Oscar Winner Hiko Mitsuzuka

Twas the night before the Oscars, and all through L.A.
Actors were prepping for Hollywood's big day...


Back in 2005, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Academy Awards up-close when I was a wrangler at the Governor's Ball, one of the biggest afterparties known to man. It was a paying gig I gladly took (thanks to a hookup via the ever-fabulous Kathleen Newlove) and remember as The Night I Nearly Tripped Oprah.

Once I was relieved from my exhausting duty of guiding glamorous guests to their ornately designed tables where only half of the food was eaten (Blasphemous! How dare they neglect the culinary crafts of Mr. Wolfgang Puck!), I was able to walk around the huge ballroom above the Kodak Theater and take in my surroundings.

The publicists were crazed, all attached to their cells,
With hopes that those agents would go straight to hell...


I was drawn to the outdoor entryway where there seemed to be hubbub of activity. Cameras were flashing. Well-dressed bystanders hovered around the winners who opted to skip the Vanity Fair party and check out the festivities here. I glimpsed flashes of gold and pretended to be someone I wasn't - a VIP with important ties to producers and A-list talent. For a 24-year-old who had to not lose his shit every time Hilary Swank or Clint Eastwood walked by (this was the year of Million Dollar Baby), I think I did well.

With men in their tuxes, ladies in couture,
The red carpet was filled with glamour galore...


Then came the parting of the crowd. It was as if God Himself had approached the premises: Oprah arrived. And she had a camera crew behind her, apparently taping some B-roll for her post-Oscar show. Remember how amazing she looked in that gold dress?

I do...because as I tried to go in for a closer look, I was nearly run down by one of her cameramen who had been trying to maneuver ahead of her. Nearly tripping on a jumble of cables that snaked across the floor, I kicked it away with my shoe. It shuffled over to an empty spot where no one was standing. However, little did I know it was in Queen Winfrey's path. In my mind, I pictured the hypothetical incident in slo-mo: Oprah's foot getting caught on a cable, her falling down, the crowd letting out a collective gasp, and everyone - including the cameras - directing their eyes on me, the party crasher who was out to humiliate the Queen of Daytime Talk.

On Meryl, on Viola, on Melissa, on Rooney,
On Plummer, on Oldman, on Dujardin and Clooney!


Luckily, that didn't happened. Miss O graciously stepped over the cable, and as she walked by, I felt her essence. The woman just exudes power, and everyone else felt it that night. She made her way over to Jamie Foxx, fresh off his Best Actor win for Ray, and the two of them sat down on a platform for an impromptu interview. From twelve feet away I watched in awe. There was so much energy around me, so much vibrant possibility. Naturally, I couldn't help picturing myself attending this event as an official guest or nominee, even though my aspirations were - and still are - in television.

On Sunday, February 26 (tomorrow), I shall tune into the ceremonies that will take place in the heart of Hollywood, just seven miles from my apartment. Yes, I do think The Artist will sweep up. Yes, I do think Billy Crystal will do an admirable job as host, although a part of me is still curious to see what Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy would've had up their rascally sleeves. And yes, I do think it will be another predictable night full of filler no one cares about and gorgeous red carpet revelations that will have the fashion pundits drooling. However, let's not leave out the one emotional acceptance speech that will have people talking the next morning. Cuba. Halle. That guy from Life Is Beautiful...For me, I won't forget the awesome sincerity and excitement Matt Damon and Ben Affleck shared with the audience when they won the trophy for Best Original Screenplay in 1998 (Good Will Hunting). I was a high school senior back then, and for the first time, I had been truly inspired by the Oscars. The Academy Awards! Not just for old people!

Speaking of old people, I could also go on about how long-in-the-tooth the Academy has become over the past two decades, but Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly, my pop culture bible, has already taken the words right out of my mouth. Read his insightful piece (I can't agree more with his "boutique" comment) HERE.

Chew on this: The oldest member of the Academy is a 101-year-old man named Arthur Gardner. The Los Angeles Times did a piece on him the other day. Sure, he's one of the few living links we have to Hollywood's Golden Age. But for all we know, he probably thinks Nixon is still president and that Cary Grant deserves to win for his performance in The Descendants.

Oy to the vey.

Your Oscar (pool) winner,
H.P.M.


Movies Named After Robert Palmer Songs

Make that, not-so-great movies.

Late 90s cinema wasn't so kind to Meg Ryan (in 1997's Addicted to Love) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (in 1999's Simply Irresistible).

H.P.M.


Chris Hardwick Is My Obi-Wan

Kind of. But he doesn't claim to be whatsoever.

In my recent edition of "What I'm Reading," Chris Hardwick makes it clear from the beginning: "I AM NOT A LIFE COACH." He has no intention of being a motivational speaker or a self-help guru in his book, The Nerdist Way ("How To Reach The Next Level - In Real Life"). Nevertheless, his witty words of wisdom are proving to be helpful as I prepare to head further into my (gulp) 30s and figure out what the hell is going on with my life (my birthday's five weeks away as I write this; gift ideas can be viewed over HERE).

It may be hard to believe - actually, it's not - but this book was written for me. At least, that's how I feel. Although I can't recall ever being called a "nerd" to my face (I didn't grow up in an 80s teen comedy), I've always identified with this "sub-race" of human beings. I fit the criteria. I can finish the line, "You might be a nerd if..." with plenty of characteristics, scenarios, and examples. I never played sports. I owned an X-Files scrapbook which I meticulously - and proudly - assembled myself. I took AP Calculus (and passed).

The particular obsessions, the unique thought processes, the ocassional withdrawal from social activities: guilty.

But look at me now!

Back in January I attempted to get a copy of the book signed by Hardwick himself down at Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard where he presents his Nerdist podcast every week. I had been invited by a publicist to check out the event, listen to Chris read some passages and answer some questions from his pal, Wil "Wesley Crusher" Wheaton (left), and then take advantage of some free booze and hot dogs at the afterparty. Unfortunately I showed up too late and missed out on the Q&A and signing, but I enjoyed some refreshments and got a kick out of watching The Almighty Nerdist interact and bond with his bookish brethren.

I look forward to finishing this guide-for-geeks and being inspired to take charge of my "mind, body, and time." Take it away, Chris.


*Confession: I have no idea why I included a Star Wars reference in the above title. I'm not even a fan (fanboys, bring your wrath).

**And: the above pic of the dashing Mr. Hardwick was taken from the
Los Angeles Times blogsite.

H.P.M.


Belinda Carlisle Taught Me How To Ice Skate

Let me explain...

In the winter of 1989, my father regularly took me to the Hommocks Park Ice Rink in Mamaroneck, New York. It was a chance to tear me away from the TV and work some cardio into my weekend schedule. When I first stepped foot onto the ice, my chubby 9-year-old legs wobbled. The brown leather rental skates pinched my wide feet, laced-up torture devices for little boys who just wanted to sit on the couch and watch a few reruns of The A-Team. But after a few laps around the rink (and several trips and falls), I got the hang of it. "Don't look down at your feet," my father would tell me. "Just look ahead and go." His advice helped.

What also helped was the mix of pop music they would pump through the speakers inside the rink. One song that seemed to have played on heavy rotation was Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is A Place On Earth." Soon enough, I couldn't get it out of my head. The empowering chorus got me pumped. I skated faster and faster around the rink, my eyes focused on what was ahead of me, my ears absorbing the rockin' vocals of the former Go-Go. My feet stopped throbbing with pain. I soared across the ice, determined, inspired, invincible. In my mind, I envisioned a line of skaters moving in a lively, choreographed rhythm behind me, everyone waving their hands in the air and singing along: "Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth? Ooh heaven is a place on earth!"

*Sidenote: Since the age of 6 (as far back as I can remember), whenever I heard a particular tune, I've always had a tendency to daydream about music videos in which I, or friends of mine, would take center stage. You know, like when Renee Zellwegger's Roxie Hart fantasized about singing "All That Jazz"...or when Christina Aguilera's Ali pictured herself covered in diamonds in Burlesque.

Needless to say, whenever I hear Carlisle's fantastic contribution to 80s pop, I can't help but think of that ice rink, lacing up those skates, and drinking hot chocolate while watching the Zamboni machine refresh the ice.

Songs have a way of taking us back to particular moments in time - weddings, first dates, high school dances, the first time you rode in your mom's new car...and I have plenty mentally filed away that come out every so often when I hear a certain melody, beat, or lyric. For instance...


"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana - Riding the Mind Scrambler at Playland Park. The ride operator of this indoor attraction also acted as a DJ (which, I had thought, was such a cool gig), and he must have had a thing for Kurt Cobain, because every time my friends and I got on, it felt as if we were in a psychedelic mosh pit. Riders loved it. We would spin around while everyone screamed out the chorus and thrashed their heads. If you had asked me back then, I would've preferred something by La Bouche or The Real McCoy.

Amy Grant's "Every Heartbeat" takes me back to the summer of 1993 during which I spent two weeks at Campus Kids, an overnight summer camp based on a small college campus somewhere in Pennsylvania (hence the name). Armed with an ancient tape cassette player and a snazzier-looking Aiwa portable player, I replayed the song over and over - on the bus ride there, in my room (which I adorned with a Jurassic Park poster) and anywhere else I could. My roommates included a socially awkward 13-year-old who violently tossed and turned in his sleep and a chubby Hispanic kid who made the mistake of swallowing a cup full of mouthwash and burning his esophagus one morning. Fun times.

"My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion - Four 17-year-old boys. In my father's Toyota Camry. Lip syncing for their lives.

"All That She Wants" by Ace of Base - Eighth grade. Jeanette Tanner's birthday party. I first heard this song with the rest of my classmates at Westchester, the nightclub Jeanette's family had rented out for the occasion. My obsession grew shortly thereafter. "Don't Turn Around" became a prominent track on the first mixtape I ever made later that summer.

"Self Control" by Laura Branigan - My mother's friend once owned a house with a pool next door to a cemetery. One night, in the summer of 1984, a bat had flown into the enclosed backyard, sending everyone running for cover. As a little boy, I kept picturing fangs ripping into my neck and claws scratching my eyes out. I remember scraping my knee on the concrete deck while trying to scramble out of the pool. Laura Branigan must have been playing on a nearby radio at the time, because whenever I hear this song, I'm transported back to that creepy night. Luckily, back then, I never saw the equally creepy music video, directed by The Exorcist's William Friedkin; my pre-school ass would've had nightmares for days (don't even get me started on Michael Jackson's "Thriller").

I'm sure there are countless other songs with which I have vivid associations (and I'm sure I'll write them down when the time comes). It's amazing how far one little ditty can make you flashback. Looking back at the last twenty years of my life, so many of my memories have been trademarked by music, so many personal milestones and trivial moments accompanied by one song or another.

But until I dig up more memories, I leave you with this:



H.P.M.


LUSTER: The 2012 Spring Playlist, Vol. 2


Told you it was coming soon...Let's just get right down to it, shall we?

1. "In Your Light" by Gotye - To kick things off, how about a tune that'll make you wanna throw open the window, take a deep breath, and smile knowing that everything's going to be all right:



2. "Brokenhearted" by Karmin - The quirky pop duo (right) recently made a splash on SNL and instantly wooed me (and I'm sure countless others) with their debut original single. These YouTube sensations, a.k.a. Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan, have gone from the web to a record deal to national television in less than a year. And yes, a full-length album is being prepped for an April drop. If my Spidey sense is correct, these guys are about to blow the f**k up.

3. "Starships" by Nicki Minaj - Summertime. In three-and-a-half minutes of RedOne-crafted frivolity.

4. "Heaven" by Emeli Sande

5. "It All Belongs To Me" by Monica feat. Brandy

6. "Hotel Nacional" by Glora Estefan - She's back and ready to hit the clubs with this surprising single (and vibrant video) that just might make her relevant again:



7. "Vision of Love (Maison & Dragen Remix)" by Kris Allen
8. "Turn Up The Music" by Chris Brown - Although Mr. Brown is a douchebag-prick of assholish proportions (as seen in his post-Grammy tweets), I hesitate to include one of his tracks on here. And if it means anything to the mutual haters out there, I didn't pay for this song.
9. "Give Me All Your Luvin' (Party Rock Remix)" by Madonna feat. LMFAO & Nicki Minaj - A more tolerable version of Madge's attempt to win over today's kiddies. Ironic, though, since she complains that "every record sounds the same" while being reformatted to sound like everything else on the radio.
10. "In The Way" by Penguin Prison - Chris Glover & Co. continue to bring the electro-funk.
11. "Believe It (Radio Edit)" by Spencer & Hill feat. Nadia Ali
12. "I Would Do Anything For You" by Foster The People
13. "Nobody Knows" by Darin
14. "DJ Ease My Mind" by Niki & The Dove:



15. "Respect" by Melanie Amaro
16. "La Isla Bonita" by Ricky Martin and Naya Rivera - Who knew this dancier reignition of the Madonna classic would be so good?
17. "Let Me Be Your Star" by Katharine McPhee & Megan Hilty - It looks as if we've entered the Smash era (sorry, Glee), and the former Idol runner-up finally gets her moment in the spotlight six years later.
18. "Free" by Graffiti 6
19. "Part Of Me" by Katy Perry
20. "I Can Only Imagine" by David Guetta feat. Lil Wayne and Chris Brown - See #8 above. Besides, this is Guetta's baby.
21. "123 (Original Radio Edit)" by Craig Smart
22. "Dynamo" by Vincent Did It - He's the artist formerly known as Frankmusik (damn those pesky record label disputes!), and he's back with a vengeance.
23. "Hot Right Now" by DJ Fresh feat. Rita Ora:



24. "Cinema (Skrillex Remix)" by Benny Benassi feat. Gary Go
25. "Catch Me If You Can" by Danny
26. "Your Love" by Fay Wolf - To wind things down, sit back and get lost in this beautifully haunting rendition of the 80s classic.

*And yes, Volume 3 is already in the works as well.

H.P.M.


JUMPING ON THE MEME BANDWAGON

You may have seen memes similar to the one above popping up all over social media. I thought I'd contribute to the trend and give a shout out to my cyber brethren.

Holla.

H.P.M.


LIFE LESSONS FROM 'REVENGE'

I had my doubts about The Primetime Soap making another comeback to television. With Desperate Housewives on its way out this season, I was concerned that a juicy, adult serial wouldn't make an impact in the 2010s, especially on network television. And I'm not talking about a drama that involves doctors, lawyers, Upper West Side rich kids, or bloodsucking hotties. I'm referring to a straightforward sudser, chock full of sex, bitchy vixens, and old fashioned backstabbery. A more meticulously plotted Melrose Place. A dishier Dynasty people could tweet about...You know what I'm talking about.

That said, Revenge has been quite the surprise, a thrilling, soapy ride that just gets better with every episode. It seems to have avoided the mistakes of its predecessors and is now delivering twist after turn after twist. And let's hope it isn't a one-trick (or one-season) pony. While Revenge may have learned a few lessons from the soaps of yesteryear, I've learned a few of my own from the drama that continues to prove rich, white people got some effed-up problems:

1. Hire security for your parties. This covers all charity events, birthday soirees, lavish holidays, and intimate family dinners. And it's not just a matter of dealing with party crashers. This is for those run-ins with crazy, gun-toting social climbers...or your husband's ex-mistress...or the pissed-off brother of your daughter's boyfriend.

2. If you feel like you're being watched, you are. If you're a particular person of interest, whether because you're hiding something or holding the key to a long-buried secret, chances are someone is keeping tabs on you. That China doll sitting on the fireplace mantle? Yep, it's a hidden camera.

3. Are you an only child? Think again...because meet your long-lost sibling!

4. Give the peeping rich bitch next door a show every so often, especially if it involves her smokin' hot son.

5. Don't cross Grandpa. He might just come back to blackmail you.

6. Mistresses are hard to kill. Forget about pushing them off the ledge of a high-rise. It. Won't. Work.

7. Trust your dog. If your pet takes a strong liking to the new girl in town, choose her and not the trashy wench posing as your childhood crush.

8. Befriend a prison warden who looks like CCH Pounder. Girl will hook you up once you're out of the slammer and starting a new life.

9. Sign up for self-defense lessons with a Japanese mentor. Dude will Kill-Bill your ass till it hurts. He'll also prove to be a valuable ally when he strikes a business deal with your fiance.

And finally...

10. The truth will come out. No matter how deep you bury it, that shit will be exposed. So brace yourself for the consequences, or plan a clever getaway so no one can find you...until you decide to pop up for a surprise appearance in the season finale.

Cheers,

H.P.M.


RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK #30

Good luck to Jessie J, Katy Perry, and Karmin as all three of their singles ("Domino," "Part Of Me," and "Brokenhearted" respectively) compete with each other on the charts while sounding SO similar...it's not even funny. I say: blame it on producer Dr. Luke. Or is it just me?

May I present Exhibits A through C...

Jessie's "Domino":



Karmin's "Brokenhearted" (they wooed me during last weekend's performance on SNL):



Katy's "Part Of Me":



Those curmudgeons and cynics who think today's pop music is rubbish will have a field day with this. The evidence speaks (or sings) for itself.

H.P.M.

*And if you're wondering, I've listed each one above in order of preference.


A VALENTINE'S DAY NOTE TO SELF

For all the singletons out there.

Now, let's go f**k up a box of chocolates. Who's with me?

H.P.M.


THE WHITNEY HOUSTON EFFECT

When a celebrity dies, especially those superstars who are recognized across the globe, the world stops for a moment. And when his or her death occurs under bizarre and mysterious circumstances, especially after years of public struggles and making questionable decisions, the world starts to analyze the crap out said famous person's life. Topics brought up by the media hounds are immediately discussed, tweeted, speculated, and debated in the days that follow. What could have been done to avoid this?...This was bound to happen...Let's remember her for her talent and not her troubles...Why do celebs think they live by a different set of rules and standards?...

This is NOT one of those nit-picking pieces.

Instead, what I'd like to focus on is a particular reaction fans (and anyone with an iTunes account) have as a result of a celebrity's (notably a popular singer's) demise.

When Michael Jackson passed away nearly three years ago, his stock in music went up, so to speak. His greatest hits collections sold out in stores. His name instantly soared to the top of the iTunes charts. Radio stations put him on heavy rotation. And clubs and bars blared his discography throughout the night (I had been in San Francisco at the time and couldn't escape "Thriller").

I am guilty of immediately hitting iTunes shortly after I heard the news about Whitney Houston (My where-were-you-when moment: I was at the gym attempting to burn off a pizza dinner and did a double take when I walked past a jogger's TV screen on his treadmill). I wanted to fill in any blanks I had in my music library. Shockingly, I didn't have her boffo single, "I Will Always Love You" (on sale for 69 cents) or "How Will I Know," taken from 1985 debut album.

When you get down to it, it's simply a matter of Don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone. When someone who has given us so much -- someone who has been associated with certain aspects of our childhoods or adolescences -- is suddenly ripped out of existence, we rush to collect all the things that remind us of who they were, what they meant to us. We resort to our younger selves, waxing nostalgic on times we now cherish in hindsight.

I'd like to think that I certainly knew what I had before it went away. Every once in a while I'd press play on "So Emotional" while huffing and puffing on the elliptical machine or add "I'm Your Baby Tonight" to a party playlist so that my friends could get their 1990 on. And thanks to the 13 Going 30 soundtrack, I had fallen in love with "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" in 2004 all over again. Whitney was always there, even up until the fall of 2009 when I was blaring "Million Dollar Bill" from her last album, I Look To you.

Now, listening to "Run To You," "I'm Every Woman," and "Queen of the Night" the morning after The News made me, like most of you, revisit snapshots from my pre-teen years. And with such reminiscing comes the realization of just how distant those memories have become and how damn old we've gotten. Inevitably, we're also briefly getting a glimpse of our own mortality - definitely a moment to stop and think.

And with that, I leave you this (a very telling moment comes in at the 2:10 mark):



Forever Wanting to Dance With Somebody,

H.P.M.


THE WHITNEY PLAYLIST

I just have to say that, despite any career spirals and tabloid fodder, it is increasingly saddening to see my childhood icons leave this world. Naturally, after hearing about today's passing of Whitney "I'm Every Woman" Houston, my iPod shall pay tribute, in the days that follow, to the woman who taught me that "it's not right, but it's okay."



And a message for Howard Bragman: If you say you're sad yet not totally surprised that it happened, then you, like most around her, should've done something, offered guidance. Because what you said on CNN implies that you, and countless others, have been idly waiting for the train to crash. #prick

Collecting more of my thoughts,

H.P.M.


THEME SONG OF THE MONTH: FEBRUARY 2012

My jam this month isn't a brand spankin' new single. In fact, Ola's "All Over The World" was released overseas last summer, and regrettably I had to find out about it now. The track is pure, unadulterated Eurotrash pop. But it's digestible Eurotrash pop.

While I expected the video to feature the Swedish pop singer globetrotting across different continents with a bevy of babes following him (as the chorus would instruct), I realized that concept would probably involve a production budget as big as Gaga's last three epics combined. Therefore, whoever shot the music video apparently took the lyric "follow me all over the world" to mean "let's walk around New York City late at night and see what happens."

Enjoy:


BRANDY & MONICA...AND IT'S 1998 ALL OVER AGAIN

Feels like I've been waiting for this sequel to "The Boy Is Mine" for years.

It's been 14 years since we heard the R&B divas trade lyrics about the triflin' men in their lives. Who knew the magic would repeat in 2012? Listen to the new track, "It All Belongs To Me" below (and don't mind me while I flashback to my senior year of high school):



If the above doesn't work, try HERE or below...and feel the nostalgia:


SPLENDOR: THE 2012 SPRING PLAYLIST, Vol. 1

If you're already pining for those April showers that bring May flowers and would like to get rid of those scarves and winter coats, then feast your eyes (and ears) on the following choice cuts. It may be February, but we can jump ahead of the season, can't we? And who cares what that groundhog said? These should hold you over till you start smelling that freshly cut grass and picking out patterns for your Easter eggs.

Caution: Some serious beats await you towards the end of this compilation.

1. "Next to Me" by Emeli Sande - The recent Brit Award winner is making waves with her debut single, a rollicking piano-driven jam featuring a rejoicing chorus. Here's hoping that she finds at least a fraction of Adele's success here in the States:



2. "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye feat. Kimbra - Already placed in my top faves of 2012, this Belgian-Australian musician's got a haunting set of pipes. And may I strongly suggest trying out the exquisite Myndset remix. Oh, and the video's pretty cool too.
3. "Fair Warning" by Penguin Prison - This fratboy-lookin' fella's real name is Chris Glover. He hails from the musically rich subterranean scenes of New York City. And he wants you to succumb to his electronic, funky ways. Do it.



4. "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida feat. Sia - As derivative as Flo has become, I'm only tuning in for Sia's kickass vocals on this dance single, which should rightfully propel her into a bigger spotlight. If you've listened to her collaboration with David Guetta on "Titanium," then you know what I'm talking about.
5. "Midnight City" by M83 - This wonderful slice of alternative/electro-pop should've been placed on my fall mix, but sadly the awesome synths and sax of this single weren't brought to my attention until recently. And neither was the Village-Of-The-Damned-influenced video:



6. "Sorry For Party Rocking" by LMFAO
7. "New Lands" by Justice - It's like 2012 gave 1982 a makeover...Just try it. Trust me.
8. "Paddling Out" by Miike Snow
9. "Dark Side" by Kelly Clarkson - The original Idol serves up a pleasant piece of pop-rock accented by a slightly eerie nursery chime. Embrace your darkness, Kelly? With relish.
10. "Sorry for Party Rocking" by LMFAO
11. "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz
12. "Don't Gotta Work It Out" by Fitz & The Tantrums
13. "Cry (Just A Little) (Radio Edit)" by Bingo Players
14. "All Over The World" by Ola - Unabashedly Euro and undeniably irresistible.
15. "The Island Part I (Dawn)" by Pendulum - The drum-and-bass trio from Australia offer up a hard-hitting anthem suitable for any Ibiza party...or a drive up the coast with a beach bag in the backseat. Forget that chill in the air. Summer's arrived early, kids (if you wanna get straight to the vocals, skip ahead to the 1:30 mark):



16. "Cinema (Skrillex Remix)" by Benny Benassi feat. Gary Go
17. "Stay Gold" by The Big Pink
18. "Feel It All Around" by Washed Out - I'm a little late to the Portlandia party, so I'm including the IFC comedy's theme song here as it is the perfect chillout number for a late-night drive...or a bong session in your neighbor's living room.
19. "Best Night" by LMFAO feat. will.i.am & Eva Simons - If you're already fed up with "Sorry For Party Rocking," then settle into the rhythms of this ode to jetsetting and carefree nights with some random chick you picked up in a club.
20. "These Times" by SafetySuit
21. "The One That Got Away (Acoustic)" by Katy Perry
22. "We Run The Night" by Havana Brown feat. Pitbull - For those suffering from Pitbull overkill, suck it up and soak up the "loud bass" and vocals of this Australian DJ while picturing yourself riding the 6 train into Manhattan on a Friday night (or is that just me?). This is also for every fist-pumping Sal, Mike, and Tony down on the Jersey Shore. Get it HERE.
23. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" by the Glee Cast - A respectable redo brought to you by the white-boy funkiness of Darren Criss.

You're welcome.

H.P.M.

*PS - Believe it or not, Volume 2 isn't too far behind...


MERYL STREEP VS. GLENN CLOSE

Shortly after the holidays those fashionable fellows over at Bello Mag had asked me to write for their Entertainment section, particularly for their 32nd issue (now available at the App Newsstand for iPads and iPhones). And what you see above and below are the two pieces I contributed: my 2012 movie preview and a little blurb on the Oscar race (click on the images for a closer peek).


MY BEEF WITH KIDZ BOP

At first I thought it was a joke.

Several years ago I came across a CD in a store that appeared to be some kind of rip-off of the NOW! That's What I Call Music series. Only these Top 40 hits were redone for the 8-and-under crowd. Kids singing Britney Spears? And Bret Michaels? And -- wait for it -- The Beatles? I had to do a double take. "This is all kinds of wrong," I told myself.

Just how many kinds of wrong?

First of all, I wouldn't advise current pop artists to give this organization the rights to rape their songs with cheesier renditions of already cheesy singles.

And editing suggestive lyrics to accommodate these versions does a disservice to the songwriters. Case in point: Below is the video for Lady Gaga's "The Edge of Glory," as interpreted by a bunch of smiling, zit-free teens who, in reality, probably illegally downloaded Born This Way onto their smartphones during recess.



Changing my favorite lyric of the song from, "It isn't hell if everybody knows my name" to "It's just as well if everybody knows my name" isn't just an epic fail, it's a slap in the face to Gaga herself. An epic pop number about an epic, eternal love has been criminally cheapened and reformatted for a wider appeal that never needed widening in the first place.

Worse than your average track from a Radio Disney broadcast, these songs may be another way for artists to earn some extra cash -- who can blame them in today's music industry climate? -- but enough is enough. Are elementary schoolkids really eating this up? They must be, because Kidz Bop recently released Volume 21. That's twenty-one CDs of sugar-coated tunes aimed at kindergarteners and children whose overprotective parents probably shield their eyes from shows like Glee and Modern Family. And this doesn't even include the numerous special editions such as Kidz Bop Sings Monster Ballads, Kidz Bop 80s Gold, Kidz Bop Country, and -- someone surgically remove my ears should I ever find myself trapped on a road trip with this -- Kidz Bop Car Songs.

From what I can remember, no one thought it was necessary to reproduce Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" or George Michael's "Faith" when I was a wee lad back in the 80s. When those songs came on the radio, I bopped along, totally clueless to what they were really about. All I knew was that they had some good beats and catchy harmonies. Most of the time it was just noise in the background.

And true, Kids Incorporated, the children's television show that featured performances of popular songs, seemed to have wooed most of my peers back in the day, but when all was said and done, we still preferred the real things. As much as we may have been entertained seeing kids like us star in their own music videos (a fantasy I remember having since the age of 5), we knew they were just hollow, plastic replicas. But isn't that the very nature of pop music, that it's manufactured for the masses? Ah, the dichotomy of it all!

As for the kid singers/actors/dancers featured in these videos I wonder how many of them were pushed into these productions by fame-hungry parents who are grooming them for their inevitable auditions on American Idol, The Voice, and The X Factor. Is Kidz Bop just another training ground for the next generation of reality stars, pop idols, and Nickelodeon personalities? All signs point to: most likely. And with a DIY platform like YouTube cranking out pop star wannabes every day, the market is getting flooded at a faster rate.

And you know what happens when the floodgates open. We all start, well...drowning:



H.P.M.