Lee Brice
Credit: Curb

Interview: Lee Brice on Luke Bryan, Garth Brooks, and Bruno Mars

Why his ACM song of the year, 'I Drive Your Truck,' still chokes him up

Lee Brice first came to prominence as writer of such country hits as Tim McGraw’s “Still,”  “Crazy Girl” for Eli Young Band, and Garth Brooks’ “More Than a Memory,” the first song to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, so it may have seemed a bit strange to see him up on stage at the Academy of Country Music Awards two weeks ago as his massive hit, “I Drive Your Truck” —a tune he didn't write— snagged song of the year honors.  But give him credit for knowing a hit when he hears it. From the first listen, he related to the story of honoring and re-connecting with a lost loved one (in this case a fallen soldier).

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Beck
Credit: Larry Hirshowitz

Review: Beck simmers then rocks at KCRW taping

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He showcases 'Morning Phase' before jubilantly busting into his catalog

SANTA MONICA—Sandwiched in between his two Coachella appearances, Beck came in from the dusty desert to play an intimate show for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions here Wednesday night.

The 100-minute performance was twice as long as his Coachella set and certainly under more pleasant, less blustery conditions: the cosy confines of legendary producer/mixer Bob Clearmountain’s studio, which tightly packed in 200 of the public radio station’s supporters.

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Pharrell Williams
Credit: CBS

Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' is frozen at the top of the charts

What record does Billboard's Hot 100 set this week?

Pharrell’s “Happy” stays at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for its eighth week in an incredibly stagnant top 10. In fact, it’s a record-setting stagnancy….

For the first time in the chart’s 55 year history, the top seven tunes all stay locked in the same spot for three consecutive weeks, according to Billboard.

In case you haven’t memorized them, allow us to recap: At No. 1, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” No. 2, John Legend’s “All of Me,” No. 3, Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J; No 4, Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” featuring 2 Chainz; No. 5, Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go”; No. 6, Bastille’s “Pompeii,” and No. 7, Lorde’s “Team.”

DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” rises 10-8, trading places with OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars,” while Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” holds at No. 9.

The highest debut belongs to Ed Sheeran, whose “Sing,” written and produced by Pharrell, bows at No. 15.

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11 Fun Facts about U2, Duran Duran and Tears for Fears from 'Mad World'

11 Fun Facts about U2, Duran Duran and Tears for Fears from 'Mad World'

The oral history of New Wave artists bursts with entertaining stories

It doesn’t seem possible that it was around 30 years ago that A Flock of Seagulls ran so far away or Modern English melted with us, but it was.  The story behind those acts, their biggest hits, and dozens of other New Wave acts are captured in all their ‘80s bad hairdo-ed, brightly colored-glory in “Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists And Songs That Defined The 1980s.”

Written by Lori Majewski and Jonathan Bernstein, with a forward by Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes and an afterward by Moby, the book examines the New Wave era through the filter of 36 songs associated with the time, such as Gary Numan’s “Cars,” Duran Duran’s “Girls On Film” and The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now.”

Each chapter deals with one act and, while not limited to the group’s biggest hit, explores the story behind that tune and the band’s history in the members’ own words. Majewski and Bernstein open each chapter with their recollection of the song and artist, even if they weren’t fans. For example, Bernstein’s commentary on Howard Jones is “zzzzzzz.”

In addition to the oral histories, there are “That Was Then, But This Is Now” updates on the band’s current statuses, footnotes from affiliated acts, for example Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas talks about what it was like to fill in for Michael Hutchence in INXS or A Flock of Seagulls’ Mike Score weighs in on the jealousy he felt of Tears for Fears’ success, and a Mixtape box that suggests five likeminded acts and or songs, very often done with tongue planted firmly in cheek. It’s the perfect book to carry around and digest one chapter at a time.

Even the bands whose songs you don’t like have fun stories. A small caveat: the authors decided to focus on tunes that provided an entry point for the band in some cases, not necessarily the group’s biggest hit: For example, with Depeche Mode, the attention is on the Vince Clarke-era Depeche Mode and “New Life,” in part because that’s the only member they have an interview with. The Human League members most associated with that group’s biggest hit, “Don’t You Want Me,” also didn’t cooperate, so the chapter on Human League highlights “Being Boiled,” a 1978 tune from when Martyn Ware was still in the group before being ousted.

Majewski and Bernstein keep the tone light, admitting that there’s not even a standard definition for new wave, but they come up with one in their intro that fits the time perfectly: “It was a Tower of Babel populated by American bands who wanted to be British, British bands that wanted to be German, and German bands who wanted to be robots.”  They don’t aim to be completists (hence, the exclusion of such acts at The Cure) or scholarly, their aim to provide an entertaining, informative look back at a time when music was as much about image as sound (New Wave’s success does tie in with the birth of MTV, after all, and the perfect companion to this book is Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks' "I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution") and the weirder the hair, the higher the chart position.

Here are 10 fun facts from the book:

It, understandably, went right over people’s heads that Devo’s “Whip It” was a Thomas Pynchon-esque parody: “Some people assumed it was an S&M song, so we wanted to fulfill their expectations with the video,” says the groups Gerald Casale. “Others thought it was about jacking off. Every time we’d do a radio interview, typically the DJs would be these leftover seventies hippies. They’d have the satin baseball jackets form the record company and the big pile of coke, and they’d go, ‘Whip it, dude. Heh, heh, heh!’ and they’d make jerk-off moves. We’d start by telling them what it’s actually about thad that would bum them out, so then we realized we should just go along with it.”

Kajagoogoo almost had a very different name, inspired by, wait for it, Agatha Christie: “I’d go out to nightclubs in London with a spaceman’s outfit on and weird oil paint over my face, which was a bit punk/Toyah/Adam and the Ants,” says lead singer, Limahl. “I’d spend two hours getting ready. Choosing the name was an extension of that. I remember I’d been to see an Agatha Christie movie called ‘The Mirror Crack’d’ and I said we should call ourselves the Mirror Crack’d. But when Nick [Rhodes] walked in one day _ and Nick’s outfit really left of center, very bright, really out there —he said, ‘What do you think of Kajagoogoo?’ I immediately loved it. The other three looked puzzled, but they came round over a few days.

A Flock of Seagull’s Mike Score’s wild, wacky hairdo really did possess magical powers: “I didn’t wash if for a couple weeks at a time because it was just so locked int place — a can of Aquanet every night… Once it was up and we had gigs, it never came down. One show, a girl jumped onstage, ran over to me, touched my fair, and fainted. I came offstage that night, and my manager said, “‘I think you’re got something there!’”  

Vince Clarke has no regrets about leaving Depeche Mode, despite its monstrous success: “When I decided to leave, it wasn’t for another music band or to form Yaz — I just decided to leave. We were just young and things happened quite quickly for us, and there were a lot of egos flying around. I was just fed up. In retrospect, i’m really glad [I left]. No regrets at all, because i’ve worked with some really brilliant artists.”

OMD wrote “If You Leave” at the last minute for John Hughes: Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark originally submitted another song for “Pretty In Pink,” but when director Hughes changed the ending, the song no longer fit and he asked them to write a new one. “We worked till four in the morning and we banged onto a cassette the rough demo, then called a motorcycle to take it to Paramount,” recalls Andy McCluskey (clearly in the days before email and MP3s). “We got a phone call at half-past eight the next morning from our manager saying, ‘John’s already in the office—he’s heard the cassette and he loves it. Can you finish it off?’…That’s how ‘If You Leave’ was created—completely off the top of our heads in one day in Hollywood.”

Tears For Fears’ Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal didn’t say a single word to each for a decade: After the band broke up, after living side by side from 13 to 27, “we didn’t talk to each other for 10 years,” says Smith. “I moved to L.A. Eventually, his manager called me out of the blue to ask if i’d be interested in doing another record with Roland. My initial reaction was ‘No way!’…but then I thought, ‘That’s kind of unfair. It’s been 10 years. I don’t even know what he’s like anymore…We met up in Bath. It wasn’t weird at all. I mean, it was weird for the first 10 minutes, but after that, it was fine.”  And yeah, fame can be confusing. “We were 20 when [‘The Hurting’] came out…half the audience wouldn’t make eye contact; the other half were trying to rip our shirts off.”

Don’t put Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch in the same room with U2’s Bono: “[Our music] might not be right for the 100,000 people with cowboy hats singing, ‘Where The Streets Have No Name.’ I suggest they get their f**king sheriff on the case if their streets have no name. Bono — Nobo, that’s his f**king name. What a gibbering, leprechaunish twat. He’s up to no good. He’s more out of his mind than I’ve ever seen anybody and that includes Mel Gibson on the David Letterman show when his head spun around 360 times. He’s the most banal, buffooneried-up, fucking leprechaun. He’s kissed more Blarney Stones than I’ve had hot dinners. I wish they’d been toxic so he’d f**k off.”

Don’t put Paul Young in the same room as Joy Division’s Peter Hook: “Paul Young’s was the most famous [cover of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’] and at the time, I hated it,” Hook recalls. “But then, we made more money off of that rendition than we ever did as Joy Division. It’s quite painful, isn’t it? It was snooty, and it was everything we don’t want to be— cabaret.”

A-ha’s “Take On Me” success was a blessing and a curse: “I’m totally at peace with ‘Take On Me,” says the band’s Magne “Mags” Furuholmen, “but I know there are other people in our group who would rather not talk about that song…You feel for the other songs that you bled for, and the ones that didn’t get attention. It’s like you have two kids, and someone always talks about how great one kid is.”

Modern English’s “I Melt With You” is apocalyptic: “[When ‘I Melt With You’ was first released as a single in 1982] I don’t think many people realized it was about a couple making love as the bomb dropped. As they made love, they become one and melt together,” says Modern English’s Robbie Grey. And yet, Hershey still decided to use it to sell chocolate…

Duran Duran's Simon LeBon likes dark-haired lovelies and he doesn't like sumo wrestlers: "What do I remember most [about shooting the video for 'Girls on Film?'] The one with the dark hair. Some guys like blondes, some guys like dark haired girls, and I realized absolutely which one I liked and was going for. It was very sexy, and then, watching it back, there was some turn off as well as turn-on. Like the sumo wrestler guy-- I think that is universally the great turn-off in that video."

 

 

 

 

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Jake Bugg wants you to win

Enter to win a free Jake Bugg limited edition EP

Receive the 'Lightning Bolt' singer's new Record Store Day EP for free!

British singer/songwriter Jake Bugg’s  “Lightning Bolt” made our list of Top 10 Singles of 2013 last year, so we were excited to hear that he has new music coming out for April 19’s Record Store Day.

And if you’re a fan, so should you, because now you can win it here and avoid the lines during Record Store Day altogether. We’re kidding about the last part, you should definitely still hit up your local record store, if you’re lucky enough to still have one, and pick up some other favorites, but you won’t have to fight folks for Jake Bugg’s latest.

Bugg is releasing “Live at Silver Platters,” an exclusive EP that features four acoustic tracks recorded Jan. 20 at Seattle’s Silver Platters  and will be available only vinyl and CD. The track list for “Live at Silver Platters” is “There’s a Beast and We All Feed It,” “Trouble Town,” “Lightning Bolt” and “Storm Passes Away.”

All you have to do to enter to win is follow @HitfixMelinda on Twitter and retweet the below tweet (you have to do both to be eligible).

 

Then, for a second chance, follow @Hitfix on Twitter and retweet this second tweet.

 

 

The contest ends at 12:30 p.m. PDT on Monday, April 21. See the official rules here. Entrants must be U.S. citizens and 18 or older. 

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Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams slows it down for 'Here' from 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

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Will the ballad make you happy?

Last time Pharrell wrote and performed a song for a movie, he came up with “Despicable Me 2’s” “Happy.”  For “Here” from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the grin, although subdued, is still on his face.

On love ballad, “Here,” he’s pledging love to his sweetie, declaring “It seems we’re here again/it seemed the right trajection/And I promise on our existence…we have unfinished business/and so my word as I cross the bridges/with zero regard for limits” that he will love her forever.

So, basically, Pharrell threw in lots of imagery that conjures up Spidey swinging from building to building, over bridges, etc, to declare his love for Gwen Stacy. Add in some sweet strings, a swaying melody, acoustic guitar and call it a day.

Except, if it were anyone other than Pharrell, who has made some of the catchiest music of the past year, not once, not twice, but three times between “Happy,” and his participation on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” we’d probably give him a pass, but this is a weak effort. Maybe ballads aren’t Pharrell’s strong suit, but there is no excuse for lyrics like, “So next time you see this place/remember we were alone/we’ll bring our children from home/that’s right, oh yeah, I’m going to go there.”  Oh no, he didn’t…

In addition to this song, Pharrell also co-wrote and produced Alicia Keys’ “It’s On Again,” featuring Kendrick Lamar from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”  and scored the movie with Hans Zimmer and the Smiths’ Johnny Marr. Maybe by the time he got around to writing “Here,” he was just plum tuckered out. Or maybe he needed to go hat shopping and got distracted.

Listen below and, just in case you’ve missed it, watch this really lovely snippet of Pharrell getting all choked up when he and Oprah Winfrey watch a clip of people from all over the world dancing to “Happy.” It makes him happy that he's made so many of us happy.

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AC/DC

AC/DC confirms Young's illness, to continue to make music

Band shoots down reports of 'retirement'

For those about to rock, it’s been a tough few days and today AC/DC confirmed fans’ worst fears, while holding out some hope.

Over the last three days, the internet has run rife with speculation that AC/DC's rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who co-founded the band with brother Angus in 1973, had suffered a stroke and blood clot bringing the career to one of rock and roll’s most successful, long-lived acts to a halt. Sources reported that the band would “never make music again” and retire. Additionally, a 40-city tour to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary, hinted at by vocalist Brian Johnson, would also be taken off the schedule.

With little fanfare and even less detail, the band posted the following statement on its website today: “After forty years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health. Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support. In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.”

So in a few sentences, AC/DC managed to confirm that Young had suffered a health setback without giving any details, he was taking a leave from the band, and also let fans know that they were not retiring.

In fact, there are also reports that AC/DC plans to enter a recording studio later this year to work on the follow up to 2008’s “Black Ice,” which sold more than 700,000 copies in its first week of the release in the U.S. alone. In an interview with the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper, Johnson said that the band was headed to a Vancouver studio next month. “We’re going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes ideas. If anything happens, we’ll record it.”

While Johnson declined to confirm anything about Young’s condition, in fact, he would not even acknowledge that Young was the ill member —the interview took place before the statement was released this morning—he did admit that “One of the boys has a debilitating illness,” adding that “I wouldn’t like to say anything either way about the future.”

As far as the tour, given that it was never confirmed, it would also seem to not be happening, at least not in the near future.

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Real Estate

Zombie skateboarders, Thai food and more in Real Estate's 'Crime' video

Funny or Die's parody works because it's not far off the mark

Some parodies work because they are just the slightest exaggeration with how it seems to work in real life. Such is the case with Real Estate’s “Crime” video, which debuted on Funny or Die.

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The Beatles
Credit: United Artists

Revisiting The Beatles'classic film, 'A Hard Day's Night,' at 50

Does the movie retain its freshness and vitality half a century later?

LOS ANGELES—I have a confession to make. Until Saturday night, I had never seen The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”  What? I know! I felt like this was a major black hole in my cultural education, especially as someone who makes her living writing about music.

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Alicia Keys and Pharrell steal spotlight from Spider-Man in 'It's On Again' video
Credit: Vevo

Alicia Keys and Pharrell steal spotlight from Spider-Man in 'It's On Again' video

Does the clip get you excited for the movie?

There’s a lot of Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams in the new video for “It’s On Again” from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and not so much Spidey.

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