Monday, November 29, 2010

Mariah Carey for The National

My most recent essay for The National's Review, in which I argue that Mariah Carey in a sexy santa outfit represents the Platonic ideal of late-Christian festivity. Here it is to download as a PDF. (The National website is a tad ropey at the moment)
The video to Oh, Santa, the album’s stand-out track and lead single, tells its own story. Set in New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the video begins with an avuncular voiceover saying that the song is “brought to you by Lollipop Bling, from the Mariah Carey Fragrance Collection”. (This perfume actually exists.) Like the rest of the video, the ad is a 1970s homage – a pastiche, really – invoking American TV Christmas Specials of yore (and childhoods of yours, more importantly). Most striking is the fact that the ad for Lollipop Bling is woven into the fabric of the video, the footage of the bottle flickering as if weathered with age. Even branding is allowed sepia-tinted moments.

Rihanna for The National

Rihanna 'Loud' review for The National, as a PDF. The stand-out track is this wicked bit of pop-reggae, 'Man Down': the campaign for a full-on Bajan pop album from Rhirhi starts NOW.
On Cheers (Drink to That), she sings herself self-help messages in fridge-magnet snippets: “Life’s too short to be sitting round miserable / People gonna talk whether you’re doing bad or good”, while a slothful drum-beat pitter-patters woozily like it’s had one many too drinks itself. It’s supposed to be a defiant, good-time anthem, a silencing of her demons with liquor, but when she wails to raise your glasses, it’s utterly – and tellingly – unconvincing.

Juke for The National

Here's my review-essay for The National's Review about Planet Mu's recent juke releases as a (small) PDF, most notably the 'Bangs and Works Volume 1' compilation. I got into levels of racial segregation in American cities (Chicago ranks fifth worst in the US: I BET you can't guess the other four worst without reading the piece first), etymology and slave 'joog houses', geographical dislocation and, er, The Lion King.
"...all the congruent energy and avant-garde creativity of juke’s global peers looms into view, like separate battalions coming over the top of the hill and converging on the battlefield. The superficialities of form and tempo may differentiate Chicago juke from, say, kuduro in Luanda, or baile funk in Rio, but their commonality of spirit is undeniable. Scenius is not confined by geographical limits, and it does not mark the death of grassroots music that disparate underground sounds can now seep up through the global soil."