The Bizarrest Christmas Albums of 2013

That magical season is upon us again… when all the execrable Christmas albums are released. This year has seen festive albums by middle-of-the-road singers, such as Kelly Clarkson and Martina McBride, but also from artists that you might not expect. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the most unlikely Christmas albums of 2013. Have I listened to any of these records? No, of course not.

The Robertson Family – Duck the Halls

For those who don’t know, the Robertsons are the stars of an American reality TV show called Duck Dynasty. They are a salt-of-the-Earth tribe (they’re the guys in the header image), who made a fortune from duck hunting products, and bought themselves a mansion. Quite why they need their own TV series, let alone a spin-off album, I have no idea. It’s an album of standards, including the odious “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, but there are some new tracks, such as “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas”. That’s soon to be a classic, I’m sure.

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Lady Gaga – ARTPOP Liveblog

Whenever there’s a disaster, there’s always someone liveblogging it; so why not with a disastrous album? Some records don’t warrant several listens and a lot of consideration; your gut reaction to the cavalcade of awfulness is enough. One such record is Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP? I listened the whole damn thing and wrote my reactions as I went along. I did the same for her last album, Mother Monster’s Fame Goblin (or whatever it was called), and I thought it worked pretty well. You don’t need to listen to the album as you read this blog; hopefully it’ll work well enough on its own…

1) Aura

0.15 So far, it sounds like she’s going for a mariachi band sound. Bit of a change of direction, but better than her other stuff.

0.50 Maniacal laughing now. She’s finally cracked. It was bound to happen.

1.15 Ooh, I think that was what the kids call a ‘drop’. Exciting! I think this might be Dubstep.

2.45 [Reading the lyrics sheet] Oh, this song is all about wearing a burqa. She’ll get letters.

3.45 Overall, this sounds like some gawd-awful Balearic club hit that made its way to civilisation.

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10 Music-Related Facts That Will Make You Feel Old

Ben Folds once sang: “Seconds pass slowly / and years go flying by”, and truer words have never been sung. Because I’m a cruel, cruel man, I’ve compiled a list of ten facts from the world of music that will make you feel like life is quickly passing you by…

The youngest member of Hanson is married with three children

Zac Hanson, the band’s drummer, was only twelve when “MMMBop” was released. So fresh-faced was this little mite, that many people mistook him for a girl. As he sold millions of records, and was one of the youngest people ever to get nominated for a Grammy, I’m sure he didn’t lose any sleep over it. He was married in 2006 and had his first child in 2008.

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Review: Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe’s 2010 album The ArchAndroid was many people’s album of the year, including mine. It was a big seller, and also a remarkable musical achievement in that it seemed to defy categorisation. It appealed to both fans of contemporary R&B and prog-rockers, who aren’t so much warring factions as two alien species unaware of each other’s existence. So, to say that this follow-up album was “much anticipated” is an understatement.

If you only know of Monáe from her kinetic singles, e.g. “Tightrope” and “Cold War”, you might be surprised by how ambitious her longer release are. Her first EP and her two albums are suites (acts) in an overarching story. The narrative centres on an android called Cindi Mayweather, who becomes a sort of robot messiah. Telling a story over multiple releases is an interesting concept, but I challenge anybody to follow the story without resorting to reading the lyrics. I’ve never really been able to follow the plot, but it seems even more difficult to grasp this time around.

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Wagner – The Original Neckbeard

A neckbeard, in literal terms, is hair covering the neck but not the face (see above). However, the term is often used to describe the kind of person who chooses to sport such a facial abomination. Neckbeards are self-satisfied nerds who wear fedoras and read the novels of Orson Scott Card. They can usually be found on message boards, complaining about immigration and “misandry”. Many people think that the Neckbeard phenomenon is a fairly recent one, perhaps dating back to no earlier than the invention of modem. However, I have discovered a much earlier specimen: Richard Wagner, the subject of the above painting.

Below are six reasons why Wagner was the original Neckbeard…

1)    He loved mythology

Wagner’s Ring Cycle is said to have been a huge influence on J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Neckbeard’s favourite book, Lord of the Rings. Both works feature the fight for a ring of power that corrupts those who use it. This wasn’t Wagner’s only brush with mythology; Wagner’s first opera Die Feen has shades of Arwen and Aragorn, it being the story of a woman from the fairy world who marries a mortal king.

2)    He had a high opinion of himself

Okay, I suppose this one goes without saying. Anybody who writes a fifteen-hour-long opera cycle could hardly be called unpretentious. He believed that his works were so superior that they were a whole new form of expression, which referred to as “complete works of art”. This egomania led to a sense of entitlement: “The world owes me a living,” he claimed. And when he misbehaved (which did often), he didn’t believe he could be judged by the same standards of everybody else, because he was an artist.

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Nicki Minaj Considered (No, really!)

The A.V. Club has a great feature called “Hatesong”, in which a famous person talks about a pop single that really annoys them. This got me thinking about what I would choose if I were well-known enough to be interviewed for this feature. I was having some trouble, but then the repressed memory of Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” came crawling back into my mind. If you don’t know of it, you can experience the horror of the video, below.

I still can’t get over what a staggeringly awful “song” it actually is. It’s so asinine that it almost defies analysis, but through the red mist of rage, I’ve written some semi-coherent thoughts about it, and Minaj in general.

The Singer

It’s hard to believe that Minaj is a real person. For starters, she looks entirely CGI, but also her whole career seems feels like a cheap marketing ploy. I’m sure that a few years ago, in the offices of Global-Hyper Records, some middle-aged record executives had the following conversation…

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Ani DiFranco’s Overlooked Classic

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is considered by many to be something of a cultural artefact or even a joke, but there’s no denying that it was a huge-selling record. So it’s a source of some irritation to me that there was a much better album released within a month of it that very few people have heard of: Ani DiFranco’s Not a Pretty Girl.

I make the comparison between the two records not simply because both were recorded by forthright North American women, but because they have a similar sound and tone. But I think DiFranco’s songs have much more depth than Alanis’s straightforward tunes. Basically, if Jagged Little Pill is music for Starbucks then this album is music for that cool coffee independent coffee shop that has a name like “Foam.”

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John, Paul, George, Ringo… and Peter?

Along with being the most revered rock band of all time, The Beatles are probably the most parodied. Their distinctive songs, accents, haircuts, and clothes, were all ripe for satire. However, there have been many poor spoofs of the “Fab Four” over the years, mainly by kneejerk reactionaries in the 60s and those looking for lazy laughs of recognition.

Peter Serafinowicz is a very funny man, a skilled impressionist, and a big fan of his fellow Liverpudlians, which is why his Beatles spoofs are some of the greatest ever. He’s done a good many over the years, but here’s five of the best…

I’ll Kill

Serafinowicz has done a few videos for Funny or Die UK, including this song which shows that Paul McCartney might not be the loveable guy he makes himself out to be.

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