common

LONDON– The Common Linnets were the surprise hit of this year’s Eurovision song contest, a competition usually swept by pop tunes. With viewers from all over Europe texting and phoning to cast their vote, Dutch country artists Ilse DeLange and Waylon brought the house down and came in second with “Calm After the Storm.” Their duet, with its slide guitars and heart-tugging harmonies, has since become a top-10 hit across the continent, and the band is in negotiations with a major U.S. country-music label. “In Europe, when you say you do country music, it used to not be cool,” says Ms. DeLange, who sports very Dolly Parton-like dimples, “but it is becoming much more mainstream.” Read more

twodoorcinemaclub11

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND— A Plastic Rose, whose debut album is being released this month, already has the presence of a band that will feel at home on a stadium tour. The band members gained experience this year opening a few shows for Snow Patrol (three of their five members are from Northern Ireland), and at a recent small gig at Belfast’s Oh Yeah Music Centre, the crowd went wild for songs like “Oceans” and “Kids Don’t Behave Like This.” Also on the bill that evening were two other talented, yet wildly diverse bands: the spunky, quirky Wonder Villains and the melodic Pretty Child Backfire, both of which have devoted followings. Read more

knaan

If anybody has a story to rap about, it’s hip-hop artist K’Naan. Born in Mogadishu, the Somali rapper (real name: Kanaan Warsame) fired his first AK-47 at the age of 8; at 11 he blew up half his school when he accidentally detonated a hand grenade. By the time he and his mother fled Somalia in 1991, he had already seen three of his friends shot dead. The family settled in Toronto, where the young refugee learned English partially through rap songs. He released his first album in 2002, and his follow-up, Troubadour, to wide acclaim last year; its single “Wavin’ Flag” has been chosen as the official anthem of this year’s World Cup, to be held in June in South Africa, and will be featured in Coca-Cola ads that will play in 150 countries. Addressing the issues of poverty and political freedom, the song blends African and Western pop with rock and rap, in the style known as Afropop. “With my experiences and where I come from, the sounds and melodies that speak to me, I could not possibly put all that into the narrow idea of music popular in the West,” says K’Naan. “I felt I needed to bring all my experiences together, put them in a pot and serve them like that.” Read more