|Photo by Nitin Vadukul|
Six reasons the new Missy Elliott record, The Cookbook, is my favorite-ever Missy record:
1. Its yummy, and soft. Its got curves instead of sharp edges. Missys not a robot this time and shes not doing rave drugs or acting like Busta Rhymes. Nothing wrong with robots or Busta Rhymes, of course. Robots rule. But look its high summer. Its the time of the season. Its love time. Its hot-kitchen time, its sleep-naked time. So this time shes not a robot, B-boy, alien or anything arty/high-concept. Shes a Southern woman, sorta damp from the Virginia summer and high on that stuff your body makes when you see your lover standing in the kitchen doorway. Dopamine?
2. Track to track, The Cookbooks quality is stable. In comparison to all her other albums, the lows are not as low; the highs are not quite as teeteringly high. The payoff is that its her first record you can play from start to finish instead of fast-forwarding through lots of filler. And, please note: Missy produced the most obvious radio hit, Lose Control, by herself.
3. The Cookbook is the first Missy record you dont need a good stereo to enjoy. It sounds great on a cruddy boom box. This is kind to broke people, and by laying off the ProTools/overproduction stuff, Missy shows real faith in the old-fashioned fundamentals of hip-hop: writing, delivery, spirit, simple samples. Plus, without all that extra crap, you know, shes naked which is okay, because her rapping has never been so masterful.
4. Shes got a sample of Sugarhill Gangs Apache, which (in any version) is the garlic of breakbeats it goes with just about everything and makes it all taste more alive.
5. For the first time, Missys dirty talk is romantic-like, in-wuv. Sounds like she has a real serious boyfriend. Missy talking about giving head to a guy she wants to marry (Meltdown) is a beautiful thing, and totally different from most of the damaged sex shit on hip-hop radio.
6. It also sounds like Missys been hanging out a lot with Mary J. Bliges (and Angie Stones) discography. Shes singing for real and singing issue songs à la Mary J. Remember When is a thoughtful confessional about female infidelity that turns the table on Ushers Confessions. (Mary J. also appears on the very-Mary My Struggles.)
I have not even mentioned the appearance of Fantasia (My Man) because, as much as I worship Fantasia, this particular song like most everything shes sung post-Idol doesnt do justice to her strangeness.
The Cookbook, however, does do justice to Missys strangeness, woman-ness, man-ness, lovesexiness.
Way less jazzed on the pseudoKurt Cobain movie, Last Days. Ugggh. But lets focus on the positive first: Its stylish as hell. Its got that kind of aesthetic stickiness that keeps it in your brain for days. And its bold.
Unfortunately, its boldly annoying and as awkward, self-indulgent, tedious and pretentious as 90s indie rock at its worst. (And its got a cameo from Kim Gordon, who acts as well as she sings.) I already lived through the often harrowing boredom of indie rock the first time I dont need to experience it again in the form of an imploding film riding on the pain of someone I care about. It doesnt even really get the glasses right: They should be glammier, more ridiculous, Jackie O. They should be funny. This film, in spirit, embodies the opposite of what made Nirvana great: They were a pop band, in the guise of indie rock. They wrote pop hits. They were funny.
So why arent there more great rock & roll films? Why dont most filmmakers get rock? Is it that subtle?
Perhaps its that most rock-filmmakers are only making films because they cant rock. (Obviously, youd have to exclude both the creators of This Is Spinal Tap and The Rutles from this, as these two films the greatest mockumentaries of all time were created with the kind of loving insight only actual musicians could deliver.)
If only Gus Van Sant had watched Spinal Tap and The Rutles over and over before starting Last Days. And maybe Hard Days Night, just for kicks. And Head, to be safe. I think Kurt would appreciate being brutally, incisively satirized probably more than being weirdly hagiographed into some half-retarded naif.
Speaking of rockfilms: The American Cinematheque is wrapping up a series of music movies this week, saving the most random for last: a screening at the Aero in Santa Monica of the 70s glam opera The Phantom of the Paradise, with a post-screening discussion with its star and composer, the great Paul Williams. Curiously, Williams began writing songs as a depressed, unemployed actor. Thank goodness he failed the first time around in film, or wed never have The Rainbow Connection, Weve Only Just Begun, Just an Old-Fashioned Love Song and Bugsy Malones Good Guys whose coda is forever burned in my brain like 70s childhood Scripture, the Gospel according to Paul Williams.
You give a little love and it all comes back to you/ You know youre gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do.
La da da da-da-da-da!
Now that guy had some glasses.
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