Last night, NBC aired its annual Christmas broadcast. It featured a number of 'live' performances including one from Mariah Carey. Here is Carey singing her famous Christmas tune, "All I Want For Christmas Is You," on the broadcast, with the music, any backing tracks, and her backup singers vocals stripped away. It's Carey's isolated vocals, and yikes, they are not to hot.
Anytime a pop singer performers anything 'live' on TV, take it with a grain of salt. When they're not straight up lip-singing, this is more-or-less what they sound like. This performance is not as bad as it sounds but let's not kid ourselves, it's not good either. Blame it on the cold weather or maybe even Nick Cannon, but this is what passes as a 'live' performance now.0 comments
It’s Black Friday, a day when American consumerism is at its very best, a day when you can get the deal of a lifetime on giant TVs, tablets, cameras and ... records?
Yes, not to be left for dead like the trampled hoards of door-buster shoppers, the music industry has expanded the popular Record Store Day concept to Black Friday, offering limited vinyl pressings and reissues of both new and long-forgotten recordings.
This year’s offering delves deep into 1990s nostalgia. Among the many specialty items are Dave Matthews Band’s initial 1994 EP “Recently,” Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” and They Might Be Giants’ 1990 major label debut “Flood.”
Other highlights include the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack on cassette (just like in the movie!), a Ramones’ best-of album curated by Morrissey and a picture disc of Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” that comes in the shape of the rap collaborative’s iconic logo.
Considering all the Black Friday releases, perhaps this year’s most coveted item, the so-called Holy Grail of early era New York hip-hop, is Rammellzee vs. K-Rob’s recording “Beat Bop.” Produced by the Radiant Child himself, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and featuring his own artwork on the cover, this 10-minute plus track has never been officially reissued since the initial 500 copies came off the press in 1983 and were sold through a New York art gallery.
Initially intended to be rap battle between the famous artist and Rammellzee, “Beat Bop” is an extended back-and-forth barrage of lyrics over a repetitive minimal funk beat. Rammellzee plays the role of a street corner pimp and K-Rob raps from the point of view of a young boy coming home from school.
While the continuous interplay between Rammellzee and K-Rob is impressive, Basquiat’s contribution to the actual recording of “Beat Bop” goes well beyond floating the cash to record the song.
What makes “Beat Bop” so interesting is Basquiat’s influence over the entire track and how it mirrors his own work as a fine artist. The minimal beat is credited to him, as well as the decision to include such heavy processing and effects such as chorus, delay and echo.
The use of these effects give the track new levels of dimension, previously unheard in early era hip-hop, and highlight a number of Rammellzee and K-Rob’s lyrics in much the same way as the scrawling words across canvases and New York City walls highlighted messages in Basquiat’s paintings and graffiti.
“Beat Bop” doesn’t follow any traditional rules and is a free-form dichotomy of street life, both traits typical in Basquiat’s work as a painter.
“Beat Bop” is an experimental and witty recording that is decidedly not SAMO (the artist’s original graffiti tag name, meaning “Same Old S$@!”) and is cited alongside The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” as one of old school rap’s essential songs.
Though less celebrated than its two counterparts, “Beat Bop” was nonetheless an influential record to a number of well-known hip-hop artists, including El-P, B-Real of Cypress Hill and, most notably, the Beastie Boys, who sampled the track on “B-Boys Makin’” from 1994’s “Ill Communication” and on “Jimmy James from 1992’s “Check Your Head.”
The Black Friday reissue again features Basquiat’s original artwork, which, by the way, includes a misspelling of Rammellzee’s name on the back cover, and an insert featuring interviews with those who helped create the landmark recording.
I’m sure very few will be beating down store doors the morning of Friday, Nov. 28, to get a copy of “Beat Bop,” but for hard core record collectors and fans of early hip-hop, there is no better Black Friday deal than this exclusive, genre defining reissue.
In European postage news, Swedish/Danish postal company Postnord recently announced a new line of special edition postage stamps featuring five of their hottest homegrown pop music acts.
EDM superstar Avicii, dance hall queen Robyn, sister folk duo First Aid Kit, pop singer Seinabo Sey and super producer Max Martin will all be immortalized on a series of snail mail stamps available in January.
The stamp series features hand drawn pencil renderings by artist Jenny Mortsell and are meant to honor Sweden’s long and successful contribution to pop music. It’s a small country, but Sweden’s been a hotbed for talent: ABBA, the Cardigans, Ace of Base, Opeth, Swedish House Mafia, the Hives, etc.
And while hardly anyone pays attention to what’s actually on a stamp, this series got me thinking. If the United States were to release a limited run of stamps featuring contemporary pop musicians, who would be picked?
The United States has a long history of featuring musicians on its stamps, but if we were to make a new list featuring a DJ, a dance vocalist, a band, a pop singer and a producer, who would we honor? Which artist would illustrate it?
I have some ideas ...
It’s difficult to condense a nation’s worth of talent down to five spots, but I’ll do my best.
Let’s start with the DJ spot. A number of American DJs have made a worldwide impact on the EDM scene. Skrillex would be the obvious choice, but I couldn’t possibly allow anyone who actively popularized dubstep, the most offensive genre of music in the history of music, to appear on a stamp.
I would go with the hit-maker Calvin Harris, but he has fewer facial expressions than Derek Zoolander, so that leaves the long-haired, cake-throwing party-starter Steve Aoki as the clear choice.
Now as far as I can tell, the only reason stamps and postage still exist is to communicate key plot points in Wes Anderson films. But if anyone can get people excited about mail again, it’s got to be Katy Perry. Her eye-popping confections are just what the U.S. Postal Service needs to get young people back in the mail game.
Perry is on an amazing hot streak and outside of gold, she’s our nation’s greatest commodity.
I’m really tempted to pick someone ridiculous, such as Slipknot, to fill the band spot just because it would be hilarious to think about my 92-year-old grandma licking the back of a stamp featuring the masked metal icons just so she could send me a Thanksgiving card.
Let’s get real, though. There’s not a lot of great bands to choose from at the moment, so Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” band, The Roots, get the honor just because.
The fourth stamp is easy. It’s the Snow Queen, Elsa, from “Frozen.” I hear you arguing for Beyonce, but seriously, let it go. Ask any kid under 12. Elsa is the most important vocalist in music right now.
Finally, on the American front there are plenty of great producers to turn to. Rick Rubin or Dr. Dre would both be worthy. T Bone Burnett would be a timely choice based on his body of work and what he recently did on Bob Dylan’s “Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes,” but we’re looking for someone who has made a significant impact on the pop music scene.
My choice is Pharrell Williams. His producer credits both solo and as part of the Neptunes are incredible. Pharrell is the most in tune with what’s currently popular in music (see The Voice). He and his Arby’s hat would look good on our postage.
As for the artist, we need something graphic and bold. Shepard Fairey’s my choice. He’s the designer behind the “Obey” campaign and the Obama “Hope” poster.
Obviously, the U.S. Postal Service will never go for any of these suggestions and probably will release another run of Elvis stamps, but no matter.
They’re just stamps.0 comments
Have you ever eaten a sloppy fast food hamburger after tasting a deliciously constructed burger from, say, Bin 707? Ever choked down a chemically modified, tasteless beef patty that vaguely resembles the fresh and flavorful bite your body is actually craving? Stuffed your gullet with something only resembling in shape the mouth-watering perfection ingrained in your memory?
That fast food burger is akin to the latest cover album by psychedelic heroes the Flaming Lips.
“With A Little Help From My Fwends” is a track-for-track tribute to the Beatles masterpiece and unanimously beloved 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Unfortunately, while “Fwends” does enough to entice a bite, it comes nowhere close to complete satisfaction like the delightful original.
“Fwends” is an ambitious effort, much like the original, and that’s where the similarities end.
Featuring nearly 30 guest performers like Tegan & Sera, My Morning Jacket, J. Mascis, and Dr. Dog, the album’s scale is massive. With so many guest performers jammed into only 13 tracks though, things get pretty hectic right out of the gate.
From its opening synths and wobbly pitched vocals on the iconic title track, it’s pretty clear your time would be better spent listening to the original album. Outside of a few well done covers (“She’s Leaving Home” featuring Phantogram, for example) and some nice use of modern technology to add new wandering depths to “Fixing A Hole” and “Within You Without You,” there’s not a lot to get excited about.
The fun and unpredictability the Beatles gave us on the original “Sgt. Pepper’s” is ruined by a messy composition at the hands of what sounds like schizophrenic drug addicts. (At least when the Beatles took drugs they made hit records.)
The Beatles songs you know and love are there somewhere, but their memorable melodies are buried so deep beneath annoying fuzz and laser rolls that the majority are almost unrecognizable. I suppose that’s the point, to try and create something unique and different than a note-for-note cover, but with source material so ubiquitous it’s nearly impossible to achieve.
Every added note on “Fwends” seems unnecessary, and it’s absolutely unbelievable that the album’s only saving grace is Miley Cyrus. Yes. That Miley Cyrus.
Her guest vocal on “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds,” and particularly on Paul McCartney’s middle contribution to “A Day In the Life,” are far and away the album’s best moments.
The Flaming Lips have proven up to the task of remaking landmark albums before. Their take on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” was well done and much more interesting.
Maybe this time the original album is just too good to mess with, or maybe the Flaming Lips have finally run out of good ideas. It certainly doesn’t help that the band only truly appears on a handful of songs and left the remainder of the album to be completed without their direct supervision.
The Flaming Lips, while not a bad band in their own right, are just another in a long line of musicians who have tried to stand toe-to-toe with the Beatles and failed. Their version of “Sgt. Pepper’s” is nowhere near as corny as Peter Frampton and Barry Gibb’s version, but it’s amazing to think this tribute album isn’t even as trippy and weird as the 1967 original.
The genius of the original comes from the Beatles recording magic. They used the recording studio as another instrument through overdubbing, sampling, reverse playback, multi-tracking, and signal processing. Using all the tricks the Beatles and George Martin became famous for, they created something that sounded like nothing ever before.
If anything, “Fwends” proves that almost 50 years later, bands are still trying to catch up to the Beatles’ brilliance. And while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, sometimes it sits in your gut like a brick with regret.0 comments
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