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September 13, 2007 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-09-13

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4B - Thursday, September 13, 2007
and the
Daily Arts Writer
Morrie walks back into the bar, having pissed
off gangster Jimmy Conway one too many
times. Jimmy coolly watches him and starts
to consider murder. The camera dollies in slow
and Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" begins,
its opening riff corrupted by the possibility of
It's one of a hundred different sequences
employing a song with lyrics of dual meaning
in Martin Scorsese's saga "Goodfellas." The
filmmaker has been lauded for decades for his
contributions to the film industry - he's given
us hard, rich storytelling and created iconic
characters. His oft-imitated four-minute track-
ing shots have become a key tool in the modern
auteur's kit.
But Scorsese's impact on modern entertain-
ment extends beyond his use of the lens - he
has perfected the inclusion of popular music in
crime films. Whether it's the aforementioned
"Goodfellas," "Casino" or "The Departed,"
Scorsese's brand of soundtrack compilation is
significant in every detail.
There are certain tendencies you can count
on in a Scorfese soundtrack, and one is the
tongue-in-cheek match-up of lyrics to narra-
tive situations. Recall Robert DeNiro's "Ace
Rothstein," expertly inspecting two men he
believes are trying to cheat at poker in "Casi-
no" (1995). Rothstein, a former bookie, doesn't
need much notice to know something smells
rotten in Nevada. Jeff Beck's "I Ain't Supersti-
tious" begins to play, vindicating the cautious
Rothstein. His hunch is proven correct and the
cheats are appropriately "dealt with." Or con-
sider "The Departed" (2006), when Jack Nich-
olson's Frank Costello walks out from the back
of a bar covered in blood, having obviously just
perpetrated immeasurable violence. We hear

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com



Fingers being broken to "Happy birthday." Jack is singing along.

"Tweedle Dee"inthe background, as if nothing
unusual has just taken place. This, of course, is
how Frank sees it.
Scorsese refined the juxtaposition of descrip-
tive lyrics and ironic music with violent and
foreboding scenes in "Goodfellas" (1991). In
the first act, Henry Hill introduces each figure
of the criminal underworld and Mina's "This
World We Live In" knowingly plays in the back-
ground. This is the world in which Henry lives.
When Hill explains the ritual practice of tak-
ing the wives out on Saturday and the Gumars
(mistresses) out on Friday, the crew listens to
the singer on stage sing a beautiful ballad. For a
moment it seems to take you out of the ugliness
that is their world. But listen carefully to the
chorus: "Pretend you don't see her at all." That's
exactly what these "good fellas" are doing with
their wives - ignoring their needs, their pres-
The most ingenious use of music in "Good-
fellas" comes when Henry, Pauly and other
Mafioso are sent to prison. Henry describes
in detail how "it's different for wise guys" and
how they "own the joint." They bring in lobsters
and prosciutto and their biggest concern is that
someone puts too many onions in the tomato
sauce. Bobby Darin's "Beyond the Sea" plays in
the background, emphasizing the fact that this
is a magical place, a magical life ledby wise guys
who live in a distant fantasy world.
This would justbe a history lesson if this was

a practice reserved only for Scorsese's crime
films, but his clever practice has carried over
to a new generation of filmmakers. Quentin
Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) features a
scene where a criminal dances around a beaten,
tied-up policeman. "Mr. Blonde" is ready to cut
the cop's ear off, but he's listening to Stealer's
Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You!"
Playing ironic or self-aware songs over the
closing credits of any HBO show has become
standard. Episodes of "The Sopranos" always
end and often feature a song that comments
directly on the plot of the program. In the epi-
sode "Amour Fou," after Tony, Christopher and
Patsy have violently threatened and killed a host
of characters, Bob Dylan's rendition of Dean
Martin's "Return to Me" innocently finishes the
episode. All the members of the Sopranos crime
syndicate return home to "the family."
A soundtrack accentuates the emotion of a
scene. It can also set the tone for a sequence,
then ask the'audience to understand its corre-
lation to a seemingly opposite piece of music.
Scorsese always made sure the addition of pop
music is meaningful. Why is the killer murder-
ing an innocent victim to the tune of a lullaby?
Are the lyrics of a song coincidentally accurate,
or were they purposely layered in at the exact
moment to comment on the action of the scene?
Maybe next time "Goodfellas" is on TBS and
you watch it for the 67th time, there'll be some-
thing else to look for or, rather, listen to.

From page 1B
and '70s which saw mods, skin-
heads, DJs and collectors getting
hip to popular and obscure Ameri-
can soul.
"They began to put on what
came to be known as 'allnighters'
and 'weekenders,' " Wells said,
"allnight/weekend long dance
parties fueled by pills and booze
where multiple DJs spun and
attempted to show off the rarest,
most obscure and danciest singles
from their collection to all those in
Northern soul fans would travel
stateside and scour cities, espe-
cially Detroit and Chicago, for all
the vinyl they could take through
customs, thinking they'd collect it
all. Thankfully they didn't.
"They contributed to the cul-
ture of dancing all night to soul
music, tapping into that energy,"
Wells said. And that's exactly what
Wells and Hales tap into when
they begin their Blind Pig sets.
"We always want to mix it up,
but we know what works, what
gets people dancing," Wells said.
"We usually stay with soul from
the '60s, but since we're playing
till 2 a.m., we'll start with some
heavier tunes. We'll go into 'cross-
over soul' from the '70s and '80s
but always bring it back to the '60s
at the end."
Wells put down the notion that
he and Hales are rejuvenating a
genre. "We're not reclaiming our
music," he said. "It's just great
Integral to these singles is their
length. "These sophisticated soul
records are tryingto make the big-
gest pop hit possible," Wells said.
"And they're doing it in two and a
half minutes."
This soulful exuberance under-
lies the soul and vinyl communi-
ties. Wells and Hales consistently

bringinguestDJs from aroundthe
United States and across the pond.
"Through Hales and (other DJs
and collectors), you find all of a
sudden you're one person removed
from Cut Chemist or DJ Shad-
ow," Wells said. Indeed, both Cut
Chemist (formerly in Jurassic 5)
and Nu Mark (currently in Jurassic
5) hung out with Hales and bought
enough vinyl from him to help him
establish his People's Records.
Both men live music and vinyl.
Wells DJs for WCBN's The Hop,
an eclectic show of Latin, soul and
funk that airs from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.
on Wednesdays. Hales is perhaps
even more immersed. Keeping
his record store humming is one
thing. Being the other half of the
Soul Club, running a Funk Night
in Detroit and preparing to tour
Europe with a performance punk
act called "HUMAN EYE" for
a month and a half is another. A
serious addition to his to-do list is
compiling a Michigan soul mix for
the magazine Wax Poetics. .
"Brad is one of the most genu-
inely humble, open guys I know,"
said Wells, who became friendly
with Hales through frequent visits
to People's Records.' "Brad really
directed me toward soul."
That's something that seems
to happen often enough with soul
music: a fellow DJ or close friend
pointing another toward revela-
tion. A friend putting on "Who's
Loving You," the b-side to the
Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" a
few years ago facilitated my own
infatuation. I've never been the
same since, collecting soul and
R&B vinyl from People's Records
when I have the time and from
Wazoo and Encore when I don't.
It's a transformative experience,
listening to soul on vinyl - either
by yourself, on a dance floor with
temporary kindred spirits or in a
bedroom with close friends.
"Soul is about intimacy," said
Wells, "and so is dropping a



Fox bears witness to cultural milestone

Daily Music Editor
Maybe it was the three hours I
spent gyrating with my three best
friends and a mass of 5,000 other
people. Maybe
it was the soft M.IA. and
ringing that lin-
gered in my ears. Bjork
But seeing Bjork Tuesday
and M.I.A. play At the FOX Theater
the same ornate
stage at the FOX
Theater in Detroit on Tuesday did
something to me. Whether they
knew it or not, everyone in the the-
ater witnessed something of legend.
The Fox's not-to-capacity crowd
once again proved Detroit tobe the
worst city to see a concert in, as it's

filled with sports fans, but those
present were able to experience one
of the most powerful duos of their
This is the sort of concert your
children will talk about. How many
times have you wished you were at
the original Woodstock?How many
times did you want to see Dylan
touring in support of Highway 61
(Revisited)? How many times did
you wish you had seen Nirvana play
a dank club with 30 people in the
crowd? Even though it's not readily
recognized now, Bjbrk will prove to
be the most important female artist
of our generation, boasting a near-
flawless catalog, while M.I.A. has
released two immediately impor-
tant albums in the last two years.
All historical and musical quali-

fiers as
her DJ
ner's "


ide, it was one hell of a show. tion is up in the air but certainly not
bouncing around the stage as out of the picture. If Bjork can work
interchanged samples from with pop super-producer Timbal-
"Goodies" and David Ban- and to create the gorgeously dancey
Play" prompted Bjork fans to "Innocence," anything is possible.
What remains to be seen is where
M.I.A. will fall in the spectrum of
t W oodstock, musical scripture as Bjork contin-
ues to solidify her place. But even if
but pretty the former fizzles into irrelevancy,
this show will have been at the peak
dam n close. of her career.
Regardless of whether you care
about either of these artists or
Who's that?" Bjork delivered not, what happened Tuesday will
ter song of crowd favorites to prove to be historical. It wasn't the
tatic audience. This concert Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show"
p to the hype - or the hype it but there's a good chance they'll
have had. be talking about this tour on VH1's
ether or not this tour will "20 Greatest Tours" when it airs in
y heed any future collabora- 2030.


ask, "V
song af
an ecst
lived ul


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From page lB
"I'm a Slave 4 U," 2001
The only way to top the previ-
ous year's performance? Include
live animals. Exotification of
indigenous cultures was appar-
ently the rage in 2001, perhaps
ironically as Spears chose to per-
form her single "I'm a Slave 4 U."
Mid-performance, she accepts a
sunshine-colored boa constric-
tor from a dancer and continues
to stalk the stage, gyrating occa-
sionally, while holding the snake.
Still sensational.
"Like a Virgin"/"Hollywood,"
This Madonnatribute remains
most famous for Brit and Madge's
Kiss (Christina Aguilera is usu-
ally left out in media mentions,
more or less). And the kiss is
rightfully the most memorable
thing about it: By this point,
Britney VMA appearances have
directed their focus to spectacle,
not substance. (Although the
presence of any substance, how-
ever little of it, can be argued
from the beginning.) Madon-
na's voice is famously thin; so is
Britney's. They're known as per-
formers foremost, not singers,
and the 2003 performance can
be interpreted as a very showy
passing of the torch.

"Gimme More," 2007
Leadingup tothe awards show,
MTV spent a lot of airtime adver-
tisingfor"the greatestpop star"to
return and unleash her rebellion.
But those who tuned in - includ-
ing the crying fan immortalized
in the days after on YouTube
- could not have expected much
more than the Ms. Spears's slow-
moving, stumbling show. Based
on her photo-documented behav-
ior, the tabloids could have pre-
dicted as much. The lipsynching
was obvious; the dancers seemed
to be trying to make up for her
lethargy; the overall effect was
of an artist caught at a very, very
low point.


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" Who wrote the Bible - where did it come from? *How to get past the sometimes difficult language used in the Bible.
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" Why parts of the Bible are so difficult to understand and how they can be simplified.
" How did so many interpretations of the Bible develop? *When and how to understand the book of Revelation.
" Why does God allow so much suffering and wickedness? *What are the differences between Bible versions?
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The "Gimme More" perfor-
mance should be Spears's last at
the VMAs - at least for a very
long time. It won't be, and it
shouldn't be, as long as and only if
Spears takes the route of so many
other artists who have tried to
stage a comeback too soon: take
some time off. Not as in ending a
tour only to go right into the stu-
dio, or going (and immediately
leaving) rehab, both of which she
has done. Spears needs to take a
break from her career. "Gimme
More" at the VMAs showed that
she wasn't ready as a performer
to come back to the industry,
and the necessary demographic
to ensure her success has either
grown up or hasn't discovered
her yet.

,. .

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