Tag: NBC

Live Footage: Bilal and The Roots Perform Politically-Charged Single “It Ain’t Fair” on NPR Tiny Desk Concert

Currently comprised of founding members Tariq  “Black Thought” Trotter (vocals), Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (drums), along with Kamal Gray (keys), “Captain” Kirk Douglas (guitar), Damon Bryson, a.k.a. Tuba Gooding, Jr. (sousaphone, tuba), Mark Kelley (bass), James Poyster (keys), Stro Elliot (production, sampling), The Roots can trace their origins back to when its founding duo met while attending The Philadelphia High School of the Creative and Performing Arts. As the story goes, Trotter and Thompson would busk on street corners — with Thompson playing bucket drums and Trotter rhyming over Thompson’s rhythms, and by 1989, the played their first organized gig at their high school’s talent show under the name Radio Activity.

After a series of name changes including Black to the Future and The Square Roots, the duo eventually settled on The Roots, after discovering that a local folk group went by The Square Roots.  As they were building up a local profile, the duo expanded into a full-fledged band with the addition of Josh “The Rubberband” Adams, who later went on to form The Josh Abrams Quartet; MC Malik Abdul “Malik B.” Basit-Smart, Leonard Nelson “Hub” Hubbard (bass); Scott Storch (keys); MC Kenyatta “Kid Crumbs” Warren, who was in the band for the recording sessions for Organix, the band’s full-length debut; and MC Dice Raw, who made cameos on later albums. And although the band has gone through a number of lineup changes since the release of their debut, The Roots throughout the course of their critically applauded, 10 independently released albums, two EPs and two collaborative albums have developed a reputation for a sound that effortlessly meshes live, organic instrumentation featuring a jazz, funk and soul approach with hip-hop, essentially becoming one of the genre’s first true bands. Additionally, throughout their lengthy history together, the members of The Roots have developed a long-held reputation for collaborating with a diverse and expanding list of artists across a wide array of genres and styles, revealing an effortless ability to play anything at any time.

Of course, unless you’ve been living in a remote Tibetan monastery or in a cave, The Roots have been the house band for NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon from 2009-2014 and for presently being the house band The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, further expanding their profile into the national and international consciousness. And while being extraordinarily busy, the members of The Roots have been busy working on their 9th Wonder and Salaam Remi-produced 17th full-length album End Game, as well as contributing a politically charged track to the Detroit soundtrack, “It Ain’t Fair,” a collaboration with the renowned soul singer/songwriter Bilal.

Born Bilal Sayeed Oliver, Bilal is a Philadelphia, PA-born, New York-based soul singer/songwriter, best known by the mononym Bilal. Throughout his career, he’s received praise for his wide vocal range, work across multiple genres, his live performances and for collaborating with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Common, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Guru, Kimbra, J. Dilla, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, the aforementioned The Roots and others with his full-length debut 1st Born Second, which featured contributions from Soulquarians and production from Dr. Dre and J. Dilla being a commercial and critical success, peaking at number 31 on the Billboard 200 charts and receiving comparisons to Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Prince and Curtis Mayfield.  Although since then, the renowned singer/songwriter has developed an increasing reputation for his work becoming much more avant-garde and genre-defying.

Interestingly enough, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Damon Bryson, a.k.a. Tuba Gooding, Jr. of The Roots and Bilal, along with a horn section went down to NPR Tiny Desk in Washington, DC to perform “It Ain’t Fair,” a deeply reflective song that thematically and lyrically makes a thoughtful nod towards Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On?, Syl Johnson’s Is It Because I’m Black? and others, as its creators unflinchingly and fearlessly call out a societal construct that denies a group of people the equality, dignity and decency that they too deserve. The song’s creators manage to empathetically offer a glimpse into the hearts and souls of those who love this country and would like to stand for the flag but simply can’t until the evils of inequality, racism and supremacy no longer exist — and when this great country actually lives up the ideals it claims it stands for. 

As I mentioned on Facebook, I was recently in Philadelphia for business related to my day job, and as I walked from my hotel in Center City through Old City, past The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, I recognized that I was walking on many of the streets that the Framers once walked on, as I’ve done several times before. I could picture ol’ Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Hancock, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and so on, in their powered wigs and wool coats during that hot summer of 1776. And the song managed to remind me of the bitter and uneasy sadness I had begun to feel, remembering that the Framers, who could write about man’s inalienable rights given to him by God, didn’t see those same rights applying to anyone, who remotely looked like I do (or anyone, who wasn’t a man, or a property owner, etc.); that their independence, their revolution was never mine. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the pledge allegiance to the flag just didn’t apply to me.

If I go back just five generations ago, my ancestors on both sides of my family were slaves. Five generations ago wasn’t that long ago in the overall scheme of things — we’re talking about the parents of my great-grandparents. And on the streets of the City of Independence, I thought of the unfathomable horror and suffering they went through to justify someone else’s desire to be superior — and naturally, the song reminds me quite a bit of a lifelong bitter pill that’s so very difficult to swallow. 

So, if you’ve been frequenting this site for some time, you’d be familiar with Swedish singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and JOVM mainstay David Alexander and his solo electro pop/dream pop recording project Summer Heart. And with Summer Heart, Alexander has received international attention for a wistfully nostalgic sound that draws from 60s psych pop, 80s electro pop and lo-fi rock, and has been compared favorably to the likes of  CaribouWashed OutIn Ghost Colours-era Cut CopyPainted Palms and others. Interestingly, Alexander’s international profile has grown as a result of several songs being placed in TV series such as the NBC series, Whitney, which brought him and his work to the attention of millions of American TV viewers; but perhaps more important, the Swedish singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer is considering among the first wave of Malmo, Sweden‘s growing indie pop and dream pop scene — a scene that includes several internationally recognized acts (some of whom, you’ve heard about here), including MoonbabiesThe Land BelowHey ElbowBlind Lake and Emerald Park.

It’s been over a year since I’ve personally written about him but within that period the Malmo Sweden-based artist and producer has been very busy touring and writing and recording his latest effort, 101, which is slated for release next month — and while 101‘s latest single “Hotel Beds” will further Alexander’s reputation for crafting swooning pop as the single consists of a buoyant and summery production featuring shimmering synths, stuttering House music-leaning drum programming, boozy blasts of guitar and Alexander’s laconic falsetto paired with a anthemic and dance floor. But underneath the buoyant and breezy pop stylings is a bittersweet rumination on the life of a touring musician — and in a way the song feels much like a rushing blur from place to place, without really knowing how long you’ll be around. In fact, as the Swedish pop artist explains in press notes “‘Hotel Beds’ is about touring, going from city to city, hotel bed to hotel bed. About meeting new people every night. It’s about a feeling of being detached from reality. Don’t get me wrong. I love to tour but after a while, it becomes a big blur . . . the lyrics were written in the back of a tour bus. It was recorded in Stockholm, mixed in Brooklyn and mastered in Jersey City.”

 

 

 

 

Swedish singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Alexander and his solo dream pop/electro-pop Summer Heart has received international attention for a wistfully nostalgic, 60s psych pop-leaning, lo-fi sound that compares favorably to Caribou‘s earliest material, Washed Out, In Ghost Colours-era Cut Copy, Painted Palms and others; in fact, his 2011 Please Stay EP received praise from The Guardian and The Star topped Hype Machine‘s charts. In his native Sweden, Alexander has a reputation for being a pioneer of Sweden’s burgeoning dream pop movement, a movement that includes MoonbabiesThe Land BelowHey ElbowBlind Lake and Emerald Park.

Interestingly, Alexander’s international profile has grown as several of his songs have appeared in TV series — including the NBC series, Whitney, which brought him the attention of millions of American TV viewers. Now, if you were frequenting this site last year, you might recall that I wrote about “Nothing Can Stop Us Now,” a song that consisted of jangling guitars, washboard-led percussion, layers of ethereal vocals and cascading synths with a warm buzzing summer afternoon warmth. His latest single “The Forbidden” off his forthcoming EP also named The Forbidden is a slow-burning and shoegaze-leaning single that pairs Alexander’s ethereal cooing with shimmering guitars and synths played through gentle amounts of reverb  and jazz-like drumming. And although the song evokes the sensation of waking up from a pleasant dream, just underneath its placid surface is a wistful melancholy that will remind the listener that all things will eventually dissipate.

Alexander along with a backing band featuring some of his dearest friends will be making Stateside appearances at SXSW and Williamsburg Brooklyn’s The Knitting Factory later this month. Check out tour dates below.

 

SXSW:

Wednesday 16th March

The Townsend – 1:05am

 

Saturday 19th March

Icenhauer’s – 1am

 

NYC:

Wednesday 23rd March

Live In Brooklyn – The Knitting Factory –

http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=6437785

 

Mikey Wax is a New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose profile has exploded nationally and internationally as a number of his singles and albums have achieved commercial success and placement in a number of major TV series. After “In Case I Go Again,” off his debut effort Change Again won South Florida-based WRMF 97.9 FM‘s Unsigned Artist contest, the song was featured on CBS‘s Ghost Whisperer, NBC‘s 2012 Summer Olympics coverage and ABC Family‘s Pretty Little Liars  — and the music video was featured as part of YouTube‘s Music Tuesday spotlight, which garnered over 500,000 views. Wax’s 2011 self-released sophomore effort Constant Motion landed at number 6 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter Chart, number 47 on Billboard Heatseekers Chart, with album single “Counting On You” receiving major radio airplay on major Adult Top 40 stations across the country.

As as a result of his rapid success, Wax was selected by New Music SeminarNew  as one of their “Artists on the Verge” and was featured by iHeartRadio as an “Artist To Watch” in 2012 — and “Counting On You” was featured during the elimination montage on every episode of Fox’So You Think You Can Dance that season. Additionally, the song was featured in the trailer for the major motion picture Playing for Keeps which lead to coverage from USA Today and Young Hollywood. “For Better Or Worse” was featured on Lifetime‘s Dance Moms while “So Crazy” appeared in a promo teaser for Brazilian TV network GNT, which led to the song charting on the Top 100 iTunes Pop Chart Brazil and a sub-publishing deal with Warner/Chappell South America.

 

The New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s self-titled, third full length effort was released in 2014 and featured “You Lift Me Up,” which debuted on iTunes US Top 200 Pop Charts and has since been placed on MTV‘s The Real World and The Challenge: The Battle of the Exes II, the season 10 promo for E! Entertainment‘s Keeping Up With The Kardashians and all Fox Sports NBA games throughout the second half of the 2015 season. Building on the success he’s received to date, Wax’s “Love Always Wins (#LoveWins)” was also featured on the promo for E! Entertainment’s I Am Cait and on the SoundHound app homepage.

I have to add that the New York-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has toured with the likes of Parachute, Andy Grammer, Jon McLaughlin, Matt Wertz, Rachel Platten, Howie Day, Tyler Ward, Ryan Cabrera, Tyler Hilton, Tony Lucca and others.

“Bottle of Jack,” Wax’s most recent single pairs Wax’s soulful vocals with a neo-soul-like arrangement of shimmering keyboard chords, loose and funky guitar chords, propulsive drumming, soaring synths and a sinuous bass line to craft an radio-friendly pop confection that has its narrator describing the sensation of being in love to drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels. And at points, it certainly can feel that way! In any case, Achtabahn released a house music remix of “Bottle of Jack” that pairs Wax’s effortlessly soulful vocals with a warm, Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk production consisting of a sinuous bass line, warm blasts of Nile Rodgers-like guitar shimmering neo-soul like keys, handclap-led percussion, swirling electronics, bleeps and bloops and wobbling, tweeter and woofer wobbling drops that makes the song dance floor friendly while retaining the radio-friendly pop confection spirit of the original.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas-born, New York-based singer/songwriter Melany Watson has been performing music for as long as she can probably remember — but she can trace the origins of her music career to two particular events: performing in school choirs and touring the Southeast Texas Ol’ Opry circuit alongside her mother, as the mother and daughter country music duo Melva Lee and Melany. According to Watson, her own artistic self-discovery was inspired by Whitney Houston and The Bodyguard soundtrack, and a lengthy list of 90s R&B vocalists, which naturally opened a new world of expression to her. After singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” at a local karaoke bar when she was 12, Watson had what she has called an epiphany — that she was singing and performing the music she had to devote her life to. And as a result, Watson realized that she needed to set out on her own path.

So far Watson has had quite an accomplished career, as she’s performed at PBSChristmas at Belmont with Trisha Yearwood while as an undergrad at Belmont University, was a Top 100 Finalist during Season 6 of NBC‘s The Voice and she recently backed YouTube pop sensation Tori Kelly during Kelly’s performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy FallonAnd among some within the music industry, Watson has been compared favorably to Etta James, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and others — but with a country music leaning towards lyrics that tell stories informed by her own experiences.

“Illuminate,” the first single off Watson’s forthcoming EP, Lilith in Virgo pairs Watson’s effortlessly soulful vocals with a slick, modern production comprised of skittering percussion, shimmering synths, swirling electronics and twinkling piano chords in a way that meshes 90s inspired R&B and soul, contemporary electro pop and a very subtle nod to the country music that Watson grew up listening to and performing. While possessing a dramatic and moody heft, as the song thematically discusses what it truly means to be in a relationship and to be someone’s soulmate, the ethereal production suits Watson’s vocals perfectly, as the arrangement allows room for Watson’s vocals to soar and dart through and above the mix.

If you’ve been following the blogosphere over the course of the past year, you’d likely know that this year has been a big year for pop music — and an even bigger year for women artists, as a number of women artists have dominated the attention of the blogosphere. And with the release of “Illuminate” Watson adds her name to a growing list of artists that are making a name for themselves.