This is Music History Today the Weekly Edition 19. On this week’s show, we discuss growing with your music, review Katy Perry’s new album, and we make the case for putting MC5 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
First, the news. Jay Z announced that he has a new album coming out on June 30 called 4:44. There’s a catch, though. You have to either be a subscriber of Sprint or of the Tidal streaming service in order to listen to it.
In other news, Pandora, back in 2015, bought Ticketfly. At the time, they described Ticketfly as an Eventbrite killer. Fast forward a couple of years and in order to appease investors to divest their holdings, Pandora has now sold Ticketfly to, of all companies, Eventbrite for $200 million.
Neil Young’s Bridge School benefit concert, which has been an annual event for the past 30 years, has been cancelled. There’s no word on whether it will continue. Neil Young said that he’ll continue with fundraising but won’t host the concert any more, due to personal reasons.
There are also unconfirmed rumors that the Stone Roses have broken up again. According to tweets from people who were at their show last week in Glasgow, Scotland, front man Ian Brown said “Don’t be sad it’s over; be happy that it happened.” It’s not the first time that they’ve broken up and who knows if it’s just a break or something more permanent. Bands take breaks all the time so we’ll see.
A big RIP this week to Prodigy from Mobb Deep, who passed away last Tuesday. Mobb Deep is one of the most underrated hip hop groups from the east coast of all time. As of now, the cause of death has not been announced. Prodigy was 42 years old.
This week’s topic has to do with musical growth. Now, as you grow up and mature in life, your experiences in life change you. They change your perspective on things and you grow from them. The same is true about musical artists; actually, artists in general. Picasso at the end of his career was different than Picasso at the beginning of the career; some would say better, some would say worse. The Beatles during the Beatlemania era were far different than the Beatles of the Rubber Soul, Sgt Peppers era. In fact, could you imagine what would’ve happened if the Beatles had not changed their sound and their writing as time went on? Their career would’ve crashed and burned. They would’ve spent the decade doing cute, teenybopper songs, made their money, and would be looked at today as fondly as the Monkees right now; which is to say, people liked them but they weren’t legends.
I bring this up because I just reviewed Katy Perry’s new album for this podcast. The full review’s coming up later but listening to it, I realized something: she hasn’t changed her style at all. Her first album sounds the same as this one. One could say that she knows her audience and she doesn’t stray too far from them. I would take the stand that an artist should trust their audience enough to grow with them. I know Katy’s gone through things: a marriage to Russell Brand, a relationship with John Mayer. Those life experiences will change you. They’re not really reflected in her music. That’s a shame. She should go off in new directions, try out different styles, try new things, take a chance. I’m not saying that she’s got a Sgt. Peppers album in her. Who knows? Maybe she does. I’m just saying that her and a lot of artists are playing it safe and they shouldn’t. Trust that your audience is ready to take the journey with you. After all, you can only sing about Teenage Dreams for so long before it starts to sound really creepy.
Music is a lot like a building in that, you need a solid foundation on which to build on. Even punk rock needed to have a couple of groups to take the slings and arrows of the critics in order for others to follow them. Now, if you think that the Clash and the Sex Pistols were the beginning of punk, you’re wrong. Much like there had to be a Chuck Berry and Little Richard in rock and roll, in punk rock, you had to have the Stooges and this next group in order to make the British punk rockers succeed.
Motor City 5 or MC5 as they were better known, was a group that was around in the late 60s through the early 70s. They first burst onto the scene in 1969 to critical acclaim. The problem with them and the Stooges to a certain extent, was that they were years ahead of their time. In the counter culture movement, even their left of center (hell, left of left) politics didn’t sit well with Flower Power so they were tossed aside. Basically, they were that generation’s Rage Against the Machine in a peace-nick era.
However brief their three year career was, their impact was immeasurable. For one song alone, they should be considered Gods of rock; especially considering how many times that song has been covered. That song is the punk rock anthem Kick Out the Jams.
Now, if you want to deep dive into their music, they only have three albums so I would get all three: Kick Out the Jams, Back in the USA, and High Time. Now that the Stooges have finally gotten into the Hall, it’s time to put their contemporaries MC5 in. For being the forerunners of punk rock, they should definitely be considered for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
This week’s quick hit review is the new album called Witness from Katy Perry. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from her. It’s 15 highly crafted, well written, well produced pop dance songs. In short, not a bad album. My personal favorites are Witness, Swish Swish, Chained to the Rhythm, and Roulette. This album was made strictly for her fan base, though. There’s no stretching for new ground here so I would recommend the album if you like her style. If not, then this album probably won’t change your mind about her and there are plenty of other albums to listen to, like the new one from Lorde, which is really good.
Finally, Katy Perry debuts and as predicted, she grabs the number one album spot on Billboard’s chart. I figured all that promotion would pay off for her. Don’t expect her to hold onto the top spot for another week. They’re already predicting that Lorde’s new album will grab the top spot.
In terms of the number one single, if you guessed Despacito by Luis Fonzi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber, you win.
As far as new releases go, along with that Jay Z exclusive album that I mentioned earlier in the podcast, Calvin Harris has a new one coming out this week. I’m not sure who’s going to win that chart battle for the number one spot. Also, there are new albums from TLC, Doldrums, Stone Sour, and Washed Out.