The dog days of summer are upon us, people. It’s August, it’s hot outside, and the news cycle is starting to slow to a crawl. The general sluggishness of the season is even affecting the music industry, as music fans don’t seem to be gravitating towards any new material. Instead, they seem to be content to play the same songs that they’ve had on repeat all summer long.
Case in point: Katy Perry‘s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F),” which has exhibited a stranglehold on the top of our Song of the Summer Countdown for six consecutive weeks. Her song looks to have a lock on the prize at this point, but then again, maybe The Throne (aka Jay-Z and Kanye West) can mount a last-minute challenge when their highly anticipated collaboration Watch The Throne drops next week? Stay tuned!
It’s hard being a rap superstar. (Well, as hard as it could possibly be for the type of guy who has an “other other Benz.”) Kanye West and Jay-Z are being reminded of this fact as the release date for Watch the Throne, the debut LP of their collaboration The Throne, approaches. Yesterday’s rumors of disagreements behind the scenes as to tour details got a boost of credibility this morning when the Throne postponed 14 of the 25 announced tour dates and outright canceled (or at least, have yet to reschedule) eight others. The tour, originally slated to kick off in Detroit on September 22, will now begin five weeks later in Atlanta.
This was only a minor setback in the face of the announcement yesterday that Spike Jonze had directed a video for “Otis,” to premiere soon. That night, the Throne hosted a wildly successful multi-session listening party last night at the Hayden Planetarium at New York’s Museum of Natural History (not to be confused with the planetarium of the same name in Westport, CT, referenced in Fountains of Wayne‘s “Laser Show”). Then audio of the listening party surfaced online. Apparently the searches for recording devices and confiscation of cellphones (to prevent a repeat of the incident with the hyperenthusiastic Fader Tweeter) was not thorough enough to stop bootlegging.
On the bright(?) side, the bootleg consists merely of distorted snippets of songs, according to our friends at Popdust?so incomplete and of such low quality that they’re hardly a replacement for the album even through the tinniest laptop speakers. Def Jam probably won’t have to push the digital release date any closer as a result. Whoever chases leaks on their behalf, though, is going to have a very busy next couple of days regardless.
If you don’t have a teen or tween living in your household, chances are you’re not familiar with Victoria Justice … yet. The 18 year-old is the latest in a long line of multi-hyphenates to emerge from Nickelodeon universe, thanks to her acting work on the sitcom that bears her name, Victorious, as well as her burgeoning music career. Her perky pop song, “Best Friend’s Brother,” has been bubbling up in the Billboard Hot 100 and iTunes charts for most of the summer, and now her cover of The Jackson 5 classic “I Want You Back” seems poised to make an appearance on more than a few playlists on the iPods of the millenial set. The cover was the focal point of this past weekend’s one-hour movie special, Victorious: Locked Up (hence the orange jumpsuits in the video), and the Victorious soundtrack hits stores today.
To hear Caleb Followill tell it, Kings of Leon‘s American tour has been cancelled so that he can rest his voice. To hear the rest of the band tell it?well, they’re not being specific, but they seemed angry with the outcome, judging from their reactions yesterday. The band’s management is being a bit more active in its pursuit of silence, making copyright claims on clips of Caleb’s meltdown [via @carr2n]. Their basis for the claims is the inclusion of the band’s music, which is why edits that include merely Caleb’s ad-libs have remained on YouTube, but the claims are suspiciously coincidental given the sheer volume of fan-shot Kings of Leon clips from other shows still available on the site.
As a na?ve attempt to protect Caleb Followill’s privacy (and reputation), this is all sensible?perhaps standard operating procedure prior to the Internet. As a social media strategy, however, this is the worst possible course of action for the band and for Caleb. Fans are curious folks, and as long as an audience wants the story, people will try to get it (and in so doing, will have control over it). In the absence of hard evidence (or sometimes even in spite of it), speculation and circumstantial evidence will exist as fact in practice.
The new video for Best Coast‘s “Our Deal” is the latest in MTV and Mean‘s “Supervideo” series. Directed by Drew Barrymore, the video stars hot young talent like Chloe Moretz, Miranda Cosgrove, Donald Glover, Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey, Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat and, um, Har Mar Superstar. Because of the talent involved and the strong production values, it feels less like a music video and more like a short film, which also allows us to sink our teeth into it in a manner unlike most of the videos we see each day.
The chorus of “Our Deal” says a lot with a little about miscommunication in romance: “I wish you would tell me how you really feel/ But you’ll never tell me, ’cause that’s not our deal.” Springboarding from this, Drew Barrymore has made an entertaining and visually rich mini-film, with an ending that seems merely ironic at first, but gains resonance upon reflection.
It’s doubtful that you’d realize how many times “stars” are referenced on Watch The Throne if you didn’t hear it for the first time whilst gazing at digital galaxies and constellations above your head in a super dark room. Words like “moon” and “sky,” too, actually. Last night, at New York City’s Museum of Natural History, Jay-Z, Kanye and the generous folks at Def Jam hosted three separate listening sessions inside Hayden Planetarium, allowing inquisitive listeners to hear the album almost in its entirety (skipping just one track) while they sat reclined, looking up at the impressive show above.
While it was definitely a unique experience for all in attendence, the pizazz of the intergalactic spectacle on the theater’s ceiling screen was a distraction from the music that drew VIPs like Beyonc?, Pusha T, DJ Khaled, Ryan Leslie and Busta Rhymes to show up in the first place. And sonically speaking, unbalanced levels also made focusing on both emcees’ verses a challenge. In the first session, for example, the bass would be so loud that our seats were vibrating and Hov’s lines were rendered virtually inaudible. But let’s dial it back. From what we heard of it, overall, the album sounded solid. The production is definitely on-point, and Jay isn’t paired with Linkin Park or R. Kelly this time around; although it’s too early to tell off these first listens, it seems Kanye’s verbals may, in fact, actually best Jay’s. And ‘Ye will be the first to admit that he’s selfishly “getting high on [his] own supply.” Of beats, that is.
What happens in Kings of Leon doesn’t stay in Kings of Leon. After lead singer Caleb Followill‘s “meltdown” prevented him from completing the band’s set in Dallas on Friday night, the band postponed the next night’s show in Houston. Now the whole American tour has been called off, with no possibility of rescheduling. The band’s publicist cites Followill’s “vocal issues and exhaustion.”
At the Dallas show, Caleb complained frequently about the heat, dehydration, desire for alcohol, and need to vomit. He said that his voice was “100 percent gone,” then disappeared backstage, promising to return. He didn’t return.
Caleb’s bandmate cousins are less happy to stand by the official statement that “heat exhaustion and dehydration” were the culprit. Drummer Nathan Followill and bassist Jared Followill characterized things a bit differently on Twitter.
Cousin drama! We hope if Caleb is struggling, that he can get well, with the support of the rest of the band. The interpersonal dynamics of the band seem a bit too testy for that at the moment, though.
I never really had much patience for the tired gripe that “MTV doesn’t play videos anymore.” After all, the complaint was already a chestnut before I started watching MTV, and yet in my early years of exposure to the channel, I scarcely had trouble finding videos. My family lived in a condo complex in Stratford, CT that, until 1996, had the most basic cable service possible, which somehow meant no MTV. So a decade and a half after the channel’s debut, I was experiencing the channel the way that those nearly a generation before me had: curiously and furiously seeking out the channel at my friends’ houses. I remember racing home after school the day that our condo’s cable package was going to be expanded to include MTV, and watching hours of videos after school, starting with “Bulls on Parade” by Rage Against the Machine.
Sure, there was plenty of MTV original programming, as there always had been. Some of it was reality television and some was not. Some of it was great and some of it was not. But I quickly adapted to the schedule of the network, and could find what felt like twelve hours’ worth of videos on some weekend days. This was the beginning of a second golden age for music videos; Hype Williams gave jiggy rap its signature proto-Michael Bay sheen. Big-budget action sagas like Mariah Carey‘s “Honey” coexisted with Michel Gondry art-dreams like “Everlong.” And this was without even delving into 120 Minutes. All of this was pop, and it all coexisted. Jess Harvell analyzes this, in so many words, in a piece on Beavis and Butthead for Sound of the City (which, incidentally, is the only venue not in-house that’s actually given MTV’s entire history a fair shake for this anniversary). Read more…