<p>Usher in &quot;Scream&quot;</p>

Usher in "Scream"

Five things we like about Usher's new music video for 'Scream'

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R&B superstar runs through the clip... literally

For the video for “Scream,” the second single from Usher’s excellent new album, “Looking 4 Myself,” the singer joined the cast of “Fuerza Bruta: Look Up,” a multimedia off-Broadway production that combines music, aerial imagery and other non-linear theatrical elements.

Usher played the part of the Running Man for two April performances and used the occasion to debut some of the new material. The result is a video that is far more interesting in conception and for the creativity of the pairing than in the actual watching.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>&nbsp;Kenny Chesney</p>

 Kenny Chesney

Credit: AP Photo

Kenny Chesney and Jonathan Demme pair for AMEX's 'Unstaged' series

Show will stream live on June 20 from Wildwood, N.J.

Kenny Chesney will perform a free concert on June 20  at the beach in Wildwood, N.J. The show, directed by Jonathan Demme, will live stream over Vevo, and YouTube, as well as other sites.

Chesney, whose latest album, “Welcome to the Fishbowl,” comes out June 19, is the tenth artist to be part of the American Express “Unstaged” series, which pairs acts with well-known directors/actors for the 75-minute concert. For example, Jack White recently paired with Gary Oldman for an “Unstaged” episode.

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: Ne-Yo and his abs revel in new video for 'Lazy Love'

Watch: Ne-Yo and his abs revel in new video for 'Lazy Love'

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His love interest gets third billing behind the singer and his stomach

Can you blame Ne-Yo? Who on earth would want to take on his other responsibilities when he’s got a lovely lady at the ready at home, who’s eager to wrap her legs around him, making him “fall victim to that lazy love.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Usher</p>

Usher

Credit: AP Photo

Album Review: Usher's 'Looking 4 Myself' shines

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The singer shows off a diverse musical palette

Usher may be “Looking 4 Myself,” as his new album’s title indicates, but he certainly isn’t at a loss when he’s searching for musical styles. On his most adventurous album yet, Usher takes styles that have worked for him in the past, whether it was his smooth swagger or his dance leanings and turns them on their head.  “Looking 4 Myself” is not so much a reinvention as an exploration of different styles by a confident artist secure enough to abandon past formulas.

The result is an inventive, stylish album, out June 12, that could be heavily rewarded come Grammy time.

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<p>Justin Bieber's &quot;As Long as You Love Me&quot;</p>

Justin Bieber's "As Long as You Love Me"

Listen: Justin Bieber stays true on new song 'As Long As You Love Me'

Fourth tune from 'Believe' surfaces before album drops next week

All the Beliebers are watching their calendars, holding their collective breaths, for June 19: the date when “Believe,” the new album from Justin Bieber comes out.

As has occurred the past two weeks, today we get a new song from the album in advance of its release. This time, it’s “As Long As You Love Me,” featuring Big Sean, and it has nothing to do with the Backstreet Boys song of the same name. A 90-second snippet appeared on iTunes on Monday. Listen to it here.

No, on this one, which features a slow, stuttering, electro-clash chorus, Bieber seems to be in an Olympic frame of mind, as he warbles: As long as you love me, I’ll be your platinum, I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold.” He’s so crazy for the girl, that it doesn’t matter if they’re homeless or broke. Please he manages to work in Destiny’s Child into the lyrics.

Big Sean comes in with a rap that further backs up the “love is all that matters theme,” and he’s got it bad for his lady, who’s his “hallelujah.”

As with the three songs we’ve heard previously, Bieber is all about the love on this album. Each song, whether it’s “Boyfriend,” “Die in Your Arms,” or “All Around the World” featuring Ludacris, has celebrated love of some kind, whether it be romantic or universal.  What’s been missing, and we’ll know better when we hear the rest of the album next week, is something that feels like a stone-cold radio smash. As Billboard reported last week, after “Boyfriend’s” stellar start, it slipped back down the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, but Bieber’s label fought and pushed that rock back uphill to get radio to give it another chance.

As we’ve previously written, for all his success—including recently selling out his forthcoming arena tour—Bieber has not become a radio star. We’ll see if it happens with the tracks from “Believe.”

We’re holding off grading “As Long As You Love Me” until we get the full song on Tuesday.

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<p>Matchbox Twenty</p>

Matchbox Twenty

Credit: Atlantic

Listen: Matchbox Twenty's new single 'She's So Mean' hits a pop bullseye

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Hits the spot

The members of Matchbox 20 has always been lovers of power pop, but their music didn’t always reflect that bent. Too often, they tried to exist in both pop and rock simultaneously. While they’ve certainly been successful, sometimes they sounded a bit unfocused.

However, with new single “She’s So Mean,”  MB20 has shot an arrow straight at a power pop target and hit a bullseye. With its handclap intro and catchy guitar refrain, “She’s So Mean” is an ear worm waiting to invade your brain and not let go for the rest of the year. The song is redolent of ‘70s power pop—that territory that Fountains of Wayne has mined so successfully— yet it never sounds overly retro. Listen to it here.

The production is deceptively simple, but each drumbeat, every little yelp by Rob Thomas, only makes the song more seductive. Plus, hasn’t everyone had the one person who you can’t let go no matter what he or she does? “Every now and then she makes you a little bit crazy/she’ll insert a knife in your back and then she’s calling you baby.” Who’s the crazy one?

It’s been 10 years since Matchbox 20 has put out an album of all new material (2007’s “Exile on Mainstream” combined old and new tunes) and it seems like the time away has done them good. The Matt Serletic-produced song, the first single from “North,” sounds deliberate in the band’s  commitment to pop. There’s no line straddling, no trying to be something they aren’t.

“North” comes out in September.

 

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Album Review: 'Rock of Ages' soundtrack strikes a mixed chord
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Album Review: 'Rock of Ages' soundtrack strikes a mixed chord

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How does Tom Cruise sound?

The success of “American Idol” and “Glee” has created a major market for collections of cover songs that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

For a long time, people (i.e. me) wondered why would anyone want the equivalent of karaoke versions (albeit very well-produced ones) of songs rather than the usually far superior original. A legion of “Gleeks” proved they do.

Therefore, there would seem to be a built-in audience for the soundtrack for “Rock Of Ages,” out today, June 5. which features the same executive music producer, Adam Anders, as "Glee."  The movie, adapted from the long-running Broadway musical, opens June 15.

If you’ve given much thought to how Tom Cruise would sound as an Axl Rose/Joe Elliott-type lead singer or if Alec Baldwin’s estimable talents extend to warbling (we’ll go ahead and tell you “no” on that one), this album gives you the answer.

As with most ventures of this sort, some tracks work better than others. Similar to the Broadway cast album, five of the tracks are mash-ups of two or more songs and the result can be a train wreck. Add up to six different actors/singers vying for space on the same song and it creates quite the pile-up, such as on Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” which features five different singers trading lines.

We’ll get the obvious out of the way: any track that features Mary J. Blige, who plays strip club owner Justice, is a pretty safe bet given that she has more vocal chops than all the other singers put together. On a mash-up of “Shadows of the Night/Harden My Heart” she and Julianne Hough’s voices have a nice contrast: Hough’s voice, in general, is sweet and thin, and the way the duet plays out in the movie as they first meet works on record as well. Sadly, Blige has no songs of her own on here, but, then again, there’s no shortage of those in real life.

Diego Boneta, who plays the young male lead, Drew, is second to Blige in vocal talent.  He’s a strong singer who has already released two solo albums. His straight-up pop rock voice makes him a natural on both his tender tunes, such as “Waiting For a Girl Like You” with Hough or on thumping “I Wanna Rock.”

So how is Cruise? Better than anyone could have expected. As you probably know, he studied with Axl Rose’s vocal coach to learn to sing and while he never sounds like he’s totally comfortable (or looks it, in the movie), he does a fine job. His best numbers are the rockers, such as on, not surprisingly, “Paradise City,” since he’s mimicking Rose (which can’t be easy) and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,”  although he and Malin Akerman pull off a decent version of “I Want To Know What Love Is.” His absolute commitment is commendable.

There are a few missteps: Hough’s and Cruise’s take on the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is one of two cringeworthy moment. It’s an unfair fight to begin with: few could ever equal Klaus Meine’s full-throated vocals, but they have taken a dull knife to a gunfight.  Same with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ cover of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” As she showed in “Chicago,” Zeta-Jones can sing, but her performance here is so mannered and awkward that it’s offputting.

The audience for the album  will be those who see the movie and the staunchest fans of each of the participating acts--anyone who’s that crazy about these ‘80s hits will want the originals. There’s not a likely single on here that radio would play, though, remember, that’s not unheard of: Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow had a No. 1 adult contemporary hit with their cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin” from “Duets” more than a decade ago. 


 

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<p>Adopt Me Maybe?</p>

Adopt Me Maybe?

Watch: Obama sings 'Call Me Maybe'... Is Romney's version next?

Plus, animals get in on the cuteness

Even Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” didn’t get a presidential version.  Carly Rae Jepsen, whose “Call Me Maybe” has spawned some great viral remakes, including by the Harvard baseball team, but now President Obama is chiming in...sort of.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Justin Bieber's &quot;All Around the World&quot;</p>

Justin Bieber's "All Around the World"

Listen: Justin Bieber hits the club with 'All Around The World'

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And he's taking Ludacris with him

Today, Justin Bieber released “All Around The World,” a new track from “Believe,” his new album out June 19. It’s the third song we’ve gotten, following “Boyfriend” and “Die in Your Arms.”

While all three have been about love, they have all been strikingly different musically. “All Around The World,” which is, conveniently the title of Bieb’s upcoming NBC special, is a flat-out electro-pop dance track. “Boyfriend” started with its whisper intro before paying homage to Justin Timberlake, whereas “Die In Your Arms” recalled Michael Jackson and other soul icons.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Beach Boys' &quot;That's Why God Made the Radio&quot;</p>

Beach Boys' "That's Why God Made the Radio"

Album Review: The Beach Boys' 'That's Why God Made The Radio'

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Brian Wilson reunites with his band for a harmonious effort

The Beach Boys are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, but in some ways, the designation is misleading. While the initial quintet originally formed in 1961, there have been long periods—decades, actually—when the group’s brain trust Brian Wilson has not been an active member of the group.

In fact, his surprising reuniting with his bandmates for “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” out today (June 5), is the entire reason to buy the set. It’s his first full album with the group in decades. He’s joined by fellow founding members Mike Love and Al Jardine and nearly-founding members David Marks and Bruce Johnston.

For the casual fan, those who know such hits as “Good Vibrations” or “Kokomo” or “I Get Around,” there’s plenty here for you, such as “Shelter,” whose beautiful chorus makes up for the weak verses, or “Beaches In Mind.” Years later,  the surf’s still up and the summer is endless.

[More after the jump...]

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