In a semi-surprising move this week, Citigroup took over EMI, home to the Beatles catalog, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum, in what most observers believe is an ultimately good move for the record company. After a long period of destabilization at Guy Hands' hands, EMI is coalescing under Roger Faxon's direction and Citigroup's takeover gives the company a chance to breathe a little bit before Citigroup puts it back on the block.
1) EMI (not ranked last week): The record label has more lives as a cat as Citigroup takes over ownership. Remember that Citigroup has been the main creditor to former owner Terra Firma, which faulted on its loan. Citi has written off a £2.2 billion loss on the deal and will, undoubtedly, flip it as soon as possible. Or as BBC News business editor Robert Preston said, “The takeover in 2007 of EMI by Guy Hands’ Terra Firma..will go down in British corporate history as one of the worst deals ever.” Ouch. We bet Thom Yorke is laughing his ass off.
2) Nicki Minaj (not ranked): She shows her versatility on "Saturday Night Live," not only as a performer, but in the hilarious digital short, "Do the Creep," causing "Pink Friday" to continue creeping up the charts
3) Shakira (not ranked): She becomes the third artist, following Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, to log a staggering one billion views on YouTube. And we know that those figures, just like her hips, don’t lie.
As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting a category a day. Today we look at Best Contemporary R&B album. We cannot tell you the difference between this category and the Best R&B album category and we defy you to find anyone who can with a description that makes sense. For example, R. Kelly is considered contemporary R&B, but John Legend is just regular old R&B The two categories would be much stronger if they were combined.... discuss.
No way, no how is the Recording Academy awarding Chris Brown a Grammy. It’s too soon--whether that’s fair or not, that’s just the truth (Interestingly, Brown has already announced that he won't attended the Feb. 13 ceremony, even though he's up for three awards). R Kelly and Ryan Leslie don’t necessarily deserve to be here. “Untitled” is far from an exemplary Kelly album and Leslie isn’t high profile enough to win. So it comes down between Usher and Janelle Monae. “Raymond v. Raymond” is a fine album, chockfull of hits and continues a more mature path Usher has gone down since “Here I Stand.” Having said that, the runaway winner here is Monae’s “The Archandroid,” a breakthrough blend of R&B, jazz, pop, soul and rock. The album made many “best of 2010” lists, including mine and colleague Katie Hasty’s, for good reason: it is one of the most inventive albums of any genre to come out in several years.
Meester plays Rebecca, your garden-variety psycho, who takes over the life of her at-first unsuspecting roomie, Sara.
“I really felt zero in common with [Rebecca] and you have to somehow rationalize their decisions,” Meester recently told HitFix during a press roundtable for “Country Strong.”
“None of [Rebecca’s] decisions are based on some rational view of anything. Everything she does is from having a mental disorder and not being able to become right again. She justifies everything with ‘You don’t love me’ or “Love me. Love me.’ She’s just off the deep end.”
Sunday (Feb. 6) will mark the Black Eyed Peas’ second appearance at the Super Bowl. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the first time. It was for a small audience.
“Last year when The Who played, the Dolphins owner gave us a VIP booth,” will.i.am recalls. “Right before the Who went on for halftime, they played ‘I Gotta Feeling.’ We jumped outside [our suite] and we were jumping up and down. The whole section turned around.”
When they take the stage Sunday at Arlington, Texas’s Cowboy Stadium, the Peas will have considerably more people watching: Like 100 million more. And they are ready. While much of the 12-minute performance remains a secret, will.i.am promises it will be interactive, possibly involving the field, not just the stage. He also says he’s trying to fit in eight costume changes, and he’s not kidding. On Thursday, the AP reported that the Black Eyed Peas would be joined by Slash and Usher during their performance.
Even before the group’s impromptu appearance last year, they have been preparing for this moment for a long time. In an interview I did with will.i.am that first appeared in Variety in January, he noted that the Peas have played two season kick-off concerts and a number of Super Bowl pre-shows, all in a bid to get to the big game.
“We’ve been working our way up to play the Super Bowl. We worked hard,” he says.
PARK CITY—Josh Ritter has been named one of the “100 Greatest Living Songwriters” by Paste Magazine for good reason. As he showed here in his two packed shows at the ASCAP Cafe, his songwriting is literate and beautifully detailed, and often wrapped in shimmering melodies. He put it best himself when he told The New York Times, “I play rock ‘n’ roll with lots of words.” If Bob Dylan, John Prine and Paul Simon had a collective son, he’d sound like Ritter. We spent a few minutes with Ritter after his second performance at Sundance and talked about his disdain for preachy songs, his first novel, and bruised hearts. His song “Change of Time” can also be heard in the trailer for Natalie Portman’s new movie, “The Other Woman.”
This is your second time performing at Sundance. What do you get out of it?
Oh, it’s amazing. For me, any show that’s a little different than normal is always good. I love performing, i love touring and it’s just really great, but when you get a chance to come and see how the other half, the movie community, lives, it puts your own life and what you’re doing in perspective. I love it because it’s out of the ordinary.
You’re playing solo here instead of with your full band. How is that different for you?
You have an enormous amount of freedom. If something’s not going a certain way, you just change it. You don’t have to explain to the drummer later. My band, they cover up most of my mistakes. Most of the time, anything that happens on stage, whether it’s acting or playing music, it’s kind of a metaphor for the rest of my life. You go up on stage to remind yourself that it’s normal to mess up and it’s normal for things to go bad and to go from bad to worse and it’s all about how you handle it. And that is something that certainly shows up more when you’re playing solo. When you fall down, no one is there to pick you up.
One of your songs, “Change of Time” was used in “Parenthood” and in the trailer for Natalie Portman’s new film, “The Other Woman.” What do placements mean to you in terms of financial security and exposure.
My personal feeling on this stuff is we follow our heroes and we look up to them for the choices they make. I’ve always appreciated the high degree of artistic integrity, but I believe that those sorts of perimeters change over time. It’s impossible to sell a million records now unless you’re one of a very few people and, for someone like me, the chance to write more songs is kind of paramount and if [the placement] can introduce people to my music and it can help me pay the bills and bring my band on the road, all that stuff is fantastic. There is stuff I wouldn’t authorize my music to play for, but those decisions are made at the time and it’s always a pleasure when somebody finds a spot for something that is in part of their vision.
As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting the winner in a category a day. Today we look at Best Short Form Music Video, which includes one of the more interesting video projects we’ve seen in recent years that deserves more attention than it initially received.
Best Short Form Music Video
“Ain’t No Grave/The Johnny Cash Project” (Johnny Cash)
“Love The Way You Lie (Explicit Version),” Eminem & Rihanna
“Stylo,” Gorillaz, Mos Def & Bobby Womack
“F*** You,” Cee Lo Green
“Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga
If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check out the “Ain’t No Grave” video and backstory here. It’s video as social experiment. Fans/artists manipulated pre-selected images to create their own frames that then were edited into the black & white video. It speaks to the power of music as a singular and collective experience and is very moving. It goes so far beyond video as promotion, although it is that as well, that it deserves its own category. Having said that, unless Grammy voters have really spent time with it, it will likely be completely dismissed in favor of the other four more traditional form videos here. As colorful and fun as it is, “F*** You” breaks no new ground. We would have replaced it with Katy Perry's cotton-candy-colored "California Gurls" video here. “Stylo” is fantastic, but kind of “more-of-the-same” from our favorite animated reprobates. That leaves “Love the Way You Lie” and “Bad Romance.” Eminem’s video has the sexy stars and controversial content, but Lady Gaga’s pod people video is a work of art that remains fascinating and worth dissecting all these months since its release. The last scene still gets us. It’s like something out of the Faulkner short story “A Rose for Emily” via John Waters.
Winner: “Bad Romance”
Britney Spears goes from “Circus” performer to “Femme Fatale.” Her new album, out allegedly March 15, is called “Femme Fatale” because, according to her label, Jive Records, the set is “a tribute to bold, empowered, confident, elusive, fun, flirty women and men.” Doesn’t that sound more like a perfume?
Anyway, Max Martin and Dr. Luke executive produced the album and their paw prints are all over first single, “Hold It Against Me,” which shot straight to the top of the Billboard 100 the week of release.
Jive isn’t admitting that March 15 is the release date, despite the fact that it leaked out in an internal memo last week, but these things are always subject to change, so keep tuned to Hitfix for updates.
The Grammys are notoriously out of step when it comes to the country field. Occasionally they get it right, but that seems almost more by accident than by knowledge. For example, let’s compare the singers nominated here with those nominated for the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards: Lambert and Underwood are up for both, but the ACMs then picked the much more appropriate Reba McEntire, Lee Ann Womack and Taylor Swift. October’s Country Music Assn. Awards nominated the same females as the ACMs, but swapped out Womack for Martina McBride. So how the hell did Rimes, Wilson and Jewel get in here for most prestigious music award there is? Who the hell knows, but it might be time for the Grammys to rethink who gets to vote in the country categories and make it a little more restrictive. I’m not saying that the Grammys have to be in lockstep with these other shows (that are voted on by the country music industry) or that they aren’t all fine singers, but Rimes, Wilson and Jewel are nominated for performing songs that were in no way hits (remember that country is still a very radio-dominated format). What year do the Grammy voters think it is? Venting my spleen is pointless here, thank goodness, because there’s no way Rimes, Wilson or Jewel are winning (again, ladies, this is no commentary on your singing abilities) unless the voters in the know split their votes between Underwood and Lambert. If we go totally on vocal prowess, former best new artist recipient/"American Idol" winner Underwood wins, but Lambert’s delivery on “The House That Built Me,” which also had the bigger buzz since it is up for both song and record of the year, is so heartfelt and touching that a win may be undeniable.
Winner: “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert
Katy Perry will be in her more natural setting—the 2011 Grammy Awards— on Feb. 13, but before that, she’ll show up on “How I Met Your Mother” on Feb. 7. "How I Met Your Mother" is on CBS and the Grammys are on CBS. Hmmmm.
She plays the cousin of Zoey, played by Jennifer Morrison, and is so naive that she thinks, well, see for yourself in the clip below. Let’s just say we could sell her the London Bridge. Everyone calls her Honey, as in "Oh, honey..." They probably also say "Bless her heart," about her a lot.
“Mommy, what’s a ball gag?” If Rihanna has any underage fans left after “Rated R” scared most of them away, expect to have to answer that question after watching her new video for “S&M,” the latest single from "Loud."
Once you have a song with that as the title, you can’t really be surprised if there’s bondage, ball gags and rubber suits involved, can you? It may have been fun if Rihanna had gone and made the sweetest, purest video ever for a song about “sex in the air, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones/but chains and whips, they excite me," but instead she went for the obvious.
The broader, "high-brow" concept here is that her real S&M relationship is with the press. We see her behind plastic during a press conference, as headlines, presumably some of them real, about her “daddy issues” or her voice “crackling and popping” scroll by. The reporters are “gagged,” and she even gets Perez Hilton, whose 15 minutes of fame are soooo over, to parade around on all fours on a leash and pretend to pee on a fire hydrant. She's never involved with a man in the film, just the press, including a kiss on the taped lips of a female journalist. Way to puss out, Rihanna.