One of Spotify’s former sales executives, Hong Perez, is suing Spotify and her former boss, head of sales Brian Berner, for gender discrimination, equal pay violation and defamation in New York’s Supreme Court. Perez’s complaint accuses Berner of taking mens-only employee trips to the 2016 and 2017 Sundance FIlm Festival, as well as to Atlantic City strip clubs. Perez also alleges Spotify awarded higher compensation to male employees and promoted employees despite sexual harassment warnings. Spotify denied these claims.
Drake filed a fraud lawsuit against model Laquana Morris (aka Layla Lace) on Tuesday in the Superior Court of California, accusing her of civil extortion, fraud, defamation, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Drake admitted to having consensual sexual relations with Morris in Manchester, England February 2017. In April 2017, she claimed on social media that he dumped her after she told him she was pregnant with his child. The case also alleges that Morris demanded money from Drake and filed a police report alleging the rapper raped her during the Manchester hotel encounter. Manchester police cleared Drake of of sexual assault allegations.
The New New
Nick Cave and Marianne Faithfull released a collaboration titled “The Gypsy Faerie Queen,” which will be included on her twenty-first album Negative Capability, due out November 2nd. Avril Lavigne released first song in five years, “Head Above Water,” which describes her battle with Lyme Disease. Major Lazer and South African singer Babes Wodumo released “Orkant/Balance Pon It” with a video that showcases people of Durban, South Africa dancing on buses, in classrooms and on the streets.
New York City – well, to be specific, Long Island City – is getting a new venue next year. The Arc will have a capacity of about 2,000 and is set to open early next year. Former Webster Hall COO, Rich Pawelczyk, has just joined the venture.
Childish Gambino Teams Up with Rashida Jones
Maybe Childish Gambino will help the #MeToo movement cross over from Hollywood to music? His real-life actor persona, Donald Glover, just lent his voice to an “anti-harassment” video directed by Rashida Jones. The short animated film covers the topic of appropriate behavior in the workplace.
A Grammy Update
In an effort to address the lack of diversity and female nominees at last year’s Grammys, The Recording Academy has announced that they will expand some of the major categories. There will now be eight instead of five nominees for record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, and best new artist.
Protection for Songwriters
The Senate Judiciary Committee just voted in favor of The Music Modernization act, a bill that aims to establish a licensing system that would be controlled by songwriters and publishers and paid for by digital services like Spotify.
Michael Jackson’s father and longtime manager, Joe Jackson, died yesterday at the age of 89.
The New New
Three heavy hitters from very different genres dropped new releases today. Only a year after the last Gorillaz album, Damon Albarn is back with a new one. The Now Now follows last spring’s release of Humanz. Some of the beauty of Gorillaz has always been held in the band’s animated appearance – cartoon facades allow for new collaborators to become characters on each album. In contrast, The Now Now allows Albarn to play the many parts himself. His sixth Gorillaz album features fewer collaborations than his usual offerings – some might even consider it to be more of a solo session. Longtime fans will hear lyrics that reference melancholy days on tour and draw comparisons to 2010’s The Fall, which was also released in a short span after a collab-heavy star-studded drop Plastic Beach.
In contrast to Albarn’s lightening up of collaborators, Florence Welch grabbed a couple of A-list partners for the brand new Florence + The Machine album, High As Hope. As executive producer for the album (her first time in the position), Welch tapped Kamasi Washington, Sampha, and Jamie XX for contributions. For Hope, Welch dials down her bombastic vocals for tracks that delve into the personal, including her battles with alcohol addiction. Of the album she reportedly told an LA crowd, “It’s just I’m less drunk, and there is less glitter.”
Drake’s new 25-track double album, Scorpion, is out today. It features collaborations with big names, including Jay-Z and Michael Jackson.
The album touches on his very publicized feud with Pusha-T; in a bit of self deprecation, it even goes so far as to reference Pusha’s insults in the editor notes for Apple Music. Some of Drake’s new tracks have the internet ablaze with lyrics that seem to confirm the existence of the Canadian rapper’s son with Sophie Brussaux.
Kesha was dealt another blow in her long battle with Dr. Luke and Sony. On Tuesday in New York, an appeals court ruled that she cannot pursue her countersuit with the producer, who she has publicly accused of sexual assault as well as physical and emotional abuse. The “Praying” singer sought to appeal against Dr. Luke’s 2016 legal claims of defamation and breach of contractual agreement. Kesha is still legally bound to Sony and Dr. Luke. Her most recent album, Rainbow, was released through Kemosabe Records, a label originally formed by Dr. Luke in collaboration with Sony in 2012.
On Thursday, Kesha released a music video in partnership with youth-led immigrant rights organization, United We Dream.
Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow will resign at the end of his contract next July. Earlier this year Portnow came under fire after defending a Grammy ceremony with little female representation. His comments, which included saying that women in the music industry needed “to step up” were met with outcry. In response he created a task force to address “explicit barriers and unconscious biases that impede female advancement in the music community.” He continued to face criticism following his announcement, which was considered a half measure by much of the industry.
That New New
This week brought a wealth of new releases, although we might not call them summer jams. Josh Tillman’s Father John Misty project brought all of the feels on his latest record, God’s Favorite Customer. “In short, it’s a heartbreak album,” says Tillman of the offering, which features songs such as “Hangout at the Gallows” and “Please Don’t Die.”
Neko Case dropped her seventh solo album and it’s a rager, but not in the typical sense. Of Hell-On, she told The New York Times, “I think there’s some sort of heat coming from the rest of the world that finished baking a long-existing rage-loaf that started in my body as a little kid.”
Twitter monster Kanye West released his newest album, YE, via livestream last night at midnight via a listening party in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We aren’t sure how it sounds yet because we didn’t download the app.
Gorillaz officially announced the album release for their next album and an upcoming stadium tour. The Now Now will come out June 29th. The virtual band accompanied the news with a Jack Black-starring clip called “Humility.”
Kamasi Washington, The 1975, and Charli XCX released singles this week. Washington’s “Street Fighter Mas” comes ahead of his forthcoming album, Heaven and Earth, out June 22nd. The 1975’s “Give Yourself A Try” will be included on their next album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, which will come out in October. Charli surprised fans with “5 in the Morning.” The single comes on the heels of her guest appearance on Rita Ora’s controversial song “Girls.”
It seems Drake is attempting to brand himself as socially conscious in his latest music videos.
Back in February, he released a clip for “God’s Plan” in which he is portrayed as a sort of Robin Hood character, giving huge wads of cash to people living in impoverished neighborhoods. Its message was somewhat dubious – the overwhelming self-promotion, declaring himself to be a gift from God, and Drake’s distracting display of wealth detracted from the real issues surrounding poverty. Though created in good conscience to spotlight and support impoverished communities, it juxtaposed the real struggles of its subjects with Drake’s perceived might and glory and rubbed many the wrong way.
But his latest video, for single “Nice For What,” gives us renewed faith in Drake as he takes a step back, and stands (for once) in the shadows of some of Hollywood’s most powerful women. It’s about time the hip-hop community made stronger statements in alignment with the feminist movement, given the genre’s history as one that birthed the term “video hoes,” and Drake leads the vanguard here. Featuring Issa Rae from HBO’s Insecure, Letitia Wright from Black Panther, Tracee Ellis Ross from the comedy series Black-ish, and other women dominating in Hollywood, “Nice For What” is a truly refreshing visual representation of the strength in today’s modern women.
The woman behind the lens is just as impressive as those in front of the camera. Bringing her cinematic style to the creation of Drake’s latest release, 22-year-old Karena Evans is quickly becoming a super star director. Her own female gaze captures the true willpower in these women who have fought so hard to be at the top. The song itself pays homage to the women who made a name for themselves in male-dominated industries decades before women’s marches and #metoo movements, all while celebrating another female bad-ass by sampling Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.”
“Step up, step back” is a common phrased used in communities of activists. It is meant to signify the need for those in power to step back, to make space for those who don’t normally get the spotlight. “Nice For What” is a long-awaited moment where Drake actually heeds that mantra, using his platform to raise up other artists.
Ahead of her upcoming album Dirty Computer, set to be released on April 27, Janelle Monáeshe teams up with Grimes and Tessa Thompson, who was also seen in Monae’s “Make Me Feel” clip. The video for “Pynk” utilizes feminist imagery – from pussy pants to “Grabs Back” underwear – to help Monae make a strong artistic statement.
Brooklyn performance artist and poet Nova Zef turns to her eclectic dance community to create this visually inspiring story. The video is a beautiful, movement-based piece, where bodies set in motion the poetics of Nova Zef’s latest single “Removed.”
Follow Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s morning routine in the video for “How Simple;” this fun and emotionally light video will make you feel like jumping out of the right side of the bed.
Musical duo Lion Babe, featuring singer Jillian Hervey and record producer Lucas Goodman, always impress when it comes to their video creations. The video for their latest single “Honey Dew” is no different. Expressing the parallels between art and nature, the two R&B creators meander through a sculpture garden. Adorned in fantastically elaborate clothing, Hervey becomes her own version of moving art as she dances through the large stone pieces.
Known more for their urban-inspired motifs, the video for “Honey Dew” is a softer rendition of the duo’s aesthetic than we have previously seen. While Hervey repeats the words “everybody wants a piece,” the visuals and up the song’s implicit innuendo with shots of honey drizzled over a sliced melon.
The Australian rocker’s Star Trek-indebted spoof gives us a glimpse of her upcoming sophomore album Tell Me How You Really Feel, out May 18.
Vocalist Aaron Maine dons a Canadian tuxedo and takes a reverse dive into the churning waves for the Baba Stiltz and Samo’s clubby rework of “Find Me;” the original version appears on Porches’ latest LP The House.
Preoccupations’ latest record, New Material, just dropped this week, and along with it came a collaged clip for dream-poppy new single “Disarray.”
Soul Train fans will love the throwback visual for Migos’ latest, which stars Jamie Foxx in a cameo as host Ron Delirious.
It’s been eight years since Sade released Soldier of Love, but on Tuesday the sultry singer’s return to music was revealed in a very 2018 way – via Twitter! Movie director Ava DuVernay announced that the British-Nigerian musician and her eponymous band wrote a song for her upcoming movie, A Wrinkle In Time. The track, “Flower of the Universe,” will be included on the official soundtrack, along with songs from DJ Khaled, Demi Lovato, Sia and Kehlani. Composer Ramin Djawadi will write the original score for the film.
Although Sade’s fans are always pining for her return, the singer gives good reason to back up the long breaks that she takes between albums. She previously explained to The Guardian’s Adrienne Gibbs, “If I were forever in the music machine or on the road, doing TV and in that sort of commercial world, I don’t believe I would be able to step back and write the songs that I did.”
View the trailer for A Wrinkle In Time below. The film comes out in the United States on March 9th.
The 2018 BRIT Awards
On Wednesday, The BRIT Awards schooled The Grammys when it came to gender representation, diversity, and political relevance. Dua Lipa took home the award for best British breakthrough act and female solo artist and Lorde won the trophy for international female solo artist while Kendrick Lamar won in the male counterpart to the category. Gorillaz took the title for Best British Group; during their acceptance speech, Damon Albarn took a stand against Brexit. Stormzy came out on top, winning the award for best male solo artist as well as album of the year for Gang Signs & Prayer. The Grime MC closed out the show with an intense performance (rain literally fell on his head the whole time) of “Blinded By Your Grace.” For the BRITs, he added a freestyle verse criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May for her handling of the Grenfell Tower Fire, a massive fire that consumed a public housing project last June leaving seventy-one people dead. Stormzy rapped:
“Yo, Theresa May, where’s that money for Grenfell? What, you thought we just forgot about Grenfell? You criminals, and you got the cheek to call us savages. You should do some jail time, you should pay some damages, we should burn your house down and see if you can manage this.”
American performers, take note.
New Claims of Harassment Against Charlie Walk Surface
A Rolling Stone investigation into the misbehavior of former Republic Records head Charlie Walk has uncovered new accusations. This adds to claims made earlier this year by record executive Tristan Coopersmith and three anonymous women, which resulted in his removal from Fox’s music competition show The Four, where he was a judge, as well as his dismissal from the label, whose roster includes The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Lorde, Florence + the Machine, Phantogram, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Black Sabbath, and James Blake among others.
In an update to last week’s stories, artist Lina Iris Viktor is going to court with SZA and Kendrick Lamar over imagery used in their “All The Stars” video; she is suing for copyright violation. Quincy Jones has issued a public apology for calling the Beatles “the worst musicians in the world” as well as some other controversial comments he made earlier this month.
Producer Boyd Jarvis, a house music pioneer, passed away this week at the age of 59 following a battle with cancer. His legendary career included projects with Madonna, Prince, and Herbie Hancock. Black Moth Super Rainbow return with their first new material in four years. “Mr No One” will appear on their upcoming album, Panic Blooms, out May 4th; the band comes to Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 2nd. Twin Shadow debuted two tracks this week. His next album is due April 27th. Janelle Monáe also did a dual release – on Thursday she premiered the videos for new tracks “Django Jane” and “Make Me Feel.” Car Seat Headrest gave us the unexpected this week with a cover of Smash Mouth’s “Fallen Horses.” Drake’s newest video is going to make it a lot harder to diss the Canadian rapper; in his new clip for “God’s Plan” he does good deeds in Miami to the tune of almost one million dollars. Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor also debuted a new video this week. “Beautiful Thing” is the title track off of his upcoming LP, out April 1. Bon Iver manager Kyle Frenette is aiming for political office, hoping to unseat Republican Sean Duffy in a bid to win a House seat representing Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District. The lineup for FORM Arcosanti is out and will bring Beach House, serpentwithfeet, Blood Orange, Chance The Rapper, Courtney Barnett, Daniel Caesar, Fleet Foxes and many more to the Arizona desert from May 11th to 13th. Last but certainly not least, Young Thug would now liked to be called “SEX.”
On Sunday night, the music industry’s most momentous ceremony returns to New York City after ten years in Los Angeles. The 60th Grammy Awards will be held at Madison Square Garden and this year the pressure is on for the Recording Academy to prove that they are still relevant within the cultural zeitgeist. In 2016, Taylor Swift’s 1989 was awarded album of the year over Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The win prompted many, including Frank Ocean, to accuse The Academy of shutting out minorities. In a move that Ocean called his “Colin Kaepernick moment” he declined to submit his seminal sophomore album, Blonde, for 2017 consideration. This action was echoed by Drake who did not enter his immensely popular Views into the competition. A year later, at the 2017 ceremony, a collective “WTF!?” was felt across the music industry yet again when Album of the Year was awarded to Adele’s 25 (herself in disbelief) over Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
This year, everyone is wondering if the Recording Academy will finally give artists of color the credit they are due. Will trophy wins match the Billboard charts, which have have proven that we are living in the age of hip-hop and R&B? If the nominations are any indication, all signs point to yes. Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars are all up for album of the year (no rapper has ever won the honor). The last time that four non-white artists were included in this category was in 2005. However, we still have to ask, “Where the women at?” Lorde is the single female nominee in the group. In contrast, the 2018 Best New Artist selection bodes well for racial diversity and gender equality. SZA, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Alessia Cara, and Julia Michaels round out that category.
Gender Disparity In The Music Industry
A new study by USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism has confirmed something we already knew: women are vastly underrepresented in the music industry. To make its conclusion, the study analyzed the gender make-up of songwriters, performers, and producers of top-charting songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a five-year period. From 2012-2017, female songwriters counted for only 12.3 percent of those hits; 22.4 percent of the performers were women. The study found that different veins of gender inequality within the music industry are all linked. It’s a chain reaction – female artists tend to work with female songwriters more than male artists do. Less ladies on stage mean less ladies behind the lyrics. However, the biggest industry disparity is present in the recording studio. Only two-percent of producers credited for the Billboard hits were women. In other words, male producers outnumbered the ladies, forty-nine to one.
The Annenberg school is hoping that by highlighting these numbers, the music industry will be called to action and put hiring practices in place that are more beneficial to women.
RIP Mark E. Smith (March 5, 1957 – January 24, 2018)
On Wednesday, post-punk legend Mark E. Smith passed away at the age of sixty. As lead singer and founder of The Fall, the Manchester musician was a complicated figure whose immense talent and vitriolic disposition simultaneously captivated and repelled his greatest collaborators & fans. Smith formed the Fall in 1976 after seeing the Sex Pistols in concert. Before his death, he churned out thirty-two records with a rotating cast of band members. Despite a lack of commercial success, the Fall proved to be a defining influence for future generations of punks and indie-rockers. The Fall’s last release New Facts Emerge came out last year.
According to Prince’s estate adviser, Troy Carter, the world will one day hear new music from the late musician. However, there’s no telling when the unreleased material will be available to the public as it is tied up in legal battles between record labels, Prince’s legal heirs, and his estate. Sir Elton John has announced that he will retire from touring but you still have several years to catch him on the road. The seventy-year-old Rocket Man will bid his farewell by playing three-hundred shows over the next three years. Two pop heavy-hitters gave us videos this week: Lady Gaga released the clip for a piano-centric version of “Joanne” while Justin Timberlake prompted Bon Iver comparisons (and insults) with “Say Something.” JT’s vid is produced and directed by La Blogothèque, the French collective best known for their YouTube performance series, the Take Away shows. The #MeToo movement is quickly making waves in music industry. This week, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and rapper Nelly were accused of sexual assault. Simmons has vehemently denied the accusations; Nelly has yet to make a statement.
The Misfits may be returning to NYC with their original lineup. On January 26, Live Nation tweeted “#ALLHELLSGONNABREAKLOOSE” accompanied by the iconic skull logo in the shape of New Jersey, the band’s home state. Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff paid tribute to the late Dolores O’Riordan by releasing covers of The Cranberries’ hits “No Need To Argue” and “Zombie.” Due to overwhelming demand, indie darlings Haim have added a second Radio City date to their Sister Sister Sister tour. They also released a new video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This month has been great for new albums – Hollie Cook, No Age, and Ty Segall all released new material today. No Age will be playing in Brooklyn on May 2.
It’s 10am, and the 1979 hit “Teenage” by L.A. punks The Weirdos rotates maliciously in my head. I meant to wake up hours ago, but the weighty fuzz of last night’s beer kept me tucked in.
“Teenage, teenage/Don’t wanna work, don’t wanna go to school.”
I don’t believe it. I’m being mocked by my subconscious – and I haven’t even had coffee yet.
My dream state has produced an apt song to score the morning. It must have known that I’ve been feeling “Teenage, teenage…”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the teen image in pop music lately – and wondering if it is to blame for my arrested development. It’s not the most reliable theory, but hey, it’s possible.
The teenager is a relatively new concept to Western history, and yet the moment it was introduced like a sparkly new car model near the close of World War II, the identity found a home in popular culture. Born in 1944, Seventeen magazine was the first periodical to specifically target this new demographic. Naturally, the film, fashion, and music industries weren’t far behind in glossing their products for teen appeal. Teen-themed songs shined especially bright.
Early instances of the teen hit included “Seventeen” by Boyd Bennett and His Rocket (1955), Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” (1958), and “A Teenager In Love” by Dion and the Belmonts (1959). Of course the trope has persisted into contemporary music, although teenagers themselves often sing the songs, which is far more comforting. When The Undertones released “Teenage Kicks” in 1978, the band members had hardly touched their twenties. When Chuck Berry sang “Sweet Little Sixteen,” however, he was 32 – not so sweet, Chuck!
More recently, Cherry Glazerr’s “Teenage Girl” was written by 19-year-old Clementine Creevy, and Lorde’s “White Teeth Teens” from 2013’s Pure Heroine was recorded when Lorde was still a teen herself. These tracks are just a couple of current reminders that the motif isn’t going away any time soon. And why would it? It seems now more than ever the teen and tween sectors hold an influential hand over the pop culture marketplace. Goliath hit makers such as Katy Perry (“Teenage Dream”), Drake (“Teenage Fever”), and Khalid (“American Teen”) know this too, though their own ages render the subject matter a bit tired and sad, if not creepy. I guess “Early 30s Dream” and “Millennial Fever” don’t roll off the tongue too well.
But who am I to judge? I’m 27 and still wearing band shirts. In fact, I pretty much wear the same outfits I wore in high school, just pared down to feature fewer spiky things. Maybe I do this because I hate shopping, or because I’m clinging to the fact that the clothes still fit (thank you Lycra!), or maybe – and this is a far more embarrassing possibility – I still feel like a fifteen year old. In many ways I am perpetuating a similar state of arrested development as pop culture en masse…and I’m not even getting paid for it.
At 27 – an age already loaded with music mythology and tragedy – you can do one of three things. 1) Die horribly of a drug overdose or in a plane crash. 2) Cling to the idea of your bountiful 20s and become a (Wo)Man child. Or 3) Become an “Adult” with a capital “A.” Follow in the footsteps of my old co-worker, who despite being two years my junior, makes monthly Excel spreadsheets with his girlfriend to track and budget their combined spending. This is the same person who, when I got excited about the free poster stowed within a record I was opening, earnestly asked,
“Who puts posters on their walls anymore?”
ME. That’s who.
Looking around my bedroom, I wouldn’t say it screams “27-year-old-educated-woman!” but rather, “15-year-old-pop-culture-junkie!” “Hey!” my room shouts. “Do you wanna listen to a record?! Look at my cool stuff!”
Some people my age want to buy houses, or couches, or couches for their houses. The well-adjusted long for crockpots and a nice dining room table. Looking around my bedroom I realize I haven’t paid for a single item of furniture in it. Desk: found on the street. Dresser: left by a former roommate. Bookshelf: free pile in the hall. The things I do spend money on – records, books, movies, writing and drawing supplies, food, booze – haven’t changed a hair since high school. My monetary ambition seems stunted, and my income is in a gradual decline. When people speak about being “an adult” I spin around. “Adult? Where? Do you see one?” I ask, only half-kidding.
Because a teenager’s finest skill is not taking responsibility for his or her actions, I blame this all on pop music. How am I supposed to adult when listening to Tom Waits sing “I Don’t Wanna Grow up,” or “Teen Lovers” by The Virgins? It’s not that I want to hang out with teenagers – that would be weird – I just don’t want to be shamed for my teenage taste, and my teenage disinterest in “feeling like an adult.” Because just like the teenager, the adult is a construct, too.
Here’s our take on the best and worst in music this week.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″][box type=”shadow”] Fifty years of this whole “without The Beatles, music would have long ago ceased to exist” mentality is getting stale. CBS’s trite attempt to foster Beatles-Mania 2.0 proved once again that the folks behind the Grammys don’t even bother to listen outside the box.[/box][/fusion_builder_column] [fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″_last][box type=”shadow”]
Radiohead have released an enthralling, otherworldly new app, PolyFauna. In it, “your screenis the window into an evolving world” based on the sound and imagery of “Bloom” from 2011’s King of Limbs.[/box][/one_half_last]
Drake threw a hissy fit when Rolling Stone bumped his cover story to run a TRIBUTE to the RECENTLY DECEASED Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He has since apologized, realizing that sadness over the tragic death of a talented actor is maybe just a little bit more justified than being butt hurt over the music mag’s slight.[/box][/fusion_builder_column_inner] [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_2″_last][box type=”shadow”]
We’re beginning to think “shows at Rough Trade” were an elaborate hoax designed by the owners of Baby’s All Right. Cheers to Oh My Rockness for keeping everything straight for us.[/box][/one_half_last]
From elaborate roll-outs to surprise releases, 2013 was a banner year for comebacks, break-outs, break-ups, and overnight sensations. The fact that the most oblique content could cause rampant controversy to reverberate through the blogosphere turned every song into a story and made every story seem epic. At the heart of it all are the sounds that defined this particular calendar year, from electronic pop to punk rock to hip-hop to hardcore and everything in between.