- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

Hit machine
"To me, the Supremes sound like black cotton candy exactly what Berry Gordy Jr., Motown's founder and maximum leader, wanted. But I was drawn ineluctably to the spring, powerful bass lines and drums driving the songs.
"Hits were Motown's raison d'etre, and its stuff sounded transparently like what it was: assembly-line product.
"Gordy replicated the Hollywood studio system, itself an adaptation of the auto industry's assembly line, annexing functions to his label in ways no one else had, to attain total control, a total product. Is it any wonder so much of it seemed interchangeable?
"Once you stripped the voices off Motown songs, you heard a tightly tuned rhythm machine, its camshaft rotating the pistons in a chug-a-lug pattern of syncopated parts that put out enormous horsepower."
Gene Santoro, writing on "Sweet Soul Music," in the Jan. 13 issue of the Nation
'Gangs' myth
"Martin Scorsese's mangled, bloody corpse of a movie, 'Gangs of New York,' was dumped on our doorstep for our moral and aesthetic edification. The film's ads tell us that 'America was born in the streets,' and the director has been seen all over television telling us how our political system was 'born in gang wars.' But 'Gangs of New York' has as little to do with the realities of American history as 'Gone With the Wind.'
"Viewers who come to 'Gangs of New York' with scant knowledge of the actual events are likely to emerge even more confused. Mr. Scorsese gets some of the background right. Tens of thousands of hapless Irish immigrants, many fleeing famine, came to the New World only to find themselves harassed and oppressed by bigotry and poverty. In 1863, perhaps several thousand erupted in open rebellion. What set them off was Lincoln's Conscription Act, grossly unfair legislation that let a rich man avoid the draft by paying $300 or bribing a substitute to serve for him.
"No one liked conscription. But to see 'Gangs of New York,' you'd think that conscription was one more weapon wielded by the virulently bigoted Protestant ruling powers to suppress Irish Catholics.
"Because some of the gang leaders in the film are shown manipulating local politics, 'Gangs of New York' leaps to the breathtaking assertion that some kind of freedom was born from their violent struggles.
"Will we one day see films that will sentimentalize the street gangs' role in the Rodney King riots as helping to 'create' modern Los Angeles? As some philosopher should have said, those who do not study history are forced to get it from Hollywood."
Allan Barra, writing on "Gangs vs. Mob," Thursday in the Wall Street Journal
Not Britney
"[Avril] Lavigne's life has changed drastically in the three years since she was a Faith Hill sound-alike singing Christmas songs at the local mall in Napanee, Ontario. Now the scrappy 5-foot-1 skater chick plays pop punk, sells 100,000 albums a week, has beaten out Pink as MTV's premier tomboy and is a good bet for best new artist at [the 2003] Grammys.
"Lavigne says her initial marketing campaign was 'too pop,' and she harbors particular disdain for those stylists who tried to make her look like Mandy Moore or Jessica Simpson: 'That is so sellout.'
"Lavigne was only 15 when Arista discovered her. She's determined to prove herself more substantial than other teen sensations. 'There's these people who say I'm made up by my label,' Lavigne says. 'It's like, no I'm not. I hate sex-object music. It's not real, and I'd never be able to sit in my room and listen to that kind of stuff. I have moms come up to me all the time and say thank you for wearing clothes, thank you for not being a Britney Spears. I'm like, 'Puleeaase, no worries there.'"
Lorraine Ali, writing on "Anarchy on MTV?" in the Dec. 30 issue of Newsweek

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