Hive’s Musical Turkey Pardons: Class of 2012

Pumpkin, the National Thanksgiving Turkey of 2008. Photo: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

That time has come when Americans slow down for the week in favor of spending time with family, giving thanks and consuming a whole bunch of food in a short amount of time. It also marks the week where one lucky turkey will receive a presidential pardon, sparing it from appearing on an actual dinner table. We at Hive also have a tradition of pardoning turkeys, but in a more musical sense. This year, we polled a few of our contributors to see what musician they thought displayed turkey-like behavior, but still warrants a second chance. Dig in:

Madonna

Madonna‘s MDNA was a bellyflop, a beautiful sleeve and clever title wrapped around a big old Bronx cheer of an album. Its pallid beats, shallow sentiments and weak tunes suggested that the Material Girl had finally fallen out of touch with the underground culture that she’s always transmuted into remarkable mainstream pop. Her lesser albums can usually be relied on for at least one knockout single, but even with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. propping it up — not to mention a Super Bowl performance and a crew of cheerleaders chanting about how awesome Madonna is — “Give Me All Your Luvin’” struggled up to #10 on the Hot 100, then quickly darted out of public consciousness.

But come on. This is Madonna we’re talking about. She actually has made full-on terrible albums before – American Life, anyone? I’m Breathless? — and returned to rule. She still totally gets the club world: all three of MDNA‘s singles were #1 dance hits (her 40th, 41st and 42nd since 1983). And accusing her of pandering is missing the point of Madonna altogether. Risking being tacky and trendy isn’t the downside of her work, it’s been her job description for thirty years now. Sometimes that means we get a triumph like “Ray of Light” or “Music” or “Hung Up”; sometimes it means we get something that promises ecstasy but delivers nothing but flashing lights and wooziness. - Douglas Wolk

 

Wiz Khalifa

There are a lot of things for which we should continue to mock Wiz Khalifa. There is his penchant for cultivating the Cruella de Vil look on his album covers. There’s his relationship with Amber Rose, which has metastasized to Affleck/J. Lo levels of PDA grotesquerie. There is his one-note weed obsession that somehow makes Cheech & Chong look like The McLaughlin Report. But I’m here to tell you that we must absolve him for all sins.

The reason is Juicy J, who Wiz helped turn from an aging legend into the trippiest motherfucker in rap history. The last time we heard from Jordan Houston he had moved to Hollywood, done reality TV, and feebly attempted to woo some girl from The Hills or Laguna Beach or Beverly Hills 90210. Then he was invited to join Taylor Gang, got beats from Lex Luger and Mike Will, and suddenly became the rajah of ratchet. To a generation who think Mystic Stylez is a Magic Card spin-off game, Juicy has become the fairy godfather uncle who taught them how to get strippers to give them their cell number. Not only was “Bands a Make Her Dance,” the best radio rap single of 2012, Juicy popped up on every guest spot, remix, and Wiz mixtape track. Juicy J deserves most of the credit, but Wiz re-opened to the door for one of the greatest rappers ever. It may not have happened without Wiz. You may not like his schwag-rap, but you cannot deny that he is permanently trippy and then some. – Jeff Weiss

Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu has three kids — one of them born as recently as 2009 — so you’d think she would’ve watched a few children’s TV shows with them. Apparently not. If she had, she might’ve discovered that they have some really insightful, positive messages that adults can learn from as well. Take Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, for instance. It’s an adorable animated show based on the late Fred Rogers. I was watching it with my 18-month-old just the other day, and they had an entire episode devoted to rage. All the kid animals were at the music store, picking out their instruments, and Katerina Kittycat wanted the triangle. Well wouldn’t you know it, that bitch Miss Elaina got to the triangle before she did, and Kittycat flipped the fuck out. But then Music Man Stan was like “Yoooo, baby” — I’m paraphrasing — “take a deep breath and count to four.” Kittycat took his advice, and it did the trick. She calmed down and realized she was being irrational and immature and kind of an asshole. And best of all, she had this epiphany before she did something stupid, like write a weirdly hostile and rambly Tweet. I’m just saying, it’s a good lesson. And maybe something Erykah needed to be reminded of this year.

If you aren’t already overfamiliar with the details of Badu’s summer meltdown, here’s the short version. She did a cover of Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” with the Flaming Lips, and then they made a video, which included a lot of nudity. The video featured her sister Nayrok, taking a sexy bath in various unlady-like substance like glitter, blood, and what was vaguely looked like sperm. The video was released online, and then Badu saw it and flipped the fuck out. But she didn’t have a Music Man Stan to calm her down. Instead, she went on Twitter and posted a 750-word rant to Lips frontman Wayne Coyne that read like a Prince song title with a speech impediment. Badu — who, it should be noted, had previously done a video in which she stripped naked in front of stunned-looking minors, and then pretended to be shot in the head on the same Dallas block where JFK got capped (Symbolism! Or something!) — was not happy with the Flaming Lips video, which she claimed was “a poor excuse for shock.” Of course it was. It doesn’t count as art unless you’ve emotionally scarred a few children in the process.

Her biggest complaint was that she didn’t realize the video would be released to the public. “That is equivalent to putting out a security camera’s images of me changing in the fitting room,” she wrote. But that’s not entirely fair. If she was taking a bath filled with glitter, blood and sperm in the privacy of her home, and Wayne Coyne had video-taped her through a peep-hole, Porky‘s style, that’d be one thing. Here’s the first rule of show business: If you don’t want to be in a video where you’re taking a bath filled with glitter and sperm, don’t go to a studio where there are guys with cameras and then get into a bath filled with glitter and sperm. I’m not trying to claim I’m more media-savvy than Erykah Badu. That should go without saying. I’m claiming that my 18 month-old son, who thinks Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is Shakespeare, is more media-savvy than Erykah Badu.

We still love you, Badu. But do us all a favor and follow Music Man Stan’s advice. When you make a mistake and you’re filled with unmitigated, irrational rage, take a deep breath and count to four. - Eric Spitznagel

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg dropped the limpest rap release of his life in April with his Stoners EP. It was a project so half-assed in its ambition and execution that the Doggfather could only muster up rhymes that revealed how he likes to spend his days filing his nails and, on two songs, even saw him relegated to “featured” artist status on his own venture. Smelling the fresh air for a rare moment in his weed-sozzled life, Snoop apparently felt so ashamed with this lackluster outing that he decided to put the canine era of his career to rest and reincarnate himself as Snoop Lion the reggae artist. The cod-awful “La La La” soon followed, announcing not the arrival of a vital new reggae talent but suggesting that Snoop’s friends have probably been forced to suffer many cringe-inducing karaoke performances of The Best of Bob Marley over the years.

Still, if Snoop can regain a semblance of common sense and slay the ghost of the Lion, it’ll justify this pardon. When he manages to focus on the art of rapping, he’s an exceptional spitter and far more accomplished and entertaining than most of the gangsta-styled kids who’ve followed in his wake. And if the gushing reaction to Kendrick Lamar‘s album inspires Dr. Dre to finally finish noodling around with Detox, hearing a reinvigorated Snoop and the good Doc back in tandem could add a thrilling streak to 2013. - Phillip Mlynar

Nicki Minaj

This year was kind of a bummer for people who love Nicki Minaj, and not just because she put out an uneven album. Whether she was biting Katy and Britney’s style in the studio (and ending up with a mouthful of Splenda), gritting her teeth and playing Madonna’s cheerleader, or calling her branded smell-water “a milestone for hip-hop,” it seemed like every move she made was a slightly-too-naked effort to get paid. (Bikini video notwithstanding.) She showed her female empowerment by appearing on a track with Chris Brown, and her inane, possibly fake beef with Mariah Carey took up so much media space that the President was forced to comment on it. That she let us watch her bitch out her assistants for three episodes’ worth of E! special was icing on the cake; either she’s convinced the world will love her anyway, or she’s delusional enough to think her behavior is charming.

But …maybe she’s right? This is the woman who brought us “Superbass,” after all, and even more importantly, adorable British children rapping to “Superbass.” On the largely inconistent Roman Reloaded, tracks like “I Am Your Leader” remind us she’s still great at playing the verse-murdering weirdo, and “Stupid Hoe” elevated the playground taunt to Shakespearean levels. And of course, it’s always fun to mess with the slower liberal bloggers. Nicki and her alter egos remain in the black, but let’s hope she takes these criticisms under advisement. - Jamie Peck

Amanda Palmer

Let’s say you’re a musician who needs some money for a new record. And your fans love you so much, they give you a million dollars. A million dollars! Which is more than enough in these troubled times to record some music, pay for some promotion and print up some cool-ass merch. It’s also enough money, as the Internet and Steve Albini pointed out, to pay session musicians at your gigs. All of these factors — the million dollars being the biggest one — was why Amanda Palmer was greeted with such hostility this fall in her free-love, utopian-esque decision to not pay musicians who were going to play gigs on her Theatre Is Evil tour, except with beer and, well, free love — a hobo’s equivalent of a day’s pay. But Palmer’s a student of the internet and a student of wanting things to be fair for musicians (see her 2009 fight with label Roadrunner Records, where she asked to be dropped). Thus, after a few days of hemming and hawing, Palmer changed her tune and decided that doling out some cash could and should be done. It takes a lot for a musician to self-finance their art, but even more so, to publicly admit when best-practices — a hobo-style reward system — need some tweaking. – Mike Ayers

Childish Gambino

Last year, Childish Gambino followed up a series of really well-received mixtapes with a proper debut album, Camp, that garnered a #11 showing on Billboard, a bunch of mixed reviews, and a brutal 1.6 rating on Pitchfork. And it’s fair to criticize the guy’s output in the past year: the dude’s lyrics are super offensive coming from a guy who’s non-rapping stand-up comedy persona is rooted in having a thoughtful take on gender dynamics, and he didn’t even have the “this is super fun to shout along to in your car” thing going on that helps excuse that from the Rick Rosses of the world. But let’s give the guy credit, too — the mixtape he dropped this summer, Royalty, saw him open up what he’s doing by collaborating with everybody from Bun B to Beck to Danny Brown. Even if you totally wrote Gambino off after the snoozefest that was Camp, there’s reason to be optimistic that the follow-up will be a lot fresher. Plus, as Community die-hards know, when October 19th finally rolls around, we’ll have Troy and Abed back to assuage any bad feelings leftover from the Gambino missteps. — Dan Solomon

Flosstradamus

It happened overnight. The unstoppable creep of electronic dance aesthetics co-opted southern trap music, spinning out a ginormous wave of 140-beats-per-minute, 808-raddled SoundCloud uploads. The poster boys for this crossover phenomenon are Flosstradamus, a pair of Chicago producers who were self-admittedly stuck in a 4-year creative rut until they ran up the Hype Machine charts with their booming remix of Major Lazer’s “Original Don.” The Jeffree’s-sponsored Total Recall EP and a non-stop stint of tour dates quickly followed.

But as the duo closed out the summer season with the release of their three-part X EP series, a pattern in their production became painfully obvious. Autobot and J2K had been generously sampling tracks from Dutch hardstyle producers and releasing the trap-filtered mp3s as original work. (As Fact Magazine points out, this happened on at least a half-dozen tracks.) Mad Decent received a cease-and-desist letter from producer Dutch Master, officially making it a legal issue, too.

SoundCloud semantics are generally confusing. The differences between title addendums like remix, refix, edit, bootleg, bootie, and VIP are generally marginal. What the production community has agreed upon is that if you sample, especially generously as Flosstradamus did, you should brand the song using one of these terms. This year, we’ll chalk up the error to the generally evolving best-practices of EDM nomenclature, and do some 2 Chainz arm dancing to “Underground Anthem.” – Steven Aguiar

RELATED POSTS