Monday, March 31, 2008

Grammy First Kanye West

Another item I wanted to blog about but time got away from me is the Grammy Award show February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles. Happy 50th Grammy.

Overall the show was great. A lot of acts kicked ass including 67 year old Herbie Hancock who also took home Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters beating out Kanye West's Graduation and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, the Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and Vince Gill’s These Days.

But the item that I’ve most wanted to blog about is Kanye’s acceptance speech. Sorry NARAS, you did a great job on this show but Kanye upstaged you here and this was the most interesting moment of the night for me; but I’ll plug the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), the org that actually awards the Grammys.

Best Rap Album was awarded by Chris Brown, Solange and Akon at which time a first in award show history occurred…

One minute into Kanye West’s acceptance speech for Graduation the orchestra began to play in an attempt to cue his exit. But Kanye being Kanye and not yet done expressing himself called out the orchestra and expressed his disbelief that they were trying to cue his exit. As the band continued to play, he began speaking about his mother who passed away on November 10, 2007 from complications of recent cosmetic surgery.

He then suggested that it would be in good taste for them to stop and they DID! I was stunned. Kanye definitely was staring someone down in the orchestra pit but in all my years of award show viewing I have NEVER seen any orchestra stop for anyone. When he finally concluded his speech 53 seconds later the orchestra began again.

All I could think of was Frank Sinatra at the 1994 Grammys when Bono introduced him as a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. A few minutes into his speech the orchestra swelled and the Chairman of the Board was ushered off stage.

In that moment I was sad for old blue eyes as you could tell that there was so much that he wanted to express but Bono may have unintentionally upstaged the Rat Packer with his prepared eloquence that Sinatra just could not match on the fly. I later heard that Sinatra was relieved that the music started because he didn’t have a closing for his speech but the memory is with me still.

Following shortly thereafter at the 1994 Grammys was Billy Joel performing “River of Dreams.” Now I’ve always loved Billy Joel for his songwriting and piano skills (he is a far more accomplished piano player than most realize), but that night I loved him for another reason. There’s a pause in the middle of “River of Dreams” and at that point in the song Billy Joel stopped, took his hands off the keyboard, looked at his watch and taunted the producers by saying “Valuable advertising time going by, valuable advertising time going by, dollars, dollars, dollars” and then sat silently as the crowd roared for him and Sinatra.

Vindication, I wasn’t the only one horrified. This was the best immediate protest I have ever seen. Joel did finally finish the song after a 23 second pause and since then hundreds have been cut off by orchestras at award shows around the globe, it’s a necessary evil if we don’t want to grow old watching the 3-4 hour extravaganzas but Kanye was a first.

I wish that they had just let Kanye speak; he had something to say that the audience (in the theatre and on TV) wanted to hear. Thankfully I doubt that this will start a trend; I don’t think many stars will have the wherewithal to stand up to the music director like Kanye did or have as compelling a reason.

Kanye West Grammy acceptance speech for Best Rap Album Graduation

“It definitely good to be home here at the Grammys. You know, we snuck in four years ago, four or five years ago and now we basically made this our new place of residence. and um, when working on a hip-hop album in a state with the music game. They say like, you know you can't sell records. A lot of people said Hip Hop is dead not just Nas but you know a lot of people just like the art form wasnt poppin' like that anymore

You know, I wanted to cross the genres and show people how we could still express ourselves with something fresh and new that's what hip-hop has always been about, coming out with new sounds and stuff. I always tell Common like man, you gotta time the album out better and can’t drop em the same year as me.
You gotta…This is my award. Um, I wanna

(music starts)
And for Marc Ronson and Amy Winehouse Come on, you gonna play music on me?
For Marc Ronson, Amy Winehouse if I don’t get to get up here for album of the year you deserve it just as much as me, I deserve it too.

And just to say something about my mother.
I appreciate all the support I appreciate all the prayers

It would be in good taste to stop the music then.

(music stops)

I appreciate everything and I know you really proud of me, right now
And I know you wouldn't want me to stop
And you want me, to be the number one artist in the world
And Mama all Ima do is keep makin you proud
We run this.”

- Kanye West

See the video here

Idol tomorrow,


Friday, March 28, 2008

New oldest recording identified 1860

I find this kind of thing very interesting...It would make a great news story for RockLibrary.

In 1860 a scientist in France figured out how to create a visual interpretation of sound and because a patent was filed in Paris a researcher was able to find and examine the images that just happened to be dated.

On March 1, 2008 David Giovanni of First Sounds, a US collaborative aimed at finding and preserving lost early recordings, received a package from the archive at the French Academy of Sciences in Paris that contained a sound recording made in France in 1860, 17 years before Thomas Edison recorded 'Mary had a little lamb'.

The 10-second recording is of a person singing a snippet of a French folk song, 'Au clair de la lune', and was recorded on April 9, 1860 by Parisian inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville using piece of equipment he called a "phonautograph" that scratched sound waves onto a sheet of paper blackened by the soot of an oil lamp.

Using advanced imaging technology scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California were able to create digital images that captured “grooves” that could then be played by a computer with a virtual stylus.

Interestingly enough the recording was never meant to be played only studied visually as an interpretation of sound.

The recording and findings are being presented by to the Association for Recorded Sound Collections conference at Stanford University this week by the man who found it David Giovanni.

Listen to
the oldest known recording.

More tomorrow,

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

American Idol Chikezie sent home 9 remain

No surprises tonight, Chikezie, Syesha Mercardo and Jason Castro were the bottom three and Chikezie was sent home.

Chris Cornell called Ryan Seacrest and Lee Greenwood contacted American Idol to each say that they liked the performances of their songs (David Cook and Kristi Lee Cook respectively).

More later,


American Idol Top 10

David Cook was amazing tonight. Chris Cornell’s version of Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” had an even likelihood of bombing horrifically or being even more powerful than Cook’s performance of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” a few weeks ago. Cook masterfully worked the arrangement and stole the show and possibly the competition with his performance. Here’s the video, turn it up if you can.

Michael Johns also had an incredibly strong performance but he may have peaked. I've been waiting for him to sing “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” as it so clearly suits him and I don’t know what he can perform that will be better but I am interested in seeing if he can out do himself. He also gave an outstanding performance of "Bohemian Rhapsody" during Hollywood Week so maybe he'd like to be Queen's lead singer but I believe that they turned down RockStar: Queen.

Syesha Mercado (Stephanie Mills “If I Were Your Woman”) was much improved this week. She was much better at hitting the softer notes as she’s got a big voice and can really belt but has demonstrated some control issues in previous performances. If she keeps it up she’ll do well and could have a career in music.

Carly Smithson (Bonnie Tyler “Total Eclipse of the Heart”) wasn't in top form tonight but she's a performer through and through. She’s poised onstage, has excellent vocal control and should advance unless the American Idol popularity contest is now in full swing (she was in the bottom three last week). As a side note for those of you who haven’t heard, Carly was signed to MCA under her maiden name Carly Hennessy for four years and released the album Ultimate High in 2001. Despite two million dollars in label support the record bombed and Hennesy was released from MCA. She tried out for season 5 of American Idol and made it to Hollywood but because her visa had expired she was unable to compete. She has since married and resides in San Diego, California. Clearly all this experience seems contributing to her success.

David Archuleta (Jeff Pescetto “You’re the Voice”) started poorly and though he carried it off, he's becoming boring because of his song choices; he may be too immature to navigate a win (he's 17). He offered a brilliant “Imagine” but that was three weeks ago and he’s failing to connect with both the audience and another knockout performance.

Case in point, compare tonight's performances by David Cook and David Archuleta; there's no contest, David Cook wins by a mile. Additionally Cook’s “Hello” was a brilliant interpretation of Lionel Richie’s classic and his performance of “Eleanor Rigby” two weeks ago was also a standout. Week in and week out it’s Cook who’s leading the way.

Still around:
Kristy Lee Cook (Lee Greenwood “God Bless the USA”) Much better this week with a completely unexpected but successful song choice but she should go soon for destroying The Beatles “Eight Days a Week”. I may never recover from that performance.

Ramiele Malubay (Heart “Alone”) She gave a good performance but not great.

Jason Castro (Sting “Fragile”) I’m really not impressed. Yes he’s got pretty eyes, a big toothy smile and comes off bashful and a little goofy but he consistently shows limited range and style. His performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was touching but he reminds me more of a wandering troubadour than an American Idol.

Brooke White (The Police “Every Breath You Take”) She’s middle of the pack but stumbled this week after bombing in yellow last week with “Here Comes the Sun”. She’s got a lot of potential but really needs to step it up to get back into this competition.

Chikezie (Luther Vandross “If Only for One Night”) This may be his swan song.

Rock is reborn, on American Idol!?! Who ever would have thought?

More later,

comedy music videos

I'm suffering from non-blogging remorse. There have been several items that I thought would be great for the blog but time constraints made it impossible for me to post.

So I'm going to start writing some shorter, more informal entries; look for them soon.

Oh, here’s one now…

For anyone who missed it, Sarah Silverman + Matt Damon. It's true she announced it on Jimmy Kimmel Live (1/31/08), check out the video below (aired on national television but may be Not Suitable for Work or the faint of heart).

And Sarah Silverman’s boyfriend, late night talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel + Ben Affleck. It's true, they announced it on his show (2/24/08), check out their response video to Sarah & Matt below (aired on national television but may be Not Suitable for Work or the faint of heart).

As you know I’m frequently up late and I caught both debuts live on Kimmel. Silverman introduced the clip that she said she had made for his birthday in October but because of the writer's strike she had to wait to show it to him until the show resumed production in February.

Affleck stopped by after the Oscars to debut his and Kimmel's response.

Both nights I was on the floor. These are the best comedy music videos I have seen since SNL digital shorts "Lazy Sunday” AKA Chronic-WHAT?-chles of Narnia and the Emmy award winning D**k in a Box".

I am beyond impressed with the work that comedians are doing with audio, video and music production. Saturday Night Live has regularly been featuring SNL digital shorts for a couple of years and I expect it will grow as long as Lorne doesn’t approve Laser Cats, Laser Cats 2 or the undoubtedly “in the works” Laser Cats 3. More comedy music videos please!

More soon,