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Category: 2013

The Third Lana – Album Review: Born To Die by Lana Del Rey

I am just so glad that I gave Lizzy Grant a.k.a. Lana Del Rey another chance.

The name Lana has always been a pivotal part of my path towards the meaning of life across this planet Earth. First, Kristin Kreuk forever redefined what erotic exotic beauty means with her ungodly potrayal of Lana Lang in Smallville. That led to my first serious acoustic guitar, the handcrafted LL16, being knighted with the name Lana Lang 16. Now, I have stumbled upon my very third Lana. 3rd time’s not just the charm, it’s the BOMB.

Let’s just start by saying I am relieved I did not get caught up in all the hullabaloo that followed Del Rey’s “2nd coming” into the industry. A year or so ago, I invested my first interest in her sultry vocals during her stint as MTV’s Featured Artist of the Month as a snippet of “Video Games” was played on the pathetic CRT television in my room at Awana Kijal as I was just about to put on my offshore coverall. The video was a poignant picture of Instagram perfection, & she was a vision. She was prematurely & unluckily hailed as the new female revelation in pop even before her full-fledged album arrived.

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Then mayhem struck & it all went to hell as I recall. So-called scandals about her pouty lips & the failed history as Lizzy Grant exploded. Her first live performance on Saturday Night Live was panned as (allegedly) the worse ever in the history of mankind. Suddenly, it seemed like the whole world including the Beliebers & the Directioners & the Minajes & the Wankers were against Del Rey. Nobody was really bothering about her music anymore. I gave her album ‘Born To Die’ a first listen, but somehow, perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind right at that moment, or with the looming heavy shit following her becoming an unfortunate distraction, Del Rey failed to truly stick.

God then gave her, or rather me, another chance.

The Great Gatsby, starring the always-intense DiCaprio & the ever-delicious Carey Mulligan, had what could only be described as a tasteless & embarrassing soundtrack. It was however, blessed for a short interval with the same sultry vocals that are anything but forgettable, belonging to Del Rey. “Young & Beautiful” had equally horrendous lyrics (Oh that grace, oh that body, Oh that face, makes me wanna party – SERIOUSLY?), but the melody? Ethereal. Haunting. Spectacular. It was enough to pique my curiosity to give ‘Born To Die’ another try.

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& you know what? I do not care about all her failed attempts prior to adopting the name Lana Del Rey. I do not care about her nervous, weak live deliveries. Oh, & that SNL “worse” live performance? Has anyone seen Taylor Swift at the Grammys? Or Miley Cyrus attempting to hit an actual note within the established musical scale? Or Ashlee Simpson’s lip-synching disaster on SNL? I could care less about her screwed-up videos, her lackluster personality, or her cringe-worthy songwriting skills; simply because ‘Born To Die’ is – in short – the best female pop album I’ve ever heard in the last decade since Holly Brook’s divine ‘Like Blood Like Honey’ (2006 post-Skylar Grey), Dido’s ‘Life For Rent’ (2003) & Sara Bareilles’ exemplary ‘Kaleidoscope Heart’ (2010).

While everybody was losing their marbles about everything else, nobody gave enough time and space to evaluate her album as just that – a musical expression in words & melody. The album is one heck of a solid ride from start to end, & – fact – one of the most cohesive pop efforts in awhile. The melodies are deliriously contagious & beyond gorgeous, & her unnatural range of longing vocal delivery gives the songs a remarkable edge. & I’m not just talking about “Video Games”, the suicidally addictive “Born To Die”, the epicness of “National Anthem” (a personal favourite) or “Blue Jeans”. I’m talking about EVERY SINGLE FUCKING SONG.

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Her bonus re-release of ‘Born To Die: The Paradise Edition’ early this year just tops is all off nicely with the additional 8 lovely songs, from the straight-out-of-a-fairytale “Bel Air” to the fabulous “Ride” & alluring “Body Electric”. Yes, consistent too are the lyrics, again the low point, but the tunes are just too beautiful to ignore.

I guess all in all, Del Rey is perhaps the most compelling female artist of recent times, irrespective of your opinion of her. For me personally, her songs have completely overridden my car’s audio playlist & my iPod for 2 months solid now. In other words, in the past year, she’s just about the closest thing to a musical female deity right behind Kim Tae-yeon.

That is, if you can look past her expressing in tune about ‘her pussy tasting like pepsi cola’ or how ‘a man’s body & face make her wanna party’

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If There’s A Future, We (Have) It Now: The Return of Paramore, Live in KL 2013

There was no build-up of any suspense, no prolonged intro. Ethereal quiet “ooohs” came on, 4 drumstick beats followed, then BAM – Paramore launches head-long into the opening track, “Now”. The stadium went berserk. Paramore is f**king back.

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Personally, there were many reasons for me not to go to The Return of Paramore, Live in KL 2013. Firstly, I’m no longer young. My partial-OKU status, what with my destroyed spine disc, meant I was far from qualified for rock-zone-physicality. Even more, past experiences remind me that I no longer am fit to, for example, fly to Singapore, line up at 12pm, swallowed in hordes of teenage punks submerged in their iPhones, basking under sunshine & rain for a day while awaiting entry till 7pm, then standing, jumping, then getting compressed, violated, pushed & tumbled down by kiasu, over-enthusiastic rock-zone-mosh-pitter-wannabe-monkeys.

But there were reasons to go also. Yes, they are my utmost favourite band, that’s a given. The last time I saw them live was in Singapore in March 2010, & I missed their October 2010 show on our own soil because I was offshore. The bonus this time was that it was held in an indoor stadium, so environmental concerns are removed from the equation. The sound wouldn’t be bastardized too. I was helped by the fact that my favourite woman in the world loved me so much she bought us tickets for the seating zones where fat asses, not-so-loaded kids, free-loaders & OKUs are preferred. In addition, I needed to get out of this whole SNSD-crazed-syndrome, & who better to smack me back to my senses than Paramore?

Most importantly, we had to, for one night, unite & show Paramore that we are still here for them. We had to answer Paramore’s call in their latest single – “if there’s a future, we want it now”. To say the past 2 years have been troubled times for Paramore as a band would be an understatement. The looming vibe & anger that first surfaced & inspired their previous album’s works, Brand New Eyes, finally erupted into a full-blown fiasco that reached its peak when the Farro brothers, so integral to the essence of Paramore from the very beginning, left the band in an emotional fallout. But Hayley, Jeremy & Taylor soldiered on, & judging by the number of us who turned up on February 17th night at Stadium Negara, we are still here for Paramore, & we sure as hell want more.

Then of course, there’s that tiny little reason to rule them all – something that, well…rhymes with Bailey Billions?

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Let’s not kid ourselves here. Yes, Paramore is a band. But this confession is coming from the deepest freaking Parawhorish heart of mine – in Hayley Williams, they have the most awesome frontwoman of our generation, & it is her all-round talent, vocal prowess & charisma that sets the band apart.

Yup, that tiny little reason was more than enough to lead yours truly’s veteran ass into Stadium Negara, sitted amongst those kids.

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We’re ready!

Opening act mewithoutYou from Pennsylvania kick-started the show at just before 8. Okay, truth be told I didn’t really dig their kind of music style, what with all the sing-speaking-screaming vocals & all, but damn their band sound was pretty darn good. They did however seem to play on forever in what was a longer-than-expected set, which was fine, but my ass & lower back were starting to hurt. Then the heavens parted & God answered in the middle of mewithoutYou’s set when a speck of blazing orange-y red hair appeared from backstage to join in out of nowhere. Sweet Mother of God, it’s Hayley! Prancing around & joining in the singing, wrapped in an over-sized sweater & army pants, she could not have been any cuter. She disappeared backstage right after a song. What a tease.

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The band said their thank-yous & good-byes, the stage was cleared, lights were lighted-up, then dimmed. This is it.

There was no build up of any suspense, no prolonged intro. Ethereal quiet “ooohs” came on, 4 drumstick beats followed, then BAM – Paramore launches head-long into the opening track, “Now”. The stadium went berserk. Paramore is f**king back.

Paramore Performing Now Live Kuala Lumpur 2013 Hayley

So there I was in a rock concert, seated down for the very first time in my life. Hands raised, head-banging as much as I physically could to the stunning euphoria that has erupted on stage. The two girls in front of me however could no longer hold themselves. It wasn’t long before they lifted their butts off their seats & started jumping & gambolling wildly (but extremely awkwardly & unsightly too, I might add). Now, afew years earlier I would have not minded it & would probably even outjump them, but that was years ago. As they were blocking the views of myself & the people behind us, I politely tapped on the shoulder of the more-tomboyish-looking lesbian (sorry, I mean girl) & delicately gestured them to sit down. They were visibly surprised & shot me venomous looks that could only mean “Why the f**k are you all sitting down in a bloody Paramore concert.” I completely understood that. Years ago, I would have probably punched this current pathetic version of me in the balls.

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Apparently even Hayley agreed because, to much of my own amusement & embarrassment, just a song later she said out loud to the crowd: “I see all you beautiful people sitting comfortably at the back there. & we are all happy & good. But by the end of this if you guys are all still not standing up, then we’re gonna have some real trouble. Yes, it may hurt a little. You guys are going to be sore for a whole week, KL!” (something like that la, as far as I can recall & summarize)

To which tomboy-lesbian-girl perfectly-timed her retort to me: “Hear that, f**ker!”. Oh, to be young & energetic.

I, along with most of those around me still seemed too comfortable, but it became clear it was getting impossible to resist when Hayley hollered out a 2nd invitation to stand up, dance & finger-snap to “Fences”. Screw this, I’m gonna rock out. I spent the rest of the concert standing, head-banging, arms-flapping & jumping (well, okay, jumping is physically a little too far-fetched) like a retarded teenage punk. Yes, for an hour or so, I almost forgot about my back.

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I do not know exactly how many songs they sang, probably about 16-18 songs or so. But it was clear Paramore meant (misery!) business, & they were bloody damn in their element. Outstanding moments? Too many. That fiery “Oh, Father” outro at the end of “Let The Flames Begin” that had Hayley singing lying down. The massive singalong during “The Only Exception”, also one of my most cherished memories from their Singapore concert 3 years ago. The epic crowd atmosphere that accompanied “Brick by Boring Brick”, & of course, the closing number, “Misery Business”. The customary Jeremy+Taylor back-flip during “Pressure”. & I absolutely loved the fact that they performed all 4 songs from their last Singles Club album – “Renegade”, “Hello Cold World”, “In The Mourning” & “Monster” – which were all always underrated, brilliant songs. I also loved how “In The Mourning” was delivered acoustically with just Taylor on the guitar accompanying Hayley, as how this song started & was always meant to be compared to the over-produced album version.

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I have to say the Farro brothers probably weren’t missed, but Zac’s drumming was probably more impactful. That being said, former Nine Inch Nails & Angels & Airwaves drummer Ilan Rubin did a commendable job on this tour, & I believe he is also the stand-in drummer for the coming album as well. As all good concerts are, by the time the last chorus of “Misery Business” ended (led by invited-onstage-fan Lucy), it all felt too short, but we were left absolutely satisfied. Sure, I would have liked it if they sung their old gems like “My Heart”, “When It Rains”, & “Emergency”. But who am I to complain, when all I feel is an out-pour of gratitude to Paramore for coming back again.

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As we walked out of the stadium, I asked my better half of what she thought of Paramore’s awesomeness live, to which she uttered “They really sound exactly the same live & recorded.”

Look, my dearest of all, I love you with all my heart & soul, but this is where you are very very wrong – Paramore, spearheaded by the explosively spectacular Hayley Williams, are one of those rare ones that actually sound better live. They just really need to be experienced live.

With this, thank you thank you thank you thank you Paramore for coming back. & thank you to the tomboy-lesbian-girl too, for inspiring this broken veteran to physical lengths he had no idea he could still reach.

& with that in mind, I think I’m good for 2013. No more concerts, I’m all good.

Unless SNSD decides to drop by of course.

All pictures published are credited to http://entertainment.malaysia.msn.com & http://www.room8five.com, since I didn’t even bother to smuggle in a camera this time.

The Never-ending Obsession, Obligation & Oogling

I solemnly swear that this will be my last post about Girls’ Generation.

For the time being.

I apologize, but I can’t seem to stop blabbering about them. Couple that with my furious passion to rank everything within my reach, & here you have an entry where I will, in my most immature, child-like, shallow, judgmental review, rank the best-looking (& mention the worse-looking one too) Girl in 15 of their more noteworthy music videos through the years, from the very beginning. Why? Because it’s fun. Is it useful? Nope. Then why do I still do it? Because it gives me bliss, word.

1. “Into The New World” – The good days when the girls were at their most natural, with almost zero noticeable makeup (gasp! checkout Seohyun’s eyebags!). While my favourite Taeyeon looks farkingadorable & so awesome with aviation goggles working on an airplane’s internal components & then piloting it, Tiffany edges ahead with that outrageous eye-smile, lip-smile & that innocent short hairdo.

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2. “Girls’ Generation”Taeyeon, hands-down. This was her prime era, anyone thinks otherwise is retarded. Yoona, a distant second.

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3. “Kissing You” – Lollipops! This is a tough one because it was an overdose of cuteness (which becomes tiresome quickly), truth be told I can’t single out the best-looking one, but I know who was the most agonizingly horrendous one. Someone should fire the person in charge of Hyoyeon’s makeover.

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4. “Day By Day” – Okay, this is not actually a music video, rather the screensaver by Daum in which all of the girls look endearing. While I liked how Yuri “wipes clean” your screen, a flirty Taeyeon just about redefines the significance of a simple scoop of ice cream.

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5. “HaHaHa” – Cute outfits, cute colours. & when you see the word cute, you know who wins. Uh oh, she’s clearly leading the pack…

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6. “Gee” – The Holy Grail song that launched them into superstardom. It’s a close tie between the cute-as-a-button Sunny & sweet Yoona, but I do not know why I feel obliged to award Yoona not only for this but for her overall consistency.

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7. “Genie” – & the winner is…all of their legs. This is for me the definitive tune for SNSD, & the track that introduced me to their heaven-thy-kingdom-come legs. But if I were to choose one face & am barred from choosing Taeyeon again, I would vote for Sunny, whom I almost forgot does long locks very very well.

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8. “Oh!” – Another complicated one. While a highschool cheerleader theme for these 9 girls seem like a sure-overkill, I don’t quite dig the pink+big curly hair section. But enter the next pompons-with-blue-singlets section & Sunny just knocks it out of the park with her desirability!

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9. “Run Devil Run” – Outstanding Taeyeon rampages over to the hot-vixen era, leaving behind the cute era. Absolutely explosive stuff. This is probably the easiest win.

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10. “Hoot!” – The Bond-girl theme was good stuff, & Sooyoung (who has the strongest cheekbones that complement her very beautiful face structure) rocks the look especially with that perfect hairdo.

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11. “The Boys” – Hmmm, wanted to give this to Jessica until I was reminded of Sunny‘s absolutely smashing short hairdo. Her transformation into this hot-blooded-sassy version of her was so enigmatic I almost wanted the other 8 girls to stay out of the picture. Well okay that’s harsh, at least Jessica & Yoona were worthy equals during the intro scene.

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12. “Mr. Taxi” – This marked the arrival of Sooyoung who before this started a lil’ rough but has matured into a full-bloomed porcelain beauty.

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13. “Bad Girl” – Love the song, love even more the choreography. But truth be told none of the girls truly rocked the bad girl look, so I’ll hand it over to young Seohyun as she made the most improvement & looked most convincing here.

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14. “All My Love Is For You” – While I missed Tiffany‘s all-natural look in the beginning & generally detest her recent increase in makeup & hair colour, I have to say, she looks incredibly perfect from every single camera angle in this gorgeous video.

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15. “I Got A Boy” –  A clear winner in Yuri! Whoever did her makeover & clothes absolutely hit a homerun. From the aviators, to the blue highlights of her hair, a smoking Yuri takes away the winner’s cheque away from the very consistently good-looking Yoona, whom I have noticed have been placed 2nd many times in my rankings.

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Final score:

1. Taeyeon – 4 wins
2. Sunny – 3 wins
3. Tiffany – 2 wins
4. Sooyoung – 2 wins
5. Yoona – 1 win
6. Yuri – 1 win
7. Seohyun – 1 win
8. Jessica – Nada
9. Hyoyeon – Negative 1
 

So in a surprising twist, Jessica Jung, voted world no. 5 most beautiful face in the recent 23rd Annual Independent Critics List of the 100 Most Beautiful Faces, gets no wins. Unsurprisingly of course, Kim Taeyeon wins everything as always :p.

The Journey Into The Ears

This is a tale about how I got my in-ears.

When these started to feel old & insufficient

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I wanted to have a new pair of these

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Because I was heavily influenced by the national treasure of Korea

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Then I got distracted by these

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& also liked these after testing

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In the end I went to the audio headphones store to get these

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But ended up with a pair of these!

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Simply because, for an entry-level in-ears for daily commute heavy usage, coming from a manufacturer of such repute, I have yet to find a pair that is as impressive. value-for-money & feels as properly-built as these.

Happy New Year – The Koreans Invade Again, & This Time They’ve Gone Mad

Okay, I’m wading waaa-a-a-y deep into dangerous territory here – I actually feel the need to produce a review on a Korean album.

I think it’s time you & I accepted the fact that the previous post was not a fling, it has now grown into a full-bloomed relationship based on commitment & faith. The Mayans did not help me by ending this phase (& the universe as we know it) for me, so hope of salvaging what dignity of mine that is left is lost. I’m officially a new fan of SNSD.

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Which can only mean, you can hate the noise of K-pop, but you can’t help but love the Girls. & you sure as hell can’t help loving Taeyeon.

How much more wonderful can this immature misguided child within me feel knowing that 2013 will start with SNSD releasing “I Got A Boy” the single, the music video, & the long-awaited album. Well okay, long for the other crazed fans – I just embraced this freak of nature phase a couple of months ago.

& it’s complete bonkers. The craziest irregular doped-up shit I’ve heard since…“Bohemian Rhapsody”. Yea, so shoot me for sinfully mentioning Queen in the same breath as SNSD.

I’ve seen this more times than I dare to admit. It’s got all the ingredients I generally despise – electro dance, hip-hop, dub steps, that annoying buzzing tiuuutiititiitititiiuuuu tune scattered all around, the ending that should have probably come a full minute earlier. It’s messy, it’s too colourful, it’s overblown.

But not everything can be deduced by science, because the end result of all this concoction & hybrid of, what…5-6 songs perhaps? I absolutely LOVE IT.

It’s beyond crazy, chaotic, confusing, & it sounds like the writers & the Girls are both high & drunk. It is sublimely FEROCIOUS.

I love the out-of-their-comfort-zone zest & ambition. I love the girls’ relentless swagger & confidence. I love how Taeyeon is totally – majestically – owning it from 1:06 to 1:19. Heck, I even love the amateur rapping (Yoona, seriously? How adorable!). & Yuri, goodness she looks terrific! (those Aviators are killing it) That opening show-tunes-like sequence (right up till Tiffany launches them into overblown hip-hop mode) is quite brilliant. & the more energetic choreography is the best I’ve seen since their all-time-greatest, the powerful “Into the New World” & the Swiss-like-precision “Genie”.

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Good luck to the rest if anyone’s gonna top this madhouse. What a way to blaze into 2013.

So it is just too rather unfortunate that the rest of the 9 songs in the album fizzles out & does not match the ambition & unexpectedly glorious mess of the first track. Notable ones are scarce – “Express 999” comes closest. Before long I found myself cutting back to track no.1 & replaying that many many many times.

This brings me back to the Japanese album they released just a couple of months back in November 2012, “Girls’ Generation II – Girls & Peace”. Now that was a pretty decent pop album.

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More importantly, amongst the good tracks – from the eclectic “Flower Power”, the cool “T.O.P.”, the catchy “Girls & Peace”, the sweeping cheesy ballads of “All My Is Love For You” & “Not Alone”, lies a hidden gem which I think ranks among the best from the 9 girls. That song, ladies & gentlemen, is called “Stay Girls”.

Now why this did not get released as a single would boggle me (just like the other hidden gem from TTS – “Baby Steps”), but “Stay Girls” rounds up the whole Girls’ Generation music style, theme & journey pretty well. It’s radio-friendly, catchy, & has that anthem-like feel, the kind of song you want them to sing as a final encore in their concerts, & the kind of song you definitely want to hear on the last day of Earth (or the last day before Girls’ Generation decides to retire).

No single? No video? No problem…leave it to the fans. Surely this is a befitting fan-made video for the lovely track.

In any case, “Girls & Peace” might have been the better album compared to “I Got A Boy”, but I will be last person to complain about SNSD. Is one leading single, a quite stunning one at that, enough to save the album & sustain the Girls’ all-conquering hold? I don’t know, but if there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about, is that I’m damned well pleased to see them return. Welcome back girls!

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