[he Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Wednesday, November 17, 2010 - 5A
he Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, November17, 2010 - 5A
Rihanna gets 'Loud'
Unidentified flying crap
By KAVI SHEKHAR PANDEY
Daily Film Editor
Monster hits and 1
massive duds fill
pop star's latest
By JOE DIMUZIO
Daily Arts Writer
Rihanna is such a tease. From
'Pon De Replay" to "Disturbia," her
ingles pop. She
ever brief. The Rihanna
et her go. Pre- Loud
iew snippets for Def Jam
ated R had mes-
age boards convinced she would
become the queen of dubstep. She's
made Jay-Z look silly, twice.
Your perfect pop diva, Rihanna
is sexy and malleable. But when you
step down from the highs of songs
like "Umbrella" and "Rude Boy,"
there's not much footing for a long-
term relationship. it's just too tough
to figure out what she really wants.
Loud is her fifth frustrating
release, built on towering singles,
promising misfires and a couple
duds. Following Rated R, an album
hyped more by her Chris Brown
backstory than the music itself,
Loud finds her comfortably upbeat
again, with variety, pomp and red
hair. Because it's loud, get it?
This sort of cheap role play pre-
vents Rihanna from owning some
of the tunes here. on ballads like
"Fading" and the Taylor Swiftian
"California King Bed," she steers
hard into middle-of-the-road ter-
ritory. opener and third single
"S&M" is a slick, efficient pal-
ette swap of David Guetta's "Sexy
Chick," with a 4/4 Euro stomp and
HI-NRG backing vocals. But it aims
for sexy and comes across as Hot
Topic. With "Sex in the air / I don't
care / I love the smell of it / sticks
and stones may break my bones /
but whips and chains excite me,"
she sounds like she's faking it.
:OURTESY OF DEF JAM
Maybe she's born with it. Maybe it's plastic surgery.
Rihanna's best moments are her
most natural, and when it comes to
massive singles and the occasional
embrace of her Caribbean side,
she nails it. Second single "What's
My Name?" features Drake, serv-
ing the same purpose Jay-Z did
on "Umbrella," turning in a limp
intro and unintentionally lending
Rihanna's entrance heavenly pro-
portions. It's a slick StarGate pro-
duction built on tense snare and a
chorus whose parts sum up beauti-
fully. "Only Girl (In the World)" is
Max Martin-huge, with a stop-and-
start chorus that takes three whole
turns of the ignition to drop the
beat, at once torturous and indel-
ible. Here, "Want you to make me
feel / Like I'm the only girl in the
world / Like I'm the only one that
you've ever loved" is a declaration,
not a request.
Then there are furious moments
of promise. "Raining Men" has a
schizo-speed freak verse from Nicki
Minaj, sub-bass, lightning hi-hats
and a Beyonca-light vocal turn by
Rihanna, with nowhere else to go.
"Man Down," the most distinct
but undercooked cut on the album,
offers a Reggaeton murder ballad
evoking Grace Jones drama and fall-
ing short. On "Love the Way You Lie
(Part II)" Rihanna tries admirably
to recapture the song for herself
and misfires, leaving Eminem, still
refusing to work with a beat, clum-
sounding absolutely terrible.
In a BBC interview, Rihanna
propped up Loud; "I wanted songs
that were all Rihanna songs, that
nobody else could do. ... I wanted a
song, or songs ... that had that little
West Indian vibe to it, had that cer-
tain tone, a certain sass and a cer-
tain energy." That "certain energy"
is exactly what can take Rihanna
higher: the fleeting moments when
she marries her character with
shiny, defiant pop gloss. But her
promise is still just promise, and for
now the engagement is indefinite.
Low-budget alien invasion mov-
ies shot with handheld cameras
have been all
the rage over
the past few
years. In fact, Skyline
their path can be
compared to the At Quality16
life of a phoenix. and Rave
Since it's "Harry Universal
let's use Fawkes,
Dumbledore's little firebird. In
2008, "Cloverfield" was the begin-
ning of the life cycle - Fawkes as
a baby - a wonderful idea that set "Fuck my life."
the stage for the future but was too
infantile to be great. Fawkes soon characters hiding out in a high-rise
matured and at his peak was a mag- condominium, watching aliens and
nificent, highly cognizant speci- UFOs from a distance. They sit and
men, suddenly appearing to save debate whether to stay or escape,
Harry's tuchas against the Basilisk. decide to run for it, fail, return to
This is analogous to last year's out- the condo and wait around until
rageously good "District 9," which the aliens arrive to suck everyone's
came out of nowhere to earn an brains out. This is the furthest thing
Oscar nomination for Best Picture possible from epic - "Skyline" is
and essentially perfect the genre. just the cinematic equivalent of a
But after old age, Fawkes burst bottle episode.
into flames and fell into a pile The single location could have
of ashes - the tragic, charred been used to the film's advantage,
remains of something that was creating a stifling, claustrophobic
once glorious. This is "Skyline." environment with aliens breathing
"Skyline" isn't just stupendous- down the necks of our heroes. But
ly awful - though it definitely it just becomes pathetic;it's obvious
ranks among the Seven Wonders that the filmmakers were trying
of Terrible Filmmaking - it's a to minimize production costs and
despicable case of studios manip- didn't have enough money to stage
ulating audiences to make a quick a sequence outside of the condo.
profit on a knowingly terrible There's a handful of impressive
product. The budget for the movie effects, like a brief battle between
was supposedly only $10 mil- military fighter jets and UFOs, but
lion, but it's clear that the studio it's laughable to say they justify
stuffed a Z-list cast into a rancid watching even a second of the rest
plot, spending most of that bud- of the film, especially with its horri-
get on visual effects. They then ble cast spouting horrible dialogue.
used the better-looking effects It's not as if the actors in "Clo-
to string together a pretty cool verfield" were especially talented,
teaser trailer and some TV spots, but their relative anonymity great-
selling audiences on an epic alien ly assisted the film's attempts at
invasion extravaganza. realism. The same doesn't hold for
Man, thatshitis effingridiculous the distracting cast of "Skyline,"
- it's absolutely deplorable market- a mishmash of random television
ing, as most of the film consists of actors including the guy from
"24" with the gross facial hair
(Eric Balfour), Angel Batista from
"Dexter" (David Zayas), Turk
from "Scrubs" (Donald Faison)
and . Mac's transsexual ex-girl-
friend from "It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia" (Brittany Daniel).
And they are all terrible.
"Skyline" is a supreme embar-
rassment. of course, not every
movie has to be "District 9," but
"Skyline" wouldn't even fly as a
SyFy original movie. The Univer-
sal executives are probably patting
themselves on the back for already
making a return on their invest-
ment (thanks to a $12 million open-
ing Weekend), but they deserve
to be smacked for selling such a
defective product to the world.
The phoenix always rises from
the ashes, and the low-budget alien
invasion movie should reclaim its
splendor next year with "Battle:
Los Angeles" (which has a fantas-
tic trailer) and the J.J. Abrams-
directed "Super 8." One can only
UMS welcomes Stew
and The Negro Problem
By STEPHEN OSTROWSKI
Ann Arborites will receive a
playful dose of wit and irrever-
ence when indie-rock musician
Stew and his band The Negro
to town for Stewand
day and Sat- The Negro
urday evening Problem
sets, presented T
by the Universi- Tomorrowand
ty Musical Soci- Friday at 8
ety. p.m., Saturday
The Negro at 7:30 and
Problem is 10:30 p.m.
anchored by 523S. Main Street
the guitars and $45
vocals of char-
ismatic front man Stew (Mark
Stewart) and the bass and vocals
of collaborator Heidi Rode-
wald. Though his discography
dates back to The Negro Prob-
lem's 1997 effort Post Minstrel
Syndrome, Stew - who has also
released albums just as "Stew"
- may be best recognized as the
creative force behind the 2008
Tony award-winning "Passing
Strange," a musical profiling a
young man's search for the "real."
Director Spike Lee ("Do the
Right Thing") adapted the show's
closing performances into a well
received 2009 Sundance film of
the same name, which the Uni-
versity of Michigan Museum Of
Art screened this past Sunday.
Paul Farber, a Ph.D. candidate in
the University's American Cul-
ture department who will mod-
erate a "public conversation"
with Stew on Thursday evening,
praised Stew's theatrical efforts.
"I've taught 'Passing Strange'
in two courses at the University
of Michigan, and I see how in
each class the musical gave stu-
dents the creative license to push
their own limits and knowledge,"
Farber wrote in an e-mail inter-
view with the Daily.
Despite the musical's positive
press, Stew insisted in a recent
interview with the Daily his com-
mitment to music, saying "I don't
feel like a playwright." Stew also
expressed enthusiasm for the
band's Ann Arbor stop.
"It's one of those oases, you
know?" Stew said. "Sort of the
classic kind of American, you
know, college town that feels
somehow different than the rest
of America that surrounds it."
Ann Arbor - just one of a
handful of stops on the group's
first national tour in six years -
may prove the optimal audience
to field Stew's clever lyricism.
Songs range from drug-bender
ballads to poignant character
sketches of Don Quixote-like
Take the ode "Giselle" on
2002's solo effort The Naked
Dutch Painter ... and Other Songs,
in which Stew croons: "Her rab-
bit won't pose for Hef /She wears
leather, whatever the weather."
Stew defines The Negro Prob-
lem as "more busy baroque"
music than his individual work
Stew's prowess as a wordsmith
doesn't go unnoticed.
"Stew is one of the most inno-
vative musicians and storytell-
ers in the culture today," Farber
Though his lyrical trove is
expansive, Stew acknowledges a
common thread to his music and
mission as an artist.
"I think the constant guiding
me is I've always wanted to sort of
subvert this idea of whatever the
expected is," Stew said. "(What)
you've expected of me as a man,
you've expected of me as a black
man, you know, they expected of
us as a band."
Stew added, "The actual topics
aren't as interesting to me as the
perspective on the topics."
According to Stew, the seed of
"subversion" planted itself when
he was a child in the 1960s, a
decade host to an eclectic, hardly
homogenous music scene.
While a selection from a song
like "Giselle" might highlight
Stew's more comical musings, it's
obvious that his music scrapes
mature, important issues. For
instance, the public conversa-
Tne search for
the 'real' gets
tion between Stew and Farber,
as detailed on the University's
Alumni Association website, will
include "ideas about race and
"Stew is the kind of performer
who helps us confront together,
and not shy away from separately,
the most pressing issues facing
our society, including race," Far-
This goal comes to light in
the band's potentially polarizing
name. Stew explained that The
Negro Problem, while an "old
political phrase," alludes to the
joint vision shared by himself and
Rodewald - to have fun creating
"I think laughter is actually
the most subversive thing you
can do," Stew said. "It's just hav-
ing fun. It's just music, you know
- it's not politics."
November 10-12 and 15-19
in the Sophia B. Jones room
of the Michigan Union
North Campus November 18-19
in Valley room of Pierpont
The sittingfee is just $15!
This price includes your portraitfeatured in
the 2011 Michignensian Yearbook
Sign up online by visiting www.OurYear com
and entering School Code: 87156
Phone 734.418.4115 ext. 247
Bring in this ad and receive $2 offthe sitting fee.
Y E A R B O O K
cOURTESY OF MARK STEWART
Stew and Heidi Rodewald worked together on the Tony-winning "Passing Strange."
He defines his style of music with The Negro Problem as "busy baroque."