<p>Whitney Houston</p>

Whitney Houston

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: 'The Music They Made' song montage from musicians who died in 2012

Four-minute clip encompasses Whitney Houston to Adam Yauch to Dave Brubeck

If you want to not only see the names, but hear the music from the top musicians who left us this year, this four-minute montage, "The Music They Made," posted by the New York Times last night is well worth your time.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: AP Photo

Justin Bieber expands 'Believe: Acoustic' to include new material

Is he working with Ed Sheeran?

It turns out that eight isn’t enough. Justin Bieber’s  “Believe:Acoustic” continues to expand. Originally slated as an 8-song EP, Bieber keeps adding new songs to the Jan. 29 release.

On Thursday night, he tweeted that he “had to write some new ones. Now I’m putting out 10 SONGS on #Believeacoustive. I’m telling u. PREORDER it now : ).”

In addition to the sales plug, the Biebs also gave more details: “Every song has a new guitar arrangement...1 w/ piano. Everything feels new.” 

Idolator has speculated that Bieber may have been writing new material with “The A-Team” singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran.

As Hitfix previously reported, Bieber announced the EP earlier this month. Bieber released “My Worlds Acoustic” in 2010, which featured stripped-down versions of songs from “My World 2.0.”


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Music sales from holiday shopping drop double digit percentage over 2011

Lack of blockbuster titles leads to 10% decline

Retailers received coal in their Christmas stocking this year: sales during the pivotal holiday period were down 10% from last year, according to Billboard.

Comparing Nov. 18-Dec. 23 with the same five-week period in 2011 shows sales of 54.9 million albums this year versus 61 million last year.

Billboard attributes the drop in sales to two factors: the lack of a superstar blockbuster like Adele’s “21” or Michael Buble’s “Christmas” that provided sustained sales of more than 200,000 for several weeks running,  as well as the fact that last year’s figures included Dec. 24, which is one of the biggest shopping days of the the year.

The breakdown between physical and digital sales followed the shift during non-holiday periods: Digital album sales rose 5.3% during the five weeks, while physical CD sales were down 15.4%. Individual track downloads, however, were down 4.8% to 139.8 million units compared with 2011 sales over the same period.

While there were no sustained superstar sales retailers mentioned such titles as One Direction’s “Take Me Home,” Taylor Swift’s “Red,” Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox,”  Mumford & Sons’ “Babel,” Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” and Pink’s “Truth About Love” as strong holiday sellers.


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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: AP Photo

Bruno Mars' 'Locked Out of Heaven' locks into Billboard Hot 100's top spot

Taylor Swift and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis surge on this week's chart

Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” stays locked into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100, as the tune logs a third week at No. 1.

The song is also No. 1 on Billboard’s Radio Songs chart,  as well as the Digital and On-Demand Songs charts, making it the first song to top all four charts, according to Billboard. The On-Demand Songs chart bowed in March.

“Locked” is Mars’ fourth No. 1 tune on Radio Songs chart, tying him with Sean Paul and T.I. for fifth place for males on the chart. The male leader is Usher with seven chart toppers in the chart’s 22-year history. The men have a far way to go to catch up with Mariah Carey, who has 11 No. 1s on the Radio Songs chart.

Back on the Hot 100, former No. 1, “Diamonds” by Rihanna, holds at  No. 2, while the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” remains at No. 3.

Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” soars 10-4 and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj climbs 7-5, marking Bieber’s third Top 5 hit.

Rounding out the Top 10, Ke$ha’s “Die Young” falls 4-6, Maroon 5’s “One More Night” slips 5-7, Flo Rida’s “I Cry” 6-8 and Phillip Phillip’s “Home” 8-9.

There’s good news for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” featuring Wanz as the rappers’ independently released single rises 13-10 to be the only new entry in the Top 10.

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Watch: Heart brings Led Zeppelin to tears during 'Stairway to Heaven'

Watch: Heart brings Led Zeppelin to tears during 'Stairway to Heaven'

Foo Fighters and Lenny Kravitz also pay tribute at Kennedy Center Honors

Heart fans who have seen the Wilson sisters in concert know that Ann Wilson can wail Led Zeppelin tunes like no one since, well, Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, so it’s no surprise that the group brought the house down at the annual Kennedy Center Honors, which aired last night on CBS.

What is surprising is that the ladies’ version moved  Plant, who was watching in the balcony with band members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, to tears time and time again at the Washington, D.C. event, which was taped last month. Or maybe he was just in awe of her ability to hit every single note with astonishing power. Or maybe seeing late LZ drummer John Bonham’s son Jason Bonham behind the drums also proved emotional.

The Wilson sisters weren’t the only ones paying tribute to whom Jack Black called “the greatest rock n’ roll band.” The Foo Fighters performed “Rock  and Roll” —with Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals— and Lenny Kravitz played “Whole Lotta Love.”  Watch those performances here and here. As you know, the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Jones are in Them Crooked Vultures together. Turns out President Obama knows the words to "Whol Lotta Love." 

The annual event honored Led Zeppelin, as well as Dustin Hoffman, Buddy Guy, Natalia Makarova and David Letterman.

We’re quite sure Washington, D.C.’s collective ears are still ringing.


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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Lady Gaga plans 'ARTPOP' documentary with Terry Richardson

Film chronicles her life and creation of her new album

Lady Gaga fans rejoice: Mamma Monster is making a film just for you with her favorite photographer at the helm.

On Christmas, she tweeted, “Merry Christmas little monsters! Terry Richardson @Terry_World is making a #LadyGagaMOVIE documenting my life, the creation of ARTPOP + you!”

She later thanked fans for being “so patient waiting for my new album,” which still has no release date. And then sent a tweet to Richardson: “I love you @Terry_World thank you for believing in me and my fans, I have looked up to you and your work for so long, its a dream come true! Lady Gaga recently tweeted that she has written more than 50 songs for the new album.

Maybe the documentary will include more footage of her doing a striptease and cavorting with two other women in a bath tub.

As for any other clue as to how Lady Gaga spent her holiday (other than on Twitter), she later tweeted, “I'm listening to @MariahCarey 's christmas album dancing in my room with my weed xmas sweater. all i need now is my box wine #bestdayever

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<p>The cover of Mumford &amp; Sons' &quot;Babe&quot;</p>

The cover of Mumford & Sons' "Babe"

The Beat Goes On's Top 10 albums of 2012 including Frank Ocean and Bruno Mars

Bruce Springsteen and Norah Jones also make the tally

It was a strong year for music with artists old and new making music that resonated deeply. Below are my top 10 albums of the year along with another 10 that could have been contenders. To see my Top 10 singles, go here. My colleague Katie Hasty prepped a video package of her top albums as well. To view that, go here.

1. “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean:
A striking debut from an artist who seemed to arrive fully formed. It’s not just his writing or singing or musicality, it’s also the unguarded emotion that he brings to every song. He examines love in all its forms. His influences, including Stevie Wonder and Prince, are along for the ride, but he still delivered a collection that felt unique.

2. "Babel," Mumford & Sons: Bolstered by Marcus Mumford’s furious guitar playing and Winston Chambers’ ringing banjo work, “Babel’s” tells of the search for grace and redemption are all the church you needed in 2012.

3. "Three Pears,"Dwight Yoakam: In his first album of original songs in seven years, the neo-honky tonk pioneer creates some of his most soaring, jangly melodies, referencing all of his idols, from the Beach Boys to Elvis Presley to, of course, Buck Owens. Beck produced two cuts to help get Yoakam started, but the album comes from a singular, still resonant voice and heart.

4. "Little Broken Hearts," Norah Jones:
Working with Danger Mouse brought out a previously hidden recklessness and menace to Jones’ work. Sweet melodies are juxtaposed against murderous thoughts, such as on “Miriam.” It’s a stunningly dark album that covers betrayal, debilitating hurt, shame, the desire for revenge, and, ultimately, the ability to walk away, bowed but not broken.
5. "Wrecking Ball," Bruce Springsteen: The foremost chronicler of America once again sums up the current national zeitgeist in all its beauty and horror and gives voice to our hopes and fears.  Full of cathartic anthems, Wrecking Ball” sets it sights on the devastation and destruction wrought on the middle class and increasingly growing lower class, by Wall Street and venomously takes prisoners.

6. "Some Nights," fun.:
The trio sounds like Queen crossed with Barenaked Ladies. Each of the songs are several songs wrapped up in one, unified by Nate Ruess’s sweeping, supple vocals. From the big drums to the big melodies to the big vocals, fun. exemplified what’s best about pure pop music this year.

7. "The Carpenter," Avett Bros.: A glorious look at life and death, with the focus on death. The North Carolina brothers run the gamut of human experiences on their seventh album, a rambunctious, largely acoustic affair,  with a joy and depth missing in so much of today’s music.

8.  “Unorthodox Jukebox,” Bruno Mars:
This would have been higher on the list if it weren’t for Mars’ occasional lapses into bitterness and misogyny on such songs as “Natalie” and “Money Make Her Smile,” but those blights are overcome by the extremely well-crafted melodies and Mars’ song craft. Leave out the tunes about the golddiggers and focus on beauties like “When I Was Your Man,” “If I Knew” and “Locked Out Of Heaven.”

9. "Looking 4 Myself," Usher:
There’s really nothing Raymond Usher can’t do, whether it’s bust out a full dance or contemplate what it means to become an adult. The reflective “Looking 4 Myself” finds Usher in a thoughtful mood about love and his life, especially on the gorgeous “Climax” (just listen to his searing falsetto). His confidence as a performer leads him to an embrace of many different music styles and adventurousness missing from some of his past work.  An underrated effort that will hopefully find a more appreciative audience as years pass.

10. "Red," Taylor Swift: While not an album I go back to frequently, “Red” makes the list because of the abandon and artistry Swift took when creating it. Her musical evolution since her debut six years ago is nothing less than staggering and on “Red” she exhibits a fearlessness when it comes to embracing different styles.  Almost every song features drums way upfront in the mix and an aggressiveness of purpose. Sure, the singles are catchy, but album cuts such as her atmospheric duet with Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and the Cranberries-like “State of Grace” are worth rooting out.


“A Thing Called Divine Fits,” Divine Fits
“Blunderbuss,” Jack White
“The Truth About Love,” Pink
“The Only Place,” Best Coast
“Uno,” Green Day’
“Bloom,” Beach House
Shields, Grizzly Bear
"Lonerism," Tame Impala
“Slipstream,” Bonnie Raitt
“Born and Raised,” John Mayer

What were your favorite albums of 2012? 

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<p>Frank Ocean</p>

Frank Ocean

Credit: NBC

Listen to Frank Ocean's song left out of 'Django Unchained'

Would 'Wisemen' have been a good fit?

Frank Ocean has released  “Wisemen,” the song that he wrote for “Django Unchained” after director Quentin Tarantino, regretfully, left it out of the film.

Ocean put the song up on Tumblr with little fanfare over the weekend. Hear it here.

The song is a midtempo, atmospheric track with a hypnotic effects-laden guitar line running through it.  Lyrically, Ocean sings   “I bet your mother would be proud of you” over and over again as he runs through various scenarios about evil and good men and life and death in an emotional, but restrained vocal delivery.

Just as Tarentino was gracious about not using the song, telling Pitchfork, “Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it.”  Ocean is similarly respectful. His only text with the song is “Django was ill without it.”

"Django Unchained" includes new music from Anthony Hamilton, John Legend and Rick Ross. Below is a gallery of Tarantino's "greatest hits" from his previous works.

What do you think of "Wisemen?"


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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: Isaac Brekken/AP

Taylor Swift's 'Red' will celebrate Christmas at No. 1 on the Billboard 200

Singer's album will easily command the top spot next week

Taylor Swift’s “Red” will go into the Christmas holiday with a sure lead for the top spot on the Billboard 200 next week.

The album returned to the No. 1 spot last week for the first time since its October release and stayed there this week, despite a charge by Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox.”

However, it looks like there’s no doubt that Swift will remain at No. 1 next week, as “Red” is tracking to sell up to 295,000 copies. That tally gives it more than a 100,000-edge over its nearest competitors. As of Friday,  One Direction’s “Take Me Home,” Mars’ “Jukebox” and “Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head,” the new album from T.I., are all too close to call for the No. 2-4 spots. They are all projected to sell between 150,000 and 175,000 copies.

The picture is a little clearer when we get to No. 5, which looks like it will be Michael Buble’s “Christmas” album, with holiday sales of  up to 160,000 copies.  That album is closely followed by Rod Stewart’s holiday smash, “Merry Christmas Baby,” which will sell up to 135,000 units, according to Hits Daily Double.

A compilation of tunes from “12/12/12: The Concert For Sandy Relief” will bow at No. 7, with up to 110,000 copies. The iTunes-only set features performances from such artists as Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and The Who. Not included on the tribute? Kanye West. Billboard tried to get to the bottom of why he is not on the tribute, but everyone they talked to declined comment. A source speculated that it was West’s decision not to be on the collection, although the magazine also posits that the fact that his contribution was 13-minute medley that couldn’t be broken up may have also contributed to the decision.

Rounding out the Top 10 are likely to be Phillip Phillips’ “World From The SIde Of the Moon”  at No. 8, Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” at No. 9 and Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire” at No. 10.


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<p>Alexandre Desplat</p>

Alexandre Desplat

Credit: AP Photo

Alexandre Desplat on working with Kathryn Bigelow and Ben Affleck

Golden Globe-nominated composer and 'believing' in 'Rise of the Guardians'

At a recent reception for Alexandre Desplat at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel  to promote his “Rise Of The Guardian’s” score, the composer jokingly offered to validate my parking ticket. “Anything to get the gig,” he laughed. “I’m actually playing piano tonight in the ballroom.”

Even without supplying such additional services, the prolific Desplat is Incredibly in demand for his agile flair and ability to score virtually any genre. This year alone, he wrote music for an wide array of films, including “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Rust and Bone” and the aforementioned “Rise Of The Guardians.” 

His past scores include “The King’s Speech,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Queen,” “The Tree of Life,” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Parts 1 and 2.”

Desplat received his sixth Golden Globe nomination earlier this month for “Argo”; the work won the Satellite Award for best original score on Dec. 16.

At the DreamWorks Animation reception, I grabbed a few minutes with Desplat to talk about some of his work this year. We didn’t have time to cover “Moonrise Kingdom” or “Rust & Bone,” as he was also running the valet operation that night and needed to fetch Jeffrey Katzenberg his car. (Just kidding on that last part).

  Desplat wrote a staggering 82 minutes of music for the film, ranging from action themes to lullabies. He started with “Believe,” an enchanting piece inspired by a pivotal, emotional scene late in the picture. The movie centers around the “guardians” of our childhood, including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman, who protect children against dark forces, as long as the children still believe the icons are real.

“I just felt that the center of the film was about that dream and the belief and I should maybe start there, not start right away with the action,” he says. Desplat played the theme for director Peter Ramsey, who loved it, and its melody became an anchor.  “It started as the theme and then it became the thread which brings us all along the film until the song at the end.” Along with the movie’s screenwriter, David Lindsay-Abaire, Desplat wrote “Still Dream,” the end-title theme performed by Renee Fleming.’’

“Guardians” also features galloping action themes that I suggested to Desplat seemed to pay tribute to one of his heroes, John Williams. “You’re partly right, partly wrong,” he said. ‘I’m not paying homage. He’s just become part of our collective unconscious. John Williams’ music in the last 40 years has rejuvenated the style.” 

Desplat added that as much as he listened to such pioneering composers as Franz Waxman and Bernard Herrmann,  “[Jerry] Goldsmith and Williams were the famous composers when I as a teenager,” he says. “So alive and still very active and creating these incredible soundtracks, so I’m sure that had an impact on me. When you see a superhero flying, of course you think of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Superman.’”

His sweeping, imaginative score also hits a number of whimsical beats, similar to Carl Stalling’s work.  “The movie is very funny and very witty,” he says “I’d been watching Tex Avery a lot when I was young,” he says, bringing up not just Carl Stalling, but also Scott Bradley. “There’s a fun and a joy, like Spike Jones also used to have...This kind of crazy fantasy. When I wrote this score, I couldn’t not think about that and the need to write my love for this kind of music.”

“ARGO”: The Ben Affleck-directed drama reunited Desplat with one of the movie’s producers George Clooney, with whom he’d worked on “The Ides of March.”  For the film, which covers the 1979 Iranian Hostage crisis, Desplat deliberately stayed away from channeling the music of that era in his score since the film already incorporated so many of the fashions and other styles of that time.

“There was so much of that on screen that if I started doing the Wah-wah pedal and the ‘Shaft thing,’ it would have been too much,” he says. “My goal was to bring emotion and suspense and tension and make sure that you got the danger surrounding the hostages. That was my job. [Affleck and I] agreed very early also to bring some Middle Eastern flavor in front of you, which was also a foreign sound because at the time, world music was not that prominent.” 

: Desplat’s music for the story about the hunt and eventual capture of Osama Bin Laden  is kept to the bare minimum. Given the almost documentary feel of the picture and the inherent drama of the story,  director Kathryn Bigelow and Desplat wanted to avoid any hint of cliche.

“There was no way I should play the suspense,” Desplat says he and the director agreed. “We always kept repeating to each other, ‘’No score, no score..’ There should be music that should be another current to the film— always appearing—disappearing, without notice. It’s got to be like not painting on the canvas, but in the canvas itself.”

Desplat, who scored the film in three weeks,  wanted to create a musical palate that reflected the culture and the history of the region and of the conflict between the warring factions. “It’s it’s the story of two civilizations, two religions, two tribes trying to kill each other.  One attacked the other, there’s always one that starts the war and then the other strikes back and then it becomes ugly, and awful and disgusting and disturbing,” he said. “It’s not nice to see somebody being tortured even if he’s a bad guy. It’s monstrous and ugly.”

 Desplat had nothing but praise for the Oscar-winning director, calling Bigelow’s movie “a masterpiece...The  way she chose to have Jessica Chastain play a role and not some action woman. This tiny woman, so beautiful, such transparent skin, to play the girl who’s the most fierce and cunning of the whole bunch,” he says. “And she’s the one who really wants to kill or catch Bin Laden. Kathryn’s point of view is just amazing and I don’t know how many artists and directors would have had that strong point of view for the subject.”

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