Music: Easy Listening

March 10, 2011

Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Missy Elliott, More: Napster Playlists Featuring Women

As we continue our celebration of Women's History Month, we thought it would be nice to highlight some of the many Napster playlists focused on music made by women. These are from all different genres and styles, so have a look, click on whatever sounds good to you, and let's hear it from the ladies!

American Women American Women Popular roots music and country hits from some of the top female artists in America. Includes songs from June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Sheryl Crow.

Hot R&B Female Vocalists Hot R&B: Female Vocalists: Some of the hottest tracks and biggest hits from major stars, including songs from Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé.

Essential Lite Female Vocalists Essential Lite: Female Vocalists: Great soft pop and ballads from many eras, featuring artists such as Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, and Roberta Flack.

Women of Comedy Women of Comedy: Hilarious bits from the funniest females in stand-up comedy, including Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, Sandra Bernhard, and Lisa Lampanelli.

Legendary Ladies of Country Legendary Ladies of Country: Unforgettable female stars of the '60s and '70s who paved the way for today's generations. Includes Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.

Grrrl Power Grrrl Power: Celebrate the women of alternative rock with a slew of classic tracks from such mainstays as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hole, PJ Harvey, and more.

Pioneering Women of the Blues Pioneering Women of the Blues: Though blues artists tend to be men, a surprising number of women have made a crucial impact, including Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox.

Pop Divas The '80s Pop Divas: The '80s: A platinum setting of hits from some of the decade's most glittering solo female superstars, including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, and more.

Female Jazz Vocalists of Today Female Jazz Vocalists of Today: Music from stellar comtemporary vocalists informed by both traditional and modern jazz. Features Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Diana Krall.

Composing Women Composing Women: Works from female composers working in what was once a male-dominated field. Includes Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Meredith Monk.

Women of Contemporary Christian Music Women of Contemporary Christian Music: The most uplifting tracks from female artists leading the way in CCM, featuring Francesca Battistelli, Bethany Dillon, and Heather Hedley.

Ladies First Female MCs Ladies First: Female MCs: Get in touch with the first ladies of hip-hop. But don't expect them to go easy on you—these MCs, including Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, are fierce.

Femmes Fatales Femmes Fatales: Devastatingly seductive sounds from the dark side of alternative music, including music by Björk, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Morcheeba, and more.

Bookmark and Share

March 07, 2011

Josh Groban Sings into, Then Eats, Banana for
Sara Bareilles

Josh Groban and a banana This is really a post about Sara Bareilles' new single and video, but we just have to say: Josh Groban is a comedian. You might not know it from his music alone, which tends to be quite serious, but he's really been a cut-up lately. Just a few weeks ago he turned up on Jimmy Kimmel singing Kanye West 's tweets, and now here he is in an off-the-wall cameo in the super-fun new video for "Uncharted," the aforementioned new Bareilles single. We've previously made known our affection for Ms. B and her album Kaleidoscope Heart, but we're especially glad that she and the powers that be chose "Uncharted" as the follow-up to "King of Anything," which has enjoyed a very long chart run. "Uncharted" is a great song, and now it has a cool YouTube-style video to go with it: It's filled with clips of people like Groban, professor Ben Folds, Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Pharrel Williams,  and even Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland lip-synching to the song, dancing, and generally goofing off. And for good measure, viral lip-synch master Keenan Cahill also figures prominently. (Bareilles is in it, too, in a black-and-white message-in-a-bottle story intercut with all the cameos, but we don't see her face until the very end, and then only for a second.) Bareilles says this clip is "about as personal as it gets," because she's such a fan of her fans and fellow performers: "This is about being a fan of people who take chances, who are fearless, who have integrity, and go off into the world saying yes to what's around them," she explains. Everyone in this thing is cool as far as we're concerned, especially Jennifer Nettles, who just about steals the show—in her pajamas, no less. But it's Groban, deadpan with banana, who really gets us, because you just don't see that every day. Way to go, Grobanator.

Bookmark and Share

March 04, 2011

Harry Connick, Jr., In Concert on Broadway

Harry Connick Jr., In Concert on Broadway It's been over 20 years now since Harry Connick, Jr. broke into the mainstream with his soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally. In the intervening years, he's donw a fair amount of acting and released whole lot of music—over 20 albums, in fact, which have included a pair of post-Katrina love letters to his hometown of New Orleans (2007's O My Nola and Chanson du Vieux Carré), a handful of Christmas sets, and most recently an album of classic and contemporary pop standards, 2009's Your Songs. Now we have In Concert on Broadway, a spirited companion album to the PBS Great Performances broadcast episode and DVD that caught the singer/pianist in the act with his big band in New York last summer. It's fun to listen to Connick dig into both standards and some of his originals, while making time to talk with the audience here and there and, of course, represent his hometown sounds with a little "Bourbon Street Parade" and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," along with a couple of other Crescent City stompers. Connick has done two previous Great Permormances shows (in 1990 and 2004, the latter earning him an Emmy), but this one seems to have come at just the right time to remind us that, even after 20-plus years in the game, he's as lively and winning a performer as ever.

Bookmark and Share

February 24, 2011

Chaka Khan, ClassiKhan

Chaka Khan, ClassicKhan Oh boy — this is fun. Chaka Khan is best known for her high-energy R&B numbers like the classic "I Feel for You," but this lady is a masterful vocalist and can bring her skills to bear on a wide range of material, including standards. And that's what makes this 2004 set such a good time: She is more than up to the task of interpreting "Great American Songbook" material, but she does it with signature sass and unmistakable joy (and here with the help of the London Symphony, no less). Speaking of signature sass, maybe that's why she chooses to throw down on "Goldfinger," John Barry's most James Bond of James Bond moments, as well as "Diamonds Are Forever"; clearly she and Shirley Bassey are kindred spirits on some level. Beyond those magic moments, the choice of songs is just wonderful: "Hey Big Spender," "Stormy Weather," "Crazy," "'Round Midnight"? What? Yes. We told you this was fun. Wait 'til you hear it — we're smiling just writing about it.

Bookmark and Share

February 17, 2011

Clay Aiken, Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand: “The Eyes Have It” (Napster Playlist)

The Eyes Have It (Napster Playlist) Vaentine's Day may have just come and gone, but that doesn't mean there's no room for romance in late February and beyond. Whoever said "the eyes are the window to the soul" (the origin of the phrase is uncertain) was definitely onto something. Eyes tell us a lot about people, and their mystery and allure have proved durable subject matter for creative types through the years. Witness Napster's new "The Eyes Have It" playlist: It's a whole bunch of soft, often romantic songs referencing eyes. In it you'll find Clay Aiken's version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," Nat King Cole's classic "Angel Eyes," Barbra Streisand's recent take on "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," James Taylor and Carole King's duet on "You Can Close Your Eyes," and even Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," plus a few surprises. It's a good set to put on with that special someone and contemplate the magical nature of life—or just have a staring contest.

Bookmark and Share

February 12, 2011

Album vs. Record vs. Song of the Year: What's the Difference?

Mystery Playlist Wondering about the difference between the Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year? We don't blame you. Let's see if we can help sort it out.

Album of the Year, arguably the most prestegious Grammy category, celebrates the combined efforts of artist, producer, songwriter, mixer, and engineer for creating all of the songs collected on the winning album. For example, previous winners include Getz/Gilberto (1965), Songs in the Key of Life (1977), Thriller (1984), Jagged Little Pill (1999), and Come Away with Me (2003).

Record of the Year may be confusing if you're in the habit of refering to albums as records ("Dark Side of the Moon is still a killer record!"). It's awarded to the performer, producer, engineer, and mixer of one recording, i.e., a single track. Note that this award doesn't include the composer or songwriter; this is all about what went down in the studio to capture the magic. "Mrs. Robinson" (1969), "Hotel California" (1978), "We Are the World" (1986), "I Will Always Love You" (1994), and "Rehab" (2008) each won in their respective years.

Song of the Year is reserved for the songwriter, the person (or people) whose artist genius started a chain of events that eventually led to the creation of one heckuva memorable song. The award is given to the writers of the song, not the song itself. Previous recipients include Henry Mancini (for "Moon River," 1962), Billy Joel (for "Just the Way You Are," 1979), Burt Bacharach (for "That's What Friends Are For," 1987), Bruce Springsteen (for "Streets of Philadelphia," 1995), and Alicia Keys (for "Fallin," 2002).

Hopefully this helps clear things up. And here's the complete list of nominees so you can be fully prepped for tomorrow night.

Bookmark and Share

February 11, 2011

2011 Grammy Performances

2011 Grammy Performers While everyone tunes in to see the winners of the big four Grammy Awards (Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Record of the Year), what would "music's biggest night" be without the performances? This year, fans of a wide variety of music should be greatly satisfied. As we have previously discussed, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, and Florence Welch (Florence & The Machine) will kick off the show with an all-star tribute to Aretha Franklin. From there, it’s anybody’s guess as the likes of Arcade Fire, Eminem, Cee Lo Green, Lady Antebellum, Muse, Lady GaGa, Miranda Lambert, and Katy Perry are all set to grace the Grammy stage. In an attempt to create what have come to be known as "Grammy Moments," other artists will be teaming up for one-of-a-kind performances: Usher, his protégé Justin Bieber, and Jaden Smith are set to collaborate, while artists of the moment B.o.B, Bruno Mars, and Janelle Monae are also teaming up; Canadian rapper Drake and pop-star Rihanna will bring their live rendition of “What’s My Name” to the Grammy stage; and, in a way that only the Grammy’s can do, Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons, and The Avett Brothers will perform together as well. If previous years' Grammys are any indication of what’s to come Feb. 13, be prepared for even more special "moments" than we've just run down here. We'll be livetweeting the broadcast, so follow us on Twitter starting at 5 pm for a little running commentary and links to songs.

Bookmark and Share

February 08, 2011

R&B Love, Lovers Rock Hits, Classic Rock Valentine, and more: New Valentine's Day Napster Playlists

We've got a ton of new playlists for you to celebrate Valentine's Day with this year, and you've gotta love that, right? So cuddle up with that someone special and take your pick of these romantic collections:

R&B Love (Napster Playlist) R&B Love: Major R&B hits with a common theme. Features classics from Mariah Carey, Keyshia Cole, DeBarge, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and more.

Lovers Rock Hits (Napster Playlist) Lovers Rock Hits: Romantic reggae bursting with heartfelt emotion. Includes hits from Gregory Isaacs, Luisa Mark, Sugar Minott, and Deborahe Glasgow.

Classic Rock Valentine (Napster Playlist) Classic Rock Valentine: Hits and album cuts fueled by love. A mix of upbeat rockers ballads by Kiss, Bad Company, Van Halen, Eric Clapton, and more.

Modern Love (Napster Playlist) Modern Love: Romance, alternative-style. Includes modern rock from Paramore, Franz Ferdinand, Florence & The Machine, and more.

The Pompatus of Love (Napster Playlist) The Pompatus of Love: Rock, doo-wop, blues, and the mysteries of romance from Steve Miller, The Clovers, The Medallions, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Muddy Waters.

Classical Valentine, Vol. 2 (Napster Playlist) Classical Valentine, Vol. 2: Love-themed instrumentals for the lovers' holiday. Features Berlioz, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Janacek, and more.

Easy Love (Napster Playlist) Easy Love: Romantic ballads and soft-rock beats. Includes love songs from Nat King Cole, Barbra Streisand, Michael Bublé, and Josh Groban.

My Funny Valentine, Vol. 2 (Napster Playlist) My Funny Valentine, Vol. 2: Comedians take an uncensored look at love. Anthony Jeselnik, Whitney Cummings, and Greg Giraldo hold forth.

Smooth Valentine Love Songs (Napster Playlist) Smooth Valentine Love Songs: Tender R&B/jazz-infused songs from Al Jarreau, Michael Buble, David Sanborn, Harry Connick Jr., Dave Grusin, and more.

Soft Rock Seduction (Napster Playlist) Soft Rock Seduction: Cozy classics made for romance. Features songs by Bill Withers, Karen Carpenter, Bread, Richard Marx, and Peabo Bryson.

Bookmark and Share

Kurt Elling, The Gate

Kurt Elling, The Gate Let's just put it out there: This dude is smooth. Yes, Kurt Elling's a jazz singer—and an exceptionally broad-minded one at that—and yes, this is a "jazz" record, but don't get caught up in the labels. This is one jazzist who knows and enjoys the virtues of subtlety and restraint, and that adds up to a good time for the ears. He's more crooner than belter here, but that doesn't quite get it; his delivery is earnest and thoughtful, but comes off almost effortlessly cool. We even think we sometimes hear a quality in his voice reminiscent of Boz Scaggs in "We're All Alone" or "Harbor Lights" mode, and that's a fine thing. And besides all that, this time out Elling has chosen to unfurl an especially eclectic array of colorful material with which to do his smooth sailing: King Crimson's "Matte Kudesai," Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out," Herbie Hancock's "Come Running to Me," Lennon/McCartney's "Norwegian Wood" (with an especially funky guitar interlude), Earth, Wind & Fire's "After the Love Has Gone," and Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady," each arranged with understated imagination, plus a couple of originals that add to the soulful mix. We love this kind of ear-opening variety, where the disparate becomes warmly compatible. We also love the multitracked vocal sections. This set is moody, atmospheric, occasionally exotic, and consistently entertaining.

Bookmark and Share

February 02, 2011

The White Stripes Call It Quits; Brother-Sister Bands Remembered

White stripes Gritty rock duo The White Stripes released a statement this morning saying they are officially retiring as a band. With six excellent studio albums that produced hits like "Seven Nation Army," "Blue Orchid," and "Icky Thump," along with last year's powerful live album, Under Great White Northern Lights," the two have clearly enjoyed a meaningful career. And while Meg and Jack's relationship has always been a bit confusing (publicly, at least), they are perhaps best known as brother and sister. This inspired me to revisit some well known brother-sister acts. You can check them out below. (From left to right: The White Stripes; Donny & Marie Osmond; Carpenters; The Band Perry; The Corrs.)

The White Stripes Donny & Marie Osmond Carpenters The Band Perry The Corrs

Bookmark and Share