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Midweek Music Meltdown: Avril Lavigne Goes Electronic, And Peeps Freak Out

I don’t know about the average reader, whether that person accesses content through computer, tablet or smartphone. But, to the best of my knowledge, I do know music.

And in order to stay relevant, an artist has 2 choices: stay the course; or add something new to the mix.

Before Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Miley,Gaga or even Rihanna or Beyoncé, Avril Lavigne had been tearing up charts with her bubblegummy take on alt rock. Even though she has continuously claimed that she is more punk than pop, Avril is a constantly morphing diva, not being afraid to take chances, not caring whether her next joint will sell millions in discs and downloads/sideloads, not worrying how people would perceive her, past, present or future.

All that Avril is about is what Avril can do. She is an entertainer, pure and simple. And at 29, she apparently knows what she wants.

Let’s be fair: from the beginning, Avril Lavigne, along with her contemporaries like FeFe Dobson, Skye Sweetnam and Dayna Manning (who? why not Google her, eh?), never felt obligated to stay within the scope of what I see as “Canadian Woman Rock”. It is a field populated by the likes of Lee Aaron, Darby Mills, Alannah Myles, Alanis Morrissette, Sass Jordan, Kim Richardson and others. Each artist has a unique style and timbre to their performances, but due to their gender, radio programmers and record execs would place them under this umbrella label, mainly for convenience’s sake. Avril is too bratty, to universal to be placed there, partly because she had to go Stateside to receive the proper push for her version of world domination. The rest is history.

Bear in mind that around the time she released “Complicated”, iTunes and YouTube were barely in the picture, so it was the job of MTV and MuchMusic to do the proper pushing. With anything new, contenders sporting the same style and attitude started to pop up.

A case in point: when Nirvana broke out with “Nevermind”, people worldwide started to form similar groups with some local twists (Australia’s Silverchair, UK’s Bush, Canada’s Sloan and hHead). And to be fair, many of them had been playing like that before “Nevermind”, only that Nirvana was dealt the higher hand.

So imagine when Avril came out with “Let Go”, there was an outpouring of similar artists in its wake, most notably Pink’s sudden change of format from pop to pop-rock. It was something new and marketable to kids and tweens at the time. And like grunge, it was a good thing at the time.

But now, just like Toronto’s Queen West scene in the 80s and 90s, Avril’s style of “brat pop” has reached a saturation point. YouTube, Vevo and iTunes make it possible to market one’s self as the next big thing. Younger artists are scrambling on new ways to push the envelope with results ranging from outstanding to highly dubious or disturbing (hello, Baby Metal). What can Avril do to stay relevant and still enjoy what she does doing?

Go freaking dubstep. With a little Harajuku thrown in for good measure.

Avril has a huge following in Japan, so I’m quite sure that she had a quick look at this video for inspiration…

Even though Avril’s latest vid doesn’t go to hallucinogenically bizarro heights, I’ll have to give her credit for taking chances.

Eventually, the interwebs’ mass outpouring of WTF will subside and resume their regular routine of worrying about things that really matter.

Like Justin Bieber.

Beastly Easter Monday Music Meltdown: Marcus Visionary On Keeping Jungle Alive In Toronto.

Before I add in my 2 cents on this subject, here’s a taste of how Marcus Visionary operates as the one of the premier mixmasters of the Toronto jungle drum ‘n bass scene…

Drum and Bass Arena has written an article on one of my favourite jungle drum ‘n bass DJs Marcus Sills, aka Marcus Visionary.

With the rise of dubstep and EDM, jungle drum ‘n bass is in danger of being an extinct art form. Of course, one could say the same for rock and roll in face of a pop/bubblegum revival. The fact that it’s still around after all these years is due to the hard work of a dedicated group of DJs and producers, and the fans who support them in their endeavours.

Marcus gave his views on why the Toronto drum ‘n bass scene is on the decline:

In 2000 we had a ban on raves which stopped the underage kids from attending events. That legislation created an ageing market with little new blood coming into the scene. 

The ban to which Marcus was referring was a result of 2 deaths that occurred at raves. It was more of a moratorium on all-ages parties which prompted promoters, artists and fans to request city hall to reconsider.

Eventually, the province of Ontario stepped in and passed Bill 73, which regulated raves and all-ages parties to a point where it would be economically unfeasible to to organize them.

Because of the nature of this music, which to newcomers sounds like hip-hop and dancehall reggae speeded up to 3 times its normal speed, jungle drum ‘n bass seldom get any exposure on mainstream terrestrial radio. The all-ages, multi-format parties thrown by organizers such as Liquid Adrenaline, Hullabaloo and Syrous provided the gateway to newcomers and the curious, eventually creating new talent along the way.

It wasn’t just the jungle that suffered: the techno, trance, happy hardcore and house music scenes were also being affected by the restrictions on all-ages parties, and like the “junglists”, they co-opted for the relatively more secure (and restrictive) licensed venues.

20 years ago, I dismissed the rave scene as a passing fad. Then after spending a good part of the night at a place called the Basement on the corner of Queen West and Bathurst and another night at the place called the Comfort Zone around College and Spadina, I knew that a rave would be the only place to get a great sampling of electronic dance music before the web exploded with downloads, viral DIY videos and social media.

People grow up and get into different adventures. My musical tastes have since evolved to be more inclusive of different styles, genres and subgenres. And I’ll be damned to find myself trapped in a crowded warehouse full of sweaty tweakers jumping around and trying to prove they have some sense of rhythm and groove.

I’m at an age when I can look back and take stock of what I have accomplished and what I should have done differently. But the raves and the jungle opened my eyes and ears to the fact that like people, music and culture will always change and evolve.

I wish all the best to Marcus, Mystical Influence and Lush in their efforts to bring Toronto jungle drum ‘n bass back on top where it belongs.

That being said, one must work on dragging the jungle into the open to let everyone know that not only it exists, it’s also surviving and thriving. It will take more than just good intentions and noble efforts to get that done.

If you want more insight on the recent state of Toronto jungle, you can read this article by clicking here.

And for a brief blurb on the rise and fall of the rave scene in Toronto, click here.

In Da Newz: For the love of Amanda Todd...

I have a niece who’s around Amanda Todd’s age.

You may not know or remember her name. But you may have seen this video…

We know that there may be others who might have goaded Amanda Todd to the point where she just couldn’t take it anymore.

But the fact is that there are others who came before Amanda, and there are more who followed. And certainly there are videos just like Amanda’s that simply went under everyone’s radar.

Sadly, Amanda now exists as a hashtag and a meme. And in the post-Rehteah Parsons afterlife, not many people take into consideration that she was once a person.

The Occasional Rant - You Know You Love Your “SVU”, Right?

Deep down inside, you grew up watching “Law and Order” and witnessed countless perps busted and convicted.

You also witnessed 4 spinoffs: “Trial by Jury”; “Special Victims Unit”; “Criminal Intent”; and “Los Angeles”.

Today, “SVU” is the last man standing, mainly because of a few factors such as seeing pervs get their just deserts, Fin and Munch grilling suspects on an open flame, and Benson and Stabler playing their best Mulder and Scully in finding the real crooks.

But since Christopher Meloni left the show a couple of years back, “SVU” had to jump a few sharks to be relevant. The tv universe is now saturated with procedural reality shows such as “The First 48” and “Intervention” on A&E, and a scripted, fictional program like “SVU” needs to step up its game to stay relevant and watchable.

It’s no easy feat when one considers the apparent popularity of full-blown fictional shows like “Agents of SHIELD” (my hands-down PVR favourite), “Breaking Bad” (my hands-down Netflix favourite) and “Game of Thrones” (which I haven’t seen but I’ll read the books just to get an idea of what the f*** is happening before watching it). It appears that if people wanted to see a procedural, they would not be tuning into an NBC affiliate to get their jones satisfied: they would be heading to A&E, NatGeo or Discovery. Or they would simply tune into CNN, Fox News, BBC News or even al-Jazeera for some real reality coverage.

So far, over the past 2 seasons, we had seen a captain being framed for a hooker’s murder, a detective losing his shit over his marriage, another detective coming close to selling her body over a gambling debt, and a senior detective getting raped by a serial sex-killer. For all intents and purposes, “SVU” as a procedural is as good as dead. It has shucked off the sober, methodical mechanics perfected by the original “Law and Order” series and opted for a serial storyline, not unlike its sister series “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago PD”. The crimes have become a backdrop to the real drama surrounding the detectives, a subtle Greek chorus to their personal tempests.

One show that would come close to what “SVU” might be aiming to be would be the BBC series “Luther”. Here, Sergeant Olivia Benson appears in the form of DCI John Luther, a person wracked with issues but still able to put in a decent day’s work in solving the most heinous of crimes. He was framed for the murder of his estranged wife, had run-ins with members of London’s underworld, and many guilty perps on his watch have had this unusual habit of winding up dead. The writing is tight (although the music is too fucking melodramatic - can you lower the volume on this sucker, please?), the tension constantly creeps up and swallows you whole, and you have Idris Elba getting the job done.

If “SVU” were to survive a couple of more seasons, Warren Leight will need to watch “Luther” and talk to its writers. consider Amaro, Rollins, Fin and Barba as supernumerary characters and place Benson into focus. Rather than go with a “one-case one-episode” deal, have a case spread out to a span of a couple of episodes and make Benson’s life the centrepiece of the series. That way, there would always be a point of reference for the viewers, both as protagonist and Greek chorus on each case and crisis.

This will mean that the “Law and Order” will need to be dropped from “Special Victims Unit”. This also will also mean that it can no longer be a procedural series but a serialized police drama. This is the only, logical way for “SVU” to go beyond 15 seasons to be it’s own, standalone brand. As much as we respect the past and legacy of “Law and Order”, one must also respect the viewer’s ever-deceasing attention span.

By the way: “Luther” rocks.

Thursday Before The Good Friday Long Weekend Music Meltdown - Sorry Rebecca: a couple of Aussie blokes owned Friday before you.

Everyone remembers that viral track by Rebecca Black that went like this…

But long before she was even conceived, some Australians decided to write a song about that day…

Deep down, Fridays meant freedom for me. Head to the bar, get shitfaced, blow my money on craps at the casino. Those were the days.

Now, I’d rather curl up with a book, watch tv or play a couple of video games. Old age does that to people. If only kids can realize that each day is to special to waste on something ephemeral like getting high on cheap chemicals and attempting to win at the dating game.

For me, every day alive is special. For me, Friday is a state of mind.

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