Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman perform 'Amazing Grace' at Children's Hospital

Check out another time the couple sang together


Keith Urban and wife Nicole Kidman serenaded children at Monash Children’s Hospital in Victoria, Australia over the weekend.

Urban was born in New Zealand but grew up in Australia, while Kidman was born in Hawaii, but, like Urban, was raised in Australia.

Kidman, who showed she has a fine singing voice herself in “Moulin Rouge,” seldom sings with her Grammy-winning husband, but she can be clearly heard singing with the staff and her husband on “Amazing Grace.”

The Oscar winner traveled from Australia to Shanghai to receive an award from the Shanghai Film Festival, while Urban kicked off the Australian leg of his Light the Fuse tour June 14. The tour comes to the U.S. on July 17 and ends Sept. 13.

This isn’t the first time the two have performed together: a few years back, they sang a parody of Men At Work’s “Land Down Under” for at a tribute to fellow Aussie/“The Mentalist” star Simon Baker and Kidman was very playful and goofy. Check out that video below the Monash one.

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Maroon 5

Maroon 5 returns with driving new single, 'Maps'

First single from new album, 'V'

Maroon 5’s new single, “Maps,” may cover new terrain geographically as lead singer/“The Voice” coach Adam Levine vows to search the globe for his lost love, but musically it stays pretty much in the group’s sweet spot with catchy verses and a striking vocal performance from Levine.

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Casey Kasem

Thank you, Casey Kasem, for spending time with me every week

Kasem dies at 82 after a long illness

Second only to my father’s, Casey Kasem’s voice was one of the resounding male voices of my childhood and played a large part in shaping my dreams. That voice, which had been off the air for several years already, was silenced for good today when Kasem died at 82.

When people ask me how I got into music journalism, there is one story that I always tell and that is of loving listening to the radio. Growing up in Raleigh, N.C., the main Top 40 station was WKIX. It was my gateway drug into the music world. I bought singles and got into album-oriented rock as I got older, but from the start, I was a Top 40 girl. I listened to it all the time. I made my mom switch from WPTF, her station of choice, to WKIX whenever we were in the car together (my father, who loved classical music, wasn’t usually so compliant) and I listened to it on the radio in my bedroom when I was doing my homework. If I could get away with it, I would listen after I went to bed,  but I would be so excited to hear what the next song was that I couldn’t fall asleep, so my parents put an end to that.  The local DJs brought me the songs that informed my childhood, but every Sunday, Casey Kasem brought me the world.

The American Top 40 Countdown aired on WKIX every Sunday starting at noon. I would sit in church and fidget as it grew closer to 12 p.m. Church would finish and my parents — I’m convinced they did this just to torture me— would insist on chatting with friends or helping clean up the sanctuary while I would be dying inside, knowing I was missing the songs at No. 40, 39, 38, 37… on the radio. Usually, we’d get home by the time Kasem was declaring Song No. 35 or so and, as I did every week, I’d sit at my desk in my bedroom, take out purple, lined, notebook paper (sometimes it was pink) and I would write down the songs as he announced them. I’d leave space at the top for the songs I’d missed because I knew he’d recap them when he got to No. 30.  

This was in the days when local stations had more clout in determining what they played than they do now, so I might hear a song on AT40 that I’d never heard before on WKIX because the local program director didn’t want to play it. There was something magical and wonderfully comforting about knowing that I was hearing him count down to “the top song in the land,” as Kasem used to say, and that some kid in Sacramento or Milwaukee was listening to these songs too. Kasem had a warm voice that felt like it was caressing the words as he conspiratorially, softly revealed secrets behind the songs and the artists, pulling back the curtain on new artists I’d never heard of before or revealing the newest song from some act I loved before WKIX had put it in regular rotation.

My obsession with writing down the weekly chart numbers probably lasted for only a few years— probably from fifth to seventh grade or so… but Kasem and the American Top 40 Countdown introduced me to Billboard. For several years, AT40 used Billboard’s charts and that’s how I found out about the trade magazine. And then… a few short years later, I was interning for Billboard while in college, and ultimately worked for them for more than a dozen years. I feel like I have Kasem to thank. I’m sure I would have learned about Billboard somehow, but because of Kasem, from a very early age, Billboard held a mythical allure for me.

I had long weaned myself off of having to listen every Sunday, but when I went to Germany for my junior year of  college, Kasem came back into my life. I would find myself missing home and wanting to hear an American accent (this was was before the internet and Skype and international calling was expensive enough that I only talked to my parents once a month). Enter Armed Forces Radio Network. In addition to the 1,000 stations in the U.S. that aired AT40, the countdown was broadcast on 400 AFRN stations, including one that was near Regensburg, where I went to college. So once again, Kasem brought me the world— or more specifically— helped me go home each week, when I would hear what was hitting big in the U.S. while I was 4,000 miles away.

Kasem turned over hosting AT40 to Ryan Seacrest in 2004. Even though I hadn’t listened for awhile, I still felt nostalgic sadness that an icon from my childhood was no longer there for me every week.

SiriusXM Radio plays the American Top 40 Countdown on its 70s channel every week and if I’m in the car, I’ll tune in. It’s a trip to hear Kasem’s voice coming back at me through the speakers. The long distance dedications delivered with dripping sincerity sound hokey to me now in a way that they never did to that young girl growing up in Raleigh who took his weekly sign off of “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars”  very seriously.  I never met Kasem during my time at Billboard, but that didn’t make me sad because I felt like I already knew him already. After all, we spent every Sunday together for years.

It wasn't that long ago that Kasem and I were radio mates, but it was a very different time that feels like another era. Though Top 40 countdown shows still exist, there was something special about having a weekly listening date and knowing that if I missed hearing Kasem then, I couldn't just go online and see the chart or stream that week's countdown whenever I felt like. Technology has definitely given us more options, but when you have everything at your fingertips whenever you want it, it loses a little of its uniqueness and what make it special. I'm glad that I felt that urgency to get home every Sunday, even if my parents didn't understand the necessity, and I'm thankful that Kasem helped me understand from a very young age the power of dreams and music.

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Jack White takes 'Lazaretto' to the top of the charts next week

Jack White takes 'Lazaretto' to the top of the charts next week

What happens to Miranda Lambert's 'Platinum'

Jack White’s second solo album lands exactly where his first solo set did: atop the Billboard 200.

Lazaretto” is set to sell up to 120,000 copies to bow at No. 1 on next week’s album chart. That’s twice as much as nearest competitor, Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum,” which came in at No. 1 this week. White’s tally is only slightly less than the 138,000 copies “Blunderbuss,” sold in its opening week in 2012.

Plus, White is also the only new act to enter the Top 10 next week, unless Passenger’s “Whispers” surges and pushes The Black Keys’ “Turn Blue” out of the No. 10 slot.

Rounding out the top 10: The “Fault In Our Stars” soundtrack is at No. 3 (50,000), followed closely by the “Frozen” soundtrack at No. 4 (45,000).  Brantley Gilbert’s “Just As I Am” continues to sell well, hanging in at No. 5 (40,000).

“Now That’s What I Call Music 50” and Coldplay’s “Ghost Stories” are too close to call for No. 6 with each targeted to move between 30,000-35,000). At No. 8 will likely by “Now That’s What I Call Country 7” (27,000), while Michael Jackson’s “Xscape” will be No. 9 (23,000), according to Hits Daily Double.

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Nico & Vinz

6 things you need to know about new hitmakers Magic! and Nico & Vinz

How did their hits, 'Rude,' and 'Am I Wrong' come out of nowhere?

Iggy Azalea isn’t the only newcomer crashing into the Top10. Seemingly out of nowhere two brand new acts, Magic! and Nico & Vinz have landed in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their debut U.S. singles and are causing even a bigger stir on Shazam USA Top 100 Tags Chart, where they are No. 1 and 2, and on iTunes Singles chart, which they have also topped.

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Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and his white pants kick off the World Cup

Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull, and his white pants kick off the World Cup

J-Lo puts in her five minutes to perform 'We Are One'

A swath of colorful dancers, drummers and Jennifer Lopez, Pitbull and Claudia Leitte kicked off Fifa's  World Cup in Brazil yesterday with their weak  anthem “We Are One.”

They lip-synced for five minutes and then it was over. And let’s take a minute to note that Pitbull gets to show up in a yellow soccer shirt and white pants rolled up in an outfit it probably took 60 seconds to throw on (and he’s being made fun of today in the Twitterverse), while both Lopez and Leitte are in skimpy leotards, full hair and make up and heels, as if they’ve been relegated to back up dancers (especially when Leitte resorts to tweaking to get her fellow Brazilians to act as if they care).  The world has never seemed quite as unfair as seeing the three of them standing together.

So after Lopez practically caused an internationally incident by saying she wasn’t coming to the opening and then reversing her decision, she showed up, did her part with professionalism and was probably back on her way to the U.S. before Brazil scored its first goal in its win over Croatia.


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Grammy Awards

Why the Grammy Awards only got it half right with the new sampling rule

Plus, two other changes we'd make to the Grammys

The Grammy Awards governing body, the Recording Academy, has never been one to make rash decisions when it comes to modifying the awards procedure, so here, in 2014, they have made a major decision regarding sampling: Starting with the Feb. 8, 2015 Grammy Awards, songs that include samples or interpolations of previously written songs will be allowed in all songwriting categories, including the coveted Song of the Year.

Is this a good decision? I’m not so sure. In some ways, the Grammys are so cautious in making changes that they miss the cultural significance of that musical moment (and that is partially the Grammys’ point: they aren’t meant to bow to trends or fads).

On the plus side, this is simply an acknowledgement that a new, creative work that stands on its own that uses a sample to add some zing or to salute an influence, shouldn’t be exempt because of the sample. That’s throwing the baby out with the bath water to  automatically exclude such a song.

On the other hand, some songs use the sample as the entire basis for the tune and the rest is built out from the sample. I’m not so sure those songs should eligible. If I were on the Board of Trustees, I would have voted to  allow sampling and interpolations, but I would have put a cap on the percentage of the song that can be the sample at no more than 15% (or something like that).  Songwriting is too precious and too valuable an art to not reward the songwriters who are still practicing it each year with no outside assistance.  On the other hand, the nice thing is that should a song based on a sample win a songwriting Grammy, the writers of that sample who contributed to the success of the new song that will also be recognized for their contribution.

Previously, samples or interpolations were allowed in only Best Rep Song since that genre is so reliant on samples. Now, the permission extends to Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, Best R&B Song, Best Country Song, Best Gospel Song, Best Contemporary Christian Music Song, Best American Roots Song, and Best Song Written for Visual Media.

Among the other changes:

*Best American Roots Performance category has been added
*The Dance/Electronica field and category have been renamed Dance/Electronic
*Best Pop Instrumental Album has been renamed Best Pop Contemporary Instrumental Album
*Best Classical Vocal Solo (album or tracks) becomes the album-only Best Classical Solo Vocal Album
*The guideline for Best Alternative Music Album has been refined  as “recordings that take as a starting point any existing musical genre or combination of genres and expand and redefine the boundaries of those genres.” Here’s another place where I disagree with the Academy. I would have totally renamed this category. The word “Alternative” is too closely associated with the alternative radio format, when, if you look at the nominees from past years, that is not what this category is about. Calling the Grammy category “Alternative” only causes unnecessary confusion, especially given, as the Grammy guidelines state, “though there may be considerable overlap with the Alternative radio format, this category is not intended to mirror it.” This was their chance and they didn’t take it…

I would have also made a significant change in the Best New Artist category: To be eligible now, an artist must have released at least one, but not more than three, albums. In the age of mix tapes and long lasting singles, it seems unwise that the rule hasn’t been switched to eliminate the album criteria. For example, Bruno Mars didn’t qualify for Best New Artist  in 2010 (the awards were presented in February 2011)  because his first album, “Doo Wop and Hooligans,” came out after the Sept. 30, 2010 cut off, despite his already blowing up at radio from his appearance on B.o.B.’s “Beautiful Girls” and his own hit, “Just The Way You Are,”  and showing signs of developing into  the tremendous talent he’s become. By the next year, it was too late to nominate him for Best New Artist because he’d won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Just The Way You Are.”   When people look back at the Best New Artist nominees and see he didn’t make it (Lady Gaga was also never eligible for a technicality that has sense been amended), the Grammys will look foolish. Time to made another amendment.

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Sam Smith

11 Must-See Acts at Bonnaroo

From A$AP Ferg to Sam Smith, the acts you can't miss in Manchester

The 13th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival kicks off today in Manchester, Tenn. As usual, there’s something for everything across the 700-acre farms’s multiple stages--except for Outkast fans-- it's one of the few festivals the reunited duo is skipping. If you’re having trouble figuring out who to see, you can’t go wrong with this list of 11 acts. For the most part, we stayed away from recommending the main headliners since you can make you own mind up on those famous names.  The acts are listed in order of their time slot.

Real Estate
June 12, 7:30 p.m.

Ease into Bonnaroo with a nice set by a this guitar driven indie band from New Jersey, who are sure to deliver an uplifting, care-free set. They may have tackled some darker issues on new album, “Atlas,” but there’s still an unquenchable lilt to what they do.

Sam Smith
June 13, 2:15 p.m.

Chances are good the British crooner will join Disclosure for its set later Friday night, but if you miss that, check out his solo set where he will dazzle you with his strong voice and confessional tales of heartbreak.

Janelle Monae
June 13, 5:30 p.m.

Monae is the complete package. She is a great singer and a great dancer and she puts a premium on entertaining as she skittles across the stage in her black and white outfits. Go to Wondaland with her. You'll be glad you did.

June 13, 11:30 p.m.

If you’ve had a little too much of the acoustic, hippie vibe, then go get your head twisted around a few times by metal band Mastadon, who are sure to be the loudest act at the festival. Be among the first to catch songs from the Metallica-influenced band’s “Once More ‘Round The Sun,” which comes out June 24.

June 14, 12 a.m.

The British electronic duo, Guy and Howard Lawrence, have their breakthrough hit in  “Latch,” featuring Sam Smith in the U.S., but they’ve already had a slew of hits in the U.K. and were big on the festival circuit last year. In their first Bonnaroo appearance, expect lots of songs from their No. 1 U.K. album, “Settle,” and lots of dancing. It will probably be very crowded.

Chance The Rapper
June 14, 2:30 a.m.

If you didn’t catch him on tour with Childish Gambino a while OK or guesting on a slew of other artists’ tracks, here’s your chance to see the Chicago rapper, who draws from diverse influences that span genres and generations, while his star is still ascending.

First Aid Kit
June 14, 3 p.m.

Lovely Americana music courtesy of two Swedish sisters. There are a lot worst ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than listening to their golden harmonies.

Lionel Richie
June 14, 8 p.m.

We’re staying away from recommending top headliners for the most part, but for the past several years some of shows people are buzzing about afterwards come from the WTF veterans, like Kenny Rogers two years ago (who Richie joined on stage) or  … If you want a break from the up-and-comers and hip acts and want to dance all night long to hear wall-to-wall hits (and to dance on the ceiling), then satisfaction is guaranteed at Richie’s show.

Carolina Chocolate Drops
June 15, 12:30 p.m.

They describe themselves as an old-time string band, but they are so much more. Rihannon Giddens’ pure voice has to be heard live to be believed and the sheer musicality of the quartet will take your breath away. You may have heard their song, “Daughter’s Lament” on “The Hunger Games” soundtrack.

A$AP Ferg
June 15, 4:15 p.m.

As if seeing  the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards recipient of Rookie of the Year confidently run through tracks from “Lords Never Worry” and “Trap Lord”  isn’t enough incentive, you have to imagine that other members of the A$AP Mob will show up.

Avett Bros.
June 15, 7 p.m.

They are good on record, but they are great live. Brothers Scott and Seth Avett, and band mates Joe Kwon and Bob Crawford create a lot of noise and it’s usually all harmony-filled and fun. Even if you don’t know the acoustic rock songs, you’ll still be singing and dancing along to many of the tracks. Why they aren’t as big as Mumford & Sons is unfathomable.


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Idina Menzel

'Frozen's' Idina Menzel scores high debut for new Broadway cast album, 'If/Then'

Highest charter since 'Rent' in 1996

Idina Menzel is a good luck charm for Broadway cast recordings.  The original cast album for “If/Then,” her current show, debuts at No. 19 on the Billboard 200 today.

That makes it the highest debut for a Broadway cast album since 1996 when “Rent,” which also starred Menzel, debuted at No. 19, according to Billboard. “If/Then” sold 15,000 copies in its first week, as opposed to “Rent’s” 43,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Only four original Broadway cast albums have hit the Top 20 in the last 30 years:  the other two didn’t star Menzel: “The Book of Mormon,” and “Dreamgirls.”

As much success Menzel has on Broadway, her greatest success has come in movie soundtracks:  Her Oscar-winning song “Let It Go,”  from “Frozen,” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while the “Frozen” soundtrack  stayed No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for more than a dozen weeks.  It is this year’s top-selling album of 2014 so far, having sold 2.6 million copies since Jan. 1 (2.9 million total).

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Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy' continues to rule the charts

Sam Smith scores his first Top 10

Iggy Azalea continues to rule the Billboard Hot 100 as her first single, “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, holds at No. 1, and Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” on which she’s featured, stays at No. 2.

She’s not the only newcomer in the top 10: British singer Sam Smith, who wowed American audiences with his appearance on “Saturday Night Live” this Spring, lands his first top 10 as his ballad, “Stay With Me,” rockets 19-10. And there’s more good news for Smith: Disclosure’s “Latch,” on which hs sings, rises 22-17. (His first Hot 100 appearance— as a guest on Naughty Boy’s “La La La,” falls to 41, after peaking at No. 19).

As for the rest of the top 10: John Legend’s “All of Me,” holds at No. 3, while DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What”  remains at No. 4.

Jason DeRulo’s “Wiggle,” featuring Snoop Dogg, shimmies 10-5. Pharrell WIlliams’ “Happy” slides 5-6. Canadian pop quartet’s “Magic” moves 8-7, while fellow newbies Nico & Vinz” falls 6-8 with “Am I Wrong.”  Calvin Harris’s “Summer” stays at No. 9.


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