When thinking of summertime the last thing that comes to mind is sadness. But Lana Del Rey‘s got that “Summertime Sadness,” and she makes it sound like something worth aspiring to have. Almost. The beautiful scenery in the opening of “Summertime Sadness” looks like the old photographs you’d click through on a projector. Despite the beauty of nature surrounding her, she throws herself from the cliff, committing suicide. It’s ironic, yet intentional, that the beauty of nature–life–surrounds her as she’s falling from the cliff. Before the suicide there was love. Actress Jaime King, dolled in a red dress, plays LDR’s female lover. Directed by King’s husband, filmmaker Kyle Newman, and Spencer Susser, the video captures the human connection of love. Read more…
Easily one of the most anticipated tracks off Rick Ross‘s upcoming God Forgives, I Don’t (we’ll have to reuse this line when “Crushed Pineapple” finally leaks), “3 Kings” finds the big Bawse drawing a hand from two of the rap game’s most regal, Jay-Z and Dr. Dre. Rozay has long been teasing this team-up as the “biggest collaboration in hip-hop,” and it’s easy to see why. On the track, each of the three take a turn recounting their rise to glory. For Dre, there were days mopping floors before he made it “front row at the awards.” Ross’ “twenty-stack seats at the Heat game” are a long way from the weed game he used to run. And Jay? He’ll have you know that before he and Oprah were BFFs, he was shopping at T.J. Maxx. The three certainly deserve a beat as soulful and triumphant as the one Jake-One made them, as well as the acclaim their meeting is sure to earn. It does seem fair to ask, though, because they put it out there: are they three really kings?
Jordin Sparks has come a long way from belting out Celine Dion‘s “Because You Love Me” in her audition for American Idol at 16. At 17, she won that very season. Five years later the big voiced singer has landed the role of a lifetime as Sparkle Williams in the 1976 remake of Sparkle and her duet with Whitney Houston,”Celebrate,” is the lead single from the upcoming film. And in her wildest dreams she never imagined working with the indelible Houston who plays her mother Emma. Although Whitney’s time may have been cut short from us here on earth, we talked to Jordin Sparks about the invaluable lessons she learned from the woman often referred to as The Voice. Read more…
On America’s Independence Day, Frank Ocean finally got free. He took to his personal Tumblr to clear up the chatter started by an UK journalist’s speculations that songs on his album referenced the pronoun “he” as it relates to love. He wrote a beautiful note, originally intended for the liner notes of his major label debut channel ORANGE, that candidly and masterfully told the story of his first love—a man—who was too afraid to love him back. The shockwaves from this announcement were immediate; thankfully, instead of enduring a tidal wave of negativity, an outpouring of support flooded onto social networks from fans and celebrities (such as Jay-Z, Beyonce, 50 Cent and Rita Ora) alike. His courageous admission was the first time a young, black male R&B singer had openly admitted to loving someone of the same sex.
Given the troubled history that hip-hop, and the community that creates it, has had with homophobia, many are asking whether or not Frank’s revelation points to the genre’s growing acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality and, ultimately, individuality.
Well, in the decades before Frank Ocean became a rising star, hip-hop prided itself on hyper-masculinity, and proving one’s manhood, which unfortunately meant disassociating yourself from anything that could be perceived as “gay.” To wit, calling a rapper “gay” was the worst insult you could hurl their way. Even as the culture-at-large became more PC, this stance did not change much in the hip-hop community; petty catchphrases like “no homo” are still used to this day as to tell the world “Hey, I’m not gay. And saying no homo puts me in the clear.” Literally countless rappers have used offensive homophobic slurs in their lyrics, hence the attention being paid to Frank Ocean’s confession.
No one could’ve predicted the massive support Frank Ocean ended up receiving from the hip-hop community. As an R&B artist (not hip-hop artist as he is oftentimes conveniently labeled), his transparency had the potential to end his budding career. Ten years ago, it almost certainly would have. Luckily for Frank, people and the genre are headed in the direction of progression. But I wouldn’t jump the gun to proclaim it’s a new day that left behind the rotten stench of homophobia in rap.
Accepting Frank is one thing. It’s quite another to talk about how homosexuality is/was/will be addressed by rappers in the future. Supporting the channel ORANGE singer does not mean that the F word —the six letter one, not the four— will not be used in rap records. It also doesn’t mean that mindsets have completely changed. If artists publicly root for Frank, but covertly wouldn’t have a close gay friend because of fear of turning gay (as if there’s a such thing), or still say no homo, or still rap lyrics laced with derogatory remarks about gay people, then is the acceptance really a facade?
Hip-hop as a genre has changed; hip-hop as a culture has changed too. In an interview with MTV.com, Juicy magazine Editor-in-Chief Paula T. Renfroe said, “Hip-hop also has grown, society as a whole has grown and that’s the beauty of hip-hop, it reflects our culture and our society.” The fact that there is room for a male singer to sing about loving another man without backlash is an example of a huge stride both genres—R&B and hip-hop—have made.
Maybe Ocean’s bravery is huge step toward the right direction, or perhaps behind closed doors (which is likely) the hip-hop community’s feelings toward the LGBTQ community doesn’t mirror the hurtful ugly slurs. Whether hip-hop is forever changed by such a historic moment is unknown. But it is worth the question: Where do we go from here?
London’s Hot Chip dropped in on Jimmy Fallon last night to dispense a hit of synth and a dance break to late night watchers. Recently drawn forth once more for the release of In Our Heads, the deep thinking dance fiends performed “Don’t Deny Your Heart” with house band the Roots and a mess of instruments and equipment. Alexis Taylor led the unapologetic 80′s jam, pleading that you “don’t deny your heart, don’t destroy your heart (say yes).” Hot Chip have made a name for themselves by using the dance floor’s dark corners to explore those in their mind. You know, like this. But here they beg otherwise, suggesting that “You’ll see, we take fun seriously.” And — with jingling synth, disco keys, and a Questlove led drum break — that they do.
Florence and the Machine‘s Florence Welch had us worried when she, complaining of vocal injury, cancelled a handful of scheduled appearances. Artists like Adele and John Mayer past have sidelined for far too long by similar injuries, and we didn’t want to see our dear VH1 Diva Flo suffer the same fate. So she skipped the Benicassim Festival in Spain and the Optimus Festival in Portugal and rested her voice. And then this morning, just a week later, she showed up on the Good Morning America and out of her mouth came a voice as beautiful and earth shaking as ever. We are not worried anymore.
“It’s almost like being an athlete, you strain a muscle and I just couldn’t really speak,” she explained after she wowed the crowed with harp-and-all performances of “Spectrum” and “Shake It Off.” “It seems to still work,” she laughed. And good thing, Florence and the Machines kick off their North American tour this weekend in British Columbia.
Two Door Cinema Club have the internet buzzing this afternoon. The Irish trio debuted “Sleep Alone,” the first single from their forthcoming sophomore album Beacon, and now both “Sleep Alone” and “Two Door Cinema Club” are trending on Twitter as evidence of a world as excited about these You Oughta Know alums as we are! Back again are the jangly guitars and danceable beats that remind us almost of New Wave, if only Ian Curtis could have had access to a MacBook, and we are so glad. Have a listen below, or download it for free off of their website.
VH1 News caught up with the guys last month in L.A., where they were still hard at work on their new album — and on a new diet. “We spend the first hour or so just drinking coffee and watching YouTube or something, and then we’ll just take it as it comes and work until 11 in the evening and then go home and do it all over again,” they said of their process. And in the off hours that they weren’t in the studio? They were out enjoying Southern California’s hills, sunshine and preferred roughage. “The most L.A. thing we’ve been doing is just eating really healthily,” guitarist Sam Halliday admitted. “I’d never heard of kale before.”
Did you watch that video we posted yesterday, the one of the fierce kid in a snuggie doing Beyonce? It undoubtedly deserves all sorts of awards for it’s attention to detail and good humor, but it just earned something better yet: the high praise of Beyoncé herself, who thinks that he-so-fierce “did this video better than I did.” She wrote just that on her blog, adding also a smiley face emoticon and a “Love, B” for good measure.
It looks like rapper and producer Swizz Beatz might not not be off the hook for that Megaupload business, after all. When the once dominant file sharing site was shuttered back in January, Mr. Alicia Keys was revealed to be a “CEO without citation”. Beatz’s lawyers adamantly denied his involvement, and he was left out of early indictments. Megaupload has since claimed that, being a foreign company with no offices or agents on U.S. soil, they were functioning outside of the U.S.’s jurisdiction. In order to build a case otherwise, U.S. attorneys have dragged Beatz back into the case, listing him as an U.S. representative to the site in their most recent filings. Uh oh, that doesn’t bode well for Beatz, who has so far been both uncooperative with the feds. As for those of you who liked those “I Like Megaupload” videos, the ones that starred Beatz’s A-List friends like Kanye West and Will.i.am, you might have more fun propaganda to look forward to.
It will be interesting to see how Beatz, a high-profile producer dragged to the center of a high-profile anti-piracy case, explains his involvement in the site if he ends up summoned. As he and some of his also very successful musician friends have argued, file sharing sites like Megaupload are not just havens to piracy, they are also a means for artists to share and collaborate. In an interview with The Fader, Beatz suggested that “in due time everybody will understand everything.” Well, it might be that time, and it could very well also be Beatz’s chance to help shape music’s future on the internet.
Ponder on this: Brandy was 15-years-old when her debut self-titled album Brandy dropped. At 33 the R&B songstress still has the powerful voice beautiful enough to put goosebumps on your arms. At 93.9 WKYS’s free concert held at the Howard Theatre in D.C., Brandy performed Put It Down in a royal blue romper. Brandy is back like she never left! Along with a couple backup dancers, B puts the ‘umph’ in every choreographed move hitting each gyration flawlessly. Similar to her BET Awards tribute to Whitney Houston, it’s obvious Brandy is here to win. The vocals? My god. Like every time Brandy opens her mouth (remember her singing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” in her bathroom acapella?), even performing a song about putting it down between the sheets, she reminds you why she’s a true vocalist to the core. Read more…