Over the past couple of years, couples have been recording duets across the pop music spectrum.
In 2019 Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes recorded “Señorita” and dished up a couple of steamy performances at the MTV Video Music Awards and at the American Music Awards. The two became a couple around the time they recorded the song and remain so.
Halsey and Yungblud covered Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” when they were dating in early 2019. They broke up later that year, but the chemistry in this video is clear. Halsey wrote my favorite song of her’s, “Finally / Beautiful Stranger”, about their relationship. See that video on my Lizzo, Dua and Halsey post from last year.
Finally, and more recently, rapper turned rocker (at least at the moment) Machine Gun Kelly released this video of “Bloody Valentine” featuring his girlfriend, Megan Fox. Travis Barker of Blink-182, co-wrote, produced and played drums on the track, and the song – as well as much of Kelly’s Tickets to My Downfall album, reflect the influence. OK, this isn’t technically a duet – they just fake it – whatever.
2020 was chock full of hit singles by woman artists from Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion to Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Taylor Swift, and the list goes on. But rising to #3 on Rolling Stone’s Songs of the Year, and #1 on Time Magazine’s list, is “People, I’ve Been Sad” by Christine and the Queens. Christine and the Queens, though sometimes simply Chris, is the stage name of French singer, songwriter, producer Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier.
I first saw her perform a couple of years ago, watching one of those Jools Holland shows that runs and re-runs on MTV Live. Here’s the official video of “Tilted”, the song I saw her perform, featuring her signature combination of hypnotic pop music and creative choreography. “Tilted” was the top single from her first studio album, 2014’s Chaleur humaine (Human Warmth).
Here’s a live performance of “Girlfriend” from the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. The song is from her second full-length album, 2018’s Chris. After watching this, you’re gonna want to see her in concert once we can do that sort of thing again.
Finally, here’s the choreography-free video for “People, I’ve Been Sad”. Released in February 2020 it arrived just in time to channel the loneliness of the pandemic year, though clearly written from pain that preceded recent events.
On Christmas Day, bluegrass legend Tony Rice passed away. His career began 50 years ago, and he helped define the progressive end of the genre. Here is Tony on stage in 1988 with a group of young musicians who have become legends in their own rights.
The banjo player on stage is Bela Fleck, who would form the progressive jazz group Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in that same year of 1988. The fellow with the awesome hat is Roy “Future Man” Wooten, playing percussion on the SynthAxeDrumitar. His incredible brother Victor is on bass.
The dobro player on stage is Jerry Douglas, the undisputed master of that instrument. He’s played with artists ranging from Dolly Parton to Ray Charles to Elvis Costello, and is a regular member of Alison Krauss and Union Station. Here’s Jerry interpreting Paul Simon’s “American Tune”.
The fiddle player on stage is Mark O’Connor, who has recorded 45 albums in as many years. His recordings have made the classical, jazz, country and bluegrass charts. Here’s O’Connor playing with the Boston Pops.
And lest we get away without paying enough attention to Tony Rice, here he plays “Shenandoah” after an intro music lesson. Skip to 1:40 if you want to bypass the lesson, but don’t skip the beautiful guitar playing.
The 2021 Grammy nominations were announced on Tuesday, and rather than the big news being who wasnominated, the buzz has been about who was snubbed. High level – sales and popularity don’t count for much.
Tops on the snub list is The Weeknd. His single “Blinding Lights” from After Hours set a new record for most weeks in Billboard’s top 10, 40, and the video below has been viewed nearly 300 million times on YouTube. Nary a Grammy nom for The Weeknd. Maybe it’s all the blood.
K-pop superstars BTS released their first single in English this year, and the video has been watched 650 million times on YouTube. In fact, the video broke the YouTube record for most concurrent viewers when it debuted – over 3 million. The song earned them their first Grammy nomination, in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance catagory, but nothing more.
Getting a lot of press today for her negative comments on the Grammy process, Halsey has never been nominated for a Grammy for her own music. Her third studio album Manic, released in January of this year, was her best seller out of the blocks. It includes “Without Me”, her top single of all time that has racked up nearly 500 million views.
My last post was about Elton John’s Jewel Box collection due out in two weeks, but this past Friday Joni Mitchell beat him to the market with a 5-disk box set of her own. Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967) features her very earliest recordings and wraps up before the release of her first album, 1968’s Song to a Seagull.
Rolling Stone has a nice article on the box set that links to an August 1965 recording of Joni’s first original composition, “Day After Day”. Joni had been singing folk songs in cafes in her native Calgary, and this song, her vocals and guitar playing sound very much born out of that background.
Less than two years later, in March 1967, Joni recorded this performance of “Both Sides Now”. It was not long after Mitchell had written the song and about the same time Judy Collins released her Grammy Award winning version. Witness Mitchell’s rapid evolution as a writer, lyricist, singer, and musician with a unique style as you compare this performance to “Day After Day”.
Apologies to Joni for bringing up Elton John twice in her post, but since announcing his Jewel Box collection, Sir Elton put out a really special recording not included in that set. “Come Down in Time” from Tumbleweed Connection, an album celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is a personal favorite. This jazz version apparently was recorded before the album version, and it features an extended jazz improvisation.