Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Nevermind

This album heralded a revolution. Sick of all the slick, cheesy hair bands that dominated the late ‘80s due to MTV, America’s youth embraced this album as a call to arms, and the music scene hasn’t been the same since. Shockingly coming from out of nowhere to knock Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the #1 slot on the Billboard charts, Nevermind marked the exact moment when “alternative rock” music finally found mainstream acceptance. We can all debate whether that turned out to be such a good thing or not, especially in light of all the copycat bands that ended up making “grunge” a dirty word in most music circles. But for a while there radio and MTV were actually pretty exciting places, and all because of this album, which sounds almost as fresh today as the day it was released. And why is that? Primarily, it’s because Kurt Cobain was a superb songwriter, and the songs here are such a quantum leap beyond Bleach that it almost sounds like a different band. Also, the addition of Dave Grohl (one of the best rock drummers ever) takes the band’s musical chops and chemistry to another level, and the major label production is miles more advanced than on Bleach.

Of course, Cobain hated it, thinking it too slick and commercial for his purist sensibilities. He has a point, but the scuzzy sonics of Bleach could’ve taken the band but so far (commercially speaking), and this Butch Vig production does a good job of showcasing Cobain’s melodic gifts without sacrificing the vibrant energy of the music. As for the songs, the flagship single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (the one that “broke” the band) just might be the ultimate teen anthem ever, while “In Bloom” delivers a poppy sing along chorus to go along with crunchy power chords and Grohl’s pulverizing drum pop. “Come As You Are” is another all-time classic that’s led by an unforgettable bass riff, an incredibly understated intensity, a technically simplistic but ear pleasingly terrific guitar solo, and memorably prophetic lyrics (“and I don’t have a gun”). To me, it’s like the invitation from Nirvana to its fans. “Breed” is one of several songs (“Territorial Pissings” and “Stay Away” are the others) that rage along with a nonstop fury, while “Lithium” is an excellent example of what Grohl called “punk rock songs you could sing along to.” Elsewhere, “Drain You” and “On a Plain” are catchy rockers with just enough of an edge, “Polly” is a melodic ballad but with chilling lyrics, and “Something In the Way” is a shockingly understated (and successful) song that features sparse cello backing and Cobain’s barely audible voice, thereby foreshadowing their spectacular Unplugged showcase three years later. “Lounge Act” is the only song here that isn’t outstanding (and even that one is pretty good), and Nevermind was arguably the most important album of the ‘90s.

Many of these songs start slow but soon swell to explosive crescendos; this would become a slavishly imitated Nirvana trademark. There is a hidden track approximately seven minutes after the last listed song ends, spearheading one of the more annoying ‘90s trends.


Invincible

You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t…

If Michael Jackson had repeated his older work entirely he’d get accused of being stuck in a time warp, and if he’d done a wildly different album he could have alienated the fans just for the sake of gaining a different, lesser audience.

To the point though: the weakest track on “Invincible” is “Lost Children,” but even that isn’t bad. The title track, “Invincible,” doesn’t refer to himself, but the lady he loves, and although it’s catchy, it’s a strange choice of title track. Perhaps “Privacy” would have been more of a personal message.

“2000 Watts” was a hit in the clubs – even if it doesn’t get released as a single there will probably be a few re-mixes available. “Speechless” is about parental love, but could be applied to any kind of relationship. “Don’t Walk Away” is a nice ballad, which may win over people who aren’t necessarily Michael Jackson fans.

“Butterflies” could easily be something which was left out of the “Thriller” album; indeed the song “Threatened” is laughingly dedicated to Rick Baker Monster Maker so his past glories are acknowledged.

The vocal performances are either good or fantastic but the actual album as a whole doesn’t grab you. If this review sounds contradictory, that merely reflects the complexity of the album. It pulls the listener in many directions; too many contributors, too many concepts. Best songs off the album are “You Rock My World” and “Heartbreaker” – There’s also a bonus track “Xscape!” which only hardcore Michael’s fan would know about it.

The album is certainly not a disappointment, but whatever Jackson does someone will always say it’s not a good as his earlier work. The press wouldn’t call anyone else a failure for only selling 30,000 copies on the first day of release, so why say that to him?


Dangerous

Michael Jackson leaves music-legend Quincy Jones (the producer credited for the phenomenal success of “Off The Wall”, “Thriller” and “Bad” behind for “Dangerous,” his fourth solo release. And, at nearly 80 minutes (with 14 tracks in all), it’s his longest album then; but it’s the way he uses that time that makes it a masterpiece.

The first half is mostly a wild ride of hi-tech funk, gritty grooves and moody attitude; while the second half covers the over-the-top orchestral pieces, epic love ballads and emotional sentiment.

“Gone Too Soon”, the album’s lament, has him embracing a series of poetic similes to mourn the lost of a loved one. “Like a sun-set dying with the rising of the moon…”, he sings, over ambrosial orchestral chords, “Gone too soon”. It’s the perfect song to play at a funeral. But before you can shed a tear, the song is over; replaced by the dark, hypnotic, “Dangerous” pulse of the night-club. And it’s not about him at all. It’s actually about a girl; a girl who just happens to be vindictive, conniving, sexy and divine all at once. The return of “Dirty Diana”? Perhaps.

The ‘rock track’ this time around is a ballad entitled “Give In To Me”. And it’s Slash on guitar as a passionate Michael Jackson plea, rather demands, for a woman to quench his desire. Yes, The King Of Pop isn’t as innocent as you may have thought. At one point, he’s making sex noises “In The Closet” with some chick; “Because there’s something about you, baby, that makes me wanna give it to you.”

“Who Is It” has some repetition towards the end, but the excellent strings combined with the captivating New Jack/R&B groove and Michael’s pained vocals describing a runaway lover and their relationship make this a keeper.

He’s never written better lyrics, the melodies are absolute magic and the beats are all on-point (with special credit to Teddy Riley, whose new-jack-swing production complements Jackson’s style in way that’ll make Quincy Jones proud); marking “Dangerous” as the Michael Jackson classic that doesn’t play it quite as safe as the others.

If it is hardly as effervescent or joyous as either of those records, chalk it up to his suffocating stardom, which results in a set of songs without much real emotional center, either in their substance or performance. But, there’s a lot to be said for professional craftsmanship at its peak, and “Dangerous” has plenty of that, not just on such fine singles as “In the Closet,” “Remember the Time,” or the blistering “Jam,” but on album tracks like “Why You Wanna Trip on Me.” No, it’s not perfect — it has a terrible cover, a couple of slow spots, and suffers from CD-era ailments of the early ’90s, such as it’s overly long running time and its deadening Q Sound production, which sounds like somebody forgot to take the Surround Sound button off. Even so, “Dangerous” captures Jackson at a near-peak, delivering an album that would have ruled the pop charts surely and smoothly if it had arrived just a year earlier. But it didn’t — it arrived along with grunge, which changed the rules of the game nearly as much as “Thriller” itself. Consequently, it’s the rare multi-platinum, number one album that qualifies as a nearly forgotten, underappreciated record.




25 Rondom things about me

This went out on Facebook about a year ago. Thought, I should include this in my blog entry.

As of Nov 8th, 2010

1. 19 of my 28 years have been lived in Pakistan (13) and Saudi Arabia (6).

2. I grew up in a Conservative family, however, I am Liberal.

3. My childhood dream was to be a fighter pilot.

4. I often dream of a short role in a Martin Scorsese’s movie.

5. My celebrity crush is Lauren Graham.

6. I love Tequila.

7. My current favorite band is The White Stripes.

8. My favorite song is Wicked Games by Chris Isaac.

9. I am good with remembering names.

10. My biggest regret is not keeping up my proficiency in playing the guitar and piano.

11. I am addicted to Olives.

12. My mind works best when I am multitasking.

13. I function better by instinct than by planning. Really.

14. I am most attracted by the mysterious.

15. If I could be successful at anything of my choosing, I would be a good dad and husband.

16. I got scared the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.

17. I love the smell of coffee.

18. I’ve come to believe that you do not know something until you can articulate it or perform it.

19. I love driving. Really

20. Reflection is hard but necessary for growth.

21. My idea of a really exciting time would be to spend a month by myself in some far off lonely place without anybody else around.

22. Wherever I go, I hear the music playing in the background and judge the place/people based on what is being played. Music is always playing inside my head–even in my sleep! Everything gets accompanied to some kind of music track going on inside my brain.

23. My biggest fear is religious fundamentalism of any creed—at least the kind that causes people to hate each other.

24. I am optimistic about people and want to see everyone reach their full potential.

25. Most of my life I have shared easily but with few. With Social media (blogging, facebook, twitter) I now share with many but no longer with ease.


Green Day in Chicago


July 13th, 2009, I went to Chicago with my buddies Scott and Arvin. Much respect to Scott, who got me the whole catalog of Green Day. This was my first Green Day concert, and I was very much looking forward to it.

Arvin, Scott and Me

Green Day’s new album record: 21st Century Breakdown points to economic uncertainly in the shadow of political transition. Although those are heavy sentiments indeed, the ever-evolving trio turned one of this summer’s most anticipated tours into the ultimate party, peppering in these message-centered anthems, but playing plenty of hits in between. I pretty much fainted when Green Day came on stage, and the skyline of Chicago in the background appeared. They opened the set list with “Song of the Century” leaning into “21st Century Breakdown” track. The lyrics from this track: “My generation is zero…I never made it as a working class hero..” is to be ponder upon.

Jason Freeze did Micheal Jackson tribute

For me, it’s not about the particular moments, it’s a whole magical experience that leaves you dizzy and slack-jawed. I know people like to relate the little tidbits, the moments when Billie said this or did that, or one of the other band members did whatever, but there is no essential moment for me. Yes, there were bits I noticed and loved, like the fact that when they played “Welcome to Paradise”, and then again in parts of other songs, like “Longview”, “Basket Case” and “She”, using the same wide-legged stance, with one leg thrust forward, and his head banging. At various points, he donned police cap and feather boa, used a T-shirt gun to fire merchandise into the second deck, and employed a retrofitted leaf blower to shower the crowd with toilet paper, saving a child on “East Jesus Nowhere” or trying to taste his nipples in the middle of the stage..lol. Confetti filled the air at the close of “Minority,” and indoor fireworks cascaded over the band during “21 Guns.” Green Day also opted for a medley of sorts during the quirky” King For A Day” with snippets of “Earth Angel” and “Shout” as Armstrong got a bit cheeky in showing his buttock, yet also paying tribute to Jackson 5 on the snippets of “I’ll Be There”. It came off okay despite saxophonist Jason Freese delivering a good solo dressed in a vintage Michael Jackson circa “Beat It” ensemble with the appropriate dance steps. The constant interaction between Armstrong and fans was great. All of that onstage and lyric-driven message mongering – would have been for naught if Green Day didn’t deliver musically. Which they did, whether it was with the power-chord crunch of “Brain Stew,” the echoey football chant singalong of “Are We the Waiting,” or the lone-man-on-acoustic-guitar, sentimental strum of the prom-theme closer “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).”

Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool are a vise-tight rhythm section. And while the auxiliary players added power and a smidgeon of subtlety, the principal attraction of the mature, high-minded Green Day remains the same as it was in its juvenile delinquent incarnation. This concert was amazing from start to finish. I don’t think I ever had this much fun. They really knows how to get involved their fans, giving them a chance to sing with them, play guitar along with them. This was my first time seeing them and surely much more to come in the future!


Setlist

  1. Song of the Century
  2. 21st Century Breakdown
  3. Know Your Enemy
  4. East Jesus Nowhere
  5. Holiday
  6. The Static Age
  7. Before the Lobotomy
  8. Are We the Waiting
  9. St. Jimmy
  10. Boulevard of Broken Dreams
  11. Hitchin’ a Ride
  12. Brain Stew
  13. Jaded
  14. Longview
  15. Basket Case
  16. She
  17. King for a Day
  18. Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
  19. 21 Guns
  20. American Eulogy

1st Encore

  1. American Idiot
  2. Jesus of Suburbia
  3. Minority

2nd Encore

  1. Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)