The Perils of a Music Subscription: Is the Deluxe “Yearbook Edition” of the New One Direction Album Worth It?

Yes, yes it is.

Haircuts. They all need haircuts.

Why do I know this? I have an Xbox Music Pass, and this causes conversations in my head such as “Even though I’m not a 13 year old girl, that new One Direction song on the radio is pretty catchy. I should probably use the subscription to download the entire album. What? There’s a deluxe version with four extra songs? OK. I wonder if it’s worth it if I were to have to buy it.”

Why is it worth it? The slower songs on the normal album aren’t that notable. The deluxe version adds four faster paced songs (which probably should’ve replaced those slower songs on the normal album…).

┬áNote: I’m only partially kidding about the entirety of the above. “Live While We’re Young,” “Kiss You,” and “Rock Me” are really good songs.

*** I’m not really the target market at all, but it’s perfectly fine.

That new U2/Green Day Song

I guess I just don’t understand the point. U2 needed a single for their approximately fifth greatest hits collection. Rather than come up with a really good song themselves, they enlisted the help of a band that while good, just doesn’t seem like the right fit with U2: Green Day. Not that Green Day can’t play, but the two bands’ styles are just a little too different to mesh collectively, not unlike that time where about 16 different musicians got up onstage at the Grammys and butchered Lennon/McCartney’s “Across the Universe”. Paul’s probably rolling in his grave. “route involving thoughtful lyrics about the condition of the area, or people’s struggles, they decided that the second half of the song should consist of the phrase “The Saints are Coming”, repteated over and over and over again, in a musical phrase that has definitely been taken from somewhere that I can’t quite place. They chose to debut this song at the reopening of the Superdome, for the Saints-Falcons Monday night game a few weeks ago, and it works perfectly as an opening theme song for the football team during games. I can’t imagine, however, that this song is going to be remembered at all in even one year’s time, and that’s a shame considering that this is all that two of the most prolific bands of the last 15 years could come up with. It’s almost like they weren’t trying.

They could very well have been trying something new though. This could be the start of product placement within the music industry. Well, I guess that’s not new” but maybe actually using the songs on the radio to promote something. It would be like the Eagles writing a song about how great the Philadelphia Eagles are, to get them pumped up, or AC DC writing a song for the Chargers (HA!), or Bad Company writing a song called “Bad Company” and using it at Enron meetings (BA-ZING).

And isn’t Bono’s thing Africa , anyway? Why didn’t they use the power of song to put together a group to raise funds for Africa “. Oh waitI forgot” Well, why didn’t they do it again? A world-renowned, self-appointed ambassador to a far-off and underprivileged continent can’t be taking time away from that to help another cause, especially one that’s been nigh on forgotten by most of the world ( You know you’re lost in your own logic when you can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not). I mean, you don’t see Brangelina Polie out there helping America ‘s homeless people, or fighting drug abuse, or all the millions of issues people here face every day. And that’s because they have character. They know that if they multi-task, not only do run the risk of reducing the importance of their cause, but they also reduce the importance of other, more useless celebrities. By doing double duty (I said Doody!… I guess that doesn’t work as well when typed out) when it comes to activism, you’re the one putting Rob Scheider out of a job. It’s on your head Bono.

What was I talking about? Oh, this dumb song. Like I said, it may be good for the football team, but call me cold; I don’t really care about the Saints. It was nice to see them play well, but not nice enough for me to listen to an awful song that could’ve been better.

*

One star for trying to bring some attention back to New Orleans , and making a song that they’ll be playing forever at Saints games. Minus four stars for making the rest of us listen to it, and possibly starting a trend of individually-made rock songs for a specific sports team. The last thing we need is a re-made version of “Benny and the Jets” about New York’s lesser football squad. We already have to deal with that annoying J-E-T-S cheer. That should be enough.

The Death of WKAP


WKAP failed in its bid to be the real version of WKRP. It was not based in Cincinatti.

Call me lame. I like oldies music. Not like the sleepy old easy listening fifties stuff that you’re used to thinking about when you think of AM radio. I’m talking about the British Invasion of 1965, the California surf sound, a little bit of Motown, some Doo-Wop, and the Four Seasons. The origins of rock and roll. I don’t really listen to that stuff anymore. That was sort’ve what we listened to growing up, and since then, I’ve moved on to “Album Oriented Rock“, which on most “Classic Rock” stations consists of the same 200 songs over and over again. Granted I know that top 40 radio has about the same amount of songs, but theirs vary over a period of time, and two years later the list has been completely revamped. With classic rock and oldies there’s really no room for growth, which can get a bit repetitive and redundant. The good thing about that though is that they allow for both quick learning of the songs, and once you move on, when you do choose to eventually come back to it, it’ll be there, the exact way you left it.

This was the case more than 2 years ago when I was driving back from California. On our way through Iowa, we hit what was probably the worst storm I’ve ever driven in. Huge hail and intense rain, and complete darkness, save for the tail-lights of the tractor-trailer I was following. Flipping through the radio furiously in an attempt to find something to ease my anxiety, I stopped at a radio show I hadn’t heard in years. “Rock and Roll’s Greatest Hits” with Dick Bartley. I had listened to his show on weekend nights growing up, when I was going to bed or whatever. The show was exactly the way I remember it, and I hadn’t forgotten the songs; they were just pushed all the way to the back of my mind, like the names of all those kids in my third grade class picture.

A few months later I got a new cd player/radio for my car and to this day I still can’t figure out how to set the time or radio presets. I’ve worked around it by knowing that right now my clock is fifty-five minutes ahead, and having three FM channels saved and one AM. Unless you like talk radio, there’s no reason to have an AM station saved on there, but it’s a spot that needs to be filled, so I cycled through and to my surprise, one of the few stations was playing oldies. It was alright, but they played too much of a variety. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but I’m just not into all the really old easy-listening/a.m. gold-stuff. So being a station flipper, it’s good for an occasional song, but over an extended period of time, the songs are too erratic to keep listening. On the other hand, I found myself listening more and more as they broadcast Phillies games on the station, and started airing the Dick Bartley shows on the weekends as well.

The station really didn’t have a lot going for it, other than those stand-bys. Maybe the older people who would typically be listening to it would like the radio personalities, but I found them grating” although not as grating as local “Superstar”, Ken Matthews who will be retiring from his role as the Lehigh Valley’s most obnoxious, over-inflated media personality after 15 years. They had what was billed as the largest Elvis radio library in the country, which I guess for them could be a good thing, and they had a built-in audience from the just sold (in 2001, by clearchannel, due to FCC rules, prompting both stations to change format), “highest rated oldies station in the country”, WODE. I’m not sure how they’d mess it up, because if there’s one place outside of Florida that an oldies station could thrive, it would be in the home of the most listened to oldies station in the country. I guess though, if you don’t advertise yourself, and you’re on a radio band that nobody listens to, even to scroll through, unless you’re looking for right-wing pundits, news, or sports games, you might be able to fail.

But I’m assuming they did, because one day in August, I happened to hear a moderately saddening commercial. I’m going to paraphrase it, because I don’t remember the specifics (i.e. the names of the people). This is a dialogue. Keep in mind while reading it, that the people in the commercial were extremely energetic, and sounded like Jesus-camp counselors.

Donny: Coming soon, to the new WYHM, the Donny and Marie morning show [not their actual names]. Filled with family-oriented fun.

Marie: And our patented witty banter.

Donny: Some of our topics include the whole “

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

JACKFM and other stations like it


JACK FM, the leader of the new radio movement

You may have read articles about this in a music magazine, or a New York newspaper or two. There’s a new radio station format showing up all over the country. Promising “we play whatever we want” (or something so remarkably similar that the original, JACK FM, has begun litigation), these stations have music libraries of over 1300 songs that they keep in their rotation instead of the supposed 300 that most other formats use. Possibly inspired by iTunes and the shuffle feature (something I personally dislike, as I’m tend to listen to complete albums), these stations play an incredibly eclectic group of songs in no particular order. There could be Madonna followed by Outkast followed by Jimi Hendrix. They also play more music than most stations apparently, upto twice as much in some markets. In fact, as of this week, eight stations, all owned by the same company, are switching over to this format.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Well, first there’s the actual music change. Having the station higher-ups picking the playlists (as opposed to the DJs) is not a new concept. In fact, the “Top 40” station in the area, B104 (a Clearchannel station), plays the singles at the top of the charts at least twice between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, sometimes even more. Surely the DJs, who promise “Hits of the 80s , 90s and now”, would fill the slots between these top singles with any of the incredible amount of “Hits” from the past twenty years. Unfortunately, it seems that even with two and a half decades to pick from, it’s impossible to go a day without hearing “Superfreak”, or “Hotstepper (Word it up!)”. In the time that I’ve listened to them, it seems like they’ve totally forgotten the songs they were playing to death between 1999 and 2003, other than that damn Evanescence song that I used to like when Daredevil came out. If we go even broader, the Rock station (also owned by Clearchannel), has about forty years to work with, as they play “Modern Rock”, (read: Nickelback’s “Photograph” at least once a day), and “Classic Rock”, (read: KISS’s “Beth” at least once a day). They still have the same problem of the small playlist. Expanding your playlist four-fold would open up a whole new world of programming. I know these stations have the songs. The “Rock” station has specifically programmed Wednesday to feature “Songs that you haven’t heard in a while” between the everyday material. What prevents them from playing these more often? Probably the assumption that the audience likes specific (“popular”) songs because they’ve been played by the station already, and because other stations are playing them (the basis of “Radio Charts“). Of course the reason that other stations are playing them is that the record promoters are calling all of the popular stations and telling them to play these songs. The sort of pretzel logic that says that we like something because we have no other real options is why so many reality shows have succeeded on TV.
Second reason it’s such a big deal: This is the first response in programming to the looming threat of satellite radio. More and more people are switching to satellite because there you can be free to listen to stations more focused to the style of music that you are particularly interested in. In addition there are way more stations than you would have access to in a local market, with the exceptions of maybe New York, LA and Chicago. You have access to more music in general than you would have. The JACK/BOB stations are trying to fix this problem as well as the advertising issue. People don’t like to listen to ads, but in “Terrestrial Radio” (a term that’s popping up everywhere, used to describe regular radio. It bugs me that they have to give it an adjective in front of it to discern it from satellite , even though it was there first), ads are the driving monetary force, so in order to up the music amount while keeping the same ad time, in addition to saving money on personnell, the stations have made the following adjustment.
Reason number 3: NO MORE DJs. No longer are we interrupted with annoying voices that tell us what the song was, or who it was by, or what’s coming up, or dumb jokes (Ken Matthews and the “B Morning Crew”, I’m looking in your direction). Each station now has it’s own personality, instead of dozens of them, spoken over recordings between songs and commercial breaks. If you want to find out what song was playing, you can go to the station’s website (the L.A. one has a backlist of every song they’ve ever played, by time, complete with artist, album, cover art, label it was released on, and links to a review of the album and purchasing information, many times cheaper than buying it anywhere else) and find out there. The only problem with this is the gradual phasing out of DJ jobs, replaced by machines, something which I was never incredibly fond of… mostly because I’ve seen Terminator and The Matrix.

The point is these stations are giving us less talking, more music, more diverse music, and with an irreverent feel. The point is that this is the first wave of defense against XM and Sirius. The point is that soon enough our robot workers will rise up and overthrow us, forcing us to feed them with our energy while we’re laying, unconscious, in a tub of goo. In the meantime, enjoy this new format before it becomes old and all the stations change back to the way they were, or file for bankruptcy.

****

JACK FM and the copycats get four stars for their innovative (at least in the case of JACK) adaptation techniques and the fact that eventually this may lead to me not hearing Kelly Clarkson five times a day (literally), or the same REO Speedwagon song every afternoon.