What the hell happened to Giant?

I'm dropping my no-repeats-until-I've-reviewed- every-magazine-on-the-planet policy for today, because version 2.0 of Giant is practically screaming for an intervention. Not only is it a fully different publication than it used to be, but one so wildly scattershot in its execution as to evoke pity.

When we last checked in with Giant, it offered male-skewed entertainment coverage with post-fraternity bite. Some time over the last year (what, you weren't paying attention either?), it swung a U-turn and morphed into a chronicler of urban culture. Overnight, it went from being Stuff without the starlets to Complex without a clue.

I have questions aplenty. Like, is this legal? Were the people who subscribed to the mag's first iteration given the option of a refund? How can you go from recycling Ron Burgundy quotes to Young Jeezy talking about being a "street n---a" in the blink of an eye, and expect readers to abide the topical and attitudinal whiplash? In magazines as in stalkers, schizophrenia is not a desirable condition.

Giant used to be a snappy, occasionally diverting read, highlighting the performers who fly underneath the Entertainment Weekly radar. Now, it reads as if assembled by a crew who learned about urban culture from watching MTV. The February/March issue of the mag, for example, arrives 12 weeks too late with its feature on "Dreamgirls" breakout star Jennifer Hudson. Similarly, its story on Thandie Newton devotes a chunk o' space to her performance in "Crash," the embarrassingly self-important racism-is-complicated! flick that hit theaters in May 2005.

In its "Dance" portfolio, the mag touts the Knicks City Dancers among the trendsetters in modern-day booty-shakin'. It offers Nicky Hilton as a hot "nouveau" hotelier and, for those unfamiliar with modern-day retailing and/or the Sunday newspaper circulars, exposes the "trend" of merchandisers incentivizing listeners to buy records during their first week in stores (via Best-Buy-only bonus tracks, etc.). Not a single item in the February/March issue prompts a single arched eyebrow, much less surprise or delight.

Some elements of the old Giant survive the editorial apocalypse. Unfortunately, they're the wrong ones: the bland one-pagers on up-and-coming talent, the everybody-gets-a-hug film/DVD/music reviews. There are fewer 13-star raves than before, even as they've been intellectually downsized (the mag commends the "strong performances" in the upcoming "Black Snake Moan").

At least Giant's design folks won't be out of a job for too long when the publication ascends to that great recycling bin in the sky. Whether on its contents pages (which boast a movie-poster feel) or in the neatly appended "P.O.V." section, Giant knows its way around layouts that are simultaneously striking and splashy without overwhelming the reader. The mag's photographers do even better. By making Air Jordans look both elegant and artful, the "Get Your Kicks" sneaker spread trumps similar layouts in every men's magazine since the dawn of Nike; the Newton shots are one part French Vogue and one part Interview.

No matter how stylish Giant v.2.0 looks, though, it can't undo the damage done by, well, everything else. Trying to predict the next mass-market-magazine euthanasia candidate? Look no further than Giant. I've got next Friday in the office pool.

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Published by: Giant Magazine LLC

Frequency: six issues per year

Contact: 646-837-0200 (general number)/

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