<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Lady Gaga raises a glass to Tony Bennett for his 85th birthday

Bennett announces duet with Amy Winehouse will benefit charity

Tony Bennett turns 85 today and none other than Lady Gaga is sending a shout out to the hippest singer around. A green-haired Lady Gaga sent Bennett a little YouTube message and raised a glass of whiskey in his honor.

Lady Gaga and Bennett recorded a cover of “The Lady is a Tramp” for “Tony Bennett: Duets II,” which will come out Sept. 20.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Eric Church</p>

Eric Church

Credit: AP Photo

Eric Church debuts at No. 1 on Billboard 200, while Winehouse soars

Country singer's 'Chief' leads the tribe this week

Country singer Eric Church snags his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 this week as “Chief” lives up to its name and leads the tribe.

The title sells 145,000 copies, soaring above the first-week sales of his last album, 2009’s “Carolina,” which sold 31,000 in its opening frame, according to Billboard.

Church is a true story of artist development as he’s consistently increased his fan base through near non-stop touring even though he has never had a song chart higher than No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.
His arrival at the top pushes Adele’s “21” down to No. 2, but if that album has proved anything in the last six months, it is its ability to bob back up to the top repeatedly.

Former Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland starts at No. 3 with her third solo album, “Here I Am,” which sells 77,000 copies, according to Billboard. First single, “Motivation,” spent seven weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Soaring 9-4 is Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black.” The title came back on the Billboard 200 last week following the British singer’s death July 23. Her first album, “Frank,” rises 57-33.

Church shares Top 10 space with two other country acts: Jason Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” moves 8-5, while former No. 1, Blake Shelton’s “Red River Blue” falls 6-8.

Rounding out the Top 10, Beyonce’s “4” drops 4-6, “Kidz Bop 20” slips 2-7, Joss Stone’s “LP1” debuts at No. 9 and Bad Meets Evil’s  “Hell: The Sequel” rise 11-10.

Overall album sales are running about 2% ahead of the same time last year.

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<p>Dolly Parton</p>

Dolly Parton

Concert Review: Dolly Parton sings, raps and dances her way through stellar show

Icon runs through her hits and even 'Stairway to Heaven' (!!)

It would have been worth the price of admission to see Dolly Parton at Durham (N.C.) Performing Artist Center simply to hear her sing “Little Sparrow,” the mournful, Celtic-flavored tale of warning to “maidens” about  heartbreak.

Parton sung the song, the title track from her 2001 blue-grass inspired album, largely a capella and primarily alone, so enchanting the sold-out audience of 4,000 with her angelic voice that nary a whisper could be heard. It was so quiet that I dared not even take notes for fear my pen moving across the paper would be too loud.

But that was just one of the highlights in a  two-and-a-half hour show Aug. 2, designed to promote her new set, “Better Day,” as well as serve as a retrospective of a storied career. Parton seamlessly shifted from bluegrass (her banjo-picking version of “Stairway To Heaven” has to be heard to be believed) to traditional country to rock and soul. She even tried to give Tina Turner a run for her money when she not only covered Ike & Tina’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” but attempted to replicate Turner’s sizzling dance moves.  Panting at the end as the audience hooted and hollered, she noted, “Y’all are being so nice because you know how hard I’m trying.”

While the icon was talking specifically about her earnest, yet awkward, dancing, the statement could apply to the entire show, which drew a surprisingly wide age demo—maybe she made some younger fans when she appeared on "Hannah Montana."   Parton is an entertainer with more than 45 years of experience under her rhinestones and platinum wigs and the performance felt like she had crammed everything she’s learned about how to captivate an audience into it.  If you didn’t like her down-home tales about growing up in the Tennessee hills, hang on a few minutes and she’d be singing Sly & The Family Stone’s “Higher.” If that wasn’t not your thing, she was soon duetting on mega-hit “Islands in the Stream.”  Then there were the non-stop litany of jokes about modeling her look after the town tramp she adored while growing up or her thoughts on foreign affairs (“I’ve had a few, but I prefer American men”). It’s a people-pleasing gambit that worked, but more than anything, it was a testament to the sheer breadth of her talent that she could take almost any style and make it work. Except rap.

Yes, Parton even gamely ventured into rap territory, even though, as she surmised, “you take country and add rap and you get crap.”  In a long segment that exists largely to plug her upcoming movie “Joyful Noise” co-starring Queen Latifah, Parton threw down a few rhymes about the differences between her and Queen, first explaining to the audience that Queen Latifah was a “gangsta” rapper, in case they didn’t know (which we’re sure is news to Latifah). It was humorous, but seemed about 20 years too late given rap’s domination in the mainstream and its infiltration into country radio via such recent chart toppers as Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem.”

Instead, Parton’s time would have been better spent on the moments that brought the besotted audience to its feet time and again, such as during the  stirring “Coat of Many Colors,” which she said was her favorite among all her tunes. Even though she’s performed it hundreds of times, she still brought something achingly real and poignant to the song. When she talked about how it was for anyone who had ever been laughed at for being different and how writing the song had lifted the anger she’d felt for all those years about being made fun of for being poor as a child, it was clear that despite the decades and the dollars, she could tap right back into that shame. 

And that is the true beauty of Parton: underneath all the fake hair, fake nails and glitter (even her autoharp twinkled—it was as if the whole stage had been sprinkled with Dolly Dust) there is something undeniably real about Parton in her unyielding effort to make a connection with the audience. Just like Elton John’s “Your Song,”  Parton’s penultimate song of the night “I Will Always Love You,” despite its original intent, has become her love letter to her fans. And as she showed throughout the evening, she is willing to work very hard for our love.


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Listen: Kelly Clarkson starts new girl group, Already Famous
Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Kelly Clarkson starts new girl group, Already Famous

Will we get music from them before Clarkson's new solo album?

Are girl groups making a comeback? First, Miranda Lambert starts Pistol Annies with two buddies, now Kelly Clarkson has launched Already Famous.

The trio is Clarkson and her two back-up singers Jill Pickering and Kate Rapier. The ladies have recorded four songs, according to Idolator. Plus, while Pickering and Rapier may be relegated to back-up with Clarkson when touring with her, all three are equal when it comes to this new venture. They tweeted: “We switch on different songs. We all sing lead, alto, and soprano at different points.”

[More after the jump...]

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See Feist's cool cover art for 'Metals,' plus the track listing and tour dates

See Feist's cool cover art for 'Metals,' plus the track listing and tour dates

'Metals' comes out Oct. 4

As Hitfix previously announced, Feist will return with a new album, “Metals,” on Oct. 4; her first since 2007's "The Reminder."

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<p>Kanye West and Jay-Z</p>

Kanye West and Jay-Z

Credit: VEVO

Jay-Z and Kanye West push back The Throne tour until late October

'Watch The Throne' still slated to come to iTunes Aug. 8

The Throne, aka Jay-Z and Kanye West, have rescheduled their tour. The outing, originally slated to begin Sept. 22 at Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, will now begin Oct. 29 in Philips Arena.

Live Nation originally announced the tour last Monday, July 25. Then on Thursday, Live Nation sent out a missive saying that more dates would be added to the tour “due to overwhelming demand.”  We’re not sure how there can be proof of “overwhelming demand” before tickets go on sale, but  we’ll leave that to wiser minds than ours.

Now, instead of getting more dates, it looks like we’re just getting a delay, according to Pitchfork.  The album, “Watch The Throne,” is also mired in a bit of controversy, as independent retailers are up in arms over the fact that iTunes gets the album exclusively for four days starting Aug. 8, before it goes to physical retail. To add insult to injury, Best Buy has an exclusive on a deluxe version of the album.

Here is the new schedule, as we know it, with the deleted dates crossed through. We’re trying to find out more from Live Nation and will update when we hear back from them. The pre-sale started today, with tickets to the general public on sale starting Aug. 8.

And as far as the  "feud" between West and Jay-Z as reported by the New York Post, Jay-Z stopped by New York's Hot 97 yesterday to dispel the rumor. "Kanye is my brother. Yes, we get on eachother's nerves, but that's what happens when we push each other," Hova said, according to Global Grind. Furthermore, he adds,  "I would never put my hand on Kanye. I have way too much respect for that man to do something like that. No way. Not even close."

09-22 Detroit, MI - Palace of Auburn Hills
09-24 Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
09-25 Montreal, Quebec - Bell Centre
09-27-28 East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
09-29 Washington, DC - Verizon Center
10-04 Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center
10-06-07 Chicago, IL - United Center
10-08 Minneapolis, MN - Target Center
10-10 Denver, CO - Pepsi Center
10-13 Tacoma, WA - Tacoma Dome
10-14 Vancouver, British Columbia - Rogers Arena
10-16 San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion
10-17 Sacramento, CA - Power Balance Pavilion
10-19-20 Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
10-21 Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
10-25 Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
10-26 Houston, TX - Toyota Center

10-29 Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena
10-30 Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum
11-01 Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
11-02 Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center
11-03 Boston, MA - TD Garden
11-03 Washington, DC - Verizon Center
11-05-06 East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
11-14 Sunrise, FL - BankAtlantic Center
11-21 Boston, MA - TD Garden
11-23 Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
11-26 Detroit, MI - Palace of Auburn Hills
12-01 Chicago, IL - United Center
12-05 Houston, TX - Toyota Center
12-06 Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center
12-09 Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
12-10 San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion
12-12 Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center
12-18 Vancouver, British Columbia - Rogers Arena



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<p>The Shins</p>

The Shins

The Shins shift to Columbia Records, add tour dates

New album set for 2012

The Shins’ James Mercer has shifted his label, Aural Apothecary, to Columbia Records.  The news means we’re one step closer to getting the Shins follow-up to 2007’s “Wincing The Night Away.”  The Shins are working with Greg Kurstin on the new set, according to Pitchfork.

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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

Katy Perry zooms past Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga to set a new record

What Billboard chart record did she set now?

Katy Perry has gone where no other act has gone:  As “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” rises to the top of Billboard’s Mainstream Top 40 chart, her album “Teenage Dream” becomes the only album in the chart’s 19-year-history to feature five No. 1s.

“Last Friday Night” follows “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg, “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,”  and “E.T.” featuring Kayne West to the top, according to Billboard.

She surpasses Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex/LoveSounds” and Lady Gaga’s “The Fame,” both of which took four songs to the top of the Mainstream Top 40 chart.

“Last Friday Night” also set a record for the most weekly plays in the chart’s history, zooming past the previous record holder, her own “E.T.”  That makes it a pretty good week for Perry, who also appears in the new "Smurfs" movie, which kicked Smurf butt at the box office this weekend.

Of course the real record that Perry is going for is to go to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. In doing so, “Teenage Dream” would join Michael Jackson’s “Bad”  as the only two albums in the Hot 100’s 53-year history to produce five charttoppers. If that happens, we can be assured that we’ll see another single from “Teenage Dream” in an effort to break the tie.

UPDATE: Perry has now also set the same record on Billboard's Pop Songs chart as "Last Friday Night" assumes the summit there as well.


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<p>Kings of Leon on stage during better times.</p>

Kings of Leon on stage during better times.

Credit: AP Photo/Jack Plunkett

Kings of Leon cancel remainder of U.S. tour citing 'exhaustion and vocal issues'

More than 25 dates will not be rescheduled

The Kings of Leon have canceled the remainder of their U.S. tour citing vocal issues and exhausting for lead singer Caleb Followill. The dates will not be rescheduled. The family band had more than 25 dates still to go on this swing, primarily on the east coast. Other band members are strongly hinting that there are other issues contributing to the group's woes.

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Listen: Drake has had it on 'Headlines'

Stevie Wonder gets a major assist on Drake's next album

Drake is officially over it. If last year’s “Over” showed his weariness of his burgeoning fame, on new single “Headlines,” he’s had it with the industry and many of the faux rappers that pretend they are  in the same league as his greatness.

He talks about how empty all of this feels to him, and yet, heavy is the head that wears the throne, there’s just simply no one who can do what he does. It’s a curse.

On “Headlines,” he weaves his sleepy raps around string lines for a fairly static, but oddly compelling, tune.  He made us laugh with this rhyme: “Listen to you expressin’ all these feelings, soap opera rappers, all these  n****** sound like ‘All My Children. if that’s who you think is coming about to make a killing, i guess it really is me, myself and all my millions.”

[More after the jump...]

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