The Hipster's Guide to Rock and Roll Vendettas
Some time back, we looked into the wacky world of hip-hop beefs. This week, on the occasion of this week's Brian Jonestown Massacre show (August 11 at Walter's on Washington -- see Playbill), we revisit a few classic musical rivalries, this time with more of a rock angle.
Brian Jonestown Massacre vs. Dandy Warhols
This classic Hatfield-McCoy action, publicized with the release of docudrama Dig!, is the perfect rock rivalry: Once-friendly bands with a similar sound become bitter (and well-documented) enemies. They trade potshots in the press and steal riffs from each other with abandon, while fans of both are caught in the middle.
Collateral damage: None to speak of.
Advantage: A qualified BJM, if only because the front page of their Web site claims the more successful Warhols as a "band they've influenced." Nice shot!
Courtney Love vs. Nirvana
A well-publicized rights battle over the Nirvana boxed set occurs at the exact middle of Courtney's continuing decomposition: uterus falling out, disastrous/delicious appearances on Stern and Letterman, custody battles, mysterious drugs appearing and disappearing, and possible secondary fight with shadowy agents of the American banking system.
Collateral damage: Love's album America's Sweetheart, which contained among the filler some of the best songs in a talented career.
Advantage: Nirvana fans; Melissa Auf Der Maur.
Jack White v. Lead Singer of the Von Bondies
In the only newsworthy event of White's career, outside his well-received music and mysterious incest lies, Jack White smacks hell out of the lead singer of the Von Bondies.
Collateral damage: Jack White remains more famous and talented than "sister" Meg.
Advantage: Jack White.
Here's Why White Won: Quick, name the lead singer of the Von Bondies!
Gwen Stefani vs. the Rest of No Doubt (class action):
Fleetwood Mac-style serial monogamy and angst fuel longevity and creativity of highly successful late-'90s band, despite the fact that from one genre-hopping album to the next, there is a notable lack of even one original sound.
Collateral damage: Ska; the word bananas.
Advantage: Stefani, in every way possible.
Tom Cruise v. Reality
Not music-related, and it's kind of sad, but worth mentioning nonetheless: It is, in fact, both awesome and pretty rock and roll.
Collateral damage: Oprah, Joey Potter
Advantage: Katie Holmes, for now. Dawson's Creek morning reruns are up, like, 80 percent in viewership on TBS; didn't hurt opening box office for Batman Begins.
R&B/hip-hop singer Houston v. the Powers of Evil
In a 2004 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot* episode that would make Whitney proud, single-monikered singer Houston took the steps necessary to save us all. To defeat the apocalyptic forces waging war inside his skull, he evidently had to mutilate his own face. (*What The Fuck?)
Collateral damage: One (1) eyeball.
Hero: Clearly, Houston. We're still here, right?
Kanye West v. De Beers
Characteristically, the inveterately political West has now taken on the De Beers diamond monopoly in an effort to disabuse his countrymen of the desirability of a commodity that's harvested in a way that's murderously analogous to the fur market, only with actual people dying instead of fuzzy animals.
Collateral damage: None at press time, although the Pimp Chalice Lady would do well to switch to cubic Z.
Advantage: De Beers. Bling is still king, marriage is forever, and that "I love this man" gold-digger and her moron husband will be back scattering Italian pigeons again in that diamond commercial soon enough.
Omarion, whose progression from kiddie-band crooner (with B2K) to sex-obsessed solo singer mirrors Christina Aguilera's journey from the Mickey Mouse Club, was in London on July 7 when terrorist transit-system bombings killed more than 50 people. In a press release that made no mention of the casualties, the uninjured artist allegedly expressed that he "would like his fans to pray that he has a safe trip." This statement turned out to be a hoax engineered by a publicist with whom Omarion was not affiliated. However, a recently uncovered secret tour diary may provide insight into the singer's singular perspective. (We're kidding, of course -- our lawyer would like you to know this is a clearly marked parody, so here it is: This is a clearly marked parody.)
7/9/05, London: The subways here are still slow. Damn. Man's got some shopping to do, and they say my limo driver is in the hospital, though I've never heard about anyone being sick with "shrapnel." I'm here with Snoop Dogg, Mariah, Madonna, Eminem's homies Elton and Dido, and some really old dude named Floyd. We're playing this Live 8 concert to ask for cash, and I think it's cool that people are giving it to us even though we're already famous and stuff. Mariah and Madonna keep bringing black folks up on stage with them during the show and talking about Africa, I guess 'cause they're trying to cross over.
9/4/02, Denver: The show tonight was actually pretty hype. I was worried about Colorado, because we did a show in the cafeteria at a high school in Littleton once and the crowd was wack. They didn't like the "B2K Is Hot" skit. They didn't even get mad during "Your Girl Told Me" or laugh when I pointed at someone in the lunch line and yelled, "You got served!" I got up on the Web site and asked the fans to pray for me that night, that I could have the strength to deal with gigs like that one.
3/11/02, New York: We played a free show today at Bryant Park, and the kids were crazy. I was scared before it started, because we played there last September and no one was getting into the music, even when we took off our shirts. It was like the whole city was depressed. I prayed that night, asking the Lord why there was so much suffering (on stage) in New York, and the answer came to me: free show. Maybe someday they'll have a benefit concert for us so we can recoup our funds. -- Andrew Miller
Omarion appears as part of the Scream Tour on Friday, August 12, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 866-446-8849. Marques Houston, Bobby Valentino, Bow Wow and Pretty Ricky are also on the bill.
Lost In translation
(In which music writers from the Anglo and Latin weeklies -- the Press and La Semana, respectively -- come together and try to "translate" the Latin artists coming through town. You've read how Cafe Tacuba is "the Mexican Radiohead," and how El Tri is "the Mexican Stones"? Check back here often for a wealth of new superficial labels, courtesy of me and my counterpart at La Semana, Olivia Flores Alvarez.)
The Show: Chayanne, Marc Anthony and Alejandro Fernandez
Lomax: The only one of these artists I know well enough to try to translate is Fernandez. I see him as the Mexican Nas. Did you know Nas's dad is Olu Dara, a highly respected jazz/blues cat? And then Nas is one of the most highly esteemed rappers to have a platinum career. I see his song "Bridging the Gap" as the most successful fusion of blues and hip-hop ever, and I kind of see the Fernandez men as being gap-bridgers, too.
Alvarez: Alejandro and Nas, yeah, that works. Except Nas isn't as pretty as Alejandro, is he? Nor is he as versatile as Alejandro -- who's topped the traditional/ranchero and pop charts, plus his movie career is coming along. Much respect, but Nas ain't exactly a crossover artist/movie-star-in-the-making.
And I'm gonna guess nobody is throwing their panties at Olu Dara. Alejandro's dad, Vicente, still gets his fair share of thongs and room keys heaped on stage while he's singing. However "highly respected" Olu Dara might be, Vicente is legendary. Dozens and dozens of successful movies, dozens and dozens of best-selling albums, constantly on tour, huge multigenerational fan base, a different blond girlfriend tucked backstage every night. Vicente's the role model for most young Mexican male singers in the ranchero, norteño and mariachi genres.
The Alejandro/Nas comparison is valid, though. And probably the most accurate. Unless we get into JFK Jr. territory, which has too many dead people in it. Alejandro and Nas, I can see that.
Lomax: Next up is Marc Anthony. Take it away, Olivia!
Alvarez: Hmmm, I think he's the Sammy Davis Jr. of salsa. He can dance a little, he can sing a little, he can act a little, but his big talent is his ability to make you think he's more talented than he really is. Plus, his "headliner" status lets him marry bootie-ful women who wouldn't normally let him do their lawn. Who's a 2005 version of Sammy Davis Jr.? A "small talent/big reputation/how the hell did he get that girl?" guy?
Lomax: Justin Timberlake immediately leaps to mind. Or how about Conor Oberst, if ol' Bright Eyes could dance or act? He's certainly got the "makes you think he's actually more talented than he is" part down. And even Winona Ryder's rapidly eroding standards would still have been too high to bed his like had the media not hailed him as "the next Bob Dylan." On to Chayanne
Alvarez: He's pretty, he has legit if somewhat limited musical skills, a successful TV career in some soaps/novellas. Kind of a pre-movie-career Will Smith. Like Will Smith, Chayanne keeps pissing other singers off 'cause he wins awards for his fluff. He's in salsa, which is getting more and more sexual -- pimps-and-hoes videos and lyrics -- but he keeps doing his PG love songs, and we keep buying it. Very Will Smith, pre-Independence Day blockbuster movie career. Alejandro Fernandez, Chayanne and Marc Anthony appear Wednesday, August 17, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 866-446-8849.
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