<p>Rihanna and her possessor/possessed in &quot;We Found Love&quot;</p>

Rihanna and her possessor/possessed in "We Found Love"

Watch: Rihanna recalls 'Requiem for a Dream' in 'We Found Love' video

Power, possession, Ireland and... Chris Brown?

It's been years past, and yet I -- along with others -- still watch each Rihanna video, and consider: "Is THIS one about Chris Brown?... Is THIS one?"

I will say this: boxer/extremely hot model Dudley O'Shaughnessy stars in the "We Found Love" music video. And he looks suspiciously like Rihanna's ex-Brown. And the two have a nasty fight in a car, alluding to the assault on Grammy night in 2009. Like Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie," this clip, too, illustrates the cyclical and hurtful nature of love and possession.

It nods to Brown. But then, as the lyrics say, I've just "got to let it go."

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<p>The Ting Tings in &quot;Hang It Up&quot;</p>

The Ting Tings in "Hang It Up"

Watch: The Ting Tings tell you to 'Hang It Up' in a skate park

British duo back with sophomore set yet?

"Everybody loves somebody to hate."

It's just too easy.

So I'll say that "Hang It Up" is very much the Ting Tings. Particularly with the squirrelly guitars and rap-singing, this track in particular sounds like Weezer with a cheerleader at the front.

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<p>The Stone Roses</p>

The Stone Roses

Credit: Pennie Smith

Watch: Stone Roses confirm reunion, schedule two shows

Ian Brown and the boys are back together and making new music

The Stone Roses only had two albums, but the quartet are intact and all back together for the first time since 1995, ready to perform those songs plus some new material.

At a press conference in London today, frontman Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Mani and drummer Reni confirmed they have gotten back together, and are creating new songs. They have slated just two homecoming shows, for Heaton Park on June 29 and 30 in 2012. Tickets for those go up for sale on Friday (Oct. 21) at 9:30 a.m. GMT.

The British troupe has posted video of the press conference at their newly launched website, thestoneroses.org, which includes the news that the band is plotting a world tour.

Now, the Stone Roses released their mostly perfect self-titled debut album in 1989. "The Second Coming" from 1994 paled in comparison. Fans of Brown's dreamy vocals have endured years of solo albums since then, with just a couple highlights like 2001's "Music of the Spheres" and "Stellify" from 2009's "My Way."

So in conclusion, I'm excited, but not that excited.

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<p>The Roots</p>

The Roots

Listen: The Roots announce 'undun' album details as new single drops

Jimmy Fallon's house band tackling a concept album: look out, 'Lulu'

Are The Roots getting dark for the most wonderful time of the year?

The veteran hip-hop troupe and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" house band has lifted the curtain on their latest originals set, "undun," due on Dec. 6 in time for the holiday season. What makes it sound heavy is this: the 10-track set is The Roots' first concept record, based on the apparently fictional character Redford Stephens, "This kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal."

"He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyed gunrunner like Tupac’s character Bishop in 'Juice,'" reads a release, with comments from ?uestlove. "He’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero. Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment... Utilizing a reverse narrative arc, the album begins as the listener finds Redford disoriented–postmortem–and attempting to make sense of his former life. As he moves through its pivotal moments he begins to deconstruct all that has led to his (and our own) coming undun.”

Gather 'round, kids. It's a wonderful life.

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Exclusive Song Of The Day: NewVillager remix Metronomy, talk tour

'Some Written' gets a redux from the arty (but dancey!) Brooklyn-based band

NewVillager have not only managed to put out one of the more thrilling and melody-loving new releases this fall, they also put on one hell of a show. The Brooklyn-based troupe typically plays as a trio, with a "human sculpture" bursting from Ben Bromley and Ross Simonini's performance. There's costumes and fort-building, visual art being constantly made in the middle of their audio art. They've held down gallery appearances as much as basement shows, their own "mythology" changing with each gig and conceptually at the center of their setlist. 

That doesn't mean their 2011 self-titled album is all artwork and no play. From its opening, "NewVillager" is a head-nodding dance party: textural,  playful, dancey, self-assured. Look for the same at their performances, as the band has just kicked off the autumn leg of their tour, with U.K.'s Metronomy.

Below, we debut NewVillager's remix of their Mercury Prize-nominated tourmates' breezy song "Some Written" and hold down an email chat with Simonini.

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<p>Britney Spears is now an RCA artist, not Jive</p>

Britney Spears is now an RCA artist, not Jive

Credit: AP Photo

Arista, Jive and J Records fold as artists ushered under RCA name

Sony shutters decades-old labels in order to 'refresh' the RCA brand

What's in a name? Ask the common consumer which artists are -- or, rather, were -- on Arista, Jive or J records recently and you might get just a couple answers, if any. Those names may not carry much weight or the weight that they used to with music fans.

RCA Records CEO Peter Edge and COO Tom Corson agree, at least in part. Sony Music is retaining the artists under those three labels and putting them under the larger RCA umbrella. So now acts like Usher, Britney Spears, Pink, Foo Fighters, previous "American Idol" stars like Jennifer Hudson and more will all be officially RCA artists. This, after months of blood-letting on a staffer level and dropping acts like "AI's" Lee DeWyze and Britain's "X Factor" contestant Diana Vickers.

Arista was established in 1974 by Clive Davis; he also started J in 2000. Barry Weiss' Jive was perhaps best know for its pop signings around the turn of the millennium with entertainers like Spears and Justin Timberlake (and his former band N*Sync).

"The path we've taken is to refresh RCA, so we're going to retire those brands," Corson told The Hollywood Reporter. "There may be a reason down the line to bring them back, but it's a clean slate here."

Where I get a little confused is Corson's insistence that RCA will be defined by its artists... and by itself simultaneously.

"The concept is that there is value in branding RCA and not having it confused or diluted by other labels," he said. But then, "The artists have all been supportive. We didn't make this move without consulting our artists, and we haven't had any push-back. Frankly, they're the brand. We're defined by our artists."

So Jive, J and Arista diluted the RCA brand, but what is the RCA brand anyway except a roster of names?

Consumers don't buy based on what an RCA artist is, or what a Jive artist was, because those label groups put out a variety of genres and big-name artists. Certainly, there are independent labels or genre-focused labels that fans trust to lead them to new artists (think Sub Pop, or Def Jam) but giant labels like Columbia (also owned by Sony) host artists from Kreayshawn to Tony Bennett. How can one "brand" a giant umbrella group like RCA, other than make it bigger?

This move just looks like another way to trim the fat in a still-slender music economy, even with album sales up 3%. Remember when Sony still had BMG in its name? Is this like Clear Channel trying to align itself with why you "heart" radio? Talk about dillution.

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<p>Black Star on &quot;The Colbert Report&quot;</p>

Black Star on "The Colbert Report"

Song of the Day: Black Star premieres unreleased 'Fix Up' on 'Colbert Report'

Mos Def talks about why he's not Mos Def anymore

Black Star are sort-of-kind-of back? Sort of? The trailblazing hip-hop duo put an end to their recent reunited tour run, due to irreconcilable differences with concert giant Live Nation. However, they dropped by Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" last night to drop an unreleased track "Fix Up" plus perform “Astronomy (8th Light)” and chat with the jokey host.

First, Mos Def wanted to reiterate that his choice to change his name from Mos Def to Yasiin Bey is, er, most definitely not a joke.

"Why would you not be Mos Def anymore? He's a famous guy who sells records. Why would you do that?" Colbert asked, and with great acumen.

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<p>Rodney Atkins, &quot;Take a Back Road&quot;</p>

Rodney Atkins, "Take a Back Road"

Credit: Curb

Interview: Rodney Atkins talks 'Back Road' and Hank Williams Jr. controversy

How does this country singer tackle politics in his work?


Rodney Atkins’ newest album is poised to become a best-seller, and even to debut in the top tier of the albums chart next week, all because of the “road.”
“Take a Back Road” – the single – is one of the most beloved and successful tracks in the country singer’s history, while the album – of the same name – is poised to be among Atkins’ best-charting, with the help, too, of preceding single “Farmer’s Daughter.”
Atkins is married, and with a 10-year-old son, and has a intense history as an adopted child, so his propensity to tackle country’s favorite themes of family and devotion comes easily, especially on this new effort. In our interview this week, Atkins expressed a comfort in his own skin (“and in my blue jeans”). Which sometimes involves avoiding his own press: “The first thing that pops up first on Google, that’s not the best thing to be reading right then…”
Check out what Atkins has to say on his “Road” success, his feelings on music in this political season and how he separates himself from other solo male country singers.
You’ve had several country radio hits, some ACMs, some CMAs, sold enough for a No. 3 album and toured with your heroes. How do gauge your own success? What are you goals now?
I just keep my head down. With radio, people are always calling out when a song is a hit, or have told me [songs] sounds like we’re catering to radio. I don’t know what that crap means. How do you get your songs heard to begin with is impossible to figure out. Of course I believe it’s important to have hits, to have sales. Y’know, to maintain your job. Ultimately, it’s less about having the goals than what you do with your success. Getting to work with the National Council for Adoption, to work with the children’s home that I was adopted form… it’s cool getting kids to pay attention to those songs. Everything is related and it gives you an opportunity to make a difference in those kids’ lives.
I want to make a live show better and better and better. Effect folks’ lives positively. My son turned 10 last week. That’s always stuff that keeps you very driven.
You sing a lot about maintaining your family life, as well as about the draw of the road and about rural values. How do you distinguish yourself from other singers that tackle the same stuff?
The way you separate yourself… you just got to keep all in your heart. I do not in any way try to follow a trend. I actively try to avoid it. “If You’re Going Through Hell” came out of that feeling. Im not singing about, like, “I’m so country that I smell like a barn.” The audience that I think I’m singing to, they know I believe in the rural heart. Where I grew up in East Tennessee, if you get stuck, you could go knock on any house and they’d help you. That’s the rural heart. Same thing can happen in the Middle of the Bronx or Manhattan, with someone like me on 53rd and 2nd. Stop and ask and get directions from a complete stranger. My songs have gone No. 1 in Canada. They’re anywhere. That’s who you’re singing to.
“Take a Back Road” sounds like it shares the title as a bunch of different songs in country. But they’re not the same, not at all. You could say the same thing about other formats, like, to me they all sound the same. But when you’re inside of it… it’s sort of like baseball players. For someone’s who’s not a fan of baseball, all the players do the same stuff, but I could tell you how they’re all different. It’s all in how deep you want to dig into it. I try to find and afford songs that I feel like are very timeless songs.
But particularly in country music, country fans want to feel close to their favorite singers and entertainers. Assuming you like to enjoy some privacy, how do you set up boundries of how far you’ll let the audience see into your life? Or do you?
If you know my music, then you know me. It’s pretty simple. It’s fun to hear people yelling out, “Hey Rodney” and I’m just walking down the street. It’s like you’re singing to friends you just might never met yet. But I don’t feel it necessary to put every situation up on the internet. Like I met Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub, this week. I was in awe. It was this special moment but I kinda didn’t need to put that out everywhere. If my son’s waiting for me at home with a fishing pole or baseball glove in his hand, I’m not gonna put that aside because I need to talk about Ernie Banks on Twitter.
Do you read your own press – reviews and interviews?
I have before a couple times. And just got slammed, shredded, on some of those song reviews. And then those songs became No. 1s. I read up on “Hell” and “Back Road” because I was excited about it. But the first thing that pops up first on Google, that’s not the best thing to be reading right then. I’ve learned my lesson. The people who ultimately decide what works and don’t work… you just give it a couple weeks.
Like, that Friday Morning Quarterback stuff. It’s like they didn’t even listen to the songs. Just a bunch of bull-shhh. Like, they do that because they know they’d never have to go toe to toe in the ring with anybody over it. I never had understood that. I’m not the one to debate and argue. I just spend my time doing something positive.
So you look to the people closest to you for criticism and to improve your album. Were there any songs you had to fight for on this album?
“He’s Mine.” I really believed in that song, I believed in what it says, the way it goes about unconditional love. It’s got more edge than anything we ever cut.
I noticed a lot of the songs that you co-wrote on the record have more rock to them, like they started out as rock rather than country songs.
Some of those things, they start out one way on the work tape demo, and that’s the place where we go, “This sounds like something I’ve heard before… I’m hearing something more fun.” Songs like that get simplified because it was a smaller band we were working with. You put so many instrument on a record, you lose a lot of dynamics of what you’re really hearing in your head… there is a rockin’ side to it, there’s also softer and tender songs, romantic songs than we’ve never done before. But instead of straight-up love songs, they talk about the reality of love, that it’s not easy or perfect or simple lust in relationships. It’s a little bit tougher. “Feet” -- some people say it sounds like a religious song -- but it’s a very serious, like what happens when you start knocking heads at 11:30, when things get dark .
But you have to think of the live show – if it was full of ballads, it would make you crazy. You think it rocks on the album, just wait til we get it out there with the band live. Its gonna rock much harder. Just like the song “The Corner”… it reminded me of [ballad] “You Needed Me.” I played the first version of it for my son and he did not pay attention to it at all. How do you get a kid in a “Guitar Hero” generation to pay attention? You put some divebombs, some edge on it. Now he loves it.
What do you think of this particular political season, how presidential politics and protests kind of brings out the activism in artists, brings out these vocalizations? Like, Radiohead with Occupy Wall Street or Hank Williams Jr. on President Obama…
Like I told you, I’m about the rural heart, I’m… not jaded by politics. Hank Jr. and the football theme…  I don’t know. I try to think in terms of an honest model for my kids and being part of the National Council for Adoption -- which is based in D.C… how are our choices going to affect their future. And about, ultimately, those soldiers going to war for believing in the rural heart. I want to do whatever’s gonna promote that. They’e goint to war to fight for the freedoms against places and situations where people don’t have a choice. I didn’t grow up in a military family, but meeting some soldiers, to see how serious they take our freedoms, you owe it to…consider your [political] choices, to make them count. What you really believe makes a difference.
Does it matter who I think who is in office? If that effects the outcome of who’s in there? I see it as a reason why I like to keep my mouth shut. But it’s all about that passion scale, the need to say something. If I get that opportunity, if I’m gonna have a voice, it’s gonna be about the things most important to me – about adoption, soldiers.
People – including some artists – yak and go on and on and on and on and on, rambling on about politics. And then there’s people who roll their sleeves up and go to work. It’s not about controlling people and fans with money and fame, it’s about making a difference in the world… I see why it’s a tough call. Some people feel passionate about that. My way is to sing about that kind of stuff that matters to me,  and if you listen closely, it’s in there.


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Willow Smith combines with Nicki Minaj for new single 'Fireball'

Will Smith's 10-year-old daughter tries even harder to grow up

A song like "Fireball" requires an acute and extreme suspension of disbelief. The track is by 10-year-old Willow Smith. And she is the fireball of the party.

Listen to the song here.

The spawn of Will Smith has put out two singles prior to this. "Whip My Hair" made it to No. 9 because and despite its easy targeting for what's wrong with pop lyricism. "21st Century Girl" was a careful study on the inflections of Rihanna, with a video like a pantomime of the same Bajan singer. It only made it to No. 99.

So in terms of fireballing parties, Smith is only one for two. Not so with Nicki Minaj, who features on the track with G-rated braggadocio and indistinguishable gender and social commentary like, "[Willow,] Your daddy keep[s] you in designer [clothes]." Minaj, undoubtedly, was also on to add "legitimacy" to the track.

One problem with propping up children as pop stars is that they sound like children. Is Willow rapping about the kind of party with balloons and a bouncy castle? Or is she in a private booth with Minaj and vodka and mixers? Or somewhere in between?

I wouldn't harp on the problem of "legitimacy" and "authenticity" in this instance so much if its adoption won't rely so heavily on these elements. If you're gonna borrow the synths and drop lazy breaks from the rap radio archive between Smith's borrowed vocal styles (including those from Minaj), it had better be a barn-burner to be adopted wide-scale.

And the Stoopid Robots beat is. Combined with the hook, its like "Hollaback Girl" meeting "Yeah X3," but with a pint-sized voice reporting that she's gonna burn it all. What a world.

Willow Smith has yet to announce details concerning a full-length album. She is signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation spin-off StarRoc.

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<p>Jack's Mannequin</p>

Jack's Mannequin

Credit: James Minchin

Jack's Mannequin celebrates 'People and Things' release with big-screen event

Watch: Andrew McMahon's A/V project is for women, by women

"Ladies and gentlemen... or, ladies and a couple gentlemen," Andrew McMahon said to a full room at New York's Angelika movie theater last night.

The mastermind behind Jack's Mannequin was quite aware of the female-dominant ratio of the audience, in attendance to witness all 11 music videos that accompany each of the tracks from the band's latest "People and Things," released today (Oct. 4).

Making a video component for every song on a record is nothing new; PJ Harvey very effectively did it for her "Let England Shake" earlier this year, for instance. But what is notable about Jack's Mannequin's endeavor is how McMahon hooked up with filmmakers he found on Vimeo, and the sheer number of them that were women. Two-thirds of the directors, in fact. And from "People and Things," many of said "people" were ladies, most notably muses "Amy, I" and "Amelia Jean" plus those unnamed in tracks like "Release Me." Jack's Mannequin brand of piano-led pop-rock -- like McMahon's former band Something Corporate -- has always appealed to the fairer sex (or whatever you call us).

So in a way, Jack's Mannequin has upped the ante on what it is to be for women, with thanks to women. And he's comfortable with that.

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