‘Patriotic’ Russian Musicians Are Cashing In on Putin-Backed Concerts

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to deep division among local musicians. While critics of the war have trouble playing shows — or are voluntarily refusing to do so — supporters of the invasion are cashing in by playing government-sponsored “patriotic” concerts.

With Europe’s largest conflict since World Word II now passing 100 days, throughout April and May, dozens of concerts have been organized across Russia by local authorities to support the Russian “military operation” in Ukraine. Artists participating in those shows were paid sizable fees by local authorities.

The folk rock band Pelageya collected 3 million rubles ($49,000) for participating in a patriotic music festival in Stavropol, South Russia, on May 1, and singer Denis Maidanov was paid 2.5 million rubles ($40,000) for taking part in the same event, according to Russia’s government procurement website, where all spendings from the central and local budgets have to be reported.

Artists’ fees for regular shows are normally not disclosed in Russia, but these figures are still believed to be higher than their regular fees.

The management of Maidanov and Pelageya did not respond to Billboard‘s request for comments.

Russian artists on the other side of the spectrum – those who have opposed the invasion – have found themselves in a totally different situation.

The rock band Nogu Svelo, fronted by the outspoken Maxim Pokrovsky, finds it impossible to play in Russia right now.

“Some of our colleagues prefer to declare readiness to provide entertainment to everyone, regardless of their views, saying they are beyond politics,” Pokrovsky tells Billboard. “I am not ready to entertain anyone who supports the extinction of a people whose blood I have in my veins, or the extinction of any people at all,” Pokrovsky says, who was out of Russia when the invasion began on Feb. 24 and has no plans to return in the near term.

Since the conflict began, Pokrovsky has released several music videos, in which he harshly criticizes Russia for attacking Ukraine and those Russians who supported the attack.

He dreads the idea that people who support what Russian authorities continue to call a “special military operation” could show up at his band’s concerts.

Now, he says he fears he could be detained if he comes to Russia to perform. The Kremlin recently adopted legislation stipulating harsh punishment of up to 15 years in prison for those who criticize the military operation in Ukraine — and Pokrovsky’s songs technically violate that law.

Yevgeny Fedorov, frontman of the bands Tequilajazzz and Optimystica Orchestra, also left Russia days after the invasion, as did many of his colleagues who opposed Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“This is exactly a war, and it is unacceptable, totally shameful and wicked, because it is justified by far-fetched reasons and imperialist fantasies built upon myths that were born in the Soviet era and grew unbelievably strong thanks to Russian official propaganda’s continuous efforts in the last 20 years,” Fedorov tells Billboard.

“Hundreds of artists were forced to leave Russia, as any outspoken comment could lead to a lengthy prison term, harassment from pro-Putin activists and even physical attacks,” he says.

Among the first Russian artists to speak out was Miron Fyodorov, the rapper known as Oxxxymiron, who canceled his first Russia headlining tour in five years, and then played three shows in April under the slogan “RUSSIANS AGAINST WAR” in Istanbul, London and Berlin, respectively, collecting $195,000 that was donated to Ukrainians. He’s now on hiatus and his website provides no further tour dates, only saying “NO TO WAR.”

More recently, the veteran rock band DDT, whose frontman Yuri Shevchuk has opposed the war, has canceled several shows — in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk and, this week, a stadium show in Moscow scheduled for June 10.

“The Band DDT takes a strong anti-war stance,” the band said in a statement published on its website. “Because of that, organizers were unable to obtain permission to run the show from the Moscow government.”

The band refused to play at venues adorned with the letter ‘Z,’ which has come to symbolize support for the invasion.

Shevchuk himself is facing civil charges for anti-war comments he made at a recent show in Ufa. The charges were brought by local authorities and the case is still pending. Shevchuk has not denied making the comments.

As the war in Ukraine entered its fourth month, the division between musicians supporting and opposing the invasion remains acute. At the same time, a third pool of artists have avoided taking sides in the conflict out of fear of losing either their earning opportunities or their fans’ support.

“Some people keep silent, doing it for various reasons,” Pokrovsky says. “Some are really in danger, are barely surviving but still making statements [about the situation], walking on the brink of an abyss. Still, others are sitting tight in a hole full of food, money and awards, hoping to sit out the difficult times.”

‘Lou Reed Archive’ Series to Kick Off With Rarities-Packed ‘Words & Music, May 1965’

Light in the Attic Records and Laurie Anderson announced a partnership on Monday (June 6) on the Lou Reed Archive Series that will feature a roll-out of rare and unreleased material from the late punk godfather’s legendary catalog.

The inaugural release, Words & Music, May 1965, features never-before-heard versions of such future Velvet Underground classics as “Heroin,” “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Pale Blue Eyes,” all presented in their earliest-known incarnations. The collection will drop on Aug. 26 in celebration of what would have been Reed’s 80th birthday; the singer/guitarist died in 2013 at age 71 of liver disease.

According to a release announcing Words & Music, it offers an “extraordinary, unvarnished and plainly poignant insight into one of America’s true poet-songwriters.” The album explores songs written by a then-unknown Reed and recorded by his VU bandmate and musical partner John Cale, which, the release notes, Reed mailed to himself as a “poor man’s copyright” and which remained sealed in their original envelope and unopened for nearly half a century.

Also included on 1965 are several previously unreleased compositions that the release promised give a glimpse of Reed’s creative process and early influences. Avant garde artist/performer and Reed widow Anderson produced the collection along with Don Fleming, Jason Stern, the late Hal Willner and Matt Sullivan, with liner notes from acclaimed journalist/author Griel Marcus.

The liner notes from Fleming and Stern reveal that the pair found a number of exciting tapes at Reed’s Sister Ray Enterprises office, including some of the rocker’s earliest work. Among the rarities are a 1958 rehearsal with his high school doo-wop group The Jades (aka The Shades), as well as a listen to Reed’s dip into folk music in 1963-64 while he was attending Syracuse University, including acoustic guitar/harmonica takes on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” as well as instrumental versions of “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” and “Michael, Row the Beat Ashore” and his own “W, & X, Y, Z Blues.”

“Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” ended up on the Velvet Underground’s landmark 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, where they were presented in the band’s signature dark, driving rock style. On 1965 the songs finds Reed on acoustic guitar and harmonica, with Cale singing harmonies in a style described as being akin to folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary. In addition, “Heroin” features alternate lyrics, including 3 lines that were later dropped in the studio, while “Pale Blue Eyes” — which surfaced on the VU’s third studio album, 1969’s The Velvet Underground — was completely re-written in its final version, with only one of the original verses remaining.

TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe will host a podcast exploring Words & Music, on a special program featuring exclusive audio, archival materials and interviews with a number of the album’s participants; the pod created in partnership with Little Everywhere and Ruinous Media, will be available on all platforms on Aug. 26.

A 6-song digital EP, Gee Whiz, 1958-1964, will drop on Oct. 7 and feature the folk covers and original blues recordings from 1963-64. Click here to see the variety of formats for the 1965 recording.

See the full digital tracklist for Words & Music, May 1965 below:

1) “I’m Waiting for the Man” (May 1965 demo)

2) “Men of Good Fortune” (May 1965 demo)

3) “Heroin” (May 1965 demo)

4) “Too Late” (May 1965 demo)

5) “Buttercup Song” (May 1965 demo)

6) “Walk Alone” (May 1965 demo)

7) “Buzz Buzz Buzz” (May 1965 demo)

8) “Pale Blue Eyes” (May 1965 demo)

9) “Stockpile” (May 1965 demo)

10) “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” (May 1965 demo)

11) “I’m Waiting for the Man” (May 1965 alternate version)


Jack Harlow Worked the KFC Drive-Thru Window to Promote His Meal Deal

When it comes to his KFC partnership, Jack Harlow is all in. After announcing his new partnership with the fast food brand last week on a limited-edition combo meal named in honor of the Louisville, Kentucky MC, Jack slipped into some polyester over the weekend to put in work.

On Saturday, a KFC in Smyrna, Georgia was turned into Jack’s Meal HQ to give Atlanta fans the first taste Jack’s meal, where they were, of course, also able to listen to Harlow’s new album Come Home the Kids Miss You on a giant KFC x Jack Harlow bucket speaker while Jack poked his head out of the drive-thru to surprise a few drivers.

In one brief clip, Jack, wearing his official KFC uniform, stared out of the window while a customer asked, “can I get your meal?” A confused Jack responded, “you said what?” When the woman repeated her query, he looked around and said, “Yeah, just be patient with us.”

The Jack Harlow Meal, available at KFC’s around the country beginning Monday (June 6), includes a bunch of his all-time favorite items. “When KFC asked me to create my own meal, I knew it couldn’t be just any meal,” Harlow said a statement last week while announcing the new partnership. “My meal brings together my childhood favorites from growing up in Louisville, the KFC Mac & Cheese, with my new go-to Spicy Chicken Sandwich (with plenty of ranch), Secret Recipe Fries, and lemonade – it doesn’t get much better.”

In December, Harlow announced a partnership with KFC to donate $250,000 to the American Red Cross to help with relief efforts for citizens hit by the tornadoes in western Kentucky in 2021.

Check out Jack working the window and posing at the KFC.

Diplo and Swae Lee Unleash Glitzy Performance of ‘Tupelo Shuffle’ at 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards

Diplo and Swae Lee brought a taste of Sin City to Los Angeles as the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards took an Elvis detour.

The confetti cannons were on full blast as the pair hit the stage for the first live TV performance of “Tupelo Shuffle,” which appears in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming Elvis Presley biopic, Elvis.

“Tupelo Shuffle” holds special significance for Diplo and Swae Lee, as Tupelo, Miss., is hometown to both musicians. It’s also Presley’s hometown.

The latest film in Luhrmann’s canon enjoyed a 12-minute standing ovation following its premiere last month at the Cannes film festival, and its cast, which includes Oscar winner Tom Hanks as Elvis Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, recently attended opening night on Australia’s Gold Coast, where the film was shot.

Hosted by Vanessa Hudgens, the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards aired live from Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sunday (June 5) at 8 p.m.

Watch a snippet of the “Tupelo Shuffle” performance below.

Kate Bush Challenges Harry Styles For U.K. No. 1

Kate Bush might have run her U.K. chart race to perfection, with a little push from Stranger Things.

The English icon’s 1985 hit “Running Up That Hill” returned to the U.K. singles chart last Friday (June 3) at No. 8, fired up by its inclusion in the Netflix series.

Now, based on sales and streaming activity from the first 48 hours in the chart week, “Running” sprints to No. 2, and is chasing Harry Styles’ long-standing leader “As It Was” for the crown. 

If “Running” wins the tussle, Bush will have a second career No. 1 following her debut “Wuthering Heights,” which topped the chart in 1978.

Should Styles hold on, his Harry’s House hit will have logged 10 consecutive weeks at the summit.

“Running Up That Hill” peaked at No. 3 following its releases in 1985, and had a resurgence in 2012 thanks to a new cut that featured during the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games. The Games powered the song to a No. 8 return.

Another legendary British act could stage a return to the top tier, for altogether different reasons. Sex Pistols‘ vinyl re-issue of “God Save The Queen” could launch the track into the Top 5 for the first time in 43 years. Timed to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, “God Save The Queen” is at No. 5 on the First Look chart, which ranks singles from the weekend’s music consumption across the U.K.

Another act riding a high thanks to the Queen’s special anniversary is Sam Ryder, who performed his Eurovision entry “Space Man” at the Platinum Party at the Palace. The track, which finished No. 2 at Eurovision behind the popular winning song “Stefania” by Kalush Orchestra, could return to the U.K. Top 10 at No. 9.

This week’s highest new entry could belong to Post Malone, with “I Like You (A Happier Song).” Lifted from Posty’s new album Twelve Carat Toothache, “I Like You” starts at No. 19 on the chart blast.

The Official U.K. Singles Chart is presented late Friday.

Hootie & the Blowfish Donates Memorabilia to University of South Carolina

Hootie & the Blowfish got its start at the University of South Carolina and the school is now home to a boatload of the Grammy Award winning rock band’s memorabilia.

Longtime fan Rick Noble on Friday donated his collection of all things Hootie & the Blowfish — including CDs, ticket stubs, an autographed guitar and T-shirts — to the school where the band was formed in 1986.

“The story of Hootie and Blowfish is forever entwined with the University of South Carolina – it’s one of the exciting pieces of our modern history,” Interim President Harris Pastides said in a news release. “Rick’s collection will help capture that story and preserve it for future generations. We are so grateful for his foresight, dedication and generosity in sharing a gift that increases the stature of the University Libraries’ music collections.”

Noble, who is now retired from a career in nonprofit work, including as the long-time CEO of Richland County First Steps, said he’s been collecting the band’s memorabilia since 1993, a year before the band released its debut album, “Cracked Rear View.” He said he first became interested in the band after listening to his daughter’s copy of an early album. Then he connected with band members and its management when they performed at a benefit concert Noble organized.

“They just started giving me T-shirts and other merchandise,” Noble recalled. “And I just went on from there. It was a treasure hunt.”

The band merchandise is the second contemporary music memorabilia collection to come to the University Libraries. A large collection of guitars, photographs and costumes from the rock band KISS was donated in 2020.

Libraries Dean Tom McNally said special collections help attract scholars and students to the university and he hopes other collectors and musicians will continue to donate items for display, teaching and research.

Library staff is in the process of organizing, appraising and preserving the donated items, which also includes drumsticks, a Hootie candle and golf balls. Once complete, a public viewing will be scheduled.

Noble’s donation comes shortly after the University of South Carolina Press released a book about the history of the band, “Only Wanna Be with You: The Inside Story of Hootie & the Blowfish.”

“It’s such a special, full-circle moment to see his collection come home to the UofSC library and we couldn’t be more thankful to him for supporting both our band and our university,” Darius Rucker, the band’s lead singer, said.

Liam Gallagher Lands U.K. No. 1 With ‘C’Mon You Know’

Liam Gallagher finds himself in a familiar spot this week: at No. 1 on the U.K. albums chart.

With his latest leader, the British rocker has a fourth solo No. 1, and eleventh across his career, including his seven best-sellers with Oasis.

C’Mon You Know (Warner Records) accumulates 70,000 chart sales in its first seven days, including 29,000 units on vinyl, to easily lead the Official Vinyl Albums Chart, the OCC reports.

It’s a double hit of Gallagher as his live album Down By the River Thames, debuts at No. 4 Official U.K. Albums Chart this week, and No. 2 on the vinyl tally.

With his latest chart feat, Gallagher equals the eleven leaders notched by his brother Noel, including LPs with Oasis and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

Meanwhile, Harry Styles is dethroned as Harry’s House (Columbia) dips 1-2, while Def Leppard bag a first Top 5 album in 26 years with Diamond Star Halos (UMC), new at No. 5. It’s the Rock And Roll Hall of Famers’ highest-charting effort since 1996’s Slang also hit No. 5.

Pop Idol Will Young’s career retrospective 20 Years – The Greatest Hits (Sony Music CG) bows at No. 6, as Canadian singer and songwriter Tate McRae (Ministry of Sound) starts at No. 7 with her debut album I Used to Think I Could Fly.

Finally, ABBA’s enduring greatest hits collection Gold (Polydor) climbs to No. 9 in its 1,048th week on the chart, following a rare appearance by all four members of the Swedish pop group for the launch of their ABBA Voyage residency in London.

Expect Voyage to continue on its chart journey some time to come. The greatest hits concert is booked to run until May 28, 2023.