EMI, Universal, Sony . . . and Frankenstein’s Monster!

Hello Readers,

Some serious news on this leap-year day.  In the Music Biz, how big is too big?  How big should be deemed too big?  The M&A mania that started in the 1980s did not leave record labels untouched and today’s ‘labels’ are actually the Frankenstein’s monsters put together from numerous M&As.  Now, three Frankenstein’s monsters are wanting to combine to make two super-monsters – but not if IMPALA, an European trade body, gets its way.

Sony plans to acquire EMI’s music publishing business and Universal wants to get its hands on a prestige trophy, the blue chip EMI recording label itself.  For Heavens Sake!  La Scala and the finest opera houses, singers, orchestras, and conductors have been on EMI for literally over a century.  To me, this deal is akin to McDonald’s buying out Maxim’s or La Tour d’Argent in Paris.  Or Coca Cola buying Moet & Chandon (yes, I know it could happen).

Unlike me IMPALA does not care about the upstairs-downstairs marriage; their position is that the two super-monsters that would result would be too big and would suffocate the competition.  Yesterday they filed objections with European regulatory bodies citing various grounds including concentration of power and potential price fixing.

Hooray for IMPALA! but what do you think?  Aren’t Sony Music, Universal Music, and EMI big enough as they are?  Time was when RCA, Columbia, Decca, and Capitol were America’s four major record labels.  Now each is merely a piece of a Frankenstein’s monster that is one or another entertainment-cum-publishing conglomerate that cares two hoots about music.  As for labels like Atlantic, Sun, Dot, Mercury, Verve and so on which enriched the American music scene in its most vibrant days, farewell forever – in today’s America everything music marches in lockstep, and talent is relatively homogenized.  How will indy labels and music thrive?

Teddy Roosevelt, where are you?!  Come back, you King of the Trust-Busters!  And please ‘trust-bust’ this entertainment-cum-publishing industry racket before we’re left with ‘One World Music Label’.

Richness in Diversity!

Shane.

 

Of Yin and Yang – i.e. of Rihanna and Taylor Swift!

Hello out there!

On this Tuesday the music news whiplashes back to Whitney – and wouldn’t you know, Rihanna is in the mix – again!  Whitney Houston’s mentor and producer Clive Davis is getting a biopic project off the ground and among the ladies who’re favourites to play the lead is – as one might expect – Jennifer Hudson.  But, somehow, Rihanna is seen as the frontrunner to land the role and she sure is angling for it.  I ain’t so sure – it sounds to me like yin wants to play yang . . .

On to the real ‘yang’, sweet and demure Miss Taylor Swift.  This news item is about Taylor’s voice and it’s also about the movies – yet it’s not about her singing nor her acting!  Fact is that Taylor Swift is doing the voice-over for a character in the animated movie The Lorax (based on the children’s book by Dr. Seuss).  Swift does the voice for Audrey in Lorax, set for release on Friday.  MTV’s take: “the character of Audrey is fun, bubbly, curious and a big fan of trees.”  If that is so, then – exactly unlike Raunchy Rihanna playing Whitney – Taylor voicing Audrey is true-to-life casting!

At last!— Madonna has broken into lyrster’s music news blog – yipee!  She has just released a single, Girl Gone Wild.  Not much to say about just another ho-hum synthesized dance track but some psychology seems to be in order:–  Seems to me like our dowager is suffering from a female Peter Pan Complex, eh?  I mean – notwithstanding the plastic and botox – at her age shouldn’t she be singing a song titled “Grandma Gone Wild”?

Only a few days back I blogged about my fellow Merseysiders, The Beatles.  Shall we update one of their songs to . . . “Granny Madonna”?

Ta ta!

Shane I. (for ‘Insightful’) Kendall

 

Carrie Underwood trumps Taylor Swift and Chris Brown

Merry Musical Monday to you,

We open with a sinner and a saint, each related to music (uhm, purportedly at least).  Chris ‘Bad Boy’ Brown is in trouble with the law again – something to do about a mobile phone being stolen in Miami for which Mr. Brown is a suspect.  In brilliant contrast, Taylor ‘Miss Goody Two-Shoes’ Swift has gone and asked a teenaged leukaemia patient to be her date at a music awards show!  Yahoo News opines that Swift’s gambit is “yet another step in her apparent bid for sainthood.”  Methinks it’s more a case of both of them angling for publicity, each in his/her own inimitable way.

Here’s what I’d like to see for a change: Chris Brown heading out to Calcutta to care for the destitute and the dying, and Taylor Swift getting tipsy, growling a few obscenities, and smacking a police officer.  To me, that would be ‘news’.

Alongwith Brown and Swift, Carrie Underwood has landed on lyrster’s music news blog too, but she’s done it with music . . .

—Time was when the distaff half of C&W cried rivers of tears, walked after midnight, and vowed to stand by their man.  (Remember, anyone?)  Cue country girl Carrie Underwood who threw it all out the window and painted rather an unflattering picture of us men in Before He Cheats.  Now, in her new release Good Girl – guaranteed to rocket up the charts – she growls and moans out warnings to her fair sisters about us no-good cads and bounders!

Carrie’s hot (in more ways than one . . .) and is primed to release her fourth album in May and perform at a music festival in Nashville in June.  Regardless of what this darn man-hating cowgirl says about me and all my brothers, I’d still echo the words of one of C&W’s greatest stars, grand-daddy Hank Williams: “Hey, Good Lookin’!”

Chill out a bit Carrie,

Shane

Of The Beatles, Ringo, and ringtones

Howdy folks,

Can scarcely believe it’s Friday already!  Been a busy week in MusicLand.

The news today has to do with The Beatles and a Beatle.  The Beatles used electric, amplified guitars but their music was not synthesized; what went on tape was not too different from what you heard.  This week, both The Beatles and a Beatle have entered the synthesizer era.  All of The Beatles 27 U.S. and U.K. chart-toppers are now on sale on Apple’s iTunes Store in the form of half-minute ringtones.  After protracted negotiations, the likes of I Want to Hold Your Hand and Ballad of John and Yoko are now synthesized and ready for your iPhone or other ‘iDevice’.  The news sure makes me ‘feel fine’!

And from ring-tones to Ring-O, our ‘a’ beatle.  Drummer for The Beatles, Ringo Starr was the first during the band-members’ post-Beatle solo careers to score a surprise hit with You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, You’re Mine.  Since then he has released several albums and now makes his maiden foray into solo production on his album Ringo 2012.  Far removed from the days with John, George, and Paul, with George Martin in the studios, Ringo’s modus operandi now is to lay down bass and chord patterns using a synthesizer and turn it over for formalization – tempo, changes, and such.  It’s only after that’s complete that Ringo gets on the skins and adds the drums.  And then, later, melody instrument tracks are ad-libbed and added.

Yesterday (‘Yesterday’?!) I mentioned Les Paul & Mary Ford and Kay Starr.  Today, MetroLyrics has tweeted a lyric from Come On Eileen by 80s pop group Dexy’s Midnight Runners – and it’s about the ‘Prince of Wails’, Johnnie Ray, who smashed Billboard chart records with his superhit Cry.  Are the 50s set for a mini-revival?

For today, Let it Be,

Shane

 

Kate Perry parachutes atop Mount Billboard!

Hey there, People,

Kate Perry is the music news story of the day, and the gal has done it with music.  Perry performed a soon-to-be-released song at the Grammys, Part of Me.  And upon release, the single debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.  Congrats to Kate!

Perry’s feat is only the twentieth time a song has opened on top of the heap at Billboard and the first time ever for a single on Capitol records, label to the likes of Kay Starr and Les Paul & Mary Ford.  Part of Me is featured on Adele’s The Complete Confection, which is set for release on the 27th.

(The reference to Kay Starr and Les Paul & Mary Ford is neither arbitrary nor gratuitous; would you believe Kate’s dance number Part of Me owes a debt of gratitude to a little something that Kay, and Les & Mary, alongwith the engineers at Hollywood & Vine, did over half a century ago?  Do any of you kids know?  C’mon, speak up!)

Talking about Kate Perry helping Capitol set a personal best on the Billboard charts, Adele has set a record too.  She is the first female vocalist (lead billing) to have three tracks concurrently in the Top Ten.  Guess who’s sitting pretty in ‘show’ (no. 3) position, though?  It’s the late Whitney Houston with I Will Always Love You!  Interestingly, when Adele’s album 21 scored a 21st week in peak position on the Billboard album charts, she broke the record held by . . . (drum roll) Whitney!  (For The Bodyguard OST)

Some news covered in yesterday’s post has hotted up: The Rihanna and Chris Brown ‘remixes’ have got the music pundits as well as the gossip columnists chattering.  It’s all causing such a hoopla that one of the remixes has entered the Billboard Singles chart at no. 10.  I think it’ll take a lot more ‘remixing’ before the Rihanna-Chris duo can displace Kate or Adele from the top.

Musically Yours,

Shane

 

One ‘Made’ Bad Girl, Another ‘in the Making’?

Hallo out there,

It’s a happening Wednesday so let’s jump straight into the news puddle.

Bad Girl Rihanna has paid no heed to my matchmaking advice of yesterday; she has not tried to entice Austin Powers into proposing to her.  Rather, she seems to be getting back together with her convicted abuser, Chris Brown.  Over the weekend Rihanna and Brown tweeted about their musical collaboration.  Each has been the beneficiary of the other singer’s voice ‘over-laid’ on an original song that was subsequently released as a new remixed version.  Confused by my phrasing?  Don’t worry – just focus on the word ‘Remix’ . . . yeah, baby, yeah!

The music has ceased but Michael Jackson still continues to make waves.  Only a few days back we reported on a fresh lawsuit filed by his estate against a former manager.  Now, a Los Angeles County judge has struck AEG Live as defendants from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the singer’s father, Joe Jackson.  AEG are already defendants in another lawsuit filed by the singer’s mother, prior to the new one filed by his estate.  To streamline matters, California is designating one court as ‘Court Number MJ’; it will be dedicated solely to Michael Jackson lawsuits.

At last night’s Brit Awards in London Adele bagged British female singer and British album awards – no surprise.  But what made the news is that, somewhat out of character, Adele showed the middle finger – but, in all honesty, there were extenuating circumstances.  Within moments of beginning her acceptance speech for her second award, Adele was brusquely cut off, leading to her spontaneous act of frustration.  As she put it, “I . . . flung the middle finger . . . . to the suits at the Brit Awards, not to my fans.”  In a funny sequel, the Brit Awards’ organizers issued an apology to Adele, as did the emcee!

And hot off the (word)press, the next track to be issued as a single from the multi-platinum, multi-award album 21 will be Rumour Has It.

Go, Engerr-land!

Shane

 

Titillating Tuesday with Lady Gaga ‘n’ Rihanna!

Hi you goss hounds!

On Friday the 17th I made a heartfelt plea: “Looking ahead to next week, Britney, Gaga, and Madamadonna, where are you? We need your antics to fill these blog posts! Puh-leez run out to your car in your undies (or knickers, as we call ‘em back in jolly old England), say something wacko or otherwise spice things up.”   Thankyou-thankyou-thankyou Lady Gaga ‘n’ Rihanna for answering our prayers!

Gaga has lived up to her name! (So what’s new?) —She has claimed demoniacal possession!

“A devil force was trying to take hold of me,” Gaga enlightens us.  “The Devil is trying to take me . . . . I’m a good girl!”  OK now – the part about the Devil getting a crush on Gaga is quite probable – we agree.  But that part about her being a “good girl,” hmm, now that’s debatable . . . .

Now instead of hiring a Catholic priest, Gaga has gone rather a different route.  Enter The Exorcist in the form of none other than that all-purpose huckster – er, servitor – to the stars, the inimitable Deepak Chopra.  Does all this mean that Gaga’s head will do a 180-degree turn, she’ll spit green goo, and that Chopra will eventually leap out of a window?  Stay tuned to this blog . . .

OMG reports on that evergreen topic of Rihanna and her pins, saying that she “showed off some serious leg” in a gown that was slit to the hip.  That report seems faulty to us on two major points.  (1) Rihanna wasn’t showing just “some” leg, it was more like all of one leg.  (2)  Nothing about the leg seems “serious” or sober to me; rather, it seemed inviting, if anything.  This sort of inaccuracy in news reporting is deplorable.  In any event it’s only a matter of time before the girl gets arrested somewhere or the other (on charges of public indecency).

OMG also implied that Rihanna is again involved with Chris Brown.  Bad match.  Matchmaker Shane Kendall’s ideal couple: Rihanna and Austin Powers . . . .

Tit-illatingly Yours,

Shane

 

Monday’s Mixed Bag

Hello on Monday morning, Music-Fans,

The lead music news of the weekend was, quite naturally, Whitney Houston’s funeral. The ceremony was the final act in a relatively brief and turbulent, but spectacular career in singing.  Regardless of its brevity, the quality of her recorded work assures her legacy as a pop music legend.  Though most great singers have two or three songs forever associated with them, precious few ever record what is termed an ‘anthem’.  Whitney was one of the rare ones who managed to lay down such an anthem – I Will Always Love You.

In some news that got drowned out during the sad events of last week is the announcement of the 34th Playboy Jazz Festival scheduled for June at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A.  Whoa – now hold on.  No, playmates and centrefolds won’t be doing the singing, think again.  Established and upcoming jazz performers are on the roster!  The headline star is Quincy Jones.  QJ started off as an arranger, released a succession of Big Band fusion albums, became a music producer, and set up his own network of music companies.  And he still leads bands!  Bill Cosby, the long-time presenter at Playboy Jazz Festivals, will do the honours again.  Instantly recognizable names who will perform include Ramsey Lewis and Eddie Henderson.

We’ve had a rerun of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis except that this time the alleged money-grubbing manager has got sued.  Michael Jackson’s estate has filed a legal action against a former manager, Tohme R. Tohme, alleging lack of fiduciary duty.  The lawsuit pleads: “After being hired by Michael Jackson . . . Tohme took control of virtually all of Jackson’s personal and professional affairs, then did as he pleased.”  Allegedly, he not only took the standard fifteen percent commission from MJ’s gross, he made on-the-side deals with an equity and capital firm in 2008 when he arranged refinancing for MJ’s Neverland ranch.  The suit claims that Tohme skimmed ten percent from the deal without proper disclosure and had an insider agreement to get a further ten percent from a potential sale of the ranch.  The way that prizefighters and boxers get skimmed and ripped by promoters, agents, managers, whatnot, one wishes that MJ’s Estate were looking after their interests!

That’s all for now,

Shane

 

Whitney, R.I.P.

Howdy,

Well, it’s another tortoise of a news day in MusicLand.  Much of it’s still about Whitney but then, she was a superstar.  So a few more words about her to close out the week.

Thinking about it, I wonder if two decades hence music historians won’t credit Whitney Houston for being a pioneer who pulled down the shutters on one era and kick-started another?  Disco queens were dying and dead by the early 80s and Agnetha and Anni-Frid (of ABBA) were on the way out when Whitney charmed the life out of us, and ushered in the age of the big-voiced, soul-inflected, love-song pop singer.  It’s not just Jennifer Hudson but, I verily believe, a good many others who have been influenced by ‘That Whitney Style.’

If you categorize modern singers by kind or type, then, whatever category you put Whitney in, you’ll find that she is the ‘firstborn’ in that category.  Music scholars and historians, your move.

Whitney Houston’s last farewell is tomorrow when she will be put to rest in Newark, New Jersey.  We know that Aretha Franklin’s her godmother and Dionne Warwick’s her cousin and they will – of course – be in attendance.  But Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Beyonce, Kevin Costner, and Bill Cosby (besides mogul Clive Davis) are expected to be present too.  That shows the esteem even her talented colleagues held Whitney in.

(Remind me someday to tell you about the afternoon Dionne Warwick ‘just walked on by’ when I was standing by the gate to Frank Sinatra’s Beverly Hills home on Foothill Road the day after his passing.)

Looking ahead to next week, Britney, Gaga, and Madamadonna, where are you? We need your antics to fill these blog posts! Puh-leez run out to your car in your undies (or knickers, as we call ‘em back in jolly old England), say something wacko or otherwise spice things up.  Else I’ll have to take the time and trouble to write something meaningful about real singers like Laura Fygi or Meredith Ambrosio.  So if you crazy gals wanna get on my blog, do something!

In Memoriam,

Shane

It’s still about Whitney . . .

Hiya out there,

On a slow day in Show Biz, Whitney Houston is still a front-page story.  That’s to be expected when such a superstar – and a well-liked one at that – passes away so suddenly.  Her passing coupled with the Grammys have catapulted her albums into the Top Five on no less than iTunes, Rhapsody, and Amazon’s sales charts.  Planning is underway for her funeral, to be televised live from Newark, New Jersey, while her celebrity friends continue to reminisce about her.  The man who discovered her, Clive Davis, gave this insight on Whitney’s genius: “She finds meaning and depth and soulfulness in a song that often the writer and composer never really knew was there.”  Whitney fans, do you agree?

As it happens, we remain on the same subject of death and loss today:–  Though we all know about the Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Liz Taylor affair, fewer people know about its parallel in the musicians’ fraternity.  On the rebound from her breakup with Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow was the blameworthy Woman in Red in this instance.  She had an affair with famed conductor and pianist Andre Previn and stole him away from his lyricist wife, Dory Previn.  Dory Previn has passed away at 86.  Her deep musical expressions of wracking pain and sorrow stemming from her broken marriage brought her quite a cult following.

In some older news, someone who calls herself Madonna chastised a performer for showing the middle finger during the Super Bowl halftime show.  She does have a point, but has anyone told her that bit about throwing the first stone?  Apparently not . . . .

On a lighter note, youthful Adele is still at the top of Billboard but oldie Van Halen has just debuted at number two – amazing, eh?  Who’ll be number one next week – Adele or Eddie?  Or could it just be an ‘itney’?  (Whitney or Britney?)

Till Then,

Shane