You might have heard Mike Oldfield playing during the Olympic opening and wondered, "What! Why the heck would Danny Boyle want the Exorcist theme playing at the start of such a grand event!" Oldfield's kept a low profile for years, so you may not remember him as the man who literally launched Virgin Records, one of only three artists to ever knock his #1 record off the charts with another #1 record (the other two being Bob Dylan and the Beatles). But those teenage successes were merely the start of an astonishing career, one full of pop music and prog rock, sci-fi and New Age, film scores and classical orchestrations — not to mention a spot at the start of Kanye West's recent album. His magnum opus, Amarok, is an hour of astonishing sounds and shifting genres which must be heard to be believed. Too overwhelming? Well, there're [more inside]
Now That's What I Call Drone: Vol. 1 - Drone ambient versions of top 40 pop songs. [via mefi projects] [more inside]
Randy George Scott turns himself in for riding through British Columbia at speeds in excess of 180 mph (300 km/h). [more inside]
It doesn't even matter what I'm trying to say, 'cause by this point in the song you're just dancing anyway
"Euphoria", which won the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest (previously), is a #1 in several countries, including Ireland, Austria, and Switzerland Of course, it's not the only song charting internationally that you might never hear on US radio. It should come as no surprise that one can readily find international hits online. For instance - Sweden, #4: Panetoz - Dansa Pausa Sweden, #9: Mange Makers - Drick Den This doesn't purport to be an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping-off point. [more inside]
Jimmy Fallon, Carly Rae Jepsen, and The Roots Sing Call Me Maybe with toy/classroom instruments. previously
The long and rather surprising history of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, penned in 1957 by British singer/songwriter Ewan MacColl, has just taken another bold and dramatic turn with Erykah Badu and the Flaming Lips' starkly powerful cover of the song. Oh, and in the accompanying video, they've most certainly upped the ante as far as edgy eroticism in pop music goes, with Badu's sister Nayrok pushing the envelope into the stratosphere. Nota bene: explicit nudity. [NSFW]
The art house review/criticism series Brows Held High decided to tackle Nicolas Roeg/David Bowie's 1976 The Man Who Fell To Earth by reviewing it as a karaoke medley of Bowie's greatest hits.
#Popleveson: the Twitter meme from Court 73 Robert Jay QC, the lawyer at the heart of the UK's Leveson Enquiry into press standards has a particular way in which he asks questions which was yesterday applied on-line to top pop hits. The Guardian collects some of the best. [more inside]
Hear how popular music has changed from 1940 to today with the Radio Time Machine. Choose a year and hear samples of songs from the top of the Billboard 100 (or full songs if you're logged in to Rdio).
4 (to 6) easy steps to viral fame through pop music: 1) write and record a catchy pop song, 2) get radio play for your song, and 3) get Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez to hear your song, so 4) they tweet about enjoying your song. Bonus steps to further fame: 5) make a video that has a twist ending, which 6) people (including Bieber and Gomez) cover and remake and share online for further fame and fortune. Thanks to all this, Carly Rae Jepsen's pop dance song has moved beyond Canada, and is charting all over the world. If that's not enough, NPR's Ann Powers has further thoughts on the pop hit and its video. [more inside]
"Hi. Russia may well be associated with hard liquor like Водка, but in this video I will be talking about our traditional soft drinks and non-alcoholic beverages." Part 1 [mostly juices] and Part 2 [fizzy drinks]. [more inside]
Before hip-hop beefs, there were response records, also known as answer songs, usually replies to well-known songs. There are a few key eras: blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s, including a number of responses to "Work With Me, Annie" (1954), recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, with answers including "Annie had a Baby," and "The Wallflower" by Etta James; and Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1953), with a quick response by Louis Innis and Charlie Gore, made a mere week after the original was released, and Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat" (1953), Sun Records' first hit. Country, rock & roll, doo-wop and pop music picked up where the blues left off, with most activity in the 1950s to 60s. Two examples from this era are "Are You Lonesome To-night" and "Who Put The Bomp," and responses to both. The most well known from the next decade was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974), a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" (1970) and "Alabama" (1972). Until the 2000s, no answer songs had charted as high as the original hits. That changed with Frankee's "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)" (2004), a response to Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (2003), which was the first answer song to reach number 1 in the UK. Six years later and across the pond, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was a response to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. More Responses inside. [more inside]
Alex Chilton (of the band Big Star) died two years ago today. Here's a choir singing Big Star's song "Thirteen."
The story of the ABBA sound. 8 minute Swedish documentary. Click the "CC" button for subtitles.
Tally Hall is the best new band I've heard in years, hands-down. They're an American rock band best known for the excellent Good Day video and the cult Albino Blacksheep hit Banana Man. They've released two albums, each masterpieces; the first one is exuberant and youthful and, sometimes, utterly cryptic, while the second is stripped down but astonishingly contemplative and even spiritual, easily one of the best-written pop albums I've ever heard. If you're in the mood for something smart and warm and wonderful, there're... [more inside]
Fifteen years and three weeks ago, four lads from Dublin wandered into a K-Mart in NYC and attracted a crowd as they played a song they've never played live since. They then took some questions from the audience about their intentions over the next year or so. The proceedings were carried live on music television stations around the world. (Part 1 2 3 4) The day was February 12, 1997; the song was Holy Joe; the men performing were U2. They were announcing the release of their new album, POP, released 15 years ago, on March 3, 1997. Loved by many critics, adored by many fans, met with an indifferent shrug by the general public, and repeatedly scorned by the band themselves, perhaps it's time to look back again at this controversial groundbreaking album and landmark tour. [more inside]
The Atlantic explores whether Michael Jackson's contributions, like those of other black artists, are minimized because of his skin color.
Israeli New Wave? Yes! May I introduce The Clique. Here is their song Incubator. Here is another song called Don't Light A Candle For Me. Here are the lyrics to the second song in Hebrew and English. [more inside]
Problem: There haven't been enough electronica genres clumsily co-opted by pop! Also, we need more modern interpretations of awkward '80s fashions. Solution: Party Rock Anthem. [more inside]
Dengue Fever is an L.A. band that fuses Cambodian pop music with psychedelic rock. They have a youtube channel where you can find highlights such as a live acoustic version of their song Uku as well as a clip from the 2007 documentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong. NPR has an interview with them in 2008 and a review of their second album Escape From Dragon House. Peter Gabriel is a fan.
...there’s some desperation to this junk version of “Dancing in the Street,” with both parties trying to affirm their A-1 celebrity status. One of the more pernicious effects of the whole Live Aid/Farm Aid/Band Aid spectacle was to cement the hierarchy of the “legend” rock acts and a smaller tier of anointed successors from the slightly-younger generation (Tom Petty, Sting, Dire Straits, U2). It was the height of the Boomer Counter-Reformation. The late Eighties would see the over-publicized returns of everyone from Steve Winwood to the Monkees to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, to a revamped George Harrison to a MOR version of Pink Floyd to Robbie Robertson pretending that he was Peter Gabriel (a version of Gabriel who couldn’t sing) to an all-star Yes and a Zeppelin-sampling Robert Plant, culminating in the return of the “revitalized” Stones in 1989, the touring company now reincorporated into a gleaming multinational. As Marcello Carlin said back when Popular covered this single: “Suddenly we were once again reminded who in pop and rock mattered and who didn’t…With their massacre of “Dancing In The Street,” Bowie and Jagger seemed to relish rubbing it in.“-The Annotated Jagger/Bowie "Dancing in the Street"
What is Pink Lady? In Japan they are remembered for a string of pop hits in the 70s, but Americans might remember them either from their disco single "Kiss In The Dark" or from an attempt to sell them to the US market in 1980 via a short-lived NBC variety show Pink Lady & Jeff (TVParty summary) with comedian Jeff Altman. (Opening). The show featured their Japanese hits, UFO, MONSTER (a bit more rock and roll), and SOS along with US hits like Boogie Wonderland, McArthur Park and the occasional guest star. (with encore) Also, Roy Orbison. Sadly, the show failed to break out and the two returned to Japan for a series of farewell concerts and retrospectives. Much, much more available at this charmingly retro, utterly exhaustive fan site devoted to them. Or just read the recaps. [more inside]
American Sabor: Latinos in US Popular Music is a currently traveling Smithsonian exhibition exploring the wide range of Latino artists and influences which have shaped American pop music genres since WWII, from Alice Bag to Flaco Jimenez to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to Joan Baez. The website is rich with maps, interviews, videos, and music samples.
The Hummingbirds were one of Sydney's greatest indie pop bands. They debuted with the single Alimony and in 1989 released LoveBuzz, featuring 14 tracks of sparkling jangle pop. It spawned the single Blush, which was a minor success, but the failed and the band broke up in 1993. They were vindicated by history when LoveBUZZ made #65 on the 100 Best Australian Albums Of All Time. This year the band reunited for a set at the iconic Big Day Out Festival and a show in Sydney. They were also immortalized in the Modern Giant song The Band's Broken Up (members of the Hummingbirds later joined members of Modern Giant to form The Aerial Maps). [more inside]
In their 25 year career San Fransisco-based Kronos Quartet might be most famous for creating the go-to dramatic movie trailer music but they've recently courted controversy with their latest album, 9/11, with Steve Reich (NPR First Listen). The album is another in a long line of collaborations with composers such as Phillip Glass, Terry Riley, and Pēteris Vasks. And like any good instrumental ensemble, they've covered Hendrix, Sigur Ros, and Tom Waits. Oh, and they've been on Sesame Street. [more inside]
Quincy Jones sat in the Tenafly, New Jersey den of 16-year-old vocal student Lesley Gore, playing demo after demo, looking for the right song to cut for her first record. Out of over 200 tapes, Jones and Gore had moved only one to the "maybe" pile, and so that song, It's My Party, was recorded on March 30, 1963 in a Manhattan studio. After the session Mercury president Irving Green warned Gore not to get her hopes up, but Gore gratefully told him that it had been a great experience anyway, and it was okay if he didn't want to release it. However, later that evening Jones learned that Phil Spector had just recorded "It's My Party" for The Crystals, so Jones rushed back to the studio to press 100 test copies of the single and immediately mailed them to key radio stations across the country. [more inside]
Singer, knob twiddler and bass player MNDR has had a great year, especially considering that she hasn’t even finished her first full-length solo recording yet. MNDR is best known in the pop world so far for her collaboration with Mark Ronson and Q-tip on Bang Bang Bang, a song that plays with the french children’s song alouette with a double entendre squeezed out of the consonants in “plucking feathers.” [more inside]
Jazz group The Bad Plus play an appropriately discordant Karma Police, a slow-burn We Are The Champions, an tearfulfeariffic Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and also sort of smell like teen spirit.
Is the epic saxophone solo returning to pop music? With recent good time summer radio hits by ubiquitous hit makers Katy Perry and Lady Gaga featuring an unexpected saxophone solo, is this a hint towards a return of the woodwind as a staple in rock/pop music or just ironic posturing from vapid "tastemakers"?
Pop-Cultured Currency - Technically, defacing US currency is a crime – but artist James Charles doesn’t seem to be in any legal trouble for his awesome series of Pop Culture Cash. His portraits, created on real money using ink, turn dead presidents into colorfully amusing pop culture icons. Alternate site with larger pics.
"The critically acclaimed, best-selling documentary series that lays the axe to the root of the idol of popular culture"
In 1989, Eric Holmberg and The Apologetics Group/Reel to Real Ministries released "Hell's Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll" [more inside]
Bill Drummond, best known as co-founder of the KLF, writes about his slow infatuation with damsons.
Die, Danger, Die, Die, Kill! is a blog dedicated to 'world pop cinema', and covers everything from Russian science fiction to Italian superhero films.
Ida Maria is a 26-year-old Norwegian pop-punk-rock musician whose music is both catchy as shit and surprisingly vulnerable. Her lyrics are simple but sometimes uncomfortably honest. Her first album had two big hits with excellent music videos: I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked and Oh My God. Other songs off the album that I'm fond of: Queen of the World (my personal favorite); Louie; Keep Me Warm. Her second album, Katla, has a more eclectic sound, ranging from the vintage pop-inspired Quite Nice People to the horn-driven I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast to the dirty Bad Karma to the sillier Cherry Red.
Using album & digital song sales, Hot 100 rankings, radio airplay, YouTube views, social media, concert grosses, industry awards and critics' ratings, Rolling Stone compares sixteen female artists to name the Queen of Pop. [more inside]
"Blame it on the Rain" by Milli Vanilli. "Unbreak My Heart" by Toni Braxton. "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith. "How Do I Live" by LeAnn Rimes. "If I Could Turn Back Time" by Cher. "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion. "If You Asked Me To" by Patti LaBelle. What do all of these songs have in common? They were all written by Diane Warren, a member of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame whose songs have awards such as a a Grammy, a Golden Globe award, and several ASCAP awards for Songwriter of the Year.
Overlooked '90s Indie Pop: The Cat's Miaow, whose single sentence wiki describes them as... "an indie pop band formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1992." And Madison Electric, a band from Ann Arbor that played one show in a church basement before going their separate ways.
Econblogger Tyler Cowen asked his readers What is the most neglected and underrated *accessible* pop music album? 154 and counting answers range from Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion to the 1960s band Honeybus and everything in between. One comment points to an interesting possible answer [Previously on mefi] to why a good album never catches on. "Short answer might be that we are social animals and don’t make these decisions independently and as a result, even tiny, random fluctuations can blow up, generating potentially enormous long-run differences among even indistinguishable competitors" [more inside]
The Monkees' Head: 'Our fans couldn't even see it' At the height of their fame, the Monkees teamed up with Jack Nicholson to film the psychedelic classic Head – and destroy their careers in the process. So how do they feel about it now? [more inside]
Inside Pop - The Rock Revolution is a CBS News special, broadcast in April 1967. The show was hosted by Leonard Bernstein and is probably one of the first examples of pop music being examined as a 'serious' art form. The film features many scenes shot in Los Angeles in late 1966, including interviews with Frank Zappa and Graham Nash, as well as the now legendary Brian Wilson solo performance of "Surf's Up." (MLYT) [more inside]
1980SLYT: Kim Mitchell* - "Go For a Soda" (1984). In whiche our protagonist experiences his favorite rock singer (1) step out of the television, (2) do a little dance on the table, and (3) join his band in the refrigerator. All while singing a Hard Rock Anthem about the joys of S-O-D-A. [ *wiki • via the voice of great antiquity's great blog post about being a contestant on Jeopardy. via jessamyn ]