We’d only just begun to mourn the loss of songwriter Jerry Leiber when we got word that Nickolas Ashford, half of the songwriting and performing duo Ashford & Simpson, had also passed away at 70 after a battle with throat cancer. If Leiber and Stoller soundtracked the R&B of the pre-Beatles era, Ashford & Simpson were, alongside Holland/Dozier/Holland, their spiritual successors. Nick Ashford had a hand in writing “You’re All I Need To Get By” and many more Motown hits, not just for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell but also a slew of other artists, notably Diana Ross. With Ashford & Simpson producing, Ross scored a number of solo hits with both older Ashford & Simpson compositions like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and new ones like “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”
Even as they wrote and produced hit after hit for Motown, they notoriously butted heads with its founder, Berry Gordy, insisting on retaining the rights to their compositions and productions. Their often-bitter struggle paved the way for songwriters of all stripes to protect their intellectual property.
All of this is not to mention the duo’s illustrious career as a performing duo, scoring R&B hits throughout the 1970s and 1980s, crossing over to the pop charts most successfully with “Solid” in 1984. They have continued to perform and record together. Above, watch the duo perform “Gimme Something Real” in New York City in 2006. Read more…
Rest In Peace, Jerry Leiber Jerry Leiber, one half of the songwriting team Leiber and Stoller, passed away today of heart failure. He was 78. With Mike Stoller, he wrote six top ten hits for the Coasters, three top tens for the Drifters, three #1 and four other top 20 Elvis Presley singles, and “Stand By Me”; we could go on for some time about the duo’s indispensable contributions to pre-Beatles rock and R&B, their other Billboard chart appearances (the total is over 100, for the record), their production credits (e.g. Stealers Wheel‘s “Stuck In The Middle With You”), their jukebox musical (Smokey Joe’s Cafe), their American Idol theme episode this season, and more, but sadly we can’t offer the tribute Leiber deserves. For more, check out Michaelangelo Matos‘s brisk, informative, and YouTube-embed-packed eulogy at Sound of the City, or seek out the second episode of the 1995 PBS documentary Rock & Roll.
At this time last year, hopes for Maroon 5‘s third studio album, Hands All Over, were high. The lead single, “Misery,” had hit #1 on Billboard‘s Adult Pop chart, and since the band had convinced famed superproducer Robert “Mutt” Lange to come out of semi-retirement to produce their album, everyone looked for the band to take the leap from a well-liked, fairly popular M.O.R. band to the next level and a spot among the world’s most commercially successful bands. However, once the album finally hit streets in October 2010, the masses shrugged their shoulders and largely ignored the album. The record was certified gold by the RIAA for shipping over 500,000 copies, but worldwide sales stalled out at just 529,000 total units.
Perceived failures like this have sunk many a band in the past, but thanks to charismatic frontman Adam Levine and ten weeks of national TV exposure courtesy of NBC/Universal’s The Voice (corporate synergy at its finest!), the band has totally reversed their fortunes in less than a year. Their new track, “Moves Like Jagger,” hit #1 on the iTunes chart this week, and Levine’s featured hook on Gym Class Heroes‘ “Stereo Hearts” propelled the song to a Top 20 finish in this week’s Song Of The Summer countdown. No wonder artists like Mariah Carey (The X-Factor), Sara Bareilles (The Sing Off) and more are looking to land prime positions as judges on televised singing competition shows; it’s exactly the kind of exposure to Middle America that the flagging music business is no longer in a position to give these artists using “traditional” music channels. As Maroon 5 has proved, it’s great work if you can get it!
As for the rest of our Song Of The Summer chart —only two more weeks until we crown a champion!— kudos to Katy Perry for her ninth consecutive week in the #1 spot.
Apparently, the songs leaked while Clarkson was on vacation, so she returned to hear the news, with no knowledge of how the songs got out into the world. None of the tracks were close to completion, and they range from a few that will end up (in finished form) on her forthcoming album to some that were written off during sessions for her 2003 album Thankful (and in some cases were actually songs written for others to perform). Clarkson doesn’t say which are which among “Let Me Down,” “Cleopatra,” and others, but certainly the ones written for others are not so valuable anymore. It’s not just the value, though; Clarkson told the magazine, “I?ve been physically robbed a couple of times, but this is much worse.” She refers to the confusion and misperceptions about her new album, her career, and her artistry, based on suppositions using evidence from the demos. She hopes (as do we) that Stronger will clear everything up.
This morning, Bono denied weekend reports that he’d had a health scare while vacationing just outside Monaco in the south of France. In a statement to Reuters, a spokewoman stated that the U2 frontman had indeed gone to Princess Grace Memorial Hospital in Monaco, as Ireland’s Independent had reported, but that the visit was merely a routine checkup. “Reports of his being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment are untrue,” the spokeswoman stated, despite the fact that the initial Independent report made no such claim.
According to the Irish paper’s sources, Bono experienced “chest pains” and underwent “48 hours of medical tests” under the supervision of “a top heart specialist at the hospital,” none of which was exactly contradicted by the not-quite-denial. Presumably a routine checkup wouldn’t take two full days. The initial report in the Independent (which claimed Bono was “renowned” both “for his partying” and “for his socialising on the French Riviera”) and the denial to Reuters concur that the heart palpitations turned out not to be a health issue.
Lil Wayne announced this morning that his forthcoming album Tha Carter IV, scheduled to be released in stores on Monday, August 29, would be available for digital purchase in advance?specifically, at midnight ET after the Video Music Awards air (at 8pm on Sunday, August 28). But wait, you say. Don’t albums tend to premiere digitally around midnight the night before their physical release?
That’s very incisive of you?but this press release isn’t merely a rebranding of an existing fact. The pullquotes provide the clues. Cash Money Records CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams, talks about “pairing the release of Tha Carter IV with the VMAs,” and this pairing seems to have been the plan for some time now. Lil Wayne announced the album’s release date in an MTV News interview last month, after the Video Music Awards had already been scheduled.
Furthermore, MTV President Stephen Friedman says that the digital release allows VMA viewers to “go online at midnight and download the album they?ve all been waiting for.” The similarity of this attempt to digitally recreate the experience of lining up outside a record store to that of Watch The Throne two weeks ago is probably not coincidental. Even still, both Lil Wayne and The Throne are not necessarily aiming to improve their sales with these tactics; rather, they hope to recreate the big-tent release-date excitement of old (albeit not that old; for the most part the day-of iconic big releases?like Use Your Illusion I and II, twenty years old next month?were part of a marketing plan that did not really exist en masse prior to the CD era).
All in all, this is a canny move by the rapper. Anecdotal evidence suggests that viewers of television shows (particularly those on HBO and other premium cable channels) will wait impatiently for a download to become available for purchase (or, erm, “free”) if they don’t get the channel or miss the airing. Why not replicate that for music? Of course, this is another adaptation to the digital world that may only be effective for the biggest artists, but if it catches on, it’ll be an interesting one nonetheless.
Next time you?re hanging out with your friends or family, play the party game that?s guaranteed to get everyone laughing: Celebrity Party. The game of Celebrity has been a favorite low tech party game for decades, but now VH1 has taken it to the next level with the Celebrity Party iPhone app. Some of your favorite celebrities themselves—like Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and Justin Timberlake—have already played this game while hitting the red carpet, so now it’s your turn!
Celebrity Party tests your knowledge of pop culture with a team game that combines the best elements of Taboo, charades and Password. It?s simple to learn and sure to get everyone giggling:
During a recent interview, writer Heath Daniels asked Grammy-nominated veteran songwriter Linda Perry what she thought about changes in the music industry over the last twenty years. The 4 Non Blondes frontwoman and writer/producer for big-name artists like Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys had some biting words for pop star Katy Perry. “Who wants a f*cking Katy Perry record?” asked Linda, doubtful that fans of the other Perry actually purchase her full-length albums when they can just consume her singles piecemeal.
“Not saying that Katy is bad; she’s great for what she does, but she’s not reinventing the wheel, she’s not giving substance, she’s just giving microwave popcorn for you to feast on right at this moment.”
These comments could not have been made at a more interesting time. Earlier this week, Katy Perry tied Michael Jackson’s billboard chart record for having five #1?singles from one album. Katy Perry is only two (mainstream) albums into her career, and she’s certainly churning out fun-loving hit singles like wildfire.?But does her music have a shot at holding up like The King of Pop’s, whose albums, as full bodies of work, are often considered classics? Linda Perry thinks not. While she did concede that it’s fine Katy’s “not looking to change the world musically,” the interview concluded with her saying that music focused on the quick buck is?”part of the reason why the music business is in turmoil.” Touch?.
This week my glass is half empty. Here are three great things that kind of bum me out:
1) Krist Novoselic Performing Nevermind From Beginning to End
To pay homage to the 20th Anniversary of Nirvana?s Nevermind, founding member Krist Novoselic will be joining a collection of Seattle bands, in Seattle (Sept. 20), to play the stone classic in its entirety.
Why I?m Bummed: I won?t be there, and since the Foo Fighters will be playing in Cleveland that night, Dave Grohl won?t be there either. It also would have been cool if Kurt Cobain were around to perform these generation-forging tunes.
It’s been a whirlwind month for VH1′s latest You Oughta Know artist Ximena Sari?ana ((phonetic pronounciation: hi-MEN-a sa-rin-YAH-na). She’s been hitting the promotional circuit hard in support in support of her self-titled English language debut; in addition to a well-received performance on the Tonight Show, she’s been delighting audiences all across the country. She was in New York City near the end of last month, when she stopped by our office for an awesome You Oughta Know Live set, and our ace photographer Zev Schmitz was able to trail her for a day while she made the rounds all around town for our recurring photo-based series, MUSIC SEEN. We’ve got the results, as well as a few comments from Ximena herself, for you below!
“These shoes I bought while on tour in Austin. I love finding small off the beaten path clothing stores. These shoes I’ve had for over a year now but are so worn out because I wear them almost every day on tour.”