Pulling a Beyoncé: Why are artists releasing “surprise” albums?

Beyoncé. Wolfmother. Death Grips. The Raveonettes. Kid Cudi. Skrillex. 
A seemingly arbitrary list of artists, differing in both genre and status, are among a growing population of musicians who have chosen to release an entire album with absolutely no warning or promotion. This trend received its unofficial title of “pulling a Beyoncé,” after BB releasing her unannounced self-titled album on December 13, 2013. The Internet was driven towards hysteria. In its first three days, having no prior release date or singles, Beyoncé sold almost 800,000 copies. Although Beyoncé was not the first to try this unorthodox release, her great success using it has inspired others to do so. But, is it really all “About the Money,” or do artists have their own reasons behind the “surprise” album? Why is “surprise” in quotation marks? Enjoy.

beyonce

One thing that is for sure, fans, myself included, go absolutely nuts when one of their favorite artists pulls a card out of Mrs. Carter’s playbook. Even the press seems to be intoxicated by these mass influxes of new material. While doing research for this article I ran across posts about: who should release a surprise albumwho shouldn’t release surprise albumwho is most likely to release a surprise album; and whether or not this approach even works. Sorry Wolfmother, for you, it does not.

So, we know that in most cases fans flip over surprise albums. And perhaps artists see the unexpected release as a gift to their supporters. Everyone knows waiting for an album to drop can be torture. Maybe musicians reward fans by attempting to break up the monotony that is the typical year long cycle of an album’s campaign. It’s a tried and true method that never ends: tease first single, release single, announce album release date, tease single’s music video, release video, debut more new tracks, appears on Fallon promoting the single, video, and album, so on and so forth. Instead of months spent digesting how much they need to hear the album, the listener can actually hear the album. Different. Weird. Exciting.

This brings me to my next point: releasing a surprise album has proven to make a musician or band more reputable. It’s simple. By abstracting the norm, the action appears defiant. When experimental hip hop outfit Death Grips was dropped from Epic Records for leaking their second album No Love Deep Web, they came off looking like fucking renegades. So much so, that they did so with both their third and fourth albums. This group was about music! Their label was standing in the way of them delivering music to the fans, so they said “Fuck it. We can do it ourselves.” Now, doesn’t releasing an album without any release date or promotional campaign seem like rebellious thing to do?

deathgrips

But, I will give it to Death Grips. They were an authentic act. But this is where the surprise ends. Lets take Beyoncé for example. Beyoncé is on Columbia Records. Columbia is the largest flagship label owned by Sony Music, a company worth almost $5 billion. With Beyoncé being one of their highest-grossing artists, do you really think Sony would be happy if just one day she said, “I think I’ll release my album today.”? An album that cost millions of dollars to record? Try looking at Kid Cudi and Skrillex. Both are on huge record labels. Do you think their bosses – and yes, they have bosses – would be okay if they decided to release an album with zero promotion, and not consult them?

There is no surprise. The release of a “surprise” album is just as calculated as the typical promotion cycle. The story is that there was none. The resulting media frenzy is promotion enough, and the artist appears more genuine for doing something “different.” The record label executives ride the independent wave right to the bank. The action appears nice, but the thought behind it is corrupt. They capitalize on the actions taken by artists like Death Grips, artists who actually want fans to experience their art. This greed could eventually lead to diminished feelings towards these pure artists. One day their actions may appear more calculated and less authentic.

But what do you think? Why are artists releasing “surprise” albums? These are just my opinions. I’d enjoy hearing yours.

Radio Lab: Straight Outta Chevy Chase dissects the “realness” of Hip Hop

No, this isn’t a cultural manifesto on Chevy Chase and the Vacation movies. It is, however a smart look into one of the most important components of hip hop: realness. What makes something real? Who decides what is real or not? A majority of the podcast discusses a beef between hip hop superstar Nicki Minaj and radio DJ Peter Rosenberg. I really enjoyed listening to it, so I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy.

http://www.radiolab.org/story/straight-outta-chevy-chase/

 

You Blew It! to release Weezer cover EP, “You Blue It” on 7/15

Still riding the wave of popularity behind their sophomore album, Orlando natives You Blew It! are set to release an EP of choice Weezer cuts from the band’s 1994 album, Weezer (The Blue Album). Two songs, “My Name is Jonas” and “Surf Wax America,” have already helped build anticipation for the EP. You can pre-order You Blue It over at Topshelf Records. Good job boys. Brilliant pun. Enjoy.



Summer Preview: Noisy Ghost, Bonnaroo, Dinosaurs, and more!

I apologize for my absence. Finals suck. School sucks. Work sucks. I know. But it’s summer now, and I’ve got some big things cooking. Enjoy.

Noisy Ghost PR

I know I don’t usually talk about myself,  but I just need to take a moment and gloat. This summer, I will be interning at Noisy Ghost PR, a promotion sister-company to Graveface Records. As you may know, Noisy Ghost contacted me a few months ago and asked me to help them promote a show at Will’s Pub. Apparently, I did something right, because I was able to score an internship. Noisy Ghost represents experimental artists like Xiu Xiu, The Stargazer Lilies, and Bad Bad Hats, and I am beyond excited for this. But in reality, this wouldn’t have happened without everyone’s support. You rock. Keep up the good work. Alright, gloating over.

30 Days of Bonnaroo

Nope, gloating not over. I’m going to Bonnaroo! It’s going to be fucking great! To get excited about seeing some new acts, I’m going to be breaking down a new Bonnaroo artist EVERYDAY starting May 12th. I just might die. Stay tuned!

Jurassic Park on Vinyl?

Jurassic Park is literally my favorite movie. And Mondo is releasing the soundtrack on vinyl featuring some incredible cover art. There will be two different packages: one pressed on clear amber vinyl, and one on black. BUT, there will be a dilophosaurus colored LP randomly inserted into some of the packages. Those bastards. This creates an impossible decision: take the risk to get the dilophosaurus pressing or get the slightly less awesome amber pressing. Luckily, you have some time to make your decision, because the pressing isn’t released until June 11.

JP_Both

I lied. There’s no more.

RSD 2014 Preview: The Good, The Bad, and The Expensive

(There is no bad)

Officially founded in 2007, Record Store Day is a celebration of the community, pride, and hard-work that goes into every independently owned record store. In the past few years, Record Store Day has grown into its own holiday, where artists small and large deliver a limited supply of releases old and new. Record Store Day Ambassador Chuck D, from the legendary hip-hip group Public Enemy, remarked on the impact of record stores, “The record store made musicians listen beyond themselves. It both complemented and supplemented the radio, in fact the best radio stations in the past followed the vibe of the record stores of their regions, thus growing and nurturing each other.”

I’m here to point you in the direction of my favorite releases, some of which my entire life savings ($164) on. This Saturday, thousands will gather at their local record store and indulge in the essential need that is music. Where will you be? Enjoy.

RSD 2014 Logo

The Vinyl Warhol’s RSD Picks (feel free to send me any of these)

??? – Side By Side Series 7″ : Always a fun, cheap way to get a unique RSD tradition. Two artists, an original song by one, with a cover by a different on the back. Last year I got The Stooges’/The Black Keys’ renditions of “No Fun,” on red and orange marble vinyl.

Cage the Elephant – “Take It Or Leave It”: A solid single from the band’s latest album, Melophobia. The B-side features an unreleased track called “Jesse James.”

CHVRCHES – Recover EP: One of last year’s hottest new acts, CHVRCHES has dominated both underground and popular music. They’re also playing at Bonnaroo!!

Haim – Forever: Another new giant from last year. Seriously infectious pop rock hits!

Jay Z/Linkin Park – Collision CourseOddly charming mash-ups of songs from both musical giants (See: “Big Pimpin’/Papercut”).

RPM Turntable Football – A Two Player Game Played at 33 1/3 RPM: Just look.

The Velvet Underground – LoadedA classic from a band where all of their albums (I don’t count are classic Squeeze) are classic. “Rock & Roll,” “Sweet Jane,” and “Cool It Down,” come on?

Liars – “Mess on a Mission”: Great tune from this band’s latest release, Mess. And just look at that! I did a blog talking about it.

LCD Soundsystem – The Long Goodbye Box set: Saving the best for last. This five LP set is a remastered recording of the band’s final concert at Madison Square Garden. The price is $130, but I’ll be damned if I’m not leaving RSD without it.

View the complete list here! So, whatcha want?

 

Music News: Big Guava Festival

Good day friends! It’s been a stressful week full of rain and sorrows, but I just know that tomorrow is going to be a brighter day. Even though it’s cold and rainy now, it will be hot and rainy soon enough, and that means summer. And summer means music festivals. But, if you’re from Florida, you know that we don’t have any big music festivals. Our festivals are usually centered on farming, eating, or guns. But, this summer is the start of something great. Enjoy.

Big Guava Music Festival: May 2-4 2014

 
Three days, more than 20 acts, and enough fun to blind small children, that’s right kids it’s the Big Guava Festival. Produced by the all-powerful musical overlords Live Nation, Big Guava Fest is something new and exciting for Florida music lovers to lose their minds over. I randomly stumbled upon Big Guava, and could not be more enthralled. We’re talkin’ Outkast. We’re talkin’ Vampire Weekend. We’re talkin’ me pooping my pants in anticipation. I cannot wait for this summer!

This is the first time I can recall Florida having a decent sized music festival, and it’s something that we’ve needed for a long time. Anyone who has ever been in Florida during the summer knows it’s hell. But, what could be a better reason to brave heat? There’s going to be so many great acts, from many different genres. Haim is playing. You guys know how much I love Haim. Oh you don’t? Well here’s a subtle plug to remind you. And here’s another so I can tell you how excited I am that Deap Vally is also playing.

And here’s a graphic with everyone who’s playing!

Tickets to the three day event are $191.10 after fees. This is an event is a beautiful thing for central Florida. Hopefully it will become an annual event, grow larger, and kick ass. See you there.

Musical Ramblings: The Grammys

If you were unaware, or like most people you didn’t care, “music’s biggest night” was last night. But, I did watch The Grammys, and found it a, more or less, entertaining evening. So here are some of my thoughts about the winners, the performances, and The Grammys as an institution. Enjoy.

Follow The Vinyl Warhol on Facebook and Twitter for more music updates.

Who got lucky?

Every year I feel like The Grammys slip more and more into irrelevance. With the explosion of the internet, there has never been more accessible music, and 99% of it is excluded from Grammy nominations. Even some the most praised albums of last year (ie. Yeezus, Modern Vampires of the City, Reflektor, … Like Clockwork) received little recognition from The Recording Academy. That, along with the fact that “artists” like The Baha Men, Katy Perry, and Lil Wayne are all Grammy winners, makes The Grammys reputation for good music go right down the toilet. Okay, enough ranting, let’s get to the show.

Despite the paragraph above, I actually really enjoyed The Grammys this year. The night started off with Beyonce and Jay Z performing a steaming rendition of “Drunk in Love”. The two of them had multiple cute moments throughout the evening, the best being Jay’s acceptance speech, where he thanked his wife for bringing Baby Blue into the world. Feels for days.


Throughout the rest of the night, there were performances of varying levels of boredom, peaking with Taylor Swift’s performance, which made me want to eat a gun. Even the “oh so amazing” Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performance was pretty lame. They didn’t even play a Beatles song, and Ringo wasn’t even the only drummer on the stage. Oh Ringo.

By far the best everything of the night was Daft Punk. Their performance with Pharrell, Stevie Wonder, and Nile Rodgers was incredible. I’m pretty sure it’s the only moment in history where Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, and John Legend were dancing to the same song. Remarkable.


I want to quickly mention the “What the Fuck?” Macklemore & Friends performance. When the gates of heaven opened up, revealing Queen Latifah and Madonna I lost it. The wedding ceremony was sweet, but even more amazing is the fact that Queen Latifah is a licensed reverend and there is a person that goes by the name of Trombone Shorty.

Oh yeah, and people won awards. Robot Rock.

Music in 2013: Third Man Records

With numerous releases and reissues this year, the hardworking heroes at Third Man Records have become leaders in the independent music scene and saviors of the vinyl record. Today, we’re going to take an in-depth look at Third Man Records: who they are, how they work and all that they’ve contributed to music in 2013. Enjoy.

Follow The Vinyl Warhol on Facebook and Twitter for more music updates.

Your Turntable’s Not Dead

Third Man Records was founded in 2001 by Jack White, Ben Blackwell and Ben Swank in Detroit. Blackwell has said that Third Man was originally founded to “reissue White Stripes’ records, and maybe […] put out one or two new records.” However, the record label quickly took off, with the release of the debut album for White’s side project, The Dead Weather. Other releases soon followed, and in 2009, a physical location was established in Nashville, Tenn. Since it’s inception, Third Man has released more than 200 recordings by more than 40 different musical acts, of numerous genres.

In January, Third Man announced its Document Records reissues, featuring the work of Charlie Paton, Blind Willie McTell and The Mississippi Sheiks, with new cover art by Grammy-winning designer Rob Jones. This was the first time in decades that these artists were available on vinyl. White’s thoughts on the reissues: “This new joint venture is meant to expose this legendary music to a whole new generation of music lovers. These works occupy an important place in the bedrock of  American music history, and Third Man and Document Records are doing their part to make sure that tradition continues.” The first, second and third volumes were released this year, with the fourth planned for distribution in 2014.

Third Man’s next major release was their limited edition 10th anniversary pressing of The White Stripes’ fourth LP, “Elephant,” released on Record Store Day 2013. Featuring the masterings from the original analog recordings, the release was pressed on red, black and white multi-colored vinyl. The same day, Third Man Records unveiled a Record Booth at their Nashville headquarters, where fans could record their own song onto a 7″ vinyl record.  For his dedication to the ideals driving the celebration, Jack White was crowned the Ambassador of Record Store Day.


Third Man kept busy during the summer, pressing the soundtrack for “The Great Gatsby” on both black and limited gold and platinum vinyl. “The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film” featured music by Jack White, Jay Z and Lana Del Ray.  They also released albums by Third Man artists Kelly Stoltz and Seasick Steve. However, Third Man’s biggest release of the year would not come until November.

“The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932” was a collaboration with Paramount Records. It featured more than 800 songs, six 180 gram vinyl LPs pressed on burled chestnut colored vinyl, all bundled together in a handcrafted quarter-sewn oak cabinet. “Paramount Records was founded on a modest proposition: produce records as cheaply as possible, recording whatever talent was available. ” Paramount’s vision is more alive today than ever; it lives in independent record labels all across the country. Third Man is no exception, and their hope is that by making this music easily available to the public, they can preserve it.

In an article with “Rolling Stone” about the box-set, White said, “It’s every idea you can imagine – a forgotten artist no one cares about, mixed with a failing business, then the Great Depression, the materials people used to build things. Paramount was struggling to break even, cranking out tons of product… You get to learn from their experience, but look at it from a positive viewpoint – which they wouldn’t have been able to do. I doubt they cared that they were documenting anything about culture at all.”  His words parallel the achievements of Third Man. In 2013, they made their mark on culture, challenging the norm and coming up with new creative ideas while also sticking to their roots. Only the geniuses at Third Man Records know what is in store for the future, but whatever they have planned is sure to shake things up even more.

Matt’s Monday Playlist, Third Man Candy Co.

Even though it’s overcast here in Orlando, I’m feeling happy. Usually, I hate the beach, but today I’m feeling some good surf jamz (that’s jams with a “z”). Also, Mondays suck. So here’s a playlist of surf music, along with other songs that I like. Maybe even a few surprises. Enjoy.

Follow The Vinyl Warhol on Facebook and Twitter for more music updates.

Yay music!

Read my review of ARTPOP!

Third Man Records is making candy?

Yeah, it didn’t make since to me either, but look how tasty it looks?

The different candies available include: a variety of Holiday Libations Marshmallows, Electrified Peppermint Bark, and Smoked Spice Orange Syrup. Along with the recently announced The Great Third Man Turkey Drive, it seems Third Man Records is really getting into the holiday season. What’s next? Jack White releasing a Christmas LP would be pretty crazy, or maybe an in-house Santa Clause?

My Eulogy of Lou Reed

If you’re unaware, rock n’ roll great Lou Reed died yesterday at the age of 71. He was a revolutionary musician, singer, and songwriter, and his work with The Velvet Underground, along with his solo albums, continue to influence artists of all genres. This is my depiction of how I knew Lou Reed, and the affect he had on my life. Enjoy.

Lou Reed: March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013

We’ll start in New York City during the mid-60’s, The Velvet Underground comes under the management of art phenomenon Andy Warhol. Led by guitar player/singer Lou Reed, The Velvets become the house band at The Factory, Warhol’s art studio, and hangout of New York’s outcasts. They release a few poor selling records, and disband in 1970. Fast forward to 2010, a young music lover hears “Heroin” for the first time. I was instantly transfixed by the vivid imagery and compelling vocals. I’d never heard anything so dark, so real. I thought to myself, “This was made in the 60’s?” My vision of the 1960’s until that point was the hippie stereotype. What still amazes me to this day was that this music was coming out at the same time, but no one had heard it. It was the counter-culture to the counter-culture. “I guess, that I just don’t know” resonated with the isolation that I was feeling at the time, and “Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life” was more honest than anything I had ever heard.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, when my roommate Kevin MacKenzie really showed me the prophet that was Lou Reed, or as we put it “Lou Motherfucking Reed”. You’ll never find a bigger Lou Reed fan than Kevin, we listened to all of The Velvets’ records, and he got me into Reed’s solo albums, namely Street Hassle and Transformer. But, Reed’s presence left an even bigger impact on me. He was so fucking cool. The leather, the sunglasses, his mannerisms during interviews, he didn’t give a fuck. He was punk before punk was a thing, and he was everything I wanted to be.

Everyone knows, or should know, that The Velvet Underground & Nico is one of the most influential albums of all time. Brain Eno said it perfectly, ““The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years, but I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Everything that came after in rock n’ roll was influenced by The Velvet Underground. Their lyrics paint a portrait of the grimy underbelly of New York City, a place where freaks and weirdos reigned supreme. Lou Reed was a journalist of sorts; the words he wrote were his direct perception of that New York scene. Lou Reed is New York City. When I listen to The Velvet Underground & Nico, or any of The Velvets’ or Lou Reed’s albums, I’m transported right into The Factory with Warhol, Reed, and a bushel of transvestites and drug dealers, and I’m home. Reed’s description of that 60’s New York scene led me to delve deeper into the fashion, the art, the feeling of that time period. Without Lou Reed, I can confidently say, there wouldn’t be The Vinyl Warhol. There may be a music blog, but it wouldn’t be called The Vinyl Warhol.

Lou Reed was an artist. He made art that everyone could relate to. He practically invented the underground music scene. And I’ll never forget him. Thank you.

Do yourself a favor and listen to everything by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.