Known for creating unique acoustic interpretations of mainstream hits, Walk Off The Earth have struck gold once again with “Material Girl.” It’s a refreshingly light-hearted take on the 1980s original, with acoustic guitars and a tiny xylophone providing most the accompaniment. You can stream the cover and its accompanying video below.
If you like what you hear and you haven’t picked up their album R.E.V.O. yet, then you can do so by heading on over to iTunes. Be sure to like the band on Facebook to stay up to speed on all their upcoming events and activities.
The Super Bowl Halftime Show has become an overblown spectacle of such proportions and delusionary grasping at the straws of musical-artistic relevancy that it quite simply may never be good again. Yet there have been some standout performances – mostly those that concentrate on actual performing. There were some very dark years here and there that were not focused on the artists and their music as much as the pageantry (I’m looking at you Disney), so I didn’t even count those. There were also a lot of ‘meh’ moments that are not really worth getting into.
2000: PHIL COLLINS, CHRISTINA AGUILERA, ENRIQUE IGLESIAS, TONI BRAXTON
I don’t remember this and I’m not going to watch it, but it’s awful. It’s literally the worst thing I’ve never seen.
After only six years in the spotlight, Taylor Swift has yet another milestone under her belt, marked by her latest release, I Knew You Were Trouble. Joining superstars Madonna, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, and Connie Francis, Swift has achieved her 50th charting song on the Billboard Hot 100.
Although this is due in large part to the fact that many of her releases were preview tracks from her albums rather than official singles, it still marks an incredible triumph for Swift, one which took others over a decade to complete.
Of the four other women to boast this same triumph, Aretha Franklin was the quickest to reach 50 entries into the chart, taking just over 14.5 years.
If you like Taylor Swift, check out OurStage artist Jessica Lynn.
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The 007 Effect: What getting cast as the main theme for one of the James Bond film franchise’s 23 official entries can do for a song. Alas, the results of being Bonded can be as mixed as the songs themselves.
Adele‘s brand new theme for Skyfall, aka James Bond XXIII (in U.S. theaters November 9), sure to be Top 10 or rapidly approaching that hallowed chart vicinity by the time you read this, is the first James Bond song to become a hit since the Pierce Brosnan era (1995-2002). That was when Madonna‘s Die Another Day, from the 2002 Bond film of the same title, went to # 8 on Billboard’s Hot 100. (more…)
No. 1 with a bullet: Ah, that once-relatively elusive and exclusive room at the top. The holy grail for the pop single, it used to be as high an honor and as highly desirable as gold and platinum albums. But what does it mean when a star as marginally talented as Katy Perry can hit No. 1 five times on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the space of one album (six times in one and a half albums, if you count Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection)? Or when Rihanna, who still hasn’t scored a chart-topping album in six tries, can do in less than six years what took Madonna a dozen (hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 one time short of a dozen)?
Does Teenage Dream have, well, a dream of ever being as iconic as Michael Jackson‘s Bad (which spawned five No. 1 hits and thus shares the record for most No. 1 singles from one album with Teenage Dream), George Michael‘s Faith (which produced four) or even Adele‘s 21 (a contemporary that launched three), none of which had to be re-released as a special expanded edition in order to pad its hit list and sales tally? For all her No. 1 singles, will any Rihanna album thus far ever be considered as landmark as Madonna’s 1983 self-titled debut through 1989’s Like a Prayer, which covered a comparable career time frame? Rihanna’s yet to even break through the double-platinum glass ceiling.
Then there’s Carly Rae Jepsen‘s Call Me Maybe, which just spent nine weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart, making it the biggest song of the summer, if not 2012. It also makes her a surefire nominee for Best New Artist at the 2013 GRAMMY Awards ceremony. She’ll face stiff-ish competition from Gotye and fun., who spent eight and six weeks at No. 1, respectively, with their respective singles, Somebody That I Used to Know and We Are Young. (more…)
This morning, inside of a Russian court surrounded outside by furious protesters, a judge declared Russian punk band Pussy Riot guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The charge ultimately came with a sentence of two years in jail, and the ruling comes five months after band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were initially imprisoned for performing a “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In the February 2012 performance, the group donned neon“colored balaclavas and played a song entitled “Mother of God, Chase Putin Out,” which resulted in their immediate arrest and detention at the hands of Russian police.
Over the course of their time in custody, the band members have received support from numerous high“profile musicians, including Paul McCartney, Peaches, Madonna, Sting, Peter Gabriel, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Bjí¶rk. Despite the mounting global pressure from celebrity musicians and human rights organizations on Russian authorities to release the women, the judge declared that the two“year sentence is a “caution to others” according to the Wall Street Journal’s live blogging of the trial.
In their closing statements preceding the sentencing, band members defended their actions against the prosecution’s accusations of religious hatred. Samutsevich declared that Vladimir Putin‘s government had appropriated the Orthodox Church as a political tool in order to control the Russian populace, and repress human rights and civil liberties. The band’s performance, Samutsevich continued, was an attempt to reclaim the Orthodox culture, which the government had co“opted as an oppressive arm of the Putin regime. Contrary to the charges against them, the band members claim, their performance was meant to reunite the church with the Russian spirit of “civic revolt and protest.” Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova also drew parallels with persecuted Soviet“era poet Joseph Brodsky and the absurdist Oberiu poets of the 1920s and ’30s. Brodsky was denounced and eventually expelled from the USSR, while the Oberiu poets were condemned for “literary hooliganism” and arrested.
Russia’s notably troubled history with media censorship has been worsening, as the trial’s outcome suggests. The Huffington Post claims that recent laws have increased fines to almost $9,000 for those who take part in unauthorized demonstrations, and that NGOs must register as “foreign agents” if they are to engage in any political activity. Though the three members of Pussy Riot supposedly laughed after their sentence was announced, it remains to be seen whether their sentencing will trigger a larger backlash against Russia’s draconian censorship laws, as they implied in their closing statements.
Below, watch a bystander video of the protest gig that resulted in the band’s arrest.
After sentencing, the band remained defiant, with Alyokhina stating bluntly, “I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ˜so-called’ trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.”
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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…)