Monday, May 18, 2015

WHY IDOL MATTERED


Although it’s been waning in ratings and influence in recent years, now that the sun is setting on American Idol, it’s only appropriate to reflect on what the show has achieved: a significant paradigm shift that created a whole new type of enthusiasm for music, and even more importantly, did so during a time in history when the music business was reeling from illegal downloading and desperately needed it.

At the height of its popularity, Idol was drawing audiences of nearly 40 million for its finales, and during its 13-year run this show has minted numerous bankable stars—something the many competitors formed in its long shadow have yet to accomplish. The show launched talent that went on to long-term careers; whether they “won” their season or not, their names now all too familiar in the American pop lexicon—Kelly ClarksonCarrie UnderwoodAdam LambertKatherine McPheeDaughtryKellie PicklerFantasiaJordin Sparks, and Jennifer Hudson.
And even if all of these Idols didn’t stay on the charts, their genuine talent level, combined with a newly anointed celebrity status from Idol’s cultural significance, created a lane that led them on other successful paths, including Broadway (Constantine MaroulisJustin GuariniFrenchie Davis) and, in the case of Clay Aiken, even beyond that.

In 2014, Aiken ran for a seat in congress for North Carolina and came in second to incumbent Rep. Renee EllmersThe Runner-Up, a documentary series that chronicled his campaign journey, debuted on Esquire Network earlier this month, and Aiken is running for a seat again next year.  During his appearance onHBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher to speak about campaign finance reform, Maher was actually listening.  “I’ve never watched American Idol,” he admitted, “but I admire you getting into politics.”

 “I’m using my voice in a different way now,” Aiken told him.
In more ways than one, this was one of the most influential shows in the history of television. By Season 6, American Idol was the most-watched series among all viewers, averaging 30 million and collecting more than 570 million votes for contestants and 65 million text messages. It was the most lucrative multimedia property of all time and the defining tentpole of the Fox Network. Creator/producer Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment and Freemantle Media, who owned the rights to Idol, built a franchise worth more than $2.5 billion in value that regularly brought in $500 million a year in ad revenue and $30-$50 million in core sponsorship packages.  Idol was such a force, in fact, that rivals ABCNBC and CBS would regularly program around it. Although it wasn’t the first call-in show ever, the level of audience participation was unprecedented. In the first season alone, Idol collected 110 million votes and, by 2012, more votes than were cast in the U.S. Presidential election.
However, all shows have their peaks, and then the dreaded valleys. Starting in Season 8 after a judges’ panel shake-up, the problems began. As Idol’s ratings cratered, heads inevitably rolled. In 2013, longtime producer Nigel Lythgoe was fired, and just a year later, the corporate boss—Fox’s chairman of entertainment Kevin Reilly (who had been on the job since the show’s peak year in 2007)—also exited.

But let’s not forget host Ryan Seacrest, the only member of the entire cast to be there for all 15 seasons.  When Seacrest started as host, he was the afternoon drive personality for Clear Channel AC station Star 98.7.  During the inaugural season of Idol, I was a Program Director in the Los Angeles cluster and attended several tapings, having become an instant geek-fan.  After repeatedly watching how charismatic, natural, and relatable Seacrest was onstage with these kids, I was the first in an eventual chorus of voices within the company that recommended he take over mornings for Rick Dees.

Since then Seacrest— through his own savvy and a legendary non-stop work ethic—has followed in the footsteps of broadcasting’s eternal greats, like Dees, Casey Kasem and Dick Clark, handled these huge transitions brilliantly with ease and grace and also formed one of today’s most powerful television production companies. Now creating successful programming ventures just like his own Idol Merv Griffin did, Seacrest has become a force in entertainment and pop culture behind the scenes. He’s American Idol’s greatest success story of all.

Whether or not shows such as X-Factor and The Voice—or even scripted ones that came in the wake of Idol mania, like Glee—will launch more music superstars is beside the point.  What matters is that American Idol spawned a new movement in reality television that collectively fosters an overall passion for music. They keep the art of music top of mind and the drama of music front and center stage, and they add badly needed value to music, by reminding us why we are all so entertained and enraptured by music.

“We had a blast!” Simon Cowell recently said in a statement. “Me, PaulaRandy, Ryan—thanks to the fans we were able to make some great shows and found some amazing artists. Fox took a risk on a brand new show and I want to thank them for giving us the opportunity. They really were great times.”

Thursday, April 30, 2015

CROWNING A$AP


Every time I see a new interview with A$AP Rocky I like him even more. How is that possible when he can already get it �� welp, because a sharp mind is sexier than anything at the end of the day.
And this guy is smart, has a very unique approach to his craft,  a philosophy about mentoring and leading change and the importance of young people in the equation which something I agree with 100, and although it's ultimately a credit to Yams (Rest in Peace, Yams)---  there is a vision here with A$AP Mob that harkens back to the earliest days of hip hop when it was experienced as a complete culture. Anybody remember the 5 Elements?  Hello? No? Go stichyoassdown then. Let me drop some science. Learn:

1. The MC (The Voice)
2. The DJ (The Music)
3. Graffiti (The Art)
4. The B-boy & B-Girl (The Dance)
5. Knowledge (The Consciousness)

In this 2-part interview with journalist Elliott Wilson filmed at the Tribeca Film Festival, we get a glimpse into just how seriously (and not so seriously- Mushrooms anyone?) that he takes himself and his position in the culture overall.  It's a funny, inspiring, intelligent, goofy, and real discussion.

I'm definitely among the believers that when he drops A.L.L.A. (At.Long.Last.A$AP) on May 12th, Rakim Meyers here will live up to his legendary birth name and legitimately add to an already stellar year of hip hop leaping forward in content and character. And that's not just because I want to bang him. Btw, all women want to so just deal with it (and he talks about that too- ha!). 






“I did it my way. Respect to the radio and obviously I’m at a label so respect there, but I feel like people don’t need that these days you know? I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite cause you talkin’ to somebody who is in a situation I have a deal, I have all that stuff, I’m on the radio sometimes so I don’t want to contradict myself I’m just saying:

You shouldn’t try to make music just so it can be on the radio. You shouldn’t try to make music just so you can get a big record deal. Make music to make muthafuckas feel a type of way, man! Make muthafuckas have fun again.”  ~ A$AP ROCKY

Monday, April 27, 2015

JAY Z PICKS UP THE MIC

Jay Z does not communicate on social media very often. In fact he’s only used Twitter three times this entire year so far—the "Glory" Oscar win, official announcement of Tidal, and Roc Nation’s signing of Vic Mensa. He never says more than a few words, and it is always one tweet only.

However, battling incessant media reports that Tidal’s struggle is real with app sales and public perception in a complete nosedive plus artists such as Mumford & Sons now joining the rising chorus of backlash—the mogul broke a long silence, and picked up the mic smartphone.  

In a series of nearly two dozen tweets posted Sunday morning, preceded by the assertion this was a “stream of consciousness,” Jay defended every aspect of Tidal. From the company's long-term view on success and the time it takes to build, to royalty rates for independent artists and the overall content offering they will ultimately have. 

Jay also accused his competitors (using the cleverly vague term of “big companies” which applies to both tech and media outlets) of orchestrating a “smear campaign” against the fledgling service, with one tweet even ranking equity numbers of behemoths like YouTubeSpotify and Apple in comparison.  

This move comes on the heels of a report about sabotage by "rival" Apple in the iTunes store, alleging that it that has slowed down the availability of Tidal's app in the download store. Shady. 


With the Apple/Beats Music launch now less than six weeks away, this all gets more interesting by the minute. 






Thursday, April 23, 2015

LIVE FROM CLUB NOKIA (REVIEW): AZEALIA BANKS


A week ago I went on a reconnaissance mission.  Azealia Banks had scheduled a show in DTLA at Club Nokia, in between two very high-profile Coachella dates.  Full disclosure: I’m a genuine fan since the 212 days. Her debut studio album Broke With Expensive Taste is fabulous, due to her genuine skill as a rapper plus a Rihanna-level taste factor when it comes to beat selection and curation. Not every artist is great at this ya know.  Most of them are heavily A&R’d with teams of people who spend months taking meetings and seeking out beats, so even if  “Artist A” wants a say, I’d say 80% of signed talent don’t have the instincts to be productive in that realm.  Banks is not that. She’s an independent force of fuck-off-if-you-can’t-understand-it.  Otherwise known as the Real Deal. 

Part of the reason her new album received such glowing reviews is the music is a direct extension of her, and it’s some exciting shit. Azealia's musical vibe is as hectic, exhilarating, brave and hardcore as she is.  At the end of the day it’s a party, a great one, and you will dance and sing those hooks. She’s just dope.  So I had to check her out in her natural environment aka, away from the hipster douchebags at The Coachella Fashion Show and amongst her own fans who paid to be there.  I took my younger sister Jen who lives downtown and had never heard of Azealia, to gauge the impression on a newbie to the scene. 

It was eye opening to say the least.....

YOU OUGHTA KNOW (If You Don't Already): RAURY

"I am the Savior. Savior. Savior!"
That’s a chant from the end chorus of  “God’s Whisper,” a song about intuition and following your own voice that inhabits a brilliant collision of styles from alternative, folk to world music and soul, shape-shifting into a truly unique sound that is the special brew we have come to know as Raury. I absolutely love his album Indigo Child but even more than that, his beautiful spirit.
Raury’s music torched the Internet all last year with passionate headlines like “Have You Heard This?!” immediately putting the young writer and producer behind it all on everyone’s Artist To Watch list. 
The debut EP Indigo Child was self-released for free last September, backed by in-house collective and label LoveRenaissance who had just signed with Columbia Records after an intense bidding war. The project embodies a wide range of ideas and sonic styles, part of the modern “post-genre” movement in music today where influences go unrestrained.  
The most compelling part of Indigo Child is how it evokes a sophisticated musicality and lyrical world view that resonates far beyond Raury's eighteen years on this planet. To underscore just how young he is, the EP is stitched together by a series of interludes that are real arguments with his mom secretly recorded (and released with her persmission), which serves to authentically verbalize his struggle for the individuality and freedom that you then experience in his music. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

LIVING FOR SHAMIR

Oh he had me at On The Regular, hello. I loooove Shamir Bailey, the edgy muse from Vegas. Not only is he super fun musically in all that queencentric swagger of his club house bangers, but represents a coming cultural touchpoint in our country: movement towards non-specificity of gender roles among people in the future. Gay, straight, trans, whatevs; that's just how they roll those Millennials. No labels, please. And Shamir glows with a cool unique in this regard, there's real authenticity in that alien androgyny of his voice. It is both sassy and haunting. Listen:




This is why Shamir will break through when he drops his debut album Ratchet.  

When he came through The Echo in Silverlake for a live performance earlier this month-- and I missed out entirely because my dumb ass didn't moniter Twitter closely enough, real talk-- I can't even begin to explain my level of grief, scrolling thru all the hyped-up Insta posts the next morning (sigh).

Pretty sure it was sadness on par with being left outside of The Music Box back in 2012 as my lover The Weeknd made his live U.S. debut inside... all the scalpers were looking at me blankly... oh my point is I've missed some moments, man. Lame.  There are certain artists that experiencing them live early on and being part of that process of discovery for others well,  it's what gives music-heads LIFE!! And yes, Shamir is up there with The Weeknd and Unicorns and free tacos. Amazing.

Enter evidence of awesomeness, exhibit "XL": the hilarious and exceedingly clever promotional goodness that's been formed around his new single--  the "Call It Off Relationship Hotline."  Oh I dialed child, trust. Press 0 to "Call it off"-- leave a message and you can have Shamir advise you on fading that thot-- Press 1 to hear the new song,  or 2 to hear him "say it all again in a really low voice." LOL.    #J'adoreDior


 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TYLER TALKS TO BIG BOY

Tyler the Creator's interview with Big Boy was an intelligent, hilarious, honest and fun conversation as he continues that heavy promo run to get word out on new album Cherry Bomb (which is the real deal, music fans should definitely check it out).

But the true T gems are at the very end here when the kid starts talking about his philosophy behind launching the Golf Media app (at about 46:12) and what being a creative ultimately means in the business world of other media platforms  (BYOS: Build Your Own Shit) plus, why he wants to run his own magazine, radio station and cartoons. Hope he does it all. Perfect example of working smart.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

TINASHE TRYING TO WIN


Tinashe. Armed with a major-label blueprint to merge into the lane formerly known as Aaliyah's while unfortunately lacking the inherent star quality to break through, which is why her journey hasn't quite captured our imagination yet despite major praise and four-star reviews for the Aquarius album.

It's such a crowded field out there; takes more authenticity than a tightly A&R'd album to connect with a loyal following.  Poor Tinashe. She's a talented writer, a working actress, a DIY-video and mixtape chick that gets her own hustle on. Probably why homegirl's grabbing on those Amethyst crystals to calm her ass down while she curls up in a corner crying 'bout why nothing's truly detonated into a mainstream success when Schoolboy Q, ASAP Rocky, and Future do blazing features on her singles.

lol nah, I'm playing-- sure Tinashe has no beef at all with her place in the world.

Besides, the buzz is steadily building. Big sign right here: when Giraffage starts fuckin' with your songs. One thing the San Jose EDM producer/DJ excels at is flipping R&B songs into sick remixes-- and he's added new touches to Tinashe's "All Hands On Deck"-- a single currently limping up the airplay charts. Maybe they consider working this version. (See: DJ Snake/AlunaGeorge "You know You Like It" for reference).