Unknown singers and dancers are being found out by small-time and big-time companies. It’s sort of incredible to think that one day you could be singing in front of your Panasonic camera, making a home video, and then a month later you get a call from a large record company asking you to fly to the big city and sign a deal with them. It isn’t something that can happen to anyone, but it can happen if you’re a talented, English singer and guitarist. James Bay is a lucky guy that happened to be videotaped during a live show in a pub and he got a call to come to New York a few months later. He is very young, but for the amount of time that he has been on the scene, he has proven he has got what it takes to run with the best of them.

jab3Bay became inspired by blues music after hearing Eric Clapton’s single, “Layla,” when he was only 11 years old. In an interview with Mark Savage, a journalist and blogger for BBC News, Bay was asked how he got started playing the guitar. “There was a guitar that my uncle owned and never learned to play. He sold it to my dad and when I heard Layla, that was the tune that really grabbed me. I said to my dad, ‘wait, there’s a guitar, right?’” Eric Clapton’s song definitely provided a lot of inspiration for Bay to go towards a career in music. However, growing up in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, a small English town, he did encounter plenty of music during the World Music Festival as a child. The World Music Festival is an extravagant event where Bay grew up listening to music from different corners of the world: from English heavy metal bands to African dance music. The World Music Festival showed him various music bands at a young age and gave him motivation. He listened and was encouraged by the music at the festival, but he learned about music through his own teachings. At first, it was books and people online. He would read hundreds of books about guitar playing and different types of rock and classical music. People he talked to online through chat rooms would give him helpful information, but he still didn’t receive everything that he could have. But then, along came a little application named YouTube. He was able to watch thousands of videos about guitars and music in one location by just hitting the play button. YouTube was a huge factor that Bay took advantage of at a young age, and by watching these videos, he learned about the music that he plays for us today.

jab4Dark of the Morning, Bay’s first extended play, included five songs and was released in July of 2013. Of the five, I personally enjoyed his single, “Stealing Cars.” The song isn’t as popular as some of his others, like “Hold Back the River,” or “Let it Go,” but I liked this song better than the others because of his voice. His singing voice is very clear and very powerful in all of his songs, but in this one, his voice seemed to portray his feelings with an even stronger tone. One thing that fans of his will notice in his music video is the fact that he isn’t wearing a hat, something that never happens. It could be considered blasphemy for us to see Bay perform without wearing a hat, but the lyrics are so good that I think we can overlook that. Dark of the Morning is an EP that hasn’t made the top of the charts by any means, but contains five underrated and underappreciated songs that have powerful messages. On the other side of things, Let it Go, his second extended play, gained a lot of media attention in 2014, with the album getting a top 10 placement on the iTunes chart and his popular single, “Let it Go,” earning #10 on the music charts in the UK. “Let it Go,” was all the rage during the summer of 2014, giving us a song that female fans could listen to after an extremely, gut-wrenching break-up. The song that was endorsed by the famous singer and songwriter, Taylor Swift, and several others, earned him the Critics’ Choice award, an award in Britain given to artists who gain media attention through their music, earlier this year.

jab1As a twenty-four year old young man who has been playing guitar and singing for about ten years, he has a remarkable voice and excellent skills on the guitar. He hasn’t received real fame until a few years ago, releasing his first songs through Republic Records, a huge record label in New York that first signed Bay on. Once he was signed to the record label and his songs began to flow through the media, Bay got his first taste of international stardom – such a young age, too. It’s only been a couple of years since his fan base grew to a sizeable amount, but in those few years he has made a name for himself with his extraordinary talent.

-Te’Ron Adams

 

When it starts to rain outside and I become bored out of my mind, I find myself playing video games, watching TV, or my personal favorite, lying on my bed with a large bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with music blasting through my Sony headphones.  I will listen to almost any type of music out there, whether it is music by the sensational rapper, Lil Wayne, Japanese pop music by famous singer, Utada Hikaru or even tribal music from Mexico and Africa.   I listen to a lot of different kinds of music; however, country music isn’t something that I could listen to on a daily basis.   When I think of country music, I would usually associate it with tractors, plowing and guitars, and the only country singer I can think of is Taylor Swift.  Yet, when I came across the music of country singer and songwriter Luke Bryan, I found it to be very enjoyable.  Fortunately, his music didn’t possess the things that I believed all country songs to have, but instead, it was just really good music.  While I won’t acknowledge country music as the greatest thing I have ever listened to, listening to the music of Luke Bryan can definitely change your mind about country music.

lukeb3Luke Bryan is from Leesburg, a small, rural town in Georgia.  Bryan had planned on going to Nashville right after high school, but after his older brother died in a car accident, he stayed in Georgia and enrolled at Georgia Southern University.  It was here that he met his future spouse and mother of his two kids, Caroline Boyer.  After four years, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, something that has helped him in his music career.  In a recent interview with Simon Glickman, a writer for the online magazine, Hits Daily Double, Bryan told him, “If you’re not a good person to work for, then you’re stacking the deck against yourself right off the bat.  I’ve just always tried to be a positive, good employer and hear what people are happy about and not happy about, and go from there.”  Years later, he made it to Nashville, and when his dad told him to get all of his stuff together and make a career out of his music, he agreed to it.  Once in Nashville, Bryan networked with as many musicians as possible and he continued to write music, eventually working his way through.  A lot of people kicked him out, tossed him aside and spat him out (figuratively, of course), but that didn’t stop the driven country singer.  It could have been the end for Bryan, but no, it was only the beginning of his successful career.

lukeb2Bryan’s success began as a songwriter; his first widely recognized one being the title track of My Honky Tonk History, an album performed by Travis Tritt, an American country singer famous for releasing multiple top-chart songs through Warner Bros. and Columbia Records.   At the time, he had joined a small publishing company, but then later he was signed by Capitol Records.  During his time with his new record company, he co-wrote Good Directions, a single by Billy Currington, and shortly after that, he co-wrote his own single debut with producer, Jeff Stevens titled All My Friends Say.  His single quickly rose to the number one spot on Hot Country Songs in the middle months of 2007.  And in August of the same year, Capitol Records released Bryan’s debut album, I’ll Stay Me, with eleven of the twelve songs being written or co-written by the songwriter.  Two of his songs in the album, We Rode in Trucks and Country Man, received top 50 placements on the Hot Country Songs chart.  It was at this point that all country singers and country music fans had heard of the name, Luke Bryan.  It was kind of hard not to.  With all the recognition from his fellow country singers and country music critics, his fanbase grew rapidly.  And while you can argue that his fanbase is a very diverse populace, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of his fanbase consists of women who enjoy looking at a lean, handsome man strumming a guitar and singing in a amazing voice.  Women (oops, I mean people) bob their head to his music or strum their air guitars or lip-synch with his voice because they find his music very enticing.  There is a reason that he has multiple songs that have reached the top of the charts in a matter of days. It’s simple: he is a talented singer and songwriter, period.

In October of 2009, Bryan released two singles, Rain Is a Good Thing and Someone Else Calling You Baby, both of which went to the top of the charts in the same month.  He had written both of this songs with the help of his friend and producer, Jeff Stevens, and he had also received the help from Dallas Davidson, a country songwriter.  The two songs were included in an album named Doin’ My Thing.  The three had worked together previously to work on several extended playlists that would be included in the album.  From there, Bryan just increased his success in the industry.  In 2011, he released three singles, I Don’t Want This Night to End, Drunk on You and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, all of which made the number one spot on country songs.  Later, in 2012, he created his first compilation album, Spring Break…Here to Party, which featured several songs from his earlier album, Spring Break 4…Suntan City.  The compilation album comprised of eleven tracks from earlier playlists and two new tracks, one of them being Buzzkill, a song that reached the top 20 on Billboard 200.  The album as a whole didn’t slack at all.  Spring Break…Here to Party debuted as number one on several top country albums list.  Hot Country and Top Country Albums were just a couple of the charts that listened to Bryan’s music and his audience and placed his album at the number one spot.

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Crash My Party, the fourth album written by Bryan, was a huge success compared to his previous works.  The album’s single by the same name was first performed in April of 2013 at the ACM Awards and thirty days later, the song was number one among the Country Airplay charts.  Country Airplay must have adored his music because the chart had listed his music as the best country music on several occasions.  Singles like Drink a Beer, That’s My Kind of Night and Play It Again all received number one spots on the charts of Country Airplay.  Play It Again, the song that was released with the album, Crash My Party in 2014, hit his viewers like a hurricane.  This song had quickly risen to the top of the majority of country music charts, as well as music charts in general.  His songs have been receiving more and more attention lately, and with his latest album, Spring Break…Checking Out, his fame and his name became known to country lovers everywhere.  The 2015 album contained five previous songs from his earlier extended playlists as well as five new singles.  Kill The Lights, an album that is releasing later this year, is expected to get a lot of praise from his fanbase and critics alike.  His music is always expected to be exceptional and it seems that he has always had that consistency to put out various songs that his audience will cherish.

Some people like the writers at Total Frat Move (TFM), a website dedicated to news about masculinity, describes his lyrics as generic and his personality as a “fame whore.”  Most recently, Zac Brown, a lead vocalist and guitarist for his Zac Brown Band, bashed Bryan’s latest song, That’s My Kind of Night,  saying it was the worst song he had ever heard.   While some might claim that he hasn’t had anything to show for his singing and songwriting, it’s apparent that he has had plenty of success by looking at all of the awards he has earned.  In 2010, he won the Top New Solo Vocalist and Top New Artist for the Academy of Country Music Awards, among being nominated for four more awards in that year alone.  But it was in 2012 that he shocked the world by winning nine awards at the American Country Awards.  He received the Artist of the Year, Male Artist of the Year and several other awards  based on his single, I Don’t Want This Night to End. He also received the Album of the Year award on the same night for his album, Tailgates and Tanlines.  Another thing that is extremely amazing about the country singer and songwriter is that he is the only country artist to ever to release an album that had a total of six number one singles on both Mediabase Country chart and Billboard’s Hot Country Songs.  After his big year in 2012, he continued to make the top of the charts and get nominations for several country artist awards.  His awards, though amazing on paper, can’t portray the time and effort that he has put into his songwriting and his singing.

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Luke Bryan has gone through several difficult times, mainly the passing of his sister, Kelly, and shortly after, Kelly’s husband passed away  as well.  Even with all of the turmoil that he has experienced in the past few years, he keeps his head held high.  Without focusing on the present and the future, you will be stuck in the past, and fortunately for Bryan, he realized this and kept moving on.  Writing music is something that he lives for, but that doesn’t take away the fact that his family (his wife, two children and nephew) is the most important aspect in his life.  After writing 40 or 50 songs every couple of months, only a couple are chosen that fit the bill of what he wants to relay to his audience.  The ideas that he feels are important are the ones that will make it into his singles, his albums and his extended playlists.  His music career is very promising, with an extraordinary fanbase for such a short amount of time, and it seems there is always at least one song that fans love to replay and replay and replay until the loud music presents a migraine.  Fortunately, I’m not like that and I know when to stop playing music before my head begins to pound.   His music is something that I can possibly bob my head to every once in a while.  Now, I can’t say that Bryan’s good country music has made me whole and now I plan on listening to only country music.  No, that would be absurd.  But I can say that his music has made me look at country music in a slightly different way.  So when his next album comes out, I just might lie on my bed with my Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, with his music blasting through my Sony headphones.

-Te’Ron Adams

Glimmers of light illuminated the room as his voice eased the atmosphere. Soothing and soulful, he sang the lyrics: It’s a blessing to see people/ with their heads up to the sky still.

As if they were asked to, members of the audience held their cell phones up toward the sky. Like the title of the song, it was “Beautiful.” Serenading the crowd, he continued singing the lyrics: I put my lighter in the air for you/ I see what you doing, yeah I see what you going through/ I put my lighter in the air, the truth is you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful.

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It’s not hard to see why musician Marc Johnson would call Sylvia Rhone “the godmother of the music industry” as you look at the depth and breadth of her influence. In addition to the years she has dedicated to finding and cultivating new talent across multiple musical genres, Rhone is also known for the risks that she has taken for great gains.

Rhone started off her career in music by taking a massive pay cut, and leaving a position at a bank, for a secretarial job at Buddah Records. Although she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, she found that the banking industry was not for her. In an interview with Ebony magazine, Rhone recalled having done something as simple as wearing pants to work at the bank. It was 1975, and women were still making their way through the male dominated market. At that time, genders were living with different expectations. Women would dress in feminine skirts and heels, not pant suits. Rhone said that even though no one said anything to her directly, it was clear that pants were not acceptable for women.

srh2Rhone felt that she needed a freer environment. So, she took a risk,by leaving her job and starting a new career in the music business.

Rhone’s tenacity proved to be a guiding force for the music industry. She quickly moved up the ladder to become a nation wide promotions director. In just a short time, Rhone had gone from working in finance to being responsible for publicizing new artists nationwide. “I had to jump in the deep water and sink or swim,” said Rhone in an Ebony Magazine interview. She was definitely able “swim,” her success led to being hired as the director of national black music promotion at Atlantic Records.

Atlantic Records once boasting acts such as R&B soul giants Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, had been a big name in the record industry. But the company fell on hard times prior to Rhone coming on to the scene.

Rhone had a natural eye for talent by signing musicians such as LeVert, Miki Howard, and Gerald Albright.

Just three years after being hired at Atlantic, she was promoted again in 1988 – this time to senior vice-president of the company. . Rhone was credited with helping to revive the brand.
Years laterRhone continued to push up the ladder by becoming CEO of an Atlantic Records offshoot, EastWest Records America. Formerly, Atco/EastWest,. When it separated, EastWest became Rhone’s own label. She took the responsibility for all of the label’s recruitment, marketing and promotion. She signed diverse acts like the all female R&B group En Vogue and the heavy metal band Pantera. While continuing to Chair EastWest Records America, Rhone also became chair of Elektra Entertainment Group. Missy Elliot, awell known female artists of the past two decades, credits Rhone, along with musician Merlin Bobb, for helping her get her first platinum album while she was signed to Elektra. Recently, Missy posted a photo via Twitter of her receiving a platinum plaque with the following quote: “History!! Me & my 1st platinum plaque, thank you [Sylvia Rhone] & Merlin Bobb. Elektra, they pushed me!”

srh5Rhone continues to shape the music industry through multiple avenues. She currently presides as president of Epic Records which having artists such as Mariah Carey, Avril Lavigne, Fifth Harmony, The Fray, Ciara, Tamar Braxton, and Meghan Trainor. For her work with Epic, Rhone was honored by the Music Business Association with the 2014 Presidential award for Sustained Executive Achievement. Having been around since the 1960’s formerly as the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, MBA has been an important part of the music industry as a non-profit company focused on connecting and promoting professionals in the industry like Rhone.

srh3has always had a knack for spotting talent across musical genres and racial lines. VH1 included her in their black history celebration of female pioneers in the music industry. In a clip from VH1 posted to her Twitter account she speaks about how she sees art: “Art reflects life. If we don’t start sharing each other’s cultures, where do we end up? Color outside the lines, that’s where greatness is.” As she continues to shape the direction of the music industry, Rhone hopes that her positive influence, and the positive actions of others will ripple out across society. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times she commented on sexism and racism in the music industry: “…Thanks to my success and the success of others…, eventually, that sexist good ol’ boy school of thought will go the way of the dinosaur. It’ll take us a few years to accomplish it, but hey, I’m up for the fight. And so are a lot of other women.”

-Tabi Lawson