First Look – HiFadility Releases Another Edit From The Queens: SWV – “Weak”

HiFadility has released another Track from his Queens EP, an edit of SWV’s Weak, which follows his remix of Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y.  Looking to commemorate the voice of woman of color in popular culture and bridge generations by bringing back old 90s favorites with new sounds, The Queens has been a very exciting project thus far, and we can’t wait until we get to hear it in full.

At first, this track has a very hard exterior, with lead singer Coko’s strong voice and a shell of synthesizer sounds, but it is worth the listen as it breaks way into smooth droplet sounds and wonderful warm and floaty piano chords that ushers in the trap high hats. The high hats creates another genre flip in the track, creating a hard hitting booty bouncing feel.  Perhaps the hard sonic exterior of this track that gives way to the warm melty sound is a metaphor for the overwhelming force of love that gives way into an appreciation HiFadility mentioned in his statement that he released with the track.  HiFadility definitely gave a new meaning to the New Jack Swing genre, a very contemporary blend of hip hop/trap and R&B.

The composer stated when he released the track:

SWV’s classic single WEAK was begging to be remade. The message of: Love being a force that sometimes knocks us out…not because of spite or anger, but sometimes because of the overwhelming sensation of a bond. I’ve been feeling like that lately. Super emotional about the world and all the things happening…this was my way of saying sorry for the griminess and yet thank you so much for accepting my growth and development. To Peace. To Love. To Prosperity for All.

-HiFadility

Be sure to check out this track on HiFadility’s soundcloud, and follow him on his social media (facebook, twitter, tumblr) for more updates regarding new music releases or his events in Boston and NYC.

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Wow…Empire Beats Madonna to Snag #1 Album on Billboard 200

Fox’s TV breakout hit Empire stole the number 1 spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart, beating out Madonna’s new Rebel Heart album! While this rumor had grown over the past few days, Empire wasn’t even in the discussion a week ago. 

 The Empire soundtrack was released March 10 through Columbia Records and has 130,000 equivalent album units earned through March 15, according to Nielsen Music vs. Madonna’s Rebel Heart at 121,000 in the same time frame. Empire is the first TV soundtrack to debut at No. 1 since Glee. 
 

I have to say, I am an avid spotify user and like to discover new music on the platform….over the past few weeks, I have subconsciously been finding myself bumping my head to songs from Empire, which are continuously rotating through the Hot 100 Pop and Hip Hop tracks playlist. As noted by Billboard, a lot of Empire’s listens have come through streaming. Welcome to the digital age of music. 

 Here’s a fun video of Jussie Smollett four years ago singing ‘Fatigue’….wish you had known him before the fame, huh? The guy has talent.

Tyler, The Creator is Launching a Media Platform – Here’s Why I’m Skeptical

Why do record labels still make money today? In fact, why do they even exist? Technically, they are the ‘middle man’ – the man that delivers the artist’s content to the consumer. And technically, this role has become obsolete in the third wave of the tech revolution.

Think about it. The first wave of the tech revolution was PC/desktop internet (1Billion users); the second was mobile (2B); and the third is the Internet of Things, or IoT (IoT refers to the billions of robots making our lives easier…wearables, Nest thermostat, autonomous cars, precision agriculture, etc.).

Industry analysts estimate that ~30B of devices will be wirelessly connected to the IoT by 2020. That’s a lot of devices, especially for a world suffering from mobile addiction, and it will ultimately change how people consume everything.

tech 2

So let’s discuss why this is this important for music. We’ve previously walked through how streaming (which was and is being facilitated by the second wave of the tech revolution – mobile), has altered the way that consumers listen to music. This has in turn altered the way artists deliver music. Artists no longer have to beg a radio station to play their track, or stand outside of a record label trying to prove their ‘dedication.’ They can simply build a fan base online, that – if it grows big enough – will ultimately get them a record deal.

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Rudimental & The Roots Picnic: The Right Music at The Right Time

I had the pleasure of attending the Roots Picnic this past weekend. Performances ranged from old/established artists like Freeway, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Doug E. Fresh, A$AP Ferg, etc. to new ones. Obviously, considering the scope of this blog, I was more interested in the new ones.

show

Roots Picnic 2014, Source: Bars and Chords

Remember when we talked about why artists do covers on YouTube? Well, think about festivals/outdoor concerts as taking this concept to the next level…or next few levels depending on how you look at it.

While festivals are a time commitment, next to social media and the internet, they are arguably the best way to get exposure to new fans. Think of the smaller festivals as mini-marathons. You run the smaller races so you can qualify for the bigger marathons like NYC, Boston, etc., or in this case, Coachella, Made in America, etc.

Bad Rabbits was one of the bands I came into the event most excited about. They performed well, and have a fresh, eclectic sound. However, I have to admit they are a bit hard to connect with. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but something’s missing… check out one of their videos here to see if you agree.

So who ultimately stole the show?

Rudimental

Rudimental

Rudimental, Roots Picnic 2014, Source: Bars and Chords

Perhaps it was the crowd I was with – they were all extremely excited about this group – but Rudimental is the definition of right music, right time. The group has already been a hit in the UK, hence the millions of views they have on YouTube. See below for one of the songs I cannot seem to stop playing.

 

There had to be at least 8 performers on stage during the show, but the core group consists of Amir Amor, Piers Agget, Kesi Dryden and DJ Locksmith (Leon Rolle). They have multiple Platinum awards under their belt, a Brit Award, and the Mobo Award for Best Album, in addition to several other notable nominations.

What was particularly spectacular about their performance at the Roots Picnic was their seamless integration of the singers into their music. Two backup singers – and by backup, I mean they stood in the background on an elevated stage at the beginning of the show – ultimately became the lead singers later on. Come to find out, the band actually prefers working with unknown vocalists and sourcing new talent rather than recruiting established stars.

It’s a perfect idea – and they’ve managed to bring to light an up and coming star named Anne-Marie. She was absolutely incredible to say the least. She had a soulful voice, vibrant energy, and passion for the words she was singing, which filtered through the crowd. What else is cool? After the show, she chilled in the crowd and enjoyed the rest of the show…like a normal person. I managed to dig up a video of her singing live (Video).

All in, Rudimental delivered the perfect blend of soul, electronic music, and plain old fun. Look for them to make waves through America and bring their careers to unimaginable heights. There’s nothing like the right time, right music.

**Side note: Jhene Aiko also performed to a HUGE crowd – it’s interesting to see how much her career has taken off.

Lykke Li and the Power of Change

So I was going to just do a quick post titled Lykke Li releases new music video, but I’ve realized that this isn’t just any video…

To be honest, I had to watch it about five times before I discovered the underlying meaning. After the second time, I almost went to Google and typed Lykke Li music video meaning…which speaks to how lazy I can be at times

About the video: “No Rest for the Wicked is the second song I wrote for I Never Learn,” says Lykke Li. “I wrote it in Sweden when I was packing up my sh**, and I’d just gotten out of a relationship and it was a horrible time. I just had the hurt, shame, sadness, guilt, longing. The vocal track, the take, is the demo. In the verse, I’m referring to myself pleading guilty, but I’m referring to all of us.”

Take a look:

 

Hopefully you’ve figured out that this is about racism (in 1 sitting, unlike myself) – the struggle of an interracial couple to survive through wicked eyes and hate.

My intellectual readers will likely be excited about this one because it brings up a lot of serious questions and issues. Right away, I have to wonder why I didn’t notice what the topic was in the first place? My initial reasoning is that it wasn’t something I was looking for…in reality, it’s told from a white person’s point of view (she’s Swedish, I know, but still). It’s rare to see this type of struggle being told from the other side. Second, perhaps I’ve gotten used to the blood and gore associated with racism and hate told on the big screen…it’s sad, but think about it, all we saw was her boyfriend trying to get up, and then ultimately falling to the ground. Completely different image than i.e., 12 Years a Slave.

Third, the plot seems like it’s more about love than hate…scenes of the couple running through the fields, hugging, going out together always seem to be at the center of the video, interrupted by the flashes of staring eyes. It’s probably why I missed the ‘wicked’ eyes in the first place.

Bottom line, I appreciate Lykke for making this video and bringing the topic to life. We need to address it, not pretend it doesn’t exist. I won’t get into the debate here, but seriously, you have to be glad that we can still use the power of music to catalyze change.

Will Lorde or Daft Punk Steal the Show at the Grammys? Here are My Predictions

Well folks, the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards are now a part of the past and next up is (the best award show), the Grammy’s! I’ll be posting my predictions and news leading into the event so keep checking back (or subscribe on the home page) for new posts.

First up, my predictions for the top categories:

The nominees for Record of the Year are:

Get Lucky – Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgerz

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

Royals – Lorde

Locked Out Of Heaven – Bruno Mars

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell

And the winner is: Get Lucky by Daft Punk. Sucks for Robin Thicke because his Blurred Lines hit has yet to win an award, but I think this category will be a toss up between “Royals” and “Get Lucky.” Personally, I’d prefer Lorde to steal the show with her breakout song, and pretty much send a middle finger to the stereotypes of the music industry. But, let’s be real, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is the quintessential Grammy song of the year.

Daft Punk

The nominees for ALBUM OF THE YEAR are:

The Blessed Unrest – Sara Bareilles

Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – Kendrick Lamar

The Heist – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Red – Taylor Swift

And the winner is: Random Access Memories by Daft Punk. Lots of good contenders in this category but once again, it’s the Grammy’s and Daft Punk did a hell of a job selling their album. It was number one in 20 different countries, and they limited the electronic instrumentation to drum machines a custom-built modular synthesizer, and vintage vocoders. It’s also incredible that the music is live – in an age of EDM and trance music, it’s refreshing to hear an album that gives the genre a bit of a different sound.

daft-punk-random-access-memories

The nominees for SONG OF THE YEAR are: 

Just Give Me A Reason – Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess)

Locked Out Of Heaven – Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)

Roar – Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)

Royals – Joel Little & Ella Yelich O’Connor, songwriters (Lorde)

Same Love – Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert)

And the winner is: Royals, sung by Lorde. Finally! This song gets a Grammy. This one should be self explanatory…the lyrics are quite incredible and the song is still popular. Even old folks like it. Runner up? Macklemore’s “Same Love.” Nothing like a song that questions and changes the way we think as a human race.

Lorde Royals

The nominees for BEST NEW ARTIST are: 

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

And the winner is: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Kendrick Lamar might take this one but I think the odds are in Macklemore and Lewis’ favor. They’ve been a national sensation and it’s quite incredible how they did it. Their song “Thrift Shop” was the first song to reach #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 without the backing of a major label. The Heist meanwhile, reached number 2 on the US Billboard 200 chart. Also, they’ve been nominated for 7 Grammys total, speaking to how much the Grammy voters loveee the duo.

macklemore

The nominees for BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE are:

Brave – Sara Bareilles

Royals – Lorde

When I Was Your Man – Bruno Mars

Roar – Katy Perry

Mirrors – Justin Timberlake

And the winner is: Roar by Katy Perry. To be honest… I have no idea who is going to win this one. It wouldn’t make much logical sense that Lorde should win Song of the Year and not Pop Solo Performance BUTTTT I have a feeling Katy might take this one (or Sara Bareilles). That song basically made my ears bleed b/c its been played so many times at events/clubs.

katy_perry_roar

The nominees for BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE are:

Get Lucky – Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers

Just Give Me a Reason – Pink Featuring Nate Reuss

Stay – Rihanna Featuring Mikky Ekko

Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell

Suit & Tie – Justin Timberlake & Jay Z

And the winner is: Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Again, this one is a toss up too but Pharrell has a pretty nice odds of winning doesn’t he? I think Robin’s going to have to walk away with an award tonight, otherwise the entire world will question why the song was so popular in the first place. Yes, it was controversial but…even Marvin Gaye admitted (albeit through a lawsuit) that the song sounds as great as his.

blurred-lines-cover

 

And those are my predictions for the major categories. Win or lose, I’m sure every nominee knows that they’ve won by merely being on the list…still, it would blow to be nominated multiple times and not walk away with one (*cough* Robin Thicke).

The Eleven Best Musical Tributes to Beyonce

Since Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter has officially taken over the world, it seems only appropriate to look at her journey from a fan perspective. Her music has touched a multitude of people from different cultures, races, and cities. The below videos display some of the best tributes to Beyoncé that are on the Internet, as well as covers of her songs. After 5 albums with Destiny’s Child, 5 of her own, a baby and a husband…you have to wonder how she does it all. While the videos don’t display all of the amazing musical tributes that her Bee Hive has created, it does speak to the influence that she has had on fans around the world–not only in changing the meaning of “creativity,” but in many cases, helping fans propel their own careers to the next level (related: How Artists Get Views on YouTube).

1. Evolution of Beyoncé by Pentatonix

2. Love on Top (Cover) by Syesha

3. Drunk in Love by Ari Lennox

(seriously thought she was lip synching at first)

3a. Had to add this Drunk in Love cover…this kid is adorable

4. Beyonce Dance Series by WildaBeast Adams

5. Run the World (Girls) – Dance Cover by Black Queen

5a. This is also adorable..

6. Best Thing I Never Had by Tori Kelley & Todrick Hall

7. If I Were a Boy (Cover) by Rachel Crow

Yea, this one went viral pretty quickly..

8. Say My Name (Cover) by Flearoy The Band

9. Cater 2 U (Cover) by Passion & Melvin

10. Listen (Cover) by Melanie Amaro

(Let’s be real, everyone did a cover of “Listen” at one point, but this one was pretty impressive…)

11. Hello (Acoustic Cover)

11a. Hello by Rin on the Rox (using the above instrumental)

And as a bonus…remember this amazing live version of Halo by Queen B herself?

Sail Out or Sell Out: Is Jhene Aiko Really the Next Sade?

“Sail Out means to be free, go with the wind, like a sailboat. I think that’s really important when it comes to peace…inner peace especially. You can’t help anyone else if you don’ t have it together for yourself.” – Jhené Aiko

If you haven’t listened to Jhené Aiko’s new EP Sail Out yet, then you should.

Not because it’s good, not because it will change your life, not even because you have nothing else to do (besides read this article).  You should listen because it will make you a part of history.

That line is dramatic, I know…but it caught you’re attention. Perhaps starting with Kanye West and moving all the way to Frank Ocean and to Drake’s most recent project, the “R&B” and “Pop” records being put out today are…well, different.

Take Jhené Aiko. This is her first project under Artium (part of Def Jam), which was established by producer/Def Jam executive VP of A&R Dion “No I.D.” Wilson, who signed Aiko as his first artist in late 2011.

When speaking about Aiko, he says, “When I heard Jhené, she immediately struck me as the first female voice in what I call the new wave of R&B. She understands full-on melodies and emotion but writes freestyle lyrics on par with hip-hop depth and complexity. In my eyes she’s a modern Sade.”

He seriously thinks she’s the new wave of R&B, a modern Sade at that. To be honest, I don’t really hear it. If anything, she reminds me of the female version of Drake. That stream of conscious [emo, to be frank] type of music where each song compliments the other. Almost as if you were listening to one very long track.

Still I can’t deny the fact that her music is finally garnering a lot of interest—she has been creating music for quite a long time. Jhené was signed under Epic (the same label as B2K) at the young age of 13, but left after 2 years to finish school and “explore her options.” She spent the next several years around the music business, but by 2008 she had given birth to a girl with Omarion’s brother, singer O’Ryan.

Her next project was a mixtape called Sailing Soul(s). This latest EP, Sail Out is a precursor to her first solo album, Souled Out (see the pattern here?).

Even if you aren’t quite in love yet with Jhené’s music, you have to give her credit for her lyrical talent (she wrote all 7 songs on the EP) as well as sticking with a consistent style. The genius behind putting this EP out before her album is that it gives her leverage as an artist. Given the politics behind the music industry and her dropping from Epic at an early age, we can surmise that she hasn’t been given the creative power that she desires. She has been featured on songs by many reputable artists, but has never “broken out’ per say. Building momentum pre-album release not only gives her a broader fan base, but it also gives her creative power for her subsequent performances, music videos, and subsequent projects.

Now, onto the music.

Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Childish Gambino are just a few who appear on her EP. And here are a few of my favorite lines by Ms. Aiko:

“We do not exist in any other instant. Here in this dimension you and I are meant to be. I have waited lifetimes to find you. Now that you’re here I can remind you of the things you’ve been dreaming, times two.“ – Stay Ready

 “I am Alice, I’m in Wonderland. Where’s the rabbit? He is late again. Goodness, Gracious. I can’t wait for him. Who has got the time? Round and round and Round and round we go. It’s just like the same scenario. Good for nothing, feels like somethin’ ain’t right” – WTH

 “wait, now my thoughts so cloudy and my heart so crowded with pain. I am so frustrated like my soul’s been taken away. Broken promise of everything that I thought you were. Thought you said this would never hurt. That’s what it did that is all…I do not fear the thought of falling, thought I could fly…” – 3:16am

“And don’t take it personal, but you’re the worst. You know what you’ve done to me and although it hurts I know…I just can’t keep runnin’ away” – The Worst (see below for the new video)

Norah Jones featured on Anoushka Shankar’s New Song, “Traces of You”

I ran across this music video today by sitar* player and composer Anoushka Shankar. This song, titled “Traces of You” features her half-sister Norah Jones. Overlapping voices create the feeling of a dream-like sequence that make up most of the song. But perhaps the most appealing feature is the cross cultural aspect of the music—it contains “traces” of India, and Western culture as well.

*The sitar is a plucked stringed instrument used mainly in Hindustani music and Indian classical music. Anoushka trained on the sitar with her father (famous Sitar player Ravi Shankar) as a child, and signed her first record contract with Angel Records (EMI) at the young age of 16. In 2003, she was nominated for a Grammy, becoming the youngest-ever and first woman nominee in the World Music category for her third album, Live at Carnegie Hall. Her fourth album RISE earned her another Grammy nomination in the Best Contemporary World Music category in 2005, and in February 2006 she became the first Indian to play at the Grammy Awards.

Sing a Song! Sing a Note! Sing a Chord? My Take on Lalah Hathaway’s New Sound

Firstly, I have to apologize to all of my readers for being extremely late on this post. This should be about getting all of you the interesting music quickly, before mainstream takes over and ruins all of the fun, and I’ve failed here.

I watched the video below of Lalah Hathaway a week or 2 ago, and sadly, I’m just writing about it now. Nevertheless, it’s still important to highlight because she may just be changing the face of music as we know it today.

Snarky Puppy is a Brooklyn, NY based group led by Michael League that was formed in Texas in 2004. The band comprises nearly 50 musicians, many of whom were once students at the University of North Texas. They are not your typical band as they perform on a variety of instruments including guitars, pianos, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

In March of this year, Snarky Puppy and special guests convened at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke, VA to record a series of live performances that would bring attention and benefit to the ongoing work of the center.

One of the performers was Lalah Hathaway, who needs no introduction. She stands at the edge of the stage as a conductor normally would—though a microphone takes the place of the typical conductor’s music stand and her voice takes the place of the baton. Each band member can see her clearly; they do not have music stands either, nor a single piece of sheet music.

Neo-soul, afrojazz, Earth Wind & Fire, grand improvisation, perfect crescendos and decrescendos are all words that come to mind while listening to this song (what comes to yours?).

And then Big band…

The number of talented musicians that grace the stage makes the process seem complex in and of itself. But the music may not be as complex as one may initially believe. In fact, it ‘s foundation is simple. The keyboard begins in half steps and initial transitions are in whole steps – maybe a jump or two in between (a 4th to be exact). Why? Well, check out minute 3. It’s all about the voice, the music creates itself around Lalah Hathaway, as if her voice is the tree, and leaves flow from the branches perfectly (or something).

And then the vibes…

4:40, the backup singers kick in, the band starts vibing, Lalah’s tempo takes off in jazz-influenced ad-libs.

And then the magic…

6:12, I don’t know what else to call it besides a chord – or maybe two simultaneous notes? Lalah sings simultaneous notes with her voice. I think. Is that even possible? Then she does it again. Really, how is that possible? Again. I think, it might be possible Again. IT’S POSSIBLE.

One blogger, Mal Webb had an interesting take on it, writing:

“…I’m fairly sure what she’s doing isn’t actually “overtones”, as in the air in oral cavities resonating to create another note (which are the high overtones or “harmonics” that the Mongolian/Tuvan singers do). Lalah’s is a vibration of the “false vocal folds” (also called “ventricular folds”), which are two fleshy parts either side of the vocal folds that can be drawn together to create extra notes (or noise!). It’s these that create the Tuvan/Tibetan/Inuit throat singing “growls”, as well as death-metal screaming and rock distortion. But what Lalah is doing is a much lighter, breathy contact”…

I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of overtones and the above description – along with two notes. Don’t take it from me though. Let your ears have a listen.