Wednesday, 26 October 2016

When Musicians Threaten to Boycott the Grammies

Recently there's been a lot of discussion about the fact that Kanye West has said that he won't attend the Grammies if Frank Ocean doesn’t get a nomination.

The reaction appears split many support West for attempting to credit to Ocean, who has recently two very popular albums in 2016, but there have also been those critical of West for doing so.

However as it happens it might just be West trying to avoid having his suit ironed, because neither of Ocean’s albums were entered for the Grammies before the September 30th deadline.

In 1989 Will Smith, Flavor Flav, Salt n Pepa and other boycotted the grammies after the Best Rap Performance Award wasn't broadcast.

Many have suggested this was done by Ocean and his team consciously for reasons unknown, but despite this West ranted about how Ocean deserves a nomination at one of his gigs on the 22nd October.

It’s interesting when musicians try to use their power to force awards ceremonies, it almost never works and it doesn’t does anything. 

The reality is the Grammies are not critically respected by the vast majority of audiophiles, it is populist and the reality is people will watch it with or without such a prominent personality as Kanye West. 

West notably got on stage at the 2015 Grammies during Beck's acceptance of the Best Album of the Year award.

In the recent past there have been several attempts to boycott the Grammies.



Neither of those two boycotts changed anything. 

West collaborator Jay-Z boycotted the ceremony back in 1999. Photo Michael Tran/Film Magic


He tweeted on the 15th February
"I'm practicing my Grammy Speech. I'm not going to the Grammys unless they promise me the Album of the Year!!!”


So basically it appears to met that West is just trying to flex his musical power muscles, and a little tip to Yeezy, next time wait a whole 365 days before threatening to boycott the Grammies.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2017 Nominees… Who should get in?

It’s that time of year again, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nomination time. This year’s bunch is without a doubt the most eclectic one I’ve ever seen from the hall, and it does suggest that the Hall is finally trying to move on the Halcyon days of the 1960s.

With a few regulars appearing, and a few odd shots there are 19 nominees this year, ranging from essentials to unnecessary. I’ve decided to look at the nominees to the hall and see if I think they belong in the hall and if they will get in.

Bad Brains

Why they should be in the hall: As far as genres go Hardcore Punk is more ignored than Disco in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so Bad Brains would be a solid representation for the genre in the hall.
Who’ve they influenced? Rage Against The Machine, Faith No More, Red Hot Chile Peppers and Soundgarden
Should they be in the hall? Yes, one day in the future perhaps. But not now. They aren’t even the most well known hardcore punk group; instead Black Flag should get in. However an induction would be a big push in the right direction as it could open the inductions to alternative 80s acts whom the Hall painfully ignores.
Will they be in the hall? No. They are the least likely of the nominees to get in this year.

The Washington D.C. Based Hardcore Punks Bad Brains

Chaka Khan

Why she should be in the hall: As far as 1970s hit makers go you could do worse than Chaka Khan, however she is easily the artist I am least familiar with so I can’t do much in the way of critical thinking regarding her.
Who’ve she influenced? Whitney Houston, TLC, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey.
Should she be in the hall? Perhaps, she is just as worthy as other inductees like Donna Summers, but at the same time she does represent a genre the Hall, and myself, isn’t fond of.
Will she be in the hall? Maybe, she has the songs. She has enough to maybe get in, but considering the other nominees this year, I don’t think we’ll see her on stage accepting an induction.

Chic

Why they should be in the hall: Let’s face it the band is an essential part of the 20th century’s musical tapestry, without them in the hall it just reeks of anti-populism and elitism. The band has the hits, they have the influence and they have a popular figure in Nile Rodgers, they belong in there.
Who’ve they influenced? Daft Punk, Madonna, David Bowie and Prince
Should they be in the hall? Yes.
Will they be in the hall? They play a genre the hall dislikes, they have a record 11 nominations without induction, it doesn’t look good for the band. However as service to the fans the hall could induct them, just so they can finally nominate someone else next year.

Disco Pioneers Chic

Depeche Mode

Why they should be in the hall: 80s hit makers and one of the most important bands to ever use a synth. They are one of the essential artists of the 1980s, and have continued to be a relevant act, headlining festivals into the 2010s.
Who’ve they influenced? Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay, Pet Shop Boys and The Killers
Should they be in the hall? Yes, without a doubt. There are barely any alternative 80s acts, and there are no 1980s UK indie acts in there. Depeche Mode breaking in would finally open the door to acts like The Smiths, The Cure and New Order among others.
Will they be in the hall? I doubt it. They are pretty much the opposite of what the Hall is likely to induct, they’re from the 80s, they use synths, they have no close connections to legends of the industry, they were bigger in the UK then America. I hope they do get in, but I doubt it.

Electric Light Orchestra

Why they should be in the hall: There aren’t many more bands that were such pleasant inheritors to the Beatles Pop Rock schlock. ELO had it all, connections, uniqueness, and they weren’t too pretentious. There secret weapon is Mr Blue Sky, an anthem far bigger than the band itself in the year 2016.
Who’ve they influenced? Air, Phoenix, Kylie Minogue and Jellyfish
Should they be in the hall? Maybe, they aren’t critically adored, but they did break new ground which nobody else has really touched on. However at the heart of things I feel like they were just an above-average 1970s pop rock band, they don’t really deserve induction on those grounds.
Will they be in the hall? Probably, Jeff Lynne’s Beatles connections and Traveling Wilburys connection could be enough to push the group in alone, and the band is going through a resurgence so I wouldn’t bet against them.

ELO in all their shining seventies glory

Jane’s Addiction

Why they should be in the hall: They are a crucial part of the 1980s Alternative music evolution. They bridge the gap between the likes of Guns and Roses and the likes of The Pixies, etc. The band’s influence and Lollapalooza connection is enough for consideration alone.
Who’ve they influenced? The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Marilyn Mason and Rage Against The Machine
Should they be in the hall? Not now, but in the future yes. Their biggest con is that they only had 2 great albums, and no epic anthem song that will make them an easy choice like several other of the nominees.
Will they be in the hall? I’m inclined to doubt it. I don’t see how they will get in when better 1980s alt rock bands haven’t. At the same time they could play the nominating committee and could be picked by some of the more conservative voters, as they are a guitar centric rock band, which is favoured historically by the hall.

Janet Jackson

Why she should be in the hall: There aren’t many pop stars as big as Janet Jackson, she has the hits, she has the fame, she has the connections. They isn’t much that stops Janet from qualifying.
Who has she influenced? Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Spice Girls and Britney Spears
Should she be in the hall? I suppose so. I mean she is like Madonna. She belongs in it because she was huge, but she hasn’t been huge for a while, so to people of my age she simply isn’t notable. She should get in; I just don’t think she should in place of many of the other nominees.
Will she be in the hall? Probably not. If any year was her year it was last year. She had a comeback album, she had a fan drive for induction, but nothing came of it. She could be inducted but the climate simply isn’t as kind to her this year.

The only Jackson child to get out of Michael's shadow, Janet Jackson

J. Geils Band

Why they should be in the hall: They were one of a few 1970s-style rock bands to break into MTV, they have several songs which are still instantly recognizable and they were more then anything else a band that celebrated Rock & Roll.
Who’ve they influenced? George Thorogood, The Black Crowes, Derek Trucks and Jeff Healey.
Should they be in the hall? No. They brought nothing new to the table of rock and roll. They don’t have a notable influence on rock and they simply aren’t a band that belongs in the canon of popular music.
Will they be in the hall? Their only hope is the 60-70 year old voters who loyally support the bands of their youth. They could get in based on that, but if they do it will betray any change the Hall is trying to enact.

Joan Baez

Why she should be in the hall: She is one of the most important artists of the folk genre. Without her it is possible to argue Bob Dylan would of never become a name anyone would know, and she also helped create the female singer-songwriter type which has been used by acts like Tracy Chapman and Ani DiFranco.
Who has she influenced? Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Ani DiFranco and Indigo Girls
Should she be in the hall? No. Not because she isn’t deserving but because she is not anything to do with contemporary music. Yes she flirted with the pop charts, but she is like Woody Gunthrie or Pete Seeger, neither of them would belong in the Hall, and neither does Joan Baez.
Will she be in the hall? Possibly. Her connection to Bob Dylan is enough to sway plenty of voters but at the same time her adherence to the folk line will make many not vote for her as she is simply not rock and roll of any definition. Honestly I think the Dylan Nobel Prize is enough to push her in based just on a Dylan connection.

Lead proponent in the folk revival and Dylan partner, Joan Baez

Joe Tex

Why he should be in the hall: He is the next on the list of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and so many other soul kings. Few soul artists managed to transfer soul onto record so powerfully and few artists of the soul genre managed to maintain a charting career into the era of funk.  
Who has he they influenced? Al Green, Nick Lowe, Otis Clay and Johnnie Taylor
Should he be in the hall? Yes. He is one of the titans of the soul genre, and he is one of the tightest links between southern soul and funk.
Will he be in the hall? No. He simply isn’t well known enough to the general public, nobody except music nerds will care if he gets inducted, and the hall does care about publicity and sales. Also he’s been dead for over 30 years, so the induction would be a sour one. This will likely be his last nomination.

Journey

Why they should be in the hall: Don’t stop believing
Who’ve they influenced? Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Europe and Survivor
Should they be in the hall? No. AOR is simply put probably the worst genre to spawn from rock, and Journey are the kings of AOR. Letting them in would be a shame to the hall.
Will they be in the hall? Maybe, the hopes of a reunion and a fan favourite group could be enough to push voters to vote for them, but at the same time AOR is not popular in the hall.

Best known for the song Glee sung, Journey

Kraftwerk

Why they should be in the hall: There isn’t another band like them. They are the nominee, alongside perhaps Tupac and Chic, who has the biggest influence on the 21st century music. They are the originators of electronic based music and the first great artist of the genre.
Who’ve they influenced? David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Aphex Twin and Joy Division
Should they be in the hall? Yes.
Will they be in the hall? Maybe. They stand a strong chance, but their biggest con is that they are the lead proponents of electronic music; a genre the hall hasn’t been kind to in the past.

MC5

Why they should be in the hall: They are, alongside The New York Dolls, the best Proto punk group not yet inducted. They were a blend of everything you love about rock; they were political, hedonistic and angry.
Who’ve they influenced? Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, The Ramones and Joan Jett
Should they be in the hall? Kind of. As far as music history goes they are important, but they lack the material to get into the hall itself, they only have one really recognizable song and that kind of isn’t enough.
Will they be in the hall? I doubt it. They’re a cult band, a good one, but they simply don’t have the same popularity as other nominees.


"Kick Out The Jams Motherfucker" - MC5

Pearl Jam

Why they should be in the hall: They are the Stones to Nirvana’s Beatles. They are the 2nd most important rock act of the 1990s; they are the most secure induction of the year.
Who’ve they influenced? Creed, Stone Temple Pilots, Everclear and Candlebox
Should they be in the hall? Yes, but they lack the influence or uniqueness that they really should have to be in, they get by purely on their own merits.
Will they be in the hall? Yes, without a doubt.

Steppenwolf

Why they should be in the hall: Because they were born to be wild. They are simply one of those important late 60s groups who went on to inspire the idea of Heavy Metal.
Who’ve they influenced? Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, Judas Priest and Motorhead
Should they be in the hall? Not really. They, like MC5, are icons and have definitely secured a place in rock history but they don’t belong in the same annals of the greats, they lack the material, the longevity and the popularity.
Will they be in the hall? Probably not, but they could still reel in the conservative votes and the people who recognize Born to be Wild is greater than those that don’t.

Will they arrive to the induction ceremony from a Magic Carpet Ride? Steppenwolf

The Cars

Why they should be in the hall: Few bands were as influential on the sound of the new wave.
Who’ve they influenced? The Strokes, Guided by Voices, Air and Weezer.
Should they be in the hall?  Yes, the real question is should they be in this year. I don’t know about that, for me they are my 7th choice. I think we will see them in before 2020 however.
Will they be in the hall? Perhaps, they didn’t get in last year, and that was an easier time for them to qualify in comparison to this year’s well-picked bunch of nominees.

The Zombies

Why they should be in the hall: They are the last credible British Invasion act to be inducted into the hall (Alongside the Moody Blues). They have one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the 1960s and have songs that are as great as anyone else’s.
Who’ve they influenced? The Bee Gees, Genesis, Elliott Smith and XTC
Should they be in the hall? Yes, they may lack the material, but without them chamber pop and Twee pop wouldn’t be the same if it even existed.
Will they be in the hall? Yes, however I doubt it’ll be this year, only because Tupac and Pearl Jam have 2 of the places locked, and the Zombies won’t win the fan vote so that leaves only two possible places for them, so it’ll be a tight fight.

"Is it to late to say I'm sorry?" - The Rock Hall to The Zombies

Tupac Shakur

Why should he be in the hall: Because he is one of the icons of Hip Hop and is still a recognizable figure on all sides of the globe. He has the hits, popularity, influence and icon to go in first try.
Who has he they influenced? 50 Cent, DMX, Drake and Eminem
Should he be in the hall? Yes.
Will he be in the hall? Yes.

Yes

Why they should be in the hall: They are one of the great Prog Rock bands, they embody all the pretentiousness, virtuosity and pure thrill of the genre, and also have hits. They have every feature you want out of a rock band.
Who’ve they influenced? Marillion, Dream Theatre, Todd Rundgren and Kansas
Should they be in the hall? Yes, they should have been in decades ago.
Will they be in the hall? Yes, I think that despite the hall’s hatred of prog rock; Yes will be the band to utilize the fan vote.

Will fans of the band celebrate their induction by screaming their name? - Yes


My predictions for who will be inducted
Pearl Jam
Tupac Shakur
Yes
ELO
Joan Baez
If they induct 6 my bet is for Journey… unfortunately.

My personal selection
Pearl Jam
Tupac Shakur
Yes
Depeche Mode
Kraftwerk

If they induct 6, my 6th would be The Zombies

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen: Perfume Merchants

If you’ve read the news recently you know that Bob Dylan has become the new Nobel Laureate for Literature, and as such you might have read the masses of comments about his receiving the award. Amidst the comments commenting on whether he deserves it or not you've probably seen the people saying that if Bob Dylan receives it, so should Leonard Cohen. 

There are a lot of things that connect Dylan and Cohen. They are both poetic songwriters, they both wear a large folk influence on their shoulders, both have abstract singing voices for popular music, and both have always been inspiration for outsiders and vagabonds.

Leonard Cohen with Joni Mitchell

Another thing they share in common is that they both considered having a cologne line.

Cohen considered a cologne with the name "Indifference" which would have the slogan "I don't give a shit what happens." Which is so incredibly like Cohen's public image that you almost believe it isn't true. 

Dylan was offered a Cologne line with the suggested name 'Just Like A Woman' and rather than simply abiding by the company, he instead did what any person would do, he called Carrie Fisher, who, as she recounts in her book Wishful Drinking, offered up several wonderfully Dylanesque names for a perfume, such as Ambivalence, Arbitrary and Empathy. 

So there you have it, a minor connection the two titans share. Maybe we should all take a leaf from their books (Or songs) and rather than arguing over whether Dylan deserves the great Swedish award, we should instead display Cohen's indifference and Dylan's ambivalence, and rise above the noise.

A future Nobel Laureate 

This is all a small lark of a post, because I originally wrote a long winded “Why Bob Dylan deserves the prize” post, and then I read it, and I realized that I added nothing new, nothing that might not have been heard, and I didn’t want to do that. So I scrapped it, and I wrote another two articles about Dylan and Cohen, both of them were, simply put, repetitive, and everything I had to say had been said so often.

But I also didn’t want to leave Dylan’s award without comment, so I decided point out one connection between Dylan and Cohen I haven’t seen in every post about it.



Sunday, 9 October 2016

Why has Americana become the critics' darling?

If you pay attention to the critics of the music press you might have noticed how they pay an inordinate amount of attention to Americana, a genre with a faint definition.

To many Americana may be the twangy guitars of Emmylou Harris or it may even be the bluegrass of Alison Krauss. As a genre it is alike Alternative Rock, in that it it's definition is rough and it can be used all over the musical landscape, with complete understand of what is meant. 

The Guardian in particular has been obsessing over the genre recently, it’s been hypothesizing about it’s future with odd frequency. It’s foretold how it’s future lies in British artists, and then the next week said the same, but instead claiming Australians are the savioursof the genre.

Yola Carter, one of the British 'Americana Hopes' (Photograph C Brandon/Redferns)

But what it is that has made critics suddenly so focused on the genre? Is it a new groundbreaking album. I personally don’t believe so, as although I’m not a self-described Americana fanatic, I do pay attention to albums that have recently gained high praise, and I can’t pinpoint an Americana album to attribute to this rise in attention.

At the same time I can’t attribute a new phenomenal artist either. The same forerunners of the genre remain the same, Jason Ibell, formerly of Drive-By Truckers, and also the likes of Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch.

The genre has became a buzzword, look over BBC articles on new bands and you’ll find the word ‘Americana influenced’ littered over profiles, and most of those bands don’t even have a American bone in their body.


Lake Komo, one of the capitalises upon the Americana obsession. 

Overall the sudden spike in interest confuses me, it has no explanation, at least not from my middle class English, London-based point of view.

But everyone in the industry seems suddenly interested in Americana, some seem to see it as the next great thing, overs see it as a genre which has not folded it’s long standing traditions.

But the fact of the matter is the genre is a weird one to be fixated on. Only recently some of the figureheads of thegenre made a big display in attempting to define the genre, and it appears that the wannabe musical capital of the world, Austin, has even fixated on the genre.

I feel like I’m missing out on something here, even the UK has caught the bug, this year they started a UK Americana awards, one that will, at least, continue into next year. It baffles me, because I always thought of Americana as not just a musically specific genre, but as a geographic one.


Perhaps this will set a trend where we will all hear Scottish highland music from Argentina and Mongolian vocal chants from Syria. Personally, I’m not sure if this is a phenomenon or a critics’ dream.