<p>&nbsp;Martin L. Gore (L)&nbsp;and Vince Clarke (R)</p>

 Martin L. Gore (L) and Vince Clarke (R)

Credit: Beatport

Depeche Mode's Martin L. Gore and Vince Clarke reunite for VCMG

Pair plans release of first techno effort later this month

If the creativity they expressed in coming up with their band name is any indication, we’re a little worried about what we may get from Vince Clarke and Martin L. Gore’s reunion effort.

The two original members of Depeche Mode are working together under the new moniker VCMG and plan to release a series of EPs starting Nov. 30. Clarke left Depeche Mode after the British electronic band’s 1981 debut, “Speak and Spell,” and went on to form Yaz with Alison Moyet, and, more recently, Erasure with Andy Bell. Gore, who took over primary song duties following Clarke’s departure, has stayed in Depeche Mode for its entire run, along with fellow founding members vocalist Dave Gahan and keyboardist Andy Fletcher.

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<p>Nickelback's &quot;Here and Now&quot;</p>

Nickelback's "Here and Now"

Credit: Roadrunner Records

Album Review: Nickelback's 'Here and Now'

Canadian rockers bring the middlebrow rock, you bring the PBR

Nickelback seems to hold a special place in critics’ hearts. Seldom has a band drawn such slings and arrows. It’s as if every time one of their fans buys a Nickelback album— and they’ve bought more than 50 million of them— a critic’s puppy gets kicked and evil edges one step closer to winning.

Please. That’s such wasted energy.There’s always been a space for acts that folks in the flyover states love and that snobs on the coasts hate (I can say that since I’m originally from North Carolina). Or to put it in political language, even though they are from Canada, Nickelback is about as red state a band as ever existed.

On “Here and Now,” out today, Chad Kroeger and the boys do nothing to endear themselves to any of their haters, including those 50,000+ people who signed a petition protesting the band’s halftime performance during Thanksgiving’s Detroit Lions/Green Bay Packers game.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>David Hasselhoff, right, and Keenan Cahill dance onstage while LMFAO performs at the 39th Annual American Music Awards.</p>

David Hasselhoff, right, and Keenan Cahill dance onstage while LMFAO performs at the 39th Annual American Music Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

The Best and Worst of the 2011 American Music Awards

Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and more

The American Music Awards, held Sunday night, are to the Grammys what the Golden Globes are to the Oscars. To be sure, no one ever refuses one (unless you’re Garth Brooks), but it doesn’t carry the same weight. 

Most critics like to rag on the AMAs for good reason since so many performances feel prefabricated. To put it another way, if you created a drinking game where you had to take a shot every time you noticed a singer lip-syncing during the evening, you’d be three sheets to the wind 30 minutes in.

The AMAs used to be in January, but they were competing with the Grammys for artists and were getting lost in the glut of first quarter award shows, including the Golden Globes and Oscars. So in 2004, they moved to November and now are smartly positioned to give pop artists a good boost right before the official kick off of the holiday shopping season.

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<p>Bruce Springsteen performs at Carnegie Hall with Kate Hudson for some reason.</p>

Bruce Springsteen performs at Carnegie Hall with Kate Hudson for some reason.

Credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

UPDATED: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band confirm 2012 tour and album

European dates start in May. When are the U.S. dates?

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will hit the road in 2012, the Boss announced on his website Sunday night.

European dates will start in the middle of May, according to the missive, which promises info on the U.S. and rest of the world dates coming soon. That means we don’t know if the U.S. dates will happen before or after, but most likely after. The European dates will be announced this week.

There will also be a new album to promote. Springsteen says. “We want you to know that the music is almost done (but still untitled), we have almost settled on the release date (but not quite yet), and that we are all incredibly excited about everything that we're planning for 2012. That's all the info we have for right now, but we'll get back to you--real soon.”

Ron Aniello supposedly produced the new album or at least part of it.. Aniello is best known for his work with Lifehouse, Barenaked Ladies, Days of the New, Gavin DeGraw and Guster. He also produced  the last album from Patti Scialfa (i.e. Mrs. Springsteen), 2007's "Play It As It Lays."

This, of course, marks the first tour since the “Working on a Dream” tour ended in November 2009, and, more significantly, since saxophonist Clarence Clemons died this summer. Read my appreciation here.

UPDATED: The following dates were posted on Springsteen's website Monday.

21 June    Sunderland, England    Stadium of Light       
22 June    Manchester, England    Etihad Stadium       
24 June    Isle of Wight, England    Isle of Wight Festival   
14 July      London, England           Hard Rock Calling        

Plus, Rolling Stone, which has always had a direct line to the Springsteen camp, hints that there may be a run of U.S. arena dates in May prior to the European leg.


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<p>Taylor Swift</p>
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Taylor Swift

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Music Power Rankings: Google, Drake, Van Halen, Taylor Swift and more

Avril Lavigne and Tim McGraw make the list for the first time

1) Google Music: Despite a decidedly middling reaction, Google serves up the first true online music store that could possibly compete with iTunes....or not.

2) Drake: His second album, “Take Care” will land atop the Billboard 200 with sales of more than 700,000, the third highest debut of 2012.  That should make some “Headlines.”

3) Mac Miller: The indie rapper goes from mainstream obscurity to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top 200. This could be the start of something big.

4) Van Halen
: Venerable rock band reunites to sign with Interscope Records, after rumored deal with Columbia goes away. What does it say about the status of current rock acts that the most hotly sought-after rock act is a group that last appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995?

5) Taylor Swift: Not only does she get to hang with the Boss at her Raleigh, N.C. concert (and proudly tweets the photo), but she lands three songs in the top 30 of the Hot 100 this week, moving her past such legends as Barbra Streisand, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson in achieving the feat. 

6) ReDigi: The company, which sells “used digital music,” draws the ire of the RIAA, therefore automatically making hundreds of thousands of people more aware of the service than were before. Nice going.

7) Adele: Following her throat surgery to correct bleeding on her vocal cords that caused her to cancel her remaining 17 U.S. shows, the British singer relieved her millions of fans by blogging that she is “on the mend” and “super happy.”  She is expected to make a full recovery.

8) Laurieann Gibson:
Lady Gaga’s “creative director”  decides to “step away” from her work with Momma Monster. Both sides have their paws firmly over their mouths, so we’ll never know if “step away” = pushed.

9) Avril Lavigne: Can the pop star get her career back on track by shifting to Epic Records and reuniting with L.A. Reid, who initially signed her?

10) Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw: The two superstars reunite for the first announced stadium tour of 2012. Let’s hope this time doesn’t result in hijinks involving a sheriff’s horse and the singers’ arrests.

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Will Drake top Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne's opening weeks on the Billboard 200?

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas as holiday title dominate

Drake may have his own issues with fame as chronicled on “Take Care,” but his fans are showing their full support as the Canadian rapper’s sophomore effort is set to sell more than 700,000 copies.

That impressive start will give Drake one of the highest opening-week tallies this year, behind Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, on next week’s Billboard 200. Plus, in an era when even the biggest names see opening weeks for their new albums pale in comparison to albums past, Drake makes a substantial leap over the 447,000 first-week sales of last year’s  “Thank Me Later.”

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<p>Rihanna's &quot;Talk That Talk&quot; </p>

Rihanna's "Talk That Talk"

Credit: Def Jam

Album Review: Rihanna's 'Talk That Talk'

Will her sixth set be her first No. 1?

Will Rihanna finally land her first No. 1 on the Billboard 200? In contrast to her 11 trips to the Billboard Hot 100 summit, the Barbadian singer has never reached the album chart’s peak.

If it’s a question of worthiness (which we know it’s not), then “Talk That Talk,” out Monday, should definitely claim the pole position (because, God knows, Rihanna frequently reminds us throughout the album how much she enjoys grabbing the “pole.” )

“Talk That Talk” is Rihanna’s sixth album in as many years. She’s evolved from a sweet, playful teenager on her debut “Music of the Sun” to a troubled young women, raunchily exploring the darkest corners of her sexuality on “Rated R,”  and swung back to somewhere in the middle on last year’s “Loud” and now on “Talk That Talk.” 

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Listen: Rihanna' streams 'Talk That Talk' on her Facebook page
Credit: Def Jam Records

Listen: Rihanna' streams 'Talk That Talk' on her Facebook page

What do you think of her new album?

You can’t buy it until Monday, but you can stream Rihanna’s new album, “Talk That Talk” via her Facebook page now. All you have to do is “like” her.

It’s the latest move in a marketing campaign that has engaged fans throughout the promotional process by having them “unlock” certain steps to reveal songs, the album cover, and other elements of the project.

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Some thoughts on Billboard's album and singles chart changes post-Lady Gaga

Some thoughts on Billboard's album and singles chart changes post-Lady Gaga

What will the pricing threshold mean for you?

Call it the Lady Gaga rule. Billboard has set a pricing threshold for albums and singles to come on the Billboard 200 album and the Hot 100 singles charts.

Effective with the charts dated Dec. 10  for the tracking week that starts Nov. 21), any album selling for less than $3.49 for its first four weeks will not be eligible for the chart. After that, discount away. For the singles chart, any track selling for less than .39 cents during its first three months will not be allowed on the chart.

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<p>Miranda Lambert poses backstage at the 2011 CMAs after winning the Female Vocalist of the Year award.</p>

Miranda Lambert poses backstage at the 2011 CMAs after winning the Female Vocalist of the Year award.

Credit: AP Photo/Evan Agostini

Miranda Lambert, Chad Kroeger, Gavin DeGraw tapped to salute CMT artists of the year

Also, check out which country artists are headed to the White House

Miranda Lambert,  Matthew McConaughey, Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, and Ellen DeGeneres are among the artists who will honor the 2011 CMT Artists of the Year in a special that will air Dec. 13 on CMT.com. Rob Lowe will host the 90-minute program, taped at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.

The artists of the year—Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley and Taylor Swift—were chosen based on sales, airplay, concert grosses and internet activity.

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