<p>Michael Jackson</p>

Michael Jackson

Commentary: 10 Lessons we learned from the death of Michael Jackson

Thoughts on Michael Jackson's reputation, radio, Joe, Janet, album sales and the financially beneficial side of passing

Michael Jackson died last year on this same day, June 25, 2010. It's been a weird year since. We've learned a lot about the pop star as a person and a performer, and a lot of lessons on bad class in the media.

Below, I outline some thoughts I had about what can be taken away from the time since.
 

  • For an artist of his size and caliber, one year is about enough time for ones reputation to lose the negativity and indiscretions of his past

Financially, Michael Jackson’s death is one of the best things to ever happen to him. His estate brought in close to $1 billion, which will help out on that whole $400 million of debt thing.
 
MJ is worth a lot. But as for his role in greater culture and society, MJ was rightly, immediately put on a pedestal as a pioneer in entertainment, for his voice and dancing, his mesh of musical styles, his many firsts for African-Americans, the videos, philanthropy and message of peace, fashion, live performances and the love of his fans.
 
In my mind, and many others, despite the uneven qualities of “This Is It” and the quotes from his lwayers and people closest to him, I’m positive he was gonna do those 50 shows in London. By the look of things, he was ready for his comeback, which makes his death that much more tragic, and diminishes the images of early-2000s Michael and replaces them with the fresh face of “Ben” or the red jacket flash of “Thriller” and the hope of what would have been.
 
The placeholders, then, will be in the Cirque du Soleil shows, the album or albums of unreleased material, archival videos or photos of MJ memories yet unseen. It’s only been a year, but there’s still so much to know about Michael Jackson posthumously.
 
  • … Or not.

“Michael Jackson instantly left behind an untarnished legacy,” say people who stand to benefit from Michael Jackson’s legacy.
 
Everyone can agree that MJ’s eccentric past wasn’t always rosy.
 
While comparisons are made of between Jackson and say, Elvis, his struggle even starting back in 1993 was that he was accused of inappropriately touching young boys. Elvis died overweight, past his prime and, too, a massive drug abuser. Alleged pedophilia is a tough rake to shake. One can’t think of the Neverland Ranch, in all its intended good will, without thinking of its ties to the stories repeated in the media, through the trials and into the mid-2000s. Neverland will likely be sold, it won’t and can’t become his Graceland. For as many articles and posts and reports that will show that MJ is a saint, there will still be the commenters at the bottom of each saying “Yeah, but…”
 
It’d be a kindness to move on from those times and to remember Jackson for his music, message and moves, but part of his legacy, now, too is his kids. All eyes are sure to be on Prince (13), Paris (12) and Blanket (8), set to enter into private school in the fall. Everyone remembers the middle child stepping to the microphone, crying, during his memorial last July. Little homemade videos popped up on YouTube earlier this year, which indicate that they’re just normal kids, but also heirs to a multi-million dollar estate whose private media somehow leaked to the masses. We hope for their “normalcy”; but any dysfunction therein would also reflect badly on MJ’s legacy.
 
And there are still depths to be explored about Jackson’s extensive drug use, which will rattle out in court during the criminal trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. That will not conclude for at least another few months.
 
  • Radio knows when to step it up
Or step back. Several terrestrial stations switched their format to “All-MJ, All the Time” for a day or two after learning of his death, even up through the weekend after. Today, sitting here in Brooklyn, I’ve walked past shops blaring their radios of stations doing the same for the day – granted, not as many, or with MJ tracks mixed in, but still. It still won’t save the non-Top 40, A/C or Talk radio stations, but still it’s a nice homage to an artist that had so many fans dialing in to begin with.
 
  • Joe Jackson has no shame

This is a lesson we kind of already knew. But the death of father Joe Jackson’s son further muddies the waters between self-promotion and legacy-guarding, mixed in with genuine mourning (of son and lifelong cash cow).
 
It was formally announced today that Joe is suing Conrad Murray for wrongful death, even though his criminal trial has yet to take place. But still, the move seems like a hollow attempt to get in legal good graces with the Jackson estate: MJ only named mother Katherine and his children as his heirs in his will – not Joe, not his siblings. Joe, meanwhile, has been taking lawyers for the estate to court in order to, say, get a $15,000/mo. Stipend, or to allow Gary, Ind. to erect a museum campus to Michael Jackson when he doesn’t even have rights to use MJ’s image.
 
Eyes rolled when Joe promoted his own record company mere days after Michael’s death, in news conferences and even on the red carpet of the July 7 memorial. And earlier this month, Joe said comments that insinuated he blames Katherine for Michael’s death, for not sending Michael into rehab at his behest. And then he blamed Michael’s “This Is It” concert promoter AEG for hiring Murray. This, from a man and father that beat his son as a child, according to MJ himself.
 
  • Drugs are bad, kids

It seems somehow incongruent with Michael Jackson’s character that he had such a deep and seemingly unbounded use of drugs, where in his last 9 hours alive, according to testimony from Conrad Murray, that he was administered four sleep aides, sedatives and anti-anxiety meds, including that last does of anesthetic propofol. MJ used fake names to have prescriptions filled; he had fired doctors before for not filling these. For someone with a healthy-looking dancer’s body, ready for a string of 50-dates, MJ’s heart was failing in part to his drug abuse.
 
  • A new single release after death does not guarantee its adoption on large scale

Everyone got all excited that “This Is It,” the previously unreleased song, was dropping. Then they heard it. It was underwhelming. It peaked at No. 18 on Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop tracks, and then disappeared in under a month.
 
  • Janet stands out publicly as the classy one

Everyone with association to Michael Jackson had something to say or do after his death, from his relatives to Paris Hilton. It was hard for any of it not to come off as opportunistic (hey, Joe). Jackson’s brothers completed their reality series “The Jacksons: A Family Dynasty” for A&E, complete with episodes spent mulling their brothers death. La Toya continues to beat the drum that her brother was murdered (and not the homicide of an accidental overdose, but a larger conspiracy) and has been making the rounds on talk shows.
 
Of the famous Jackson siblings, Janet seems to be making some progress while keeping it classy. She did a performance of she and her brother’s “Scream” at the MTV Music Awards, said some nice comments on BET and on the occasional night news show, and she let it be. She didn’t release her single “Make Me” on the coattails of his death, but kept it on the course of her hits compilation singles schedule. She was said even before MJ’s death to be an involved auntie to his kids. She’s been tapped for a movie role in Tyler Perry’s next “serious” project. She’s moving on without trying to getting her claws into politics (or the will).
 
  • Michael Jackson was big enough to change the rules

The Billboard 200 rules, that is.
 
OK, with a little help from The Beatles.
 
While it’s no new thing that the charts magazine adjusts its rules to new wisdom and data – digital album sales factoring in to the ultimate number, being another example – up until MJ’s death and the Beatle digital remasters, catalog albums wouldn’t qualify to re-enter the chart. That changed in the fall, so that scant sales of new albums wouldn’t eclipse the success of artists’ major releases chart-wise when they bounce back.
 
  • It won’t be settled for a good long while which of MJ’s hits will remain best-known

Taking from the same carriage, Billboard says “Say Say Say” is the King of Pop’s No. 1 Billboard Hit. A song penned by Paul McCartney, shared with Paul McCartney?
 
But that’s just based on Billboard’s old radio and charting stats. “Billie Jean” seems to still be the most recognized, though “I’ll Be There” and “I Want You Back” from the Jackson 5 and “Man in the Mirror” has made a hell of a resurgence in the past year. 
 
  • God forbid, we may get tired of Michael Jackson over the next seven years

That $200 million deal with Sony? 10 recording projects through 2017.
 
Every other year seems to have a “vital” reissue, remaster, deluxe behind-the-scenes outing, rehashes of artists like, say, the Beatles, Elvis, Madonna, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, even Radiohead or Pearl Jam.
 
Expect hype around a “Thriller” re-release, an unreleased songs album, behind-the-scenes DVD footage, anniversary reissues.
 

 

Read Full Post
<p>N.E.R.D.</p>

N.E.R.D.

Song Of The Day: N.E.R.D., Nelly Furtado go Burning Man for 'Hot-n-Fun' vid

Desert bohemian chic

N.E.R.D.'s "Hot-n-Fun" is advising you to pick up hitchhikers.

The video for the new track from the hip-hop act -- featuring vocalist Nelly Furtado -- may have you seeing visions. Never in the history of the world did any hitchhiker you've ever picked up look that bootylicious (and have all their teeth). And they're all in love with Pharell. That's what you get for going to Burning Man.

The clip is as brainless and "totally obvi" as the song itself: it's called "Hot-n-Fun," so what were you expecting? Let's get right. Look at you. Look at me. Miss you. Hot 'n' fun. That's it. It isn't a bad thing in this case, with a funk clap-beat that makes me regret it wasn't out in time for our 25 Summer Jams list.

It's the first single from forthcoming "Nothing," out Sept. 7.

Read Full Post
<p>Rivers Cuomo in a team U.S.A. jersey</p>

Rivers Cuomo in a team U.S.A. jersey

Credit: Katie Hasty

Watch and listen: Weezer pens World Cup anthem, Rivers Cuomo talks soccer

Update: Did 'Represent' help with the U.S. vs. Algeria GOOOOOOOOOOAL?

When I was at Bonnaroo, waiting to be let into the photo pit to Weezer, Rivers Cuomo gave us photographers a little something extra backstage: for at least 20 min. before the show, the band frontman juggled with a soccer ball before taking the stage.

With the phenomenal show that he put on, I can only assume the activity got him pumped up. And now Weezer is giving a little something to the U.S. FIFA World Cup Team and fans to get them amped.

"Represent" has been making the rounds over the last couple of days, and today, as the Americans face off against Algeria in the big competition, one can only hope the dance-rock track "with attitude" will help.

Cuomo spoke to the U.S. Soccer organization in a video, posted today and embedded below, saying that he originally penned a World Cup anthem during the "embarrassing" 2006 contest, but he felt a lot more confident about the States' chances for 2010.

"America often gets a fair play awards, and I love the way we play," Cuomo said. He's been a soccer fan, essentially, since birth, and admits he likes to play pickup games while on tour, and regularly plays when he's home in L.A.

"Represent" is below as well. What do you think?

UPDATE PRESS TIME: LANDON DONOVAN SCORES! U.S.A. ADVANCES! OMG!

Read Full Post
<p>Jenny And Johnny</p>

Jenny And Johnny

Song of the Day: Jenny Lewis combines forces with Johnathan Rice on 'Scissor Runner'

Jenny And Johnny skipping Arizona on tour, on purpose

Jenny Lewis has fronted Rilo Kiley, put out a pair of solo efforts (one with the Watson Twins) and now has taken up with another musical project, Jenny And Johnny, with singer/songwriter and boyfriend Jonathan Rice.

While the two have contributed to each other's musical careers starting in 2006, this album "I'm Having Fun Now" is their first under the simple moniker, with the help of producer Mike Mogis behind them. They've now unveiled the first taste of it with free MP3 download "Scissor Runner," streaming below.

It's reminiscent of Rogue Wave or New Pornographers, with a pop a '90s rock feel and a cute trade-off between vocals. The album's due in August sometime.

The pair have plotted a September tour, and intentionally left Arizona off the list because of its new immigration policy. Like they said, sorry Arizona. They're also pegged for a couple of high-profile opening dates, with Pavement and also with Belle & Sebastian.

 

Read Full Post
<p>Eminem's &quot;Recovery&quot;</p>

Eminem's "Recovery"

Credit: Shady/Aftermath

Review: Eminem's 'Recovery' is the rapper healing, but not recovered

Are we really still making Elton John jokes?

One of Eminem’s most striking images from this “Recovery” campaign is of the rapper sitting inside a glass box, set up in the middle of city, in what looks like a living room with a television and couch and all. He’s reading a book, an activity or restoration, yes, recovery, a recommended course of action for any young star(let), too, struggling with fame and panty pictures.

But this is Slim Shady we’re talking about here, at least on the opener “Cold Wind Blows.” That photo is a lonely, holistic and claustrophobic picture painted of a man whose first track on this first set drops the usual: slut, c*nt, p*ssy, sucking d*ck, f*ggot. A puff of the chest, a slew of tired jokes against tired celebs like Michael Vick, Michael J. Fox, Mariah Carey and Elton John. When Em puts on the Shady hat, he really, really wants you to think he’s back, and can spit like he’s 25.
 
Marshall Mathers is 37. This is not an ageist statement or a petition for him to hang up that hat. But it’s certainly a time in his career to heed the editing process, to know when a zinger’s just not a zinger, and to rhyme with relevance that he uniquely possesses as one of the few hugely talented hip-hop stars still capable of making meaningful records after more than a dozen years into the game. He stands, and walks (and sits and reads) alone.
 
A couple of instances of that independent, inimitable voice are in cuts like current single “Not Afraid,” and “Talkin’ 2 Myself,” the latter on which he ponders a time when he was jealous of the Kanye Wests of the rap world and admits he’d probably have his “ass handed to me” should he beef. There’s his take on the biz in terms of prison sentences on “25 to life” and weary bones of Black Sabbath-sampling “Going Through Changes” in which Em explains how impossible it is for him to explain just what happened over the last “couple of years.” He goes way, way back on "W.T.P.," with a slick beat and some good history.
 
Those other voices, though, are coming up with the raggedy ends of eye-rolling one-liners like on “Won’t Back Down” (despite the incredible vocals from Pink). “On Fire” had me giggling one moment (“mother*cking fire truck’s on fire”) and then shaking my head at a David Cook reference (want a real flame war? Try Adam Lambert and his fans). The misspent sample of Haddaway's ‘90s dance classic "What Is Love" with special guest Lil Wayne on “No Love” all together is like trying mix oil and bong water.
 
Longtime collabo Dr. Dre only makes his mark on one track, the not-particularly Dre-ish “So Bad”; Rihanna shows up on “Love the Way You Lie,” a mixed blessing. The title “Seduction” suggests that maybe here’s a little something for the ladies, with the auto-tune flitting over the fake strings and the refrain “girls on the floor” kicking Em into that high register rap. Bu a better title would have been “Deception”: he spends more time tongue-lashing the "girl’s" boyfriend than the girl. “She’s got her jaw stuck from suckin’ my d*ck,” doesn't exactly moan “white hot sex jam,” which was his point. But that was the point?
 
Em is ready for the criticism, because “critics never have nothin’ nice to say, man” and, frankly, what I say or other critics say won’t affect what will surely be decent sales for “Recovery.” Because “Recovery” is a better record than “Relapse,” has a better single, better future singles (ooooh I do like “Space Bound” [Ed.: fixed] and the stomp clap of “Cinderella Man”) and has a forthrightness that will take fans back on a few choice cuts. He alludes to his “second chances” – in his life, as well as a do-over after head-spinningly bad “Relapse” from last year. But 17 tracks is a labor; he’s topping some of his hottest meals with the bits and pieces from the kitchen sink. Maybe that’s why this set is called “Recovery” and not “Recovered.”
Read Full Post
<p>&quot;Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World&quot; soundtrack</p>

"Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" soundtrack

Credit: abkco

'Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World' soundtrack: Five new Beck songs, Metric, more

Old stuff from Beachwood Sparks, T. Rex, Black Lips, Broken Social Scene

One would expect as much from Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich and director Edgar Wright.

The "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" soundtrack is shaping up to be one of the best film companions of the year, with the official, full tracklisting now available. Edgar Wright helped cobble the thing together, along with the flick's score producer Godrich. The set with drop Aug. 10, a few days ahead of the movie's premiere on Aug. 13.

Since Beck is now seemingly taking an indefinite hiatus from touring (hell, from traditional albums -- see Record Club, The), he had time to flesh out five new tracks for the set, moonlighting as THE Scott Pilgrim's band Sex Bomb-Omb.

In the first trailer, released in the spring, I mentioned that things sounded more "Sea Change" era Beck, though with the sizzling new summer international trailer -- out last week, posted here -- we get the grimey, dancey Beck we know and love.

Another new track comes from Metric, who contributed a "Fantasies" B-side "Black Sheep" to the cause of defeating exes (Metric acts as the band Clash at the Demonhead, Scott's old band). They actually started streaming this guy back in February; check out their Facebook page and click "Like" in order to "unlock" the song for streaming. Think more Mates of State than "Help I'm Alive."

Metric vocalist Emily Haines shows up elsewhere on "Scott Pilgrim," though on her old project Broken Social Scene's "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" (2002). BSS are also the band behind the curtain for Crash and the Boys (a rival band from town). Other old stuff includes choice cuts from Frank Black, Beachwood Sparks, The Rolling Stones and, the track that sparked the title, Plumtree ("Scott Pilgrim").

Abkco said back in April that they'll be releasing the album.

Pitchfork got the tracklist early, posted below:

1. SEX BOB-OMB (Beck): "We Are SEX BOB-OMB"
2. Plumtree: "Scott Pilgrim"
3. Frank Black: "I Heard Ramona Sing"
4. Beachwood Sparks: "By Your Side"
5. Black Lips: "O Katrina!"
6. Crash and the Boys (Broken Social Scene): "I'm So Sad, So Very, Very Sad"
7. Crash and the Boys (Broken Social Scene): "We Hate You Please Die"
8. SEX BOB-OMB (Beck): "Garbage Truck"
9. T. Rex: "Teenage Dream"
10. The Bluetones: "Sleazy Bed Track"
11. Blood Red Shoes: "It's Getting Boring by the Sea"
12. Metric: "Black Sheep"
13. SEX BOB-OMB (Beck): "Threshold"
14. Broken Social Scene: "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl"
15. The Rolling Stones: "Under My Thumb"
16. Beck: "Ramona (Acoustic)"
17. Beck: "Ramona"

Read Full Post
<p>The Flaming Lips</p>

The Flaming Lips

HitFix interview: Flaming Lips plot new movie, add M.I.A. to collaborator wish list

Wayne Coyne tackles 'Dark Side of the Moon,' haters, the giant vagina ball

The Flaming Lips have their finger in a lot of different pies these days. Though the Oklahoman trio released its last studio album of originals, the double-disc “Embryonic,” last October, they’ve since released their own rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” digitally, soon out on CD. 

Then there’s the series of odd, warped and sometimes off-color music videos behind the songs of “Embryonic,” which the rock group is continuously filming throughout the year.
 
They’ve announced festival headlining slots – Pitchfork, Coachella, Austin City Limits, the new Nateva and, most recently, at Bonnaroo, where they performed a set of Lips tunes and then “Dark Side” for only the second time ever for a live audience. Read my thoughts on the show from the perspective of a spaceman dancer onstage.
 
“Blastula,” a documentary on the making-of “Embryonic” was just finished, and though “Christmas on Mars” finally got a proper release in 2008, frontman Wayne Coyne is eyeing another film project, to start shooting in October.
 
From the interview below, Coyne doesn’t make the project sound that large-scale, though, of course, it depends on the backyard (and if he actually manages to rope Justin Timberlake into the project). He spoke to HitFix at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., this past weekend. Check out what he had to say of prospective collaborators for the next set, “Dark Side,” Roger Waters and the I.R.S., physical objects, sacred cows and musings on the giant vagina ball of the Lips’ most recent music videos. Weird is the word.
 
[Full Q&A after the jump...]
 
Read Full Post
<p>Eels' mastermind Mark Everett</p>

Eels' mastermind Mark Everett

Song Of The Day: Eels get clap-happy on 'Looking Up'

First song culled from 'Tomorrow Morning,' third in album trilogy

Mark Everett, aka E, doesn't do sunny. The songwriter has proven himself capable of writing some of the most delightfully dour, horribly honest songs, most recently laying his tunes bare in last set "End Times" (January 2010) and the consumptive urgency from "Hombre Lobo" (2008).

That's why I find it impossible to partake in the manic, un-E musicquake that is "Looking Up" without tasting that grain of salt. It's structured as a gospel tune, with tambourine and a choir (of himself), but with E singing in what sounds like a microphone from one of those Fisher Price cassette tape players. Lyrically, it has bits of earnestness, but mostly it all comes off pretty silly. "Used to be kind of bitter / Always had a babysitter / But I'm feeling much fitter / Now I'm pretty sweet / Back on my feet / Walkin' down the street."

The conflict of its simplicity and the knowledge of his abilities to finesse a deep (emotional) funk leads me to one question for Everett: Are you being sarcastic?

According to a release on his site, I don't think he means to be. "Looking Up" is the first song culled from "Tomorrow Morning," the third album in a trilogy; those prior two albums followed the concepts of "before" and "after," respectively, of some personal hard times, while "Tomorrow Morning" is, fittingly, "another chance."

Thus the total sea change in sound, Beck reference intended. The album utilizes "electronic keyboards, drum machines, tape loops and found sounds" to react in a "warm album that was a celebration using electronic instruments to reflect joy in the times I live in."

"After what seems like an incredibly dark time, the hope that tomorrow is coming gives us all another chance. As long as there's a morning tomorrow, anything is possible."

How sonically unexpected.

"Looking Up" streams below, and fans can download the track for the price of your mom your email through the Eels' website. "Tomorrow Morning" drops Aug. 23.

Read Full Post
<p>Keegan DeWitt</p>

Keegan DeWitt

Song Of The Day: Keegan DeWitt wants you to 'Say La La'

In advance of Daytrotters venture 'Nothing Shows'

Keegan DeWitt has come a long way as a songwriter, from narrative, standard singer-songwriter fare to what now seems like a full, fleshy pop-folk-rock adventure.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I sang backup for Keegan when he was still living in New York, what was something like four years ago. He's since moved out to Nashville and has been collaborating with a multitude of other talented songwriters on that front, like Madi Diaz and Caitlin Rose.

But his scope has extended outside of music city, as he's put together the score for three Aaron Katz films, including the most recent "Cold Weather," which made the rounds at South By Southwest and has since been picked up for distro by IFC. He heads to Los Angeles this weekend for the flick's premiere at the L.A. Film Festival.

Before my adventures at Bonnaroo over this past weekend, I was able to catch up with Keegan in Nashville. In Paris last year, he'd prepared his "Nothing Shows" EP, which will be released on July 13 as a split venture with impeccable tastemaker Daytrotter and its Record Barn. This marks the first time that an artist's new work will be sold through the site. He seemed just as excited about Daytrotter as it is of him.

Besides that -- besides that! -- the artist has been recording new tracks bit by bit at different studios around Nashville and is musing a move to California. And to that he says "La La."

Check out "Say La La" from "Nothing Shows" below.

Read Full Post
<p>B.o.B.</p>

B.o.B.

Watch: B.o.B., Paramore's Hayley Williams muse fame in 'Airplanes' video

Nope, no Eminem

Not that it's a new trend, but rappers lately have been taking on the pitfalls of fame in song -- like Eminem's "Not Afraid," Kid Cudi's "My World" and Drake's "Over." Like those latter two, B.o.B. is only one album into his career, and his second single "Airplanes" with Paramore's Hayley Williams addresses the same rags-to-riches plight.

The video keeps abstract, mixing traditional stage lighting and open studio space with high-tech effects and a certain camera company product placement (hell, I'm not getting paid for it, so why should I mention it?). The result is a respectfully unbloated, visually stimulating, somber clip, with Williams' appearance as a guest vocalist treated mindfully as just that, and not as the token tart or Bobby Ray's accessory with multiple costume changes.

There's another "Pt. 2" version featuring Em, too, floating around out there, but Marshall Mathers has been fairly busy lately with his own promotional efforts in advance of "Recovery."

"Airplanes" has flown up to No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart so far, but sits at No. 3, with a bullet, so far this week. B.o.B.'s "The Adventures of Bobby Ray" entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1.

B.o.B ft. Hayley Williams - Airplanes [www.paramore.es] from Paramore Spain on Vimeo.

 

Read Full Post