KQED Arts: 5 Reasons to Love Lady GaGa

December 9, 2009 · Filed Under arts, culture, music · Comments Off 

fame-monster-200x200 By Emmanuel Hapsis

Now, I know that you’re skeptical, but trust me on this one: Lady Gaga is not just another vacuous fembot on her way to a life of sex tapes and publicity stunts; she’s of a different breed. Here are five reasons why Lady Gaga is cooler than you think she is:

1. For starters, she actually sings, plays the piano, and writes her own music. And she ain’t no dummy either. She was admitted to Juilliard at 11 and gained early admission at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where she studied art, music, and religion. And she’s smart enough to take control of her image: “My album covers are not sexual at all, which was an issue at my record label. I fought for months. They didn’t think the photos were commercial enough. The last thing a young woman needs is another picture of a sexy pop star writhing in sand, covered in grease, touching herself.”

2. While most pop starlets wouldn’t know how to spell avant-garde, let alone its meaning, Lady Gaga has her way with the concept, especially with her cutting-edge Grace Jones-esque fashion statements. Not to mention her unorthodox performances. During a recent awards show, the audience watched a blood-soaked Gaga die on stage:

Read more reasons to like Lady GaGa and The Fame Monster review at KQED Arts.

Justin Timberlake Listens to NPR?

December 3, 2009 · Filed Under arts, culture, music, social networking · Comments Off 

justin_customJustin Timberlake listens to NPR, or at least a character he’s playing does. The king of all things sexy was recently photographed wearing an NPR t-shirt. Who knew, the master of the dance off, the former Mousekateer, the SNL Digital Short darling, gets his inspiration from public radio. Well, we guessed it. I mean, can’t you just hear him doing an acapella version of the All Thing’s Considered theme song?

NPR’s Monkey See blogger Linda Holmes came up with ten reasons the star might be donning the NPR logo. My favorite? Number seven: “Just borrowing it from Lady Gaga.”

Check out NPR.org to read Holmes’ take, then in the comments below, tell us your own thoughts about why Timberlake has an affection for the network.  Personally, I think Mr. JT listens to NPR cause he knows there’s nothing sexier than knowledge. What did you say? Watching Justin take off the NPR t-shirt is sexier. . . hmm. We’ll have to think that one over. . . over and over again.

Live From Oakland: BRWN BFLO

November 11, 2009 · Filed Under Bay Area, culture, music · Comments Off 
Matt Mills

Photo: Matt Mills

By Kimberly Turner

In the turbulent 1960s, activist, lawyer, and author Oscar Zeta Acosta was an outspoken voice in the Chicano movement. Acosta, best known as the basis for Hunter S. Thompson’s Dr. Gonzo character, fought against injustice and bigotry for a demographic expected to be seen and not heard. While he was no angel (had an affinity for methamphetamines & hallucinogens), Acosta did succeed in one area before his mysterious disappearance: highlighting the Chicano experience. Oakland’s BRWN BFLO is taking Acosta’s message and name (nabbed from Acosta’s semi-autobiography) and setting it to a really loud MPC.

Composed of Giant, Somos One, Big Dan, and Jacinto, BRWN BFLO had quite convoluted beginnings. Somos had created a reputation as a poet on the demonstration circuit at his alma mater, the University of California, Berkeley. At the urging of friends, he linked up with Giant, who was known at the time as DJ Oye. The two started working on projects together. After graduation, Somos began working as a college counselor at a high school when Big Dan walked into his office. He had researched Somos and was determined to record something with him. All three emcees decided they wanted to create a hip-hop crew, but they were in dire need of beats. The trio lucked out during a chance meeting with (then high school student) Jacinto at Emery High School’s African American history celebration where he was performing with the jazz band. Jacinto made them a few beats and the rest of the crew knew they had “something special.”

Roughly a year and a half ago, the newly formed quartet hunkered down to record in Jacinto’s Oakland home. Originally called the Brown Buffalo Project, they built up a strong local following playing community events. After compiling a year’s worth of songs, the group decided to move forward as BRWN BFLO and released their self-titled debut earlier this year. Read more

Forum Goes Punk!

October 9, 2009 · Filed Under Bay Area, California, culture, music · 11 Comments 

punkToday’s Forum looked at the history of punk music in the Bay Area. Guest host Scott Shafer spoke with local musicians and the authors of “Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day.”

My favorite moment was the caller who talked about how punk music taught her to question authority and as a result taught her critical thinking. . . who says anarchy is a bad thing?

O’Spada : Sweden’s Self-fulfilling Prophecy

August 18, 2009 · Filed Under culture, music · Comments Off 

There must be something in the water. In my search for new groundbreaking soul music, I find myself looking across the sea to Sweden and find a band from Stockholm that is able to draw from the best American influences and present those influences back to us in a totally original and fresh way. I got up with the lead voice of the Swedish band O’Spada, Julia Spada, who e-mailed in these responses to my five questions…

My favorite album of 2007 and 2008 was Little Dragon’s debut album. They’re from Gothenburg, Sweden. And now my new favorite band and lead singer is also from Stockholm. What is it about life in Sweden that brings about such good innovative music?

Thank you, I’m very flattered! Hmmm, that’s a very hard question, considering the fact that I hardly listen to any Swedish music myself (although I agree with you that Little Dragon made one of the best albums of 2007!). Maybe it started as coincidence, and know it’s part of the Swedish self image that we are "great exporters of pop music"? It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I guess the biggest reason is the access to music, playing gives you skills and listening gives you inspiration. Musical education for children is comparatively cheap here. And Sweden is a wealthy nation where most people have access to recordings. Many Swedes could afford to buy music even before internet made it available, and now we have very fast internet connections…

All vocalist have their favorite voices that they modeled their vocal technique after. Who are some of your influences on the vocal side?

To name a few: Curtis Mayfield, Prince, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Sly Stone, Jorge Ben, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder.

How about the same question for song writing style? See above (most of them are great song writers).

Add Jill Scott, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Herbie Hancock, Burt Bacharach, Pharrell Williams, I could go on forever… Lyrically, I really admire people who can play with words. For example, I’m not a big Eminem fan, but I am very impressed with the way he fits the words and syllables together.

Describe your songwriting process, either with 35bag or as O’spada?

Sometimes, it starts with an idea for a subject I think could make good lyrics. But much more often, the melody comes first. I used to write my songs sitting by the piano (although I really can’t play it), vocally improvising a melody over the chords I beat the poor instrument with. Nowadays, I often write together with other people. Someone else comes up with the beat, and I write the melody and the lyrics for it. I love that way of writing, it’s very inspiring to have someone else’s point of view as a starting point, and it challenges me to write new types of songs. Since melody and lyrics are the things I do best, whereas chords isn’t really a huge talent of mine, I’m happy to leave that part to someone who is, in my opinion, more skilled at it. That’s the way I usually work with for example 35bag, and more and more with O’Spada too. We’ve always arranged the music together, the whole band contributing to the sound. But now they’re often present during the writing process too. We started out only playing my songs, but today, many of our songs are based on beats someone else in the band came up with.

When is the album coming out and what can music lovers expect sonically and lyrically?

The album will be released in February, but we’ll tease the listeners with some tracks before that. Music lovers can expect some angry, violent songs, some sugary boogie, some epic, heartbroken pieces, some crying guitar solos, lots of thick synthesizers, and some egocentric bragging.

Listen to O’Spada performing 5 new songs live on The Monocle Summer Series.

http://www.myspace.com/juliaspada (The Voice)

http://www.myspace.com/35bag (The Instruments)

http://www.myspace.com/ospada (The Band)

Listeners Mourn Michael Jackson

June 26, 2009 · Filed Under culture, music, news · Comments Off 

Michael Jackson continues to dominate headlines. On the California Report and on Forum, music columnist Steve Hochman talks about the enduring legacy of pop star Michael Jackson. Hochman says that while Jackson isn't linked to one era like The Beatles were, people still feel a personal connection to his music. According to Hochman, Jackson forced MTV be more open to African-American viewers interested in R&B and soul and to cultivate a more multicultural audience as a whole. Listeners share their own memories of listening to Michael Jackson.

Google created a map of fan memorials that have sprouted up across the country.

Here at YMI, staff and students reminisced as well through audio, video, and personal commentary.

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