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Music's 3 R's 10.06.12: Bieber Pukes, Keepin' It Real Goes Wrong on Idol and...The Hell, New Yorker?
Posted by Sean Comer on 10.06.2012

Music's 3 R's 10.5.12: Bieber Blows Chunks, Keepin' It Real Goes Wrong on "Idol" and...The Hell, New Yorker?

Teaser: Justin Bieber went more "punk" than Billie Joe Armstrong has been in years. Nicki Minaj goes 'hood on "American Idol". And finally, a New Yorker columnist flouts the simple discipline of journalistic research just to level his hatchet at Amanda Palmer.

It's Friday, I'm in Love…
Buongriorno, and welcome to Music's 3 R's. I'm Sean Comer, and I've come to grips with that fact. All things considered, more went "Right" than "wRong" or "Ridiculous," try as The New Yorker – of all the possible breeding grounds of fail – did to bring balance to the Force.

Mumford & Sons outsell Green Day, deal stout folksy uppercut to tired punk posturing:

It wasn't even close, either.

The West London folk quartet started the week on pace for their newest album, Babel, poised to claim the Billboard 200 crown on the heels of performing "I Will Wait" and "Below My Feet" on Sept. 22's "Saturday Night Live."

Green Day's album-trilogy-opening Uno! didn't even come out of the gate close to Mumford & Sons' roughly 600,000 units moved of earthy, earnest ditties of enduring love, faith and longing. To the contrary, Green Day released a 12-song effort that sounds remarkably indistinguishable, except for "Kill The DJ," from their other eight albums and seems to smugly declare, "You'll buy it because it says ‘Green Day'. To paraphrase some old lyrics of ours, we don't care if you don't …" Appropriately, it moved about 150,000 units on the heels of Billie Joe Armstrong's pathetic bitch-fit at Las Vegas's iHeartRadio Festival last weekend, and curtailed promotional appearances when he announced he would enter voluntary rehab for substance abuse.

Mumford, on the other hand, emerged from 2010's comparatively more subdued Sigh No More with a statement of stalwart, unshakable devotion between two souls that would logically rise from Sigh's reflective, uncertain undercurrent of sadness.

Evolution and dynamic creative effort is to be rightly rewarded. So it is also that complacency and stagnation are to be acknowledged, then ignored.

If neither plastic punk nor dirt-beneath-your-toes folk suits your palate, No Doubt released
Push and Shove, their dance pop-heavy first album since 2001's Caribbean/New Wave-soaked Rock Steady, to the tune of 125,000 units sold. Meanwhile, though his 2011 album Lasers debuted #1 on the charts, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1 moved 90,000 copies and charted at #4.

Don't let the chart position fool you. As should surprise nobody who's spent even 15 minutes listening to any random sampling of his work, his introspective, soulful, intelligent commentary in rhyme on "Bitch Bad" and "Lamborghini Angels" or the slick, horn-infused "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" alone makes it a significant wonder that anyone would waste a penny on a Lil Wayne single (let alone, album) in a world where Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Lupe draw enough breath to spit flows.

Justin Bieber makes a statement in vomit:

Know that I don't like acknowledging anything "right" about music being Justin Bieber's income stream any more than any of you do. But let me just acknowledge something to which I never, in my wildest dreams of floating mountains and hideous cat people, imagined I'd have to own up.

So, we all remember well enough Billie Joe Bitch-cakes' conniption fit last weekend when (surprise!) his set that started 30 minutes behind schedule was cut short to make up the lost time. The intoxicated Green Day singer-guitarist pissed and moaned up a storm about how being "punk" since 1988 entitled him to run his set over into Rihanna's scheduled headlining slot after them. He punctuated it by proclaiming himself to be "not f**king Justin Bieber."

No, Bitch-cakes. You're not. This is Justin Bieber.

You're the eye-shadowed, posturing "punk" with nothing better left to rage against than being told you have to wrap your set at a festival smeared with Clear Channel's corporate-homogenization feces in 60 seconds so that Rihanna's crew can set her stage.

Justin Bieber is the 18-year-old blonde Canadian pretty-boy who took the stage sick as a dog to open his new tour this week, and puked before tens of thousands of fans.

Billie Joe Bitch-cakes, it pains the "Me" that admittedly loves Green Day's pre-21st Century Breakdown catalogue to admit this, but … Justin Bieber is more raw, more "punk" than you.



Retooled "American Idol" already blows up in FOX execs' faces:

So this is off to a great start …

Newly minted "American Idol" judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey – whose contracts are worth approximately a combined $20 million between them – came into the retooled, revamped 12th season of "Idol" already saddled with months of rumored tensions.

When producers called Carey to tell her they'd successfully navigated the Coca-Cola/Pepsi endorsement conundrum of securing Minaj to help replace Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez on this year's panel, Carey reportedly hung up the call in disgust. Later, both she and Minaj denied any such tensions, allegedly stemming from Carey's rumored guarantee from producers that she would be the panel's sole star-studded diva.

Then came this week's Charlotte, N.C. auditions. A disagreement between the two that started with varying mileage from an auditioning hopeful's performance broke down into Minaj reportedly telling Carey, "I'm gonna knock you out." After a few more heated moments of sniping that included Carey calling Minaj a "three-year-old" and "crazy bitch," Barbara Walters claimed Thursday on "The View" that Minaj said back stage that "If [she] had a gun, [she] would shoot the b***h."

In a series of tweets, including one calling Carey "Shady McGrady," Minaj denied Carey's every word.

"I guess it hurts 2 have the producers tell u to ur face that nicki is the best judge we've had since simon. Awww, poor u. Keep them lies cmn," Minaj tweeted.

Is FOX getting the idea yet that the judges are only the problem with the show in that it once upon a time never needed supernova-caliber star power? Twelve seasons ago, America could've collectively given roughly one-trillionth of a watery crap who Simon Cowell was pre-"Idol".

When I heard "Randy Jackson" was judging, my first thought before realizing he was a veteran-but-not-exactly-"celebrated" artist was, "How nice to see some of Michael's brothers getting work."

Paula Abdul was the closest thing had to a celebrated "relevant" act, and she could only really be referred to as such in the past tense.

The performers kept audiences coming back week after week that first season, because FOX didn't let much else distract from them. To make up for lost ground to "The X Factor" and "The Voice," FOX tried playing their game by upping the star-power ante, and already, this will be one of the things this season is remembered for – not who won.

Mariah Carey's contract: Roughly $15 million.

Nicki Minaj's contract: Roughly $4 million.

Keepin' it real going wrong on "American Idol": Priceless.

From the heart of The New Yorker, Joshua Clover stabs at Amanda Palmer:

Confession Time, kids: I've made mistakes.

Sure, I say that as a man, but I've stumbled across my missteps as a journalist, too – hell, in my very first work on this site, I flubbed a few words of a cherished Tori Amos lyric and my best friend discretely called me on it.

Even before that, in my old life as a Kansas City-area newspaper reporter, I occasionally had to apologize for a genuine misunderstanding over how a fact was portrayed or a typographical faux-pas.

That being said, I've never defenestrated my own credibility, my publication's reputation and the transparent citing of sources so that I could wildly brandish a hatchet in the face of a story's subject.

I've never read a single word spilt by The New Yorker's Joshua Clover before this week, but you'll pardon me if I spend this climactic stanza of The R's refusing to call this stain a "journalist" in the wake of what I could call a failure of research at best, and a blatant, unethical campaign to smear Amanda Palmer at the worst.

Recall last week that I sang the praises of Palmer's $1.2-million Kickstarter campaign to fund her recent album with her Grand Theft Orchestra, Theatre Is Evil. Then came Clover's error-riddled October 2 rant, "Amanda Palmer's Accidental Experiment With Real Communism".

Clover's diatribe – since corrected, with an apology at the bottom, following a Wednesday Twitter backlash by Palmer and her fans – first questions Palmer's artistic integrity for setting her initial Kickstarter bar at $100,000 (originally misquoted as more) before receiving her eventual $1.2-million deluge.

It's on the back of Palmer's unexpected windfall of outpoured support that Clover takes to task her subsequent tour management. He (selectively, and that's putting it generously) quotes a portion of her AmandaPalmer.net advertisement seeking experienced, local musicians from each tour stop to back her onstage each night after some scant day-of-show rehearsal time with her and the compatriots organizing her backup.

"Album in hand, Palmer prepared to tour," Clover wrote. "She advertised for local horn and string players to help out at each stop along the way: ‘join us for a couple tunes,' as the post on her Web site had it. Even better, ‘basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!'

"Just one thing, local musicians. There would be none of this million-plus dollars available for you," Clover continued smugly. "Supposedly, Palmer had spent it all on producing her album, along with things like airfare, mailing costs, and personal debt, and so couldn't afford to pay anyone else. She promised instead to ‘feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily.' This is a compensation package which, honestly, might be worse than nothing. Depends on the beer."

He goes on to claim that she "has since renounced her hornsploitation scheme and will pay the pickup players (SEAN'S NOTE: with, again, an asterisk referencing the appended correction), but the outrage remains."

Ah, yes – the manufactured, exaggerated, tainted "outrage." To directly quote Palmer's Aug. 21 AmandaPalmer.net post (which is apparently more than could be expected of Clover):

We're looking for professional-ish horns and strings for EVERY CITY to hop up on stage with us for a couple of tunes. We need a COUPLE of horns (trumpet! bari! sax! trombone! all need apply!!!) To join in the blasting with Ronald Reagan, our sax duo who'll be joining the Grand Theft Orchestra every night. And we need enough strings to make up QUARTET (pre-made quartets WELCOME) to join us for a couple tunes….and to act at the string quartet for Jherek Bischoff's beautiful music (basically, you get to BE the opening ACT!).

The deal:

You'd need to show up for a quickie rehearsal (the parts are pretty simple) in the afternoon, then come back around for the show! We will feed you beer, hug/high-five you up and down (pick your poison), give you merch, and thank you mightily for adding to the big noise we are planning to make.

CHAD is going to be in charge of sorting the horns, JHEREK is going to be in charge of gathering the strings, and they'll also be CONDUCTING you on stage. You need to know how to ACTUALLY, REALLY PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT! Lessons in fifth grade do not count, so please include in your email some proof of that (a link to you playing on a real stage would be great, or a resume will do. Just don't LIE…you'll be embarrassed if you show up for rehearsal and everyone's looking at you wondering why you can't actually play the trombone.)

We've had a blast putting people together this past summer….COME JOIN THE FUCKING ORCHESTRA.

It's almost as good as the circus.

Interested? When you email us, please put the show date, city, and instrument in the subject line of the email i.e. "Trumpet – New York, NY – Sept 11th" or "Violin – Philadelphia, PA – Sept 10th"…it'll make sorting go much easier for us.

Interested HORNS, SEND AN EMAIL TO: horns@thegrandtheftorchestra.com and interested STRINGS/QUARTETS, SEND AN EMAIL TO: strings@thegrandtheftorchestra.com.

You'll get a yes/no reply as soon as we lock down the choices for that town (or we'll let you know that it's already locked).

To quote Palmer's very own reply at roughly half past a shit-storm into the comments on the post, "Best. Misunderstanding. Ever."

To quote the very first reply on the post by one Mr. "Chris Siebert":

Dear Amanda Palmer,

I've been a professional touring musician for 23 years, and I've never heard of you until today. With all due respect, your request for free labor sounds like a promotional gimmick dreamed up by a corporate republican who has no concept of the history of working people in this country. Americans fought and died for the right to have a union, for fair pay, for a forty-hour work week, for the concept of a weekend, and for the dignity of all labor. And working people are still fighting for a living wage, health care and pensions in the USA, the stingiest of all industrial democracies.

I have learned that you raised a million dollars through kickstarter. That's a lot of money. And the best you can do is come up with a scheme to take advantage of desperate musicians by reinforcing everything that's wrong with the music business and the modern American economy? I would expect this sort of exploitation from a record label, a retail chain, or a music venue, but it's shocking coming from a musician.

I believe that you could turn this around for yourself by offering an apology, retracting this sad publicity scheme immediately, and replacing it with a serious job offer to hire a string and horn section for union scale in each city that you peform in. You would still generate excitement by hiring relatively unknown local players, with the added bonus of paying them a fair wage. Now that would would be some great publicity, and lead people to sing your praises nationwide.

Anything less would get you even more negative press at this point, and demonstrate a stubborn refusal to listen to your musical compatriots. You deserve a second chance. Show some heart and some guts, and stand up for what we all know is right.

With hope and respect,

Chris Siebert

Palmer eventually did respond – prior to Glover's mangling of her intent – personally on her site. Had Glover bothered to read it before hand, he could've spared himself shaming an independent artist needlessly and buying himself the scorn of scads of Palmer/Dresden Dolls fans.

She wrote the letter to respond to a musician named "Amy," who had addressed her directly with her own disapproval at Palmer's call for volunteer musicians. Palmer politely, respectfully pointed out her own experiences in which she'd performed on sidewalks for what tips she could gather, pleased to make a buck here and there, but mostly pleased to be heard. She recounted taking a financial loss in order to tour with Nine Inch Nails, strictly for the exposure, and playing other such gigs on smaller scales as favor to friends or simply to earn gas money.

More importantly, she set "Amy" straight that during several tour stops, her traveling band has indeed paid professionals where they felt it necessary.

Again, quoting Palmer's own post directly:

"There's also been a general misunderstanding that i need to put to rest: Every person on my stage gets paid differently – and not EVERY musician up there, even in the string and horn corps, is a strict volunteer. When we mapped out this tour a few months ago, i sat down with Jherek Bischoff, my touring and recording bassist (along with being the string arranger AND my opening act). Jherek is, like the other permanent touring members of my band, on a salary. Part of his job is that he's in charge of email-organizing the string section, as he'd also be using them as his quartet (as an opening act), and he wanted to make sure we got the best we could get for what we could afford given our tour budget.

"There were cities like New York where Jherek – and everyone in the band – really wanted to make sure we had a 100% tried-and-true string corps. He didn't want to bank on possibly risky volunteers that night. Chad Raines, my guitarist, who's also in charge of wrangling the horns, agreed on that front as well. So we called our more professional horns and strings friends in New York, and we freed up the budget to pay them. We're doing that in some cities, and in some cities it's a total grab-bag of strangers on stage.

"It's very important to me that we clarify that – not everything you see on stage is black and white, and those specific musicians in New York (and in some other cities) who got paid shouldn't be put in the same category as the volunteers. WE called THEM personally because we had lots of experience with them and knew what we were gonna get.

"So you know (and because a photo of them has been circulating), in NYC, they were: Sam Kulik (who i know from our co-touring days with Nervous Cabaret), Matt Nelson (who's also in tUnE-yArDs), Kenny Warren, Phil Rodriguez, and "Moist" Paula Henderson (aka Secretary). As many people saw, they ripped it UP on the webcast. Sam and Paula also showed up to play our Kickstarter celebration (and were paid in money…AND beer).

"In New York and in DC, three of the eight or nine horn and string players were actually from our opening bands: Kelly and Alec from the band Ronald Reagan hopped in on sax duty, and Jessie from The Simple Pleasure volunteered to play viola at any gig she was at. In DC, we had a combination of people from the opening bands, a couple of horn players who were strict volunteers, and three string players from Classical Revolution who also volunteered their time.

"The up-shoot? every single city is totally different. sometimes paid. sometimes not. It's sometimes messy. sometimes not. sometimes slightly risky. and therefore, in my opinion, fun."

Notice something in that ad that Palmer NEVER mentioned? Monetary compensation. Though Palmer announced Sept. 19 via her site that she will indeed be voluntarily paying the volunteer players who answered her call, nobody held a gun to any volunteer's head and ordered them to answer the ad initially with no promise of financial compensation. Payment isn't always enriching to the bank account alone. When it comes to a musician struggling to break through, there's sometimes precious few things better could be asked than exposure and a bolstering of one's reputation to be able to say, "Professional recording artist Amanda Palmer can vouch for my ability to play at a top-tier level on short notice. I've shared a stage with her."

That's sometimes the key in the lock, in itself.

So, why all the direct quotation? Because Palmer deserved far, far better than Clover gave her. Though I don't agree with them – in fact, I applaud her side-stepping of demanding union wages – some understandable grievances were raised. Some commenters did so in a tasteful manner. Clover did so with inappropriate snark, an absence of citation and blatant ignorance of clear, candid, transparent comments from Palmer herself that I found Wednesday night within the scope of a 60-second Google search.

Clover is a hack, who deserves the immolation of his reputation. Palmer, on the other hand, has opened the door to independent, undiscovered, burgeoning musicians that she herself probably would've appreciated having opened for her.

And there it is, ladies, gentlemen and others. Before I roll out, I make this plea to help me help out a worthy cause this month. The handsome chap below will brief you on my needs. Until next week, I'm Sean, you're not, and this is the week that was.

Follow me on Twitter: @247Sean

Questions? Comments? seanccomer@gmail.com


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