Lawyers for Usher, Jermaine Dupri, and Bryan-Michael Cox have filed a last-ditch motion in hopes of stopping the copyright lawsuit filed against them in California Central District Court from going before a jury. The suit, which was brought in April of 2008 by Ernest Lee Straughter, alleges that Usher’s 2004 #1 single “Burn” copies “No More Pain,” a 1999 album cut recorded by Reel Tight based on Straughter’s “The Reasons Why.” Last month Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that Straughter’s case had sufficient grounds for a jury trial. Friday’s motion challenges that ruling.
Straughter’s case aims to prove that “The Reasons Why” is the basis for “Burn” based on both musical similarities and proof of exposure by the songwriters to “The Reasons Why.” A musicologist’s report indicates corresponding features of the two songs; you can listen to them both below. Friday’s motion mainly challenges the claim of exposure: “The fact that the song had virtually no radio airplay forecloses any inference that it was widely disseminated, let alone remotely popular.” Ouch! If Snyder rejects the motion, the case is headed before a jury. We suspect that the defendants still have pretty good odds of winning the case, but they are trying to avoid the sort of publicity a jury trial might invite. Read more…
Usually a music video doesn’t say too much about the musicianship of the artist, but “Blood Pressure,” the new video from MUTEMATH, is a different story. The band has made playful videos before—see 2007’s “Typical”—but this all-night stop-motion fest, directed and edited by drummer Darren King, is a monument to timing. Stop-motion animation is a timeworn music-video tactic for bands with really patient members, but this clip stands beside similar clips helmed by Hammer & Tongs (Vampire Weekend‘s “A-Punk”) and Michel Gondry (The White Stripes‘ “The Hardest Button To Button”).
What does MUTEMATH’s clip bring to the table? For one, a keen eye for visual aesthetics: whether the clip includes intentional homages, or just coincidental similarities, to Kraftwerk album jackets and the midair portraiture Philippe Halsman, they’re a good look. For another, a pumping rhythm that allows the guitar to alternately serve as a second bassline and carve out its own melody—and which the title suits perfectly. MTV’s Buzzworthypremiered the video this morning, then sent it our way, and we can see why. Read more…
Wilco proved that a little Vox organ preset goes a long way when they played yesterday on The Late Show. After an introduction that only David Letterman could give (“Their new album is called Go Sit In The Truck!“—was he making a “dad-rock” joke?), the band launched into “Born Alone” from next week’s The Whole Love, a great Nuggets-influenced single. Though in retrospect it’s not that odd that Wilco looked to garage rock for a poppier sound on their new record, we would never have predicted it, but we’re into it. The band also played an hourlong set that’s now streaming at Live on Letterman, playing a bunch of new tracks intermingled with songs from as early as 1999, capping off a day of rock on the late night shows that also included The Kooks on The Tonight Show and Elbow on Late Night.
Gavin DeGraw came by our offices this past Friday to record an exclusive Top 20 Live set for us, and we’ll have the whole set for you as soon as we can, but we were very excited about one particular song he performed, so we marked it “HIGH PRIORITY” before we put the master footage in the pneumatic tube (or, you know, however we sent it to the hardworking folks who digitize things around here).
“I’m a little nervous to perform this one,” DeGraw quipped, “as it’s very brand new. I wrote it this morning.” Then he pulled the pin on a killer cover of Bruno Mars‘s “Grenade.” He started with a lyric sheet just in case but quickly set it aside as, backed only by a guitarist, he put his own spin on You Oughta Know alum Mars’s single. We’ll have the rest of DeGraw’s Top 20 Live set as soon as we can, but we wanted to get this one out to you right away. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
R.E.M.‘s first single “Radio Free Europe” came out less than a month before MTV’s first broadcast, and since then their videos have been by turns innovative, fun, and artistic, in ways that were often uncommon at the time but totally normalized as the band (and MTV and VH1) grew old together. Their decision to call it quits is, for people of a certain age, the end of an era. To commemorate the band’s long and successful run, we went back through their music video catalog and selected their five best.
5. “Electrolite” (1996)
R.E.M. worked with basically every major music video director in the 1990s—most notably for the singles from Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. (In the case of “Electrolite” it was Spike Jonze.) It’s easy to think of this as the band catching up after a decade of making music videos on their own or with Athens friends like Jim Herbert, but in retrospect what’s most striking about any of the videos from this period is how much they still feel like R.E.M. videos. The voice of a director like Jonze (or Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who gave their 1970s nostalgia a dry run in R.E.M.’s underrated “Tongue” video a year before perfecting it with the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979”) can easily overpower an artist’s own visual aesthetic, but despite R.E.M.’s seemingly gentle touch, that never happened. The inflatable deer inhabiting “Electrolite” should make clear, though, that this was not due to too much reverence for the band. Bonus points for Mike Mills plays an accordion and a keytar. Read more…
Big Boi has arrived in Jackson, GA to join the scores of protesters outside the Pardons & Paroles Board after Troy Davis was denied a stay of execution by the board yesterday. The Troy Davis case has been a cause célèbre for artists of all stripes (as well as activists and political and religious figures) because Davis’s conviction largely rested on evidence provided by eyewitnesses who have since recanted their testimony. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons‘s website Global Grind has a rundown of the case’s facts as well as Rick Ross affiliate Pill. Lupe Fiasco also spoke on the case at an Atlanta show last night. The case is not new, nor is the support of those who are protesting his execution, but the opposition has grown more vocal as time continues to run out for Davis. Many others not named here have also spoken on this issue, but as yet those who have the power to grant clemency have shown no signs of relenting.
R.E.M. have announced on their site this morning that they are breaking up. They posted the following message:
To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.
Did you know Michael Stipe of R.E.M. had a Tumblr? Neither did we, but Stipe found a way to spread the word: he posted a time-lapse video of his bedroom and himself featuring a couple of full-frontal nude snapshots. Yikes! We’re kidding about Stipe’s intentions, of course—in fact, the video took almost two months to go viral—but you have to admit that the “artistic” presentation is sort of belied by the appearance of a cursor in each of the stills. The rest of Stipe’s Tumblr largely contains photographs of statues, but there’s also a cute post in which he gushes about “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. If you’re just looking for the explicit stills, you can click through below for screengrabs.
Yesterday’s late night music lineup may as well have been a VH1 showcase. The only musical performer we haven’t explicitly championed at some point appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon—after an interview with this month’s Posted artist Demi Lovato. Such a jam-packed lineup does make it difficult to choose the best performance of the night, but we have to give the edge to Kelly Clarkson, who made her first appearance in support of Stronger yesterday on The Tonight Show, where she performed single “Mr. Know It All.”
Clarkson has always had a great voice and an even better sense of how to use it—a fact that makes her live performances thrilling (and certainly contributed to her Idol win). So we were excited to hear her breathing more life into “Mr. Know It All,” a song that we already like but that she opened up for us further with her performance last night. (If we don’t sound quite as enthusiastic as we could, that might be because we not-so-secretly think that, were the situation not so dire out there for rock bands, we think that Clarkson would be a killer frontwoman with serious riffs behind her. But we try not to let that affect our judgment too much.) We are definitely looking forward to Stronger (and to the “Mr. Know It All” video, which should arrive somewhat sooner).
After the jump, see Demi Lovato’s interview on Late Night (introduced by The Roots with a reworded Styx cover: “Domo Arigato, Demi Lovato”) and links to the other performances. Read more…