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The Charger Bulletin

That Other Awards Show

by Dave Iannacone | October 19, 2011

The American Music Awards might just be the most ridiculous music-related awards show there is. Between the arbitrary number of nominees in each category, the usually forgetful performances, and the abundance of foreign nominees (after all, this is the AMERICAN music awards,) the show is just kind of a dud. However, every year, the world’s biggest acts always seem to find their way onto the stage, and for a few gleaming moments, there is hope of some sort of validation of the ceremony’s existence.

The AMAs were started by Dick Clark in the early 70’s to rival the well-respected Grammy Awards. However, unlike the Grammys, the public votes for the winners. For a show like the Video Music Awards, that works just fine, but for a ceremony striving towards respectability, this is a bad move. For example, Justin Bieber won Artist of The Year and three other awards at last year’s ceremony.

The nominees for this year’s show have been announced and are once against confusingly predictable. Artist of the Year is a ladies battle, pinning Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Taylor Swift against each other, with Lil Wayne thrown in to up the testosterone level. There are eight acts up for the Sprint New Artist of the Year award, including Foster The People, Miguel, The Band Perry, and Thompson Square. However, LMFAO are also shortlisted. But haven’t people been taking “Shots” to their music for the past few years? Even Wiz Khalifa, also nominated, had released “Black and Yellow” in time to be eligible for last year’s ceremony, and thus shouldn’t be considered “new.”

The Favorite Pop/Rock Male nominee list is another head-scratcher. Justin Bieber, who has barely released anything musically this year, let alone had a legitimate hit, is up against Bruno Mars, who has only had one mediocre-sized hit this year, and Pitbull, who actually has seen success. The Female nominees are predictably with Gaga, Adele, and Katy Perry. The Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group (yes there actually that many adjectives for this category) nominees are understandably LMFAO and Maroon 5, with OneRepublic thrown in as the dark horse.

The Country categories can pretty much be summed up with the words “Taylor Swift,” “Jason Aldean,” and “The Band Perry,” with Lady Antebellum surprisingly only nominated for one category. Hip-Hop apparently only had three acts this year, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West, who are all up against each other for all encompassing categories. Beyonce, Rihanna, and Chris Brown pretty much have the R&B category locked up, and somewhere along the line Katy Perry became considered “Adult Contemporary” as she takes on Adele and Bruno Mars.

The performers have not yet been announced, but no doubt some huge names will sign on. Regardless of the boredom the previous ceremonies have exhibited, I’m still holding on to the hope that after almost 40 years, they may finally get it right! This year’s show will take place on November 20 on ABC.

R.E.M.BERING

by Dave Iannacone | September 28, 2011

Bands break up all the time; it’s really nothing new. However, most bands aren’t R.E.M. Inarguably one of the most influential bands of the past three decades, remaining members Michael Stipe, Mike

Remaining members Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, and Peter Buck decided to call it quits after 31 years together.

Mills, and Peter Buck decided to call it quits after 31 years together. Over their career, the band has released 15 studio albums, including classics such as Document, Out Of Time, and Automatic for the People, six of which have been certified platinum. They have won a series of awards, including three Grammys, and even the VMA Video of the Year. In 2007, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on their first year of eligibility.

What makes R.E.M. so much different from so many of their peers was their incredible rise to fame. Starting out as a little-known cult band from Athens, Georgia, they moved on to become college radio icons with crossover hits such as “The One I Love,” “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine,)” and their first major-label hit, “Stand.” However, with the release of their biggest single, “Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. became full-fledged rock gods. Very few bands build up that big of a loyal following before making it so big. Their success continued throughout the 90’s with hits such as “Everybody Hurts,” “Man On The Moon,” and “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” In 1997, drummer Bill Berry announced that he was leaving the band, but the three remaining members carried on as a trio and carried their success into the 2000’s.

Their split comes as a surprise, with a brief message posted on their official website saying, “to anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.” Each member also released a brief statement expressing their gratitude and explaining their decision. They are currently compiling their first career-spanning collection to be released this November.

Very few bands really get to walk away on their own terms in such a peaceful way. The music R.E.M. is leaving behind will be remembered for generations to come. Their uniqueness, dedication and, commitment to their art and music really makes them one of the greatest ever. They will be missed.

A Reality Check

by Dave Iannacone | September 21, 2011

I think it’s pretty safe to say that reality television has really changed pop culture in America. Almost undeniably the leader of the pack is (or was) American Idol. It probably had something to do with a combination of the audience interaction and the witnessing of the American dream that really drew people in, but it was only a matter of time before the copycats emerged. Now, in Europe, singing competitions have been around forever, and they have remained overwhelmingly popular. In fact, pretty much all of the singing competition shows in America are just imports from overseas, including American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and the newest addition to the pack, The X Factor.

However, in the U.S., it’s kind of a different ballgame. Currently, there’s no bigger television show or force in the music industry than the Simon Cowell-led X Factor. Even the third and fourth runners up are releasing massively successful music, and past competitors have gone on to have big careers. Here in the U.S., contestants don’t seem to be quite so lucky. In fact, Idol winners such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are the exceptions rather than the rules. I mean, who even knows what fellow winners Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks are doing? Let alone, who cares? Sure, even some non-winners have seen success, such as Chris Daughtry and his self-titled band, and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson; but are they actually amongst the biggest acts in music? Not really.

So the question really is why so many shows? Sure, ratings are consistently high, but American Idol hasn’t produced a true superstar since Carrie Underwood in 2005. Instead, we’ve seen more cult acts, such as Adam Lambert and Clay Aiken, middle ground pop stars, like Jordan Sparks, and a hoard of complete failures. Even Jennifer Hudson is more of just a celebrity with an acclaimed voice. She’s hardly lighting up the charts. So what makes other shows think they can top it?

This summer, we were introduced to The Voice. A confusingly crafted, yet strangely addictive competition, the show was one of the most surprising hits of the summer. In fact, it really seemed like the winner and even runners up, had a real shot at superstardom. However, as time moves farther away from the finale, where Javier Colon was named “The Voice,” a successful career is starting to seem more and more grim. Now, I could be wrong, but to put it in perspective, when Kelly Clarkson won Idol, her debut single was a huge-selling #1. Javier’s single barely cracked the top-20. We’ve also seen shows like America’s Got Talent, the US version of Britain’s Got Talent, which produced the multi-platinum international superstar Susan Boyle, has failed to truly launch a mega-star, the exception being Jackie Evencho, the 11-year-old classical crossover singer, who has seen unprecedented album sales for her genre.

It almost appears that the judges are the ones who actually reap the benefits. New Idol judges, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler are perfect examples. The Aerosmith frontman earned himself a top-40 hit, and J.Lo unarguably had one of the biggest singles of the year, “On The Floor,” which was her most popular in quite some time. The Voice judges seemed to have it even better! A faltering Christina Aguilera was tacked on to fellow-mentor, Adam Levine’s band Maroon 5’s single “Moves Like Jagger,” and the song is currently sitting on top of the Billboard Hot 100. Even country artist Blake Shelton earned his first #1 album after appearing on the show. However, as for the contestants themselves? No one’s really seems to care all that much.

So now that Simon Cowell is bringing The X Factor to America, we really have to re-examine the “why?” from earlier. Yes, it’s huge overseas, but that doesn’t particularly mean it will be here. It also has at least three competing shows, two of which Cowell had a hand in creating, and more on the way. What’s the draw? To be quite honest, Simon himself and the return of former Idol judge, Paula Abdul. Will the contestants actually win fame? That’s to be determined, but if the previous shows are anything to go by, probably not.

It really seems that these television shows are just that…shows. They’re not really setting up anyone for superstardom. They’re just providing bi-weekly entertainment. Once the show’s over, so is the interest. I think the appeal is very legitimate, but the competition is really all that matters. The winner wins their moment of glory, and that’s really about it.

Will the Michael Jackson Tribute Concert Fail?

by Dave Iannacone | September 14, 2011

It’s been more than two years since his death, but finally a tribute concert is being put together to honor the life and career of Michael Jackson. The event is set to take place on October 8 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. However, just like a majority of his life, the concert is already seeing a great deal of controversy. Despite the support of Michael’s mother, Katherine, and several of his siblings, the full family is not backing the tribute. In fact, brothers Randy and Jermaine issued a joint statement denouncing the concert because it is set to take place amidst the trial of Michaels’ doctor, Conrad Murray, being charged with involuntary manslaughter. Even his sister Janet is not supporting the concert.

In addition to family members, his official fan club, as well as fan organizations all over the world, have publicly spoken out against the event for the same reasons, in addition to the location and announced performers. Despite the confirmed performances of big acts such as Smokey Robinson, Beyonce (performing via satellite), Christina Aguilera, and Ne-Yo, there are a number of current acts that would not appeal to the global market including JLS, Alexandra Burke, and Pixie Lott, as well as outdated and irrelevant ones including Craig David, 3T (a band featuring Michael’s nephews), and Alien Ant Farm, known pretty much only for their awful cover of “Smooth Criminal.”

Michael’s brothers have also been confirmed as performers, but which ones will actually participate is still in question. The line-up saw further controversy when legendary rockers, KISS, were scheduled to perform. Bassist Gene Simmons has famously spoken out against Michael, exclaiming that he firmly believed he was a child molester after his death. The band has since been removed from the tribute.

Further more, the location of the event has puzzled many. Michael was undoubtedly a global superstar, but holding the concert in Wales has been highly criticized for isolating his fan base, especially those in his home country. It has been announced that a majority of profits from ticket sales will be donated to the AIDS Project Los Angeles, as well as two currently unannounced organizations. Many fans have issued concerns that the money will not be given to the charities that Michael held closest to his heart. There have been numerous petitions and protests of the event, bringing a great deal of public controversy to the event. The concert is set to be broadcast in over 30 countries around the world in both 2D and 3D.

In my opinion, this tribute concert will not be a success. There is already a great deal of drama surrounding the concert, and the details that have been released are only proving the doubters right. I fully support that idea of having an MJ tribute concert, but it should be done right. Michael Jackson is undoubtedly the biggest pop star to have ever lived, and the line-up for his tribute should not included terrible acts like Alien Ant Farm and JLS, or even regional stars like Pixie Lott. It should include all A-listers, and his entire family. I think it’s a shame that most likely the one concert that will ever be made to pay tribute to Michael Jackson will end up being a failure.

The 2011 VMAs

by Dave Iannacone | September 7, 2011

The MTV Video Music Awards may not be the most prestigious ceremony in music, but every year they see legendary and iconic moments that live on in music history. This year certainly had a lot to live up to.

Lady Gaga was set to open to show, but instead we got her male alter-ego, Jo Calderone, who after a several minute monologue, broke out into Gaga’s current single “You and I,” featuring a special guest appearance from Brian May of Queen. Despite being one of the strangest performances in VMA history, it may just have been one of the best. Some of the less successful performances included Pitbull, Ne-Yo and Nayer’s “Give Me Everything,” Lil Wayne’s “How To Love”/”John” medley, which failed to live up to the hype, and Chris Brown’s poorly lipped medley, which had some pretty cool choreography, but became kind of repetitive after a while.

However, the night still had some great moments including Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “surprise” performance of “Otis,” and Young The Giant’s energy-filled take on “My Body.” Adele stripped things completely down for “Someone Like You,” letting her voice work its magic and proving why she is one of the most talented artists out today. Probably the best performance of the night came from Beyoncé, who had announced her pregnancy before the show. Singing her album track “Love On Top,” Queen B totally owned the stage, and ended by throwing her mic down, undoing her jacket and revealing her baby-bump to the world.

This year featured two tributes, as well. The first of which was the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, presented to Ms. Britney Spears. The tribute performance featured a swarm of young girls dressed in Brit’s most famous outfits dancing to a speedy medley of her hits. Lady Gaga (still dressed as Jo) presented her with the award, almost reenacting the famous Britney/Madonna kiss, before Britney nipped it in the bud and claimed she’s “already done that.”

The second tribute was to the late Amy Winehouse. After speeches from her friend Russell Brand and Tony Bennett, who revealed a clip of him and Amy in the studio, Bruno Mars perplexingly performed “Valerie” in tribute. The question really was, why have Bruno, who was neither a friend nor someone who was directly influenced by Amy, perform and why sing “Valerie,” which although a hit, was collaboration with Mark Ronson and a cover? Why not perform one of her many great originals?

The awards were pretty predictable. The increasingly strange Justin Bieber took home Best Male Video for “U Smile,” while Gaga (still dressed as Mr. Calderone) took home Best Female Video for “Born This Way.” Britney Spears took home Best Pop Video for “Till The World Ends,” The Foo Fighters won Best Rock Video for “Walk,” and Best Hip-Hop video went to Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass.” Tyler, The Creator shockingly won Best New Artist, beating out the likes of Big Sean, Foster The People, and Wiz Khalifa. However, the big winner of the night was Katy Perry, who won Best Collaboration for “E.T.” with Kanye West and the biggest award, Video Of The Year for “Firework.”

Overall, this year lived up to expectations. Here’s to another great year in music videos!

Summer ’11: A Look Ahead

by Dave Iannacone | May 4, 2011

As another school year comes to an end, another summer gets ready to kick off, and, as usual, the possibility of great music is high. While it’s still too early to really predict who and what’s going to dominate the airwaves, it’s a safe bet that a whole new set of summer anthems are on their way! This is the time of year when people like to have fun, party, and be care free, and the music has to match. As with every summer, I would expect to hear fun, “dancy,” and catchy songs. Considering all of the songs that fit that description that have come out over the past few months, I’d say we are in for a real treat.

Last year we saw artists such as Ke$ha, Usher and Katy Perry bring out massive hits, but who are this year’s contenders? Well with Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez off to a great start with their new album projects, I would put my money on them. In addition, despite the fact that Beyonce’s new single “Run The World (Girls)” hasn’t lived up to Queen B expectations, I would never count her out. I also think that Britney Spears is going to give us a classic summer anthem as her Femme Fatale album is still going strong. It’s also a strong possibility that newcomers such as Jessie J (or possibly some we don’t even know yet) could blow all of the competition away.

The summer months are known for breaking artists, and I would guess that summer 2011 is no exception. While it is impossible to predict the musical landscape of the upcoming months, there is no doubt that the songs we’ll hear will always remind us of this particular season.

Life after Death

by Dave Iannacone | April 27, 2011

This past Monday marked the ninth anniversary of the passing of TLC rapper Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Despite not being a particularly monumental anniversary, it did get me thinking a bit. TLC is one of the most famous and biggest selling girl groups of all time, even though they were only around as a threesome for less than 10 years. Their legacy will no doubt carry on for a long time because of the great music they made, but it is completely plausible that Left Eye’s untimely death helped immortalize them. In a way, this rule applies to many acts.

Looking back on all of the artists who died young or at the peak of their career, a good majority of them are widely considered legends; for example, Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, 2Pac, the Notorious B.I.G., and Kurt Cobain (just to name a few). Obviously, all of these musicians are widely remembered today for the great music they made during their short careers. However, I really have to wonder if their passing really made a difference. It’s really a fair question to ask if, say Nirvana would be held in such high regards as the band is now had Kurt Cobain not ended his life. Would Jimi Hendrix still be considered the greatest guitarist ever? Would 2Pac and Biggie be the legends they are today?

Obviously, it’s easy to say yes to all of those questions. However, as another example, would Aaliyah be remembered the way she is? Sure, she had a good number of hits under her belt, but she seemingly wasn’t on the road to an immortal legacy before her tragic plane crash. After comparing her to many of her ill-fated peers, though, I came to the conclusion that untimely death more just speeds up the “legend” process than anything else. John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson were already legends, but were immediately set on a high pedestal when they passed. From another perspective, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix had such loyal fan bases and critical praise that their music was able to become that much more impactful when they died. Even Otis Redding had the biggest hit of his career, “(Sittin’ On the) Dock of the Bay,” posthumously.

So while Left Eye’s death may have helped TLC become one of those “classic groups,” it’s probably safe to say that they would’ve gotten there eventually anyway. Sometimes having a relatively small body of music can only help (see Hendrix). Instead of burning out and ruining everything great, stopping early can eliminate that risk completely. Maybe dying early is just the publicity stunt an artist needs. Look at how Michael Jackson practically got his slate wiped clean and was immediately re-crowned as the King of Pop (and beyond!) So while no one should ever wish death on another, for some really great artists, this was probably the best deal they ever got.

The Diva Battle is ON!

by Dave Iannacone | April 20, 2011

In this day and age, it is pretty rare that an epic chart battle is in the cards. However, this week it seems like the stars have aligned and the battle is on! This time, we see the battle of divas, with arguably the four biggest female forces in pop music on three different songs pinned against each other. This one is certainly going to be a doozey.

In one corner we have Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” which has already been number one for the past three weeks. The song is her fourth straight from her Teenage Dream album, a rare feat in music. In another corner, we have the tag-team of Rihanna and Britney Spears on the remix of “S&M,” which was recently enhanced with a new verse and extra vocals from Ms. Spears. The song has seemingly stalled at number two, but with the release of the new mix, this was almost guaranteed to take over the summit.

However, in corner number three, we have Lady Gaga’s new single “Judas,” which could easily be the champion. The single was set to be released this Tuesday, but was brought up a few days early after an Internet leak. This would give it two and a half days to not only sell enough downloads, but get enough airplay to debut at number one. While this would normally seem next to impossible, if anyone can do it, it’s Lady Gaga. She accomplished this with her last single “Born This Way,” but with an extra day’s worth of time.

All three songs have been number one on downloads this past week, and all three have been getting heavy radio play. It is pretty difficult to predict who will come out on top (especially without any figures,) but it’s pretty safe to say that any one of them could pull this off. In fact, all of these songs can have their stay at number one over the next few weeks. This just goes to show that pop music is back and stronger than ever! This is certainly one for the books.

One for the Old Guys

by Dave Iannacone | April 13, 2011

In an era where it is particularly difficult (nearly impossible) for older acts to maintain any sense of relevance, it seems that

In even bigger news, with a date in Sao Paulo this past Sunday, U2 will officially claim the title of “Highest Grossing Tour of All Time” with their 360 Tour, a record once held by another old act, the Rolling Stones.

touring on a grander scale has become the best way to keep everyone aware of their worth. Sure, album sales can always keep an act in the headlines, but touring is where the money is, and in all honesty, some older acts are outselling current ones by alot.

This past week it was announced that Prince would be continuing his sell-out Welcome 2 America tour by adding an unprecedented 21 dates in Los Angeles (with a majority of shows at the Forum). In even bigger news, with a date in Sao Paulo this past Sunday, U2 will officially claim the title of “Highest Grossing Tour of All Time” with their 360 Tour, a record once held by another old act, the Rolling Stones. With about 20 more shows to go, this record will most likely not be broken again for a long time. Last year, even, the highest biggest tour was Bon Jovi followed by U2 and AC/DC. Also included in the top-10 were James Taylor and Carole King, The Eagles, Metallica, Dave Matthews Band, and Paul McCartney. Even in recent years, Madonna claimed the title of biggest solo tour with her Sticky & Sweet Tour, and Michael Jackson was gearing up to make serious history with his This Is It Tour.

While artists such as Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, and Katy Perry have been embarking on highly publicized world tours, it seems that they are no match for their legendary peers. In many ways this makes alot of sense. These other acts have been around longer and have built up huge fan bases. But then again, it’s hard to argue with Lady Gaga’s success and her ability so sell out any venue anywhere. Certainly it’s not the scale of the shows, either. Prince, for example played four massive sold out dates at Madison Square Garden, and U2 have pretty much played every major venue in the world! So what sets these guys apart? Quite simply, they’re just that good. Even acts such as Madonna and Kylie Minogue, who have maintained relevance well into their 40’s and beyond, are still dwarfing the competition with elaborate and show-stopping shows. People just know what’s good.

While many of these artists pretty much don’t have a prayer when it comes to top-40 radio (outside of one or two exceptions), with all of their energy focused in touring, it seems that the “old guys” are getting the last laugh. They’ll always be big album sellers, but when it comes to touring, they’re running away with it.

The Singles Are Back, Baby!

by Dave Iannacone | April 6, 2011

Despite still being in the first quarter of 2011, there have been an abundance of musical milestones on the Billboard charts.

Singer Katy Perry arrives at fashion designer Marcus Molinari's birthday party at h.wood in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)

The most recent comes from Katy Perry who just landed her fourth straight #1 single with a remix of “E.T.” featuring Kanye West. What makes this a landmark is that she is only the ninth artist in history to send four songs from the same album to the top of the Hot 100. She now joins the ranks of artists such as Michael Jackson (who holds the record with five,) Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey who have all put out albums with four or more number ones. However, as most of the accomplishments in recent years have been almost entirely attributed to digital downloads (see Glee), Katy has done this the hard way. Not only have her singles been selling like hot cakes, but radio and club play have also helped the songs’ success.

However, Ms. Perry isn’t the only artist seemingly restoring faith in album sustainability. Artists such as Rihanna and the Black Eyed Peas have managed to release multiple hit singles from the same project in recent years, as opposed to the one or two (three if they’re lucky) that most artists get. In fact, Usher is currently cranking out hits from the album project he started in 2009 (despite the fact that he supplemented the release with an EP of new songs). What makes Katy’s accomplishment so amazing, though, is that all of the songs are available on the originally released album, so the fact that they all managed to find their way to the top is an amazing accomplishment.

The good news for the music world is that it looks like a singles market is back and better than ever. Throughout almost all of the 2000’s, hit singles were determined by radio play, and when digital downloads came out, the adjustment to having actual singles again had a few bumps in the road. However, now it honestly seems like artists can have long lasting albums with multiple hit singles like the 80’s and 90’s. Only a few acts (see Rihanna, see Usher, see Beyonce, etc.) have managed to have successful long-lasting projects in recent years, but all thanks to re-releases or supplemental EPs. In fact, even Britney Spears has the best chance of having more than two hits off an album since the early part of the 2000’s.

With alot of big releases coming up from really big artists (Lady Gaga, anyone), this year could continue on its path of being one of the recording breaking years in pop music history.

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