Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Politics of Rock N' Roll

"Isn't it cheaper and smarter to make friends out of potential enemies than to defend yourself against them later?” If you had to guess what public figure made this statement, you might say something like Barak Obama. But what if the next quote went something like this? “I'm a lippy Irish rock star, and I'm more used to putting my foot in my mouth than my fist. So occasionally I'm just going to talk about it." That’s right. It’s Bono of U2 fame in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Every other day the media is airing or writing about some social issue plaguing our society: the war in Iraq, Save Darfur, legalize marijuana. So what makes aging rock stars the authority on global warming or female genital mutilation? And is it ‘good for business’?

As we all know, the constitution gives us (arguably) the right to free speech in any forum. So as people, rock and rollers have the right to say anything they want. However, whether they like it or not, this doesn’t come without consequences being as they are in the public eye. Bruce Springsteen has been known to be an advocate for the ‘working man’ in the U.S. You couldn’t ask for a better anthem than Born in the U.S.A., and through The Boss’ almost 30 years of making music, he has cultivated a fan base of upper class WASPs, middle class blue collar workers, and everyone in between. So after the horrific events of September 11th, Bruce used his outlet of music to create his album The Rising to express all the emotions that came from such a disaster. Millions of citizens around the globe were trying to find a way to handle all the confusion, anger, forgiveness, and patriotism as well, and many found it through the words and songs of The Rising. Others saw it as arrogant and ‘left wing’. Regardless, Bruce Springsteen had earned the respect of man and woman alike. Those who disagree with him politically, are still buying front row tickets to his concerts and making sure he keeps selling platinum records.

Now, some artists have put a little muscle behind their words. Bono, for example has been a spokesman and delegate for several world issues, including schools in Africa, and the crisis in Darfur. This type of commitment and passion offers a bit more credibility than the pop star who wears their LiveStrong bracelet out to NYC’s hottest club. Bono has done his research. He has lived in the African huts, and seen the children affected by malaria and AIDS first hand, not just on CNN. It is a fine line to walk, political advocacy. As a celebrity, you can run the risk of looking pompous and cliché. But Bono’s soft-spoken but concrete actions start turning the wheels of change. He doesn’t need to hold a press conference so the general public knows what good work he’s doing for the world. He is meeting with world leaders in private, and establishing charity groups which he advertises during HIS OWN shows. Like Springsteen, U2 will continue to sell out shows and stay the music legend they always have been.

Some bands take a riskier approach to their cause. It is hip right now to take a stand against something. An easy target is the war in Iraq and the U.S. president. So when Linkin Park released their third original studio album Minutes to Midnight, it was surprisingly angry and sent a strong message about the government. The band is relatively green and even though they exploded with their first album in 2001, have a massive following of young and old alike. So to push the boundaries of the norm and create songs that attack the president, Hurricane Katrina, and Iraq could have blown up in their screaming into the microphone face. With lines like ‘Have respect for a leader so nervous in an obvious way/ stuttering and mumbling for nightly new to replay/ and the rest of the world watching at the end of the day/ in their living room laughing like what did he say’ it leaves no doubt what where their intentions lie. So why was this one of the greatest albums of 2007, both critically and in sales? It was a risky move, and in true Linkin Park fashion the band said ‘screw it’ and made the album anyway. I guess it goes to show, you really do have to play big to win big. And win big they did, with a multi-platinum record. The Dixie Chicks were not so lucky with their statement about George W. Bush. Concerts had to be cancelled and CD’s were publicly burned. Again, it just goes to show that sometimes, it’s just a crap shoot.

While the 60’s and 70’s were a simultaneous musical and political revolution, today’s ‘P.C.’ society is unable to handle such turmoil. Artists today cannot make a living with anti-war and peace/love guitar chords. It’s more business than pleasure, more contracts than handshakes. So musicians today better be able put their money where their mouth is, or the recording label will drop them, and pretty soon the only thing they’ll be singing is ‘Would you like fries with that?’

But that's just This Girl talking...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The downfall of FM Radio

This week, This Girl went through one of the most major changes a girl can go through in her life. Getting married? Nope. Having a baby? Guess again. Breaking a nail? Not even close. She learned that her favorite radio station is getting the boot. Yup, that's right ladies and gents. Everything Alternative 99x, the ONLY alternative radio station in Atlanta will be off the air and All the Hits Q100 will be taking over.

Now, word on the street has it that the reason for the switch is due to the fact that the morning show on 99x isn't getting great ratings, and the head honchos want to move Q100's morning show to the stronger signal of 99.7 f.m. And I guess technically, this is true. However, the decision to replace the entire radio station was most likely not a hard one for corporate swine because 99x and alternative music altogether has not been getting the listeners it used to. Instead, 99x will become just an internet and HD radio entity.

Now that we have the hard truth and boring facts behind us, we can begin to wonder, "What the hell are we supposed to listen to NOW?" Being in the south, there are several country radio stations around town. And not to say anything bad about country music because many of those folks are very talented, but I can almost guarantee that at least 75% of 99x listeners (we'll refer to an alternative fan as Alt from here on out) do not consider themselves country music fans. It is a simple truth of personal preference. We can scratch off any station that plays Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton, and Celine Dion. Which leaves us with the Top 40 station, the hip-hop station, the hard rock station, and Pop station; Q100, 95.5 The Beat, Project 96.1, and Star 94 respectively.

Alt tunes to the hip-hop station 95.5 The Beat. There is a good chance that anyone listening to the alternative likes of Oasis and Stone Temple Pilots such as Alt, might like to hear a Snoop Dogg or Nelly classic from their high school days. But does Alt usually go to the club on Friday nights to 'Lean Wit it, Rock Wit it', or do the 'Soulja Boy' dance? The correct answer is no. So why would he listen to it on his way to work or going to pick up a date? Alt will learn to change the channel when he hears Rhianna's 'Umbrella' for the third time in an hour.

After flipping stations, Alt settles on Star 94, the Pop music station. After a few songs, he wonders why the station isn't called American Idol Contestant 94. Every other song is sang by either, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry, or Jordin Sparks. When a singer with questionable talent is finally played, Alt looks at the car next to him to see the most disturbing sight. A mini van with a car seat in the back and a kid in a soccer uniform playing his Nintendo DS, a bumper sticker that says 'I heart my Shitzu', driven by a woman in a button up top singing and dancing to the EXACT same Justin Timberlake song that he is listening to at the moment. Alt sinks down in his seat and turns the volume all the way down.

When the embarassment has faded, Alt decides to brave the radio once again and finds Project 96.1. At first listen, it's not so bad! A little Foo Fighters, a little Chili Peppers, even some Finger 11. But after 15 minutes, Alt starts to get a headache. With all the Drowing Pool, Senses Fail, and Disturbed how can a guy think and drive at the same time?! He finds himself headbanging uncontrollably and has to pull over to the side of the road to prevent a full blown siezure. Deep breaths, Alt, deep breaths. He makes the wise choice of changing the channel once more.

The last station of the day is Q100. The arch enemy. The suck up who got to go to the front of the line. The guy who took your girl. It takes exactly one hour to hear all the music in the playlist rotation. Alt must be a genius because he has figured out what songs, and in what order they are played every hour. He has learned the Beyonce dance, memorized all the words to Timbaland, and purchased Gwen Stefani's purfume for his girlfriend. He has become just like any of the other plastic people that live in Atlanta. All in one hour of poison and brainwashing. While at a stoplight, Alt overhears a 311 CD being played in the car beside him by a girl with 4 earrings in each ear. With a shake of his head, Alt is back in reality.

So tell me my friends, what are WE, those who enjoy Radiohead, Silverchair, Nirvana, even Primitive Radio Gods supposed to do without our alternative radio station? Where do we get our daily dose of Linkin Park and Wolfmother? Where WILL the Killers go?! Until that question can be answered, I guess the 'Alts' of Atlanta will be stopped on the side of the road headbanging until someone brings back Organic X to calm us down.

But that's just this girl talking...

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's coming...

This is for the two people who read my blog.

It has to due with the airplane and the music on it while boarding and de-boarding. Stay tuned for one when I'm back from vacay.