Thursday, June 30, 2005

do one hit wonders deserve a second chance?

It's a shame I'm not very fond of watching people sing, because I find the TV series Hit Me Baby One More Time an interesting curio.

The show has five different bands each week, mainly one-hit wonders from the 80s, although a couple might have actually managed to get a couple of hits. The first half of the show they do whatever big hit they had, the second half they cover a recent hit song of someone else's.

Acts vary, both in their ability to cover a new song and their ability to cover themselves. Flock of Seagulls and Missing Persons both suffered from lead singers who basically couldn't sing anymore. Ironically, Flock of Seagulls did better on their cover song because it required a less melodic voice.

It's interesting to see how bands handle the cover song. Some just sound like a bar band cranking out their best copy (The Knack), some take a shot at reinterpreting the songs (The Motels, who tried to rock out on a Norah Jones song and came off like a slightly more interesting bar band than The Knack) and some just try and sing it nice. In the later category you get a lot of people who sound like American Idol finalists, but some of those people are really pretty good; Juice Newton did a nice job countrifying an Ashlee Simpson song and Howard Jones did an absolutely lovely version of a Dido song (and a lovely version of his own song, for that matter - he has a very easy going style even though the hyped-up, possibly hand-picked audience of surprisingly young and pretty 80s enthusiasts clap along as wildly with ballads as with rockers).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show is that almost all the winners have been African American. The exception is Vanilla Ice, who I don't think won because he appropriated a black form of music or because he covered a Destiny's Child song (if a song that uses a three word phrase from a song and in no other way resembles it can be called a cover) but because it was just a really lousy week.

The winners have tended to take whatever song they've got and give it a lot of soul. I still would have voted for both Jones and Juice in their respective weeks. but for the most part it's true, the black one-hit-wonders seem to be putting more energy and imagination into the show than the white kids.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

So this is why game sites praise games more than I do

Sometimes I worry that my lukewarm reviews of highly praised games are an indication that I'm just too picky, so I was pleased to read this post about a Gamespy review that was altered by the editor. The game gained a star and a half in the rating over the reviewer's original review and some of the language was changed. Gamespy's argument is that the editors felt the review was unreasonably harsh and that since it contradicted their previous laudatory previews and disagreed with their review of the first Donkey Konga game even though they are essentially the same, that it made sense to alter the review to keep it in line with their general editorial attitude.

So basically, Gamespy as a corporation decides whether a game is valuable rather than leaving it up to some erratic individual who might actually have the temerity to disagree with the editors. And if that is common then it explains a lot about the lockstep critical attitude one finds in reviews of high profile games.

Fortunately, I don't think my editors even play videogames, so I get to form my opinions without help from above.