- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rural roots

“I remember being outdoors a lot when I was a kid, building things, stealing vegetables from farmers’ fields. …

“I come from a big family, and I really took on the tastes of my older brothers and sisters. From my brothers, it was the Rolling Stones and Dylan. From my sisters, Motown. My parents played a lot of classical music and show tunes. In terms of cultural influences, I was a very late bloomer. …

“I grew up in a basically conservative area. …

“My parents worked together, and they were workaholics. As a child, I resented that they weren’t around as much, but I saw how they created a meaningful relationship.”

Actor Willem Dafoe, interviewed by Logan Hill, in the Dec. 13 issue of New York

Pop gravitas

“Gwen Stefani’s debut solo album, ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby,’ opens with a melodramatic song on a pertinent topic: the difficulty of making a debut solo album. … Stefani worries about leaving her day band, No Doubt, laments the short commercial shelf life of female singers and generally waxes neurotic. …

“It’s a bit odd to hear one of our most reliably garish hit-makers fretting about her credibility, especially while squeaking like a robot Lene Lovich over an electro-disco groove. …

“There are all kinds of pop divas: tragic-romantic divas in the Piaf-Garland-Holiday mold … MTV divas like Madonna and her followers, even four-octave-range total nut-case divas like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey.

“But there’s never been a diva clown. Divadom is a deadly serious business. You have to march through your music videos with steely resolve. A certain humorlessness — about yourself and your music — is a prerequisite for the job. … However infectious her record is, Gwen Stefani may not quite be able to summon the gravitas we demand of our Queens of Pop. …

“Stefani may never capture the zeitgeist like Madonna, or sing like Beyonce, or move her fall line of track suits like J. Lo. — but she’d trounce them all in a poetry slam.”

Jody Rosen, writing on “Gwen Stefani,” Dec. 14 in Slate at www.slate.com

Robbed, not

“Kayne West is apologizing a lot for somebody who just garnered a leading 10 Grammy nominations. …

“West is still living down the public fuming he did after getting ‘robbed’ of Best New Artist by Gretchen Wilson at last month’s American Music Awards, which he declared he might boycott in the future. Now West is all about penitence, not pride. ‘I came up to Gretchen [before the Grammy press conference] and apologized,’ he says. ‘And I want to apologize to my black role models, like Jay-Z and Oprah Winfrey, for being overemotional. I was doing a disservice to everything my forefathers have done to allow black people to get to this place.’

“West offered an explanation for why he was so darned eager to bum-rush the AMA podium: ‘[Rapper O.D.B.] had just passed, and in memory of O.D.B.’s performance at the Grammys [in 1998], I just wanted to run out on stage and say, ‘Kanye is for the kids!’ ”

Chris Willman, writing on “One Sorry Nom,” in Friday’s issue of Entertainment Weekly

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