The month’s best pop updates, tour whispers, electro remixes, must-view performances, and everything in between…
Ask any successful person who somehow maintains a veil of ageless cool how they keep their finger on the pulse of their industry, and they’ll often pay homage to the constant stream of new sounds they actively seek.
For many, a personal soundtrack is a life force rivaling coffee, or exercise, or extended bubble baths to maintain momentum in the constant rotation of real life — or, not to mention, an opportunity to make everything a little better. Everyday minutia performed to just-the-right notes is suddenly filed in the subconscious and drummed up when a similar tune presents itself. A new synthesizer sequence or buzzing guitar riff can shift even the most melancholy mood into a pumped-up need to create, to dream, to make something that matches a feeling that can’t quite be placed.
Here, a month of fresh possibilities delivered in the form of musically focused news you can use:
“I think that they’re the most important band, right — right now the most important band in the world for what they may inspire other people to do,” said Oasis’s Noel Gallagher of The Strokes during an interview in 2001, where he mentioned driving four hours to see them at a club with about 50 other people sharing the audience. This coming May amidst whispers of a “global comeback,” The Strokes will reunite to headline an evening of The Governor’s Ball festival in NYC, a new addition to the small sprinkling of shows they’ve played since touring in 2011. Here, a rare glimpse of the band performing “New York City Cops” in Scotland, glowing pink fog swirling on stage, before releasing their first studio album Is This It to the world.
K-Pop’s power wave, best known stateside for acts like BTS and Girls’ Generation, will be formally spotlighted at Austin’s 2019 SXSW music festival, the industry-meets-cultural event known for helping to skyrocket careers that run the gamut from Amy Winehouse to John Mayer, Ellie Goulding, and Grimes. Backed by the Korea Creative Content Agency, solo electro star Kirara, Dallas-born pop singer Chung Ha, post-rockers Jambinai, hip-hop pair XXX, iKON (a seven-member boy band), and robot-suit-wearing EMD producer Hitchhiker will take over Texas’s Moody Theater on March 13th.
Though robot suits may be a new trademark for South Korea’s Hitchhiker, the stage look was made famous by two Parisian dudes who turned the term “bedroom producer” into an entire movement. Daft Punk, whose electronic dance creations were arguably the most influential songs of the entire noughties decade, has been honored with remixes by dozens of musicians like fellow French electro duo Justice and Panda Bear’s Noah Lennox. This list of 11 of their songs reimagined including Grammy award winning “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” may not actually be the “best” to every fan, but it’s always nice to see credit where credit is due.
“It’s hard to imagine hip hop culture without women,” photographer Eric Johnson tells Dazed of the images he captured of performers like Erykah Badu, Mary J Blige, Missy Elliot, and Eve during their rise to fame. “Even though it’s often been treated as a boys’ only club, without the female response the culture would become more one-note. I can’t see it without women.” Johnson’s stripped-down images ran counter to the heavily retouched, stylized photos that painted artists in plastic pop star perfection — except for one accidental encounter. “When you look at photos of other musicians, they are a bit more raw,” he notes. “But for some reason, I think the photos of Aaliyah are more conventionally beautiful and are more beautiful than anything I’ve ever done, before or after. She inspired me to follow her lead…” Here, Johnson shares behind-the-scenes memories from his shoots that captured some of the genre’s most influential females.
Sitting down with Vogue’s Corey Seymour for lunch, former lead vocalist of The Walkmen Hamilton Leithauser discusses his solo residency at Manhattan’s legendary Café Carlyle, where singers from Judy Collins to Lisa Loeb have taken the stage. “I was as surprised as everybody else seemed to be when they approached me last year,” he shares. “I think they’re trying to find a younger audience. And by the time my show kind of kicked into gear last year, we sold out, and the crowd was definitely my crowd, or a Walkmen kind of crowd…” Café Carlyle’s sets by the New York Dolls frontman David Johansen and even fashion-designer-turned-crooner Isaac Mizrahi will continue throughout 2019. In the meantime, read on as Leithauser and Seymour discuss white linen suits, work ethics, and home renovations.
The cult film The Fifth Element has been a beacon of club kid culture since its release in 1997, and spring runways even saw a resurgence in soda-pop-orange dye jobs and baby bangs inspired by Milla Jovovich’s sci-fi character Leeloo. Covering the film’s Diva Dance performance, which relied on a set of notes meant to be “technically impossible” for a human to sing without remastering, has not been high on the list of many fans — until Jane Zhang. The Chinese opera singer hit even the most otherworldly of high points without the help of Auto-Tune, and thanks to the assistance of a full orchestra.
“I wrote the music three days [before the show] and I have been rehearsing 24 hours a day since,” said Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes of the extended score he performed at Louis Vuitton’s show this month. Lounging backstage at 032c’s party in Paris, Hynes took interviews and linked up with Ian Isiah, who performed vocals for Vuitton alongside Hynes. “I am used to be running around and working backstage,” Isiah said backstage at Parisian club Silencio before the two performed together in front of supermodels like Kate Moss and Soo Joo Park. “I like being on the other side, in front of the people.”
While time has marched forward since Lady Gaga debuted her video for “Bad Romance” about a decade ago, the pop anthem has continued — accruing a cool billion views on YouTube. The first glimpse at a soon-to-be-SnapChat-filtered future, Gaga’s stylized performance became as important as the single itself, which at the time was blaring on loop through New York’s bottle service clubs and still-alive-and-well mall shopping scenes alike. Skintight latex, bandaged bodysuits, and Alexander McQueen’s notoriously tricky armadillo-inspired heels lend a confusingly futuristic edge to the fashion that could likely fuel another 10 years of clicks.
There’s something in the air for Wu-Tang Clan. Aside from their U.K. tour coming up this May, Showtime just confirmed a four-part docuseries set to release this spring which features archival footage and interviews with all nine of the remaining founding members of the east coast hip-hop group. This comes shortly after Hulu’s announcement of their scripted show Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and just a couple of months after their documentary For the Children: 25 Years of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Showtime says of their series, Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men, which partially debuts at Sundance this week, “their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit brought them together to overcome the poverty, violence and oppression of their neighborhoods. But it was music and their shared lyrical genius that allowed them to form the most recognized musical movement in the world…”
Almost 30 years since Neil Young told Rolling Stone he planned to bring his personal library of unreleased songs to the public, the dream is finally a reality with his interactive app and website. On Neil Young Archives, the artist and his team share unseen photos and videos, lyric manuscripts, concerts, rare movies and even respond to fan mail. In his interview, Young emphasizes that much of the streaming service he created was to preserve the original sound of his songs for those that are still searching for quality. He adds that after CDs and MP3s, “it got downgraded so far that what you’re listening to is like Fisher-Price quality. You’re listening to a toy.” An extravagant theater tour will take him on the road to some of the most beautiful 100-year-old venues that he describes as “palaces for art.” And despite his beloved baby voice, Young doesn’t apologize for his age. “I can’t help that I’m 73. That’s the way it rolls. I still like what I’m doing and I wanted to do it better.”
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