Adele has snagged an Oscar nomination for her James Bond theme from “Skyfall” while the film was snubbed. No Bond song has ever won an Academy Award for best song, but that category was a disgrace for years.
Adele’s “Skyfall” theme already has over 37 million views on YouTube. Wow! It just shows that for the biggest stars, the music industry is doing just fine, and that music is still an incredibly important part of the pop culture sauce.
But the music business is incredibly fractured, and the whole structure has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. The road to success can take many different forms, and Adele is just one example as she got a recording contract offer after a friend posted her demo on Myspace. So of course the Internet is an important ingredient for every young band or artist. Then we have the music competitions like “American Idol” and “The Voice” that can get unbelievable exposure for young artists.
But few people can get on those programs, so if you want to work as a performer in the music business, you have to be willing to work at promotion. Fortunately, most young people have a good grasp on things like the Internet and social media, which can be incredible tools. But the smart ones are also using the old, time-tested tools of doing shows and then promoting them on the ground with flyers and brochures. For these types of things, you may not need custom printing as simple flyers can work to get the word out. But, image is everything in the entertainment business, and investing in some glossy and slick posters and handouts can do wonders, and these are now more affordable with options like cheap printing brochures at UPrinting or other options online. But you have to do all this together. Before a show, make sure to have videos posted on YouTube. Promote the show through Twitters, Facebook and other social media. Have your team use Twitter and Facebook the day of the show. Then, make sure to post cool photos and videos after the show. If you put the work in, you’ll see the results!
This video from Adele – “Rolling in the Deep” – has over 188 million views. Wow!
It’s a stunning song and she is an incredible new artist. She’s talented and very unique. She’s not just following trends as she sets her own path. Of course the video is excellent as well.
It’s always fun to see an artist come in and shake everything up. With the upcoming Grammys, is there any doubt that Adele is going to have a big night?
These are the kinds of things fans love arguing about, and betting on! The interest in entertainment betting odds keeps growing, the award shows like the Grammys are always a big hit. People love to guess stuff like this and the participate in office pools or games online. People can have fun with reviews and gossip, but there’s nothing like competition to get the fans going. Remember when Kanye opened his big mouth? People love controversy!
It may not hit you all at once, but the more you listen to and read about singer/songwriter Dan Wilson, the more you realize just how many cool friends and colleagues the guy has. It’s not that he co-founded rock band Semisonic and had some overnight success with “Closing Time,” or that he won a Grammy when co-writing some tracks from the Dixie Chicks’ 2006 album Taking the Long Way. Wilson has written with or is slated to write with the likes of Josh Groban, Adele, the Bravery, Keith Urban, Jason Mraz and KT Tunstall. But he is as riveting a solo performer as you’ll ever see and hear, based on his timeless songs and instantly recognizable voice.
While he’s between studio albums, fans of Wilson can enjoy the digitally-released Live at the Pantages, recorded in Wilson’s hometown of Minneapolis and featuring songs from his acclaimed Free Life album from 2007, as well as a few of the old Semisonic stand-bys. He begins with a solo acoustic set on guitar and piano and then comes back with a full band set, both with his voice and the songs front and center. You won’t find a live album anywhere this clean, sonically. And the songs are bordering on stunning – in particular when Wilson plays “Honey Please” from Free Life, or “Secret Smile” from the landmark Semisonic album, Feeling Strangely Fine. But here is what separates Wilson from any other singer/songwriter – the two brilliant co-writes her performs here—“All Will Be Well,” with Nashville roots rocker Gabe Dixon, and “One True Love,” written along with the great Carole King and first appearing on Semisonic’s All About Chemistry. If you don’t have goose bumps now, you will when hear Wilson sing the latter. In all, Live at the Pantages is a truly awesome storytelling effort. (Ballroom Music 2010)
I used to have a thing about my musical tastes. I so desperately wanted them to be cool, or at the very least be something that only a handful of people were privy to. (I was tempted to say ‘hip’ instead of ‘privy,’ but you can’t spell ‘hipster’ without ‘hip,’ and God knows I’m not hip enough to be a hipster.) My friend Kathi, she has obscenely cool taste in music. I’m surprised she’s friends with me, since I surely bring her cool factor down by a good 20 points.
Then a couple of years ago, I realized – who the hell cares? A great song is a great song, and it doesn’t really matter how popular – or unpopular – it is. I can’t tell you how freeing that was, and I have a very well-known blogger to thank for it. When she admitted to me in private how much she enjoyed a band at Lollapalooza, only to dismiss them a few days later in her column, I realized that it was completely pointless to pander to hipster elitism. You’re being dishonest with yourself, and the hipsters are only going to turn on you in the end, anyway.
So I turned a blind eye to what was a pop song versus what was a “pop” song, as it were, and realizing that there was no distinction between the two made everything soooooo much easier. So here we are in 2009, and as part of our recap of the best music the decade had to offer, I have to try to apply this whole revisionist history viewpoint to the entire decade, which is no mean feat, to say the least. It therefore makes sense that assembling one big-ass list of songs will look like the work of someone with multiple personalities, so instead they are cut up into bite-sized lists for easier consumption, with YouTube links for the uninitiated.
Top 10 Modern Rock Songs of the 2000s 10. “Do You Want To,” Franz Ferdinand
“Take Me Out” was the bigger hit, but this song swings like Austin Powers in the jungle. Nice riff on “My Sharona” in the break, too.
3. “Laura,” Scissor Sisters
For all the progress that was made this decade in terms of hip hop and black culture becoming more accepted on pop radio, it appears that the gays still have a long road ahead of them. Pity.
2. “Never Miss a Beat,” Kaiser Chiefs
They opened their set at Lollapalooza with this. The only other band to grab me by the throat like that with their opening song is, well, My #1…
1. “Knights of Cydonia,” Muse
September 11, 2006, Columbus, Ohio. Muse opens their set with this song, blows the roof off the place.
4. “Hey Ya,” Outkast
Andre 3000 finally picks up a guitar to write a song, and this, THIS, is the first thing that comes out. Mother, fucker.
3. “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
When my mom comes home from a trip to see my brother on the east coast and tells me about a song she heard by a band whose name is similar to some celebrity or other, I know that said celebrity knockoff band has struck a chord.
2. “99 Problems,” Jay-Z
“You crazy for this one, Rick!” Actually, Jay-Z, you have it the other way around. You crazy if you make this song with anyone other than Rick Rubin.
1. “Umbrella,” Rihanna
It was at least a year before I made the effort to find out what the hubub was about this damn “Umbrella” song. And then I heard it. Holy shit, this song pisses genius.
Big in the UK 7. “LDN,” Lily Allen
No guy wants to hear his ex tell the world what a lousy lover he is, but is there a man alive that doesn’t want a shot at Lily Allen?
6. “Nearer Than Heaven,” Delays
My favorite new musical expression of the decade: skyscraper, used to describe a song with soaring melodies. And this puppy’s the Empire State Building.
5. “Boyfriend,” Alphabeat
That this album didn’t even see the light of day in the States shows just how myopic our views of pop music have become.
1. “Kids,” Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue
Another song I thought had a shot at cracking the US charts. Funky verses, slammin’ choruses, what’s not to love? Robbie Williams, apparently. He never gained the traction here that other UK singers did. Strange.
Best Pop Songs You Never Heard
Of course, you probably have heard most of these songs, but I didn’t have another category to place them in, so they’re going here instead.
“Nice,” Duran Duran
Easily the band’s best song since “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” Anyone who likes Rio but has since given up on the band, go listen to this at once.
“I Believe She’s Lying,” Jon Brion
Los Angeles’ resident mad genius of pop finally gets his 1997 album Meaningless released in early 2001. Power pop fans proceed to lose their minds. And can you blame them? Listen to that drum track. It’s like the piano solo to “In My Life,” gone drum ‘n bass.
“She’s Got My Number,” Semisonic
Where an otherwise straightforward pop band goes off the deep end into delicious, melancholy strangeness. One of my bigger interview thrills was getting to tell Dan Wilson how much I loved this song.
“Can We Still Be Friends?,” Mandy Moore
Dan Wilson reference #2: he sings backing vocals on this shockingly good Todd Rundgren cover. People have scoffed at the notion of Ryan Adams marrying someone like Mandy. Not me.
“Buildings and Mountains,” Republic Tigers
Truly a band out of time, which is exactly why I love them. I wonder if the reason A-ha is breaking up is because they heard this song and thought, “Damn, they do us better than we do.”
This Estonian princess is an odd little bird, but that’s what I like about her. This ballad closes her debut album with quite the quiet storm.
“Road to Recovery,” Midnight Juggernauts
Another band whose lack of success has me scratching my head. It’s the best dance album Peter Murphy never made, or the best rock album Daft Punk never made, one of the two. Or both.
My sincere apologies to the following bands, who also deserve mention:
Divine Comedy, Noisettes, Pet Shop Boys, Doves, Rialto, Beck, White Stripes, Rufus Wainwright, Kenna, Mylo, Pete Yorn, Apples in Stereo, Hard-Fi, The Thorns, Rock Kills Kid, The Hours, Derek Webb, Glen Hansard, Aimee Mann, Kirsty MacColl, Gorillaz, Air, Charlotte Sometimes, Mika, Def Leppard, Coldplay, Chicane, Elastica, XTC, and about 50 others.
Polly Scattergood is the latest graduate of the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology to end up with a record deal. Past graduates from prestigious London school include Amy Winehouse, Imogen Heap, Adele and every member of the rock group Noisettes. It seems that school in “Fame” has nothing on this place. Her self-titled debut shows the promise of the school’s past alumni, even if it is a bit uneven at times. Most of that potential shows itself in “I Hate The Way,” a seven-minute confessional of an opening number that shares the details of a failed relationship with brutal honesty, stark imagery and sonic beauty. It’s an amazing song and a brilliant introduction to the album, so brilliant that nothing that follows has any chance of living up to it. Pitfalls that follow include “Please Don’t Touch,” a strange pop song about obsessive men, and “Bunny Club,” which features the befuddling refrain of “I’ve got a dog and a gun and I’m living in London.” Many of the lesser tracks on Scattergood’s self-titled debut try to confine her quirkiness to an electronic-pop sound, she works much better when she embraces her wild side, with bold and daring tracks like “Nitrogen Pink” and “Untitled 27” where she lets her voice and her powerful lyrics loose without restraint. It may not be perfect but the potential here is off the charts. Fans of Kate Bush and Emmy the Great should definitely take notice now. (Mute, 2009)
Perhaps due to the waning days of the mortifying political regime we’ve been burdened with for eight years, not to mention ongoing economic palpitations that finally erupted into a full-blown global meltdown, 2008 turned out to be a pretty fantastic year for music. Classic R&B/soul sounds seem to be making a comeback, the indie kids have finally figured out how to absorb ’80s music influences in a more meaningful, less derivative way, pop music (whether or not it’s actually popular) is everywhere, and hard rock is finally seeing something of a resurgence (albeit only slightly at this point). Maybe it has more to do with the death knell sounding for the record industry? It’s pretty obvious at this point that while the CD business is pretty hurting these days, the music business is doing just fine, thank you very much.
Top 10 Albums (New Releases)
Deerhunter: Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Most mature effort yet from this Atlanta-based five-piece, blending their shoegazer-noise art-rock into a more melodic and much mightier mix. It’s a two-fer as well, seeing as their third album Microcastle was co-released with the bonus Weird Era Cont., a move which, with all the drama surrounding this band, should surprise no one.
Airborne Toxic Event: Airborne Toxic Event
This band’s been compared to everyone from Springsteen to Franz Ferdinand, and I’m usually turned off by bands who sound like they’ve dug no further into rock history than 1983, but there’s something about this debut that keeps me coming back for more.
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
Joyous, hypnotic, neo-psychedelic and catchy-as-hell. It’s pure ‘80s-influenced indie dance rock, but beyond the sheer grooviness of it all, MGMT is deeply experimental and hard to pin down (in a good way, of course).
The Black Kids: Partie Traumatic
Beyond the vibe – a Robert Smith meets Tom Tom Club kind of thing – it’s the songs that stand out on this fun and highly danceable album. Anthemic sing-alongs either work or they don’t. Here, they work…despite the occasional inane rhyming couplets.
The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
Craig Finn, Tad Kubler & Co. just keep getting better – and achieving ever-bigger heights – with each new release. Okay, Springsteen comparisons still abound…but those only pertain to the lyrical nature of the songs and Finn’s vocal delivery. The music is riff-heavy cock rock most of the time…and if anything’s desperately missing from a lot of new music, it’s that classic rock connection. “Our psalms are sing-a-long songs,” indeed.
New York Dolls: Live at the Fillmore East – December 28 & 29, 2007
Fully expecting to dislike this live set from late last year because it wasn’t the “real” Dolls, I think what I like best about it is hearing all these tunes with an updated sound, a sonic blast of power that the originals just never had – at least as you hear them on the original band’s scant recorded output. Whatever Johansen’s motivation, I only wish there were more than 10 songs!
Clinic: Do It!
Maybe these guys aren’t doing anything differently because…they don’t have to! Their retro fuzzed-out garage vibe just plain works. Still. Though I am a little tired of the surgeon’s masks, heh-heh.
Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
A hell of a lot of noise for just two guys. Equally epic and spacey, they’ve actually achieved new heights with their blissed-out melodies, layered sonic wash and experimental but grounded approach. Beauty abounds here, even an acoustic side not always apparent on previous albums.
The Walkmen: You & Me
A great album from a great band. Softer than Bows + Arrows, but no less powerful. In fact, tempering the anger and bile (as in “The Rat”) has allowed them to find new depths in their fairly eclectic songwriting.
Spiritualized: Songs in A & E
Jason Pierce’s best since Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Blistering, blissful and beautiful. Welcome back.
“The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty,” Dandy Warhols
If you think you’ve got this band pegged, one listen to this epic tale will set you straight.
“Surprise,” Gnarls Barkley
Upbeat, but with a definite ‘60s surf-vibe. Not as instantly classic as “Crazy,” but what is?
“Sure Hope You Mean It,” Raphael Saadiq
The opening track off this phenomenal album will blast you right back to Detroit (or Memphis) circa 1963.
“You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds w/ Regina Spektor
Perhaps the best song on this uneven set, it’s more touching than bitter, which is probably why it rises above most of the rest. Regina doesn’t hurt, either.
“Crawl,” Kings of Leon
A blistering slab of riff rock. Very nice.
“Right as Rain,” Adele
Lots of great cuts on this New British Soul chanteuse’s debut, but this is the one that does it for me every time. A unique and amazing voice.
“Dance with Me,” Old 97s
It’s been a while since I listened to Rhett Miller’s work. I guess it took amping up the volume, guitars and energy a bunch to do it for me again.
“Business Time,” Flight of the Conchords
This song about the monotony of married sex cracks me up every time I hear it, and it’s a good, well-played and -produced tune in addition to the laugh-out-loud funny.
“Wreck My Flow,” The Dirtbombs
Perhaps the best song on this not-their-strongest effort.
“Salute Your Solution,” The Raconteurs
A powerhouse of a jam, it’s a gritty sonic blast that’s better than anything on Icky Thump, that’s for sure.
Abraham Simpson once succinctly explained about how he used to be “with it,” but then they changed what “it” was. Suddenly what he was “with” wasn’t “it,” and what was “it” seemed weird and scary to him. He then pointed a bony finger at his son Homer and said, “It’ll happen to you.”
It happened to me this year.
The thing is, I’m okay with it. Pop is a young man’s game, and I just turned 40, so the vast majority of songs climbing the charts are not aimed at me. In fact, I feel sorry for anyone who feels compelled to remain hip and cool as they hit their late 30s. It’s hard work, and you will invariably find yourself on the other side of the fence from the hordes of people who think (insert indie band of the week here) are the saviors of rock and roll. Don’t fight it: embrace it. Circle of life, etc.
Having said that, I made a concerted effort this year to give a listen to the music that was being aimed at our impressionable youth and see if I could hear what they hear. After trolling through the muck that is Rocco’s ”Umma Do Me” and contemplating whether I wanted to live on the same planet with people who gave Rocco their hard-earned money, I found a few pop singers that I quite liked. The problem is that no one bought their records, which sums up my CD collection – and my favorite songs and albums from 2008 – better than anything: pop music that isn’t popular. Sigh.
Top 10 albums of 2008
1. Midnight Juggernauts: Dystopia
A little Goth rock, a little Daft Punk dance, a little Muse-ish paranoia, and a whole lot awesome.
2. Panic at the Disco: Pretty. Odd
The kids, apparently, were furious with Panic at the Disco’s decision to make a, ahem, more traditional pop album. To that I say: fuck the kids, Panic. I’ll take this over the needlessly wordy songs from your first album any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
3. Airborne Toxic Event: Airborne Toxic Event
I still haven’t read Pitchfork’s brutal 1.6-rated review of this album. Just knowing that they would do such a thing to an album so completely undeserving – their song “Sometime Around Midnight” is worthy of three or four points all by itself – is confirmation that I need not worry what their opinion is about anything, ever.
4. Attic Lights: Friday Night Lights
Odds are the debut album by this Scottish quintet will never see the light of day in the States. The reason? It’s filled with smart, sunny, harmony-laden pop songs that aren’t produced within an inch of their lives, which fell out of favor with Stateside radio programmers about ten years ago. Still, I’m willing to bet that more people are listening to this album ten years from now than anything Akon ever does.
5. Republic Tigers: Keep Color
Much like the Attic Lights, though the Tigers were lucky enough to get their fabulous debut album released on this side of the pond. Being American certainly had a lot to do with that, though it didn’t help them much with getting on the radio. I guess that spot on the “Gossip Girl” soundtrack will have to suffice.
6. Raphael Saadiq: The Way I See It
Again, showing my age here, but this is my idea of R&B. Saadiq’s slavish attention to detail results in the finest Smokey Robinson album in decades. Could have done without the drop-in by Jay-Z, though.
7. They Might Be Giants: Here Come the 123s
So maybe I am into music aimed at the kids, if the kids happen to be my two-year-old. They Might Be Giants’ follow-up to their wildly popular Here Come the ABCs is even better; “Seven” was produced by the Dust Brothers, for crying out loud, and the kids’ screams of “We want cake! Where’s our cake!” will stick in your head for days. The videos on the accompanying DVD are awesome as well. Anyone with a toddler should buy this, stat.
8. Joe Jackson: Rain
At long last, a proper follow-up to Ben Folds Five’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner.
9. Sunny Day Sets Fire: Summer Palace
Think New Pornographers, on a global scale.
10. Benji Hughes: A Love Extreme
Occasionally juvenile, yes, but hot damn, is Hughes hard to beat when he’s on his game. Look for Beck to cover half of the songs here before long.
“Chasing Pavements,” Adele
This song went Top 10 in eight countries. In the States, it peaked at #82. Jesus, people.
“You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds w/ Regina Spektor
The one truly brilliant moment on his most recent album, though once you’ve been married four times, you should by law lose the right to complain about how it’s your ex’s fault.
“I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab for Cutie
Eight and a half minutes of delusional stalkerism disguised as bold determination. We’re used to the former from them, but not the latter. Bravo.
“Money, It’s Pure Evil,” Bigelf
I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison yet, but I’m pretty sure a chunk of the guitar solo here is taken note-for-note from “Comfortably Numb.”
Hollies, Hollies, Hollies, get your vocals here.
“Join with Us,” The Feeling
For being a bunch of pop boys, they freaking bring it at the end. As of press date, their second album (this is the title track) has no US release date. D’oh.
“This Is Only,” Charlotte Sometimes ‘She’s Half My Age,’ Crush #1. I am positively smitten with this girl. Cute as a button, sassy lyricist and with one of the most unique voices in pop, I can’t believe a major actually signed her. And that’s part of the hypocrisy with the music press: had this been an indie release, and not as slickly produced, people would be lining up with Liz Phair-style rapture for the girl. Ugh.
“Fragile,” Kerli ‘She’s Half My Age,’ Crush #2. Here’s another one that would be better served positioning herself as a modern rock goddess than a Goth-tinged popster, and this song’s the proof. Oh, and don’t ever use the ‘G’ word in her presence, if you don’t want your eyes gouged out.
“Slave to the Rhythm,” Shirley Bassey
Dame Shirley Bassey covering Grace Jones, with Primal Scream’s “Loaded” serving as the drum track. Does it get any cooler than that?
“Girls,” Walter Meego
Daft Punk, crossed with David Cassidy.
“They Live,” Evil Nine
Daft Punk, crossed with zombies.
“Sensual Seduction“/”My Medicine,” Snoop Dogg
Pity Marvin Gaye isn’t still alive to cover the former. Pity Johnny Cash isn’t still alive to cover the latter.
Never let me down…again: Artists I love making albums I thought were just all right
Aimee Mann: @#%&*! Smilers
She may have hated making albums for the majors, but they sure were better when she did.
Better than Good Stuff, but that’s not exactly saying much.
Gary Louris: Vagabonds
I still think he has one of the finest voices in music, but this record could have used a couple shifts in tempo.
Are all of the good band names truly gone? You’d certainly think so, judging from some of the releases we saw this year. Even good bands – including two bands in my Top 10 – gave themselves bad names. Here is a small list of the ones I found to be particularly bad.
Unicycle Loves You
Biography of Ferns
Does It Offend You, Yeah?
Airborne Toxic Event
Sunny Day Sets Fire
Uh Huh Her
The Sound of Animals Fighting
What Laura Says
The Number Twelve Looks Like You
Dancer vs. Politician
We Landed on the Moon
Phony of the Year
Katy Perry. “I Kissed a Girl” and “Ur So Gay” are such manufactured controversy that even Madonna blushed.