To a music listener, the term “working musician” means being a member of a band (or, maybe, a songwriter or producer). But to most musicians, the term means something else entirely: a session player. Most people making a living as musicians are constantly hustling from studio session to gig to studio session, in each case earning scale (or a multiple thereof) – ??which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s stable freelance work. To actually form one’s own band, make a record, and go out on tour, it helps to be very young and very na?ve, or else really believe in the music, because that already-limited stability completely evaporates.
Every one of the six members of LA’s Fitz and the Tantrums has been a session player. So when Michael Fitzpatrick – ??who has always been known to his friends as Fitz – ??got hold of a vintage organ, wrote a song called “Breaking the Chains of Love,” and called up some musician friends (starting with saxophonist and longtime friend James King) to form a band, this was no small thing. Give up steady paychecks to start a soul band? Let’s put it this way: the Tantrums are hardly old, but they’re not teenagers, and they’re certainly not na?ve. So the late-2008 leap of faith that led to 2009’s Songs for a Breakup Volume 1 EP and the band’s debut full-length, Picking Up the Pieces, last August says more about what the band thinks of their music than any story Fitz might tell comparing the organ he found to One-Eyed Willy’s treasure map in The Goonies (I’m not making that up).
Upcoming You Oughta Know artist Fitz and the Tantrums stopped by VH1’s NYC offices this afternoon for an exclusive, four-song live set. You Oughta Know Live got it all on tape and we’ll be sharing that with you all shortly, so stay tuned, but here’s a little bit about what to expect:Â
Fitz and the Tantrums are funky as all get out. They get compared to the Motown sound a lot, and Fitz looks 60s-Detroit-sharp, a bit like Michael Keaton in costume as “Modern Love”-era David Bowie.Â But that’s way off – ??the sextet are southern-soul Stax cats through and through. They’re sharp, to be sure, but Joseph Karnes’s walking basslines and skilled drumming from John Wicks provide a looser rhythm.
They don’t have a guitarist; they don’t need a guitarist. Briefly (as in his solo on “Dear Mr. President”) saxophonist James King takes the sonic space of the guitarist, but this organ-bass-sax funk band sounds plenty full as-is.
Paul Simon surprised viewers of last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon when he joined percussive dance troupe STOMP for a striking rendition of his and Art Garfunkel’s 1970 single, “Cecilia.” In retrospect, the collaboration was obvious, as STOMP is perhaps uniquely suited to replicate the peculiar rhythmic charm of the original track. And the performance, to put it plainly, killed.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has emerged as the unlikely music leader in the late-night talk show game, hiring “the legendary Roots crew,” as Fallon puts it, as the show’s house band, and casting a net wide enough to include 90s DC indie-rock stalwarts Jawbox (reuniting only for the show), yacht-rocker extraordinaire Christopher Cross (with special guest Michael McDonald), teenage-riot horrorcore rappers Odd Future, and incomparable new jack swingers Bell Biv DeVoe, among others. Largely, this is thanks to the show’s music bookers (and their bosses, who give them lots of freedom).
Ray Kay’s video for the new Britney Spears single, “Till the World Ends,” can’t seem to decide whether it’s about the end of the world, or just a hyper-exclusive, (literally) underground New Year’s Eve party.
Of course, today’s uncertain economic times have led to a resurgence of apocalyptic-fantasy dance party songs and videos unmatched since the AIDS crisis, nuclear-scare, Reagonomic-nightmare mid-1980s. The Mayans may have provided a handy day-and-date marker, but the fear is all-American. So it’s unsurprising that tonight, Britney’s gonna party like it’s 2012.
Bejeweled Flash Gordon jumpsuit plus half-length flak jacket? Genius.
Yesterday Jared Leto joined those commemorating Kurt Cobain’s passing in a somewhat odd way: he shared a video he’d uploaded privately six weeks ago, in which he portrays the late singer.
Leto was among the many artists inspired by Cobain, who “gave us all permission to create no matter what our skill set and reminded me that dreams are possible,” and he’s never been particularly emotionally withholding (which is part of why we enjoyed having 30 Seconds to Mars as VH1’s Posted artist last October).
Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain. The music he and his bandmates in Nirvana created helped to catapult the indie rock underground of the 1980s into the public spotlight and forge a new rock mainstream, inspiring and influencing millions of listeners.
But Cobain, who never found an effective way to cope with that spotlight, would likely prefer to be remembered as a person, not as an icon of sadness, forever moping over his guitar on the set of Unplugged:
The new single’s clip is in the style of the “I’m a Slave 4 U” video, if it were set during the movie 2012 (though the comet may be a callback to “Hold It Against Me”). One thing’s for sure: even as the world is literally crumbling around her, Britney is having a ball – ??an attitude that matches the song, cowritten, as it is, by Ke$ha, the Road Warrior ofÂ today’s pop.
This weekend Nicki Minaj released her verses from “Tragedy,” a track allegedly from Lil Wayne‘s upcoming Tha Carter IV, to New York’s Hot 97. Taken alone, her bars are a brutal Lil Kim dis track.
Why such vitriol? In short, she’s responding to Lil Kim’s retail mixtape Black Friday, itself heavily laden with digs at Ms. Young Money. The title track, which Kim leaked in November, called her a “deluded Kim wannabe,” among many other things.