Friday, February 25, 2011

THE FIRST TIME: PART NINE

PRINCE - "PRINCE" (1979)


This wildly talented and eccentric artist was born Prince Rogers Nelson in 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father, John was a jazz musician and Prince was named after his father's stage name, Prince Rogers. As a child, Prince developed an interest in music, which his father encouraged, and he wrote his first song at the age of seven on his father's piano.

Prince's parent split up when he was ten and he would go and live with them both, having to go back and forth between them. He would eventually move in with the family of a close friend, Andre Anderson who would later become musician, Andre Cymone.

Prince formed a band in high school called Grand Central with Andre on bass and Prince's cousin, Charles Smith on drums. Prince handled piano and guitar and the group performed covers songs at parties and clubs. Morris Day (who would later become the lead singer of the band, The Time) replaced Charles on drums and the band renamed themselves, Champagne and started performing original music.

Prince worked on creating his own demos, trying to get signed to a record label. At seventeen, he signed with Owen Husney to manage him and help get him a recording contract. Prince was teamed up with David Z to produce a slick new demo and several labels became interested. Prince eventually signed with Warner Bros. Records where the label agreed to give him creative control on his first three albums and ownership of the publishing rights, which is not exactly a common arrangement for a new artist.

"For You" was Prince's debut album, which was released in 1978. He would write, arrange and produce the entire record as well as play all of the instruments. However, during the recording of the album, he went over double the amount of his initial advance. While the album had one single, "Soft And Wet (LP Version)' hit number twelve on the r&b charts, it didn't do anything on the pop charts. The album sold slightly under a half a million copies but created some buzz for the musician.

He released his next album in 1979, simply titled, "Prince" and now everyone started to take notice. It was a much more diverse record, covering pop, rock, funk, dance and sexy ballads. The first single, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" went to number one on the r&b charts and hit number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100. That single alone sold over a million copies and the album would also go platinum.

He would go on to release two more successful albums, "Controversy" (1981) and "1999 [Explicit]" (1982) before becoming a full fledged superstar by starring in a popular semi-autobiographical film, "Purple Rain" in 1984 and the hit soundtrack,"Music from the Motion Picture "Purple Rain"" which would go on to sell thirteen million copies in the U. S. alone. Prince would win two Grammy Awards and an Academy Award for Best Original Score for this project.

Prince is one very busy and prolific musician, releasing thirty-five albums to date and selling well over 100 million copies worldwide as well as writing and producing for many other artists including Chaka Khan, The Bangles, Madonna, Shelia E, The Time, Sheena Easton and Sinead O'Connor.

Enjoy the first single that introduced Prince to the world:

"I Wanna Be Your Lover" - Prince (1979)

BRITNEY SPEARS - ". . .BABY ONE MORE TIME" (1999)



Britney Jean Spears was born in 1981 and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana. She began performing at a very young age where she won local singing competitions and children's talent shows.

At eight, she went to audition for the revival of the television show, "The All-New Mickey Mouse Club" but was rejected because she was too young but the casting director was so impressed by Britney that he introduced her to a talent agent. The agent helped get her commercials and theater work as well as a shot on the television talent program, "Star Search". Britney finally got an opportunity to appear on "The Mickey Mouse Club" during the show's sixth season in 1993 but the show was cancelled after one more season.

In 1997, Britney's mother, Lynne gave family friend and entertainment lawyer, Larry Rudolph a tape of Britney singing. He decided he wanted to pitch her to record labels and a professional demo was made. Britney later went to New York with the tape and met with four record labels. She was rejected by three of the labels but Jive Records was interested. They were impressed by her singing ability at such a young age  and saw her potential commercial appeal. The label teamed her up with producer, Eric Foster White to work on some demos and help shape her sound. Jive's president, Clive Calder liked what he heard and ordered a full album. Britney was flown to Sweden to work with several producers (including Max Martin) there to record part of the album.

"...Baby One More Time" was written by Max Martin and was originally given to the r&b/hip-hop group, TLC but they turned it down.  The tune became Britney's first single, where it went straight to number one and topped the charts for two weeks.This song would go on to hit number one in fifteen different countries, sell an astonishing nine million copies and earn Britney a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Her debut album, also entitled "...Baby One More Time [ENHANCED CD]" was released after Britney did a mini-tour at shopping malls across the country and the album entered the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart at number one. Three more singles were released, "Sometimes", "(You Drive Me) Crazy" and "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart" and they all became top forty hits. The album would go on to sell a total of twenty-five million copies around the world.

This was just the beginning as Britney would become a media sensation and continued to have many hit songs and concert tours but the pressure of fame and success took it's toll on the young singer. She had issues with substance abuse and depression which eventually lead to a public emotional meltdown in 2007 where she would wind up shaving her head. She sought treatment and soon got her life back in order.

She married childhood friend, Jason Alexander in January of 2004 in Las Vegas but the marriage was annulled two days later due to a "lack of understanding her actions". She would later marry her back-up dancer, Kevin Federline after knowing him for five months in September 2004. They would have two sons together, Sean and Jayden but the marriage ended in 2006.

Britney Spears has sold over one hundred million records during her career and her upcoming seventh album, "Femme Fatale" is due to be released on March 15th of this year. The first single, "Hold It Against Me" has already topped the charts here in the U.S.

"...Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears (1999)

This is the music video for her first single where Britney dances around as the naughty school girl:


"OUTLANDOS D'AMOUR" - THE POLICE (1978)


Drummer, Stewart Copeland formed The Police after his progressive rock band, Curved Air disbanded in 1977 with Henry Padovani on guitar and Gordon Sumner, who would later become professionally known as "Sting" on bass guitar and vocalist. The punk rock sound was taking hold in London at the time, so the trio would release a single called "Fall Out" and toured as a support act. Guitarist, Andy Summers joined the band later that year and they all performed briefly together before Henry Padovani left the band and this would become the permanent line-up.

The Police struggled to make their first album because they had little money and no record deal but when Stewart's older brother, Miles Copeland III, an entertainment manager, heard the band's song, "Roxanne" he was determined to get them signed to a label. Miles got The Police signed to A&M Records (and with the label's help, created his own record company, I.R.S. Records in 1979) and they released, "Outlandos D'Amour" in 1978. "Roxanne" was the band's first single but it did not chart. After extensive touring around the globe, the single was re-released and it reached number twelve in the U.K. and number thirty-two in the United States.

The group released their second album, "Reggatta De Blanc" later in 1979, which became a major seller in the U.K. reaching number one and gave The Police their first number one singles there with "Message In A Bottle and "Walking On The Moon". Although the songs didn't do as well here in the U.S., The Police were enjoying emerging awareness and popularity throughout the rest of the world.

The group would release three more chart-topping albums with "Synchronicity" in 1983 being their most popular with four singles reaching the U.S. top forty including "Every Breath You Take" which went to number one for eight weeks and won The Police a Grammy that year for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.

By the end of the "Synchronicity" Tour in March 1984, each member went their separate ways and spent time pursuing solo projects but this was more seen as the band just taking a break however, "Synchronicity" would end up being The Police's last studio album due to a clash of egos, the pressure of fame and financial success that increased tension and strain amongst the band mates and they officially ended as a group.

The Police did eventually reunite for a world tour to mark the 30th anniversary of the group in 2007 and to kick things off, they opened the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, performing "Roxanne" as a way to announce their return.

During their career, The Police released five studio albums which have sold over fifty million copies worldwide, had seven top ten U.S. hits, won six Grammy Awards and would be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

This is the band's first major release:

"Roxanne" - The Police (1978)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

BRITNEY OR BETH: THE MUSIC VIDEOS

I had done a post a little while ago comparing the latest songs by Britney Spears and Beth Ditto of Gossip and now both have released the music videos for each of their tunes.

Both videos owe a large debt to the visual imagery of  the Material Girl back in her glory days, most especially Ms Ditto who we first see carrying a suitcase, in black and white photography, down a long hotel hallway in the video for her first single, "I Wrote The Book". Sound familiar? A couple of male dancers voguing in skintight bodysuits are thrown in to complete the look and you now have a 2011 revisiting of Madonna's "Justify My Love". It's all harmless, simple and fun with Ms Ditto looking and being sexy and sassy.

With the video for Ms Spears's hit, "Hold it Against Me" on the other hand, while it's much more subtle in it's homage as it reminds me, in fleeting moments, of Madonna's "Bedtime Story" but this video comes across as an overly busy and unfocused mess. Britney, who is being photographed on a set of electronic garbage, lip-syncs her single, surrounded by her standard troupe of male dancers as we are bombarded by fast cuts of a battle between two "Britneys", stiff dancing, flying paint and "Rocky Horror" lips  By the end of the video, I felt like I was suffering from whiplash. There was just way too much going on in this four minute clip.

Check out the videos and judge for yourself:





And just to make the comparison, here is the video of Madonna's "Justify My Love":

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

THE 53RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS


This year's Grammy telecast opened with what should have been a bang; a salute to the "Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin with Christina Aguilera, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Hudson and Florence Welch of Florence +The Machine singing some of her classic songs.

While it sounded promising on paper, the performances were lacking in true conviction and well, . . . soul. It wasn't necessarily embarrassing but it certainly wasn't good either. With the exception of gospel great, Ms Adams, they all were trying way too hard to project Aretha's "passion" by over singing (Hello, Christina) that came across as screechy karaoke during a large portion of the songs.

Ms. Franklin made a video-taped appearance after the performance to thank the academy for the "honor" and to remind everyone that while she is temporarily down, she is not out.

The rest of the evening's performances for me ranged from entertaining ( Bruno Mars, B.O.B & Janelle Monae and Keith Urban, Norah Jones & John Meyer performing together separately, Rihanna, Lady Antebellum), strange, but entertaining (Ricky Martin's tight silver pants, Mick Jagger's tribute to Solomon Burke, Lady Gaga premiering her new song, "Born This Way" emerging from an egg (?), Cee-Lo Green channeling Elton John with Muppets (??) and Gwyneth Paltrow (???) trying to make a profane song "cute"), indifference ( the performances of  Arcade Fire, Miranda Lambert, Usher, and Eminem ), annoying (Bob Dylan, why??) and then there was Justin Bieber. I cannot fathom his popularity at all, although I suppose it's partially because I'm not a twelve-year old girl but also I just don't think his music is going to hold up well twenty-years from now, which is why I think he didn't win the award for Best New Artist. I could be completely wrong about him and he might, someday, make a record I might like (but I seriously doubt it).

It was a mixed bag but that is the best thing about this show. The wide diversity of music being performed and the wonderful pairings of artists and performances that you will probably never see anywhere else.

Oh, and there were some awards given out. I'm still scratching my head about Arcade Fire's win for Album Of The Year but it was great to honor all of the genres of music.

Here is a partial list of this year's winners in a few of the major categories. For the complete list go to:
Grammy.com

Album Of The Year
"The Suburbs" - Arcade Fire

Record Of The Year
"Need You Now" - Lady Antebellum

Best Rap Album
"Recovery" - Eminem

Best New Artist
Esperanza Spalding

Song Of The Year
"Need You Now" - Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

Best Country Album
"Need You Now" - Lady Antebellum

Best Pop Vocal Album
"The Fame Monster" - Lady Gaga

Best Rock Album
"The Resistance" - Muse

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
"Hey, Soul Sister" (Live) - Train

Best Female Country Vocal Performance
"The House That Built Me" - Miranda Lambert

Best Male Country Vocal Performance
"Til Summer Comes Around" - Keith Urban

Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
"Need You Now"- Lady Antebellum


Best Contemporary R&B Album
"Raymond V Raymond" - Usher


Best R&B Album
"Wake Up!" - John Legend & The Roots

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
"Bittersweet" - Fantasia


Best Male R&B Vocal Performance
"There Goes My Baby" - Usher


Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
"Soldier Of Love" - Sade


Best Contemporary Jazz Album
"The Stanley Clarke Band" - The Stanley Clarke Band


Best Jazz Vocal Album
"Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee" - Dee Dee Bridgewater


Best Short Form Music Video
"Bad Romance" – Lady Gaga

Best Long Form Music Video
"When You’re Strange" – The Doors


Best Dance Recording
"Only Girl (In the World)" - Rihanna

Best Electronic/Dance Album
"La Roux" - La Roux

Producer of the Year (Non-Classical)
Rob Cavallo

Monday, February 14, 2011

THIS IS FOR THE LOVERS. . .


V. D. is upon us again today, making it's yearly visit.

This is that so-called "holiday" where people feel obligated to scramble around to buy expensive gifts or forced to go out to dinner where restaurants rob people blind by hiking up the prices to obscene levels, all of this in a commerical way to show someone how much you truly "love" them. Like JLo wisely said,"My love don't cost a thing" Worst still, people who don't happen to have a lover are made to feel particularly lousy today.

Despite all of this nonsense, Valentine's Day is a great excuse for me to share a few love songs that I love.

Enjoy them alone or with someone you care about:

"I Think I Love You " The Partridge Family

"My First Love" - Rene & Angela

"Love Will Never Do (Without You)" - Janet Jackson

"Love, Need, And Want You" - Patti LaBelle

"Love, Etc." - Pet Shop Boys

"All In Love Is Fair" - Barbra Streisand

Friday, February 4, 2011

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


Whitney Houston was a success right from the start with her 1985 debut album, "Whitney Houston" and then became a superstar with the hit 1992 film and soundtrack, "The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album". She is one of my all-time favorite musical artists.

After a few "lost years", Whitney Houston managed to pull her self together by finally dumping her loser husband, Bobby Brown, getting help for substance abuses issues and putting her music career back in order.

With the help of her mentor, Clive Davis, he teamed her up with some of the top contemporary writers and producers, then released, "I Look To You" in 2009. While it was far from her best work and her voice is still not in the best of shape but I really enjoyed the album.

One of the better tracks on the album was "Million Dollar Bill" which was co-written and produced by Alicia Keys. I am surprised it didn't do better on the charts because it really is a fun and catchy tune. I just heard it again recently and I wanted to give it another spin.

Million Dollar Bill - (2009)

Here she is performing the song live on "The X-Factor" television show and unfortunately, the strain on her voice is showing:

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