Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'Mosquito'
Credit: Interscope

Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 'Mosquito'

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Band's first album in four years puts you on a train, sends you to mars and wears you out

Karen O has a history of the most daring fashions when she takes the stage with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It’s hard to say if they’re costumes, or part of a larger persona, or if it’s simply what she wore to the grocery right before sound check. But what she wears she doesn’t merely don, she takes up and owns.

That’s what, metaphorically, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ latest effort “Mosquito” is like: to reduce a fully fleshy piece of performance art down to a pair of funny trousers and heart-halting stage banter would be to miss the point. Sonically, there’s a common string there, tensions between damage and invincibility, shaman-esque to inappropriate, blustering to succinct, a coherent complexity aided by longtime producers David Sitek and Nick Launay.
 
Like in “Subway”: In a moment, Karen O expresses a melancholy that resonates with anybody who’s ever heard the retreating clack of the J/M/Z train line in their own 3 a.m. local-time manner. Instrumentally, the reverb and keys are uplifting, letting the listener on and sends the car to space. “Despair” has a tingling rhythm section that tap out anxieties and guitars that pan around expectantly. “Don’t despair,” O sings in her mouthy response to the desperate melodies. “You’ve always been there / you ’re there through my wasted years… there’s nothing to fear.”
 
The title track has the band repeatedly promising to “suck your blood” and the singer role-playing as the mosquito, literally “bzzzzing” in the post-chorus and making this song, on paper, seem incredibly stupid (like, ahem, the album art). But, again, it’s about wearing it, and wearing it well: Nick Zinner let’s his six-string out on a little adventure, congas bleat in the background and all of a sudden you’re wearing wings too, oh godd*mn it. Similarly, “Area 52” – the YYYs version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” but with, like, aliens -- demands some listener participation as the laser sounds, alarms, tribal drums, feedback and vocal warping send you on the trip or you stay stuck on Earth.
 
There are a few inclusions here that break up the band’s habits, good and bad. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy produced “Buried Alive,” which also features the only guest spot on the album from Dr. Octagon: the rapper harms the consistency, sadly, though his verse is great and in-and-out before you have time to object (yeah yeah… no). There’s another other-ness to the gospel choir on standout single “Sacrilege,” adding a few thousand extra kilowatts to a band that seemingly generates its own energy. Intimate love song “Wedding Song,” the closer, is a stunning but surprising reminder that there’s actual human behind walking hyperbole Karen O, which may send you running in slow-motion for the Kleenex… or to “Fever to Tell.”
 
You go where they go, wear what they wear, smoke what they smoke: that’s the requirements to get as funky and dark as “Mosquito” gets, which may be a bit too much to ask listeners who are looking for the simple joys of “Maps” or straight-forward garage-punk that made up the bulk hits of “It’s Blitz!”.  Still, for most fans, “Mosquito” will have buzz long after the chart debut, the summer fest shows and the four years of anticipation. Put it on and wear it out.

 

Watch Steve Buscemi's extremely awkward Vampire Weekend promo video

Watch Steve Buscemi's extremely awkward Vampire Weekend promo video

... In advance of Amex Unstaged

Steve Buscemi wants to be in a band. Specifically Vampire Weekend only to, y'know, help them reach a broader audience.

The actor/director will be helming Vampire Weekend's Amex Unstaged concert, webcast live on April 28 at 9 p.m. EST. In a promo clip for the show, it is revealed that Buscemi and VW's Chris Baio are distantly related, and it's a riff on that: how would a weird act and behave toward somebody that they're supposedly blood-relative to?

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Psy's 'Gentleman' video scores 22 million viewers in 24 hours: Watch

Psy's 'Gentleman' video scores 22 million viewers in 24 hours: Watch

Also: what a jerk

The music video for Psy's "Gentleman" dropped over the weekend, and within 24 hours broke the record for most-viewed in a day, with 22 million people queuing the clip up. At press time, at about 48 hours, the video is now up and over 62 million views. The previous one-day high was held by Justin Bieber's "Boyfriend," with a comparably small five million.

"Gentleman" went up for sale on iTunes on Friday in the U.S., and Psy performed the song live in Seoul in concert, which was simultaneously telecast early Saturday morning here in the U.S. He busted out his new moves from the video, which has some similar stomping and left-right movements from his breakout "Gangnam Style." Oh, and a slight crotch grab.

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Watch Selena Gomez' 'Come & Get It' live debut on the MTV Movie Awards

Watch Selena Gomez' 'Come & Get It' live debut on the MTV Movie Awards

India bound or only Indian in sound?

Rising from a beaded, glimmering backdrop was Selena Gomez at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday night, performing "Come & Get It" live for the very first time on TV.

The pop singer was flanked by dancers as she worked her way through some Indian-influenced moves, the tabla drums of the track leading the charge. And if that inspiration wasn't apparent enough, the stunning singer also wore a bindi on her forehead (reminding all fans of a certain age that Gwen Stefani tried that look before).

Bare feet, the season's transparent fabrics shredded into fringed dresses, the twirling wrists, gold jewelry and Bollywood flair... there's something that feels a bit off when there didn't appear to be any actual Indian performers, though there were several dancers of color. (Gomez herself is Latina.) The full-throttle appropriation felt especially off-kilter as Gomez struggled through her vocals and the moves didn't seem to be at all in unison. She was a little breathless at the end, as I'm sure some audience members were too, maybe for a different reason...

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Watch: Rebel Wilson and the 'Pitch Perfect' cast open the MTV Movie Awards

Watch: Rebel Wilson and the 'Pitch Perfect' cast open the MTV Movie Awards

Where's Anna Kendrick?

Rebel Wilson returned to her singing role in "Pitch Perfect" for the opening stage number at the MTV Movie Awards. That role, however, never involved nunchucks, insofar as we know. This time, it did. 

Wilson joined her castmates like Skylar Astin and Ester Dean for the musical number, which combined tracks like Eminem's "Lose Yourself," Miley Cyrus "The Climb" and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop." Wilson took on the Miley tune alone, and it went on for, like, two minutes. It was awful. And it was also kinda great.

What also may ring a bell from the movie (SPOILER ALERT), Wilson gets a little strippy, busting out of her bright pink sweat suit into a saucy leather number.

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<p>Janelle Monae at the Grammys</p>

Janelle Monae at the Grammys

Credit: AP Photo

Janelle Monae sets release of new song 'Q.U.E.E.N.' with Erykah Badu

Music arrives in 10 days, ahead of fresh album 'The Electric Lady'

All hail: Janelle Monae has trumpeted her return to new music with the announcement that her next single "Q.U.E.E.N." will arrive later this month -- with special guest Erykah Badu on board.

The royal title is the first song from the singer/entertainer's next album, "The Electric Lady," with release expected some time this summer.

The studio version of "Q.U.E.E.N." will bow on April 22 at 7:45pm EST on Monae's website. But will there be a sneak peak of the song live even sooner? The "ArchAndroid" minister will be performing tomorrow night at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Gobi tent. HitFix writer Dave Lewis will be in attendance, so he'll give us the heads up on if she debuts new music. Badu's calendar is free for this weekend, maybe she can drop by?

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Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre: How have rap sequel albums fared?

Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre: How have rap sequel albums fared?

'I Am Not a Human Being,' 'Blueprint,' 'The Chronic' and... remember Lloyd Banks?

Rappers seem to love sequels as much as film studio executives. Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Dr. Dre and Raekwon have tried to replicate earlier success by releasing a sequel, a threequel or even a four-quel to a hit album (or the one that got them through the door). Lil Wayne has sold hundreds of thousands of copies of "I Am Not a Human Being II," for instance, in his most recent release. But, critically, is it better than the first?

Some artists have met more success than others, with few follow-ups topping the initial offering. We compiled a list of some notable hip-hop album sequels to see how they stack up.

Check out the charting positions and critical analysis on what worked for sequels from Lupe Fiasco, Lloyd Banks, Hov, Weezy, Dre, Twista, Raekwon, Method Man and Redman.

[Additional reporting by Dave Lewis.]

Take a look below:

<p>Jay-Z and Beyonce in Cuba.</p>

Jay-Z and Beyonce in Cuba.

Credit: AP Photo

Jay-Z strikes back at Cuba trip critics with new song 'Open Letter': Listen

Rapper also addresses recent brouhaha over the Brooklyn Nets

Sounds like vacation is over for Jay-Z.

The rapper recently took a much-publicized trip to Cuba with his wife Beyonce, but it didn't take long for him to churn out a new track -- with a surprising subject matter. 

Several Florida republicans (including Senator Marco Rubio) weren't too happy about music's No. 1 power couple breaking the U.S.A.'s longstanding tourism restriction of the Caribbean island, but Jay-Z isn't about to let their words keep him (and Bey) down. 

In just a matter of days, Jay recorded and released what can only be called a diss track entitled "Open Letter."

Short, stripped down and to the point, there's no mistaking to whom this "Letter" is addressed. And, to paraphrase an earlier Jay-Z track, he don't need no hook for this sh*t.

"They wanna give me jail time and a fine/Fine/let me commit a real crime," Jay-Z threat-raps, no doubt responding directly to Rubio and co.'s letter-wrting and Twitter campaigns decrying the duo's Cuban vacation. 

Later, "I'm in Cuba/I love Cubans" is followed by the sound of Jigga taking a puff on a cigar, "Scarface"-style. 

In the song, Jay-Z claims he got "White House clearance" from his pal the president. He raps, "Obama said, 'Chill you're goinna get me impeached'/You don't need this shit anyway/Chill with me on the beach."

Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury Department stated that the couple's trip was indeed legit, having been previously authorized as an "educational and cultural exchange."

However, just hours after the song was released today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed the issue, saying that, while Jay-Z indeed followed proper protocol, he didn’t communicate directly with President Obama. Carney added, hilariously, "I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury. Because Treasury gives licenses for travel and the White House has nothing to do with it."

Hova also addresses the recent kerfuffle about the NBA team he co-owns, the Brooklyn Nets, saying "I would've moved the Nets to Brooklyn for free/Except I made millions off you f*cking dweebs/I still own the building/I'm still keeping my seats/You buy that bullshit/you'd better keep your receipts."

It's been a while since "dweeb" has been used with such venom, but somehow Jay-Z makes it work. 

Listen to "Open Letter" here:




What do you think of "Open Letter"? And Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba?
 

Exclusive: Sarah Brightman duets with Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on 'Hawaii '78'

Exclusive: Sarah Brightman duets with Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on 'Hawaii '78'

Late, great folk singer joins a famed soprano on space-bound song from 'Dreamchaser'

Sarah Brightman has an unusual and beautiful duet partner on the latest song to arrive from her new album. "Hawaii '78" features the late and great Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who originally released "Hawai'i '78" for his 1993 album "Facing Future." That album also featured his most famous track, his cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and coincidentally "Hawai'i '78" was another expression of hope and prayer.

Here, Brightman is joining in that vision with this interpretation, "Hawaii '78." A bonus track available only on Target's limited edition CD of "Dreamchaser," this version sends the roots-laden song space-bound, with the famed soprano's voice padded with harmony, synths and strings.

Listen to the exclusive premiere of "Hawaii '78" below, and then give a go at the original.

Brightman's interstellar sound here is part of the larger aesthetic on "Dreamchaser," which expresses the Broadway star's ultimate goal of traveling into space. And she may yet: last year, it was announced that Brightman is "anticipated to be the first musician to travel to the International Space Station." You can learn more about the voyage in the vid below.

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Song Of The Day: Lightning Dust's 'Diamond'
Credit: Ila Meens

Song Of The Day: Lightning Dust's 'Diamond'

Get your Sinead fix

Get your sad synth on: Lightning Dust's new song "Diamond" cuts deep, and it is divine.

The electronica duo is prepping the release of "Fantasy" on June 25, and have come with a light load. This, their third full-length, will be a concentrated effort of minimalism, and "Diamond" gives the listener a good idea of just what that really means.