President Obama Sings Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”
No matter what you think of President Obama‘s politics, you at least have to admit — dude is cool. Here he is singing Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together” at the Apollo Theatre in New York yesterday. [YouTube]
Swizz Beatz Is Apparently Not The CEO Of Megaupload
The latest update in the Megaupload FBI shutdown saga is that Swizz Beatz, who yesterday was named CEO of the beleaguered company, is actually not the CEO after all. He was just trying to be the CEO. Got it? [Media Beat]
With music icons taking to Twitter today to share their condolences for the passing of the legendary Etta James, Beyoncé posted a personal message of admiration on her website. Of the late Etta James, Beyoncé wrote the following:
“This is a huge loss. Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime. Playing Etta James taught me so much about myself, and singing her music inspired me to be a stronger artist. When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed.”
The message was accompanied by Bey’s performance of “At Last” for Fashion Rocks 2008, in which her reverence for James is overt and sincere.
It’s true that money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does, apparently, grow on Katy Perry. In what is a fairly bleak landscape for recording artists, where record sales are declining and file share is abounding, it’s a rare commodity to be a musician who can produce the green stuff. Indeed, some artists, like the Black Keys, are now opting to absent their music from file sharing devices like Spotify in an attempt to fill the cash cow with as many sales as possible. But not Katy Perry — it’s all mo’ money for the unstoppable pop star.
NPR did some investigating on Katy Perry’s (who had five number one hit singles from the same record last year) earning capacity, and came up with some very big hypothetical numbers based on their research. Speaking to Katy’s label, Captial (part of EMI), NPR estimated that Teenage Dream cost around 4 million to make (with 2 million being Katy’s advance, which she would then pay back out of royalties). However, the cost seemed to be a relative scratch in comparison to the return on the album. Based on record sales in the US alone, NPR’s research estimates that Katy made around 8 million for her label. Yep, that’s excluding all overseas sales, and any other form of revenue not derived from sales.
Obviously, Katy Perry’s capacity to sell records isn’t a reflection on the record industry right now — nor would be the sales of artists like Adele, who sold 5.82 million copies of 21 in 2011, or Lady Gaga, who, according to Forbes made around $90 million dollars all up last year. With a small handful of musicians dominating in sales, what does this mean for the rest? And does it make decisions like the Black Keys to withhold music from sharing services somewhat more understandable? It seems like in the rat race that is becoming music sales, those at the top are many echelons above the rest — is this a disparity that will continue to grow as record sales decline, or will government crack downs on file sharing (like the recent closure of Megaupload) see a swelling in sales?
Katy Perry’s Perfect Game [NPR]
[Photo: Getty Images]
Following the tragic death of legendary artist Etta James today, the music world has expressed profound condolences, many coming in the form of heartfelt Tweets. You can see some of them below, a testament to Etta James’ pervasive influence, her inspirational impact on the music world, and the great loss that is felt by her passing.
Questlove of The Roots (@questlove)
Christina Perri, singer (@christinaperri)
Nathan Followill, drummer from Kings Of Leon
Jessie J, singer (@jessiejofficial)
Sad news to pass along. After a long battle with leukemia, it has been announced that the legendary singer Etta James has died at the age of 73. The storied American blues, soul, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel, and jazz singer’s terminal illness was originally diagnosed with leukemia back in 2010, and finally succumbed to the illness with her husband, Artis Mills, and her sons by her side.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, James began formal vocal training at age five, participating in her local Baptist Church’s choir, and by age 14 she had a number one hit in 1955 with her doo-wop band, Peaches, entitled “The Wallflower (Dance With Me, Henry).” James signed to Argo Records in 1960 under which she released her two most lauded albums, At Last! and The Second Time Around. Her two most highly-regarded songs are “At Last,” released in 1961, and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” released in 1968.
Over her illustrious career, James released 30 albums and 58 singles, despite battling a heroin addiction in the 1960s and ’70s. James won six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards, and was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as #22 on the 100 Greatest Singers Of All Time list and #62 on their 100 Greatest Artists list. James was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Grammy Hall of Fame in both 1999 and 2008.
Her timeless work has been noted as a primary influence by artists like Adele, Kanye West (who sampled her take on “My Funny Valentine” for his song “Addiction”) and Beyoncé, who portrayed James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records. Beyoncé even performed “At Last” during the inauguration ceremony for President Barack Obama in 2009. Even today, her voice is all over pop radio: Her vocals from the song “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” have been sampled by both Avicii (“Levels”) and Flo Rida (“Good Feeling”) for the choruses of their wildly popular songs.
Etta James was truly a music legend, and will be remembered and revered always for her soul shaking vocals and talent as singer, performer and songwriter.
Singing legend Etta James dies at 73 [CNN]
[Photos: Getty Images]
It’s a tall order to cover the music of a legend, but last night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon The Avett Brothers pulled it off just about as perfectly as one could hope to. Covering Bob Dylan‘s “One Too Many Mornings,” the North Carolina band embraced the spirit of folk, giving a refined, whimsical performance. Did you love their rendition of the Dylan classic? Well never fear — The Avett Brothers’ version of “One Too Many Mornings” will appear on a 4-CD box set of Dylan covers, Chimes Of Freedom, set to be released on January 24th.
New Dad Jay-Z Reopens His 40/40 Club In New York
Jay-Z took a break from baby duty last night to reopen his 40/40 club in New York. Take a look at this gallery and his impressive set of high flying friends, including billionaire Warren Buffett. [Idolator]
Travis Barker Is Now Threatening Media Take Out With Legal Action For Nude Pictures
Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker‘s lawyers have sent a cease and desist letter to Media Take Out after the gossip site posted nude photos of the musician’s penis. These celebrities really need to stop photographing themselves nude — have we learned nothing from Amber Rose? [Spin]
Many, many moons ago, cultural critic Adam Sternbergh outlined his theory about the Undulating Curve Of Shifting Expectations in the pages of New York Magazine. Basically, what the UCoSE does is provide us a way of analyzing the trajectory of entertainment products as they metamorphize their way through his theorized seven-stage growth chart: Pre-Buzz, Buzz, Rave Reviews, Saturation Point, Overhyped, Backlash, and finally, Backlash To The Backlash. When this chart was conceived back in March of 2006, the Internet was clearly already an important medium; however, sites like Facebook and Twitter had yet to reach the masses in the way that they do today, so it generally took “entertainment products” a decent amount of time to fully mature and run through the full cycle of the UCoSE. However, that is not the case today — thanks to omnipresence of social media, the cycle of culture consumption has clearly accelerated.
(ED. NOTE—Admittedly, this is a somewhat roundabout intro to what you’re about to read, but if you bear with us, we promise that it will all pay off.)
Now, it may seem slightly weird to classify a real, live human being like Lana Del Rey as an “entertainment product,” but it’s pretty clear to us that she’s already rocketed through six of the first seven stages of Sternbergh’s UCoSE, albeit in an extremely abbreviated fashion. However, it now appears that after Del Rey’s widely-maligned SNL performance, she’s reaching the Backlash to the Backlash stage. In a poll that we published on Tuesday, over 48% of the poll participants indicated that they’re fully on-board Team LDR, and earlier today, Whitney Cummings —star of NBC’s Whitney and herself a widely-maligned figure— wrote a blog post coming to Del Rey’s defense.
As if Kina Grannis, VH1′s featured Posted artist for January, wasn’t amazing enough already, now she’s hanging out with Danny Pudi on the set of the hit show Community. While Community has controversially been put on hiatus, it looks like Kina is doing the same, getting some “vocal rest” and letting Pudi do the talking for her! Can you think of a better mouth piece? And Kina is delightful with her smiles, emphatic fake crying action, and again, smiles. Who do we talk to to get in on this hang out?
The war on piracy is far from over, despite the massive SOPA and PIPA protests that flooded the Internet yesterday — authorities are refusing to back down, and in a show of how serious they really are about piracy, today the FBI shut down Megaupload and made several arrests as well. Megaupload, one of the world’s most ubiquitous file sharing services, claims to have 50 million daily users who upload documents and movies which others are then free to download. In conjunction with the closure, seven people have been indicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering and criminal copyright infringement, with four people already in custody. According to the charges, Megaupload has caused $500 million in loses for copyrighters and earned the business more than $175 million.
More controversial still is the role of Swizz Beatz (a.k.a Mr. Alicia Keys, or formally known as Kaseem Dean) who has been outed as the secret “CEO without citation” of Megaupload. Beatz appears to be in the hot seat yet again, after already having baited the wrath of Universal Music Group for unauthorized use of several of their artists — including Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Kanye West, and Will.i.am — in a Megaupload commercial.
So what does it all mean? While SOPA protestors are defending our right to share files online, government agencies seem bent on finding ways to end Internet “piracy.” But what is Internet piracy? Is it something that can truly exist as we become more connected? And when one of the most prolific hip hop producers is at the helm of a targeted file sharing site, does this diminish the cause of musicians who claim to be “losing out”? When musicians themselves get behind “piracy” are we ushering a new era whereby those who felt previously wronged by online sharing are taking the reins and reclaiming control? It surely is an interesting event, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on how this one plays out, and how it affects the dissemination of music going forward.
Surprising New Figure in the Piracy Wars? Swizz Beatz, Megaupload.com’s Secret CEO [Beta Beat]
FBI Charges Seven With Online Piracy [The Wall Street Journal]