Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nicki Minaj: Why Society’s Metaphorical Anaconda Wants Some, Hun

>> On Wednesday December 3rd, there was a last minute private event at Up & Down in NYC. The event was a listening party for Nicki Minaj’s upcoming album The Pinkprint, and various circumstances led me to be the one working the door. The guest list was limited but full of impressive names, and there were few to no problems with guests being turned away. There was one problem though – doors for the event opened at 8:30pm, and Miss Minaj was nowhere to be found. The bar inside kept guests occupied while I stood outside in the cold with some security guards, and at 10pm, Nicki finally arrived. I smiled at her as she walked by, and I’m not sure if it was the cold air or her refusal to acknowledge the help, but she looked right through me. It would have bothered me if the next exchange didn’t happen. She walked in, looked around, and immediately scoffed “There ain’t no food here?” before sending her manager running to the 24-hour pizza place down the block. She may be a diva, but she knows what she wants and she’s honest about it. She really won’t miss meals (See “Anaconda” lyrics). Finally, someone I can respect.


>> Nicki Minaj released her debut studio album, titled Pink Friday, in late 2010 and her name hasn’t left society’s collective mouth for very long since. Minaj has done a myriad of things over the years to keep it that way. This includes performing at the 2011 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in one of her many brightly colored wig and outfit combinations, a performance that brilliantly showed off her affinity for both music and style. She has also launched an exclusive clothing line with K-Mart, a perfume whose bottle is in the shape of Nicki herself (below), her own brand of Moscato (MYX Fusions), and has therefore become an entrepreneur in her own right. She’s been on talk shows, late night TV as an interviewee and a performer, and she’s had a song featured on one of those Fearless Records “Punk Goes Pop” compilations – the fourth volume to be precise. Between all of this and that hilarious song “The Creep” with The Lonely Island (for which there is a video, and a great one at that) – it seems like Nicki has virtually done it all. This is something she addresses in her hit “Moment 4 Life:” “We done did everything they could think of / Greatness is what we on the brink of.”


>> Having just turned 32 a few days ago, it’s clear that Nicki has been gaining success as she gains life experience. But what makes her different from any other pop star? Others have seen similar levels of success, but what is it about Nicki Minaj that lets her stick around instead of fading out as another one hit wonder? Having the support of Young Money / Cash Money certainly doesn’t hurt, but there's more to it than that. I chalk her success up to strategy and branding. When she first started getting some attention musically, it was more than just the songs that made people stop and listen. First, female rappers exist but generally aren’t as popular as their male counterparts. Seeing someone like Nicki making music with and on the same level as artists like Drake and Lil Wayne automatically sets her apart from her peers. She even declares herself “the female Weezy” at the end of her single “Stupid Hoe."  The second way she stands out is through her presentation. Nicki has various characters that she uses in her songs, in guest spots on other artists’s songs, and in her videos. There’s a character with a cockney British accent and another that is essentially a living Barbie Doll. These wild characters plus her loud and unique style automatically make her an artist to keep an eye on, even just based on the curiosity over what she could do next.


>> When debuting her new album at that listening party at Up & Down, Nicki Minaj chose which songs she wanted to play for those in attendance. She skipped the already well-known singles and focused on the tracks that she thought were more content-heavy. When it came to “Only,” she purposefully chose a clean edit of the track to play and after a few seconds, she grabbed the mic and rapped in the expletives before moving on to songs we hadn’t heard yet. Seeing how much each song meant to her and seeing her not be able to resist singing along to her own music really stuck with me. The same thing goes for her demanding food upon her arrival. It was a dramatic moment, but it gave me an appreciation for that line in “Anaconda” because even though it sounds silly, it’s a fact. She isn’t missing meals, whether or not she’s already running late for her own event. Jokingly or seriously, Nicki raps about her reality, and it’s something worth acknowledging. We see her beautifully tackle the most personal of topics like love and loss on The Pinkprint, and hopefully fans will get to see a different side of this versatile artist as a result.


>> Sure, she’s a diva. She knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to ask for – no, to demand it – and there’s something significant in that. Her lyrics, videos, and persona(s) exude confidence, and it’s a confidence that demands respect. Nicki Minaj is an artist, whether or not tracks like the ‘in your face’ “Anaconda” are interpreted as art or click bait. The beauty in Nicki’s strategy is that hooking people in with a song and video combination like “Anaconda” gets them invested for when her deeper and more genuine songs like “All Things Go” and “Bed of Lies” come out. After hearing her forthcoming album, it’s more than obvious that there’s more in her songs than the fact that she has a great ass (although that’s still fairly crucial). She raps and sings about losing loved ones, the struggles she’s endured on the road to success, and other very personal matters. There are still dance songs and tracks that demand an “oh snap!” from the listener, but The Pinkprint is much more than that. As an artist, Nicki is much more than that. Mega pop hits like like “Starships” and “Super Bass,” seemingly created just for the sake of having hits, were just the building blocks of the Minaj Empire. The Pinkprint is Minaj’s throne.
Long may she reign.

- Kate Russell



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Friday, December 5, 2014

The College Experience with Ashley Kervabon

>> Hello, all! We haven't shared a story recently, and I want to get back in the swing of things. In case you're new to the feature, here's a brief explanation of what I'm after:  The College Experience is my way of discussing the pros and cons of taking steps to have a career while still being a student, or how the desire to be involved with the music industry could interfere with the pursuit of a degree.  I'll be asking a selection of folks the same basic questions regarding their school, their role in the industry, their struggles, and their goals.  I'll also ask about each person's individual projects, whether they are photographers, musicians, aspiring publicists, writers, promoters, and the like. I think it'll be interesting to see how each of us deals with the difficulties of balancing  and prioritizing the various obstacles we face as students with big ambitions.

>> Today we're highlighting Ashley Kervabon, a recent college grad who is looking to find a job in the industry while actively pursuing a career as a musician.  Before graduating, Ashley held internships with the likes of Atlantic Records and MTV, and now she's focusing on making her music the best it can be and getting it out there. Read about her experience of making contacts, exploring different areas, and ultimately deciding to focus on what she loves most below.



Please state your name, age, what school you attended, your major, and what year you graduated.
​Ashley Kervabon, 22, Hunter College Graduate 2014, Major: Media, Minor: Spanish ​

When and how did you first get involved with the music scene?
I first became involved with music when I was ten years old and started taking piano lessons. From then on I picked up the bass guitar and most recently singing and songwriting. As far as the scene goes, I started going to shows when I was 17.

​ If you got involved at a relatively early age, were age restricted shows ever a problem?
​Age restricted ​shows were definitely an issue and unfortunately still are. I have a lot of underage friends who aren't allowed to go to my shows. It's a shame that venues are so worried about selling drinks and making money rather than spreading music with a large crowd.

Now that you're out of college, has that aspect gotten easier? Are things more accessible to you now?
​In terms of age restriction, things are definitely easier for me. However I wouldn't say it has all gotten easier. Some shows cost money and though I am completely for paying cover charges in support of the band who is playing, sometimes a drink minimum makes the outing a little out of budget for a recent college grad/musician. ​

Do you find that you have more or less free time generally now that you’ve graduated?
​Now that I am working nights at a restaurant it is a bit harder to attend shows and when I am not working I am rehearsing with my own band so my free time is very limited and varies upon the week. 

What experiences have you had so far in the industry?
​I've had several internships during college in the music industry which were all a blast and I would say they were probably the best thing about my college years. After college I've just been trying to make new connections and keep in touch with the ones that I already have.

What did you get out of each of those experiences?
​Contacts are definitely a huge plus. I think everyone's success story starts with someone that already know believing in them. ​

Are there any companies in the industry that you particularly admire? Whether they’re companies you’ve worked with or just companies you follow, what appeals to you about them?
​I don't want to pinpoint companies but I will say this, anyone working in the music industry is amazing in my book. It's an industry that is always changing and never rests. I admire anyone who can keep up with that. ​

Being actively involved in the music industry, how often were you tempted to skip class or put off an assignment in order to attend / play a show? Or, how often have you put off real life responsibilities in favor of musical pursuits? How do you make the choice?
​Being honest, I've always put my music career (as an artist) first. Physically I would be in class but my mind was always elsewhere. There are lots of good lyrics in the back of my old psychology notebooks. Making the choice was always easy for me because I'm confident of my music career but I can see how some people would be conflicted. ​

Have you ever arranged your schedule based on music related obligations? / Have you ever had to turn something down or reschedule something based on your school schedule?
​I don't think I've ever had to reschedule. I would always work around it and again, if I had to pick one I would pick playing a show. ​

Were you often faced with tough choices when it comes to priorities and scheduling as a student also involved in the music industry?
​It was annoying to have to go to class in the midst of writing a song but other than that I could work around it.

Did you struggle with roommates? Did not having enough space ever get in the way?
​I never dormed but even having bandmates in different boroughs makes things sometimes complicated. Living in such a big city (with small apartments) has it's pros and cons. The good thing is that there are plenty of decently priced rehearsal studios that make life a lot easier.

​What was one of the biggest obstacles you've faced while trying to progress your career while still in school? Did you face many tough obstacles like that, or did being in school help you take those next steps?
​I think being in school gave me enough time to figure out in what direction to go in.. ​

Which direction is that, the direction of focusing on your music?
I think that school gave me time to figure out what I didn't want and what I did want in regards to my future. I know that I want to be in the music business, ideally as a songwriter and performer. Though my PR internships were fun and I learned a lot, that's just not my main focus right now.

Ideally, what would you like to do next with your music?
As for what's next, just playing a lot of shows in and out of NYC as well as recording a demo with my band Queen of Wands.
How did being in college help you advance your involvement in the music industry? Do you think the pros of being in both simultaneously outweigh the cons?
​If i truly wanted to go into the business aspect of music I think I say that yes school helped me a bunch but as a musician I sometimes wish I had used that time to take more music oriented classes (voice lessons, etc.). ​

Do you think it's been beneficial to start your career in the music industry while you're still in school?
​I think if you know what you want definitely start ASAP. It won't always be easy but it's definitely worth it.

​What have you been up to since graduation?
​I've been going on interviews here and there for assistant positions in the music business but have mostly been focusing on writing new material for my solo career and most recently performing with my new band Queen of Wands. ​

What would you say to someone debating how to pursue a career in the industry while still in school? What advice would you give to a younger you?
​I would say just go for it! People talk a lot of shit about the music business but if it's what you really want, once you get involved it'll be so rewarding! ​




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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

DJ Earworm Releases 2014 'United State of Pop' Mash-Up

>> Since 2007, DJ Earworm has taken some of the biggest pop songs of the year and combined them into annual energetic and thematic mash-ups.  This year's theme is "Do What You Wanna Do" and features songs from Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Iggy Azalea, Pharell, Jessie J, John Legend, and more.  DJ Earworm recently spoke with Billboard about the difficulties and differences in creating this year's mash-up. All challenges aside, he was able to come up with a track that will leave listeners with a positive feeling. You can read his interview here, and you can watch the video for the 2014 United State of Pop Mash-Up below.


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Monday, December 1, 2014

Iggy Azalea Releases Lyric Video for "Beg For It"

>> Iggy Azalea recently released a lyric video for her new song "Beg For It."  The song comes from the rapper's Reclassified album which features hits like "Black Widow," "Change Your Life," and more. Watch the lyric video below.



>> Iggy recently performed "Beg For It" and her smash "Fancy" at the 2014 American Music Awards.  You can see a video of that performance with Charli XCX below.


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New Music Video: "The Ocean" by Manchester Orchestra

>> Manchester Orchestra have released a music video for "The Ocean." The song comes from the band's latest album HOPE, a revised and stripped down reworking of their COPE album which was released earlier this year.  The music video premiered on Conan O'Brian's teamcoco website and features black and white footage of William Trubridge, a world record holding deep sea diver. Watch the video below, or at teamcoco.com

>> You can catch Manchester Orchestra on the remainder of their HOPE tour through the month of December. Dates and locations listed below:


12/3 - Irish American Heritage Center - Chicago, IL
12/5 - Patriot Center - Fairfax, VA
12/6 - Temple Performing Arts Center - Philadelphia, PA
12/7 - Center Church On The Green - New Haven, CT
12/8 - Arts At The Armory - Somerville, MA
12/9 - The Bell House - Brooklyn NY
12/11 - Memminger Auditorium - Charleston, SC
12/12 - Hayti Heritage Center - Durham, NC
12/13 - Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns - McMinnville, TN



- Mitchell Allen

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

New Music Video: "Hate To See Your Heart Break" by Paramore feat. Joy Williams

>> Paramore released a new black and white video for "Hate To See Your Heart Break" featuring Joy Williams (formerly of The Civil Wars).  The video shows both Williams, the unrelated Hayley and Joy, recording and having fun in the studio.  The song is from Paramore's Self-Titled Deluxe album, and the video can be seen below.




>> The Paramore Deluxe Edition is out now! The deluxe features this duet as well as bonus tracks, live recordings, and more.  You can get it on iTunes or stream it through Rdio.



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