On The Download: A Final Goodbye Post, As We Head Into Summer

The cover of Adele's sophomore album, "21" The cover of Adele's sophomore album, "21"

Well, the time has come for me to pen my final On The Download post. After five amazing years at Access Hollywood, I am moving on to new career challenges. It’s with a heavy heart that I say “goodbye” to my family here though, and everything that we’ve created during my tenure as Managing Editor of AccessHollywood.com.

When we decided to launch the On The Download section of AccessHollywood.com three years ago, just after the re-launch of our site’s current incarnation, it was born out of a desire to have more music coverage by our brand. God bless our executive producer, Rob Silverstein, but unless your name was Mariah or Justin… or, Britney or Jessica… truth be told, it was unlikely we were covering you. That left a lot of music artists out there, many about whom the music-lovers amongst our staff were quite fond, who weren’t at all synonymous with “Access.” So, we set out to change that.

Nancy Harrison, Access’ Coordinating Producer in charge of music, and I started brainstorming what our approach to music coverage would be. How could we enlist the music-fanatics amongst our staff to write for the web when everyone was already so taxed with their daily job responsibilities? We thought about standard reviews, but we decided to leave that to the Rolling Stone’s and Entertainment Weekly’s of the world. Eventually, we settled upon, ‘Why not just let everyone write about music that they love?’ Why try to force our co-workers to write bad reviews of music they didn’t care for (which, of course, would favor no love from publicists we work with every day)? So, we opted to give everyone here an outlet to write about music over which they were passionate. And it has, more or less, worked.

In the past three years, we’ve gone from just four people talking about music, to over 15 staffers contributing semi-regularly to On The Download. Our posts have commonly been picked up around the web, have generated some decent traffic and have been presented to broader audiences through our partnership with Yahoo’s OMG. Our weekly Tuesday calls became an opportunity for discussion about new music and happenings in the music world, which I came to rather look forward to each week.

Also, in these past few years, we’ve covered music during a seismic shift in the industry. While the music business as a whole continues to struggle financially, that crisis has accelerated recently. However, in this same time period we’ve also witnessed a pendulum swing into music’s digital era. While we lost the King of Pop in 2009 (a monumental moment in the industry’s transition), we’ve seen the rise of music’s first two YouTube-era megastars (Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber), and the coronation of several other major new artists (Rihanna, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, Florence + The Machine), who I think will be defining forces for decades to come.

2011 is an exciting year to be a music-lover — especially a lover of pop music, for which amongst our staff, I’m known as a particularly strong cheerleader. Of course, the great thing about our writers is that many of us appreciate many different styles of music. There has always been someone on our staff who has loved most new releases over the past few years. Therefore, we’ve written about many of them.

I have been thrilled in 2011 thus far by the success of Adele — both in the U.S. and abroad — she is another of those major new artists whom I think I’ll be listening to still 30 years from now (you know you’re a phenomenon when Gwyneth covers one of your non-released-yet tracks on “Glee”).

Despite whatever personal demons she might still carry with her, Britney Spears’ musical comeback this spring was a pleasure to behold (I maintain that the Ke$ha-penned “Till The World Ends” is the best song of her career).

I think Jessie J’s debut is one of the most refreshing coming outs that I’ve heard in the past five years — like Adele, she is a true artist — she feels deeply and expresses herself honestly (skip her album’s first two radio-friendly singles, and head straight to “Mamma Knows Best,” “Big White Room,” “Abracadabra,” “Love,” “I Need This” and “Who You Are”).

Paul Simon, Foo Fighters, TV on the Radio and Duran Duran have all come out with some of their strongest work to date in the past couple of months. Today, the world is going to be exposed to “In Your Dreams,” the great new Glen Ballard & Dave Stewart produced album from Stevie Nicks, her first new solo effort since 2002’s “Say You Will.”

The Beastie Boys are also out today with “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two,” which is excellent. “Glee’s” Matthew Morrison is about to make a huge debut, which should mark the emergence of a significant new artist. Major new albums are due later this year from Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Garbage, U2 (going dance/electronic – again!) and Coldplay. I’m still hoping for a strong comeback soon from one of my favorites — Nelly Furtado. Rumor has it that she’s working on new material (her song “Try,” from her little heard sophomore album, “Folklore,” remains one of my favorite three songs of all time). I’m a bit sad that I won’t still be here to review all of these new releases for On The Download.

I just attended my first ever Coachella a few weeks ago, and what an overwhelming experience that was for me! I heard sets from some of my favorite artists of the moment (Robyn, Arcade Fire, Scissor Sisters, Kanye West), heard some up-and-comers for the first time whom I’m very excited about right now (Ellie Goulding, Tineh Tempeh), saw some of my all-time favorites play live for the first time (Duran Duran, Lauryn Hill) and was introduced to artists who were brand new to me (Chromeo, Cut Copy, Empire of the Sun), although they were well-known already, apparently, to many of my friends.

Heck, I even watched Paul McCartney and his girlfriend join Usher in a dance on stage in the Sahara DJ tent while Afrojack was spinning. Throw in sets by acts as diverse as The National, The Strokes, and The Chemical Brothers, and needless to say, I’ll be back next year (and for years to come). I’m still hitting myself for missing Brandon Flowers (joined on stage by The Killers), Yelle, PJ Harvey, Hurts, Duck Sauce, The Kills, and several others; but at Coachella, simply no one can do it all.

We also review concerts here in this column. You’d better believe I’m already lined up this summer to catch Adele at the Greek, Kylie Minogue at the Hollywood Bowl, Rihanna, Kings of Leon, Katy Perry (with Robyn opening for her) and several other of 2011’s crop of summer tours. I might even check out Britney again when she comes through town --- more likely so now that my current obsession, Nicki Minaj, is her opening act.

On a side note, I’m excited for Mariah and Pink to become first time moms, and can’t wait to see how this change in their lives will influence their music in the years to come.

In my time at Access, I’ve had the chance to meet artists ranging from Annie Lennox and Rod Stewart, to the Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Hudson. It’s been a music-lover’s dream job. So, I wish my friends and colleagues — Nancy, Joe, Jolie, Anthony, Breanna, Christopher, Erin, Kathy, Alex, Steve and Bret — all of the best in the future. My one hope is that you’ll take what we’ve started, keep it going, and perhaps, even grow it a little bit stronger.

Keep paying attention to the smaller artists who might not make air for Access, but whom we can champion online. We’re already great at spotting the new ones before they break. Moreover, and above all, please continue having fun doing it.

And I’m calling it now — Album of the Year at the 2012 Grammys is going to Adele.

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