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Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: S-Preme

S-Preme is not only a great musician, but also just a great guy to talk to! He’s so passionate and has a ton of talent to offer the music industry. In our Tweet & A this week, we asked S-Preme what made his music worth listening to. He responded by saying that his music has something for everyone. We couldn’t agree more. Take a listen to his song “Popular” if you already haven’t. The song is “the thought of being famous, the reality of not and the mindset that you always matter,” says S-Preme. Below is a short video that we put together featuring our conversation with the man himself! Check it out and let us know what you think.

The Son Also Rises: Mumford & Sons at Terminal 5

“This was quite easily the best year of our lives and it’s great to finish it here in New York City with you,” relayed Mumford & Sons leading man Marcus Mumford to a packed house at Manhattan’s Terminal 5 on Tuesday night. The English folk rock band just wrapped a sold out US tour in support of their debut album Sigh No More (released February 2010 in the US) which has been met with both critical praise and commercial success. The statement, which received ample applause, introduced the final number of the night, “The Cave,” to which the entire room clapped along. It was enough to give me chills.

The quartet—comprising Mumford (vocals, guitar, drums, mandolin), Ben Lovett (vocals, keyboards, accordion), Winston Marshall (vocals, banjo, dobro) and Ted Dwane (vocals, string bass)—were joined onstage by two horn players (Nick Etwell and David Williamson). As always, Mumford & Sons were high energy, rocking straight through from 9:30 until a little after 11:00. Said Mumford, “We never imagined we’d play somewhere like this in New York. It was really kind of you to buy all the tickets.” Beyond their evident talent for singing and songwriting, the Mumford men are also funny. “So let’s go fucking mental,” Mumford implored, introducing “Timshel.” He immediately retracted, “That was a joke actually.” Fellow comedian Marshall quipped, “Is that the best way to introduce the quietest song in the set?” And so it went. Whereas usually banter between tracks leaves me cold and antsy, their speak was brief, easy and entertaining. Plus, that accent…

Two of their more notable and lively numbers included “Dust Bowl Dance,” during which the hitherto innocuous lights started to strobe and Marshall—who, by the way, sports a cross between a rat tail and a mullet— tossed his guitar to the ground,  and “Little Lion Man,” a chart-topping romp of a number introduced by Mumford with a coy, “Shall we have a dance?” (Yes, yes we shall. That or a riot.)

Perhaps most special of the evening were the unfamiliar songs introduced, some they’d been performing live longer than others but none yet recorded (an endeavor they explained they intended to embark on after touring). Said Lovett, “We’re gonna play some songs that we’ve been writing recently instead of songs that we wrote a while ago. I guess it’s a long way around saying we’re going to play you some new songs tonight.” Cheers erupted from wall to wall. Among those pristine tracks were “Below My Feet,” “Lover of the Light” and “Broken Crown.” Of the latter they told us, “This is our newest song that we’ve got. We wrote it in Denver, Colorado two weeks ago.” The song is a darker work that, like many of their songs, starts out subtler and mounts to an explosive denouement. It’s a scorcher with poetically poignant lyrics, as per usual. No complaints here.

The members switched instruments and moved about so often it was difficult to keep pace with who was producing which sound. That was especially so when opening band Cadillac Sky rejoined them onstage for “Awake My Soul.” The space transformed into a zoo of jolly gents! Both bands also collaborated with evening leader King Charles, singing a song that said opener wrote. Mumford summed it up by saying “it’s genuinely one of our favorite songs of all time.”

As the song came to a close, King Charles commanded the mic to elaborate further: “This is one of the first songs I wrote when I started playing country music with the boys from Mumford & Sons. Since then they’ve continuously flooded me with their full-blooded love. To thank [them] for all they have done for me, I’d like to give them this song, if they would like it.” While the Sons are certainly in no need of handouts, the gift was so clearly special, a powerful handoff from one artist to another. Everyone, crowd and Sons, went wild.

While I stand by my belief that their more intimate engagement (a sort of high quality hoedown) last spring at Webster Hall was better, for reasons both technical (sound quality, visibility) and intangible (their stomping was audible, literally shaking the East Village haunt), the doubleheader lineup at T5 was nothing short of a homerun hit. As one fan told me, “[This show was] epic. Best concert I have ever been to. Ever.” Indeed the enthusiasm throughout the whole 3-tiered venue was through the roof, and Mumford didn’t hesitate to point it out (referring to the previous night’s sold out performance at the same venue); “You guys are way better than last night!”  So there you have it, Tuesday took Monday. Ha.

They sure did go out with a bang. No matter; based on their skyrocketing popularity and, chiefly, their instrumental skill—not to mention the winning new tracks—poise yourself to pounce next time they jump the puddle. Given the opportunity, these fellas aren’t to be missed.

[Editor's Note: To tide you over until the next tour, the band is releasing Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and Dharohar Project digitally December 7th and on vinyl in 2011. More details available on their Web site].

By Nell Alk

Nell Alk is a culture and entertainment reporter based in New York. Her work has appeared in Paper Magazine,, Zink Magazine and, among others. She also contributes to NBC’s Niteside blog.

Punk on the Rocks: Top of the Punks

While the competition is always fierce in the OurStage Punk Channel, this month there’s even more incentive for artists to rock their way to the top. The good people at Ernie Ball will be awarding one of this month’s Top 20 punk artists with a years supply of strings and accessories! I’ve complied a list of some of my favorite artists competing this month in the playlist below. Take a listen and let the world know who YOU  think should win the Ernie Ball booty by judging the OurStage Punk Channel! Don’t like my picks? Think you can do better? Click here for more info on how to enter. Hurry—the last day to enter the November Punk Channel is this Sunday!

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Ke$ha reveals the origin of her moniker

The dollar sign in place of an “s” is lame—we all know that. But guys, it isn’t Ke$ha’s fault! She used to spell her name like any other normal person named Kesha. But then, this thing happened … watch the Funny Or Die clip below to see where it all went wrong.

Beatles catalog is finally available on iTunes

The long and winding road that separated EMI Group, Ltd from Apple has come to an end, meaning Beatles fans can now download the entire canon on iTunes. So what’s the most downloaded track in the three days since the songs have been available? Depends on where you are in the world. If you’re here in the US, it’s “Here Comes the Sun,” “Let It Be” and “In My Life.” We are a sentimental lot, we are.

The Bad

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey are engaged!

True story: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey are getting married! But before you dust off your DVD of Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica and crack open some champagne in celebration, you should know that they’re marrying other people this time. Nick announced his engagement to Vanessa Minnillo this week, and Jessica announced her betrothal to Eric Johnson a couple days later. AND THEN, Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton. Why can’t Prince William let Jessica have her moment?!?

The Ugly

Nick Cave curses out smoke machine operator at Grinderman’s in NYC

Specifically, he said, “Could you stop pouring smoke out of that f—ing machine, please?” Both the smoke machine and the smoke machine operator then shrunk away to go die quietly in a corner.

Billy Corgan disses Pavement

Billy Corgan vacillates between being a beacon of lightness and a total sourpuss. Today on Twitter he channeled the latter, releasing a series of tweets bemoaning the fact that Pavement would open for Smashing Pumpkins in Brazil. “…They represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part,” he complained. Dude, you have a song called “Drown”—that’s hardly life-affirming.


WTF Chris Brown?

We all make mistakes.

We lose control.

We learn from our mistakes.  We learn to forgive ourselves.  And we hope that others can do the same and move on.  Everyone is deserving of a second chance.

It’s refreshing to see Rihanna back on top of her game, proudly rebounding from the devastating events that posted her bruised, bloodied face on every front page in 2009.  We’ve heard her interviews, listened to her pain-filled album, Rated R, and watched her work to spread awareness to the serious issue of domestic violence in songs like “Love The Way You Lie”.

Almost two years since that fateful February night, it seems RiRi has pieced herself back together and put the past behind her. Now, she’s back and ready to party.

So is Chris Brown.  He wants us to forget the night his violent actions shocked the nation and ruined his reputation. Earlier this year, a tearful Brown promised fans he would “make it up to them”.

If his latest singles are any indication of his sincere regret and commitment to change, I’m not impressed.   “No BS” and “Boing” are songs that place Brown in a role he no longer deserves: The “boyfriend,” the “hot guy,” the one you want to go home with at the end of the night.

“No BS” lyrics:

3 in the morning
You know I’m horny
So why don’t you come over my place
Put a smile on my face

“Boing” lyrics:

We be bouncing like the springs of the bed
And I love it when you give me some
Let’s switch and let me do you instead
Through I love the way you give it to me, girl

To release a string of sexually-charged singles aimed at charming the panties off of young women is not only presumptuous, it’s irresponsible. Are we selling abusive relationships to teens now?

Where’s the apology song? Where’s the mix-tape about remorse, self-discovery and transformation?  Where’s the spear-headed campaign against dating violence and huge donations to women’s groups?

I like Chris Brown.  I admire his talent.  I want to forgive him, but he hasn’t earned it yet.  He hasn’t given me one reason to forgive him, but is practically demanding that I forget.

I’m not suggesting Brown be condemned to isolation for the rest of his life.  But I am suggesting he and his team take responsibility for what occurred, for the impact it had and for the messages their current actions are sending.

As a fan, I’m as disappointed now as I was when the first photos of Chris surfaced after the attack.  While I expected to see a shamed, somber Brown hanging his head in contemplation, I saw his smiling face on the back of a jet ski.  Now, while I wait to hear his first attempt to get back into my iPod, I expect a heartfelt explanation,or apology, but, instead I’m asked to imagine myself in his bed.

I call BS.

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Soul Searching: Shaun Mykals

Self made and motivated to win, Shaun Mykals is this week’s Soul Searching featured artist. Shaun’s first project, Urban Sophistication, is simply an extraordinary album. You can hear the effort put into making the recording with each and every phrase. Every detail seems to be intentional, and is packed with soul, just like we like it! Shaun is clearly influenced by artists such as Marvin Gaye and Luther Vandross, but he brings his own style to their old school sound.
With all this talent, there is sure to be an impressive resume. Shaun’s video “Cold World” was voted Best New Video of the Week by BET’Js viewers. He also was a back up vocalist for Patti LaBelle which brought him to the attention of 710 Muzic Group President, Natacia Harrison.
Want a taste of Shaun Mykal?  Check out his track “Leave Me Alone” below and let us know what you  think.

Hollywood Stars Sing for Their Supper

From Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side and Country Strong) to Janet Jackson (For Colored Girls) and Christina Aguilera (Burlesque), pop stars no longer act just to fill dead space between albums. And the career exchange is working the other way around, too. Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd had a hit single in the ’70s; Bruce Willis, Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace), Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy had one Top 10 apiece in the ’80s; and Jennifer Lopez spent the early ’00s as one of the hottest women in pop. But lately, what every actor (and reality TV star) seems to really want to do isn’t direct—it’s sing.
Leading the current musical parade is Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Billboard No. 1 Adult Contemporary hit in 2000 with a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’,” a duet she mastered with Huey Lewis.  Now she’s targeting Nashville and possibly a second Oscar with her role as an alcoholic singer in Country Strong (opening December 22). She’s already getting country radio airplay with the title song and performed it live, to a standing ovation, at the Country Music Awards on November 10. She also just made her superstar guest appearance on Glee.

Meanwhile, Paltrow’s Country Strong costar Leighton Meester, who’s also a regular on Gossip Girl—which features moonlighting rocker Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass)—is releasing an album on the Universal Republic label, and already hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year as a featured artist on Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.”

Paltrow’s Iron Man costar Jeff Bridges won an Oscar in March for playing the male version of her Country Strong character in Crazy Heart (music from the film, by rising country star Ryan Bingham, who also acted in the film, received plenty of accolades as well). Iron Man 2‘s Scarlett Johansson released Anywhere I Lay My Head, an album of Tom Wait covers, in 2008 and Break Up, with Pete Yorn, in 2009. And Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., has sung on the soundtracks to several of his films and onstage at the 2008 American Idol finale, appeared in an Elton John video and released a CD called The Futurist.

Joaquin Pheonix, Paltrow’s costar in last year’s Two Lovers, performed his own vocals for his Oscar-nominated performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and spent the entire 2010 documentary I’m Still Here trying to make it as a rapper.

Maybe it’s the rebirth of the Hollywood musical—and/or the drive to hang on to fame by all means necessary—that’s convinced so many actors that they can make it in music, too (no, not you, David Hasselhoff). Phoenix’s Walk the Line costar Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for her singing efforts as June Carter Cash. Catherine Zeta-Jones scored both an Oscar (Chicago) and a Tony (A Little Night Music) for musical performances. Penelope Cruz just got nominated for uncaging her inner songbird in Nine, alongside fellow Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Dame Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Nicole Kidman, who—like Kate Winslet and the late Britanny Murphy (may she rest in peace)—has hit the Top 10 in the UK as a singer.

Even Oscar queen Meryl Streep has gotten into the song and dance, massacring the ABBA catalog in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia! And recent Academy honoree Mo’Nique delivered a song-stealing monologue on “Don’t Take Your Hat Off,” a track on Toni Braxton’s last album. Jamie Foxx, who won his Oscar for reincarnating music icon Ray Charles in Ray, has released two platinum albums and has a third set, Body, due on December 14. Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, Zoey Deschanel, Adrian Grenier, Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Jason Schwartzman and Robert Pattinson all have moonlighted as musicians; Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars seems to have become a bigger priority than acting; veteran actor Chris Mulkey (HBO’s The Boardwalk Empire) is also a well known country singer and Steve Martin’s The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo won a 2010 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Among the younger set, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez were all Disney stars before becoming successful recording artists (as were Fergie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Aubrey Drake Graham spent eight years playing Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation before becoming platinum-selling rapper Drake. Will and Jada Smith’s actor kids are also making musical noise. Son Jaden, 12, had a Top 40 hit earlier this year rapping with Justin Bieber on “Never Say Never,” and his 9-year-old sister Willow‘s “Whip My Hair” is a current pop smash that has some calling her a future Beyoncé. Then there’s, Josh Groban, who will release his fifth album, Illuminations, on November 15 and also costars with Steve Carell in the 2011 comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. He initially set out to be an actor, getting his big break in a 2001 episode of Ally McBeal, before detouring permanently into singing.

Since talent is optional in pop, and sometimes all you need is a good producer and auto-tune, reality stars are entering the mix, too. (No diss intended to Project Runway host Heidi Klum, who sang on “Wedding Day,” a track on her husband Seal’s 2007 album, System.) The Hills’ Heidi Montag and The Simple Life’s Paris Hilton, perhaps inspired by the pop careers of dueling starlets Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff in the mid ’00s, both released their own albums. Montag already tanked early this year (Earth to former reality star: If you want to be taken seriously in music, don’t call your debut album Superficial), but at least Hilton earned a Top 10 hit and decent reviews for Paris in 2006 and has a follow-up in the works.

Of course, Kim “I’ll do anything to stay in the spotlight” Kardashian is working with producer The-Dream (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey) on her debut album, and has said, “I would like the music to sound a bit like Lady GaGa, Britney Spears and J.Lo with a bit of an R ‘n’ B twist to it.” Such lofty ambitions!

Down south, The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Kandi Burruss, who had several hits with the girl group Xscape in the ’90s and co-wrote Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” and TLC’s “No Scrubs,” among other hits, is about to relaunch her music career with her second solo album, Kandi Koated, on December 14. And it’s probably only a matter of time before Hiltons’ The Simple Life costar, Nicole Richie, follows her dad, Lionel Richie, and her fiancé, Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, into the family business.

But no Hollywood star has made as much of a recent dent in pop as the cast of Glee, who just surpassed the Beatles’ record for the most hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. Their schtick of taking other people’s songs for one-week spins on the chart is wearing thin—I never got the show and probably never will—but these days in life, Hollywood and pop, only a few things are certain: death, taxes, another actor-turned-singer, and a weekly barrage of Hot 100 entries by the cast of Glee.

Kandi – Leave U [Official Video]

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.

Behind the Mic: Sponsorships

The word “sponsorship” may conjure images of sporting events or awareness marches, but musicians can certainly be sponsored too. In a world where record sales hardly add any change to the artist’s bank account, sponsorships are hugely beneficial to off-setting expenses racked up by travel, promotion, merch and more. In addition, sponsors can significantly improve an artist’s advertising, publicity and promotion.

While there are several types of sponsorships out there, the most common for the music industry is a sponsorship where a band or artist is given free products to wear or use by the company. For example, a band can be sponsored by clothing companies, who gives the  members free clothes to wear on stage or in photo shoots. A band could also be sponsored by  a gear company who gives them free instruments, amps, etc. to play. The hopes for these companies is that fans and fellow musicians will see a band or artist  using their products and, as a result, desire the same products.

Metal band Eyes Set to Kill decked out in gear from Skelanimals

Obviously, sponsors want to pick bands and artists that are talented, professional and have a large fan base. If you’re not quite there yet, aspire to start with a smaller company that offers sponsorships to local bands. After all, the likelihood is slim that the company sponsoring your favorite major label act will sponsor your band too. Like large corporations, local organizations need advertising too, and it will be much easier to set that up if you’re a local act.

If you think you’re ready for a larger-scale sponsor, there are a few things you’ll need to think about first. Before you get started, you need to decide which sponsors would be appropriate for you. For example, if you’re a rapper, you probably don’t want to propose a sponsorship to a clothing company that sells shirts at Hot Topic. It’s important to remember your music’s target demographic and consider companies that your fans might support.

Next, you will need to craft a proposal letter. This letter serves as an introduction of your band to the company and explain how you can mutually benefit from a partnership. Start by giving a BRIEF synopsis of your band’s background (no more than ten sentences) and include some facts about each member. Mention any major career highlights, including opening spots for well-known acts, statistics of sales from past releases and press clippings. Include a description of past tours, venues played and your average draw in a few markets. Along with this letter, you should include a few photos of your band and links to live performance videos.

A few final tips: try to send out as many proposals as you can and don’t get discouraged if you’re turned down. Remember that professionalism is key, so don’t be afraid to have a manager help you with this project. And if you’re chosen for a sponsorship, be sure to read through any legal documentation thoroughly with your band and any of your team members so you know exactly what the sponsor expects of your partnership.

The Fast and the Furious

Getting spins on MySpace isn’t a competition, but if it were, NEEDMORE would be wiping the floor with the majority of us. With 8.5 million plays through their profile and placements in television and film, exposure isn’t an issue for this L.A.-based band. Their traction is easily attributed to their sound: sleek, impeccably produced, epic as hell. “Lost My Way” begins with gorgeous ribbons of violin that give way to ebbing guitars and the soft crush of drums. It’s highly visceral, emotional stuff. Same goes for “Late Night Drive,” a perfectly arranged ballad of glimmering piano, edgy guitar scribbles and a soaring, stratospheric chorus. The sinister swerve of “Go” with its ricochet guitars and driving percussion is raring for a cinematic car chase. Don’t take our word for it—watch this Lincoln MKS commercial and tell us you don’t want to go for a spin with these guys.

More Prizes, Greater Opportunities

In 2007, launched with the dream of helping the most promising independent artists illuminate their music and, hopefully, further their careers. To this end, we began to give away a monthly prize of $5,000 to the Number 1 ranked artist, but soon the artist community indicated they valued career-enhancing opportunities over a payout. In response, we worked to bring OurStage artists the chance to record singles with the likes of Keith Urban and T-Pain as well as the chance to open for national acts such as Bon Jovi and John Mayer. Each month we continue to provide artists with more opportunities to further their music careers. Now, what about the cash?

Since OurStage was able to make good on the request to offer more opportunities we thought it was time to address another long-standing artist request: distributing the 5k prize pot amongst the Number 1 artists in pop, rock, country, urban and specialty. Next month, the artists competing in these main music genres, and their respective sub-genres, will each have a chance to win 1k. This opportunity engages all artists in our community, not just the ones who perform songs in the most popular genres of music.

Beginning December 1st, the following genres will be eligible to win:

1K Prize for Rock

1K Prize for Pop

1K Prize for Country

1K Prize for Urban

1K Prize for Specialty

Alternative Indie Pop Alt Country Alt Hip Hop Acoustic
Hard Rock Pop Country Hip Hop All Instrumental
Indie Rock Singer Songwriter Female Southern Rock R&B Ambient Chill
Metal Singer Songwriter Male Traditional Country Rap Blues
Modern Rock Soul Christian
Punk Cover Bands
Rock Electronica
Soft Rock Folk
Southern Rock Funk

We will also continue to award 1K for the Best Video (country, hard rock, hip hop, pop and rock videos are eligible) as well as 1K for the Best Live Performance Video (open to all genres of music). See our FAQS for more information on our monthly prizes, eligible genres and our competition-judging season.


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