Girls, send this list to your significant other. Boys, pay attention. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if the rows of heart shaped candy boxes and giant red teddy bears lining supermarket shelves haven’t clued you in, we’re here to remind you….again. Valentine’s Day may be one of the more ridiculous holidays that we honor, but nevertheless, here we are. And in truth, we’ll take any excuse to provide you with an awesome playlist. So scroll down and get into the Valentine’s Day mood. Romance, love, and plenty of sap. (more…)
The holidays are a time for friends, family, baked goods, and of course, the release of cover songs from some of your favorite artists past and present. From fun.‘s recent cover of Sleigh Ride all the way back to the days of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, our playlist has a little something for everyone.
Listen to our playlist below and let us know your choices for best holiday cover in the comments.
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In contrast to the weird wordplay that has become the trademark of his verses, Lil Wayne has gotten used to talking fairly straight recently. When asked about his appearance on the opening track of 2 Chainz’ latest album, Based on a T.R.U. Story, Wayne admitted to MTV News, “I’m very upset at that, just so everybody knows, he put me on that. I sound wack as hell on there.” Wayne claimed that he was just fooling around in the studio without the knowledge that 2 Chainz would actually use the lines he recorded. Sorry, Lil Tunechi. Apparently whatever you say on the mic is fair game when 2 Chainz is on the boards.
During that same interview, when asked about his recent performance in New York, Wayne responded, “Flat out, I don’t like New York.” This seemingly innocuous comment immediately incited passionate responses from lovers of the Big Apple. New York emcee Donny Goines quickly took to the mic to record a scathing diss track aimed at Wayne entitled, appropriately, “Fuck Lil Wayne (Flat Out I Don’t Like You).” Even state Senator Malcolm Smith weighed in, holding a press conference in Times Square to publicly voice his disapproval of Wayne’s comments and demand an official apology. Mr. Smith offered the following response to Wayne: “If you don’t like New York, you don’t have to come to New York. You don’t have to sell your products here, and perhaps we won’t come to your concerts. I love this city.” He also asserted, oddly, “He should also know, anecdotally or not, that he has also insulted the memory of Frank Sinatra.” We doubt Ol’ Blues Eyes would take offense. Though it’s possible the crumb might have ended up with a smack in the mouth, Charley. Sadly we’ll never know. Check out the senator’s press conference below.
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Life is full of surprises, and sometimes, so is pop music. In recent weeks, it’s recovered its long-dormant ability to shock, or at least catch us off guard with the unlikely hit, or the unexpected comeback.
Several months ago, I never dreamed I would ever ask the question that is the title of this article. It had been more than twenty-five years since Lionel Richie’s commercial heyday, and on the charts, he had been succeeded by younger romantic leads in pop and R&B many times over (Babyface, Usher, Ne-Yo, among others).
Then came one of those surprise developments seldom seen in pop anymore: On Billboard magazine’s Top 200 album chart for the week following the March 26 release of Tuskegee, Richie’s first studio album since 2009’s Just Go (which didn’t make the US Top 20 and failed to go gold), he debuted at No. 2 with first-week sales of 199,000 copies, right behind Madonna’s latest, MDNA.
Picture the scene: red velvet curtains, dim lighting, the smell of whiskey and cigar smoke static in the air. A spotlight comes on. On the stage, a band begins to assemble, hands and instruments at the ready. Music begins to play. A slow dance begins. With their strong jazz influences and sultry voices, this is the perfect setting for a duet between Renee Olstead and Justin Thompson, this week’s dynamic duo.
Once you’re a hugely successful musician, with lots of people telling you how awesome you are, making the leap into acting (or painting, or politics, or baseball, or aviation, or molecular biology) must seem like a piece of cake. There are so many object lessons to teach us how untrue that is (Britney Spears’ Crossroads, anyone?). But there are a few double-threats out there who have successfully made the leap.
10. Queen Latifah
It’s pretty aggravating to see a talented actor take an opportunity to do quality work, wipe their ass with that opportunity and flush it down the toilet. Queen Latifah has done this a couple of times. She could have had a solid career as a supporting actress after The Bone Collector and Bringing Out The Dead, but then she kicked America in the crotch by being part of The Country Bears, among other debacles. She was then lucky enough to be cast in Chicago, and it was inarguably a star-making performance. Finding herself in that enviable position, she accepted roles in a bunch of utter garbage, including Taxi and The Perfect Holiday. Sigh. But dammit, she’s always fun to watch on screen, whether it’s comedy or drama, and I suspect she’ll continue to appear in quality movies from time to time. Just don’t expect consistency.
Joanna Burns is pulling a Frank Sinatra on all of us. Like the iconic swing artist, Burns is a native of New Jersey. (Hazlet, New Jersey to be exact, which she notes is also the same town that gave us Jersey Shore’s Sammi Sweetheart. Lucky girl.) But much like Frankie, the songstress isn’t singing about the Garden State from which she hails. While Ol’ Blue Eyes planned to make a brand new start of it in NYC, she looked West, to the city of brotherly love, for inspiration.
Burns wrote the lyrics to Philadelphia as she sat in her high school music theory class. She had applied to the musical theater program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and was waiting anxiously to hear their response. She makes her impatience clear in the song’s opening lines: I’ve been waiting for an answer/But I’m getting tired/I’ve been waiting for a green light/That says I can start the next four years of my life. If she seems more preoccupied than most high school seniors, she had good reason”a confident Burns had decided to put all of her cheesesteaks in one basket and only applied to the U of the Arts.
During that waiting period, thoughts of Philly consumed her life. Of course, since I was harping and dwelling on hearing from them, everything around started to seem like a sign,” she says. “˜Oh look! A Philadelphia Flyers bumper sticker! That’s a sign. I’m getting in!’ She notes that her obsession is funny in retrospect, but it definitely explains the song’s chorus, where Burns croons, Philadelphia’s everywhere/It’s in my face and draws me near/The city of big brotherly love watching down on me.
Burns delivers lines like, Don’t you pity me, don’t humor me/I know where I’ll end up now, with all the confidence of a high school senior ready to take on the world, but despite her bravado the singer wasn’t accepted to her dream school. Of course, it’s not all bad. Everything happens for a reason, she says. I don’t know that I would have written half the songs I did if I went away to college that year.
Give Philadelphia a listen below, and be sure to check out Burns’ upcoming album The Green Year.
Have an interesting story behind your lyrics? Let us know at email@example.com!
Those whose hearts palpitate in time to the songs of Robbie Robertson”both his Band-era milestones and solo hits such as Broken Arrow and Somewhere Down The Crazy River” have had to endure a long period of silence from the legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist. Robertson’s last album was Contact From the Underworld of Redboy, a 1998 release informed by the electronic sensibilities of producer Howie B. But just a couple of weeks ago, the thirteen-year silence was broken by He Don’t Live Here No More, the first single from Robertson’s fifth solo album, How To Become Clairvoyant, which is scheduled for an April 5 release. The single, like much of the album itself, bears a deep, swampy, blues-rock groove and a natural-sounding, lived-in feel that has more in common with Robertson’s early solo outings than his last couple of releases, which boasted a more modernized approach. The production style proves to be the perfect complement to the tunes, which share a retrospective, even nostalgic purview. I can’t think of one song on the record that doesn’t have that quality, affirms Robertson, during our conversation about Clairvoyant.
Robertson’s got some old friends helping out on the record too, including Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. Eric and I first started talking about doing something like 10 years ago or more, Robertson recalls, and we got together, but we didn’t have anything specific in mind. We’re old friends, so we were hanging out and playing a little music and telling stories¦but it was just kind of dipping our toe in the water. Him and I did a few things probably over a three-week period when he was in Los Angeles. Some time later¦I came across the project that him and I had started, and I thought ˜Wow, there’s much more here than what I remembered.’ So I called him and I said ˜We’ve got some interesting stuff that we started,’ and he said ˜I always thought so.’ The next thing he knew, Robertson was on a plane to London at Clapton’s behest, to record a full-blown album. He was just a great friend in all of it, Robertson says of the British guitar hero, just being so supportive. He said ˜I just want you to make a record. If I can be part of it and be supportive in it, I’m just glad to do it.’ So that was nice inspiration too. Another old compatriot on hand for the sessions was Steve Winwood. I met Steve when I was 20-years-old and I was playing with Bob Dylan, and we were touring England, recalls Robertson. That was in 1966 I think, so I’ve known him that long.
But Robertson’s other musical endeavors elongated the production process of Clairvoyant. The London tracks turned out well, but Right after we cut them, Martin Scorsese asked me if I would help him figure out the music for Shutter Island, says Robertson. So I went off and did that. It was a more lengthy process than I thought, because for that soundtrack I wanted to use modern classical music, and although I knew something about what that was, I wanted to do more research. So the work on that¦it took a while. Then I came back to the record, and I finished it up by myself and with the other people that I brought in to work on it, like Trent Reznor and [ex-Rage Against The Machine guitarist] Tom Morello and Robert Randolph. So how did industrial-music icon Trent Nine Inch Nails Reznor end up in the mix? In this last little while, he’s been leaning in a cinematic direction, explains Robertson, and he did the music for Social Network. This song that Eric and I had written, Madame X, we had laid down a basic track, but what I was really looking for was¦something that had a timeless quality to it, but I wanted to put a new, modern kind of spin on it as well. I thought those two worlds would fit together really nice, so I asked Trent if he would do a treatment on this.
But despite the occasional presence of more contemporary-minded contributors like Reznor and Morello, How To Become Clairvoyant remains a rootsy, earthy piece of work, and the songs seem to touch on earlier phases of Robertson’s life. This Is Where I Get Off, for instance, deals with his split from his buddies in The Band, while Straight Down The Line celebrates pre-rock & roll-era artists’ insistence on standing their stylistic ground, regardless of changing trends. Robertson says the seed of the idea had to do with Mahalia Jackson. I had suggested a few years ago that she be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence, he says, because she was a complete inspiration, and she’s one of the greatest female singers of all time. And the answer back from her family was ˜That’s okay, we’d rather not.’ Because she always said ˜I do not play no rock and roll.’ [a key line in Robertson’s song] And Frank Sinatra, when rock and roll first came out, he was like, ˜Well this shit’s only gonna be around for six months anyway.’ I just like that attitude, some people were just bold enough to say ˜Nah, I don’t buy it.’
When The Night Was Young looks back wistfully on the idealism of the ˜60s counterculture that 67-year-old Robertson was part of. The youth of the nation, and the youth of the world, ultimately felt like ˜We’re not just gonna stand here and watch wrong things happen, we’re gonna stand up and we’re gonna make a difference.’ That war [in Vietnam] was called to a halt, because everybody said ˜We don’t want this,’ and it really was the voice of a generation telling the governments and the world ˜You’re gonna have to stop this.’ And they did. When we played at Woodstock, people were getting up saying ˜There’s a half a million of us here, and we’re all here today for peace, and we want this war to go away.’ And at that point people were saying ˜You know what, we’re gonna have to listen to some of this shit, we just can’t ignore it anymore.’ It was a powerful feeling, and we don’t have that now, we don’t really feel that in the air.
On How To Become Clairvoyant, the listeners who grew up with Robertson’s music will recognize pieces of their own past, but younger generations can still get a feeling for the sense of history that pervades the album. The tunes themselves, of course, come with no age requirements for their enjoyment, and Robertson’s followers can exhale at last, content in the knowledge that their pied piper is back at work. I choose to make records when I feel inspired to do so, he says, otherwise I’d rather not, and inspiration appears to have been a key ingredient in Robertson’s latest sonic statement.
Cake has always been a band that defies explanation, somehow molding elements of rock, hip hop, jazz and even folk into unlikely hits like The Distance and Short Skirt, Long Jacket. They further surprised listeners this January, after their latest release Showroom of Compassion debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Top 200. OurStage caught up with Cake’s Vince DiFiore”whose lively trumpeting has been the icing that sets Cake’s idiosyncratic alt-rock apart since the band came together in 1991”to find out about the album’s Number 1 debut, what it was like recording in a solar-powered studio and the importance of junior high jazz band.
OS: What was your reaction when you found out that Showroom of Compassion debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Top 200? Were you expecting that?
VD: You know, I still don’t have that little person, that little leprechaun or mini-elf or whatever it is dancing around in my head saying, We’re number one! or anything. What’s really interesting is that was actually about the same number of records that we sold when Pressure Chief came out. But back then, I don’t think we were anywhere near Number 1. This time, that number of albums is a number one record for the week. It’s just very telling about how the music industry is now. But it’s something that we embraced, it’s something that we owned and enjoyed. We had never had a Number one record before, so it was an enjoyable moment for everybody. It was something we worked hard for, and it was worth celebrating.
OS: And it’s great that your fans are still buying music.
VD: Yeah, yeah. They must feel sorry for us, or something like that, buying our record instead of getting it for free.
OS: This is your first album of new material in almost seven years. Why did you make everyone wait so long?
VD: It’s sort of like looking at a receipt after you leave a Rite-Aid or a Walgreens or something like that, and you just think, How did I just spend forty bucks? And then you look at the receipt, and it adds up. That’s how the seven years went by. We toured on Pressure Chief for about two or three years all over North America and Europe, and went to places like Istanbul and Jakarta. By that time, we had an option to either do another record with Columbia or get off the contract. So we did [leave Columbia] and we took the necessary steps to create our own label, Upbeat Records. We put out B-Sides and Rarities, which is a collection of our own mostly cover songs that we put out as kind of a first-run experiment. Then we put solar panels on the studio, and John [McCrea, frontman] introduced some new songs to us, and we all worked together as a group to arrange those songs.
OS: What was it like recording the album in a studio powered entirely by solar energy?
VD: It was good, I felt really positive about that. It created a more comfortable atmosphere in the studio. Whenever there was some malevolent feeling rising up to the surface, I think the fact that we had solar energy abated those feelings. There’s a scene in The Sopranos, in the last episode, where the couple is at home and they’re finally parting ways. The wife is fidgeting with the thermostat, and the husband gets sort of bothered by that. Those little, petty things based on consumption and the sharing of resources can kind of eat at you. So that was a good thing for us to do. And we’re guilty. We’re aware of the current climate issues, and we feel guilty traveling around the country like we do. It was one of the things that we’ve done to be better citizens. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be more solar energy in this country, for sure. We have plenty of sun, and there’s always energy issues. We should really turn to solar energy as fast as possible.
OS: What’s the meaning behind the album’s title?
VD: Well, I think instead of actual compassion, it’s a showroom of compassion. You know what I mean? There’s a picture of a tiger on the cover, and the tiger has a human being under its talons. It looks like it’s thinking for just a moment before it’s about to devour the human. Maybe that is a bit of a showroom of compassion right there, but it’s ultimately not really [compassion].
OS: There’s a Frank Sinatra cover (“What’s Now Is Now”) on the new record, and you have a song called Frank Sinatra on Fashion Nugget. Has he had an influence on your music?
VD: Yeah. I think somebody who was in the Four Seasons wrote that song for Frank Sinatra, but yeah, he’s an influence. I think he’s definitely an influence on John’s vocal style. The way John phrases his lines is definitely influenced by Frank Sinatra ”kind of a laid-back style and syncopation that you’re not expecting. It’s such a great song. I think it’s about jealousy, and about possessiveness, and about a man letting go of his possessiveness, letting go of the ugly side of a relationship. It’s funny because in the song, he’s forgiving the girl for doing something, but in reality I think it’s a man growing as an individual. I don’t know, I’m talking about the song too much. [Laughs] But that song is awesome.
OS: Well, it’s a classic.
VD: Yeah. It’s funny”when you listen to the lyrics you don’t really think about what it’s about. But everybody’s had that similar experience where a boyfriend or a girlfriend has been jealous about something that’s happened in the past and upset that somebody got together with somebody else, even before they knew each other. Letting jealousy control you in that way… it’s a song about that.
OS: What else were you listening to as you put together the album?
VD: Well, something that really was inspiring for me and taught me how to be a good band member was being in high school band. I think of all the cool things that we played then, and all the things that were sort of dark and had a good swing to them that you weren’t expecting to be playing. I’m always trying to find something that is unexpected but fits somehow into the rest of the music, and I’m always thinking back on junior high school. And then I’ve been listening to a lot of Lee Morgan recently, also. That’s jazz music, and something that doesn’t really make it into our music all the way, but that kind of feel that he has on the trumpet is something that I aspire towards.
VD: [Laughs] I hope not. When we were finishing up this album, there was a lot of talk like, Yeah, let’s go right back in the studio! Right between tours, let’s go back into the studio and start working. And we’ll see if that happens. Usually after a tour, we want to take a little bit of a break from each other. But maybe there’s some way we can go in as a pair. I can go in with Dave, and work on some things, and then another time John can come in and work on some stuff. Maybe we can start working on it slowly but surely, but I hope it doesn’t take another seven years. We hope we have another album in maybe two or three years, something like that. It’s hard to say, it’s really out of my control.
OS: One last thing: did you ever find a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket?
VD: I don’t know, she sounds like a lot of trouble to me. [Laughs] But I like the analogy in that song, the metaphor for the economy. In times of economic uncertainty”I forget how it works”but in some way women’s fashion is a reaction and reflection of the state of the economy. As stocks go down, the skirts go up, you know what I mean? It has to do with the ebb and flow of all sorts of value in society. You want to show a little, but cover up a little bit too. But yeah, short skirt and long jacket? I’m married, and I’m trying to think if my wife ever dresses like that. Maybe around the holidays.
Check out Cake’s Web site for news, tour dates and their weekly advice column.