Last night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, T.I. hooked up with The Roots to perform “Ball,” the lead single off his brand new album Trouble Man: Heavy Is the Head. And while he may have been short his collaborator Lil Wayne, he was in no way lacking in energy. The self-proclaimed Trouble Man, keeping it simple in a grey sweatshirt and a single (though thick!) gold chain around his neck, and his hype man threw themselves around the stage all aflutter while spitting as assuredly as ever. Seriously, if there were a way to capture whatever it was T.I. did on that stage last night, you could probably provide power to at least Atlanta, but probably the greater metro area, as well. And then T.I. could take a break from music, take a break from all his television and movie gigs and still be watching those bottles, those models and those stacks multiply. That said, can you blame him for being so excited? We couldn’t, because this song gets us going, too.
This month we will shine the You Oughta Know spotlight on Allen Stone, an emergent soul singer-songwriter from Washington state who has forgone sleep in an effort to earn your attention. Or at least so he sings in “Sleep,” and given his recent grind — complete with stops at Leno and VH1 Big Morning Buzz Live, as well as that new music video he cut — we’re inclined to believe him.
This morning Stone dropped by The Ellen Show for a mid-morning howling of his aforementioned hustlers anthem. In her introduction, Ellen accurately likened him to Stevie Wonder and to Amy Winehouse, and we might add that he showed up in a Whitney Houston tee that looked rather well loved, which may explain some of his gospel tendencies. There weren’t any stars up in the early hour, but that didn’t seem to stop him from aiming high with his performance. And as always, he nailed it.
The thing about Ed Sheeran is that, the first time one of his songs comes up on Pandora, it may not sound all that different than any of the other singer-songwriter-y jams that populate your Paolo Nutini channel. He’s a talented songwriter –just ask Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber, who has apparently enlisted his help for his acoustic album — but what really sets Sheeran apart is his stage show, where he expertly loops his vocals and guitar riffs into a full band’s worth of sound. He didn’t do that last night when he performed his Grammy-nominated anti-drug anthem “The A Team” on Jimmy Kimmel Live, but his heartfelt but bare-boned performance was the perfect way to show off his chops to a late night audience that may be less familiar with the work he’s done with the One Direction cuties.
We’ve watched proudly as our former You Oughta Know star has climbed the Billboard (“The A Team” is currently ranking at #16 on the Hot 100) and iTunes (+ ranks at 20 on the album chart) charts over the past few months, thanks in part to his friends in high places, and when he earned his first Grammy nod (that he did himself). A few more fine showings like this and 2013 is his for the taking.
Last night before Cassadee Pope was crowned the winner of Season 3 of The Voice (congrats!), Rihanna and Bruno Mars hit the stage to show of their most definitive voices. These two have been been making the competition show rounds this season — recently: Rihanna killing it on The X Factor UK, Mars bringing down the house on The X Factor — and sounding pretty great on all of the stages. Last night was no exception, Rihanna literally shinning bright and beautiful while performing “Diamonds” in a black bedazzled jumpsuit (above); and a dashing and sunglass shaded Mars singing his gutting new ballad, “When I Was Your Man” (below). Pope would be wise to take some cues from these two, because — see how easy they make sounding so good seem? They’ve got this down pat.
Earlier this week Bruno Mars‘ slick “Locked Out of Heaven” bumped Rihanna‘s “Diamonds” from the top spot to take #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and last night he took it out for a celebratory spin on The X Factor, a show that seems to have played host to many of our favorite live performances as of late. Artists seem to have embraced competition show’s stage as a place to put on flashy show (see: Taylor Swift‘s Joni Mitchell biopic audition) and a place to sing exceptionally well (see: Rihanna’s rave, Ke$ha’s glitter storm). Mars, an artist who is as good at performing hits as he is at writing them, proved no exception, blowing “Locked” to epic proportions and executing it perfectly on last night’s results show.
Mars brought with him his dancing backing band and a vivid red and green and yellow light show, as well his calling card fedora and his A-game. Mars is the sort of artist who sticks to the script, but last night he indulged some of the song’s more gripping moments. See for example the “you bring me to my knees / you make me testify” bit, which had him really flexing. Probably he earned himself another week at the top of the charts!
Allen Stone really means it when he says he spends his nights howling at the moon. Last night the up-and-coming soul star and our January You Oughta Know artist hit the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he gave his fellow late night howlers a show that was sure not to put them to “Sleep.”
The 25-year-old Washington native took the stage with his signature blonde curls tucked under a fedora, and with three backup singers and a backing band that counted an organist among its members. They were super concise, and Stone sort of bounces around the stage seemingly possessed by the jaunty and inspiring Allen Stone single. His father’s church that he began his career singing in is dwarfed by the Leno stage, and we suspect this guy will soon be playing even bigger, so apparently all those nights spent shooting at the stars have paid off. If Stone sleeps until noon today like he says he does in the song, he’s well earned the extra hours.
Allen Stone — “Sleep” 12/11 Leno [AudioPerv]
Last night, Ke$ha debuted her new single “C’Mon” on The X Factor in a pair of leather thigh high boots and with her bottle-blonde mane teased big. For most of the performance she stood alone on a platform, rolling around on the ground and performing stripper moves while singing astoundingly well. There were some lasers and projections of planets and tigers, but it seemed pretty pared down for a natural maximalist like K$. Until the song’s final breakdown that is, at which point her glowing palms summoned a troupe of foxes and a flurry of glitter. Phew! That’s our girl — a little rowdy, a little raunchy and a lot rock star. If Ke$ha wanted to do this every night we would certainly watch.
Jimmy Fallon‘s “Music Room” jams are quickly becoming one of our favorite late-night franchises. Over the summer, Fallon and his house-band, The Roots, helped Carly Rae Jepsen perform “Call Me Maybe” with only kindergarten classroom instruments, to a totally charming effect; and just last month, they did it again with Christina Aguilera‘s “Your Body” and a bunch of office supplies. The schtick is good, and last night it got better when Fallon and company welcomed Mariah Carey and her adorable children’s choir for what has to be the cutest rendition of Mimi’s modern classic “All I Want For Christmas is You” ever performed.
The only way we can imagine this being more festive is if they somehow had found a way to work a “Rudolph” break-down into it. Darkman, you busy?
All fall Taylor Swift has worked hard — like, her face on pizza boxes and every magazine and in your pharmacy and on your television every day hard — to promote Red‘s release, and even though she has already moved more albums than everybody not named Adele this year, she’s still keeping on working hard. This week alone she made stops at the 2012 ARIA Awards, on Fifi & Jules and TODAY in Australia, and then back stateside today on Ellen. Whew! We’re exhausted just thinking about Taylor’s schedule, but we’re definitely not tired of watching her perform. In these weeks since Red‘s release she’s been really good at mixing up her song choice, alternating between “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Begin Again,” “Red,” “State of Grace” and “I Knew You Were Trouble,” new to the mix after last week’s American Music Awards.
All that in short: Taylor stays being all over our televisions and we stay being interested. Here’s a quick rundown of this week in Taylor Swift televised performances.
Where’s that “Umbrella” when you need it? Miraculously still on her feet after her whirlwind 777 Tour, Rihanna turned up on The X-Factor UK for a rather damp performance. Things began simple, the stage dark save for a glowing Rihanna in a curve hugging black gown and it seemed like she was going to play it straight and just sing. But then she made it rain, and not metaphorically, like she does in Unapologetic‘s dark strip club anthem “Pour It Up” — we’re talking literal raindrops falling from somewhere high above the X-Factor stage that left her dripping wet. She’s not the kind of girl that let’s a little mess slow her down though, and she belted her chart topper straight through to the end before breaking to wring her hair out.