<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?

Special Announcement

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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:

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<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?
 

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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.

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Watch this beautiful music video for James Blake's haunted 'Overgrown'

Watch this beautiful music video for James Blake's haunted 'Overgrown'

HitFix
A
Readers
A+
Another gorgeous go from Nabil

Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty, haunted.

Check out Nabil's breathtaking video for James Blake's "Overgrown," the title track from his latest album, out this week. Reconsider your feelings on lightness and dark. Repeat.

Watch other videos from Nabil Elderkin, including some from Bon Iver ("Holocene"), Kanye West ("Coldest Winter") and Antony & the Johnsons ("Cut the World").

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Watch: Nicki Minaj's 'Up In Flames' video defends Nicki Minaj's brand

Watch: Nicki Minaj's 'Up In Flames' video defends Nicki Minaj's brand

HitFix
C-
Readers
n/a
Look at all those awards...

Nicki Minaj defends the Nicki Minaj Brand in the new music video for her "Up In Flames," yet another cut off the endlessly long-slash-promotable "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - The Re-Up."

The rapper/singer spends some serious screen-time mugging seriously in the dark as stunt bikers remind you that the '90s were real and this was a thing that happened. This very slow beat allows for Minaj's Queens accent bite at her competitors in full-throat, though I've never found the zingers particularly zingy. Instead, she seems defensive, rather than offensive, and the camera is out fishing for proof of her successes.

One particularly funny (and awkward) moment is when it pans to a table of her endorsements and branding opps -- for her perfume, for a liquor endorsement -- and it just looks like a plate full of tchotchkes sitting sad and alone in a room. Then zoom to the shelves of her awards, including some MTV and BET honors. The quick shot barely allows the viewer to remember there's no Grammys glistening in the collection.

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Love this: Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich answer 'Ask a Grown Man' questions

Love this: Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich answer 'Ask a Grown Man' questions

Radiohead and Atoms For Peace members tackle what happens when girls like boys

Rookie Magazine -- Tavi Gevinson's online features site for teenage girls -- has a fabulous feature called "Ask a Grown Man," and the featured "grown men" this week? Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms For Peace and Radiohead.

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<p>&quot;Paramore&quot;</p>

"Paramore"

Credit: Fueled By Ramen

Album Review: Paramore, 'Paramore'

HitFix
B+
Readers
B
Self-titled set has the band right where you want them

Especially when it comes to music made by women, rock bands are frequently described in terms of their infancy or when they're all-grown-up. Rarely is there an album that so perfectly encapsulates the in-between, the space where Paramore now occupies with the release of their self-titled set out this week.

Prior to recording, two of the band's founding members were gone; the group took on deft hired gun Justin Meldal-Johnsen in the studio to round out the rhythm section; and with that, the band embraced the "alt"-ness of alt-rock and let no genre border hinder them.
 
The result, for one, furthermore firms up Hayley Williams as one of modern pop music's more daring vocalists, unafraid of the big notes, brilliant with the small, and yet still excited to introduce sarcasm and fun into her own emotional narratives. And for anyone who's seen Paramore live, she's a damn superstar, with seemingly no need for filters or autotune on her raw abilities.
 
Instrumentally, the band experiments with girl-group backing vocals, travel guitars, glockespiels, hell, even a triangle in one breath, and then lunge into shoegaze like "Future" or '90s ska and new-wave for "Now" or the fearless power-pop of "Daydreaming." Treacly but endlessly catchy "Hate to See Your Heart Break" that, given different backing, would have Carrie Underwood clawing for the rights.
 
But this is all interlaced with the band's space-bound rock and peepholes of pop-punk, their bread and butter, yielding "Part II (Flame)," coy new single "Still Into You" and rock 'n' roller "Ankle Biters."
 
"Some of us have to grow up sometimes / And so if I have to I'm gonna leave you behind..." Williams sings in kiss-off and break-out "Grow Up. "I don't want your pity / So don't feel sad for me / I got a love I would die for and a song to sing / Maybe we're both just living out our dream." She alludes to, again, moving on and re-establishing professional and romantic ideals in "Daydreaming" and oozes self-awareness of her own maturation (and lack thereof) in a trio of ukelele-led Interludes.
 
But even in these moments of epic, arena-filling, teeth rattling rockers, Paramore gets a little ahead of itself. "Ain't It Fun" certainly sounds fun, hopping from an '80s adult-rock groove to Pink anthem to honest-to-God gospel. But why gospel? The band does it because it can. This doesn't seem to further any other goal then find a new way to sing the chorus, an impulsive way to prove to listeners they're capable of copping a style that's outside their wheelhouse. Same goes for the interludes, the whopping 8-minute "Future," the endless chorus vamps, the 17-song tracklist, a couple overly eager synth-lines, the 62 minutes of playtime. Length and idiosyncratic hiccups don't make "Paramore" a better album, but they seem like they have something to prove. Not a deal-breaker -- and certainly not to their fans -- but some annoyance nonetheless.
 
However, they're still growing up. Paramore is fully becoming the band they're intended to be. This substantial album is the best stepping stone so far to get them there.

 

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Listen: Queens Of The Stone Age's awesome 'My God Is the Sun'

Listen: Queens Of The Stone Age's awesome 'My God Is the Sun'

'... Like Clockwork' due in a month

Queens Of The Stoneage will release their first album in six years on June 4. Judging from first single "My God Is the Sun," it will be worth the wait.

Just listen to those crunchy guitars. You could spread butter on them and a sell 'em at Whole Foods but, like,   the hard rock version of Whole Foods, which I think may be opening in Norway later this year. Anyway. Every part is exacted and I feel an amphitheatrical rising in my chest when the bass takes the lead in those first few bars. Josh Homme -- who now goes by Joshua Homme, apparently -- keeps his operatic tenor in the same wheelhouse as ever, but the mix is all gnarls and groove.

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