Michael Jackson
Credit: Epic Records

Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake's fun 'Love Never Felt So Good': Listen

Track appears on posthumous Jackson album, 'Xscape'

The sum of the parts are definitely greater than the whole on “Love Never Felt So Good,” a new Michael Jackson track featuring Justin Timberlake, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty of fun to be had listening to the breezy track.

The tune debuted during the IHeartRadio Awards May 1 in Los Angeles, with Jackson acolyte Usher dancing to the track. Written in 1983 by Jackson, Paul Anka and Kathy Wakefield, the dance-oriented pop track sounds delightfully retro (even for 1983) with its synth disco beat and easy rhythms.  With the right remixes, it could be club smash.

Jackson is the star of the Frankenstein track, with Timberlake singing the second verse, adding a more contemporary breakdown that brings it into the new millennium and several “Let me see you move” call outs. It’s a slight track and Jackson’s performance is fine, but certainly not exceptional. However, there’s an undeniable sweetness to hearing Jackson sing again.

“Love Never Felt So Good”  is one of eight tracks on “Xscape,” a posthumous Jackson album out May 13 that includes songs finished following his 2006 death. Upon the announcement of the new album in March,  Epic Records states that the songs would be “contemporized” versions of tunes.

“Contemporized,” according to a press release, meant that Epic CEO/chairman “L.A” Reid and various producers, including Timbaland, Stargate, and Rodney Jerkins, “retooled the production to add a fresh, contemporary sound that retains Jackon’s essence and integrity. In other words, my guess is they had to create the finished tracks from the various stages in which they found Jackson’s vocals. Although the release stresses that a deluxe version of "Xscape" includes all the "sourced Michael Jackson recordings in their original form," it does not explain how fully realized the recordings were.
 

Wouldn’t it be awesome to hear this coming out of the car speakers on your way to the beach?

 

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The Black Keys

The Black Keys take you to church in new video for 'Fever': Watch

Can Dan Auerbach save your soul?


The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach wants to testify to you.  In the duo’s new video for “Fever,” he plays an evangelist, eager to save his flock’s souls and, more importantly, get them to open their wallets.

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Mariah Carey
Credit: Def Jam

Why Mariah Carey's 'Me. I Am Mariah' album cover makes me sad

'The Elusive Chanteuse' returns May 27

Mariah Carey wants you to know a few things about her new album, now titled “Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse,” but the first take away is that she looks smoking hot in a bathing suit.  Before we think about the music, before we think about the voice, she wants us to think about how after two babies, she can still rock that body. And that makes me sad.

I am a Carey fan, both of her music and of her as a person. I’ve interviewed and met her a number of times over the past 20 years and I’ve found her delightfully real, whipsmart, and funny, which is not how she always comes across in one staged, airbrushed photo after another.  So when I heard the album title and then saw the album cover, my heart sunk a little.

Mariah Carey album cover

Yes, she looks beautiful, but it makes me sad that one of the best vocalists ever can’t rely on her prestigious talent to make us interested in listening to her. I know part of it is the times we are in and the outrageous demands we make on women to look like super models, no matter what their profession, but part of it also comes from Carey.

Maybe she feels a little spooked, and for good reason. She is a pop music artist and pop music is a notoriously tough on women over 30. Carey is 44 (or 45, there seems to be some dispute as to whether she was born in 1969 or 1970).  Plus, this album, originally title “The Art of Letting Go,” has had a series of stops and starts over the past two years. Some singles, such as “#Beautiful,” with Miguel, have done well, while others have not fared as well. (Carey is No. 1 on Billboard’s  Dance Club Songs chart right now with “You’re Mine (Eternal).”

In a video highlight the album cover, Carey delivers in voice over why she chose the album title. It comes from her “first and only self portrait. I drew it when I was three and a half,” she says, calling it a “personal treasure.”. The adorable drawing, which is on the back of the album cover, shows a cute little girl with eyelashes for days. The words, probably penned by an adult, “Me. I am Mariah,” are also on the drawing. (If she did write that at age 3, she had amazing penmanship).

“Please don’t judge me for such a simplistic title,” she continues. “C’mon, I was only three and a half! It was a creative visualization of how I saw myself with the purity of a child’s heart before it was ever broken…because this album is a reflection of some of the peaks and valley that have made me whom I am today, I decided to share it with those of you who actually care and have been with been through it all.”

As far as “The Elusive Chanteuse,”  Carey says, “Along the way there have been a couple of nicknames…lately they’ve been calling me ‘the elusive chanteuse’.” Anyone know who ‘they’ are?

The album comes out May 27 (it had most recently been slated for May 6) and will come in standard and deluxe editions.

Are you excited for “Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse?” (The album's tracklisting is below the video).

"Me. I Am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse" tracklisting:
1. Cry.
2. Faded
3. Dedicated (feat. Nas)
4. #Beautiful (feat. Miguel)
5. Thirsty
6. Make It Look Good
7. You’re Mine (Eternal)
8. You Don’t Know What To Do (feat. Wale)
9. Supernatural (With Special Guest Stars “Dembabies” a.k.a. Ms. Monroe & Mr. Moroccan Scott Cannon a.k.a. Roc ‘N Roe)
10. Meteorite
11. Camouflage
12. Money ($ * / …) (feat. Fabolous)
13. One More Try
14. Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can’t Give Up Now)
15. It’s a Wrap (feat. Mary J. Blige) [Deluxe edition]
16. Betcha Gon’ Know (feat. R. Kelly) [Deluxe edition]
17. The Art of Letting Go [Deluxe edition]
18. Me. I Am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse

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Elliott Smith

Watch the trailer for Elliott Smith doc, 'Heaven Adores You'

Kickstarter-funded film bows in San Francisco next week.

When Elliott Smith’s song, “Miss Misery,” from “Good Will Hunting,” received a Best Original Song Oscar nomination in 1998, the acclaim catapulted the Portland, Ore., musician into the mainstream.

The world learned about  a shy singer-songwriter with the unique, sweet delivery and beautiful song sense. And then, in 2003, he was gone from self-inflicted stab wounds.

The story of Smith’s musical life is told in “Heaven Adores You,” a documentary, which debuts at the San Francisco International Film Festival next week.

A trailer for the Kickstarter-funded film, directed by Nikolas Rossi, debuted today and it’s appropriately ethereal and somewhat indecipherable.

The clip opens with Smith’s voice talking about how he doesn’t want people to try to pigeonhole him: “I like music, you know. That’s the thing. It’s very uncomplicated.”

“Heaven Adores You” marks the first time Smith’s estate has allowed his music to be allowed in such a project, and the doc includes interviews with his sister, several of his bandmates, and collaborators, sun as Jon Brion and Slim Moon, according to Pitchfork.

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The Futuristics

The Futuristics on working with fun.'s Jack Antonoff, Flo Rida, Chris Brown

How did they come up with that name?


Alex Schwartz and Joe Khajadourian, better known as the production team The Futuristics, have had great success working with such artists as Flo Rida, The Game, and Chris Brown, but as they hinted to us at the ASCAP Pop Awards last week, they’ve got even bigger things coming.

Schwartz played coy when he talked about a song they have written with fun.’s Jack Antonoff. “The song that we did, we don’t want to say whose song it is, there’s a chance it will be coming out very soon,” Schwartz said. We managed to get a few more details out of him: “It’s a male song and it’s about running away, youth and rebelling.” He then added that the reason he was playing it cool was that they were still deciding which artist of those “circling around” the song would get it.

With all their success, the Futuristics have a major gap in their resume in terms of working with women. “We have been doing some sessions with Jo Jo and writing some songs,” they say.

New projects include DJ Felli Fel’s “Have Some Fun,” featuring CeeLo, Pitbull & Juicy J; Lupe Fiasco’s “Believer,” and a new Austin Mahone single with “Pitbull.”

As far as their name goes, as they explain in the video, it’s a combination of an homage to ‘70s R&B group the Stylistics and one of their favorite movies, “Back to the Future.”  Pretty clever!

 

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Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande's 'Problem' with Iggy Azalea is bound for chart success

The alluring black-and-white lyric clip heats up the screen

Ariana Grande, who scored a top 10 hit last year with “The Way,” featuring Mac Miller,  has found another very valuable duet partner. “Problem,” featuring Iggy Azalea, is off to such a fast start, it could launch in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 next week. Sources tell Billboard it could sell up to 300,000 downloads in its opening frame.

Grande bowed the song at the Radio Disney Music Awards on Saturday (26), without Azalea, but with some of the visuals from the pair’s black & white lyric video, which debuted today.

The song features Grande singing about how she’ll have one less problem when she lets her boyfriend go, features a squonky horn line, redolent of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop,” and a sassy rap by Azalea.

"I thought we would make the perfect girl-power duo for 'Problem', so I'm very grateful that she did it with me,” Grande told Rolling Stone. “I love meeting people I admire and discovering that they're really chill human beings and nothing's gone to their head." Azalea celebrates her first top 10 hit this week as "Fancy" rises into the Billboard Hot 100.

“Problem,” which plays off of Jay Z’s “99 Problems,” is the first single from Grande’s forthcoming second studio album. Her first album, “Yours Truly,” bowed at No. 1 last September.

Vevo is having trouble with the video right now, so as soon as we can, we'll embed it, but in the meantime, enjoy it here.

 

 

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Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' scores its 10th week at the top

DJ Snake and Iggy Azalea have good weeks too

As Pharrell Williams continues his reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 for the 10th week, “Happy” joins the ranks of only 28 songs that have logged that much time at No. 1 in the chart’s 55 years.

The all-time record belongs to Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day,” which spent 16 weeks at No. 1 in 1996-1996, but Williams has an ace in his pocket: he was featured on the last song to top the chart for more than 10 weeks: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” featuring Williams and T.I.

The big question is if “Happy” will finally be toppled next week by John Legend’s “All of Me,” which has been stuck at No. 2 for six weeks. Legend’s song continues to gain steam at radio and via streaming.

As they have before, Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” featuring 2 Chainz, and Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, trade places, with “Horse” rising 4-3 and “Dirty” retreating 3-4.

DJ Snake scores his first top 5 hit as “Turn Down For What,” featuring Lil Jon, move 7-5, pushing Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” 5-6.

Like DJ Snake, Iggy Azalea scores her first top 10 hit, as “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, soars 18-7. That’s not the only good news for the Australian rapper: her debut album, “The New Classic,” enters the Billboard 200 at No. 3.  Azalea is the first female rapper to have her debut single reach the top 10 since M.I.A. with “Paper Planes” in 2008, according to Billboard. Guest vocalist  Charli XCX matches her previous Billboard Hot 100 high from when she guested on Icona Pop’s “I Love It” last year.

Bastille’s first Top 10 hit, “Pompeii,” slides 6-8, while Justin Timberlake’s “Not A Bad Thing” and Chris Brown’s “Loyal,” featuring Lil Wayne and French Montana or Too $hort or Tyga (there are two versions floating around), each fall one spot to No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.

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Jackson Browne

Interview: Jackson Browne: 'People want to see you stumble'

On his new tribute album and revisiting his past hits

Earlier this month, some of Jackson Browne’s friends, including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt and many more, covered their favorite Browne tunes for  “Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne.”

The set also included some newer singer/songwriters, like Griffin House and Bob Schneider, with whom he was not as familiar but now considers himself a fan.

The release comes at a time when Browne is working on a new album and so he was a little wary of revisiting some of his biggest hits, especially delivered in such an appealing way.

“It’s funny because you tend to compete with your younger self anyway. You tend to always try to do something worthy of what you’ve done already,” he said, when we interviewed him last week at the ASCAP Pop Awards. He was presenting the Founders Award to Tom Petty.  “[The tribute] comes at a time when I’m trying to make a new record and I didn’t really want to hear too much of that and it’s like ‘Damn, that’s good. That’s a great record.’ I’ve written a few songs, but who knew all this time that all these songs really needed was a singer.”

One of Browne’s new tunes already showed up on the internet, but, as he laughed about it in the video, it was hardly the version he wanted out there. It was during a performance when he “completely went blank” on the lyrics.  Though he’s fine with it now, he mused over the fact that, for better or worse, seeing him sing it badly, as opposed to all the nights he’s sung it perfectly, is what people want to see. “That’s what people want. They want to see you stumble.”

In the above interview, Browne also talks about artists he never misses when they come to town.  

 

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Ray LaMontagne
Credit: CBS

Review: Ray LaMontagne is a shining star on 'Supernova'

HitFix
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With Black Keys' Dan Auerbach at the helm, LaMontagne makes breezy set

Ray  LaMontagne may be from New Hampshire, but on new album “Supernova,” he is in a decidedly West Coast frame of mind.

Time and again, he references California in the lyrics, name checking Beverly Hills, the Pacific Coast Highway, and Ojai.

And that’s not where the homage ends. Many of the songs on the singer/songwriter’s fifth studio set, out today (29), feel inspired by Southern California’s great songwriting era of the ‘60s and ‘70s.  “Ojai” would have fit right in on a Byrds album. Opening track, “Lavender,” is awash in so many Mamas & Papas and Strawberry Alarm Clock psychedelic swirls that you’ll be reaching for a peace sign, go-go boots, and a flower to  wear in your hair before listening further.

The release of “Supernova” comes 10 years after LaMontagne arrived in 2004 with “Trouble,” with his rugged, emotive vocal style drawing comparisons to everyone from Van Morrison and The Band to Joni Mitchell and his musical hero, Stephen Stills.

With his subsequent sets, the critical darling orbited around the same sun, switching it up just enough to  keep it interesting, including recording the last set, 2010’s “God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise,” with his since-dispatched Pariah Dogs.  The set snagged the Grammy for best contemporary folk album, making it understandable if LaMontagne had decided to remain on the country-tinged roads that drove the success of that album.

Instead,  the reclusive LaMontagne seems to have loosened—and lightened— up a bit. On “Supernova,” he transforms from folkie to hippie, and the breezier tone serves him well.

In interviews, LaMontagne has talked about how songwriting had been a painful process for him until “Supernova,” when the songs seemed to flow. Pulling back on the throttle works for LaMontagne. This is the first album where he sounds as if he’s not gritting his teeth at times.

Credit also goes to producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who recorded the album over a three-week period at his Nashville studio. Using Auerbach’s choice of session players results in LaMontagne’s most cohesive, tight, and crisp album yet.

First single, “Supernova” is the most jubilant pop song LaMontagne has cut, even poppier than the soulful Stax salute, “You Are The Best Thing” from 2008’s “Gossip in the Grain.” Similar to that tune, he’s lavishing praise on the object of his affection, but “Supernova” has a jangle in its step that lifts it above that past effort. On ethereal “Airwaves,” light drums, a wispy organ, and a swaying hypnotic beat bolster LaMontagne’s sexy, delicate vocal delivery. On “She’s The One,” the closest thing “Supernova” has to a rocker, layered vocals and surf-styled guitars propel the atmospheric track.

LaMontagne crashes back to earth on the shape-shifting “Pick Up a Gun,” a hazy, dreamy  sonic kaleidoscope full of cascading melodies, their beauty contrasting with LaMontagne’s vitriolic refrain of  “I never want to see your face again.”

It’s never been LaMontagne’s style to go for the grand gesture; instead he draws the listener in as the courtly reluctant romantic. On “Supernova,” he does so with an easy charm, steeping his sound in the past, while sounding effortlessly fresh.

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Coldplay

Coldplay reveals new song, 'A Sky Full of Stars,' and love for One Direction

Check out second single from 'Ghost Stories'

Coldplay has now revealed five of the nine songs on “Ghost Stories,” and it’s safe to say, based on those tracks, that the album out May 19, is the group’s most atmospheric sonically. Hazy synths inform all of the songs we’ve heard so far and there’s a dream-like quality to all of them, although new single, "Sky Full of Stars," released today,  is definitely the most commercial and dance-y track so far.

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