Each week here on VH1 Tuner, ourVH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer’s Spotlight with us. Your regularly scheduled Top 20 Video Countdown show is on a break until 2012, but be sure to tune into the Top 40 Videos of 2011 tomorrow evening when it airs on VH1 at 7 p.m. ET/PT. This week Jim gives us his top 10 albums of 2011.
10.) Love & Rockets, Vol. 1: The Transformation, Murs
Sometimes Murs’ albums have the propensity of being too laid back, but on Love & Rockets he strikes a nice balance, weaving between more chilled out tracks like “Remember 2 Forget” and heavier callouts like “Let’s Go.” The highlight of the album though is its closing track “Animal Style,” the boldest hip-hop song I’ve heard about homosexuality (which sadly, is traditionally never discussed in hip-hop).
9.) The Road From Memphis, Booker T. Jones
Indeed, this is the same Booker T. from Booker T. & the MG’s, an outfit responsible for making one of the greatest instrumentals in modern music: “Green Onions.” Jones’ trademark Hammond organ licks backed by The Roots’ rhythm section and legendary funk/soul guitarist, Dennis Coffey, play out splendidly on the all-too-fun covers of Lauryn Hill’s “Everything Is Everything,” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” and Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend.” And not to diss, but Lou Reed’s collaboration with Jones on “The Bronx” sounds better than anything he did with Metallica this year.
8.) Watch The Throne, Kanye West & Jay Z
At the beginning of 2011 word on the street was that Kanye West & Jay Z were going to release an album together, while Dr. Dre was set to put out the final recording of his stellar career. I was skeptical of both, but at year’s end I’m happy to say we did get a solid debut from hip-hop’s premiere super-group, although I’m still waiting for Dre’s Detox, which is quickly, or slowly, becoming hip-hop’s version of Chinese Democracy.
Because December is a month full of year-end lists, for your blog-viewing pleasure, today I give you my favorite singles of 2011:
10.) “Blow,” Ke$ha
Yes, this single was featured on Ke$ha’s 2010 mini-LP, Cannibal, but the track didn’t fully explode (or blow-ow-ow) until the beginning of this year. Because “Blow” stayed away from Ke$ha’s polarizing sing-annunciate-rap formula, it became her first single that I couldn’t stop listening to.
9.) “Michael Jackson,” Das Racist
For some reason, underground/indie-minded hip-hoppers tend to shy away from slick production and repetitive hooks, but on “Michael Jackson” Das Racist embrace these elements with fantastic results.
8.) “Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys
Dan and Pat of The Black Keys add bass and keys to their two-man sound, creating one of the most fun rock tracks of the year (which will surely still be in heavy rotation come 2012).
Halloween is tonight, but if youâ€™re not an adolescent kid daydreaming of packing your pillowcase full of Snickers bars, youâ€™ll probably be out and about looking to celebrate. While youâ€™re stepping into your costume, click on these music videos that will surely entertain the ghoulish music fan within you:
10) Peaches, “Trick Or Treat”
If youâ€™re familiar with Peaches, then you know this trick-or-treating party is for adults only.
9) Lady Gaga, “Telephone”
Itâ€™s always Halloween in Gagaâ€™s world; soda cans in her hair only confirms it!
Ever heard of Cage the Elephant? They’re a young rock band from Kentucky whose second album Thank You Happy Birthday was critically acclaimed but popularly ignored earlier this year. There’s no home for the band on the radio, and yet there the band was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno yesterday.?
This isn’t a story of “indie band makes good,” though?at least, not exactly. See, Cage the Elephant is signed to Jive, which may be why the American indie-rock world remains inexplicably uninterested in what otherwise fits the bill perfectly: nineties-inspired, thoughtful alt-rock. Sardonic pop critic Chris Weingarten recently started a Twitter list of “major label bands no one listens to” that included the band, along with their tourmates Manchester Orchestra.
We’re not sure how much the Leno billing did for Cage the Elephant?the band’s (mostly young) fans aren’t necessarily the Tonight Show‘s audience, nor vice versa?but we’d like to hope otherwise. As weird as it still feels to be pulling for a young band on a major label, we know that there are few things a major label can do for a young guitar-rock band these days. One is to write the check for an eye-catching music video (see Manchester Orchestra‘s VMA-nominated “Simple Math”); another is to shoot for exposure via, say, a prime late-night booking. (Another is to get a good tour opening slot, but Foo Fighters are pretty picky about whom they’ll bring on tour, so we suspect that booking had little to do with the label.) We’re crossing our fingers that the Tonight Show audience liked their performance as much as we did. ?