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

Remembering a Legend of Rock and Roll: Little Richard Dead at 87

One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Little Richard passed away on Saturday

It was reported on Saturday that rock legend Little Richard had died in Tennessee at the age of 87.

Born Richard Penniman, Little Richard became famous as a pioneer of rock music in the 1950s, with a series of hits from "Tutti Frutti" to "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly Miss Molly." His gospel-inflected singing with energetic piano and gibberish lyrics became emblematic of the era's music, and the iconic rasp of his versatile voice has been emulated by many, but never matched.

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MUSIC

Paul McCartney Buries Lennon Rivalry and Settles the Beatles vs. Stones Debate

McCartney discussed a variety of topics with Howard Stern, from Chinese wet markets to Peter Jackson's new documentary

Earlier this week Paul McCartney called into The Howard Stern Show to settle some old beefs and discuss Peter Jackson's upcoming documentary, The Beatles: Get Back.

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MUSIC

The Sexiest Album Covers of All Time

This is by no mean a definitive list, but these albums are worth revisiting

In the last few years, Vinyl has experienced a massive resurgence.

It accounted for 9.7 million album sales in 2018, thanks, begrudgingly, to what NPR called the "Hipsterfication of America." While the sales can mainly be attributed to classics like Michael Jackson's Thriller and The Beatles' Abbey Road, it seems fitting to pay homage to the records that gave us Millennial's a "thunder down under" and kickstarted our sexual awakenings.

The racy nature of the album covers below sparked cultural phenomenons. Let's dive into the birth of the "Parental Warning" and revisit the album that turned whipped cream from a mere dessert topping into something much more. These are some of the most risque records in history.

Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" (1965)

Arguably one of the most famous album covers of all time, Whipped Cream & International Delights would go on to bring notoriety to model Dolores Erickson, who achieved fame as "the whipped cream" lady. "They stared at it constantly. It was very risque," Erickson said of the cover. "They hadn't seen this much breast in their life." The album has sold over 6 million copies and was the band's most popular release to date.

MUSIC

Johnny Gates: Dive Bars, Back Roads, and Church Girls

The Voice Season 12 alumnus is back in Nashville, and turning heads with his new EP.

Blake Shelton called him "the next Mick Jagger." Alicia Keys called him "a male Gwen Stefani."

Whatever you want to call Johnny Gates, you can't say he doesn't turn heads. Former lead singer of The Runaway Saints and notable for his appearance on Season 12 of The Voice, his first two singles have already amassed more than two million listens on Spotify alone. The young trailblazer has recently returned to Nashville to ignite a solo career with his debut EP, "Hell Outta Here."

The project opens with a slow guitar riff with drifting John Mayer overtones. "Hell Outta Here" is the story of running away, running inward, and running into another person. These three acts blend together in a black-and-white haze. It's a mellow opening that sets the stage for the melancholic sound Gates is cultivating.

Plucked guitar chords are also the foundation for "Dive Bar." Here, he brings out the classic American tropes for coping with grief: alcohol, bars, and more alcohol. He mixes them together in a smooth, bittersweet track that feels like it has already started haunting your dreams.

"Bandit" has a sparse acoustic riff, married with the EP's distinctive use of airy/synthy slide. It's a pained love song, and he gives his voice a sharp metallic edge that lets his lyrics plunge straight down into your soul. Gates appears to be cultivating his own vision of Americana on this EP: a hybrid of old and new that alternates between angelic and chimeric.

Photo by Meghan Cummings

He evokes John Legend in the soulful intro to "Church Girl," though he cultivates a classic country sound when the song starts to kick in. The production then blends electronic and live drums, giving the impression of a heartbeat moving from stationary to transcendent between verse and chorus. Lyrically, it's a wistful love song that holds its heart out in its hands as they stretch up towards the heavens.

It's hard not to be enamored with how Johnny Gates' EP sonically blends rough and smooth tones. This medley crystallizes the contrast between the coarseness of the stories he tells and the fineness of the tools he uses to tell those stories. This EP doesn't feel like it was recorded; it feels like it was discovered, hidden in the sands of a desert somewhere, calling out to whoever might be aching to hear it.

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Music Lists

Six Songs You Should Hear This Week: Musical Acid Trips

New tracks from Valerie June, Kevin Abstract, Norah Jones, AURORA, and more.

Each one of this week's best new songs is a miniature revelation in itself, trippy enough to open your mind to new worlds.

For the record, the creator of this list has never taken acid; but these songs are what she imagines it would feel like, and truly, who needs drugs when you have songs like these? Transcendence, peace, revelations, a feeling of interconnectedness, swirly imagery—it's all here for your listening pleasure.

1. Drinker: Wave

Bicoastal NY/LA duo Aaron Mendelsohn and Ariel Loh (aka Drinker) have gifted the world with a gorgeous piece of pop psychedelia in the form of their new single, "Wave," released on Wednesday. The haunting track starts slow and ethereal, building up to a climactic tower of synths punctuated by bell-like guitar tones. A slow burn that's rewarding the whole way through, it's the kind of song meant for lying on a dock at sunset, sifting through memories and feeling the first hints of evening chill. Lyrically, it's a testament to the strangeness of time—the way it continues to move forward, but the past always seems to surge into the present. "Who is this? I'm stuck inside a wave," goes the refrain, a line that could be about dissociation, or fear of the future, or déja vu. "I feel like we've been here before," sings Mendelsohn, "but it wasn't you that I was here with." Hypnotic in its spaciousness, disconcerting in its dissociative leanings, this is an immersive sonic experience that bodes well for the duo's upcoming EP release on May 3.

2. Valerie June: Little Wing

Valerie June - Little Wing www.youtube.com

Valerie June has returned with a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and it's absolutely breathtaking. Mystical and pure, raw and electric, it's a compilation of whirling guitars, whistling strings, distant organs, and eventually a horn section to drive it all home. June sounds a bit like Stevie Nicks, but perhaps even more weather-worn, her voice is ageless, meant for staticky radios. She proved her songwriting abilities on 2017's The Order of Time, but this cover is a testament to her aptitude as an arranger and a conveyer of raw emotion. In a way, it seems to come straight from a timeless dimension where there are only peace and starlight, and yet, at the same time, it cuts through to the core of something distinctly of this world, some pain known only to humankind. If you listen to one song this week, listen to this one.

3. Novo Amor: I Make Sparks

Novo Amor - I Make Sparks (official audio) www.youtube.com

Nobody is better at making soupy lullabies than Novo Amor, but he's made a particularly beautiful one with "I Make Sparks," a title that—despite its swaggering implications—moves beyond the realm of woodsy folk. Ideal for the ending frames of a film, the song is a miniature vacation in itself. Light strings cast flickering lights over Amor's frail, breathy vocals, and though his voice never grows to anything more than a whisper, the music swells and grows throughout, reaching a satisfyingly disorienting conclusion.

4. Aurora: The Seed

AURORA - The Seed www.youtube.com

For a slightly more energized but equally intense listening experience, AURORA's newest release, "The Seed," will do the trick. It sounds perfect for, say, the finale of a show like Game of Thrones—hopeful and dramatic, full of rhythmic humming and intense violins, designed for scenes of armies charging over snowy hills.

In essence, this is a song about environmental destruction—one of many, certainly, as we approach the end times. "When the last tree has fallen and the rivers are poisoned, you cannot eat money, oh no," she sings. Ominous, indeed; maybe avoid this if you're actually going to take acid because it could potentially send you on a bad trip.

5. Kevin Abstract: Georgia

Kevin Abstract - Georgia (ARIZONA baby) www.youtube.com

Kevin Abstract announced his newest project, ARIZONA baby, in a cryptic Instagram post a few days ago. But the first single, "Georgia," is transparent and honest, a welcome return to Abstract's distinct solo work. On this song, he draws lyrical inspiration from the old classic "Georgia On My Mind" and spins it into a web of bells, swirling electric guitar, and gritty basslines. At heart, it's a love song, a tribute to the free-fall of true emotion, communicated through rapidly panned vocals and electronic vocal effects layered over a slow beat. Abstract is a master of his craft, and with the release of ARIZONA baby, he's continued his tradition of making some of the best atmospheric rap out there. (For better or worse, it was produced by Jack Antonoff, which may explain its sonic similarities to Lana Del Rey's "Venice Bitch"—the high-pitched synth is definitely the same—but that's another story).

6. Norah Jones: A Song With No Name

A Song With No Name www.youtube.com

This song is the sonic embodiment of a tall glass of water, a breath of fresh air, a drive upstate in the midst of a New York City summer, a comedown after a wild night. In classic Norah tradition, it's easy on the ears and heart, just ambiguous enough to feel applicable to almost any kind of subdued situation, but has enough nuance to merit multiple listens. Striking lyrics cut harshly against soft acoustic guitar and not much else—"If I had a gun, if I had a knife, if I had your love if I was your wife," she sings, as gentle piano twinkles in the background.

Special Mention: LSD

Save yourself

LSD - It's Time (Official Audio) ft. Sia, Diplo, Labrinth www.youtube.com

This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning LSD, the project of Sia, Diplo, and Labrinth, whose debut LP dropped this Friday. But unless you have a taste for poorly crafted, shamelessly algorithmic, and lyrically embarrassing pop music, spare yourself the pain and skip this one.


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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