Well, that was unexpected. Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” crashes back to No. 1 this week ending Lorde’s nine-week streak with “Royals.”
Cyrus’ return comes courtesy of a parody video of the song by Stephen Karynal, which, because Billboard now counts YouTube video streams and the clip features Cyrus’ audio of the song, pushes her back to the top. It has been nine weeks since “Wrecking Ball” dropped out of No. 1, making it the longest gap between a song leaving and returning to the top spot in the Hot 100’s 55-year history, according to Billboard.
Eminem’s “The Monster,” featuring Rihanna, which was poised to hop into the top spot, remains at No. 2 for the fourth week. “Royals” drops to No. 3.
Following their performance of the song on the AMAs, Pitbull’s “Timber,” featuring Ke$ha, leaps 8-4, pushing OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” down 4-5.
The push down continues as Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” drops 5-6 and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” slips 6-7.
One Direction’s “Story of My Life” climbs back into the top 10, moving 13-8, propelled by sales of the band’s new album, “Midnight Memories,” which bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 today.
Katy Perry’s “Roar” falls 7-9 and A Great Big World’s “Say Something,” featuring Christina Aguilera, makes a great big leap into the top 10, soaring 18-10. Like “Timber” and “Story of My Life,” it sees a big AMA bump.
How did the song end Lorde's reign?
Well, that was unexpected. Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” crashes back to No. 1 this week ending Lorde’s nine-week streak with “Royals.”
Are your favorite songs included?
You know we’re approaching the end of the year when DJ Earworm’s “United State of Pop” annual mash-up arrives.
The 2013 edition showed up today and if you didn’t already know that we’d seen a return to slower-tempo, less rhythmic pop tunes, you certainly will after you watch and listen.
“The ballads seem to be a lot more present than they have been in many years,” DJ Earworm (aka Jordan Roseman) told Billboard. This is his seventh edition since launching the series in 2007.
Titled “Living the Fantasy,” the 2103 iteration is built around Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child,” with heavy doses of Lorde’s “Royals,” Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up,” and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” thrown in.
While there are plenty of other songs inserted, including Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” some of the biggest tracks from 2013 are noticeably absent, at least aurally. There are plenty of shots from Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video and a few from Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” but no scant, if any, recognizable audio hook is heard from either song, same with Lady Gaga’s “Applause.” Both “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” were featured prominently in his “SummerMash ’13,” as was Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us.”
What do you think of "Living the Fantasy?"
Then he rubs his crotch
In his video for the slinky, slow jam, “All That Matters,” Bieber and model Cailin Russo go through the motions. By that, we mean she slinks around in a leather outfit and pearls (because she’s classy, y’all), performing stripper moves and reclining on a motorcycle, while he occasionally makes out with her, but mainly just watches her, in the Colin Tilley-directed clip.
When he’s not doing that, he’s looking like a wounded pup, straight into the camera. It’s a dimly-shot video full of striking cuts, all meant to show how much her love means means to him. And for the ladies, there are also a few shots of a shirtless Bieber rubbing his crotch, if that’s your thing.
Future of the two-day multi-artist event is in doubt
After two years of running the Orion Music + More Festival, Metallica will take 2014 off from the two-day fest to tour Europe instead. It is unclear if the festival will return in 2015, according to Billboard.
The metal group started launched the multi-artist/multi-genre festival in 2012 in Atlantic City, N.J. and then held the 2013 edition in Detroit. The fests featured acts from all different formats of music hand picked by the band members, as well as attractions that focused on each of their personalities, including car shows, horror film tents, etc.
Back in September, Metallica lead singer James Hetfield told Billboard that he was pleased with how the second iteration went: “We loved it. I think it went smoother than the previous one.”
Even so, he added that the band and promoter, C3 Presents, weren’t sure if they were ready to commit to further festivals. "It's the money part, man, at the end of the day... We know that festivals don't make money right away, for sure. It's not that we're out to make money; we're at least out to break even, and it certainly has not broken even yet. It's an expensive barbecue at this point."
With more dates to be added, Metallica has already announced six shows for its Spring/Summer European tour.
Do they agree that the album is her most personal?
Today is Britney Spears’ 32nd birthday, but she’s giving her fans the present. On Dec. 3, she releases her eighth studio album, “Britney Jean.”
HitFix’s review appeared on Friday. Here’s a round-up of what some of the other critics are saying about Spears’ latest, an effort she calls one of her most personal. However, most reviewers (including me) disagree.
The New York Times says the fun has been “leached out”: “...It turns out that “Britney Jean” is about as personal as an airline preboarding announcement....While “Britney Jean” doesn’t make good on its “personal” promise, that’s not its main failing. The bigger letdown is that the music has lost its snap. Between albums, Ms. Spears traded away the teen-pop mastermind Dr. Luke — maybe she was tired of sharing him with Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and Katy Perry — for Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, who is the executive producer of “Britney Jean.” Like the Black Eyed Peas back in 2009, Ms. Spears and Will.i.am have turned to European disc jockeys who have found dance music’s lowest, least funky common denominator: the steady thump of four-on-the-floor. And they’ve settled for too many tepid tracks.
The Telegraph in the U.K. calls it “aural Botox”: If Britney Spears’ eighth album is what happens when the real Spears stands up, she might as well sit back down. When Spears promised a highly “personal” break-up album, the pitch seemed unlikely coming from modern electro-pop’s vaguest avatar, then unlikelier still when the lead single turned out to be a will.i.am-produced Identikit banger titled, touchingly, “Work Bitch”.
But it’s still depressing to find more of the disco-tooled super-producer same here, allied to faintly atypical ballads that, nonetheless, add little to Spears’s synthetic sex-doll sheen.
Rolling Stone says Spears remains the pop queen, who “out-bizarres” fellow female artists like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga: Britney Jean continues the roll she's been on in recent years – her 2007 glitch-disco manifesto, Blackout, is one of the most influential albums in modern pop, and 2008's Circus and 2011's Femme Fatale are in the same league. In fact, you can split Britney's career into pre-Blackout and post-Blackout halves, and you've got two of the all-time great pop careers. And she's still way weirder than she might seem on the surface – Britney Jean makes Yeezus sound like a positive-affirmations workshop.
Like her excellent late-summer electro-sleaze hit, "Work Bitch," Britney Jean adds up the high price of stardom. It's a concept album about the loneliness of pop life – with a high-profile broken engagement behind her, Brit gets personal and drops her most bummed-out music ever. If the title reminds you of Elton John weeping over Marilyn Monroe, figure it's meant to, because this poor girl has been getting way too much candle up in her wind lately.
Entertainment Weekly calls her “enigmatic”: Even now, just about to celebrate her 32nd birthday, Britney Spears remains as enigmatic as the Disney-groomed, emotionally insulated teen who greeted us in the late '90s. It's part of why we treasure her: The feeling that, even as she sings her most seductive or inventive songs, the real Brit's off dreaming her unknowable dreams. Britney Jean, which takes its title from her family nickname and has been billed as the most ''personal'' of her eight albums, tells you virtually bupkus about her struggles over the years. But in just 10 tidy songs, it brings us closer than ever before to that distant dreamer.
Of course, since it's a Britney Spears album executive-produced by will.i.am in 2013, it also happily indulges the fantasies of endorphin-seeking EDM festival goers.
The Boston Globe says Spears “barely registers” on the album: “Scream & Shout” turns out to have been a fitting setup for “Britney Jean,” where Spears barely registers on the product with her name on it (twice). With 20 or so producers elbowing each other for focus on 10 tracks (two songs have six listed producers each), it’s no wonder there’s barely room for the singer in the swirl of swerving Ibiza keyboards (“It Should Be Easy”), dubstep bumpers (“Til It’s Gone”) and Selena Gomez castoffs (“Alien”). Her choruses to “Body Ache” and “Work Bitch,” meanwhile, sound like holding-pattern preludes to the club riffs that follow, rather than vice versa, leaving the impression that she’s merely guesting on her own material.
USA Today damns it with faint praise, saying the album offers “ as much grace as anyone could have expected”: Britney Jean (*** out of four), streaming now on iTunes a week ahead of its Dec. 3 release, aims to present this modestly talented young woman who has somehow managed to sustain our interest for 15 years as a cool but accessible dance-pop diva — willing to dangle the occasional profanity to keep us alert, but ultimately more into the groove than anything else.
What do you think of "Britney Jean?"
Can love save his life?
As we head toward the end of Justin Bieber’s #MusicMondays, the pop idol turns in one of his sparest tunes yet. On the soulful ballad, “Change Me,” Bieber, accompanied only by a piano for most of the song, yearns to believe that the love of his life can be the one who makes him the man he wants to be. She is his mirror and his salvation.
“Maybe you could change me/maybe you could change me for good/Maybe you could be the light that opens up my eyes,” he sings in a plaintive voice. He needs her patience and love, as he pleads for her to be his serenity.
Alternating between his regular singing voice and his falsetto, Bieber declares he’s as ready as he’s ever going to be.
It’s a simple song, but it’s also one of the better tunes we’ve gotten out of #MusicMondays and it’s almost possible to imagine how someone like Teddy Pendergrass could have lifted it up to something sublime.
Throughout #MusicMondays, Bieber has attempted to show his vulnerability by releasing songs mainly about love and where he’s fallen short. It’s possible to see the series as a song arc about his relationship with Selena Gomez and that, in some ways, these are letters to her. If that’s the case, “Change Me” is certainly one of his best efforts to win her back.
The beats are the star on her latest effort
For months now, Britney Spears and her manager, Larry Rudolph, have been touting “Britney Jean” as Spears’ most personal album, even naming it after her first and middle name to connote a sense of intimacy. While there are certainly nods to what could be private statements about her life, such as on “Perfume,” “Passenger” (which features Katy Perry as one of the co-writers), and “Don’t Cry,” for the most part, Spears sounds more like she’s the muse, not the master here.
If Spears’ vision is on here -and she’s listed as co-writer on all 10 tracks-it often gets overshadowed by the dominant beats and production from the album’s executive producer Will.i.am and such DJ/producers as David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso and Anthony Preston.
Executive produced by Will.i.am, the 10 tracks, spread out over 36 minutes, are lean and trim, with little bloat, which keeps the album moving nicely from one song to the next, even if some of the beats sound dated. You can’t blame a girl for wanting to move on, but the absence of past collaborators like Max Martin and Dr. Luke is felt.
The album’s release comes one day after Britney Jean turns 32 and a few weeks before she starts a residency in Las Vegas’s Planet Hollywood and in many ways, it has a maturity that some of her past albums have not, including featuring her singing in her shaky alto for much of the set instead of speak/singing such as on “Work Bitch.” “Britney Jean” won’t go down as a Spears’ classic, although it does capture a moment in time — in her life and in pop’s continued fascination with beats.
Below is a track-by-track review:
“Alien”: The album opener, co-produced by William Orbit, has an inviting galloping feel as the latest entry into the folktronica genre. After years of feeling like an alien, Spears sings that she no longer feels alone as the stars guide her home as a mesmerizing backwards loop draws the listener in. It’s one of many tracks on the set that feature Spears signing as opposed to her more familiar speak singing. GRADE: B+
“Work Bitch”: Polarizing single is a deep dance cut with Spears bringing the trouble as she advises how to get that Maserati, hot body, look hot in a bikini, or living in a big mansion: Work bitch. Sounding more like a commercial for 24-Hour Fitness than a classic Spears’ song--or at least until the interesting break in the final third-- she nevertheless brings the attitude and heat that a certain faction of Spears’ fans love about her. GRADE: C
“Perfume”: The current single from “Britney Jean,” the Sia co-write is Spears as we haven’t heard her—or at least not for a long while: singing a straight-ahead ballad with no talking and no heavy beat behind her as on past semi-ballads like “Unusual You” or even all the way back to “Sometimes.” Though still slickly produced, on “Perfume” the focus is on her vocal and the emotional weight of the lyrics as Spears hopes that the next woman to touch her man can smell her perfume on him. The album’s best track. GRADE: A
“It Should Be Easy” featuring. Will.i.am: Heavily auto-tuned Spears is back after “Perfume’s” respite. Spears and her “Scream & Shout” partner reunite or this dance/electro-clash track. “If there was a scale from one to 10 on my love for you, it’s a million billion/I love you until the day I’m dead,” Spears sings as she and Will.i.am wonder why love has to be so complicated. There’s an interesting song in here, especially given the juxtaposition of the deeper thoughts and the dance beats, but they can’t seem to excavate it. GRADE: C
“Tik Tik Boom” featuring T.I.: Spears positively moans and coos during this dance track about getting horizontal and if you haven’t gotten that point, you will when T.I. lays down a rap about making your toes curl. GRADE: B-
“Body Ache”: Produced by David Guetta and Will.i.am, it’s almost possible to pick out each part the two DJ/producers contributed, from the staccato, layered beats to the crescendos. Sex is on the menu as she wants to show us how she wants us. One of the more accessible tracks, but it’s missing Guetta’s knack for throwing in a irresistibly catchy hook among the beats. GRADE: B-
“Til It’s Gone”: Throbbing disco beats and space-age synths weave in and out of Spears’ stuttering vocals as she’s a slave to the rhythm. “All the memories I’m saving so your love is never fading,” she sings in this tune about, well, “You never know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” It’s hardly an original sentiment, but she makes the cliche sound good, in one of the album’s most diverse vocal performances. GRADE: B
“Passenger”: Co-written by Katy Perry, “Passenger” is a straight-ahead love song lyrically about finding happiness after being willing to cede control. Diplo’s production includes a synthesized, Who-like intro. “It’s hard to jump with no net, but I jumped in and got no regret,” she sings, as the pounding, synthetic melody takes off. “This is living,” she proclaims over and over as her liberation is complete. GRADE: B
“Chillin’ With You” featuring Jamie Lynn: Spears and her little sister go from sweet country to rap in this ballad that goes from bad to worse, whether it’s the rap of the constant repeating of “Chillin’ wich you.” That’s sweet that Spears wants to help lil sis get her career restarted, but this won’t be the song to do it. GRADE: D
“Don’t Cry”: Spears delivers her finest vocal performance on the mid-tempo album closer about moving on. “Adios, I’m out the door,” as she admonishes her ex to not cry in a nice twist. Fun whistled intro and outro with a heavy beat complementing her kiss off. GRADE: B
Is anyone besides Justin Timberlake a sure bet?
The holy grail of music awards for most artists is the Grammy Award for album of the year. The contenders for this year will be announced Dec. 6, with the trophy handed out Jan. 26. While Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” is pretty close to a sure bet, HitFix’s music writers highlight many other worthy contenders vying for the five spots. The eligibility period runs Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013, which means strong albums like Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” or Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” won’t be up until next year.
But Eminem's 'Monster' is gaining speed
What do Lorde, Debby Boone, Ashanti, Carly Rae Jepsen and Ke$ha have in common?
All five females took their debut single to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for at least nine weeks. Lorde accomplishes the feat with “Royals” this week, keeping Eminem’s “Monster” at bay, narrowly, for at least one more week. The New Zealander’s breakthrough hit also logs its 13th week atop Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs chart.
Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” holds at No. 3, while OneRepublic scoots up two to No. 4 with “Counting Stars” to give the Ryan Tedder-led band its second Top 5 hit. “Stars” pushes Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” 4-5.
Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” rises 7-6, Katy Perry’s “Roar” falls 5-7 as follow-up single “Unconditionally” hold at No. 16, according to Billboard.
Following their performance of the song on Sunday night’s “American Music Awards,” Pitbull’s “Timber,” featuring Ke$ha climbs 10-8. Drake’s “Hold On, Were Going Home,” featuring Majid Jordan, falls 8-9. The only newbie in the top 10 belongs to Passenger, whose sensitive ballad “Let Her Go” moves 11-10.
Just below the Top 10, two tracks from One Direction’s “Midnight Memories” strike big: “Diana” bows at No. 11, while the title track comes in at No. 12.
Done with her record contract, she looks ahead
Following the release of her best-of collection this week on RCA, Dido is officially out of her record contract and a free agent.
“I’m like an overexcited kid,” the British singer/songwriter tells HitFix. “I have so many ideas. ‘I can do this, I can do that.’ I’m like ‘take a breath’.”
More about what’s next for Dido a little later, but first she spent a few minutes looking back with us over her nearly 15-year career covered on “Greatest Hits,” a compilation of all her singles from her 1999 debut, “ No Angel,” on. Among the selections are “Here With Me,” “Thank You,” “White Flag,” “Life for Rent,” and Eminem’s “Stan,” which samples “Thank You,” and helped catapult Dido to stardom.
She listened to the album from start to finish while mastering the project. “It was this crazy, emotional 15-year diary in an hour,” she says. “When you write a song, you’re so clear about where you were and what you were feeling, even more so than when I see a picture. I have such clear memories.”
As often happens, the songs take different meaning and shapes as life progresses. “Everything to Lose,” originally featured on the 2010 “Sex and the City 2” soundtrack, “is probably more relevant now,” Dido says. “When you do finally really fall in love, having a kid, and having the fear” of losing it all.
Indeed, the birth of her son in 2011 has changed the prism through which she views life. “I’m a more emotional person since having Stanley. I was never the big cry person. Now I’ll be in the cinema and I start crying. I was crying at ‘Philomena’ 10 minutes in. My husband was like, ‘Are you alright?’ So any of these songs that are emotional, I feel it all bigger because of Stanley. It opens up a part of you.”
The collection includes a new track, “NYC.” Though written recently, it is about an era, pre-1999, when everything was still possible for her, including failure. “It’s about a time back at the very beginning when I came to New York City with the words of my brother ringing in my head: ‘This is probably not going to happen for you, but good luck’.”
Even after all her success —she’s sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and garnered an Oscar nod for “If I Rise” from “127 Hours”—the uncertainty remains. And she’s fine with that. “I’m still unsure of where the road ahead goes,” she says. “I’ll always be that person. I feel more comfortable not knowing. I crave those feelings. There’s room for magic to happen.”
While being without a record contract would strike fear in some, for Dido, it strikes a sense of possibility where music dictates every decision. “You can just put music out. For me that’s extremely exciting,” she says. “Sometimes [on a label] I feel like you make things and you have to wait for ages and you just play this big waiting game. Now, you can do this project here and that project there. It’s dictated by what you’re doing creatively.”
She’s coy about what’s next as she has material now that is taking her in two “extremely different ways,” and she hasn’t chosen which path to take yet. “It all becomes about the music and that’s the world I live in.”