Changes to the monthly competitions

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This month we are awarding prizes of $100 to winners of the competitions finals.In the future there will be prizes to help your musical career. Check back to find out.

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Karen O’s “Psycho Opera” And The Other Crazy Side Projects Of The Artists We Love

Karen O, Karen O, Karen O. We love your crazy fashion sense, we love your music, we even love saying your name. But how far will this love go? We’d love it if you put out another record with Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but a “psycho-opera”?

According to a release from The Creators Project via Twentyfourbit, the as-of-now untitled work will be about “an assault on the tragic joys of youth” and will be premiering in mid-October as part of the The Creators Project’s big homecoming after travelling the world (kind of) doing very artsy, very cool things. The opera will be presented alongside numerous other art installations and multimedia performances, so all in all in sounds like a pretty sweet shindig. But still, “psycho-opera”. What does that even mean? What could such a performance possible entail? Are we going to go crazy if we watch it more then three times or something?

Many of our favorite musicians are creative dynamos, unable to be bound by the limitations of one inspirational outlet, branch out into other mediums non-stop. Sometimes it’s amazing! And occasionally it’ll leave us more “innovatively-challenged” types scratching our heads. Like some Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines type stuff.

Weezer have made a career out of churning out endless amounts of good time, fun rock and they’re better at it then pretty much anybody else. So it must’ve been interesting for fans back in 2000 to see the group, performing under the moniker Goat Punishment and performing covers of Oasis and Nirvana tracks. And not just the obvious singles, but some deeper cuts as well. All that adds up to some sweet ’90s alt rock goodness.

Continue reading ‘Karen O’s “Psycho Opera” And The Other Crazy Side Projects Of The Artists We Love’

‘The Voice’ Coach And Contestant Updates

After The Voice, a reality show which features star musicians mentoring a pool of talented vocalists, premiered on NBC in April, the program’s buzz went through the roof. Although there are other singing shows, none have succeeded quite like this, and TV audiences seem to be hooked. The show’s popularity has even carried over to the musical careers of all members involved, from coaches to contestants.

Coaches Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine each brought something different to the table with their own unique voices and experience, which bolstered their personal success before The Voice, but since the show’s first season aired, big things have happened in each of their music careers.

Blake Shelton’s sixth album, Red River Blue, came out shortly after the show ended, and seems to be attracting a whole new mainstream audience, while staying very true to his style.  His single, “Honey Bee”, which he sang on the show with contestants Dia Frampton and Xenia, reached Number 1 on the country charts. Levine’s band, Maroon 5, collaborated with Aguilera on a new single, “Moves Like Jagger”, which debuted on the show. And Cee Lo’s show on Fuze, Talking to Strangers, where he sits down with famous musicians to chat, is having a great deal of success.

While the coaches are working on cool projects, season one contestants are busy with equally exciting ventures. OurStage would like to acknowledge a few artists from the show who are also featured on our site, and are doing exceptionally well. Congratulations to Vicci Martinez, Lily Elise, Nakia, TJE Austin, Justin Grennan, Tim Mahoney, Beverly McClellan, Rebecca Loebe and Casey Desmond for their successes on and off the The Voice.  Each of these artists have incredible voices, and have been using the opportunities given to them by the show to further their musical careers. For Top 8 artists Vicci Martinez, Nakia and Beverly McClellan, this means the chance to tour the nation with The Voice Live On Tour, starting July 27th.

Look out world, these singers are taking the world by storm!

Rolling Stone, Creem, And The Rock Mags That Changed The Scene

The publishers over at Creem Magazine must be a brave bunch—despite everything you hear about the impending death of print journalism, the iconic Detriot-based rock mag, which was founded in 1969 but has been published online only since 2001, is making a return to print. We’re pretty pumped to hear that the magazine credited with coining phrases like “punk rock” and “heavy metal” is making a comeback, so we thought we’d take a look at some other famous rock ‘zines and their impact on music history.

NME

First published in March 1952, NME (originally New Musical Express) was the first British paper to include a singles chart. The rag ran cover features on British bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones throughout the sixties, and as NME writer Ian MacDonald so modestly points out: “I think all the other papers knew by 1974 that NME had become the best music paper in Britain. We had most of the best writers and photographers, the best layouts, that sense of style of humor and a feeling of real adventure.” Although some have criticized the magazine in recent years for its lack of diversity, NME’s Web site boasts an impressive 5.3 million monthly unique users, making it the UK’s most popular magazine Web site today.

Rolling Stone

Whether you love it or you love to hate it, there’s no denying RS‘s impact on music, pop culture and even politics. Remember that little incident with General McChrystal last year? And even if you can’t believe they put Snookie on their cover or agree with the critics who think the mag is run by old geezers, let’s not forget that this is the publication that was home to some of Hunter S. Thompson’s most famous work and showed us how crazy John Mayer really is. (We just never thought we’d hear someone use the phrase “Joshua Tree of vaginas.”) As founder and current editor and publisher Jann Wenner wrote in the mag’s first issue in 1967, RS is “not just about the music, but about the things and attitudes that music embraces.” We can get behind that.

Spin

Founded in 1985, Spin acted as the anti-Rolling Stone. While they profiled rock legends like Aeorosmith and jazz legends like Miles Davis, they also featured up-and-comers like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, and were among the first to devote significant coverage to hip hop. The magazine was also groundbreaking in its decision to include editorial contributions from musicians like Henry Rollins and David Lee Roth, and many of its writers—including hipster favorite Chuck Klosterman—used their time at the magazine as a launching pad to success in other mediums.

Billboard

You didn’t think we’d get through this feature without mentioning Billboard, did you? First published in 1894, the publication originally known as Billboard Advertising is one of the longest-running trade magazines in the world. What began as a paper for the bill posting industry soon began covering amusement parks and fairs, and in the ’20s started featuring movies. It wasn’t until the 1930′s, with the development of the jukebox, that Billboard began publishing music charts. And the rest, as they say, is history—Billboard has been publishing their “Hot 100″ since 1958, and today puts out more than 100 charts every week.

What are your favorite rock ‘zines? Let us know in the comments.

Surprise! Gaga Offends Another Group Of People

It really shouldn’t come as a shock to anybody that Lady Gaga has managed to piss people off once again. The “Mother Monster” superstar has made it clear that attempts at being outrageous and controversial are her thing. She was addressed last year by PETA for showing up to the MTV Video Music Awards in a meat dress. More recently, Gaga has been criticized by the Catholic Church for her “Judas” music video. Her loyal fans believe her to be one of a kind, but many don’t see any originality. Regardless, there’s no denying the buzz created everywhere she goes. So what did she do this time?

Well, Lady Gaga was recently in Australia and during a performance in Sydney she came on stage dressed up as a mermaid…in a wheelchair. This is apparently her new alter ego, Yuyi. It doesn’t seem worth it to question the meaning or reason behind the new character; Gaga’s history of crazy costumes should be enough. But a few disability organizations feel differently. After the show, the Roman Reed Foundation for spinal chord injury research tweeted, “Dear @ladygaga how about using your celebrity status 2 try 2 get us out of wheelchairs. Instead of cruising one. Cool?!” Other organizations mirrored these sentiments, hoping Gaga would use her fame to help their cause instead of just for entertainment. Following her concert, Gaga was the target of offended fans that took to throwing eggs at the pop star and her entourage. She has not taken to Twitter at this point with any kind of response to her fans or the disability foundations.

Aren't mermaids supposed to be colorful?

Should Lady Gaga be subjected to this constant criticism? She’s definitely asking for some kind of reaction. Whether or not the response is actually legitimate, it seems obvious that most of her choices are bound to draw criticism from somewhere, and that she’s willing to deal with the consequences. But then there’s the issue of how far is too far. It’s doubtful that Gaga used a wheelchair on stage to purposely offend anyone, but that doesn’t mean that the prop didn’t do just that. It’s possible, though, that Gaga meant to use the wheelchair as a way to empower those who are permanently confined to them. After all, her message has always been to be yourself and to embrace your uniqueness. What do you think?

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Fallon and Timberlake get insane in the membrane with “History of Rap 2”

Jimmy Fallon had Justin Timberlake back on his show this week, and the two reprised their “History of Rap” schtick with the help of back-up band The Roots. Watch the two comedians tackle Kurtis Blow, Salt ‘N Pepa, DMX, Cali Swag District and more to the delight of the audience.

The Beastie Boys action figures battle in new video

Last time Spike Jonze teamed up with The Beastie Boys for a video, the result was the indelible video for “Sabotage.” Their newest video collaboration for “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win,” is just as funny. Watch the Boys’ plastic alter egos get in on the action below.

The Bad

Rebecca Black releases “My Moment”

Rebecca Black wants to be taken seriously as an artist. Personally speaking, we’re not there yet. So her sophomore effort, an über earnest ballad called “My Moment,” feels a little icky. Documentary-style videos of career highlights usually happen after you’ve actually made it (See Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” or Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive”). This video of a guitar novice trying to play “Sweet Child O’Mine” over some suggestive moaning is less painful to watch, but if you simply must assault your eyes and ears, do so at your own peril below.

Stage collapses on Cheap Trick during Ottawa Bluesfest

Cheap Trick was in the middle of their set at the Ottawa Bluesfest on Sunday, when the stage came crashing down around them. But don’t worry—daddy’s alright, mommy’s alright and the band members are alright. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist incorporating some of the lyrics to “Surrender.”) Check out the wreckage below.

The Ugly

J-Lo and Marc Anthony call it quits

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced the end of their seven-year marriage this week. We definitely didn’t see it coming after their COMPLETELY AWKWARD public appearance at the GRAMMY Awards back in February. Re-experience the mutual contempt below.

Flaming Lips release new songs in gummy form

You know what pairs well with gummy fetuses? Flash drives. So goes the absurd logic of Flaming Lips. The band is planning to release three new songs, but here’s the catch: They’ll be on flash drives floating inside fetus-shaped gummy candies. If it feels wrong to bite into anything remotely resembling a baby, by all means, cut into it with a knife. We’re sure the music will be worth it the guilt.

Miscellany

Blake Shelton nabs Number 1 spot on Billboard with Red River Blue
MTV Video Music Award nominees announced
Trey Songz to star in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D
Katy Perry will voice Smurfette in new Smurf movie
Demi Lovato and Ryan Phillippe are or aren’t dating
Jay-Z and Kanye West album Watch The Throne drops August 1
Bette Midler thinks Lady Gaga’s mermaid in a wheelchair routine is a little fishy
Bruce Springsteen plays Clarence Clemons tribute show
Adele, Elbow, PJ Harvey nominated for Mercury Prize
Ja Rule sentenced to two years behind bars for tax evasion
Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez crash wedding
Atlantis crew gets wake-up call from Beyoncé

Your Country’s Right Here: Dolly Parton Offers A ‘Better Day’

Dolly Parton reminds fans that ”Better Day” is much more than the name of her new studio album.

Even though the legendary singer, musician, actress and philanthropist —who, by the way, writes the majority of the songs she performs —is an international superstar now, she well remembers struggles that culminated in her own “Better Day” triumphs. Certainly one such time was in the mid 1960s when the late Porter Wagoner, known as the King of Country Gospel, championed her. At that time, Wagoner had a popular syndicated television show. When his duet partner left in 1967 to get married, he took a chance and made Parton his duet partner.

“I would say the same thing I’ve said all through the years—’Thank you,’” said Dolly when asked what she’d say to Wagoner if she could speak to him now. “Porter gave me my first big break. When I wrote [the song released in 1974 and dedicated to Wagoner] ‘I Will Always Love You,’ I wrote it from the heart. I will always be grateful to Porter.”

The spot on Wagoner’s television show gave Parton her first taste of success. The duos’ award-winning songs paved the way for Parton to sign with RCA Records in 1968 and be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry the following year.

Parton continued on Wagoner’s show until 1974 when her singles, such as “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors,” made her a superstar in her own right.

That status she’s maintained all of these years has only heightened her enthusiasm for writing and performing. Parton said she wrote all of the songs on the album with the exception of “Country Is,” which she-cowrote with Mac Davis.

Her goal for the album was simple—to help lift the spirits of those that are feeling downtrodden by the economy and international unrest.

“I wanted to do an album that would be very uplifting and positive, as well as inspirational,” she said. “Times are hard all over. I think people need to feel better and I though ‘Better Day’ was a perfect title because it says ‘hope.’”

Find out more about Parton, her new album and her tour on her Web site and watch her latest video for “Together (You And I)” below.

6 Strikes And You’re Out

Ever since Napster first launched in 1999, piracy has been the music industry’s worst nightmare. With drastic drops in sales and revenues over the last decade, record labels are desperate to try and find ways to stop people from downloading music for free on the internet. Last week, the music and film industries announced a deal with five major major Internet Service Providers in hopes of discouraging piracy; wherein users caught illegally downloading copyrighted material will be given a series of six warnings to cease and desist. Repeat offenders could be subject to slower internet speeds or, if they reach the sixth strike, a ban from the company’s internet service. The five ISP’s involved in the deal, AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable, comprise a vast majority of internet users in the U.S.

Even little kids know how to pirate music these days

Record labels hope that this deal will help put a stop to music piracy, but it might be too little too late. The deal mainly focuses on peer-to-peer file sharing programs like BitTorrent, but there are plenty of other ways for people to download free music and evade detection. Tech savvy music pirates will always try and find a new way to cheat the system, and they will always be one step ahead of the Internet Service Providers trying to play catchup. It appears that the war on music piracy might be un-winnable.

Plus, consumers have had the advent of free music for the last ten years. Slowing down someone’s internet connection or banning them from the internet altogether isn’t going to translate into album sales. What the record labels should be doing is jumping on the free streaming bandwagon. Websites like Pandora and Spotify allow users to stream music for free, with the occasional advertisement popping up between songs. These companies then use the ad revenue to pay artists based on the number of streams they receive. Sure, each stream may only produce a cent or less for each artist, but some money is better than no money, right? And with Spotify’s U.S. launch right around the corner, and with an estimated 50 million users expected for its first year alone, there is sure to be a number of high profile companies who want to reach that advertising demographic. And that means more money in the hands of artists. It’s a win-win, artists and labels get paid, and consumers get their music for free. And no one has to get kicked off the internet.

 

 

 

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Grooms Go From Pavement To Peter Gabriel On ‘Prom’

The Brooklyn-based trio Grooms debuted in 2010 with the album Rejoicer, prompting members of the press to haul out wheelbarrows full of references to ‘90s alt rock, with Pavement and Sonic Youth taking up the most room in the cart. Bandleader Travis Johnson admits that those comparisons were not completely without merit, but his band has moved into other realms with the follow-up, Prom. “On this album we definitely moved away from some of the more classic ‘80s and ‘90s American indie-rock influences we’ve used before,” he explains, “We weren’t really thinking of those bands at all when we were making this record… They were probably fairly accurate [as comparisons] before, but they seem less accurate to me now.”

Where Rejoicer bore a relatively straightforward production style that put the focus squarely on Johnson’s off-kilter guitar arithmetic, Prom is a shadowy record that plays a constant game of sonic hide-and-seek, offering flashes of rich textures that retreat evanescently before you can sink your teeth into them; it boasts a more 3-D approach to the recording process, turning the sounds emitted by Johnson, Emily Ambruso and Jim Sykes into a ghost army of funhouse-mirror reflections, teeming with complex textures and caroming constantly from bristling discord to fragile beauty and back again. So what was in Johnson’s Soundcloud during the making of Prom? “For this record we were listening more to things like Broadcast or Tortoise or Peter Gabriel or something,” he says. The post-rock references ring true, and what’s more, there’s a quality to the album that recalls the try-anything aesthetic of other, nearly forgotten ’90s acts of that ilk, like Long Fin Killie and Moonshake.

But there’s one influence that has left a deeper mark on Johnson’s songs than any band could, and that’s his ongoing struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Johnson has let it be known that much of his music is colored by his experiences with OCD, but going public with that kind of personal information wasn’t a snap decision for him. “I actually did have hesitations about it,” he says, “not because I care about people knowing things like that about me, but because I hate when people exploit things like that. I think I was actually talking to my mom, who also has OCD, and she was just talking about how it’s not exploitative to talk about where the songs are coming from, which is largely through this really thick lens of OCD.”

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Grooms Go From Pavement To Peter Gabriel On ‘Prom’’

The Science Of A Pop Song

We all know the general “rules” to producing a hit pop song: song structure (intro – verse – chorus – verse – chorus – solo/bridge – chorus – outro), catchy melody and lyrics, I – IV – V chord progression, good production value and accessibility. That’s about as much thought as we give it. But is there a formula you can use to write a a guaranteed, instant hit?

Cookie cutter: a pop composer's best tool?

The authors of FutureHit.DNA definitely believe this is the case. The interesting thing is, they don’t stay in the general points of discussion that we all generally fall back to. They bring a handful of interesting stats to make their case, among them:

Average intro length: 4.88 seconds. Average song length: 3 minutes 53 seconds. Apparently we like getting straight to the meaty bit, don’t we? And, once we’re there, just throw it all at us. No fooling around!

Release multiple singles throughout the year. Once one of your songs catches on, your fans will be hungering for more. So, by all means, let them have it!

Don’t play rock. Unless you’re Dave Grohl. In which case, DO IT.

That’s dandy, but what implications does this hold for the current state of popular music? And what about us, the consumers? If the record (“singles” would be more fitting) industry can profile the listeners so easily, it speaks bundles of the conformity shown by the public. Has it really come to the point where most people just want to hear (because, let’s face it, most people aren’t doing much listening) the same song—albeit with slight variations—40 times on Top 40 radio?

While music appreciators and pop fans alike will never waiver, it’s getting easier to look at the formulated offerings of today’s chart toppers with a skeptical eye. Don’t get us wrong: LMFAO‘s ”Party Rock Anthem” (which currently tops Billboard’s Hot 100 chart) is a definite summer jam, and Katy Perry‘s been feeling the love ever since Teenage Dream came out last August (has it really been that long!?). Guilty pleasures aside, there’s a reason why pop music is, indeed, popular, and why musicians want to be famous. But the only truly remarkable songs, the songs that withstand the test of time, are those that bring something new to the scene. This is probably the reason Bon Iver‘s recently released self-titled album has received so much praise from everyone; not only did the band bring a fresh sound to the booming indie folk scene, but they did so in a refreshingly contemporary manner. And if any fan-favorite album this is shying away from the cookie cutter, this is definitely it.

What do you think of the matter? Are you content with listening to music designed to sell well? Are you happy with being merely content? Who do YOU think are the most original pop artists today?

Waka Flocka Flame Wants To Work At Wal-Mart And Other Musician’s “Post-Music” Careers

Juaquin Malphurs, better known by his rap handle Waka Flocka Flame, sent the blogosphere into a tussle in early July when he first hinted at, then formally announced, that he was quitting music. Though it’s still not entirely clear as to why Flocka is quitting the game now—he’s historically been the target of choice for many rap fans unimpressed with his straight forward, hard-nosed style of rapping but has typically reacted nonchalantly to haters—he seems pretty serious about the decision. First came the tweet:

And then further confirmation came from his mother/manager Debra Antney during an interview with RumorFix. Now countless musicians have hinted at quitting the music biz when they’re seemingly at the top of their game. We get it, despite the riches, fame and stardom that can go along with being a popular musician, the music industry can be quite cutthroat. That said, Malphurs’s threats to quit are a little different then similar statements made by the likes of 50 Cent, Lupe Fiasco and Ryan Adams, all of whom are still very much active in the business. First, it’s the seriousness and the quantity of the statements he’s made that he’s done. Most performers might have one quote in an interview reprinted ad nauseam while we’ve heard from Waka Flocka and his mom repeatedly. The second part that makes Waka’s threats to quit different, and just so Waka, is his possible post-music plan.

Now, there’s no set career path for musicians to follow after they’re done performing. Some get involved in other parts of the business, like pop star Christina Aguilera making the move to judge on NBC’s The Voice or like British singer Lily Allen starting her own vanity label. Others get involved in fashion, like Victoria Beckham parlaying her Spice Girls fame into becoming a member of the fashion cognoscenti and the marketing of her own clothing line. Many more get involved in the acting world (with decidedly mixed results). All that said, there probably hasn’t been another that has considered making the move from Billboard Hot 100 rapper to become a Wal-Mart greeter.

Now, there’s something to be said for Waka Flocka getting out of the game while he’s still ahead. It might be better to quickly exit then to be the victim of burnout later in his career. And since Waka doesn’t seem to be devoted to the entertainment industry, he might be better off pursuing a more down-to-earth career path. But come on, how hilarious would it be for Waka to come out with his own line of urban apparel à la Sean John? Or if he made the jump to television? If Xzibit can pimp your ride, maybe Waka Flocka can pimp your house? And if Ice-T can help solve a murder investigation on Law and Order: SVU, then why can’t Waka Flocka? Mr. Malphurs, the world is your oyster. Just don’t go all Vanilla Ice on us and go do reality television. It’s hard to come back from that. All kidding aside, we hope that you don’t give up on music just yet Waka Flocka and that you continue to go hard in the paint for many years to come.

 


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