Music festivals are, unsurprisingly for totems in million-dollar industry, booked months in advance. This makes festivals bookings generally conservative, as the mighty fandoms of Radiohead and Beyoncé aren’t going to go away. On a smaller level, this can mean that acts which were minor big deals six months ago become beloved party-chasing sensations by the time summer rolls around. And they’re still booked at 3 in the afternoon.
Such was case awaiting post-viral duo Rae Sremmurd, the powerhouse behind last winter’s mememaking and charttopping “Black Beatles.” Known beforehand as one of the first acts Mike WiLL Made-It signed to his own EarDrummers label, they had a vital, if unseen, hand in the construction of last year’s sound. As Will told John Seabrook at the New Yorker, Swae Lee, the most charismatically-dressed member of the duo, had freestyled the bar “O.K., ladies, now let’s get in formation” and thought that could be made into “some woman-empowerment shit.” Will sold it to Beyoncé a few years later and the rest is history. Their first two records had done reasonably well and were well liked by critics digging the whole trap thing but not very sure what to do with 21 Savage. (the band are from Tupelo, Mississippi but largely got attention in the Atlanta indie hip hop scene, so celebrated in Donald Glover’s Atlanta.) Then, as if out of nowhere, millions of people around the world suddenly begun standing still in ridiculously put-on positons. That girl is a real crowd pleaser/small world, all her friends know me.
But, cramped in the suddenly so minuscule festival tent, were we ready for Rae Sremmurd? The DJ presiding asked us this and I was unsure. Women were already surfing to the front of the stage and neither of duo could be seen. He jumped on a nearby stereo blaster and offered a fat blunt to a wailing man or woman dubiously able to breathe in the front row. The duo, kids of the ’90s both, were late for their set, a not uncommon predicament for DJs, but each second built onto another until the air had become a tightly compressed throb. Who, oh, who would unlock the swag?
Like 21 Savage, Rae Sremmurd’s biggest hit features a collaboration with Gucci Mane; long reigning trap king of an empire that stretches well into the warehouses of Brooklyn and coke-snorting clubs of Chinatown. But Rae Sremmurd is otherwise an entirety different thing, the territory that Lee and Slim Jxmmi are carving in American pop is, ditto, different from that of Migos, Future or even the glacial landscapes of Mr. Mane himself. This is pop music that is about the party not the drugs deals happening underneath, this is about the weekend as terrain that stretches for weeks, years ahead. A comparison could be made to the aesthetics underpinning an act like LMFAO, except, well, LMFAO was shit. This is “Rock Around the Clock” for the twenty-first century. Quavo may still be loyal to the same color T-shirt, Future gargles codeine and spits out pop hits. Lee and Jxmmi are loyal to the party.
“Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves drawn to people that we know aren’t good for us,” the singer says about the new track.
You breakup. You miss their touch. You get back together. You fight. Rinse and repeat. Spencer Crandall knows that deeply-rooted desire to “go back to something familiar,” as he puts it. In his blended pop and country tune “I Thought We Broke Up” (out this Friday), glossed with lonesome guitar strings and pitter-patter percussion, he struggles with a former love stepping back into his life–like nothing had ever happened. “This song comes from being in and out of a relationship and having history with someone,” he tells Popdust about the song, premiering exclusively today. “Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we find ourselves drawn to people that we know aren’t good for us.”
“Last time we talked, you said it was over. I was working on moving on, finding some closure. I was doing pretty good until you walked in,” Crandall muses on the opening line. The singer-songwriter, who built his massive following via cover songs on his Instagram account, fuses the tension with an unfussy but formidable vocal, doused in misery and frustration. “Girl, don’t say it’s ’cause we’re drunk. You know the Patron isn’t to blame,” he later hisses on the hook.
While making a rather brazen statement aimed at an ex, Crandall is also eyeing his career’s next level. “I hope this song can get in front of as many people as possible. think this song has a lot of potential and I’m so excited to get it to my fans,” he says, candidly. “If this song can get us some bigger shows and some more awareness in town, that would be great.” That confidence is not unfounded. Many of his previous releases, such as “Do It All Again” and “Let It Happen” have scraped several hundred thousand streams on Spotify; that certainly indicates he is making all the right moves.
He continues, “I think this song is gonna hit home for a lot of people. I think in today’s society, breakups and relationships are as tricky as ever, and this song is going to have people feeling a whirlwind of emotions. It’s relatable, sexy, dangerous, and feel good, all at the same time.”
“Explain why we both body to body, why you’re laying it on me. You said we were done, now we’re hooking up,” he then wails over a wave of tearing licks and heavily-pop-bent movement.
Crandall’s most viewed and liked covers include Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” He originally hails from Denver, Colo. but now resides in Nashville, the mecca for all aspiring country performers. To-date, he has issued a sequence of singles, from “One Two Three” to the provocatively-titled “Rev My Engine,” and a 2014 self-titled EP. “Music is my passion–my way of dealing with life. Whether it makes you want to cry or make you wanna chug a beer, music is one of the most powerful tools we have in our lives. I am just looking forward to getting better everyday and making sure I can give my fans the music that they deserve,” he once reflected about his career. This is only the beginning.
“See me holding up my middle finger to the world… ’cause I’m not just a pretty girl.”
Maggie Lindemann refuses to be defined by her statistics, though they certainly don’t hurt her case. After building her career as a social media influencer – the songstress has over 2 million Instagram followers and 433,000 Twitter followers – Lindemann moved to Los Angeles and threw herself into the world of music making. Between her established fan base and her irresistibly poppy music, the success in numbers has followed. Currently, her Spotify boasts over 14 million monthly listeners. Her music video for the Cheat Codes and Cade remix of her single “Pretty Girl” has well over half a million views after dropping just two weeks ago and over 97 million streams on Spotify.
Put that aside, though, and consider her as an artist – as a person. Lindemann was born in Dallas, Texas where she sang in church choirs and school musicals. At age 16, she threw caution to the wind and moved to Los Angeles. That was two years ago, and now the 18-year-old is doing takeovers of the Billboard Instagram account and getting her songs included in Apple Music “Songs of the Summer” playlists. She spends her days bouncing between the studio, her friends, and traveling. In an interview with Popdust, she reflected on how her career has grown. “It used to be a lot of vocal work and piano lessons and that kind of stuff, and dance and stuff like that, and now it’s more rehearsals and getting up and leaving all the time and traveling.”
Her 2015 debut single “Knocking On Your Heart” is a sentimental dance ballad, where lyrics like “I always try to tell myself that I’ll fall in love with someone else, but oh, my stubborn heart is set on you” are gently crooned over deep bass beats and the chorus is paired with clanging bells and vocal reverb that echoes through listeners’ souls. It’s no happy tween-pop banger, but a very serious entrance into a career where her audience brushes her off at their own loss.
Later that year, “Couple of Kids” goes even deeper into the ballad vibe, with swelling piano and string accompaniments underneath lines like “We’re just a couple of kids, sneaking away for a kiss.” “Things” followed shortly in 2016 and brought out more of the dance-pop sound that Lindemann excels at. Her voice is still soft and perfectly on pitch, but studio-styled snaps create the beat over samples of a voice going “ba na na na na na na” and everything is as effortlessly engineered as any Ariana Grande single. (Lindemann’s thoughts on the track: “The production on that sounds amazing, I love the production on it.”)
“Pretty Girl” is technically her most recent single, though there are now four official versions of it – the original, and three remixes by Ye, Taylor Wise, and Cheat Codes x Cade respectively. The most recent has received by far the most acclaim and attention, but it’s been a steady grind of work to get there. The lyrics are defiant and aggressive; she sings “Some days I’m broke, some days I’m rich. Some days I’m nice, some days I can be a bitch” and “See me holding up my middle finger to the world – fuck your ribbons, fuck your pearls, ’cause I’m not just a pretty girl.” It’s both a great musical middle finger to everyone who tries to write her off as just some Instagram star – “being a social media person isn’t taken as seriously or looked very highly upon. So it was and still is very hard to branch away from that title” – and a highly personal song that works as a typical pop tune and a totally dance-able track. (Of the remixes, Lindemann said “I like how they made it so you can dance to it and have a good time, and it’s something you could hear at the club.”
Looking forward, Lindemann is working on putting together a more concrete collection of songs – “we haven’t really decided what that’s gonna be yet, but we’re definitely working on something” – and growing herself as a musician and a person. Her most recent tweet (at time of writing) puts it pretty succinctly:
I’m only gettin cuter! — Maggie Lindemann (@MaggieLindemann) June 7, 2017
Charles Bradley could easily be mistaken for James Brown.
Bradley’s voice is so powerful and potent with each grunt, groan and growl in a very soulful way. It is coming from a place of love. So it’s not surprising that Charles Bradley & his Extraodinaires are on Daptone Records. Daptone is a record label from Brooklyn, NY, that represents the tastiest, most delectable nuggets of Soul, Funk, Gospel and Afrobeat to be found on a vinyl platter.
He played Governors Ball Music Festival 2017 this past weekend. Popdust was there to cover this 67-year-old soul legend’s powerhouse performance. He announced during his set that the reason he had not been playing shows or putting out new material was due to his struggle with stomach cancer. Once Bradley had the diagnosis, he immediately began medical treatment and had to cancel all of his upcoming tour dates. After just over six months later, he successfully completed his treatments. He was so happy to share with the crowd that he was back and better than ever. He kicked that cancer to the curb.
“I am so grateful to my beautiful fans and touched by all the love and support they showed me through my crisis and time of sickness,” Bradley wrote in a press statement. “They truly lifted me up and kept me going. I am honored and glad to be back and am going to give you all of my love.”
At the performance on Saturday, June 3rd, st the Bacardi stage, he told us that we were his family for an hour, for forever and the reason he beat the cancer. The band was incredibly tight and the bass was solid. It was pure and simple joy to see this act and very hard to follow. The singer is a true showman and can really dance. Charles Bradley could easily be mistaken for James Brown with the way he gets down. The horns were killing it to. The guitarist had a very Jimi Hendrix style. The organ was a Hammond B3 with a Leslie speaker. He went off stage at one point to let the band jam, and then came back with a costume change. He also threw roses out to the crowd. Pop dust is glad he will be around to inspire us for years to come.
Following a one-off appearance at South Carolina’s High Water Festival last month, Bradley and backing band His Extraordinaires will make their triumphant return to the road on an upcoming North American tour. Set for the summer and fall, his itinerary features stops in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Detroit, and is jam-packed with festival appearances, including Sasquatch! in Washington, SoCal’s Arroyo Seco, WayHome in Ontario, and Portland’s Pickathon. Bradley’s last album came in 2016 with Changes, which saw him cover the Black Sabbath track of the same name.
According to Wikipedia the soul rocker has had a huge impact. “Bradley’s songs have frequently been sampled by hip hop artists, such as Jay-Z and Asher Roth. Bradley provided the singing voice of the Krampus in the American Dad! episode, “Minstrel Krampus“. A live Bradley performance appears in the Amazon television show Alpha House (season 1, episode 6 in 2013). The song “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” was featured in the TV series Spotless, as well as the final installment of the CW’s 2016 Arrowverse crossover, Legends of Tomorrow S2E7 ‘Invasion!’. The song “Dusty Blue” was featured in the 3rd Season and the song “Changes” was featured in the 6th season of the TV series Suits. He is featured performing “Ain’t It A Sin” in the third episode of the Netflix Marvel series Luke Cage. The song “Where Do We Go From Here” appears in the 4th season of the Showtime series Ray Donovan.”
Four years, as any student of American politics knows, is a long time. In the years since Pure Heroine introduced the world to a singer discovered by Universal Music Group’s A&R squad at the age of 12, Ms. Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor has gone through a near-infinite loop of cool and uncool. She wore a Cramps shirt for her Rolling Stone cover shoot but loves Katy Perry. Her songs about suffering in suburbia came a decade and a half after American Beauty and three years after The Suburbs won a Grammy but had the tight, yet alt-informed, sheen of nothing the charts had seen since Butch Vig made million dollar records. Last March, when we heard from her for the first time in ages, it sounded nothing like any of that. “Green Light” was a disco banger, gobs of pure ’80s sadness and pep loaded in four minutes of Jack Antonoff-produced magic. Helen Holmes, over at Death and Taxes, called it “her ‘Dancing in the Dark.'”
The pummeling intro of “Green Light” was the first thing greeting festival goers, at last weekend’s Governors Ball Music Festival, after Nancy Whang‘s opening DJ set had concluded. Whang, of LCD Soundsystem fame, had used her thirty minutes to set up further aesthetic cues Lorde would embellish on. It had closed, for instance, on Kate Bush‘s “Running Up That Hill,” suggesting just what kind of ’80s artist Lorde was keen on modeling after. Kate Bush, not Madonna. Siouxsie Sioux, not Cyndi Lauper. The entrapments of Bush’s own genre, ‘art,’ were presented in sleekly brutal force. Emerging on stage, Lorde appeared wearing a silk veil that, in certain angles, looked more like the plastic bag caught in the updraft, the noise of our own expectations threatening to suffocate her. Before she could even speak, the crowd was already supplying the words to her banger about loneliness whist two men carrying large Gov Ball cameras, feeding into the jumbotron, circled her like vultures. It was both tease and not; the moment she cast off her protective veneer, she ripped right her hypercool anti-anthem “Tennis Court” instead. “Green Light,” she saved for her closing number, its panting sadness rendered into festival euphoria, amid fireworks.
But I was there for “Ribs,” a song that contained some of the saddest moments that genre of suburban pop has ever produced and which she has, since, honed into something devoid of the awkward gestures toward robopop found on the recorded version. Lorde turned 20 last year and, she told the audience before performing “Homemade Dynamite,” the Melodrama cut she debuted at Coachella earlier this year, explained that Melodrama was album about how fucked up our twenties really are. A gesture that would be greeted by embarrassed eyerolls coming from Justin Bieber scans as the genuine article from the face of alternative pop, our Lana Del Rey who still makes the charts. (“Green Light” narrowly made the top 20.) It was during “Ribs” that she entered the large rectangular prism erected above her, where throughout the show her dancers had been caged and engaged in a kind of slow-motion mime of passive rebellion; at some point they rhythmically smoked cigarettes. It, too, was vaguely ‘art,’ a bulky YBA-construction that vaguely reminded me of Damien Hirst‘s much-celebrated thing with the shark. But this was before Lorde entered it; her presence, like her voice, immediately giving life to all that surrounded it. Even awkward Jack Antonoff, still in his Mets shirt from his earlier go at Bruce Springsteen theatrics, could not help be be reduced to quivering smallness as Lorde implored he join her for a sparse piano man cover of Robyn’s “Hang With Me.” He stayed around to assist in her live debut of “Perfect Places,” the single that she had dropped the day before.
The greater point to be made, however, is that, standing within a few feet of Lorde, even within a few feet of Lorde going through the motions of concert banter (the “thank you so much for being here” and “we weren’t sure we were going to perform this but now we are”), made me aware of something else. Lorde is the most charismatic pop star of our time. Everything she says is felt by something heavy and unseen, the same weight that hangs over our communal sense of self. Every emotion she displayed was tenfold the real thing, a nod to the title of her upcoming effort, Melodrama. But in this tenfold performance of human emotion, in its pure earnesty, we find the space to contain our own feelings, small and self-ironized. As the sun begun to set and evening air became strangely cool, it had rained earlier, Lorde compared herself to a witch, affected with powers from the evening sky. And Lorde is powerful, her moniker is as fitting as that of Queen Latifah or Prince. Lorde exemplifies why the pop star exists, why we bother manufacturing devotion to figures who, inherently, have nothing to do with our lives. Because when she says it, we can feel it so much.
Now of course these types of blockbuster adaptations are certainly nothing uncommon to the theater world as Broadway has had a long infatuation with movie adaptations and jukebox musicals. Everything from Aladdin to American Psycho has been reinterpreted for the stage, with talented theater artists managing to (in the best cases) reinvent the stories for its new medium. Yet, while these adaptations are designed to convert their built in audiences into ticket purchases, it’s important to remember that often Broadway’s most successful shows are the ones that emerge out of nowhere. As recent years have seen mega-hits like Book of Mormon, Dear Evan Hansen, and of course Hamilton arrive on Broadway without recognizable source material, its hard not to worry that Broadway producers will continue to play it safe as more and more Hollywood blockbusters to transition to New York.
Spongebob Squarepants Facebook Page
But at the same time, as concerning as it is to see a season so dominated by adaptations, it’s important to remember the often-cyclical nature of theater. While next year may be dominated by family-targeting properties, this comes after a season that featured innovative new works including Hansen, Come From Away, and Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, all three of which spent several years developing at regional and off-Broadway theaters. Because a play or musical often requires several years of work, just because there aren’t many original musicals currently set to debut next season, doesn’t mean they aren’t on their way.
And despite how easy it is to become cynical, it’s important to remember that each of these shows features a stacked creative team with zero intention of making a bad show. Spongebob in particular has chosen to invest heavily in established pop artists, with accomplished artists like The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry, and even David Bowie contributing either music to the show. Beyond just the music, whether it’s the original writers like Mean Girl’s Tina Fey returning to their material to help shepherd it towards its new form or accomplished and respected theatrical veterans like Spongebob director Tina Landau whose made a career of turning people’s expectations on their heads, there is reason for optimism in these familiar productions. Still, hopefully it won’t be too long before a new show arrives on Broadway capable of taking audiences somewhere they’ve never been before.
Music is, perhaps, the most important way to leave the world for a few minutes and enter a space of contemplation, of drastic emotional shift, or of escape. We turn to music and art for their own sakes, but outside of beauty for beauty art becomes shelter from the world that threatens to make us weary with all its ugliness. This is something that Miles Graham understands with a kind of depth and certainty that’s astonishingly rare.
The Irish indie singer, whose been featured on BBC Radio 1 among other places, released “Let It Shine” a few days ago. The uplifting, bass-heavy track about moving on from a heavy history now has an inspired visual story to tell. Diving into a story about domestic abuse and a daughter who finds escape on the streets of London in her headphones, Graham perfectly soundtracks a heartbreaking and extremely real tale.
Premiering exclusively on Popdust, the video intercuts scenes from a tragic past and a hopeful future as the girl seeks refuge in her artwork, music, and––eventually––a healthy love. With a storyline that’s as inspired as the song itself, the video for “Let It Shine” emphasizes the human power of possibility: we can allow ourselves to shine, we can find escape and learn from it. We can rise out of the depths, if we’re brave enough to stare them directly in the face and see where we can shine a light.
“Now keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my s**t!”-Erykah Badu
For many years, crying wasn’t allowed in Hip Hop. The genre birth in the gritty streets of the South Bronx has been the epitome of bravado and machismo. So much to the point that it’s often been under fire for its presumed promotion of misogyny & homophobia. However, in the last 9 years or so, there has been a renaissance of Hip Hop acts being more “expressive” in their music and fashion choices. Gaudiness and ego are still at the forefront, and “F**k B**ches, Get Money” is still the mission statement for a lot of street poets. But certain artists have found a way to pull back the proverbial curtain and show us how they really feel once the champagne stops pouring and the honeys aren’t twerking. A large part of today’s hip-hop is a far cry from yesteryear’s boom bap and rapid fire deliveries. Rappers are more on the melodic side conveying emotions in songs that are capable of being mistaken for ballads. These songs consist of themes such as heartbreak, paranoia, and fear which are leading causes of anxiety and depression. A topic that in and of itself is taboo in the African-American community. Modern day rap fans enjoy the music on a sonic level. They also identify with the content. Not only has the new style of music crossed-over into mainstream culture,but it’s the overall temperament of a generation and maybe even a race. At one time, Rock and Roll music was the vessel for angst and frustration. But with today’s crop of rappers being dubbed as rock stars, there’s not much of a difference between Iggy Pop and Lil Uzi Vert depending on who you ask. People of color on a large scale may not have been able to vibe with the music but they’ve identified with what it represented. The feeling of being alienated by society, despising authority, and marching to the beat of your own drum is synonymous with both rock culture and living in the inner city as a minority. So who is responsible for this new wave of moody brooding melanin enriched millennials? Let’s take a brief look at some of the Forefathers of The Feels.
Kanye West during the “808s & Heartbreaks” periodHypebeast
Since day one, the Chicago rapper/producer has never been at a loss for words. From his views on former President George W. Bush to his recent gripes with the fashion industry, Kanye has always worn his heart on his sleeve (or on his lapel as pictured above). His first 3 albums “College Dropout”, “Late Registration”, & “Graduation” all raised the bar for hip hop in regards to musicality, but they also boasted the same cliches found within the culture. It wasn’t until the sudden and shocking death of his mother and the release of his 4th album “808s & Heartbreaks” that the world got a glimpse at a vulnerable man that we assumed was virtually indestructible. Gone were the tongue in cheek braggadocious raps and sped up 70s soul samples, on “808s…” Yeezus disciples got eerie minor chords, heart pounding drums, and vocals filled with sadness and reflection that were dripping in auto-tune. Initially, the album received a lot of criticism from die-hard fans of the man who once went by the moniker the Louis Vuitton Don. Eventually, the album would go on to be a cult classic and inspire of generation of artists to follow.
Mr. Solo DoloHip Hop Early
Your resident hipster would say without any hesitation that there would be no “808s & Heartbreaks” without Kid Cudi. He has been herald as the godfather of Emo Rap. In fact, it was his breakout mixtape “A Kid Named Cudi” that landed him a deal with Kanye’s label GOOD Music and has since collaborated with Kanye on various projects lending vocals and doing some writing here and there. His debut album “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” introduced the world to a style that had only been own and operated by the Cleveland native. His first major single “Day N’ Nite” was inspired by the death of his uncle whom he was at odds with before his passing. “My uncle that I lived with passed in 2006. We were actually beefing because he forced me out the house when I didn’t have another situation set up, so I was bitter. I never apologized for it, and that kills me. That’s why I wrote “Day ‘n’ Nite.” Cudi’s discography is filled with albums and songs that showcase his deepest regrets and fears that have garnered a fan base of loyal supporters who feel they are also not of this planet. He may not have had the same overall success as his mentor, but he’s definitely the match that lit the fuse.
The Light Skinned Keith SweatIdolator
Say what you want about Aubrey Graham. But you cannot deny the roll he has been on since he’s stepped on the scene back in 2009 with his monumental mixtape “So Far Gone”. Not only did it introduce the world officially to the Canadian child actor turned Hip Hop phenom, but it put a spotlight on a style that has been attributed (also highly debated by many) to Mr. OVO himself. Drake took bars and ballads and blended them in a way that has not only turned the genre upside down but has led to a slew of carbon copies as well. He’s often been mocked and insulted by hip-hop purists for being too “soft” given his nonthreatening Great White North disposition and his pandering to the opposite sex on songs like “Best I’ve Ever Had” & “Marvin’s Room”. But what was once looked at as a “weakness” has now become the status quo. Drake has set the standard for not only Hip Hop but Pop Music as well. Drizzy can still spit with the best of them, but he’s made a killing off of serenading his various allusive lady friends. His song “Hotline Bling” reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won 2 Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance. Remember the dude you laughed at for being nice and sweet and then he wound up stealing your girlfriend? That’s the same guy who’s been on the Billboard Hot100 for almost a decade now.
The Starboy GQ
Ok so he may not be “hip-hop”, but the man born Abel Tesfaye possess as much swag as any rapper. Another Canadian-born sensation in his own right, The Weeknd gained notoriety back in 2011 releasing his debut mixtape “House of Balloons”. His follow-up efforts “Thursday” & “Echoes of Silence” were released later that same year. With a voice that flirts on the line of being both melodic and chaotic, The Weeknd’s content isn’t for the faint of heart. Hard drugs, hard love, and the feeling of being on top of the world but still feeling low are reoccurring images that exist on each of these bodies of work. The Weeknd would eventually land a major label deal in 2012 with Republic Records and has since collaborated with top-tier rap acts such as Future, Nicki Minaj, and his fellow Torontonian Drake. The Weeknd has also become one of the premiere acts in Pop Music. He’s been featured on songs with Ariana Grande, Daft Punk, and Lana Del Rey. He was also featured on the soundtrack to the film “Fifty Shades of Grey” with his song “Earned It”. The Weeknd has definitely ushered in a sound that wasn’t meant to succeed in the mainstream given its content. But seriously, who doesn’t like a guy who pops pills, drunk texts you, and wants to have a quickie in the bathroom at your local club?
Emo rap seems to be the top of the pops in today’s music climate. But it also carries a very refreshing message in an ironic way. It speaks the sentiment that it’s no longer taboo to speak on your insecurities as a man. It also provides a safe haven for artists who may have been labeled as outcasts in their formative years giving them a platform to unite other people who share their plight of awkwardness. From a racial standpoint, it may be indirectly lending a voice to issues that have gone unresolved and untreated in the black community due to the stigmas that come with them. It’s breaking down doors, erasing labels, and abolishing preconceived notions on what it is to be depressed. Of course, not everyone agrees. Whether it be the actual displeasure with the music itself or the people who are making it. Hip Hop purists and people, in general, may look down on the newer artists calling them “weirdos”. This just speaks to the inability of men of color not being able to express themselves in a way that doesn’t warrant backlash in some form or fashion if it’s not the norm. So if you have red braids with beads on the end them or if you’re singing a song about all of your friends being dead. Just know that the guys listed above made it possible for you to be you.
Every year around this time, you know it is summertime when the Ball comes to town; Governor’s Ball, that is. It will take place this weekend beginning on Friday, June 2nduntil Sunday, June 4th. Even though there are plenty of concerts and festivals in New York City, this has proven to be the event not to miss. Popdustis very excited to cover GOV BALL NYC this year, as there are so many acts I admire. Keep in mind, these are not all the groups I am enthusiastic about, just the ones I won’t miss.
MICHAEL KIWANUKA [ FRIDAY | Time: 5:45 – 6:45 pm | Stage: Big Apple ] This artist was introduced to me by a friend on Facebook. He mentioned that he couldn’t believe he missed the release of his album, “Love and Hate.” The album captured me right from the beginning to the very last song. The “One More Night” video is just one of those pop soul tracks. I then started it again. It actually made me feel some kind of way about my life and the people in it. His music is sexy, plain and simple. I imagine his live band to be just as emotionally driven.
BEACH HOUSE [ FRIDAY | Time: 7:45 – 8:45 pm | Stage: Big Apple ] This 2 person band is a dreamy shoe-gaze vacation. I first fell in love with their song “Wishes” off their album “Bloom.” It stokes the heart and puts your mind in a mood to float down a river, blasted by sunlight. When I listen to this, I want to believe in love… in the way it hurts. In general, the new record shows a return to simplicity, with songs structured around a melody and a few instruments, with live drums playing a far lesser role. With the growing success of Teen Dream and Bloom, the larger stages and bigger rooms naturally drove them towards a louder, more aggressive place; a place farther from their natural tendencies. Here, they continue to let themselves evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which Beach House exists.
CHARLES BRADLEY & HIS EXTRAORDINAIRES [ FRIDAY | Time: 3:45 – 4:45 pm | Stage: Bacardi ] Charles Bradley is an American funk/soul/R&B singer, signed to the Daptone Records. Dubbed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” he has been on the rise since the release of his widely praised 2011 debut album No Time For Dreaming, and his ascent has continued long after the release of his triumphant second album, 2013’s Victim of Love. Check out his live version of “Why Is It So Hard?”
ROOSEVELT [ FRIDAY | Time: 12:45 – 1:30 pm | Stage: Big Apple ] These guys are so damn groovy, without the sharp edges. It has soft vibes with a killer beat. His voice is smooth and luscious combined with pop anthems. Marius Lauber AKA Roosevelt released his self-titled debut album last fall to much acclaim. So chill and exactly what my summer needs. His latest ‘Remixed 2’ EP is out now featuring a Joe Goddard (Hot Chip) remix of album single “Moving On.”
VANT [ SATURDAY | Time: 12:15 -12:45 pm | Stage: Gov Ball NYC ] I can’t say enough about how rare it is to find an album with every song being good. Vant does that with their debut “DUMB BLOOD,” which came out in February. I have listened to it probably about 10 times. This British punk-rock band earned five consecutive “Hottest Record In The World” spots from Annie Mac on Radio 1. See them open on the main stage.
STORMZY[ SATURDAY | Time: 3:00 – 3:45 pm | Stage: Honda ]I strongly encourage seeing this act. Stormzy raps Grime and is from the UK, spitting this fresh flow on us here in the States. It captured my attention because it’s roots are in Drum and Bass. I love the way he says words and has a great sense of humor. The content is not like the hip hop we have, so I have his album constantly playing in my ear buds as I walk the urban terrain of Brooklyn, imagining myself as tough as his rhymes. He is also one of the brightest minds.
“I was meant to go to Oxford University,” laughs Stormzy, AKA The Problem, AKA Big Mike, AKA Stiff Chocolate. “I got the best grades at A-level, and the owner of my school was a governor at Oxford. He wanted me to go and it looked like it was going to happen. My mum thought I was going, my friends thought I was going. Then I started making videos and going on YouTube and stuff and…” his voice trails off, and then he grins and winks…
LOCAL NATIVES[ SATURDAY | Time: 5:45 – 6:45 pm | Stage: Big Apple ] Just released “The Only Heirs” single — a collaboration with Nico Segal — which comes with “I Saw You Close Your Eyes” that premiered via CloseYourEyes.net, a facial recognition website that plays the song when it identifies closed eyes facing the computer’s camera. These two new songs follow their acclaimed full-length, ‘Sunlit Youth,’ and arrive as the band continues a world tour that includes a run of summer festivals. Additionally, the band’s Matt Frazier will sit-in as the guest drummer of The 8G Band on Late Night With Seth Meyers throughout the week of May 22nd.
CHILDISH GAMBINO [ SATURDAY | Time: 9:15 – 11:00 | Stage: Honda ] This promises to be a spectacle like no other. Donald Glover, otherwise known as Childish Gambino, may be recognized by his comedic performances and role on the television show, Community. His music is from another planet. I am also on line to go to space. I imagine this show to be much like the music of Parliament funk and soul, with the intense vocals of Prince and Morris Day. Very conceptual, but hard to be ignored, his album “Awaken, My Love” is groundbreaking to say the least. My ears perked up and said “…what is that sweet sound?” I can not be doing anything except vibe with this dude during his set. His live band is supposed to be so sick, that it will shake the foundation of Randall’s Island.
CAR SEAT HEADREST [ SATURDAY | Time: 2:15 – 3:00 pm | Stage: Big Apple ] What a great name? This is such catchy space indie-rock music like Mercury Rev, but also giving me a flavor of the Killers, with a bit more musicality. They jam out and I am sure will be a great live act. I will be in the front row! Car Seat Headrest will release Teens of Style on October 30, with Teens of Denial to follow soon after in 2016. This prolific artist (n Will Toledo) comes to Matador having already crafted an 11-album catalog of staggering depth, all self-released on Bandcamp, which has gained him an obsessive following and over 25,000 downloads – all without the muscle of a manager, label, agent, or publicist – until now.
AIR: [ SUNDAY | Time: 8:00 – 9:15 pm | Stage: Bacardi ]AIR one sheet Amazing French electronic group that was popular for their hugely influential album “Moon Safari” and the score they did for “Virgin Suicides“. This band was essential to my music collection and had opened up my mind to the possibilities to music besides rock. Electronic landscapes that capture a thematic journey into emotions that are murky, yet they are still bright. Like a fragrance of a summer night with a warm breeze in your hair as you drive through the night-time air.
The legendary band announced their American twentyears Air tour, which starts at New York’s Governors Ball on June 4th and ends in Los Angeles at the prestigious Greek Theater on June 25th. The tour, their first American one since 2010, is a reminder and a celebration of the ever-surprising Air universe.
SKEPTA[ SUNDAY | Time: 8:00 – 9:15 pm | Stage: Bacardi ] I was happy to share this with a friend that is all about hip hop. I was surprised he hadn’t heard of it. Not every day I can show him anything he hasn’t heard of that is as hot as this. I want to do the same. Has a great party vibe that has a different type of beat. It’s known as Grime. And it’s invading the states. Thanks to the U.K.
Spitting on hip-hop beats before he ever entered the booth in grime circles, Skepta unleashed his rapid flow in the mid 2000s. Shouting out Meridian Crew and Hackney’s Roll Deep he stepped to the forefront alongside his brother, in the era of pixelated video on Nokia devices, street DVDs and Akademiks sweatsuits.
CAGE THE ELEPHANT [ SUNDAY | Time: 8:00 – 9:15 pm | Stage: Bacardi ] With their fourth album, Tell Me I’m Pretty, Cage the Elephant are pushing the advances they made with their last record—2013’s Melophobia, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album—while also drawing from the sounds that initially inspired them to start making music back in their hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The results are the band’s most forceful and focused songs yet, a set of concise, punchy garage-pop with a feel that guitarist Brad Shultz describes as “a psychedelic John Wayne at an Iggy Pop show.”
TOOL [ SUNDAY | Time: 8:00 – 9:15 pm | Stage: Bacardi ] Tool, headed by front man Maynard James Keenan, is a monster icon in the world of rock. They have easily had more impact on the world of music than any band they share the stage with. The energy that comes off this band is intense like nothing I have ever experienced. This is literally the end of the festival and sure to be the climax of an epic festival, the likes of which have not been seen. I am ready for the light show and deafening sound that will leave my ears ringing for days. Small price to pay for an experience that will stay with you the rest of your life.
“We weren’t afraid to produce in different and edgier ways,” says the singer-songwriter.
Despite a cool and mellow reworking of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” The Voice‘s panel of judges–which then included Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams and Christina Aguilera–didn’t even give him a chance. That’s not for lack of talent, though, as producers often toss aside truly talented musicians to cast a reality show. But Dylan Dunlap simply picked himself up and went to work on his debut full-length record, 2016’s Thoughts Become Things. Songs like “Ella” and “Meant for You” have snagged a few hundred thousand streams on Spotify, no easy feat for an independent act who has done his fair share of busking in downtown Burbank and Santa Monica. As a result of his pouring forth of blood, sweat and tears, the performer, 21, is back with his follow-up, a dynamic and rich new EP called Feels Right at Home (out this Friday). Popdust is beyond humbled to get our hands on the exclusive first listen, and you won’t want to miss this.
With only four tracks, Dunlap moves with fearless purpose, shifting between blustering folk-rock (as you’ll hear on the title cut and the groovy “Uncharted Land”) and smooth soul–tipping his hat to such touchstones as Billy Joel and Michael Bublé on “Bleed the Same.” His tone is thick and resonant, and you get the sense that something expansive and important is unravelling. “I could go on for hours about these 4 songs,” he gushes to us. “I really think that Kirk Adolph, Ben Zelico, and I proved what it takes to be a legitimate DIY band as literally everything was recorded in our homes. The three of us have been through so much together in the past few months, and I am just so excited for this to finally be out there in the world.”
“To me, the ‘Feels Right at Home EP’ displays prominent growth when it’s compared to my last release in 2016. We weren’t afraid to produce in different and edgier ways, and I definitely don’t categorize myself as a folk singer/songwriter anymore,” he says.
All proceeds from the EP go to benefit the PSA PSA Behavioral Health Agency in Phoenix. While he hopes the money goes to really strike change about the stigmas surrounding mental health, he anticipates “that this record can reach out to those that feel isolated and misunderstood and lets them know that they never have to be alone in this world.”
Take a listen to the Feels Right at Home EP and read the track-by-track breakdown below:
“Feels Right at Home”
This one just makes me feel happy. Our buddy John Cantu came over to play percussion and belt those high “ahh”s while Kirk and I tracked at his home in Mesa. We ended up recording so many takes late into the night that I’m pretty sure his wife thought he went missing by the end of it! Also, Kirk’s newest addition to his family (black lab named Ben) barked for hours that week, so laying the guitars down was that much more rewarding when we finally got through it all. More importantly, I really hope people appreciate that half-time breakdown at 3:14 as much as I do! [laughs] I feel like you don’t hear stuff like that from this kind of music.
So I wanted to write a love song, but I didn’t want to make it just a love song. Obviously, I can’t wait to hear what this song means to other people, but for me, it’s as honest as a man should be in 2017. Confessing your overflowing love for somebody, but also not being afraid to call out your own imperfections and how many mistakes you’ve made, and will most definitely continue to make. Truly finding someone to love doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your own issues will go away. It means that you’ve found a person that is willing to sit through the darkest times with you and just hold your hand. Also, keep your ears peeled because I literally call out my own name.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I had some fun with the background vocals while producing this one in my bedroom. “Purpose” dives into the metaphor of how we’re all racing against time to get to where we want to be. Instead of running as fast as possible to succeed before others in our lives, I keep wondering what would happen if we stopped to be still for a moment and appreciated how far we’ve already come, and how far we still have to go. The thing is I never want to come across like I’m preaching and know all the answers. I hope that when checking out these songs (this one in particular), the listener understands that I am constantly working on myself every day, and I’m not afraid to vocalize that.
“Bleed the Same”
I was singing at a wedding last summer, and the pastor said the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Before he finished with, “I now pronounce you…”, he made sure to tell the bride and groom, “-and remember… In a marriage, sometimes it’s better to be kind than to always be right.” For some reason, that quote stuck with me for a couple weeks and ended up inspiring me to write a song about it. I feel like it can be applied to so many different things which is why “Bleed the Same” stays, for the most part, open to interpretation. On a side note, that high C that I belt towards the end of the song took quite some time before I was happy with it! I may be one crazy nitpicker, but I can assure you that I am 100% happy with all the takes we used for this EP. That’s what sets this apart from my last record. I didn’t “settle” for a single thing because of a deadline. I made sure we were all fully comfortable.