Category Archives: Pop Culture

And the Academy Award for Best GIF Goes To…

It’s that time of year again – the one and only, Oscars. Which means GIFs, GIFs and more GIFs (yes). With over 43 million viewers this year, 2014’s ceremony and it’s stars gave us some of the most shareable social media moments to last us until next years awards. Counting down from 10 to 1…


10. Ellen, the good witch of the north.
Perfectly sums up how we all feel when dressed in something OTT ridiculous.

Ellen, the good witch of the north

9. Jim Carey, still the master of facial contortion.
“Of course, the magic I’m referring to is LSD… I might be reading that wrong. It’s animation. Wow, I was way off.” Never change JC!

clip12-jim-carey

8. Ellen, ‘Selfie’
The first of many…

Ellen-Took-Selfie-Stage-Used-Blessed-Hashtag

7. Julie Roberts, what big teeth you have…
The happiest and most radient I have seen this pretty woman looking in a loooong time. Lovely!

rs_500x282-140302191206-monologuejuliaroberts

6. JLaw Fall
Wouldn’t be the #Oscars without a tumble from Jennifer Lawrence. Bless.

JLaw Fall

5. Benedict Cumberbatch Photo Bomb
Thank you Jebus for the magnificant Mr Benedict Cumberbatch aka Khan aka Smaug aka Sherlock aka awesome! (Aware this isn’t a GIF but it’s too brilliant not to be in this list.)

Benedict-Cumberbatch-Oscars-2014

4. Surprise!
Leo’s face. Priceless.

Ellen-Popped-up-Between-Sandra-Leo

3. Lupita Nyong’o Wins The Best Supporting Actress Award
Pure joy, love and everything this world should be.

clip20-lupida-reaction

2. The Selfie That Broke Twitter
Only Ellen could make this happen… (what Hollywood dreams are made of.)

clip17-everyone-selfie

1. Steve McQueen Clap
The only clap you will even need to share on social media again. Ever.

Steve McQueen Fake Clap

Sawyer
March 4th, 2014

Why Beyoncé is the best thing to happen to the internet since Facebook.

Having smashed the music scene in 2013, owning the holiday season with her surprise release of the game changing , Visual Album, Beyoncé’s star continues to grow brighter and brighter, with no signs of slowing down. But what is the most interesting thing about the phenomenon that is Queen Bey, is how she is harnessing the power of digital to drive her dominance.

Beyoncé

1. If I don’t own it, I don’t need it – The Power of Earned and Owned Media

What has been most notable with Beyoncé’s marketing campaign for the Visual Album, is that she released with no paid media campaign – it was solely done via owned and earned media. Through utalising her digital assets and community, Beyoncé was able to generate her viral reach simply via word of mouth sharing, and hitting the right online influencers. This buzz then filtered through to mainstream media, such as this article from The Daily Mail, who furthered the commercialisation of the album launch for her. Through avoiding paid reach and instead using ‘word of mouth’ reach, her album release more impactful than her competitions planned and teased ATL campaigns.

To add longevity to the album’s release, Beyoncé has continued to drive awareness via earned media, with like, surprise PR stunts, such as the Christmas Wallmart Shopper Vouchers for the album.

Beyoncé

2. The Beyhive – An integrated online hub is the best media of all

“On December 13th, the date of the album release, Beyonce.com saw a major spike in traffic. There was a 1071.51% day over day increase in daily reach and a 4074.24% increase in daily views.” Via Compete PRO data

Through having a central online hub, Beyoncé was able to centralise and curate all media activity, including content and social conversations. Beyonce.com integrates all her social channels, including Tumblr, her blog, Beyhive, social media stream via #BeyGood, tour info, and more. Not only did this enable to have greater control over what was happening online, but also stay ahead of the game, through being able to generate and repurpose all the online buzz for her own benefit. It also gave all interested fans, media paps and voyeurs an easy access destination to stay up to date with Bey’s constant bomb drops.

Beyoncé

3. “I’m Beyoncé, bitch” – Creating News through Content, PR the Beyoncé way

Social media has given ‘backstage access’ to the lives of the rich and famous like never before. And with increase in smart phone technology, faster content applications and explosion of misguided youth’s adaption of all of the above, keeping control of one’s private life is an ever diminishing luxury. However, through consistently posting high quality, stylised content via her digital networks, Beyoncé has found a way to maintain her image (and privacy), but also dictate the news at the same time.

This article in Huffington Post’s Celebrity section utalises her stunning images from her appearance at the high profile, Michelle Obama 50th Birthday bash.

Beyoncé

4. She’s the (nice) Rupert Murdoch of Social Media – Consumer Loyalty Is Cost Effective

Whoever says customer loyalty doesn’t exist in the modern day is doomed. Beyoncé knows the true value of her fans, which is why she returns their love through sharing snippets of her life via her website, blog and social media, and never misses an opportunity for more personal ‘thank yous’, like her infamous photobomb, and the heartwarming “Halo” sign along with a sick fan at her Sydney concert.

All of which is loving shared and discussed avidly via her network of 55,522,294 Facebook Fans, 1,315,5645 Twitter Followers, 9,301,187 Instagram Followers, 730,199 YouTube Subscribers and who knows how many Tumblr viewers. How’s that for a media empire!

Beyonce & Jay-Z

5. “Crazy In Love” – She’s part of the Ultimate Brand Partnership

A lot of social media is about brand partnerships and leveraging your influencers. Beyonce takes this to a whole new level; Jay-Z (hubby), Solange (Lil sis), Barack and Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow (BFF) & Chris Martin, her Destiny’s Child sisters, Kelly Rolland and Michelle Williams… yeah, the girl’s got connections.

Michelle Sawyer
23rd January, 2014

The Rise & Rise Of Kimbra

Sometimes all it takes is your Daft Punk, Justice, French Electro-Pop lovin’ hairdresser to point out the obvious… Kimbra is the new Kylie.

Kimbra
Picture: Nicole Cleary Herald Sun

To think that it was only a year ago when I was putting together an editorial piece for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011 when I spied a little known Kiwi with a cool B&W body art profile pic and thought, “who the hell is Kimbra?”. Well slap me in the face for my ignorance, because Kimbra is actually one of the best things to happen to Australian Music since Kylie Minogue gave up acting and became a pop star.

Kimbra Tatoo Photo
That press photo which started all the noise…

Making the sensible decision to move to Melbourne in 2007 after being discovered by Forum 5 indie music boss, Mark Richardson, to record her debut album, she has since become one of us. OK, that last part isn’t true but given our track record for claiming Kiwis once they hit superstar status (i.e. Sam Neil, Russel Crowe, Crowded House), it’s fair to say Kimbra is now totes Australian. At least in our eyes. And here’s how it happened…

2007
Kimbra wins Juice TV’s Breakthrough Music Video Award for her single, Simply On My Lips. Indie music mogul, Mark Richardson, makes a choice decision to sign her up. Kimbra moves to Melbourne, shit gets real.

2010
Celebrity douchebag blogger, Perez Hilton, does good and promotes Kimbra’s single Settle Down to his insane following by posting an uncharacteristically flattering comment; “If you like Nina Simone, Florence & The Machine and/or Bjork, then we think you will enjoy Kimbra – her music reminds us of all those fierce ladies!” Perez wins some positive karma points.

More good stuff for the Kiwi Diva in ’10 when Miami Horror feature her solid vocals on their (epically underrated) disco-electro track, I Look To You.

March 2011
Herald Sun’s Mikey Cahill reviews the Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2011. Featuring as part of an ensemble with Tex Perkins, Paris Wells (who is she) and Eddie Perfect (please stick to acting) in Fly Me To The Moon, Cahill pre-notes Kimbra as ‘unstoppable’. Good call.

June 2011
The jig is up and us Aussies concede to joint custody of Kimbra when she signs with Warner Bros. Records New Zealand, opening her up to the massive US market. Her breakthrough album, Vows, is released in August/Septemeber and reaches #3 and #5 in New Zealand and Australian charts respectively in the first week. Champions of the Indie artist, Triple J, jump on it and give the beautiful brunette shedloads of airplay.

Then this happens…

Melbourne’s musical magician, Wally De Backer aka Gotye and Kimbra’s break-up anthem goes on an assault to smash every record known to man in the music world, creating a snowball of critical and commercial praise. Meanwhile, people’s minds and ears continue to explode from too much awesome as Somebody That I Used To Know join Savage Garden‘s Truly Madly Deeply in the record books for spending the second most consecutive weeks (8 to be precises) at #1 in the Official ARIA Charts.

January 2012
Kimbra scores a monumental 3 solo spots in Triple J’s Hottest 100 for 2011 with Two Way Street at #93 (my favourite Kimbra tune and this totes deserved to be higher up the list, but I digress), Good Intent at #53 and Cameo Lover at #25. Oh, and that Gotye collaboration get’s voted in at #1 which surprises no one (not even Gotye).

April 2012
The Somebody That I Used To Know juggernaut continues as Kimbra and Wally ride the mother all the way to a number #1 spot on the US Billboard charts. They subsequently score a set on Saturday Night Live and a place in the Coachella 2012 line-up.* Note From Sawyer: Yes, I’m aware the latter happened before the former but I’m enjoying my alliteration of “subsequently score” too much to change it.

My musically influential hairdresser confesses his fandom for Kimbra as Vows plays in the trendy St Kilda salon during my last 8-9 week scheduled appointment. Note From Sawyer: 8 – 9 weeks is the industry recommended gap between hair appointments.

Kimbra cements herself as the most sort-after female vocalist with the cross-continental A-trak (half of Duck Sauce, gifted child DJ, super cool New Yorker, etc) and Mark Foster (of Foster The People fame) collab, Warrior. Triple J get dibs on playing it’s world premiere. It’s a big deal.

May 2012
Kimbra tours with Groovin’ The Moo and Sawyer call’s Kimbra the new Kylie. And about an hour after I first posted this blog, Kimbra and Gotye get nominated for APRA Song Of The Year

Michelle Sawyer, May 2012

 

A Day To Note In Oz Music

Thursday 19th of April 2012 – they say things come in threes and Australia Music is no exception…

Can you guess which Artist & Song are in this montage? (Hint: Splendour In The Grass 2012)

MASSIVE EVENT N0. 1 – Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know Feat. Kimbra reaches Number 1 on the US Billboard’s Hottest 100

It started early with the news that Gotye’s once in a lifetime song, Somebody That I Used To Know Feat. Kimbra, had reached the number 1 spot in the US Billboard Charts. After becoming the second longest running single at Number 1 in the ARIA Charts (at 8 weeks) alongside Savage Garden’s Truly Madly Deeply, Wally’s 9 times platinum break-up behemoth again joined Savage Garden in earning a number 1 spot on Billboard’s Hottest 100 charts – something that hasn’t been achieved by another Australian artist for 12 years.


Gotye feat. Kimbra, Somebody That I Used To Know

Gotye’s appearances with Kimbra on Saturday Night Live and set at the epic Coachella Music Festival are attributed to the number 1 spot. Reports from Coachella were that “every DJ [at the Sahara Stage] had a remix of Somebody That I Used To Know, and every time it was played, the whole tent and everyone around the area erupted.” (Triple J’s The Doctor Podcast, Aired Monday, 16th April 2012.) But it’s not just the song that is earning praise…

MASSIVE EVENT NO. 2 – Rage Turns 25


Rage Theme Song

Gotye’s equally quirky and epic video clip for Somebody That I Used To Know (which is currently sitting on 166,577,833 views on YouTube), will be featuring as part of an all time greatest music video’s special to celebrate Australia’s longest running video shows 25th birthday. Yep, Rage is turning 25. It’s the music show that most of Gen-Y’s (myself included) have grown up with, nursed a hangover with and (likely) pulled an all nighter with.

Hosted by You Am I’s Tim Rogers, the special will air at 10.20pm on Saturday and will feature an avalanche of epic clips that include:

Peter Gabriel’s Sledge Hammer, Beyonce’s Single Ladies, LCD Soundsystem’s Drunk Girls, OK Go’s Here It Goes Again, The White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl, The Avalanche’s Since I Left You, the Fatboy Slim spectacular featuring an unforgettable dance explosion from Christopher Walken (see below) and shed loads more…


Fatboy Slim, Weapon Of Choice

MASSIVE EVENT NO. 3 – Splendour In The Grass 2012 Line Up Announced

Finally (as if the first two weren’t enough) the ABC’s other music megalith’s, Triple J, announced the much anticipated Splendour In The Grass 2012 line up. And it goes a little something like this:

Jack White, Bloc Party (ONLY AUS SHOW), Smashing Pumpkins, At The Drive-In (ONLY AUS SHOW), The Shins, Hilltop Hoods, The Kooks (ONLY AUS SHOW), Gossip, Miike Snow, Dirty Three (ONLY AUS SHOW), Lana Del Rey, 360, Azealia Banks, Tame Impala, Explosions In The Sky (ONLY AUS SHOW), Ladyhawke, The Afghan Whigs, Missy Higgins, Wolfmother, Metric, Kimbra, Mudhoney, 50 Years Of Dylan, Band Of Skulls, Spiderbait, Django Django, Gypsy & The Cat, San Cisco, Last Dinosaurs, Electric Guest, Muscles, Angus Stone, DZ Deathrays, Howler, Lanie Lane, Fun, Big Scary, Michael Kiwanuka, Seekae, Friends, Yacht Club Dj’s, Bertie Blackman, Jinja Safari, Blue King Brown, Youth Lagoon, Pond, The Beautiful Girls, Yuksek, Tijuana Cartel, Ball Park Music, The Rubens, Ben Howard, Bleeding Knees Club, Zulu Winter, The Medics, Shihad, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Husky, Kate Miller-Heidke, Father John Misty, Emma Louise, Chet Faker, Here We Go Magic, Parachute Youth, Mosman Alder, The Cast Of Cheers, Wolf & Cub, Gossling

Plus DJs:
Beni, Sampology (AV/DJ show), Canyons (DJ Set), Nina Las Vegas, Danny T, Alison Wonderland, Nice and Ego (AV/DJ show), Flume, Gloves, Luke Million, Harris Robotis, Alley Oop


The White Stripes, Fell In Love With A Girl

Tickets for Splendour In The Grass go on sale Friday 27 April 9am AEST. Now excuse me while I go lay down for a bit…

Michelle Sawyer, April 2012

Praise Be To Prince

We’re gonna party like its 1999, ‘cause Prince is coming to tour Australia…

The everchanging, always original looks of Prince...

The Twitterverse was a-wash with predictions of Purple Rain, in the anticipation of a long awaited tour by Symbol (The Artist Formally Known As Prince). Chugg Entertainment confirmed that the artist again known as Prince, would be parading his greatest hits in May 2012 with his Welcome 2 Australia east coast tour.

So to celebrate the man who single handedly made ruffle/pirate shirts cool, let’s all put on our Raspberry Berets, jump into our Little Red Corvettes and turn on the radio to listen to what it sounds like When Doves Cry. Or… watch this short collection of Prince pop video perfection (in no particular order).

Title: When Doves Cry
Released: 1984
Random Fact: Whilst this would have to be one of the penultimate Prince tracks, it’s hard not to think about the amazeball cover featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996). American child actor/singer, Quindon Tarver, almost stole the show with his angelic a cappella version which literally had audience’s whispering in the cinemas, “who is that kid?!”.

Title: Kiss
Released: 1986
Random Fact: I FUCKING LOVE this song!! This is one of my all-time favourite songs to sing in the car, at karaoke, or in the penthouse bath tub at the Beverly Wilshire in LA… (See, it wasn’t actually Julia Robert’s looks as to what made Richard Gere fall for her character, or that she was a ‘safety girl’. It was ‘cause she was a Prince fan! How could you not love that?)

Title:Little Red Corvette
Released: 1983
Random Fact: This song is proof that sometimes it’s better to not fully understand the true meaning of Prince’s metaphors but to simply just enjoy the tune. Given that this was released the year I was born, I think it’s only fair to assume that this song helped to subconsciously shape my generation into its acceptance of female promiscuity. But hey, at least Little Red Corvette was also an advocate of safe sex –

I guess I must be dumb,
Cause you had pocket full of horses,
Trojan and some of them used.

Title:Cream
Released: 1991
Random Fact: Cream may not be one of his best songs (in what is a hell of a back catalogue), however, it is an apt depiction of Prince’s position in the music world at the time – total dominance. The accompanying 10+ minute long overly decadent, overtly demeaning, penis power music video further stamps Prince’s “Get on top” message home. Best summary of the 90s. Ever.

Title:Purple Rain
Released: 1984
Random Fact: It’s the song the spawned a hundred Twitter puns… Let’s play a quick word association game; if you had to describe Purple Rain in one word, what would it be? Epic < -- if this was not your immediate response, watch the clip again.

Welcome 2 Australia Tour Dates

Sydney – Friday, 11th May at Allphones Arena
Melbourne – Monday, 14th May at Rod Laver Arena
Brisbane – Friday, 18th May at the Entertainment Centre

All tickets available through Ticketek, 132 849.

Michelle Sawyer, April 2012

Why do we lose our heads over Radiohead?

When triplej announced Radiohead would be returning to tour Australia for the first time since cancelling their 2nd Melbourne show in 2004, people lost their minds…

Tom Yorke, Radiohead

Hailed as one the most influential bands of all time, and, likewise, their lead singer, Tom Yorke as one of the most influential musicians, they transcend the general boundaries that separate indie and commercial music – basically everybody likes them. Remember this ad for Scope?

So whether you fully comprehend the deepness of Radiohead’s driving melodies and droll lyrics or just dig Tom’s dance moves, you will likely enjoy this brief timeline of Radiohead’s rise to EPICness by way of music videos…

Title: Creep
Album: Pablo Honey
Year: 1993 (Single released 1992)

Fun Fact: Captain Obvious aka BBC1 banned this song from airplay, deeming it “too depressing”. Bet BBC1 wants to kill themselves for that call.

Title: Just
Album: The Bends
Year: 1995

Fun Fact: R.E.M’s Michael Stipe, helped to bring the band and album to prominence through his promotional buzz as a fan. The proverb “awaken the sleeping giant” comes to mind, with the band’s popularity overshadowing R.E.M in later years.

Title: Karma Police
Album: Ok, Computer
Year: 1997

Fun Fact: Before recording their “album that changed everything”, the Radiohead boys would take inspiration from listening to The Beatles, DJ Shadow, Ennio Morricone and Miles Davis – yeah, DJ Shadow!

Title: I Might Be Wrong
Album: Amnesiac
Year: 1998

Fun Fact: Bit of a blank for a few years with music videos, with the Radiohead lads going a little too far with their “depressing” motif on Kid A; critics labelled it as a “commercial suicide note”. Luckily, Amnesiac was a bit more cheery…

Title: Go To Sleep
Album: Hail To The Thief
Year: 2003

Fun Fact: Yorke denied that Hail to the Thief’s title was a comment on the controversial 2000 US presidential election. Don’t really understand the denial; a lot of band’s tried to “ban the Bush” that year.

Title: Body Snatchers
Album: In Rainbows
Year: 2007

Fun Fact: I’m aware this is not an actual music video. But my point is: if you listen to this album, you will never be the same again.

Title: Lotus Flower
Album: The King Of Limbs
Year: 2009

Fun Fact: This clip was probably more memorable for the spin of parodies of Tom Yorke’s “interpretive” dance moves, maybe more than the music – but still EPIC as always.

Tickets for Radiohead’s 2012 Australian Tour go on sale Thursday, March 1st at 9am (local time – check triple j’s website for more details) or you can enter triple j’s comp and maybe win yourself some FREE tickets and pre-party guest passes – double happiness!

Michelle Sawyer, February 2012

Crazy, Stupid, Love Songs

With Valentine’s Day already taking over the interwebs, here’s my spin on the “sucks if you’re single” greeting card holiday – my top 5 list of the stupidest, craziest (and cheesy) love songs and the movies that made them…

Roxette, Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, Wet Wet Wet, Righteous Brothers and Celine Dion.
Roxette, Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, Wet Wet Wet, Righteous Brothers and Celine Dion.

Number 5.
Song: Wet, Wet, Wet’s Love Is All Around

Movie: Four Weddings & A Funeral, directed by Richard Curtis, staring Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell.

Released in 1994, the cover version of the Troggs single, Love Is All Around, (yeah, it wasn’t even their own work), beat out and equalled Bryan Adams’ just as crap (Everything I Do) I Do It for You for the most weeks spent at number 1 in the charts. Coincidently, (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, was the feature romantic track in the Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (which is just too much wrong to feature in this list).

The song was later spoofed by Bill Nighly’s character Billy Mac, “an old ex-heroin addict searching for a comeback at any price” in Curtis’s, Love Actually, where the word “love” is replaced by Christmas. As Billy Mac suggests, “particularly enjoy the incredible crassness of the moment when we try to squeeze an extra syllable into the fourth line.”

Number 4.
Song: Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love
Movie: Pretty Woman, directed by Garry Marshall, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts

It Must Have Been Love was the most successful song released from the Pretty Woman soundtrack in 1991, spending its first of two weeks at #1. Billboard magazine listed It Must Have Been Love as the #2 Hot 100 single of the year behind Wilson Phillips’ Hold On, which has since had a resurgence thanks to featuring in the 2011 romcom smash hit, Bridesmaids.

Roxette later had another of their many power ballads, Almost Unreal, used as the romantic song for Super Mario Brothers in 1993. It was originally intended for Hocus Pocus, which started Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as witches.

Number 3.
Song: Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes’ I’ve Had the Time of My Life
Movie: Dirty Dancing, directed by Emile Ardolino, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

Sure, this song won a few awards; Academy Award for Best Original Song 1987, Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals 1988, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song 1988…

But it’s biggest reward was being parodied by pop culture icons The Simpsons and Family Guy. In Family Guy’s Star Wars tribute episode, Blue Harvest, Herbert (resident pedo) playing Obi-Wan Kenobi sings a cover version to Luke Skywalker (Chris) while stormtroopers and other heroes cheer on as back-up dancers. Most recently the song featured, along with the movie, in the new sitcom, New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel

Number 2.
Song: Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On
Movie: Titanic, directed by James Cameron, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

Originally composed by James Horner as an instrumental motif that was to be used in several scenes of Titanic, Horner later decided he wanted to make a full vocal song out of it for use in the end credits of the film. Director James Cameron did not want such a song, but Horner went ahead anyway and got Will Jennings to write the lyrics. Celine Dion was also originally against recording the song after first hearing it.

If only James and Celine had stuck with their original gut instincts…

Number 1.
Song: Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody
Movie: Ghost, directed by Jerry Zucker, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore

This would have to be the most memorable and best scripted song in a romantic movie. Ever.

Responsible for making pottery a sexy pastime (with a little help from Demi and Patrick), this song was aptly used in a parody commercial, Forclay, for Ford Fiesta. If it can make German engineers moulding cars out of clay look sexy, then this has to take the top spot in my crazy, stupid list!

Michelle Sawyer, February 2012

Who Would The Stones Be Today?

Having recently read the ‘enlightening’ Up & Down With The Rolling Stones, by Tony Sanchez, I got to wondering, who would be the rock ’n’ roll rebels of today’s music world?

With the long overdue decision made to read more music biographies in 2012, I kicked off my quest with the mostly true tails of Tony “Spanish Tony” Sanchez (better known as the drug dealer and friend of The Rolling Stones), and his much loved (semi) biopic; Up & Down With The Rolling Stones: My Rollercoaster Ride With Keith Richards. If you haven’t read this little page turner and are a fan of the band – 60’s & 70’s – sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – and the rest, I implore you to order it IMMEDIATELY from your local book store or Amazon.com.

In brief, the book recalls some of the many adventures of the Stones both musically and, more interestingly, personally with particular emphasis on Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and the late Brian Jones. Also very intriguing are the brief insights given on other great artists of the time including The Beatles (particularly John Lennon), Brian Ferry (Roxy Music), Eric Clapton and Ronnie Woods (pre Stones days). It also delves quite deeply into the women of the Stones, most of whom were Jagger’s ladies, Marianne Faithful, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall and the ultimate Stone’s WAG, Anita Pallenberg.

Now there have been a number of fascinating reviews on the novel itself, so I am not going to compete with them, instead recommend this one I came across which is a pretty decent read called, Spanish Tony, Where Are You?. Rather, I chose to ponder the more intangible question of ‘if Up & Down… was written today, who would it be about?’

The Rolling Stones Vs The Strokes

For me, the obvious choice to replace The Rolling Stones, is The Strokes: Julian Casablancas (lead vocals), Nick Valensi (guitar), Albert Hammond, Jr. (guitar), Nikolai Fraiture (bass guitar) and Fabrizio Moretti (drums and percussion). Firstly, given the period which Up & Down was set, London was then considered the bohemian capital of the world; but now it feels more appropriate that New York has become the new Mecca for musical, intellectual, uber-trendy, young things, more commonly known as ‘hipsters’ to congregate and call home. MGMT, The Drums, Armin Van Helden and A-Trak (to name a few) all reside in Williamsburg, as an example.

The Stones were all about pushing boundaries both in common social ideals and in music, and The Strokes have certainly done this. Forming in 1999, they sparked a bidding war amongst record labels after the anthem, Last Nite from The Modern Age EP, was given away as a free MP3 by UK magazine NME. When, Is This It, hit the world a short time later, it was the sound a generation had been desperately awaiting. Reinventing the indie genre through their hypnotic guitar riffs, deep rolling vocals and occasionally political lyrics, they also, like The Stones, set the trend in fashion with their incredibly tight, low slung grey jeans, fitted, black leather jackets and vintage rock-band-branded T-shirts. On a more generalised note, they directly emulate The Rolling Stones with their long “anti-establishment” hair-cuts, pale skin, good educations and slightly arrogant stage presence.

The Beatles Vs Coldplay

If the Stroke are the Stones, then today’s Beatles would have to be Coldplay: Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland and Will Champion. What can I say here, that has not already been said about these musical masters? I know many enthusiasts will argue that they are too commercial and ‘pop’, but then many also would say that about The Beatles. Like The Beatles, they formed after a chance meeting at university. Both have ‘unofficial’ fifth members (their long-time managers) and both are unquestionably ground breaking both creatively, visually and subsequent in record sales.

Another similarity is their long time leading ladies. Gwyneth Paltrow is an odd mash up of Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney. Her personal influence over lead singer and husband, Chris Martin, or the rest of the band has never been (commonly) publicised and whilst she does not seem likely to start the catch phrase “You broke up Coldplay”, she has certainly leant on her husband’s fame to establish her own music career; recently playing roles as a country music singer in the feature film, Country Strong (2010), and returning Glee guest role of the substitute teacher, Holly Holiday. But unlike Yoko and Linda, she has earned critical praise by some of music’s genuine talants, like Cee Lo Green, for her performances and if you look at the Glee cover of Landslide, by Stevie Nicks, below, you might find yourself inclined to agree with them.

Speaking of WAGs, the other key players in Spanish Tony’s all revealing memoir, are the prominently discussed four Rolling Stone’s leading ladies, who included:
Marianne Faithful – Jagger’s first girlfriend (and almost wife)
Bianca Jagger – Jagger’s first wife (who gave birth to his first child, Jade)
Jerry Hall – Jagger’s last wife (who he stole from Brian Ferry)
Anita Pallenberg – Arguably the most long term of the Stone WAGs, she was Keith’s old lady (and she also slept with Jagger)

Yesteryear's Rock WAGs. From left: Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithful, Bianca Jagger & Jerry Hall.

To go into more detail on any of these mysterious and deathly attractive iconic women would be a blog un-to-itself, sticking to my for-mentioned topic is tough enough to summarise into a single paragraph. Suffice to say, none of today’s rock muses compare to those immortal creatures of Up & Down, but that the appeal for a rock WAG to be a one-of-a-kind beauty is still the same today as it was back then; though being an actress/model also helps.

Today's Rock WAGs.
Today's Rock WAGs. From left: Kate Hudson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Chung and Kate Moss.

Some of today’s notable music WAGs have been:
Kate Moss – She’s the girl every girl wants to be and for a number of years, she was famously the girl of renowned musical prodigy and drug enthusiast, Pete Doherty, former lead singer of the Libertines. She has since married her other long time rock love, Jamie Hince from The Kills, in 2011.
Kate Hudson – Divorced from Black Crows frontman, Chris Robinson, who was the father of her son Ryder, she gave birth to Muse frontman, Matthew Bellamy’s baby, Bingham, in 2011. The two are predicted to wed in 2012.
Alexa Chung – Wearing the label of UK’s ‘It’ girl as well as numerous other fashion houses, the model and TV presenter was famous for being ‘Alexa’ of ‘Alexa & Alex’, dating Alex Turner, lead singer of the Arctic Monkey’s for 5 years. They recently split in late 2011.
Drew Barrymore – She dated The Strokes drummer, Fabrizio Moretti for 5 years, which to-date has been her longest relationship.
Kirsten Dunst – Aside from her openness to smoking a joint, she has featured in a couple of music videos and dabbled in various musical roles on film. She also dated Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.
Carey Mulligan – A proclaimed “one to watch in 2012”, after trying out the ‘dating a co-star’ thing with Shia LaBeouf, she came to her senses and became engaged in 2011 to childhood friend Marcus Mumford, lead singer of Mumford & Sons.

So whilst there does appear to be a tangible stereotype emerging with both bands and WAGs alike, the magic and originality of the music and spirit remains.

Michelle Sawyer, January 2012

Show Time Stuff-Ups

Naturally, when the world is weighing on your shoulders and success balances on a single performance, it is inevitable you will unfortunately suck.

Lana Del Rey on SNL

Such was the case for hipster sensation, Lana Del Rey (born Elizabeth Grant), and her sensational – for all the wrong reasons – Saturday Night Live set. With what is a pedestal for musical performance – noted for being “notoriously difficult” for artist to score a spot on – featured a flat and mostly motionless Del Rey sulk her way through web released hits, Video Games and Blue Jeans. So atrocious, it prompted NBC newsreader, Brian Williams, to send an unflattering (and potentially career killing) email containing quotes “Brooklyn hipster Lana Del Rey had one of the worst outings in SNL history last night…” and “Booked on the strength of her TWO SONG web EP, the least-experienced musical guest in the show’s history, for starters.”


Lana Del Rey singing Video Games on Saturday Night Live.

Not even Harry Potter (the episode was hosted by Daniel Radcliffe) could work his magic for Ms Del Rey. Managing to bomb both songs on SNL, the pretty singer was more mistakable as a model with her stiff-as-a-statue stance. The oh-so-pretty-and-indie 1960’s inspired YouTube clip for Video Games, which features Ms Del Rey in many model-esque posses, currently boasts 20,081,157 views (as of 18/1/12).


Video Games on YouTube.

The kinder critics questioned if it was indeed a technical problem with audio (my own thinking was that it sounded like a case of the mike being switched off), as opposed to the more common (harsher and realistic) verdict that she was simply a starlet-in-making overwhelmed by the situation and status of performing a coveted Saturday Night Live spot. Outspoken LCD Soundsystem front-man, James Murphy, tweeted “Lana Del Rey plays Saturday Night Live next week. LCD Soundsystem tried for 6 years to play Saturday Night Live. Isn’t ‘too soon’ ok advice?”. NY gossip queen, Perez Hilton, also tweeted his agreement for the negative Twitter criticism on Lana’s performance, “It wasn’t just me! Seems like the OVERWHELMING consensus is that @LanaDelRey was horrible on SNL last night”. The promo alone should have sounded ‘alarm bells’ for the show’s seasoned producers; depicting what appears to be “a scared stiff young lady” standing next to the cool-as-a-cucumber, composed screen veteran, Radcliffe. See clip below…

Another suffering stage fright was poor Samantha Stosur, failing to go past the first round of the Australian Open. Stosur, ranked 6th in the Grand Slam, was defeated in straight sets, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 by Romanian world No. 59 Sorana Cirstea – a player she has beaten in both prior encounters. Her lead up to the Oz Open, like with Lana, was also a give away to her unfortunate but imminent failure, losing in the 2nd round of the Brisbane International followed by a 1st round defeat in the Sydney International. Crumbling under the enormous pleasure set by the public and press after having won the US Open in 2011 (or in Lana’s case, releasing a “2 SONG web EP” as Brian so succinctly put it), Sam Stosur was pinned as Australia’s best hope for an Australian Open Champion in 2012. That expectation, which has dogged all our past US champions over the last 20 years, now rests heavily (and solely) on Bernard Tomic – poor bloke.

So whilst I do genuinely feel sorry for Sam, Lana Del Rey (or perhaps her management) simply should have known better – too soon indeed, James Murphy.

Michelle Sawyer, January 2012.

The inevitable SNL follow up skit… featuring Saturday Night Live regular and Bridesmaid writer/actress, Kristen Wiig sending up Lana to a tea – but all in a friendly, “we still love you” way (of course).

Aussie Pride Or Cheap Tricks

We Aussie’s are a creative bunch, especially when it comes to music. But do we still need to rely on some clever marketing ploys (or in my case, puns) to get our work over the line…

There is a lot of love for Australian music at the moment. Much of which has come thanks to a little duet from a top bloke named Wouter “Wally” De Backer, who you probably know better as Gotye. The sombre post break-up ballad, Somebody That I Used To Know featuring Kimbra (she’s a kiwi but we won’t hold that against her), is Gotye’s first commercially successful, knocking off the more internationally known Adele’s Someone Like You, from the top spot in the ARIA charts after a seven week run.

The creative clip, which features a naked but painted Wally and Kimbra pouring their hearts out against a wall, has already soared well about 2 million views on YouTube. And then there’s Twitter, which has seen a cavalcade of praise, but maybe none more important than actor and Cougar man-bag, Ashton Kutcher’s, who tweeted about the clip to his 7 million (!!) strong fan base.

*Tweet image courtesy of The Music Network.

I’ve been a fan of Gotye for years, all the way back since his 2006 single Learnalilgivinanlovin and (my fave), Heart’s A Mess, so it’s great to see one of Australia’s most talented and creative, self taught musicians getting the recognition he deserves; but I do have to wonder if it’s come to commercial light thanks to a little help from Hollywood? Fair to say, it doesn’t really matter, as the Australian media have jumped all over it too. Take a look at this very cool and interesting, in-depth analysis of how Wally’s first Number 1 came to be, posted by The Vine’s Tim Byron, (seriously good read).

Another creative kudos, which is also receiving some good Twitter action, is Gyroscope’s genius ploy of letting their fans pick the songs of their set list for their upcoming and self explanatory named, “Choose Your Own Adventure Tour”. Before they make their merry way around Australian in October – November, the Perth lads are letting fans pick the hits they want to hear, all very cleverly tied in with a promotion on their Facebook page (double marketing happiness). So there will definitely be no complaints of “they didn’t play my song” from any punters who will 100% “get what they paid for” – all round ingenious idea. My pick from Gyroscope’s back catalogue would have to be the lyrically loved up, Baby, I’m Getting’ Better, though I do also love Snakeskin… And having seen these boys bangin’ both tracks out live at Groovin’ The Moo 2011 I can say with 100% honesty fans are in for one hell of a show (fan-picked set list or not).

Another creative Tweet-worthy Oz music happening is the theft of a Parklife 2011 billboard in Perth. Now I’m not completely convinced this isn’t a ploy to pump up the presence of the major dance event. With what suspiciously sounds like a competition, the dude or dudette who finds the billboard get’s a couple of their More Expensive Tickets (METs) for nicks. Though having worked in Advertising me knows how expensive a high traffic billboard can be, so it is probably a genuine show of gratitude from some very annoyed (and perplexed as to how one would even fit a billboard of that size into one’s boot) Parklife promoters. To show I’m not making this up I have cut and pasted the Press Release as sent to me, word for word (word)…

Thursday 18th August 2011 – “Today, a reward has been offered to the person who can track down a Parklife advertising billboard, which was stolen in broad daylight at around 4pm on Sunday from Whatley Crescent, next to the Mt Lawley Subway in Perth.

Perhaps inspired by recent anarchy in the UK, bandits have taken off with the signage that is emblazoned with all the big names featured on this year’s Parklife bill. A passerby managed to capture this photo (below) from their car and have sent it to Parklife event organisers. They have described the two assailants as male, Caucasian, wearing navy blue, Hard-Yakka style outfits.

Parklife organisers commented, “We can assure you that this is no PR stunt. We actually think its pretty funny and hope these guys are just passionate Parklife fans who want this as a keepsake. God knows how they got away with it and where they’re hiding it, but we hope they have it somewhere safe!”

The reward for whoever comes forward with the whereabouts of this billboard includes two More Expensive Tickets (MET) and a side of stage experience at the Perth Parklife show on Sunday 25th September at Wellington Square. No legal action will be pursued.

Please contact events@boomtick.com.au with any leads.”

Now in my own cheap attempt to score some SEO points, here are some handy links for Gotye, Gyroscope and Parklife tickets and downloads.

Gotye tracks, including the single Somebody That I Used To Know for download on iTunes:
http://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/gotye/id161541223

Gyroscope’s Choose Your Own Adventure Tour tickets go on sale Thursday, August 25th from the following outlets:

The Zoo, Brisbane – Wednesday, Nov 17th
Corner Hotel, Melbourne – Friday, Nov 18th
The Factory Theatre, Sydney – Saturday, Nov 19th
via www.oztix.com.au

Prince Of Wales, Bunbury – Thursday, Oct 20th
Settlers Tavern, Margaret River – Friday, Oct 21st
Studio 146, Albany – Saturday, Oct 22nd
L’Attitude 28, Geraldton – Saturday, Oct 29th
via www.heatseaker.com.au

The Gov, Adelaide – Thursday, Nov 17th
via www.venuetix.com.au

Parklife 2011 tickets are available via:

www.parklife.com.au
www.ticketmaster.com.au
www.moshtix.com.au

Michelle Sawyer, August 2011