<p>Nicki Minaj at the MTV&nbsp;VMAs</p>

Nicki Minaj at the MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Nicki Minaj drops snotty new single 'The Boys' with Cassie

HitFix
A
Readers
A
Female, and punk as hell

Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" was the graceful, bangin' balance between the pop and rap sides of her coin, a track with perfect peace with current top 40. Now with "The Boys," the Young Money artist yet again achieves that yin and yang, for urban radio. On top of that, we get a -- gasp -- feminine view into Minaj's songcraft.

After so many songs adopting the common male hip-hop vernacular, Minaj puts Roman aside for the moment to talk about "The Boys," featuring rising R&B vocalist Cassie. These hip-hop guys are "always spending all their money on love," an assertion that's notable for a couple of reasons. First, the chorus arrives on the heels rumors flying about Cassie and notable money-and-love lover Diddy.

Second, it's the counter-argument to "the boys" going broke because of their girlfriends: it's not the girls asking for money, it's the boys blowing it themselves. Kanye, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, crew boss Lil Wayne and others all have verses insisting on outfitting their women in the very brand names they endorse... or worse, call out the bitches, hoes and other pet names for "taking" rappers' cash for money for purses, shoes, whatever.

Third, it removes the female from general equation, and simply points the cashflow toward "love," here as a service rendered, or a simple commodity. "They want to touch it, taste it, see it, pet it, bone it, own it," the auto-tuned voice sings, defining "love" as less than a woman and more of an object. You know: money, cash, hoes, money, cash, chicks, what.

That sentiment goes hand-in-hand with the big, soupy-sweet hook of the chorus, which could also be read a couple of ways. "You get high / Love a bunch of girls / And then cry / on top of the world" may read with the last line as a quote "And then cry, 'On top of the world'" or it could simply be the rapper whining or crying when he's at the top of his game. Either way, "loving" a bunch of girls is the prerequisite to the rapper's successful business model.

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<p>Ben Howard, Plan B and Lianne La Havas</p>

Ben Howard, Plan B and Lianne La Havas

2012 Mercury Prize Nominations: Listen to 5 artists you should know

Plan B, Richard Hawley, Michael Kiwanuka, Ben Howard and others up for British award

Much like its other years, the 2012 Mercury Prize shortlist is yet again dominated by mostly rock-leaning artists, with other genres weaved -- or perhaps forced -- in. However, there are quite of few artists on the tally that have sold considerably fewer albums than some higher profile acts who were snubbed.

Here is the 2012 Mercury Prize Shortlist:

Alt-J "An Awesome Wave"
Ben Howard "Every Kingdom"
Django Django "Django Django"
Field Music "Plumb"
Jessie Ware "Devotion"
Lianne La Havas "Is Your Love Big Enough?"
Michael Kiwanuka "Home Again"
Plan B "Ill Manors"
Richard Hawley "Standing at the Sky’s Edge"
Roller Trio "Roller Trio"
Sam Lee "Ground Of Its Own"
The Maccabees "Given To The Wild "

Solo artist and Pulp touring guitarist Richard Hawley is the most recognizable name to ears here in the U.S., along with the familiar rock strains of the Maccabees, rapper Plan B and electro-pop singer Jessie Ware. Others like Alt-J, Roller Trio, Sam Lee and Lianne La Havas are far more under the radar than excluded Coldplay, Kate Bush, Emile Sande, Ed Sheeran and 2010 Mercury Prize winners The xx.

Of the 12 nominated artists, two are people of color and one prominently features a band member of color; and there are two are women. There's one rap artist, one English folk artist, one jazz troupe and splashes of pop all over the place despite a notable absence of a "pop-pop" act.

That's not to say the shortlist is just mostly lily-white rock and devoid of imagination. It's just kind of subdued compared to years before. The winner will be announced on Nov. 1.

Below I've pulled out videos and songs from five artists to get filled in on, including the ladies and the outliers.

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<p>Eminem and Pink</p>

Eminem and Pink

Listen: Eminem and P!nk reunite for 'Here Comes the Weekend'

Party.

Remember when Pink showed up on Eminem's resilient party rocker "Won't Back Down" from "Recovery?" That particular combo and code is reiterated this week as Slim Shady makes a quick stop through Pink's new "Here Comes the Weekend."

The Saturday-Sunday cheer is jagged and mostly built on the stilts of his oft-repeated refrain. There's very little setup to Em's verse, which has him heading into town for festivities, and to act like "an idiot."

Otherwise, you're left with a very Pinkinem big beat to set your sirens off. Not the best pop song we've heard from Pink, but it could very well sell some shoes or some cars in a commercial.

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<p>Dave Matthews Band's &quot;Away From the World&quot;</p>

Dave Matthews Band's "Away From the World"

Album Review: Dave Matthews Band, 'Away From the World'

HitFix
B-
Readers
A
Hit and miss for a band just past two decades old

Dave Matthews Band’s latest “Away from the World” shouldn’t be judged alone by its single “Mercy,” a rock lite Good-Feeling Word Salad that clings hard to the teeth. It means well, a sentiment that could describe just a couple of songs off of this Steve Lillywhite-produced set, but bombs compared to one of its “Worldly” companions like “Gaucho,” another and more refined expression of the disappointment and dealings with the “World’s” inequity. 

It’s all about taming those flourishes, and it’s Lillywhite whose gift is to parse the excessive elements of an instrumentally gifted band. After more than 20 years, they ought to be capable of doing it themselves, yet they end up with tracks like “Snow Outside” which sounds like 30 tracks when five or six could do. Be forewarned, too, that despite its epic buildup and release, “Drunken Soldier” ambles on eternally like a… well, you know.
 
However, there’s at least a pair of tracks that (thankfully) strip down to skivvies: ukulele-led “Sweet” is an appropriate title for a tender exercise in happy accidents while “Belly Full” is only one guitar and one vocal.
 
Carter Beauford has always been and remains the metronomic glue for the band, despite the gentle caw of its namesake’s voice or the stable of backing players. He’s especially poignant on creeper “The Riff,” Matthews’ bedroom-eyed break with reality.  “[I] take another drink / so I can lose control,” Matthews growls from the “Rooftop,” the sort of uninhibited “sweet spot” that attracted listeners to begin with. “I want / you to / tell me that you want me.” You can tell he means it, ‘cause of all of the blaring instruments.
 
"Away From the World" is out today (Sept. 11).

 

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<p>Grizzly Bear's &quot;Shields&quot;</p>

Grizzly Bear's "Shields"

Credit: Warp

Album Review: Grizzly Bear, 'Shields'

HitFix
B+
Readers
A
Listen to the set in its entirety, a week ahead of time

Considering the production quality and sophisticated arrangements that went into previous Grizzly Bear efforts, expectations are raised with each record. The quartet’s latest “Shields,” in turn, doesn’t fail to deliver another batch of gorgeously built tunes, despite having no dramatic evolution in sound. 

Urgent single “Yet Again” is the essence of what makes up the pop side of Grizzly Bear, as its glimmering harmonies are met with occasionally harsh guitar sounds, and the sung syllables cut to the tense narrative and not to the beat. “Adelma,” too, is restless and refreshingly vibrant, contrasted against calm cuts like “gun-shy,” a slow-morphing idea that grew out of a Wah pedal (or, at least, the crybaby sound) as it grooves chilly-eyed through cute dashes of a clap track.
 
“What’s Wrong” sounds most like a track from the pen of Daniel Rossen, the closest relative to his Department of Eagles side project from a couple years ago, as the singers’ ghostly long vowels trip over the sound of soft mallets on toms. Its story is around the evergreen and ever-unknown “you,” an example of Grizzly Bear lyrics propelled by atmosphere more than a particular story. They’re proving themselves more instrumentally capable than ever before in expressing those luscious ambiguities, like in the dark forest corners of “Sleeping Ute.”
 
LISTEN TO GRIZZLY BEAR'S "SHIELDS" IN ITS ENTIRETY HERE.
 
Complicated, two-parter “Sun in Your Eyes” is Grizzly Bear’s outstanding achievement on this set, and they gave its 7+ minutes room to stretch out as the closer. Structurally, it spans over two “movements” with what seems like a false ending in the middle and a piano chord progression that will make your fingertips itch for middle-C. “So bright /so long … the sun is in your eyes / I’m never coming back … it overflows,” Rossen and Ed Droste pant over the abundant arrangements, nodding back at Van Dyk Parks as they speed away on high-velocity synths and a boatload of rhythmic instruments.
 
In a group where every voice can sing harmony, and every instrument can hold down rhythm, Grizzly Bear has every option at their disposal to “over-do” their ethereal sound. But they don’t. They kept “Shields” fit at 10 tracks, drove the BPM down the middle, and kept their words few. Like a lot of their records, it’s defensively lush with a  few new melodies to keep the tracks apart in the memory.

"Shields" is out on Sept. 18.

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<p>Cover art for &quot;Clique&quot;</p>

Cover art for "Clique"

Kanye West and Jay-Z reunite again for 'Clique,' 'Cruel Summer' tracklist revealed

New G.O.O.D. Music cut has Watch the Throne back in fine form with Big Sean

If it ain't broke, don't fix it: the Watch the Throne crew is back, temporarily, as Jay-Z and Kanye West have back-to-back rhymes on new G.O.O.D. Music song "Clique," also featuring an opening verse by Big Sean.

The latter rapper still has some work to do in terms of standing up to the big league bombast of West and Hov, but he does his best with telling a "a bad bitch do whatever I say" and then passing her off like bong hit. He drops the names of 2 Chainz and Bruce Wayne while Jay-Z around the corner with LeBron James and a bevy of new basketball metaphors. Being a minor owner in an NBA team will do that do you. Jigga has fun with the wompy, whirring beat -- provided by "N****s in Paris" producer Hit Boy -- and giving all aspiring business men a brief lesson in algebra on how to get one's half-mil.

It's Yeezy that takes all that buoyant energy and turns it into the biggest climax, starting of with an SEO-friendly boast how his girlfriend Kim Kardashian earned her dollars with a "home movie" (I hear she has a great personality, too). Illuminating on his recent history with Jay-Z by "hangin' off the Eiffel," he gets into race and his own tattered past: "You know white people get money don't spend it... I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign'ant / I know Spike Lee gone kill me but let me finish," he says, quoting his own misstep from the MTV VMA incident with Taylor Swift just a few years back. Coincidentally, the 2012 Awards were just last night.

He ends his personal history lesson with a reference falling into a depression after his mom died, referencing his own suicidal thoughts and then admits his prayers to God. It's all fulfilling bluster until that abrupt ending, the only mar on this otherwise pristine, blaring track. Hit Boy should show up everywhere. Hit Boy for president.

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<p>Taylor Swift at the MTV&nbsp;VMAs</p>

Taylor Swift at the MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Live-blogging the 2012 MTV VMAs

Robert Pattinson, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, others to have some camera face-time

The MTV VMAs have always promised drama and Moonmen, and 2012 will be no exception. Rihanna's performing, but where will Drake and Chris Brown be? Taylor Swift is hitting the stage too. And have you seen Miley's hair?

Follow the bouncing ball through the year's best (or most popular) videos and pop artists with me. I hope you brought a sixer.

The MTV Video Music Awards are broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

---

6:58: Taylor Swift pantsuit. That is all.

7:02: Rihanna opens the show with shades, all-red floor-length number, and what look like Crocs. Of course she's starting it with "Cockiness" because that's the current singl... wait. A$AP Rocky tapped for the remix. On sale now!

7:05: She's actually encouraging that "OOaoooah-oooahhha" sound that college kids make at the bar when they're wasted during "We Found Love." Calvin Harris is laughing all the way to the bank.

7:07: Host Kevin Hart's "security force" is a staff of little people. Because little people are funny.

7:09: "I'm gonna nip this in the bud tonight," Hart addresses Chris Brown and Drake. "...you're arguing over a thrown bottle in a club. Drake is from Canada. Drake loves to recycle..." You see where this is going.

7:10: And now Frank Ocean's turn. "For that I commend you," Hart extols the R&B singer for coming out of the closet. Pan to Andy Samberg for some reason.

7:12: Mention of Kristen Stewart draw screaming from the girls and a string of curses from Hart because if there's something teenaged girls like more than "Twilight," it's foul language.

7:13: Katy Perry presenting "Best Pop Video." Probably wishes it was Katy Perry. In fan-voted contest that involves One Direction and Justin Bieber, there may just be a black hole of popular music that opens up and swallows us whole.

7:14: One Direction wins Best Pop Video for "What Makes You Beautiful"

7:15: Katy Perry literally breaks part of the Moonman award over the heads of one of these pretty dudes.

7:18: Previously filmed segment with Hart and 2 Chainz. The rapper is yet again the featured artist. Get it?

7:24: New Laker Dwight Howard: Taller Than Kevin Hart

7:26: Miley Cyrus' hair is talking. Mac Miller confusing lots of teenaged people.

7:27: Chris Brown is totally gonna cop Pink's 'do, just like Amber Rose was watching Beyonce's baby bump days last year. "Blow Me" is still not a strong enough single for Pink and the dancing lips are evidence.

7:30: My new band name will be Unneeded Trapeze.

7:31: Rita Ora looks like the superhero alter-ego of Demi Lovato

7:32: Oh great, Chris Brown won something. Takes home Best Male Video. That's. Great.

7:38: Zoe Saldana presenting in a bathmat. Perfect makeup, introduces Frank Ocean amid flaming flames. No, really.

7:39: Frank Ocean rocking the "nervous" look. Falsetto faltering but I'm finding it endearing. Backdrop looks like a beachfront bonfire. Kind of in love with the rocks, which look like unmelting glaciers.

7:42: Falsetto somewhat abandoned. But I was thinking 'bout forever. Great presentation of this song.

7:51: Samberg and Rashida Jones from "Celeste and Jesse Forever" present. As much awkward and funny energy as the movie itself. For some reason they're presenting Best Hip-Hop Video presentation.

7:53: Breaking: Drake is black and Jewish

7:54: The whole Young Money gang hits the stage to help Drake with his win for Best Hip-Hop video. The Toronto almost breaks into a story about going to a party and getting made fun of, stops it there, and then dedicates his MTV award to "any kid that's ever had a long walk ohm by yourself." Inexplicably ends the speech with "bitch." And Lill Wayne flashing dem titties.

7:58: One Direction, a popular pop music group beloved by teenaged girls, takes the stage. The stage props are screaming teenaged girls. They are popular. "One Thing" is understandably popular.

8:02: To make sure the viewers get their fill of boy bands, The Wanted present... but don't perform. Favoritism, I call shenanigans. Rebel Wilson is actually more entertaining to look at than these clowns.

8:05: Speaking of clowns, Nicki Minaj wins for Best Female Video ("Starship"), the Song That Samples Twinkle Twinkly Little Star. She speaks normally for 30 seconds, then devolves into an 8-year-old child and peaces out in a trail of her own sequin echoes. It's poetry.

8:12: Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz get the twos up, for rhyming "cameltoe" with "casserole." Love Chainz' flash, and he's had the best sound of anyone all night. "Yuck" is tight.

8:15: Lil Wayne tries to skateboard to the stage, reminding everyone that they don't care about his skateboarding "career." I do care greatly, however, for those crazy pants. Rihanna whooping in her chair, with nuance.

8:17: Killed it, and they know it. 2 Chainz and Weezy have the best performance of the night so far.

8:25: "Gangnam Style," YES, all I needed was the dance and it's like I have new skin.

8:26: Watching Rihanna and Katy Perry whisper to each other make me 1) eager for a duet 2) anxious that they're talking about my prom dress

8:27: "Let Yourself Go" the studio version was posted by Green Day today. And they're performing it now. Thanks internet! It is a significantly better and more fun single than "Oh Love." Crowd surges onto the stage. Billie Joe Armstrong is clearly feeling better, until he catches a communicable disease from one of these fans.

8:31: I just bum-rushed the stage too but just ended up scaring my cats.

8:34: "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" presentation is happening! And there's NO Kristen Stewart! REPEAT, NO KRISTEN STEWART.

8:35: Trailer for "Twilight": "I won't ever let anybody hurt you," says Stewart. You hurt America.

8:37: Ke$ha and Wiz Khalifa presenting Best New Artist, everybody pretending it's not going to One Direction. Ke$ha says all her lines like she's just learning English with an American Accent.

8:38: One Direction earns Best New Artists. Give the mic to Harry.

8:39: Microphone given to Harry

8:44: Women's gymnastics team. U-S-A. Introducing another strong woman, Alicia Keys, with "Girl on Fire," which hopefully will fare better than "New Day."

8:45: Oof. Long notes and slipping in-ear monitors are a nasty pair. But Keys is looking ferocious as Swizz Beats hoists their love-child onto his shoulders.

8:48: Nicki Minaj gets a verse, an Gabby Douglas does a short floor routine to "Girl On Fire." This performance is like the Lunchables (TM) of raucous ladies.

8:52: Remember when Justin Timberlake appeared during the VMAs for the music he made? #troublewiththecurve

8:54: "Pubes on her shirt." I'm glad somebody said the phrase tonight.

8:56: Video Of The Year: the winner is Rihanna for "We Found Love." Rihanna does an end zone dance. Kevin Hart screams like a little girl.

8:57: Drama-free speech. Well said, we're all feeling good.

8:58: Taylor Swift is killing me with the sailor top, black shorts, Wave-Runners and red loafers. Microphone's red. Her album's called "Red." I'm drowning in cute. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is just over the top adorable.

9:02: Look, the talent show is ending on time, with Swift stage-diving just like Lil Wayne. Pop is dead, long live pop.

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<p>Green Day's &quot;Let Yourself Go&quot;</p>

Green Day's "Let Yourself Go"

Listen: Green Day releases 'Let Yourself Go'; Billie Joe Armstrong out of hospital

'It's hard to sing while you're puking.'

Only a couple of days since frontman Billie Joe Armstrong was hospitalized, Green Day are apparently ready to take the stage during MTV VMAs tonight, and have released another new "¡Uno!" track in the meantime.

"Let Yourself Go" was previewed during the punk-pop band's recent surprise stop at Austin's tiny Red 7, and released as a live performance back at the beginning of August. Now there's the official studio version release, ahead of the Sept. 25 drop of the first in the Green Day trilogy (you can still guess what the other two are named). It's back to the melodic, snotty sound of early Green Day, with some spit shine and a few f-bombs.

Fans may just hear it -- or, more likely, less curse-worthy single "Oh Love" -- at the Video Music Awards. Mike Dirnt told MTV just what was plaguing Armstrong over last weekend that caused him to hit the hospital: the flu.

"Billie came down with heavy, heavy dehydration; it was like severe dehydration, influenza, and it was just a really, really bad situation," Dirnt said. "Let's put it this way, if you're in your hotel room and you're vomiting profusely, it's not fun. So what are you gonna do? It's hard to sing while you're puking."

 

Get More: 2012 VMA, Artists.MTV, Music

 

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<p>Cat Power's &quot;Sun&quot;</p>

Cat Power's "Sun"

Credit: Matador

Review: Cat Power's 'Sun'

HitFix
B
Readers
A+
Transition from basement records to patio pop complete

Gone are the days of Cat Power's personal anxieties and “small” records. Chan Marshall has moved on from those with exuberant “The Greatest” as the nail in that particular coffin, and now with “Sun,” she waxes on larger-scale woes over skittering beats, weighty electronic arrangements that make it obvious this album is beloved in its songwriter’s eyes.

Opener “Cherokee” is the biggest and best indicator of this inside-out reflection, banging out whopper lyrics like “[I] never knew pain like this, when everything dies” but then maturing into musings on the American education system through a veil of pop-trip-hop (remember trip-hop?). Standout “Manhattan” tip-toes on the same three notes as Marshall remembers her earliest troubadour days, when she played decimated cafes, lived in sh*tboxes and the New York political atmosphere was not yet pock-marked by neo-patriotism, but by classicism and the struggle for “authenticity.”

And that’s been one of Marshall’s strength, all along, is that originality and realism, to have her foggy voice transition between bedroom bastard music to boppy, aggressive patio pop. Even on tracks like boozy “3, 6, 9” – which irritatingly repeats the same refrain 10+ times to little philosophical effect – Marshall’s narrative is still captivating enough to bear with.

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Listen: Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen on preview of 'Beautiful' single

Also: Biebs' manager Scooter Braun signs the 'Gangnam Style' guy

The prince of every pre-teen girls' dreams combines with the pop princess of summer jams: Justin Bieber's Schoolboy Records signee Carly Rae Jepsen will have her label boss on "Beautiful," a new Jason Mraz-style jam from her next solo effort "Kiss."

A minute-and-a-half snippet of "Beautiful has been "leaked" to varying degrees ahead of "Kiss'" Sept. 18 drop date, and it features shared vocals from the pop stars.

Biebs, in the track, extols the virtues of friendship and modesty: that his beauty is beautiful because "you don't know how beautiful you are."

Considering the girth of El Bieberino's fame, don't pass this buy as a top 40 radio single contender. The full-length song will likely drop in the coming days.

The title was laid bare as Jepsen Tweeted the "track list" for her album, which resembles the word-art doodlings of a freshman in Algebra II class. Jepsen is 26 years old.

Anyway, Bieber's own "Believe" is still in in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, and Jepsen's hit "Call Me Maybe" is still in the top 5 of the Hot 100. Both are in heavy rotation and out to help the climb.

Speaking of climb, as the video to "Gangnam Style" by South Korean artist Psy leaps past the 100 million view mark on YouTube, Bieber's manager Scooter Braun has decided nothing good and pure and perfect can last and has actually signed the rapper/vocalist for an American deal. I insinuate "ruin" because it's less fun when a crazy conflagration like that LMFAO-loving song and viral video have the Bieber name attached to it. If Schoolboy, Interscope and their ilk try to recreate the organic, crowd-built success of YouTube hits like "Gangnam," it's going carry a phony air. That horse trot is jumping the shark.

Anyway, here it is for 102 millionth time, for those who haven't checked it. My favorite part is when he's screaming over the yoga girl's ass.

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