the Buzz for September 2011


Lenny Kravitz — “Stand” (from Black and White America) — Stand - Black and White America (Deluxe Version)

I would hardly call myself Lenny’s biggest fan, but who could ever resist this charmingly catchy (and cannily uplifting) little ditty? (I dare not to be tapping your toe inside of twenty-five seconds!)


Hilary Duff — “So Yesterday” (from The Best of Hilary Duff) — So Yesterday (Radio Mix) - Best of Hilary Duff

Today marks the dazzling Duff’s 24th birthday, which means — barring a major mathematical malfunction on my part — that she was only 15 (!) when she exploded into the pop marketplace with this ferociously marvelous instant classic masterpiece in the late summer of 2003. (Did we know at the time that she was only 15, Sherry Ann? 15!) (With utmost seriousness, the Buzz loves you in the heart, Hilary, and wishes you a most happy day, you eternal genius.)


R.E.M. — “At My Most Beautiful” (from Up) — At My Most Beautiful - Up

Because, quite frankly, I’m still not over it. And, I’d wager, neither are you. (And, I damn well know, neither is Sherry Ann, although she does report that there may well be reason to cheer for a happy ending to this story, as she was told late last week, by a teenager whose identity shall remain unknown, that R.E.M. may well get back together, his logic being that Blink-182 have just reunited. Hope springs eternal, indeed.)


Vesta — “Congratulations” (from Vesta 4 U) — Congratulations - Winning Combinations: CeCe Peniston & Vesta Williams

I was flabbergasted to read of the tragic passing, at the far-too-young age of 53, of the vividly brilliant Vesta Williams on Friday. I first became aware of Vesta when I happened to catch her singing this very song on an episode of the long-forgotten Byron Allen Show back in 1990, and her glorious, gut-wrenchingly raw performance knocked me plumb flat on my fourteen-year-old ass. (I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for this to show up on YouTube; in one of the dum-dum moves of all time, I quite stupidly taped over my own copy years ago, and have regretted it ever since, so if anybody reading this happens to still have a copy of this in their personal library, I’m willing to shell over megabucks for it.) I just saw Vesta, looking stunningly svelte after battling weight issues for a number of years, just a few weeks back on my marvelous Mo’Nique’s just-canceled BET talk show, and she sang this song once more (brilliantly, still) and discussed a new album, and I had every intention of finding out if she had a publicist and making contact in the hopes of dragging her to Brandon’s Buzz Radio to help promote the project. But my to-do list filled up anew and the email just never got written, and now it’s too late. (The lesson here is clear: seize the day, folks. Time’s a-wastin’.)


Joni Mitchell — “Amelia” (from Hejira) — Amelia - Hejira

Outwardly, at least, this one has nothing to do with ABC’s classic soap All My Children, to which we are forced to bid farewell today after a run of nearly forty-two years and some 10,700 episodes. But Joni nonetheless perfectly captures here the exact kind of mood that I, as a soap fan since I was in diapers (thanks, Mom!), am in as I type these words: my heart is inescapably heavy today with a sense of futility, with a mourning for opportunities either missed or lost entirely, with a sadness strong enough to stop time. (If only it was strong enough to turn back time, alas.)



R.E.M. — “Strange Currencies” (from Monster) — Strange Currencies - Monster

If you missed yesterday’s stunning news that R.E.M. is calling it quits after a mind-blowing three-decade run as one of America’s premier rock bands, I’m sorry to be the one break it to you. (Sherry Ann texted me yesterday afternoon in near hysterics, so knocked flat was she by this staggering announcement.) This profound sense of sadness and loss must be what our parents felt like when they heard the Beatles were disbanding. But just like they always had Yellow Submarine and Sgt. Pepper’s to tickle their memories, so will we always have Out of Time. And Eponymous. And New Adventures in Hi-Fi. And (my own personal favorite) Up. And this 1994 masterpiece that cemented their spot in the sun — at least for a shining, shocking moment — as the world’s best band. With love, indeed, do come strange currencies. (Fare thee well, Michael, Peter, and Mike, and godspeed wherever life may carry you next, friends.) (Incidentally, for newer visitors to this website who have yet to go spelunking back into the archives: in June 2008, just a couple of months after I started this blog, I composed what I consider to be the essential fame-era R.E.M. playlist, and Sherry Ann promised at that time to fill out the picture with a cross-section of the band’s best early work. May this heartbreaking news be the impetus she needs to finally bring that little writing project of hers to full fruition.)


Lady Antebellum — “Cold as Stone” (from Own the Night) — Cold As Stone - Own the Night

A crisp, cool fall morning here in Austin, Texas: I am lounging out on the back patio, preparing for a Brandon’s Buzz Radio interview I’ll be conducting later this afternoon (stay tuned), watching my baby girl happily gnaw on the same damned jumbo-sized bone she’s been trying to conquer for about six days now — she’s a stubborn one, that Kelly-girl! — and listening to the spankin’ new Lady Antebellum record, which I’m kinda sad to report is not leaving much of an impression on me at all. (To be fair, I’m giving it something less than full, rapt attention, but neither is Night doing much of anything snap me into submission.) I had a sense that we might be in trouble early in the summer when the project’s lead single, “Just a Kiss,” turned out to be nothing more than a warmed-over piece of pop-leaning tripe. (Gotta admit that I really dig the video, though.) It was clear at that point that we weren’t likely to be in for a Sugarland-style boundary buster here. But, stretched out to album-size, Night comes off, largely, as Lady A’s flat, aw-shucks apology to Nashville for betraying the unspoken trust and achieving such massive crossover success for themselves. (A not-very-convincing apology, at that.) The arrangements — practically to a note — are, to say the least, uninspired, and Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott — both of whom turned in work that was quite revelatory on their previous album, the multi-platinum smash Need You Now — actually seem to sleepwalk their way through entire songs this time around. The band’s members have stated publicly that “Cold as Stone” is their favorite track on the new record, and it’s not at all difficult to discern why: with its wildly unexpected Celtic flavorings (and a lead vocal from Kelley that at least challenges his powerful performance on “Hello World,” his previous high water mark), it’s the only moment in this wobbly, odd Night-mare that even remotely challenges this band to think outside the box they’ve so weirdly and willingly decided to shoehorn themselves into.


Tony Lucca — “Devil Town”
(from Friday Night Lights [Original Television Soundtrack]) — Devil Town - Friday Night Lights (Original Television Soundtrack)

Most sincere congratulations to the underdog team behind what I’m certain history will judge as one of this young century’s absolute finest television series, NBC’s ferociously engrossing character study Friday Night Lights, which, after five grueling years of being largely ignored by the Academy, finally struck Emmy gold last night for its titanically terrific final season, with showrunner Jason Katims picking up a statuette for Outstanding Drama Series Writing for his graceful, gloriously transcendent work in penning the series finale (which might just be the greatest closing episode a television program has ever conjured), and to Lights’ eternally low-key leading man Kyle Chandler, nabbing the Lead Actor Emmy over Mad Men‘s more favored Jon Hamm. Chandler’s victory was particularly sweet and satisfying, precisely because his work on Lights is the diametric opposite of the kinds of performances that generally win these kinds of awards: as steady-like-a-stone Coach Eric Taylor, the typical strong and silent type (yet brought to life by an astounding actor who is anything but typical), Chandler didn’t strut and scream and thrash about. He didn’t employ or engage in hollow histrionics. He simply, subtly — in ways that were, at times, so extraordinarily intimate that it hurt to watch — allowed the camera to see him. He just played the truth — every scene, every time — of how it feels to be a frustrated father, a loving husband, a fierce football coach, and a humble hero to a ragtag group of young men for whom heroes were in painfully short supply. Take a bow, Kyle: you’re proof that, sometimes, the underdog does make it to the winner’s circle.


Moby — “The Broken Places” (from Destroyed) — The Broken Places - Destroyed (Deluxe Edition)

As is typical of someone whose creativity seems to stay in a permanent state of kinetic hyperdrive, the quality of Moby’s more recent output has been pretty scattershot. But I find myself rather hypnotized by this instrumental piece, the hauntingly beautiful leadoff track from Moby’s latest record. It touches me.


Whitney Houston — “The Star-Spangled Banner”
(from Whitney: The Greatest Hits) — The Star Spangled Banner - Whitney - The Greatest Hits

I really can’t abide pompous patriotism in any form, but it feels important to remember that that our flag was still there aren’t just hollow words, aren’t just empty images; they are, rather, the climactic symbols of survival, of resilience, of pride and faith in an ideal that is not only real but reachable. And on this tenth anniversary of a day that few will be eager to recall and relive, it feels equally important to remember that humans can still dream, that voices can still soar, and that music can still heal.


Heather Small — “Proud” (from Proud) — Proud - Proud

At the Way Gay Sing-Along, of which I waxed rhapsodic in yesterday’s post, it was brought to my attention that this is Pride weekend here in Austin. (It usually takes place in June, and I’m not aware of the reason for the schedule shift this year, but I’m not complaining.) I really hate quoting that garish GaGa, but even I am man enough to cede that she’s got a pretty potent point when she demands, willfully if wistfully, “don’t hide yourself in regret / just love yourself and you’re set.” So I say: whatever you like, whatever you need, whatever you prefer, whatever you are, glory in it, baby. On this weekend dedicated to pride and satisfaction in self, be happy, and do you, to the best and fullest of your consciousness and ability.


Wham! — “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (from Twenty-Five) — Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - Twenty Five

I know that, with Christopher Cross’ inclusion in this space earlier in the week, we’re getting dangerously close to an overdose on ’80s cheese up in the hive. But I can’t help myself: A and I headed down to the Alamo Drafthouse last night to take part in the Way Gay Sing-Along, and I knew instantly it was gonna be a great night when this seismic smash, yanked straight out of the protective bosom of 1984, was the first tune played, and a pair of guys decked out in pitch-perfect George-and-Andrew hairdos and tight-fitting “Choose Life” t-shirts leaped on stage and proceeded to lip-synch their gay little hearts out. (It was indeed a fabulously fun evening, even if it, quite predictably, leaned more heavily than was necessary on GaGa and Katy Perry; still, the biggest lessons of the night — neither of which are new insights, just tautly reinforced ones — are as follows: George Michael was one hell of a beautiful hunk o’ man back in the day, and “Wake Me Up” — the song through which he introduced himself to a public that couldn’t wait to adore him — continues to stand up as a brilliant camp classic.)