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Archive for October, 2009

Clap Clap ClapClapClap: The 33 (Other) Most Intriguing People of the 2009-10 NBA Season

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 27, 2009

I Love This Game

It’s a little weird, I know. I’m currently a Philadelphian living in New York, which means that as a sports fan of just about any degree, my thoughts, viewing schedule, and life in general should be absolutely dominated by baseball–what with the Yankees and Phillies about to play in the World Series and all–these next few weeks. But while I’m pretty ridiculously excited for that, it’s the upcoming start of the NBA season that I can’t get off of my mind. Even with my team probably heading into a year of maddening inconsistency and the ceiling of a third-straight first-round playoff exit, I still found myself just as excited to watch the Sixers’ pre-season games as I was to see the Phillies in the divisional and league playoffs. What can I say? It’s been a long, basketball-less summer. I need dunks, three-pointers, “Sirius” and Jeff Van Gundy back in my life.

With the return of the NBA season invariably comes the return of epic Bill Simmons basketball preview columns–which, in itself, is one of the best things about basketball being back. His column for this year was of the 33 most intriguing people of the upcoming season–the players, coaches, and executives that would provide the most interest subplots over the course of the next 82 games. Some minor quibbles aside–Tim Duncan at #2 is way too high, and Shaq probably should’ve been #1B next to LeBron–it’s an excellent list, and one which I would be ill-advised to try to better. But I feel like writing a lot of words about the NBA, and since any basketball column I write would probably end up ripping off Simmons anyway, I figure it’d be slightly more righteous to instead just piggy-back off him–with my list of the next 33 (or as they’re presented here, #66 – #34), the ones that Bill excluded.

In any event, you should read his column before (and arguably instead of) mine, as it’s far better and (basically by definition) much more relevant. But if you’re like me, and you just can’t wait for the season to fucking get here already, hopefully mine help tide you over a little while longer too.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #25. “She Even Caught Me on Camera!..”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 24, 2009

In the 00s, there were two #1 hits sung by men primarly on the subject of cheating on their girlfriends. One was Usher’s “Confessions, Pt. 2,” a guilt-wracked but surprisingly self-righteous confession from Mr. Raymond to his special lady about knocking up the girl he was stepping out with. It was dramatic, it had an unbearably tense guitar hook, and it featured a video with at least one scene of a mirror shattering into thousands of pieces. The other was Shaggy and Ricardo ‘RikRok’ Ducent’s “It Wasn’t Me,” a shamed recounting from the latter of his woman walking in on him and mistress mid-coitus, to the former, who advises him to deny, deny, deny. It was catchy, it had a nice breezy guitar hook, and it featured a video where both men plotted Ducent’s high-tech escape from what appears to be a cadre of vengeful ninja ex-girlfriends. The lesson here, as always in pop music: When acting like an asshole, revel in it unapologetically, rather than fake contrition for your misdeeds.

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Commercial Break: Halls, Refreshingly Creepy

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 21, 2009

The answer to that age-old question, “What do you get when you combine the surreal, disturbing imagery of a Skittles commercial with the unsettling sexual tension of a Quiznos commercial?” Who knew that Halls was so concerned with cornering the 18-25 stoner-friendly demographic? Are we supposed to have notoriously bad breath or something?

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #26. “I Don’t Write Nothin’, ‘Coz I Ain’t Got Time…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 20, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I never felt entirely comfortable with Lil’ Wayne’s Best Rapper Alive status. There’s not really any question that he has it right now, and that he’s probably earned it with a decade’s worth of albums, mixtapes, freestyles and guest appearances. But to put him in that lineage is sort of difficult for me, because he doesn’t really do the things that I’m used to my Best Rappers Alive–2Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, even Kanye or Andre 3000–doing. Mostly, he can’t write a coherent song, and appears little motivated to even try. Unless you’re Slick Rick, rap rarely follows a strictly linear lyrical format, but all those guys have proven themselves more than capable of at least writing a whole song on the same subject matter, or at least on the same general theme, or at least with the same general mood or tone. Weezy, on the other hand, could barely even go a couplet without going off on a tangent. He had no knack whatsoever for storytelling, and appeared about as concerned with song structure as Ornette Coleman. Even his cheesiest pop crossover, “Mrs. Officer,” which starts out as a basic narrative, quickly disassembles into a mess of bad puns, needlessly repeated phrases and free-associative ramblings.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #27. “For You I Bleed Myself Dry…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 18, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

I remember the moment when it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to dismiss Coldplay forever. I was playing poker with some friends–most of whom had spent as much time disparaging the band as I had–and we were listening to a Labor Day countdown on our local modern rock station, when “Yellow” came on. Those warped first few chords, turning into that soaring riff and gently chugging beat. Yeah, a couple of their songs still kind of sucked, but this thing was just far too majestic for us to deny any longer. One of my friends reached that conclusion even before I did, throwing his hands in the hair and announcing, “I give up. Coldplay, I’m yours. Take me.” I don’t think I said it at the time, but I kinda had to begrudgingly concur.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #28. “You Ready…?”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 16, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

It’s practically impossible to remember a time when Beyonce wasn’t one of the biggest solo stars on the planet, but it’s really only been six years that she’s been out on her own. After spending the end of the 90s and beginning of the 00s as a member of Destiny’s Child–a group that she was unquestionably the leader and most talented member of, but a group nonetheless, and one whose success was monstrous enough (four #1 singles in a little over two years) that it was probably fairly unlikely that Beyonce would ever match it on her own. It probably says something that not only did Beyonce become titanically popular on her own, but she basically turned Destiny’s Child into the answer to a trivia question. Sure, Diana Ross was enormous on her own, but the Supremes were still the fucking Supremes, and are remembered just as fondly collectively as Diana was solo, if not moreso. but Destiny’s Child can’t even be seen as all that much more than a footnote to Naughty Oughties pop at this point. And the craziest thing was that Beyonce only really needed one song to accomplish this.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #29. “I’m Hearing What You Say, But I Just Can’t Make a Sound…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 14, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

When super-producers reach a certain commercial and/or artistic level of Do No Wrongness, they earn the rare luxury of being able to serve more as curator than artistic collaborator, waving their magic wand at certain artists and making them commercially viable with barely a modicum of extended effort. Such was certainly the case with Timabaland in late 2006, having unapologetically stormed the pop world with his work on two mega-hit albums (Nelly Furtado’s Loose and Justin Timberlake’s Future Sex/Love Sounds, both of which not only featured Timbo’s production, but also showcased him as a general vocal contributor and music video presence) and made himself the biggest star of the Naughty Oughties to never have his name on the front of the “f/” symbol on a hit. That too was about to change, however, as Mr. Mosley’s resurgent clout afforded him the opportunity to release an album on his lonesome (relatively speaking). Hence, Timbaland Presents: Shock Value, and “Apologize.”

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #30. “Sometimes I Think Sitting on Trains…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 11, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

Sometimes I’m still not sure if Mathangi “M.I.A.” Arulpragasam actually existed, or if she was just the manifestation of the collective will of every pop-oriented music critic on the planet (or at the very least, the internet). There was nothing about this woman that was not scientifically bred to blogger specifications. She was exotic, she had political activist (and some would say terrorist) ties, she mixed and matched from various musics, languages and cultures, she at least co-wrote and co-produced all her stuff, she collaborated with hip musicians running the gamut from Timbaland to Justine Frischmann of Elastica, she quoted from both pop and indie musical history, and she was attractive without being overly or distractingly glamorous. 99% of music writers were salivating over her before they ever even heard a song of hers. Then they heard her first single, the block-slaughtering “Galang,” and it seemed to justify everything that critics wanted M.I.A. to be capable of. Clearly, great things were on the horizon. Probably.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #31. “I’ve Been Waiting for This Moment All My Life…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 8, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

There weren’t many popular rock songs this decade that I would necessarily describe as being magical. Nothing against Naughty Oughties rock or anything, but you could probably count on one hand the number of songs that really felt transportive, heartbreaking, special on some indeterminable level. I wouldn’t even have included “Lazy Eye” among their ranks for a little while–the first few times I heard it I wasn’t too impressed, though dumb prejudice stemming from their band name (which made them sound like a third-rate White Stripes neo-garage rip) probably still had a lot to do with that. But man, the more time I spent with that song–seeing its video on MTVU, hearing it in endless amounts of commercials and TV shows, playing it in Rock Band 2–the more it crept under my skin, sucking me into its world, making me feel a way few other songs this decade really managed.

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #32. “I Was So High I Did Not Recognize…”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 7, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

As people, Maroon 5 were not necessarily an easy band to like–and by Maroon 5, of course, I mean lead singer Adam Levine, appearing to be the only Maroon 5 member of any real sort of consequence. He was extraordinarily good-looking, he cast himself in cheesy soap opera-ish plots with fairly attractive women that he may or may not have been dating in his music videos, he sang with mock-affectation and with the kind of hilt in his voice that has connoted “douche” for centuries, and he just generally seemed like the kind of guy that would fill you with an equal mixture of disgust and envy as you passed him hitting on college girls in the quad (or he would have if my college had a quad, anyway). Largely for this reason, Maroon 5 songs were occasionally deplorable. But somehow, just as often, they were fairly close to divine, for one simple reason–for all their fratty obnoxiousness, them white boys had the funk.

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