TIME Music

Le1f’s New Music Video Will Overload Your Senses

Watch the colorful clip for "Koi"

Electronic music producer SOPHIE has been peddling his strange, Plexiglass pop sounds with great success lately: he’s worked with Madonna (on the Diplo collaboration “Bitch I’m Madonna”), Charli XCX (on the unreleased “Vroom Vroom”) and upstart Liz (on the spunky “When I Rule the World”). The latest artist to benefit is the rapper Le1f, best known as the guy behind the brassy, compulsively danceable “Wut” (…or the guy who accused Macklemore of ripping off that song with “Thrift Shop”). His tongue-twister rhymes about how he really did just come here to dance are a good match for SOPHIE’s hyperactive production, as is the music video. Googly eyes, neon outfits, CGI straight out of a Microsoft screensaver—it all makes for one overstimulating, caffeine-free pick-me-up for a Friday afternoon.

TIME Music

Here’s Your Guide to the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards

Everything you need to know about this Sunday's event, hosted by Miley Cyrus

The 2015 Video Music Awards will air on MTV this Sunday at 9/8c p.m. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know, from slated performers and key categories to nomination controversies and the most important moments to watch out for:

Who’s hosting? Miley Cyrus is your guide to the night’s festivities, which is choice casting: as far pop stars go, Cyrus is unfiltered in the personality department, and her 2013 performance was one of the most outrageous in VMA history—up there with Madonna’s bicurious liplock with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (a noted fan of Cyrus herself). Cyrus embodies what the VMAs want to be remembered for, and the network is rewarding her for it. “We’re giving her pretty free reign,” VMA executive producer Garrett English told Entertainment Weekly. “Obviously there are standards and various other things that were always a part of it, but no, [no rules].”

Remind me what the Taylor Swift drama was again? Drama surrounding this year’s event began way before the actual event. After Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” wasn’t nominated for Video of the Year, the rapper spoke up on Twitter about the way black women’s contributions to popular culture are sometimes ignored by the media. Taylor Swift thought this was a personal attack, so she fired back, tweeting that it was “unlike [Minaj] to pit women against each other” and suggesting that one of the male artists took her spot instead.

Backlash to Swift’s tone-deaf response was, well, swift, so she apologized on Twitter later that week for making Minaj’s point about society at large all about her. (Swift also extended an invite for Minaj to join her on stage if she wins the award.) Minaj accepted Swift’s apology, and all was good in the land of pop divas until Katy Perry got involved. Long rumored to be the inspiration of Swift’s song “Bad Blood,” Perry accused Swift of being hypocritical for preaching girl power yet exploiting their feud with the spectacle that was the “Bad Blood” video. Swift and Perry haven’t exactly patched things up since.

What are the awards I should pay attention to? Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran are the most nominated acts this year, though one of the night’s biggest awards, Video of the Year, will probably come down to Beyoncé (whose GoPro-style “7/11” made you want to buy a Kale sweatshirt) and Taylor Swift (who made a mini superhero movie out of celebrity BFF-dom). We’ll see if Nicki Minaj gets her due in the Best Hip-Hop Video category, where she is nominated; and it’s worth keeping an eye on the Artist to Watch category and whether it will acknowledge the innovative FKA twigs, who topped TIME’s best albums of 2014 list, over more mainstream nominees like Fetty Wap or Vance Joy (who’s currently opening for Swift on tour).

Which performances should I be tuning into? Nicki Minaj just announced that she’ll be opening the show after doing the same with Ariana Grande and Jessie J last year; The Weeknd will cap off his unlikely rise from debaucherous mixtapes to pop stardom when he performs “Can’t Feel My Face”; Demi Lovato will prove why she’s hitmaker Max Martin’s latest muse with “Cool for the Summer”; Macklemore and Justin Bieber are probably the most polarizing guests slated to appear, but you probably should tune in anyway to see them perform the new songs that will be playing everywhere this fall whether you like them or not. Other performers include Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Tori Kelly, Bruno Mars, and A$AP Rocky with Twenty One Pilots. And while it’s not actually a performance, Taylor Swift is premiering the music video for “Wildest Dreams,” which may end up winning a few trophies next year given the luck she’s had these past few months.

(MORE: The Rise of the Weeknd: “I Want to Make Pop Cool Again”)

Which artist from the pre-show is main-stage ready? Last year, Charli XCX took her Fault in Our Stars soundtrack hit “Boom Clap” to the red carpet, but the singer’s obvious charisma (and the exceptional quality of last year’s punky Sucker) proved she could have graduated to the main event. This year, two acts are warming up the crowd: Walk the Moon and Nick Jonas. The former had a sleeper hit with “Shut Up and Dance,” but Jonas’ new single “Levels” is basically bringing “SexyBack” back in a way that suggests he’s ready for the next, uh, level.

Will MTV crown this year’s Song of the Summer? MTV is hardly the sole decider here, but the award show could help music fans finally come to a consensus. For a song to own that designation, there has to be a sense of ubiquity. It doesn’t matter how much you love that Jamie xx song “Good Times”—if it’s not blasting out of every grocery store, it can’t claim bragging rights. There also has to be a sense of fun: “See You Again” from Furious 7 dominated the charts, but it’s a total bummer of a song. MTV has a Song of the Summer category this year with 11 nominees, though some are more worthy than others: T-Swift, Fetty Wap, OMI, the Weekend and Diplo (who has two contenders, one with Major Lazer and MØ, the other with Justin Bieber and Skrillex) should be frontrunners for this seasonal designation given their recent dominance.

What’s this award they’re giving Kanye? The Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, which is MTV’s version of a lifetime achievement award. Like Cyrus, West has also provided one of the most memorable moments in VMA history—Swiftus interruptus!—though some have wondered whether his videos, however much they did to popularize shutter shades, really are a defining component of his legacy at this stage in his career. (MTV likes to reward talent young—Madonna got this trophy in 1986, and who knows what surprises last year’s recipient Beyoncé is going to drop on us in the next few decades.) But anytime West has a platform to speak his mind, it’s worth tuning in. Plus: maybe he’ll take a cue from Bey and bring his family up on stage when he accepts the award.

Read next: Miley Cyrus Reignites the Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj VMA Drama

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TIME Music

Miley Cyrus Reignites the Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj VMA Drama

"What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind"

Miley Cyrus doesn’t like “pop star against pop star” wars, but she may have just started one herself.

In an interview with the New York Times about her MTV Video Music Awards hosting gig this Sunday, the “Wrecking Ball” singer weighs in on the Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj drama from earlier this summer — and firmly declares herself Team Swift.

Last month, Nicki Minaj complained on social media about the lack of a Video of the Year nomination for “Anaconda,” calling it another example of the media neglecting the contributions of black women artists. When Taylor Swift interpreted Minaj’s comments as a personal attack, the 1989 singer’s response was widely considered to be a tone-deaf distraction from the larger point Minaj was trying to make about popular culture.

Swift later apologized to Minaj and admitted to being in the wrong, but Cyrus doesn’t see it that way. In fact, she believes the opposite and pretty much tells the Times that Nicki Minaj is not a nice person:

…And it’s not anger like, “Guys, I’m frustrated about some things that are a bigger issue.”

You [Nicki Minaj] made it about you. Not to sound like a b***h, but that’s like, “Eh, I didn’t get my V.M.A.”

But she was ——

If you want to make it about race, there’s a way you could do that. But don’t make it just about yourself. Say: “This is the reason why I think it’s important to be nominated. There’s girls everywhere with this body type.”

I think she did say that ——

What I read sounded very Nicki Minaj, which, if you know Nicki Minaj is not too kind. It’s not very polite. I think there’s a way you speak to people with openness and love. You don’t have to start this pop star against pop star war. It became Nicki Minaj and Taylor in a fight, so now the story isn’t even on what you wanted it to be about. Now you’ve just given E! News “Catfight! Taylor and Nicki Go at It.”

Cyrus may have just given them something else, too.

[New York Times]

TIME Music

This New Song From Frankie Is Pure Pop ‘Gold’: Premiere

The 23-year-old's song "Problems Problems" was already an Internet hit

It’s fitting that Frankie’s impending EP, Dreamstate, kicks off with a song called “New Obsession,” because she might just become yours too. The 23-year-old Bay Area native and Los Angeles transplant already scored a major label deal on the strength of the buzzy, blog-approved “Problems Problems,” whose mix of modern synth-pop and girl group vocal stylings made the track feel both retro yet somehow of the moment.

Perhaps that’s to be expected from a singer who grew up listening to a mix of ’70s rock and ’90s bubblegum pop and holds artists like Stevie Nicks and the Spice Girls in equal regard. Another song called “Gold,” which premieres on TIME today, sounds nothing like either of those artists, but it has its own seeming contradictions: the track has humble origins in rising producer Petros’ bedroom studio, but “Gold” sounds like it should be all over the radio with its big, in-your-face hook.

“‘Gold’ is all about me trying to figure out what success means to me verses other people, and it definitely speaks to some of my worries about getting into the entertainment industry,” Frankie tells TIME. “It’s been my experience that sometimes money and power tend to leave a bitter taste in peoples’ mouths. Meanwhile I’m out here trying to search for the pureness in this crazy world—which is the gold in everything.”

Hear “Gold,” below, and catch the rest of Dreamstate when it drops Friday:

TIME Music

Hear Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Funky New Song ‘Downtown’

He'll play the song live at the MTV VMAs this Sunday

Today in imagery you didn’t need think about: “I’m so low that my cojones almost draggin’ on the concrete,” which comes courtesy of Macklemore on his new song with Ryan Lewis, “Downtown.” The Seattle rapper must be done with his thrift-shopping days, because the track finds Macklemore in the mood to spend some serious dollars on a moped for this funky follow-up to his comeback Ed Sheeran collaboration. “Downtown” feels like several songs in one—some ’80s arena-rock vibes, what sounds like a Sugarhill Gang tribute—which will probably make for a splashy debut performance at this weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the content of the song.

TIME Music

The Rise of the Weeknd: ‘I Want to Make Pop Cool Again’

Apple

The "Can't Feel My Face" singer talks about his album Beauty Behind the Madness in the new issue of TIME

A lot has changed for the Weeknd—the intentionally misspelled musical project of 25-year-old Abel Tesfaye—since he dropped a series of mixtapes in 2011. Back then, the Toronto native was releasing nightmarish odes to getting high and getting laid while steering clear of attention. Now, he’s working with some of the biggest hitmakers in the world, he scored a No. 1 single with “Can’t Feel My Face,” and he’s about to release one of the most anticipated albums of the summer, Beauty Behind the Madness.

But as he lets you know on the album’s Kanye West-produced track “Tell Your Friends,” he’s “still that n—a with the hair singing ‘bout popping’ pills, f—ing b-tches.” He’s more comfortable in the spotlight now, but Tesfaye’s rise to stardom may have more to do with the mainstream accommodating him than the other way around. “The game is changing with songs like ‘Earned It’”—his hit from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack—”as opposed to it changing me,” he tells TIME over email for the new issue hitting stands this Friday. Below, some of the highlights from the interview:

On his decision to embrace the spotlight:

“My cult following is so strong already. Thanks to my fans that have been with me from the beginning, I was able to sell out arenas on my own. I just felt like I was selling myself short. The last album [2013’s Kiss Land] was rushed. Even though I’m proud of it, I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted, but it was a great learning experience. I took my time with my new album. I learned, I studied and I delivered. I want the world to hear my music and see the movement my fans and I have created.”

On the breakthrough success of “Earned It”:

“I was arousing people’s curiosity. I think the game is changing with songs like ‘Earned It’ as opposed to it changing me because ‘Earned It’ was very important. It was slow, it was sexy and it was smooth—all traits in my music. ‘Earned It’ made people believe that I was my own hit maker, and we’re seeing that again now with ‘The Hills.’ It made me feel confident in myself before I started connecting with the monster hit makers.”

On his relationship with the controversial “alternative R&B” label often applied to him:

“Alternative R&B is in my soul. It’s not going anywhere. When I put out songs from House of Balloons in 2010 people said I made R&B cool again. I’m assuming that’s when the label was created. I feel honored that a good part of today’s music is inspired by it, consciously or subconsciously. The only way I could have done that was to be ambitious and grand. That’s what I want to do with Beauty Behind The Madness. I want to make pop cool again, and the only way I can do that is by being ambitious and grand.”

On preserving his identity in the studio with veteran producer Max Martin:

“At first I had to make it clear that when any producers work on my album, they have to come into my world. Max and I bashed heads, but it only made our relationship stronger. I knew that I was jumping into different waters and he knew he was working with a different kind of artist.”

TIME Television

A Sons of Anarchy Spin-Off Is in the Works

SONS OF ANARCHY -- "Red Rose" -- Episode 712 -- Airs Tuesday, December 2, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Kim Coates as Tig Trager, Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, Tommy Flanagan as Chibs Telford. CR: Byron Cohen/FX
FX From left to right: Kim Coates as Tig Trager, Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, Tommy Flanagan as Chibs Telford in Sons of Anarchy

It will focus on another gang in the hit FX show's universe

The sun hasn’t set on the Sons of Anarchy universe just yet—creator Kurt Sutter is in the early stages of developing a spin-off to FX’s most popular show in the network’s history.

Not much is known about the series, Entertainment Weekly reports, other than that it will focus on the Mayans, an Oakland-based, Mexican-American gang that appeared in the original series.

Sutter, who will executive produce the project, had teased the idea of a prequel series at Comic-Con in July, but it’s not yet known whether the spin-off will exist on that timeline. He didn’t say much in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, only that he was looking for a writer to lead the project.

[EW]

 

 

 

TIME cities

Colorado’s Marijuana Industry Sparks Warehouse Space Crunch

“It’s all just getting snatched up by these marijuana people”

As Colorado’s marijuana industry lights up, warehouse space is becoming a hot commodity in its capital city.

The state, which legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, saw legal sales approach $700 million last year, the Wall Street Journal reports. But growing and storing all that marijuana requires a lot of physical space, and that could be a problem for Denver, which is a major hub for companies shipping and storing goods between southern California and Kansas City.

Some companies looking to upgrade their square footage have had a difficult time finding affordable space. “It’s all just getting snatched up by these marijuana people,” Steve Badgley, chief executive of Colorado Specialties Corp, told the Journal.

As much as a third of new warehouse space in Colorado in the past 18 months has been leased to marijuana distributors and growers, according to real-estate firm Cresa Partners. In the state’s warehouse market, rental rates rose 10 percent last year and buying costs have doubled since since the start of last year, according to figures from another firm, CBRE.

“It seems like every warehouse from 8,000 to 20,000 square feet is being turned into an indoor marijuana farm,” Tom Glaspern, managing director in Denver for SEKO Logistics, said. “We had opportunities [with customers] last year that we just had to turn down because we didn’t have the space.”

[Wall Street Journal]

TIME Television

Here’s Your First Official Look at Lady Gaga in American Horror Story

Michael Avedon for Entertainment Weekly

The pop singer is letting her freak flag fly once again

We’ve seen her sparkly glove and some unofficial set footage, but now American Horror Story fans are getting their first real look at Lady Gaga’s character in the show’s upcoming fifth season, Hotel.

The pop star covers the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, which offers new details about her character Countess Elizabeth, a blood-drinking socialite involved in a steamy love triangle. Gaga—no stranger to the weird and macabre—also tells the magazine about what it’s like indulging her freaky side following a period of relative normalcy in her career.

“I’ve just been weeping while I’m here because I have returned to something I’ve believed in so much, which is the art of darkness,” she says. “It’s not something that everyone understands, but, for the people that do—Horror Story fans, my fans—there is a true connection between us, and it’s a language within itself.”

[EW]

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