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Southern Comforts

Its time for a little bit of (recent) musical history this week.  A couple of nights ago, I watched a programme on BBC Four about the life & musical career of Glen Campbell. The name might not mean anything to any of you, it didn’t mean anything to me either at first. Luckily I stayed on the channel anyway and kept watching, and I’m definitely glad that I did.

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a house where anything goes music wise. That means I’ve been hearing everything from the Rat Pack, to The Clash, to MC Hammer, to Horslips, ever since I can remember. All of these different musical influences meant that I’ve always been open to listening to pretty much anything, and it turned out that I actually knew more about Glen Campbell’s music than I thought.

A country musician at heart, Glen Campbell came from very humble beginnings. However, thanks to his talents, he was not only the lead guitarist on Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night,” but also on Elvis’ huge hit “Viva Las Vegas.” Bearing in mind that this was just in his days as a session musician! Campbell was also a touring member of the Beach Boys between December 1964 and March 1965. He filled in for original Beach Boy Brian Wilson, which was no small task.

Glen Campbell also had huge success as a solo artist, his biggest hits including “Witchita Lineman,” “Southern Nights,” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.” All of these songs went to Number 1 in the US and between 1967 – 2012, Glen received no less than 9 Grammy Awards, including 3 Hall Of Fame Awards. In 2012, he was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, which is undoubtedly well-deserved. Despite having Alzheimer’s, Glen has continued to tour right up until this year, at no less than 77 years of age. He even plans to release another album in the coming months.

Clearly a man of great talent, grit and love for music, Glen Campbell is one of the real legends of music, and not just of country music. You may read this article and think why did I bother? However, I’ve always emphasised the importance of knowing where music came from. So if you do take the time to listen to some of Glen’s music, I really believe you won’t be disappointed.

By @street__heART

- Having spent the last few days listening to some of Glen Campbell’s songs, here’s my favourite if you do want to check him out;

Sittin on the Dock of the Bay - Glen Campbell - lyrics

More Moves, More Often

While music is a huge passion of mine, I have another one that very nearly trumps it, and that’s dancing. Usually on this blog I write about artists or topical issues in music culture, but this time its going to be about a form of creative expression that requires music to survive. It doesn’t really get any more connected than that.

In one particular dance workshop that I took last year, the teacher put the exact connection between music & dance into words. He said that just as a singer uses their voice to express what the music makes them feel, dancers use their bodies to do the very same. Dancers bring the song, its music, its lyrics and its feel, to life. They take what the vocalist has created and bring it to the next level.

Nowadays, dance plays a big part in enhancing people’s experiences with music, even if they don’t realise it. Many famous singers are almost as famous for their moves as they are for their voice. Think of Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, all of these artists have prided themselves on being great dancers as well as great vocalists. Take an even simpler example; the modern day music video. Particularly with the genre of pop, the popularity of having a dance sequence in an artist’s music video has grown hugely. Concerts are another platform, I think we can all agree that dancers enhance the experience of being at a big show.

Despite this obviously positive influence that dance has, it remains an activity that is somewhat underrated. Sure, we see it on TV all the time but I’m talking about the difference between seeing and really watching. Unfortunately the likelihood of someone seeing a dancer in a music video or at a concert and understanding what goes into their performance, is unlikely. Even dancers themselves underestimate it at times!

Having said that, dance is on the up and up and I’m definitely happy about that. What I would really love to see, is a more widespread appreciation for dancers and indeed for dance itself.  Rather than make this a rant about dancers being underappreciated, I wanted this to have a positive spin, showing the importance that they have in today’s music world. I hope that after reading this, you might notice them more than you did before. Trust me, they’re worth watching.

By @street__heART

P.S. If you want to check out some of my favourite dancers, here are the links to their YouTube channels;

http://www.youtube.com/user/DJIcon?feature=watch (Ian Eastwood)

http://www.youtube.com/user/kylehanagami (Kyle Hanagami)

http://www.youtube.com/user/J2ThaBlaze (Johnny Erasme)

Soul Squared

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For those of you who were quick enough to grab a ticket to one of Beyoncé’s European Tour dates, that ticket just became even more valuable. Today, none other than soulful singer Luke James was announced as her support act. This will be a big step in James’ career, as he is yet to really enter the European market. In a way its a kind of circle completion for Luke, who actually made a cameo in the music video for Destiny’s Child track “Soldier” way back in 2005.

This New Orleans singer/songwriter who went to high school with Frank Ocean, has already written for a list of big names including Britney Spears, Justin Bieber & Chris Brown. In terms of his own sound, if you’re looking for pure R&B, then Luke James is it. Childhood musical influences such as Donny Hathaway have helped to mould him into a high quality soulful artist. James is also using his musical influence to impact on social issues, he was recently a speaker for 1st Lady Michelle Obama’s “Move Your Body” campaign, and is one of BET’s Music Matters artists.

Once part of a duo called “Luke & Q,” Luke James launched himself as a solo artist in December of 2011. His first official single “I Want You” released in 2012, was nominated for Best R&B Performance at this year’s Grammy Awards. He is currently putting the finishing touches to his first studio album, entitled “Made To Love.”  The lead single from the upcoming project, called “I.O.U” was released in February.  There’s no doubt that Luke James has tonnes of talent, and I’m looking forward to seeing the impact he makes on Europe as he joins Beyoncé’s “The Mrs Carter Show World Tour.”

You can check out everything Luke James at whoislukejames.com

- by @street__heART

R&B … Lost & Found

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About 2 months ago I wrote a piece on this very blog, wondering where my favourite artist’s spirit and soulfulness had gone to. Today, I am very happy to write the counter-article to that piece, because it looks like Chris Brown is coming back.

The video for Brown’s latest single entitled “Fine China”, premiered today, and the track is also now available on iTunes. Fine China is the lead single from Chris’ upcoming album “X” which is slated for a July/August release. CB has also recently been doing the interview rounds at major radio stations and magazines in the US, giving them a 5-track preview of the upcoming album. This return to interviews and promotion is the breath of fresh air that #TeamBreezy has been waiting for from their favourite artist. Interviews full of honesty, openness and positivity for both the present and the future suggest that Breezy is on his way to a better self.

Chris has even been making frequent returns to his twitter, he took to the social media platform to announce that Nicki Minaj will be featured on “X.” Lyrical maestro Kendrick Lamar will also feature, on a track called “Autumn Leaves.” This album appears by all means to be the physical portrayal of the journey Brown has recently been and indeed is currently still on. Its almost a form of therapy, the most precise way of giving explanations that just words themselves don’t quite get across the meaning of. The album’s title also has its own meaning, as Chris explained to Rolling Stone magazine;

"‘X’ defines everything I’ve been through in my life," Brown says. "It’s the Roman numeral for 10. 5/5/89 is my birthday: 5 plus 5 is 10, and this is my tenth years since I got into music. ‘X’ is the 24th letter in the alphabet, and I’ll have turned 24 when this album comes out. ‘X’ is also a metaphor, as in ‘ex-girlfriend’: it implies you’re progressing and moving on in life, not holding on to the past and your old ways.”

-          rollingstone.com

Both the record and video for “Fine China” have been met with huge praise. The old-school R&B feel of the track and the Michael Jackson vibes of the music video have people saying that together Chris Brown & Justin Timberlake are bringing real R&B back. I for one would be only too happy to see this happen.

By @street__heART

News!

Soooo I’ve just started writing for a brand new British online youth culture magazine called The Wild Youth. Its looking really fantastic and so far I’ve had two articles featured, one about Justin Timberlake “Bringing Greatness Back”, and one about the story behind the REAL Harlem Shake “The Harlem Fake”.

I’m going to do my best to keep updating this blog aswell as writing weekly for The Wild Youth, and I’ll put all the links to the magazine below so you can check it out!

:)

http://www.thewildyouth.co.uk/

http://www.facebook.com/thewildyouthmag?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/thewildyouthmag

PSY-cho Success


In the aftermath of the inescapable worldwide smash “Gangnam Style”, I decided to find out more about the now household name who created it; South Korean artist PSY. I for one, had no idea that PSY had attended two different universities in America, or that he had been called up for military service in the middle of his musical career! It turns out that there is a pretty interesting background story behind the “King of YouTube.”

While most of the world only discovered PSY’s unorthodox musical talents in 2012, he has in fact been releasing music since 2001. PSY has released a total of 6 studio albums, and despite his worldwide success, has actually been quite a controversial artist in his home country of Korea. He was actually fined by the Korean government for what they cited as “inappropriate content” in his debut album “PSY From The Psycho World!.” Both PSY’s 2nd and 5th album were also banned from being sold to those under the age of 19. Even with all of the controversy surrounding the man who had earned himself the nickname “The Bizarre Singer”, he continued to see success in his musical career.

The title song “Champion” from PSY’s third album created a big buzz thanks to its use in the 2002 Football World Cup, which was held in the Korean capital; Seoul. However nothing can rival the breakthrough success of the single “Gangnam Style”, which comes from PSY’s 6th and latest studio album, entitled “PSY 6, Part 1.” The official video for the track was released on July 15th of last year and by August 21st it had charted No.1 on the iTunes Music Video Chart. As of today, Gangnam Style is still the only YouTube video to have reached and surpassed 1 billion views. If you were to add to this all the video views garnered by covers and parodies of the song - even Spongebob got involved – I have no doubt that the number would be mind-blowing.

Even the U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon was eager to work with PSY. The two met on the 23rd of October 2012 at a UNICEF reception in New York. The Secretary General declared that PSY was like a one-man democracy, and joked that PSY could end global warming! Interestingly, PSY announced that his next single to be released on April 13th will be in English, but that there will not be an English version of “Gangnam Style.” I really like this desire to stick to his roots and his realisation of the importance of the things that make him different and therefore successful. Like most people, I found “Gangnam Style” more humourous than anything, but having researched PSY himself, I hope that it won’t just be a case of him being a one-hit-wonder.

Back To The Future

In today’s world, it can seem at times as though music is becoming more background noise for our daily lives or even an instrument for shutting others out than something we really savour. Think about it, almost everyone on every mode of public transport has an iPod with them. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using music as a way to drown out annoying noises, I do it too! My real concern is that at the end of the day we don’t lose the real appreciation for the music we’re listening to.

I honestly believe that the best way to appreciate what you are listening to is to find out where it came from. Go back to the roots. When we’re teenagers we tend not to think about this too much, its more about what is popular, or unpopular in the case of some people’s preferences. However in recent years I have found myself going back to the roots of music a lot. The more new music I find, the more I want to know about how it became what it is today. Maybe its a case of getting a little bit older and wanting to know more about the meaning behind something. From researching the history of music artists and genres on the internet, to reading books about the artists who pioneered the very sounds we still hear today. One specific resource that I want to mention is a film made by rapper Ice-T, called “Something From Nothing: The Art Of Rap.” This film is a documentary detailing the stories and careers of some of the greatest men & women ever to grace rap. After watching the film, I genuinely felt like I had just sat through the most interesting class I’d ever taken. If you have any interest in hip-hop and/or rap in particular, it’s a must-watch. Its title addresses a very important word that I feel should be related to music much more often than it is, and that word is “art.” There is much debate over the “art” or creativity required to produce music in certain genres. Many people disregard techno for example, as being something that only requires pressing buttons on a computer. In reality, the majority of music really is art.

I have been surprised on many occasions when listening to older songs that have influenced a particular genre to hear a beat, a hook, or a lyric that I recognise from a song that’s very popular today. You could hear an instrumental from a classical jazz song that has been manipulated into a pop song today. There are many cross-genre surprises like this. In my opinion, finding these types of songs and understanding the background story makes you appreciate them all the more. Music is like fashion in some regards; in that old trends often return to popularity, while new innovations are constantly happening at the same time too. That is the beauty of something that is so creative; as long as people are being inspired to express themselves through music, the progression will continue.

On a personal level, there are many of us that say we couldn’t live without music. It helps us to get through the tough times, and it makes the great times even better. There are songs that remind us of certain people, places, times, the list goes on. Each of us really does have a soundtrack to our lives. I hope that we continue to enjoy and appreciate the gift that music is.

2013: Time To Fly



A friend of mine recently sent me a link to a duo called “Timeflies” on YouTube. I had never heard of them before and being that I’m always open to new music, I gave them a listen. The link I had received was to Timeflies’ rendition of “We Found Love” by Rihanna. Within 20 seconds I was hooked. So naturally I decided to investigate further.

The duo consists of vocalist Cal Shapiro and producer Rob “Rez” Resnick, who started their YouTube channel “Timeflies4850” on November 17th, 2010. As of today, their channel has amassed over 138,000 subscribers and more than 46 million video views. While some may brand the duo as simply being “cover artists” at first, this is definitely not the case. They began a concept called “Timeflies Tuesday” in March of 2011, where the duo would release either a new freestyle, rendition, live cover, or simply an update for their fans, every Tuesday. A common theme for these videos was that vocalist Cal would be given a set of topics that he had to pull out of a hat and freestlye about. A great example of this is the Halloween inspired “Spell On You” video, where Cal had to freestlye at random about the names of candy bars. The original, fast-paced creativity of this concept definitely keeps the viewer interested and is different from what a lot of other YouTube-based artists are doing. Crossing genres also seems to come easily to the duo, they have remixed everything from The Little Mermaid song “Under The Sea”, to Jay-Z & Alicia Keys’ “Empire State Of Mind”.

Success has come quickly to Timeflies; their first project, a self-released debut album entitled “The Scotch Tape” came out in September of 2011 and reached the Top 10 on iTunes. In July 2012, Timeflies released “Under The Influence”, a 6 track sample-based mixtape. This was followed by the release of a 6-track EP called “One Night”, in November of the same year. It proved to be a big hit for the duo, as it debuted at #1 on the iTunes overall charts. The “One Night” project also spawned its own 30-date national tour, which took place from September to November of 2012 and served to give the duo an even greater amount of exposure. Indeed Timeflies sold out New York’s well-known Terminal 5 venue, which has a capacity of 3,000 people, clearly no small feat.

Timeflies now has their own iPhone App, and they were also named by Billboard as one of the 13 artists to watch in 2013. They are joined on this list by such high quality artists as Olly Murs, HAIM, and Jhené Aiko, this can only be a good sign of things to come. The duo has revealed that they plan to have a new album in stores by Summer of this year, and it looks like 2013 is going to be a big one for Timeflies. They are definitely a new music prospect whose development I am excited about following.

By @street__heART

-       -    You can follow Timeflies on Twitter; @Timeflies , and check out their official website; timefliesmusic.com

Lights, Camera, Maestro!

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Recently on Twitter, Universal Music Group UK tweeted their followers asking the following question;

“What’s your favourite film soundtrack?”

Responses to this tweet included films such as Drive, Les Misérables, Kill Bill, and Sherlock Holmes to name just a few. This sent me off on a train of thought about how much of an importance music really does have in films. It is not always something we think about when we go to see a film, and it probably isn’t the first thing we comment on when we leave the cinema either. However if you actually think about it, music makes an entire world of difference to your movie experience. The real beauty of it is that the music is having this huge effect, and you’re probably not even realising it.

There are many films we can all think of whose scores/soundtracks are extremely well-known and immediately associated with the particular movie to which they belong. Examples include the Lord of The Rings films, the Twilight saga, the Harry Potter franchise, Titanic, Billy Elliot, the list goes on. It is without doubt that the music in these films plays a big part in making them as great as they are, but perhaps it is a factor we take for granted at times.

Imagine if these films had been released without the music and only dialogue, how would we know when a “dementor” was approaching? How would we have heard the heart-breaking sound of the Titanic snapping in two? Personally I will be forever grateful for the extremely talented musicians who contribute so much to my favourite films. Countless world-famous artists from every genre of music have graced the soundtracks of some of the biggest films ever made. Two of the Top 10 Biggest Selling Albums of all time are in fact film soundtracks; #4 “The Bodyguard” (most notable for Whitney Houston’s contribution), and #8 “Saturday Night Fever” (Bee Gee fan heaven).

When I saw the above tweet from Universal, I was surprised that I didn’t actually have to stop and think about what my answer was. I knew straight away, it is a film that I associate countless memories with and that to this day I would happily sit and watch for hours on end.  Music is so much more than background noise in a film. It can influence how you feel about a character, it can make you laugh or cry, it can even make your heart stop because it tells your brain that something terrifying is about to happen. Why not ask yourself the question and see what film you come up with, who knows maybe you’ll come up with a whole list!

By @street__heART

-         You can follow Universal UK on Twitter @UMusicuk

This One Goes Out To All The Fans

 

The concept of being a “fan” came up in conversation a couple of times recently and I really think that it’s a topic worth writing about. One has to look no further than the very site we are currently using, to see the vast and varied meanings of the term “fan”. Tumblr is full of blogs dedicated to singers, rappers, bands, etc etc. What I find interesting and somewhat difficult at times, is the difference between the perceptions of the many fanbases that exist out there on the internet today.

Many people are not willing to describe themselves as a “fan” of a particular artist because of how they will be perceived for doing so. In other words, they don’t want people to assume that they become a screaming, crying, hyperventilating mess whenever they see the artist on TV or in real life. Now before anyone gets upset, I’m not saying there’s anything at all wrong with this kind of reaction. Most of us have either been that way or been fairly close at some point. Another question that came up about fans was “At what age do you stop being a “fan” and become an “admirer of someone’s work?”. By all means this is not an easy question to answer, essentially once again it all comes down to what kind of “fan” you are. If you are the screaming/crying type, you will probably want to end that at some point. However being a laid-back fan doesn’t have a expiry date, at least not in my opinion.

Without a doubt it is Twitter that has made the concept of a “fan” what it is today. Nowadays it is almost protocol for an artist to have a unique name for their online fanbase. The examples are countless; #TeamBreezy, #Mayniacs, #RattPack, #BobbySoxers, #Barbz. Indeed some fans have now even become sort of unpaid marketing directors This has occurred through the introduction of the “Street Team” & “Street Team Leader” concepts, proving that loyal fans are genuinely invaluable today. Artists are truly accessible nowadays thanks to social media. I believe that this has greatly helped them, by giving their supporters a specific identity, it really ties the fans and the artist together. This connection is absolutely vital in maintaining a loyal online fanbase, especially today when digital sales are the dictators.

When I think of what being a modern “fan” means to me, I think of someone who buys an artist’s music, who goes to their shows, who supports them on social media, someone who appreciates the artist as a person. I don’t like to think of a fan as an over the top, intimidating person. That is why I mentioned earlier that I find the “fan” concept difficult at times, because I don’t believe that fans should be labelled. Music is there to be listened to and enjoyed by whoever wants it. Also while you may think at times that you are not being noticed - particularly on Twitter - rest assured that your support is genuinely appreciated by whatever artist you are giving it to. Fans are one of the vital organs of the music industry, and that is one thing that won’t change.

By @street__heART

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