A weekly update on all things music, advertising, and technology coming straight to you from Anthony Vanger at MassiveMusic. #TWIM
ARTIST OF THE DECADE: KENDRICK LAMAR
It’s the end of a decade, so a good a time to take stock of the top 100 songs of the last ten years. It has been a fragmented and troubled period in general, and the music has reflected the uncertainty, fear even, of what the future holds for us as individuals and as a collective society. Some genres slipped in popularity (rock), whilst others found renewed strength (pop) and one in particular dominated the charts (latino pop).
For TWIM, there is one artist and song that sits above all the rest: Kendrick Lamar’s protest anthem “Alright”. In this ground-breaking track and accompanying video by Colin Tilley released in 2015, Lamar sings about violence, racism and depression. The song became an anthem for Black Lives Matter and anyone fighting against police brutality and violence. What makes the song so special, is its unbridled optimism. Yes, we live in a racist society, we are succumbing to mental illness, and we are sinking into alcohol and drug dependency, but despite it all, we are gonna be alright. Bring on the roaring 20s!
Watch the full video here: Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
AD OF THE DECADE: JOHN LEWIS
Music plays the central role in John Lewis Christmas ads. According to Adam & Eve founders – black and black – it all started in 2010, with Fyfe Dangerfield’s re-record of the Billy Joel classic “Always a Woman”for a non-Christmas ad. But the use of music was so impactful that John Lewis experienced a 39.7 per cent leap in sales after its release. After that, they applied the same winning formula to subsequent Christmas ads. But they don’t just license a famous track and slap it onto an ad. What they do is choose a song – famous sometimes, but often a lesser-known album track by a famous artist – and then they get someone totally unexpected to do a re-record, such as the ad below from 2016 with Electronic trio Vaults singing a cover of Randy Crawford’s 1980 single, One Day I’ll Fly Away.
Below is a recap of the decade’s Christmas ads: 2010, Ellie Goulding recorded a cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’; 2011, Slow Moving Millie’s cover of ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ by The Smiths’; 2012, Gabrielle Aplin cover of ‘The Power of Love’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood; 2013, Lily Allen crooned a cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’; 2014, Tom Odell did himself proud with a rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Real Love’; 2015, an inspired combo of Norwegian artist Aurora singing ‘Half The World Away’ originally by Oasis; 2016, Electronic trio Vaults performed Randy Crawford’s 1980 single One Day I’ll Fly Away; 2017, Elbow’s version of McCartney/Lennon’s ‘Golden Slumbers’; 2018 Elton John’s cover of his own classic “Your Song”; 2019, Bastille’s cover of REO Speedwagon’s 70s anthem “Can’t Fight This Feeling”.
That is a serious commitment to music and for that TWIM salutes John Lewis. My favourite? Electronic trio Vaults cover of Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away. Yours? send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AMAZON UNVEILS AI-POWERED MIDI KEYBOARD
It can produce a full composition from a single melody
If you think AI is scary, check this out any musicians out there: Amazon has launched a new AI-powered compositional tool called the AWS DeepComposer that can produce a full composition from a single melody. Watch the video of its unveiling below.
The MIDI keyboard, which is set to retail at $99 when it goes on sale soon, can create an entire finished composition from just one inputted melody. Users can record a melody using the keyboard and then take their pick from a number of genre models, such as rock, pop, classical and jazz. The keyboard will then complete the composition in whatever style is chosen using the melody. “No previous musical knowledge” is required to use the AWS DeepComposer, according to Amazon.
Ed note: composers/producers can use this AI to come up with new ways of inputting topline melodies and matching them to chord structures and arrangements quickly. Will the machine replace composers? Not sure this machine can write complex pop songs yet, but in a decade, it might be a different story. If it learns from all the hits on Spotify from the beginning of recorded music to the present day, it may be able to learn the skill of writing a hit in every genre. But songs are successful because the music and the lyrics. And lyrically is where humans retain the edge – for now – but watch soon for a machine to recreate lyrics based on the way we feel (pads stuck on our skin) or look (cameras recording our eye movements). It’s a brave new world out there and we better get used to it.
MUSIC CAN HELP SAVE THE CORAL REEF, STUDY FINDS
Sound can be used to save dying coral reefs, a study has found.
In a paper published by Nature Communications, entitled ‘Acoustic enrichment can enhance fish community development on degraded coral reef habitat’, scientists highlighted the research surrounding the impact of sound on dead or dying corals.
As part of the study, scientists installed underwater speakers and broadcast the sound of coral reefs with thriving eco-systems. The sounds saw a spike in activity at the sites, with double the fish swimming to the reefs, as well as a 50% increase in species of fish visiting the reefs, across 40 days. The fish help dead or dying reefs to recover by cleaning existing coral and creating space for new coral to grow.
Read more about the study here.
SPOTIFY REVEALS THE DECADE’S MOST-STREAMED SONGS
Spotify has revealed its biggest songs, albums and artists of the last decade, with Drake emerging as the most-streamed artist of the 2010s.
The Canadian star has racked up more than 28 billion streams, with his most popular song, One Dance, played 1.7 billion times alone. It was dwarfed by Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You, whose 2.4 billion streams, made it the decade’s most listened-to track.
2019’s biggest song was Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s Senorita. Released in June, the island-flavoured duet has already been played one billion times. Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy isn’t far behind, on 990 million streams.
Eilish’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go, was also the year’s most popular album – the first time a female artist has topped Spotify’s end-of-year survey.
Spotify’s data also revealed some quirky facts: Modern Bollywood was the year’s fastest-rising genre; the most popular mood-based playlist was “feel good,” followed by “lit”; and the top podcast genre was comedy.
SOUNDCLOUD IMPLEMENTS 15-TRACK UPLOAD LIMIT FOR FREE USERS
Music streaming site SoundCloud has announced changes to the platform that may affect users currently subscribed to their free service.
Outlined by the company in a message sent to users who have already uploaded content, creators will now be able to ‘upload, store and download their original lossless HD files.’
However, new uploading rules are also being implemented on users who are not subscribed to their premium package. ‘To make lossless HD file management free to all, starting December 9th, our free upload limit will change from 3 hours of audio, to 3 hours or 15 tracks. This will not impact existing uploads.’ The change means users with 15 or more tracks will no longer be able to upload content, even if they fall well below the previous three-hour audio limit.
Ed note: This is the last TWIM for 2019. Thank you for all your readership and support and see you in 2020!
Written by Anthony Vanger
Additional reporting by Adam “Badger” Woolf
Artwork by Gustav Balderdash