Freedom Rock

J. Freedom du Lac Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008; 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.

The transcript follows.


J. Freedom du Lac: Greetings, peoples. I'm in a foul mood.

The trades are reporting that the Grammys may well be struck down this year. I know, I know - you don't really care. You've already gone on record as saying that the Grammys are out of touch, that the show is boring, etc etc.

But *I* care! Because if the WGA strike derails the music industry's biggest night, I probably don't get to go to California for the festivities along with all the other stories I have planned. (Since, you know - there wouldn't be any festivities.)

Anyway ... onward.


Pro Tools Land, DC: So J. Free - Seeing as you are one of the only MSM folks who would ever talk about Pro Tools and its consequences, I had to run this by you.

I saw Sweeney Todd the other day, and I detected quite a bit of pitch correction in the singing, which seemed to make many glissandos (slides from one pitch to another) sound very flat and compressed. It also reminded me of Ewan McGregor's singing in Moulin Rouge (disclaimer: I saw it on a plane).

What say you? Have you noticed this greater proliferation of Pro Tools, or just on Britney records?

J. Freedom du Lac: I haven't seen the Golden Globe-winning flick, but it wouldn't surprise me. Technological trickery is everywhere in music land. (Hello, Miley Cyrus!)

Even Ringo Starr sounds as though he might be using pitch-correction software on his new album, "Liverpool 8." He's doesn't making like T-Pain - the current king of digital vocal manipulation - but he does sound a little bit processed.

Jon Pareles noted this as well in yesterday's New York Times review of "Liverpool 8," writing: "For most of the album he sings - in a suspiciously on-key voice - about the power and virtue of love."

It's a ProTools world, and we're just listening in it.


Atlanta, Ga.: J. Free--So one Michael Stipe got booted off a jury in Athens today saying he could not be impartial. How fun would it have been to see him sit in judgment on a case?

J. Freedom du Lac: Not as much fun as it was watching him hang out with Mario Batali on an episode of the Sundance Channel's "Iconoclasts." My favorite part was when Stipe went music-shopping for Batali. Actually, no - my favorite part was when their chartered flight was grounded due to inclement weather and they couldn't hang out with Bono before a U2 show in Toronto. My heart bled for them.


Farmer in the Dell: After watching The Wire, could any parent sing the Farmer in the Dell to their kids ?

J. Freedom du Lac: Only if daddy's name is Omar. He owns that song now.


Silver Spring, Md.: If you want to check out the impact of auto-tune on the music industry, listen and look no further than the new Alvin and the Chipmunks film. The chipmunks definitely sound digital and suspiciously in-tune. The end is near.

J. Freedom du Lac: Actually, I started thinking there was something amiss when I heard some of those early Kanye West productions - the ones with the alien-sounding soul samples. Nobody sings that high. Not even James Blunt. Somebody's been lying to us.


Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Hey Free,

Ok. So I bought tix to see Vampire Weekend and have their leaked new CD. I like them. They are something new and different, but how did this hype begin? ( and why am I falling for it ?)

J. Freedom du Lac: not sure when or where the hype started, but Fritz Hahn was drooling over these dudes on This Very Web Site back in July. Count me among the believers. They absolutely live up to the hype. Vampire Weekend ( read) ( watch/listen)


Re: Jury Duty: My high school French teacher always told us that the best way to get out of jury duty was to say that you knew the defendant was guilty because the police never arrest the wrong person. Good advice. It's served me well. Apparently Mr. Stipe learned the same lesson somewhere along the line.

J. Freedom du Lac: Or, you can just show up wearing a profane, FBI-disapproved NWA slogan on your T-shirt.


Silver Spring, Md.: Based on the Letters section from Saturday's Post, it seems like criticizing Hannah Montana is like criticizing Barack Obama. A "singer" spends an entire concert lip-synching and Helicopter Mom tells critic to lighten up. I suppose that because an event is not for grown-ups and designed for tweens that it is above criticism and can lack taste and talent because it's for kids. God forbid, we expect more for our kids. Helicopter Mom also raised the bar on role modeling by favoring someone who wear clothes and then tests fate by judging the parent of a teen mother. Classy.

J. Freedom du Lac: Helicopter Mom! Outstanding.

I love that a Disney drone who doesn't seem to sing her own vocals in concert and even uses a body double at one point (needs that extra time to change wigs, I guess) is considered an excellent role model now. Give me the Jonah Brothers any day of the week, thankyouverymuch.

More letters-to-the-editor to come, apparently. So I'm told. Wheeeeeeeeeee! Letter to the Editor: Out of Sync With Popular Music


Washington, D.C.: So, rappers on steroids?

J. Freedom du Lac: Get a little stupid and pump that bass, etc.


Pro-tools: Go no further than a Tim McGraw or Kenny Chesney show to hear fine examples of how well it works. BUT, if I'm paying to hear a performer I'd like to know they have talent and can do what they purport to be doing, not let a piece of electronics do the job for them. I doubt many musicians would last if they needed something to correct their playing.

J. Freedom du Lac: And yet Kenny Chesney sells out football stadiums. (He's coming to M+T Stadium in Balmer in May.) Go figure.

Interesting bit in the recent Associated Press story about Hannah Montana's body double, by the way: Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert-industry trade magazine Pollstar, told the AP that the use of body doubles is not uncommon in touring shows - and that there's nothing dishonest about it.

"It takes a few moments at least to change costumes, and they are trying to do it to give you the almost 'David Copperfield gee-whiz' effect. There are absolutely laws of physics that prevent you from doing gee-whiz things without some hocus-pocus."



Inwood, W.Va.: You should shoot for the BRITS whenever that is. Last years show was great compared to the Grammys. The sets, the sound, the performances, all hands down far superior. Of course it's in England.

J. Freedom du Lac: I dunno. Take That is huge in the UK. I couldn't care less. Also, too much Leona Lewis.

Great quote from the BBC story:

The Daily Telegraph's rock critic Neil McCormick said it was "one of the most awful-looking lists of uninteresting, unexciting talent I've ever seen".

"To see Leona Lewis in album of the year is just depressing beyond comprehension," he says. "She's had one decent single, she's a TV reality star, it's really got nothing to do with the shape of music in the year. But it does kind of show you it wasn't a very good year for music and therefore these pop characters were the only ones that emerged newly and freshly out of the year."


Falls Church, Va.: So I was watching Inside Washington the other day and Nina Tottenberg started talking about one candidate dissing the other candidate. (I know it's not about music, but I had to share...)

J. Freedom du Lac: Ohnoshedi'n't!!


Bethesda, Md.: What sort of music do you suggest listening to while celebrating the Wizards beating the C's back-to-back?

J. Freedom du Lac: Thao Nguyen's "Swimming Pools." It has nothing to do with basketball or victory. I just dig the song - even if the vocals are multi-tracked. Or maybe because of that. Be sure to look for Thao's new album, "We Brave Bee Stings and All," coming Jan 29 on Kill Rock Stars. Rekkid release show at Iota on the 31st.


re: Out of Sync: Good lord, people actually took the time to write a letter to the newspaper about a concert review? Don't they have anything better to do?

J. Freedom du Lac: Thankfully, no. Keep writing, people. I get paid by the letter.


Re: body doubles: Yeah, when I saw the Police last fall, they DIDN'T CHANGE OUTFITS ONCE! I know they're old and all, but when I pay $100 a ticket, I want a little Hollywood magic in the show. Plus, some skits and some dancers would have been nice, too.

J. Freedom du Lac: Who do they think they are -- Pearl Jam? Jeez. At least Sting wasn't wearing a gas-station attendant's shirt. (Right?)


Falls Church, Va.: Here's some Focus Hocus-Pocus for Gary Bonjovi

J. Freedom du Lac: More yodeling!

A classic tune. Though when it gets to the flute part, I can't help but think of Will Farrell in "Anchorman." Kept expecting

van Leer to yell "AQUALUNG!!!!!"


Annapolis, Md.: Any suggestions on getting Wilco tickets without paying out the nose?

J. Freedom du Lac: Send small, unmarked bills to Seth?

I trust you're already on the 9:30 club's list serve? If not, sign up on the club's Web site.


Help Us Help You: How many daily hits to your blog do you need to get "music" added to the main Arts & Living drop-down menu. I live to serve.

J. Freedom du Lac: Pop music apparently will never be more popular on than HOROSCOPES and CROSSWORDS - let alone COMICS, SMART LIVING and HOME/GARDEN. No home for us in the drop-down box, so we exist in our own digital ghetto.

You can always bookmark, though. Create your own drop-down! Fun for the whole family! (Unless you have Hannah Montana-loving kids.)


Washington, D.C.: When will Persephone's Bees put out a new album of shiny happy songs to help us out of our winter blahs?

J. Freedom du Lac: Dunno, but you really ought to listen to that eponymous album by The Bird and the Bee. Terrific alt-pop by Inara George and Greg Kurstin. (She's the bird; he's the bee. Get it?!) I just discovered that she's Lowell George's daughter. Kurstin, of course, is the guy from Geggy Tah, whose "Whoever You Are" we discussed previously in this space.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: If you rearrange the letters in "Wilco" you can almost spell "Cow Lips," which is my favorite hot dog ingredient! Too bad I don't like Wilco.

J. Freedom du Lac: Fun with anagrams -- 64 percent more fun than Wilco's music, actually!


Washington, D.C.: Well, comics ARE pretty awesome.

J. Freedom du Lac: Not as awesome as horoscopes.

Maybe if Producer David and I started writing music-related horoscopes, we'd have a shot at the drop-down box. Whaddayasay, dude?


Takoma Park, Md.: Dag...missed getting tickets for the Dap Kings show....

It is all about Binky Griptite, dude.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yeah, that show has gone clean - and tickets were kinda expensive on Stubhub. Until those, too, disappeared. And the Craigslist begging is getting kinda nutty. To wit: "Sharon Jones and Dap Kings - Will Pay Up to $200 for 2 tix."


Hannah/Miley: I'm laying odds that Helicopter Mom is the same lady that bull-rushed the police barricade in her SUV.

J. Freedom du Lac: What odds? I might have to drop a bill on this.


New Orleans, La.: I totally spaced on the date last week, but wanted to chime in on the best of year stuff, especially since my top two aren't on anyone else's lists. They're Electrelane's No Shouts, No Call and Mando Diao's Ode to Ochrasy. Heard either?

Also, The Fiery Furnaces are coming to town soon. Ever seen their show? How is it?

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks for posting.

Speaking of NoLa, you gonna be at the Tipitina's 30th anniversary show on Saturday with Allen Toussaint? 'Cause I am.


Bowie, Md.: Hi, it's the old guy. Daughter gave me a Border's card for my BD so I went out and bought the Feist CD becasue I read a good review and then I discovered (arrghh) it has that insipid "1234" song on it. Listen all the way through, or use as a coaster?

J. Freedom du Lac: You definitely need to listen all the way through. "My Moon My Man" is the best song on that album. One of my fave singles of 2007. You also need to hear ""Sealion," her take on Nina Simone's "See Line Woman." Put those in your iTunes library, then coaster away.


Reading the Opinion Page: I was reading George Will's column, dated January 10th in the Post and this is what he wrote in an article about Hillary and McCain titled "Start of a Marathon"

"Led Zeppelin's recent reunion concert in London exemplified a tiresome phenomenon -- geezer rock groups catering to baby boomer nostalgia"

Looks like bow tie George is angling for your job.

J. Freedom du Lac: He's actually channeling Carl Bernstein, who wrote about Led Zep in 1969, noting that they had not "demonstrated talent in anything but making raucus [sic], unmodulated, unoriginal noise." Hahahahahaha.


Speaking of Odds...: What's the over/under on when "Ring Tone" becomes a category for the Billboard/MusicScan purposes, and how soon thereafter does producer feed the hype by releasing direct to ringtone? I have July 2009 in the office pool.

J. Freedom du Lac: You lose. Billboard already has ringtone charts!

Soulja Boy's "Crank That" is number one on the current Hot Ringtones chart, while "Low," by Flo Rida and T-Pain, tops the Hot RingMasters chart.

Send the money to:

The Department of Rock

1150 - 15th St NW

WDC 20071


river city: all joking aside, intellegent people getting out of jury duty is how we set OJ free. It's a pain, but do your duty folks, unless you want to send murderers out free.

J. Freedom du Lac: Thanks, dad.

(For the record, I didn't actually wear an NWA T-shirt when I was last called in for jury duty. We did, however, acquit. The woman was guilty, but there were too many holes in the prosecution's case.)


Union Station, Washington, D.C.: Hunh, so the Maryland Stadium Authority will accept the biggest country tour around, guaranteed to include massive amounts of alcohol etc etc etc, but told the HFStival to get lost because "they did too much damage". Maybe we should have bought more beer...

I'm actually going to defend Dave's review of the Ozzy show. Ozzy was certainly not in the greatest shape ever though he was doing ok, and a lot of the audience was really wearting things they shouldn't ever wear again.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes - that is in fact the case. I wonder who set the record for longest bender during last year's two-night, two-city Chesneypalooza, when dude played in MD and VA. I heard some interesting stories about drunkards bombing down the backside of the lawn at Nissan. Good times.


Bowie, Md.: Bernstein! Hah! He is the one who thought that Watergate thing actually led all the way to the Whi .... oh ... wait. Never mind.

J. Freedom du Lac:[Insert joke about "unimpeachable taste" here.]


Led Zep Review by Bernstein: And who can forget Woodward's 1968 panning of The White Album, which led to his being re-assigned to the Metro desk with Carl? Two music reviews that changed the course of history.

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, but his theme song *is* "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey."

(Truth squading, Freedom Rock-style: Woodward was still in the Navy in '68.)


Richmond, Va.: someone teach old guy how to listen to samples before buying CD! geeze

J. Freedom du Lac: Yes, well - there is that.

[You do it. I don't have the patience.]


oh, hey: I went to college with Thao Nguyen! I saw she was NPR's Song of the Day recently. I second the recommendation...

J. Freedom du Lac: Did she multi-track her essays back then?


BRIT Awards: They only just started broadcasting them live (well, 5 min. delay/live) again after nearly 20 years due to the World's Worst Awards Telecast Ever(tm) back in 1987, starring Mick Fleetwood and Samantha Fox. I've never gotten hold of a tape of it, but my spouse watched it live and said it's one of the funniest things he's ever seen. Not only were they both completely inept - they'd introduce one person and someone else would come out, they'd point to one side of the stage and someone would come on from the opposite side, etc. - it was almost impossible to show them in the same shot because he's 6'5"ish and she's maybe 5 feet tall.

The performances the past couple of years have certainly been more watchable than the last couple of Grammys. Scissor Sisters plus giant flying Muppets is much better tv than yet another medley by Beyonce.

J. Freedom du Lac: Don't knock Beyonce. Her country-fied "Irreplaceable" duet with Sugarland on the American Music Awards was much, much better than it sounds in theory. Plus, she gives good concert spectacle. I didn't even notice any body doubles!


Bowie, Md.: J, when do we start hearing one of the candidates bastardizing a pop song as a campaign theme, a la "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" or "Born in the USA?"

Part II: Which of today's songs is worthy (not counting the insipid "1234.")?

J. Freedom du Lac: It's already happened. Friend of Freedom Rock Paul Farhi is working up a story as we speak. Some of the song choices are pretty spectacular, I must say.

As for today's songs, I'm thinking somebody should start using Lil Wayne's "We Takin' Over (Remix)." Or maybe the Romney or Edwards folks can pick up Spoon's "Underdog." Who cares what the lyrics are about? Obviously the campaigns don't. (See: Clinton, Hillary - "American Girl.")


Washington, D.C.: So do we deny artists on steroids entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Or let them get in with an asterisk?

J. Freedom du Lac: I think we let them in. I mean, just look at Melle Mel - he got in last year and wore a muscle shirt to the induction ceremony! (He also wore his Bluetooth earpiece on stage - 'cause you never know when your trainer might call, I guess.)


Fairfax, Va.: J-Free,

The Sunday Post's article on the 4 guys who started a "Rock Club" really inspired me. Can I count you in?

J. Freedom du Lac: Only if we don't have to go to any Wilco shows.

Thanks for stopping by folks. It's been a blast. I may or may not be back to host next week's chat; depends on whether I can get a WGA waiver.


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