Following several public appearances around the UK in support of his upcoming album So Help Me God, Kanye West gave a more intimate and private talk at the prestigious Oxford University on Monday afternoon. The rapper discussed classism in fashion and revealed that Steve McQueen, the director of Oscar-winning movie 12 Years a Slave, has helmed the video for his latest single “All Day.”
“I was sitting with Steve McQueen; he shot the visuals for ‘All Day’ two days ago. It’s completely different to the Brit Awards,” revealed West. He dropped this information while telling an anecdote about a conversation with McQueen where the rapper compared The Matrix to the Bible.
“What I said was The Matrix is like the Bible of the post-information age,” explained West. Before he says this, he carefully explained to the students that he did not want the comparison to be taken too out of context or too literally noting the use of “like” in his quote.
The lecture at the Museum of Natural History, announced on Sunday, made £4 tickets available to students at three specific times over the night and early morning, beginning at midnight on Monday. According to student newspaper The Tab Oxford, over 5,000 spots were balloted but only 350 people were allowed into the tiny lecture hall. West had requested that students turn all phones off, in order to protect his privacy.
Over the course of his hour-long talk, West spoke about many of the same subjects he has covered in recent interviews, including classism in fashion, the human capacity to be great and Drake’s recent rise to the top. “Clothing should be like food. There should never be a $5,000 sweater,” proclaimed West to the gathering of students. “You know what should cost $5,000? A car.”
West’s speech came with a healthy dose of self-awareness as well. While noting his perceived consensus from the likes of Chris Rock to critics that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is “the best album of the past 25 years,” the rapper acknowledged that Nicki Minaj’s “Monster” verse outshone him. On the topic of his weaknesses, West called his ego his “Achilles’ heel.” ”And if I, Kanye West, can remove my ego, I think there’s hope for everyone,” he added.
Though still early in 2015, West has been pulling double-duty as he heavily promotes both his Yeezy Boosts collaboration with Adidas and his new album. He has unveiled new songs for fans every couple of weeks and most recently debuted the grimy and fun “All Day” during a fiery performance at the Brit Awards. No release date has been set for the album or “All Day” video.
Country superstar Carrie Underwood sent her Instagram followers into a frenzy Tuesday morning with the first published photo of her newborn baby boy. She also revealed the name of the child, who is the first for the singer and her husband, professional hockey player Mike Fisher.
A close-up image of the baby’s fingers was accompanied on the social media posting by the caption that revealed the news of the birth: “Tiny hands and tiny feet…God has blessed us with an amazing gift!” Underwood writes. “Isaiah Michael Fisher — born on February 27. Welcome to the world, sweet angel!”
Although the name was kept under wraps until the Instagram post, Underwood had already revealed the baby’s gender on live TV, during the 2014 CMA Awards in November. Well, actually, her co-host Brad Paisley is the one who spilled the baby beans, in a comical moment that proved to be one of the highlights of the show.
The actual reveal for the happy couple took place, however, at a private dinner. “Just the two of us in a nicer setting, but we both knew,” Underwood explained to ABC in January. “So, that was just confirming our suspicions. We didn’t really speak of it before, because we were both just like, ‘Whatever. It’s all good.’ But we knew it was a boy.”
There’s no word yet on whether Isaiah is a family name, a biblical reference (Underwood and Fisher are devout Christians) or just a name the couple liked. But it’s probably safe to say that the singer got her way over the Nashville Predator when it came to naming their son. Fisher joked with his own social media followers that he was rooting for “Fly.”
Tiny hands and tiny feet…God has blessed us with an amazing gift! Isaiah Michael Fisher – born February 27. pic.twitter.com/Rxq9HUmS7W
Beach Boys singer-songwriter Brian Wilson will be the subject of a tribute concert in Los Angeles at the end of the month in anticipation of his upcoming new solo album, No Pier Pressure. The show – officially titled “Brian Fest: A Night to Celebrate the Music of Brian Wilson” – will feature appearances by the likes of Norah Jones, the Killers’ Brandon Flowers, Heart’s Ann Wilson, Wilson Phillips and many more. Each artist will sing a Wilson-penned tune. The guest of honor, Brian Wilson himself, will also make a special appearance.
Other performers slated for the show include former Beach Boys member Al Jardine, the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and Steve Drozd, Devendra Banhart, M. Ward, Boz Scaggs, Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, Doyle Bramhall II and Joy Williams, among many others, as well as “many, many more surprises,” according to the show’s organizers.
Brian Fest will take place on March 30th at the Fonda Theatre, with tickets going on sale March 5th. Ticket sales for the show will benefit the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which helps out musicians struggling to make ends meet.
The organizers behind Brian Fest — the Best Fest — have also organized tributes honoring Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and the Rolling Stones (each with “Fest” in the name). Last year, they put together George Fest in honor of George Harrison. That concert includes appearances by Wilson, “Weird Al” Yankovic and Conan O’Brien, who all performed a mix of Harrison solo tunes and Beatles classics.
Wilson’s No Pier Pressure will contain 13 new songs and feature appearances by She and Him, Kacey Musgraves, fun. frontman Nate Ruess and his Beach Boy buddies Jardine and David Marks, among others. The singer, who will also be the subject of an upcoming biopic titled Love Mercy, recently released a video for a tune featuring Jardine and Marks, “The Right Time,” showing them in the recording studio. The album is set for release on April 7th.
Occasional Bob Dylan collaborator Daniel Lanois has revealed that the singer-songwriter’s venture into standards might not be limited to last month’s Shadows in the Night. “He came to my house eight or six months ago and spent a few hours,” the producer said in a recent interview with The Vancouver Sun. “We listened to 21 songs – because he’s made two records of this [Sinatra project].”
Although the producer, who did not contribute to Shadows but previously worked on Dylan’s Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind LPs, didn’t offer any other info about the album’s possible sequel, he did give an account of Dylan’s passion for the project. Before the singer-songwriter played any of the music for Lanois, he told him the story of how he’d grown up hearing music but not aware of what the musicians looked like, giving him a sense of mystery about the artist.
“He felt that a lot of that music was written not only by great professional songwriters at the time, but a lot of it was written from the heart, from the wartime and [by] people just pining for a lover,” Lanois relayed. “He felt there was a lot of spirit in that music. He felt there was a kind of beauty, a sacred ground for him. After having said all that, we then listened to the music, and I felt everything that he talked about. For one of America’s great writers to say, ‘I’m not gonna write a song; I’m gonna pay homage to what shook me as young boy,’ I thought was very graceful and dignified.”
A Bob Dylan rep had not returned a request for comment on the status of Dylan’s second record as of press time.
Dylan recently made a video for the Shadows in the Night tune “The Night We Called It a Day.” The clip finds the singer battling actor Robert Davi for the affections of actress Tracy Phillips. Incidentally, Davi recorded his own album of standards, Davi Sings Sinatra – On the Road to Romance, in 2011.
The rally is expected to draw 9,000 students, teachers and parents, and will take place at the State Capitol steps. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. and a press conference will follow at 1:15 p.m.; it is unclear, however, when Monae will take the stage.
“It’s heartbreaking to know that there are 800,000 New York kids falling through the cracks every year,” Monae said in a statement. “I am honored to stand with families demanding an end to this crisis.”
Monae joins an impressive list of high-profile Don’t Steal Possible supporters, which includes Questlove and members of the Roots, the Beastie Boys’ Mike D and Estelle. Monae is also an active supporter of the Grammy Museum’s musical education outreach program, and last year, Michelle Obama awarded her with the Jane Ortner Education Award.
The battle over “Blurred Lines” continues in a Los Angeles courtroom as Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams face off against the Marvin Gaye estate over whether the Worst Song of 2013 infringed on the soul singer’s “Got to Give It Up.” After the “Blurred Lines” creators preemptively sued the Gaye estate in September 2013, Gaye’s family fired back with a countersuit, setting the stage for the legal tiff waging in a federal courtroom this past week.
As the New York Times reports, Thicke’s testimony in the trial featured the Paula singer stepping behind a keyboard and giving jurors a lesson in Musicology 101, breaking down both “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s classic along with songs by U2, the Beatles and Michael Jackson to show how chord progression and melodies are often, either unknowingly or as an homage, borrowed from songs that came before it.
After the Gaye estate filed their lawsuit, Thicke admitted in an April 2014 that he had very little to do with penning “Blurred Lines” even though he was listed among the songwriters, adding that he was “high on Vicodin and alcohol” at the time of recording. In court last week, Thicke doubled down on those comments, admitting that Pharrell was the mastermind behind the track. “The biggest hit of my career was written by somebody else, and I was jealous and wanted credit,” Thicke said. “I felt it was a little white lie that didn’t hurt his career but boosted mine.”
In an earlier deposition, Williams revealed that shared co-writing credits, even when the artist is undeserving, “is what happens every day in our industry.” Pharrell is scheduled to testify later this week, and what he says on the stand could determine whether the Gaye family receives a sizable chunk of the estimated $30 million “Blurred Lines” generated or if the 2013 smash is simply a rip-off of Gaye’s music but not an infringement.
In January 2014, Sony avoided entering the fray by reaching a settlement with the Gaye family over “Blurred Lines.”
Depeche Mode founder Martin Gore will release MG, a solo LP of 16 electronic instrumentals, on April 28th via Mute. Gore began work on the album following the March 2013 conclusion of Depeche Mode’s Delta Machine tour, writing and producing the material at his home studio in Santa Barbara, California.
In a statement, the synth-pop pioneer – who has written the bulk of Depeche Mode’s material since co-founding the band in 1981 – says the idea of an instrumental album had been brewing for years. “I wanted to keep the music very electronic, very filmic and give it an almost sci-fi-like quality,” he says. “Music is a necessity for me. I go into the studio at least five days a week, every week, so once I had the idea and the template, the process was quick and fun.”
The MG moniker is an extension of VCMG, an electronic collaboration with former Depeche Mode member Vince Clark. The duo released three EPs and one full-length album, 2012′s Ssss.
“As a songwriter, I am aware of the power of words,” Martin said. “Especially when they are juxtaposed in the right way with chords and melody. I am also aware of the power of pure music and the emotions that can be created by musical atmospheres and that is what I wanted to capture with this project.”
Fans can whet their appetite for MG by streaming the ghostly “Europa Hymn” featuring three minutes of melancholy synthesizers and muted programming. Listen below.
Following the 2013 release of their 13th LP, Delta Machine, Depeche Mode issued Live in Berlin, a two-hour concert filmed during the album’s subsequent tour.
Arcade Fire multi-instrumentalist Will Butler will release his debut solo LP Policy on March 10th, but before the album hits shelves next week, Butler has offered up a stream of Policy‘s eight tracks (via Pitchfork).
In a statement, Butler describes Policy as “American music — in the tradition of the Violent Femmes, the Breeders, the Modern Lovers, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson, the Magnetic Fields, Ghostface Killah. And John Lennon (which counts).” Butler will also perform on Late Show With David Letterman on March 10th, the day of Policy‘s release.
In support of Policy, Butler embarked on an interesting musical project last month that found him penning and recording five new songs based on news stories he read in The Guardian. That experiment resulted in “Clean Monday” about troubles in the Greek economy, “Waving Flags” about Ukrainian separatists, “You Must Be Kidding” about a Sao Paulo water crisis, the black hole-inspired “Madonna Can’t Save Me Now” and finally “Waters of Babylon,” which Butler wrote after reading about ISIS members destroying artifacts in a Mosul, Iraq museum.
In addition to his first solo album, Butler will also set out on his inaugural Arcade Fire-less trek kicking off March 5th at New York’s Bowery Ballroom.
March 5 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom March 6 – Boston, MA @ Middle East Downstairs March 7 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right March 11 – Cincinnati, OH @ MusicNOW Festival March 12 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox March 13 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot Saddle March 14 – Washington, DC @ Rock Roll Hotel March 15 – Durham, NC @ The Pinhook March 16 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl March 18-21 – Austin, TX @ SXSW March 23 – Chicago, IL @ The Hideout March 24 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop March 26 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Calvin College March 27 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern March 28-29 – Montreal, QC @ Bar le Ritz PDB May 21 – Vancouver, BC @ The Imperial Theatre May 23 – George, WA @ Sasquatch Music Festival May 24 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge May 26 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall May 27 – Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour May 29 – San Diego, CA @ Casbah May 30 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom June 1 – Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theater June 2 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room June 3 – Minneapolis, MN @ Cedar Cultural Center June 4 – Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Near the end of his February 27th show at New York’s Town Hall, singer-pianist Mac Rebennack – the New Orleans RB medicine man also known as Dr. John – opened what was obviously a slow, dark ballad with an extended run on his piano: robust flourishes of anguish in the middle and upper ranges; rhythmic torrents of sob down below. When he eventually leaned into the mic, in front of his road band the Nitetrippers and six-piece brass section, the tempo and rueful flair of the music practically announced the song, the traditional, mourning blues “St. James Infirmary.”
In fact, Dr. John sang a very different set of lyrics to that woe, from the jumping, gospel standard “When the Saints Go Marching In.” The juxtaposition, part of an all-Louis Armstrong program based on Dr. John’s 2014 album, Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (Proper/Concord), is not on that release. But it was all Armstrong; the trumpeter recorded popular, iconic versions of both songs – in 1928 and 1938 respectively – and he returned to them almost nightly with the All-Stars, his touring group, at their late-Forties and Fifties height.
The switcheroo was also pure New Orleans, a city where celebration through trouble is a daily obligation and brass bands lead funeral processions at two speeds: in sorrow and hymns on the way out to the cemetery, then with survivors’ determination at a second-line gait on the way back to town. That half of the service came right after “Saints,” when Dr. John veered his troupe into another spiritual, “Lay My Burden Down,” taken at the former’s usual speed and concluding with the leader at the piano, in another soliloquy crowded with forefathers – Armstrong pressed in there with Professor Longhair and Fats Domino – but alive, this time, with joy.
Hot Jazz and Gris-Gris
Dr. John has been honoring the living spirits in New Orleans music for as long as he has been making albums, since his psychedelic spin on voodoo ritual on 1968′s Gris-Gris. His best records are always history with a lesson, propelled with authentic, forward thrust: the 1972 collection of Dew Drop Inn-jukebox covers, Dr. John’s Gumbo; the taut, progressive funk of In the Right Place (1973) and Desitively Bonnaroo (1974); the vigorous return to that cumulative grit and flair on 2012′s Locked Down.
Ske-Dat-De-Dat is closer to 1971′s The Sun, Moon Herbs – loaded with helping stars, including Bonnie Raitt, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band – and specific in its tribute. That meant, at Town Hall, no Dr. John hits other than an encore of “Such a Night” from Right Place. But the powerhouse New Orleans-born trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who plays on Ske-Dat-De-Dat‘s opening track, “What a Wonderful World,” is on this tour as a featured guest. His soloing across Dr. John’s grizzled singing and percolating lower hand on the piano in the dirty-funk arrangement of “Mack the Knife” – clearly sliced off the ’73 Top Ten hit “Right Place Wrong Time” – evoked the jubilant crossfire in Armstrong’s historic late-Twenties recordings with his Hot Five and Hot Seven groups.
At times, especially early in the set, Dr. John’s voice and piano seemed overrun, or undermiked, in the house mix by the horns and his rhythm section. And Ske-Dat-De-Dat‘s emphasis on interpretations of vocal features, especially ballads, associated with Armstrong, restricted the show’s reach. A recent box set of Armstrong’s matured fire between 1947 and 1958, The Columbia and RCA Victor Live Recordings of Louis Armstrong and the All Stars (Mosaic), is a solid argument for the trumpeter as the first, modern jam-band star: the soloing center of a band of empathic spirits, fresh and eager on his instrument in a reliable cycle of repertoire. (Two 1947 shows in the box, one of them actually recorded at Town Hall, are delivered just like a Phish gig: two sets with intermission.) Even with a full brass section, generous solo time for those guys and exuberant conducting by trombonist Sarah Morrow, Dr. John’s take on Armstrong couldn’t go there. That would have been a whole different gig.
Right Place, Every Time
But at 74, Dr. John remains a formidable performer, a force of nature and invention even inside a tight script. Armstrong recorded the sentimental nugget “That’s My Home” in 1932 with a big band led by drummer Chick Webb. Dr. John pulled the song forward to the golden age of New Orleans RB ballads – as if it had first been cut by the great soul man Johnny Adams – in a voice pitted with life and trouble but also loaded with the weathered assurance that there is still no place like his home.
There was plenty of piano too, everywhere. A lot of it was embedded in the arrangements, in the rhythmic tow of the songs. But there were long periods of stand-alone rapture too like the introduction of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” – hearty demonstrations of Dr. John’s lifetime of study and departures in the jazz, blues, boogie and Latin tinge of New Orleans piano culture. In that encore, “Such a Night,” Dr. John’s prolonged solo entrance and can’t-quit-yet coda were rich in contemporary strength and deep institutional memory. He also added a little extra sauce piquante: the idea that anything not born in New Orleans ends up there anyway. As he got to the very end of his final chorus on piano, Dr. John pounded out the trademark lick from George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
It was an utterly New York theme taken way down home – in the spirit of Satch.
UPDATE: A representative for West has confirmed that Paul McCartney is the artist whistling at the end of “All Day.” The section appears to be a re-recording of a song McCartney wrote in 1969 that was inspired by a Pablo Picasso painting of a guitarist.
The studio version of Kanye West‘s new So Help Me Godsingle, “All Day” is now streaming online. The rapper premiered the song, with fire-breathing pyrotechnics, at the BRIT Awards last week, where he visibly astonished the likes of Taylor Swift and Lionel Richie.
The proper version of the song shows off its triumphant synth line and bouncy beat, as well as West’s one-liners like, “You a fake Denzel like the Allstate nigga/If you run in to me, better have Allstate with you” and guest Allan Kingdom’s soulful vocals. Since the tune debuted on radio, the song features a few voice-over interruptions and censored N-words.
Although West has not yet announced a release date for So Help Me God, he announced the LP title along with artwork — four calligraphic Ms connected in a diamond — over the weekend. He estimated in February the LP is about “80 percent done.” Nevertheless, West has been performing and sharing a number of songs that could appear on the record, including his Paul McCartney collaborations “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds” (the latter of which also features Rihanna and will appear on her upcoming album, which West is producing), as well as the melancholic “Wolves.”
“It’s fun to work hard. We’re being inventive,” West recently told British radio DJ Zane Lowe. “The College Dropout came out of a fight to rap. This new album is coming out of a fight to design.” He also highlighted the LP’s “beauty of the struggle.”
One hint that fans may not have to wait too long for the album was the announcement of the first collaborative concert between West and Rihanna. Last month, Live Nation in Finland posted and removed a show that would take place in Tallinn, Estonia that would take place in July. However, neither artist has confirmed that or any other shows.