Monday, 8 March 2010

Pomp Without Circumstance: Oscars -- The Musical!

I was originally considering writing a proper prose-style article on this year's Oscars and how awful they were, but, considering how devoid the Oscars were of proper musical numbers (five, to be exact), here's my Oscar recap this year -- in song!

All lyrics in italics are sung by the Chorus.

ACT I: The Opening Number

(Curtains open. NOMINEES stand awkwardly on stage as Chorus sings.)

Hello, hello,
So nice to see you here!
Please don't change the channel!
Don't go and get that beer!

Nominees: Oh, we're so lucky to--

But wait! But wait!
Martin Short is late!
Oh, to Neil Patrick Harris
We'll have to delegate!

Nominees: Oh, we're so lucky to--

Ladies and gentlemen, your time is UP!

(A miniature house, identical to the one in "UP", blows in from stage left and crashes on stage. NPH emerges in a white tux, flocked by women dressed like Kevin from "UP". Inexplicably, he is wearing red slippers.

He begins singing the opening number.)

"The Same Old Song"
Lyrics, Music, and Orchestration by Neil Patrick Harris
(Minor Contributions by Martin Short)

For those who may not know me,
I'm the one and only
Neil Patrick Harris
And I've come to save your show!

But we don't need saving!

Oh, what do you know?

This isn't the same old song (La-la)
You'll love me before we're done (Woo-hoo!)
I'll be here all night long
So go ahead and call me whatever you want
This isn't the same old song!

(Cabaret-style piano)
This used to be a stunning duet (Cha-cha-cha!)
With someone I've never met
But he's in a tourniquet (We think!)
So I'm all you're gonna get!

I know you don't want someone new
But I sing just as well as Hugh!


And speaking of hosts
Jackman was a joke
Stewart nearly blew it
And Ellen? Don't make me laugh!

So tonight we have two
Especially for you
They had no rehearsal
So they'll have to read the cues...

Who knows how well they'll do!

Oh, this isn't the same old song
You'll love them before we're done
You'll be here all night long
So go ahead and call 'em whatever you want
This isn't

Oh, this isn't

This isn't the same old song!

(Tepid applause. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin descend from the ceiling flanked by beautiful models.)

Steve: Thank you, thank you! Isn't he great? He really should be hosting this thing.
Alec: Next year, Steve, next year. For those of you who have been living under a rock, or in Pomona, Texas, I'm Alec Baldwin, and he's Steve Martin.
S: We're your hosts, as unlikely as it seems.
A: Guess one of the producers was a little too obsessed with our movie It's Complicated.

(Cut to sullen George Clooney, whose mullet appears to be breathing.)

S: Look at all these stars, man!
A: I know! There's George Clooney! Oh, wait, we already cut to him. Sorry.
S: Don't you just hate it when the teleprompter malfunctions?
A: Oh, yes, Steve. Especially when I'm about to make a telephone call.

(Awkward silence. Steve begins to sing.)

"Look At All These People"
Music and Lyrics by Tina Fey
(C) Sickly Little Mole People, Inc.

Look at all these people!
They all look so lovely!
It must be the bubbly
Or maybe it's the light!

The camera adds ten pounds, you know
I hope you're sitting tight!

A: Steve, what are you doing?
S: What do you think I'm doing?
I'm just here and singing
Is that really a crime?

A: I thought this number
Would've been in double time?

S: Oh, lord, just end it already.

(They retreat backstage. Gagging sound is heard. Cheerful Announcer comes on.)

CA: Hi! You can't see me, but stick around! We have all sorts of wonderful things to see and do! Nine out of ten Americans trust disembodied voices to tell them what to watch!

(The curtain falls.)

Monday, 1 March 2010

My best albums of the decade: explained!

When I posted my 20 best albums of the decade list on the blog, I was expecting for some of my readers to agree with me. I was expecting some of my readers to disagree with me. I was even expecting there to be a lot of confusion, especially considering my list differed quite a bit from the ones suggested by the folks at Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

I was also expecting, inevitably, having to explain some of my omissions, many of which seemed to a few people I talked to as verging on bizarre. I still stand by my list, which was guided by personal taste as much as anyone's, and hopefully the below Q&A will help explain the albums I chose and in what order I found myself placing them.

Five questions, in the order I thought they belonged. Here goes.

5. Why don't you have more rap/metal/punk/soul/etc. on your list?
Simply because I a) don't listen to enough rap/metal/punk/soul to consider selections from that genre (the last amazing rap album for me was 1999's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which I'm not sure is even rap, so that shows how up-to-date I am) or b) found the albums I did listen to in that genre disappointing. Also, I can't stand screamo.

4. Why is Kid A by Radiohead only #5 on your list?
Here's a fun fact: it was even lower, until I gave in to someone I know that said something to the effect of "You can't have Coldplay in 5th and Radiohead in 19th! Are you out of your mind?" and I, kind of grudgingly, accepted.

I think they were right, too -- A Rush of Blood to the Head is a great album, but doesn't seem to be as definitive as Kid A was. As for why it is where it is... honestly, Thom Yorke's vocals are hit-and-miss with me, as they tend to be a bit too depressing for my tastes, and suffer from the same sort of bland rock-god posturing that seems to plague every male-dominated group once they achieve success.

Radiohead without vocals would be a much better band, in my opinion. Kid A is the closest thing we have to that, so that's why I put it in.

3. Why isn't Death Cab for Cutie/Stars/Kaki King/etc. on your list?
Either I haven't listened to them enough (like Death Cab for Cutie), or I find their albums marked with a few moments of euphoric brilliance and not much else (like Stars, for whom "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" from Set Yourself on Fire will always be their finest hour). I also have a crush on the strings in "My Favorite Book" from In Our Bedroom After the War, but that's pretty much it.

2. I haven't heard of half the artists on your list. Why do you have to choose albums that nobody's heard of?
Actually, quite a few of the albums on my list are highly acclaimed; Sufjan Stevens' Illinois was the highest-rated album of 2005 on Metacritic, for instance. But you're right: I don't have to list great albums that aren't the top sellers on iTunes this week, I can just make up a list based entirely on Britney Spears or something.

And besides, just because you haven't heard of them doesn't mean you shouldn't at least check them out. Be a musical warrior!

1. Why didn't you include Funeral by Arcade Fire?
This is the question I get asked the most. Nearly all of the music blogs and sites I frequent had the Arcade Fire's debut pretty high up in their lists, if not in the top spot. So why didn't I?

I have to confess: there is something about Win Butler's singing -- and overall attitude, for that matter -- which really irritates me. He sounds like a pompous, vain indie-rock frontman that thinks he's King of the World and the creator of a new musical pseudo-evangelist movement, which he doesn't (and I hope he doesn't) seem to be; have you seen any cults dedicated to the Arcade Fire lately?

Their music for me is good, but not great, and the devotion surrounding them is something I just don't get as far as their music is considered. Especially one of the band's most popular songs, "Intervention", which to me gives everything away on first listen -- if the yes-we-are-anti-religious-blah-blah-blah chorus doesn't do it, the irritating and overused bells that seem to hit you over the head like a sledgehammer probably will.

Or maybe it's the way Win Butler sings the whole thing.

Maybe the Arcade Fire isn't such a bad band. Maybe Funeralisn't such a bad album. Maybe I just crave a little subtlety in the music I listen to.

Who knows?