Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Swift’

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How Apple Changed Music and Steve Jobs Made Rihanna (and the Cast of Glee and Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift, etc.) a Record-Breaking Star

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Apple marked the passing of its co-founder and former chief executive Steve Jobs Wednesday, calling him “a visionary and creative genius.” In the coming weeks, much will be said of Jobs and how he revolutionized the  way we live. Evidence of his impact can be found in pockets carrying app-filled iPhones, DVD collections sprinkled with Pixar films and of course, the Billboard Hot 100.

Before the launch of the iTunes digital store in 2003, the record industry was facing the unprecedented threat of online piracy. Consumers were freed from forking over $15 for an album with one hit song and a tracklist full of filler by file sharing services such as Napster. Suddenly, an industry that had made record profits in the late ’90s with this model (think Chumbawamba, Eiffel 65, Natalie Imbruglia, etc.) scrambled to restore revenue by resorting to lawsuits.


Lady Gaga Joins the Seven Figure Club

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

New York City subways were plastered in Lady Gaga images, one of the many tactics Interscope used in their mammoth promotional push for her album “Born This Way,” the 17th album to sell more than a million copies in a week.

The numbers are in, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way is the 17th album to sell more than a million copies in a week. Surprisingly, Born This Way is Gaga’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 album chart, and with the official tally at 1,110,420, it earns the distinction of shifting more copies in a week than any album since 50 Cent’s The Massacre in 2005, and more than any female artist since Britney Spears’ Oops!…I Did It Again in 2000.

As record sales tumble year after year, first week sales in the seven figures have become increasingly rare. Taylor Swift did it last year with Speak Now, but when you consider ten albums managed to sell more than a million during the first half of the ’00s (five of them in 2000 alone) while from 2005-2009, only two did, the decline of album sales is apparent.

Kanye West

Goin’ West: Kanye’s Epic Saga

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in Music

With 2010 fading fast in the rear-view mirror, it’d be easy to call the year a coup for Kanye West: his latest album is getting buckets of acclaim  — including here at Rhombus — and everyone pretty much agrees the guy is a one-of-a-kind maestro. But while we all rap his praises, it’s worth keeping in mind that West was, not so long ago, in serious PR trouble.

Consider: In 2006, West stated on national TV that President Bush didn’t care about black people. Though many probably privately agreed, the moment brought West a lot of negative press. And because he didn’t subsequently present any cohesive political message, the moment seemed more like an impulsive rant than anything else.

2006 was also the year West began using awards shows to torpedo his public image. When that year’s Grammys were announced, West forwent normal celebrity psuedo-humility by declaring that he should win Album of the Year. West also rushed the stage at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards, and hinted that racism was a reason he didn’t headline at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.

And of course, there was his infamous and unforgettable stage-rush during Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

The album is a dying art form in the age of iTunes. Still, even as millions of consumers chose to cherry pick songs over buying or downloading (or cough cough pirating cough shame on you) albums, some artists refused to give up on the good old fashioned long play. Katy Perry made hers smell like cotton candy, Taylor Swift sold over a million in a week, and Kanye created a record that wouldn’t be complete without listening to it as a whole. In 2010, indie went pop (Bon Iver) and pop went indie (Robyn). Bands went on hiatus but their lead singers refused to stop making music (Kele, Brandon Flowers). Some big name releases flopped (Christina Aguilera) while others revitalized slagging careers (Eminem). There were so many good choices, but here are the top albums of 2010.

Honorable Mentions: M.I.A. “Maya,” Kylie Minogue “Aphrodite,” The Arcade Fire “The Suburbs,” Tinie Tempah “Disc-Overy,” and Brandon Flowers “Flamingo”

10. Recovery – Eminem

Eminem was the biggest selling artist of the 2000s, but by the decade’s end, he sure wasn’t acting like it. Slim Shady opened the new decade being more relevant than ever before. Recovery is an Eminem record for people who don’t buy Eminem records. It has a lot more estrogen than usual (Rihanna on “Love the Way You Lie” and Pink on “Can’t Back Down”)  and is more self-aware (“Let’s be honest, that last Relapse CD was ehh,” he raps on “Not Afraid”), but its greatest strength was shedding the gimmicky, violent, and crude persona he’s cultivated for over ten years without alienating the millions of fans that made him the last decade’s top seller. – HS

9. Teen Dream – Beach House

If there were an award for Best Teen(age) Dream of the Year, the recipient would not even be up for debate. While Beach House’s new album’s title might initially make you think of a certain California Gurl [sic], a quick listen to Alex Scally’s guitars and Victoria Legrand’s dream-like vocals and keyboards will immediately revive any lost confidence in this Baltimore dream pop duo. Teen Dream is the twosome’s third album and draws collectively from their previous two to create a sound that is more diverse and more listenable than any of their previously released music. This new album is a significant milestone for Beach House as a band — it symbolizes the discovery of their own voice and identity, and confirms the refreshing truth that good things can sometimes happen when musicians step out of their comfort zones and seek to create. – JP

8. Invented – Jimmy Eat World

Considering the great pop Jimmy Eat World has made thus far, the epic Clarity, the airtight and flawless Bleed American, the brooding and yearning Futures, you know the band is onto something special when Jim Adkins says Invented is, “our best work so far.” Inspired by the photography of Cindy Sherman, Invented takes a woman’s perspective. “I’m tired of all the war you bring home, I demand a higher devotion…Show me you can read my mind,” Adkins sings on “Higher Devotion.” “My Best Theory” is a defiant refusal to fit in with the crowd that rocks harder than “The Middle,” and “Stop” tackles female feelings of insecurity. While being a progression from their previous work, the record still succeeds in capturing what makes J.E.W. great. The melodies are both catchy and ambitious, taking the arena-filling expanse of U2 and bringing it out of global politics and into your room and your life. – HS

7. Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons

Few new bands in recent years have been as successful as Mumford & Sons at creating identity and simultaneously maintaining diversity on their debut album. Sigh No More, released in the U.S. in February of this year, is teeming with honesty, warmth, excitement and disappointment. Already finding themselves at the top of London’s nu-folk scene and rubbing shoulders with Laura Marling and Noah & The Whale, Mumford & Sons quickly gained popularity in the U.S., selling out nearly every show on their North American tour. Banjo-led stomps, flourishing acoustic instruments, and clean vocal harmonies are delicately coalesced in a way that makes this an albums that you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a track. – JP

6. The Boxer – Kele

With Bloc Party on hiatus, Kele Okereke became the year’s most unlikely pop star. His solo debut The Boxer played like the perfect follow up to 2008′s dark and aggressive Intimacy. It is an album about being strong as evident on songs like “Walk Tall” and “Tenderoni” where he upped the electronics and testosterone while unintentionally providing “It-Gets-Better” pop that was more authentic than anyone else managed to make. The pulsing beat while Kele sings, “So don’t you know, you are more than this. You were built for greatness,” packs way more of a punch than a straight woman shooting fireworks from her breasts. But Kele has never wanted to be known as a gay black man making music in a stereotypically straight white genre, and it shows. His music certainly appeals to bullied gay youth, but it reaches out to anyone who feels alienated. The Boxer isn’t an album that says “it gets better” one day, it’s an album that tells you that it can be better now because, as Kele sings in “Rise,” ”you are stronger than you think.” – HS

5. Speak Now – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift walked a fine line creating her third album. She had to follow-up the success of her best-selling, Grammy-winning Fearless without rehashing the same tired fairytales and high school romances. It’s safe to say that after selling more records in a single week than anyone this side of 50 Cent’s 2005 The Massacre, she succeeded. Knock her live performances and sugary sweet persona all you want, but her music crosses genre and generational boundaries in a way that few artists can replicate. Swift is a master songwriter and Speak Now is a showcase for her remarkable handle of the technical construction of a flawless pop song, filled with clever lyrics and million dollar hooks. She’s always written about her life, but since the past two years of that have been very public, it’s not surprising that songs about John Mayer, Kanye West, and the werewolf from Twilight show up. Still, the themes on songs like “Back to December,” “Dear John,” and “Innocent” still resonate with the brokenhearted and hopeless romantic in all of us. – HS

4. The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens

Whatever taste of stylistic evolution 2010′s All Delighted People EP may have offered Sufjan Stevens’ throng of aural consumers, few could have anticipated the way in which The Age of Adz would satiate the cavernous appetites induced by the five-year musical famine. With 12 tracks, and the longest over 25 minutes in length, I would submit that it was well worth the wait. With an inimitable sound and more intimate lyrics than anything in his existing repertoire, The Age of Adz resolutely informs listeners that Sufjan is a long way from Illinois. In spite of the newly introduced electronic patina, the familiar melodic vocals and brassy orchestral accompaniment remind us that, though far from home, the Sufjan we fell in love with listening to Seven Swans and Michigan will never stop making music impossible not to love. – JP

3. Lights – Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding had high expectations after winning the Critic’s Choice award at this year’s Brits even before she released her debut album. Luckily, Lights lives up to the hype. Standing somewhere in between Florence + the Machine and Girls Aloud, Goulding crafted a lighter-than-air folk pop gem. Mixing cold electronic blips and beats with warm melodic vocals and acoustic guitar is a hard combination to get right, but with the help of producer Starsmith, 23-year-old Goulding did. She leans towards dance pop on songs like “Starry Eyed,” while she reveals her inner singer-songwriter on the more organic “Guns & Horses.” Lights charmed British critics and consumers this year, and rumor has it that Goulding will bring her debut stateside sometime next year. – HS

2. Body Talk – Robyn

Robyn is more of an indie band stuck in a Swedish woman’s body than your run-of-the-mill pop star, and she’s got her universally acclaimed Body Talk trilogy to prove it. While her music rubs shoulders with the likes of pop trash like Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha on some iPods, her three-part series was also the only pop album given space in usually snobby independent record stores across the country. Robyn bridged that impossible gap by refusing to be confined by limits of her typically cold and mindless genre. From the heartbreaking tearjerker that is “Dancing On My Own” to the thoughtful “Stars 4-Ever,” she proved that dance music can emote. The full length Body Talk album is stellar, but what’s just as amazing is the quality of songs from previous EPs that didn’t make the final cut like the dark and danceable “Criminal Intent” and “Love Kills,” first cousins to some of Britney’s Blackout material, or the memorable “Cry When You Get Older” (“Back in suburbia, kids get high and make out on the train”). Robyn is without a doubt one of pop’s most forward-thinking ladies, but let’s just hope it doesn’t take another five years for her next release. – HS

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy -Kanye West

Kanye’s fifth LP hadn’t even hit stores yet and the campaign to canonize it among hip-hop’s greatest records was already well under way. The perfect scores across the board didn’t hurt, but it could easily have been nothing more than a rock critic version of the Emperor’s new clothes. It’s not.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the most ambitious, sweeping and important release from the artist who already brought you 17 Track’s album of the decade. It shatters preconceived notions about what is expected of hip-hop, something West has already done on several occasions. “All of the Lights” is the Olympic pop anthem that manages to cram in more collaborators than previously thought possible. “Runaway” takes up where 808s & Heartbreak left off, a perfect pop art piece calling for a “toast for the douchebags.” “Hell of a Life” brings poetry to a sleazy night out and “Blame Game” deals with the fallout. And auto-tune never sounded as beautiful as it does in the Bon Iver-sampling “Lost in the World,” which builds into a dizzying and triumphant crescendo.

There’s nothing disrespectful about calling Fantasy the Sgt. Pepper’s of hip-hop. It has expanded the genre’s vision and made a strong case for its value as an art form the way no other release has. Like Sgt. Pepper’s, Fantasy features a crowd of familiar faces, but rather than being splashed across its cover, they are found in the music. Jay-Z, Kid Cudi, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, John Legend, La Roux’s Elly Jackson, and Bon Iver, a diverse cast, all make appearances. In some cases, Kanye’s collaborators even overshadow him, like Nicki Minaj does on “Monster.” Few rappers could get away with that, but Kanye does because there is never a question of whose fantasy you’re listening to. The record isn’t just a manifesto for hip-hop, it raises the bar for everyone making music today. Hate ‘Ye all you want for his ego, but with music this good, he earned it. – HS

Graphic by Nick Smith

Text by James Porter and Hunter Schwarz

Kanye West

Review: Kanye West, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"

Written by Hunter Phillips on . Posted in Music

“I fantasized ’bout this back in Chicago,” Kanye West proclaims at the outset of his latest full-length album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The following 70 minutes feel like a true culmination of Kanye’s fantasies of grandeur and musical innovation.

With a title that would make even the most hardened emo band cringe and a year full of faux pas for West, audiences are naturally skeptical that Fantasy is anything more than a self-indulgent mess. However, anyone who misses out on this album out of hatred for Kanye, loyalty to Taylor Swift or any other reason are missing out on something special. This is an album showcasing an already-trailblazing artist at the pinnacle of his talents. In fewer words, it is simply transcendent.

SPORTS: Reflections on Fall 2009

Written by William Sutton on . Posted in Sports

The holidays are here! After we carve our turkeys and get a heaping side of football on Thursday, it will only be a few short weeks until finals and then Christmas and New Year’s. I am certain that we are all looking forward to the family feasts and free time that await us. But as winter descends and we prepare to dive into 2010 and all the madness that it will bring — like people saying “0-10/oh-ten” when they don’t mean to, as if 10 were a single digit number — I’d like to take a look back at some of the memorable figures, moments and trends from an entertaining fall.

Michael Vick — Remember when the Eagles signed him after his nearly two-year prison stint on dog fighting charges? Sports fans were anxious to see if Vick, formerly the most electrifying player in the NFL, could reestablish himself among the league’s elite. He has overwhelmingly failed to do so. However, I submit that his comeback has not been fruitless.

It did give me the chance to hear reports about Vick’s work with Philadelphia high schools in concert with animal rights groups “to reach young people” and be a “voice against organized animal fighting.” I’m sorry, but that is just hilarious. I have been out of high school for a while, but I feel pretty confident in saying that, on the list of delinquent activities for 14-18-year-old teens, dog fighting ranks pretty low. It just wasn’t a big thing at my school. I know these animal rights people are forcing Vick into this and the peer pressure talk is good, but if you want to help kids, maybe you should just stick with “don’t do drugs.”

BYU Football (and fans) — Like any good team in sports (especially collegiate sports), BYU’s football team wants their fans to feel like part of their success. I think I can say that, by and large, they do. After all, who wasn’t dancing in the streets after BYU beat Oklahoma in the season opener? In fact, I think I would have to thank the fans even a bit more than the team for getting our hopes up so ridiculously high that we thought we were a top five team — only to have them come crashing down the second we play any team with a mobile quarterback. How many years in a row do we have to do this?

Here is the basic pattern: 1) Pre-season hype, looking pretty solid, selling quite a few t-shirts; 2) “Huge win” (sliding past what proved to be an overrated Oklahoma squad or obliterating what proved to be an overrated 2008 UCLA team) that results in a huge jump in the rankings, ginormous spikes in t-shirt sales, and a ton of people who want to sell their home game tickets for hundreds of dollars on Craigslist; 3) Epic beat down that makes everyone feel like our team is a failure even though we will probably finish with a very admirable record and ranked in the Top 25 with another trip to the Vegas Bowl, which, I might add, is usually reserved for the conference champ. It’s a ridiculous pattern, people. Let’s be realistic and positive in supporting our team. We may not be as good as we thought we were, but we aren’t as bad as we sometimes think either.

Kanye West — I can’t believe what a big deal everyone made of the whole Kanye-Taylor Swift incident. This was one the funniest things I can remember. Not so much the incident itself, but the huge media freak-out that occurred right after. Sure, Kanye is a jerk, but didn’t we already know that? It’s not like this was the first temper tantrum he had thrown at an awards show. Also, it’s freaking MTV! Isn’t this the type of thing they live for over there? Kanye’s little outburst was the only way the show was going to attract any attention from anyone outside of the “depressed, suburban high school kid” demographic anyway. And though he acted like an intoxicated idiot, I actually like him better now than I did before.

Let me explain. All the celebrities who wrote on their websites about him — Pink (wait, I mean P!NK), Katy Perry, etc. — made it sound like he punched Taylor Swift in the face. He didn’t. He just said what he really believed. Yes, he did so in an incredibly rude manner, but in an industry that is built on false images, “Ye” didn’t seem too concerned with anything but telling the truth. Isn’t that, at least in some way, a bit admirable? I think so.

Kanye obviously has his fair share of character flaws, but what often makes others so mad also makes him lovable. He is a total loose cannon. So even though he is making bank off of you and me, I feel like I can at least glimpse the person he is and see that he kind of secretly hates the record industry and just wants to be himself. And to me, that is comforting. In Mr. West’s own words “y’all feel some way about K but at least y’all feel something.” In any event, this can, at its worst, only be the second most frightening unexpected mic grab in MTV Video Music Awards history. This is much more painful.

BYU Basketball commercial — Anyone who watches ESPN knows what I am taking about. BYU basketball bought a bunch of advertising space and has incessantly run one ad for the team all fall. It’s just music and highlights. You know, the one with the huge bass line that you can hear no matter where you are in your apartment? Anyway, I was just wondering if I was the only one who noticed that not even all the highlights are actual highlights. The last clip in the commercial is Charles Abouo rejecting a shot in last season’s contest against Wake Forest — or is it?

If you actually pay attention to the commercial, it’s really Charles Abouo committing a foul in last season’s contest against Wake Forest. You see him jump up and knock the shot away — but you also see play stop and the official walk over to the scorekeeper and indicate a huge hack on number one. I am undecided on what this means for our basketball team. But hey, regardless of the call, at least we know we will lose in the first round of NCAA Tournament! (That’s a joke. I hope.)

William Sutton would like to express his seasonally appropriate gratitude to all of the poorly thought-out decisions of others that made this column possible. He is a sports and culture correspondent for Rhombus.