Razor is trying really, really, really hard to inject itself into the middle of the men's-mag scrum. It has upped the celebrity quotient for its cover gals (recent, um, honorees include Shannon Elizabeth and Carla Gugino), added edge to its content (more contrarian viewpoints, flashier spreads) and allied itself with anything and everything vaguely poker-related. As a result, at times it boasts the manic twitch of Tom Arnold after 18 Red-Bull-and-vodkas.
Here's the thing, though: Razor doesn't need to try as hard as it does. For about 75 percent of the mag's May issue, one gets the sense that it's about to settle in comfortably between Maxim and GQ on the men's publishing food pyramid. But the other 25 percent... medic!
Take "The Corsair," a column by blogger dude Ron Mwangaguhunga. In it, he ranks his top 10 women of the moment, referencing how Aisha Tyler "fills out a bathing suit exquisitely" and how model Helena Christensen's face "gets hotter and more interesting through the passage of time." Honestly, I had to re-read it to see if I'd missed some blatant FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THIS IS CLEARLY SATIRE notation, but none was forthcoming. As a writer and a dude, I'm ashamed for both my profession and my gender.
And yet Razor recovers from this grievous offense against the English language only a few short pages later. Flint Wainess invests his "Breakup Guy" column with the self-deprecatory wit and self-awareness that Mwanga-whatever-his-name-is lacks. Towards the back of the issue, Anna David's "Sex Files" column offers a take on that most pivotal of relationship landmarks - taking it public - that veers clear of both "Sex in the City" cliché and girl-power sass.
Equally worthy is Razor's annual listing of "Mavericks," which includes some truly inspired (and non-obvious) choices: New Yorker Cartoonist Matt Diffee, Adult Swim Creator Mike Lazzo, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. The feature on the one female included on the list - cover gal Pamela Anderson - doesn't add a whole lot, but at least Razor doesn't merely plug her execrable new sitcom. Instead, the mag suggests that she's a hell of a lot smarter than she looks, and attempts to illustrate some deep strategy behind her career choices. Did I buy it? Hell, no. But Razor gets points for presenting its case intelligently.
It also scores with one of Hunter S. Thompson's last published interviews. While Razor's copy crew gets a demerit for misspelling the name of the author's longtime foil, "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau, the lengthy conversation is a fittingly evocative snapshot of HST in his final, decidedly non-gonzo days.
The rest of the May issue is diverting, even if only a handful of items live up to the standard of the "Mavericks" feature. Razor is a bit late to the game with yet another piece of Howard Dean revisionism, asking, "Can This Man Save the Democratic Party?" Let me field this one: No, but he can probably perforate its collective eardrum. The short feature on Natalie Portman, on the other hand, feels like her publicist wrote it.
As for the pages of grooming supplies and bikes and other crap, the spreads are nicely laid out and varied and all that. But so what? It's still sheer, unfettered commerce that even media novices are likely to view as better-annotated advertising.
To sum up: I am Razor's target audience. I'm in the mag's target demographic and like to spend my few shekels of disposable income on shiny things. Seventy-five percent of the May issue feels like it was written with me in mind; the other 25 percent feels like it was written for my looped-on-cold-medicine, trash can-IQ doppelganger. What Razor decides to do with that other 25 percent will likely dictate whether the magazine evolves into a legit option for me and similarly situated dolts, or merely a backup plan for when the newsstand is out of Maxim, FHM, ESPN The Magazine, and about 15 other publications.