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Pop From All Angles

Last summer’s mega-hit “Boom Clap” was as ubiquitous as they come. It played everywhere, even if most listeners were completely unaware of the pop star singing through the speakers. A year removed, Charli XCX is still not on the tip of everyone’s tongues. But she’s making strides, and judging by her resume, she’s already reached [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Last summer’s mega-hit “Boom Clap” was as ubiquitous as they come. It played everywhere, even if most listeners were completely unaware of the pop star singing through the speakers. A year removed, Charli XCX is still not on the tip of everyone’s tongues. But she’s making strides, and judging by her resume, she’s already reached a level chart domination most could only dream of, in helping pen two number-one hits in Icona Pop’s  “I Love It” and Iggy Azalea’s annoyingly coy “Fancy.”

“Break the Rules” from this year’s Sucker is a bit of a mantra for Charli XCX: nothing is off limits—she’s a polyglot of popdom. The album, which was equally inspired by Madonna and the Ramones, posits XCX as bubble gum queen, snarling rock star, Top 40 idol, club banger, and, given her penchant for ghostwriting, a Prince-esque persona behind the scenes. Judging from the multitude of projects that she has in waiting—a collaboration with outré-electronic producer Sophie is particularly intriguing—she’s wont for constant transformation, even if in my interview with the star she seemed content to blow it up and start again. If there’s anyone in the pop world who’s capable of shaping the pop world to her will, it’s XCX. That’s if she hasn’t already.

You started making music at a young age, so back then did you have an ideal of what it meant to be a pop star? Who did you aspire to be the most?

When I was super young I was into Britney Spears. I remember seeing one of her videos and saying to myself then and there that I wanted to be a pop star. Once it started, I thought that maybe aspiring to be that kind of pop star wasn’t the most intelligent idea. But I’ve always known that I wanted to make music.

And now, as a legitimate pop star, does it live up to your expectations?

I guess when I imagined it back then I thought it was going to be this fantasy dream world, which in some respects it is, but it’s also, for example, answering a lot of emails. Boring, mundane things like that, which you might think pop stars don’t do on a daily basis.

As an artist, writing your own stuff, does it ever frustrate you that celebrity overshadows your talents? Or is that the whole package you hope to project?

I don’t know, the whole celebrity thing I feel is something that is beneath me. I don’t consider myself a celebrity, but I suppose a lot of people do now, which is really nice. That part doesn’t bother me. I also feel like the people who need to know that I write my own songs already know that, so it’s not a big deal. The majority of people don’t care one way or the other if you’re writing your own stuff or singing someone else’s.

Now that Sucker has become a big hit, how do you balance between songs your write for other artists and those you keep to yourself?

If I see  a music video or a song in my head, I usually keep it for myself. If not, I’ll give it to someone else. I really like writing for other artists. That’s an important part of what I do, so I’m definitely going to keep doing that.

In interviews I’ve heard you interpret your music in terms of your synesthesia [the phenomenon of seeing sound as color]. Using that mindset, what are you seeing for your next album?

It’s going to be cool. I can’t go into too much detail just yet, but it’s going to be very colorful.

Are you happy with the current state of pop?

Lately I’ve kind of checked out and really haven’t listened to much current music recently. But I’m really looking forward to putting new music out into that world. It’s hard to define what pop music is these days because “pop” is such a broad word. Every genre has its own pop, which I think is great.

How do you intend to shape it?

The priority is making good music. But right now I’m in a headspace where I don’t really think about how I’m going to do that. I just do my thing and it will come to me. Don’t get me wrong, I work really hard at what I do, but at the same time I don’t take anything too seriously.

See Charli XCX play the LC Pavilion on Wednesday August 12 along with Bleachers on the Charli and Jack do America tour.

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Curbside Concerts brings live music, hope to those in need

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Can’tStopColumbus took a quick pause when the pandemic shut down the world and asked two questions:

  1. Are we sure we're solving the needs of everyone in our community during this time? 
  2. Are we not just coming up with ideas based on our own experiences?

Our elder community was one of the major demographics to have stricter socially distancing guidelines suggested to them. Holidays and birthdays went by without hugs from grandpa or grandma’s cookies.

Out of the need to fill that missing love in the life of American seniors, the idea of Curbside Concerts was born. Anyone is able to jump on the Curbside Concerts signup page and request a concert for an elder, sick people not able to leave the house, or a simple celebration.

Sending a concert telegram is free, and you can also leave a message for a loved one and suggest what type of tunes the organization-selected Columbus-area musician.

So far, the feedback has been inspiring. 

“People cried. I cried. We cried. It was beautiful,” said Zach Friedman, one of the service’s founders and creators. “We had a powerful idea on our hands, and the amazing power of the #Can'tStopColumbus community to scale it and bring it to life.”

To date, Curbside Concerts has had over 50 volunteers. Their job is to drive around a Columbus musician and their equipment with trucks provided by Ricart Automotive. It’s a road trip around the Columbus area, delivering concerts to those who may just need their spirits lifted. It’s like a non-depressing version of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Support has come from all ends of the Columbus creative community, including The Columbus Foundation, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Streetlight Guild, and What? Productions. Through these organizations, musicians are able to be paid for a route that usually lasts five to six hours. 100 percent of the donations they receive on their route also goes to the musicians.

Friedman is asking people to keep requests to older audiences.

“Working with local musicians to perform curbside at people's homes is the vehicle or medium, but the real thing we are doing here is connecting those to older people they love, with an authentic and emotional experience to send love over,” Friedman said.

We found out pretty quickly how much as a collective that we take live music for granted. Live streams have been a temporary, dulled-down replacement. You realize how long people have been robbed of the experience when you see a musician pull up in a pickup truck, set up in five minutes, and serenade neighborhoods with songs like “Lean on Me” and “What A Wonderful World.” It starts off with a message to one house and then resonates down the street, like the citizens of Gas Town rushing to The People Eater for even a drop of water.

Photos by Zak Kolesar

For most people, it was their first taste of live music since mid-March. While we may want concerts to return as soon as possible, its productions like Curbside Concerts that display the emotional power of music.

To request to send someone a concert, follow the link here: https://sendaconcert.herokuapp.com/request

To volunteer for Curbside Concerts, follow the link here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b45abaa22a4fb6-curbside

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Arts & Culture

Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti

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Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.


Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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