Live: VH1 Brings Out The Divas At The Hammerstein Ballroom

via VH1
VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul
Hammerstein Ballroom
Sunday, December 18

Better than: Whatever Ryan Seacrest is going to cook up for VH1 Soul.

Last night's VH1 Divas taping existed both as a performance and self-contained, 24-hours-out advertising opportunity for its broadcast. (Tonight at 9 ET!) TV tapings are always strange to experience first-hand, given the way they're designed for after-the-fact consumption; there are lots of long lulls in the action for the purposes of commercial breaking/set redesigning, and in "let's all get together and put on a show" scenarios like this one there are TelePrompTers with lyrics ready to assist the under-rehearsed. Despite the breaks and assists, though, this taping didn't have the hermetically sealed feeling of ones I attended during the pre-social-media era—people were encouraged to tweet and Foursquare check-in and let their pals on social media know what they were experiencing via corporately provided hashtag. In the 21st century, after all, all publicity is.

The night's bent toward soul meant that most of the acts on the bill had pipes and cred—Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, Martha Reeves, and Wanda Jackson represented for the pre-music-video era, while the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Jennifer Hudson were among the new-schoolers. Jessie J's tireless, apparently unending promotional campaign also continued here; her new party trick involves her stuttering out words instead of singing them in toto, a tic that serves to both illuminate the bleatiness of her voice and make her seem even more malleable and annoying. She's the opposite of a diva, her jet-black-dyed artifice doing a miserable job of covering up the void within; I expect either a turn to Christian rock or the "mysterious" leak of a sex tape within the next 12 months.

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Live: Erykah Badu And The Cannabinoids Remold Her Hits At The Best Buy Theater

Erykah Badu And The Cannabinoids
Best Buy Theater
Sunday, December 4

Better than: Church.

Erykah Badu doesn't have hits—she has jams. Her songs may never be performed on Glee or take over the Billboard charts but when she opens her mouth to sing their first notes, at least one person will be moved to scream, "That. Is. My. Jam!"—or a variation thereof, as evidenced by the receiption to nearly every one of the 18 songs she and her nine-piece band the Cannabinoids performed last night at the Best Buy Theatre.

The Cannabinoids are Badu's not-so-new band from Dallas. Together, they have been performing and making music since Badu was an unsigned singer/MC at Grambling State University. There are five producers/keyboardists: Symbolyc One (Kanye West's "Power"), Picnictyme, Jah Born, Rob Free, and Badu's longtime musical director R.C. Williams. Two DJs, Big Texas and A1, and one drummer, Cleon Edwards, round out the group. Last night's show served as a somewhat formal introduction to the collective.

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Rock The Bells NYC Lineup Updated; Erykah Badu To Perform Baduizm

Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m. for the New York City stop of the Rock The Bells Festival, which will take place on September 3 at Governors Island. The lineup for the all-star hip-hop concert, during which a slew of heavyweights (Nas, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Raekwon & Ghostface) will revisit albums from their respective catalogs, has been fleshed out a bit more, and the news that Erykah Badu will both appear at the NYC stop of the four-date festival tour and perform her 1997 debut Baduizm is very welcome. Full New York lineup (as it stands now) below.

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Photos: The Village Voice/Frank 151 SXSW Party, Starring Wild Flag, Wu-Tang, Erykah Badu, Donald Glover, Yelawolf, and More

Wu-Tang, who else? All photos by Nate "Igor" Smith
The Wu-Tang/Wild Flag encore of champions never quite went off the way we hoped it would, but Donald Glover's rapping alter-ego Childish Gambino did make a cameo appearance, Yelawolf took off his shirt, and fireworks shot off down the block, where the Strokes were entertaining those who couldn't quite make it into the Austin Music Hall. Put another successful SXSW party--this one starring not just the aforementioned Wu-Tang Clan, Yelawolf, and Wild Flag, but also Fishbone, Trae Tha Truth, Marz Lovejoy, Rocky Business, Trouble Andrew, Ume, and Erykah Badu, who DJed and then performed with the Wu at the end of their 1 a.m. set--in the books. You can read a full report courtesy of our pals in Houston; our intrepid photographer Nate "Igor" Smith was also on the scene. His photos are below.

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Announcing the 2011 Village Voice and Frank 151 SXSW Party, Featuring the Wu-Tang Clan, Yelawolf, Wild Flag, Fishbone, and More

Rocky Business at the Mercury Lounge last week. Photo by Nate "Igor" Smith.
With three weeks to go and counting, we figured we might as well make it official: please join us in welcoming the 2011 Village Voice SXSW party, presented in concert with Frank 151, and starring the Wu-Tang Clan, Fishbone, Yelawolf, Trae Tha Truth, Marz Lovejoy, Rocky Business, Trouble Andrew, Wild Flag, Ume, and a DJ set from Erykah Badu. How about that? We're still pretty fond of last year's line-up (Superchunk, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Surfer Blood, and the xx), but this may well top it. People who have been sentient in the last two decades should need no introduction to Wu-Tang and Fishbone--or to Alabama rap hero Yelawolf or the all-lady post-Sleater-Kinney supergroup Wild Flag, for that matter. And Voice readers should recognize formidable Austin trio Ume too, if not from their lively CMJ stint a year and half back, then at least for their towering frontwoman:

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2010: The Year In Music Photos

The year in music, circa 2010, started at the Cake Shop, with a shred-down to the New Year courtesy of Siren Festival MVP-to-be Marissa Paternoster and her band Screaming Females. After a tour through the NYE fetes of the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, that night ended amidst a marathon show at Bushwick's Shea Stadium, right around the time the Blastoids' drummer poured paint on his kit and started splattering away.

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? Throw Taylor Swift In A Well

Welcome to Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We'll be here all week!

Pay Rich Juzwiak what you owe him, Jay Leno. Twitpic by Dave Itzkoff.

I spent this year trying to be a more empathetic and broad-minded critic, so it hurts me to open with acrimony. But since Zach teed it up so delicately, let's look back by looking to the future: In 2011, someone needs to put Taylor Swift, and her guitar, in a well and seal it shut. Because while the case that 2010 was The Greatest Year For Music Ever is a fun one to make, it cannot be denied that even as others were more acclaimed, no one was more popular or more present than Swift. How quickly she beat back Kanye West's surge to chart glory, by leapfrogging him just a week after his epically anticipated and then slobbered-over My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's debut. I spent some time in these wintry days trying again with Speak Now, seeking her precocious wisdom, her plaintive but pretty way with melody, her winsome charm. Turns out, she still sings out of key, tramples you with cliché, and grossly overplays the sympathy card. I came away thinking that Swift's "Not her, pick me" brand of songwriting is its own worst enemy. If all these silly boys keep making the wrong decision, at what point do we think maybe something is actually wrong with the girl? (Look dear, you quest for John Mayer, you get John Mayer.) I know, I know, why I gotta be so mean?

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The Top 10 NSFW Music Videos of 2010


One major downside to 2010: There's a pretty good chance you lost your job. The good news, though, is that the concept of NSFW no longer applies, and so today, while your former co-workers are stuck in their cubicles, bored to death and forced to pass around OK Go's latest YouTube meme, you are free to watch the videos below without fear of censure. OK, it's not much, but we're trying. So whether you're at home or your boss is just out of town, here are the 10 best NSFW music videos of 2010.

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Watch Erykah Badu and Rick Ross Assassinate Someone in the "Window Seat Part II/Turn Me Away (Get MuNNy)" Video

Is there an odder couple in rap currently than Miami fantasist Rick Ross and the neo-soul nudist Erykah Badu? Their work together so far--"Maybach Music III," off Ross's Teflon Don, and this new "Window Seat" remix--has zeroed in on perhaps the one thing these two disparate characters have in common: elaborate fantasy lives. In Bossworld, that basically meant a full orchestra for "Maybach Music" (our reviewer compared the song to the scene in James Bond's You Only Live Twice when the volcano opens up to reveal the villain's secret lair) and Badu's helium croon; in Erykahland, the visuals are darker but no less bizarre: pantyhose masks, gunshots, stilettos, Ross rapping about wearing clogs. None of it makes much sense. But they seem to have fun together, and Ross leaves the original "Window Seat" visual conceit alone, which is a mercy. Thank the ever-ubiquitous Dame Dash? It's his Creative Control team that that produced the clip. [Badu World]

Memorializing the Constant Lateness of Erykah Badu, Via Twitter

Take it from a man who would know--this might take awhile.

Erykah Badu does many things well--otherwordly r&b; superlative hat-wearing; even reenacting JFK's assassination in the nude. She's a never less than incendiary live performer. But one thing Badu is not good at is showing up on time. To anything. Ever. As our own Rob Harvilla put it once: "You need to see Erykah Badu live as soon as possible. It's ludicrous. Just prepare to wait awhile." A whole new mob of fans learned this to their chagrin last night at Roseland, where the lady did her normal thing, and kept her fans waiting...and waiting...and waiting. With the advent of Twitter, however, the irate fan never suffers alone. Want to know the mood in Roseland last night, pre Badu's inevitable redemption? Read on for dispatch after dispatch from the void. Or better yet, print this out, and save it as reading material for the next time you're going to see her:

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