Wed, 31 December 2014
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the final Blerd Radio podcast of 2014!
Anyway, picking up where we left off on Part One, the panel wanders through the highlights and lowlights of pop culture in 2014, including:
-The return of Prince, which elicits a massive yawn from super-huge Prince fan Dr. Z
-He also gives a thumbs-up to the small screen's Mike Tyson Mysteries
-The panel shakes its collective head at the ongoing Bill Cosby saga, one of the weirdest WTF episodes of 2014.
-We say goodbye to Philip Seymour Hoffman & Robin Williams.
A few 2014-wrapping round robins commence:
-Best Concert of 2014, in which we give props to Stevie Wonder, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Living Colour and the late Ian McLagan.
-The "Person of the Year" category leads to a discussion on the recent civil unrest in the U.S. as well as brief chats about the state of the modern music industry.
-Most anticipated Kany...uh, album of 2015.
(also: new albums from Chic, Kendrick Lamar, The Decemberists and Giorgio Moroder get mentioned)
And, finally, the panel picks their three favorite albums of the year-this part of the discussion cuts a swath through The Afghan Whigs, Julian Velard, Big K.R.I.T., Flying Lotus, Big Freedia, White Lung, The Gotobeds and more.
The Blerd Radio Team thanks you all for listening and subscribing. Wait till you see what we have in store for 2015! Happy New Year!
Sun, 21 December 2014
Ladies and gentlemen!
Welcome to The Blerd Radio team's 2014 wrap-up; or at least the first part of it. True to form, we gabbed so much we had to split the episode in two; lest we be responsible for your being glued to the computer for two hours plus.
-D'Angelo: Black Messiah came out on the day we recorded this podcast, and the surprise release was heavy on everyone's mind.
-The biggest-selling albums of 2014, including the Frozen soundtrack, Taylor Swift's 1989, and Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour. We discuss Taylor's ubiquity and business smarts and question how involved she is in the construction of her music, while wondering if British pop can give us something a little less beige than Mr. Smith.
-Is there still hope for pop music? Betty Who? comes up in conversation as a non-cookie cutter pop artist that might break here in the U.S.
-Jeff Giles, friend, occasional Popblerd contributor, media Grand Poobah, introducer of Ariana Grande.
-The panel imagines Cunningham as a rebellious prep school girl (after he expresses a taste for Lana Del Rey.)
-Why does Ryan Tedder poison everything he touches, and why is he so damn popular?
-Cultural appropriation at its worst-personified by one Iggy Azalea.
-The U2 Songs Of Innocence/iTunes fiasco. Is Bono the white Kanye? (or, is Kanye the Black Bono) Also, how much disbelief do we have to suspend in order to imagine that Rolling Stone's voting of Innocence as the best album of 2014 wasn't an example of the Old Boys Network at its best?
Give this podcast a listen in the player below, or direct download it at this link.
You can also download/listen on Ye Olde iTunes!
Wed, 10 December 2014
One thing we didn't properly cover on our 1989 podcast from earlier this year was director Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing. Over the course of many conversations, the Blerd Radio team (myself, Michael Parr, Cunningham The Packet Man and Dr. Z) discussed dedicating an entire episode to Do The Right Thing specifically, or doing an episode on Spike's oeuvre.
Then Ferguson happened. Then Cleveland happened. Then Staten Island happened. And it seemed like the most obvious (and timely) thing to do from a pop culture perspective was to talk about Do The Right Thing and how prescient the movie seems in light of current events.
We all knew going in that discussing the movie was going to lead into a greater discussion about things like race, police brutality and the general state of this country. Any time you get four passionate people in a room together (as "virtual" as this room may have been,) you're going to get an interesting discussion. What we ended up with is , to my ears, one of the best podcast episodes we've ever done.
Yes, we talk about the film at length. If you've never seen Do The Right Thing and you've been curious (and trust our opinions) , you'll hopefully find plenty to enjoy over the course of 90 minutes. It is a tremendously important movie for a variety of reasons. It was the magnum opus of a critically acclaimed screenwriter and director, it was the film debut (or an early-career screen turn) for a number of soon-to-be superstars like Samuel Jackson, Danny Aiello, Rosie Perez, Jon Turturro and Martin Lawrence, it was beautifully shot, it contains great music and it's a compelling story. We cover all of that. And, as befitting a film that's probably more comedy than drama, there are plenty of light moments throughout the podcast.
We also wind up having the sort of discussion that great film should provoke. It's not always an easy, or comfortable discussion (and I'd like to think that we handled it pretty smoothly given our disparate backgrounds) but it's an important one. And in this case, hopefully an entertaining one.
Mon, 24 November 2014
Our discussion about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was so involved, we had to split it up! You can listen to Part One here.
The second half of the show covers:
-The "Recently Deceased" argument and whether it greases the skids for Lou Reed's induction as a solo artist.
-Cunningham attempts to explain Lou Reed's appeal to me, drawing a (not wrongheaded) comparison to Bob Dylan.
-Will the hopes of a Morrissey/Johnny Marr reunion (even though it will never happen) be a boon for The Smiths and their chances at induction?
-What about those Morrissey cancer rumors anyway?
-How many R&B vocal groups should be inducted?
-Should there be a rule about inducting solo artists who are already in as members of groups?
-The collective shock we experience upon discovering that Stevie Ray Vaughan was not already in the Hall.
-Parr waxes rhapsodic over "Lenny," a song that is not about Mr. Kravitz or the partner of Squiggy.
-Are The Meters in? Or are they out?
-Bill. Motherfuckin'. Withers-king of everything.
-Does a certain Afro'ed drummer who is more or less the patron saint of this site hold a serious amount of sway as far as inductees being chosen?
-The team casts their own ballots--I can't say we'll surprise you too much there.
-Will a female rapper ever be inducted?
-We also pick two artists not presently up for induction and explain why they should be nominated/inducted.
-Matt Wardlaw gets mentioned in a second consecutive podcast. We should just invite him to do one of these damn things.
-Parr delivers a note-perfect Aaron Neville impression.
-Do you want some Doobies in your hall?
And more. You guys know the routine.
Mon, 17 November 2014
Last year, the Blerd Radio team had one of its most interesting discussions centered around the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. That discussion went so well, we decided to attack it this year with a fresh list of nominees. The end result was another interesting discussion. How interesting, you ask? So interesting that we had to split the discussion in half. Look for the second part later this week.
Dr. Z couldn't make this podcast, so you're left with a trio of Mikes: myself, Mr. Parr and Mr. Cunningham. Three is definitely not a crowd in this instance, and the first half of this edition of Blerd Radio covers:
-General overview: what elements of the Hall of Fame do we like and dislike? This is a rehash of our discussion from last year...what are the parameters, and will there come a point when everyone is in the Hall of Fame? Furthermore, what is rock 'n roll?
-Ladies and gentlemen, the ageless Jann Wenner.
-Are we looking at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Taylor Swift and Britney Spears in 15-20 years? And can we get some love for Cher, for Chrissakes? (leading to a discussion on whether the Hall of Fame is discriminatory towards female artists.)
-This year's nominees are:
PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND- (collective yawn and WTF? from the panel, for the second straight year.)
CHIC- Another second-straight-year nominee, and one we're all (still) quite passionate about. We run through a list of Nile Rodgers' accomplishments, and also make the connection between Nile and another performer on the list of nominees, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
-Did Chic kick off the modern-day producer's era?
(we almost go into fits about Isaac Hayes not being in the HOF, before realizing he was inducted thirteen years ago.)
GREEN DAY- Are Mike, Tre and Billie Joe first-ballot worthy? They're certainly influential, although Cunningham might be not as much a fan as the rest of us. How punk rock!
-Sidebar: Might the HOF go easy on the star power this year?
JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS- Does an induction for her (them? Who are The Blackhearts, anyway?) ensure that The Runaways will never get inducted? And what does this mean for other rockers of the '80s? (Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman, Sinead O' Connor...)
-Is the HOF unfairly biased against non-American artists?
KRAFTWERK- This really just gives Parr and Cunningham a chance to bust out their German accents.
THE MARVELETTES- Does "the 5th best girl group on Motown" deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame?
N.W.A.- Is Dr. Dre the richest Black musician in the world?
Does N.W.A.'s music deserve a critical re-evaluation? Where do they stand in the hip-hop canon?
We also show respect to Salt 'n Pepa (who haven't even been nominated yet) while also cracking a joke at their expense.
NINE INCH NAILS: Let's be real, here. This is one fairly long gush for Trent Reznor.
There'll be a Part II!: We talked so much we decided to split the podcast up. Look for the second half, coming soon.
Wed, 5 November 2014
Ladies & Gentlemen, welcome to 1989!
George Bush I is president, the World Wide Web is in its infancy, the Berlin wall came down, and baby Taylor Swift made her way into the world. We talk about none of these four things during the course of this podcast.
We do, however, discuss...
-The San Francisco earthquake and the differences in the reporting of natural disasters in the '80s vs. our instant news via social media.
-Dr. Z goes apeshit over The Wizard, co-starring Fred Savage.
-Cunningham gives props to the Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack. Too hot to handle, too cold to hold!
-Big Money discovers that We Were Promised Jetpacks were named after a line in Back To The Future 2.
-WHITE BOYS LOVE CHRISTIAN SLATER!!
-The Batman phenomenon...Jack Nicholson as The Joker, Hot Kim Basinger, and more...oh yeah, there was a soundtrack too. Some dude we all like recorded it. And may originally have meant to record it with someone else we all like.
-Madonna's Like A Prayer, a fount of dissenting opinion. And we are remiss for not mentioning the anniversary piece written by our friend Annie Zaleski.
-What were The Jacksons doing in 1989? Moonwalker & Rhythm Nation.
-Hair Metal-palooza, which is very closely tied in to Power Ballad-palooza. Special shouts to Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood and Aerosmith's Pump. Cunningham is definitely not the strongest link in this particular conversation.
-Black rock takes over: introducing Living Colour & Lenny Kravitz, which dovetails into a conversation about the exquisite and gorgeous Zoe Kravitz.
-Apparently, hiding your musical tastes from your friends (or separating that from different groups of friends) is a thing?
-Hip-hop underwent a transitional period in 1989. Pop hits from Tone Loc & Young MC ruled the roost, but there were great not-as-recognized records by MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane and more. There was also the debut of MC Hammer. And classic albums Paul's Boutique and 3 Feet High & Rising, which was the winner of the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll that year.
-Alternative rock begins to go mainstream: Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana debut, and The B-52s and The Cure have their biggest hits.
-New Invention: Fred Schneider GPS. We're copyrighting that shit.
-TV in 1989: the debuts of Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Arsenio and Saved By The Bell, starring TAT AKA Tiffani-Amber Thiessen (apparently she's got an acronym thing happening now.)
-"We Didn't Start The (Fucking) Fire"
N.W.A. and the (muppet) Posse
...and so much more...
Check us out here on LibSyn. You can also download the podcast from iTunes and make sure if you do, you rate us and leave a comment!
Mon, 13 October 2014
The Blerd Radio team (me AKA MJ AKA Big Money, Dr. Z., Cunningham and Michael Parr) is at it again, dedicating this episode to Stevie Wonder on the launch of his Songs In The Key of Life retrospective tour. An all-Stevie episode has been on the agenda for quite a while, but we finally decided to go for the gusto, focusing on his "golden" era, a period that covers his iconic albums Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness's First Finale, and Key of Life.
Among the topics discussed over the 80-minute podcast:
-The newsworthiness of the "Stevie Wonder Truthers"- a group of people who've surfaced with the hypothesis that Stevie has been feigning blindness for the past 64 years.
-Pre-Talking Book Stevie- 14 albums (!!) some killer singles, glimpses of a monster talent, and a version of "Light My Fire" that's leagues better than the original ('cause fuck The Doors.)
-Which living Motown artist/personality will helm the era's definitive biography? Why hasn't Stevie written a book yet?
-"Maybe Your Baby"-yea or nay?
-The mention of Don McLean's American Pie (which was nominated for a 1972 Album of the Year Grammy when Talking Book was not) sets Cunningham into a tizzy-the ensuing rant is priceless.
-How songs as sappy as "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" and "Isn't She Lovely" managed to capture the hearts of people who were not predisposed to such Hallmark-card sentiment.
-Innervisions as Big Money's first Stevie album and (arguably) his favorite album of all time.
-Peak Period Stevie's ability to deliver messages while not seeming heavy-handed.
-Stevie's Sleeper: Fulfillingness' First Finale
-The weird bond between Stevie and Bette Midler (at least as pertains to the Grammy Awards)
-Key of Life covers and Celine Dion's reminiscings about being a little nappy-headed child.
-How unique it is to have a multi-record set that's good ALL the way through.
-Driving straight from the middle of the road into the ditch via Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants.
-Modern-day Stevie's material getting short shrift thanks to the long shadow cast by his best work.
-"I Just Called To Say I Love You"-because.
-Alicia Keys getting sonned (nicely) by Stevie on national television.
-Stevie's amazing vocal agility-still largely intact after fifty+ years of singing.
-Cunningham (the star of this particular podcast) confuses Stevie with Ray Charles because of course! He also relates the story of hip-hop producer Peanut Butter Wolf meeting Stevie at a urinal.
-This turn in the conversation occurs thanks to Cunningham's recommendation of Yesterday's New Quintet.
-The Songs In The Key of Life listening party documentary.
...and so much more!
Mon, 29 September 2014
(and give me props for not going for the obvious "Fight For Your Right" intro on the actual podcast.
This episode pays tribute to three bad brothers you know so well--Ad Rock, Mike D., and the late, great MCA: better known as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artists The Beastie Boys.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the team of Big Money, Michael Parr, Dr. Z and Mike Cunningham discuss the legacy of the three East Village punks who shook up the hip-hop world and morphed from bratty caricatures to elder statesmen with cachet in the rap and alternative rock communities.
From the sophomoric but still enjoyable Licensed To Ill to the trippy Paul's Boutique to their uneven more recent efforts, the Beasties were never less than interesting throughout their three decades as a unit.
Some questions/statements that come up over the course of the discussion:
-How important a factor was the Beastie Boys' race in their success? (also, the first-ever comparison might be made between the Beasties and New Kids On The Block)
-Does Paul's Boutique hold up a quarter-century later? (we also discuss the excellent 33 1/3 volume dedicated to the album and revisit sampling laws.)
-The court of public opinion is split on the Beasties' more recent efforts, although no album provides more dissenting commentary than 1999's Hello Nasty.
-The immortal "Skills To Pay The Bills" VHS and the role of video in the Beasties' career.
-What is their legacy and will there be another group like them?
Listen, comment, do your thing!
Mon, 1 September 2014
We weren't intending to give you back to back 30th anniversary episodes, but this podcast's topic was too good to pass up. Yes, boys and girls, we are talking The Cosby Show in our latest episode.
(and apologies for some audio issues on Big Money's end.)
Cliff and Clair Huxtable (and, of course, their kids,) entered our world in September 1984 and immediately changed the landscape of situation comedy. Cosby marked the first time an affluent Black American family was portrayed on TV, and because of Cosby's masterful way of mixing cultural education with everyday family occurrences, the Huxtables ruled the TV roots for five consecutive seasons-still a record for a sitcom (and one that is unlikely to ever be broken.)
In this episode, Big Money, Michael Parr, Dr. Z and Cunningham discuss the following:
-The argument that The Cosby Show didn't accurately portray Black American culture.
-What was the best of the (many) Cosby Show themes?
-How has no one made a Gordon Gartrelle knock off shirt yet?
-Cliff and Clair's influence, not only as Black professionals, but also as a couple that was still very much in love with one another.
-The entire panel's enduring crush on Phylicia Rashad, only trumped by the panel's enduring crush on Lisa Bonet.
-Why Cliff Huxtable's dad was The Cosby Show's secret weapon.
-Cosby's impressive list of satellite characters and guest stars. And we didn't even get around to discussing Vanessa's fast-talking friend Kara!
-Cosby's later years: Martin Kendall, Olivia, Cousin Pam, and the jumping of the shark.
-Off Cosby: "Angel Heart," Malcolm-Jamal Warner as jazz bassist, the Tempestt Bledsoe talk show, Guys With Kids, Leonard Part 6, Ghost Dad, and this photo:
-Cosby's place in the pantheon of legendary sitcoms.
-Our favorite episodes, with a special shout to "eh, mon!"
Wed, 30 July 2014
No, we didn't spend an hour and a half talking about The Return Of Bruno.
This episode of Blerd Radio finds Big Money, Dr. Z, Michael Parr and Mike Duquette discussing The Boss: singer/songwriter/showman Bruce Springsteen.
Frequent co-conspirator Michael Cunningham is MIA this episode because he hates Springsteen. And is a commie bastard.
It's the 30th Anniversary of the classic Born in the USA album, which sold multi-millions, was the #1 album of 1985 (despite being released in 1984) and spawned a record-tying 7 Top Ten singles. The album is a cultural touchstone for many that came up in the era, and we discuss its importance in the pop music landscape as well as whether its highly regarded by Bruce's cult of diehard fans.
As with many albums recorded in the mid-late '80s, there was a bit of a compromise with certain songs being remixed or geared to fit in with a more dance-centric/MTV audience. Case in point: a
In addition to Born In The USA, we talk about the role of the E Street Band over the course of Springsteen's lengthy career, showing appreciation to the individual members but also wondering if Springsteen hasn't kinda given them the shaft when it comes to co-billing them over the years. Perhaps his ill treatment is the cause of Little Steven's perennial resting bitchface?
(of course, a Blerd Radio podcast wouldn't be a Blerd Radio podcast with at least one major sidebar--which we utilize to take a shit on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)
We also shout out our favorite Bruce albums, give props to the fact that a 65 year old man can probably kick all of our (significantly younger) asses, and at least one of us discovers the true meaning of "Pink Cadillac" for the first time. Who knew?