March 8, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
Fox's American Idiots
CENT DELIVERS SECOND
By Evan McGarvey
Daily Music Editor
With a past that includes multiple gunshot
wounds to the mouth, various broken record
contracts, an incredible New York mix-tape
career and 11 million cop-
ies of Get Rich or Die Tryin'
sold, it's possible to forgive
the occasional self-indul-
gence and self-aggrandize-
ment on his second proper
album, The Massacre.
Crazy insane or insane
According to the man himself, 50 Cent
recorded a body of over 60 songs from which he
chose the 22 that make up The Massacre. What's
troubling about this 2Pac like work ethic is that
only about half of the album's tracks deserve to
see the light of day. The first two singles, "Disco
Inferno" and "Candy Shop," are both flaccid
crossover jams with requisite pithy string sec-
tions and mediocre Indian flutes, respectively.
Being the godfather of G-Unit doesn't seem to
be helping his artistic output, either.
While he's never quite the perfect gentleman,
he gets downright nasty toward the women on
the aptly named "Get in My Car" and makes
some Sylvia Plath-esque death wishes on the
murky "I'm Supposed To Die Tonight." For
someone who wants so desperately to join the
rap hall of fame, 50 has made The Massacre
out to be the typical achievement of post-Gold-
en Age rap: pockets of weak musical filler
buffered by incandescent singles.
As on Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50 reaches
musical peaks when he cuts loose and deliv-
ers unfettered blitzkriegs of rage, party rev-
elry or some combination of both. Though it
may lead to death by mix tape roasting, he
calls out both Jadakiss and Fat Joe for working
with G-Unit/Shady archenemy Ja Rule on the
relentless steel-drum and synth-fueled "Piggy
Bank." As 50 Cent launches hallucinogenic
barb after barb and proposes death to Jada, Fat
Joe, Shyne and Nas, the beat, seemingly fueled
of 50 Cent.
by pure malice and ecstasy, flies over listen-
ers' heads like a squall of fighter jets.
Worn-out Motown vocal loops on "Ski Mask
Way" recall 50's pre-Aftermath record days
and help to salve the pain of the bloated subur-
ban-raps of "So Amazing."
Sometimes he strays from the autobiographi-
cal and taps into emotional narratives. Unfortu-
nately, he only does it once on The Massacre, and
"A Baltimore Love Thing" might be too oblique
for the listeners expecting boilerplate verses.
The week of The Massacre's release, G-
Unit rookie and Dr. Dre protdg6 The Game,
who coincidently has a multi-platinum debut
album at the top of the Billboard charts,
bashed 50 Cent on-air before 50 subsequently
ex-communicated him from G-Unit. Later that
week, members of The Game's clique launched
shootings at two venues where 50 was report-
Even for a man raised on death and seeming-
ly unafraid of the afterlife, 50 Cent's approach
to mortality is downright shocking. For all of
Eminem's beef-squashing diplomacy on "Like
Toy Soldiers," 50 just seems to fear destruc-
tion that much less.
He's turning on everyone in sight, seeming
to mock mentor Eminem on "My Toy Soldier,"
and picking fights with whomever he wants.
Here's hoping The Massacre will become a
middling, if not solid entry, into 50's catalogue
and not his death warrant.
it's a cult. It must be. How else could
you explain a karaoke competition
consistently drawing in more than
25 million viewers each week, rescuing
the Fox network from the ratings base-
ment. "American Idol" first aired during
the reality TV explosion a few years ago.
While other shows have completely dis-
appeared or have seen their ratings dwin-
dle to the point of cancellation, "Idol"just
won't go away. Now in its fourth season,
the'show is stronger than ever, leading
Fox to an important sweeps victory. I just
can't understand why.
How did this begin? The idea is sim-
ple enough: a singing competition based
on the "Star Search" model.. But "Star
Search" never had numbers like these.
The personalities on "Idol" aren't spe-
cial, either. Ryan Seacrest manages to
be more annoying than he is manicured.
With his California tan, teeth whitened
beyond belief and purposefully messy
hair, Seacrest is the face of the manufac-
tured, soulless entertainment industry.
Paula Abdul won a Grammy in a Milli
Vanilli-like coup but is best remembered
for a video duet with an animated cat -
she can't be considered a serious judge
of talent. Randy Jackson has an affable
personality but is boring nonetheless.
And then there's Simon. Dubbed the ass-
hole of "American Idol," Cowell imitates
Anne Robinson, the caustic British host
of the thankfully cancelled "The Weakest
Link." He seems to get off from the audi-
ence's hatred toward him and stretches to
make "harsh" comments such as "That
was extraordinary! Unfortunately, it was
extraordinarily bad." For some reason
these elicit boos from the insipid studio
audience, feeding his already inflated
ego. He's not so much witty as deluded:
just another desperate character trying to
become a star.
The contestants have nothing to offer
either. "Idol" winners might have great
voices, but their music is devoid of any
creativity or personality. Kelly Clarkson's
songs have ripped off Christina Agu-
ilera's sound and even reached out for
the guitar solo of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs'
"Maps." Rather than search for songwrit-
ers or producers, the show throws out
"artists" whose creativity is limited to
selecting the right covers to sing.
Season two supposedly featured two
artists great enough to both be consid-
ered the American Idol. The Ruben vs.
Clay showdown became the television
equivalent of the 2000 Presidential elec-
tion with only a small percentage of the
vote making a difference. 25 million
votes were cast, all in an attempt to deter-
mine which mediocre singer would get a
better record deal. Ruben won by a slight
margin, but his career was surpassed
by runner-up Clay Aiken's masterpiece,
"Invisible." With such lyrics as "If I was
invisible / Then I could just watch you
in your room," Aiken should be eager to
point out that he doesn't write any of his
songs. He just sings what his label gives
him, whether it be grammatically incor-
rect, creepy or both.
And who can forget the true star of
season three, William Hung? His annoy-
ing persona and rendition of "She Bangs"
refused to disappear, threatening the
"credibility" of the show. Once again,
however, a clever marketing trick man-
aged to make this guy rich while other,
more deserving artists were stuck with
buyers' excuse of too expensive CDs.
Even scandals have failed to slow
"Idol" down. After less deserving acts
in season three were able to continue to
the show's later rounds, allegations of
voting problems surfaced. Sides were
taken, votes were checked and "Idol"
refused to admit to any error. Broad-
cast & Cable magazine looked into the
incidents and found that, while each text
message vote from sponsor AT&T's
phones was counted, many people
calling in were unable to get through
because of overburdened phone lines.
As a result of the crowded phone lines
across continental America, Hawai-
ians were able to get through with a
disproportionately high success rate,
allowing a sub-par native to stay on the
show. Even with these allegations that
seem to undermine the entire concept
of the competition, people tuned in and
accepted the producers' statements that
nothing was wrong.
So what can be done to stop "Ameri-
can Idol?" Another scandal? Unlikely.
Someone leaving? No, too much money
is tied up in the show. No singers with
star potential? Hasn't really stopped
But there is hope. Music fans had to
deal with America's pop fascination with
Britney, *NSYNC and all the imitators,
but eventually everyone grew up. Every
empire must come to end - now it's
"Idol's" turn. It's just a matter of time
before its viewers come to their senses.
- Punit owns three copies of "From
Justin to Kelly" on DVD. Sing along
with him at email@example.com.
crazy? After the past few months, it's hard
to tell if 50 Cent is the next generation of the
Rakim/B.I.G./Jay-Z New York lineage or sim-
ply a man whose unprecedented success has
rendered him paranoid and on the verge of
50's chameleonic flow - part Queens
roughneck, part injury-induced Southern drawl
- keeps clich6d guns-and-ammo joints like
"Outta Control" and "This Is 50" above water.
Gangsta rap feeds on each artist's street cred-
ibility, so when he raps, "A lil' nigga hurt his
arm, lettin off that Eagle, you know me / Black
on black Bentley, big ol' black 9 / I'll clap your
monkey-ass, yeah black on black crime," well,
you try and argue with him.
By Callie Worsham
For the Daily
In a unique jazz performance set
to the poetry of
"Leaves of Grass," Fred Hersch
Ann Arbor will be Ensemble
one of only six cit-
ies to experience Thursday, March
the Fred Hersch 10 at 8 p.m.
Ensemble live. The $30-40
concert, which willMthe Lydia
take place Thurs-
day at 8 p.m., is the
first time in Hersh's
career that he has
paired his music with poetry.
No stranger to the world of jazz, the
tour marks the release of Hersh's third
album with Palmetto Records, but
with more than 20 solo or bandleader
albums and nearly 100 other record-
ings as a sideman or featured soloist,
Hersch, both the composer and pianist
of the work, has been a professional
jazz artist for 30 years.
Hersch chose specific poems based on
what he calls in a written statement sen-
timents of "appreciation of the present
moment, wonder at the miracle of nature
in all its forms, freedom to be oneself
and express that openly, and above all,
Revamped 'Kama Sutra' blows
By Bernie Nguyen
Daily Books Editor
As one of today's popular authorities on American femi-
nine culture, Cosmopolitan magazine
has already established itself in the
social realms of fashion, cosmetics and The Cosmo
relationships. With "The Cosmo Kama Kama Sutra:
Sutra: 77 Mind-blowing Sex Posi- 77 Mind-
tions," however, Cosmo's latest attempt blowing Sex
at reinventing sex falls substantially Positions
short of its lofty goal.
The famed Kama Sutra, an ancient By The Editors of
Sanskrit text, despite popular belief, Cosmopolitan
much more than a guide to sexual posi- Hearst Books
tions: It is a treatise on relationships
and society, with only one of its seven
parts devoted to sex. Cosmo's version, though updated for
the modern reader with clever positions such as "Romp with
a View" is less than revolutionary. Though it includes small
sections on sex-related activities such as "Mood Makers vs.
Deal Breakers" and "Lube Lowdown" (a guide to choos-
ing the right lubrication), its primary focus - sex positions
- is derivative and trite.
Each of the 77 positions is illustrated with bright colors
and sharp angles. Unlike other sex guides, which provide
elaborate illustrations or photographs, Cosmo delivers two-
dimensional figures that lack shading, realistic features or
detail of any kind. Although the angles are varied in order
to allow the most comprehensive view of each position,
readers will have difficulty understanding the realistic dif-
ficulties or advantages of each pose because of the absence
of any anatomical detail. The illustrations' only appeal is
the bold color scheme, which places the figures on back-
grounds of bright yellow or electric blue. Visual learners
will find Cosmo's depictions sadly lacking in constructive
content - Ken and Barbie could do better.
While Cosmo's positions are deficient in pictorial form,
they are extensively explained by tongue-in-cheek instruc-
tions. Each different pose has four sections: Cosmo's "Car-
nal Challenge" in which each position is rated on a scale
from 1-5 flames depending on difficulty, a set of "Erotic
Instructions," background on "Why You'll Love It" and a
Courtesy of UMS
Fred Hersch leads his band this Thursday at the Mendelssohn Theater.
open-hearted love of all beings."
Ironically, Hersch, who is openly
homosexual, chose not to use the
"Calamus" poems - commonly
known also as the "gay poems." He
also decided to leave out some of
Whitman's most famous works, such
as "O Captain, My Captain" and
"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard
He decided to put "Leaves of Grass"
to music shortly after reading one of
Whitman's poems, "Song of Myself."
"The words of Walt Whitman remain
extraordinarily relevant today. They
sound so contemporary that it is hard
to believe many of the texts I have set
to music were written more than 150
years ago," Hersh said.
Performing alongside Hersch at the
Lydia Mendelssohn Theater will be an
eight-piece band and two vocalists, Kurt
Elling and Kate McGarry. Elling is a
six-time Grammy Award nominee. The
band is composed of several musicians
from Hersch's recent release.
Hersch said of the piece, "For those
who have not spent time with 'Leaves of
Grass,' I hope this piece will make you
curious to do so," Hersh said. "For those
who know and love these words already,
I hope my musical interpretation will
allow you to consider them in a differ-
"Cosmo Hint," small tips for variations on each new sexual
exercise. In their attempt to maintain the titillating tone
their magazine has made famous, Cosmo's editors have
infused their text with superfluous alliteration, smarmy
slang terms and an overabundance of superlatives that
turn the would-be lighthearted instructions into tiresome,
Besides these basic shortcomings, "The Cosmo Kama
Sutra" is narrowly focused. Many of the positions described
would be impractical for couples in which either partner is
larger than a size three. Twosomes with great height differ-
ences will also have difficulty, not to mention the fact that a
few of these positions simply do not seem possible - some
organs of the human anatomy just don't bend that way.
Sex according to this book has morphed from the physical
seeking of pleasure into a whole lot of work, as illustrated
by a section entitled "Pre-sex Stretches."
Perhaps the best thing that can be said of "The Cosmo
Kama Sutra" is that it meets expectations. The writing and
the positions cater directly to its target audience of the
same young women that read the magazine. This is also its
weakest point. Instead of pushing the envelope with more
sophisticated content, the editors of Cosmo are simply con-
tent to leave their sex book in the comfortably mediocre
realm of pop culture sexuality.