Skip to main content

but is it art?


music review::dean gray- american edit

i thought of posting this one earlier, like, say, when everyone including mtv was talking about this project, but i decided to wait, because i didn’t want to talk about it in order to build its hype, i wanted to actually review it as music (as opposed to a media event).

first of all, if you don’t know about dean gray go here before reading on.

as a listener, i’ve always considered mash-ups a technically charming art form, but not much else. the magic of the mash-up is twofold; 1. you feel clever when you’re able to name all the sound sources and 2. it is the epitome of pop music. think about it: the perfect pop song is one that makes you think you’ve heard it before. mash-ups are entirely made up of music you HAVE heard before and, as in this case, usually the most recognisable parts of it. (if you don’t believe me, ask madonna. her latest single is anchored on a repetitive sample of an abba song embedded in the popular conscious decades ago.)

as pop music, this is untouchable. even if your acquaintance with pop is incidental (as mine is), you can sing along with almost the whole album. it’s reader’s digest for music. it even has a pretty wide scope (as far as pop music goes), incorporating everything from aerosmith to dr. who to kanye west. which only underlines it’s uber-pop status- trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

like the catchiest (and, hence, most memorable) pop music, american edit is ebullient. it’s almost impossible not to bounce in time with it as it chortles along, bringing you all the music that got stuck in your head as you scanned the radio looking for something you actually liked.

unlike other pop music, though, the mash-up is all about the construction. if you don’t know this already, let me break something to you: all pop music is constructed. i don’t just mean that someone writes it, that’s a given. i mean that someone actually concentrates on making it accessible and catchy, so that you’ll remember it, even if it annoys the hell out of you. mash-ups call your attention to how they are constructed and to why the music in them sticks in your head. this could be intended to make the listener think about more carefully about the music they listen to. (more likely, i analyse things too much and it’s intended only to show off the producers’ considerable talents and, with luck, land them a contract, as a similar mash-up did for dj danger mouse.)

the problem with mash-ups is that they tend to lose your interest once the curiosity value wears off (two and a half listens for the average person). and in that respect, american edit, although a stellar example of the form, isn’t really any different. listening to an entire album of this is kind of like eating a bag of cotton candy. it’s kind of cool at first, but you overload pretty quickly. although as far as top forty goes, green day probably provide as good a backbone as you're going to find, a lot of the other source material grates on my nerves (if i go the rest of my life without hearing the eagles, i’ll be happy in hell). this limits my ability to listen to it repeatedly. in an ironic twist, by jumbling up the music of “mainstream” american idiot with a lot of other stuff, the “underground” producers gut the album of its political content (making it even more ideal as pop music).

you may notice that i’ve spent far more time in this review talking about the form of the music than the substance. there’s a reason for this: as music that will stand the test of time, this doesn’t have what it takes. which only goes to cement its position as the greatest pop album ever.

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

fun-raising

no, i am not dead, nor have i been lying incapacitated in a ditch somewhere. i've mostly been preparing for our imminent, epic move, which is actually not so terribly epic, because we found a place quite close to where we are now. in addition, i've been the beneficiary of an inordinately large amount of paying work, which does, sadly, take precedence over blogging, even though you know i'd always rather be with you.

indeed, with moving expenses and medical expenses looming on the horizon, more than can be accounted for even with the deepest cuts in the lipstick budget, dom and i recently did something that we've not done before: we asked for help. last week, we launched a fundraising campaign on go fund me. it can be difficult to admit that you need a helping hand, but what's been overwhelming for both of us is how quick to respond so many people we know have been once we asked. it's also shocking to see how quickly things added up.

most of all, though, the ex…

losers?

just a short time ago, i waxed prosaic about trump supporters who felt betrayed by their candidate pursuing in office the exact things that he said he would. short version: i have no sympathy.

today is a bit different. in the wake of america's bombing of a syrian air strip, in response to a chemical weapons attack by the syrian government, my facebook and twitter feeds were peppered with plaintive shades of "we believed you". these are the people who heard trump say that he wanted the united states to step back and focus on defending its own. indeed, trump did say such things, over and over; america cannot be the policeman of the world. even arch-liberal cynics like me had to admit that this was a refreshing argument to hear from someone outside the paul family, and, could easily have been turned into trump's greatest argument against hillary clinton. [he chose to go another way, which also worked.]

trump also said, repeatedly, that america needed to invest heavily …

long division

after the united states election last year, there were the usual calls for the country to unite behind the new president. that never happens anymore, because, since george w. bush scored a victory in 2004, having launched the country into a war in iraq for no reason, the people on the losing side of a presidential election have been pretty bloody angry about it. democrats hated bush 43. republicans really hated obama. democrats really hate trump.

it didn't help that trump didn't make the typical conciliatory gestures like including a couple of members of the opposite party in his cabinet, or encouraging his party to proceed slowly with contentious legislation. barack obama arguably wasted at least two and as many as six years of his tenure as president trying to play peacemaker before he felt sufficiently safe to just say "screw you guys" and start governing around the ridiculous congress he was forced to deal with. not-giving-a-shit obama was the best president in …