iTunes sales surge for Daft Punk, John Legend, and more following the 56th GRAMMY Awards

The GRAMMY Awards are often described as Music’s Biggest Night. While the awards ceremony typically lives up to the moniker with star-studded performances and gramophone trophies for hundreds of artists across many genres each year, iTunes charts also show how music sales are impacted, providing the year’s first prominent sales increase following the post-Christmas bump fueled by gift card redemptions. Many of the songs featured during the 56th GRAMMY Awards broadcast on January 26 received significant jumps on the iTunes song chart throughout and following the show, and numerous songs heard in its music-centric commercials felt the benefit of exposure as well. The statistics below reflect positions on the US iTunes chart of about 1500 songs, tracked from the beginning of the broadcast in the Eastern time zone at 8:00pm to the end of the Western time zone broadcast at 2:40am Eastern.


Kurt’s 100 Favorite Songs of 2013

These are one hundred songs that stayed in my heavy rotation throughout 2013. In a year that saw personal advancements including eight weeks studying abroad in France and graduation from college, these songs soundtracked my year, each song appealing to me through instrumentation, lyrics, or just its overall mood. Read on for descriptions of each track, access the whole playlist on SoundCloud to listen, and judge away.

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The Right to Copy: Cover Songs and Copyright on YouTube

For an abridged version of this paper, see this page.

Though the practice of covering previously-performed songs has been prevalent in music history for several decades, many new artists looking to build their profiles in the modern music industry release cover songs by currently popular artists, often putting a unique spin on their performance in order to showcase their stylistic originality and also gain the interest of fans to support their careers. However, copyright laws are a problematic issue that many artists must face in order to legally release and sometimes profit from their reworked cover versions. Artists need to be aware of copyright laws when posting and selling covers to ensure that they are working within the law, but when done successfully, they can use cover songs as an effective method of building a fanbase and boosting their musical career. This paper will analyze and critique the current copyright system and how it relates to song covers, particularly those that are posted and released through the video-sharing website YouTube. After an introduction covering the history and variants of cover songs, a deeper analysis of copyright law on YouTube and in the music industry will follow, along with case studies of how they can both help and hinder artistic creativity for developing artists using YouTube as a platform for which to promote their music careers.

MSU Fall 2013 Commencement Student Address: Building Bridges

After applying and interviewing for the opportunity to be the student speaker at my fall 2013 commencement from Michigan State University, I was honored to deliver the following remarks before graduating with high honor (for a GPA exceeding 3.90) on December 14, 2013 with a degree in arts and humanities, a French minor, and Honors College distinction.

When you think of a bridge, you probably think of a structure manufactured to go over an obstacle, creating a connection between two places. You have probably traveled across many bridges in your life without even thinking about it. From family trips to the Mackinac Bridge and building monkey bridges in Boy Scouts to crossing the Red Cedar on campus and walking across a bridge to class every day when I studied abroad in France last summer, I know I have used many bridges in my lifetime to help me get from place to place.

Today, as we prepare to cross from college to the “real world,” I’d like to talk about a few other kinds of bridges. Just like those constructed from steel or rope, they too make connections that get people past obstacles; however, they’re a little less literal. As you move forward in the world, these bridges will help you reach your destination even if you don’t yet know what’s on the other side. They are the bridges between people, ideas, and skills — bridges that connect you with your network and with the knowledge that you have gained as a student at MSU.


Homeward bound

In just under an hour from the time of writing this post, my plane from Paris will hit the ground in Detroit, completing my eight-week study abroad program with MSU. While I have a few final reflections yet to share, that will be done in a later post from my comfort of my own home, since I have yet to detail my final week in Tours. As is evident by the lack of a post during the week, I’ve been busy finishing up my studies, soaking up as much of the city as I could, and spending time with a group of what I hope will be long-lasting friends from MSU and beyond.

The biggest personal event of the past week came in the form of the DELF B2 exam, which I have previously discussed and took last Friday, July 19. Due to the scores on our placement tests for July courses, I and three other students among our group were eligible to take the DELF B2, which signifies proficiency in the French language. While I did not spend a lot of time studying (contrary to the norm, as those of you who know me well are surely aware!), I went into the four-part exam with average expectations and a positive attitude, hoping our continued work at the Institut in improving our use of French would help me succeed.

The first portion of the test was written comprehension, in which I had to read two passages and answer questions about them. With previous in-class variants of such tests producing fairly positive results, the section was not one of my primary worries going into the test. As it turned out, it was easier than the tests we had taken in class, and I ended up passing with 24/25 points on the section. Following that was written production, which asked candidates to read a short paragraph, then respond to the prompt in letter form. I had a few small comprehension issues within the paragraph which I later realized caused me to mess up the introduction of my letter, but the points I made within were apparently enough to score me another ten and a half points.

Following the two written sections came the oral half of the exam, beginning with an oral comprehension test to finish the morning session. This was where I had the biggest worry going into the exam: I am usually fairly able to understand Francophone people when they are talking to me with the help of normal conversational nuances like gestures and lip-watching, but listening to fast, muffled speakers without such aids makes it more difficult. While I did better than I had feared overall, I did leave a few questions blank on the second listening portion (the first excerpt was played twice, but the shorter second section gets only one play), yet I still managed a solid 13.50/25 points. Those playing along at home will notice that I only needed another five points (two to reach fifty and five since the DELF requires a minimum of five points per test to pass, even if you get over fifty points overall) in the last test, but of course, I didn’t find that out until afterward, which meant I had to sweat it out from the end of the third session at noon until my individual listening session at 16h00 (4:00pm). For the final oral production section, I spoke one-on-one with an Institut professor about whether or not sugary products should be taxed like alcohol and tobacco. Thrilling, huh? Nevertheless, I scored 20/25 points and successfully received a diploma in French studies, which I found out under two hours after finishing the oral production test. Take that, ACT.

Saturday was spent detoxing with English while visiting Mont Saint-Michel and St. Malo as part of another Institut-sponsored excursion. Mont Saint-Michel is an island town with a large, well-known abbey that receives over 20,000 visitors during the summer, but has very few permanent inhabitants. We spent the early afternoon touring the abbey and shopping a bit before returning to the bus and driving to the port city of St. Malo. There, we had a couple hours to get a quick peek of the city, including its sandy beach, and enjoy crêpes for dinner.

The Mont Saint-Michel and St. Malo excursion was somewhat bittersweet, marking the last weekend in France for most of us (several students chose to travel on their own or with family afterward). My final week of classes began with our last two quizzes, leaving the rest of the week for more lessons. We also got to learn about all of our home countries, which was neat due to the diverse population of my class. When we weren’t in class, we spent our last free afternoons crossing items off our final to-do lists, including shopping for food and souvenirs to take home and eating our last lunch at the Institut as a group. The final week also included an Institut-hosted talent show, which was fun to watch especially as most of the participants were MSU students. However, with every new experience racked up during those days, our date of departure grew closer and closer. Soon enough, I was spending my final night at the Guinguette talking with friends from MSU and beyond, then catching a few hours of sleep before being awoken at 4:15 to heavy rain and my alarm clock, signaling the end of an eight-week trip that I will certainly remember for the rest of my life.

A brief word of advice to other MSU students reading this blog: whether you’re interested in following my footsteps to Tours, another country, or just experiencing a different part of the United States, this university has so many opportunities for studying abroad that I hope everyone strongly considers the experience. Not only will you expand your horizons in our increasingly globalized world, but you will be able to make countless memories with new, lifelong friends from around the world. It sounds cliché, but I truly think every student would benefit from participating in a study abroad trip while studying at Michigan State. Feel free to contact me on Twitter, Facebook, or email if you have questions I can answer!