At the legendary Etta James‘ funeral, Christina Aguilera belted out a spine tingling rendition of “At Last,” which has been part of her live repertoire for a decade. It’s clear how much Aguilera reveres James, and her performance was perfect, both in the range of Christina’s vocal and the touching nature of her Etta James inspired career. Despite the wonderful performance, audiences have chosen instead to focus on a mystery liquid* dripping down Christina’s legs as she sung. We think that whatever it was, it couldn’t have been a comfortable moment for Christina, and that she held her own like the consummate performer that she is, not missing a beat and delivering an emotion filled tribute to her idol.
VH1′s latest entry in the award-winning Rock Docs franchise, The TRL Decade, premieres tonight at 9:30 pm. The hour-long special takes a look back at the colorful history of the long-running MTV video request program and the effect that it had on the music industry, and features insightful interviews from former VJs like Carson Daly and Dave Holmes, as well as some of that era’s most popular musical acts.
In order to get you in the mood for tonight’s premiere, we built this special
Spotify playlist for The TRL Decade, which features many of the songs that you’ll hear in this documentary feature. Get your ’90s nostalgia on with boy band faves like “Larger Than Life” by the Backstreet Boys, rap-rock smashes like Korn‘s “Freak On A Leash”, hip hop hits like P. Diddy‘s “Bad Boy For Life”, sugar coated girl pop classics like Mandy Moore‘s “Candy”, and many more.
The TRL Decade [Spotify]
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
Kelly Clarkson Gives “Mr. Know It All” A Sweet Country Remix
We’re really digging Kelly Clarkson‘s country-style recording of “Mr. Know It All”. It’s like someone took one of our most favorite things and bedazzled it or added a kicky beret — we love the original, but we love the upgrade too! [Pop Dust]
Cher Is Not Dead
Poor Cher was the subject of an internet death hoax, but it turns out that she’s thankfully alive and well. While we haven’t yet seen a cheesily wonderful Jon Bon Jovi display of life, we think there’s still time for Cher to post a photo with a sign saying something like, “Do you believe in life after Twitter hoax?” [NME]
Part of what we love about Adam Lambert is that he’s always so willing to share — himself, that is. Now he’s taking fans backstage on the set of the video for his new single “Better Than I Know Myself,” giving a deliciously enticing sneak peek at the cinematic set. Speaking candidly, Lambert reveals, “I definitely wanted to take a more hands on role in the video concept and the whole process,” and we’re excited to see the visual as it translates from Adam’s imagination onto the screen. He goes on to say “I think what [director Ray Kay and I] came up with was a nice twist on the song “Better Than I Know Myself”. I think when viewers see the video they’ll look at the lyrics a little bit differently than may have first considered them.”
A twist! Should we start calling our Glambert A.L. Shyamalan instead? What could this twist be? Will boyfriend Sauli Koskinen perhaps make an appearance? Will Adam actually be a ghost? Or a vampire? Are we getting a bit carried away? The full video for “Better Than I Know Myself” will be released on Monday, so we’ll find out then. In the meantime, this is definitely a unique instance where the weekend simply cannot go fast enough!
It doesn’t take a genius to see that there’s something about Beyoncé‘s history, persona and business model that is different from your average pop star. She’s not always a chart topper, nor is she always the most talked about (although when she is it’s with zeal from both fans and detractors) but Beyoncé is an undoubtedly powerful force, and indeed widely considered more socially and culturally influential than some of her more pervasive contemporaries. It’s little surprise to us then, that doctoral student Kevin Allred has begun teaching a course called “Politicizing Beyoncé” at Rutgers, as a means of dissecting and analyzing the Beyoncé story and positioning her as a culturally important figure both in terms of gender and race studies.
“She certainly pushes boundaries. While other artists are simply releasing music, she’s creating a grand narrative around her life, her career, and her persona,” says Allred. He also notes that, “It’s important to shift students away from simply being consumers of media toward thinking more critically about what they’re engaging on a regular basis.” Raising critical awareness of the media through education seems ever more pertinent, as celebrity culture (especially given the advent of Internet celebrity), is increasingly saturating our everyday lives. Allred’s course covers issues like control, sexuality, empowerment, race and femininity in terms of Beyoncé’s behemoth persona. We’re not sure about you, but we’re ducking out to buy some school supplies on our lunch break — we want back in the classroom!
Beyoncé as a Political Figure? [Rutgers Focus]
Adopting a split personality for the sake of sensationalizing an image is nothing new in the pop industry. Recent notable alter egos include Beyoncé‘s Sasha Fierce, Lady Gaga‘s Joe Calderone and Nicki Minaj‘s Roman Zolanski. While these characters have allowed these pop stars to explore other aspects of their persona independent of their regular self (also possibly giving them carte blanche to make mistakes, all the while acting as a great gimmick to draw fans into a narrative), they are usually an afterthought to the performer, and are put on and taken off the same way one wears a hat.
However, in the case of Lana Del Rey, her alter ego is more widely known that her “real” self. (We’re not going to get into existential arguments of what’s “real” or not, but suffice to say that “real” in this context is who she was born as/lived her life as until she became Lana Del Rey.) As thousands of bloggers have noted, she was born Lizzy Grant, and even recorded an album under that name, an album that was released in January of 2010 but then quickly pulled from the shelves, adding to her mystique. Lana is currently in Europe promoting her new album Born To Die, and during an interview with the BBC, she noted that she’s planning to reissue her Lana Del Rey A.K.A. Lizzy Grant album, and we’re officially intrigued.
With the Lana Del Rey hype monster so engorged, is the overnight sensation now using her new found fame to promote the art she made and believed in prior to her transformation into tortured chanteuse? Will she reissue the album as Lana Del Rey, or will Lizzy Grant act as Lana Del Rey’s otherly doppelganger? Is the next chapter of the Lana Del Rey story going to be a nostalgic expose into the heart of Lizzy Grant, or just another great marketing stunt? And moreover, will audiences, critical blogging fingers at the ready, ever be able to reconcile the two conflicting sides of the Lana Del Rey coin?
Each week here on VH1 Tuner, our VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer’s Spotlight with us. Be sure to tune into the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown tomorrow morning when it airs on VH1 at 9 a.m. ET/PT.
As I’m sure you’ve literally heard, Steven Tyler sang the National Anthem at last week’s AFC Championship game in New England. Because the internet has perfected the art of making mountains out of molehills, pop-culture and sports-related blogs teed off on Tyler, making it seem like William Hung sung the National Anthem.
Here’s why it wasn’t as bad as you’ve been told:
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.
If it were your birthday, you had your own talk show, and you could pick any artist in the world to play for you, who would you chose? Superstar Ellen Degeneres chose Earth, Wind & Fire for her birthday, which she celebrated on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Ellen’s favorite band, Earth, Wind & Fire acted as house band throughout the entire show, and we especially loved this performance of “September.” Watching the energy and joy with which the band played the song on stage, it’s hard to imagine that they started making music in 1971 — they seem so fresh and new! The performance was fun, upbeat and infectious, and we recommend getting out of your chair and doing a little shuffle in front of your desk as a great way to start your work day.
Azealia Banks Has The 2.55, Performing At Karl Lagerfeld’s House
Apparently it’s not the “212″ that Azealia Banks has, but the 2.55. Banks played at Chanel Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld‘s house in Paris and got all those very serious Parisian fashion types dancing. Yep, they even fist pumped. [Complex]
Disney Discontinues Joy Division Inspired T-Shirt
Disney controversially released a t-shirt inspired by Joy Division‘s Unknown Pleasures album, with the original visual skewed into the shape of Mickey’s face. Under mounting pressure from fans and commentators, Disney has now pulled the t-shirt from sale to review the situation further. [Time News Feed]
“Keep in mind I’m not here, I’m from a different world.”
That line is from the chorus of “Different”, the lead single from Ximena Sariñana‘s recent self-titled album, and it speaks volumes about where she is as an artist at the moment. Her debut LP, Mediocre, was released in her native Mexico in 2008 and performed well both commercially and critically, earning her two Latin Grammy nominations, but when it came time to record her second record, she was faced with a dilemna. “Either stay in my country, where everyone knows who I am, or start from scratch and convince people that I’m worth it,” Ximena was quoted as saying. Well, she chose the latter, and her efforts are just starting to pay off. She was named our You Oughta Know artist last August, she played a gig for a couple of hundred die-hard fans at New York City’s Mercury Lounge last night, and she was able to land a highly-coveted spot at this year’s Coachella Festival, too.
Ximena’s set last night was a mix of songs from her first two albums; she sung three songs in Spanish, and the remaining seven were in English. The 25-year-old stood confidently center stage, singing and playing her Nord keyboard (accompanied by a guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and a percussionist), and slowly sipped from a single glass of whiskey throughout the course of the show. “I’m totally drinking whiskey instead of water,” she bantered. “It’s like the worst thing for a singer, but it’s either my voice is better, or my general mood and perkiness.”