Rapper DMX dies age 50

Legendary rapper DMX has shocked fans around the world by passing away last month, aged 50 years old. DMX’s real name was Earl Simmons, from New York, United States of America, who was born on the 18th December 1970. The young boy with a passion for music, went on to create stirs and vibrations in the New York hip hop scene in the mid 1990s. 

DMX was known for his gruff and manly tones that laid the dense vocals for his many solo and collaborative tracks. He was a member of the rap collective Ruff Ryders that also included other famous rap stars such as The Lox. One of his most well known performances was in 1999 at the legendary Woodstock festival where he played to over 200,000 fans. 

What started as humble beginnings in Mount Vernon, New York, ended with DMX having five number 1 albums in the USA music charts. The club anthem ‘X Gon’ Give It To Ya’, is one of his most recognisable tracks that will live on in the cultural legacy of a generation. 

DMX spouted a wrap that was powerful and transformative, about the social hardships he had faced growing up and continued to experience as challenges as a young adult. His story teller style was full of spontaneous moments that gave character to each performance he gave. 

Fans of the star were devastated to hear of his passing on the 2nd April 2021. The news came after Simmons was hospitalised following a heart attack at his home. He was immediately moved to the White Plains hospital, New York, critical care unit following his incident. 

Following the passing of DMX, or Earl Simmons as he was otherwise known, there has been an emotional outpouring of sentiment from fans both online and in real life. Multiple digital eulogies for the star have been held across social media, whilst the Simmons family organised a prayer vigil the subsequent Monday after his death.

Tom Jones makes UK chart history

Tom Jones maynot the first name on the list when it comes to who is dominating the music charts these days, but a credible one nonetheless to make headlines this week. The 80 year old UK singer has made history in April by becoming the oldest male artist to win a number 1 spot in the album charts. Jones recently released an album to much acclaim titled ‘Surrounded by Time’. 

The album’s name is quite appropriate for Jones’ new record, which is only the latest in his staggering long, multi-decade career. Jones first appeared on the UK music scene nearly 60 years ago in 1965. His first album stormed the charts and was titled ‘Along Came Jones’. Jones went on to become well known for his crooning vocals and the sexy overtones to his music. 

Jones became most well-known for his pop single ‘Sex Bomb’ which was released in 1999. The thrilling beat and bounce of the track captured the zeitgeist of the new dawning millennium for many young lovers. With lyrics such as “Sexbomb, sexbomb you’re a sexbomb (yeah) / You can give it to me, when I need to come along”, it’s no wonder the track stayed at number 1 in the UK for weeks and remains burned into the British consciousness. 

Jones was born on the 7th June 1940 to a humble background in Wales, UK. Jones received an OBE from the Queen of England for his contribution to music in 2006 and has won multiple awards for his work in the music and film industries. Jones has spent a long time in the public eye, playing to large audiences both in Las Vegas and as part of his role as a judge of the reality TV show The Voice. 

Jones is the oldest artist to top the chart with an album of newly recorded material. Vera Lynn holds the record for oldest artist to reach number 1 at age 92 with a greatest hits album.

What are Bandcamp Fridays?

Artists of all kinds have been some of the hardest hit during the global coronavirus pandemic that has been manifesting over the past year. Without the ability to play live shows or sell merchandise in the same way, many artists have been left struggling with bills to pay. 

This worsening strife has only been exacerbated by the pandemic which could be seen as the final nail in the coffin by many. Musicians have for a long time been complaining with what they see as unfair treatment from megasites such as Spotify and iTunes, and this is on top of the increasing ease and popularity with which people illegally download music. 

Live events then have been one of the last secure income streams of revenue for artists. Yet, the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the system and this major structural flaw that allows for musicians and artists to subsequently fall through society’s cracks as freelancers in their industries. 

Bandcamp has for a significant amount of time now been touted as the musicians’ choice of streaming and purchasing platform. Unlike other sites, Bandcamp gives notably higher returns to the artists and is seen as prioritizing a fairer music industry ecosystem. It is not surprising then that the online music streaming site has stepped up to be a big supporter of independent artists during the struggles of the pandemic. 

Bandcamp Fridays were launched in March 2020 to be held on the last Friday of every month. The deal goes that any record sold via the platform on the allotted date will see 100% (well 93% once you take off payment processing fees) go to the artist themselves. 

In a statement released on March 5th 2021, Bandcamp has said that over 800,000 people have taken place so far and raised over $44 million dollars to go directly for artists. The site says it plans to continue the project until the middle of 2021 minimum. 

Blackpink go green!

K-Pop global superstars Blackpink have urged their millions of fans to go green ahead of the 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, in the UK this November 2021. The all female pop band have been anointed as advocates for the conference with the aim of rallying their staggering fan base for the cause of climate awareness. 

The video, which was made in December 2020, was released to the millions of viewing fans online in February 2021 and has continued to make a storm since. Jisoo, Rose, Jennue and Lisa are the four members of the bank Blackpink, which was first formed in 2016. The band members were invited by the British Embassy in Seoul to be part of the campaign. 

The last and 25th Climate Change Conference took place in Paris, six years ago. It was seen as a landmark moment in the fight against global warming when some of the world’s most significant countries in North America and Europe signed up to the deal. The aim of the treaty was to reduce global warming to a maximum of two degree celsius in the hopes of drastically slowing the environmental damage already seen creating severe weather consequences around the world. 

The video was released through the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 currently taking place in Seoul, Korea. It debuted on the video sharing and social media platform YouTube where the band has millions of followers and gone on to have over three and a half million views. 

Blackpink cite the 2020 Netflix documentary from David Attenborough titled A Life on Our Planet as a catalyst for their involvement in the project. They called upon their fans to also watch the documentary, which Attenborough calls his ‘witness statement’ for the planet. 

Blackpink fans call themselves Blinks and have a reputation in the music industry for being some of the most devoted fans on the scene. Blackpink has the largest following on Instagram for an Asian music act with over 16 million followers. 

LA Cops use copyrighted music to prevent filming

In a strange twist of musically enhanced events, police officers in LA have been caught using copyrighted music from bands like The Beatles and Sublime to prevent video footage from protestors remaining online. 

In an act that weaponises the copyright laws on social media video and image sharing sites such as Instagram, LA cops have been seen using their phones to play music that will be picked up in protestors recordings and subsequently force the removal of their videos from the online sphere. 

Police officers in Beverly Hills have been reached out to by VICE news, the online news agency that first picked up the story. In a comment to the news site they have said “the playing of music while accepting a complaint or answering questions is not a procedure that has been recommended by Beverly Hills Police command staff.” They have also commented that the videos of the police officers are under review by the department. 

LA resident Sennett Devermont is the protestor whose videos are in question. He runs the account @sennettd on Instagram where he often films his interactions with the police, and also shares to his second verified account @mrcheckpoint_. With over 350 thousand followers between the two accounts the story was picked up widely across social media networks, with many people condemning the police officer’s actions. 

The police officer in question is BHPD Sergeant Billy Fair who attempts to play Sublime’s ‘Santeria’ in one video and ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles in another. The obvious attempt to disrupt Devermont’s First Amendment right to film police officers is both crude and mostly ineffective according to Instagram’s copyright laws since the songs are played single use and are not the main feature of the video meaning they should be allowed by the algorithm. Instagram has not responded to comment when reached out to.

Blackpink light up Netflix

The Korean four piece pop band Blackpink are the latest musical debuts to have a Netflix documentary made following their rise to stardom and current band activities. Unless you’ve been actively ignoring the news for several years now, the exponential growth in popularity for all things Korean has seen the genre dubbed K-pop take hold in fans’ hearts and minds around the world. Now, alongside stars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, the K-pop darlings Blackpink are the latest sonic act to receive a dubious level of fame warranting their own Netflix documentary. 

The documentary titled ‘Blackpink: Light Up The Sky’ was released on the online digital streaming platform on October 14th 2020. It reached fans in three languages – English, Korean and Thai, a fact that should have been obvious to expect since it reflects the national demographics of the band itself. Whilst known as one of Korea’s biggest exports, Blackpink is distinctive for its collage of nationalities from its members, at once bringing a diversity of experience to the band itself at the same time as increasing their audience reach even further and making them potentially even more popular than counterparts such as boyband BTS and solo act Psy that have equally made their marks on the world stage. 

In the Netflix documentary audiences are provided with an all access pass backstage on the band’s latest world tour, getting to know each of the band members through direct insight into their unique personalities, as well as seeing group dynamics at work. Adam Del Deo, Vice President of Documentary Features at Netflix noted the documentary for its “organic and honest moments that give viewers an authentic inside look into the lives of Blackpink, as well as the dedication and gruelling preparation each member puts into every hit song, history-making performance and sold-out arena tour.”

TikTok viral video sends 19th century sea shanty into UK charts Top 40

2021 has seen the unlikely success of the 19th century sea shanty ‘The Wellerman’ as a TikTok video gone viral has sent it soaring into the UK charts Top 40. Sailing in at no. 37, ‘The Wellerman’ original version is a heart-warming earworm known to many – though perhaps not by name for most. The previously niche world of the sea shanty singing community has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of attention received recently as a result, with social media users taking the time to create their own versions of the song, often with a 2021 coronavirus twist. 

Premiered on July 16th July 2020, the video that has sent the shanty into the charts is a version by a UK group The Longest Johns from the seaside city of Bristol. Now with nearly a quarter of a million views on YouTube the video has become unprecedentedly popular and heard around the world. The craze was then picked up on TikTok where users would supplement the shanty’s old-time lyrics for more modern versions. 

With more people around the world online this past year due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions, it’s unsurprising the internet has reached such depths of musical history. What’s more, the song’s bleak but hopeful lyrics are almost a sign of the times as of a group of sailors awaiting sweet gifts from said ‘Wellerman’, free themselves from a trapping with a whale. It’s easy to imagine people hoping to be free soon of the coronavirus’ grip and enjoying life’s more pleasurable delights again instead. 

The original shanty is thought to date back to the early 1830s and have originated in Australia or New Zealand. The short song style remains popular to this day, with yearly festivals such as the Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival in the UK, which will also take place online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Neil Young sells off 50% of his back catalogue

Old time rocker Neil Young was once a critique of other ageing musicians who he felt had ‘sold out’. However, with the turmoil of 2020 and the future looking more uncertain, it’s no surprise ageing rockstar Neil Young has chosen to sell off the rights to 50% of his back catalogue. 

The British investment company Hipgnosis has bought the 50% of rights to Young’s songs, after spending over $1 billion already in the purchasing of other famous singer and bands back albums. The deal is reported to have been worth $150 million and to give Hipgnosis the rights to nearly 1,200 songs. The songs range from his solo career with the Crazy Horse backing band, through other periods of his life such as the Nash & Young era, as well as his time as Buffalo Springfield.

In the last two years Hipgnosis has also purchased other ageing stars back catalogues such as  Lindsey Buckingham, whose albums include songs from with Fleetwood Mac as well as his solo career. The founder of Hipgnosis Songs Fund, Merck Mercuriadis, says that he will protect and preserve the back catalogue of Young. Mercuriadis has previously been known as the manager for megastars like Beyonce, Elton John and Guns N’ Roses. Other back catalogue acquisitions from Hipgnosis also include the likes of others such as Steve Winwood and Blondie, as well as producers such as Jimmy Lovine, who worked with artists including Bruce Springsteen and U2.

The not so young 75 year old musician has previously been noted for his reported criticisms over the music industry. Young is one of many musicians to declare a perceived commercialisation of the music industry and a resulting negative consequential effect. 

The deal is part of a trend in big music companies buying up rights to back catalogues following Stevie Nicks selling 80% of her back catalogue to Primary Wave, and Bob Dylan’s staggering deal with the Universal Music Group

Lana Del Rey bombarded by frothing armchair activists

Looks like Lana Del Rey has been consigned by the internet to the celebrity Nazi club (from which very few return). As I wrote a few months ago, she was raked over the coals by social media people for wearing a ridiculous mesh mask during a book signing. It was a stupid thing to do, but the reaction was a little over the top. Now it seems she’s done herself in for good.

Business Insider writes that “Fans have turned on Lana Del Rey” and that “the singer ruined her own reputation.” Vulture states that “Lana Del Rey is only speaking for herself now.” Which is pretty silly—is she expected to speak for other people too? The Daily Beast, a trashy internet tabloid that would make William Hearst blush, says that “Lana Del Rey can’t stop putting her foot in her mouth.” Over at the Independent, we’re told Del Rey “has always been problematic.” After I write this post I’m going to send a package via Fast Courier Australia.

In other words, there is a coordinated media effort to portray the singer as someone who no longer deserves popular support. Why? Because, among other things, the cover art for her new album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, features too many white people. It’s an image of a bunch of women—her friends—sitting around a table wearing heels and dresses. Most appear to be white, one looks black, and a few look as though they might be Hispanic. Which apparently makes Del Rey a white supremacist or something. She was forced to “defend” the cover against race-obsessed weirdos on social media.

“As it happens,” she wrote, “when it comes to my amazing friends and this cover, yes, there are people of color on this record’s picture and that’s all I’ll say about that. But thank you.”

What a bigot.

As I said, the album cover is just one of several problems. Del Rey has also mentioned Beyonce and Cardi B in a statement about sex in music (which means she must be a hardcore Nazi), and keeps on saying she’s not racist (which makes her a racist liar). She also implied that rappers generally happen to be black, which is, like, KKK-level stuff. Most recently she gave her opinion regarding the Trumpist attack on the US Capitol building last week.

“You know,” she said, “he doesn’t know that he’s inciting a riot and I believe that.” She added that in her view Trump has “delusions of grandeur.” Then:

“The madness of Trump… As bad as it was, it really needed to happen. We really needed a reflection of our world’s greatest problem, which is not climate change but sociopathy and narcissism. Especially in America. It’s going to kill the world. It’s not capitalism, it’s narcissism.”

For that she got hammered yet again. So now she’s a fascist Trump supporter in addition to everything else. Despite having voted against Trump and condemning him as a sociopath. It doesn’t matter; the crazed mob has spoken. Steve Bannon, Lana Del Rey … what’s the difference?

Classic hits take over the charts this Christmas

Prior to 2014 song charts were measured via the number of sales. Artists competed in both albums and single charts to sell the most possible records and reach the much elusive top spot. This often meant domination by mass media outlets such as X Factor and The Voice, touting that year’s show winner as the all too predictable Christmas number one. 

Come 2014 however and the Official Chart Company switched to a streaming metric, radically changing the Christmas number one landscape. Instead of that year’s hit new music, older Christmas classics flourished from the shadows into the limelight as they play on repeat in homes and businesses throughout December. This move was only cemented in 2018 when video downloads and streams were also incorporated into the metric. 

So 2020 comes along and what does it mean to hold a Christmas number one anymore? Is it contemporary popularity or are we staying true to the earworms that continue to hold onto our festive hearts? 

Mariah Carey – All I want for Christmas is you 

An unsurprising number one this year has been Mariah Carey’s iconic ‘All I want for Christmas is You’. Originally released in 1994, the song has been going strong as a yuletide classic for 16 years, continuing to peak in the chart each festive season. 

Bing Crosby / Michael Bubble – It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Another Christmas classic set to get even the biggest scrooge in the mood is the historic tune ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’. Often used to set a festive tone to the beginning of the season, Bing Crosby’s 1951 hit has been immortalised with its further popularisation by crooner Michael Bubble’s 2015 cover. 

Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
One for being in the full swing of Christmas, Brenda Lee went head to head with Bing Crosby in 1951 with her Christmas release of ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’. With its upbeat and jolly melody the classic yuletide continues to inspire us with festive cheer well into the 21st century.