Browsing Tag

Queen

Career Killers: “Girl You Know It’s True” by Milli Vanilli

Imagine a world in the multiverse where MTV had produced a show in the late 80s/early 90s called “All or Nothing.” Introducing actors Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan, the show follows two best friends from Europe as they form a band called “Milli Vanilli” and try to land a recording contract while navigating the strange land known as Hollywood, California. Along the way, they meet the women of their dreams and frantically try to track to them down because the girls forgot their numbers (even after they advised them “baby don’t“). And they have to convince a producer to give them a second chance after they missed an audition and blamed it on the rain. Girl, you know it’s true!

Maybe then we would have accepted Morvan and Pilatus lip syncing to songs other people sang and recorded. After all, famous actors like Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn and Christopher Plummer didn’t actually sing in West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music, respectively. Decades later, Rami Malek would win an Oscar for lip-syncing to Freddie Mercury’s vocals in Bohemian Rhapsody. Additionally, TV shows like The Monkees, The Partridge Family and The Heights often used studio musicians and singers on the recordings that were utilized on the show.

Instead, we got an industry-changing scandal that ruined the lives and careers of the two men who made up Milli Vanilli and helped kill off the popularity of producer-driven R&B/pop dance bands in the 90s.

(more…)

Career Killers: “Soul Dancing” by Taylor Dayne

It’s easy to forget, but at one point, Taylor Dayne was one of the biggest pop stars in the world.

The original Tay-Tay (you know, unless you count John Taylor, Mick Taylor, Roger Taylor of Queen, Roger Taylor of Duran Duran, or to pop James Taylor) was a juggernaut from the moment she burst onto the scene in 1987, starting her career with nine consecutive Billboard Top 20 hits. In fact, each of her first seven singles hit the Top 10, including “Love Will Lead You Back,” which went to #1. She also charted well in Canada, Australia and the U.K., while several of her singles were big hits on the Billboard Dance charts. With her deep, soulful voice and dynamic range, she could seamlessly excel at a wide range of songs, including pop, R&B and ballads. In doing so, she amassed a large and devoted fan base — one that continues to support her to this day.

As the 90s got underway, it was clear that Taylor Dayne was a hit machine and pop star. What wasn’t clear, however, was whether she was an artist. Like her label-mate, Whitney Houston, Dayne’s first two albums were made up of songs from outside writers and handpicked by Arista boss Clive Davis for maximum commercial impact. For her third album, 1993’s Soul Dancing, Dayne was determined to prove she had the songwriting chops to go with her vocal and chart topping prowess.

It turns out that she did not.

(more…)

Career Killers: “Hot Space” by Queen

Plenty of artists like to experiment with new sounds and different genres. Sometimes it’ll be a temporary or one-time thing, like when KISS tried disco (I’m sorry, KISSco), the Rolling Stones went psychedelic or Garth Brooks kind-of went pop.

Other times, it’ll be a catalyst for long-term re-invention. Chicago had a surprise hit with “If You Leave Me Now” and they continued writing songs of that ilk, transitioning from a jazz-and-big-band-influenced rock group into an adult contemporary band. The Bee Gees resurrected their careers and eventually became a full-fledged dance band after recording “Jive Talkin’.” Less successful bands like The Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth embraced their black-sheep hits and permanently changed directions in order to continue churning out similar-sounding singles and albums.

We’ll never know if Hot Space was meant as a permanent shift for Queen because it flopped so hard that the band promptly retreated back to more familiar territory – but not before tanking their popularity in America.

(more…)

Career Killers: “Switch” by INXS

Plenty of bands choose to soldier on after the death of an iconic, seemingly-irreplaceable lead singer.

Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen went with established singers, touring and recording with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company fame before moving onto “American Idol” alum Adam Lambert. AC/DC took the opposite approach, hiring then-unknown Brian Johnson to replace Bon Scott. The Eagles did a bit of both, replacing Glenn Frey with country superstar Vince Gill, as well as Frey’s son, novice musician Deacon. Bands such as Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Sublime, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and even the Grateful Dead have carried on in some form, with mixed results.

Other bands chose not to try and replace the irreplaceable. Nirvana broke up after Kurt Cobain died by suicide – as did Mother Love Bone following Andy Wood’s fatal heroin overdose (although two members of the band ended up forming Pearl Jam). Joy Division never replaced Ian Curtis, instead guitarist Bernard Sumner moved into the frontman’s role and the band became New Order, one of the most acclaimed and popular synth bands of the 80s.

Then there are some bands that give it a go with new singers, only to flop badly, ruin their legacy and confirm to everyone that they should have just let their band die with their late vocalist.

INXS was one such band.

(more…)

The Reluctant Pop Star

“There is no such thing as a reluctant star. Stars are almost always people that want to make up for their own weaknesses by being loved by the public and I’m no exception to that.” — George Michael, 1987.

But there is such a thing as a reluctant pop star. George Michael was no different from the many singer-songwriters desperate for critical acclaim and credibility. What made him unique was that he was willing to throw away his chance at being the biggest pop star and sex symbol in the world because he believed that his songs were good enough to sell themselves.

And in most cases, he was right.

(more…)

Music Was The Least Interesting Thing About David Bowie

I’ll admit it. I was never a David Bowie fan. I didn’t care for his music, nor did I really understand his appeal. I have one David Bowie song in my iTunes library – and it’s a song that’s more identified with Queen than with him.

Then I read about him.

Bowie passed away on Monday at the age of 69 after suffering from liver cancer. The news came as a shock to most people, as Bowie had kept his diagnosis private. His death has, obviously, prompted a tremendous outpouring of grief, as well as the usual assessments of his long and successful career. It was kind of a shock, actually, seeing the huge numbers of people who were sad to find out about his passing. After all, he hasn’t had a hit record in years and, arguably, hasn’t really been relevant as an artist since the 1990s. Whether it was because he kept a low profile away from the stage or because he never settled into the nostalgic oldies singer role that many of his colleagues had, most of us simply haven’t seen much of him in recent years. As such, it was easy to forget about him and the music that he continued to make up until his death (indeed, he released Blackstar the Friday before he passed away).

(more…)

Album Review: “Head Job” by Phil Rudd

As Phil Rudd found out, it may be a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n roll, but it doesn’t take much to get shot down in flames. Rudd’s position as drummer for AC/DC has been on ice (Black Ice. Okay, I’ll stop.) ever since he was arrested last November for attempting to hire a hitman and possession of drugs (Chris Slade, who played drums on 1990’s The Razor’s Edge is replacing Rudd for the current tour). The murder-procurement charge was dismissed, and Rudd pleaded guilty on Tuesday to threatening to kill a former employee.

(more…)

Album Review: “Chinese Democracy” by Guns ‘N Roses

Another one of my old favorites from my Livejournal blog. If I could add anything, it would be that the album does NOT get better with age.

I have no idea if Axl Rose is a Star Wars fan.

On the one hand, I would doubt it. After all, Axl doesn’t strike me as the kind of sci-fi nerd that would wait in line for tickets and dress up like Obi-Wan Kenobi at Comic-Con.

On the other hand, the galactic soap opera that is Star Wars could very well have served as an inspiration for some of Guns N’ Roses’ high-concept and utterly confusing videos from their heyday in the early 90’s. “Don’t Cry” showed Axl’s domestic trauma and battle against his inner demons, kind of like Anakin Skywalker’s struggle with the Dark Side and his dysfunctional relationship with his son. “November Rain” showed Axl at his happiest, only to lose everything at the end, kind of like how Anakin seemingly lost everything as he made his transformation into Darth Vader. “Estranged,” uh, showed Axl playing with dolphins. I don’t have a Star Wars parallel for that one. Maybe the Ewoks? Maybe whatever Jar Jar Binks was supposed to be?

Why do I bring up Star Wars? Because, like Chinese Democracy, the Star Wars prequel trilogy took decades to develop and produce, cost untold millions, and generated such ridiculously high expectations upon its release that there was no way the final product could ever live up to the hype. With Chinese Democracy, Axl Rose has finally released his Star Wars prequel trilogy. It only took 14 years, an estimated $13 million (as of 2005), and more band members than we can count (including two separate tenures by guitarist Robin Finck, whose contract expired twice before the album was even close to seeing the light of day).

(more…)