Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea twirl through official 'Problem' video: Watch

Big Sean joins in too

If you’ve seen Ariana Grande and Izzy Azalea perform “Problem” on any raft of TV specials lately, the song’s official video, released today, won’t contain many surprises, but it’s still entertaining.

The performance video continues the black-and-white pinwheel theme and Grande’s somewhat awkward dancing and throws in enough other elements to keep it interesting.

Grande plays coquettishly to the camera a few too many times, but otherwise the clip moves quickly. As the squonking opening horn line intro plays, we see the first of a dancer/contortionist flinging across stage, Grande, Azalea, and then, very shortly, an uncredited Big Sean whispering “One less problem with out ya.”

It’s a fun kaleidoscope of quickly changing scenes between more shirtless male dancers, some scooters, psychedelic backgrounds and Azalea’s scene-stealing performance.

Given that “Problem” is now the unofficial song of the summer, we can look forward to the fun unofficial video remakes coming, as we got two years ago with “Call Me Maybe” and last year with “Blurred Lines.”

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Luke Bryan

Oops! Luke Bryan takes a big tumble off the stage while performing in Charlotte: Watch

It wasn't his kind of night

Luke Bryan lived up to the adage “the show must go on” last night after he fell off the stage at Charlotte’s PNC Music Pavillion.

Bryan was covering Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us” when he got a little too close to the edge of the stage and tumbled right over into the photographer’s pit.  

After a few scary seconds, he was helped back on stage and as he sat on the edge, he laughed through the pain, joking “the last time I was in North Carolina, I busted my ass.”

He later tweeted that he was okay, but needed stitches.

YouTube has been scrubbed of the video, but, naturally, TMZ still has the footage.

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Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and Carrie Underwood
Credit: HBO

EXCLUSIVE: Stevie Nicks on singing with Carrie Underwood at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Why the Fleetwood Mac singer is glad Underwood didn't come along sooner

The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, airing on HBO  Saturday (31) night, features some of the Rock Hall’s stronger performances in recent years.
Among the highlights are the remaining members of inductee Nirvana performing with Joan Jett, St. Vincent, and Lorde, as well as Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Carrie Underwood beautifully saluting inductee Linda Ronstadt in song.

In this exclusive clip, Nicks talks about how the ladies’ performance of “When Will I Be Loved” came about — it was a lot looser than you’d think— and has some very high praise for Underwood. Let’s just say she’s glad Underwood wasn’t around during Fleetwood Mac’s formative years.

In addition to Nirvana and Ronstadt, this year’s class included Daryl Hall & John Oates, Peter Gabriel, The E Street Band, Cat Stevens and Kiss as performer inductees, and Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham as non-performer inductees.

Though footage of the Nirvana appearance has circulated on YouTube, you can see some of Joan Jett’s performance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with much better detail below, as well as Hall & Oates' jaunty  “You Make My Dreams Come True.”

Following May 31’s original airing, HBO will show the induction ceremony, which took place April 10 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, throughout June on both HBO and HBO2.

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Miguel, his girl, and their spirit animals find love in 'Simplethings' video: Watch

Edgy ballad gets equally edgy clip

Miguel just wants someone to smoke with and lie down with, as well as enjoy a disdain for  spaces between words, in his new video for “Simplethings.” In the strikingly shot black-and-white clip, he not only finds his match, but, apparently, he and his new love have the same spirit animals. What are the odds?

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Jennifer Lopez

6 best moments in Jennifer Lopez's steamy new video for 'First Love'

Where did he get that tire?

Jennifer Lopez’s stunning new black-and-white video, “First Love,” features her in the desert with Dolce & Gabbana model David Gandy, who is hotter than the Mojave and also seems around the same age as Lopez.  Though she lives in a shack,  she has her love to give her everything she needs. The Max Martin-produced track is the new single from JLo's June 17 release, "A.K.A."

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Iggy Azalea

Iggy Azalea ties the Beatles on the Billboard Hot 100

She's only the second artist to do what?


What does Australian rapper Iggy Azalea have in common with the Beatles? As her tune “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, ascends to the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, and Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” featuring Azalea, rises 3-2, she becomes the only artist other than the Fab Four in the 56-year history of the chart to have her first two Hot 100 singles reach No. 1 and 2 concurrently. Her gain pushes John Legend’s “All of Me” 1-3.

There’s also good news for another newcomer:  Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz, whose first charting single, “Am I Wrong” zooms 17-8.

Following the shift at the top, positions 4-7 remain the same as last week: Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is No. 4, DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What” is No. 5, Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J is No. 6, and Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty,” featuring 2 Chainz” is No. 7. More good news for Derulo: his new single, “Wiggle,” featuring Snoop Dogg, leaps 20-10.

Justin Timberlake’s “Not A Bad Thing” drops 8-9.

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Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre are now a lot richer
Credit: AP

5 changes we'd like to see from the Apple/Beats deal

Will this lead to Garth Brooks finally coming onto iTunes?

Now that Apple’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats Electronics has officially been announced— and Dr. Dre is hip-hop’s first billionaire (I know we can all breathe a sigh of relief that he’s good financially now), Apple will now not only acquire Beats Headphones and Beats Music, it is also getting Dr. Dre and Interscope head Jimmy Iovine in the mix (Interscope COO/president John Janick will ascend to chairman/CEO when Iovine departs in September).

Here are five results we'd like to see come about from the deal:

1. Beats Music forces all streaming services to be more artist and songwriter friendly. We’ve all seen the horror stories about how little Spotify pays artists and the ongoing Pandora suits. Beats and Apple have an opportunity to do the right thing here and make sure artists gets their fair share. The other services would hopefully fall in line and both the lawsuits and the proposed changes to legislation could end.

2. iTunes become more artist friendly. The main reason for the acquisition of Beats Music (in addition to Beats headphones) is that Apple needs a streaming service, especially as downloading purchases start to slow. As Apple’s world gets even bigger, there’s no reason to not give a little back to the artists creatively and  let them decide how they want their music to be sold: let it be their decision if they want an album to be available only as a full album instead of picked apart with consumers allowed to buy individual tracks. Most artists don’t care, but several would like to have the option of singles being sold individually, but the rest of the album remaining in tact. Artists should also have more say in the pricing options. Maybe they want a full album to sell for $7.99 instead of $9.99.  The last great holdout on iTunes is Garth Brooks. Wouldn’t it be nice if for his next studio album, iTunes let him sell it as album only since that’s the only way he’ll come aboard?

3. Apple creates a label that takes on the majors. Apple is in the business of selling hardware and it distributes music (and other content) as a means to sell more hardware, so starting a label is probably not in its best interest. However, if you’re going to bring on Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre to run your music division, they are going to want to continue to keep their hand in music discovery.

4. Find a role for Trent Reznor. Oddly, in all the talk about the Beats acquisition, I haven’t seen the Nine Inch Nails’  founder mentioned, even though he’s Beats Music’s chief creative officer. Is he still part of the team? If so, he’s someone who has been very willing to experiment with different distribution models and is fearless when it comes to letting go of the old guard and trying new ideas.

5. Figure out how to synergize iTunes, Beats, and iTunes Radio. iTunes Radio launched last fall—and to its credit— pays a decent performance rate and gives labels a revenue share. Having said that, I don’t know anyone who listens to iTunesRadio— Clear Channel's  iHeartRadio seems to have all the momentum. Here’s a chance to have all three distribution models—free streaming with iTunesRadio, subscription streaming through Beats, and song purchase through iTunes Store— leverage their services from premiering tracks on iTunesRadio and Beats to offering exclusives on full album purchases, as iTunes did for the first week with Beyonce's latest.

A few other random thoughts:

I largely left out any ideas about integrating Beats headphones because that seems ridiculously easy: how long before we see iTunes gift cards bundled with Beats headphones? Beats Music subscriptions bundled with headphones, etc? For that matter, how long before Beats Music is rebranded iBeats?

I know this is crazy, but when rumors of the deal first leaked a few weeks ago, I wondered if this had been the Beats game plan all along. Iovine worked very closely with Apple and Steve Jobs on the development of iTunes, which ultimately helped kill the album market and hurt labels in some ways more than it helped. Though this is pure speculation on my part, I wonder if the thought was all along to develop a streaming operation while Apple continued to falter in its development of one and then Iovine, Dre, et al would sell to Apple and everybody wins. Iovine gets the ultimate thank you from Apple for helping iTunes become such a monster… We’ll never know if my theory is true, although in a statement about the merger, Iovine said, “I’ve always known in my heart that Beats belongs with Apple.”

How do you think the merger will change how you consume music?

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Billy Joel

A Tale of Two Billy Joel Reviews and a Happy Ending

Joel takes the Hollywood Bowl by storm

Five years ago, about six weeks after HitFix launched, I reviewed a Billy Joel concert at the opening of a new venue at Agua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs.

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Nicki Minaj

Watch: Nicki Minaj's 'Pills N Potions' lyric video

First of two lyric videos highlights the pills more than the potions

Nicki Minaj has released the first of two lyric videos for her strong new single, “Pills N Potions.”

The lyrics pop up over stills of liquor bottles, cigarette smoke, pills, and other shots of club exteriors, apartment interiors, the New York skyline, and cocktail glasses.  No telling if these shots hint at the story line of the full video coming or if these images stand alone.

The song, which we reviewed here, is the first single from Minaj’s third full-length album, “The Pink Print,” which is coming later this year.


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Mariah Carey

Album Review: Mariah Carey: 'Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse'

Was the over-stuffed album worth the five-year wait?

It’s been a long wait filled with fits and starts for Mariah Carey’s new album, first titled “The Art Of Letting Go,” and now, awkwardly called “Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse.” Yes, I know the background behind the title and she could have gone with “Me,” or “I Am Mariah” or “The Elusive Chanteuse,” but all three is a bit of overkill.  And so it is with the album. At 14 tracks on the standard edition, Carey is determined to show us all of her tricks, between her multiple-octave range  and her “I’m still really street, R&B” side (not to mention that she can still rock a crocheted bathing suit).

The album succeeds in many levels, but on some songs—“Cry,” “Camouflage,” “It’s A Wrap” (a duet with Mary J. Blige on the Deluxe version), the lyrics read like journal entries that don’t scan well with the melodies and seem crammed in to fit. Carey could have used a good editor.

To her credit, working with lots of producers —there are at least 12 here— doesn’t dilute the album’s cohesiveness, since that unifying factor is Carey’s vocals. The bigger issue here is the consistent need to throw in every bit of studio gimmickry into almost very track. There is precious little space on these tracks. Carey’s voice is such a force of nature, there’s no need to surround it with so many overlapping bells and whistles that often serve to distract rather than enhance.

Carey has crafted an album, her first since 2009’s “Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel,” that doesn’t feel progressive or groundbreaking in any way (despite Carey’s almost seemingly pathological need to remain current with hip-hop trends), but also is so much better than all the delays would have led us to believe.  Was it worth the wait? Yes, if you're a Carey fan. And it’s a reminder that Mimi remains a powerful force.

Here's a track-by-track review:

“Cry”:  The album opener is an organ-drenched gospel inflected tune that builds nicely as Carey details a heart break that leaves both parties tender and bruised.  The lyrics get unwieldy, but for the most part the ballad is a reminder that Carey has a voice that remains unmatched in pop. It’s one of the few tracks that isn’t over saturated by needless production elements. GRADE: B+

“Faded”: Just as their love has faded, so has Carey’s memory as she looks at photos of a lost love in this chugging mid-tempo ballad, co-produced by Mike Will Made-It, with a relatively light touch. Should be a fall single. GRADE: B

“Dedicated,” featuring Nas: The two titans look back at the summer of 1988, which Nas calls “My most nostalgic moment of hip-hop music ever,” in the intro before the two turn back time to 26 (!!!) years ago in a sweet duet that the label should have released for summer. The lilting track rambles along without a particularly catchy hook but feels made to be blaring out of car speakers.  Nas, no stranger to controversy, throws it down by rapping:  “We don’t wish today’s game was old again, we just wish it wasn’t filled with draconian, babylonian phony-men.” It’s not the album’s strongest track, but it has an effortless charm —and fun Wu-Tang samples— that propel it over some of the other tracks that sound so labored.  GRADE: B+

“#Beautiful,” featuring Miguel: This swaying, toe-tapping former single deserved to be a bigger hit than it was (it peaked at No. 15) as Carey and Miguel sexily coo and flirt over a retro-sounding track about how looks matter. She also likes that her bad boy runs red lights when she’s on the back of his bike. And he like her ass. True. It shouldn’t have worked as well as it did, but their talents raise the song. GRADE: B+

“Thirsty”: Rapper Rich Homie Quan comes in at the beginning and in the middle, but the star is Carey’s delivery. Her vocals glide over a very busy synth track, airy as a butterfly, but her words are lethal. The stuttering background track that runs under  the whole tune, often like an irritating mosquito buzz, is part of Hit-Boy’s signature production, but this put down of a man who used to be a considerate lover but is now all about celebrity deserves more of the spotlight. GRADE: B

“Make It Look Good”: Carey goes old school on this dreamy mid-tempo track that will charm long time fans. With a doo-wap feel and Stevie Wonder on harmonica, “Make It Look Good” is a throw back to an earlier time and an earlier Carey, Care-free and swaying. Top 40 radio wouldn’t touch it now, which is a shame. This would have been a smash in the mid-90s.  GRADE: B+

“You’re Mine (Eternal)”: The mid-tempo tune, co-written and co-produced with Rodney Jerkins, is a breathless, throbbing quiet storm of a song that relies more on its hypnotic charm than Carey's vocal pyrotechnics. GRADE: B-

“You Don’t Know What To Do,” featuring Wale: The song starts off classic Mariah as she sassily wails about dumping her man because he doesn’t know what to do when it comes to romancing his lady. Wale then comes in with the male’s perspective rapping about how he wants another chance. Carey comes back as the song shifts into an uptempo R&B pop track making clear that he is way too late since she used to love him, but she feels brand new now that she’s set loose her man.  Playful and  fun. GRADE: B+

“Supernatural”: A love letter to her now three-year old twins, who giggle and coo throughout the song, “Supernatural” also works as a romantic love letter as Carey sings, over a tinkling synth, about a love that makes everything else pale in comparison. The track will strike you as indulgent or delightfully sweet depending upon where you fall on the “kids as props” spectrum. GRADE: B-

“Meteorite”: With the insistent disco beat and other flourishes, “Meteorite” sounds like a Donna Summer outtake —and that’s high praise. The mid-tempo disco track features Carey with a straight-ahead, non-stratospheric vocal. All the elements are there for the song to achieve maximum lift-off, but it doesn’t… maybe a high energy remix would help. Tremendous unrealized potential on this track, co-produced by Carey and Q-Tip. GRADE: B-

“Camouflage”: Carey holds nothing back vocally here on this ballad about keeping her pain hidden as a love affair falls apart. From the calling-all-dogs high notes to the sustained notes, it’s all here.  And it’s all a bit much when you wade through a choir, layers of singing, and echo-y effects. It starts off lovely and spare, but as each element is added in, it begins to sag. Would have been better if it had stayed simpler. GRADE: B-

“Money ($*/…),” featuring Fabolous: Carey is reduced to guest on her own tune here as Fabolous and a squonking horn steal the show here as he exhorts, “C’mon Mariah, let’s get higher.”  Love trumps money, at the end of the day in this repetitive Hit-Boy track (or does it, as Fabolous raps about coming home “to your money.”  GRADE: C

“One More Try”: Carey likes to throw in the occasional cover of a power ballad from the past: Journey’s “Open Arms” way back in 1996 or Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” on “Memoirs.” Here she tackles George Michael’s 1988 hit, “One More Try.” She stays pretty faithful to the original, but the track has a cheesy roller-skating back beat and backing vocals that distract from her solid vocal performance and take away from the underlying weight and slight creepiness of Michael’s version.  GRADE:  C

“Heavenly (No Ways Tired/Can’t Give Up Now)”: The standard version of the album wraps with this gospel track that includes a full choir and samples from the late Rev. James Cleveland and addresses fortitude in the face of struggles. Like many of the tracks, it starts out fine, but then it builds to a busy mess (turntable scratching, really? ) that overshadows the positive, uplifting message.  GRADE: B-

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