Monday, February 22, 2010

Of Pietropoli and Nickelback: The Worst of the Best

The other night, my seven-year-old son leapt up and down on the couch watching Shaun White win the men’s halfpipe. The guy had wrapped up the gold and then did an unnecessary third run and bested himself with a 48.4 score out of 50! Amazing!

How about that Manuel Pietropoli, though?


Yeah, he also competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In the halfpipe. While White glided to glory, Pietropoli stunk up the joint with a 9.3 in his first qualifying run and a 5.2 in his second. He’s what you might call “the worst of the best.”

I saw a comedian years ago do a hilarious routine about a runner in the Olympics. The comedian jogged in place at the mike, pondering what the last place runner might be thinking. “Four years. Four years I trained for this. So that I could be in last place. Last place. I could have done nothing and come here and taken last place.”

Pietropoli may have come in last place (although technically a 40th contestant didn’t take either run – don’t know why) and may be a punch line, but here’s the reality: he’s still an OLYMPIAN. I often joke about how much more impressive the Olympics would be if average Joes like me competed side by side with the world’s best. Watch me flip head over heels a couple times right into the back of an ambulance or a hearse and Manuel will look like a superstar. Which, of course, he is.

By now, you’re checking the name of this blog, thinking “did this change to Dave’s Sports Database? Uh, no. This entry is dedicated to the Manuel Pietropoli’s of the music world. If Shaun White is the Sgt. Pepper of the halfpipe world, then Pietropoli is the…Nickelback. That’s right. An also ran. A mocked contender. But one that still gets to boast of being one of the elite.

Dave’s Music Database Top 1000 Albums of All Time are determined by the consolidation of hundreds of best-of-all-time album lists mixed in with sales figures, chart numbers, and album ratings from critics. The resulting list showcases a lot of the expected “winners” on top of the leader board. But what about the bottom?

If you sort all 1000 albums by critics’ ratings, the bottom ten of the list are the duds that sold by the bucket loads even as they made music snobs wince. Here’s the thing to remember, though – no matter how Pietropoli-like the scores, these albums still made the big time – the “musical Olympics.” They may be overshadowed by the Shaun White’s of the music world, but they still bested thousands of others who didn’t even make the cut.

These albums may be flash-in-the-pans, but each represents a spot on the musical landscape. You may wretch at the impact of Garth Brooks or the Spice Girls (neither of which makes this list), but they sold hoards not just because they were well marketed, but because they tapped into the public conscience. Throw your nose in the air in disgust, but the unwashed masses say you’re wrong. They scooped ‘em up – and, if you’re honest, chances are there’s something on this list that you bought as well. I’ll admit to owning three of them, but danged if I’ll admit which ones.

Enough talk. Here’s the * ahem * slightly less than the cream of the crop:

10. Elvis Presley – Blue Hawaii (1961)
9. Celine Dion – The Colour of My Love (1993)
8. New Kids on the Block – Hangin’ Tough (1988)
7. Celine Dion – Let’s Talk about Love (1997)
6. Genesis – We Can’t Dance (1991)
5. MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em (1990)
4. Backstreet Boys – Black & Blue (2000)
3. Britney Spears – Baby One More Time (1999)
2. Nickelback – All the Right Reasons (2005)
1. Vanilla Ice – To the Extreme (1990)

Congrats to all the competitors. You didn’t win, but despite what anyone says, you didn’t lose either.

Also check out Dave’s Music Database on Facebook.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Now Presenting the Half Time Show Starring the Theme Songs of CSI

I can’t shake this image of a CBS board meeting in which the discussion turns to entertainment for the Super Bowl Half Time show. Some smart alec suggests CBS find a way to shamelessly plug their shows. Everyone shifts in their chairs uncomfortably, feigning disgust while wiping the spittle from the corners of their lips as they salivate at the thought. Some genius quickly notes, “well, all three of our CSI shows use theme songs by The Who,” followed by the observation that in recent years the NFL has shown a distinct fondness for what we’ll politely call “heritage acts.” (Personal note: I’d much rather watch The Who or Springsteen or The Stones than Jonas Brothers or Miley Cyrus, but I don’t represent the younger audience typically coveted by the Boob Tube).

Ta-dah! Someone’s on the phone to the management of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey and their who-the-heck-are-they fill-ins for drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. At this point, Who critics launch into well-rehearsed arguments that the band shoulda hung it up three decades ago when a drug overdose sent Moon to the great rock and roll beyond. When illegal substances also took out Entwistle nearly a quarter century later, Townshend and Daltrey should have happily taken their senior discounts at the local multiplex and started hitting local diners for the early bird specials.

This is the kind of rallying argument that is roughly like supporting the fight against poverty or homelessness. There isn’t really anyone arguing FOR poverty or homelessness, is there? Similarly, rock music fans don’t argue in favor of, ahem, “heritage acts” milking their catalogs for every ounce of profit even if it means the star who leapt off speaker towers forty years ago is now breaking a hip when he slips off the stage.

The naysayers can whine about how good the Who were back in ’64 when they first started out, but I say, at age 64 if Townshend still wants to flail his arm around in that iconic windmill pose, then damned be the retirement home. Rock musicians are strangely held to a different standard than musicians from other genres. To my knowledge, the blues world hasn’t called for B.B. King to quietly put Lucille in her guitar case and back away. I’m not aware of anyone crying foul that Willie Nelson still trots out on stage night after night in his bandana and braided ponytails. Yet people cringe when an old fogie (are there young fogies?) who once wrote “hope I die before I get old,” uh, well, doesn’t.

The problem is how rock and roll was born out of the celebration of youth. The Beatles broke up before any of them hit their thirties. Jimi Hendrix is permanently frozen in time at age 27. Buddy Holly was tragically taken before his time because, well, the rock and roll legend-making machine said it was his time.

Let’s be real here, though. Rock and roll has also always been about making money and – believe it or not – making music. There's also the whole sex and drugs thing, but that's another blog entry. Why should anyone be faulted for doing what they know how to do and taking home a paycheck because of it? I say let the Pete Townshends of the world still perform, even when they need a walker to get on stage and a teleprompter to remember words they’ve belted out thousands of times before. I’d rather The King didn’t take his final breath on the toilet at 42. I’d prefer that the looney bin got a hold of Mark David Chapman pre-December 8, 1980. I wish the Lizard King hadn’t drowned in his bathtub, that “Me and Bobby McGee” hadn’t been a posthumous #1, and that Neil Young’s lyric “better to burn out than to fade away” wouldn’t evoke the image of a grunge god and a shotgun.

Rock and roll is littered with too many casualties whose untimely deaths were investigated by real CSI units. If the Who want to sing the CSI theme song for a possible audience of 100 million, then more power to them. Here’s hoping that all our living rock legends get a chance to milk the line “hope I die before I get old” for every last ounce of irony.

Also check out Dave's Music Database on Facebook, where a top 10 best songs of the Who list has been posted.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Justin Bieber charted with “Baby”: February 6, 2010

image from

Writer(s): Justin Bieber/Christopher “Tricky” Stewart/Terius “The-Dream” Nash/Christopher Bridges/Christina Milan (see lyrics here)

First charted: 6 February 2010

Peak: 5 US, 3 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.7 US, 0.4 UK, 6.4 world

Radio Airplay (in millions): 0.1 Video Airplay (in millions): 828.0

Review: Justin Bieber became a YouTube sensation who hit the U.S. charts in 2009 with all seven cuts from his My World EP. The following year he released his first full-length album, My World 2.0, preceded by the single “Baby.” It became his first top ten hit in the United States and reached a similar pinnacle in other countries. It went to #1 in France. WK

The team of Christopher “Tricky” Stewart and Terius “The-Dream” Nash wrote the song with Bieber, having previously worked on his song “One Time” as well as Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and BeyoncĂ©’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” They contacted label mate Ludacris to add a rap to the song. He had his doubts about rapping on a teenager’s song about puppy love, but said he knew the song was a hit when he heard it and could get into it when he imagined himself back at that age. Lamb applauded the results, saying, “Ludacris demonstrates raps in a pop hit can be charming and safe for young children to hear.” WK’s Bil Lamb said the song was “the best vehicle yet for Justin Bieber’s sweet, soulful voice.” WK Billboard’s Melanie Bertoldi said the song’s “undeniably contagious chorus should keep Bieber’s tween fan base satisfied” WK and Rolling Stone’s Jody Rosen said the song “blends winks at Fifties doo-wop with hip-hop chants.” WK

The video was even bigger, becoming the most viewed video in YouTube history by that summer. It held the title until late 2012 when it was passed by Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” WK Bieber said the video, which was primarily set in a mall bowling alley, would tap into the “song’s message of trying to woo back a girl.” WK Ludacris compared the video to Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel;” MTV concurred saying “the choreography does use a few of Jackson’s less-suggestive moves,” WK including the famous moonwalk. Billboard said, “those new dance moves he’s showing off can only mean one thing: all over the world, tweens’ hearts are melting right now.” WK

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