Sunday, February 15, 2009

Collectibles #27: Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy Box Set (2008)

So the long-awaited sixth studio album by Guns N' Roses came and went without much fuss. It had been 17 years since GNR released Use Your Illusion I and II simultaneously, not counting the covers albm The Spaghetti Incident in 1993.

Chinese Democracy is reportedly the most expensive album in history, even eclipsing Michael Jackson's Invincible album, which at one time, was in a race competing with Chinese Democracy as the album to be released later (Invincible lost, and was released in 2001, 6 years after HIStory).

During those 17 years, GNR underwent multiple lineup changes. Gone were lead guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum. Legions of stand-in members also came and went, e.g. Buckethead, Nine Inch Nails' touring guitarist Robin Finck etc. As a result, the final band members who were credited on Chinese Democracy came up to 12 people. Only Axl Rose remains as the original member of GNR.

2008 was a year of comeback of the 80s rock bands, where AC/DC and Metallica also launched huge comeback albums. AC/DC's Black Ice was their first album in 8 years and it was a huge success, selling 6 million copies worldwide to date. Metallica's Death Magnetic was their first since 2003's lacklustre St. Anger, and it performed reasonably well, selling about 4.5 million copies to date. In comparison, Chinese Democracy has sold about 2.6 million copies.

Like AC/DC, GNR also tied-up an exclusive release with one major retailer in the US. Whereas AC/DC achieved great success with Walmart, GNR's venture with Best Buy did much less business. 

Some analyts were saying that Best Buy did not put in their full effort into promoting the album, where upon stepping into the store, you could not feel or see the presence of one of the biggest albums of all time finally hitting the shelves. Others blamed the cold reception on Axl Rose's unwillingness to promote the album.

I think it's a combination of factors. In this day and age, people don't really buy albums anymore, even though it might be a blockbuster release from one of the biggest rock bands. As such, you got to promote the hell out of it. Present an award on music award shows. Be seen at high-profile parties. Perform free concerts all around the country. Appear on every talk show possible. You just got to do it. U2 are damn good at this.

But at the end of the day, I firmly believe that if the music is good, it will sell by itself. Word of mouth is the most important factor. To many fans, Chinese Democracy just simply wasn't good enough, compared to their earlier efforts. And for an album 17 years in the making, they deserved better. 

This limited edition box set contains a T-shirt, bandana, iron-on patch and keychain. Compared to Metallica's Death Magnetic coffin box (to be featured at a later date), this one is nowhere as elegant or exquisite, so it's two down for GNR. Boo hoo.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Concerts Galore!

Despite the tough economic times, 2009 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for touring and especially for music lovers in Singapore. The first 2 months this year have already seen The Ting Tings, Prodigy, David Byrne, Mystery Jets, Ani DiFranco and Fall Out Boy, and the next 2 months are even better.

This past week, new shows have been announced for The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Craig David and Coldplay. And Jason Mraz's concert sold out in only 4 days. There's also the evergreen Rod Stewart this month followed by a host of top-quality acts for the annual Mosaic Music Festival. And also not forgetting the upcoming Cats musical at the Esplanade and Kaiser Chiefs at Fort Canning. There's practically one concert a week on average!

Of course, there's also the problem of cannibalising each other, with the many shows competing with each other for fans' wallets, which are bound to be a bit tigher in the current economic gloom. Already, Peter Cetera has cancelled his concert originally to be held next week. However, it's not just Singapore but he also canned a couple more Asian dates. 

Here's how the calendar is looking like currently:

- 28 Feb: ROD STEWART @ Singapore Indoor Stadium
- 5 Mar: JASON MRAZ @ Singapore Indoor Stadium
- 10 Mar: THE RED JUMPSUIT APPARATUS @ D'Marquee, Downtown East
- 13 to 22 Mar: MOSAIC MUSIC FESTIVAL @ Esplanade
- 23 Mar: COLDPLAY@ Singapore Indoor Stadium
- 7 Apr: KAISER CHIEFS @ Fort Canning Park
- 8 Apr: CRAIG DAVID @ Max Pavillion
- 10 Apr to 3 May: CATS @ Esplanade Theatre

It sure is packed. Craig David, RJA and Kaiser Chiefs are particularly exciting because it will be their first show here. Coldplay are fresh from winning 3 Grammy Awards yesterday and they will be keen to stage another sold-out show here.

Let's hope all the shows do well, so that the promoters will be more confident in bringing even bigger Janet Jackson, Madonna, Green Day, U2, Justin Timberlake, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, The Killers, John Mayer, Eminem, Jack Johnson, Take That, Usher, Sarah McLachlan, Bon Jovi, No Doubt, Matchbox Twenty, Britney Spears, well the list goes on...

Who's your #1 artist whom you wish would perform a full-length, full staging concert in Singapore?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Buzzing about Kelly Clarkson and Christian Bale (?)

Kelly Clarkson is back with a new song, and it has shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in just 2 weeks, making the biggest leap from 97 to 1. The previous record was held by Britney for Womanizer, who jumped 96-1.

The song is called My Life Would Suck Without You. Yeah, it's an upbeat song and I like it. Pretty much in the vein of Since U Been Gone. Not surprising since it's written by the same team of Dr. Luke and Max Martin (yes, he's the one behind BSB, NSYNC, Britney, P!nk etc).

Watch the music video here.

After her last album flopped, I wonder if the "you" in the song refers to producer Clive Davis?

The story with her previous album, My December, was that Kelly Clarkson wanted more control over the album and didn't go with Clive Davis' choice of writers and producers. She also wanted the album to sound less poppy. Clive was the one who produced her hugely-successful Breakaway album and turned her into a star.

My December sold much less than Breakaway (2.2 million vs 13 million) and generated fewer hits (none of the album's four singles were particularly memorable). Perhaps she has learnt her lesson and is offering a make-up statement to Clive?

Here are some sample lyrics:

Maybe I was stupid for telling you goodbye
Maybe I was wrong for tryin’ to pick a fight
I know that I’ve got issues
But you’re pretty messed up too
Anyway, I found out I’m nothing without you
Cuz we belong together now
Forever united here somehow
You got a piece of me
And honestly
My life would suck without you

Yes, the song was not written by Kelly, but well, it could be a well-disguised apology letter to her mentor. Well, you decide. Anyway, just enjoy the song for its worth.

The other song that is buzzing right now is interestingly enough, not a song per se, but an unofficial tirade remix. Watch it here first, but WARNING: Contains lots of swear words!

I was just surfing around the previous night and I came across the original audio clip of Christian Bale's tirade against the poor cinematographer from the set of Terminator Salvation. It was pretty intense, with Christian spewing all the f-words and other choice expletives for a full 4 minutes.

And trust some genius to create a dance mix using Christian's rant. It's pretty ingenious and catchy too. Not bad at all...