This has been one of the most academically stressful and fulfilling weeks of my life. Ironically, it's also my first week at UT. Coincidence, I think not.
Musically, nothing's changed. I lost my debit card two weeks ago--new one on the way, thank God--and thus lost my ability to iTune. However, I have great friends with great music taste. For this brief period of time, I have adopted their music libraries, and I'm thrilled with some of my discoveries.
"88," by The Cool Kids, a Chicago-based hip hop group, offers a refreshingly minimalist interpretation of mid-90s rap and dance. I'm a huge fan of music in the early 90s--and late 90s, for that matter--when bands like No Doubt, Sublime, Sugar Ray and Salt-N-Pepa took the musical concepts of the 80s (synthesizers, music without contextual meaning) and engineered them for a modern, Clinton-era audience. Women were confused about their place in society ("Push It," Alanis Morisette's "Ironic") and in personal relationships; academic success took second place to occupational success (becoming a lawyer, a doctor...); the economy was prospering (Madonna's "Ray of Light," the rise of 14 year-old girls as an actual musical force); and, of course, the Clinton-Lewinsky affair ruptured a major valve in America's value pipeline. ("Isn't the president supposed to be our moral leader?" Sadly, Reagan's trickle-down policies don't quite work here...)
Regardless, "88" is a total blast musically, and I appreciate the clever lyricism and great tone of their lead vocalist. At first listen, The Cool Kids could be Lupe Fiasco with Pharell Williams as producer, but it's a bit too low-key and simple for Williams' ambitious energy.
I was going to talk about Spoon, a band I have inexplicably bought albums of and never listened to, and how I think I've finally reached the right age to appreciate their talents (or, at least their 2007 single "Don't You Evah"), but something else has hit my radar courtesy of Perez Hilton. Britney Spears just may be coming back. I'm no Britney Spears die-hard, but I find her an interesting social experiment indicative of 21st century America. (Amy Winehouse is more the British version, except is actually talented and may actually not survive her next album.) Whatever. "Blackout" was a fine pop album, if you can ignore the image of Britney Spears jiggling and drunk at the VMAs in 2007, with standout tracks like "Get Naked (Got A Plan)," "Radar," and the underrated "Break The Ice."
A video surfaced this afternoon of what appears to be Britney Spears practicing a dance routine to a new song, I guess for a next album--the kind of album they rush out so we forget the last one--but also, possibly for a performance at this Sunday's VMAs. Could it be true? Obviously it's Spears dancing in the video, and dancing very very well (to a very very cool song), but is the Spears' camp really bold enough to present Spears, who was the veritable trainwreck of the century just this June, to the public once again? What's so interesting to me is how Spears was so out on the pop radar that to own her last album was to own the album of some underground band. To know her songs, tracks like "Radar" for instance, was to know undiscovered pop songs of an artist years gone by. It was treated like the latest Hot Chip album, discussed among hipsters in American Apparell--she was so underground she was almost "in," a radio outlaw and newly-minted underdog.
However, with her body back in shape, her children under court protection, and her (least we forget) bipolar disorder under control, (maybe we should forget.) her career is evidently ready for a reboot. I'll be paying attention, because this trainwreck just so happens to be the defining figure of my generation.