Music News Digest, March 22, 2021
On Friday, global pop star Justin Bieber released his sixth studio album, JUSTICE, via RBMG/Def Jam Recordings. The collection includes chart-topping hits Holy feat. Chance The Rapper, Lonely feat. Benny Blanco, Anyone, and Hold On, which combined have garnered over two billion streams worldwide, dominating radio airplay in the US. The tracks alone have amassed an equivalent of 400K albums in the US and over 1.3M albums worldwide. The album also features the new cut and video Peaches, featuring Giveon and Daniel Caesar.
The title and cover art of the new album has landed Bieber in legal hot water, however, as French electronic duo Justice has issued Bieber a cease and desist order. Justice objects to the album title and cover font's usage of the lowercase “t” in Justice being rendered as a cross, as the group has done for years. According to the cease-and-desist letter —sent by Justice’s litigation counsel to Bieber’s team on March 10—Justice trademarked its font, referred to as the “Mark,” in France in 2008. Stay tuned. Source: Pitchfork
– Music Canada’s list of gold and platinum certifications in March to date features a varied list of popular Canadian acts. On the country side, High Valley earns two platinum singles, Single Man and Dear Life, while Dean Brody has a gold single with Canadian Summer and platinum for Can’t Help Myself. Grandson earns double platinum for his hit track Blood/Water, while The Weeknd has the rare feat of a diamond single, for Blinding Lights. White B goes gold for its single Mauvais Garcons, while Justin Bieber and Benny Blanco’s Lovely is named double platinum. July Talk has gone platinum for its self-titled album, with Touch now certified as gold. ‘80s hitmakers The Kings finally go platinum for their album The Kings Are Here, while their classic single The Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide now has gold status.
– Brett Kissel has another hit on his hands with his new single Make A Life, Not A Living, which set history earlier this month upon its release, picking up the most adds ever in a single week at Canadian country radio. An accompanying video has just come out (below). The track is the first song from Kissel’s fifth major label studio album What Is Life?, out on April 9.
-- Toronto artist Just John received a warm response to his EP & short-film This Is Fate. Signed to Warner Canada, he now returns with a new single, City X, one infusing hip-hop with a punk energy. Here’s a teaser.
– The next Indie Weekly webinar is on tomorrow (March 23), 4 pm EST. Here you can learn how Gig Life Pro can help you connect with the Asian market. GLP's Sarah Guppi is the session's guest. Free with RSVP here
– Skydiggers frontman Andy Maize and Cowboy Junkies leader Michael Timmins have joined forces and released a digital-only album called Townies - An Audio Play. Maize tells FYI that “We started playing around with some film cue music just over a year ago that Mike had been writing for a documentary soundtrack - no agenda, no goal, no project. That slowly changed as we continued to work on ideas over the summer, and suddenly there was no shortage of things to write about."
– Acclaimed US reissues label Light In The Attic Records has announced that the next chapter in its ongoing Native North America series will be Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology. This highlights the songs, poetry, and stories of the late groundbreaking Canadian Indigenous artist Willie Dunn. The 2xLP vinyl version is complemented by the 24-page Willie Dunn Notes newspaper insert featuring extensively researched liner notes by Grammy-nominated Anthology producer Kevin Howes.
– Toronto synth-pop auteur Small Sins (Thomas D’Arcy) recently released Volume 11, his first new album in over a decade. The single I Used To Be A Better Man is now accompanied by this video clip.
– A popular fixture on the Toronto club scene, Teddy Hawkins (aka Thelonious Hank) recently had all his gear and his van stolen. After he mused that this may force him into retirement, his friends and fans quickly rallied, raising nearly $6K in a GoFundMe campaign. A grateful Hawkins then pledged to return to performance ASAP.
– Vocalist Linda Maruta Kronbergs has had a versatile musical career that has encompassed Cikagas Piecisi, Thomas Trio and the Red Albino, Skandāls, and a solo album. Estonian Music Week sponsors a free live-stream on March 25 that features folk songs of Latvia and Estonia. Link to the Facebook Live event here.
– The El Mocambo presents a free, live-streamed concert event by jazz vocal star Holly Cole on April 2, at 8 pm ET. JAZZ.FM91 is the sponsor. More info here
James Levine, an acclaimed conductor forced to quit the Metropolitan Opera in New York after a series of sex abuse allegations, died on March 9, of natural causes, age 77.
Over the course of four decades as its music director, Levine took the Metropolitan Opera to unparalleled heights of professionalism. Ill health caused him to move to an emeritus role in 2016, but still with the prospect of appearances as a conductor.
That changed in 2018 when, The Guardian reports, “The Met fired him on the basis of what it regarded as credible evidence that he had 'engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.':
Breach of contract proceedings between the company and Levine were settled out of court in 2019 with a $3.5m payment to the latter, but any opportunities for him to perform again were further prevented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A piano prodigy in his youth, he studied at the Julliard School, New York, but dropped out to concentrate on conducting, working at the Cleveland Orchestra, whose assistant conductor he remained from 1964 until 1970.
Lucky breaks at the San Francisco Opera and at the Met led to his appointment at the latter as principal conductor in 1973 and music director in 1976. In his long reign, with more than 2,500 performances of 85 different works, he not only turned the orchestra into an elite force but was also responsible for establishing the house on a firm financial footing.
He is credited with having discovered, nurtured and coached a whole generation of high-calibre artists, among them James Morris, Aprile Millo, Kathleen Battle, Maria Ewing. Sherrill Milnes, Teresa Stratas, and Plácido Domingo. His commitment to the Met was total, and offers from Covent Garden, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and elsewhere were declined.
Beyond the opera house, Levine also had a distinguished career. He had a close association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and for two decades (1973-93) served as music director of the Ravinia festival, north of the city. From 1975 he appeared regularly at the Salzburg festival. He endeavoured to establish a further European base at the Bayreuth festival, but was better favoured by the Vienna Philharmonic. He also held the post of chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (1999-2004), but otherwise was an irregular guest on European podiums.
After serving as artistic director at the Met from 1986, in 2004 he reverted to the role of music director, in order to take that job with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was initially credited with revitalising that orchestra with a European tour, a recording programme and new commissions. Sources: The Guardian, AP