How to make a star II

The other day Jason put a post on Kottke.org called How to make a star. I’d had one of these links up in the tabs for a couple months, and this other one I just found today, but both are related to star making.

From August of 1999 (via Stellar), a profile of Ray Manzella, something of a blonde-maker. He helped make Vanna White, Jenny McCarthy, and Pamela Anderson stars. The article mentions 3 women he thinks will be stars. I’d never heard of any of them, but according to Google, two of the three have had fairly successful careers (and one is married to baseball player Scott Podsednik). The other one doesn’t seem to have a Google record at all.

Ray’s a very handsome man. When people meet him, they often try to guess which movie star he looks like-Roy Scheider, Michael Douglas, Ted Danson, George Hamilton? Maybe that’s why this feels so innocent, so wholesome, like he’s just cheering on the team. He beams down at the photos. Any one of them might be the next Vanna, the next Pamela, the next Jenny, the next perfect Ray Manzella hybrid that becomes not just an actress but an icon you can cross-promote from movies to books to dolls to toothpaste to infomercials. They sold a million Vanna White dolls on the Home Shopping Network-a million dolls! “These girls jump off the page,” he says. “They’re channelstoppers, every one of them. If all three make it, it wouldn’t surprise me. If not, I’m gonna quit the business.”

In March, John Seabrook wrote about Rihanna’s song making team in the New Yorker, really about pop music in general. There’s a TON of interesting stuff in this story.

Most of the songs played on Top Forty radio are collaborations between producers like Stargate and “top line” writers like Ester Dean. The producers compose the chord progressions, program the beats, and arrange the “synths,” or computer-made instrumental sounds; the top-liners come up with primary melodies, lyrics, and the all-important hooks, the ear-friendly musical phrases that lock you into the song. “It’s not enough to have one hook anymore,” Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation, and Dean’s manager, told me recently. “You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre-chorus, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge.” The reason, he explained, is that “people on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them.”

The top-liner is usually a singer, too, and often provides the vocal for the demo, a working draft of the song. If the song is for a particular artist, the top-liner may sing the demo in that artist’s style. Sometimes producers send out tracks to more than one top-line writer, which can cause problems. In 2009, both Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson had hits (Beyoncé’s “Halo,” which charted in April, and Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” which charted in August) that were created from the same track, by Ryan Tedder. Clarkson wrote her own top line, while Beyoncé shared a credit with Evan Bogart. Tedder had neglected to tell the artists that he was double-dipping, and when Clarkson heard “Halo” and realized what had happened she tried to stop “Already Gone” from being released as a single, because she feared the public would think she had copied Beyoncé’s hit. But nobody cared, or perhaps even noticed; “Already Gone” became just as big a hit.

How to make a star II

Bob Dylan, William Zantzinger, and David Simon

In something of an obituary, the creator of The Wire tells the story of William Zantzinger. Zantzinger caused the death of a Baltimore waitress in 1963 inspiring Bob Dylan to write ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.’

Zantzinger lived long enough to see Martin Luther King, Jr., honored with a national holiday and to know that this week Barack Obama would be inaugurated as President. We can imagine him galled at this outcome, a small-minded racist rightly defined by his ugliest moment. Perhaps that’s him, or perhaps he was more than that. At any rate, he knew his part and he played it to the end.

Bob Dylan, William Zantzinger, and David Simon

Dane Cook Steals Joke…From Demetri Martin?

We’ve been getting hits to my Demetri Martin better than Dane Cook post with the keyword ‘stolen joke’ so I thought I’d check it out. Lo and behold!

While I think this it’s possible this is a case of what Malcolm Gladwell wrote about earlier this year (the “phenomenon of simultaneous discovery—what science historians call “multiples””), I’m not inclined to give Dane Cook the benefit of the doubt. That’s what he gets for those “There’s only one OCTOBER” commercials in ’07. I’ll never forgive him.

Dane Cook Steals Joke…From Demetri Martin?

Publishing is Changing

A couple weeks ago, there was a long article in New York Magazine about the end of publishing. It was interesting in the way that watching a car accident happen is interesting, only this is a car accident that you could have predicted was going to happen 20 years ago. You simply can’t keep paying a lot of money for something (in this case a book) that’s not going to make you a lot of money.

Last week, the author of that article tied it all together with another short blurb comparing Random House to General Motors, the only difference being Random House’s back list has some value.

It got me thinking a couple things:

It’s not that publishing is over, or banking, or auto manufacturers, or the music industry. This isn’t a coincidence. These are all businesses that haven’t evolved from where they were and they’re getting punished for it.

Why do e-books cost as much as an album? The article above has the price of ebooks for your Kindle at $9.99 similar to a price for an album on iTunes. Maybe iTunes has kept the price of an MP3 low, but a song or album you can listen to over and over and over again, while a book…how often do you read a book? Even your favorite book. If publishers agree to lower the cost of ebooks to $5, they’ll sell more than twice as many. Mark it, dude.

Oh, and the NY Times Magazine says journalism has to change, also, or they’ll be dead, too.

Oh, and James Surowiecki says Newspapers are toast, too.

Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letting other companies dominate. By extension, many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net.

Publishing is Changing

Magazine Monday

Monday is the day The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Esquire publish most of their articles online (though Esquire is a monthly, they seem to publish all the time, even not on Mondays, so I may be wrong) making Tuesday the day that a lot of blogs I read post any stories from those magazines. I can’t play the speed game so my posts generally come weeks later if at all. I like Magazine Monday and it reminds me of the Monday night excitement waiting for an album to come out on Tuesday or Thursday night waiting for a movie to come out Friday (before they started coming out on Thursday and then Wednesday). Any other days like that for you guys? Also, any other magazines that have good feeds?

Lastly, when will magazines (and certain blogs) start publishing the full articles in their feeds? It’s the reason I don’t subscribe to Harper’s RSS and why I resent the New Yorker. On the other hand, I’m getting the goods for free, user experience be damned.

Magazine Monday

Comprehensive Election Reactions Round Up – A Reference

After the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, I didn’t quite know what to do to help myself take it all in. I found a message board called ‘Win it For’ that was started at some point before the World Series and was filled with stories from people who wanted the Red Sox to win the World Series for someone or other. I spent about 5 hours, reading it straight through, the morning after the World Series and it was the best way I could have celebrated the Red Sox winning.

On November 4, when Barack Obama was announced the winner of the 2008 Presidential Election I was searching for a similar sort of catharsis. Not so much because of Obama winning (which was nice) but because the election had been building as an event for almost 3 years – from the speculation of who would run, to the announcements, to the campaigns, to the primaries, to the general, and finally, November 4th came and went. I thought maybe I’ll collect a few thoughts from friends, or collect all the Facebook status messages, or collect a few links that helped tell the story. As I thought about it, I decided I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted without going overboard. And I won’t lie, despite my attempts at making this document impartial, there’s no way it could have been. And though I’ve tried to make its focus 11/4, Election Day, there were certain events from the campaign that creeped in.

I wanted to create something to look at a couple years from now to remember the election and hopefully present a good representation of what both sides of America were feeling on that day as evidenced by the response in the press and on the blogs. I didn’t capture everything, though I’ve certainly tried. I want to consume all of this information, have it put on a microchip in my brain. Until that’s possible, I just read a lot. I don’t know how many of these links will work in a year or 5 years, (when this doc might be helpful to show younger people who may not have ever remembered having a president who isn’t black), but here’s what I’ve got. At the bottom is a list of all the sites I used and the domains that helped.

This is a LONG post, when you get bored, bookmark it so you can come back later. There are several different sections. If you want to skip around, you can use the Contents Section below.

Celebrate! – A run down of the celebrations.
WINS! – A list of 38 sites and their winning posts.
Winners and Losers – 18 lists of election winners and losers.
Turnout, Voting, and Polling – Articles and stories about voting, polling, and turn out.
Reactions – Reactions from the world, pundits, and celebrities.
How Obama Won – Some thoughts on how Obama won.
Why McCain Lost – Some thoughts on why McCain lost and what next for the GOP.
Expectations and Advice – There are a lot of people with expectations and a lot of people with advice.
Race – Obviously electing the first black president is going to bring up comments on race.
Money and Business – What will the impact on your money and you business be?
The Media – Without the media, wherever would we be!?
Humor – Without the humor, wherever would we be!?
Miscellaneous – Without the miscellaneous, wherever would we be!?
Personal Stories from Friends – Just what it says.
273 Status Political Status Messages in 27 Hours – Just what it says.
Via – Here’s a list of all the sites I used in putting this together – the sources.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

Comprehensive Election Reactions Round Up – A Reference

Prince Is Against Gay Marriage and He Can Play Basketball

Wired has a pretty good run down of the controversy touched off by this article in the New Yorker where Prince apparently comes clean on his anti-gay marriage stance. Then a Prince insider leaked to Perez Hilton that Prince was upset about the article and had been misquoted, which the New Yorker denies, standing behind their story. Weirder still, Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness and spends afternoons knocking on doors proselytizing.

Which all comes together quite nicely for me because, I don’t know when it happened, but Comedy Central finally posted the Charlie Murphy story from The Chappelle Show where Murphy and his crew get bested by the Revolution. This is gold, even better than the Rick James stuff, and was analyzed incessantly by my friends and me when it first aired. I’ve missed it so. Unfortunately, there’s a part missing at the end where Prince makes everyone pancakes at the end. Pancakes.

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(Prince story via Sullivan)

Prince Is Against Gay Marriage and He Can Play Basketball