a sudden glut in bored white suburban trust-fund babies given synthesizers and MacBooks five or so years ago, chillwave is what happens when a generation grows up under a crushing cloud of privileged ennui while sneaking pills from their parents' medicine cabinet. Utterly unremarkable, we've tried to listen to six or seven chillwave artists and not only could we not tell them apart, we can't remember a single note, lyric or hook.
It's designed specifically to slip in between the cracks of your brain and slide right back out before it's noticed. Boring, derivative, disaffected and not nearly as cool as it thinks it is, chillwave is going to fall hard and fast from grace just as soon as parents start putting better locks on their hidden stashes of OxyContin and Valium.
5. Wyclef Jean Takes a Run at Haiti: No one could deny that Haiti has more than its fair share of problems. Stricken with poverty, violence, political corruption and widespread AIDS, and constantly savaged by natural disasters of all kinds, it sometimes seems like Haiti is as close to the bottom of luck's bell curve as it's possible to be. Nonetheless, they did manage to avoid one thing: Having the guy who sang "Bubblegoose" for president.
We don't know why Wyclef felt qualified to run the country, considering he fled from it at age nine and doesn't speak either of its native languages. We don't know what he had planned, or even if he had any plans. But judging from the state of his personal finances and those of his allegedly hugely corrupt charity, it's a good thing the Haiti Provisional Electoral Council denied his bid to run for president.
We thought Lauryn Hill was supposed to be the crazy ex-Fugee, and she is, but Wyclef did his best to catch up this year. Here's to hoping Pras avoids a similar spiral in 2011.
4. M.I.A.'s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year: We like M.I.A. We've said as much before. This year, however, taxed our patience for the tiny Sri Lankan performer even while we kind of felt sorry for her. First, she became the object of a not-at-all-flattering piece by The New York Times Magazine's Lynn Hirschberg, then engaged in a juvenile, all-caps Twitter war with Hirschberg when the article portrayed M.I.A. as a wannabe gangsta of the art-school set, munching on fancy truffle fries while talking about what a badass she is.
Her video for "Born Free" premiered to much derision and not a lot of support, and her album "Maya" (we're not even attempting to type out that stupid leetspeak shit that serves as its real title) received lukewarm reviews, which after the runaway critical and commercial success of her first two albums, seemed like a big ol' slap in the face. She experienced technical issues at the HARD Festival, suffered from constant shit-talker Diplo's accusations of not having cared at all about the production of her new album, and finally was booted off the stage at more than one venue, including her own record-release concert.
We're still hopeful she can make a recovery and return to form, but after a year like this, we're not sure if that's even possible.
3. Ke(Dollar Sign)ha. Everything About Ke(Dollar Sign)ha: Watching this irritating doofus stumble and puke her way onto the top of the charts has been one of the hardest things for us to do this year. Thanks to the fine production of Dr. Luke, several of her songs hit No. 1, despite her glaringly obvious lack of talent. Watch her perform live without Auto-Tune if you don't believe us.
This wannabe hot mess, who had to strap herself into strategically tight clothing and slather herself in body paint and glitter in order to hide the fact that she's shaped like a Kindle, was everywhere this year, and although we have to acknowledge the fact that she's displaying far more sticking power than we would have suspected from her moronic debut "Tik Tok," we would also like to point out that this is due to the dwindling standards of a pop audience that now finds actual musical ability irrelevant, not any hidden talents of Ke(Dollar Sign)ha herself.
2. The Meridian Clusterfuck: Wayward Chinatown venue The Meridian had managed to hang together fairly well after original owner Bob Fuldauer's summer 2009 departure right up until this past January, when the place began to undergo an extensive remodeling, restructuring and renaming ("Wired Live") project under the watch of Mike Kelly. By April, however, Kelly was ready to leave, stopping by the Press office to inform us of his plans to vacate and reopen the Engine Room as the Warsaw.
Not even a week after that announcement, landlord Gary Katz and his attorney locked out the building's then-current tenant Anosh Ahmed, claiming unpaid rent as the reason. The Wired Live moniker disappeared some time in the interim, and when it opened again the place went back to being the Meridian, though as a shadow of what it once was.
It had degenerated into a morass of technical problems, shady finances, toxic work environments, a succession of general managers that came and went too fast for us to even keep up with them, and more he-said she-said drama than your typical CW high-school teen soap opera.
As it currently stands, the troubled venue has recently had to cancel multiple shows due to an alleged inability to pay either the artists or the light bill, including the reunited Wu-Tang Clan show that Kelly's Onstage Events picked up and moved to Numbers. That's right, Numbers, where the show more or less went off without a hitch. Meanwhile, Katz has apparently disappeared after leasing the building to Jerroy Germaine, who (perhaps foolishly) plans to reopen as The Capitol on New Year's Eve.
It's been truly sad to watch Meridian Bob's baby kicked down a spiral staircase of incompetence and shadiness all year, and we have to hope that wherever Katz is hiding from all the pissed-off people still seeking Wu-Tang refunds, he's suffering from gut-churning food poisoning.
1. KTRU Gets Hijacked: While their students were getting ready to enjoy a weekend in late August, Rice University's head honchos were getting ready to sell their beloved student-run radio station KTRU 91.7 right out from under them. Attempting to finalize the sale under the radar thanks to an agreed-upon reporting embargo with heinous sellouts the Houston Chronicle, literally the only warning the students got that something was up was when our own Rocks Off Sr., Chris Gray, reported the impending sale while Rocks Off Jr., Craig Hlavaty, spread the word on Twitter and Facebook.
The students reacted with understandable outrage at the university's sneaky, underhanded tactics, and when it came to light that the prospective buyer was the University of Houston, which plans to convert the frequency into a classical/fine-arts station, the outrage turned into desperate action. There seems little hope that the students, who built KTRU through many years of hard work and money from their own pockets, will prevail up against so much money and influence; still, we've admired their efforts while they've hounded the heads of both universities, fighting and delaying them all the way through.
Although the slim possibility exists that some kind of loophole or illegal dealings will come to light and block the station's sale, it seems almost a certainty that we're going to lose one of Houston's most diverse and adventurous radio stations in the very near future. That makes us very, very sad.
Sure, KTRU was where we heard a lot of esoteric, unlistenable experimental crap, but it's also where we heard our first punk, ska and indie-rock shows, and no station in Houston is better at playing and promoting worthwhile local artists. Once KTRU is gone, Houston radio will quite literally be far less colorful, and that was our most painful story we covered this year.
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