Tuesday, 17 April 2012

2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted- Hail Technology?

If you are a regular reader to this here blog, or shelter for incoherence and stupidity if you will, you may have cottoned on that I am a bit of a rock and metal fan mostly. So regular readers (all 1 or 2 of you) may be wondering why a picture of 2Pac is sitting on this post. Well for the record although I spend most of my time waffling on about bands with loud guitars etc, my music taste is a lot wider than I often make out. Hip Hop and R&B are such genres (I know there can be complicated overlaps with these two but I’m not going in to great detail for this post, so apologies) that I can be found listening to. Yes, after how I sounded there, this is hugely surprising but its true dammit! You really cannot fuck with a lot of 90’s Hip Hop and R&B, so many awesome songs. Besides what I’m about to talk about is huge news.

At Coachella Festival 2012, a massive performance from legends Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg saw the use of holograms to recreate the ‘live presence’ of gone but not forgotten greats 2Pac and Nate Dogg (the latter passing away last year). Both figures are of course huge parts of these genres of music, and so distinctive and renowned, as well as influential: Nate Dogg’s voice is such a presence on countless great (and not so great) songs from this period and beyond, whilst 2Pac is often cited as one of the greatest, poignant and heartfelt rappers of all time, sometimes considered to even be THE greatest. 2Pac especially is still such an iconic figure to fans to this very day and his legacy in Hip Hop almost unparalleled since his death many years ago. So the use of hologram performances of these two in an already massive show adds a great curiosity factor to it. How good an idea was it however?

My initial reaction when I heard this news was that this was quality news. So many people who live and breathe this form of music never had the chance to see 2Pac live, to never see such classics as “Me Against The World”, “Hail Mary” and “How Do You Want It”, whilst many people will of course be still mourning Nate Dogg’s departure (so this is not to be overlooked either). Watching the clips it has to be said that the holograms were incredibly lifelike and the technology was very strong and seemed to give what could be the closest many will ever get to seeing these guys live at all. As a one off event as well this could prove to be a truly iconic moment in music. I wasn’t there for the record, I have only seen the clips on YouTube so I can’t properly judge I guess (this maybe makes this whole post futile...but oh well we shall press on). My cynicism about the event begins to creep in here however. What if it isn’t a one off event?

That’s to say, what if the use of these holograms to bring back a performer ‘back from the dead’ and back to the live stage begins to get used more frequently? What if someone decided to use such holographic technology to bring back the likes of Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Kurt Cobain or Keith Moon back at the drop of a hat for what would surely prove to be major selling shows? Could the use of this technology prove to tarnish the legacies of such iconic musicians? If a music exec, or whomever organised such things decided to try and get a quick buck or two out of a hologram of Michael Jackson for an arena tour? I feel this could just be an insult to the artist and maybe even the fans if it proved to be a regular occurrence.
Going back to the actual performance of ‘2Pac’ as well; his stage moves and crowd interactions are programmed prior (obviously (I’m assuming that’s how it works, I’m no expert on technology)). This surely detracts from the live show itself in a sense by completely eradicating the spontaneity of the live show. His moves are not interactions. For someone who considers the uniqueness of each show to be part of the experience, this is a major factor in my opinion.

That being said, like mentioned before, as a one off event I still think this show was a really cool event, and I think it would have been pretty immense to have been a part of it. Especially seeing as how 2Pac and Snoop performed “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” ‘together’. That is bloody awesome. I just hope the use of this is not something that would get out of hand, and in the end, just tarnish the memories of such greats. Then again it can’t be worse than the amount of shoddy ‘2Pac albums’ released by producers who had no working relation to the guy whatsoever, just so they can make a name for themselves and make a couple of quid.

That’s my views at least. Now let it sink in that you have just listened to the opinion of a skinny, white, unshaven metal-head on his views on a Hip-Hop festival set...Sounds a bit unlikely doesn’t it? 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Shinedown- Amaryllis

Shinedown- Amaryllis

    Around 2008/2009 a band from America started coming to UK shores, doing shows including an initial support slot for Disturbed before their own frequent tours, to some great reaction to fans. Turns out this band was already an arena selling act in America, and these tours were actually for their 3rd full length album ‘The Sound Of Madness’. You will have certainly heard one of their massive singles, which perhaps not as huge over here, often invade the charts in America. Yes of course I am talking about Shinedown.
For those who do not know, Shinedown fit into that category of modern arena rock bands, dominated by THAT band Nickelback

    Without going any further it has to be said that, yes, Shinedown are not a band that offer anything new whatsoever. Massive selling arena rock which you have heard before, with Metallica influenced fast paced numbers and clean and massive ballads in equal abundance. Yes you have heard it before. What separates certain bands like this from others however is a proper personality, and of course great songs, which Shinedown have in absolute abundance. Their songs are absolutely huge, instantly memorable, and will tap into your mind and stay there for a long, long time. What they have as well, which can be lacking in some of these kind of bands, is that they are genuine. You can really feel that singer Brent Smith bleeds and means every single word he says; whether he is telling you to stand up to bullies, looking out for your fellow human, or singing from a real place of despair.

‘Amaryllis’ is the bands 4th album, and the follow up to the gargantuan selling ‘Sound Of Madness’, and it is much the same, that is, songs that are absolutely huge and infectious. In my opinion, ‘Amaryllis’ is an improvement on its predecessor. The harder, faster songs have perhaps less of an edge to them; the likes of ‘Adrenaline’, ‘Enemies’ and ‘Bully’ aren’t quite as hard and without as much aggression as the likes of ‘Devour’ and ‘Sin With A Grin’ from ‘SOM’, but they are much more memorable and the choruses will be in your head from the start.

It’s the ballads where this album shows a vast improvement. Previously some of them wouldn’t quite hit the mark; ‘Crow And The Butterfly’ for example is quite hit and miss. Here the ballads are beautiful, fully heartfelt and quite simply just better. The title track, ‘I’m Not Alright’, ‘Unity’, these are songs that just cannot fail to make you feel better no matter what; whilst ‘I’ll Follow You’ has similarities to Elton John. Sometimes the mid paced songs aren’t as memorable and fall in to the background in comparison to some of the larger songs here, but in this case this a minor complaint.

This is a band whose music has touched me and helped me before (bit personal and soppy I realise), and in a time of stress once again with assignments, the new album is a truly uplifting and touching effort which puts a smile on my face every single time. Not cutting edge in the slightest, but completely truthful, catchy, and moving.