Thursday, December 25, 2008

Eartha Kitt passes at 81 | BBC News

In her day, they did it all and couldn't be touched!

Synopsis: (BBC News) - American singer, dancer and actress Eartha Kitt has died at the age 81, her friend and publicist has said.

Kitt died of colon cancer on Thursday, Andrew Freedman said.

She was one of the few artists to be nominated in the Tony, Grammy and Emmy award categories and was a stalwart of the Manhattan cabaret scene.

She famously played Catwoman in the Batman television series in the 1960s and was known for her distinctive, feline drawl.

She also had a number of hit songs, including Old Fashioned Girl, C'est Si Bon and Santa Baby.

Kitt was blacklisted in the US in the late 1960s after speaking out against the Vietnam War at a White House function.

She also caused controversy when she toured apartheid South Africa in 1974, arguing that she had helped wean the regime by raising awareness of racism.

However, she returned triumphantly to New York's Broadway in a 1978 production, Timbuktu!, and continued to perform regularly in theatre shows and concert halls.

From the 1980s onwards she appeared in numerous films, and her 1984 hit Where Is My Man found her another generation of night club fans.

Big break

Kit rose to the top of the entertainment world from humble origins.

Her mother worked on a cotton plantation in South Carolina and was just 14 when she gave birth.

Kitt was then given away at the age of eight and sent to live with an aunt in New York.

Her break came at 16 when she got a job as a dancer with a professional troupe touring Europe. She later sang in Paris nightclubs and appeared in several films in the 1950s.

Kitt, who had one daughter from a brief marriage in the 1960s, lived in the US state of Connecticut.

(Source: BBC NEWS | Americas | US singer Eartha Kitt dies at 81.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beyoncé: I Am... Sasha Fierce

BeyoncéI'm going to forego any jokes about split personality disorder in reference to Beyoncé's new album as not to upset half of the people out there with the affliction. Well, wait... oops. However, I will split this review into two parts accordingly. Marketing gimmick or not, there is an inescapable division within the concept of this release.

I Am...

"If I Were A Boy" kicks off Beyoncé's half of the album with an open-hearted role-play fitting her in the shoes of an increasingly distant lover. In the verses she explores the vantage point of her counterpart in various scenarios, making choices as a supposedly wiser consciousness. Ms Knowles reaffirms her vocal prowess as if battling detractors, effortlessly moving from near whispers to uncompromised belting across the breadth of her range.

"Halo" and "Disappear" take barely innovative approaches to the mainstream tunes heard on popular radio. Whether it be a subtle removal of superfluous synthesizers or the addition of acoustic guitar accompaniment, the focus is clearly on delivering the 'Beyoncé: singer-songwriter' persona. Though her stories/songs fall short of compelling, they will still entertain those hungry for anything from Queen B. As well, "Broken-Hearted Girl," with it's trudging piano and synthesized drums, will no doubt become the anthem of romantically abandoned adolescents across America and abroad.

The album returns to task with "Ave Maria". In it the Houston native mixes the contemporary and the classical, weaving the third song of Schubert's "Ellens dritter Gesang" (better known as "Ave Maria") with an original ballad. From there Beyoncé channels her indie rock side for "Smash Into You" and "Satellites." She seems more comfortable on these tracks than the previous mid-tempo numbers which sound like Rihanna reject songs; fitting since some feel that way inversely about Rihanna's music in general.

Unfortunately, while I respect Ms Knowles's sincere attempt to create a substantial album and re-establish herself as a singer/songwriter, the first five songs on I Am... blend together slightly too well; the rest, however, could grow on the masses. Regardless of the explorations from track to track, Beyoncé consistently asserts her musical talent as not to be bumped from anyone's list of prominent contemporary vocalists.

Sasha Fierce

I'm sure the second disc, Sasha Fierce, will please the bulk of Beyoncé's fanbase. Supposedly "Sasha" has served as Beyoncé's stage presence since her solo debut, if not before. Thus the throngs of those that usually hate it when their favorite artist tries something new will happily chant along with Ms Fierce.Sasha Fierce

"Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" immediately breaks away from the style of the first disc. Upbeat, club/radio friendly, 'commanding-not-demanding' Sasha tells it like it is and how it's going to be. Her "your loss" attitude is quick to walk out of your life, each step more brazen than the antecedent; in much the same manner the song has strutted its way up and down the charts.

"Radio" idolizes the hit song mentality and falls right in line with the current new-wave resurrection in beat production. A sort of revitalized electronica experiment one might associate with Euro-pop or strobe lights. Stateside though, prominent producers TImbaland, Danjahandz, Kanye West, and Ryan Leslie have been toying with the triplet sixteenth-note pattern in padded synthesizer strings for the better half of the recession.

Moving on, we learn the new definition of "Diva" on the so-titled track. Sasha lays out the guidelines for the female equivalent of a hustler and the her activities. Garnering comparisons to Lil' Wayne's "A Milli," her diva feels perfectly at home over the track's southern-style booming bass and kick drums. While "Sweet Dream" merely flirts with the electronica sound a bit more, "Video Phone" furthers the division in personas as Fierce seduces all with sultry suggestions involving a mobile device--a side of Beyoncé I'm sure few behold.

Overall this disc of the pair is as playful, rebllious and naughty as Sasha Fierce is reported to be. Even if the entire release were on one disc with the same song order, the contrast between the two personas is undeniable. If Beyoncé is Jekyll, then Sasha Fierce is her Hyde in both music and lyric. Understandably, there are things you do on stage that express inner creativity/lunacy and resonate with various audiences but don't necessarily align with how you define yourself. Trust me. Complexity keeps an artist interesting and while I have no doubt that a Sasha Fierce will rise again, I'm definitely curious about the future/sound of Beyoncé.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama named 'Person of the Year' | BBC News

Time magazine cover of Obama$100 bucks says he wins a Nobel prize before he's done.

Time magazine has given its annual Person of the Year award to US President-elect Barack Obama.

Mr Obama was awarded the title "for having the confidence to sketch an ambitious future in a gloomy hour," said the US-based magazine.

It said he showed "the competence that makes Americans hopeful he might pull it off".

Recent winners have included Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the American soldier and the online public.

Time told readers it was "unlikely that you were surprised to see Mr Obama's face on the cover".

"He has come to dominate the public sphere so completely that it beggars belief to recall that half the people in America had never heard of him two years ago.

"He hit the American scene like a thunderclap, upended our politics, shattered decades of conventional wisdom and overcame centuries of the social pecking order."

Mr Obama has featured on the magazine's cover 15 times in the past two years.

"We would have had to have had some pretty compelling reasons to not chose President-elect Barack Obama," Michael Elliot, Time's international editor, told CNN.

"His is an extraordinary story which has captured the imagination of people from Jakarta to Dublin to Iowa to New Hampshire.

"There is a degree of excitement surrounding Barack Obama which we tried to capture in our choice," Mr Elliot said.

(Source: BBC NEWS | Americas | Obama named 'Person of the Year'.)


That's not surprising. Now if this brotha wins an Oscar... that'd be impressive. Hell, he already won a Grammy. I think he should go ahead and vie for every award possible. Nobel, Peabody, Pulitzer, Emmy, Tony, etc. Why not?!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

NFL star Burress faces gun charge | BBC News

Couldn't we make it the rest of the year without a Fail?

Synopsis: (BBC News) - The US football star who scored the winning touchdown in this year's Super Bowl faces criminal charges after shooting himself by accident.

Plaxico Burress, who plays for the New York Giants, has been charged with possession of a loaded firearm, which is illegal in the city.

Monday, December 01, 2008

US recession 'began last year' | BBC News

Gasp! You admit it?! Who told you?

Synopsis: (BBC News) - The US entered a recession in December 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Its business cycle dating committee, which is considered the arbiter of whether the US is in recession, met on Friday to make the decision.