This Week In Music:
Fans of live performances were highly pleased this week as several artists were announced to appear on upcoming shows and festivals. First, a few notable artists were added to the 56th Grammy Awards performers list. Katy Perry, Lorde, Robin Thicke, and special performances from Stevie Wonder (with Daft Punk) and Metallica have all been added to the bill of the January 26th show. In addition, the upcoming NFL Super Bowl will be highlighted by special performances throughout the week. The Black Keys, John Legend, and Band Of Horses will put on special concerts for Citi cardholders as a part of a series of functions that are set to lead up to the Super Bowl on February 2nd. Finally, the annual Coachella festival has announced its star-studded 2014 lineup. Taking place over two weekends in April, the festival will be headlined by Arcade Fire, Muse, and the newly reunited duo Outkast. In its 14 year run, Coachella is putting on what could possibly be their most talked about lineup in recent years.
In other news, Guggenheim Media announced that Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter have a new person running the show. On Tuesday, it was officially announced that Janice Min will now serve as Co-President/Chief Creative Officer of the Entertainment Group of Guggenheim Media, a role which is an expansion for her and effective immediately. In her new role, Min will be responsible for leading Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter as the authority of the editorial direction of the brands. We congratulate Janice Min on her growth within such an established company, and look forward to what the brand will offer in the coming future.
In more controversial news, rapper Young Jeezy turned himself in last Friday to face charges which he incurred in September of 2012, involving an altercation with his son. The rapper was arrested for battery, false imprisonment, and making threats, according to a court report cited by TMZ. The report also gives in-depth details on the altercation, noting punching, dragging, choking, and death threats (“If I could get away with it, I would kill you”). Jeezy’s lawyer did not comment on the charges, but noted that they hoped the situation would resolve itself soon.
DJ Drama lands a new gig as an A&R for Atlantic Records
Conor Oberst responds to anonymous sexual assault allegations
Curren$y, The Clipse, The Cool Kids announce new projects
Jay-Z brings in $1 Million with Barneys
The-Dream announces split with Def Jam
Lionel Richie, Mary J. Blige, and Erykah Badu to play Essence Festival
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears dominate People’s Choice Awards
Chris Brown rejects plea deal on assault charge
Nas will be honored at the upcoming Vibe Impact Awards
Kid Ink set to debut near the top of the Billboard 200
Beyonce – “God Made You Beautiful”
Common – “War”
Broken Bells – “After The Disco”
Yelawolf – “Louder” (ft. Inkmonstarr)
Chromeo – “Come Alive” (ft. Toro Y Moi)
Zo! – “We Are On The Move” (ft. Eric Roberson & Phonte) Video
Maffew Ragazino – Brownsville’s Jesus
Keyshia Cole – “Loyal Freestyle” (ft. Lil Wayne & Sean Kingston)
Freddie Gibbs – “One Eighty Seven” (ft. Problem) Video
Nickelus F – “Painkillerz” Video
Hot 100: Pitbull – “Timber” (ft. Ke$ha)*
Radio: Eminem – “The Monster” (ft. Rihanna)
Digital: Pitbull – “Timber” (ft. Ke$ha)
200: “Frozen” Soundtrack
R&B: Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Rap: Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Rock: Lorde – Pure Heroine
Independent: Garth Brooks – Blame It On My Roots
*Indicates New Entry
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…
Well, this isn’t entirely true. In reality, your parents are somewhere attempting to shatter the world record for the least amount of noise made while wrapping presents. Your younger siblings are probably huddled around the family room television watching The Grinch, waiting to catch the elusive Saint Nick and deliver his snicker doodles alongside his glass of milk. For fear of being annoyed by the young ones, your relatives are poking around every room other than the guest room in search of nothing in particular. And you? Well, you could’ve been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with us. And we appreciate that. To show you how thankful we are, The Listening presents our list of our favorite artists of the year 2013. Whether you are looking for your latest music fix, grasping for midnight-hour stocking stuffer ideas, or biding your time until the gifts are unwrapped, we’ve got you covered.
This week in music:
If you visited sites such as Wikipedia or Google on Wednesday, you noticed the protests of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The proposed act (which was scheduled to be voted upon next week) would essentially give the U.S. Attorney General the power to cut ad dollars and search engine indexing while censoring the internet tremendously in the process. Seeing as the internet is a huge part of the music industry today, it is imperative that we are all knowledgeable on the subject and fight to protect our first amendment right to freedom of speech. The protest was tremendously successful, as it seemingly swayed many House voters into opposition of the bill and postponed the voting process.
Legendary songstress Etta James passed away Friday morning at the age of 73. The sultry blues vocalist died of complications due to leukemia, which she was diagnosed with in 2010. Known most for her song “At Last”, she will be remembered along with the countless others who we have lost recently. Kings Of Leon drummer Nathan Followill commented, “RIP Etta James, one of the greatest voices of all time,” a sentiment we can all agree with. James was survived by her husband and two sons, who were at her bedside when she passed.
The Paid Dues Independent Hip Hop Festival announced its lineup of artists for 2012 on Thursday. Hosted by LA artist MURS, the seventh annual Paid Dues festival will take place on April 7th at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. The show will be headlined by the legendary group Wu-Tang Clan, who will be joined by other teeming groups such as Odd Future, Living Legends, Hieroglyphics, and Dipset. Also among the fray are Kendrick Lamar and DJ Quik. This year’s show is stacked and should live up to the quality we have come to expect from the festival.
Brandy and Monica announce the release date of their new duet “It All Belongs To Me”
The Mars Volta announces new album, Nocturniquet, to be released March 27th
Odd Future announces March 20th release date for debut album
Barack Obama shouts out Janelle Monae during speech; calls her “incredibly talented”
Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius push back WZRD album to February 28th
Santigold drops “Big Mouth”, lead single from her Master Of My Make Believer album
Estelle releases a video for “Thank You”, a single from her forthcoming All Of Me album
Dizzee Rascal reissues his 2003 Mercury Prize award-winning debut Boy In Da Corner
De La Soul returns without Maseo to release new music as duo First Serve
Compton emcee Schoolboy Q releases his debut album Habits & Contradictions
K’Naan enlists Nas‘ help for the lead single from his More Beautiful Than Silence EP
Big K.R.I.T. drops a collaboration with 8Ball & MJG; gives release date for 4evaNaDay
Theophilus London drops “Last Night (LVRS Anthem)”, single for Lovers Holiday II
North Carolina female emcee Rapsody releases “ABC” music video
As we look back on the controversy-riddled year that was 2011, there is one thing we should all be able to agree on: it was a great year for music. Fans have been given an astounding amount of good music from the year’s outset, and that fact is sure to put a smile on the face of any listener. With that being said, we would like to give our two cents on our favorite acts of a year which has seen talented artists such as Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, and Adele make huge waves in the industry. Here are The Listening Magazine’s favorite acts of the year.
As is to be expected, Kanye West has been a huge force in music in the past year. West released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to critical acclaim in late 2010. As is the case with most fourth quarter releases, Dark Twisted Fantasy’s true value was recognized in the year following its release. The levels of quality and replayability remain high for the album, and the sound influenced a large amount of subsequent projects. Also, West’s collaboration with hip hop mogul Jay-Z entitled Watch The Throne has made a tremendous impact on music this year. While the project is not a grand opus for either artist, Watch The Throne is an enjoyable, adventurous album which provides touches of socioeconomic commentary while simultaneously bringing the essential element of fun back to rapping. Hell, whenever you can perform a song nine times in a row at a sold outStaplesCenter and have fans going crazy each time, you’re doing something right.
Mississippiemcee Big K.R.I.T. has proven that 2010 was no fluke. Following his rise to fame last year (which included the release of a critically acclaimed free album and a contract with Def Jam), K.R.I.T. went on to do more great things in 2011. He began the year by being named one of the freshmen of the year by XXL Magazine, a title which is coveted heavily by up and coming rap artists. He went on to release Return Of 4Eva, another free album to follow up his 2010 effort K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Return Of 4Eva was arguably met with more acclaim than Wuz Here, ending up on the year-end lists of several notable publications. If 2011 was any indication, K.R.I.T. will continue to make outstanding music for many years to come, shattering southern rap stereotypes in the process.
K.R.I.T.’s fellow XXL freshman class member Kendrick Lamar is the voice of Generation Y. The Compton, California emcee released one of the best albums of the year this summer in Section 80, a project which speaks heavily on many of the socioeconomic issues plaguing those of use growing up in the internet age. Beyond his astounding lyrical abilities, what makes Kendrick special is his message. Section 80 has a highly political context, and tells stories which resonate with listeners from all walks of life. This makes Kendrick’s music relatable to a very wide audience, which will hopefully allow his message to spread even further in years to come.
2011 is also the year we fell in love with J*DaVeY, a Los Angeles music duo consisting of vocalist Jack Davey and producer Brook D’Leau. While the tandem has not had a large amount of mainstream success, they have a highly supportive fan base which has grown substantially in 2011. After being unable to release a project in 2010, the duo released the Evil Christian Cop: The Great Mistapes EP in early 2011 to much critical acclaim. The EP showed a distinct growth in the genre-bending sound of the group, and sparked a summer tour which included bookings around the country and internationally. Tapping into the strength which is their dynamic live performances, the pair used this tour to promote their long-awaited debut studio album New Designer Drug. The oft-delayed album was finally released in November to largely favorable reviews. With the monkey finally off of their backs, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for J*DaVeY.
Another act which was a highlight of the summer is rock band Elevator Fight. The band is based inPhiladelphia and is led by vocalist Zoë Kravitz, daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet. The group consists of Kravitz and band mates Joe Baldacci (drums), Dominic Angelella (guitar), Khari Mateen (guitar), Nick Bockrath (guitar), and Rick Friedrich (keys). They have been together since 2009, releasing songs here and there and performing at several notable festivals such as The Roots Picnic and South By Southwest. The group’s sound is lo-fi and psychedelic, and while they have yet to release an actual project, the live shows serve as a tremendously energetic showcase for the music. From first hand experience, it is very captivating to see the small songstress tossing back beer as she leads the group in a raging performance. That moment grabs a hold of you effortlessly.
Detroitemcee Danny Brown is another up-and-coming artist who has made great strides in 2011. After signing to label Fool’s Gold, Brown dropped one of the best releases of the year with his free album XXX. In commemoration of turning 30 years old, the project showcases Brown’s free-flowing lyricism and eccentric delivery. Everything about his style is highly unique and original, which gives him huge potential for success in the industry. Brown is also associated with producers (the most notable being Black Milk, with whom he released an EP this year) that provide back drops which fit his style perfectly. Brown has traveled a rough path for numerous years, and it is satisfying to see his recent success in the music business.
Last, but certainly not least, The Weeknd has crash landed onto the scene and made a huge impact on the industry. Singer Abel Tesfaye released a trilogy of free albums (House Of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes Of Silence) that have made his rise to stardom one of the fastest in recent memory. Tesfaye, along with producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo, has created a distinctly lush and atmospheric sound that is influencing the R&B genre before our eyes. The strong songwriting, atmospheric soundscapes, and detailed story arcs give The Weeknd the total package and provide an excellent experience for listeners. It seems as though Tesfaye is poised for tremendous success in the near future, with plans to re-release the “Balloon Trilogy” in a re-mastered retail form during the coming year.
We at The Listening Magazine have thoroughly enjoyed the music brought to us during the year 2011, and are extremely excited for what 2012 has to offer. We will surely be listening…
Rhythm and blues sensation The Weeknd has done it again. For the third time in 2011, singer Abel Tesfaye has released a nine track album for free download on the internet. The newest of these albums, titled Echoes Of Silence, is the final installment of the Canadian artist’s “Balloon Trilogy” (Echoes Of Silence was preceded by the projects House Of Balloons and Thursday). The series has made Tesfaye one of the year’s most acclaimed newcomers, and Echoes will only serve to add to his massive buzz.
Echoes Of Silence is filled with content that fans of The Weeknd have grown to expect from him. Tales of drug use, alcohol abuse, sexual escapades, and relationships with women are a few of the themes which Tesfaye chooses to focus his songwriting prowess on. The writer shows that he has not lost a step after crafting two solid projects this year prior to this one. On his last project (Thursday), Tesfaye used his abilities to pen a strong storyline reminiscent of a concept album. The first album of the trilogy (House Of Balloons) showcased Tesfaye’s ability to write memorable, monumental music en route to crafting one of the year’s most impacting records. Echoes showcases the sweet spot which Tesfaye has found with his writing, as he is able to find a balance between the two ends of the spectrum. The writing which made the songs on Balloons so memorable was not up to par on Thursday. On the flipside, Thursday was able to convey a story arc in a better fashion than Balloons did. Tesfaye begins to put it all together on Echoes, creating a few loose story arcs while crafting monumental records that fans will remember.
These vividly detailed stories are told over the simultaneously lush and lo-fi backdrops provided by producers Doc McKinney and Illangelo. The cold keys, pounding 808s and kick drums, strong synths, and reverberations form a very atmospheric sound in which the listener can become engulfed. These productions are a part of a sound which has become extremely popular this year in R&B (largely due to the success and acclaim of House Of Balloons), and provide the perfect framing for the intricate images painted by Tesfaye’s high-pitched, sultry vocals. While Echoes sees the production team creating the atmospheric instrumentals they have become known for, there are some obvious additions to the instrumentation and influences in comparison to the first two projects. McKinney and Illangelo find a way to stretch their sound without compromising it, a tremendous feat in itself. For instance, the opener “D.D.” sees Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” flipped as the production team covers the record while making it their own. Tracks like “Outside” and “Same Old Song” show influence from what seem to be oriental music genres, with the strong use of gongs and other traditionally Asian instruments. The album’s single “Initiation” is a testament to the engineering of the album, as Tesfaye’s altered vocals constantly fluctuate from high pitches to low ones creating a very interesting and distinct sound for the track. “Montreal” is reminiscent of the mellow production heard on a Sade album, while “The Fall” gives producer Clams Casino a chance to put his own twist onto The Weeknd’s sound. Echoes shows new found expansion and variety within the patented sound, which gives fans hope for more innovative work in the future.
Simply put, Echoes Of Silence exemplifies growth. Tesfaye’s writing is maturing and coming together quite nicely, as he is able to tell stories using monumental, memorable records. McKinney and Illangelo have expanded their patented sound, a feat which should not be overlooked. While Tesfaye is the main attraction, the production is just as important to the success of The Weeknd. Any properly executed innovation should be welcomed with open arms, as it increases the ability to keep the music fresh (nobody wants to hear redundant music). While the project doesn’t finish as strongly as it starts, the overall body of work is tremendous and none of these records are bad or skip worthy. Now that the trilogy is over, it will be interesting to see what the next move is for this talented team of people. Whatever that move is, the world is sure to be anticipating it. And rightfully so.
Pros: +Tesfaye’s songwriting skills are coming together nicely
+A new take on a similar sound
+Collaboration with outside entities (Clams Casino)
+Favorites: “D.D.”, “Outside”, “Initiation”, and “Same Old Song”
Lows: –Although none of the songs are bad, the project doesn’t finish as strong as it starts