Beyoncé and Andre 3000 Cover Amy Winehouse for ‘Gatsby’ Soundtrack

After weeks of new stuff from The xx, Florence + The Machine and the lingering memories of the first trailer with the weird Filter version of "Happy Together" still fresh, over the weekend, Mark Ronson premiered one of the most built-up songs from the soundtrack of one of the most aggressively hyped films of the year. Jay-Z produced the already-exploding soundtrack for Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming (less than two weeks!) adaptation of The Great Gatsby, and his partner-in-crime Beyoncé features on a cover of Amy Winehouse’s anthem of heartbreak, "Back to Black" with Andre 3000. 

Mark Ronson, who produced the original "Back to Black," premiered the new track on East Village Radio mixshow over the weekend, and you can listen to a (heavily tagged) full version below. Hollywood Holt of Chicago’s Treated Crew produced the track, marked by a squishy synth line that may leave some fans longing for the original—and no version of this song could touch Winehouse’s, despite the all-star team—but Beyoncé, as always, still comes away sounding fantastic. 

Listen to ‘The Great Gatsby’ Soundtrack Sampler

The Great Gatsby as told by Baz Luhrmann is a mixed bag, with 3D effects and overblown sets and probably acting adding who knows what to an already excellent story. Can you tell I’m not sold on this yet? Well, as we gleefully look forward to what will certainly be the movie event of the spring, let’s take a break from all of the trailers and posters and listen to snippets from the soundtrack. With musical direction from Jay-Z, the album is all over the place. First of all, there’s the anticipated cover of "Back to Black" performed by Beyoncé and André 3000. And there’s also a new songs from Lana Del Rey, Sia, The xx, and Jack White. Plus a ’20s-inspired cover of Beyoncé’s "Crazy in Love." (Alright, I’m officially eye-rolling over this Pastiche for Dummies collection.) But at the very end of the day, I know I’m pumped that Fergie and GoonRock finally got it together.

OutKast Reunites On Frank Ocean’s ‘Pink Matter’ Remix

Well, sort of. Andre 3000 lent himself to Frank Ocean’s Pink Matter and Big Boi has released his own remix. The pair were originally invited to join the track together, but declined. Via PopDust, Andre 3000 had said he "didn’t want an OutKast record coming out on anybody else’s LP." They last released a double album, Speakerboxx/The Love Below in 2003 and the movie/album Idlewild in 2006.

Instead Andre 3000 rapped some verses on Pink Matter alone; Big Boi’s remix, which dropped today, includes verses before Andre’s.

It’s hard not to read the the move as weird, possibly passive aggressive. But the end product is melancholy and gorgeous, so I guess it doesn’t really matter if they’re having a "beef," as rappers call it. 

Enjoy the remix below:


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You May Ask Yourself: How Does Music Work?

In 1986, David Byrne made a movie called True Stories, a mockumentary of sorts about the fictional city of Virgil, Texas. With a nod to the ugliness of industrialized civilization predicated on a mass killing of the native people, animals and vegetation, his treatment of the town—look at this field, where they build houses; the shopping mall is where people socialize on the weekend—comes in its own brand of wry compassion, with the same degree of bite as A Prairie Home Companion.

And a new book by Byrne, How Music Works, is a tour of all things musical delivered in the same voice that took us through Virgil. As smart and impeccably researched as it is, it doesn’t lack for irony. For one, it comes packaged by McSweeney’s as a minimalist coffee table tome, designed by the staggering genius himself. And threaded through an otherwise disjointed collection of chapters on Talking Heads history, the music industry, recording technology, and the science of sound is a cheekiness bordering on disdain directed at the Roger Scruton school of classical music is virtuous music, and pop music is for the plebian masses.

He spends a good deal of time picking on Theodor Adorno, who saw the jukebox, and all mechanized distribution of popular music, as a gimmick for suckers. “He might be right,” says Byrne, “but he might also have been someone who never had a good time in a honky-tonk.” It’s hard to imagine Byrne in a honky-tonk unaccompanied by a “check this shit out, I’m in a honky-tonk!” kind of attitude. Or maybe not. His ambiguous sensibility is what makes the fun parts fun.

A student of design, some of the passages on the architecture of musical spaces make for the most interesting stuff. He has a few good jabs at the opera houses and even Carnegie Hall, whose acoustics aren’t conducive to rock ’n’ roll: “This acoustic barrier could be viewed as a subtle conspiracy, a sonic wall, a way of keeping the riffraff out.” He favors the populist scenes around the likes of CBGB’s and Le Poisson Rouge (“I go to at least one live performance a week, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. There are other people there. Often there is beer there, too.”)

In a lingering op-ed piece of a chapter, he knocks the moneyed set for “supporting the arts” by preserving antiquated opera houses and museums while scores of aspiring artists and musicians go hungry. His historical tracings of musical gentrification are of note; apparently, people would drink and socialize during operas and shout at the stage, requesting encores of their favorite arias. A similar transformation occurred with jazz, where the relaxed, funky vibe was taken over by tweedy highbrow geezers in Greenwich Village. Out with dancing, in with sitting quietly. “Separating the body from the head seemed to have been an intended consequence—for anything to be serious, you couldn’t be seen shimmying around to it,” he notes.

All this is not to say that he doesn’t have any grievances with pop music. The shimmying going on in the discos of the ’70s wasn’t merely the effect of catchy tunes—“I suspect there was a drug connection as well; those high frequencies in particular sounded sparkly fresh if you were on amyl nitrate or cocaine.” And not every pop song comes off the pen of an Andre 3000 or an Aimee Mann. “In Beyoncé’s song ‘Irreplaceable’ she rhymes ‘minute’ with ‘minute,’ and I cringe every time I hear it,” he concedes.

Byrne notes in the forward that the book can be read in any order, and I may go so far as to say that certain passages can be skipped altogether, sans guilt. One chapter begins with this gem: “The online music magazine Pitchfork once wrote that I would collaborate with anyone for a bag of Doritos.” While I think there’s nothing wrong with amassing collaborations, it gets pretty tedious to list them all; every member of an obscure Latin jam band that he may have played with gets name-checked. He gives an exhaustive account of how songs were written for all of his albums, and anyone who doesn’t know an A-flat from an A need not try to comprehend those passages. A chapter detailing the six major variants of a recording contract is enlightening by way of proving, with thorough charts and figures, that musicians make no money. But it reads like a textbook—and, in many ways, How Music Works kind of is a textbook, backed up with a thorough bibliography and peppered with annotated images. The handsome presentation may cause some hesitation, but it really is a text to read and pick through time and again.

And all this is what you’d expect, and hope for, from the foremost heady apologist of pop music. It’s a must-read for anyone who has ever felt moved by a catchy tune and wanted more. And for those who haven’t, I suppose it’s understandable—it’s hard to shimmy around a room with a stick up your ass.

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The Week in Collab Tracks From Former Members of OutKast

By purest of coincidences, both former members of the ATLien mothership known as OutKast appeared on new tracks released this week. Both have a lot going on right now—André 3000 with directing Rick Ross’ upcoming video for "Sixteen" (another track on which he features) and finished shooting the Janie Jimplin/Jackie Jormp-Jomp-reminiscent Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side, due out in 2013. Big Boi has released a number of tracks for his upcoming album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, including the goofy boner jam "She Said Okay" featuring Theophilus London and Tre Luce and the catchy "Gossip," featuring Big K.R.I.T. and UGK. Who wore their new single better?

“Play The Guitar”

Yesterday, B.o.B. released a new track with a little help from fellow Georgian André 3000. This feels like an attempt at a late-in-the-game entry for Song of the Summer 2012, to which Carly Rae Jepsen would probably respond with a resounding "uh-uh." B.o.B. offers the classic couplets about "I’m a star / so when I hit the bar / like cheers, everybody knows who we are / whoever thought I woulda took it this far?" amid some casual guitar play. André 3000’s verse is what you’d expect—fast-paced, interesting, peppered with some offbeat images (the verse starts with him having a vision of playing guitar outside of Church’s Chicken), but it’s mostly B.o.B. imploring himself to play the guitar. The video’s rather interesting, though, where everything is animated to look like those "Pinpressions" office toys that mold to your face. 

“Mama Told Me”

Unlike “Play the Guitar,” this isn’t an official, studio release. Much to the delight of some rather ecstatic fans, Big Boi joined oh-so-smooth Swedish electronic ensemble Little Dragon for a surprise onstage appearance at the vitaminwater/FADER “Uncapped” show Tuesday night in Austin. (Get it? It’s "Big" and "Little" together! Ha!)

Not only is Big Boi comfortable rapping through and around Little Dragon’s chirping synths, but  together on stage, he and the band seem to have pretty good chemistry and are enjoying the process. The jam is the sort of smooth, listenable project you’d expect from this combination, with Big Boi verses and Yukimi Nagano’s chorus and later call-and-response all flowing together nicely. Of the two, this is the better song, and Big Boi sounds like he’s wearing it better, but a live performance of "Play the Guitar" / a studio version of "Mama Told Me" would really be the only way to properly test this hypothesis.

Watch the Video for ‘DoYaThing,’ the Converse Gorillaz + Andre 3000 + James Murphy Collaboration

Because there’s no time like now, Converse has released a music video for the Gorillaz + Andre 3000 + James Murphy collaboration, "DoYaThing." The video takes place in Gorillaz Mansion on the morning after a particularly death-inspiring bender: As Stuart "2D" Pot walks around the house, he finds the rest of his bandmates in various states of unkempt. He goes to make toast, there’s a bowl of human ears on the counter; he opens up his medicine cabinet, and Andre 3000’s ninja counterpart is curled up inside it, and so on and so on. I mean, who knows, but the animation is great. Watch it after the jump.

You can also listen to the extended version of the track, in case quarter-hour freakouts are your thing (as they should be). The song is also available for download at the Converse website, as are those spiffy Gorillaz Chuck Taylors that sparked this whole collaboration (except the real-life equivalent of "downloading" is something called "buying," who knew?).

Listen to “DoYaThing,” the Gorillaz + Andre 3000 + James Murphy Collaboration

Even from their self-imposed semi-hiatus, Andre 3000 and James Murphy are the coolest men in their respective genres (rap and post-blog nostagi-lectro, in case you’re wondering). When you add Gorillaz to the mix, you’ve got a shovel-ready Youngs-targeting commercial waiting to happen. That seems to be the motivation behind their collaborative song "DoYaThing," which will be released to promote the upcoming Converse line of Gorillaz-themed shoes. You can wait until tomorrow to download it from the Converse website, or you can listen to a rip at Listen Before You Buy.

I know, I know — it seems a bit calculated, purely created for page hits and blog buzz. At least they all sound excited to be on the song, even if a rhyme like "Ballin’ outrageous like a purebred mare / Converse All-Stars is the only shoe to wear" is a bit more corporate than I would’ve expected from the usually DIY Murphy. (I have been told that is not immediately recognizable as a joke, but rest assured, it is a joke. Thank God!)

Afternoon Links: Aretha Franklin Calls Off Her Engagement, Britney Spears Grows Up

● As a wedding present of sorts, Britney Spears’s father, Jamie, is giving up his long-held conservatorship, leaving Brit in full control of her finances and business decisions. [Page Six]

● Worried that things were "moving a little too fast," Aretha Franklin has opted out of her engagement to William "Willie" Wilkerson. "There were a number of things that had not been thought through thoroughly," she said in a statement. "There will be no wedding at this time." [E!]

● And the award for Worst Film of 2011 goes to… (See also: grumpiest film critics!) [Vulture]

● Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell told an Australian audience he thought Kanye West’s perhaps too loud sound check sounded like, "there’s children playing music there, retarded children, retarded as in held back." [PopDust]

● Movie studios, according to Spike Lee, know "nothing about black people." "I didn’t need a mother[bleeping] studio telling me something about Red Hook," he said at a screening of his latest, Red Hook Summer. "And they’re gonna give me notes about what a 13-year-old black boy and girl do in Red Hook? [Bleep] no!” [Page Six]

● Andre 3000 loves his greens, particularly nutrient rich kale, quick steamed and lightly sauteed. [Bon Appetit]

● Occupy Williamsburg have dragged Drake into their fight, borrowing his line about "real is on the rise" for their latest round of posters. They were too busy sound-checking to hear that "just me, myself and all my millions" part, though. [MagicMuscle]

Andre 3000 Returns on B.o.B.’s ‘Play the Guitar’

Andre 3000 hasn’t released an album under his name in a very long time, not since 2006’s OutKast album, Idlewild. Since then, it’s been an inconsistent stream of rap verses and remixes, in which he’s displayed his dexterous flow and penchant for vibrant imagery while simultaneously seeming bored with how much better he is than everyone else. With that in mind, choosing to work with Southern rapper B.o.B. makes sense; Dre needs pop verses, while Bobby Ray needs creative partners who can pick up the slack. Their first collaboration, "Play the Guitar," off B.o.B.’s upcoming sophomore album Strange Clouds, is a perfect match.

Backed by a Salaam Remi production based off a T.I. sample, Dre steals the whole show; he’s got just one verse, but it’s almost half the song, enough for him to weave in and out with his snappy wordplay. B.o.B. sounds jazzed enough to be there, but Dre’s part is what’s up; you can check out the specific lyrics here and appreciate his ode to bedroom guitar solipsism. He claims he’s working on a solo rap album, but as always, who knows? If you like what you heard, Strange Clouds is set to come out in March.