<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Record of the Year

Will it be Taylor Swift, fun., or Gotye?

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at one of the top four awards, Record of the Year.

Record of the Year nominees:
“Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys (The Black Keys & Danger Mouse, producers)
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You,” Kelly Clarkson (Greg Kurstin, producer)
“We Are Young,” fun. featuring Janelle Monae (Jeff Bhasker, producer)
“Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye featuring Kimbra (Wally de Backer, producer)
“Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” Frank Ocean (Frank Ocean, producer)
“We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift (Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift, producers)

WHO’S MISSING: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is a much better record than song (see the explanation below) and it would have fared better in this category than in Song of the Year. Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” continued what “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave” started, which is strong acoustic guitar and banjo playing brought to the forefront in the mix, which isn’t something you hear every day on pop radio.

: Unlike Song of the Year, which goes to the songwriter, Record of the Year is an award for the artist and the other people involved in the sound of the record, including the producer and engineer. All of the selections here offer interesting productions, but “We Are Young” and “Somebody That I Used To Know” were especially noteworthy for their non-traditional, innovative productions. Clever arrangements made both songs stand out like beacons in the cluttered radio landscape. They sounded like nothing else coming out of the speakers and they both helped usher in a new era of pop music that is smart as it is accessible.

Fun. has more nominations than Gotye overall and that can sometimes sway voters. Both “We Are Young” and “Somebody That I Used to Know” were massive hits. In fact, four of the six songs nominated here were Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers.

“Somebody That I Used To Know,” Gotye (by a nose)

Previous predictions:

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Song of the Year
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Best Rock Song
Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Album
Best New Artist

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<p>Josh Groban</p>

Josh Groban

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Josh Groban on rocking out on 'All That Echoes' and tattoos

Famous baritone enlists Paul McCartney and Pearl Jam players for set

While a Josh Groban album may be the last place one would expect “Kashmir”-like strings and guitars, on “All That Echoes,” the classical crossover singer veers momentarily into Led Zeppelin territory on the lushly atmospheric  “Hollow Talk.” 

If the detour surprises his fans, that’s just fine with the multi-platinum singer.  “I feel like we’ve done something really special, hopefully they will too,” he says. “Most importantly, if it’s honest, they’ll get that, but I always enjoy giving people what they didn’t know they wanted.”

“All That Echoes,” which came out Tuesday (Feb. 5), and quickly topped iTunes albums chart,  features the famous baritone singing seven songs he co-wrote. Groban’s songs stand side-by-side with five others by such noted songwriters/artists as Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Webb, and Glen Hansard.

Produced by Rob Cavallo, Groban’s sixth studio album aims to capture the vibrant feel of his live shows. To facilitate that energy, Cavallo, best known for producing acts like Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, and My Chemical Romance, collected a who’s who of rock musicians to play on the set, including drummers Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam) and Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul McCartney), as well as bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), guitarist Tim Pierce (Dave Matthews) and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac (Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac).  The rockers played alongside a harpist, violinist and cellist.

“They balanced each other out in such an amazing way to see every day,” Groban says. “The rock guys brought an energy to the orchestral players and the orchestral players brought a fluidity and a musicality and kind of more of a restraint, if you will, to the guys that were coming form the rock side...When we’re in [the studio], we’re just thinking about making really exciting things come out of the speakers. It doesn’t become more complicated than that.”

While the album falls well within the boundaries that Groban’s longtime popera fans expect, he’s also eager to go against any perceived stereotyping he’s experienced.

“Anybody in the public eye at any level in any part of the entertainment or sports world feels expectations from their fans and feels a certain amount of pigeonholing from their fans. I don’t think I’m any exception to that,” he says. “At the same time, it’s a delicate balance when you’re in the studio and kind of siloed in your own little world and you’re battling between what you’re inspired by everyday and what the expectations of the fans are and what your main goal is, which is to be a communicator of music to make people feel good or to feel the music fully. Ultimately if you’re having the time of your life but people aren’t connecting to your sound, then, to a certain extent, you’ve kind of missed the cause.”

One of more striking songs on the album is “Below the Line,” which Groban wrote after volunteering with “Live Below The Line,” a non-profit that raises funds for people living in extreme poverty. It also spreads awareness by asking people to live on $2 a day, the amount that 1.3 billion people living in poverty subsist on. 

“I just happened to be exploring that particular charity and going through the fasting period on a day I had to write and so while the song itself is not specifically about that organization, it triggered a lyrical message that we ran with and that we felt was a good universal, humanist kind of message. That song was written within two or three hours... and I was really hungry. That message [is] if we’re not helping others  and not seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening in the world, then we’re truly not helping ourselves.”

Groban, who will appear on “CSI: New York” as himself on Valentine’s Day, co-hosted “Live with Kelly” a number of times and was rumored to be in the running to become the permanent co-host before Michael Strahan got the job. Groban stresses he could have never handled full-time hosting duties with his busy music schedule, but adds he loved interviewing people and it gave him a new sympathy for journalists.
“You’re trying to fill many roles when you’re interviewing. On a show like that, you’re genuinely curious about things that are going on with them, but you have about 30 seconds to get the answer and then you have to make sure, of course, that you’re making them look good and that you get it all in before commercial,” he says. “You’ve got a million things going on around you while you’re trying to have the conversation.”

The singer, who has also acted on "The Office," and "Crazy,Stupid, Love,"  among other shows, recently told Reuters that he hopes to take a hiatus from making music in the next few years to do theater.

The prodigious (and often hilarious) Tweeter will hit the road to support “All That Echoes”  in April. On the schedule are three shows at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. Sure to be in attendance are his most fervent fans, dubbed Grobanites. Some of his fans feel such ardor towards the singer that they go so far as to get tattoos os his signature.

Though flattered by his fans’ passion, Groban says he has no one’s name he’d like permanently etched on his body. “You know, if I were going to get a tattoo, i probably would have gotten one by now,” he says. “No, I think that I try to keep my tattoos ingrained in my brain.”

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<p>Frank Ocean</p>

Frank Ocean

Credit: AP Photo

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Urban Contemporary Album

It's Chris Brown vs. Frank Ocean....again

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best Urban Contemporary Album.

Best Urban Contemporary Album nominees:
“Fortune,” Chris Brown
“Kaleidoscope Dream,” Miguel
“Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean

WHO’S MISSING: Lots of folks. Usher's“Looking 4 Myself,” for one. At this point, you may be asking yourself why are there only three nominees?  According to Recording Academy rules, a category must receive at least 40 entries for five recordings to receive nominations. If the category receives between 25-39, then only three recordings receive nominations. Maybe the labels applying were as confused about the difference between Best Urban Contemporary Album, a new category this year,  and Best R&B Album as I am. For example, Anthony Hamilton’s “Back to Love” and R. Kelly’s “Write Me Back” are up for Best R&B Album. To complicate matters, Chris Brown won Best R&B Album two years ago. According to the description, Best Urban Contemporary Album goes to a work that “includes more contemporary elements of R&B” and may also elements of other musical forms.

THE PLAYERS: In case you missed it, two of the nominees, Chris Brown and Frank Ocean got in a little dust-up at a Los Angeles recording studio last week, so this has now turned into a bit of a grudge match. Brown, who last won in 2011 for “F.A.M.E.,” didn’t have as much success with “Fortune,” whereas Miguel’s single, “Adorn,” from “Kaleidoscope Dreams,” has spent 20 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

In a just world, this is a race between Miguel and Ocean’s albums, both of which are far superior to Brown’s “Fortune.” Both “Kaleidoscope Dream” and “Channel Orange” are career-making albums and creative tours de force, but Ocean has the greater awareness across multiple genres.

THE WINNER: “Channel Orange,”  Frank Ocean

Previous predictions:

Song of the Year
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Best Rock Song
Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Album
Best New Artist

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Watch: Bruno Mars' new video for 'When I Was Your Man'

Watch: Bruno Mars' new video for 'When I Was Your Man'

No-fuss video fits stripped-down song

Bruno Mars keeps it simple for the video for current single, “When I Was Your Man.”

The gorgeous ballad is a highlight on Mars’ former chart-topping sophomore album, “ Unorthodox Jukebox.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Mumford and Sons</p>

Mumford and Sons

Credit: AP Photo

Vampire Weekend and Mumford & Sons to headline Sasquatch Festival

Phoenix and Kendrick Lamar tapped for Sweetlife Festival

Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, the Postal Service, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis will headline this year’s Sasquatch! Music Festival.

The alternative music festival takes place at the Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash., May 24-27.

The line-up also includes Sigur Ros, The xx, The Lumineers, Arctic Monkeys, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Imagine Dragons, Grimes, Built to Spill and Alt-J, among others.

An internet pre-sale starts Feb. 6, with tickets going on sale to the general public on Feb. 9. Four-day passes are $337.50 and includes camping and parking.

For more information, go here.

In other festival news, Phoenix will headline Maryland's Sweetlife Festival, which takes place May 11 at the Merriweather Pavilion in Columbia. Other acts on the bill include Kendrick Lamar, Passion Pit, Solange and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


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<p>Tim &nbsp;McGraw's 'Two Lanes of Freedom'</p>

Tim  McGraw's 'Two Lanes of Freedom'

Credit: Big Machine Records

Review: Tim McGraw is in the driver’s seat on 'Two Lanes of Freedom'

Taylor Swift and Keith Urban are along for the ride on new album

Tim McGraw started having hits with his second album in 1994, but he didn’t really get interesting until he ditched the hokiness of songs like  “Indian Outlaw” and  the treacly “Don’t Take The Girl” and started addressing life’s larger themes on 1999’s “A Place In The Sun.”

With songs like the yearning “Please Remember Me” and the wistful “My Next Thirty Years,”  he started getting stronger material. By the time 2001’s “Set This Circus Down” came out, with such tracks as  “Angry All The Time,” and the next album’s “Red Ragtop,”  he had completely re-energized his career and given it a gravitas it has been missing.

On “Two Lanes of Freedom,” out today,  the lite McGraw is largely in charge. On songs like last summer’s throwaway “Truck Yeah” and the infinitely better and bouncier “Mexicoma,” the only goal is  good time, whether it’s in an effort to escape a past love or just get some mud on the flaps.

Maybe he’s feeling lighter because he’s finally been unshackled from his onerous contract with Curb Records and is now on Big Machine.
To be sure, there are hints of deeper meaning, such as on the poignant “The Book of John.” The cleverly-titled song details going through a father/husband’s photo albums and effects following his death as they head to his funeral. “It’s almost like he’s not really gone/and I know one day I’ll be passing on,” McGraw sings. As he’s moved into middle age, McGraw does death well.

Without McGraw’s own backstory, a song like “Number 37405” would just be another singer-turned-convict tale, but the story of the entertainer who goes to jail for killing someone while driving drunk has an added weight given that McGraw gave up drinking more than five years ago after he found it had too strong a hold on him.

The album, which is sure to be his 12th album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, begins and ends with the open road and the word “shotgun” here is reserved solely for the passenger front seat.  On album opener “Two Lanes of Freedom,” a sense of wide open spaces is bolstered by the big backing vocals, redolent of fun.’s “Some Nights.” Closing tune, midtempo “Highway Don’t Care” is a sure future No. 1 as McGraw duets with Taylor Swift, who sounds sweet and all grown up here,  on the tale of a man who just wants his lover to stay closer to home no matter how much the road calls. Keith Urban turns some tasty guitar work on the tune. Unlike some superstar projects (like McGraw’s duet with Kenny Chesney, “Rock Star), this combined effort seems more organic than an idea conceived in the VP of marketing’s office.

With McGraw feeling like he’s back in the driver’s seat, good things are sure to come. “Two Lanes” is a strong start, but it feels like only the tip of the iceberg, especially when fans know McGraw is capable of so much more range.

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<p>Carly Rae Jepsen's &quot;Call Me Maybe&quot;</p>

Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Song of the Year

Carly Rae Jepsen takes on Miguel and Kelly Clarkson

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at one of the big four general awards: the coveted Song of the Year.

Song of the Year nominees:

"The A Team" Ed Sheeran, songwriter (Ed Sheeran)
"Adorn" Miguel Pimentel, songwriter (Miguel)
"Call Me Maybe" Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen & Josh Ramsay, songwriters (Carly Rae Jepsen)
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin & Ali Tamposi, songwriters (Kelly Clarkson)
"We Are Young" Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun featuring Janelle Monáe)

WHO’S MISSING: Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” is an obvious omission here, as are record of the year nominees Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.”

THE PLAYERS: Song of the year goes to the songwriter, so it’s helpful to think of the tunes in demo form, stripped of nothing but a voice and maybe a guitar or piano.  Quite frankly, this isn’t that strong a slate. While “Call Me Maybe” certainly captured a pop culture moment, so did “Gangnam Style”: That doesn’t make something a great song. Miguel’s “Adorn” has dominated the R&B charts, staying at No. 1 for 20 weeks, but that won’t necessarily sway the vote since this category is open to the entire 12,000-voting panel. People really like Kelly Clarkson, but more for her voice than for the song “Stronger.” Ed Sheeran is developing into a really great songwriter, but his material with Taylor Swift and One Direction is more interesting than “The A Team.”

This is a race between “Call Me Maybe,” for its iconic status, and “We Are Young,” which is the far more interesting song.

THE WINNER: “We Are Young,” Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun featuring Janelle Monáe)

Previous Predictions:

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Best Rock Song
Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Album
Best New Artist


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<p>Justin Timberlake at the 2013 SAG&nbsp;Awards.</p>

Justin Timberlake at the 2013 SAG Awards.

Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Justin Timberlake reveals details on his new documentary and album

Why is it called 'The 20/20 Experience?'

Like seemingly every musician breathing today,  Justin Timberlake is making a documentary.  And we’ve already seen some it.

It turns out that the video snippet he dropped Jan. 10 announcing that he was “ready” to make more music is a portion from the forthcoming documentary.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>The Postal Service's &quot;Give Up&quot;</p>

The Postal Service's "Give Up"

Credit: Sub Pop

The Postal Service delivers additional concert dates beyond Coachella

U.S. stops include Las Vegas and Brooklyn

As expected, The Postal Service has added more dates to its 10th anniversary tour. Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello have added 10 more concerts in addition to the pair’s previously announced stop at Coachella on April 13 and April 20.

Six of the 10 dates are in the U.S., while the other four additional dates are in Europe, among them Barcelona’s Primavera Soundwave festival.

As previously announced, the 10th anniversary of The Postal Service’s “Give Up,” comes out April 9 on Sub Pop. It includes the original 10-track album and 15 bonus tracks, including new songs, “Turn Around” and “A Tattered Line of String.”

The band will include Jenny Lewis and Laura Burhenn. Lewis appeared on the original recording of "Give Up." 

Looks like these dates are just the beginning, according to a press release  More dates will be announced as they are confirmed.

04/09/13 Tue - Reno NV @ Grand Sierra Theatre
04/10/13 Wed - Davis CA @ Mondavi Center
04/13/13 Sat - Indio CA @ Coachella
04/12/13 Fri - San Luis Obispo CA @ Madonna Expo Center
04/18/13 Thu - Phoenix AZ @ Comerica Theatre
04/19/13 Fri - Las Vegas NV @ Chelsea Ballroom at the Cosmopolitan
04/20/13 Sat - Indio CA @ Coachella
05/18/13 Sat - Manchester UK @ Academy 2
05/20/13 Mon - London UK @ Brixton Academy
05/21/13  Tues - Paris FR @ Trianon
05/23/13 Thu - Barcelona SP @ Primavera Soundwave
06/14/13 Fri - New York NY @ Barclay's

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Credit: AP Photo

Beyonce's new world tour kicks off April 15 in Serbia

The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour comes to the U.S. in June

Hot on the stiletto heels of her electrifying Super Bowl XLVII performance, Beyonce announced The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. 

Jay-Z’s Missus arrives in the U.S. on June 28 at Los Angeles’ Staples Center. But before alighting stateside,  Beyonce, aka Mrs. Shawn Carter, will kick off the tour  April 15 in Belgrade, Serbia at Kombank Arena.

The tour travels through Europe and the U.K. until May 29, where it stops in Stockholm.

After a month-long hiatus, The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour picks back up in the United States on the West Coast and travels east, hitting arenas throughout North America, until the first leg ends at, conveniently enough, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Aug. 3.  Jay-Z opened the New York arena last year with eight sold-out concerts. Jay-Z owns a tiny percentage of Barclays Center’s main tenant, the Brooklyn Nets, and is the public face of the venue.

Beyonce’s website offers no info on ticketing just yet.

Additionally, there’s no word on whether a new album will drop before the tour starts, but we bet it will. Or the month between the close of the European dates and the U.S. dates will be used for the new album’s promotion.

In the meantime, if you didn’t get enough of Bey at the Super Bowl, her HBO documentary, “Life is But A Dream,” premieres Feb. 16.

Click here for the European dates. The North American dates are below.

June 28: Los Angeles (BET Experience/Staples Center)
June 29: Las Vegas, NV (MGM Grand Garden Arena)?
July 2: San Jose, CA (HP Pavilion at San Jose)?
July 5: Oklahoma City, OK (Chesapeake Energy Arena)?
July 6: Dallas, TX (American Airlines Center)?
July 9: Ft. Lauderdale, FL (BB&T Center)?
July 10: Miami, FL (American Airlines Arena)?
July 12: Atlanta, GA (The Arena @ Gwinnett Center)?
July 13: Nashville, TN (Bridgestone Arena)?
July 15: Houston, TX (Toyota Center)
July 17: Chicago, IL (United Center)?
July 18: St. Paul, MN (Xcel Energy Center)?
July 20: Detroit, MI (The Palace of Auburn Hills)?
July 21: Toronto, ON (Air Canada Centre)?
July 22: Montreal, QC (Bell Centre)
July 23: Boston, MA (TD Garden)?
July 25: Philadelphia, PA (Wells Fargo Center)?
July 26: Atlantic City, NJ (Boardwalk Hall)?
July 27: Charlotte, NC (Time Warner Cable Arena)
July 29: Washington, DC (Verizon Center)
Aug. 2: Uncasville, CT (Mohegan Sun)?
Aug. 3: Brooklyn, NY (Barclays Center)

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