TIME Music

REVIEW: The Black Keys Go Big on Turn Blue

Black Keys Turn Blue
Nonesuch

The Keys have morphed into a shinier and, frankly, sexier version of themselves


This post is in partnership with Consequence of Sound, an online music publication devoted to the ever growing and always thriving worldwide music scene.

With Turn Blue, The Black Keys’ highly-anticipated eighth album, it’s tempting to zoom in on a single turning point in the Akron duo’s timeline to figure out how they made it here. The obvious choice is 2010’s dusky Brothers, vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney’s actual big come-up, eight years after debuting with The Big Come Up in 2002. The thing about the Keys, though, is that they still sounded like themselves even when their choruses became exponentially more robust. Auerbach and Carney simply became so good at what they do that they were no longer anyone’s secret.

Over the past decade and change, the Keys have morphed into a shinier and, frankly, sexier version of their rawer original incarnation. Only now, though, are they stretching out their legs and exploiting their resources to full effect. Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who co-produced Brothers and 2011’s El Camino, joins the Keys again here, and the album wouldn’t sound as gorgeous without him. Then again, both Auerbach (Lana Del Rey, Dr. John) and Carney (Tennis, The Sheepdogs) are also trusted producers now, and together the three of them weave the Keys’ ass-stomping blues rock template with the ROYGBIV slickness heard on Broken Bells’ After the Disco, Burton’s latest album with The Shins’ James Mercer.

After Auerbach and Carney first decamped to Michigan, Turn Blue was primarily assembled in Hollywood and at Auerbach’s Nashville studio, its sessions more spread out than those of earlier Black Keys albums. Accordingly, Turn Blue does a bunch of moving around itself, reveling in styles from soft psych and broiling hard rock while expanding to greater heights through multi-tracking and ghostly ooh-ooh vocals. There are times when you hear a buzzing layer that doesn’t seem to come from an amp or anything; it’s just there to add a little more dimension. Thankfully, though, it’s never too much noise.

The studio trickery is helpful in both widening the album’s general scope and highlighting textures one at a time, be it a gossamer Auerbach falsetto (never before has his voice been so high-pitched so often) or a cheeseball keyboard figure. The seven-minute opener, “Weight of Love”, is so total in its mystifying Led Zep sweep that you almost miss the song’s personal implications (Auerbach and Stephanie Gonis divorced last year). “Bullet in the Brain” starts acoustic and grows until it’s like the Keys are trying to one up Tame Impala in today’s field of gusting psych rock. On the fluid strummer “Waiting on Words”, Auerbach adopts what is practically a Bee Gees vocal affectation, and the song becomes a psychedelic custard.

Although Auerbach and Carney, both 34, sometimes refer to Burton as their third member, this is still a two-man operation, in essence. Black Keys riffs and solos have traces of Jimi Hendrix’s grace and Jimmy Page’s speed, but it’s come to the point where you can ID them as Auerbach’s even though he doesn’t have a “Seven Nation Army” under his belt. Meanwhile, Carney’s emphatic drumming slaps and erupts, creating beats that could easily be rapped over during certain intros and outros. These two entities — guitar and drums — still coexist beautifully in this band, and some of these songs don’t require much else, even as additional elements do pop up. “Fever”, which curls with a robotic, beeping organ riff, is splashed with sweat, toting a well-defined bridge and ascending with a high-stepping swatch of strings. The crouching “It’s Up to You Now” is at first driven by Carney’s rumbling, then carved by Auerbach’s spidery riffs. “Gotta Get Away”, the oddball closer, is both goofy and irresistible, opening with a Tom Petty road-rock riff and continuing with lyrics that couldn’t be more joyously straightforward: “I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo/ Just to get away from you.”

Because it’s so nonchalant, “Gotta Get Away” also distills Auerbach and Carney’s status as a band somehow immune to “selling out.” The catchier their songs are, the more fun it sounds like they’re having, and who can argue with that? These guys built their following so steadily you’d think they made their name handing out flyers. Turn Blue, though, is the sound of Auerbach and Carney eagerly and grandiosely taking things into their own (and, if you want, Burton’s) hands. On SNL over the weekend, as fellow Akron native LeBron James and the Miami Heat dropped a game to the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Keys had an underwhelming performance of their own, with Auerbach strumming lethargically as though distracted during both “Fever” and “Bullet in the Brain”. Well, that type of thing happens; surely we can expect better from their European festival slots and NBA arena gigs over the summer. If Turn Blue finds as much commercial success as Brothers or El Camino — and it might, even though it doesn’t have a “Howlin’ for You” or a “Gold on the Ceiling” — the airwaves are about to get more adventurous thanks to a band that finally decided to go big.

Essential Tracks: “Weight of Love”, “Bullet in the Brain”, and “Fever”

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TIME movies

Go Behind the Scenes of Godzilla With Bryan Cranston

A little taste of the action to come

Directors Gareth Edwards’ modern take on Godzilla looks to build off the stepping stones of J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 and Cloverfield to create a “realistic” feeling experience.

Actor Bryan Cranston said Godzilla has matured in this latest version of the beloved monster.

“The whole sensibility of how to make a movie like this has matured, because it’s not just about this beast and, ‘how are we going to control it,” Cranston said.

Godzilla has been in the public consciousness since its debut in 1954, and has since been in over 30 films. Godzilla was originally imagined as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, and as a response to disasters like the ones at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

With the recent nuclear plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, the latest Godzilla film is a reminder of the monster’s origins.

“[Godzilla] has been created out of mistakes that we’ve made, and in a way we’ve brought Godzilla onto ourselves, and we pay the price for that,” said Mary Parent, a producer on the film.

Above, see behind-the-scenes footage of Bryan Cranston and Director Gareth Edwards in various action scenes that take place throughout the film, from a post-apocalyptic city to the interior of a battleship.

TIME Companies

Univision, T-Mobile Launching Wireless Service For Hispanic Community

The move follows other recent attempts to capitalize on and cater to the U.S.'s rapidly growing Hispanic population

Spanish language media conglomerate Univision is joining hands with wireless provider T-Mobile to offer a new service tailor-made for Hispanic-Americans. The wireless service, dubbed “Univision Mobile,” will launch May 19 at Walmart as well as at 6,000 other dealer locations.

The idea, according to Univision, is to use T-Mobile’s wireless network to convey Univision programming via its Univision Rewards portal, including custom content like ringtones and wallpapers, first looks at upcoming Univision shows and behind-the-scenes access to Univision-related events and personalities.

The Univision deal incorporates T-Mobile’s annual no-contract wireless service options. Univision president of digital and enterprise development Kevin Conroy adds that the plans will be “specifically tailored to our audience’s needs.” The partnership would give Univision a mobile platform for its content, while hypothetically enlarging T-Mobile’s appeal to the Hispanic community.

The move comes as others are attempting to capitalize on (and cater to) the U.S.’s rapidly growing Hispanic population: Verizon last year partnered with singer and actress Jennifer Lopez to launch its Viva Móvil retail brand (designed, in Lopez’s words, “to revolutionize the entire mobile experience for Latinos”). And filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, From Dusk til Dawn, Machete) recently partnered with Univision, Comcast, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable to launch his English language El Rey network in December, designed to cater to Latino audiences.

Indeed, as Univision notes, Hispanic-Americans currently number 56 million in the U.S. (of 315 million total), and at current growth projection rates, the U.S. Census Bureau says one in three Americans will be of Hispanic origin by 2050.

“Hispanic-Americans are among the largest, most important and most influential groups in the U.S. today,” said Mike Sievert, Chief Marketing Officer for T-Mobile, in a statement. “And they deserve wireless tailored to their interests and needs.”

TIME Television

Tina Fey Has Already Crowned Late Night’s New Queen

It's Ellen. "Because she's already wearing jackets."

Tina Fey, oracle of comedy, appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers to deliver her theory about who will be the first woman to rule late night.

“The Late Night Wars are my Super Bowl,” said Tina. “It’s like fantasy football for me.”

And because she’s Tina, she knows who will win.

“A lot of times these hosts get their job when they’re 35 or 40, and they keep them ’till they’re 65. So I was like, if you’re a lady—what do you wear? Because if you go in with a cocktail dress, and then you’re 45, you’re 50, there’s gonna come a day when you go ‘I don’t got it! Bring me the jacket!’ That’s why I think Ellen is going to be the first person to break through—because she’s already wearing jackets.”

Maybe we should all start wearing jackets.

TIME Television

David Letterman: I Regret Mocking Monica Lewinsky

The CBS late night icon told guest Barbara Walters he feels sorry about what happened to the former presidential intern since the 1998 affair was revealed

Barbara Walters stopped by the Late Show with David Letterman on Wednesday, and the longtime pals talked about the recent comeback of Monica Lewinsky—who recently wrote a first-person essay for the June issue of Vanity Fair.

“Monica Lewinsky has resurfaced,” Letterman said. “You would talk to her in a second, right?”

“I like Monica and I felt that she’s never had the chance to move on and I hope that she does,” Walters said. “I hope she’s given the chance.”

Letterman noted that in the recent Vanity Fair article, Lewinsky said she can’t get a job anywhere. “And then I started to feel bad,” Letterman said. “Because myself and other people with shows like this made relentless jokes about the poor woman. And she was a kid, she was 21, 22 — ”

Then Letterman expressed regret over teasing Lewinsky: “I feel bad about my role in helping push the humiliation to the point of suffocation.”

The two hosts are both nearing the end of their careers, as Walters is about to bid farewell to The View and Letterman is set to end his run as TV host of the Late Show.

 

 

TIME Television

In TV’s New Reality, Diversity Is Just Good Business

ANTHONY ANDERSON, LAURENCE FISHBURNE
Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne in Black-ish, premiering next season on ABC. Adam Taylor/ABC

Including everybody is right and fair. But maybe more important, if you want to make money in today's America, you need to make series--and commercials--that look like America.

At their upfronts fall-schedule presentations in Manhattan this week, the major broadcast networks announced what was the most racially diverse broadcast schedule in a long time–maybe ever, depending how you measure it. It wasn’t just about “black best friends” this year; there are several new and returning shows with minority lead characters, several of them minority women. The trend was spread across networks–though ABC had an especially diverse lineup–and across groups: not only African American but Hispanic and Asian American actors will lead casts next season.

This is a good thing by any measure. It was just a few years ago that the big networks introduced a roster of new fall shows with no non-white lead characters except for Cleveland Brown of The Cleveland Show, who was voiced by a white guy. But as with anything involving the upfronts, it’s also important to remember who the upfronts are really addressed to, and what they’re really for.

Critics who cover TV, and fans who watch TV, often act as if the upfronts are pitched at us, to get us jazzed for the new shows. That’s a side product, but the upfronts, first, second, and third, are for advertisers. They’re about money. They kick off the ad sales period for the new season; they wine and dine advertisers and clients and try to convince them that the new shows are worth dropping money on. Sure, the networks eventually want us to think their shows are good TV, of course. But first, they need to convince Madison Avenue that their shows are good business.

And maybe the most promising issue in the long run here is that advertisers, for whom the only color that ultimately matters is green, increasingly know that diversity is good business. This hasn’t always been the case, as Mad Men illustrated when Pete Campbell failed to convince Admiral TV to take advantage of a booming market among black customers. But more and more advertisers and their clients have come to realize that if you want America to buy your products, you make ads that look more like America.

When Coca-Cola, for instance, made its “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl ad reflecting different cultures and languages, it probably knew there would be pushback. But given the country’s demographics and shifting mores, the people doing the pushing back aren’t the greater concern anymore. Likewise with ads like Cheerios’ and Chevrolet’s involving interracial couples, or Banana Republic’s including gay couples, or Honey Maid’s, which did both–after which the graham cracker company jiu-jitsued its hate mail into a statement about love.

It’s the right thing to do. It’s decent. It’s fair. But let’s be frank–it’s about dollars and cents, and that’s not a bad thing. Making advertising diverse may not be without controversy, but there’s a clear, simple message that being seen as inclusive is better for your brand image than exclusion. It makes you seem more desirable, more aspirational–and, this is advertising here, after all–it makes you seem younger, in tune with a society that is growing more varied and socially tolerant with the generations.

At the same time, TV networks are now able to go to advertisers and show that airing a show with a star who’s not white is not a horrifying risk. Scandal is a growing hit, and Kerry Washington a rising star. Sleepy Hollow, pairing a black woman and white man as leads, was one of the bigger hits of last fall. The Mindy Project may not be a blockbuster, but it’s survived and grown a passionate following, as has its creator-star Mindy Kaling. Now CBS is talking up its summer sci-fi drama Extant, starring Halle Berry, and the real news isn’t about diversity but about how CBS managed to get such a big star to do the series. Larry Wilmore–who’s also producing Black-ish on ABC, will take over for Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central with The Minority Report next year.

All these shows did not just spring up organically out of the zeitgeist, though. Somebody, like Shonda Rhimes with Scandal, had to cast a black woman as a drama lead, and some network had to take a chance and risk these shows failing. Somebody, too, had to realize that American culture was changing, and that what might have been a red flag for viewers decades ago is now an expectation among viewers, especially younger ones. An Entertainment Weekly feature on TV’s poor diversity record in 2008 quoted Paul Lee, then head of ABC Family, one of the channels that was doing better by multiracial casts, as saying of young viewers, “They’re completely color-blind… they embrace other cultures.” Lee is now head of ABC, which announced sitcoms about Asian American, Hispanic, and African American families, plus another Shonda Rhimes series with a black female lead, How to Get Away with Murder.

And it takes nothing away from anyone to say that this progress has been made not so much with passionate moral arguments than with entertaining TV that generates money. TV’s representation and stereotyping record still is far from perfect. And most likely–as with any other group of series–some of these shows will fail and others succeed; some will be good and some will be awful. But the market has spoken: in primetime and during the commercial breaks, you can no longer just assume that “America won’t go for this.” America has already gone there.

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