‘Hamilton’ Parody Makes Light of the Debate Over Wearing Face Masks: Watch

The ongoing mask debate across the United States has gotten the Hamilton treatment just in time for the musical’s Disney+ premiere this weekend.

A YouTube parody brings the coronavirus pandemic pro-mask and anti-mask sides head to head, with lyrics themed the soundtrack of Hamilton.

The clip, uploaded by the Holderness Family, gets straight to the topic as it opens with a call-and-response to the tune of “Aaron Burr, Sir”:

“Pardon me, do you have germs, sir?”

“No, I don’t — and that’s my business, not yours, sir. I have my rights and have my freedom.”

“To be sure, sir…”

“But this corona is a sham.”

“I’m getting nervous, sir.”

The humorous song goes on to address everything from the very serious reality of the virus to conspiracy theories — and both sides even agree, if just for a moment, about how rough being in quarantine with kids can be — before transitioning to the next Hamilton-inspired tunes about why everyone should “just agree wear a tiny flipping mask.”

Watch the “Hamilton Mask-Up” parody below.


Apple Music Launches Africa Rising Artist Showcase with Debut Cover Star Omah Lay

Over the last couple of years, Africa has become an increasingly important force on the global music scene, leading labels, publishers and streaming services to extend their reach on the long-neglected continent. In late April, Apple Music announced an expansion of its platform in two dozen African countries, and now the streaming service has unveiled a new initiative to identify and showcase rising talent on the continent.

Named Africa Rising, the artist program and companion playlist will feature an African artist chosen by Apple Music’s editorial team every two months, using the full weight of the platform to elevate their careers in Africa and around the world. The first artist to be highlighted is Nigerian-born, Afro-fusion singer-songwriter Omah Lay, whose debut EP Get Layd has been the No. 1 album on Apple Music Nigeria since its release in May.

“I have always used Apple Music, seeing my favorite artists on playlist covers and features but here I am looking pretty as Apple Music’s first Africa Rising artist,” said Lay in a statement. “I am overwhelmed, dreams really do come true”

Lay is the first Africa Rising cover star to be featured on the companion playlist, which will also highlight some of the hottest new and emerging artists on the continent across genres.

“I’m so excited that my fellow Nigerian Omah Lay is Apple Music’s first Africa Rising artist,” added Cuppy, who hosts Apple Music’s recently-launched Africa Now Radio. “This new program and its playlist will elevate the next generation of African superstars and bring them to the world.”

Lay began his career as a teenage member of the rap group Lil King. He later switched to producing before deciding to launch a solo career. In 2019, Lay’s singles “Do Not Disturb” and “Hello Brother” ended up in heavy rotation on commercial stations in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

“I wasn’t expecting all of this,” Lay told Apple Music host Nadeska Alexis in an interview slated to air Friday. “I didn’t expect it to happen this fast and so soon, you know what I mean? But I’m grateful. I just made music, I put it out, and everybody’s loving it.”

You can listen to the full interview here and visit the Apple Music Rising playlist here.

John Legend Praises ‘Verzuz’ Battles: ‘It’s Just Been Great for the Culture’

John Legend joined Ebro Darden on Apple Music on Thursday (July 2) to chat about his new album, Bigger Love, his musical legacy, the power of protesting and just how good all those recent Verzuz battles have been.

“Well, we love it because one, we can never watch the whole thing because kids and things are always going on, so I just drop in when I can,” Legend, who took part in his own Verzuz showdown with Alicia Keys for Juneteenth, admitted. “But the energy has been so good around all of them.”

“And what I love about them is they’ve really been teaching people about the history of our culture and the music,” Legend said, “knowing particularly because so many producers and writers have been a part of it, not just front artists, lead artists, but people who have been behind the scenes, making tracks for people for years. It’s good to see their whole body of work all in one setting, and give them the credit and the flowers that they’re due, for the great work that they’ve done.”

He continued: “When you see someone like Babyface, who was behind so many great, great songs, not just the ones that he fronted, but the ones he wrote for Whitney or Toni, or so many other artists, Boyz II Men, seeing him get his due respect and honor because of the great work he’s done, it’s just been great for the culture. And it’s been entertaining. Even when things go wrong, it’s been entertaining. It’s just that good.”

Watch him chat about Verzuz below, and listen to the full episode on-demand on Apple Music.

After Dismal Year-End Results, LiveXLive Wants to Pivot Conversation to Pay-Per-View and Podcasts

Would you pay $150 for a ticket to see a virtual Monsta X concert if it included a 20-second digital meet and greet with the band?

Plenty of the Monbebes (the nickname for the K-pop group’s fans) would gladly pay, according to a press release from LiveXLive, one of five announcements the company has sent out since it dismal annual earnings report came out last week. Besides announcing LiveXLive had sold out of the VIP passes, LiveXLive is hoping to convince investors it is on sound financial footing as it goes into the second quarter. With live events on hold for the rest of the year, the company is hoping pay-per-view concerts and podcasts will help the streaming company reign in growing losses, a high-interest loan that’s restricted a large chunk of its cash and expensive lawsuits the company has struggled to defend.

Yesterday company officials issued a cryptic press release on its acquisition of PodcastOne that included a subhead noting that LiveXLive had potentially increased its cash to “$18.5 million, up from $12.4 million,” from March 31 (the of its fiscal year) without any further explanation or mention in the release.

The announcement was welcome news for investors which saw LiveXLive’s 15% gain in revenue for the year gobbled up by $38 million in losses, a record for the company that has lost $128 million since 2015. While LiveXLive’s balance sheet showed $12.4 million in cash at the end of the fiscal year (March 31), chairman and chief executive Robert Ellin only had access to $5.7 million because $6.7 million was sitting in a “locked bank account” mostly as collateral after the company breached revenue covenants connected to a $10 million, 12.75% interest loan from investment firm JGB Partners. (Billboard reached out to LiveXLive for this story, but company officials declined to comment).

By waiting to announce the lousy Q4 numbers until just five days before the end of the Q1, LiveXLive was able to buoy its stock with the mysterious announcement that it had suddenly improved its cash position by $6.1 million. But where did the new money come from, and how much of it was restricted?

We won’t likely know until August when the first quarter results are made public, but the company has previously  disclosed that it accepted $2 million in loans in the first quarter from the federal Paycheck Protection Program meant for small businesses. LiveXLive’s CFO Mike Zemetra told investors on a recent earnings call that the company planned to apply for 100% forgiveness of the loan, despite outcry that the money was not meant for publicly traded companies. LiveXLive also likely generated cash from its purchase of PodcastOne — the podcast service reportedly had about $2.5 million in cash on hand at the time the acquisition closed.

Wherever the $6 million came from, it’s not likely enough to get the company through the year. LiveXLive is “dependent upon the receipt of capital investment and other financing to fund our ongoing operations,” according to its most recent annual report. The company’s losses and assets to liability deficit “raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern within one year from (now).”

One of the company’s biggest challenges is that it heavily depends on automaker Tesla as its main source of paid subscriptions. When LiveXLive purchased the Slacker streaming music app in 2017, it inherited an agreement with the automaker which pays to bundle Slacker (now LiveXLive) with other offerings for each car it sells. Nearly two-thirds of LiveXLive’s subscription revenue comes from the Tesla agreement.

“Our business is dependent, and we believe that it will continue to depend, on our customer relationship with Tesla,” LiveXLive’s earnings report reads. “If Tesla terminates our agreement,” or seeks to renegotiate the terms of its deal, “our business, financial condition and results of operations would be materially adversely affected.”

Another challenge for the company is debt. Ellin’s hedge fund holds about $7 million in debt, while JGB holds $10 million in debentures. Besides having to lock up $6.5 million after falling far short of its $15 million revenue requirement for the company’s third quarter last year, LiveXLive has to pay a hefty penalty to JGB. In order to secure a waiver for the breach, LiveXLive agreed to transfer 400,000 common stock shares to JGB worth $1.2 million in exchange for a reduction of only $10,000 in principal from its loan.

LiveXLive’s most costly liability is the millions it might have to pay if it loses a lawsuit brought by former business partner and investor Joe Schnaier. The former Wantickets owner has compiled dozens of taunting and threatening texts from Ellin as evidence. In fact, Ellin’s use of insulting profanity is so well known that Schnaier’s lawyer issued a subpoena to Ellin for all communications using  the words “idiot,” “jerkoff,” “cockroach” and four different spellings of “douchebag.”

Lawyers for Schnaier also plan to utilize a text message exchange as evidence where Ellin allegedly brags “Make this crystal clear you will never get your shares blocked til death do us part” and “You watch crook you going to jail.” When Schnaier warns “You are not going to get away with stealing my money,” Ellin responds “See you in hell and suing (you) for defamation as well.”

Schnaier’s attorneys want to include evidence that “Ellin has been arrested three times between 2006 and 2013 for alcohol- or vehicle-related offenses, including a DUI in 2013,” noting “Ellin has an alcohol or drug problem that fuels his fraudulent conduct.”

LiveXLive is struggling to defend the lawsuit — two lawyers quit because of lack of payment, and the company is now facing a new lawsuit over unpaid legal bills. Schnaier’s attorney Joshua Wurtzel said the delays over unpaid bills unfairly hurt his client’s effort to

“LiveXLive Media’s own disclosures show that Mr. Ellin and his cronies are looting the company and evading creditors with much smaller claims than (Schnaier). And so the longer this action drags on, the less likely it is that (Schnaier) will be able to collect on a judgment against LiveXLive Media,” Wurtzel writes. “(T)hat LiveXLive Media is leaving a trail of creditors across the country and claiming poverty before this Court shows that it is critical that (Schnaier) be able to have their day in court against (LiveXLive) as soon as possible.”

While the challenges the company faces are daunting, Ellin told investors on a recent earnings call that the PodcastOne acquisition and pay-per-view shift are expected to help the company finally begin its path toward profitability.

“LiveXLive today is a different company than it was six months ago at the time,” he said, later saying that “having numerous new and potentially significant revenue opportunities, we now squarely focus on driving revenue and positive EBITDA.”

Japanese Actor Haruma Miura’s Second Single, ‘Night Diver,’ Will Feature Song by Yuki Tsujimura

Japanese star Haruma Miura is set to drop his second single, “Night Diver,” on Aug. 26.

The award-winning actor — who has starred in numerous movies, TV dramas and theater productions since he entered showbiz as a child actor — kicked off his solo music career last year.

His upcoming second single will contain three tracks, including the title song, written and produced by the sought-after songwriter Yuki Tsujimura, who has contributed hits for popular J-pop acts Hey! Say! JUMP, Sexy Zone, Hinatazaka46 and more. Miura will also make his songwriting debut with “You & I,” the third track on the set.

The DVD included in the limited first edition will contain the music video accompanying “Night Diver,” live footage of his acoustic rendition of “YOU,” and a documentary clip capturing what went on behind the scenes during the recording and video shoot for the single. The regular version will come with a special booklet with new photos of the 30-year-old heartthrob.

Miura had to cancel his first-ever showcase events, previously scheduled for fall in Tokyo and Osaka, due to coronavirus concerns. A concert will be streamed online instead, with details to be announced later.

Johnny’s WEST Bows at No. 1 on Japan Hot 100 as Karaoke Returns After 3-Month Hiatus

J-pop boy band empire Johnny’s continues to dominate the Billboard Japan Hot 100 for the third week, with the latest No. 1 going to Johnny’s WEST’s “Shouko” (“Evidence”), the title track on the septet’s 14th single. The single sold 225,849 copies in its first week to lead physical sales and look-ups, blasting in at the top spot on the chart dated June 22 to 28, fueled by these physical metrics of the chart’s methodology.

Another Johnny’s project called Twenty★Twenty, consisting of 75 artists belonging to the talent agency, released a COVID-19 charity single written by veteran pop band Mr. Children’s Kazutoshi Sakurai: “smile” shoots to No. 5 after leading downloads this week (68,971 units).

YOASOBI’s “Yoru ni kakeru” and Eito’s “Kousui” hold at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, while continuing to add to their overall point totals. The karaoke metric has returned to the Japan Hot 100 beginning this week, and “Yoru ni kakeru” is at No. 4, a major leap from where it was — or wasn’t, as it wasn’t even in the top 300 — on the ranking dated April 8, the week before the metric was put on hold due to coronavirus shutdowns. The track is currently also at No. 2 for video views, gaining over a million views from last week’s 15,036,840 to 16,852,042 views this week.

Meanwhile, “Kousui” is enjoying the effects of media exposure, ruling video this week by adding a whopping 10 million views to its weekly total, jumping to 17,489,687 views from last week’s 7,224,834.

The ballad was also nonexistent on karaoke platforms before the shutdown but has been added starting this week, and considering that it took off on TikTok powered by users’ covers, it’s expected to soar in the karaoke metric in the coming weeks as well.

The first No. 1 song for karaoke after the metric’s three-month hiatus is LiSA’s “Gurenge,” which had been holding at No. 2 for eight consecutive weeks before the shutdowns began. The popular anime theme song has finally overtaken Official HIGE DANdism’s “Pretender,” the mega-hit that lived at No. 1 for the metric for 22 weeks in a row.

The Billboard Japan Hot 100 combines physical and digital sales, radio airplay, Twitter mentions, YouTube and GYAO! video views, Gracenote look-ups, audio streams from Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, AWA, Google Play Music, KKBOX, LINE MUSIC, Rakuten Music, RecMusic provided by Gfk Japan, dHits, Uta Pass and Spotify, plus karaoke data from Daiichikosho and XING.

Billboard Japan Hot 100 Top 10 (dated June 22 to 28)
1. [-] Shouko / Johnny’s WEST (225,849 copies / none / none)
2. [2] Yoru ni kakeru / YOASOBI (none / 15,139 downloads / 9,681,144 streams)
3. [3] Kousui / Eito (none / 23,465 downloads / 8,431,708 streams)
4. [-] Yakusoku no sora / Touken Danshi formation of Kishou (88,299 copies / none / none)
5. [45] smile / Twenty★Twenty (none / 68,971 downloads / 1,817,773 streams)
6. [6] Gurenge / LiSA (2,580 copies / 14,271 downloads / 4,062,691 streams)
7. [4] Hadaka no kokoro / Aimyon (2,374 copies / 17,003 downloads / 4,553,446 streams)
8. [7] Pretender / Official HIGE DANdism (none / 6,288 downloads / 4,629,172 streams)
9. [8] I LOVE… / Official HIGE DANdism (910 copies / 6,282 downloads / 4,574,005 streams)
10. [91] umbrella / End of the World (SEKAI NO OWARI) (34,229 copies / 6,575 downloads / none)

[ ]: Position last week
( ): Physical sales / downloads / streams (Top 50 only)

Vanilla Ice Cancels Texas Concert Due to COVID-19 Surge

Vanilla Ice cooled off plans for a concert in Texas after taking considerable heat for an event that sought to gather hundreds of fans in one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots.

The 1990s rapper with the hit single “Ice Ice Baby” had been scheduled to play a lakeside show just outside Austin on Friday (July 3), but on Thursday he announced it was being postponed.

“Due to the increase in COVID-19 numbers in Austin we’re gonna move the concert to a better date,” Vanilla Ice tweeted. “We were hoping for better Coronavirus numbers by July but Unfortunately the numbers have increased quite a bit so for the safety and health of everyone we’re going to stay home.”

Barrett Brannam, who owns the venue where Vanilla Ice had been scheduled to play, said the performer — real name Robert Van Winkle — had expressed concern about the health of his fans and himself. Brannam said Saturday’s planned appearance by 1990s R&B group Color Me Badd also was postponed. He said both Vanilla Ice and Color Me Badd would perform at a later date, but he didn’t know when.

“Hard to say. Could be later this summer or not until next summer. We don’t know how long this virus will be around,” he said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week shut down bars and clubs in an effort to halt what he called a “massive spread” of the coronavirus. But the Emerald Point Bar & Grill is still open and hosting live music because it is a restaurant and performances can take place outside.

The Vanilla Ice show drew widespread attention — and criticism — when the rapper posted about it on social media Wednesday. Only 84 tickets had been sold before the online ticket broker suspended sales, Brannam said.

“I take the coronavirus serious. But we can’t live in a bubble,” the rapper tweeted before canceling Thursday. “I think at this point we all understand the severity of it. (P)ractice social distancing and wear a mask. This is an outside venue, Fourth of July on the lake with fireworks. Plenty of room for distancing.”

The rapper’s management company didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Brannam said he hadn’t come under any pressure to cancel the show from state or local governments but he has been swamped with calls of complaints.

Vanilla Ice played the same venue last year in front of 1,800 people and is booked for the holiday weekend for the next two years, Brannam said. Friday’s concert was booked in 2019, he said.

“I didn’t know about COVID when I booked this show. Nobody did,” Brannam said.

Brannam said the rapper had committed to asking fans to wear masks and follow proper social distancing guidelines. The venue was going to be checking patrons’ temperatures at the entrance and giving a mask to anyone who needed one, he said.

The restaurant has been hosting live music performances since it reopened in May. Brannam said no one complained until it was a Vanilla Ice concert.

Brannam said he postponed upcoming concerts by Coolio and Tone Loc next weekend because he wouldn’t lose money.

“Vanilla Ice, he’s poised for people to poke fun at. Nobody was saying anything until he made his post. That’s when everything went crazy,” Brannam said. “I’m the most hated person on the planet right now over a Vanilla Ice show.”