Face the Nation

We find out what rocked across the country in 2007.

Jason Harper: You picked "Digging in the Dirt" by Peter Gabriel. Not many people aside from big fans have heard it.

Simran Sethi: I think that whole album, Us, is great.

And Jay-Z, "99 Problems"?

I lived in Harlem when the song came out, and it just reminded me of the fact that there are more black men in prison than are employed, and I think that's a horrible injustice.

You're a Mariah Carey fan?

I like Mariah. I interviewed her in Tokyo when I worked for MTV News and she first played the Tokyo Dome, and I've liked her and her music ever since. It's not something many people expect out of me, but I like Mariah.

What was she like?

I'm impressed that she writes her own lyrics and did it at a time when she didn't have to, and it's a good comeback story. She managed to reassemble her career and did a good job of it.

How do you find out about music?

NPR and stuff my friends send me from Singapore, just whatever I happen to catch. I listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW. There's not a single area where I find my music. Stuff on the radio.

What did you listen to growing up?

I grew up in an era of Bow Wow Wow and Duran Duran and Madonna, so that's the stuff I listened to growing up. I heard some Rolling Stones and Beatles from my mom.

Did you absorb any music during your time working for MTV that you still listen to now?

Not really anything now, because that was quite a while ago. But the bands I got to interview then are still very much a part of the music I listen to, like the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Mariah. Those are probably some of my favorites from that time frame. The Foo Fighters.

Did you not cover much music that was native to India and Singapore?

I did, but that's not the music I listen to now, which was your question. I 'm Indian, so I've grown up listening to Indian music.

What would you recommend to people who are interested in Indian music?

Asha Bhosle.

What type of music is that?

It's Bollywood music, but it's a lot of love songs.... Any collection of her greatest hits would be a good introduction for folks.

Tell me why you picked the Dixie Chicks.

I really liked Shut Up and Sing. I thought that was a great documentary. I grew up in the south, but I never listened to the Dixie Chicks, and after seeing that movie here in Lawrence at Liberty Hall, I had a profound appreciation for their courage, and I got introduced to their music that way.

What about one of your other picks, Rihanna? She's a sexy pop star. Does that contrast the powerful-woman image?

I think women can be both those things. I don't think it's a contrast.

— Jason Harper

Getting Eastbound and Down with Christian Jacobs of the Aquabats! and Yo Gabba Gabba!

Christian Jacobs lives in a world of bold-faced, day-glo images. He dwells in a realm in which all sentences end in exclamation marks and fun is as common as oxygen. A founding member of the Huntington Beach, California, synth-pop-punk-ska band the Aquabats!, Jacobs (a.k.a. the MC Bat Commander) assumes cartoonish personae with earnestness — and revels in goofiness with as much gusto as Jay-Z and 50 Cent luxuriate in their self-perpetuated, overblown mythologies.

As Aquabats! front man, Jacobs dons superhero garb, while his similarly attired bandmates act out a comic-book-style story line in which the group combats evil through its damnably catchy and ludicrously peppy songs. (Think tunes that fall somewhere between Oingo Boingo and Devo at their most accessible.) Despite several personnel changes, the Aquabats! continue to soldier on in its quest to subdue nefarious nemeses; to that end, the band is currently recording a new album and touring sporadically.

Recently, however, Jacobs has channeled his time and creative energy into Yo Gabba Gabba!, which debuted on Nick Jr. in August. (The show will also air on the Noggin cable channel starting December 31, 2007.) One of those rare kids shows that appeals to adults, Yo Gabba Gabba! has become a cult favorite, garnering much YouTube synergy. It appears destined to launch its on-air talent — including DJ Lance Rock; Ricky Fitness; the toy monsters Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Plex and Toodee; and Jacobs himself, reprising his MC Bat Commander character — into something verging on mainstream stardom.

Yo Gabba Gabba! has drawn comparisons to such programs as the H.R. Pufnstuf, Pee-wee's Playhouse, The Muppet Show, and Banana Splits Adventure Hour. The regular appearance of musicians and bands — including the Shins, the Aggrolites, Mya, Supernova, Rahzel of the Roots and Biz Markie — also harks back to MTV's golden age. If that weren't enough, Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh provides graphics for the show.

Amid increasing time constraints in his life, Jacobs (a father himself) miraculously found a few minutes to share "the songs I listened to the most, over and over this past year."

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