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City Spotlight: Chicago

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City spotlight is a bi-weekly feature where the interns go behind a particular city looking to uncover its musical trends and cool hangs.  This week we’re taking a trip to the current rap capital of the US – Chicago, Illinois. 

Ok, so we admit defeat. It seems all roads lead back to Chicago. From our feature on the faces of Future R&B to last weeks round up of Chicago rappers, inspired by Vic Mensa‘s new track Feel That,  to songs from Chicago-based artists regularly being devoured at our First Impressions table or featuring on our Top 10 Songs You Need to Hear This Week lists. We just can’t get enough of the Chicago scene at the moment. With that in mind, it seems only fitting Chicago takes the limelight in our second instalment of City Spotlight. Be warned, the following is a hyperlinked minefield.

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Where to Catch a Gig

Riviera Theatre

Originally a movie theatre, The Riviera Theatre in Uptown Chicago was converted in the 80’s to become the midsized venue it’s now recognised as. Predominantly an alternative rock venue, playing host to the likes of Alt-J and Jurassic 5, The Riv has recently been gaining pop credibility with the likes of Sam Smith and Lily Allen gracing their September calendar. 

Metro

First opening 30 years ago with a headline show from REM, formerly the Cabaret Metro, the now Metro, is a mainstay in Chicago’s live music scene. One of the city’s older, more famous venues, it’s played host to many nationally touring alternative rock and electronic acts such as Echo and The Bunnymen, Twin Shadow, Grouplove, James Blake as well as Earl Sweatshirt and Chicago new comer like Mick Jenkins.

Lincoln Hall

The city’s go to small venue, Lincoln Hall first opened its doors in 2009. With a capacity of 500, the venue allows you to get up close and personal with some of the best indie acts floating around at the moment boasting a concert schedule filled with the likes of Banks, Charlie XCX and OK Go.

The Hideout

The Hideout is located amidst a mass of sprawling industry just northwest of Goose Island. Not wanting to pigeon hole  itself, The Hideout hosts acts from country, to soul, to experimental DJ parties and even veggie bingo, my kind of scene. The main reasons to get yourself to The Hideout are to see any one of the city’s up and coming hip-hop artists or hit up their Block Party hosted in conjunction with The A.V. Club’s Onion. This year the line up included Death Cab for Cutie and The War on Drugs

The Bottom Lounge

I’ll admit I suggest this venue primary because of it’s name. Who doesn’t want to party all night like in the Bottom Lounge right? Claims to fame aside, the Bottom lounge is a massive venue including a bar and restaurant area. The main venue area, with a capacity of 700 actually does host some surprisingly credible acts, such as Yelle, The Drums and Blonde Redhead.

Artists 

From the city that brought us The Smashing Pumpkins, Earth, Wind and Fire, and R.Kelly, followed by a serious bout of Kanye-itis and Lupe-syndrome, the world has understandable come to expect acts of feverish portions. More recently, The Interns, along with the rest of the world, have been captivated by the city’s fast and furious drill scene with artists such as the formidable rapper-come-songstress Tink featuring on in our New Future of Future  R&B article, and 17-year old house-arrestee Chief Keef and producer Young Chop gaining a mention in our round up of male Chicago rappers. Of course savemoney members, Vic Mensa and Chance The Rapper are equally as fast, becoming the internationally recognised, Chicago antidote to the spits of drill, with their comparatively soulful, smooth, hip-hop sounds. There are however a few Chicago-based artists that have escaped mention on the interns so far. Read below to rectify our horrible miscarriage of justice. 

Sasha Go Hard

Sasha Go Hard first broke on to the drill scene in 2012, in the same manner it seems any drill artist worth their weight in salt does, through shaky,  handy-cam shot You-Tube videos accompanying downloadable mix-tapes. Rapping from a tender age of 17, it was her 2012 street anthem, Why The Mad, that first garnered her the attention she deserved with Diplo producing her 2013 mix-tape, Round 3. In the last two years however, Sasha’s music has undertaken a welcomed metamorphosis from lady-hitta drill still present on follow up mix-tape, Nutty Wolrd, to more smooth R&B tracks not dissimilar to fellow Chicago artist Tink

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/sasha-go-hard/problem-ft-tink-produced-by[/soundcloud]

King Louie

Louis Johnson, King L or King Louie, was  one of the few artists given a shout on Kanye West’s remix of Chief Keef’s track I Don’t Like for contributing to Chicago’s exploding hip-hop scene and has since gone on to be the man on feature on Yeezus track, Send it Up. Arriving on the scene alongside fellow rappers Chief Keef and Lil Durk, King L has since signed with Sony syndicate, Epic Records and has worked with the likes of Soulja Boy, Fredo Santana and Twista. Heavy with trap, reggae-esque and southern soul influences, King Louis’s career began by selling a stead stream of mix-tapes out of his car boot at local high schools. After a car accident landed him in hospital and 4 months of rehabilitation, the artist pushed his music on to You-Tube and steadily gained internet following with videos directed by cult street crew director, D Gainz

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/kinglmusic/my-hoes-they-do-drugs-feat[/soundcloud]

Saba

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If you’re not a rapper in Chicago right now who are you? Saba is the latest man on the scene after he dropped a verse on Chance The Rapper‘s Acid Rap last year. Just last week he dropped a 14-track mixtape titled Comfort Zone which has the same sort of effortless cohesion that Chance’s 2013 effort did. It’s built around hazy beats, a laid-back flow and sporadic beats, much like a lot of the rap music coming out of the chi-town lately. Features from Legit, Jamila of M&O,Eryn Allen Kane, and Tree provide melodic hooks to keep proceedings moving. He may be the youngest player on the scene but Saba’s ComfortZone sounds like he’s been around for a while. 

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/sabapivot/sets/comfortzone[/soundcloud]

Eryn Allen Kane

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There’s more than just rap in Chicago, you only have to listen to the dulcet tones of Eryn Allen Kane to believe it. Kane features on Saba‘s mixtape but has also been releasing some pretty impressive solo cuts, like the Feelin’ Good appropriation, Hollow. She floats through melody like a majestic songbird, layering vocal harmonies below her lead. Last year BJ The Chicago Kid and Kendrick Lamar jumped on a remix on her track Her Pain, so it’s clear she’s got the right people around her. Think Jhene Aiko and Tinashe with a touch of Ashanti.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/erynallenkane/hollow-eryn-allen-kane[/soundcloud]

Record Labels

Touch and Go

Touch and Go Records was founded in 1979 and quickly became aligned with in America’s underground 80s rock scene. In the early 2000s however, the label signed alternative rock outfits, TV On The Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In 2009, the label was “drastically downsized” by label owner Corey Rusk. They still release a slew of Alternative records. 

Drag City

Home to incredible records since 1990, Drag City is an independent label founded by Dan Koretzky responsible for albums from Joanna Newsom, Pavement, and Stereolab. They’re about to release the sixth album for White Fence (aka. Tim Presely) titled For The Recently Found Innocent as well as new records from Ty Segall and Bonnie “Prince” Billy

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the interns Saturday Mix #4

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Hold the phone, did someone say weekend!? It’s time to switch off the Blackberry, call the babysitter and put your party knickers on because Saturday is here and the interns’ mix is not going to let you stay indoors tonight watching Friends re-runs.

Major Lazer – Royal Speaking: Songs to hang with Mary Jane

Note: the interns do not condone the use of illegal drugs.

But Let’s just say you wanted to go green this weekend. And let’s hypothetically say, you need a token music mix to wake and bake or do some garden weeding to. Why don’t you hash out the idea of using this Major Lazer Jamaican jam? That ok with you, bud? If I said ‘People Everyday’ by Arrested Development was in the mix, would that spark up your interest?

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/majorlazer/royallyspeaking[/soundcloud]

Digitalism – In Session: Songs to bring back electro

How good was 2007 for dance music!? Daft punk toured the globe with their Alive tour, Justice, Boys Noize and Sulwax bought us dance hit after dance hit, and Digitalism fed our musical taste buds with their debut album ‘Idealism.’ This mix is a culmination of the old goodies and some fresh new head-bangers. It is the perfect mix of punchy, mischievous and dancey nostalgia to remind us all how electro is done properly.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/mixmag-1/in-session-digitalism[/soundcloud]

Moby – DJ Mix / July 2014: Songs to take the new car for a spin

“Moby, you can get stomped by Obie, you 36 year old bald headed fag blow me
You don’t know me, you’re too old let go its over, nobody listens to techno.”

That guy that Eminem loved to diss, you remember him? Well, Daddy’s got a brand new car sound and he wants to take it for a spin around the block. Whether it is your mum’s Suzuki Swift, your sister’s Barina or your new sexy new Mercedes – windows down please, and subwoofers out. The local council are going to hate you tonight.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/moby/dj-mix-july-2014-electro[/soundcloud]

Karman – LFTF Mix: One for the ups and downs

This mix is going to get the blood pumping through the highs and lows of your relationship. We all know how it goes, one minute you are looking into their eyes, their beautiful soul – that’s a special moment.

Next moment you are at each other’s throats, threatening to change your Facebook relationship status.

Then you are all over each other again, grinding, kissing and loved-up like nothing ever happened.

All in the span of about 2 hours.

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/liveforthefunk/karman-lftf-mix[/soundcloud]

Jamie xx and Friends – BBC Radio 1: Songs to stay in bed for

Sunday morning has arrived. Stay right where you are, put your phone on silent and spend the next hour warm and cosy with this old faithful sound. Jamie xx does not judge if you are big spoon or little spoon. He does not throw prejudice over what you did the night before. This well-curated mix is here to let you just slide into the back-end of your weekend with ease and relaxation.

Listen to the “it’s too cold outside to move” mix here

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Chiraq or Chi-Town? Choose Your Own Chicago

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A strangely anchoring dichotomy lies at the heart of Chicago’s hip-hop music scene, from which the most segregated and violent city in the United States pivots, bends, twists and turns itself around, looping together a rich tapestry of talent and cultural diversity.

One need only blink in the direction of the vastly differing career trajectories of Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, two of the city’s hip-hop alumni, in order to realise this is a scene, filled with rules, codes and boundaries, yet undeniably open to contradiction and false word. Say what? On the one side stands self-proclaimed Messiah, Kanye, having irrevocably changed the face of hip-hop and R&B all the while *insert any one his “oh he just being Kanye,” antics here.* While on the other stands a comparatively humble Lupe Fiasco, conscious hip-hop advocate who takes advantage his position as a lyricist in the limelight to excoriate corporate America for its gas-guzzling tastes and establish youth empowerment initiatives.

Even the city’s latest YouTube-sensation-come-dance craze, “Bopping,” embodies the city’s unwillingness to present a unified whole other than in its collective and total abandonment of that very notion. Made famous by Lil Kemo’s appearance in Drill artist, King Louie’s video for My Niggaz, bopping, with its frenetic footwork on the bottom and loose freestyle of elbows and shoulder shrugs on top is, as Meagan Garvey notes, business on the bottom and party on top. 

In light of Vic Mensa’s new track, Feel That, come with us as we look at four of the cities male hip-hop artists, taking over from the Kanye’s and the Lupe’s and forging a path of their own. 

Young Chop 

19 year old producer Young Chop, is an embodiment of the unlikely collisions that happen in the windy city. Credited with essentially creating the city’s prominent, hyper-masculine and violent Drill scene from a desktop computer in his mother’s home, a gang-affiliation free, straight-edged and clean-record Young Chop can be seen being driven around the south of Chicago by his mum in the Beemer he paid for, and, despite having ventured to Paris to collaborate with Kanye West on the latest Pusha T album, had never been to The Chicago Bean before Vice forced him up town on a webisode of Chiraq. A true demonstration of just how racially and socio-economically segregated Chicago can be. Now signed to Warner Records, Young Chop is one of the most sought after hip-hop producers in the western world, and has been an integral cog in the sky rocketing career of Bieber from the wrong side of the tracks, Chief Keef. Producing songs for the 3 Hunna member like I Don’t Like, Love Sosa, and of course, 3 Hunna. Young Chop has gone on to collaborate with Big Sean, Soulja Boy, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa and Travi$ Scott.

Chief Keef 

This kid. If you know anything about the Drill music currently pouring out of Chicago, it’s likely that you’re also acquainted, almost to the point of exhaustion, with Gucci-flashing, dread lock-sucking, belt-enthusiast, Chief Keef. At a mere 17 years old, Keef is the face, inspiration and indeed pin-cushion of the entire movement. Having hit Young Chop up on Facebook, while on house arrest in his grandmother’s living room the two collaborated on his 2012’s album Finally Rich. A boy of few words, Keef is also the semi-absent star of Vice’s 8-part web series Chiraq and gained even more exposure when Pitchfork took him to shooting range for their interview, whereby violating the conditions of his parole. Keef represents a reality of Chicago often neglected by the media, and outsiders. A reality of projects and extreme poverty, in which guns are prevalent, death is old news and gang-affiliations everything. It’s a world in which reality and social-media seamless collide; Twitter is one’s jury and cases are fought on the streets, often resulting in real loss and heartache. Now signed with Interscope Records, Keef has performed and produced with the likes of Drake, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, 50 Cent and fellow drill artists Lil Durk, King Louie and Lil Reese.

Chance The Rapper 

Unlike the “brawl out,” gun-toting, motherF*&King spits of Chief Keef and his Drill affiliations, so intimately entwined in the city’s gang wars and gun violence, 20 year old classicist, Chancelor Bennett, aka, Chance the Rapper, offers us a different perspective on the same place called home, reminding us instead of Chicago’s soulful history with his rich textures and smooth rap throwbacks. Since his first mixtape 10 Day, partially recorded while on a 10 day suspension from high school, Chance’s second mixtape Acid Rap, filled with acid jazz sounds, and equal parts Eminem / Kanye references, has graced multiple “Best” lists, including Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Complex Magazine’s. He has collaborated with the likes of future R&B stars, SZA and Tinashe, Childish Gambino, Joey Badass and fellow savemoney crew member Vic Mensa.

Vic Mensa

Off the back of the colossal popularity of his first solo mixtape Innantape that debuted earlier this year, Chicago local, and savemoney member, Vic Mensa has been touring with the likes of Disclosure and Danny Brown. Since turning his back on band Kids These Days and a shiny label deal, Mensa’s solo career has gone from strength to strength but it’s unlikely the bourgeoning superstar will be satisfied until he’s “earning more money than his dad.” Recently, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League producer, Cottontale, told The Fader “Mensa’s the rare talent who can write, produce and sing with equal flair. I don’t think he’s just a writer and rapper. He’s definitely a producer in his own right. He has a lot of potential.” Telling of the camaraderie that exists at the centre of Chicago’s hip-hop scene, Drill or otherwise, Mensa also appeared on an episode of Vice’s Chiraq, attempting to gather enough money to post bail for fellow savemoney crew member, the aptly titled, Joey Purp. That’s love.

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Throwaway Thursday 17 July

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This will probably mean nothing to you all because you’re all cashed up on tax returns and dropping a bucket of cash on iTunes, but if that’s true you’re most likely downloading the new Madden Brothers‘ song. So, in the interest of improving your iTunes library, here are some great tunes that happen to be free.

This week we’ve got a bunch of stuff that errs on the dancey side and are  available to download for free. A-Trak has remixed Foster The People’s Best Friend which will ready you for their mighty Splendour in the Grass set next week. Throttle have also done a disco-inspired remix of Sam Smith’s mammoth hit Stay With Me while GANZ has flipped Alison Wonderland’s pumping track, I Want U. Rome Fortune’s second collaboration with Four Tet, Lights Low, is also worth a listen and download.

You’ll want to clear a space around you for this one, pop some headphones on and get ready to dance. The best part is free also means freedom. Download these tunes and listen to them without a Wi-Fi connection, just like the old days (circa 2005).

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/the-in-terns/sets/throwaway-thursdays-17-july[/soundcloud]

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Festivals and the Tech Experience

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When Woodstock started in 1969, the festival experience was all about music (and peace). Since then, things have changed a little. With the meteoric rise of music festival popularity, organisers have challenged themselves as to how much the experience can be enhanced. Unable to hand out free drugs, technology has become a festival drawcard. From websites, to gadgets, phone apps and wristbands, here are some of the nerdy cool technologies which are set to pimp out our festivals in 2014.

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Tomorrowland (Belgium) – Friendship bracelets

Live music has this incredible knack of bringing strangers together to bask in momentary friendship, however sometimes you do not have the time or the resources to connect digitally with someone when you want. This July, a little town in Belgium called Boom will play host to the biggest friend-making party the world has ever seen. With attendees from 214 countries, a higher number than those who participated in the London Olympics (204 nations), the organisers of EDM festival Tomorrowland have developed Facebook wristbands which ensure you never have the “one that got away” experience ever again. The concept is quite simple – these wristbands not only store all your information for entry for the festival, but they also serve a social purpose by housing your Facebook account details as well. All you have to do, should you meet an awesome new friend at the festival, is push the love heart button on your wristband and a Friend request will be sent. We’re not quite sure if remembering your festival one night stand is a good or bad thing.

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Electric Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas) – Snapchat ‘Our Story’

It seems like everyone in social media wants a piece of the music festival pie, and this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas saw the Snapchat rise to new heights with the debut of ‘Our EDC Story’. While Snapchat previously allowed users to share their snaps with connected friends, ‘Our Story’ is a a group-sharing feature which encourages all the users in the same location for a single event to upload their photos collectively and publicly. The end result? An awesome highlight reel of shots collected and compiled by Snapchat from hundreds of different vantage points. And jealousy ensues…

 

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Lollapalooza (Chicago) – No cash, no worries!

There is no need to worry about lugging your spare change around a festival any more, because this year’s Lollapalooza is offering festival goers wearable tech that can be linked to their credit and debit card information. Similar to Disneyland’s successful MagicBands, these festival wristbands can be “tapped” to radio frequency identification (RFID) vendor terminals. Once you enter a pin you’re ready to go! This form of wearable payment allows festival patrons to pay for food, drinks and merchandise without cash or card. No more getting down on your hands and knees in the mud to look for that darn credit card. 

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OPPIKOPPI (South Africa) – Beer Delivery Drones

At Oppikoppi festival, an annual festival held in the Limpopo Province of South Africa in August, beer delivery is always a problem. Festival organisers however, have sought to tackle this universal problem, and instead of standing in long queues or leaving your great spot in the crowd, attendees will able to order beer on their smart phone, to be delivered by a flying drone.  These drone prototypes can drop cold brews to festival goers from the air via a parachute, based on the GPS location of their smart phone. Right now, the system is guided by hand, but in the future there are plans to guide it on a GPS grid. Cheers to that!

 

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SXSW (Texas) – Lightwave technology

This year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) featured its own touch of technological genius with the introduction of Lightwave technology that enabled lasers and special effects through the use of wearable wristbands. The Lightwave technology measures audience interaction in real time, converting data to art – collating audience members’ biometrics by tracking them with motion, volume and temperature sensors. Sponsored by Pepsi and with a special appearance by DJ A-Trak, Lightwave bands were linked to user’s individual accounts with audience interaction ranked on a screen. Certain levels of dance interaction ‘unlocked’ rewards, such as Pepsi refreshments.

 

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Coachella Music Festival (Palm Springs) – Bluetooth and Spotify

Who could forget the epic technology behind the Tupac hologram at Coachella in 2012. This beautiful-people festival is renowned for pushing the boundaries on and off stage. Earlier this year, the festival used Bluetooth-enabled micro-location technology, iBeacon, to deliver proximity-based information, navigation and notifications to festival attendees. Spotify also teamed up with Coachella for the We Were There campaign – an interactive experience that allowed attendees to use their wristbands to collect songs and playlists that they could later compile and share with friends via an interactive map.

 

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Throwaway Thursday 10 July

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The legendary George Michael once sang, “Freedom!” and while the second syllable of that has nothing to do with Throwaway Thursday, the first is what we’re all about here. Once again, this week we’re offering up 11 free songs for the taking. And the price? Free, of course. Because we know it’s hard out here for a bitch, and being a music fan is sometimes an expensive hobby. Particularly for those of you paying $75 to see Goth Queen Lorde this weekend.

This week, we have enough variation to fill your chill, gettin’ down, lights-off and drank playlists. A new tune from trap king turned viral-star, Baauer, which samples Soulja Boy and is conveniently titled Soulja. There is also Slow Burning, a new track from Adelaide band, Flamingo, who are getting ready to tear up Splendour In The Grass in a weeks time. If that’s too mellow for you, wrap your ears around the new one from Young Franco featuring Joy., Close 2 U.

Enter the hysteria of Throwaway Thursday once more, below:

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/the-in-terns/sets/throwaway-thursdays-10-july[/soundcloud]

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New Direction: An Exploration of Music’s Greatest Image Makers

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It’s fair to say that the humble music video is amidst a highly anticipated and totally welcomed resurgence. After exploding during the late 1980s and early 1990s alongside the indoctrination of MTV as the cultural influencer and instigator we’ve come to recognise it as, music videos then became somewhat of an afterthought in the 2000s. A weird landscape filled with awkward product placement and clunky new media haphazardly thrown into the melting pot while artists, directors and producers alike busied themselves grappling with just what the www’s had in store for their industry. While major brands like MAC, Coke, Samsung and Pepsi, all benefited from this awkward coming of age period by jumping into bed with the Britney Spears’ and Fergie’s of the world, the true power and potential of ye’ old music video as an artistic pursuit seemed to have fallen down the back of the couch to gather dust. Admittedly, the early 2000s subjected us to our fair share of girls on film, less plot, narrative or character development. Cue music, start dancing, start filming has seemingly been the go to formula for music videos for the better part of the noughties.

Recently however, this has begun to change as we slowly dig ourselves out of the thong-laden, booty shakin’ void, one video clip at a time. From the narrative formula of Lady Gaga’s controversial Telephone epic, to the raise-your-left-hand-and-twist-at-the-wrist motion synonymous with Beyonce’s Single Ladies track now engrained in our cultural consciousness as a go-to saturday night move, the music video is steadily being restored to its former position atop not only the hyped-up MTV mountain but, with the top 5 most viewed videos on Youtube being music clips, it’s seemed to have conquered the internet as well. In recent weeks, news regarding Sia’s Chandelier clip has been plastered across Pitchfork, Sterogum, Vulture, and Rolling Stone to name a few and generates more than 26,900,000 Google results in less than a quarter of a second, making instant celebrity of both 11 year old dancer Maddie Ziegler and director Daniel Askill. Current reigning king of the music video world, Nabil Elderkin, debuted his offering for Little Dragons’ track Pretty Girls to a similar response less than two weeks ago. As a follow up to the band’s clip for Klap Klap, it’s clear directors and artists are once again harnessing the story and cinematic scope of music videos. Like Lana Del Rey’s Tropicano of 2013 directed by Anthony Mandler and Beyonces’, well Beyonce album, music videos are becoming a world unto their own, unshackled from the time limits of their audio instigators, winding their way through narrative constructs, and characters, coming in two part series and extended versions. Here we have a look at a few of the music video directors from the 80s to now responsible for crafting the medium.

Today’s Go To Guy: Nabil Elderkin 

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Having aligned himself with the Future R&B movement and directed clips for the likes of Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, James Blake, FKA Twigs and Bon Iver, if you know anything about the music video industry at the moment, it’s likely to be Elderkin’s name. From small beginnings as a surfing photographer that grew up in Port Macquarie before moving to Chicago, it was Elderkin’s desire to photograph a then-unknown rapper, Kanye West , that gave him his first break. Upon registering the domain name www.kanyewest.com on a whim, Roc-A-Fella records contacted Elderkin three weeks later to buy it back off him. Uninterested in money, Elderkin transferred the domain name in exchange for a photo shoot with the artist. These images went on to be the Kanye’s first publicity photos and the beginning of an on-going collaboration between the two that has since spawned Mercy, The Coldest winter and a coffee table book

The Diva’s Director: Jake Nava

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Before Beyonce surprised the world with her explosive visual album, Beyonce, there were few people in the world privy to its creation. This man, Jake Nava, was one of those chosen few. Having worked with Beyonce during her Destiny’s Child days and again when she was Crazy in Love, Nava directed three of the videos to feature on Beyonce, including Flawless, the bonus Grown Woman clip and the NSFW, comes-laden-with-parental-advisory-warnings, Partition. Nava is also the man we can thank for those hours spent in front of YouTube attempting to learn the Single Ladies choreography, a video that has since listed by The Times as the 3rd Most Influential Music Video of All Time and is an exemplary demonstration of what happens when perfect production meets perfect direction in the music industry (we all end up waving our hands in the air asking strange men to put a ring on it).

When he’s not busying himself with Yonce, Nava is the darling of the divas, having directed Mariah Carey’s Shake it off, Adele’s Someone Like You, Emeli Sande’s Heaven and made breakfast foods incredibly suggestive while  Kelis Milkshake brought all the boys to the yard.

In 2011 Nava placed 5th in Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Music Video Directors’ and has worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue, Robbie Williams, and, all time trump card, The Spice Girls

 

The MTV Mastermind: Spike Jonze

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Joining Propaganda Film’s in 1997, Spike Jonze has been credited with rendering the aesthetic of the hazy MTV generation at the height of its influence. A big call for a then fresh faced director with roots in the LA skateboard community? Perhaps, but let’s not forget, this is the same man that won 4 MTV Music Video Awards for his 1994 work on The Beastie Boys’ anthem, Sabotage, anticipated the entire Youtube obsession with flash mobs in his video for Fat Boy Slim’s Praise you, and convinced Christopher Walken to dance up and down escalators around the LA Marriott for the band’s follow up hit, Weapon of Choice, for which he won a 2001 MTV Video Music award as well as the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video. Sounds like MTV, right? 

It was also Jonze’s brilliant idea to cast children as hip-hop royalty in The Notoroius B.I.G’s Sky’s The Limit, and weird everyone out with his back to the future tactic of placing Weezer on stage at Happy Day’s institution Arnold’s for their Buddy Holly clip. Look closely and you’ll see The Fonz singing along. Weird. 

More recently, Spike Jonze collaborated with Arcade Fire for The Suburbs, and co-directed Flashing Lights with Kanye, proving that all you really need for a great video clip is some slow-mo and a semi-clad Playboy model with a serious walk on her. A similar tactic was obviously utilised for Kate Beckinsale and the Underworld series. Walk on.

The Believe the Hype: Hype Williams

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Harold ‘Hype’ Williams began directing music videos in 1991 with an unwavering desire to focus on what a song sounded like, and draw visual cues from there. Sounds simple enough, right? This crystalline, no bullshit approach to projecting the narrative of a song and the true nature of its singer onto the screen led him to be named Best Director of the Year at the 1996 Billboard Music Video Awards and gain the 1998 MTV Video Music Award in the Best Rap Video category for his work with Will Smith on Gettin’ Jiiggy Wit It. Hype Williams successfully did for hip hop music videos in the early 90s, what Timbaland and Aayilah did for the for the soundscape of the genre at the same time. Working with everyone from Brandy to Boyz II Men, 2pac to Nas, TLC to Aaliyah, and Missy Elliot to Ashanti, Williams also found time to collaborate some 20 times with Kanye West since 2005, shoot Mrs West’s Playboy cover of 2006 and capture Beyonce grindin’ on dat wood, for her lesson in the art of seduction, Drunk In Love. Hint, you need a beach. 

The Madonna Man: David Fincher

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Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid, arguably the world’s leading music video director of the 80s and 90s, David Fincher, set his sights on a career in directing as young as 8 years old. Before directing feature films such as Se7en, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and that infinitely forgettable blip otherwise known as Fight Club, the 1980s saw Fincher co-found Propaganda Films, a music video and film production company that, come 1990, was responsible for producing a third of all music videos made in the US at the height of MTV’s reign and now counts Nigel Dick, of Britney Spears’, Baby One More Time fame, and Spike Jonze, of well… Spike Jonze fame, among its alumni. 

Despite this clear and independent success, in a 2008 interview Madonna declared she was responsible for the trajectory of David Fincher’s career after the pair worked on her 1989 hit Express Yourself and pulled the iconic video for the 1990 Madonna classic, Vogue, together in less than a week. Fincher won back-to-back awards for his work with Madonna and after a relatively dormant period on the music video front during the early 2000s, came back swinging with Justin Timberlake’s Suit & Tie released on Valentines day earlier this year. With its deliberate use of black and white and an unapologetic Art-deco aesthetic, Digital Journal called it “Fincher’s music video masterpiece,” and earned him his third VMA. 

Fincher has also directed music videos for Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and more Paula Abdul than anyone should ever be subjected to.

The Honorable Mention: Nigel Dick

nigel

This Dick gave the world Britney SpearsBaby One More Time. Nuff said.  

commercial

In a dream world commercial radio would look like this…

commercial

Commercial radio has always been whinged about. In fact, I’m yet to hear anyone who raves about Commercial radio. Despite the emergence of spotify, iPod inputs in cars and digital music in general, what radio plays continues to translate to sales. And while sales nowadays also put pressure on radio to play high-selling tracks, if radio takes a chance on something, it usually means the public does also.

This week the radio airplay charts are a grim sight. The only Australian act that features is Justice Crew and they’re followed by international artists Nico & Vinz, Mr. Probz (Yeah, us either) and The Madden Brothers. The number one song, Nico & Vinz’s Am I Wrong was spun 898 times just this week. Compare those artists to any of the Best of 2014 lists doing the rounds and you’re likely to find no similarities.

It’s an age old question but why does radio seem so mundane? It comes down to the fact that it doesn’t like to take risks. Trend-wise it follows American radio playlists and, to some extent, British radio, meaning that it rarely gets to dictate what should be played in the way a station like the UK’s BBC Radio 1 can.

I spoke to the Music Editor at News Limited, Kathy McCabe last year who said, “Commercial radio in Australia is pretty much programmed mainly by what’s happening in America. A few British artists sneak through but it still tends to take its cue from whatever Ryan Seacrest is doing.” This hits the nail on the head. Australian radio is suffering from a lack of innovation as it is so far down the cultural food chain.

This may also be the reason that radio shies away from home-grown talent. 12 of the top 40 artists played on radio this week are Australian. While that may seem positive, this includes Iggy Azalea, Sia and Five Seconds of Summer who spend more time away from the country than in it at present. It’s also interesting to note, that all of them bar one (Sheppard) are signed to a major label.

McCabe told me “We still seem to have this bizarre cultural cringe in terms of the support of Australian music that should be far more fundamental particularly on the airwaves.” The cultural cringe is often what prevents Australian artists from reaching commercial radio. Iggy Azelea found it onto Australia radio but not until she was adopted in America with a record that has no Australian fingerprints on it, really.

It’s worthwhile to look at the fact that on the rare occasion a track that sounds less commercial crosses over it ends up doing pretty well. There’s a little song called Somebody That I Used To Know that shot Australian, Wally de Backer to the top of the charts in this country and then all around the world.

In 2007, Gotye won Best Male Artist at the ARIA Awards to a collective “who?” At the time his album had failed to make the top 20, while none of his singles had charted. Heart’s A Mess was the album’s first single, a song that has now featured on the soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

Somebody I Used To Know wasn’t a record made for commercial radio but was one that was swiftly adopted when its video went viral. Without that video, one could speculate that the record never would’ve made it to commercial radio.

A few more examples of songs that have crossed over into the mainstream include Flume’s Holdin’ On, The Black Keys’ Lonely Boy and Lana Del Rey’s Video Games. The three of them sounded completely foreign on commercial radio but with each play a revolution was started. Flume is now the most sought-after electronic artist in the country, the Black Keys have been upgraded to an arena-band and Lana Del Rey has just debuted atop the ARIA charts with her sophomore record, Ultraviolence.

Turns out being different ain’t such a bad thing.

It’s easy to whinge but hard to come up with any solutions to commercial radio’s problems. So, below are a few artists that would find a comfy home on commercial radio while keeping their innovative edge, independent status and creative control.

Meg Mac

22 year-old Megan McInerney has only released three tracks but already she’s carving a name for herself on Triple J, having already taken on the infamous Like A Version. Her tracks have a straight-forward simplicity to them with optimistic pop-hooks that would be delectable to commercial radio. If radio were to take a chance on a young Australian artists, my money would be on Mac.

An alternative to: Adele, Sara Bareilles

Most radio-ready track: Roll Up Your Sleeves

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/megmacmusic/meg-mac-roll-up-your-sleeves[/soundcloud]

Why she’s not on radio: She’s a self-made artist who is neither flashy nor self-gratuitous. Had she been a winner of The Voice, her tracks would be eaten up by radio.

Thomston

Let it be known that I have nothing against Lorde, but she didn’t exactly make it to the top from nowhere. At 13, she was signed to Universal Music Group which certainly helps with radio airplay. Segue from that to 18 year-old Kiwi artist, Thomston, who’s just released his debut EP Argonaut. His dark, pop tunes could be the perfect antidote to some of the over-thought music coming from male songwriters at the moment. It’s got the sort of electronic undertones that radio is devouring right now.

An alternative to: Lorde, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith

Most radio-ready track: Anaesthetic

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thomston/anaesthetic[/soundcloud]

Why he’s not on radio: Being a young, unsigned artists from New Zealand doesn’t really bode well for you on radio here.

M.O.

Girl bands have had a resurgence of late but if you look at the radio charts you wouldn’t know. There isn’t one to be seen in the top 40. M.O. are three girls from London making ‘90s throwback R&B. It’s full of great pop hook, bouncin’ beats and perfect harmonies. Think TLC with a hint of Destiny’s Child.

An alternative to: Little Mix, Neon Jungle

Most radio-ready track: Dance On My Own

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/momusicofficial[/soundcloud]

Why they’re not on radio: It’s beyond me. The ball is in Britain’s court. Once they catch on, Australia will follow.

LANY

This Nashville trio is slightly too enigmatic at this point to make it in the mainstream, but their songs suggest otherwise. With four tracks to their name so far, they’re showing a knack for velvety, synth-pop. It’s melodic enough to stick to radio and also has enough street cred to see it on Triple J’s playlists as well.
An alternative to: Nico & Vinz, Mr. Probz

Most radio-ready track: ILYSB

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/thisislany/ilysb[/soundcloud]

Why they’re not on radio: They’re far too mysterious right now. Radio doesn’t like that. It wants somebody who’s going to say “This is LANY and you’re listening to the hottest radio station on the planet”.

Liz

Liz is the First Lady of Diplo’s label Mad Decent and she’s producing damn fine, millennium RnB. She evokes nostalgia from the golden days of pop/RnB when Britney was queen and Xtina was the dirrrrtiest gal around. Touches of Ryan Hemsworth-esque electronica ensure that Liz sounds contemporary while having a throwback sound. It’s as if she was the sole survivor of the dreaded millennium bug.

An alternative to: Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj

Most radio-ready track: All Them Boys

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/maddecent/liz-all-them-boys-jeff068[/soundcloud]

Why she’s not on radio: She’s channeling an RnB sound that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet. While the RnB revolution has flooded online blogs, Ariana Grande is perhaps the first artist to bring it to radio. Hold tight Liz-lovers.

 

Here’s the full list of what we would play if we got to take over the radio for a day:

[soundcloud]https://soundcloud.com/the-in-terns/sets/in-a-perfect-world-commercial[/soundcloud]

 

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