Tag Archives: Jay-Z

Great Expectations Fulfilled: Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” Soundtrack

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-Emily Fraysse

Director Baz Luhrmann has become infamous in the cinematic world for reworking, rejuvenating, and remixing old songs into a refreshing rendition. His latest film, The Great Gatsby, is no exception.

On May 2, the entire album was leaked to the public for listening-only. Combining an all-star collection of artists like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, The xx, and Fergie, the album captures the fame and glory of the main character, Jay Gatsby, and the over-the-top ragers he throws at his mansion in New York City during the roaring ’20s. The book, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, states that, “the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached hysteria.” The soundtrack reflects this imagery.

Luhrmann’s post-modernistic style leaves the soundtrack with a juxtaposition of classic jazz and current styles of rap, pop, and hip-hop. NPR explains that by, “distilling the essence of the Jazz Age though never completely reflecting it, this soundtrack is as much an event as is the film that inspired it.”

This left many people in the NPR community and beyond disappointed because of the lack of the traditional Jazz music that was the epitome of that era. So, why did Luhrmann stray away from period music? Don’t get me wrong—there’s a bit of the ’20s sprinkled through a few of the songs. In the text, Fitzgerald makes references to jazz-influenced pop songs that capture the amplification of the parties Gatsby throws and the lusciousness of his filthy-rich lifestyle. The soundtrack portrays the period of music that we are in right now—the “hip-hop age.” The mixture of talented artists, ranging from rap to alternative, exemplify how hip-hop is deeply embedded in rock and dance music. With the juxtaposition of the roaring twenties period shown on the screen, the viewers get to feel the impact of modern-day music, just as Fitzgerald did for the readers of his novel when it was published in 1925.

The question is: will the work of a variety of artists reflect the work of this brilliant writer, or will it take away from the film? I guess we’ll have to wait and see when the film opens May 10.

Grade: A-

Image from http://last.fm.

Flux Playlist: It's a Celebration!

-Flux Blog Staff

If you are reading this blog post, congratulations! You have officially survived finals week! Now that you’ve turned in all of your papers and sold back all of your books, there’s only one thing left to do: Celebrate! This week, the Flux bloggers wanted to give you a playlist to help get your celebrations off on the right foot. So grab some friends, forget everything you learned this term and most importantly, enjoy your winter break!


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Mike:

  • One More Time -Daft Punk
  • DARE -Gorillaz
  • Going On -Gnarls Barkley

Hannah:

  • Moves Like Jagger -Maroon 5

Tamara:

  • Marry the Night -Lady Gaga
  • Call it What you Want -Foster the People
  • You Da One -Rihanna

Lizzy:

  • Sexy and I Know it -LMFAO
  • No Hands -Waka Flocka
  • You Make Me Feel -Cobra Starship

Jasmine:

  • Night of Your Life -David Guetta
  • Marvin Gaye & Chardonnay -Big Sean
  • H.A.M. -Jay-Z & Kanye West

Sam:

  • Caribou Lou -Tech N9ne
  • Boombox – The Lonely Island
  • Line & Sinker -Billy Talent

Waiting for the Grammys

-Mike Munoz

When the nominees for the 2012 annual Grammy Awards were released Wednesday night, my mind was bursting with questions. How many Grammys will Adele win? Will we actually get the Van Halen reunion we were promised? How the hell did Bruno Mars get six nominations? Here are some of the nominations that caught my attention Wednesday night.

Disappointing Album of the Year Nominees

Last year’s nominations for Album of the Year proved the Grammys were taking a step in the right direction. Nominees ranged from rapper Eminem to country-pop group Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire broke through as the first indie band to win the award. This year’s nominations, however, proved they took five steps back. The category contains only two realistic competitors in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Adele’s 21 (sorry Foo Fighters).  I’m not quite sure how Bruno Mars and Rihanna got thrown into the mix, and I know I’m not the only one asking, where’s Kanye?

Remembering Amy Winehouse

There’s no question that there will be some sort of memorial for soul singer Amy Winehouse, and it will probably come during the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award. Winehouse collaborated with jazz icon Tony Bennett for his album Duets II, where the two sing a rendition of “Body and Soul” that will give you chills. The song is one of Winehouse’s last known recordings before her untimely death and will most likely win the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Too Much Dubstep

I’m just going to flat out say it. I hate dubstep. I hate the noises, I hate the concerts and most importantly of all, I hate Skrillex. This year, Skrillex was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist. If you ask me, that’s five nominations too many. I know dubstep has gained a huge following over the last couple of years. But for those of us who aren’t 13-year-olds wandering through a rave in our underwear, dubstep is just plain annoying. But maybe I’m being too hard on Skrillex. I mean, she seems like a pretty nice person.

Kanye vs Kanye for Best Rap Album

It’s seems pretty obvious that the odds are in Kanye West’s favor to win this year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album. The only question is, which one of his albums will win? West and Jay-Z prove to be a lethal combination in Watch the Throne; an entire album dedicated to the glamorous lives of West and Jay-Z. However, West’s solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has proved to be his masterpiece, with featured artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Justin Vernon. I was stunned to see Dark Twisted Fantasy left off the ballot for Album of the Year, and I’d be really surprised if it didn’t win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

Photo taken from billboard.com

 

When the nominees for the 2012 annual Grammy Awards were released Wednesday night, my mind was bursting with questions. How many Grammys will Adele win? Will we actually get the Van Halen reunion we were promised? How the hell did Bruno Mars get six nominations? Here are some of the nominations that caught my attention Wednesday night.

Album of the Year Nominees

Last year’s nominations for Album of the Year proved the Grammys were taking a step in the right direction. Nominees ranged from rapper Eminem to country-pop group Lady Antebellum, and Arcade Fire broke through as the first indie band to win the award. This year’s nominations, however, proved they took five steps back. The category contains only two realistic competitors in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Adele’s 21 (sorry Foo Fighters). I’m not quite sure how Bruno Mars and Rihanna got thrown into the mix, and I know I’m not the only one asking, where’s Kanye?

Remembering Amy Winehouse

There’s no question that there will be some sort of memorial for soul singer Amy Winehouse, and it will probably come during the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award. Winehouse collaborated with jazz icon Tony Bennett for his album Duets II, where the two sing a rendition of “Body and Soul” that will give you chills. The song is one of Winehouse’s last known recordings before her untimely death and will most likely win the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Too Much Dubstep

I’m just going to flat out say it. I hate dubstep. I hate the noises, I hate the concerts and most importantly of all, I hate Skrillex. This year, Skrillex was nominated for five Grammys, including Best New Artist. If you ask me, that’s five nominations too many. I know dubstep has gained a huge following over the last couple of years. But for those of us who aren’t 13-year-olds wandering through a rave in our underwear, dubstep is just plain annoying. But maybe I’m being too hard on Skrillex. I mean, she seems like a pretty nice person.

Kanye vs Kanye for Best Rap Album

It’s seems pretty obvious that the odds are in Kanye West’s favor to win this year’s Grammy for Best Rap Album. The only question is, which one of his albums will win? West and Jay-Z prove to be a lethal combination in Watch the Throne; an entire album dedicated to the glamorous lives of West and Jay-Z. However, West’s solo album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has proved to be his masterpiece, with featured artists ranging from Nicki Minaj to Justin Vernon. I was stunned to see Dark Twisted Fantasy left off the ballot for Album of the Year, and I’d be really surprised if it didn’t win the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

The Tears Of A Clown: Gucci Mane’s Pleas For Love

– Jacob O’Gara

A rapper’s swagger is as important to him as his microphone and gold chain. However, if you scratch beneath that layer, inevitably you’ll find squirming insecurity and self-consciousness.

In the case of Li’l Wayne, who has transplanted the slithering rock-star formula to hip-hop, you’d have to scratch for a while. Jay-Z’s swagger comes from surviving and rising from his hustler days; Kanye West tells us he’s “Amazing” as a way to convince himself, and his Good Music protégé Kid Cudi wears vulnerability on his sleeve, which is a kind of swagger in itself.

Gucci Mane is different.

He’s got the swagger of a playground bully, a bully who picks on the other kids because he got picked on, and because negative attention is better than no attention at all. But don’t let that make you think Gucci Mane, born Radric Davis, is some kind of weakling; in 2005, he was charged with murder (he was acquitted), something he references again and again in his lyrics.

But underneath his battle-hardened grizzly exterior is a teddy bear. In the song “My Chain,” Gucci asks, “Don’t you like my chain?”

Of course, Gucci Mane is following a long line of rappers who have bragged about and extolled the value of their chains, but he is the first (to my knowledge) to express a concern for validity from the listener. He is pretty sure his chain is above all others, but do you like it?

Gucci may be a blinged-out alleged murderer, but he has feelings too.

“Freaky Gurl,” perhaps Gucci’s most famous track (coming from the Hard to Kill mixtape along with “My Chain”), contains a similar plea for praise and validity. In the first verse, he inquires the listener/unseen female companion, “Don’t you think I’m handsome?”

In the hip-hop world, that question is never asked; a Li’l Wayne knows for damn sure he’s handsome, even a more introspective Kanye West does. Maybe that’s part of their swagger, that they just know they’re handsome.

Maybe they’re afraid that if they asked, the answer would be “No.” Either way, Gucci Mane is the only rapper out there with the balls (or self-consciousness) to ask such questions.

Hip-hop is a genre that, by its very nature, rejects introspection, even though it is populated by head cases fraught with anxiety masquerading as strutting peacocks. And of all the peacocks, Gucci Mane is the goofiest one.

He looks goofy and sounds goofy when he raps goofy verses. He is hip-hop’s court jester, a pompous, vainglorious, perhaps murderous clown juggling with tears in his eyes.

Far from causing you to shrink away in terror, Gucci’s mush-mouthed pleas make you just want to give the guy a hug.

Kanye West: The Black Elton John

– Jacob O’Gara

At the risk of sounding pompously contrarian, I’m going to express a sentiment that verges on sacrilegious: Kanye West should get out of the rap game. Meaning he should stop rapping; if by “rap game” one gathers that I mean the genre of hip-hop as whole, then no, he should stay.

He started out as a producer wunderkind—working under Jay-Z and producing one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, The Blueprint, for him—and that’s where he should have stayed. The College Dropout and parts of Late Registration were great, but they’ve been overshadowed by the tepid Graduation and West’s cringe-inducing work as a featured artist.

Besides some creative rhyming, what has Kanye West as a featured artist given hip-hop, other than sophomoric junk like “You should go to school, Bueller”?

Not much.

Unless you consider half-hearted and half-baked lines like the one just cited (from his verse on Drake’s “Forever” posse cut); in that case, he has given us a lot.

It seems as if he used up all his creativity and passion on his first two albums, and now he’s operating as a hip-hop hack, just as P. Diddy operated in the late 1990s, dropping in on other artists’ tracks, outshining them with his star power, and then delivering some milquetoast verses. Fortunately for him, and for us, there is some hope for West’s career: his foray into pop music, 808s & Heartbreak.

With this album, the zeal and imagination that electrified his first two is on full display, though West uses those energies in a different direction. Dealing with themes like death and heartbreak, West constructed probably his most technically masterful album; every beat is chiller than a gold chain on an Eskimo, and the much-criticized “singing with Auto-Tune” technique just straight works with the subject matter.

808s & Heartbreaks is an experimental album gone horribly right, a bona fide pop album that elevated West from hip-hop king to full-fledged pop music superstar. Of course, the only recourse West had was to self-immolate in a verbal wildfire of inane and vapid lyrics.

West can save his career by following the path 808s & Heartbreak shined a light on: become the black Elton John. Besides demonstrating the ability to pull off outlandish and flashy garb, like Sir John, West has shown us that he is capable of writing and performing pop ballads, those kind of songs that aren’t really hip-hop or electronica or whatever; they belong in that nebulous category of music known as “pop.”

In that realm, he can spare us from lyrical travesties and spare himself from further humiliation. He can expand what it means to be a pop star, making it more “street,” in other words. He can break down barriers and transcend the genre of hip-hop. His ego’s too big not to let a chance like that pass by.