On this week's must list, we highlight the release of a certain lightweight pop band's second studio album as well as the reissues of two important LPs from the heyday of alternative music. On the TV front, pop artists including Lady Gaga and Rihanna take over the small screen, while in theaters two new doom-and-gloom releases will keep you chilly going into the final month of 2011.
TUESDAY, NOV. 29:
Must Factor: "We're dancing on the edge of the Hollywood sign," sings lead vocalist Ryan Follese on Hot Chelle Rae's double-platinum single "Tonight, Tonight" (one of our Top 25 songs of Summer 2011), which peaked at a lofty #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July. And it's true - in a metaphorical sense anyway. After the pop band's 2009 debut album "Lovesick Electric" failed to catch fire with the public, their careers looked poised to join the heaps of wannabe superstars at the foot of the famed Los Angeles hillside landmark until "Tonight, Tonight" rescued them from the brink - at least temporarily - when it became a summer 2011 anthem (second single "I Like It Like That" has also proven somewhat successful).
Whether or not they can manage to maintain their balance on the knife's edge of mainstream success with their second LP "Whatever" will determine whether they're doomed for "one hit wonder" status - perhaps a fate even worse than relative obscurity.
Must Factor: Speaking of "Tonight, Tonight", '90s rock superstars The Smashing Pumpkins used that song title long before Hot Chelle Rae ever did, namely on the fourth single from their 1995 double-album "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness". While that blockbuster LP won't see a lavish re-release until next year, this week fans of the alternative-music juggernauts can pick up deluxe reissues of the band's 1991 debut "Gish" and their 1993 commercial breakthrough "Siamese Dream".
While the contentious Butch Vig-led recording sessions for the two albums are nearly as legendary as the music itself, the excellent tunes from both still hold up excellently today. Each will be made available in both a remastered single-disc edition and three-disc deluxe edition, the latter of which includes rare and previously unreleased tracks and a DVD containing live performances at famed Chicago nightclub The Cabaret Metro, where the classic lineup of Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin, D'arcy Wretzky and James Iha played their first show together as a band. Forgive me if you're a fan of the band's present-day incarnation (which is frankly more prone to putting out bizarre music videos than regaining any semblance of the Pumpkins' former glory), but there's something bittersweet about listening to their early output and wondering what might have been if they only hadn't flamed out so quickly.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 30:
The Grammy Nominations Concert Live! [CBS, 10 PM]
Must Factor: If you didn't get enough of Mother Monster on last Thursday's "Very Gaga Thanksgiving", you can catch her this week on CBS' hour-long "Grammy Nominations Live!" concert special, where the pop superstar be performing live along with other big name artists including Rihanna, Jason Aldean, Usher, The Band Perry, Lupe Fiasco, Ludacris and Sugarland. Given that the announcement of a major rock band reunion which is now pretty certain to be Van Halen has also been teased, it'll be interesting to see how CBS manages to fit all of these A-list artists into a single hour.
FRIDAY, DEC. 2:
"Shame" [Fox Searchlight]
Must Factor: Sort of the "Blue Valentine" of 2011 based solely on its NC-17 notoriety (though "Valentine" managed to successfully appeal the rating), director Steve McQueen's "Shame" is nevertheless winning critical raves and has become the subject of major Oscar talk for leads Michael Fassbender (one of our 25 breakout stars of 2011) and Carey Mulligan, not to mention for McQueen and for the film itself.
Telling the story of Brandon (Fassbender), a New York City man who suffers from an all-consuming sex addiction and who must also contend with the arrival of his erratic younger sister Sissy (Mulligan), this downer of a film certainly isn't for everyone, but those who enjoy art cinema with a darker bent will likely find much to admire here.
"Coriolanus" [The Weinstein Co.]
Must Factor: Serving as actor Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut, "Coriolanus" updates the lesser-known Shakespeare tragedy of the same name into a modern-day Roman setting while staying true to the play's original iambic pentameter. Reviews on the festival circuit have been largely positive, and while the film isn't likely to break out with mainstream audiences, Fiennes (Coriolanus) and especially Vanessa Redgrave (as the title character's controlling mother Volumnia) have been pegged as contenders for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress at next year's Oscars.