The Good …
Manu Chao makes people’s music : pulsating with the rhythms of the world; hyperactive and exuberant yet also politically charged; music that connects with people of different ages and different nationalities.
Though a multi million selling global superstar, the French born singer has yet to achieve the same level of popularity in the English speaking world. Perhaps his new live album Baionarena can help to change that. The 33 tracks were recorded at a concert in Bayonne in southern France, and the double CD comes with an added DVD, featuring the entire concert, videos from earlier CDs and brief documentary footage. And you won’t find a weak song on it. With his powerful backing band the Radio Bemba Sound System, he belts out classics like Clandestino and Rainin’ in Paradise alongside some unreleased material. The rhythms and grooves change from track to track : punk, reggae, Latin guitar, salsa. Think Los Lobos meets The Clash (Manu Chao and Joe Strummer were mutual admirers). It’s fast, infectious and danceable, and you can feel the crowd’s excitement.
The Bad …
Chris Brown’s fans (yes, there are still some around) have a message for his detractors : “Judge him by his music, not by his past mistakes.”
You might think that mistake is a strange way to describe a violent assault. It’s almost as though Brown is being set up as a victim. And here’s the issue. It seems that Brown himself has a bit of a victim complex. On his new album Graffiti, he complains on Lucky Me about how hard life is treating him – “I’ve got to pose for the cameras even when my worlds falling down” – while on Falling Down he takes a swipe at his critics – “Why is it so easy for you to blame ? I’m only human, we’re all the same.”
If this doesn’t sound much like a guy who’s genuinely sorry for what he’s done, it gets worse. The track Famous Girl is a direct attack on Rihanna which makes her out to be the bad guy in the relationship : “I don’t wear no halo. You were first to play the game though. Sorry I bust the windows out your car …”
These sentiments would be reason enough not to buy the CD. But what of the music ? Alongside the bland R&B droning, Brown throws out some heavier hip hop beats. I Can Transform Ya, on which L’il Wayne guests, burns it up nicely. Though the song’s message is rather less inspiring (Girl you better choose me, cos I’m loaded with cash and I can give you all the things you want). In the end, this inability to see beyond his girls and money and cribs makes the album feel empty and unsatisfying. And unfortunately for Brown, Rihanna has just released a strong album, Rated R, which should enhance her reputation and win her more awards.
And the Outlandish …
The track comes from an EP by the London producer Bullion which came out a couple of years ago entitled Bullion presents Beach Boys vs J Dilla. Pet Sounds : In The Key Of Dee. He sampled the two artists and cut them together to make some contemporary and enjoyable tracks.
Now a mischievous video maker has created his own cut, taking video “samples” from an unintentionally creepy youtube film intended to encourage kids to do yoga. The result is a unique and unsettling video.