"Millions of listeners now subscribe to lo-fi hip-hop playlists to relax, study, chill, and sleep. Its popularity has spawned a DIY business opportunity. Companies like Lofi Girl (formerly ChilledCow) have carved out their own lane, launched their own record labels, built an independent brand of merch, products, playlists, and more" - Trapital says presenting Music Ally's piece about the chill-hop genre.

"The question of control has surrounded Britney Spears from the start of her career. How much was she being manipulated by the powerful men who stood to profit from her image? To what extent was her existence manufactured by the demands of the system around her?" - The New Yorker asks in a long-read after the disturbing testimony pop star gave at the Los Angeles court about her conservatorship. "Many of the most harrowing revelations in her testimony had been visible to anyone who cared to look closely. She told the court that she’d wanted to express them for a long time but had been afraid to do so in public - 'I thought people would make fun of me'”.

Streaming gives the artists an opportunity to break out from obscurity, but makes it exponentially more difficult to have a follow-up hit. That’s because like so many other viral hits, the song, not the artist, became the asset - Vox writer Charlie Harding says in an interesting essay about the artist and the album in the age of never-ending flow of music. “Streaming is a great way to make an artist faceless” - says Lucas Keller, the CEO of the entertainment management company Milk & Honey, who adds - “the song becomes bigger than the artist”. Emily Warren, who has written hits for Dua Lipa and the Chainsmokers among many others, said that she knows songwriters with hundreds of millions of streams and Grammy nominations who still drive Uber for a living. But she says that a songwriter with just two big radio hits is set up to retire.

The Earth was not enough
June 29, 2021

Sun Ra: The impossible attracts me

Sun Ra liked "the new", whether it be instruments, words, genres - The New Yorker points out in a profile about the innovator. He gave instruments new names, like the “space-dimension mellophone", the “cosmic tone organ" and the “sunharp", whereas his band the Arkestra weren't musicians, they were "tone scientists". Sun Ra himself was an exploratory soul - “the impossible attracts me, because everything possible has been done and the world didn’t change". This spring, the Chicago gallery and publisher Corbett vs. Dempsey reproduced a series of Sun Ra poetry booklets: 'Jazz by Sun Ra',' 'Jazz in Silhouette', and 'The Immeasurable Equation'.

Analysis of Singapore's GDP is funnier!
June 28, 2021

Hey Pitchfork, could you lighten up a bit?!

An obvious question, for years now, which nobody has loudly set, to the very clever and way-too-serious Pitchfork writers (or, maybe, should its owner Conde Nast answer it?!). "Pitchfork is devoid of personality to a startling degree, especially in a pop culture magazine" music journalist and critic Wayne Robbins argues, defining Pitchfork texts "as post-humor assertions of importance regarding artists no one outside a young cohort of music nerds would find meaningful or important". What the P lacks, Robbins is certain, are expressions of personalities: "There isn't a single critic at this magazine that has a distinctive, look-forward-to-reading style or personality. And I bet you could make a substantial list with names of writers who are capable, but for some reason can't, or won't, let their freak flag fly".

Two shades of blue
June 26, 2021

Joni Mitchell's 'Blue' 50 years later

A great read in the NPR about the 1971 Joni Mitchell album 'Blue', and women who helped make it, as well as about Miles Davis' 1959 album 'Kind Of Blue' and all the men who contributed to it. The bottom line of the article: "It's interesting to think about why people decide some works of art can change their lives".

The great wall of rock
June 25, 2021

Chinese indie-rock scene "has a real heart"

Yu Quan

Rolling Stone has a great long-read about the Chinese (indie-)rock scene, going back decades to Black Panther, Yu Quan, and He Yong. Today, it's Beijing that holds the country's highest-profile rock scene, with Southern cities Wuhan and Chengdu boasting fertile punk and post-punk scenes, due in part to their large university communities. RS emphasizes radical sincerity of Chinese rock, which Ricky Maymi, guitarist of the San Francisco group the Brian Jonestown Massacre, describes this way: “The musicians in the Chinese rock scene are finding a place to put ideas and feelings where otherwise, in their culture, they wouldn’t have a place. This music has real heart, devoid of any kind of irony. That gives it a built-in power, a magic that Western music hasn’t had for a long time".

The strategies of the Big Three record labels - Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music Group (WMG), and Sony Music Entertainment (SME) - dictate the future, even for companies outside of the major label system. They are investing billions of dollars to keep your attention for as long as possible. Their moves signal the best opportunities, and the areas getting slept on - Trapital's Dan Runcie goes behind the moves of the labels which hold 69% of the recorded music revenue.

The Pacific potion
June 21, 2021

Mexican love of anime - explained

"Anime in particular is extremely popular across Latin America, but it has a special significance in Mexico, with a history dating back nearly 60 years" - Bandcamp goes to explain the influence of anime on Mexican underground music. "In 1964, 'Astroboy' was the first Japanese animated series to be dubbed and broadcast in Mexico, becoming a fixture of network television and followed in subsequent years by 'Speed Racer' and 'Captain Tsubasa'... Large Japanese diasporas in Peru and Brazil were also quick to embrace anime, as rapidly growing syndication blocks paved the way for Latin America’s golden age of anime and manga in the ‘90s".

The Face looks into the revival of pop punk with artists such as Machine Gun Kelly, Meet Me @ The Altar, Pinkshift, Lil Uzi Vert, and others, yet this time around the ecology of the genre is different. The artists breaking through 15 years ago were almost exclusively straight, white and male. But the new wave of pop-punk artists coming from many sides of society are eager to make the scene a safe space.

What's a band to do?
June 16, 2021

Ted Gioia: How can artists use NFTs?

NFTs for music won’t really take off until (1) income streams are attached to the token, or (2) the owner’s name is commemorated (and displayed prominently) in a sufficiently elitist master-of-the-world manner - music writer Ted Gioia offers his opinions on NFTs, and raises some possibilities:

  1. A band could sell shares in its music, with potential for spinning off ownership of individual musicians as separate tokens
  2. Artists could do mergers
  3. Artists would be free to issue new shares
  4. When artists run into career problems, they could turn to their powerful billionaire owners for help in resolving them
  5. Fans would have endless opportunities for demonstrating their loyalty
  6. Artists would face the complex financial trade-offs

A great text by the American jazz critic and music historian Ted Gioia about how he worked as a fixer in the 1990s. He looks back into an episode from China where he had to find an "honest broker" - "true brokers, intermediaries between others. They aren’t going to participate in your deal, no matter what it is. They are go-betweens, really. But do not underestimate the power of this kind of brokerage. Whatever you need—a loan, a building permit, political influence, a place to land a private jet, whatever—they will introduce you to the right people and steer you away from the sharks. And they do this for a very simple reason: their prestige is enhanced by making these connections. In many cases, they don’t even want to be paid. Or let me put that differently—you repay them by becoming a trusted contact for them in future dealings". A great read!

Jacobin magazine goes into a quest to find socialism in hip-hop, starting with the most famous examples - Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. - and taking a left turn to find some new ones in underground hip-hop: "A handful of artists have been unequivocal in their willingness to operate under a red flag. Paris, Immortal Technique, and the Coup have been recording radical songs since the 1990s".

The school of rock
June 01, 2021

What is "orgcore"?

Dillinger Four

Miranda Reinert goes on to explain the punk subgenre orgcore, melodic punk, different from in due to the way music is discussed online, namely, it gets defined simply as “music enjoyed by users of punknews”. It is also defined by the type of person who enjoys it, which is why sometimes it is called FestCore and Beard Punk, because both bands and fans in the orgcore scene typically have beards. Typical bands from the scene include Dillinger Four, American Steel, None More Black, The Loved Ones, and The Falcon.

Young, rageful girls
May 31, 2021

Essay: What I love about the Linda Lindas

Medium writer Patsy Fergusson explaines why she liked Linda Lindas' 'Racist, Sexist Boy': "I’m not a fan of punk music. Screaming annoys me. But I loved the song... because it broke so many tired stereotypes.

  • I loved that the girls felt safe making that horrible sound
  • I loved that their local librarians supported them in doing it
  • I loved that they’re so young: 10, 13, 14, and 16
  • I loved that the singer screaming the rageful lyrics is Asian, exploding the submissive Asian female stereotype
  • And I loved the message in the lyrics: racism and sexism are bad!".

The guitar industry has been struggling with scandals over illegal logging, resource scarcity and new environmental regulations related to trade in endangered species of trees. The Conversation went on a 6-year-long quest tracing guitar-making across five continents, looking at the timber used and the industry’s environmental dilemmas. A great piece of investigative (music) journalism.

Looking for the present
May 12, 2021

Is trap metal the future?

Mimi Barks

The Punk Rock MBA YouTuber this week presents trap metal, a new genre combining trap-rap and metal, especially the industrial segment of it. The video-blogger goes from early pioneers like Suicideboys, Bones, Scarlxrd, Ghostemane, and XXXtentacion, and suggests newer trap metal artists like Mugxtsu, Mimi Barks, Sinizster, Gizmo and Sematary.

Beethoven's morning hygiene routine involved standing half-dressed before a mirror and pouring enormous pitchers of water over his hands while singing loudly to himself. After this, the German composer would count out exactly 60 beans and grind them, and make himself a coffee. Van Magazine's writer tried a week of this routine, as well as other somewhat strange daily routines of 4 other classical composers - Edvard Grieg, Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Antonin Dvořák.

The stylist
May 08, 2021

What is "Spago Rock"?

Simmons & Matteo

A quintessential blog post at The Melt about "Spago Rock", defined by Mike Pace of Oxford Collapse: "A style of music that could be loosely defined as organic soul with synthetic instrumentation. If the yacht rock sound encompassed the mid-’70s to early ‘80s and centered around good times n' vibes, Spago Rock takes place from roughly 1986-1992, when many legacy artists matured and mellowed into their 40s, yet still wanted to be seen as contemporary and relevant. Artists who cut their teeth woodshedding in the analog days were now embracing the latest in digital studio technology, crafting immaculate electronic-based sophisti-pop while never truly abandoning their rock roots". Pace's new project Simmons & Matteo is the new phase of that genre.

Nova Twins

Bands from all corners of metal are creating ferocious music that offers new perspectives on discrimination, race, gender and sexuality - Guardian reports on the changing face of the world's most controversial genre. The change is being fronted by podcasts On Wednesdays We Wear Black and Hell Bent for Metal, online communities like Alt Together, and fanzines such as Blkgrlswurld and Tear It Down, as well as by bands such as Nova Twins (dealing with misogyny and racial microaggressions), Life Of Agony (fronted by a transwoman), Tetrarch (fronted by African-American female metal guitarist), Pupil Slicer (discussing issues such as transgender healthcare) etc.

Tik-punk
May 06, 2021

Hip-hop brings pop-punk back

In the past year, pop-punk has made its comeback with the help of hip-hop crossovers by 4kGoldn and iann, Machine Gun Kelly and Travis Barker, MOD SUN, Trippie Red etc. Also, TikTok, good at nostalgia and promoting subcultures, also helped out bringing pop-punk back. Consequence gets a closer look.

The entertainment industry appears to have massively capitalised on memes - Vice points out in an interesting article about how memes are new songs, and live streams. At first, memes were created using some other content intended for something completely different, but over the last year, there’s been a more formulaic approach where tunes are either made with the focused intention of being recreated as memes on Reels and TikTok, or beats are added to popular memes. What happened was that the audiences now expect memes from the producers now, not music, as few producers attest to. "The advantage is that you have better reach, but then people always expect you to incorporate humour into your music” - Anshuman Sharma said, while Sarthak Sardana added - “after I started making memes, my Instagram interactions went up by 3x, but the kind of following I got wasn’t into music”. Rosh Blazze got 7.2 million views for his remix - “now, my audience only wants to listen to my meme remixes, and sees me more as a video editor than a music producer”.

Ardalan in previous life

“I wouldn’t have a job right now if it wasn’t for Twitch” - DJ Ardalan says to Vice in a long-read about the transfer of DJs from clubs to Amazon's streaming service. For electronic dance music, Twitch has become a juggernaut. Paid partnerships with individual acts like Soul Clap, Seth Troxler, Justin Martin, and Ardalan show how Twitch is investing to attract more DJs to its platform.

Where body meets the mind
April 16, 2021

Street-hop - the evolving sound of Nigeria

Sarz

"People just want to dance" - veteran producer and DJ Sarz says to DJ Mag about street-hop, ever-evolving sound of the 16-million people megacity of Lagos, Nigeria. It’s a mutating sound: even its most basic elements are in motion, influenced by hyperactive, ephemeral street trends. Dance music in Lagos is a percussion-heavy sound with a pitter-patter of percussive progression. DJ Mag speaks to some of street-hop’s key artists, like DJ Kaywise, Rexxie and Sarz, to find out how it’s evolved and where it’s going next.

"Lil Nas X used one of America’s most reliable engines for cultural outrage to his advantage: the conservative media ecosystem... With the 'Montero' video, Nas affirmed his personal identity as one of vanishingly few out gay rappers by expressing himself as flamboyantly and unabashedly as possible. He actively courted the controversy, measuring his success by the outrage and teeth-gnashing of his opponents - an approach straight out of the conservative culture-war playbook" - Politico analyses how the rapper turned the weapons against the shooter. He was prepared for this social-media battle - "for years as a teenager, Nas operated a popular Twitter account that reposted and repurposed viral content... He understands all too well that in 2021, there may be no quicker way to pump oxygen into a brand than to let partisan politics do it for you".

Independent touches the sensitive issue of doxxing, searching for and publishing private or identifying information about someone on the internet, typically with malicious intent. Pop critic Ann Powers endured a series of verbal attacks after an essay around Lana Del Rey's album 'Norman F***ing Rockwell!'. Pitchfork writer Jillian Mapes published a mostly positive review of Taylor Swift’s 'Folklore' only to be faced with threats, which included pictures of her home. Ariana Grande fans went after culture critic Roslyn Talusan in 2019 with the singer refusing to tell them to back off. So, journalism stays one of the few professions where the professional is too often expected to do their job not professionally.

"The premature loss of Earl 'DMX' Simmons labors as a frightening reminder that we, Black men, do not grow old, at least not nearly enough of us. Chadwick Boseman, Charlie Murphy, Bernie Mac, Nipsey Hussle, Prince, Heavy D, George Floyd, Gerald LeVert, Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG, Prodigy (of Mobb Deep), J Dilla, Bernard Tyson, Fred the Godson. MF DOOM" - Consequence's Kahron Spearman writes on the sensitive issue, going into the wider societal and private contexts of the problem.