Miguel and Usher battle it out
As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best R&B Performance.
Best R&B Performance Nominees:
Estelle - "Thank You"
Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Ledisi -"Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)
Luke James - "I Want You"
Miguel - "Adorn"
Usher - "Climax"
THE PLAYERS: Robert Glasper Experiment is the critical darling here, but that will only get “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)” so far, despite it being a beautiful, jazzy track. Estelle’s “Thank You” is slinky and sassy, but not exceptional. Luke James is a newcomer who looks like he has a great future ahead of him if “I Want You” is any indication. Usher’s “Climax” is a beautiful, heartbreaking song about a couple who has passed their shelf life. Miguel’s sultry, sexy “Adorn” is the marathon runner of the bunch.
THE ODDS: The odds are “Adorn,” at least 20-1. Twenty is the number of weeks the song has topped Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, setting a record for the tally. The song appeals to a wide demo, which will also help in the voting. Plus, Miguel’s nominations in the general categories will also give him a boost. The wildcard? If people reflexively vote for Usher because they like him and like “Climax.”
THE WINNER: Miguel, “Adorn.”
Country trio debuts brand new song, 'Golden'
As Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks prepared to run through Lady A’s Grammy-winning “Need You Now” again after flubbing the first take at a taping of “Crossroads,” Lady A’s Charles Kelley looked adoringly at Nicks and said, ‘You can do no wrong.” Nicks sassily shot back, “I can and I have.”
So it went with sweet and often amusing banter between Lady A’s Kelley and Hillary Scott and the Fleetwood Mac front woman throughout the 90-minute taping at Los Angeles’ Sony Studios.
When Lady Antebellum debuted with “Love Don’t Live Here” five years ago, critics often compared the trio to Fleetwood Mac for its pop-tinged sound and its dual lead singers in Scott and Kelley, so it seemed all the more appropriate to pair the two acts for “Crossroads,” CMT's 10-year old program that unites a country act with its musical hero from another genre.
It turns out Nicks has long been a Lady A fan. "Crossroads executive producer Bill Flanagan told the audience, “We’ve been trying to get Stevie Nicks for years. She said her favorite band is Lady Antebellum.”
“I’ve been listening to their songs for a solid three months,” Nicks said, between “Need You Now” takes. “My neighbors must be like, ‘What? We thought she was in Fleetwood Mac’.”
The new group— Fleetwood Antebellum? Lady Mac?—devoted the first half of the taping to Lady A hits, including “Love Don’t Live Here” and “Own the Night” album track, “Cold As Stone,” with Nicks either singing Scott’s parts or along with her and Kelley. Occasionally, Dave Heywood chimed in for gorgeous four-part harmonies. The trio debuted a lovely new song, “Golden,” which Nicks was among the first to hear. “Half a minute into it, I started to cry,” Nicks said. “This song is their ‘Landslide’.” Who knows if the love ballad will reach such legendary heights, but it’s clear having Nicks praise it so was enough for Lady A.
Later in the evening, the foursome performed “Landslide,” which Kelley introduced as “the greatest song ever.” Nicks recounted writing the song in 1973 after her boyfriend/music partner Lindsey Buckingham had gone to tour with the Everly Brothers. “I knew it was going to be special,” she said.
Lady A and Nicks also wrapped their vocals around a stunning, haunting “Gold Dust Woman” and “The Edge of 17,” marking the first time that Nicks said she had ever performed the latter tune, written about Tom Petty, with anyone else. For trivia buffs, the title comes from Nicks’ misunderstanding Petty’s first wife, who told Nicks she met Petty at “the age of 17.” Her southern accent was so strong, Nicks thought she said “the edge of 17.”
Speaking of Petty, next came the Nicks/Petty duet “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around,” with Kelley ably filling in for Petty as he towered over the diminutive Nicks.
Nicks then bantered with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who was seated in the audience. Tyler previously taped a “Crossroads” with Carrie Underwood. As Kelley watched the exchange, he said, “Am I dreaming?”
Yep, heady stuff for the members of the trio, none of whom were born when Fleetwood Mac’s classic album, “Rumours” came out in 1977 or Nicks’ first solo album, “Bella Donna” in 1981.
CMT has yet to announce an air date for the Lady A/Stevie Nicks’ edition of “Crossroads.”
What happens with Justin Timberlake's 'Suit & Tie?'
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” featuring Wanz celebrates its second week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 10. It also remains atop of the Digital Songs chart, R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and Rap Songs as well.
The top three remain the same as Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” stays at No. 2 and The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” at No. 3.
Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” rises 5-4. Also moving up one space are will.i.am and Britney Spears’ “Scream & Shout” (6-5) and Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” (7-6).
Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj climbs two spots to No. 7, while Rihanna’s “Diamonds” stays at No. 8 and Phillip Phillips’ “Home” rises 10-9.
The only debut in the Top 10 is A$AP Rocky’s “F**kin Problems,” which soars 15-10, marking the rapper’s first top 10 hit.
And yes, in case you noticed, Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay-Z fell 4-13, although the song continues to gain airplay. The fall occurs because of a drastic drop in downloads.
Pink and Kelly Clarkson take on Maroon 5 and Florence and the Machine
As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best Pop Vocal Album.
The nominees are:
Kelly Clarkson - “Stronger”
Florence and the Machine - “Ceremonials”
Fun. - “Some Nights”?
Maroon 5 - “Overexposed”
Pink - “The Truth About Love”
WHO’S MISSING: Though the slate is very impressive, Justin Bieber’s manager, Scooter Braun, felt the Grammys were definitely in error by not including “Believe” in this grouping, and there’s a case to be made for One Direction’s “Up All Night,” which was also unceremoniously ignored. Also left out this year, Rihanna’s “Talk That Talk.”
THE PLAYERS: The Grammy voters seemingly forgot about female artists when it came to the general album of the year category and it’s easy to see how much of a failing that was when you consider how strong “Ceremonials,” “Stronger” and “The Truth About Love” are. But the strength of the albums here (including the three that are missing and could have easily replaced any of the ones nominated) show how strong pop is after a number of years of laying fallow.
THE ODDS: Conventional wisdom would be to go with fun.’s “Some Nights” since it is the only collection here also up for album of the year, but I’m breaking with that. Kelly Clarkson is really beloved. Plus, she was just in people’s faces singing live at the Inauguration. All five of the albums are strong and deserving.
THE WINNER: Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger”
Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping the Best New Artist race
A new deluxe set drills deep on the classic album
Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” came out in 1977, before the internet and tabloid TV. Instead, all we had to do was listen to the lyrics to get all the drama. The album, which celebrates its 35th anniversary (one year late) with today’s release of a four-CD deluxe edition, chronicled the break-ups of three relationships: singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham were splitting after seven years together, keyboardist/singer Christine McVie and hubby/bassist John McVie had just divorced. Drummer Mick Fleetwood’s marriage to wife Jenny, who was not in the band, was unraveling, in part because she was having an affair with his best friend.
To be sure there were break-up albums before theirs: Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” comes to mind, and ones after, Bruce Springsteen’s “Tunnel Of Love,” but no album has ever been quite so public a bloodletting as the life drains out of the various relationships.
The quintet took a year to record “Rumours” in Sausalito, Calif. at the Record Plant. While they were in the studio, their self-titled 10th album (and the first to feature Buckingham and Nicks) was gaining traction and was a clear sign that moving from the blues-based sound of the previous efforts to a pop-oriented sound was the right move commercially. That was only confirmed with "Rumours," which spent 31 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Most of the songs for “Rumours” were written was done on the spot, with the songwriters bringing their not-so-fully fleshed ideas into the studio for the others to noodle on. Often, as in the case of “Second Hand News,” Buckingham withheld revealing the lyrics until the last moment since he knew they weren’t likely to go down well with Nicks.
I got a copy of the deluxe set a few weeks ago and for the first time in years listened to the “Rumours,” as it was originally released 36 years ago, from start to finish.
How does it hold up? Remarkably well. It’s like visiting an old friend. The songs easily move into the next and weave everyone’s stories together. Even more fascinating is revisiting how the couples are talking to each other through the songs. For example on “The Chain,” (the one song co-written by all five) Buckingham sings, “And if you don’t love me now/You will never love me again/I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain.” On “Oh Daddy,” which Christine McVie wrote from Jenny’s perspective, she laments “Why are you right when I’m so wrong/I’m so weak but you’re so strong.” On “You Make Loving Fun,” Christine McVie is singing about her new love, the band’s lighting director (much to John’s dismay).Despite all the cocaine and alcohol that fueled the sessions, or maybe because of them, the overall effect is a voyeuristic look at three break-ups that are raw and complex, and despite their specificity, have a universal appeal for anyone who has found him or herself similarly entangled. The raw immediacy of the tracks still remains.
All the songs individually have held up as well, especially “Second Hand News,” “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “I Don’t Want To Know.” The quintet created music that was not of the day —there’s no ‘70s equivalent of a dubstep drop or a hint of electroclash. Instead the production still sounds fresh and clean and not dated. Buckingham’s guitar playing is crisp, with John McVie and Fleetwood Mac’s rhythm section propulsive when need be and totally in retreat when a gentler touch is demanded.
Of course, the big mistake with “Rumours,” one due to time limitations on the vinyl and internecine fighting, is that Nicks’ delicate, searing “Silver Springs” was left off the album. That was corrected in 2001 on a DVD-Audio version and subsequent pressings have included “Silver Springs.”
The other three discs are fun, but not essential unless you're a big fan. Disc 2 includes live versions of much of the album from 1977, as well as other hits, including “Rhiannon” and “Monday Morning.” The other two discs feature outtakes, alternate versions of songs, and demos from the recording sessions, including two songs that didn’t make the album, “Planets of the Universe” and a lovely duet, “Doesn’t Anything Last.” The last disc, originally issued in 2004, also includes rough takes and outtakes. It's very fun an instructive to hear how the songs morphed and were constructed. For example, the demo of "The Chain" is slow and acoustic, but no less haunting.
A super-expanded version also contains “The Rosebud Film,” a 1977 doc looking at the making of “Rumours” and the original album on vinyl.
The current band, which does not include Christine McVie, will start a tour April 4 in Columbus, Ohio.
A few thoughts on the pop star's most recent dust-up
He’s kidding, right? That was my first thought when I saw Chris Brown’s Instagram from yesterday.
In case you missed it, Brown, that paragon of all this is virtuous in this world, posted a painting of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross yesterday alongside the words, “Painting the way I feel today. Focus on what matters.”
Doesn’t he mean “focus on what martyrs” because we’ve never seen an artist with such a persecution complex and a complete inability to grasp the role he has played in his own ongoing conflicts.
Apparently, he’s feeling a little misunderstood due to his latest dust-up. Yeah, the one where he and Frank Ocean got into a tiff over a parking spot at Westlake Recording Studios on Sunday in Los Angeles. While the facts are blurry, it appears that push came to shove and Brown left the scene before police could question him.
Instead of painting or comparing himself to Jesus, maybe Brown needs to climb down off that cross and go talk to the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, who wants to question him about the incident. (Sheriff department spokesman Steve Whitmore says that Ocean wants to press charges and told The Los Angeles Times that Brown is “a named suspect in a battery report”).
Or maybe, just maybe, he needs to have a long time out to figure out why the public just won’t give him a break and realize he’s not such a bad guy. C’mon, people! It’s been four years since he tried to meld Rihanna’s head with a car door and she’s not only forgiven him, they’re seemingly off in their own little twisted loveland again and they tweet and Instagram a near-constant stream of selfies together to prove it.
After every incident—whether it’s throwing a chair after a “Good Morning America” interview doesn’t go the way he’d planned (in that Robin Roberts deigned to ask other than fluff questions) or he and Drake are in a fight in a club or he makes gay slurs he later has to apologize for—the now inevitable and predictable pattern follows. Somehow, Brown makes himself out to be the victim: He’s misunderstood, he didn’t throw the first punch, he was insulted, he’s already apologized, he’s a target because he’s famous, he’s young... what more do we want from him?
What we want from him is some sign that for more than five minutes he can act like an adult. Yes, being a pop star keeps one in perpetual adolescence...and keeps one surrounded by people on the payroll whose main, if not only, job is to constantly reassure the artist the he is right, everyone else is wrong and is just jealous.
If Brown so badly wants to compare himself to Christ, maybe he should think about turning the other cheek.
Train, Dave Matthews and Lucinda Williams also on tribute album
On April 2, ATO will release “The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver.”
Dave Matthews, My Morning Jacket, Train, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Josh Ritter are among the artists paying homage to the folky musician, who died in 1997 in a plane accident.
[More after the jump...]
Frank Ocean and fun. lead a strong field
The 55th Annual Grammy Awards are Feb. 10 and this year there will be some hotly contested races. Unlike last year when Adele was the presumptive (and actual) winner in many categories, there are few clear frontrunners.
As we lead up to the ceremony, we’ll take a different category every day and evaluate the nominees. Today, we look at Best New Artist.
Best New Artist nominees:
WHO’S MISSING: First off, let’s look at who’s not here: While the field is strong, leaving out One Direction seems like a major oversight. Though she hasn’t had the same success here as she has in the U.K., Emeli Sande was also a strong contender and while she’s looking a little like a one-hit wonder right now, Carly Rae Jepsen had the pop culture hit of the year with “Call Me Maybe.”
THE PLAYERS: Instead, based on Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers, it’s clear the Grammy voters leaned toward authentic, roots-oriented rock. Both groups are known for their rambunctious, free-flowing live shows and reliance on acoustic instruments as much as for their radio hits: The Shakes with “Hold On,” and the Lumineers with the seemingly omnipresent “Ho Hey.” Both look like solid bets for artists who will have good, long careers regardless of radio support.
Neither fun. nor Frank Ocean are roots-oriented, but they represent a new standard bearer for the Grammys: Fun.’s brand of pop is commercial and wildly successful, but is also well-crafted, intelligent, well-sung and well-played. R&B artist Ocean, whose “Channel Orange” topped many best-of lists for 2012 (including mine) was a fresh voice that arrived fully formed.
Hunter Hayes may be unknown outside of his country base, but he’s a budding star within the format and Nashville’s collective voting power helped seal his nomination over some more likely pop contenders.
THE ODDS: This is a race between fun. and Ocean. In addition to best new artist, fun. ran the board: receiving nominations in the other three general categories: record, song and album of the year. Only a handful of artists, such as Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Christopher Cross have ever achieved that feat. Ocean almost scored as well, landing album and record of the year nods (both artists also have nominations in other fields).
It’s almost too close to call this year. If only music critics were voting, Ocean would be the clear winner. Both acts have had great years and show tremendous promise, the question will come down to whether fun’s greater dominance at pop radio will get them more votes. It’s the first year in many that I’ve wished for a tie.
WINNER: Frank Ocean
Piano track leads 'Believe Acoustic' album
- Critic's Rating B
- Readers' Rating A
Justin Bieber spills pieces of his broken heart in his new song, “Nothing Like Us.”
The piano ballad, featured on “Believe Acoustic,” is an anguished tale of his break-up with Selena Gomez.
The spare track, which Billboard.com premiered today, features a subdued Bieber plaintively telling Gomez, “I wish I could give you what you deserve because nothing can ever, ever replace you... you know there’s no one I can relate to/you know we won’t find a love that’s so true.”
He later sings, “I gave you everything/everything I had to give/Girl, why would you push me away?” It’s a raw, simple song delivered at points in a near whisper by Bieber as he goes through the five stages of grief over their parting.
While Bieber seems to blame the break-up on Gomez, asking her “was it worth it,” he finally comes to the acceptance stage, resigned to the fact that they are truly over: “That is the past now/we didn’t last now.”
[More after the jump...]
Bieber told Billboard he wrote the song while staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. “They have a piano in the room. I sat down and it was something that came out and I recorded it on my iPhone. Then I went to the studio and I really recorded it and sang it better.”
He added “I want people to hear what’s coming from my heart, and this is definitely the most that I’ve been sharing what I’m actually feeling.”
While the song doesn’t have the bite of Justin Timberlake's “Cry Me A River,” which Gomez performed at a Unicef benefit on Jan. 19, it does have the authentic ring of a young man dealing with heartache. “Believe Acoustic” comes out Jan. 29 and featues acoustic versions of songs from “Believe,” as well as a few new tracks in addition to “Nothing Like Us.”
Bieber, who has more than 33 million followers on Twitter, will host and perform on “Saturday Night Live” on Feb. 9.
What do you think of “Nothing Like Us?”
Grammy winner will sing 'Everybody Needs A Best Friend'
Add Norah Jones to the list of pop singers performing at Feb. 24’s Academy Awards.
Jones will sing “Everybody Needs A Best Friend,” the theme song to “Ted,” the comedy directed by Oscar host Seth MacFarlane. The tune, written by MacFarlane and Walter Murphy, is nominated for best original song, alongside “Before My Time” (“Chasing Ice”), “Pi’s Lullaby” (“Life of Pi”), “Suddenly” (“Les Miserables”) and “Skyfall” (“Skyfall”)
Adele, who co-wrote and performs “Skyfall” has already been announced as a performer.
Jones recently released “Little Broken Hearts Remix EP,” a digital EP of seven songs from “Little Broken Hearts” re-envisioned by TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, Jose Padilla, and Peter, Bjorn & John. Jones also put out “Covers,” a 10-song compilation of songs made famous by artists such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Wilco, reinterpreted by Jones over the first decade of her career. The set is available exclusively at Target.