TIME Music

Watch Italy’s Famous Singing Nun Cover ‘Like a Virgin’

Sister Cristina Scuccia skyrocketed to fame after her audition for this year's The Voice of Italy, which she later won

Italy’s famous singing nun is out with her debut single: a cover of Madonna’s hit 1984 song “Like a Virgin.”

But don’t expect Sister Cristina Scuccia, an Ursuline nun who won this year’s The Voice of Italy, to sing that she was “touched for the very first time” over the song’s original uptempo dance track. Instead, Sister Cristina, who isn’t afraid to let loose on stage despite what her occupation implies, has transformed the song into an emotional ballad, whose music video features her singing in front of various religious Italian monuments.

“Reading the text, without being influenced by previous interpretations, you discover that it is a song about the power of love to renew people [and] rescue them from their past,” Sister Cristina told Italian newspaper Avvenire.

Sister Cristina skyrocketed to fame when she belted Alicia Keys’ “No One” for her Voice of Italy audition. Her eponymous album is out on Nov. 11.

TIME Music

Here’s Why Nicki Minaj is Chopping a Banana in the ‘Anaconda’ Video

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Recording artist Nicki Minaj attends the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, Ca. Frazer Harrison—Getty Images

Hint: feminism. But she's not saying any more about it.

Apparently, the banana featured in the kitchen portion of Nicki Minaj’s video for the song “Anaconda” is no coincidence. The sexy nature of the video inspired a thousand opinion pieces when it debuted in August and has since racked up more than 200 million views. And now, in a new interview, the singer addresses some of the symbolism, or lack thereof in her performance.

The rapper told GQ writer that she intentionally included the banana as a symbol of female empowerment:

“At first I’m being sexual with the banana, and then it’s like, ‘Ha-ha, no.’ ” I ask if she’s referring to how the Drake scene immediately follows the kitchen scene. “Yeah, that was important for us to show in the kitchen scene, because it’s always about the female taking back the power, and if you want to be flirty and funny that’s fine, but always keeping the power and the control in everything.”

But that’s about the only explicit gender comment Minaj says she makes in the video. Apparently, the singer fell asleep four times over the course of the interview, and didn’t give writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner very much to work with. Aside from the banana moment, she repeatedly denied any overt gender politics in any of her work. Brodesser-Akner writes:

You heard it here first. “Anaconda” is about a snake, and also about a woman’s ex-boyfriends, and the video is just one big slumber party. You can release a record cover into the atmosphere that makes all who see it so shocked and discomforted that their only way to metabolize it is to turn it into the world’s fastest-spreading meme, to the point where her squatting form ends up on a polo shirt, right where the little crocodile usually goes. You can do all this, and still you can look someone in the eye and say that it’s not cynical in the least, that it’s not a comment on gender or sex or the culture or anything. Double shrug.

Shrug.

TIME Music

Jessie Ware’s Tough Love: Why the Singer’s New Album Sounds So Bold

Jessie Ware Tough Love
Jessie Ware, Tough Love Tim Zaragoza

Featuring collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Miguel, Tough Love shows off the British soul singer's talents in a new way

When Jessie Ware broke through with “Wildest Moments,” two things were immediately clear to anyone who followed the song’s muffled, echoing instructions to “Listen listen listen!” First, that volatile couples everywhere had a new anthem. Second, that Jessie Ware had a voice: elegant and intentionally unflashy, but still plainly capable of holding its own alongside her contemporaries. That’s part of why it’s a little shocking to hear the 30-year-old Brit admit she only recently stopped feeling self-conscious about it.

“I was scared about showing more of my voice,” Ware says of her sophomore effort, Tough Love, out now. “I couldn’t have written this album before. I didn’t feel confident enough.” What a difference a few years makes. Nearly everything about Tough Love is bolder than her 2012 debut, Devotion, from the edgier production (courtesy of one of pop’s biggest producers) to her vocals (whose power is no secret this time around) to her collaborators (hungover sessions with “Adore” crooner Miguel and a spontaneous Ed Sheeran collaboration dot the credits). Just listen to the soaring “Say You Love Me,” and it’s clear fans are dealing with a new and improved Jessie Ware. Finally, the singer jokes, she’s “letting it all hang out.”

The turning point, Ware says, occurred while working with “Stay With Me” songwriter James Napier, who co-wrote the album’s blistering torch song, “Pieces,” and begged her not to hold back. “I remember Jimmy being like, ‘I want to hear you Jessie, I want to hear you sing,’” she recalls. “‘You let it rip in shows! Why can’t I hear that?’” Ware worried she was screaming bloody murder until she played the song for the xx’s whisperer-in-chief Romy Madley Croft, who gave her an unlikely confidence boost. “I was like, ‘Oh God, how is this going to go down with the queen of subtlety and understated vocals?’” Ware says. “She was like, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to have a song like this.’ It really reassured me.”

Just like her debut, Tough Love drew some inspiration from a wedding. Ware wrote “Wildest Moments” after she and her best friend got into a fight at one and didn’t speak for weeks. (“I wrote a pretty good song out of it, so I’m glad we had that fight!” she says. “We’re still best friends.”) The slick electro thump of Tough Love‘s “You & I (Forever),” meanwhile, was inspired by how long it took Ware’s high school sweetheart, whom she married in August, to pop the question. (Ware herself walked down the aisle to Sade’s “Your Love Is King”; fans have gotten in touch to say they play her song “Valentine” at their weddings, which Ware notes is actually a terrible choice — the very first line is “So you will never be my lover or my valentine.”)

Part of the album’s electronic heft comes from Katy Perry and Kesha hitmaker Benny Blanco, who co-executive produced Tough Love with Sam Smith producer Two Inch Punch under the name BenZel. Word of their collaboration left fans wondering if Ware was pursuing a more club-friendly sound, which wasn’t totally out of the question, given her early work with electronic act SBTRKT and “Imagine It Was Us,” a dancefloor workout that was tacked on to the U.S. release of Devotion. Though Ware says she was inspired by Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” when recording the Dev Hynes disco jam “Want Your Feeling,” making dance songs was never the plan. Part of the reason Blanco and Two Inch Punch work under the name BenZel — and pretended for a long time that the project was actually a group of Japanese school girls — was to put some distance between the duo’s work and Blanco’s Top 40 success. “Everyone was like, ‘She’s trying to crack America! She’s going to have a big ol’ hit!’” Ware laughs. “Benny was never that for me. He knows what kind of artist I am.”

Still, Ware says she and Blanco fought often in the studio about the direction of the new songs. She balked whenever the material veered too far into pop territory; Blanco told her to “f-ck off” and pushed her to stop hiding in her own songs. Listening to the album, it’s clear Blanco’s influence rubbed off — and that Ware is still adjusting to the change.

“I think what Benny wanted was for more people to hear me, and if that meant having more of a direct chorus, then so bloody be it!” she says. “I don’t feel like a pop star.” With Tough Love, she may not have a choice for much longer.

TIME Music

Watch Gwen Stefani’s Kaleidoscopic ‘Baby Don’t Lie’ Video

The singer has some green-screen fun

Gwen Stefani just released her solo comeback single “Baby Don’t Lie” yesterday, but she’s already delivered the kaleidoscopic video, directed by longtime collaborator Sophie Muller. The clip is appropriately colorful for the stylish pop star, but it must have been a bore to shoot for Stefani, who probably had to spend a couple hours rolling around on the floor and strutting back and forth in front of a green screen. No wonder the singer checks her iPhone halfway through. (Kidding! It’s probably product placement.)

Wisely, Stefani chose not to reunite the Harajuku Girls for the video’s big alleyway dance-off.

TIME Music

Led Zeppelin Loses First Round in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Lawsuit

Led Zeppelin File Photos
Led Zeppelin (Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant) in 1969. Chris Walter—WireImage / Getty Images

The British rockers must confront allegations that it ripped off the rock group Spirit

For decades, Led Zeppelin has faced claims that they plagiarized their iconic 1971 hit “Stairway to Heaven” from the rock band Spirit. Now it looks like Zeppelin is headed for a difficult legal battle.

Back in May, family members of Spirit frontman Randy Craig Wolfe (a.k.a Randy California) filed the suit against Zeppelin, seeking monetary damages and a writing credit for the now-deceased Wolfe, NBC Philadelphia reports. Wolfe’s family claims that Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page ripped off the chords for “Stairway to Heaven” from Spirit’s 1968 tune “Taurus.” (The two bands at one point toured together and had thus become familiar with each other’s music.)

Now, Zeppelin and their music companies have requested that the case be dismissed, as the “individual defendants are British citizens residing in England, own no property in Pennsylvania and have no contacts with Pennsylvania, let alone ties sufficient to render them essentially at home here,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The judge, however, said no to that request — so the band will now be forced to move forward with the suit.

In the meantime, if you’ve never heard the song that Zeppelin allegedly ripped off, listen to it here, followed by “Stairway to Heaven” for comparison’s sake:

TIME Music

Taylor Swift’s ‘Welcome to New York’ Is a New Kind of Equality Anthem

German radio award
Georg Wendt—Georg Wendt/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

The pop star, who'd long been quiet on gay issues, comes up with a subtle new way to pay homage

Correction appended: Oct. 21, 2014

For pop stars in the last several years, paying homage to gay fans has become something of a tradition. As society at large has grown more and more attuned to gay civil rights, Top 40 radio has followed suit; it helps that gay men are a particularly large and vocal segment of the pop-music audience. Now, Taylor Swift has become the latest to join a swelling chorus with a pleasantly low-key shout-out in her new song that steers clear of theatrics in favor of simple emotion.

In the first track on her new album 1989, entitled “Welcome to New York,” Swift sets up New York, her current home, as a place of unparalleled freedom, including for gay people: “You can want who you want,” she sings, “Boys and boys and girls and girls.” A full-throated cry for marriage equality or an end to bullying it isn’t. But its simple declarativeness fits the tenor of the times.

The pop stars who’ve come before Swift have been far more theatrical in their equal-rights activism. Lady Gaga has made advocacy a cornerstone of her career, from her single “Born This Way,” with its support for “lesbian, transgender life,” to her claims that the 2010 Video Music Awards “meat dress” was an anti-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell statement. Songs as vague in their uplifting lyrics as “Firework,” by Katy Perry, and “We R Who We R,” by Kesha, were widely read as having particular meaning for gay youth. And one could argue they’re all aping Madonna, who’s built a career out of engaging with and speaking directly to the sort of gay club audiences who already knew what voguing was before “Vogue” came out.

But times have changed rapidly: “Born This Way” came out in 2011, and “Firework” and “We R Who We R” in 2010. Though the gay community has much still to overcome, the issue of equality no longer seems like one that requires song-length shout-outs. Instead, we get songs like “Welcome to New York,” which tells listeners that whomever they love, they’re okay — not fabulous, or glamorous, or a firework, but well on their way to figuring life out. It shares an approach with the similarly approachable country song “Follow Your Arrow,” by Kacey Musgraves, which encourages listeners to use marijuana if they want, get married (or not) if they want, and date members of the same gender if they want. It’s appealingly low-drama.

We’ve moved past the point, in music, where sexuality is a solely defining trait. While songs like “Born This Way” and approaches like Britney Spears declaring “I love all my gay boys” make music listening into a statement of identity politics, “Welcome to New York” takes a subtler tack. It, and “Follow Your Arrow,” tell listeners to be proactive in finding happiness, while in “Born This Way,” “Firework,” and “We R Who We R,” being oneself was an automatic ticket to liberation. In “Welcome to New York,” discovering one’s sexuality is a part of finding happiness — but only a part.

To this point, Swift has been something of a rarity: A pop star who’s remained largely silent on gay issues and her gay fans. In her defense, Swift has, until now, been balancing a pop career and a country one. She’s had to keep one foot in a genre that’s all about gay fans and the other in a genre that’s largely silent on the topic. But, having declared her new album her first official pop record, Swift seems empowered to craft a more nuanced sort of pro-gay message. There’s all kinds of self-confidence, evidently, that one can draw from living in New York.

The original version of this story misstated the release year of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” It was 2011.

TIME Music

Andrew Bird Promises ‘I’ll Trade You Money For Wine': Song Premiere

Shervin Lainez

The singer-songwriter celebrates 20 years of Bloodshot Records

The woes of the music industry are well documented, so it’s always nice to hear about an independent record label that’s thriving.

This year, Chicago’s Bloodshot Records — who has released albums by artists like Ryan Adams, Neko Case, the Old 97s, Justin Townes Earle, Ben Kweller and many more — is celebrating their 20th anniversary. To mark the occasion, they’re releasing an compilation album with tunes from artists like Andrew Bird, Blitzen Trapper, Chris Shiflett (of Foo Fighters), Frank Turner, Into It. Over It., Nicki Bluhm, and Ted Leo, all covering songs from the respected label’s storied back catalog. The album, While No One Was Looking: Toasting 20 Years of Bloodshot Records, hits retailers Nov. 18th.

Today, TIME premieres a track by Andrew Bird. Here, he’s teamed up with Chicago singer Nora O’Connor, best known as a member of the band for both Neko Case and Iron & Wine, for a rousing cover of alt-country singer Robbie Fulks’ “I’ll Trade You Money for Wine.”

In turn, Fulks recorded an Andrew Bird’s 2001 song “Core and Rind.” Bloodshot will release both songs on a limited edition 7″ single, which will be available at independent record stores on Black Friday (11/28) of this year.

You can pre-order the compilation here and get more information about the 7″ single here.

Listen to Andrew Bird’s take on “I’ll Trade You Money For Wine” here:

 

Bloodshot Records
TIME Music

Lorde’s Mockingjay Soundtrack Features Kanye West, Chemical Brothers and Charli XCX

Singer-songwriter Lorde called upon some influential friends when putting together the soundtrack for the newest Hunger Games installment

If you need further proof that Lorde is one of the most influential teens of 2014, look no further than the soundtrack she curated for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

The highly-anticipated soundtrack for the highly-anticipated film features a song from Lorde with a remix from Kanye West, a collaboration between Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and pop’s It Girl Charli XCX, a new track from the reclusive Chemical Brothers featuring Miguel and Lorde, and an unlikely collaboration between Belgian superstar Stromae and Lorde, Pusha T, Q-Tip and HAIM. Even Grace Jones is in the mix.

Lorde — the 17-year old singer born Ella Yelich-O’Connor — used the soundtrack to feature many emerging talents, including Tove Lo, Raury and Tinashé. Indie superstars CHVRCHES and Bat for Lashes also have contributions alongside Lorde’s three tracks, including “Yellow Flicker Beat,” she released earlier this month and “This Is Not A Game,” which is the first Chemical Brothers track in two years.

Listen here:


The only mystery on the soundtrack is track #5, which will apparently be revealed later.

Here’s the full tracklist for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1:

01 Stromae – “Meltdown” (Feat. Lorde, Pusha T, Q-Tip, And HAIM)
02 CHVRCHES – “Dead Air”
03 Tove Lo – “Scream My Name”
04 Charli XCX – “Kingdom” (Feat. Simon Le Bon)
05 [Track 5]
06 Raury – “Lost Souls”
07 Lorde – “Yellow Flicker Beat”
08 Tinashé – “The Leap”
09 Bat For Lashes – “Plan The Escape”
10 Grace Jones – “Original Beast”
11 Lorde – “Flicker (Kanye West Rework)”
12 XOV – “Animal”
13 The Chemical Brothers – “This Is Not A Game (Feat. Miguel And Lorde)”
14 Lorde – “Ladder Song”

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Original Soundtrakc is out 11/18 via Republic.

TIME movies

The Best Soundtracks of All Time, As Chosen by Directors and Composers

From The Wizard of Oz to American Beauty, Hollywood's finest pick the soundtracks and scores that made the biggest impact in the movie industry and beyond

  • John Landis

    (Director, Animal House, The Blues Brothers)

    Various

    The best needle drop example I can think of is the way Stanley Kubrick used an existing Deutsche Grammophon recording of “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss as the music for the space station sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. George Lucas’s use of rock and roll in American Graffiti and Marty Scorsese’s use of rock and roll in Goodfellas are two more terrific examples of “needle drop.”

    As for scores written for specific movies, there are many wonderful examples, from Elmer Bernstein’s rousing music for The Magnificent Seven to his very different scores for The Sweet Smell of Success, The Great Escape and To Kill a Mockingbird. Bernard Herrmann’s Hitchcok scores are all wonderful, as are the Maurice Jarre collaborations with David Lean.

  • Amy Heckerling

    (Director, Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

    American Graffiti

    When I first saw it, I was a teenager, and I just went crazy for it. I had never been to California, and suddenly there was this sparkly land of cute people and tons of music, and they were in cars, and I thought you had to be really rich to be young and have a car! It just seemed incredibly magical to me, and I had no idea that such a place existed.

    I always loved movies with tons of music, and I was always a fans of musicals. In American Graffiti, it was so organic, because you have car radios, so it made sense. It was automatic to what they were doing, which was running around in cars, and cars have soundtracks. There was a sense of humor to the way it was used. You didn’t feel like, oh, here’s a sad guy and they’re playing a sad song. It was Richard Dreyfuss — who was, I think, about the cutest human being there could be then — “The Great Pretender,” and hanging around with the gang, the Pharaohs, but he was obviously the smart nerd guy. It was just adorable the way it fit together. And then when he goes to the radio station and hears “You Saw Me Crying in the Chapel”? Well, it was a radio station and not a chapel, but it was a form of religion. But it wasn’t saying that in a serious way — it was saying it in a humorous way.

  • Pete Docter

    (Director, Up, Monsters, Inc.)

    Alexander Nevsky and Raiders of the Lost Ark

    My parents are classical music lovers and I was introduced to the music from Alexander Nevsky (1938, by Sergei Prokofiev) years before I ever saw the film. It’s bold and sweeping, with themes that get stuck in your head, and dramatic moody parts. I love the “Battle on the Ice” sequence — it starts quietly with great tension, and builds slowly to a driving peak. I used this as the soundtrack for many films I made as a kid, which created the illusion of them actually being interesting. Apparently Prokofiev wrote the music after seeing a rough cut from director Sergei Eisenstein. Inspired, Eisenstein reshot and cut footage to the music — an unusual way to work, which tells of their mutual respect and admiration for each other’s work. It was kind of a shock to me when I finally saw the film; it sounds like they recorded the soundtrack on tin foil and used that to wrap borsht. It’s tinny and thin, a completely inadequate representation of Prokofiev’s dynamic, powerful music. Luckily there are many great re-recordings of the score available.

    I was 12 when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out (in 1981, with music by John Williams), and it instantly lodged in my brain. I came out of the theater humming the theme, and to this day it conjures up images from the film whenever I hear the music. The musical themes evolve along with Indy; the music tells the story. It’s an integral part of the film; you can’t imagine the movie without this score. If that’s not a great movie score, I don’t know what is.

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez

    (Composer, Frozen)

    The Wizard of Oz

    If I have to pick one (which is unfair because I’d really like to make my top 100 list), I’d have to say The Wizard of Oz (songs by Harold Arlen and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg) is the biggest game-changer [and the] most entertaining score of all time. Ask anyone age 5 to 105, and chances are they can sing the iconic melody of “Over the Rainbow,” but more importantly, they can point to a moment in their own experience when they felt what Dorothy feels when she looks to the sky and sings: “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow / why oh why can’t I?” The story structure is referenced in every single writers’ room on the planet. And let’s not forget: it has a strong female protagonist driving the story.

  • Robert Lopez

    (Composer, Frozen, Avenue Q, Book of Mormon)

    South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut

    South Park: Bigger Longer and Uncut (songs by Trey Parker with Marc Shaiman) is by far the funniest movie musical of all time and one of the greatest. The songs (“What Would Brian Boitano Do,” “Blame Canada,” to name two out of the 11) are all shockingly hilarious spoofs, as you’d expect — but also carry the story forward engagingly with grace and masterful economy. Without this movie there would be no Avenue Q or Book Of Mormon – it changed everything for me.

TIME Music

Taylor Swift’s ‘Welcome to New York’ Is the Musical Equivalent of a Peppermint Latte

"The Giver" New York Premiere - Arrivals
Actress Taylor Swift attends "The Giver" premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on August 11, 2014 in New York City. Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images

The 1980s dance party arrived early

From Russia with love: the previously teased Taylor Swift song “Welcome to New York” was supposed to arrive in full on iTunes at midnight Tuesday, but thanks to time zones, as one astute Tumblr user pointed out, midnight came a little early overseas — and so did the song.

Swift says she named her album 1989 after the year of her birth because she was inspired by the decade’s pop music sounds. It showed on the Jack Antonoff collaboration “Out of the Woods,” but it’s even more obvious on “Welcome to New York,” which finds T-Swift dusting off cheesy synthesizers and a retro drum-machine beat as she sings of self-reinventing in the city that never sleeps. The lyrics are about as earnest as any fresh-off-the-bus New York transplant, but the song’s got enough pep to warm the frigid Grinch heart of at least one jaded New Yorker this season as they trek through snow and trash in search of a peppermint latte.

More importantly, “Welcome to New York” is the first 1989 track we’ve heard that features Swift doing something other than repeating the words of the title over and over again in the chorus.

Listen to the track here. 1989 comes out Oct. 27.

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