Monday, March 20, 2017

25 SONGS THAT TELL US WHERE MUSIC IS GOING


It's a pretty bold move to try and identify what direction popular music is heading but for the New York Times Magazine's annual music issue, they have selected twenty-five songs that may possibly let us in on that idea. Not all of these songs are new, as some are a few years old or have been remixed to address our modern times but what many of these songs appear to share in common is a search for identity and where do we fit in this complicated and increasingly isolated planet.

I know this will sound like a really scratched record but there is no denying that this current state of political turmoil has made that question even more relevant and will effect the type of music that will come from artists in the future. Songs that reflect unease, desperation, sadness, outrage and anger will certainly be a more common occurrence as the divisive actions of this administration continues to unfold. Time will tell but in the meantime, check out these innovative and powerful songs.

Click below to read:

The Music Issue: 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going

CHUCK BERRY (1926 - 2017)


Chuck Berry, the guitarist who took country and rhythm and blues and merged them with his inventive guitar solos and dynamic showmanship to help create what we know as rock & roll, passed away on March 18th at the age of ninety. With his famous "duck walk" he did when he played, Berry was an innovative artist who broke down the deep musical and racial divide at the time in this country and helped integrate teenagers through his music.

Berry was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and was interested in music at an early age, performing for audiences while a student in high school. However, his fledgling career as a professional musician was briefly derailed after he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to a reformatory for young men until he was twenty-one. Berry formed a singing group while there and was so good, he was allowed to perform occasionally outside of the detention facility. After he was released, Berry started his music career again, developing his unique guitar style and played with giving country music a blues makeover.

Berry's big break came in 1955 when he traveled to Chicago and met blues great, Muddy Waters. He suggested that Berry meet Leonard Chess of Chess Records and the record executive became very interested in the young musician. The first single released was "Maybellene", a reworking of a traditional country tune, "Ida Red" that was made famous by Bob Wills in 1938. The song went straight to number one on the R&B chart and sold over a million copies. The following year a song Berry wrote, "Roll Over Beethoven" actually crossed over and reached the top forty on the pop chart. Berry soon went on tour with other popular rock acts of the day like Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers and he became a major music star.

More hits followed, "School Days", "Sweet Little Sixteen", "Rock and Roll Music", "Little Queenie", "Back In The U S A" and his most famous, "Johnny B. Goode". Berry even made appearances in two early rock & roll films, "Rock Rock Rock" and "Go, Johnny, Go!". But his successful career took a hit when he was convicted of violating the Mann Act and eventually sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 1962.

By the time Berry was released from jail, the British Invasion in the U.S. had begun and these acts were covering many of his hit songs which brought interest back to the originator. While he did record several albums during this period, they were not nearly as successful as in his glory days. But Berry remained a top concert draw and went around the globe performing. In 1972, Berry released a live recording of an innuendo-laden, novelty song, "My Ding-a-Ling" and this would become Berry's first and only number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Chuck Berry received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, a Kennedy Center Honor in 2000 and was one of the first group of musicians to be inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Berry had continued to perform all these years although he was recently only playing once a month at a restaurant bar in St. Louis.

Here are a few classic moments from the pioneering musician, Chuck Berry performing live:



Sunday, March 12, 2017

STARGATE PRESENTS "WATERFALL"


You may not know who Stargate is by name but you are very familiar with their music. What do Beyonc√©‘s "Irreplaceable", Ne-Yo's "So Sick", Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music", Katy Perry's "Firework", Selena Gomez's "Come & Get It", Fifth Harmony's "Worth It", Wiz Khalifa‘s "Black and Yellow" and Coldplay's "Hymn for the Weekend" all have in common?

These are just a very small number of songs that the Norwegian production team of Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen have been creating that have found their way on the international pop charts since 2001. Now after years of writing and producing for other artists, Stargate has decided to release some new music under their own name.

And for the official first single under their recording contract with RCA Records, the duo have brought together two of the hottest singers in pop music right now; Sia and P!nk. On "Waterfall", these two vocal powerhouses do not disappoint with them trading verses in this slinky love jam of yearning for another touch from a lover. I certainly think that Stargate has another hit on their hands. Have a listen:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EDM + POP

EDM (or "electronic dance music") has slowly become a dominant force in pop music over the last few years. At first, these musicians would discover their own vocalists to sing on their dance tracks which in turn created new pop music stars. And as soon as these DJ/producers found amazing success on the charts, established artists began seeking out this talent to help them create their music. Now these EDM artists are attempting to expand their sound, merging with different genres of music to create something fresh.


Calvin Harris was one of the first artists to move successfully from the dance floor to the pop charts. Born Adam Wiles, he began as a DJ in his native Scotland before moving towards creating his own music in his teens. The award-winning Harris has become an international star with his own albums and producing dance-pop tracks for such distinguished acts like Kylie Minogue, Pitbull, Scissor Sisters, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna, who he has helped reach the top of the charts several times with "Where Have You Been", "We Found Love" and with last year's smash, "This is What You Came For". With his latest, "Slide", Harris is actively trying to bring together electronic dance and hip-hop with vocal assistance from Frank Ocean and the Southern-based outfit, Migos, currently riding the charts with their hit, "Bad and Boujee".

"Slide" - Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean and Migos (2017) mp3


Stephen Bruner, or as he is professionally known, Thundercat, may not exactly be considered an EDM artist as he has performed and produced wildly eclectic styles of music throughout his career including jazz-fusion, alt-rock, classic R&B, hip-hop and even heavy metal. But the Los Angeles native bass guitarist has an electronic pulse beating through his recently released third studio album, "Drunk", a collection of fragmented, eccentric and musically diverse tracks. One highlight is "Show You The Way", a '70's inspired, funky, slow jam that features vocals from two icons of that era; Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. This sensual track will fit perfectly on either the dance floor or in the bedroom.

"Show You The Way" - Thundercat featuring Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald (2017) mp3



Finally, we have the Chainsmokers, one of the hottest EDM acts of the last couple of years, who have teamed up with one of the biggest rock groups of the last decade, Coldplay.  On the very catchy, "Something Like Like This", the duo,  Alex Pall and Drew Taggart, bring their throbbing beats that blends nicely with Chris Martin's vocals which gives us the best of both bands. This song will appear on the Chainsmokers' debut studio album, "Memories. . .  Do Not Open"  due out on April 7th and on Coldplay's upcoming EP, "Kaleidoscope" which features leftover tracks from their 2015 album, "A Head Full of Dreams" and is expected in June. Here is a clip of this super-team performing the song live at the recent Brit Awards:

Friday, March 3, 2017

GREEN LIGHT


I must admit I have been very impatient waiting for some new music from Lorde, the New Zealand artist who came on the scene in 2013 with her thoughtful, electropop album, "Pure Heroine" and the worldwide smash single, "Royals".  I keep forgetting she was just sixteen when it came out and surely needed some serious time away after her whirlwind success to simply be a teenager.

I suspected something was on the horizon when it was announced that the now-twenty year old singer will be the musical guest on the March 11th episode of "Saturday Night Live" and today a new single was released. "Green Light", co-written with Jack Antonoff of the bands, fun and the Bleachers and producer and fellow New Zealander, Joel Little, surprises as it's much more like a dance-pop anthem than the dark and far edgier material that first brought her to our attention. I guess hanging out with BFF, Taylor Swift has inspired Lorde in more ways than one. Yet let me be clear that it still feels and sounds very much like Lorde which is a very good thing. I really loved the track the first time I heard it and I'm sure the rest of the world will respond in kind.

The title of her forthcoming second album has been revealed to be "Melodrama" and due sometime later this summer with a tour to follow. For now, enjoy the music video, directed by Grant Singer, which features just the singer wildly dancing in the streets and on top of a limo:

Monday, February 20, 2017

I'M IN "LOVE" WITH LANA DEL REY


After a few years out of the spotlight, Lana Del Rey is back on the music scene and has dropped "Love" in to the world. With writing and production assistance from Rick Nowels and Benny Blanco, the thirty-one year old vocalist has returned to the ethereal glam-pop styling that initially caught our attention back in 2011.

"Love" was at first teased to the public on February 17th but was rushed out after leaked versions hit the web. The lyrics might travel down familiar territory about the difficulties of being young and desperately in love but Del Rey elevates the tune with her girlish yet highly emotive vocals. I'm really digging this dramatic song, which sounds like nothing else happening right now in pop music, and expect this will make a big impact on radio. I can't wait to hear more with Del Rey's fifth studio album due out sometime later this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

AL JARREAU (1940 - 2017)


Al Jarreau, the smooth jazz vocalist who also dabbled in pop and soul music, sadly passed away on February 12th at the age of seventy-six. He had just announced his retirement from live performing just two days before his death due to declining health.

Born in Milwaukee, WI , Jarreau found his love of music in the Church. His father was a minister and his mother was the pianist while he and his siblings performed during services. After earning a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation, Jarreau worked as a counselor in San Francisco while occasionally singing with a jazz trio after hours. He latter teamed with guitarist Julio Martinez and they became a popular act in the Bay Area. It was at this point Jarreau decided to pursue music full time.

Jarreau soon headed to the Southland where he made a name performing at nightclubs and on television variety shows. He was signed to Warner Bros. Records and released his debut album, "We Got By" in 1975 to rave reviews. Jarreau would win the first of his seven career Grammy Awards for his first live album, "Look At The Rainbow" in 1977.

In 1981, Jarreau released "Breakin' Away" which would help the singer crossover to the pop and soul worlds and became his biggest selling album at over a million copies sold. The single, "We're In This Love Together" reached the top-twenty on the pop chart, the top-ten on the r&b chart and would win Jarreau the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He would also win Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance for "(Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo à la Turk" from that album as well.

Other career highlights include performing the theme song for the popular late '80's television romantic comedy-drama, "Moonlighting" which reached the top-thirty on the pop charts and he was one of the participating pop singers who lent their voices on the charity single for African famine relief, "We Are The World" in 1985.

But Jarreau was admired most as an outstanding live performer and since the beginning of his musical journey he would tour extensively in countless concerts and jazz festivals, dazzling audiences around the world in the process. The singer even appeared in the role of Teen Angel in "Grease" on Broadway in 1996. He was a great talent who will truly be missed. Enjoy a small sample of the amazing music of Al Jarreau:

"We're In This Love Together" - Al Jarreau (1981) mp3

25 SONGS THAT TELL US WHERE MUSIC IS GOING

It's a pretty bold move to try and identify what direction popular music is heading but for the New York Times Magazine 's annual...