Monday, July 9, 2018

NEW SOUNDS

DRAKE


Sheryl Crow just recently announced that she's recording one last album before only releasing singles in the future, acknowledging the change in the business with no one seemingly interested in full albums amymore.

Thankfully, Drake, who is one of the biggest artists around today, doesn’t believe that and with his fifth studio release, “Scorpion”, it’s not only a double album with twenty-five tracks but also a concept record. One side is devoted more to aggressive rap while the other features a more tender soulful side. The Canadian actor and hip-hop artist addresses some of the rumors and feuds that have surrounding him of late including confirming his paternity of a newborn son with a woman he barely knows. The album is sample-heavy with a diverse collection of musical snippets appearing featuring the work of Marvin Gaye, Lil’ Kim, the Ohio Players, Mariah Carey, Eddie Kendricks and Lauryn Hill.  Even Michael Jackson (who Drake is a major fan) shows up on the song, “Don’t Matter To Me”. But it’s an unreleased vocal track used on the hook here with the blessing of the Jackson estate and Paul Anka who co-wrote the song with Jackson.

Here is the music video for Drake's latest number one single, "Nice For What" which actually knocked off the first single from the album, "God's Plan" from the top spot. The clip features a large number of big-name female talent who make guest appearances including Olivia Wilde, Misty Copeland, Issa Rae, Rashida Jones, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi and Tiffany Haddish.



H.E.R.


Taking a page from Sia’s playbook, the artist called H.E.R. had tried to keep her identity secret as she only wanted to be represented by her music. Sadly, the ability to remain completely anonymous in this day and age is almost impossible. And soon the woman behind H.E.R. (which ironically stands for "having everything revealed") became public knowledge and that the twenty-four year old singer was born Gabi Wilson from Vallejo, California.

Regardless, the focus should remain on her music which is a sparkling blend of classic soul and offbeat rhythms with a voice that’s like a sensuous whisper. Her 2016 EP, "H.E.R. Vol. 1" was met with critical acclaim and high praise from fellow artists including Rihanna who had H.E.R. playing in the background on one of her Instagram posts. The following year, H.E.R.’s self-titled debut was released and featured the lush ballad, "Focus" which reached the top ten on the U.S. r&b chart. She is definitely one to watch and recently teamed up with another rising artist, Khalid for a song on the soundtrack for the remake of "Superfly".

Check out her recent performance on the B.E.T Awards to best experience the true artistry of H.E.R. She does live versions of "Focus" and her other hit, "Best Part" which she duets with Daniel Caesar:

Thursday, July 5, 2018

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


"Shadow Dancing" was Andy Gibb's third consecutive number one single on the U.S. pop chart during this week back in 1978. The youngest of the famous Gibb brothers (who were Barry, Maurice and Robin but you may know them better as the Bee Gees) who together wrote this classic dance song.

Robert Stigwood, who was the Bee Gees' manager at the time, signed an eighteen year old Gibb to his label, RSO Records in 1976 after hearing his demos. His debut album, "Flowing Rivers" was released the following year and was an immediate success with his first two singles, "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" and "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" reaching the top of the pop charts. And his good looks caught the attention of young girls around the world and made Gibb a teen idol.

"Shadow Dancing", which was also the title of his second album, spent a total of seven weeks at number one, sold over a million copies and became Billboard's number one song of the year.

Success continued for Gibb with another hit studio album, stage performances on Broadway, a two-year hosting gig on the television music program, "Solid Gold" and a high profile romance with actress, Victoria Principal. But the intense pressures of fame at such a young age may have contributed to his serious substance abuse problem which lead to his career and relationships to crumble apart.

Gibb had attended several drug rehabilitation programs over the years and by 1987, he thought he had finally won the battle. With his brothers' help, he was attempting a music comeback and recorded several tracks for an upcoming album. But six days after his 30th birthday on March 10th 1988, he complained of chest pains while in London and would later pass away from complications of an inflammation of the heart muscle which was probably damaged by his years of severe drug abuse.

Let's enjoy Andy Gibb at the height of his powers with this performance of his number one hit tune:

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

EVERYTHING IS LOVE


Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the first couple of music, seemed to be having some serious trouble in their ten-year long marriage a couple of years ago. And while they were relatively tight-lipped publicly about their issues, the duo expressed themselves the best way they know how; through their music.

First Beyoncé released the critically acclaimed 2016 album,  "Lemonade" where she unleashed her rage and disappointment in being cheated on by her husband. Jay followed not long after with his release, "4:44". And while he certainly addressed his shameful behavior and asked for forgiveness from his wife, Jay had other things on his mind like racism, hip-hop culture, the late artist, Prince and lovingly honoring his mother who is a lesbian.

Now the Carters are in a better place in their relationship and have salvaged their marriage. They are in the middle of their On The Run II world tour (which runs through October) and the day after their first show in the U.K. on June 16th, the couple dropped a surprise joint album entitled, "Everything Is Love". The nine-track record had been in the works off and on over the last few years and features assistance from many collaborators with some high-profile names include Ty Dolla $ign, Offset and Quavo from Migos, Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio and Pharrell Williams.

The first song released from the album is called "Apeshit" and what is notable about the music video for the track is the location. It was shot at the Louvre, one of the most famous museums in the world located in Paris, and the art-enthusiasts impressively managed to get permission to film there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

SO SAD SO SEXY


The title of Lykke Li’s fourth album, “so sad so sexy” perfectly describes her music. The Swedish singer/songwriter has always crafted dark and moody songs yet there is an undeniable sensuality that manages to drift through her material. After the release of “I Never Learn” in 2014, she took the last few years off and went in to seclusion while facing personal loss and career exhaustion.

Now living in Los Angeles and creatively revitalized, Li has taken some of the difficult experiences during her time away to reflect and reveal through this new music. She has further expanded her alt-pop sound through adventurous collaborations with diverse producers like Skrillex, Rostam and Ali Payami while including hip-hop and even rap (with a guest verse provided by Aminé) on the record. "so sad so sexy" is a strong collection and a welcome return from a vital artist. Check out the music videos for two tracks from the album that offer very different vibes:


Thursday, June 14, 2018

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


Fifty years ago this week, "Mrs. Robinson" by the folk-rock duo, Simon & Garfunkel was the number one song in America. It is closely associated with the hit 1967 romantic-comedy drama,  "The Graduate" which it was included in the movie and soundtrack in a partial form. A full version of "Mrs. Robinson" was not recorded until after the film was released.

Theater turned movie director, Mike Nichols had been a fan of Simon and Garfunkel and decided he wanted to use their music for his upcoming second film, "The Graduate". Paul Simon had written a couple of original songs for the movie but Nichols wasn’t impressed with them and asked if he had anything else. He played a song that he had been working on but not yet completed called "Mrs Roosevelt". The director loved it and soon the song was changed to the name of the character in the film and "Mrs. Robinson" was born. Although it was heavily used to promote the movie, the single was not officially released until almost three months after the movie came out.

"Mrs. Robinson" was not eligible for an Academy Award nomination as it wasn't written expressly for the movie but it did go on to win two Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary-Pop Performance Vocal by a Duo or Group and Record of The Year. This is considered to be one of the first rock songs to win this prestigious prize.

This song and their popular 1968 album, "Bookends" made Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel one of the biggest acts of the day. But their relationship had always been contentious and complicated and the duo broke-up for the first time not long after the release of the biggest album in their career, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in 1971.

Simon and Garfunkel would reunite for recordings and tours off and on many times since then (including a free concert in Central Park in 1981 that was seen by over a half a million people) yet it would often end in an acrimonious manner. The last time they staged a major tour was in 2010 but Garfunkel was suffering from serious vocal issues and they had to cancel the remaining shows. Simon has recently stated that it's unlikely they will ever perform together again as he's retiring from live performing this year and for the basic fact that the duo just don't get along.

Let's listen to Simon and Garfunkel in less difficult times with their number one hit:

Friday, June 8, 2018

NEW SOUNDS

JAKE SHEARS


With the queer, electro-rock band, Scissor Sisters on an indefinite hiatus, lead vocalist, Jake Shears has been keeping himself busy. Following making his Broadway debut in the musical, "Kinky Boots" and writing his autobiography, "Boys Keep Swinging", Shears is about to release his first solo album. The self-titled record is due in August and the first single, "Creep City" is out. The track may not stray too far from the sound with his band but it's still quite enjoyable and welcome. Check out the recently released music video filled with the singer in full glamorous camp mode:



KIM PETRAS


There has been a lot of media attention about German singer, Kim Petras due to her gender reassignment at the very young age of twelve. But the focus should be on the now twenty-six year old's unabashedly pure pop songs that she has been creating since a teenager. Her latest single, "Heart To Break" is another great tune but it's been mired in controversy due to production by Dr. Luke who has been accused of sexual abuse by singer, Kesha. Petras got herself further in to hot water by stating that she would never work with someone who abused women which came across as dismissing Kesha's claims. She has since clarified her stance and apologized for any misunderstanding. Be sure to check out Petras who will be opening for the Australian pop star, Troye Sivan on his upcoming U.S. tour. In the meantime, check out the delightfully charming music video for the Euro princess of pop's new song:



COURTNEY BARNETT


After Courtney Barnett's debut album, "Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit" (I love that title) was released in 2015, plenty of acclaim and accolades greeted the Aussie alt-rocker. She is finally back with her follow-up, "Tell Me How You Really Feel",  another vigorous collection of guitar-driven songs filled with her frustrations and fears which seemed to have intensified with her sudden fame. But she helps her dark tunes go down easier with high-energy pop structures and classic rock flourishes. Listen to one of my favorite tracks from the album, "City Look Pretty":



And we have the latest from Sam Smith. The single, “Pray” has gotten a remix treatment with rapper, Logic providing some verses to the gospel-inspired ballad. While the song treads familiar territory, it is uplifted by Smith’s glorious vocals. For the music video, it was shot at a mansion in beautiful Lake Como, Italy and takes advantage of the scenic location:

Saturday, June 2, 2018

TAKE TWO: STEVE WINWOOD


Much like many of his peers, Steve Winwood was inspired by the American blues and soul music that invaded Britain in the 1960’s. He took those sounds and filtered it out to create his own brand of bluesy rock. This gifted artist has not only been a successful solo performer but also has collaborated with many important musicians throughout his career.

As a young boy in Birmingham, music had always been an important part of his life as his father was a semi-professional musician who performed after his day job. At the age of four, Steve started to play the piano.  He eventually joined his father and older brother, Mervyn or “Muff”, who picked up the bass and they all played together with local jazz bands by the time he was eight.

In 1963, a fourteen year-old Steve joined the Spencer Davis Group along with his brother. This British r&b band first reached the top of the U.K. pop chart with "Keep On Running" in 1965. They had more hits including "Somebody Help Me", "I'm a Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" which reached the top-ten in the U.S. before the Winwood brothers left the group in 1967 over creative differences.

With "Muff" moving in to A&R at Island Records (and eventually becoming a successful producer), Steve (after a brief stint with an early band with Eric Clapton) went on to form his own band, Traffic that featured a psychedelic rock sound. Despite developing a cult following, Traffic was short-lived and disbanded by 1969.

Winwood quickly went on to form another band called Blind Faith which he joined forces with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech. As established and respected British musicians together in one band, they were considered one of the first super-groups. But this blues-rock fusion outfit only lasted a year with a self-titled album and a U.S. tour to show for their time together.

Unsure of what direction to go in, Winwood briefly reformed Traffic and became a session player for a number of years before his record label encouraged him to become a solo artist. He released his self-tilted debut in 1977 and his follow-up album, "Arc of a Diver" featured his first solo hit, "While You See a Chance" in 1980.

But it was his fourth album in 1986, "Back In the High Life" that became Winwood's major breakthrough and biggest commercial hit of his career. The title track, "The Finer Things", "Freedom Overspill" and the number one smash, "Higher Love" helped the album sell over five million copies and win Winwood three Grammy Awards including Best Pop Male Vocal Performance and Record of The Year.

Winwood had another number one hit on the U.S. pop chart with "Roll With It" in 1988 but soon his subsequent albums failed to get much attention with "Nine Lives" in 2003 as his last studio record to date.  However, the now seventy year old musician is hardly idle as he continues to perform live and currently on a Greatest Hits Live tour to support the album he released last year. Enjoy two of my favorite songs from Steve Winwood:





And as a bonus, here is a very young Steve Winwood during his time with Spencer Davis Group in a promotional clip for their biggest hit, "Gimme Some Lovin'". It's hilarious to watch the expressionless Winwood lip-sync the high-energy vocals of the song:

NEW SOUNDS

DRAKE Sheryl Crow just recently announced that she's recording one last album before only releasing singles in the future, acknowle...