<p>Justin Timberlake</p>

Justin Timberlake

Credit: AP Photo

Justin Timberlake returns to stage for Super Bowl concert

Private show is his first in five years

Justin Timberlake will return to the stage for his first concert in five years when he performs at DIRECTV’s Super Saturday night in New Orleans on Feb. 2, the evening before the Super Bowl.

The private party, co-hosed by Mark Cuban’s AXS TV, will benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children, a cause with which Timberlake has long donated his time and money.

The performance follows the release of Timberlake’s new single, “Suit & Tie” from his forthcoming album, “The 20/20 Experience.”

While the concert isn’t open to the public, maybe Cuban’s AXS TV is recording for potential future broadcast.

Can a full tour be on the horizon? Maybe he'll join Beyonce for the big half-time show? 

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Concert Review: Lady Gaga storms Staples Center in Los Angeles

What's the latest on new album, 'Artpop?'

Stepping into Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball, which stopped at Los Angeles’ Staples Center Jan. 20-21, feels like stepping into some utopian ideal.

Everyone is equal, everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved in Momma Monster’s world and she’s going to remind you of that until you believe it.  Oh, and she plays some songs too.

The Jan. 21 show started with the unveiling of an impressive three-story castle from which Gaga emerges. The band members were in various portals, separated from each other for most of the show.  For the next 2 hours and 15 minutes,  Lady Gaga repeatedly stormed the moveable castle, turning it into her own gothic Barbie Dreamhouse as it opened up to reveal interior rooms. The Born This Way Ball is a true spectacular, the likes of which few artists even attempt to accomplish these days.

From the moment she appears in a black corset with black metal contraption on her head, roaring into “Government Hooker,” Lady Gaga was in complete control of the stage and the sold-out, adoring audience.

With her hair/wig swept up in some pink Bridezilla beehive, she stomped and danced her way through “Born This Way, “ “Bloody Mary” “Bad Romance,” and more in the first 30 minutes.

Each song morphed fairly indistinguishably into the next, the beats and singing blending together, punctuated by costume changes, crazy headgear, a dozen dancers in various states of undress, and Lady Gaga preaching and exalting us to jump and respond. “Raise your hands in the air! This is not a f**king funeral,” she screamed as she segued from “Judas” into “Fashion of His Love.” The show started full throttle and never cried uncle. It was a full-on assault, with very little pacing and sense of an arc, just continuous movement forward. If that sounds like a criticism, it’s only a slight one given that it seems downright churlish to complain about a performance that never lets up or dips in its aggressiveness. 

The fast-paced show operated on the conceit that Lady Gaga is an alien who has arrived on earth to learn everything she can about us. As the Manifesto of Mother Monster goes (the manifesto was introduced in the “Born This Way” video), she is from G.O.A.T., a government-owned alien territory.  By the time she is finished with her journey,  she will have earned the right to be our pop star.  “In the meantime I will suck the life out of many of you tonight,” she declared. From time to time, a projected image of a talking face in a suspended cage brought us up to speed on her journey.  She should drop the whole idea. She’s weird enough without the idea that she’s an alien.

When she wasn’t singing —and make no mistake about it, she was singing live, though sometimes her voice was heavily accompanied by enhanced vocal tracks and effects—she was delivering sermonette after sermonette. She talked about her days as a stripper (“there’s no shame in taking off your clothes for money,” she declares) and her rise to fame, and genuinely and profusely thanked the audience for spending their money to see her.

As she lets her freak flag continuously fly, she relentlessly reminded the audience to believe in themselves and not to care what others think.  Every misfit toy—and who hasn’t felt like one at some time or another?—is beautiful in her world and her message was so touchingly delivered and repeated that only the coldest heart of a homecoming queen could fail to be  melted. “Can you be brave enough not to care?,” she screamed at one point, pacing on the outer rim of a catwalk that extended into the arena and surrounded the Monster Pit. “When you stop caring about what other people think, you fly so f**king free.”  Her dedication to embracing and lifting up her fellow outsiders was the most endearing part of the evening.

Not every set piece worked. The meat medley —she comes out hanging like a side of beef for “Americano,” then performs “Poker Face” upended in a meat grinder (huh?) and segues into “Alejandro” while lying on a sofa made of raw sirloin — seemed a bit of a stretch.

But the false moments are few and the gargantuan effort Lady Gaga put in to every one of the 25 numbers was staggering in her commitment and intensity.  One of the most affecting segments was when she finally slowed down long enough to sit at the piano and sing “The Queen,” telling the audience, “I don’t want to be your queen. I want to be your friend. I don’t want you to worship me. I want you to worship you.”  It’s an unassailable message, even if she is delivering it from a multi-million dollar set while slavishly-devoted fans hang on her every word. She continued at the piano for a full-throated rendition of “You & I,” one of the evening’s highlights.

She ended the night with an encore featuring “The Edge of Glory” and a slowed-down “Marry The Night.” For the latter, she gathered up “monsters” from the pit, most of them in some form of costume, and hugged and sang with them. It was the direct opposite of a big finish, but after more than two hours of bombast, it was finally time to slow it down.

The North American leg of the Born This Way Ball, which started in Vancouver on Jan. 11, concludes March 20 in Tulsa, Okla.

In other Lady Gaga news, she continues to work on “ARTPOP” with EDM artist/producer Zedd. He told MTV News  that they have a ways to go before completing the album, her first since “Born This Way” was released in May 2011. 

“It’s hard to find time to work on something together,” he says. “So we’ve been working on it for over a year now. There’s still a lot of work left, so we’re definitely gonna work on this project for the next month.”

He added that while they toured together in Asia, he worked up 10 songs and finished them up until the point where she would add the piano, but he didn’t know if any of those would make the final cut.


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Credit: AP Photo

Does it matter if Beyonce was lip-syncing at the Presidential Inaugural?

Do we hold artists up to an impossible standard?

After most pundits and critics (me included) fell all over themselves praising Beyonce’s rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at Monday’s presidential inauguration, word comes today that she was lip-syncing, according to the Times of London. 

In the ever-evolving story, first U.S. Marine Band spokeswoman Kristen DuBois stated that Beyonce decided to lip-synch to a recording of her own voice at the last minute on Monday. We know Beyonce recorded a version because she sent an Instagram photo of herself reviewing the music the day before and footage of the recording leaked out by Monday morning.

After the attendant brouhaha, the Marine Corps (which accompanied Beyonce and were also, apparently, on tape) walked back the statement, as they say in government speak, releasing a statement that said they weren’t sure what had happened and that they, according to CNN, weren’t in a position  “to assess whether [Beyonce’s vocal performance] was live or pre-recorded.”

The Marine Corps statement went on to explain that the musical pieces are always pre-recorded to allow for extenuating circumstances. For example, four years ago, cellist Yo-Yo Ma played to a pre-recorded track because it was too cold for his fingers to do what he needed them to do to sound good.

But then, Jezebel linked to this version, which is a different feed than the one run by the networks, to indicate that she was singing live and the sound we hear is the echo, not her singing along to her own pre-recorded vocal.

The bigger question is does it matter?  It’s clearly her singing, so what’s the harm if it’s not live?

As we learned from Watergate and from practically every political scandal since, it isn’t so much the crime as the cover-up. When Beyonce pulled out one of her in-ear monitors mid-performance, whether intentional or not, that was a signal that she was singing live and needed to adjust the arrangement she was hearing in her ears in order to sing to the best of her ability. If she was lip-syncing all along, why make that kind of gesture?

The gold standard by which all other versions of the National Anthem are judged is Whitney Houston’s version at the 1992 Super Bowl.  Following her blockbuster performance came word that she too was lip-synching. It’s too hard a song to sing and there are too many variables when performing outside, especially in cold weather, to mess around with it.

After the initial uproar, and after the Super Bowl folks explained that they always pre-tape the National Anthem just in case, the furor died down and 20 years later, Houston’s version is now seen as the definitive.

Beyonce’s representative, whom we reached out to, has declined to comment to anyone. But as the story began trending today, a new theory emerged, which is that Beyonce was singing live to her own taped version and that is why she pulled out the ear piece.

I honestly don’t know if it matters. What I do know is that the pressure put on performers to be perfect live is unrealistic, especially in a setting such as Mondays: very, very cold temperatures that can play havoc with vocal chords and nerves that can trip the finest artist up.  When an artist does sing live and muffles it, such as Christina Aguilera did at the Super Bowl a few years ago, they never hear the end of it. When they lip-sync to their own voice so there won’t be any mistakes, they get criticized for that too.

The weird thing about Beyonce’s performance and part of what makes it so hard to tell, is that she starts off softly and a little wobbly, so it seems like if she was lip-syncing, they would have made her intro stronger. 

All I know is no one seems to know for sure. There’s a hot debate going on on a top music producer’s page on Facebook and even the studio cats can’t seem to decide for sure . (Both Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor’s reps have gone on the record stating that they were singing live).

The one thing I definitely know: Beyonce  is not the main story we should be taking away from yesterday’s festivities.

Do you think she was singing live? Does it matter?

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<p>Vampire Weekend</p>

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend's new album will come out May 7

Band goes for a more 'organic' sound

Vampire Weekend will release its next album May 7.

The group posted the words “Vampire Weekend LP3 COMPLETE” over Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River on its website. The image alternates with a shot of the quartet on a bridge with the dates May 6/7 (May 6 will be the ex-U.S. release date). It’s the band’s first album since 2010’s “Contra.”  The group had confirmed a new album would appear in 2013, but now we have an actual release date.

It took almost two years of writing and recording to complete the still-untitled set, Vampire Weekend singer/guitarist Ezra Koenig told Rolling Stone.   “Sometimes we thought we were done, but it’s always very apparent when you’re not.”

He and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij wrote the set, which includes “Unbelievers,”  a tune the group played on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last October, as well as a rockabilly-oriented track called “Diane Young" and another called "Obvious Bicycle."

The album has a more organic sound, according to Koenig. “Things that we might have found boring in the past, we’ve started to find more fresh. This record has more piano and acoustic guitar and organ,” he told the magazine.

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<p>Lady Antebellum</p>

Lady Antebellum

Listen: Lady Antebellum's new single, 'Downtown'

What do you think of the change of pace?

Lady Antebellum is upping the sassy level on “Downtown,” the group’s first single from its forthcoming fourth studio album.

The song, written by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally and Natalie Hemby,  features Hillary Scott on lead. It's  a twangy, Americana, rootsy tune with a fun bluesy guitar lead that has more in common with Bonnie Raitt than Taylor Swift. It's a spare, airy production. Listen to it in full here.

Scott wants her boy to treat her right and take her downtown instead of acting like, well, a jerk.

“I’m only counting on your cancellation when I should be counting on you at my door,” she complains. And I’m pretty sure “downtown” has a few different interpretations here if you want to take it that way. It’s a little change of pace for Lady A.

The group will debut the track on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Jan. 28, one night before it tapes an episode of CMT’s “Crossroads” with Stevie Nicks. The trio will also perform the tune on CBS’s “The Talk” on Feb. 6.

No word on a release date on the new album yet, but it looks like Lady A is not slowing down at all during Scott's pregnancy other than cancelling a few dates right around the time she's due in late spring/early summer.

What do you think of the breezy "Downtown?"

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Listen: Paramore's propulsive new single 'Now'

Listen: Paramore's propulsive new single 'Now'

See cover art for 'Paramore' and the track listing

Paramore’s Hayley Williams channels Gwen Stefani and Amy Lee on the propulsive single, “Now,” the group’s first single from its forthcoming self-titled album, out April 9.

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: Kelly Clarkson sings 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' at Inauguration

Watch: Kelly Clarkson sings 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' at Inauguration

'American Idol' winner thanks Obama for 'opening for me'

Kelly Clarkson traveled from  “American Idol” to the American inauguration of President Barack Obama today, singing a stirring rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: Beyonce performs 'Star-Spangled Banner' at Inauguration

Watch: Beyonce performs 'Star-Spangled Banner' at Inauguration

Does she hit it out of the National Mall?

On this uniquely American day, Beyonce added her own stamp to Barack Obama’s second inauguration as president of the United States.

[More after the jump...]

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The Postal Service to reunite for Coachella and other dates

The Postal Service to reunite for Coachella and other dates

Deluxe edition of 2003's 'Give Up' also coming

After Ben Gibbard emphatically declared in October to Spinner that there were no plans to record a second Postal Service record, the duo will reunite to play Coachella, according to Billboard. Additional dates are expected to be announced.

Additionally, Death Cab for Cutie’s Gibbard and his Postal Service partner Jimmy Tamborello have collaborated on a deluxe 10th anniversary package of “Give Up,” the pair’s one and only album. It will come out next month. The original set came out Feb. 19, 2004.

The band launched a new website today. It’s scant on details, to put it mildly, but definitely signals that The Postal Service is back in business. It features the band’s logo against a black background and “2013.”

“Give Up” spawned the hit “Such Great Heights” and sold more than 1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Coachella takes place April 12-14 and April 19-21.

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Look: Photos of Justin Timberlake recording 'The 20/20 Experience"

Look: Photos of Justin Timberlake recording 'The 20/20 Experience"

He and Timbaland are clearly hard at work

Check out photos of Justin Timberlake in the studio, recording his new album, “The 20/20 Experience.”

Timberlake tweeted a link to the photos Sunday night.  The three black and white stills (he’s clearly working a theme: his Jan. 10 video announcing his comeback was also shot in black and white) show him and producer Timbaland studiously (or quizzically) listening to someone/something we don’t see. You can tell Timberlake is serious because he has on his glasses and he’s chewing on a toothpick.

The next shot shows him playing an acoustic guitar sitting by the console (the recording booth is on the other side of the glass, Justin!). The third show shows him recording vocals. He’s holding his iPhone in his hand, so maybe he hasn’t quite learned the lyrics yet.

A few minutes after posting the photos, Timberlake tweeted how excited he was that the San Francisco 49ers will play the Baltimore Ravens in Feb. 3 Super Bowl. He added “Can’t wait! I’m booking my flight to New Orleans right now!” Then followed with “Oh wait... I don’t have tickets. Dammit! Anybody know anybody?? LOL!”

We’d say that the NFL is already on it, but we’re not sure how welcome back Timberlake is after playing a big role in Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Maybe as long as he stays on the sidelines....

Timberlake released "Suit & Tie," he first single from "The 20/20 Experience" at midnight Jan. 14. The song quickly soared to the top of the iTunes songs chart and is expected to leap into the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 this week based on digital download sales of between 350,000 and 400,000.


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