NEWS ROUNDUP: Festival Announcements, Copyright Cases & More


  • Radiohead vs Lana Del Rey

    On January 7th, Lana Del Rey confirmed news reports that hinted at a copyright lawsuit with Radiohead. The band is reportedly suing her over the similarities between their 1992 breakout hit, “Creep,” and her 2017 track, “Get Free.” Del Rey tweeted:

    It’s true about the lawsuit. Although I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing – I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court.”

    The situation is considered by many to be the result of the “Blurred Lines Effect” – the 2015 court ruling that awarded $7.4 million in damages to Marvin Gaye’s estate for similarities between Pharrell, T.I., and Robin Thicke’s massive 2013 hit and Gay’s 1977 classic, “Got To Give It Up.” However Radiohead’s publishing company have disputed Del Rey’s claims. Warner/Chappell issued a statement acknowledging that they have been in copyright negotiations with the Lust For Life musician’s label but deny filing a formal lawsuit or demanding 100% of Del Rey’s “Get Free” publishing rights.

    Interestingly enough, “Creep” was once at the center of a similar copyright dispute. After the early-nineties release of Radiohead’s single, Brit-pop band The Hollies successfully sued Thom Yorke’s group over similarities between “Creep” and their 1974 hit, “The Air that I Breathe,” which was written by Mike Hazlewood and Albert Hammond (yep, the father of Strokes member Albert Hammond Jr.). “Creep” now lists Hazlewood and Hammond as writers alongside Radiohead. If a court determines that Del Rey’s song does borrow from “Creep,” Radiohead, Hazlewood, and Hammond could all be credited as co-writers of “Get Free.” Compare the three tracks side by side below.

  • 2018 Festival Announcements

    This week, major spring and early summer festival announcements are helping us defrost from record-breaking cold! On January 10th, South by Southwest released their third round of showcase announcements. Superorganism, Goatgirl, A Place to Bury Strangers, Sunflower Bean, and many more will join the 500+ lineup and perform from March 12 – March 18 this year. Bonnaroo announced that Muse, The Killers, and Eminem will headline the normally rootsy jam-band oriented fest, surprising some. Then on Thursday, Delaware music festival Firefly announced they’d also be hosting Eminem and The Killers as headliners, as well as Kendrick Lamar and Arctic Monkeys, in June. Audiofemme favorite, SZA, will also perform; she is one out of only nineteen women included in Firefly’s ninety-five act lineup. Many have lamented the homogeneity of this year’s festivals, particularly the lack of female musicians. Pop singer and festival circuit staple Halsey tweeted, “Damn guys come onnnnnn. Where the women at….It’s 2018, do better!!!”

  • Other Highlights

    The Breeders have announced their first album in ten years, All Nerve, out March 2nd on 4AD, and have shared the title track. The Dandy Warhols are playing two shows in NYC at the end of February. Karen O and Michael Kiwanuka recorded a song for a short Kenzo film (hear it at the 4.45 mark in the video below). Kali Uchis’ brand new song, “After The Storm,” features Tyler, The Creator and Parliament-Funkadelic legend, Bootsy Collins. Sunflower Bean debuted single “Crisis Fest” off of their upcoming sophomore album, Twentytwo In Blue. The album is slated for March 23rd release and is co-produced by members of Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Friends. Taylor Swift’s new video for “End Game” came out yesterday and also stars Ed Sheehan and Future, the lone musicians featured in Swift’s latest album, Reputation. Fifth Harmony ex-member Camila Cabello’s self-titled album was released today and has already risen to the top spot on the charts in more than ninety countries. Wednesday marked the two year anniversary of David Bowie’s death – we still can’t believe he’s gone! #BowieForever


ONLY NOISE: Beautiful Losers

Repeat after me: Loser. Double loser. Whatever. Moron. If you were a certain age in the late 1990s, this insult – when paired with the correct hand motions – was the ultimate dis to peers, siblings, and losers of every stripe. The term “loser” in the nineties and early ‘00s was plastered all over the place, from Beck’s breakout hit, to anti-drug PSAs, and that movie starring Jason Biggs’ trapper hat. The identity of the “loser” in music, however, is a far more complex thing than a girl with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead,” as Smash Mouth sang.

The loser is not simply a spinoff of Jay and Silent Bob, or Bill and Ted, or Beavis and Butthead (as you can see, losers often come in pairs). It seems that the loser of song tradition is more akin to a hero than a villain. A flawed bearer of mediocrity and wearer of slouchy clothes, the loser archetype is as quintessential to rock ‘n’ roll as the rambler and the romantic. Some losers are self-proclaimed, like Derrick Harriott as he sang his reggae hit “The Loser,” and Merle Haggard, who released the gorgeous but self-effacing song “I’m a Good Loser” on his 1971 record, Hag. “Yeah I’m a good loser/Born to be that way/This dog, he never had his day,” croons Haggard, no doubt lamenting a long-gone woman.

Though country stars were often self-critical in Haggard’s era, hearing him sing the words, “I’m a good loser” is still jarring to this day. Who could ever think of Merle Haggard, one of the coolest men in the history of country music, as a loser? Only he had the power to slander his name, illuminating the fact that loss plagues all of us – even rich and famous country singers.

In many ways, Haggard was a loser. He certainly didn’t have a winning relationship with cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, the combination of which contributed to his many years of poor heath, and eventual death in 2016. The Hag was also known to lose in love, and to the law. He was married five times and served two and a half years at San Quentin prison in 1958 for burglary and attempted escape from county jail. Add all that up, and you might not call Merle Haggard a winner – but he sure lost with the best of ‘em.

The desperate nature of a country music persona made the genre natural loser territory. From Hank Williams singing “You Win Again” to Linda Ronstadt’s “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win,” to the real-life rise and fall of Townes Van Zandt – the songs wouldn’t have been as good if everybody was winning all the time. But music’s hopeless manifesto didn’t reside only in blues and country – pop is full of losers, too. Of course there’s “Three Time Loser” by ultimate sexyman Rod Stewart, “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, and countless others. Even The Beatles, the untouchable Fab Four, had a song about being a loser: “I’m A Loser” from 1964’s Beatles For Sale. “I’m a loser/And I lost someone who’s near to me,” sings John Lennon. It’s hard to imagine John, Paul, George or even Ringo identifying as losers while watching them perform this cut to a crowd of shrieking women, but then again, as the song warns, “I’m a Loser/And I’m not what I appear to be.”

Still, The Beatles don’t quite fit the loser archetype. I mean, look at those suits and those haircuts. Even when they got mustachioed and Sgt. Peppered it was hard to see them as anything but rock n’ roll all-stars. Folks like Roy Orbison, on the other hand, had a tougher time making it as a cool kid. “Roy was the coolest, uncool loser you’d ever seen,” Bruce Springsteen said of Orbison in a 2012 keynote address at SXSW. I doubt Orbison would deny such a claim had he been alive to hear it. The dark genius behind masterpieces like “Only The Lonely” and “Crying” knew much of loss and sorrow.

Orbison, aka, “The Big O” went through numerous catastrophes in his lifetime – in fact, there is even a section of his Wikipedia page entitled, “Career decline and tragedies” – and it’s lengthy. Orbison suffered heartbreak, infidelity on the part of his first wife Claudette (yes, that “Claudette”), and a lifetime of mourning. In June of 1966, Orbison and Claudette were riding motorcycles through Gallatin, Tennessee when Claudette struck the door of a pickup truck that had pulled out in front of her. She died instantly. Only two years later while touring England, Orbison received a call relaying that his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee had burned down, leaving his two eldest sons dead. If to be a loser you must suffer great loss, then perhaps Orbison was the biggest loser in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Where Haggard and Oribson’s losses were the stuff of tragic poems, the loser that rolled up in the ‘90s was cut from a different cloth. Take Beck’s “Loser” for instance – the lo-fi hit that put him on the map in 1994. Far more blasé than self-loathing, Beck traipsed through that music video like a shabby bon vivant rather than a hopeless burnout. He owned his loser-dom in secondhand duds and ill-fitting hats. Beck was the loser we’d never seen in music before: mildly defiant, nihilistic, and chic in his refusal to look to the future. Suddenly, the loser wasn’t tragic – it was cool.

But where have all the losers gone? We’ve seen plenty of pop stars in the past decade donning thick-rimmed glasses and identifying as “geek” (which, by the way, is not the same thing as a loser), but where are the deadbeat, worn-down, desperate stars of today? And please do not mention Ed Sheeran – he has a full torso of professional tattoos, and is therefore stripped of any potential loser accolades. Everyone keeps shouting that “the ‘90s are back!” but I don’t see rock ‘n’ roll losers anywhere. Who are kids supposed to look up to these days anyway, Adam Levine? That guy has far too many abs to be a loser. Mainstream music seems to be populated solely by shiny, auto-tuned sex symbols (and Ed Sheeran), and it’s just not enough. We need our poor, our weary, our roughened-up chumps, too. We need our losers. We are lost without them.

ONLY NOISE: Kill Your Idols

Bob Dylan is finally going to accept his Nobel Prize…with a taped lecture. Ed Sheeran is losing his “nice guy” status and getting called out as a blatant misogynist. Even in death, Chuck Berry can’t escape his reputation as a scat-loving pederast.

We listen to them. We love them. We live for what they do. Hell, I make my wages writing about them. But let’s face it: musicians can be massive assholes.

Entering adulthood, we all experience the humanizing of our parents. The great gods of early childhood, those people who said that yes, you could watch Beavis and Butthead, but, no, you could not watch Pulp Fiction; those adults who taught you “right” from “wrong” and “cooking sherry” from “sipping sherry” – they are just people. As we age, their humanity – with all its foibles – comes into better focus, and we forgive them as they relinquish their post on the pedestal.

So if we’re able to endure the humbling of our own parents, why are we so devastated by the mortal trappings of the famous? Furthermore: why do we put rock stars on a pedestal to begin with?

Because: Fandom. That temporary (or life-long) insanity that made teenagers convulse for four mop-topped Brits, and grown women sexualize teen Bieber.

I was thinking about the word “fan,” which I suspect is connected to the word “fanatic” etymologically. And sure enough, my Googles confirm that “fan” is in fact, “a late 19th century abbreviation of fanatic.”

And what about “fanatic”?

“…The adjective originally described behavior or speech that might result from possession by a god or demon…”

We’re not Beliebers. We’re possessed by demons. In truth, a lot of fan-related content surrounding Bieber does resemble Pentecostal seizures.

But there is a difference between being a fan and a demon-possessed Belieber – right? Perhaps that gap is smaller than we assume.

I’d like to think of myself as someone who is rationally distanced from celebrity gossip, and for the most part I steer clear of tabloid rags – but what do you do when it’s your favorite artist under fire, and for good reason? You feel the pain of betrayal. Like when Mariah lip synched her way through New Year’s Eve.

A couple of months ago the erudite and envelope-pushing Brian Eno released his ambient record Reflections. It was but another stroke of brilliance from a man who’s had a seismic impact on most of the music I love – as both a producer and an innovator. My adoration for Brian Eno (or, as I referred to him in my head alone, Bri-Bri Eno) reached its zenith in 2015, when he delivered the distinguished BBC Music John Peel Lecture. His voice: so soothing. His scalp: so shiny. He even (kind of) made jokes!  I had what you could call a serious brain crush on Bri-Bri Eno. There was a calm wisdom emanating from him at all times; a breed of serenity mirrored in his ambient soundscapes.

And then. Reporter Simon Hattenstone ran an interview with Eno in The Guardian that changed my perception of the artist forever. What began as a genial convo about art turned into sizzling vitriol spouting from the mouth of an unmannered diva. After merely asking a question about the history of Eno’s bizarre, long-winded full name (Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno), Hattenstone was met with outrage from the artist: “God, are we going to do any interesting questions? This is all bollocks. I’m not fucking interested at all in me. I want to talk about ideas. Can we do any of that?”

Rude. From then on the interview oscillated between forced diplomacy and whacky, insolent outbursts from Eno. Hattenstone kept his composure throughout, and rather eloquently defended himself against Brian Meano.

I was in shock. On the one hand, I felt a sense of solidarity with a music journalist just trying to do his job in the presence of a genius. On the other hand I was an enormous fan of Eno’s; a crushed fan who couldn’t believe that one of my favorite artists was, well, a belittling asshole. Of course that appraisal isn’t entirely merited by one messy interview, but my reaction was. The one-sided contract between the fan and the famous had been breached; he’d shown his toothy, human side – and I didn’t want to see it.

This must be a common phenomenon. The fall of icons. That crazy sense of betrayal we feel when someone we have never met does something we can’t stand. But is the Judas effect any more bonkers than the fact that we allowed ourselves to fall in love with a famous stranger to begin with? Probably not.

Any fan of Morrissey knows treachery well. A charming man indeed: his sex appeal, sensitivity, and bookishness (those glasses) made people crazy for decades. I mean, when I was 20, I waltzed into a salon and told them, “I want Morrissey hair.”

But what a dick?! This is the man who screwed his hardworking Smith-mates out of large sums of money, called the Chinese people a “subspecies,” and more recently issued a t-shirt with James Baldwin on the front reading: “I wear black on the outside ‘cause black is how I feel on the inside…” And then there is “Morrissey” written on the bottom left – smack on Baldwin’s shoulder.

No. Just no.

I wondered if I was the only sad bastard who actually felt hurt by rock star fuck-ups. It’s an absurd dilemma – but a real one nonetheless.

A favorite example came from fellow music journalist Allison Hussey, who covered a Sun Kil Moon gig for Indy Week in 2014. Like a good, I don’t know, journalist, Hussey reported the truth, which was sadly that SKM frontman Mark Kozelek was an insufferable prick the entire set. Hussey, of course, used far kinder words in her recap, stating that, “because the show was at the Lincoln Theatre, people were chatty, as all Lincoln Theatre crowds will be. Kozelek was displeased with this, and let the crowd know it by demanding that the ‘fucking hillbillies’ shut the fuck up before he’d strum a single note.”

Instead of ignoring an unflattering review like most artists do, Kozelek then “wrote a song about me where he called me a bitch,” Hussey recounts. “It was…an interesting roller coaster.”

Even my dad had a tale of rock star boorishness, though his was not of a beloved musician, per se. My dad has spent most of his life working in the music industry, whether as a record store owner, a musician, or a pro audio salesman. During the latter vocation, he crossed paths with a certain Guns N’ Roses guitarist.

“Slash was a total egotistic d-bag,” he relayed. “Spent an entire afternoon around him at a music show in Ventura, California around ’88 or ’89. He pranced around and acted like he was King, and everyone else were serfs.”

Ok, so Slash being a douchebag isn’t exactly breaking news, but you always hope that in the face of all odds, he might deflect his own stereotype.

In all of my crowdsourcing for quotes about artist meet-and-greets gone wrong, there were tales of Joe Jackson being “cheap and pompous” to a server, a comment about Puddle of Mudd’s Wesley Scantlin being a “jerk,” (shocker) and damnations of Madonna. But amongst the slew of dirt, one friend piped up to say that, “all the [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][musicians] I’ve met were very nice, especially Ric Ocasek.”

So I guess there’s hope, after all.