The last major release date before Christmas yields a few nice treats, including a long-awaited set from Natasha Bedingfield, a stripped-down set from Adam Lambert, as well as rapper T.I.’s “No Mercy” and Daft Punk’s highly-anticipated soundtrack to “Tron: Legacy.”
Natasha Bedingfield, “Strip Me” (Epic): British songstress of “Unwritten” fame returns after a long break with a provocatively titled new set of uptempo tunes. First single, the title track, showcases a different sound, full of heavy beats and echo.
Daft Punk, “TRON: Legacy” (Walt Disney): French duo combines its trademark electronica with traditional orchestration for the adventurous, futuristic score to 1982’s “Tron,” itself composed by electronic pioneer Wendy Carlos. And the amazing thing is they never remove their helmets.
Duffy, “Endlessly” (Mercury): English thrush who broke big with “Mercy” two years ago returns for a second set of retro pop-soul that suits her amazing pipes perfectly.
Flyleaf, “Remember to Live” (A&M/Octone): As lead singer Lacey Sturm preps for her impending motherhood and a break from the band, Flyleaf delivers this placeholder to keep fans happy until the group can provide a full-on follow up to 2009’s “Memento Mori.” The EP contains seven songs, including five older tracks, as well as two reinventions of previously released tunes.
Hinder “All American Nightmare” (Universal Republic): Rockers from the heartland return with their third major-label effort. The slight glam sound from album No. 2 is gone for straight-ahead rock. First single, the title tune, already had a strong showing on Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, peaking at No. 7.
Juanes, “P.A.R.C.E.” (Universal Latino): Colombian superstar Juanes unleashes his fifth album that deals with, in part, with his reconciliation with his wife and the birth of their new home.
Adam Lambert, “Acoustic Live” (19 Recordings/RCA): “American Idol” runner up from season eight throws a few tidbits to the faithful with this set of five unplugged tunes, including “Aftermath” and “If I Had You.”
Plain White T’s, “Wonders of the Younger” (Hollywood): “Hey There Delilah” dudes are back with another melodic/harmony filled soft rock.
T.I., “No Mercy” (Grand Hustle/Atlantic): T.I. may be incarcerated, but that won’t stop him from unleashing his seventh album, “No Mercy” (previously titled “King Uncaged”). There’s a passel full of guests on the effort, including Kayne West, Kid Cudi, the Neptunes, Chris Brown, Eminem, The-Dream and Christina Aguilera, on top track “Castle Walls.”
Who is likely to spoil the Peas' debut? Susan, Taylor, or Kanye?
Melinda Newman Sunday, Dec 5, 2010 3:40 AM
Susan Boyle’s “The Gift” keeps on giving. After Kanye West nudged her out of the top spot this week, it looks like she’ll be headed back to No. 1 next week on the Billboard 200 with sales of up to 300,000. That takes her past the million mark in only four weeks.
Esperanza Spalding comes out of nowhere to land at No. 2
Melinda Newman Saturday, Dec 4, 2010 3:18 AM
After last year’s disappointing “Relapse,” Eminem roared back this summer with “Recovery.” The striking album, which has already spawned two No. 1s —”Not Afraid” and “Love the Way You Lie”— keeps gaining momentum. In addition to the commercial success, Eminem received the validation of his peers as he garnered 10 Grammy nominations on Dec. 1, the most of any artist.
1. Eminem (not ranked last week): His year just keeps getting better and better. “Recovery” is the top selling album of the year (so far) and now he’s landed atop all Grammy nominations. We can go ahead and shorten the too long Grammy Awards, slated for Feb. 13 by giving him album, song and record of the year in one fell swoop.
2. Esperanza Spalding (not ranked): Before Wednesday night, no one, except perhaps Barack Obama (who requested she play when he received his Nobel Peace Prize), knew of the jazz bassist/vocalist. After being nominated for a Grammy for best new artist, she’s probably up to 1%. Hey, it’s a start.
3. Kanye West (No. 2): He’s never going to be as phenomenal as he is in his own mind, but West comes damn close with “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” The album wins West some of the best reviews of his career and is his fourth to debut atop the Billboard 200, shifting nearly 500,000 copies in its first week. We doubt Taylor Swift was one of those half-million buyers.
Jamie Foxx is nothing if not consistent. Every few years, with very little advanced warning, he drops a new album just days before Christmas.
In 2005, he released “Unpredictable” on Dec. 20; in 2008, he put out “Intuition” on Dec. 16 and today comes word that the Oscar winner’s latest, “Best Night of My Life,” streets Dec. 21. Ho, Ho, Ho. He is the perfect last-minute stocking stuffer.
He's definitely not saying 'Forget You' to these beauties
Melinda Newman Friday, Dec 3, 2010 11:15 AM
Cee Lo’s living the good life. In his new video for “It’s OK,” he’s got women literally throwing themselves at him.
But despite this bevy of beauties, each one clad in a primary color, he longs for the one that got away. However, we’d say that perhaps he protests too much. As he’s singing “I still think of you,” he’s canoodling with the monochromatic lovelies (And drinking Crown Royal, in a very obvious product placement.)
As Stephen Stills famously sung, "if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with" and Cee Lo is definitely making the most of his heartbreak. It’s a fun, stylish, cartoony video that perfectly matches the retro-soul vibe.
Katy Perry and Bruno Mars also have reason to celebrate
Melinda Newman Thursday, Dec 2, 2010 5:10 PM
It’s a good time to be Pink: she and hubby Carey Hart are expecting their first child and she just landed her third No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 with “Raise Your Glass,” one of the two new tunes on her greatest hits set.
Will it stay at No. 1 for more than one week? Not if the recent past is any indicator. In a move that hasn’t happened in more than 20 years, there have been five different No. 1 songs in five consecutive weeks, according to Billboard.
So who may we be toasting next week? Possibly Katy Perry, as “Firework” shifts 6-2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 4-1 on Hot Digital Songs.
[More after the jump...]
Last week’s No. 1, Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)” falls from the top perch on the Hot 100, but it rises to No. 1 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, giving the pop queen her sixth chart topper.
Bruno Mars, who earned a remarkable seven Grammy nominations on Wednesday, continues his winning ways, as “Grenade” bursts 17-10, giving him two songs in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. “Just the Way You Are” jumps 7-4 as a result of strong digital sales, most likely due to the song’s appearance on “Glee.”
Cee Lo changes “F*** You” to “Forget You” in his bid for radio play, Enrique Iglesias modifies “Tonight (I’m F****** You)” to “Tonight (I’m Loving You)” for the same reason and it worked like a charm. The clean version of the song explodes onto the Hot 100 at No. 18, Iglesias’s highest debut ever on the chart.
Go backstage with us at Wednesday night's Grammy Nominations Concert
Melinda Newman Thursday, Dec 2, 2010 2:18 AM
HitFIx had a front row seat backstage at the Grammys Nomination Concert, held tonight in Los Angeles. We bring you an inside look at the reaction from many of the evening’s top nominees in their own words.
Bruno Mars: “It’s kind of awesome,” said a still stunned Mars, of his seven nominations for his work on his debut as well as with Cee-Lo. However, humility was not his strong suit when he was asked about nominations for his songs. “I knew my music is just pretty incredible,” he said (and we don’t think he was joking). “I don’t know what to say. It’s been a hell of a year for all of us,” he said, speaking for his partners in production team, The Smeezingtons, “We record these songs i not too far from here in a shabby studio. It’s a little surreal.” As far as future collaborations, Mars’ wish list includes Alicia Keys, Prince and Kings of Leon.
Cee Lo Green: The singer, who nabbed four nominations, including for the coveted song and record of the year for “F*** You,” remains stunned by its success. “It wasn’t meant to be a radio song. It was meant to be something with flair. It really took on a life of its own. I had no idea it would become what it has become.” He admits he was stung a little when “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley, his group with Danger Mouse, didn’t win record of the year a few years ago. “It didn’t hurt, I grew from it... it was a little inconvenient and unfortunate because I truly believe we deserved it, but it’s cool.” Speaking of Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo said he and Danger Mouse are already talking about a third album. And if Prince is looking for a collaborator, Cee Lo is totally in.
B.o.B.: The newcomer missed out on a best new artist nomination, but snared five other nominations, including record of the year. He thanked the team around him, adding “We’ve been envisioning this for a year. To see it really start to come around, it’s almost like the Twilight Zone.” He added that tonight was one of the highlights of his year, as well as performing for Barack Obama, and opening for Jay Z and Eminem in Detroit. After collaborating with Bruno Mars, Hayley Williams and Rivers Cuomo, he’s keeping mum on future partners. “I want them to happen naturally. You never know. You can really want a collaboration, You force it and it doesn’t come out right. I’m open to whoever’s in my world.” However, when pressed by reporters, he added he’d love to work with Florence + the Machine and Mumford and Sons.
Hayley Williams: The Paramore lead singer was nominated for her work with Paramore as well as for “Airplanes,” her duet with B.o.B. When asked which nomination meant the most, she said, “It’s two completely different worlds. I’m always going to be stoked to represent Paramore. That’s my family.” She added that the B.o.B. song “fell into my lap. We were playing a show in New York, someone dropped the demo off for me to hear. The guys and I were like, ‘this is awesome.” Unbelievably, she and B.o.B. didn’t meet until months after the song became a smash. “We’d made the video, we ‘d talked on Twitter. The song was blowing up. We didn’t meet until the [MTV] VMAs. Hey, it’s 2010. It’s living in the future.” Miranda Lambert: The country superstar received three nominations; plus “The House That Built Me” earned a song of the year nomination (an award that goes to the songwriters). “I’m so lucky I got my hands on [that song],” she said. “It got nominated for song of the year, not just country song of the year, overall song of the year. This song was pitched to [Lambert’s fiance] Blake [Shelton]. When I heard it. It just hit me so hard. I had this crazy reaction. I just started bawling. It was just one of these songs. I had a great feeling about it. I have a great fiance. He handed it over to me; I’m sure he wants it back at this point.”
Bill Reynolds, Band of Horses: The band received a nomination for best alternative music album for “Infinite Arms.” When asked how it felt to be nominated, Reynolds asked, “Can I cuss?” Assured that he could, he replied, “It feels fucking great.” As the only member of the band who lives in Los Angeles, he got a call at 11 p.m. last night telling him that he may want to be at the nominations. “They said, ‘Hey, we need someone from Band of Horses to come down to the Grammys. We’re not sure what that means, but we think it’s good news.” He hopped in his truck and drove down from Ojai. It’s the band’s first nomination after three albums. “We put a lot more into this record,” he says. “We have more members who were writing. It was really a fun record to make. I think it shows.” Alex Da Kid: The co-songwriter and co-producer of Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna said the song got to Eminem just as he was wrapping up recording “Recovery.” “Em heard the song and recorded it in two days. It was the last song on the album. Rihanna was recording her part as he was mixing.” Adding Rihanna was Eminem’s idea. “Once he heard the demos, he really wanted her. She can relate to the song and it makes sense.” Alex da Kid, whose real name is Alexander Grant, said the demo, which featured new artist Skyler Grey singing Rihanna’s part, “sounded pretty similar” to the final version.
Monica: The R&B singer received two nods, including best R&B album for “Still Standing,” an album that has tremendous emotional resonance for the artist. “[Still Standing] is something that I always used to say to myself. ‘Stand on your own two feet,’” she said. After going through some troubling times and leaving the industry for six years to have her two children, she said she “Every song [on the album] talks about coming through something. I wanted younger girls to feel empowered by it. I knew these were the type of messages I wanted to send...This is my first nomination since 1999. At 16 years old, I didn’t understand what it meant. Now at 30, I'm shocked.”
Craig Ferguson: The host of “The Late Late Show” found out he’d received a nod for best spoken word album for the audio tape of his book, “American on Purpose,” when LL Cool J told him on air. “I didn’t know I was nominated [before hand],” he said. “I was here being a corporate shill. I was like, ‘Did I sing and forget?’ This is kind of awkward. Other than my wife being pregnant, this is the highlight of the year. “ Informed of his competition, which includes Jon Stewart, Woody Allen and Sarah Silverman, he said, “I’m the crappiest person on this list. Chances [of winning]? Zero.” [A side note: Craig, we adore you, but please understand how disrespectful it is to Nashville to deliver the nominations for best country female vocal performance in a fake southern drawl.]
Jimmy Jam: The mega-producer and former Recording Academy chairman praised Justin Bieber, who performed from London and garnered a best new artist nomination: “I’m a Justin Bieber fan. The thing about Justin to me that I like is he’s a musician. He has a root in being a musician, which I think is really important. You can’t be a one trick pony. He’s a good singer, writer, dancer. He’s a good musician. He wants to get better at what he does. He’s a hard worker. He’s pretty good at 'Guitar Hero'.” And, as anyone trolling the web lately has seen, he can also solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes.
Michael Jackson’s immense talent was so overshadowed by the freak show that became his life in the last 15 years or so and subsequent death that it’s easy to forget how remarkable he was. However, all it takes is about 30 seconds of “Much Too Soon,” the third song revealed from Dec. 14 posthumous album, “Michael,” to remind us of his remarkable talent.
The song, which Jackson penned during the “Thriller” era, is streaming on iTunesPing for a week. It’s an understated beauty. “Much Too Soon” opens with acoustic guitar and swelling, but subtle, strings (arranged by Beck’s dad, David Campbell) before going into a tale of a man who learns too late that his neglect had irreparable consequences on his relationship. Hear it here.
The spare musical bed is the perfect fit for Jackson’s restrained voice. In fact, his vocal delivery is beautiful here. He understands the key is underplaying the pain and hurt, especially at the end. There’s also a sweet Stevie Wonder-like harmonica interlude that ties the two parts together.
Jackson “always liked the song and would pull it back out of the vaults for each subsequent project, but never found the right home for it,” according to a blurb on www.michaeljackson.com.
First Jessica Simpson, then Darius Rucker and now Aaron Lewis? The Staind frontman is the latest rocker to turn country... and he’s got some mighty friends welcoming him to the fold.
Lewis’s first single, the blatantly named “Country Boy,” features George Jones and Charlie Daniels, as well as newcomer Chris Young. The video for the song debuts on CMT on Dec. 1. It is the lead-off song from “Town Line,” a five-song EP out in February on uber-producer James Stroud’s Stroudavarious Records. The set also includes a new version of Staind’s “Tangled Up in You.” We’d like to hear a country version of “It’s Been Awhile,” but that probably wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
The press release heralding Lewis’s arrival on Twang Town tries mightily to hit all the right chords to stress that Lewis isn’t a carpetbagger: He grew up in “rural Vermont.” He spent his summers with his “WWII veteran grandfather hunting and fishing.” I’m sure he rode around in a pick up truck with a gun rack on it and had a flag on his porch.
Anyway, Lewis starts a solo tour in January. Below are the tour dates.
â€¨15 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun
â€¨28 North Las Vegas, NV Aliante Casinoâ€¨
29 Temecula, CA Pechanga Casino
18, 19 Atlantic City, NJ The Borgataâ€¨
20 Westbury, NY Westbury Music Fair
3 Detroit, MI Motor City Casino
â€¨4, 5 Verona, NY Turning Stone Casino
â€¨17 Snoqualmie, WA Snoqualmie Casino Ballroomâ€¨
18 Reno, NV Silver Legacy Resort & Casinoâ€¨
19 Las Vegas, NV The Joint – Hard Rock Hotel & Casinoâ€¨
26 Walker, MN Northern Lights
â€¨14 Elizabeth, IN Horseshoe Southern Indianaâ€¨
15 Robinsonville, MS Horseshoe Tunica – Bluesville
For way longer than it seems remotely probably, the Black Eyed Peas have been crafting beat-driven, synth-laden songs that provide the anthem for a sports game or wedding/graduation/bar mitzvah party.
So there’s no reason for them to switch it up on “The Beginning,” which, despite the title, is more like “The Continuation.”
Similar to the BEP music that has come before, the songs on “The Beginning,” out today (30), are sterile and, for the most part, devoid of emotion, other than an occasional positive bromide. The lyrics are simply in service of the beats beyond supplying a catch phrase or two, such as with past smashes, “Let’s Get It Started,” “I Gotta Feeling,” or “Boom Boom Pow.”
The members of BEP—Will.I.Am, Fergie, Taboo and Apl.de.ap— are really alchemists, collecting beats from around the world, a snippet here, a synth line there, to concoct a dance party, which Fergie then weaves her serviceable voice around. Or at least that’s what happens when it works.
First single, “The Time (Dirty Bit),” gets all its pizazz from lifting “Dirty Dancing’s end-theme, “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life,” whose instantly recognizable chorus is juxtaposed with a robotic, futuristic verse. It shouldn’t work, but it does. It can be a risky gambit. Taking a beloved tune and pairing it with beats can alienate or work to draw new listeners in (see Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love.”
Sadly, the first single is also the high point of the album. To be sure, there are other flashes of inspiration and undeniable beats, but no song ever settles into a sustainable groove. Instead, the songs careen from one hammer hit to the next, using repetitive droning as connective tissue.
BEP mix up the beats in a “from-Point- A-to-Point-B” way, but there’s really no more innovation than that. Sometimes Fergie starts a song, sometimes Will.I. Am does. Sometimes there’s a hint of a reggae beat, other times a touch of ska or ‘80s dance, but that’s really about as far afield as “The Beginning” strays.
[More after the jump...]
At 15 tracks, “The Beginning” is about five songs too long, guaranteeing that at a certain point, you’ll run screaming for the exits in search of a real piano or an acoustic guitar. It’s better to mete it out in smaller, a-few-songs-at-a-time doses. It is impossible to listen to “The Beginning” from, uh, beginning to end, and not have a headache at the end from all the thumping. Having said that, it’s clear that some songs are meant for the beginning of the evening at the club, while others are definitely meant for after some mind-altering substance has kicked in (yes, “The Coming,” we’re talking to you.)
Among the notable tracks are “The Situation,” in which Fergie summons up her inner Terri Nunn. The new-wave dance rave up has nothing to do with “The Jersey Shore” and everything to do with a lover who is constantly let down by her partner.
Other influences abound. “Fashion Beats” borrows from Chic, then Fergie breaks into a rap redolent of Blondie’s “Rapture.” “Do It Like This” has a Lil Wayne feel to it in its hypnotic repetition and piercing beat. (It also liberally throws around the N word. Fair warning in case you find that offensive).
“Love You Long Time” isn’t about some hooker with a poor command of the English language, as the title would indicate, rather it’s a monotonous love song that sounds like it’s sampling the opening chords of “Lady, Lift Me Up” by the Commodores.
On “Own It,” BEP try to switch things up a bit. “Everybody is a star, it don’t matter who you are, no, keep on reaching for your dreams because it ain’t as crazy as it seems,” an auto-tuned Will.I.Am sings, as a military beat taps out in the background. It’s as inspirational a song as BEP has ever recorded.
Similarly, “The Best One Yet (The Boy)” is about celebrating the good times in life. But again, Will.I.Am seems to be channeling T.I. through half the songs. It could be a BEP anthem, but it never takes flight.
Album closer, “Play It Loud,” is, the name notwithstanding, one of the quieter tracks on the album and one of the most endearing with its U2-like guitar. When Will.I.Am sings “I pledge my allegiance to rhythm and sound,” you know he means it. You just wish he promised such equal fidelity to a little heart and soul as well.