The Right Reasons took some interesting turns this week. Perhaps most notably, David Jacoby thoroughly enjoyed this week's Survivor! All you need is some matricide to get him interested. We talked about Laura M. and Ciera's relationship, Caleb's apparently stable weight, and Aras's tribal council attire. From there we moved on to our Weird Watches, including Juliet's trip to X Factor to meet One Direction, followed by some hard-hitting news items. Topics include a potential NBA player on Survivor, the Situation's legal troubles, Brittany Murphy's suspicious death, and Taylor Swift's real estate holdings. This may be the only space on the Internet where government whistle-blowers and Love & Hip Hop New York commingle.
Katy Perry's latest video, "Unconditionally," premiered last night on MTV.com, and it is yet another piece of the confusing aesthetic puzzle of the Prism era. The clip features Perry as an ethereal snow queen, an upscale ball straight out of Anna Karenina, and a fuckload of fairy-tale romance. There's a lot of velvet and brocade happening. It's very wintry. And then there's a slight callback to "Roar," as Perry holds an owl. She is still mistress of all the animals. Then she bursts into flame, either because she is a witch or because her sex is on fire. Then the bed literally bursts into flame because John Mayer's dick is made of butane. That's how insane and otherworldly his bedroom skills are. His penis is literally gas. Then she gets hit by a car and her pudenda combust into a rain of flowers that blanket the car. It's visually stunning and she looks beautiful, but it's also kind of dull.
I hate to start this off with a comparison between Lorde and her female contemporaries illustrating why she is so [gasp] different and refreshing and authentic because that's exactly the kind of rhetoric that is starting to dig her backlash grave among both tweens and contrarian critics. But if nothing else, the one interesting thing about Lorde's rise to fame over these past few months has been its inverse curve to her pop peers with whom she shares a crowded fall release schedule. Months before their albums have dropped, Lady Gaga (whose long-awaited Artpop debuts tomorrow), Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus have waged a multi-platform assault on our attention spans, not only in the form of singles and music videos but well-timed controversial comments and publicity stunts that conveniently end up fueling the media machine for weeks while bringing their name further to the front of the pop cultural conversation. But once the album arrives? Radio silence, as if to emphasize the ultimately utilitarian nature of such campaigns. Meanwhile, Lorde dropped her album Pure Heroine on September 27, when her single "Royals" was no. 1 but her profile was still at a simmer, and she has drawn increasingly more attention to herself since then.
Because, you see, Lorde likes to talk. She likes to talk critically about the industry that has helped to lift her up, and about the peers she shares a market (and honestly, very little else) with. A recent in-depth and enlightening profile by Duncan Greive on Faster Louder paints Ella Yelich-O'Connor as a gifted kid with loving parents who host lively debates at the dinner table and made a point of never insulting her intelligence, even at age 2. Everybody grew up with one or two of those kids; maybe you even were one of those kids. Many times they are homeschooled, but sometimes they are unleashed on a public education system, where they bust in, thinking they know everything, only to quickly be made to feel like an outsider by their classmates. They often befriend their teachers before they befriend kids their age, because they never learned that there was any practical difference between the two. The teachers call them "precocious," which is secretly a synonym for "obnoxious," because their parents, out of love and respect, never taught them to self-edit.
This is how country singer Jake Owen responded after Pretty Little Liars actress Lucy Hale announced her upcoming country album onstage at the 2013 Country Music Awards in Nashville. It was a startling, cultlike moment, one that was in keeping with the tone of the CMAs, the biggest night in country music.
I tuned in to the CMAs with a knowledge of the genre just about comparable to its sports cousin NASCAR (I'm familiar with the big names, but not a single detail beyond that), so I didn't really know what to expect from the three-hour show. For one, I certainly wasn't expecting to watch it for three hours, and furthermore was not expecting to be captivated for the entire time.
But that's what happens when you start out with a blackface joke.
One fun thing about the epic pop stan wars of Q4 2013 has been how every time a new single drops into the arena, everyone has to reevaluate the existing standings. Miley Cyrus got an early lead with "We Can't Stop," which gave her an entire summer free from major pop star competition to build anticipation for Bangerz. In mid-August, Katy Perry premiered "Roar," her first single from Prism, the follow-up to record-breaking smash album Teenage Dream. Reviews of "Roar" were extremely mixed, but it shot to the top of the charts immediately. "Roar" and "We Can't Stop" were both unexpectedly mid-tempo, perhaps a reaction to EDM oversaturation over the course of the last year, but some pop fans still clamored for more aggressively beat-driven songs. Two days after "Roar" leaked, Lady Gaga leaked her own new single "Applause."
Gaga had been talking a huge game about her album Artpop for months, so it was with a lot of fanfare that "Applause" hit the Internet, where it fizzled without any warning. "Applause," with its Kurt Weill theatricality and general "that weird lady's doing it again" vibe, spawned a thousand think pieces speculating about whether Gaga's hot streak was over for good. Meanwhile, the safe and cozy "Roar," which is the pop song equivalent of hot milk with honey, shot up through the ranks and easily elephant-stomped "Applause."
There's no way Lionsgate is happy with Escape Plan's anemic debut, but we the people have received a golden treasure attached to the unnecessary movie's existence: seven new videos on Arnold Schwarzenegger's YouTube channel. They're all clips of the Governator reinterpreting some of his classic lines via Reddit request, and they are genuinely Schwarztacular.
On Saturday night, Grantland sent Tess Lynch and me, Molly Lambert, to the Hollywood Bowl for the Los Angeles stop of John Mayer's Born and Raised tour. We were excited to bond with our fellow Angelenos in the comfort of a legendary venue after a humiliating week of having to tell our friends that our Saturday night was blocked out for a John Mayer concert. As other reviews have noted, this tour has been a bit of a redemption arc for Mayer, who went silent after a few rounds of exceptionally bad press and an emergency throat surgery for granuloma. Mayer was in a mellow mood, serving up past smashes and future ones, almost all of them fairly midtempo. We watched couples bunny-hug and vulnerable female fans lose their shit, all while we listened to Mayer's legendary guitar prowess with the bonus of seeing the accompanying legendary guitar face. Would Mayer slip up and say something uncouth? Would he bring Katy Perry onstage to duet? Tess and I spent a magical night at the Bowl pontificating on Mayer's new country/classic-rocker image and music, his fans, and where that aioli smell was coming from.
Jennifer Aniston Pregnant? "Alone at last at the hotel, Jennifer Aniston could finally take off her corset." What an EVOCATIVE sentence! At a TIFF after-party, the "tequila-loving Aniston sent someone to the bar all evening to bring back her new signature on-the-rocks cocktail — water." Maybe she was just thirsty! "Aniston may have mastered all the tricks of Operation Bump Cover-up, but she is incapable of hiding her excitement. She's thrilled!" Whatever she wants, man. "Painted in her 2005 divorce as a woman too career-obsessed to have a baby with Pitt, Aniston was left reeling with hurt." GEE I WONDER WHO GAVE HER THAT REPUTATION, TABLOID MAGAZINE. "Then her prince finally showed up." OHHH GOOOOOD.
Let's get this out of the way: There's no particular reason to go see the VMAs live. This thing is not a live show that happens to be televised: It's a performance-first, production-heavy event, rendered in MTV's signature jump-cut OCD style for TV consumption. And so the plebes in attendance can sometimes feel like second-class citizens, caught trying to stare around the epic giant inflated Moon Man's left leg, where Daft Punk and Pharrell and Nile Rodgers are apparently palling around up on camera. This doesn’t apply to the famous people, of course. The famous people get the proper vantage points they, by rights of their fame, totally deserve.
Speaking of the beautiful people: MTV had them all huddled in one well-lit section to the right of the stage, where waiters with drink trays were omnipresent. You got to see every last ounce of Taylor Swift's carefully cultivated reaction shots, in crisp HD. I and the rest of the norms in section 112 craned our necks to figure out which of the Taylor Swift–like shapes was actually Taylor Swift. Until, like, 30 minutes in, I didn't know that the crazy big-haired lady in the bikini was Lady Gaga. Honestly, if you wanna know what it is you "didn’t see on TV," it’s a whole bunch of dudes in cargo shorts and head sets. Also: When Macklemore thanked "all the homies nominated," it seemed uncouth to, as you certainly would in the comforts of your own living room, scream out "this fucking guy."
Today on Girls in Hoodies we kick things off by attempting to explain/pick apart Grantland's not-at-all-controversial Best Songs of the Millennium bracket. (We would appreciate any and all votes for our theme song, "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," currently languishing against "Call Me Maybe.") Molly and Emily recap their Taylor Swift adventure at Staples Center, and we all admit that the new Lady Gaga video is pretty awesome. Finally, we save the most depressing for last with a few thoughts on the Lindsay Lohan–Oprah interview. Check out an excerpt from the pod and stream or download it after the break:
Taylor Swift is in the middle of a sold-out four-night engagement at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Grantland writers Molly Lambert and Emily Yoshida could not resist the pull of Swiftmania. Last night, they surrendered themselves to the beckoning calls of 15,000 screaming fans, and from their stage-left nosebleed seats they witnessed an evening of song, enchantment, feelings, and ballet interludes, and came back changed women. Here is their story.
Molly Lambert: On our first-ever journey to Swiftopia, Emily and I entered Staples Center ready to be transformed by Taylor's magic. And we WERE! I was, at least. Nothing about the live show is spontaneous, but I pretended I didn't know that. I yelled "OMIGOD!" when she brought out Tegan and Sara for a guest song, the least-planned-feeling but obviously planned moment. The audience was so respectful of Taylor that they went silent whenever she talked. Her banter was very bland, but I didn't care. She is perfect at what she does, and she's toned down the fake modesty bit. She seems supremely confident, and the set was packed floor-to-ceiling with HITS. I even enjoyed what I heard of Ed Sheeran from the lobby (he apparently raps?). It was fun seeing all the baby Taylors receive their queen, and the audience was a bioluminescent ocean of smartphones and LED signs reading "13” and "MEOW." It's a love story, Emily, just say yes.
Emily Yoshida: Not only was this my first journey to Swiftopia, but it was also the first stadium-grade Top 40 act I have ever seen in my life. I wasn't sure what to expect. Taylor's Staples Center residency is taking place right across the street from Grantland HQ, so I had been aware of the Swiftmania that had engulfed our corner of downtown. But being in the stadium, lit up with merch-stand glow sticks and packed to the rafters with tweens (and moms, and bros) in tutus, was unlike anything I've ever experienced before. When I first entered the arena I was like, "I feel like I'm in a GIF."
Lamar Odom Caught Cheating on Khloe Kardashian: After his affair with Jennifer Richardson was exposed, "Lamar has continued to self-destruct, as Khloe, 29, has continued to profess her love and support for her philandering husabnd — even though they've been living apart for the better part of two months. Friends and fans alike begin to wonder: How can a woman as smart, beautiful, and successful as Khloe stay with a cheater? Doesn't she know about his affairs?" Turns out she does "and she's furious." And there has been more than one. "Another woman has now come forward, claiming that she recently spent six intimate weeks with Lamar … and Khloe tracked them down in a hotel and tried to assault her!" Self-described criminal defense attorney Polina Polonsky "passed a polygraph as she told her story" to Star. Polina says "I am seriously scared for my life! Khloe has followed me and she has other people trailing me. I can't even go home, because I'm scared that something bad will happen. I want my story to be made public, because if something bad happens to me, I want people to know the truth." Oh my lord, what kind of bad thing? Are the Kardashians like the Sopranos?
Today was a big day for the young-adult genre. CBS Films bought the rights to Children of Paranoia, the first part of a trilogy about "a secret war that's been waged for centuries via assassins," and nabbed Battlestar Galactica's Mark Verheiden for the screenplay; meanwhile, Columbia Pictures has Erin Brokovich's Susannah Grant working on the adaptation of The 5th Wave, which swaps out assassins for aliens. How are our real, live young adults doing? Oh, they're OK! Taylor Swift told Rolling Stone that "the only love worth being in is the love worth singing about"; amphibious, pee-drinking goddess Ke$ha was born with a tail; and then there's this photo of Miley Cyrus making out with a man dressed as a giant baby.
Though it may not have topped "Get Lucky" in the chart domination category, "Blurred Lines" has gone into total meme takeover mode this week. Perhaps you'd like to sully the memories of your youth with "Blurring Pains," the Growing Pains–"Blurred Lines" mash-up that tosses a dick-size compliment in Thicke Sr.'s direction. There's also a gender-flipped parody from "boylesque troupe" Mod Carousel featuring some very spangly man thongs. Feel like blurring party lines instead? Bill's the hottest POTUS in this place.
George Clooney & Stacy Keibler's "Months Without Sex" Before the Breakup: When Keibler and "George Clooney, 52, split, they hadn't had sex in months. He's been in Europe and she's in L.A., and they haven't seen each other in a long time. Some girls would be OK with that and just be happy dating George, but not her." Well, what's in it for her, besides lots of publicity? Stacy pretended she was cool with things being casual, but "held out hope she'd be the one to tame the famous bachelor." When his two-year dating limit ran out, she was toast. "She knew he wasn't looking to get married. But there was always that fantasy that he would commit. Sadly, it just ran its course."