Sunday, February 26, 2006

Movie Review - "Life-Size"

This is a movie which I started watching on TV one day when I was in a hotel room. I initally started watching it kind of as a joke, but by the end I had gotten completely swept up in it. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I never saw the first half hour of this movie. Also this review contains spoilers.

Life-Size was a movie originally made for the Disney network in the year 2000. The primary star of this movie is a young Lindsay Lohan (character name Casey), who plays the daughter of a widower (Jere Burns - character name Ben). Obviously upset over the death of her mother, she somehow purchases or obtains an "Eve" doll, which is like a Barbie doll, but African-American. Then, using a book of spells she has obtained, she performs an incantation which brings the doll to life! As a human! Played by Tyra Banks! Eve worms her way into Casey's life, as she is seemingly the perfect woman, and her father Ben is quite smitten with her. Ben thus hires her as his secretary, much to the dismay of Casey who is obviously upset that this new woman may be taking the place of her recently (?) deceased mother. Anyways, though she claims to be perfect at everything, she has no knowledge of offices or typing or anything, and generally does a poor job. Though she does stay perky throughout the whole experience.

The movie proceeds in a similar fashion, with Eve claiming to be perfect at everything, and then failing miserably when attempting to do it (obviously, being a doll, she does not have much experience doing things in the real world). In addition, Ben, always busy at work, has apparently lost the time he used to spend with Casey, as he has missed all of her football games during the season. At the end of the film, with Casey performing in her championship match, Ben is held up at work for a meeting!!! Will he blow off the meeting to watch his daughter play (Oh the suspense!). In the end, Eve performs an incantation to make her a doll again, but not before everybody has learned valuable lessons:
1. Eve learns that she doesn't always have to be so perfect
2. Ben learns the value of spending time with his daughter
3. Casey learns to open up to people, and move on with her life after her mom's death.

Very touching film. Okay, so what about the quality? In my opinion, this film is highly entertaining.


One thing that struck me as I was watching this film, was just how much Lindsay Lohan has fallen of the rails lately. I will not pile on, or recount the woes of her later years, but she was extremely cute in this movie, and she had pretty good chops for someone of her age. Normally I've found that the best you can ask for from kid actors in movies is that they look reasonably cute, and aren't so bad at acting that they totally remove you from the movie (e.g. Jake Lloyd in Phantom Menace). Lindsay comfortably exceeds both standards.

In addition, I was extremely wary of Tyra Banks in this film, as I have normally found that model to actress transition, ah, does not go smoothly. Of course, she is playing a life-size Barbie doll, and she obviously has the physical attributes necessary to play the part, but still, I was wary. Fortunately, she acquits herself quite well in this role, which is honestly not particularly demanding. She does seem to have a decent comedic timing, and she has the whole perfect, perky tone completely down. In addition, towards the end of the movie, there's a dramatic scene with her and Lindsay Lohan, where Casey learns to love Eve, which I expected to be completely cringe-worthy, but both actors did a pretty good job with it. The other actors in the movie, mostly accomplished character actors, perform well.

The best scene in this movie occurs when Ben takes Eve to an office party with him. The office party is going fairly drab, until the band playing invites people to come up and sing. Naturally Eve goes up to sing...and the song she chooses is the "Eve" commercial jingle. I say without one hint of irony, that the song, "Be A Star", is completely awesome. I had it stuck in my head for days after I saw the movie. In addition, at the very end of the movie, over the credits, there is a sing/dance along with the movie's cast to this song, and it rules.


This movie has a very simple, highly predictable plot, and from that standpoint is completely standard fare for this type of Dinsey movie. In addition, the dialogue and characters are also fairly simplistic/wooden, much like the rest of the movie. What separates this movie from the rest of this Disney fare is partially the good acting from the leads and supporting cast (and like I said I was particularly impressed by Lohan), but mostly the overwhelming positive energy that this film puts forth. I DEFY you to watch this movie and not crack a smile...if you do, you probably have no soul. The youthful exuberance and infectious innocence that this movie exudes produce just a completely feel-good experience. Watch this movie, get swept up in the moment, bask in the cuteness, and just reflect in the joy of youth. This is not a movie to be watched with a critical eye at all, but if you want a really cute movie you can just turn off your brain and enjoy, this movie comes with high recommendations.

By far the best Made for Disney TV movie I've ever seen. 8/10.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

1999 and 2000 - Two Years in #1 Singles (pt. 2)


Christina Aguilera - "What a Girl Wants"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Shelly Peiken, writer on this song, also wrote mid 90's hit "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks (which peaked at #2).
Review/Comments: The song was originally titled "What a Girl Needs", but the record executive forced them to change the title to "What a Girl Wants", for no real reason. Okay, I'm sure there was a reason, but that reason is not apparent to me. This is one of the few pop ballads to hit number one which I actually like. Christina Aguilera is a good singer, and the pop hook is okay. It's not an amazing pop song or anything, but it's an enjoyable enough listen, and it's certainly better than Christina's most recent #1 "Lady Marmalade" (Rating: 0 or 1 /10).
Rating: 7/10

Savage Garden - "I Knew I Loved You"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: The first #1 song to have writing credit given to the performer only (no other co-writers) since "I'm Your Angel" by R Kelly & Celine Dion (written by R. Kelly)
Review/Comments: Unlike "What a Girl Wants", this is a completely mediocre pop ballad. Not only that, but it's exactly like "Truly, Madly, Deeply" which had hit number one in early 1998. And the world hardly needed the first "Truly, Madly, Deeply", let alone a carbon copy second single. Nevertheless, this song saves Savage Garden from one hit wonder ridicule, but still leaves them open to high-voice ridicule. Man that Darren Hayes does have a freakishly high voice, what is he some kind of woman??? Back to the song, yes this is one of those mediocre, just kind of there, pop ballads that have infested the top of the charts almost since they started up. There is always a place in popular music for this kind of music, but I will never understand why...The day when crappy ballads like this dry up atop the charts will be a happy day for me, indeed.
Rating: 4/10

Mariah Carey ft. Joe & 98 Degrees - "Thank God I Found You"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The only Mariah Carey #1 to be produced by super-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who have 16 number one singles working together as producers)
Review/Comments: The only number one hit for 98 Degrees ("Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)" was robbed!). This is absolutely the laziest, most forgettable excuse for a number one hit single since I have started following the charts...Whatever I said about "Heartbreaker" was all true, but this song is way worse. You may have forgotten about this song now; I forgot about it while I was listening to it for the first time, as it is entirely unremarkable in every way. Fortunately, the song which coasts atop the charts on reputation appears not to be as common now as it once was, though it does still happen. This song was probably written and recorded in one afternoon.
Rating: 1/10

Lonestar - "Amazed"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: First country song to hit number one since "Islands in the Stream" by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
Review/Comments: Actually, this song is even worse that "Thank God I Found You"; however, it is not as bad of a #1 hit, in my opinion. Despite the awfulness of the song, I'm still glad that one of the short rash of country crossover hits around this time did go to number one. Obviously it would be preferable if it was a better country crossover hit, such as "You're Still the One" or "Breathe" (not that either of those is a great song, but both are way better than this turd). Actually, "Breathe" was kept out of the number one slot by this song. However, I still always root for variety at the top of the charts, and for the big pop movements to produce #1 hit singles. The stretch of number one hits from "Unpretty" to this song was an awful stretch of hits, one of the worst in history, in my opinion, as there is only one moderately enjoyable song between all of them ("What a Girl Wants"), and the rest are awful. And I suspect most of my readers will put "What a Girl Wants" into the latter category as well. The country mix of this song (with fiddles and steel guitars, and whatnot), had its own chart run, peaking at #24, then falling off. However, once the pop remix was sent to the radio stations, it really blew up, and soared up to number one fairly quickly.
Rating: 1/10

Destiny's Child - "Say My Name"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: Other than "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Say My Name" the their breakout album The Writing's on the Wall produced one additional top 10 hit ("Jumpin' Jumpin'" #3).
Review/Comments: Now this is what I'm talking about. Hell, if all the R&B hits sounded this good, I wouldn't be so upset that they so completely dominate the radio and the charts of today. Unlike many pop songs which save all the good music for the chorus and build some lame verse around them, the verse and the pre-chorus ("Why can't you just tell the truth, if somebody's there then tell me who") are perfect set-up for the chorus, and have some legitimate hooks of their own part. The production is simple, but functional, it does not take anything away from the rest of the song, which is really the best you can hope for from a vocal R&B song like this. LeToya and LeTavia had their last gasp with this song, as both would be gone by the time of the third album next year, replaced by Michelle (as immortalized in the intro to "Bootylicious", which would get at least an 8/10 from me). Great vocals by the girls, great melody, and good production, this was deservingly an absolute smash hit, one of the most popular of the year.
Rating: 9/10

Santana ft. The Product G&B - "Maria Maria"
Duration: 10 weeks
Fun Fact: Written and produced by Wyclef Jean, his only #1 as a writer or as a producer
Review/Comments: When I was reviewing all the number one hits of 2000 as a preparation of this, I was a little surprised to see that this song was number one (I did follow the charts at the time, I had just forgotten this song hit #1); I was shocked to see it was number one for 10 weeks. Weeks at number one can be a funny metric for how popular a song was. "Smooth", I think everybody can agree, was far more ubiquitous than "Maria Maria", yet was only #1 for 2 weeks longer. On the other hand, "Smooth" had a much longer chart life. "Maria Maria" was just one of those weird situations where a song isn't really THAT popular, but there aren't really any other super-popular songs to displant it, so it stays at #1 for a disproportionatly long time. Because, maybe it's just regional or something, but I do not recall this song being that popular at all. As for the song itself, mediocre and forgettable r&b ballad laced with some spanish guitar and the same riff that Santana has been playing for 4o years. Blech, bring on the rest of the hits.
Rating: 4/10

Aaliyah - "Try Again"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The first song to go to number one without ever being released as a commercial single, solely on airplay points (Note that this was only possible following a change in chart philosophy in late 1998).
Review/Comments: What great production in this song by Timbaland, and Aaliyah is a more than competent singer as well. Aaliyah's last bit hit single before her career was tragically cut short, this was also her first and only number one. As most of you know, she was killed in a plane crash in late 2001 while filming her next music video. In any event, if this is the legacy left behind in her short career, it's a hell of a legacy, far better than most musicians who have much longer careers. Honestly, all of the Aaliyah singles released were pretty good; this was the best one in my opinion. Sad story, but even without the sob story, this is a more than deserving #1.
Rating: 9/10

Enrique Iglesias - "Be With You"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: This song was written during the recording session for "The Rhythm Divine", a far inferior song.
Review/Comments: To me, this calls to mind the question, "Where is the line drawn between nostalgic value, and legitimate enjoyment?" You see, I liked this song when it was originally out, and heard it a lot, and some of my friends and I in college really loved this song. It's just so completely absurdly ridiculous, and so over the top in it's badness, but it's a perfect storm of elements. The weird decision to put a dance beat behind a love/break up ballad...the ridiculously emotional breakdown...the overall PASSION in the vocals...everything about this song just screams totally ridiculous, terrible song. In honesty, this song was a true product of its times; it's hard to imagine it going number one at any other time. And yet, any time I listen to it, it's like I'm with my buddies in college, cracking up over the absurdity of it all, and if there's any line between really liking a song, and only liking it for that, well, I crossed it long ago. As I read in a Stylus Magazine article, "After all, you're only nostalgic about something you really loved in the first place." [even though I put that like it was an exact quote, it's just a paraphrase]. Amen.
Rating: 8/10

Vertical Horizon - "Everything You Want"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact:
Review/Comments: Ah, Vertical Horizon. Even though this is just a totally mediocre pop-rock song, the likes of which has been done thousands of times, and the likes of which has been done BETTER thousands of times, I still kind of miss the days when a song like this could go to number one. Come up with a good pop hook, set it to pop lyrics, put a generic rock guitar over it, and boom #1 hit. I mean, I know that's exactly the kind of lazy hit I've been deriding this whole time, but man there should be a place for this kind of song in the popular pantheon. Then again, maybe I'm just being biased in favor of rock over R&B...but honestly, I always root for more diversity atop the charts, regardless of whether I think the individual songs are good or not, unless the song is really terrible.
Rating: 5/10

matchbox twenty - "Bent"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The first time one rock song replaced another rock song atop the billboard charts since "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" by George Michael/Elton John and "How Do You Talk to an Angel" by The Heights in 1992
Review/Comments: What happened to rock music atop the charts? It used to be, around '66 to '69, that almost every song to hit #1 was a rock song (some Motown songs too, but about 75% rock atop the charts). This number gradually but steadily decreased until, by the late 90's there were only about 1 or 2 rock #1's a year. Now, there hasn't been a single rock #1 since "How You Remind Me" by Nickelback in late 2001/early 2002. What gives? I honestly don't know...There's almost always the presence of a rock song in the top 10 somewhere ("Boulevard of Broken Dreams", "Mr. Brightsides", "Dirty Little Secret", "Sugar We're Going Down", just to name a few recent ones), but none have been able to break into number one yet, at least not for the last 4 years. Here's to hoping. As to "Bent", it's an okay song by an okay band, nothing special, not really as memorable as some of the band's earlier hits ("3 AM", "Real World", "Push") which never really crossed over to mainstream radio, but it certainly got its fair share of airplay, and isn't a bad song to choose to be their only #1, for a band that was popular enough to really deserve to have at least one number one.
Rating: 6/10

'N Sync - "It's Gonna Be Me"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Max Martin's second, and to current date last, number one hit.
Review/Comments: As I mentioned earlier in the Britney comment, this was the only of the songs in the Boy Band craze of the late 90's/early 00's to hit number one. And to be honest, it's my favorite song of that genre, by far. You can criticize these bands all you want, for being a product of their times, and for being a product of stupid young girls who don't care about music. But, this song was not a product of its times; it was not a product of any time...there was never a time in popular music when this kind of song was a dominant form of popular music. Compare it to other Boy Band songs, to "Bye, Bye, Bye" or to "I Want it That Way", listen to the weird hook and totally original production on this song compared to the others, and tell me this is a generic pop song. Tell me that this is a product of little girls who only care about how a singer looks and whether they have a decent voice, not the quality of the music. Whatever you do, don't just kneejerk dismiss this song because it's by 'N Sync.
Rating: 9/10

Sisqo - Incomplete
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Sisqo went to number one in 1999 as a member of Dru Hill, featured on the song "Wild Wild West"
Review/Comments: Of all the songs to hit number one in 1999/2000, none will probably a "WTF?" reaction quite like this song. However, there is a logical explanation to this song hitting number one. In early 2000, "The Thong Song" swept America, with it's catchy hook and absurd lyrics and music video. The song peaked all the way to number 3, despite never having a commerical single released. When the studio decided to release "Incomplete" to radio next, and to actually release a commercial single, they geniusly put on "The Thong Song" as a B-Side. "Incomplete" quickly shot up to number one, based mostly on sales, with little support from radio, although it did get some play on the genre-specific stations. As to the song itself, I affectionately have given it the nickname "GENERIC R&B BALLAD #23321". The song never should have hit number one, and it never would have, label machinations aside.
Rating: 2/10

Janet Jackson - "Doesn't Really Matter"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: Janet Jackson's 9th #1 hit brings her into a tie with Paul McCartney, The Bee Gees, and Stevie Wonder at 8th all time
Review/Comments: This song, from the Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is one of my favorite Janet Jackson hits, though I do provide the caveat that I'm not a big Janet Jackson fan overall. It's interesting to note this song almost did not get included on the soundtrack, as Janet was not a fan of the song, and didn't want to record it. It's a good pop song though, not a great one, but not an embarrassment to the Billboard charts like some other hits ("Thank God I Found You"). This is not entirely an example of a song coasting to number one on reputation alone (though that certainly didn't hurt), this was a good song that probably would have been a hit with most artists.
Rating: 7/10

Madonna - "Music"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: Madonna's 12th and to date final number one hit. Also interesting to note that Madonna is currently tied with Elvis for most top 10 hits, and will almost certainly break that by the time she's through.
Review/Comments: This is really one of Madonna's better songs, especially when compared to her later output. Compared to any of her songs on the over-rated Ray of Light album, this one is much better; it really does evoke her earlier hits. I'd take this over any of Madonna's singles from the 90's, save "Secret". The Mirwais production on this song is what really makes it, with inferior production, this could easily have fallen into the same kind of mediocre dance trap that a lot of her mid to late 90s output fell in to. Also, this song has a great opening line "Hey Mr. DJ, put a record on I wanna dance with my baby". The one complaint I have about this song is that the melody on the chorus/hook does fall a little bit flat, but not enough to counteract the excellent verses and production. A return to form for Madonna, this song is better than a lot of her 80's hits as well ("Who's That Girl", "Open You Heart"), and it's also one her few dance songs to hit number one; as I believe I said before (in the comment on Cher's "Believe"), almost all of her number one hits have been ballads.
Rating: 8/10

Christina Aguilera - "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: This song jumped straight from #11 to #1 on the charts, to date tied for the 12th largest leap to #1 in history (though, "Say My Name" did jump from #14 to #1)
Review/Comments: Continuing the theme of all Christina Aguilera's hits changing their titles, this song was named "All I Want Is You" by the original songwriters, until the record label changed the title, because they wanted the lyrics and the title to be sexier. This song has 9 songwriters listed for it, a real brain trust. According to the book of #1 hits I have, the reason for that is: 2 people who wrote the original melody and lyrics, a songwriting team of 3 people who wrote the music/beat, 2 people who touched up the melody to make it edgier, and 2 people who touched up the lyrics to make them sexier (including Christina herself) still doesn't really make sense to me why there needed to be 9 songwriters, but there it is. In addition, the end of the bridge to this song is taken from "What a Girl Wants", because they used to segue between the two songs in concert. As to this song itself, it again continues in the Christina tradition of slightly generic, but very good pop song with excellent vocals, and good production. The hook in the chorus is really catchy.
Rating: 8/10

Creed - "With Arms Wide Open"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The sales of the commercial single of this song went to benefit Scott Stapp's With Arms Wide Open Foundation.
Review/Comments: Ye gods, I have never been more disappointed in all my years of chart following as I was when this song hit number one. What a stridently awful song. I refuse to write anything else on this piece of trash.
Rating: 0/10, certainly one of my 10 least favorite songs of all time.

Destiny's Child - "Independent Women Part I"
Duration: 11 weeks
Fun Fact: Destiny's Child's Survivor album, featuring this song, was the last album to spawn 4 top 10 hits, until Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway repeated the feat in 2005.
Review/Comments: Lyrically, virtually the exact same song as "Bills, Bills, Bills", except with more random references to Charlie's Angels thrown in. I don't really care for this song at all, I find that the references to Charlie's Angels are tacky, and the hook falls totally flat in the chorus. The buildup in the pre-chorus is quite nice ("The shoes on my feet (I bought it)"), but the the chorus itself is just kind of annoying, and not catchy or entertaining at all, at least to me. I felt like all the singles from their third album were pretty weak, except for "Bootylicious", which fits firmly in the so ridiculous, it's good camp. Fits into the theme for this piece where there seems to be some sort of an inverse relationship between how long a song was number one and the rating it gets (not a perfect correlations, but all the songs that were #1 for 10 or more weeks got a rating of 4/10).
Rating: 4/10, as alluded to previously

Review/Comments for the year as a whole: This was a very good year for number one hits, in my opinion. There were a lot of terrible songs to hit number one, but there was probably more variety in styles of number one hits in this year than in any other year. We had R&B, Rock, and pop each having a few #1's, plus one country song for good measure, and a very strong presence of dance music. That may not seem like too much variety, but it's excellent compared to most years. (In fact, every song from 2003 forward which has hit number one has been R&B, except the American Idol tunes).

Final ranking of all the pop songs in 2000:
1. Destiny's Child - "Say My Name"
2. 'N Sync - "It's Gonna Be Me"
3. Aaliyah - "Try Again"
4. Enrique Iglesias - "Be With You"
5. Christina Aguilera - "Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)"
6. Madonna - "Music" [would have ranked 3rd in 1999]
7. Janet Jackson - "Doesn't Really Matter"
8. Christina Aguilera - "What A Girl Wants"
9. Matchbox 20 - "Bent"
10. Vertical Horizon - "Everything You Want"
11. Destiny's Child - "Independent Women Part I"
12. Savage Garden - "I Knew I Loved You"
13. Santana ft. The Product G&B - "Maria Maria"
14. Sisqo - "Incomplete"
15. Lonestar - "Amazed"
16. Mariah Carey ft. Joe & 98 Degrees - "Thank God I Found You"
17. Creed - "With Arms Wide Open"

There are 5 of these songs which I would say should not have gone to number one: "With Arms Wide Open", "Thank God I Found You", "Maria Maria", "I Knew I Loved You", and "Incomplete"

SPECIAL NOTE: Most of the facts from this piece come from the book "The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits" by Fred Bronson, an excellent book which has far more details than this on all these songs, plus every other song that went to number one, up to and including "This Is the Night" by Clay Aiken.


Friday, February 17, 2006

1999 and 2000 - Two Years in #1 Singles (pt. 1)

In this post, I will chronicle all of the number one's from 1999 to 2000, provide a fun fact about each, and a brief review/comment for the songs. These two years encompass my senior year of high school, so therefore they have mega-nostalgic value for me. So, without further ado....


Despite a poor overall quality of #1 hits, in my opinion, 1999 was a landmark year for number one hits. Several stars who would go on to successful careers had their first #1 in 1999, and two important chart records regarding #1's were broken.

Brandy - "Have You Ever"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: This song was written by Diane Warren, who could write a number one hit ballad in her sleep ("Un-Break My Heart"; "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing"; "Because You Loved Me")
Review/Comments: This is a great example of one of my pet peeve number ones: The completely forgettable ballad. What an uninteresting song. Unfortunately, the forgettable ballad is a very common number one...Brandy had just gone to number one 4 months earlier with her duet "The Boy Is Mine", which at 13 weeks still stands as one of the longest reigning number ones.
Rating: 5/10

Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: To date, Britney Spears' only number one hit...Re-named to "...Baby One More Time" after the label decided that the title "Hit Me Baby One More Time" was too controversial.
Review/Comments: Call it the TRL effect. Call it whatever you want. But the pop explosion of the late 90's/early 00's never materialized in a whole lot of number one hits. Britney Spears only had one. 'N Sync only had one. The Backstreet Boys had ZERO (not even "I Want It That Way", which peaked at #6). Forget about the second-tier pop star/boy bands. Christina Aguilera is the exception, as she did have four. So, anyways, what gives? Despite the extreme popularity of their albums, these artists never really tore up the singles charts. There are other factors, but the main reason here is that due to label strategy, none of these songs were ever realeased commercially as singles. They were relying solely on airplay points, and at this time, that was difficult to overcome (the exception is Christina Aguilera, who had all of her singles commercially released, and hence had four #1's). Britney Spears' and 'N Sync's only songs ever commercially released as singles on a widespread basis, were their only songs to ever hit number one. It's true that these songs never received as much airplay as it seemed like they were getting (again, call it the TRL effect), but it's clear that if they were ever commercially released, the rabid fanbase would have pushed all these songs up to number ones.
Rating: 8/10, a great pop song, but bumped down a couple rating points because Britney never has been a particularly gifted pop singer.

Monica - "Angel of Mine"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: This was the last in a string of 10 number one hit singles, 3 of which being by Monica. These three songs being "The Boy Is Mine"; "The First Night"; and "Angel of Mine"
Review/Comments: "The First Night" is one of my absolute favorite R&B hits of the late 90's, a sure 10/10. By comparison, this song always seemed to me, and to many others, to be of another class of #1 hits that I particularly hate: The inferior followup hit, which rides on the coattails of the prior hit to number one. That's probably not fair though. I still really love this song, even if it is not as good as her prior hit. Perhaps ironically, I really hate "The Boy Is Mine". Anyways, Monica was my favorite R&B star in the late 90's and this is one of her best hit songs.
Rating: 9/10

Cher - "Believe"
Duration: 4 weeks
Fun Fact: Anointed by Billboard at the end of the year as the most popular song of '99.
Review/Comments: With this song, Cher snagged away the record for the longest span of number one songs as an artist (34 years, from "I Got You Babe" to "Believe")...the prior record holder had been Michael Jackson (26 years, from "I Want You Back" to "You Are Not Alone"). Overall, Cher had 5 number one hits: The two listed above, plus "Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves", "Half-Breeed", and "Dark Lady". This song was a very rare dance song to cross over to number one on the charts. Dance music has traditionally not fared particularly well on the charts; if you look over a list of Madonna's number one hits, most of them are her ballads. However, there was a sudden surge of popularity in dance music at this time, and several dance songs hit number one. I always hated this song when it was out, and time has not increased my opinion of the song. Nevertheless, this has to stand as one of the more unlikely number one hits, as Cher had not been popular for several years prior, and this was of the type of song that had not been doing well on the charts...I understand there was significant label resistance to even releasing this song int he US.
Rating: 3/10

TLC - "No Scrubs"
Duration - 4 weeks
Fun Fact: This song was written by former members of R&B group Xscape....this is the only TLC single where T-Boz did not have the lead vocals, as Chili takes the reins for this one
Review/Comments: A highly deserving number one, as it was extremely popular, and is a damn good pop song. Maybe not too original, but probably the peak of TLC's career, in my opinion. Inspiration for "No Pigeons" by Sporty Theivz, the best parody/response song of all time, which gives it an extra one point bump.
Rating: 8/10

Ricky Martin - "Livin' La Vida Loca"
Duration: 5 weeks
Fun Fact: First song of the latin craze to hit number one...Ricky Martin's only number one hit
Review/Comments: What can one say about this song? It was a legitimate pop phenomenon, one of the most popular songs of the 90s. I have no idea why any of this happened, as it has always struck me as a particularly blank pop tune, but enough has been written negative about this song, that I feel no need to rub it in.
Rating: 5/10

Jennifer Lopez - "If You Had My Love"
Duration: 5 weeks
Fun Fact: The first ever single by J-Lo sets off a surprisingly successful singles career with 4 number ones. Of the four, this is the only one which does not also feature a rapper.
Review/Comments: Ah, J-Lo. Despite never having been really in any hit movies at all, J-Lo was already a cultural phenomenon at the time her musical career started, and many predicted that going into music was a bad career move...shows what they know, as she has gone on to about a hundred times more success in music than she has ever had in acting. Firmly in the camp of the Latin explosion which was going on at the time, this song stands as a true product of its time...listening to it now, with the latin melodies and r&b backing, there's no other time this song could have hit number one. This song seemed to coast to number one primarily based on the fact that it was being released by Jennifer Lopez, despite being a completely mediocre-at-best pop song. I never liked it at the time, and with all the J-Lo crap that's gone on since, I like it even less now. Good video, though.
Rating: 4/10

Destiny's Child - "Bills, Bills, Bills"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: The first number one by Destiny's Child is the first song with the same word repeated in the title three times since "Say, Say, Say" by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
Review/Comments: Isn't the breakout sucess single by a musical artist supposed to be one of their best songs? This is an okay song, but I will never understand how this was their breakout hit. This was the first #1 hit of 1999 to be at least co-written by the artist who took it to number one, as Beyonce and one-time DC member LeToya Luckett both had songwriting credits. Please note that the primary songwriter on this song, Kandi Briggs, was also the primary songwriter on "No Scrubs"...pretty good year for her.
Rating: 6/10

Will Smith ft. Dru Hill & Kool Moe Dee - "Wild, Wild West"
Duration: 1 week
Fun Fact: First song from a movie to hit number one since Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing"
Review/Comments: Ugggh, go away of my least favorite songs of all time. Just listen to Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" instead...
Rating: 1/10

Christina Aguilera - "Genie in a Bottle"
Duration: 5 weeks
Fun Fact: First of 4 number one hits by Christina Aguilera.
Review/Comments: Of all of the new reign of pop superstars in the late 90's/early 00's, early-era Christina Aguilera was always my favorite, as she always seemed to have the vocal chops to back up the good pop songs put behind her. It just seems like the other ones were purely products of their times, but she could be an r&b star today, she could have been the next Mariah in the early 90's, etc. Not only is this the best Christina Aguilera song, it is one of my favorite music videos of all time. I'm not sure why, it just has hella nostalgic value for me, like "Always Be My Baby" and "Steal My Sunshine". This song was originally to be titled "If You Wanna Be With Me", but Christina's manager made them change it, because, honestly, that's a stupid title. This song is nothing more, nothing less than a perfect pop song, and I hope there will always be a place for those on the Billboard Charts. A highly deserving number one
Rating: 10/10

Enrique Iglesias - "Bailamos"
Duration: 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Enrique, with his first #1 passes his father Julio, who never had any.
Review/Comments: Could there possibly be a more obvious rip-off of one number one hit by another than "Bailamos"/"Livin' La Vida Loca"...right down to the whole song being sung in English, but the hook/title line being in Spanish! A perfectly pedestrian pop hit, I have no particular feelings about this song hitting number one, or the quality of the song itself.
Rating: 6/10

TLC - "Unpretty"
Duration: 3 weeks
Fun Fact: TLC's fourth and final number one hit.
Review/Comments: What I said earlier, about Monica's "Angel of Mine" not coasting off the success of the prior hit to number one...does not apply here. This highly inferior pop ballad coasted to number one based mostly off the prior success of surprisingly good pop tune "No Scrubs", and unleashes a 3 week reign of terror at the top. Actually taking the message of this song ("Hey girls, don't ever let a guy make you feel not pretty") and "No Scrubs" ("Hey guys, you had better have a nice car"), it's kind of refreshing to see a pop act with a blatant double standard towards objectifying men, and respecting women, rather than the other way around.
Rating: 2/10

Mariah Carey ft. Jay Z - "Heartbreaker"
Duration - 2 weeks
Fun Fact: Mariah Carey's 14 number one hit breaks her tie with Michael Jackson and allows her to take sole posession of number 3 on the list of number one hits
Review/Comments: Mariah so obviously did not care at this point. By this point, she was just trying to release enough albums to get out of her contract, and clearly did not care about quality. This completely generic and lazy R&B song was most likely released by Mariah on a bet with one of her friends that she could release a completely generic song and still have it go number one, on name recognition alone. Congratulations, Mariah, you win. By the way this is shamefully Jay-Z's only number one hit, and not even he can save this song from R&B mediocrity hell. There's nothing to say about this song, as it's just kind of there, and is completely forgettable. This isn't an actively bad song, but there's no way it should have hit #1. The very worst type of number one hit, this just serves to tarnish her earlier, better songs. She was able to skate by with this crap for a while, but it came back to bite her in the ass eventually, tho she has very surprisingly resurrected her career with 2 GOOD pop #1 hits in 2005.
Rating: 5/10

Santana ft. Rob Thomas - "Smooth"
Duration - 12 weeks
Fun Fact - With this record, Santana sets the record for longest period of time between chart debut and first #1 hit, 30 years. This record had previously been held by Aerosmith.
Review/Comments: Can somebody please explain to me why this was such a HUGE pop phenomenon? I really don't understand...This song was victim to the worst overplaying of any song before or since (possibly except "Hey Ya"). The first time I heard it I was like "Solid song. Catchy Hook. Good for Santana, coming back after all this time." Then after the millionth time I was like "Please Santana, go away and never come back." Clearly the most popular song of 1999, it only lost out this title to "Believe" because it's chart life spanned the years 1999 and 2000, so not all of it's popularity points were accumulated in 1999. Billboard does nothing to account for this (and can't possibly anyways, since they announced their top song of 1999 while "Smooth" was still peaking). This wrapped up one of the worst ever years for number one hits, but still an extremely transitional year, with many artists having their first number one hits, (9 artists had their first number one songs in this year, counting Rob Thomas and Santana separately).
Rating: 4/10

Final ranking of all the pop songs of 1999
1. Christina Aguilera - "Genie in a Bottle"
2. Monica - "Angel of Mine"
3. Britney Spears - "...Baby One More Time"
4. TLC - "No Scrubs"
5. Enrique Iglesias - "Bailamos"
6. Destiny's Child - "Bills, Bills, Bills"
7. Ricky Martin - "Livin' La Vida Loca"
8. Brandy - "Have You Ever"
9. Mariah Carey ft. Jay Z - "Heartbreaker"
10. Santana ft. Rob Thomas - "Smooth"
11. Jennifer Lopez - "If You Had My Love"
12. Cher - "Believe"
13. TLC - "Unpretty"
14. Will Smith ft. Dru Hill & Kool Moe Dee - "Wild, Wild West"

These songs are ranked, and rated entirely by quality of song (in my opinion, of course), with no comment intended on the quality of the song as a number one, or whether it should have gone #1 or not. Of this group, there are 5 songs I am willing to say should not have gone #1, "Have You Ever", "Heartbreaker", "If You Had My Love", "Unpretty", and "Wild, Wild, West". The other ones, no matter how bad they are in my opinion, deserved to go number one, as they were popular enough on their own merits to make the leap.

Part 2, coming later this weekend, will cover 2000 in the same format.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The IMDB Message Board Game

The Internet Movie Database, as everybody knows, is a large website that hosts information on movies and TV shows. The best aspect is that every actor, actress, movie, TV Show, or anything on this website has its own message boards, and these message boards are filled with oft barely literate fans. Perusing the IMDB message boards is quite possibly my favorite time wasting activity to perform on the internet. To bring you this joy, I have decided to play a blogging game. In this game, I pick a page on IMDB, either for a person or a movie or a TV show. Then I post a random part from some message about this person/movie/show. Your task is to guess from this message, who or what was it written about. Remember that if it is about a person it doesn't necessarily HAVE to be an actress. Virtually every significant celebrity of the past 50 years, be they from movies, TV, music, or whatever, has a page/message board on IMDB. I will first post the message, then as a hint say what category of page this applies to. Good luck! Answers posted by me in the first comment to this post.

Some of these will have more information and be more difficult than others.

1. in fact in person her face is bad, so is her terrible singing, she shouts more than she sings!!ugh!! clive davis's writing and production team is keeping this overrated performer going! [Person - Singer]

2. lol so what if they are cheating on their boyfriend/girlfriend? you see, one is not tied to one's boy/girl-friend. one is with such a person for a simple reason - attraction. and if one meets a person he's more attracted to... need I continue? [Movie - Romantic Comedy]

3. <> got screwed entering the role as Carrie. Shes probably the worst bitch ever. First of all, she cheats the heck out of everybody. That furniture salesman, and shes with big when hes in a relationship. Second, she thinks its puny to take the bus "Oh look at me, im to precious to take the bus", well thanks for dissing all the bususers (Like myself) Third, she cant handle any kinds of challenge. Whenever something comes her way, she either starts crying or run away. And becides all this, she screams a lot (What a hidiuos scream) and shes afraid of everything. [TV Show]

4. I know it is just a set, but couldnt they have shot on location? I lived on Nantucket for 8.5 years, and it is not like the show. in fact, it is very hard just to pay for your house! [TV Show]

5. I suppose he doesn't have the reputation to 'deserve' an Oscar. To be honest I would say the only performance he's made which was truly deserving of at least a nomination was 12 Monkeys. Saying that, if Denzel can win for Training Day for example then maybe he should have been up for a few gongs by now. [Person]

6. One of my favorite parts is the old man who is sitting outside of the hardware store when Adam goes in. The old man has a little monologue which is pretty pointless but extremely funny. "He's got that hair down to his shoulders. He tells me just, just trim it a little." I always laugh like crazy at that part. Anyone else have any small parts that are their favorite from this movie? [Movie]

7. I mean, why are all of the guys so madly in love with her? She got Dean to cheat on his wife for her, and Jess, who is a jerk to everyone, she gets him to admit he loves her. Logan was a playboy who went from fling to fling, but she got him to call her his "girlfriend". Also, Marty had the hots for her, that Trevor dude asked her out, and she got Paris to kiss her. Haha....Logan was 22 when he got his first girlfriend. That is sad..... [TV Show]

8. Anyway, to answer your question Her father was Welsh and her mother is Croatian (from Wikipedia and a few other sites) [Person - Actress]

9. I may be slightly off, but after Aurora finds out she's a princess and sobs on her bed, neither her nor Philip have any more lines! We hear crying from her, but that's about it. Philip doesn't even gasp or make any audible sounds for the rest of the movie. Wouldn't you think that, being the main characters, they'd say SOMETHING? [Movie]

10. _____ is a metaphor for rebirth. I do not know if we are reborn, but it is difficult to dismiss. Even in our own lives, you cannot avoid the fact that the same stuff comes around again and again (or does not go away) until we change something, or learn somethin, or stop something. It is the evolution of the soul. Even the bible accepts rebirth. Or it did before the vatican edited it out! There are still clues in what is left, badly translated and misunderstood, but it is there, even though the church has long taught otherwise. [Movie]

11. i know most topics say this but i can't resist saying this once more! he is such a talent going to waste! ______ is one of my favorite actor despite race. his just so damn good he could be black, white, green or blue! it really hurts my soul when i read or see something about him because i always think he is a great actor who keeps making bad movies! he was genius on <> (love the film because of him) and man of honor. like someone said in the 'judging amy' forum about the actor who plays 'bruce van exel', there are great black actors but hollywood only seems to like denzel! yes denzel is great but he is not the only one! [Person - Actor]

12. From the overall design of the habits, the convent was Dominican nuns, which means Mary Robert was a postulant (no wimple, short skirt, white blouse); she would move up to being a novice (full habit with white veil), then take full vows and receive a black veil. [Movie - so obvious but included for the funny over-analysis]

13. Though all the boys were yummy to look at they'd have nothing if it wasn't for their daddy. I love everything about Ben. His personality, his fatherly ways, his wisdom and intelligence. Physically well... there is of course that deep soothing baritone voice, that gorgeous head full of silver hair (and chest hair to match!), that drop dead smile and those piercing brown eyes. [TV Show]

14. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, she is wonderful, talented.. I don't have words.. There aren't words to explain how is ____*!! I really love her, like a mom and she is my biggest inspiration to do everything!! [Actress - Movie credits include Beethoven]

15. Ow there is so many [favorite episodes] for me. Umm lets see... Welcome to the Hellmouth Pt1 & Pt2, Puppet Show (I love Syd), Prophacy Girl, Dark Age, Passion, What's My Line Pt1 & Pt2, Halloween, Ted, Becoming Pt2, Graduation Day Pt1, Anne, The Gift, Chosen [TV Show]

16. The quote is "don't need any, ____'s so predictable and stupid the man comes straight ahead he's tailor made for me and he's gona get hurt!" [Movie]

How well did you do? Read the first comment to find out!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Liberal" Year for Oscars?

As an avid Oscarwatcher, I felt like I should give my 2 cents into the controversy regarding the liberal slant to the Oscars this year. Please read (one of my fave websites), if you are not familiar with this controversy.


I have seen 3 of the 5 nominated movies this year (Brokeback Mountain, Crash, and Capote). I have not seen Good Night and Good Luck (it was not open at any nearby theaters) or Munich (I have not had much time to go to the movies in the past couple months, the one time I did was to see BBM).

BBM does seem to have an agenda to me. The agenda of the movie is to help to integrate homosexuality into mainstream society, so that gays are not treated differently from straights, and people will become more comfortable with gays **NOTE that I am not saying that this is the only purpose of the film, or that this is why the film is acclaimed, or that the film is not good on it's own merits. I personally enjoyed the film very much, and agree that it is not really about homosexuality per se, but about alienation and relationships. However, I do feel that is an agenda of the film. Many people find that to be a noble agenda, some do not. To say "At most, BM's political agenda is as follows: (1) Gay people really do fall in love, even gay cowboys; (2) It's probably not right to kill gay people (although no character actually says that)." [quote taken from an Oscarwatch comment], which to me seems to imply that people who are troubled by the movie want to kill gays, is very shortsighted and insulting, IMO. To wonder if the movie would have done well w/o gay characters is missing the point entirely, because the sexual orientation of the main characters is essential to the movie. Take that away, and you have a totally different movie, from a plot and artistic standpoint.

Capote, as many have said, has a gay main character because the guy was gay in real life. His sexual orientation is entirely incidental to the film.

GNGL I haven't seen, but Clooney has certainly made it no secret his political agenda in the film.

Munich I haven't seen and decline to comment on.

Crash clearly has an agenda, but more of a social agenda than political one. Nevertheless, the whole idea and concept of the movie (challenging racism in today's society, etc.) is more of an inherently liberal notion. Everybody is against racism, but as far as is my experience, conservatives seem to take a much lesser view of how much racism is present in today's culture. Some people think that this movie challenges these very people, which is fine. But not EVERYBODY goes to movies to be challenged, and many people in articles and commentary I have read seem to imply that this makes them lesser people or lesser moviewatchers or something. That is not true, in my opinion.

The FACT is that the majority of the most highly acclaimed films of the year were liberal movies with some agenda or another (almost every movie has SOME agenda). To ask if a conservative movie with the same quality would be nominated is an uninteresting hypothetical. It is not outside the realm of statistical chance that the best movies of this year merely happened to be political in nature, given that:

1) The majority of people in Hollywood are liberal and many are vocally political. Many liberal political films get made ever year, while relatively few conservative ones do.
2) Most movie critics are liberal as well. Roger Ebert, for one example, makes no bones about how he rates films higher when he agrees w/ their political agenda, as arguably should be the case.
3) Most of the non-political Oscar frontrunners or Oscar bait movies this year failed on a critical and commercial level, for a variety of reasons.

In fact, even if one of the films or more were removed, it would likely be replaced w/ The Constant Gardner (obvious political agenda), Walk the Line (no political agenda at all), or maybe History of Violence (possible political agenda is arguable).

In general, I think most of the arguments I've seen don't really hit the heart. The fact is it is generally impossible to separate a film's inherent artistic quality from it's agenda. The message and takeaway theme of a movie is one of the central aspects of it's quality..."Does the movie ultimately add up to anything?" is a central question that I think most people ask leaving a movie. And if you do agree with a movie's message, I see no reason to think that would not improve your opinion of the film's overall quality. Again, since most of Hollywood is liberal, this will benefit liberal films more than conservative ones.

Overall Conclusion:I doubt the movies nominated this year represent some paradigm shift. There were more political films released this year than last (possibly statistical chance, possibly heightened political atmosphere). Obviously the political movies released are going to be more liberal in nature than conservative. Note that in general I do not like the terms liberal and conservative, I am just using them here to illustrate my point. A look at the films suspected to be Oscar frontrunners next year, shows few political films. Especially, as I said above, that the non-political Oscar bait (Jarhead, Cinderella Man, Memoirs of a Geisha) seemed to do more poorly than expected with critics, and King Kong, expected to be a frontrunner, lost steam with its disappointing blox office numbers.

The "liberal slant" is probably overblown. I count 4 among the 20 acting nominees who play gay characters. This is a high number, but it is not statistically unlikely at all. Looking at the best actress nominees, I see that 4 of them play in movies that have no agenda objectionable to red state America (all except Felicity Huffman).

I think the tone of most of what I have read, from both the liberal and conservative sides have been very condescending towards the other side, and have done very little to advance any real debate.


Sorry for this, back to your regularly scheduled inane blathering later...