<p>Maroon 5</p>

Maroon 5

Credit: AP Photo

Does Maroon 5's 'One More Night' hold off Psy's 'Gangnam Style' one more week?

It's a close race on the Billboard Hot 100

Maroon 5’s “One More Night” squeaks by Psy’s surging “Gangnam Style” to spend its third week atop the Billboard Hot 100.

In the closest race for the top spot since February, “One More Night” grabs the crown because of its radio play and streaming, although “Gangnam Style” outsold “One More Night” by almost 100,000 digital downloads. The Hot 100 combines airplay, streaming, and digital sales.

That’s not the only excitement on the chart: Taylor Swift’s “Begin Again,” the second track she’s released from her forthcoming album, “Red,” blasts onto the Hot 100 at No. 7, making it the highest debut by a female since Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” entered the chart at No. 1 in March, according to Billboard.  The first single from “Red,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” spent three weeks at No. 1.

Otherwise, things remain fairly static on the Top 10. Fun.’s “Some Nights” remains at No. 3, Swift’s “Never” at No. 4 and Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” at No. 5.

Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” featuring Big Sean rises 7-6. Flo Rida’s “Whistle” drops 6-8, Alex Clare’s “Too Close” holds at No. 9 and Owl City/Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Good Time” falls 8-10.

Outside the Top 10, Ke$ha’s “Die Young” enters at No. 13, while Rihanna’s “Diamond’s” starts its chart run at No. 16.

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<p>Cher Lloyd</p>

Cher Lloyd

Credit: Cherlloyd.com

Album Review: 'X Factor's' Cher Lloyd arrives stateside with 'Sticks + Stones'

Can the U.K. teen break through in the U.S.?

Cher Lloyd arrives on U.S. shores today with her debut album, “Sticks + Stones.” Followers of the U.K. version of "The X Factor" will recognize her name from her stint on that show, which led to her signing with  "X Factor" creator Simon Cowell’s Syco label.

Fellow U.S. “X Factor” judge L.A. Reid picked Lloyd up for the U.S. in hopes of having his first true breakthrough act since taking over Epic last summer. Sadly, she’s not going to be it...at least not with this album.

Lloyd is not untalented (and yes, we realize that’s damning her with faint praise), but there are so many hands in the mix here in the desire to genetically engineer a pop star that it’s hard to tell where she ends and the producers’ studio synthetic wizardry begins.  All the A-List studio kings are here, whether it’s Max Martin, Shellback, Red One, Mike Posner or Savan Kotecha.

Producer/writers Shellback and Kotecha are responsible for first single, the stompy “Want U Back,” which has sold more than a million copies in the U.S. The song reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, driven more by sales than radio play.

At various times, she’s either imitating Nicki Minaj (“Behind The Music”) or Avril Lavigne AND Ke$ha  ( “Oath”),  The Spice Girls  (“Swagger Jagger”),   Beyonce AND Rihanna (“End Up Here”) or , in perhaps the biggest stretch, M.I.A. (“With  Ur Love”).  Guess what? They all do themselves better than she does.

The 19-year old has an sassy playfulness, exhibited on the catchy “Superhero” and bouncy, rapping “Grow Up” featuring Busta Rhymes. She can also evoke a Katy Perry-like appeal on ballad “Beautiful People” featuring Carolina Liar’s Chad Wolf. However, overall “Sticks + Stones” feels like a soulless endeavor that’s so manufactured, anyone hoping to discover who Lloyd is as an artist will have to wait until the next album...if there is one. 

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<p>Taylor Swift's &quot;Red&quot; single cover</p>

Taylor Swift's "Red" single cover

Credit: Big Machine

Listen: Taylor Swift goes through 50 shades on new track, 'Red'

Title track from her new album laments a lost love

The drip toward the Oct. 22 release of Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, “Red,” continues. Today, we get a lyric video for the title track.

“Red” is about —say it with me— a love gone wrong. Musically, it falls closer to the upbeat pop of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” than the quiet country beauty of ballad “Begin Again.”  In fact, the only thing remotely country about “Red” is the banjo that periodically appears in the tune.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Frank Ocean</p>

Frank Ocean

Credit: AP Photo/Vegard Grott/NTB scanpix

Mumford, Frank Ocean, Bob Dylan lead Grammy album of the year contenders

Who else makes our Top 10?

Did you hear that sound Sunday night? It was the door slamming on eligibility for the 2012 Grammy Awards.

The Grammy year runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30, so Sunday at midnight marked the last moment that artists could release albums for consideration. The Grammy nominations will be announced Dec. 5 during a CBS special. The 55th annual Grammy Awards will take place Feb. 10, 2013.

In July, we looked at early contenders for album of the year with the caveat that September would see a rush of contenders. The past two months have given a little perspective on some earlier selections. For example, I would not expect Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel...” to still be a front-runner.

Here are my predictions for the ten albums most likely to get an Album of the Year nod. There will be five titles in contention, six if there is a tie among Grammy voters. I listed them alphabetically, but I’d put Mumford & Sons and Frank Ocean under sure bets.

The Black Keys, “El Camino”:  This album seems to have garnered less excitement than  “Brothers,” but it’s a very solid effort that continues to expand on Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s musical exploration that combines rock and blues in a way that appeals to both the mainstream audience and purists.

Bob Dylan, “Tempest”: 
Dylan devotees love this album, calling it his best and most cohesive in years. This year also marks the 50th anniversary since he released his first album. He’s won this award before in 1998 for “Time Out Of Mind.” Voters may be aware that time to honor our greatest living singer/songwriter could be running out. 

Florence + The Machine: “Ceremonials”: Flo and friends’ second album didn’t have the massive mainsteam hit like “Dog Days Are Over.” It has something better:  a breadth of cuts that keep springing forth from the set, making the album far more consistent than “Lungs.” There seemed to be a new video every month and the act spent a lot of time touring here, which got them in front of lots of eyeballs, as well as ears.

Maroon 5, “Overexposed”: It’s not a likely choice, to be sure, but it is a pop album that delivered this year: two top 10 hits and counting, and helped continue bring back Maroor 5 on the back of “Moves Like Jagger.”

John Mayer, “Born & Raised”: John Mayer’s latest suffered greatly due to his inability to promote it properly because of his vocal issues. It’s a shame because it is a beautiful album, full of nuanced guitar playing and songs from a singer who has grown up in front of us and is finally acting like a man.

Mumford & Sons, “Babel”:
  While the British folk-rock group isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, even people who don’t love their furious acoustic tunes, admire their musicianship and the emphasis they put on live instrumentation. They’ve been nominated before and were good enough to play with Dylan, for goodness’s sake.

Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”:
Released to universally strong reviews, “Channel Orange” is an exceptionally intimate, interesting R&B album that appeals to a wide audience. Plus, Ocean’s story is a compelling one that complements, instead of overshadows, the music. If he can keep momentum going, he’s the closest thing to a sure bet for a nomination.??

Bonnie Raitt, “Slipstream”: Grammy favorite Raitt’s first album in seven years showcases her seemingly effortless guitar work as well as her always touching, raspy vocals. Every year, the Grammys look to honor veteran artist and she could fall into that slot, although even suggesting that she’s in any way a token nominee denigrates her great work on “Slipstream.”

Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball”:
As he did with “The Rising," The Boss taps into these troubled times and crafts an album full of what we need to hear, even if we don’t want to. Plus, the strength of a number of cuts, including “Rocky Ground,” “Jack of All Trades,” and “We Take Care of Our Own” are undeniable, even if the album as a whole is not consistently great. ??

Usher, “Looking 4 Myself”:
Seven studio albums in, Usher released a tour de force that displayed a new maturity, without sacrificing his famous playful or sexy sides. He fearlessly incorporated other styles in a way that never felt forced or contrived, but instead seemed to be a natural evolution. The set hasn’t sold particularly well, so lack of commercial success could hamper its chances. ?


Dr. John, “Locked Down”
Gotye, “Making Mirrors”
Norah Jones, “Little Broken Hearts”
Lionel Richie, “Tuskegee”
Rihanna, “Talk That Talk”
Jack White, “Blunderbuss”

Who do you think will be nominated on for Album of the Year? 

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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Listen: Bruno Mars returns with 'Locked Out Of Heaven'

Can he take you to paradise with the new track?

Bruno Mars is one of the brightest names to emerge in the pop world over the last few years as an singer, writer and producer (as one-third of the Smeezingtons).

He returns today after nearly a year away with “Locked Out Of Heaven,” the first single from his sophomore set, “Unorthodox Jukebox,” out Dec. 11.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Former Smiths frontman Morrissey performs at a July concert in Tel Aviv, Israel.</p>

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey performs at a July concert in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Credit: AP Photo/Dan Balilty

'The Smiths will never get back together,' says rep, despite new rumors

Glastonbury 2013 will go on without them

As rumors of a Smiths’ reunion light up the the internet again today, we reached out to former lead singer Morrissey’s publicist, who shut down the possibility of the British band reuniting at Glastonbury... or anywhere else.

The Smiths will NEVER get back together,” Morrissey's rep replied to our email request for a response to the flurry of rumors running rampant. That mean, of course, that this round of speculation would seem to be like the 1,289 ones before it: totally false. The uppercase is from the publicist, not us. She sounds suspiciously like she's quoting Taylor Swift's current single, doesn't she? 

Ever since the band broke up 25 years ago, these rumors crop up periodically with varying degrees of support and varying amounts of zeros after the dollar sign (The going rate was apparently $75 million six years ago for a 40-date Morrissey/Johnny Marr outing).  Despite Morrissey saying he would “rather eat my own testicles” than reform the band, the rumors still come back again like a bad penny every so often.

This time, ground zero seems to be a U.K. entertainment website called Holy Moly, which is reporting that it is hearing from more than two sources that “The Smiths will reform in 2013...It’s a done deal...Dates are booked...Glastonbury is one of four dates.” As you will recall, there have also been rumors that Coachella offered to turn the whole event vegetarian if that would lure non-meat-eater Morrissey to reunite with his former bandmates. But there is apparently not enough tofurkey in the world to get this crew on stage together again.

As badly as The Smith fans want to see Morrissey reunite with Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, it looks like, to paraphrase one of their album titles, “The Smiths Are Dead” ... and remain so.


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<p>Muse's &quot;The 2nd Law&quot;</p>

Muse's "The 2nd Law"

Album Review: Muse holds nothing back on 'The 2nd Law'

Ambitious studio set aims big

Some bands hide their pretensions of grandiosity. Muse would not be one of those bands. Like Queen, the British rockers have a flare for the dramatic and their guitars seem to be perpetually set on stun.

On the group’s sixth studio album, “The 2nd Law,” lead singer Matt Bellamy and the band take the listener on a journey surrounded with prog-rock power chords, shrieking vocals and lyrics filled with heavy portent. And that’s just on the album opener, the Led Zeppelin-influenced “Supremacy.”

Muse’s overwrought flamboyance has helped make it one of the most popular touring bands of the last several years. But what works well with 18,000 fervent followers with raised arms in an arena can just sound like too much excess in the confines of an album. With its operatic chants and message about vengeance, explosive first single (and Olympics theme) “Survival” felt more like a parody  than a true anthem. The band toned down the theatrics for second single, the synth-poppy “Madness” and was rewarded with a No. 1 tune on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.

While the album’s volume and thrust is set to 11 the majority of the time, there are moments of loveliness and surprise on “The 2nd Law.” (The album takes its title from The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states a object that keeps growing cannot sustain expansion and will eventually dissolve...or something like that)

“Panic Station” has a sprightly Franz Ferdinand-like bounce that will delight fans of the band’s pop side. The first part of “Animal” features a strong  jazz-meet-Rush guitar lead by Bellamy that pierces through the song. On jaunty “Big Freeze,” Bellamy recalls David Bowie on “Heroes.”

“Explorers”  is Muse at its most majestic Queen-like, as Bellamy channels Freddie Mercury as he chants “Free me from this world...it was a mistake, prisoning ourselves.” Plus, the lulling piano end will remind any Queen fan of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

For a band that wears so many of its influences on its sleeve, Muse still ends up coming up with its own brand of explosive rock that draws on metal, pop, and, at times here, even funk. Bellamy’s clear, powerhouse vocals tie it all together.

 But when Muse gets too inside its own geek-boy mythology, it is severely testing the limits of all but its most devoted fans. On the two-song closing “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” suite, the noise level ratchets up as a voice actually reads the thermodynamic law.” The cacophony gives way to a “Tubular Bells”-type second movement before the voices come back, filled with doom about an economic collapse (based on the same theory as the law).

“The 2nd Law” will likely have Muse fans salivating over the group’s continued bombastic musical salvos, while non-believers will have plenty more to hold against the band.


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<p>Lil Wayne</p>

Lil Wayne

Credit: Gerald Herbert/AP

Music Power Rankings: Lil Wayne leads Mumford and Katy Perry

Country royalty George Strait and Reba McEntire make the list too

1.  Lil Wayne:
Weezy surpasses Elvis Presley for the most appearances by any artist on the Billboard Hot 100 (there are caveats galore here). We can’t wait to hear Lil Wayne’s version of “Love Me Tender.” 

2. Mumford & Sons: The British folk rock group will take “Babel” to the top of the Billboard 200 next week with the highest first-week sales of the year. If you stacked up 600,000 CDs, would they be as high as the Tower of Babel?

3. Katy Perry: Billboard names the California Gurl its Woman of the Year.

4. George Strait:  Country’s King George announces that he will retire from touring in 2014. He’ll always be king of our hearts, just no longer king of the road.

5. Reba McEntire: After hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards consecutively since 1999 (and for the last two with Blake Shelton), the legendary country artist hangs up her hosting shingle.

6. Sony /ATV:  Apple may seem unstoppable, but it would appear that’s not the case: According to several published reports, the world’s largest music publisher, Sony/ATV, halted Apple in its tracks from introducing its streaming service via the iPhone 5 after they couldn’t agree on a rate schedule.

7. Lyor Cohen:
Warner Music Group’s gruff and tough chairman/CEO steps down to reportedly start his own talent management firm. Good luck to the labels who will now deal with him on the opposite side of the negotiations table.

8. Universal Music Group:
  UMG completes its $1.9 billion purchase of EMI after more than a year vetting by various territory’s regulatory commissions.  Wait... we’re still haven’t heard from Lichtenstein.

9. The Beatles:  The newly remastered Beatles albums will come out on vinyl for their first time in November. Let the magical mystery tour begin anew.

10. Jay-Z:
He kicked off the first of his 8-night residency at Brooklyn’s brand new Barclays Center on Friday night. SInce he’s a minority investor in the arena, it’s the same thing as a house gig, right?

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<p>Mumford &amp; Son's &quot;Babel&quot;</p>

Mumford & Son's "Babel"

Mumford & Sons will handily top next week's Billboard 200 with 'Babel'

Where do Green Day and No Doubt come in?

As we previously reported, Mumford & Sons are set to have the biggest debut week of 2012, as “Babel” is on target to sell as many as 615,000 copies. That will handily top this year's current record holder: Justin Bieber's "Believe," which sold 374,00 in its opening frame.

That tally is four times that of its nearest competitor, Green Day’s “Uno,” which will sell up to 170,000 copies to come in at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, according to Hits Daily Double.

Three other debuts join them in the top 10: No Doubt’s “Push and Shove” will comes in at No. 3 with 125,000 sold, Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap”  at No. 5 and deadmau5’s “Album Title Goes Here” (yes, that’s really the name) at No. 7.

This week’s No. 1 album, Pink’s “The Truth About Love” drops to No. 4, which this week’s runner up, G.O.O.D Music’s “Cruel Summer” falls to No. 6. 

Rounding out the top 10 are Dave Matthews Band’s “Away From the World” at No. 8, The Killers’ “Battle Born” at No. 9 and Little Big Town’s “Tornado” at No. 10.

Bolstered by excitement from “Babel’s” release, Mumford & Sons’ first album, “Sigh No More” rockets back up to No. 11.


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<p>Nicki Minaj</p>

Nicki Minaj

Credit: NBC

Nicki Minaj lands three-part series on E! in November

Will Roman Zolanski come out to play?

Sorry Barbz, It turns out that Nicki Minaj is not getting a reality series, as had been rumored for the last few weeks, but she will be coming to a TV near you for at least three weeks.

E! will air  three specials on Minaj in November that will revolve around her professional and personal life, according to Idolator.  Does this mean we’ll see her and Mariah Carey cat fighting backstage at “American Idol?” Will her alter ego Roman Zolanski make an appearance? Let’s face it, with Minaj, you know it won’t be dull.

The three-part series will air around the release of “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded —The Re-Up.”

Minaj’s previous TV experiences include her 2010 MTV special, “My Time Now.”

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