Blog Posts by Chris Willman

  • All She Wants to Do is Dance: Is Rock Losing the War to EDM at Coachella?

    Is it time for the most celebrated music festival in the United States to just give up the "rock" ghost and rename itself the Coachella Rave?

    That’s what some music fans are wondering after the first weekend of the 2014 event, which was marked by beyond-capacity crowds for electronic dance music acts and spotty attendance for beloved, high-profile rock bands. The divide between rock hounds and electronic dance music is starting to look like the California desert’s own version of a civil war.

    Although Arcade Fire drew a big enough crowd for their closing set Sunday night, frontman Win Butler made reference to the split in some pointed remarks from the main stage: "Shout-out to all the bands still playing actual instruments at this festival."

    The previous night, the band Muse had trouble drawing a quorum of attendees to their headlining set. Noted the Los Angeles Times: “While a trickle of committed fans progged out with the English hard rock trio, all the action was deep in the Sahara

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  • ‘Rock Around the Clock’ Turns 60: The Most Important B-Side of All Time

    For a song destined to rock around the centuries, "Rock Around the Clock" — recorded 60 years ago this week — had the humblest and least expectant of beginnings, starting life as a lowly B-side that didn't even have a genre to call its own.

    Bill Haley & the Comets recorded it on April 12, 1954 almost as an afterthought, devoting 40 minutes and two takes to the tune at the tail end of a session otherwise devoted to "Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)," a novelty song about the happy benefits of sexual inequity after a nuclear blast. After being patched together from those two hastily recorded takes, "Rock Around the Clock" was relegated to flip-side status when first released a month after the session, taking a back seat to A-side "Thirteen Women," which did not rock anyone 24/7.

    The biggest indignity of all: When it came time to assign a genre or dance mode to "Rock Around the Clock" on the 45's label, as was common in that day, the term "rock & roll" hadn't yet been assigned to

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  • Linda Ronstadt: A Q&A About Having a Heart — and Career — Like a Wheel

    photo: AP

    Linda Ronstadt regrets a lot of things that she's having to miss nowadays, due to Parkinson's disease restricting her stamina and ability to travel. But she'd not shedding any tears over being forced to skip her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this Thursday night in Brooklyn, a event she swears she could care less about. "That decision was made for me," she says, referring to her illness, but it's clear that she has no interest in tuning in when the ceremony is broadcast on HBO May 31, and not just because she doesn't own a TV.

    Fans may feel a sense of vindication, having previously expressed concerns that an anti-West Coast bias or sexism kept her from getting in sooner. But Ronstadt doesn't care about those politics any more than she cares to listen to her old records. She laughs at the thought of even putting on "Heart Like a Wheel," which was just selected by the Library of Congress for its National Recording Registry. Her singing in those days was so bad, she feels,

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  • Strait Talk: The 2014 ACM Awards’ 11 Most Memorable Moments

    photo: AP

    When George Strait wins, everybody wins.

    Normally, when Entertainer of the Year is announced, we'd be studying the faces of the losers at the Academy of Country Music Awards to see just how talented they are at pretending to be gratified that the other guy got it. But nominees Luke Bryan, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, and Blake Shelton didn't have to do a lot of faking in their reaction shots when everyone's favorite Strait man won out. (George's triumph was widely expected, given the love for his "farewell tour" and a similar win at the CMAs in November.)

    [Photos: ACM Awards Red Carpet Fashion]

    "Our hero! Our hero won tonight!" exulted Shelton, wrapping up his co-hosting duties as if he'd forgotten he'd just been shut out.

    There was plenty to tweet about, positive and negative, before that feelgood finale. The ACMs packed as much live music into a three-hour telecast as any awards show ever has, thanks to two factors: (a) the near-absence of actual awards, with nary a trophy being

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  • Getting It On: How Marvin Gaye Came Up With the Two Sexiest Songs of All Time

    Marvin Gaye would have been 75 years old on April 2. Meanwhile, there are surely untold thousands of people aged 40 and under who owe having any kind of birthday at all to "Let's Get It On" or "Sexual Healing."

    Those two Gaye smashes might be competing against each other on a lot of music fans' rankings of Sexiest Song of All Time. Unlike other R&B lotharios like Barry White and Teddy Pendergrass, Gaye wasn't known initially or exclusively as a sexual smooth talker. His initial run of hits for Motown throughout the 1960s was appropriately innocent for that era of Top 40, and by the early '70s, he was better known for socially conscious concept albums like "What's Going On." But when the title track of the "Let's Get It On" album became ubiquitous in 1973, it forever shoved "protest singer" and "tuxedoed Tammi Terrell duet partner" off the top of the list of what Gate would be best remembered for.

    Whatever was "going on," it was clear, was happening in the boudoir. Even now, more than

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  • Dierks Bentley Q&A: How He Balances Road Trips and Rug Rats

    For a lot of country fans, it won’t just be a crazy summer in 2014 but a “5-1-5-0” summer, thanks to Dierks Bentley presiding over his first true headlining tour after being part of countless package deals during his first decade in the majors. And Bentley’s new collection, "Riser," which just debuted at No. 1 on the country albums chart, has a few tailgating-suitable anthems that’ll help get everyone in the mood for "What Was I Thinking" and "Tip It On Back."

    At the same time, "Riser" also has the most contemplative and personal moments we’ve heard on any of his seven albums to date, as discussed in the first part of our two-pronged interview with Bentley. In this second part, we talk to him about maintaining the tricky balance of being both a road dog and a family cat.

    YAHOO MUSIC: Last summer you toured with Miranda Lambert. This summer, you’ll be the headlining a tour in sizable venues for the first time. What took that long?

    BENTLEY: If you open my record up, I thank Miranda

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  • Rolling Stones Revive Oldie for First Time in 41 Years

    The Rolling Stones seem determined not to let their set lists get too mossy. This week in Tokyo, the band played the Goats Head Soup song "Silver Train" on stage for the fifth time ever... and the first four of those five times were all back in 1973.

    One likely reason the Stones haven't played it in 41 years — besides the fact that it was a B-side (to "Angie"), not a proper single — is that it prominently featured second guitarist Mick Taylor, who quit the group at the end of that '73 tour. When Taylor retired from the Stones, this feisty album track was retired, too.

    But as any Stones fan well knows, Taylor has been brought back into the fold for the 2013-14 tour, not as a full-time member, but a guest player on two or three songs per night. That's led the band to revive some of the early '70s tracks he played on — some primary in the Stones' catalog, like "Midnight Rambler" (the one song Taylor solos on every night), and some more obscure, like "Sway."

    And if you're going to dig

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  • Ranking the 2014 Oscars’ 7 Musical Performances

    Darlene Love steals the show at the 2014 Oscars

    Never in contemporary times has there been a year where the Best Song category was so strong — and relevant to younger viewers, even — that the Oscars were actually glad to put the nominated tunes on the telecast. That didn't keep the show's producers from severely abridging most of the songs. But we've come a long way from the Debbie Allen production numbers of olde when the show has music fans actually looking forward to U2, Pharrell Williams, Karen O, P!nk, and Idina Menzel (or, as she's known to John Travolta, Adela Dazeem?).

    [Related: It's Oscar-Proven: Jared Leto Gives Good Speech]

    They all acquitted themselves like winners, though some made a bigger impression on tech-award-wearied viewers than others. We reviewed the performances and ranked them from least to most galvanizing...

    [Related: Benedict Cumberbatch Photobombs U2]

    7. Karen O's "Moon Song." The song makes for a sweet aside in "Her," as Joaquin Phoenix and his software program get woozily romantic late at night. But it

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  • Dierks Bentley: A Q&A About Life, Death, and Picking Singles

    In a genre that provides itself on being real, Dierks Bentley remains among the real-est, whether he’s doin’ a lot of leavin’ or a lot of rising. With this week’s release of his seventh album, "Riser," Bentley again proves himself one of the best and most relate-able country stars we’ve got. It’s a collection that covers even more territory than usual, including the subjects of being a parent, losing a parent…and, not to stray too far from the country music zeitgeist, partying.

    We sat down with Bentley in Nashville last week for a conversation about the new album and how it changed direction mid-stream (or almost at the end of the stream, actually). In the first installment of our two-part interview, he talks about how a project that started out being heavily influenced by his father’s death ultimately came to be a more upbeat affair, for reasons both commercial and personal.

    Dierks Bentley in Nashville [Photo: Chris Willman]

    RAM COUNTRY: Speaking of "risers," your single “I Hold On” has been a riser on the chart.

    BENTLEY: Yeah. A

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  • Cassadee Pope, Brett Eldredge, Tyler Farr Blast Off at Nashville ‘New Faces’ Show

    The 2014 New Faces lineup: Tyler Farr, Charlie Worsham, Brett Eldredge, Cassadee Pope, Thomas Rhett [Photo: Getty Images]It's a perennial question in Nashville: Who's gonna fill their shoes? But with the focus more than ever on hunky young talent, the question these days is really: Who's gonna fill Florida Georgia Line's shoes?

    If there's a good answer to that, you're sure to find it at the annual New Faces show at the Nashville Convention Center. Traditionally the climax of the Country Radio Seminar conference, this dinner concert with arena-ready production values showcases the five freshman acts that radio programmers have voted the most likely to succeed. It's an honor nearly as coveted as winning Best New Artist at the CMAs or ACMs. And it's also a chance to prove to the FM gatekeepers that they'll beat the sophomore jinx.

    For 2014, four of the five performing honorees — Brett Eldredge, Tyler Farr, Charlie Worsham, and Thomas Rhett — were male, showing the continued difficulty women are having breaking through in the genre. The fifth, Cassadee Pope, further established that TV contest boosts remain

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