Hate U Back

Hate U Back


Our culture right now is all about attention (as I wrote last week), and Eminem got everyone’s attention for a good 24 hours and more. Whether or not that was his intent, who’s to say? The point is, he succeeded.


First off, like it or not, Eminem is a thought leader. He has a gift for using the English language in a visceral, commanding fashion, and he uses this gift to express himself in a way that is simultaneously vulnerable, honest, succinct, and powerful. His fans appreciate his candor and his willingness to draw a line in the sand and take a position, especially at a time when most musicians are scared to take a position on anything.

Second, the quality of his content. He wasn’t rapping about getting laid, or being drunk in da club, he was speaking out on the current state of our country in a way most artists are afraid to do for fear of alienating fans or, more to the point, losing their corporate deals.

Finally, he was authentic! He straight up bodied a freestyle in a parking structure, in an age where most superstars use backing tracks and lavish productions. He didn’t need a beat. He didn’t even need a microphone. He simply looked down the barrel of the camera, at US, and spoke truth to power.

It was what we’ve all been waiting for — an undeniable musician willing to speak out against the current administration, and put their name on it!

Speaking truth to power…hey, that’s what real artists are supposed to do!!

And I’m probably going to have people give me the whole “he should stick to rapping” bullshit like they did when I wrote about Meryl Streep last year (“stick to acting”). But that just shines a spotlight on their ignorance…

Understand: rap and hip-hop began as a way to give a voice to the powerless, to reveal the injustices in the African-American community, to preach positivity in the face of hopelessness, and help the disadvantaged find the strength and courage to stand up for themselves and demand what’s right in the name of humanity.

Over time it morphed into a fluid art form which would come to be criticized for its derogatory lyrics about women, its glorification of violence, and its promotion of drug dealing/use. And yes, Eminem is guilty of including those subjects in his oeuvre.

But this past Tuesday night, his freestyle about Orange 45 was about giving the rest of America a voice, fulfilling hip-hop’s foundational intentions.

You see, Eminem may not be putting out music as often as he used to, but in America, hip-hop rules, and Eminem is rap royalty. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of rap with Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Dr. Dre, as far as I’m concerned. He can go away for 10 years, come back, and sound just as fresh.

Yet, CNN commentator Matt Lewis says “he’s an aging guy who is clinging to relevance.”

Hardly. Eminem isn’t worried about relevance.

Because Eminem knows he has INFLUENCE.

Plus, he’s white! And he champions black culture and has a deep appreciation for it, unlike our leader.

And now my inbox is gonna blow up with those of you who think race isn’t a large component of what’s going on in this country right now.

But notice how the president has yet to fire back at Eminem on Twitter??

If he does, it will be a Pyrrhic victory: As Touré wrote, Eminem has pitted “whiteness against itself,” and now a good portion of his fans have to go to the bathroom…because that’s where the mirror is…and take a long, hard look and decide in which tribe they truly want to be…

“And any fan of mine, who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against.

“And if you can’t decide who you like more, and you’re split on who should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: FUCK you!”

I feel the same way about my fans. And friends. And family members.

It seems as though people think that at a certain point, depending on what type of career you have, how much money you do or don’t make, and how big or small of a celebrity you are, you don’t have the right to speak your mind on the politics and the goings-on of our country and culture.

Where is this sliding scale?? The truth is, it doesn’t exist — every one of us has the right to speak our mind.

We are living in a crazy time right now, and we need more people of true influence to speak out against injustice, racism, sexism, and the lot.

Influence is the key word here — anyone can be concerned about what’s going on, but if one doesn’t have the means or the resources to actually influence a change in what they’re upset about, they’re like Sisyphus and his boulder, forever exerting energy in an effort doomed to fail.

Focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern, as the late Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Find out what you can do to make a positive impact in the world, based on your particular circumstances, and do it. We need you!

Don’t just sit at the computer or peck at your phone with complaints on social media about they way things are or how they should, take real action in the real world and make them so.

I choose to make my impact through my art, regardless of medium.

To that point…

Back in April, I released “Don’t Mess With My Routine,” which was written from the perspective of the folks in the red hats.

“Hate U Back” is written from the opposite perspective, and I am happy to announce that it is streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services as of today!

If you’re like me, you’ll have a puff, put on your best headphones, and turn the volume up to 70% (protect your ears!).

I hope you dig it. 🙂

“Hate U Back”: https://open.spotify.com/album/62Cs1prjQ2mVYcDNY1kHP2

P.S. Since we’re living in an attention economy, I appreciate you taking time to listen to my music. Thank you in advance.

P.P.S. That said, I’d rather hear “I hate it” than nothing at all, so feel free to let me know what you think of “Hate U Back” by emailing me at jk [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.

P.P.P.S. In order to make the most impact possible, I’m asking that everyone listen to “Hate U Back” on Spotify three times in a row in order to help get it included on some of Spotify’s playlists. Do this, and I’ll love you even more than I already do! 😀

Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.


Bob Lefsetz’s Tom Petty Playlist

Bob Lefsetz’s Tom Petty Playlist

I LOVED Tom Petty, but you wouldn’t know it by my music collection.

I’m still really upset and puzzled over his passing. He was just here in Detroit back in July, and instead of going to see him perform, we had band rehearsal.

We debated skipping rehearsal and going to the show, and reasoned that we’d catch him the next time he came to town.

But he’s never coming back…

The weight of that last sentence hit me the moment I typed it. It birthed a sinking feeling in my gut, a hot sensation rising up and throughout my entire body, finally exiting out the extremities and filling the room with a stagnant energy I can only describe as blanketing.

Yeah, I talk about mortality a lot, but didn’t Benjamin Franklin say nothing is certain except death and taxes??

We all have mortality in common. And when someone dies whom we care about, we each grieve in our own way. The way I grieve is to reflect on their life, and learn from the impact they made on the world.

But I didn’t know how to start to do that with Tom Petty.

Of course I know the hits, and I own Hard Promises and Damn The Torpedoes on vinyl, so there are a few non-radio cuts I appreciate. (“What Are You Doin’ In My Life?” and “Letting You Go” are two of my favorites.)

Still, when I heard the news, I wanted to dive into an ocean of his music and listen to the tunes that spoke to the essence of a human who lived a life! Where to begin?

Thankfully, since I subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter, I received a link to a Spotify playlist of 40 songs which cover Petty’s entire recording career, showcasing his growth and range as an artist. It’s missing my all-time favorite Petty song, You Don’t Know How It Feels, but all in all, it’s a soothing ride from top to bottom.

If you’re mourning the loss of one of the great songwriters of our time, give this playlist a listen. Even though it made me miss him all the more, it helped.

May it help you.

P.S. I highly recommend subscribing to the Lefsetz Letter if you’re a rabid music fan. His analysis and missives are relevant, insightful, poignant, and from time to time, comical.

Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Spotify, Las Vegas, and Tom Petty: Welcome to the Attention Economy

Spotify, Las Vegas, and Tom Petty: Welcome to the Attention Economy
How do you pay attention these days?

It’s worth asking because…we can access anything we deem more interesting than whomever or whatever is in front of us by simply reaching into our pocket and pulling out our smartphone.

You see it all around you, always. Whether at home, with friends, at work, at the bar, at sporting events, at concerts.

Even at the movies, which I don’t understand; people will spend over ten bucks to sit in front of a screen but would rather look at the one they brought with them??

There are even certain groups of people who, when out to eat, have unwritten rules regarding their devices, even if they don’t realize it. (For example, I learned last year that it’s silently understood that if a group of five people are out together and conversation is happening, devices are a no-no unless at least three people are actively engaged in conversation. In a group of seven, at least four people have to be engaged.)

On that note, I’ve seen many couples out to eat and each of them are on their phones, not talking to the other, for almost the entire meal.

It’s become almost compulsory as soon as there is a lull or awkward pause in a conversation — the moment we begin to feel the s-l-i-g-h-t-e-s-t hint of boredom, we go online.

What are we all paying attention to??

Whatever we want, whenever we want — each individual has the ability to create his or her own bubble, and it’s harder each day to pierce the surface and make an impact.

And Big Business knows this, which makes getting your attention, and keeping it, their top priority.

To that point…

At a recent event in London, Drew Lam, who works in Spotify’s Artists and Management Resources in the UK, told an audience that the music industry is now a world of “attention economics.”

The music industry, Lam said, was “no longer in a retail model. We work on attention economics. The more attention you can get, the more streams, the more consumption.”

He’s right. But it’s not just music. It’s everything.

Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy,” Louis CK opined on Conan this week in 2008.
Fast forward to October 2017, and the world has become even more amazing. The opportunities are boundless.

Yet, people are much more unhappy, angry even, some are downright vicious. We’re more polarized.

Maybe it’s because we’re retreating within our respective bubbles, paying too much attention to ourselves, and not focusing our attention on creating value for others and making a lasting, positive impact in the world.

I don’t know. Just a thought.

One thing is for sure, though. Today, it’s far easier to get attention by spraying bullets from an assault rifle into a crowd of country music fans from a Las Vegas hotel, than it is to follow one’s Muse and work hard at a craft, to create something of actual value to the world, something that resonates beyond simply dominating the news cycle for a mere week or less, something that stands the test of time.

Like Tom Petty’s music.

You see, true greatness compels our attention, it doesn’t demand it.  True greatness is undeniable because it speaks to a deeper part of who we are meant to be. It resonates with the core of who we are.

I tell people all the time, Millennials and Plurals don’t have short attention spans, or “ADD,” they just have highly-developed antennae for greatness!

Think about it: a large portion of our culture has never known a life without a broadband internet connection.

This means they’ve had access to the greatest films, literature, music, paintings, novels, photography, comedy, even food recipes…for their entire lives. They know within 5-7 seconds whether or not something cuts the mustard, whether it will resonate with them or not.

Bottom line, if it doesn’t have the lingering scent of greatness, they move on quick.

Unless, of course, trickery is involved.

And that’s why mainstream music and commercial radio “all sounds the same,” why it’s being written, recorded, and produced by the same major players using proven formulas: they purposely manufacture earworms — sugar-filled, candy-coated, hook-laden productions designed to “grab a listener by the throat” (as one music exec told me in 2016) and hold them captive for the duration of the song, preying upon and exploiting the human brain’s most natural tendencies.

But is that what stands the test of time? Earworms?? Songs that get stuck in your head not because you love them, because they speak to your soul, but because they are mathematically and scientifically designed to infect your mind???

Well, we’ll see in 20 years if people are still listening to Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”

But I’m not trying to be in the earworm business.

When one of my songs impacts another, I hope it’s due to the quality of the content, the meaning of the message, the depth of it all, not because I used some formulaic brain hack or blindly followed trends or wrote for a particular market. That’s how Petty did it.

Sure, the Bullfighters do collaborate in my creative process, and they play a special role in helping shape and inform my work.

But they don’t dictate it! Most importantly, they don’t presume to! They respect the craft and my Muse when offering their feedback, and although my music doesn’t have Taylor Swift-like numbers of streams, the future looks quite bright.

“When we talk about music at Spotify now,” Lam went on to say, “We need to think about the artist. How do you go from idea to pen to paper, to the studio — how does that then go to market? How do we help you find your listeners, and turn them into fans? They’re the ones who’ll buy your vinyl, your T-shirts, come to your shows.”

Lam went on to outline some of Spotify’s functionality. With its Spotify playlists, he said, “we wanted to get music to listeners as quickly as possible without any human curation.”

But at least as important, he said, was Spotify for Artists, which provides in-depth analytics to artists on how their music is being listened to, potentially helping them to plan tours, reach their most hardcore fans, and understand contexts in which people listen to their music.

How ironic: people were screaming for years that streaming was going to kill the music industry, and today it’s heralded as being responsible for the industry’s resurgence, all while its leading company is innovating new ways to help artists truly connect with their fans.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Spotify for Artists recently, and they are currently creating my own Spotify page so that when someone searches for me, they will find me, not the guy from Steppenwolf.

And it’s good to know that Spotify has my back, because I’ll be working with them to include my music on some playlists, because…

We live in an attention economy…

And it just so happens that playlists are getting the most attention…

So it goes without saying that to increase the impact of my music, it needs to be on playlists.

But for me, at the end of the day, it’s not about attention…

It’s about connection!

P.S. My newest song, “Hate U Back” is officially Bullfighter-approved, and will be streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services beginning next Friday, 10/13. The song is part two of a two-song set; click here to listen to part one.

P.P.S. I’m currently rehearsing a band to perform my music, and will begin booking intimate house shows within the next couple of months. If you’re interested in attending (or hosting!) a house show, or simply want to know if we’ll be performing in your area, send an email to shows [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.

P.P.P.S. I had many people reach out to me after my last blog post to tell me they don’t view my missives as being negative, just honest, and to reassure me to keep doing what I’m doing and not worry. Thanks again for all of your kind words. I appreciate you very much. 🙂

P.P.P.P.S. Interested in becoming a Bullfighter?? The fan club is being migrated to a new online hosting service — Patreon — and will go fully live on November 1. In the meantime, you can send an email to fanclub [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com to get signed up ahead of time. Bullfighters get everything! 😀

Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Dan Patrick and Mike Valenti: Unsung Heroes of Radio

Dan Patrick and Mike Valenti: Unsung Heroes of Radio

I don’t really listen to music when I’m driving in my car — I like to learn while I drive, and I prefer podcasts related to my industry and life.

But if I’m not listening to a podcast, it’s sports-talk radio.

Recently, I wrote a piece on the demise of the American-based operations of 89X, the alternative radio station in Detroit. And if you’ve known me for a while, you know my dad worked in radio for 25 years, and my musical aspirations were inspired at an early age by being with him at concerts and at his radio station.

Needless to say, radio and music, and the production of each, has been a part of my life for decades.

And at a time when streaming is taking over, and terrestrial radio is dying, I’ve found two reasons for fans of great radio to tune in daily: Dan Patrick and Mike Valenti.

Patrick and Valenti are two guys in the sports-talk radio world who I believe are doing radio the right way, two gentlemen who, in my opinion, are unsung heroes in the radio industry today.

Content is King

Think about it: How often these days are you watching TV or listening to the radio, and there is a filler topic, or something which is obviously intended to provoke a reaction (or simply be controversial) instead of educate?

Most sports-talk radio hosts are infamous for filling time with silly, catch-all topics — “Hey, gang! What’s your favorite soup in the wintertime?? We’ve got open lines, people!!”

Instead, Patrick and Valenti look for ways to move a current story forward.

If there are multiple ways a story can unfold, they want the result that gives them the most beneficial content for their audience. They are rooting for radio. If a story is dead, they find the next best story which will resonate with the majority of their audience.

Rather than grab for the low-hanging fruit, Patrick and Valenti choose to elevate the conversation.

That’s not to say they don’t joke around like kids on a school bus from time to time. But they pick their spots. They know that simply being goofy for goofy’s sake isn’t what great radio is about.

Great radio is about CONTENT!

Authenticity Resonates

Both The Dan Patrick Show and The Mike Valenti Show are well-produced, and the show’s producers are part of the on-air (and on-screen) activity. The whole crew knows that content is the name of the game, and they work within their unique abilities to deliver the goods again and again.

And everyone’s personality is encouraged, rather than tamped down and made to fit into a corporate mold. Over time, you get to know their individual personalities. (Even Katy Perry has her favorites on The Dan Patrick Show.)

Dan and Mike are the bosses, and they set the tone. They’ve earned their clout by being their authentic selves, standing by their team, and being inclusive of all of their listeners, save trolls.

Most importantly, they tell the truth to their audience, no matter how painful.

Valenti is the first one to tell a Detroiter that any of their teams stinks. For example, even though he went to Michigan State, he’s not a “Sparty Slappy” — when MSU is garbage (which they’re going to be for a while), he lets you know, with no regret in his heart.

As a result of being forthcoming with the truth and delivering great content on a consistent basis, Valenti’s show has been the highest-rated sports-talk show in Metro Detroit for years, amassing among the best local ratings of any show in the country.

Thought Leadership

In this Age of Spin, so many talking heads maintain a contrarian position in order to sustain attention (I’m looking at you, Skip Bayless).

Patrick and Valenti keep our ears (and eyes) glued by way of their authenticity, their encyclopedic sports minds, their ability to ask the right questions to get to the right answers, their standards of radio excellence, their nods to relevant pop culture, and their depth of knowledge of the human condition.

In my view, sports are the ultimate reality TV. It doesn’t get more real than sports.

Anyone can analyze what’s going to possibly happen to Rick Grimes in the next episode of The Walking Dead all they want, but they must acknowledge that they’re analyzing a fiction which has already been written — the next episode is already produced!

Sports are, for the most part, unpredictable, and athletes are real people, making real money, in a real industry, affected by the real culture we live in. They’re not following a script (unless you count the WWE).

The Dan Patrick Show and The Mike Valenti Show are my Talking Dead.

The greatest athletes in sports are human beings who: made personal sacrifices to pursue their dreams; set goals to achieve measurable growth to take their careers to the next level; remain accountable to themselves, their coaches, and their teammates; built a reputation for excellence at their craft; spent countless hours of time learning, training, and practicing to be one of the best; operate with a high level of intensity; respect the game they play, and the players involved, including their opponents.

The same can be said of Dan Patrick and Mike Valenti and their respective crews. They are thought leaders in their industry. They’re at the top of their game right now, and they deserve your attention.

Because they may not be around much longer.

An article in last week’s Detroit News says Mike Valenti is being courted in New York City to take over for Mike Francesa at WFAN. This makes sense, considering Valenti’s on-air partner of nearly two decades left the show in April for medical reasons; the only team with immediate impact potential in town — the Detroit Lions — severed broadcasting ties with the station due to Valenti’s criticism; and Valenti isn’t renewing his MSU football season tickets due to their level of suck.

As for Dan Patrick, he has had several surgeries in recent years, and often jokes about retirement.

My point is, these guys aren’t going to be operating in the same capacity at some point, and I don’t know if anyone is going to be able to fill their shoes.

They are unique personalities. And they are true radio men, with values concerning much more than just their show’s ratings.

If you’re not into sports, that’s cool. My girlfriend isn’t into sports at all, and even she watches The Dan Patrick Show with me. Mind you, I don’t force her! She just likes the show and is entertained by it, and I’m grateful she prefers it to the network morning shows with their fake glee.

But the bottom line is, whether you like sports or not: If you want to be entertained but not pandered to, all while enjoying two radio titans riding the crest of the wave of their industry, tune in!

The Dan Patrick Show (9am-12pm EST)

The Mike Valenti Show (2pm-6pm EST)

#DanPatrick #DPShow #MikeValenti #radio

Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.

Castlevania on Netflix

Castlevania on Netflix

It wasn’t supposed to be good.

Instead, it’s great, and I’m late to the party.

Are you??

Many people I know have been saying how great it is, but they’ve oversold and overhyped things before, so I took it with a grain of salt.

And most video-game-based movies and TV shows are not good, and vice-versa.

So I started watching Castlevania reluctantly, expecting the hype to be overblown.

But it’s not! Before the title screen in the first episode, you’re hooked!

The Hook

Let me set the scene…

Dracula, alone in his castle, receives an unexpected guest — Lisa, a headstrong woman seeking forbidden knowledge in order to become a doctor and aid the weak and helpless throughout the land.

Dracula mistakes her for another would-be witch trying to fool the peasants, to which Lisa scoffs, saying everybody else already does that, but she believes in science, not superstition.

He sneaks up behind her, whispering in her ear, seductively asking what she has to “trade” for access to his knowledge. Lisa pulls away from him and says perhaps she could help him relearn some manners.

Dracula warms to her, and takes her into his laboratory. Lisa is awed at what she sees inside.

“They won’t be peasants anymore if you teach them. They won’t live such short, scared lives if they have real medicine. They won’t be superstitious if they learn how the world really works,” says Lisa.

With a slight laugh, Dracula says, “Why should I do that??”

“To make the world better,” replies Lisa as a matter of fact. (If Castlevania was set in 2017, Lisa would have added a “Duh!” at the end — it’s set in 15th century Wallachia, a town in Romania.)

She adds, “Start with me, and I’ll start with you.”

The Narrative

Do you see what’s happening here???

First, it doesn’t get more ‘white, male oligarch’ than Dracula.

Second, Lisa values science above superstition and ignorance, and isn’t afraid to walk right up to the door of the most powerful man in the world, and ask for the keys to his secrets in the name of the greater good — when he tries to grab-her-by-the-…neck, she calls him rude and says she’ll help him relearn how to be a better human being!

Dracula reforms. He falls in love with Lisa. They marry.

Fast-forward twenty years, and a corrupt bishop has Lisa burned at the stake as a witch.

This is all before the title screen!

So, there’s the setup, and the plot develops over the four episodes in the first season, and centers around ensuring Dracula doesn’t wipe out humanity in a vengeful rage.

But then there’s the underlying narrative.

Feminism…religious ignorance…science deniers…oppression…war…

Even Big Data is a subject: without giving anything important away, there is a certain group of people who place great value on speaking and saying things to each other and remembering what was said, passing it down through generations, rather than writing it down for posterity. (It’s a commentary on our bureaucracy- and social media-driven culture, and how we feel compelled to document everything.)

But the biggest narrative is that of oligarchs in power suppressing the populace by withholding knowledge and information, and using violence to extinguish any would-be agents of change, of progress.

As the fire engulfs Lisa, the mayor of Wallachia approaches the bishop, revealing that he too has dabbled in some minor science studies from time to time — but just studies; he assures the bishop he would never think to actually practice such things.

The bishop looks at the mayor sternly and says, “The Archbishop would prefer that life in Wallachia be kept simple, Mayor,” as Lisa screams in agony.


The Verdict

The show is a referendum on the rich and powerful’s attempt to keep the world in the dark, to keep wisdom from people lest they use it to make their lives better, to make the world better.

And it’s a referendum on religious ignorance.

Both are relevant now, and you can finish the whole season in less than two hours…

Watch it!


Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.com

Website: https://therealjohnkay.com
Music: https://johnkay.bandcamp.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Twitter: @TheRealJohnKay
Instagram: @therealjohnkay
Facebook: /TheRealJohnKay

Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates

Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.