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PUB CRAWLING: COUNTRY MEETS AFRIKA

Part One: When You're Lookin' at Me, You're Lookin' at Country.

One of the more gratifying moments of the 2015 ACM Awards was Little Big Town’s performance of “Girl Crush,” a smoky gem full of lesbian subtext that got a bunch of religious folks’ panties in a bunch a while back. The Jason Owen-managed band performed it with relish, eye-fucking the camera to highlight key lyrics. It was penned by prolific pros Lori McKenna (UMPG), Hillary Lindsey (BMG Chrysalis) and Liz Rose (Warner/Chappell)—yep, three women—and a decided departure from the “Bro Country” that held sway for much of the broadcast. More than anything, though, it was a reminder of just how much Country is about the song, even when it’s coming out of a superstar’s mouth.

Indeed, even as Taylor Swift essentially bade farewell to the genre during her ACMs speech, she expressed gratitude for having learned her craft in Nashville. The place has always been the song town—and there’s no question that from its storied legacy to its current hits, the country form is the most successful continuous music format in the U.S.

Make no mistake: Country songwriting and presentation have changed pretty radically of late, folding in hard rock, dance-pop and hip-hop elements—and extending artists’ reach to new pop fans. But Nashville has also nurtured music that’s fully outside the confines of country, establishing itself as a creative “third coast” for artists and writers. So it isn’t really that surprising that Sony/ATV installed its first A&R exec in town with an expressly non-country brief. As Manager A&R/Creative reporting to Co-President Danny Strick, Mark Abramowitz focuses on alternative and pop music, having hooked up such diverse talents as Wild Cub, the alt/hip-hop troupe No Wyld, tunesmith Kevin Kadish (who co-penned “All About That Bass”) and sync-magnet troubadour Mark Scibilia. He’ll undoubtedly be turning up fresh musical cross-pollinations in his southern perch. Also, he’s given us an idea for a hilarious fish-out-of-water comedy about a NYC Jew who gets shipped off to Nashville.

One more Nashville note: UMPG EVP/GM Kent Earls and team have re-upped with tunesmith Sam Ellis, who’s co-penned multiple tunes with fellow Uni writer Hunter Hayes and with The Band Perry. Yee-haw.

Part Two: Wheels and/or Deals

SONGS writer Sam Harris is in high gear. Harris not only leads X Ambassadors—whose “Renegades” was Most Added at Modern Rock radio, with KROQ leading the charge, and is featured on a new spot for (wait for it) the Jeep Renegade—but also co-penned Rihanna’s buzzing new single, “American Oxygen.” The Jeep sync, incidentally, has given me an idea for a new song called “Priuses.”

Sony/ATV West Coast co-prexy Rick Krim and team are hailing the renewal of the pubco’s deal with hit songwriter MoZella, whose credits include co-authoring Miley Cyrus’ monster “Wrecking Ball” and co-writes with Rihanna, Madonna, One Direction, Kelly ClarksonPentatonix5 Seconds of Summer and other stars. She will surely be making the pubco Mo money.

Sony/ATV has also inked groove innovator Afrika Bambaataa to a worldwide ex-North America deal. Said U.K. Managing Director/President of European Creative Guy Moot, “It is great to welcome to Sony/ATV one of the founders of hip hop and a true music legend. His impact on music over the last three decades has been immeasurable and he continues to remain hugely influential.” Now it really is a Planet Rock.

These glad tidings inspired me to pull out my 1984 “Unity” maxi-single, on which Afrika B. (also known as the Zulu Funk Overlord) goes toe-to-toe with James Brown. Badass.

Primary Wave writer/producer Jeremy Skaller has a decided flair for finding cool signings online. Having used socials and video to blow up Jay Sean (prior to his Cash Money deal) and Janoskians, he found Rajiv Dhall on Vine; Dhall's EP hit the iTunes Top 10 with no radio. Now Jeremy's turned up another iTunes contender on Vine: 20-year-old Cameron Dallas, whose "She Bad" Jeremy co-wrote; the song (see clip below) rose to #7 on the download dispensary's singles chart propelled entirely by Twitter and other social media. This producer/tunesmith is someone whose name you should know—or at least his @tag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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