Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Random Notes (Pop Culture '05 Edition)
We are the world:
Rock stars, movie stars, and everyday stars (that would be most of the rest of you out there) rally together to raise money and attention for tsunami victims, “third-world” debt, and those impacted by the Gulf Coast hurricanes (among other causes.)
Don’t call it a comeback:
Martha Stewart steps out of the pokey and right back into the swing of things with two new TV shows (one kind of a hit, the other not so much) as well as new endorsement deals, new magazines, and more money than ever. Batman returns in a good movie. Fiona Apple resurfaces with an extraordinary new record. The Rolling Stones put out a record that isn’t an embarrassment (though they should have rethought putting the naïve “Sweet Neo-Con” on it.) Mariah Carey shakes the stigma of Glitter off her career with platinum sales and multiple Grammy nods.
That sweet soul music:
It was a pretty cool year for R&B with the ladies…Mary J. Blige, Shemekia Copeland, Bettye LaVette, Lizz Wright, Sharon Jones, Alicia Keys, Leela James, and others…leading the way.
Pithy social commentary or petulant sour grapes?:
“Reality TV is a festering boil on the ass of humanity” - Brian Dunkleman, erstwhile co-host of the mega hit “reality” TV show American Idol.
Working hard to prove Dunkleman’s point:
Breaking Bonaduce, Being Bobby Brown, The Surreal Life, Strange Love, My Fair Brady, But Can They Sing?, etc., etc. Isn’t there a point where you say “I don’t need to be on television THIS badly!”? (For some celebrities, apparently not.)
He’s with the band:
Rock Star: INXS was a kind of creepy idea but, despite that, it turned out to be a pretty entertaining little show with some interesting performances by singers with varying degrees of potential. The band ended up going with J.D., the guy among the contestants most like their old lead singer, the late Michael Hutchence, which wasn’t that surprising (and yes, that “Pretty Vegas” of his is a catchy song.) Too bad that Switch, the album made by the new lineup, wasn’t nearly as lively or interesting as the TV show.
Now that’s some magic:
J.K. Rowling gets millions of kids (of all ages) to slow down long enough to willingly read a 600+ page book with the penultimate Hogwarts adventure, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Dude, pace yourself:
Ryan Adams releases three new CDs (one a double-disc set!) over the course of the year (Michelle Shocked goes him one better by releasing three new CDs all on the same day in June.)
We’ll have a gay ol’ time:
Melissa Etheridge makes a triumphant return at the Grammys after beating cancer. Ellen DeGeneres continues her comeback as a mainstream pop culture force. Brokeback Mountain provides much fodder for gay cowboy jokes online and on the air. Elton ties the knot with his David. Brothers on the “down low” featured in R. Kelly’s crazed masterwork (see below.)
Move over, “Thriller”:
R. Kelly’s monumental (and totally insane) 12-part soap opera “Trapped in a Closet” takes the prize as the most overblown, so-bad-it’s-almost-good, “what-the-hell-we’re-they-thinking?” music video of all time (sex, guns, incontinent little people, no need for hooks or real song structure, pithy commentary to explain the “complexities” of the tale, what more could we want?)
Thanks for the memories (and rest in peace):
Anne Bancroft, Saul Bellow, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Johnny Carson, Ossie Davis, James Doohan, Will Eisner, Ibrahim Ferrer, Shirley Horn, Peter Jennings, Arthur Miller, Pat Morita, Brock Peters, Richard Pryor, John Spencer, Hunter S. Thompson, Luther Vandross, August Wilson, Robert Wise