The Blog of Young America

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There's still room on the Robin Thicke bandwagon.

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Yes, Robin Thicke is white. Yes his dad is Alan Thicke. Deal.

kelefa sanneh breaks down the Thicke phenomenon in his great review in today's New York Times:

In 2003 Mr. Thicke — calling himself simply Thicke — released “A Beautiful World” (Interscope), a breakout album that wasn’t, quite. When he resurfaced last year with “The Evolution of Robin Thicke” (Star Trak/Interscope), it seemed possible that Mr. Thicke would remain a secret, beloved by a few R&B fanatics (“Have you heard ‘Shooter,’ his sublime collaboration with Lil Wayne?”) and ignored by their skeptical friends (“Slow jams from the son of the guy from ‘Growing Pains’? No thanks”).

Now, he's #1 on the urban charts (something that Eminem and JT have never done) with "Lost Without U," which deserves the distinction.

Listen: if you like R&B or soul music at all, you owe it to yourself to cop Robin Thicke's first album, which can be found in cut-out bins across this great country. It sounds like Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five, with a little dash of the Beatles and a modest helping of contemporary R&B. It's not as good as those things, but it's really great. Maybe my favorite R&B record of the 21st century.

And if you like slow jams, the new record is for you.

Here's one of my favorite tracks off the first record, which for some reason I always hear when I'm shopping at the Nordstrom Rack.

High Five Contest: Ends 3/31

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Wii-me Jordan and Wii-me listener Rachel

The time comes for all contests to end, no matter how awesome that contest might be.

So far, we've received over THREE HUNDRED high fives in our high five contest. They've come from all over the country and all over the world. They've been airborne, adorable and amazing. I love them.

March 31st, however, will be our cutoff. That means you have just two short weeks to take pictures of yourself high fiving, upload them to our flickr group, tag them "awesomehighfive," and thus share them with all of us. The top three high fivers will recieve TSOYA t-shirts, and our grand champ will get a huge prize pack including an SCTV DVD set, a Stephen Colbert / George Bush "We're not braniacs on the nerd patrol" t-shirt from sneakmove, and much more.

But two weeks is all it takes! Grab a camera and get to work!


Old Fashioned Fun!

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Thanks to The Coming for this one... The Human Giant show is fast approaching, and I couldn't be happier for those guys. We'll get them on our airwaves, don't worry.

The Video Revolution

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Let's just say one of your favorite blogs and podcasts was thinking about getting a video camera.

What might you like to see from that blog and podcast in the video arena?

Interview clips?

Performance clips from musical guests?

Field reporting?

Comedy clips?

Pornographies?

We're brainstorming here, folks, so there's no such thing as wrong. Share your thoughts in the comments, or here in the forum.

Our sponsor: Project Breakout

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If you've been listening to JJGo and TSOYA lately, you've heard announcements about our new sponsor, Project Breakout.

Here's the deal:

They're a new company, and their idea is to be like American Idol crossed with YouTube. They're doing online video talent contests in a variety of fields, like dancing and film-making. The contests have both voting and judges, and culminate with the winner receiving a prize that furthers their career.

Their trial run is a comedy contest. The prize is a trip to New York City to participate in Sketchfest NYC (of which TSOYA is a sponsor), as well as a three-day intensive mentorship with the great folks behind Sketchfest NYC. The goal is to get you in front of industry, and teach you how to capitalize on your opportunities -- how to make packets, how to put on shows, etc etc etc.

I'm one of the judges for the competition, and I'd love to see really great stuff. I know a lot of talented folks listen to TSOYA and read this blog -- in fact, that's one of the reasons that the Project Breakout folks chose this show to sponsor.

So if you have video, visit their site and enter it in the competition. You don't lose your rights to it or anything, it's equivalent to uploading it to YouTube or something. Nothing is too good or too bad for the process -- the whole idea is to cast a wide net and filter out some stuff that deserves more exposure.

Upload here: http://www.projectbreakout.com

(And hey, if you're interested in underwriting on the radio show or podcast, or advertising on the website, let's talk about it. Email me.)

Total Annihilation in the SF Chronicle!

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All bow before the mighty TOTAL ANNIHILATION!! EDDY DEMON FOREVER!

'Kids Rock'

Grown-ups are in the band, too, but they're punks, so cut 'em some slack

Thursday, March 15, 2007

While the idea of holding a punk rock concert by and for little kids may seem like a stretch, 11-year-old Brendan Thorn, a.k.a. Eddy Demon, doesn't think so. The lead singer and guitarist of Total Annihilation and his band mates intend to "annihilate everyone" with their music as they play a "Kids Rock" gig this weekend that features bands with kids and adults in their lineups.

Look for Eddy and crew to wail through tunes such as "Rock and Roll on a Friday," a song about a guy who prays every Thursday night that the sun won't come up in the morning. "I wake up and I hit my head," Eddy sings when the protagonist awakes to yet another Friday.

Although Eddy says he likes Fridays now, cut him some slack. "I was 9 when I wrote that," he says.

Eddy came up with another one, "The Devil's After Me and I Don't Know Why," when he was ill and having a little trouble breathing and was thinking about relatives who has passed on and how he had to say goodbye to them. The songs appear on Total Annihilation's self-produced CD "Noggin," a reference to "really good eggnog."

Homeschooled since he walked away from kindergarten at 5, Eddy listened to Muddy Waters and jazz in his car seat, then graduated to the sounds of Jack Black's tongue-in-cheek rock band Tenacious D. He compares his singing style to that of the group Half Japanese, whose lead singer is "very squeaky. It's like a high voice, but it's not yelling. I don't have a strong enough voice to yell anyway," says Eddy.

His group includes drummer Pete "Pietro" D'Amato, 14, and two adults, James "Camo Spice" Comte on backup guitar and Damon "Dorkmeister Harmoniak" Squire on bass. Both are 36.

Total Annihilation grew out of an appearance by Eddy and Pietro at a talent show at St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in San Francisco a year ago. In the audience that night was Comte, a veteran of the early '90s rock 'n' roll wars as a member of the San Diego group Swivel Neck.

Seeing the kids put their heart into their music inspired Comte and he asked if he could join the fledgling group. "Eddy was like, 'Wow, it would be really cool,' " Comte says. Since then Comte has become something of a mentor to Eddy and Pietro.

"A lot of times children hear the message that nobody ever makes it in a band," says Comte, who has a 4-year-old daughter. "That can be discouraging. But how does one become successful at music? Usually they start at a young age. It provides the opportunity for children to see someone pursuing their dreams and developing their talents."

As for punk rock's negative associations, Comte stresses that the kids aren't emulating Sid Vicious. "It's all positive. It's not a seedy bar scene. They haven't been exposed to drugs and alcohol. It's sort of healthy YMCA experience. We play way more notes than punk rock. We're sometimes soft and sometimes loud. We're not like we can turn our amps up loud and kill you."

Still, Eddy may have a surprise or two come showtime. "We're planning on lighting a smoke bomb. If it's legal. Hmmm. Let me think about that."

F-ocracy and Hellakraptor also play. 3-6 p.m. Sat. $7-$15 sliding scale. The Lab, 2948 16th St., San Francisco. (415) 864-8855. www.thelab.org.

Paul Kilduff, 96Hours@sfchronicle.com

Paul F. Tompkins hits Comedy Central Friday!

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One of the funniest men on the planet, Paul F. Tompkins has a brand new Comedy Central Presents special, which premiers Friday night at 10PM (9 Central). Above, he discusses new dads. Also above, he is dressed like the Jack Nicholson joker.

Previously on TSOYA:
Goofaround Gang with Paul F. Tompkins, Tim & Eric and Will Franken

Dan Savage v. Garrison Keillor

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It's a battle royale!

And... is there a THIS AMERICAN LIFE CONNECTION?

Previously on TSOYA:
Dan Savage
Garrison Keillor

Podcast: The College Years: The Audio Experience 2/28/02

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The College Years is a look deep into the vaults of The Sound of Young America. Take a journey with us every week as we post a new program or two from our salad days.

This week, Jordan, Gene and Jesse have a CD full of sounds, which they use to great comic effect. They then speak with listener Jesse, who wants to ask out former guest and radio DJ Kelly out on a date.

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Public Radio Talent Quest: Let's Try Some Shit.

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The Public Radio Talent Quest

A friend recently made a comment to me that I thought exposed one of the biggest problems in public media. We were talking about TSOYA's run on WNYC, and he said, "What I don't understand is why, when they're building new programming, public radio never, ever starts with talent."

He's exactly correct, of course.

Start with talent, and you get The Daily Show. Start with a "target audience," and you get The 1/2 Hour News Hour. Start with talent, and you get Saturday Night Live. Start with a "target audience," and you get Mad TV.

New programming in public media is largely driven by pre-existing funding, which turns the development process backwards. Instead of having a great idea, or a great host, or a great producer and feeding it resources, we find a need or niche we decide to fill, then look for money, then actually build the creative elements. It's anti-entrepreneurial and rewards sameness

The best case scenario in this kind of system is to develop a show like Day to Day or Weekend America. Day to Day is basically the same as All Things Considered and Morning Edition. The tone is about 10% different, but it was created because we knew there was money for a show that was like ATC and ME that ran mid-day. Weekend America is like Weekend All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, with a tone that's maybe 15% different and a bit more focus on "fly-over states."

Television is the same, but given the enormous cost of television production, the problem is much worse. The best shows on public TV (Nova, Sesame Street, The Newshour) were created twenty and thirty years ago. So were public TV's big stars -- like Bob Vila, Jim Lehrer, Big Bird, Bill Moyers. I mean Ken Burns seems recent, and when was The Civil War? 1990?

I blogged last month about why "This American Life" is going to be on Showtime and not PBS. In Ira Glass' words, "Public television is terrible." He points out that if he'd wanted to bring the show to PBS, he'd have had to spend two or three years raising money before they'd even consider airing it. This with one of public media's biggest hits.

And I won't let public radio off the hook, either. The barrier of entry in public radio is exceptionally low -- I mean, I produce a weekly show with one person and a monthly budget of about $300. But consider again the case of TAL -- they went to NPR after Glass had worked there for twenty years, the show had been on for a year, was fully funded, and had won a PEABODY AWARD. Because it was different, NPR demurred. Today, This American Life is the biggest hit on public radio in the past fifteen years, and it weren't for Public Radio International, it wouldn't even be national.

So, what to do?

How about this for a prescription: try some shit.

This is what every other succesful media organization does.

Television networks air dozens of new shows every season, and only keep a few. The whole internet is a boiling vat of talent and ideas, where great things bubble up every day. With digital technology, it's very easy to produce video or audio at quality levels that are acceptable to at the least internet audiences. I'd say public TV stations could teach a group of 10 people how to produce video 52 weekends a year. Put some stuff up on the internet. See what works. Reach out to people who are already doing interesting stuff. Network. Join the conversation.

The upshot:

Much to their credit, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced a big grant last year to help find new talent for public radio. Again to their credit, they did it in a surprisingly entrepreneurial way -- a contest. They asked any group to outline their plan for finding talent, and offered a big check to the groups with the best plans. Recently, the winners were announced.

One of the two winners was PRX, aka The Public Radio Exchange. It's basically a website for distributing public radio content. Amazingly, before they launched, there was no mechanism for this. Now, any station can buy in to their system and get programming from independent producers and other stations around the country which has been peer reviewed and formatted for their automated systems.

PRX's plan for finding talent is, well, another contest. American Idol-style. On the internet.

It's called The Public Radio Talent Quest, and it's open to anyone. They're asking people to submit short tapes of ANYTHING they would want to hear on public radio. A few elimination rounds later, and they'll have given away $70K.

Will it work? Fuck if I know. But at least they're DOING SOMETHING. Seventy thousand dollars is a lot of money, but it's really only one person's salary. Why not give it a shot?

So, Sound of Young America listeners, I say ENTER! And here is my promise: for each round ANY TSOYA listener advances, I will add FIVE DOLLARS to the prize. And that's five dollars AMERICAN.

Do this thing!

The Public Radio Talent Quest

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