"So everybody just follow me, 'cause we need a little, controversy..."
From a business point of view, perhaps the most relevant occasion of the last few weeks was the MTV Music Awards this time held in Los Angeles, California. I remember following this annual event, glued to the television, waiting for Madonna to come out of a wedding cake and change the world as we knew it, seeing the first ever unplugged set by the then very relevant hair-band Bon Jovi (that happened just because they did not know how else to follow the Queen of Pop's not-so-shy display), the shocker that was to see Marilyn Manson's thighs in a room full of "beautiful people", Cher's outrageous outfits, Prince's gender bending appearance next to a sinfully gorgeous Carmen Electra and Alanis Morisette's young angst. The pop period, the rap period, the grunge period, the industrial period, the dance period, the rock period... all came to surprise us, to entice us with the daring artistry of those days, amid some ridiculous entries such as Milli Vanilli and Vanilla Ice that strangely made it through.
The VMA's in 2010 are something else. A very well-oiled machine that brings us Justin Bieber as, in my opinion, its most effective exponent. This is the American proposal at its best and I would be absolutely taken by him should I not be a good number of years older and slightly wiser. Handsome, talented, charismatic, a great dancer...seriously, what do this people eat? Chelsea Lately was an ideal host for the evening; great and abundant sarcasm that I suspect went unnoticed on occasions but that served as a good local follow up to last year's maverick host, the impossibly irreverent Russell Brand. I do however feel underwhelmed by the whole enterprise.
I sat to watch the event with an open mind and I started to feel that the only thing that is left from yesteryears is Cher and her "If I Could Turn Back Time" outfit... which I find kind of ironic. The show began with Eminem in what looked like a return to form until newly red-headed Rihanna came on stage to cheapen the whole thing out with her poor version of what we usually know as singing. Awful. It absolutely escapes me why valuable musicians, and in this case very popular as well, feel the need to have these so called collaborations with people that drag them right down. Marshall Bruce Mathers III: you better had slept with this lady or otherwise your choices are truly inexplicable.
Usher did very little to redeem the event as it was to be expected, with his double bill of "DJ Got Us Falling in Love" and the unbearable "OMG", but we had some nice little moments with Hailey Williams from Paramore joining B.O.B. and Bruno Mars on a very cool "Nothing on you/Airplanes" mix and the gorgeous performance of "Innocent" delivered by the gifted pop/country phenomenon that is Taylor Swift. Lady Gaga was apparently worried about disappointing her fans but took home two awards: "Best Pop Video" and "Video of the Year", plus she delivered a very solid performance so I am inclined to think that the trip to the butcher's was a tad unnecessary. Her new album will be called "Freedom" by the way. Why someone as fabulous as Justin Timberlake would introduce Drake in such grandiloquent manner remains a mystery to me, do we really need another forgettable R&B singer? In fact, I just googled Drake because not only I didn't remember the song he sang ("Fancy", apparently)... I didn't even remember what he looked like anymore!
Worth remembering was the genius that is Kanye West. He is MTV's favourite trouble maker and most definitely one of the most arrogant people to ever walk the earth... but he can absolutely afford to be like that! His version of "Runaway" was nothing short of exquisite and I virtually bow to his unparalleled talent. It gives me hope for a better VMA's 2011 (although just by writing this I know it's ridiculous to expect anything better or genuine for that matter...yawn).
But there is a world out there, far from the PR ridden spectacle that Music Television proposes. In that world we find wonderful things that I proceed to recommend:
Mark Ronson & the Business Intl. Glorious! "The Bike Song" alone is just as contagious as it is beautiful. "Bang Bang Bang" is another shiny pearl so I predict that the "Record Collection" will be a very good album coming out on Monday 27th of September. You can catch Ronson all across the UK promoting the release...worth checking out for sure. And by the way... Amy Winehouse: Please shut up!
On the same date we have the third delivery from Canadian band Chromeo: "Business Casual". The electrofunk duo, P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) Dave 1 (David Macklovitch), who describe themselves as the only successful Arab/Jewish partnership since the dawn of human culture, are at it again putting together tunes with ease and effectiveness. I personally cannot wait.
Released this month we have "Flamingo", the solo venture by The Killers front man, Brandon Flowers. More than a personal artistic manifestation by the Vegas' born and raised, this is actually Brandon doing some more of what he clearly liked doing back in "Sam's Town" and possible could not agree to do together with the band again. With nods to his own influences, the album can sound a bit dated, a bit middle of the road but it is nonetheless an enjoyable proposal. If you like The Killers...
For October, my eyes are set on "Come Around Sundown" by Kings of Leon... the easy on the eye brothers Caleb (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Nathan (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and Jared Followill (bass, backing vocals), with their cousin Cameron Followill (lead guitar, backing vocals) have delighted the UK audiences from the start so we have no basis to expect anything less. Fingers crossed.
As far as live music goes, the last week of September is packed with great acts such as Placebo (at their best arena, the legendary Brixton Academy), at the same venue we have MGMT presenting their controversial new album "Congratulations" to be followed in October by Gorillaz as the biggest and most inspired act I can think of...but we'll talk more about that next month.