<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

2011 Grammy Nominations surprises and snubs: Lady Gaga, Sade, 'Glee'

What did you think of picks from Katy Perry, Ray LaMontagne, Eminem and Bruno Mars?

The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards finally has its nominees, and -- as is custom -- there's some real duds, shockers and pleasant surprises on the list. Here's a breakdown of what we found in the popular music categories, from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to Ray LaMontagne and Esperanza Spalding.

Click here to check out the popular music nominees, and here for the full, entire list.

The Album of the Year category should feature an asterisk in its name, considering it’s just letting “Collections of Songs Roughly the Length of an Album” and “EP” waltz right in there. Katy Perry made some unforgettable singles this year, but – as I wrote in my review – Katy Perry doesn’t really make great albums. And perhaps the voting Academy felt bad that “The Fame” didn’t win in 2009, so Lady Gaga's "The Fame Monster" gets a pass before she even puts out a real sophomore set. PATIENCE, voters, you can coddle her all you want after “Born This Way” drops.

… That is, a good butt-kissing ought be issued in the 54th ceremony, considering “Bad Romance” didn’t get the nod in Record of the Year. Don’t get me wrong -- “Nothin’ on You” from B.o.B. and this year’s golden boy Bruno Mars is a very, very, very pleasant song. But it’s in-store music at the local Quik Trip compared to the luscious muscle memory of singing “rah-rah-ah-ah-ah roma-roma-ah” aloud.
 
But, hey, how 'bout that Bruno Mars? It doesn't hurt that dude co-wrote Cee Lo Green's "F*ck You"/"Forget You," but you had to know something was up when he took the stage to perform twice. Seven nominations is a monster.
 
Sade gets no big album, song or record nod – just Pop Performance in a Group or Duo, and R&B Performance by a Group or Duo, for “Babyfather” and “Soldier of Love” respectively. In the latter category, she and her band are up against two cover songs and a Chris Brown track, so it feels a bit like a pity prize to dominate.
 
A live version of Beyonce’s “Halo” makes the cut for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance? Isn’t that like bypassing thousands of unique, fresh-made meals for some decent leftovers from two years ago?
 
It’s a little uncomfortable that Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” only got one nod. And it was for a live version, go figure. Another shocking realization that Grammy eligibility doesn’t always run in tandem with popularity. NOT. THAT. POPULARITY. MATTERS. RIGHT. GRAMMYS?

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Brandon Flowers of The Killers</p>

Brandon Flowers of The Killers

Watch: The Killers put on their 'Boots' for Christmas charity single

OK, mostly Brandon Flowers... and a man with a karaoke mission

Dear Santa,

This year for Christmas, I'd like for The Killers to do another track together, even though they're on hiatus.

And I'd like for that single, "Boots," to be about snow globes and cinnamon candles and stuff, nothing that's particularly mean or sarcastic, mostly just Brandon Flowers getting extra sentimental.

I really like "It's a Wonderful Life," so if you could have that as the plot to the music video to "Boots," that would be awesome and my brother may even watch it even though he hates Jimmy Stewart.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Spoon</p>

Spoon

Spoon releases demo-laden 'Bonus Songs' set

Starting with tracks from 2002's 'Kill the Moonlight' and including 'Right' rarity

Have a Spoon super-fan you need to shop for this Christmas?

The Austin-bred rock band has pulled together the alternate version and demo songs they've been posting on their website and made the collection into a little "Bonus Songs 2008-2009" compilation.

Don't get 'em wrong: these tracks weren't written in that year span, but posted during 2008-2009. Some songs are demo versions of composition from "Kill the Moonlight," released all the way back in 2002. There's also the inclusion of rarity "The Right Place at the Right Time" (demo), a rehearsal of "You Gotta Feel It" and a "writing exercise" of "Eddie's Ragga."

For the nerds, 'm I right? However, I've always admired Spoon's songwriting process, even if frontman Britt Daniels says he struggles with penning lyrics. Good to hear how a veteran band does it, and maybe it's worth it for under $10 (digital and CD). Get paid.

Here is the tracklist for "Bonus Songs 2008-2009":

1. Was It You Demo
2. Rhythm And Soul Demo
3. Don't Let It Get You Down Demo
4. Cherry Bomb Country Version Demo
5. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case Oceanside Demo
6. Merchants Of Soul Demo
7. Eddie's Ragga Writing Exercise
8. My Mathematical Mind Demo
9. You Gotta Feel It Rehearsal
10. In The Right Place The Right Time Demo

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<p>Conor Oberst</p>

Conor Oberst

Bright Eyes announces new 'The People's' new album

Will Conor Oberst use his country skills on his longstanding full band?

Bright Eyes has announced it's seventh full length album: the Saddle Creek band will release "The People's Key" on Feb. 15 next year, featuring mainstays Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Wolcott.

It's the Omaha, Neb.-based band's first set sin 2007's "Cassadega," which incorporated quite a bit of country and folk elements that helped shape Oberst's two solo efforts with the Mystic Valley Band in 2008 and 2009 and even with Monsters of Folk, his supergroup with Mogis, M. Ward and Jim James.

No particular guests like -- say -- Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch are slated to help, but instead a veritable reunion of present and former Saddle Creek acts and friends are on board "Key." Andy LeMaster (Now It’s Overhead), Matt Maginn (Cursive), Carla Azar (Autolux), Clark Baechle (The Faint), Shane Aspegren (The Berg Sans Nipple), Laura Burhenn (The Mynabirds) and Denny Brewer (Refried Ice Cream) are credited as additional musicians.

The album was produced by mega-mind Mogis and engineered by Mogis and LeMaster (Steve Albini would appreciate the distinction).

Meanwhile, as fans sit in wait, there's a couple live shows also worth pining for: Bright Eyes has scheduled a March 9 stop at Radio City Music Hall in New York and a June 23 stint at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

I'm personally eager to hear not only what sonic direction Oberst takes with the effort after a couple loose, jammier years with the above mentioned bands, but also what new he has to say about politics, especially after his proactivity protesting Arizona's controversial immigration law this summer and two years of turbulent party oppositions in the country.

Here is the tracklist for "The People's Key":

1 Firewall    6 A Machine Spiritual (In The People’s Key) 
2 Shell Games    7 Triple Spiral   
3 Jejune Stars    8 Beginner’s Mind 
4 Approximate Sunlight   9 Ladder Song  
5 Haile Selassie    10 One For You, One For Me
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<p>Jared Leto and Friend in &quot;Hurricane&quot;</p>

Jared Leto and Friend in "Hurricane"

Watch: Jared Leto, Thirty Seconds to Mars' fantasies find life in 'Hurricane'

So THAT'S what Jared Leto's into

So the thought and hope here was Kanye West would be making a cameo in the new video for “Hurricane,” or rather, “Hurricane 2.0,” the working single from Thirty Seconds to Mars’ new deluxe version of “This Is War.” 

Not this time around. But, hey, there is plenty of (censored) fetish porn and hubris.
 
Jared Leto – who continues to go by the name Bartholomew Cubbins when he’s acting in a directory capacity – takes his viewers through a series of unanswerable mysteries and sexy scenarios in this fantasies-come-true music video and 16-minute mini-film. While West may not have contributed any screentime to “Hurricane,” but perhaps he and his own minifilm “Runaway” were an inspiration: this is one very indulgent, self-centered piece of video art.
 
I can barely explain a linear plot, but perhaps its trimmings are a start. The mini-film is “narrated” in French, in whispers and chapter titles: a birth, a life, a death. The voice tells us this is not real, that this is a dream. Each of 30STM’s band members then live out a fantasy plot of violence, death and sexual conquests.
 
Leto, for instance, is featured shirtless throughout. His New York-based dream kicks off waking up to pounding on his fancy front door, Polaroids of himself sleeping at his doorstep and a suited man running at him with a sledgehammer. He jumps out of a window, flies to safety on the street and takes a walk. He sees holy men throw their holy books into a fire, finds a key hanging out of a door and walks into a vaulted room with a bunch of flag-draped coffins. A suited gimp totally jacks him, he falls into the coffin (very “Buried”) and – ohmygosh – discovers the key opens the coffin from the inside. He takes to the street again, kids with sidewalk chalk which apparently gives him tattoos and then he has one last showdown with a gimp.
 
By the way, he’s lacing/chaining/slapping up a model throughout, in leather bondage gear. So that’s what Jared Leto’s into.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Iron &amp; Wine</p>

Iron & Wine

Credit: Warner Bros.

Listen: Iron & Wine release first single from new album

'Walking Far From Home' will make you think of home

Iron & Wine released its new album's first single, “Walking Far From Home,” on Black Friday, as part of a vinyl/CD single that went out as part of Record Store Day, Christmas Edition. The song was accompanied by two other new tracks, "Summer in Savannah" and "Biting Your Tail," neither of which are slated to be released on "Kiss Each Other Clean" come January.

"Walking" goes up digitally tomorrow (Nov. 30), but MySpace is streaming the track at least for today.
 
In the beginning of the track, Sam Beam’s vocals sound as though he recorded them in a Progresso soup can microphone, with the waves transmitted to a spare closet somewhere and exposing Beam’s typical vulnerability.
 
And talk about a road song. As is Iron & Wine’s tendency, the song’s lyrical subjects seem to have cosmic consequence and meaning, God-is-in-everything kind of approach to sickness, lovers, children, highways, strangers, dancers and every other I-Spy from the bus windows.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Kanye West and Mr Hudson</p>

Kanye West and Mr Hudson

Watch: Kanye West and Mr Hudson fight over a girl in 'Anyone But Him'

Will this make the 'Supernova' singer into a star?

I can't really be bothered to grumble about Kanye West's appearance on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade float (except: that outfit? really"), nor re-print his onstage rant word-for-word from his tiny gig at Bowery last week (here's the cheat sheet: "Thank you, and eat my shorts."). I'm also sick of waiting for his cameo in Thirty Seconds to Mars' "Hurricane" music video, which has been something like two months in wait: 14 "clips" of a clip does not a clip make, guys.

What I do like seeing if forward motion, and there's some of that from West in Mr Hudson's "Anyone But Him" music video.

Mr Hudson, as you'll recall, is signed to Kanye's G.O.O.D. label, in an attempt to make him as big here as he is in his native Britain. Last year, there was "Supernova," a track and clip that I found both mystifyingly trainwreckish and enjoyable. Then Mr Hudson showed up on Jay-Z's "Bluprint 3," as the remaker of Alphaville's "Forever Young" on cleverly titled "Young Forever."

Now he's back, promoting the second single from his June release "Straight No Chaser" (not to be mistaken for the a capella group of the same name), "Anyone But Him." He and Ye are after the same girl, which to the fair maiden seems like the choice between apples and a media-magnet rapper.

The song is catchy, for sure, though the pour-not-dab of auto-tune seems inappropriate, considering the blonde blaster's pipes.

What do you think of the track?

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<p>The Strokes</p>

The Strokes

Music Fest Feed: SXSW, The Strokes, Chemical Brothers at Ultra

Rundown of news, from Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Sasquatch, Summer Sonic and more

South By Southwest has added a few new names to its expansive lineup, including Alberta Cros, City and Colour, J. Mascis, Morning Teleportation, Noah and the Whale, Devotchka, Jeff and the Brotherhood and Prince Rama. Things kickoff on March 16, unless you have a true lust for life: then count on pre-parties the days before in Austin.

The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Primal Scream are heading to Benicassim International Festival in Spain, which runs July 14-17. An early bird sale is running now through Nov. 25.

The Foo Fighters are set to headline one of the dates at now-four-day Sasquatch! in George, Washington.

The Chemical Brothers will be one of the big names confirmed at the Ultra Music Festival, good news after the bickering from last week.

Red Hot Chili Pepers aren't just playing Rock in Rio: They're heading to Japan too, for Summer Sonic Festival.

Tulluride Bluegrass Festival (Colorado) announced its dates: June 16-19.

 

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<p>The Beatles</p>

The Beatles

Credit: Apple Corp.

WIN! The Beatles headed to a stocking near you

HitFix and Immaculate Noise are giving away The Beatles' 'Red,' 'Blue' and Taxi Collectible
We thought last year was a big deal when the Beatles released digitally remastered versions of all their albums. But this year isn't shaping up to be too shabby, either.
 
The Fab Four reached a deal (finally) to allow iTunes to sell their music digitally, of course, with special pricing for songs, albums and boxed sets.
 
But of course, there are going to be loved ones** this holiday shopping season that will want the physical product in their hands -- in other words, the goods from the Beatles on CD and in the actual boxed set.
 
That's where we come in.
 
Immaculate Noise and HitFix are giving away a copy of "The Red Collection," "The Blue Collection" and, well, one Collectible Taxi. Read on each below:
 
The Red and Blue Collections - Released October 19th, both albums have been digitally remastered. Both 2CD digipacks include expanded booklets with newly written essays by Bill Flanagan and rare photos. Check out the tracklist for "Red" here and for "Blue" here.

The Beatles Single Sleeve Die Cast Collectible Taxi -  There are four toy car models which each represent one of four singles - "A Hard Day's Night", "Can't Buy Me Love", "For You Blue" and "Yesterday." Each package contains the limited edition single sleeve die-case collectible taxi, an XL T Shirt and a wall plaque featuring the artwork from the 7" single. Each box is valued at $50.
 
Here's how to win:
 
Become part of our social network by "Liking" HitFix's Fan Page. "Like" this story while you are there (or you can "Like" it at the top of this page).
 
Then, email info@hitfix.com with the subject line "Beatles Giveaway."
 
Entries must be received by 10 a.m. PST on Black Friday (Nov. 26).
 
We will pick two winners -- one for each show -- from a random pool of entries. You must be 21+ to enter and be a resident of the United States. We will notify winners via email.

** i.e. you.

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<p>Nicki Minaj</p>

Nicki Minaj

Credit: ap

Album Review: Nicki Minaj's 'Pink Friday' has a personality disorder

Do Kanye West, Eminem, Rihanna or will.i.am ground this live wire?

 

You could do a lot with Nicki Minaj. She looks like a million bucks, does well with the press, guests with Mariah Carey to all the boys in her Young Money crew, can hold a tune, do a couple dance moves, hold it down solo and -- most importantly – set fire to a rap verse. She seems pretty bright and funny as hell. She can do everything. That doesn’t mean she should try to do it all on one album.
 
Whether it was by Universal or by the 25-year-old performer’s own hand, her debut “Pink Friday” bows to what a major label commercial urban album should sound like.
 
But for either, it’s fairly new territory. A female rapper hadn’t topped the hip-hop songs chart in almost a decade, and here comes Nicki with her Crayola colored hair and a back pocket full of ferocious mixtapes. Lady MCs like Foxy, Kim and Missy have been laying in wait to see what would come of their trailblazing, even if it wasn’t born of -- or as a response to – gansta rap or strictly East Coast/West Coast style.
 
And she came in swinging. And apparently singing?
 
“Pink Friday” has some songs aimed directly at the top 40, and some that would have her banned. “Check It Out” (regrettably) features will.i.am, la-la-“Last Chance” has Natasha Bedingfield and grounded “Fly” boasts Rihanna; those pop-oriented jams are buttressed by Minaj literally threatening to piss on or sh*t on her haters, “kick them hos” and for the naysayers to just “kill yourself.”
 
She intends to romance with the line “You see right through me / how do you do that sh*t?”, from “Right Thru Me,” but something tells me it won’t end up in the next Nicholas Sparks novel.  Minaj does her best with R&B/hip-hop straddling like this, dulling her razor sharp to the point of honest perspective as opposed to the generic hip-hop braggadocio.
 
But still, it’s jarring, moving between the fluff and the fight, particularly when she lays it down like a true pro on “Roman’s Revenge” and “Just Blazin’” (featuring Kanye West and a Simple Minds sample). On the former, she insists she’s a hip-hop star who just happens to be a “she” and not some cosmic mistake that allowed a girl into the boys’ club. “I’m not Jasmine / I am Aladdin” she says, referencing a Disney film right before she rips you a new assh*le. “That bitch is mad cause I took the spot? / Well, bitch if you ain’t shittin’ then get off the pot” she rawr-rawrs “like a Dungeon Dragon,” quoting Busta Rhymes from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario.” Then Eminem steps up for an f-you to sluts because why else would you have Eminem on an album. The pair boast their wares over a nasty snare and drone beat, a perfect fit for Em who could’ve used more of these on “Recovery.”
 
On opener “I’m the Best,” she skips the subtlety and goes straight to the talking points. “I’m the best b*tch doin’ it… all the girls will applaud / all the girls will come in / as long they understand / that I’m fightin’ for the girls / that never thought they could win… I’m here to reverse / the curse they live in.” Throughout the set, sShe takes a feminist stance while appropriating derogatory vocab, slipping in “b*tch,” “slut,” “cunt” and even “nappy headed hos” for her own use.
 
It’s not particularly eloquent, to be sure. But the way she delivers – whether delicately as Harajuku Barbie, in that crap cockney accent, the Islands raga or best as the crazy-eyed, hardnosed Queens native -- is like shooting a little thrill up your spine right after she blows you a kiss or calms her feathers for “Moment 4 Life” or “Save Me.”
 
It’s fine to have range, but having multiple personalities doesn’t mean you can’t have one at all. “Your Love,” the breakout single that sizzled in cars all summer, is an example of pushing for a commercial sound while still retaining those clever, slick idiosyncrasies, but on this set (and on its original mixtape) it proved to be an exception, not the rule. Minaj should just devote her tracks to rapping her ass off – she doesn’t keep those nails long just because they look good.

 

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