<p>James Durbin</p>

James Durbin

Credit: AP Photo

What 'American Idol' James Durbin's record deal means

Rocker will release debut in November

American Idol” contestant James Durbin has signed with Wind-Up Records. That brings to five the number of Season 10 finalists who have signed record deals, but the announcement is significant for another reason. Wind-Up is best known at the home of Evanescence.

Durbin’s pacting with Wind-Up means that Universal Music Group’s exclusive period for signing any of the final 11 is over and the remaining unsigned contestants are free agents.

If you’re keeping track, Universal Music Group, through its various labels, signed four “Idols”:  winner Scotty McCreery and runner up Lauren Alaina are on Mercury Nashville/Interscope, while both Pia Toscano and Haley Rinehart inked with Interscope.

The 22-year old rocker is working with producer Howard Benson on his debut, which will come out in November. Benson is no stranger to working with Idols, most notably Chris Daughtry’s band Daughtry.

Who else from Season 10 would you like to see get a record deal?

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Credit: AP Photo

Daughtry, Panic! At The Disco pen new songs for 'Batman: Arkham City' album

Twelve artists pen songs specifically for the Caped Crusader video game

Panic! At The Disco, Daughtry, Coheed and Cambria and Serj Tankian have all contributed new songs for the soundtrack to forthcoming video game “Batman: Arkham City.”

Each of the 12 artists wrote a tune specifically for the project. The album streets Oct. 4, two weeks prior to the video game. The collector’s edition of the video game comes with a download code for the album.

Of course, writing for the Caped Crusader carries its own challenges. Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez said in a statement, "I write in a very conceptual format with the stories that surround Coheed and Cambria, but Batman has a much larger, defined history and rules that go along with it. My goal was to find universal themes from Batman's existing history to help give the lyrics legs and dimension so that the song could live within that world."

None of the songs appears in the actual video game, so this is one of those albums that should carry the "inspired by" tags in the title, like the "Alice In Wonderland" album that came out a few years ago.

Maybe "Arkham City" can help hold fans over until next year's arrival of "The Dark Knight Rises." Plus, as Daughtry fans know, Chris and the boys are back in the studio hard at work on the band's next project, but that album won't come out until 2012.

Track listing for "Batman: Arkham City":

1. Panic! At The Disco - Mercenary
2. Coheed and Cambria - Deranged
3. The Duke Spirit - Creature
4. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Shadow On The Run
5. Blaqk Audio  - Afterdark
6. The Raveonettes - Oh, Stranger
7. (Crosses) - The Years
8. The Damned Things - Trophy Widow
9. Daughtry - Drown In You
10. The Boxer Rebellion - Losing You
11. Serj Tankian - Total Paranoia
*Bonus Collector's Edition track
12. A Place to Bury Strangers - In The Shadow

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<p>Taylor Swift at last month's Teen Choice Awards</p>

Taylor Swift at last month's Teen Choice Awards

Credit: AP Photo

Analysis: What we can learn from today's CMA Award nominations

Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley lead all artists

The Country Music Assn. announced the nominees for the 45th Annual CMA Awards today and there’s a lot to be gleaned from the nods.

*As opposed to years
when Garth Brooks was head and shoulders and torso above everyone else in country music, there’s a much healthier level playing field these days.  Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley each received five nominations, while Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry garnered four apiece.

*The sharing the wealth also points to how strong the touring market is for country artists. Kenny Chesney, who got neglected here despite releasing the fine “Hemingway’s Whiskey” during the July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011 eligibility period, and Taylor Swift can both fill stadiums, Keith Urban, Zac Brown Band, Brad Paisley and Jason Aldean can fill arenas. And that’s not even dipping into the stalwarts like Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, and George Strait who sell out larges venues years after year or artists like Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, whose live audiences are growing every day.  Country probably has the deepest bench of any genre. 

*There remains a gaping hole when it comes to country duos, so much so that the vocal group and vocal duo of the year should be combined. Just as Brooks & Dunn dominated for a decade plus, and the Judds before them, Sugarland is the only true superstar duo in a field that also includes developing acts Steel Magnolia and Thompson Square, long-in-the-tooth pair Montgomery Gentry and the fantastic Civil Wars, who despite living in Nashville, have probably never gotten played on country radio other than as a novelty.

*The CMA needs to define “new artist” more narrowly
.  Luke Bryan, who is nominated here, first hit the charts four years ago. To whom is he new?  He’s had six Top 10 hits. If he’s new to you, you haven’t been paying attention. Eric Church’s first album came out on Capitol in 2006. Why not nominate Swift? Her first album came out the same year as Church’s.

*Blake Shelton’s continued ascension
shows that an artist can have an incredible second act. It was the perfect confluence of events: 10 years after releasing his first album, he earns his first entertainer of the year nod. It’s a build that began a little more than two years ago. He’s been rambling along, doing perfectly well, but the combination of stronger music and dating Miranda Lambert, as her star was also rising, led to the jump from steady mid-level artist to superstar.

*Unlike in the past
, when country shunned artists like Faith Hill who courted pop success, the format is confident enough to embrace artists who prove popular in other formats, primarily Taylor Swift.  Plus, Swift has handled her crossover beautifully without ever abandoning country for a minute.

*There are acts who the CMA voters largely ignored this year, all of whom released albums during the eligibility period: Toby Keith (why should this year be any different?), Darius Rucker, the aforementioned Chesney and Rascal Flatts, who received only one nod this year for Vocal Group. Why does it remain such a clique?

The 45th Annual CMA Awards will air Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. on ABC. Paisley and Carrie Underwood will co-host for the fourth time.

What did you think of the nominations?

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<p>Lil Wayne</p>
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Lil Wayne

Credit: Matt Sayles

How high does Lil Wayne go on next week's Billboard 200?

Beyonce gets a VMA bounce

Can Lil Wayne’s “Tha Carter IV” hit the high water mark of 1 million in its opening week?  The album has that target in its sights as projections have the title poised to sell between 925,000-975,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

That mark makes Lil Wayne, who performed on MTV’s Video Music Awards a mere few hours before “IV” dropped,  a shoo-in to debut at No. 1 on The Billboard 200, leaving Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “I’m With You” a very distant second place with expected sales of around 240,000.

Adele’s “21” keeps on keeping on and, in fact, will likely register a big sales bump following her gorgeous performance of “Someone Like You” on the VMAs on Aug. 28.  The title will likely stay at No. 3, but with sales of 125,000-150,000 far exceeding this week’s 80,000+.
Jay Z & Kanye West’s “Watch The Throne” will likely dip 2-4, while its sales hold steady north of 80,000 copies.
Superstar DJ David Guetta’s “Nothing But the Beat“ and country singer Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” are in a dead heat for the No. 5 spot with sales of between 45,000-50,000.

This week’s No. 1, Game’s “The R.E.D. Album” will likely drop to No. 7.

Another beneficiary of a VMA performance is Beyonce, whose “4” moves back into the Top 10 with sales of 40,000, nearly double this week’s tally. “Now 39” and Barbra Streisand’s “What Matters Most” are vying for No. 9.

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<p>Beyonce celebrates her 2011 VMAs performance</p>
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Beyonce celebrates her 2011 VMAs performance

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Music Power Rankings: Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and Insane Clown Posse?

Plus, Lil Wayne stands tall in this week's tally

1) Beyonce Bey left MTV’s VMAs the big winner as she opened the evening by announcing her pregnancy on the red carpet and closed it with a slam-bang performance of “Love On Top.” As new album “4” zooms back up the charts in response, Mama-to-Bey proves she’s irreplaceable.

2) Lil Wayne: Weezy’s not so small when it comes to the numbers: “Tha Carter IV” is on track to have the best selling first week of any album in 2011 after Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”  Will he hit the million mark? He’s already set a new record for single-week album sales on iTunes. Tune in next Wednesday to find out.

3) MTV Video Music Awards: MTV’s annual awardsfest wins the biggest prize: the highest ratings ever for the 28-year old awards show and, more remarkably, the No. 1 spot among all prime-time shows for the week. To the Moon, Men.

4) Muppets: The lovable felt creatures reach a new milestone: score their first Top 10 album on the Billboard 200 with “Muppets: The Green Album.”  Green just took on a new meaning.

5) Facebook Music Service: Why shouldn’t Facebook start its own music service since most of us spend way too many hours on it already. Instead of starting from scratch, FB is expected to link with a third-party music service such as Pandora or Spotify, according to CNBC. What do the Winklevoss brothers have to say about that?

6) "SMiLE": Capitol will serve no album before its time. A staggering 45 years after it was originally recorded, the Beach Boy’s lost album will finally come out Nov. 11. We’re grinning.

7) Strange Bedfellows: In this week’s “WTF?” moments: Jack White produces a single for Insane Clown Posse for release on Third Man Records and 50 Cent and “Jersey Shore’s” Pauly D are working together on a set that will come out on Fifty’s G-Unit imprint. What’s next? Dr. Luke and Betty White?

8) Justin Timberlake: So we found out what it takes to bring sexy back... enlightened self-interest. Timberlake gave two increasingly rare performances this week, appearing with FreeSol, who just happen to be signed to his label, Tennman.

9) Christina Aguilera: It’s been 10 years since “The Voice” coach logged a No. 1 tune on Billboard’s Hot 100, but with help from Maroon 5 and namedropping the lead Rolling Stone, she recaptures the summit with “Moves Like Jagger.”

10) Glen Campbell: In a bittersweet week, the multiple-Grammy winner released his last album, the moving “Ghost On the Canvas” (read our review here) to some of the best notices of his 50-year career. Now comes word that both a documentary and biopic about his life and struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease are being made by the producers of “Walk The Line.”

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Look: Metallica and Lou Reed reveal 'Lulu' album art

Look: Metallica and Lou Reed reveal 'Lulu' album art

Looks like she's had a tough life


So, does this image work for you? Metallica and Lou Reed have released the cover art for their forthcoming album, “Lulu.”

The album, out Nov. 1 in the U.S., is inspired by two plays by German expressionist writer Frank Wedekind: “Earth Spirit” and “Pandora’s Box,” as we previously reported. Reed originally took the ideas expressed in the plays, about an abused dancer, and began writing a musical. He then joined with the Metallica lads to finish the project. Producers include Reed, Metallica, Hal Willner and Greg Fidelman.

The track listing is slowing rolling out: so far, song titles for “Lulu” are “Frustration,” “Junior Dad,” “Little Dog,” Mistress Dread” and “Pumping Blood.”

The site for developing news on the project is www.loureedmetallica.com.

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Credit: Jose Cuervo

And the Song of Summer 2011 is....

Does it belong to LMFAO, Pitbull, Adele?

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, it’s time to officially crown the Song of Summer.

Summer songs are important. They become the aural memory of a time gone by. They have their greatest impact when we’re still in school because they often instantly recall the glorious summer break between school grades and can transport us back to what seems like a more carefree time. Think about them and you can practically smell the suntan lotion.

Some years the winner has been obvious, such as last year with Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” other years there is no clear contender, but candidates are usually uniformly update and sunny as a summer’s day and are omnipresent on the car radio or iPod.

This year’s top pop contenders are LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock, Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer, Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F),” Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,”  and Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep.”  (I came up with this list with the help of Billboard’s charts and my own time spent listening).

Billboard has been keeping track of the potential winner all summer long and will reveal its final selection on Sept. 8, but it looks as if “Party Rock Anthem” has enough of a commanding lead for us to go ahead and declare the goofy tune the winner.

That idea is seconded by radio guru Sean Ross, whose Radio-Info.com survey of radio programmers handily awarded the title to LMFAO as well.

"It gets right to the point of what a summer song should be. It appeals to a wide audience. It’s got the wedding/bar mitzvah stamp of approval that “I Gotta Feeling” had," says Radio-Info contributor Rich Appel told Ross.

If you feel like relieving summers past or prepping the perfect Labor Day BBQ mixtape, click on Billboard’s Songs of the Summer (1985-2010) for a fun trip down memory lane.

What is your Song of Summer 2011? 


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<p>Zac Brown Band</p>

Zac Brown Band

Credit: AP Photo

Zac Brown Band plans 3-day music fest featuring My Morning Jacket, Train

Plenty of great eats to go with the tunes

If it’s good enough for Dave Matthews Band, the Allman Bros. or Phish, it’s good enough for Zac Brown Band. The Southern-fried collective has put together its own music festival.

The Southern Ground Music & Food Festival will take place Oct. 21-23 at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. In addition to daily performances by ZBB, the festival will feature more than a dozen other acts, including My Morning Jacket, Train, Eric Church and Fitz and the Tantrums.

And no regular food stalls for this bunch: Brown, who is a major foodie, is bringing in top chefs from around the world including James Beard winners Sean Brock, Mike Lata and RJ Cooper.

Tickets start at $57. For more information, go to www.southerngroundfestival.com.

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Watch: scantily-clad Lady Gaga dances her way through new 'You and I' video

Watch: scantily-clad Lady Gaga dances her way through new 'You and I' video

Her Nymph persona expresses herself through movement

Maybe she needs to reassert her femininity following her alter ego Jo Calderone’s hi-jacking of the MTV VMAs or maybe Lady Gaga just wants to give us a little Labor Day treat.

In the first of a series of fashion videos for “You and I,” Momma Monster dances around in ballet shoes, a slinky negligee, no underwear, and minimal make-up through two minutes of the song.  She is in her “Nymph” persona, a character who appeared in the original “You and I” clip. Like that music video, the video was shot in Nebraska.

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: The Black Keys and Wiz Khalifa light up for BlakRoc 2

Watch: The Black Keys and Wiz Khalifa light up for BlakRoc 2

Second collaboration between blues rockers and rappers

We’re still waiting on a release date for the Black Keys’ Danger Mouse-produced follow-up to 2010’s “Brothers,” but it looks like we may get the duo’s second BlakRoc collaboration with Damon Dash first.

A new, documentary-style trailer for “BlakRoc 2,” showed up on YouTube starring the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney, as well as Talib Kweli, U Rock,  Jay Electronica, OC, Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, Jim Jones, Sean Price, The Cool Kids and lots and lots of pot smoke and Blackberry gazing in the studio.  Apparently, they have channeled the earth, who, as the narration tells, us “scientists believe is at least 4 1/2 billion years old.”   There’s a funky, jazzy bed musical bed playing in the background.

[More after the jump...]

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