Thursday, February 01, 2007

GOOD GOD! Has Darren Hayes been writing his own press releases?

*the particularly worrying bits have been highlighted

Darren Hayes could never be accused of doing anything by convention. In a music industry terrified by ever decreasing sales, where budgets are being slashed and the dumbing down of artistry is commonplace - Hayes has pulled out all the stops and recorded an epic and theatrical double album.He has defiantly said no to the seductive invitation of the majors and is instead gearing up to release his latest album on his very own independent label 'Powdered Sugar'. Darren Hayes is doing things his own way. And he wants everyone to know about it.His upcoming album 'This Delicate Thing We've Made' is an ambitious and cinematic opus. Featuring 25 bold and wildly extravagant pop songs that are already being compared in scope to the work of heroes Kate Bush and David Bowie. And perhaps most fascinatingly, was recorded with a strict commitment to a particular piece of technology as muse and inspiration – a vintage 1983 Fairlight CMI Synthesizer, a clunky synth relic that he scored off EBay. The same model that was at the heart of Kate Bush's pivotal recording 'The Hounds of Love'

It's been 5 years of changes for Australian born and London based Hayes. His independent streak has been ramping up for some years now – but reached the pinnacle last year when he simultaneously announced the parting of ways with Columbia records and his marriage to British boyfriend Richard Cullen in a Civil Partnership ceremony at their home in London.Out. Personally, professionally and creatively. And for the first time in 10 years, in control of his publishing and recording future.Most know the bullet points of Hayes' pop career. They begin with two words: Savage Garden. As the voice and co-songwriter of those two massive Billboard Number One singles 'Truly Madly Deeply' and 'I Knew I Loved You' he enjoyed global sales of over 25 million records. After just two multi platinum hit albums, his band Savage Garden parted ways and Darren decided to do his own thing. This included two solo albums, the first being 2002's poptastic 2 million selling UK and Australian top 5 album 'Spin'. His 2nd solo album, a deep, dark and broodingly electronic confessional 'The Tension and the Spark' featured collaborations with experimental programmers Robert Conley, the renowned Marius De Vries (Rufus Wainwright, Bjork) and mixes by Mark 'Spike' Stent (Madonna, Mirwais, Massive Attack). This record seemed to signal a turning point in Hayes' artistry. It brought forth stunning reviews from the likes of the UK's prestigious NME (describing Hayes as a 'genius').

The irony of releasing the best reviewed album of his career was that in the US it was in the hands of a record company who, in Hayes' words, "Just didn't get it". Rather than lose sleep over it, Hayes decided to focus on what he does best: performance.He spent 2 years touring the U.K, Australia and Asia with variations of a stage show created with long time U2 show designer Willie Williams (U2, Rolling Stones, We Will Rock You). In fact last summer he played to over 30 thousand Brits and triumphantly filmed two sold out and stunningly reviewed shows at Australia's prestigious Sydney Opera House.Building up an arsenal of songs over what Hayes now describes as his 'gap years' he entered London's Mayfair Studios in October 2006 with producer Justin Shave to record his double album 'This Delicate Thing We've Made'. Like his mentors Peter Gabriel and Annie Lennox, Hayes had been driven by his demons as much as his ambitions. The effect of those teenage years of burying the shameful secrets of both his violent upbringing and emerging homosexuality would fuel a sadness and a sense of longing that would continue to inform his songwriting.

Some of the songs on the record would not sound out of place in a musical about Jules Verne or H.G Wells' 'The Time Machine'. But they're just a metaphor says Hayes of his 'Victorian Science Fiction' dress code. "With this record I was fascinated with the idea of Time Travel as storytelling device to address regret and the possibility for change. I kept obsessing over the notion that if I could travel back in time to the source of my sadness as a child, I would not choose to bring back the violence or the tears. Instead I'd drag some joy back". In doing so Hayes has managed to craft an album of complex narratives and personal confessions that simultaneously document his arrival at peace within himself and the question that we could all ask ourselves. What would you change, if you could?"It's not a concept record, but there is definitely the idea that it begins with a loss of consciousness and a giving over to the notion that we are going to go deep into the psyche," he explains. Songs like 'Neverland' are as dark as any Tim Burton fairytale or Del Toro's 'Pan's Labyrinth'. In stark contrast 'Who Would Have Thought' is a gorgeous soaring and moody pop vehicle for tenor Hayes to exclaim "Who would have thought the tiny courageous? Who would have thought that love so belated could save me?" As if to say that all the pain and suffering was worth it in the end. And according to Hayes, it has been.
How did Dreamgirls get 8 Oscar nominations? This was an AWFUL film, people. To paraphrase Elanor: "the whole thing was designed to NOT PISS OFF DIANA ROSS". It was clunky, trite, with kitchen-sink character development, and unable to at any point inspire any emotional reaction. I infinitely preferred the treatment Dreamgirls received in CAMP:

[sorry about the abs scene -- this is obviously not related to my point]

AND, the, ahem, Supreme irony is this: with all the hoolpa in the film about the original, earthy, REAL version of "One Night Only" being corrupted into the poppy, empty, Beyonce version of the song (because she's beautiful), what becomes the official single release? The poppy, empty Beyonce version! Is this some kind of subversive point being made? Perhaps that nothing has changed all these years later? Or are the filmmakers somehow unaware of the actual point they were trying to make? This is a BAD FILM people!

Monday, January 29, 2007

A snippet of the Melbourne Showgirl Homecoming gig I went to... ahhh. And thank god, they seem to have FILMED IT PROPERLY this time, after the disasterous Showgirl Mk 1 recording.

HA HA: Vanstone Coy on Italian Job.

I Have It!!!!

FINALLY I've got my mitts on Season 2 of my beloved Nighty Night. Love the Cornwall makeover, and particularly, Don's midlife crisis with the blonde perm. Also love the receptionist at 'The Trees'. Anyway, half way through. More enjoyment to come...

I love you, Julia Davis, nee Morris.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

There's something so blunt about The Ten Tenors. It's like they're trying to out-gun Il Divo through sheer force of numbers alone. moreover their album, Here's to the Heroes, has such an empty ring to it: 'Here's to the heroes! Doesn't matter which heroes! Any heroes! Our market research people tell us you like masculine Aussie men singing about masculine heroes. Hurrah'. Just a thought.

Finally, the Showgirl Homecoming verdict.

Warning: somewhat obsessive and gushing post. Fans only.

My, ahem, Showgirl Homecoming ‘journey’ began when my sister messaged and casually mentioned that, as her friend was sick, she now had a spare ticket for the OPENING NIGHT OF THE RESUMED TOUR in Sydney. While I already had my Melbourne ticket, I would have been crazy NOT to fly up for a quick visit to Sydney in the middle of my thesis submission madness, while also spending the odd$140 on a ticket I already had. So I did.

The first show was being held in a mini, shitty little Sydney theatre that held about 10,000, so this was gonna be quite an intimate opening, and potentially much more exciting than the ACER arena gig on the following night. Moreover, there was a sense of excitement in the air as Kylie was back in town. More selfishly, I was gonna be among the FIRST to see the newly refreshed tour, and Kylie back in action.

As my sister and I marched up to the theatre, the expected signs of Kylie’s residence began to appear: pink feather boas, drag queens, packs of gay men, as well as your average mortgage-belt Australian. Inside, the atmosphere was ELECTRIC, with the crowd practically in tears and giving a standing ovation before she even got on stage. And when she did… there was this amazing moment when she rose up from beneath, with her pink cockatoo headdress, and just paused for about 30 seconds, teary, and surveying the crowd [I was relieved that in the second gig I saw this moment wasn’t repeated – it wasn’t part of the script]. At the end things got even more emotional as she talked about her wondering if she’d make it back onstage, and what it might feel like – this was when the tears poured out. But enough of my OBSESSIVE, projected emotion. Here’s my critique:

ACT 1: Homecoming

Except for the addition of new song White Diamond (replacing Giving You Up), the opening section was structurally the same as the original: same songs, same arrangements etc. The big changes included new costumes, less rigorous choreography, and new lighting and digital imagery. The most interesting shift (as compared to the old show) was the subtler use of the massive rear digital screen. Whereas in the original opening it displayed an explosion of colours and shapes (which often overwhelmed the tiny ACTUAL star), in the new version, it was only used once, when, in the final Act 1 number, it showed a curtain being lowered (as in v.1). The effect was softer and more subtle. Nice.

ACT 2: Everything Taboo

This was the new version of the ABSOLUTELY BLOODY AMAZING SmileyKylie medley from Showgirl v.1. Thankfully the mix was basically unchanged. The only noticeable substitutions were the new costumes, including Kylie’s ‘questionable’ Andy Warhol look (including wig). Still mercurial.

ACT 3: Samsara

This was the MASTERPIECE. Representing a big fuck-off to the Impossible Princess naysayers, the section included Too Far, Cowboy Style and Confide in Me, fused with ‘vaguely non-Western’ drumming and beats. The brilliance lay in the choreography and imagery. Against footage of warriors marching through deserts, and Kylie’s hand emerging from a pit of sand, and a naked flame, the act began with a lifeless Kylie being controlled by some kind of dance puppet-master; the act ended with Kylie smashing down the dancers who, before, had controlled her. The final moment had K chanting in some strange otherworldly fashion as gold confetti fell from the room. Fucking brilliant. But the audience was not impressed… where were the hits?

ACT 4: Athletica

The Body Language section, which kept the 50s gymnasium theme from v.1. Still making the best out of a bad Body Language situation, although this time, it was even MORE gay-themed and camp. Interesting intro, which featured Butterfly with footage of Kylie trapped inside boxes and restrained with ropes. This claustrophobic imagery kept recurring throughout… draw your own conclusions. Ended with Kids (yawn), and then it was intermission – rest up Kyles!

ACT 5: Dreams

This was basically unchanged: Kylie singing on crescent moon, moon descending, dancing with Romans, Cityscape etc… new mix of Dreams, and a new, and lovely, red dress. There was a lovely, unexpected 'moment' as one of the stage’s many mechanisms failed to function and Kylie was left stranded, and rotating, a meter or so off the stage… Befitting her pedigree, she handled this with the upmost dignity!

ACT 6: Pop Paradiso

I Should Be So Lucky, Locomotion etc. Wasn’t really a fan of this section originally (except for the AMAZING mix of Hand on Your Heart), and not really a fan now. Very questionable, Liza Minelli-esque costume. But then one amazing bit came in the intro, when they mashed Burning Up with Vogue, to which Kylie performed the rap, with dance moves. AMAZING – take that Mads! Now YOU'RE being casually referenced...

ACT 7: Dance of the Cybermen

This seemed like like the final, ultimate (and most decadent) reinterpretation of Can’t Get You out of My Head, sci-fi style. After having beat around the bush for the last few years, here, finally, it was mashed with the Dr. Who theme, while Metropolis robots marched around the stage. An inspired move was the inclusion of Turn It into Love… brilliant song, and the perfect context for it. The act as a whole was exemplary, if somewhat predictable for Baker-era Kylie.


This didn’t need to be changed at all, and it wasn’t. Consisting of an audience-karaoke version of Especially For You (Jason being tastefully dropped), and ending with Love at First Sight, while a slideshow of classic Kylie images was displayed onstage, it had, over the elapsed 18 months, come to take on a whole lot of meaning. There was weeping everywhere… no it’s not logical, but what can you do? And after a tearful farewell, that was it. Kylie escaped backstage and we all marched out into our comparatively dull, if perhaps more honest, lives.

There you have it [resumes non-gushing expression].

I've been raving on about Nighty Night to all and sundry of late, and in return I've been receiving blank stares. So here's a taster. In this scene, we have the protagonist, Jill, seducing the son of the couple she's attempting to break up, through song.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

FASHION NOTE: Why are all men's shoes pointy and clown-like at the moment?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hmmm... I don't know. She says all of the right things, but I really think it's a 'bridge too far' when she tries to frame herself as a Washington outsider - will anyone buy that? And all the 'chat' rhetoric? Too Oprah. Part of me is wishing her well, though. And I love the visual detail that goes into these kinds of releases. Notice the photo of Bill and Chelsea on her left? And the floral print cushion? And her 'relaxed' posture? She's not 'hard' at all, apparently.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Just bought the Nighty Night dvd... amazing.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I love the sort of spin artists put out when set adrift from major label affiliation. See, for example, Darren Hayes, who announces on his site that after 'declining' major label interest (hmmm) he's going it alone to release, gulp, a DOUBLE ALBUM on his new 'indie' label. I SMELL HUBRIS. Kate Bush double album? Yes. Darren Hayes double album, no.

Speaking of Darren Hayes, I attended a small Too Close For Comfort viewing evening a few weeks back. For those not attuned to all things Darren, this was an In Bed With Madonna-style doco made during his first solo tour (remember Insatiable?) that was shelved by his label when they saw that it was less than flattering. He's now released it on his own, after adding a self-deprecating commentary about his past excesses.

These include:

1. Refusing to hug raging European fans because he's afraid of catching the flu.

2. Engaging in excruciating The Office-style fun and games with worn-looking PAs, who barely conceal their contempt.

3. Doing a ghastly and tragic slow costume 'reveal' as his show begins.


4. Making earnest commentary about how he always prefers others to take the limelight, even though lengthy 2-hour documentary suggests otherwise.

I think the reason Darren (Dazza?) has never worked for me as a pop star, apart from the music, is because he's constantly talking about the art of pop stardom. He doesn't have that all-important aloofness (although ironically he keeps talking about it). He also exemplifies how difficult it is for a man to ape a kind of Madonna/Mariah style of performance (these are the kinds of stars he idolises): if a man toys with commonly feminised codes, which I think he sometimes does, rather than providing a kind of visual power, this effeminises and weakens. It's not fair but it does. E.g. I think it would be very hard for a guy to have a kind of Kylie-style concert extravaganza (although as drag, yes). Michael Jackson could do it, but he presented himself as asexual. To switch into thesis mode, 'successful' masculinity is dependent on the fiction being maintained that one is not aware of being looked at, or of performing, whereas the kind of pop Darren pursues is all about being looked at.

It is for this tragic reason that I can never be a pop star, and could only ever, perhaps, become a William Baker type.

Could this be Kylie's greatest ever moment?

As tipped off by Catherine, this is the new Sophie Ellis-Bextor clip. Mind's not made up yet: I like the production, but the lyrics are mindless (although, when has that been a problem). Appropriately statuesque clip, tho.

As I'm about to enter a, ahem, professional work environment, I'm trying to find the perfect suit. By which I mean: not too corporate, not too flashy, yet tasteful in a shabby sort of way, and flexible enough to be worn in a number of different contexts. This is a harder task than I anticipated, more of a quest. In the process of shopping I encountered one of those cliched bitchy David Jones suit section sales guys, who managed to make me feel like I was on some strange version of Australian Princess, and that I had been judged naive, and too young/unwilling to spend for proper assistance. Bah! Chadstone may call itself the fashion capital, but we all know that it's really more Cotton On than couture.

ANYWAY, in the process of shopping Leah and I popped into Borders to leaf through man-fashion magazines for suit inspiration (such a strange breed the man-fashion magazine). Here we found the latest issue of Italian Vogue, featuring Adrien Brody, who I find extremely irritating. This inspired me to post some irritating Adrien Brody photos. Enjoy.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Am Not killing This Blog (repeat)

Rather, I feel like nurturing it back to life. To this end, I have grand plans for an Elanor-style 2006 'wrap', but am not quite motivated yet.