Monday, December 22, 2008

Cantopop Legend Too Loud for DJ B

Once again DJ B selected some Asian pop music from the public library, but this time around she showed little interest in the CD once we got it home. The first time I tried to play Leslie Cheung's Printemps album from 1998, Miss B said, "I don't want this one. I want something else." It wasn't that she necessarily singled out the Cantopop superstar for her critique, as she pretty much only wants to listen to the Nutcracker these days.

After giving Miss B her Nutcracker fix, I snuck this CD on. Focused on playing dress up, she didn't pay much attention to the music. She left the room and returned wearing a fairy skirt paired with a T-shirt adorned with a cat picture, gardening shoes with lady bugs on them, and pink polka dot sunglasses. While in this get-up, she pushed a few stuffed animals in her toy doll stroller. When I asked her what she thought of the music, she said, "too loud" and turned it down. The next day I tried to play the music again and Miss B yelled, "I don't want Chinese!" and removed the CD from the player. Oh well. This Mandarin-language release didn't do much for me either.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cat Power Slinks in the Background

Around the same time that DJ B selected my husband's beloved Bob Dylan from the public library, she also picked out one of my cherished favorites: Cat Power. I've been a long-time fan, even selecting a Cat Power cover of Velvet Underground's "I Found a Reason" (from the Covers Record) to be the first dance at my wedding six years ago. Despite all of that, the one album I don't have is the one that Miss B chose at the library. I was a bit skeptical of Jukebox, Cat Power's latest release (also full of covers), because the bits I'd heard and the reviews I'd read made it sound like a departure from the spare, moody Cat Power that I know and love.

When we first listened to the CD, Miss B said, "What's this one?" and "I wanna hold your hand." Yet, she stopped the CD after less than one song. The next time we played it, she ignored the music completely, instead focusing on our newly acquired Christmas tree. On another listen, she again went about her business, which included a major tantrum over clothing choices. As track 6 began ("Lost Someone"), she calmed down slightly. Later in the day she even swayed a tiny bit to the music while we were making Christmas ornaments. Although she seemed disinterested in the music, she got extremely upset when I tried to take the CD out of the player. There must have been something about Cat Power that was acceptable to her, at least as background music.

For me, I was a bit disappointed in Jukebox overall, but still found a few gems that took me back to the Cat Power of old. And, perhaps the same could be said for Miss B. She must have sensed the power of Chan Marshall's beautiful voice and creative take on covers, even if she wasn't outwardly enthusiastic.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Miss B Dances the Nutcracker

For the past few months Miss B has been taking dance classes, and as you can probably tell from her music reviews, she's in love with ballet. Recently her class has been listening to music from the Nutcracker, and dancing to pieces of the story. Since she was enjoying it so much, I decided to check out a Nutcracker CD from the public library. Admittedly, this review is a little biased since I chose the CD for her. But, her enthusiastic reaction to the album just begged for a post.

Ever since we brought the Leonard Bernstein era New York Philharmonic Nutcracker recording (circa 1960) home from the library, Miss B has had it on constantly. She immediately starts to dance when the music starts, pauses between songs, and has different styles of ballet for various tracks. However, she also realizes that the CD has a particular purpose, and will not listen to it for bedtime. She told it that it might scare her or wake her up. Some of the pieces are very loud and energetic, so she's certainly right about that.

Miss B's grown so familiar with the music, that if we hear it in different venues (over the speakers in Trader Joe's, from a string quartet playing outside for shoppers, during TV commercials, in various holiday animated specials), she'll stop and comment...and perhaps dance for whoever is assembled.

I was feeling a little disappointed that the CD we checked out was not the entire Nutcracker (in fact it has pieces from other ballets), so I picked up the complete Nutcracker CD on another library trip. I thought Miss B would be thrilled, but instead she'd grown so accustomed to the original CD that she flat out rejected the new one, saying, "No! I don't like the white one!" Or maybe she just prefers the New York Philharmonic to the London Symphony Orchestra.

Cantopop Rules for Headbanging and Air Guitar

It's quite often that Miss B is drawn to Chinese CDs at the public library. I'm not sure if it's because there's a big selection, or if there's something in the aesthetics of the packaging that's appealing to her. Either way, Miss B is usually riveted by the majority of Chinese pop music that she hears. The hugely popular Hong Kong singer Kelly Chen's CD was no exception.

When we first put Kelly Chen's Grace into the CD player, Miss B was eager to listen to it. She quietly played during the first song, but then got a very serious look on her face when track 2 began. She rocked her feet, put her fingers in her mouth, and then began dancing wildly with a big smile. She asked, "Is this my music?" Suddenly her dance moves changed into a style new to her, but familiar to me in that junior high school dance sort of way. Miss B started to shake her hips and her arms with a scowl on her face. At this point I couldn't hold back my laughter, and she laughed back at me, realizing that I was amused by her.

By track 3 I heard hints of metal and Miss B kept up the energetic moves, kicking her feet and stopping to point at pictures in my CMJ magazine. She then started to talk nonsensically to a picture before she began singing into an imaginary microphone.

When her father got home, DJ B wanted to put the CD on again. As the music began, she ran around the room like she was in flight, with her arms in the air. She swooped, and ended a dance with a grand, dramatic pose. As the more rock-oriented track 2 began, she again sang into her imaginary microphone with a strange, serious expression on her face. She transitioned into a fast dance, shaking her shoulders before putting on a rock-star face. She held both hands in front of her like she was motioning for us to "Stop!" and asked us to dance with her. By the third track (kind of a disco/metal tune), she was waving her fingers over her chest as if playing an air guitar. She rocked out in true head-banger fashion, stood in place scowling, then screamed, "Go away everybody!"