Sunday, September 13, 2009

2009 MTV VMA Predictions

The 2009 MTV VMAs take place in New York, Radio City Music Hall this Sunday, after being staged in Los Angeles last year and Las Vegas the previous year. Radio City Music Hall was where the first VMAs were staged, and this will be the 10th time it has played host to the biggest, most culturally important music awards show. Let's hope it's a return to form.

I'm also hoping it will take on a more traditional approach, with the majority of the performances taking place on the main stage in the same hall. Last year's show took place at the Paramount studios and the performances made use of the film sets and moved around the various soundstages. It was an interesting idea, but it lost the grandeur of performing in front of a massive audience.

I'm looking forward to the performances this year. Right off the top of the list is Janet's dance tribute to MJ, which will open the show. She will be performing alongside top choreographers including Wade Robson (a close friend of MJ who performed alongside him on various occasions), Travis Payne (he worked on the HIStory and This Is It tours), Chris Judd (ex Mr J-Lo) and Gil Duldulao (the Creative Director, chief choreographer for Janet's All For You and Rock Witchu tours).

But to me, the most fascinating addition to this talented group is Tina Landon. It's fascinating because it will be a reunion between Janet and her. Tina came up with some of Janet's best moves during the janet., Design Of A Decade and The Velvet Rope eras. But they apparently had a fallout and Gil took over the reins from the Damita Jo era onwards. Apparently it was so bad that they refused to talk to each other. I would say Tina's choreography was much more iconic and memorable, so I'm glad they're back together again. Let's hope this will be a new beginning for Janet.

Besides Janet's show opener, I'm also looking forward to Muse, as it will be their first ever US television performance. They will be performing Uprising, taken from their new album The Resistance, which will be released on Monday. I love the song, so I hope it's good live.

There's also Green Day, who should be performing their new single 21st Century Breakdown. Things have been a little quiet for Green Day since they launched their album in May. Know Your Enemy was a catchy ditty but didn't last that long. Follow-up 21 Guns was featured heavily in the Transformers sequel soundtrack, but personally, I think the song is just so-so. 21st Century Breakdown is one of my favourite tracks on the album so let's hope it's good too.

Beyonce will also perform, and I hope it's Single Ladies, though I think she will do a medley of that plus a newer single like Sweet Dreams. Hubby Jay-Z will also perform, and he will be sharing the stage with Alicia Keys, another VMA favourite. They will be performing Empire State Of Mind, from Jay's new album The Blueprint 3, which just dropped this week. It's a fitting song to do at the Big Apple.

Then there's a triple bill of ladies - Lady Gaga (seriously over-rated), P!nk (didn't she perform last year already?) and Taylor Swift (let's hope it won't be a snooze fest). Eminem, Katy Perry, Cobra Starship, 3OH!3, Ne-Yo and Nelly Furtado will also make appearances.

The performances will no doubt overshadow the awards themselves, which have become a sideshow in recent years. Thank goodness they removed most of the superfluous awards, except for this new category which is also quite redundant - Best Video (That Should Have Won A Moonman).

Since the awards don't really matter that much anymore, why should I care? Cos I'm old school at heart, and it's still important to me who wins, though the past few winners have been largely undeserving. So let me just list out my predictions...these are nto who I think are deserving but who I think will win.

My pick: Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Other nominees:
Britney Spears - Womanizer
Eminem - We Made You
Kanye West - Love Lockdown
Lady Gaga - Poler Face

My pick: Katy Perry - Hot N Cold
Other nominees:
Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
P!nk - So What
Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me

My pick: Kanye West - Love Lockdown
Other nominees:
Eminem - We Made You
Jay-Z - D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)
Ne-Yo - Miss Independent
T.I. featuring Rihanna - Live Your Life

My pick: Lady Gaga - Poker Face
Other nominees:
3OH!3 - Don't Trust Me
Ahser Roth - I Love College
Drake - Best I Ever Had
Kid Cudi - Day N Nite

My pick: Britney Spears - Womanizer
Other nominees:
Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Cobra Starship featuring Leighton Meester - Good Girls Go Bad
Lady Gaga - Poker Face
Wisin y Yandel - Abusadora

My pick: Kings Of Leon - Use Somebody
Other nominees:
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
Fall Out Boy - I Don't Care
Green Day - 21 Guns
Paramore - Decode

My pick: Jay-Z - D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)
Other nominees:
Asher Roth - I Love College
Eminem - We Made You
Flo Rida - Right Round
Kanye West - Love Lockdown

My pick: Death Cab For Cutie - Grapevine Fires

My pick: Foo Fighters - Everlong

My pick: Coldplay - Viva La Vida

My pick: Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

My pick: Green Day - 21 Guns

My pick: Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

My pick: Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

My pick: Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

So there you have it, Beyonce to be the big winner with 5 moonmen. Let's see if it comes true.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Michael Jackson This Is It Footage On MTV Trailer!

How come no one has posted this video or made a lot of noise about it yet???

There's brand new footage of MJ during the This Is It rehearsals, as shown in the MTV VMA news clip!!!

It shows him looking totally healthy and in fine form, performing at full intensity and even sliding across the stage on his knees! It's unbelievable. And the gold pants has returned, but it's even more shiny than ever.

Here are some screengrabs from the trailer.

Thriller zombie dance. The 3D graveyard set is impressive.

Black Or White with hot guitarist Orianthi

Curly wurly body twist

Loving the gold pants

Smooth Criminal

Gliding across the stage, on his knees. Oh my, he still has it.

These stills look like they're from the 3D segments that were specially filmed to serve as interludes between the songs

MJ strikes another of his signature poses

The final curtain call


Friday, September 11, 2009

This Really Is It

Following yesterday's announcement that Janet will open the VMAs and perform a tribute to Michael, there are even more good news today.

First, watch this:

It's very, very nicely done. It conveys the meaning across immediately, as everyone knows that the glittery glove was MJ's trademark. The idea that it's raining gloves is also very creative, very MTV. A nice touch of humour. It also means that MJ has never really left us and he's up in the heavens now watching over us and continuing to touch us in a way only he can.

I've been expecting MTV to do something like that for a long time since this year's VMAs were announced, and even though it's quite late, the timing is just about right as it makes the whole world want to tune in this Sunday. I expect the ratings to go through the roof, even much more than the BET Awards.

It will also be helped by the fact that the This Is It trailer will premiere during the VMA telecast, just as I predicted in yesterday's post (which didn't get published till today, grrr). With the New Moon extended trailer premiere and now this, the VMAs will attract both the young and old (in fact MJ attracts people of all ages), and it will be a ratings smash for sure.

Janet's been staging a comeback of sorts this week - appearing on the cover of the upcoming issue of Harper's Bazaar, speaking out for the first time since MJ's death, and staging a high-profile performance that will be watched by hundreds of millions around the world. She just wrapped up filming of How Did I Get Married Too? and is working on a new album, book and possibly tour.

I really hope this marks a new beginning for Janet and the world will embrace her once again. Before it's too late.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Michael Jackson's This Is It Movie Poster Revealed!

(I spent an hour drafting this post but I couldn't get it posted successfully yesterday, so this is one day late! But I shall publish this as it is and add my updated comments in the next post)

With less than 2 months to go before Michael Jackson's This Is It film hits theatres on 28th October, Sony Pictures have revealed the poster. And it's good. I like it.

I have mentioned before that MJ is one of the few artists whom you can identify by their silhouettes alone, and Sony Pictures have very wisely used one of MJ's iconic poses as the main image for the poster. Look closer and you'll see even more images of MJ in rehearsal, working hard on stage.

The colours are nice, it's elegant and nostalgic. Simply said, a job well done.

Before I go on to how big the This Is It project is going to be, let me touch on another piece of exciting news revealed today...Janet will open the MTV VMAs this Sunday with a tribute to her brother!

This is highly significant because Janet hasn't appeared or performed on the VMAs since 2001, when she also took the stage to honour another amazing artist who passed away too soon, Aaliyah.

Since the 2004 Superbowl fiasco (where MTV produced the show), MTV has unofficially "blacklisted" Janet by not putting her videos on high rotation and not inviting her to be part of the annual VMAs. Only with last year's Discipline album did MTV start to show some support for Janet by making her Artist Of The Week before the album's release and inviting her to perform on TRL. But they didn't put the videos on high rotation after that.

So with the death of the King Of Pop, and with every award show making an MJ tribute mandatory, MTV have called upon Miss Jackson (oh, she's single again by the way) to lead the way. And I'm glad they're letting her open the show again. Janet last opened the 2000 VMAs with a blazing performance of Doesn't Really Matter.

It might be a sly move on MTV's part, as this announcement instantly makes the VMAs a must-watch now. For many years now, the VMAs have been criticised for being boring and having a dearth of artists with no real talent perform, and I totally agree. I can't remember the last great VMAs I watched, but it was probably the 2001 show.

Last year's show was a complete fiasco - great in concept but poor in execution. It's high time the spotlight be put back on solid, memorable performances by real artists, not just the pretty young things who are the flavour of the month.

And getting the MTV Icon to honour the MTV legend is a great move. In fact, when the BET Awards changed its entire show to become an MJ tribute show, I already had the thought that MTV should jig the VMA to honour MJ. After all, MJ made MTV what it is today.

MJ had already received the MTV Video Vanguard Award in 1988, which is given to artists who have had a profound effect on the MTV culture. In 2001, the award was re-named the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, in recognition of his contribution and significance to the art of music videos.

And of course, Janet herself is no slouch either. She is the winner of 9 VMA awards, or moonmen, as they like to call it, including the Video Vanguard Award in 1990. And she was the recepient of the inaugural mtvICON Award in 2001. Not even MJ received the ICON honour. Maybe they'll give it to him this Sunday.

But yes, the point is that MTV is putting the 2 true MTV icons and legends in the spotlight and giving them the recognition they deserve. Long overdue I must say.

Early reports have claimed that Janet will be joined onstage by 20 dancers (including Tina Landon OMG!) and they have been putting in 15-hour rehearsals. And at the end of it, "there won't be a dry eye in the house".

I'm excited to see how it will turn out. But I hope people will understand that Janet is not Michael, and Janet and Michael are two very different people with different styles of dancing and singing. But one thing they have in common is that they're both perfectionists, and they will put in 100% for a show.

I don't think Janet will attempt to sing MJ's songs (except maybe Scream?) or that she will recreate all of MJ's signature moves (I just don't see Janet doing the moonwalk). I don't know how it will turn out but I'm sure it will be good. I just don't want people to compare Janet negatively to Michael. That's not the point. The point is that she's honouring a brother she loved very much.

Yeah, so back to the This Is It film. With MJ's 51st birthday and burial last week, and the VMA performance this Sunday, there is plenty of buzz already. Even though the sales have slowed down somewhat (but perfectly understandably so), I still expect the This Is It film to do well. It's the perfect marketing opportunity with all the media attention going on.

In fact, on 29 August (MJ's 51st birthday), when Channel 5 aired the HIStory Tour Munich concert, they already ran spots (at least 4 times within the 2-and-a-half hours telecast) to promote the This Is It film. The trailer also mentioned that the soundtrack will also be out on the same day. The release date given was 29 October.

I'm thinking about how big the soundtrack CD album and film are going to be. I'm thinking huge. I'm thinking the CD album can possibly score the biggest debut ever, of which the record is currently held by NSYNC's 2000 No Strings Attached album, which sold 2.4 million copies in the US in one week.

Already, MJ has the biggest selling album in the US this year. His 2003 compilation Number Ones has sold about 1,687,000 this year so far, overtaking Taylor's Swift's Fearless. I don't have the exact figures, but a report published on 16 July stated that in the 3 weeks since MJ's death on 25th June, he had sold 2.3 million albums in the US, and a total of 9 million albums worldwide. And that was 16 July, more than a month ago. By now the figure must have exceeded 12 million already.

So yes, I'm thinking the soundtrack to This Is It will break NSYNC's record and sell more than 2.4 million copies in its first week. If anyone can still do it in this downloading and piracy era, it is MJ.

I estimate sales for the This Is It soundtrack to hit 20 million worldwide by Christmas. Remember, this is a new MJ release, not some compilation that millions of fans already have for many years. This album will sell, I tell you.

As for the film, apparently Sony Pictures paid AEG Live (who owns the footage) and MJ's estate US$60 million for the rights. It might sound like a big sum, but the gross will be many times that. I'm thinking somewhere in the US$600 million region. Possibly more.

Sony Pictures have said that the theatrical release will be limited to a 2-week run only. This is to ensure that every session will be sold out. It's a smart strategy, but I believe once the tickets get sold out within a day, they will "cave in to unprecedented demand" and extend it by another week or two. AEG Live had already done it with the London O2 concerts, and it worked, so why not do it again?

There are no other major movies coming out on or around 28th October, with the exception of Saw VI on 23rd, but I doubt that will take a big slice (pun intended) out of This Is It's earnings. So it has a clear field ahead.

Given how this film captures MJ's final moments, doing what he was doing best - on stage, this film will definitely sell out. The day and date global release will stir interest up to deafening levels and it will be #1 in ALL the territories it opens at. This is for sure, 100%. As such, US$600 million will be easily attainable, but the limiting factor will be the length of its run.

So once again, in death, MJ will rule the world. He has always wanted to act in movies. He might not have planned it that way, but he is about the rule the box office just like how he conquered the music charts.

Michael, R.I.P. I look forward to Janet's tribute on Sunday and the film on 28th October.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

Collectibles #28: Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown (Deluxe & Limited Edition) (2009)

After the massive success of 2005's American Idiot, Green Day lived up to the expectations and returned with another magnum opus this year, 21st Century Breakdown. This is their first album not to be produced by Rob Cavallo, who served as producer or executive producer for their previous albums - Dookie, Insomniac, Nimrod, Warning and American Idiot.

For their latest excursion, Green Day decided to enlist Butch Vig to twiddle the knobs. Vig is no stranger to the producer role, having produced masterpieces like Nirvana's Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. Vig has also produced two tracks for Foo Fighters' upcoming greatest hits album. And of course, he also produced his four albums with Garbage.

Despite working with a different producer, 21st Century Breakdown doesn't sound jarringly different from its predecessor. In fact, it's almost like a seamless continuation of a two-part musical journey. While American Idiot told the story of the anti-hero "Jesus of Suburbia", here it revolves around a young couple called Christian and Gloria.

Narratively, the album is divided into three distinct acts - Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints, Horseshoes and Handgrenades. The music is similar to the punk rock opera sound of the previous album and there are a couple of songs with multiple movements as well.

On American Idiot, Jesus Of Suburbia and Homecoming both exceeded 9 minutes, but here, the longest track is 21 Guns, which clocks in at 5 min 21 sec. So even though they maintained the same style, they shortened the jams so that they're more digestible for the masses and more radio-friendly. To counter this, they packed the album almost to the brim with 18 tracks and a running length of almost 70 minutes. Talk about value for money.

The first single was Know Your Enemy, featuring an insanely-catchy riff and singalong chorus with the customary "oh-way-oh-way" refrain. It was a good song but definitely not the best song from the album. It hit #1 on the three Billboard Rock charts and was #1 in Singapore too.

The second single was 21 Guns, to coincide with the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where it was featured as one of the key songs on the soundtrack. The song was also used quite prominently in the movie. The song is just so-so for me. Definitely not as good as Boulevard Of Broken Dreams or Wake Me Up When September Ends, the "ballads" from the previous album.

The third single is slated to be the title track, which I'm happy because it's one of the best songs from the album. It has a 3-part structure, similar to Jesus Of Suburbia but with two fewer segments and shorter in duration. But it's good enough to stand on its own. However, I don't think it will do very well at radio actually as it is not so straightforward and typical as the songs on radio. But it's a very good song.

Another favourite from this album is ¡Viva La Gloria!. I love the piano intro, played by Billie Joe Armstrong. He only just picked up piano for this album and this is the first time he ever played keys for a Green Day song. So it's something of a milestone for him.

After the melodious piano intro, the song goes into a straight punk rock beat with power chords. The tune reminds me a little of My Chemical Romance's Welcome to The Black Parade! It's very catchy and I hope it gets released as a single. I just hope people don't remark that the "Viva" title is a ripoff of Coldplay's Viva La Vida, which it is miles away from.

I also like Before The Lobotomy. It is another of the multi-part songs, and I like how the ending segment is a variation of the opening segment, but bigger and grander. The middle segment is just ingenious, with the very interesting time signatures and drum beats. It's so fun to play along to this song.

Last Night On Earth is a ballad that fares better than 21 Guns. It is surprisingly stripped down and basic. Armstrong's vocal is restrained and he just sings it straight like a ballad. No rock star screams or aggression. Just emotive and effective.

Butch Vig's grunge influence is perhaps most evident on Horseshoes And Handgrenades. The guitar riff sounds like something that came out of Nirvana, and the opening line ("I'm not fucking around!") is a classic as well. Pure fun.

Overall, I dare say 21st Century Breakdown is an even better album than American Idiot. While it might not have ignited the charts or revolutionised music the way Idiot did, it is a fantastic album and one of the best this year. It will be a shame if it's not nominated at next year's Grammys.

This is the Deluxe Edition consisting of the full album on CD and three 10" vinyls containing each of the three acts on each vinyl. Only 3,000 copies were produced worldwide and I can't bear to open it, but I can tell you the interior contains a special book with 60 pages of unique artwork designed only for this edition.

This is the Limited Edition Best Buy exclusive but I managed to find it in Macau. It is similar to the Special Edition I had for American Idiot and it contains a hardcover book with 52 pages of full colour images. I'm not sure how many copies were produced, but it's pretty rare too.

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