We’re nearing the end of the first season of NBC’s The Voice, the show that has revitalized the entire genre of glorified karaoke singing competition programming. The show has been a massive ratings success for the struggling Peacock Network; so much so, in fact, that NBC has the confidence to air a 1-hour special of The Voice in the plum post-Super Bowl slot come February (that is, if an NFL season actually happens) and program it against the reigning champ of the genre, American Idol.
While it remains to be seen whether or not American audiences will be able to stomach two high-profile singing competitions on network television at the same time, The Voice has proven itself to be just what the doctor ordered for the summer network TV viewing season, which is ordinarily filled with either reruns or new shows that network execs have very little faith in. Big name talent like Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine have all upped their profile considerably, Carson Daly seems to be having the most fun he’s had since his TRL heyday, and heck, the competitors themselves have turned out to be fairly engaging, too.
Take Javier Colon, for example. The amiable 34 year-old father of two (and former Capitol records signee) seems to be the consensus favorite at this stage of the competition, and his performance of Coldplay‘s “Fix You” last night was such a knockout that it briefly clawed its way into the iTunes Top 10 singles chart. Not to take anything away from Colon, but everyone knows that it’s the majestic, shimmery guitar crescendo that gives “Fix You” its rousing power, not its lyrics or Colon’s (or, for that matter, Chris Martin‘s) voice. That said, Colon made sure to seize the moment by tossing his trademark cap into the audience and showing America his gleaming pate for the first time. Now, if we were coaching Colon, we would have advised him to save that move for the finals but, as such, it looks like his path to the next round is secure.
When it comes to embracing new artists, The Big Apple is notorious for being standoffish. Countless acts come through this town feeling intense pressure to perform, and like a picky suitor at a speed-dating event, New York and its sometimes-jaded tastemaker underbelly can often?discard a group within minutes. This premature blow to the ego, however, did not happen at the Lower East Side’s Bowery Ballroom last night. Performing their second sold out show in the concrete jungle in as many nights?—the first of which was held Monday night in Brooklyn— indie pop rockers Foster The People managed to create an atmosphere that was full of wild, supportive energy, and not a heckler was in sight.
When Pitbull and Ne-Yo teamed to perform their single “Give Me Everything” at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards last month, we didn’t even think it worth a mention in our roundup of the show’s highlights; the slightly out-of-breath Pitbull and a seemingly off-his-game Ne-Yo turned out a solidly mediocre performance. Their appearance last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, though, was an entirely different story.
Sure, the backing tracks didn’t exactly sound stellar through the booming outdoor soundsystem, but it didn’t matter, because both performers brought their best to a performance of what in the last month has climbed the charts to top out at #2 (just beneath the ever-present “Rolling In the Deep”). Sometimes, victory-lap performances like this one can be marked by indolence, but being as near the top of the charts as Adele will allow is apparently no reason for either performer to slack off. Pitbull, in particular, is all over our Song of the Summer charts, and he was similarly dominating onstage last night (so much so that Ne-Yo was not even announced beforehand as a musical guest). The Miami rapper has quietly become a chart monster over the last few years, and it’s great to see him enjoy the heck out of it.
Earlier this month, Drake released a new song called “Marvin’s Room” on his blog, October’s Very Own. If you haven’t heard it yet, the track consists of an intoxicated Drizzy vulnerably addressing an ex-girlfriend, trying to convince her that she can “do better” than the boo with whom she’s currently in a relationship. Coaxing her with his evocative fairy dust, the still-smitten singing rapper can seemingly not let go. Now considered a contemporary drunk-dialing anthem, “Marvin’s Room” is Wheelchair Jimmy’s Drake’s personal adjusting-to-celebrity confession session, yet still relatable enough to potentially rouse emotional baggage from our own civilian relationships past. Lucky us!
Striking similar chords with female vocalists, pop/R&B singer JoJo decided to remake the song last week, delivering her own version from a female’s point of view, and snagging quite a bit of buzz off her naughty lyrics. Teyana Taylor, too, just transformed “Marvin’s Room” into “My Room,” proving that she clearly didn’t give a damn about the poor guy in the original song’s title. And speaking of this “Marvin,” you probably noticed that Drake doesn’t mention him at all on the track, triggering a head-scratcher we found ourselves dealing with: If he’s important enough to garnish the song’s title, why the EFF don’t we know who Marvin is?
Beyonc? treated fans in Nice, France to a three-song cover medley in concert last night, tackling Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapsody,”Prince‘s “The Beautiful Ones,” and Kings of Leon‘s “Sex on Fire” in quick progression. B bungled a few of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” lyrics, but by the time she hit Prince, she hit her lyrical stride.
Foster the People came to our offices for an exclusive four-song performance earlier today. In-house performances always draw a crowd, but for a new artist, the trio (lead singer and guitarist Mark Foster, backed by bassist Cubbie Fink and drummer Mark Pontius) drew a particularly large and excited group of MTV and VH1 employees out of their cubicles and offices and into the foyer where the band was playing. That’s yet another sign of the momentum building behind the band, whose first single “Pumped Up Kicks” just unseated Foo Fighters‘s “Rope” at the top of the Billboard Alternative Songs chart after over a year of slowly-building word of mouth. In an MTVHive interviewMatt Pinfield conducted, Foster even mentioned Hype Machine, the mp3 blog aggregator that tracked tens of thousands of streams of their single and other tracks. Their debut album just came out last month, and the word is, they’ll be announced as our next You Oughta Know artist next week.
The set sounded great, but we won’t tease you too much with descriptions until we can share footage with you. We will say that they played the three songs from last year’s self-released EP (re-released by Startime in January)?new single “Houdini,” Song Of The Summer contender “Helena Beat” (a sneak preview of which can be seen above) and of course “Pumped Up Kicks”?plus an early fan favorite from the new record, “Color on the Walls (Don’t Stop),” which has a bassline that resembles Nirvana but with an entirely un-grungy guitar melody over it.
It’s the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere?officially the first day of summer?so even though the season’s lazy days are ahead of us, what better time to start looking back at the evergreen songs of summers past? This morning, the Village Voice‘s Sound of the City blog ran an extensive Q&A with DJ Jazzy Jeff about one of the most enduring summertime songs, his own (with the Fresh Prince) “Summertime,” which turns twenty this year. Will Smith channeled his own nostalgia for Philly summers past (while in Los Angeles shooting the first season of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) into a timeless nostalgic anthem. Read more…
Yesterday was surprisingly strong for late night music on a Monday. Bon Iver kicked off “StePhest Colbchella ’011: Rock You Like a Thirst-icane” on The Colbert Report and Mint Condition slayed the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon crowd as Weird Al Yankovic, sitting in with the Roots, looked on. (Panic! at the Disco weren’t bad on Kimmel either.)
The best performance of the night, though, belonged to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who burned up the Lopez Tonight stage. The whole crowd clapped along with the punchy throwback-soul number “Without a Heart,” thanks in no small part to the Dap-Kings’ sharp playing. Were Sharon Jones a James Brown-style bandleader, she wouldn’t have needed to fine any of the Dap-Kings a cent. As it is, Jones is a much less harsh figurehead than Brown ever was, though her gruff vocals hardly have less power for it (though she definitely leads the way?the band stops on a dime on the line “I could be cold as ice”). Of course, the band nods to their roots by ending the song with a mini-riff of Brown’s soul classic “I Don’t Mind.”