<p>Usher</p>

Usher

Listen: Usher and Rick Ross combine for 'Lemme See'

HitFix
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Usher goes under the covers as Bawse name-drops Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman

While Usher's single "Scream" was generically top 40 rhythmic, he's gone much more urban/R&B for latest "Lemme See," yet another track from his forthcoming album "Looking for Myself."

In short: Usher wants to show you his chest, girl. Y'all explicit. And then Rick Ross loosely follows the theme by promising valet service and forcing some sort of comparison to Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. It was weird.

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<p>Rihanna's &quot;Where Have You Been&quot;</p>

Rihanna's "Where Have You Been"

Credit: Island/Def Jam

Watch: Rihanna gets a dance video with 'Where Have You Been'

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Rihanna shows off some similar moves from her recent Coldplay clip

As evident in his work with Pink and Missy Elliott, video director Dave Meyers is a big fan of darkly poppy and bold backdrops for his music videos, sometimes letting those border on fake and cheesy. Meyers has now combined with Rihanna for her latest dance single "Where Have You Been" from "Talk That Talk," and that predisposition continues.

Ri-Ri is finally featured in a dance-heavy video, leading the troupe of nation-less natives around a little bonfire, or inside a teepee or as a heavy-lidded sprite hiding in the forest. Meyers' team makes no qualms about making each locale look shallow, like a diorama from a museum, rather than sending the singer and her team out into an actual wilderness. What troubles the clip, however, isn't the dance team's navigation of these sets, but the director's constant need to shake the frame or blur the focus, like the apocalypse from Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends" apocalyptic journey.

Speaking of apocalypses, Rihanna gives a nod to "Apocalypse Now" with her half-headed emergence from black waters, as she seeks her prey, er, lover. (Lately, though, the 24-year-old lately has been promoting "Battleship," out May 18 in the U.S., which is her first major movie role. She's off the ship and now back into the waves.) The video also alludes to Rihanna's tour video clip for Coldplay's "Princess of China," with the multiple arms fanning out like a Hindu god.

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<p>Metric</p>

Metric

Listen: Metric unleashes single 'Youth Without Youth'

HitFix
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Readers
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Band finally gets its Gary Glitter on

Metric were right in that their first single "finally" get to utilize the omnipresent Gary Glitter "Rock and Roll" beat -- it'll have you saying "Hey!" to boot.

"Youth Without Youth" is the initial track to arrive from "Synthetica," and is going on sale on May 1.

The band pushes crunchy, smarmy guitars way up front in the mix as a Muse-like synthy underbelly balances out Emily Haines' penchant creepy-little-girl voice. The child-like front is appopriate for "Youth," which explores what the band describes as a "slow sad story." It tackles "the decaying social state through the eyes of a depraved child... into a teenager," Haines explains in a song commentary, streaming after the track. It ends, predictably, with a bang and a whimper, both sonically and lyrically.

The song certainly has mass appeal, but a lot of instrumental space, too, with sparse verses and a non-traditional chorus. I don't think I'll grow out of it too soon.

"Synthetica" is due on June 12.

<p>Tony Bennett in &quot;The Zen of Bennett&quot;</p>

Tony Bennett in "The Zen of Bennett"

Credit: Dion Beebe

Tony Bennett talks Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and ‘Zen’

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Readers
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Review: Tribeca Film Festival debut of 'Zen' is as much about age as it is entertainment

Most of Tony Bennett’s family, Lady Gaga’s parents, Amy Winehouse’s parents and even Harry Belafonte were on hand for the premiere of “The Zen of Bennett” on Monday night, making a one-show-only bow at the Tribeca Film Festival. It was a temperate all-ages event, but it's fine if it wasn't too flashy: “Conceived, created, and produced by his son,” the documentary was what Danny Bennett described as a “love letter” to his 85-year-old father. 

The 84-minute portrait covers the period during which Bennett collaborated with more than a dozen popular artists for his “Duets II” album, his most commercially successful full-length studio album in his 70 years performing. While it tries to encompass a lot of personal history – like his dad’s origins in Podàrgoni, Italy, or his front-lines experience with death in the service during WWII – most of Bennett’s “Zen” unfolds like an archival, of-the-moment record of Bennett, Octogenarian. 
 
The singer recounts little stories told to him by Duke Ellington or zingers from Fred Astaire, as he shrewdly negotiates tempos with the band and amps up his other passion and pasttime, painting. His “I remember…” moments were balanced out with the minor trifles of the modern music business: like an older family relative, Bennett would repeat himself in order to get a joke about his tie to land. He shows cranky impatience when Andrea Boccelli keeps him waiting and when Michael Buble vocally steps on his toes. He'd always wanted to record duets with Louis Armstrong but never got to.
 
In one scene, Bennett haggles with Danny and his other handlers when he felt slighted by perpetual mid-careerist John Mayer, who made some comment about his mother’s admiration for the multi-generational star. But even before moment unfolded, I couldn’t but help to think to myself, “Man, my dad’s gonna love this movie.”
 
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<p>Nas' &quot;Daughters&quot;</p>

Nas' "Daughters"

Credit: Def Jam

Listen: Nas talks parenthood on 'Daughters'

HitFix
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Daddy's princess Instagramming condoms: beauty and the thug

It's refreshing to hear Nas -- one of hip-hop's most esteemed, lasting voices -- taking on more than swagger and girls in his latest song. Or, rather, he's rhyming about girls, but more specifically his own "little" girl, who is now 17.

"Daughters" is another new track to arrive from Nas' "Life Is Good" album, due on July 17. "Daughters" goes on sale in the usual spots on May 1.

Among Nas' temptations is to blaze through another elder-statesman "I'm still top of the game" kind of jam, but this super-specific track touches on a tender topic oft-ignored (or undercooked) by hip-hop on the whole. Raising a daughter and rapping aren't mutually exclusive, and Nas tackles his own daugther Destiny's parenting head-on. He addresses the fact that his little princess posted a photo of condoms on her bedside table to Twitter, and that she's already fielding numerous calls from, erm, suitors.

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<p>Nicki Minaj</p>

Nicki Minaj

Watch this awful Nicki Minaj music video

HitFix
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Readers
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'Starships' is the visual essence of unknowing

As I said in my review of Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded," the star's output has suffered from her and her label's attempt to throw just about anything at the wall in hopes something sticks. In her music video for hopeless radio bait "Starships," they use the same method, only this time with Dayglo paint and bikinis.

Minaj is seen emerging from the water, a beam from a "starship" of manufactured Girldom, the centerpiece of every cheap beach rave and Vicky's Secret cliche you can think of. Certainly, Minaj looks beautiful, bound inside of strappy and stringy two pieces and body glitter on the beaches of Hawaii. But she doesn't look comfortable. Signalling that Minaj's dance moves are still unready for primetime, she's a bumbling, posturing siren in a sea of hippie-trippies and professional hoofers (in bowler hats, to boot).

For everything wrong with this video and this type of video, just fast forward to the final scenes, where the party jumps around and Minaj has to literally hold onto her bouncing bountiful breasts: is it to mirror very similar actions that everyday party-going girls have to endure or a true reflection of the waste and half-baked madness Barbz must endure? Either way: it requires endruance to get through this mess.

Cash Money has got to quit trying to make Minaj into Rihanna With Raps. She's got too much savage personality to fit into a sweetheart mold, too much talent as a rapper to squander and not enough know-how to navigate this kind of generic pop pageantry. It's like watching "Toddlers & Tiaras" -- she's not ready, which makes "Starships" well-meaning but completely off-course.

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<p>Brandy's &quot;Put It Down&quot; featuring Chris Brown</p>

Brandy's "Put It Down" featuring Chris Brown

Listen: Brandy combines with Chris Brown for 'Put It Down'

Does the R&B icon need him?

The latest R&B/hip-hop star has added liner to Chris Brown's pockets, as Brandy releases her second single from "Two Eleven": "Put It Down."

I love the beat, I love how Brandy is bringing her brand of alto, low-loving vocals back into this salty-sweet pop formula. It lumbers but it bangs.

Breezy, on the other hand, brings as much personality to the mix as an ATM. I've made no qualms with my general distaste of Brown, mostly because I find him to be an abhorrent human being and his creative contributions, lately, as uneven. For every brilliant "Turn Up the Music" there's a pitiless "How I Feel."

I don't think Brandy needs Brown here -- not his name, not his vocals. He gets the co-write, sure, but his guest verse brings nothing to the table, particularly rhyming "Brandy" with "candy" and another stereotypical phone-in about girls and their purses.

The track's sparse as is. Consider in the future getting rid of the dead weight (or deadbeat).

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<p>Beach Boys at the 2012 Grammys</p>

Beach Boys at the 2012 Grammys

Credit: AP Photo

UPDATE: Listen to all of Beach Boys 'That's Why God Made the Radio?'

Watch the reunited group's video promo: new album out on June 5

The Beach Boys have promised a new album this summer, and will make good on that promise on June 5.

The band has posted a new promo video in support of the as-yet-untitled set, featuring much of what will be the album's first single "That's Why God Made the Radio."

But will this mash note to radio prove moot? Pop radio's elders have stacked their harmonies like old times, yes, but the melody and style may still make it an uphill battle for any commercial play, particularly when A/C radio is so loath on new adds.

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<p>Cee Lo with Goodie Mobb on &quot;The Voice&quot;</p>
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Cee Lo with Goodie Mobb on "The Voice"


Credit: NBC

Watch: Cee Lo and reunited Goodie Mob debut 'Fight to Win' on 'The Voice'

HitFix
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Readers
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First song in eight years from formerly hip-hop group

Who replaced Goodie Mob with the Black Eyed Peas?

Below is the performance of new song "Fight to Win" from the reunited group on "The Voice" last night, led by show host and man-about-town Cee Lo Green. It's the Atlanta crew's first new song in eight years, and will be featured in NBA promo spots (on top of, undoubtedly, many election year rallies). The track is likely to be included in the quartet's next album, "Age Against the Machine," release TBA.

I'm not saying the hip-hop group was never pop, but I don't know exactly what to call this except three minutes of Cee Lo yelling a chorus.

<p>Jack White, &quot;Blunderbuss&quot;</p>

Jack White, "Blunderbuss"

Credit: Third Man/Warner Bros.

Review: Jack White's solo debut 'Blunderbuss'

HitFix
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Readers
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What it sounds like to fight

It’s a struggle to evaluate Jack White’s album output independent of what he’s done with his storied music career thus far. His former flame The White Stripes have now dissolved, evidently from bandmate/ex-wife Meg White’s reluctance of the lifestyle. He continues playing in on- and off-again brotherhood in the Raconteurs, and barks back at The Kills’ Alison Mosshart in Dead Weather. Aside from his bands, he’s built a Nashville-based vinyl/singles mini-empire and produced for a bevy of new and veteran artists – from Loretta Lynn to the Black Belles, Wanda Jackson to another ex-, Karen Elson. Of his contemporaries in influence and confluence of skill, White champions more women than most, and to electrifying effect.

One could even say that White’s output has been dependent or at least informed by whom he’s working with -- or against. White explained in the guitarist doc “It Might Get Loud” that he opts to play difficult guitars he has to fight.
 
White in solo debut “Blunderbuss,” however, opts more for piano/Wurlitzer (played by Brooke Waggoner) than guitar to fill in spaces or take the lead on lines. So, instead, he has-it-out in his lyrics and with his voice. White battles an invisible “other” in many circumstances, most frequently the lovers that burn him or whom he likes to burn in his songs. And it’s worth noting that he sings like a woman some of the time.
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