<p>Lana Del Rey</p>

Lana Del Rey

Watch: Lana Del Rey premieres 'Off to the Races' and heads to 'SNL'

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Then three songs became four songs

Lana Del Rey has a full-length album due in a month, granted, but it seemed a little absurd when, this week, it was announced she'd be joining "Saturday Night Live" (Jan. 14) as a musical guest, two weeks before "Born to Die" drops on Jan. 31. She's released only three songs.

OK, well, make that four, if one were to include pop parody. Because that's what "Off to the Races" is, or sounds like.

Taking a nod to from Rihanna, the singer adds a little dub cadence to her vocals for the verse, before taking on karaoke campiness and ending the refrain with a squeak toy. This is a wordy word track, some narrative and some nonsense tumbling out into found footage of girls-and-guns. And, again with the blood, the religious imagery and guys with tattoos making kissy. I see some themes, but not much substance here.

So just add me to the hater pile-on. The late-'90s power dark-dance groove doesn't do much for me, not compared to the impeccable produced "Video Games." Vocally, Del Rey is still carving out her character.

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<p>Rihanna</p>

Rihanna

Watch: Rihanna gets touchy in 'You Da One' music video

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How many looks does the pop star rock?

In her latest music video, pop star Rihanna has her way... with herself.

In an ode to her lover, the Def Jam singer made clear her erm positions on several key cultural uh touchstones. She also sports her newly minted bottom-teeth grill and gives an instructional guide on smoking sexily in four different looks, which I will call: "Clockwork Orange," full-body fishnet, glamor-puss and "nothing at all."

It's easy to see why "You Da One" was chosen as the second single from Ri-Ri's latest "Talk That Talk": while "We Found Love" takes listeners to Ibiza, it's safe to drag them back to the beginning -- the beginning of the album -- in Dr. Luke style with a shock of Caribbean flavor. The video matches the sounds simply. There's some lyrics, there's some sex and some Rihanna self-referentials. Pretty. Standard.

What do you think of the video?

<p>Putting the &quot;Santa&quot;&nbsp;in Santana: from &quot;Glee&quot;</p>

Putting the "Santa" in Santana: from "Glee"

Today in Christmas: My Morning Jacket, JoJo, Glee and Sondre Lerche

Swedish crooner takes on Beyonce

That's right. My Morning Jacket played Madison Square Garden. Not just in your dreams.

And on Dec. 14, Jim James brought a little Bing Crosby with him. The lead singer performed a slow, cokey version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Check it below, and see the band's cover of Gil Scott-Heron (RIP) while you're at it.

Sondre Lerche didn't cover a Christmas carol, per se, but his gift to the world this 2011 holiday season is a cover of Beyonce. The pop-loving crooner does a take of "Countdown," which is by no coincidence made a lot of critics' top singles lists this year, and made the top of the musicians'.

"This year, it’s officially a tradition: for the third time my annual Christmas gift to you is my humble solo acoustic version of someone else’s song; my favorite of the year, no less," Lerche told Stereogum. "That being said, the trick is to get passed the novelty-factor and just sing a beautiful song at the best of your abilities. Obviously, a significant part of this song’s appeal and ecstatic energy comes from the dizzying vocal performance and the mind-blowingly cool production work — elements and talents useless to even attempt replicating (especially not in my father in-law’s basement). But as long as there’s a song underneath, there’s a way.

Lerche's previous Christmas covers were Animal Collective’s “Bluish” and Owen Pallett’s “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt.” But now... who wants black diamonds under the tree?

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<p>Game</p>

Game

Watch: Game and Tyler The Creator in Lil Wayne-featured 'Martian vs. Goblin'

An insane asylum, just in time for Christmas

If you missed Game's "The R.E.D." album release in August, that's OK: the set's release date was bumped almost a dozen times. However, if you missed the rapper's collaboration with Tyler the Creator, here's another chance.

The two play a couple of nutter-butter's locked up in the ugliest insane asylum this side of "Session 9," with the pair punting gibes back-and-forth through the glass. The Odd Future member dangles a cat and gives us his best crazy eye as he returns to his seemingly endless well of making fun of Bruno Mars and gay-baiting, this time linking homosexuals to Log Cabin (Republicans) and the original definition of "faggot." Still, while Game continues to hold his guns up for Chris Brown and throws Rihanna in front of a train with his rhymes, at least Tyler brings thunder about that highlighter hair.

There's also the LeBron James diss, with a hilarious "he lost" at the end of his verse. Game takes up that baller and runs with him in the last, as he's about to get punctures with a needle containing that gravy you're about to eat at Christmas. But fanboys beware: watch your blood pressure rise as Game makes this statement, "Mad that DC comics overlooked me / Cause Captain America's straight pussy." Marvel-ous.

How do you like this crazy creepy clip for Christmas? Bummed Lil Wayne couldn't come to the party?

<p>Nicki Minaj</p>

Nicki Minaj

Listen: Nicki Minaj calls detractors, Lil Kim 'Stupid Hoes' in new 'Roman' song

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What do you think of this next single from 'Roman Reloaded'

Taking a page from Nicki Minaj's "Stupid Hoes," here's an easy lob: "Stupid Hoes" is kinda stupid.

It's less so that the non-beat of this meandering rap track only augments the shrillness of Minaj's character voices, but more that I keep expecting the star to move on from Lil Kim diss tracks. Her character Roman seems to have more worthy adversaries; she even quotes "Roman's Revenge" -- her track with Eminem -- like she already knows it.

"Stupid hoes is my enemy / Stupid hoes is so wack / Stupid ho shoulda befriended me / Then she could’ve prolly came back," comes the final refrain. Is that a tinge of support? A whiff of maybe propping other female rappers up? Naw. Most of the zingers come from Minaj alternating between male (albeit gay) alter-ego "Roman Zolanski" ("But no relation to Roman Polanski") and the "frontman" of a the all-male Young Money: she invites her detractors to "suck her diznick," then to eat her "coo-coo raw" then tips her hat to Lil Wayne's "It's Good" and returns to her line from Birdman's "Y U Mad," "I am the female Weezy." As your mother asks, what's wrong with just being yourself?

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<p>Ryan Gosling in &quot;Drunk History&quot;</p>

Ryan Gosling in "Drunk History"

Today in Christmas: Sarah McLachlan, Justin Bieber and 'Drunk History'

Ryan Gosling and Jim Carrey are merry, Black Lips and Deer Tick sound sick

Today in Christmas news, there's Justin Bieber using "swag," Sarah McLachlan helping her own charity, "Drunk History" with Ryan Goslin and Jim Carrey in funny hats and a supergroup boasting members of the Black Lips and Deer Tick sit down for some Christmas Chinese food.

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<p>Paul McCartney</p>

Paul McCartney

Credit: MJ Kim

Listen: Paul McCartney adds Eric Clapton for 'My Valentine'

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One of two originals from the Beatles legend's forthcoming album

Just a day after he announced a new forthcoming album, Paul McCartney's already showing some of his cards. Or, rather, his "Valentines."

"My Valentine" is one of two original songs to be released on the forthcoming, as-yet-untitled album, due on Feb. 7. Note to lovers: that's a week before actual Valentine's.

This track features Eric Clapton accompanying the easy ballad on nylon-string guitar. The whole mix is very upfront, with a lot of room noise. It could supposedly reflect what is the breeziness of the record to come.

"It was very spontaneous, kind of organic, which then reminded me of the way we'd work with the Beatles," Macca said in a press release. "We'd bring a song in, kick it around, when we found a way to do it we'd say 'OK, let's do a take now' and by the time everyone kind of had an idea of what they were doing, we'd learnt the song. So that's what we did, we did the take live in the studio."

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<p>From Swedish House Mafia's &quot;Antidote&quot;</p>

From Swedish House Mafia's "Antidote"

Watch: Swedish House Mafia's 'Antidote' video is a first-person shooter game

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NOT SAFE FOR WORK, NOT AT ALL: Punching hookers and women-eaters

You wouldn't want to get caught playing a video game at work, right? Particularly considering the graphic violence and potentially distasteful material your boss could see in passing?

Thus, do not watch Swedish House Mafia's "Antidote" video at work.

It looks just like a live-action first-person shooter -- yes, a video game -- of a heist in a Japanese strip club. There are guns, guns shooting people in the face, hand-to-hand combat and naked girls.

Helmed by BB Gun Films, the directors go through the premise with stark matter-of-factness. No dialogue, utter chaos, a terrifying scenario for an unrealizable adolescent fantasy. By showing what it'd be like to play an "actual" shoot-em-up in real life both exposes the bloodlust, while also inspiring it.

And "lust" is right. Punching a hooker in the face in a video game (or, say, blowing away a stripper with a gale-force weapon) has long been a point of contention between a parent and a child who wants to play said game. And strippers/"other" women put into a singular premise of sexual objectivity has long dominated the music video sphere.

BB Gun's other credits include Fabolous' "Toast" (with the indifferent showing of "tits" when the lyric "tits" comes about) with the rapper's interchangeable women flanking him as he shoots an assassin. Christian Rich's "Famous Girl" features the murder of female, symbolically and literally devoured by men in animal masks.

And, again, the marriage of sex and violence in "Antidote," which also happens to be one of Swedish House Mafia's most aggressive and beefy songs yet. In addition to cold violence, there's specific violence toward women, in a house of women-as-sex-objects.

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<p>Cat Power</p>

Cat Power

Today in Christmas: The Kills, Cat Power, Blitzen Trapper and Macy Gray

Amazon giving away a free holiday song every day in December until Christmas

And so starts the week-long stretch to Christmas, with a few more new songs, covers and holiday news from The Kills, Cat Power, Blitzen Trapper, Macy Gray and more.

"The moon makes me want to eat you alive,” sings The Kills' Alison Mosshart. "Sleep if you do wake, dear."

Is that how you really feel, Alison? Don't look for little Baby Jesus in this classic carol re-make of "Silent Night," below. The singer's boozy howl is gorgeous, even if she seems transfixed more on death than she is on new life. Whatever, pass the coke.

Meanwhile, there's new news from Cat Power's camp. Chan Marshall Tweeted on Friday that there will be a new Christmas charity single and accompanying video out on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24); those who wish to download the as-yet-unnamed track will have a list of charities to choose from to put their donated dollars toward.

Due to the overwhelming use of all caps, I shall repeat only one of her Tweets, abridged, this one pertaining to a new studio album, anticipated since 2006's "The Greatest" and 2008's covers album "Jukebox."

"ALMOST DONE WITH ALBUM."

OK!

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EXCLUSIVE Song Of The Day: Shelby Earl's 'This Christmas Is For Us'

EXCLUSIVE Song Of The Day: Shelby Earl's 'This Christmas Is For Us'

Alt-country cut will light your tree

I often find myself looking to veteran music critic Ann Powers, in matters of taste and prose. On the topic of Seattle songwriter Shelby Earl, I'll take a quote straight from her: "Over the years I’ve become friendly with a few musicians... In general, though, I’ve clung to that old idea that critical perspective and personal connection don’t mix. Until now. I’m writing this note to ask you to listen to an album by a friend."

I met Earl through mutual friends years ago, and it's been a thrill to see her successes this year. She released "Burn the Boats" this year through Immaculate Noise favorite Rachel Flotard's Local 638 Records label, the album featuring John Roderick of the Long Winters. The alt-country artist brings the same amount of heart and bits of sentimentality into new holiday track "This Christmas Is For Us."

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