Have we met Lady Gaga’s new alter ego —move over Jo Calderone—or is Momma Monster just declaring her love of weed in the new snippet for “Mary Jane Holland,” a track from Nov. 11’s "ArtPop."
In the 2-minute preview, Lady Gaga singing in an exaggerated mannered tone, extols the virtue of Mary Jane, hanging in Amsterdam, and generally looks at the fame game. It’s a driving, throbbing track that includes call-outs and psychedelic turns. In other words, it’s more like a bad acid trip than a mellow high.
“I know at the moment they think I’m a mess/but its alright because I’m rich as piss,” she grandly sings during a bridge as she prepares to light one up, making it clear that this whole track is Lady Gaga taking a look at fame and art and artifice. That doesn’t make it particularly catchy, though, does it?
She wants to take you higher
Have we met Lady Gaga’s new alter ego —move over Jo Calderone—or is Momma Monster just declaring her love of weed in the new snippet for “Mary Jane Holland,” a track from Nov. 11’s "ArtPop."
She looks to classic holiday albums of the past for delightful set
Steeped in tradition, Kelly Clarkson’s “Wrapped In Red,” pulls off the nearly impossible feat: it’s a new holiday album that will immediately fit in with the classics on your shelf.
Clarkson and producer Greg Kurstin have clearly studied legendary Christmas album of yore—most notably Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You” and Andy Williams’ “Merry Christmas”— to lovingly recreate Christmas standards, as well as craft new ones in the image of those sets.
Of course, all the homage-paying wouldn’t matter if Clarkson didn’t have both the voice power to carry off the full-throated confidence on “Blue Christmas” or “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” as well as the sense of fun that her spritely, horn-laden “Run Run Rudolph,” her jazzy remake of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (with Ronnie Dunn) or some of the originals command.
“Wrapped in Red” and “Underneath the Tree,” two of the album’s five new songs, benefit from a Spector-ish production that recalls girl groups of the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Of the two, “Underneath the Tree” takes the retro, bouncy wall-of-sound to the max. It’s a finger-popping, bell-ringing pleaser that could achieve that rare feat of becoming a new Christmas standard. That hasn’t happened since Mariah’ Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.
Both the perky, sweet “Winter Dreams (Brandon’s Song)” and “4 Carats,” a song that wants to be a bit like Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby,” fit in well with the lighthearted tone of the other originals, even if the two suffer a little in comparison.
The one misfire on the album belongs to Imogene Heap’s “Just For Now,” a piano ballad that is only tangentially tied to Christmas and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the set in that it sounds way too contemporary. Take out the few holiday references and it could be a single on non-seasonal track for Clarkson or Pink.
When it comes to the traditionals, Clarkson brings just the right reverential tone, whether it be on the luscious, beautifully arranged “White Christmas,” or “The Sound of Music’s “”My Favorite Things.”
The album ends with a elegant rendition of “Silent Night,” featuring two of Clarkson’s idols: Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire. It’s gorgeously rendered, although McEntire’s voice is so distinctive it overwhelms Yearwood and Clarkson a little.
Christmas albums often feel like slap-dash affairs meant to sell albums between sets of new materials, but not this one. Clarkson has created a keeper for seasons to come.
He's got amends to make on latest #MusicMonday release
Justin Bieber has some apologizing to do and all he wants to do is make it right. On “Recovery,” his fourth track in his #MusicMonday series of weekly releases, he’s making amends even if it’s too late.
“First I’ll acknowledge all trust has been broken...learning life through trial and error/just trying to make it right,” he sings on the Usher-lite R&B track. Set against a hypnotic synthetic, finger-popping beat, Bieber is missing his girl from a distance since he pushed her far away and realizes too late the mistakes he’s made.
It’s a fairly flat song without a noticeable chorus or a lot of variations, but that seems to be design instead of a writing flaw.
While Bieber has not name-checked ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez in his tweets, he has made clear how much the song means to him. Shortly after its delivery early this morning, he tweeted, “It’s here. One of the most important songs to me I’ve ever written. #Recovery. Hope it helps you.”
What do you think?
Revisiting my time with the icon
The most scared I’ve ever been before an interview was when I talked to Lou Reed in 1996. I was talent editor at Billboard and Reed, who died today, was about to release “Set The Twilight Reeling,” an album composed entirely on the computer. It’s not that noteworthy a feat now, but it was then.
Reed’s acerbic, thorny reputation was well known, as was his love of esoteric theater, literature and music. I was raised on pop music and while I had grown to love the Velvet Underground and some of his solo material as my musical education expanded, to say I had any kind of vast knowledge about his past would be an overstatement. Add in that I was in awe of his use of language in his lyrics and in other interviews I'd read. I felt like I was being thrown into the deep end of the pool after only one swimming lesson.
I did a Music of Lou Reed crash course and it helped that I had truly loved his previous 1992 album, “Magic & Loss,” a meditation on death that touched me deeply, and understood how, in many ways, “Set the Twilight Reeling” was a pendulum-swinging reaction to that set.
Mainly, I just didn’t want to say something stupid—so the plan was to say very little—and I didn’t want him to be mean to me, as I knew he could be since so many of my colleagues proudly had their battle scars from tussles in the ring with the icon.
I went to his office/studio in Soho. It was a cold, crisp, beautifully clear January morning in New York, but I remember sweating in the taxi ride down from Billboard’s Times Square office because I was so nervous. So now I was worried about making a fool of myself and about sweating on a cranky legend.
Reed’s assistant buzzed me up to his office and there he was. It was a beautiful loft with lots of sunlight and not much furniture. Maybe I had been expecting some dark, wood-lined cave. Reed shook my hand, we sat on the couch, and, guess what? He was a pussy cat. I don’t just mean he didn’t eat me alive and I got out of there without crying (not that I would EVER do that in an interview). I mean he was downright sweet and—here's a word you don't hear said about him much—warm. I remember at one point we were laughing over something he said and I almost had an out-of-body experience. Maybe he appreciated that I wanted to talk about the new album (and had listened to it and prepared exhaustively) instead of pick his brain about the past. Maybe I just caught him on a good day.
My favorite part of the interview was when he revealed that he was an excellent typist as we discussed his computer skills. "When I was in high school, my parents made me take typing so I would have a job to fall back on," Reed said. "So Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground knows how to type."
He also expressed joy that he was still around to make music. "I'm happy I'm even walking on two legs,” he says. “Making rock records is kind of too good."
That was my only interview with Reed. In 2011, Reed screened a sweet movie about his 100-year old cousin, “Red Shirley,” at Sundance Film Festival and then performed before a very intimate audience at the Kimball Art Center. I remember sitting one row behind Reed at the screening and wanted to grab a few minutes with Reed and his manager, who had told me earlier that he would try to make that happen, waved me off. At his concert later on during the festival, his legendary crankiness returned during the 9-song set, while he just seemed rather uninterested in being there.
I’m glad I got him on a good day.
Pearl Jam and TLC also make this week's tally
1. Michael Jackson: He tops Forbes’ annual Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list with $160 million. That’s $40 million more than Madonna, the top-earning celebrity who is still above ground.
2. Pearl Jam: The group’s 10th studio album, “Lightning Bolt,” bows atop the Billboard 200 with sales of 166,000, the highest tally for a rock band this year.
3. TLC: The trio’s VH1 original movie, “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story,” was VH1’s highest rated telecast in five years, drawing more than 4.5 million total viewers. Nothing unpretty about that....
4. Kanye West: Have you heard? The press-shy rapper got engaged to Kim Kardashian. No, I’ve never heard of her either. She must like to stay out of the limelight.
5. The Who: Pete Townshend declares the Who’s final tour will be in 2015. Haven’t we heard that before? We won’t get fooled again.
6. YouTube: Because corrupting our eyeballs isn’t enough, YouTube now plans to launch a paid subscription music service because Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, parent company Google’s Play Music All Access, and the forthcoming Beats Music aren’t enough.
7. Sean Combs: He’s a music mogul, a fashion mogul, a liquor mogul, and now, a television mogul as he launches the new music cable channel, Revolt.
8. Elton John: Sir Elton’s biopic, “Rocketman” soars forward with the casting of Tom Hardy as the legendary singer. Wouldn’t it be funny if he played Elton as “The Dark Knight Rise’s” Bane?
9. The Fox: Not only is “What Does The Fox Say” turning into the “Gangnam Style” of the fall, it turns out that the video for Ylvis’s hit is THE hot costume for Halloween this year.
10. Las Vegas: Because there just isn’t enough entertainment in Sin City already, the town decides to add another festival to this planet: the Life Is Beautiful festival takes place this weekend with Beck and Vampire Weekend
'Prism' will reflect brightly at No. 1
The revolving door at the top of the Billboard 200 continues to turn as Katy Perry’s “Prism” pushes Pearl Jam’s “Lightning Bolt” out of No. 1.
Perry’s fourth studio album will move up to 300,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double, a hefty tally above the 192,000 unit her last release, 2010’s “Teenage Dream” sold.
Following “Prism” strong launch, three titles-- all veterans in the top 10-- vie for No. 2. Likely to sell between 40,000-45,000 are Miley Cyrus’s “Bangerz,” Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same,” and “Lorde’s “Pure Heroine.” It’s too soon to tell how the No. 2-4 spots will shake out.
This week’s chart topper, “Lightning Bolt” will crash down to No. 5 (35,000-40,000).
The next two slots belong to newcomers: Girl group Fifth Harmony will bow at No. 6 with its “Better Together” EP (30,000-35,000), while hardcore rock band AFI will come on the char at No. 7 with “Burials” (25,000-30,000).
Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2” hangs on to a Top 10 spot at No. 8 (24,000-27,000) as does Luke Bryan’s “Crash This Party” at No. 9 (22,000-25,000).
The fourth newcomer in the Top 10 belongs to DJ Khaled, who comes in at No. 10 (22,000-25,000) with “Suffering From Success.”
Is Momma Monster still on the right track?
Lady Gaga's new album, "ArtPop," comes out Nov. 11, and almost every day now brings a snippet of a new song or new artwork. But in many ways, it feels as though some of the excitement for Lady Gaga has died down from the fever pitch of the last few years. For example, even though "Applause" did well, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, it wasn't the radio smash that some of her past hits have been. Plus, it's a crowded field out there for female artists right now, so artists like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus are grabbing the spotlight for themselves.
In this round of 3 on 3, we question if Lady Gaga is still on the best career path or has she lost her way a little.
Has Lady Gaga’s pop spotlight between eclipsed by Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus? Should she wait until next year to put out her album?
Gregory Ellwood: No, for someone who is the media cross hairs 24/7 pushing the album would be something of a publicity nightmare. Every reporter and commentator would be At this point, her record company should just have lowered expectations internally or the album (which feels like Gaga's version of Madonna's "American Life"). What's unclear is if there is really a solid hit single on the rest of the album. "Applause" might have underperformed because of bad timing and Gaga's insistence of going all - for lack of a better word - "arty" with her promotion. Is there really anything better on the album? We haven't seen any evidence of that so far.
Katie Hasty: I think those are very different artists who are popular for very different reasons. And the reasons that Lady Gaga feels a little eclipsed right now is because the reasons she became popular feels like they're on trial. The larger-than-life performances, the social messaging, the arty-ness of her brand is just not hitting in the massive way it had before. But that doesn't mean she should change it up, even for a less saturated release date. I love Lady Gaga, or at least the idea of her, so she should just keep beating her own drum.
Melinda Newman: Miley Cyrus has definitely stolen some of Lady Gaga’s thunder: one only has to look back to MTV VMAs to know that: Lady Gaga opened the show with the world premiere performance of “Applause,” and yet no one was talking about that around the water cooler the next day (nor were they talking about Perry’s show closing performance). It was Miley 24/7 for several days. Gaga has an endless supply of tricks so she might want to pull a few of them out between now and 11/11. As for pushing the album back into 2014: no way. She will own the week of release; no other major commercial artist is coming out that day, so she has the field to herself. Beside, pundits are estimating “ArtPop” will sell up to 450,000 in its first week. Cyrus sold around 270,000 and Perry will top out around 300,000, so Lady Gaga still has it.
Are her other antics, such as appearing nude in the yoga/meditation video, fighting with Perez Hilton, and her other Twitter rants taking away from the music or just part of her celebrity?
Gregory Ellwood: Compared to some of her peers her public antics actually are not that bad. Gaga's problem at the moment is that she's just taking herself just a bit too seriously which is framing her music in an unfavorable light (and leading to some questionable creative decisions). This has actually been something of an issue for the past two years or so, but "Gaga" got away with it during the success of "Born this Way." At this point, the club-fun persona of "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster" is long gone and an overly preachy performer stands in her place. And, well, it's just not as fun anymore to a majority of her crossover fans.
Katie Hasty: At times it seems Lady Gaga did much better with her rise to fame that she has maintaining it. Petty fights seem to be diluting what made her such a rare talent to begin with. Her appearing nude -- and not always in a pretty or sexy way -- has always been part of her celebrity, so in that case I think it give her at least the apparition of control over how she's perceived by her fans and her detractors. However, there's a hint that that control is lost when she goes on a tear online. It's a balance, for sure.
Melinda Newman: They are taking away from her music. The meditation video felt like an almost desperate bid for publicity as she began gearing up for the “ArtPop” album cycle. As for the fight with Perez Hilton, such spats seem beneath someone who has strived so hard to show an almost preternatural love for her fellow misfits. Petty Lady Gaga isn’t a pretty. We’re used to her getting attention for her barely there and wacky outfits. Isn’t that enough? Lady Gaga would have fit in perfectly with Andy Warhol’s Factory, but now, as in then, the artifice threatens to overwhelm the art.
Has any song you’ve heard from “ArtPop” so far gotten you excited about the album?
Gregory Ellwood: Sadly, just "Applause." The R.Kelly track is instantly forgettable and a misfire. Although, truth be told, it's fascinating to hear her morph into Grace Jones during parts of "Aura," but do you ever want to listen to it again?
Katie Hasty:I think "Applause" rules, it's very "her." I like the sexual vitriol of "Swine," there's something very "Bad Romance" cringe-y nasty about it. I'm just ready for a music video that makes me lose my mind, and so far I'm nonplussed.
Melinda Newman: Of the four songs I’ve heard, each has its moment, but none has held up as a song from start to finish that intrigues me. Having said that, Lady Gaga’s music isn’t an instant grab for me. I usually find it has to seep in through repeated plays, something that first single “Applause,” has not done after several listening .While I like “Do What U Want” more than my colleagues, Katy and Greg, the only tune I’ve heard so far from “ArtPop” that feels it’s in Lady Gaga’s sweet spot is “Swine,” an EDM track that feels the least labored of any of the four tunes that have escaped so far.
Hit producer is also working on 'The Amazing Spiderman 2' score
Beyonce’s long awaited fifth studio album may be coming closer to being released. In an interview with Billboard, Pharrell, who has worked on the set along with a phalanx of other writers and producers, said Beyonce has been telling other people “Yeah, I’m almost done.” But he doesn’t sound like he’s so sure its arrival is imminent.
“B’s album is crazy. Let me tell you what it is,” he says. “She’s very particular. She’s a Virgo. And she’s not going to put it out until it’s ready and feels like it’s right to her. She’s got a very specific taste. I guess that’s the reason she’s Beyonce. Her name is recognizable around the globe and that’s huge. That comes from someone that has very particular taste. When you know what you want, you won’t stop until you get it.”
Plus, he adds that he’s going back into the studio with Queen B, so it sounds like we really might not get this one until 2014.
Beyonce has dropped a number of songs and/or song snippets over the past year and none of them have gained traction, despite being catchy: “Bow Down/I Been On,” “Grown Woman,” and “Standing On The Sun.” There’s no word if any of those tracks will be on the album.
In the meantime, as previously reported, The New York Daily News reported that Beyonce will drop a new single Dec. 3 and an accompanying video shot by Terry Richardson.
In addition to working with Beyonce —and appearing on the two biggest hits of the summer, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Pharrell is working with a number of other artists and collaborating with Hans Zimmer on scoring “The Amazing Spiderman 2.”
Lead singer is baffled as to why his bandmates quit working with him
Remember that new Creed album that the reunited rock band planned to put out last year? It turns out that you’re not the only one that’s curious about what happened. So is Creed’s lead singer, Scott Stapp.
Liane Bonin Starr and I interviewed Stapp on Thursday (24) about his new solo album, “Proof Of Life,” out Nov. 5 for our podcast, CulturePop. When I asked how the album was going, he expressed his befuddlement at how his bandmates had stepped away from it.
A little back story: Creed, which has sold more than 40 million albums, broke up in 2004, in part due to the difficulties the other band members were having with Stapp. Stapp went on his way and the rest of the band—Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, and Scott Phillips— created Alter Bridge, with new vocalist Myles Kennedy. In 2009, after Stapp got sober, Creed reformed, and released “Full Circle,” its first album in eight years.
Things seemed to be going fine and the group started working on a follow-up and toured together.
“In 2012, actually ‘11 and ‘12, I was under the impression we were making a new Creed record,” Stapp tells HitFix. “I got together with Mark — I actually stayed at his home— and we wrote a bunch of songs, eight of which we were pretty excited about that were going to make the record. We even began to play some of the songs in soundcheck in 2012, which was typical of what we would do in the writing process...So it was just as much a shock to me based upon all the writing I was doing and the preparation I was doing for the new Creed record that that wasn’t being done anymore.”
Instead, much to Stapp’s surprise, Tremonti worked on a solo album, which came out earlier this year, and the rest of the band recorded a new Alter Bridge record, which came out earlier this month.
“I had been there, everything was cool, we were on tour, we were doing this, we were getting ready,” Stapp says. “And if you go back and look at the [social media] posts from everybody, that’s what everyone was saying, so I don’t know what happened in there that pushed them in another direction. I know Mark decided he wanted to do a solo album which was during the time we were supposed to record the new Creed album, and then after that, he went to do another Alter Bridge record, so you guys will have to interview him and ask him because to this day I still have no idea what created the change in plans.”
Alter Bridge is in Europe right now, according to the band’s publicist, who is trying to get a comment from Tremonti. However, in 2012, Tremonti told Billboard, "We got together with Scott and put together a handful of songs and got the arrangements and melodic ideas in place, and now it's kind of in Scott's lap to finish off he lyrics and track some demos so we can move on to the next batch," Tremonti reports. So far, he says, Creed has "a good mix...It's got one more radio-friendly type song, one rocking tune, one of the more drawn-out, finger-picked, long, five-minute kind of songs -- just a little bit of everything people have heard in the past.” He added that the band had not set any “timetables” for release.
This August, Tremonti told Billboard that when he is songwriting, it is usually pretty obvious to him if a tune is a solo turn or for Alter Bridge or for Creed, so it sounds like he still considers Creed an ongoing concern.
Stapp said after communication went silent, he needed to get back to work— “I’ve got three kids and I’m saving for college for them”—so he began work on what became “Proof of Life.”
When asked if he had directly asked Tremonti what was going on, Stapp said, “Yeah, we’ve done that and I still don’t understand, really, and at this point nor will I ever and nor do I want to. One thing I’ve learned in recovery is my job for me is to keep my side of the street clean and what I can say in this relationship and in this friendship with these guys is my side of the street is clean. And since we got back together in 2009, my side of the street has been clean and my intentions and anything I’ve ever said has come from a place of meaning it and honesty and sincerity, so all I can do is continue to support those guys and love them through whatever and whatever the future holds I can’t say, but I do know I got to make this record now.”
For our full interview with Stapp, turn to CulturePop
Check out Chris Cornell, Avett Bros., and Dierks Bentley as they salute PJ too
Pearl Jam spent the week having its music feted on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” by other artists, including Dierks Bentley, Chris Cornell, the Avett Brothers, and Fleet Foxes Robin Pecknold,, but on Thursday night, it was the Seattle band’s time to take the stage.
Pearl Jam performed a somewhat laid-back, yet intense, version of “Sirens,” the current single from “Lightning Bolt,” the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. They will perform again tonight.
Below Pearl Jam's performance, also check out Bentley's take on "Alive" (with help from the Roots and PJ's Mike McCready), as well as Cornell/Avett Bros.'s take on "Footsteps" and Pecknold's "Corduroy."