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Robin Thicke Blurred Lines

Now it's back to the charts, where Robin Thicke's catchy single "Blurred Lines" has dominated for weeks (proving once and for all that music fans want more cowbell). Before he achieved YouTube ubiquity, Jim reminds us that Thicke was just another journeyman blue-eyed soul singer. He'd written hits for artists like Brandy and Christina Aguilera, but failed to gain much recognition for his solo work. He's changed that with Blurred Lines, his sixth studio album. Does the record measure up to its single? Greg says no. He loves the“Blurred Lines”groove, but relents that the album's lyrics are full of“single entendre”idiocy.“This is a dumb R&B record,”he says, "Trash It." Jim agrees that Thicke's lyrics leave a lot to be desired, but gives him credit for crafting the kind of fun danceable tracks we‘d hoped to get from Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience. On the strength of“Blurred Lines”alone, Jim says Burn It.

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Go to episode 400
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Robin Thicke and his producers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr.(known to the rest of us as T.I.)—the team behind this summer's hit single Blurred Lines —have filed suit against the estate of Marvin Gaye and Bridgeport Music, rights holders to some of Funkadelic's compositions. The reason? Thicke and company claim that no, “Blurred Lines”sounds nothing like Gaye's Got to Give It Up or Funkadelic's Sexy Ways. (Members of the estate of Marvin Gaye, including his son, have claimed otherwise).

Chance the Rapper's mixtape Acid Rap (reviewed favorably on our show) has been selling well. The only problem is that Chance isn‘t the one selling it. Since Chance is lacking in a record deal, he isn’t covered by the protection of the RIAA, it's made the selling of his mixtape by a company called“Mtc”(for $14.83 a pop) all the more complicated. Still, Chance's manager Patrick Corcoran is looking on the bright side“This shows that there's a strong appetite for Chance in the marketplace,”he says. "How often does a bootleg hit a Billboard chart?"

Go to episode 404

Music News

With the release of Nielsen's SoundScan year-end sales figures for 2013, Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines has officially been crowned the top-selling single of the year with 6.5 million units. Hot on Thicke's heels were Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' Thrift Shop and Imagine Dragons' Radioactive with 6.15 million and 5.5 million respectively. Turning to albums, Justin Timberlake claimed the top spot with 2.43 million copies of The 20/20 Experience sold. Though, Jim and Greg note that the album's numbers happen to be the lowest sales for a #1 record in Nielsen history.

The report also revealed other interesting trends in the music industry. Vinyl record enthusiasts continued to show the love for LPs in 2013 with sales up 33% over the year before. People loved streaming their music, as well, but digital sales were down 6%. This has Jim and Greg wondering: is the stream going to kill the download?

Speaking of death and downloads… Last week, Jim and Greg reported the loss of pioneering country rocker Phil Everly. Apparently they weren‘t the only ones mourning. In the week after Phil’s passing, fans downloaded 18,000 Everly Brothers songs, a whopping 696% increase from the previous week. Dying, it turns out, can be a great career move.

Coachella Music Festival has released its full 2014 lineup. In addition to top headliners Arcade Fire, Muse, and OutKast (who are reuniting for the first time since 2007), the desert super-show will feature Girl Talk, Lana Del Rey, Motörhead, Lorde, plus two bonus reunions: The Replacements and Neutral Milk Hotel.

In other live music news, the NFL has beefed up its plans for the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show. Just in case main act Bruno Mars wasn‘t enough to satisfy America’s burning need for overhyped pop spectacle, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will be joining him onstage. What a combination, Greg laments.

If the Nielsen numbers were any sign, streaming music is here to stay. And now another big player is hoping to break into that (already crowded) market: Beats Music. Spearheaded by Dr. Dre, Trent Reznor, and record exec Jimmy Iovine, the new streaming service aims to offer a more curated listening experience than its competitors. Rather than using algorithms to help users find music, Beats will rely on experts from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone—and your esteemed Sound Opinions hosts! But Jim and Greg wanted to know how the service compensates artists and labels, something for which Spotify and Pandora have taken flak. CEO Ian Rogers explains that because Beats Music won‘t be available for free, the company will pay extra for each song streamed. With the majority of every subscription fee going toward giving rights holders their fair share, Rogers says that what’s good for Beats Music is good for the industry.

Go to episode 425

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Katy Perry wasn't the only thing roaring at MTV's recent Video Music Awards. Digital sales for artists featured on the program have seen significant bumps. Among those feeling a lift were Lady Gaga's Applause, which saw a 20% rise and Bruno Mars' Gorilla, which had a staggering 175% sales increase.

In other chart news the British Phonographic Industry recently updated its sales award rules. So now, a little band called The Beatles has finally gone platinum. The official count only began from 1994, though, so actual sales of hit Beatles albums like Revolver and Help can only be estimated.

By now everyone's heard Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines. But, have you heard 86-year old Canadian composer John Beckwith's Blurred Lines? Well, thousands of listeners have, though perhaps not intentionally. Beckwith's 1994 recording for harpsichord and violin has gotten a huge boost in online streams ever since Thicke's song of the same name came out earlier this year. Blame it on Google, but it seems hard to mistake Thicke for Beckwith's sounds inspired by the Swedish hardanger.

Go to episode 406

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grateful_dead Jerry Garcia may be dead, but we're sure he'd also be grateful for huge outcry of interest from Grateful Dead fans for a series of reunion tribute shows in Chicago this summer. According to Greg's reporting for the Chicago Tribune nearly a half million fans went online at the same time with the hope of paying almost $200 a ticket. Many of them, of course, got shut out and can only hope to score tickets on the secondary market…that is if they are willing to pay $8,000 to $116,000! The show's promoter promises fans they will try to make the experience accessible via the web, but we recommend loading up your generic mp3 device with Dead tunes and heading over to kick back at your favorite (free) outdoor spot as an alternative idyll.

Jim and Greg next give an update on two ongoing court cases in the music world. First, the former British glam star Gary Glitter has been sentenced to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of indecently assaulting three girls in the late 1970's. There is no statute of limitations for such offenses in the UK.

And while less unseemly, the copyright case over "Blurred Lines" is also embarrassing for the artists involved. The trial pits Robin Thicke and his co-writers Pharrell Williams and T.I. against the family of Marvin Gaye. They, like many people, hear a lot of similarities to Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up." So far the testimonies have been striking. Thicke admitted he was on drugs during the song's recording and that Pharrell was the primary force behind the song.“The biggest hit of my career was written by somebody else, and I was jealous and wanted credit,”he testified,“I felt it was a little white lie that didn‘t hurt his career but boosted mine.”No wonder so many of these cases don’t make it to a public courtroom.

After decades of being ready to review new releases on a Tuesday, Jim and Greg are preparing for a shift to Friday. But in this digital age, there's not much to prepare. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced the decision as a way to eliminate variance from country to country (it's Monday in the UK and Friday in Germany). But in a year when Beyonce and Drake can release music whenever they want with no advance fanfare, this is another example of the music industry being well-behind the times.

Tom Wheeler, commissioner of the FCC delivered a ruling that won in a 3-2 vote to approve strong Net Neutrality rules across the country. The Net Neutrality concept posits that the internet should remain a level playing field; certain companies who control data flow cannot show a preference for one company over another due to self interests. Ars Technica reporter Jon Brodkin, joined us to talk about the historic ruling. He doesn't see a downside to the ruling and says that most of the large telecommunication companies will respond with lawsuits. Brodkin adds that the effect on music fans who enjoy streaming services will be largely positive at this point.

Go to episode 484

Music News

One of the highest profile court cases in the music industry has been going on for nearly a year and half, and finally we have a verdict. A federal jury in Los Angeles on deemed that Robin Thicke, TI and Pharrell Williams's 2013 hit "Blurred Lines" was indeed similar enough to Marvin Gaye 1977 song "Got To Give It Up" to award the Gaye estate $7.3 million. Greg notes that while it's a huge win for the Gaye estate and one that will impact future copyright decisions, there will surely be an appeal. Howard King, Thicke's attorney said, "We owe it to songwriters around the world to make sure this verdict doesn't stand."

Pioneering documentarian Albert Maysles died on March 6th. Maysles, and his brother David, made a huge contribution to the film world with their cinema verite works like Grey Gardens and 1964's What's Happening! The Beatles in the USA. But for music fans like Jim and Greg, Maysles made his biggest impact with the 1970 rock doc Gimme Shelter, which showed the Rolling Stones during their 1969 US tour and the tragic death during their concert at the Altamont speedway. Maysles was 88.

Go to episode 485

Music News

The Federal Justice department is showing a new interest in the iTunes store (and no, it's not because the DOJ is downloading "Blurred Lines"). Following a case last month that found Apple guilty of e-book price-fixing, the Feds announced they would be seeking oversight of the iTunes stores operations. What effect that oversight might have on music prices remains to be seen.

Go to episode 402

Music News

The copyright infringement lawsuit over Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" now has a resolution. As we've previously covered, the trust of Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe sued Zep, alleging that“Stairway”plagiarized the 1968 track "Taurus." A California jury didn't hear enough similarity between the songs and decided in favor of Led Zeppelin. And as we wind on down the road from the decision, intellectual property attorney Jeffrey Brown tells us this probably won't change the legal standard for copyright infringement. Even when the plaintiffs win – like in the "Blurred Lines" trial – the legal fees are too high to be worth it for anyone but the wealthiest of artists. These cases will continue to be primarily worked out in backroom deals.

Go to episode 553