Singer's first album of new material in 10 years joined by Dave Matthews, Jaheim, Taylor Swift and more
Melinda Newman Monday, Feb 8, 2010 1:27 PM
There may be plenty of releases coming out Feb. 9, but there’s only one that people are talking about: British-Nigerian singer Sade, who releases her first album of new material in roughly 10 years with “Soldier of Love.”
Galactic, “Ya-Ka-May” (Anti-/Epitaph): Continue to celebrate the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl win with this New Orleans jam band. Half of New Orleans does, including such wonderful hometown faves as Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty. The second line starts here.
Him, “Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice” (Sire) Finnish metal band combines love, sex and hard rock on its seventh studio album, produced by metal maven Matt Squire (The Used, All time Low and Saosin). Best served with a nice slab of reindeer meat.
Hot Chip, “One Life Stand” (Astralwerks): British electro-pop act throw in plenty of heart and soul with the technology, courtesy of lead singer Alexis Taylor’s sweet, vulnerable voice. Could this, their fourth album, big their big U.S. breakthrough? It should be.
Jaheim, “Another Round” (Atlantic): R&B singer already has a big hit with the set’s frst single, the smooth, pick up anthem “Ain’t Leavin’ Without You.” Entertainment Weekly compares Jaheim to the late, great Teddy Pendergrass. We can’t go that far, but there’s plenty here to sex you up.
Massive Attack, “Heligoland” (Virgin): Trip-hop masters are joined by Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Blur’s Damon Albarn and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe for their latest set.
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, “Live in Las Vegas” (Bama Rags/RCA): Sometimes the title says everything you need to know, but if you’re looking for a few more details, it’s 26 tracks of Matthews and Reynolds noodling at a show taped Dec. 12 at the Theater for the Performing Arts at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
Sade, “Soldier of Love” (Epic): Produced by Sade and Mike Pela, “Soldier of Love” marks Sade’s first album of all new material in 10 years. Read our review here.
Various Artists, “Valentine’s Day” soundtrack (Big Machine): Soundtrack to new Garry Marshall romantic comedy features new music from Jewel and Taylor Swift, who also appears in the film as Taylor Lautner's girlfriend, as well as a number of other love-themed ditties, including Maroon 5’s remake of Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” Diane Birch’s perky “Valentino” and Michael Franti & Spearhead’s peppy “Say Hey (I Love You).”
The Watson Twins, “Talking to You, Talking to Me” (Vanguard): Folky pop twins Chandra and Leigh Watson, best known for their collaboration with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis on “Rabbit Fur Coat,” are joined by members of My Morning Jacket and Everest (Neil Young’s new fave band) for their latest.
Yeasayer, “Odd Blood” (Secretly Canadian): Artsy hipster band from Brooklyn toggles just as easily between opening for MGMT and playing at the Guggenheim Museum or Bonnaroo. They fuse experimental rock with pop sometimes. Other times, they’re just delightfully weird.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Massive Attack was appearing at Coachella.
Each year, the act selected to play the Super Bowl halftime has 12 minutes to do its best gig ever before the biggest audience of its career. There’s no time to build momentum; you have to hit the stage at 100 miles per hour.
The Who (or what remains of them: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend) decided to go with a medley of some of their biggest hits for their moment in Miami and spilled the beans to Billboard a few weeks ago on their line-up. So how’d they do?
Confession: I love the Who. They’re brilliant. I was too young to see them in their heyday, but my appreciation for them has only grown over the years. It hurts me to say that they were terrible.
They opened with an extremely short verse of “Pinball Wizard,” and then very awkwardly switched to “Baba O’Riley.” There was absolutely no energy there; instead of anthemic, the songs just felt anemic. “Who Are You,” one of the most potent, muscular rock songs every recorded--at its full strength, it can peel paint off walls--sounded weak. Was it so wrong that I wanted Daltrey to slip and throw in the F-word? Just something to wake us all up? Plus, using lines from “Tommy” songs as bridges (“See Me, Feel Me” from “Tommy’s” finale just got one line) served no purpose unless they wanted to up their total song count.
The Who wrapped with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Daltrey’s classic scream—one of the most feral rock and roll screams every committed to vinyl-- was there, but it was clearly pre-taped as there was not a camera within 100 yards of Daltrey when that scream went down, but then a camera went back on him right afterward.
While there was much talk that Daltrey and Townshend would be playing to pre-recorded tracks, there’s no doubt those vocals (other than the scream) were live. Daltrey’s voice is diminished, but it’s still powerful and there were moments during “Who are You” where he sounded great. For the most part, Townshend just sounded creaky. I felt like he should be yelling at us to get off his lawn. Townshend’s guitar playing sounded strong and lots of parents probably got to teach their kids about the Windmill, but the cameras cut away anytime he started to do something interesting. There was no passion whatsoever in the performance (I know, I know, they’ve been phoning it in live for years… I’ve seen them in concert enough to know that), but it’s still disappointing. If Daltrey and Townshend ever acknowledged each other during the set (other than the final bow) to even look at each other like “Man, can you believe we’re here?” or “Isn’t this fun?,” I missed it.
The circular stage was the winner. It was the star of the show with the different color lasers and images. The best image was of Townshend on guitar. It must have looked great up in the stands. The light show completely overwhelmed the performance. The Who's performance: C. The stage and production: A+.
I say bring back the estrogen: for 2011, we’re rooting for Lady GaGa or Beyonce.
For those of you who loved the Who’s performance and would like to recreate it, Rock Band will offer it as a $2 download later on today (for Xbox 360 and Wii; PS3 will arrive later, according to www.joystiq.com)
But he’s also released four stellar solo albums, most recently “My Old, Familiar Friend,” this past August. The collection is irrepressible melodic pop rock redolent of Benson’s musical influences, including the Cars, Todd Rungren, Cheap Trick and the Kinks.
Hitfix caught up with the lowkey, genial Benson prior to his second performance at ASCAP’s Music Café at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (Yep, we're still cleaning out our interviews from the festival). He filled us in on what’s next for the Raconteurs, his thoughts about becoming a first-time dad in April, and why he just doesn’t understand Bruce Springsteen.
Following his Sundance appearance, Benson and his band embarked on a month-long tour. He is also collaborating with singer/songwriter Ashley Monroe, who joined the Raconteurs and fellow guest Ricky Skaggs on the Raconteurs’ “Old Enough.”
Q: Since we’re at Sundance, it seems appropriate to ask what’s the last movie you saw?
A: “The Invention of Lying.” It wasn’t great. I love [Ricky Gervais]. I’m inclined to think that the powers that be changed that movie. It was his idea. It could have gotten… it could have been way better.
Q: Congratulations on your first child coming in April. Are you going to be able to resist the urge to write songs only about your kid?
A: I think I’m too self absorbed still. Maybe the kid will change that about me, but there’s no one more interested than myself to write about. (laughs)
Q: You’re here playing at ASCAP’s Music Café. Part of the idea is to use this opportunity to meet directors and music supervisors who may license your music. What’s your experience been with that and what’s your expectation?
A: Not a whole lot, but I’ve had songs in some movies. My first license was in “Zero Effect,” on my first record, which was really exciting. [2002’s] “Tiny Spark” was used in “Along Came Polly” and I think it was used in another movie sooner than that and I’m best known for that song and it’s not hugely popular, but that’s the most popular song that I have and I know it’s because of the movies. People are like, ‘Oh yeah, I know that song!” And then TV shows and stuff, commercials, like an iPod commercial, that was a big deal.
Q: You’re on tour in February. What’s the key to survival on the road and not killing your band mates on the road?
A: I think there’s a combination of things. Humor would be key. If everyone has relatively the same sense of humor, then that helps. And things in common, like food, eating. If there’s one person who’s vegan, say, then that person might be alienated in my band (laughs)… Last night we went to this vegan restaurant because someone said it was great. It was okay, I think some of us would have preferred a steak.
Q: There are bands who will take a slightly less talented musician for someone they can live with the other 22 hours of the day off stage.
A: That’s for sure. In fact, to my detriment, I’ve done that. I just like somebody so much or [they’re] a great companion and maybe not the best musician or the best person for the [job]... but I don’t care.
Q: Bruce Springsteen talks about how “Born to Run” started his lifelong conversation with his audience. “My Old, Familiar Friend” is your fourth solo album. Where is that in your conversation with your audience and where is that conversation headed?
A: That’s a really far out concept to consider, and a little lofty. It sounds cool and just like Bruce Springsteen is famous for… he’s got great one liners, but what is he talking about? You know what I mean. So I’m not sure I agree or maybe I haven’t hit that point yet or maybe I haven’t started this so-called conversation with my audience. I have a hard enough time writing a little something on an email blast. My manager is like ‘write a little something’ for my fans. And I’d rather not. That’s not my life. My life is me and music, it’s not me and my fans. ..It’s a cool concept, I like that. It sounds nice, it sounds neat, but I’m not a huge Springsteen fan for that very reason, I think, because I never knew what he was talking about.
Q: You live in Nashville where there are songwriters everywhere. Do you find it inspirational?
A: Yeah. I don’t know if it’s inspiring so much as it’s great practice. It’s great to keep in practice. You want to surround yourself… with any kind of art, you need to stay in practice. You can’t always be inspired. Or you can’t wait for it.
Q: It’s a craft there. There are times it becomes an art.
A: They write crap songs though (laughs). I’m not a fan of the new country stuff. Not always. At best, it’s clever, though. It never just hits you. I don’t know it very well. Still, I think it’s admirable to and it’s a good idea to stay in practice for when maybe something does happen. Something does really come to you and you’re ready for it.
I started out painting… well, I kind of did them at the same time, music and painting. And then music became easier for me and I pursued that. But while I was painting, I studied with this guy and who sort of taught me you can’t afford to sit around and wait.
Q: It’s a muscle.
A: Right… [he’d say] “so go out and fucking draw that flower over there.” And I’d be like, “I’m not inspired, I’m not into flowers…” and he’d be like, ‘I don’t give a shit, go draw those fucking flowers.” You know what I mean, like ‘Shut up, punk.’ He said it should be like breathing, it should be like second nature. I like that, so at the very least, I write a lot of dumb songs and sometimes they even make it on my record.
Q: What do you get out of being in the Raconteurs that you don’t get out of being a solo artist and vice versa?
A: So much. I haven’t decided which… I think I definitely prefer being in a group, writing in a group too. I have a group of guys with me, but they didn’t write the songs. They don’t have a whole lot of emotional stake in it. But bless their hearts, they’re fucking good. They’re great. But it’s a different thing.
Of course, the biggest thing is playing in the Raconteurs or in a group, you’re sharing everything. You share the glory and whatever when it’s not glorious. When it sucks, I don’t have the bear the load myself. And you can take turns doing things like if I’m tired… some nights I’m not in the mood or I’m tired or something like that and so I can fall back on these other guys, like Jack, maybe he’ll take over. We’ll do more of his [stuff]… With me, it’s like man, I gotta carry it the whole time. And that’s kind of a negative way of looking at my solo stuff, but at this point, I’m in that phase coming off the Raconteurs. But there’s things that the Raconteurs can’t give me that my solo stuff gives me and I’m not sure what that is at the moment. Nothing’s coming to mind.
Q: We’re not catching you on a good day, are we?
A: I know, I know. Oh my God, this should be an interesting set today.
Q: Is there a new Raconteurs record in the works?
A: Not as of yet. I mean, I think we’re all just really focused on other things. I barely talk to those guys. We’re all busy, but it will, like it always does, it will come around and we’ll get together again and hang out and maybe make a record or maybe not. Terrible answer, sorry.
Q: It’s the truth.
A: It’s a real spontaneous thing, really. The Raconteurs was, is and always will be, hopefully, should be spontaneous. If we feel like doing it. We’re not contractually obligated, we don’t need it. We don’t have to do it, which is cool.
Watch "A Whole Lot Better" from "My Old, Familiar Friend" below:
Many Grammys winners see three-digit sales bumps. What about Taylor?
Melinda Newman Friday, Feb 5, 2010 3:46 PM
Lady Antebellum’s second week sales look like they’ll be strong enough to hold off a strong challenge from Lil Wayne’s new rock-oriented album, “ Rebirth” on next week’s album chart.
Lady A’s “Need You Now” will sell up to 195,000 copies following its strong 480,000+ debut, according to Hits Daily Double. That’s at least 20,000 more than Lil Wayne’s set, which will more around 165,000.
While Lady A’s sales drop precipitously, the decline is probably less than it would have been had the Nashville trio not performed on Jan. 31’s Grammy Awards. The awards program generally provides a bump in sales for performers and winners (performers usually get the bigger boost), and given the strong ratings, albums sales are showing triple-digit gains for many participating artists.
Hits predicts that the “2010 Grammy Nominees” compilation sees an 120% increase in sales over the previous week, which is enough for a No. 3 landing. Jonas Bros. Nick Jonas, who presented on the Grammys with his brothers, sees his solo album from Nick Jonas & the Administration” debut at No. 4, with sales of around 85,000-90,000, but after that, it’s back Grammy performers. Lady Gaga, who opened up the show with Elton John, moves up to 90,000 copies of “The Fame,” for a 28% increase from the previous week’s chart for a No. 5 spot (although she and Jonas may switch spots). The Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.” is predicted to come in at No. 6 with a 96% increase. Taylor Swift’s performance may have been maligned, but her album of the year win for “Fearless” and the surrounding chatter is enough for the set to increase in sales 86%. New artist of the year winner and performer Zac Brown Band rebounds to No. 8 with “The Foundation,” which Hits predicts will see a 138% increase in sales.
Beyonce’s sales jump an incredible 154% for “I Am… Sasha Fierce” to 45,000, according to Hits, while Kings of Leon, who did not perform, but snagged record of the year for “Use Somebody,” are slated to see an 100% jump in album sales.
Slash, who produced with Eric Valentine, wrote and arranged most of the songs then handpicked the guest artist to collaborate on their chosen track. “These are all artists I wanted to work with – that I thought it would be amazing to do something creative and collaborative,” Slash said in a statement. “And I was so impressed with what everyone brought to the table. They were all so committed to doing a good job. And we had a lot of fun making these songs.”
Following his departure from Guns N’ Roses, Slash recorded with his new group, Slash’s Snakepit and as part of Velvet Revolver.
1. Ghost (Ian Astbury)
2. Crucify The Dead (Ozzy Ozbourne)
3. Beautiful Dangerous (Fergie)
4. Promise (Chris Cornell)
5. By The Sword (Andrew Stockdale)
6. Gotten (Adam Levine)
7. Doctor Alibi (Lemmy Kilmeister)
8. Watch This Dave (Grohl/Duff McKagan)
9. I Hold On (Kid Rock)
10. Nothing To Say (M Shadows)
11. Starlight (Myles Kennedy)
12. Saint Is A Sinner Too (Rocco De Luca)
13. We're All Gonna Die (Iggy Pop)
UPDATE: Kelly Clarkson responds to Borchetta with cheeky missive
Melinda Newman Thursday, Feb 4, 2010 2:47 PM
Poor Taylor Swift. She may have snared four Grammys Sunday night, including the highly coveted album of the year for “Fearless,” but any subsequent kudos have been drowned out in the media by the deafening roar of how awful her performance was.
The drumbeat of criticism has grown so loud that Scott Borchetta, the head of Swift’s label, Big Machine, released a letter to the media defending his label’s meal ticket, biggest star.
Here are his comments as printed in Nashville’s “The Tennessean”:
"The biggest message is (the critics) are not getting it," Borchetta said. "Because the facts say she is the undisputed best communicator that we've got. When she says something, when she sings something, when she feels something, it affects more people than anybody else.
"Maybe she's not the best technical singer, but she's probably the best emotional singer because everybody else who gets up there and is technically perfect, people don't seem to want more of it. … I think (the critics) are missing the whole voice of a generation that is happening right in front of them. … She's an extraordinary songwriter and her vocal performances are getting better. Everybody is not perfect on any given day. If you pick any of those artists that performed (on the Grammy Awards) I'm sure you can go online and find something where you go, 'ew.' Maybe in that moment we didn't have the best night. But in the same breath, maybe we did. And nobody is arguing with the awards.
"The critics are missing the bigger picture. This is what always happens and is the unfortunate part of the American dream, that we build these people up to watch the critics tear them down. Well, you better have more than what you've got now if you think you're going to get in the ring and fight with us. So, get in the ring."
First off, he protests too much. The simple fact is that Taylor Swift has a tremendously difficult time staying on key. It isn’t as if the Grammys were the first performance where she hit clam after clam, it was just the highest-profile appearance and the one in closest proximity to winning the biggest prize in the land, album of the year.
Plus, Borchetta decides to take aim at critics, many of whom have helped Swift get where she is. In addition to being a commercial success, she has been lauded in both the New York Times and the New Yorker, so he might want to go easy on biting the media hand that has helped make her the superstar that she is. This is not the start of some well-orchestrated Swift backlash that has no basis in fact other than her success. It has to do with people finally saying what no one wanted to say for a very long time (although we’ve said it quite a few times in this blog over the past year): there are many, many things to admire about Swift: her songwriting ability, her on-stage charisma, her close connection to her audience, her phenomenal drive, her tremendous worth ethic and much more, but her singing ability is average at best.
Borchetta—and Swift—would have been much better served by either issuing a swift no comment, or simply saying something like “Swift wants to thank her millions of fans for their support” or “Swift’s enthusiasm of performing with her idol Stevie Nicks more than made up for any nerves she may have exhibited…” There are myriad ways to have handled this situation, but instead Borchetta decided to attack her critics and then, in a very strange way, agree with them by saying, “maybe she’s not the best technical singer.” You think?
Swift has not commented on the controversy. Her Australian tour starts tonight in Brisbane. Her U.S. tour begins March 4.
How do you think Borchetta should have responded?
Scott Borchetta also went on to tell the Associated Press, in a phonecall, "This is not American Idol. This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. She is the voice of this generation. She speaks directly to (her fans), and they speak directly back to her."
At least one American Idol was listening. Superstar Kelly Clarkson has taken to her blog to respond to Borchetta in an open letter:
Wow …..Dear Scott Borchetta,
I understand defending your artist obviously because I have done the same in the past for artists I like, including Taylor, so you might see why its upsetting to read you attacking American Idol for producing simply vocalists that hit ‘the high notes’. Thank you for that ‘Captain Obvious’ sense of humor because you know what, we not only hit the high notes, you forgot to mention we generally hit the ‘right’ notes as well. Every artist has a bad performance or two and that is understandable, but throwing blame will not make the situation at hand any better. I have been criticized left and right for having shaky performances before (and they were shaky) and what my manager or label executives say to me and the public is “I’ll kick butt next time” or “every performance isn’t going to be perfect” ……I bring this up because you should take a lesson from these people and instead of lashing out at other artists (that in your ‘humble’ opinion lack true artistry), you should simply take a breath and realize that sometimes things won’t go according to plan or work out and that’s okay.
One of those contestants from American Idol who only made it because of her high notes
Bonnaroo or Boomeroo? Paul Simon and Paul McCartney are among the headliners rumored to be appearing at the 2010 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, which takes place June 10-13 in Manchester, Tenn.
Given that Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers headlined in 2006, the Police in 2007 and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band in 2009, the festival is definitely paying homage to veteran rockers (although with more than 100 acts, they manage to hit all demographics). There are several reasons for the older acts: Boomers have the money to buy the tickets and, most importantly, most of these vets are among the best performers out there and they still know how to deliver a great show (although most Bonnaroo vets still consider My Morning Jacket the ultimate Bonnaroo band).
In addition to the two Pauls, who are unconfirmed, the Flaming Lips will also play the festival, playing Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” at midnight as June 10 turns to June 11, according to Spinner. The Lips' Wayne Coyne spilled the beans to Spinner, noting that the band's previous performance of the classic album on New Year’s Eve was never meant to be an exclusive. The Simon/McCartney rumors come courtesy of Live Daily.
All will be revealed for sure on Feb. 9 when Bonnaroo’s producers, Superfly Productions and AC Entertainment, roll out the 2010 lineup throughout the day on bonnaroo.com. Additionally, tickets will go on sale at noon EST Feb. 9, marking the first time tickets go on sale simultaneously with the announcement.
You gotta give Carrie Underwood credit: she can go from being a total hottie dressed as a modern-day saloon girl in “Cowboy Casanova” to an angel of sorts in her heartstring-tugging video for her new tune, “Temporary Home.”
If you’ve spent more than five minutes in your entire life listening to country music, you can figure out what the phrase “temporary home” really means here as the first two verses deal with a foster child and a single mother living in a halfway house and it has nothing to do with a permanent four walls and windows. This is the kind of subtle-as-a-slegehammer storytelling that only country music does--sometimes well, sometimes horrible, but just try to imagine Lady GaGa telling a linear tale like this. “T-T-T-Temporary Home…...”
If you still haven’t got a clue, Underwood spells it out for you in the third verse when she visits her dying grandfather. If you aren’t at least tearing up by them, despite the fact that the whole video is hokey and schmaltzy as can be and you’ve seen truer sentiments on Hallmark cards, check your pulse to make sure you actually have a heart that’s still beating. And for God's sake, go call your parents or grandparents.
New report shows total revenue dropped by more than $8 billion. That's a B
Melinda Newman Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010 3:05 AM
It’s not like we needed to see the actual numbers to know that the music industry is in the dumps, but they are shocking nonetheless.
In 1999, total revenue from U.S. music sales and licensing was $14.6 billion, according to Forrester Research. In 2009: $6.3 billion. (Yes, that's a staggering drop of over 50%).
A CNN Money piece also breaks down that album sales have dipped an average of 8% each year from the previous year.
We all know the reasons, but it’s daunting when they are listed all together. Of course, one of the biggest reasons for the decline, according to the article is piracy, followed by the recession, and the digital music business, which many predicted would save the music industry. In case anyone is counting, it was four years between the birth of Napster and the bow of iTunes.
“The digital music business has been a war of attrition that nobody seems to be winning,” David Goldberg, former head of Yahoo Music, told CNN Money. “The CD is still disappearing and nothing is replacing it in entirety as a revenue generator. Indeed, last year’s figures show that digital growth slowed to 2.1% after showing double digit gains for years.
While licensing continues to be a bright spot for the music industry (even if licensing fees have come down for all but the biggest tracks), it’s not enough to stop the decline. The Forrester data predicts that revenues will keep declining through 2014, down to about $5.5 billion.
Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Jon Bon Jovi, Susan Boyle and more chip in on Simon Cowell-led project
Melinda Newman Tuesday, Feb 2, 2010 12:32 PM
While the focus the last few days has been on the 25th anniversary recording of “We Are the World” yesterday, today the Simon Cowell-orchestrated remake of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” snuck out to the internet and radio. Under the name Helping Haiti, the tune will be available for download on Feb. 7 and CD purchase on Feb. 8. All proceeds go to earthquake relief efforts. Listen here.
Interestingly, while the tune features “Britian’s Got Talent” contestant Susan Boyle and “The X Factor” winner Leona Lewis, there are no “American Idol” contestants on here—is Cowell already trying to distance himself from the show? (Jennifer Hudson, a past “AI” runner up is on “We Are the World.”)
The version stays very close to the understated original musically and only swells into a tiny bit of overstatement at the end. Quite frankly, we could have done with more of the choir at the end. As much as I feared that Cowell would take one of R.E.M.’s most poignant, meaningful tunes and turn it into a melodramatic weeper, that hasn’t happened.
The link is to an audio-only version, so part of the fun is trying to figure out who is singing what. Blunt, Bon Jovi, Stewart Boyle are instantly recognizable, but not so much some of the others. What’s your opinion?