Following Dolly Parton's generous lead, more country superstars are putting their money back into the heart of Tennessee. Both Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney have joined the relief efforts to aid the victims of the devastating Smoky Mountains wildfires, which killed 14 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Swift, who hasn't forgotten her country roots, has offered to match the Academy of Country Music's $100,000 donation to Parton's My People Fund, set up for those who lost their homes in the fires; Swift also donated $1 million to Louisiana flood relief back in August. Chesney, an East Tennessee native, has teamed up with the Country Music Association to collectively donate $500,000 to Parton's fund and help with overall assistance in the affected areas. Other country artists have also pledged to donate their time: Reba McEntire, Alison Krauss, Kenny Rogers, Chris Stapleton, Big & Rich, Chris Young, and more have signed up to perform at Parton's telethon on December 13. Because when Dolly works 9 to 5 for a good cause, everyone else better put in overtime.
Even before Fidel Castro died, revolutions were feeling their age in 2016. The conductor, composer, and avant-garde sage Pierre Boulez died in the first days of the year, taking with him the modernist craving to repeal and replace music’s most basic ingredients. James Levine retired after 40 years as Metropolitan Opera music director, leaving some 20th-century operas (Pelléas et Melisande, Lulu) without a champion. Less epochally, Steve Reich turned 80 (with Philip Glass not far behind); Alan Gilbert, who made the New York Philharmonic fresh and relevant again, began his eighth and final season as music director; and the flutist Claire Chase stepped down as director of the International Contemporary Ensemble, which she founded 15 years ago and nurtured into one of the country’s top new music groups.
This slo-mo changing of the guard has the feel of retrenchment. The music world still boils with talent. Phenomenal young players and composers of dazzling skill rejuvenate the art form every year. And institutions that should thrive on daring operate by fear. Consolidators replace pioneers, and the vertigo of experimentation bleeds into queasy nervousness. The old new gives way to the new old.
Maybe it’s natural to meet change with resistance. In The Crown, the BBC series about Queen Elizabeth II, every time a member of the royal family violates some hoary ritual, the monarchy hears its doom. The classical music world lives with similar terrors.
Now That We’re Governed by Contagions, At the Drive-In Have Finally Decided to Return With a New SongBy Dee Lockett
Following too many reunions, tons of internal miscommunication, and Jon Ward sadly quitting the band, At the Drive-In have decided to stop messing around and officially return with new music. They've released their first song in 16 years, "Governed by Contagions," which seems extra relevant given the current state of affairs. It packs a ton of punch in the form of frantic guitar riffs and Cedric Bixler-Zavala's usual vitriol. The song sounds about as bleak and angry as most of America feels right now, so even though At the Drive-In are 16 years late, they're essentially right on time. Their last release was 2000's highly influential Relationship of Command, but according to the lyric video for the new song, there'll be a new At the Drive-In album in 2017. If they can find a way to also double it up with a new Mars Volta record, this sick world might just be healed after all.
Prince’s Friends Fondly Remember All the Times He Expertly Insulted Everyone From Madonna to Eddie MurphyBy Dee Lockett
Prince was a man of innumerable talents, not the least of which was mastering the art of throwing shade. One perfectly coordinated glance to the side from Prince could end careers (and arguably often did), so you can only imagine what it must have been like to feel Prince's wrath up close. In a long, honest look back at Prince's life, dozens of his friends and collaborators have opened up to GQ about personally knowing the Purple One, all sharing one common denominator in their relationship to the late artist: He insulted them all. Every last one. Not a publicist, ex-girlfriend, or casual acquaintance was spared a good bashing from Prince, with most recognizing what an honor it was to be on the receiving end of a Prince heckle. "This dude was ridiculously hilarious," Van Jones notes. "He would have been one of the most famous people in the world if he had never touched an instrument, just as a comedian." Everyone from Carmen Electra to Gwen Stefani has a story about Prince's legendary shade. These are the best.
It took them almost 20 years, but the Jesus and Mary Chain will live on. The group have officially announced their first album in 18 years, Damage and Joy, will finally see the light of day on March 24. Rumors of a new album have been swirling for nearly a decade, starting around the time they reunited at Coachella in 2007, and then heating up again this fall thanks to their manager Alan McGee, whose Creation Records the group recently re-signed with. Jim Reid also mentioned last year that they were recording an album and called it a "more mature sound." Turns out, it's real: Hear the band's killer new song, "Amputation," below. Their last release was 1998's Munki. May Frank Ocean never take off his vintage TJAMC tee again.
Greg Lake, the versatile star of pioneering English prog-rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died at 69. His manager, Stewart Young, confirmed the news in a note on Lake's Facebook page, announcing that Lake died on Tuesday, December 7, following a "long and stubborn battle with cancer." Lake first gained prominence as the front man of King Crimson, which he founded in 1969 with classmate and guitarist Robert Fripp, and went on to sing, play bass, and write songs on the band's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, setting an early standard for the kind of prog-rock that emerged out of the U.K. in the 1970s and would turn Lake into a star. The Who's Pete Townshend famously called the record, and particularly its standout "21st Century Schizoid Man," an "uncanny masterpiece." Following a dispute over the band's lineup change and having already crossed paths with Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson while on tour, Lake left King Crimson less than a year later to form Emerson, Lake and Palmer with Keith Emerson and drummer Carl Palmer. (Lake did record vocals for King Crimson's sophomore album, In the Wake of Poseidon, before formally quitting.)
Leave it to Willow Smith to drop some easy listening that makes you think. The young philosopher has released a short EP called Mellifluous, and it’s as icy-cool as its SAT-word name suggests. Smith debuts three songs on the release: “Cave Wall,” “Little Shard,” and “Need to Know.” Each “transcendental lullaby,” as Smith labels the effort on Soundcloud, features only Smith’s vocals and an electric guitar. Like most of the artist’s recent releases, it’s a far cry from those “Whip My Hair” days. Listen to the light, chilly songs below.
Beyoncé racked up nine Grammy nominations across the awards' rock, pop, rap, and urban-contemporary categories yesterday, but anyone familiar with her Country Music Awards performance with the Dixie Chicks was probably left wondering why Bey didn't get her stab at Best Country Song or Country Solo Performance this year. According to the Associated Press, a source close to the Recording Academy's nominating process reveals that the Grammys country committee rejected Beyoncé's submission of the song "Daddy Lessons" from her most recent album, Lemonade. Of course, since Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks' released a version of the song after this year's Grammy submission deadline, Bey could technically still lasso one next year, which is probably also a lesson she learned from her daddy.
What's more fire than fire? Just more fire? According to Pigeons & Planes, DJ Critical Hype and DJ Clyde spent 18 months laying Chance the Rapper a cappella vocals over Kanye tracks, putting their blood, sweat, and tears into a 23-track mixtape entitle Chance the Dropout. The first track kicks off with a Chance quote praising Kanye’s influence on his artistic sensibilities. Illustrator Ian Klarer, who also provides art work for Run the Jewels, created the cover art for your dream mash-up album, which you can stream in its entirety below:
On January 8, David Bowie would've turned 70 years old. To celebrate that milestone and the one-year anniversary of his death, a collective of his friends and collaborators are throwing him a worldwide birthday party. In a month-long event called "Celebrating David Bowie," multiple cities around the globe will host a series of concerts for the late legend. New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, and Sydney are all scheduled to partake in the event, which is being put on for charity. Bowie collaborators including Mike Garson, Adrian Belew, Earl Slick, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, Gaby Moreno, Bernard Fowler, Joe Sumner, and more will tour the show, starting first at London's O2 Academy Brixton on January 8. Gary Oldman, who introduced the Brit Awards tribute to Bowie, will also lead that show. New York City's Terminal 5 will host the show on the anniversary of Bowie's death, January 10. Yesterday, Bowie received his first-ever Grammy nominations for an individual album or song.
Azealia Banks isn't having much success getting the law to believe her side of the oddest celebrity feud of the year. That feud began in October, when Banks and Russell Crowe got into an altercation in a hotel room, during which the actor allegedly bear-hugged the rapper and removed her from his Beverly Hills Hotel suite. Banks filed a police report against Crowe, in which she insisted that he choked her, called her the N-word, and spit on her. According to TMZ, however, the L.A. County D.A.'s Office has decided not to charge Crowe, because his actions were "justified to prevent the imminent violence threatened by Banks." Witnesses reported that Banks repeatedly used a racial epithet, was verbally aggressive, and as RZA, who invited Banks to the party, claimed, picked up a glass and threatened to use it to cut an attendee. The D.A. also determined that Crowe's spitting was "incidental to preventing more serious threatened violence" (according to a TMZ witness, the spit did not hit Banks). Now, we wait for Azealia Banks's inevitable response.
Take a Virtually Unreal Peek Into a Childish Gambino Concert With His VR Video for ‘Me and Your Mama’By Dee Lockett
For those who couldn't make the trek out to Joshua Tree this summer and now can't be bothered to download an app, Donald Glover has a present for you. He's made a clip of himself, as Childish Gambino, performing "Me and Your Mama" (one of Vulture's Best Songs of the Year) from his top-secret PHAROS shows available to watch on YouTube, but still in virtual reality so you don't totally miss out on the experience. Cherish it now because that's all you're getting. According to a press release, all future PHAROS performances will be exclusive only to those dedicated fans who preorder the VR vinyl version of his new album. (Even though he's yet to explain what the hell a VR vinyl entails.) One more surprise: He's also set to perform on The Tonight Show on December 14, in plain old reality.
In the slow and unsteady race to win the streaming wars, Apple Music is starting to catch up to Spotify. Apple tells BuzzFeed that its streaming service has now hit more than 20 million subscribers, up five million from just June. This fall Apple Music got a much-needed redesign with the new update, not to mention two wildly popular Frank Ocean exclusives, which may have contributed to the spike in subscribers. But Apple Music's been on a consistent rise ever since its launch, over a year ago — those 20 million subs now cut Spotify's lead in half. In September, Spotify hit 40 million paid subscribers — surpassing Apple Music's growth at the time. Meanwhile, Apple Music still has a long way to go before it can even dream of matching Spotify's estimated 100 million overall subscribers. (Spotify also hasn't released its full 2016 stats yet.)
Continuing the time-honored tradition of desperately questioning your love started long ago by the Shirelles, Ryan Adams is here today to grovel at your feet. He's emerged from the ashes of his Taylor Swift covers album (the one he now freely admits he should've kept to himself) with a new, completely original song, "Do You Still Love Me?," all about the completely unoriginal act of begging you to take him back. "I've been thinking about you, baby / Been on my mind," he begins. Sounds promising. But then: "Why can't I feel your love? Heart must be blind / What can I say? I didn't want it to change, but in my mind, it's all so strange." Okay, fine, maybe in his strange mind covering Taylor Swift to such an extreme did sound like a good idea. Perhaps we can all learn to love Ryan again if we just revel in the fact that this rollicking new song is a return to form and move forward — specifically to February 17, when he'll drop his 15th album, Prisoner. Better days are ahead, people.
Are your Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal subscriptions just not filling all your music-streaming needs? Then Pandora hopes to win you over with their premium service, which, according to Verge, is slated to roll out early next year. Like other services' premium versions, Pandora is offering commercial-free listening and the ability to listen to playlists offline, but it's also hoping to lean into its reputation for using algorithms to guess like songs and like artists subscribers might want to hear. Pandora became popular because it offered users a chance to make radio playlists based on songs they liked, and would let the listeners skip songs that weren't in their wheelhouse. In this version of the app, listeners will be able to see similar songs to the ones on their playlist and add the tracks instantly. The app will also feature a playlist made up of every song the user ever gave the thumbs-up to over the years, which could be embarrassing if you started using Pandora in high school when that boy band du jour was your everything. The service will cost $10 per month.
Country-rock crooner Sturgill Simpson might've surprised a few music enthusiasts this morning when his album, A Sailor's Guide to Earth, was nominated alongside slightly more mainstream artists — Beyoncé! Adele! — for the Grammy Awards' revered Album of the Year. One of those people, amusingly enough, happens to be the ever-modest Simpson himself, who told the New York Times in a new interview that he would've liked to see his fellow music contemporary Frank Ocean take his Album of the Year spot instead. "I loved Lemonade. I thought it was genius. I love the Adele record," he said of his fellow nominees. "I really, really wish, honestly, and no [expletive] — I would've liked to see Frank Ocean’s name where mine is. But that's not my place to say. I totally understand [his protest]. I just thought that record [Blonde] was really groundbreaking. I listen to just about everything except country music, so it's strange." Ocean intentionally chose to miss the deadline to submit Blonde into Grammy consideration, later saying that his boycott was his own "Colin Kaepernick moment." In non-Ocean news, Simpson also outlined how he chose to celebrate his Grammy nom: "I went downstairs and made pancakes and watched Sesame Street with my son. That was pretty much it." Aw!
Every week, Vulture highlights the best new music. If the song is worthy of your ears and attention, you will find it here. Read our picks below, share yours in the comments, and subscribe to the Vulture Playlist for a comprehensive guide to the year's best music.
Though it began as a lark, Donald Glover’s work as Childish Gambino has gotten grander in scope with every subsequent release — the messiness of his original mixtapes tightened into more workmanlike lyricism as time passed. His 2011 debut studio album Camp added a (gauche) outsider approach to the textbook celebratory rags-to-riches rap album bolstered a year later by Royalty, a mixtape that made inroads with the very hip-hop audience he seemed eager to supersede before. By 2013’s short film/screenplay/studio album Because the Internet, it seemed like Childish Gambino was an exercise in pivoting from TV renown into rap stardom through sheer force of determination.
The 2017 Grammy nominations are out, and it's clear that next February will be a heavyweight bout between Beyoncé and Adele, who are both nominated for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year and netted nine and five noms, respectively. Unsurprisingly, they're both up for Album of the Year alongside Justin Bieber, Drake, and (slightly more surprisingly) Sturgill Simpson. And while the Big Four categories will likely dominate the conversation from now until the ceremony on February 12, there were plenty of shocks of both the good and bad variety in the very large field of nominees. Let's take a closer look at all the biggest wins and most glaring missteps from this year's Grammy noms.
Fiona Apple Turned ‘The Christmas Song’ Into an Anti-Trump Carol That'll Traumatize Your Kids ForeverBy Dee Lockett
Donald Trump and classic Christmas carols are not the first pairing that comes to mind, but that is perhaps only because we unfortunately don't possess the mind of Fiona Apple. Right in time for the holidays, a mysterious video of Fiona Apple singing an anti-Trump protest song to the tune of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" has surfaced online. "Trump's Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire" reimagines Trump as a Santa-esque pedophile out to terrorize your children, and you can truly never unhear it. After 70 years, someone has managed to sully Nat King Cole's timeless Christmas cheer — but for a good cause! Sort of. After having already sung “Everybody knows that money and entitlement can help to make the season white / Mothers of color with their kids out of sight will find it hard to sleep at night,” she then ends her cover by ripping up a photo of Trump. Holidays at the Apple house seem fun.
- Culture Editor
- Lane Brown
- Editorial Director
- Neil Janowitz
- West Coast Editor
- Josef Adalian
- Hollywood Editor
- Stacey Wilson Hunt
- Senior Editor
- Kyle Buchanan
- Senior Editor
- Jesse David Fox
- Senior Editor
- Gazelle Emami
- News Editor
- Samantha Rollins
- Deputy TV Editor
- Chris Heller
- TV Reporter
- Maria Elena Fernandez
- Movies Reporter
- Kevin Lincoln
- TV Columnist
- Jen Chaney
- Music Columnist
- Frank Guan
- Associate Editor
- Nate Jones
- Associate Editor
- Dee Lockett
- Associate Editor
- E. Alex Jung
- Associate Editor
- Abraham Riesman
- Associate Editor
- Jackson McHenry
- Associate Editor
- Jordan Crucchiola