Sunday, September 21, 2014

Céline Dion, “Because You Loved Me”

I’m reading the expanded edition of Let’s Talk About Love — I just finished the Ann Powers essay, which was predictably excellent — and thought I would take the chance (ha ha ha) to post my favourite Céline song, “Because You Loved Me.” I have this kind of love in my life, and I like how unadorned this shorter live version is, and I love her frilly little white get-up. Her version of “I Drove All Night” was a close runner-up. Céline is great.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mr Twin Sister, “In the House of Yes”

Less “Drunk in Love” than “drunk, in love,” with Post on repeat to boot. Or, as J put it yesterday as I washed dishes with this on: “This is sexy music!” He’s not wrong.

Thursday, September 11, 2014 Monday, September 8, 2014

Lady Gaga, “Sexxx Dreams” (Live)

I loved this song when it first came out as part of ARTPOP, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with it over the last few days. At her best, Gaga makes the ridiculous seem warm, funny, and ineffably human; I think it’s a balance she struck more often than not on ARTPOP, though many people would surely disagree. This is a pretty ridiculous song, and complex to boot — to my ears, she’s rendering this full-fledged, vaguely Teutonic (wasn’t much of the album? Nein Zedd!) nighttime fantasy and contributing a sort of director’s commentary, and nesting it in a boozy recollection taking place the next night. Meanwhile, it’s veering back and forth between S&M dungeon electro and Gaga’s take on the farty, fizzy electronic maximalism that sprung out of the UK around the turn of the decade, with a vocal take cribbed from an overcaffeinated musical theatre major. This should not work; it shouldn’t even come close.

And yet! It’s the little things that keep this glued together, diction and small tonal shifts and the giggled aside that serves as the song’s hinge. That perfect phrase, “Makin’ love in my sex dreams,” pinging around the chorus; you can hear her saying it into her half-drained pint, then again with her head raised and her eyes crossed, looking at her friend across the table. “*hiccup* Makin’ love in my sex dreams!” And just after that, pulled from a different spot on the timeline, just after she wakes up: “Tomorrow when I run into you / tomorrow when I run into you.” It’s not shameful as much as it’s amused; less “I can’t believe this happened,” more, “I can’t wait to tell you about this later.” There’s also a gender ambiguity to “Sexxx Dreams” that I find really appealing: if anything, it seems like she’s singing about a woman, depending on how much you want to read into “Heard your boyfriend was away this weekend…” And while Gaga is openly bisexual, the conversation that constitutes the outer shell of “Sexxx Dreams” feels like a chat between two platonic girlfriends, one of whom happened to wander into the other’s sensual fantasy. They’re close enough to laugh about it, but it’s humorous rather than sexually charged.

I’ve had a question about ARTPOP sitting in my Tumblr inbox for a few months now, and I just haven’t gotten around to answering it; maybe this is the closest I’ll come. It’s something about why I think the album failed, why it became an all-time ARTFLOP. I think it’s complicated. I think Gaga misjudged the relative importance of “art,” especially compared to “pop”; I think extremely popular musicians in any genre are kind of like pro athletes, in that the great majority of them burn really bright and then fade out quickly; I even think that on some level, Gaga was happy to step down a notch on the ladder of stardom, to a level where she’s free to make jazz albums with Tony Bennett and do whatever weird shit she wants without feeling like she has to carry a record label on her back or drop buzz single after buzz single until one lands. (Not to suggest that ARTPOP was an act of deliberate self-sabotage or anything, just that she was content to follow her muse knowing full well it wasn’t the most commercial thing she could’ve done.) But the truth is that I like most of ARTPOP; I think most of it is good, some of it is very good, and the best of it can hang with anything else in her catalogue. At the very least, “Sexxx Dreams” is enough for me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 Monday, August 18, 2014 Thursday, August 14, 2014 Wednesday, August 13, 2014 Thursday, August 7, 2014

Two reviews from last week that I forgot to mention here (until now):

  • I wrote about veteran producer Hanssen’s solid debut full-length, Seven Years Week, for Pitchfork. It’s a nice collection of playful, inquisitive, mostly ambient electronic music.
  • I wrote about Spoon’s excellent new album They Want My Soul for TIME’s print edition. You should be able to grab this review’s parent issue now if you’re in the U.S. — it might even be outdated — but I won’t have a copy until next Monday, I think. This is one of Earth’s greatest rock bands in top form.

I’m working on a bunch of stuff through this weekend, so this’ll remain a link dump zone until at least next week. After that, I’m hoping to get some stuff up; I have some ideas that have been rattling around for a few weeks now, and they need to be cleared off the shelves somehow. Thanks for reading, hope you’re enjoying whatever season you’re currently experiencing! (It’s summer here, and I’ll be sad to see it go.)