Watch Ally Brooke Surprise a Super Fifth Harmony Fan & Blood Cancer Survivor Who’s a ‘BO$$’

Ally Brooke surprised a 16-year-old blood cancer survivor named Caitlin on Friday (Nov. 13) as part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Random Acts of Light movement.

At the age of 12, she was diagnosed with blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN) and had to be in isolation for 100 days in her hospital room to receive a stem cell transplant. That’s when she turned to the music of Bruno Mars, Meghan Trainor and Fifth Harmony. But she had no idea she’d meet Brooke and discuss “BO$$,” one of her favorite 5H songs that she said “brought light to my parents and all the nurses who saw” her sing it every day.

“I’m so honored that I and we could be such a beautiful part of your journey to give you so much light and hope and joy in such a hard time in your life,” Brooke told her over the unexpected video chat. “…One of my favorite Fifth Harmony songs was ‘BO$$’ because it was so empowering, and that is so special to me, honestly, that our song helped you. So that’s something that’s so beautiful and I’ll remember always.”

Watch Brooke’s Random Act of Light below.

First Country: New Music from Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett, Morgan Wallen & More

First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.

Chris Stapleton, Starting Over

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better country album this year than Starting Over, Stapleton’s fourth studio album and first since 2017’s From A Room: Volume 2. From Stapleton’s ragged, soulful vocals to Dave Cobb’s feral production, Starting Over is all untamed emotion. Whether Stapleton is singing about beginning anew with his love on the title track,  expressing his devotion on “When I’m With You,” bitterly addressing an ex-lover on “Cold” or  angrily and righteously taking on the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival shooter in the blistering “Watch You Burn,” none of the rough edges are sanded off here, and the result is masterful. Stapleton covers John Fogerty’s “Joy of My Life” and Guy Clark’s “Worry B Gone” and “Old Friends” here and he proves that he is as capable a songwriter as these two legends.

Morgan Wallen, “7 Summers”

Wallen, the recently crowned new artist of the year at this week’s CMA Awards, stars in an eight-minute short film that ties in a plot featuring Wallen figuring out how to get out from under his father’s shadow, especially when it comes to pursuing baseball, and plan a future with his girlfriend. It serves as his acting debut and a nice companion to his current hit.

Thomas Rhett, “What’s Your Country Song”

Rhett’s music video for his latest single combines what looks like home footage with scenes of small-town life — think two-lane roads, Friday high school football games, fishing, cornfields — as he name-drops classic country songs such as “Mama Tried,” “Dixieland Delight,” “Strawberry Wine,” “Family Tradition” and more. The images evoke as warm memories as the flood of song titles.

Shenandoah, Every Road

Shenandoah, best known for ’80 and ‘90s hits like “Church on Cumberland Road” and “Two Dozen Roses,” returns with a new collection featuring collaborations with some of today’s top hitmakers. Instead of revisiting the group’s greatest hits per usual for such projects, this set features all new music, Shenandoah’s first to do so in 26 years. Producer Buddy Cannon did an excellent job of pairing guests with their songs, including Zac Brown Band on the nostalgic “I’d Take Another One of Those,” Ashley McBryde on the wistful “If Only.” Other standouts include the rollicking “High Class Hillbillies” with Cody Johnson and sweetly swaying “Every Time I Look At You” with Lady A. These projects can be hit or miss, but on this one both T the original artist — Marty Raybon’s voice remains powerful— and the guest artists shine.

Adam Doleac, “Whiskey’s Fine”

As the radio versio of “Whiskey’s Fine” goes for ads on Monday (Nov. 16), Doleac releases an acoustic version for fans already familiar with the original from his EP released earlier this year. His quiet rasp is equally compelling on both versions of the sultry ode to the power of liquor and lips. The acoustic version eliminates the electric guitar solo, but retains the song’s quiet urgency.

Kameron Marlowe, Kameron Marlowe

Season 15 The Voice contestant Marlowe wears his influences on his sleeve whether they be Luke Combs or Travis Tritt on this solid six-track collection that includes the driving “Giving You Up,” the chugging “Sober as a Drunk,” and the shuffling “Burn ‘Em All.” Marlowe wrote or co-wrote four of the tracks here, showing his promise as a songwriter as well as a nascent talent.

The Sons of Guns N’ Roses, Metallica & Stone Temple Pilots Made Their Own Band: Hear Their First Single

London Hudson, Tye Trujillo and Noah Weiland know what it’s like to have rockstar fathers. Now, they’re ready to follow in their footsteps.

The three teenage sons of Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, and Stone Temple Pilots’ late frontman Scott Weiland, with their friend Niko Tsangaris, have formed their own alt-rock band called Suspect208. And you don’t have to wait for their debut single because “Long Awaited” is already out.

Slash’s 18-year-old son Hudson announced their debut on Instagram last week, promising, “We got more sh– coming soon!” He was previously in a different band with Tsangaris called Classless Act, which opened for Slash at the Hollywood Palladium in 2019. Tye Trujillo previously toured with Korn in 2017 and performed with his father’s old troupe Suicidal Tendencies last year.

Listen to Suspect208’s debut single “Long Awaited” below.

Meg Toohey On the Specific Struggles of Broadway’s Freelance Community

At the top of 2020, Meg Toohey finished her run as guitarist for the Broadway musical Waitress and released Butch, her first solo album since 2001. She planned to tour the project in between theater gigs, but with the live industry on hold, Toohey found unexpected momentum with “Lucky Streak,” her tribute to Waitress star Nick Cordero (featuring the show’s composer-lyricist Sara Bareilles), who died in July from COVID-19.

How does a Broadway career compare with a solo career in terms of financial stability?

Broadway is the one gig that musicians look at as a sure [thing] — it’s a constant cycling of work, you’re in a union. I had great health insurance, I had a regular paycheck that was a great paycheck because of the union, I had vacation days and a 401(k). As far as making a living as a musician, that was the way. You can support a family on a Broadway gig.

What financial burden did you take on as an independent artist through this pandemic?

It’s not only the financial burden, but a lot of my friends live in these big apartment buildings in the city and it’s not exactly conducive to tracking a drum kit. You’re trying to hand in a project and you’re on a deadline to pitch a piece that there’s probably a hundred other writers in line or musicians in line for, easy, that will do it cheaper. Suddenly, it’s like you have to be able to keep up with the Joneses in every single way now. So first of all, you have the price point that suddenly you have to buy all of this new equipment if you’re not already hip to the home recording scene, and then there’s also the space. Like I’ve got a ten-year-old who just started taking tap dancing and I’m in my basement in the middle of a vocal take for a Netflix series that I’m writing. I’ve literally been to Home Depot a hundred times trying to insulate.

Once you realized Broadway was shutting down and you couldn’t tour your album, what were your options?

Everything musical went to social media. So on top of this game of, “Can you get your song on a TikTok?,” every five minutes somebody enormous is doing the same thing you used to do on Instagram where people might actually watch. Now, all of a sudden, you go live and Miley Cyrus is on with Kamala Harris. With the oversaturation in media, it’s kind of impossible to compete.

How have you connected with fans then?

I was really lucky that Sara Bareilles is part of my latest single [“Lucky Streak”]; obviously it’s a lot easier to get people to listen to you if you have somebody like her. But now, I have a song that has garnered a lot of attention, but I don’t have a label, I don’t have a management team, I don’t have money to throw into plastering it all over the interweb and putting together video shoots. I have to create my whole marketing strategy, and I’m not an expert on this stuff. I’m throwing everything I’ve got at this and hoping that people are gonna listen — and frankly, to be completely honest, that’s not very far away from where I was in 2006.

What’s a misconception about Broadway performers and musicians?

The Broadway community gets angry when people say, “Just go out and get a job,” because we’re talking about people that spent their whole lives studying this craft and paid thousands of dollars in tuition and [put in] countless hours practicing. So many people I know finally just got to their level of like, ‘I’m nailing this and I’m making a living as an artist. I’m in a great show, everything is happening.’ And then all of a sudden it’s gone. It’s all gone.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Nov. 14, 2020 issue of Billboard.

Miley Cyrus Revealed the Track List For ‘Plastic Hearts’ and There Are Some Stellar Collabs

Miley Cyrus unleashed the 12-song tracklist for her upcoming, Plastic Hearts album on Friday (Nov. 13), revealing that her seventh full-length will feature collaborations with Billy Idol (“Night Crawling”), Dua Lipa (“Prisoner”) and Joan Jett (“Bad Karma”).

The collection, due out on Nov. 27, will feature Cyrus’ recent single, “Midnight Sky,” as well as the provocatively-titled “Gimme What I Want,” “Hate Me” and “Golden G String.” (Recent covers of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” did not make the cut for the album.)

Miley recently released the “Sky” remix, “Edge of Midnight,” which mashes-up her vocals with those of the song’s inspiration, Stevie Nicks’ 1982 hit “Edge of Seventeen.”

Check out the track list below.

This Memphis Label Avoided Pandemic Layoffs — Here’s How

Original Stax Records songwriter David Porter and 20-year business and legal veteran Tony ­Alexander launched their entertainment company, Made in Memphis Entertainment (MIME), in April 2015. Alexander quickly realized that in order for the independent label MIME Records to succeed, the co-founders would need to create some additional revenue streams.

“If you’re trying to develop and break artists that are unknown, it requires patience and a lot of capital,” he says. In the years since, Porter (CEO) and Alexander (president/managing director) expanded to include a recording studio, a synch licensing division and a publisher, while launching the only Black-owned distribution company in the United States.

And though MIME’s label roster boasts just three acts, Alexander emphasizes the amount of untapped potential in Memphis. “There’s no other city in the country that has produced more talent,” he says. “If you’re in a ­desert, you want to go where the water is. This is where the water is.”

In 2012, Porter founded a Memphis nonprofit focused on educating creators about the music business and brought in Alexander to help with legal matters. The two repeatedly saw artists and aspiring music executives relocate to larger music hubs and decided to give Memphis natives a reason to stay. This year, MIME promoted Renisha Mayes — who met Porter at her college graduation and started at MIME in 2018 in its publishing and distribution division — to GM of MIME Records.

The label’s first signee, Porcelan, reached No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart with her 2018 single “Lois Lane.” More recently, she teamed with labelmates Jessica Ray and Brandon Lewis in June for a cover of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” following the police killing of George Floyd. Now, Mayes is teaching artists how to market themselves, from developing an efficient rollout schedule to interacting with fans more effectively. “It’s creating an infrastructure from ground zero,” she says.

While MIME has 58 total employees, 75% of whom are Black, its label team comprises just 11 full-time staffers. Alexander is proud of avoiding layoffs amid the pandemic. “We made a commitment to help them weather the storm,” he says. “When other companies were laying off en masse, we [were] able to support the team.” In fact, MIME has already made additional hires within its publishing, distribution and synch divisions, and plans to increase its studio staff in 2021.

The company plans to open a second studio in Atlanta soon. As for its Memphis artists, all three have released new music during the pandemic, and now the team is focused on continuing that momentum into next year. Mayes hopes to release debut EPs from Ray and Lewis and push for more virtual performances, especially at an event like South by Southwest. “They’ve got the music,” she says, adding that each MIME artist has at least 20 songs at the ready. “We just have to get the timeline.”

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 14, 2020 issue of Billboard.