LIVE | How RAE SREMMURD unlocked the swag

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.

(Andrew Karpan)

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.

PREMIERE | Spencer Crandall blurs genres with “I Thought We Broke Up”

“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.”

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“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.”

Spencer Crandall

“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.

Listen below:

INTERVIEW | Maggie Lindemann is only getting better

“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

GOV BALL | The Screaming Eagle of Soul, CHARLES BRADLEY and winning his battle with Cancer

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.

Consequence of Sound

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.[17] 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).[18] 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.”

His full schedule is below.

Paste Magazine

Charles Bradley 2017 Tour Dates:

06/10 – Asbury Park, NJ @ Stone Pony
06/16 – Monterey, CA @ Monterey Pop 50th Anniversary
06/22 – Detroit, MI @ Chene Park Amphitheater
06/24 – Pasadena, CA @ Arroyo Seco Music Festival
06/30 – Ottawa, ON @ Ottawa Jazz Festival
07/01 – Waitsfield, VT @ Friendly Gathering Festival
07/04 – Montreal, QC @ Montreal Jazz Festival
07/07 – Des Moines, IA @ 80/35 Music Festival
07/13 – Chicago, IL @ House of Vans
07/15 – Birmingham, AL @ Sloss Music & Arts Festival
07/16 – Louisville, KY @ Forecastle Festival
07/29 – Philadelphia, PA @ XpoNential Festival
07/30 – Oro-Medonte, ON @ WayHome Music & Arts Festival
08/03-04 – Portland, OR @ Pickathon Festival
08/05 – Whister, BC @ Wanderlust Festival
08/06 – Kaslo, BC @ Kaslo Jazz Festival
08/12 – Missoula, MT @ Travelers’ Rest Festival
08/19 – Wellston, MI @ Hoxeyville Music Festival
08/26 – Pine Plains, NY @ Huichica East Festival
08/31 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Twilight Concert Series
09/04 – Long Island, NY @ The Surf Lodge
09/16 – Rio de Janeiro, BR @ Rock in Rio
09/29 – Lincoln, NE @ Lincoln Calling
10/01 – Long Beach, CA @ Music Tastes Good Festival
10/07 – Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Polo & Wine Festival

Watch his Official Music Video for “Good To Be Back Home”

LIVE | Praise the LORDE, ‘Melodrama’ is almost here

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.

(Andrew Karpan)

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.

The Spongebob Musical is confirmed, but is Broadway becoming too safe?

The Spongebob Broadway Musical is set to open this fall, joining several other major stage adaptations to debut.

Early yesterday it was officially announced that a certain iconic resident of an undersea pineapple would be moving to Broadway next fall.That’s right The Spongebob Musical has officially secured a theater and will be starting performances on November 6th. Being one of the most beloved cartoons in recent memory you’d assume this show is destined to face massive attention in this upcoming Broadway theater season. But Spongebob is far from the only familiar property aiming for Broadway supremacy this next year. Among the shows expected to arrive this year along with Spongebob are stage versions of Mean Girls and Frozen, a jukebox musical based on the songs of Jimmy Buffett, and the American premiere of the Harry Potter continuation play The Cursed Child. Staring down this murderer’s row of familiar properties, it’s hard not to wonder whether Broadway has finally become too safe?

Spongebob Squarepants Facebook page

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.