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Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Sound And Vision: The Year in Review — What Was Hot and Not in Pop (and Beyond) in 2011?

No discussion of the last twelve months in music would be complete without a proper shout out to Adele, the blue-eyed, soulful Brit who ruled 2011 with one album (the multiply GRAMMY-nominated 21) and two No. 1 singles (“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”), so here we go.

Girl!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s what was hot and not about the rest.

HOT

1. Drake: Last year, he called his debut album Thank Me Later, so now feels like the right time to express our genuine appreciation for the Canadian rapper who balances tough and tender so perfectly. With his second album, Take Care, and two of its key cuts, in particular—the fantastic first single “Headlines” and the title track (featuring Rihanna)—he brought sexy back to rap for the first time since ladies loved (LL) Cool J.

2. Girls on film: From Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” to Lady Gaga’s “Judas” to Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Into You” to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” it was an excellent year for women in pop videos. But it was Ke$ha in “Blow,” Kelly Rowland in “Motivation” and Rihanna in “We Found Love” that injected new energy into a decades-old art form and elevated it above and beyond promotional tool to indispensable companion piece.

3. Haley Reinhart and Casey Abrams “Moanin’” on American Idol: I didn’t love the bulk of their solo performances during the 10th season of Idol, but when Reinhart and Abrams came together on the Top 8 results show for the vocalese version of Charles Mingus’ “Moanin’,” the unexpected result was the best musical moment I saw all season.

4. Diana DeGarmo on The Young and the Restless: Speaking of Idol losers, season three’s runner-up’s stint as Angelina on daytime’s No. 1 soap hasn’t been so well-received by critics or fans, but I dissent. There’s both artistry and comedic gold in DeGarmo’s portrayal of a tone-deaf “singer” and daughter of a New Jersey mob boss, and I’m looking forward to being as wowed by her Pygmalion-style makeover as I was by her Idol rendition of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” all those years ago.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: The Year in Review — What Was Hot and Not in Pop (and Beyond) in 2011?’

Five Questions We Have For The GRAMMYs

The 54th Annual GRAMMY Award Nominees have been announced and, like every year, people don’t entirely agree with the choices. It’s only natural for fans to be upset that their favorite artist or song wasn’t nominated for a certain category. However, every year there a few head scratchers, not just in the nominations but also in the categories. Therefore, we compiled a list of five questions we have regarding this year’s GRAMMY Award nominations.

We're predicting Adele to take home the most hardware this year

1. What’s the difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year?

When the nominees were first announced, we found ourselves wondering the age old question, what is the difference between these two categories? We found it very odd that out of the five songs nominated in each category, four of them were nominated for both awards. It seems rather strange that the one song will likely win two awards for basically the same thing. After some research, we discovered that the Record of the Year is awarded to the song’s performer and production team, while Song of the Year is awarded to song’s writer(s)/composer(s). While this does make some sense (not all artists write their own songs), we still think they should have nominated different songs for each category to at least give us some variety.

Continue reading ‘Five Questions We Have For The GRAMMYs’

Vocal Points: Singers and their Accents

Every singing voice is unique. After all, that’s what makes vocalists special, and what makes music so interesting. But besides tonal quality, range and timbre, there is another factor that sometimes contributes to a singer’s sound—his or her accent. For some singers, accent doesn’t play a huge role in their music, but for others, it is a defining factor.

The Beatles Liverpudlian accent is, in my opinion, a defining factor in their music. It is very apparent in many of their songs, and is one of many factors that makes the band great. For example, the way that customer is pronounced in “Penny Lane” stands out, as well as countless other examples throughout their catalog of music. Still, it’s hard to know where exactly certain artists come from.

There are so many examples of British singers who sound as if they could easily be from the US. Elton John, Amy Winehouse and even Adele have been known to shed their British accents in song. And then there’s a band like Phoenix, who you’d never suspect comes from France. And this makes sense if you think about it. A regional accent is made up of differences in features like intonation, speech rhythm, vowel length and vowel quality, all of which naturally disappear in song. Intonation is replaced by the melody which the vocalist sings, typical speech rhythm changes based on timing and rhythm of the song, and vowel length and quality are oftentimes elongated and enunciated when sung. Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: Singers and their Accents’

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Lana Del Rey Lady Gaga
Karen O Adele
  • Lana Del Rey better watch herself, less she gets a face full of crazy Courtney Love.
  • After getting cut from The Muppets, Lady Gaga’s going with her second choice.
  • Seeing Adele bide her time with newly fixed vocal chords is actually kind of terrifying.
  • Granted she wasn’t even alive at the height of Led Zeppelin’s career, but C’MON.
  • More like a high-pitched girly scream, according to Bono, but hey, who are we to judge?
  • Glad to see Trent Renzor can go back to being a dark, moody, and misjudged artist again.
  • Just announced: we’ve found Jay-Z and Kanye. They’re in this mysterious place called the zone.
  • So, iTunes UK is panning out pretty much exactly the same as the rest of the world then.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Adele Miss Piggy
Girls Aloud Steel Panther
  • Now, we’re kind of scared to see what Adele can do post-surgery.
  • Sure, we’re in a recession, but you politicians go argue about Miss Piggy. Totally fine.
  • What have you done, Motley Crue? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
  • If you don’t like it, why don’t you go dubstep, Nicola? Seems to have worked for Korn.
  • And this year’s entire American Country Awards goes to Carrie Underwood’s mama.
  • Finally, Ice Cube will get revenge on Coors Lite for stealing his thunder.
  • Just when your day couldn’t get any weirder, Flaming Lips + Yoko Ono happens.

Vocal Points: View From The Top

The significance of the Billboard Hot 100, which compiles the Top 100 singles based on radio popularity, in the music industry today has certainly diminished. But despite new music industry road maps, the chart remains an interesting measure of what sells in a huge commercial way. So, let’s take a look what role the voice plays in each of the following chart-toppers’ success on Billboard from the week of November 26, 2011. Here are the Top 10 artists in order.

1. Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, “We Found Love” While Rihanna’s hits are always fun and catchy, the way that her voice sounds recorded (a bit whiny) has never blown me away. And then there’s the fact that some of her stuff is diluted with pitch correction software, which shows in live performance when she’s often off key. All that aside, this particular song is not offensive, but its just very bland.

2. LMFAO – “Sexy And I Know It” DJs Redfoo and SkyBlu may have no vocal talent, but at least they don’t pretend to. They have fun and the song is what is, and that’s why it works. Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: View From The Top’

Sound And Vision: Foster the People’s Chart Challenge — Is There Life After “Pumped Up Kicks”?

Foster the People just might be the pop anomaly of 2011.

The trio of Los Angeles-based twentysomethings led by founder and namesake Mark Foster looks like a boy band (only cuter), plays instruments like rockers and produces music with beats that thump as hard as any backing up those fierce divas currently ruling every dance floor in clubland. And then there’s FTP’s breakthrough single, an insanely catchy song called “Pumped Up Kicks” about cool shoes and a youth with homicidal tendencies.

I mean, really?

Even more surprising than the song’s smash status despite its decidedly un-poppy protagonist—that troubled kid contemplating a shooting spree—is the fact that it’s created barely a ripple of controversy throughout its lengthy chart run. Did the clever lyrics fly over the heads of the country’s guardians of morality and decency in songwriting? Were we all just too lost in the beat to notice the finger on the trigger?

Or perhaps for the first time since the second British invasion of the 1980s brought such alternative pop acts as Duran Duran,
Depeche Mode and indie-pop pioneers the Smiths into and around the mainstream, both the masses and the pop-music establishment (radio and retail) are ready to support music that touches on more complex subject matters than “dance music sex romance”—to quote a track on pop iconoclast supreme Prince’s 1982 album, 1999, one of the records that launched the censorship wars of the early ’80s that would hardly raise an eyebrow today.)

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Foster the People’s Chart Challenge — Is There Life After “Pumped Up Kicks”?’

Vocal Points: Where Have All The Voices Gone?

John Mayer isn’t known for his humility. In fact, quite the opposite—he’s been called showy, cocky and even called out for his womanizing ways. But he IS known for his voice. The way that he can make his fans melt with his sultry, light tones, both in a stripped-down live performance, and with layering of harmonies on his fully produced records. But all that became impossible for Mayer when he was diagnosed with granuloma (throat inflammation). After looking into alternative remedies, it was determined he would have to undergo throat surgery to fix the problem. And while the surgery is somewhat routine, and he’ll be able to perform again after he recovers, he explained that the experience was humbling, in a post on Tumblr “I never thought I’d be wishing I could do what I love again”. Like so many vocalists, Mayer had begun to take his voice for granted, and needed this experience as an awakening to move his career and life forward.

Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: Where Have All The Voices Gone?’

Soundcheck: Nicki M Wins Big At 2011 AMA’s

With performances from Will.i.am, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Brown, Pitbull and Drake among others, the 2011 American Music Awards provided an eclectic mix of music this year.Andthanks to thenineteen performances sprinkled throughout the show, fans were able to see some of musics brightest stars shine on the big stage.

Nicki Minaj was on top of the world last night after nabbing two of the biggest hip hop honors of the night. She scored Favorite Artist and Favorite Album for Pink Friday, beating out Jay-Z and Kanye Wests Watch The Throne and mentor Lil Waynes The Carter IV. She also delivered a killer show-opening performance of Superbass and Turn Me On alongside David Guetta, and some serious wardrobe that included speakers in her backside. In her acceptance speeches, a truly touched Minaj thanked her Young Money crew, Weezy, and Taylor Swift and wore an unusually classy, green gown, proving this girl really does clean up nice.

50 Cent was on deck to introduce Chris Brown, who he called the main event, noting youve never really seen this performer unless youve seen him live, before Brown and his bleached-blonde hair hit the stage for dance-heavy renditions of All Back and Say It With Me. Although Brown was nominated for two awards, he wasnt a winner, getting beat out by ex, Rihanna for Favorite Album and Usher for Favorite Male Artist.

Since RiRi was in Europe on her Loud tour, she accepted her award via satellite, as did Beyonc, who scored the award for Favorite Female Artist beating out Rihanna and ex-band mate, Kelly Rowland.

Another big winner for the night was Jennifer Lopez. Aside from two show-stopping performances (one with Pittbul and a Fiat, and one with Will.i.am), she also nabbed Favorite Latin Artist, breaking a five-year winning streak for Enrique Iglesias. When she first hit the stage in a jeweled, skin-colored bodysuit (Britney, anyone?) and danced in, around, and through, her perfectly placed Fiat, she proved to the world that shes still got the moves of a fly girl. Later, she gave an amped-up performance alongside Will.i.am, performing his new single, T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever) which also features rock icon, Mick Jagger.

Enrique Iglesias hit the stage later to perform his hit, I Like How It Feels backed by the Crenshaw High School choir, and was later joined by Ludacris, who spit his verse on Tonight (Im Loving You) in a preppy sweater look. British import Adele, racked up three awards including Favorite Artist, Favorite Album, and Favorite Female Artist for her groundbreaking project, 21.

Mary J. Blige hit the stage in an all-white suit to perform Mr. Wrong without Drake, who later took the stage to give his own performance of Headlines in front of a live band. After her performance, MJB gave a heartfelt tribute to fallen friend, Heavy D.

Missing from the audience this year were Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and a handful of other hip hop heavyweights. In their defense, with only two real hip hop categories, the AMAs are not a major destination for these guys, unless they have an album to promote.

 


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