Thursday, November 17, 2016

SR: "Hallelujah" Pentatonix Delivers New Version of "Hallelujah"


A couple of days after the passing of Canadian master-poet singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, (see my  obituary), I stumbled upon Texas a cappella quintet Pentatonix'version of the Cohen penned and by now cult song "Hallelujah" from their second Christmas album, "A PENTATONIX CHRISTMAS" which was released on October 21st together with the video. As to the Billboard Chart of 11/26 the album is still in the Top Five of the 200 Best Selling Albums in the US,

It looks like the video was filmed on the Salt Flats of Utah, but that's just a wild guess and I couldn't find any references on the net. So with over 300 versions of the legendary classic, how does the quintet rate. Actually great - as they offer an a cappella (without instruments) version, it sounds new and not just as another remake. And I assume, that 50 Million people agree, who have watched Pentatonix version since it's release roughly 4 weeks ago. (If only one percent of these viewers discover the greatness of the late Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley, the quintet's version did in my opinion well.) Unfortunately, the song didn't too well as a single and on the radio, it entered strong into the Top 100 (Billboard) on #32 (11/12), but has since then been falling. Maybe it will get a second wind with the passing of Cohen.

★★★★(★)/★★★★★ (4½/5)


I guess it proves the point how timeless that song is, the original version by Cohen was released 32 years ago, in 1984 on his album "VARIOUS POSITIONS" but hardly got recognized. Seven years later, former Velvet Underground man, John Cale, recorded a first version with added piano track. This one inspired a cut by Jeff Buckley on his debut and only full studio album "GRACE" in 1994. Buckley pretty much made the song his own, and until now with roughly 100 Million views, is the most viewed version on the streaming platform YouTube.

A year and a half ago, Newsweek in an article "60 Versions of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Ranked" actually tried to put many of the versions in order. Their Top-Five (5-1): k.d. lang from "HYMNS OF THE 40TH PARALLEL" 2004, Regina Spektor (concert for the Jewish Heritage Festival, 2005 YouTube - no recorded version), Rufus Wainwright (OST - SHREK: Music from the Original Motion Picture, 2001), Jeff Buckley ("GRACE" 1994): and John Cale ("I'M YOUR FAN" 1991) on top.

Below are Jeff Buckley's, k.d. lang's and John Cale's version of the song - you'll find the original in the obit I wrote On Niume.

Jeff Buckley


k.d. lang


John Cale


Sources: YouTube (Videos), www.ptxofficial.com (Pentatonix website), Newsweek, Billboard

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pussy Riot - "Organs" "Make America Great Again" "Straight Outta Vagina" - NSFW

Russian enfant terrible and political regime critic Pussy Riot or in this instance, just Nadya Tolokonnikova, is at it again. To promote her new EP "XXX" out today (10/28), she released all three songs as a video trilogy this week: "Organs," "Straight Outta Vagina" and "Make America Great Again." Latter a dystopian view on how a Donald Trump totalitarian presidency would look like. She compares him to Putin and warns people in this country to support him. 

Warning: The videos are graphic and not suited for a work environment.

To call her musically inclined, would be lying, what used to be punk screams made ways into a luscious electronica pop. But that's not the point, the anarcho punk collective tries to pillory patriarchy, excessive capitalism as well as the entanglement of politics and church. A by now well known spontaneous performance in a church, attacking how the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin work hand in hand, led to three members of the collective, among them Nadya Tolokonnikova, being arrested, convicted and sentenced to two years in jail. Since then, the collective has distanced itself a long time ago from Tolokonnikova and accused her of selling out to corporate interests. She maintains that everybody can be part of the collective, it doesn't matter where and who you are, as long as you pick up the fight.

The western media seem to love it. The outing of charming dissidents with a pop culture approach is so much more convenient then reporting on Sergei Udaltsov or the brothers Navalny. Nadya by now on her own, jet sets between Moscow and Los Angeles and instead of a spontaneous guerilla release choose YouTube and from Rolling Stone to the Huffington Post, from Pitchfork to Time every major media organisation to promote her view.

Working together with David Sitek (TV On The Radio) they released a first collaboration in February with "Chaika" accusing the current Russian General Prosecutor Yuri Chaika of widespread corruption. Their collaborative efforts also produced "Organs" and "Straight Outta Vagina."

In the first one, "Organs" she sings, soaking in a bathtub full of blood in her native Russian again about corruption, but also injustice, oppression of female sexuality and the constant fear of the powers that are, organ(s) in a wide sense of meaning police, FSB or political forces.

my president replaced his dick with an ICBM
freedom and bondage is the same shit now
but when instead of inserting cocks they insert tanks in my town
i refuse to be just a proton
the theatre is over, the wars began
i’m a grandma who has changed her sex and became a grandpa
fuck you, dear pigs
i reject you and your Putunist crap
i never know which one of my moves will become my last moan




In "Straight Outta Vagina," again produced by Sitek and featuring Desi Mo and Leikeli47 as guests, is feminism pure and uses the V-word like it's a victory to celebrate the consciousness not only of motherhood but of feminism in general, with it's Nursery Rhyme like refrain:

Don’t play stupid
Don’t play dumb
Vagina’s where you’re really from


© Emily Hope - Shorefire Media
The message in the whole song is rather upbeat and a testament to and for women what all can be reached and achieved. Seize the power of the pussy.

My pussy my pussy
Is sweet just like a cookie
It goes to work
It makes the beats
It’s CEO, no rookie
From senator to bookie
We run this shit, go lookie
You can turn any page, any race, any age
From Russia to the States

We tearing up the place



"Make America Great Again", is a collaboration with Ricky Reed and was directed by Jonas Akerlund (Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj) and.  pretty much tackles the bull by the horns, warning of the neo-fascist tendencies Donald Trump and his movement are trying to implement in the USA.

According to Rolling Stone, it took her and Reed quite a while till they found the right tone for a more mass appealing video:

"Obviously we wanted to say, 'Fuck Trump,' and we were tempted to do that. But we decided at the end of the day we wanted to reach people who are undecided – undecided voters. So we were trying to write lyrics that were more or less making arguments for why Donald Trump is not good dude for [the] presidency."

So instead of brandishing Trump as misogynist, diversity hater the lyrics simply ask what people want in their future. The video images on the other hand with it's stormtroopers, the branding iron to outcast "outsiders," "fat pigs" and "abortion" receivers paints a dark, totalitarian outlook if Trump is elected.

What do you want your world to look like?
What do you want it to be?
Do you know that a wall has two sides?
And nobody is free?
Did your mama come from Mexico
Papa come from Palestine
Sneaking all through Syria
Crossing all the border lines

Let other people in
Listen to your women
Stop killing black children
Make America Great Again


Published with the hashtags #PussyGrabsBack and #NastyWoman it appeals to all women, "because YOU decide elections and if we get together, we could blow this shit up, take action and reverse this erosion of rights. Because fuck it." 

In an oral opinion interview with the New York Times, Nadya reiterated that her place is in Russia, that she's obsessed with the Russian language and culture and will continue her fight for a more gender equal homeland. But that what she sees in her homeland, the oppression by Putin does not have to be repeated in the USA. Asked about the word pussy, as in the name of the collective as well as on Trump's now infamous tape, she said:

"You should treat pussy with love, not the way Donald Trump does it."



The triptych approach of Nadya's video releases this week works, even so released with the help of mass media. "Make America Great Again" should only be seen and commented on in it's trinity with the other videos "Organs" and "Straight Outta Vagina." The damnation of Putin, the rise of feminism and fight for gender-equality and therefore the negation of Donald Trump as a candidate for president is the whole storyline for a gentler world tomorrow, based on the true power women have. It also announces the beginning of the end of the patriarchy.

Sources: YouTube, Shorefire Media Press Release (all pictures), NY Times Oral Opinion Interview (10/28), Rolling Stone

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Moby - Lost In The World


An angry electronica artist Moby is back and just released his 14th studio album "These Systems Are Failing" on the 14th and is now doubling down with another (4th) single "Are You Lost In The World Like Me" from the LP. Even though still recording mostly by himself and only using the "choir" on two tracks, he calls his entity in reference to D.H. Lawrence, Moby & the Void Pacific Choir and names the new album a debut.

The outspoken environmentalist, vegan offers a eulogy to the present and paints a dark picture to the future, about our society, the way we are living and how we are abusing creation.

"These systems were supposed to protect us, to free us, but instead they've poisoned our air, killed the animals, butchered the land - and destroyed ourselves. We think we’ve conquered the problems of food production and wealth distribution, yet we’re more miserable than ever."
(from his YouTube manifesto for the release of "These Systems Are Failing.")

The album title is a recurring theme in his current single, "Are You Lost In The World Like Me?" which with its catchy chorus tries to unite all the lost souls out there, the ones who see that all "the systems are failing." A potent song of reflection and outcry especially considering the state of the election cycle this year in the USA.

Animation artist, London-based Steve Cutts, who like Moby condemns the excesses of our societies - watch his animation  "Man" - made a new, absolutely powerful animated video for "Are You Lost In The World Like Me?" Known for his colorful cartoons, he took a black and white approach, inspired by the early animation of the depression era, including to Max Fleischer's "Betty Boop" (even so blond and big chested), a bit "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang and some Robert Crumb and painted an utopian nightmare, where every human interaction is forbidden by fine and only allowed via smartphone.

Besides touching themes like bullying, over excessive police force, an overloaded penal system and our way of meat consumption, it also depicts smartphone software that "photoshops" your selfies to a better you, takes potshots at Tinder (App) and YouTube's Schadenfreude (Fail) section or our fascination with Kim Kardashian's lower back.
Grimmer is the "phone video taping" of a suizid and no one tries to stop it and this leads to the tragic end, where the metaphor of the lemming "suicide" is used. Oblivious people staring at their smartphones simply walk off the cliff.

★★★★(★)/★★★★★ (4½/5)


Magnificent video with tons of little details and references. I hope this video will still have some virality to be entered for the Grammy Awards in February of 2018. It just came in a tad late, for the 2017 Grammys. Yes it is that good and that unique. In two days it already accrued over 1.1 Million views and made me a Steve Cutts fan.

By the way, next Sunday, October 23 Moby will be headlining his own vegan charity event, Circle V at the Fonda Teatre in Los Angeles benefitting animal rights organisation "Mercy For Animals." It will be Moby's only live performance this year.



Sources: YouTube, circlev.comhttp://moby.com/www.stevecutts.com