<p>Robin Thicke, Nicki Minaj, Usher</p>

Robin Thicke, Nicki Minaj, Usher

Credit: AP Photos

Best And Worst Of The 2014 BET Awards: Nicki Minaj, Usher, Chris Rock and more

How did Robin Thicke and Chris Brown fare?

Tonight’s BET Awards, held at Los Angeles' Nokia Theater, didn’t last forever, they just felt like they did.

At nearly four hours long, the Chris Rock-hosted show included a heartfelt Civil Rights Movement tribute and great performances by Usher and Yolanda Adams, among others, but viewers also had to sit through appearances that could have easily been shortened or cut entirely. Pharrell Williams and newcomer August Alsina were the evening’s big winners at the event, dubbed by Rock as “the black World Cup.”

Here are the night’s best and worst moments.

What were your best and worst of the evening?


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Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran takes 'X' to No. 1 on next week's album chart

Who else debuts in the top 10?

Ed Sheeran will land his first No. 1 album next week as “X” easily tops the Billboard 200.

It’s a good week to be a British singer/songwriter. Following Sheeran at No. 1 (with sales of up to 210,000),  Sam Smith’s “In The Lonely Hour” will hold at No. 2 (72,000).

The second of four debuts comes in at No. 3, as rapper G-Easy’s “These Things Happen” sells 48,000. Also bowing in the top 10 will be hard rock heavyweights Mastadon with “Once More ‘Round The Sun” at No. 8 (28,000), and Phish, whose “Fuego” swims in at No. 9 (28,000).

This week’s No. 1, Lana Del Rey’s “Ultraviolence” will likely drop to No. 4 (45,000). The unsinkable soundtrack to “Frozen” remains afloat at No. 5 (40,000). Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum” falls to No. 6 (30,000) and Linkin Park’s “The Hunting Party,” drops to No. 7(30,000). At No. 10 is “Now That’s What I Call Music 50” (24,000), according to Hits Daily Double.


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Bobby Womack

Soul Legend Bobby Womack dead at 70

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer scored 36 chart hits between 1970 and 1990

Soul legend Bobby Womack has died at the age of 70, his publicist at XL Recordings has confirmed to HitFix.

Womack, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 by The Rolling Stones Ron Wood,  was only 16 when he dropped out of school at the urging of mentor Sam Cooke and began recording with his brothers under the name the Valentinos. (Womack later went on to marry and divorce Cooke's widow, Barbra.)

The Valentinos first hit, "Lookin' for a Love," produced by Cooke,  reached No. 8 on Billboard's R&B chart. Its second hit,  “It’s All Over Now,” co-written by Womack, later became the Rolling Stones’ second Top 40 hit in the U.S.

Womack continued on as a solo artist, charting 36 songs between 1970 and 1990, including “That’s the Way I Feel About Cha,” “Woman’s Gotta Have It,”” and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.”

He also wrote songs recorded by a number of artists, including Wilson Pickett and George Benson. An accomplished guitarist, he also played on sessions for everyone from Aretha Franklin to Ray Charles and Dusty Springfield.

In 2012, Womack released "The Bravest Man in the Universe," his first album since 1994's "Resurrection."  Revered in England, Womack, who played the Glastonbury Festival in 2013,  had worked with Blur's Damon Albarn on the set in London and New York. The album, which won the UK's Q Award for best album in 2012,  was re-released June 12 with additional material. Albarn had worked previously with Womack on Albarn's side project, The Gorillaz' 2010 album, "Plastic Beach." Womack appears on the album's hit, "Stylo."

Womack has been on the road, playing both the New Orleans Jazz Festival in May and Bonnaroo, earlier this month. He was slated to start a European tour July 19 in Amsterdam.

The cause of death has not been disclosed. Womack, a diabetic, had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012.

An updated, more extensive obit will be published shortly

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Transformers: Age of Extinction

Composer Steve Jablonsky on 'Transformers: Age of Extinction': 'This was the craziest film of all'

What it's really like to work with Michael Bay

Steve Jablonsky would be among the millions excited about the opening of “Transformers: Age of  Extinction” tomorrow if he weren’t so fatigued. “I barely know what day it is,” he says.  

Since last December, he has worked on the score for Michael Bay’s new “Transformers” film. He’s so tired, he’s not even sure how much music is in the film. “It’s about two hours of music,” he says. “We could figure it out, but we’re all too exhausted.” He has another algorithm: Working on one Michael Bay film is like “scoring two-and-a-half smaller films.”

He finished the score in early June, mere days before the movie debuted in Hong Kong. “Some people have told me not to mention how last minute it was, but at the premiere, Michael stood up and said, ‘I finished this film 40 hours ago.’ This one was the craziest film of them all.”

“Age of Extinction” is Jablonsky’s fourth “Transformers” film with Bay and his sixth Bay film overall. Part of the fun for “Extinction”  was finding themes for new characters in the reinvigorated story.  “Michael said to me, ‘This is new, let’s approach it as something new.’  I put aside all my old themes  and just started on brand new ideas. We have all these new characters: Mark Wahlberg, his daughter.  There’s a new villain, Lockdown. I focused a lot of time writing a theme for him. He was one of my favorites.”

Toward the end of the process, Bay and Jablonsky both had the same thought: they should incorporate a few of the original themes. “We thought the fans would like it,” Jablonsky says.

Bay brings Jablonsky, who was asked to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences earlier today, in earlier than most composers start working on feature.  “There will only be a few scenes, because that’s all that’s been [edited]. He’ll call me and say, ‘Can you get down here?’ He’ll have scenes he’s excited about,” Jablonsky says. “It’s very much all consuming. There’s a lot of work from the beginning and it just gets worse and worse—maybe I should say better— it just intensifies. All these new images are coming in. Inevitably that means the picture is going to change and the music might not work. The score keeps changing as the film develops, but If I waited until the end to start, I would be dead. There’s no way I could do it.”

Also different for this installment of “Transformers”: Jablonsky worked closely with Imagine Dragons, who wrote the theme, “Battle Cry.”  In the past, Jablonsky had used parts of themes from Linkin Park and Goo Goo Dolls in his score, but this time, it “immediately hit me more than some of the previous ones had done.”  Bay suggested bringing the band to L.A. and then Jablonsky went to their Las Vegas studio and incorporated some of lead singer Dan Reynolds’ vocalizations into the score as well as his band mates’ music. “It was a much closer collaboration than I’ve had in the past.”

Though Bay has a reputation for being difficult, Jablonsky has found much to admire in working with the action king. “I wish people knew how smart he was. On a daily basis, he’ll impress me with the sheer knowledge of his entire film. He can play it back and forth in his entire head,” Jablonsky says. “He’ll say, ‘Remember that sound from that cue you did that you played me six weeks ago?’ He knows every little detail. It’s great to watch him operate. It’s still a pleasure for me to watch him create.He’s genuinely a good guy and a supportive guy and I think people generally think he’s a nut case and he’s not.”

After studying at University of California, Berkeley, Jablonsky got his start in the composing industry by cold calling Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control studio and asking if they needed interns. The answer was yes. From there, he quietly absorbed everything he could, watching Zimmer and his fellow composers, including Harry Gregson-Williams, work.  “Harry had just come over from London to set up his studio in Hans’ building and was looking for an assistant. I started working with him since I had some experience on the equipment,” Jablonsky says. “He’d let me mess around in his studio and I was scoring music to his films just for fun. He saw what I was doing and let me score a theme in one of his movies. Harry gave me that chance.”

Jablonsky, who also scored “Desperate Housewives,”  then started working more closely with Zimmer, from whom he learned things musically, but also how to navigate studio politics, a skill for which Zimmer is renown. “He is just great  at that,” Jablonsky says. “I just picked up a general vibe of how to handle yourself when these big-time producers and directors don’t like what you’re doing. Don’t freak out, just get into a conversation with them.”

Jablonsky, who admits he’s a little behind the curve on social media—he only joined Twitter a few months ago— says the feedback from “Transformers” fans on Facebook and Twitter buoys him. “It’s really amazing to see how many people from every part of the world have heard the music.  They’ll say they listen to it when they’re studying or exercising or they were sad and it made them feel better. I’m like, ‘Why didn’t I sign up for this sooner?’ Not because I need the affirmation, but because it gives it more meaning. I thought about them when I was working on the score. I’ve gotten message from soldiers from Iraq. It’s very touching.”

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Jay Z and Beyonce
Credit: Kevin Mazur

Beyonce and Jay Z shine on 'On The Run' opening night: Review Round-Up

She brings the glitz, he brings the grit

Jay Z and Beyonce took their show on the road, opening the On The Run summer tour last night at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Amid  some since-debunked rumors that the tour was not selling well, the six-week run started with more than 76,000 concert-goers singing along during the  2-1/2 hour show.

The evening uses the “Run” video as its template, using a couple on the lam as its extended theme as the pair weaves more than 40 songs songs in and out of that construct.
According to the reviews below, Beyonce brings the glamour and Jay Z brings the grit. The U.S. portion of the tour ends Aug. 6 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

Below is a review round-up from opening night:

New York Times: "Beyoncé and Jay Z, married since 2008, opened their sold-out Wednesday night show at Sun Life Stadium here — the beginning of their “On the Run” tour — with a string of those [conspiratorial and exuberant] hits. “ ’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” “Upgrade U,” “Crazy in Love”: These are songs of diligent, enthusiastic, sometimes giddy love. From there, for almost two and a half hours, they traded control of the stage (approximately 20 times in all), giving each other space to be the center of attention and also helping out where needed in a show that acknowledged their two very different sorts of success without diminishing either one…While Beyoncé and her dancers formed a formidable phalanx, by comparison, Jay Z looked lonely, though he easily held the stage, even without backup. On some of his most familiar songs, he rapped in a ginger staccato, as if he didn’t want to dwell. By contrast, every time Beyoncé retook the stage from her husband, it was as if reveille were blasting at full volume, announcing that boot camp had begun. Jay Z allowed for breezy enjoyment; Beyoncé demanded full and reverent attention."

Billboard: "The sheer volume of material, coupled with the cinematic theme (more on that later) and Beyoncé’s jaw-dropping wardrobe changes made for a highly entertaining and impressive show that went from the glamorous to the profane…But it was also a rather detached show… the lines between performers and audience were very sharply delineated and both Jay and Beyoncé’s were careful to adhere to script and procedure every step of the way…Alternating in the sparse, almost industrial-looking stage, Beyoncé and Jay-Z proceeded to take us on a journey of fashion, high-level performance and music, always returning to the central theme of love—challenged, perhaps, but finally standing strong."

The Guardian: "Some songs came in snippets and the show occasionally felt rushed, but with over two decades of work under their jointed belts, how else could they get through their catalogue without pushing the three-hour mark?…The tour played into both of the pair's strengths: Jay brought the Brooklyn bravado and Bey brought the southern strut. Next his wife, Jay Z isn't much a dancer, and when the tempo upped, he respectfully exited, letting her lead her Beyhive legions through their hip-shaking glory."

USA Today: "Early on, it becomes apparent that this is a totally integrated performance. Sure, it gives Beyoncé time for her phenomenal costume changes, but the coordination is not just remarkable, it's the absolute best way that two of the world's best performers can deliver a show that proves why they're on top together…This show is worth it just for Beyoncé's ensembles. She reappears in a black lace, drop-sleeve number, a la Stevie Nicks, for Haunted, a highlight performance, boasting creamy vocals that contrast with other awesome numbers like the more agro Flawless and triumphant Crazy In Love. Her vocal range is as vast as her fashion choices."

Rolling Stone: "The most powerful couple in music could have easily just coasted on their names, performing a sparse half-Jay/half-Bey concert before cashing the Roc Nation checks. Instead, over the course of two-and-a-half hours and 42 songs, the Carters opened their joint On the Run tour with a well synchronized cinematic spectacle…Husband and wife might get equal billing here, but make no mistake: This is Beyoncé's show. She monopolized the heavy-duty set pieces, she wore the jaw-dropping outfits, she delivered the mesmerizing and complex choreography. Perhaps a little too often, it felt like Jay Z was there just to kill time between his wife's costume changes, but what better way to kill time than have one of the greatest rappers of all time rifle through a few of his biggest tunes."




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Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy' sits pretty atop the singles chart

Could Magic's 'Rude' topple her from her throne?

The rapper from down under remains on top again, as Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, holds at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the fifth week.

Similarly, Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” which features Azalea, stays at No. 2.  Ashanti is the only other female artist to have logged 5 weeks simultaneously at No. 1 and No. 2 12 years ago with “Foolish” and as the featured artist on Joe’s “What’s Luv.” Last year, Pharrell Williams held down the top two spots at the same time for five weeks with Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which also featured T.I. and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” according to Billboard.

Both “Fancy” and “Problem” are losing overall Hot 100 points (the tally measures sales, airplay, and streaming) leaving Magic!’s “Rude” the chance to leapfrog from No. 3 to No. 1 next week.

Two other newcomers move into the top 5:  Nico & Vinz climb 7-4 with “Am I Wrong,” while Sam Smith, whose “In The Lonely Hour” enters the Billboard 200 at No. 2,  moves 10-5 with current single, “Stay With Me” (he also rises 14-12 via his feature on Disclosure’s “Latch.”

In the bottom half of the Top 10: Jason Derulo’s “Wiggle,” featuring Snoop Dogg slips 5-6, John Legend’s “All of Me” falls 4-7, Calvin Harris’ “Summer” inches 9-8, DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” drops 6-9 and Pharrell’s “Happy” spends what could be its last week in the Top 10, sliding 8-10.

Just missing the Top 10, Maroon 5 bows at No 14 with new single, “Maps.” That’s the best debut for any group so far in 2014.

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Michael Jackson

5 reasons we'll never see another artist like Michael Jackson

Today marks the fifth anniversary of his death

Five years ago today Michael Jackson died. It feels like it was yesterday. His music still floods the airwaves and theaters and his popularity remains undiminished.

Here are five reasons we’ll never see the likes of his singular talent again:

1. He had time to develop: There’s no real development process anymore: whether it’s the immediacy of “American Idol,” “The Voice,” etc., or YouTube, wanna-be artists get exposure often way before they are ready—even though they think they are. Jackson and his brothers incubated in Gary, Ind., away from any spotlight. Though Michael became famous at a very, very early age, that was only after the Jackson 5 had worked their way up through local talent shows, regional tours and more before Motown signed them in 1969 (after initially rejecting them in 1967).

2. He was born a star: Jackson came alive on stage in a way that only a handful of artists since the advent of modern entertainment have: Elvis, Jackson, Springsteen. These aren’t artists who simply enjoyed/enjoy being on stage: They crave it and have to have it and feel more alive on stage than anywhere else. There is a magic that happens when the lights go down and they walk on the stage that can’t be taught, it can’t be learned. It can be nurtured, but you’re either born with it or you’re not and 99.999% of all performers aren’t. Jackson was.

3. He worked hard: Jackson had an unbelievable amount of talent bestowed upon him by the talent gods, but he then took those gifts and worked on them incessantly. He studied Gene Kelly’s dance moves, he practiced singing and worked to find different places his voice could go. He was constantly trying to improve and up his game. There never seemed to be a moment where he felt like he could rest on his laurels.

4. He didn’t play it safe: It’s easy to forget how adventurous he was musically because the risks he took have since cleared the path for other artists. When “Beat It” came out, the thought of having a rock solo by the likes of Eddie Van Halen on a pop/R&B track was unheard of…and he encountered plenty of push back. Just like pioneers always do.  He transcended genres with a fearless abandon and commitment to pushing music forward.

5. He could sing: His stage presence and dance ability were so otherworldly, it’s easy to overlook what a great vocalist he was. Listen to those records: the tear in his voice on “She’s Out Of My Life,” the hopeful determination in “Man In The Mirror,” unbridled joy on “The Way You Make Me Feel,” the growl in “Dirty Diana.”  He had range and strength, but he also had emotion. Not that many artists have that hat trick.


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Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert

5 things we learned from Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood's 'Somethin' Bad' video

Hair extensions trump all

They seemed like such nice girls… In their high-budget video for “Somethin’ Bad,” Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood—aka Belle Boyd and Priscilla Parker— play two girls gone bad on one crime caper after another.

The clip, which premiered today on CMT, plays out like a trailer for an action flick with opening and closing credits part of the package.  Lambert and Underwood, when they aren’t singing up against a police line-up wall, are busy planning heists that involve great costumes, motorcycles, card games, banks, and, above all, leather.  

Our five takeaways from the video (other than the fact that Lambert looks adorable in the brown wig and should totally try that look):

Playing in a high-stakes card game is a lot like attending the CMA or ACM Awards: the ladies are dressed in formal wear while the boys, for the most part, get to wear anything they rolled out of bed and put on.

They make lousy poker players. The signals they are sending each other and their tells are so obvious that anyone who continued to bet against them is an idiot. Be like Lady Gaga and work on that P-P-P-Poker Face.

It is far better to look good standing beside a motorcycle in a leather outfit with a head full of hair extensions and a wind machine than to actually be able to ride said motorcycle.

When in doubt, throw in an explosion.  After stealing jewelry from the vault at the bank where they have been working, our gals take time to change out of their catsuits into their getaway outfits (kind of like how you change from your wedding dress to an outfit to leave your reception) and as they run across the street there’s a random explosion in the bank that sends money and Underwood and Lambert flying. It’s just thrown in there because, well, every good action movie has an explosion or two, right?

Who says crime doesn’t pay?  The video ends with the ladies making a get away in a Mercedes (nice product placement) that takes them to a helicopter where they are undoubtedly headed for their next caper.

The song is No. 28 with a bullet on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.


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Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey responds to Frances Bean Cobain's criticism over 'dead' comment

Just think...if either of them had picked up the phone we'd have to find something else to talk about

Lana Del Rey has responded, via Twitter, of course, to Frances Bean Cobain’s Twitter criticism of Del Rey for saying she wishes she were already dead.

To recap, in words that Del Rey now says were provoked, the “Ultraviolence” singer told The Guardian that she wished she were already dead and that she doesn’t particularly enjoy what she’s doing, but will continue doing it anyway.

Cobain, whose father, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, killed himself  when his daughter was 1,  took to Twitter to chide Del Rey for “romanticizing” early death. Read her tweets here.

In a continuation of what has been a civilized exchange, Del Rey tweeted back to Cobain yesterday: “It’s all good. He was asking me a lot [about] your dad. I said I liked him because he was a talent, not because he died young.”  She then added, “The other half of what I said wasn’t really related to the people he mentioned/I don’t find that part of music glam either.”

So their non-feud is over and all that’s left now is the obligatory photo of the two of them meeting and hugging it out… which they will immediately post on Instagram.

It’s really hard to imagine how websites and blogs had enough to report on before Twitter launched in 2006 and even harder to imagine that celebrities didn’t feel the need to tweet every thought that passed through their head.  

Cobain was smart: she (and any other celebrity with any media savvy) knew that all she had to do was send a tweet to Lana Del Rey for the inter webs to blow up and she was right. And Del Rey knew once she responded it would make news. I’m sure the thought of picking up their phones and actually having a private conversation about it never occurred to either one of them…because if the rest of the world doesn't know about it, that means it never happening, right?  Instead, everything plays out in a public forum now. Cobain understands the currency her tweets have and that Del Rey is hot right now. The combination is combustible. I realize this is not new at all and has been the modus operandi for quite some time, but, for some reason, this exchange really highlighted to me the extent to which we bloggers jump on anything slightly tantalizing for potential click bait.  Vicious circle…

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David Guetta has the 'perfect' song for Miley Cyrus

David Guetta has the 'perfect' song for Miley Cyrus

Watch as he and the interviewer speak in their own language that no one else can understand

DJ extraordinaire David Guetta has written a track that he thinks would be just perfect for Miley Cyrus.

While we imagine almost any DJ would like to have Cyrus on his album, Guetta’s track record suggests that he stands a better chance that most.

Backstage at Capital FM’s Summertime Ball in London, he told an interviewer, “Oh my God, we made a song, she would be so perfect for the song. We did it like two days ago. It’s such an obvious song for her. I’m like, “Wow, who could pull it off?” And she would be totally the one.”

The interviewer then uses a broadened hand gesture, as she asks, “Is it like really like a  (opens her arms) type of track  because Miley’s a bad girl, she just does what she wants.”

And then Guetta, as if he actually understood what that meant, nods and says, “It’s really like this.” You can watch their exchange here.

So…unless you understood the mind meld between Guetta and the interviewer, you’re  probably like the rest of us with absolutely no idea of what just transpired other than Guetta has now put out into the universe that he has a song he’d like to collaborate with Cyrus on.

No word if Guetta managed to connect with Cyrus, who was also playing the festival. But given the success of 2011’s “Nothing But The Beat,” which included mega hits, “Without You,” featuring Usher, and “Titanium,” featuring Sia, Cyrus’s people may want to contact Guetta’s people.

Last week, Guetta released video for hardcore dance track “Blast Off,” featuring  Australian DJ/songer Kaz James, which also includes some pretty heavy guitar riffs.

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