Category Archives: Music Industry

Manufacturing Bob Marley

Hua Hsu writes for The New Yorker:

Image result for bob marleyWhen Bob Marley died, on May 11, 1981, at the age of thirty-six, he did not leave behind a will. He had known that the end was near. Seven months earlier, he had collapsed while jogging in Central Park. Melanoma, which was first diagnosed in 1977 but left largely untreated, had spread throughout his body. According to Danny Sims, Marley’s manager at the time, a doctor at Sloan Kettering said that the singer had “more cancer in him than I’ve seen with a live human being.” As Sims recalled, the doctor estimated that Marley had just a few months to live, and that “he might as well go back out on the road and die there.”

Marley played his final show on September 23, 1980, in Pittsburgh. During the sound check, he sang Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” over and over. He asked a close friend to stay near the stage and watch him, in case anything happened. The remaining months of his life were an extended farewell, as he sought treatment, first in Miami and then in New York. Cindy Breakspeare, Marley’s main companion in the mid-seventies, remembered his famed dreadlocks becoming too heavy for his weakened frame. One night, she and a group of women in Marley’s orbit, including his wife, Rita (to whom he had remained married, despite it being years since they were faithful to one another), gathered to light candles, read passages from the Bible, and cut his dreadlocks off.

Drafting a will was probably the last thing on Marley’s mind as his body, which he had carefully maintained with long afternoons of soccer, rapidly broke down. Marley was a Rastafarian, subscribing to a millenarian, Afrocentric interpretation of Scripture that took hold in Jamaica in the nineteen-thirties. By conventional Western standards, the Rastafarian movement can seem both uncompromising (it espouses fairly conservative views on gender and requires a strict, all-natural diet) and appealingly lax (it has a communal ethos, which often involves liberal ritual use of marijuana). For Marley, dealing with his estate probably signified a surrender to the forces of Babylon, the metaphorical site of oppression and Western materialism that Rastas hope to escape. When he died, in Miami, his final words to his son Stephen were “Money can’t buy life.”

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When Did Music Journalism Stop Wielding the Axe?

Luke Turner, co-founder of The Quietus, writes for Crack Magazine:

Image result for music journalismAs a result of changes in how we consume media, music journalism is increasingly in flux. This unstable climate, The Quietus’ Luke Turner argues, has all but stamped out the flames of negative criticism. Who are critics writing for today, and why should they resist the suppression of honest reviews?

It’s a curious sensation to watch something you love being bludgeoned to death in front of you. I’d not want to do it to anyone’s cat, dog, or gerbil. But albums are a different matter and, at the moment, there’s not enough stomping going on. At The Quietus, the online music magazine I co-founded, I recently wrote a hatchet on risible trip-hop nostalgists Public Service Broadcasting for their dire LP Every Valley, a tacky and inept album that turns the collapse of the Welsh mining industry into a gin-in-a-jam-jar musical turn at a bunting-strewn village fête.

The online reaction was not merely people agreeing or disagreeing with what I’d written, but surprise that such a critical review had been published. Bootings are, it seems, becoming a thing of the past – a relic of the print music press of the 80s and 90s. This is a troubled time for music-focused editorial websites generally. It’s recently transpired that writers for MTV News – which had undergone a politicised makeover not long ago – had their editorial freedoms restricted after Chance the Rapper and Kings of Leon threatened to no longer work with the channel. A new “reshuffle” has seen many MTV writers get the axe, while Vice announced the end of its dance music portal Thump. In both cases, writers have been laid off to prioritise video content.

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I Feel Love: Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder Created the Template for Dance Music As We Know It

Bill Brewster writes for Mixmag:

It had been a good few months for the gang at Musicland Studios. Deep in the bowels of the Arabella High-Rise Building in Munich’s Bogenhausen district, this pan-European collective of players had been a responsible for a string of hits that had turned disco on its head. Led by co-producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, this team had made a major breakthrough with the Donna Summer’s breathy hit ‘Love To Love You Baby’, which crossed over into the pop charts – but not before being banned by Radio 1 for being too sexy.

Donna Summer was one of a clique of itinerant musicians and performers who’d washed up in Munich at a time when the recording industry there was at its most vibrant. Originally a cast member of the hippie musical Hair in Germany, she swiftly established herself as an in-demand session singer. She was a popular part of the studio set-up. “We became good friends,” says Moroder, “She was an incredibly talented singer, who could improvise but was also very disciplined. As a person she was very funny.” According to Bellotte, one of the reasons she was easy to work with was her lack of interest in the recording process. “The whole time that we worked together there was never the slightest bit of friction. We were so lucky, because she wasn’t interested in the productions at all. So she’d come in the studio, usually at four o’clock in the afternoon, and would chat for hours. Then she’d look at her watch and say, ‘Oh I’ve gotta go!’ and she’d go into the studio and mostly sing it in one take – and be gone.”

The sessions for ‘I Remember Yesterday’, Donna’s fifth album, moved swiftly. “Everything happened so fast,” says Bellotte. “Our engineer Jürgen was fast, and the musicians were too. Albums evolved quickly, we never hung around. We were a working team and we just got on with it.” In stark contrast to their American and British label Casablanca Records, which appeared to be entirely fuelled by blizzards of cocaine, there was little excess going on in the Musicland Studios. Two of the team, Bellotte and engineer Jürgen Koppers, were tee-total, while Giorgio drank modest amounts. There were no drugs.

‘I Remember Yesterday’ was yet another concept album, cooked up by Bellotte and inspired by Anthony Powell’s novel A Dance to The Music Of Time (also the LP’s original title). Each song would evoke a different decade’s mood, from 40s swing to the 1960s with the Shirelles and Supremes, 70s funk and contemporary disco before alighting upon the future with the final track: ‘I Feel Love’.

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Parents Told Police Their Daughter Is Being Held Against Her Will In R. Kelly’s “Cult”

Jim DeRogatis reports for BuzzFeed News:

[…] R. Kelly has sold nearly 60 million albums during his 25-year career, and though his relevance is fading somewhat from the heyday of “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Trapped in the Closet,” he remains a major star in high demand for concerts, endorsements, television and radio appearances, and glossy magazine profiles. When he’s not performing, Kelly splits his time between his suburban Atlanta home and Trump Tower in Chicago. Extensive interviews with Mack, Jones, and McGee and a review of legal documents by BuzzFeed News paint a picture of what Kelly’s life offstage is like today.

The women in Kelly’s entourage initially think “This is R. Kelly, I’m going to live a lavish lifestyle,” said Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant for a year and a half starting in 2013 and has remained in touch with some members of his inner circle. “No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind control. … He is a puppet master.”

Jones and McGee both said they lived with Kelly and had sexual relationships with the star at different times over the past five years before leaving. Their documentation of this time is limited, however, as they said Kelly controlled their phone and social media use while they were under his roof, and they were not allowed to take photos with Kelly or of the rooms where they were living.

According to Mack, Jones, and McGee, the women living in Kelly’s Duluth, Georgia, “guest house” or his Chicago recording studio last summer included:

  • A 31-year-old “den mother” who “trained” newcomers on how Kelly liked to be pleasured sexually. She had been best friends since high school with the girl in the videotape for which Kelly was tried in 2008. She recently parted ways with Kelly, these sources say.
  • A 25-year-old woman who also has been part of Kelly’s scene for seven years.
  • A recent arrival, a 19-year-old model who has been photographed in public with Kelly and named on music gossip websites — a rarity among the women in his circle.
  • An Atlanta songwriter who began her relationship with Kelly around 2009, when she was 19. (She is now 26.)
  • And an 18-year-old singer from Polk County, Florida. Mack said the Florida singer is Kelly’s “favorite — his number-one girl.”

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The Streaming Problem: How Spammers, Superstars, and Tech Giants Gamed the Music Industry

Adam K. Raymond reports for Vulture:

Image[…] Streaming’s impact on the way artists make music goes all the way to the top. Take Chris Brown, whose upcoming album Heartbreak on Full Moonhas 40 tracks, and not because he has so much to say. The famously unscrupulous pop star has found a way to boost his streaming numbers, which in turn inflate sale figures, and will, he hopes, send his album shooting up the charts quicker than it otherwise would.

Even Spotify is reportedly gaming the system by paying producers to produce songs that are then placed on the service’s massively popular playlists under the names of unknown, nonexistent artists. This upfront payment saves the company from writing fat streaming checks that come with that plum playlist placement, but tricks listeners into thinking the artists actually exist and limits the opportunities for real music-makers to make money. Spotify did not respond to questions about the accusation*, but this is not the first time Spotify, which pays minuscule streaming fees, has been accused of bilking artists.

A cynic might look at all of this and shrug his shoulders. Craven opportunism has been a part of the music industry since the first concert ticket was sold. But even if the money-grubbing isn’t new, the manner in which it’s grubbed is. And no matter who’s doing it, the effect is the same: Music is devalued.

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Eurovision! What a Song Contest Says About a Continent

Stephen Moore writes in his review of Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe Through the World’s Greatest Song Contest by Chris West for The Guardian:

Image result for Eurovision! A History of Modern Europe Through the World’s Greatest Song Contesthave always been a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, the 62nd instalment of which takes place in Kiev on 13 May. At least I hope it takes place – this has been one of the more troubled stagings, with the hostility between Ukraine and Russia spilling over into a competition that is supposed to be an expression of European solidarity.

There is one qualification to my fandom: I don’t think I have ever managed to sit through the contest’s entirety, which these days runs to more than three hours. The bit I like is the judging, which usually occupies the last quarter of the show. That’s when the amities and enmities between the nations of Europe – the centuries-old frictions that have always tended to undermine the grand ambitions of the Eurovision project – come to the fore. Cyprus and Greece vote for each other; Belarus backs Russia; the Scandinavian and Balkan countries vote as a bloc; and over the last 20 years, as the UK has increasingly become the odd one out in the EU, no one has voted for us. It was all too much for Terry Wogan, whose mordant commentaries kept the contest afloat in the UK. He quit in 2008, complaining that the event was now about politics rather than music.

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Is Poptimism Now As Blinkered As The Rockism It Replaced?

Michael Hann writes for The Quietus:

“A rockist is someone who reduces rock & roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. Rockism means idolizing the authentic old legend (or underground hero) while mocking the latest pop star; lionizing punk while barely tolerating disco; loving the live show and hating the music video; extolling the growling performer while hating the lip-syncher.”

Those are the words of Kelefa Sanneh, from a 2004 piece in the New York Times that served as a manifesto for poptimism, the belief that pop was being short-changed and needed to be defended. It rallied the lovers of pop against those who would dismiss music for not being, well, made by blokes with guitars. At that time, the strength and worth of Sanneh’s words was evident. That was a point at which music’s conversation was being dominated by whey-faced rock bands, by the postpunk revivalists coming out of New York and London, by earnest Canadians such as Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire. It was the highpoint of indie rock’s supremacy, the days when the right trousers and a little bit of attitude could buy you a million great reviews, high slots on festival bills, and major label record deals.

That’s not the case now, of course, which is no bad thing. But has something else replaced rockism? Try turning around Sanneh’s sentences, and they make sense today, 13 years on, but with a very different meaning: “A poptimist is someone who reduces pop music to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. Poptimism means idolising the latest pop star while mocking the authentic old legend; lionising disco while barely tolerating punk; loving the music video and hating live performance; extolling the lip-syncher while hating the growling performer.”

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Cracked Actor: 1975 David Bowie Documentary

A BBC documentary that was first aired in January 1975 covering David Bowie’s time in the U.S. during his Diamond Dogs tour. (BBC)

Inside the Illuminati with Rosie Kay and Adam Curtis

Judith Mackrell reports for The Guardian:

“I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole,” admits Rosie Kay with a slightly wild giggle, as she describes the world of conspiracies, cults and celebrities that she has been exploring for her latest work. The choreographer has long been known for her brave and sometimes surprising choices, and for the depth of research she undertakes. She and her dancers spent weeks in training with the British army for 5 Soldiers, while for Sluts of Possession she worked with the School of Anthropology at Oxford, investigating tribal and spiritual ritual. None of her projects, though, have taken her into such alien territory as MK Ultra.

Named after the experiments in mind control that the CIA developed during the last century, Kay’s new show explores the phenomenon of the Illuminati, a shadowy cult believed to be on an elaborate mission of global domination, spreading its agenda through the brainwashing of prominent individuals in politics and the media.

Belief in the cult is particularly strong among young people, and when Kay first began hearing about it from the teenagers who came to her dance workshops, she discovered that pop stars are considered to be the Illuminati’s most targeted “recruits”. Groomed from a young age, singers like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan and Kanye West have supposedly been made agents of the Illuminati’s New World Order, their songs and videos carrying messages designed to subtly alter the public’s consciousness. According to Kay, “the under-25s now have a whole system for decoding the imagery of music videos, looking for symbols like thrones, butterflies, checkered floors and bird cages, to see if they’re carrying the cult’s message and to see which celebrities have been programmed”.

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Paul Joseph Watson Is A Pop Culture Pleb

Anthony Fantano responds to Paul Joseph Watson’s latest video The Truth About Popular Culture, saying that he makes some of the dumbest assertions about pop culture and contemporary music. Watson has since posted a video titled: Conservatism is the NEW Counter-Culture(The Needle Drop)

Did Trump Team Offer Ambassadorships in Order to Lure Celebrities to Perform at Inauguration?

Amy Goodman speaks to Itay Hod, senior reporter for TheWrap, who recently published an article on Team Trump’s efforts to bring in A-list starts to perform at his inauguration by offering government posts and ambassadorships, among other things. (Democracy Now!) 

Trump Team Dangled Ambassadorships to Lure A-List Inauguration Singers

Itay Hod reports for The Wrap:

trump inauguration ambassadorships timberlake katy perry beyoncePresident-elect Donald Trump’s team is struggling so hard to book A-list performers for his inaugural festivities that it offered ambassadorships to at least two talent bookers if they could deliver marquee names, the bookers told TheWrap.

The bookers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were approached by members of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee in recent weeks with offers of cash or even plush diplomatic posts in exchange for locking in singers.

The first insider said he was “shocked” at the proposal: “Never in a million years have I heard something so crazy,” he said. “That was the moment I almost dropped the phone.”

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Art, Politics and Society: How David Bowie Changed the World

Afshin Rattansi speaks to writer, broadcaster and cultural critic Paul Morley about how David Bowie made a world of difference. (Going Underground)

Twenty Years After His Death, Tupac’s Legacy Is Still Felt

Mosi Reeves writes for Rolling Stone:

Two decades after his death on September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur endures as one of hip-hop’s most iconic figures and its most powerful enigma. His life was a tapestry of often contradictory images: the concerned young father cradling his son in the video for “Keep Ya Head Up”; the angry rapper spitting at cameras as they swirled around his 1994 trial for sexual assault; the artist who animatedly, yet eloquently, pushed back at Ed Gordon’s questions during a memorable BET interview; and the man who seemed to predict his own demise when the “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” video, released weeks after his death, depicted him as an angel in heaven.

Although he is no longer with us, the myth of 2Pac the thug angel remains. No other artist better illuminates hip-hop’s fault lines between regional pride and mainstream success, and the struggle to transcend and elevate beyond humble origins while honoring the streets that raised you. His wayward, conflicting expressions of pride, militancy and gangster-ism resonates in a world when black men and women celebrate their heritage and collectively organize against a racist America, yet are also cautious to protect themselves from each other.

Fans – particularly East Coast rap listeners who, after all these years, still harbor a grudge against him – will continue to debate whether 2Pac’s albums can measure up to Nas’ Illmatic, the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, or Jay Z’sReasonable Doubt. But no one can deny the way he transformed hip-hop into his singularly muscular, tattooed, bald-headed, bandana-clad image.

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Is Robert Del Naja the real Banksy? Massive Attack member named as graffiti artist

Martin Robinson reports for The Daily Mail:

New theory: The hunt for the true identity of Banksy took a new twist today after a member of Massive Attack was named at the artist by an investigator who has plotted his art and found they matched to Massive Attack gigsThe hunt for the true identity of Banksy took a new twist today after a member of Massive Attack was named as the artist.

Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja, the founding member of the Bristol band, has been accused of being the guerrilla graffiti star because art keeps appearing near their gigs.

In 2008 former public schoolboy Robin Gunningham was named as Banksy by the Mail on Sunday – and scientists analysing his work also believe it is him.

But now investigative journalist Craig Williams, 31, claims the artist could be Mr Del Naja, or perhaps a team of people led by him and linked to Massive Attack who combine their concerts with graffiti.

Mr Williams has plotted Banksy murals around the world and said that on at least six occasions more than a dozen appeared shortly before or after Massive Attack gigs in the same cities over the past 12 years.

3D was a graffiti artist in the 1980s and has admitted he is friends with Banksy – but the journalist’s new research concludes he may be the artist himself.

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What Is Fentanyl? The Drug That Killed Prince Has Killed Thousands of Others

Alex Johnson reports for NBC News:

[…] Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid — its chemical name is the tongue-twisting N-phenyl-N-[1-(2 phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] monohydrochloride — that was first formulated during the 1950s as a safer and more effective alternative to the painkillers morphine and meperidine.

Its creators at the Belgian drug company Janssen Pharmaceutica got the “more effective” part right.

Fentanyl is the strongest opioid approved for medical use in the United States, rated as 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

It’s the go-to drug to dull the crippling, otherwise-untouchable pain experienced by many patients with advanced cancer.

The safety part of the equation is another matter.

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Prince: A Shy, Nonconformist, Unknowable Talent

Alexis Petridis writes for The Guardian:

It seems strange to relate now, but in the early years of Prince Rogers Nelson’s career, there were voices that doubted whether he would ever be truly successful.

He was clearly exceptionally talented and possessed a vision for his music that bordered on obstinacy: not only had he produced, arranged, performed every instrument and composed all but one song on his 1978 debut album For You, he had also somehow contrived to get a record contract with Warner Brothers that entitled him to complete artistic control, almost unheard of for a new artist.

But he was also a strange, shy, awkward figure, apparently unwilling to play the promotional game. His interviews were almost wilfully unrevealing; an early appearance on that venerable US music TV institution American Bandstand was such a disaster that host Dick Clark later claimed Prince was the most difficult artist he’d ever encountered on the show. How could anyone so apparently unwilling to play the game ever hope to make it?

As it turned out, Prince knew exactly what he was doing, even when it looked like he had no idea. The way he behaved as his career began in the late 70s would set a pattern for the rest of his life.

He was, if anything, even more lavishly talented than the credit that claimed he’d played 27 different instruments on For You suggested. He went on to make umpteen albums in a myriad of music styles: he could, it appeared, do everything from rock to funk to jazz to psychedelia.

Some of the albums were better than others – his output was so torrential that not even he could completely maintain his quality control – but whatever they sounded like, they always sounded like Prince. And he was infinitely more obstinate than that first recording contract made him appear. For the best part of 40 years, he conducted his career according to a whimsical internal logic that seemed to baffle even his closest collaborators.

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The Life and Work of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg: Interview with Ericka Blount and Davey D

Jared Ball talks to author and professor Ericka Blount and hip hop historian and journalist Davey D who reflect upon on the life and work of A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg. (The Real News)

The Fierce Courage of Nina Simone

Adam Shatz writes for The New York Review of Books:

Nina Simone performing in the 1960sIn 1968, an interviewer for New York public television asked the singer and pianist Nina Simone what freedom meant to her. “It’s just a feeling,” she replied, seemingly flustered by the question. Then, suddenly, an answer occurred to her. “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear!”

This exchange appears early in Liz Garbus’s remarkable documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, and it’s a startling moment, for if Simone, who died in 2003, conveyed anything on stage, it was fearlessness. Frustrated in her ambition to become a classical pianist, she smuggled Bach into the night club, combined his music with folk, blues, and jazz, and enforced recital hall rules: those who made any noise while she played could expect a cold stare or a tongue-lashing. Her repertoire was catholic—Gershwin, Ellington, Jacques Brel, Kurt Weill, Bob Dylan—but whatever she sang ended up sounding like a Nina Simone tune. She did not so much interpret songs as take possession of them.

Her most famous song, however, was one that she composed herself. “Mississippi Goddam” was written in 1963, the same year as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” and provided a sharper expression of the mood among young civil rights activists. “This is a show tune, but the show hasn’t been written for it yet,” Simone coyly announces, before working herself into a furious assault on white counsels of patience:

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie
Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you any more
You keep on saying, “Go slow!”

The mere fact that Simone dared to say “Mississippi goddam” represented a revolution in black political oratory. As Dick Gregory recalls in Garbus’s film, “We all wanted to say it, but she said it.”

Simone’s courage was undeniable, but it was also a shield, even a mask, designed to protect her from hostile forces, real and imagined. White supremacy was not the only hellhound on her trail. She suffered from bipolar disorder, a condition that remained undiagnosed until the 1980s, when her demons had all but taken over and a Dutch fan saved her from near vagrancy. She had a weakness for tough men and hustlers: “A love affair with fire,” as her daughter Lisa Simone told Garbus. (Lisa Simone is an executive producer of the documentary.)

Simone was also deeply tormented about her desires for women. “I have to live with Nina, and that is very difficult,” she confessed in an interview. Just how difficult is the story of Alan Light’s biography, What Happened, Miss Simone?.

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Who are the most powerful people in music? Jay Z? Kanye? Beyoncé? No, it’s old white men

Eamonn Forde writes for The Guardian:

The publication of Billboard’s Power 100 list for 2016 has finally put an end to the filthy rumour that the music business is dominated by old white men.

Sorry … of course it hasn’t. The annual poll ranks the most powerful people working in all areas of the industry, and is dominated by white men of a certain age. The top 10 actually has 13 faces in it, and every one of them is male and white.

The Apple Music team’s entry at No 3 is shared by Jimmy Iovine, Robert Kondrk, Eddy Cue and Trent Reznor. Dr Dre, the co-founder of Beats Electronics which was acquired by Apple in May 2014 for $3bn, is conspicuous by his absence.

In 2014, Jay Z and Beyoncé topped the list. They’re not even in the top 100 this year.

Daniel Ek, the co-founder of Spotify who is at No 10 on the list, is the only one in the top 10 who can be classed as young. He’s 32. Irving Azoff, artist manager and CEO of Azoff Madison Square Entertainment, is at No 6. He is 68. Martin Bandier, head of Sony/ATV Music Publishing and No 5 on the list, is 74. Doug Morris, the head of Sony Music at No 4 on the list, is 77.

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Beyonce and Art as War: Interview with Ajamu Baraka and Paul Porter

Jared Ball talks to Ajamu Baraka of the Institute for Policy Studies and Paul Porter, the founder of Rap Rehab, to discuss the continuing political fallout of and response to Beyonce’s performance at Super Bowl 50. (The Real News)

The Weird Global Appeal of Heavy Metal

Neil Shah reports for The Wall Street Journal:

Today’s “world music” isn’t Peruvian pan flutes or African talking drums. It’s loud guitars, growling vocals and ultrafast “blast” beats. Heavy metal has become the unlikely soundtrack of globalization.

Indonesia is a metal hotbed: Its president, Joko Widodo, wears Metallica and Napalm Death T-shirts. Metal scenes flourish in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. China got an early seeding of metal 25 years ago when U.S. record companies dumped unsold CDs there. In a male-dominated genre, Russian band Arkona is fronted by singer Maria Arkhipova. Language barriers are less significant in the metal world, which is all about the sound, an often dissonant drone not grounded in any one musical tradition.

The explosion of local bands around the world tends to track rising living standards and Internet use. Making loud music is expensive: You need electric guitars, amplifiers, speakers, music venues and more leisure time.

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Beyonce’s ‘bootylicious’ sexualisation of black women isn’t inspiring – and her politics leave a lot to be desired

Kehinde Andrews writes for The Independent:

For days now there has been praise (and condemnation) pouring out for Beyonce’s Super Bowl half-time show performance and her boldness in making statements on race on such a mainstream stage.

After all, it is rare to see Black Power salutes and artists singing how they love their “negro nose” on such a platform. However, I have to confess that I watched the half-time show and almost missed the political stance entirely, wrapped as it was in the “bootylicious” over-sexualisation of black women that we have come to expect from Beyonce.

Never before has so much been made over a one and a half minute performance, with everyone so quick to embrace a performance that was the epitome of style over substance.

In October it will be 50 years since the formation of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense by Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California. This is an important anniversary to mark because the Panthers provided a radical alternative to the politics of mainstream acceptance.

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Beyoncé Invokes Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter at Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show: Interview with Dave Zirin and Vince Warren

Amy Goodman talks to Dave Zirin, sportswriter for The Nation, and Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Both men discuss Beyoncé paying tribute to the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement during her halftime show at Super Bowl 50 where the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers. Zirin also talks about the protests that have been taking place in San Francisco prior to the event. (Democracy Now!)

The Politics of the Golden Globes and David Bowie: Interview with Hamish McAlpine

Afshin Rattansi talks to Award Winning film producer and distributor Hamish McAlpine who talks about what really happened at the Golden Globes from Ricky Gervias’s political monologues to the winners and the losers. He also talks about what made David Bowie so influential over so many years. (Going Underground)

David Bowie was a beacon against rigid identity politics

Ian Dunt writes for politics.co.uk:

[…] So much of the politics discussed by young people today, particularly in university, is about identity. Partly, it embraces this freedom of Bowie’s, particularly in the growing understanding that sexuality is on a spectrum and even, on more radical fringes, that gender itself might be too. This kind of politics points out to spoiled, privileged, middle class kids like me that the world was nowhere near as peachy perfect as we thought it was when we grew up and that while we were congratulating Britain on its liberalism, or our generation on its tolerance, people were still being put at a systemic disadvantage from which we ourselves would not suffer.

But part of this new political culture also speaks against the fluidity of identity which Bowie represented. It is about reaffirming the categories we thought we wanted to get past. When white people are banned from political meetings about racism, or people constantly use the phrase ‘person of colour’ as if a higher political validity stems from it, or when those with their own complex sexual identity are branded simply ‘cis’, we are doing the opposite of the Bowie project. We are elevating the notion of a simple, easily described, lifetime identity. We are tidying up all the weird little jagged bits of the human personality into their designated drawers and cupboards. We are telling an old lie about what it is to be a person: that there are a series of names which will sum up its parts.

There is far more truth in Bowie’s fluid, ever-changing identity, than there ever will be in a string of words we can use to define ourselves. He was one of those rare artists whose presentation was more important than the substance of his work.

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The Elaborate Charade to Obfuscate Who Writes Pop Music

Nathaniel Rich writes for The Atlantic:

The biggest pop star in America today is a man named Karl Martin Sandberg. The lead singer of an obscure ’80s glam-metal band, Sandberg grew up in a remote suburb of Stockholm and is now 44. Sandberg is the George Lucas, the LeBron James, the Serena Williams of American pop. He is responsible for more hits than Phil Spector, Michael Jackson, or the Beatles.

After Sandberg come the bald Norwegians, Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Hermansen, 43 and 44; Lukasz Gottwald, 42, a Sandberg protégé and collaborator who spent a decade languishing in Saturday Night Live’s house band; and another Sandberg collaborator named Esther Dean, 33, a former nurse’s aide from Oklahoma who was discovered in the audience of a Gap Band concert, singing along to “Oops Upside Your Head.” They use pseudonyms professionally, but most Americans wouldn’t recognize those, either: Max Martin, Stargate, Dr. Luke, and Ester Dean.

Most Americans will recognize their songs, however. As I write this, at the height of summer, the No. 1 position on the Billboard pop chart is occupied by a Max Martin creation, “Bad Blood” (performed by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar). No. 3, “Hey Mama” (David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj), is an Ester Dean production; No. 5, “Worth It” (Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink), was written by Stargate; No. 7, “Can’t Feel My Face” (The Weeknd), is Martin again; No. 16, “The Night Is Still Young” (Minaj), is Dr. Luke and Ester Dean. And so on. If you flip on the radio, odds are that you will hear one of their songs. If you are reading this in an airport, a mall, a doctor’s office, or a hotel lobby, you are likely listening to one of their songs right now. This is not an aberration. The same would have been true at any time in the past decade. Before writing most of Taylor Swift’s newest album, Max Martin wrote No. 1 hits for Britney Spears, ’NSync, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, and Katy Perry.

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The Song Machine

The Rise and Fall of Death Row Records

Jeffrey St. Clair writes for CounterPunch:

On August 7, 2001, Marion “Suge” Knight, the 350-pound boss of Death Row records, was released from prison after serving five years on charges stemming from a 1992 assault. About the time Knight regained his freedom, a documentary film, Welcome to Death Row, about the rise and fall of his company was making the rounds looking for a distributor to show it in theaters.

Fourteen years later, as the much-hyped Hollywood biopic about NWA Straight Outta Compton is set for nationwide release, Welcome to Death Row still hasn’t had much of a public airing. The dozen or so artists who spoke on camera faced various forms of intimidation. Some received death threats. Others saw their careers sabotaged.

The story told by Welcome to Death Row is a cautionary tale about the grimy realities of the entertainment industry, one that has made billions exploiting the talents of songwriters and musicians. It’s a story of mercenary lawyers, drug gangs, and unremitting harassment by police and the FBI. In the end, although the label generated more than $400 million in sales, its top star was dead, its business manager was in jail and all the money was gone, most of it filched by white businessmen.

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Online pirates could face 10 years in jail under plans being considered by UK government

BBC News reports:

Piracy keyOnline pirates could face jail terms of up to 10 years under plans being considered by the government.

Online copyright infringement currently carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Ministers have launched a consultation on increasing it to 10 years – bringing it into line with copyright infringement of physical goods.

The government said tougher sentences would act as a “significant deterrent”.’

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Musicians Push Back Against GOP Candidates Using Their Songs

‘Neil Young is just the latest pop star to criticize a GOP politician for using one of his songs during a rally. CBSN’s Meg Oliver takes a look and listen.’ (CBS News)