The Late Movies: MTV Unplugged

MTV Unplugged premiered in 1989, showcasing musicians playing acoustic versions of their songs. It has spawned a series of memorable performances, most notably (to my generation, anyway), Nirvana's excellent set -- likely the first time a Leadbelly song was performed on MTV. So tonight, I bring you some of my favorite Unplugged moments. Share yours in the comments!

Oasis - "Don't Look Back in Anger" - 1996

Apparently lead singer Liam Gallagher bailed at the last minute, so his brother Noel went ahead and sang lead in brother's place. According to Wikipedia, "Liam watched the performance and heckled the group from a balcony." In this clip, Noel sounds great:

REM - "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" - 1991

"And this was a request of MTV, and we had to get the words on a computer, and I'm not sure they're right. But we're gonna give it a go, and here -- we -- go." One of many excellent performances from REM's Unplugged gig -- pick up the bootleg if you can find it. (Another standout is "Love is all Around", a Troggs cover.)

Nirvana - "The Man Who Sold the World" - 1994

Nirvana does Bowie. One of many remarkable covers in this Nirvana set. Look how young they all are.

Pearl Jam - "Black" - 1992

Sorry about the burned-in VTR playback timecode. I remember thinking Jeff Ament's hat was ridiculous, even way back then. I think my judgment holds up.

Chris Isaak - "Wicked Game" - 1995

Beautiful, and perfectly suited to the acoustic format.

Paul Simon - "Mrs. Robinson" - 1992

A little funky, and missing Garfunkel, of course. Compare to this 1970 live performance.

Sheryl Crow - "Leaving Las Vegas" - 1995

"I spent the best part of my losing streak in an Army Jeep, from what I can't recall." Catchy, a little sad around the edges, and smart -- I always loved this song, though this version is a little messy -- there are some tuning problems with Crow's guitar. It's still a gem.

LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out" - 1991

Unlike the Pearl Jam bassist, LL's hat is completely appropriate. Because he hasn't got a shirt on, and he's kicking ass.

The Corrs - "Everybody Hurts" (REM Cover) - 1999

I bet they didn't have to get the lyrics to this "on a computer." (Also check out their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams."

Post Your Favorites!

Got a favorite Unplugged performance I've left out? Post a link in the comments! See also: our MTV Unplugged: Revisited quiz.

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This Just In
Police Recover Nearly 100 Artifacts Stolen From John Lennon’s Estate
Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images
Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images

A collection of artifacts stolen from John Lennon’s estate, including diaries, glasses, and handwritten music, has been recovered by German police, the Associated Press reports. After arresting the first suspect, law enforcement is now working to apprehend a second person of interest in the case.

The nearly 100 items went missing from the New York home of the late Beatles star’s widow Yoko Ono in 2006. Years later, German police were tipped off to their whereabouts when a bankruptcy administrator came across the haul in the storage facility of a Berlin auction house. The three leather-bound diaries that were recovered are dated 1975, 1979, and 1980. One entry refers to Lennon’s famous nude photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, and another was written the morning of December 8, 1980, hours before he was shot and killed. In addition to the journals, police retrieved two pairs of his iconic glasses, a 1965 recording of a Beatles concert, a 1952 school book, contract documents for the copyright of the song “I’m the Greatest”, handwritten scores for "Woman" and "Just Like Starting Over”, and a cigarette case.

German authorities flew to New York to have Ono verify the items' authenticity. "She was very emotional and we noticed clearly how much these things mean to her,” prosecutor Susann Wettley told AP. When the objects will be returned to Ono is still unclear.

The first suspect, a 58-year-old German businessman from Turkey, was arrested Monday, November 21, following a raid of his house and vehicles. The second suspect is one of Ono's former chauffeurs who has a past conviction related to the theft. Police officers are hoping to extradite him from his current home in Turkey before moving forward with the case.

[h/t AP]

Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics

Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.


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