Category Archives: Actual Celebrities

Liking the Art But Not What the Artist Did: Stereogum Reconciles Liking Chris Brown and Surfer Blood

There’s an interesting debate that Stereogum opened up on its site today — at face value, and based on the splashy photo, it looks like it’s going to be another “Chris Brown is bad” article, but it also brings up the domestic violence charges to which that Surfer Blood singer John Paul Pitts plead no contest — and the interesting question of when do we or do we not stick up for our favorite musicians and artists, even when they do loathsome things. Of course, the degree to which Chris Brown is awful, highlighted by one of The Onion’s finest moments in recent memory, overshadows what limited pop appeal he has, whereas the implication of the Stereogum article is while Pitts’ episode isn’t as egregious as Brown’s dubious rap sheet and accompanying bad-boy antics, Surfer Blood’s level of indie success is relatively low-watt.

(Where it gets interesting and gets to be a really tense, telling debate is where it got with Michael Jackson. First, he was an extremely rare artist in that he had extraordinary commercial and artistic success, crossing over globally like no one since the Beatles — or, perhaps, even more so, who was then accused of unspeakable crimes and succumbed to increasing aberrant behavior, and then died dramatically, creating a pandemic of mourning — and, as I’ll never forget, the first time I’d ever seen a single event wash over my Twitter feed into The Only Thing Everyone Was Talking About in a matter of minutes. Nothing had hit home before or since as to how connected music makes us and how technology allows us to do that, cutting across geography and caste and culture, in the moment.)

Also, Stereogum brings this up because the first glimpse of Surfer Blood’s new album, a catchy, off-kilter pop song with screaming and one-note piano worked into the hooky chorus, called “Weird Shapes,” just got released a few weeks ago. Stereogum calls it “Weezerly.” Even if it is, please, please never use that as an adjective in any scenario. The debate it opens up is perhaps too important to neglect or dismiss — even though the converge of Chris Brown and Surfer Blood news might be a slightly forced landscape in which to start it.

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ESPN’s Music Issue Lets You Know: Yep, It’s February

So, the Super Bowl’s over, the NBA’s heading toward the always-entertaining All-Star Weekend (but the admittedly lackluster All-Star midseason caesura), baseball’s not quite yet in preseason, and hockey’s made itself irrelevant — taking care of the Big Four sports. So ESPN The Magazine decided to make the latest issue “The Music Issue,” which means photo shoots in which willing athletes try to help you shake off the winter doldrums by posing in costumes made to look like album covers. So, Alex Morgan dresses up like Katy Perry (giggity), MLB stars dress up like Devo on the Freedom of Choice cover (why?), Ryan Lochte undresses up like the baby on the Nirvana Nevermind cover (double why), and Josh Freeman dons the white suit (and a stuffed baby tiger) to replicate Michael Jackson’s Thriller, forever making him “the guy who posed as Michael Jackson for ESPN the Magazine that one time.” And NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson as Bob Dylan? Imagined staff meeting at ESPN the Magazine this week: “Okay, the costumes were fun — NFL DRAFT IN TWO MONTHS! GET ON THAT NOW!”

Beyonce: Stage On Fire, Shower of Sparks Guitar, and Other Awesomeness From Last Night

Things we liked about last night’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, featuring an up-and-coming songstress named Beyonce, who you might know best from being a member of Houston-based R&B group Destiny’s Child:

1. The things on fire.

The pyrotechnics made us feel like Beavis and Butthead in vintage “Fire! Fire!” mode, as it looked like Beyonce, at points, was going to be engulfed by the flames on the stage, if not for her flame-repellent lingerie.

The best thing on fire might have been the guitar, though. Deadspin captures it nicely here, along with the observation that “Beyonce doesn’t do anything figuratively.” Of course, though, that moment reminded us of this Ace Frehley solo, which in turn reminded us of this Nigel Tufnel solo.

2. The “performance.”

Dancing. Lots of motion. Alleged singing (with mysterious vocals not created by any of the mouths on stage), with Shaq playfully adding his perspective to the Inauguration lip-synching controversy. This blogger, noting that Beyonce was an incarnation of the Hindu warrior goddess Durga on stage, also noted that one online critic panned the whole show as “Breasts of the Southern Wild.” Both views seem extreme. We do love that Beyonce inspires this range of reactions.

3. Production values

So, there was the stage itself, that looked like the cover art for a 1973 Alice Walker novel (amirite?), but there was also so much high-tech gadgetry and electricity in the halftime show that, when a power surge made the Superdome look like “every movie about football ever, minus the torrential downpour” (according to an astute Deadspin writer), that I called the inevitable flood of “Beyonce caused the blackout” tweets to follow.

4. Destiny’s Child reunion. We, of course, blew this call. After seeing Beyonce diva her way through this performance, we thought, “No way she’ll share the stage with them.” But, she made them pop up from under the stage, as if summoned (because she’s DURGA), and then made them sidekicks. Genius.

We loved it. (Then again, at that point, the game was awful. It was compelling late. But, wow, American football takes forever. Especially during the Super Bowl.)

Least Shocking Development From a Super Bowl Media Day Ever

What do you mean, a retiring, controversial-yet-beloved NFL player doesn’t want to talk about new allegations about using performance-enhancing drugs or old allegations about his role in a double murder? Really, Yahoo! Sports? (Related: Jim Harbaugh wears a Sharpie as a necklace? Tell me more!)

Chris Brown: Worst Person Alive Campaign, Chapter 43

So I guess we’re not terribly surprised that Chris Brown tried to throw down with Frank Ocean over a parking space?

Which led The Onion to this brilliance.

Michelle Obama vs. John Boehner, As Seen By Gawker

Oh, if it were only so. The typically-awesome Gawker found a GIFed moment from the Inaugural Dinner in which First Lady Michelle Obama gives a major dismissive eyeroll to House Speaker John Boehner. Or, as the kids call it, “throwing shade.”

The new hypothesis emerging today is slightly less fun — that it was a response to Boehner apparently joking with the Still-President about his on-again/off-again smoking and how the little lady won’t let him smoke anymore. (“Wives! They put the kibosh on fun! Amirite?”)

While a wholly plausible hypothesis, it’s much more fun to imagine the shade-throwing is more a function of the First Lady being generally dismissive of Boehner rather than specifically dismissive. (Though an eyeroll for his spray-tanned complexion would be warranted as well.)

Inauguration Day: The One Day Every Four Years Americans Hear A Poem

Poems. Some of us read them, listen to them, even write them. But for a great number of Americans (and no, greeting cards and wall posters of “Footprints” do not count as poems), poems are not something regularly experienced. In fact, it’s only on Inauguration Day (during the inauguration of a Democrat not from Texas or Georgia since 1960) that a great number of Americans hear a poem.

In 1993, Maya Angelou (who Americans have heard of) delivered this poem, and poetry got the 1993 equivalent of a Twitter trend. In 2009, Elizabeth Alexander was introduced as an American poet (so as to not get booed?) and did this to the English language.

This year, the inaugural poem was writ and delivered by gay Latino Cuban-born poet Richard Blanco. (Way to hit all the left-leaning categories, Inaugural Committee!) Here’s Gawker’s assessment of what he did to the English language. Here’s footage. (Note: “Kindled” is in the first line — did Amazon pay for inaugural poem product placement?)

Note: We’re actually big poetry fans here. We’re not sure the inauguration does poetry any favors.

Harry Potter as Ginsberg: No Kidding (And Other Tidbits From Sundance)

This in from the LA Weekly on Sundance, via an “I’m clicking on that” headline about “Sex with James Franco” (which is really just a pretty-much irrelevant tidbit at the end of the article about a project that not that many people will end up seeing, unless the 50 Shades of Gray wave is cresting rather than crashing against the shores of cultural relevance). The big news in the early reporting is an intriguing love triangle gone wrong movie called Kill Your Darlings, starring Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter himself) as a young Allen Ginsberg, with Ginsberg-esque Jew-fro apparently rocked. Apparently, from this report in the Huffington Post, it’s steamy and heralds what could be a pretty risque year in film.

Golden Globes: Passing Notes

Jennifer Lawrence might have won the night for saying, “I beat Meryl!” (Which is what we totally thought when she won.)

Stallone and the Governator actually were funny in their bit. (Though not Wiig and Farrell funny. But seriously.)

Anne Hathaway continues to be huggable.

How is Claire Danes four-for-four in Golden Globe Awards? And “My So-Called Life” to “Homeland” is quite a career arc.

Sasha Baron Cohen: Not funny, but funnier than the Russell Brand reboot of SBC.

Still, though, I love that there’s drinking at the Golden Globes. And Poehler canoodling and drinking with Clooney just there was genius.

Django Unchained, As Loved By A Self-Professed White Liberal

So, perhaps Tarantino’s self-consciously trying to pique white liberals? You don’t say. But Slate’s Stephanie Zacharek seems to be in on the joke with Django Unchained, enjoying it here. (Worth the read. And the debate is sure to go on.)