– The Bieber Fever: The Fall Of The Entertainment Industry-

Justin Bieber live @ MuchMusic

Running the risk of feeding Frank’s running sarcastic joke that I am indeed a Bieber fan, I could not avoid the opportunity to discuss the news that I just came across while reading up about the recent Juno Nominations.  Justin Bieber was mentioned and I quote The St. John’s Telegram when I say, “Bieber, who was in Toronto on Tuesday promoting a new 3D documentary about his career, also got Juno nods for artist of the year and pop album of the year.”

Yes, that is NOT a typo.  A 3-D documentary highlighting the life & career of Mr. Justin Bieber.  This is not a good sign for the state of our entertainment industry.  I’m sorry, but I fail to see the justification for a documentary when the subject of this documentary can list his VERY recent accomplishments as “I conquered puberty.”

I don’t want to make this sound like a piece bashing the kid, because really looking at his success and his bank account I’m sure it would just come off as jealous anyway.  The kid can sing, and he’s been marketed beautifully, but that is not the point of this entry.

Johnny Cash had to die to get a major Hollywood documentary made about him,  other really great documentaries can include Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, hell even Spinal Tap was great.  The issue at hand is that the kid is 16 years old!  What kind of story can they give us?

Yes, I understand.. he’s become an overnight sensation infecting the western hemisphere at an alarming rate and it all began from a little child making YouTube videos.  It is a testament to the power that YouTube has to make celebrities.  The Beeb’s has an intriguing “how it all began” story but … it began like a year ago.  Are we really ready for a documentary on all of this?

This isn’t even a Hollywood script highlighting Bieber with some new-age Macaulay Culkin playing the staring role, this appears to be made up of stock footage from concerts and interviews with the man(I use the term loosely) himself.  Which begs the question, “Why don’t you just do a concert DVD instead?”  Seriously, I’ve seen some concert specials that had performance of songs, mixed up with commentary and interview clips from the artist and it worked fine.  It wasn’t hailed as a “documentary.”  Why should this?

I remember vaguely when I believe Silverchair was releasing their greatest hits album.  When it was announced that the greatest hits album was being produced the VJ on the show I was watching basically stated, “they have like three records out over the past 10 or so years, isn’t it a little early for a greatest hits album.”

This thought came to mind when I saw the trailer for Bieber’s documentary.  He’s skipping over the greatest hits album, the years of drug abuse, and the multiple ex-wives portion of his career and he is going right into the major theatrical documentary.  This move has historically been reserved for the post-career, reflective period when either the artist looks back on his life and has learned a lesson and wants to share that with the world, or the artist has passed away and family & friends decide to tell his/her story.  There are times where it is indeed nothing more than a money grab. I’m not too naive to deny that, but the documentary part of the career is never meant to take place in the I-just-started-my-career-so-look-at-me! phase… it’s too soon.

Hell even Michael Jackson didn’t have a production of this size done around him until after his death… well that is if you ignore the huge statues he built himself and sent to various parts of the world… but that was trying to promote his new album.

Bieber had a charting single in 2009, but released his first album on March 23rd, 2010… and now we look forward to a 3-D documentary on his life??  By rights since we normally condense a 30+ year career into the 90 minute film, by comparison Beeb’s two-year tenure should be compiled in roughly 15 minutes or so.

Maybe I’m reading a little more into this than I should, but I look at greats and legends that toil through the years and only garner acclaim after they have paid their dues, then I see Justin Bieber getting an opportunity like this and I no longer see the documentary as a tasteful homage to a great legend but merely reduced to yet another meaningless tool for record labels to promote their artists so they can squeeze every cent out of this cash cow before he turns 20 and they need to put him out to pasture.

You want to make a documentary?  How about a major Hollywood production of the Stones 50+ year career?  or even the late Aaliyah, she was just as talented as Bieber and had her life cut down far too early by a nasty plane crash.  The point is there is a lot more justifiable options if you really wanted to make a documentary that have a lot more interesting facts about them other than how they were discovered… which is the only detail that separates Bieber from any other successful young artist out there.

Bieber is probably the best example I can think of that is illustrating the state of affairs that we, as the upcoming generation, are going to have to content with.  YouTube and the internet in general are revolutionizing the way that we view celebrities.  The trend that began in the late 90’s has just been reinforced with the internet granting everyone an outlet to have the voice heard.  It was best said in the 1999 film EDtv, “It used to be that You were considered famous for being special, but now you are considered special merely for being famous” – And that’s how this world is becoming.

I understand the hypocrisy of what I am saying because in a way I am condemning the very medium that I am using right now to get my message across, so before I get berated for that I want to clarify.  I am not saying that the internet is to blame for what can only be described as the mindless dictating the successful in the world of entertainment.  With this medium there is more opportunity to hear what the people have to say about issues.  Politicians would be wise to subscribe to Twitter and have a Facebook and hear what the people are saying.  Social networking is not an evil that must be dealt with, it’s more of a tool or weapon that must be utilized with careful precision.

People getting famous on YouTube for doing nothing extraordinary is tragic when talented people can be overlooked simply to do the sheer quantity of videos being uploaded.  But as the internet public it is up to us to support those that we truly believe have something to offer, and are deserved of acclaim from the masses.  Don’t be afraid to subscribe and thumbs up videos that are worth wild, and comment showing support. They may be small actions, but they are encouraging none the less.  Shows like Extra Credits I believe are worth it, but the ginger kid that rants into the camera about how he doesn’t like being called a ginger does not. ( of course the exception is the techno mix that someone made of him … this had effort and creativity)

The Key of Awesome is something I do enjoy, they put a lot of effort into their videos and most of the time they are pretty enjoyable (they have done a couple of not-so-stellar ones).  Here’s one of there so-so ones but it fits the theme of this entry.  Check it out, if you like it look at some other ones I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Back to the issue at hand.  The problem is that I find that with todays world, especially the music industry there is a lot more emphasis on the marketing of a product instead of the quality.  There are thousands upon thousands of incredibly talented people in this world, and a lot of them post videos to YouTube not unlike Justin Bieber did, but the difference?

Well the right place at the right time helps. As Justin built a following on YouTube, he got spotted by some important people that launched his career.  Someone could be the most insane guitar player in the world, but the problem is, if you search YouTube you’ll find a handful of people that will fit that description.  These are those whom you respect their ability, and you say “oh dude, that chick is awesome”  or “he’s sick!”  … but that’s the extent of it.

You need something about you that can be marketed in such a way that important people can and will make money.  A guy with a good voice that can play guitar is all well and good, but it’s been done… over… and over… and over… the industry needs to see something in you, something that sets you apart.

Jeff Dunham & Achmed The Dead Terrorist

We’re at a point were song-writing and musical ability falls back to the shadows in lieu of a new, dynamic look, or gimmick that can be sold to the masses.  Of course once you’re marketed and make a success, after a couple of albums of their rules you can just break away and go be yourself because if you played your cards right you have a fan following that will help you maintain your success in some way.

Bieber winning a Juno to me is the equivalent of Achmed The Dead Terrorist winning  best comedian at the TNN Music City News Country Awards instead of Jeff Dunham.  Bieber can just dance the moves that someone else choreographed for him, while singing lyrics that are written for him and be called an immensely talented artist.

To Justin Bieber, congrats on the Juno nod and the upcoming documentary.  I wouldn’t tell you to change anything because it’s working for you pal, but I just don’t need to like it.

So the moral of the story?  Be selective with the videos you share with friends.  Don’t hesitate to spread the word when you see something online that you believe is truly remarkable, I’ll admit that I may be a little too hard on Beebs.  He is definitely not the worst artists that is active today in the industry, the kid can actually sing.  Even if someone else choreographs the moves he is a pretty good dancer so at least he does have his strengths… but there’s still so much more appropriate ambassadors for the power of YouTube, we just need to find them and get behind them so they can be discovered and show the world their skill.

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– Video games as an art form. –

Logo For Extra Credits taken from their website.

I have been on this earth for 25 years now, beginning my 26th in October.  There have been an incredible amount of variation in the interests that I have taken over the years.  Learning to play guitar, researching the business side of Pro Wrestling (NOT just watching it every week), hell I even watched shows like Barney well into my teens just to come to some conclusion as to what makes good children’s television vs what makes it bad.

 

The music comes and goes for me.  I never lose interest completely but sometimes my heart just isn’t in it.  The gritty underbelly of what makes Professional Wrestling tick still seems profound to me but in the end it has been buried to the deeper recesses of my mind.  There really is only one true interest that has stuck with me through my entire life and still stays prominent today.

I am a Gamer.  – Sure, a couple of years ago I sold my Wii (because someone actually gave me 500 bucks for it) and I was console-less for almost two years, but Gaming has always been at the core of my being.  When I’m upset, angry, happy, I can always turn to the appropriate game to nurse that emotion and channel it.  The reason why I’m deciding to write about it now is simply due to the fact that I actually have discovered the perfect description for what I think video games can be, and strive to be.

It’s an art form.  No different from that of a television show, movie production, or musical album.  I wish that I could say that I came to this label on my own but that would be immoral.  This perspective on the gaming industry was actually given to me when I stumbled across an online weekly show analyzing the industry on the whole.  Some of you that I know of are familiar with Zero Punctuation, the video game review show on The Escapist Magazine’s website…

Giant NES controller developed by Kyle Downes

Well one day after watching the new episode of Nostalgia Critic, Zero Punctuation, and some videos on Cinemassacre.com, I decided to see what else Escapist had to offer since I noticed the week before that they house a number of different series of videos.  I came across Movie Bob, and more importantly, Extra Credits

Seriously, I need to give a special mention to these guys.  This is a show developed by three people, Join James Portnow, Daniel Floyd and Allison Theus.  Every week a new aspect of gaming in discussed in detail.  They talk about everything from Controversy, to Piracy, to an analysis of the term “Gamer” itself.  Here is the real treat that I find in this series.  The mandate that they put forward with each and every new episode is that the video game community(Consumers, Developers, and those in the media) needs to make some changes in how we behave and the decisions that we make.  If we play our cards right, then video games may one day become recognized as the art form that it is.

When people think video games, they generally group it together with children’s toys.  The tendency to play video games is supposed to be something that you grow out of over time.  I guess the real reason why looking at video games as an art form really speaks to me is because when I was growing up and I went through a rough patch both mentally and socially, instead of getting down to the problems I was actually having.  My parents would rant and rave about how they regret ever buying me that Nintendo Entertainment System.  It was, and I quote, “The single worst decision” they ever made as parents.

Dad even decided one day to come downstairs and video tape me playing Iron Sword back when I was like 9 years old.  The tape goes on for a solid 10 minutes of me standing 4 feet in front of the television with the NES controller in hand, sound effects blaring from the television.  The only movement out of me was the occasional nose-pick, and the mashing of buttons when I found myself fighting an enemy.

In my teen years my mom would look back on this tape and be horrified that she didn’t stop me right then and there, but “at the time it seemed so harmless” years later all the problems that I developed through the natural progression of living my life was always circumvented down to those “stupid video games.”

The thing is if you were to really look at the potential in video games when it comes to aspects like story telling, or even education. Gaming is a mostly untapped resource, or at the very least is light years from reaching its potential. The contemporary productions that are being released in recent years have taken the industry that much further.

Even some sub-par games can have merit, I mean in high school I knew more than just about all of my classmates about some historical figures. Why?

Because I read a lot of books?… well I did, but no that isn’t it.
I certainly must have seen a movie about them?… nope, wrong yet again.
Okay a tv show?… incorrect.

I knew about historical figures like Ludwig Von Beethoven and Joan of Arc when I was bit a mere child, by playing Mario’s Time Machine for the Super Nintendo. This sounds a bit absurd, but this is just an example of the comparison that you can use to categorize gaming on some level with television, movies, and literature. I tell you I knew something, and instinctively, books and film become the culprit for educating me. Instead, it was a video game.

Games don’t need to be educational to be deemed art. Anything that has the ability to get you thinking about a topic, or something that you can just get lost in visually is my definition of art.

Cover of Gamecube's Eternal Darkness released in 2002

Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the Nintendo GameCube is an example of a game that garners a lot of talk after its release, it is usually one of the first games mentioned when game reviewers talk about Hidden Gems (games that were amazing for their systems but no one really bought them) for the GameCube. I was very fortunate when I was in university.  I purchased a GameCube strictly to play Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, and this game was at EB Games for a pretty cheap price.  It looked interesting so I picked it up, and truthfully I held onto my GameCube for ages simply for this game.  It’s a dark, yet insightful dive into the madness that plagues a bloodline over different generations.  Ancient deities and tragedy striking at every turn.  As the title hints at, you spend a lot of the game in between flashbacks wandering around a large mansion losing your mind.  Hallucinations, and monsters pop out of no where, but in a tasteful, suspense building method.  It isn’t a game that tries to scare you by just jump-tactics (when loud noises or quick visual effects are used to make you jump)  It builds up the discomfort over time.  I lost myself in this game and when someone wants to discuss the legitimacy of video games I will continue to used Eternal Darkness as an example.  To me it was indeed a work of art that took me to an entirely new plateau of reasoning.

Kudos to the Game Designers of this one.

I didn’t learn anything specific about it per-se, but just the immersion that it succeeded in me is enough for me to call it art.

Thanks to Extra Credits, I know now exactly the words to describe how I felt about gaming for all these years.  Games are not childhood toys, nor do they have to be any more of a waste of time then your standard Hollywood movie or Stephen King Novel.  Video games deserve their place as a protected medium of artistic expression, and through solid decisions from game designers and some key changes in the mindset of the consumers I think that the mission of Extra Credits is something that is unquestionably possible to accomplish.

This entry may not appeal to those of you that also stop in and read my rantings, but ever since the concept of video games actually being a recognized art form got into my head, it really is something that I want to do everything possible to support.  This entry would be the first step, when I figure out what the second one is I’ll let you know.

For now, I am just going to say that if you are a gamer and you are reading this, agreeing with all that I said.  I want you to finish reading this entry and then follow the link above or Click Here, to view Extra Credits home on Escapist Magazine, because frankly they say this a whole lot better than I do.  The team is a lot more familiar with where the industry is right now, and where it can go in the future if we all do our part.  Video Games may not be an endangered species but if we are going to make them be a viable, respected medium there is a lot of work to be done.

This isn’t asking you to sit through a boring discussion, and struggle to stay awake.  The information presented in their videos is done so with accuracy but also a hint of humor.  Especially the artwork by Allison.  Even if you are just a casual gamer, or you are new to gaming you are going to be able to watch these videos and walk away with a newfound understanding as well as a better appreciation for the world of Video Games.

So what are you waiting for, go check them out.
Extra Credits