Till I woke up on the concrete.

By Michael Traversa

Katy Perry: Part of Me pretty much follows the steps of Truth or Dare: In bed with Madonna as it’s very well structured between concert footage and Katy’s backstory on her shot to fame, her long struggle to achieve success, throughout different record labels and different ways producers wanted to market her. Here comes the problem though.
The movie walks a fine line between documentary and infomercial. How much of that is really true, how much the truth is bent to promote the Katy Perry brand? Truth be told nowadays just talent won’t cut it, you need to create a persona to stand out in the crowd. There’s even been a moment not too long ago when to differentiate all these pop stars each one had a different color in their hair: Avril Lavigne was green, Rihanna was red, Katy Perry was blue and so on. Katy didn’t want to be another Avril Lavigne, and yet she’s now this character, bubbly fairytale character all wigs and makeup, it’s not just about the music. We all know record companies want to find ‘the new’ of this and that and she wanted to be the first Katy. Well done. But in the end she did create a public persona that was far away from that cute girl playing a ‘good song’ on her guitar at the Hotel Cafe. Just like Lady Gaga did to get attention (watch her video of playing piano at young age in a similar club to get what I mean).

So did the story really happen the way it’s told? We may never know, regardless there’s real talent, persistence and dedication behind it. There are also a lot of little moments which can give an idea how she really is in real life. And what she was like growing up. I also liked seeing the environment she came from, her habit of rolling eyes already at young age showing a craving for more in life. Overall the movie is well done, her entourage is fun, more than anything I liked seeing her without makeup, she’s much prettier that way.

I was surprised to see Russell Brand in it, I figured she would want to cut him out, instead he’s very well in the picture; which may confirm the genuine intentions of a film that chronicles one year in her life. Like I said it’s a fine line between a documentary and big promo.
Some press has been looking into what she says about not wanting a baby (“I’m a baby. A baby can’t have a baby”) as a reason for her break up. I don’t believe that. That’s just a comment taken out of context, and the situation is much more complicated than that. I think what really happened only the two of them know and that’s the way it should be. Sure it might have played a part, as been far away from each other for long time. I like what she says that she firmly believed and somehow she still does, despite all, that (I’m paraphrasing here) when you find love the other should accept you for all you are, long trips around the world and desire for fandom approval included, there isn’t that much to figure out, otherwise it just a part of him/her you’re loving. Well said. Ah, the fairytale of love. Like a wise man said ‘It’s love, not Santa Clause‘.
I felt really sorry she didn’t get to enjoy her largest attendance at a show in Brazil because of her personal life getting in the way.

The 3D adds practically nothing, as this has been largely converted in post; songs are catchy though, it shouldn’t surprise all the number ones she managed to have in a row (itself a record, it’s said) and one can’t help leaving the theatre mumbling the words of Wide Awake, Katy Perry’s latest hit playing over the end credits.

Grammy Awards 2012

By Michael Traversa

The televised ceremony of the Grammys has really become all about the performances. The great majority of the awards are given off air and it seems like the ones shown on tv decrease as years go by. This time only the key ones were kept for airing (Song, Record, Album, and the main act for each genre of music) that left space for as many performances as possible.

The death of Whitney Houston the day before cast a cloud over the show, nevertheless there wasn’t enough time to scratch any plan and redo the whole show as a tribute. So things kicked off as planned with an energetic performance by Bruce Springsteen who with a rousing rendition of We Take Care of Our Own showed once more why he is The Boss. Some may consider it a little out of place given what had happened, maybe Jennifer Hudson should have opened instead; on the other hand Springsteen shook the arena as only he can do.

LL Cool J as host of the event took then a moment to remember Whitney asking to say a prayer, there could not have been a better way to acknowledge the passing of the Diva; sometimes less is more. In fact it was more effective than the tribute paid by Jennifer Hudson who in tears sang Whitney’s hit I will always love you.

The performances that followed continued in the tradition of duets on Grammy’s stage: pop idol Kelly Clarkson paired with Jason Aldean had the chance to embrace her Texan roots going country while Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys together paid tribute to Etta James. Foo Fighters, winners of Best Rock, kept their indie cred intact, to say it a la Jack Black who introduced them, performing in a tent outside the Staples Center. Accepting the award, Dave Grohl brought up “the human element in making music”; the band ditched computers and fancy studios during the making of the album in favor of Grohl’s garage. The rawness of the recording paid off.

What came as a partial disappointment was the long awaited performance of Coldplay and Rihanna. Their beautiful song Princess of China got sandwiched between their each massive hits, We found love for the barbadian beauty and Paradise for the British band. Somehow we had hoped to see a full band live rendition of the song.  For Katy Perry the Grammys have become a memories scrapbook, last year she was celebrating her marriage playing pictures from her wedding on the giant screen behind her while she performed, this year she addressed her divorce with a new song that kept repeating “This is the part of me that you’re never gonna ever take away from me”. Nicki Minaj decided to go with the theatrics in her performance, something we become to expect from Gaga not Minaj, completed with a prerecorded mini film, fireworks and levitation (the theme was an exorcism).

As the night went by, it appeared evident that this was Adele’s year. Her voice was definitely back in the performance that triggered a long standing ovation and she swept the Grammys with a total of six awards, Someone like you Best Pop song, Rolling in the deep Song and Record of the year, 21 Album of the year, just to name the more important ones. The Album was clearly the one she wanted the most: while in previous acceptances she kept her cool she broke in tears to accept the final award. The best was saved for last: the best performance of the night was the conclusive act that brought together on stage Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. At a certain point there were 6 guitars playing at the same time, pure joy for the ears.

Head over to Grammy.com for the list of all the winners.

Mylo Xyloto

By Michael Traversa

Coldplay have done it again. After the massive success achieved with Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, the album that catapulted them into the greatest bands realm it wasn’t easy to keep the momentum. Mission accomplished thanks to the band’s credo of always setting new goals, believing in a full concept record instead of scattered singles (which seems to be the way of choice in the iTunes era) and testing the new material in a neverending tour, an extension of the latest one.

Our review comes after the album has been in rotation for a few months as we believe in giving the music several listening before forming an opinion. Call it slow music (a la slow food) if you wish. We like Coldplay also because they firmly believe the order of the tracklist matters. The position of a song within the album can completely change what you’re trying to say and the way you want to say it. It changes the mood, the flow and ultimately can differentiate a good work from a great work.

Starting with the short intro of Mylo Xyloto, which gives the title to the record, the boys get right into it with the energetic Hurts like heaven. The choice of constantly switching the beat from mid tempo to ballads and fast ones turns the experience into a flawless listening. The current single, the dreamy Paradise is already a staple in Coldplay’s body of work and on the album is followed by the ready for arena anthem Charlie Brown.
By the time the thumping beat of Every teardrop is a waterfall, courtesy of unsung hero Will Champion, hits the ears we are captivated.
The work reaches its peak in the collaboration with Rihanna (everything she touches these days is gold) which could have easily missed the mark. Instead Princess of China perfectly marries the voice of Chris Martin and one of the barbadian artist for what could be interpreted as a follow up to monster hit Viva la Vida (“I could have been a princess, you’d be a king. Could have had a castle and worn a ring”) while being an exotic metaphor of a relationship gone wrong. Cue the delicate Up in flames and you got a perfect bridge between past and future of the band.

Coldplay matured a great ability to tell stories (here the concept tale of two rebellious kids in a futuristic environment), ability to give characters life and to permeate the lyrics with instant quotes, “I struggle with the feeling that my life isn’t mine”, “Life goes on, it gets so heavy”, “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop”, and with words that chase each other into the songs. The presence of genial producer Brian Eno behind the scenes can only enhance the band’s sound and bring them to their full potential.
Grade: A

January Indie Jukebox Rotation

By Marco Portiglia

“Hearts On Fire” – Scars On 45:  Out of their second EP the British quintet from  Bradford delivers, as lead singer Danny Bemrose would put it, “a gentle melodic intensity”. Their 70ies friendly folk-pop sound is a nice mix of fresh songwriting and nice melodies. The song features female singer Aimee Drive who, at times, reminds us of a certain Stevie Nicks…

“Heaven” – O.A.R. : First single off their new album “King”, the tune finds the Rockville natives on a new creative and musical direction, not concerned about living up to anybody (fans? critics??)’s expectations. Frontman Marc Roberge lyrics are brilliant: we don’t need a judgmental mystical far away Heaven when we can celebrate who we are and how we want to live here, on this earth….

“Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys: Vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney can make no wrong. On “Lonely Boy” the Ohio blues-rock duo push their all-American rock cool sound to an even faster speed. The song is a tough/tender deal: rousing-bluesy guitars, a certain southern feeling, a poppy beat and a reminder that even a badass rocker can be sensitive “I got a love that keeps me waiting”.

“Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” – The Kooks: Brighton Indie rockers The Kooks return after an (almost) four years absence with this sunny and Beatlesque melodic little song. Their style hasn’t changed much: Jangle-pop guitars, sparkly synths, a touch of Brit-Pop  and post-punk influences. Their songs aren’t here to change the music forever but to make us feel like there can be light even in the darkest nights.