the Buzz for November 2008


Quite the amusing cottage industry has sprung up over at Ultra Records, which, in a brilliant bit of counterprogramming against the ridiculous hip hop plague that ate top 40 radio, has emerged over the past two years as one of the premier labels for American dance music. Their terrific series of continuous mixes, all released under various shades of the Ultra um-ba-relly — pay special attention to the riveting Ultra Chilled compilations, which regularly feature brilliant, mellow mixes from Dido, Sarah McLachlan, Coldplay, and others — have proven to be reliably entertaining collections of music, and none more so than their latest project, Ultra.Mix.


Arranged by New York DJ Vic Latino (one of Ultra’s primary go-to guys; he’s that good), Mix contains stomping club versions of recent radio smashes from Rihanna (Jody Broeder’s remix of “Don’t Stop the Music,” whose dazzling centerpiece sample of Jacko’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” soars here), Jordin Sparks (“No Air,” her runaway hit duet with Chris Brown), September (the enchanting “Cry for You,” whose virtues I’ve already extolled ad nauseam on this site), and Madonna (“4 Minutes,” her nakedly desperate collaboration with Justin Timberlake and his posse). For good measure, Latino also tosses in two of 2008’s most fascinating dance tracks: “Pjanoo,” another breakneck masterwork from British electronica maestro Eric Prydz (best known over here for the club hits “Call On Me” and “Proper Education,” his amazing reinventions of Steve Winwood’s “Valerie” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” respectively); and “The One,” Sharam’s bold (and stunningly adroit) attempt to refashion Daniel Bedingfield’s classic ballad “If You’re Not the One” as a dizzy four-on-the-floor epic.


Flawlessly assembled and rendered, Mix adds up to a brilliantly thrilling hour of nonstop fun, the likes of which are way too difficult to track down on the standard radio dial these days. If you’re not tappin’ your toes by the end of track number one, it must be because you’ve already fainted from the sheer giddy exhilaration of it all.


If you’ve not yet purchased the new Switchfoot retrospective The Best Yet, which arrived in stores two days ago, make sure you pick it up at your local Wal-Mart, whose version comes packaged with an exclusive DVD containing fourteen music videos and rare live performances. (Don’t you really hate it when stores get these red hot exclusives and then refuse to advertise them?!) Now, if you’ll ‘scuse me, I’ve gotta head off to Borders to return my copy of the original version, which, praise Jesus, I haven’t opened yet.

(P.S.: Be aware that the version of “This is Home” which appears on Best is a vastly inferior re-recording, not the staggering original from last summer’s Prince Caspian soundtrack. Grrr.)


cleanup on aisle five

posted at 10:26 pm by brandon in in a lather

I’m sure what follows is funny to no one but me, but the beauty of having my own blog is that I have the power to indulge myself in that which amuses me greatly.


Earlier this year, Ellen Wheeler, the executive producer of the 71-year-old American institution “Guiding Light,” spearheaded a radical revamp of the classic soap, switching to handheld digital cameras and adopting a more “natural” shooting style.  In addition, the show’s home base was moved from its traditional Manhattan studio out to Peapack, New Jersey, several of whose locales — churches, municipal buildings, gas stations, and residences — now double for those in fictional Springfield, the town in which the show is based.


In late February, when the show’s new production model was unveiled, Wheeler gave a multitude of interviews to the mainstream press trumpeting the enormous changes, and expressing profuse joy over being able to now show the soap’s characters driving real cars, waving from real porches, and primping in real salons.  (As she herself intoned excitedly, “Now when a character is getting down on one knee to propose, he doesn’t have a patch of fake grass sliding out from under him in the studio. It’s there in the beautiful park and believable!”)




Election Day is playing hell with this week’s new music slate: Hilary Duff and Dido have already blinked — their new projects, originally scheduled to be released this Tuesday, have been shuffled to Novembers 11 and 18, respectively — and the few stars who are taking the leap this week will have to do battle with strong holdovers AC/DC (whose new album has already soared past the million-sold mark) and those pesky High School Musical churren. In other words: chin up out there. It’s a slow one this week.


In the immediate wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the arrogant pricks who run radio behemoth Clear Channel Communications (which owns and operates well over one thousand stations nationwide) sent to all its outlets a memorandum which strongly suggested they strike from their playlists 166 songs that the company had deemed “lyrically questionable.” Even in such an irrational, knee-jerk climate, the inclusion of more than a few of these songs — the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian,” for instance, which is as harmless as a soda jingle — seemed entirely nonsensical, but none more so than that of John Lennon’s touchstone “Imagine,” one of the most powerful prayers for everlasting peace and unity that has ever been written.



I’ve been lapping up, and with great nostalgic affection, the staggeringly fine new eight-disc DVD collection containing all forty-five marvelous episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s prematurely canceled (and woefully underappreciated) initial foray into television, ABC’s “Sports Night.” (A more extensive Buzz post regarding same is forthcoming.)

However things shake out tomorrow, we sit as a nation on the cusp of a milestone. In roughly twenty-four hours, either way, history will have been made. Given that, the following exchange from “Sports Night’s” thirty-fifth episode (broadcast in January 2000) grabbed my ear. (What you need to know, just in case you never saw the show: the series takes place behind the scenes at an ESPN-style news program called “Sports Night”; in this episode, “SN” has been approached by Michael Jordan’s representatives for an interview promoting Jordan’s new fragrance line; Dana (portrayed by the blisteringly brilliant Felicity Huffman) is the show-within-the-show’s executive producer, and Isaac (Robert Guillaume, a gravitas-infused blue million miles away from “Benson”) is its managing editor.)

ISAAC: Dana, listen to this. This is fantastic.  [reading from a magazine] “Bioengineering might one day create living creatures adapted to survival in space.”

DANA: Okay.

ISAAC: Space birds!

DANA: Okay

ISAAC: Don’t you want to know how they’re gonna fly without air?

DANA: Oh… kay.

ISAAC: It says here they’re gonna fly on sunlight.

DANA: So, we got this Michael Jordan offer—

ISAAC: —and farther out where the sunlight grows weaker, they’re gonna bioengineer a squid.

DANA: A squid?

ISAAC: Yes! Swimming not in water, but in space! [reading]  “Drawing volatile fuels from jovian moons to power their gentle but efficient propulsion systems.”

DANA: Uh, Michael Jordan—

ISAAC:“Their utility could be comparable to that of horses and mules in the winning of the West.”

DANA: Okay—

ISAAC: I can see myself out there, sitting alone by the fire, a space squid my only companion!

DANA: Isaac—

ISAAC: Michael Jordan.

DANA: Yes.

ISAAC: They want to talk about cologne.

DANA: In the press kit, they accidentally included coaching notes for Michael on how to bring the interview back to the cologne.


DANA: Yeah. Do we book the interview?

ISAAC: Absolutely.

DANA: Isaac—

ISAAC: Absolutely!

DANA: And talk about perfume?

ISAAC: Cologne!

DANA: There’s no difference!

ISAAC: Michael’s Michael. Let him talk about what he wants.

DANA: You really want to use “Sports Night” for a five-minute infomercial?

ISAAC: With Michael? Sure!

DANA: Isaac—

ISAAC: You know, just ten years ago, it would have been hard to imagine a black man selling cologne.

DANA: Eight year olds are buying aftershave, Isaac. I’m not sure it’s a huge step forward.

ISAAC: I’ll take any step forward.

DANA: [sighs and rises to leave] Okay.

ISAAC: Dana?

DANA: Yeah?

ISAAC: They’re talking about bioengineering animals and terraforming Mars. When I started reporting Gemini missions, just watching a Titan rocket lift off was a sight to see. Now they’re gonna colonize… the solar system.

DANA: Are you obsessing about this?


DANA: Why?

ISAAC: Because I won’t be alive to see it.

See y’all at the polls, ladies and germs.


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