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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Can D'Angelo Save Contemporary R&B's Soul?

D’Angelo who?

If you’re a music lover of a certain age, too young to remember when contemporary R&B wasn’t joined at the hips with rap, or didn’t come dressed up in a shimmering electro-pop sheen, we’ll forgive you for asking.

Now let the history lesson begin! Flashback to 1995, back when 21-year-old D’Angelo (born Michael Eugene Archer) was quickly becoming one of the hottest things in music. Released that year, his debut album, Brown Sugar, helped usher in the era of neo soul, and with Voodoo, his long-delayed 2000 sophomore album, for whose “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” video he bared both body and soul (literally!), he became an R&B rarity: a sex symbol capable of seducing both fans and critics with his bulging talent.

The only way was up, it seemed. But instead of ascending, D’Angelo dropped out. In some ways, it wasn’t so surprising. When I met D’Angelo in the mid-˜90s before a taping of MTV Unplugged, I was immediately disarmed by his cheerful but low-key and unassuming manner. He easily could have passed as any guy in the audience who’d wandered into the performer’s circle by mistake”and I mean that as a compliment. Modesty in a hunky package, D’Angelo, unlike the egocentric superstars crowding the charts today, clearly wasn’t in it for the star trip. Whether sitting at the piano or plucking a guitar, he was playing for love of the game, not the “F.A.M.E.” and “Fortune” (to quote the crass titles of the two most recent albums by Chris Brown, D’Angelo’s modern-day antithesis).

After taking five years to release his sophomore effort, D’Angelo spent the next decade well outside of the spotlight, only making occasional scattered appearances on leaked songs and other people’s records (including Mark Ronson’s Record Collection). And like so many musical geniuses before and after, he was plagued by demons, which may or may not have shaken up his turbulent romance with fellow singer Angie Stone, the mother of his teenage son Michael, and which definitely led to several legal scrapes, including a 2005 arrest for drunk driving and drug possession, and another in 2010 for soliciting a female undercover police officer for sex in New York City.  (more…)

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Bonnaroo rocks again

Bonnaroo was this past weekend, and there were many moments that were to be expected: Radiohead was stunning, Eminem was fierce, Danzig tried to punch out a photographer. Then there were the surprises”The Root’s tribute to MCA, Alice Cooper performing Born This Way and, best of all, the return of D’Angelo. The R&B singer, who’s been out of the spotlight for 12 years, was introduced by ?uestlove during The Roots’ set, and took the audience through classics by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, and Parliament. Watch him perform She Came in Through the Bathroom Window below.

Glen Campbell, Josh Homme star in A Better Place

Glen Campbell’s video for A Better Place is nothing if not poignant. In it, the country singer, who is battling Alzheimer’s, flips through photos of his life, reminiscing about the good times as Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age hovers nearby. A Better Place is intended to be Campbell’s last video, and is the single off his final album Ghost On The Canvas. Just listen to the line Some days I’m so confused Lord, my past gets in my way, and try not to get teary-eyed. We failed.

The Bad

Lady Gaga strikes back

After being hit with a pole wielded by a backup dancer during her concert in Auckland and suffering a mild concussion and black eye, you’d think things get better for Lady Gaga. But NOOOOO, along comes Madonna with a couple of kicks to the singer while she’s down. Gaga responded to Madonna’s jabs during her Auckland concert”and she did it while PLAYING A KEYBOARD MOTORCYCLE, people! Check it out below. Oh, and Gaga, we think the black eye looks boss.

Coney Island high school bans patriotic song, not Bieber

George Washington is rolling over in his grave at this one. Greta Hawkins, principal of PS90 in Coney Island, banned kindergarteners from singing Proud To Be An American at their commencement ceremony, deeming the lyrics too grown up. But she let the class perform Justin Bieber’s Baby, naturally. You know, cause the lyrics Are we an item / Girl quit playin‘ are totally age-appropriate for a five year old.

The Ugly

Lauryn Hill in trouble for tax evasion

Did you want to know the whole story behind Lauryn Hill’s refusal to pay taxes for two years? Neither did we. But the singer felt compelled to write a meandering explanation on why she didn’t pay taxes on her $1.8 million income. If you feel like reading a bunch of bull, knock yourself out.

Kanye West chastises Dubliners

When Dubliners throw coins, Kanye West throws shade. The rapper stopped his show after discovering someone had thrown a coin up on stage, and then blamed the coin for messing up his flow, saying Don’t throw no hard sh** onstage. Yeah guys, only the soft variety, please.

Miscellany

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Soundcheck: D’Angelo To Make Triumphant Return?

A brutal battle with fame, addiction, and an almost fatal car crash fueled an eleven-year, self-inflicted isolation. Now, D’Angelo is preparing to release his first album in over a decade.

His debut album, Brown Sugar launched him into super-stardom in 1995 and helped the neo-soul movement gain real traction on the mainstream. His single Lady peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was a major commercial success. He appeared on Lauryn Hill‘s track Nothing Even Matters, from her groundbreaking album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and recorded his hit single Devil’s Pie for the film Belly in 1998. To top it off, he fathered a child with fellow neo-soul star Angie Stone.

D’Angelo’s sophomore album Voodoo debuted at #1 in 2000 and won two Grammy Awards for Best R&B Album and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.  It was ranked #488 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. The album’s second single, Untitled (How Does It Feel), was nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards and is ranked #44 on VH-1’s list of 100 Greatest Videos Of All Time.

He seemed to be on top of the world when he suddenly vanished from the public eye. Rumors of drug addiction swirled and D’Angelo all but disappeared, abandoning his place among music’s elite. In a recent interview with GQ, Michael D’Angelo’ Archer finally let the world in on the dark hole he’s been hiding in for the last twelve years.

(more…)

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

New MGMT song, gratis!

MGMT

For those who got MGMT fever listening to their vocals on Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness, the wait is (almost) over. Today MGMT released the first track off their upcoming surfer pop album, Congratulations. This one is called Flash Delirium and it is available FREE FOR DOWNLOAD on the band’s Web site. Dance, little children, dance.

The Bad

Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous takes own life

Mark Linkous

The music industry lost another world-weary hero this week. First Vic Chesnutt, and now Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse” a frequent Chesnutt collaborator. Linkous reportedly died from a self-inflicted stab wound outside a friend’s home in Tennessee. As Sparklehorse, Linkous released 4 studio albums (with a 5th on the way), toured with Radiohead and collaborated with the likes of Tom Waits, PJ Harvey and, most recently, Danger Mouse. The duo was entrenched in a legal dispute with Danger Mouse’s record label, EMI, for the rights to release their album Dark Night of the Soul, but had recently reached an agreement.

On a personal note, I interviewed Linkous after the release of his stunning 2001 album, It’s a Wonderful Life, at his farm in Virginia, and found the man behind the musical genius to be a quiet, gentle soul who entertained all my fumbling questions with grace and kindness. R.I.P., Mark.

The Ugly

Bieber rips off Raaaaaaaandy?

Justin Bieber

Could it be true? Through his alter ego, Raaaaaaaandy (yeah, that’s 8 A’s), comedian Aziz Ansari has accused Justin Bieber of ripping off his song Baby, Baby in the teen idol’s current hit, Baby. According to the re-enactment footage, Bieber stole the music and lyrics after pistol whipping poor Raaaaaaaandy in the studio. That’s so Bieber! Check out the Funny Or Die clip here.

Miscellany

¢ Wayne Coyne wants Justin Timberlake for new Flaming Lips movie
¢ D’Angelo goes to the clink for soliciting sex
¢ T.I. back with new track, I’m Back
¢ Lil Wayne gets sentenced (finally) to a year in jail
¢ Eminem & Lil Wayne video for Drop the World
¢ Jay Z documentary in the works
¢ Mary J. Blige gets the led out with more Zeppelin covers