Beyonce

Leading contenders for Grammy's Album of the Year

After Beyonce, who else is a sure bet?


The eligibility period for the 2014 Grammy Awards is drawing near: to be considered for the most coveted award of all, album of the year, a record had to come out between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014.  A number of acts who would normally be considered leading contenders, including Foo Fighters and Taylor Swift, will miss this year’s cut-off.

Below is a list of albums we think will be under heavy consideration as the first-round ballots go out to Grammy voters over the next few weeks.

In no particular order:

Beyonce,” Beyonce: I’d say this is a sure thing, but I thought a nod for Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” was a given last year and it got blanked. Even though it didn’t spawn many radio hits, “Beyonce” loomed large since its surprise December release, not only for the critical hosannahs it received, but for the overall arc of the project’s music, videos, and Beyonce and tour.

“Morning Phase,” Beck: An album of stunning beauty both lyrically and musically, “Morning Phase” is an immersive experience that is meant to be heard as a whole as each song unfolds and builds on what has come before it. It’s a sequel of sorts of 2002’s “Sea Change,” but Beck couldn’t have made this album before now

“Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam:Not a deep as some of Pearl Jam’s past albums, both in terms of lyrical content and in terms of deep bench, but “Lightning Bolt” still has some gems, including the title track and “Siren,” one of the best songs the band has ever done—and that’s saying a lot. Given its release nearly a year ago, it may be a forgotten gem when it comes Grammy time.

“Prism,” Katy Perry: She was nominated in this category before for “Teenage Dream.” While “Prism” hasn’t felt like it was the cultural milestone that “Teenage Dream” was, the album has held up well and is a solid pop effort.  

Reflektor,” Arcade Fire: The Canadian group’s last album, “The Suburbs,” stunned everyone by winning album of the year at the 2011 ceremony, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable that “Reflektor” would get shown some Grammy love, especially given its success and the growth the band has experienced since “The Suburbs.”

“The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” Eminem: Marshall Mathers has been up for this award three times before, including for 2000’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” yet has never won. This won’t be his time either for the grand prize, but


“In The Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith: It’s a beautiful album and he’s sort of the male equivalent of Adele while we wait for her to return.

“Ghost Stories,” Coldplay: No, it’s not Coldplay’s greatest album, but it’s been reliably sturdy and has had a depth that not many of the nominated albums have this year. Plus, doesn’t everyone want to see Chris Martin bring Jennifer Lawrence as his date to the awards and thank her when Coldplay wins?

“Lazaretto,” Jack White: “Blunderbuss” got a best album nod a few years back, but “Lazaretto” seems to have burned out relatively quickly after a strong start. Having said that, the Grammy voters like what White stands for and appreciate his love of artists from an earlier era.

“Ultraviolence,” Lana Del Rey: It’s a fine album and one that showed that Del Rey has staying power and isn’t just a flavor of the month. Plus, Grammy voters like to think they’re hip and Del Rey has hipster cred.

“Hypnotic Eye,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: It’s not the band’s best, but it’s a darn fine effort and it landed TP & the HB their first No. 1 album ever. Voters can feel good about nominating a band that is still churning out great music, unapologetically without relying on gimmicks, reality shows, contests or anything but solid grooves.


Other contenders:
“1000 Forms of Fear,” Sia
“High Hopes,” Bruce Springsteen
“Supernova,” Ray Lamontagne
“The River & The Thread,” Rosanne Cash
“My Krazy Life,” YG
“X,” Ed Sheeran
“G I R L,” Pharrell
“Turn Blue,” Black Keys
“Cheek to Cheek,” Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert
“The New Classic,” Iggy Azalea
 

Jack White

Jack White's in a blue mood in 'Would You Fight For My Love' video: Watch

He dusts off his powder blue tux

Following his excellent video for “Lazaretto’s” title track, Jack White returns with a clip for the album’s “Would You Fight For My Love?”

The Robert Hales-directed video is in the blue-washed tint that White so loves (check out clips for “I’m Shakin’,” or  “Love Interruption”) and features a sartorially splendid White, dressed for a prom circa 1979, with shorter hair than we’re used to seeing him and crazy sideburns.

The video takes place in the art deco bar at Denver’s Oxford Hotel and goes from a relatively sedate scene of White drinking at the bar until we delve into his mind. For as placid as he seems at the bar, there’s a whirlwind going on in his mind, as evidenced by the razor-quick edits and staccato images, all propelled by a mystery woman whom he never approached.

And by the way, he takes the line “I’m getting better at being a ghost,” literally in the clip.

Next up for White is appearing at Farm Aid, the yearly benefit put on by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and Neil Young, on Sept. 13 at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheater.

 

Calvin Harris

Watch: Calvin Harris' new video for 'Blame,' featuring John Newman

So this is where club girls go when the party's over

Pretty things populate Scottish DJ Calvin Harris’s new  Emil Nava-directed video, “Blame,” featuring British singer John Newman.

And bless their hearts, while the men in the video all have enough money to afford clothes, most of these poor things only have enough cash to afford bras, undies, garter belts, stockings and very high heels. Let’s throw a fundraiser for them, shall we? Surely if we did that, it would wipe the petulant pouts off their face as they wait in line to get into the club. Hey, at least the end of the video reveals where these girls disappear to, like vampires, before sunrise.

The club anthem’s most distinguishing feature is Newman’s ability to stretch the word “night” into five syllables. "Summer" it is not, although we're intrigued by the guilt implied in the "I'll be better this time" refrain.

Florida Georgia Line

Florida Georgia Line to host new American Country Countdown Awards

Duo's new album comes out in October


Florida Georgia Line will host the inaugural American Country Countdown Awards, which will air Dec. 15 on Fox.

The show takes the place of the American Country Awards, a December awards show that had been on Fox for the past three years. It will air live from Nashville's Music City Center.

The American Country Countdown Awards are based on Westwood One’s popular long-running country radio countdown show, now hosted by Kix Books. The 41-year old show airs on more than 280 radio stations.

This marks the first time FGL’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have hosted an awards show. The duo’s new album, “ Anything Goes,” comes out Oct. 14.

U2

Did U2 get it wrong by giving 'Songs of Innocence' away?

Is this the way to keep a veteran band relevant?

Is what U2 did really so awful? Ever since the band showed up at Apple’s iPhone 6 launch on Tuesday and gave away its new album, “Songs of Innocence,” to 500 million iTunes users, I’ve read commentary after commentary about how horrible they are.

My Facebook page has been deluged with discussions about the new album and my friends can’t seem to decide what they’re maddest about but it seems to be down to these five things:

*U2 gave its new album away by inserting itself into people’s iTunes library
*Bono is a blowhard
*They hate U2 and see this as the latest craven move from a band that cares more about getting attention then making good music
*They think the new album is horrible (read my review here)
*They really can’t stand that Bono invokes both Joey Ramone’s and Joe Strummer’s names in a pitiful attempt to align U2 with these far superior artists who would never have done anything as commercial as get in bed with Apple.


The Washington Post called U2’s ploy “disgusting,” because the new album arrived in iTunes’ users inboxes like an uninvited guest, just lurking, mocking them.  Other journalists have brought up that the move devalues music by setting the price at free (In a total misunderstanding of this point, U2’s manager Guy Oseary has pointed out that U2 did not give the music away for free: Apple paid them dearly for it.) I’ve even seen arguments that Apple completely bungled the iPhone 6 launch because all people are talking about is the U2 album and not that there’s a new iPhone 6 and watch. Really? I didn’t even pay attention and I totally am able to grasp the fact that there are two new iPhone 6s coming and the iWatch. Do other journalists really think people are so stupid that they can’t grasp more than one takeaway from a product launch?

So here are a few thoughts of my own two days after the incident.

In one way, U2’s pact with Apple was a complete success: The band wanted people to know they have new music out and they have gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in free publicity touting the new album. Even the bad press is still alerting folks that there’s a new U2 album out there. Plus, there’s now a TV commercial advertising the album that Apple has paid for which some reports value at $100 million.  U2 and Apple have a long history of being in bed together: in 2004, Apple created a U2 iPod (remember them?) that had more than 400 U2 tracks available for purchase.

It’s hard for a band like U2 to get attention for new music otherwise. They released two songs earlier this year—neither one of which is on the new album— and they gained little traction. As part of rock’s greying old men club, U2 isn’t likely have a huge hit at radio these days unless it collaborates with Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea. Their last album, 2009's "No Line On The Horizon," sold 484,000 in its first week. There's likely no way that "Songs of Innocence" would have hit that number given the continuing downward spiral in album sales, so the band won't have to face humiliating first week numbers (The album comes out at a paid price the second week of October).

 I don’t blame them for dropping their new music this way. First off, they are one of the world’s biggest rock acts— and as their sold out tours show—still have a faithful following. There aren’t that many acts that iTunes would have found valuable to get in bed with, so that says something about U2’s enduring popularity. But what seems to bother so many critics is that U2 so badly wants attention in a way that seems unseemly and desperate. That doesn't bother me.  Most artists make music to be heard. U2 has never ever been about the small gesture. Ever. This might bother me if the move seemed out of character for U2, but it doesn't.

The release does raise one serious question: Should iTunes be able to drop anything into my “Purchased” box anytime it wants to, regardless of whether I choose to download it or not? In terms of facility of use, that was the easiest way to have someone download it, but I’m not sure I’d want to see it be a method employed often.

Worst case scenario? U2 fans get the new album for free. Plus, there may be some younger iTunes users who don’t care about U2, but since the album is waiting there for them to download at the push of a button, they will check it out. As far as the heat U2 is getting from critics, they can soothe  themselves by the soft landing their fat wallets afford.

What to watch for now is the adoption rate. Billboard reported that in the first 24 hours, 200,000 people downloaded the album. That is a paltry number if it is indeed available to 500 million. U2’s label, Interscope, says that number is wrong, but didn’t provide any figures. If people don’t care enough to even check it out for free, then that begins to be a much bigger issue for U2 and one that the band is supremely aware of. Bono has said that the band needed to find a way to stay relevant and the iTunes giveaway was a way to stand out. However, the way any act does that it through making great music. No gimmick will make a band seem relevant for one second longer if the music isn’t there…

 

Sam Smith

Who are the leading Grammy contenders for Best New Artist?

Eligibility closes the end of September

The Grammy Awards may not be until next February, but the eligibility period is nearing a close. As always, Best New Artist is one of the most coveted and hotly contended races. To be eligible, artists must have released an album between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014, but not have released more than three albums in their career. Additionally, this should be the year where they broke through in a significant way.

Some years, it’s easy to come up with way more than five strong candidates, but not this year. There have been a lot of new artists who have made an impression, but not that many that have been more than one-hit wonders so far… Nominations will be announced in December.

Our predictions for leading contenders for Best New Artist:

Sam Smith: Word of a new British crooner started to spread several months ago, then we heard him on Disclosure’s “Latch.” Then he appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and it was clear that there was a new star in the making via songs like “Stay With Me” and “I’m Not The Only One.” He’s the closest there is to a shoo-in this year for a best new artist nomination.

Iggy Azalea: Between “Fancy,” “Black Widow,” and her feature on Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” she’s on pop radio pretty much 24/7. She’s a very likely nominee, but she’s not a sure thing given that some folks still have a little trouble wrapping their head around an Australian rapper who sounds like she’s from Atlanta.

Five Seconds of Summer: Their mentors One Direction never received a best new artist nomination (in one of the more shocking omissions in recent years), so it’s possible that these lads won’t either since the Grammys run hot and cold on recognizing boy bands.

Ariana Grande: She would seem to be a sure bet, but you could argue that she should have been nominated when her first album, “Yours Truly,” hit No. 1 last year, as that would mark her breakthrough.

Disclosure: UK electronic duo, the Lawrence Brothers, were nominated for best dance/electronica album for the 2014 Grammy Awards. However, a rule change a few years ago means acts that have been nominated, but have not won a Grammy, can still be eligible for best new artist. This is definitely the year the group broke out into the mainstream, so their nomination is very possible.

MAGIC!: So far, they’re a one trick pony—although “Rude” was a pretty big trick. They will be aided by the fact that lead singer, Nasri, has written hits for other artists, so that gives him more credibility.

Charli XCX: After her success as featured artist on Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” the British singer is breaking out on her own with “Boom Clap,” her first top 10 hit as a solo artist.

YG: “My Krazy Life,” YG’s debut solo album, was very well received by critics and fans and spawned a number of hits, including  “Who You Love,” featuring Drake.

Fifth Harmony: Reality show contestants, if they aren’t named Kelly or Carrie or Fantasia, seldom get nominated for Grammys, but in a relatively light year, this girl group from The X Factor may stand a chance to round out the field.

Schoolboy Q: Quincey Matthew Hanley, aka Schoolboy Q,  took his Interscope debut to the top in February. The question here will be if his previous mix tapes are counted as previous releases. If so, he may not be eligible.

Other contenders:

Dan + Shay
Nico & Vinz
A Great Big World
Rita Ora
Tove Lo

Who deserves a nomination?

Nicki MInaj

Nicki Minaj announces release date for 'The Pinkprint'; Ellen takes on 'Anaconda'

Can the talk show host move it like Minaj?

Nicki Minaj will unleash her third studio album, “The Pinkprint,” on Nov. 24.

The “Anaconda” rapper announced the release date for the album, which is a play on Jay Z’s “The Blueprint” album title, via Twitter Tuesday night.

The album release comes 2 1/2 years after Minaj’s last full studio album, 2012’s “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.”

Minaj is all over the Billboard Hot 100 right now with “The Pinkprint’s” second single,“Anaconda,” at No. 3 and Jessie J’s “Bang Bang,” featuring Minaj and Ariana Grande, at No. 4.  She's also on Usher's new single, "She Came To Give It To You."  "The Pinkprint's" first single, “Pills n Potions,” peaked at No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Minaj joins a list of other superstars releasing albums in the fourth quarter, including Taylor Swift on Oct. 27;  Foo Fighters, Nov. 11; One Direction Nov. 17, and Garth Brooks the week after (possibly also on Nov. 24).

And, in case you missed it, Ellen Degeneres provided her booty-poppin' version of "Anaconda" on her talk show on Tuesday (9). Minaj appears on the show today.

 

 

 

Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea and Demi Lovato to headline first Vevo Certified SuperFanFest

Here's how you can see if if you can't be there


Iggy Azalea and Demi Lovato will headline Vevo’s inaugural Certified SuperFanFest concert, slated for Oct. 8 at Santa Monica, Calif.’s Barker Hangar.

Just as YouTube started its own awards ceremony last year, video streaming outlet Vevo, is following with its own live event.

An artist is “certified” on Vevo when his or her music videos reach 100 million views on the platform’s online, TV and mobile apps. Both Azalea and Lovato have attained that level for a combined five times and will be presented their awards by selected fans at the concert. Among videos certified by Lovato are “Heart Attack,” “Let It Go,” “Give Your Heart A Break” and “Skyscraper.” For Azalea, her 100 million-viewed vids include “Fancy” and Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” on which she is featured.

Fans can go to here to register to win tickets. http://certified.1iota.com/show/402/Vevo-Certified-SuperFanFest

Since Vevo began its Certified Awards, more than 325 by more than 100 artists have reached the benchmark.

The concert will begin airing on Vevo on Oct. 16.

U2

Album review: U2's 'Songs of Innocence'

HitFix
B
Readers
n/a
Band moves forward by looking back

Taking a trick from Beyonce’s playbook, U2 dropped its 13th studio album, “Songs of Innocence,” today without warning. The Irish band made the announcement at Apple’s event in Cupertino, Calif.

The aptly named “Songs of Innocence,” produced by Danger Mouse, with additional production by Ryan Tedder, Paul Epworth, Flood, and Declan Gaffney, is a song cycle that draws on the band members’ past— a time when they first met and everything was possible. It pays tribute to their influences (The Ramones, The Clash, The Beach Boys), first loves, growing up in the shadow of IRA violence, and the fallout of tough economic times. Bono’s vocals sound fresh and invigorated and the production sparkles. It’s a lovely album that is sentimental without ever losing its edge.

Below is a first-listen review: my take on each song by only listening to it once as I play the album straight through.

“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”: A chugging, mid-tempo track that recalls the moment that the members of U2 first heard and saw The Ramones and how it opened up the world to them. “I woke up at the moment the miracle occurred/I get so many things I don’t deserve,” Bono sings. It’s an intensely personal track. Musically, it’s not an homage to punk pioneers, but it captures the innocence of musical discovery. GRADE: B

“Every Breaking Wave”:  Gentle, mid-tempo track anchored by Larry Mullen’s steady drum beat then breaks open to a more expansive tune about chasing things we know will beat up.  The refrain echoes OneRepublic, which is not surprising given that Ryan Tedder produced the track with Danger Mouse. A very radio friendly effort. GRADE: B

“California (There is No End to Love)” The track opens with Bono chanting “Barbara Santa Barbara” in both a tribute to the city and the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann,” before giving way to a synth and beat-laden echo-y, propulsive track about how California/Hollywood dims your light if you let it. Written about the band’s first trip to SoCal, it sounds like it could have been on “No Line on the Horizon.” GRADE: B

“Song for Someone”: Sounds like another love letter from  Bono to his wife, Ali, whom he met when he was 14. “You’re got eyes that can see right through me/You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen…I don’t know how these cuts heal/but in you I found a rhyme.” The Edge gets some nice restrained solos in here. Deeply romantic. GRADE: B+

“Iris (Hold Me Close)”: Staccato, trademark playing by The Edge serves as the bed for this track about Iris, Bono’s mom, who died when he was 14.  She collapsed at her own father's funeral, only to die herself a few days later. It’s extremely personal, yet the love expressed is universal in its appeal. GRADE: A

“Volcano”: One of the most distinctive tunes on the track starts with a wicked bass line from Adam Clayton. It turns into U2 crossed with Oingo Boingo as Bono’s voice bounces all over the place in the electronic-fueled cautionary tale. Fun and quirky, especially as the voices rise in the background like ghosts of tunes past. New Wave is alive and well. GRADE: B

“Raised By Wolves”: Driving track framed around a 1974 car bombing that killed 33 people in Dublin. “I’m in a white van as a red sea covers/metal crash I can’t tell what it is,” Bono sings. “The worst things in the world are justified by belief,” he adds, a very strong statement for someone who has always worn his religious convictions on his sleeve. The skittering track is propelled by sharp keyboards and Mullen’s relentless beat. GRADE: B+

“Cedarwood Road”: About as hard rock/metal an intro as U2 has ever recorded, “Cedarwood Road” then transforms into one of its more traditional mid-tempo tracks (it’s a shame…it would have been interesting to see where they’d gone with the song if they’d kept the metal edge consistently instead of referencing it only occasionally as the song proceeds). The song, dedicated to Bono's childhood friend, Guggi, is about the street he grew up on and the tumult both out in the open and behind closed doors.  “And friendship once it’s won/It’s won…it’s one… A heart that is broken/is a heart that is open.”  GRADE: B-

“Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”: U2 switches it up again on this slinky, electronic track that starts out with a hypnotic, programmed loop and benefits from a distorted, fuzzy switch up. “Tomorrow dawns like a suicide/ But you’re gonna sleep like a baby tonight,” Bono sings. Then he surprises again by going into a ragged falsetto. Probably the album’s most adventurous track musically. GRADE: B

This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now”: Dedicated to The Clash’s Joe Strummer, the standout on the track is Edge’s piquant guitar work. Just as “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” pays homage to the Ramones, this track is a tribute to The Clash guitarist-- a soldier, in Bono's eyes-- and, more specifically, the group’s classic, “Sandinista!” GRADE: B

“The Troubles”:  The title, of course, refers to what the fighting between the English and IRA was called, but this dreamy track refers to more than that. The lyrics address that issue obliquely but the song is more about how we give away our soul without even realizing it. Interesting choice to have backing vocals/refrain sung by a chorus reminiscent of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone.” GRADE: B

 

 

 

 

U2

BREAKING: U2's new album, 'Songs of Innocence,' available free on iTunes

Set is free through mid-October

U2 has released its new album, “Songs of Innocence,” on iTunes for free.

The Irish superstars, along with Apple CEO  Tim Cook, made the announcement at the close of today’s Apple event in Cupertino, Calif.

The album, which features production by Danger Mouse, as well as Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Declan Gaffney and Flood, will be free to download to all iTunes account holders until mid-October, according to reports, in all 119 countries where iTunes is available.

“Songs of Innocence” will not be eligible to chart on the Billboard 200 because albums must be priced at no less than $3.49 in their first six weeks of release to be considered for chart inclusion.

In addition to download availability, the album is available for streaming on Beats music.

On Oct. 14, Interscope Records will make the album available to all retailers.

"Songs of Innocence" tracklisting

The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)
Every Breaking Wave
California (There Is No End To Love)
Song For Someone
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Volcano
Raised By Wolves
Cedarwood Road
Sleep Like A Baby Tonight
This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now
The Troubles

A deluxe edition will include acoustic versions of each song and four additional tracks, "Lucifer’s Hands," "The Crystal Ballroom,"  "The Troubles (Alternative version)," and "Sleep Like A Baby Tonight" (Alternative Perspective Mix by Tchad Blake).

 

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