It’s that time of year again! Between the carved pumpkins lining doorstops, shelves of candy practically disappearing overnight, and costume stores boasting Dracula, Superman, and pretty pretty princesses, there’s no doubt that Halloween is just around the corner.
This spook-tacular holiday isn’t just for kids anymore, (I mean, who doesn’t love free candy and dressing up?), and to help you get into the holiday spirit, we’re bringing you a taste of how celebrities across the country are celebrating this year. Check it out after the jump. (more…)
Something interesting recently went down atop the U.K. singles and album charts. Elton John reigned on the list of best-selling albums with a collection of 40-year-old songs, while Florence + the Machine was No. 1 on the singles chart for the first time ever. The band’s vehicle? A song that was originally produced by Paul Epworth, a regular Adele collaborator (Rolling in the Deep and He Won’t Go, the best song on 21) who had never managed to go that high in the U.K. working with the world’s biggest female pop star.
Alas, he wasn’t exactly scaling that height with Florence either”at least not alone. And therein lies the twist in this chart saga: a good beat. Those Elton John classics had been updated with a danceable 2012 electro sheen by Australian production duo Pnau on the chart-topping Good Morning to the Night, an album featuring dozens of John songs from between 1970 and 1977 crammed into eight tracks and credited to Elton John Vs Pnau, while Florence’s Epworth-produced Ceremonials track “Spectrum” was the leading single via the re-titled and remixed-by-DJ/producer Calvin Harris (for optimal under-the-strobelight consumption) “Spectrum (Say My Name) (Calvin Harris Mix).”
When Bryan Ferry sang, “Don’t stop the dance,” was this what he had in mind? Beat-driven pop where singers share star billing with the producers who boost them to the top? More than ever, the recording arts have become a producer’s medium, in much the same way that film is a director’s medium, with the behind-the-scenes talent dominating both the sound and the vision. (The stage, in singing“when it’s actually live“as in acting, remains the domain of the performer.) With a smaller pool of star producers creating a bigger bulk of the hits, pop music has become as homogenized as Hollywood blockbusters.
According to Ron Fair, a veteran music executive and producer who has worked with Christina Aguilera, Fergie and Lady Gaga, it’s a logical progression from how records are now made. A producer today is a hybrid role of producer, songwriter, and beat maker, he says. What we used to call arranging is now called making beats, so generally, the producer is the guy who walks in with the song. Back in [Beatles producer] George Martin’s and [Linda Ronstadt/James Taylor producer] Peter Asher’s day, they weren’t responsible for making songs.
Dance music, however, has always been more of a producer’s forum than middle-of-the-road pop. But with disco in the ’70s, it didn’t always show. When one remembers Donna Summer’s greatest hits, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” or Amii Stewart’s “Knock on Wood,” the spectacular vocals probably come to mind first, then the beat. (more…)
There’s something exciting about discovering an artist who not only records fantastic music, but can also perfectly duplicate their music onstage. In this auto-tune age, an artist who can rock just as hard every night in front of hundreds, sometimes thousands of fans as they do the studio”where they have multiple takes to nail that high note”is a rarity. That’s why I continue to go to live shows. Enduring all the mediocre acts is really worth it when you finally come across an exceptional talent. Vocally, I’ve always been blown away by James Taylor‘s live performance and how well he re-creates his sound live. His gentle and soothing voice translates perfectly to live performance, he is a master at utilizing the tone of his voice to mesh, but also to contrast his simple arrangements. His low-key delivery is able to captivate his audience and get them intertwined in his magnificent stories.
This was a brutal exercise, listening to at least large chunks of every Number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 for the years between 2000 and 2010 (I should have stopped at 2009, but I’m a glutton for punishment). Anyway, in order to avoid repetition, if a song was a Number 1 in more than one year (carried over from a previous year), I only considered it for the first year in which it hit the top spot. I thought I might see some kind of trend in quality of pop music, but no such luck”highs and lows abound throughout.
Best: Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Rob Thomas tries really hard to wreck this song with his awful singing, but it’s still really catchy. Sorry Rob, but I’ve come from the future to tell you that you’ll have more success offending listeners with your solo record.
Worst: The epic and universal terribleness of Arms Wide Open by Creed beats out such dreck as Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon and a song called I Knew I Loved You by a band that wrote the name Savage Garden on a piece of paper, looked at it and said, Yes. Let’s name our band that. That’s not totally stupid at all.
Dishonorable mention: Independent Women Part 1 by Destiny’s Child, for opening the song with a shout out to Charlie’s Angels, the movie in which it is featured, and for kicking off the verse with the lyric, Question: Tell me what you think about me. Yeah, that’s not a question, that’s a command. What do I think about you? I think that you’re too pushy and have a tenuous grasp on parts of speech.
So your friends cut you off from your I Am T-Pain app after they got sick of your excessive autotuning? Don’t worry! On January 24, Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am introduced the latest iPhone app designed to help fans get involved in their music.
The app, BEP360, is the first release from will.i.am’s newly-established company will.i.apps, and is available for $2.99 on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. It was developed by will.i.apps and Metaio, a company that develops augmented reality software. The first app of its kind, BEP360 gives fans the ability to control a 360° music video for the Peas’ The Time (Dirty Bit). It allows users to fully immerse themselves in video by swinging their phone around an axis. The app also gives users a chance to direct a virtual photo shoot with will.i.am and bandmates Fergie, apl.de.ap and Taboo. Other features include a Black Eyed Peas-inspired puzzle game and the ability to view and share comments with other BEP360 users.
According to a January 24 press release, the new Black Eyed Peas app will allow artists to connect with their fans on another level. Will.i.apps and the BEP360 app have been established to help artists tap into the potential of our hyper-connected mobile world and bring fans deeper inside the music far beyond a four minute audio recording, will.i.am explains. The release also states that BEP360 is only the first of several upcoming applications from will.i.apps that will converge the worlds of creativity, music and advanced digital technologies. Of course, we’d expect nothing less from a guy who recently signed on as Intel’s new Director of Creative Innovation. And hey “ maybe the app will distract people from the Peas’ underwhelming Super Bowl performance.
For more information about will.i.apps and BEP360, check out the company’s Web site.
New Arcade Fire video brings it home … to your home
Remember when Arcade Fire came out with that incredible (and creepy) interactive video for Neon Bible and we all thought THERE’S NO WAY THEY CAN TOP THIS. Well, Montreal’s finest just topped that. Check out their interactive video for We Used to Wait, which uses Google Maps to incorporate your childhood home address into the footage. Customized nostalgia. There’s no way they can top that ¦ right?
Kanye releases another track on his Web site
This one is called Monster and features an eclectic all-star lineup of Nicki Minaj, Justin Vernon from Bon Iver, Jay-Z and Rick Ross. What happens when indie-folk and hip hop collide? Find out here.
John Lennon’s toilet sells for $15,000
That’s a lot of money for a porcelain throne, even if it once belonged to rock royalty. No butts about it.
Guns N’ Roses bomb at Leeds & Reading
Unless you’re easily shocked, the following will come as no surprise. Guns N’ Roses performance at England’s Leeds and Reading festivals left a lot to be desired. Like, for instance, punctuality. The band showed up an hour late to Reading and had to cut their performance short due to strict curfew laws. A few days later they repeated the tardiness at Leeds and were cut short again. Axl Rose took to Twitter to explain to fans, claiming there was a deal in place for the band to continue after curfew and someone wasn’t informed, [someone] changed their mind … or [it] was a con. By most reports, the performances were terrible, so thank goodness for cons and curfews.
Taylor Momsen is drinking the haterade
Taylor Momsen may have begun her career as the adorable Cindy Lou, but she’s become quite the Grinch in her off-camera life. Trying a little too hard to be tough and anti-establishment, the Pretty Reckless singer has spat the haterade out at Miley Cyrus, public toilets, Rihanna and her band name. We kind of hate that last one, too.
- Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, Patti Smith play benefit for West Memphis 3
- Lady Gaga debuts new song Living On The Radio
- Slash and Fergie play Sunset Strip Music Festival
- Noel Gallagher keeps it fat & funky for Paul Weller
- Jeff Tweedy thinks Jeff Tweedy Day is stupid
- Robert Plant done with hard rock
- Hayley Williams gets interviewed by Tegan and Sara