I can’t even believe I’m about to write this, but The Cure are making an incredible comeback this year, and I couldn’t be more excited. The band will release their 14th studio album, tentatively titled 4:14 Scream late this year, embark on a world tour which will see the band perform three albums in full, and release a few live DVDs for good measure. Among the albums performed on their world tour will be 1984’s The Top, 1985’s The Head on the Door, and 1987’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. Though an album release date and tour dates have yet to be announced, the band will be playing the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 28 and 29.
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…)
Ah, winter. For so many, the subtle oncoming of winter means snowy days, icy windshields, and a whole lot of bundling up. But for all the slight difficulties the season brings, it’s also a time for those little joys like outdoor ice skating, scarves and mittens and of course, a winter playlist. With igloo making days and hot cocoa drinking nights in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the season’s greatest reminders. The list includes OurStage artist Ezra Thomas.
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First you hear the hazy, languid tones of a young woman whose voice falls somewhere in the ethereal zone between Mazzy Star‘s Hope Sandoval and Cat Power. At times, a male vocal partner’s warm pipes waft into the mix. Soon you’re sucked into a mood that’s somewhere between the last, evanescent rays of summer sunshine softly receding from view and an evocative, autumnal flickering of gossamer guitars and diaphanous keyboard lines. You’re listening to Wilderness, the debut album by The Last Names, a married couple who became a band by accident. (more…)
One of the best releases of 2012 to date is Boys Don’t Cry, an album of covers recorded by Anglo-Pakistani singer-songwriter Rumer (nee Sarah Joyce). As a vocalist, Rumer is soothing and smooth, strictly middle-of-the-road enough to earn her an invitation from U.S. President Barack Obama to perform at the White House in May, the month her album came out ” but that’s not to say she doesn’t have a slightly subversive streak.
After all, who chooses to release a collection of remakes for their second full-length studio album. (Rumer’s 2010 debut, Seasons of My Soul, earned her widespread acclaim, two Brit Award nominations, and a platinum certification in the U.K.)
Then there is the theme of Boys Don’t Cry (whose title was not inspired by The Cure song, which is not among the album tracks): Everything on it was written and performed by male artists in the ’70s. Somehow Rumer makes quintessentially guy songs like Ronnie Lane‘s “Just for a Moment” (about an instant of clarity in a drunken haze) and Neil Young‘s “A Man Needs a Maid” (title: self-explanatory) sound strong enough for a man but made for a woman.
According to the Web site for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), its mission is a simple yet noble one: “to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.’
Elsewhere on the Web site, the NAACP offers a detailed description of its annual Image Awards: “the nation’s premier multi-cultural awards show celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts (television, recording, literature, motion picture and writing and directing), as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.”
Got that? Okay.
If those definitions hold, what, then, is a singer like Adele doing in a place like this, as a nominee at the 43rd Annual NAACP Image Awards?
She recently received two NAACP Image Award nominations”Oustanding Song and Video for her massive No. 1 hit “Someone Like You”and, presumably, she will be on hand to win or lose when the prizes are handed out on February 17, live on NBC. Naturally, controversy”and publicity”ensued because unlike fellow multiple-nominee Beyoncé, Adele happens to be white.
But you already knew that. So what, exactly, does Adele or her music have to do with the advancement of colored people?
It makes one wonder who is on the NAACP’s nominating committee and what their motives might be? Maybe collecting more press attention by inviting the best-selling artist of 2011 to the ceremony as a double nominee and stirring the controversy pot while they’re at it.
Or perhaps the Adele is the behind-the-scenes key to why the ceremony, which is normally broadcast on the Fox network, found a home this year on the considerably whiter NBC. It will air five days after the GRAMMYs, and if Adele is that evening’s big winner”and we have every reason to expect her to be”she’ll be the best bait to lure viewers to the Image Awards short of raising Michael Jackson from the dead and giving him a ticket to the event.
NBC will win, but artists who are truly representative of music of color won’t. Unlike past British blue-eyed soul singers like George Michael and Lisa Stansfield, up to now, Adele hasn’t even displayed any particularly powerful affinity to American black music (it’s telling that the artists she covered on her first two albums, 19 and 21, were Bob Dylan and the Cure), and although she’s earned the respect of black performers (Jeremih, for one, has covered Rumour Has It live), it’s not like Adele’s singles have been big hits on R&B radio.
It’s a little absurd that she would make the Outstanding Video shortlist while Kelly Rowland, a black performer who had the best video of the year by anyone of any color, was left off for “Motivation.” Meanwhile, conspicuously absent from the list of nominees in the music categories: Rihanna, the top black female artist at the moment, whose music or whose, um, image, apparently, isn’t black enough for NAACP recognition.
So why is Adele’s? She’s a great singer, and she sings with great soul, but she’s not a “soul” singer. There is a distinction, you know, and it has less to do with being a certain color than sounding a certain color. The late Teena Marie may have been white, but she was a soul singer right down to her core. Every note that comes out of Adele’s mouth sounds like a gift from God, but there’s no mistaking the color of the wrapping paper.
While I’m not a genre purist, and I don’t support musical segregation based on race, by its very definition, the NAACP is a segregationist organization. Not in a way that screams, Blacks only! but in a way that is meant to promote and advance minorities, people of color (which would include 2012 Image acting nominees Sandra Oh and Sofia Vergara). There’s no getting around that aspect of the NAACP”it’s not written in stone, just into its name.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the acronym and what it stands for (it hasn’t been okay to call blacks colored people in my lifetime), as well as defining the NAACP’s purpose when it comes to the Image Awards’s music categories and the need for them to begin with. It makes sense to honor minority actors in TV and film because they are largely overlooked at the Emmys and the Oscars. This year, the acting nominations for Emma Stone and Bryce Dallas Howard, both of whom are white, feel appropriate because The Help was a film that detailed the black-white experience in the Deep South of the 1960s, and of the principal cast, they’re the two who were left out of the Oscar discussion”and nominations.
But mainstream music award shows already do a pretty good job of honoring and featuring black talent. And it’s not like Adele isn’t going to get her due everywhere else. Do we need to add the Image Awards to the list of Adele-propping organizations? Aren’t all of those GRAMMYs she’s destined to win on February 12 enough?
One could argue that the NAACP Image Awards isn’t even seriously dedicated to advancing or celebrating black music. What else would explain the absence of a category to honor rap, the premiere black musical art form in 2012? This means Adele is nominated and not Nicki Minaj, a popular rapper who is possibly the best role model on the charts today.
If image were the primary concern, and one would expect it to be with an Image award, Minaj’s is more than worthy of merit. She has done as much as anyone to bridge genres and color-based demographics. Her biggest hit, “Super Bass,” received some of its earliest praise from Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez, and she’s collaborated with artists as varied”and white”as Eminem, Natasha Bedingfield, David Guetta, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, the Lonely Island and Madonna. Minaj also has been as much of an advocate for gay rights as Lady Gaga without being patronizing about it. Meanwhile, Adele collects accolade after accolade and basks in the glow of her spotlight.
I’m not saying that Adele doesn’t deserve everything she’s gotten. She does”with the exception of this. If she wins either of the Image awards she’s nominated for”and considering how weak the Outstanding Video category is, how could she not?”in what way will that be advancing people of color, or their music?
Back in October, Natalie Major took the “Artist Access” Grand Prize with her song “Heartbreaker””a catchy track with a rock ‘n’ roll foundation, big chorus and just a touch of female pop sass. On January 19th, Major performed a showcase at The Sidewalk Cafe in NYC to an audience of old friends and Bruce Tyler, entertainment consultant, executive producer and former EVP Sony Music and Columbia Records. The atmosphere of the club was warm and inviting, just the crowd you’d expect from such a gig. Natalie took to the stage, guitar in hand and rocked the crowd with a forty-minute set of-originals plus one cover (The Cure’s “Lovesong”). After the show, Bruce and Natalie sat down for a one-on-one chat. Check out the Q&A below to hear all about her performance and exclusive mentoring session. And be sure to watch her performance of “Hide and Seek” in the video at the bottom.
OS: Many artists have said that performing for friends and family can be the most difficult, that said, the audience was more than supportive during your set. How do you feel the performance went?
NM: I think the performance went great. I’ve never really agreed with it being more difficult to play for family and friends because there’s always a bias there. I’m always hardest on myself when I perform in front of people I don’t know because those are potential supporters of my music. My friends and family have always been most supportive and most honest with constructive criticism that has helped make me better as a performer and a songwriter. It’s hard to differentiate who is a true fan versus someone who is your friend and supports everything you do regardless. But, I have come to notice that a lot of my true friends are my true fans which makes it all the easier to play for them.
NM: Bruce was great. It’s always great being able to talk to someone who knows the business inside and out, someone that has a bigger perspective than I do. It seems he really is drawn to the artist aspect of music which is definitely somebody I respect and cherish advice from. He really did open my eyes to how important performing is in front of people, how each show makes you a better performer, and how essential it is to see if your material resonates with the audience. I am certainly going to start playing shows more often.
OS: What did Bruce say that made you think differently about your strategy for success in the music business?
NM: His views on being an artist in the industry really just made me revisit strategies I’ve visited in the past. We all can’t be the next Adele, but I think it’s great that he mentioned the fact that she really opened a road for singer/songwriters to have a market because I’ve always thought that too. You always have to be a step ahead of what is already out there, and I’m constantly trying to create something that fits me but isn’t entirely “generic” from a lyrical perspective. I think the hardest part of being an artist and a songwriter is finding the artist within all of your capability that you are completely satisfied with. I want to create unique material, something that is marketable yet still respected, and give people something that hasn’t been done before because no musician likes the question “who do you compare yourself to?”
The answer is simple: you get a delicious snack. It’s not hard to explain”there is something about snacking that makes our days simpler, and a lot more fun.
When it comes to music, there is nothing better than taking a break to snack on some of your favorite songs. Think about it, if you are at work but in the mood for partying, you can get a break by playing a party song. If you are in a crowded place and in need of peace and quiet, you can log off by listening to a calming song.
Here on OurStage, Snack also reminds us of an Argentinean band from Buenos Aires that is getting rave reviews for its cool music and catchy lyrics.
Snack formed three years ago, inspired by the music of artists like Gustavo Cerati, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5 and The Cure.
If you are into pop music that speaks to the heart, you will find Sin Dirección to be a true inspiration. Dedicate Así to the love of your life and expect some magic.
So now you know. If you are craving something delicious, just take a break and play some music by Snack. We guarantee it will make your day. Enjoy this playlist. ¡Provecho!