<p>Taylor Swift with the Civil Wars</p>

Taylor Swift with the Civil Wars

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Can Taylor Swift top Little Big Town or Eli Young Band?

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance Nominees:
"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" – Eli Young Band
"Pontoon" – Little Big Town
"Safe & Sound" – Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars
"On The Outskirts Of Town" – The Time Jumpers
"I Just Come Here For The Music" – Don Williams featuring Alison Krauss


WHO’S MISSING: This is one of the categories that got created in 2012 when the Grammys shrunk the number of awards from 109 to 78. It blends the previously separate categories of best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, best country collaboration with vocals and best country instrumental performance. In other words, ongoing groups are contending with one-off performances. Because of the consolidation, worthy acts like  Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry got left by the wayside.

THE PLAYERS: Despite the acts I mentioned above, country music is dominated by solo acts right now. Of Billboard’s Top 50 country songs for 2012, only 11 were by duos or groups. Here’s where the Grammy Awards veer radically from country-only awards like the Country Music Awards or the Academy of Country Music Awards: the Grammys look at artists like The Time Jumpers or Don Williams/Alison Krauss, who seldom get airplay and are on the fringe of current country and plop them down alongside the hottest names.

THE ODDS: If only the Nashville community voted on this award it would go to Little Big Town for “Pontoon,” the coed quartet’s first No. 1 single after years of toiling away. However,  if interlopers are voting, they could sway the vote to Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars (The Civil Wars won last year). Then again, it’s a foolish person who bets against Alison Krauss: she has won more Grammys than any other female, even more than Barbra Streisand. Since this is only the second year in the category, it’s hard to spot any trend.

THE WINNER:
Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars, “Safe & Sound”

Previous Predictions:

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



 

<p>Bruce Springsteen</p>

Bruce Springsteen

Credit: AP Photo

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Rock Song

Can Springsteen beat the Black Keys and Jack White for his fifth trophy?

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

Best Rock Song Nominees:
Jack White - "Freedom at 21"
Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait"
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Muse - "Madness"
Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care of Our Own"


THE PLAYERS: When I think of songs from Jack White’s “Blunderbuss,” “Freedom at 21” doesn’t immediately come to mind as the first choice for the rock song category, but this is how it works: in an effort to get as many nominations as possible, labels submit different songs for different categories because a song can’t be nominated in different genres. For example, the same song can’t be up for best rock song and best R&B song. The exceptions are record and song of the year in the general category.  Anyway, I’m not sure why the Grammy voters went with “Freedom At 21” instead of “16 Saltines” or “Love Interruption,” as there aren’t other song categories for those.

THE ODDS: Even though he’s never won an album of the year Grammy, Springsteen has dominated the rock categories, including winning best rock song four times since the category was added in 1992. White also won previously for the White Stripes‘  “Seven Nation Army.”  The Black Keys were nominated in 2011 for “Tighten Up,” the same year Mumford & Sons lost for “Little Lion Man.”  M&S was also nominated last year in this category for “The Cave.” Muse was also up in 2011 for “Resistance” (Interestingly, the band won best rock album that year, but lost best rock song). So you have a lot of vets in this category, but the odds are in Springsteen’s favor, given the Grammy’s older votership, the topical nature of the song, and the fact that he opened last year’s show with the song and is this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year recipient.

THE WINNER:
Bruce Springsteen, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS:

Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Performance
Best New Artist

<p>&nbsp;Miley Cyrus</p>

 Miley Cyrus

Credit: AP Photo

Miley Cyrus signs with RCA Records

Move reunites her with 'Party In the USA' producer, Dr. Luke

Miley Cyrus has officially left her Disney days behind. The former “Hannah Montana” star has signed with RCA Records for her fourth studio album, according to Billboard.  The album will come out later this year.

The move will reunite her with Dr. Luke, who produced her 2009’s mega hit, “Party In the USA.”

Cyrus, whose last album, 2010’s “Can’t Be Tamed,” came out on Disney’s Hollywood Records imprint,
told Billboard in September that she was collaborating with Pharrell Williams, Hit-Boy,  and production duo Da Internz, who have worked with both Rihanna and Big Sean. “I wanna make a sick record,” she told Billboard. “I’ve been in so many sessions and just kind of bunkering down and working really hard and perfecting everything.”

It’s a little heard to imagine, but Cyrus told Huffington Post that the album features her country roots, but “a lot of the beats are produced hip-hop beats.”She has also said she is working with Tyler, The Creator on a track.
 

<p>Usher</p>

Usher

Credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best R&B Performance

Miguel and Usher battle it out

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best R&B Performance.

Best R&B Performance Nominees:
Estelle - "Thank You"
Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Ledisi -"Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)
Luke James - "I Want You"
Miguel - "Adorn"
Usher - "Climax"


THE PLAYERS:
Robert Glasper Experiment is the critical darling here, but that will only get “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)” so far, despite it being a beautiful, jazzy track. Estelle’s “Thank You” is slinky and sassy, but not exceptional. Luke James is a newcomer who looks like he has a great future ahead of him if “I Want You” is any indication. Usher’s “Climax” is a beautiful, heartbreaking song about a couple who has passed their shelf life. Miguel’s sultry, sexy “Adorn” is the marathon runner of the bunch.

THE ODDS: The odds are “Adorn,” at least 20-1. Twenty is the number of weeks the song has topped Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, setting a record for the tally. The song appeals to a wide demo, which will also help in the voting. Plus, Miguel’s nominations in the general categories will also give him a boost. The wildcard? If people reflexively vote for Usher because they like him and like “Climax.”

THE WINNER: Miguel, “Adorn.”

Previous Predictions:

Best Pop Vocal Album

Best New Artist

 

<p>Lady Antebellum frontwoman Hillary Scott takes the stage with Stevie Nicks at the CMT&nbsp;taping of &quot;Crossroads.&quot;</p>

Lady Antebellum frontwoman Hillary Scott takes the stage with Stevie Nicks at the CMT taping of "Crossroads."

Credit: John Shearer/Invision/AP

Stevie Nicks and Lady Antebellum swap songs at 'Crossroads' taping

Country trio debuts brand new song, 'Golden'

As Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks prepared to run through Lady A’s Grammy-winning “Need You Now” again after flubbing the first take at a taping of  “Crossroads,” Lady A’s Charles Kelley looked adoringly at Nicks and said, ‘You can do no wrong.” Nicks sassily shot back, “I can and I have.”

So it went with sweet and often amusing banter between Lady A’s Kelley and Hillary Scott and the Fleetwood Mac front woman throughout the 90-minute taping at Los Angeles’ Sony Studios.

When Lady Antebellum debuted with “Love Don’t Live Here” five years ago, critics often compared the trio to Fleetwood Mac for its pop-tinged sound and its dual lead singers in Scott and Kelley, so it seemed all the more appropriate to pair the two acts for “Crossroads,” CMT's 10-year old program that unites a country act with its musical hero from another genre. 

It turns out Nicks has long been a Lady A fan.  "Crossroads executive producer Bill Flanagan told the audience, “We’ve been trying to get Stevie Nicks for years. She said her favorite band is Lady Antebellum.”
“I’ve been listening to their songs for a solid three months,” Nicks said, between “Need You Now” takes. “My neighbors must be like, ‘What? We thought she was in Fleetwood Mac’.”

The new group— Fleetwood Antebellum? Lady Mac?—devoted the first half of the taping to Lady A hits, including “Love Don’t Live Here” and “Own the Night” album track, “Cold As Stone,”  with Nicks either singing Scott’s parts or along with her and Kelley. Occasionally, Dave Heywood chimed in for gorgeous four-part harmonies. The trio debuted a lovely new song, “Golden,” which Nicks was among the first to hear. “Half a minute into it, I started to cry,” Nicks said. “This song is their ‘Landslide’.”  Who knows if the love ballad will reach such legendary heights, but it’s clear having Nicks praise it so was enough for Lady A.

Later in the evening, the foursome performed “Landslide,” which Kelley introduced as “the greatest song ever.” Nicks recounted writing the song in 1973 after her boyfriend/music partner Lindsey Buckingham had gone to tour with the Everly Brothers. “I knew it was going to be special,” she said.

Lady A and Nicks also wrapped their vocals around a stunning, haunting “Gold Dust Woman”  and “The Edge of 17,” marking the first time that Nicks said she had ever performed the latter tune, written about Tom Petty, with anyone else. For trivia buffs, the title comes from Nicks’ misunderstanding Petty’s first wife, who told Nicks she met Petty at “the age of 17.” Her southern accent was so strong, Nicks thought she said “the edge of 17.”

Speaking of Petty, next came the Nicks/Petty duet “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around,” with Kelley ably filling in for Petty as he towered over the diminutive Nicks.

Nicks then bantered with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who was seated in the audience. Tyler previously taped a “Crossroads” with Carrie Underwood. As Kelley watched the exchange, he said, “Am I dreaming?”

Yep, heady stuff for the members of the trio, none of whom were born when Fleetwood Mac’s classic album, “Rumours” came out in 1977 or Nicks’ first solo album, “Bella Donna” in 1981.

CMT has yet to announce an air date for the Lady A/Stevie Nicks’ edition of  “Crossroads.”

<p>Macklemore and Ryan Lewis</p>

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Macklemore & Lewis' 'Thrift Shop' tops Billboard Hot 100 again

What happens with Justin Timberlake's 'Suit & Tie?'

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” featuring Wanz celebrates its second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 10. It also remains atop of the Digital Songs chart, R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and Rap Songs as well.

The top three remain the same as Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” stays at No. 2 and The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” at No. 3.

Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” rises 5-4. Also moving up one space are will.i.am and Britney Spears’ “Scream & Shout” (6-5) and Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” (7-6).

Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj climbs two spots to No. 7, while Rihanna’s “Diamonds” stays at No. 8 and Phillip Phillips’ “Home” rises 10-9.

The only debut in the Top 10 is A$AP Rocky’s “F**kin Problems,” which soars 15-10, marking the rapper’s first top 10 hit.

And yes, in case you noticed, Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay-Z fell 4-13, although the song continues to gain airplay. The fall occurs because of a drastic drop in downloads.

<p>Kelly Clarkson</p>

Kelly Clarkson

Credit: John Shearer/Invision/AP

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Pop Vocal Album

Pink and Kelly Clarkson take on Maroon 5 and Florence and the Machine

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

The nominees are:

Kelly Clarkson - “Stronger”
Florence and the Machine - “Ceremonials”
Fun. - “Some Nights”?
Maroon 5 - “Overexposed”
Pink - “The Truth About Love”


WHO’S MISSING:
Though the slate is very impressive, Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, felt the Grammys were definitely in error by not including “Believe” in this grouping, and there’s a case to be made for One Direction’s “Up All Night,” which was also unceremoniously ignored. Also left out this year, Rihanna’s “Talk That Talk.”

THE PLAYERS: The Grammy voters seemingly forgot about female artists when it came to the general album of the year category and it’s easy to see how much of a failing that was when you consider how strong “Ceremonials,” “Stronger” and “The Truth About Love” are. But the strength of the albums here (including the three that are missing and could have easily replaced any of the ones nominated) show how strong pop is after a number of years of laying fallow.

THE ODDS: Conventional wisdom would be to go with fun.’s “Some Nights” since it is the only collection here also up for album of the year, but I’m breaking with that. Kelly Clarkson is really beloved. Plus, she was just in people’s faces singing live at the Inauguration. All five of the albums are strong and deserving.

THE WINNER:
Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger”

Past predictions:
Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping the Best New Artist race
 

 

<p>Fleetwood Mac's &quot;Rumours&quot;</p>

Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours"

Credit: Warner Bros. Records

Looking back on Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' more than 35 years later

A new deluxe set drills deep on the classic album

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” came out in 1977, before the internet and tabloid TV.  Instead, all we had to do was listen to the lyrics to get all the drama.  The album, which celebrates its 35th anniversary  (one year late) with today’s release of a four-CD deluxe edition, chronicled the break-ups of three relationships: singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham were splitting after seven years together, keyboardist/singer Christine McVie and hubby/bassist John McVie had just divorced. Drummer Mick Fleetwood’s marriage to wife Jenny, who was not in the band, was unraveling, in part because she was having an affair with his best friend.

To be sure there were break-up albums before theirs: Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” comes to mind, and ones after, Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel Of Love,” but no album has ever been quite so public a bloodletting as the life drains out of the various relationships.

The quintet took a year to record “Rumours” in Sausalito, Calif. at the Record Plant. While they were in the studio, their self-titled 10th album (and the first to feature Buckingham and Nicks) was gaining traction and was a clear sign that moving from the blues-based sound of the previous efforts to a pop-oriented sound was the right move commercially. That was only confirmed with "Rumours," which spent 31 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Most of the songs for “Rumours” were written was done on the spot, with the songwriters bringing their not-so-fully fleshed ideas into the studio for the others to noodle on.  Often, as in the case of “Second Hand News,” Buckingham withheld revealing the lyrics until the last moment since he knew they weren’t likely to go down well with Nicks.

I got a copy of the deluxe set a few weeks ago and for the first time in years listened to the  “Rumours,” as it was originally released 36 years ago, from start to finish.

How does it hold up? Remarkably well. It’s like visiting an old friend. The songs easily move into the next and weave everyone’s stories together.  Even more fascinating is revisiting how the couples are talking to each other through the songs.  For example on “The Chain,” (the one song co-written by all five) Buckingham sings, “And if you don’t love me now/You will never love me again/I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.”   On “Oh Daddy,” which Christine McVie wrote from Jenny’s perspective, she laments “Why are you right when I’m so wrong/I’m so weak but you’re so strong.” On “You Make Loving Fun,” Christine McVie is singing about her new love, the band’s lighting director (much to John’s dismay).Despite all the cocaine and alcohol that fueled the sessions, or maybe because of them, the overall effect is a voyeuristic look at three break-ups that are raw and complex, and despite their specificity, have a universal appeal for anyone who has found him or herself similarly entangled. The raw immediacy of the tracks still remains.

All the songs individually have held up as well, especially “Second Hand News,” “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “I Don’t Want To Know.” The quintet created music that was not of the day —there’s no ‘70s equivalent of a dubstep drop or a hint of electroclash. Instead the production still sounds fresh and clean and not dated.  Buckingham’s guitar playing is crisp, with John McVie and Fleetwood Mac’s rhythm section propulsive when need be and totally in retreat when a gentler touch is demanded.

Of course, the big mistake with “Rumours,” one due to time limitations on the vinyl and internecine fighting, is that Nicks’ delicate, searing “Silver Springs” was left off the album. That was corrected in 2001 on a DVD-Audio version and subsequent pressings have included “Silver Springs.”

The other three discs are fun, but not essential unless you're a big fan.  Disc 2 includes live versions of much of the album from 1977, as well as other hits, including “Rhiannon” and “Monday Morning.” The other two discs feature outtakes, alternate versions of songs, and demos from the recording sessions, including two songs that didn’t make the album, “Planets of the Universe” and a lovely duet, “Doesn’t Anything Last.”  The last disc, originally issued in 2004, also includes rough takes and outtakes. It's very fun an instructive to hear how the songs morphed and were constructed. For example, the demo of "The Chain" is slow and acoustic, but no less haunting.

A super-expanded version also contains “The Rosebud Film,” a 1977 doc looking at the making of “Rumours” and the original album on vinyl.

The current band, which does not include Christine McVie, will start a tour April 4 in Columbus, Ohio.

<p>&quot;Painting the way I feel today. Focus on what matters!&quot;</p>

"Painting the way I feel today. Focus on what matters!"

Credit: Chris Brow/Instagram

Hey Chris Brown, come down off that cross

A few thoughts on the pop star's most recent dust-up

He’s kidding, right? That was my first thought when I saw Chris Brown’s Instagram from yesterday.

In case you missed it, Brown, that paragon of all this is virtuous in this world, posted a painting of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross yesterday alongside the words, “Painting the way I feel today.  Focus on what matters.”

Doesn’t he mean “focus on what martyrs” because we’ve never seen an artist with such a persecution complex and a complete inability to grasp the role he has played in his own ongoing conflicts.

Apparently, he’s feeling a little misunderstood due to his latest dust-up. Yeah, the one where he and Frank Ocean got into a tiff over a parking spot at Westlake Recording Studios on Sunday in Los Angeles. While the facts are blurry, it appears that push came to shove and Brown left the scene before police could question him.

Instead of painting or comparing himself to Jesus, maybe Brown needs to climb down off that cross and go talk to the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, who wants to question him about the incident.  (Sheriff department spokesman Steve Whitmore says that Ocean wants to press charges and told The Los Angeles Times that Brown is “a named suspect in a battery report”). 

Or maybe, just maybe, he needs to have a long time out to figure out why the public just won’t give him a break and realize he’s not such a bad guy. C’mon, people! It’s been four years since he tried to meld Rihanna’s head with a car door and she’s not only forgiven him, they’re seemingly off in their own little twisted loveland again and they tweet and Instagram a near-constant stream of selfies together to prove it.

After every incident—whether it’s throwing a chair after a “Good Morning America” interview doesn’t go the way he’d planned (in that Robin Roberts deigned to ask other than fluff questions) or he and Drake are in a fight in a club or he makes gay slurs he later has to apologize for—the now inevitable and predictable pattern follows. Somehow, Brown makes himself out to be the victim: He’s misunderstood, he didn’t throw the first punch, he was insulted, he’s already apologized, he’s a target because he’s famous, he’s young... what more do we want from him?

What we want from him is some sign that for more than five minutes he can act like an adult. Yes, being a pop star keeps one in perpetual adolescence...and keeps one surrounded by people on the payroll whose main, if not only, job is to constantly reassure the artist the he is right, everyone else is wrong and is just jealous.

If Brown so badly wants to compare himself to Christ, maybe he should think about turning the other cheek.

<p>My Morning Jacket</p>

My Morning Jacket

Credit: AP Photo/Vince Bucci

Listen: My Morning Jacket and Brandi Carlile pay homage to John Denver

Train, Dave Matthews and Lucinda Williams also on tribute album

On April 2, ATO will release “The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver.”

Dave Matthews, My Morning Jacket, Train, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Josh Ritter are among the artists paying homage to the folky musician, who died in 1997 in a plane accident.

[More after the jump...]

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