Sunday, January 31, 2010

52nd Grammy Awards

It's time for the Grammy Awards again! The 52nd edition will take place on Monday morning, Singapore time. This year, Beyonce leads with 10 nominations, followed closely by Taylor Swift with 8, and the Black Eyed Peas, Maxwell and Kanye West with 6 each.

The overall feeling is that 2009 was the year of the female, with a trio of ladies hogging the limelight and earning the accolades. I'm talking about Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga of course. Due to a quirk in the nomination process, Lady Gaga wasn't eligible for Best New Artist award, otherwise she would have gotten 6 nominations.

The trio are all nominated for the three top categories - Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. And that's where the stiffest competition is taking place. Let's look at the nominees in these three categories.

Album Of The Year
1. Beyonce - I Am...Sasha Fierce
2. The Black Eyed Peas - The E.N.D.
3. Lady Gaga - The Fame
4. Dave Matthews Band - Big Whiskey And the GrooGrux King
5. Taylor Swift - Fearless

Record Of The Year
1. Beyonce - Halo
2. The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
3. Kings Of Leon - Use Somebody
4. Lady Gaga - Poker Face
5. Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me

Song Of The Year
1. Lady Gaga - Poker Face
2. Maxwell - Pretty Wings
3. Beyonce - Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
4. Kings Of Leon - Use Somebody
5. Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me

I gotta feeling the Grammy folks are going to split the awards and give them one each. And it's going to be Taylor Swift for Album, Gaga for Record and Beyonce for Song. Sorry BEP! As much as I love I Gotta Feeling, you have no chance against these (single) ladies.

I think if Single Ladies was nominated for Record Of The Year, Beyonce might have stood a good chance to clinch it from Gaga. And I thought it should be the other way round - Single Ladies for Record Of The Year and Halo for Song Of The Year, which after all, is a song writer's award, and Halo is a beautifully-written song, co-penned by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic.

Awards aside, I'm quite looking forward to the show, as there will be a Michael Jackson tribute (again)! Celine Dion, Usher, Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood will be singing, together with the voice of MJ, along to Earth Song. Not sure how it works yet, but they will be accompanied by the full Earth Song clip in the background.

This clip was specially shot for MJ's This Is It London concerts, that sadly the world never got to see. However, we already saw quite a big chunk of it during the This Is It movie already, so I'm not sure how much different or special it will be. But the interesting thing is, it will be broadcast in 3-D in the US, the first time a major awards show broadcasts in 3-D. Trust MJ to continue to set milestones even in death.

Since last Sunday, Target stores in the US have been giving out free Grammy 3-D glasses, so viewers can put them on during this special segment to watch the clip in 3-D form. Super cool. Too bad we don't get these free 3-D glasses here. However, our viewing experience will not be affected even if we don't have the glasses.

The other exciting thing is that MJ's two eldest children, Prince and Paris, will be accepting the posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for their father, but this will take place on Saturday, not on the main show. It will be aired on Sunday's telecast.

It will be interesting to see them on stage and accepting the honour for their dad. On one hand, I'm a little worried that they're being put in the spotlight again, at such a young age. And on the other hand, I think it's great that they can see first hand the appreciation the world has for their dad, to experience the legacy. They should be making a statement of some sort. Hope they do well.

Music's biggest night is just slightly more than a day away. Hope it's an exciting show this year!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Green Day - Live In Singapore Concert Review

Who: Green Day
What: 21st Century Breakdown Tour
When: 14th January 2010, 8pm / 23rd October 2009, 6:30pm
Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium / The O2 Arena, London

SINGAPORE Setlist (courtesy of
1. Song Of The Century (Intro)
2. 21st Century Breakdown
3. Know Your Enemy
4. East Jesus Nowhere
5. Holiday
6. The Static Age
7. Give Me Novocaine
8. Are We The Waiting
9. St. Jimmy
10. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
11. Burnout
12. Hitchin' A Ride
13. Welcome To Paradise
14. When I Come Around
15. Iron Man/Paranoid/Highway To Hell (covers)
16. Brain Stew
17. Jaded
18. Longview
19. Basket Case
20. She
21. King For A Day/Shout/Love Me Tender/Satisfaction/Hey Jude
22. 21 Guns
23. Minority

24. American Idiot
25. Jesus Of Suburbia

(Billie Joe Armstrong solo on acoustic guitar)
26. Last Night On Earth
27. Wake Me Up When September Ends
28. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)

LONDON setlist
1. Song Of The Century (Intro)
2. 21st Century Breakdown
3. Know Your Enemy
4. East Jesus Nowhere
5. Holiday
6. The Static Age
7. Before The Lobotomy
8. Are We The Waiting
9. St. Jimmy
10. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
11. 2000 Light Years Away/Maria
12. Hitchin' A Ride
13. Welcome To Paradise
14. When I Come Around
15. Iron Man/Crazy Train
16. Brain Stew
17. Jaded
18. Longview
19. Basket Case
20. She
21. King For A Day/Shout/I Fought The Law/Teenage Kicks/Break On Through (To The Other Side)/I'll Be There/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
22. 21 Guns
23. Minority

24. American Idiot
25. Jesus Of Suburbia

(Billie Joe Armstrong solo on acoustic guitar)
26. Last Night On Earth
27. Wake Me Up When September Ends
28. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)

21 years after releasing their debut EP, Green Day finally made it to Singapore, performing to a capacity crowd of 10,500 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Thursday night. It would have been perfect if the concert was held on Friday instead, as the party would have lasted all night long and continued in the pubs, with people recounting their favourite moments from the concert.

I had the good fortune of watching the band twice in the space of 3 months, first in London then again on home soil. And I must say the second time was even better!

The concert started punctually at 8pm, with opening act Prima Donna taking the stage in front of an enthusiastic and appreciative audience, even though they were clearly rooting for Green Day.

At about 8:50pm, a pink bunny sauntered up on stage, clutching 2 bottles of beer and appearing "intoxicated". He/It jiggled to the music and also ran down the aisle at the floor, giving high fives to the mostly young fans who were at the front of the barricade.

And by 9pm, the opening strains of Song Of The Century streamed through the PA, the lights went out and the audience went wild. One by one, the band members ran up on stage and took up their instruments before launching into 21st Century Breakdown.

It proved to be too much for the barricades on the left side of the stage as part of it literally suffered a breakdown and buckled under pressure. Seeing this, Billie Joe immediately stopped the music halfway before the incident turned into something nasty and people got hurt. He told the audience that he wanted us to enjoy the concert, but to also do it safely. The security got it fixed within three minutes and the music resumed.

And the band played on for a solid 2 hours before taking a short break after Minority. As the audience chanted for an encore, they got more than what they asked for and were treated to another five songs, extending the set to 11:30pm.

As a testament to the band's longevity, they were able to perform 15 songs from their last two albums (21st Century Breakdown and American Idiot), enough to be a concert in its own right, AND play another 13 songs from the earlier albums.

As a result, you had two groups of audiences that night - the younger, teenagers who started out with American Idiot, and the older fans who liked Green Day since the beginning of their career. The band recognised this and structured their setlist to cater to both groups of fans. They started with 10 songs from the two most recent albums before going to the older stuff midway, and ending with the new stuff again.

However, there was never a dull moment as the showmanship of frontman Billie Joe took the spotlight, left, right and centre. At 37 years old, he was still a bundle of energy, running up and down the stage, jumping all over, shooting Super Soakers, toilet roll and T-shirt cannons into the audience, who were only too happy to lap it up. He also pulled up several members from the audience to share the microphone with him, and persuaded them to stage dive to the mosh pit in front. Hell, he even mooned the audience at the end of Jaded!

I was especially proud of the green-haired mohawk guy who got up and sang Longview entirely. He knew all the words, was in tune and never missed a cue. He had pretty good showmanship too. Finally, someone to do Singapore proud! Compare this to the London show, where Billie Joe actually asked the fan to get off because he didn't know the words to the song, and had to find another fan to replace him. You rock, green-haired Mohawk guy!

It's hard to pick a favourite moment from the concert because there were so many. I particularly enjoyed When I Come Around and Basket Case because they were the songs that got me into Green Day in the first place. Jesus Of Suburbia was pretty damn solid too. And of course, when the whole stadium sang along to Wake Me Up When September Ends and Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life), you couldn't help but feel super high too.

The Singapore show is now one of my top 3 favourite concerts of all time, right behind Foo Fighters in Perth 2008 and The Cranberries/No Doubt in Singapore 2002. I enjoyed the Singapore concert much more than the London one, and I think it's because I was in the standing pit in Singapore, with my equally Green Day-crazy friend, while I was in the seated section in London and the people around me were not as crazy or jumpy.

However, the London show was much more impressive in terms of backdrop and pyrotechnics. They brought all the bells and whistles to London, with several large LED displays that could put up all sorts of cool graphics and backdrops. They also had real fire pyrotechnics on stage, so during songs like Know Your Enemy, they really brought the song to another level. But in terms of atmosphere or residue feeling of "high-ness", Singapore's show was way better. Like I said, Singapore rocks!

Here are some pics I took from the Singapore concert. Contrast the backdrop against the London pics!
And here are some pics from the London concert, some of them courtesy of my dear friend Jasper, who had a much better camera than me!

The O2 Arena, formerly the Millennium Dome
It was especially poignant for me knowing MJ would have performed there had he not died

"Drunk" bunny goes on stage

Before The Lobotomy...wish they had performed this in Singapore too

Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

Those are real fireballs!

The saxophonist wore a red MJ Thriller jacket and glittery Billie Jean socks.
He later weaved the Billie Jean chorus into his sax solo

21 Guns...the visuals from the music video were projected on the screen, very cool

Green Day rocks! Can't wait for the next album and tour!

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Year In Review: Top Songs, Albums & Concerts Of 2009

It's time for my annual list of songs and albums that rocked my iPod this year! But before that, let's take a quick look at the year in music. In short, the three words that can be used to sum up this year are: "dance", "feel-good" and "female".

This year saw the rise of female electro dance pop, with the emergence of Lady Gaga, La Roux, Pixie Lott, Little Boots and other female powerhouses like Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Leona Lewis, Britney and Beyonce continuing to dominate the airwaves.

Even the non-solo females got in the act - Black Eyed Peas produced an album of dancefloor fillers, and David Guetta assembled an all-star cast to round up his most mainstream party album. Legends like Madonna and Janet also adopted a more contemporary sound - straight out dance tunes with catchy melodies.

While dance flourished, rock took a step back from the limelight. U2's No Line On The Horizon came and quickly disappeared with barely a whimper (even though it has been chosen as Rolling Stone magazine's album and single of the year). Green Day's magnificent follow-up to American Idiot was also critically-lauded but quickly forgotten.

While it's true Lady Gaga is just about everyone's artist of the year, it's somewhat surprising none of her songs made it to my list. I've watched her in concert and her performance on the VMAs, and my conclusion is: she's trying too hard. Gotta learn from Maddy, it's an acquired skill to be "edgy" and "controversial" without appearing to do so.

I've always liked Kanye West, but what he did on the VMAs was just not classy. While it's true Beyonce probably has one of the best videos ever, it's still not gentlemanly to take the moment away from Miss Fearless, which she thoroughly deserved. The VMAs were never about the best videos anyway, it's a popularity contest (just think of how TLC's Waterfalls beat MJ/Janet'sScream for Best Video in 1995).

Speaking of the VMAs, this year's edition is probably the best in about 8 years. Of course, a large part of it was because of MJ's passing, which resulted in the world premiere of the This Is Ittrailer, the Queen of Pop paying tribute to the King of Pop with a lengthy but moving speech, an excellent dance tribute (the only blemish was the dancer who couldn't go all the way down to 45 degrees for the Smooth Criminal lean), and most of all, little sister Janet ruling the stage with a fierce and angry performance of Scream. She even got to dance "with" Michael as he was digitally erased from the video. This has got to be the best MJ performance ever, and ironically, it does not feature him in it. And Beyonce put on a helluva performance too.

2009 will forever be remembered as the year that MJ died. But as the outpouring of love that followed showed, the man might have left us physically, but his legacy and music lives forever. I feel happy that he is getting the recognition he deserves now, and more people are exposed to his genius rather than his eccentricities. In a way, I feel vindicated too, that my friends finally understand my obsession over him. And I'm happy to say I've been a fan for 15 years now.

So This Is It, the final curtain call. Here's my list of favourite songs and albums of 2009.

TOP 25 SONGS OF 2009

1. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
2. When Love Takes Over - David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland
3. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) - Beyonce
4. Thinking Of You - Katy Perry
5. Shattered - O.A.R.
6. Fuck You - Lily Allen
7. I Will Be - Leona Lewis
8. ¡Viva La Gloria! - Green Day
9. Lost - Katy Perry
10. The Climb - Miley Cyrus
11. Halo - Beyonce
12. Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas
13. Rock That Body - Black Eyed Peas
14. Sexy Bitch - David Guetta featuring Akon
15. Haven't Met You Yet - Michael Buble
16. Already Gone - Kelly Clarkson
17. You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift
18. Elephants - Rachael Yamagata
19. Chasing Pirates - Norah Jones
20. Second Chance - Shinedown
21. Brick By Boring Brick - Paramore
22. Celebration - Madonna
23. Why I Am - Dave Matthews Band
24. Million Dollar Bill - Whitney Houston
25. Make Me - Janet Jackson

Honourable Mention
This Is It - Michael Jackson


1. 21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
2. One Love - David Guetta
3. It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen
4. The Resistance - Muse
5. I Am...Sasha Fierce - Beyonce

Honourable Mentions
Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King - Dave Matthews Band
Elephants...Teeth Sinking Into Heart - Rachael Yamagata
(500) Days Of Summer - OST


1. Coldplay - Singapore Indoor Stadium
2. Green Day - O2 Arena, London
3. Jason Mraz - Singapore Indoor Stadium
4. Rachael Yamagata - Esplanade Concert Hall
5. Craig David - ZIRCA

Other concerts I caught this year
- Kaiser Chiefs
- Nine Inch Nails
- Oasis
- The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
- Michael Learns To Rock
- Guy Manoukian
- Earth, Wind & Fire
- Linkin Park (Macau)
- Lady Gaga (Macau)