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Big Data brings Internet paranoia to the pop charts

“It’s totally creepy,” Big Data mastermind Alan Wilkis says, “the idea of being able to stalk people on Facebook and Twitter and whatever, and kind of learn more about strangers than you should be able to know and how easy that is. You can wind up on a total stranger’s page and then you’re looking at photos of their wedding and their children and stuff, and it’s like, I shouldn’t be allowed to see this.”

Wilkis’ discomfort over the erosion of privacy that social platforms like Facebook have engendered (and which Facebook and the NSA, among many others, have exploited for their own purposes) is one of the biggest influences on the music he makes. In fact, he ranks it above any strictly musical inspiration. He calls Big Data’s aesthetic approach “techy and paranoid,” and one of the first of his efforts to attract serious attention was an interactive music video that builds, in real time, a 3-D virtual sculpture out of photos and text scraped from your Facebook account. Seeing it create itself out of bits of your personal life, it’s not hard to share some of Wilkis’s unease.

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Jim Greer releases life-affirming single 'I Will Belong'

As a producer and one half of the multi-instrumentalist duo the Rondo Brothers, Jim Greer has worked alongside acts like Foster the People, Galactic, and Yoko Ono, but the untimely loss of his three-year-old son to pediatric cancer almost drove him to quit music entirely. His new album Little Wings, which he’s releasing under the stage name Jim on Aug. 31, documents his struggle through the experience and will benefit the Teddy Berger-Greer Neuroblastoma Research Fund, which Greer set up through the nonprofit Pablove Foundation for pediatric cancer.

The album’s lead single, “I Will Belong,” highlights how despite the serious subject matter, Greer’s continuing to make uplifting music. “I wrote it as a mantra after spending over 100 nights in a hospital,” he says. “At that point, I needed to remind myself that I would not be beaten by the cancer my son was fighting, and that I would be able to once again participate in life.  For me, the song fuses hope with anger in a way I’ve never experienced.”

Ariana Grande, Jessie J, and Nicki Minaj to open VMAs with 'Bang Bang'

Bang Bang” is moving from your earbuds to the TV screen: Ariana Grande, Jessie J, and Nicki Minaj will open Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards with a performance of the song.
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Zammuto embraces catharsis and destruction in 'IO' video

Maintaining forward momentum in your life means finding ways to resolve problems that don’t always have easy solutions. Sometimes you have to force the issue closed, and sometimes that can require drastic measures. Recently, “collage-pop” artist Nick Zammuto struck upon a particularly novel method of working out your issues: by loading physical objects that represent them into an enormous catapult and flinging them to their doom.

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Action Bronson is an acidhead outlaw biker in the 'Easy Rider' video

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 Action Bronson is apparently a B-movie fan as well as a rapper and professional food lover. The video for “The Symbol” from his 2012 mixtape Rare Chandeliers was a loving tribute to the lowest of low-budget ’70s grindhouse action cinema that featured Bronson rocking a truly memorable wig.

A couple weeks ago he dropped “Easy Rider,” the first single from his upcoming official debut album Mr. Wonderful, which boasts several references to dropping acid and some face-melting psych-rock guitar licks, and the accompanying video fittingly enough casts the rapper as an LSD-loving outlaw biker.  READ FULL STORY

Hear BLKKATHY's slanted experimental pop on 'Rob You'

BLKKATHY

Brooklyn duo BLKKATHY sit at a unique confluence of R&B, experimental electronic music, and K Records-brand eccentric indie pop. Added together, it’s a bit like a more accessible, less aggressively quirky tUnE-yArDs—combined with lyrics that are by turn emotionally raw and mordantly funny. There’s a lot on their SoundCloud that can “make your booty bounce and ruin your makeup,” per their mission statement. READ FULL STORY

Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Nicki Minaj's butt star in 'Anaconda' video

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“Oh, my, gosh, look at her butt,” Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” instructs—and in the music video for the song, viewers have no choice but to do just that.

When Minaj isn’t jiggling, she’s dancing on a wildly impressed Drake, letting her dancers fawn over her, and playing around in the kitchen with whipped cream and bananas. Clearly, there is no suggestive imagery in this video. None at all. READ FULL STORY

Listen to the B*Witched comeback album you didn't know existed

This is not a drill: B*Witched released an album in April 2014.

I’ll let that sink in. April 2014. It’s now August. That means that for the past three to four months, there have been six new B*Witched songs just floating around in existence that fill a bubblegum pop void few people were aware needed filling.

The details: Back in December 2013, the four-member Irish dance-pop group began offering their new EP—Champagne or Guinness—to fans on PledgeMusic, the music-only answer to Kickstarter. In addition to the EP, they sold studio visits, dance classes, and other fun Irish things. In April, the entire thing dropped, and it’s… glorious. Entirely. The first single, “Love & Money,” was released way back in 2013 as something of a tease to the new material. It’s certainly rocking more of a modern vibe than the group’s old stuff, as if all four members turned into little Kelly Clarksons in the interim:

The new single, “The Stars Are Ours,” appears to be the first proper single in anticipation of a wide album drop this September. If you’ve ever thought, “Wow, I wonder what B*Witched would sound like if they recorded a song with Avicii at a pub,” then proceed:

The title track “Champagne or Guinness” is more like the get-up-and-jig anthem you’ve been waiting 15 years for, with a little “Call Me Maybe” string section to it.

“Waiting All This Time” is a little less intense in its EDM breakdown, but still a sheer delight. It’s like waiting for the bass to drop at the loveliest garden party you’ve ever attended.

I have less to say about “Fighting For the Drop,” which is definitely the song you would skip but which is still perfectly acceptable because IT’S A NEW B*WITCHED ALBUM.

And of course, the ballad “We’ve Forgotten How,” which would make for a really great soundtrack during the part of any ’90s teen movie when there’s a really sad misunderstanding between Mandy Moore and her onscreen love interest.

Who is B*Witched, you ask? You’ll remember the group every time someone says the phrase “C’est La Vie,” the name of the band’s silly 1998 pop song that was aimed at kids but was apparently really about sex the whole time. They followed up with “Rollercoaster,” “To You I Belong,” and the most important cover of “Mickey” ever recorded for Bring It On. The group sold over 3 million albums at the height of their success in 2002, then split up soon afterwards. In 2006, two of the members—sisters Edele and Keavy Lynch—began a duo sister act, but in October 2012, the group reunited for a British reality show. And now they’ve officially returned.

Welcome back, girls. C’est la freaking vie.

Watch BLKHRTS party hard in their 'Porties' video

BLKHRTS

Denver’s BLKHRTS are part of an insurgent movement that’s given hip-hop its own version of punk rock, overflowing with anarchic energy and intensely distorted sounds. They’re a little more gothed out than the other acts that fall under the umbrella of “noise rap,” like CLPPNG and the recently disbanded Death Grips. In an interview with their hometown alt-weekly, the Denver Westword, the group’s producer Yonnas Abraham–who makes the band’s beats on an outdated, not entirely functional, 20-year-old sampler–calls himself, “obsessed with romance, obsessed with death, and obsessed with the color black.”

BLKHRTS goth tendencies come through loud and clear on “Porties,” where they rap about romantic complications over a beat that samples Bauhaus’ “She’s In Parties.” The video, with its moody, high-contrast visuals and party-hardy action, sums up the group’s mission nicely.

NFL asks Rihanna, others to pay to play the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl halftime show is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, audiences an artist will ever get. That’s probably why performers agree to do the show for free year after year. But what happens if artists are asked to pay for the privilege of performing at the big game?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the NFL is considering three candidates to provide entertainment at the 2015 Super Bowl: Katy Perry, Coldplay, and Rihanna. And when reaching out to these artists, the NFL reportedly asked if any of the acts “would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig.” Apparently, the stars’ representative did not take kindly to the idea.

As of now, no lineup has been set for the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show, which will air on Feb. 1, 2015.

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