fbpx
LANA_FOR

In Defence of Lana Del Rey

LANA_FOR
Lana Del Rey is one of the most divisive figures in pop music. As she approaches the release of her second album, Ultraviolence, two of our writers took sides. One in defence of Lana and the other against. Today, Sam writes in defence of Lana Del Rey.

I’m usually the first to sigh at the mention of Lana Del Rey. As a personality, I found her hard to gravitate towards. Everything, from the way she speaks, to her unbearingly literal lyrics and her supposed falsities, grated on me and I found myself moving away from the singer I once applauded for the beautiful, Video Games.

It’s not until I read her brilliant feature with The Fader last week, that I started to consider Lana Del Rey again. And understand her.

The Fader quipped “With Lana Del Rey, everybody’s a critic, and any interpretation is possible,” which is the very reason we found ourselves writing a feature for and against Lana Del Rey.

She’s a hard personality to pin down, which I think is the root of all her criticisms. She’s had different monikers, dated record-label execs and has a presumably rich, entrepreneurial Dad. None of these things bode well for her as a flower-wearing indie-kid who’s now signed to a major record-label.

In 2012, when she began to creep up the pop charts with Video Games, people took great delight in revealing these things, thinking they’d caught her out. However, she’s been more than open about such things. The Fader interview proved that. She openly admits she had a seven year relationship with a record executive and has a song on her new album about it (Fucked My Way To The Top). In 2011 she even told Pitchfork, “People have offered me opportunities in exchange for sleeping with them. But it’s not 1952 anymore. Sleeping with the boss doesn’t get you anywhere at all these days.”

Everything Del Rey does seems to be taken as a PR stunt- the long videos, her hatred of Lady Gaga and her name-change. She’s an impossible personality to digest on the surface. She seems fake, an opinion I also held. But if you invest the time in reading her backstory, some of her visual and audible contributions over the past few years make sense.

Herein lies the issue of Lana Del Rey. She was a self-made indie artist who suspiciously signed with two major labels very soon after the release of Video Games. I can admit, that is suspicious, however, the only issue with it would be if Del Rey appeared to be the product of label manufacturing. After reading her interviews, watching her videos, and listening to her sometimes grating lyrics, I can’t see how anyone else is behind Lana other than Lana. As her friend Jamie King says, “The only person who created Lana Del Rey is her.”

She’s not the first artist to change her name and persona for a crack at the industry. Katy Perry was once known as Christian singer, Katy Hudson, yet she’s not accused of inauthenticity half as much as Del Rey is. Bowie, Lady Gaga and Madonna have all also adopted stage personas over their own. Perhaps it’s her ambition that creates criticism. In just over three years she’s released a controversial album, played Jackie Kennedy in a video with a black president and starred in a self-directed short film, Tropico. The latter was reviewed by Speedy Orbitz member Sadie Dupuis, who said “a footnote of a PR stunt from a singer whose cinema chops are as wispy as her faux-retirement.”

All this seems to be a product of Del Rey’s apparent unsurety with who she actually is. Even without mentioning Lizzy Grant, Lana has been a myriad of characters. But I’m not sure they’re really characters. It seems she’s actually lived the life of many of them. Despite the fact she grew up with an entrepreneurial Dad, Del Rey spent time in a New-Jersey trailer-park.

She revealed to Nylon Magazine she feels connected to the biker culture, ““It’s about living for the day, which was my mindset for a long time”, she said. This identity is explored in the video for Ride. And yet she was critiqued for portraying a “prostitute” in a “stupefying video”.

Lana’s not a feminist, she details in The Fader interview. Yet she remarks, ““My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.” To me, that notion is portrayed eloquently in the Ride video.

Del Rey is an intriguing character because she’s so unsure herself of who she is. She tells Fader, “I’m trying to do what feels right. I tried a lot of different ways of life, you know, things I never really talk about, just because they are kind of different. I didn’t really have one fixed way that I could envision myself living.”

The most appealing trait I’ve noticed in Del Rey over the past few years is the impeccable grace she’s maintained during the storm of vicious criticism. After her Saturday Night Live appearance, Gawker called it the “worst outing in SNL history”. Two weeks later, she performed a stunning rendition of Video Games on David Letterman. As they say, don’t get angry, get even. This year she played Coachella with the LA Times calling it “a measure of redemption”.

Ultraviolence could’ve easily been an immaculately-produced pop record that panders to radio but instead she’s dropping one that willfully departs pop. It’s a gritty, rock-driven record with provocative titles that are bound to anger people that already find her unbearable (Money Power Glory, Fucked My Way To The Top). She’s either oblivious or she’s learnt to not give a shit. I’m going to side with the latter. After over five million sales of her debut album, she’s become unapologetic. And so she should be.

New York Times writer Jon Caramanica posted perhaps one of the most scathing reviews of Del Rey in 2012. He wrote, “Her cultural stamp has already been affixed, her biography written in concrete. The only real option is to wash off that face paint, muss up that hair and try again in a few years. There are so many more names out there for the choosing.”

His comments about the fleeting nature of her success seem devoid now given that she’s got a multi-million selling album, two platinum singles and over 100 million YouTube views. He did use a metaphor in that piece though, writing “one has to wear clothes for a long time before they fit well.” If that’s the case, Lana Del Rey has certainly grown into her assumed, fake persona. Everything we’ve heard off Ultraviolence so far sound bold and unphased by opinion.

Everybody’s become obsessed with authenticity like a soul-searching X Factor judge, when the industry always has and always will be about entertainment. And god damn, Del Rey is entertaining.

Love or or hate her she’s managed to penetrate the mainstream despite the barrage of criticism that suggested she’d never move past Video Games. She’s also done so without the help of David Guetta, Pharrell or Max Martin which is a feat many can’t claim.

Liz Phair said it best in her defence of Lana Del Rey when she wrote, “as a recording artist, I’ve been hated, I’ve been ridiculed, and conversely, hailed as the second coming. All that matters in the end is that I’ve been heard.”

Tomorrow Hannah will reply with a critique of Lana Del Rey. 

 

10cameos

10 Surprising Acting Cameos by Musicians

10surprising

Which famous DJ starred in their self-produced porn store sci-fi Christmas movie musical? Who was the English singer that flirted with Dr Karl on Neighbours? Read below for our top 10 surprising acting cameos by musicians.

Usher

Before he was proclaiming his confessions for the second time, Usher Raymond was the resident radio host / DJ in everyone’s favourite ‘90s makeover teen rom com, ‘She’s All That’.

ushershesallthat

The next best thing to Rachael Leigh Cook taking off her glasses to reveal that “omg, the nerd is totally, like, pretty?” is watching Usher himself choreographing the school to dance to Fatboy Slim’s Rockafeller Skank.

“Split like the red sea!” 

Andre 3000

One half of OutKast, André Benjamin, had dabblings in acting preceding his portrayal of Jimi Hendrix in 2013 biopic ‘All is by my Side’. He’s featured in various movies and TV shows, including ‘The Families’, ‘The Shield’, ‘Revolver’, ‘Semi-Pro’, ‘Four Brothers’ and as the voice of Elwyn the crow in ‘Charlotte’s Web’.

crow

André as Elwyn (can not confirm if left or right crow).

His more notable role in his acting career was as Dabu in ‘Be Cool’. For an entire 40 seconds of André’s infectious laughter, see below.

Kanye West

Not even the self-proclaimed King of Everything could save Mike Myers’ box office flop, ‘The Love Guru’.

Who knew he loved hockey so much?

Michael Jackson

MJ made a brief appearance in ‘Men in Black II’, surprisingly not as an alien but instead as someone desperate for a position at the Men in Black Headquarters. I wonder if he’ll make a comeback hologram appearance in ‘Men in Black V’?

The highlight of this video is the fangirl’s written commentary.

Moby

It seems that Moby has a fondness for erotic-themed movies, starring in ‘Suck’, ‘Joes’ Apartment’ and as the character ‘Dildo Head’ in his self-produced porn store sci-fi Christmas movie musical, ‘Moby Presents: Alien Sex Party’. Surprisingly, the latter’s IMDb rating is a measly 4.2/10, with reports of Moby distancing himself from the production and even requesting to be edited out completely.

alien

I’m going to leave it up to you to figure out which one is ‘Dildo Head’.

Also worth a mention is ‘The Limo’ episode of How I Met Your Mother, where the gang mistake someone on the street to be Moby, pick him up in the Limo and head to his party. Upon ‘Moby’ ranting crazily and eventually threatening them with a gun, they realise he is in fact not Moby and hilarity ensues.

moby2 moby3J.P. Manoux as ‘Not Moby’.

Alicia Keys

Before she was setting the world on fire, Alicia Keys had acting cameos in ‘The Cosby Show’, ‘The Secret Life of Bees’, ‘Smokin’ Aces’ and as Scarlett Johansson’s sassy friend, Lynette, in ‘The Nanny Diaries’.

cosby

Backstreet Boys

One of the best TV cameos to date is the Backstreet Boys starring as a boy band-come-furry mammals(?) in ‘Arthur’. The episode, ‘It’s only Rock n Roll’, focuses on the boys’ pending visit to Elwood City and Muffy’s major, totally-relatable crush on Nick Carter.

enhanced-buzz-22218-1358180873-3

Backstreet Boys did it wayyy before Chance the Rapper.

Full episode can be found here. Watch it. Your 12-year-old self with thank you for it.

Lily Allen

Starring as herself, and additionally flirting with Ramsay St resident ‘DILF’ Dr Karl, in ‘Neighbours’.  

King Avriel

Before she was a gender boundaries-pushing electro queen, 23-year-old King Avriel  starred alongside Football Head Arnold as Timberly in the childhood classic ‘Hey Arnold!’.

KINGAVRIEL

The resemblance is uncanny.

Watch ‘Timberly Loves Arnold’ for a full 10 minute blast from the past 

Radiohead

Playing themselves in one of the most iconic South Park episodes of all time, ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’, Radiohead scold Tenorman for being a ‘crybaby’ while he sobs into a bowl of chilli containing his parents’ innards. After Thom Yorke‘s dance moves in ‘Lotus Flower’, you could almost call him a triple threat.

Poor Kid A.  

Can you remember any great TV or movie cameos by a musician? Let me know below or feel free to tweet me: @bianca_interns 

WHATHTEFUCK2

What the fuck is PC Music?

WHATDAFUCK

Last week, we took on A G Cook’s latest track Beautiful in First Impressions. While Hannah compared it to Snozberries, Lizzie likened it to the Rugrats, noting that she wasn’t “sold on the whole Hello Kitty sound”. The cultural references were becoming a little overwhelming so I decided to pose myself the question, ‘What the F**K is PC Music?’

Nintendo. Dance Dance Revolution. Korea. Siri. These are all things that come to mind when you hear the music coming out of new label PC Music. Spend a moment with PC Music’s soundcloud and you’ll be both intrigued and disgraced. The music coming out of the label sounds completely inhuman but at the same time acutely reminiscent of a generation built on smartphones that talk, nostalgia and EDM.

PC Music is run by London producer A G Cook who also releases music through the label. In an interview with Tank Magazine, Cook said, “The label’s called PC Music, which alludes to how the computer is a really crucial tool, not just for making electronic music but for making amateur music that is also potentially very slick”.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/beautiful[/soundcloud]

It’s an apt way of describing it. Nowadays very little difference can be heard between bedroom and studio producers. The meteoric success of Flume from a very early point in his career is testament to this. The music coming out of PC Music is so slick, it’s being compared to candy in abundance. In a way, it’s bubblegum music. So smoothed out and computer-driven that it’s lost all imperfection. Where rock n’ roll was born on impurities, PC Music’s difference comes in its ability to sound criminally crisp.

Cook was born in 1990 and notes that he grew up using a computer at quite an advanced level. The music has both the clunkiness of Windows 98 and the effortless sheen of an Apple Mac.

A demonstration of modern technology, all the press shots for PC Music’s artists are just as devoid of humanity as the music. An artist like Hannah Diamond (below), for example, looks as if she has nothing behind the eyes. The picture’s personality is simply delivered through bright, childlike colours and its likeness to childhood cartoon characters.

Apart from creator A G Cook, one of the most notable artists on the label is the aforementioned Hannah Diamond. Her songs redefine the meaning of minimal. They’re like deconstructed Top 40 tracks that have been redone out of mockery. Her voice is like a slightly more natural Siri. In normal circumstances, these things would be criticisms. But they’re not. It seems Diamond sits so far to the left on the kitsch spectrum, that there’s a stroke of genius in how otherworldly it sounds.

Her track Attachment has her singing “Together, forever” like a children’s doll. Creepy, yes. Infectious, yes. There’s a deep sense of ‘90s nostalgia that makes it oddly irresistible. Top 40 Pop music is a guilty pleasure but it’s fairly simple to explain why. Attachment is also a guilty pleasure, however, it’s close to impossible to describe why. On Soundcloud one user comments, “Why do I like this” while another says “this is wackkkkk”. She’s also compared to “an illiterate preschooler”.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/attachment[/soundcloud]

FACTmag described it best when they wrote she’s “like the girls at your school who practised Spice Girls dance routines in the playground and smoked fags on school trips, but while her brittle, Estuary tones make her sound like a Smash Hits star from the late ’90s, her songs couldn’t be more 21st century”.

A G Cook told Tank Magazine, “My work’s constant use of instantly gratifying elements such as kitsch imagery, catchy hooks, synthetic colours and fun sound effects feels inevitable, it’s almost a compulsion rather than a choice.” The idea of compulsion rather than choice is one that defines most of the labels sound. Much of the music sounds like it’s giving into seven deadly sins. It’s particularly a result of gluttony in the way that it over-indulges in pop’s melodic demons and lustful in the way that it centres mostly round the theme of 21st century love.

Consumerism is a notion that PC Music introduces a number of times. On Lipgloss Twins’ Wannabe, a computerised voice repeats “Topman, topshop”, “fake Prada, fake Louis, fake Zara” and then “I don’t wanna be a twin”. It’s the first time PC Music has eluded to a criticism of 21st Century culture. Cook said “Challenging something’s commercial nature is a commercial tactic in itself, and authenticity is a tricky currency that is often swayed by branding and advertising.”

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/wannabe[/soundcloud]

It’s entirely possible that the musicians on PC Music aren’t purposely critiquing our culture. There’s an enigmatic nature to the label that makes it easy to overanalyse without having a specific voice to speak for the music. In an industry where everyone’s trying to keep it ‘real’, it’s ironically refreshing to have a label embracing some of the critiques of this generation.

While I’ve tried to answer the question of ‘what is PC Music?’, I fear i’ve only further confused myself. Such is the intrigue of the label. The best way to discover it, is to listen to it. On first attempt, you’ll most likely hate but like a sugar-addiction it will grow on you. Before you know it, you’ll be asking “Please sir, can I have some more?”

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/pcmus/sets/top-40[/soundcloud]

 

RICHKIDZ2

5 Rich Kids in Hip Hop

RICHKIDZ

It’s time to talk business. Last Thursday, Dr Dre officially became is the first billionaire in hip hop, acquiring a cool $3 billion ($2.6 in cash, $400 million in stock….but who’s counting) in one of the most mouthwatering deals of the decade. While the rumours mounted that Apple Inc. were going to pull the plug on this trademark deal with Beats Electronics after that Facebook video announcement (Money + Rapper ? Intelligence), things seem to be all rich and rosy between the two megabrands.

The first billionaire in hip-hop, right here from the motherf**king West Coast.”

But wait- the music. Where is the music in all of this? While many musicians are happy to settle with their music, their fans, their millions and their countless rehab stints, others have taken it upon themselves to trade their musical notes, for well, just notes, making their money elsewhere. Damn talented people, I probably should have really listened more in my Business 1001 classes.

Riding the wave of their multi-million dollar endorsement deals, clothing lines, book deals, restaurants, movies, and even perfumes (I mean who can resist the scent of Eau de Katy Perry) – the new millennium has seen an influx of talented musicians, or notably hip-hop moguls, trading their brand on the stock market in places you wouldn’t even imagine.

Here are a cashed up hip-hop artists who have acquired all them dollar bills in the most unlikely of places.

monies

Dr Dre

Consumerist Teenager: Dr Dr, I am having a problem hearing my music!

Dr Dre: An Apple (Inc.) a day keeps the doctor away!

How about $3 billion of dem Apples! That’s right, Dr Dre and his business partner Jimmy Iovine have finally done it – they are hip-hop’s first billionaires, signing a deal even grand in Apple’s standards. Described as a “no brainer” by Apple Chief Exec Timothy Cook, the acquisition of Beats Electronics is in fact Apple’s largest purchase to date, with the Beats’ subscription-based music streaming service as its main selling point.

“We’ve known these guys forever,” Cook added, “We’ve dated, we’ve gone steady and now we’re getting married.” Sorry Kanye and Kimmy, this may actually be the biggest wedding in hip-hop history. Dr Dre and Iovine have not only made headphones cool again since they started the company in 2008, but they entered into an overpriced market that only the big boys at Apple can afford. Well played, very well played.

dRDRE

50 Cent

It’s hard to think that a hip-hip, dirty lyric, rapper named Curtis ’50 Cent” Jackson, would go from selling 15 million records and being shot 9 times, to being one of the richest big boys in the music beverage industry. Huh? That’s right. Jackson’s beverage company Glaceau was the creator and marketer for “Formula 50”, a brand of Vitamin Water which Coca-Cola purchased in 2007 for a tidy $100million. How refreshing!

Half a decade later, 50 has launched his Street King Energy shot, and it’s already moved to number two slot in its ($2 billion) market. Just to add to his G-unit clothing company, not to mention the deal made with Reebok in 2003, his own record label, G-Unit Records and monies earned from his dabbles in acting and authoring. Hand this guy an Oscar already!

blindkid

Sadly, money does not buy coordination…. 

Jay (remove the hyphen) Z

Jay-z sings it perfectly in Kanye West’s song “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”: “I’m not a businessman, I am a business, man!”

With an estimated net worth of $475million in 2013, Brooklyn born Jigga is not only a master of music, but a myriad of businesses as well. He is a hip-hop god, a fashion exec to his own Rocawear clothing label as well as an entertainment mogul, earning double digit millions from his concerts and Roc a Fella label, and new sports news agency launched just last year. Although this hustler doesn’t fully own any alcohol brand, he is associated with a number of top alcohol brands in the market, including Ace of Spades and D’Ussé cognac,

If that isn’t success, then he’s always got Beyoncé’s measly $300 million empire to fall back on (sigh).

P-Diddy

Up until May this year, Sean “Diddy” Combs held the crown as the richest rapper in the world. Although he may have lost the illustrious title to Dr Dre, I’m sure he won’t be going hungry tonight with a staggering net worth of $700 million. A cool $120 million more than 2013, thanks to his deal with beverage giant Diageo and his burgeoning Revolt TV music channel.

While on stage we have seen him change his name from “Puff Daddy”, to “P.Diddy” to just “Diddy”, lately, this entrepreneur has adopted the moniker “Ciroc Obama” (his words, not mine). As Ciroc Vodka’s value soars toward $1 billion, this entitles him to an eight-figure annual payout and a nine-figure windfall if the brand is ever sold, cementing himself on the cover of Forbes’ 400 lists alongside Warren Buffet as one of hip-hop’s next billionaires.

This guy has so much (non-music) money he really doesn’t give any fucks if he loses a mil or two!

I OWE YOU: Diddy scrawled out an IOU for $1 million dollars after losing a “shooting dice” bet with Rick Ross. He aptly captioned the video “I just lost a million dollars. It ain’t nothing #SuckMyD**kB***h

IOU

Bryan “Birdman” Williams

For everyone who is thinking, who the [email protected]#k is this guy? You are not alone. This New Orleans-born rapper/producer-turned-entrepreneur was the co-founder of musical powerhouse Cash Money Records, with his brother Ronald “Slim” Williams over two decades ago. Starting to ring a bell? Cash Money Records inked a $30 million distribution deal with Universal in 1998, catapulting it to success, signing rappers such a Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. With a net worth of $160 million ($300 together with his brother), Birdman placed himself securely in the Top 5 of this year’s Forbes “Hip-Hop Cash Kings”. Now, Birdman and Slim seem intent on taking over the world building a new branch of their business Cash Money Sports in May 2014, signing Texan American Footballer Mike Evans to the agency.

imrichbitch

throwaway3

Throwaway Thursday

throwawaythursdays3

Congratulations, you’ve nearly made it to the long weekend! Since you made it this far, we thought we’d give you a li’l somethin’ somethin’ (ie: free stuff) to celebrate.

LISTEN: How To Dress Well- No Words To Say Mix

How To Dress Well, aka. Tom Krell, is a sensitive man, as he’s proved on his latest tracks Repeat Pleasure and Words I Don’t Remember. This mix is made up of songs that inspired his forthcoming album, What Is This Heart? and it’s just a tad melancholic. All you probably need to know to get you interested is that it starts with Tracey Chapman. If that’s not enough, it also features unreleased sneak previews of his new album.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/howtodresswell/no-words-to-say-songs-for-what-is-this-heart[/soundcloud]

STREAM: Glass Animals, Jack White, First Aid Kit

Do release dates not mean anything anymore? New albums from Jack White, First Aid Kit and Glass Animals have all been made available to stream ahead of their release. Naturally, they’re all very different. Swedish duo First Aid Kit offer up a nuanced, Americana sound on their third release, Stay Gold, while Jack White does, well, what he always does on his second solo LP Lazaretto. British band Glass Animals are the newest of the bunch. ZABA is their RnB-inspired debut and features Triple J favourite, Goeey.

Stream Jack White- Lazaretto here.

Stream First Aid Kit- Stay Gold here.

Stream Glass Animals- ZABA here.

READ: Glass Animals go through their debut album, ZABA

Dave Bayley’s lyrics are often hard to work-out in Glass Animals tracks. So, if you’re listening along to the stream and need someone to gently guide you through it track-by-track, Bayley is at your call. He’s spoken to The Quietus a little bit about the meaning and process of each of ZABA’s tracks. And yes, he says things like “I recorded the vocal while holding a pineapple called Sasha Fierce”.

Read over at The Quietus.

LISTEN: Drake- 0 to 100/The Catch Up

Everyone loves to hate Degrassi Drake but when the man gets it right, he gets it soooo right. This new one, dropped for no rhyme or reason, splits itself into two. O to 100 is brash and confident while The Catch Up lends itself more to the melancholic production of a cut like Furthest Thing. It’s rumoured to feature James Blake at the end and it sure does sound like it. There’s also an album meant to be due in 2015 but until then grab this freebie.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/octobersveryown/drake-0-to-100[/soundcloud]

LISTEN: R.Kelly- Ignition (Giraffage Remix)

Now, usually he don’t do this but San Francisco producer Giraffage has just been signed to Fool’s Gold records. To celebrate, he’s fulfilled every kid born in the 90s dream and dropped a remix of R.Kelly’s, Ignition. And presumably in some tip of the hat to 1999 Napster, he’s made it completely free. The producer finds himself in good company at Fool’s Gold. The label is home to names like Chromeo, Run The Jewels and RL Grime.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/foolsgoldrecs/ignition-remix-giraffage-remix[/soundcloud]

 

Until next week.

harrywave

VICExINTERNS copy2

the interns joins the VICE Blogging Network

VICExINTERNS copy

the interns are thrilled to announce that we are now officially part of the VICE Blogging Network.

It’s a collection of independent Australasian websites which are, in VICE’s opinion, ‘the most interesting, relevant and popular ones going’ and we’re so excited to be included in such a well-respected realm of music, art and culture. 

 

Vice_logo

thekillers2

The Killers’ Hot Fuss: A Decade On

THEKILLERS

On this month, ten years ago, it’s likely that you were anticipating Las-Vegas band The Killers’ debut record, Hot Fuss. With four albums to their name now and a greatest hits, The Killers have engrained themselves as a band that never quite made it as big as Coldplay or The Strokes but have happily plodded along as a sometimes-headliner.

On 7 June 2004, when Hot Fuss was released it was looking like The Killers were destined for giddy heights. The album went number one in Australia (such trendsetters), Ireland and the UK while it also reached the top ten in the US. At the end of the decade, the LP was the 27th and 97th highest selling album in the UK and Australia respectively.

The Singles also performed well. Mr. Brightside reached the top ten in the US and the UK while Somebody Told Me mustered a peak of number three in the UK.

Few new bands that were born around the time The Killers surfaced managed that feat with their debut. Indie-rockers turned stadium-fillers, Kings of Leon and the Black Keys, started with critically acclaimed albums but ultimately it took them the better part of a decade to turn that into commercial success. Even if it was at the cost of critical adoration.

The perfect combination of alt.rock and stadium-ready tunes

At the time of Hot Fuss’ release there was no other band, apart from perhaps Coldplay and an ageing U2, that presented alternative rock in such a straight-forward, digestible manner. Lead singer Brandon Flowers marks it best in Glamorous Indie Rock N Roll, when he preaches “It’s indie rock n roll for me/It’s all I need”. Hot Fuss was certainly not the most indie record of the time. Far from it. But it exposed ‘the rebel’ inside all of those who didn’t want to delve into garage-rock to reveal it.

Lamenting on Glamorous Indie Rock N Roll, NME wrote “The Killers’ charm is to be both clever and clueless at once”. And to this day, that is still true of Hot Fuss. They probably knew that proclaiming they love indie rock was somewhat cringeworthy but it works because Flowers’ delivery is so self-assured. Personally, as a twelve year-old kid there was a certain feeling about holding The Killers’ record and believing I’d uncovered a band that was just a tad alternative.

On paper, The Killers sounded ridiculous. They were a band from Las Vegas who sung a lyric like “somebody told me that you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend”, and delivered decadent, Moulin-Rouge style videos. There was nothing gritty to this indie rock n’ roll. It was clean; formulaic even. But it was also perfectly delivered and believable because Flowers and co were so convincing in their delivery of such grandiosity.

In labelling Mr. Brightside the 72nd best song of the ‘00s, Pitchfork wrote “Merging Duran Duran makeup, New Order hi-hats, and Bruce Springsteen-ian grandiosity, they gave rock fans a non-geriatric arena-ready alternative to the world’s Nickelbacks”. A year later, PANIC! At The Disco would release their first album, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, borrowing a similar, if not more emo-enhanced formula. Even now, bands are still using that well-balanced combination of alternative rock and stadium-ready flashiness. Has anyone seen Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys or Muse live recently?

The British influence

In 2009, Brandon Flowers told Spin that “Hot Fuss was all based on fantasy. The English influences, the makeup — they were what I imagined rock was. I’m a dreamer, you know? So I dug into that dream and made Hot Fuss.” It comes as a defence to critics saying the album held no sense of identity. Pitchfork wrote in their 5.2 review of the album, “The Killers are just the latest band to be born too quick inside the popular music vacuum, where expectations for broad accessibility kill dudes’ potential for deeper creativity quite fabulously dead.”

In 2004, the Brits dictated alternative rock, so it made sense that the Killers would follow this formula. However, it left little room for them to inject their hometown and own influences into it. Listening back to Hot Fuss, it’s hard to say that it sounds specifically British. So many bands from around the world have adopted the Brits’ alternative style of rock that it sounds universal now more than anything.

In an interview with The Quietus, after the release of their third album Day & Night, Flowers admitted the rock n roll fantasy had become “unhealthy”. He said, “I think we still can be the biggest band in the world. But maybe we were falling into traps – getting the producers and photographers U2 had. That’s unhealthy.”

Hot Fuss, iconic?

In the interview with Spin, Flowers also notes that Hot Fuss was “a very special part of this generation.” And it’s true. It would be hard for anyone to deny hearing All These Things That I’ve Done and not singing along. As Vice writer, Clive Martin puts it “I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier” was the “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten” chorus for the cool clubs.”

As I listen back to the album many of the lyrics sound iconic if not slightly over-heard. Lines like “Coming out of my cage and I’ve been doing just fine” or “It’s not confidential, I’ve got potential” are instantly nostalgic. They’re aggressive and well-timed, perfect for both the clubs and stadiums. They also induce some serious nostalgia which is a good tell-tale that the album was a signpost of the time.

When Mr. Brightside was voted in as the fifth best song of NME’s lifetime, drummer Ronnie Vanucci said “The song is basically about one being totally content and fearless and happy, and then having it totally be the antithesis in a blink of an eye – all of the sudden being the opposite of that because of someone”. Basically, it’s the topic of just about every pop song but delivered differently. Instead of a Scott Storch, Max Martin or Timbaland production it was partly-distorted and centred around a delicious guitar lick. The drum-beat is rollicking and Flowers vocals are commanding in a conversation, train-of-thought way.

It’s withstood any song from Hot Fuss and has become The Killers’ signature track. Ten years later, it sounds unaged. Radio still plays it, clubs still play it and every man and his dog knows it started out with a kiss.

Even Smile Like You Mean It sounds instantly comforting when hearing it ten years later. As does the theatrical, desperation of Believe Me Natalie.

The Strokes achieved a similar feat with Is This It?, particularly in regards to Last Night. They disguised a beautifully simple, pop melody under waves of distortion and noisy guitars. Yes, the Strokes record was more successful but it’s easy to see how and why the Killers were inspired by this. Flowers even told NME, “Is This It…just sounded so perfect. I got so depressed after that, we threw away everything and the only song that made the cut and remained was ‘Mr. Brightside’.”

The Verdict ten years on

Rolling Stones put it best when they wrote, “So what if they were from Vegas, not the U.K., and the year was 2004, not 1983?” Hot Fuss is a guilty pleasure record in every sense. It’s a big, boastful record that touches on matters of relationships, sex, bitterness and falsity. Or as Vice puts it: a record about a murderous homosexual relationship.

Hot Fuss didn’t have the gritty, indie aura that the first records by Kings Of Leon or The Black Keys did. The Killers were introduced with a flurry of glitz and glamour that lends itself more to Duran Duran than it did the bands of their own era. As such, they were able to permeate a pop/rock landscape that was dominated by the likes of Maroon 5, Nickelback and Jet.

When hearing those three bands it’s hard to argue that The Killers are not the more likeable alternative. Even their harshest critics would surely have to agree.

It’s difficult to call Hot Fuss a classic in the way that The Strokes Is This It? or Oasis’ Definitely, Maybe are regarded but it’s a key post-it note in the musical timeline of the ‘00s. It was a time when alternative rock became glamorous and digestible once again; made for huge audiences. It’s worth noting that the year after Hot Fuss, Coldplay became a fully-fledged arena-rock band with their synth-heavy X&Y. A sound not dissimilar to the foundations of Hot Fuss.

Hot Fuss was an integral part of the transition period that got us to the point where Arcade Fire and The Black Keys could headline festivals.

The positive of Hot Fuss not being Is This It? is that The Killers have not been burdened in the way The Strokes have. In different ways, Sam’s Town and Day & Age have matched Hot Fuss whereas The Strokes other albums have paled in comparison. They are not as instantly recognisable, but each of them have tracks that make worthy additions to their ‘Greatest Hits’. It’s helped their career track-along in a straight line rather than plummet like The Strokes.

RAM_2

Random Access Memories: A Year On

RAM

As of this month, a year has passed since the release of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. The hype has somewhat dissipated, the dust has settled. Now it’s time to ask: Did RAM live up to the hype? Is it a Daft Punk classic? What does Daft Punk’s journey into disco past mean for our music present and future? (for the TL;DR version of the answers, scroll to the end)

Few artists in the history of time have had the enigmatic effect on the music industry quite like Daft Punk. It takes someone or something special to cause such a whirlwind of rumours and myths to circulate constantly over two decades’ time, ranging from surprise appearances to the actual identity of the persons in question, Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo. In the 12 year time gap between their last album and RAM, (excluding the Tron soundtrack) the rumour mill was still well-oiled and running, with people predicting release dates of the next album, asking the questions “is there even going to be a next album?”, “when are they touring again?” or, as one internet punter asked an online Daft Punk FAQ, ‘are they dead?’

daftpunk_dead

I personally found this ‘partially’ helpful.

In February last year, Daft Punk finally came out of the shadows with a solitary image of the iconic split-helmet posted on both their website and Facebook. This first contact from the pair, in what felt like decades, sent the online world into a frenzy, with Facebook, Twitter, music blogs and forums alike going into overdrive. Even their manager, Paul Hahn, was staggered by the internet’s reaction, commenting that his favourite tweet was, ‘Daft Punk posts jpeg, crashes internet.” The incredible fact was that nothing about a new album was mentioned, though everyone was taking from that simple image the same message:

Daft Punk were back (and were definitely alive).

helmet2 copy

Rudy Mechekoff (above) makes a good point 

With tongues wagging and fingertips furiously a-typin’, Columbia Records slowly rolled out the  remainder of the Random Access Memories campaign to the bated breath of fans worldwide. But there was something different about this promotion. The helmet image posted onto the internet was typical of an album release but it was one of only a few engagements in the digital sphere. Instead, as hinted in a blog announcement by Chic guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers, it seemed that Daft Punk (with Rodgers as a suspected collaborator) were opting for a campaign encompassing all things retro. This was the first clue that Daft Punk was taking a new, funky direction.

billboard
Billboards began to pop up along Sunset Boulevard, replacing ads for “fat-reduction pills and local car-insurance companies,” imparting a “physical, visceral quality” and creating “something of permeance,” according to Paul Hahn. A 15-second teaser advertisement also bookmarked a Saturday Night Live episode (overshadowing Macklemore’s appearance on the show), both giving a nod to “pre-MTV era of marketing”, as Paul Hahn put it, with the latter subsequently crashing the Daft Punk website within 4 seconds of its appearance. It was a delightful mix of eras, with the clever use of varied media elements thought to be antiquated in the music realm.

Columbia Records still had more surprises up its sleeve; slowly giving away more and more pieces of the puzzle that was Random Access Memories. These consisted of a retro-futuristic web series, a multi-part YouTube documentary revealing some of the collaborators, more billboards (this time at prime positions of SXSW & Ultra Music Festival) and another SNL advertisement. This was all topped off with an extended 60-second teaser projected to the audience at Coachella, revealing Pharrell as a collaborator and stirring rumours that Daft Punk would be doing a surprise set (little did they know that the two men they craved so much were actually watching the teaser from the crowd amongst them. Truly Gods amongst mere mortals).

Kermit Cintron vs Walter MathysseThe campaign continued to stir up hype and demand attention, certainly a contrast to the two Frenchmen who have insisted on keeping their identities hidden underneath robot heads since the ‘90s. It exuded a promise of something great, with Columbia’s Chief Executive, Rob Stringer, likening it to when record companies used to have the “confidence that they had a big, big record.” There was no question they had the confidence. At this point it was bordering on cockiness.

Finally, the time had come for their 4th studio album to be released and in classic Daft Punk style, the launch was to be held in where else but ‘Wee Where..?’, only adding to the mystery and intrigue of the saga.

The time came, the time has passed, and now we’re left to ponder the question:

Did the machines live up to the hype?

Now that the dust has settled, the rumours have calmed (for now) and everyone has a copy of RAM in their once-hot little hands, I beg the question: did the album live up to its hype as the most anticipated album of last year/decade/century/millennia?

Obtaining the status of most critically successful album with a score of 87/100 on Metacritic, winning numerous Grammy Award wins, including Album of the Year, Best Dance/Electronica Album and Record of the Year, and debuting at number one in twenty countries, I’d be stupid to say no. I’d also be lying.

They gave life back to music.

wCHZpQd

As the introductory song to RAM states, Guy and Thomas-Manuel aimed to revive the magic of albums apparently lost in the riff-heavy EDM haze. Professing to be bored with the electronic music style they so happened to help create, the pair chose to shy away from samples and other immediately-gratifying features of electronic music. Instead, they opted to bask in the styles and techniques of the disco era, turning back the clock to the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. In an age where so many songs are conceived so quickly and proficiently on computers, Daft Punk’s reintroduction of disco is refreshing, with The Scissor Sisters’ frontman, Jake Shears, comparing it to a “giant, fresh glass of water that so many people have been thirsty for for so long.” This style is evident in their use of multi-layered vocals, accompanied with a slew of instruments and expert instrument implementation (dem guitar licks), adding to the intricate level of detail and musical thought rendered throughout the album.

They spared no expense to accomplish this; rounding up the best musicians, recording in the finest studios around the world and incorporating orchestras and choirs at will. With this, they’ve managed to create a new sonic-age while still maintaining their classic Daft Punk . Many would prefer for them to simply stick to what made them what they are, but at some point, purely programmed music would become tiresome. As Giorgio Moroder said, “they had to do something which is different – still dance, still electronic – but give that human touch back.” And it’s that simple idea of personifying electronic music again which has so influenced the disco/funk trend so evident today.

RAM was an Instant Crush, but was it an Instant Classic?

crushRandom Access Memories‘ cinematic nature makes it an album that needs to be heard in full, a style which doesn’t make it a classic in the way that its predecessors are. Of course discluding popular Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance, you wouldn’t expect to hear many of their tracks, such as the musings in Giorgio by Moroder or the cinematic story of Touch in any old club. This is where Daft Punk’s style in RAM is noticeably different from their past works. It seems they have created this to be more of an event, more of a journey from start to finish, not dissimilar to the records of the past. This in turn requires a lot more effort from the listener, proving difficult for some, who would prefer the immediate gratification from one of their more electronic numbers such as Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

Although this way of approaching the album may be labour-intensive, it is greatly rewarding. RAM manages to surprise you with something new every listen, whether it be the instantly funking guitar lick on Lose Yourself to Dance, the steady beat of Doin’ It Right or the Broadway production that is Touch. It’s the complete disregard for trend that makes RAM stand out as an innovator, jam-packed with music of an older-age for a future generation.

Disco is Alive and Stayin’ Alive.

giphy

Although many artists have quietly been making disco-influenced music, it seems that all we required was the Daft Punk effect to really start the trend. Sonically, it’s re-introduced the idea of human-sounding music into the dance genre. Ironic, considering it came from a pair of robots. Nile Rodgers, one of the main collaborators on the album and the ‘Mozart of disco’, has attributed this renewed affection for his beloved disco to its “complex simplicity” and absolute “bliss of grooves.”

nilerodgersIt has the ability to encourage people to get up and dance, rather than “people standing there” and “nodding their heads”, as stated by Dec Lennon, the head of a dubstep/grime radio station, comparing the new disco wave to the dubstep era.

Mixmag’s Duncan Dick positioned RAM as a “game-changer for dance music,” getting out of the EDM comfort zone that so many artists are stuck in. “It’s as if they’re trying to turn the clock back to a time not only before EDM but before even acid house,” he wrote. “This isn’t Daft Punk trying to get back to the warehouse or the rave but back to the discothèque.” Dec Lennon has also attributed it to people “opening up, getting loose, having a drink and a dance.” Hugo Gruzman of Flight Facilities has also chimed in on the subject, comparing EDM to electronic disco, stating “it’s the difference between a quick shag and an all-night love-making session”.

It seems everyone has the fever, with artists adopting the disco trend at a critical mass. This past year, we’ve already seen artists such as Jungle, Chromeo, Chris Malinchak, Juce, Flight Facilities, Todd Terje, Blood Orange and La Roux (just to name a few) creating ‘70s/’80s-inspired tunes. Not to mention the slew of artists like Clean Bandit and Avicii who have found huge commercial success with their disco-flavoured numbers.

Pharrell Got Lucky.

durex

No, not in that way! Well, probably also in that way. 

Another artist who has greatly benefited from the success of Random Access Memories is none other than former N.E.R.D pioneer, Pharrell Williams. Although quietly producing tracks with a host of other artists, it seemed he’d been hiding in the shadows for the past few years, appearing his best days were behind him. Pharrell himself confessed that his first solo album, In My Mind, was a “dreadful experience”, making him think that his “days as an artist were over.”

It wasn’t until he met with Guy and Thomas-Manuel and pleaded to their manager for a chance at collaborating, saying “anything you want me to do, I’ll do. I’ll play tambourine on your next album,” that his luck began to change. He stated that he was “happy guesting” or “producing work” but the French dance stars asked much more of Pharrell,  inviting him to sing on their hit single Get Lucky and further collaborate with them for the entire album.

pharrellhelmet

This turn of events has him convinced that Daft Punk brought his solo career back from the brink of nonexistence.”Working with Daft Punk has been a huge part of the journey to where I am today… I was appreciative when I did it and I’m still appreciative of the chance I was given,” he has commented. Daft Punk, with their album Random Access Memories, helped shine the spotlight back on Pharrell, breathing life back to his career and revealing the producer for the amazing talent he is, helping him re-emerge into the music world as, what The Guardian describes him, a ‘one-man disco revival.’

TL;DR: Random Access Memories was great, Daft Punk revived the disco era, they inspired other artists to emulate electro-disco, they kick-started Pharrell Williams’ solo career and, basically, boogie is back and it’s, hopefully, here to stay (at least until Daft Punk’s next album).

applause

ears_featured

Why your ears will enjoy June

ears_site2
If we’re being truthful, June should be awful. It’s the month when Winter finally hits you as a reality and you take to hot chocolates, Cheds and love handles. But, with the Northern Hemisphere joyfully ushering in Summer, we find ourselves receiving their music. Their content, Summer-ready, Festival-eyeing music. To think of the Brits whipping their shirts off when the thermometer hits 18 degrees is a sickening thought but the plethora of great records coming our way should soothe the pain. Over the next month we’ll be treated to comebacks, debuts and a track called Fucked My Way To The Top (thanks Lana). It’s going to busy, the headphones will hurt our ears but we’ll forget Winter ever laid its frosty hands upon us. Here are ten of the most mouth-watering (ear-watering?) releases scheduled for June.


Klaxons_Love_Frequency_Artwork_750_750_90_sKlaxons- Love Frequency

13 June is the day when you will be able to set your ears upon the Klaxons’ third record. The Bassist of the band, Jamie Reynolds told NME, “We have arrived. On the first two albums, we were taking off and this one is us flying. We are there.” And it certainly seems so. The band lined-up an impressive array of people to work on this album including James Murphy, Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers, DJ/producer Erol Alkan and electro duo Gorgon City. The first tracks to surface off it, There Is No Other Time and Show Me A Miracle see the band embrace a more dance-orientated sound so you best get your best boogying shoes out.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/klaxons/show-me-a-miracle[/soundcloud]

Lana-Del-Rey-Ultraviolence-2014-1500x1500Lana Del Rey- Ultraviolence

Fresh from being the headlining act at the Kimye wedding, Del Rey will release her second album on June 13. The ‘dark’ Ultraviolence features production from The Black Keys’ Dan Auberach and has been preceded by the singles, West Coast and Shades of Cool. We can confirm that the album cover is the actual cover and not a casual holiday snap. We can also confirm that the tracklist is far more exciting than the cover. Fucked My Way Up to the Top and Money Power Glory have us putting faith in this record.

Kasabian_48-13Kasabian- 48:13

With their last album, Velociraptor, Kasabian went from quirky, alt-rock band to arena-fillers. They’re set to capitalise on that status with a headline set at Glastonbury and a new album. Oddly, it looks like 48:13 will step back from the arena-sound. It’s been described by the band as ‘stripped-back’, ‘bare’ and ‘direct’. The first single, Eez-eh is groovy and chaotic bound by a dictator-like vocal and travelling beat. It’ll be an interesting one, you can count on that. 13 June is when you can hear it, just in time for a mighty Glasto show.

alexistaylor_awaitbarbariansAlexis Taylor- Await Barbarians

You may know Alexis Taylor from a little dance collective called Hot Chip. If so, then you’ll know his partner in crime, Joe Goddard, is constantly off producing and remixing everything under the sun, so Taylor has decided to pop out his second solo-album in the meantime. It’s set to be released on 13 June in Australia and features the two previously released tracks, Elvis Has Left The Building and Without A Crutch (2). If you pulled your boogy shoes out for Klaxons, put them back away for this one. It’ll be a demure but rewarding set.

Glass-Animals-ZABAGlass Animals- ZABA

British band Glass Animals set hearts-a-flutter when they visited Australia in April. Many of the shows sold out off the back of the wildly successful, Gooey. They also cranked out a pretty special cover of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown for Triple J’s Like A Version with frontman Dave Bayley sending girls gaga with his oddball voice. Since then, they’ve released the tropical flavoured, Pools and are now readying the release of ZABA. It’s geared for release on 3 June.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/glassanimals/pools[/soundcloud]

Lazaretto3Jack White- Lazaretto

Mr. White has pulled out all the stops in the lead-up to the release of his second solo album. On Record Store Day he set the record for the world’s fastest recording when he delivered the title track in less than four hours. Then, last week, he called his former half of the White Stripes and ex-wife, Meg White, the “antithesis of a modern drummer” while he himself was called an “asshole” by The Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney. Such is the life of a rockstar, I guess, and any bad press is good press in the lead-up to an album. If you know Jack White, you’ll no doubt already have guessed the sound of Lazaretto– howling vocals, raucous guitars and other bluesy instrumentation. We’ll be able to confirm that when it’s released on 6 June.


Small_Gold_Album_-_First_Aid_KitFirst Aid Kit- Stay Gold

Sweden’s not often the first place you look for Folk music with an Americana twang, but this duo is doing a damn fine job at it. Stay Gold is the third album from the pair, following on from their 2012 breakout The Lion’s Roar. The first two singles, My Silver Lining and Cedar Lane suggest that they won’t be changing up the sound too much, but it’s sure to be another beautifully harmonic and melodic record. The record is out on 6 June while they’ll be down under in July for Splendour in the Grass.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/firstaidkit/my-silver-lining[/soundcloud]

The-Antlers-Familiars-608x608The Antlers- Familiars

After a balmy Summer, June is going to get cold. During those nights, you’ll need an album to accompany you. Look no further than Familiars. This is the Brooklyn band’s first release since 2011’s sprawling Burst Apart and it’s shaping up to be just as profound. If the first two singles, Palace and Hotel are anything to go by, it’s going to be an emotional one with tip-toeing keys, short jabs of brass and haunting melodies. Prepare to weep on 20 June.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/antirecords/the-antlers-hotel[/soundcloud]


bc2dad80How To Dress Well- What Is The Heart?

Poor ol’ Tom Krell looks sad on the album cover for What Is The Heart? And judging by the album title and first two singles, he probably is. Somewhat sadistically, it’s good news for us because the music he’s churning out is A+. Taking cues from late ’90s/early millenium RnB, Repeat Pleasure and Words I Don’t Remember are melancholic strokes of genius. It won’t be a barrel of laughs, but you’re not meant to be happy in Winter anyway, right? Get personal with Krell, 20 June.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/howtodresswell/repeat-pleasure[/soundcloud]

4489534Remi- Raw x Infinity

Remi is the next big name of Australian hip-hop. His debut cut, Sangria, had Triple J audiences giddy, taking out Triple J Unearthed’s 2013 Award. It’s the feature album all this week on Triple J and from what we’ve heard so far it’s a raw yet politically and socially-charged listen, touching on everything from racism to drug-culture. Hear whether the Melbourne MC has delivered on the hype on 3 June.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/remzilla/tyson-1[/soundcloud]

 

Also I’ll just gloss over the fact that Ed Sheeran, 50 Cent and 360 also have records coming out. These are very much avoidable. Please read, listen and buy the above. Your P.I.M.P days are far behind you.

Stay in the loop with new music and events by joining our newsletter list.

Polls

Best First Impression Of The Week?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

©2017 THE INTERNS MUSIC, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.