Music Article

Calculated Disc

Aiming to keep fans loyal, labels are beefing up old CDs with DVD extras. So why don't we feel more grateful?

Let's say, for the sake of what-the-hell argument, that you're an obsessive Pink fan. You're one of the four million people who bought M!ssundaztood. You want as much Pink music and memorabilia as you can handle, and you're jazzed that she's just released a DVD with videos and concert clips. There's only one hitch: The only way you can own it is to rebuy M!ssundaztood, in the new, expanded edition, at a cost of a dollar or two more than what you paid the first time.

Which, once again, makes you wonder whether record companies get it. The labels' approval ratings have never been lower. Musicians hate their contracts, and music fans resent the inflated prices. So what do the companies do? They take one step ahead and lurch back a few. Tacking extra material onto an album to ensure that people buy CDs rather than download free music isn't a bad idea, but the labels have blown it again. Many of the CD-DVDs popping up in stores are simply upgraded editions of records that have been out for as long as a year. The only people who can possibly be happy with the arrangement are the suits, who've found a way to squeeze a few more bucks out of consumers.

The disc added to Korn's Untouchables features just 20 minutes of new stuff -- two murky, insanely quick-cut live clips already available on the band's Korn Live concert DVD, and two music videos you've probably seen a hundred times on TV. None of it is exceptional, although there are twisted kicks to be had from the ''Thoughtless'' clip, which has Korn playing in a sort of spaceship command room while cheesy mutant forms try to poke through a surrounding rubber wall. Think the Scorpions' ''Rock You Like a Hurricane'' video in space, with worse music.

From their hip-hop-metal assault to their hulking, braided lead singer, P.O.D. are cut from a similar (if friendlier) cloth to Korn's. Fortunately, the augmented version of their latest album, Satellite, offers skullbangers dollar-worthy extras, such as a clever remix of ''Boom'' by Crystal Method that adds spice to P.O.D.'s bludgeoning sonics. The second disc features four live cuts and a behind-the-curtains documentary. Granted, the latter crams in every rock-doc cliche, from band members signing autographs to somber interviews like the one in which bassist Traa remarks that Satellite is the album they ''pretty much had to make.'' Dude, it's called a contract.

Sometimes extra material can be unintentionally revealing, as illustrated by the disc attached to Pink's revamped M!ssundaztood. The singer wants to appear naturally wacky while also appealing to as many demographics as possible, so all her permutations are here: the serious balladeer (''Family Portrait,'' her Lifetime-movie weeper about a turbulent household with an admittedly arresting video in which a child actress lip-synchs Pink's parts); the zany new-generation Cyndi Lauper (the ''Don't Let Me Get Me'' video); and the swaggering rocker (her stylized, all-girl, ersatz punk band, seen in London live performances). The contrived nature of it all makes one yearn for a dose of Pink's antithesis, the comparatively less complicated Britney Spears.

In the context of this new marketing scheme, the ''limited tour edition'' of Incubus' Morning View is the best type of deja View. The ''nighttime version'' of their ''Are You In?'' video -- with its scenes of lap dances, strip clubs, and Incubus being serviced in said setting -- is something even MTV2 wouldn't dare broadcast. The ''On the Road'' segment has enough of a sense of humor about itself to have drummer/actor Jason Schwartzman do incognito interviews at an Incubus concert, in which more than a few fans admit to not knowing who any of the members are or even what their name means.

That said, the only people who'll want to own this footage are those who have Incubus posters plastered on their bedroom walls, so it's cruel that they're the ones who'll have to repurchase a disc they already own. A few new albums are being released simultaneously as regular CDs and CD-DVDs, leaving the buyer a choice. But the whole CD-DVD notion mostly just sparks nostalgia for the days when a stereo -- not a computer, monitor, and modem -- was all that was required to experience music. The format overall gets a C+; judging the extras alone on each disc, Untouchables and M!ssundaztood: C Satellite: B- Morning View: B

Originally posted Jan 10, 2003 Published in issue #690 Jan 10, 2003 Order article reprints
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