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This is the Remix!: When the Remix is Better than the Original (Part 2)

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A couple weeks ago we were successfully able to determine that Diddy did not in fact invent the remix.

Thus, the dastardly album cover at left — by the way, is Diddy wearing leather pants? — represents a complete fallacy.

Shame on you, Sean.

There is, however, admittedly significant evidence pointing to Diddy’s influence and accomplishments as a remixer — at least within the Hip Hop/R&B community. Many of the examples I gave of songs whose remixes turned out to eclipse their respective originals in terms of either quality, popularity, or both, are indeed the work of Diddy and his Hitmen production crew over at Bad Boy Records. So I’ll definitely give him his fair share of credit for bringing us remixes of “Only You” from 112, “Fantasy” from Mariah Carey, and Usher’s “I Need a Girl.”

All three of these remixes far surpassed their original versions in their measure of street cred and mass appeal, if not in actual chart performance. Yet given today’s differing musical climate, one hot with digital downloads, highly-targeted Satellite radio broadcasts, more music channels than ever, and the overall increased accessibility of music, I would wager that all three remixes would fair far better by Billboard’s measurements today than when they were originally released. Simply put, more people would know about them, more people would hear them, and more people would be able to obtain them, giving the remixes a much broader reach.

In the television industry, viewers are often known simply as “eyeballs” — the more eyeballs your advertisements have on them, the more they are worth. The same should hold true in the music industry: the more “eardrums” a certain song attracts, the more valuable it becomes and the higher it rises on the music charts. For example, as of this writing Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” is the number nine song on iTunes’ top downloads. Song number ten? The remix of “Lollipop” featuring Kanye West. Similarly, the album version of Usher’s hit “Love In This Club” sits at number forty-eight. The remix, “Love In This Club Part II,” sits at number forty-nine. In both cases the original versions were officially released well ahead of their respective remixes, so given enough time, it’s entirely possible that the remixes will end up being downloaded as much, or more, than the original songs.

Okay that’s enough outta me.

I promised a second installment of songs whose remixes eventually became more popular than the originals, so let’s get to part two of this ever-expanding list:

Read the rest of this entry »

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 23rd, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Health- Perfect Skin

These LA Noise rockers have been doing it for a while, and I’m happy for them they’re getting some press. When I finished listening to this album (their newest and first- self titled LP) I felt nothing but pure jealousy. I wish I made this record! Congrats dudes on making a terrific album, beautifully blending noise with some enjoyable grooves. This song is sort of like their slow single, but I think when loud can sound pretty epic.

2. Tera Melos- Last Smile For Jaron

I wrote about these guys early on, but I never uploaded a song. I saw them perform again two nights ago while opening for the Fall of Troy. These guys freakin’ shred and I wished everybody knew it. They smash around between math rock melody, and more experimental sounds. This is off their Split with By The End of Tonight, title Complex Full of Phantoms. Primarily an instrumental band, this album was their introduction of vocals. I think that typically can be dangerous for an instrumental band, but like Battles did with Atlas, they seemed to have found a tactful way of doing it without drowning the music with lyrics. Instead the vocals are just used as another instrument. This song melts me down in a few places, I’d tell you where, but you should just listen to it through and figure it out!

3. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum-Ambugaton

This song has amazing lyrics. Here it is :

“Ambugaton!”

Yea, that’s it. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is a terrific folk metal band that goes through lots of different and very unique/ bizarre sounds. You should try them out, so if nothing else you can say you’ve heard Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I really have more trouble describing these guys more than most bands. But take the ride that is Ambugaton. It seems to go from edgy classical music, to metal. The whole song is a giant build up to the one lyric, AMBUGATON! Liner notes point to Hank Williams as author of the lyric…….

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Cam’ron – Weekend Girl/Weekend Love

So as far as I’m concerned Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer. Forget June 20th. At least in New York it is — offices are vacant by noon, restaurants are empty at the usual dinner rush, and perhaps most importantly, tank tops and mini skirts return. A close second, however, is that inevitable — and often indomitable — summer anthem, the one song that signifies an entire summer in your life. Three months boiled down to three minutes. And you never forget ’em. This Friday I’ve chosen three songs that hold memories for me of recent New York summers past. First, summer 2006: Cam’ron samples/jacks The S.O.S. Band‘s 1985 single, “Weekend Girl,” with great success despite the fact that the track remained largely underground, and was never released on any official album (thus the uncertainty over its actual name). Although sped up slightly from the original “Weekend Girl,” Cam’s song maintains a summery, breezy feel from the first bars, which is further reinforced by his playful, almost lazy, flow. While I refuse to buy into Pitchfork’s identity as the sole arbiter of musical excellence, it’s worth noting that the notoriously tough critics rather remarkably named Cam’ron’s highly unofficial summer anthem to the web site’s Top 100 Tracks of 2006. And for once, I definitely agree with them. This track has flown under the radar for far too long.

2. Kevin Lyttle Feat. Alison Hinds – Turn Me On (Mad Hatters Ball Mix)

Summer 2004: What started out as a laid-back soca ballad featuring well-known reggae artist Spragga Benz back in 2001 was eventually remixed three years later into the summer club banger “Turn Me On.” With a much more uptempo, dance floor-ready beat that plays musical Twister — one foot on reggae, one hand on soca; other foot on reggaeton, other hand on dancehall — by straddling those multiple genre’s, Kevin Lyttle’s introduction to flat out bum-rushing of the U.S. market (the song reached number four on Billboard’s Hot 100) spawned many a drunken hook up in the sweat-soaked bars and clubs of NYC, with some patrons (libidos racing) trying just a little too hard to emulate the moves they saw in the music video for “Turn Me On.” I remember being incredibly amused by this on numerous occasions, as some people actually fell. Like, a lot of people, actually. Unfortunately, 2004 was a hot and sticky summer in New York, and this song only served to make things worse.

3. Lumidee Feat. Busta Rhymes & Fabolous – Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) (Remix)

Summer 2003: My god this song was hot back then. That’s all I remember. (Busta Rhymes even warns of its power in the opening line…”Ayo Tedsmooth it looks like it’s gonna be another one of them hot summers…”). Of all three tracks, “Never Leave You” was probably the most ubiquitous during its spectacular summer run. You just couldn’t get away from it no matter where you went: TVs, radios, cars, bars, and house parties bumped Lumidee aka The Queen of Spanish Harlem for three straight months. It swept New York. And the video — ohh man the video was so good too — was really the perfect reflection of the record’s street roots; basically just a huge Spanish Harlem block party up on 2nd Avenue and 119th street with corner boys posted up, Puerto Rican chicas dancin’ up a storm, Busta Rhymes shadily lurking in a bodega, Fabolous rappin’ in front of a corrugated steel garage door, 5-0 on hand (as always), and little kids all crowded around the DJ. (Side bar: I just realized upon rewatching the video that Lumidee’s love interest — a corner boy — is played by none other than corner boy extraordinaire Bodie Broadus — played by J.D. Williams — from HBO’s The Wire, aka the Greatest Show of All Time. Small world). Now I say “street roots” because the great thing about this song is that it had no business being a hit record, let alone an athemic one. It was produced by no-name neighborhood DJ and producer Tedsmooth, who blatantly hijacked the already known Diwali Riddim (you’ll remember it from Sean Paul’s hit, “Get Busy,” as well as one of my old favorites, “No Letting Go” by Wayne Wonder) and sung by a no-name local teenager who could sort more or less carry a tune, named Lumiana DeRosa. (What, you thought she just pulled that name out of thin air?) And yet, a street anthem was born. Busta was right too, it was a hot summer.

JustJake’s Picks

1. John Prine- Angel From Montgomery

This week’s picks honor one of my favorite songwriters, John Prine. Another one of those so-called “songwriters’ songwriters,” Prine has written some of the saddest, funniest, and most poignant songs in the Americana songbook. Along with most songwriters in this category, Prine has been covered time and again, often with his songs reaching a broader audience in the hands of better-known artists. You might recognize this first song as a Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Susan Tedeschi, or Tanya Tucker tune; it’s actually Prine writing from the unique perspective of a broken down housewife.

2. Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys- Paradise

All three of these songs were first recorded by Prine on his tremendous, eponymous first album (1971). Shortly thereafter this track became somewhat of a standard in the newgrass movement and this is a cut done by Jim and Jesse McReynolds, one of the sibling super groups that helped shape bluegrass music. You can also watch Prine perform the song here.

3. John Prine- Illegal Smile

More than just a stoner anthem, this song is one of the more cleverly written tunes out there, and my personal Prine favorite. The whimsical melody and playful lyrics help cover up the pain and sadness that lurk just below the song’s surface.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Quick Hits: Day26 – Day26

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So typically we use the “Quick Hits” format for newly acquired music that we like and feel like sharing with others or just generally talking about. But I need to flip the script a little bit, even if only just for today.

I’ve written extensively about artists that I like — or at least whose music I find to be new or interesting or meaningful — in almost every post thus far. I didn’t want to contribute too much to the ever-snarky “this sucks” culture of today, which seems particularly prominent when it comes to blog culture. But I gotta say something about Day26 and their debut album, the cleverly titled, Day26:

This sucks.

I mean honestly, this was supposed to be the next R&B super-group, which Diddy (whom I grew up with, like, and admire) and MTV spent years crafting — holding auditions all over the country and synthesizing the thousands of hopefuls and wannabes into the five men you see sitting before you who already look dressed for their own funeral. And yet, I found myself listening to the album and thinking, Seriously? This is it? This is the best Diddy could come up with? With all of America as his talent pool. And on top of all that, Diddy, you decide to saddle them with this absurd name, Day26 (no spaces, please). Why, man, why?

I was really looking forward to having a good, old-school, all-male R&B group that could really sing again. Well you can forget that idea. If you were waitin’, it ain’t here yet. Forget about the next New Edition, the next Jodeci, or the next Boyz II Men. Day26 is maybe the next All-4-One — maybe (come on, “I Swear” was a great song) — but they aren’t even the next 112. (Who had some really legitimate shit, by the way: “Only You,” “Cupid,” “It’s Over Now,” “Peaches & Cream,” “Dance With Me,” etc.). The passion and charisma just isn’t there with these dudes.

And the bitch of it is, Day26 has probably had more advantages in releasing their first album than any group in R&B history, accept for maybe Diddy’s other “Making the” band, female “super-group,” Danity Kane. Between the insane amount of near-constant publicity from four seasons of MTV’s Making the Band show, and album production almost exclusively by top-flight producers (Bryan-Michael Cox, Danja, and The Hitmen), it’s no wonder that Day26 debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart — anything less would have been serious under achievement considering the coattails on which they’re riding.

Despite the hot initial album sales, the group’s first single, “Got Me Going,” hasn’t exactly been a smashing success, peaking at number seventy-nine on Billboard’s Hot 100, and number thirty on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop chart. This could be due to the fact that, like the group itself, the song is just pretty damn lame. It seems entirely possible that what Day26 is truly suffering from is over-design, over-production, over-coaching, and over-exposure. In other words, the build up was so extreme, there was simply no way the ends could justify the means.

If you opt to check out any Day26 tracks, I’d go with “I’m The Reason,” a percussion-driven joint reminiscent of Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath,” or “Since You’ve Been Gone,” an unsatisfying attempt at the standard “Oh baby I miss you so much but now I’ve changed” R&B ballad.

But I don’t particularly recommend it.

– Jonathan

Day26 Official MySpace

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 18th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. X – Nausea

I just ate a few tacos, so I figured I would pull out my anthem that I sing when I’m nauseous-Nausea. Along with bands like the Germs, X was part of the first wave of punk that found LA. Both those bands, as well as previously featured FEAR all were a big part of “The Decline of Western Civilization.” X had a real edge, but a lot of their stuff had plenty leftovers of New Wave dropped in. This is off their first album, Los Angeles, produced by the Door’s Ray Manzarek.

2. Bad Religion – White Trash (2nd Generation)

I was just having a discussion with a friend about the LA punkers- Bad Religion. Among kids our age, they’re most known for their poppy punk anthems that they’ve been putting out the past ten years on KROQ. It’s hard for many to believe that these guys were part of the first Hardcore movement in the states. But after examining their name and their iconic logo it’s no surprise. Their first album “How Could Hell Be Any Worse” was classic hardcore. Too bad they followed the album with “Into the Unknown”, a crappy prog-rock record that absolutely destroyed their punk cred. They came back afterwards, with “Back to the Known” in a form that is more recognizable now, but the hardcore was all gone. If you want to talk to the band, check out a UCLA Life Science lecture where you’ll find the lead singer teaching!

3. The Mae Shi – Run To Your Grave

Full of changing and unique DIY lighting, as well as frequent costume changes, these guys are great to see live. But their great on tape too. These guys’ run as a small time LA Smell band is on it’s last legs. I’m pretty certain they’re about to blow up at any moment. After featuring albums with 30 or so spastic 30 sec to 1 min explosions, they’ve settled down to more chewable 2-3 min songs. Their newest album “Hlllyh”, should be hitting the radio at any time. Going between 80’s 8 bit keyboards, chanting sing alongs, a little punk, and great chorus’s, it should be no wonder why they’ll do great everywhere. This song is catchy as hell, and already has a great video. My only question is, how are people going to receive their lyrics? After seeing them a bunch live, I’m pretty certain they’re being satirical, but we’ll see how everybody else receives it

Jonathan’s Picks

1. The Game – Big Dreams

I gotta come clean. I’m an East Coast guy. New York born and bred. Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas — those were my guys growing up. Sure I liked ‘Pac, Dre, and Snoop, and I even respected ’em. But they just never held the same water with me. After ‘Pac passed, Dre stopped making albums, and Snoop signed with Master P’s No Limit Records, West Coast Hip Hop was dead. (My apologies to Xzibit, but you don’t count in this category). But in 2004, my (forced) move to Los Angeles coincided almost perfectly with the arrival of a young, brash, fast-rising West Coast rapper called The Game. Ever since I heard The Documentary in 2005, I have anxiously anticipated his every release, and Doctor’s Advocate did not disappoint. In fact it merely succeeded in raising the bar to an unthinkable level for a sophomore album. The Game and Lil Wayne are by far the two most exciting and interesting young rappers in today’s hip hop community, each with a legitimate chance to become a legend in his own right, and eventually achieve O.G. status. “Big Dreams” is the first single from The Game’s upcoming album, L.A.X., which is due out this June. I can’t even pretend I’m not excited.

2. Rick Ross – The Boss

Since I’m being honest this week, I admit that after Rick Ross’ (undeniably hot, but semi-ridiculous) debut single, “Hustlin”” was released in 2006, I thought that would surely be the last we heard of the always meticulously unshaven drug dealer-turned rapper. Yet another “One Hit Wonder” going by the wayside, drifting quietly out into the waters of the Port of Miami. But clearly, I was very wrong. Ross struck Gold with his first album, and is aiming even higher on his second, the recently released and succinctly titled, Trilla, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, beating out both Snoop Dogg’s Ego Trippin’ and Fat Joe’s (aptly titled) Elephant in the Room. That’s serious business, as Ross took out two hip hop vets in one week. Though I wasn’t grabbed by Trilla’s first single, “Speedin'” featuring R. Kelly, I simply cannot get enough of Ross’ second single off the new album, “The Boss,” featuring T-Pain, and produced by Los Angeles-based hitmaker, Jonathan “J.R.” Rotem. I like bumpin’ this one as loud as possible, and I suggest you do the same.

3. Day26 – Got Me Going

Who the hell is Day26, you ask? Well that’s an excellent and fair question, since chances are they will never be very important or well known. Day26 is the newly formed R&B group from Diddy and his Bad Boy Records imprint, which came together on the fourth try, uh…I mean fourth season, of MTV’s Making the Band. It seems like it took a lot longer than that. (Note: Sorry to interrupt, but is that not the worst name for an R&B group you’ve ever heard? I really can’t think of anything worse. Day26?? It’s inane). Anyway, despite the awful name, and the overwrought production of the band itself, Day26 and its self-titled debut album hit the top of the Billboard 200 chart in its first week of sales. Wow. Okay then. “Got Me Going” is their first single off the album, and come to think of it, it’s their first single off anything at all. Are they any good? Well, you be the judge of that.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Jimmy Martin – Sophronie

Jimmy Martin was the king. He said so, and not too many people disagreed (well, maybe Bill Monroe). Martin was one of those larger than life types and this song showcases his rhinestone-suited swagger even as he sings about heartbreak and loneliness. That’s one of the beauties of bluegrass music: when it’s sad it’s still so fast that you’d never know it. Off of the Monroe tree, Martin played bluegrass right and is a great introduction for anyone not familiar with the genre.

2. Solomon Burke – That’s How I Got To Memphis

Solomon Burke is not related to Jimmy Martin but he is also a king. He performs in a crown, has a scepter, and sits in a throne on stage. The much underappreciated King of Soul released a mindblowingly soulful album (Nashville) in 2006 and this is the first track. Oh, and he’s been doing this for over sixty years, starting as a teenage preacher in Philadelphia, and somehow amassing like thirty kids along the way. When I saw him last year he couldn’t get out of his throne due to his tremendous size and age but still managed to hand out a red rose to every woman in the audience who wanted one, and probably could have bedded any one of them. Truly an amazing man and an amazing song.

3. The Million Dollar Quartet – Just a Little Talk With Jesus

Speaking of kings, Elvis and a few friends recorded this song in an impromptu jam session at Sun Records in 1956. You may have heard of his friends: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Most of the songs are filled with amazing banter and priceless stories like the one about being on the road with some guy named Chuck Berry. This is one of the few songs where the quartet plays uninterrupted. The quality isn’t anything to write home about but, come on, it’s Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash.

Carman’s Picks

Bob Dylan hat trick (been watching hockey highlights on SportsCenter) today from yours truly. Why? Well I’ve been inspired lately after watching Todd Haynes’ excellent I’m Not There for the second time and his recent Pulitzer Prize award. Oh yeah, and coincidentally you can tune in to my radio show this evening from 6-8 PST for a special Bob Dylan marathon at UCLAradio.com for our pledge drive. Give us your money!

1. Bob Dylan – Queen Jane Approximately

Quite possibly my favorite Dylan tune, nothing tops this tune for the sheer amount of vitriol that his drawl exudes in this song. Not even “Positively 4th Street.” It serves as a nice companion piece to “Like A Rolling Stone” on his magnum opus of Highway 61 Revisited. After the indignation and jeering of “Like A Rolling Stone,” he returns to the subject of the song with “Queen Jane Approximately” almost pointing and laughing while saying, “I knew you’d come crawling back.” Whether that “you” was Edie Sedgwick, Joan Baez, or his fans that abandoned him after proclaiming him as Judas, it doesn’t change the song one bit.

2. Bob Dylan – 4th Time Around

I think John Lennon took himself a little too seriously with “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” So seriously that he got a little upset when Dylan knocked off this little parody of it on his double-album monster of Blonde On Blonde. John, you should’ve been at least honored that he even acknowledged the damn song.

3. Bob Dylan with The Rolling Thunder Revue – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (Live)

While I’m not entirely sold on the Rolling Thunder Revue performances of Dylan’s classic songs, this one was a standout to me on the Live 1975 set released in 2002 by Columbia. From a simple protest song came a reinvention of a Dylan classic that the carnival atmosphere of the tour turned into a riot of a performance that perfectly captured the leftover feelings of the conflict in Vietnam that had ended only months before the tour took off. The monstrosity of the conflict still loomed large in the minds of the West, and the anger and shame certainly did not die off.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE