Scott, To Be Certain


Friday, June 29, 2007

Spice Rack

By now we are all aware the Spice Girls are re-forming in order to earn a few squillion pounds and attempt to re-ignite their fading flames of celebrity.

Can it really be 9 years since Geri's infamous departure? Or 7 since their deplorable last album as a foursome?

Few images better convey the sheer passage of time than this one.

"Hello, this escalator is symbolic of our bank balance"

The no-longer-all-that-young lasses gathered side by side for the first time in what feels like Forever reinforce just how foreign the zeitgeist of their former alter egos now seems.

This is partly due to the fact they each appear to have adopted new aliases.

Scary thinks she's Shaznay Lewis (oh the irony)
Sporty thinks she's Emma Peel from The Avengers
Ginger thinks she's Di Smith from A Country Practice
Baby thinks she's Kate Bosworth
Posh thinks she's a flotation device

Seriously, what is going on with Victoria's rack? She has, after all, just moved to California with hubby, so it is possible that that's not really Posh in that photo and in fact the other four have just been snapped visiting Madame Tussaud's. The alternative is that Posh is showing off the new life-size Victoria Beckham figurine by Mattel.

Whatever the case, it will be good for pop music to have some actual output from its most famous poster girls, instead of just sub-standard solo albums, famous fucks and subsequent offspring.

Darkchild 2007


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Album Review: Kelly Clarkson's My December

Do not be fooled: this is not a Christmas album.

In the Clarksonian calendar, December is not a festive month. Instead, it signals the start of a season reserved for wistful lament and bitter diatribe in equal measures. We know this partly through the mood set by Clarkson herself before the album's release (by publicly trumpeting her acrimonious scuffle with BMG chairman Clive Davis over the album's content - more on that later), but principally because this long player - Clarkson's third - wears the winter of its discontent on its proverbial sleeve.

And quite literally, too: in addition to the glorious cover which I've already fawned over at length, the album sleeve photos depict an appropriately bleak landscape through a variety of wintry motifs (drying leaves! snow! open window - mind the draught!). Add to that an alarming Clarkson smile quotient of zero, and you've got all the makings of a veritable wrist-slicer.

But Clarkson is not out to alienate us. Over the course of the record her discontent unveils itself to be every bit as compelling and richly textured in hues of angst, betrayal and despair as any work in the Shakespearean oeuvre (if ever so slightly less literary in execution - more on that later, too). Clarkson desperately wants to share herself with us, inviting us inside in more ways than one, as these liner shots show.

Kelly Clarkson: apparently impervious to draughts

To borrow from the Idol lexicon, Clarkson's journey has been an interesting one. She began her career air-brushed and photo-morphed within an inch of her life on a stylistic hotch-potch of a first album which cast her as a happy, miniature doilie-loving Mariah (Thankful) before sexing up her image (blonde! windy photographic shoots!), appropriating her own sound and delivering one of the finest pop albums of the decade (Breakaway).

It's virtually impossible to adequately convey how the soul-crushing precedent set by Breakaway's global sales of 12,000,000+ must impede expectations of My December. Clive Davis reportedly offered Clarkson $10m to change but 5 songs on this collection to guarantee it a shot at securing the same favourable reception enjoyed by its predecessor. She refused, citing the risk in prioritising sales ahead of credibility.

Now we all know that history is littered with the woeful sophomore output of one-note artists attempting to align their egos with their initial success. Listening to the first taste of My December - the initial angst-ridden single Never Again - seemed like the latest addition to a long line, a textbook reinforcement of why excellent pop artists should never be allowed near a songwriting manual without proper guidance: embittered, vengeful, amateur Alanis-style lyrics fronting Benetar-style she-rock with decidedly more negativity and far less innovation than anything on the ground-breaking Breakaway.

Well, it turns out the first single sounds a whole lot better as part of this surprisingly cohesive, very current, artistic whole, and an appealing one at that. The following track-by-track analysis is designed to guide you through the minefield that is the latest offering from the planet's best Idol alumna.

Never Again
Don't be repelled by the bratty "Generation Y" self-righteousness of this first single. It rewards repeat listens, its puerile lyricism masked by kindred musical spirits that follow. There's the infectiously percussive middle 8, and the mesmerising bass guitar of Billy Mohler (of Liz Phair fame) is particularly enjoyable, especially at the start of verse 2: "If she really knows the truth, she deserves you/A trophy wife: how cute!" (Although I prefer to imagine Kelly is saying "A true UFO: how cute.") Rating: 8/10

One Minute
The album standout by a country mile and any other similar outmoded but still relevant measurement: this simply MUST be the 3rd single. Co-written by Canadian songstress Chantal Kreviazuk and her husband Michael Raine Maida - formerly of ace rock band Our Lady Peace (who with Kreviazuk improbably wrote "Revolution" for the Veronicas) - this belter is the most immediate and commercially polished work on the album, as well as the most impressive. Lasting decidedly longer than one minute, the song is neatly compartmentalised - 1st verse + chorus in Minute 1, 2nd verse + chorus in Minute 2, bridge + chorus in Minute 3, coming in at a completely random 3:01. Rating: 10/10

Not an ode to Courtney Love, but instead clearly one of the 5 woeful tracks referred to by Clive Davis. "There's a hole inside of me/It's so cold, slowly killing me". In that case it may pay not to publicly invite winter into your vagina, love. Rating: 3.5/10

This defiant 2nd single is not a cover of the Jennifer Paige classic, but has instead polarised radio in the US, despite being a slow guitar- and string-driven ballad. In many ways the spare melodic progression of this song mirrors the similarly ambitious "Butterflies" from Natalie Imbruglia's brilliant but commercially limp "White Lilies Island" sophomore release - minus the purple terror candy, since this is after all about sobriety. Clarkson's falsetto and the delayed percussion (coming in only after 3 minutes have elapsed) combine to form a brave and memorable emotional crescendo, both in terms of this album and her career. This is the song going through Clarkson's head as she languishes at the bottom of the stairs. Rating: 8.5/10

Don't Waste Your Time
Oops. Whenever Clarkson's penchant for acoustic melody threatens to announce her as a pretender to the mantle occupied by Sheryl Crow for 13 years, her bullshit lyrics come along and ruin everything. The song's title is a helpful warning. 3.5/10

Have you ever been low? Have you ever had a friend that let you down so? Clarkson has, and she's not afraid to remind us. This song is surprisingly clever on a lyrical level, the centrally hypnotic "You deceived/You deceived" reproducing a sound not entirely dissimilar to 'Judas'. If Davis has based his enitre view of Clarkson's alleged pessimism on this, he's blown his load too early: this is mature, pop-savvy sorrow at the highest level. Rating: 7.5/10

Where the creaky, echo-fueled crevices of Clarkson's musicianship attempt to emblematically justify themselves by way of her cobweb-covered cunt. Random Christian rock will serve you better. 2.5/10

Be Still
The most disarming track on the album: an affecting, out-of-left-field atmospheric lament, brilliantly showcasing Clarkson's vocal range. Assuming One Minute is rightfully chosen as 3rd single, this could be a subsequent contender (along with Maybe and How I Feel). Rating: 8.5/10

This album has revealed a real strength in Clarkson's ear for acoustic, guitar-driven dirges. This song is a painfully honest, plaintive reflection on her shortcomings as prospective partner, with vocal vulnerability no peer can boast. Rating: 8/10

How I Feel
Clarkson has an issue with trophy wives: this song features her 2nd gripe with them. Not surprising, perhaps, for a realistically proportioned celebrity. But there's an almost New Wave-feel to this effort, principally conveyed by the muted background vocals resting behind the middle 8. "This fire is getting hot again/ But I touch the flame, 'cos I'm a curious cat..." Rating: 8/10

Since the opening bars of this song seem more at home on a Lenny Kravitz long-player, we immediately know there is something askew. Improbably, in current pop chart terms this works in favour of Mutya Buena, but not Clarkson. Some view this as evidence of Clarkson's inner sex-bomb, but instead I find it grossly incongruous. The worst song on the album. 2.5/10

Can I Have A Kiss?
Another under-stated minor gem. Moving forward Clarkson should really work at harnessing her clearly intuitive prowess with Crow-like acoustic hooks, since it's underpinned all her output since Low. Truly memorable. Rating: 7.5/10

Achingly sparse and incomparably intimate, this song features a vocal so raw and vulnerable you can almost scrape Clarkson's emotion off your skin. This kind of earnestness is impossible to reproduce. Rating: 9.5/10

Chivas (Hidden Track)
The only song on the album written solely by Clarkson. Following and mirroring Irvine's tender, gentle vocal, this song is a good example of the direction Clarkson should head in as her songwriting skills develop: cheeky, melodic guitar-pop. She re-invented female pop-rock but it's time to move on. This is playful fun: "It wasn't even good/Trust me!" Rating: 6.5/10

Overall Rating: 7/10
So there you have it. This is a woman with a gift, capturing the sound of the present, who clearly prefers to give than receive. Not a Christmas album, then, but something worth celebrating nonetheless. Besides, who can begrudge a wistful brunette with full-bodied hair in a strapless velvet hoop dress?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Are Your Killeens Showing?

Gretel's certainly were tonight, when we bore witness to Ms Killeen's most biting interview couch commentary of the season.

Gretel spoke for a nation when she implored Andrew and Hayley to cease their puke-inducing amorousness after being reunited onstage. It really has been some time since Saxon, hasn't it, love?

As for the eviction, it was pleasing to see alpha-male Andrew get his come-uppance. However, if this is to be believed, he was going anyway. No matter: I am happy I don't have to view his strut ever again. Andrew always pranced around the house in a curious and intensely annoying fashion, shoulders back and arms half a metre out to the side, as if to cater for his monstrous musculature. Poor sod: clearly he suffers from the horrendous disease known as imaginary lat syndrome.

Thomas, who actually possesses lat muscles, was also turfed tonight. He will now doubtlessly be engaged in a close fight with Hayley to be the face of Proactiv in Australia.

His departure is no big loss. Mainly because the show itself is already lost. I was struck this evening by how monumentally uninteresting the remaining contestants are. Oh how I yearn for the following housemates.

Instead, we are left with:

1. Billy. A nice enough bloke with nostrils soon to be annexed by the WA mining boom, but otherwise completely vanilla. Adds nothing whatsoever to the house dynamic.

2. Aleisha. The poor man's Christie (BB05), she has cleverly leveraged off Billy for longevity, realising it worked last year for Jamie. By creating a romantic alliance she ensures plenty of fodder for the BB clip editors should she make the final 2, which is looking possible given she is the only viable remaining female. Acknowledging this fact is gradually causing me to lose the will to live.

3. Daniela. The 2nd Brazilian on the show after the completely mesmerising Andy from BB01, who left the show far too early (cue "Gone Too Soon" funeral violin solo), she sadly doesn't share her countrywoman's penchant for leather (that we know of). She did wolf down a fish eye though, but this is hardly akin to Charla downing her body weight in Austrian sausage (and then wilfully regurgitating it with the aid of a butter knife) on The Amazing Race.

4. Zoran. Exceptionally good looking, until he opens his mouth. Amuse yourselves by counting how many times he says "Know what I mean?" in any given 30 second period. Zzzz.

5. Travis. The most calculated strategist in the history of the game. A combination of Ben, Reggie and Jamie, 3 former winners, and deliberately so. Yawn.

6. Joel. Mini-Aqmal is probably a lovely person, but what the hell is that Cosima impersonation when he speaks? Allegedly he has a clashic sensh of humour, which like that other allegedly hilarious contestant Trevor (BB04), is likely to lead him to victory this year. Kill me now.

7. Jamie. That this person claims to have a high IQ is an insult to my fellow MENSA members. When he interacts with Gretel on the live shows, it is like watching a hideous car accident.

8. Michelle. This woman has borne children?

The only interesting remaining contestant is:

9. Zach. That he only graced our screens 8 weeks into the series is a shame, because we were deprived of potentially memorable scragfests between he and Emma. He may also have ensured that conflict-generator Kate was not sent packing so early. Sadly, he has carved a lonely niche in the house, with nary a kindred spirit in sight. Nonetheless, he is a delightful slice of colourful humanity in a decidedly beige world. A slim picking indeed!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The First Jo-elle

S2BC has been AWOL for weeks but has still managed to be more entertaining than Big Brother, don't you think?

Officially, I blame the university. Returning to part-time study while also impersonating a professional on a full-time basis ended up being quite the ordeal, and, as Diane Keaton knows only too well, something had to give.

Which doesn't excuse the lack of updates, of course. One should be able to "multi-task" in this day and age. So for this I offer a blanket apology.

Now on to more important matters.

In honour of Melbourne's chilly ongoing ode to winter, S2BC has launched a non-exhaustive review of singers currently gagging for a Christmas release.

In a landslide victory, it is JoJo - whose stomach-churning eyebrows are being touted as the potential premise of a series of horror films in the vein of Saw and Child's Play - who has been anointed the most overdue Xmas artist.

"Jo! Jo! Jo!"

Good to see you're getting into the winter spirit, JoJo. Are those acorns you're hiding?

It's no secret that this giant-headed dwarf is one of this site's favourite punching bags. As it turns out, she is also one of the world's biggest sluts.

In the haunting "Leave (Get Out)", a 13 year old JoJo, who has been bonking some dude for months, has the audacity to end the arrangement just because he called her best sister-girlfriend without erasing the number from his phone. Moody bitch. She didn't once consider that he might have been organising a birthday surprise for her. We can only deduce from this impulsive behaviour that she is a cunt who deserves to be alone.

In her most recent opus, "Too Little Too Late", JoJo is still unable to hold down a decent regular root, this time apparently unhappy with the quantity and timing of her current lay's "output".

As Mariah famously and very successfully established almost 13 years ago, being a chubby-faced warbler with a penchant for R'nB pretty much qualifies you for donning a slutty Santa suit.

In accordance with that precedent, I think it's time JoJo "got her suit on" in the name of the Christmas season.

I propose:

The first single will be "O Cum All Ye Unfaithful". Pre-order now.