Even short a keyboardist, a guitarist, and one of his vocalists, Saadiq proved a crack bandleader?and not just thanks to his history with Tony! Toni! Ton?! and as a member of Prince‘s touring band. Vocal sideman B.J. Kemp and the other players onstage weren’t merely hired hands but sharp musicians with whom Saadiq has a history, and whose input he sought during recording. It’s easy to forget, especially when the new jack swing epicenter was in the northeast, that Saadiq is Oakland born-and-raised, but the guitarist came up under the bay city’s twin suns: Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power.
Taylor Swift may have just released a music video two weeks ago on CMT, but while country radio has taken to “Mean,” it’s “The Story of Us” that’s been picking up steam on pop radio. So here we are, with “The Story of Us,” which literally just premiered on MTV. In fact, if you’re reading this in the first half hour it’s been posted, turn on MTV right now to see Sway interview Taylor Swift live on air and ask fan questions that have been submitted since Friday through MTV.com or via Twitter (using @MTVNews and the hashtag #AskTaylor).
But if you missed the special, you can still watch the new video, above. It’s more in the schooltime vein of “You Belong with Me”, though Swift has graduated (geddit?) to some sort of Gothic collegiate campus, though she’s still having boy trouble. Look how sweet she is:
Today is the 70th birthday of a true American legend, one Robert Allen Zimmerman. Or, as he’s more widely known, Bob Dylan. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who came in at #5 on our list of 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time, we’ve compiled a list (which, I should add, is the opinion of me and only me!) of Bob Dylan’s 70 Greatest Songs (the format of which, I should also add, was inspired by The Awl’s recurring “Listicles Without Commentary” feature).
So, what makes me equipped to rank the Dylan catalog? Well, I suppose the biggest reason is that I’ve been a fan of his for well over thirty years now. I used to spend a lot of time as a youth listening to Dylan’s Sixties era output with my father, whether it was while we were outside doing yardwork or blasting him on the car stereo while we were on road trips. Although a great deal of the subject matter was way above my head at the time, I remember pouring over his lyrics in an incredibly studious fashion well before I even finished elementary school. And as I grew older and spent more time exploring Dylan’s body of work during my college years (particularly his 1970s output) and beyond, I came to recognize all of the reasons that he’s touted as such a singular talent, one whose proflic output and cultural influence is likely never to be reproduced.
So, I’d love to hear from you guys. Did I get these right? Am I way off-base? Feel free to debate me on my choices in the comments section and I will reveal my justifications there. For now, though, it’s on with the show!
Justin Vernon‘s star has steadily risen since the release of his band Bon Iver‘s critically acclaimed 2008’s For Emma, Forever Ago. The follow-up, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, won’t be released until June 21, but the lead single “Calgary” is available for free download from the band’s website, and Vernon appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?but to perform not the single, but its B-side, his emotive take of Bonnie Raitt‘s 1991 mega-hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” with a snippet of Leon Russell‘s “A Song for You” (made famous by Donny Hathaway) as a lead-in and a bit of Raitt’s “Nick of Time” as a coda.
Vernon’s sorrowful falsetto impressed not only Fallon (who described For Emma, Forever Ago it in his interview with Vernon as a “fantastic record” to “have a couple glasses of wine, get drunk…and start crying your eyes out”) but also Kanye West, who recruited Vernon to sing the hook of “Lost in the World” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and invited him to appear onstage with West at Coachella.
MTV’s documentary Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside, which premieres Thursday, May 26th at 9pm ET, promises an exploration of how Stefani Germanotta found her way to becoming the Lady Gaga we all know so well. That’s a bit of an overstatement?the documentary is primarily based on a conversation conducted with a horned and felt-birthmarked Gaga in a single spotlight on a stage?but even in this mediated form it’s fairly revealing. A portion of the interview retreads ground covered before, as in Vanessa Grigoriadis‘s March 2010 profile of Gaga for New York, but Gaga does meet the filmmakers somewhere near halfway, plus filling in the blanks of the Gaga narrative, for example explaining that her fascination with wigs and with the permeability of her hair stemmed from her inability to get lead roles in musical theater (specifically, Adelaide in Guys and Dolls) as a brunette.
What comes across most strongly in the documentary is Gaga’s relationship with her father, a strict but supportive man who bequeathed his love of music (in particular, Bruce Springsteen) to his daughter. Gaga frames much of her early years in context of finding her own way outside of her father’s influence (but not too far): she remarks, “I needed to f**k myself up and go to ground for a couple of years” but admits that her father paid half of her rent for three of the twelve months she spent finding herself in a studio on the Lower East Side (a largely solitary experience that may have unconsciously inspired her fascination with incubation).
Another revealing aspect is the way Gaga describes herself and her fans, and their relationship. “I’m a perpetual underdog,” she says, which seems an odd thing to say when one is the most media-saturated pop star on the planet right now. Yet when she speaks of insecurity and being bullied in high school, she almost subconsciously connects this with the struggles she believes her fans might now experience, which draw them to her music. Her 2007 obsession with Rhonda Byrne‘s The Secret (per the New York piece) has evolved into a nonreligious evangelism, in which Gaga has achieved her dreams and she believes her monsters can and will do the same. Certainly this explains why Gaga can be so simultaneously annoying and compelling.
The filmmakers are currently finishing post-production?the rough cut shown today is missing an entire exploration of Gaga’s interaction with, and experience of, New York City?but even in this state it was indeed compelling. Tune into MTV on Thursday night at 9 p.m. to see the complete documentary.
As Beyonc?‘s show-stopping 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance spread across the internet yesterday, Vulture noticed that an eagle-eyed fan recognized the screen-projection portion of the choreography as strikingly similar to a performance by Italian television personality Lorella Cuccarini at the 2010 Sanremo Festival. This enterprising viewer placed the performances side by side in one video, for comparison’s sake (viewable above). But upon watching the Cuccarini performance alone, the suggestion of plagiarism gets a lot more complicated:
Death Cab for Cutie‘s new album Codes and Keys will be released a week from tomorrow, but you can hear the band perform three tracks from the album on VH1’s Storytellers: Death Cab for Cutie, this Friday night at 11 p.m. ET/PT. We’ve shared this performance of the album’s lead single with our friends at Rolling Stone (and, of course, with you). Tune into VH1 on Friday night to hear the band open up about Codes and Keys‘s title track and album closer “Stay Young, Go Dancing,” as well as tracks from four previous albums, reaching back to their 1998 debut Something About Airplanes. Read more…
Jason Derulo‘s “Don’t Wanna Go Home” premieres online on Wednesday in advance of its appearance on VH1’s Top 20 Countdown Saturday at 9 a.m. ET/PT, but we (and our MTV siblings) have an exclusive thirty-second sneak peek, which you can see above!
“Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the lead single off Derulo’s forthcoming Future History, samples the 2009 remix of Robin S.‘s early-nineties house classic “Show Me Love,” while lyrically riffing on Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”?namely “daylight comes, and we don’t wanna go home.” Written out, it sounds like an unworkable combination, but Derulo pulls it off! I mean, he is the the guy who wrote a hit single around the “Dear Sister” break, so it shouldn’t really be surprising.
With Lonely Island featured player Justin Timberlake hosting the season finale of Saturday Night Live, it’s no surprise that he and Andy Samberg reprised their roles as the “D**k in a Box” duo (the pair who may as well be called “Color Me Really Really Bad, Like, Awful”). But their riff on the “Same Girl” gets a Shyamalanian twist: the “girl” is played by none other than musical guest Lady Gaga, and she suggests the titular “3-way”: Read more…
LOWLIGHT: Britney’s feature spots themselves. It’s hard to know what to make of her enervated performances, especially when her companion was practically using his arm as a seatbelt on her when they were in the audience, and while her father is insisting she’s mentally unfit to give legal testimony, but she was handily shown up by both Rihanna and Nicki Minaj (who first came out dressed as a member of G.I. Joe nemeses C.O.B.R.A. only to have that armor stripped off her by someone in a chicken suit, and then replicated the lapdance choreography she performs on tour). This does not bode well for her upcoming tour, but more than that, we’re just worried about her!
HIGHLIGHT: Cee Lo, on the other hand, was in fine form, and we salute his continuing stylistic tributes to Elton John. ?Apparently the Muppet-“Crocodile Rock” Grammys homage wasn’t a one-off, judging by Green’s bedazzled outfit and glasses (not to mention the piano, which he didn’t appear to play at all).