Lady Gaga’s “incubation” bit was extraordinary, and her courage to be herself—creative and singular—must be respected; and she won three awards. At the same time, in terms of sheer substance, tonight her rendition of her new single “Born This Way” was, while intriguing, not relatively grand. In fact, it was problematic—several of the lyrics just were not sung by her live, and this was quite evident, as the song would go on while she turned her head from her microphone. It’s difficult to maintain both “off the wall” theatre and efficacious song renditions. It’s also difficult to beat her own performance last year—which included much more theatre—a bird nest, zombies, Gaga tossed into a burner, Elton John—alongside potent, substantive renditions. Instead, in my view, Kansas Citian Janelle Monáe stole the show, ironically, by using little to no overt drama: her “Cold War” bit exuded vocal strength, keen dance moves, and she did not require a quasi-uterus prop to achieve any credibility or success.
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For Brooklyn-based Xavier, Valentine’s Day means more than flower bouquets and Russell Stover Chocolates. Each year since 2007, the dance-soul artist has recorded a special song for the holiday, offering it for free on his website. 2011, however, might just be the most special Valentine’s Day yet: not only has Xavier recorded a new song (“The Makings of You”), he’s making all of the previous Valentine’s Day downloads available, gratis!
Historically, the Valentine’s Day songs not only enamor thousands of listeners, they take on a life of their own. Upon hearing “Baltimore” (2009), renowned fashion photographer Marc Baptiste asked to shoot a video especially for the song (to be released later in 2011). Mattie Safer, former bassist of The Rapture, also loved what he heard on past Valentine’s Day efforts and joined Xavier with Shaquanda Cocoa Mullatta (a.k.a. Andre Springer) on last year’s offering, “Don’t Let Me Down”. Xavier fans will have an opportunity to download both cuts, plus “Something About Us” and “Strawberry Blonde”, on a special site dedicated to the Valentine’s Day songs, accessible through Xavier’s website.
Recently, Xavier has been seen and heard in a variety of musical contexts. In addition to singing in the Bread & Puppet Theater’s opera The Return of Ulysses, he joined Grammy winner Lady Rizo at Joe’s Pub and performed with the Veveritse Brass Band. He also recorded with Prince’s New Power Generation and co-wrote songs with Del Marquis of Scissor Sisters.
On 14 February, however, Xavier’s honeyed voice will grace “The Makings of You”, a Curtis Mayfield cover whose combination of percussion, bass, strings, and clarinet will enchant both lovers and lovers of music alike. Quietly gripping and compulsively listenable, “The Makings of You” is a gift for the other 364 days of the year, too.
What a winter we’re having in the Northeast with three major snowstorms and another one last week. At least some new releases along with some holiday gifts (CDs of all things) are keeping all this indoor time interesting. Here’s my picks for a new music listening session whatever the weather may be…
That pesky Pitchfork website scooped us with this story, but hey, something this cool warrants repeating. Watch below as Joy Division’s performance of “Transmission” on the show Something Else is revamped by Playmobil figurines.
Now, I know everyone’s a critic and all, but my drum teacher always taught me that good drumming comes from the wrists, not the arms. Oh well, I’m not a famous musician—or a Playmobil figurine—so what do I know?
Hot off the heels of their latest release, the Troubles of the Brain EP, the Veils recently dropped the video for “The Stars Came Out Once the Lights Went Out”. Shot in New Zealand, the video plays out like a low-budget, interstellar soap opera. Says Veils leader Finn Andrews, “You know when you have a really lousy day, and you look at the stars, and they’re kind of reassuring and terrifying at the same time, we just thought it was funny to imagine that maybe stars go through the same thing too but in reverse.”