The inaugural “Michelle Obama Playlist” features 41 songs highlighted in or inspired by the podcast, including Mereba’s “Black Truck,” Ari Lennox’s “Night Drive,” Beyoncé‘s “Black Parade,” Jhené Aiko and H.E.R.‘s “B.S.,” UMI’s “Down to Earth,” Tierra Whack’s “Pretty Ugly,” Teyana Taylor and Erykah Badu’s “Lowkey,” Chloe x Halle’s “Do It,” and many more.
“Excited to share with you a new @Spotify playlist inspired by the first season of my new podcast. It’s filled with incredible new artists and a whole lot of #BlackGirlMagic,” she said in a press statement. “I hope you’ll give it a listen and follow some of these terrific musicians.”
Obama launched the podcast, in partnership with Spotify’s exclusive Higher Ground hub, last Wednesday, July 29. She brought out none other than her husband and former President Barack Obama as the guest for her debut episode, where the couple discussed their relationship and civil service.
Listen to “Vol 1: The Michelle Obama Playlist” below.
The VMAs bowed to reality on Friday (Aug. 7) and announced that the VMAs will not be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as originally planned. Instead, the Aug. 30 show, to be hosted by actress and singer Keke Palmer, will consist of “several outdoor performances around [New York] City with limited or no audience.” The show will return to Barclays Center (which hosted the VMAs once before, in 2013) in 2021.
Here’s the full statement from MTV: “The 2020 VMAs will be held on Sunday, August 30th and pay homage to the incredible resiliency of New York with several outdoor performances around the City with limited or no audience, adhering to all state and city guidelines. In close consultation with state and local health officials, it became clear at this time that outdoor performances with limited or no audience would be more feasible and safer than an indoor event. The VMAs will highlight the boroughs in an exciting show and return to Barclays Center in 2021. MTV will continue to work closely with the Department of Health, state and local officials, the medical community, and key stakeholders to ensure the safety of all involved., adhering to all state and city guidelines.”
Even pre-pandemic, the VMAs have had a history of incorporating remote elements. The idea back then was to add a fresh element. The goal now is to get a show on the air that will safeguard artists and crews and satisfy city and state requirements.
Last year, Jonas Brothers performed “Sucker” and “Only Human” from The Stone Poney in Asbury Park, N.J.
In 2018, Nicki Minaj performed a medley live from the PATH World Trade Center station in lower Manhattan.
In 2015, three performances were taped live from outside the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and guest stars’ “Downtown,” Lovato and Iggy Azalea’s “Cool for the Summer” and Pharrell Williams’ “Freedom.”
In 2013, Katy Perry closed the show with a performance of “Roar” shot in Empire-Fulton Ferry Park in Brooklyn.
The Academy of Country Music is taking a similar approach. They are broadcasting their Sept. 16 show from three Nashville venues — the Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium and the Bluebird Café. Their decision to have the show at multiple venues (which was announced way back on April 27) allows them to reduce crowding among artists and crews and have greater social distancing. Keith Urban, the ACM’s reigning entertainer of the year, is set to host the show.
As Congress debated the next federal coronavirus aid package this week in Washington, independent music venues across the country have been waiting in anticipation for what will either be a saving grace or a devastating blow to their businesses. Now, as Capitol Hill heads into the weekend with a planned recess days away, there’s still no clarity whether proposed legislation supporting these businesses that have been shuttered since mid-March will make their way into a final package and save an estimated 90% of them from closure by the end of the year.
The Save Our Stages Act, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on July 22, would establish a $10 billion grant program exclusively for live venue operators, promoters, producers and talent representatives. The Restart Act, introduced in May by Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) in the use of Representatives, applies to all small businesses and would provide grants to eligible recipients in an amount equal to 45% of gross revenue from 2019 with a cap of $12 million. Both offer immediate assistance; neither are guaranteed to pass or save venues in the long term.
“If we got fully funded through the Restart Act we would get only half of what we need to survive for what we realistically think is a year from now,” says Steven Severin, who is the co-owner of indie venue Neumos in Seattle and member of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) that has been lobbying the federal government for funding.
Severin says he sees a widely-used vaccine as the only way fans will be able to safely attend general admission concerts again in the U.S. — which could easily take until at least summer 2021 to produce and disperse. In the meantime, venues are still paying rent, taxes, licensing fees and insurance that can amount to $75,000 a month.
“We’ve already been closed for six months and we’re going to have to go another year,” says Severin. “Just getting the Restart Act is getting us through the year so we can find out what to do next.”
But independent venues aren’t just looking to Capitol Hill for help. Increasingly during the pandemic, they have focused on lobbying their local and state governments for assistance. Coalitions have formed around the country in cities including Austin, Nashville, New York and Cleveland. In Chicago, independent venues had already created Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL) in 2018 to fight off corporate development. And Seattle’s Seattle Nightlife Music Association was running for a decade before adding all Washington state venues to become the Washington Nightlife and Music Association (WaNMA) once the pandemic hit.
WaNMA, of which Neumos and Severin are members, has had one of the more successful appeals to its local government: On May 12, King County Council unanimously passed a bill that provides $750,000 to local independent venues. Venues applied for the grant money in July and are now awaiting the results. King County officials have also been helping to connect WaNMA with business leaders to raise more money from the private sector.
“Once you split the money up between all the venues it is not the money that is going to make the difference, it is the fact that our government is saying that venues are important. That, in a pandemic, where money is going to the most important fabrics of our city, that music venues fit in there. That’s huge,” says Severin.
In Tennessee, Music Venue Alliance Nashville (MVAN) is currently petitioning its city council to establish a fund to protect independent music venues as well. The 16-venue alliance, which includes Mercy Lounge and The Cannery Ballroom, is asking the committee that oversees the COVID-19 response fund to earmark $2 million of federal relief money the city has received in order to help keep independent music venues safely closed through March 2021. The fund would be about 2% of Nashville’s total aid from the federal government and would likely ensure the venues would still be around when Music City fully reopens to the public.
“We feel like it’s a bit of a no brainer; the reality is it’s not. It is a big undertaking even to get to the point to make the ask, much less present a convincing enough argument so that we’d get a yes,” says Chris Cobb, Exit/In owner and co-founder of Marathon Music Works in Nashville.
Even for a place dubbed Music City, Cobb says most people — including those in positions of power — don’t understand the economics or the ecosystem of live music venues. In 2019, MVAN says its members paid $576,000 in liquor taxes, $1.2 million in sales tax and $5.2 million to more than 46,000 local and visiting performers for 5,600 concerts that generated $6.1 million in ticket sales.
“I have this conversation with people outside of Nashville and they’re like, ‘Oh, come on. It’s Music City, everybody gets it,’” says Cobb. “And the reality is they don’t.”
Cobb notes that appealing for funding at a local level makes a lot of sense for MVAN and other indie venues around the country, since they tend to have existing relationships with city councils and officials. “The beautiful thing about a network of independent music venues is that a lot of us are already pretty active members of our community. We host the fundraisers. We give the room away for free, however many times a year,” he says.
Cobb, like Severin with Neumos, and the rest of the MVAN members are also involved in NIVA efforts and fighting for indie venues on all levels. The 500-capacity Exit/In also qualified for funding from the state’s small business package, which Cobb says will cover one month of his closed, fixed overhead. (The Exit/In has now been closed for four months.)
“If you own a music venue right now, you are probably doing everything you can possibly do to figure out how to not file bankruptcy,” Cobb says. “From an assistance perspective that looks like [appealing to] the federal level, state level and local level.”
Austen Bailey, talent buyer for Mohawk in Austin, agrees that venues need to be tackling the issue of survival however they can. “We’re unable to be divorced from any of those levels of engagement,” says Bailey, who is also part of the Music Venue Alliance – Austin. “The more organized and unified venues are about telling the story of the $23.4 billion in economic activity that the music business in Texas produces while employing 200,000-plus people and generating $390 million in tax revenue the better.”
In Austin alone, at least six music venues have permanently closed since the pandemic hit and more continue to face uncertainty. According to a study released in July by Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, without funding the city will permanently lose 90% of the roughly 50 venues that MVA-Austin represents by Halloween.
Live music “is what the city is known for. It’s part of our identity. Our tourism industry — which means our hotel tax revenue — is absolutely contingent upon having our live music venues open when we recover from this,” says MVA-Austin president and founder Rebecca Reynolds. Not to mention the “cultural and personal and emotional impact that it would have if we knowingly allowed all of these businesses to slowly close permanently.”
In late July, MVA-Austin presented a budget request for a Music Venue Preservation Fund to the city that asks for $19 million for fixed costs for venues of all sizes and an additional $1 million to help subsidize livestreaming costs. The city is expected to vote on the proposal in late August. That money, they hope, could come from the next federal aid package — but, of course, that is still uncertain.
The Austin City Council “has agreed that there is a need for such a fund, but we don’t have it yet,” says Reynolds. “So we are asking them to complete the work that they started.”
Chloe x Halle served yet another flawless live performance during quarantine in their backyard tennis court, but this time, for “Forgive Me.”
Chloe and Halle Bailey transformed the space into a misty forest Thursday night (Aug. 6), invoking a peaceful atmosphere with Halle’s acoustic guitar before the camera pans upward and reveals the 20-year-old R&B singer is indeed wearing a strappy black belt as a top with a complementary sultry mermaid skirt, which is all too fitting for her upcoming role as Ariel in the Disney live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. Her sister Chloe donned a medieval yet modern cutout breastplate-bodysuit hybrid with a billowing skirt for their chic matching black ensembles, right down to the jewels dotting their eyeliner.
“Hope you all enjoy this stripped down version of #forgiveme it’s giving all the feels,” the duo captioned the Instagram video. Tina Knowles-Lawson, the mother of their mentor and Parkwood Entertainment label boss Beyoncé, commented with heart emojis as her loving stamp of approval, while their grown-ish castmate Trevor Jackson also praised their performance.
From Chloe’s twisted ponytail that’s larger than life and piercing high note at the end to Halle’s haunting harmony and guitar playing, the two keep outdoing their last move on the court.
Watch their live performance of “Forgive Me” below.
Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion flipped Frank Ski’s “Whores in This House” for their new wet-and-wild “WAP” single and accompanying visual, but they invited some other slithery friends to come inside.
At Cardi’s command, the two hip-hop hotties nestled in the sand of the snake room in one of the luxurious video’s earliest shots. But it proved to be the most difficult shot to get.
“Lol I had never touched a snake in my life !!! scariest sh– ever ! WAP VIDEO OUT NOW GO RUN IT UP,” Megan captioned an Instagram series of shots Friday (Aug. 7) that showed her touching a green and yellow snake with a reptile handler.
Regardless of her requesting it, Cardi had the hardest time with it, according to the “Hot Girl” rapper’s Q&A session Thursday night (Aug. 6) on her Instagram Live.
“The h–s crawling through my titties, the h–s crawling through my hair, the h–s crawling through Cardi’s hair, and Cardi was like, ‘Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan Megan!'” she recalled. “And I was like, ‘No-no-no, no-no-no bi—. You said you wanted these snakes. You asked for this, you wanted these motherf—ing snakes bi—, so we ’bout to lay in these motherf—ing snakes bi—. And that’s what we did. She was scared as hell.”
The “Bodak Yellow” rapper shared the same horror story during their joint live YouTube premiere party, but both rappers didn’t reveal what scene they were referring to at the time because the video hadn’t dropped yet.
Cardi promised a proper behind-the-scenes clip of the music video, which has racked up more than 18 million YouTube views overnight, on her Instagram today. “BTS COMIN SOON REAL SOON ! I can’t wait for you guys to see.Everybody work hand in hand and so hard.Sharing ideas and creative on group chats,” the 27-year-old star captioned the video of her sharing her vision with Megan and the rest of the video team, whom she tagged. “It was soo dope.We wanted to do more stuff but we ain’t had enough time.”
Check out their BTS shots below.