Browsing Tag

Blur

Career Killers: “Be Here Now” by Oasis

I read several articles commemorating Oasis’ mammoth 1997 album, Be Here Now, which was released 25 years ago this week. The consensus has long been that this bloated, overproduced, self-indulgent, chemically non-enhanced album is what ended Oasis as a major commercial force and may have even killed off the Britpop phenomenon. As Rolling Stone famously put it, Be Here Now is “a concept album about how long all the songs are.”

Then I saw this review. Fatherly called Be Here Now a “perfect album” but not in terms of quality. Instead, this critic argues that the album was a perfect encapsulation of where the band was at the time and a honest reflection of everything they stood for. To me, that sounds a bit like arguing that The Room is a perfect movie because it flawlessly captures Tommy Wiseau’s delusions of grandeur and limitations as a filmmaker.

I don’t know if I buy that argument. But this album was perfect in one sense — it was a perfect disaster.

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Career Killers: “Twelve Months, Eleven Days” by Gary Barlow

You’d think that being the primary frontman of a boyband would be an excellent platform for solo superstardom. After all, it’s your voice on all those hit singles and your face getting the most screen-time in music videos. Indeed, Jackson Five frontman Michael Jackson and NSYNC co-lead singer Justin Timberlake were able to parlay their group dominance into individual success. If you consider Wham! to be a boy band (I’m not sure, to be honest), then George Michael is another example.

But others weren’t able to find much success outside of their groups. Ralph Tresvant sang lead on most of New Edition’s hit singles, but only managed two hits on his own. That was one better than either Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block or Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees managed outside of their popular groups. And, of course, we’ve covered NSYNC co-leader J.C. Chasez’s solo debut album, which flopped so badly it ended his bid for stardom before it really began.

Then there’s the curious case of Gary Barlow. The Take That frontman was a fantastic singer who sang lead on almost all of his band’s songs. And whereas most boybands relied on outside songwriters, Barlow wrote or co-wrote nine Top 10 UK hits, including five #1 singles, during the band’s initial run from 1991 to 1996. When he went solo in 1996, the British media immediately anointed him as the next George Michael. Success was not only expected, it was preordained.

As such, that only made what eventually happened all the more shocking. In 2000, barely four years after Take That’s breakup, Barlow suffered the ignominy of being dropped by his label, all but ending his solo career. Worse, he had to watch as bandmate-turned-nemesis Robbie Williams wrote songs attacking him and making fun of his misfortune en route to becoming one of the best-selling artists in the world.

Where did it all go wrong? It started with his second album, Twelve Months, Eleven Days.

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Career Killers: “Witness” by Katy Perry

It’s strange to think that Katy Perry’s career as a major pop superstar could be over.

Between 2008 and 2016, Perry released three multi-platinum albums and amassed 18 Top 30 singles as a lead artist, including nine #1 hits. Her 2010 album, Teenage Dream, produced a record-tying 5 number one singles (only Michael Jackson’s Bad has managed to match that). She’s been credited with selling 143 million records worldwide, putting her ahead of Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, Lady Gaga, Adele, Britney Spears and many others.

That track record of sustained success should have protected her career from being completely derailed by one flop. And yet, plenty of critics and observers wrote her off after 2017’s Witness, with some even wondering if her decline marked the end of an era in pop music. Perry’s career choices since then have only seemed to confirm that her best days are behind her. In 2018, she went to the place where many music careers go when they’re on life support — the judge’s table at American Idol. Then, she did what a lot of over-the-hill pop stars do when they start to transition to being a nostalgic act: she announced a Las Vegas residency, which is scheduled to begin in December. Meanwhile, her 2020 album, Smile, landed without much fanfare and became her worst-selling record since her 2001 self-titled Christian music debut, when she was still known as Katy Hudson.

So what happened?

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Career Killers: “Yes Please!” by The Happy Mondays

When it comes to movies, there are box office bombs and then there’s Heaven’s Gate.

The 1980 western epic went massively over-budget thanks to a disastrous and well-publicized troubled production and received infamously bad reviews upon release. The film ended up being such a box office bomb that it single-handedly killed director Michael Cimino’s Hollywood career and star Kris Kristofferson’s potential as a leading man (one particularly brutal review from Vincent Canby of The New York Times wondered if Cimino had made a deal with the devil to produce his last movie, Oscar-winning classic The Deer Hunter, and now the bill had come due).

And that was just the beginning. According to the documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate, the movie may have also killed off United Artists, the studio that produced it. Shortly after writing off the film’s entire $44 million budget (equivalent to nearly $140 million in today’s money), UA was sold to MGM and ceased being an independent studio. The movie may have even killed the era of the all-powerful director, as runaway disasters like Heaven’s Gate, Apocalypse Now, At Long Last Love and others caused studios to step in and start asserting control.

By those standards, Yes Please! by the Happy Mondays is the Heaven’s Gate of albums.

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Album Review: “Who Built the Moon?” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

There is a school of thought that the feud between the Gallagher brothers is fake – a manufactured back-and-forth between two media savvy rock stars who know that, the more they “fight,” the more publicity they get and the more albums they sell.

Now they’re releasing albums within two months of each other (in fact, it worked out so that Noel’s lead single, “Holy Mountain” came out at around the same time that his brother released his album, As You Were). It’s not quite the same as the 1990s when Oasis and Blur would release records on the same day while the compliant media would fight amongst themselves to see who could make the most “Battle of Britain” puns. That feud may have been largely manufactured, but there were real feelings of resentment on both sides. Plus, the conventional wisdom that Oasis was the band that stuck to what worked while Blur was the band that was more willing to experiment had some element of truth to it.

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Album Review: “As You Were” by Liam Gallagher

Somehow, Liam Gallagher is cool again.

The ex-Oasis and Beady Eye frontman has been on a charm-offensive to promote his solo debut album, As You Were. Whereas the man who used to be notorious for showing up to interviews drunk, high, or both while muttering monosyllabic answers (when he wasn’t shouting obscenities) that necessitated a real-time chav-to-English translator and an ever vigilant censor, Gallagher seems to have matured over these last few years. During his publicity tour for As You Were, Gallagher actually seems sober, funny, insightful and likable – much to the surprise of anyone that knows anything about him (this clip of him making tea is both hilarious and revealing). For instance, an actual headline from Esquire reads: “Liam Gallagher Is Trying Not to be a Dickhead.”

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