The mid-to-late ’90s were a pretty weird time for music. Hip-hop, alternative rock, and dance music all found themselves suddenly, unexpectedly elevated from underground styles to the top of the pop charts, and it inspired a lot of musicians working in one of those styles to reach out to artists in the others. While today we take this sort of cross-genre collaboration for granted, at the time it was a fairly new concept. And as with most new concepts, there was a period where everyone was trying to figure out exactly what to do with it, resulting in a lot of awkward moments captured on tape.
First, he produced the title track for Chris Brown’s upcoming sixth album. “X,” out earlier this week, shows a heavy Diplo-bass-drop-hand, and it’s a pretty awesome departure for Brown. (Note: It is only with much hesitation that I ever put “Chris Brown” and “awesome” in the same sentence.)
Also, this is just the beginning of what is about to be an onslaught of Diplo collaborations and projects, he’s also been working with Madonna, Skrillex (new Jack U alert), Ty Dolla $ign, Lorde, and Usher. Assuming they’re all as good as the song below, you’ll want to find your way to a dancefloor this fall.
This week also saw the announcement of a new title in his cache: TV Producer. His Major Lazer cartoon, about a “Rasta superhero,” will debut on Fox in 2015—its launch coinciding with the release of the third Major Lazer album. Each episode will come with a soundtrack and feature collaborations with RiFF RAFF and Cat Power. Diplo threw up some artwork on his Instagram, and fans (judging by the hundreds of comments) went nuts.
Major Lazer increasingly feels like the center of gravity for Diplo. He spoke at length in an interview with The Fader this week about his love of dancehall and reggae—how he’s been exposed to it since he was very young, growing up in South Florida, the time he spent in Jamaica as an adult producing his own music and the inspiration he found in Bob Marley and Lee Perry. (Referencing those gentlemen, he says, “It was like the most fascinating music to me, so crazy sounding production-wise and the music was melancholy and really beautiful.”) By the end of the interview, it becomes apparent that Major Lazer is, in many ways, his most natural project and the most appropriate musical extension of himself.
On the live music front:
The Mad Decent Block Party rolled through Denver.
The next day, Diplo had a donut on his way out of town.
… And then found himself and a bunch of random people in Nashville.
And then headed back west. First for Major Lazer Night Swim at XS Las Vegas,
and then to work the Emmy Party circuit where he hung out with the original Don.
Then he flew a plane, somewhere.
As predicted, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” debuted at number one on the Hot 100 this week after racking up over 500 thousand copies sold and 50 million YouTube plays since it dropped 10 days ago, not to mention the fact that it’s dominating pop radio. Swift’s also number one on Billboard‘s new Artist 100 chart, which combines performance across the Hot 100, the Billboard 200 album chart, and the Internet-centric Social 50 chart.
Also as expected, Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” is sitting right below it, having leapt from number 39 after the release of its thoroughly surreal and deeply salacious video. Despite the fact that “Anaconda”‘s visual has blasted “Shake” out of the water in terms of virality, Nicki’s only at number three on the Artist 100, right behind Wiz Khalifa.
Like any good act worthy of being called an overnight sensation, artist/DJ/producer Dillon Francis has seemingly materialized out of nowhere after many years of hard work. His debut album, Money Sucks, Friends Rule, is due out Oct. 28 (pre-order is available here) and anticipation has been steadily growing as he’s toured with his Mad Decent label-mates all summer. An open-format electronic DJ, Francis’ debut effort includes many cross-genre collaborations, including DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, Twista, Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie, The Presets and Major Lazer.
EW reached out to Dillon asking him, like those who’ve come before him, to make us a playlist—any occasion, any theme, any format. In return, Dillon gave us this: “Songs to listen to if me, Michael Fassbender, Shailene Woodley, and Chloe Moretz starred in the remake of Goonies.” His musical selections and commentary are below.
Miley Cyrus might make more headlines than Mariah Carey—but if we’re talking ultimate pop stardom, Mariah wins. (Surprise.)
Time looked at every song that’s been in the Billboard Top 10 since 1960, the number of hits by each artist present on that list, and how long those musicians’ careers have lasted, and used that information to determine which artists are ultimately the most successful pop-hit generators. The final product is a colorful infographic that proves Michael Jackson had a consistently successful career from 1971 to 1995, while Santana’s career, though long, hasn’t been witness to nearly as many hits.
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Larkin Poe is a duo from Atlanta comprised of sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell and named for a distant relative who was himself distantly related to Edgar Allen Poe. The sisters share an infatuation with roots sounds, frequently incorporating traditional song structures and instruments like the mandolin and Dobro into their music, but they also boast strong pop instincts. On Oct. 14, they’ll release their new album, Kin, in Restoration Hardware stores, with a broader release a week later. The first single, “Don’t,” pulls from rock’s earliest days, mixing it with a stomping glam rock beat and a country-inflected pop melody.
In the span of just a few years, Ty Segall has put out seven albums, a handful of collaborative LPs, and so many singles, guest appearances, compilation tracks, and assorted other releases that even he’s probably lost count. His latest, Manipulator, was released this past Tuesday, almost exactly a year after his last album, Sleeper, a deeply personal and largely acoustic record about fraught family relationships. The new one finds him back in full-on rock mode, exploding with a generous amount of sweet hooks and heavy guitar riffing, and is equally capable of satisfying pop fans and van-driving, dope-smoking hard rockers alike.
In the lead-up to Manipulator’s release, EW got Segall on the phone to talk about the album, its inspiration, and how he manages to stay so prolific.
After reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart with her haters-gonna-hate track “Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift released an “outtakes” video of the shoot. But don’t expect too many pratfalls from Swift.
Billboard reported today that the already ubiquitous “Shake It Off” debuted in first place, beating out Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” which came in second. The news prompted Swift to tweet: “I can’t thank radio and you all enough for the Hot 100 #1! But I can give you this video of Shake It Off outtakes.”
The outtakes video, which is apparently just the first of multiple videos to be released, is a behind the scenes look into the making of the divisive “Shake It Off” rather than a blooper reel. In fact, Swift appears more put-together here talking about her theories on coolness than she does in the actual music video, which features her goofily trying to keep up with professional dancers. The outtakes do, however, reveal some new information about Swift. What the world learned about Swift today: Selling “millions of records” doesn’t make her “feel cool,” she hates running, and she makes this face.
LA’s Allah-Las are one of the few bands in existence that can come off as brain-meltingly psychedelic and totally chill at the exact same time. With the jangly guitars and vocal harmonies of a ’60s folk rock group and the hippie-fied, mind-expanding quality of a Carlos Castaneda book, they’ve spent the past few years instigating a cosmic takeover of the underground garage rock scene.
Their latest single, “Buffalo Nickel,” from their upcoming sophomore album Worship the Sun (out Sept. 16 on Innovative Leisure), is a fantastic place to jump on their trip. The video, made using the same handmade stop-motion techniques that were popular 50 years ago, makes a perfect accompaniment to the song’s slightly rough-hewn psychedelia.
Big Data, a.k.a. Alan Wilkis, spends a lot of time thinking about heavy stuff, like the erosion of our privacy and how companies and the government exploit it. That admittedly paranoid worldview permeates pretty much everything he makes—including his song “Dangerous” and its hysterically gory video.
On the other hand, he’s also a pretty hardcore pop guy, and his sensibilities are accessible enough to land “Dangerous” at the top of the alternative rock charts. That side comes through loud and clear on the playlist that he put together for EW. Acts like Jungle and William Onyeabor that he chose aren’t exactly household names, but there’s an approachable, playful quality in pretty much all of his picks. The other major theme is that the tracks combine traditional instruments with electronics, a hybrid aesthetic that he himself works in. All in all it reflects his ability to challenge listeners in a way that they’ll actually enjoy.
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