Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stars are Blind

Check it out! I am blogging from vacation. In honor of my present location a block away from the beach, I thought I would review Paris Hilton's prefabricated summer single, "Stars are Blind."

Not surprisingly, "Stars are Blind" will probably not change your life, and it is also unlikely to make enough of an impression to change your CD collection (though, it may change your iTunes playlist, since one function of the online music revolution is the ability to download at a moment's notice nearly any embarassing schlock for people to later find and mock). Last week, during a party in the courtyard in the building next door, I heard somebody put this song on, and several voices protested the awful choice. I suspect the owners of these voices to be pathetic, conformist hipsters, because... be honest, I was disappointed in the song. I wanted "Stars are Blind" to be William Hung horriffic, but instead, it was just inoffensive disposable pop. The vocals are sugary and breathy, and I question how much of actual Paris Hilton voice we're hearing. Assuming a recording of Hilton's voice is the basis of this song, I applaud the producers and engineers and other technical and creative types that generated the final product. I would never be impressed by someone putting this song on, but if I had a few drinks in me, I would probably dance to it.

On the other end of the spectrum are those claiming that "Stars are Blind" is pretty good and infused with a Gwen Stefani feel. I suppose this is true, in that Gwen Stefani is another scantily-clad blond backed by the occasional reggae-esque beat. The comparison still smacks of pathetic, conformist nerds self-consciously separating themselves from pathetic, conformist hipsters, but I agree that the song can be played without anyone breaking into hives over it.

The video matches the song in bland-and-inoffensiveness. Mostly, Paris Hilton lolls on the beach, or on some anonymously-attractive man who is in turn lolling on the beach. Ms. Hilton's performance is fine. I totally believe, in watching the video for "Stars are Blind," that Paris Hilton enjoys hanging on mute, muscled boys on the sand.

And that is one more thing Paris Hilton and I probably have in common.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

So You Think You Can Dance

Despite my status as a gainfully-employed chronological adult, I find myself easily mesmerized by competitive reality TV shows. This summer, as it did last summer, Fox is running "So You Think You Can Dance," which is sort of like American Idol, only with dancing instead of singing.

The grand prize? Apparently, a background dancing role in Celine Dion's Brand New Day show in Las Vegas. Which means the show's winner can experience all of the magic of Showgirls (and Sock Puppet Showgirls) without the humiliation of the nipple-icing scene.

Like American Idol, the show started off with a series of episodes showing the good (and wonderfully bad) initial auditions. I admit that I did not see most of these episodes. At any rate, after some cuts, the field was whittled down to 20 finalists -- 10 men and 10 women, who were paired off into 10 couples.

Each week, the couples pick dance styles out of a hat, and that's the style they have to compete with that week. This has resulted in the awesome spectacle of a ballet dancer trying to pull off hip-hop, a hip-hop dancer standing ineffectually while his partner whips around him like a salsa badass, and lots of comments from the judges that begin something like, "I know you were way out of your comfort zone there..."

The viewers vote, and the members of the bottom three couples have to dance individually on the results show. The judges then choose one man and one woman to get kicked off. They can pick a man and woman from different couples, meaning that the couples can in theory get sort of shuffled around as more people get the boot.

In practice, this has meant that Dmitry the Hot is now on partner #3. I should explain that Dmitry is a Latin dancer who was born in Russia and is apparently incapable of wearing anything that covers his chest. Not that I am complaining. Dmitry generally dances well in his solos, and while I would hate to see him go and miss seeing The Chest every week, one of his solos did yield the EXTREME CROTCH CLOSE-UP SHOT that, frankly, has made the entire show for me. I really should have Tivo-ed it.

Having lost his first two partners, Dmitry is currently paired with "pop-locker" Ashlee. I was not aware anyone under 28 or so even knew what pop-locking was, so good on her. Last week, Dmitry and Ashlee did this cracked-out contemporary routine to "Dance Dance" by Fallout Boy that was apparently about a doll brought to life by a ringmaster or something. It is now among my favorite things ever. So far as I could tell, all they did was chase one another around the stage, punctuated by some weirdly-angled lifts. They somehow stayed out of the bottom three. So, thank you, America, for keeping them on the show!

A few other couples of note include:

  • Allison and Ivan. Ivan sucks at pretty much everything except hip-hop. Allison is lyrical and beautiful, and I want a minitaure Allison to carry around in my pocket. Whenever I get sad, I could take out mini-Allison and watch her dance for a few seconds, and suddenly I'd be happy again.
  • Benji and Donyelle. Donyelle is lovely, but on the big side for a dancer. Despite this couple's skill, Benji lifting her up and spinning her around reminds me of the end of Victor/Victoria. I think the problem is that Donyelle needs to be matched with someone less scrawny if they want her to look delicate and lift-able. Also, at least one source with absolutely no direct knowledge insists that Benji the Mormon swing dancer is gay. Which would explain his mad dancing skills.
  • Natalie and Musa. If you like watching attractive people have sex (and hey, who doesn't?), you'll probably like watching them dance, even when they don't actually dance particularly well. Just put a condom over your TV or something before having direct contact with it.
  • Heidi and Ryan. These two are notable solely because Heidi, Benji's cousin, looks sort of like if Reese Witherspoon had grown up in a trailer park and infused a tanker's worth of espresso directly into her veins every morning.

Is the show any good? Sure, if you like watching people occasionally dance very well, and more often stagger through unfamiliar genres. The judges are sort of hit-or-miss, and Mary Murphy, without fail, always uses her horribly nasal voice to deliver the first half of her critique in a normal tone...AND THHHEEEEEEEN SCREECHES OUT THE REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEST. Do yourself a favor and mute her out before the end of her first sentence.

I note that this show tries to pack about 20-25 minutes of content into an hour for the results/solo performance show. This means, yes...musical guests. The musical guests run the gamut from bad to horrid. The absolute low point came in the form of Nellie Furtado badly lip-synching "Promiscuous" with Timbaland. For the love of God, the song has about 30 words -- she couldn't just sing them? Ms. Furtado would also do well to fire her stylist, since I've seen dying crack whores who look classier than she did on the show.

Finally, I don't blame the show for this by any means, but would it kill them to tip their hat to the South Park "You Got Served" episode? Every time they start one of those group dance numbers at the beginning of an episode, I yearn to hear, "Let's see you daaaaaaaaaaaaaance, sucker! You got nothin' on me!"