the Buzz for April 2011


Belinda Carlisle — “Heaven is a Place On Earth”
(from Her Greatest Hits) — Heaven Is a Place On Earth - Belinda Carlisle: Her Greatest Hits

A few days back, with the help of our local Redbox, A and I took in a screening of last fall’s box-office underachiever Love and Other Drugs, and while the film’s plot — basically, Sherry Ann’s second-favorite Gyllenhaal is a cocky prescription drug salesman who falls head over heels for a girl afflicted with Parkinson’s disease — is little more than a flimsy excuse to stare uncomfortably at Anne Hathaway’s boobies (and lots of other girls’ too!) for two solid hours, the film’s music cues were a marvel to behold, what with the Spin Doctors’ long forgotten ’90s classic “Two Princes” opening the show, and what is very possibly the only Regina Spektor song (“Fidelity”) you can sit through thirty seconds of without feeling the need to go heave closing it, as well as visits in between from a lovely former Honey from the Hive contestant, and from the single greatest contribution Miss Belinda Carlisle ever made to the art of popular music. You’ll never make me believe that “Heaven” isn’t one of the ten greatest records ever made, and so, in honor of Record Store Day, I can scarcely think of a better tune than this one to blast from your speakers this fine afternoon.


Bobby Bland — “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”
(from The Definitive Collection) — Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City - Bobby Bland: The Anthology

Last night, A and I finally dragged our asses out of our house (and away from our beloved baby girl, Kelly, whose blessed entree into our family in January — as much fun as it has been to have a new puppy running around here — has literally turned our domicile upside down) and, for the first time since last December, made it to the movies, where we took in a screening of The Lincoln Lawyer, quite a nifty legal thriller with an exceedingly fine cast led by Matthew McConaughey (as ever, smooth as Chinese silk) and Ryan Phillippe (spectacularly sinister here playing a lethal lothario), with a brief but pivotal turn turned in from ace character actress Frances Fisher (best and forever known to Sherry Ann and myself as The Other Mother). The film opens with a slick City of Angels-centric montage set to this tune, a forgotten ’70s classic from soul pro Bland which has been covered and/or sampled by acts as disparate as Whitesnake and Jay-Z, and I was humming it to myself for the whole rest of my long-awaited night out with my beloved.


“Maybe look inward, Gary. Maybe just look inward —
take a big swim in Lake You and see what you find.”

— Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath, conferring combatively (yet, seemingly, resigned to his imminent fate) with fellow teammate Gary Busey (easily one of the most wonderfully batshit wackydoos in the history of reality TV) just prior to being (unfairly) fired on last night’s installment of Celebrity Apprentice, which airs on Sunday nights on NBC and which, thanks to its marvelous cast of misfits — numbering among them this season: Meat Loaf, Star Jones, the surprisingly brilliant John Rich (the “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” dude!), and the completely crazy LaToya Jackson — has become the two hours of television I most look forward to catching each week.



Sara Bareilles — “Uncharted” (from Kaleidoscope Heart) — Uncharted - Kaleidoscope Heart

Bareilles follows up her Grammy-nominated radio smash
“King of Anything” with this pleasant, harmlessly charming little piffle whose surprisingly sweet video — which features the likes of Josh Groban, Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles (an absolute hoot rockin’ out in her jammies), Ben Folds, Cary Brothers, and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine lip-syncing this tune’s lyrics — is an utter, unexpected delight. A few more smartly-played moves like this, and I’m really gonna have to start liking this girl a lot more. (Said video can be seen in its entirety below, and if you’re up for a little extra credit reading, my buddy Blake recently chatted with Sara and has filed this dispatch.)



Lady GaGa — “Born This Way [Country Road Mix]”
(from Born This Way [Country Road Mix]) — Born This Way (The Country Road Version) - Born This Way (The Country Road Version) - Single

GaGa’s Monster Ball tour — as garish and gaudy a spectacle as you could ever hope to witness — rolled through Austin the night before last, and A — the biggest GaGa fan I know — and I took in the show from the nosebleed section of the Frank Erwin Center. The night started off in the hole with a plainly heinous opening act (New York City’s astoundingly atrocious Semi-Precious Weapons, whose clueless lead singer clearly thought we wanted to spend forty minutes watching him writhe around in assless pants and being serenaded by his deafeningly shrill screams), but once GaGa took the stage, the night hurtled pretty violently between boldly brilliant (say what you will — I’ve said plenty, and will continue to do so! — but when this gal takes to the piano all by herself, you can’t deny that her raw talent is the real deal) and brutally bizarro (not that the whole rest of the presentation made a hell of lot more sense, but near the end of the show, during an otherwise energetic turn on “Paparazzi,” a giant man-eating squid entered from stage left with no easily identifiable purpose, leaving me so mystified I literally had to plop down in my seat for a second, lest my brain actually shut down from the incapacitating strangeness of it all).



Van Morrison — “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m in Heaven When You Smile)”
(from Still On Top: The Greatest Hits) — Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile) - Still On Top - The Greatest Hits (Deluxe Version)

From one of music’s most underrated (and adventurous) troubadours, an on-and-poppin’ big-band-inspired blast of brilliant blues. (As monumentally marvelous as his more introspective tunes undeniably are, isn’t it nice to remember that Morrison is actually capable of having fun behind the mic as well?)


Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson — “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
(from My Kinda Party) — Don't You Wanna Stay (with Kelly Clarkson) - My Kinda Party

I resisted this one for the longest time, because it just screams premeditated event record, and I tend to resent being force-fed the Kool-Aid and told that I have no choice but to love something. But this stunner hums with a riveting undercurrent of raw sexually-charged desperation that can’t be denied: even though he sings one of the precious few songs to name-check my hometown, I never much cared for Aldean until I caught his collaboration with Bryan Adams on an episode of CMT Crossroads last year, and the unique mix of comfortable warmth and icy determination in his voice — think Alan Jackson crossed with Bob Dylan — has become oddly compelling. And the ever-dependable Clarkson — taking her second chart-topping detour into the crunchy lane — matches her partner note for sizzling note, proving that, when pop radio inevitably grows tired of her (and, let’s face it, with GaGa and that abominable Ke$ha currently carrying the torch over there, the clock could well be ticking), she has a second home waiting for her with arms outstretched.


Mel McDaniel — “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On”
(from Greatest Hits) — Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On - Mel McDaniel: Greatest Hits

The news hasn’t received a great deal of ink this weekend, so had I not caught something about it on Twitter Saturday afternoon, I likely would have missed entirely the tragic passing of McDaniel, who died on Thursday after a long battle with lung cancer. I have long contended that 1984 is the finest year for music in the history of recorded sound, and I generally mean pop music when I make that proclamation, but don’t think for a second that country didn’t put together a smashing set of twelve months back then as well: with The Judds busting through to megastardom, and iconic tunes like “That’s the Way Love Goes” (ah, Merle) and “I Got Mexico”
(God bless you, Eddy Raven!) and “You Look So Good in Love” (arguably, the one that really sent George’s career Strait into orbit) and “Islands in the Stream” all making their indelible marks in radio land, ’twas a hell of a year in Nashville, and for no one more than this quintessential good ol’ boy, who exploded back up the charts with this simple (and sinfully catchy) little ditty about nothing more than his favorite gal’s dashing figure. (Hey, it’s three chords and the truth, but nobody ever said the truth had to be depressing!
Fare thee well, Mel.)


Lyle Lovett — “Nobody Knows Me (Like My Baby)”
(from Lyle Lovett and His Large Band) — Nobody Knows Me - Lyle Lovett and His Large Band

I must admit I really miss the era when reruns of classic primetime soaps like Knots Landing and Falcon Crest filled its daytime schedule, but flipping over to SoapNet these days can still be a font for a hell of a lot of shameless entertainment, with its afternoon visits to The O.C. and Sherry Ann’s forever fave One Tree Hill. (Take it from me: you can get sucked into these programs, lose half the damn day and not even know what hit you if you don’t exercise extreme caution when surfing past this channel!) And over the next few weeks, you’ll be able to get an extra dose of frothy fun, courtesy of SoapNet’s two-hour late-morning block of Beverly Hills, 90210 episodes, which have just reached the pivotal point in the series’ remarkable decade-long run. Rolling into its sixth season (which began unspooling in the fall of 1995), 90210 had weathered Shannen Doherty’s stormy departure (and, even better, the initially bizarro choice to swap her for Saved By the Bell‘s seemingly sticky-sweet Tiffani Amber-Thiessen — an unexpected knockout as a brazen, vampy vixen — had paid off in spades), but the show was gearing up to face life without its male MVP Luke Perry, the loss of whom on paper appeared to be incalculable. To compensate, Aaron Spelling and his savvy team made a handful of wickedly wise moves, including subtly moving their star romantic heroine Jennie Garth — and her eternally hilarious onscreen rivalry with Thiessen, the bitchy ballistics from which never got old — completely to center stage, and bringing in as Tori Spelling’s co-star the ravishing Canadian actor Cameron Bancroft, whose character — a holy-rolling college quarterback with the hots for the only female virgin with cosmetically altered breasts to be found in the whole of Beverly Hills — gave the show a peculiar gravitas it had often lacked theretofore. The result was a spectacularly soapy mix of sex and social responsibility that, even though it was becoming unmistakably long in the tooth, made 90210 a deliriously delicious weekly delight once again. (If you’re wondering why in blue hell I’m regaling you with this review, it’s because my favorite episode from this season — the one in which Perry’s new wife is accidentally shot to death in a hail of drive-by bullets from a mob hit that is actually intended for Perry himself — just re-aired Wednesday morning, and the episode closes with this tune, a tender ballad which might just be the finest hour of Lovett’s Grammy-winning career as a vocalist. And even though I’ve probably seen this episode a minimum of 200 times — and, indeed, own this entire season on DVD — and have the lion’s share of it committed to memory, I still couldn’t tear myself from the TV and was on the edge of my seat (and, uh, awash in tears — I’m a softie, sue me!) the entire hour.)