Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Celine’s show must go on

Media Moment: Celine Dion documentary
Queen-related: WWRY and The Show Must Go On

A few months ago, I remember coming across a YouTube video of Celine Dion in Boston paying homage to Queen through singing WWRY, showing video footage of the band, and continuing on with The Show Must Go On. What in the world had I stumbled upon?

Celine — or someone on her management team — must be monumental Queen fans because at her Boston show she was reeaallly stressing how great Queen were to the crowd who had paid to see her; not necessarily Queen footage and songs. I wouldn't have expected Celine to be a rocker at heart. I could easily see her perform Who Wants to Live Forever . . . but nothing with a harder edge to it.

Her Celine Through the Eyes of the World documentary was playing on television the other night so I PVRed it and thought I’d get lucky and find some Queen references in it like I did on YouTube. Sure enough, there were not one, but two appearances of WWRY

The first one was at about the 17-minute mark when the band was playing in Dubai and she urges the crowd to join in on the stomp-stomp-clap rhythm. What struck me at that concert was the presumably Muslim majority was singing along with the lyrics. This segment of the documentary also carried a brief interview with a fan from Iran who claimed he had waited 15 years to see her and hopes that he will be able to see her again in Iran someday. I think if Celine continues to push Queen in the middle east, she’ll have an easier time, particularly in Iran where Queen music has already gained official approval by the Iranian government.

The next appearance of WWRY happens at the 23-minute mark when the band is now in Macau, China and have gathered in a restaurant for some dinner and downtime. After Celine’s husband, Rene Angelil, spoke to everyone before dinner, Celine starts up with the stomp-stomp-clap again by banging her fist on the table. This time, her tween-aged son, Rene-Charles, sings along into the microphone. It stops before the guitar solo would normally kick in, but Celine was obviously proud of her son’s attempt at performing it.

Finally, at the 36-minute mark of the film, she is now in Brisbane, Australia and starts into The Show Must Go On. They play almost the entire song in the film and the guitar player does an admirable job of imitating Brian throughout the song. Celine herself sang it well although the “wings of butterflies” bit wasn't quite as poignant as Freddie’s but it was definitely better than Elton’s (noble) attempt at the Tribute Concert.

I dug a little deeper into YouTube and discovered that there is a video of Celine performing TSMGO with two dudes (Christophe MaĆ© and David Halliday) from at least 2007. Did she get the TSMGO bug from that performance and decide to perform it during her world tour, or did she suggest the song to the other two dudes for that TV performance? 

Whatever the case, she's definitely a Queen fan. Personally, I’d like to see her take on Save Me, or any other Queen-penned ballad. I don’t think she’d outdo Freddie but she could certainly keep up, at the very least.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Satine’s show must go on

Media Moment: Moulin Rouge
Queen-related: The Show Must Go On

I can’t remember exactly why I went to see Moulin Rouge in the theatre when it came out in 2001. I suspect my wife wanted me to go but I ended up being pleasantly surprised for two reasons:

1) After hearing Kiss, David Bowie, and other 70s staple songs being used as storytelling devices early in the film, I wondered if Queen would make an appearance in the track listing somewhere. Sure enough, near the climax of the film, I heard the unmistakable opening lines to TSMGO sung by Jim Broadbent and Nicole Kidman. Ha! My intuition was right.

2) Having not seen a Baz Luhrmann film, I was amazed at the level of detail he achieved in recreating a Victorian-era Paris. And his unique style of directing was also interesting to me (although Australia fell far short of my expectations after becoming a fan through MR).

An aspect of MR that I’ve grown fond of over the years is the spectrum of multinational talent that went into the film and its soundtrack. Kidman, an Australian thespian, plays a French courtesan who is pursued by Ewan McGregor, a Scottish actor playing an English ex-pat writer, while the production of the film was at Fox Studio in Australia and directed by an Australian with a large portion of the soundtrack produced by David Foster, a Canadian.

Of course, I never would have taken a serious interest in the soundtrack had Lurhmann declined to release Vol. 2 of songs featured in the film (which includes TSMGO); a track listing much more exciting than Vol. 1, in my opinion.

I didn’t notice it in my earlier viewing of MR, but last night I recall seeing a song and dance medley early on in the film that included Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, which reminded me of the Freddie reference in Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. Another connection to Queen, albeit morbid, in this film.

Lara Mulcahy is listed as a performer in MR and I looked her up on iMDB to see if she’s related to fellow Australian, Russell Mulcahy, of which there are numerous Queen connections. She was born in 1969 but nothing more than that. Russell Mulcahy, on the other hand, was born in 1953 so I don’t think she is his daughter, and he’s probably too old to be a sibling. Maybe they’re cousins. Or not.

Hey, there’s another Queen connection . . . Pink, who collaborated with three other divas on Lady Marmalade from MR, went on to do that infamous We Will Rock You video — disguised as a Pepsi commercial — with Britney and Beyonce; as well as her own concert performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.

So did Nicole Kidman and Jim Broadbent spend countless hours listening to Innuendo to get the subtleties of TSMGO down pat? If so, I wonder if their own appreciation of Queen took on new meaning for them simply because it was part of their job?

Friday, March 18, 2011

One hundred and eight hairdos that have rocked you

Brian and Freddie got (almost) equal billing on a cool poster from Pop Chart Labs called A Visual Compendium of Notable Haircuts in Popular Music.

Freddie landed at #56 and Brian at #57, although I don’t think their ranking is anything more than a layout decision by the poster designer.

The portraits are definitely not in alphabetical order, nor is there a clear association between how these pop music sub-genres are arranged — Brian and Freddie are a mere hair’s length away from Bob Marley or even Hall and Oates, two very different musical artists.

If there was any doubt that a hairstyle is the key characteristic in one’s physical appearance, you just need to look at these 108 samples and you can almost immediately tell who they are even without the names underneath. Speaking of Daryl Hall, his portrait could actually stand in for Roger, now that I look more closely at it. I’m even tempted to draw similarities with John’s mid-80s haircut with a few samples here, but I’ll refrain from doing so.

I do like how the coloured background allows for the blondes and brunettes in the collection to be depicted in their natural state, but what about the red heads in the crowd? (Hmm, who would that be, I wonder?)

“Charting” Queen songs

I stumbled across these Queen-themed pie charts, bar graph, and Venn diagram the other day when I was scoping out infographic samples for my university course I teach on information design.

While the pie charts are simple enough to understand, I wonder what data was used as the basis for the Venn diagram and bar chart? I don’t recall “Never” and “Then” used in I Want It All. Actually, one of the variables in the bar graph should have been “All” since that would be in keeping with the song lyrics instead of making up bogus variables to contrast with “Now,” the punchline to the graph.

The Venn diagram is even more ambiguous in how the circles are arranged in proximity to each other, not to mention the difference in emphasis as denoted in the typography for each. I suppose it doesn’t really matter if there’s any external validity to how these poetic heros are related to each other; it will only be Queen fans that’ll get the joke and be dumbfounded that someone else actually put together a Venn diagram on the poetic hero of Queen songs . . . like me.

Thanks to graphjam.com