Mariah Carey sells out, or All that Glitters…

(Above: Neil Young sets the record straight with a live performance of “This Note’s For You” from 1988. Thanks to Viacom, clips for Roca Pads and Redman’s Potty Fresh were unavailable.)

By Joel Francis

Earlier this week, Billboard reported the booklet in the new Mariah Carey CD will contain “lifestyle ads.”

The 34-page “mini-magazine” will be co-produced by Elle magazine and house ads for Elizabeth Arden, Angel Champagne, Carmen Steffens, Le Métier de Beauté and the Bahamas Board of Tourism. The booklet will also contain Carey-centric articles with the enticing titles like “VIP Access to Her Sexy Love Life,” “Amazing Closet,” “Recording Rituals.”

Evidently the music wasn’t enough.

Annoying as the ad campaigns may have been, there have been no Chevy ads in Bob Seeger or John Mellencamp albums. Other artists have been less scrupulous about whoring their album space, but were never this brazen. Master P turned the booklets for all his No Limit artists into mini-catalogs, and Outkast frequently squeezed ads for their pit bulls alongside lyrics and musician credits. At least those performers had a stake in the products in question.

Carey’s move is more egregious on several levels. First, retailers have already found ways to cross-promote. According to the Billboard story, Walmart will display Carey’s album next to her Arden fragrance Forever, which has an ad on the back cover of the CD booklet. Even more disturbingly, Island-Def Jam, Carey’s label, has eyed Rihanna, Bon Jovi and Kanye West to follow suit if the initial venture is a success. Carey has never been a bastion of artistry, but if the major labels can turn a buck from this experiment, expect ads in CD booklets to become the norm.

“The idea was really simple thinking: ‘We sell millions of records, so you should advertise with us,’” Antonio “L.A.” Reid, chairman, Island Def Jam Music Group, a unit of Universal Music Group, told Billboard.

If an album is more valuable as an advertising vehicle, why not give the music away? In 2007, Prince gave away copies of his album “Planet Earth” in the Sunday edition of a London newspaper. Two years before that he included his album as a door prize at concerts. This year, fans who bought tickets for No Doubt’s summer concert tour were gifted with the band’s entire catalog.

Fans who buy the album digitally through iTunes or Amazon will also be subjected to the advertising. The ads will also be included in the electronic PDFs accompanying download sales. The only way to circumvent the booklet blights is the easiest and cheapest solution: ignore Carey or steal the music. Until the major labels start respecting the listeners, there is absolutely no reason to respect them.

Contest: Win the entire No Doubt catalog

(Above: No Doubt light up Starlight Theater in Kansas City, Mo. on July 6, 2009.)

Tickets to see No Doubt on their first tour in five years weren’t cheap. But the band has done their best to alleviate part of that sting by giving everyone who bought a ticket a free download of their entire catalog.

Three weeks after covering No Doubt’s energetic, fan-friendly set at Starlight Theater, I received an e-mail providing me access to the following albums:

The Singles 1992-2003 (2003)
Everything In Time (B-Sides, Rarities, Remixes) (2003)
Rock Steady (2001)
Return Of Saturn (2000)
Tragic Kingdom (1995)
The Beacon Street Collection (1995)
No Doubt (1992)

The download also includes No Doubt’s first recording since reuniting, a cover of Adam and the Ant’s “Stand and Deliver.”

The hidden message in this goodwill statement is that 13 years of recordings aren’t worth as much as a ticket to a 95-minute concert. I’m sure decision wasn’t met with open arms at Interscope, the band’s label.

While No Doubt fans are delighted and Interscope is disgusted, I am mostly apathetic. Although the show was a blast, I haven’t found myself pining to play any No Doubt material since the concert. This might be short-sighted of me, but my musical shortcomings, dear readers, are your gain.

I am giving away my access code to the entire No Doubt discography. To win everything the band has recorded, reply to this post with your best No Doubt story, or why you feel you deserve to win. After 10 days, I will contact the person with the best story and give them my download code.

Good luck, now start typing!

Review: No Doubt, Paramore

(Above: No Doubt perform “Running” at Starlight Theater on July 6, 2009.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

On its first tour in seven years, No Doubt might be packing large venues like Starlight Theatre on Monday night, but it’s playing them like a hungry band working the crowd for a place to crash afterward.

The few times the band paused during its 95-minute set, singer Gwen Stefani read the crowd’s homemade signs and called fans toting gifts up to the stage.

After tossing a sign spray-painted with a request for “Total Hate 95,” one fan was rewarded with a performance of the rare number. Later, after accepting the cross-stitched logos another fan made, a genuinely touched Stefani hauled her admirer onstage for a quick photo op.

When she wasn’t speaking to the crowd, Stefani and company were giving them exactly what they wanted: a heavy dose of the hits that made the band big in the first place. The setlist resembled the track list of the greatest hits album No Doubt released before going on hiatus, a celebration of the 11 years they’ve shared.

The opening ska bounce of “Spiderwebs” had the crowd eating out of Stefani’s hand, singing, swaying and dancing on cue. That number fell into the electro pop of “Hella Good.” The tempos may have changed throughout the night, but the energy never lagged. Through it all, Stefani was never still, dancing, spinning, jumping and unceasingly working the crowd.

The other five musicians onstage gave no evidence of any time apart. Drummer Adrian Young sat in the middle of the all-white stage, his kit the centerpiece of a six-legged platform that looked like a futuristic insect. He was flanked by multi-instrumentalists Stephen Bradley and Gabrial McNair, who handled horns, keyboards and backing vocals. Stefani, guitarist Tom Dumont and bass player Tony Kanal navigated the rest of the stage.

Behind them all, a large screen played videos during most songs. The best bits were the James Bond parody during “Ex-Girlfriend” and the homemade videos of the band’s early days accompanying the ballad “Running.”

“Don’t Speak” drew the biggest response, but it was nearly matched by “Just a Girl,” which closed the main set. As Dumont played its spidery opening riff, Stefani dropped to the floor and counted out push-ups with the crowd. After reaching 10, she sprung to her feet and launched into the verse. Both feats drew massive cheers.

One got the feeling during Paramore’s 40-minute set that the band brought as many fans as the headliners. The power pop quintet’s set was marked by a constant stream of young fans rushing as close to the stage as their parents would let them to snap a photo.

The setlist tipped heavily toward the 2007 album “Riot,” which delighted the devoted, who hung on singer Hayley Williams’ every word. The two new songs, which blended almost too well with the older material, and set-closing “Decode” from the “Twilight” soundtrack, were extra treats.

Bedouin Soundclash opened the evening with a 30-minute set.

After No Doubt returned for “Rock Steady,” Bedouin Soundclash and Paramore joined the band for “Stand and Deliver.” Nearly all of the dozen musicians onstage pounded the various drums brought out while Stefani and Williams swapped verses. No Doubt drummer Young managed to stand out in the crowd by parading around wearing only a pink-and-white tutu, marching snare drum and calf-high athletic socks.

The night ended with “Sunday Morning,” which, like so many No Doubt triumphs, hit the sweet spot between pop, ska, dance and rock. When the music ended, band members lingered onstage signing autographs, tossing souvenirs and shaking hands.

Just as they did in their native Southern California clubs a lifetime ago.

SETLISTS
No Doubt:
Spiderwebs, Hella Good, Underneath It All, Excuse Me Mr., Ex-Girlfriend, End It On This, Total Hate 95, Simple Kind of Life, Bathwater, Guns of Navarone, New, Hey Baby, Running, Different People, Don’t Speak, It’s My Life, Just a Girl//encore: Rock Steady, Stand and Deliver, Sunday Morning

Paramore: Misery Business, For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic, Pressure, Ignorance (new song), Crush Crush Crush, When It Rains, Where the Lines Overlap (new song), That’s What You Get, Let the Flames Begin, Decode