A newly released study shows what any casual fan of hip-hop could have told you without a second thought: references to drugs are more prevalent in rap songs now than they were 20 years ago.
This shocker comes courtesy of Denise Herd, associate dean of students at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. She reached her conclusions after examining lyrics from 341 rap songs and finding that not only had drug references increased, rap songs were more frequently glorifying drug use, as well.
"Positive portrayals of drug use have increased over time, and drug references increased overall," Herd says in a press release, in which she also paraphrases Chuck D's line about rap's role as the "CNN of the ghetto." "This is an alarming trend, as rap artists are role models for the nation’s youth, especially in urban areas. Many of these young people are already at risk and need to get positive messages from the media."
Not to dump all over her project, but did it really take a research study to figure this out?
The conclusion is nearly as glaringly obvious as the study I received a couple weeks ago from Stanford, announcing, "Symphonies Spend More Than They Earn." So that's why they're all on the verge of bankruptcy. And that study took two economists to complete.
When Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters” won album of the year last month at the 50th Grammy Awards, it marked the first time a jazz album took top honors since Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto won for “Getz/Gilberto” in 1965.
Does Hancock’s win signal the start of a popular resurgence for jazz, or was beating Kanye West and Amy Winehouse merely a pleasant surprise with no larger implications for the jazz world?
Acclaimed Hartford jazz musicians Steve Davis, Rich Goldstein and Nat Reeves graciously share their perspectives for our latest podcast, recorded in the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz — that is, the late, great McLean's old office at the Hartt School on the University of Hartford campus.
Davis on trombone (along with his wife, Mary, on piano) performs on guitarist Goldstein's new album, "Comin' From Montgomery," a tribute to the Montgomery brothers. Goldstein debuts the CD Friday, March 7, at 8 p.m. at Szechuan Tokyo, 1245 New Britain Ave., West Hartford. Information: 860-561-0180
Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor took viral marketing to a new level last year with "Year Zero," his creepy vision of a dystopian United States.
For a follow-up, he's releasing "Ghosts I-IV," a four-volume collection of 36 instrumental tracks Reznor recorded over 10 weeks last fall. He's expanding upon the Radiohead model by making the collection available in a few different configurations from the Nine Inch Nails website:
Free: The first nine songs are available as a free, high-quality download, which also
includes a 40 page PDF and the "digital extras pack": various
wallpapers, icons, and graphics tools for your computer, website or
$5: All 36 tracks, available in a variety of digital formats, including
high-quality mp3 and lossless FLAC files, as well as the digital extras.
$10: All of the above, plus two audio CDs to be shipped, presumably, when that particular configuration becomes available April 8.
$75 deluxe edition: Hardcover book holding 2 audio CDs, 1 data DVD of all 36 tracks in multi-track format (in .wav files readable by Mac and Windows), and Blu-ray disc featuring stereo recordings in high-definition 24 bit 96Khz with an exclusive slide show.
$300 deluxe edition: Includes everything above, along with four 180-gram vinyl LPs, two limited edition Giclee prints available exclusively in this package. The disc book, art book and prints are all housed in a fabric slipcover, and the 4XLP vinyl set comes in its own fabric slipcover. This one is limited to 2,500 pieces, numbered and signed by Reznor.
"Ghosts I-IV" is also available April 8 as a regular 4xLP vinyl set for $39.
"I've been considering and wanting to make this kind of record for years, but by its very nature it wouldn't have made sense until this point," Reznor writes on the "Ghosts" section of the NIN website. "This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective — dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture; a soundtrack for daydreams."
Turns out that even extreme metal isn't immune to the predations of scene-chasing hype, The Washington Post reports today.
"After two decades of existing mostly in the underground -- primarily through low-fi recordings surreptitiously sent around and the rare live show -- extreme metal is having a heyday," Michelle Boorstein writes.
This doesn't sit well with longtime fans like Ronnie Bittinger, a 23-year-old auto technician from Fredricksburg, Va., who says he has an IQ of 143.
"Now it's quote-unquote cult," Bittinger tells the Post. "MySpace ruined black metal, that's my thought. Now you've got idiots who sit there on their computers downloading nonstop. Now everyone has access to the music, and it wasn't meant for everyone."
That's a familiar refrain, actually. Despite their conviction that they're different from (and, in a way, superior to) people who don't get extreme metal, the genre's fans have pretty much the same complaint as indie-rock fans who moan when their favorite bands start seeping into the popular consciousness. Ultimately, it seems, the faithful in any scene want it to stay self-contained.
Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman has ramped up his annual government-knows-best routine again, releasing this year's "video game report card."
In conjunction with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and the National Institute on Media and the Family, Lieberman's report card concludes, according to a news release, "that complacency among parents, retailers and the video game industry has created a decline in ratings awareness and enforcement and caused an increase in the relative ease with which minors can still purchase M-rated games."
Further, "72 percent of parents still know little or nothing about the video game ratings system, nearly 50 percent of minors were able to purchase M-rated games – up from 30 percent last year – during 'secret shopper' surveys, and 79 percent of young teens admit to playing M-rated video games."
Naturally, Lieberman's news release throws around percentages (72 percent of how many parents? 50 percent of how many minors?) while conveniently overlooking data suggesting that 70 percent of the most frequent video-game players are 18 and older (at least, according to the Entertainment Software Association).
How nice, though, that Lieberman was able to take time away from war-mongering to chastise his constituents' parenting skills. At least this year he's emphasizing parental responsibility instead of proposing to ban certain games (*cough* censorship! *cough*).
Still, one can't help but suspect that voting to send kids overseas to face real gunfire puts them in more danger than battling alien invaders in "Resistance: Fall of Man."
Christmas music can be pretty grating whatever the tune, but a study has found that 27 percent of people who think of themselves as Christmas music aficionados hate the version of "Jingle Bells" performed by barking dogs, The New York Times reports (thanks, SJB, for the link). "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is hated by 17 percent.
The only surprise here is that both numbers aren't higher.
By contrast, 62 percent love Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song." No word on whether the study predicted the eventual fallout over "Secret of Christmas," the new holiday album from the Captain & Tennille. (And no, there's no seasonal version of "Muskrat Love" ...)
Consumers of popular culture, particularly music, have a sense of entitlement that's starting to border on ridiculous. Take this story from Sunday's New York Times, about how fan clubs have become online clearinghouses for the obsessed to "gripe directly to performers about everything, including song lists, merchandise and the prices and availability of tickets."
The story, by Mireya Navarro, points to Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus fans disgruntled by their inability to secure concert tickets they thought they were promised first crack at, and Prince fans disgruntled by the Purple One's recent crackdown on websites using his likeness, lyrics or music without authorization. (Prince's camp claims the singer was targeting sites hosting copyrighted material; members of some fan sites say he's impinging on their freedom of speech, which I'm sure is exactly what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when drafting the Bill of Rights.)
It's true that superstars cannot exist without huge bases of devoted fans. But it's also true that fans have no claim on the artist other than fandom. Loving someone's music doesn't make you best pals.
It took mere minutes before Disney juggernaut Hannah Montana sold out of tickets on a fall tour, which includes a stop Dec. 19 at the Hartford Civic Center, but not because of the show's fervent 'tween fanbase.
At least, not directly because of it.
Rather, the hordes of squealing faithful were shut out by ticket scalpers using computer software programmed to buy up as many tickets as possible by swarming Ticketmaster's website, The Wall Street Journal reports today, and reselling the tickets through StubHub, TicketsNow and other "secondary" ticketing services.
As a result, crestfallen adolescents eager to catch a glimpse in person of Hannah star Miley Cyrus will have to convince their parents to shell out more than $200 a ticket for seats to the show, a situation that is drawing the attention of attorneys general in Arkansas and Missouri.
Ticketmaster is suing Pittsburgh company RMG Technology, which developed the software and rents it to so-called ticket brokers. The same software has also made it difficult for fans to buy tickets at face value to see this fall's tour by Bruce Springsteen. Scalpers bank on the notion that such acts are so popular that fans will shell out cash far in excess of face value ticket prices, even if they're not happy about it.
The fact that scalpers happen to be correct about that doesn't make the practice any less predatory, but they don't always win. A ticketing service in New Jersey recently cancelled the extra orders of anyone who bought more than the maximum of four tickets per person to see Springsteen in Philadelphia, and offered customers who had been shut out first crack at the newly available tix, according to this.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this morning announced nominees for induction next year, and it's an impressive slate: Afrika Bambaataa, Beastie Boys, Chic, Leonard Cohen, The Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer and the Ventures.
Five of the nine nominees will be inducted in a ceremony next March. But why only five? All nine are worthy, if you buy into the idea that rock 'n' roll needs some sort of institutional endorsement to be celebrated or considered culturally important, which is ridiculous. In fact, I'm on record as thinking the notion of a Rock Hall is pretty dumb.
There's been a debate for years about why the Dave Clark Five isn't already in the Rock Hall, and I'm wondering the same thing about poet and singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen and surf-rock pioneers the Ventures — two of the most influential acts, each in their own way, of the past 50 years.
Rock purists will sneer at Afrika Bambaataa and the Beasties, and probably Madonna, too, but the influence of rap on rock (and vice versa) is undeniable at this point, and Madonna has been, for better or worse, an equally huge influence on the direction of popular music in the 25-odd years since she hit it big.
So let 'em all in, Rock Hall. Just think of the marketing opportunities ...