Listening to Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” in the context of the rapper/singer’s other albums is a far richer experience than taking it in alone. The Young Money star is continually earning his stripes after two acclaimed, chart-topping albums that made his money off similarly dark and hungry productions, emo lyrics and electrifying bluster. Drake’s a better rapper now, and his multiple personalities – each in orbit around the same, central “I’m famous and I’m lonely” hangups – are more keenly expressed, sometimes in shameless pop gems like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and others like gnashing, bitchy “Own It.”
Drake’s combo with longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib has been a fruitful one. On “Nothing Was the Same,” the sequencing of these 16 songs show a mastery of facing Drake off with other versions of Drake, synth for synth, beat for beat. (Part of the problem is 16 full songs is a lot coming from Drake.)
Songs like “Worst Behavior,” a hating haters anthem, competes against stronger beats and rhymes from this album, though it offers up classic Drake-onian cognitive dissonance. “This ain't the son you raised who used to take the Acura / 5 a.m. then go and shoot Degrassi up on Morningside / For all the stuntin', I'll forever be immortalized” runs in direct contrast with the album’s first single “Started from the Bottom” plus “All Me” which has the former television child-actor bowing to the fantasy that he started from the most modest of means in his rise to rap fame.
There, that’s part of why Drake has become not just a successful name in hip-hop, but became an idea in hip-hop, or “Somewhere between psychotic and iconic” as he says in the second track. “I wear every single chain, even when I'm in the house” he raps in “Bottom,” like he even needs to convince himself sometimes of his making-of mythos when he’s alone in his jammies. Psychotic he’s not, but self-awareness can be its own mental curse.
His insecurities worn plainly on his sleeves, he’s proclaims his imperfections “on the low” in “Furthest Thing,” “…just like everyone I know.” Everyone he knows is imperfect, so at least all of you (the audience) can relate. He does the petty naming-of-ex-lovers again all over “Nothing Was the Same” including “Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree” in “From Time,” intentionally inflicting his exes and with the same spotlight that so alienates him. The slow-grinding trap of “305 to My City” has Drake sympathizing with his stripper, from one performer to another. Again, Drake is not as alone as he thinks.
For every “good girl” (“Hold On…”) and sexytime passer-by (“Come Thru”), there are women he rejects with the same toss-offs, like in “The Language.” “Come get your girl, she been here for three days and she way too attached to me,” he sing-raps over a melody that sounds like a horror film interstitial. “She just want to smoke and fuck / I said ‘Girl, that's all that we do’… it could all be so simple.” He demands conformity to his romantic longings, and when they’re fulfilled, he can’t even nut up to throw her out himself.
Women as a commodity is no new concept in hip-hop, but the boredom and loathing by which Drake casts off and puts on his ladies all plays into that whole “icon” status. I – the listener – may not like his “realness” IRL, but those fantastical flaws are interesting, especially when the music is oh-so-chilly, his delivery so moody, the humble-brags so ballsy up next to his most bombastic indulgences (see chorus-less “Tuscan Leather”). He and his bros can fill their Benzes with bad bitches but he’s still the guy who’s panting all over “Marvins Room”: emotional crookedness is an elegant selling point. Jay Z’s verse in lumpy “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” is almost like a betrayal of that realness, what with all that joy Hov expels. Fun has no place next to stunner “Too Much” featuring melancholy Sampha, Drake waxing that being the best in the rap game means “No dinners, no holidays, no nothing.” Is Drake asking for pity? Is he asking for understanding? Hey, Drake, do you want some company?
Not all rap records invite these questions, and not many have the listener assenting to that latter question. That’s in part why “Nothing Was the Same” works, because by exposing his vulnerabilities, you’re invited in (while Kanye West’s "Yeezus" victory is in kicking you out). The-Dream made a whole album this year of screaming out for pussy like Dennis Hopper in “Blue Velvet,” while Drake’s pinings are an exposure of self and worth, elements of a truly successful rapper and this mostly successful album.
Brie Larson's character Grace in "Short Term 12" certainly fits her name, but it's far from glamorous. She spends most of the movie in frumpy clothes and flat hair, dealing with bodily fluids, emotional violence and the repetitious difficulties of supervising at-risk youths at a foster care facility. As Grace deals with her own demons, she's works daily with the demons of the kids who land in her care, arriving from the hands of deadbeat dads, abusive mothers, mental health institutions and other unfortunate homes of circumstance.
But to present Grace's character in any other fashion than frustrating, redemptive and harshly unsexy would cause the movie to fail, and fail it does not. Larson's portrayal of her emotional role helped subtly open up topics of psychological care and child services in America, for instance, without bashing away the film's beautiful character portraits.
"Short Term 12" is just one of the many varied roles the 23-year-old actress has picked up; her stints lately have been in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Don Jon," her stop on NBC's "Community," 2012's "21 Jump Street" and the forthcoming musical film "Basmati Blues."
Larson and I spoke by phone last week, on the eve of the release of "Short Term 12," out in theaters this past Friday. Below is our abridged interview, on shadowing at a foster care facility, to tapping in (and out) emotionally as an actress, letting go with cheesy pasta and women's roles.
In the movie, were there particular scenes or stories that resonated with you as a person in real life? Did your performance have any impression on it due to any feelings or personal experiences with some of the things that were happening in this movie?
A little space-rock meets John Hughes closing credits jam meets Brandon Flowers' fatalistic longings in "Night," which is one of two new songs that grace "Direct Hits," the Killers' newly announced greatest hits album now due in November. "Direct Hits" includes tunes like "Mr Brightside," "Human," "Smile Like You Mean It" and "Miss Atomic Bomb," songs from the rock-pop band's four studio sets.
The other previously unreleased song on "Direct Hits" is "Just Another Girl," a collaboration with producer Stuart Price, who helmed the Killers' "Day & Age" (2008). The Deluxe version of "Hits" will include a Calvin Harris remix of "When You Were Young," the demo of "Brightside" and "Battle Born's" "Be Still." A fan deluxe version (oh, we're playing this little game...) will have the deluxe version of the album plus a DVD of a documentary on the band and five 10" vinyl records of the songs off of "Direct Hits." A fan deluxe supernova includes a hug from Flowers. I made that last one up.
"Direct Hits" is out on Nov. 11, aka Lady Gaga "ARTPOP" Day.
Check-in at the breakdown circa 3:00 and blast off. Seems like a much more short-term appropriation of Anthony Gonzalez' talents than that "Oblivion" soundtrack...
Here is the tracklist for "Direct Hits":
1. Mr Brightside
2. Somebody Told Me
3. Smile Like You Mean It
4. All These Things That I’ve Done
5. When You Were Young
6. Read My Mind
7. For Reasons Unknown
10. A Dustland Fairytale
12. Miss Atomic Bomb
13. The Way It Was
14. Shot At The Night
15. Just Another Girl
Deluxe Version Also Includes...
16. Mr. Brightside (Original Demo)
17. When You Were Young (Calvin Harris Remix)
18. Be Still
**Plus a never-before-seen Killers Documentary DVD**
Come, ye, to the great altar of dance. Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and Chic's Nile Rodgers hold their liturgy to funk and disco in the new music video for "Lose Yourself to Dance," the new single off of "Random Access Memories." They found a collection of followers who dance as rag-tag and fevered (and, sometimes, as badly) as you do for their worship. The eras of fashion co-mingle. Rumps look the same shaking now as they did in the days of yore.
Lady Gaga has been on the cover of magazines, led performances at the MTV VMAs and "Good Morning America" and is all over radio with her new single "Applause" these days. And, frankly, she was all over the place during Andy Cohen's Bravo show "Watch What Happens Live" and the after-show this week, partially due to that magic white wine she was drinking.
I'll admit, I'm very entertained by the performer here, getting a sniff of realness and fun. But -- as I do all things -- I think of Cyndi Lauper, high priestess, in instances like these, where in even the most laid back, unsober, unscripted circumstances, I'd expect her to maintain control and earn her audience. Gaga kinda loses it at times, as she's dressed in her mermaid/siren gear with shell-cup bra and wave-wrought wig.
Still, some good new (or at least interesting) facts learned. Play along, and watch the clips below plus all the others on "WWHL's" website. Gaga's new album "ARTPOP" is due Nov. 11.
Here are 10 things we learned from Lady Gaga's Watch What Happens Live interview:
David Bowie, Laura Marling, Discolsure, James Blake, Arctic Monkeys and seven other artists have been named to Britain's 2013 Mercury Prize shortlist.
Y'know who's not on there? Mumford & Sons. Now that we've taken a moment to recognize that, lets focus on the contenders, which leans overwhelmingly, again, toward rock and some toward electronica.
Bowie may be top dog here, with his extraordinary comeback "The Next Day," and because it's Bowie and, jeez guys, he's only been nominated one other time. Veterans Arctic Monkeys and Foals put out fine efforts, too, but can't compare to the Thin White Duke.
Newcomer Jake Bugg, Marling and Laura Mvula are certainly safer, folk and singer-songwriterly choices, though Marling has arguable dropped the album of her career with "Once I Was an Eagle," after already having made her way onto the shortlist with two other efforts in her minute time on this blessed earth. (Villagers are the dark, dirty little interlopers that could fit with the folk-rockers too.)
Blake's "Overgrown" may not be his best effort, but it's among these other dance/electronic groups that he'd be most recognizable. That, Hopkins' techno nightmare "Immunity" and Rudimental's lesser-known "Home" can't compare to Disclosure's exceptional "Settle," an album so emotionally sprawling and technically proficient, I hope the judges live and breathe it for this contest.
But 2013 didn't yield a big amount of diversity on this list. Mvula, Marling and all-women rockers Savages rep for the ladies. Mvula is the only lead who is a person of color; and besides her, Disclosure's samplings and Blake's sullen-soul/R&B, there's little music of color, with traditional R&B, jazz and rap shut out in this final tally. That doesn't mean the Merucury Prize hasn't been inventive in its choices in previous years, it's just particularly monochrome this year. Perhaps the Hopkins lobotomy will jog everyone's mind for next year.
The nominees were drawn from 220 albums submitted for the album of the year battle, and £20,000 will be awarded to the winner, announced on Oct. 30.
Here are the nominees and their albums:
Famed televised concert series "Austin City Limits" is preparing to launch into its 39th season, and Phoenix fits the bill for this new year of music performances.
The French dance-rock band Phoenix has its ACL premiere during the Oct. 12 episode to air of "ACL," and we got dibs on an early look at the performance, including this video of "Rome."
Staged at the ACL Live theater in Texas' capital, the Phoenix concert was packed into an hour-long show, which will be the second episode of the season. The first airing, on Oct. 5 on PBS, will feature Juanes and Mexican troupe Jesse & Joy. Vampire Weekend, fun., Emeli Sandé, Grizzly Bear, The Lumineers, Emmylou Harris with Rodney Crowell and others are also on tap for this first half of the new season, with the second half to be announced at a later date. Tune in to ACL's live-stream of fun.'s taping on Sept. 13.
After you listen to "Rome" -- culled from the band's 2010 breakout album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" -- give "Entertainment" a spin, too. Not a coincidence: Phoenix is co-headlining the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October.
A full airing schedule of "ACL" is below the videos. According to a release, Austin City Limits is the longest-running music series in American television history.
October 5 Juanes | Jesse & Joy
October 12 Phoenix
October 19 The Lumineers | Shovels & Rope
October 26 Vampire Weekend | Grizzly Bear
November 2 Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
November 9 Emeli Sandé | Michael Kiwanuka
November 16 fun. | Dawes
November 23 ACL Presents: Americana Music Festival 2013
When Terrence Howard walked up, he was already crying.
Arcade Fire have finally lifted the veil on their new single "Reflektor" which -- if you're any fan of their more dance-happy, disco-laden songs like "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" and "Half Light II (No Celebration)" from their last album "The Suburbs" -- will make you pretty happy.
It's more than seven minutes of what most definitely sounds like one of their collaborations with LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, who co-produced the new album. This title track additionally gets the enhancement of two new music videos, one standard directed by Anton Corbijn and one interactive through some geniuses at Google Chrome with director Vincent Morisset.
For the Chrome version of the video, some of the technology may interfere with your actual ability to view (browser, mobile tech and video cards), but you will get a good idea of what you're in store for by watching this featurette and exploring some of the images. In this version of the video, the user follows the protagonist/dancer Axelle "Ebony" Munezero through the streets in Haiti. Arcade Fire have spent recent years supporting non-profits and causes from the troubled country, where co-founder Régine Chassagne was born.
Visit justareflektor.com to see the interactive video in Chrome.
Corbijn's black-and-white version of the "Reflektor" experience has its own quirks, too, as the band dons oversized papier mache heads like puppet versions of themselves, hunting down the Disco Ball Man and putting the doll versions of themselves in a shiny coffin. As you do. It's actually a really lighthearted look, at times, at the Montreal-based band, who have made a mystery of themselves in promoting "Reflektor" up until this point. Win Butler and Chassgne put on a good show for this epic-length tune, which plays with the ideas of disillusion, self-reflection and reality, much like "The Suburbs" did.
Interestingling, those cartoony heads were a highlight from the "dance-activated" vid for "Sprawl II," which Morisset directed. There's a continuing theme here, if it's just that the band likes a challenge when playing their instruments.
"Reflektor" as a song just goes and goes, with multiple climaxes, points of entry, and would kill as a instrumental-only. Based on the dance moves in the Corbijn clip, they're having a good time playing it, too.
"Reflektor," the album, is out on Oct. 29. Happy Halloween, we know what you're dressing as.