Jeremy Renners stopped by Jimmy Fallon's "The Tonight Show" this week to sing a parody version of Ed Sheeran's hit single "Thinking Out Loud" in character as Hawkeye to further promote Friday's open of "The Avengers: Age of Ultron."
Sean Carter, aka Jay Z, doesn't use Twitter much, so it was a very rare moment indeed when the hip-hop mogul went on a 16-Tweet "stream of consciousness" tear on Sunday (April 26), to promote the music streaming service Tidal (owned by Carter's own Project Panther Ltd.). Using the hashtag #TidalFacts, Jay Z did his best to quell rumors about the company's health, to air his dreams for Tidal, and the like.
It was not his intention, I'm sure, to cull responses like these:
While there's a story in there about expectation/entitlement when the world's biggest stars even slightly open their door on social media, reading these responses to Hov's self-promotion during a time of protest actually made me think more about hope and hip-hop.
Stars like Jay Z don't reflect simply a level of celebrity, but stand as beacons of artistry, history, personal triumph and perspective. This week, protests against police brutality arose in Baltimore as they did in 2014 and earlier this year in New York, Ferguson, Mo., and elsewhere. It's at times like these that many people could use some perspective, could learn some history and are seeking some triumph and resolve.
Rap means a lot of things to a lot of people, because it's constantly evolving, an organism. Like all pop music, it can also be a vehicle for social change and protest, and has a long foundational precedent of just that.
With its origins in black communities by black voices, hip-hop continues to be a fertile medium through which, now, storytellers of any color, class, gender or nationality can reveal their realities and hopes.
An enthusiastic Tweet from Mr. Carter in January made reference to "Glory," the Academy Award-winning song from John Legend and Common. Recently, Kendrick Lamar and D'Angelo have made breathtaking albums that have also inspired fantastic writing, about blackness, black men, black voices and black communities (and also about women in those communities). These conversations, songs and artists aren't gaining momentum out of coincidence, but arrive at times of anger and unrest, as African-Americans and other people of color are continually and unfairly targeted, berated and misrepresented by media, educational systems, government, law enforcement, and even by their most-loved arts and entertainment.
That's partially why fans feel that Jay Z and stars like him owe their voices to the conversation: because these are the artists who also helped energize and form that dialogue. Jay Z may never weigh in on protests in Baltimore and other cities like it, but the desire to hear from artists like him is still a reflection of hope that willful, eloquent speech is conjured from the same artform that helped this country recognize its black voices within.
Here are some pieces by writers and influencers of color who further delve into pop history, current rap music and voice in this climate of dissent, even as their opinions vary.
Now the "Inside Amy Schumer" star has a boy band song that helps to inform the girl that she's beautiful inside, and she doesn't need that "goop" she calls makeup.
If the tune sounds familiar, that's because it's batting awfully close to One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful." Schumer toys with the notion that dudes who prefer "no makeup" might not actually know what that really looks like, but thematically her song pounds away at these "I see you're beauty, even if you don't" feel-good tunes so very condescending.
"You're turning heads when you walk through the door / Don't need make-up, to cover up / Being the way that you are is enough / Everyone else in the room can see it / Everyone else but you."
Now try on John Legend's "You & I" on for size.
"You fix your makeup just so / Guess you don’t know that you’re beautiful / Try on every dress that you own / You were fine in my eyes a half hour ago / If your mirror won’t make it any clearer I’ll be the one to let you know."
And how about some Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are":
"Yeah, I know, I know when I compliment her, she won't believe me / And it's so, it's so sad to think that she doesn't see what I see / But every time she ask me do I look okay? / I say / When I see your face / There's not a thing that I would change / 'Cause you're amazing / Just the way you are"
Just as Arianna Rebolini and Robyn Pennachia and I and many others have said: the implication there is an underlying shame and insecurity, and these types of songs reek with a direct marketing to women's insecurities, particularly younger girls like One Direction's audience.
You'll see the trend before you feel it. I only wish "Just the Way You Are" wasn't so damn catchy.
Give all of the awards to the full title of the alternate take of Bonnie Stillwatter's "The Devil Is People": "The Devil Is People (The Cheech Wizard's Hemiolic Chantey at the Edge of the Anthropocene Epoch).”
Now give the bulk of the rest of the awards to Bundy K. Brown (of Tortoise and Gastr del Sol) who had this to say about his mix of this heavy, righteous tune:
"For me, this is not so much a remix, as an alternate take of The Devil Is People, which I think even casual listeners will easily discern. I've never been fully comfortable with the avenues that remixes have typically been trafficked in, or the reductive approaches and expectations that seem to leap to most folks' minds when they think of remixes, and I think this version of the song fairly lives up to double a-side billing... or even triple a-side billing alongside the beer."
What does beer have to do with a redux/alt-take/double-a-side/new limb/remix of a song, you may ask?
Temporary Residence is releasing "The Devil Is People" / "TDIP(TCWHCATEOTAE)" tomorrow (4/28) and to celebrate, on Saturday Bonnie Stillwatter played in five beer bars in New York, several of which may still bear the marks of my beautiful lost 20s. They served -- naturally -- Stillwater Artisanal beer.
Awards for beer. Awards for my 30s. We're all out of awards, People.
Here is the first version of "The Devil Is People" to have arrived from Bonnie Stillwatter:
Miranda Lambert's "Automatic" won Song of the Year at the Academy Of Country Music Awards, and as soon as she took the stage, the Texas-bred singer passed off the mic to one of her co-songwriters, Natalie Hemby.
That in itself was a sweet move, considering the scale of the stadium (nearly 70,000 people in attendance) and the prime time spot on CBS. Then Hemby made her speech, bringing attention to the strength of the all-female team behind the track (penned also by Nicolle Galyon).
"I hope I can be your Dean Dillon. Because you're my George Strait," Gamby said to smiling Lambert."
"Automatic" was Grammy-nominated earlier this year, for Best Country Solo Performance and for Best Country Song. It's one item on a very short list of Song Of The Year winners at the ACMs that are by women and performed by women ("Wide Open Spaces" by Dixie Chicks is also there).
Will Berman calls his current situation "an exciting time and place."
The drummer and writer has spent a better part of the past decade on tour and making music with MGMT, but he's stepping out as a film composer for the first time with his score to "Jackrabbit," which gets its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday.
"After touring for seven years straight and not being able to polish skills in any other area, it's great to finally spread out and figure out something else that I can do," Berman told me this week. "It was such a pleasure to make music for a film, and I'm blown away people's response to it... it was a real lucky combination of factors."
For six months, Berman collaborated with director Carleton Ranney's on coming up with the best versions of the sci-fi flick's "sparse," spacious sounds. To go along with the dystopic themes of having to deal with a societal technology "reset" phenomena, Berman opted to perform his score on only an Arturia MicroBrute analog synth and one other keyboard.
"It's about these people kind of struggling with these kind of limited forms of technology, set in the future where all the computer data in the world has been seemingly wiped out," he explains about the "obsolete tech" world Ranney built.
As you can hear in the two impressive exclusive tracks below, "I kept the tone dark... very low and rumbling."
Since MGMT released its 2013 self-titled album and finished up tour in support, Berman has also been at work on other side projects, like the score for short film "Noonday Demon" by Soojin Chang, producing an LP for Buenos Aires-based group Delta Venus, and making music with band Kuroma (whose most recent album was produced by MGMT cohort Ben Goldwasser).
"We've been taking a little break I guess. We've been at it for years at this point. There's more to come.," Berman said of MGMT, though he didn't want to speak for founders Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden on when there'd be a new album from the psych-pop group.
LOS ANGELES - The Killers' Brandon Flowers is stepping out solo once again this spring, and last night at the Troubador in L.A. he gave a quick preview of three new songs and the sounds fans can expect out of "The Desired Effect," out May 19.
Flowers also further revealed his love for a major influence -- INXS -- as he launched into a cover of the Aussie band's "Don't Change."
"One of the things most profound about INXS is this song we're about to cover, it has such a strong identity," Flowers said, also mentioning that INXS was the subject of the first band poster he ever bought. "['Don't Change'] is on their first record, and they seemed to really know who they were. You don't really hear that a lot anymore."
Flowers' fresh tunes "Dreams Come True," Peter Gabrielian "Still Want You" and glittery single "Can't Deny My Love" have a bright, Super Bowl-sized dance effect and, like on his first solo outing "Flamingo," have more love-lorn Las Vegas tales with a Human League dance sheen.
The singer mostly played with a six-piece backing, through brought out a pair of horn players for a handful of the 16-song setlist.
Check out a couple of Flowers' huge new tracks below.
"Never Make It" is on Vomitface's EP "Another Bad Year," out on May 12 through Boxing Clever Records.
There is great comfort in life knowing that Jennifer Hudson sings into her water bottle like a microphone, just like you do.
The recently crowned "The Late Late Show" host James Corden took the Grammy and Oscar winner on a Carpool Karaoke drive, and the two took detours to Hudson's Hollywood Star, and to a drive-thru fast food joint.
Listen to the most beautiful version of a burger order ever.
Melody Gardot's "Preacherman" is featured on her next album "Currency of Man," out on June 2 via Verve/Decca.