Highlights from Music’s Biggest Night

The 2016 Grammy Awards have concluded, and what better way to relive the star-studded night than to highlight some of the best performances?

Tori Kelly and James Bay performed a duet of their songs “Hollow” and “Let It Go”

The 2016 Grammy Awards was a first for both Tori Kelly and James Bay, who both received their first Grammy nominations and made their first performances at the show. Their mashup of the singles Hollow and Let It Go was captivating, with powerful vocals complemented by the strumming of acoustic guitars. The harmonizing of these two artists was certainly a great addition to the show.

Lady Gaga performs a tribute to the late David Bowie.

Dressed in the iconic clothing of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s alter-ego, Lady Gaga performed a medley of Bowie’s hit songs in an almost 7-minute set. She comanded the stage with her back-up dancers (dressed in Bowie-inspired clothing, of course) and received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her performance.

Aside from his Grammy wins, Abel also celebrated his 26th birthday.

The Weeknd hit the stage and performed his hit songs, Can’t Feel My Face and a slow version of In the Night. He also celebrated wins for Best R&B Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album. The singer celebrated his 26th birthday at the Grammy Awards after-party.

Adele performing “All I Ask” from her new album, 25.

Adele once again delivered an emotional performance. She performed the song All I Ask from her new album 25. Although there were technical issues that caused a slight hiccup in her performance, she recovered flawlessly and delivered with her powerful vocals.

Kendrick Lamar’s electrifying performance got people talking

Finally, as for the most talked-about performance of the night Kendrick Lamar’s performance of The Blacker the Berry and Alright from his award-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly brought down the house. The fiery (literally) and energetic performance was politically charged, and won’t soon be forgotten.

Band Aid: A Lovesong for First Aid Kit

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Yes, they’re Swedish. No, they don’t sound like ABBA.

Sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg make up the remarkable folk duo First Aid Kit, singing their bittersweet, narrative-rich songs in tight, country-twanged harmonies. The pair skyrocketed to fame in their teens as an online sensation with their polished cover of Tiger Mountain Peasant Song in 2008. The sisters demonstrated their serious artistic chops with their follow-up album The Big Black and the Blue (2010), completed while Klara was still in high school. They followed this gem with The Lion’s Roar (2012), its lead single “Emmylou” noted as one of the top 10 singles of the year by Rolling Stone.

“Lots of people write storytelling songs…set to acoustic music and do pretty harmonies, but First Aid Kit transcends that cliché. Their songs sound like they’ve gone away and seen too much and come back tired but still alive”, writes Tavi Gevinson in Rookie.

Klara’s clear, voice-throwing lead vocals and finger-picking guitar lines are complemented by older sister Johanna’s rich harmonies and accompaniment on the keyboard and autoharp. Upbeat tempos drive mature, sometimes melancholy lyrics. Similar to how the 22-year-old T.S Eliot convincingly took on the persona of a self-conscious middle-aged man in The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, the sisters (22 and 25 respectively) belt out tales of female characters coping with adultery (Tangerine), struggling to love again (Blue), and searching for themselves (Waitress Song) with a startling authenticity. As well, country music’s familiar trope of celebrating faith in God is both thoughtfully and provocatively undermined in the songs Hard Believer and Heaven Knows.

“We want our music to work as a means of consolation, as a way of making life a bit more bearable for people. A First Aid Kit for the soul,” the sisters explain of their group’s name.

Graduating from the minimalism of their début album (recorded in Johanna’s bedroom), their music’s wall-of-sound lushness soars in their third studio album Stay Gold (2014), proving the depths and versatility of the sisters’ talents. Together, they’re at the forefront of a revival in folk music appreciation for a new generation.

So go ahead. Take a chance on these Swedish sisters.

Club Profile: University of Toronto Electronic Music Community (UTEMC)

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Image by UTEMC

Interested in electronic music? As per one commenter’s request, read on to learn more about U of T’s only electronic music community!

blogUT: How was the UTEMC created and what is its mission?

UTEMC: The UTEMC was created by two close friends who have been going to EDM events together forever. They decided to create a club where U of T electronic music fans could come together to meet other people and attend events together, as well as foster a culture of electronic music appreciation by fans from all over the three campuses. Our mission is to establish a group of like-minded individuals with an interest in electronic music and DJ events. Our goal to is set up a place for everybody to congregate and discuss events (both upcoming and past), new music, or just to meet somebody else with whom you might share a similar electronic music taste to. Throughout the year we’re going to be hosting events to bring people together, including in-house DJing events and workshops. Continue reading “Club Profile: University of Toronto Electronic Music Community (UTEMC)”

Concert Review: Stromae

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A crowd of two thousand gathered at TD Echo Beach last night to see the impeccably-dressed, French-singing Belgian electropop superstar Stromae. Until recently, I hadn’t heard of him either.

This changed when I lived with a French exchange student who introduced me to the “bête de scène” (their term for charismatic showman) and his infectious hip-hop sound. As the New York Times succinctly put it, “his music mingles electronic dance beats with hints of African, Latin and cabaret styles. He sings and dances with long-limbed aplomb; he’s a striking video presence with a flashy and sometimes androgynous fashion sense.”

Listening closely to (or Google translating) his lyrics reveals the deep and often sombre subject matter of his songs, with topics ranging from absent fathers, breakups, unemployment, gender stereotypes, social media’s impact on our relationships and, most recently, cancer. However, this does little to stop his fans from dancing like crazy. Stromae’s live vocals and spectacular audio-visual displays are legendary.

The tracks chosen for the concert strayed little from his biggest hits, Stromae likely aware that his Toronto audience would not be familiar with the lesser-known songs in his repertoire. He closed the show with a trippy extended drum solo and an a capella version of “Tous Les Mêmes”, showcasing his sheer talent and artistry on full display.

Aware of his Kanye-like, million-selling status in Europe, is was exhilarating to be fewer than twenty feet away from Stromae in this intimate concert venue. As the performance concluded and the crowds dispersed towards the streetcar, all anyone could say was that the concert had been “formidable”.

 

2015 VMAs highlight: Kanye West as US President?

(Americans should get ready to move to Canada)
The 2015 VMA’s was probably the most entertaining year ever!! Just when you think it isn’t funny enough that Donald Trump is a presidential candidate, forget 2016, Kanye West for 2020 is even more entertaining. Taylor Swift presented West with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and the rapper announced his presidential bid in conclusion to his candid acceptance speech on Sunday night’s MTV awards.

But real talk here, could Kanye West actually be a decent President? On one hand he is a God awful politician as he is overly honest with the press and socially tactless. There are countless scandals of  Mr. West regarding his ex girlfriend Amer Rose, his wife Kim Kardashian (behold the first ever possible first lady to have a sex tape), his comments regarding award candidates like Taylor Swift, his comments about the current President Mr.Obama and much more. Part of the responsibility of being President  would be to represent the whole country, so it would be wise for Mr. West to keep his future personal opinions to himself.

On the other hand, his rap lyrics reveal his values regarding fundamental political issues such as gun violence, war, and drug law reform that can qualify him as being a compassionate leader. The rapper is sick of gun violence as seen from his lyrics in the song Murder to Excellence, “I feel the pain in my city wherever I go / 314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago”. Mr. West is also opposed to the Iraq War as seen from the above lyrics as well as lyrics in his song Power (Remix), “Ben a don, praying for the families lost in the storm / Bring our troops back from Iraq, keep our troops out of Iran”. Lastly, as a presidential candidate who admitted to possibly being stoned at his presidential announcement, it is safe to say that he is probably pro drug law reform.

In short, presidential candidates such as The Donald and West are both cancerous either way because they are without a doubt running for the sake of publicity if anything, so it’s a win win for them. Of course, it also serves as great entertainment for the public and if anything, will allow more people to become interested in staying in tune to politics. Events like this are definitely the reason why I know more about US politics than Canadian politics. Without a doubt, there is much to look forward to in the news in the upcoming years.

Interview with Victoria McEwan, Director of Sweet Charity

Following on the successful heels of last semester’s drama, UC Follies will be producing the legendary Broadway musical Sweet Charity from January 31 – February 8. I had a chance to sit down with director Victoria McEwan, several kilometres away on my laptop, to ask her a few questions about herself and the show.

Continue reading “Interview with Victoria McEwan, Director of Sweet Charity”