TIME Music

Weird Al: Hitting Number 1 Doesn’t Change Plan to Stop Making Albums

Weird Al Visits Visits Music Choice's "You & A"
"Weird Al" Yankovic visits Music Choice's "You & A" on July 14, 2014 in New York City. D Dipasupil—Getty Images

Also: why it's not correct to say he's "pulling a Beyoncé"

It’s been more than a year since “Weird Al” Yankovic told the world, on his blog, that after his current contract ran up, he would be exploring releasing singles digitally rather than full albums. It’s been a little more than a week since his album Mandatory Fun was released, and just a few days since he reiterated that he wasn’t sure he would be releasing any further conventional albums.

Then, as of Wednesday, his situation changed: Mandatory Fun officially became Yankovic’s first album to top the Billboard chart.

“I didn’t think this was an option for me,” he tells TIME. “I thought there was a glass ceiling for comedy albums. The last time a comedy album topped the Billboard charts was over half a century ago.”

But that doesn’t mean his plans are changing. The success of Mandatory Fun doesn’t mean he’ll stick with the album-centric way of releasing music.

“I continue to think the same things that I thought prior to the album going to Number 1. I still think that albums for me are not the most efficient or intelligent way for me to present my music to the public,” he says. “I would prefer to get my songs out in a more timely fashion.”

Being an artist who only releases singles just makes sense, he says, since he likes to parody songs when they’re still at the forefront of listeners’ minds. Especially given the perfect storm that YouTube is — helping music videos and comedy sketches get to viewers in a way that didn’t used to be possible — his goal is to capitalize on the technology as much as possible.

And that means he’s not following other artists’ leads: the music video onslaught that came with Mandatory Fun — eight videos in eight days — has been oft compared to Beyoncé’ strategy with her 2013 album Beyoncé. “Many people have brought that up and it does irk me just a little bit because on my last album, which came out three years ago, I released 12 videos for the 12 tracks from the album all at the same time,” he says. “I doubt that she got that idea from me, but the fact that people are saying I pulled a Beyoncé, that’s just not accurate.”

He’s also not setting anything in stone. Yankovic says that he knows that albums still work best for many artists, and the tide of the music business may turn back for him as well. Mandatory Fun hasn’t changed his mind about the format, but something else might. “I’m not drawing any hard lines in the sand,” he says. “I’ll do whatever’s appropriate, and if that doesn’t work out I’ll do something else.”

TIME Music

Fifty Shades of Grey: The Story Behind Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” Update

How strings-master Margot and in-demand producer Boots reimagined Bey's 2003 hit

+ READ ARTICLE

If you were surprised to hear Beyoncé lend her trademark uh-oh-uh-ohs to the Fifty Shades of Grey film, you weren’t the only one.

“With everything she’s been doing recently, the surprise factor has been a big part of it,” says violinist and recording artist Margot, who arranged and played the strings on the new version of “Crazy in Love” that’s featured in the just-released trailer. In fact, Margot didn’t even know if her own contributions had made the cut until she watched the trailer for the first time on Thursday.

“It was one of those things that happened on the spot, and you have to jump when you know it’s a good opportunity,” she tells TIME.

The track was produced by Boots, who helmed much of Beyoncé’s last album; he and Margot have worked together on a number of projects, including Beyoncé and Boots’ recent mixtape. A few weeks ago, Boots called Margot to say he was working on a movie trailer and needed some string contributions — but he needed them that night. Margot met up with Boots in Brooklyn, he played her the track (which he had recorded just that day, not long after Bey’s team reached out) and she immediately began laying down the violin parts you hear before Beyoncé ever recorded vocals.

“It inspires me to work on other artists’ songs [because] it pushes my boundaries in a direction that I wouldn’t necessarily come up with,” Margot says. “Obviously I know how ‘Crazy in Love’ goes, but I knew there was the possibility her vocals would be different. It’s almost more vulnerable and beautiful this way, because you do do crazy things when you fall in love. To hear the mood reversed and flipped makes it even more powerful.”

Despite their success in remaking the track for the highly anticipated film adaptation, neither Margot nor Boots have actually read the book.

“It’s funny, when it comes to scoring films and making music, it’s more about the mood that you’re capturing anyway,” she says. “We didn’t necessarily need to know the storyline to make something dramatic and sensual.”

TIME Music

Weird Al: Pop’s Last King

Weird Al Visits Visits Music Choice's "You & A"
"Weird Al" Yankovic visits Music Choice's "You & A" on July 14, 2014 in New York City. D Dipasupil—Getty Images

Pop music has shattered. Parody is now the language that transcends cultural and generational boundaries.

When Michael Jackson died, people mourned the death of a giant but they also mourned the death of the cultural consensus he represented. They mourned the passing of a figure so huge and so central to pop culture that seemingly everyone knew him, no matter where they fell in the cultural divide. In that respect, I suspect that part of the tidal wave of excitement greeting the release of Mandatory Fun, the ecstatically received new album from preeminent Michael Jackson parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic, comes from the re-emergence of a figure whose popularity transcends cultural and generational boundaries, who can truly be said to be a household name. The album charted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in its first week, a first for the artist.

The mainstream that Jackson personified doesn’t seem to exist anymore. The pop culture world has fractured too violently into too many different warring factions for the center to hold. If a mainstream exists at all anymore, it can be pieced together, makeshift, from the base components of an album like Mandatory Fun. The album cements Yankovic’s status as an invaluable uniter in a wildly divisive music world.

Yankovic’s music unites his older fans with their past, with the MTV or radio-obsessed kids they used to be and the central role he played in their musical education. But it goes beyond that; Yankovic’s polka medleys are a brilliant microcosm for his take on pop music. Mandatory Funs obligatory polka medley, “NOW That’s What I Call Polka,” is essentially Girl Talk for the middle-aged and out of date, a high-energy mash-up of seemingly every inescapable single of the past three years.

One of the overlooked benefits of growing older is the freedom from having to follow pop music closely, from feeling obligated to have an opinion on every important new act or flash in the pan. Part of the brilliance of Yankovic’s albums is that he follows pop music and the rampaging idiocies of the pop chart so that his often middle-aged fans don’t have to, content that dear old Uncle Al will translate the ephemeral ditties and one-hit wonders of the day into language they understand, the musical vocabulary of the genially wacky spoof.

Mandatory Fun might just be the ideal way to experience contemporary pop music. It offers the catchiness of “Blurred Lines” without the rapey gender politics, leering sexism and Robin Thicke’s pervy personality; Miley Cyrus without the twerking and lascivious tongue wraggling; and LMFAO without, well, everything that makes them obnoxious, which is everything.

Yankovic famously released eight videos from the album in eight consecutive days, including the zeitgeist-capturing smashes “Tacky” and “Word Crimes.” It’s a strategy that allowed the savvy and prescient Yankovic to leverage his connections with Internet dynamos like Nerdist, Funny Or Die and College Humor (needless to say, at least some of those kids who grew up worshiping Al ended up in positions of power inside corporate suites), who helped produce the videos and publicized the album, while highlighting the broad-based appeal of an album that includes not only relatively timely hits of smashes from the likes of Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Iggy Azalea and Pharell, but also brazenly untimely homages to Southern Culture On The Skids, The Pixies, Cat Stevens and both a polka and Yankovic’s first-ever March (“Sports Song”).

The every-song-a-single approach is particularly savvy given the central role singles play in the pop landscape. People aren’t buying albums the way they did before; Robin Thicke’s new album Paula, for example, is flopping while the infectious beat for his signature song is doing great things for a man who is impishly using it to play grammar bully to a delighted populace.

YouTube was to supposed to maim, if not destroy, Yankovic’s career by flooding the site with a slew of younger, hungrier and lewder parodists who didn’t need a major label to put out parodies, just a video camera and some goofy new lyrics to a familiar song. Yet in 2014, the parody market is still “Weird Al” Yankovic, followed distantly by everyone else. Considering the ways the industry has changed over the past 10 years, it’s remarkable how little progress everyone else has made. Nostalgia undoubtedly plays a role; the release of a new “Weird Al” album can’t help but inspire wistful memories of long-ago days watching Al goof his way through videos spoofing Madonna, Nirvana, Kurt Cobain and countless other giants who are either gone or irrevocably changed, whereas Al never seems to age.

For all of the changes in the industry, and outside it, a “Weird Al” Yankovic parody of a hit song still feels official and important in a way no other spoof does. For all the pretenders on the Internet, when it comes to parodies, it sure seems like folks still want the 54-year-old they grew up with and still represents the gold standard for funny music.

Pop music parodies occupy one of the smallest, least respected ghettos in pop music. Yankovic has never been one to think small, however, and from the very beginning his domain has been all of popular music, not just the tiny little subsection devoted to his particular specialty. That mindset is paying enormous dividends right now. It is a halcyon moment for an inveterate uniter with a view of pop expansive enough to fit the totality of recorded music snugly inside one of his fat suits.

Nathan Rabin is a staff writer for The Dissolve and the author of Weird Al: The Book (with “Weird Al” Yankovic) and You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me.

TIME celebrity

5 Controversial Quotes From Lana Del Rey

Day 2 - Glastonbury Festival
Lana Del Rey performs on the Pyramid stage on Day 2 of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm on June 28, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. (Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Redferns via Getty Images) Tabatha Fireman—Redferns via Getty Images

She's "annoyed" her sex life didn't further her career, but that's just the tip of the iceberg

Lana Del Rey is never boring — the eccentric pop star can always be relied on to provide at least a few nuggets of weirdness in any given interview. She’s getting flak right now for the first item listed below, but why are we surprised? She’s always got something offbeat and amazing to say.

1) She’s “annoyed” that her sex life never helped her get a record deal.

Even though one of her new songs is called “F***ed My Way Up to the Top,” Del Rey told Complex magazine that sleeping with guys in the music industry has never helped her career.

You know, I have slept with a lot of guys in the industry. But none of them helped me get my record deals. Which is annoying.

Earlier, she said:

I relate to being the person who people come to for “such a change from the old routine,” but not being the main thing. I had a long-term relationship for seven years with someone who was the head of a label and I felt like I was that change of routine. I was always waiting to become the person who his kids came home to, and it never happened.

It’s important to note that most of the coverage of this controversial quote has focused on the “I have slept with a lot of guys” part, not the effect it might have had on her career. Several big media outlets put the quote in their headlines, which can come off as slut-shaming.

2) Tesla is way cooler than feminism.

In a recent interview in Fader magazine, she made it clear where she stands on the age-old Feminists vs. Aliens debate:

“For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept. I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested.”

Feminist aliens have yet to weigh in.

3) She kind of has a death wish.

She once told The Guardian that she admired Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain so much that “I wish I were dead already,” which led to a lengthly discussion of mortality:

Interviewer: Is early death glamorous?

“I don’t know. Ummm, yeah.”

Interviewer: Don’t say that

“I do! I don’t want to have to keep doing this. But I am.

Interviewer: Do what? Make Music?

“Everything. That’s just how I feel. If it wasn’t that way, then I wouldn’t say it. I would be scared if I knew [death] was coming, but …”

The singer retracted her comments afterward on Twitter in a series of now-deleted tweets, saying the interviewer had asked her leading questions.

4) Her friend Juliette Lewis didn’t realize that was her on SNL.

In outtakes from this month’s Rolling Stone profile, Del Rey reveals that she was friends with Juliette Lewis before the actress publicly dissed her Saturday Night Live performance:

I was actually friends with her before that but she didn’t know it was me on TV. I had been more blonde before or something. She called me and was like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ But we got over it. Because the truth is, we’re birds of a feather in a way. In the end, we thought it was really funny.

Because messing up your friend’s hair color can happen to anybody!

5) Every day is Opposite Day.

Because Lana Del Rey is George Constanza:

“I’m really specific about why I’m doing something or writing something. But it always kind of gets translated in the opposite fashion. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve learned that everything I’m going to do is going to have the opposite reaction of what I meant. So I should do the opposite if I want a good reaction.”

When Rolling Stone pointed out that George already tried this, she says, “Oh really? That’s awesome. Me and George Costanza!”

6) She mixes up sounds and colors.

It sounds like the directions she gave to Ultraviolence producer Dan Auerbach were, um, confusing (also from the Rolling Stone outtakes:)

“I would explain things to him in terms of colors and touchstone words,” she says. “My word for the record was ‘fire,’ you know, blue fire, when a flame gets so hot it goes from red to blue. And I told him I wanted everything to sound like it was in the key of blue. And I think at first he was like, ‘What the f*ck?’”

This was mostly to distinguish from Lady Gaga, who wants everything to sound like it’s in the key of rainbows.

TIME Music

Mick Jagger on James Brown: “I Copied All His Moves”

Mick Jagger and James Brown
Mick Jagger, left, and James Brown Redferns/Getty Images (2)

The legendary rocker talks about the soul king's impact on his life and career

Mick Jagger first met James Brown backstage at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem fifty years ago, when the now-legendary British superstar was a 20-year-old music industry rookie. Singer Ronnie Spector, who introduced them, has said that Jagger was so excited to meet the funk icon that she thought he was going to have a heart attack.

With his involvement in bringing the new biopic Get On Up to the screen, Jagger is now helping to introduce Brown’s unique musical brilliance to a new generation. Jagger spoke with TIME about his relationship with the funk/soul superstar, and shared some additional information regarding his work on the film.

TIME: What’s your first memory of hearing or seeing James Brown do his thing?

Mick Jagger: We all had the Live at the Apollo album. That was the big album before [the Rolling Stones] had come to America. He was a big favorite, and a different kind of music than I played at that time, which was mostly Chicago-style blues and rock. In those days, he did a lot of ballads, and also did super-fast stuff like “Night Train.” All these songs were on this huge-selling album, where you kind of lived the James Brown show without actually seeing it, so I was very familiar with it. When I first went to America, I met James at the Apollo, and he let me hang out with him. I was just a kid, really. He was, like, ten years older than me or something, but he’d been doing it for so long, and he had it down so much. He was kind to let me hang out, and I watched the shows. They did, like, four or five shows a day. Not all with the same intensity, obviously. It’s not possible. So I watched him there at the Apollo, we hung out some, and then I met him various times, we crossed paths on tours and so forth. I went on stage with him at the Apollo in the seventies. He called me up on stage with him. It was kind of a cringy moment for me, because English people don’t really…(laughs)…I just wanted to watch the show. I wasn’t there to be called up to dance with James Brown. But of course, you had to. That was the first time I was on stage at the Apollo, funny enough. James was always very nice to me, always giving me advice.

Can you share some of that advice with us?

James talked a lot about business. It’s in the film. The whole thing about the Apollo was, it’s about renting [it], making your own money, doing your own promotion. He wanted to be his own man. He didn’t want to be bossed around. He didn’t want to be put on a salary. In those days, people got very low record royalties, or never got paid royalties at all. James was very aware of all that. He tried to be his own man, and make sure he wasn’t just used.

Were there any of his stage moves that you, either intentionally or unintentionally, made part of your own persona?

Of course. I copied all his moves. I copied everybody’s moves. I used to do [James’] slide across the stage. I couldn’t do the splits, so I didn’t even bother. Everyone did the microphone trick, where you pushed the microphone, then you put your foot on it and it comes back, and then you catch it. James probably did it best. [Soul singer] Joe Tex did it brilliantly. Prince does it really well. I used to try to do it, but in the end, it hit me in the face too many times and I gave it up. So of course I copied his moves. There was one particular one I used to do a lot, but then I gave up and moved on. You just incorporate everything into your act.

Which was the one you used to do a lot?

When you move laterally from one side of the stage to the other, twisting your foot on one leg. I could do that one. But it’s a kind of attitude, too, not just a body move. It’s a kind of an attitude that he had on stage. You copy it. Little Richard was another contemporaneous performer who appears in this movie, because they’re from the same town. Little Richard also taught me a lot of things. It wasn’t so much moves. It’s about presence on stage in relationship to the audience.

In addition to James’ renown as a performer, he had a huge impact behind the scenes as well, in the construction of his music. Talk about his role in crafting his legendary songs.

James wasn’t a trained musician. He didn’t write music and he didn’t do arrangements. But he did initiate lots of grooves. He had a style. When he reinvented his music from the Apollo-live-period stuff into the funk period, where he did “Cold Sweat,” which was mostly known as the first groove/funk record, he kind of reinvented this. A lot of credit goes to musicians, but a lot goes to him, because he did something that no one else had done. He was into repeating these riffs which were normally used for the outro of a song, and decided to just use that as the whole song. He stripped away a lot of the melodic themes, and just made it into percussive themes for the vocal and the horn lines. His influence on that is massive, because he and the musicians invented this whole new funk genre of music.

His influence has been felt, though, in all areas of music, including hip-hop and the music of superstars like Michael Jackson and Prince. Would any of it be the same without James’ influence?

He’s been a huge influence on all the people you mentioned. Nearly all hip-hop artists acknowledge his influence on their music. Bruno Mars does a lot of his stage act – he does sections which are very influenced by [James]. And also, on artists like myself. I didn’t do much of that kind of music, really, but it’s influenced all the rock bands I know. [Even if] you don’t sound like James Brown, you know that’s in your repertoire. Not on this last tour, but the tour before, we did a James Brown number. We did “Think.” Even though The Rolling Stones is mainly a rock band, if we wanna do that, we can, because we know it. We learned it so long ago.

How big an influence was he on the Stones’ music?

It’s hard to discern. My point is, it’s all there in the background. Particularly that Live at the Apollo album, and all those early funk records. All these bands, the Stones included, could all play [some of that].

James’ music is generally referred to as funk, soul or R&B, and rarely mentioned as an influence in the classic rock realm. But for bands like yours, or even Led Zeppelin, that influence is in there.

Definitely, it’s there. Dave Grohl will be able to do those songs too. The influence is major.

Brian Grazer says you were instrumental in giving feedback on the script for Get On Up. What was the script like when you first read it, and what changes did you feel needed to be made?

First of all, when you find these scripts that are in turnaround, often the reason they aren’t made is because they’re awful or unworkable or something. I found that the Butterworths (English screenwriting brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, who wrote Get On Up) are very talented, and to them, it was a labor of love. I liked the script very much. I thought it had an incredible amount to offer. It was unlike other biopics, which go in for an extremely small snapshot of a person’s life. But this is more extensive. So I thought it was a very good script, but every script needs [some work]. We did change accentuations of character. We amalgamated some characters, because there were just too many. It was slightly confusing. We made it funnier, we took out a lot of early stuff – we just shaved it around and got it into a workable state. It took a while, but the Butterworths did a rewrite, and also, as we got [the film's director Tate Taylor] on board, we did dialogue changes, and Tate did a polish.

Were there any specific aspects of James’ life you felt needed to be corrected, or portrayed in a different light?

For myself and for Brian, [this film] is about James Brown wanting to be master of his own fate, against the odds – to be in control of his destiny, coming from a place of extreme poverty where he’s in complete disarray and not in control of his destiny. He wants to be master of his own fate, but while doing this, of course, he often alienates people and becomes a loner, and that’s the price that he pays for wanting this success – for being so extreme in his work ethic. That was one of the things we wanted to show. We wanted to show in this movie how it happened, and how he was ultimately a lonely person.

Why was Chadwick Boseman the right choice to play James?

It was a tough ask, and everyone I spoke to said, “You’ll never get anyone to do it well enough.” And, [there was the question of], were we going for a dancer that could act, or an actor that could dance? And so on. You just have to look at everybody that comes your way. Chad had come off this movie, 42, which was successful in the United States, and he was very confident about his ability to play this part. I was very confident, and so were Brian and Tate, about his acting ability, but he knew he had to work – as anyone would have to work – really hard on the performing part, because he wasn’t a stage performer. Apart from immersing himself totally into the character, that was a load of work. The hours that Chad put into this with the choreographer, he really put in the extra hours to make it work, and it paid off.

So there wasn’t significant apprehension on your part knowing that he wasn’t that sort of performer?

Well, yes. Everyone had apprehension, or whatever word you wanna use. (laughs) You never know ‘til you do the first dance scene how it’s gonna work. That’s the nature of any of these things. I think everyone, including Chad, was a little nervy at the beginning. I’m sure they were. But as it went on, you could see how Chad had really taken on the character and made it his own.

TIME Music

Watch Monty Python Sing Their Last Song Ever

Always look on the bright side of life, even if there's no more Monty Python

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After almost 50 years together, Monty Python bid farewell in appropriate fashion: with a sing-along of their decidedly tongue-in-cheek song, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

The song, which was originally performed during the final crucifixion scene from their hilarious (if heretical) film, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, was a fitting end to a long career for the influential and iconic comedy troupe.

The surviving members of the group — which included Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Graham Chapman, who passed away in 1989 — reunited for a 10-night series of performances billed as a “pre-posthumous memorial service” with the tag line “Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go.” The Python members said that this would be the final time they performed together, a pronouncement that helped the wildly-popular and well-respected troupe sell out London’s 20,000-seat capacity O2 Arena in a staggering 43.5 seconds. Another nine dates were added, which also quickly sold out.

Their final performance, which took place on July 20th, was recorded for a live, worldwide theatrical telecast, which more than 700,000 tuned in to watch, according to a statement by UK comedy channel Gold, which hosted the broadcast. A DVD of the performance is reportedly in the works.

To end their final performance and mark their remarkable 40-plus-year career, the Pythons chose to go out with a swan song joined on stage by Mike Myers, Harry Shearer and others eager to pay their respects to the group and lift their voice in song alongside the Pythons. As “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” ended, the beloved troupe took their final bow and a screen displayed, “Monty Python, 1969 – 2014,” leaving fans the barest hope that in true Python fashion, they’re not dead yet.

MORE: Monty Python Release New Comedy Track ‘Lousy Song’

MORE: Watch Mick Jagger Prove He Can Take a Joke in Hilarious Monty Python Video

TIME Music

David Bowie’s Isolated Vocal Track For ‘Ziggy Stardust’ Will Give You Chills

Hear the iconic artist's vocal take

This post is in partnership with NME.

Thanks to Brain Pickings for posting the isolated vocal for David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ It’ll give you goosebumps… and make you even more excited for the upcoming “new music” announced this week.

More from NME: Courtney Love says production on Kurt Cobain biopic will begin in ‘next 12 months’

More from NME: Metallica’s Lars Ulrich says Noel Gallagher inspired him to quit cocaine

TIME Music

Questlove on Iggy Azalea: “Black People Have to Come to Grips That Hip-Hop Is a Contagious Culture”

The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. Matt Rourke—AP

The Roots' drummer talks Beyoncé, Sia and why "Fancy" is "a game-changer" for hip-hop

Television is keeping Questlove busy. The Roots drummer and member of The Tonight Show house band is also the executive producer of SoundClash, a new music show premiering Wednesday night on VH1 and Palladia. Inspired by Jamaican sound clashing and the classic music programming of his youth, Questlove recruited top artists like Ed Sheeran, Fall Out Boy, Sia and T.I. to share the stage, strip down their biggest hits, cover their favorite performers and get “out of their comfort zones,” as he explains.

Questlove talked to TIME about his vision for the show and, perhaps most importantly, what he thinks is the official Song of the Summer.

Where’d you get the idea for this show?

During the time I was constructing [my memoir] the Mo’ Meta Blues book, my business manager got to the part of the book where I was explaining that my parents used to wake me up at 12:30. I was only allowed to watch music programs or PBS as a kid, but the thing was, a lot of those music shows came on after midnight. So as a result, I’d have to be in bed at 8 at night, but my parents would wake me up at 12:30 so I could watch Midnight Special and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert and Soul Train and the second song on Saturday Night Live.

He was like, “I know that in your head, you have this stubborn M.O. that everything you do in life has to be associated with you being a producer and recording artist, but do you ever think your true calling is your passion, which is developing music shows? Because that’s all you talk about!” I carry 10 terabytes of hard drives with me wherever I go. I have every episode of Soul Train in my backpack because you just never know when you have to show somebody. I’m that guy that has every reference in the book.

He was like, “What would your dream show be?” I was thinking Midnight Special was my favorite, like the multiple stage setup. A lot of those acts were self-contained. Steve Miller used to perform by himself. The Main Ingredient used to perform by themselves. KC and the Sunshine Band used to perform by themselves. The Commodores once backed Frankie Valli, which is kind of incredible, at least in my 9-year-old eyes. So as a result, I said, “What if we have a show that took artists out of their comfort zone?” They’re in a big, giant airport hanger and there’s three stages. You surround the audience so even the person in the back row will eventually be front-row once their artist performs.

It’s sort of like Jamaican sound clashing. You do different rounds. Round one is the artist doing their song, round two could be a stripped down version of their song or a cover song. Maybe round three, you put Chris Martin with someone like Odd Future. And you take Earl Sweatshirt, what happens if he goes with Imagine Dragons? That was the mission. As we get further on into the episodes, I would like to go more extreme, have people come out of their comfort zones and do crazy collaborations.

Pop artists covering their peers in this way obviously has a long history — Live Lounge on BBC Radio 1, the “ironic” cover of a rap song that goes viral. Why do people love seeing these kinds of performances?

We live in a viral society. A lot of that is done for the irony. When you do something ironic, it gets a viral response. When Alanis Morissette did “My Humps”? It was sort of that response. It’s also passive aggressive and mean-spirited. The thing is, you’re doing it for humorous intent. If you had one chance in life to really put your best foot forward, you’re going to sing that song that you’re really known for. Some people do it just so they can lift the veil on themselves. That’s why we did The Tonight Show. So many people were looking at us like, “God, you guys are so damn serious all the time. Are you guys even human?” So I felt like doing The Tonight Show allows us to be human. Maybe people do ironic cover songs as a way to show that they’re human. I want people to do it because, “This is an influence.” Watching Jack White sing “Jolene” or watching Christina Aguilera sing “I Will Always Love You,” that, to me, is a serious form of showing where your roots come from.

Is there an art to picking a cover song?

There’s different options. What I don’t want to do is scare people away. Initially out the gate, we’ve scared a few people. You also have to understand, we live in a society where a lot of people rely more on their Mac computers than they do having an 8-piece rhythm section. We wanted to offer more options: if you want to do a cover a song, do a cover song. If you want to do a stripped down version — the fact that Ed Sheeran can probably be more effective with just his guitar than with a full rhythm section? That, to me, is what the show is all about.

You could put somebody in any kind of situation. What would happen if you were to put Pharrell with just a string section and no drums? What would happen? That’s kind of how the Roots had to live their lives in our 20 year career. The idea of having to adjust. We’re opening for Soundgarden tonight? We have to adjust the show. We’re opening for Jill Scott tonight? We might have to adjust the show. We’re opening for Chris Rock tonight? We might have to adjust the show. Having to collaborate with a lot of artists, doing it every night, to me, it’s easy as breathing. The hardest thing for us to do in the world now is just a regular, straight-no-chaser Roots song. Our life has been opening for acts that you would never in your wildest dreams think that we would open for. You kind of have to be smart to know that for a bunch of Germans watching Johnny Cash, you can’t do no rap cliche: “Throw your hands in the air!” You can’t do that! It’s always been about adjusting and being prepared for any situation, and I want to bring that to TV.

Do you handpick all the bands?

Well, the initial episodes we did were really based on our personal relationships. We have a great relationship with T.I. [and] Patrick of Fall Out Boy — that dude is a musical nerd brother from another mother. Ed Sheeran, I’m shocked that he even knows that we exist. That’s not even false modesty. It’s kind of weird living an under-the-radar career without an obvious five-million seller, and yet these people come up and say, “Man, I love your music so much, I grew up on it.” “Oh, you know who we are?” A lot of these artists are people we knew on The Tonight Show or in our everyday life.

Sia is an interesting choice — she doesn’t seem to like being on stage.

I did not know how we were going to get through that. I was shocked! That was my first feeling of, oh, I really am an executive producer! I came up with an idea, they actually listened to it and then did it. It’s kind of weird, her quest for anti-stardom and her method of doing it is actually bringing her more attention than not doing it. But more power to her for her Wizard of Oz. We said, “Okay, what if we have a background singer in front of her, and she’s in the back somewhere?” I’ll be honest, I thought we were going to lose her. But that was my first call of action. “We might have a problem with Sia!” But what do I know? I’m giving myself a lot of credit. Maybe that was her plan all along, but I definitely called that moment.

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SoundClash

Sia, Sheeran and Grouplove all cover “Drunk in Love” together, as many artists have done before. What draws people to that song?

Beyoncé is one of these types of artists that is in such a sweet spot. She owns this decade. I wake up in the morning and look online, okay, on Gawker, blah blah is covering “Halo.” She’s just one of those artists that’s magnetic like that. Even if it’s done in a silly notion, it speaks to her power.

What’s your take on the proper spelling of surfboard?

[Laughs] There has to be a T at the end! In my head, surfboart is spelled like surfboard, but the T replaces the D at the end.

Have you weighed in on an official Song of the Summer?

I’m really caught in between, because this is what you gotta understand: I’m a DJ, and I’ve already established before on Twitter and elsewhere that you gotta know what the difference is between a good song and a bad song. Songs that I consider personally bad are also effective, and songs that I think are great don’t stick. For me, I think it’s a crime that Chromeo is not up there, because their level of pop songs — aw man, it’s everything I could ever want. It isn’t sticking. I want “Jealous” to win so bad, but it’s obvious “Fancy” is pretty much ruling the summer.

Are you pro- or anti-Iggy Azalea?

Here’s the thing: the song is effective and catchy as hell, and it works. Just the over-enunciation of “hold you down”? [Laughs] It makes me chuckle because all I can see is my assistant holding a brush in the mirror and singing it.

I’m caught in between. And I defend it. I see false Instagram posts like, “She said the N-word! She said the N-word!” I’ll call people out — “Yo, don’t troll.” I know you’re ready to give your 42-page dissertation on theGrio about why this is culture vulture-ism. You know, we as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture. If you love something, you gotta set it free. I will say that “Fancy,” above any song that I’ve ever heard or dealt with, is a game-changer in that fact that we’re truly going to have to come to grips with the fact that hip-hop has spread its wings.

And to tell the truth, I was saying this last year, I don’t think it’s any mistake that four or five of my favorite singers are from Australia. Like between Hiatus Kaiyote, there’s a bunch I can name for you right now, but I don’t think it’s a mistake that a lot of of my favorite artists are coming from Down Under. A lot of them more soulful than what we’re dealing with now. When you think soul music and Aretha Franklin and the Baptist-born singer, that’s sort of an idea in the past. As black people, we’re really not in the church as we used to be, and that’s reflected in the songs now.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m torn between the opinions on the Internet, but I’mma let Iggy be Iggy. It’s not even politically correct dribble. The song is effective. I’m in the middle of the approximation of the enunciation, I’ll say. Part of me hopes she grows out of that and says it with her regular dialect — I think that would be cooler. But, yeah, “Fancy” is the song of the summer.

TIME Music

Pharrell’s New Music Video Is Basically a Dove Advertisement

Miley Cyrus also shows up

+ READ ARTICLE

The last time Pharrell “I Don’t Think It’s Possible For Me to Be a Feminist” Williams starred in a music video that featured giant red letters plastered all over your screen, it didn’t go over so well. Perhaps that’s why, in his new clip for the funky “Come Get it Bae,” the producer basically films a Dove advertisement with a much more female-friendly message: “Beauty has no expiration date.” (Even the studio kinda looks like the one from that viral beauty sketches video.)

While Pharrell gazes from behind the camera, women of varying ages perform some hand-clapping choreography that even your grandma could probably rock. Sadly, Missy Elliott isn’t on hand to pass that dutch — as she did at the BET Awards — but at least occasional life coach Miley Cyrus shows up to represent the youths and extend a body part that is not her tongue.

TIME republicans

Businessman David Perdue Wins the GOP Senate Primary in Georgia

David Perdue
David Perdue waves to supporters after declaring victory in the Republican primary runoff for nomination to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, at his election-night party in Atlanta on July 22, 2014 John Bazemore—AP

The Republican businessman will take on Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, at the polls in November

Georgia Republicans picked themselves a Republican nominee for Senate Tuesday. For the first time in many a pecan season, the choice was less about the quality of the GOP candidates than about who was best to beat the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn.

Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, is the most formidable Democratic candidate to crop up statewide in Georgia in years. She will face off with David Perdue, a businessman and cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, who won the primary runoff with less than 51% of the vote against Representative Jack Kingston. (Ideologically speaking, both Kingston and Perdue are very similar and capable of giving Nunn a tough race.)

Nunn enters the general elections with a money and momentum advantage over Perdue, who topped a May primary of seven candidates but faced a runoff with the other top vote getter, Kingston, after failing to secure more than 50% of the vote. Nunn had at least $3.7 million on hand at the end of the last quarter in April and her campaign recently announced she raised another $3.5 million in the second quarter, though they’ve yet to disclose how much cash on hand remains. Perdue, a millionaire who has already given his primary campaign $1.25 million in personal funds, had $784,000 cash on hand as of July 2, but his primary with Kingston was bruising and required a lot of paid media in the final weeks.

Neither Nunn, the former CEO of Points of Light — a national volunteer program run with the Bush Family Foundation — nor Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, have ever been elected to public office before. They are running to fill the seat of retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. Georgia is one of the Democrats’ top two pick of seats in the Senate and a stopgap measure as they stand of the edge of losing the Senate majority.

Kingston’s defeat was a defeat for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which poured $2.3 million into the race on his behalf, effectively making Perdue the CEO candidate without business backing. Kingston had a long record of probusiness votes, while Perdue is more of a blank slate.

“There is a clear contrast in this race between Michelle Nunn, a leader who has spent the last 25 years leading volunteer organizations and lifting communities up, and David Perdue, someone who has spent his career enriching himself while often times tearing companies and communities apart,” said Democratic Party of Georgia chair DuBose Porter. “Georgians want leaders who will fix the mess in Washington, not someone who puts personal profit ahead of regular people.”

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