The Riff - December 2008

NME Best Singles of 2008 List All About 2007

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 3:58 PM EST

mojo-photo-bestof20087.jpgWe know it's hard. Singles get released in one year, then the album's released the next; UK release dates come months before we get them here; or maybe you got a promo copy (or—gasp!—a leak) in December, and it didn't go on sale until January. Then there's human error: what if you just didn't get around to checking out that Amadou and Mariam album until 2006? Keeping your year-end best-of list to the actual calendar year can be tough, but you'd think British music mag NME would at least try to stick to the rules. The magazine released their "tracks of the year" last week, but amusingly enough, fully half of them came out in 2007. Check out their list and my bitter commentary after the jump.

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NBC May Cut Back on the "B" Part

| Mon Dec. 8, 2008 6:48 PM EST

mojo-photo-nbclogocuts.jpgHow the mighty have fallen. We knew things were bad at NBC, with ratings falling right along with the economy, but we didn't know quite how bad. Heads are rolling over at the Peacock, with some high-ranking executives getting axed, along with 3% of the company's 15,000-person workforce. But the network might not be done with it's slicing-and-dicing. Rather than actually try to come up with shows people want to watch, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker has announced that the network is considering just cutting back on the hours--or even the number of nights--it provides programming. From the AP:

"Can we continue to program 22 hours of prime-time? Three of our competitors don't. Can we afford to program seven nights a week? One of our competitors doesn't," Zucker said. "All of these questions have to be on the table. And we are actively looking at all of those questions." … Part of the problem at NBC has to do with the economic crisis and slowdown in advertising revenue in a market that is "as difficult as any we've seen," Zucker said. "Businesses are just afraid to commit."

Er... especially to crappy shows.

Finally, Some Consistency: Time, Guardian, New York Release Best Album Lists

| Mon Dec. 8, 2008 2:41 PM EST

mojo-photo-lilwaynecarteriii.jpgIdolator points out that three biggies have just weighed in on the best albums of the year, making the list-obsessed among us all giddy. Time, New York and the UK Guardian released their lists today, and while each have the character you'd expect from the publication (Idolator calls them "mainstream," "middlebrow" and "muso") there's actually some interesting similarities, which is nice, considering the mixed, Nick-Cave-elevating-by-default tally of recent lists. Both New York and Time had the same Top 2: Lil Wayne and TV on the Radio. Of course, the Guardian has to be all cool and diverse, throwing the not-even-out-in-the-US Amadou and Mariam in at #2, while Time, bafflingly, includes Metallica. USA! USA! But perhaps the most important thing to realize about the average of these three lists is that it turns out to very closely resemble my Best Albums of the First Half of 2008 list posted back at the end of June, proving, once again, that the Riff is your best bet for scientifically sound arts and culture commentary.

Check out the three Top 10s as well as another super-consensus chart after the jump.

Joe Satriani Sues Coldplay for Plagiarism

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 3:19 PM EST

mojo-photo-coldplaysatriani.jpgPoor Coldplay. They just got word that they had the biggest-selling album of the year on iTunes and the second-highest number of Grammy nominations, and then a little thing like copying somebody else's song has to go and get in the way of their celebration. Guitarist Joe Satriani has brought a suit against the British band, saying that the title track from Viva la Vida plagiarized one of his recent songs. From Reuters:

Satriani's copyright infringement suit, filed on Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, claims the Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" incorporates "substantial original portions" of his 2004 instrumental "If I Could Fly." The 52-year-old guitar virtuoso is seeking a jury trial, damages and "any and all profits" attributable to the alleged copyright infringement.

I'd just like to point out the Satriani song is from an album titled Is There Love In Space, a title that might actually be worse than Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Did Coldplay steal the idea for "crap" too? Anyhoo, the two songs are in the same key and have the same melody line; check out a YouTube video comparing the two songs and review previous plagiarism claims against Coldplay after the jump.

Email Madness From the Afro-Sphere

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 2:16 PM EST

Authorities are planning to open the entire length of the National Mall for Obama's inauguration, a historic first. Planners are estimating that 1.5-5 million folks will be visiting DC for that occasion. (Nice ballpark figure, huh?)

I got the following joke email about it from one of those relatives. The kind who fill your inbox with miracle cures, urban myths Snopes wouldn't dignify with a debunking, and Protestant chauvinism too appalling to reply to. (Yesterday's was a shaggy dog joke about atheists suing for a holiday of their own and being informed by the judge that, as non-believers, they already had one: April 1. Hardy har.) But now I'm glad I hadn't blocked their address. This one made my day.

Since Obama's election, the afro-sphere has been abuzz with joyful outbursts, but this one is the only one to really touch me. It's a trifle, but it's so exuberant and paints such an eloquent picture of blacks' sense of validation as Americans and their sense of family with the Obamas, it makes its own gravy. Pretending to scold, it is instead a clever, jubilant way of celebrating black culture and bragging about having a homey Prez, and makes its peace with individual blacks' inability to lay hands on the magic brother. It says: We can't all be with you there, Obama. But we're there in spirit. There's a party going on in black America.

Here it is; enjoy.

Why Tina Fey Had to Get All Tarted Up

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 7:53 PM EST

Like most of America, I've got a ginormous girl crush on Tina Fey. 30 Rock is among the best, smartest, bravest, and most honest shows on TV, not to mention snort-Coke-thru-your-schnoz funny. I really didn't think Fey would pull it off, and was surprised by how much the show hooked me. It's the only one I ever rewind to experience the whipsmart repartee twice. (The episode that changed me from time-killer to stalker-fan contained this piece from Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy, Fey's bizarre TV boss: "I don't know what happened in your life that caused you to develop a sense of humor as a coping mechanism. Maybe it was some sort of brace or corrective boot you wore during childhood, but in any case I'm glad you're on my team." I was in love. The New Yorker isn't though.)

And, of course, then came Fey's Palin impression and now she's a bona fide superstar, the proof of which is her Vanity Fair cover and her $5M book deal.

The chick-o-sphere is all over it. Check out Slate's XX here and here for links to the piece and all the great commentary surrounding it.

The nub of the discussion is the profile's near-relentless focus on Fey's 30-pound weight loss and beauty makeover. Would she be a superstar now had she remained merely insanely talented and ruthlessly hardworking ? Apparently not, if the piece—and Fey's pragmatic self—are to be believed.

I always found her low cut blouses and super tight cocktail dresses...distressing.

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YouTube Wrapup: Kermit Sings LCD Soundsystem, Pole Dancing Robots, Mashup Mayhem, Walrus Saxophone Action

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 4:44 PM EST

Okay, after that brief foray into serious music (allegedly), we could use a bit of nutty internet video-style distraction. If you've ever wondered what hipster band a Muppet should cover, why strippers weren't more mechanical, how to mix 8,000 songs together with a thimble, or what walruses do in their spare time, click "continues."

Grammy Nominees Not Terrible?

| Thu Dec. 4, 2008 2:56 PM EST

mojo-photo-grammys.jpgAs everyone knows, the Grammys are dumb. I've mocked the ceremony (and also an imagined ceremony in my brain) as well as the tendency of the lists of nominees to look like a stoned 80-year-old decided them. So, granted, my expectations are very low, but a quick glance at this year's nods has left me with a distinct lack of disgust, and my eyebrows might have even gone up a bit in appreciation. Just a little!

Prop 8, The Musical: Maybe They Could Have Thought Of This Two Months Ago?

| Wed Dec. 3, 2008 5:22 PM EST

Via HuffPo, it's this star-studded musical "tribute" to Proposition 8, featuring the comedic and vocal talents of Margaret Cho, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph, Jack Black as Jesus, and a special appearance by Neil Patrick Harris. It's cute, but what does it say that the only celebrity Funny or Die was able to score before the election was Molly Ringwold? [Edit: okay, commenter, and Margaret Cho too.] Now that it's passed, everybody wants to come to the party. Feeling a little guilty for ignoring the queers, anyone? Urgh. Well, maybe one of the California Supreme Court justices will click on it.

British Police to Ask Music Venues for Ethnic Background of Audiences

| Wed Dec. 3, 2008 2:54 PM EST

mojo-photo-feargal.jpgOh those Brits. We just established that they really seem to like Kings of Leon, but it turns out some of their own most exciting musical subcultures give the police the willies. The UK Independent reports that music venues are to be subjected to a "new piece of bureaucracy" called Form 696, an eight-page questionnaire asking for private information about performers as well as the "ethnic background" of the likely audience. Eh, on what grounds, constable?