We’re still bummed that John Mayer was forced to put his plans to tour in support of his upcoming album Born And Raised on hold while he recovers from a pesky throat condition, but we’re glad to see that he hasn’t gone fully dormant. On his Tumblr site last night, he debuted an instrumental cover of Lana Del Rey‘s “Video Games.” As if that song weren’t already haunting enough as is, there’s an otherworldly echo that runs throughout Mayer’s dubbed, guitar-only version of the song. It’s got almost an old-timey western feel to it, like something you’d hear in a saloon while drinking a beer and listening for someone to whistle your name. It’s sort of the perfect way to start de-stressing in the last few minutes before the siren blows on this Friday afternoon, signaling the close of another work week. In other words, this is our idea of fun.
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.
Although I try to be colorblind in both my life and musical travels, I can’t help but notice when people applaud a Caucasian dude—especially one outside of the hip-hop genre—when they’re able to deliver rhymes at breakneck speeds. If “white men can’t jump,” I guess they’re not supposed to be able to rhyme either, huh?
In hip-hop, Caucasian MC’s are called “white rappers,” as documented on VH1’s 2007 reality venture The White Rapper Show, but what do you call a white boy who can spit fire on the microphone, one whose music comes from another genre altogether?
For the sake of this list, let’s call them the 10 Greatest (Non-Hip-Hop) White-Male Rhymers of the last quarter century:
10. Andy Grammer
Try singing Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head” the next time you’re at a karaoke bar and you’ll realize how nimble he is on the microphone.
9. Billy Joel
The Piano Man makes this list solely on the merit of “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” not to mention that the Beastie Boys once named Billy Joel as The Fifth Beastie Boy.
8. Pat Monahan
We all know Pat Monahan can croon, but lately, especially on Train‘s last two albums, he shows agility with his rhyme-flow as well.
The Seattle scene of the late eighties and early nineties produced some of the most beloved rock bands not just of the last twenty years, but of all-time. The influence and impact that acts like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains had on the world of music, both artistically and commercially, cannot really be overstated. However, there is far more to the “grunge” story than just the rise and fall of these four bands, as author Mark Yarm goes to very impressive lengths to chronicle is his new book Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History Of Grunge (now available in handy paperback form!)
Over the course of three years and change, Yarm interviewed over 250 key players in the Seattle scene of that now historic era, everyone from superstars like Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Courtney Love, to the owners of the storied Sub Pop record label, to bands like the U-Men and the Melvins that were very influential in the scene but never quite broke on a national level in the way that the Big Four did. The book was named one of the Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2011 by no less an authority than Time Magazine, and is full of so many entertaining stories and thrilling anecdotes that we have read it cover-to-cover TWICE. You should do the same!
We recently sat down with ELOT author Mark Yarm over a cocktail or two in Brooklyn and talked about many subjects relating to the book, everything ranging from what it’s like to receive manic phone calls from Courtney Love, to Seattle’s well-documented infatuation with heroin, to the “missed opportunity” that was Cameron Crowe‘s Pearl Jam Twenty.
VH1: One of the things that everyone, including myself, finds so impressive about this book is the comprehensiveness. You talked to virtually every major player in the Seattle scene. How did you go about convincing people that you were the person who could tackle this story?
Mark Yarm: The general rule of thumb was that the further away from the white hot epicenter of the grunge explosion of the early nineties, the easier it was. I had the Blender piece that this emerged from, which was an oral history of Sub-Pop on the occasion of their 20th anniversary in 2008. I had already spoken to a lot of the players, and that was a good calling card for me. Some people didn’t talk to me, most notably Pearl Jam since they had their own book coming out. They’re usually not the most accessible guys, anyway. I had spoken to Jeff [Ament] and Stone [Gossard] for the Blender piece, and I also talked to Matt Cameron through the Soundgarden people. I spoke to all their previous drummers, who, if you’ve seen the Cameron Crowe documentary [PJ20], they didn’t bother talking to those guys. They just kind of gloss over them in a funny interstitial.
Chris Cornell is one of the figures in the book that gets some crap because he was always ripping his shirt off. A lot of people, including people in his own band, didn’t like that he presented himself in that way. What was your sense of him, and did he ever tell you why he chose to be the shirtless guy?
There was a Mudhoney song, the song that this book gets its title after, called “Overblown.” It takes kind of a veiled jab at him (“And you’re up there, shirtless and flexin’ / Display of a macho freak”). I asked him about that song, and it didn’t really bother him. If you’re gonna be The Shirtless Guy, you gotta own it, I guess?
I don’t know, I’ve never been The Shirtless Guy!
Me neither! Not since infancy. But yeah, it was a small bone of contention because it was so ostentatious, and this was a scene that in many ways —not all ways, but in many ways— rejected that as “rock star behavior.”
Sometime during the wee hours of the morning last night, Kanye West dropped a new song, “Theraflu”, on an unsuspecting populus. We say unsuspecting not because Yeezy is anything other than prolific, but because NO ONE HAD ANY IDEA IT WAS COMING. (And, judging by the speed from which copies of this song are disappearing from the Internet, we’re guessing he didn’t, either.)
Not much is known about the eventual home for the song —Will it end up on his rumored G.O.O.D. Music compilation? Is this a leaked DJ Khaled track? Is it something that Funkmaster Flex simply WILLED into existence?— but what everyone does know is that Kanye is using the song to woo Kim Kardashian. “Can I have a bad bitch without no flaws / come to meet me without no drawers?”, Ye opines early on in the track, before confessing that said bad bitch is none other than the recently divorced Kimmy K. “And now I admit I fell in love with Kim / Around the same time she fell in love with him,” Yeezy raps, “Well that’s cool babygirl, do your thing / Lucky I ain’t had Jay drop him from the team.” The “him” he’s referring to here is, of course, Kris “The Hump” Humphries, who plays for the New Jersey Nets under owner Jay-Z. Well, a quick check of ESPN.com shows The Hump is still gainfully employed, but that doesn’t mean that Kanye’s braggadocious ways didn’t end up paying off.
Quite the opposite, in fact: According to TheFABLife, Kanye and Kim have been on one long, very public date all day long today. A date that included a stop by FAO Schwartz, no less! Just as he prophesied in “Theraflu”, we can almost guarantee that Kanye’s romp is going to be headline material for tomorrow’s Paris News!
Season 10 of That Metal Show got off to a thrashing start last week when Lars Ulrich (Metallica) and Robb Flynn (Machine Head) stopped by to hang with Eddie, Don and Jim. (Did you miss it? No sweat, you can watch it online right now!)
As you’ve come to expect, more great guests will be stopping by the set this week. Specifically, we’ve got Scott Ian (Anthrax) stopping by, Jack Russell (Great White), Brian Tichy on the drums, and we also welcome back Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member Alice Cooper (who, as you’ll learn in our video clip above, apparently once pointed a loaded gun at Elvis!). The new episode of That Metal Show airs this Saturday at 11/10c on VH1 Classic.
Jim Marshall, founder and namesake of Marshall Amplification, died Thursday morning at the age of 88 after a prolonged illness. His innovations changed both the sound and appearance of guitar amplifiers and had a profound effect on rock from the 1960s to the present day. The “Marshall stack,” two square cabinets containing four 12″ inch speakers each stacked on top of one another with the actual amplifier in a separate unit on top, became the ubiquitous symbol of loud and dangerous rock n’roll and the actual sound of Marshall amplifiers matched their imposing visage.
That appears to be the case! In addition to sharing a bunch of awesome photos with the world on her brand new Tumblr, Beyoncé has posted a video of herself discussing the origins of her daughter Blue Ivy Carter’s name. Nope, haters, it’s not a shout-out to the Illuminati; rather, it seems that Beyonce stumbled upon a beautiful sight while walking through the woods in Jamaica (apparently on the same trip where she showed her bare, controversial baby bump for the first and only time for the cameras).
“Woke up this morning, we took a nice little walk, and passed by this beautiful tree,” Beyoncé tells the cameraman in the video above, who is most definitely Jay-Z (you can clearly hear him say “Go” at the very beginning of the video). “I think it’s Blue Ivy, which would be quite appropriate.”
So, there you have it! Beyoncé and Jay-Z named their daughter after a tree. We’re just glad they didn’t walk by a Weeping Willow tree that morning! Then again, maybe that’s what inspired Will and Jada Pinkett Smith?
If you are an active member of the Tumblr community, your dashboard has no doubt been taken over this morning by Beyoncé. King B herself launched beyonce.tumblr.com this morning, a site that is chock full of pictures of Bey and her hubby Jay-Z enjoying the good life (and their untold riches) over the last few years. As you’ll recall, the couple decided to release the first pics of baby Blue Ivy Carter on the rapidly growing social blogging platform recently, which makes us think that they have invested some of their beacoup bucks in the site.
Either way, there are dozens upon dozens of pictures of B and J on the new site. Pictures of them smoking Cubanos together, relaxing in the French Riviera and just generally goofing off. There’s a bunch of solo Beyoncé pics, too, including her dressed up as Spiderman (Spiderwoman?), and even some snaps of her buried in the sand looking like the fly-est mermaid you ever did see. We’ve picked our 20 favorite pictures to share with you below, but be sure to head over to beyonce.tumblr.com and check them all out for yourself!
Norah Jones describes her video for “Happy Pills”, the first single off her forthcoming …Little Broken Pieces LP, as “a murder-not-so-much-of-a-mystery.” By our count, it’s the second music video to premiere in the last month that deals with females exacting revenge on men who did them dirty. However, unlike Brandy and Monica‘s “It All Belongs To Me” video (where the only victims are a man’s pride and a rather expensive Porsche), Norah takes it a step further and straight up MURDERS her cheatin’ hubby. Guess she really meant the “Until death do us ‘part” portion of her vows, eh?
Let’s talk about this chain of events for a moment! If we understand the video correctly, Norah suspects that her husband is making time behind her back with a ginger seductress, so she hires a private detective to investigate the matter. Said P.I. —who, quite frankly, is no Magnum— brings Norah back a picture of a redhead who accompanied Mr. Jones (let’s just call him that) on a picnic. Not a picture of them kissing (or even a pirated RedTube video of them doing the nasty!), mind you, just a picture of the girl’s face! Norah, it’s fair to say, WILDLY overreacts: She chloroforms Mr. Jones after a front-seat makeout sesh, then pushes his car and his unconscious body into a lake, where he presumably drowns. THEN she lies to the cops, calls her ginger rival on the phone to rub it in, and then invites her male accomplice over for dinner and some Michelle Pfieffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys action on top of her piano. Call us crazy if you must, but we’re pretty glad that the Ghost of Mr. Jones is haunting his ex for all eternity! Let’s hope he doesn’t heed her pleas of “Please just let me go now.”
MARY J. BLIGE TURNS HER BACK ON CRISPY CHICKEN SNACK WRAPS
We stand by our initial feelings of appreciation for the Queen of Hip Hop Soul’s new commercial for Burger King, mainly because we’ve never seen MJB be so self-effacing before. However, no matter her station in life, drama always seems to find her. She tells TMZ that “I agreed to be a part of a fun and creative campaign that was supposed to feature a dream sequence. Unfortunately, that’s not what was happening in that clip.” [TMZ]
MARY, FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH, THE BARENAKED LADIES ARE FANS, TOO!
Ed Robertson and Tyler Stewart of the Barenaked Ladies appeared on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live this morning and declared their appreciation for the new commercial. They even worked a few references to the commercial into their hit, “One Week”! [VH1.COM]