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The xx just kicked off a tour in time for festival season, and are bringing new songs with them.
Below, in a surprisingly well-recorded video at Chats Palace in London, a show-goer captured the Mercury Prize-winning band perform a fresh track, title still unknown, earlier this week. The thing only goes for about 2:15, but it's got that chilly guitar riff and big bass thuds that make the kids crazy.
The setlist from their Electrowerkz gig this week indicates that half of the songs played at the gig were actually new.
When Whitney Houston died in February, Sony "accidentally" spiked the price of the singer's albums. Celebrities seemingly re-engaged with the media just to be part of the dialogue on her death, to their own benefit. I've seen press releases for tribute groups who are "touring" in order to "celebrate" her legacy, a predictably profitable time in their careers. Cover songs were made in tribute and sold on iTunes.
Whitney's mom Cissy is putting out her first album of gospel songs in a decade and Lifetime is cobbling together a reality series based on the Houston family, which include the participation of Whitney's teenaged daughter Bobbi Kristina. And Houston's ex-husband Bobby Brown is putting out a new set, "Being Bobby Brown," on June 5. It's his first studio full-length since 1997.
Not every artistic expression made in the name of dead entertainers is made in the name of profit. It just comes off as very complicated, especially in the passing's immediate wake.
“Last Dance” was a tough song to dance to. The Donna Summer smash started slow, so if a boy asked you do dance to it, the request felt way more significant than if he asked you to dance to a fast song. But then it transitioned into a fast song, so you and your partner had to know how to navigate the switch from slow to fast. And if you weren’t fond enough of each other to actually slow dance together through the opening you just had to awkwardly sway separately through that part until the fast part came in.
I was never very good at that.
Dancing to that song with a boy whose name I’ve long since forgotten was one of my first memories this morning when I heard of Summer’s passing from cancer. She was 63. My second was that her music had informed much of my teen years.
The five-time Grammy winner got labeled Queen of Disco during the late ‘70s, but a more appropriate title would have been Queen of Pop. Between May 1978 and January 1980, she scored eight Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including four No. 1s —the first female to do so in that short time span. The musical style may have been disco (now, of course, rebranded dance) and born out of the clubs, but the truth is no one had to step into a disco to hear a Summer song during her heyday. Her music played in the supermarket just as much as in the clubs...and she dominated radio.
During that time, I was solely into Top 40. While I was keyed into music like nothing else in my life from the time I was four or so, in my mid-teens, my tastes were dictated by Top 40 radio. My parents are probably the last generation to not be influenced musically by the birth of rock in the ‘50s, and my older sister, while also a music fan, didn’t start straying outside of the pop lines until she went to college, like me.
So while the cool kids —of which I never have been one— were already getting into the Clash, the Ramones, and other punk acts (all of whom I came to love later), I was totally in my Top 40 bubble and Donna Summer was a big part of that bubble.
Summer’s hits were glorious explosions that often started slow and then burst into beat-driven fireworks propelled by her stellar, powerhouse voice (underrated by critics at the time, who were too busy hating on disco to truly acknowledge her talent). Listen to the notes she sustains on “Dim All The Lights” or how she goes toe to toe with Barbra Streisand on “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” and holds her own with one of the greatest voices of all time. That’s a great voice, born from her gospel background, no matter what genre you want to pigeonhole her into (watch for the encomiums coming the next few days stressing just that from writers who denounced her the first time around).
If there was ever an artist who seemed to wrestle with her fame, her talent and her audience, it was Summer. As a born-again Christian, she later denounced her first hit, 1975’s orgasmic “Love To Love You Baby.” She told Vanity Fair that she looked at the song as a “joke”: “I originally recorded ‘Love to Love You Baby’ on a dare from [producer] Giorgio [Moroder] that I couldn’t be sexy. It was a joke that worked. All that orgasmic stuff … I thought they were kidding—I desperately tried to get them to get someone else to sing the song. Then I made them turn the lights off, get some candles, have some atmosphere. I was going closer and closer to the floor and finally I was lying on the floor.”
History has looked back on Summer as a pioneer, as someone who helped usher in a new musical format that, although hated by critics, delighted millions of fans and also was the first genre to be embraced by the gay community and claimed as their own —though they were always delighted to share with the world at large. (Summer was later accused of voicing anti-gay comments, which she denied making).
She has been up for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but did not receive enough votes to make it into the Hall— yet. That’s likely to change in coming years. Listen to “I Feel Love,” which is basically Kraftwerk crossed with disco, and tell me why she doesn’t deserve inclusion. Plus, the songs have worn far better than they should have. There will never be a time now or 20 years from now or beyond when “Bad Girls” or “Hot Stuff” doesn’t pack a dance floor. If you're still not convinced she was beyond disco, that's a pretty crunchy guitar solo in "Hot Stuff" for a disco song, isn't it?
I still find myself listening to Summer as a great pick-me up on occasion and her songs never fail to bring a smile to my face. “Heaven Knows” will always remind me of riding around with my boyfriend in high school in his black Cutlass Supreme (with red interior). When one of my best friends was going through a divorce a few years ago, we packed up her apartment to Summer’s greatest hits, dancing around, filling boxes, and waiting for the movers, often as tears streamed down her face.
If you’re too young to remember her in real time, check her out with an open mind and open ears. And don’t forget your disco whistle.
Are you ready for the year of Matthew McConaughey? And did you ever think you'd read that sentence?
Yes, the heartthrob best known over the last decade for turns in dubious actioners, countless rom-coms and a naked bongo drumming episode is set to have a pretty sensational 2012. And not to diminish the actor. Even in all that sludge there have been sparks of that natural flair. But few would argue that McConaughey hasn't been off on an irrelevant tangent since "Reign of Fire," at the very least.
But this year -- with two films set to bow next week at the Cannes Film Festival in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" and Jeff Nichols' "Mud," another in theaters already and two more on the way -- the actor has saddled up to quality filmmakers for the first time in a while. Seemingly, he's ready for a new, more meaningful phase of his career.
Sparta are working on a follow-up to 2006's "Threes," and new track "Chemical Feel" is the first evidence of production.
The sonic space-bound track is tough, and impeccably recorded, with crisp guitar lines funneled through pirstine pedals. Jim Ward sounds uuungggh, in the good way.
A review of the "Suburgatory" season finale coming up just as soon as I club a stuffed seal...
CANNES - We all pick up scars as we move through life, some visible, others not, and it is how we deal with these physical and emotional traumas that defines who we are.
Jacques Audiard has been steadily putting out small films of enormous power for the past decade or so, and I first tuned into his work with "Read My Lips" in 2001. "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" came next, and for many people, "A Prophet" was the moment they realized just how strong a clear a voice he has as a filmmaker. Because of that film's international success, there was much expectation focused on the 8:30 AM screening of his new film today at Cannes, and based on the trailer I'd seen for it, I walked in expecting one film. Instead, I got something much richer, more prickly, and more deeply felt than I expected, and I am once again convinced that Audiard is a major voice, an artist of note, and a gifted humanist filmmaker.
CANNES -Well-intentioned, unfortunately, is not enough for a film to work. If it were, then most films would be great and that's simply not the case.
Yousry Nasrallah's new film, "After The Battle," has huge ambition, and on that level, I can certainly empathize with the film's goals. Set during the Arab Spring of last year, the film tells the story of Reem (Menna Chalaby), an Egyptian woman who works in television commercials, who is incredibly passionate about the possibility of a new democracy in Egypt. She's tired of dealing with the way women are treated in Egyptian society, and she believes that the revolution has a chance to change things. Her beliefs are challenged when she meets Mahmoud (Bassem Samra), a horseman who was part of the "Battle of the Camels," where armed camel and horse riders swept into Tahrir square to attack anyone who was staging anti-Mubarak demonstrations. Very quickly, the protestors turned the horsemen away, attacking and injuring many of them, including Mahmoud, whose image ends up on YouTube, a symbol of the way the country is rejecting old values.
Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” featuring Kimbra continues its residence atop the Billboard Hot 100, logging its fifth week at the top.
Its run gives the song the longest reign by a solo male since Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna spent seven weeks at No. 1 in 2010, according to BIllboard.
Maroon 5’s “Payphone” featuring Wiz Khalifa flips spaces with fun’s “We Are Young” featuring Janelle Monae, with the Adam Levine-led group rising one spot to No. 2.