Teodoro “Teodorin” Nguema Obiang Mangue was born with power: since the late 1970s, his father had run the small central African country of Equatorial Guinea as a despot overseeing a murderous regime buoyed and financed by unending flows of crude oil. As a result, Teodorin enjoyed flaunting his wealth however he could. Some of his wealth Mangue spent building the world’s largest Michael Jackson memorabilia collection. Rolling Stone brings an excerpt from Casey Michel’s book, 'American Kleptocracy: How the U.S. Created the World’s Greatest Money Laundering Scheme in History' which describes how, among other themes, federal agents used Mangue's MJ fetish to track down millions in ill-gotten gains. The book is out November.

Former Wild Beasts frontman Hayden Thorpe releases his second solo album 'Moondust For My Diamond' which he wrote while spending plenty of time in nature. He spoke to The New Cue about trekking in time of lockdown: "There were days where there wouldn't be anyone for many miles and you're at the top of a mountain and there's no planes in the sky. There was some pretty distilled moments and I felt very lucky at that time. It was a beautiful winter, too, there was a lot of snow and it felt very light, lots of light bouncing around. In many ways, walking is similar meditation to music, it's a physical process, but it's also a mental one, it creates a synergy and an inner-rhythm that I find really inspiring. There's something about being suspended between rock and sky that does something to your senses, a drug-like effect really". He transposed that feeling to his new album - "I didn't want it to be about the top of the mountain, I wanted it to feel like the top of the mountain".

"The giants of the financial world are now really waking up to the modern music business’s true value – and they’re throwing billions at it", Music Business Worldwide writes announcing a major shift in music rights. New York-based investment management titan Apollo Global Management is investing up to $1 billion in HarbourView. Investment company Blackstone is about to launch a new joint entity with Hipgnosis, that will have a billion dollars or significantly more to spend on music copyrights. KKR (& Co Inc) – which already has an existing billion-dollar investment vehicle in music running with BMG – has a portfolio of assets under its management worth $234 billion.

Big Thief

Big Thief touch into death and love on ‘Change’, although simply and directly; Robert Glasper does his jazz/hip-hop/r’n’b thing on ‘Shine’; Dean Wareham sends a strong and simple message about loss on ‘As Much As It Was Worth’ - “it hurts, just as much as it was worth”; Sonically, Stick in the Wheel are delicate and gentle combining electronics and folk, emotionally, on ‘The Cuckoo’ they’re quite heavy.

"One of the primary reasons most musicians—not just the top .01 percent—need to make money outside of recorded music is because the economics of streaming make it incredibly difficult to make a living, much less generate wealth, off listening alone. This is why the music business must fundamentally reconsider the potential for interactivity, community building, and immersion" - Dave Edwards, head of revenue at the music streaming platform Audiomack, notes in an analysis for tech blog Future.

Song Exploder podcast shared a "very different and special episode of the show" - about John Lennon song 'God'. Song Exploder have never tried making a posthumous episode before, because hearing directly from the artist is at the heart of the show. However, with all the John Lennon interview archives, plus all the isolated tracks from the recordings, and the original demo, it turned out a legitimate, different and special episode of the show.

xQcOW

Game-streaming platform Twitch has been the victim of a leak, with leaked documents appearing to show Twitch's top streamers each made millions of dollars from the Amazon-owned company in the past two years, Eurogamer reports. However, as music and technology analyst Cherie Hu points out, the top gamer on Twitch earns ~10x more per year from direct tips and subs than the top music artist on the platform. xQcOW made $752,467 in September 2021, whereas the top paid musician Kenny Beats has made $677,00 in the two-year period from Aug 2019 to Oct 2021.

London model-turned-singer Alewya started with club music, before making a U-turn into live jazzy guitar music in the past year. Now she's back on the clubby track. Her new song 'Play' combines moody disco and afro-beat with a catchy melody on top.

Sony Music and Warner Music published their UK gender pay gap reports, revealing a mean average gender pay gap in 2020 (as of April 5, 2019) of 26.0% and 31.5% at the two companies, respectively, Music Business Worldwide reports. It's slowly closing, but it's still a crevasse - last year it was 29.1% at Universal Music, 20.9% at Sony Music and 38.7% at Warner Music. The mean average ‘gender pay gap’ reflects what the average female employee earns versus the average male employee at each company.

"Despite disco’s rep as a frivolous trend, it was a fundamental chapter in American music and cultural history. Born out of Black music and queer subculture, it went on to influence generations of musicians. But disco also inspired a fierce backlash, and a concerted effort to write it off as nothing more than cool beats and bad fashion. That narrative stuck, and disco is just now starting to get its due" - the latest Quartz Weekly Obsession reads. It looks back at the start and the meaning of disco.

Peace, love and understanding (of Korean)

BTS’ anti-bullying campaign raised $3.6 million

K-pop icons BTS have raised an impressive $3.6 million after teaming up with UNICEF four years ago to create an anti-bullying campaign called Love Myself, NME reports. Launched in November 2017, the Love Myself campaign sends a powerful anti-bullying message, promoting self-love among children and young people across the world. In addition to the $3.6 million raised, the campaign has also generated significant interest online, with almost five million tweets mentioning the initiative, as well as over 50 million engagements.

I now believe he can fly

YouTube deletes R. Kelly's channels

YouTube has taken down R. Kelly's video channels “in accordance with creator responsibility guidelines” on the social network, Reuters reports. Channel owners convicted of egregious crime may be barred if the content is closely related to the crime, making Kelly liable on the basis that he used his fame and power to establish his racketeering enterprise. R. Kelly songs uploaded by other channels, however, do not violate the creator responsibility guidelines, and his songs and albums remain available on YouTube.

Tina Turner has sold the rights to her music catalogue - share of her recordings, her music publishing writer’s share, neighboring rights and name, image, and likeness - to BMG, in the biggest single-artist rights acquisition for the German company. MBW believes that this acquisition is in the $50 million-and-above category.

"New York City has long been a character in rap. But 'Half God' is the story of how that character has shaped our protagonist, a young man immersed and in love with its spirit, holding on loosely to an ever-evolving community in which he sees his own reflection" - Pitchfork argues in favor of New York rapper Wiki's new album. Stereogum points out to the producer - "Wiki and Navy Blue display an easy, expansive chemistry".

Betty Buckley, the actress who sang 'Memory' in the original New York production of 'Cats' tries to find some reason in Donald Trump's somewhat bizarre love for the song. "So, like, Trump was a handsome kid, but his dad was a bully, so he became a bully, just trying to impress Daddy. I can’t win with charm, he thought . . . and he’s always felt outside. In his heart of hearts, there’s this tremendous need, an insatiable need, to be loved, the love he never received from his father or mother. So that is in that song: that incredible longing to belong, to connect, to not be rejected, that’s what this whole thing is. All these years, I had no clue why that song touched him, but now, with this book . . . I get it, I get it!” - she tells the New Yorker.

Plenty of country for old rockers

The best country rock songs

Late Tom Petty's quote that today's country music is nothing more than “bad rock with a fiddle” was the inspiration for Medium's blog entry of the best country rock songs. It includes some Rolling Stones, Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Presley, and some context.

Kacey Musgraves performed 'Justified' on 'Saturday Night Live' with her guitar and boots on - and nothing else. “She was nude” - Musgraves’ publicist confirms to Variety - “precautions were taken, and this was the first time it’s happened on the show”.

"Art is a mirror of what’s going on socially. You can connect the dots. So this has been the best time to write because reality itself is being questioned!” - Nightmares on Wax' George Evelyn tells in a Mix Magazine interview about the point of music. It has a purpose also: "Music has always been the channel for the common man or woman against the system. Now I find it’s the minimum amount of artists speaking up for the common man or woman".

'Working For the Knife' "arrives with the kind of energy that tosses you back in your scarlet theater seat and keeps you nervously eating popcorn, licking the salt the same way Mitski licks the staircase at 2:08 in the video" - Rolling Stone presents new song by the singer-songwriter. The video is "a strangely compelling short film starring a reluctant performer returning to the spotlight".

Pop stars Shakira, Elton John, Ringo Starr, and Julio Iglesias were named in a new leak of private financial documents, known as the Pandora Papers, published over the weekend by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, offering a glimpse at the tangled web of offshore accounting and alleged tax avoidance schemes used by some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people. None of the above were accused of any wrongdoing or of violating any laws.

Journalist Ciaran Thapar's debut book 'Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City' follows the story of four individuals to observe how youth violence, policing, gentrification and the media have affected their lives. The book is based on Thapar’s research, interviews and the relationships he’s formed as a youth worker. Each chapter title of 'Cut Short' is named in reference to a song lyric - which is the basis of The Face interview with Thapar.

Level goes on an ambitious quest - tries to connect wordings of contemporary rappers with those of classic philosophers. One of the comparisons is between Kendrick Lamar and Plato, who both deal with issues of identity, reality and ideas:

“What money got to do with it / When I don’t know the full definition of a rap image? / I’m trapped inside the ghetto and I ain’t proud to admit it / Institutionalized, I keep runnin’ back for a visit” - Kendrick Lamar, 'Institutionalized'

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light” - Plato.

The effect of background music on concentration largely depends on a person’s personality and taste, but work-appropriate music tends to share a few general qualities - Maria A.G. Witek, a professor in the Department of Music at Birmingham University, states in a new study she co-authored. The best kind of music to listen to while working should have no vocals, Witek says, because lyrics tend to be distracting. The music should also be slow, repetitive, and soft. Tram Nguyen, a member of the Cambridge Brain Sciences Team, recently also found some evidence that low-tempo songs may benefit the regions of the brain responsible for memory and completing tasks. Elemental reports on the science of music to work to.

"I am throwing in the shoes. I'm retiring" - David Lee Roth, the original lead singer of Van Halen, has sad announcing his retirement in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Roth's announcement comes just shy of a year after Eddie Van Halen, the band's lead guitarist, died of cancer. Roth referenced his friend's death, saying he had been thinking about "the departure of my beloved classmate. I am encouraged and compelled to really come to grips with how short time is, and my time is probably even shorter".

LCD Soundsystem have announced a 20-date residency at Brooklyn Steel, marking their first live shows in more than three years, Rolling Stone reports. The run of shows takes place between November 23rd and December 21st. It was only a few months ago that LCD Soundsystem leader James Murphy said the band was on a “full hiatus”.

"More than just an exceptional body of music that goes well beyond techno, ‘Tresor 30’ stands as a testament to the community-building power behind the music. What started in a small pub in Schöneberg and sweaty basement in Kreuzberg now has leylines extending right across the world" - DJ Mag presents Berlin club's monumental 52-track boxset, ‘Tresor 30’. It also draws a short history of the club.

An amusing and amazing TED talk by Lizzo who goes into twerking as a pop-cultural phenomenon. She traces booty shaking to a traditional West African dance and tells how Black women across generations kept the rhythm alive, from blues and jazz singers to modern rap and hip-hop performers. With her characteristic energy, she shares how twerking empowered her to love her own body — and explains why understanding its origins helps protect Black culture from erasure and misappropriation.

“Becoming a household name has been complicated. Because you don’t get to choose the people you become a household name for” - country star Brandi Carlile tells in an interesting Spin interview. She looks into her as a star: “It’s really scary, because I’m so flawed. But I have all the same poor kid afflictions that anybody else does when they get a little bit of money or power. I’m bad with money. I make selfish decisions. I veer in and out of fucking messianic complexes and narcissistic behavior, so it would be easy to catch me up. But at some point, you have to accept and know that people are going to choose their own leaders, and I’m just going to continue to be myself. We can’t let it dampen our activism. We just have to keep powering forward, because we can’t do nothing”.

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Mobile payment service Cash App launched Cash App Studios, an initiative designed to help independent creatives, including artists, musicians, directors, and designers, fund their projects. Any artist working with Cash App will retain ownership of their work and won’t have to pay back the cash. It all sounds great, but there's a back side of this story, explained by Trapital's Dan Runcie who sees the initiative largely as a marketing play—an extension of Cash App's hip-hop influencer strategy—while taking note of the Tidal/JAY-Z connection, as Matty Karas points out.

A beautiful and insightful TED talk by Hrishikesh Hirway, creator of Song Exploder, a podcast about the creative process of songwriting. He talks about how important it is to be fully engaged when listening to a song, and compares it to listening to people, giving them full attention and effort. He also plays one of his songs and goes into the construction of it. Great stuff!

Disney+ has shared a great new trailer for 'Get Back', Peter Jackson’s new three-part documentary chronicling the making of The Beatles’ penultimate album, 1970’s 'Let It Be'. Jackson said it is a “story of friends and of individuals. It is the story of human frailties and of a divine partnership. It is a detailed account of the creative process, with the crafting of iconic songs under pressure, set amid the social climate of early 1969. But it’s not nostalgia – it’s raw, honest, and human". The documentary features – for the first time in its entirety – The Beatles’ last live performance as a group, the rooftop concert on London’s Savile Row on January 30th, 1969. It is set to premiere over Thanksgiving weekend (November 25th, 26th, and 27th).

"The projection is sometimes intense, but I feel like people in the public eye and artists in particular are social activists by mistake, because we’re these screens upon which people project everything. They project light, they project what’s wrong, they project what they hate" - Alanis Morissette told Olivia Rodrigo in their Rolling Stone chat. Oliva Rodrigo spoke about her disowning her songs: "I always think that creativity is sometimes really magical and celestial, and if you’re a vessel for an amazing song, that’s awesome, but sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with you. I try to not attach a lot of ego to it".

Pitchfork is continuing to celebrate its 25th birthday, the latest b-day cake being a selection of favourite albums by some of Pitchfork's own favourite musicians. Some interesting choices: ANOHNI chose 'Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood' ("Buffy is one of the people I am relying on to help me understand how to move forward as an artist and as a human being"), Bun B chose Radiohead’s 'OK Computer' ("when life starts moving too fast, 'OK Computer' is still there to help slow it down for me"), Daniel Kessler from Interpol chose Aphex Twin’s 'Richard D. James Album' ("pushed music to where it had never ventured before"), Thundercat chose Slipknot’s 'Slipknot' ("awesomeness"), Timbaland chose OutKast’s 'SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below' ("groundbreaking").

Jaimie Branch

South Arts, a nonprofit arts organization based in Atlanta, will award grants ranging from approximately $25,000 to $40,000 to 52 jazz artists, all summed-up $2 million to dozens of musicians like Damon Locks, Jaimie Branch, and Kip Hanrahan. Matty Karas compares this amount to hundreds of millions of dollars being paid out to pop and rock stars for their back catalogs: "Which of these sounds like the more meaningful contribution: the one designed to enrich music's one percenters and Wall Street speculators, or the one designed to support the ongoing, life-affirming work of music's vibrant middle class? Which will result in the creation of better music? Which will do more to sustain that creation, and enrich the rest of us, in the years ahead?".

Pitchfork talked to five promising new artists about structural racism, the many conundrums of relying on streaming services, the effect of COVID on their careers and communities, over recording techniques, album art, and other topics. Amaarae sums up their common identity - "We fought to have our voices heard and to unlearn a lot of our past traumas" - and looks into the future - "I think the generation after us is just so radical and self-aware in a way that we’ve just started to learn. They’re fearless".

An interesting conversation about being a performer with Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan in The New Cue. He says it takes him a while on tour to get in the zone for a show: "A whole day, and then it got to the point where I just sort of stayed in it. And that often happens with performance, especially if you're on a tour. Over the years, I've found that doing these really large tours with my band, I have to be fully in. You do step out every now and then because you do certain legs of the tour and you might have, like, a month in between certain legs and it's always very difficult to make that transition to come back home for a month, see your mates, see your wife and your kids and kind of be like, ‘oh, what's happening?’ At some point, you kind of switch and you end up like, ‘I've just got to stay in this until it's over’. You know, it's a long time, you're doing it for on and off for the best part of a year and a half, two years, so you invest a lot of yourself in it. After this last big tour Depeche did, it took me a good while when I got back home". He also talks about his new solo album 'The Imposter' and where the title came from: "I had imposter syndrome for a long time in Depeche. I mean, honestly, that's where the title for this record actually came from, the sort of final character, if you like, that I was using for myself to do that whole 'Spirit' tour. You know, he was the ultimate imposter, kind of on the edge of being maybe too old to be doing this".

Yves Tumor / Moor Mother / Navy Blue

Pitchfork made a list of 25 new artists "that help us consider the future of music: how it’ll be made, where it’ll come from, what role it’ll play in shaping scenes, and how genre lines may be increasingly dismantled". Some of the promising ones the P staff chose: MIKE for being "a beacon within the modern rap underground", Black Midi for "oddity and unpredictability", 100 Gecs for their "extreme pop music", Moor Mother for her "radical message", Bartees Strange for "his vision of what guitar music can encompass", Yves Tumor for their "restless experimentation", Amaarae for "bending the boundaries of Afro-fusion music", Navy Blue for being the "leader of a new class of introspective rapper-producers", Blood Incantation because they've "elevated old-school death metal into a psychedelic, ever-expanding solar system".

Primary Wave has acquired a stake in the company owned by the estate of the legendary Bing Crosby, in a deal "estimated in excess of $50 million’, AP News reports. This deal includes the Bing Crosby Archives, featuring thousands of recordings by Bing Crosby and other artists, many of which have never been released. Terms of the deal include artist royalties from master recordings featuring Crosby’s performances, writer royalties from songs written by Bing Crosby, his rights in the film 'White Christmas', as well as other film, radio, and television productions. In addition, Primary Wave has acquired a stake in his name, likeness, and rights of publicity.

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