The Scoreboard is Uproxx Music’s bi-monthly look at who is putting points on the board and who is taking major Ls in the music world over the past couple weeks.
Ariana Grande can do it all, huh? She started her career as a child actress before transitioning into one of the world’s most successful pop stars. After showing her resilience through the horrific Manchester bombing experience, she’s bounced back and made one of the year’s best pop albums with Sweetener. On top of that, she has a pretty darn amazing Celine Dion impression, which she showed off during Carpool Karaoke. On a more somber note, though, the world lost Aretha Franklin, who passed away after a full, productive, and legendary 76 years of life.
In other news, Taylor Swift has the power to control her own destiny after 12 years of waiting, music on Conan will never be the same, supergroups are so in right now, and vaporwave might not be as stupid as you thought.
Win: Morning commutes
Here’s some good news: If Celine Dion ever loses the ability to use her legendary Canadian pipes, Ariana Grande can fill in for her. Grande has busted out her Celine Dion impression multiple times in recent years, and she showcased it again during her Carpool Karaoke segment with James Corden. There may not be a better Celine Dion impression out there: She nails Dion’s distinctive Quebecois accent, which is impressive on its own. Unlike other impersonators, though, Grande has the vocal ability to match Dion’s force, and the fact that she’s able to mimic the legend’s singing as well as she does is truly unprecedented. Perhaps more than her new album Sweetener, this proves that Grande is the most talented pop star around today. (I’m only like 60 percent joking.)
Loss: The Queen Of Soul
There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said about Aretha Franklin in recent days. The legend passed away after years of contending with health problems, and her death is a true loss. She was one of the most talented singers in the history of recorded music, and the mark she made on pop culture is indelible. Her music will live on forever, and because of that, so will she.
Win: Taylor Swift, free agent
When Taylor Swift was 15 in 2006, she signed with Big Machine Records, and that has been her label since then. Her contract, however, expires in November, at which point Swift will have some decisions to make as the biggest free agent in music. Whatever she does, she’ll want control of her master recordings: Big Machine Records currently receives a whopping 80 percent of revenue from Swift’s music. As her records move millions of units, that’s a lot of money Swift is missing out on. She’s reportedly talking to major labels at the moment, and no matter what route she takes, it’s nice to see an artist gain control over their art, which seems like it doesn’t happen enough.
Loss: Music-free Conan
In the near future, Conan will shorten to a 30-minute show, and to accommodate that new length, music performances will no longer be part of the program. O’Brien’s shows have been a TV musical showcase for 25 years, so this is a pretty big loss. It has to sting for O’Brien as well, as he’s a noted music fan. He often plays guitar during the show’s rehearsals. He pulls out his axe during the show whenever possible, whether he’s playing blues with kids, performing with Jack White, or engaging in guitar battle with Jack Black. It’s fair to call O’Brien the biggest music fan in late night, so although devoting five minutes in a 22-minute show to a music performance isn’t exactly reasonable, it’s still a sad loss for both him and his viewing audience.
In some parts of the music space, there’s the presumption that everybody is competing, that it’s not great to have friends because they’ll just learn your vulnerabilities and use them to stab you right in your back. Then there’s the happier part, where musical friends are playing songs together and combining their disparate influences into a new product that makes fans salivate. There are two prime examples of this right now: Boygenius — the supergroup made up of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus — and Big Red Machine — Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner. While we see collaborations in hip-hop all the time, it’s not as common in indie rock, because it’s usually more of a songwriting process and less just getting in the studio for an hour to record a verse real quick. Both of the aforementioned supergroups brings the artists’ best traits under one delightful umbrella, and it’s something I could get used to.