Avicii announces first album and drops single 'Wake Me Up': Listen

Avicii announces first album and drops single 'Wake Me Up': Listen

Michael Einsinger, Mac Davis and Nile Rodgers guesting

Avicii is ready to release his first full-length studio album this year and is leading off with its first single "Wake Me Up."

The track doesn't start off exactly how fans of the EDM would expect: the folk and acoustic based track ultimately makes its way to a cheesy dance floor beat, but you can tell the young star has a smile on his face as he produced this one all the while. It guests Aloe Blacc on vocals, and he is exceptional at taking on this little hybrid.

Speaking of guests, you can bet there will be plenty of them on Avicii's album Sept. 17-due "#TRUE." (Yes, that's another damn hashtag title. May they all burn.) Michael Einsinger from Incubus, country music's Mac Davis and recent Daft Punk‘s collabo Nile Rodgers are along for the ride.

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Listen: Janelle Monae guests on Cee Lo and Goodie Mob's 'Special Education'

Listen: Janelle Monae guests on Cee Lo and Goodie Mob's 'Special Education'

Comparing 'different' to 'special'

Last year, Cee Lo Green reunited with his original music project, Atlanta hip-hop crew Goodie Mob, and now it looks like there's more action afoot. Janelle Monae jumped in on the new single "Special Education," a song that -- despite its title and the ominous, mysterious sound -- is quite serious.

The quartet take turns versing about sameness and peer pressure, plus their self-discoveries of growing up or thinking "different" and turning out to be quite "special." Hence the name.

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Credit: AP Photo

Fun Fun Fun Festival: Ice-T, The Walkmen, The Julie Ruin among first lineup adds

Kathleen Hanna will be amplifying her stage comeback alongside Bonobo, Judge

Last year was my first Fun Fun Fun Festival and it was, indeed, FunX3. It's an Austin-based variety festival for bands who are slightly left of center for most garden variety mainstream (despite the fact that Icona Pop blew up). There's the metal/hard rock/post-punk/hardcore stage, one for dance and hip-hop hybrids and one for That Time You Finally Saw Bob Mould.

This year, the fest is already looking eclectic, with organizers announcing the first round of lineup additions. Ice-T is taking a break from "SVU" and reality TV to return to rapping on stage. Ice-T's been threatening to release an album of new studio tracks for the first time since 2006, so maybe his show will be promoting that. Who do you think he'll bring as special guests?

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<p>Miley Cyrus in &quot;We Can't Stop&quot;</p>

Miley Cyrus in "We Can't Stop"

Watch: Miley Cyrus dons a grill and twerks in 'We Can't Stop'

What else should you put in a piñata?

There's a lot riding on Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" because it's Brand Building Season for the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana. As the first single from her next album, "We Can't Stop" arrived around the same time she was voted Sexiest Woman an Maxim, months after she led the hook on a new Snoop Dogg song, and is brandished as front-page tabloid fodder. Her success as a post-teen pop artist hinges on this, her first teen-ish single of this new Miley era.

"We Can't Stop" sets the table on that brand. I can't swallow everything that's served.

In the first frames, we see the singer putting a grill on her teeth and having sex with the air in skin-tight clothes. She's partying with friends in the pool, in the Hollywood hills, dorking around with lavishly silly party favors and then of course there's twerking. For 20 different shots of Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out, go no further than this video and if you're trying to create a meme from thin air, take some tips from the piñata, the grown man sucking his thumb, crotch smoke and the knit cap with the death veil on it.

Cyrus looks very beautiful. She isn't above trying on seriously daring (and somestupid) fashion, but I like the freedom she has with her body and dressing it up in some fun ways. The colors are ON and the extras are hot.

Then taking from the page that all young female singers apparently must: writhe needlessly, touch yourself, strip-tease and, hell, why not just make-out with a miniature mannequin version of yourself. For a song so carefree as "We Can't Stop," she and her directors seem to be trying too hard on the gif-ready male gaze front. This brand opportunity reveals little on who Miley Cyrus actually is. Not that the song does us any favors there, either.

Start "We Can't Stop" below.

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<p>Kanye West: Belle of the Met Ball</p>

Kanye West: Belle of the Met Ball

Credit: AP Photo

Album Review: Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’ impresses and offends

Race-conscious, sexist, wild and urgent: rapper is a deity, not a hero

He’s not trying to be a hero or anti-hero. He’s not even a villain. On “Yeezus,” as much as before, Kanye West has declared himself God, a rapper and artist of his own dominion without the same rules of conduct or moral compass as mortals. West, too, is a petulant child, an aspect of his deific persona that stomps to make itself heard throughout this 10-song album, the shortest of his career. 

“Yeezus” isn’t dotted with singles in the same way that “My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy” was. It finds a foothold with its usual audience through “Black Skinhead,” a critical observance on race and hypocrisy, all set to a Gary Glitter beat. He lords over a blustery hook about Romans (the Rome kind) and Trojans (the rubber kind) but then warns against “Stop all that coon sh*t / early morning cartoon shit.” Like the term “Black Skinhead,” West treads his own oxymoronic line, comparing himself both to the Antichrist and Jesus Christ, screaming in one breath and chanting “God” in the next.
Speaking of caricatures, he puts Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and rapper Chief Keef together on the same track, the attention-grabber “Hold My Liquor,” as Kanye recalls the woman he craves using aching guitars from a Ratatat album and bleary EDM from 1985. It's production sounds as poured-over as its lyrics, and to a blistering, satisfying effect.
Fresh from that hungover head-holder, he goes straight into poon, literally, for “I’m In It,” which is meant more as a provocation than a bedroom banger. “Eatin' Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce,” he lazes. “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign,” he shocks. “Neck, ears, hands, legs, eatin' ass… your titties, let 'em out, free at last,” he’s just banging on pans. It’s at this point and several others that you realize West, intrigueingly, keeps inviting you into the room, only to try to force you out, as his pathos crests and topples over detailed and radical production, burring synths, hulking beats, trap artifice with mock-pop melodies.
West samples Nina Simone’s hallowed “Strange Fruit” for his own ends for “Blood on the Leaves,” a lyric he alludes to earlier in “New Slaves” and, like many Kanye West grudges, he can’t let go. The gall it takes to borrow that song – which is about a black man lynched from a tree in the South – to humiliate and shame his subject with a “$2,000 bag with no cash in your purse.” And yet its story and his very stature challenges the notion that some musical works are untouchable, especially since it seems that all art, to some degree, can be bought, even for petty purposes for a gorgeous track.
He balances his revile for the “fairer” sex with condemnation for the fairer skinned on “New Slaves” “You see it's broke nigga racism / that's that ‘Don't touch anything in the store’ / And this rich nigga racism / that's that ‘Come in, please buy more / What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain? / All you blacks want all the same things.’” It’s commentary on the “buying” of his race with a set of Maybach keys, a response to a post-racial hypothetical where even the richest of rappers can’t overlook how poor blacks are still targeted by “white” corporations or – worse still –a “white” justice system. There’s where the lyric “blood on the leaves” comes in most handy, wedged between the immature declaration “I’d rather be a d*ck than a swallower” and the modest threat that this black man with mouth-f*ck “your” white wives. Comparing himself to King Kong, riffing on the “black men coming for your white women” trope, and mixing it all in with class warfare and self-entitlement… West doesn’t need Nicki, Jay-Z, Rozay or a gun to be a “Monster” here, or to play with what a "monster" really is.
Songs like it are a complex, vengeful, misogynistic affront that’d have no place on “Watch the Throne” nor “My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy” (even with condescending “Blame Game” skit). With a rebel yell, he rejects the rap-game rejectors on “I Am a God,” where he crowns himself a deity and ironically demands the most petty, un-Godly effects. “I am a God / so hurry up with my damn massage / in a French-ass restaurant / hurry up with my damn croissants,” he rhymes, and he knows that it’s funny (particularly when he notes that God Himself guests on the track).
From the chest-thumping bombast of opener “On Sight” to the good girls and bad bitches on honeyed finale “Bound 2,” West creates and thrives in this dark punk fantasy, without flinching. He’s dressing for the job he wants – using muffled acid house, Michael Bay-sized clanks, brooding piano, bleating horns, an eclectic stable of contributors and his tattered bark, he aspires to be a God among men, not just rappers. It’s not chance that “Yeezus” also happens to be his most sexist and/but race-conscious effort yet.  Aspirant and harsh, musically flighty and aggressive, West flourishes in these harsh environs risk-taking and culture-war drama-making, especially as his skills as a rapper improve. “Yeezus” isn’t pleasant, but that doesn’t bar it from being thought-provoking, substantial and very, very good.


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<p>Alicia Keys</p>

Alicia Keys

Watch: Alicia Keys transforms into a Vegas performer in 'Tears Always Win' video

R&B singer hits the Las Vegas strip

Alicia Keys' "Tears Always Win" is one of the more catchier, timeless tunes off of her latest "Girl on Fire." The singer, for the most part, goes with a Las Vegas get-up that's equally timeless by the time the new music video for "Tears" is over.

Check out the singer as she makes her way down the famed Nevada strip, pining and mourning the loss of love between sparkles and big piano chords.

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<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: AP Photo

This Week in Kanye West: 'Yeezus,' 'I Am a God' a cappella and Rick Rubin

No radio single in sight, but West isn't sleeping on promotions: 500,000 in sight

Kanye West has not released an official studio single for his album "Yeezus." There is no pre-order for the June 18 release, and apparently no cover art (so far). He performed "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" on "Saturday Night Live," played both of those plus new "On Site" in addition to another song that's already been heard in pieces, "I Am a God," at the Governor's Ball over last weekend.

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Kraftwerk is werking on a new album

Ralf Hütter says a follow-up to the group's last 2003 album is coming 'soon'

Kraftwerk fans rejoice! The electronica trailblazers have a new album "under way" for an arrival "soon," according to founder Ralf Hütter.

Speaking with The New York Times, Hütter said the German group's first studio set since 2003's "Tour de France" is a work-in-progress, as is all of Kraftwerk's operations.

“We didn’t fall asleep,” he said. “The 168-hour week is still going on since the beginning, since 1970.”

Kraftwerk has been performing over the last couple of years for residencies like at New York's MoMA, London's Tate Modern and, most recently, wrapping at Akasaka Blitz in Tokyo, performing full albums in chronological order. They have a slate of more general tour dates starting this month through November, posted below.

“Kraftwerk is a living organism,” Mr. Hütter added. “Music is never finished. It starts again tomorrow. The record is just a record, but for us it’s nearly boring. We like better the programs that we can operate with. So we are operating, we are upgrading, we are updating continuously. There’s continuous reprogramming going on, and composition and new concepts are also coming.”

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<p>Neko Case as &quot;Man&quot;</p>

Neko Case as "Man"

Credit: Anti-

Listen to Neko Case's new song 'Man' feat. M. Ward

See the singer in drag, in character or 'simply' sarcastic?

It's not beyond Neko Case to write her songs in the voice of a variety of characters, and a male's narrative hasn't been one she's shied from. In "Man" featuring M. Ward -- the first full song to arrive from the songwriter's new album -- there's something explicit in the way in which she writes about gender identity as central to its message.

In the song stream below, you'll actually see Case dressed as a man with a mustache and button-up, leading the reins of a horse in one hand and holding a lit lighter in another. It's a classic, if antiquated, take on a "man."

"I'm a man, that's what you raised me to be / I'm not your identity crisis, this was planned," she sings. "If I'm dipsh*t drunk on pink perfume* then I am the man in the f*cking moon, because you didn't know what a man was until I showed you."

Lined with Ward's heavy, fun ballsy riffs and a big tempo, Case's song is about grand gestures, exaggerated swagger and turning what a "man" is into a singular notion. "That's the kind of animal I am / it's that simple."

And that's why I think "Man" is another shining example of Case's wit: the things she's doing with her definition of a "man" are precisely what writers insist on doing with the definition of "woman." It takes normativity to the extreme, lines like "the woman's heart is the watermark by which I measure," a truism with which many men would disagree, but yet it persists. "I'm the man's man, always been," sings the woman with harpsichord delicately plunking in the background.

While I don't know if it was an influencer on Case, "Man" reminds me of the song "I'm a Woman," which was written by famous (male) team Leiber & Stoller. It was made famous by Peggy Lee, then covered by, say, Bette Midler, and (even more interestingly) Raquel Welch and Miss Piggy. It backed a perfume commercial in the '70s. It defines the woman by her ability to fill a man with good eats, to be a child-bearer and care-taker, to iron and clean and pay the bills. Or "get back to business," in Beyonce parlance, a multifaceted yet still limiting image on the definition of "woman."

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<p>Jack Johnson</p>

Jack Johnson

Credit: ATO

Listen to Jack Johnson's new single 'I Got You' ahead of album release

'From Here to Now to You' is out in September

Jack Johnson is prepping the release of new album "From Here to Now to You" and has unveiled breezy new single "I Got You" ahead of time.

The track is exactly what fans have come to expect from Johnson, with sunny, acoustic glories and whistling, the promise of close-knit love in an SPF 30 sound.

"From Here to Now to You" will be out on Sept. 17, and is the Hawaiian-surfer-producer-songwriter's first since 2010's "To the Sea." It was recorded at Johnson's Mango Tree Studio and produced by Mario Caldato, Jr., who helmed 2005's "In Between Dreams."

Johnson has scant few tour dates currently scheduled, including acoustic evenings on London. Check out more here.

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