As I peer into my crystal ball, here are three surprises to look out for at the Grammy Awards this Sunday night:
1. Nicki Minaj Won’t Win Best New Artist
Does she deserve it? Probably, but voters are prone to give the award to an act they think of as a potential career artist, more so than what they deem as a current mainstream phenomenon. Look for The Band Perry to win.
Madonna’s halftime performance at this year’s Super Bowl may very well make this list, but it hasn’t happened yet, so until it does, here are my five favorite Super Bowl Music Moments:
5. “The Super Bowl Shuffle” (Super Bowl XX, 1985-86)
A pump-up rap anthem made by the Chicago Bears leading up to Super Bowl XX. Looking back, it’s hard not to wince at football players trying to dance, but back then the song (and accompanying music video) was awesome, charting at #41 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
4. Michael Jackson Doing Absolutely Nothing (Super Bowl XXVII, 1993)
Dangerous-Era Michael Jackson did perform a handful of songs, but what I remember most is his frozen-in-time pose at the beginning of the halftime show. If you’re Michel Jackson you can use some of your allotted set time doing absolutely nothing.
It Was a Perfect Length
Before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, Puerto Rican singing sensation, Jose Feliciano, delivered a lengthy improvisational version of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which not only irked various fans, but made Detroit’s starting pitcher, Mickey Lolich, get cold in the bullpen, causing him to give up three runs in the first inning (Detroit, however, ended up winning the game and eventually the series). Steven Tyler’s version of the anthem caused no players on either team a disruption in their pre-game rituals.
Why do musicians record albums in a studio? Because live sound in a stadium sucks. When Steven Tyler was singing the anthem, I’m sure he not only heard his voice, but 17 different echoed versions of it, which makes it impossible to deliver a pitch-perfect performance.
The eleventh season of American Idol kicked off this week and here are a few words of caution to everyone involved:
1. Don’t Just Dream About It
How many times have we heard someone give a mediocre vocal performance, then immediately break into tears saying how badly they want it and how it’s their “dream” to become an American Idol? Chasing down a dream takes a lot more work than riding on a bus and waiting in line all day long.
2. It’s Not Make Or Break Madonna never won American Idol. Neither did Lady Gaga. Neither did The Beatles for that matter. There are ways to make it in the music industry (albeit a weakened one) without getting approval from Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and J-Lo.
As you know, 2012 is still an infant — yes, just like Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s baby girl — so while January welcomes us with open arms, here is a list of things that need to happen in the next 12 months to help ensure a high-quality year of music:
1. Adele Needs To Sing
No word yet if Adele will be performing at the Grammys, but she will be singing at the Brit Awards in March. You can’t have an album as big as 21 and not tour. And because Adele’s sophomore album was so huge, she may have to play arenas, the type of venue she fears playing (ironically, her voice is made for such big places).
2. Buy A Ticket To See Madonna
Every young pop star needs to buy a ticket to see Madonna when she inevitably goes out on tour this year in support of her forthcoming album, MDNA. Yes, there are pop stars younger, sexier and more talented than Madonna, but this is a lesson in longevity and consistency. Madonna is 53 years old and is going to put on a high-energy, non-stop show that will humble the artists who drive on the pop-highway she paved.
Each week here on VH1 Tuner, ourVH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer’s Spotlight with us. Your regularly scheduled Top 20 Video Countdown show is on a break until 2012, but be sure to tune into the Top 40 Videos of 2011 tomorrow evening when it airs on VH1 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. This week Jim gives us his top 10 albums of 2011.
10.) Love & Rockets, Vol. 1: The Transformation, Murs
Sometimes Murs’ albums have the propensity of being too laid back, but on Love & Rockets he strikes a nice balance, weaving between more chilled out tracks like “Remember 2 Forget” and heavier callouts like “Let’s Go.” The highlight of the album though is its closing track “Animal Style,” the boldest hip-hop song I’ve heard about homosexuality (which sadly, is traditionally never discussed in hip-hop).
9.) The Road From Memphis, Booker T. Jones
Indeed, this is the same Booker T. from Booker T. & the MG’s, an outfit responsible for making one of the greatest instrumentals in modern music: “Green Onions.” Jones’ trademark Hammond organ licks backed by The Roots’ rhythm section and legendary funk/soul guitarist, Dennis Coffey, play out splendidly on the all-too-fun covers of Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend.” And not to diss, but Lou Reed’s collaboration with Jones on “The Bronx” sounds better than anything he did with Metallica this year.
8.) Watch The Throne, Kanye West & Jay Z
At the beginning of 2011 word on the street was that Kanye West & Jay Z were going to release an album together, while Dr. Dre was set to put out the final recording of his stellar career. I was skeptical of both, but at year’s end I’m happy to say we did get a solid debut from hip-hop’s premiere super-group, although I’m still waiting for Dre’s Detox, which is quickly, or slowly, becoming hip-hop’s version of Chinese Democracy.
Because December is a month full of year-end lists, for your blog-viewing pleasure, today I give you my favorite singles of 2011:
10.) “Blow,” Ke$ha
Yes, this single was featured on Ke$ha’s 2010 mini-LP, Cannibal, but the track didn’t fully explode (or blow-ow-ow) until the beginning of this year. Because “Blow” stayed away from Ke$ha’s polarizing sing-annunciate-rap formula, it became her first single that I couldn’t stop listening to.
9.) “Michael Jackson,” Das Racist
For some reason, underground/indie-minded hip-hoppers tend to shy away from slick production and repetitive hooks, but on “Michael Jackson” Das Racist embrace these elements with fantastic results.
8.) “Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys
Dan and Pat of The Black Keys add bass and keys to their two-man sound, creating one of the most fun rock tracks of the year (which will surely still be in heavy rotation come 2012).
If you’re already sick of holiday music—especially since department stores have been holding Muzak systems hostage since Halloween—here is a list of non-Christmas songs that still give an essence of the holiday season. (Rest assured, this list was not complied by doing a quick Google search; all of the following tracks are quality tested and in rotation on my iPod.)
1.) “Starlight,” Muse
One of the best “big-rock” love songs of the 2000’s.
2.) “Fake Plastic Trees,” Radiohead
A tune that always comes to mind whenever I zigzag through a plastic tree display at a department store.
3.) “Toys Go Winding Down,” Primus
Behooves me that this song has yet to be exploited on various Christmas music compilations.
4.) “Walking With A Ghost,” Tegan & Sara
Ebenezer Scrooge can totally relate.
5.) “Snowflake,” Malachai
Malachai’s The Ugly Side of Love was my sleeper-hit album of last year, and this is my favorite track from it.
Besides whistling, shouting-out famous musicians in song titles seems to be all the rage this year.
Here’s how they rank:
10.) “Marvin’s Room,”Drake
This dizzying, chilled-out tune seemingly has nothing to do with Marvin Gaye, except when you discover that the song was apparently recorded in a studio used by the late-great singer, aptly named “Marvin’s Room.”
9.) “Marvin & Chardonnay,” Big Sean (feat. Kanye West & Roscoe Dash)
Another ode to Marvin Gaye, this one, however, mentions him by name in the song’s lyrics.
8.) “The Lisa Lisa/Full Force Routine,” Beastie Boys
Not so much a song as it as an outro for the Beastie’s latest album, Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2. Regardless, both musical acts from the 1980’s (Full Force and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam) are curiously shouted out.
7.) “I Need A Doctor,” Dr. Dre (feat. Eminem & Skylar Grey)
Don’t call Dr. Dre conceited for name-dropping himself in his own song title; he appears in less than a minute of the actual track.
If you haven’t heard—or haven’t tuned into VH1 Classic today—today is National Metal Day. I may not strike you as a headbanger, but let it be known, I fancy all genres of music.
So keeping in theme with the day, here are my Big 4 Metal Moments:
4.) Headbanging With Anthrax
In 2003 when MTV2 revived the metal franchise Headbanger’s Ball, a kickoff concert was held in Cleveland where I got to give a rousing introduction to thrash metal legends, Anthrax. Since we we’re in Cleveland—home of the Browns—I decided to get everyone’s blood boiling early by coming out on stage dressed in Pittsburgh Steelers colors and waving a Terrible Towel. It worked to perfection!