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J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 2007; 2:00 PM

Washington Post music critic J. Freedom du Lac is online every Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET to talk about the latest on the music scene: alternative, country, alt-country, pop, hyphy, harp-rock, reggae, reggaeton, R and B and whatever it is that Britney Spears does.

A transcript follows.

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J. Freedom du Lac: Hola, peeps. Very exciting week for us here at Freedom Rock central. For one thing, Live Nation has announced a Barry Manilow concert at [Insert Telcom Company Name Here] Center in February. "An Evening of Music and Passion," according to the announcement. As if the music wouldn't be enough! All he does is give.

Also: Producer David lost his bet with me and has to go to one of the Wiggles concerts tomorrow. He'll be attending the afternoon show (they call that WORK?!) and then reporting back to us on his findings. Said report will appear next week on our new music blog.

Yes, it's true -- we finally got clearance from the web-traffic-control tower (and the legal penthouse, too) to launch the thing. It should be going live on Monday -- weather and webmaster permitting. You should be able to find it at washingtonpost.com/music. We'll talk more about the blog next week, once it actually exists. But just know that you can look forward to, among other things, interviews, bonus album reviews and, best of all, a funny weekly feature from Producer David that I'm hoping he'll call "The Two-Minute Man."

Let's roll.

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Stevie?: I just cannot believe that you neglected to review last week's Stevie Wonder concert. He is an American Treasure that hasn't been on tour in a decade. The show was marvelous. Ask any of the fans who filled the Verizon Center. You blew it.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nah, we didn't blow it. We just didn't want to repeat ourselves. When Stevie played Baltimore, Chris Richards wrote a rave that anchored the Style front on Tuesday, Sept. 18 --- complete with a (roughly) 6 x 8 photo of Stevie standing on the piano.
The Verizon Center show was, indeed, marvelous. But it's the same tour, and the set list was more or less the same: I believe he subtracted "Lately," added "Master Blaster," made one or two other tweaks -- and shortened the show by about 15 minutes. Otherwise, it was a repeat of the Baltimore concert.
We At The Washington Post agree that Stevie is an American treasure. If the Library of Congress awards him with the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song next year, we'll absolutely cover it -- just as I covered the ASCAP award he received on Capitol Hill in the spring.

washingtonpost.com: Signed, Sealed, Inspired; Stevie Wonder, on Tour Again and Delivering A Show for the Ages

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Columbia, Md.: I watched Runnin' Down a Dream over the last three nights. I think that minus the home video crap and too much footage from the Gainesville concert, it could have been really good. What really struck me though is how good every song was (aside from maybe Jammin' Me).

Is Tom Petty underrated? After watching, I'm thinking maybe he is as good of a songwriter as Springsteen or Elvis Costello. I think maybe his highs are not as high, but clearly his lows are not as low (Lucky Town or Juliet Letters anyone?).

It also reminded me that Mike Campbell is just a fantastic guitarist. His tone and restraint are just amazing!

J. Freedom du Lac: It could have been good, but not great -- unless Petty actually opened up and talked about the source of the songs. If you're not going to shed light on that sort of thing, then you don't deserve two hours on my TV screen - let alone four. I also wish the relationship between Petty and Campbell would have been explored a little bit more. I needed to hear more about their relationship. Less Steve Ferrone and more Mike Campbell please.
I do think that Petty is underrated. I've said as much In This Very Space previously. Also said it in the review of the documentary. And I quote (myself):
"He's ... been somewhat underrated throughout his career."
As good as Springsteen or Costello? Not to me. Probaly more consistent, though. Which I think is what you, too, are saying here.



washingtonpost.com: Runnin' on Empty: Lots of Details, Little Meaning in Tom Petty Documentary

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Washington, D.C.: Any dirt/gossip on why the Decemberists canceled their tour. I know they said because of a member's illness. Is this the real reason? Do you know who and how serious?

J. Freedom du Lac: I haven't followed this news closely, other than to read the original announcement. As you may or may not know, I have a serious Decemberists blind spot. I'm just not smart enough to like them, I think.

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Rockville, Md.: There are so many Solo'ists, Duo's, Trio's, and Bands in the area that have amazing talent, but never seem to get the support of the local press. What are you willing to do to help these artists out? Let's name a few...Janine Wilson, Paul Lewis, Lori Kelly & Cletus Kennely, Soul Gravity, Fools & Horses, Vicky Nova, and Tom Principato (just a few of the names).

J. Freedom du Lac: I'm not sure it's my job to help anybody but our readers. If I come across a local artist who I think is worth writing about, I'll try to find a way to do it. But the standards are more or less the same as they are for national and international artists. There's no real hometown discount.

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Plant/Prine: Hey Free,

Music has finally come full circle. On the new Plant/Krauss CD, Plant is singing a John Prine song on "Killing the Blues". Who would have thought such a pairing would ever exist?

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, it's not all THAT strange since T Bone Burnett produced the project. And he knows from Americana music. (Though Prine didn't actually write that song, did he? I think it's a Roly Salley piece.) What would be TRULY weird would be Prine singing with Plant. Can you imagine? Yeah, me neither.

washingtonpost.com: "Raising Sand," Robert Plant & Alison Krauss review

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Washington, D.C.: I read Stewart Copeland's answer about changing up the songs instead of giving the fans what they want and I couldn't help but shake my head. That is the precise reason why I did not buy tickets to the show tonight. The version of ROXANNE from the Grammys was slow and strange and I continually heard from my friends around the country that the new treatments of songs like DON'T STAND SO CLOSE TO ME were wretched. If they weren't going to give me what I wanted then I wasn't going to give them my money, no matter how long I've been waiting for the band to reunite.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's a difficult thing to grapple with, I suppose. Damned if they do, bored if they don't. The downshifting of tempos and the jazzed-up, spaced-out arrangements of some of the old warhorses -- that's just how Sting has been rolling for some time now, in his post-Police existence. And it seems that he brought that new sensibility back to the band. From what I read about rehearsals and the early part of the tour, there were definitely some, shall we say, intense discussions about the new treatments. Some fans really love them. Many others, such as yourself, don't. I personally think that some of the tweaks stripped the songs of their spark, throwing water where there was once fire.

washingtonpost.com: The Police, Still Playing by Their Rules; Stewart Copeland Discusses the Reunion, The Tour and His Rock-Out Face

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Glen Ellyn, Ill.: Mr. Free,

Any musical suggestions for someone breaking up with his girlfriend of five-plus years?

This is an amicable split, so "Here, My Dear" is out.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, how about music that has nothing to do with romance? As Brian Wilson likes to say: Why wallow in the mire? Listen to some bomb-throwing agritpop, like Rage Against the Machine or M.I.A. or something. Or maybe some funny country music, Brad Paisley or Roger Miller. Or, you can go instrumental. I think Chris Richards has a Windham Hill box set that he'd be happy to let you borrow.

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Washington, D.C.: I was on the floor for the Police last night. Was it me, or was the sound a little barn-like? It got better as the show went on, but was never great.

J. Freedom du Lac: You'll have to tell me. I skipped it, having seen the Virgin Festival set. Once was enough, I thought.

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Fairfax, Va.: J Free - I'm in a bind. I've never seen Bruce and the E Street Band before and am going to see him on Sun. I've been offered tix to see him Monday as well and Neil Young on Thurs but I can only choose one. Bruce (again) or Neil - Who would you pick and why?

J. Freedom du Lac: I'd see Bruce again. His second-night sets are often better than the first. Plus, I'm not sure how Neil's current band will come across live. I like the new album just fine, but I'd have greater faith that he'll/they'll deliver a suprelative live show if he was out with the full Crazy Horse crew. I think Bruce with the E Street Band is a better bet. Plus, Verizon's acoustics aren't as bad as Constitution Hall's. (Lesser of two evils, for sure.) But what I'm wondering is why you can only see one of the two shows between Bruce on Monday and Neil on Thursday. Can't you go to both? Blow off your commitments. Surely, your kids/significant other/boss/client/parole officer/kickball team/tuba instructor/concubine/etc. will understand.

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Olney, Md.: Thanky for the Stewart Copeland interview. Good stuff. Two quick questions -

1. How do you prep for an interview like that? Do you have your questions written out in front of you, or do you have a mental check-list? Sorry for the inside baseball question, but I was envisioning me interviewing Stewart, and I'd be terrified of coming off like that SNL skit where Chris Farley interviewed Macca ("So, like, then you guys did the White Album, and it was, like, great...")

2. Did the Nixon (enemies) list refer to a phrase involving rats and procreation?

J. Freedom du Lac: You're welky. He plays very, very well with others. Well, maybe not with Sting. But he gives great quote.

That was a tough one to prep for since I was only getting 15 minutes with him. That's not a lot of time, so I scripted the whole thing and tried to stick to that. It made for some awkward sudden right turns, but I don't think he minded. I didn't ask follow-ups where I would have if we'd had more time, either. But them's the breaks.

My approach is different, too, when I'm doing an interview that is going to run as a Q&A. I can't, for instance, ask 200-word questions, which I sometimes do. I have to work a lot harder to set the questions up correctly.

When I'm spending more time with a subject, and it's for a profile, I just make a check-list and go from there. Sometimes, I do ask weird Chris Farley-like questions. I had a couple moments like that with Brian Wilson, but I was doing it on purpose, trying to draw him out on a particular subject -- which isn't always the easiest thing, as he can be sort of short with his answers.

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Columbia, Md.: Stewart Copeland looks like one of the Muppets. I guess it would be Animal, they both play the drums.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes! And I think he'd probably agree. He was pretty funny about the whole weird-drummer-face thing when I asked about it.

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Silver Spring, Md.: So what is it about you that should make all of us care about what you say or write?

From your answers it seems to me that you're out of touch and not very good at what you do. Have a nice day!

J. Freedom du Lac: You figured me out. Damn.

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Washington, D.C.: So Ticketmaster has a listing for Springsteen in 2008 in St. Paul. I guess that kind of answers the question of if he and the band will be doing any more touring.

J. Freedom du Lac: I guess it does. But enough about Bruce -- USA Today's features-section cover story today asks THE most pressing question in the concert biz: "How much would you pay to see Hannah Montana?" The chart that accompanies the story lists the average resale price per ticket for the season's biggest tours.
* Dave Matthews Band: $138
* Garth Brooks: $158
* The Police: $210 (weren't there still tickets available at the box office last night?)
* Van Halen: $215
* Bruce Springsteen: $228
* Bon Jovi: $244 (SERIOUSLY????????)
* Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana: $249 (and I repeat: SERIOUSLY????????)

Do you know how many Wiggles tickets you can buy for $249?

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Washington, D.C.: Does Neil Young still hate the president?

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.

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coverage of local artists: ok, you say if they are worthy, you will cover them; so how many locals (and who) have you actually seen?

J. Freedom du Lac: If I kept records of my show-going schedule, I'd be able to answer this question accurately. But I don't, so I can't.

The answer, though, is: Not as many as you'd want me to. And I haven't heard as many local artists' albums as you'd want me to.

I will say, though -- as I have in the past, when this same subject came up -- that I believe The Post covers more local artists than any other major daily newspaper in the country.

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Verizon Center, VH: I like the way the line runs up the back of the stockings...

Is Diamond Dave the greatest frontman of all time? Yes. Wow.

J. Freedom du Lac: No, Gary Cherone is clearly That Guy.

Actually, I do think that David Lee Roth is on the ballot. Among living performers, I think you also have to include Prince, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and Axl Rose. Tina Turner, too. Though, you know -- she ain't a frontman. And she's more or less retired. So maybe not. I'm sure I'm forgetting somebody (and please, don't bother telling me that Maynard James Keenan is the guy). On this ballot, Prince gets my vote

All time? Maybe Freddie Mercury. Or James Brown. That guy Elvis had a little sumthin' sumthin' going on, too.

washingtonpost.com: Van Halen: Alive and Riffing

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Bruce/Neil: But Neil has seen the needle and the damage done! What has Bruce ever seen?

J. Freedom du Lac: Well, he did see you last night out on the edge of town. But otherwise ...

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Copeland: Good interview with my favorite rock'n roll drummer. Did he say anything about his brothers? He sure has an interesting family.

J. Freedom du Lac: We didn't get around to talking about his sibblings. But yeah, quite an interesting brood. I've interviewed Miles before, for a story about Steven Seagal of all people. For some reason, Miles was managing Seagal's music career. Though that didn't stop him from poking at Seagal for trying to travel like a first-class artist when he's really just a music-biz newbie who should be on a budget.

washingtonpost.com: Kickin' Blues Brother; Steven Seagal, Between Projects: Major Motion Picture And Major Mojo

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Anonymous: I just had to write in to proclaim, WOW DOES COLBIE CAILLAT NOT KNOW HOW TO WORK A CROWD OR WHAT? Her show was the epitome of yawn yawn bore bore last night. I was a huge fan of hers until seeing her lack of personality/stage presence/coolness yesterday. I really wish she would hire a public image consultant. I mean she looked hot and all, but she didn't even show half of her face behind her hat, and she barely even talked to the audience at all, or waved or made eye contact or anything. She kept swaying real seriously to the music with her hand moving on beat, as if she were Mariah Carey or something. Dude. Your voice isn't THAT good, and you can let loose a little. It was like she might as well have had her CD playing and had the out of tune girl behind me singing karaoke style. It would have been more entertaining.

J. Freedom du Lac: Any Colbie fans out there wish to offer a dissenting opinion?

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Washington, D.C.: After all the times you recommended the High Dials, I finally listened to their 2005 disc. Very good. Reminded me of the pre-grunge Madchester music I listened to in college. Can we expect a new album from them soon? And is it just me, or do they have a lower profile in the States than some other Canadian indie bands?

J. Freedom du Lac: Great psych-pop, no? Last I heard, they were working on a new album, which I suspect will be out in 2008. The working title was "Moon Country." Very low profile here. I think there were maybe two dozen people at DC9 when I saw them there.

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Um: Why is Jamie Foxx performing at the CMAs?

J. Freedom du Lac: Because Ray Charles made country music for a spell? Not sure. I wondered the same thing.

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Washington, D.C.: The "I'm Not There" soundtrack: it's not that bad, is it?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's a mess, yes.

washingtonpost.com: Dylan Film Soundtrack: It Ain't You, Bob

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Arlington, Va.: In the interest of brevity and allowing you to take more questions, I'll just throw out the main Springsteen queries here.

1. Any more info about future concert dates?

2. What rumors are you hearing about another album? Would it be a live release like they did with the 30th anniversary of Born to Run or new material?

3. Is Bruce Springsteen a victim of expectations, having in the past sung for 3 hours plus, but now only clocking in at about 2 hours and 15 minutes?

4. Any new info about Bruce/Patti's relationship?

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks, appreciate the summary.

1. See above.
2. New material.
3. Yes, but, err....it's not the length of his set, it's the magic he's got in it.
4. No.

We're done with Springsteen for today, no?

I know I'm done with him since he won't talk to me about Brian Wilson. Even though he's totally channeling Brian (and Phil Spector) on a couple of those "Magic" cuts.

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Chris Farley : And don't forget, you have to ask "do you remember when you did (insert song or album)" over and over to really get the Farley interview technique down. And then follow up that question with "that was awesome!"

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, I more or less did that when we were talking about "Pet Sounds." But it's a valid question all things considered, no? I mean, this *is* a guy who had a drug tent in the house... (And the songs ARE awesome!)

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Since someone else already asked about the technical deets of your job, thought I'd throw mine out there: If you're doing a phoner, do you record it, take notes, or transcribe it as they speak? If you record it, do you transcribe the whole interview or just some of it? Do you ever go out of your mind transcribing?

J. Freedom du Lac: For phoners, I transcribe as the person speaks -- and then hope there's not a power outage before I can hit save.

I record face-to-face interviews for profiles, and yes, I do go out of my mind transcribing. Especially if the interview subject is Scottish and the site of the interview is a noisy New York restaurant. That was the worst.

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Front Men: Bono? Bon Jovi (apparently, the only literate, articulate member of the band)? Morrissey?

J. Freedom du Lac: Bono is on the ballot, but he loses points for being so incredibly messianic. He also talks too much these days. I hate to keep quoting myself, but what the hell -- this is from my review of the first of the two V-Center shows in 2005:

The man knows from sanctimonious, and something about Washington tickles his strident/self-righteous bone. So Wednesday night, after having spent a good chunk of the afternoon chatting about African debt relief and whatnot with President Bush, Bono took to the stage to filibuster. He talked so much that drummer Larry Mullen set down his sticks and timed the rock-star-slash-activist's rambling, soapboxy introduction to "One."

Pffffft.

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Washington, D.C.: have your feelings on britney's masterpiece changed? gimme more is the best single of the year.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nope. But I did ask Chris Richards for his theory on why we have such divergent opinions on "Blackout."

Herewith, his answer, which he has titled "In Defense of My Defense of Britney Spears" ....

The main rift between our reviews might just boil down to music's relationship to technology. You think Brit's personality gets lost in the songwriting, the (over?)-production, the auto-tuned vocals. I disagree ¿ I think she's in there, somewhere¿

Kraftwerk set the bar for this kind of thing ¿ their soundscape is entirely artificial, yet despite automated declarations of "We are the robots!," there's still a tangible humanness emanating in those grooves. Daft Punk has made some of the liveliest, funkiest music ever recorded, but we never hear their voices - or even see their real faces! On the radio, there's the wonderful T-Pain, a singer who auto-tunes his vocals to almost comedic effect, yet his delivery is heaping with personality. My favorite album of 2006 was Cassie's self ¿titled disc. She would never make it past the first round of "American Idol" tryouts, but I hear a sweet intimacy in her (always pitch-corrected) singing. Part of the pleasure comes in trying to see the person under the glass.

Back to Brit ¿ aside from the hooks on "Blackout" being pretty undeniable, I think her decision to hide in the machine is a wise one. For now. The album isn't ambitious like Justin or Beyonce, it isn't quirky/clever/cute/cloying like Fergie or Gwen Stefani, it isn't the remorseful meltdown we may one day see. For now, it's just an incredibly solid, ballad-free (thank god!) pop album full of superb dance-pop tracks. And that's exactly what I wanted - and way more than I expected - from a Britney Spears album in 2007.

Sorry for the (excessive?) parenthesis and question-mark abuse!

J. Freedom du Lac: (Did he really just compare Britney to Kraftwerk? Dude, lay off the "special salsa" at the veggie burrito cart.)

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RE: So what is it about you that should make all of us care about what you say or write? : Then go somewhere else already.

J. Freedom du Lac: I think I will!

Oh, wait -- you were talking to the poster. I think.

But yes, please go bother Paul Farhi next time. He likes the abuse.

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Washington, D.C.: Having just seen Bruce in Cleveland on Sunday night I wholeheartedly recommend the chatter go to both D.C. shows. I certainly am. Jeez..........just......incredible....I'm still stunned.........

J. Freedom du Lac: Seconding my nomination to see Bruce x 2.

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No.: Britney is not the operator of my pocket calculator.

J. Freedom du Lac: I am actually laughing out loud right now.

I think this is the first great Kraftwerk reference in the history of this chat.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi --

One of the country's greatest bluegrass fiddlers, Jon Glik, is at this moment near death in a Baltimore hospital, awaiting a liver donor (www.jonglik.com). Jon came out of Baltimore to play with all the great bluegrass bands of the past two decades or more. What can you and/or the Post do to publicize this, both the need for a donor and the need for funds to cover his expenses? As it happens, they are seeking a "living" donor with Type O blood. Please use your show - or your influence with the Post -- to publicize this need!! If Jon dies, the Post will surely run an obituary, so why not a story to prevent his death?

J. Freedom du Lac: Passing this along.

Glik has played with Del McCoury, David Grisman, Peter Rowan and many many others from the bluegrass world.

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Richmond, Va.: I, like you, am mystified at the continued drawing power of Bon Jovi. Yes, they had some big, big hits once, but they were clearly of a time, and that time has passed. But they still play real venues when their peers play state fairs and small clubs in Rhode Island. I don't understand it. But I don't understand a lot of things.

Is it because JBJ is, as a specimen, so well preserved?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's just one of those things that's beyond explanation -- sort of like Nickleback standing as the biggest-selling rock band of the last several years, and Rascal Flatts being so incredibly popular, and Chris Richards loving the new Britney Spears.

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Front Men - Bono?: Excellent call - Axl Rose was one of the truly great front men of rock. Better when they were in small venues (Bayou, Hammerjacks 1987) but still able to hold his own headlining RFK in 1992.

What about Bono? I think he belongs on that list also.

Finally - will there be a Post review of the Police show last night?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think I liked Bono: Rock Star better before he was saving the world. Did you see him on "Saturday Night Live" last weekend? At least he knows how to make fun of himself.

Yes on the Police. In tomorrow's paper, unless we, too, go off on a writer's strike. Speaking of which, I hope that thing ends sooner than later as Bettye LaVette is supposed to play on Conan on Nov. 28.

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BritCrit: Lured by the stunningly good reviews from the Post and NY Times, I sampled some of Britney's new album--and realized that you absolutely nailed it. WAY too machine-like. Sort of Metal Machine Music with a beat. Cher did this sort of stuff MUCH better several years ago. I don't care if it's got a beat and you can dance to it--TechnoBrit is completely unlistenable. Thanks for warning us away from it.

J. Freedom du Lac: I swear I didn't write this post myself. No, really.

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Frontmen: I know you wanted to be done with Springsteen for the chat, but . . .

(I will use ellipses in place of actually nominating him.)

J. Freedom du Lac: You're right -- he should be on the ballot. I'm sticking with Prince though. That vote is in permanent ink.

Speaking of the little purple polyglot ... shouldn't he be touring the States soon?

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Bononono: Twenty years ago, Robert Christgau had the definitive line on Bono: "Tune in Bono's vocals and you'll encounter one of the worst cases of significance ever to afflict a deserving candidate for superstardom."

J. Freedom du Lac: Classic Xgau.

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Anonymous: I believe that you wrote the column on "The Moby Factor", in which you, seemingly, condemned ALL Rock/Pop Artists as "sell-outs" for allowing corporations to use their songs for commercials. You are obviously unaware that in 1984 Bruce Springsteen turned down Lee Iacocca's offer of $7 Million to use "Born in the USA" for Chrysler ads, saying, "The song is not about selling cars". In the same year, he had to admonish R. Reagan and the Republicans for playing it at Campaign rallies and for Reagan invoking Springsteen's name at a campaign rally in Hew Jersey. The following night, he dedicated the song "Johnny 99" to Reagan, saying "I don't think he's listened to any of my songs. I'm sure he hasn't heard this one." Show me ONE single commercial that is backed by a Springsteen song.

J. Freedom du Lac: What are you so angry about, and who are you angry with?

I didn't write that piece (Bill Wyman did -- no, not the former Stones bassist; the longtime music journalist). But I think you kind of missed the point, which had more to do with the current state of affairs than 1984. Re-read the piece, please. And stand down. (Not necessarily in that order.)

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washingtonpost.com: How to Calculate Musical Sellouts; As Rockers Cash In, The Moby Quotient Helps to Determine The Shilling Effect

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Messianic Bono: What you say is true, but I've come to see it as part of the entertainment. Imagine if Al Gore could also sing, so that after a long talk about the environment, he would please your ears with some music. Much better than the current all serious, all the time.

With Bono, I get an undeniable kick out of an Irish hambone who can not stop telling the world how to get better when his own country has only just gotten to the point where killing each other is not the number one entertainment. And sometimes, he's right.

J. Freedom du Lac: Irish hambone -- that's ripe.

If Al Gore could sing, I think he'd sound like Cake's John McCrea. Droll and totally monotone. McCrea is way funnier than Al Gore, though.

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Bon Jovi: is hot, and the music is just fun to listen to. But mostly he's hot. I worked with a bunch of young 20-something women who went to see him, and I learned all this from them. Ask any of them to go see Bret Michaels and they'll pass.

J. Freedom du Lac: I'll have to take your word for this.

But that doesn't explain the presence of all the bandana-and-faded-denim wearing dudes who go to the shows. (Or does it?)

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Washington, D.C.: Thoughts on the new Levon Helm album? I've only listened to the first 4 songs, but so far I like what I hear.

J. Freedom du Lac: It's terrific. Very vibrant. I think the fact that he survived throat cancer resulted in some truly inspired sessions. And you can clearly hear echoes of The Band, which is great. Larry Campbell is the secret weapon here. (Also love the Julie Miller harmonies on the Steve Earle cover.)

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Arlington, Va.: I notice that John Mellencamp is on tour. Any chance that he will be playing at a Chevy dealership in the DC area soon? I only get to hear "This Is Our Country" 75 times on Sunday during the NFL telecasts, so I get a hankering for it during the week.

J. Freedom du Lac: Are you saying he's a sellout? That wouldn't be very Springsteenian of him now, would it?

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The Return of Bruno: Any idea when Bruce Willis plans to release the follow-up to his '80s smash solo album? Maybe Don Johnson can even open up for him on the road?

J. Freedom du Lac: To paraphrase Earth, Wind and Fire: Let's hope his singing voice remains unheard until the 12th of never.

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Bon Jovi:: Ever see Triumph The Insult Comic Dog do a report for Conan O'Brien from the Bon Jovi concert? Priceless!! Yes, Jon, you make great music...for me to POOP ON!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, one of Robert Smigel's greatest moments. (Though I still prefer Triumph at the Westminster Kennel Club [the first time] and outside the Star Wars/Phantom Menace screening.)

Bon Jovi was a good sport about it. Not so sure about Heather Locklear, though. Then again, I'm not sure how I'd react if I had a puppet dog humping my shoulder, either.

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Baltimore, Md.: Speaking of local acts, have you seen any recently that you like?

J. Freedom du Lac: I've heard more than I've seen. The one that really has me intrigued is Thao Nguyen's album that's coming out next year on Kill Rock Stars. "We Brave Beestings and All."

washingtonpost.com: Thao Nguyen on MySpace

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Let's hope his singing voice remains unheard until the 12th of never. : Oh, I don't know. I'm seeing a trio, here. Bruce Willis, Don Johnson, William Shatner. Add Hasselhoff and they could tour overseas.

What would they call themselves, though?

J. Freedom du Lac: They couldn't hold Steven Seagal's black belt.

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Fairfax, Va.: Dude, let's not mock Springsteen because he didn't sell out his music or his rabid fans. Honestly, every artist out there would kill for that kind of devotion. But Mellencamp actually defended his action, I think it was on the Daily Show, stating that radio stations wouldn't play his new stuff, so he had to resort to this to be heard.

J. Freedom du Lac: And do you buy that defense? Couldn't he have just licensed some of his music to various/sundry television shows? And if he had to go with a commercial, did it have to be to that particular company, with that particular song? I thought the spot with the civil rights stuff in it was kind of icky. Crass, I think, is the word I'm looking for.

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re selling out: so it's bad to pay musicians for their work?

J. Freedom du Lac: No.

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Washington, D.C.: I find Mellencamp's sell out to be the worst of all. He made his career on his chip-on-my shoulder, screw the record industry attitude and now he is basically ripping off Woody Guthrie to sell trucks!

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes.

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Chantilly, Va.: Saw VH at Verizon and was glad for it. That being said, it will probably be the last concert I attend (save for when Zeppelin comes round these parts). Why? As others have said before me: you can't go home again.

Viewing VH through my aging adult eyes (vs. the teen peepers of yesteryear), I saw the schtick that made them what they (the original VH) were. Sure, they put on a fun show, but after it was all said and done, I'd have much rather been at home playing my guitar. The price I paid didn't equate to the experience I encountered. Maybe it had something to do with the environment. Needless to say, a concert at Verizon Center doesn't come close to matching what the Cap Centre had to offer by way of aesthetics. Give me the Cap Centre any day, even if the facility was a wasteland.

J. Freedom du Lac: Never saw a show at the Cap Centre, so I have no reference point here. But do you really think you'd feel differently about the big shows if they were there instead of Verizon Center? The big rooms are more or less the same to me.

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Arlington, Va.: I attended the Police show and I thought they were great, far better than I expected. The sound was actually very good and excellent stage presentation. But, I thought, the crowd seemed dead. Sting actually seemed kind of frustrated by the lack of crowd response he was getting. Do DC audiences have a reputation of being kind of subdued? I've lived here for a long time and I've always had that impression.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not sure what the national rep of DC audiences is, but I've long felt that the crowds here can be dead. One of the worst, among recent shows, was the Willie Nelson-Merle Haggard-Ray Price audience. Totally flat-lined. Too many similar examples for this not to be a trend.
Now, that isn't always the case. The audience at Arcade Fire at Constitution Hall was incredible. Toby Keith's fans were supercharged at his Nissan show. There's a lot of energy in the room for some of the smaller, sold-out shows (Sufjan Stevens at the 9:30, eg). And certain rooms generally don't seem to suffer from that sort of problem. The Birchmere, for instance.
But I think there may be a here here.

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Washington, D.C.: "now he is basically ripping off Woody Guthrie to sell trucks!"

In Mellencamp's defense, they aren't exactly selling a lot of trucks anymore, but that's another chat entirely...

J. Freedom du Lac: An important clarification.

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re: mellencamp: wouldn't selling his music directly to TV be compatible with his earlier screw the record industry philosophy?

J. Freedom du Lac: In a devil-you-don't-know sort of way, yeah, maybe. But that still doesn't answer the Chevy question.

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Do DC audiences have a reputation of being kind of subdued?: Not when the Cap Centre was here! We've been depressed since it's demise.

J. Freedom du Lac: Really? The venue was that good?

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Union Station, D.C.: No offense intended for Chantilly, but he/she needs to take the rest of their blinders off. The Cap Center was great for its time, but the Baltimore Arena is still better now than the old saddleback was when they finally tore it down. Even when it was younger the facilities were less then spectacular and it was still echoey. The Phone Booth is obviously even more echoey since the roof is flat and metal, but the Cap Center was no great shakes either.

I still vote for Merriweather, 9:30 and the Baltimore Arena as the best music houses around, sound wise.

J. Freedom du Lac: Or was it?

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Richmond, Va.: just what is the argument against John Cougar Mellencamp? I'm no fan of his, but isn't a musician in the business of selling music? Is there a list of "valid" types of venues to sell to? Making CDs is OK, but background music for TV is bad. What about being used as theme music to a political candidate you support? Do the fans vote on that? He's an artist and he sells his work. I got no complaint against him; I sure don't come to work for free. I expect to be compensated.

J. Freedom du Lac: But when an artist licenses his/her music to a commercial, the calculus changes, I think. And when said commercial uses images of Martin Luther King Jr. to sell cars -- what's Mellencamp selling at that point? Is he endorsing the message that somehow MLK = 1.2 APR? If so: Ick. If not: Then he made a mistake in licensing the song in the first place. I think the Chevy commercials are different than, say, the Spinto Band working with Sears. Especially given Mellencamp's history.

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Penn Quarter: re. mellencamp/chevy

to me, it isn't quite as bad as hearing "lust for life" on the carnival cruise lines commercial or "london calling" on the jaguar spots. but it is pretty terrible.

J. Freedom du Lac: Or Janis Joplin pimping on behalf of Mercedes Benz.

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But that still doesn't answer the Chevy question: so it would be OK if it was fords?

I just don't get why some people come down on musicians for actually selling their songs for money. In todays world of free downloads, there are fewer and fewer ways a musician CAN be compensated for his songs. Do we expect them to amuse us for free? Give the dude his money, I'm sure not gonna claim what I do to pay my mortgage is any more saintly.

J. Freedom du Lac: Round and round we go, where we'll stop ...

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some perspective: I once asked a regional actor if she felt her art was too good to do TV ads. She set me straight right away: "honey, anything for a job that IS acting. Anything to keep acting, getting my face out there, not giving up and working at the mall. If I can act for money, I'm luckier than most."

It's an artist's job: selling his songs, acting, paintings for money. It's not selling out, it's work. And most of us would be dang lucky to have it.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not here.

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Re: Mellencamp: If he knew it wasn't going to get airplay, he could've released the album onto the internet. I mean, does anyone really believe that "Magic" was leaked by some nefarious character? There are other ways.

And using people's literal blood, sweat and tears (with that civil rights spot) to sell a truck is just gross.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nor here.

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Downtown WDC: re. selling out:

explain why it's worse for mellencamp to sell out than it is for the beatles, the stones, zepplin, iggy, and the clash.

J. Freedom du Lac: Nor here.

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Mellencamp: I'm disappointed in Johnny Cougar as well, but after I saw Dylan in a Victoria's Secret ad, I realized all bets were off.

J. Freedom du Lac: (Ditto.)

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Richmond, Va.: OK, so we agree it's not bad for a musician to sell his music. So it's bad because it's TV?

J. Freedom du Lac: (")

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Mellencamp: Isn't he also always putting himself out there as an anti-establishment kind of guy? Doing it for the downtrodden?

J. Freedom du Lac: (")

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They couldn't hold Steven Seagal's black belt. : That's not a very catchy band name.

J. Freedom du Lac: How about: Steven Seagal's Chevrolet?


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Especially Janis Joplin : since she had no say in the matter.

J. Freedom du Lac: Kinda like Kurt Cobain.

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river city: glad someone brought up the "sellout" charge. We have one life on this earth and we can spend it listening to good music or bad music. Why not use good music for as much as possible, including elevator music and TV ads? Why do some people who claim to love good music want good musicians to NOT make good music for TV ads and instead we listen to bad music?

Giving me more good music more of the time is not 'selling out,' it's giving me a higher quality of life. Thank you Wilco and VW. Just say no to bad elevator music, folks.

J. Freedom du Lac: And more.

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If he knew it wasn't going to get airplay: does that mean he knew it wasn't very good? If it's good and from someone already established, won't it get some play?

J. Freedom du Lac: In this radio climate? Not necessarily. What commercial format would play him?

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Great breakup album: "Closing Time" by Tom Waits.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, and a fine choice as today's end-of-chat album, too. Though maybe Neil's "This Note's For You" would be more appropriate.

Thanks for stopping by this week, folks. The blog launches Monday. Come on by and harass Producer David about the Wiggles. www.washingtonpost.com/music

If we're lucky, maybe we can get some new Bon Jovi music for a commercial spot.

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