Tag Archive | "grammys"

Anna Wise’s Unabashed and Uncensored Wisdom

Source: grammy.com

Source: grammy.com

by Dom Jones

Berklee alum and Grammy-winning artist, Anna Wise, performed in the Caf last week during her visit to Berklee w/ her band Sonnymoon. I was one of the fortunate Songwriting majors who had office hours with her earlier in the week. Obviously, I knew Anna from Kendrick Lamar’s song “These Walls,” on the To Pimp A Butterfly album, but before I met her, I wanted to listen to Anna, the solo artist. So, I went to her website, and what I saw, front and center, was a video for her latest single, “BitchSlut.” I was taken aback by the title of the song, but was curious to hear what would follow in the content. Take a moment to watch the video below.

If you heard the song the way I heard it, an anthem of empowerment and examination of the entitlement that accompanies sexism is what emerges here. Taking something enraging – these derogatory terms often flung at women, for no other reason than the manner in which we choose to engage (or not engage) with the opposite sex – and transforming it into something that illuminates that story creatively is what I would come to expect from Anna during our short time together, both in the office hours and at the Caf show.

As the Caf show filled up, Anna would sing familiar songs, unreleased music, eventually inviting her band Sonnymoon to join her on stage. What stood out was how personable she was, frequently conversing with audience members and even coming down from the stage to dance with show goers. The fun and familial feeling of the show was a reflection of how organic Anna’s music is and the abandon with which she engages performance.

It was also great to see her mesh instruments and electronics in her set, with the guitar player from Sonnymoon, and Anna using a looper to record hooks/background vocals on the spot during her solo songs. Much of what artists are doing to be innovative (and frankly, to reduce overhead) was illustrated in this set, making it not only an exciting time, but also a learning experience. Ultimately, Anna’s time here at Berklee gave us a glimpse into what some of us can expect after Berklee if we work hard and stay consistent.

The Feminine EP is out April 27th, 2016, and is available for pre-order on iTunes.


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What Does the Future Hold for the Music Industry?


By Anahita Bahri

As a loyal fan of the recently named Producer of the Year, I pre-ordered Pharrell’s new album G I R L right after streaming it on iTunes Radio. The anticipation of the album started through a surprise announcement from Pharrell not long before the album release. Just last year, Justin Timberlake dropped two albums, Beyoncé unexpectedly released a self-titled “visual album” on iTunes, and Jay-Z released Magna Carta Holy Grail to a million users on Samsung Galaxy devices. Are innovative album releases the future of the music industry, or are streaming services going to take over?

Some Berklee students like to stream music, while others like to buy music to support artists and/or to have a physical copy of the album. “The bulk of what I recreationally listen to is streamed. It’s so convenient. My favorite way to support a band is to see them live,” said Adam Burgess, a seventh semester Contemporary Writing and Production student.

“I stream more than I buy, but I spend more on records than I do on streaming,” said Kyle Billings, a seventh semester Music Business student. “Now that the barriers to discovery are gone, I’m spending money to own the music that I never would’ve found before Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, etc.”

Ken Sullivan, a Professional Music student in his eighth semester, streams his music on Spotify. “It’s really worth the ten bucks a month, and it’s way cheaper than buying albums. Also if I don’t like something, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted money because I already bought it. I just don’t listen to it anymore. However if there’s an artist I support, I’ll make sure to buy the album just to support them, although I’ll still probably just listen to it on Spotify because that’s where the rest of my music is.”

Jordan Popky, a fourth semester Songwriting major, buys albums for the same reason Sullivan does, “I’ll buy an album when it’s by an artist I really love and actively want to support.”

“I mostly stream music, unless I find a song or album I’m constantly returning to,” said Alexandra Zablotsky, a fourth semester Music Education student. The last album Zablotsky bought included a single that wasn’t available any other way.

Most consumers prefer to stream music because of its convenience and low price. The music industry changed back in 1999 when Napster was founded. It changed the way most people obtained music and altered the perceived value of music by lowering the average album price of around $12 to nothing. Even if iTunes sold singles a couple of years later for 99 cents, it just wasn’t as attractive as $0.

The growing popularity of digital music has enabled streaming services to gain millions of listeners, but not necessarily much revenue. This is because most streaming services’ business models give away free music to most of their listeners through advertising. Streaming platforms thus rely heavily on advertisers to fund most of their costs.

The emergence of streaming services may have led to the decline in sales of digital tracks, CDs, and albums overall last year. Interestingly enough, vinyl sales have actually gone up 32% since 2012. The numbers are still small since the account for 2% of all album sales. Since CDs are declining in sales, those who want a physical copy may no longer see a reason to prefer a CD over vinyl, due to its sound quality and nostalgic charm.

Will accessing music in the future be through streaming services and vinyl? If streaming services succeed, it may be because of a change in their business model and the consumers’ need to discover new music—through platforms such as Songza, Spotify, and the new Beats Music service. If artists continue to find ways to surprise, excite and offer valuable album experiences to consumers, album sales may not end completely.

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Political Activism In Today’s Music


By Kyle Dean

Political issues appearing in popular music isn’t a new development. Bob Dylan, U2, Public Enemy and Lady Gaga are just four among an almost endless list of artists who’ve voiced their opinions through song and media. Today, artists are increasingly sharing their political views with the world through various mediums. This is the case with Jessie J being a role model for her fans, Macklemore’s “Same Love,” and Beyoncé’s essay on gender equality.

Jessie J is a prominent figure in today’s music industry. She was a songwriter for Sony/ATV, where she wrote songs for top artists like Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus, was a judge on The Voice UK, and is now at the top of the charts with her own solo career. She prides herself on being a role model for her fan base and writing lyrics that mean something. Jessie isn’t the first female artist in recent years to write songs aimed specifically at female teens with topics on being true to yourself or not caring what others think of you, but she is doing a fantastic job at maintaining her message. In one of her recent hits, “Who’s Laughing Now,” she describes herself being bullied when she was younger and, in a recent interview with The Guardian, she explains how kids have it worse now:

“They either love, love, love you – adore you, or it’s I hate you and I want you to die. That’s it, there’s no middle ground any more. Children used to get bullied at school. Now they go home and that’s where the problem starts – because they sit on their phones all night, thinking about who has ‘liked’ a photo of them, who hates them, who loves them. They don’t know what’s real and what’s not, editing their lives constantly to fit other people’s views.”

Jessie J is not wrong, according to recent research done by consumer reports: “One million children were harassed, threatened or subjected to other forms of cyber bullying on Facebook during the past year.” And, other research shows that 25% of girls aged 10-18 have been cyber bullied in their lifetime.

However, bullying is not the only issue on J’s mind; she is also very passionate about empowering her female audience and with songs like “Do It Like A Dude.” She says, “The song is about saying: don’t try and undermine us as women; we can do it just like you.” Another of her songs, “Sexy Lady,” is about not letting someone keep you down.

“You’re feeling nervous, having your doubts
Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t fit in the crowd
Keep standing tall and hold your ground
Show them it’s not okay to let them kick you down”

With lyrics like these, it’s hard not to feel stronger after listening. Relatable lyrics and an incredibly catchy melody will keep Jessie J topping charts for years to come, and that’s good because I think we need more songwriters like her. She had it right at her audition for an anti-gun campaign where she reflected, “Even then I was all save the whales, save the world… The campaign really inspired me to start singing songs that meant something.”

However, Jessie J isn’t the only artist to recently make waves on political issues. Macklemore’s “Same Love” is the first song ever to embrace marriage equality that has made it into the Top 40; it peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 charts at #11. In a New York Times interview, Macklemore said he “composed the rap in March 2012 after reading a news article about a teenager who committed suicide after being bullied. He said he thought the epithets routinely heard in rap music might be partly to blame, and that denying gay adults the right to marry might also contribute to despair among gay teenagers. He also wanted to write a song, he said, to support his two gay uncles and his gay godfather in Seattle, all of whom are in committed relationships.”

“Same Love” has seen some fierce criticism from bloggers on various websites. Openly gay rapper Le1f went on a twitter tirade saying, “that time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars.” However, much of the criticism seems to stem from Macklemore, a straight white man, being the one to bring the issue to a much broader audience with one article saying:

“This is how marginalized groups gain acceptance from the mainstream, apparently. It’s not all of the work that we do—it’s the work of the majority that brings awareness and understanding. Of course, that is patently untrue, and it’s certainly infuriating to see those who fit into the status quo — that is, straight white guys — be rewarded and pat themselves on the back for accomplishing something that those of us who have felt alienated, ridiculed, and discriminated against have worked so damn hard on for years.”

One can see their point; however, the song is a massive success no matter which side of the wall you are on. Macklemore has brought a progressive stance on the LGBT movement into mass hip-hop culture and that deserves some acknowledgment.

Last but certainly not least, Beyoncé is making waves once again with an article she has written for the most recent Shriver Report titled, “Gender Equality Is a Myth!” Beyoncé is bringing the topic of the gender wage gap to her very large audience saying, “Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change.”

This issue has been around for over 50 years, ever since John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act in an effort to end wage discrimination based on gender. Since those 50 years, women, on average, are still paid less than their male counterparts. We have to stress the word “average” because the numbers are different depending on age, occupation, education, etc. Unfortunately, in the 50 years since it’s passing, there is still a gap but it has certainly improved. According to an article in Forbes, “[In 2012] a total of 16 states boast women earning 80 cents or more to every male dollar, twice the count of 2010.” According to the 2012 American Community Survey, the state with the worst gap is Wyoming boasting a horrible 64-cent gap. While in Massachusetts, women make 79 cents to every dollar a man makes, higher than the average, but still inexcusable. Maybe we should all listen to Beyoncé when she says, “We have a lot of work to do, but we can get there if we work together.”

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Independents Log Half of All GRAMMY Noms for 3rd Consecutive Year

Press release submitted by David McTiernan

A2IM, the American Association of Independent Music, congratulates this year’s Grammy Award nominees, in particular recognizing the independent music labels and artists that earned 210 nominations out of 393 non-producer category nominations – half of all nominees for the third consecutive year. Independents were led by huge nights for Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, Ultra Music, Smithsonian Folkways, Naxos of America, and Concord Music Group, the independent label leader in total GRAMMY nominations with 26 total nods.

Jim Mahoney, A2IM Vice President, says, “What an exciting night for so many independent labels and artists… from independent leaders Concord Music Group, Glassnote, Ultra Records and ATO to the outstanding people at Sunnyside Records, Mack Avenue, Nacional, and Compass Records…outstanding!”

Of the multiple nominations for Mumford & Sons’ ‘Babel,’ Glassnote CEO Daniel Glass said “‘Babel’ continues to prove itself and touch people. We are elated, inspired, and proud of Mumford & Sons and their very talented producer Markus Dravs.”

Echoed ATO Records GM Jon Salter, “We’re so proud to be working with the Alabama Shakes. The band’s talent and passion brings an energy to the music that’s touching listeners across the country. Congratulations to the Shakes and all the devoted fans.” Nicole Blonder, Sr. Director of Marketing and Sales for Mute Records continued, “We’re so proud of M83 and the entire team! Everyone’s worked incredibly hard to have this masterpiece of an album be recognized by the industry. It’s been an amazing year!”

“On behalf of everyone who pours their hearts and souls into the great artists on independent labels,” continued Mahoney, “A2IM couldn’t be prouder or more pleased for the recognition that the voting members of The Recording Academy showered upon this community tonight.  Congrats to all of the nominees and we look forward to a big independent celebration in February.”

For a full list of A2IM member nominees, visit www.a2im.org.

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Béla Fleck + Marcus Roberts Trio Close Out Berklee BeanTown Jazz Fest @ BPC

Photo by Lisa Occhino

[Click here to view all of our Bela Fleck + Marcus Roberts Trio concert photos]

The Berklee Performance Center is one of the many venues that Berklee students idolize. With 1,200+ seats, the spotlight, and the stage that has held phenomenal artists like John Mayer, Paul Simon, and Victor Wooten, who wouldn’t want to perform there?

Nevertheless, the show that took place at the packed BPC last Sunday on September 30th, to officially close out the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, wasn’t performed by a wide-eyed Berklee student who hopes to follow in the footsteps of the greats who have stood on that same stage. The mind-blowing display of top-notch musicianship was from none other than Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio.

Béla Fleck, who has been nominated in more Grammy Awards categories than any other artist, is easily one of the most influential and technically proficient banjo players in the world. Naturally, he wouldn’t team up with just anyone. Joining him on stage was flawless and seasoned jazz pianist, Marcus Roberts, and the members of the Marcus Roberts Trio, including bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis, who both showed equal amounts of immaculate technique and overwhelming passion.

Photo by Lisa Occhino

Contesting to the fact that some of the most incredibly talented and experienced performers in the world were on one stage, performing tunes not only from the recently released and progressively beautiful collaboration album from Fleck and Roberts’ trio, “Across the Imaginary Divide”, it can be said without a doubt that the genre of music performed that night cannot be filed under one category. Yet, how could it? If you know anything about Béla Fleck, you would know that he has a history of using his banjo as more than just an instrument and more as an innovative tool to delve into more than just the bluegrass that the banjo is most popularly known for, but traditional and progressive jazz, and even ragtime, as well. If you know anything about Marcus Roberts (and if you don’t then you absolutely should), then you would know that he is one of the most charismatic, energetic, and technically spectacular jazz pianists in the world. Put those two together on stage (or even on the recently released album), and you’re sure to get music that was treated with care, precision, and creativity all at the same time. With Fleck and the trio up on that stage together, we were sure to get magic. And magic was just what we got.

Photo by Lisa Occhino

Clearly stunned by the sheer amount of perfection dished out even in just the first song, it was one of the first times that I have heard a crowd in the BPC absolutely silent… and I understood why. Now, let me be the first to say that I am not a jazzhead. I spent the summer in Nashville soaking in as much bluegrass and country music as I could (and I’ve got to say… I sure do love the banjo), but jazz is often a genre that is lost upon me… and unrightfully so. Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio, with gorgeous songs such as Fleck’s original tune, “One Blue Truth”, brought together a crowd (myself enthusiastically included, I might add) who still believe that music can be more than just a typical One Direction or Justin Bieber song. The music played that night was music that is sophistically crafted, and when played, Béla and each member of the trio took their turns with solos (that were all absolutely stunning and demonstrated talent far, far beyond what is typically seen in live performances these days) and didn’t attempt to outshine each other at all – something that is extremely refreshing when compared to many shows around Berklee.

Photo by Lisa Occhino

These are musicians that know music like the back of their hands and depend on the music to put on a show. They don’t have a fancy light show, they don’t have one person acting as the most important person on stage, they don’t have 13 different keyboards and drum machines, and they don’t even have lyrics. All they had that night were their instruments and their talent. Béla Fleck didn’t even sit center stage. Marcus Roberts, who unintentionally stole the show through his mind-blowing playing in every song, didn’t even introduce himself when introducing the band.

While I am still a country music lover at heart and don’t need much more than three chords and a good hook to make me happy, Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio’s performance wasn’t just a show; it was a musical experience; and that, my fellow musicians, is something we should all strive to create much, much more of.

Article by Alyssa McCord
For more Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio, check out these links below:
Béla Fleck – Official Website
Marcus Roberts Trio – Official Website
Purchase “Across the Imaginary Divide”

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Berklee Alumni Win Nine Grammy Awards

From left: Terri Lyne Carrington '83, Berklee trustee Phil Ramone, Quincy Jones '51, Esperanza Spalding '05, and Berklee president Roger Brown at the Conga Room in Los Angeles celebrating alumni winners and nominees. Photo by Zach Coco.

Submitted By: Margot Edwards

Berklee alumni and faculty were honored with nine Grammy Awards on music’s biggest night for their outstanding contributions to some of last year’s top releases. The winners were recognized for their work in varied categories and fields, including rap songwriting, jazz, and blues. With Sunday night’s wins, Berklee alumni have now won a total of 214 Grammy Awards.

Terri Lyne Carrington ’83 won the Best Vocal Jazz Album award for The Mosaic Project. Carrington’s album features a “who’s who” of female jazz artists, including Esperanza Spalding ’05, who won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2011, and the renowned Nona Hendryx. In addition to performing and recording, Carrington serves as a percussion professor at Berklee.

Songwriter Jeff Bhasker ’99 won the Best Rap Song award for “All of the Lights” by Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Fergie.

Alumnus Trey Parker ’88, best known for his work on Comedy Central’s South Park, took home the award for Best Musical Theater Album. Parker produced, composed, and wrote the lyrics for the musical The Book of Mormon, of which alumnus Stephen Oremus ’92 was also a producer.

Susan Tedeschi ’91 and Mark Rivers ’89, members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, were awarded Best Blues Album for their album, Revelator.

Engineer Byeong-Joon Hwang ’99 and mastering engineer Jesse Lewis ’93 took the gramophone for Best Engineered Album, Classical for their behind-the-scenes work on Robert Aldridge’s Elmer Gantry.

Also in engineering, alumnus Benny Faccone ’78 was awarded for his work on Maná’s album Drama y Luz, which was deemed Best Latin Pop, Rock, or Urban Album.

Berklee alumni also made important contributions to winning albums. Dean of continuing education Debbie Cavalier ’87 and faculty technology services manager Michael Carrera ’91 have a song on the compilation album All About Bullies . . . Big and Small, which won Best Children’s Album.

As the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences researches the producers, engineers, and mixers who contributed to Grammy Award–winning songs and albums, the number of Berklee alumni winners is expected to grow. Log on to Berklee.edu for the most up-to-date information.

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Berklee Alumni Earn 29 Grammy Nominations

Article By: Liz Burg

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences nominated 24 Berklee alumni and faculty for a total of 29 Grammy Awards. The nominees were recognized for their outstanding contributions across the spectrum of music, including pop, rock, hip-hop, alternative, jazz, and Latin. Producers, engineers, and arrangers were also nominated. To date, Berklee alumni have won 205 Grammy Awards. The 54th annual Grammy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 12, 2012 and broadcast on CBS at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT.

Alumni and faculty members Terri Lyne Carrington ’83, percussion professor and artistic director for the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, and Joe Lovano ’72, Berklee’s Gary Burton Jazz Chair in Jazz Performance, are each nominated for an award. Carrington’s new album, The Mosaic Project, is nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. If she wins, this will be her first Grammy Award. Lovano’s album, Bird Songs, is nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. If he wins, this will be his second Grammy Award.

Berklee alumni boast nominations in the prestigious top three categories. Engineer Miles Walker ’04 is nominated for his work on Katy Perry’s Firework, up for the top Grammy Award, Record of the Year, and he is nominated for his work on Rihanna’s Loud, which is up for Album of the Year. Fellow engineer Jeffrey Villanueva ’07 along with producer Makeba Riddick ’99 are also up for Album of the Year for their work on Loud. A fourth Berklee alumnus, engineer Thomas Ware ’91, is also nominated for Album of the Year for his work on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way. Two Berklee alumni are nominated for Song of the Year. Songwriter Claude Kelly’s ’02 work on Bruno Mars’s hit Grenade earned him the nomination, while songwriter Jeff Bhasker ’99 is nominated for writing Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Fergie’s hit All of the Lights. Kelly and Bhasker are each nominated for additional awards: Best R&B Song and Best Rap Song respectively.

A number of Berklee alumni are up for prestigious performance-based awards spanning a range of genres. John Petrucci ’86, John Myung ’86, and Mike Portnoy ’86, members of the group Dream Theater, are nominated for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance. Gillian Welch ’92 is nominated for Best Folk Album, and Susan Tedeschi ’91 and Mark Rivers ’89, members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, are nominated for Best Blues Album.

Other nominees include artists Tierney Sutton ’87 and Christian Jacob ’86 for Best Jazz Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s), composer Ryan Shore ’96 for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, and Nicky Sanders ’02 of the Steep Canyon Rangers for Best Bluegrass Album.

Berklee alumni also contributed to a handful of nominated items, including dean of continuing education Debbie Cavalier ’87 and faculty technology services manager Michael Carrera ’91, whose song is part of a compilation album nominated for Best Children’s Album. Seth Glier ’08 performed on The Next Right Thing, is nominated for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

A complete list for the Berklee alumni and faculty nominees for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards follows.

Category 1 – Record of the Year

Engineer Miles Walker ’04 – “Firework” by Katy Perry

Category 2 – Album of the Year

Producer Makeba Riddick ’99 – Loud by Rihanna

Engineer Miles Walker ’04 – Loud by Rihanna

Engineer Jeffrey Villanueva ’07 – Loud by Rihanna

Engineer Tom Ware ’91 – Born This Way by Lady Gaga

Category 3 – Song of the Year

Songwriter Claude Kelly ’02- “Grenade” by Bruno Mars

Songwriter Jeff Bhasker ’99 – “All of the Lights” by Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Fergie)

Category 13 – Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance

Group Dream Theater (John Petrucci ’86, John Myung ’86, Mike Portnoy ’86) – “On The Backs of Angels”

Category 19 – Best R&B Song

Songwriter Claude Kelly ’02 – “Pieces of Me” by Ledisi

Category 23 – Best Rap Song

Songwriter Jeff Bhasker ’99 – “All of the Lights” by Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Fergie

Category 31 – Best Jazz Vocal Album

Artist Terri Lyne Carrington ’83 – The Mosaic Project

Artist Tierney Sutton ’87 – American Road

Artist Christian Jacob ’86 – American Road

Category 32 – Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Artist Joe Lovano ’72 – with Us Five for Bird Songs

Category 33 – Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Artist Miguel Zenón ’98 – Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook

Category 44 – Best Bluegrass Album

Artist Nicky Sanders ’02 (member of The Steep Canyon Rangers) -with Steve Martin for Rare Bird Alert

Category 45 – Best Blues Album

Artist Susan Tedeschi ’91 – Revelator

Artist Mark Rivers ’89 – Revelator

Category 46 – Best Folk Album

Artist Gillian Welch ’92 – The Harrow & The Harvest

Category 53 – Best Musical Theater Album

Producer and Composer/Lyricist Trey Parker ’88  – The Book of Mormon

Producer Stephen Oremus ’92 – The Book of Mormon

Category 55 – Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Composer Ryan Shore ’96 – The Shrine

Category 59 – Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)

Arranger Christian Jacob ’87 – “On Broadway”

Arranger Tierney Sutton ’86 – “On Broadway”

Category 68 – Best Engineered Album, Classical

Engineer Byeong-Joon Hwang ’99 – Aldridge: Elmer Gantry

Mastering Engineer Jesse Lewis ’93 – Aldrige: Elmer Gantry

Mastering Engineer Joe Lambert ’04 – Mackey: Lonely Motel – Music from Slide

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