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Archive for the ‘New Yorker’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SAMANTHA TINA-“The Moon is Rising” (Latvia, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

So here is the entry from Latvia.  It scored the least amount of points of anyone and sits at the bottom of the list.

I’m not sure what could have happened to Samantha Tina to make her come in last place in this contest.  “The Moon is Rising: feels like pretty standard Eurovision fare.   True there’s not a lot to it, but I feel like the aggressive female empowerment of these lyrics should have won over lot of people over.  Or is that what killed her?

The song opens with some pulsing sounds then Samantha sings in a big powerful anthemic voice.  It’s a soaring operatic opening.  She kind of raps, but in a singing sort of way.

When I walk in like this
With an attitude
You should know that
I’m coming after you
You can run, you can hide
But you’re mesmerized
In your mind I am
Already idolized

A thumping bass introduces the next verse

My rules, your rules
I’m a woman, I’m a ruler
My rules, your rules
I’m accepting only true love
My rules, your rules
I’m a woman, I’m a ruler
You got something to say
Say it to my face

Then the third part with deep bass y synths and a chanted chorus of

Pa-ra-ra
Pa-ra-ra
Pa-ra-ra-pa
Pa-ra-ra-pa pa-rade

Which is certainly odd.

The song repeats these three parts, which might have been a problem if there’s no clear verse chorus verse structure.  I don’t know.  I thought the video was pretty cool.

Someone in the comments on YouTube (I know never read the comments, but this one is worthwhile):

“The vocal performance in the semi didn’t go just very well and it somehow lacked a little attitude.”  So that could explain why it stalled.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Turbulence”

This is an essay about being on a flight and not getting along with your seat mate.

He opens with the amusing scenario of him sneezing a cough drop out of his mouth and onto the lap of the person next to him.

He has three choices:

  1. Ignore it, let her look down later and think she has a shiny new button on her jeans.
  2. Reach over and pluck it from her pants.
  3. Wake her up and be honest.  Which is what he’d normally do except that they had an earlier altercation.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACKLESLEY ROY-“Maps” (Ireland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

Thirteen countries didn’t make it to the final this year.  Remarkably, when I listened to some of the songs that didn’t make it I really don’t understand why not.  It almost seems like some of the songs that didn’t make it are just kind of bland–perhaps not over the top enough?

Take Lesley Roy’s song.  There’s a lot of drums, there’s strings, there’s dramatic pauses and, given that the song seem to be about running, it’s got a propulsive beat.

The middle of the song breaks for a (very!) short tin whistle break and then resumes with the strings and drums.

It’s feels like it’s catchy and inspirational, but isn’t, really.  And yet, it is hardly worse than many of the other songs that did make it,   In fact I’d say it’s better than a number of songs that did make it.

So did something happen on the night to make it particularly not very good?  Is the whole score based only the performance of the night?  Not on the song itself, which people know about ahead of time.  Whatever the case, this is the sixth time in seven years that Ireland (who once couldn’t NOT win) has failed to make it.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “How to Spend the Budget Surplus”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to President Clinton about what he can do now that the government has balanced the budget.  Aw, remember when people (particularly Republicans) cared about a balanced budget?

Three years after the similar “How to Spend the Budget Surplus” this is five letters to the President. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MÅNESKIN-“Zitti E Buoni” (WINNER Italy, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I enjoy seeing Eurovision entries for the novelty or for seeing the amusing bands that are popular elsewhere.  I never expect to genuinely like a song (although there’s several I liked this year).  I also never expect a song that rocks as hard as this one did.  And certainly never expected it to win.

Måneskin means Moonshine in Danish and was inspired by bassist Victoria De Angelis’ half Danish heritage.  The rest of the band are vocalist Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi, and drummer Ethan Torchio.  “Zitti E Buoni” roughly translates to Shut Up And Behave

There’s very little new about this song (or the band).  They’re a partying, sleazy rock band.  But their music pushes a lot of my buttons.

Distorted guitar playing a simple riff? Yup.  (The riff sounds really familiar…).  Rumbling bass?  Check.  (And a cool bass guitar as well). Quiet verse into loud chorus?  Check. (The additional high note at the end of the chorus lines earns a small bonus point).  And even more bonus points for singing in Italian.

After the chorus he sings really fast in what could be a rap, but probably isn’t.  After two minutes there’s a little bass solo which is a nice touch,.

They end with a slightly new riff and a little soloing which gives the song a cool twist for the end.

I’ve listened to this a number of times since the victory was announced and still dig it.  Am I actually in touch with Eurovision?

UPDATE: How do you say winner in Italian?  Måneskin.

[READ: May 10, 2021] “Relationship Quiz”

This is the first piece I’m aware of that has both Amy and David writing together.  I wish it were funnier–but, you know, it’s a Shouts & Murmurs.

It’s a 9 question relationship quiz.  What does make me laugh is that after half of the questions, the (d) answer provides the basis of the next question.

It starts off with you being interested in a business acquaintance.  What do you do?  Introduce yourself over a thermos of ice-cold daiquiris?

What do you do next? Meet for drinks at the local airport bar.

Note: If you chose these options you might have a drinking problem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Go_A “SHUM” (Ukraine, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I have been rather enjoying the folk metal genre, especially as practiced by Eastern European bands.  So I was pretty fascinated to hear about Go_A [Ґоу_Ей].

The name Go_A is meant to mean “return to the roots” and was made by combining the English word “Go” with the Greek letter “Alpha.”  There’s four members: Kateryna Pavlenko, Taras Shevchenko, Ihor Didenchuk and Ivan Hryhoriak

Lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko has a pretty fascinating backstory (if Wikipedia is to be trusted, and when is it not?).  [The entire quote is (sic)].

Due to unsatisfactory living conditions, she developed lung disease. As a teenager, she underwent several surgeries, including surgery to remove a lung tumor. After that she can’t sing in the traditional way. “The sound is not formed in my lungs or bronchi, because there is not much space there, but somewhere here (points to the back of the head). This is especially true of high notes, ”she said.

Her voice is quite striking–surprisingly powerful.  In the video, she looks as striking as her voice.  She’s dressed in an awesome leather jacket with a black dress.  She’s got some kind of metal(?) thing on her face–I can’t determine what it is., aside from cool-looking.

The song opens with a repeated unearthly sound–a kind of siren.  She starts singing in powerful Ukrainian as menacing chords emerge.  Then the song pumps along.

Once again the video is pretty spectacular as the band is driving in a kind of Munsters meets Mad Max truck.  The song is loud and fast with some big distorted guitars.

And before you know it, the song breaks and there’s a tin whistle solo and a jaw harp keeping pace (!).

In the middle of the song her voice sounds a bit less harsh as the music builds and fills in.  And then a throbbing bass bounces along to the tin whistle.  And after a beat the drop kicks in and the song is now twice as fast.

The video is pretty entertaining–the “story” is fun to watch, anyhow.  But as the song ends she hits a really high note–almost a screech.  In the video a hawk lands on her outstretched hand.

Nice touch.  Did they do that live during Eurovision?

UPDATE: No hawk live, and they came in fifth (with a really cool set).

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Card Wired”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is based on an article in The Independent that says greeting card companies are getting in on the “mass-therapy act” so if you buy enough of these cards you could hold an entire conversation with your loved one without opening your mouth. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAÐI FREYR OG GAGNAMAGNIÐ-“10 Years” (Iceland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I first learned about Daði og Gagnamagnið last year when Eurovison didn’t happen.  I have no idea how they came on my radar (something in Instagram, I assume).

Daði og Gagnamagnið is the creation of Daði Freyr Pétursson.  Much like The ROOP, the visuals from Daði and his band are what really sells the song(s).

Daði is the composer/musician and in performances, he is supported by his sister Sigrún Birna Pétursdóttir (backing vocalist), wife Árný Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir (dancer), and friends Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir (backing vocalist), Stefán Hannesson (dancer), and Jóhann Sigurður Jóhannsson (dancer)—known as “Gagnamagnið”. Gagnamagnið, means “the amount of data”, and is the Icelandic word for “data plan”.

And the real selling point?  Teal green sweaters with pixelized portraits of themselves on them.  Last year’s “Think About Things” was pretty awesome (the video is incredible).  A blast of disco fun.

This year’s “10 Years” opens with a string quartet playing a sad sounding melody and then Daði appears singing in his deep clipped style.  Then a huge disco bass line comes in and before you know it, the song is in full dance mode–a swinging disco confection with the remarkable hook

Everything about you [pause} I like.

Add in some disco wah wah guitars and some irresistibly dopey dance moves and its impossible to look away.

And what on earth are the weird keytars?  Presumably homemade and non-functioning except that now they shoot sparks from the bottom.

Just when you think its all over, up pops a fairly large choir of little girls to sing along before the disco resumes.

And then it’s over but they are not done because after an awkward pause of them standing there, one of the guys shoots a confetti cannon at the camera.

Novelty?  Sure.  Funny?  Absolutely.  Catchy?  Definitely.

UPDATE: This song came in fourth.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Girl Crazy”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is about when Ellen DeGeneris’s character Ellen was about to come out on Ellen.  (Wow, remember when that was a big deal?).  And like several of these pieces, these are written as letters to the person in charge.

There are five letters here.

The first suggests that a six year old boy from North Carolina wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for sexual harassments for kissing a girl in his class if only he had kissed a boy.  The network best not mess with Regis and Kathie Lee. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOP-“Discoteque” (Lithuania, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as one off singers people haven’t heard of.  But that is patently false.

The ROOP are an established band from Lithuania fronted by a handsome man, Vaidotas Valiukevičius.  The rest of the band consists of percussionist Robertas Baranauskas and guitarist Mantas Banišauskas.  In the video there are two more members.

The song itself is quite sparse and remarkably catchy (evidently it is based on a Lithuanian folk song).  They explain:

The song is called “Discoteque” – without the letter “h”, because it’s a different kind of discotheque. “It’s not about showing yourself off. It’s more about being with yourself and accepting yourself the way you are,” says Mantas.

Although they give a different inspiration for the song, I feel like this is the perfect lockdown anthem.

A simple synth pulse as Vaidotas speaks “Ok, I feel the rhythm. Something’s going on here. The music flows through my veins.”

He starts doing subtle dance moves–shoulder shrugs, finger movements.  And then he reveals his bright yellow suit.

The song starts to build

I can’t control it. Don’t wanna end it. There’s no one here. And I don’t care. I feel it’s safe to dance alone.

The rest of the band comes in dressed similarly in bright yellow as the dance part jumps in

Let’s discoteque right at my home.
It is ok to dance alone. (Dance alone, dance alone)
I got the moves – it’s gonna blow.

Now you’ve got five people dressed in bright yellow doing over the top synchronized dancing–waving your arms in the arm, crab walking, walking like an Egyptian, etc.  (The video makes it pretty hilarious).

It is infectious watching these people having such a joyful time and imagining that these are exactly the kinds of dance moves one might make up in their home.

It ends with him doing the simplest hand gesture going from v to w and back again.

UPDATE: This song only came in 8th, but their live performance is pretty spectacular (see below).

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Proposals for Welfare Reform”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to… the President I guess?  Aw, remember when people talked about welfare reform?

The Calverts suggest that there’s a lot of young people who throw rocks and bottles at mailboxes.  How about making people on welfare fix mailboxes or dig new post holes for them.

Kevin D suggests that everyone on welfare should train to be n merrymaker of some sort–singing, dancing massage, whatever.  They could reenact funny skits in malls or do massage in the nude. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIX-“Fallen Angel” (Norway, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.

And, yep, I’d say this falls into that category.  It’s an over the top ballad–a remarkably simple melody and very straightforward lyrics (you’re an angel, I’m a fallen angel, will you ever notice me?).

The over the topness comes because as he sings this song he is wearing massive white angel wings and he is surrounded by half a dozen demons dressed in black with giant horns.

Upon hearing the song my daughter commented that his English was very good.  This is not surprising, him coming from Norway, but you can’t hear a hint of an accent.  And his lyrics are sung so clearly you can make out every word.

The whole thing is really quite mockable and yet it is so sincere it’s hard to hate.

Especially when you learn that Tix is called Tix because he suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and as a child he was bullied and called “tics,” which he has since embraced.

UPDATE: This judges were not moved by his story as this song came in 18th.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Let It Snow”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

This short piece is very funny and, obviously, it’s about snow.

He says that winters were always mild in North Carolina when he was a kid.  But one year there was a snowfall that lasted for a few days–which meant the kids were home from school.

They quickly got on their mother’s nerves and were thrown out of the house.

They pounded on the door and rang the bells demanding to be let back in, but she just pulled the drapes and enjoyed her solitude (which meant wine, mostly):

Drinking didn’t count if you followed a glass of wine with a cup of coffee, and so she had a goblet and mug positioned before her on the countertop.

They decided the best revenge would be if one of them got hit by a car–“It was really the perfect solution.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA PRAVI-“Voilà” (France, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.  But there are often many entries that are anthemic and inspirational.

And there’s also the super powerful ballad.  This entry from France is one of these.

If you play the song on YouTube the first comment is “This is the most French song I’ve ever heard,” and I have to agree.

The song begins with quiet keyboard notes and Pravi singing.  After a verse, the chorus comes.  It’s just one line this time.

Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà qui je suis
Me voilà même si mise à nue j’ai peur, oui
Me voilà dans le bruit et dans le silence

Then the verse resumes and each time around the verses get bigger and bigger and the chorus follows suit as the strings get louder and more dramatic.

The end of the song see her going a little wild with the “voilàs” and a little vamping as a wild piano is added into the mix.

I wasn’t that impressed with this at first but after a second watch, it’s got some nice drama and the video is pretty cool too.

UPDATE: This song came in second.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Who’s The Chef?”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

I read this essay a while ago and I remember it making me laugh then as much as it did now.

Set in Paris, David is telling an anecdote.  His French is good but he can be much more subtle in English.

So when he says “My boss has a rubber hand,” there are obviously some questions.  Especially since boss can also mean chef. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEANU MACROOY-“Birth of a New Age” (Netherlands Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.  But there are often many entries that are anthemic and inspirational.

This entry from Netherlands is one of these.  It starts quietly with a pulsing synth and Macrooy singing with a clean powerful voice.  After each line, the backing vocalists chany “Your rhythm is rebellion.”

Then like a choir, the voices sing

“Yu no man broko mi” over and over until the song resumes.

The phrase calls to his Surinamese roots and translates as “You can’t break me.”

I found the song and the video quite compelling.

UPDATE: I don’t know exactly what the judges vote on (the live performance only?), but I’m pretty astonished that this song came in 23rd.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Possession”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

This essay starts in Paris and ends in the Anne Frank house.

Sedaris talks about how he and Hugh were looking for a new apartment in Paris.  They loved their current place, but the landlord promised it to his daughters.  Sure the girls were young and, you know, something could happen to them, but it was unlikely that David and Hugh would ever own their place.

Looking at apartments is like falling in love, but “buying one is like proposing on your first date and agreeing not to see each other until the wedding.”  David did not love their new place but High sure did.”  Maybe you’re confusing love with pity,” he told Hugh.

Three months after they moved in, they took a trip to Amsterdam, a place often recommended with the phrase, “You can get so fucked up there.”  They toured around and eventually came to the Anne Frank house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RINA SAWAYAMA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert (April 19, 2021).

Rina Sawayama had one of the most compelling album covers of last year (see below).  I expected her music to be out of this world.  The little I heard was a little disappointingly poppy.  But this Tiny Desk Home Concert perks things up a bit

Rina Sawayama is back in the office, clad in a periwinkle blazer with waist cut-outs and a high ponytail cleaner than the view of the city skyline. Make no mistake: even in fluorescent lighting, the Japanese British pop star performs with the same tenacity and drama you hear in her 2020 debut album, SAWAYAMA, a lustrous pop epic peppered with early aughts R&B, nu-metal and classic rock.

She starts with “Dynasty” which has some deep keyboard bass from Geordan Reid-Campbell and strings from the string quartet (Braimah Kanneh-Mason: violin; Ayla Sahin: violin; Didier Osindero: viola; Jonah Spindel: cello).  Then Vic Jamieson adds a quiet sense of distortion with the electric guitar.

Tears calcify in “Dynasty,” a song like a salve to wounds inherited from generations past. The heaviness of the music never overshadows her voice, which ascends heroically. “Won’t you break the chain with me?” she belts out.

Heavy drums from Simone Odaranile shifts the song to a more rocking orchestral sound.  Backing vocalists Phebe Edwards and Desrinea Ramus add some lovely additions.  Jamieson solos and then the song gets big and intense with some impressively powerful vocals.

She says she’s been dying to play this.  She was meant to go on tour last year–this is the first time we’ve played “Dynasty” live.

As if turning the other cheek, Sawayama swiftly moves into the sweet, cha-ching pop of “XS.”

I would never describe this song as sweet or cha-ching.  “XS”  opens with deceptively quiet strings and Jamieson on the acoustic guitar.  She speaks quietly and the song jumps to the main heavy descending powerful riff.  The chorus is stop and start and full of hooks.  It’s a pretty great song.

She ends the set with “Chosen Family.”  She says that the song is dedicated to people who are not accepted by their parents for who they are: their sexual orientation or gender identity or anything else–and this is a pure and honest love song to my friend (my chosen family) who have gone through this.  Then amazingly she says she got a call from Elton John who said he wanted to work on the song with her!

the soft-hearted ballad “Chosen Family,” rendered in the style of her 2021 collaboration with Elton John. The song was reborn, in part, because of John’s admiration for Sawayama and her ability to cross-pollinate genres, but also because the two held “Chosen Family,” both the song and concept, dearly.

It’s a beautiful straightforward ballad.  And if you’re at all human, it will easily tug at your heart strings.

[READ: May 9, 2021] “Future Selves”

This story opens with a young married couple looking for an apartment to buy.  They had been renting but were looking to upgrade–get a real kitchen, a bathroom without chipped tiles.

They looked at smaller, impeccably restored places, but they seemed too small; they looked at a loft ion factory building–it was spacious and allowed for lots of privacy for each of them but there was no community around it–no café for them to sit in and talk .

It was a tough decision.

Around the same time, she had gone to visit her cousin at college.  Tara was fully enjoying herself and had lots of friends–boys and girls (one of whom she had a crush on). There was also Simon, a kind of hanger-on. He was soft spoken and friendly, but a step behind everyone else.

When she returned home, Tara had posted some pictures of them together.  Tara said that when they finally settled on a place, she’d love to stay with them. (more…)

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