Today, Tuesday, September 22, is a special day for four distinct reasons: (1.) It's the first day of autumn, though one wouldn't know it from summer's tenacious grip on southern California, (2.) my birthday is exactly three months away, (3.) David Gray's new album, Draw the Line, comes out today, and (4.) so does Craig Ferguson's new book, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. Interestingly, I had already planned on dubbing both Gray and Ferguson current man-crushes, so to celebrate their latest contributions to pop culture I offer a man-crush double feature!
Contemporary Influence: David Gray had been making music long before his single "Babylon" achieved regular radio play, but that hit single put Gray on the map -- and rightfully so, as "Babylon" betrays the introspection, urban plight, and clever word play that infuses many of Gray's best songs. Although few other singles of his have enjoyed as much American air play, Gray's songs have been used frequently in film and on television; recently, I heard "As I'm Leaving" playing during a promo for William Peterson's final episode of CSI. That track was from Gray's Lost Songs album, released in the States after "Babylon" and White Ladder started making serious waves. If even a lost song can get that kind of attention, who knows what David might accomplish when the world finally finds what he's capable of?
Practical Knowledge of the Opposite Sex: While most mainstream musicians boast knowledge of the opposite sex by way of the love ballad, David Gray is bold enough to lyrically document the hard times, too. Consider the lines: "And honey please don't stop your talking/'Cos there's a feeling won't leave me alone/What we gonna do when the money runs out/I wish that there was something left to say/How we gonna find the eyes to see/a brighter day?" If women like their men to emote, it doesn't get more emotional than that -- but in a definitively masculine way, mind you, as nothing frustrates a man more than a lack of tangible solutions. Thankfully, despite his name, Gray is one to pay less attention to the dark cloud and more its silver lining, as he proclaims, "Tell the repo man/And the stars above/That you're the one I love." In other words, no matter what this world may take away, there's no ceiling to true love. Even fools know that this what women want to hear, but only a David Gray can put it so eloquently.
Global Significance: Did you know that White Ladder is still the best selling album of all time in Ireland? Yes, the same way we Americans love Michael Jackson's Thriller or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, the Irish love White Ladder (which may explain my affinity for it, as well). More so than that, as I mentioned earlier, Gray's ongoing themes are a bit more transcendent than your usual top 40s fare, and I submit for your consideration this live version of "Ain't No Love," my favorite of his songs. In three short verses, Gray muses about urban life, creativity, love, and religion, all in an introspective attempt to explain his direction (or lack thereof?) in life. Who can't relate to that?
Moved? Now, if you act fast, you may be able to acquire David's latest single, "Fugitive," at Starbucks for free via their free iTunes Pick of the Week!
Contemporary Influence: I love late night television, and when done properly I believe it can be both a humorously seasoned synopsis of any given day and a timeless piece of pop culture entertainment. Every weeknight, Craig Ferguson embraces this opportunity wholeheartedly, balancing vaudevillian comedy via puppets and impromptu self-deprivation with relevant expositions on current events, like his recent rant about Congressman Joe Wilson's calling President Obama a liar. Consider this introduction from his September 11th episode, which combines these two elements in a virtual politically puppeted cartoon!
As an aside, Craig shamefully mentions in his book that the Monkees' Headquarters album was the first vinyl he ever owned, and it's the one I have signed by three out of four Monkees themselves! It doesn't get any more personal than that!
A Practical Understanding of the Opposite Sex: As I said, Craig's new autobiography dropped today, and as a celebrity boasting the addictions of his past in the same context as his bid for American citizenship, he probably could've appeared on any talk show to promote his book. So, where did he show up this morning? The View. Yes, his Scottish accent wooed the ladies of The View, and their natural feelings-oriented line of questioning was the perfect forum for Craig to express his former weaknesses and future career hopes and speculations. In other words, even in light of his latest success, Craig put the ladies first -- and in the morning, to boot!
Global Significance: From what I understand, Craig is a Scotsman that came to the United States in a drunken, drug-addled stupor in a mad quest for fame and celebrity -- and he eventually found it by shamelessly shedding his vices. He's often spoke of his first trip to America with his father, to New York, of course, where he vowed to return one day. This is the American dream for so many folks around the world -- that the U.S. is a land of first and second chances -- and we naturally born citizens take that for granted. That Craig takes any opportunity to share his joy at being American, from speaking at the President's White House Correspondence Dinner last year to nightly on CBS, proves he is a true patriot, indeed. Just look up his latest tattoo if you need any more proof!
There you have it: two more Europeans on my list of man-crushes (Gordon Ramsey being the first, of course). I'm grateful they're so eager to come to the U.S. and share their talent, but where are the American-bred icons? Is reality television so saturating the potential for homemade heroes that I must look overseas for masculine role models? Time will tell . . .