Our favorite things this week include Sylvester's disco and M.I.A.'s middle finger.
Mighty Real: The music reissued on Sylvester's Mighty Real: Greatest Dance Hits provides a glimpse into '70s disco that has been more heard about than heard. The disco songs that made it to radio were pop singles broken into audience-friendly structures and lengths, but Sylvester's tracks were made for dancing in the gay clubs. Only two tracks clock in under five minutes, and the songs have one, at most two, sections that repeat ad infinitum. "Body Strong" has one line - "You make, you make my body strong" - and most of the rest rely on the title word or phrase to give the song a central thought or emotion.
People writing about Sylvester's music draw attention to his gospel fire and falsetto, but for me these songs are all about the band and the arrangements. Most of the sonic geegaws of the day are pressed into service sooner or later to help renew the energy and excitement including a synth-driven proto-house passage in "Dance (Disco Heat)," but the songs also rely heavily on performances, particularly from the bassist and drummer. They may only play one groove pattern per song and stay with it for 10 minutes, but they play it with a commitment equal to that in Sylvester's vocals. Because of the songs' lengths and relative simplicity, Sylvester sounds more contemporary today than many disco hits, which might as well come with Star Wars-like hologram of Tony Manero saying, "Help me Obi-Wan. Just watch the hair." (Alex Rawls)
NFL vs. M.I.A.: After a year of quiet deliberations, the NFL is now charging M.I.A. $1.5 million, and demanding that she make a public apology for briefly flipping the bird during her 2012 Super Bowl halftime show appearance. This event had been wiped from my memory to make room for, well, important things. So, why such a harsh penalty for a relatively sophomoric act? NFL representatives claim that M.I.A. breached her performance contract, tarnishing the “wholesome” image of the NFL. Between withholding royalties from retired players, bounty scandals, crimes committed by active players, accusations for disregarding the health of its players, conspiracies over a lack of transparency in charity spending, and wardrobe malfunctions, the NFL has long dissociated itself with any reputation close to “wholesome.” Last weekend, the 49ers' Aldon Smith had enough of a drinking problem that he needed to check into rehab, not enough of a problem to miss Sunday's game.
M.I.A. and her lawyers are not taking the fine lightly. In a recent statement, the artist claimed that this was nothing more than “a massive display of powerful corporation dick-shaking,” and that it is disturbing that the league would target her as a scapegoat when during the same halftime performance, there were underage cheerleaders hired by Madonna “spreading their legs,” being sexually exploited. Additionally, M.I.A. asked fans to send emails to her defense team providing examples of how the NFL, or anyone associated with the league, have damaged its own wholesome reputation.
Levying a fine this late is ridiculous and does nothing to establish the NFL as a reputable moral force, and it’s naïve to think that issuing this penalty to M.I.A. could be settled without controversy. But as much as I’m rooting for Team M.I.A., come Monday, the draw of my New Orleans Saints will be too much to resist. Plus, I have free tickets. (Will Halnon)