<p>Nicki Minaj</p>

Nicki Minaj

Watch this awful Nicki Minaj music video

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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'

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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'

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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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<p>Beck</p>

Beck

Listen: Beck releases ‘Corrina, Corrina’ cover for 'mothers'

Check out Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' contribution to 'Every Mother Counts," too

Mother’s Day may not be for another three weeks, but Beck’s got a nice, soft gift for non-profit organization Every Mother Counts.

The songwriter goes the ballad-slow route in this oft-covered folk classic, though no telling when exactly he recorded this one – perhaps about the same time as “Sea Change?”

Listen to the song here.

Regardless, Beck shares a tracklist with other big-named artists who contributed previously unreleased songs and song versions, like Eddie Vedder, David Bowie, Coldplay, U2 and Dave Matthews. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros loaned “Mother,” which you can stream here.

“Every Mother Counts” will be available for purchase at Starbucks starting on May 1.

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<p>Tom Waits</p>

Tom Waits

UPDATED: Tom Waits postpones 'Letterman' and 'Fallon' appearances

Songwriter skeds late-night TV dates

UPDATE APRIL 23: In a Tweet posted last week, Waits' team announced that these forthcoming late-night TV appearances are off, for the moment: "Tom is postponing his appearances on Letterman and Fallon and will reschedule at a later date TBA"

ORIGINAL REPORT APRIL 9: Tom Waits is trotting out his songs from "Bad As Me" for the first time since the album release with a couple of performances lined up on national television.

The veteran songwriter head to the "Late Show With David Letterman" on April 24 and to "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" the next night on April 25. He'll be sitting down for an interview with each, too, which might prove to be just as entertaining as the songs themselves.

He's visited with Letterman before, but this will be a first for "Fallon"; considering that host's rivalries, I'd expect a stop-off at "The Colbert Report," or maybe just a return to "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

Waits has yet to announce any tour dates behind "Bad As Me," but this may signal that organizing may just be ramping up for a trek. He only played eight shows in support of his 2006 album "Orphans," then took up a much more complete itinerary two years later. He's known to play with the dates surrounding his album releases, and in a series of stops that don't always land in major cities.

These performances may also answer the question of: if Waits were to tour, what cracker-jack band would he take with him? During the 2008 Glitter and Doom tour, it was with backers like Vincent Henry on woodwinds, his son Casey Waits on drums, Omar Torrez on guitar/banjo, Patrick Warren on keyboard and Seth Ford-Young on bass. On this record, Casey was all over the thing and Warren was on half; Ford-Young, Henry and Torrez are nowhere to be found; andclassic collaborators like Marc Ribot and special guests like Keith Richards and Flea abounded.

This is all speculation of course. Waits may be already hard at work on something else as soon as the cameras hit "stop."

<p>Fiona Apple's &quot;Every Single Night&quot;</p>

Fiona Apple's "Every Single Night"

Listen: Fiona Apple reveals firey 'Every Single Night'

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That's where the pain comes in

Fiona Apple has been performing new track "Every Single Night" at many of her tour stops this spring, and now the song is officially available to stream.

As previously reported, "Every Single Night" features a refrain of a disturbed war cry, "I just want to feel / everything." Apple's voice is mixed and recorded so close, like fractured and delicate china, her breaths moving over spare plunks and chiming keyboard parts. This is no "single" in the traditional sense, but it carries a lot of weight and personality. Again, the songwriter proves that one of her biggest strengths is her vulnerability.

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<p>Liars</p>

Liars

Credit: Mute

Watch Liars' murderous new music video

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'No.1 Against the Rush' pairs something very creepy with the sentiment 'I want you'

For all you fans of "Criminal Minds," quick: why would a dry cleaner murder the band Liars?

There are a few answers but mostly questions in the music video for Liars' "No.1 Against the Rush," as a killer finds a few ways to capture the three-piece band. It's not cute, though. It's all disturbed blue hues and everyday circumstances to the weird lyrical sibling "I want you." Tonight's an Ambien night.

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<p>Levon Helm in 2010</p>

Levon Helm in 2010

Credit: AP Photo

Levon Helm: Listen to the late legend

Check out some clips of the songwriter and consumate working musician

The thing I've heard most this week when talking about the imminent passing of Levon Helm is that the lifelong musician was still playing shows even a few short weeks before he was hospitalized in New York. As he battled his last against cancer, the Midnight Rambler was still rambling in Woodstock, N.Y., as a host, a part of the whole in addition to being a centerpiece.

You could say similar things about The Band, whose communal strength in the '60s in '70s was in its individuals, and the group's ability to be its own centerpiece or to play well with others. Backing Bob Dylan or -- in its earliest incarnation, Ronnie Hawkins -- the Band stepped out with brilliant "Music from Pink House" and went on to define, reform and inform roots-based rock music of the era from within the band and through those they worked with outside of it. Despite the loss in gravitational pull that brought Helm and other Band members together with Robbie Robertson, the group's legacy was firm by time they broke up in 1976.

That bust confirmed at least a couple of things: one, it put "The Last Waltz" firmly into the living curricula of any music lover and, two, it was a proven moment that Helm would continue to be a lasting, working musician, solo or in a group.

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