Credit: RCA Records

Album Review: Christina Aguilera blooms on 'Lotus'

In case you've forgotten, she's a fighter, but also a dancer

Christina Aguilera has a manifesto and on “Lotus,” it’s upfront and center. Her new album, out Nov. 13, opens with a self-important, autotuned declaration set to a trance-like chant, that her rebirth is here: “submerged from her pain, broken pieces,” this “songbird” is beginning again and she needs to speak her truth:  “I say goodbye to the scared child inside. I sing for freedom and for love. I look at my reflection, embrace the woman that I’ve become. The unbreakable lotus in me, I now set free.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>One Direction's &quot;Take Me Home&quot;</p>

One Direction's "Take Me Home"

Album Review: One Direction's 'Take Me Home' masterfully hits its target

Exceedingly well-crafted songs dominate group's second set

It’s a sad fact that boy bands, no matter how talented they are, generally have a shelf life only slightly longer than a carton of milk.

Yes, One Direction’s chart-topping “Up All Night” came out less than eight months ago, but the group is striking while the curling iron is hot by releasing a new album on Nov. 13. Can there be any doubt that the album will arrive at No. 1, carried to the high perch aloft the hearts of screaming fangirls?

The 13 songs that make up “Take Me Home”  create a hermetically-sealed bubble that is only big enough for a tween/teenage girl, her favorite 1D member, and their all-encompassing love.

The tunes, tailor-made for the 2013 arena tour the quintet has already sold out, are slightly more sophisticated than the tracks on “Up All Night,” but to the band’s credit, they in no way attempt to leave behind the audience that made them so popular.

There’s a song factory working overtime that churns this stuff out and the overlords have names like Dr. Luke, Shellback and Ed Sheeran: in other words, 1D has the top pop crafters in the land coming up with these tunes.  Regardless of the author, they all follow the same basic road map:  The songs are sexy and slightly suggestive, but won’t send the younger set scurrying to their parents to ask for explanation. The boys are confident with just enough quivering vulnerability to appear completely unthreatening, like a pretty pony. Love is shiny and clean and never, ever messy with each potential dilemma neatly tied up within the confines of a 3-minute pop song. And, not to be overlooked, no matter what the situation, the girl is always in control and she has the final say.

There’s nothing original about any of the songs here, but they are so exceedingly well crafted and produced  that they ovecome the mind-numbing similarity of the songs’ themes about love, love, love.

So adoring are their fans (as I write this, some of them have been camped out since Friday for One Direction’s Tuesday appearance on “Today”), that One Direction wisely sends a love letter directly to them with “Back For You.” Yes, they see YOU out in the audience, and even though they are leaving every night,  know they are returning just for YOU.

It’s these kinds of canny moves that keep Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Louis Tomlinson, all of whom trade off on vocals,  first and foremost in their fans’ hearts. The CD booklet even devotes a page to a dreamy close up of each of the individual members so fans can have a mini-poster of their favorite band member.

The album opens with first single “Live While We’re Young,” which starts with a Clash-like “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” type riff. It signals that our fellas are growing up.  Like many of the songs on “Take Me Home,” the lyrics are open to naughty interpretation, such as taking photos that had better not be shared (get it?).

That segues into “Kiss You,” a bouncy, electronic infectious ditty that opens with “Oh, I just want to take you any way that you like...”  But before things get too scary, we’re clearly reminded that it’s ok to stop at kissing.

There nothing a teen girl likes more than a slow song that promises undying love and One Direction’s five members are nothing if not attuned to their girls’ needs. On second single, “Little Things,” each member spins what he loves about his girl and how perfect she is, even if she still has to squeeze into her jeans or likes the sound of her own voice. While it’s meant to be a song to ensure that he loves her just the way she is, even if she can’t love herself, it comes across like a catalog of every fault a woman likes to wish her man never notices. But the band (well, the songwriters) deserves points for pushing the idea that her perceived imperfections are what make her so lovable.

Every song here feels like it could have been recorded by someone else:  “C’mon, C’mon” features a Neon Trees’-like kick drum propulsion. Mid-tempo “Last First Kiss” feels like a Panic At The Disco outtake when it bursts into the chorus, although the message of “I want to be the first to take it all the way like this” is the stuff that makes girls hug their pillows a little tighter at night.  Mid-tempo ballad “Over Again, co-written by Sheeran, has a Ryan Tedder/OneRepublic-like yearning to it.

The best tracks on “Take Me Home” include the militant drum stomp of uptempo “Heart Attack,” which features a fun, spirited vocal delivery by the boys,  as well as the irrepressibly jaunty “I Would” (musically, it’s similar to Pink’s “Raise Your Glass”), which is bolstered by spritely whistles and hand claps. “Rock Me” opens similarly to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and stays with a mid-tempo, nearly hypnotic anthemic beat that will become a live staple, even with the unwieldy “R-O-C-K Me Again” part.

Teen girls love their secrets and 1D conspiratorially joins in with “They Don’t Know About Us,” a rhythmic ballad about young love that the older folks just don’t understand. “They don’t know about the things we do/they don’t know about the I love yous/ but i bet you if they only knew/ they would just be jealous of us.” No, they’d probably lock up their daughter, but the thought of an all-consuming love that no one else can penetrate is what One Direction promises better than Bieber, better than The Wanted, better than anyone out there right now.

The album ends with “Summer Love, ” a frankly gorgeous acoustic guitar-based ballad. The end of summer fills in metaphorically for our time with 1D coming to a close. It’s slow, luscious, and sweeping as it swells with strings, but never goes too far over the top.  I’m so far out of the One Dimension demographic, I practically need a GPS to find it, but this one had me swooning.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but don’t worry. As they promise on “Back For You,” they’re coming back.

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<p>Kelly Clarkson in &quot;Catch My Breath&quot;</p>

Kelly Clarkson in "Catch My Breath"

Watch: Kelly Clarkson is diva-licious in video for 'Catch My Breath'

She's also very tall

Ingredients necessary for Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch My Breath” video? A white background, a beautiful black dress, some computer generated designs and a mighty strong fan.

The result? Clarkson’s most “Diva”-like video.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Chris Martin of Coldplay</p>

Chris Martin of Coldplay

Credit: AP Photo

Coldplay set to headline New Year's Eve gig with Jay-Z

British band adds two other year-end dates in the U.S.

Coldplay will close out 2012 in the U.S., spending New Year’s Eve co-headlining a show with Jay-Z at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center.

The group, who will release “Live 2012,” a concert film/live album on Nov. 19, will headline Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Dec. 29 and then play Barclay’s Center solo on Dec. 30 before their date with Jay-Z the next night.

The New Year’s Eve extends the nice little bromance between Coldplay and Jay-Z: the two acts shared a bill in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve 2010. More recently, Jay-Z joined Coldplay at the 2012 Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony in London.

Tickets for the Connecticut show go on sale Nov. 16, while the Brooklyn shows go on sale Nov. 17. 

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: Joel Ryan/AP

Music Power Rankings: Taylor Swift, Madonna and Carly Rae Jepson top the list

Why is Jermaine Jackson on there?

1. Taylor Swift: “Red” has sold 1.5 million in two weeks, quickly catapulting the title to the top-selling album released in 2012. Swift takes on a whole new meaning.

2. The Civil Wars: After four years together and only one full-length album, the co-ed pair abruptly pull out of their European tour and announce a hiatus.  Where’s Abraham Lincoln when you need him?

3. Madonna:
This week she celebrates the 30th anniversary of her debut on the Billboard charts....she might just make it afterall.
4. Kendrick Lamar:
His album debuts at No. 2. As if that’s not enough, you know you’re hot when Lady Gaga leaks the version of “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” that didn’t make said album.

5. Christina Aguilera:
She recreates “Your Body” with only a phone, pencils and other office supplies. on “Jimmy Fallon.” Staples’s stock goes up 10%.

6. Grease:
  the ‘70s musical gets new love from both “Glee,” which kicks off a two-week story arc this week and, Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta). Will it be enough to catapult the soundtrack back onto the Billboard 200?

7. Diane Warren: The songwriting master options her 2,000-tune catalog for use for a Broadway musical.  Can we call it “Because You Loved Me, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing?”

8. Carly Rae Jepsen:
You know you’ve arrived when a Ukranian singer accuses you for stealing “Call Me Maybe.” Sue me maybe?

9. Miley Cyrus:
She’s working with Pharrell Williams on her new album, which sounds like it will combine country and hip-hop. That really is Dirty South.

10. Jermaine Jackson:
No, it’s not really a power move, but it’s so bizarre that we wanted to bring it to your attention: This week, Jackson petitioned a court to change his name to Jermaine Jacksun for “artistic reasons.” Does his son, the fantastically named Jermajesty, approve?

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<p>Taylor Swift performing this week in London</p>

Taylor Swift performing this week in London

Credit: Joel Ryan/AP

Taylor Swift's 'Red' and Ne-Yo's 'R.E.D.' battle it out on next week's Billboard 200

Aerosmith and Third Day also crack the Top 10

Taylor Swift will make it three weeks at No. 1 next week on the Billboard 200 with sales of up to 225,000 for "Red."

That means it will outsell the No. 2 title, “Now That’s What I Call Music 44,” by more than 2-to-1, with that compilation set to top out at 100,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

“Now 44” is joined by three other debuts: “Music From Another Dimension” from Aerosmith, the band’s first album of new material in more than a decade, comes in at No. 3 with sales of 70,000. Ne-Yo’s’s “R.E.D.” sneaks into the top 5 at 60,000 (making two different albums titled "Red" in the top 5). Third Day’s “Miracle” cracks the top 10 with 30,000 units sold.

Filling in the rest of Top 10, Rod Stewart’s holiday album, “Merry Christmas Baby,”  is No. 4, while Jason Aldean’s former No. 1, “Night Train,” is No. 6. Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” falls two spots to No. 7, while Meek Mill’s “Dreams And Nightmares” and Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” are in a dead heat for No. 8 with both projected to sell between 35,000 and 40,000.


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Watch: Rihanna shines in new video for 'Diamonds'
Credit: Def Jam Records

Watch: Rihanna shines in new video for 'Diamonds'

And look! Horsies!

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but according to Rihanna’s video for her No. 1 R&B hit of the same name, so are running horses, tattoos, and slo-mo photography.

[More after the jump...]

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Credit: Reprise

Album Review: Green Day's 'Dos!' blasts through the midnight hour

The time is right for dancing in the streets

Green Day’s “Dos!,” the second in the band’s trilogy, opens with Billie Joe Armstrong gently backed by an acoustic guitar as he sweetly asks if he’ll “see you tonight.”

Then the gloves come off. The next 35 minutes are a manic midnight ramble through a bacchanalian night out as Armstrong and band mates Tre Cool and Mike Dirnt ain’t looking for nothing but a good time.  If “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown” were about broad social themes,  “Uno!” and “Dos!” have no such sweeping ambition....unless getting laid counts.  (The album is streaming in full here now).

And of course it does, as “F*** Time” concedes. The tune’s music is so playful you could twist to it, but Armstrong has other moves in mind.

“Dos!” gallops through the evening, with stops to visit a girl hooked on meth (the driving “Ashley,” which sounds like a holdover from “21st Century Breakdrown),” a yearning for some rest before a second wind kinks in (the propulsive “Lazy Bones”) and raw, rave up “Make Out Party,” on which Armstrong declares “you’ve got yourself a pretty little blouse/I think I want to rub it the wrong way.” (check out Dirnt’s great bass solo toward the end).

Green Day stays tried and true to its rock conventions for the most part, with each song drawing from a different subgenre: for example, first single “Stray Heart”  doesn’t stray that far from the genial head shaking rockabilly of the Stray Cats  crossed with Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine.” Throughout, the characters are full of the usual discontent displayed in Green Day’s catalog: they’re none too bright nor ambitious with way too much time on their hands.  In addition to meth-head Amy, the “Wild One” is “strung out on erasers” after giving up “living on Jesus.”

The biggest exception is “Nightlife” featuring Lady Cobra. It’s a sinewy, snaky, serpentine of a song anchored by Lady Cobra’s sultry  spoken word verses. If you’re into Green Day only for the rock, it may be too much of a stretch, but it fits into the theme of the evening as the bewitching hour has come and gone.  Next track, “Wow! That’s Loud” features a Who-like wavy psychedelic breakdown in the middle before resuming its straight-ahead four-on-the-floor beat.

The album comes full circle, as it closes with Armstrong, backed again only by an acoustic guitar, on “Amy” (he’s clearly dumped “Ashley”). He pleas with her to stick around, even though she’s “too young for the golden age because the record bin has been replaced.” As the sun comes up, no one wants to be alone.

If "Uno," the more uplifting of the two albums, was about getting ready to go out, "Dos!" is about sticking it out through the long night, through the dark alleys and twists and turns. It's scrappier and messier. “Dos!,” out Nov. 13, follows “Uno,” which came out Sept. 21. The trilogy finale, “Tre,” comes out Dec. 11.

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<p>Fiona Apple</p>

Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple, Avett Bros., Norah Jones and more on 'This is 40' soundtrack

And, of course, Graham Parker

The previously announced Fiona Apple will be joined by Ryan Adams, Norah Jones, the Avett Brothers, and, of course,  Graham Parker, on the soundtrack for Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40.”

While tracks from some of the artists, including Paul Simon, the Avetts, and Loudon Wainwright, have been released before, the cuts from Jones, Apple, Parker (who plays heavily into the plot), Lindsey Buckingham, Wilco, and Adams are all original.  Jon Brion composed the score and produced several of the new cuts, including Apple’s “Dull Tool.” The soundtrack comes out Dec. 11.

Read Drew McWeeny's review of "This is 40" here.

The track listing for "Music From The Motion Picture This Is 40" is as follows:
1.   I'm Your Angel – Yoko Ono  
2.   Always Judging – Norah Jones 
3.   What Do You Like? – Graham Parker with Punch Brothers
4.   Sick Of You – Lindsey Buckingham 
5.   Rewrite – Paul Simon  
6.   Shining Through The Dark (Live) – Ryan Adams  
7.   Lunch Box Odd Sox – Paul McCartney
8.   Brother & Sister – Lindsey Buckingham Featuring Norah Jones  
9.   Theme 1 (Debbie & Oliver) – Jon Brion   
10. Watch The Moon Come Down – Graham Parker & The Rumour 
11. Days That We Die – Loudon Wainwright 
12. She Acts Like You – Lindsey Buckingham 
13. Dull Tool – Fiona Apple
14. Lucky Now (Live) – Ryan Adams 
15. I Got You – Wilco
16. Live & Die – The Avett Brothers 

Bonus track (digital only):
17. Protection (Live) – Graham Parker & The Rumour


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<p>Maroon 5</p>

Maroon 5

Maroon 5's 'One More Night' spends its eighth week atop the Billboard Hot 100

Psy's 'Gangnam Style' horses around at No. 2 again

Maroon 5’s “One More Night” makes it eight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, once again locking Psy’s “Gangnam Style” out of the top spot.

The group is on a roll as “One More Night” now spends twice as many weeks at No. 1 as Maroon 5’s 2011’s hit, “Moves Like Jagger” featuring Christina Aguilera, which was No. 1 for four weeks.

As far as Psy’s “Style,” it falls in radio listenership, digital sales, and streaming (although it remains No. 1 on both the sales and streaming charts), so the likelihood of it bouncing up to the top of the Billboard 200 are looking rather slim.

There’s only slight movement in the rest of the Top 10: Fun.’s “Some Nights” holds at No. 3, while Rihanna’s “Diamonds” sparkles its way to No. 4 from No. 5. Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is at No. 5 and Ke$ha’s “Die Young” falls two spots to No. 6.

Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” stays at No. 7, Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me” featuring Big Sean falls from No. 6 to No. 8, while Alex Clare’s “Too Close” and Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself”) each slide down one spot to No. 9 and 10, respectively.

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