This year’s class includes an eclectic mix — a disco diva, lady rockers, prog-rock legends, hip-hop pioneers, a guitar hero and, um, Randy Newman (none like him!) among them — and they make for worthy bunch, to be sure. We’re particularly thrilled to see that first time nominees Public Enemy and Rush, as well as VH1 Divas honoree Donna Summer and our favorite female rockers, have made the cut. But we have to ask, what about those who were passed over?
The Best Of‘s continue, today with Spin, Complex, FACT and Gorilla vs. Bear picking their favorite tracks from the year that’s almost past us. Singles lists are always fun because it’s easier to make a good single than a good album, and because there are so many to chose between. So these lists still have a lot of the Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean action that we’ve come to except, as well as love for viral phenomenons like the Carly Rae Jepsen‘s and radio thumpers like G.O.O.D. Music‘s “Mercy.” And because FACT and Gorilla vs. Bear’s tastes tend to run left-of-center, you might even find there’s something new for you to love on one of these lists.
Here’s how you warm a winter’s late night. Last night little sister, shining star Solange dropped by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to perform her most lovely single “Losing You.” Her hair worn big and with her partner in quirky charm Dev Hynes by her side, she lit up the stage (and also our hearts). The song’s a bit lanky, but she’s so cool and so calm and she just takes her time, seeming to be oh, it’s no big deal about the very good performance she was giving. There was an adorably bouncy choreographed dance break at the end, matching retro-y outfits for everyone onstage and a hipness that just radiates throughout the whole thing. Those Knowles girls, they’re stars, you know?
“You ain’t got no Jodeci? What is a Radiohead anyway?” Last Thursday the six-time Grammy-nominatedFrank Ocean proved once and for all that he knows exactly what “A Radiohead” is, slipping an affecting but so-sweet cover of their 1995 classic “Fake Plastic Trees” into a short set he played for a Spotify event in New York. Ocean skipped straight to the song’s final verse — the bit about “I can’t help the feeling / I could blow through the ceiling” seeming resonant right about now — and only got about a minute and a half of the song in before getting back to his own “Voodoo,” but it was enough to get the crowd whoop-ing and us hoping that he might someday do more like this. This is sure to leave you with all sorts of feelings.
Gwen Stefani and her husband Gavin Rossdale found themselves sharing a stage last night at the KROQ radio’s Almost Acoustic Christmas show in Los Angeles — an event made all the more special by the fact that Almost Acoustic Christmas show is the very show where the rock-star power couple met 17 years ago. Together they performed Bush‘s “Glycerine,” a song that Rossdale correctly figured “would be so powerful, the two of us on stage like that.” The the No Doubt frontwoman — who showed up looking like she probably did that night in 1995 in red-plaid pants and a sheer black top — joined her Bush frontman after the first verse, and the crowd went wild. And we would have done the same, because Aww! There aren’t many songs so good nor rock couples so cute.
The new visual for “Radioactive” has Rita Ora really stepping up her video game. Ora’s prior releases have been glossy but down-to-earth — “How We Do (Party)” finding her at party way cooler than any we’ve ever been invited to, “Shine Your Light” returning the pop star to her native Kosovo — but this video does the opposite, taking her out of this world and landing her in some sort of glamorous outer-space kingdom. Because when you look as good in a leotard spacesuit as she does, why not?
Over the weekend Psy found himself — and his especially sparkly red sweater! — at the White House’s annual Christmas in Washington charity holiday concert, performing a Oppan Christmas Style remix of “Gangnam Style” for President Barack Obama and the First Family just days after footage of his perhaps too-spirited anti-American protest performance from 2002 had brought the Internet’s love affair with the giddy-up dance to an awkward halt. Psy was quick to apologize, accounting the song’s graphic lyrics to “a deeply emotional reaction to the war in Iraq and the killing of two Korean schoolgirls” and expressing regret for “any pain I have caused by those words,” and the President reportedly politely shook his hand post-performance. And so while some may still be concerned by Psy’s less giddy past, we’re going to go ahead and rejoice that fact that Christmas this year may be very merry and Gangnam style after all.
Anybody who is anybody in the art world, and also Rick Ross and Diddy, shipped down to Florida last week to celebrate the latest and greatest in visual arts at Miami’s Art Week. This year, VH1 teamed up with Fiat and SCOPE Art Show to present the work of our three up-and-coming Artists on the Rise and for a raging party that included a Fiat Instagram sharing station and DJ remix bar and a performance from December’s You Oughta Know band, Metric. Because we couldn’t all be there, we send our own Jim Shearer down to scout the scene and report back.
What did he find? One half of DJ duo The Dolls’ Mia Moretti suggesting that emerging artists are important and interesting because “no one’s really judged them yet, the world hasn’t made their decision,” SCOPE Artist On The Rise artist Patrick Martinez explaining that he approached the show as an opportunity “step-up and shine,” and “Not Over You” star Gavin DeGraw putting aside his guitar to make his debut as a visual artist. “This is ‘The Love Beast of Gavin Degraw,’” he said, titling his sketch before explaining that, “This is how I feel on the inside.” It doesn’t get much more emerging than that.
Her sea-punk cribbing green-screen act may have had the Internet up in arms, but what we really thought was most jaw-dropping about Rihanna‘s recent Saturday Night Live appearance was that stunning new ballad she performed called “Stay.” Rihanna’s not much of a vocalist, and studio 8H is not generally known as a place to really sing, but sing Rihanna did and she sounded so good. We didn’t know Rihanna could do — or even wanted to, for that matter — but we were blown away by it, and we were happier yet to see her do it again this weekend on The X Factor UK finale.
On a big stage and in a futuristic white cut-out dress, again finding emotional range and strength in her voice that we haven’t come to expect from her. The airplane-hanger sized space she was performing in remained silent through the song and when she moved into “We Found Love” without skipping a beat. She sang the first verse pared-down and from the gut like she did with “Stay,” but then seemed to catch herself. “Ooh!” she squealed, and the stage began spewing sparks and what had been a quiet performance erupted into some sort of spectacular laser-ridden rave we’ve only ever dreamed of. And so it seems, that first and very good SNL performance was no fluke — Rihanna’s for sure got that x-factor.
The year is running down, and like everyone else, we are bundling up our most memorable musical moments from the year into a slew of Best Of’s. Before we get to the more obvious lists — the best albums, the best songs — we thought we would have a little fun. First up: 9 delightful collaborations, made all the more so for their unexpectedness. We aren’t talking Watch The Throne-style of-course-they-would team-ups, we’re talking collaborations that we couldn’t in our wildest dreams have imagined or that we thought we would never see, like — well, these nine:
Barton Hollow is totally “an indie record much cooler than mine,” but more careful observer might have predicted this unlikely but delightful collaboration, as Swift began yammering about her fellow Nashville transplants The Civil Wars on twitter long before this was even a possibility. We, however, were left breathless upon learning that one of the day’s biggest pop stars had teamed-up with one of our favorite You Oughta Know acts — and for a song for such a pivotal moment in the Hunger Games movie, no less! Joy Williams harmonizing turns Taylor’s girlish coo haunting, and John Paul White‘s patient guitar plucking gets the whole thing swirling. See also:“The Last Time,” Taylor’s distressed duet with Gary Lightbody of Northern Ireland’s mostly absent as of late folk rock set Snow Patrol. Taylor is a slick machine when it comes to her music, and it was a surprise to see her reaching out of bounds for this one.
Hard to believe as it may be given the boom box beats and all the sing-rapping that resulted, Warrior is allegedly a tribute to the genre Ke$ha loves the most: rock and roll. If you really strain your ears, you may hear some of that “old hippie rock” in the breakdown of “Die Young.” You won’t have to try so hard with “Dirty Pop,” which features Iggy Pop, a true and blue rock star and someone Ke$ha has spent a lot of time talking about through the years. The joy she must have felt the first time she heard him call her “Wild Child” on her own song is evident. See also:“2012,” K$’s duet with fellow weirdos The Flaming Lips.