Last night, Stephen Colbert once again proved he’s one of the most awesome characters on television. Alicia Keys was his guest on The Colbert Report, where she performed “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down” from her new album The Element of Freedom.
Colbert rapped about the gated communities of Connecticut, his asthma, and hitting Times Square for Hard Rock Cafe’s “appetizer deal.” It was truly fantastic. Check out the video below.
30 Seconds to Mars
This Is War
“War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.”
– Thomas Mann
After the incredible success of 30 Seconds to Mars’ sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, actor/musician Jared Leto could have easily been at peace. Recognizable actor, millions of records sold — what’s not to like?
Instead, he and his band turn to songs about religion and war. Maybe it’s because 30 Seconds to Mars went through a lengthy, ugly battle with their label (ultimately settling and re-signing). Or maybe what really set them off was that A Beautiful Lie simply didn’t deserve its success, especially after their boring self-titled debut. There were a few emo, radio-friendly singles. And that was it.
Four years later, the band gives us This Is War. Buzz had built up around the album, thanks to the inclusion of their fans (both singing as a choir on the record and as 2,000 different album covers) and that lengthy break. So I had high expectations that 30 Seconds to Mars could release a decent, complete, listenable album.
And amazingly, those high expectations weren’t shot immediately.
The first four songs are enjoyable. “Escape” opens with fans singing somewhat dramatically over an atmospheric texture. “Night of the Hunter” has some woman speaking in French (the chick from Lost?) and features Leto’s best vocals on the album (that was difficult to write, keep reading). Lead single “Kings and Queens” is spacey and U2-ish, with lyrics about broken promises and a lesser society. And then the title track annoyingly opens with fans screaming, features a terrible bridge, and somehow ends up being the best thing on the album.
If only it ended there.
Good luck getting through this thing. Two of the last eight songs (“100 Suns” and “Vox Populi”) aren’t really worth a listen. “Search and Destroy” and “Alibi” build up to absolutely nothing. “Stranger in a Strange Land” features electronic drum beats and sounds like a poor Radiohead impression — that lasts for seven minutes.
Besides never holding back on his soaring, dramatic, and mostly painful vocals, Leto bragged to MTV back in April that, “The longest song on there is, like, eight minutes. The shortest, probably five. … I don’t think we have one under five, that’s for sure.”
Unfortunately, he wasn’t kidding. By the time album closer “L490” tries to tie everything back to the start, you won’t remember the beginning. “Hurricane,” the most interesting track on the last two-thirds of the album, has its moments but lasts six minutes with more of the fan choir in the background.
I’ll admit 30 Seconds to Mars’ effort is far from cowardly. The effort is obviously here, even if there’s very little payoff. But like all wars, this one is a mess.
The Grammy nominations were released today. As usual, they’re a complete joke. Not a ‘ha ha’ joke, but more of a “Do these people even listen to music?” type of a joke.
Without further ado, here are the nominees for Record of the Year: “Halo” by Beyonce, “I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon, “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga, and “You Belong with Me” by Taylor Swift.
I’m officially renaming Record of the Year to Most Overplayed Song of the Year. Granted, a few of them are pretty good. But I think the Recording Academy members forgot to turn their radio dial from KISS and Ryan Seacrest’s On-Air (yes, I had to look up the name of his show, whew).
(Left: Seacrest laughing because he has more money than I’ll ever dream of.)
Album of the Year, you ask?
I Am… Sasha Fierce by Beyonce (a few good songs), The E.N.D. by The Black Eyed Peas (two songs worth listening to), The Fame by Lady Gaga (awful after the first four songs, which makes it perfect for iTunes), Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King by Dave Matthews Band (perfectly fine but not Album of the Year material), and Fearless by Taylor Swift (“I’m sorry, but Phoenix had one of the best albums of the year!!”).
Moving on, the Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance category is full of new artists, such as Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young. The combined age of those five men? 307 years old.
Nickelback (I just threw up a little bit) was put in the Best Hard Rock Performance category with the likes of AC/DC, Alice in Chains, and Metallica. True story.
There’s 109 categories in 29 fields. I looked through it all a lot of it (I stopped somewhere around Hawaiian Music Album). And the best thing the Recording Academy did was nominate “I’m on a Boat” by The Lonely Island and T-Pain for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
I now have a reason to finish this post with “I’m on a Boat” (warning: language, lots of it).
At least the Recording Academy is good for one thing.