The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mainstream'
The Graun has an article outlining how to write a Hollywood disaster movie:
A lot of the best disasters – asteroids, aliens, earthquakes, tsunamis – have already been taken, sometimes twice, as in the embarrassing simultaneous releases of Armageddon/Deep Impact and Volcano/Dante's Peak. So you'll have to be a bit creative. Pick something unusual: what if gravity started going sideways instead of straight down, say?
In a cave underneath Mount Rushmore, the president should introduce the scientist to a crack team dedicated to fixing the problem – which should turn out to include his attractive ex-wife as well as a droll Englishman. The three of them should come up with a plan to stop the disaster – the more unrealistic the better. A good one in this case would be to have someone jump off the Empire State Building like a diving board in order to activate a nuclear weapon that would destroy the moon and thus reset earth's gravity; anything like that, really. Watching a cable news channel as they discuss who could carry out this dangerous mission, the team sees a report from the devastated New York, where the cat burglar is leaping across sideways skyscrapers to save an old grandmother's life. "By Jove," says the Englishman, "I think we've found our man!"
The cat burglar dives. The scene cuts to outer space as the moon is destroyed. The sun tilts back on its axis, and back on earth gravity swings gradually back to its normal direction. Buildings right themselves and stand up straight again. Foreigners in turbans or Eskimo furs cheer and hug in far-off locations. The scientist reaches out for the hand of his ex-wife. And the little orphan boy runs up to his cat burglar dad for a dramatic hug, the Empire State Building back to normal behind them. He didn't die after all!
The shadowy phenomenon of product placement in pop music was thrust into the spotlight when culture jammers the Anti-Advertising Agency, who were running a virtual jeans-making sweatshop in Second Life as an art project, received a proposal from a product placement agency, offering to put his brand of jeans in a Pussycat Dolls song, which they published online
In the e-mail, Kluger (who has represented Mariah Carey, New Kids on the Blog, Ne-Yo, Fall Out Boy, Method Man, Lady GaGa and Ludacris) explained via e-mail that for the right price, Double Happiness Jeans could find its way into the lyrics in an upcoming Pussycat Dolls song. Crouse posted the e-mail on his blog at the Anti-Advertising Agency, an art project of sorts that's basically the philosophical mirror image of a traditional ad agency.
The Anti-Advertising Agency declined and has already drawn some attention to the practice of selling space in lyrics to advertisers through its blog. "Maybe Ludacris wants to rap about a luxury SUV, and is just looking for the right one," said Lambert. "We'll never know (everything about) how it works, because that takes the mystique out of it, and the mystique is one of the things that they can sell." But thanks to this e-mail, we at least have proof that the phenomenon is real.Meanwhile, the agency, Kluger PR (who have emailed WIRED and disowned responsibility for the actual email) has asserted that when they place products in songs, they take every care to ensure that artistic integrity is not affected:
"We are just financially taking care of the people that should be taken care of," he told us via e-mail. "If an artist like Sheryl Crow has the same target audience as XZY brand, we feel it's nothing but a strong and strategic way to pinpoint a market.
"Now, we don't want an artist to write a song specifically to promote a brand, we just feel that if it's a product that's admired by the artist and fits his/her image, we now have the capability of leveling out the playing field and making things financially beneficial for all parties involved. 'Brand-Dropping' is the term that the Kluger Agency coined to describe discreetly advertising by product mentioning in song, and we feel we can make this the way of the future without jeopardizing any artists creative outlet or typical style."I wonder how much it takes to arrange that your (virtual) brand of jeans is sufficiently admired by the Pussycat Dolls for them to (quite sincerely, of course) sing its praises. Which sounds like the artistic equivalent of the question of how much money it takes to win the amorous affections of a lady (or, indeed, gentleman) of negotiable virtue. In which case, would that make Kluger PR a pimp?
A survey of music sales from HMV outlets has revealed variations in mainstream musical tastes across the UK.
After a year of bands with animal names and hipsters with rustic-looking beards, the pastoral/folk thing is well and truly mainstream, now that Goldfrapp's next album, The Seventh Tree, is going in a pastoral direction. That's right, the EMI-signed chanteuse who is known for moving with the winds of change, first having abandoned the post-Morricone dinner-party trip-hop of Felt Mountain for the then fashionable electroclash and glam revivalism, seems to have jumped on the neo-folk bandwagon, albeit with a touch of 1970s Britishness:
Nevertheless, The Seventh Tree is not from an entirely different planet to Supernature. It's also inspired by music from the 1970s, but the softer end of psychedelic pop rather than glam-rock. The band craved a sound that was woozy and hypnotic, and after the album title came to Goldfrapp in a dream, everything else followed suit.
But, despite the American references, the record still sounds indelibly English. Gregory puts it down to their music not having its roots in blues, but I fancy it's more than that. It's the deadpan-meets-Carry On humour that crackles through the album. It's the way in which Edward Lear's nonsense poetry finds a new home in the song Little Bird, which features a crow with mouths for eyes. It's in the Moogs, Mellotrons and Optigans that bring to mind the terribly English electronica of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and when Syd Barrett haunts the album's more psychedelic corners.
There's also a sense of cracked innocence threading itself through these sounds. In the process of songwriting, Gregory and Goldfrapp remembered music from their childhoods - spooky soundtracks to children's programmes, strange sci-fi shows and public information clips. "It was that era that everyone thought the world was going to blow up," Goldfrapp says. "Either the bomb would get you or the rabies."Which sounds like it could potentially be interesting. Or it could be a mainstreamed take on the kind of retro folk weirdness that independent artists have been exploring over the past few years. Though, to be fair, Goldfrapp's niche is not to explore the fringes, but to aggregate what's on them for a more mass-market audience. Of course, as it's a mass-market product on a major label, there is every chance that all that lovely gentle psychedelic-folk subtlety mentioned in the article will be crushed out of the finished product by the standard commercially-mandated brutal overcompression.
(I wonder whether The Seventh Tree is a take-off of the name of freak-folk outfit Voice Of The Seven Woods, a favourite of weird-music curator Andy Votel.)
Director John Boorman (of Deliverance fame) on how Hollywood studios' insistence on blockbusters is killing them, both by raising the bar to higher and higher budgets and by restricting plots and concepts to the most facile and simplistic ones that won't lose any of the audience.
Is there an inherent flaw in a socio-economic system whereby everything gets bigger and bigger until it collapses under its own weight?
Boorman describes what it would be like to attempt to make Deliverance in today's environment:
Today, I would have received pages of detailed notes from a number of studio executives. I would have been obliged to hone the script down to a simple, direct storyline that is clear and undemanding, and eradicate any eccentricity or quirkiness. When the script satisfied their requirements, the studio would send it out to a star. If the star passed, the studio's response would be to hire a new writer. Further rejections by two or three stars and the project would be dropped. If they found a star who was interested, the title, cast and storyline would then be test-marketed, asking people in the street if they would go to see such a film four men canoeing a river and one gets buggered.
script gurus such as Robert McKee have brainwashed a generation of screenwriters into constructing scenarios along rigid lines: introduction of characters, statement of conflict, development of narrative, division into three acts, carefully placed climaxes, conclusion. This contributes to the sameness of movies and feeds into audience expectations of comfortable patterns, and makes them uneasy if a film diverges from that formula. Little by little movies become more and more similar to each other, with marginal variations. One can imagine them evolving into a form where only an audience inured to them can discern any differences.
The radio in the office next door is tuned to a commercial radio station. Despite my well-stocked Archos Jukebox and set of PC speakers, I cannot escape this. Part of this is bad music, middle-aged rockers howling out bland MOR ballads, like some meaningless ritualisation of what was once a mating call. But most of it is ads. Annoying, intelligence-insulting, in-your-face ads. They tend to fall into three categories:
- The dialogue between two characters, acting out a drama. One character has some problem, and the other knows the solution, which involves the advertiser's product. The main character development involves the other character becoming enlightened as to the beneficial properties of the product, and the advantages of buying from the advertiser. The voices are invariably exaggerated, with all the realism of a Punch and Judy show, but realism isn't the goal here.
- A bloke shouting out a monologue about the product, hitting you, the listener, with reasons why you should "CALL NOW". You can tell he's excited about the product by the way he raises his voice.
- The female equivalent of b): some saccharine-voiced woman, speaking through a smile as wide as her face and as natural as phenylalanine. "Call us now, on oneeighthundred eighthundred onetwothree", she coos, breathily, as if to seduce your credit card out of your wallet with her siren-song.
One thing one notices about commercial radio is the way all the advertisers (and the announcers) constantly speak with that "I'm Excited! Ask Me Why!" tone of voice; their voices are always raised, sometimes to the point of shouting, and each syllable sounds like the start of a new sentence.
Why anybody would willingly choose to subject themselves to this, I do not know. Though I have some theories; perhaps the constant sugar-rush of excitement in the advertisers' voices is contagious, acting as a subconscious stimulant, helping the average working stiff through their otherwise tedious and/or exhausting day with a plastic smile on their face, and keeping them from realising the all-pervading emptiness of their life and collapsing into black despair? It's just a theory.
As for me? I'll stick to 3RRR, thanks.
Also via The Fix, an online poll for the top 10 albums of all time. It appears to be mostly voted for by angsty teenagers, judging by the selection of alternative there is there, and the fact that The Cure are seriously overrepresented in the top 100. Anyway, of my votes, only 1 got in the top 100 (The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead), or indeed the top 1000 (though Lush's Split and New Order's Power, Corruption and Lies are just under the top 1000. (My #1 choice, The Field Mice's Where'd You Learn To Kiss That Way? is in the 1,690th place.)
Bias in the Blogosphere, an analysis of the blogging phenomenon using the Chomskyite propaganda model, and concluding that blogging is a reactionary, right-wing propaganda machine by its very structure. Makes some good points (about linkwhoring, the threat of being Dooced or mailbombed serving to shut down dissenters, and dependence on official resources for facts), but it appears to fall into the "blogging was born on 9/11" fallacy, the stereotype of equating blogging as a whole with the right-wing, jingoistic talkback-radio excesses of the "warbloggers". (via Graham)
It may well be that the majority of bloggers are wealthy white males, Libertarians turned born-again Rush Limbaugh clones when the planes hit the WTC, but that just reinforces Sturgeon's law; specifically, that when people have the means of expressing themselves, the vast majority will use it to download porn, put up photos of their cats, discuss the last episode of Friends, or loudly expound their allegiance to their favourite thought-saving orthodoxy, and only a small proportion of content will be actually interesting. (Well, that and the primal instinct to form packs and do battle against rival packs.) So it's not unexpected that big chunks of the blogosphere look like a conservative, vaguely xenophobic suburbia; well, that and the LiveJournal britneyblogs, and the technofetishistic E/N sites run by misogynistic virgins, and so on. Just that warblogging is the currently fashionable flavour of blogging for pinks.
Thank "Bob", I'm well clear of the Dido demographic, the latest lucrative market segment (which seems to be essentially smug, superficially fashionable thirtysomethings who consider themselves much more hip and with-it than they actually are, and/or are in denial about their comfortably bourgeois, alt-MOR tastes).
20 Protection by Masssive Attack Yes, you know that Blue Lines is really the one to have, but you got this because you've heard of Tracey Thorn. You wanted something edgy and hip hop but with the reassuring Marks and Spenceryness that was Everything But The Girl. And you got it!
Anyway, I've got only three titles from the list (Dummy by Portishead, Play by Moby (which I have since found too bland to be worth listening to, and which is probably a candidate for the next CD-liquidation sweep), and OK Computer by Radiohead (though I think that Kid A and Amnesiac are doovy)).
The Death of Brunswick St. (an ongoing saga): This week's issue of the Melbourne Times has a section on the transformation of Brunswick St. into an upmarket gated community and shopping mall. There is an article about a plan to dig a tunnel from the housing commission blocks to Sunshine, to provide residents with "access to affordable consumables and appropriate social activities"; the article has a photograph of the public housing block surrounded by a high wall, keeping all the riff-raff in. Then there is the section on the "bigger, brighter and better" Brunswick St., with photographs of the Punters Club Photoshopped into a Country Road, the new Planet Hollywood, and a Starbucks.
Planet Hollywood, which replaced Flowers Vasette in December, is now the hottest nightspot in town. "It is amazing. The young professionals from their designer apartments, and even people from the eastern and southern suburbs, are flocking to this vibrant venue," Ome said.
Yes, it's a parody issue, but it's (unfortunately) too close to the truth.
The future is already here: it's just not evenly distributed: Companies have been hiring the service of cool hunters , who are sort of like upmarket yuppie anthropologists, to tell them what the trendy urban hipsters are doing, thinking and identifying with; the theory being that the twitchily hip urban fads of today will be the next big hit of tomorrow's mainstream; a view Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point put forward.
When not receiving facials or having their toes dipped in Bollinger Grande Cuvée, trendsetting teens claim to be experimenting with digital filmmaking, vintage computers and "geometric prints from the '60s and '70s." Mainstream teens say they're having sex, "rolling up my jeans" and "going to college." Asked about the "newest thing your friends are doing," the mainstreamers, in a sudden burst of Eisenhower-era conformity retrograde even by their standards, cited "getting married," "working on cars" and "going to nudie bars." Trendier types mentioned "freestyling" and "drunk bowling."
The cool-hunting consultancies, of course, charge hefty fees for these vital tips. (An annual subscription to the L Report will set you back $30k.) Mind you, they're now discovering a corollary to the Tipping Point hypothesis; namely, that most cutting-edge trends are too rarefied to trickle down to suburban mainstream consumers to the point of being marketable; leading to missteps such as marketing guarana-laced soft drinks and male makeup kits to the Wal-Mart crowd, with predictably underwhelming results. (via rebecca's pocket)
As the former hippie-trail resort town of Byron Bay bcomes fashionably popular with mainstream people with respectable jobs and kids and such, the police have acted to make it safe for suburban normalcy, and tackling the town's runaway marijuana smoking problem. This they are doing by cracking down on cannabis possession with sniffer dog patrols, searching suspected drug fiends in the streets. Naturally, the dreadlocked and drugfucked hippie types that have frequented the formerly easygoing town for decades aren't pleased, and are planning to protest what they consider an erosion of their civil liberties. (Or perhaps the goal is to get them to move to Nimbin, thus making room for people with more money to spend?)
Pinkness and horror: Just saw a piece in the local murdoch complaining about the anti-mainstream bias in the media; about how this bias means that much-loved Australian crooner John Farnham gets very little radio play despite topping the sales charts, and how arts correspondents have little to say about Australian national storyteller Bryce Courtenay, whilst presenting lunatic-fringe culture like rap and grunge. I found it amusing.