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Sound and Vision: Why Recording Artists Should Look on the Bright Side of Piracy

“I’m a music fan that didn’t have a lot of pocket money as a kid. I bought what I could afford and taped the rest off radio or made a tape from my friend’s copy of the album.”

That’s what John Taylor of Duran Duran recently told Time Out Melbourne on the subject of illegal downloading. When I read Taylor’s comments, I applauded as if his band had just completed a rousing encore of “Skin Trade.” Finally, a pop star who understands what it’s like to be low on cash but high on music.

Back in the old pre-Internet days, before iTunes, Amazon and having access to the latest hits 24/7 on YouTube, if you couldn’t afford to pay to listen to the music you loved anytime you wanted to, you had to improvise. For me, and, apparently, for Taylor, that meant pushing a tape recorder up the speakers of the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on, pressing play when it did, and praying for no outside noise to interfere with the sweet music coming from the speakers.

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Your Country’s Right Here: For King & Country Jump on the Fast Track

When For King & Country become major recording artists—which, quite candidly, is bound to happen sooner rather than later—remember that you read about them on OurStage first—or at least as one of the first.

Think that the prediction is a stretch? You won’t when you hear the duo’s debut album Crave that is set for February 28 release. When you experience the songs written by two Australian-born brothers whose family moved to Nashville in the ’90s, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

Luke and Joel Smallbone’s brand of music—full of throbbing percussion, masterful guitars and liltingharmonies wrapped around emotionally haunting stories—has led some critics to compare them to Coldplay and other major musical talents. But, in a way, even such flattering comparisons are unfair to For King and Country.

First, the music has plenty of pop, alt-country and Christian influences, too, bringing artists such as Amy Grant to mind. And the brothers’ songs are truly gripping, almost like vignettes about their own lives.

Consider “Busted Heart (Hold On to Me),” which was inspired from a conversation on the brokenness that every person feels at some point in their life. That feeling comes at different points and in different ways, but it revolves around needing “something greater than myself” to hold onto, said Joel.

“We called the record Crave because it’s all about hope and what we crave and why,” said Luke. “We are creatures looking to put our trust and hope in something. The underlying thread is that there is hope and we are all looking for something we can grab hold of to live.”

The depth of the duo’s music isn’t surprising when you realize the Australian brothers are from a somewhat storied musical background. Their father was a major rock promoter in Australia. Their sister is celebrated contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James. And the duo started their music career as a grassroots band called, simply, Joel and Luke.

With first memories that involve all things music, the brothers formed a natural writing partnership early in their lives. ”Joel and I pretty much always write together,” said Luke. “We really grew up together working on music.”

That’s resulted in a plentiful supply of songs for the group. If the songs on the album are any indication, they are mainly in the style of some past songs the brothers wrote that have already received popular success. “Love’s to Blame” and “People Change” have been featured on the the CW series, The Vampire Diaries and “Light It Up” and “Sane” were on the Lifetime network’s show Drop Dead Diva.

It’s likely fair to say that the brothers went into creating their debut album with plenty of success under their belts, but they still found the process a bit unnerving.

“We wrote about 130-140 songs,” said Luke of the project. “We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it.”

A lot of that emotion came when choosing the songs that would eventually go onto the album but they relied on each other and their musical team to come to a conclusion.

“I think it is sort of like a family , where you’re only as strong as next guy. In a family, you hold each other up,” said Joel. “One of the most interesting points of the recording process was that during the song selection we [chose]eleven songs were written over a span of three-four years. The beauty is that they all have this very cohesive feel and really work well together as a true record.

Others already agree.  “Busted Heart (Hold On To Me)” is the fastest-rising debut single for 2011 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart. Billboard also recently called the group’s upcoming album one of the most hotly anticipated debuts of 2012.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Find out more about For King and Country, including tour dates, on their website.

Superlatones: Most Likely to Promote World Peace

Lately, it seems that we are hearing more and more from new and unexpected partnerships between artists of different genres. This is why, through Superlatones, we are creating our very own directory—a musical wish-list, if you will—of artists who have yet to join the collaborative bandwagon.

 

We live in a small world. Globalization has become one of the most important factors of our lives today, and technology is making it that much easier. Where as fifty years ago it took an operator and a half hour’s wait to make a phone call abroad, people today can just pop open their laptops and get on Skype for free. But what is most important about the new “friends-without-borders” approach the world is adopting today is the way it brings people together. This week, we are celebrating that very attitude with our latest dynamic duo.

The Dynamic Duo:
Kina Grannis and Paolo Nutini


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soundcheck: Grammy Rap-Up: Whitney, Nicki, and Adele

This year’s usual GRAMMY festivities were obviously overshadowed by the shocking passing of Whitney Houston. Unable to ignore the noticeably solemn sense in the room, LL Cool J opened the night with a heartfelt prayer for the fallen superstar, saying, “We’ve had a death in our family.”

Adele took home the first televised award of the night for Best Pop Performance for her smash hit,“Someone Like You”.  Later in the night, she gave a jaw-dropping performance of her hit, “Rolling In The Deep” just weeks after having surgery on her vocal chords.   She went on to win all six awards she was nominated for, including Album Of The Year. Other big winners were The Foo Fighters who nabbed four trophies.

Although the performances are usually the highlight of the evening, this year’s showings seemed to be miss their usual spark. Bruno Mars performed in his usual 50’s du-wop style, with a big bag of new dance moves and the same old-school costumes.  Alicia Keys and Bonnie Rait paid tribute to the legendary Etta James with a duet of her song, “ Sunday Kind Of Love”, after also acknowledging their love of Whitney. Chris Brown graced the GRAMMY stage for the first time since the 2009 incident, after Clive’s Davis’ annual dinner, that left Rihanna bruised and bloodied.  Dressed in all white, he performed “Beautiful People” and showcased his signature dance skills by climbing up an elaborate stage set complete with lasers and back-flipping back-up dancers.

Rihanna performed a slowed down version of “We Found Love” in a sexy skin-tight outfit andbleached blonde hair and black lipstick. .  The laser-filled set featured dozens of dancers storming that stage and creating a club right inside the GRAMMYs. She quickly switched gears and joined Chris Martin for their hit, “Coulda Been” before Coldplay closed their set with their hit, “Paradise”.

In one of the night’s most touching moments, Jennifer Hudson gave a powerful tribute to her idol with a performance of Whitney Houston’s hit “I Will Always Love You” to a tearful crowd.  She ended by saying, “Whitney, we’ll always love you.”

Fergie and Marc Anthony presented and accepted the award for Best Rap Performance to Kanye West and Jay-Z for “Otis”.  Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s four collective nominations weren’t enough to pull them away from baby ‘Blue’, as neither of the new parents were present.  Hova nabbed only one of his two nominations of the night and Beyoncé nabbed none.  Kanye West was also a no-show for the night, even though he finally got his GRAMMY glitz; winning four awards out of his seven nominations including Best Rap Song for “All Of The Lights” and Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Common and Taraji Henson saluted the late Gill Scot-Heron, calling him a great poet and saying, “Thanks to him, the revolution is now being televised.“ They presented the award for Best R&B Album to Chris Brown for F.A.M.E., leading the ever-remorseful and famously-flustered crooner to deliver a kind of uncomfortable acceptance speech.   “I don’t know what to say. I’m nervous,” he admitted before quickly thanking his camp and fans and hurrying off the stage.

After spending half the night in her seat holding hands with friend, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift performed her single, “Mean” with a banjo in hand and an elaborate down-home stage set.

Drake was proud to introduce his friend and label mate, Nicki Minaj, calling her “one of the most intelligent, beautiful, driven women I’ve ever met in my life. “ He said, “She went from sleeping in the bunk under mine on the tour bus, and now she’s one of the biggest stars in the world.”  After kicking off her extremely theatrical performance from a set in the crowd, she segued into a pre-recorded mini-movie called “The Exorcism of Roman”, an elaborate introduction to her most vicious alter ego. Then, she hit the stage for a spectacle of a show that featured her stellar rhyming skills as well as her certifiable singing and over the top acting abilities. While I have a feeling her set may have gone over some fans’ heads; no one can deny the guts and the gifts she displayed on the GRAMMY stage.

Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music’s Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger—and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards—was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records—even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand—are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

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Concerts To Watch For In 2012

There were dozens of amazing shows rocking our world in 2011. With the year coming to a close, we can’t help but look ahead to 2012 and start getting excited about another whole year of new music and epic shows. Here’s some picks of the biggest acts to tour next year, and what to look forward to:

Coldplay: With the release of the highly-anticipated Mylo Xyloto album hot on their heels, Coldplay are set to tour the US throughout 2012. It’s been a while since they’ve played here, too: Their last performance in the US was in August of 2009. Many of their shows at arenas have already sold out. Get on it so you aren’t left out!

Smashing Pumpkins: In anticipation of the release of Oceania along with the remastered reissue of the band’s entire catalog, Billy Corgan is ready to hit the road with the reunited Pumpkins early next year.

Pearl Jam: The summer will see the Seattle grunge rockers showcasing their new material from coast to coast. With renewed energy and a legion of die-hard fans dying to see them (get those tickets quick!), the vibe at these shows is bound to be fantastic.

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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: 2011 in the Rearview Mirror

You didn’t think RR&R would torture you with anything as tedious as another year-end Best-of list, did you? Granted, we do have a piece in the works that will inform you of some excellent albums you might have missed along the way, but that’s as close as we’re willing to get. Instead, this time around we’ll simply take stock of both the magic moments and the missteps that the last twelve months have brought us—works that delivered delight and dismay in equal measure.

Old Punks Never Die


Wire – Red Barked Tree

As the original post-punk outfit, Wire has always lived or died by how well they balanced their arty side with their edgy side. Their discography isn’t without its share of miscalculations in that area, but thirty-four years down the line from their debut album, this one is right on the money.

Gang of Four – Content

The Gang were right on the heels of Wire in first-gen U.K. post-punk, and were just as groundbreaking, but their twenty-first century revitalization has been marred by some dodgy moves. First they re-recorded a batch of their classics on 2005′s Return the Gift, and then they made matters worse with this irksome outing, which is considerably more annoying than the output of the worst third-hand Go4 copyists.

Social Distortion  - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes

True survivors, old-school SoCal punks Social Distortion have been through every rock & roll tribulation—death, drugs, you name it (How did VH1′s Behind the Music miss these guys?)—but not only are they still going strong, they added some extra bluesy swing and Stonesy swagger to their latest.
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Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Billy Corgan Rihanna
Lady Gaga Coldplay
  • First, pro wrestling. Now, Broadway? You are quite worldly for a man with a duckface, Billy Corgan.
  • All hail the Queen of Facebookia.
  • Coldplay fans, you might want to check for some hidden functions. You know, for the ladies.
  • Who wouldn’t want a nude drawing by an 85 year old man? Best Christmas present ever.
  • Judging by the trailer, we’re guessing they mean the term “pop” in the loosest manner possible.
  • Russell Simmons sticking it to Lowe’s by not taking their money.
  • Need to make an artist weep heavily while recording? Can’t go wrong with making them sing a little Bob Dylan.
  • You’re welcome, Dave. You’re welcome.

 


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