I Still Believe in Lana Del Rey (Video)

Lana Del Rey made it to SNL last week. This was a good opportunity to see if the much hyped singer can actually pull off an interesting performance. After all, even Hype-Machine stardom fades eventually if not backed by a decent album and tour.

If Del Rey has one compelling virtue that comes across on the first listen, it is her cool presence. She just can’t help being so cool (and hot at the same time).

That is why it was so disappointed to witness a frozen version of Del Rey on her first prime-time appearance. Del Rey was obviously very nervous as she sang Video Games. Although she had tried hard to keep it together – her singing went from being mildly impressive to completely off-key. As expected, the Twitter storm didn’t disappoint with Chris Cornell and Juliette Lewis leading the angry mob.


However, I felt that Blue Jeans, Del Rey’s second song, was much better. She got more comfortable and was able to showcase her vocal capabilities. No, it wasn’t perfect and it was hardly SNL worthy but it wasn’t a complete disaster either.

With all due respect to Cornell and Lewis, I believe there is still hope for Miss Del Rey (and more importantly, there are still two more weeks for her to practice before the album comes out).


Where’s Gaga? – Why I Didn’t Like the HBO Special

I was anxious to watch the Lady Gaga HBO special. So anxious that I spent the bulk of my Saturday night searching for it online. I came across a clip in which Gaga is in her dressing room, just before she takes on a sold-out Madison Square Garden for the 5th time (!).

In those 237 seconds Gaga is captured going through an emotional rollercoaster: first, bursting into tears while talking about feeling like a “loser kid in high school”, she goes on to say how she “will not be destroyed” and that it’s all about “being a winner” for the fans. She then wipes her tears and starts praying for god “to give her courage”. The scene got cut from the HBO original broadcast which is too bad because it encapsulates everything that Gaga is doing wrong these days and all that she has to offer: Gagaism, pop clichés and lame Madonna impressions.

The show itself wasn’t bad. If all you were looking for was ridiculous clothes, fierce dancers and “glittery” pop music, it was pretty enjoyable. But that’s what we have Rihanna for.

Gaga sees herself as a bigger icon that offers social commentary underneath her highly stylized wardrobe. She is clearly trying to use dance music, radical fashion and the exploding celebrity culture to tell her own personal story. She has been doing that since she got famous but instead of using her two-hour special to deepen her message, she only demonstrates how shallow it is. She talks endlessly about her childhood in New York, the struggle to become an artist, her dream to perform at the Garden, her mean teachers at NYU who told her there was no way she would ever succeed and her heroes (Liza Minnelli and Marisa Tomei) who came to see her shine. It’s all Gaga – over and over and over again. She pretends to make it about the fans. She goes on and on about how they should “be brave”, just like she is. For Madonna that would have been a 30 second intro to “Express Yourself”, for Lady Gaga it’s the whole show.

Finally there is the music. I had only heard three songs from Gaga’s upcoming album and was mildly impressed. You and I sounds vaguely familiar (4 Non Blondes, maybe?), Born This Way sounds like a Madonna hit and Judas sounds like an old Lady Gaga track (with an exceptionally bad video).

For someone who speaks incessantly about self-empowerment and being yourself it sure feels like Gaga’s unique voice has gotten lost in her own Monster Ball.

Young Viewers and Cord Cutting – Where is the TV market headed?

“Yo, where’s the movie playin’?
Upper west side, dude.
Well, let’s hit up Yahoo Maps to find the dopest route.
I prefer Map Quest.
That’s a good one, too.
Google Maps is the best.
True that.” (Lazy Sunday)

In early 2006 Lazy Sunday was the hottest video on the net. The funny hip-hop tune, written by the very white Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell became a huge viral hit. While 6.6 million watched it on the original airdate on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, about 5 million saw it in the following weeks on YouTube. NBC was shocked by the power of the net and had it removed. In the book of Genesis of online television, Lazy Sunday went down as the video which had changed traditional television forever: shortly after its huge online success YouTube was bought by Google for $1.6 Billion, which prompted NBC and Fox to co-found Hulu – the first online hub to feature free legal video content from two major broadcasters and over 100 other providers.
The teenagers who loved Lazy Sunday are now five years older.  Some are in college, others are fresh graduates who are looking for a job in a market that took the worst hit since the Great Depression. However, there is nothing scarce in their world. They enjoy more music, television and film than previous generations. They know everything about their friends and celebrities.  They are constantly communicating, creating and exchanging ideas – and they hardly pay for any of it.

In order to understand where the television market is headed, we need to look at its young consumers – the “Lazy Sunday generation” – who jump-kicked a revolution that is expanding as they get older and move into the 18-34 age group. These viewers consume television differently than their older siblings and parents.

According to a wide survey I had conducted among 189 people in that age group (mostly students at the University of Southern California), online television has become the most popular way for young viewers to follow their favorite shows. Even when young viewers have a cable subscription with over 100 channels and a DVR, online streaming sites are the most popular gateway for following specific shows. This finding held true across all ages (18-33), but the numbers were especially high in the 18-21 group, although most of them are students who enjoy free multichannel television at their USC university housing.

When it comes to your regularly watched shows, how do you usually view it? (Choose all that apply)

The survey also indicates that the option of watching television without a paid subscription is becoming more popular among young professionals. According to the results, a growing percentage of viewers does not subscribe to the any television provider. Four out of 10 people in the 27-33 age group did not pay for television— double the ratio in the general Los Angeles television market. Instead, these viewers watch television mainly through streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix and Surf The Channel. This behavior was dubbed as “cord-cutting”, although many of these viewers never had a paid television subscription to cut.

The cord-cutting discussion has been going on for few years. Cable and satellite providers insist that it is no more than a myth. However, many bloggers and tech experts disagree. Clearly, there is a need for more research in order to validate either side’s argument.

For now we should look back on other changes that were driven by young consumers. One shift that comes to mind is the plunge of phone landlines in the early 2000s. It started predominantly with college students who were inclined to give up the traditional phone service in favor of mobile phones. 10 years later, one in four American homes does not have a landline.

Lazy Sunday was aired in late 2005. In this dynamic billion-dollar market, only one thing is clear today. In the next 10 years the television conglomerates and new media entrepreneurs will be anything but lazy.

Paul McCartney Live In Tel Aviv (Show Review)


I received my first technological device – a double cassette tape, when I was about 10 years old. As it offered a stimulating new world, it immediately became my favorite toy. The possibilities were endless: listening to two songs playing simultaneously (It was clear, even as a 10 year old, that mashup wouldn’t be anything more than a fleeting hobby), duplicating tapes, and of course producing my own mixtapes. However, similarly to the atom bomb, with technology comes responsibility.

One day my mother asked for my help: to assist her to prepare for a lecture and record an entire tape with only one Beatles’ song ‘when I’m 64’ back to back. After listening to McCartney’s bootlicking/Puffer chorus I ceased to be a Beatles fan in the making, and became a person for which the band evokes a visceral reaction. It took me years to recover.


This memory came back to me last night, when I was standing in Yarkon Park, two and half hours before McCartney’s gig. Surprisingly, when it comes to having patience at concerts, Israelis are quite diligent. Among the thousands of fans a father and his 12-year-old daughter stood behind me armed with binoculars. They were following the  large screens on the stage, which projected a computerized photo presentation picturing Paul’s life. In any other fully commercialized concert, the huge screens would have probably brainwashed us with commercials, but Paul promotes only one product, himself and the Beatles (and no mobile phone provider would stand in his way). For the father and his daughter this was an opportunity to impart a lesson in rock history.

Daughter: I recognize Paul and Ringo. And there is John Lennon and the other guy.

Father: George Harrison

Daughter: I always  forget him. They have such similar names.

From there, they discuss the photo on the cover of Abbey Road, which was taken outside the band’s legendary London studio.

Daughter: That is the cover of that album, when they are walking in the street.

Father: Yes, it is a street in Liverpool. I visited there when I went to England.


And so the conversations went throughout the park. Husbands and Wives. Fathers and Daughters. Mothers and Sons. These were parents who besides the Passover Haggada, the most consistent story they pass on to the next generation is which Beatles’ record coincided with which momentous life juncture and where they were when Lennon was assassinated. This is the musical DNA of millions of people all over the world, imprinted so deep in each and every one of us, proving that musical cloning began a long time before the sheep Doli. We were never more ready for a rock concert: we had listened to the songs, saw the movies and endlessly mourned a Beatles show in Tel Aviv that was planned in the mid 60s but never materialized. Finally, after 40 years, the wait was over.

“Hello Tel Aviv, Shana Tova” he opens in Hebrew, grabs a Bass guitar and releases a short song we’d heard a hundred times – ‘Hello, Goodbye’ and then ‘Jet’. From this point onward the formula was evident – a Beatles song, followed by a song from Paul’s solo career. Without any discordance, McCartney and the band zigzag ‘Only Mother Knows’ and ‘Let Me Roll It’ to ‘Drive My Car’ and ‘All My Loving’. McCartney’s own songs stir less enthusiasm from the crowd than the Beatles songs, but it helps to regulate the intensity and also remind us all that no matter how much we want it to be the real thing – these are not the fab four up there on stage.

McCartney delivers the goods. A couple of years after 64 he is still in full swing: switching guitars in a fashion resembling the pace Kylie Minogue changes outfits. For the most part, he sounds great and he is backed by a phenomenal band that steps-in every time he fails to reach the accuracy of his younger days.

The emotional peaks are reached when Paul sings for all those who took part in his musical legacy but had already passed on: his late wife Linda is remembered with a wonderful performance of ‘My Love’ on the piano. George receives ‘Something’ performed on the immortal Ukulele and John is honored with “Day in a Life”. This could have been the best song of the evening if it hadn’t been violently morphed mid-song into “Give Peace a chance”. This is tasteless and unnecessary, but I guess it should be considered as one of those unfortunate side effects of living in the Middle East.

The second half of the concert is pure Beatlemania. As part of the encore McCartney performs ‘Get Back’ and ‘Yesterday’ and closes with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ which transitions into ‘The End’. The show is over, but the clapping continues. McCartney waves his hands into every possible direction but the crowd does not move. Each person insists on taking a last glance, a final memory to freeze and regurgitate to the generations to come.



I wake up around 4:00 AM. The experience does not let go. I go over it again in my head and find myself thinking about a line from “The End’: ‘oh yeah, all right, are you gonna be in my dreams tonight?’. I think of Paul and of my mother, then I close my eyes and fall asleep.

Radiohead – In Rainvows (Album Review)

Hypothetical questions can be titillating pastime. Some of my favorite moral dilemmas include: would I jump on a suicide bomber to save a bus full of passengers? (Of course); would I keep a suitcase with a million dollars I found even if I am sure no one will ever know? (No way); would I be willing to lose a vital organ just to realize my fantasies with Scarlett Johansson? (Depending on the organ and only after I watched her in “Match Point”); would I steal/pirately download Radiohead’s new album even if it was offered for the price I decide it to be? (Nope)

The one nice thing about evenings dedicated to hypothetical questions is that they end when the alcohol is finished and everybody goes back home in one piece but without Johansson. But Radiohead must play it smart, musn’t they?

The answer is yes. I am one of those who paid (3 Sterlings, if you must know) for Inrainbows, their latest album. I did it for several reasons. It took me a while to figure them out them, but while waiting for the album to slowly drop onto my hard drive, I had some time to ponder. There are two significant reasons: I feel guilty for years of illegal music downloading: Songs and albums that brought so much joy to my life, with no apparent return on my behalf to the people who created it. And the second reason is that Radiohead left me without any excuses. I always justified illegal downloading in the insane CD prices – a result of greedy record companies, mega expensive mega stores and New York talk music agents. What can I say to a band with no music label offering me to purchase their entire new album for as little as 1 penny.

This is what I like so much about Radiohead and what makes them one of the most intriguing bands in the world. They will always make you think. The listening (and now consuming) Radiohead experience is a thought provoking one. Listening to ‘OK Computer’, ‘Kid A’, ‘Amnesiac’ or ‘Hail to the Thief’ is a demanding mission. You have to think, not just feel, anyone who thinks that it is forced, unnecessary or outright snobbish, misses a fascinating process that very much defines the development of our world in the last two decades.

The opening of In Rainbows aligns with all prior expectations: a fast pace and precise tempo of cold electronic drums, accompanied by Thom Yorke’s sharp voice. Taking note on previous albums, from this point onward the song should disintegrate with no recurring chorus, without a familiar verse structure, maybe with a singular line repeating 46 times. Yet, 41 seconds into the song something surprising happens. What is it? Guitar, bass, Yorke’s voice softening, it is melodic, nice and comfy. Radiohead suddenly sound like five people playing together in an alternative rock band and not in the most important band in the world (which is a completely different musical style). The music sounds familiar, serene, it ceases to constantly challenge the listener. ‘All I Need’, for example, is one of the most simple, direct and beautiful love songs Yorke wrote in a long time. “House of cards”, which opens with the words: ‘I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover’ is a sexy song which explains what Yorke meant when he said this is the ultimate bedroom Radiohead album.

Anyone following the interviews with Radiohead right after the release of their previous album could hope/fear (depending on the reader) that this was bound to happen. Talking to Chuck Klosterman they said they took ‘this music’ (or however you choose to define it) as far as possible. In the following years Radiohead changed and this makes the listening experience very different. It is almost too easy to fall in love with this album even from the first time. The entire compendium of electronic manipulation, filtering and meaningful/meaningless play on words, is left outside. Instead, In Rainbows is a dark atmospheric album with mysterious songs that excite through the heart, not the brain. Yorke’s voice sounds great, the production is spot on, Radiohead doesn’t strain themselves anymore; they are relaxed, even friendly. I find the songs so surprisingly likable I start to wonder whether my mother will also like them. In the next few listening sessions something happens. I can’t help thinking that something is missing. What first sounded simple, direct and meaningful became just simple and unsophisticated? This is a disturbing thought and it takes me a few days to further analyze it. I think I’ve got it now.

But first, I must confess. I lied earlier. I am not sure I will ever have the guts to jump on a suicide bomber and perhaps I will not have the morality to give back a million-dollar suitcase. I would like to believe I would, but I am not certain.

So here is one last hypothetical question. If I would’ve listened to the latest Radiohead without knowing it is their album, would I be disappointed? Would I be bored after the tenth time? The answer to both questions is no. I would probably file it under one of my favorite albums of 2007.  And in that I am certain.