Has pop music evolved?

Pictured: Evolution?

In an issue devoted to things that are impossible (some of them tongue-in-cheek), Esquire Magazine wrote this month that “It is impossible that popular music hasn’t significantly progressed or even evolved in the last 20 years.”

Throwing the word “significantly” in there complicates the answer, but I think we all have some idea what would constitute a significant evolution in pop music. Motley Crue to Guns N Roses to Nirvana, for example, was a significant evolution that occurred within a 10-year period. The rise and fall of disco was significant, as was the invention of hip hop.

So what say ye?

If you want to be real precise, Nirvana released “Nevermind” in 1991, and I think any reasonable person would agree that Nirvana a) was popular, and b) represented a significant evolution from the way rock music had been played in the 1980s. But that still leaves 19 of the last 20 years and, I’m no rock critic, but I’m not sure rock has significantly changed since then. And we’re not even talking about bubblegum pop yet, although I’m not sure we really should be. That stuff never changes.

I would argue hip hop has changed a great deal, but whether it has evolved or progressed, I’m not sure. The method of music making (sampling and beat writing) hasn’t changed, the lyrical content (primarily about money or life in ghettos) hasn’t changed and the general posture (aggressive, mean, thug-like) hasn’t changed, either. There are exceptions (rap has gotten more cerebral), but Kanye West is basically doing the same thing Puff Daddy was doing in 1993.

So I guess my answer is that pop music has evolved in the last 20 years, but barely. Just barely, and probably not in the last 15.

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Why not?

It strikes me that almost every time someone says “Why not?” as a justification for an action, there are several good and obvious reasons not to have done what they did.

“Why did you get that neck tattoo?

“I figured, ‘Why not’? you know?”

“How about because it eliminated you from approximately every non-service industry job you will ever apply for and that it was painful and that it cost you $85 ?”

Stuff like that. Rarely does anyone say “Why not?” and any reasonable person couldn’t immediately think of at least three simple and practical reasons why not. Nobody ever thinks, “You know what, there probably isn’t any good reason not to have airbrushed a topless woman riding a unicorn on the trunk of his Cutlass.”

I’m going to end this short post in a terribly trite, hackneyed, worn-out way and when you see it, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. It will be lame.

But, hey, why not?

I don’t necessarily want to be a billionaire (so freaking bad)

I’m not going to get overly analytical here (I promise), but there’s this new song called “Billionaire” by a guy I’ve never heard of named Travie McCoy.

Travie longs to be a billionaire “so freakin’ bad,” which, to his credit, is a pretty ambitious goal for a guy who doesn’t understand adverbs. He also wants to be on the cover of Forbes Magazine with Oprah and the queen. He doesn’t specify which queen, though I suspect it is the Queen of England he yearns to be photographed with (or maybe Perez Hilton), which would make for perhaps the most senseless Forbes cover of all time. But if you were a billionaire, you could probably hook that up.

Anyway, this song prompted me to ask myself how freaking bad I want to be a billionaire, and it turns out the answer is “not all that freaking bad.”

Like pretty much everyone else, I’d love to have, like, a lot more money. I mean, if I made 10 times more money, I’d still be solidly in the middle class. One hundred times more money would be awesome. I think becoming a millionaire, while highly unlikely, seems attainable. We all personally know a handful of millionaires. It’s not that unusual. Granted, approximately none of them are journalists, but that isn’t the point, here.  The point is, I do want to be a millionaire, and don’t we all.

Being a billionaire, though, is just not something I’ve ever thought about for the same reasons I’ve never considered whether or not I wished to be the Queen of England. Also, I am completely certain that at some point well shy of a billion dollars, I would lose interest in making more money. If I had $600 million, I don’t think getting to $700 million would be much of a motivating factor. I would already own the Kansas City Royals, and there would already be 80s glam metal bands playing in centerfield between innings*. The money would have to start chasing me, perhaps literally.

*This is my brother-in-law Jason’s idea.

So this is a goofy song, but something tells me it wouldn’t be a hit if it was called “Millionaire.”

Allow me to regale you with my dining experience: Giovanni’s

For a while now, Abby and I have been considering blogging about our dining experiences in the Lawrence area. I decided to just go ahead and do it. This will hopefully become a regular thing. The stars are awarded on a four-point scale.

Giovanni’s (Topeka) = ***1/2

The most difficult thing about making pizza is getting the crust right. Abby and I have been working on a pizza for almost three years, now. Our sauce is delicious and unique. But our crust is a constant source of frustration. It always comes out way too dense, almost like a loaf of homemade bread.

Homemade bread is delicious, obviously, it’s just that you don’t want to make a pizza out of it.

Well, Giovanni’s has mastered the crust and I am envious.  It is the difference between pie with a store-bought crust and pie with a crust made by an Amish person or a grandmother who knows what they’re doing. It is the kind of crust that makes you realize you didn’t know what good crust was until now.

Giovanni’s (1001 Se Quincy Street, Topeka) makes New York-style pizza because the owner is a New Yorker named Frank Conti. He moved to Topeka in early 2009 because he wanted his young kids to grow up in a less-expensive place with better schools. He opened a pizza place that serves dinner but is probably best used for lunch or late-night grubbage. The building is small, most of the seating is outdoors, you can order by the slice and Giovanni’s doesn’t serve beer or liquor.

Conti has taken a considerable risk by implanting a restaurant that stays open until 10 p.m. (3 a.m. on Saturdays) in downtown Topeka. For a variety of reasons (most of them utterly and embarrassingly lame) Topekans don’t go downtown for dinner. They instead go to Wanamaker Road, which is a depressing and soulless strip of Chilis, Red Lobsters and Olive Gardens. And any time someone tries to do something to revitalize downtown, a segment of the population pees all over it like drunkards putting out a campfire. It’s incredibly frustrating, and I don’t even live there.

(Sigh)

So perhaps I’m coming at this with some level of bias. I want downtown businesses to succeed, because I root for Topeka. So I suppose it’s possible I could overrate a downtown establishment because of that desire (although in fairness to myself, Giovanni’s is the only downtown restaurant I would recommend).

But, man, that crust.

It’s New York style, so it’s thin. But this is not a wafer. It’s not like Imo’s in St. Louis and it’s not like Pizza Hut’s thin crust, either. It’s slightly thicker than that, and it has a delightful chewiness. Its texture allows you to fold the slice without breaking it, if that’s how you like to do it (and that’s how New Yorkers like to do it). The dough is fresh and homemade. I knew this because it tasted like it was, and because when we walked in at 6 p.m., someone was rolling out some dough right then and there.

When you bite into it, it all holds together. Bad pizza disintegrates. The cheese slides off the crust or the toppings just go tumbling off like you’re carrying a cookie sheet full of marbles.This was harmonious.

I will say little of the cheese and sauce. They were good, but not the stars of this dish. That distinction belongs to the crust, which could be problematic for those who don’t like New York-style pizza. They will just have to be left out, I suppose, in the same way people who don’t like rap music will never enjoy Jay-Z.

If restaurant reviews were just about the food and service, I would have no problem giving Giovanni’s four stars. I am afraid, however, it will suffer because you cannot get a pitcher of beer with your pizza and because the indoor dining area is small, making winter visits a gamble.

That said, I can appreciate a place that isn’t trying too hard. Giovanni’s is not trying to make you think it is anything other than a place that serves a really good slice of pizza. To that end, it succeeds. I hope it survives and expands, and pulls a few people out of the Olive Garden.

Bros Icing Bros

Smirnoff Ice is an alcoholic malt beverage that tastes kind of like lemonade and is consumed primarily by high school girls who post pictures on Facebook of themselves posing with the bottles the way fishermen pose with trout.

These are the teenage girls.

This is a fisherman.

Both do it to demonstrate their awesomeness.

Because the drink has “ice” in the name, tastes like lemonade and is not, you know, beer, it has never been popular among men or among women of legal drinking age.

In an effort to remedy this, Smirnoff (appears to have) concocted a game called “Bros Icing Bros” in which, near as I can tell, one bro places a bottle of Smirnoff Ice in a place another bro is likely to find it. When the first bro finds it, he then has to drink it, which will (I guess) be hilarious (?) or something.  This is considered shameful. It is also strikingly similar to another game bros sometimes play, which involves calling each other fags for looking at each other’s penises. This game was popularized by the movie “Waiting,” in which Ryan Reynolds played Ryan Reynolds.

It should be noted that Smirnoff adamantly denies creating this game, or the Web site brosicingbros.com. There is some speculation Smirnoff had a hand in the demise of brosicingbros.com. It has been taken down because if there’s anything we should be eradicating from the Internet, it’s videos of adult men drinking sugary alcoholic beverages.

Not Safe For Work

I’m skeptical of Smirnoff’s innocence, of course, because this game, which has miraculously gained some popularity due to its sheer idiocy, has certainly spiked the market for Smirnoff Ice and, more importantly, spiked it in the elusive male demographic.

Men aren’t buying this stuff because they want to drink it. They’re buying it because they want to force someone else to drink it. This beverage is so undesirable that it is being used to humiliate.

Smirnoff Ice is a whoopi cushion.