Venice Bitch

From the upcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell:

And just because she repeats the title a number of times in the song:

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“Get Free” Creeps Back into Lana Del Rey’s Set

Apparently, the contretemps regarding whether Lana Del Rey’s “Get Free” bit Radiohead’s “Creep” is over:

But if you want to hear an actual female vocal cover of “Creep,” check out Ember Island:

Lana Del Rey and the Kennedys

Nice choice of music for CNN’s docu-series American Dynasties: The Kennedys:

Lana Del Rey has invoked the Kennedy myth before . . .

. . . and the chosen song was her contribution to the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby, another story about how rich people “are different from you and me,” to quote the novel’s author, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The song was also rendered in pseudo-1920s style by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra:

Stepping Up with Girly Music

The 2018 Grammy Awards have been receiving a lot of well deserved criticism for their attitude towards women, like not offering Lorde, the sole female nominee for Album of the Year, an opportunity to perform solo, while non-nominated Sting performed twice (granted, once in a comedy sketch), or awarding Best Pop Solo Performance to Ed Sheeran, the sole male nominee, for his slight “Shape of You” (no, it’s not really a surprise that the Grammys went with the safest bet, but still).

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow’s explained (mansplained?) women’s absence:

It has to begin with… women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level… [They need] to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious, breeding opportunities for all people who want to be creative and paying it forward and creating that next generation of artists.

Pink responded far better than I ever could:

Women in music don’t need to “step up” – women have been stepping since the beginning of time. Stepping up, and also stepping aside. Women OWNED music this year. They’ve been KILLING IT. And every year before this. When we celebrate and honor the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women STEP UP every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair.

Neil Portnow has since apologized for, excuse me, clarified his statement:

Sunday night, I was asked a question about the lack of female artist representation in certain categories of this year’s Grammy Awards. Regrettably, I used two words, “step up,” that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make.

Our industry must recognize that women who dream of careers in music face barriers that men have never faced. We must actively work to eliminate these barriers and encourage women to live their dreams and express their passion and creativity through music. We must welcome, mentor, and empower them. Our community will be richer for it.

I regret that I wasn’t as articulate as I should have been in conveying this thought. I remain committed to doing everything I can to make our music community a better, safer, and more representative place for everyone.

Is there any doubt that he believes those who took his words out of context and misconveyed his thoughts must have been women? (I imagine him sighing “What do these women want?” while typing his statement.) Because the “we” who are supposed to empower “them,” women, are most certainly men.

Is it ironic that the president of an organization honoring musical performances would be so tone deaf?

Now this is purely speculation, but I cannot help thinking that Portnow’s entitled condescension is at least partially built on the longstanding rockist attitude that rock is serious music (because it is mostly associated with men?) while pop is frivolous music (because it is mostly associated with “girls”? Not sure where Ed Sheeran’s music is supposed to fit in here).

As Bono, who performed twice at the Grammys (once with Kendrick Lamar), recently complained:

I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment – and that’s not good. When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine – I don’t care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage.

Bono has become yet another boomer who believes the pop, excuse me, rock music of his adolescence is and forever should be the standard against which ALL music should be measured. And that popular music’s true purpose is to express male experience alone.

I’ll leave you with Lana Del Rey, whose Lust for Life (my choice for best of the year) lost to Ed Sheeran in the category of Best Pop Vocal Album:

Ever wonder why females are referred to as girl or chick singers while males are just singers?

“Today’s Music All Sounds the Same Now!” Hasn’t It Always?

Last week I gave a talk at an adult learning center about the classic Girl Group sound. Most of my audience was old enough to have sung along with the songs when they filled the top-40 in the early 1960s, so my audio and video clips quickly filled the room with a thick fog of nostalgia. I was not at all surprised when I heard many people wistfully note that they just don’t make songs like these anymore.

Oh, really? How much difference is there between a song like:

And one like:

Yes, the latter is campy, and far more overtly sexual, but just like the earlier girl groups, it is pop targeted at a young, primarily female, audience. And one of my points was that the classic girl group sound could only have happened at that particular moment, because music is intimately tied to the times in which it is popular.

And these are different times.

One woman told me after the class that a friend of hers argued that today’s music all sounds the same because so much of it is produced by a small handful of people. I replied that it could be argued that today’s pop music is dominated by just one person, Max Martin. Martin has collaborated with most of the top female pop singers of the past 20 years, including Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Jessie J, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Ellie Goulding, Adele and Lana Del Rey; along with a number of male artists, such as Backstreet Boys, ‘NSYNC, Adam Lambert, solo and with Maroon 5, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd (58 top-10 hits as of August 2015, with many more since).

However, I strongly disagreed with the implication that Martin’s domination of the charts meant there is no longer any good music. There is always plenty of good new music for anyone willing to listen with open ears instead of rejecting anything new out of hand simply because it is new. Sometimes we may have to dig a bit deeper to find the good stuff, but these days it does not require much digging at all. Far from dulling today’s pop, Max Martin has been instrumental in ushering in a pop renaissance (including hits with Usher). It’s hard to argue with perfect pop songs like “Quit Playing Games with My Heart,” “. . . Baby One More Time,” “Teenage Dream,” “Shake It Off,” “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Lust for Life,” which draws heavily on the girl group sound:

As great as the classic, nostalgia-inducing girl group songs remain, like all pop music, then and now, all but the first hits that defined the genre were crafted to a proven formula. That is what defines genre, similarities between songs, and the girl group genre was defined by traits drawn from and meant to appeal to “girl culture”: jump rope rhymes and hand clapping games, girl talk and advice songs, all set to dance beats and sung with doo-wop harmonies.

And a very good argument could be made that, in helping to perfect and then dominating that formula, Phil Spector was the Max Martin of his day, producing hits for The Paris Sisters, The Crystals (whether it was they or Darlene Love and the Blossoms actually singing on the songs credited to them), Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans (again with Darlene Love), Darlene Love (credited as herself), and The Ronettes, along with non-girl group performers like Gene Pitney, Ike and Tina Turner and The Righteous Brothers:

No, they do not make music exactly like they used to, but they do make music just as good as they used to if we simply remove the wax of nostalgia that has been building up in our ears since our teens and listen.