Las Vegas: The Spectacle

Welcome to a new, special edition blog post on Visual Music! Since I spent some of my Spring break in Las Vegas, I decided to take pictures and write about the experience for this week.

The Las Vegas Strip is no doubt a visual masterpiece. Its towering, vibrant skyline is one of the most picturesque in the country. Over 30 hotels/casinos are packed into a four mile stretch, fourteen of which are among the largest in the world. Some call it the city that never sleeps, and there really is no place like it.

Themed hotels are extremely popular on the strip, and are a major attraction for tourists to check out, even if they aren’t staying in them. The Venetian has an indoor canal lined with high-end shops and restaurants, with gondolas that take paying customers through it. It is a replication of the real Venice in Italy, and is super fun to explore. New York New York has, you guessed it, a New York City theme. The outside replicates the Manhattan skyline, while the casino is themed to look like the streets of New York. Paris Hotel has a half-size replica of the Eiffel Tower out front, and French-themed bakeries and shops in the casino. There are many more, but let’s not stray too far from the main focus. This is a music blog, isn’t it?

Las Vegas is a music lover’s dream. Everywhere you look, there is music. Each hotel features shows and concerts for everyone’s taste. When I went, I saw the Beatles’ LOVE show, which is a Cirque Du Soleil show featuring characters from all the Beatles’ biggest hits performing variety acts to a fast-paced soundtrack. They also have one for Michael Jackson, and other shows featuring more orchestral music. Many big names in music have resident theaters on the strip where they perform nightly. Some include: Elton John, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, and Boyz II Men.

Vegas is also a major attraction for music history. It is well-known for being the central meeting place of the Rat Pack. the Rat Pack was a famous group of actors and singers consisting of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Shirley MacLaine. They all appeared together in films and on albums, and were known as the world’s tightest, coolest group of celebrities. Vegas is scattered with Rat Pack history around every corner.

One of my favorite hotels, the Hard Rock Hotel, is filled with mementos of music’s biggest names, featured in glass cases all around the casino. They have everything from Prince’s handwritten set list, to Sid Vicious’ chain necklace and Michael Jackson’s glove. The hotel is a super cool place to go take pictures, and learn about the history of not just the music of Las Vegas, but music everywhere that somehow made its way to this resort.

Overall, my trip to Las Vegas was amazing, and I wish it could have been longer. There’s too much to see in just a few days, and next time I go, I want to dig deeper and explore much more of the music history. Next week we will return to the traditional blog posts, so don’t hesitate to comment what you want to hear about next!

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Pop: The Party

Everybody is familiar with this week’s, and every week’s Billboard Hot 100 tracks. Whether these songs make you want to go out and dance, or pull your hair out, there’s no way around hearing them. That’s because popular music is played on nearly every radio station, every store, and every restaurant on the face of the earth. So why exactly is has this genre risen above everything else in popularity? What sets it apart from jazz, country, and rock?

Pop is simply short for popular music, so one of its major characteristics is that it is always changing. Back in the 60’s, pop was rock and jazz music, because that was what everyone wanted to hear at the time. Pop continued to grow over time as new generations evolved. The inclusion of electronic elements, hip-hop, and rap continued to redefine the genre. Today, pop is a mixture of electronic dance music, piano ballads, and rap, which is very different from its starting place in the 1960’s.

Pop is heavily associated with visual appeal. Andy Warhol, a painter and photographer popular in the 1980’s, is a perfect example of the visual side of pop culture. His art, classified as “pop art,” was very unique and visually striking. He recreated images of ordinary things, such as portraits or soup cans, and replaced their colors with unconventional colors that pop. He was the most recognized artist of his era. This visual appeal directly connects to pop music as well. Artists like Madonna and Michael Jackson were the most famous, not only because of their music, but because of their performance. They were known for their stage presence, their dancing, and their sexuality. This is what brought people’s attention to them. Looking ahead, the names that have achieved the highest praise in the pop industry include: Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, Prince, and many more. All of these artists have striking visual appeal that goes hand-in-hand with their music.

So to answer my initial questions, pop music has achieved such great success because it stands out from all the other genres due to its ever-changing and adapting sound, and its visual appeal. In ten years, pop music will still be on every radio station, but it won’t sound like it does today.
Comment below on what you think next week’s post should be about!

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Disco: The Hustle

When people think of the 1970’s, the first thing that comes to mind is disco. The glitter, the lights, the dancing, and the style of disco defined an entire era of music and life in the 1970’s. The disco era was short-lived, but will forever be remembered as an iconic movement in not only music, but American history as well.

Disco music comes from a mixture of pop, soul, funk, and salsa. It is fast paced and fun, featuring plenty of synthesizers, electronic drum beats, and funky bass lines. Disco is a form of dance music that is heavily associated with disco clubs. Back in the 70’s, disco clubs were the liveliest places in the world. Club DJ’s would play hit songs all night long, seven days a week. These clubs were the platforms that brought some of the biggest names in music to fame, including Donna Summer and The Bee Gees. This era represented freedom and acceptance. People of all colors and sexual orientations found comfort in this inclusive lifestyle, and it was a time of great connection and acceptance. Everyone on the dance floor was there for the same reason, and there was no question.

Disco wasn’t just about the music. It was about a free-spirited culture, which had no rules. The 70’s was an extremely promiscuous time. The lifestyle surrounding disco was rife with sex and drugs, most notably cocaine. It was loud and unsteady; a constant party. For many who got wrapped up in the scene, there was no distinction between night and day, and everything was a blur. This is where disco crossed over with the hippie movement, which had been established before the genre came out. Those involved in the disco lifestyle shared similar style, and participated in a no-boundaries way of life compared to the hippies of the psychedelic era, which I will talk more about in a later post.

Overall, disco was a driving force that swept the world with new perspectives, and established a vibrantly promiscuous era of dance and culture in the 1970’s. Please comment below on what you want to explore next week on Visual Music!

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Motown: The Soul

This week in Visual Music, we will be taking a dive into the history of Motown. Everybody knows Motown is an informal name for Detroit, Michigan, but what is the meaning behind it? Detroit received this title because it is home to Motown records, one of the most influential and successful record labels of all time. They are responsible for the emergence of an entire era of music: SOUL.

Soul music came from a combination of gospel, R&B, and blues when it first became popular in the late 1950’s. Most classic soul features catchy rhythms and extemporaneous dancing. The music is fun and uplifting, and very infectious. Solomon Burke and Ben E. King were two of the first sensations of soul. Their songs, such as “Cry To Me” and “Stand By Me” topped charts everywhere, and resonated with people of all different races and religions. Aretha Franklin was one of the first and most recognized female voice in soul music. She is even crowned the “Queen of Soul” by many elites in the music industry and music lovers around the world. She achieved great commercial success in the late 60’s with hits such as “Respect,” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Other chart-topping stars such as Otis Redding, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gaye were also part of the same group. And the one thing every single one of these artists had in common, other than their similar style, was their record label. Motown Records.

Motown Records, founded in Detroit by Berry Gordy, opened the door for soul music in America and put it on the map. It first took its form as Tamla Records, and the first band to bring Gordy success was the Miracles, with lead singer Smokey Robinson. Smokey became the vice president of the company, and it became so much a part of his life that he even named his children after the studio and his partner, Tamla and Berry. The label moved on to grow into a full blown empire, with establishments spread out across the United States. They made stars out of hundreds of people, and, within a decade, put out 110 top 10 hits. Even still, Motown Records will go down in history for being one of the most successful labels of all time, and their legacy has inspired other artists to keep soul music alive.

Comment below on what I should write about next week, and let me know what your interests are! See you soon!

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Country: The Evolution

Country music is America’s signature. Anyone from around the world would be quick to associate country music with the United States, and that’s because it has been around almost as long as jazz, and had perpetual popularity ever since it first emerged. Whether or not you prefer country to other genres, it is important to recognize the effects it has had on the mainstream music scene.

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While jazz seemed to gravitate toward urban regions, country gained popularity at first in the rural regions of America. The first country music came out in the 1920s borrowing from Appalachian folk music and blues from the south. Early country used many of the same instruments used in folk and blues, including banjos, guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas. In the 1940s, country was officially separate from folk, and often referred to as “hillbilly music.” Later, in the 50s and 60s, country began to branch out, creating new subgenres, like rockabilly and bluegrass, and combining with other popular music to establish its prominent place in mainstream music.

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Many musicians are famous for paving the road for country music. In the 1920s, fiddlers such as Fiddlin’ John Carson and A.C. Robertson rose to fame, along with singers including Samantha Bumgarner, Eva Davis, and Vernon Dalhart. Roy Acuff and Gene Autry were known as “singing cowboys” in the 1930s and 1940s, as country music made its way into Hollywood western films. At this time, there was a shift in instruments used in country, and drums were added to the mix, along with the emergence of bluegrass. 50’s country brought two of the most iconic artists to ever live into the light: Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Their music transcended genres, with country roots and blues and rock n roll, and everything in between. They were followed by countless more country stars, such as Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and finally Garth Brooks, who made country music a worldwide phenomenon.

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Check back next Friday for the newest addition to visual music, and don’t hesitate to comment on what I should cover in the weeks to come.

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Alternative Rock: The Connections

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Cage The Elephant at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, NV

This week in Visual Music, we will be looking into alternative rock, which is my personal favorite genre. The magic of alt-rock is that it is so diverse, and so connected. So many different artists capture so many different sounds that all fit under the same category, so there is something for everyone.

Alt-rock’s roots are in classic rock and punk, but it branched out into a bunch of different subgenres, including grunge, britpop, and indie rock.

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Alt-J at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA

Grunge music was established in the late 80’s to early 90’s, and completely shook the world’s perception of rock music. The most iconic grunge band was Nirvana, whose unique sound defied all the normalities of rock. They paired thought-provoking, controversial lyrics and clashing experimental chord progressions and rhythms with Kurt Cobain’s legendary voice to create a sound that no one had ever heard before. This gave rise to bands who achieved similar success, including Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and more.

Britpop was a British movement to take over grunge music and join the global alt-rock scene. This new music was similar to grunge, and it swept billboard charts when it first came out, proving Britain had a prominent place in the rock industry. Some of the most noteworthy bands that came out of this era include: Blur, Oasis, The Verve, and Radiohead.

Indie rock was the most modern form of rock music, and has a mass appeal, but not in the same way grunge and britpop do. Although it borrowed sounds from both genres, indie rock is known for staying out of the mainstream light. However, that did not mean indie artists went unrecognized. Indie music developed its own vast following that was separate from most popular music. Some of the pioneers for this genre were Beck, PJ Harvey, and Alanis Morissette.

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Cage the Elephant playing The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, NV

Over the years, these main alt-rock subgenres have split apart, and created plenty more branches of alternative music. Let me know who your favorite bands/artists are in the comments below!

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Nothing But Thieves at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA

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Jazz: The Roaring 20’s

Jazz music is one of the most diverse and influential music genres around. The most impressive aspect of jazz music is how it evolved throughout the twentieth century. Jazz music was the era-defining voice of the 1900’s. Though there are various subgenres of jazz, in this post, I will be talking specifically about 1920’s prohibition era, also known as the “jazz age”.

Jazz music of the roaring twenties originated from Dixieland Jazz from New Orleans. With African folk roots and some European influence, jazz evoked a colorful and unique feeling in people. This style of music first emerged with African-American musicians during a time of racism and social stigma. Therefore, it took a while for it to catch on to the rest of America. But the contagious swing and syncopation of jazz was just too hard to ignore, and it quickly took off once it was recognized.

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In the twenties, jazz was considered smooth and hip, and this was mainly due to its association with prohibition. In an attempt to better the economy and the corruption and crime in America, Protestant conservatives issued a ban on all alcoholic beverages, cutting off trade and shutting down alcohol manufacturers nationwide. Of course, this did not completely eradicate it. The roaring twenties was a time of rebellion, where flappers and gangsters challenged social norms through fashion and promiscuity. They established speakeasies in towns all over the country. Speakeasies were secretive underground bars where people would go to let loose and have a good time. In most speakeasies there were live jazz bands, and popular music and dances became part of flapper culture. Jazz music even had an influence on classical composers, and was just about the only mainstream music anyone was talking about at the time.

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Some of  the most famous jazz artists to come out of the roaring twenties include: Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and Bix Beiderbecke, and many more. Their contributions to the colorful jazz age are considered timeless, and future artists have attempted to recreate their styles despite the ever changing and evolving mainstream music.

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If you have any ideas on what genre I should cover next week, comment below!

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