The MTV Video Music Awards are back on the West Coast this Sunday following 2013's quick visit to Brooklyn. No matter: The lineup promises performances from Maroon 5, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and Iggy Azalea. It's a 2013–14 time capsule, which is what the VMAs do best. Just look at past award shows: Each contained at least one moment that could serve as a microcosm for what was "cool” in that particular year. Don’t believe us? We'll prove it. Proceed.
Taylor Swift fans were bowled over this week when the singer debuted the music video for her new, previously unannounced single "Shake It Off," but fans of the format were doubly surprised by who directed it: Mark Romanek, the helmer of some of the most iconic music videos ever made, including Johnny Cash's "Hurt," Fiona Apple's "Criminal," and the Nine Inch Nails clip "Closer." These days, Romanek is more focused on feature films (his big-screen work includes One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go, and he's currently circling The Overlook Hotel, a prequel to The Shining set up at Warner Bros.), but "Shake It Off" is the latest in a music-video resurgence for the director: After eight years away the medium, he directed last year's Jay Z clip "Picasso Baby" and the music video for U2's big Super Bowl single "Invisible." Clearly, Romanek's busier than ever right now, but he still made time via email to answer some of Vulture's questions about the genesis of "Shake It Off," his collaboration with Swift, and what he makes of the reaction to the video.
Last night, at Pier 97 on the Hudson River, I saw Robyn play a set that I can only describe as a triumphantly unhurried victory lap. Though she shared the bill with Norwegian electro duo Röyksopp — with whom she just released a solid EP, Do It Again — it was very clear who the audience was actually there to see. Moments before she came out, someone deep into the crowd raised one of those clawlike appendages that are supposed to help you take better selfies and waved around an iPhone set to a scrolling text program that screamed in an inelegant typeface, “ROBIN!!!!!!!!!”
Inspired by the events in Ferguson, last night Lauryn Hill tweeted a "sketch" version of "Black Rage," a song she has been performing live for a few years. A reworking of "My Favorite Things," Hill examines "black rage" from the perspective of its cause, powerfully singing, "Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person / rapings and beating and suffering that worsens / black human packages tied up in strings." Listen and read the full lyrics below.
Two days ago, a rumor got out that Kanye West and Paul McCartney were working on music together, with one song called “Piss on My Grave.” Today, an Instragram video has gotten out that seemingly confirms this. Though very, very, very brief, you can hear Kanye chanting “Piss on My Grave” over a real Yeezus-y beat. You can’t see or hear Paul McCartney, but, based on his previous collaborations, you can assume he’s probably just off putting on a ton of shaving cream.
This morning, the internet took a needed break from arguing about Taylor Swift and moved on to chatting about Nicki Minaj’s predictably bonkers “Anaconda” video — which is to say, Minaj’s cunningly calculated plan for viral world domination is going exactly as planned. Ever since Minaj unveiled the single’s controversial cover art last month, she’s been doing everything in her power to help “Anaconda” become an unavoidable meme: She’s gleefully retweeted all the most popular Photoshop jobs (Marge Simpson in a thong! HannahConda!) and effectively stirred the pot when the conversation revealed a racial double standard. “Anaconda” isn’t one of her best singles, but you get the sense she’d be just as happy to see it top Billboard’s Trending 140 if not the Hot 100. Before she unveiled the long-awaited clip last night, she Instagrammed her pride at the fact that #AnacondaVideoAtMidnight was trending. (Triumphing over #TimeForATacoBell, and during Fourth Meal, no less!)
Proof that not only does Taylor Swift take every opportunity to play dress up, but that she has played both a good cheerleader and a bad cheerleader. So much for that "She wear high heels / I wear sneakers" thing, eh?
Like much of the War on Drugs' music off their wonderful album Lost in the Dream, which came out earlier this year, "Under the Pressure" suggests a certain small-town expanse. To put it another way, it's music for the open road, when after hours of driving, towns and trees and sunshine and stars and brake lights blur together. The stunning, Houmam-directed video, below, captures exactly that. Also, you get to see the band playing their instruments, so you don't forget you're watching a music video, even as you are fully engulfed in the colors.
Here, finally, is Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" video in all its twerktastic glory. As the teasers suggested, the main set pieces involve Nicki twerking in a jungle and twerking during exercise class, and there's also a scene in which she makes a fruit salad. Drake is in it, too, briefly, but mainly just as an object to be twerked upon. Such is Nicki's world.
Watching people dump buckets of ice water on their heads — heck, even watching celebrities dump buckets of ice water on their heads — can get pretty old after a while. Unless those celebrities happen to be Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, who used their ALS-ice-bucket-challenge nomination to stage an elaborate reenactment of the climactic prom scene from Carrie. Okay, so they swapped out the bucket of pig's blood for a bucket of ice water, but otherwise they really committed. Those were definitely real tears from Dave Grohl. A-plus effort all around.
On the one hand, when artists play the highly watched Super Bowl, they stand to get a huge bump in not only album sales but ticket sales for their tours. On the other hand, the NFL has never asked for money before. For the first year in history, The Wall Street Journal reports, the NFL is asking artists (or record labels, rather) to pay for the privilege of headlining the 2015 Super Bowl. They've put out the request to their top three choices: Rihanna, Coldplay, and Katy Perry — who, unsurprisingly, aren't thrilled. "The pay-to-play suggestion got a chilly reception from the candidates' representatives." If they won't pay, the NFL is asking whether the musicians "would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league." A pop star layaway program, you could say. Meanwhile, the amount of money the NFL is asking remains undecided, but I'm sure Katy Perry would be happy to sing the "Are You Ready for Some Football?" song.
Every week, members of the Vulture staff will highlight their favorite new songs. They might be loud, quiet, long, short, dance-y, rawkin', hip, square, rap, punk, jazz, some sort of jazz-punk-rap fusion — whatever works for the given person in that given week. Read our picks below and please tell us yours in the comments. Enjoy!
HAIM's "My Song 5" won't help you get any closer to remembering what the third HAIM sister looks like, but it will give you a taste of what kinds of cameos the ladies can pull in. SNL's Vanessa Bayer hosts "The Dallas Murphy Show" (a play on Maury and the like) featuring flashes of Kesha Rose, Grimes, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Big Sean, and Ariel Rechtshaid. It's also got a verse from A$AP Ferg — who is being left by his lover for another woman. Basic cable never looked so cool.
Earlier this afternoon, Taylor Swift hosted a Yahoo live-stream on which she unveiled her new single, “Shake It Off.” The event itself felt like a cross between Oprah’s "Favorite Things" episode and whatever goes on during an Ellen commercial break, or perhaps a taping of The View on which Taylor co-hosts but also politely and/or firmly requests that all the other co-hosts take the day off so no one will be mean to her. Which is to say the whole affair was very Taylor Featuring Taylor.
Did you catch the much-anticipated Taylor Swift live-stream today? It was something special: She announced all the relevant album info, hosted a live dance party, and showed the video for her new song, "Shake It Off." Whether or not you're into the song itself, we can all agree that Taylor really aced the dancing portion of the test. Boy, does she love those arm dances:
Last week, out of the blue, Michael Cera dropped an album of charming indie-folk on Bandcamp and, you know what, it was really good. Vulture caught up with Cera on Thursday at a Meet the Company event for This Is Our Youth, which he will be starring in on Broadway this September, to talk about the album and facing the internet,
Fresh off the Summer of "Fancy" and her follow-up, the Fault in Our Stars–boosted hit "Boom Clap," Charli XCX will release her second album, Sucker, this October. The first single is called "Break the Rules," and it's a little Lorde ("I don't wanna go to school / I just wanna break the rules") and a little Blur "Song 2." Will the video have goth cheerleaders? Probably.
According to "Page Six," Kanye West and Paul McCartney are currently working together on some music that "could develop into an album." Whether this is the album West said might be coming this fall, a McCartney solo album, or a collaboration is unclear. One song reportedly is called “Piss on My Grave.” Whether that is a taunt from the duo or a request from one to the other is also unclear. Either way, congrats to Mr. West for being able to find someone even richer than Jay Z to work with.
Covering "Fancy" is the thing to do these days. Crosby Stills and Nash did it. Weird Al did it. And during their Saturday-night performance at the V Festival in Staffordshire, England, the Killers stepped up to offer their own take on Iggy's summer anthem. In honor of the occasion, frontman Brandon Flowers changed the lyrics from "L.A. to Tokyo" to "Las Vegas to Staffordshire" while drummer Ronnie Vannucci performed an evocative interpretive dance featuring some Napoleon Dynamite–inspired hand moves. Suffice to say, it was not very fancy.