Album Review: 'American Idol' Kris Allen's 'Thank You Camellia'

Album Review: 'American Idol' Kris Allen's 'Thank You Camellia'

Does his sophomore set show growth?

Though it’s totally coincidental, Kris Allen has picked the perfect time to release his second album, “Thank You Camellia.”

A lot has changed at radio since the “American Idol” season 8 winner released his debut in 2009. Back then, his soft- rock, The Fray-type gentle pop ramblings were out of favor with what was happening at Top 40 (although he managed to have a very nice-sized AC hit with “Live Like We’re Dying.”)  This time, we are in a full-blown pop revival, so it should help him, especially on the album’s opening tune, the peppy “Better With You, “ which sounds like it could be straight off of One Direction’s current album, “Up All Night.” "Thank You Camellia" comes out today.

Allen’s music is non-challenging and perfectly pleasant and, depending upon what you want from your music, that’s either just fine or the worst indictment anyone could write. But regardless of how you feel, there’s no denying that he is one artist who does not seem to be trying to be anything other than who he is: A straight-down-the-middle pop singer, who has a love and knack for a simple melody. There's a loping sincerity to everything he touches and an extreme likeability.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Red Hot Chili Peppers</p>

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys and Jack White headline Austin City Limits Festival

Why yes, the headliner slate is very similar to Lollapalooza

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Black Keys, and Jack White are among the artists who will headline the Austin City Limits Festival, which takes place in the Texas capital Oct. 12-14.

If that lineup sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it looks a lot like the roster for Lollapalooza, which takes place in Chicago:  The RHCP, Black Keys and Jack White are all playing the Aug. 3-5 festival as well.

Among the other acts the two festivals will share are Florence + The Machine, The Shins,  Avicii, Bassnectar, M83, Childish Gambino, Alabama Shakes, Delta Spirit, and Kopecky Family Band.  That’s bound to happen when both events feature more than 120 acts, but we don’t remember ever seeing this many big names playing both in the same year.

Among the other acts performing at ACL’s Zilker Park will by Gotye, The Afghan Whigs, The Civil Wars, Patterson Hood, Big K.R.I.T., Kimbra, The Avett Bros., and Iggy & The Stooges.

Tickets are on  sale now at

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Album Review: John Mayer's 'Born and Raised' rears its graceful head
Credit: Columbia Records

Album Review: John Mayer's 'Born and Raised' rears its graceful head

New set shows not only growth, but that he's growing up

That sound you hear on John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” is an artist entering a new phase of his career, and, more importantly, his life.

The highly personal set, out Tuesday, May 22, is a stripped-down collection of tunes, mainly recorded as a four-piece, that has plenty to say, but is in absolutely no rush to make its point.

Whether it’s that life slapped Mayer around a bit lately after opening his mouth a few too many times about his love life, his having to deal with ongoing vocal issues, or producer Don Was’s relaxed approach —most likely a combo of all three — the multiple Grammy winner sounds more inviting than he has in years.

Gone is the condescension of “Daughters” or the lofty idealism of “Waiting on the World To Change.” They’ve been replaced with a much more appealing seeker who has way more questions than answers these days. Even his guitar playing, as elegant and nuanced as always, never veers into the showy. He has a certain Eric Clapton/George Harrison-esque ease on confessional first single, “Shadow Days.”

The tracks are all mid-tempo (which is the album’s one weakness: too many songs of the same speed), but each one has its own personality. On the lovely “A Face To Call Home,” on which he’s aided by Sara Watkins, he yearns to jump ahead and start a life with someone that he’s still in the “getting-to-know-you” stage: “I am an architect of days that haven’t happened yet/I can’t believe a month is all it’s been.”  That first line is a killer: who hasn’t let their thoughts jump way ahead? "Something Like Olivia" has a sweet wistfulness as he longs for his buddy's girl.

Watkins is not the only well-placed guest: most fitting are David Crosby and Graham Nash who wrap their vocals around the title track; a tune the sounds straight out of an album from The Band with its country leanings and Greg Leisz on lap steel. Trumpeter Chris Botti adds a tasty flourish to the opening of the fantastical (and intriguingly titled) “Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, Jan. 1967”

The set closes with the bluesy, fun “Fool To Love You,” which has the same shambolic feel of “Who Says” from  2009’s “Battle Studies’,” although the subject matter is different. As he heads into a doomed relationship, you can hear the rueful smile on his face as he sings, “I’ll be as happy as a broken man can be.”

There are no signs of any of the vocal issues that have plagued Mayer, causing him to temporarily halt work on this album and then, later, to cancel his tour when the vocal granuloma returned. He has always had an instantly recognizable raspy voice and any weary, weathered vocals evident on these tracks is no doubt intentional rather than from any voice problems. 

If the world came a little too easily for Mayer in his 20s, as he closes in on 35, he’s realized that life has a way of coming back around to slap the stuffing out of you at some point and that’s when the true tests begin.

“Born and Raised” is John Mayer with a side of humility and it suits him well.

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<p>Whitney Houston in &quot;Sparkle&quot;</p>

Whitney Houston in "Sparkle"

Listen: Whitney Houston's final song, 'Celebrate' from 'Sparkle'

Houston and 'American Idol's' Jordin Sparks swirl around R. Kelly production

“Celebrate,” the last song Whitney Houston recorded before her death in February, surfaced today on Ryan Seacrest's morning radio show. The tune, produced by R. Kelly for the movie “Sparkle,”  features Houston singing with Jordin Sparks, who plays her daughter in the remake of the 1976 film.

While the voice is definitely recognizable as Houston, her voice is a dusky shell of its former self, but it's still good to hear her. She leaves all the heavy lifting that used to come to her so effortlessly to Sparks, especially at the end when Sparks is cooing and soaring. (See our on-set interview with Sparks here).

[More after the jump...]

The mid-tempo song is a sweet throwback to the Supremes era (which makes sense given that the movie is about girl groups). It opens with Houston singing about how everybody is so uptight, but “finally things are looking up/the sun has chased all the rain away/no more obstacles in our way.” Sad that it wasn’t true in her real life, isn’t it.

In the choruses, she’s relatively muted playing second fiddle to Sparks or her voice is heavily doubled for the most part.

At the very end, Sparks adds, in an obvious postmortem tribute to Houston, “We love you Whitney.”

The movie, which also features Cee Lo Green, opens Aug. 17. 

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<p>Tim McGraw</p>

Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw signs with Big Machine, Taylor Swift's label

With two songs in the Top 11, no word on McGraw's new album

So maybe now Taylor Swift can sing with Tim McGraw instead of singing about him.

The two became label mates today, when Big Machine announced that McGraw would be joining its roster after 20 years on Curb. One of Swift’s first hits was “Tim McGraw.”

No word on when McGraw’s first album for Big Machine will come out. Up first will be his stadium tour with pal Kenny Chesney this summer. “The Brothers of the Sun” tour kicks off June 2 in Tampa.

McGraw, who Nielsen BDS named artist of the decade in 2010, is in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart right now with his last single from Curb, “Better Than I Used To Be,” which is bulleted at No. 7, and  with his and Chesney’s duet, “Feel Like A Rock Star,” which is bulleted at No. 11.

Big Machine Label Group has had luck signing artists who have left other labels to its various imprints, including Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride and Reba McEntire.

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<p>Justin Bieber's &quot;Belive&quot;</p>

Justin Bieber's "Belive"

Justin Bieber reveals 'Believe' track listing: What happened to Taylor Swift?

Looks like none of his songs with the country star made the final cut

As the endless drip of information about Justin Bieber’s new album “Believe” surfaces, today we get the track listing. Interestingly, his duet with Taylor Swift looks like it didn’t make the final cut. The two wrote a few songs together for the set, Bieber told UK’s CapitalFM last month. “We worked together on a couple of things so we're just figuring out what we can use," he told the British radio broadcaster.

There are three bonus tracks on the deluxe physical package, but none of them have Swift’s name attached. From the track listing below, the guests are Ludacris, Bieber’s former partner on breakthrough hit, “Baby”; Big Sean, Nicki Minaj, and Drake. The album comes out June 19.

Track Listing for deluxe version of "Believe"

1. “All Around The World” featuring Ludacris
2. “Boyfriend”
3. “As Long As You Love Me” featuring Big Sean
4. “Catching Feelings”
5. “Take You”
6. “Right Here” featuring Drake
7. “Fall”
8. “Die In Your Arms”
9. “Thought Of You”
10. “Beauty And A Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj
11. “One Love”
12. “Be Alright”
13. “Believe”

14. “Out Of Town Girl”
15.“She Don’t Like The Lights” 
16. “Maria.”


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<p>Haley Reinhart</p>

Haley Reinhart

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Haley Reinhart on Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse and more

'American Idol' contestant's new set, 'Listen Up,' streets Tuesday

American Idol” season 10 contestant Haley Reinhart thrilled fans with her jazzy, smoky vocals. On her new album, “Listen Up,” out Tuesday, May 22, she recalls sultry vocalists such as Amy Winehouse and Dusty Springfield, both of whom she considers major influences: “I come from a lot of ‘60s, ‘70s classic stuff and that’s definitely the sound I want to have,” she tells Hitfix in this video interview taped at her management company’s office in West Hollywood.

But it was another influence, Britney Spears,  that inspired the 21-year old's performance in her video for first single “Free,” during which she gets a boy all hot and bothered at a diner. “I grew up with my generation looking at people like Britney Spears. She oozed sex appeal so effortlessly.”

As the video shows, Reinhart has acting chops and she admits she has some aspirations in that area: “I’d love to make it a big part of my career...there’s already opportunities coming up.”

Reinhart talks about duetting with her season 10 pal, Casey Abrams, here.

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An Appreciation of The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb and his magical musical gifts
Credit: AP Photo/Tracy Brand

An Appreciation of The Bee Gees' Robin Gibb and his magical musical gifts

Will anyone ever sound as heartbreaking as on 'I Started A Joke?'

Robin Gibb, who died today at 62 after a long battle with cancer, had a unique voice so filled with trembling, pure beauty that it had the ability to pierce your heart and break it in half.

As a third of the Bee Gees, and twin to Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb and his other brother Barry, shared lead vocals in the group that started in their native Australia in the late ‘50s, but it is Robin’s voice that dominated those early singles that so clearly set the brothers on their path to superstardom.

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Credit: Marion Curtis/AP

Music Power Rankings: Taylor Swift, Bono, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber

How does String Cheese incident make the list?

1. Bono: As if he weren’t rich enough, with the Facebook IPO, the U2 frontman becomes a billionaire, and the world's richest musician. If he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for, we’re sure he can buy it now.

2. Taylor Swift: Swifty donates $4 million to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the largest ever by an artist. In perhaps a  sign of the times,’s headline about the generous gift?: “Taylor Swift Grabs Dinner with Dianna Agron, Donates $4 Million to Country Music Hall of Fame.” If she had made the donation in a bikini would that have been enough to top Agron?

3. Jay-Z: As if being a new dad weren’t enough, he gives birth to his own event, the Budweiser Made In America festival, to be held over, appropriately enough, Labor Day.

4).Britney Spears: She confirmed her position as a judge for “The X Factor” for a reportedly $15 million. Simon Cowell continues to go after the youth audience by also enlisting teenager Demi Lovato, who’s not a girl, not yet a woman.

5. One Direction: The British band is about to start on its sold-out summer tour in the U.S. Also sold out? The group’s US summer tour is already sold out and the band just sold out a dozen shows at London’s 02 Arena.The only direction this boy band knows is up.

6. String Cheese Incident: The jam band, who is feuding with TicketMaster, gave 50 fans (presumably very trusted ones) $20,000 to buy tickets , which the band will now sale through its website at face value so fans don’t have to turn to scalpers. That’s how you have a loyal following without ever having a huge radio audience.

7. American Idol: For all the word about the show losing its prominence, it’s about to have back-to-back No. 1s on the Billboard 200 as Adam Lambert’s “Trespassing” gets ready to take the place of Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” on the Billboard 200.

8. Amanda Palmer: We were raving about her a few weeks ago when she’d raised nearly $400,000 through Kickstarter, now she’s passed $750,000.  That’s quite the recording budget...or the equivalent of what Dr. Dre has spent per month on "Detox." 

9. Justin Bieber:
The teen titan invests in Spotify. Is he the next Sean Parker?

10. Donna Summer:
She took her last dance on May 17, but her music will live on forever.

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<p>Adam Lambert</p>

Adam Lambert

Credit: Kristen Winter/AP

Adam Lambert trespasses into the top spot on the Billboard 200

Who else enters the Top 10 next week?

Adam Lambert will likely land his first No. 1 album next week as “Trespassing” enters at the top spot on the Billboard 200. His previous set, "For Your Entertainment," peaked at No. 3. Read our review here.

The “American Idol” season 8 runner up does so with one of the lower opening tallies of the year for a charttopper as his sophomore 19/RCA is set to sell around 75,000 copies. (We’ll see how the season 8 champ, Kris Allen, fares in a two weeks: his second set, “Thank You Camellia,” drops on Tuesday, May 22.

The only other bows in the Top 10 belongs to Jack Black and Kyle Gass’s Tenacious D, whose new album, “Rize of the Fenix” comes in at No. 5 and “Glee Cast: The Graduation” at No. 6, with sales of around 45,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

Adele’s “21” is at No. 2 with up to 65,000 copies sold, while Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” drops to No. 3 after two weeks at the summit. “Now That’s What I Call Music 42” looks good for No. 4, although it and “Fenix” may flip flop by the time the chart closes on Sunday night.

Lionel Richie’s “Tuskegee” continue to have staying power at No. 7, with Norah Jones’  “Little Broken Hearts” at No. 8, One Direction’s “Up All Night” at No. 9 and the “Smash” cast album at No. 10.

Barely missing a top 10 bow are Beach House’s “Bloom” at No. 11. Garbage’s “Not Your Kind of People” at No. 14.


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