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Soundcheck: Hip Hop Hits iheartradio Music Festival

The “biggest live music event in radio history” hit Las Vegas this weekend when Clear Channel’s iheartradio Music Festival kicked off Friday night at the MGM Grand. Thousands of fans came from across the country to see the impressive line-up, which included the best of the best in every music genre.  The festival marked the launch of Clear Channel’s new iheartradio app, which is designed to make users the program directors for their own fantasy radio station. Abandoning the traditional set-up of genre-specific set-lists, iheartradio allows fans to hear the latest and greatest music from their favorite artists, whether its Jay-Z or Rascal Flats. For a true music aficionado, the resulting playlist would probably sound a lot like the incredible mash-up of music offered at the two-night event.

Black Eyed Peas kicked off the show with “Boom Boom Pow” to an ecstatic crowd comprised of die-hard pop, country, hip hop and rock fans.  The night went smoothly with stellar sets from Jane’s Addiction, Carrie Underwood, Bruno Mars and Kelly Clarkson, all of whom were there to celebrate radio and prove why they rule the charts.  Coldplay delivered an amazing set including “Clocks” and Chris Martin came off as the ultimate front man.  The set was enough to convert me into an instant Chris Martin fan.

Alicia Keys was a beaming beauty when she hit the stage to perform a medley of hits including “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart”, “Unthinkable” and “Empire State of Mind.”Shealso debuted a new song, teasing fans, “Is it OK for me to play something brand new?” The inspirational number, “A Place Of My Own” was classic Keys, who delivered airy vocals over her perfect piano playing.

Next up was Hova himself, who seemed to be in a particularly good mood when he hit the stage for his forty-minute set.  With Memphis Bleek by his side, he delivered hit after hit from his sixteen-year career.  He repped The Black Album pretty hard and touched on his most successful singles, including “Jigga What”,  “99 Problems”, “Give It To Me” “Run This Town”, “Big Pimpin’” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”.  He closed the show with “Empire State of Mind” after Alicia Keys returned to the stage to belt out the huge hook.

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Sound And Vision: Celebrity Feuds — Pop Is a Battlefield, World War II

“Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ‘em all some place to go”

— Tom Petty, “Jammin’ Me” (1987)

“Fuck Tom Petty!”—Eddie Murphy

Oh, those crazy stars! What will they say next? And will they ever learn? What a tangled web they weave when they start to take pot shots at each other.

Celebrity feuds have existed since before the dawn of the pop charts. Eminem owes much of his early notoriety to cutting down to size the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync and Moby in videos and on record. Meanwhile, off the record (though always totally for attribution), Katy Perry has never met a fellow chart-topper she wouldn’t slag off.

But lately, stars keep colliding and disturbing the peace in the music galaxy. Liam Gallagher just filed suit against his brother Noel over the latter’s claim that Liam pulled out of a high-profile Oasis gig in 2009 due to a hangover and over comments Noel made blaming Liam for the demise of the band. But then brothers in arms have engaged in verbal—and occasionally, physical— combat since the heyday of the Kinks, which featured the dueling Davies, Ray and Dave. Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, William and Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Kings of Leon‘s Followill brothers have the battle scars to prove it.

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Can Music Move Us Away From Discrimination?

It is clear that the world is changing, and it seems like most of these changes are for the better. New technology and trends have enabled us to do things we never thought possible.  And, even more importantly, opportunities are available to people, no matter what race, gender, sexuality, or religion they happen to be. But how is this change reflected in the world of music? It seems that while some genres of music are taking great leaps in the right direction, other genres are still digging in their heels.

Country singer Chely Wright, one of the few country artists who is openly gay, recently married her girlfriend Lauren Blitzer in Connecticut. And while this was one of the happiest days of Wright’s life, many of her fans did not see it this way. In fact, since Wright came out in 2010, she has been harassed and threatened by people who used to support her.  Country fans have historically been more conservative than other music fans, but for Wright it was a shock that her fan base seemingly disappeared after she opened about her sexuality.

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WYATT Brings The Country To Thousands Of Fans At Capital Hoedown 2011

How do you like your country music? Served with a spice of pop-rock goodness? Perfect, because that’s just what WYATT brings to the table. The Saskatoon four-piece won the “Capital Hoedown Showdown” Competition Grand Prize in May and recently rocked the festival main stage alongside Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney and more.

From get-go the group was treated to the superstar lifestyle, complete with VIP festival passes, baller hotel room, personal driver and more. During their performance, the audience of thousands devoured every minute of their set  igniting sing-alongs and cheering loudly throughout. Afterwards  they were escorted by security to a meet and greet, their only line of defense from masses of eager fans demanding pictures and autographs.

For the full performance of their winning song “Ride On” and more, check out the video below.

Vocal Points: When Two Voices Become One

Lady Antebellum has a spark. There’s something about the way that Hillary Scott’s clear voice meshes with fellow lead vocalist Charles Kelley’s rougher tones. The way that the two of them sing, weaving their voices back and forth to tell a story, combined with the way that these two powerful voices can give and take seamlessly is so special. The combination of their voices creates an effect which evokes double the emotion, showcases double the talent and makes for an all-around great listen.

There have been many country acts who use both male and female vocals to add variety to their sound, but few have been able to mesh the voices as successfully and as consistently as Lady Antebellum. Many artists choose to create a solo album and then feature duets with other singers, for example Jason Aldean, who collaborated with Kelly Clarkson for a track on his album My Kinda Party, or Brad Paisley‘s duet “Remind Me” with Carrie Underwood. But it is truly remarkable that every song by Antebellum utilizes both Kelley’s and Scott’s voices to their full potential.

Although less well-known than Lady Antebellum, The Civil Wars—an alternative country/folk duo—also blends the voices of two singers (Joy Williams and John Paul White) into every song. Both Lady Antebellum and The Civil Wars feature voices that could easily stand alone, but together create something much more magical. Because these singers are equally incredible at harmonizing and keeping a balance where neither is over-powering, they can create a sound which is phenomenal.

Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: When Two Voices Become One’

WYATT Wins Main Stage Performance At Capital Hoedown Country Music Festival

As we’ve recently discovered, great Canadian country music is in no short supply. The “Capital Hoedown Showdown” Competition on OurStage sought to bring out the best of the bunch, and boy did we find them.

Saskatoon natives WYATT, Calgary duo Pear and Sharon, Ontario songwriter Danielle Bourjeaurd all performed in Ottawa last night for a chance to live every country artist’s dream—a main stage performance at a major country music festival. The battle was hard fought to say the least, with each artist bringing their A-game to a packed crowd. By the time the dust settled however, judges Amanda Wilkinson, Nick Meinema and Denis Benoit landed on WYATT. The country quartet is no stranger to the OurStage spotlight, having previously placed Number 2 in “Bon Jovi’s Wanted: A SuperBAND Tonight!” Competition in Canada last year.

Now they’ll be rocking the same stage as Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and more at the Capital Hoedown Country Music Festival in Ottawa from August 11-13! Don’t forget to check back for our post-performance followup with them.

Grand Prize Winners WYATT

WYATT, Danielle Bourjeaurd, Folks from Capital Hoedown and OurStage


Meet The Finalists Of The Capital Hoedown Showdown Competition

Way back in June, OurStage and Capital Hoedown banded together to scour the great land of Canada in search of its finest country artists. We yodeled our summons from the top of the Rockies (figuratively speaking) to see what we could rustle up.

Turns out Canada is nearly as fertile as Nashville when it comes to incredible country talent. Fans helped us narrow the field down to three stellar contenders who will vie for a spot on the main stage at Capital Hoedown 2011—one of Canada’s biggest country festivals. In just 2 days these three artists will get their chance to audition for that amazing grand prize.

Check out the finalists below, and stay tuned to see who gets to share the same stage as Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and more! We’re mighty excited to see who wins—how about y’all?



Danielle Bourjeaurd

Country Music Fans Win Passes To Capital Hoedown 2011 By Judging!

Country music fans—can you say free festival tickets? We’re not just talking about tickets to any ol’ backyard country jig either. Judge in the “Capital Hoedown Showdown” Competition on OurStage and you could win a pair of three-day passes to Capital Hoedown 2011! This year’s lineup includes country giants Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Rascal Flatts and more.

Do your part to help Canada’s best country artist win a performance on the festival main stage this year, and you could be there to witness all the action. All you need to do is make your voice heard by July 11, 2011. For a taste of what you’ll find while judging, check out the playlist below, it’s packed with country gems.


Sound And Vision: Why I Miss the ’90s

Every decade lives twice. Each one seems to get a second shot about twenty years after the fact. The ’50s were hot again in the ’70s (which might be why Happy Days was one of TV’s biggest hits). The ’60s resurfaced in the ’80s (as did tie-dye t-shirts and the British invasion), and Saturday night fever flared up one more time in the ’90s (though that didn’t stop the film 54 from flopping).

We’ve been stuck in the ’80s for a while now, but the ’90s are coming around again. I recently attended a ’90s party at a nightclub in Sydney, Australia, and the dance floor was packed with the retro-obsessed. The beats were technotronic indeed, but thanks to the varied playlist, I remembered that there was so much more to the decade in music than grunge and Europop. (Bell Biv DeVoe‘s “Do Me” and Elastica‘s “Connection” provided particularly pleasing trips down memory lane.) Here are five reasons why the ’90s rocked even harder than you might recall.

1. Sisters with voices ruled. And I’m not just talking about Sisters with Voices (otherwise known as SWV). TLC was arguably the most unique multi-platinum girl group ever, while En Vogue was the most glamorous one since the Supremes. Solo stars like Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan joined the hit parade, and Whitney Houston could still raise the roof—and she did with the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. Aside from Adele and Beyoncé (when she’s not huffing, puffing and trying way too hard to bring the house down), none of today’s female hitmakers can match the fierce ruling divas of the ’90s for sheer vocal power.

2. Rock & roll was king. Grunge may have been a relatively short-lived turning point, but for a moment there, the music was actually more important than the marketing. Thanks to bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Radiohead (all of whose platinum success seemed more accidental than calculated), Britpop (Blur vs. Oasis was so much better than Kings of Leon vs. Glee or the lead singers of Coldplay and Muse being married to Hollywood), and the grrrl power of female and female-driven acts like Björk, P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morrisette, Hole, Belly, the Breeders and L7, rock and alternative music was both popular and interesting.

3. Stars were born, not manufactured on television and YouTube. This year, Rebecca Black went viral on YouTube and became a “star” without ever actually having a hit. (“Friday” topped out on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 58, 24 notches lower than the Glee remake.) And nothing against American Idol it’s given us some bona fide, hit-making talents (Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert, among them)—but it’s also gave us William Hung! When music stars are created instantly (in Hung’s case, due to an extreme lack of talent) or groomed in front of our very eyes, pop stardom starts to lose its mystique. Clarkson’s fame will never seem as hard-won as Celine Dion‘s; Carrie Underwood will never be as good a story as Shania Twain; and I’d trade soulful, one-hit wonders like Dionne Farris and Des’ree for Fantasia every day of the week. At least we never had to watch them almost self-destruct in public. Which brings us to…

4. Less was more. Before Twitter, YouTube and tabloid media overload, pop stars always left us wanting more. Now they reveal every thought and all of the minutiae of their lives via endless Twitter updates. (Sean Kingston recently tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by medical equipment while recovering from a jet-ski accident in Miami that nearly cost him his life. Too much?) The tabloids give us 24/7 access, showing them doing just about everything except going to the bathroom (including having sex!). And we can catch them whenever we want to on YouTube (and make them seem more popular than they actually are by continuously pressing play in order to increase their “views”) and watch them falling and bombing onstage, tangling with the paparazzi, and getting prickly with TV interviewers before doffing their shirts and hitting the streets of New York City.

Lauryn Hill was one of the biggest stars of the late ’90s yet she always managed to sidestep overexposure. Where is she now? God only knows (though it recently was revealed that she’s pregnant with her sixth child). If only Amy Winehouse, her critically acclaimed late-’00s equivalent, had been able to fall apart in the privacy of her own home.

5. Courtney Love was far more daring than Lady Gaga. I’ll admit it: I miss Courtney Love. Whatever you thought about her music, the lead singer of Hole was never boring. Take away Lady Gaga’s freaky-creepy visuals, though, and all you’re left with is a talented but over-earnest, politically correct pop star. She’s says all the right things, but listen closely—none of it is even slightly provocative. Her carefully considered soundbites are intended to be up with underdogs and offensive to no one. Even her pro-gay agenda is as respectful as possible to the political right. Just once, I’d like to see Gaga get naked and sexy (for someone who wears so little clothing, she’s remarkably, and safely, asexual), or totally lose it, throwing good intentions out the window and engaging in a public bitchfest. Isn’t the moral majority asking for it?

20 Essential ’90s Albums

Annie LennoxDiva

BabyfaceFor the Cool in You



The Cardigans - Gran Turismo

Dolly PartonThe Grass Is Blue

Elvis Costello and Burt BacharachPainted from Memory

Faith No More - Angel Dust

John AndersonSeminole Wind

Kate BushThe Red Shoes

k.d. lange - Ingenue

Mary J. BligeMy Life

Morrissey - Vauxhaull and I (or Your Arsenal)

Neil YoungHarvest Moon

Neneh CherryHomebrew

Portishead - Dummy

Radiohead - The Bends

R.E.M.Automatic for the People (or Out of Time or New Adventures in Hi-Fi)

Sarah McLachlanFumbling Towards Ecstasy

SuedeComing Up

Your Country’s Right Here: Sunny Sweeney Talks Brad Paisley, Real Tears And Treadmills

Sunny Sweeney is poised to be the next big break out star in country music. Just consider that her debut single “From a Table Away,” zoomed into the Top 10 almost as soon as it was released. That makes Sunny the first new female artist to hit the Top 10 since 2007 when Taylor Swift did so.

Now Sweeney’s single “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” is on the charts. Plus, she  has signed on to tour in support of Brad Paisley H2O II: Wetter and Wilder Tour, that begins July 22.  As many recall, it wasn’t long after Carrie Underwood came to national prominence that an opening gig on a Paisley tour helped skyrocket her into the major musical leagues. As if Paisley’s star power isn’t enough, Blake Shelton is also on this latest tour.

Sweeney took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to tell us a bit about upcoming album, her thoughts about performing on the same stage as Brad Paisley and just how she stays healthy as she adjusts to life on the road:

OS: Your debut album will be released in August. Who were your main influences for the songs?

SS: Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, all the artists I loved growing up. There are ten songs on the album and I wrote or co-wrote seven. There are three covers I heard that I was just so excited about I had to do.

OS: What were some of the personal inspirations behind the songs?

SS: I have just been through a lot in the last couple years in my personal live. As I was writing, I would add stuff in my personal drama that was going on.

OS: That has to be difficult, to put your personal turmoil out there and share it with audiences over and over again.

SS: You have to put it out there. When you do, people respond to it. Those are the best songs that you can write. When we chose the songs for the album, I was saying “may the best song win.” I’m really excited because [this album has] a really good collection of songs. I am really, really proud of them.

OS: But how do you deal with the myriad of emotions that must swell each time you play such a personal song?

SS: The most emotion I experienced in the “song” process was the actual writing of the songs. Each time I sing them, it reminds me of the lessons I’ve learned in my life. For me, it’s easier to sing songs of a personal nature. In my video for “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” my tears were real tears because I was asked to draw upon emotions from my past.

OS: So many of your influences are traditional country yet the trend for many artists seems to be toward country rock or country pop. Where do you fit in?

SS: Just probably right in the middle. I definitely have a lot of old country influences, but some of my songs are more rocking. They are all mixed into my shows. The record is very reminiscent of the shows.

OS: It’s got to be tough to adjust to life on the road. How do you stay in shape?

SS: I do work out every day, usually on a treadmill. I also drink tons of water and sleep as much as I can, which typically isn’t that much.

OS: You say you are very close to your parents and whole family. What do you do when you go home to visit them?

SS: I see them as much as I can and try to get as much family time as possible. We just hang out, and eat, and talk. I have three sisters and a brother. We are probably weird, but we just like to get beer and sit on the back porch and listen to music.

OS: What was your first thought when you had the opportunity to tour with Brad Paisley?

SS: HELL YEAH! Let me check my schedule. OK, I checked. I’m free, just tell me what time I need to be there.

OS: When you perform on the H2O tour, what are the two or three things you want audiences to take away from the show?

SS: I want them to walk away with the sense that they were told a story set to music and I want them to realize that traditional country music is cool and entertaining.

OS: You were around for a while and then we didn’t hear from you for a bit. What were you doing?

SS: It’s only been a year since we finished recording my CD, and for the last twelve months, I have been on a radio tour, which was grueling but very rewarding and it’s starting to pay off. This Brad Paisley tour is an awesome opportunity and it’s only the beginning of bigger things to come hopefully. I couldn’t be luckier … somebody pinch me.

Find out more about Sunny Sweeney, including upcoming concert dates, on her Web site.


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