- Generous Gaga.
- Really, Rihanna?
- If you can’t wait for more Trapped in the Closet…
- High praise from John Lennon.
- Breaking news: Obama can do the “Gagnam Style” dance.
- “I also press pause.”
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’
Imagine an alternate reality where rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop come of age simultaneously, and greasers blast fat beats from vintage car stereos on their way to the sock hop. This is the world of G-Eazy, a New Orleans-bred emcee and producer whose been on a precipitous rise to the top of the rap game for the past few years. After a string of mixtape releases culminating with The Endless Summer, which demonstrated his pitch-perfect blend of doo-wop and hip-hop, G is poised to take over the national scene. He’s opened for Lil Wayne and A$AP Rocky, and is currently one of the few hip-hop artists on the Vans Warped Tour. We recently caught up with G about the tour, his upcoming album, and what he’d really do with a trip back in time.
OS: You’re playing on every date of the Vans Warped Tour this summer. What has it been like so far as a hip-hop artist on a mostly punk tour?
G: Well, it totally feels like I’m an outsider, but it’s all working out just fine. I think that having Mod Sun and T. Mills playing the same stage that I’m playing helps a lot because we have a lot of crossover fans that we share. But other that that it’s been fun. It’s been interesting being the outsider and not always fitting in, but there are a ton of cool people here and a ton of cool bands. It’s not really my scene and I wasn’t even into this as a kid, so it’s definitely strange, but it’s really awesome in its own way. There’s a lot of fans here that straight up look like actors from a Tim Burton movie.
OS: But you’re also kind of an out-of-the-box hip-hop artist yourself, with the ’60s doo-wop vibe that you bring to your tracks. What if you could go actually back to the era that you emulate in your music? Which artist would you want to collaborate with?
G: The obvious answer would be The Beatles, but that’s not really a possibility. I feel like they wouldn’t collaborate with anybody. They were kind of in their own world. But if it would be possible to squeeze into one of their sessions and find a way to work with John Lennon, that would be really unbelievable. Also, I mean, if I could go back in time and I could get Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers to the studio and have them lay parts down, I think that would be kind of awesome.
Known individually as Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, the duo has won an array of awards and has ardent fans throughout their native Canada, in Europe, and beyond. Yet the two are just now making a name for themselves in the U.S. An unexpected illness forced the duo to cancel the last two dates of the U.S. tour behind their latest album The Good in Goodbye, but the pair hope to be back in American clubs soon.
“We haven’t toured in the U.S. very often in the 13 years we have been playing together,” said MacEachern citing work permits and other red tape that has kept them away. “Now we have more of a focus on the States and that’s great. Our music shouldn’t be a struggle in the States; it’s kind of got an Americana feel.”
Although that’s true, the music clearly also has international appeal as underscored by the many fans— especially from Germany—that fly to Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, to catch Madison Violet shows. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider the judges, including Elton John, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige, that chose Madison Violet as the 2009 Grand Prize Winners of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The duo are the first Canadians to win the award.
While the prize certainly bolstered the group’s confidence in their own abilities, they still see a long road ahead as they work to establish their names in the States. The joy for them is that fans are fans and seem to have similar responses to their music, wherever they play. If they can just get before a crowd, as they did on Memorial Day weekend at DelFest, chances are they’ll win converts.
Now more than ever, the field of rock & roll literature is a crowded one. With each new tome that tumbles into the world, there’s an ever-increasing sense that you’re being told a story you’ve heard before about the music you love. But amid this densely-occupied literary landscape of tropes and truisms, David Klein has defied the odds and come up with a fresh perspective from which to write about pop music. For the New York-bred, North Carolina-based writer, music is a numbers game—at least, numbers provide the unifying principle for the dizzyingly eclectic array of songs, styles and artists he covers in If 6 Was 9 and Other Assorted Number Songs.
“The impetus was a conversation that occurred over a beer,” says Klein of his new book, describing what’s been the genesis of countless author’s most intriguing works over the years. “When we were singing the praises of [avant-pop singer/songwriter] Anna Domino’s ’88,’ and I made the possibly rash statement that it had to be the greatest 88 song of all time. Of course I wasn’t considering [Jackie Brenston's '50s rock & roll classic] ‘Rocket 88,’ or [The Nails' New Wave hit] ’88 Lines About 44 Women,’ which got me thinking, ‘What would be the ultimate 33 song? What would be the ultimate 12 song?’ We started making a list, and pretty soon the thing just sprouted legs…and that was 5 years ago. I started posting on a blog and it evolved over a couple of years.”
Klein’s book is anything but a dry list of song titles, though; for this initial volume—two more are in the offing—there are essays for the numbers 1 through 33, each one digging into not only into the details of the relevant songs, but the history of the artists, and most fascinating of all, the crazy connections that can be made between them, all with a minimum of academicism and a maximum of humor and pure, unadulterated music-geek passion. “Part of what excited me about it was finding new connections in this subject, pop music, that has been so studied,” says Klein. “It was like finding a little buried treasure, to find an avenue to look at these things that possessed these wild collisions, these strange juxtapositions. Like, Beyoncé and ['80s punk-jazz band] Tupelo Chain Sex both have records called 4, I found that kind of funny. [John Lennon's] ‘# 9 Dream’ leads to John Lennon’s ‘lost weekend,’ leads to [Lennon drinking buddy] Harry Nilsson, leads to Harry Nilsson’s firstborn son, whose middle name was Nine. That was the last thing before I closed the book.”
Of course, finding the proper way to make all these disparate elements flow together between the covers of a book is no simple task. “It’s like climbing Everest,” says Klein. “The numbers we can count on our hands are the most essential, you find hundreds of 7 songs and 3 songs. They don’t have as many inherent associations the higher you go. Once you get into even the mid 30s or the mid 40s, what does 46 mean to most people? You’ve got to search a lot harder.” But one of Klein’s most daunting tasks ended up being what to leave out. “The more songs I turned up, the more the pieces were in danger of being lists,” he recalls, “and I had to kill a lot of my darlings…just for the sake of concision. I didn’t want songs that were so obscure that only six people would hear them. You’ve gotta deal with the elephants in the room—you can’t write about 45 without writing about ‘Stars on 45.’ I love ‘Seven Seas’ by Echo & The Bunnymen, and then I just thought ‘It’s gotta be Love’s “7 & 7 Is”’—there’s just so many.”
According to Klein, things will get even more interesting in Volume Two. “38 and 45 and 40 all have the distinction of being nouns,” he explains. “You can drink a 40 and shoot a .45, so there’s a whole subgenre. 44 is really the big gun one, it goes all the way back to ‘Stagger Lee.’ You can connect the dots between Woody Guthrie’s sheriff chasing him with a .44 [in "Billy the Kid"], and The Stones’ ‘Heartbreaker’ with your .44. These connections exist and haven’t been uncovered.” So, does thinking this way about music ever seem strange to Klein? “It’s sort of like insanity,” he assesses. “An insane person never thinks they’re insane, and a geek never thinks he’s a geek, he thinks he’s writing about something really important and pretty freaking cool. I’ll wear it proudly,” he says of the geek mantle.
Naturally, this is the kind of compendium that seems to beg for Monday morning quarterbacking from opinionated readers, but in fact, that’s exactly what Klein is counting on. “I’m hoping that enough people see it that I can get all kinds of flak for things I’ve forgotten,” he confesses, “that’s my ideal. I’m starting the conversation. There’s been a million list books, but nobody’s ever written this book before, nobody’s ever looked at it this way before. This is my take, and these are the ones that are important to me. I really think there could be a book like this written just for the blues, or just for hip hop. This was my very Catholic collection of observances on the subject.” In fact, some musicians have already begun to pick up on If 6 Was 9 and make their own opinions clear to Klein. “[Americana songsmith] James Jackson Toth, who goes by Wooden Wand, wrote me a really nice letter of feedback,” Klein reveals, “and said, ‘Sorry man, “23 Minutes in Brussels” [by Luna] beats Shuggie Otis’s “Strawberry Letter #23,” it’s the perfect song.’ That’s the fun of it, it’s subjective. I come right out and say, ‘Obviously The House of Love couldn’t hold a candle to Robert Johnson, but I’m gonna pick them for my 32 song anyway.’”
So what is it about numbers that fascinates us, especially in the context of as ostensibly non-linear a subject as pop music? “They are more definitive than words,” reckons Klein, “and they are locked into an order. What they define is only one thing. There’s something iconic about them. I’m not a math guy, so it’s funny that I should end up pursuing this. They have a legitimacy, they’re like the beginning of the phone book before the letters start. I feel like I’ve found the rock phone book, and the first section’s all blank, so I’m filling it in. As Robert Pollard said [in Guided By Voices' "Motor Away,"] ‘The time will come when you add up the numbers.’ And I feel like that time has arrived.”
“Cry Me A River” – Justin Timberlake
The video Justin Timberlake made for his solo hit, featuring a familiar-looking blonde and a glimpse of a photo in an errant frame, did nothing to dispel theories that this track was about Britney Spears’ cheating ways. Goddam you, Britney, how could you?!
Using your voice to sing is one thing, using your voice to bring an important issue to light is quite another. While it seems pretty common for artists to be involved in all sorts of charitable causes—from volunteerism and activism to foundations and benefit shows—celebrity involvement isn’t always a clear case of best intentions. Some artists get involved simply to increase their popularity and fan base while others hope a healthy dose of charity can help negate some bad publicity. So, it’s always nice to see a standout in the sea of fair weather philanthropists—someone who is not only donating money, but who speaking about things he or she believes in, and is not afraid to ruffle some feathers.
Historically, there have been many different artists who have been vocal proponents of change. John Lennon is a great example of one of these standouts. Lennon actively made his political views known, and truly cared about the impact of not only his music, but his voice when he wasn’t performing. For example, he and Yoko Ono‘s famously staged Bed-ins for Peace, where they were filmed in bed in their pajamas speaking out against the Vietnam War and taking a stand for world peace, during their honeymoon.