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Sound And Vision: Pop Goes the Previews — The Best and Worst of Fall Movie-Trailer Music

Whoever invented the movie preview must be some kind of genius. Because of them, half the fun of seeing a movie on the big screen is getting there—to the main attraction, that is. It always takes a few good trailers to put me in the mood. But sometimes, if the words don’t get in the way (damn, bad screenplays!), the music does. Too often terrible songs ruin perfectly good trailers—or make bad ones worse.

That said, movie-trailer music has come a long way. For a brief period in the early ’90s, nearly every other one seemed to feature the soothing new-age sounds of Enya floating by in the background. Nowadays we get a larger assortment of musical backdrops (pop, classical, rock, hip hop, techno and, of course, vintage Motown), some of which can actually turn must-avoid into must-see — at least until the coming attraction is over and sensible thinking once again prevails.

Variety, however, hasn’t done away with predictability, and recently, while screening trailers for some upcoming autumn releases, I noticed a few rules at play.

1. No self-respecting Oscar contender stoops to the tops of the pops. David Fincher may have gotten Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to score The Social Network last year, but he knew better than to use Radiohead’s 1992 hit “Creep” in the trailer. Instead, he used a haunting cover by Belgium’s Scala & Kolacny Brothers. This year, for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (December 21), he punctuates the sneak-peek action not with Led Zeppelin’s classic version of “Immigrant Song” but with a near-equally exhilariting remake by Reznor and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Pop Goes the Previews — The Best and Worst of Fall Movie-Trailer Music’

Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs

I’ll never forget the day Basia lied to me. Twice. I was interviewing the Polish singer (best known for her 1988 hit “Time and Tide”) shortly before the release of her 1994 album, The Sweetest Illusion, which was coming five years after her previous album, London Warsaw New York. That day, she promised me two things: First, she would never again make me wait so long for new music. Second, she’d never release a run-of-the-mill greatest hits album featuring, well, her greatest hits. She felt that at the very least, artists owed it to their fans to reprise their hits as brand-new tunes, not just repackage the same old songs.

Her next studio album, It’s That Girl Again, wouldn’t arrive until 2009, nine years after she had released Clear Horizon—The Best of Basia, one of those run-of-the-mill greatest hits albums featuring, well, her greatest hits.

The morals of this story: 1) You can’t rush inspiration. 2) The first cut isn’t only the deepest—sometimes it’s the best, too. That’s a lesson Mariah Carey may have learned last year when she scrapped plans to release Angels Advocate, a remixed version of her Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel album, after a new version of “Up Out My Face” (Memoirs‘ best song) featuring Nicki Minaj limped onto Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 100 and refused to go any further.

But apparently, Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of remix albums and EPs, still hasn’t received the memo. When she released Born This Way back in May, she put out a special edition that included a separate disc with remixes of five of the album’s songs. (Bryan Ferry did a similar thing with last year’s Olympia.) Divine inspiration or clever marketing ploy? Perhaps a little of both, but “Born This Way”-with-a-twang never would have spent six weeks at No. 1. The “Country Road Version” makes for an interesting one-time listen, but I never need to hear it again.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs’

Sound And Vision: United They Stand (And Sell Out) — Superstars On Tour Together

It official: U2 is the biggest music act on the planet! The band might not go multi-platinum like it used to, and there’s been no blockbuster single since George Bush the elder was in office, but Bono and the boys just bagged some brand-new bragging rights. In early April, the group’s 360° world tour surpassed the Rolling Stones‘ 2005-2007 A Bigger Bang tour to become the biggest money-making road trip of all time. By the time the Live Nation-backed trek—which U2 launched in 2009 to support the No Line on the Horizon album—concludes in July, it will have pulled in a projected $700 million in ticket sales.
Of course, U2 didn’t do it alone. If a GRAMMY were awarded for Best Supporting Act, Muse— who opened for many of U2′s 360° dates, including the ones in Brazil that broke the Stones’ record— would have an excellent shot. (Jay-Z did the honors in Australia and New Zealand, while the Black Eyed Peas chipped in on some US and Canada dates.) Here’s a platinum-level UK band whose slow and steady trajectory in the US has been thrust further upward by key slots on the soundtracks to the Twilight films and frontman Matthew Bellamy’s romance with Kate Hudson, with whom he’s expecting a baby. Muse could sell out big venues on its own (and did, even before U2, Hudson or Twilight entered the picture), but with the group playing warm-up act for U2, it seems almost inevitable that major records would be broken.
Two superstar acts for the price of one ticket: It’s a brilliant idea that’s spreading fast. With the international economy in shambles, and so much competition on the road, the biggest stars need to offer fans more than just the greatest show on earth to guarantee blockbuster box-office business. That’s where A-list opening acts come in. U2 could sell out stadiums and arenas solo, but why not hedge its bets by bringing in big-name support to pull some of the weight?
In previous decades, most big stars wouldn’t have been caught dead with an opening act that could possibly upstage them. They usually hit the road with bubbling-under, up-and-comers, safeguarding their own star billing while, by default, helping the upstarts bring their music to the masses. But with ticket sales skyrocketing closer to four-digit figures (U2′s $250 top-tier ticket price is practically a bargain), sometimes you need more than a name and a collection of hits to lure fans. Simply put, on their own, few superstars have the drawing power of Charlie Sheen anymore. It takes two (bankable draws) to make a gig go right.
These days the relationship between headliners and opening acts (or co-headliners) is far more symbiotic. Rod Stewart and Stevie Nicks co-headlined—and sold out—the thirteen-city Heart & Soul North American tour in March and April, though she who goes on first (sorry, Stevie) is technically the opening act. Eighties teen queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany just announced their own co-headlining summer tour (at press time, there wasn’t any word on who’d be opening), and Sade will bring fellow platinum-level GRAMMY winner John Legend along for the ride when her world tour arrives in North America on June 16 in Baltimore, Maryland. Though there is some fan overlap in all three cases, Nicks and Legend will be contributing to the financial potential of their tickets in a much larger way than your traditional opening act.
Meanwhile in the world of pop, Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj just signed a pact for Minaj to open dates on Spears’s upcoming Femme Fatale North American tour, which also launches on June 16, but in Sacramento, California. The unlikely alliance between a superstar and an up-and-comer who, at the moment, is probably just as hot, will benefit the headliner as much as the opening act. It will expose Minaj to pop fans who might otherwise know her only from her cameos on other people’s records, and it will give Spears a little bit of something that has eluded her for her entire career: street cred. It’s probably an even more winning combination than Spears and Enrique Iglesias, who had been in talks to open the tour before Minaj got onboard.
Over in the UK, Take That snagged Pet Shop Boys as the opening act on the Progress Live 2011 Tour, set to hit the road in May, despite the fact that the two acts ruled in different decades. (Fun fact: Newly returned Take That member Robbie Williams and PSB collaborated on “She’s Madonna” and “We’re the Pet Shop Boys,” two tracks from the former’s 2006 Rudebox album, and Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant sang on Williams’ early solo hit “No Regrets.”) Once again, though, the effect will be reciprocal. Pet Shop Boys will attract gays and the ’80s-obsessed, while Take That will pull in gays and children of the ’90s.
Combine and conquer! It’s a concept that for years has worked for annual multi-artist tours like Ozzfest and Lollapalooza, yearly one-off festivals like Coachella and Glastonbury that touch down in the US and UK as well as the ones that regularly land in places like Argentina and Australia, and double-bills featuring reuinted ’80s icons. Fans will hand over the cash if you give them hours of entertainment featuring a smorgasbord of talent. This, however, might be the first time we’ve seen so many superstar acts settling for the opening slot, and it’s likely just the beginning. Can Ke$ha as the appetizer for Spears’s main course in Europe and beyond be far behind?

Sound And Vision: Disappearing Acts—Music’s M.I.A. Stars

“The waiting is the hardest part,” Tom Petty once sang. And for fans of David Bowie, Kate Bush and Fiona Apple, none of whom have released studio albums of new material for the better part of a decade, that couldn’t be more true. Meanwhile, Red Hot Chili Peppers, once a reasonably prolific alternative-rock outfit, has made nary a sound since 2006′s Stadium Arcadium. Like Apple and Bush, the band supposedly has new music in the works, but I’ll believe it when I hear it. (As for Bush’s Director’s Cut, due May 16, it doesn’t count, as it features reworked songs from 1989′s The Sensual World and 1993′s The Red Shoes and will likely make her fans miss her even more.)
There once was a time when the average music star released a new album every year or so. In the ’80 few things in life were more certain than death, taxes and a new Prince album every calendar year. In the ’90s, Mariah Cary took the prolificacy baton and dashed off with it. Nowadays we can go years without hearing a peep out of her. Overexposure can damage pop careers (proceed with caution, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, Pitbull and all those other ubiquitous rappers), but underexposure can be just as bad, for AWOL recording artists and for their fans, especially if it means being stuck with the same songs by the same ten artists on repeat all day and all night.
When Justin Timberlake was a member of ‘N Sync, he released four albums between 1997 and 2001. Now it’s been five years since FutureSex/LoveSounds. If I didn’t know better—and I kind of don’t—I’d think he’d abandoned pop for Hollywood. It’s nice to occasionally get him guesting on someone else’s album—Timbaland‘s, Madonna‘s, Sheryl Crow‘s, Ciara‘s, Duran Duran‘s—but right about now, it feels like he could be the one to save us from the auto-tuned mess that modern pop has become.
Or maybe Amy Winehouse could come back and help Adele shoulder the burden of making pop safe again for female singers offering more than a pretty face and manufactured beats. Since breaking through with the five-GRAMMY-winning Back to Black album in 2006, she’s been sort of everywhere—and nowhere at the same time. For a while, she dominated the tabloids and was in and out of court. She did vocal duties on Mark Ronson’s 2007 hit “Valerie,” she formed a still-unrecorded group with ?estlove from the Roots, and she’ll be singing with Tony Bennett on his upcoming duets album (due in September), but there’s still no follow-up to the modern classic that gave us “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.”
Every time I hear the latter as the theme song to Secret Diary of a Call Girl, it makes me miss her even more. Hopefully, La Roux (second to Winehouse among my favorite British imports of the last few years) won’t drag their feet that way Winehouse has been, and Lily Allen, who has said she’s out of the pop-star business, will have a change of heart.
Absence does indeed make the heart go fonder, but out of sight out of mind? Stay away for too long, and you risk being forgotten and replaced by younger models. It happened last year with Christina Aguilera‘s Bionic, which came four years after her previous studio set Back to Basics, and Avril Lavigne‘s recently released Goodbye Lullabye may have fared better had it come out a year or two ago (first week sales: 87,000, down nearly 200,000 from 2007′s The Best Damn Thing). May Kelly Clarkson—only out of circulation for a couple of years, though it feels like so much longer— make a safe solo return with her new studio album in September (a new release date she recently announced on Facebook).
But if she doesn’t, there still might be a silver lining. Sade returned last year after a decade-long break to massive sales, and the band is now on tour. No doubt hoping to follow Sade’s lead, Shania Twain just announced that she’s working on her first album since 2002′s Up. Maybe she and Faith Hill, also M.I.A. for far too long and reportedly working with rock producer Brendan O’Brien on a 2011 comeback, can team up, go on tour together and show Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert how it’s really done.

Soundcheck: Hot Ticket Tours – This Year’s ‘Can’t Miss’ Show Line-Up

Now that the snow is finally melting and Spring is right around the corner so is the Spring/Summer concert season. Every year, I anticipate festival line-ups and envision my ideal headlining mash-ups, and every year, I’m pleasantly surprised with at least one can’t-miss tour. This year, you may want to start pinching pennies early, because there’s more than one hot ticket in town.

Janet Jackson will embark on her largest world tour to date with her “Number Ones: Up Close and Personal” Tour. The seasoned superstar who recently starred in Tyler Perry’s critically-acclaimed film, For Colored Girls recently completed her first book and has a new man to be giddy about. The North American leg is a 35-city tour, which promises all the nasty girl’s fan favorites from her latest LP, Number Ones, kicks off in Texas on March 3rd, wrapping up in Las Vegas on April 24th.

Another throwback must-see is the ‘Hip Hop Legends’ Tour. Salt N Pepa will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1986 debut, hit album Hot, Cool & Viscious. Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandy “Pepa” Denton and  Deidre “Dee Dee” Roper, better known as DJ Spinderella will hit 20 cities and be joined by fellow hip hop veterans like Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte, Slick Rick, Whodini, Kool Moe Dee and  Naughty By Nature among others. Kicking off the tour on February 4th in Cleveland and wrapping up in Atlanta on April 2nd.

The hottest ticket in hip hop is undoubtedly Lil Wayne’s “I Am Music II” Tour, which kicks off in Buffalo, NY on March 18th. The 24-city tour will feature NickiMinaj,Rick Ross, Travis Barker and Beastie Boys’ Mixmaster Mike and promises to be worth the wait at the ticket counter.

Snoop Dogg will continue his “Get Wet” Tour through March with stops in Las Vegas, Houston and Pittsburg among others. Some lucky concert-goers will get twice as lifted with special engagements featuring Wiz Khalifa in select cities.

Kid Rock has set out on hisBorn Free” Tour with his Twisted Brown Trucker Band for the 28-city stretch, kicking off in Kansas City last week. He will headline the 2011 Rockfest Music Festival July 14th-17th in Wisconsin, performing songs from his latest album, Born Free.

Sade will hit the road with John Legend on June 16th for the first time in 10 years for her 50-date “Soldier of Love” Tour. The GRAMMY-winning pair will also appear at Coachella in April.

Rihanna is currently overseas on her “Last Girl on Earth” Tour, but will be back in the states to kick off her “LOUD” Tour in Baltimore on June 4th. When she wraps up her stateside leg, she will head to Europe on September 29th, where she won’t wrap until December 17th. Let’s hope RiRi doesn’t poop out on her ‘round the world stretch.

Two of my favorite festivals are sure to deliver some serious line-ups this year, with Eminem heating up Chicago for Lollapalooza, along with Muse and Foo Fighters among others. The 3-day festival held in Grant Park is August 5th-7th, with the official line-up coming soon. Coachella is another favorite desert destination, and this year’s star-studded line-up includes Kanye West, Cee-Lo Green, Lauryn Hill, Wiz Khalifa, Nas & Damien Marley and Erykah Badu. The hot and sweaty, weekend-long, jam session gets rollin’ April 15th date in Indio, CA.

Sound And Vision: Will Adele Beat the GRAMMYs Best New Artist Curse?

Adele should have been a contender, but who knew she’d end up being arguably the UK’s female act most likely to still be succeeding in 10 years?
When she arrived on the pop scene in 2008 with her debut album 19, she was sandwiched between— and overshadowed by—fellow Brit-soul divas Amy Winehouse and Duffy. Then something unexpected happened at the 2009 GRAMMY Awards, where Adele was nominated in four categories, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Chasing Pavements,” her second single. Against all conceivable odds, she pushed Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Duffy aside to take Best New Artist, the prize Winehouse had claimed one year earlier.
Though the careers of GRAMMY’s Best New Artists have gone in many different directions (good luck, Esperanza Spalding), the high failure rate has spawned the urban legend known as the Best New Artist GRAMMY curse. Yes, some (Bette Midler, Sade and Mariah Carey, among them) have gone on to major careers and/or iconic status, but just as often (Starland Vocal Band, Debby Boone, Paula Cole, etc.), they haven’t. And at least one (Milli Vanilli) had the award rescinded for not bothering to sing a note on the album for which they won it.
Her freshman-year GRAMMY haul aside (she also took home Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Chasing Pavements”), Adele has had a slow build by contemporary pop-star standards. Her first album arrived under the radar in January of 2008 and stayed there for most of the year. But by autumn, Adele was in the right place at the right time: performing on an episode of Saturday Night Live, which—thanks to an appearance by then-US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin—became the program’s highest-rated episode in fourteen years. (Does that mean she owes her US success to Sarah Palin?)
The chart action that ensued may have been a no-brainer, but there’s nothing predictable about Adele. It’s not just that she sounds far more seasoned than you might expect twenty-two-year-old to be. On her 19 version of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”— recently still hovering high on the UK singles chart more than two years after its release—she did what Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and even Dylan himself had failed to do: She gave the song soul.
And that special brand of blue-eyed soulfulness is the foundation of her sophomore album, 21, its power and its glory. God knows where Winehouse is at the moment, what she’s doing and when/if she’ll ever resurface again. And Duffy inched farther into the pop realm on her second album, Endlessly, and the result has been poor sales in both the US and the UK. In contrast, the critical and commercial reception to 21, which was released on January 24th in the UK and will be out on February 22nd in the US, has been promising. A week into its life span, it was already platinum and No. 1 in Adele’s homeland.
Paul Epworth’s production on “Rolling in the Deep,” the opening track and first single, is as big as Adele’s voice (which I’d place closer to the husky domain of Alison Moyet or even Florence Welch than to Winehouse or Duffy), creating a huge wall of sound that’s like nothing else on the radio right now. It entered the UK singles chart at No. 2 a few weeks ago, immediately matching the peak of “Chasing Pavements,” and it’s cracked Billboard’s Hot 100. The album would have been more streamlined and focused with fewer producers (Epworth, Rick Rubin, Ryan Tedder and Adele herself are among the seven credited), but it’s more about Adele’s voice anyway, and at least she doesn’t sound like she’s moved on from chasing pavements to chasing hits.
It’s hard to imagine 21‘s best tracks— which include left-of-the-pop-mainstream songs like “Rumour Has It” and “He Won’t Go”— posing any major threat to the leading ladies on the Hot 100, but Adele’s against-the-grain musical mentality works in her favor. Despite those early comparisons to Winehouse and Duffy, Adele stands on her own musical ground. Because she’s not easily categorized, she’s not quickly forgotten.
As Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush and other iconoclastic legends have proven in the past, long, sturdy music careers need not be built on hit singles or pre-packaged sex appeal. When the dust settles and most of today’s pop starlets have fallen far out of flavor, Adele just might be the last woman standing.

Jeremy Helligar’s 10 Best Things About This Year in Pop

The year seems to be ending as it began: with Susan Boyle practically interchangeable snoozaks ruling Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. Who would have guessed? Well, I did, but enough dwelling on the bad. Let’s focus on the good stuff that happened in the last 12 months, and dream a dream that next year’s gift is a Boyle-free holiday season. And now (in roughly chronological order), the best of the rest…

1) Journey’s trek to the tops of the pops. Glee still makes my ears bleed, but by helping Journey score its first-ever UK hit—the band’s ’80s classic “Don’t Stop Believin’” piggybacked on the smash Glee cover all the way to No. 6 in early 2010—those kids finally earned a round of applause. (We’ll spare you the Glee link. Instead here’s Sam Tsui covering Glee covering Journey)

2) Alicia Keys’ sleepless nights. Sunshine from rain. Pleasure from pain. “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” was the finest of Keys’ string of great 2010 singles. I’m still up all night myself, tossing and turning, trying to figure out how it never climbed higher than No. 27 on the Hot 100.

3) Pink goes up in the air. When I met Pink in 1999, before the release of her debut album, I was impressed, but I never suspected that a newcomer named after the hue of her hair would be a hitmaker a decade later? Topping off her continued chart success in 2010, the now-blonde, now-mom-to-be took the GRAMMYs over the top (in the very best way) with her highwire-acrobat act while performing “Glitter in the Air.”

4) Leon Russell lives! Susan Boyle isn’t the only one who began and ended 2010 on top. Russell kicked off the year wowing us at the GRAMMYs alongside the Zac Brown Band and finished it wowing us again, on the GRAMMY-nominated The Union alongside Elton John. Old Hank Wilson is back—but then he never really went away.

5) Sade returns, with guns blazing. Out of sight, out of mind, yes, but in the case of Sade, absence made the heart grow fonder indeed. Soldier of Love, the band’s first album in nearly a decade, made one of the splashiest debuts of 2010, and— in a rare, welcome twist—was worth the wait. May the long-MIA-from-the-charts Shania Twain follow suit in 2011.

6) Carrie Underwood hooks Ted Mosby. Britney Spears’s How I Met Your Mother guest spot got more hype in 2008, but Underwood, in her acting debut, was just as good in March’s “Hooked” episode, nailing her stunt casting as a pharmaceutical-selling hottie stringing Ted along. Not even that adorable teacup pig could upstage her. More, please.

7) Robbie Williams hearts Gary Barlow in the “Shame” video. Boy meets boy, boy falls for boy, boy and boy live happily ever after in the newly reunited Take That members’ send up of Brokeback Mountain. If only real life were so simple.

8) Vanity projects that rock. Timbaland’s “If We Ever Meet Again” (featuring Katy Perry, from Shock Value II) and Mark Ronson’s “Bang Bang Bang” (with Q-Tip and MNDR’s Amanda Warner, from Record Collection) were pop rarities in 2010: distinctive producer-as-artist singles that matched the behind-the-scenes best of the guys who created them. David Guetta, king of the sound-alike musical tricks, this is how you do it.

9) The British are coming… again! With Coldplay and Amy Winehouse in a holding pattern, La Roux and Florence + the Machine picked up the UK slack. La Roux became the first UK act in forever to reach the US Top 10 with “Bulletproof,” and Florence + the Machine finally became more than hipster darlings as their debut disc, Lungs, burst into the Top 20, while their “Dog Days Are Over” single became a big enough hit to get the Glee treatment.

10) Girls girls girls! Love or loathe them, it was refreshing to see single ladies like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, Gaga and others continue to transform music from a man’s man’s man’s man’s world into an estrogen-fueled empire. What are you waiting for, Shania? Come on, join the party!

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Pop in Advertising

The more things change in the music industry, the more one thing in particular stays the same: Radio remains as integral to star- and hit-making as it was back in the days when Bill Haley & His Comets first rocked around the clock. Video may have killed the radio star in the 1980s, but today—if you get the sound and vision right—you still could live long on radio, and YouTube too.

Nowadays, though, even if you don’t look like Katy Perry or Rihanna—and/or if your sound doesn’t quite fit radio’s increasingly slender formats—there are other options. Ten years ago, Moby became a superstar—mining multi-platinum with his Play album—despite having virtually no radio airplay and looking nothing like a traditional pop idol, after licensing every single track on the CD to movies, TV shows and commercials. By the time “South Side” became a bonafide radio hit, making it all the way to No. 14 in 2001, nearly two years after Play‘s release, it was gravy. The following year, Moby’s fellow electronica act, Dirty Vegas, scored a No. 14 hit of its own after “Days Go By” popped up in a Mitsubishi Eclipse TV commercial.

Music Meets Advertising in New Iva Furhlingova / ghd haircare combo Music Video /Ad Spot by RKCR/Y&R and Floria Sigismondi

Hollywood and Madison Avenue have borrowed from pop for years (for a price), often using well-known tracks by established artists, but recently, they’ve been selling new music, and up-and-coming acts (along with their own product) like never before. Some agencies are even launching their own labels, as is the case with RKCR/ Y&R. In 2008, music placement in ads helped M.I.A. land an unlikely Top 10 hit after “Paper Planes” was cast in the trailer for the film Pineapple Express. Coldplay‘s “Viva la Vida,” the Ting Tings “Shut Up and Let Me Go” and Mary J. Blige‘s “Work That” all became chart hits after starting life in iTunes commercials, and the chart life span of Yael Naim’s “New Soul” was extended by it’s use in an Apple MacBook Air TV ad.

Sade enjoyed her biggest hit single in 20 years in January when “Soldier of Love” became as much a beneficiary of the TV promos for the final season of Lost as the show itself. Then along came Britain’s Florence and the Machine, virtually unknown in the US until the single “Dog Days Are Over” upstaged Julia Roberts in the trailer for Eat Pray Love. That massive exposure raised Florence’s profile before a plum gig performing the song on the MTV Video Music Awards in September helped the single surge to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and boosted its parent album, Lungs, to No. 14. (What is it about that number?)

Meanwhile, Brit band Muse also has benefited from heavy trailer  action and owes much of its high US profile to the overuse of its music in movies (in particular, the Twilight series), trailers and TV promos, such as the newly released global TV campaign for Virgin Atlantic Airways and the much touted 2010 Super Bowl Google spot. “Map of the Problematique” has featured in ads for Prison Break, The Children of Men and the upcoming Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp film The Tourist, and “Uprising” popped up earlier this year in the trailer for Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz’s Knight and Day.

Rihanna’s “Rockstar 101″  saw increased sales on iTunes and a surge in popularity after being featured in a commercial for MTV’s Video Music Awards as well as becoming the soundtrack for the promos of the  CW’s new show Nikita. Who’ll be next? Christina Aguilera could use Hollywood’s help now that radio appears to be totally over her. But even if her debut film, Burlesque, flops when it opens on November 24th, maybe the studio will stick her new single in the next trailer and watch both song and star soar [soundtrack hits stores November 16th].

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Discourse & Dischord

OSBlog02_Discourse_Feb10_Week2
The Good

New MGMT album inspired by Lady Gaga, Kanye

MGMT

MGMT

After the wild success of their debut album, Oracular Spectacular, MGMT has turned to new sources of inspiration for their upcoming follow-up, Congratulations. In an interview with Spin.com, Andrew VanWyngarden cites Lady Gaga, Kanye West and surfing as influences for the duo’s new material. The fame that followed Oracular Spectacular turned Van Wyngarden and Ben Goldwasser into “the people we were making fun of.” With Gaga and Kanye serving as a double-headed muse, will MGMT now turn into the people the rest of us make fun of ?

Sade releases first album in 10 years

Sade: Soldier of Love

Sade: Soldier of Love

This week Sade released Soldier of Love, her first studio album since 2000’s Lover’s Rock. Already the LP has hit the Number 1 spot in the iTunes digital store. Has the singer’s soothing coo richened with age? Click here to find out.

The Bad

Michael Jackson’s doctor formally charged

Dr. Conrad Murray

Dr. Murray

Dr. Conrad Murray was charged on Monday with involuntary manslaughter in the June 25th death of Michael Jackson. Murray entered a plea of not guilty in a courtroom that included Joe, Katherine, Jermaine, LaToya, Tito, Randy and Jackie Jackson. Bail was set at $75,000 — three times the normal limit for such a charge but probably petty cash for the King of Pop’s doctor.

White Stripes seeing red over Super Bowl ad

The White Stripes

The White Stripes

After the US Air Force aired a commercial during the Super Bowl with a soundtrack that sounded suspiciously like “Fell in Love with a Girl,” the White Stripes took to their Web site to cry foul. “The White Stripes take strong insult and objection to the Air Force Reserve’s presenting this advertisement with the implication that we licensed one of our songs to encourage recruitment during a war that we do not support.” The Air Force has since put the brakes on the ad, saying they commissioned an original score from an outside agency and that any similarities were unintentional. In other words, “they don’t consider it cheating.”

The Ugly

John Mayer kisses and tells, again

John Mayer Jessica Simpson

Mayer and Simpson

The phrases “John Mayer interview” and “TMI” are eternally linked. In this case the victim of his loose lips isn’t Jennifer Aniston, but Jessica Simpson, African American women in general and David Duke. In his interview with Playboy, Mayer dishes on sex with Simpson, and his member’s distaste for women of color. It’s pretty awful, which means it’s a great read. Here’s a link to the highlights.

Miscellany

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Ife Lessons

Ife Soul Music

Ife Soul Music

Sometimes respect is won not by showing others what you can do, but rather what you won’t do. Like demonstrating your vocal chops with self-indulgent acrobatics, or showcasing your production skills by overloading a song with bells and whistles. If restraint breeds admiration, Ifé (pronounced “ee-fay”) Thomas deserves a round of applause. Under the moniker Ifé Soul Music, the LA-based chanteuse melds jazz, R&B and pop into simmering slow-tempo numbers that say a lot about who she is without overstating anything. “Mocha Mellow” features only two instruments: Thomas’ expressive voice and an acoustic guitar. On “Aim to Please,” a steamy groove about the art of seduction, multi-tracked Ifés sing backup and soft synths set the mood without eating up any space. Thomas’ delivery is always cool, belying the heat of her words. And yes, sometimes those words are a little inelegant (“When I talk in your ear / Nasty words that you’ll hear”). But hey, Sade once sang, “When you require streetcar desire for higher heights” and no one stopped making out to question her lyrical choices. Groove is in the heart, not the pen.

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