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?
Wed, 16 July 2014
Greetings, dear readers! Guess what time it is? If you guessed "time for another Blerd Radio podcast," then you, sir or madam, are correct!!
You're invited to listen in as we discuss:
-The concept of the "Summer Anthem," a fairly new conceit that most agree began in the early '90s with DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Summertime," but which has roots in '60s classics by The Beach Boys and the Motown label.
-This AV Club article which laments the death of the "Summer Anthem," in light of Iggy Azalea's fairly forgettable hit "Fancy," but the panel wonders if the summer anthem is just taking a long nap, as opposed to being dead.
-The mention of Iggy Azalea leads to a short discussion about female rappers and one panelist is left in disappointed awe after being told that many popular female rappers likely didn't write their own lyrics (and, allegedly, neither does Iggy.)
-It's summer movie season! What's popping at the box office? Duquette gives us the lowdown on "Transformers," "22 Jump Street" and many of the season's hottest flicks.
-The panel collectively scratches its head about "Jersey Boys."
-A discussion about summer television immediately goes nowhere, because none of us really watches TV. God damn, we're pretentious!
-Binge watching...yay or nay? You might be surprised by the panel's opinion.
-There is a lot more reading being done, though, and most of it is music related. Whether it's the umpteenth book about Michael Jackson, a classic 33 1/3 book, the tales of guitar god Joe Satriani, or the posthumous autobiography of Rick James, pages are being turned!
-Non-entertainment related summertime activities! Dr. Z and Cunningham give it up for amusement parks, roller coasters and funnel cake. I finally receive a satisfactory explanation as to what funnel cake actually is.
-We find out that Parr's wife is a "G" for persuading her husband to go on a roller coaster. Props!
-Recommendations include Dave Holmes' column on Vulture and more. Listen to get the full scoop!
Sun, 15 June 2014
After a lengthy hiatus, the original Blerd Radio team is back with a tasty podcast that discusses the impact of the Native Tongues crew: specifically A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
An appearance by the God Rakim Allah at a local strip club/music venue in Pittsburgh, which makes the panel question the appearance of Pittsburgh natives Dr. Z & Cunningham on the podcast (when they could be rocking with Ra.)
This podcast was recorded on the birthday of the great Johnny Gill, leading to a story about how Cunningham rubbed some female karaoke patrons the right way.
Why are we doing this podcast in the first place? A rundown of the achievements (mostly unheralded) of the Native Tongues.
Were De La, Tribe and the others too complicated for middle America? Or does the general populace only like seeing their rappers of the cartoonish gangsta variety?
The Tongues influence spreads wide and includes the introduction of jazz into the hip-hop ouevre, the proliferation of the posse cut, and the popularization of the (somewhat dreaded) hip-hip skit.
We give props to the Jungle (the Jungle) the Brothers (the Brothers)
"Beats, Rhymes & Life" (the album)-classic? Or not?
Did Consequence break A Tribe Called Quest?
"Low End Theory" vs. "Midnight Marauders"
"3 Feet HIgh And Rising" vs. "De La Soul Is Dead"
and finally...De La vs. Tribe
Mon, 7 April 2014
Welcome to the latest episode of Blerd Radio!
In this episode, Big Money (the titular Blerd) is joined by his West Coast compatriots, Garrett "GG" Gonzales and Kevin "KJ" Johnson. Free from the constraints implied by a specific theme, this podcast is a freewheeling hour (and change) that touches on the following topics:
-Sir Mix-A-Lot's plush new gig making announcements at SEA/TAC airport, and whether it's appropriate to call Mix a one-hit wonder.
-The differences between hip-hop radio on the East and West coasts in the early Nineties.
-MC Hammer's ubiquity on West Coast hip-hop radio around that time leads to a discussion about the infamous "Pumps And A Bump" video and whether anyone on the panel would be caught dead in a leopard-skin banana hammock.
-Did Hammer really have a leg to stand on when challenging Michael Jackson to a dance-off, and do any of today's singer/dancers (Timberlake, Chris Brown, Usher, Ne-Yo) hold a candle to the King of Pop on the showmanship tip?
-KJ and Big Money finally met in person! Get the lowdown on their thrilling face-to-face.
-Also, find out how KJ came into possession of a teddy bear modeled after Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. Yes, you heard that right.
-A discussion on turning 40, from three men in their late thirties. The operative word is: frightened. This discussion somehow turns into the initial planning stages for a Popblerd guys' weekend in Las Vegas. If and when this happens, there will be pictures.
-Alcohol tolerance; as discussed by someone who finds himself out and about fairly often (Big Money,) someone who hangs out occasionally with his much-younger co-workers (GG,) and someone who goes out every fourth full moon (KJ.)
-Which '90s R&B group member should have had the biggest solo career?
Wed, 12 March 2014
Two podcasts in a week? Yes, folks, we at Blerd Studios have been working overtime to entertain you.
In this episode, I am joined by Bill Bodkin, co-owner and editor-in-chief of our sister site, Pop-break.com.
As Bill is quite Irish, and it is March, St. Patrick's Day is discussed. Among other things, like...
-Bill's low batting average when it comes to predictions on our Grammy-cast from earlier this year.
-The incredulity that arises when Big Money is told that New Jersey governor Chris Christie was at the gym when he first heard the news of the "bridge scandal."
-BM and Bill (both diabetic) eye Subway's new Flatizza.
-Do Muppet movies in the 21st century compare to the classic run of Muppet movies in the late Seventies and early Eighties?
-Jimmy Fallon's resuscitated "The Tonight Show" with the help of Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, and Brian Williams, whose daughter is apparently an actress! (which I'm sure many of you knew, but Big Money did not as he is cable-deficient.)
-How unbelievably bad is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit these days? Bad enough that Bill's been threatened by some of the show's diehard fans after writing an unfavorable review.
-SXSW, shows, and claustrophobia.
Mon, 10 March 2014
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another fun-filled Blerd Radio podcast. In this episode, Big Money is joined by co-hosts Michael Parr, Mike Duquette and Zack Stiegler, and a very special guest: The Popblerd Time Machine.
We are hopping in and heading back to 1984, a year that signified a seismic shift in popular culture. Here's a quick rundown of some of the topics discussed:
-The 1984 presidential election: the first time there was a viable black candidate, and the first female vice-presidential candidate (but don't blame her for Sarah Palin.)
-The Summer Olympics, boycotted by the Russians, but definitely not boycotted by Lionel Richie. A discussion of this event serves as a memory jogger for some events that Parr had successfully blocked from his psyche.
-Michael Jackson's 1984, which was awesome (Grammy Awards) and not awesome (hair catching on fire.)
-The breakthrough of a younger grain of female superstar in the forms of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. The former starlet is widely credited with helping bring the WWF to dominance, while the latter's videos revolutionized the art form...well, maybe except for "Borderline."
-Was Tina Turner (whose comeback was a major story in 1984) history's first GILF?
-There is a somewhat lengthy (but respectful?) discussion about the pre-teen discovery of breasts (thanks to Vanessa Williams' Penthouse spread, Apollonia's purification in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, and Daryl Hannah in Splash)
-The film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984, which was one of Richard Burton's final film roles (and boasted a soundtrack performed by Eurythmics.)
-The bizarre deaths of Andy Kaufman and Marvin Gaye.
-Stevie Wonder jumps the shark with "I Just Called To Say I Love You," which was a lowlight in a year full of negligible movie songs.
-The panel is asks which of the following four songs they'd choose if they were held at gunpoint and forced to listen to one of 1984's worst-"I Just Called To Say...", "Footloose", "Let's Hear It For The Boy" or "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."
-Of course, there's one Adele Dazeem joke.
-We discuss the dawn of "college rock."
-Finally, we each pick our top 3 singles from the year, but not before Duquette regales us with the story of going to see Ashford & Simpson in concert.
Mon, 24 February 2014
This latest episode of Blerd Radio continues the conversation MJ, KJ and GG were having on the last podcast. Unfortunately, it also contains the same audio problems (albeit to a lesser extent.) However, as I said last time: the conversation's interesting enough that hopefully you can forgive the fidelity issues-this time.
Topics discussed this go-round include:
-It looks like Michael Sam is going to become the NFL's first gay player (barring not being drafted or injury,) and the panel discusses why this is such a big deal for the NFL, for the LGBT community, and for homophobes.
-The perceived anonymity of the internet, of course, allows for people to casually espouse ignorance under the guise of...well...various forms. GG talks about his regulation of an NFL message board that found itself mired in homophobic comments.
-Will Sam's pre-draft admission hurt his chances of getting drafted highly? Which team will take him? Might the Miami Dolphins, looking to do some image makeover, draft him?
-Can we officially do away with the terms "no homo" and "pause"? Especially for the over 30 crowd? Thankfully, in suburban Washington State, KJ is blissfully unaware of what those terms mean and has to consult good ol' Urban Dictionary.
-Does Macklemore's big night at the Grammys also signify the official end of his career? Or does the ongoing success of significantly less-talented rappers like Flo Rida and Pitbull augur well for a bright future?
-What is Drunk White Girl music?
You can listen to Episode 5 in the player below, or direct download it at the link below. You can also search for us on iTunes, download the podcast there. Feel free to leave a comment and vote for us...even if it's to say that MJ should stop whispering (sorry, I had a sleeping nephew in the house when I was recording this) and get his mic fixed!