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2015 Grammys

Sam Smith swept the Grammys last night with four awards – Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Pop Vocal Album – proving that one stolen melody can really go a long way. Although Smith and Tom Petty have decided to reconcile their dispute outside of court, given that Petty receives a cut of the “Stay with Me” profits and a Grammy certificate as co-writer, it doesn't change the fact that the song’s success was largely dependent upon someone else’s material.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. A few years ago, Coldplay was accused of song-stealing from both Joe Satriani and Yusuf Isalm for their Grammy Award-winning hit “Viva La Vida,” and decades of artists from Led Zeppelin to One Direction have also undergone such investigations, which only supports the postmodern theory that originality is dying, if not already dead.

Even when a truly talented, enduring, and creative multi-instrumentalist like Beck finally receives recognition for Best Album, he is criticized by Kanye West (naturally), first in a self-deprecating throwback to his Taylor Swift diss, then literally on the E! After Show where he said:

“All I know is if the Grammys want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain't gonna play with them no more. 'Flawless,' Beyoncé video. Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé, and at this point, we tired of it.”

Not that Kanye is an authority on capital-A Art anyway, or politeness for that matter, but he does influence much of our culture, and this is unfortunate. We need more artists like Beck receiving awards because, contrary to Kanye's claim, Beck does encourage real art and musical progress. Not that I don’t love Bey, but Beck deserved that award, especially during a show that supported melodic theft a few too many times.

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#TBT

Sooooo, this happened last night. Amazing <3 Do they ever age?

Speaking of throwbacks, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Pat Benetar, and Snoop Dogg all have concert dates going on sale this week, as well as the following artists:

  • Aerosmith
  • Andrea Bocelli
  • Billy Joel
  • Bob Seger
  • Charlie Wilson
  • Chris Botti
  • Country Megaticket
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • Dave Matthews Band
  • Def Leppard
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Florida Georgia Line
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    Dressed as a Pokemon, Katy Perry kicked off the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show riding atop a (Trojan?) lion and began singing "Roar," one of her bigger hits. While "Roar" was the obvious choice for Katy Perry to start her performance with, it was a little odd that she didn't either ride a gigantic tiger or horse in. After all, "Roar's" lyrics talk about the eye of the tiger, and if not a tiger, a horse is equally appropriate, as she segued into "Dark Horse," after somehow climbing down from the robotic beast quickly. Burning questions remain -- how did she get off the lion so quickly, and where did it go?

    "Dark Horse" showcased a stage lit up like a chess board, with Katy Perry's backup dancers dressed as chess pieces. As somebody who cares little about backup dancers, this part of the halftime show was surprisingly cool. Maybe it's because Patriots head coach Bill Belichick often plays chess while other coaches play checkers? Regardless, an abbreviated "Dark Horse" sounded good and worked well. And hey, chess pieces are cooler than random Illuminati signs ala the actual "Dark Horse" video.

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    Underrated Foo Fighters Songs

    Note: Although I'm sure many of you have in fact heard the following songs, this list is meant to be representative of the tracks that are rarely played in concert.

    1.) "Home," Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

    By far one of my all-time favorite Foos’ songs, “Home” is unfortunately not one you’ll hear live in concert. Grohl was overwhelmed after writing it, saying, “It made me feel quite vulnerable, so much so that it's hard to listen to. I get really choked up thinking about all the time I spend away from the things that are important to me. It's tough being away on tour; it's even tough just to be talking about how much I wish I was with my family. It's the kind of song I can't imagine singing live because it's going to be too much." In fact, he’s only performed “Home” three times to this date, all during 2007. The song is indeed emotional, and though it is quite literally about Grohl missing his home, the lyrics are relatable to anyone who’s lost something or someone:

    Wish I were with you
    I couldn't stay
    Every direction
    Leads me away
    Pray for tomorrow
    But for today

    All I want is to be home

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    Super Bowl

    Last year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show caused a bit of an uproar when it was revealed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ instruments weren’t plugged in. It was somehow more scandalous because we associate lip syncing strictly with singers, so the confession that the musicians were now also faking their guitar parts was a pretty big letdown, especially for a band like the Chili Peppers who pride themselves on playing “our guts out live onstage for anyone who wants to get their brains blown out.”

    The NFL’s stance on this subject is staunch – the prospect of sound defects is near catastrophic to them, so they pre-record as much material as possible. I understand the sentiment; there’s a national audience watching, and you don’t want anything to go wrong. However, I think it’s a poor excuse for a sport that historically takes pride in their musical accompaniment. The Super Bowl should hold the same high standards for their performers, especially now that they want the artists to pay the NFL for exposure, as they do for the elite marching bands that rally teams throughout the country.

    The argument stems from the small amount of time they have to set up the stage during halftime. However, the extensive preparation that goes into the Super Bowl should account for this factor. You can’t tell me that the pyrotechnics, laser lights, massive video displays, and elaborate interactive moving sets the artists perform on are less difficult to pull off than successfully turning on a mic and amplifier.

    Our plastic-surgery-happy, auto-tuned culture puts such a high price on perfection that we have become terrified of the very nature of being human – making mistakes. But it’s not like these performers don’t know what they’re doing. With the exception of Britney Spears, they can all really sing and play their instruments. The likelihood that they’re going to mess up their own songs is slim to none, and if they did, it would still be far from the Super Bowl’s most controversial moments (e.g. Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, M.I.A.’s middle finger to the world).

    If the singers of the National Anthem are supposedly really singing, then why aren’t the Halftime Show performers? How is Diana Ross being lifted off the stage via helicopter less anxiety-inducing than a band forgetting their lyrics? The NFL needs to man up and let their star attractions do what they do best – perform live. Stop pretending the professional sound techs and stage crew can’t get it right. If I wanted to hear previously recorded music, I’d listen to their album, not pay hundreds of dollars to see something that is fundamentally fake.

    Ultimately, lip syncing is for hacks. Go big, or go home. Will you let me down this year Katy Perry? Probably. But the NFL is the true root of the problem – too concerned about tarnishing their image to stand for honesty. Oh, but we already knew that. As if the Ray Rice cover-up wasn’t disturbing enough.

    September 2014 © Comedy Central

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    Highlights of the week: Superbowl, Cabaret, and New Kids on the Block!

    Sports


    We're getting pumped here in New England for this Sunday's big game! CNN has already released a montage of expected ads for those more interested in the commercials. But whether you're pulling your hair out over a replay, or simply enjoying your 20th hot wing, Super Bowl Sunday is a day to look forward to, as well as these other notable sports on-sales this week:

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    Grateful Dead and EDM

    Although the organic/natural ideals of the hippies don't seem to complement the computer-based society we now live in, there is a concrete connection between the Grateful Dead's atmosphere - the counterculture of the 1960s - and the EDM landscape - our modern cyber/tech culture. The Grateful Dead established a new form of music marketing that subsequent jam bands and DJs have successfully adopted, each having obtained a cult-like following without any mainstream radio play. Additionally, key members of the first Deadheads turned out to be extremely instrumental in the technological revolution that began in Silicon Valley.

    Stewart Brand

    At the heart of the matter is a man named Stewart Brand. In the mid-60s, Brand became associated with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, a group whose mission it was to promote the use of psychedelic substances at concerts and gatherings. Interested in combining rock music with light shows to create a new trend of multimedia events, Brand helped produce the legendary Trips Festival, one of the first shows the Grateful Dead played. Soon they all formed a community in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, which became the most revolutionary city in the United States at the time.

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    Most of the talk about Super Bowl XLIX is focused on deflated balls -- and that's a shame. The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are two very, very good football teams -- and the two model organizations in all of football. There's a lot of fanfare that goes into the week preceding the biggest game of the year, as the NFL and media has made the Super Bowl into a spectacle, akin to the Roman Coliseum. Lost in the shuffle thus far is the Super Bowl halftime show, which illustrates what an event the Super Bowl has become.

    This year, Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz will perform while Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick prepare for the final 30 minutes of the football season. Katy Perry is one of the more obvious choices -- she's good looking and has no shortage of No. 1 songs over the last few years. That she doesn't appeal to the NFL's target demographic illustrates just how much of an event the Super Bowl has become.

    Still, many music fans were clamoring for another pop star to perform -- Taylor Swift, who came out with arguably the biggest song in 2014 with "Shake it Off." The NFL, however, opted to tab Katy Perry as the Super Bowl XLIX halftime performer -- and it could get a little catty.

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    Winter Storm Juno Playlist

    If you live in the northeast, you've probably encountered grocery store war zones, hysterical newscasts, and kids rejoicing about school cancellations over the last 24 hours. We're expected to get anywhere from one to three feet of snow here in Connecticut, so if you need some tunes to kick off your shut-in vacation, I've got 16 snowy songs to get you in the mood for spiked hot chocolate, fireplace crackling, and Netflix binges.

    Winter Playlist 1.) “Stormy Weather” – Pixies
    2.) “Snow (Hey Oh)” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
    3.) “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” – Bruce Springsteen
    4.) “Sweater Weather” – The Neighbourhood
    5.) “Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow” – Frank Zappa
    6.) “White Winter Hymnal” – Fleet Foxes
    7.) “The Blizzard” – Camera Obscura
    8.) “A Hazy Shade of Winter” – Simon & Garfunkel
    9.) “White Queen (As It Began)” – Queen
    10.) “California Dreamin’” – The Mamas & the Papas
    11.) “Shut In” – Strand of Oaks
    12.) “Tracks in the Snow” – The Civil Wars
    13.) “January Hymn” – The Decemberists
    14.) “The Wolves” – Bon Iver
    15.) “Shelter” – The xx
    16.) “After the Storm” – Mumford & Sons

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    The Patriots and the Seahawks will take the field for Super Bowl XLIX on February 2, and there's no shortage of story lines to follow.

    • "#DeflateGate" looks to be the newest scandal that won't go away.
    • Shiny new quarterback Russell Wilson comes to town taking on the aging sheriff in Tom Brady.
    • Wilson is the youngest QB to appear in two Super Bowls since Brady did it 2003 and 2004.
    • Settle is hoping to be the first team to repeat since the Patriots did it in those same seasons.
    • Seattle's head coach Pete Carroll led the Patriots from 1997 to 1999 before owner Bob Kraft hired Bill Belichick.
    • 2015 marks the first time both Super Bowl coaches will be more than 60 years old.
    • And so forth, and so on.

    All kinds of stats, records and bragging rights hang in the balance. Fortunes will be made and lost on the game. Fans, bettors, pundits and writers across the country have been examining the game from any and all angles (well the ones not obsessed with firmness of balls anyway) to find any details that might affect the outcome of the Super Bowl.

    But for all the blustering about keys to the game, for my money Super Bowl XLIX will be most impacted by New England's Rob Gronkowski and Seattle's Richard Sherman, the most important non-QB players on their respective teams, or as I've decided to dub them alien and predator.

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