Last night Justin Bieber, the pop game Joffrey Baratheon, accepted the first ever Milestone Award for musical ingenuity and innovation at the Billboard Music Awards, an event that happened and was televised. The award, you will be surprised to hear, was chosen by the fans, and not a panel of straggly-whiskered musical elders pontificating about Integrity and Authenticity or whatever else it is old and MAD people talk about while hotboxing their own word farts.
Not everyone was happy with the choice, of course (and not just pop game Cersei Lannister, Taylor Swift, who gives a 4/10 on the Swiftian reaction shot schadenfreude scale here). A series of boos rung out through the audience while Bieber ascended the stairs to the stage. Maybe not as much as some people are making it sound, but boos nonetheless.
Bieber, the consumate professional, took it all in stride.
“I’m 19 years old. I think I’m doing a pretty good job,” he said, with understated grace. “And basically, from my heart, I really just want to say it really should be about the music, the craft that I’m making. This is not a gimmick, I’m an artist, and I should be taken seriously.”
And you know what, for the first time ever, I think I might agree with him here. Sure, he dresses up in goofy pants-based stunt gags every day, and acts out from time to time, but what teenager doesn’t? Teenagers, you may remember from having been one yourself, are imbeciles. But some of them happen to be talented imbeciles, and that’s the engine that drives our culture, for better or worse. Not many of us know what it’s like to be millionaire imbeciles with legions of insane fans throughout the world who would push their own mothers down the stairs to get a chance to finger floss with our shoelaces. I bet it’s pretty stressful and weird. Not, you know, as stressful as being a poor loser like the rest of us, but a different kind of stress.
There’s a reason this whole Justin Bieber thing happened in the first place, and it wasn’t because of his pants, or his sunglasses, or whatever other things we can easily make fun of, it was because of his talent. It’s still there if you want to look for it.
Last Friday, the Internet went ablaze over rumors that Beyoncé was pregnant with her second child, destined to be named Red Vine (the opposite of Blue Ivy, ha ha), Champagne, Bugatti, etc., because of course celebrities are ridiculous people who can’t be trusted with any level of popularity. But those rumors are apparently false, as would-be father Jay-Z confirmed to Hot 97 in an email interaction.
It wasn’t exactly an official repudiation—”I emailed a guy at the radio” being one of the least emphatic denials available to the most powerful couple the entertainment—but considering the second pregnancy was never officially announced, it’s all we have to go on until Bey or Jay pop out again to say “jk, she’s pregnant and we were just denying it because holy shit are you guys some baby obsessed vultures.” But the baby! Maybe it could be a boy? A little sister for Blue Ivy to learn responsibility from? Gosh, how exciting. Speculate and speculate some more, especially when wondering if Beyoncé’s world tour was just an elaborate, multi-million dollar scheme to disguise the rumors… except probably not, because that would be financially ruinous and just a real rude move if she had to cancel because it isn’t so easy to do the “Single Ladies” dance when you’re carrying. But hey, celebrities; you never know.
I’m not exactly sure if this makes him the best Tea Party Congressman ever, or the worst, but Florida’s Trey Radal has got some pretty good taste in music. From Eric B to Daft Punk and Public Enemy, the conservative lawmaker, and believer in Prosperity, Liberty, and Integrity, seems like the kind of chill bro you could kick back and burn with, as long as the discussion didn’t stray too far from music. His affinity for hip hop has been making the rounds lately, but Esquire obtained some of his original productions today, and, well, it could be a lot worse. He explains the inspiration behind his beats, like his remix of Public Enemy, which you can hear, along with a few others, here.
“I philosophically differ on a whole lot from Chuck D — and that would be an understatement — but there’s no question, I believe in absorbing as much culture as possible in life. “Bring the Noise” is one of the songs that just hopped out in the ’80s, and it just blew me away as a kid. It’s way faster than a typical 85 BPM, and it’s about the area where you can begin to evolve into a sound that is a much more up-tempo house sound, so I was able to start working in the beats, the synths, and samples into it. [The "I ain't waiting for shit" line at the end of the looped "They gonna have to wait" bridge] is just a sample from some TV show.”
All that said, keep in mind that just because someone has pretty good taste music does not mean they’re also not a deranged libertarian whacko. Not saying that necessarily applies to Radel, just pointing out the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Look, we’ve all been there, washing blood off of our hands in a creepy bathroom, only to be chased through the forest by an unseen menace. Classic coming of age story. It’s the predicament at the heart of this new video “Go Ask Your Mother” from the Oakland-based band Legs’ LP Pass the Ringo on Loglady Records. The band is led by Jeffrey Harland and New Zealand native Matt Bullimore, who, as you do, met while trading Weezer bootlegs in a Safeway parking lot. The creepy vibe of the clip is in stark contrast to the sunny, fuzz-wave pop of the track, which skips along on rush of organ and crunchy guitar exuberance.
We asked Harland to explain the concept behind the video
“The video stars Landon Bates, he’s a friend and plays in a rad local band called Disappearing People,” he explained. He also makes a really believable murderer, so, someone look into that.
“The concept was that Landon would play a character who is both the victim and the aggressor of some incident off screen, or perhaps just in his mind. Something like a psychological thriller where the killer turns out to be the last person you’d expect. Landon’s last name is Bates by the way.”
“The first line I wrote for that song was the last part ‘go ask your mother if she loves you now’, and it seemed like such a weird, mean, passive-agressive line to tell someone. Like, if you really hated someone, that would be a cruel thing to say.”
The thing about mothers though, is they tend to forgive you for anything you do, right? Almost anything.
“My lyrics are generally autobiographical but also stream of consciousness in that I’ll write everything down and keep what works for a particular song. So, if anything, the songs about taunting myself, dissing my shortcomings, and egging me on to ask a pretty scary question. In that way, the video works to conjure up the bedroom loneliness I felt of writing a song about whether or not my mom would still love me after I had done something awful.”
Katy Goodman, of the Vivian Girls and La Sera, did an internet, and we saw it, and under the terms of our content-creator contract and blog crush, we are legally compelled to share it with you here. Here it is. Good job everyone. Her friend did it too. That friend is Greta Morgan of the Hush Sound. Here’s what they wrote about it on their Bandy Camps (via COS):
While hiking past the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, friends Katy Goodman and Greta Morgan were struck with the idea to record a song together: A song about physics and love, science and romance, space and time. Have you ever felt the lovesick pain of falling for someone from a different dimension? We have too.
The next morning, the girls recorded “Space Time” in Greta’s tiny rehearsal space in Glassell Park. While “Space Time” may not be a hit in this dimension yet, the song is topping charts in many others. The girls have plans to tour the Andromeda Galaxy this summer, appear in Bode’s Galaxy this Fall, and make an appearance at the Omega-Palooza Festival to break up the 2.9 million light-year long trip home.
Until then, they will continue enjoying life in this space-time, where Katy is writing the next La Sera album and Greta is about to embark on a tour with The Hush Sound.
Wonder sometimes what that block of text says.
!!!, forerunners in both the electro-disco-punk and the SEO-band-name-bedeviling explosions of the turn of the millennium, are back with a new album, THR!!!ER, which, you will likely not be surprised to hear, is chock-full (chk-full more like) of funk grooves and throwback disco party jams, like this one “One Girl/One Boy”, which you can watch below.
The song features vocals from Sonia Moore, who will not be on tour with the band, sadly. But you know what they say: when god closes one guest vocalist tour spot in the van, he opens a guest vocalist fan contest in the venue. For real, you can apply to sing with the band on stage. Weird! They explain more:
Upload a youtube video of you singing along or send an mp3 to firstname.lastname@example.org. No big deal, just you in front of the mirror singing into the hairbrush style will do. We’ll sift through the entries and holler at you if you’ve got what it takes. You’ll of course be judged on your vocal ability, but dance moves and star quality definitely help. If anything, it’s a free ticket for you and your bff for the show. No flakes, no egos, no drug problems.
PRO CHOPS A MUST. Working van probably not necessary.
Anyway, music is lame, so let’s look at what really matters in the video, the fashion.
Pictured here is a pair of shoes. What kind of shoes? Hard to say.
Do you have nice legs? Too bad, put those stems away, fellas. No shorts on stage. Rock 101. Doesn’t matter if it’s 120 degrees in the club, you’re suffering for your fashion once again this year.
Scarves are a popular fashion accessory for the ladies this and the last few years. I do not care for this particular trend, but keep in mind I’m a pretty horrendously unfashionable old man.
Even the scarfiest ladies agree, wearing one while riding your novelty bicycle around town is dangerous. This is both a fashion and a health tip. Best life, best you.
People associate autumn with cozy feelings and fond memories of time gone by, such as youthful school exploits. Whenever possible try to project a water-color-like foliage onto your face so people will be tricked into liking you.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, the old expression goes—the old, weird, sexist expression. But that was coined way before pop music was invented, so they kind of jumped the gun there. Hell, which doesn’t exist, but for the purposes of this conceit we’ll allow it, actually hath no fury like a bandmate scorned. One of our favorites in the genre of fuck you band breakup tracks is John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep”, and since Destiny’s Child is the Beatles of the millennium, this new track “Dirty Laundry”, from Kelly Rowland, aka not-Beyonce, is angling for its place in the UMAD-wave pantheon.
“It was very emotional. It took me days to record,” Rowland tells Billboard. “I had to get past being so upset and actually sing the song, not sob through it. I always hope that my music can inspire someone, the same way other artists inspire me. [Producer] Dream said, ‘I want to write you a record so that people will know exactly who you are, underneath it all.’”
The track kicks off with some thoughts on the post-Destiny period in Rowland’s life. “When my sister was on stage killing it like a mother fucker I was in a rage feeling it like a motherfucker,” she sings. “Post ‘Survivor’, she on fire, who wanna hear my bullshit?”
Um, everyone probably? Let’s hear it right now, in fact. Let it all out. “Let’s do this dirty laundry,” she sings, over a sultry, slowed-down groove. Sounds like a chore, but, like most house-cleaning duties, we tend to feel a lot better once we get it out of the way. Except cleaning the toilet, that shit is gross.
Solange is our queen and she can do no wrong, except, it seems, line up guests verses from rappers on her remixes. This new take on “Looks Good With Trouble” from last year’s True taps Kendrick Lamar to spit a few bars over the light-as-air production and echoing submarine beats, and he mostly jars up against the song’s laid back romance vibe, although the lyrics are switched on right: “Miss Chatty, I’m like one message from calling a taxi. Exactly. I’ll catch a cold but long as you match me, it’s actually a troublesome world when you think about, but admit it, we both can look good with it as long as you’re the stylist.” Actually, in comparison, almost everyone looks bad next to Solange, so I guess we can’t really fault him here.
“Latch”, the breakthrough track from UK producer duo Disclosure wasn’t just one of 2012′s most hyped dance tracks, it was also one of the most romantic. Credit that to guest Sam Smith’s vocal, an alternatingly quivering falsetto and soulful, husky croon that sold the drama of the track’s electronic throb. Smith has released a stripped down acoustic version of the song, voice and piano, that repurposes the heartbreaking melody and lyrics for the morning after. “Now I’ve got you in my space, I won’t let go of you,” he sings. “Got you shackled in my embrace, I’m latching onto you.”
Next week, dance music maestros Daft Punk will release their terribly anticipated new album Random Access Memories [Ed. note. The album has appeared to leak early]. A series of videos preceding the album’s release highlighted the musicians they worked with on the project, from contemporaries like Chilly Gonzales to electronic music elder statespeople like Giorgio Moroder. Most notably, they’re working with Paul Williams, a songwriter who composed, among other things, “The Rainbow Connection,” and their first single (and the only music we’ve heard so far) “Get Lucky” used not only new vocals from Pharrell Williams but newly-recorded rhythm guitar from Chic guitarist Nile Rogers. Producing stuff from scratch like this would seem to be a break from their previous way of putting together songs, which relied heavily on samples. (A fantastically annotated list can be found at Spin.) If so, a strange thing is happening: Daft Punk is reenacting in 2013 the move from samples to new studio creations that happened in hip-hop after the legal crackdown on sample use.
Most early rap records were made by having DJs loop the instrumental sections from disco records and recording MCs’ vocals over them. Almost every instrumental element of “Rapper’s Delight,” for instance, is from Chic’s “Good Times.” Over the first decade of the genre’s existence, rap producers would use the newly available technologies of samplers and mixers to create masterpieces like Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, weaving together laundry lists of samples into seamless new creations. What they usually wouldn’t do, though, is “clear” the samples, which is another way of saying that they would neither ask nor compensate the people who originally recorded the sounds. (Chic, for instance, had to sue to get credit on “Rapper’s Delight.”) Often this was done by “flipping” or manipulating the samples so that it was harder to tell where they came from, but this wasn’t always successful. Then a series of legal cases changed all that. Clearing samples became both necessary and very expensive.
But a loophole in the law provided a way around these issues for musicians with deep enough pockets. While copyright law allowed the people who owned the recordings of songs to charge whatever they wanted for a sample, there are set rates that the people who wrote the songs can charge. Thus, when making The Chronic, Dr. Dre would identify samples he wanted to use and then hire studio musicians to replay the section of music he needed; then, he could do whatever he wanted to that original recording and only have to pay the songwriters. In essence, he could sample Parliament Funkadelic without paying their full rates, by using live musicians.
Are Daft Punk doing a similar thing on Random Access Memories? Their landmark albums Homework and Discovery are built on samples, especially the big singles. The central loop on “One More Time,” for instance, is a few notes from Eddie Johns’ “More Spell on You” (check 2:23) repeated and rearranged — though the band still prefers not to admit Johns’ song as their source. But they did amazing things with these samples, even when the chunks they lifted were more sizable. The first four bars from Edwin Birdsong’s “Cola Bottle Baby” start off “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” and recur throughout the song, but that’s not what makes the song great. “Harder” is one of the greatest songs of the last twenty years because of the vocoder melody Daft Punk adds (that’s what Kanye sampled for “Stronger,” after all) and which eventually overtakes the Birdsong loop as the song develops. And even when the primary instrumental part of the song comes from a sample, Daft Punk often made them into entirely new things. “Digital Love” is essentially a series of layers on top of the beginning of George Duke’s “I Love You More” but the end result far surpasses the source.
They started to get into trouble, though, on 2005′s Human After All. The lead single “Robot Rock” didn’t just sample Shearwater’s “Release the Beast” — it did little other than loop it, with very minimal changes, for the length of a pop song. The album’s disappointing performance may have been a wake-up call that they had reached the productive limit of sampling as a creative strategy. Though none but the elect have heard the full album, Daft Punk’s move to collaborations with the people who made many of those samples in the first place, like Williams and Chic’s Rogers, signals that they’re trying something new.
It worked pretty well for rap. Though sampling is still used widely (especially once “unofficial” free mixtapes, which don’t need to clear their samples, became a major venue), and copyright law continues to be a contentious issue in music, producers like Timbaland have come up with some pretty incredible beats when starting from scratch. With Daft Punk, the switch didn’t come as a legal requirement or economic necessity, but as a restraint they may have imposed on themselves. If so, it’s another amazing demonstration of how creativity relies just on much on limitations as it does on freedom. Daft Punk have echoed rap’s history as a way of further developing their own.