Watch: Does the clip match the summer song's sizzle?
Already a hit in Europe (where Guetta is well known as a top DJ), the song has been working its way across the Atlantic, gathering strength as it rolls upon our shores. It has also been collecting steam in the dance community since its introduction at the Winter Music Conference in late March and is now No. 1 on the Dance Charts.
Today, the official video for "When Love Takes Over" was released and, in keeping with the summer feel, it takes place at Venice Beach, Calif., incorporating many of the street performers and characters who help make Venice such a popular place to visit.
Rowland is fierce throughout and it clearly experiencing a bit of a career resurgence after a dip. She gives her best Beyonce-type stares straight into the camera (but we're sure that's just a coincidence). It's almost as if she's putting her former Destiny's Child bandmate on warning: "Move over: There's room for more than one diva on the top of the charts, sister."
Guetta, who is relegated to a supporting role in his own video, shows up pushing his gear on a cart, looking basically like any other homeless guy hanging out in Venice. Little do people know he's actually the musical Merlin who's about to transform their routine day at the beach into the hottest ocean-side party they've ever seen with magically-appearing, scantily-clad dancers imported from some Pacific island.
This is a clip meant for the mainstream fans, not those folks ahead of the curve who first heard the song at Winter Music Conference or who have been watching fan-captured video on youtube. In reaching for the broadest base, director Jonas Akerlund has stripped something away from the song. The video could have built on the great beat that builds within the song and the feeling of abandon that falling in love can bring you, but, instead, we get a telegenic couple making out who seem to drop in from nowhere.
There's a grainy, fan-shot clip on Youtube of Guetta and Rowland performing the song before rabid fans in Goteberg, Sweden that captures the energy and spirit so much better than this gorgeous, but hollow-feeling video. Granted, the fan clip isn't high enough quality to use, but it's that kind of energy that the video should have strived for instead of giving us a very nice, albeit, somewhat bland travelogue of Venice Beach that could have been made by the tourist bureau.
On a side note, do the opening and closing keyboard lines sound like "Clocks" by Coldplay to anyone else but me? (Maybe Chris Martin will get to sue someone else instead of getting sued himself for "Viva La Vida")
Does the superstar still have the goods?
We can stop holding our collective breath now. Today, Arista announced Sept. 1 as the release date for Whitney Houston's first new studio album in seven years.
Details were scant but the hype was already in overdrive in a press release that trumpeted "The Wait is over" and proclaimed the project as "the most anticipated album of the year."
The still-untitled project is her first since 2002's "Just Whitney" (she also released a new holiday album in 2003). There's no track listing or hint at a first single, but bits and pieces, all subject to change, have leaked out over recent months. Rolling Stone.com says among those whom Houston worked with on the project are R.Kelly, Diane Warren, David Foster, Swiss Beatz and Akon.
The comeback trail for Houston started at industry legend Clive Davis's pre-Grammy party in 2008 when she showed up at the event in her first public appearance in some time. Davis signed Houston to Arista and has been the guiding force in her career over the last 25 years.
The drum beat for the new album got louder this past February when Houston actually performed at the fete, clad in a tight, leopard-print dress. Associated Press's Nekesa Mumbi Moody called the return "triumphant," but noted that Houston's once unassailable voice did show some wear and tear:
"Houston started off with "I Will Always Love You," but didn't hit the high, sustaining notes that made the song such a dramatic, stirring hit. Instead, she kept her voice at medium power, deciding to croon rather than soar.
But as she got into hits like "It's Not Right, But It's O.K.," her voice appeared to get stronger - and louder, and while she never replicated the vocal gymnastics of some of her past work, delivered a mesmerizing performance nonetheless."
The Sept. 1 release date means the new album misses the Grammy eligibility period by one day. (The cycle is shorter by one month this year because the Grammys will air on Jan. 31, 2010, four weeks earlier than usual). However, we're sure that's not going to stop the label. There are plenty of ways around that, such as releasing a vinyl version a week earlier or some kind of online offering. Or the plan could simply be to have only the first single, which will undoubtedly be released over the summer, be in contention for this year's Grammys and then go for the big push for album of the year the following awards cycle.
Watch... Was it worth the eight-month wait?
MGMT's new video for the infectious "Kids" is the equivalent of Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream: it's really busy and there's way too much going on, but somehow all the different sensations meld into a fascinating, if very strange, mix.
Of course, there's the question of why is the synth pop band (one of the more interesting new groups to emerge in the last few years) releasing a video now for a song that came out eight months ago, but that would be quibbling where there's so much to digest here.
It opens with a gentle, string interlude not on the single with a roiling, uncontrolled fire and a quote from Mark Twain about monsters (In a note on its website, the band remarks that "Kids, the first song MGMT ever wrote in 2003, has grown into some kind of monster). As the music bursts into the bouncy synth intro we're familiar with, a toddler in his crib is being taunted by monsters-- not the cute, furry kind like on "Sesame Street," but ones with antennae; gross, crustacean-like things that look like something out of "Pan's Labyrinth."
Okay, a little side bar here. I'm sure some of this is blue screen in the opening, but when the little kid is crying as he runs past the monsters on the street, I wanted to call Child Protective Services. Who let their kid be in this clip? Whatever money the parents make from the kid's acting job should go into a fund for therapy later. The kid is going to need it. I may have nightmares and am I'm a lot older than this tot.
But quite frankly, I don't know what's scarier: the monsters that haunt the toddler or the first glimpse of the band dressed like woodland nymphs descended from outer space. You gotta be pretty secure to wear those silvery outfits. But before we can really contemplate that, the video twists into a demented puppet show and then into anmation where little bunnies morph into witches, ghosts and dancing pigs and then, we think, slices of ham and pizza. We don't want to give away the ending, but it sort of ties it all together.
I don't really know what any of it means, but I'm endlessly fascinated by it. More importantly, the clip is what videos should be: a further interpretation of the band's art and MGMT is nothing if not a band with psychedelic, deeply catchy but off-kilter pop songs. Worth the eight-month wait? You bet.
Heralded new singer/songwriter draws comparisons to Carole King
Diane Birch has big shoes to fill. Early reviews compare her to Carole King, Laura Nyro and Aretha Franklin. The Franklin nod is a bit of a stretch, but there's no denying that the 20-something singer/songwriter's S-Curve Records debut, "Bible Belt," is infused with the kind of soul that is rare these days.
Recorded in New York and New Orleans with producers Betty Wright, Mike Mancini and S-Curve Records founder Steve Greenberg, "Bible Belt" synthesizes Birch's lifetime of influences: from the choir music she heard growing up around the globe as the daughter of a minister to the pop music she caught up on once she moved to the United States. A number of top-flight musicians played on the album, including The Roots bassist Adam Blackstone, Patti Smith Group's guitarist Lenny Kaye and the Meters' George Porter.
Hitfix caught a performance by Birch and her band June 2 in the courtyard at the landmark Capitol Tower in Hollywood. It was a big day for Birch: "Bible Belt" hit retail stores and she made her TV debut, appearing on "Late Night with Craig Ferguson."
Read what she has to say here and then check out her first single, the soulful "Nothing but a Miracle" here.
Q: Tell us about your influences found their way onto this record.
A: The influences probably start with church hymns. I grew up in church, my dad was a preacher, and I think that I really was influenced by classical music and church hymns and opera. And then when I moved to America, I started listening to more pop music and I sort of went through a lot of different genres because I hadn't grown up with it as a child. I had to sort of expose myself to a lot of things where I could quickly catch up. I gravitated towards so many different things and so many different genres of music and I essentially kind of just picked out the essential bit and the pure essence of each genre and I kind of incorporated it [on "Bible Belt"]
Q: What was the first album you ever bought?
A: I don't really know, maybe Depeche Mode? I listened to the Cure, I listened to Bauhaus. I listened to a lot of Goth bands and I started listening to more pop. I can't really put my finger on what it is. I've never really stuck in one specific genre. I think this record represents the best...I can't really say that...but it represents, in my mind, what I thought was the best of all these different genres.
Q: What was the best part about making the record?
A: The best part, really, is just seeing your songs come to life, seeing such incredible musicians playing on the album. It's an honor to have such a high caliber of musicianship all over the album. It was really great to see that level of effort put into making a record in this day and age is really rare. I'm so grateful for Steve for wanting to put all of that into it.
Q: What was the most challenging part?
A: The most challenging part is really working with people who have different ideas and visions. When you've kind of birthed these songs-- I've lived with them, I've thought about how I hear every part, every vocal part, every arrangement of everything-- you get a lot of different ideas coming in and it kind of throws off the plan. You have to be open to that and as an artist it's really hard to do that. I had to realize it's my first record and I don't know all there is to know. And you have to let go. It's hard.
Q: You just put on a great show. What do you like best about playing live?
A: I love seeing how it affects people. I just want people to have a good time. I want to have a good time when I go listen to music. I just want to keep playing with the band. I think we have a great chemistry. We've only been playing together for a short time. I think if we can keep playing and keep playing, we can start to really develop. And I like to show different aspects of the songs. I think [playing live] shows different sides of it. I think people need to connect to the music. People can do that with the album, but there's a whole different side of me that people need to see.
Uh, oh. Jacko tells fans he only agreed to 10
Take it for what it's worth and we'd like to see the video before we believe it at all, but Michael Jackson reportedly told fans outside the Burbank, Calif. dance studio where he was rehearsing earlier this week that he only signed on for 10 shows at London's 02 Arena, reports the U.K.'s Sun newspaper. The problem? Fifty shows have sold out. As we know, "production" issues have already pushed the start date back from July 8 to July 13.
"I'm really angry with them booking me up to do 50 shows," Jackson allegedly said. "I only wanted to do 10, and take the tour around the world to other cities, not 50 in one place.
"I went to bed knowing I sold 10 dates, and woke up to the news I was booked to do 50." All we can say is that must be one heck of a nap since the initial slate of 10 shows was announced and then the other concerts were added a few days later.
Singer's 'Sticky & Sweet' tour wraps up in Tel Aviv Sept. 1
Madonna's "Sticky & Sweet" tour will end Sept. 1 in Tel Aviv, the singer announced on her website today. Tickets for the show at the Yehoshua Garden go on sale Wednesday, June 3.
It marks Madonna's first appearance in Israel since 1993. In 2004, Madonna canceled three concerts in Tel Aviv, when she was concerned about security for her children, according to the U.K's Sun newspaper.
The last leg of the "Sticky & Sweet Tour" starts July 4 at London's O2 Arena, swinging through Europe and Russia before ending in Tel Aviv. No U.S. dates are on the docket. The warm-up act is superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold.
The "Sticky & Sweet" tour started last summer, hitting more than 50 cities worldwide to become one of the top-grossing tours of 2008. The tour included three sold-out Madison Square Garden shows and put Madonna in front of more than 2.5 million fans.
Acts include Cee-Lo, Little Boots and Justice
Elektra, the vaunted label that was once home to such legendary acts as the Doors and the Stooges only to be unceremoniously shuttered during a merger with Atlantic five years ago, will rise again its own imprint, Atlantic announced.
The initial acts on the reconstituted label include Cee-Lo (better known as one-half of Gnarls Barkley), U.K. sensation Little Books and French electronic duo Justice. Veteran A&R executive Mike Caren and John Janick, co-founder of Fall Out Boy's label Fueled By Raman, will serve as co-presidents.
Elektra, which was started by 19-year-old college student Jac Holtzman in 1950, as one of those kinds of labels that you don't see anymore-a label that you trusted to bring you music you liked. Like venerated jazz label Blue Note, there was a time that fans bought music simply because it came out on Elektra. Started as an eclectic label that put out folk, blues and jazz, Elektra came of age in the '60s, through signing such folk icons as Judy Collins and Tim Buckley before moving full tilt into rock with acts like the Doors, Love and the Stooges.
Its commercial hey day was in the '70s after Holzman sold the label to then-named Warner Communications and Elektra merged with David Geffen's Asylum Records. Among the acts on its mighty roster were Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, the Cars and many more.
The '80s and early '90s saw another creative period flourish with introduction of such artists as 10,000 Maniacs, Metallica, Natalie Cole, Sugarcubes (Bjork's former band), Simply Red, the Pixies and Tracy Chapman. From the mid-'90s until it was merged with Atlantic in 2004, Elektra had success (although nowhere near that of its tremendously influential glory days) with acts like Missy Elliot, Staind, Third Eye Blind and Busta Rhymes.
Does DMB's first album in four years live up to expectations?
Moore -- the GrooGrux King -- is here from the start as "Big Whiskey" opens with a lonesome solo by the saxophonist. His presence remains throughout the project as Matthews finds himself contemplating life and death, mortality and the search for grace in manners big and small.
Of course, any such discussion by Matthews has to include sex. Matthews has always done carnal pleasures well. "Crash into Me's" line 'Hike up your skirt a little more/ show the world to me" remains one of the slyest and sexiest lines in modern music. The songs on "Big Whiskey" are no exception.
Band signs deail with retailer for new album
Billboard reports that the Seattle band, whose contract with longtime home Epic Records, has been up for awhile now, will turn to the mass merchant as its retail partner for the new album, but, unlike many other such deals, Target will not be the only place fans can purchase the CD.
"Target ended up allowing us to have other partners," the band's longtime manager Kelly Curtis tells Billboard. "We'll be able to take care of all levels of the Pearl Jam fan...We wish we could tell the whole story right now, but all the deals aren't done. Target was cool enough to realize that little independent record stores are not their competition." He hints that there will also be tie ins with an online retailer, mobile company, a game manufacturer and others.
As first reported on antiquiet.com, Pearl Jam has filmed a commercial for Target with director and longtime supporter/friend of the band, Cameron Crowe. But for folks (like me) that are a little taken aback by the Target connection, Curtis has a few words: "Everyone's making assumptions because Target is a big corporation," Curtis told Billboard. "Its important to remember we just got out of this 18 year relationship with Sony, and I'm pretty sure they are a bigger corporation than Target. We have the freedom to pick our partners and more control when we've ever had before. We're excited to choose who we're in business with."
The album is slated to come out this fall and will likely be preceded by first single, "The Fixer."
Did Lennon and McCartney really just practice more than everyone else?
Is hard work all that separates the great musical artist from the also ran? That's the theory put forth in Fortune magazine senior editor Geoff Colvin's book, "Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else."
Colvin was the guest on "Samm Brown's On the Record," a weekly radio show on Southern California's WPFK, for which I am a frequent co-host -- as I was yesterday. From the start, the discussion was a lively one with Brown insisting that the only thing that separated such greats as Lennon and McCartney from other also-rans is that they studied more and worked harder than their peers. I disagreed, but more about that later.
In Colvin's world, there is no such thing as innate talent or God-given gifts: what differentiates the haves from the have-nots, artistically or athletically speaking, is the amount of work and focus they put into their endeavors. His research shows that it takes 10 years to master a skill (this is similar to Malcolm Gladwell's theory in "Outliers").
Colvin uses the example of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For centuries, people have believed that the classical composer had a talent that relied not so much on dedication, practice and focus than on a great gift. This was reinforced in the excellent movie, 1984's "Amadeus," in which Mozart's rival, Salieri, drives himself crazy because all his skill and hard work does not add up to Mozart's talent (although I seem to recall Mozart going temporarily insane as he tries to finish a commission).
Part of the premise is based on a letter that Mozart allegedly wrote that composing for him basically amounted to taking dictation from God. Colvin said on our show that the letter has proved to be a forgery and that Mozart's edge on Salieri came from the fact that he was composing by the time he was five and, therefore, simply worked harder and longer than Salieri.
Colvin also uses this theory in sports. For example, former NFL great Jerry Rice trained at a level that far exceeded that of his teammates and opponents. That's what contributed to his success, not a born ability to run fast that he nurtured. Colvin writes about how the theory is much more than just hard work, it's something called "deliberate practice." That means you are working specifically on drills and skills that relate to your interest and, often, you need a coach or guide to ensure you're doing it right.
If you're trying to be the next Lindsay Buckingham, you can play Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" all you want, but at some point, you better start dedicating yourself to learning/practicing the same skills that give Buckingham such dexterity.
I'm a firm believer that success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, or whatever the cliché is, and I also know that hard work and perseverance go a long way. But I also can't discount the role talent plays. Did Eric Clapton simply practice more than any other guitarist in history and that's why he's the best? I don't think so. I believe he was born with a talent that he worked tremendously hard to cultivate. If he had simply relied on that talent and not respected and honored it enough to practice and learn, I don't think he would be the legend we know him to be today.
Plus, if you're tone deaf, no matter how much you practice, I don't know if you can become a great singer.
I've seen too many performances where there was something magical talking, something divine-whether you want to call it God or not is up to you-to believe that it is only hard work that makes someone the best in their field. Several years ago, I saw famed violinist Itzhak Perlman play at the Barbican in London. The other two people with me and I all felt the same way: that it was literally like the hand of God was on Perlman's shoulder and Perlman's talent and years and years of practice were a conduit for this beautiful music to pour forth. It was spellbinding and something otherworldly.
Plus I've interviewed dozens of songwriters--and maybe this is just humility on their part--who talk about a song just coming to them and how important it is to always have their "antennae" up in order to receive whatever may come through them. Surely, that is a gift to be cultivated and nurtured, but I believe it's a gift, nonetheless.
The great part about Colvin's book (and to confess -- I haven't read the whole book, just snippets of it for Sunday's radio show) is that ultimately it serves as its own source of inspiration. Using the excuse that you don't have an innate talent as a reason not to pursue your dreams is a cop-out. As the old joke goes, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice." It's not dream, dream, dream.