Irish singer and activist Sinéad O'Connor has died at the age of 56, The Irish Times reports. O'Connor, who was outspoken in her social and political views, released 10 studio albums between 1987 and 2014, but she was best known for her single 'Nothing Compares 2 U', written by Prince and released in 1990, which went on to hit number one around the world. In 1992 she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on the US TV show Saturday Night Live, looking at the camera and saying "fight the real enemy", a protest against the Catholic Church. O'Connor's 17-year-old son Shane died last year, days after he was reported missing. The singer later cancelled all live performances for the rest of 2022, and paid t

No favourite child
July 09, 2023

Nick Cave picks the best Bad Seeds songs

Nick Cave was asked on his Red Hand Files blog, by a pew persons who never listened to his music, to list his best songs. He can't, however: "My relationship to my songs is too entangled with their personal history, and I have no clear understanding as to which are the good ones and which are not. For instance, I think that ‘Brompton Oratory’, which was recorded in one take on a Casio I found in a junk shop, is a way better song than ‘The Mercy Seat’, which took months to write, weeks to record and had multiple ‘producers’ mix it; for a whole lot of despairing reasons, I think 'Ghosteen' is, by any metric, the best album the Bad Seeds have ever made, however The Bad Seeds song I love the most is probably ‘Sad Waters’ from Your Funeral, My Trial' — I cried at its slippery beauty when I first played it to my then girlfriend, Elisabeth, as we sat on her bed in Schöneberg, Berlin"...No favourite chilkd

TikTok Music has launched as a premium-only music subscription service in Indonesia and Brazil, including the catalogs of all three major record companies: Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music. Described as a “social music streaming service,” offering users a “full catalog of music from thousands of labels and artists, uninterrupted ad-free listening and a download function for listening offline”. The "social music streaming service" will let its users stream full versions of viral TikTok songs on TikTok Music, TechCrunch reports.

ByteDance is launching a new, AI-powered, free-to-use music production app, called Ripple, with the idea to have aspiring creators make the music for their short-form videos themselves using the app. Ripple has two key features: a ‘Melody to Song’ generator and a virtual recording studio, the MBW reports. The Melody to Song feature lets users sing or hum a melody directly into the app, and Ripple will then expand the melody by generating an instrumental in a variety of different genres.

Japan boy band King & Prince have set the record for 2023’s fastest-selling album in Japan, with their compilation album, 'Mr.5', selling more than 1.2 million physical copies in its first week, MBW reports. The ‘best of’ album also became the first album of 2023 to sell more than one million copies during its first week in Japan. On April 26, King & Prince sold over 1 million CD copies of their single 'Life Goes On' in its first week, which was the first time in three years that sales threshold was crossed.

Music about AI making music
May 14, 2023

Google's AI MusicLM now available to the public

Google's experimental AI tool that can generate high-fidelity music from text prompts and humming, MusicLM, has been made available to the public to test out, TechCrunch reports. Google explains that the tool works by typing in a prompt like “soulful jazz for a dinner party”. MusicLM will then create two versions of the requested song. The person can then vote on which one they prefer, which Google says will “help improve the AI model”.

SoundCloud is rolling out a new tool Fans that lets artists use the service’s proprietary data to discover and connect directly with their most-engaged fans on the platform. The tool has been used in beta by 10,000 artists enabling them to direct message (DM) superfans with the option to attach a track to these communications. This week, SoundCloud is expanding the beta availability of its ‘Fans’ feature to more than 50,000 Next Pro artists.

Zack de la Rocha of RATM / Missy Elliott / Kate Bush / George Michael

Kate Bush, Sheryl Crow, Missy Elliott, George Michael, Willie Nelson, Rage Against the Machine, and the Spinners will be inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the Performer category. Chaka Khan, Al Kooper, and Bernie Taupin will receive the Musical Excellence Award, DJ Kool Herc and Link Wray will be presented with the Musical Influence Award, and Don Cornelius is getting the Ahmet Ertegun Award, Billboard reports. Rolling Stone is angry - the classic rock media insists heavy metal should get its proper number of places in the Hall of Fame.

Pitchfork made a selection of eight songs that established Gordon Lightfoot "as a force in the United States and his native Canada—the songs that capture his essence". The New York Times has also made a selection, of 10 tracks. Guardian shares a short biography, full of famous admirers.

"Do you remember when the guitar was a wild, unpredictable instrument? (...) Well, Daniel Champagne still plays the guitar in that bold, unconstrained way" - Ted Gioia recommends the Australian guitarist (now living in Nashville). "You feel as if he just invented the instrument yesterday and was discovering its possibilities afresh. And I haven’t even started telling you about his singing and songwriting—but go find out for yourself."

"Italy's politically radical clubs of the '60s, New York City's disco scene, Detroit and Chicago's house and techno paradises, Ibiza's counterculture communal retreats, Britain's rave culture, and Berlin's techno scene" find their place in the new book 'Temporary Pleasure: Nightclub Architecture, Design and Culture from the 1960s to Today' by John Leo Gillen, who insists that the industry’s ​“one constant is change”. "The book wants to transform our expectations of club spaces. With cities, scenes and clubs in constant flux, they suggest we embrace that ephemerality through extensive photos and interviews" - The Face points out.

A federal jury in Washington, D.C., convicted Fugees rapper Prakazrel “Pras” Michel on charges including conspiracy, witness tampering, and failing to register as an agent of China, CNN reports. Prosecutors alleged that Malaysian fugitive businessman Jho Low paid Pras roughly $100 million to influence American politics, first with illegal political payments intended to support Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012, and later to influence Donald J. Trump and his administration to end a Department of Justice investigation into Jho Low. Leonardo DiCaprio was called as a witness during the trial due to his connection with Jho Low, who helped finance DiCaprio’s film 'The Wolf of Wall Street'. Pras Michel faces up to 20 years in prison.

Can't touch this!
April 26, 2023

Beatly - a platform for your AI music

A tech startup called Beatly has launched what it says is a decentralized platform where it claims "people can put their music up without being taken down". In a post on Product Hunt, one of the platform's founders, Alexander Zwerner, insists that the startup "understand[s] how important it is for this AI music to have a safe and reliable platform to be shared with the world. That's why we've developed a decentralized hosting structure that backups and ensures your music will never be taken down".

To precious to be played
April 26, 2023

50% of vinyl buyers in the US don't own a record player

American consumers bought 41.3 million vinyl records in 2022, compared to 33.4 million compact discs, which means that annual vinyl sales exceeded CD sales in the US last year for the first time since 1987, MBW reports. The difference in revenue is even bigger - income from vinyl jumped 17.2% year over year to $1.2 billion in 2022, while revenues from CDs fell 17.6%, to $483 million. Music sales data company Luminate also found that 50% of consumers who have bought vinyl in the past 12 months in the US own a record player, which of course means that 50% of vinyl buyers - don’t own a record player.

Harry Belafonte, the pioneering Calypso singer, actor, and civil rights leader, has died at the age of 96. In his music career, there are several firsts, and groundbreaking moves. His second album, 'Belafonte', was the first No 1 in the new US Billboard album chart in March 1956. His third album, 'Calypso', featuring songs from his Jamaican heritage, brought the feelgood calypso style to many Americans for the first time, and became the first album to sell more than a million copies in the US. Bob Dylan’s first recording – playing harmonica – was on Belafonte’s 1962 album, 'Midnight Special'. The previous year, Belafonte had been hired by Frank Sinatra to perform at John F Kennedy’s presidential inauguration.

Sabine Salamé

"Rap has become one of the most important tools to resist, criticise, and protest against oppression, dictatorship and corruption" - Gal-Dem points out in the introduction of their recent selection of the key players from the progressive rap scenes in Syria and Lebanon. Standing out in this part of the Arab peninsula are Bu Nasser Touffar, Amir Almurrai, Bu Kolthoum, El-Rass, Sabine Salamé, and Ebaa.

59.5% of artists are already using AI to create music, a new research which included 1200 users of music distribution company Ditto Music has revealed. The majority would use AI for mixing, mastering, or music production, MixMag reports. A minority of 28% of respondents said they would avoid using AI in their music-making process

Cassette sales in the UK grew by 5.2% in 2022, reaching their highest level since 2003, following 10 consecutive years of growth, Forbes reports. All in all, 195,000 audio cassettes were sold last year in the UK, compared to 3,823 sold in 2012. All 20 of the U.K's biggest-selling cassettes in 2022 were released that year, with the most popular cassettes sold being The Arctic Monkeys' ‘The Car’ and ‘Harry’s House' by Harry Styles. Similarly, in the U.S. 2022 sales of albums on cassette tape jumped by 28% to 440,000 - up from 343,000 in 2021,

Berlin-based saxophonist Bendik Giske is releasing his third album in June, and has shared the teaser song 'Rush' from it. He uses physicality, vulnerability and endurance as his tools of expression, with a change of approach on his new release, produced by Beatrice Dillon. On the new self-titled album he puts greater focus on rhythm, yet the melody, judging by 'Rush', is still there.

Reclusive West London-bred singer and producer Jai Paul performed his first-ever live set at Coachella’s Mojave stage last weekend, only one of the most anticipated gigs of the year. Jai Paul has released three singles in 12 years, yet he has climbed to cult-like status, although, or maybe thanks to, withdrawing from the public in general. It seems, however, he is relaunching his career - Jai Paul is set to play two consecutive nights in New York at Knockdown Centre on 25 April and 26 April at Brooklyn Steel, and in London on 9 and 10 May at underground venue space HERE at Outernet.

Ted Gioia wrote a great obituary to jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal, who died on Sunday aged 92: "Other musicians have changed the sound of jazz in various ways. But Ahmad Jamal actually transformed time and space. He opened up an alternative universe of sound, freer and less constrained than what we had heard before. The rules of improvised music were different after he appeared on the scene... Ahmad Jamal sat down at the piano, and just floated over the beat."

Folk music legend Joan Baez met two members of the Tennesee Three on a flight from Nashville to Newark on Sunday, and reacted upon her activist impulse. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were recently expelled from the Tennessee legislature over their participation in a gun control protest, This week both have officially been reinstated to their old seats. On Sunday, when the plane landed in Newark, Baez sang two songs with Jones, the traditional freedom songs 'We Shall Overcome' and 'Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round'.

Paul Simon has announced his new album 'Seven Psalms', out May 19, which came to him in a dream, Variety reports. On January 15th, 2018, Simon says he had a dream that said "You're working on a thing called 'Seven Psalms'", he wrote it down, without knowing what it meant. Gradually, he would wake up a few times a week at 3.30, and words would come (his debut album in Simon & Garfunkel, was of course titled 'Wednesday Mornin, 3 A.M.'). The album is a 33-minute, seven-movement collection intended to be heard as one continuous piece. Simon shares a video about the album, a trailer for an upcoming documentary about the album’s creation.

"Each chapter is filled to the brim with insights, new information, and powerful writing. McCormick clearly had high literary aspirations at this juncture in his life. I suspect that he was trying to capture something similar to Truman Capote’s 'In Cold Blood', the most celebrated ‘true crime’ book of the era. McCormick presents himself in these pages as a musical detective on the trail of the most elusive guitarist in history, and successfully conveys all the uncertainty and suspense of his investigation" - music writer Ted Gioia presents 'Biography of a Phantom: A Robert Johnson Blues Odyssey', a book about the famous delta blues guitarist written by his friend Mack McCormick. The published book is the early version of the manuscript. The later version argued that Mississippi guitarist named Robert Johnson—admired all over the world today—didn’t actually make those famous blues recordings or anything really. Gioia explains.

Madison McFerrin

"This is all about music discovery—and I’m excited to tell you about a few favorite artists you might not encounter elsewhere" - music writer Ted Gioia announces his list of 30 most intriguing new musicians. "It’s a cranky and deeply personal list", Gioia warns. Some of chosen ones are Hania Rani, singer-songwriter from Gdansk; Madison McFerrin, a pianist from a family of musicians; Sam Gendel - a versatile multi-instrumentalist.

AI Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
April 05, 2023

AI at work: Kanye West dissing Kanye West

AI developer Robert Nickson has recorded a track AI has produced replicating Kanye West's voice in order to diss the rapper. Nickson recorded a verse and had a trained AI model of Kanye replace his vocals. The results are quite impressive, or frightening, depending on how you take it.

Martin Hibbert

Martin and Eve Hibbert, a father and daughter who suffered disabilities from the May 2017 terror attack outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, are suing conspiracy theorist Richard D Hall for defamation and harassment, BBC reports. Hall has promoted the theory that the Manchester Arena bombing, which left 22 people dead, that the attack never happened and reportedly admitted to spying on the victims. Hibbert and his daughter Eve, who was 14 at the time, were standing about 5 meters from the bomb when it exploded, per the report, and both required wheelchairs after the blast. The lawsuit is the first of its kind to be filed in the U.K. against a conspiracy theorist.

Indie powerhouse Dead Oceans is about to release 'Rat Saw God', Wednesday’s new album, their fourth in as many years, and fifth in general. The LP was announced with a thunderous teaser-track 'Bull Believer', an eight-minute powerhouse. Friday is the day.

April 05, 2023

Spotify Live is shutting down

Music streaming giant Spotify is shutting down its live audio app, Spotify Live, two years after launching it and after coming to the conclusion that "it no longer makes sense as a standalone app.” The company plans to continue with some aspects of live audio, mainly “listening parties”. Some of the app’s shows will continue as non-live programs on the main Spotify app.

A great show by CBC News about the future of music and the effect technology has on it. CBC News Explore’s BIG MUSIC looks at how Spotify, Ticketmaster, LiveNation, and Tik Tok are changing the very nature of music. It goes way back to the very beginning of recorded music and ownership of music, to the current moment of non-ownership. Great stuff!

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