In the nineties, you could count the number of commercial white rappers on one hand. Beastie Boys. Vanilla Ice. Marky Mark (and the Funky Bunch). Maybe Everlast and even 3rd Bass count too, although their “household name” reach wasn’t nearly as long. As a result, an entire generation of hip-hop fans grew up listening to a genre that was based in a primarily Urban setting, rarely poking its nichey head above ground into the pop arena. That didn’t stop the audience’s obsession with hip-hop though, and regardless of content relatability, the music managed to draw a crop of loyal, melanin-lacking disciples.
Putting his unquestionable talent aside, it’s not a huge surprise that Eminem’sSlim Shady LP was so well-received when Interscope helped him to first put take his underground music into the mainstream back in 1999. Paving the way for the constant flow of new, up-and-coming white rappers who idolized him back then, Eminem came to market with a blunt, true-to-self, lower socio-economic class character that was refreshing and different from the previous attempts of white rappers past. Looking the accidental mockery in the face, who can forget The White Rapper Show, for example? Whether you hated it or loved it, it was a trainwreck that you couldn’t resist watching, if only to laugh at the contestants’ hilarious missteps.
On Monday, it was announced that white rapper Rich Hil, son of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, was signed to Warner Brothers Records. This news not only continues to feed the growing trend of white rapper signings, but also the perpetuates the sub-genre craze that is now commonly referred to as “Frat Rap.” Focusing less on conveying social commentary or more personal issues, Frat Rap flaunts a party lifestyle, celebrating the cliche reckless behavior associated with college fraternities, like getting hammered, bagging girls, and partaking in experimental gateway drugs. Executing lyricism and celebrating the Bronx-born culture aren’t really a priority.
The loudest fanbase is that of Lady Gaga, who received three nominations (one for “Born This Way” and two for “Judas,” which the Little Monsters apparently prefer)?a pittance to these fans, especially in contrast to Katy Perry‘s nine and Adele‘s seven. The latter was more galling to the pop monsters, who after only a bit of Katy Perry slut-shaming moved on to “Adele is fat” jokes (or, more generously, “‘Rolling In The Deep’ is great but the video is boring” complaints). Britney Spears‘s and Rihanna‘s fans are also quite vocal about the two and zero nominations the artists got, respectively. (Rihanna is a featured artist on Eminem‘s three-times nominated?though not for Best Collaboration?”Love the Way You Lie” and Kanye West‘s four-times nominated “All of the Lights” but has no nominations for her own videos.)
Other much-observed snubs include Ke$ha (no nominations despite the eligibility of both “We R Who We R” and “Blow”), J. Cole for Best New Artist (with fans particularly surprised that Kreayshawn and Tyler, The Creator got nominated) and Jennifer Lopez‘s “On The Floor,” which, as our Song Of The Summer metrics have documented, has performed much better on YouTube than anywhere else.
The soaring ballad about standing strong in the face of emotional turmoil quickly shot to the top of the iTunes charts, making it the biggest hit of Demi Lovato‘s young career. Fans instantly connected to the powerful track and homemade covers of the song began flooding YouTube. We spoke to Demi late on Tuesday night about the creative evolution of “Skyscraper,” shooting the tear-strewn video with director Mark Pellington, and her dismay with the ubiquity of alcohol references currently in the Billboard Top Ten.
VH1: What can you tell us about the time when the song sort of first made its way to you, and what was it that originally drew you to the song ?Skyscraper??
Demi Lovato: I recorded it a year ago, and when I first heard it I was blown away. I was emotionally attached to the song and I really related to it, like a lot of other people. Like a lot of my fans. I think that?s kind of the beauty of the song, that it’s really relatable, but for me when I first recorded it, it was kind of a cry for help. It was before I went to treatment, before everything had kind of hit the fan. I went to treatment and I came out, then I tried to rerecord “Skyscraper” because my voice had changed and it just wasn?t the same. There was something in that first try, that first run through of the song that was kind of magical. It was so much emotion in it, and to this day, it?s still really special to me. I?ve never been so vulnerable or emotional while recording a song, to the point where I was almost doubled over in tears in the studio. I was crying when I recorded it, I was bawling my eyes out. I don?t know, it just felt really great to open up like that.
I know that you co-wrote the song with Toby Gad, whom you had collaborated with before on your previous records. Can you tell me a little about some of the lyrical contributions that you made to this particular song?
Actually, all I did was perform it. I sang it and poured my heart out into it. Working with Toby was amazing; he wrote the song with a artist named Kerli and she too is just an incredible vocalist, they did an amazing job and I just had the amazing opportunity to record it.
VH1 Top 20 Countdown contender (and Best Week EverHappy Hour participant) Gavin DeGraw teased the Tonight Show audience for a few minutes yesterday during his performance of the single “Not Over You.” The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist had a piano all set up for him, but he ignored it for most of the song, instead walking back and forth across the stage as he sang. But when the keyboardist in his talented and compact backing band strapped on an acoustic guitar for the second chorus, DeGraw finally relented. The appearance was simply more proof that when it comes to a certain type of pop-rock, DeGraw has the form mastered, from songwriting to showmanship.
If we were in a relationship with Jay-Z and Kanye West, we’d need to have a serious sit-down regarding mixed signals. We got some arguably underwhelming “H.A.M.” back in January, and next they came with haircut symbol of album completion in May. Then, two weeks ago, we got confirmation that they were quietly pushing the Watch The Throne back. Considering the LP is due out digitally on August 1st (physically on August 5th), the suspense was thickening, and we were starting to get antsy about their level of commitment.
Like most men, however, this pair just need space to come around when they’re good and ready. Virtuous patience paid off; last night, Jay and ‘Ye finally showed us some love and released “Otis,” and, just like that, our relationship is repaired. After first being played on New York City’s Hot 97 via FunkMaster Flex, the track that samples Otis Redding’s“Try A Little Tenderness” was officially liberated for consumption.
Proud and pompous verses ricochet back and forth between the two emcees on the song, invoking nostalgia for past collaborations like “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)” and “Never Let Me Down.” And even though the intoxicating sample is sprinking pixie dust in our eyes, this may not be the powerful single and Song of The Summer that we’ve been waiting for. That said, the gang is intact, and they definitely haven’t let us down.
The Kidz Bop Kids’ new video for “Born This Way” raises so many questions that we don’t even know where to start. Are the kids in the video even the same kids on the vocal track? (Does it matter?) How much money did this video cost (and how much did they save by shooting the commercial for Kidz Bop 20 at the same time)? Will this guaranteed-viral video approach the number of views (and for that matter, number of thumbs-down votes) that Rebecca Black’s “Friday” reached before it was pulled from YouTube? Is that an Orange amp onstage?? (Did a metalhead Kidz Bop employee get a pretty convenient write-off from this shoot?)
What’s really bugging us, on first blush, is the ways in which the song has been edited, presumably under the rationale of “suitability for child consumption.” We have defended the Kidz Bop series from easy aesthetic mockery simply because pop music is infectious and social and sometimes contains material that parents of the target 5-12 year old audience might find objectionable. (Kidz Bop 20 also contains versions of the radio edits of Cee Lo’s “F?k You” and Pink’s “F?king Perfect.”) But just because a parent might not want to answer a five-year-old’s questions about the mentions of racial background or sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily mean that Kidz Bop ought to have completely defanged the song.
The removal of mentions of sexuality is particularly problematic. We don’t necessarily agree with the removal of “You’re black, white, beige, chola descent/ You’re Lebanese, you’re Orient” (though in fairness, the word “Orient” in particular probably shouldn’t have made the cut for the original song), but we can understand that, say, the word “chola” has layers of meaning that might be beyond the understanding of children. Possibly the reason for eliminating mentions of race is in fact that race is a social construct, and thus, people are not “born” that way! (Okay, probably not.)
But the mentions of sexuality are merely labels, without specifics, and can be explained without any discussion of sex, by eliding the specifics of the words’ definitions into a simple explanation of what types of people “like” what types of people. And even if they felt the need to remove those lines, couldn’t they have left the practically innocuous “don’t be a drag, just be a queen” refrain alone? That omission is particularly glaring considering it can easily be read without connotation.
We’re curious whether Lady Gaga will take this up as a cause c?l?bre. She has no legal right to stop the Kidz Bop Kids from covering and releasing her song, but she can certainly condemn the edits, or maybe even donate the songwriting royalties she’ll receive from sales of the cover version to an appropriate organization. When she allegedly denied “Weird Al” permission to parody her song, the story blew up. And in a similar case of editing for children, Lee Hall’s opera Beachedbecame national news in the United Kingdom when a school district protested to lines about queerness (spoken by an adult to an adult, even).
We’ve listed all the lyrics that the Kidz Bop version of “Born This Way” excises below:
Behind The Music is moving to Sundays starting with this week’s premiere of the can’t-miss Mary J. Blige episode. In this sneak peek, Blige reveals how her budding romance with now-husband Kendu Isaacs inspired her to combat her worsening alcohol abuse. “The best thing you can do to me? Challenge me to challenge myself,” she says, and that’s exactly what Isaacs apparently did for her. She attributes her success to “willpower” and “prayer,” and admits, “It was hard.”
Make sure to catch the full episode on Behind The Music‘s new night, Sunday, July 24th at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Despite selling more than a million copies during its first week of release, Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way is being whispered about in many industry circles as both a creative and commercial disappointment. Some have even bandied around the theory that the record is suffering because the videos for the Born This Way singles thus far (“Born This Way,” “Judas” and “The Edge Of Glory”) haven’t scaled the same heights as her previous videos, like 2010′s Video Music Award winner for Video Of The year “Bad Romance.” And if the nominations for the 2011 VMAs are any indication, this theory may not be far off.
Four other artists (Katy Perry, Adele, Kanye West, and Bruno Mars) racked up more VMA nominations this year than the Mother Monster. Katy led the way with nine total nominations (including Video Of The Year and Best Female Video), followed by Adele with seven, Kanye with six and Bruno with four.
Gaga, too, must be feeling the pressure; how else to explain the recent media blitz of the last few days? As the summer progresses, no doubt more theories will emerge as to why Gaga didn’t (an idea that our own Nick Minichino touched on recently in his essay, “Ten Years Of The Strokes And The White Stripes, And The Question Of What’s Next”). But for now, we’ll leave the Gaga analysis alone, and instead share with you the complete list of nominations for the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, which will air live on Sunday, August 28 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
Katy Perry – “Firework”
Beastie Boys – “Make Some Noise”
Tyler the Creator – “Yonkers”
Bruno Mars – “Grenade”
NEW KE$HA SONG ABOUT THE IMPENDING APOCALYPSE LEAKS ON YOUTUBE
You’ve got to hand it to the Sleazy one. Between this and “Till The World Ends,” she sure knows how to write a pop song about the end of days. [Popdust]
WHAT DOES THE CLOSING OF BORDERS MEAN FOR CLASSICAL MUSIC FANS?
When the nation’s number two bookstore chain decided to liquidate earlier this week, most of the initial attention rightly focused on the fact that 10,000 hardworking Americans are now out of a job. However, as we all know, the news cycle moves fast, and today NPR took a look at what the closure of Borders means for classical music fans. Borders sold more music in the classical genre than any other store in the nation, and apparently, classical music fans are still more apt to discover new music to purchase by traditional retail “browsing” than anything the internet has been able to replicate so far. [NPR]
Gather around, y’all … we’ve got scoop. After undergoing emergency surgery to drain an abcess from his tonsils, it’s been announced that R. Kelly is currently recovering in Northwestern Memorial Hospital in his native Chicago. Reps for the 44-year-old singer, famous for his incredible vocal ability on naughty songs like “Bump N Grind,” “Feelin’ On Yo Booty,” “Thoia Thoing” and “I’m a Flirt,” report that he’ll be “laid up indefinitely.” On this end, we certainly wish the R&B crooner a speedy recovery and hope that he can return home soon. Going under the knife is never fun, especially when the area being treated affects your livelihood!