It’s sort of astonishing to realize that J. Cole made his network television debut last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Television appearances aren’t essential to record sales, exactly, but they’re certainly part of a promotional cycle, and Cole’s appearance came a week after his record debuted?and four months after “Work Out,” the single he performed, hit radio.
Of course, when you sell over 200,000 copies of your debut, hitting #1 in a week that saw five other top ten debuts (including new releases from Blink-182 and Wilco) and reissues of two evergreen best-sellers (Pink Floyd’sThe Dark Side Of The Moon and Nirvana’sNevermind), maybe a television performance is an afterthought. The sideline story is quickly being retconned into anything but, as scores of observers swallow comparisons to Memphis Bleek. Meanwhile, the crowd at Kimmel ate up his performance. It has to be good to be J. Cole right now.
Last night, eulogies for Steve Jobs flooded all sorts of social media platforms (in many cases powered, as was often observed, by devices Jobs himself spearheaded). These goodbye wishes were frequently interspersed with Occupy Wall Street updates, with no sense of inherent irony. That sort of contradiction is part of what makes Steve Jobs unique and much-loved. Jobs is a quintessential American in the old style—a modernist entrepreneur in a post-modern era. Popular opinion may have turned against those who turn money into more money, but Americans will always love those whose fortune is made in production.
The legacy of Steve Jobs since his return to Apple in 1996 has been as the most influential music-industry executive, despite not working in the music industry. To an extent, Jobs’s eulogies were already written in August when he resigned from his post at Apple. For our part, we keep returning to Kelefa Sanneh’sNew Yorker profile. With the rise of high-speed internet and digital music, the music industry was in a panic, having lost control of all but the earliest stages of music distribution. The innovation of the iPod was to adapt a music-playback device to the internet era, and use that as a springboard into the music-distribution business. Apple gave the music industry a shot in the arm, and yet a decade later, it’s still not clear to what extent that industry will recover. The tech industry, on the other hand, is still booming.
The world lost a truly creative and brilliant mind yesterday when it was announced that Apple, Inc. co-founderSteve Jobs died at the age of 56. Though Jobs was not a traditional celebrity, he certainly had an impact on the lives of nearly everyone in recent years, and few people have not been changed by his creations and what he brought us. As a tribute, we wanted to share what some of our VH1 talent has been saying since the news of his passing was announced. R.I.P. Steve.
And finally, Bret Michaels wrote a lengthier, moving statement on his MySpace page: First I must express my deepest condolences to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family and friends. He showed great strength and perseverance through his illness and continued to be an innovator all the while remaining positive while fighting his battle with cancer. I can only thank Steve for his innovation, inspiration and creativity while touching all of our lives in some way shape or form. Again my condolences. He will be missed.
[Photo: Getty Images]
R.E.M.’s First Demo Surfaces Online
Just two weeks after R.E.M. called it quits, the band’s original three-track demo has surfaced online, digitized from one of the only 400 copies they had made in 1981. Spin has the details. [Spin]
Sneak Peek At Def Jam: The First 25 Years
If you get one music-related oral history this month, get I Want My MTV (seriously, it’s great, and we say that knowing that former MTV execs trash-talk VH1 within). But if you get two, the forthcoming history of Def Jam Recordings looks like another winner. It’s co-written by two former employees of Rick Rubin. GQ has an excerpt detailing the rise of LL Cool J. [GQ]
Method Man Writes Sour Patch Kids Rap For Commercial
This doesn’t quite measure up to the ode to sour cream and onion that Bruno Mars wrote for PopChips, but Method Man’s rap is certainly more than just your ordinary endorsement. Still: did Raekwon turn them down? We’d have asked the Chef first if we were selling edibles. [YouTube]
Tim Armstrong Creates Punk Rock Halloween Musical Anthology Series
That’s a lot of descriptors! But the trailer has us intrigued. In the first episode, Lars Frederiksen, also of Rancid, is visited by the devil. We’re hoping this turns out to be something halfway between American Idiot and Justin Timberlake’sSouthland Tales routine (set to The Killers). [VEVO]
We’re all practically dying of anticipation for the Thursday premiere of Beyoncé’s “Countdown” video (if you haven’t seen the 30-second preview yet, click here), but in the meantime, we’ve got some other Bey-related video for you?a clip from tonight’s episode of Glee. No, really! After a couple of Broadway-centric episodes, the show is returning to the pop arena, re-purposing Beyoncé’s Diplo-produced anthem into an election song. Fittingly, it’s sung by Heather Morris’s cheerleader character Brittany, since, prior to joining Glee, Morris was one of Beyoncé’s backup dancers.
We’re not saying that this version measures up to the original, exactly. But as far as Glee goes, we’re into this new direction. Some things about the show will never change (count the buzzwords in the intro phrase “I tweeted about Britt’s flash-mob pep rally in the gym, and we’re all showing up to support her with girl power”!) but this sequence shows a gleeful disregard for spatial and costume continuity, dropping an odd sort-of homage to American Beauty (with Chris Colfer’s Kurt as the Kevin Spacey character) in the middle of a completely over-the-top sequence that would make Kenny Ortega proud. In other words, this is sheer spectacle. We can’t really argue with that. Read more…
Perhaps the most anticipated collaboration from the now chart-topping(!) Duets II was Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga‘s rendition of “The Lady Is A Tramp.” To begin with, Gaga is as monocultural as they come these days. Plus, as Bennett told us, “she has the same gift as Ella Fitzgerald.” Then none other than Gay Taleseprofiled the duet for The New Yorker.
With the album in stores, naturally a video for the lead-off track has followed. Gaga is no less showy?that’s her nature?but her performance is in sync, not in competition, with Bennett’s. The duo riff on the lyrics, very much in a vocal jazz pop tradition. The least surprising change: a shout-out to songwriters Rodgers & Hart replaces one to Walter Winchell. Even if the redoubtable columnist had a 2011 equivalent (Nicki Finke plus Perez Hilton?) we doubt committed anti-bullying campaigner Gaga would sing his praises.
She’s also a smart fit for a vocal partner in this musical-theater tradition?so much so that the song seems well-chosen, until you realize how many others would have worked just as well (except perhaps for the titular pun). For all her outré accoutrements, Gaga fits snugly into this tradition, as someone seriously committed to her art yet mercifully unconcerned with Baby Boomer-born ideas of pop “authenticity.” It’s no wonder that Tony Bennett “gets” her. Read more…
Sting appeared on The Late Show With David Letterman yesterday, ostensibly to promote his three-CD, one-DVD best-of box set Sting: 25 Years, but just as much to continue celebrating his birthday (he turned 60 on Sunday). How else to explain his song selection? Radiohead’s set may have had a co-introduction by Michael Stipe?who popped up beside Jimmy Fallon almost as though the Late Night host hadn’t known he’d be there?but only Sting would play a song that he recorded in 1993 as the theme to a film named for a Grace Jones song that Sting himself had written in 1981. That’s right: Sting played “Demolition Man”?which isn’t even on any of the CDs in the box set (though it is performed during the Irving Plaza concert on the DVD). You have to respect that the guy could have played any of his singles, or a new song, or basically whatever he wanted, and he picked the theme song to a sci-fi satire starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes.
Beyoncé Reveals “Countdown” Sneak Peek
Ready for a new Beyoncé video? (Is the answer ever not yes?) MTV’s Buzzworthy blog has the first 30 seconds of the video for “Countdown,” which premieres on Thursday. It’s simple yet ultra-stylized: sixties-chic by way of Sesame Street. Random fact: director Adria Petty is the daughter of Tom Petty. [MTV Buzzworthy]
Last night, T.I. joined Taylor Swift onstage at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena for a rendition of his own “Live Your Life,” with the country-pop singer providing Rihanna’s hook. That duet (above) was merely the cherry atop a huge weekend for the until-recently incarcerated rapper. Friday night, he released “I’m Flexin’,” his first post-prison single, featuring (and produced by) Big K.R.I.T., then went straight to Club Esso for a “Welcome Home” celebration that doubled as a BET Hip Hop Awards pre-party. After that ceremony, which will premiere on BET at 8PM ET on Tuesday, October 11, taped on Saturday, T.I. co-hosted an after-party with Diddy, and even served as a mediator when his co-host responded poorly to an attendee’s taunts (the guest bragged about specifically not drinking C?roc, for which Diddy is a spokesman).
The rapper’s appearance at Swift’s Sunday night show, then, was the end of a very long weekend. T.I. has always been a hard-working MC, but he seems doubly determined to put in work after his recent prison stay. We’re looking forward to looking behind the scenes of this period when his reality show starts airing next year. Read more…