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... Like It's 2004! The entertainer formerly known as a symbol gets snubbed by San Jose's finest.

Let's Get Retar... er, It Started!

Scandalous behavior isn't the domain of elected officials. Musicians (and the handlers who love them) wrote the FAQ on acting the fool.

By Todd Inoue

Summer Concerts Wipe-Out
Scandal: Music fans stay away from amphitheaters in droves
Winners: Fans sick of paying $70 for a show
Losers: Kiss, Norah Jones, Lollapalooza, Gloria Estefan, Van Halen, et al.

This summer, the strong-selling Norah Jones downsized her tour considerably, moving many shows originally scheduled for amphitheaters into midsize arenas. Gloria Estefan limped across the States, canceling a number of dates. And in the biggest single summer concert blowout, Lollapalooza was killed before a single note was played. Reason? Slow sales. It was easier to put a slug in it than try to recoup.

2004 will go down as one of the slowest summer concert seasons ever. According to reports, concert revenues were off as much as 40 percent compared to 2003. The Warped Tour and a couple of country music packages did well, but overall, the music industry took elbows in the gut. At Shoreline, a desperate plan to slash all lawn seats to $25 failed to help the cause. Paying $25 to bake in the sun and watch a show on drive-in screens? Maybe for Judas Priest, they said.

Concert planners didn't see the obvious signs. A bad economy, high gas prices and slumping music sales (though a booming singles market thanks to iTunes) left many bookers playing What Now? Audiences spoke with their wallets: We won't pay outrageous sums to see dusty, Botoxed acts from boonie seats in the amphitheaters. Add in overpriced parking, the cell phone abusers, the $10 beers and the overbearing security, and it's no wonder people stayed away. What this speaks to is a degradation of the concert experience that needs to be corrected. I have a solution: book exciting bands together, lower ticket prices, don't treat paying customers like Al Qaeda, and people will come.



Let's Go Crazy—Somewhere Else
Scandal: San Jose City Hall denies permit for Prince to perform an after-hours show at a downtown San Jose club
Winners: Prince and his crew, who get to relax after a long tour
Loser: San Jose's party image

Prince's aftershows have become legendary for special guests and long hours of jamming. In September, when Prince performed at the HP Pavilion for the last date of the Musicology tour, old friend Pete Escovedo (daughter Sheila played with Prince throughout the '80s) was going to host a Prince-attended afterparty at his South First street club. Pete put in a call to the city about getting a late-night permit to allow Prince to perform after-hours. Pete told Metro that city officials responded that it could "take a couple of months" of paperwork to green light such a permit. Faced with a looming Purple Invasion, the club scrubbed the idea and went ahead with just a party, no performance. Band and tour personnel chilled out, shot pool, danced, enjoyed a snack and watched a DVD of the San Jose show.

If the city had approved the permit, Pete said, Prince would have played. This is an example of San Jose politics enforcing a no-fun zone. Prince getting funky after-hours is a good thing and a permit, even temporary, could easily have been arranged. Think Gavin Newsom or Jerry Brown would bend over backward to help? Ya think?



Black Eyed Peas Make Friends
Scandal: Group alters the words to a song and scores its biggest hit ever
Winners: Retarded people, Black Eyed Peas, stadium music cues
Losers: Black Eyed Peas haters

Talk about image reversal. The world's most inoffensive rap group—the Black Eyed Peas—managed to record a song potentially offensive to the mentally disabled community. Elephunk had a party track "Let's Get Retarded" that went largely unnoticed. So when the NBA began looking for a song to use in its 2004 campaign, the Black Eyed Peas offered up "Let's Get Retarded," to which the NBA responded with "Ehhh." Black Eyed Peas went back to the lab, replaced "retarded" with "it started" and suddenly BEP and the NBA are pals, and the group scored its biggest hit to date. "Let's Get It Started" was even nominated for a Grammy. Not everyone was feeling it—rumor has it Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal wanted another BEP track, "Where Is the Love?"



FOB Story
Scandal: American Idol reject William Hung gets his 15-plus minutes
Winner: William Hung
Losers: Uptight Asian American activists, Cal Berkeley

Last season's American Idol auditions yielded the usual crop of Mariah Carey overemoters. So it was with giddy surprise that William Hung appeared on the tube and immediately crossed over into the public consciousness. With his bad voice, buck-toothed grin and awkward dance moves, Hung slaughtered Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." His can-do attitude ("I gave it my all—I have no regrets") was embraced by an America who loves the underdog. Soon he was everywhere: talk shows, shopping malls, halftime at the Warriors, even at Wild 94.9's Bomb (retitled "the Well-Hung Bomb").

A lot of Asian Americans dump on Ill Will, saying the American Idol reject reinforces negative stereotypes of Asian males. Throughout his entire 16 minutes of fame, Hung's represented nobody but himself (and by default, every shower singer who ever attempted to warble) and people bought it—to the tune of 50,000-plus copies of his cover song/deep thoughts rush-job Inspiration.

The whole fuss around Hung was disconcerting. It reminds me of that Onion story of a Chinese-American couple accused of perpetuating a negative Asian stereotype just because they own a laundry business. Yeah, there's ugly Asian people who can't sing—ever go to a karaoke bar? Let a brother get paid.



Smells Like Tween Spirit
Scandal: The actor/singer rises up
Winners: Tweeners
Losers: Whipped parents

What is it saying when actresses Raven Simone, Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff and reality TV show vets Ashlee Simpson and Paris Hilton all have albums out or in production? Rev the twin engines of Hollywood and the music industry—a movie will support the album which will support the tour! Tweeners—the marketing gold mine of young girls aged 8-13—gravitated to these hopped-up Wet Seal models like cat hair to wool pants. The music is the abysmal cookie-cutter Europop crizzap without any of the slutty entendre of Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Like everything else at that age—the requests for belly rings, the snappy answers, the insouciance—let's hope it's just a phase. In a related story, Britney said she's taking two years off from music to concentrate on family business. Can we hold her to it?


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From the date-date issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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