Archive For The “Music” Category

Selena Gomez On Recapturing Her Public Image, Mental Health And Her No. 1 Album

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Selena Gomez On Recapturing Her Public Image, Mental Health And Her No. 1 Album

Rare, Selena Gomez’s first new album in over four years, is out now. “When you take that long of a break, it is pretty nerve-wracking,” she says.

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Over four years is a long time to go between albums in pop music, and it has been an especially eventful period for Selena Gomez. In the space between 2015’s Revival and her latest release, Rare, Gomez has battled Lupus, depression and anxiety, and had two high profile breakups — all while millions followed along on social media.

All of those public struggles form the backbone for the songs on Rare, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart last week. Gomez spoke with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro about learning to take care of her mental health, trying to take control of her public narrative and seeking closure through songwriting. Listen in the player above or read on for a transcript of their conversation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Lulu Garcia-Navarro: You got the title of this album, Rare, tattooed on your neck. How come?

Selena Gomez: The word has meant so much more to me than just a title of a song. We live in a time where everything is based on your looks and social media and there are so many different channels telling people what they should look like, and how they should do this, do that. And I want to represent a person that is just saying “You are who are; you’re unique and you’re rare.”

A lot has happened to you since your last album, Revival, came out in 2015, and a lot of it in the public eye.

Right. Super fun. [Laughs]

It must have been difficult: two public breakups, struggles with Lupus, a kidney transplant. You’ve been public about a lot of this, too.

The reason why I’ve become so vocal about the trials and tribulations of my life is because people were already going to narrate that for me. I wasn’t going to have a choice because of how fast everything moves now. And most of the time, yes, it’s not true, or it’s an embellished version of what the truth is. I want to be able to tell my story the way that I want to tell it. And all of these things happened, and I wasn’t going to deny that, I wasn’t going to pretend to put a smile on when it actually was awful — a few of the worst moments of my life. And I don’t know if I would have made it. And that’s medical reasons, obviously, and emotional reasons. I just had to find a way to claim my story.

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You’ve said this album is your diary from the past few years, and it does sound like it’s a diary that was full of a lot of hurt. I want to talk about one of the songs, “Fun” — there are a couple on this album that reference your struggles with mental health. You’ve spoken about suffering from anxiety and depression, and you took a break in 2018 for your mental health. It sounds like you’re doing a lot better now. How’d you get there?

I feel great, yeah. I’m on the proper medication that I need to be on, even as far as my mental health. I fully believe in just making sure you check in with your doctors or therapist. [Taking care of mental health — ] that’s forever. That’s something I will have to continue to work on. Yes, I don’t think I just magically feel better. I have days where it is hard for me to get out of bed, or I have major anxiety attacks. All of that still happens. I think “Fun,” in that particular way, was that I do like learning about it. When I was a kid, I was terrified of thunderstorms; it would freak me out. I was in Texas, so I would assumethat thunder and lightning would mean “tornado.” And so my mom, she would give me these books — and they’re the little thin books for kids to know about “What’s rain?” and “What’s this?” and she just said “The more you learn about it and how it works, the less you’re going to be afraid of it.” I think that took so much work for me.

But the way I find these moments in my life that are pretty difficult, I think the only way it’s helped me is that I can use that for good. So yeah, I can sit down with somebody who’s gone through a lot of health issues, I can sit down with someone who has had their heart completely broken, or a family that’s broken, fighting for their right to stay in this country, or kids who are going through things they shouldn’t even be worrying about at that age. I want to live in a world where an 11-year-old is not committing suicide because of bullying on social media. That’s what I think my real mission is; I think that I have such big dreams and ideas for ways that I can give back. And right now I know that this is something that will be for life.

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“Lose You To Love Me” is your first No. 1 song off this album — tell me about this song.

I’m very proud of it. It has a different meaning to me now from when I wrote it. I felt I didn’t get a respectful closure, and I had accepted that, but I know I needed some way to just say a few things that I wish I had said. It’s not a hateful song; it’s a song that is saying — I had something beautiful and I would never deny that it wasn’t that. It was very difficult and I’m happy it’s over. And I felt like this was a great way to just say, you know, it’s done, and I understand that, and I respect that, and now here I am stepping into a whole other chapter.

Saying goodbye to Justin Bieber, who I’m assuming you’re speaking about.

You had to get the name in, I get it.

Do you look back on that time, and when you think about the parts of your life that were painful, that you’ve kind of moved on from, is that one of the harder parts?

No, because I’ve found the strength in it. It’s dangerous to stay in a victim mentality. And I’m not being disrespectful, I do feel I was a victim to certain abuse —

You mean emotional abuse?

Yes, and I think that it’s something that — I had to find a way to understand it as an adult. And I had to understand the choices I was making. As much as I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life talking about this, I am really proud that I can say I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt and I’ve found a way to just walk through it with as much grace as possible. [Editor’s note: NPR has reached out to Justin Bieber for comment.]

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I want to go out on the song “Vulnerable,” because to me the idea of staying vulnerable represents the ability to move forward. What does that song mean to you?

That means to me that vulnerability — and I’ve said this before — is a strength. And as I grew up in this chaotic space, I did have to learn how to be tough, and to be strong, but I’m not this hard person. And I have every right to be: From 7-years-old to 27, I’ve been working, and I’ve had the most horrible things said to me, said about me, and being exposed to way too much. One of my issues is that I always felt like I was this weak person because I would cry, or I would get emotional, or I hated when people were rude. I just started getting to the place, definitely a few years ago, where I understood that vulnerability is actually such a strength. I shine the most within when I’m sharing my story with someone, or when I’m there for a friend, or when I do meet someone, I’m not bitter and sarcastic — I mean sometimes I am, but I’m proud that I’m okay with speaking about my heart. And the whole song is saying “Hey if I give this to you, If I give myself to you, are you strong enough to be there for me?” If not, I’ll let go of the situation but I’m still going to be vulnerable to what’s next.

NPR’s Samantha Balaban and Barrie Hardymon produced and edited the audio of this interview. Cyrena Touros and web intern Jon Lewis adapted it for the Web.

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On Their Latest Album, The Haden Triplets Sing ‘The Family Songbook’

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On Their Latest Album, The Haden Triplets Sing ‘The Family Songbook’

(L-R) Tanya, Rachel and Petra Haden. “We usually just naturally gravitate towards a harmony,” Tanya says.

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The Haden sisters — Petra, Rachel and Tanya — have a long history in American music. Aside from the sisters’ various other musical projects — the alt rock band That Dog, recording with Beck and The Decemberists, and touring with the Silversun Pickups and Jimmy Eat World — when all three of them are together, they form the country trio the Haden Triplets.

The Haden Triplets are the daughters of the accomplished jazz bassist Charlie Haden, but their musical lineage goes back to their grandfather, Carl E. Haden. He was an influential country music radio personality and songwriter, and a number of newly discovered songs by the eldest Haden are featured on the triplets’ latest collection, called The Family Songbook.

NPR’s Scott Simon spoke with Petra, Rachel and Tanya Haden about the legacy of their grandfather, their love of country music and keeping track of their three voices in the mixing booth. Listen to their conversation in the player above and read on for highlights from the interview.


Interview Highlights

On their grandfather and the Haden Family Band

Petra Haden: He and his family had a radio show called “The Haden Family.” They started in Shenandoah, Iowa, and when our dad was 4, they moved to Springfield, Miss., [and] the station KWTO: Keep Watching the Ozarks.

Rachel Haden: [Our father] started singing when he was 2 he started singing harmony. One of the first songs he sang on the radio was “Row Us Over the Tide.” And that’s when he started yodeling, and they called him “Yodeling Cowboy Charlie.” And it’s really cute to hear him sing, because he forgets the words, and I kind of relate to that because I always forget words.

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On their relationship to country music

Petra Haden: When we were kids, we used to visit our dad’s family in Missouri, and he would play us Carter Family songs, and Stanley Brothers songs, and I just gravitate towards the harmonies right away. So when I heard those songs I would just start singing, like “Keep On The Sunny Side,” and Tanya would join, and Rachel would join, so we would all be singing harmony. In general, I don’t listen to lyrics that much, I just love the music part. But I love hearing the stories after, of course. When it all comes together, it’s even better.

On writing harmonies as triplets

Tanya Haden: We usually just naturally gravitate towards a harmony. But we’ll jump around in a song with different harmonies. Like on the chorus, Petra will sing the high part, and I’ll sing the middle, and Rachel will sing the low, and then for some reason on a verse we’ll kind of reverse parts not really thinking about it. So when we have to go back to the song, we’ll forget, like “Who sang wait? Wait …. Is that …” And we’ll listen to the recording — “let’s see” — and we can’t differentiate our voices sometimes, and I have to listen and go “Is that you? Or is that me?”

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NPR’s Peter Breslow and Ed McNulty produced and edited the audio of this interview. Cyrena Touros and editorial intern Jon Lewis adapted it for the Web.

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The Cloud Over The Grammys: Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct, Vote Rigging

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The Cloud Over The Grammys: Allegations Of Sexual Misconduct, Vote Rigging

Suspended Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan, speaking at the 62nd Grammy Awards nomination event in New York in November.

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Winners of the 62nd Grammy Awards will be announced Sunday night — but there’s a cloud hanging over the ceremony. Last week, Deborah Dugan, the recently installed president and CEO of the Recording Academy — which hands out the awards — was placed on administrative leave. Earlier this week, Dugan filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that includes allegations of sexual misconduct and vote rigging.

The Recording Academy has been struggling for years with criticism that the Grammys were too male, too white, too old and too insular. In came Dugan five months ago, as the Academy’s first female leader.

She pledged that the organization could do better, as she told NPR in an interview last month: “We’ve known as an industry for a long time that we have a monumental problem with gender issues.”

Then, just over a week ago and only 10 days before the awards telecast, the Recording Academy abruptly announced that it had placed Dugan on leave pending an investigation into an allegation of bullying that came from a female assistant. But in an interview Thursday, Dugan claimed she was placed on leave as retaliation for accusations she made, and changes she proposed.

Specifically, Dugan says her suspension is the result of a memo she sent in December to the Academy’s Human Resources director, which included an accusation that she had been sexually harassed by the Academy’s general counsel, Joel Katz. (Katz is also a former Academy board chair.)

In her EEOC complaint, Dugan reiterated her accusations against Katz — and she said she learned that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, had been accused of raping a female artist. Both Katz and Portnow deny the accusations, and Portnow said in a statement that he was investigated and exonerated. In the complaint, Dugan also repeated and elaborated upon her accusations from the HR memo related to questionable financial expenditures, rigged Grammy voting and self-dealing at the public, non-profit organization.

In an interview with NPR on Thursday, Dugan reiterated her accusation against Katz as it is laid out in the EEOC complaint. She said that the incident occurred on May 18, 2019, before she had started officially working at the Academy in August. She had been invited to attend the first day of a three-day board session held at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Laguna Niguel, Calif. She says Katz (an extremely high-profile attorney who recently negotiated the sale of Taylor Swift’s former label home, Big Machine Label Group, to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings Group) invited her to dine with him that evening.

“Under the guise of a work dinner,” she told NPR, “I was propositioned by the general counsel — that is, Joel [Katz]. It started with calling me ‘baby’ and telling me how pretty I was. And then in the course of the dinner, after ordering a bottle of wine, I got a little more uncomfortable. He was talking about his private plane and trips that we could do and it ended with him leaning forward to kiss me. As I look back now, I think that there — the fact that they had me meet him and have dinner with him first — was sort of a test of how much I would acquiesce to.”

In the moment, Dugan added, she had been “disgusted and bewildered,” and that she immediately went back to her hotel room and called “quite a few people” to tell them what had happened.

In a statement sent to NPR on Wednesday, Katz’s lawyer, Howard Weitzman, said in part: “Ms. Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false, and Mr. Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening. …. Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, and others, were dining. … Mr. Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms. Dugan will do the same.”

“You hear about these things in entertainment and certainly for women in leadership,” said Dugan, who immediately prior to coming the Academy had led the charity (RED) after roles as president of Disney Publishing Worldwide and as an executive at EMI Records Group. “But after so many years, and having such a track record of integrity and purpose, to have this happen — I was very disillusioned and to be honest, a little scared … And there was a continuing pattern afterwards of whenever we had private conversations, he was calling me ‘baby,’ telling me how pretty I was.”

Dugan and her lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, denied to NPR that she had bullied the Academy employee — a woman named Claudine Little, who had previously served as the executive assistant to Portnow. The Academy has said that Dugan is accused of creating a “toxic and intolerable” work environment and engaging in “abusive and bullying conduct.”

In a statement sent to NPR via the Recording Academy on Wednesday, Little said: “Ms. Dugan’s choice to litigate in the press and spread a false narrative about the Academy and me and my colleagues is regrettable, but it is also emblematic of Ms. Dugan’s abusive and bullying conduct while she served as the Academy’s president and CEO. I am proud of my career with the Academy—where, as a woman, I was able to work my way from secretary to director of administration in the executive suite, solely based on merit and while working for and with leaders far more demanding and hard-charging than Ms. Dugan. It is disappointing that Ms. Dugan hopes to leverage public opinion along gender lines and expects not to be scrutinized for her inexcusable behavior simply because she is a woman; she should be held to the same standard.”

In the Thursday NPR interview, Dugan said that she had found Little’s work lacking, and that she had suggested moving the assistant into another role at the Academy rather than terminate her employment. (The situation with Little is also described in the EEOC complaint.)

Wigdor added: “Neil Portnow was accused of rape. Was he placed on administrative leave? No. So to place Deborah on an administrative leave over being bossy — and by the way, women are bossy, men are bosses — to put her on an administrative leave over something as innocuous and benign as being allegedly bossy to an administrative assistant just doesn’t make any sense.”

In the discrimination complaint, Dugan also repeated her allegations of irregularities and conflicts of interest in the Grammy voting process, as well as substantial payouts of fees to outside law firms and to individual board members.

These include payouts to Greenberg Traurig, where Joel Katz is an attorney. In 2017, according to the Academy’s 990 forms, the firm was paid $6.3 million, as well as $1.75 million in 2016 and over $1.1 million in 2015, with similar amounts in the two previous years. According to the EEOC filing, the Academy also pays Katz personally $250,000 annually as a retainer.

On Thursday, Dugan also said that the board and executive committee reacted negatively to some urgent recommendations from the Academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, a group formed in the wake of widely denounced comments made by her predecessor, longtime Academy president and CEO Portnow. (After the 2018 Grammy Awards ceremony was criticized for a lack of female nominees and performers, Portnow said that women in the industry would just have to “step up” to be recognized)

“There were some things I got pushback on like, ‘Oh, we don’t need a chief diversity officer,” Dugan told NPR. She also described what she saw as conflicts of interest in the process of nominating artists for Grammys.

“There is a degree of corruption in that system,” she said. “There is a problem when you have board members on those committees who have a vested interest in having certain artists winning.”

She also reiterated in her EEOC complaint that the telecast’s producer of 40 years, Ken Ehrlich, holds undue influence over the nominations for high-profile Grammy award categories, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year.

“Do I think that this system of him making it clear who he’d like on the show to the board members who are then in the room voting is not a correct one going forward?” she asked rhetorically. “I do. I think it should be changed.”

In an email sent to The New York Times on Thursday, Ehrlich said, “There is no truth to what she alleges.”

In a statement sent to NPR on Thursday afternoon, the chairman of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason, Jr., and Bill Freimuth, the Academy’s Chief Awards Officer, said in part: “Spurious allegations claiming members or committees use our process to push forward nominations for artists they have relationships with are categorically false, misleading and wrong. … Because these committee members are at the top of their craft, and many members work with multiple artists, it is not unusual that some of the people in each room will end up with nominations from the first round. There are strict rules in place to address any conflict of interest.”

(Up until about a decade ago, I was a Grammy voter, and also served on the “craft” committee for the Best Album Notes field, one of a small group of Grammy categories outside the “nomination review” process and not voted on by the general membership. In addition, my husband, Joshua Sherman, was also a Grammy voter, and served on Academy committees; he was also part of teams that created several Grammy-winning recordings, and he produced several other Grammy-nominated albums. In my own experience, it is certainly true that in certain Grammy categories, especially in smaller genres or for fields involving particular professional expertise, there is a limited universe of accredited Grammy voters willing to volunteer their time to serve on award committees.)

Mason, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, record producer and music executive, just became the chair of the Recording Academy’s board of trustees in June. After Dugan was put on leave, he became its is acting CEO. In a Thursday interview with NPR, he would not answer any specific questions about the Dugan situation or the conflicting narratives, saying that the behind-the-scenes struggle detracted from the awards ceremony.

“This is our biggest season for me,” he said, “and this night is everything to our organization. What we are doing is really focusing on the show and the musicians, and trying to make sure that the spotlight doesn’t get taken away from that.”

When asked if he took Dugan’s allegations — including sexual misconduct, significant financial improprieties, and vote rigging — as grave matters, Mason said, “Everything is taken seriously. Anything that somebody says, whether it’s a guy at the coffee shop that I run into and says, ‘You know, the Academy should do this…’ I take all that stuff seriously.”

In speaking to NPR, Mason also emphasized that the Academy has begun two separate investigations into the allegations by Little and Dugan; Mason said the investigations would be independent and transparent. But he declined to give any timeline for that work, and said repeatedly that he did not know what firm or firms were leading those investigations, adding that they were “people that we had no association with and no connection to.”

According to Dugan’s EEOC complaint, however, the investigators were selected by the law firm Proskauer Rose — a firm that charged the Academy over $900,000 in 2017 and over $870,000 in 2016, the most recent years for which financial information is available. (A partner at Proskauer Rose, Charles Ortner, serves as national legal counsel to the Academy, and is one of the most powerful lawyers in the entertainment industry; his client list has included Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, U2 and Madonna.)

On Thursday night, the Academy’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, (which is chaired by Tina Tchen, the president and CEO of Time’s Up), issued its own statement. It reiterated its December recommendations, which Dugan had promised to implement almost in entirety.

Writing of its collective “shock and dismay,” the 18-member volunteer group urged the Grammy organization to implement several concrete steps in particular, including hiring a dedicated diversity executive “to lead the deeper changes that are obviously needed.” The statement continued, in part: “We are deeply disappointed at the level of commitment by some of the Academy’s leadership in effecting the kind of real and constructive change presented in our report. We are confident that they can do better.”

Mason told NPR on Thursday that he was still very committed to diversity improvements at the Academy, noting that they had been part of his own campaign for chair. “The plan is definitely to continue to push those through and make sure they all happen,” he said.

But least one more member of the task force has spoken out even more forcefully as an individual. Ty Stiklorius, a prominent artist manager whose client roster includes singer John Legend and crossover violinist Lindsey Stirling, posted on Twitter Thursday: “I won’t stay quiet on this. As an Academy Inclusivity Task Force member I saw the inner workings & lack of transparency. The board voted down our recommendation of Ranked Choice Voting. They have not implemented our recommendations but used us as a pawn.”

I won’t stay quiet on this. As an Academy Inclusivity Task Force member I saw the inner workings & lack of transparency. The board voted down our recommendation of Ranked Choice Voting. They have not implemented our recommendations but used us as a pawn: https://t.co/Ty2eMDIsVN

— ty stiklorius (@tystiklorius) January 23, 2020

As of now, however, no artists slated to perform at the Grammys telecast Sunday night have pulled out. Billboard magazine’s executive editor West Coast and Nashville, Melinda Newman, has a theory.

“I honestly think this is so complex,” she says. “Once you’ve heard one thing and you think you might have enough information to make your mind up, something else drops and you’re like, ‘Wow, hang on a second.’ I think we haven’t seen the reaction yet because people are shocked.”

As Sunday night approaches, Deborah Dugan said that her short tenure at the Recording Academy illustrates three things.

“This has hit me about women CEOs and corporate America,” she said. “This has hit me on how hard it is for women in the music industry. And it’s hit me, and I can’t believe it, that three years after the #MeToo movement… we still have this system of character assassination — dig up dirt on this woman and trying to trash her in the press. I’m deeply saddened and profoundly upset that I was slapped with all three of those issues.”

That is, all of the issues she was hired to address.

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Megan Thee Stallion Introduces Fans To Her New Alter Ego With New Single

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Megan Thee Stallion Introduces Fans To Her New Alter Ego With New Single

Megan Thee Stallion’s latest single, “B.I.T.C.H.,” introduces fans to her new alter ego, Suga.

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Don’t say she didn’t warn you!

Back when Megan Thee Stallion graced the Tiny Desk Fest in the fall of 2019, she gave fans a hint about what — or who — her new music would sound like.

“My next project I will be introducing a new lady. Her name is Suga. She’s besties with Tina Snow,” Megan said in an exclusive post-show interview.

Over a bouncy, slurred bpm that samples 2Pac‘s 1996 cut “Ratha Be Ya N****,” Megan gives Suga the debut she deserves; one that’s cool, calm and collected while still savage.

“I got my mind on gettin’ paid, we ain’t spoke in some days / He probably thinkin’ I’m in pain, but I’m really on game / Ain’t no n**** finna stop me, independent, I got me / All the s*** that I be needin’, can’t depend on a ‘probably,'” the H-Town rapper assures.

The latest track is the Houston Hottie’s first solo song of 2020 and the first single off her upcoming debut album, due out later this year.

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Rosalía Returns To Her Roots With ‘Juro Que’

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Rosalía Returns To Her Roots With ‘Juro Que’

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Today, Rosalía is back with her first release of 2020. After putting out a quarterly stream of pop radio-facing singles in 2019 — “Con Altura,” “Aute Cuture,” “Milionària,” “A Palé” and “Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi” — “Juro Que” re-centers her flamenco roots.

It feels silly to say that an artist who’s only been active for a few years has returned to form, but this strategy helped to elevate her profile from surprise critical darling to unmitigated global superstar. (Her well-received sophomore album, El Mal Querer, put her on Western media’s radar at the end of 2018.) In the process, Barcelona’s biggest name dropped the genre-shifting, flamenco-fusion sound that made everyone sit up and pay attention in the first place.

“Juro Que” favors acoustic guitar over trap-inflected pop production, reassuring that Rosalía’s artistry is still rooted in Catalonia — although discussion of whether her music should be folded under the umbrella of Latinx music is still hotly debated. This is also her first video to feature English subtitles — a savvy move that recognizes her success in the U.S. market.

Rosalía will perform this Sunday, Jan. 26, at the 2020 Grammy Awards — a ceremony that has been beleaguered with controversy over the last week.

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Honed On The Road, Samantha Fish’s Music Is Bold And Expressive

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Honed On The Road, Samantha Fish’s Music Is Bold And Expressive

Samantha Fish performing live for World Cafe

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  • “Bulletproof”
  • “Love Letters”
  • “Kill Or Be Kind”

Nothing about the music Samantha Fish makes suggests that she’s ever been shy. Bold and expressive, it shows off her considerable talent – but it took a bit of a push for Fish to get on stage for the first time. The then-17-year-old musician was handed a guitar in front of 200 people at a house party; since then, she’s never stopped wanting to play live before a crowd.

These days, Fish can be found touring relentlessly; when not on tour, she loves experimenting in the studio. Her latest studio album, Kill Or Be Kind, was released late last year. In this session, I talk to Samantha Fish about her work ethic, but first, hear a live performance recorded for World Cafe from that new album. Listen for her guitar work, some of which she does on a cigar box guitar, but also for the way her voices changes between the verse and the chorus. Hear the complete session in the player above.

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Juice WRLD Cause Of Death Was Accidental Overdose

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Juice WRLD Cause Of Death Was Accidental Overdose

Juice WRLD, pictured performing at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in June, died on Dec. 8, 2019.

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The sudden death of rapper Juice WRLD as he landed in Chicago last month, was caused by an accidental overdose of codeine and oxycodone, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office revealed Wednesday.

“The manner of death is accident,” the office tweeted.

The Medical Examiner’s Office has determined the cause and manner of death of 21-year-old Jarad A. Higgins.
Higgins died as a result of oxycodone and codeine toxicity.
The manner of death is accident.@JuiceWorlddd #Juicewrld

— Cook County ME (@CookCountyME) January 22, 2020

Juice WRLD, whose given name was Jarad Anthony Higgins, suffered a seizure shortly after arriving at Midway International Airport on Dec. 8, the Chicago Police Department said. He was quickly transported to a local hospital and was pronounced dead hours later.

“The announcement that the rapper had oxycodone, an opioid that is a pain killer, and codeine in his system follows initial reports that a federal agent who was at the airport to search the plane administered the opioid antidote Narcan to the performer after he’d gone into convulsions,” the Associated Press reported.

Several of the people who had accompanied the 21-year-old singer on the flight from Los Angeles to his hometown of Chicago, were arrested for possession of a firearm, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Juice WRLD often sang about his own drug use.

In a 2018 interview with The New York Times, he said he was trying to curb his use of Xanax.

“I smoke weed, and every now and then I slip up and do something that’s poor judgment,” he said. “I have a lot going for me, I recognize it’s a lot of big things, a lot of big looks. I want to be there, and you don’t have to overdose to not be there.”

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Playing SXSW 2020? Send Us Your Songs

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Playing SXSW 2020? Send Us Your Songs

Before she was nominated for four Grammy Awards, Yola was a highlight of NPR Music’s SXSW playlist The Austin 100 in 2019. Coincidence?

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Every year around this time, members of the All Songs Considered team — including Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton and me — each dredge through nearly 2,000 songs by bands playing the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, in search of great new discoveries. And every year, we wind up missing something. In pursuit of music by thousands of acts, many slip past our radar altogether.

So here’s where we submit a humble request: If you’re an artist playing SXSW, or if you represent an artist playing SXSW, please send us ONE song (via MP3) to represent your sound. And, because nothing says “Thank you for helping us do our jobs” quite like a bunch of fussy ground rules, here are some fussy ground rules:

1) We listen and look for discoveries year-round, but this project is SXSW-specific. Please actually be in town and performing in Austin between March 17 and March 22.

2) Please email MP3s — no WAVs or WMV files please — with a bit rate in the 256-320 range.

3) Please send us only one song per artist — no zip files with entire albums, please — either as an email attachment or through a service like Dropbox or Hightail. Links to Soundcloud or YouTube or other streaming services are of no use to us here; we’re blazing through this stuff on our phones and car stereos, so we need to be able to take the songs offline.

4) Please make sure your song files have appropriate metadata (artist, song title, album title), and include that information in your email just in case. Please also include an email address and, if you’d like, a phone number. If we do wind up using your music in our Austin 100 playlist, on our All Songs Considered preview show, or in other SXSW features, we’ll reach out beforehand.

5) Unfortunately, we won’t have time to confirm receipt or otherwise offer feedback. We will listen to it, we promise, but we’ll only reach out if we end up using it. We’re only able to cover a tiny fraction of the artists playing the festival, but we do give everything as fair a shot as time allows.

So, where do you send your MP3? We’ve set up a Gmail account for this very occasion, solely for this purpose: npratsxsw@gmail.com. Please use it judiciously, and thank you so much for helping us out. See you at SXSW!

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Ousted Female Chief Files Discrimination Complaint Against The Grammys

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Ousted Female Chief Files Discrimination Complaint Against The Grammys

The now-former Recording Academy president and CEO, Deborah Dugan, speaking in Nov. at the Grammy nomination press conference in New York City.

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images


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Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Updated 7:00 p.m. ET

In the latest round of chaotic volleys around the Grammy Awards, the Recording Academy’s short-lived president and CEO, Deborah Dugan — the organization’s first female chief executive — announced Tuesday afternoon that she has filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Academy, the organization that gives out the Grammys.

The EEOC complaint includes several bombshell accusations, including that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, raped a female artist in New York; that she was pressed to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 by the Academy’s then-board chair, John Poppo; and that the Academy’s general counsel and former board chair, Joel Katz, sexually harassed Dugan in May 2019, as she was being courted for the top Academy job.

Last Thursday, Dugan was put on administrative leave just ten days before this year’s Grammy Awards telecast, which will take place on Sunday. She was announced as the organization’s leader last May, and took up her post in August.

As recently as last month, Dugan was giving interviews in which she promised “a major restructuring” of the Grammys. The pledged changes included meeting concrete, measurable goals meant to add greater gender and racial diversity to the awards process, and to ensure voting and membership transparency across the awards, and the Academy.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, her attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and Michael J. Willemin said: “The complaint that we filed today against the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS, the Academy’s former full name) highlights tactics reminiscent of those deployed by individuals defending Harvey Weinstein.”

Wigdor also represents a Jane Doe, one of the women who is slated to testify in the Weinstein trial, which is getting underway in New York.

The lawyers’ statement continues: “The attempt by the Recording Academy to impugn the character of Deborah Dugan is a transparent effort to shift the focus away from its own unlawful activity. This blatant form of retaliation in corporate America is all too common, even post #MeToo, and we will utilize all lawful means necessary to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.”

In the EEOC complaint, Dugan describes the Academy as a “‘boys’ club network where men work together to the disadvantage of women and disenfranchised groups in order to line their own pockets and maintain a firm grip on the Academy’s dealings.”

In a statement sent Tuesday evening to NPR, the Academy said: “It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee who alleged Ms. Dugan had created a ‘toxic and intolerable’ work environment and engaged in ‘abusive and bullying conduct’. When Ms. Dugan did raise her ‘concerns’ to HR, she specifically instructed HR ‘not to take any action’ in response.”

“Nonetheless,” the Academy statement continues, “we immediately launched independent investigations to review both Ms. Dugan’s potential misconduct and her subsequent allegations. Both of these investigations remain ongoing. Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organization. Our loyalty will always be to the 21,000 members of the Recording Industry. We regret that Music’s Biggest Night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan’s actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”

Since Dugan was placed on leave, the Recording Academy and its erstwhile leader have exchanged dueling narratives in the trade press about the reasons behind the move.

A statement from the Academy last Thursday stated, “In light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy board of trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team, the Board has placed Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan on administrative leave, effective immediately.”

But Dugan’s camp argued to the New York Times the same day that the real reason for her dismissal was linked to a memo that she had sent the Academy’s HR department three weeks prior, in which she voiced the concerns her lawyers referenced, including “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal bills — including some $15 million paid to two outside law firms between the years 2013 and 2017.

One of Dugan’s attorneys, Bryan Freedman, tweeted on Friday: “What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told. When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit.”

Freedman was referring to an infamous 2018 comment made by Dugan’s predecessor, Neil Portnow, in which the former Grammy chief opined that women working in the music industry would need to “step up” in order to be recognized. (In 2002, Portnow replaced Michael Greene, who was forced to resign after allegations that he had sexually harassed and abused another Academy executive became public.) The New York Times identified the woman accusing Dugan as Portnow’s former assistant, who claimed that Dugan has a “bullying” style of managing employees.

On Monday, the Academy alleged via Billboard that Dugan had offered to resign and drop her own accusations against the organization in exchange for a $22 million payout. Similar accusations were repeated by the Academy board president, Harvey Mason Jr., in a memo sent to Grammy members, in which Mason also claims that Dugan made her allegations only after the Academy began its investigation of her.

Most recently before her Grammys appointment, Dugan led Red, the nonprofit group dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS across Africa that was co-founded by U2’s Bono and Bobby Shriver. Before joining Red, Dugan was a lawyer, an executive at the EMI Record Group and a former president of Disney Publishing Worldwide.

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Hear Mitski’s Sinister New Song, ‘Cop Car’

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Hear Mitski’s Sinister New Song, ‘Cop Car’

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Sinister and piercing, with a heavy lilt of Puberty 2 grunge — if you need a “guitar-based but cinematic” song about the unraveling of a woman’s mind, who else are you going to call?

“Cop Car” is Mitski‘s first release of new music since her critically acclaimed album, Be The Cowboy, which NPR Music named the No. 2 album of 2018. In June 2019, Mitski announced on Twitter that she would be taking a break from touring indefinitely after wrapping up her final scheduled concert date that September.

“Cop Car” is the sixth single released from a stacked soundtrack to the upcoming horror film The Turning, based on the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw. Lawrence Rothman, one of NPR Music’s Slingshot 2018 artists, along with collaborator Yves Rothman, co-produced the soundtrack. Previous releases include singles from Soccer Mommy and Courtney Love, as well as Empress Of and the goth par excellence team-up of Lawrence Rothman and Pale Waves.

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