Monthly Archives: November 2011

Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch The Throne in Montreal

Over the last few years, I’ve definitely seen my fair share of shows in every music genre there is. From Muse to Eminem, from The Sounds to Stratovarius, and also the countless international artists that came to Festival d’Été in Quebec City like Metallica, Black Eyed Peas, Iron Maiden, Arcade Fire, Linkin Park, and the list goes on…

Still, after attending all these shows, there is still no one in my mind who can match the stage presence that Jay-Z has. Prior to last Tuesday’s show, I had seen Jay-Z twice; once in Montreal for the Blueprint 3 tour in 2009, and once in Detroit, in 2010, for one of the two Home and Home shows that he was giving with Eminem. Both times, I had been completely hypnotized by his charisma and his ability to crank the stadiums’ ambiance to the next level.

With the Watch The Throne tour stopping in Montreal on November 22nd, my expectations were sky high to see how the addition of Kanye West would up the ante of a Jay-Z show.

Opting for a minimalist stage design overall, the two hip-hop juggernauts started the show each on their respective hydraulic platforms, performing their collaborative single H*A*M with just two follow-spots lighting them. They went on with other songs from their latest album: Who Gon Stop Me, Otis and Gotta Have It. The visual effects became more and more elaborated as the show was progressing. The two hydraulic platforms rose from the ground, revealing LED screens displaying images of sharks and dobermans. An insane amount of laser beams started filling the Bell Centre, and eventually, two screens at the back of the arena started projecting live images of the two rappers performing, as well as some related footage to the songs being played.

Jay-Z and Kanye eventually split and performed some solo singles from their vast repertoire of classics. Can’t Tell Me Nothing, Dirt Off Your Shoulder, Power, 99 Problems, All Falls Down, Hard Knock Life, Jesus Walks and Big Pimpin’ were just a few of the titles that could be heard throughout their 35-plus-songs setlist (see the complete list here). As expected, Jay-Z’s performances were superior to Kanye, but the 34-year-old still did pretty good besides the 42-year-old veteran king of hip-hop.

Once again, I was amazed by the energy that the song U Don’t Know brought to the arena, just like the two previous times I heard Jay-Z perform it. It felt like if the Bell Centre was going to crumble under the loud screams of the crowd.

Hova was not interacting with the crowd as much as the previous times I’d seen him, but the chemistry between Jay-Z, probably the coolest person on the planet, and the mysterious and intense Kanye West, more than made up for it. When the screens showed KW as he looked at the crowd without smiling, his look was terrifying (in a good way of course).

Kanye brought a 10-minute-long emotional phase to the show, rising solo on one of the two lifting stages, dressed in all-red leather clothes, matching the lighting, and started playing the auto-tuned Runaway and Heartless.

The Throne teamed up again for the end of the show, and performed their new hit song N*iggas in Paris not once, not twice, but 5 times in a row, and finished this crazy evening with Jay-Z’s very-appropriate 2003 hit, Encore.

Jay-Z and Kanye proved that their not only watching, but holding the throne.

Fail by Prada

I’m all about creativity and originality. I’ve always encouraged people to do things differently and stepping out of the mold, but the line can be thin and blurry between extreme originality and complete ugliness. Well, the Prada marketing team chose the wrong side of that line for their latest Fall/Winter Lookbook.

This new video is just plain ridiculous. The image composition is disgusting, the compositing and “visual effects” are worse than what you would see in a 1982 Sci-Fi movie, and the animation is sub-par at every level. Honestly, if someone would send me his demo reel and it looked like that, I would ask myself if he was laughing at me. And even more, if I was to hand-in a project like this to a company with a stature like Prada, I would most likely quit video production forever and start my life over again in Bolivia.

There are ways and situations to simulate “cheap” animation to serve a purpose, but they are usually for humoristic projects, not to promote 1800$ handbags. Seriously, who are they trying to fool here ? Prada is an insanely-expensive haute-couture line, who do they think is buying their clothes ? Alternative-art-loving hipsters who usually shop at American Apparel ? Their market-study team should be fired and never be allowed to work in the fashion industry ever again. People who buy Prada are generally people with a shitload of money and who enjoy the Cover Girl ads that have been looking the same since 1996.

Sorry Prada, but this is one huge advertising failure.

Darren Aronofsky for the Meth Project

A while back, I posted some old advertisements from the Montana Meth Project for one of my Throwback Tuesday posts. Last week, the Meth Project released 4 new spots for their new campaign, directed by Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, who directed some of the previous spots for the anti-drug organism.

As were the previous commercials, the 4 new ads are completely horrifying. Aronofsky created a mysterious initial situation in each of the 4 spots, leading to a dramatic progression and climax, explicitly showing the effects that Meth can have on one’s mind or body. The campaign is raw and shocking, and clearly delivers the message it was meant to communicate.

Review : Drake’s Take Care

Drake is an artist with who I’ve always had a very complicated love/hate relationship, musically speaking of course. When the single Forever was released in late 2009, I thought he was going to be the next big thing (I wasn’t wrong, let’s be honest), holding his own against top players like Eminem, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. And then I heard the auditive disaster that was Best I Ever Had. Still to this day, I consider it to be the worst song to get radio airplay in the last 10 years.

Drake’s second album Take Care, which leaked online earlier today, but will officially be released on November 15th, is not going to help my problem with the former Degrassi star.

While it may have been unclear at the beginning of his young career, Drake has now completely assumed his choice of being both a R&B and Hip-Hop artist. Too bad for the people who enjoy just one of those two types of music, because either way, you’ll have to skip through half of the album. Take Care is virtually 50% of each genres, and had he focused on what he does best, which I consider is rapping, he would have landed the album of the year, hands down.

Drake clearly has some of the greatest hip-hop tracks to be released lately on his sophomore LP. When he starts rhyming over a Just Blaze production on Lord Knows with Rick Ross, you just know right away that this is a song that will be looping several times in your car with the windows rolled down. The grandiose choir singing accompanying the two superstars’ flows made me bounce my head automatically after the first few seconds of the track. Aubrey Graham also takes his rapping skills to high levels on tracks like Underground Kings, We’ll Be Fine and Make Me Proud, a single featuring Nicki Minaj, released earlier in October.

But even if the Young Money star is capable of the best, he’s also able to release more Best-I-Ever-Had-caliber failures, like the single Headlines. The song sounds like a bad mixture of a circus beat combined with an off-sync drum line that looks like it was produced by a drunken 14-year-old teenager in front of an 808. Some R&B songs are also very weak, and do not match at all the level of creativity that protégé The Weeknd released earlier this year. Speaking of The Weeknd, he saves the R&B genre on Take Care, with the song Crew Love, on which he sings, and Drake raps. The beat is something completely out of the classic R&B mold, and The Weeknd’s voice arrangement is epic. The rest of the R&B tracks are flavourless, dull, and totally lack personality. Marvin’s Room could be an exception here, because Drake shows honesty and vulnerability in his lyrics, but you quickly forget that when the following song starts off with “I got rich off a mixtape“…

I was also expecting an incredible song in Doing It Wrong which was listed as featuring the legendary Stevie Wonder. When the track finally hit my speakers, I noticed that the only thing Wonder does is an harmonica solo at the end of the track. If you’re going to have one of America’s greatest musicians of all time featured on your rap album when you’re 25, make it count! At least have him sing a verse or something…

I’m still unsure about what my answer will be when people ask me “Is the new Drake album good ?” Of course it’s good, but if someone else asks me “Is the new Drake album bad ?”, I will unfortunately have to answer yes also. The album has such epic moments, but such weak ones also that it would be very hard to give it a score on a scale of 1 to 10. Maybe I’m not open-minded enough towards R&B yet to understand the style that Drake is aiming for on half of his tracks on Take Care, but to me they sound like sub-par songs that would not have made the final cut on a Trey Songz or The-Dream album. I hope Graham will focus on what he does best in the future, because his rap skills are up there with the best of them. It just feels like he’s trying to do too much, a formula that may or may not work in the long run. But looking at his record sales up to now, I’d understand if he didn’t listen to my advise…

Good album, but it had the potential to be great, and it didn’t achieve that.

Make Me Proud

Canon’s doubtful move with the C300

Nobody can deny the fact that Canon has totally changed the game of digital filmmaking forever. Since the introduction of their 5D MKII in 2008 and the whole set of HDSLRs that followed, Canon has allowed anyone with 2 000$ in their pockets to have access to a quality of image highly comparable to cameras that were worth several tens of thousands of dollars not even 5 years ago. The 5D MKII became one of the best-selling cameras in the world and Canon have completely dominated the indie filmmaker market from this day.

3 years have passed since, and even if these cameras are great tools, they have flaws. Consumer feedback has been pouring all over the Internet since the arrival of the 5D, and while Canon have adressed some issues, they still have a lot of work to do to make its line of HDSLRs perfect. The rolling shutter is a pain in the ass for any fan of shooting handheld, the h264 compression drives editors nuts and the audio input options are horrible. And those are just a few of the problems filmmakers face everyday while working with these cameras.

Last Thursday, November 3rd, Canon and RED both held press conferences to announce their new camera models. Rumours were all over the place as to what Canon was releasing, while there was more certainty towards RED, who were announcing their much anticipated and budget-friendly RED Scarlet.

Canon presented its new camera, the C300, a digital S35 camera, priced at around 20 000$. Big mistake. I’m sure the C300 will be a good camera, but that’s not the point. The problem is that Canon just let down the consumer bracket that put them back on the map in the video domain. Since they released the GL2 in 2002 (I think), they had been out of the game for videographers. Sony and Panasonic dominated the market, and suddenly, the 5D changed all that. Now tell me why, Canon, would you leave the consumers that crafted your rebirth with flawed tools and try to create a camera for TV-size productions ? The price tag isn’t everything in business. Even if Gucci sells 700-dollar pants, GAP still has 3 times their revenues by selling good old 20-dollar jeans.

On top of that, on paper, the RED Scarlet will outperform the C300, for a lesser price (maybe equal once you buy all the required equipment). And in terms of consumer confidence, I guess people with 20k to spend on a camera are most likely to go towards RED, who have been the leader in high-end digital cinema since 2007, while Canon has pretty much never developed a Hollywood-level camera.

I’m looking forward to try both these cameras and see how they compare, but I’m also anxious to see the financial winner of this c300 vs. Scarlet battle.

I think Canon already lost.