The life not lived. Lyrics by Lupe.
Jonylah Forever, Lupe Fiasco
Walk in my Shoes, Emily King
But then, this artist hailed by some as the next Alicia Keys disappeared. Her fans complain that she was unjustly dropped because she didn’t fit any of the standard commercial slots: she had too much of a singer-songwriter vibe for the R&B set, and vice versa. Photos like the above evidence her half diva, half Lilith Fair vibe that perplexed those in the music industry increasingly desperate to cling to the familiar.
Some five years later, now trying to make it entirely on her own, Ms. King is starting to bubble up through the blogosphere. Here’s a track off her newly-released Seven EP (it’s just a YouTube link– if you’re feeling it, show her some support on iTunes).
Will she make it back to the verge?
Apparently, Kanye and HALO have become standard fare amongst the grammar school set. For many parents, this forces a musical Sophie’s choice: either let your young kids loose into a lyrical free-for-all, or censor them into corner of musical lameness.
Fortunately, this choice is unnecessary. Just in time for my sister-in-law’s long car trip with her family, here’s a mini-mix tape that proves that cultural currency needn’t come with an R rating.
Home (Party Supplies Remix), Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
The Jackson Pit (Jackson 5 vs. Passion Pit), Xaphoon Jones
17-04 Will Do (XXXChange Dancehall Mix), TV on the Radio
Rebel, Chiddy Bang
Kick, Push, Lupe Fiasco
Love Me Or Not, Dub FX
As I try to power through the fog of jetlag, I can’t muster much more than a micro-mix of travel-related songs. But if you don’t yet have them, each and every one is highly recommended. Nothing new, but each essential.
I’m back home and plan on staying for a bit. More to come soon.
Hey London, Chiddy Bang
Travelin’ Man (Remix), Mos Def
Paris,Tokyo Remix, Lupe Fiasco (with Pharrell, Q-Tip, and Sarah Green)
At what point does a cover become a re-make? A re-make become a “new” song? Beginning with Modest Mouse’s mass-market indie hit “Float On,” Lupe Fiasco has created an immediately infectious hit single. But what do we call it? Hip hop? A hip hop-inflected homage? Or just a cool example of how, in today’s cuisinart of culture, it just doesn’t matter?
The Show Goes On, Lupe Fiasco
The trouble the music industry is in right now is nothing compared to the hurt they will be feeling in ten years. But over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the future of the music industry glimmer in the form of a new trend: the music gallery.
For the week ending May 30, the U.S. music industry sold a total of 4,984,000 albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan (via Billboard). This figure, which includes new and catalog releases, represents the fewest number of albums sold in one week since Soundscan began compiling this data in 1994. By comparison, album sales for the week ending May 31, 2009, totaled 5.76 million. The highest one-week tally recorded during the Soundscan era is 45.4 million albums, in late December, 2000. And that’s not all: While there’s no exact way to compare last week’s total against imprecise, pre-Soundscan tallies, Billboard estimates that weekly album sales volume could, in fact, be at its lowest point since the early 1970s.
“But that’s okay” music executives nervously counter. They claim that the revenue is just shifting to other sources: that pre-recorded music these days is, in effect, an ad for other revenue streams. Though folks will download music for free, these downloads will lure them to go to concerts and buy t-shirts and whatnot.
Everyone in the music industry has been so freaked out by the present that they haven’t bothered to fast-forward the tape ten years or so. When the twenty year olds of today are thirty, with things like jobs and spouses and kids, the simple fact is that they won’t go to as many concerts. However, their somewhat advanced age will not slow them from side-stepping iTunes and downloading the music they want. I know, I can’t predict what technology will be a decade hence, but I think a safe bet is that the downloaders will stay a step or two ahead of the protective labels.
This decade of decline makes me feel a little guilty. Not because I feel bad for an industry that tried to sell content like boxes of cereal for as long as they could manage (ship out the boxes, take price up every year, and enjoy!). No, I feel guilty because if there’s anyone who should be propping up the bonuses of record label execs, it should be me. Continue reading
Back in the day, I worked in a music store. And, though it was camouflaged as a homogenous chain store, a cadre of employees actually made it a pretty awesome place to randomly find yourself shopping for music (trust me, the only way you’d find yourself there would be randomly). The group of us working there really knew our music, and the way that we liked to strut our stuff was to provide personalized music recommendations to customers. More specifically, we’d ask for a customer to name a few songs or albums that they have liked, and we would in turn provide a few recommendations of things they had never heard but would probably like. We were a collection of khaki-panted mini-pandoras.
Except any of you who have worked in retail know that’s not the entire story. Because saying that we provided recommendations of music we thought they would like is not exactly the entire truth. Full disclosure, we provided recommendations that were at the intersection of what we thought they would like and what we thought they should like. We were mini-pandoras with not-so-mini agendas– and some (well, many) bands just didn’t make the list of said agenda.
But I think that our agenda-led recommendations created more serendipity and true discoveries than some “Pandora purist” if-y0u-liked-this-you’ll-like-this recommendations ever could. Continue reading