06 February 2008

GirlPop SuperWeekendbeginning

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Miley Megaplex and Robyn RSS: Carlsson and Cyrus mug for cameras in the bluescreen limelight

I was in SuperNYC, home of the just-crowned
SuperGiant SuperBowlers, for the SuperEst pair of weekdays in recent memory, at least in terms of sibling-friendly girl-pop Event events: SuperMonday (formerly known as monday) and SuperTuesday (also known as SuperStalemate-day.)

In order of SuperAwesomeness and reverse chronology, ST was the day of Robyn's FIRST EVER U.S. PERFORMANCE, which was, yeah, wow, has already been written about on all those blogs that people actually read (that's just one but it links to all the others), and you can also watch videos of it there and here. It's a little weird to be so in sync with the blogosphere like this - basically they already said most of the things I would say: she's adorable and darling and immensely charismatic and funny and sexy and her voice is fantastic; the crowd was tremendously pumped up and giddy and cheered her every step and sang along with every word (Lillie and my sister and I were standing less than ten feet from the stage, roughly the third row back and center); and Robyn in return was clearly very genuinely touched by our enthusiasm (and seemingly pretty surprised by the extent of it), so the whole thing was basically a big 'ol love fest.

All of that you can glean from the videos and endless stream of photos (we were standing right next to the guy who took those, who turns out to be this idolator poll artist-category jokester) - I took some too, including pretty good footage of her getting down and freaky in the latter half of "Cobrastyle" (after this part), so maybe I'll post those, but maybe not b/c my camera pretty much sucks.

I dunno, if you haven't liked listening to her music (and you've at least tried), and if watching her dance and sing and vamp and giggle doesn't convince you that she's SuperSpecial, I guess you just don't get it, in which case I'm sorry for you but I don't wanna argue. I don't necessarily love her visual aesthetic these days, though the hardcore hairstyle is admittedly kinda cute - "pixie-ish" as people seem to be saying - in person. Her outfit was, as you'll have seen, nothing particularly outstanding, but she did make excellent use of her kind of odd two-shirt setup to
emphasize her impressive ribcage-isolation dancing and to mime heartbeats (on "With Every...", but also, between-songs, to indicate the intensity of her fan-love and/or adrenaline.) Also, her skirt occasioned an amusingly non-rhyming lyric alteration to "Konichiwa Bitches" - like many of her songs (notably "you won't get with this you see..."), that one has lots of opportunities for demonstrative body-clutching show-and-tell.

Predictably, goofs like that song and her Prince and Teddybears covers were crowd-pleasers (and snagged most of the YouTube coverage), and of course I loved 'em too, though to me they're actually the least interesting aspect of her music (I still don't really get why "Konichiwa Bitches" has been the lead single in English-speaking lands, jokily literal viral video notwithstanding. It's just too tossed-off, too close to SuperFicial Fannypack territory to even work as a particularly good novelty hit, despite the inspired "Close to Me" rip.) The monstrous, vitriolic straight-up dance bangers ("Crash and Burn Girl," "Handle Me" - she said "nazi" forward in case you were wondering, lyrically paranoid
"Who's That Girl") were also predictably huge and awesome, and though I still haven't quite warmed to the electro rework of "Bum Like You" (inspired by Bukowski, she said) it was still all good. And previous album highlight "Keep This Fire Burning" was an unexpected treat.

Of course the two (hyper)ballad(esque)--singles - the album's actual real hits - made appearances, and were stunningly gorgeous: "With Every Heartbeat" hitting hard even though she mostly sang it to a backing track (those heavenly mid-section strings mostly obscured by crowd noise but whatever), while "Be Mine!" (such a stupid/clever grammatical joke that title is!) was, now-famously, aired twice, once with guitar (!) and then, in the encore, just piano - I'd thought it was going to be "Eclipse" at first, the chorus progression being similar. But otherwise the quieter, sweeter side of her repertoire was mostly absent - no "Robotboy" (not even in its electro two-step reconstruction), much to Martha's dismay, none of the heartfelt closing trio (I'd been singing the heartbreaking "Eclipse" on my way to the venue, but a souled-out "Should Have Known" would have been great too.)

Of course, these are just petty gripes - I really, really can't say anything bad about the show; it didn't even feel especially short (and it almost was, at just shy of an hour include three-song encore.) The highest highlight, if there was one - and I wouldn't have expected this - may well have been the slyly minimal blip-blop reworking of her '97 smash "Show Me Love." (The screen's blurry and the audio's pretty awful, but You can at least get a sense of it here.) I was also surprised and impressed by how much of the audience seemed to be fans from a decade ago (when she first came to the U.S., but didn't actually perform - I believe is what she said) who were expecting to hear more of her old stuff.

Basically - the reason why I wasn't gonna blog too much about the show, and also why I've ended up doing it anyway - all the hoopla is beside the point. It's just her, yknow - like Marit and Devon and Cex and JoJo Richman and other performers who have absolutely and completely charmed me concert, the greatness of her music doesn't exactly necessarily entail the magnitude of her personal magnetism (it's still plenty great on its own), but seeing her in person does make you realize how much that charisma elevates and imbues her music - making it so seemingly irresistable that I'm at a loss to understand why all people aren't instantly won over by her, genre preferences notwithstanding.

[ETA: Just one more bit about Robyn, which oddly hasn't been the topic of much blog speculation lately: I think it's time to start speculating about Robyn's chances for actual crossover success here in the states. She's obviously got a lot of momentum going for her right now - it was more than palpable Tuesday night. She recently signed to Cherry Tree, the sub-label of Interscope which also boasts Feist, The Fratellis, The Feeling, Rooney, and The Pipettes, among others. Not sure how actually-successful those last couple have been 'round these parts, but at least the first gained some major notoriety in oh-seven. Seems the Cherry Tree folks have a knack for getting their artists hott licensing deals, at least in iPod spots - "Handle Me" would be a natural, no? In any case, if quirky Brits like Lily and Amy can make it (and now maybe the Knash?), seriously, what's to stop Robyn, who's already conquered the hearts of the UK without a homefield advantage, and who's already had major hits here, and is already reaching out to about five audiences at once via collabs with Snoop Dogg, Britney, etc. I mean, just saying.]

Speaking of Cex, opener Drop the Lime, whom none of the blogs seem to be mentioning, was distinctly reminiscent of that occasionally-missed Baltimorean badboy, particularly in his physical mannerisms and campy haughty-hotty performance style (they're also - former? - labelmates on Tigerbeat6.) He was admittedly an odd choice for this show, and I can't say the crowd was entirely with him, but I enjoyed his set considerably. He announced at the beginning that he'd be playing "bass music" - I guess you could call it that, but it was also more varied and inventive than that maybe suggests - hard-hitting breakbeats and fuzzed out bassy spasms, sure (which he was manipulating live via laptop, i think entirely, but using turntables and a fair amount of mixer EQ-tweaking), but with enough pop-eared flourishes to keep it interesting, and intermittently (every other song, maybe more), live, unexpectedly soulful vocals: too "scene-y" said my sis, and admittedly strained in a potentially obnoxious way, but still with an appealing R&B grit'n'growl.

Somewhere between Cex and Jamie Lidell, then - perhaps triangulated with some particularly poppy dubstep/grime producer - but more dancey than either - and just possibly more melodic too in his song-inclined moments (the vocals were mixed a little too quiet for them to really dominate, and I wish I could have heard his sincere-seeming, even sentimental lyrics better, but there seemed to be some serious hooks in there.) Definitely interested to check out his recordings. And the SuperSuave, head-to-ankle black formal wear plus white shoes look was pretty killer.

One final note - the brand-new Highline Ballroom was a very nice place indeed, but what absolutely clinched it as a fantastic venue was the fact that, rather than turning on the lights and ushering us out after the show, like pretty much every concert I've ever been to, the red-haired lady DJ kept right on spinning and a good half of the crowd stuck around to dance, to gleefully glitchily remixes of "Glamorous," "Umbrella," "D.A.N.C.E." (still not too overplayed for NYC? wow!), that 'use your love tonight' song (whose recent ubiquity continues to befuddle me, especially as I can never remember who it's by [The Outfield?], though that factoid-dense wiki-stub graf offers some clues), a thankfully un-mixed "Piece of Me," and an inspired live (pretty sure) mash-up of "Miura" and "When Doves Cry." ok.

MEANWHILE.........nothing much was happening in the primary results. big whoop. BUT, on SuperMonday, whilst my hunny and her bro were watching possibly-already-legendary writerless talk-show throwdown tussle at the Daily Show taping, me and my sis went to the probably-definitely-already-legendary, record-breaking, ridiculously-championed, even impressively-reviewed Digital THREE-D spectacular that is Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. The movie, that is.

Oh man, it was SuperGood! I mean, I'm not going to pretend that it would absolutely appeal to everyone, as I do/will w/r/t Robyn. But, like...it is actually good, no joke. And you might like it even if you think you wouldn't. It's got a lot to offer - top-notch, grade-A examples of all of the following:

1. Bubblegum-catchy but still hard-rocking power-pop (and the occasional countryish ballad)
Sweet, wholesome, charismatic young women (Miley's got a tiny bit of rebellion in her persona, sure - this is rock'n'roll after all - but neither as herself nor [much less] as Hannah Montana is she particularly sexualized - refreshingly and not a little surprisingly) and men (the Jonas brothers, who show up for a couple songs in the middle to compete goodnaturedly [along with Miley, naturally] for the hearts of the girls in the crowd, which is to say effectively everybody in the crowd)
Actually well-conceived concert filmmaking
4. Flashy, high-tech audio-visual spectacles that actually seem fresh and innovative (at least if you haven't seen the small handful of digital 3D films that have been released - the stuff's pretty impressive), and are only partially reliant on gimmickry
5. Mass cultural phenomena

If any of those things sound appealing, you would almost certainly find something to enjoy here. I like them all, roughly in that order, and so does my sister - at least, she likes the first two, which are the most important part - and it's great to have at least somebody who'll come with me to revel in them - driving to NYC all the way from Rochester no less. Maybe if I'd given out more copies of the three-volume (and counting) Ladies Love girl-pop mix series (of which she's been the sole consistent recipient) I would have a few more converts... but I'm not quite sure. (If you're interested let me know... I might just custom-tailor you a copy.)

There's lots more to be said about Miley/Hannah - who, by the way has just jumped up to #17 on the billboard hot 100 with her "underground" smash "See You Again" - but I'm not up to saying it right now. If you're at all interested, I highly recommend the movie, even given its admittedly outrageous ticket price (on the upside, it's a rare opportunity to see a movie in New York City that's not any more expensive than it would be anywhere else in the country.) It was supposed to close its limited one-week run tonight, but unsurprisingly I guess it has been extended. So we shall see.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I made sure not to read this post again before I did my own prelim/spleen-venting (four-star across the board, spleen emptied in someone else's direction) review and I still cribbed some of your phrases subconsciously. But the movie is everything you say. And you use fewer words.