There’s no arguing that Lana Del Rey has a beautiful voice, but there’s also no arguing that she is gangly as all get-out. The torchy chanteuse made her television debut on Saturday Night Live last weekend, and it turns out she’s quite a polarizing performer. Juliette Lewis initially dissed Del Ray, saying it felt like watching “a twelve year old in their bedroom.” But the next day Lewis woke up singing a different tune. Decide for yourself if Del Rey is “fresh and yummy” or wiggity-wack by watching her performance below.
Trent Reznor, Flaming Lips, Radiohead protest Internet legislation
Musicians are up in arms this week over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA)—two bills making their way through Congress that will allow the government to block access to sites accused of copyright infringement before their court date. The Lonely Island, Nada Surf, MGMT signed this online petition, while Radiohead and Flaming Lips posted anti SOPA and PIPA banners on their Web sites and Twitter profiles. We’ll see if star power can move mountains, or at least Capitol Hill.
Jay-Z hasn’t retired the b-word after all
This week numerous media outlets reported that Jay-Z had released a poem announcing he’d given up the word “bitch” in honor of his daughter, Blue Ivy. Turns out, the whole thing is a crock of bitch (hey, if he’s not retiring it, then neither are we). Jay-Z will still be going H.A.M. when it comes to profanity, which gives us a sneaking suspicion of what Blue Ivy’s first word will be.
Kate Bush stalker breaks in to propose
When Kate Bush sang “Let me into your window” in her song, “Wuthering Heights,” little did she know one day a fan would let himself into her window in an ill-fated attempt at a marriage proposal. Police arrested Frank Tufaro after he broke into the reclusive singer’s home with a $4,500 engagement ring. Bush wasn’t home at the time, but we’re guessing her answer would have been “no.”
Elton John and husband get catty with Madonna
Madonna won the Best Original Song at the Golden Globes on Sunday, much to the dismay of Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish. John was nominated for his song, “Hello Hello” from Gnomeo and Juliet, but lost to Madge’s “Masterpiece” from W.E. That pissed Furnish right off, and he let everyone know it on his Facebook page. You can read the rant here, and see a screenshot of Elton John’s sourpuss during Madonna’s acceptance speech.
Diddy loses another battle in the vodka wars
Page Six is reporting that P Diddy lost his cool once again when patrons of a pre-Golden Globe party were prohibited from drinking his Ciroc vodka because the event was sponsored by Grey Goose. Not that anyone was asking for Circoc, mind you. Maybe that’s what he was really mad about. Get the rest of the gossip here.
A new year means new music from some of hip hop’s biggest names. Now that 2012 is finally here, we’re seeing the first round of release dates roll out, and we’re expecting big things from some unlikely players.
Estelle: One of my favorite females in music right now is Estelle, and she’s ready to release her third studio album next month. All Of Me will drop on February 28. With singles, “Thank You” and “Break My Heart” featuring Rick Ross already climbing up the charts, we can’t wait to hear the completed project.
Rick Ross: Ross dropped his Rich Forever mixtape last week, and so far it’s getting rave reviews. The twenty-track mixtape is just what you’d expect from the Maybach Music chief, who enlisted help from heavyweights like Diddy, Drake and Nas on the project. My personal fave is “Mind Games” featuring Kelly Rowland.
Nicki Minaj: While there’s still no release date for Nicki’s sophomore release, Birdman told media in November that he plans to release the project in the first quarter of 2012. We’ve heard rumors of a Valentine’s Day drop, but we’ll have to wait and see. What we do know is that the album will be highly influenced by Nicki’s hard-hitting alter ego, Roman.
Big K.R.I.T.:The Mississippi-bred rapper is ready to release his highly-anticipated mixtape, 4evaNaDay on February 20. He’s also dropping the first single, “ I Got This” off his upcoming Def Jam debut, Live From The Underground on February 1. In his Twitter announcement, he told fans, “Its goin’ down shawty cant wait for y’all 2 hear this!”
Tyga: Just last week, Young Money’s youngest troublemaker was arrested in Las Vegas. Only time will tell if his latest project, Careless World: The Rise of the Last King will actually make its original release date. Still, Tyga says fans can expect to see some major growth and maturity on the project, as well as an intended departure from the sound of his mixtapes.
In an interview on ThisIs50, Tyga said, “It’s a theme album so it’s the first installment of the story. It’s about me becoming a king in this place called Careless World. It’s just a story from beginning to end. This album will show a lot of growth in the music and a lot of maturity. People are gonna definitely understand who I am more as an artist. Mixtapes is more like party, talkin’ shit type records that you just put together. This is my first real project that I’m putting together that has a theme.”
Common: Aside from his release of “Sweet”, Common has released another cutthroat track, and this time, there’s no confusing the target. In his latest drop, Common takes aim at Drake again on his remixed version of Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin’” a song that originally featured Drake and French Montana. He released the single on MTV’s RapFix: Live, unveiling scathing lyrics like, “My motto is Chicago bitch, everybody know you’re sweet, what the problem is? / Don’t play dumb, I’m the one that acknowledged this,” “The rapper of the moment, the style he don’t own it / Acting all hard when he hardly like that / You gon’ mess around and make me catch a body like that / Don’t do it, ’cause every song you make Joe is really hoe music.”
Ludacris:Luda announced a May release date for his eighth studio album, Ludaversal. Just last week, the rapper-turned-actor-turned rapper said he had already collaborated with fellow Atlanta favorite, Usher on the album. “Usher is one person that I’ve already worked with, and in terms of other artists, you can say that there’s going to be a lot of surprises on here,” he told Billboard. Fans can expect more production from The Neptunes and can hope for a single in March. “It’s been a minute since I’ve been away from music, and there is just so much to talk about… So [the album] is mostly about my personal life, my travels, my experiences, rumors, gossip—you know, everything coming together in one.”
Lupe Fiasco & Pharell Williams: According to Lupe’s official Web site, he and Pharell are back in the studio, hard at work on a collaborative album. On the site, he simply stated, “ Food and Liquor 2 coming soon. Lupe and Pharell album coming soon.” This isn’t the first time these two have teased at a collaborative project. I seem to remember a rumored group formation with Kanye West, Pharell and Lupe circling last year. Still, I’m holding out hope that this project will materialize.
Jessie Malakouti has a story to share with everyone. And what a globe-trotting story it is. She started her career in LA and eventually landed big in 2006 with the all-girl hip hop group Shut Up Stella. But, when things took a downturn with that group, Jessie made the daring escape to Europe. After spending some time in the UK club scene honing her craft, she made her triumphant return to the States with a new approach to music along with a brand new group to go along with it. Jessie took some time out of her busy recording schedule to sit down with OurStage to give us the lowdown on her new group: Jessie and the Toy Boys.
OS: Do you have any goals for Jessie and the Toy Boys?
JM: I’m currently working like a worker bee on the album which is going to come out in early 2012. So, that’s kind of the most immediate goal, which is finishing this record. Making it sound exactly how I want it to sound and to put it out for the fans, because I know they’re tweeting me everyday, asking when it is [coming out]. So, I’m working as fast as I can to finish the album.
OS: Why did you go with mannequins?
JM: I decided to form Jessie and the Toy Boys with the Toy Boys, because I have grown up in different bands and, no shake to anyone in a band I’ve ever been with, I know exactly who I am as an artist and I have a very clear vision of what I want to do, how I want to sound, how I want to look and all those things. It changes too, with my mood. It’s difficult to be in a band with me, because I’m a creative control freak, so I decided to start a band with mannequins, or as I like to call them, Toy Boys, because they don’t talk back. They’re awesome bandmates. And also, from a visual point of view, I have so many visual ideas with them. It’s fun.
OS: Does it feel different, having a lot more control over the creative direction of the album?
JM: It’s something I’m used to doing, but it’s different for me to have a team and a label that allows me to have control. I’ve always had control over everything that I’ve done. Just maybe in the past, with Shut Up Stella, it was more of a tug-of-war about what they wanted us to be and what we wanted to be. People have an idea of who you are and it doesn’t always mirror what I think I am, so this is the first time I’ve been able to take control of everything and have the full support of my time, so it’s really nice.
OS: Have you felt like you want to go wild with it and push off from the barriers?
JM: I don’t necessarily break barriers, but if I do along the way, that’s cool. I just like to create music that I like. So, when I leave the studio and there’s a song I listen to in the car, even in a rough state, over and over, then I’m stoked. I know there’s something that I’m proud of and that I love. Same thing with the videos, because I’m involved with the creative process of that as well. Any form of art that I’m hooked on and love to watch or listen to, for me, that’s cool and I’m proud of this.
OS: Do you have any interesting stories from your time in the UK that you would directly attribute to your inspiration for this project?
JM: I have a really interesting story, which kind of unfolds on the album. Not to give away too much, there’s a short film that’s broken into five parts. It’s called This Is How Rumors Start, along the title of the album. Each episode is a song title, so I wanted to push it. It’s going to be coming out soon. Basically, as you go through the episodes, you kind of see what happened. It’s based on the truth, mostly. You see what I went through in the UK and Europe, and why I started Jessie and the Toy Boys, and how I met the Toy Boys, and how everything started to come together and why I came back to America. I don’t want to give away too much of it. I want people to check out the webseries when it comes out or mini-movie, as I like to call it. But, you can hear it in the music. Once you see the visuals too, you’ll understand more what songs are about. Sometimes people think it’s cool, because I put a song out on my EP earlier called “Running Makes the Girl Goes Round” and it was a fan/critic favorite. It’s funny, because it’s kind of turned into this strip club anthem, but it’s totally not that. It’s a song about my best friend selling me out. When you watch This Is How Rumors Start, you totally see that and you see what the songs are really about. But I like to keep it kind of open-ended, because I like for the listener to listen to my music and make their own connections about what they think songs are about. That’s the beauty of music to me.
OS: What do you feel is the difference between the club scene in Europe and LA?
JM: The difference between the two of them is that America is very late. When it comes to dance music, we’re 100% late. I was making records that sounds like everything coming out right now three years ago. My old demos could come out right now and sound relevant. But, I personally think we go harder though in the clubs, especially when I was touring with Identity Festival and the whole electronic dance tour. The crowds were fucking out of control and really awesome. So, there’s a really cool energy in the dance music scene, but probably because we’re late. Because it’s so new over here, everyone’s so stoked and pumped and even with dubstep. Not to be like “I do everything first”, but I put out a dubstep record in 2008 and I remember everyone in the club I played it for when I came over for Christmas was like “What is this?” I was like “Just wait, it’s gonna explode.” But, I like that it’s all happening over here now, because everyone seems so much more enthusiastic about it where I think in Europe, they’re starting to flatten out on dance music a little bit. I mean, who knows? But I love it, I love the genre no matter where it’s popping off. It seems to be a global phenomenon, so I’m happy that it’s the kind of music I make.
OS: How do you view your collaborations with rap music and artists like Yelawolf?
JM: It’s cool. Growing up in the LA music scene, I’ve always been amazed and impressed by hip hop and people who are just awesome at hip hop. I found Yelawolf online a while ago before he signed to Eminem and started tweeting him. I thought he had something really cool and really liked his style. Basically, we became friends. I played him “Push It” one day in my car and then we drove to the studio. Five minutes later, he recorded the rap that you hear on it. That’s how I like to get down with music. I like for it to be genuine and organic and never want to do anything that feels forced. A couple of weeks ago, I met this really cool rapper named John Christopher. He’s on tour with Kanye and CyHi (Da Prynce) and I think we’re gonna collaborate on some stuff, so you can look for that. I just love hip hop and talented emcees, so it’s cool to get to collaborate with them.
OS: Are there any underground pop acts that you might be interested in working with?
JM: I don’t know how underground she is. I think she’s started to take off in a major way as well. But, her name is Winter Gordon and she’s a friend of mine. We both [were at] Miami Winter Concert this year together and we became friends there. She’s come to LA a couple times and we’ve hung out. We’re gonna do something together. There’s this cool new group called DWNTWN. I met them because they’re co-managed by DJ Skeet Skeet and he’s a friend of mine. They’re really rad and they’re working on a remix for me for the song that just dropped “Let’s Get Naughty”. It’s cool, they’re going really industrial with it. I don’t know how to classify what they do, but it’s definitely pop though. You should check it out. They just played CMJ. I’m excited about that project, so I want to do more things with them too.
OS: Are there any stereotypes that are really strange that get applied to you?
JM: I don’t think so. Not any that I can name. I guess, in general, pop music has a stereotype that it’s disposable and there’s no substance there. I think that’s true with some songs, but I’m looking forward to introducing to the world the entire body of work I’ve been creating, because I feel like there’s a lot of depth to this record and there’s a lot of songs that I’m really proud of and hope stand the test of time. I think pop doesn’t have to be just disposable dance music, and even if it is, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think everybody likes to have a good time. But, there’s some songs on This Is How Rumors Start that thematically run a little deeper, so I’m excited for that to come out.
Be sure to check out Jessie and the Toy Boys’ official web site for all the latest news on This Is How Rumors Start. And watch the official video for “Let’s Get Naughty” below!
It’s been a long, strange road for Kanye West. After he dropped out of college to pursue his music career full time, he became a successful producer, making beats for high profile rappers like Jay-Z, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. However, despite being an in-demand producer, he struggled to be taken seriously as a rapper. Luckily, Jay-Z was willing to give him a chance and signed West to his label, Roc-A-Fella Records. West went on to release his debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004, and it instantly became a commercial and critical success. West was praised for his lyrical themes, which eschewed the gangster rap persona that was popular at the time in favor of more socially-conscious topics. Since then his career has been marked with plenty of ups and downs, but the recent success of Watch The Throne, his collaborative album with Jay-Z, has cemented his position as one of the strongest artists in hip hop. His rise to the top was due to dedication and perseverance, something OurStage rapper/producer Kenton Dunson has in spades.
OurStage's Kenton Dunson
Like Kanye West, Kenton Dunson is a talented producer as well as a rapper, producing all the beats that he raps over. You can hear some similarities in their production and rapping styles if you compare Dunson’s song “Beautiful Fight” with West’s song “Champion.” Both songs use a pairing of synthesizers and choppy vocal samples to create a unique sounding beat with a distinct rhythm. Like West, Dunson’s lyrics don’t deal with the typical fare of gangster rap, because he chooses to focus on more personal experiences. In this song, Dunson recounts the struggles he has gone through and continues to deal with in order to achieve success as an artist. He also shares Kanye West’s penchant for clever wordplay, with the line “they say that I’m sleepwalking, I’m living the dream” being one of the most notable here. “Take Off” is another of Dunson’s songs that bears some resemblence to Kanye’s music. Production wise, this song uses many of the techniques that helped make West famous, including looped vocal samples and backing string arrangements.
It’s that time of the year where we pretty much feel obligated to make some kind of year-end list that sums up our favorite happenings or people in the music world. But hey, if the world ends in 2012, this could be our last opportunity to make one of these! Anyway, we’re switching it up a little bit—since this is Live Wired, we’re only going to focus on what what went on in arenas and small clubs across the world. Instead of simply making a ‘best of’ list, we’re giving out superlatives to some of the artists and bands who went on tour this year.
Top Grossing & Most Attended: U2 360° Tour
Starting back in 2009, U2 embarked on a worldwide tour and just didn’t stop until the summer of this year. Between all the records they broke and the extravagant set they treated the sold out crowds to each night, this tour was nothing short of amazing. It even grossed about $100 million more than the next best tour this year (Bon Jovi). Total Gross: $293,281,487 / Total Attendance: 2,887,972
Most Hyped: Watch The Throne Tour
Two of the biggest names in the world of music, Kanye West and Jay-Z teamed up and finally released their collaboration album Watch The Throne in August, and pleased fans even more by going on tour in support of the release.
No discussion of the last twelve months in music would be complete without a proper shout out to Adele, the blue-eyed, soulful Brit who ruled 2011 with one album (the multiply GRAMMY-nominated 21) and two No. 1 singles (“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You”), so here we go.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s what was hot and not about the rest.
1. Drake: Last year, he called his debut album Thank Me Later, so now feels like the right time to express our genuine appreciation for the Canadian rapper who balances tough and tender so perfectly. With his second album, Take Care, and two of its key cuts, in particular—the fantastic first single “Headlines” and the title track (featuring Rihanna)—he brought sexy back to rap for the first time since ladies loved (LL) Cool J.
2. Girls on film: From Britney Spears’ “Till the World Ends” to Lady Gaga’s “Judas” to Jennifer Lopez’s “I’m Into You” to Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” it was an excellent year for women in pop videos. But it was Ke$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.
It was a big year in the world of music. The past twelve months were filled with huge collaborations, new releases across every genre and some drama as well. The year also brought us lots of new talent to go crazy over, and the loss of some incredibly influential artists. So, let’s review 2011 and highlight the top stories that affected the world of music—from concerts to television; technology to YouTube sensations.
Jay-Z and Kanye West teamed up to release their much-anticipated collaboration album, Watch The Throne, in the beginning of August. They’re currently on tour across the United States and Canada promoting the album, which has already been certified Platinum.
Tragedy struck big music festivals in a couple countries, when severe weather caused stages to collapse. Ottawa Bluesfest and Pukkelpop Festival were two of the events affected.
Ryan Murphy apparently took it personally when artists such as Slash, Kings of Leon and and Foo Fighters didn’t want their songs to be used on Glee. Dave Grohl was especially pissed, calling out Murphy for thinking every artist would want their songs featured on his show.