Lil Wayne quietly premiered a video for “How To Love” this week, but its subject matter is such a doozy that everyone’s talking about it anyway. The lyrical lament about a girl who never learned how to love has become a message video about a stripper who contracts HIV, but who could have gone to college instead. The maudlin storyline recalls TLC‘s message videos, by way of Metallica‘s “Turn the Page,” and it certainly has its problematic aspects (most of which are succinctly addressed in a Sound of the City piece written by a stripper). For many, though, its melodrama is emotionally affecting despite its politics.
In essence, this song is Lil Wayne’s version of John Mayer‘s “Daughters.” This is not inherently a criticism; Mayer gets a bad rap, partly because of the extent to which the audience to whom he appeals is uncool (and, admittedly, partly because he doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut). The rap ballad has always gotten a bad rap, even as its exemplars have often been rappers’ best-performing songs. Even the anti-rap-ballad screed Jeff Weiss penned for The Hollywood Reporter in response to “How To Love” admits that rap ballads perform extremely well on radio and in the market. To the extent that it’s about purity of rap, his argument is not dissimilar to hair-metal fans’ distaste for those bands’ seemingly pandering ballads.
One thing’s for sure: “How To Love” is an extremely divisive video. See for yourself above and let us know what you think in the comments. Read more…
Ten years ago today, the life of pioneering R&B singer (and budding movie star) Aaliyah was cut tragically short when the Cessna 402B carrying her and eight others, including the pilot, crashed 200 feet beyond the runway in the Bahamas. Her talent is such that she is not an artist we look back on in our memories, but one whose music and influence have remained very much a part of our lives in the decade following her untimely passing. Even so, such a milestone calls for a more focused remembrance. Here at VH1 HQ, we’ve already revisited The Fader‘s reposted 2008 cover story tribute (and are rocking its attendant mixes) and for our money the best of today’s tributes comes courtesy Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, remembering Aaliyah at Life + Times:
We?d already been through the years of Janet [Jackson] and of SWV, who brought elements of hip-hop culture to R&B, but Aaliyah was the first to fuse R&B cool fully to hip-hop swagger, just in time for rap to take over the world. She transformed Tommy baggies and boxers into a look so feminine it was almost preternatural, and when she sang about desire, it was so knowing you knew she was one-upping her subject.
Joe Jonas would be incredibly happy if his career followed the same trajectory as Justin Timberlake‘s. Both started out as cogs in the Disney machine, then followed that up with successful stints in boy bands. Timberlake, as we know, was able to parlay his early stardom into a wildly successful solo career, and now Joe Jonas is trying to do the same. In an attempt to gain a new audience, he’s played in front of a bunch of egg-throwing hipsters in Williamsburg and buddied up to Jimmy Fallon, but what he really needs to break through is a hit song, preferably one with a juicy tabloid angle, à la Justin’s cool and calculated Britney takedown, “Cry Me A River.”
Jonas’ first single off his forthcoming Fast Life LP, “See No More,” stiffed; it peaked at #92 in the Billboard Hot 100. However, the single was just released in the UK last week, and the British press inquired as to whether it was directed at his ex, Taylor Swift. You may recall that Jonas dumped Swift during a 20-second phone call in 2008, an event which the heartbroken Swift eventually chronicled in the song “Forever & Always” (“Was I out of line? Did I say something way too honest / That made you run and hide like a scared little boy?”).
After listening to “See No More,” we can’t imagine why anyone would think this song about a “cold” girl who “threw it all away” is directed at the Swift (especially considering Jonas already dissed T-Swizzle on the Jonas Brothers track “Much Better”). That didn’t stop London’s press-hungry Metro from asking the question, though, which Joe flatly denied. “No, that?s not about her,” he tersely stated. “When I write songs I don?t say who they are about because I don?t want the audience to relate to what was going on with me when I wrote it. You say one thing and it becomes a big rumor.” Much to the (likely) chagrin of his publicity team charged with generating interest in his solo career, it appears that this case is closed.
LIL WAYNE SPRINGS A LEAK, THREATENS TO KIDNAP BEYONCÉ
Where’s the beef? On Lil Wayne’s just-leaked Tha Carter IV, that’s where! According to Blackbook, Weezy’s new track “It’s Good” features this bar directed towards Jay-Z: “Talkin? ?bout baby money, I got your baby money/Kidnap your b****, Get that ?how much you love your lady?” This is apparently in retaliation to a verse that Jay sung on “H.A.M.” that dissed Young Money. First Game disses Jay, now Wayne? Sh*t’s about to get real, son! [Blackbook]
JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT PAYS HOMAGE TO KURT COBAIN
The 20th anniversary of Nevermind is just around the corner, so Nirvana-mania is clearly in bloom (drum roll). At a concert in Seattle last night, the Inception star played a cover of “Lithium,” which he punctuated with this off-the-cuff dedication: “You know it seems like everytime people bring up Nirvana, people wanna talk about how Kurt Cobain killed himself. But I gotta say, it doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t matter that he’s dead, it doesn’t matter how he died, his songs are f***ing awesome, that’s what matters.” [Everybody Loves Our Town]
Remember when Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty was an innocent girl standing underneath an umbrella, before she was hollering at a “Rude Boy” to join her in some “S&M” on her “California King Bed”? Yeah, our memories of those days are getting fuzzier, too, especially if the rumors of a new Rihanna/J. Cole sex tape are true!
“We have seen it and we do not know what we are going to do with it yet,” said a rep from the Hustler empire told Radar Online. Odd J. Cole didn’t mention it when he played us his album last week, but the 26-year-old protege of Jay-Z will certainly benefit from this tabloid circus since Cole World: The Sideline Story drops next month.
Rihanna is, unfortunately, no stranger to scandal, accustomed to fending off rumors of secretly dating mentor Jay-Z and canoodling with Drake, not to mention having to endure the embarrassment caused when naked photos she sent to then-boyfriend Chris Brown were leaked. Like many stars in the public eye, the Barbadian pop star wears a target on her back for this kind of negative attention, and her music, as we jokingly alluded to in the beginning of this post, might make it easier to assume that the sex tape exists. But in all fairness, just because her songs can be boldly sexual in nature doesn’t mean we should jump to conclusions, even when taking into account that the Roc Nation-managed artists have toured together and are known to be friendly. Developing!
The 2011 VMAs are airing live from Los Angeles on Sunday night, and the latest addition to the evening’s already-stellar lineup is Tony Bennett. The 85 year-old (!) will captain what’s sure to be an emotional tribute to recently-deceased singer Amy Winehouse. Introducing a slew of performers who are currently being kept confidential by the folks in MTV’s ivory tower, we’re excited to see that Bennett, who had recently collaborated with Winehouse on a duet due this fall, “Body and Soul,” will make an appearance on the notoriously youthful VMA stage. While the majority of the MTV audience’s demographic was not yet even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes when Bennett took home his first Grammy in 1963, this certainly isn’t the first time an elder statesman has been booked on MTV’s annual celebration of the year’s best music videos. Want to see what we mean? Check out our list of the Top 5 Oldest People To Appear On-Camera at The VMAS!
5) George Clinton, 52 Years-Old (1993): George Clinton presented the Best R&B Video award alongside West Coasters Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre in ’93. Then 52 years-old, the funk innovator and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee must have been pretty psyched to hand Moonmen over to the lovely ladies of En Vogue. And the Funky Divas were most likely equally as pleased!
3) Diana Ross, 55 Years-Old (1999): Who could forget the jiggle heard ’round the world? When Mary J. Blige accompanied Lil’ Kim, Lil’ Kim’s breast, and Motown sensation Diana Ross to present the award for Best Hip-Hop in ’99, all hell broke loose! The then-55-year-old Rosstook it upon herself to, on live television, cup and jiggle Kim’s pasty-covered, partially-exposed boobie.
It’s not like we needed another reason to love Adele, but she gave us one anyway. During a recent show in Las Vegas, Adele revealed that her post-show routine involves watching Basketball Wives in her hotel room. We can totally get on board with that!
Somehow we missed this chart when Digital Music News posted it last week, but luckily Fast Company‘s Co.Design blog noticed, and shared it today. As Co.Design’s Cliff Kuang put it, “It doesn’t happen too often, but once in a blue moon a hideous chart contains such a novel conceit that we have to post it.”
So what are we looking at? Not “the music industry’s death,” as the Co.Design headline proclaims. In fact, this animation contains no information about total sales. Digital Music News simply took screenshots of the pie charts with which the Recording Industry Association of America represents its data (see this slide). This explains why the size of the pie fluctuates despite no corresponding data point (and why the occasional data point is out of frame).
Despite these interpretation-hindrances, we are sort of fascinated by the way in which the chart models the formats through which consumers purchase music: the cassette’s rise to plurality (and, briefly, slight majority) and very slow recession from market share; the CD’s complete domination (95.5% of the market share in 2002!) and swift downfall; the intransigence of the LP in the last twenty years; the rise not only of digital downloads, but also of other ways of monetizing music in the digital age (such as subscription services, which may get a bump in 2011 thanks to the launch of Spotify and other developments); and the comparative popularity of the paid single download vs. any physical single format (from 1980 onwards, physical singles commanded less than 8% of the market, but in the six years that digital downloads have been widely available for sale, they have grown to command 20% of the market). All that, and a somewhat effective use of a pie chart! Read more…
By now, OK Go’s creative video aptitude has likely made its way to your world in one way or another. Be it through your TV screen via their 2006 VMA reinactment of the attention-grabbing treadmill dance from “Here It Goes Again,” or more recently, through your inbox via either of the one-shot versions of “This Too Shall Pass,” pooch-friendly “White Knuckles,”or kaleidoscope-esque “All Is Not Lost,” it’s becoming clear that the visuals they cook up seem to continuously out-do the last. So naturally, when we got word that they’d be collaborating with The Muppets, we didn’t know what kind of madness to expect.
Muppets: The Green Album hit stores today, and besides OK Go, also features artists like Weezer, The Fray and My Morning Jacket, all covering Muppet classics that we know and love. Batting first, OK Go kick-off the album with the “Muppet Show Theme Song” and synchronized with the album’s release, liberated a video for the lively collaboration earlier today. Piggy-backing on throwback visuals from the band’s previous viral hits, the colorful clip shows some (adorable) intermingling with the entire cast of characters, and reeks of childhood-awakening, make-you-smile potential. Go ahead: press play and don’t act like you forgot about the most sen-sational, in-spir-ational, celeb-rational, Muppet-ational show that life has to offer.
If you were anywhere on the Eastern seaboard in the last hour or so, you no doubt felt the effect of an earthquake that registered 5.9 on the Richter Scale. Here in Times Square at VH1 HQ, we felt the building sway and bounce uncomfortably for a good five or six seconds. Everyone seems to be okay, if a bit freaked out.