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.
It’s a tall order to cover the music of a legend, but last night on Late Night With Jimmy FallonThe 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.
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.
Kanye West has reportedly met with the creators of Angry Birds to talk about… Angry Yeezy? Apparently the most popular video game of all time and the most famous artiste of all time (yeah, we wouldn’t argue. Just go with it), sat down in London last night to have a chin-wag about how they could possibly collaborate in the future. And now we’re wondering what in heaven’s name could be happening that could bring the two forces together. A Kanye West mini game? Will it be “Blame Game,” where the objective is to attribute guilt in a Cluedo style mystery? Or maybe “Gold Digger,” where you aim to extort as much money from your opponents as possible? Will it be a simple music making game, where you play off against others in real time, acting as a savvy way for Kanye to identify new talent? Or will it be a mash up of Angry Birds and Ye — we’re just imagining Kanye’s face soaring across an animated screen, annihilating little green pigs while “Runaway” plays as the soundtrack.
As Grammys buzz builds, it has been announced that Rihanna and Coldplay will take to the stage at the awards show to perform together. Rihanna revealed the news yesterday, with the following Tweet:
While there’s been no hint as to what the pop star and the band will perform, it seems like a no brainier that their duet from Mylo Xyloto, “Princess Of China,” should feature in their act. The song hasn’t been officially released yet — a strange move on Coldplay’s part given the chart klout that Rihanna carries, although possibly not so strange in light of the upcoming performance. With the official release date of “Princess Of China” due for the 14th of February, a mere two days after the Grammys, this could be a cleverly strategic way of of reviving interest in Mylo Xyloto and touching a much wider audience (as we assume those who are already Coldplay fans would have been all over the album when it was released last year).
Bruce Springsteen‘s new single from his forthcoming album, Wrecking Ball, due for release on March 6th, is doing rounds of the Internet this morning. As a lead single, it’s not exactly bringing down the house — it ain’t no “Born To Run” — but by no means does that it mean that it’s terrible, either. Somewhat middling, the song doesn’t quite reach that expansive, soaring, transcendent plane that defines the Springsteen mythology. Yet there’s still something really charming about “We Take Care Of Our Own,” and it’s more than just Bruce’s impeccable husky vocal (which, at the beginning, hits us like a slap of warm nostalgia to the face, and reminds us, “oh yeah, there it is”).
There’s the spirited piano, the matter-of-fact yet obtusely dreamy lyricism, and undertones of escapism that remind us of Bruce in the 70s, and has us hankering for the rest of Wrecking Ball to hit. March can’t come soon enough for us, but what do you think? Is “We Take Care Of Our Own” what you were expecting? Or were you hoping for something more epic from Wrecking Ball‘s first release? Let us know in the poll below!
Ten years ago, a veteran British entertainment mogul named Simon Fuller had the very bright idea to adapt his smash hit UK television show Pop Idol for an American audience. The result was a program called American Idol, and its impact on the television landscape (as well as our culture-at-large) cannot be underestimated. It has spawned dozens of imitators, and withstood all challenges to remain the highest rated show on American television (not counting the NFL, natch).
At this time last year, the departure of Simon Cowell and the failed run of Ellen Degeneres had many industry observers prophesying that the show was dead in the water. However, in a semi-remarkable twist, the show actually gained new life thanks to the star power of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Speaking of the latter, the Aerosmith lead singer brought something to the show that it had been lacking since Day One: A whiff of sex. Despite the fact that the 63-year-old Tyler is old enough to be the grandfather of most of the contestants, his naturally libidinous and undeniably charismatic persona added an exciting new element to the program.
Oh, and did we mention that Steven Tyler just might be the most lovable creep on television? His entendre-laden, heavily sexual metaphors arguably provide just as much entertainment to viewers at home as the actual performances themselves. Which is why we here at VH1 Tuner are excited to debut the Dude Is Acting Shady Meter*, which will keep track of Tyler’s come-ons and rank them on a scale of 1-5, one that ranges from Innocently Innocuous to EWWWWWWWW!. So, without further ado, let’s get into last night’s Season 11 premiere of American Idol.
WHO: Shannon Magraine SET-UP: When this six-foot tall 15-year-old was accompanied by her twenty-nine female siblings (only a slight exaggeration), her striking mom and her ex-MLB pitcher father (!) in the judge’s lair, Tyler’s boner just about knocked over the judge’s table. TYLER’S COMMENTS: “Hot, humid and happenin’ … just like your daughter.” DUDE IS ACTING SHADY METER SCORE: 5/5 – EWWWWWWWWW!