The undisputed crossover champions of the night were Lady Antebellum, who halfway through their performance of “Just a Kiss” switched over to a much funkier “Kiss”?the 1986 single from Prince and the Revolution‘s Parade. Lady A, who have showed their pop potential at the Grammys, on the charts, and, increasingly, in performance, turned out a great rendition (though admittedly, Prince songs are really hard to cover poorly). They didn’t explicitly mention Prince’s 53rd birthday the day before, but we’d like to think the performance was, in part, a birthday tribute.
Temperatures are nearing 100?F here in New York City. (They’re probably even higher if you’re reading from elsewhere.) And over the next thirteen days, the northern hemisphere will tilt even closer towards the sun. In short, it’s disgusting outside. You know what you need? Summer mixtapes! Here are your three best bets:
1. DJ Bedbugs, Teenpop, Lock, and Drop Vol. 1
Bedbugs, aka music writer and former Pitchfork contributor Dave Moore, combined 1998-2001-era teenpop instrumentals with 2009-2011 rap a cappellas for an LP-length re-examination (via recontextualization) of the last (so far) cultural peak in teenpop. Think of it as a high-concept mashup record, only way better than that description sounds. Bedbugs also helpfully offers a bit of background information about the mix. Read more…
To usher in the next stage of the Rube Goldberg competition structure on NBC’s The Voice, the show opened with another judge-quartet performance, this time a medley of three of Queen‘s biggest hits. For the myriad sing-alongs the band inspires, Queen is really tough to cover, and unfortunately, it shows a little in this performance. Read more…
Last week, a few slightly bizarre tweets in Moby‘s feed hinted at an electrocution, and yesterday some (admittedly choppy) footage of the incident surfaced on YouTube. The clip is extremely awkward, because as Moby lay supine on the floor, attendees snapped photographs for almost ten seconds before being told by an organizer, “This is?this isn’t a joke, by the way.” Read more…
Today is Kanye West‘s 34th birthday, and while we would be happy to praise our favorite controversial artist to high heaven, we’re sure no amount of laudation would be enough for the notoriously immodest West. So we decided to take a different approach: pinpointing the 34 moments that shaped Kanye. Some shaped his life; some shaped his persona; some shaped the way he’s seen. All of them either have found or will find their way into his highly personal music. Happy birthday, Yeezy!
DATE: June 8, 1977 EVENT: Kanye West is born
It wouldn’t be Kanye’s birthday if he hadn’t been born thirty-four years ago today, in Atlanta, where his parents settled after they both finished graduate school.
DATE: August 28, 1980 EVENT: Kanye’s parents, Ray And Donda, divorce
In her memoir Raising Kanye, Donda West recalls that, to her mind, her husband Ray was putting his new photography studio ahead of his own family, so she filed for divorce and full custody of young Kanye. Two weeks after the divorce was final, Kanye and his mother left Atlanta for Chicago. Imagine the life he might have led had he grown up in Atlanta!
It may seem surprising that hip-hop would dominate anything at Bonnaroo, the giant music festival (and party) that began in Tennessee a decade ago with hippie-ish jam bands and roots rock. But this is what we discovered when using Next Big Sound to gather social media stats on all 150 or so acts on the lineup. For our inaugural “Bonnaroo By the Numbers” feature, we’ve compared the top 20 acts on the lineup versus their total number of social media fans (Facebook, Twitter, LastFM, MySpace, YouTube, etc.).
While the top acts on the lineup are a solid mix of roots rock, hip-hop and indie rock, the hip-hop artists tear it up in the social space. Eminem, Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa would be the top three acts if Bonnaroo were to order its lineup based on which artists have the most social media fans. While Eminem tops both the bill and social media (nearly 50 million followers!), Lil Wayne is #7 on the lineup and Wiz is down at #44. Atmosphere would also be #10 on the lineup, not #39.
After the top three hip-hop acts, the next three would be a trio of indie luminaries: The Strokes, Arcade Fire and The Decemberists. It’s not too surprising that the roots rock or jam band contingents don’t register very high. To be fair, we didn’t break out the individual musicians of the reunited Buffalo Springfield — and Neil Young has more than a million Facebook followers alone. Then again, we can’t really imagine him sharing his knack for poetry on Twitter.
When My Morning Jacket played “Circuital”on their episode of VH1 Storytellers, frontman Jim James talked in almost spiritual tones about how the heat of recording conducted sound really well and made the recording sound great. Maybe it was really hot in the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon studio yesterday, too, because the band turned out not only a killer rendition of their single, but also one of the better-sounding musical performances we’ve ever seen on television.
Fallon’s staff deserves a bit of the credit: television performances are notorious for sounding bad (the audio equivalent of the old chestnut, “the camera adds ten pounds”), but somehow the band sounded as good as ever. Recently Billboard (in the May 28 print issue and an online supplement) and Pitchfork both ran features on the expanding role of late-night television in music promotion, especially for niche artists like My Morning Jacket. Both articles had kind words for Fallon’s music booker Jonathan Cohen. Judging from last night’s performance, the audio mixer needs some serious shine, too. It didn’t hurt that, even when it’s an open secret that musical performances get last billing because audiences are most likely to tune out, the show gave the band the full seven-plus minutes so they didn’t have to abbreviate the song or pick a different performance. The audience got the whole song?”greatest guitar solo of all time” (that’s Jim James on Storytellers again) and all.
Latin-flavored pop music rarely crosses over in America unless the lyrics are sung entirely in English, but you can’t blame Shakira for trying. Her latest album, the bilingual Sale el Sol/The Sun Comes Out, debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 (#4 among Digital Albums) when it was released in the first week of November against tough competition (namely, Kings of Leon and Sugarland), but the English-language version of single “Loca” featured British rapper Dizzee Rascal, who’s talented but hardly an American hitmaker.
“Rabiosa,” on the other hand, features Miami rapper Pitbull, so it’s getting a much bigger push, which seems warranted, since the lyric video posted a week ago already has nearly half a million views. (Granted, Latin artists perform disproportionately well on YouTube when compared to other charts.) Read more…
New York tri-state power-pop fans have a big reason to be happy today: hyper-prolific songwriter Adam Schlesinger has re-teamed with his bandmates for the first Fountains of Wayne album since 2007′s Traffic and Weather. The critically-acclaimed but perennially underrated (and isn’t that always the way with power-pop?) band returns with “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart,” the first single from the forthcoming Sky Full of Holes. The song premiered this morning on Vulture.
Schlesinger has kept plenty busy in the interim, of course; he’s written dozens of songs for television and film, including the theme to That Thing You Do!, which won him an Oscar nomination, and, most recently, interstitial music for the Billboard Music Awards last month. He was also the primary songwriter for the super-group Tinted Windows, formed by his Scratchie Records partner James Iha, and featuring Taylor Hanson and Cheap Trick‘s Bun E. Carlos. But it’s good to have the old band back, if you’re into bright pop songs about love and/or the Northeast Corridor. And who knows? Maybe this record will have another “Stacy’s Mom.”