Lorde Solar Power

Lorde is back just in time for Hot Vaxxed Summer with a sunny new single called "Solar Power."

The song, Lorde's first in four years, comes along with an appropriately sunny video that features Lorde in a brilliant yellow dress, dancing on a beach and looking like the embodiment of joy.

Lyrically, the song seems to be a call to live your wildest and most hedonistic summer dreams after a terrible year indoors. It's also an ode to self-love, with Lorde referring to herself as a "prettier Jesus" (no, you can't make this up).

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Music Features

Lorde, Sia, Pearl Jam, and More Demand Politicians Stop Playing Music Without Permission

A new letter from the Artist Rights Alliance demands that politicians receive permission for the political use of music.

Update 8/4/2020: Canadian-American singer-songwriter Neil Young has filed a copyright infringement suit against Donald Trump's presidential campaign for the use of his songs "Rockin' in the Free World" and "Devil's Sidewalk" without a license. The Trump campaign reportedly played the songs at the June 20th rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where it's suspected that the late entrepreneur and Republican political figure Herman Cain contracted COVID-19.

The suit states that Young "cannot allow his music to be used as a 'theme song' for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate." The lawsuit will serve as a test case for license exclusions in the case of political events.

Imagine pouring your hard work, your talent, and your heartfelt emotions into a work of art for all of humanity to enjoy, only to have it co-opted by a symbol of hatred and division.

For a stunning number of musicians who vehemently oppose Donald Trump's presidency, that is exactly what has happened in recent years. Despite repeated statements that they don't want their music played at his political rallies, Donald Trump's re-election campaign has continued to use music from artists like Adele, Rihanna, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Pharrell Williams, Axl Rose, and honestly too many others to mention.

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Music Features

Lorde Is Coming to Save Us

"I started going back to the studio again," the singer wrote in an email to fans.

Our Lorde and savior knew we couldn't survive a worldwide crisis without her.

It's been just shy of three years since pop prodigy Ella Yelich-O'Connor released her magnum opus, Melodrama, but it's felt like a lifetime. Late last year, when a follow-up seemed probable, Lorde announced she had postponed her next record in order to properly mourn the death of her dog, Pearl. But 2020 is easily the most doomed year in recent memory, and the "Green Light" singer knows we need her desperately.

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Certain musicians are blessed with the ability to hear, see, feel, or taste music, a variant of the neurological condition known as synesthesia.

While you don't need to have synesthesia in order to be a great musician, there seems to be a significant correlation between musicians capable of creating exceptionally impactful tunes and those who perceive sound in color. Here are some of the most noteworthy musicians with synesthesia:

Frank Ocean

Anyone who's heard Frank Ocean's Blonde knows that the album exists in more than one dimension, and this isn't an accident. Ocean sees colors associated with his music, and his album Channel Orange was inspired by the color he saw when he first fell in love (which was, obviously, orange).

Pink Matter www.youtube.com


Lorde

Extra Minutes | How Lorde sees sound as colour www.youtube.com

Lorde has described synesthesia as a driving force behind all her music, and like Ocean, she has sound-to-color synesthesia, which means all music has a color in her mind. "If a song's colors are too oppressive or ugly, sometimes I won't want to work on it," she once told MTV. "When we first started 'Tennis Court' we just had that pad playing the chords, and it was the worst textured tan colour, like really dated, and it made me feel sick, and then we figured out that prechorus and I started the lyric, and the song changed to all these incredible greens overnight!"

Lorde - Green Light www.youtube.com

Stevie Wonder

Even though he's blind, the musical legend and innovator Stevie Wonder can see the colors of his music in his head, which might explain why his music sounds so vast and rich.

Stevie Wonder - Moon Blue www.youtube.com

Billy Joel

The "Piano Man" singer can see the colors of the music that he plays, and it sounds like his perception is influenced by tempo and mood. "When I think of different types of melodies which are slower or softer, I think in terms of blues or greens," he said. "When I [see] a particularly vivid color, it is usually a strong melodic, strong rhythmic pattern which emerges at the same time," he said. "When I think of these songs, I think of vivid reds, oranges, and golds."

Billy Joel - Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Official Audio) www.youtube.com


Kanye West

The brilliant musician and recently born-again Christian once said that all his music has a visual component. "Everything I sonically make is a painting," he said. "I see it. I see the importance and the value of everyone being able to experience a more beautiful life."

Kanye West - All Of The Lights ft. Rihanna, Kid Cudi www.youtube.com

For West, visuals need to be compatible with the colors he hears in his head. "I see music in color and shapes and all and it's very important for me when I'm performing or doing a video that the visuals match up with the music – the colors, y'know," he said. "A lot of times it's a lonely piano [that] can look like a black and white visual to fit that emotion, even though pianos are blue to me and bass and snares are white; bass lines are like dark brown, dark purple."

No Church In The Wild www.youtube.com


Pharrell Williams

The "Happy" singer (a yellow song if there ever was one) has been open about his synesthesia, and he has a very in-depth way of perceiving musical color. "There are seven basic colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet," he said. And those also correspond with musical notes…White, believe it or not, which gives you an octave is the blending of all the colors…" So that means chords would be blends of different shades, and harmonies would likely involve the blending of compatible colors. For Pharrell, synesthesia is instrumental to his creative process and to his worldview at large. "It's my only reference for understanding," he said. "I don't think I would have what some people would call talent and what I would call a gift. The ability to see and feel [this way] was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I'm not sure that I could make music. I wouldn't be able to keep up with it. I wouldn't have a measure to understand."

Pharrell Williams - Happy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Duke Ellington

For the jazz great, individual notes also have different colors—but their exact shades depend on who's playing them, not the note itself. "I hear a note by one of the fellows in the band and it's one color. I hear the same note played by someone else and it's a different color," he said. In addition to associating music with colors, he also sees sound as texture. "When I hear sustained musical tones, I see just about the same colors that you do, but I see them in textures," he added. "If Harry Carney is playing, D is dark blue burlap. If Johnny Hodges is playing, G becomes light blue satin."

Duke Ellington - Blue Feeling www.youtube.com

Tori Amos

From the sound of things, Tori Amos experiences music in a very dreamlike and psychedelic way. The singer-songwriter and piano prodigy has said that songwriting feels like chasing after light. "The song appears as light filament once I've cracked it. As long as I've been doing this, which is more than 35 years, I've never seen a duplicated song structure. I've never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously, similar chord progressions follow similar light patterns…try to imagine the best kaleidoscope ever."

16 Shades of Blue www.youtube.com


Dev Hynes

After hearing Blood Orange's saturated, vivid sonic craftsmanship, it's not hard to believe that its creator is synesthetic. However, for Dev Hynes, synesthesia isn't a walk in the park. "Imagine color streamers just bouncing around," he explained. "It's hard for me to focus at times because there's a lot of things floating around, pulling me away. Situations can become very overbearing and overwhelming."

Blood Orange - Dark & Handsome | A COLORS SHOW www.youtube.com


Charli XCX

Synesthesia helps Charli XCX curate and shape her songs, and apparently, the pop queen favors sweeter, brighter colors. "I see music in colors. I love music that's black, pink, purple or red - but I hate music that's green, yellow or brown," she said.

Charli XCX - Silver Cross [Official Audio] www.youtube.com


Mary J. Blige

"I have that condition, synesthesia. I see music in colors. That's how my synesthesia plays out," singer, rapper, actress, and legend Mary J. Blige explained succinctly.

Mary J. Blige - Be Without You (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


Marina Diamandis

The former star of Marina and the Diamonds (who now goes by only Marina) apparently can see sound as color, but she also associates certain colors with days of the week. Her synesthesia also sometimes causes her to associate music with scents. "Mine usually only expresses itself in color association but I do smell strange scents out of the blue for no reason," she's said.

MARINA - Orange Trees [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com


Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell

In Billie Eilish's technicolor universe, every sense bleeds into everything else, and things like numbers and days of the week have their own color palettes. "I think visually first with everything I do, and also I have synesthesia, so everything that I make I'm already thinking of what color it is, and what texture it is, and what day of the week it is, and what number it is, and what shape," she said in a YouTube Music video. "We both have it [she and brother, Finneas O'Connell], so we think about everything this way."

Billie Eilish - Ocean Eyes (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Alessia Cara

Alessia Cara thought that synesthesia was just something everybody had, until she realized not everyone could see sounds. "I didn't know that synesthesia was something that was, I guess, only a thing for some people," she said. "I thought that everybody kind of experienced it. So for me, it was just a natural pairing to my music. Everything audible was visual to me, and it still is. And so I think when I write, it's kind of cool to listen back and say, 'Well, this song feels kind of purple' — if a certain drum sound sounds purple and the song feels purple, then I know that they kind of match. It just really helps me figure out the whole package of a song." And like Kanye West, her synesthesia influences her visual content. "Even with videos — it helps me figure out what I want to do music video-wise," she added. "So it's definitely a strong aspect of my writing."

Alessia Cara - Ready (Lyric Video) www.youtube.com


Franz Liszt

Synesthesia isn't reserved for 20th and 21st century legends. Many classical musicians possessed synesthetic abilities, such as the composer Franz Liszt, who apparently used to ask orchestra members to make their tone qualities "bluer" and would say things like, "That is a deep violet, please, depend on it! Not so rose!" While orchestra members thought he was joking, they soon realized that the musician could actually see colors in the music he created.

Franz Liszt - Liebestraum - Love Dream www.youtube.com

MUSIC

Will Pop Music Get Happier in 2020?

How did we get from Lorde's dystopia to Lizzo's exultation?

"In the current pop firmament, Lorde is a black hole," goes the opening line of Pitchfork's review of Pure Heroine, the debut album from a then-16-year-old kiwi named Ella Yelich-O'Connor.

Lorde wrangled listeners in by their shirt collars with the 2013 album, fueled by her own boredom and dingy lifestyle. Youth aside, her breakthrough success marked a shift in modern pop music, one that was decidedly bleak. Not in sound, necessarily—Lorde's major-key melodies sure make things feel a little brighter—but thematically, she heralded a generation of somber, melancholy pop, one that Lorde pushed even further with her follow up, the aptly-titled Melodrama.

Lorde - Liability www.youtube.com

Others followed suit. Lorde wasn't the first radio artist to express an emotion other than sheer delight (see: any Lana Del Rey song), but "Royals"' record-breaking success helped make sadder pop the new norm. Though Sia had been making dystopian pop since the early aughts, it took her until 2014's "Chandelier" to make notable waves on the charts by herself, landing at No. 8. That same year, Tove Lo entered U.S. radio with "Habits (Stay High)," a song just about getting intoxicated with the intent to forget an ex, which peaked at No. 3. Taylor Swift even endured an era of painting herself as a villain during Reputation, and then there was the "bad guy" herself: Billie Eilish, whose spooky aesthetics spawned early comparisons to Lorde. In a world where Jack Antonoff—formerly of a band literally called Fun.—is producing end-of-the-world opuses for Lorde and Lana, will pop ever get happy again? Surely, and probably sooner than we think.

Lizzo is evidence of pop's imminent positivity boom. The multitudinous star's two top 10 hits, "Truth Hurts" and "Good As Hell," were released in 2017 and 2016 respectively, but it took until 2019 for the masses to catch on to her feel-good, pop-rap crossover bops. Dua Lipa's recent "Don't Start Now," which debuted at No. 30 on the Hot 100, is only the latest entry in her ever-growing catalogue of post-breakup bliss anthems.

Lizzo - Good As Hell (Video) www.youtube.com

And in a post-Lil Peep landscape of emo rap, Chance the Rapper released his long-awaited The Big Day, an unabashedly (and often cheesily) joyful proclamation of his love. And although Swift's albums before the comparatively grim Reputation weren't unhappy, per se, last summer's Lover saw the Woman of the Decade through the rosiest of glasses, to the point that she claimed she "forgot [an unnamed ex] existed." Taylor Swift! Of all people!

No, Billie Eilish and her inky tears won't be dethroned anytime soon, but the recent successes of Swift, Lipa, and Lizzo's most optimistic tracks imply that more cheerful hits could make their return to pop radio and the charts sometime in the not-so-distant future.

MUSIC

These Famous Stars Hate Their Own Music

Jimmy Page isn't the only one who found his old songs cringe-worthy.

Legendary rocker Jimmy Page has had a lot to say over the years regarding Led Zeppelin's smash hit "Stairway to Heaven."

In 1988, the rocker told The New York Times that he'd "break out in hives" if he had to perform the song. Page has calmed down since then, but still confirmed to UCR yesterday that he simply "couldn't relate to the track anymore."

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