Music Of The Presidential Inauguration: Beyonce, fun., Kelly Clarkson And More

Last night marked President Obama‘s second inauguration ceremony. Among the many celebrities and speeches of the day, we saw spectacular performances by Beyonce, fun.Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson and James Taylor.

Five-time Grammy winner James Taylor was the first to take the stage, with an acoustic rendition of “America The Beautiful.” Kelly Clarkson followed the inaugural address and performed “My Country Tis Of Thee,” while Beyonce closed the performances with “The Star Spangled Banner.”

As the ceremony ended and the Inaugural Ball commenced, Alicia Keys sang her hit “Girl On Fire,” with the simultaneously sweet and awkward title change, “Obama’s On Fire.” Jennifer Hudson provided the soundtrack for the President and First Lady’s dance, as they swayed to a cover of Al Green‘s “Let’s Stay Together” (which the president himself ad-libbed at an event last year). The band fun. then closed the evening with their hit, “We Are Young.” You can view fun.’s performance right here and the rest of the performances after the jump. (more…)

Obama Inauguration Performers To Include Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, James Taylor

To kick off President Obama‘s second term in office, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, and James Taylor will perform at the inauguration on January 21. The eclectic trifecta will respectively tackle the national anthem, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful.” While Clarkson and Taylor are surely fitting in the inauguration performance amid tight schedules (Clarkson was recently engaged and Taylor has been involved in intensive charity work over the holiday season), Beyoncé is undoubtedly the busiest of all the inauguration performers. Barely two weeks after her presidential performance, she’ll appear at the Superbowl XLVII halftime show on February 3, and will see the release of her HBO documentary film “ “a multi-faceted portrait of the 16-time Grammy Award-winning singer, businesswoman, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur, wife and mother” “ on February 16. A crazy schedule for sure, but nothing out of the ordinary for Bey’.

If you’re a fan of Beyoncé, check out OurStage artist UltraMi.

More like this:

Sound and Vision: Do Today's Pop Music Producers Have Too Much Power?

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…)

Your Country's Right Here: Amelia White Creates "Beautiful and Wild" Musical Tribute

Amelia White didn’t set out to write an album that honored her mentor, much-loved musician Duane Jarvis, perhaps best known for co writing Still I Long For Your Kiss with Lucinda Williams.

Yet when fifty-one-year-old Jarvis died of cancer in 2009, White felt her songwriting muse take over.

I think it just comes naturally to me, said White of the songwriting. A lot of people learn to write because they sing and play; I learned to sing and play because I write.

Although the songs on Beautiful and Wild, White’s recently released fifth studio album, are beautifully written, there’s no denying that she and the players on the album”including John Jackson (Dylan, Shelby Lynn), Frank Swart (Patty Griffin) and Tim Carroll (Elizabeth Cook)”are first rate.


Live Wired: 2011 Tour Recap

It’s that time of the year where we pretty much feel obligated to make some kind of year-end list that sums up our favorite happenings or people in the music world. But hey, if the world ends in 2012, this could be our last opportunity to make one of these! Anyway, we’re switching it up a little bit”since this is Live Wired, we’re only going to focus on what what went on in arenas and small clubs across the world. Instead of simply making a ‘best of’ list, we’re giving out superlatives to some of the artists and bands who went on tour this year.

Top Grossing & Most Attended: U2 360° Tour

Starting back in 2009, U2 embarked on a worldwide tour and just didn’t stop until the summer of this year. Between all the records they broke and the extravagant set they treated the sold out crowds to each night, this tour was nothing short of amazing. It even grossed about $100 million more than the next best tour this year (Bon Jovi). Total Gross: $293,281,487 / Total Attendance: 2,887,972


Most Hyped: Watch The Throne Tour

Two of the biggest names in the world of music, Kanye West and Jay-Z teamed up and finally released their collaboration album Watch The Throne in August, and pleased fans even more by going on tour in support of the release.




Vocal Points: Live Vs. Recorded

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.


Help Rising Talent Score Free Strings From Ernie Ball!

James Taylor, Nick Drake, Elliot Smith…these masters of song would be nowhere without their trusty six-string holding down the fort. OK, maybe having a killer voice and a knack for songwriting is step one in the singer-songwriter handbook. But, step two is definitely having a great sounding guitar”and that’s where Ernie Ball and OurStage come in.

Judge in the Singer-Songwriter (male) Channel by June 28, 2011 and you could help one rising performer win a year’s supply of free strings and accessories from Ernie Ball! You can help keep that mellow gold alive; all you have to do is judge. Hit up the playlist below for some top tracks from the channel.


Interview With Ernie Ball Indie Pop Winner Buckeye Knoll

April was a good month for indie pop on OurStage.  Why you ask? Because Ernie Ball sponsored the Indie Pop Channel in search of one choice artist to award a year’s supply of free strings and accessories. What they got was a tidal wave of great artists and a tough call to make.

They landed on I Roll from California pop-folkies Buckeye Knoll. The trio is fronted by songwriter Doug Streblow”self-proclaimed James Taylor mega-fan and a sucker for hooks, harmonies and storytelling. We caught up with Streblow to chat about the win, his influences and his strategy for making it in today’s music biz. Check out the interview below and stop by Buckeye Knoll’s profile for a closer look.

OS: Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to songwriting?

DS: I was introduced to James Taylor’s music a long time before I picked up a guitar and it had a profound effect of me. My choir director growing up had the choir sing all kinds of arrangements by him, and I started taking a liking to them immediately largely due to the fact that the songs were often arranged with the tenor part being the melody which I sang. James Taylor writes well-crafted songs with accessible melodies, lyrics and a whole lot of genuine emotion. I got hooked on that, and those attributes have found their way into Buckeye Knoll songwriting. Other than that, I’m a sucker for great hooks, big harmonies and great storytelling regardless of genre or particular songwriter.

OS: If you could list the top three guitarists who’ve inspired you the most who would they be? Any particular reason why?

DS: Obviously James Taylor first and foremost. He manages to bridge an incredibly complex folk finger-picking style with pop hooks, R&B rhythms and that solid rock/blues foundation. This guy isn’t just jamming out 4 chords over a 4/4 rock beat, he’s playing melodies and harmonies and driving a rhythm section with just his acoustic guitar and voice and everyone is feeling it. I strive to bridge genres and write guitar parts that are both melodic and very rhythmic at the same time and I learned this from James Taylor’s playing style. Other than that I’d say I’m influenced by Cat Stevens and more contemporarily Brett Dennen.

Photo courtesy of Gino DePinto


OS: In your experience, what are the best new ways for artists to promote themselves online?

DS: Primarily we use Facebook to keep up to date with our fans mostly because it’s so easy for any band member to use and edit content. Second to that we use YouTube and Vimeo regularly to promote upcoming shows, tours, releases and anything else where we want to get the word out about something happening in Buckeye Knoll world. We make videos that are both fun for us to make and fun for people to watch, and hopefully will encourage people to spread the word about our band.

At the end of the day you have to have a couple of key things. Without them no amount of Internet wizardry will get you to where you want to be. In our experience we’ve found these things to be:

  1. Great music that people will like.
  2. A well developed and interesting brand (photos, videos, online media) that will attract people and keep them engaged.
  3. A genuine and authentic story and message.
  4. Determination and a kick ass work ethic.
  5. A huge love for what you’re doing and the music you’re making.

If you’ve got these things, you’re on the right track.

OS: How does it feel to cross guitar and bass strings off the shopping list for a whole year?

DS: Awesome! If you’re a musician, you know it costs money to maintain your instrument. For guitarists the main reoccurring cost is your strings, and if you’re playing a lot like us, you can go through them quickly which can add up on the old pocketbook. Not only are we stoked to take the cost of strings out of the equation for a year but we’re stoked to be playing Ernie Ball strings and trying out some strings we wouldn’t have bought otherwise. All around, it’s awesome.

OS: How did it feel to win the Ernie Ball grand prize?

DS:  Like having a milkshake for the first time; delicious, refreshing and cool.

OS: Any shout-outs you’d like to make to the fans who helped you snag the Grand Prize?

DS: We’d like to thank Oprah, Charlie Sheen and Barack for taking time out of their busy television, drug dealing and political schedules to lay down some thick votes for Buckeye Knoll.

Soul Searching: Britten

There are some artists out there that you listen to and think to yourself, Why isn’t this person a household name? This week’s featured musician is one of such artist who goes by the name of Britten. Britten is a musical force not to be reckoned with”mixing the uplifting and feel good nature of pop with the vocal skills and styles of R&B. It seems as though most musicians are generally inspired at a young age by legendary artists, and Britten is no exception. His influences derive from huge names like Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Prince and Michael Jackson. The appeal of these influential artists is clearly heard in Britten’s music.

Although Britten has the vocals down pat, he really shines as a musician through his song writing. His songs are catchy and well though out. He uses creative harmonies to get his lyrics presented in a fun and exciting way. According to his OurStage profile, ‘Not So Ordinary’ was the first song I seriously wrote. I didn’t know much, but I knew I was tired of hearing people say the same ole’ stuff in the same ole’ way. His music is comfortable to listen to, but most certainly unique.

Check out the streamable tracks below and let us know what you think! If there are any R&B artists that you think have serious soul, let us know!