Lady Gaga Reinvents the Weird, Not the Wheel

If you’ve got stock in Lady Gaga Inc., sell it. Sell it now. All of it. If there was one thing to be taken from the 2011 Grammy Awards, it’s that Lady Gaga has lost “it” and she’ll be lost in pop obscurity by 2012.

Here’s why:

1. You can’t just show up to the Grammys inside an egg. I get it. Her fans get it. All along, Lady Gaga’s formula for success has relied upon batty shock tactics to force her name into the pop conversation, and so far, it’s been pretty effective. Her base is fully intact after last night, but I think casual fans may have lost interest. There’s a fine line between weird and desperate. Lady Gaga crossed it. In an egg.

2. You can’t create another iteration of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and sell it as your own. My girlfriend, hardly a music know-it-all but a Gaga apologist, pointed out last night some of her earlier work borrowed from Ace of Base. (Compare “Don’t Turn Around” to “Alejandro” — you won’t be the first.) Her latest single, “Born This Way” — which she performed last night — is a two-bit rip-off of Madonna’s classic. She hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but she has reinvented the weird.

3. You can’t dump the producer who created your sound and expect things to work out. RedOne is the genius producer behind hits like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame,” “Bad Romance” and “Alejandro.” No word on RedOne’s role for Lady Gaga’s forthcoming album, but “Born This Way” is clearly missing his signature beats. Artists typically go through producers like dirty laundry, but RedOne’s impact is so integral to Lady Gaga’s sound, it’s hard to imagine her duplicating early success without him.

4. You can’t offend your target audience. Lady Gaga has been a strong advocate for gay rights. However, it seems “Born This Way” is landing poorly with some groups. In a joint statement from several Phoenix-based Latino and LGBT organizations, Lady Gaga was criticized for lyrics in her single:

“Lady Gaga’s plagiarized song ‘Born This Way’ is an insult to minorities who have spent the past several decades trying to overcome discrimination. Her lyrics, which use racist terms such as “’Chola’ and ‘Orient,’ promote further racial stereotyping. We also believe the song will hurt the Gay Rights movement and cause further hate crimes against them. We are asking radio stations to act responsibly and stop playing this poor excuse of a song.”

At best, Lady Gaga’s “gay anthem” comes off as trite and opportunistic. Then again, if that’s her M.O., no one can say she’s in the wrong. It just might harm her popularity in some circles.

5. Everyone has a shelf life. Madonna — the most obvious comparison — has survived several decades because she’s been able to reinvent herself along with her music. Lady Gage, on the other hand, has been tripping on the same antics now for a few years, acting more as a mascot than a musician. In closing:

New Musics: James Vincent McMorrow

I’m not particularly fond of Ray LaMontagne and the bearded-troubadour-types. (Yeah, I get it — you look like a lumberjack but sing like Smokey Robinson.)

On three separate occasions, I’ve fumbled to bring up the Shazam song-identifying app on my iPhone only to find I was hearing this song (again). Enjoy “This Old Dark Machine” by James Vincent McMorrow.

It’s Not a Toomah!

I don’t usually make doctor’s appointments, but after nearly a week of persistent, crushing headaches, I gave in. I work in an industry that requires a fully operating brain, so something had to be done.

The appointment started like any other — height, weight, a litany of questions about my lifestyle, family history, and brief summary of what I’d been experiencing. The nurse quietly took notes, showed little concern, and then left to get the doctor.

If it's my brain we're focused on, I'm not concerned about quick doctor's appointments. Let's do it right.

The doctor, a petite Eastern European woman who could use a cheeseburger in her life, came in and repeated back to me everything I’d told the nurse. She had great reading skills. I’ll give her that much.

From there, she asked more detailed questions about my headaches — frequency, location, sensation, possible triggers and so forth. She examined my ears, my eyes, my throat, my glands and concluded I was experiencing migraines. She couldn’t have been more sure.

I’ve had migraines before. I remember back in sixth grade, squinting at a whiteboard from the back of the classroom when the words suddenly became fuzzy. The teacher called on me to read the board, but I told her I couldn’t see. You know that spot you see after looking at the sun? That aura? As my migraine came on, an aura blurred my vision to the point of blindness. A friend helped me to the office where I unloaded a bowl of Cheerios in the nurse’s bathroom. The only cure was sleep.

Nothing I’ve experienced in the past week has been nearly as intense as a migraine, so I was a bit troubled by the hasty diagnosis. Not only that, I was prescribed Imitrex, which isn’t exactly Oxycodone, but I don’t like being prescribed drugs on a hunch. I was also given a migraine treatment plan, which was more like a diary. Each day, I’m supposed to record headaches, their severity, what may have triggered them, what I did to treat them, and so forth.

So, when all is said and done, I left with an Imitrex prescription (20 pills/$66) and a diary.

The No. 1 scare tactic opponents use when arguing against universal health care is the quickness of treatment. You’ll be in the waiting room for hours! Yesterday, I was in, out and done in 30 minutes. When it comes to my health, I don’t want a quick appointment. Trust me, I’ll make time. I want certainty, and I’m willing to wait for. Draw some blood. Swab something. Take some urine, at least. If it turns out something’s truly wrong, let’s tackle it. If I check out fine, hey, I’ll leave a tip with my co-pay.

When I got back to the office from my appointment, a co-worked asked, “What if they told you that you can’t drink coffee anymore?”

That’s about the time my headaches started going away.

I Can’t Afford to Own a Home. Thank God

"Did you hear that, honey? The value of our new home just went down 24% and we haven't even unpacked."

I want to own a home. Not now, but soon, and preferably in the Twin Cities, not the ‘burbs.

The other day, I went to Wells Fargo to run a credit report and get my latest score. I made some inadvisable decisions involving a credit card during the early part of college, turning a $1,000 Apple iBook G4 into a $2,700 ass-kicking by collections. I squared away all of my debts before graduating and over the past few years I’ve shown model behavior with my credit.

“It’s probably not as high as you want it to be, but you would easily qualify for a home loan,” the Wells Fargo personal banker said.

II took this woman at her word, but I laughed her off. I haven’t yet entertained the idea o buying a home.  but after I left, I started a mental renting vs. owning cost analysis. I’ve been renting apartments for seven years now, some more expensive than others. At a modest $350 per month average, I’ve spent nearly $30,000 on rent.

What do I have to show for it? Nothing.

The upside is I’ve never had to worry about being stuck somewhere or losing my ass in a sale. According to the Star Tribune, homes in the Twin Cities metro area lost 12 percent of their value in 2010. Ouch.

I guess I’d like a little, old place with character, and a big Southern-style covered porch. I want a two-car garage, a flat driveway and a basketball hoop. I want a fenced-in backyard for our dog to run around in, but I want my front yard to be open and inviting. I want to live in a cool neighborhood with little eateries, coffee shops and dive bars. I want to know I’m not paying for someone else’s mortgage on a rental property.

But, I also don’t want to panic with each tornado watch or pay hundreds of dollars to heat my home each winter month. I don’t want to worry about ice dams and shingles and watering the lawn or water in the basement. I want home ownership without the responsibility. Then again, who doesn’t?

The personal banker was right — my credit score isn’t where I want it to be. I could get a home loan, but I’d be facing higher rates. So, in a way, I’m relieved my credit score isn’t prime for a home loan. The last thing I need right now is to start thumbing through classifieds and checking out open houses, setting myself up to make an impulse decision I’m not ready for, not unlike that fateful iBook.

Surprisingly, Packers Fans Have Handled Big Win With Class

I admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XVL Sunday night, and over the past 48 hours, their fans have been too caught up in revelry to rub it in the face of Vikings fans like myself. Don’t get me wrong — there’s been very little sports media consumption for me this week. No ESPN. No KFAN. No Star Tribune sports section. Hell, I didn’t even log into Facebook until Monday afternoon. The Packers and their fans have every right to celebrate that Super Bowl win and it doesn’t bother me at all. But I totally expected Cheeseheads everywhere to resort to child-like boasting.

Guess what — it hasn’t happened. Yet.

An NFL lockout looms if players and owners can’t agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by March 4. It’s possible the Packers will hold the title of “defending Super Bowl champs” even longer than usual. If next season is wiped out, the Cheeseheads get to flaunt their Lombardi Trophy until February 2013. In reality, the Vikings could be rooted in Los Angeles by then. Think about it.

Or don’t. It’s been a rough enough week for Vikings fans as it is.

I call her a Packers fan. Someone in Green Bay calls her mom.

Packers faithful have been nothing but gracious thus far. From what I can tell, the team is made up of upstanding characters who respect and understand their unique franchise, so they’re hard to hate. They’re a team that’s built for the future and a run of dominance that could well outlast the Vikings’ stay in Minnesota. That idea isn’t as painful as it once was, because as long as I can tune out the TV, radio and Internet and avoid public places for a few days, I can ignore each subsequent Super Bowl win. Go wild, Cheeseheads. You go enjoy your little dynasty run in your silly foam hats.

As much as it eats at my soul, I want to congratulate the Green Bay Packers and their fans for… — God, I can’t do this. Yuck. I’d rather comb Clay Matthews’ mane.

OK. Let’s try this again. Kudos to the Packers and their fans for…—No. Hell no. I’d rather eat Cheerios out of Mark Tauscher‘s jock strap.

One more time, with feeling.


Is it baseball season yet? How about them Brewers?

We Never Get Used To It, Do We?

After spending the past few days feeling like I’d been donkey-kicked in the noggin, I popped a Vitamin D this morning. Finally, I feel better. It’s (-11) degrees outside and I think my body is telling me it can’t handle much more winter.

I have to tell myself it won’t be long until the lakes thaw and the Minnesota Twins open Target Field. The snow? That’s going to be here until July, but we’ll make do. The parks will open along with the golf courses, while shorts and flip flops will replace long underwear, slacks and dress shoes. Jack Johnson, the Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett will provide the soundtrack. Finally, Twin Citizens will be able to park on both sides of the road, no just the odd-numbered side.

And me? I won’t have to pop Vitamin D pills to get my mind right.

Had a nice chat with a taxi driver the other night coming home from the airport. He was born in Somalia but moved to Minneapolis when he was 11. (He must’ve been in his early 20s.) I told him this was my first winter back in Minneapolis after living in Portland last year.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We never get used to it, do we? Just when you think you’re used to it, it’s spring.”

And then it’s warm. Insufferably warm. Pollen coats cars, sidewalks and windows and the air conditioning can’t get cold enough. Your dashboard nearly buckles under the harsh sun rays and just when the temperature becomes comfortable, the wind comes up. There’s thunderstorms – big, rumbling, untimely thunderstorms to interrupt softball games, picnics and weddings. And the humidity. That godawful humidity, only made worse by the swarms of mosquitoes.

We never get used to it, do we?

Of Meat and Madden Bowl: How I Messed With Texas

Coke Zero special correspondent Larry Fitzgerald interviewed Chad Ochocinco after his team won EA Sports Madden Bowl XVII Thursday night.

I spent part of last week in Grapevine, Texas to help coordinate media and the Coke Zero black carpet at the EA Sports Madden Bowl. I’d struggle to retell my first Texas experience in any linear fashion, so here’s a few bullets from the gun-happiest state in the union:

  • The state was battered by an ice storm earlier in the week, and while it’s easy to bash people from the south for their inability to drive in wintery conditions, the roads were truly awful. Forget a plow or a salt truck — it was as if the roads had been conditioned by a Zamboni. Never seen anything like it.
  • Texans loves their meat. We ate at a place called Big Racks — imagine Hooters without the dignity — and I chose a plate which included briscuit, smoked turkey, ribs, fried okra and potato salad. This was after I balked at the grand slam platter, included the aforementioned three meats along with ham, chicken breast and steak. That’s livin’.
  • Fifteen degrees. It was 15 degrees by the time NFL players and celebrities made way down the black carpet Thursday night. Everyone attending relied on heat lamps outside, which stood about seven-feet tall and thrust warm air upwards, making them completely ineffective. Add to the fact I was wearing a button-up and a sweater. Indefensible for a guy from Minnesota.
  • At one point, I sidled over to a heat lamp near the media check-in I was monitoring. There stood a short white man with his hooded sweatshirt drawn, worn underneath a weathered canvas jacket. I thought he seemed a bit out of place, until he flipped his hood back revealed he was Drew Rosenhaus. My first instinct? Try to argue with him! Try to win a stand-off with the most powerful agent in football! I did no such thing. I feel I still came away a winner.
  • As fate would have it, we stayed at a Great Wolf Lodge, which is a Wisconsin-based hotel chain. So, unfailingly, GWL declared itself Packer Country starting Thursday by decorating the lobby in green and yellow and blasting the Packers fight song from the PA. Couldn’t wait to leave. Could. Not. Wait.
  • Biggest personal hero spotted: Marshall Faulk. (Named to the NFL Hall of Fame the next day!)
  • Scariest NFL figure at the party: DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association who could take the 2011 season hostage.
  • Most unlikely NFL figure at the party: Former San Francisco 49ers safety Merton Hanks. Or, “funky chicken guy.
  • Most disappointing no-show: Brooklyn Decker. Not that she ever RSVP’ed, but she was in town.
  • Most inaccurate pseudonym: Big Boi. He’s 5-6 on a good day.
  • Debbie Downer tweet(s) of the night: Chad Ochocinco, winner of the Madden Bowl with teammates Patrick Willis and Maria Menounos, tweeted the following:






If Blogging Paid the Bills, We Wouldn’t Have This Problem

I’m leaving for frosty Dallas this morning. My place of work is coordinating parts of Madden Bowl XVII tomorrow night, so it’s unlikely I’ll be able to blog. I’ll be sure to get something up over the weekend.

Until then, go make a proposition bet on the Super Bowl. For instance, Bodog has put the over/under for Christina Aguilera’s rendition of the National Anthem at 1:50. (Take the over!) You can even bet on the color of the Gatorade shower for the winning coach. (Orange is 5/2.)

Frankly, there’s no point to watching a game in which you have zero emotional investment. That is, unless you have a financial investment.

Enough With the Endless, Undue Praise of Betty White

I watched nearly every minute of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards Sunday night, which is sad, because though it was only two nights ago, there’s a good chance you have no idea what I’m talking about.

In case you missed it — and trust me, you didn’t miss a thing — Betty White won Outstanding Female in a Comedy Series for her role on Hot in Cleveland. White beat out Tiny Fey (30 Rock), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Jane Lynch (Glee) and Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie), proving that if you live long enough, you can be honored for anything, no matter how little you deserve it.

This is not an attack on Betty White. Bless her heart for maintaining that comedic punch at the ripe age of 89. But, the reality is she’s not the funniest female on the block, and though her fellow nominees showed nary a sign of jealousy, it seems this routine of honoring White at any and every opportunity has become older than White herself.

Suffice it to say any joke she’s told over the past few years has gone by one simple formula:

(Reference something modern we wouldn’t expect an 89-year-old woman to know about) + (Something sexual) + (Blunt acknowledgement of age)

Any one of those variables may stand alone, but when the three are piled together, you can roll the laugh track for 20 seconds, easy. (And if you’ve seen Hot in Cleveland, they absolutely do.) Let’s look at some of the White’s best quotes from 2010:

  • “Oh, I don’t need sleep. I just went to my hotel and had a cold hot dog and a vodka on the rocks.” (New York Magazine)
  • “I’m also on Facebook, and the Twitter.” (You Again)
  • “Gays love old ladies.” (Parade Magazine)
  • “I don’t know, Mr. Winger. Last time I called on you I got what the Maku Maku call ‘dirt-roaded.'” (Community)
  • “Well ladies, as I used to say to my loving husband, Irving, of 55 years . . . what are you waiting for, stupid? Eat it.” (Saturday Night Live)

You don’t want to dismiss White for her flimsy, formulaic brand of comedy because she’s old. That’s polite and all, but aren’t you then playing into the lie?

I don’t mean to sound rude. Here, in the twilight of her career, White has sprinted through several victory laps, appearing on every relevant awards show, myriad sitcoms and in plenty of movies. Good for her, truly. But let’s not fool ourselves and label her encore ‘outstanding,’ especially in comparison to some of her peers.

(And by ‘peers,’ I mean fellow actresses half her age.)