<p>Tom Cruise and friends on the cover of June's W Magazine</p>

Tom Cruise and friends on the cover of June's W Magazine

Credit: Mario Sorrenti/W Magazine

Time's come for 'Rock of Ages': Pour some sugar on Tom Cruise

Listen to the 'Mission Impossible' star pull out some Def Leppard

Nine months ago I was standing on the Sunset Strip. It was in Florida.

That is, the set for the movie make of musical "Rock of Ages" was built in Miami, Fla., note-for-note of the famed rocker row circa the mid '80s. There's choppers and crimped hair on the extras, and it's all very dirty.

So is Tom Cruise, who plays man-child music star Stacee Jaxx in the Adam Shankman-directed flick. His locks are worn long and he's positively brimming tattoos and shabby furs. He'll be centerstage of a ensemble that includes co-leads Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, plus Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Shankman guided me and some other journalists through some Stacee footage last year in a trailer off the strip, of the 49-year-old actor playing an early 30s-something sex god with microphone. I am skeptical of "Rock of Ages," partly because I enjoyed the Broadway show and I'm leery of the scale of this project; I'm also weary of co-opting the music of my youth to force into caricature.

But I will say this: watching tape of Tom Cruise sing in the scene for Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me"? We were all fanning ourselves, more than a little bit.

I'll be publishing more on the visit to Los Angeles-by-way-of-Miami next week about this same time. Meanwhile, Cruise has been showing up on the pages of W and Playboy this week in promoting his image. Below check out a clip of Cruise's Stacee Jaxx sing some "Sugar":

<p>Baby Monster</p>

Baby Monster

Credit: Ashley Haber

Song Of The Day: Baby Monster's 'City of Lovers'

Fills that M83-shaped hole in your heart

I'm sleeping with the windows open. It's about time for some tunes that sound like it.

Baby Monster's dark "City of Lovers" tickles that same part in my heart that M83's "Midnight City" did. Synths, trotting pace, wistful choral lines... what is it with cities after dusk?

Read Full Post
<p>R. Kelly's &quot;Write Me Back&quot;</p>

R. Kelly's "Write Me Back"

Credit: RCA

Watch and listen: New R. Kelly 'Single' song and album release date

So much new R. Kelly is about to be in your face

I continue the exploration of my love and loathing of R. Kelly, that time-traveling horndog of R&B mysterium. Today his label RCA announced a June 26 drop date of his new album "Write Me Back," as well as lifted the veil on another new song from it, "Feelin' Single."

Like "Write's" first song-single "Share My Love," "Feelin' Single" borrows from the same strings-dripping '70s era of soul and disco, this time with Kels fondling playing with the space bars between lonliness and landing the skinny, big-boobed lady of his dreams. It goes up via digital retailers on May 29.

Read Full Post
<p>Rick Ross' &quot;Touch'N You&quot; featuring Usher</p>

Rick Ross' "Touch'N You" featuring Usher

Credit: Def Jam

Listen: Rick Ross and Usher reunite for new single 'Touch'N You'

Explicit jam officially kicks off 'God Forgives, I Don't' promo

It was only a couple weeks ago that Usher unzipped "Lemme See" featuring Rick Ross in promoting his new album "Looking for Myself"; now the pair are back together for another sexy back-and-forth for Rozay's new single "Touch'N You."

Def Jam is touting the track as the first official single from Ross' much-anticipated "God Forgive, I Don't" album, which he'll drop on July 31. A release says that this steamy, explicit, mainstream tune "sets the tone for what will be Ross’ most epic, most ambitious album to date."

If that's so, then look for a lot of steam-windowed R&B combos with Bawse's confident woof, because this mid-tempo bedroom jammer has Usher over-repeating his intentions of "f*ckin' you." Of course, there's a radio version available -- "Touch'N You" -- reminiscent of how Enrique Iglesias, tonight, is "lovin'" you.

Ross' rhymes work, though, and its another gangbusters combination from this team, who could benefit from each others' prowess as they drop their respective new albums. As repetitive as I think "f*ckin' you" gets, it on a meta-level reflects the actual nature of, well, f*ckin'. Good work, lit team, "Touch'N You" sounds like a definite hit.

“So that’s what I did with this project…it’s my best body of work yet. 'God Forgives, I Don’t' is a very dark story…it’s extremely lyrical. The music is next level. I’m expecting nothing but the biggest results. That’s what’s needed, and I’m going to deliver,” Ross says in a statement on his new effort. He announced it -- and new signings and albums from his Maybach Music label -- at a press conference in New York two weeks ago.

Since "Touch'N You" is the official single, that means cuts like "You the Boss" and "I Love My Bitches" were promotional, so await word if they make the final tracklist.

What do you think of the track?

<p>&quot;Snow White and the Huntsman&quot; soundtrack</p>

"Snow White and the Huntsman" soundtrack

Credit: Universal

Watch: Florence + The Machine's 'Snow White and the Huntsman' drama

HitFix
B
Readers
A
Is Flo the fairest one of all?

Want to see more clips of Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron-starring "Snow White and the Huntsman?" Florence + the Machine lift the curtain on these with their very melodramatic song "Breath of Life."

Bloody tears in slo-mo, Chris Hemsworth in slo-mo and Theron's transmogrifier in action are all featured in this primal tune, as Florence Welch is shot in black-and-white leading James Newton Howard's million-piece scoring orchestra and a choir in a fish tank vocal booth. The thing feels like it goes on forever due to all the blistering, rotting, flaming flames action, but it's really only three minutes long.

Because the VEVO folks are geniuses, a trailer for the film rolls before.

Universal Pictures will do their damndest to make Stewart look fairer than Theron throughout the flick, but in this instance -- with a powerful voice like her -- I deem Welch the fairest of them all.

The sountrack to "Snow White" will be out May 29, while the film is due in theaters on June 1.

<p>Giant Giant Sand</p>

Giant Giant Sand

Interview: Howe Gelb's Giant Giant Sand country rock opera mistake

Check out the EXCLUSIVE first-look at the album and storyboard artwork

A friend suggested I wait to publish anything on Howe Gelb’s latest project until I saw the guy play piano. Last night, the Giant Sand (now Giant Giant Sand) mastermind performed solo at Joe’s Pub in New York. I’d seen Gelb play a handful of other times – mostly when he’s on guitar, mostly with other people.

My friend was right, though. Gelb is a divine piano player, it brought in a new dimension. He has an ease around the keyboard. He likes to lay an object on some of the strings so there’s vibration and a ping when the hammer hits.
 
What I like about his playing – and his singing, and his songs – is that it’s unpretentious with a dash of tension. Gelb has made a lot of records over the last three decades, and now he’s prepared his first “country rock opera,” “Tucson.” It, too, is unpretentious; in spite of the daunting narrative structure that the term “opera” can bring to a traditional singer-songwriter, Gelb thrives in those kinds of constraints.
 
Giant Sand records have been written on the spot, in the studio or on the drive on the way to the studio. He’s played consistently with Denmark musicians Thøger T. Lund, Peter Dombernowski, Anders Pederesen and Nikolaj Heyman over the last ten years, but he’s also mixed in elements like a gospel choir or a horns sections from album to album. Or, y’know, made some sessions into an opera.
 
“Music has always been about handing it over -- music as evolution, it has to keep changing,” he said in our recent interview. He spoke from his longtime home of Tucson, the album’s namesake. “I dared myself to plan a concept, and to strip away the stuff that isn’t ‘it’ or meant for ‘it.’ I took a pretty good gamble that the songs we were gonna write are already inside of us.”
 
Gelb first had the “nagging notion” of making an opera around 1978, but like so many of his projects, he didn’t want to force it. Last year, he played music festival in Berlin, with “this big band which manifested itself by accident or by fate. None of us had gotten together until the moment we were on stage.” The event commissioned artists that represented deserts from around the world, a construct for which Gelb is well-suited. The group – who barely knew each other but tangentially all had connections to Denmark and Tuscon – began jamming on a cumbia, a seed planted that would later become “Caranito” on “Tucson.”
 
“If you’re hittin’ it, it’s gonna have a zing that you can never plan for. It got higher and higher in our set. It was wonderful night, and it was evident that something was in play.”
Read Full Post
<p>A friend sits with R. Kelly in &quot;It's On&quot;</p>
<br />

A friend sits with R. Kelly in "It's On"


Here's another R. Kelly video, for 'It's On'

HitFix
D
Readers
n/a
Spoiler: it's there's strippers

The premise for R. Kelly's last music video "Share My Love" is essentially: Kels is surrounded by girls with big boobs and small waists in evening dresses and everybody's super impressed. This time, for "It's On" featuring DJ Khaled and Ace Hood, it's about the same, only the girls are strippers.

I know this is challenging stuff. I hope your shoes are tied.

In one of the most boring refrains ever uttered by the otherworldly Kelly, the R&B singer tells us it's "on on on on on on on on on." He then bottles that boredom, and saves it for when a particularly lovely lady's ass is hanging all over his face and he kinda spaces out like, "Oh, her?, it's like whatever." Alcohol music is right.

The best part is when Khaled reminds the listener at the very end that he cooked this beat by poking his silly face into the frame for about 10 milliseconds.

Read Full Post
<p>Kylie Minogue in England last month</p>

Kylie Minogue in England last month

Credit: AP Photo

Kylie Minogue 'Best Of' heading Stateside, Black Sabbath plots another

What's the word on Sabbath's disintegrating reunion?

There's seemingly never a good or bad time to release a "Best Of" compilation -- whether you're mid-career, at the end or done with it -- so here's some news on hits collections from Kylie Minogue and Black Sabbath.

The Australian pop singer is releasing "The Best of Kylie Minogue," a 21-song comp, on June 19 in the U.S. It contains predictable hits and songs from throughout her dozen-album career. Tracklist below.

Minogue celebrated her 25th annivesary in the biz last year by touring, releasing a CD/DVD from that tour and performing off her rarities in Oz.

As for Sabbath, the band may not be in the greatest shape for their reunion gigs in England over these next few weeks, but they aren't letting the opportunity to re-hock their wares get away from them. Their umpteenth greatest hits collection "Iron Man: The Best of Black Sabbath" will be out on June 4 in the U.K., according to NME, though no word yet when and if it will arrive Stateside. Tracklist below.

So what's the deal with that whole "original lineup" thing? Sabbath are scheduled to play the O2 Academy in Birmingham, England on May 19 and at the Download Festival in Donington Park, England over the weekend of June 8-10. Tony Iommi, who is suffering lymphoma, will play those. But he will not be performing the other tour dates over the summer, and those are now dubbed Ozzy & Friends, featuring Geezer Butler, Zakk Wylde and Slash. The only Sabbath show in American skedded is at Lollapalooza, and there's no official statement as to whether or not Iommi will perform there.

Read Full Post
<p>Tom Gabel</p>

Tom Gabel

Against Me! singer is transgender: Five questions I have

Gay marriage, the gender scale and rock 'n' roll

The news that Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace is making the medical transition from being a man to becoming a woman coincidentally coincides with week chock-filled with news on gay marriage.

Formerly known as Tom Gabel, Laura Jane Grace let the public know of her new chose name this week. She is not attracted to men, and will remain married to her wife, with whom she's had a daughter. She's made seven albums with Against Me!, and the public assumed she'd made them as a man.

I bring up gay marriage to highlight a cultural touchstone, that our country still strongly delineates the rights of people with differing sexual orientation. There are a minority of people who believe that people aren't "born" gay, and there certainly are opponents to the idea that gender dysphoria even exists.

Today, I thought about what this means for music. As many have rightfully pointed out, this is not the first transgender musician on the planet. Electronic Walter Carlos became Wendy Carlos in the '70s. Throbbing Gristle fronter and performance artist Genesis P-Orridge became "pandrogynous" with his former wife, his other half and artistic partner Lady Jaye, an opera of a life captured in 2011 documentary in "The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye." Life of Agony singer Keith Caputo became Mina Caputo last year.

Of any, though, Grace's band is easily the most recognized groups of those who are known to yield a transgendered frontman/frontwoman. Against Me! has put a record in the top 50, and a song on the radio -- notably "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," a tune that nods at the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." title and perhaps some of its spirit. The helped helm Warped Tour in years past.

In movies, actors generally act out a role, and then they finish it and become "who they are" again. In music, fans' expectations are that artists are who they say they are, that their songs and art reflect in some way a life depiction more accurate than mere liner notes. That's why the argument for "authenticity" is still intact, no matter how exaggerated the personality.

Those who were fans or secular listeners of Against Me! were in shock today at the announcement, as evidenced by Twitter, message boards and other media. But none can argue Grace's authenticity, the truth of oneself.

Read Full Post
<p>Keane</p>

Keane

Interview: Keane is 'lucky' in a 'Strangeland'

Watch: Horror-themed 'Disconnected' and single 'Silenced by the Night'

Keane’s recent music video for new track “Disconnected” is a love-letter to horror films, a quick-and-dirty narrative that may compel the viewer to turn all the lights on.

The track itself? Nice and lovely.
 
“Well, the song is a bit about being disconnected from somebody,” said Keane drummer and co-founder Richard Hughes with a laugh. “We’re not feeling all that bad.”
Read Full Post