Clef Notes: The Leave Beyonce Alone Edition
Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine.
(Insert mock gasp here): As has been the custom for the last 76 years, America held its 57th Presidential Inauguration on January 20th (prior to 1936, the inauguration date was March 4th). Since the 20th was on a Sunday, the actual inauguration was held at a private swearing-in ceremony during the weekend, and the public celebrations, parades, and parties were all scheduled for Monday. Due to our Nation’s fascination with both its first families, and pomp and ceremony, the events leading up to and surrounding the inauguration have germinated numerous "news stories" and, unsurprisingly, even a bit of scandal.
This particular piece will not be discussing the first lady’s new haircut (or her fashionable gloves), Joe Biden’s tan, Malia’s photobomb, or the President’s inaugural address (gay rights FTW!). Instead this piece is about some of the musical performances which filled the DC air, celebrating what the Republicans refer to as “Blue Monday” (cue the New Order), because writing about music is what I do, and there was a certain Beyonce situation which you may have heard about.
Before I get to the “heart of the matter” I would like to point out that President Obama made some interesting choices when deciding which artists would be given the honor of playing the numerous balls which the wealthy attended on Monday. There were some obvious choices performing, like Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder, but am I the only one who felt that inviting Soundgarden was more than a little random? I would have pegged the President as more of a Foo Fighters or Pearl Jam fan, but maybe he has a thing for drop-D tuning. Beyond the Chris Cornell-fronted grunge band (it should be noted that Cornell also played a solo set during one of Monday’s various festivities), other acts who took stages on inauguration day included Jamie Foxx, Brad Paisley, Marc Anthony, Katy Perry, Usher, and fun (i’m guessing some of those artists were chosen to please Sasha and Malia). Sadly, many of these performances were held at closed door functions, where people like you and I could not enjoy the musical splendors, but there were some televised acts which went on throughout the day which we, for the most part, were fortunate enough to witness.
In the cold grey light of Monday’s inauguration, James Taylor stood at a podium erected on the steps of the Capitol building, elegantly played guitar, and delivered a poignant rendition of America The Beautiful. On those same steps, a golden blonde Kelly Clarkson fought off some early nerves, and eventually thoroughly conquered My Country Tis Of Thee, finishing off the song with a prideful eruption of emotion and seasoned aplomb. Those same steps also happen to be the place where Beyonce would go on to lip-synch The National Anthem, while shocking the type of people who read Entertainment Weekly and US Magazine. I personally would have guessed that we’d reached a point in society when this kind of news didn’t surprise people, and isn't a big deal... but then again it’s silly for me to have faith in people.
Beyonce approached the podium with the sort of preternatural grace which can only belong to a being who is genetically superior to us mere mortals. The music of the Marine Band blared its bombastic brassy intro and you can actually see a brief look of worry, or hesitation, on Beyonce’s face (I have rewatched this clip numerous times, maybe I’m reading too much into it). She admires the crowd, steels herself briefly, and then begins to sing what comes off as a completely live version of The Star Spangled Banner. It all appears to go relatively smoothly until the 1:27 mark, when Beyonce undergoes some sort of technical difficulties and pulls the monitor out of her left ear. Undaunted, Beyonce continues to generate the sort of theatrical fireworks one expects when an artist of her caliber delivers the National Anthem, and finishes the song off with well-rehearsed and perfected panache. Everyone who watched the event live was happy with the performance, including the grinning politicos gathered, and luminaries on the steps of the Capitol building.
It’s unclear exactly how we found out Beyonce was lip-syncing, but by Tuesday night we all knew it was true. The Marine Band even released a statement regarding the “controversy” stating in part: “The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) requested that the Marine Band accompany Beyonce Knowles-Carter in the performance of the Star-Spangled Banner at the 2013 Inaugural Ceremony. However, there was no opportunity for Ms. Knowles-Carter to rehearse with the Marine Band before the Inauguration so it was determined that a live performance by the band was ill-advised for such a high-profile event. Each piece of music scheduled for performance in the Inauguration is pre-recorded for use in case of freezing temperatures, equipment failure, or extenuating circumstances.” The Marine Band’s statement seems like a pretty decent rationale, and I can understand how freezing temperatures can cause impossible circumstances for musicians. As a matter of fact, temperatures forced renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma to opt for a recorded track when he was set to play at President Obama’s 2008 inauguration, and he didn’t receive anywhere near the criticism Beyonce has.
So why, exactly, is Beyonce suffering through all of these verbal slings and arrows? Well the answer to that is simple, although not very pleasant: because we humans adore gossip and derision (or, for our slightly less sophisticated readers, because we love to hate). If Beyonce had gone up there and knocked out a sterling version of The Star Spangled Banner we would have praised her, and forgotten about it by the time she hit the stage at this year’s Super Bowl. Instead she lip-synced- maybe because there actually wasn’t any time for her to rehearse, or perhaps it was too cold and the Marine Band began to have intonation problems- and now the Star Spangled Banner will be the very first thing people mention when her name is brought up at whatever Super Bowl party you attend next weekend. It really is a shame.
It’s important to remember that this incident will not affect Beyonce’s musical legacy in any way. This is a woman who has been grinding in the industry for almost fifteen years now, and she has proven her greatness time and time again (if you don’t know, you’d better ask somebody). I assure you this situation will be nothing more than a thing of the past, once we allow it be.
Had there been just a few more hits, this record could have at least been given a passing grade, though not an exemplary one. As it stands, the record is unsatisfactory... which is a shame... [Full Review]
2013's music festival lineups are really starting to take shape, as this week we found out My Bloody Valentine will be playing Barcelona's Primavera Sound, and Kanye West will be headlining New York City's Governor's Ball. As you can imagine, I am already looking into my Spain arrangements... Are you an Arcade Fire fan with $325,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Well then you should buy the church where the band recorded The Suburbs and Neon Bible. I would be interested, but I'm saving up for the home Thom Yorke was conceived in... New Kids On The Block (who, by the way, have a new album coming out) have teamed up with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees for a Summer Tour called... wait for it... The Package Tour. You may not know who any of those bands are, but there's a pretty solid chance at least one of their members slept with your mother... In other tour news, Jeff Mangum has extended his current music odyssey. He has been on the road so long I bet he doesn't remember where he lives ... This week, The Grammys revealed Jack White will be performing at their 55th Annual shindig. I'm pretty sure the people who are into Jack White don't watch The Grammys... Justin Timberlake has announced the release date for his upcoming record, The 20/20 Experience. I hope we're all ready for sexy to be brought back (again)... Emeralds broke up. This makes me sad... In even more crushing band break-up news, the Mars Volta has also officially called it quits. This makes my sadness increase... After a lengthy bout with throat issues, which ultimately led to two surgeries and a canceled tour, John Mayer sang onstage for the first time in two years. Please do me a favor and take your joy elsewhere... J.J. Abrams is reportedly set to make a Lance Armstrong biopic. I know that news has nothing to do with music, but it has been years since I made a Lost joke so here we go: I can't wait to find out Armstrong actually played drums in Driveshaft, is Locke's long-lost son, Walt's actual father, Lennay Kakua, and, in the end, nothing more than disappointing hackneyed, vaguely religious bullshit...
Top Ten List:
I once lived with a dude who was very much in love with Mike Patton. The rest of his musical tastes tended to be suspect at best, but his ceaseless devotion to Patton was something I truly appreciated. Whenever my former roommate underwent any type of emotional change (from sadness to joy, from boredom to anger, etc) he would soundtrack the moment with a seemingly endless rotation of Patton's work, which spanned the length and breadth of the legendary (and prolific) vocalist's career. There were Faith No More songs, Tomahawk cuts, Fantomas tunes and, above all else, there were Mr. Bungle masterpieces.
Boiling Patton's career down to one list would be an impossible feat, so instead I decided to rank the best Mr. Bungle songs, because frankly I consider them the apex of Patton's career. Mike Patton's birthday is Sunday, and these are the ten best Mr. Bungle songs of all-time.
10) Retro Vertigo
9) Quote Unquote
8) None Of Them Knew They Were Robots
7) Slowly Going Deaf
6) The Air Conditioned Nightmare
5) Vanity Fair
4) Carry Stress In The Jaw
3) Desert Search For Techno Allah
2) Golem II: The Bionic Vapour Boy
1) Goodbye Sober Day
Clips Of The Week:
There were several great musical moments at President Obama’s inauguration this week, and here are some of the best clips I could track down around the web. Before you even ask, of course I included Beyonce's Star Spangled Banner- it’s the bottom clip, but please don’t just skip to it, and try to watch the others first.
Track Of The Week:
*Originally I had wanted to run this clip in the previous section but it, like a lot of this Clef Notes, was hijacked by the inauguration, so instead you guys get extra music footage!*
If you’re a fan of electronica (and you really should be; I mean, it’s 2013 for God’s sake), and possess any taste whatsoever then chances are you’re already of fan of Kieran Hebden, and his exceptional work as Four Tet. Well, Mr. Hebden recently stopped by the UK web show, Just Jam, to spin what has been dubbed as “mad rare weird cosmic records”, and the end results were breathtaking. The two hour set is accompanied by some trippy-as-hell visuals, and would be the perfect thing to watch after you and your super-cool friends drink your opium pod tea.
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