Archive for March, 2004

Column 11 – Part 2

Superbowl 2004? continued……

What did I think of Timberlake’s performance?

That was just it, he was Michael Jackson, and not original. His performance was ok at best.

The song and his first single, “Like I Love you” wasn’t overly inventive and his performance had thematic elements and choreography stolen, not expanded on, from Michael.

I passed his debut off as just another recording artist. He didn’t seem to have his own voice, and that seemed to be the popular consensus over the next week in the media. Timberlake’s album came out soon after to harsh reviews of “Timberlake is a good study of Bobby Brown and Michael Jackson, but not an innovator.”

A couple of months passed, and I forgot how important I thought that moment was, and started to have more down to earth expectations for his music and individual style.

Fast Forward to a different state of mind

Now November, I was working my first job and due to the long commute, I listened to the radio a ton. “Cry me a River”, the second single from Justified, was released, and although not a real catchy tune, it was really soulful. Different with a strong, slow beat and a high vocal range that only Timberlake could pull off, it seemed to get a ton of buzz. Plus, the fact that it was about his breakup with Britney made the song that much better.

Soon after, the radios lit up with ‘Work It”, a song he did with red hot Nelly. Catchy with a perfect meld of lyrics and melodic chorus, it was song that you turn up to make the time fly.

Over the next year and a half to two years it seemed like Mr. Timberlake was everywhere. He had a couple more singles off the album that were cool, “Rock your Body” and “Senorita” that further distanced him from his days as a teen heartthrob and carving out a niche for his brand of Rhythm and Blues layered with Funk.

It was becoming apparent that like Michael, one of Timberlake’s greatest strengths was that his music crossed over into so many genres. He performed on BET, (Black Entertainment Television) he was on the mainstream pop stations, as well as the alternative ones, and he seemed to be growing steadily in popularity as a solo artist.

On top of all that, not related to his music, Timberlake has always seemed like a really cool guy that wasn’t too over inflated. From Kentucky, it seemed like he was living the American Dream. Good looking, rich, and at one time dating (arguable) the hottest woman on the planet, Britney Spears, he had it all! He even dipped in the dramatic waters with a sense of comedic delivery as a dancing omelet on SNL and a funny spoof skit of the Matrix with Sean William Scott on the MTV movie awards.

He seemed like he came to his stardom deservingly, through hard work and talent with a hearty helping of charisma. But I confused thatncharisma with artistic integrity and always putting his work before anything else.

And then it hit me.

That is when I realized what was upsetting me about the Superbowl.

I had not seen the incident in real time, but had been taping the game because I had work to do and the Superbowl is an all day event. When I saw it later, it didn’t seem like the big deal everyone was making it out to be at first. Then I started to really think about who it impacted, and listened to the backlash as it unraveled, and I realized how big of a deal this was.

But I am not a parent, so it didn’t directly affect me and it didn’t offend me.

What I do care about is the fact that Timberlake was just starting to become this great innovative solo artist for me.

I will read articles in passing about Timberlake when I browse through the newsstands. He says he only now realizes why people were labeling N’Sync as this candy pop band and that he knows that the songs he wrote on Justified are so much above and beyond that.

He isn’t the only one who thinks so. At an award show late last year, Eminem and 50 Cent stood up and gave him applause on his walk up to the stage. Earlier this year, he won a Grammy and gave a stellar and engaging performance of Senorita on the piano in what is becoming his trademark style of a pastel suit and canvas shoes.

This is the same artist who pulled off a piece of Janet Jackson’s brassiere and later passed it off as a “wardrobe malfunction”. Maybe it was all Jackson’s doing you say, that they had rehearsed something similar the day before, but she changed her outfit to surprise him on the day of. “Have you naked by the end of this song” doesn’t seem to fit with a simple display of a bra, there is more skin on NYPD Blue.

Oh, he knew, and he liked it. He liked the idea of being involved in such a large stunt with such a large name that he was drawn to. I do believe that in most cases, all publicity is good, no matter type it is. But not this time, it wasn’t just a regular display, and it wasn’t on a regular day.

Considering all the details

Let’s play the devil’s advocate. Maybe he was feeling some unwarranted pressure from the kiss between his ex-girlfriend Britney and Madonna back in September. Maybe his obvious outspoken respect and attraction for Janet Jackson, which was apparent at the Icon awards last year, took over. Maybe it was that continuing heat between the pair that resulted in a real accident onstage during the Super Bowl.

But I doubt it.

The Superbowl is the unofficial holiday of America. Not many other days of the year can give you that much exposure. An excuse for families to spend all day together and eat more than they would on an off day, some 120 million people were watching, including many children.

I do not think that all children have seen a naked breast, and if they have, they haven’t seen one many times.

I don’t think MTV is at fault. They probably knew and didn’t stop her, because MTV fosters those sort of ideas. But, it was her unprompted idea, and you know that she didn’t care. She just kept saying, “I apologize for those of you who were offended” instead of “I am sorry because I was naïve enough to think that the American public actually believes this was an accident.” Or “Sorry, I don’t care how my actions may affect anyone else.”

As I look down at my own chest, covered in hair, I know that if I shift wrong, I can pull some hair out, and cause “discomfort”. I cannot imagine gluing on a nipple “decoration” or “enhancer”, let alone attach a die cast metal, quarter inch thick object, with six to eight half inch spikes to my chest, underneath my clothes, unless I had some intentions of showing it off.

I read a couple of weeks ago in Rolling Stones that Timberlake said, “I’ve had a good year, a really good year, I don’t need publicity like this.” But that wasn’t what I heard come out of his mouth immediately after the event. I heard something similar to what Jackson said, apologizing to those who were offended. Maybe he meant sorry for choosing on national television what should be offensive to every person on the planet.

I thought Justin was better than that; it’s my naïve conservative upbringing shining through. At some point all musicians will cross the line in the name of pushing their own careers and reputations plummet from there. I just didn’t think it would be before his career really began.

Look at his mentor Michael Jackson. Michael is an innovator as well as a button pusher in his risks. I mean, he even pissed off Steven Spielberg. That’s pretty good. He may be getting torn apart with these molestation allegations, but it isn’t like he hasn’t given the media reason over the years to blow things out of proportion.

Justin may not be as bad, and he may not be going down the same road, but this may be his first step. They both knew to shock the most people that the Superbowl was the ideal event. Maybe they wanted to sell more albums, but I doubt it was that basic. I think it was just to shock and nothing more, for the thrill. Sad really, to need the attention.

Solely my opinion and my closing

Maybe every American is already desensitized, and maybe children have already seen something similar. Maybe we are more uptight than Europe with their free display of the human body in mainstream media. We may be hypocritical in letting massive amounts of increasingly depictive violence on TV slide, but being hyper sensitive to nudity.

But I am still going to say for the sake of a budding career, a bad reflection on his N’Sync band mates, and disrespect to those parents out there that didn’t want to expose their children to a plastic black woman…

What Timberlake did was inappropriate.


Column 11 – Part 1

A somewhat triumphant return!

It really has been forever. The cool thing about returning to something after so long, is that once you finish a new project without a deadline,
it feels that much sweeter.

The last time I wrote we were moving to Indy. A lot of things have happened since then, one of smaller things being the fiasco at the Superbowl.

I debated about publishing this column for awhile, but with recent requests for more articles, I decided if for nothing else, it will help me capture my thoughts for that moment in time before they are gone.

So, as a warning, if you are not in what my survey calls, the 18-25 crowd, ie you are anyone’s parents or a rightfully old enough to be so, I wouldn’t read my opinion. But otherwise, have at it, and let me know what you think.

I never though that I would say…. (Superbowl 2004)

When you are a child, and you are picking your nose through the sermon at the 9:00 service, you mom looks over at you and says, “That’s inappropriate, stop it.”

I never knew exactly what that meant, inappropriate. I always thought that it was the catch all for parents when they didn’t have a specific reprimand for a given situation.

For example when you show the unusual growth on your upper thigh to your grandma while you are standing in line for an ice cream cone. Your parents find it a little funny, but don’t have a cheat sheet for punishment that says, “Showing butt in public = two weeks without TV.” So instead they give you the catch all scold, “Your butt is not appropriate at the ice cream store, you should be ashamed.”

So I swore when I was young that I would never catch myself saying the word “inappropriate”.

But after the Superbowl last month I found myself thinking, “how irresponsible and yes, inappropriate.” But, if Janet Jackson wants to ruin her career, fine, she has had a good run and now we can all remember her as Ms. Peek a Boob.

As a matter of fact, now it is a month and a half later and most of us adults are not thinking about the idiocy of the event on a daily basis. With the shuffle of everyday life, we aren’t phased, and have more important things to worry about. But I am sure that one month after a rock star bares her breast in front of possibly 40 million children, they have not forgotten, and their lives are forever changed.

“Thank you” to yet another Jackson for preying on children. We all knew the moment it happened that she was getting the reaction she planned.

None of this is news and this is obviously, not the point I will make.

But something else about the performance didn’t set easy with me. It took a day or two of watching the news, reading the papers, and watching Wayne Brady do funny yet crass sound effects of bouncing, unleashed women parts.

My stance will be a less common and popular one.

Let’s rewind.

A busier time in life…

It is late summer of 2002. I am finishing up what is one of the busiest months of my life. In one long day, I work an eight hour day outside in 90 degree sauna-esque heat, by myself pack all of my stuff, dressers and all, into the family van and drive two and a half hours home to Grand Haven, arriving close to 2:30 a.m.

Two days later, after unpacking everything, I leave for Iowa. A fourteen hour trip one way, I officially determine that sleeping in a car was a thing of my childhood. A week visit and then another fourteen hours home in a car with four women and a John Walsh audio tape. Yippee!

The next week I work fifty hours of physical labor in a shop that is also roughly 90 degrees. Then, that Friday after a 10 hour day I drive eight hours to Cincinnati.

Tired yet? Well here’s more.

Early the next morning this friend and I drive ten hours to Maryland, picked up another friend, and we all headed to Philadelphia to hang out for a week with yet another friend.

As I have established, I no longer can sleep in a car, unless I am driving it, and I also don’t sleep well in foreign beds. It was the start of my allergy season, so this loss of rest coupled with congestion headaches and a runny nose made me sick.

The week ended and I was driving the final stretch of a relentless month. Being a busy body and having a Type A personality, it was weird to be having fantasies of lying in bed and eating Chuckles all day.

But I pushed back an eight hour sleep night for one more day. Lansing was on the route home, so I stopped over to see my close friend Justin Varner and to use his cable television.

The 2002 MTV Music Awards

It was the first week of September and like every year; it was time for the MTV music awards. I always looked forward to the awards because they are entertaining and the artists are unleashed a little, making for a volatile environment.

But I was not watching for humor or a sad performance by Axl Rose and a guy with a KFC bucket on his head. Instead, I was hoping to see history in the making. I was hoping to see the launch of a solo career that some said could have an impact on music not seen since the likes of Michael Jackson some twenty years ago.

Justin Timberlake’s first solo appearance sans N’Sync was that night. I dreaded the two hour drive that still awaited me, and I dozed in and out of the show, but it was so important to me to have the opportunity to say that I saw the next Michael Jackson perform for the first time.

Continue to Part 2…..