It’s been a long, long time since “alternative” songs have dominated the Billboard charts like they have this year. After Katy Perry, Adele and LMFAO locked down the uppermost reaches of the Hot 100 last year, this year has belonged to artists like fun. and Gotye, who have managed to fend off pop powerhouses like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna from hitting that #1 spot.
Perhaps as a sign of solidarity with their alternative brethren, perhaps as a show of mutual admiration, fun. decided to cover “Somebody That I Used To Know” for BBC Radio 1′s Live Lounge series. This British program is best known for their ability to get huge pop stars to do semi-unlikely covers —you might recall that Florence Welch covered Drake’s “Take Care” for the program late last year— and this proves no exception. fun. even recruited Paramore‘s Hayley Williams, herself a former VH1 Diva, to sing the Kimbra portion of the song. Let us know whose version you prefer in the comments below!
VH1′s latest You Oughta Know artist is 21-year-old Ed Sheeran, a U.K. based troubadour whose appreciation of musical theory and craft is light years beyond most artists his age. He’s a real throwback to singer-songwriters of yore, the kind of artist who crafts highly detailed and personal stories, as well as someone appreciates those musicians that paved the way for people like him to be successful many, many years before he was even born.
Take, for example, his cover of Nina Simone‘s “Feeling Good.” The song has undergone a bit of a rebirth of late, thanks to being sampled by Jay-Z and Kanye West on the RZA-produced Watch The Throne track “New Day.” Sheeran is able to successfully channel the raw emotion of Simone original, utilizing nothing but his soulful voice and trusty acoustic guitar. It showcases his vocal range in a way that we had not really witnessed before, and is easily one of our all-time favorite You Oughta Know Live performances.
We paired this incredible cover with a series of incredible photographs by VH1′s own Michele Crowe, who trailed Ed for an entire day here in New York a few weeks back to produce the latest addition in our long-running Music Seen series. Enjoy!
Ed’s debut album, +, was released in the U.K. in September of last year, where it entered the charts at #1 and has sold over 1 million copies to date. It is being released here in the United States on June 12, but Ed is currently in the midst of a barnstorming tour of the United States to get the word out in advance of its street date. When we spoke to Ed down in Austin last month, he compared his singer-songwriter sound to other British artists like James Morrison, Damien Rice and David Gray, but we think that he belongs just as much to the burgeoning “realwave” movement, alongside acts like The Civil Wars, Dawes and Mumford & Sons. Decide for yourself by checking out Ed Sheeran’s entire You Oughta Know Live set, including his single “The A-Team”—which, we should note, has nothing to do with Mr. T—a song that went all the way to #3 on the British charts last year.
Hell hath no fury like a Gleek scorned! After Australian artist Gotye, whose song “Somebody That I Used To Know” is currently sitting atop the Billboard Hot 100, told the Australian Sunday Mail newspaper that the Glee cover of his song was “dinky” and “ultra-dry”, he encountered a swift backlash from enraged musical theater enthusiasts. For a show that talks so much about the evils of bullying, Glee fans can turn quite nasty themselves. Here are just two of the hundreds examples we saw on Twitter:
After realizing that he had put his foot in his mouth and angered one of the few groups of people who still buy music, Gotye retracted his diss at an concert in Los Angeles last night. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Gotye told the audience during the show that “the nature of using reverb and space in a recording can change your perception of how a sound appeals to you … I thought it was really clever to transpose the song to two guys … It was a great idea.” While it’s always essential to maintain one’s integrity, in a case like this, there’s more to be won from a strategic backpedal than there is to be lost. Gotye may have lost the fight, but his decision to play nice in the sandbox with Gleeks shows that he’s got every intention of winning the war.
If you didn’t already know, this is K’naan! We caught up with our You Oughta Know artist of the month at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC’s Greenwich Village earlier this month, where he performed a sultry set featuring his songs “Take a Minute” (which you can watch below), “Bulletproof Pride” and “Is Anybody Out There?” (which you can watch here). Hearing his passionate vocals over live acoustics was musical heaven, and seeing him perform in such an intimate setting really accentuated both the power and poetical flow of his lyrics.
Before, during and after his performance, K’naan proved to be a super friendly and very chill guy. Our ace photographer Colin Gray got to spend some extra time with him for the latest installment of our on-going Music Seen series. Enjoy!
As we bid adieu to our talented March You Oughta Know artist Graffiti6, it’s time to give a great big welcome to K’Naan, the latest member of the YOK Family!
K’Naan is a 34 year-old, Somalian-born hip hop artist, one that currently calls Canada home. He was raised in the war-torn town of Mogadishu, but at the age of 13, he and his family were able to make their way to North America, first arriving in New York City before settling down in Toronto. K’Naan released a few albums in the latter half of the Aughts to critical acclaim, but it wasn’t until his anthemic 2009 song “Wavin’ Flag” (which was produced by a then-unknown Bruno Mars) was selected to appear in a Coca-Cola advertisement in 2010 that he really began getting noticed. This just wasn’t any ordinary commercial, either; Coca-Cola selected his song to be the company’s promotional anthem for the 2010 World Cup, which exposed K’Naan’s particularly soulful blend of hip hop to an international audience that numbered in the hundreds of millions.
Understanding that he had a golden opportunity to take his career to the next level, K’Naan took the next few years to work on his follow-up to Troubador, the 2009 album that “Wavin’ Flag” first appeared on. In January, he released his 5-song More Beautiful Than Silence EP, which is a pre-cursor to May 1 release of his full-length God, Country Or The Girl. His EP contains the single “Is Anybody Out There?”, which is steadily climbing the Billboard charts, thanks in no small part to its hook being sung by his fellow Canadian, Nelly Furtado. He performed the single sans Furtado a few weeks ago at New York City’s Le Poisson Rouge as part of his You Oughta Know Live set, a video that we have for you above. (In the video above, aMina accompanies K’Naan in place of Furtado.)
VH1′s current You Oughta Know artist, Graffiti6, is pretty new to American audiences. Their debut full length album, Colours, came out in January and the band has been touring the States with bands like Augustana in order to get the word out. “It’s been an experience, man, it’s been amazing,” Graffiti6 frontman Jamie Scott told us about the touring experience when we caught up with him at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas over the weekend. “I was never really ready for the reaction we’ve gotten in America with this record, purely because I’ve never [toured] here before. It’s a daunting place, when you think about it, but we’ve had the most amazing reaction. So far, man, it’s felt pretty incredible.”
Jamie and his bandmates in Graffiti6 played a grand total of 10 shows (!!!) during their trip to Austin this year, which marks their third trip down to Texas for the annual confab. With each passing year, their stature here in the US of A has grown, and based on the reaction they got from crowds this year, it sure seems as if they’ll continue on this upward trajectory over the course of this month and beyond.
It’s always a treat when we get to see one of our favorite new tracks played live. Our March You Oughta Know artist, Graffiti6, was in the studio this week to play us a stripped back rendition of their amazing lead single, “Free”, from their album Colours. We loved the romantic video for “Free” and we just love the song even more every time we hear it. Singing live, Graffiti6 gave some raw emotion as front man Jamie Scott tugged on our heartstrings with his gentle, honey-like vocal and lovely blue eyes. We’re very much looking forward to a whole month of Graffiti6 and you should be too — keep checking back because we’ve got some great exclusives to share from the boys’ visit to VH1 headquarters!
We’d like to introduce you to our March You Oughta Know artist, Graffiti6. Hailing from London, the duo (made up of Jamie Scott, pictured above, and Tommy “D” Danvers), are a breath of fresh air with their soft, guitar-led pop. With a sentimental edge to their persona, the band released their debut album, Colours, in January, and we’ve been hooked ever since. Even though the band only started making music in 2009, there’s a wealth of maturity in their dulcet, tonal sound. With a hint of nostalgia in Scott’s folksy vocal, we’re falling in love with Graffiti6, and here are five reasons you should too…
1. The video for “Free”
We just loved the video for “Free”, the first single from their debut album, Colours. You can watch the video below, and read what we thought about it here.
2.Their famous friends
Before Jamie Scott and Tommy Danvers were Graffiti6, they worked with some pretty high profile collaborators. Danvers remixed tracks by Michael Jackson and Bjork, and had worked alongside his wife arranging and orchestrating concerts and recordings for super stars like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Adele, Beyonce and Noel Gallagher. He went on to produce the number one chart single, “I’m Too Sexy,” for Right Said Fred, before writing several songs for KT Tunstall, Corinne Bailey Rae, Janet Jackson and Kylie Minogue before joining forces with Scott to make music for Graffiti6. Scott, no less accomplished, has toured with Alica Keys and Kelly Clarkson with his previous band, Jamie Scott & The Town. With such full resumes and a cast of friends worthy of pop royalty status, we’re excited to see what future collaborations Graffiti6 might have up their sleeves!
We’re going to sound like a broken record saying this, but the truth is the truth and there’s no way around it — Gotye and Kimbra sound just as impeccable live as they do on record. And we should know — we got to witness the pair playing live for us in an intimate setting at our Times Square offices when they came to visit last week. While You Oughta Know artist Gotye played solo songs from his new album, Making Mirrors, and even an old favorite, “Heart’s A Mess,” we were blown away by “Somebody That I Used To Know,” featuring the dexterous vocals of Kimbra.
The pair gave us a compelling, moving experience in the intimate setting. While playing live with his band, tinkering with the menagerie of instruments surrounding him, the impresario Gotye crooned the lyrics, vocally gymnastic in the ease with which he switched from a whisper to a shout. When Kimbra joined him for her verse, emotions were high, as the two breathed life into the heartbreaking lyrics, giving real import to the occasion.