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Name: Adam Bernard
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About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Our “GOAT” Conversations Have Become a Giant Negative for Music
Friday, November 26, 2021

As a music listening community we have, as a whole, become far too obsessed with conversations about who the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) is of any particular genre. It seems like every other week there’s some new argument, or article, and it almost always revolves around the same five to ten artists.

Now, you may ask – why is this a bad thing?

It’s a bad thing because there are way more than five to ten artists worth talking about, and the prevalence of GOAT debates has relegated far too many fantastic, and sometimes even important artists to relative anonymity. These artists, who have vast catalogues, hit records, and have made musical contributions to their genre, are being ignored, or forgotten because they aren’t in the discussion as one of the “greatest.”

It seems like unless an artist fits into the GOAT mold, or the one-hit wonder mold – which is another thing we may have become a little too obsessed with – they fall off the radar.

In hip-hop discussions, we always see the Jay-Z vs. Nas debate, and the question of where does Kendrick Lamar rank. Older fans will bring up Rakim. These conversations, however, leave out a plethora of artists we should recognize for their talent.

Artists like Noreaga, who, despite what some hip-hop history revisionists may want you to believe, was actually more popular than Jay-Z for a number of years.

Artists like Jadakiss, who can hold his own with anyone.

Artists like Sticky Fingaz, whose verse was always the one you waited for on any Onyx song.

Artists like Treach, who I still consider to be one of the most underrated emcees of all-time (“underrated” conversations are the antithesis of GOAT conversations, as they always bring up artists we should talk about more).

In rock, classic rock artists always get all the shine, but even within that group of acts there’s a hierarchy that’s impossible to crack. It’s why certain bands dominate classic rock radio playlists, while others you have to learn about from previous generations of music fans, and digging through old vinyl.

When it comes to rock artists from the past 40 years … forget about it. They’re either current (as in still making music), or never mentioned. Try to start a conversation about rock music leading off with The Offspring, No Doubt, or R.E.M. You’ll probably receive some raised eyebrows, and the assumption that you’ve never heard anything from the ‘60s, or ‘70s, despite these being three amazing, and important bands.

Heck, start a conversation about rock music by talking about Aerosmith, or Jefferson Airplane, and you still might get some funny looks. They aren’t in the classic rock hierarchy despite their excellence.

Then there’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is a fun place to visit, but talk about creating a hierarchy that relegates a plethora of bands to being deemed not worthy of being in the discussion.

So how do we solve this problem?

We can start by expanding the conversation. The next time we see a “Greatest of All-Time” list, let’s eliminate those artists and bands from the discussion, and talk about all the other great artists and bands throughout history.

It’s way more interesting, and way more fun, to bring up Vanilla Fudge, and go down that rabbit hole, than to have yet another debate about The Beatles vs. The Stones.

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NYC Scene Report – Nick Vivid, The Davenports, & Linda Draper
Wednesday, November 24, 2021

This week’s NYC Scene Report features Nick Vivid wanting to reign again, The Davenports getting people talking, and Linda Draper with a harsh realization.

* Nick Vivid’s just released album, No More Secrets, is easily one of my favorite albums of the year. It features a heaping dose of soul, with a sprinkle of indie rock, and funk, which is a killer combination. You can hear all of the above on the song, “I Wanna Reign Again.”

“I Wanna Reign Again” is a post-pandemic anthem dedicated to the desire to be back out in the world. “It's a song about just wanting to feel alive,” Vivid said in a statement.

With a distinct Sly and the Family Stone influence, “I Wanna Reign Again” will get you into a groove you won’t want to leave anytime soon.

* When I read about the inspiration for The Davenports’ latest single, “We’re Talking About You,” it was so perfect I nearly laughed out loud.

Scott Klass, who is the man behind The Davenports moniker, said, “I was having a conversation with a friend who pointed out that I was worrying and complaining unnecessarily about something, to which I countered, ‘come on, you do the same thing all the time,’ to which they countered, ‘we’re not talking about me right now, we’re talking about you.’”

Immediately, a song was born, and it’s a heck of a tune. Check out the video, and hear it for yourself.

* Like many of us, country singer-songwriter Linda Draper rolled her eyes at some of the messaging at the beginning of the pandemic. That eye rolling led to a harsh realization, and all of it is in her song “Tether.”

“I wrote this song during lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic,” Draper said in a statement. “I was amazed and disgusted with how, literally overnight, every TV commercial, news outlet, and talk show was suddenly barraging us with these insincere, and overly sentimental, messages about how we are all in this together.”

Draper continued, “If there is anything that maybe everyone can all agree on these days, it is that we are NOT all in this together. We have never been more divided, and distrustful. Those cozy little bubbles that we got ourselves stuck in just keep on popping. Now it’s time to face the music.”

“Tether” is off Draper’s upcoming album, Patience and Lipstick, which is due out January 21st via South Forty Records, and you can check out the song right here.


For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Pop Shots – In Honor of Thanksgiving, Here are 7 Songs About Pie
Monday, November 22, 2021

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, with Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday I’m dedicating this week’s column to the post-turkey delicacy everybody loves – pie!

I know that traditionally pumpkin pie is the type of pie that’s served to close out Thanksgiving dinner – it also signals the end of pumpkin spice season, and the beginning of gingerbread season – but for the purposes of this column I’ll be taking a musical look at all sorts of different flavors of pie.

So strap in, because I have seven songs about pie for your audible feasting pleasure. Of course, since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude. 


Warrant – Cherry Pie
 

This song is totally about food, guys. Jani Lane just really liked cherry pie, and needed to write a hair metal ode to it. I mean, what else could it possibly be about?

Side Note – This is easily one the greatest videos of all-time … because of the subtlety. 


Domino – Sweet Potato Pie
 

Staying with songs that are definitely about food, and not a metaphor for anything else, Domino’s favorite type of pie was “Sweet Potato Pie.”

This song is such an underrated jam, and yes, I openly rapped along to it back in 1993. 

 

D’Angelo – Devil’s Pie
 

D’Angelo was singing about a totally different kind of pie on “Devil’s Pie,” which was about the evils of materialism, and served as a critique of some of mainstream hip-hop’s most frequent subject matters.

Being that, as a nation, we’re encouraged to shop till we drop the day after Thanksgiving, this might be the perfect song to remind us that maybe that’s not the best course of action. 


Don McLean – American Pie
 

Released in 1971, the lyrics of “American Pie” were a commentary on the state of society at the time, and Don McLean painted a heck of a picture of a changing America that had been rapidly losing its innocence. 


Led Zeppelin – Custard Pie
 

Like two earlier songs on this list, Led Zeppelin’s “Custard Pie” is clearly about food, and nothing other than food. Absolutely no euphemisms here, folks! 


John Fogerty – Rhubarb Pie
 

I’m beginning to think some of these songs about pie aren’t really about something you find on a dessert cart.

Despite being completely folksy, with “Rhubarb Pie” John Fogerty sounds like he’d rather hang out with 2 Live Crew than Marie Callender. 


Stone Temple Pilots – Piece of Pie
 

If you search the internet for what the lyrics of this song mean you’re going to end up going down a rabbit hole of some really strange theories (hi, I’m Adam, and I just lost quite a few minutes of my life doing this). My favorite comment was posted on songmeanings.com – “I could not interpret this song to save my life.”

Good luck to those who try! It’s an awesome song regardless, and we can be pretty sure it isn’t about lady parts.

 

That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.

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Marc Broussard Talks Touring, Giving Back, and Side-Stepping Streaming
Friday, November 19, 2021

Marc Broussard is back on the road, and the enthusiasm of both his band, and the fans, is at an all-time high.

“I feel like a Beatle,” he exclaims. “People are so excited to get back out there, and when we hit the stage they’re just so jacked. It’s really fun.”

The Louisiana-based “Bayou Soul” artist known for his distinctive vocals will be on tour through the winter, and into the spring of 2022. I caught up with him in-between stops to find out more about being back on the road, the gratitude he has for his fans, and the best ways to give back to one’s own community. He also discussed the current perceived value of music in regards to streaming, and the unique way in which he’s looking to avoid streaming for his future releases.

You are currently on a tour that, judging by your website, goes on forever. 

It does. It does.

We might be exaggerating slightly, but how long did it take for this to come together once you saw venues opening up again? Were you booking and praying? 

No. I mean, we rebooked a lot of these shows three or four times already in the last couple of years, so most of those shows are shows we had on the books for 2020.

We’re just trying to get as many shows on the books as possible so that we can work when we’re allowed to work. We assume that we’ll probably lose between 20% and 30% of those shows, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we lose none.

Wow. Is that just a worse case scenario assumption, or is there something else behind the thought that 30% might drop off? 

That was the guidance that we got from my booking agency, that they expect (to lose) 20% to 30%. I’m assuming that’s based on the data they’ve got at hand.

Having not been able to tour for over a year, how long did it take you to get your sea legs back once you hit the stage again? 

Oh man, I was performing all throughout the year, I was just not doing it in front of a live audience. I was doing a ton of digital concerts through a platform called Topeka Live, (and) through Sessions Live, as well. So yeah, I wasn’t really that outta practice.

Performing in front of a camera versus performing in front of an audience is really different, so that first time you hit the stage again, and there's a packed house in front of you … 

Oh it feels amazing.

To be honest with you, I kind of fell in love with the digital shows, too. On Topeka they’re private, so it’s a small audience, and I get to interact with that audience, and it’s sort of more intimate than you would get in a concert venue. In-between songs fans can ask me questions, and do whatever.

So I did really enjoy those shows, but yeah, a live audience, there’s no comparison.

How did the pandemic, and now coming out of the pandemic, change your relationship with your fans? 

I’ve always had a strong level of gratitude for just the ability to put food on the table, and keep a roof over my children’s head, but it’s grown immensely more so since … my fans stepped up in a major way. I was in a real bind in March and April of last year, and the fans came to the rescue, and saved my behind in a major way, so I feel an even greater debt of gratitude now that we’re on the other side of this thing.

When you say they saved your butt, do you mean emotionally? 

No, financially. They dumped a bunch of money into my Venmo and PayPal accounts the moment we published those links. That first weekend they threw about $12,000 into my bank account. It was amazing. It was incredible.

Speaking of fans, you’ve been gaining some younger ones, as your 2019 album, S.O.S. 3: A Lullaby Collection, was aimed at a younger audience. I feel like kids are inherently drawn to music, but music programs keep getting cut in schools. How can we keep music in kids’ lives, and give them the ability to learn an instrument, without being forced to pay for private instruction? 

You know, it’s a very difficult question. I feel like I benefitted tremendously from the music programs that I was involved in at school, but I do also think there’s a limit to what a school can actually teach a musician. Ultimately that musician is going to have to take charge of their own career, and push the skill set to where they need it to be in order to do what they want, but you do need a … you sort of need a springboard, and that’s what school music programs can be, and have been for innumerable musicians.

It’s a really good question. I don’t really have a great answer for ya. I think that those of us that care about this stuff should absolutely talk about it, and volunteer, if necessary, and raise money.

My wife and I, with a group of friends of ours at our kids’ school, years ago wanted to start a foreign language program. We started a drama club so we could raise money with performances to get a new Spanish language teacher hired by the school, and it worked. So I’ve seen it in my own life, when you really get involved in your kid’s school you can make some things happen without a whole lot of bureaucratic nonsense.

With music programs being cut in schools, and streaming, rather than buying, having become the dominant model for consuming music, what are your thoughts on the perceived value of music in 2021? 

Well, I think music’s never been more in demand. That’s pretty obvious. These services are clearly catering to a pretty massive audience. It’s really interesting, as demand has risen, so has supply, so it absolutely has affected how we actually earn money in record sales, which is sort of a dead term anyways. Nobody’s selling records anymore.

It’s not a great picture, I’m not gonna lie to ya. I’m not a fan of these streaming services at all. I think that the industry as a whole colluded with those technology platforms, the major players at stake colluded with those platforms, to rob artists of value. So yeah, I got some strong feelings on it, for sure.

I don’t know the full story, you might, but I read Spotify is now trying to give even less of a share to artists somehow, which I didn’t think was possible. 

It’s pretty remarkable, a company that came into the space to disrupt the industry ends up going public, and 65% of the money that was brought in on IPO day went out the door to Sony, Universal, and Warner. I think that told me everything I needed to know.

Yeah, and for all the people that use it, one day one of those labels could decide not to re-up their contract, and pull everything off. 

I don’t even have digital rights in my first contract, no real specificity. There’s a clause about future technologies, but we’re having to audit Universal Records to even find out if my album has made any money, which is another heinous aspect of this industry, you have to sue your own record label to find out if you actually are owed money by your record label.

That’s just nuts. Has all of this affected the way you release music? 

Absolutely. In economics when you want to increase the price you either have to increase demand, or in some cases restrict supply. I don’t have control over the supply of music into the streaming space, so my only other option, I thought at least, was just to put out more music, to try and outpace everybody else. Essentially, just put out more music than anybody else. That’s a strategy that’s worked fairly well for us over the last decade, or so. We’ve grown in every area of concern.

You’ve also done a lot of charitable work. I know a portion of proceeds from sales of both your 2019 album, and your first book, a children’s book titled I Love You For You, continue to be donated to Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA. What advice can you give to people who want to give back, but might not have your platform to do it? 

I would say, first and foremost, the most important thing when you’re trying to help someone is to find out what they think is the most important need that needs filling. Too often people go into philanthropy with a notion that they have answers, when in truth the most comprehensive, and the most successful strategy that I’ve seen is just knockin’ on people’s doors and asking them what they need help with, as opposed to coming in with some top down approach.

Identify organizations currently on the ground doing the work that you want to help with, and support them in any way you can, either with your time, or your dollars, or what have you.

Also, I think one of the most important things for any municipality looking to have a really comprehensive, robust social safety net is to eliminate duplicative services. If you have multiple organizations in a city that are all focused on the same issue, that’s resources that are getting misspent on staffing, facilities, and what not.

The best strategy that I ever saw was in Atlanta. The mayor told all the nonprofits in town that if they wanted access to dollars from the mayor’s office they had to form a board of directors, and start talking to each other. And that’s exactly what happened, and it’s one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see. All of a sudden these disparate organizations are cooperating, they’re sharing facilities, they’re going after a much more comprehensive strategy with regards to the folks that they’re trying to serve.

That would be my advice.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add about your tour, your music, or something else going on in your life? 

I do. Getting back to how we release music, I’ve decided that I’m not gonna put my new music on the major streaming platforms, and instead we’re trying to identify a single platform we can deliver the new music through.

I have plenty of music on those (established streaming) platforms. There’s plenty enough for people to discover. Now I’d like to service the audience that I have in a more direct, and more efficient way. We’re about to launch a new fan club with the hopes of getting people to sign up in exchange for at least two new songs every month – I’m sitting on about 50 unreleased songs right now – so you’d get two brand new songs every month that you won’t be able to get anywhere else, a couple of livestream concerts, and some extra bonuses – early VIP ticketing, all kinds of stuff. So I’m very excited about the new fan club.

For more Marc Broussard, and to find out when he’s coming to your city, or town, check out marcbroussard.com.

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NYC Scene Report – Nation of Language, Namesake, & Record Heat
Wednesday, November 17, 2021

This week’s NYC Scene Report features Nation of Language making “The Grey Commute,” Namesake having some observations about the “Population,” and Record Head meeting a “Magnetic Woman.”

* I’ve always felt one of the greatest compliments you can give a band is that you think the music they make is cool. Nation of Language has been creating a catalogue of cool, and their latest single is the synth, and societal driven “The Grey Commute.”

Off their recently released sophomore album, A Way Forward, the band’s Ian Devaney discussed the song in a statement, saying, “In some ways ‘The Grey Commute’ is one of the more upbeat songs on the record, but in truth it’s one that was born out of much more depressing stuff. As I was working on the lyrics I had a kind of fixation on terrible tax policies, (and) our cultural addiction to meaningless consumption, and it all got swept together into this punchy, kind of fun track.”

Nation of Language will be touring internationally in January, but you can check out “The Grey Commute” right here. No MetroCard required!

* Brooklyn’s Namesake released their sophomore album, Redeeming Features, last month, the fourth single off of which is the gentrification smashing “Population.”

Namesake frontman Patrick Phillips discussed the inspiration for the song in a statement, saying, “Prior to the pandemic, my younger sister visited NYC, and we decided to take a long random walk around Manhattan. I’d just read an article about the recently completed Hudson Yards, and I was curious to check it out. The article mentioned how it was basically a gated community for the ultra-wealthy, a place its residents ‘never have to leave,’ and another punch in the face to average New Yorkers in the form of glass towers. When the pandemic hit, the rich would flee, and Hudson Yards became eerily quiet.”

Phillips continued, adding, “I wrote ‘Population’ after that day with my sister. We’re both from the Midwest, but my 15 years in the city have turned me into a proud New Yorker, and what I’ve witnessed is life getting harder and harder for normal working-class people, while the hyper-gentrification continues. Hopefully, in a post-pandemic world, the city can start addressing some of the polarizing wealth inequality. At my lower Manhattan restaurant job, I’m reminded often of how the very wealthy live in a very different city than the rest of us.”

After hearing “Population,” I think you’ll want to live in Namesake’s neck of the woods.

* A duo of great philosophers once asked, “F*cking magnets, how do they work?”

More recently, Brooklyn-based indie alt-pop-rock band Record Heat met a “Magnetic Woman,” and they’d like to tell us all about her.

“‘Magnetic Woman’ is a metaphorical funhouse of attraction,” the band explained, discussing the the song, and the inspiration for it, in a statement, “You can't resist it. You can’t fight it. She has all the power and, frankly, you want it that way.”

A synth heavy gem, “Magnetic Woman” sounds like the type I’d absolutely swipe right on. Give the song a listen and I’m sure you’ll agree, because the music Record Heat makes is everyone’s type.

For more of the best of NYC’s indie music scene, come back next Wednesday, and check out the archives for previous columns.

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Pop Shots – Imperfect Timing
Monday, November 15, 2021

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with thoughts on everything from Kelly Clarkson’s early Christmas, to Lorde changing her tour plans, to the fiery reason Slipknot had to halt a show, and since this is Pop Shots you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

* Kelly Clarkson will be joined by a litany of guests, including Ariana Grande, Amy Poehler, and Leslie Odom Jr., for an NBC holiday special – Kelly Clarkson Presents: When Christmas Comes Around. According to NBC, Christmas comes around on December 1st, because that’s when the show will air. Somewhere, Mariah Carey is plotting a way to put a stop to this. Watch your back Kelly Clarkson, the queen of Christmas isn’t about the relinquish her throne!

* Ed Sheeran’s new album, the title of which is an equal sign, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, but with only 118,000 album equivalent units earned. In the realm of math-related pop music, I prefer to take it back to one of the classics …

* Maple Leif Garrett, aka Justin Bieber, has teamed up with Tim Hortons for a new line of donut holes called Timbiebs Timbits. I’m sure Demi Lovato can’t wait to make a social media post claiming to be offended by the confections.

* In more Biebs related news, both the chairman, and the CEO of the Human Rights Foundation have asked Bieber to cancel a scheduled performance at the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on December 5th. The organization would like to see Bieber do this “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.” This isn’t the first time a Justin Bieber performance has been associated with ongoing suffering. Just ask any parent who had to sit through one of his concerts.

* Lorde decided to postpone her Australia and New Zealand tour dates to 2023 due to concerns about possible COVID related border restrictions. If she’s worried about flights, and New Zealand, I know of one kiwi flight that can’t be grounded …

* Over a dozen lawsuits have been filed over the preventable tragedies that occurred at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival which left nine dead, and 300 more injured. At least one lawsuit claims Scott “actively encouraged and fomented dangerous behaviors.” In addition to the lawsuits, government investigations are also underway. So while the Houston Astros used garbage cans to cheat to win a World Series, the people who put together Astroworld were simply garbage.

* Camila Cabello posted a photo on Instagram of a new tattoo on the back of her neck, saying the small piece of art was inspired by mother nature. Since she posted it for the world to see, I assume it went better than Bart Simpson’s mother inspired tattoo.

* A Slipknot show in Arizona had to be halted for 30 minutes when fans lit up a stack of lawn chairs, starting a bonfire in the middle of the mosh pit with flames that reached over 20 feet high. You know things have reached a special level of crazy when a situation has become too wild for Slipknot.

* In sad news, one of UB40’s founding members, Terence “Astro” Wilson, passed away at the age of 64 following a short illness. Let’s all pour out a little red red wine in his honor.

That’s all for this edition of Pop Shots, but come back next Monday for more shots on all things pop.

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