Throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, American Rock critics found it necessary to treat the Canadian music scene like a bad joke. When, where, why, and how Canada become a punchline for music journalists remains a mystery, but our northern neighbors have had the last laugh. In the last two decades alone, bands like The New Pornographers, Arcade Fire, Bran Van 3000, Death From Above (1979), and Broken Social Scene have achieved great success in the U.S., both critically and commercially. The older music journalists that once roamed the halls of Rolling Stone, Creem, Circus, and other magazines have slipped away into the shadows, replaced by a new legion of critics who no longer have an aversion to Canadian music makers. The times they are a-changin’!
In the Pop Music industry, longevity is a rare thing indeed. Most big-selling acts are in the spotlight for two to five years before sliding off the radar and fading into the shadows. Some acts split up and are never heard from again. Others lose a few members and spend the rest of their careers playing county fairs. And then you have and act like Pet Shop Boys, a British duo that formed 39 years ago and have been crafting hit records since 1985. And thankfully, they show no signs of abandoning the music world anytime soon. And for that, we should all be grateful…
On paper, musical collaborations always seem to work. In the studio or on the stage, not so much. The intentions might be good, but ultimately, the music is uninspired and forgettable. From Rock to Jazz, Hip Hop to Country, collaborations are normally inspired by mutual respect between artists. However, bad chemistry, ego, or record label interference can sink the ship faster than a torpedo from a nuclear submarine. On the other hand, there are some collabs that exceed expectations. When magic happens, we really need to pay attention. Thankfully, UNIFIED, the 2020 release from Brian Simpson and Steve Oliver is a grand success! While this isn’t their first walk in the park together, it is a reminder that two talents can come together as one and create something new and exciting.
Sometimes, an artist can just waltz into the music business and achieve massive commercial success within a year or two of their first recording session. That, however, is a rare occurrence. In all actuality, it can often take years of disappointment, detours, and mistakes before forward motion is achieved. Even then, commercial success isn’t guaranteed. The journey always begins with talent but luck is also a big part of the equation. The road to stardom is littered with true talents that have never caught a lucky break. Thankfully, Alexandra Savior made it through successfully, albeit with a few bumps in the road…
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Eddie Money was one of the biggest Rock stars in America. His singles were on constant rotation on AM radio stations and his album tracks received plenty of spins on the FM dial. The Pop kids dug him but the AOR/Classic Rock fans took him as their own. With hits like “Two Tickets To Paradise”, “Baby Hold On”, “Shakin’”, “Think I’m In Love”, and “Take Me Home Tonight”, Eddie created an impressive catalog of Rock and Pop gems that are still being played on terrestrial and satellite radio stations. Some think of him as a ‘singles’ artist but his fans know that Eddie’s albums were solid, filled with great songs and even better performances.
You’ve heard Finneas without realizing that you’ve heard Finneas. The L.A.-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer has performed on Saturday Night Live, topped the Billboard Hot 100, and produced and co-wrote the #1 album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO. With all that going for him, it’d be OK if you are not quite familiar with his name. You see, his sister is Billie Eilish – you know, the enormously popular Pop singer – and hers is the name linked to all the aforementioned achievements. However, Finneas deserves a nice chunk of the praise being thrown in Billy’s direction because theirs is a truly collaborative relationship.
Nobody can quite figure out why Boston-based rockers New England didn’t become massively successful back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. They had it all – the sound, the songs, the looks, the musicianship, the right producers (Mike Stone, Todd Rundgren, Paul Stanley), major label support, etc. For some reason, it just never happened. On the other hand, New England never quite fit comfortably into any genre. With early support from KISS’ Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, NE wasn’t exactly KISS proteges, musically or visually. Touted as a Hard Rock band, New England was far more melodic than 90% of their Rock contemporaries. Their melodic hooks were tailored made for the Power Pop kids but the band rocked a little too hard to share bills with 20/20 and The Knack. Obviously, New England had EVERYTHING going for them… except a good marketing angle. Sadly, a band that ignored the rules of the game were ultimately doomed to sit on the sidelines while lesser players made it all the way to MTV. The irony is that, 37 years after their split, people are still talking about New England while a majority of the bands that became more successful are long-forgotten.
One of the most critically-acclaimed singer/songwriters of the millennium, Sufjan Stevens is also entirely unpredictable. From lo-fi Folk to shimmering Electronica, Stevens has crafted a series of releases that allow him to continually refine his craft while keeping his audience intrigued and, ultimately, delighted. Regardless of what instrumentation he chooses to use for each album, his unique songwriting and his approach to haunting layered vocals makes each album distinctly his own. Ever since he broke out of ‘cult status’ with albums like SEVEN SWANS and ILLINOIS, Stevens has been able to chart his own musical course without repeating himself. It doesn’t hurt that he’s won plenty of awards along the way as well as being nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar (amongst others).
Mötley Crüe began life as just another Hard Rock band playing the dingy clubs in Los Angeles. Now, 38 years after forming, they are Rock ‘n’ Roll icons. What happened between then and now is legendary. From drugs and debauchery to tragedy, triumph and the firing and rehiring of their vocalist, the four members of Mötley Crüe – Nikki Sixx (bass), Tommy Lee (drums), Mick Mars (guitar), and Vince Neil (vocals) – have survived to tell the tale. Anyone that has read their book THE DIRT knows that the band never held back as they enjoyed the splendors of their fame and fortune. They were proof that you shouldn’t really enjoy success without at least a little excess…
While not billed as a ‘super hero’ movie, HARRIET most certainly deserves that designation. Based on the life of slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the movie tells the story of a woman whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. Directed by Kasi Lemmons, who wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard, HARRIET stars Cynthia Erivo as Tubman alongside Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monáe. A film about Tubman has been rumored in Hollywood for years and has now finally made its way to the big screen.