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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<p>Bono</p>

Bono

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, Eonline.com’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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Watch: 'American Idol's' Kris Allen talks getting personal on 'Thank You Camellia'

Watch: 'American Idol's' Kris Allen talks getting personal on 'Thank You Camellia'

Plus, the two keys to keeping his marriage going

“American Idol’s” season eight winner Kris Allen returns with his sophomore set, “Thank You Camellia” on Tuesday, May 21.

The album is chockful of tunes the singer/songwriter crafted about his journey, with many of them expressing the optimism contained in first single “The Vision of Love.”  (see his thoughts about that song here)

[More after the jump...]

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<p>&nbsp;Van Halen</p>

 Van Halen

Credit: AP Photo

Van Halen cancels 30 dates on summer tour

The veteran band gives no explanation

Was it only a matter of time? Van Halen has cancelled more than 30 concert dates, including gigs in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Memphis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit.

The last date on the tour, which reunited the Van Halen brother, Alex and Eddie, with original lead singer David Lee Roth, will pull up wheels on the June 26 gig in New Orleans. No word on rescheduling the gigs or how fans can get refunds has been offered.

Pollstar originally reported the news following stories about individual cancelled gigs in Salt Lake City and El Paso, Texas appeared in those cities’ newspapers.  Rolling Stone picked up the story and added that the concert promoter, Live Nation, declined to comment, but sources told Rolling Stone that infighting between the band (i.e. between the Van Halen(s) and Roth) were brutal.  They “hate each other... band is arguing like mad,” the source told Rolling Stone.

Hey, it’s a relief to hear (though it's unconfirmed) that infighting rather than that Eddie Van Halen’s health is causing the cancellations, but it’s a shame that grown men in their 50s and 60s can’t figure out a way to make it on stage every night (for which they are paid millions of dollars over the course of the tour, by the way). If Aerosmith can do it, why can’t Van Halen?

It would also appear that the old lack of ticket sales would not be an issue. The tour was selling very well in most markets, if not completely selling out arenas.

The band was supporting its first new album with Roth in more than two decades, “A Different Kind of Truth,” which came out in February.

Hitfix attended Van Halen's warm-up gig in Los Angeles and found the on-stage chemistry engaging and there were no hints of problems. Is this nothing that separate buses or planes can’t fix?



 

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<p>&nbsp;Donna Summer</p>

 Donna Summer

Credit: AP Photo

An Appreciation of Donna Summer: Queen of pop, not just disco

Her glorious musical explosions fueled the clubs and the charts

“Last Dance” was a tough song to dance to. The Donna Summer smash started slow, so if a boy asked you do dance to it, the request felt way more significant than if he asked you to dance to a fast song. But then it transitioned into a fast song, so you and your partner had to know how to navigate the switch from slow to fast.  And if you weren’t fond enough of each other to actually slow dance together through the opening you just had to awkwardly sway separately through that part until the fast part came in.

I was never very good at that.

Dancing to that song with a boy whose name I’ve long since forgotten was one of my first memories this morning when I heard of Summer’s passing from cancer. She was 63.  My second was that her music had informed much of my teen years.

The five-time Grammy winner got labeled Queen of Disco during the late ‘70s, but a more appropriate title would have been Queen of Pop. Between May 1978 and January 1980, she scored eight Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including four No. 1s —the first female to do so in that short time span.  The musical style may have been disco (now, of course, rebranded dance) and born out of the clubs, but the truth is no one had to step into a disco to hear a Summer song during her heyday. Her music played in the supermarket just as much as in the clubs...and she dominated radio.

During that time, I was solely into Top 40. While I was keyed into music like nothing else in my life from the time I was four or so, in my mid-teens, my tastes were dictated by Top 40 radio. My parents are probably the last generation to not be influenced musically by the birth of rock in the ‘50s, and my older sister, while also a music fan, didn’t start straying outside of the pop lines until she went to college, like me.

So while the cool kids —of which I never have been one— were already getting into the Clash, the Ramones, and other punk acts (all of whom I came to love later), I was totally in my Top 40 bubble and Donna Summer was a big part of that bubble.

Summer’s hits were glorious explosions that often started slow and then burst into beat-driven fireworks propelled by her stellar, powerhouse voice (underrated by critics at the time, who were too busy hating on disco to truly acknowledge her talent). Listen to the notes she sustains on “Dim All The Lights” or how she goes toe to toe with Barbra Streisand on “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” and holds her own with one of the greatest voices of all time. That’s a great voice, born from her gospel background, no matter what genre you want to pigeonhole her into (watch for the encomiums coming the next few days stressing just that from writers who denounced her the first time around).

If there was ever an artist who seemed to wrestle with her fame, her talent and her audience, it was Summer. As a born-again Christian, she later denounced her first hit, 1975’s orgasmic “Love To Love You Baby.” She told Vanity Fair that she looked at the song as a “joke”: “I originally recorded ‘Love to Love You Baby’ on a dare from [producer] Giorgio [Moroder]  that I couldn’t be sexy. It was a joke that worked. All that orgasmic stuff … I thought they were kidding—I desperately tried to get them to get someone else to sing the song. Then I made them turn the lights off, get some candles, have some atmosphere. I was going closer and closer to the floor and finally I was lying on the floor.”

History has looked back on Summer as a pioneer, as someone who helped usher in a new musical format that, although hated by critics, delighted millions of fans and also was the first genre to be embraced by the gay community and claimed as their own —though they were always delighted to share with the world at large. (Summer was later accused of voicing anti-gay comments, which she denied making).

She has been up for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but did not receive enough votes to make it into the Hall— yet. That’s likely to change in coming years. Listen to “I Feel Love,” which is basically Kraftwerk crossed with disco, and tell me why she doesn’t deserve inclusion. Plus, the songs have worn far better than they should have. There will never be a time now or 20 years from now or beyond when “Bad Girls” or “Hot Stuff” doesn’t pack a dance floor. If you're still not convinced she was beyond disco, that's a pretty crunchy guitar solo in "Hot Stuff" for a disco song, isn't it?

I still find myself listening to Summer as a great pick-me up on occasion and her songs never fail to bring a smile to my face. “Heaven Knows” will always remind me of riding around with my boyfriend in high school in his black Cutlass Supreme (with red interior). When one of my best friends was going through a divorce a few years ago, we packed up her apartment to Summer’s greatest hits, dancing around, filling boxes, and waiting for the movers, often as tears streamed down her face.

If you’re too young to remember her in real time, check her out with an open mind and open ears. And don’t forget your disco whistle.

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Gotye's 'Somebody' and Train's 'Drive By' score on Billboard Hot 100
Credit: Eleven

Gotye's 'Somebody' and Train's 'Drive By' score on Billboard Hot 100

Will Maroon 5 spoil Gotye's party next week?

Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” featuring Kimbra continues its residence atop the Billboard Hot 100, logging its fifth week at the top.

Its run gives the song the longest reign by a solo male since Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna spent seven weeks at No. 1 in 2010, according to BIllboard.

Maroon 5’s “Payphone” featuring Wiz Khalifa flips spaces with fun’s “We Are Young” featuring Janelle Monae, with the Adam Levine-led group rising one spot to No. 2.

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<p>My Chemical Romance</p>

My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance heads back into studio after Bamboozle

Band is almost ready to hit the record button

My Chemical Romance, which will headline this weekend’s Bamboozle Festival in New Jersey on May 19, are headed back into the studio in a few weeks to begin recording the group’s fifth album.

Guitarist Frank Iero told The Aquarian Weekly that the group was in Los Angeles writing away in preparation to start recording in June with producer Doug McKean.

As we previously reported, MCR is stepping in at the last minute at Bamboozle to replace Blink-182 who had to drop out following drummer Travis Barker’s emergency tonsillectomy. The gig is breaking the band’s writing flow, but Iero says they are happy to play in their native New Jersey. “We love to play shows, and we’re glad to help out,” he said. “Especially in the NJ. We are in writing-mode right now and weren’t going to consider playing any shows, actually, but then stuff happened with Blink and we got the call. Plus I get to see Foo Fighters.”

The new album is the follow up to 2010’ “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.”  Iero wouldn’t reveal much, other than that the writing sessions are going “really well, actually. I’m really excited. I can’t wait to start tracking. I think we’re maybe a month away from the record button lighting up.”

He would reveal that touring drummer Jarrod Alexander, who began playing with the band last fall, would play at Bamboozle, but didn’t confirm that he will play on the new album. However, it sounds like he most likely will be in the studio with the rest of the band next month given this endorsement from Iero: “Jarrod is a rad guy and a fantastic player. It’s been really fun making music with him these past few months. He loves coffee and hitting drums super-hard… and the fact that he’s not a thieving piece of garbage is a breath of fresh air.” Alexander replaced former touring drummer Michael Pedicone.

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<p>Black Sabbath</p>

Black Sabbath

Bill Ward pulls out of Black Sabbath gigs... again

Reunited band will play three dates, including Lollapalooza

It hasn’t looked good for drummer Bill Ward to play with his Black Sabbath bandmates ever since February when he brought up that he would not participate in the band’s mini-reunion tour unless he received a “signable contract.” He put the final nail in his participation in the reunion coffin with an emotional new missive on his website, posted Wednesday and addressed to “Sabbath Fans and Fellow Musicians.”

“I sincerely regret to inform you that after a final effort to participate in the upcoming Sabbath shows a failure to agree has continued,” Ward writes.

The tour starts this Saturday, May 19  in Birmingham, England and includes gigs at the Download Festival in Donington Park, England, on June 10 and Lollapalooza in Chicago on Aug. 3. The band, which includes original members Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Tony Iommi, who is well enough to play after being diagnosed with lymphoma, initially announced a new album and tour last  November. The group planned to play Coachella, but had to pull out while Iommi was receiving treatment. Then, in February, Ward brought up needing a contract and it looks like the negotiations proceeded in fits and starts before the clock ran out last week.

Ward further writes that he was offered the opportunity to only play three songs at the Download festival, while another drummer played the rest of the set, and that, communication between him and the rest of the band, is so bad that he only found out about the Birmingham gig through an Internet ad.

Ward’s participation had been in doubt for months after he insisted upon a contract. That had lead to fractious, on-and-off-again negotiations, which his website letter indicates went right up until May 10. The band’s rep asked him to come to the U.K. and play the Birmingham show for free and “see how the first show goes.” He adds that he was willing to play for free, but that the doubt that he would play the Download and Lollapalooza festivals was too upsetting for him to agree.

“I hold no malice or resentment towards the other band members,” writes Ward in the heartfelt letter. “I love them; I'm tolerant of them; I'm frustrated with them, as they may be with me. My fight has never been with them. I'll love them forever. In my opinion, nobody wins this time; the band doesn't win; the fans for an original lineup don't win. Nobody wins, nobody. Even the ones who thought they did. I didn't want to make this decision, but I have to be honest and transparent. This is the statement I didn't want to write; it's the last thing I wanted to do. But, I have written it, and now it can go into the universe."

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<p>Demi Lovato</p>

Demi Lovato

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Are Britney Spears and Demi Lovato the right choices for 'X Factor'?

After lots of rumors, both are confirmed today as judges

Simon Cowell would like to make one thing perfectly clear: if you are a straight white male over the age of 15, he really doesn’t have much need for you.

The confirmation of Britney Spears as a new judge on “X Factor,” as well as the relatively surprising announcement that she and returning judge L.A. Reid will be joined by Demi Lovato shows very clearly that Cowell is serious about snaring the 12-34 female demo and not much else. Of course, all of these talent shows are geared toward females anyway, so Cowell is not even pretending that he means otherwise anymore.

This is, of course, despite the fact that “X Factor” includes the positively generic “Over 30” group.

So how do we see this playing out? L.A. Reid will be the voice of criticism on the show— and if we’re going to give them an “American Idol” analog— the Randy Jackson. Remember when Jackson was the lightweight panelist on “Idol?” Now he’s positively a Thor-sized hammer of sound critique compared to Jennifer Lopez, who will be played by the part of Demi Lovato on “X Factor,” and Steven Tyler, who will be played by Spears.

After  the first season on U.S. television didn’t deliver the ratings he’d bragged endlessly about, Cowell knew he had to shake things up. Out went judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones and in are Lovato/Spears and a host to be named later. 

Not that we expected anything sage or profound from their comments at the official announcement, but they did nothing to quell my doubts that Spears and Lovato will look at the artists and mutter encouragements that offer little in the way of true instruction.

Spears talked about how “fun” the experience will be and how she’s ready to find the “true star.” Lovato said she was “excited to represent my generation.” And, well, L.A. Reid, who has worked with some truly exquisite talents as a songwriter, producer and record head, said, “I’m the luckiest guy on the planet, standing new to these three. This is the Rolls Royce of television right here.”  Come again? Did he turn into a pillar of salt after he said that?

We’ve already expressed our doubts about Spears’ ability to provide any meaningful commentary here, in part because we simply don’t remember anything truly insightful ever coming out of her mouth during an interview.  And, furthermore, as many of the commenters said on my original piece, is someone who has to lip sync her way through her live show the best person to judge a contest that features artists performing live? But she does bring with her more than 20 million friends on Facebook and 16 million Twitter followers, making her a one-woman promo machine.

So what about 19-year-old Lovato? She’s been on TV since she was a tot on “Barney & Friends,” and then on her own Disney show, “Sonny With A Chance.”  She’s breaking out of the Disney camp,  but while under its reign, she showed to be an actress with a nice comedic style and her voice is a strong pop one.  “X Factor” accepts contestants as young as 12, which means that many of the younger applicants will have grown up with Lovato.

Here’s what else they have in common: both present as very sympathetic people who have been through their own shares of issues lately in a very public and cruel arena and have seemingly bounced back with admirable resilience. Other than making them compassionate to other people’s struggles, I’m not sure how that qualifies them to be judges, but I know that some folks will be tuning in simply to see if Spears is a trainwreck or if she is cogent, and to see if Lovato is as fragile before the camera as she has hinted in some interviews that she may be. Even though I know that’s how the game is played, it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach.

Lovato has turned her struggles into a campaign to help fellow teenage girls realize they don’t have to be “perfect” by Hollywood’s impossibly strict standards. If she applies her mentoring through that filter, she could bring a very interesting and valuable perspective to the proceedings. But my fear is that both will be so sensitive to the pain they have gone through that they will be reduced to little more than “good job!” for fear of hurting someone. They’ll have to learn the difference between being mean and giving truly constructive criticism in order to be effective judges.

They will have a very short grace period to prove they have wisdom from their decades of experience to impart or are going to be so entertaining that their lack of anything meaningful to say doesn’t matter. Lovato has impressed me in interviews as someone relatable and smart, so, while she’s still incredibly young for such a gig, she is absolutely used to the rigors of a weekly TV show.

Time and time again, I come down to Spears being the weak link here...and the main draw.

We’ll be watching when the new season bows this fall.

Will you watch to see how Spears and Lovato fare?

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