Drake must be the luckiest guy in music. He’s got an enviable portfolio of assets: looks, talent, street cred, excellent connections, gold and multi-platinum. Now the Canadian rapper has a beautiful woman, too—at least a controlling interest in her legacy. But is ownership of the next posthumous phase of Aaliyah’s career one benefit too many?
That’s what some are wondering as we approach the 11th anniversary (on August 25) of the death of Aaliyah, who was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001, at age 22, cutting short one of the most promising careers in music. Since then, there’s been scant new material issued under her name. I Care 4 U, a posthumous album released in December of 2002, was followed by nearly a decade of silence.
Until now. Earlier this month, Drake unveiled a new Aaliyah track, “Enough Said,” credited to Aaliyah featuring Drake and produced by the rapper’s Take Care collaborator Noah “40” Shebib. There’s more: Drake has promised a new Aaliyah album, executive produced by himself and 40, with 13 or 14 tracks, to be released later this year.
But is it a true Aaliyah album if key players in her life and legacy—namely her immediate family—are left out of it? Her brother, Rashad Haughton, went so far as to deny the family’s involvement on Aaliyah’s Facebook fan page. “There is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family,” he posted on August 7, several days after Drake released the new single. Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Post-Mortem Pop, Starring Drake’s Aaliyah Resurrection and the Second Coming of Whitney Houston’
Or maybe it’s more apt to liken his attitude to that of someone who worked and worked and then finally solved the New York Times‘ Saturday crossword puzzle — in ink, first time through. Sure Lucero has always had a cool punk, alt-country sound that won them fans well beyond the band’s Memphis, Tenn., home base. But now think of Lucero’s punk, alt-country sound as super charged, thanks to the addition of new players and instrumentation. You can hear it all on the band’s new release Women & Work, on ATO records, home of the Drive-By Truckers, My Morning Jacket, and other like-minded musicians.
“When we [recorded] Women & Work all eight pieces had been on the road for a couple years,” said Nichols of the group’s cohesive musical direction. “We had time to gel, as a complete unit and it was the first time everyone had been involved [in recording a Lucero record] since day one. We had discovered what was possible and went into this record knowing exactly where we stood and exactly what sound we were going for.”
Not that Nichols and the other original members of the 14-year-old band didn’t have the determination or talent or enthusiasm to find that musical sweet spot before. It’s just that, like solving a puzzle, they needed to find the key to the tricky questions. In this band’s case, it was how to whip Otis Redding soul into Lucero’s punk country sound and have a pleasing result.
After going from a jingle singer (Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Red Lobster are among the corporations that featured her vocals) to a back up singer for A-list hit makers including Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, to a duet partner with Merle Haggard and Charlie Rich, Fricke became an A-list singer herself starting with the 1981 solo hit “Down to My Last Broken Heart.” Now the singer, who has 18 No. 1 singles, is touring behind Country Side of Bluegrass and reintroducing her songs and voice to a new generation of fans.
“At first when they asked me to do it, I thought it’d be pretty interesting,” said Fricke of the album she completed with famed Nashville producer Bil VornDick. “Then the whole plan came together that included [recording and some touring] with the Roys.”
Combining the sound of the brother and sister duo of Elaine Roy and Lee Roy, two-time Inspirational Country Music Duo of the Year award winners, with the much-lauded Fricke whose awards include the much coveted CMA “Female Vocalist of the Year” Award, give the album’s 12 tracks (plus the “Ring of Fire” bonus track) true distinction.
Every week at Live Wired, we talk about different live performances, from national acts to OurStage artists, and attempt to explore what made each show unique and memorable. Despite what changes in the world of music, artists keep touring the country and the world, and we keep buying tickets to go see them. We can sit and review numbers and earnings from concerts or discuss how important touring is to an artist’s career, but that would be no fun. Instead, we want to get to the heart of the matter; why do we love live music so much? Why do we spend the money, take road-trips, wait in line for hours and sing until we lose our voices? These are the questions we asked all different kinds of people in the past few weeks; young and old, music lovers and casual listeners, all with very different tastes. Here’s what we came up with as we take a stab at figuring out the wonder that is live music.
Sense of Community & Good Atmosphere
When asking people about their best concert memories, the majority of the answers we received centered around the crowd itself and the overall feel of the show. Whether it’s a giant annual festival like Lollapalooza, or a band like Steel Train playing a small show, the people surrounding you are important. A combination of genuine respect for the artist and also for your fellow concert-goers can really make an event that much better; when you’re all focused on the music, it’s the only thing that matters. We heard lots of people tell us that going to a concert makes them feel like a part of a giant family. It’s an incredible thing, being surrounded by strangers who can turn into friends for one night just because you all are passionate about the same thing.
Sub-question: Is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins… is it better to burn out or fade awaaay?”
– Barry, High Fidelity (2000)
I wish they’d actually discussed this in the film, especially the latter bit. For my part, I say great artists have proven that, somewhere inside, they know better, and so should be held accountable for their sins.
Stevie makes this list, but not for “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” Not even for “The Woman In Red…”
10. “Freeway of Love” – Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul abdicated her throne when, in 1985, she recorded this mechanized, synth-driven offense.
No matter what the media say—and for more than a year now, they’ve been declaring Justin Bieber as big as, if not bigger than, the Beatles—Bieber Fever is no match for Beatlemania. Even if Bieber’s new holiday album, Under the Mistletoe, which was released November 1, ends up being the biggest one ever (the first single, “Mistletoe,” just debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 11, immediately making it the seventeen-year-old’s biggest solo hit yet), remember this: The Beatles never released a Christmas album. (Thank God!)
Obviously, Bieber Fever does have one thing in common with Beatlemania, a movement launched by The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 that continued long after the Beatles broke up in 1970: girls, girls, girls (all screaming at the top of their lungs). They are the cornerstone of Bieber’s success, but Beatlemania involved so much more than overzealous female fans caught up in the rapture of hot musical act.
Thanks to his largely underage female following, Bieber does reasonably well commercially, though he lacks the opening-week clout of Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne or even Coldplay (to name the artists behind the Top 3 debuts of 2011). In the US, he’s sold some 5 million copies of one full-length studio album, three compilations and one EP. That may barely be on par with the sales standards set by pop’s top divas, but it would put him in the running for modern pop’s most commercially viable male star.
Still, Bieber is no chart phenomenon. For all of the hysteria he spawned in his first two and a half years in circulation, he only hit the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 twice in his first eight tries. The highest-peaking of those was “Baby” (No. 5 in 2010), and both were collaborations with rappers (Ludacris on “Baby,” Jaden Smith on “Never Say Never”), which means Bieber has yet to score a massive hit based on his star power alone.
This week the Muppet’s The Green Album was released, along with this video to the theme song featuring OK Go. Feast your eyes on a bounty of Technicolor existentialism, wherein the Muppets send the band back to their treadmills and their Rube Goldberg machines and treat them like the puppets they are. It’s not like a kind of torture to have to watch this show.
In 1994, three teenagers were convicted of the murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, largely due to the fact that they listened to heavy metal. And even though DNA evidence emerged in 2007 that linked one of the victim’s stepfather and his friend to the crime, the trio—known as the West Memphis 3—remained imprisoned. The case attracted the attention of many celebrities, most notably Johnny Depp and Eddie Vedder, who have both campaigned for the release of the WM3. With news that the trio were finally set free this week after eighteen years in prison, band members from Pearl Jam, Anthrax, and Dixie Chicks took to Twitter to celebrate. You can read all about it here.
Two legendary songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford, passed away this week. Leiber, who wrote perennial hits like “Hound Dog” “Yakety Yak,” and “Stand By Me” with songwriting partner Mike Stroller, passed away at the age of seventy-eight in Los Angeles. Ashford penned some of the greatest songs of the Motown era with his songwriting partner and wife, Valerie Simpson, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing Baby.” He passed away at the age of seventy in New York. R.I.P.
Pit Bull probably felt like he was just stating a fact when he said “I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan” on his song “Give Me Everything.” Lohan didn’t think it was too funny, and slapped a lawsuit on the rapper, claiming the lyric does “irreparable harm” to her reputation. We would say this is another one of her megalomaniacal schemes to stay relevant and make some money while remaining unemployed by Hollywood, but we don’t want to get sued. So we will just think it quietly to ourselves.
After some Mexican teens failed to secure tickets to an upcoming Justin Bieber concert, they took a sharp left into Disturbia and offered to trade their virginity for a ticket on Facebook. We once paid money for a ticket to see Vanilla Ice and it has haunted us for years. This seems like slightly more regrettable action.
The artist formerly known as Hannah Montana singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” sent icy shivers up the spine of Rolling Stone’s editorial staff, who named Miley Cyrus’ cover the absolute worst in the whole history of the universe, ever, ever. She probably feels pretty stupid (and contagious).
Lindsey Buckingham occupies one of the odder positions in the already off-kilter business that is the modern-day music industry. Though Buckingham is the co-leader and driving force behind one of the bedrock bands of the classic-rock universe, the Fleetwood Mac singer/songwriter/guitarist’s long-standing, if sporadic, solo career is considerably more of a boutique operation. This is especially true with the arrival of his latest solo outing, Seeds We Sow, Buckingham’s first-ever release outside the major-label realm. Buckingham had been working under the Warner/Reprise umbrella ever since his band’s self-titled 1975 blockbuster album, but after his contract ran out following his last solo outing, he found the majors to be both uninspired and uninspiring in regard to his new work. “As we all know,” he says, “the model of the large record company, you might say it’s broken. But you might just say it’s insensitive to the sense of possibility, the sense of risk-taking, the sense of nurturing that it used to provide artists.” Consequently, he’s gone the indie route with Seeds.
Not only has Buckingham taken the means of production into his own hands for this album, he’s taken over responsibility for pretty much every other aspect of the record too, writing, playing, engineering and producing everything himself. How does the process of building a track work in this kind of one-man-band situation? “You may start with a melody idea, you may start with a guitar idea,” explains Buckingham, “it’s kind of like painting, you commit to one thing to make a start. You could say it’s a more subconscious process. I’m not one of those people who necessarily sits down with something that’s completely finished…the writing part of it kind of goes along with the recording part of it.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Buckingham is a world-class guitar stylist, and a number of the album’s songs are based around his unique acoustic finger-picking technique. Asked about how he developed his unconventional approach, he muses, “It was just kind of a hybrid of things. Part of it is starting really young and not taking lessons, and not knowing what was correct or what wasn’t. Early on I was listening to a lot of Elvis, so you have [Presley’s lead guitarist] Scotty Moore, who played with a pick but also used his fingers. He was a pretty orchestral player. When the first wave of rock music died away, folk music took its place in terms of my interest…and I did sort of dabble in banjo, enough to have that be a bit of a reference point. It was really just the fact that I started doing it myself and found my own way of approaching it. When I first started with Fleetwood Mac they said ‘Don’t you think you ought to use a pick?’ It’s a little late now,” he jokingly reckons.