Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams slows it down for 'Here' from 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

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Will the ballad make you happy?

Last time Pharrell wrote and performed a song for a movie, he came up with “Despicable Me 2’s” “Happy.”  For “Here” from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the grin, although subdued, is still on his face.

On love ballad, “Here,” he’s pledging love to his sweetie, declaring “It seems we’re here again/it seemed the right trajection/And I promise on our existence…we have unfinished business/and so my word as I cross the bridges/with zero regard for limits” that he will love her forever.

So, basically, Pharrell threw in lots of imagery that conjures up Spidey swinging from building to building, over bridges, etc, to declare his love for Gwen Stacy. Add in some sweet strings, a swaying melody, acoustic guitar and call it a day.

Except, if it were anyone other than Pharrell, who has made some of the catchiest music of the past year, not once, not twice, but three times between “Happy,” and his participation on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” we’d probably give him a pass, but this is a weak effort. Maybe ballads aren’t Pharrell’s strong suit, but there is no excuse for lyrics like, “So next time you see this place/remember we were alone/we’ll bring our children from home/that’s right, oh yeah, I’m going to go there.”  Oh no, he didn’t…

In addition to this song, Pharrell also co-wrote and produced Alicia Keys’ “It’s On Again,” featuring Kendrick Lamar from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”  and scored the movie with Hans Zimmer and the Smiths’ Johnny Marr. Maybe by the time he got around to writing “Here,” he was just plum tuckered out. Or maybe he needed to go hat shopping and got distracted.

Listen below and, just in case you’ve missed it, watch this really lovely snippet of Pharrell getting all choked up when he and Oprah Winfrey watch a clip of people from all over the world dancing to “Happy.” It makes him happy that he's made so many of us happy.

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AC/DC

AC/DC confirms Young's illness, to continue to make music

Band shoots down reports of 'retirement'

For those about to rock, it’s been a tough few days and today AC/DC confirmed fans’ worst fears, while holding out some hope.

Over the last three days, the internet has run rife with speculation that AC/DC's rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, who co-founded the band with brother Angus in 1973, had suffered a stroke and blood clot bringing the career to one of rock and roll’s most successful, long-lived acts to a halt. Sources reported that the band would “never make music again” and retire. Additionally, a 40-city tour to celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary, hinted at by vocalist Brian Johnson, would also be taken off the schedule.

With little fanfare and even less detail, the band posted the following statement on its website today: “After forty years of life dedicated to AC/DC, guitarist and founding member Malcolm Young is taking a break from the band due to ill health. Malcolm would like to thank the group’s diehard legions of fans worldwide for their never-ending love and support. In light of this news, AC/DC asks that Malcolm and his family’s privacy be respected during this time. The band will continue to make music.”

So in a few sentences, AC/DC managed to confirm that Young had suffered a health setback without giving any details, he was taking a leave from the band, and also let fans know that they were not retiring.

In fact, there are also reports that AC/DC plans to enter a recording studio later this year to work on the follow up to 2008’s “Black Ice,” which sold more than 700,000 copies in its first week of the release in the U.S. alone. In an interview with the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper, Johnson said that the band was headed to a Vancouver studio next month. “We’re going to pick up some guitars, have a plonk, and see if anybody has got any tunes ideas. If anything happens, we’ll record it.”

While Johnson declined to confirm anything about Young’s condition, in fact, he would not even acknowledge that Young was the ill member —the interview took place before the statement was released this morning—he did admit that “One of the boys has a debilitating illness,” adding that “I wouldn’t like to say anything either way about the future.”

As far as the tour, given that it was never confirmed, it would also seem to not be happening, at least not in the near future.

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Real Estate

Zombie skateboarders, Thai food and more in Real Estate's 'Crime' video

Funny or Die's parody works because it's not far off the mark

Some parodies work because they are just the slightest exaggeration with how it seems to work in real life. Such is the case with Real Estate’s “Crime” video, which debuted on Funny or Die.

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The Beatles
Credit: United Artists

Revisiting The Beatles'classic film, 'A Hard Day's Night,' at 50

Does the movie retain its freshness and vitality half a century later?

LOS ANGELES—I have a confession to make. Until Saturday night, I had never seen The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”  What? I know! I felt like this was a major black hole in my cultural education, especially as someone who makes her living writing about music.

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Alicia Keys and Pharrell steal spotlight from Spider-Man in 'It's On Again' video
Credit: Vevo

Alicia Keys and Pharrell steal spotlight from Spider-Man in 'It's On Again' video

Does the clip get you excited for the movie?

There’s a lot of Alicia Keys and Pharrell Williams in the new video for “It’s On Again” from “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and not so much Spidey.

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The Black Keys
Credit: Nonesuch

The Black Keys turn back time on new track, 'Turn Blue'

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Listen to the trippy title tune from their new album

The Black Keys’ title track to “ Turn Blue” is a slinky, retro-sounding, mid-tempo track that expands the soundscape heard on “Turn Blue’s” first single, “Fever.”

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"Frozen"
Credit: Disney

'Frozen' will mark its 10th week as the No. 1 album

Four albums debut in the Top 10

The soundtrack to “Frozen” will spend another week at No.1  on the Billboard 200 next week with no competitor coming within 100,000 of the Disney juggernaut.

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Ingrid Michaelson

8 things you need to know about singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson

Her new album, 'Lights Out,' arrives April 15

Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson first came to prominence seven years ago after “Grey’s Anatomy” used her song “Keep Breathing,” followed by Old Navy appropriating “The Way I Am” to sell sweaters during 2007’s holiday season.

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Joan Jett performing with Nirvana
Credit: AP Photo

Why Nirvana struck just the right chord at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction

Kurt Cobain would have loved it

When the surviving members of Nirvana hinted that Joan Jett would join them for the band’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last night  (10) via a photo on Instagram, the internet jumped on the news that she would fill in for the late Kurt Cobain like lions on red meat.

But it turns out that by throwing fans and press that little snack to nibble on, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear were able to pull off something much more impressive: a Nirvana set featuring not only Jett, but Lorde, St. Vincent, and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. Furthermore, they were able to keep the last three names a complete secret until they took that stage last night. Each person was picked for a deliberate reason that made perfect sense without exploiting the occasion.

And it turned out to be an evening that I bet Cobain would have loved. In one short set (and in a later secret show at a Brooklyn’s St Vitus club), Nirvana accomplished so many things:

*They paid homage to Cobain’s vision of a world where female musicians were given as much credibility as male artists

*By including Lorde, they showed that Nirvana’s music speaks for the current generation as much as for the Gen X’ers. Not only that, but Lorde has an individual style that is all her own, just as Cobain had, and is an artist that is deliberately inclusive without pandering to current trends.

*With the inclusion of Gordon, Nirvana highlighted a women who served as an influence on the band, as well as a contemporary. There's very fun footage of them together at the Reading Festival in 1991, and their connection is a long-lived one.

*Like Gordon, Jett influenced the members of Nirvana, has become very close to Grohl, and produced an album by The Germs, Smear’s early band.

Lorde performed “All Apologies,” St. Vincent “Lithium,” Jett “Smells Like Teen Spirit, “and Gordon, “Aneurysm”: each song perfectly matched to the performer. In the videos below, it’s clear that each performer put her own stamp on the song, while still honoring the original’s intent (Gordon comes in around the 7-minute mark in her video).

In almost any other situation, it would be easy to dismiss the use of women singers as gimmicky, but, in hindsight, it seems like the most obvious and smartest decision possible in this case.

In various interviews, Cobain made it clear time and again that he preferred the company of women, identified closely with what it felt like to feel like an outsider—whether because you were female or gay —and was ardently pro-female. Most famously, as Charles Cross noted  in his  book, “Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain,” in the liner notes for “Incesticide,” he delivered a decree to grunge fans: “If any of you, in any way, hate homosexuals, people of a different color, or women, please do this one favor for us—leave us the fuck alone. Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.”

As Cross points out in an excellent essay for The Advocate, Nirvana played anti-rape and gay rights benefits. After “In Utero” was released, Cobain told Spin, he hoped the album “inspire[d] women to pick up guitars, and start bands — because it’s the only future of rock ’n’ roll.”

Nirvana’s selection of guests last night were spot on, though it  might have been fun to see someone even a little more daring, like Peaches, play with them. Otherwise, it’s hard to think of a better way for Grohl and Novoselic to have honored Nirvana’s past and its future.

 

 

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Katy Perry
Credit: Capitol Records

Katy Perry gets sweet in 'Birthday' lyric video

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The clip is going to make you hungry

If you aren’t hungry at the start of the lyric video for Katy Perry’s new single, “Birthday,” then you definitely will be by the end.

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