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10.25.10 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW

On the art of stretching…

No, I’m not referring to yoga. I’m currently at a lovely juncture in my young career of making a bit of a left turn, finally getting the opportunities that have more to do with my intended future and less to do with my fantastic past (I’ve liked life so far, what can I say). But it’s gotten me to think about that moment when artists take a distinct left turn in their career and often find themselves criticized for trying something that doesn’t quite fit into the box of their previous output. Thankfully my life and career aren’t under a microscope, so my turn will have zero bearing on any of you, except that it’ll continue to make me happy, which in turn aught to make at least some of you readers out there happy.

These first thoughts struck me after reading reviews of Sugarland’s new album The Incredible Machine which many have said is a clear attempt at anthemic stadium rock. Having recently seen them in Virginia on tour in a live show that made me ecstatic, especially when they covered Mumford & Sons “Sigh No More” alongside their opening act, Little Big Town. So what’s so wrong with trying something a little new? To my ears, this album is an enjoyable continuation of their evolution as something between country and pop that is often sappy, often too catchy and above all else, enjoyable. If you really want to take offense, have issues with the lead singer finding her reggae soul in the first single “Stuck Like Glue.” I love it, but I can see why someone might object.

That sent me down memory lane to a horrifying moment in the long and multi-faceted career of the icon of all icons, Madonna. I might be the only person who looked past the pathetic rap stylings on the much reviled American Life album, which to this day, I will assert contains some beautifully written songs of a caliber higher than the usual find-the-next-hit trend. Go figure, we all have varying taste, I just like to think mine, by the end of history, will prove to be right. Which quickly flashed me back to a time when I wasn’t alive, when the incredible ingénue Barbra Streisand moved from standards to rock. I can’t think of anything I love more than hearing her proclaim that she was raised on the good book Jesus in Lara Nyro’s stupendous “Stoney End.” And I must admit I start many a morning listening to the awesome tracks on Barbra Joan Streisand, an album that covers three glorious songs from Carole King along with a smattering of other odd delights, including the mash-up of Burt Bachrach’s “One Less Bell to Answer/A House is Not a Home.”

But these are just evolutions of taste and genres. And in the case of Madonna, I would like to acknowledge how long she has remained relevant through reinvention. Like it or not, even if you think her taste level and her scary yoga defined arms (I knew I could work yoga back in here somehow) are repulsive, she has an unbelievable knack for staying afloat and often staying ahead of the trends that she then sets. And in a culture that constantly demands the next thing, how can you not make that left turn in your career? Doing the same thing over and over again is as boring for the audience as it must be for the artist (although recent albums from Rod Stewart, Michael Buble and Barry Manilow make me think money might be directly related to artistic inertia).

And then there are people who break out of a much greater mold, like Justin Timberlake who people seem to be on the fence as to whether or not he’s a valid actor. While I loved The Social Network, I will admit that I wasn’t totally sold on his performance as Sean Parker. A lot of that opinion actually came from feeling like he wasn’t acting and just playing some form of his uber-successful self. The only reason I know that this isn’t quite right is because the man has shown good sensibilities and chops in the total flop (that I found fascinating) Southland Tales. His brief screen time is rather transcendent and added yet another layer of so-disastrous-you-have-to-watch-it intrigue.

Long story short, thank god people take the risk to push their career forward. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have art, we’d have more Britney Spears than we could possibly know what to do with, and where would that leave culture?


MOVIE Hereafter – Clint Eastwood makes an odd attempt at multiple plot storytelling that is too contrived to be convincing, but it has its moments, there’s no doubt about that given the tears in my eyes… B-

MUSICAL La Cage aux Folles – Why is this back on Broadway? What era do we live in? I’ve never understood this Jerry Herman disaster, but at least the previous revival had enough sequins to distract me. This one just left me cold… C


FOOD Bricca – apparently food does exist out of NYC, who knew? This Connecticut eatery is serving up fanciful Italian fare. But we all know the real way to my heart is through dessert, and thanks to an excellent olive oil gelato, my meal was capped perfectly…A-

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