SNL Takes A Chance

After forty years of hosting some of the biggest names in music history, a true anomaly occurred last Saturday at Saturday Night Live. For the first time ever, SNL hosted an unsigned artist as their musical guest of the night. Unsurprisingly that artist just so happens to be one of the biggest names in music these days: Chance The Rapper.

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Since releasing his debut album, Acid Rap, in 2013, Chance The Rapper has become infamous for his anti-label approach to the music industry. Though the Rapper is not featured on streaming services like Spotify or Pandora, he is perhaps Hip Hop’s hottest new star. Speaking to Billboard in 2014, Chance gleefully remarked, “I can do whatever I want…I can do whatever videos I want, I can play whatever shows I want, I can release when I want, talk how I want, freely about any subject.”

This is of course not the case for many signed artists. For instance, in 2007, pop singer Kelly Clarkson and then-Sony-BMG head Clive Davis publicly clashed over the direction of Clarkson’s album, My December. Though Davis wanted Clarkson to work with Pop-hitmakers, Clarkson stood her ground and came out with an edgy rock-oriented album. Though the outcome was what Clarkson wanted, along the way she had to deal with bureaucratic obstacles, galore.  Davis literally told her, she was a “shitty writer” and she should “shut up and sing”.

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Perhaps Chance’s success is routed in the fact that he has no Clive Davis breathing down his neck for more releases. In my opinion, the authenticity and originality Chance projects are what makes him such an attractive artist. The unsigned approach simply allows that attitude to shine. Nonetheless, it is truly encouraging that an artist with no label ties is able to come to fruition on such a large scale. To tie this into my continuing series of hip hop-related happenings, my first thought (and hope) is that this could be the start of a new generation of hip hop–one without any de facto industry obligations to be signed. If this is the case, what could come next? Artists who were previously too intimidated by domineering labels could look at Chance’s model and try to emulate it. I think it’s a great sign for hip hop and music, overall.

Talking Is Hard; Instagram is Easy.

Ohio natives Walk The Moon (stylized WALK THE MOON) have just had their first Billboard hit with “Shut Up and Dance”, the first single off their 2014 sophomore major label release, Talking Is Hard (RCA Records). Although the foursome of Nicholas Petricca, Eli Maiman, Kevin Ray, and Sean Waugaman have had a large cult following since their independent release of I Want! I Want! in 2010, their first Billboard track has truly propelled them forward. The alt-pop band is taking advantage of their surge of success by updating their social media regularly with, you guessed it, cover songs.

Keeping a keen eye on their demographic—their fans range from 16-30 years old, generally—they keep their fifteen second, Instagram appropriate covers a clever mix of new jams and old favorites that their main fan base will recognize. Just take a look at their most recent covers and you’ll see what I mean:

The covers began in July of 2014, when Walk The Moon was on tour supporting Panic! At The Disco. Still going strong, Walk The Moon has posted over twenty covers to date and show no signs of stopping while on their own headlining tour. From A-ha’s iconic “Take On Me” to the somewhat less iconic, but still quite notable “Graduation (Friends Forever)” by Vitamin C, Walk The Moon has found a dynamic way to mix their musicality with their often hilarious and always energetic personalities to capitalize on what they do best: make the listener happy.

Their “note to listeners” in the album booklet of Talking Is Hard explains their philosophy best:

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The songs on this album achieve what they set out to do, but perhaps even more impressive is that each of their cover songs do the same. The gents in Walk The Moon put as much energy, humor, and heart into their covers as they do anything else. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they’re covering some well-known songs, and using hashtags to identify them. Have a sudden desire to explore Kelly Clarkson’s greatest hits? If you look up her name on any of the social media sites Walk The Moon uses, their fifteen second cover of “Since You’ve Been Gone” will appear in the results, allowing for new fans to not only see the musical abilities of the band, but their carefree spirits that make them so fun to watch live. The personality of a band is often the biggest draw to a fan, aside from the music the band produces, of course. These videos combine both into easy to watch—but easy to keep watching—segments that are a perfect way to introduce a potential fan to a group.

Clever as it may seem marketing-wise, you get the feeling that many of the covers aren’t exactly planned out far ahead of time. Some involve empty rooms with good acoustics the band seems to have just stumbled upon. Others are inspired by wherever the guys may be at the moment. Is the venue near the woods? Why not cover Bon Iver’s “Woods”? Do you suddenly find yourself on a boat? Time to cover “Come Sail Away” by Styx! It really does seem as simple and authentic as that. And if that ain’t some Midwest charm, then I don’t know what is.

BK…Bridget Kelly

Bridget Kelly

During early February of 2009, I was a concertgoer at Jay-Z’s The BluePrint 3 Tour stop in Greensboro, NC.  Jay-Z is on stage performing one of his huge hits at the time, “Empire State of Mind” with this girl who comes out and everyone starts screaming and going crazy because we thought it was Alicia Keys, but it was some unknown singer named Bridget Kelly. Who is Bridget Kelly??

Bridget Kelly who is often referred to as BK, signed to Roc Nation in 2008 to her first major recording and publishing deal. Bridget honed her performance skills early in her career, having toured with JAY Z (Blueprint 3 Tour), Estelle (BET Music Matters Tour), and performing at this year’s Essence Music Festival in New Orleans. She also released a remix to singer Miguel’s song “Quickie” that garnered her some attention in September 2011. During October of 2011, BK also released her eight song EP, “Every Girl”. The EP contained the stand out single “Thinking About Forever.”  BK can also add to her list of accolades, Grammy winner. She is a Grammy-award winning songwriter, penning the song “Einstein” from Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger album, which won Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards.

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“With her debut single, “Special Delivery,” Bridget does just that, delivering honest, heartfelt lyrics, over powerful vocals, singing about the struggle of coming to a crossroads in a relationship and the difficult decision of ending it and moving on.”


Check out her video for “Special Delivery” below:

BK initially sang the song “Thinking About You” (her version was entitled “Thinking About Forever”) that was made famous by singer Frank Ocean.  Frank Ocean initially wrote the song for BK during a studio session with her and Roc Nation producer, Shea Taylor.  According to Bridget, Frank decided that he wanted to take the song back, and ultimately he leaked his demo version of it. Since Frank was a more known artist at the time, his version became more popular and was a hit for him (See the 2nd video below at the 3:17 mark to hear her side of the story)…I think that her version is pretty dope too! It will be included on her upcoming album,”Something Different” along with the singles “Special Delivery” and “Street Dreamin” that features Kendrick Lamar. Bridget Kelly will be an artist to watch in 2014!

BK’s acoustic version of “Thinking About Forever”/”Thinking About You”

Bridget Kelly gives the scoop on the Frank Ocean penned “Thinking About You”/”Thinking About Forever” at the 3:17 mark

Check out the “Every Girl” EP here!!

Sources:
http://www.bridgetkelly.com
Complex Magazine