OK Go‘s attention-getting music videos and performances have been an effective way to get attention for their music in a Web 2.0 world, but it’s probably pretty exhausting. The band’s off-kilter visual sensibilities, though, are not far off from those of the Jim Henson Company, so we weren’t surprised that they were tapped to cover “The Muppet Show Theme Song” (and shoot a music video) for The Green Album. Their appearance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno yesterday was an extension of that, but it was also a showcase?and, probably, a relief?for the band. Joined by Animal, who provided a wicked drum solo mid-song (no explosions, though), the band found themselves able to focus entirely on their performance, without needing to supplement the song with another gamble for the audience’s attention. So they sounded great! Plus, the promotion of Thanksgiving-weekend film The Muppets was as unobtrusive as a multi-million dollar push can be, and any excuse to get someone playing a theremin on The Tonight Show is a bonus.
Bonus evangelism (pun not intended): Kirk Franklin appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, performing “I Smile,” a song that’s just outside the Top 20 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart (after peaking at #12) but virtually unknown to all but “urban adult contemporary” listeners, because it’s also spent 21 weeks at #1 on the Gospel chart, and for most American listeners, non-secular music (no matter what the religious affiliation) may as well be in another language. “I Smile” is a funked-up “Hard-Knock Life” based around an S.O.S. Band sample (as interpolated through the 1997 Scarface and Tupac single “Smile”). If Glee renditions can cross over and chart, why not Franklin’s choir (filled with chart-toppers in their own right, like Isaac Carree) singing a track based on a Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis break?
The late-night music showcases have gone relatively quiet, with most of the shows in reruns for the back half of August. In fact, only The Late Show with David Letterman is new this week, which might be why they chose this week to reprise their Drum Solo week. (Last’s night’s solo was courtesy Tony Royster Jr., who’s played with the likes of En Vogue and Jay-Z.) Yesterday Letterman sweetened the pot, though, with a 30-minute Joe Jonas concert broadcast live from the Ed Sullivan Theatre at 9pm ET?and luckily for fans of both dance-pop and La La’s Full Court Life, which aired on VH1 at the same time, the whole set?including new songs “I’m Sorry” and “Kleptomaniac”?is streaming, above and at the “Live on Letterman” website. If his fanbase at large is anywhere near as enthusiastic as the mostly female crowd (who knew all the words to “When You Look Me In the Eyes” and single “See No More”), Jonas’s solo outing could have some real legs, and given the strength of some of the songs, that success won’t be undeserved.
A disclaimer: yes, Ximena Sariñana is our latest You Oughta Know artist (and Jay Leno even said as much before her Tonight Show performance yesterday). That said, we swear it’s not favoritism when we say she had the best musical performance of the night. Sariñana, now scaled way up from her You Oughta Know Live backing band (that is to say, her brother Sebastian), remains the focal point without losing any of the elements of the song. Kudos, for example, to whomever put the drums behind plexiglass so the drummer could really pound out the rhythm without bleeding into everyone else’s microphones.
That commitment to power and clarity is key to why Sariñana has our ears. In all honesty, we’ve developed a bit of an allergy to quirk of late, and while she sometimes toes that line, she the requisite rock sensibility to keep that from overwhelming her sound. Does she use a variety of sonic elements? Sure. But is it precious? Hardly.
Sariñana’s closest competition for best performance of the night was not Ellie Goulding (whose performance of “Lights”—a good song—was capable but uninspired) nor Incubus (who sounded much better on Jimmy Kimmel Live! than they did recently on Letterman, but whose new single isn’t doing much for us), but Questlove and “Captain” Kirk Douglas of The Roots, performing part of Song Of The Summer contender “Party Rock Anthem” as Black Simon and Garfunkel for a brief “Suggestion Box” sketch on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: Read more…
Ever heard of Cage the Elephant? They’re a young rock band from Kentucky whose second album Thank You Happy Birthday was critically acclaimed but popularly ignored earlier this year. There’s no home for the band on the radio, and yet there the band was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno yesterday.?
This isn’t a story of “indie band makes good,” though?at least, not exactly. See, Cage the Elephant is signed to Jive, which may be why the American indie-rock world remains inexplicably uninterested in what otherwise fits the bill perfectly: nineties-inspired, thoughtful alt-rock. Sardonic pop critic Chris Weingarten recently started a Twitter list of “major label bands no one listens to” that included the band, along with their tourmates Manchester Orchestra.
We’re not sure how much the Leno billing did for Cage the Elephant?the band’s (mostly young) fans aren’t necessarily the Tonight Show‘s audience, nor vice versa?but we’d like to hope otherwise. As weird as it still feels to be pulling for a young band on a major label, we know that there are few things a major label can do for a young guitar-rock band these days. One is to write the check for an eye-catching music video (see Manchester Orchestra‘s VMA-nominated “Simple Math”); another is to shoot for exposure via, say, a prime late-night booking. (Another is to get a good tour opening slot, but Foo Fighters are pretty picky about whom they’ll bring on tour, so we suspect that booking had little to do with the label.) We’re crossing our fingers that the Tonight Show audience liked their performance as much as we did. ?
Where has My Chemical Romance been? (On tour, but we were being rhetorical, so play along.) After appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last November, premiering their entire album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoyslive in LA for MTV a week later, the band has shied away from the promotional circuit (save for a Conan appearance back in January). You’d even be forgiven for thinking that their appearance yesterday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was in support of a new album, especially if you gave Danger Days too little attention when it came out (as we confess we did).
Maybe the fact that the band wasn’t trying to push their album to anyone who wasn’t already interested was why the performance was so compelling. Maybe it was their choice of deep cut “The Kids From Yesterday” instead of any of the singles. Or maybe it was frontman Gerard Way‘s constantly shifting focus, often turning his back on the cameras to face the cluster of fans of the band, singing along on the balconies over the stage. (This performance had more cuts from camera to camera, and worm’s-eye-view shots, than any we can remember seeing on late night television?even more frantic and frenetic even than when singers have departed the stage.) In any case, the rockers convinced us, with this ballad, to revisit their album. Which we guess was sort of the point.
Last night, we were all about the Explosions in the Sky performance on the Late Show with David Letterman?not necessarily because we’re the biggest fans of their sweeping-guitar post-rock (which is not bad) but because for four precious minutes we could close our eyes and pretend that Friday Night Lights was still on the air. (We miss you, Coach Taylor!) As a result, we underrated the unassuming performance taking place simultaneously on the Tonight Show: Mat Kearney‘s “Hey Mama.” Back in 2006 Kearney was a You Oughta Know artist whose songwriting (and vocals) reminded us of parts of what we like about Coldplay.
In the intervening years, he’s added not-inconsiderable pep, and a full horn section, to his band, which pushes yet another set of our pop-music buttons. Think Chris Martin fronting Hanson on a “Give a Little” b-side. In fact, it was so catchy that we’re willing to forgive the lyric “Met her at Anthropologie.” Check it out!