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NEAR TRUTHS: TAKE ME TO YOUR SECRET LEADER

THANKS FOR THE ANGST: Billie Eilish’s new set on Darkroom/Interscope did 307k in its first week, with an RTD for the project approaching 600k, bringing her career album-equivalent total (since 2017) to 1.9m—that’s a home run in anybody’s book. Eilish’s boffo debut would appear to be a watershed, sharing some DNA with the hip-hop records that have been dominating the streaming charts and some with the insurrectionist spirit of Nirvana (Dave Grohl himself has anointed her the band’s heir).

Culturally, Eilish’s record marks the first true flowering of the Gen-Z sensibility, one wracked by self-consciousness and gloom in the social-media age. Musically, it’s a dark, spare bedroom-alternative/pop hybrid grown in the hothouse world of Eilish and brother/collaborator Finneas O’Connell, without intrusion from voguish writer/producers. Commercially, it reflects the hip-hop model in that Eilish—first discovered on SoundCloud—has doled out material a bit at a time and built a rabid following. She’s issued about 15 songs in three years, and her debut album, developmentally, is where an artist’s second release would be in an earlier era. She hasn’t caught fire with one song; she’s steadfastly built a brand—with unisex merch, horror-flick videos and more—to which her fans are ferociously devoted.

We’re looking at a global streaming phenomenon here; upon release, her album hit #1 at Apple Music in 80 countries, and at presstime she had the #1, #4, #5 and #9 tracks on Spotify’s Global Top 50.  

She’s emerging as a major live act as well, selling out shows in NYC (9k+), L.A. and Toronto (approximately 16k in each market) in June and July. Agents Sara Bollwinkel and Tom Windish and managers Danny Rukasin and Brandon Goodman have hooked up a busy festival schedule, including Coachella, Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading and Lollapalooza Berlin. How soon before she embarks on a U.S. arena tour?

Some in the biz say Eilish is probably the most important signing of John Janick’s tenure at Interscope, and signs point to her possibly being one of the most important artists to emerge in recent times. And much the way the arrival of Nirvana marked the end of the hair-metal bands (who were left “like Rommel in the desert,” as Henry Rollins famously remarked), the blue-haired teen’s advent could mark the beginning of a wave—and could have a mitigating impact on the deals offered to pop divas going forward, as well the writing/production teams that furnish them with material.

Her development is also right out of the Fueled by Ramen playbook; Janick established his acts, such as Fall Out Boy, Paramore, et al, over time and built a solid (usually Alternative) constituency for each—when Alternative radio really moved the needle—before ushering them to Pop.

There’s no need to speculate about whether or not the other majors will go on a spree signing every dour-looking adolescent with a keyboard; that’s already happened. The question is whether they will locate more artists like Eilish who have a fully realized musical and brand vision, and whether they have the patience to allow that vision to develop organically.

GET YOUR GLOBE ON: K-Pop is surging. BTS (on Bang Si-Hyuk’s Bighit, distribbed stateside by Columbia) sold out two Rose Bowls without a hit single and with very little traditional media. Sure, L.A. has a sizable Korean population, but London—where the group sold out Wembley Arena—doesn’t. These K-Pop groups (add Interscope’s Blackpink, Capitol/Caroline’s freshly inked NCT 127, Bighit/Republic’s Tomorrow X Together and Maverick-repped Monsta X, among others, to the list) have a youthquake appeal that isn’t ethnically specific; kids are screaming for them in every language. Meanwhile, the Latin market continues to explode—“Con Calma” from Daddy Yankee f/Snow (to cite just one example) is one of the biggest records on the planet. Check Spotify’s Global chart—which currently has multiple Spanish-language titles in the Top 30—to see what’s next, as the globalization of culture just keeps accelerating.

TOP OF THE POPPO: At presstime, the Recording Academy has yet to reveal who’s been crowned as Neil Portnow’s successor. It’s just the latest chapter in a long saga of obfuscation, as secrecy continues to be the Academy’s salient characteristic: secret committees, secret voting, secret ballots and now a Secret Leader.

Some reports have said that the new CEO is a woman from outside the existing Academy power structure; this would certainly be in keeping with the mission of Korn Ferry’s team to accommodate diversity, especially in the wake of Neil’s “step up” heard ’round the world.

At one point, word was that the three finalists were producers Jimmy Jam and Harvey Mason, Jr. and longtime WMG exec/Academy Vice Chairman Ruby Marchand. It was thought that any of these would enable Grammy Land to continue along its accustomed path—as Board Executive Chair John Poppo and his loyal operatives ensure there’s no disruption of the status quo. Poppo, who’s served on virtually every Grammy committee under the sun, is due to term out relatively soon as Chairman, a post that’s given him real juice in the org.

Though Poppo will soon shed his title, nobody expects him to exit the scene—look for him to pivot to another key post on the Board and continue to exert a strong influence on the direction of the Academy. The heavies in that room have their fingerprints on every key aspect of the operation, including the noms, the winners and the performers on the telecast.

As for Mason, is he on his way to replacing Poppo as Chairman or securing another high-ranking Board perch that will enable him to influence the agenda and still maintain his music career? Will there be new roles for the rest of the troika?

AIRHEAD: THE LYING KING
He's baaaaack. (7/19a)
FROM LAW FIRM
TO LABEL
The lure of the glamour profession... (7/19a)
NEAR TRUTHS: EVOLUTION OF THE BARRISTERS, PART 2
The kings of the coasts (7/19a)
SONG REVENUE CHART: HELLO “GOODBYES”
That was some ride. (7/19a)
HITS LIST: GROUP THERAPY
It's just a click away. (7/19a)
EARTHQUAKE!
We thought it was just the hangover.
WEED!
What strain pairs best with sloth?
COPYRIGHTS!
They're complicated.
PIZZA!
Why haven't we been talking about it?
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