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Viva Las Vegas: Why Sin City Residencies No Longer Signify A Long Farewell

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

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Viva Las Vegas: Why Sin City Residencies No Longer Signify A Long Farewell

Once thought to be a lucrative last hurrah for an aging artist's career, the Las Vegas residency has undergone a sea change in the last decade, playing long-term host to mega-stars like Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Drake and more

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2019 - 10:20 pm

When it comes to the overall trajectory of commerce and entertainment, it's often tempting to read into the theoretical tea leaves that Las Vegas represents. The culture of the Strip itself has, in its own way, reflected the perspective of American culture over time—from its initially seedy-and-glitzy reputation to its rebranding attempt as an adult-ified Disney World that the whole family can still enjoy, to the city epicenter's current residing stance of somewhere in between those two moral poles. A similar transformation has taken place when it comes to the Vegas residency, too: a bespoke entertainment-industry staple that was once the stomping ground of now-musty musical dinosaurs like Elvis and Frank Sinatra has now become part and parcel of the touring circuit for some of the biggest acts in pop music today.

In recent months, Drake and Cardi B announced Vegas residencies off the heels of Lady Gaga's own Sin City spectacular and Mariah Carey's own career-spanning extravaganza from a few years back. This trend is in its early stages, which means that we're likely to see more of music's biggest stars taking a similar route over the next few years; it's not unimaginable to assume that Imagine Dragons—undoubtedly the most successful Vegas-hailing rock band since the Killers—will eventually have their own casino-set stint. The fact that such a prediction could be made for artists nearing the peak of their artistic and commercial success reflects just how far the Vegas residency as an institution—as well as our own perspective of it—has come.

It's commonly held that the concept of a residency itself—in Vegas and elsewhere—was pioneered by Liberace, the singer, pianist, and public-facing bastion of 20th century kitsch who performed on and off on the Vegas circuit from 1944 until the years leading up to his death in 1987. The man born Wladziu Valentino Liberace was such a staple of the Vegas entertainment complex that the city is home to an entire museum honoring the man, situated in one of Michael Jackson's former Vegas properties. (In a full-circle moment of coincidences, future Vegas-residency queen Cardi B's recent performance at this year's GRAMMYs featured Liberace's piano, on loan from the museum itself.)

Sinatra's regular appearances throughout the 1950s at the since-shuttered Sands Hotel And Casino eventually transformed into "Summit at the Sands," a series of performances that included Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop in the hotel's Copa Room performance space—the figurative birth of "The Rat Pack," as it were. Ol' Blue Eyes wasn't the only artist who made an iconographic mark on Vegas around this time; of course, there was Presley, although his initial stint wasn't as successful as his legacy suggests.

Indeed, before his iconic and astounding run at the Hilton Las Vegas, Presley attempted a two-week residency at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino in 1956 that went as poorly as such things could go; the critics were merciless, with a Newsweek critic infamously comparing his presence to "a jug of corn liquor at a champagne party." Later in his career—1969, to be specific—he embarked on the Hilton run, performing a consecutive 837 shows over the course of seven years and thereby outlining in cement the shape of his late career as seen through the eyes of American history.

For all its successes, Presley's Vegas stint also marked his late-period decline—when he transformed from iconoclast to gift-shop trinket in the eyes of the collective American pop-cultural consciousness. And for decades to follow, the mere concept of Vegas residencies was viewed with a similar side-eyed perspective, not unlike a dust-gathering family heirloom too ancient to dispose of completely but not vital enough to pay any attention to.

In 2013, Chris Bell of The Telegraph referred to the Vegas musical performance circuit's transitional years (decades, really) as "the place where acts went to die." And for a little while the concept of the residency itself seemed close to perishing, as the city's entertainment focus veered away from music and towards big-budget musical stagings of Broadway shows like "The Lion King," as well as the psychedelic, (mostly) all-ages stage shows conceived of by the team behind "Cirque de Soleil."

So, what changed?

Well, for one, financial success. (Is there any factor that drives decisions made in music industry—or any business—as strongly as the potential for profit?) Celine Dion's four-year "A New Day…" residency in 2003 is widely cited as revitalizing the state of the Vegas residency, and at an adjusted gross of over $460 million over that time period, it stands as the most successful residency of all time since ticket-sale data became something people kept track of. "She changed the face of modern Vegas," Caesars Palace Vice President of Entertainment Kurt Melien told The Telegraph in 2013 while discussing Britney Spears' own four-year "Britney: Piece of Me" residency that kicked off that year.

Shania Twain and Cher also staged similarly successful stints in between Dion and Spears' own residencies—and Dion's residency also paved the way for the concept of residencies to move far beyond Vegas to other major American cities. Billy Joel has had his own regular spot at Madison Square Garden since 2014, and acts ranging from Prince and Bruce Springsteen to Phish have embraced the concept as well. During much of this decade, the financial boom that came with the music industry's fixation on dance music (EDM, for short) meant that a plethora of DJs—from big-budget guy Calvin Harris to Dutch duo Showtek—were staples on the Vegas strip as well.

As much a financial trend as anything else, as EDM's collective star faded within the music industry its biggest names likewise started to disappear from the marquees of Vegas' hottest spots, and that goes a long way to explain the latest crop of Vegas residencies. In terms of cultural cache, artists like Drake and Cardi carry significantly younger-skewing appeal than more traditional Vegas forebears from this century like Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and (yes, even) Britney Spears; that same appeal coursed through EDM's veins like the sickest bass-drop, so it only makes sense that promoters and artists alike have a vested interest in keeping the Vegas residency circuit from returning to its aged-up tendencies. Most important, it's another newly discovered revenue stream—albeit one lying in plain sight for decades—in an industry that constantly needs to make money but is also constantly finding fewer and fewer ways to do so.

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.

Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

Rosalía 

Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

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Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour

El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances

GRAMMYs/Mar 20, 2019 - 12:25 am

Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.

El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.

 

RELATED: How Rosalia Is Reinventing What It Means To Be A Global Pop Star

"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.

Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork. 

Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist. 

Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.

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