The U.S. is about a year behind the U.K. in its widespread love and acceptance of La Roux, but on the other hand, better late than never.
The duo's "Bulletproof" was unavoidable all summer and now Cherrytree has released "In for the Kill" as the official follow-up. Forget that La Roux's album dropped more than a year ago and that there's already been one other video for "Kill." The swoopy-haired singer Elly Jackson's appearance in the new LEGS-directed video is worth the wait.
Jackson acts as a Bell Hop in the seedy-looking Chelsea Hotel (I remember it well), in its even seedier-looking corners. No sordid acts are actually captured on camera, but hints and allegations involving shrimp cocktail, a beardo stroking the legs to two ladies, a sailor with a hairdryer and a can of styling spray merely tickle the grimey parts of your brain.
I love her styling, the humor and the cinema of the clip. I also love that La Roux is on its own headlining tour this fall, with Francis and the Lights and "G6" hitmakers Far East Movement.
Ever since his endearing speech at the MTV Movie Awards, I've given Ken Jeong's single-note psychosis a free pass to do Whatever.
And that Whatever includes a two-minute commercial with NBA superstar center Dwight Howard, plugging shoes as a fake pop star named Slim Chin in a song called "Fast Don't Lie."
The Adidas spot fulfills the "Hangover" baddie's apparent contractual obligation for his appearances to feature large felines -- namely, cheetahs, tigers and his person dressed as a tiger. A stuffy butler, a plane to Aruba, a pile of money, jazz hands, a gold lamé track suit and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls also make cameos.
Howard doesn't make much of a singer, but his technical shortcomings are overshadowed by the one-take improv vamps at the end of the song.
Nas has penned an irrate email to the executives at his label Def Jam, highlighting discord between artists and the traditional label record release cycle.
About three weeks ago, rapper Nas (born Nasir Jones) Tweeted that he was prepping the release of "The Lost Tapes Vol. 2," the follow-up to the first fan favorite compilation released in 2002, and told MTV it'd be out on Dec. 14. Def Jam issued no official press release to support its imminent appearance.
About a week later, a rumor began spreading that L.A. Reid, the label's top brass, was fired or forced to resign after six years. The news proved false, but did give major hip-hop and pop press the opportunity to muse why Reid may have been canned: he's helmed the careers of many of Def Jam's biggest names, but his move to sign more pop-leaning artists like Justin Bieber and Jennifer Lopez may have ruffled some feathers.
Kanye West has dropped Reid's name a few times since his impressive Twitter career launched a few scant weeks ago. Most recently in a post indicating that Def Jam was down with the Nov. 22 drop of new set "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," he mentioned Reid's name like the exec had finally and officially sanctioned the due date -- adding that Reid is "doing a great job."
Which leads us up to last night or early this morning that Nas sent his email. XXL has confirmed that the hip-hop vet was, indeed, the author of the letter, though he didn't intend for it to be publicly circulated. Then again, the mag writes, he didn't mind, either.
[More after the jump...]
Below is the complete text of the letter. The rapper's biggest complaints include the apparent shelving of "Lost Tapes," the fact that Def Jam isn't releasing any other major albums in the fourth quarter and how -- in his eyes -- Def Jam is no longer a definitive hip-hop label. He accuses its executives of attempting to steal the spotlight from its artists and caring too much about what radio and print press has to say about the records.
"Stop being your own worst enemy. Let's get money!" he wrote.
A request for comment from Def Jam was not returned by press time.
I doubt the conclusion of the "Lost Tapes" debacle will be what Nas wants, but clearly he's willing to risk his relations with the label in support of his project. If the record does get its release, but fails to "get money," I can't imagine that support network growing stronger for future releases unless they're of the contractual, capital-A Official Album variety.
Nas released an album with Damian Marley, "Distant Relatives," earlier this year, but his last solo set, , which was self-titled, was released in 2008. It bowed at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. The album cover featured his bare back, with scars from what look like lashings to make out an "N." Perhaps, to wit, in the first paragraph of the letter below?
What do you think of the email? Would you rally in support of his "Lost Tapes" release?
To: LA Reid, Steve Bartels, Steve Gawley, Michael Seltzer, Joseph Borrino, Chris Hicksâ€¨
Subject: PUT MY SHIT OUT!
Peace to all,
With all do respect to you all, Nas is NOBODY’s slave. This is not the 1800′s, respect me and I will respect you.
I won’t even tap dance around in an email, I will get right into it. People connect to the Artist @ the end of the day, they don’t connect with the executives. Honestly, nobody even cares what label puts out a great record, they care about who recorded it. Yet time and time again its the executives who always stand in the way of a creative artist’s dream and aspirations. You don’t help draw the truth from my deepest and most inner soul, you don’t even do a great job @ selling it. The #1 problem with DEF JAM is pretty simple and obvious, the executives think they are the stars. You aren’t…. not even close. As a matter of fact, you wish you were, but it didn’t work out so you took a desk job. To the consumer, I COME FIRST. Stop trying to deprive them! I have a fan base that dies for my music and a RAP label that doesn’t understand RAP. Pretty fucked up situation
This isn’t the 90′s though. Beefing with record labels is so 15 years ago. @ this point I just need you all to be very clear where I stand and how I feel about “my label.” I could go on twitter or hot 97 tomorrow and get 100,000 protesters @ your building but I choose to walk my own path my own way because since day one I have been my own man. I did business with Tommy Mottola and Donnie Einer, two of the most psycho dudes this business ever created. I worked well with them for one major reason……. they believed in me. The didn’t give a fuck about what any radio station or magazine said….those dudes had me.
Lost Tapes is a movement and a very important set up piece for my career as it stands. I started this over 5 years ago @ Columbia and nobody knew what it was or what it did but the label put it out as an LP and the fans went crazy for it and I single handlely built a new brand of rap albums. It’s smart and after 5 years it’s still a head of the game. This feels great and you not feeling what I’m feeling is disturbing. Don’t get in the way of my creativity. We are aligned with the stars here, this is a movement. There is a thing called KARMA that comes to haunt you when you tamper with the aligning stars. WE ARE GIVING THE PEOPLE EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT. Stop throwing dog shit on a MAGICAL moment.
You don’t get another Nas recording that doesn’t count against my deal….PERIOD! Keep your bullshit $200,000.00 fund. Open the REAL budget. This is a New York pioneers ALBUM, there ain’t many of us. I am ready to drop in the 4th quarter. You don’t even have shit coming out! Stop being your own worst enemy.
Weezer already took the "Jackass" guys down "Memories" Lane, but now Karen O has the cast moving forward with some good advice.
"If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough" was penned by frequent "Jackass" troubadour (and Johnny Knoxville's cousin) Roger Alan Wade, but it's the Yeah Yeah Yeah's frontwoman that put the final touches on it for the "Jackass 3-D" soundtrack. The boys manage to chime in too, though it's unclear if its them or other shenanigans that cause her to crack-up singing mid-song. Maybe it's the funny accent that does her in.
If you'll remember, Ms. O also contributed mightily to "Where the Wild Things Are" soundtrack -- her former flame Spike Jonze directed that film while he continues his support producing the "Jackass" franchise with "3D."
"Memories," Twisted Sister, a remix of the "Jackass" theme song (The Minutemen's "Corona") and other songs are included in the Epitaph soundtrack. Digital and physical copies with drop on Oct. 12 and Oct. 26, respectively.
Despite Keri Hilson’s best intentions, her new single “Pretty Girl Rock” is not a song for ladies. It's a track for men, by a man (compliments of Ne-Yo), sung by a lady, under weak auspices that it's a track for the ladies.
The track was debuted live last week in New York, at the Beats by Dr. Dre event. It’s since been pushed to radio and seems to be the best shot that Hilson has at a hit after “Knock You Down,” a single I adore.
On the one hand, you can’t take a song like this too seriously. With its toothless but familiar beat and a chorus that bounds like a puppy in snow (“rock rock rock rock rock”), it’s meant to push bodies onto the floor, not spun on repeat to a pair of headphones in a dark room. Its melody is certainly uplifting enough and it’s got a thuggy underbelly despite an overabundance of cuteness. It moves.
But, then again, why not be critical of a piece of pop music, especially a track that intends to empower women but fails in anti-feminist and tacky lyricism, delivered largely to impress men? (Ah, the male gaze: “I ain’t gotta talk about it baby you can see it… No question that this girl’s a 10… daddy’s turned his head as soon as I pass him…”)
It reminds me of when Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” also operated under the guise that it was a ladies’ anthem, despite its largely addressing a male subject and only requesting the presence of ladies for a choral “amen.” It was more a torch song than a positive charge, but at least it didn’t accuse its listeners of being “jealous” or, worse, uglier than Keri Hilson.
No, this “Pretty Girl” is co-opted for a career is under the gun, and for an album hilariously and voyeuristically titled "No Boys Allowed." It drips of the desperation covered that every inch of patent leather covering Christina Aguilera's -- as Hilson calls it – derrière in “Not Myself Tonight.”
Judge not on the way Hilson “walks,” “talks” and “dresses,” check out these five bountiful lyric nuggets:
1. "Mad cause I’m cuter than the girl tha's with ya... You're beautiful"
That's like telling me my sweater's ugly then asking me where I bought it.
2. "Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful”
This line is rarely uttered in earnest, and for good reason. It’s typically for evil bullying high school girls in teen movies or by lazy television writers penning scripts for gay characters.
3. "Girls think I’m conceited 'cause I think I’m attractive... Get yourself together don’t hate / jealousy's the ugliest trait"
This is the only mention of beauty having an inner- variety.
4. “Boys wanna marry looking at my derri- / ère, you can stare but if you touch then im’a bury”
The 11th commandment: Thou shalt not indulge in pre-marital butt touch.
5. "Don’t worry about what I think -- why don’t you ask him?”
Now do the Pretty Girl Cock Block.
"It’s not meant to be a vain record. I want everybody to feel like they can do the ‘Pretty Girl Rock,’” Hilson explained in a recent Ustream sit-down. “It’s like the hairbrush in the mirror, 'Don’t hate me ’cause I’m beautiful,' 'cause you are. Everybody is beautiful. I want everyone to be able to sing that record.”
The invitation in the vamp to “all my ladies” – purportedly, those with enough self-esteem to call themselves “pretty girls” -- certainly seems to be inviting, but under exclusionary conditions: that you’re not jealous of or “hate” on Keri Hilson specifically, that you do the “Rock” and that your looks are dude-approved.
Or, then again, who cares. Keep singing into the hairbrush.
Joey Burns would be the first to admit it was a tangent, but he tried explaining how his viewing the documentary “The Cove” and Tilda Swinton’s Italy-bound “I Am Love” precisely conveys the unique position his band Calexico is in. The word “possibilities” was bandied about. So was “imagination” and the concept of “paying it” or “moving it” forward as the rest of the industry – even the country – moves backward.
Swinton’s character in “Love,” for instance, undergoes “impossible reinvention. She had all these contradictions and expectations from her family, but all of a sudden there’s another existence that comes into view,” he says, adding a “you know what I mean? Once you do music for a while, you wanna see some growth. You recreate a sense of your own identity, that you can just take yourself out of the picture and say, ‘Where am I actually supposed to be right now?’”
Well, to put it in concrete terms, Calexico right now is finishing up opening for No. 1 album artists Arcade Fire on tour. The Tucson-based band is eyeing a Fall 2011 release for their next studio album. They’re currently giving away a live record – recorded in Nuremberg, Germany in 2009 – for free via CASH Music. Burns has produced and contributed songwriting to the new album “Nubes de Papel” from Depedro, the project of Calexico collaborator Jairo Zavala, out Oct. 26. He and the band have done the same for Spanish singer Amparo Sanchez, whose “Tuscon Habana” is out overseas “now-ish.”
[More after the jump...]
It’s a blistering time of reinvention for Burns, who feels after more than a dozen years with Calexico, there’s a fire burning under the band and all’s starting to boil. His “helping out” on Zavala and Sanchez’ records come a year-and-a-half after the windows were shuttered at Touch & Go/ Quarterstick, the distributor and label that has long licensed and released the Southwestern rockers’ efforts, including their last "Carried to Dust" (2008). Calexico is always shaking up its touring band lineup, setlist and performance -- for instance, recently playing a cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" or the horns players jumping on stage with Arcade Fire as they tackle "Ocean of Noise."
All the while, the band continues to produce music for their own label in the constantly changing industry.
“We’re in the eye of the cycle, where we’re coming up with all these experiments and new ideas and new people to work with,” Burns continued, talking about the band’s reasons for releasing “Calexico: Live in Nuremberg.” “We just wanted to release something new right and we had this live album. Being independent… you can put out music more often, try these experiments. We can constantly morph our own identity, or make an identity more in-depth, behind an album or series.”
The current “experiment” in release schedule is free because, “let’s face it. Before you release anything, it will be out there for free. As an artist, you have to let go of it at an earlier stage. Fifteen years ago it was different. Today, if you think things are moving at a normal pace, you’re just kind of pretending.”
Burns cites other crossover acts that have managed to work outside of the “normal” record release cycle -- from Neko Case and Devotchka to Balkan Beat Box and Gotan Project – who, like Calexico, have earned a larger swatch of fans through various arms on the internet. Niche sounds gone global. Calexico has long mingled Latin influences with its particular brand of indie rock, Americana and country , which has been a choice not just in sonics but in sincerity.
“All those bands have distinctive purposes and crowds,” he says, “but it’s also allowing yourself and your music to be constantly available, and being honestly and sincerely contributing to a larger culture. Music fans know when you’re not and when you are.”
Just as is the moral in “I Am Love,” perhaps, Burns feels like he and the band’s acquired wisdom and love requires them to pay it forward, by evolving.
Critiquing Bruno Marsâ€™ solo debut â€œDoo-Wops and Hooligansâ€ isnâ€™t so much dissecting a finished, single product, but tackling the artist and his trajectory whole. The set is another example of throwing a whole batch of a priority artistâ€™s songs at the wall to see what sticks, with Katy Perryâ€™s uneven â€œTeenage Dreamâ€ from EMI being another example from this year.
Itâ€™s easy to pick out the strengths of the 24-year-old songwriter Mars -- whoâ€™s part of the Smeezingtonâ€™s production crew and who's frequented the Top 40 as a guest vocalist, co-writer and producer. His voice could halt traffic, rising and lilting on top notes with an almost feminine quality. He pushes that epic pop range of his, creating tension rather than discomfort. He knows when to hold the cheese and when to pile it on in the production effects, and the verses know to yield to the killer choruses, which seem to seep so easily from him.
But what seems to be lacking â€“ and what hopefully will come with his sophomore set â€“ is soul. I donâ€™t have much better idea of who Bruno Mars is and what kind of artist he wants to be, aside from filthy rich (as indicated in his co-write on Travie McCoyâ€™s â€œBillionaireâ€) and in love with love. Â
Take the opening one-two punch of second single and current single â€œGrenadeâ€ and â€œJust the Way You Are,â€ respectively. I had to do a double take to make sure I didnâ€™t have my music player on single-song repeat, despite the treacly minor chords on the former. Still, both contain the winning combination military beats over the same tempo, with serious-as-a-heartache lyrical content akin to his co-write on smash hit â€œNothin on Youâ€ by B.o.B.
On â€œRunaway Baby,â€ he has much more in common with Janelle Monae, and not just in haircut: he tries to cut his soul-pop with garage rock, leading to more head-cocking than applause. â€œThe Lazy Songâ€ is largely useless in advancing his Star Power, but at least it has a chorus perfectly fit to sell cotton products or baby shampoo or, well, Snuggies, since he actually name-drops the product-with-sleeves in the song.
Nothing else on the set sounds like sexy-time-jam â€œOur First Time,â€ which delves loosely into R&B, nor â€œTalking to the Moon,â€ a ballad with electric piano and dripping with tear-stained reverb that hearkens Justin Timberlake just after he stepped out from N*SYNC. (The latter track is a likely contender for another follow-up single, should â€œGrenadeâ€ refuse to explode.)
While thereâ€™s a breath of island influence all over the Hawaii-nativeâ€™s release, the Damian Marley-enhanced â€œLiquor Store Bluesâ€ tries embracing a full reggae style. It fails in that our loverboy tries to act all tough despite his high register, like heâ€™s trying to administer violence with cotton candy clutched in his hand. â€œCount on Meâ€ has those beach-bound bongos bounding behind a sandy-sweet tune from which McCoy would be better served stealing.
â€œThe Other Sideâ€ is a real treat, slipped onto the very end. Guest star and recent collaborator Cee-Lo is underutilized, but then again, the Goodie Mob rapper and crooner had his own hit with â€œF*ck You,â€ yet another hit track co-penned by Mars. B.o.B. has his own moment too, a reminder of yet another artist trying to tie pop with his own brand of urban- and dance-influenced singles.
This is a critical time moment for Mars, to see if the album can survive and thrive in the forthcoming holiday season as the singles are farmed out to radio. So far, heâ€™s succeeded in a No. 1 hit on his own and has a face fit for the next Grammys ceremony. But I could see him, too, sink as a solo artist like Pharrell â€“ who is sickly talented as producer and supporter but still struggles in sales as a performing artist.
Thankfully for Elektra/Atlantic, everything on â€œDoo-Wops and Hooligansâ€ sounds like a potential hit, whether itâ€™s â€œLazyâ€ in TV commercials, â€œMarry Youâ€ walking down the aisle or â€œJust the Way You Areâ€ on the dial. If he can show up live and stay out of trouble (best of luck in Las Vegas), Mars should be a star.
Eminem's last clip, for "Love the Way You Lie," tried its best to explore the cyclical nature of domestic violence. Perhaps, unintentionally, his new music video for "No Love" does the same thing for bullying.
A young kid in school gets pushed around by the older, taller kids -- bumped over in the halls, beat up in the locker room, stuff dumped out on the floor. Kid shows up at home with a black eye, like, "meh." Dad's like, "Dude." Mom's like, "I can't believe you're just, like, 'dude.'" Kid muses his plight in his bedroom as he listens to Eminem's record, with the rapper and others' posters hung on his wall.
He's confronted again by the bullies, he punches one hard in the face. The bullies walk away, kid walks away. It's all very... triumphant?
On the one tip, it indicates that listening to Eminem will empower you to fight back. On the other tip, listening to Eminem encourages you to fight.
It's an ugly, backwards argument that goes way back even before those Parental Advisory stickers: does listening to aggressive music (or playing violent video games, etc.) make you violent? Furthermore, as posed by "No Love," is fighting back necessary sometimes? And will fighting back end the fighting once and for all? Mmm, sticky.
Meanwhile, aside from the dark-hued middle school drama, it's just Em and guest cohort Lil Wayne just throwing down raps, in front of a green screen and "in the studio" with producer Just Blaze, as the sample from Haddaway's "What Is Love" trickles throughout. They go on about how people disappoint them in their lives, one highlight being Weezy's boasts of metaphorical gun-toting as he non-metaphorically serves out his prison sentence for gun charges.
"No Love" officially goes to radio as the next single from Em's "Recovery" on Oct. 5.
What do you think of the video? Is it a good match for the song?
Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon really put house band The Roots to work last night as the pair tackled bits and bobs of hip-hop pop history.
The former was on Fallon's "Late Night" on NBC to promote "The Social Network," but we all know it was ample opportunity for both personalities to do some impressions -- of rappers from Sugarhill Gang and Digital Underground's Humpty Hump to Dre and Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott to Soulja Boy to T.I. and then, naturally, shining the bit off with Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind."
Timberlake may be taking a break from working on his music and -- largely -- the music of others to do this whole "acting" thing, but the breathlessness of this clip is a keen reminder: JT, we miss you and we want you back making future-sex-love-sounds. Fallon, who is not normally to my taste, actually managed to keep up, too.
"The thing that makes our show kind of different is that we embrace hip-hop. ... We're that generation where hip-hop is what we grew on," Fallon told the AP. "Everyone's so smiley and running around the office like very confident today, because everyone sees the blogs and gets the e-mails. It just puts everyone in a great mood."
What do you think of the bit? Who did they leave out?
Jack Johnson has finally managed to get me to watch an entire music video of his.
"At or With Me" features a cameo from none other than "Saturday Night Live" alumni Andy Samberg, who, in the past, has poked major fun at the "mellow" singer-songwriter and his Hacky Sack-lovin' fans.
In the clip, Johnson and his band try to perform as Samberg proceeds to be That Guy, talking on his phone during the show, making fun of the group, telling stories loudly. His friends don sunglasses. Even I start feeling kind of punchy.
Then the two spar. And by spar, I mean punch the living sh*t out of each other, in the middle of the floor, out in the street, with bottles, with a fork, getting run-into by cars. They hug it out -- though that doesn't mean a certain someone gets the last laugh. Johnson and Samberg even do some of their own stunts.