There’s no doubt that music has gone through many phases and transformations in the last 40 years. Styles come and go but there has been one particular driving force that has changed forever the way music is created – the rise of technology. Music technology has come down hugely in price over the years, a fact which has launched a new generation of bedroom recording artists who can produce professional sounding material on little more than a laptop. In the latest 5 minute guide we take you through some of the biggest leaps forward in music technology that have not only changed the way music sounds, but intrinsically shaped the way musicians write, record and perform.
In the early 1960′s Robert Moog pioneered the concept of the analogue synthesiser – a series of keyboard controlled interconnected hardware modules covered in dials and switches that looked as if they should be operated by Dr. Who.
Although they were fiendishly complicated to operate, expensive and hugely impractical: early Moog synths opened up a new world of sounds to the few artists who could afford them. Groups like Emerson, Lake & Palmer embraced the new technology by incorporating it into their existing sound with tracks like ‘Lucky Man’. Pink Floyd were enthusiastic users of early synthesisers on the classic ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ while groups like Kraftwerk opted for entirely electronic compositions as on the seminal ‘Autobahn’. As smaller, cheaper, new versions such as the Minimoog and Polymoog became available more and more acts saw the benefits and entirely new genres of music were developed. Georgio Moroder gave disco a kick-start with the throbbing Moog bass-line of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, and later Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army stormed the charts with help from his Polymoog on ‘Are Friends Electric’ and ‘Cars’
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Katy Perry could find herself entering the history books soon if her latest single ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)’ manages to grab the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Her last four singles from the massive selling ‘Teenage Dream’ have all gone to number one, and a fifth will see her equal Michael Jackson’s record of five consecutive number ones from the same album, in his case 1987′s ‘Bad’. Such an achievement will only emphasise the current trend for female artists raising the bar in terms of sales performances. What with Adele virtually monopolising the higher reaches of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic it’s definitely a case of sisters doing it for themselves. The video for ‘Last Friday Night’, which has already racked up a massive 35 million views on YouTube, sees Perry releasing her inner nerd at the party of the year. Introducing her uber-geek alter-ego, Kathy Beth Terry, Katy dons a comedy retainer and hams it up in the role of ugly duckling invading the world of the high school A-list. However, she can’t take all the credit for the success of the vid. An all star cast features Glee’s Kevin McHale and Darren Criss, Kenny G (playing sax on the roof), Rebecca Black, Debbie Gibson and even Hanson popping up as the in-house band. The ever-reliable production team of Max Martin and Dr. Luke deliver the goods music-wise, but the success of the song owes a huge debt to the video and Perry’s willingness to play the fool.
You can check the full video on Vevo here
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Coldplay have been fairly quiet over the last couple of years, but with a tasty Saturday night headlining spot scheduled for Glastonbury on the weekend what better time to release an anthemic stadium filler like ‘Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall’? Sandwiched between the twin titans of U2 on Friday and Beyoncé on Sunday, the lads are going to have to be on top form: but with a highly respectable back catalogue and two previous Glasto headline slots under their belt Coldplay have a pedigree that almost guarantees they will deliver one of the weekend’s most memorable performances. The band share the song-writing credits of ‘Every Teardrop…’ with Australia’s answer to Barry Manilow, Peter Allen. Allen’s record ‘ I Go To Rio’ influenced Chris Martin after he heard it when it appeared in the Javier Bardem film, ‘Biutiful’. However, although there are some similarities in the opening chords in reality the two songs couldn’t be more different. While the original is a disco based tropical knees up, Coldplay have gone for an epic crowd-pleasing approach that keeps the tension racked up before ending in Martin enjoying a lung-busting finale – something that’s sure to go down a storm with the muddy Somerset masses.
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Bad Meets Evil consists of Eminem and his improbably monikered chum Royce da 5’9″ who got together back in 1997 and bashed out a few well-received tunes including a self-titled track on Eminem’s debut ‘The Slim Shady LP’. Unfortunately the pair parted company after Eminem’s group D12 didn’t quite see eye to eye with Royce and while Slim Shady went on to achieve world domination he was left to plough his own lonely furrow. However in 2010, and with their differences resolved, the two headed back in the studio to record the ‘Hell:The Sequel’ EP from which ‘Lighters’ is the second single.
While the name Bad Meets Evil conjures up all sorts of unpleasant connotations they probably don’t include talented hit-maker Bruno Mars, who has a voice more like an angel than a servant of Beelzebub. However it is Mars who kicks off proceedings with a typically strong vocal performance which sets the stage for the entrance of Eminem. Both of the rappers put in pretty intense performances which contrast markedly with the very radio-friendly chorus. While purists might be a little suspicious of the hook-up with Mars there’s no doubt that it’s a toothsome mix of sweet & sour that will generate a lot more interest in the new EP.
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Given that the Foo Fighters last album, 2007′s ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace’ racked up an impressive five Grammy nominations and walked away with ‘Best Rock Album’ and ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’, there was probably a fair bit of pressure on them to measure up with their next offering. It took a while but they certainly seem to have hit the mark with this year’s ‘Wasting Light’. The first single proper ‘Rope’ was a terrific introduction to the new album and they have followed it up with another stormer. Melodic hard rock is what the band do best and that is exactly what you get with ‘Walk’; which features the band’s uncanny ability to match easy-on-the-ear harmonies with crunching guitars.
Dave ‘nicest man in rock’ Grohl is also on great form in the video (based on the 1993 Michael Douglas film ‘Falling Down’) as he goes ballistic in a burger joint and runs someone over in a golf-cart before ending up on the receiving end of a taser, much to the rest of the band’s delight. With a new documentary ‘Back and Forth’ just out and tour dates coming up in the UK and USA it looks like the Foo Fighters are on a roll, again
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After throwing the listening public a curve-ball with the dancehall beats of ‘Run The World (Girls)’, Beyoncé is back in R&B ballad mode with the second single from her upcoming ’4′ album. ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ definitely keeps to B’s strengths, a wise move considering her former single did not reach the number one spot. Penned by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, the track is a piano-led instruction manual on how to dump your useless boyfriend – a subject matter Beyoncé previously touched upon on in ‘Irreplaceable’. With the memorable refrain of “it sucks to be you right now”, she lays it on the line with a powerful vocal performance and a lush backing track full of tinkling keys and strings. With the crucial Sunday night festival-closing slot lined up for Glastonbury at the end of the month it will be very interesting to see if Mrs Jay-Z can match her husband’s knock-out performance of 2008. She’s got some stiff competition from Coldplay and U2 on the preceding nights but with a new album’s worth of tracks to showcase and a back catalogue packed with hits like ‘Crazy In Love’, she has the potential to be one of the festival highlights.
You can check out the track here
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Betty Davis, formerly Betty Mabry, was a successful 22 year old model when she met Miles Davis in 1967, a chance occurrence that lead to her becoming his second wife and introducing him to the world of rock and funk. She also introduced Davis to her friend Jimi Hendrix who went on to become quite an influence on his work on albums such as 1970′s ‘Bitches Brew’. While their marriage only lasted a year the effects would resonate for quite some time. Keeping her married name, Davis launched her own singing career helped out by a stellar line-up of backing musicians including the rhythm section of Larry Graham and Greg Errico from Sly & The Family Stone and The Pointer Sisters on backing vocals.
Her debut album hit the shelves in 1973 and immediately showed Davis as a unique talent. Backed up by a slew of super funky riffs she teased and howled with an unabashed sexuality that was years ahead of its time and led to various boycotts by religious groups that contributed to her lack of commercial success. Although none of her three albums made much money at the time they have become highly regarded in hindsight and one listen to a track such as ‘Anti-Love Song’ will tell you why. Over a backing track with a bassline so groovy that it should come with a public health warning, Davis tells her man just how things are going to be – whether he likes it or not. It’s a powerhouse performance that oozes cool from every bar and makes one wonder just how she managed to avoid having the stratospheric career she so richly deserved
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With the last album ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ making an appearance back in 2008 Bon Iver aficionados have had to wait a while for new offerings, with only the 2009 ‘Blood Bank’ EP to tide them over. iTunes certainly did their bit to alleviate the wait by mistakenly posting the whole album in May for a few hours, but for those not quick enough to get it then, the self-titled album is due for release on June 20th, preceded by the new single ‘Calgary’.
Keeping to the philosophy of singer/songwriter Justin Vernon recording in unusual locations, the new album was put together in a studio converted from an old swimming pool attached to a disused veterinarian clinic. The change in surroundings hasn’t dampened his song writing talents though and ‘Calgary’ is packed with the type of haunting melodies that typify the Bon Iver experience. Soft pads and insistent drums lend an almost Peter Gabriel style sound to the track but just when it’s at risk of all becoming a bit too radio friendly, Vernon puts the dampeners on and keeps things interesting. As usual it’s the vocals that lead the way but ‘Calgary’ throws a bit more into the mix and points the way to what could be a very interesting second album. The band are touring extensively to support the new release with a series of US dates (many already sold out) and will be over to Europe in October.
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Formed in Washington DC in 1977 Bad Brains set the benchmark for hardcore bands with the release of their (cassette only) self-titled debut album and the follow-up ‘Rock For Light’ (strangely enough produced by Ric Ocasek of The Cars). Originally starting as a jazz fusion outfit called Mind Power, the band already had one ear on the burgeoning punk scene and with the introduction of vocalist H.R. the stage was set for a major transformation. The combination of the group’s technical ability garnered from their jazz days and the fact that as Rastafarians they were heavily influenced by reggae music, particularly dub, meant they had the unique ability to segue from punk thrash into bass heavy roots at the drop of a hi hat.
The result was a brace of albums that meshed searing technical hardcore with melodic reggae rhythms in a manner that had never been done before. Released after the insanely intense non-album track ‘Pay To Cum’, ‘Attitude’ captured Bad Brains at their best, dishing out no-compromise high intensity hardcore punk. While the guitars, bass and drums knit together a furious sound-scape it’s H.R’s unique vocals that push the band to the next level, his ability to switch from falsetto to snarling to baritone and back in a flash marked him out as one of the scene’s most extraordinary singers.
Backed by the musical adeptness of his brother, drummer Earl Hudson, bassist Darryl Jennifer and guitarist Dr. Know the band made for the complete unit, becoming one of the most influential members of the US hardcore scene. Despite breaking up and making up on multiple occasions the band released eight albums, (of which the first three are now considered classics), and continued to tour and record well into the 2000′s.
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Florida native DeRulo (a simplification of the original ‘Desrouleaux’) came to the music industry ready equipped with the reputation of an artistic overachiever. Schooled in opera and ballet he honed his skills as a songwriter for Cash Money Records before being snapped up by producer J.R. Rotem for his Beluga Heights label, home to the likes of Sean Kingston and Mann. With Beluga Heights and Warner Records financial clout behind him DeRulo launched his assault on the charts and immediately hit the jackpot, his first single ‘Whatcha Say’ took out the Billboard #1 spot followed by a further two consecutive top ten entries. His pop/R&B crossover song-writing skills combining with his keen voice ensured his debut self-titled album became a worldwide hit and now he’s back with the lead single from the follow-up ‘Future History’. ‘Don’t Wanna Go Home’ takes inspiration from a number of sources and mashes them up into a coherent whole. Kicking off with Harry Belafonte’s ‘Banana Boat Song’ it drops into the riff from the Robin S club classic ‘Show Me Love’ adding a sprinkle of Ke$ha and Lil’ Wayne on the way. It may not be the most original track in town but DeRulo is on record as stating he wanted to write a ‘feel-good’ song and few would argue with the sentiment.
You can checkl out the video here
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