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Why This Viral Beach Boys Cover, Meant To Heal A Grieving World, Almost Didn’t Happen

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Why This Viral Beach Boys Cover, Meant To Heal A Grieving World, Almost Didn’t Happen

Last summer, almost 30 musicians banded together from home to record a cover of the Beach Boys' 1967 classic, "Good Vibrations." After widespread COVID-related deaths and global protests hit, the group wondered if it would ever see the light of day

GRAMMYs/Feb 5, 2021 - 08:33 pm

The saxophonist, flutist, and keyboardist Sarah Johnson Melkeraaen's father was her number-one fan. A lover of soul artists like George Clinton, Lou Rawls and The Temptations, Julius Johnson danced at any opportunity—at the supermarket, after bowling a strike, or in response to good news of any type. Sometimes, his dancing made his daughter feel shy, but today, she misses it more than anything. Granted, Johnson wasn't particularly a Beach Boys fan. But when Melkeraaen—who records and performs as Lady Albatross—took part in a massive cover of America’s Band, it ended up a testament to his goofy, music-loving spirit.

In a YouTube cover of the exuberant "Good Vibrations recorded last June, created to give a world in lockdown a much-needed lift, she played flute alongside almost 30 other musicians in virtual collaboration. Released this year after a months-long delay, the cover grew so popular that it caught the attention of Brian Wilson himself.

But because Johnson died of COVID-19 the month of its making, he's not around to cut a rug in response.



"In my mind, I'm picturing being able to tell him, and he definitely would have had an ear-to-ear, massive grin," Lady Albatross, who came onto the project by word-of-mouth, tells GRAMMY.com from her home in Odda, Norway. “He would have given me a really big hug and told me how proud he was."

Making The Cover

"Good Vibrations," which a 24-year-old Wilson concocted as the centerpiece to 1967's aborted Beach Boys album Smile, is only the latest tune that organizers Doc Crotzer and Matthew Smith have tackled. In the confusing, suffocating early weeks of lockdown, they cast out a net to record a quarantine-friendly cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'." "We thought maybe a few other people might be interested in doing it with us but didn't expect too many people," Smith tells GRAMMY.com. 

Through a network of friends recommending friends, like in Lady Albatross's and Jones' case, they followed up the Petty tune with a pitch-perfect rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run."

"By then," Crotzer says, "more people had seen the video and reached out to us, so we were able to grow our Social Distance Session Band, which added to the fun and challenge. 'Good Vibrations' came out of trying to answer 'How do we top "Born to Run'" with our group?'"

To help manifest their sun-kissed dream, Crotzer and Smith contacted Anders Fehon and Edwin Herder of Beach Boys musical replicators The Fendertones. Then, they recorded a scratch track for the instrumentalists, and Crotzer sang rough takes of each vocal part to place the singers properly in the harmony stack.

Sarah Johnson Melkeraaen and her father, Julius Johnson.

Two of those singers were MInhee Jones, a London-based alternative pop artist, and her friend, Celeigh Chapman, a country singer originally from Bakersfield, California. The recording process helped Chapman exhume the song from TV ads and oldies stations and examine it anew.

"For us, it was cool to pull apart the layers because [most of us] appreciate it in a passing way or understand that it's revolutionary for the time," she tells GRAMMY.com. "But then, to pull it apart and learn a specific part and see all those parts stack up, I think, gave us a whole other level of appreciation for them doing that at that time, considering where the technology is now and where it was then. When you look underneath the hood, there's a whole other level of, "Oh, this is actually why this is so omnipresent in our culture and has been able to sustain generations of fans and musicians."

Stitching together nearly 30 socially-distanced takes wasn't easy, but Crotzer and Smith found ways to circumvent potential hiccups. "For the instrumental part of the track, we let people do their own thing a bit more," Smith says, "but everyone was still playing to a guide track so that everything would stay in sync when we got the tracks back."

Near the end, the number of tracks so overwhelmed his laptop that he had to buy a better computer. "Fortunately, we had an awesome editor named Chase Johnson cutting it," Crotzer says. "He made it look easy and seamless."

Hitting A Roadblock 

The month they recorded the cover, the George Floyd protests hit. "Good Vibrations" wouldn't come out in June as planned. 

While the musicians never explicitly mentioned current events over the email chain, Chapman says there was an unspoken agreement that the timing wasn't right. In the midst of global racial upheaval, releasing a happy-go-lucky cover may have come across as blithe or tone-deaf. The following months brought mostly silence. "I remember sending an email asking, 'When is this coming out?''" Lady Albatross remembers. 

In the months leading to his death, Lady Albatross's father became inward and uncommunicative; she's not certain he even knew about the "Good Vibrations" cover. Lady Albatross was already saddened her father would never hear it, but after a while, it seemed like nobody would. As the months stretched out between George Floyd's killing and the fractious 2020 election, the "blossom world" Wilson sang of seemed more out-of-reach than ever.

Jones felt wary of a world seemingly drained of the Beach Boys' promise. "I was pretty down around that time because it was so polarized," she tells GRAMMY.com. "You saw some disappointing ideals coming out of people. Just a lot of ignorance, I guess. It didn't seem like the right time to put out anything too light." 

Going Viral

On the heels of the inauguration and with vaccinations starting to roll out, it finally felt right to drop "Good Vibrations" on YouTube in the spirit of healing and brighter days ahead.

"I remember when I got the email from Doc and Matt saying, 'It's up! It's finally here! It's done!'" Jones says with a grin over Zoom. "It was right after the inauguration. I think they posted it on Facebook just like that: 'This could not have come at a better time. So many good vibrations. A weight has been lifted.' I thought the inauguration was amazing. We were all watching it around the world. I was over here with my glass of champagne in London. I thought the timing of that was spot-on." 

Almost immediately, the video was met with global excitations—and Brian Wilson's. "Watch this amazing video from Social Distance Settings of 'Good Vibrations' featuring Minhee Jones and Jesse Hernandez, and musicians around the world," he tweeted. "Their goal for this performance is to make everyone SMiLE." At press time, the video was on the cusp of 50,000 views.

Overall, the response has bowled over Crotzer and Smith, who had merely organized the video for the fun, fun, fun of it.

"I couldn't believe it when Brian Wilson shared our cover on his social media," Crotzer tells GRAMMY.com. "The first rock 'n' roll music I heard as a kid was written by him and got me into music in the first place. Waking up to see that Brian liked it was an incredible way to start a day. Just absolutely surreal.”

A No. 1 hit in its day, "Good Vibrations" was sparked by Wilson's curiosity about the human emotions that dogs pick up on. Had the crew had released their cover back in June, it might have clashed with the will of the universe. But because they released it in a long-awaited moment of political optimism, "Good Vibrations" acted as a beacon of light through the gloom—and elicited a hard-won smile from thousands of viewers. 

And Lady Albatross, who sticks out in the virtual crowd in her hand-crocheted octopus hat, says her old man would be right there with them.

"He would have given me a really big hug and a kiss on the forehead," she says, envisioning his response to the Brian Wilson-approved video. And, of course, "He would have done a little happy dance."

Dave Mason On Recording With Rock Royalty & Why He Reimagined His Debut Solo Album, 'Alone Together

Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Doja Cat

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup

Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 12:11 am

Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.

This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the RapperLil Uzi VertJuice WRLDYoung Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.

L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.

The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.

Tickets for Rolling Loud L.A. go on sale this Friday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. PST. The complete lineup and more info on this event and their other fests can be found here.

Where Do You Keep Your GRAMMY: Fantastic Negrito

ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Ant Clemons

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ReImagined At Home: Watch Ant Clemons Croon The Cosmic Blues In Performance Of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine"

Singer/songwriter Ant Clemons puts his own spin on Bill Withers' immortal "Ain't No Sunshine" in an exclusive performance for ReImagined At Home.

GRAMMYs/Jun 15, 2021 - 08:13 pm

Why has Bill Withers' immortal hit, "Ain't No Sunshine," endured for decades? And, furthermore, why does it seem set to reverberate throughout the ages?

Could it be because it's blues-based? Because it's relatable to anyone with a pulse? Because virtually anyone with an ounce of zeal can believably yowl the song at karaoke?

Maybe it's for all of those reasons and one more: "Ain't No Sunshine" is flexible

In the latest episode of ReImagined At Home, check out how singer/songwriter Ant Clemons pulls at the song's edges like taffy. With a dose of vocoder and slapback, Clemons recasts the lonesome-lover blues as the lament of a shipwrecked android.

Giving this oft-covered soul classic a whirl, Clemons reminds music lovers exactly why Withers' signature song has staying power far beyond his passing in 2020. It will probably be a standard in 4040, too.

Check out Ant Clemons' cosmic, soulful performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" above and click here to enjoy more episodes of ReImagined At Home.

ReImagined At Home: Keedron Bryant Powerfully Interprets John Legend's Love Song "Ordinary People"

 

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ArtsWatch: YouTube Music Key's Big Beta Launch

New music subscription service hopes to leverage Google's scale and unique features

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

In recent news ...

YouTube Unveils Subscription Music Service
On Nov. 12 Google-owned YouTube announced the beta launch of its new Music Key subscription service. The initial monthly fee will be $7.99, mostly to avoid ads preceding videos, and includes a subscription to Google Play Music. YouTube now has licenses with the three major labels and a new indie deal through Merlin; however, on the day of Music Key's announcement, prominent industry figure Irving Azoff threatened to pull as many as 20,000 songs by artists he represents from YouTube. Apart from the subscription service, but benefitting it, YouTube has also put new interactive features online, particularly on mobile, including higher quality tracks, the ability to find and play complete albums easily, better access to discographic information, and better aggregation of artists' related content. This represents a licensing breakthrough by a tech giant, enabling better competition with Apple Beats and Spotify. With label support, YouTube's advantages as a top Internet destination grow beyond its boasts of 1 billion unique monthly visitors.

Senate Judiciary Chair Calls For Equal Treatment Under Copyright Law
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced S. 2919, the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act, on Nov. 12, proposing to amend the definitions of "widow" and "widower" under statutory copyright law so that the ability for surviving spouses to inherit intellectual property rights applies consistently to same-sex marriages. Penning a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter, Leahy wrote that S. 2919 "will ensure that the rights attached to the works of our nation's gay and lesbian authors, musicians, painters, sculptors, and other creators pass to their spouses the way they now do for heterosexual creators. Artists are the creative lifeblood of our nation, and our laws should protect their families equally." Companion bill H.R. 5617 was introduced in the House of Representatives in September. Because Republicans recently won control of the Senate, Leahy will relinquish his position as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year, reportedly to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). No one is certain what legislation can still move during the outgoing Congress' remaining term, but Leahy has focused attention on this issue by introducing the bill following his party's loss.

"Dark Market" Websites Shut Down By Law Enforcement
On Nov. 7 the Department of Justice announced that more than 400 "dark market" websites — using Tor anonymity technology to hide criminal commerce in drugs and guns and more — were seized and taken down by law enforcement in the United States and Europe. The ability to cut through Internet criminals' efforts to remain anonymous meant real progress in the previously reported Silk Road 2.0 arrest, and these hundreds of related website seizures suggest law enforcement has improved its technical capacity to shine light into the Internet's dark corners where piracy also thrives. Troels Oerting, head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, said, "This time we have … hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach. We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable."

Debates Put The Internet's Future In Focus
New developments highlight how the Internet is simultaneously something people love to use and a massive network overseen by government agencies, trade groups and a variety of stakeholder associations. On Nov. 7, the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union completed a three-week plenipotentiary conference, an event held every four years. The Department of State celebrated the accomplishment of the United States' major policy objectives, including maintaining the ITU's mandate, which many other governments oppose. A new working group will also hold consultations with all stakeholders to better develop "international Internet-related public policy." Likely timed to benefit from ITU conference coverage, the NETmundial Initiative announced its formation on Nov. 6, with founding participants ICANN, the World Economic Forum and Brazil's Internet Steering Committee. The new initiative, which follows NETmundial, an international Internet policy conference held in Brazil in April, hopes to make progress in the same open spirit. Separately, President Barack Obama surprised telecommunications industry observers on Nov. 10 by endorsing the strongest possible regulatory approach to achieve open Internet goals, such as prohibiting throttling and paid prioritization of data. Because the Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency, the president has no direct regulatory authority to craft Internet policy. Thus, his remarks stake out a strong but generally advisory political position as part of the ongoing debate. Obama endorsed applying these new regulations to mobile data as well, saying, "There is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet."

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. To learn more, visit GRAMMY.org/Advocacy. To get more involved, visit GRAMMY.com/Action.

Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.

Related: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Back On Charts Thanks To Viral Skateboard Video On TikTok

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?