<p>Diane Birch</p>

Diane Birch

Credit: Jeff Christensen/AP

Diane Birch goes goth on covers set with the Phenomenal Handclap Band

Tunes by The Cure, Joy Division, Echo & the Bunnymen and more

Diane Birch, whose 2009 debut, “Bible Belt, was criminally overlooked, returns with a 7-song EP of cover tunes, Dec. 7. Tagged “The Velveteen Age,” the collection pairs her with fellow Brooklynites, the Phenomenal Handclap Band, on a set of primarily British Goth songs from the likes of The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division and This Mortal Coil.

Birch, who arranged the songs, picked material from her formative teen years. "Sitting in my bedroom with my headphones pressed into my ears till they hurt, each song gave me a weird kind of hope for my future. ?I would have never imagined I would get a chance to record them one day, let alone with some of my closest friends." The cover art features a 16-year old Birch in a vintage Victorian wedding dress.

The set, out on S-Curve, will be followed by a new album of self-penned tunes by Birch.


This Corrosion (Sisters of Mercy)

Kiss Them For Me (Siouxsie & The Banshees) 

Bring On The Dancing Horses (Echo & The Bunnymen)

Atmosphere (Joy Division) 

Primary (The Cure)

Tarantula (This Mortal Coil)

A Strange Kind of Love (Peter Murphy)

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Watch: Paramore's new video for 'Playing God'

Hayley Williams is taking prisoners and pouring tea

Paramore’s videos are always worth a gander if for nothing else to see what color Hayley Williams’ hair will be.  This time, after red, orange and other assorted flavors, she’s rocking pink in the group’s new video for “Playing God.”

The clip, in which Williams takes on  hypocritical, judgmental haters (played by her bandmates)  who “cram ideas down her throat” by locking them up in her storm cellar, is the second hostage theme we’ve seen in recent weeks after Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue.”

Williams plays a genial hostess, straight out of the ‘50s, as she serves her guests poisoned tea, while she wears funky glasses like a junior Lady GaGa.  Other guests blithely come and go as her victims hang out in the basement, bored out of their wits, until she joins them to put on a show.

As far as threats go, “Next time you point a finger I may have to bend it back,” is a pretty toothless one lyrically-and otherwise-- and the same goes for the song and video. Paramore has come up with much more potent songs like “Misery” or “Brick by Boring Brick.”

And, by the way, what’s with the carrot-colored and shaped microphone? Shouldn’t she have used that when her hair was orange?  We’re now taking bets on her next hair color. We want green.  There are many more vegetable-shaped matching microphone options.

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<p>Far East Movement</p>

Far East Movement

'Like a G6' flies back to the top of the Billboard Hot 100

What happens to Rihanna and Ke$ha?

After a two-week break, Far East Movement’s “Like a G6” zooms back into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” knocked the newcomers out of the top spot and the Rihanna’s “What’s My Name” claimed the pole position, but now “G6” has nestled back in the top for its third cumulative week at the top, according to Billboard.

Other moves of merit in the Top 100 of the Billboard 200 include Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World),” which goes 4-2, keeping Rihanna from successive No. 1s.  The Glee cast’s cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” bows at No. 8,  propelled largely by digital sales. In fact, the title sold 214,000 downloads, the highest download week ever for a “Glee” song. The number is enough for “Teenage Dream” to bow at No. 1 on the Digital Songs chart.

The Black Eyed Peas miss landing in the top 10, but not by much, as “The Time (Dirty Bit),” the lead single from their forthcoming album, “The Beginning” (which follows their last album,  “The E.N.D.”--get it? ), bows at No. 12.

The chart also reflects the impact of last week’s CMA Awards, as Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue,” performed by the duo on the ABC telecast, leaps 25-17 on the Hot 100. The Band Perry also sees upward movement for “If I Die Young,” which shifts 24-20.

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<p>The Beatles</p>

The Beatles

How are the Beatles' albums selling on iTunes?

Answer: We love you, yeah, yeah, yeah

The long and winding road to the Beatles’ arrival on iTunes has led to a sales explosion.

One day after Apple announced that after years of negotiations, the Fab Four’s music would finally be available on the digital download store, the Beatles’ albums make up almost half of the top 30 sellers.

Abbey Road” is No. 7 on iTunes’ Top Albums chart, while the “White Album” is No. 8 and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” comes in at No. 9. The Beatles claim five of the spots between No. 11-20 and four albums are lodged between Nos 21-30. The rest of the 18 offerings, including   the iTunes’ exclusive, “Beatles Box Set,” appear below No. 31.

The single albums sell for $12.99, while double albums are $19.99.

Beatles’ individual songs are also popular, but without the same fervor.  Coming in at No. 17 on the Top Songs chart, somewhat surprisingly, is “Here Comes the Sun” from “Abbey Road.”  “Let It Be” is No. 23, while “In My Life” is No. 24.  Another 20 Beatles songs appear in the Top 100.

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<p>Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young cover Willow Smith's &quot;Whip Your Hair.&quot;</p>

Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon as Neil Young cover Willow Smith's "Whip Your Hair."

Credit: NBC

Watch: Jimmy Fallon and Bruce Springsteen cover Willow Smith's 'Whip My Hair'

Fallon channels Neil Young, while Bruce channels his younger self

Jimmy Fallon’s hilariously spot-on impersonations of Neil Young had already created a video viral sensation, but for his latest, he was joined by a very special guest.

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<p>Ronni Chasen</p>

Ronni Chasen

Remembering Ronni Chasen: my reflections on a one-of-a-kind publicist

I don’t remember the first time I met Ronni Chasen--it would have been sometime after I moved from New York to Los Angeles to become Billboard’s West Coast Bureau Chief in 1998--but I do know that once she was in my professional life, she was a near constant figure...until Tuesday, when her life came to a devastatingly horrible end after someone fired five bullets into her chest on Sunset Blvd.

Ronni was unlike anyone I’d ever met. She seemed almost like a caricature -- a Broadway Danny Rose of the press world. She was a throwback to what seemed like an earlier time. In a world that now relies on email, she was an old-school press agent whose assistant placed her calls. She pushed relentlessly for her clients, primarily soundtrack composers in my case, and believed in them with an unwavering passion and commitment. She’d come at you--in her rapid fire, nasally voice-- pummeling you with a pitch, but she never held a grudge if you said no. She never wanted to burn a bridge since she knew she’d be crossing it again with another request very soon.

She seemingly knew everyone.  Shortly after I’d moved to Los Angeles, she invited me to the “Message in a Bottle” premiere. We were at the after party and I mentioned I had a huge crush on Kevin Costner, who starred in the film.  Before I could even make sure I still had lipstick on,  she’d marched us both over to Costner. He greeted her with a big hug, and the next thing I knew, she’d introduced us and I stammering out something about how much “Bull Durham” was one of my all-time favorite movies.  She was a fixture at industry events with her dark pants suits, shellacked ash-blonde hair always perfectly in place, and tinted glasses. 

Even though her pitches often left me exhausted, they were always well-informed, and I was tremendously fond of Chasen and found her more endearing than annoying for several reasons. Ronni and her team, including Jeff Sanderson and Alana Kass--were among the most professional publicists I ever worked with. I cannot think of a single time that they pitched me on a story and, if I bit, they did not deliver. Ever. Additionally, in a way that few publicists are these days, Ronni was a  tremendous advocate for her clients. She was always looking for ways to shoehorn them into stories if she couldn’t land a stand-alone feature on them.  She was relentless. If I was on deadline and didn’t pick up her phone call, within the half hour, there would be an email from her, usually dictated to an assistant, explaining the reason for the call.  And then another call. One of the few times she ever got irritated with me is when I went directly to one of her clients for an interview. I got a quick call reminding me that she represented the studio executive. I never went around her again. Unlike with many publicists who act solely as gatekeepers, there was no need to circumvent Ronni.

There’s another reason I’ll always remember Ronni fondly:  After I left Billboard in 2006, she was one of the few publicists who pursued me as vigorously to pitch stories--and to invite me to events--as when I was still at the magazine. She bet on the person, not the position, and as my freelance world expanded, I never forgot the faith she’d shown in me. Our last story together through her company--a feature on Trent Reznor and his score for “The Social Network” --comes out today, Nov. 17, in Variety. 

I also occasionally socialized with Ronni. She, I and two other female friends--a platinum recording artist and a manager with amazing bloodlines-- would go out for dinner.  The reason I mention the other women’s pedigrees, is that even with their illustrious backgrounds, Chasen’s stories topped everyone’s and we loved every minute of it and happily relinquished the floor.  She’d forget about pitching and for a few hours, we’d gab and gossip. Every subject was on the table and off the record. We talked about everything and her ribald, acerbic sense of humor had us in stitches.  I never left one of those dinners without a huge smile on my face and would be chuckling for days afterwards as I’d recall some outrageous story. Ronni had a great book in her that will now never be told.  It’s the dinners I will miss the most.

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<p>Bruce Springsteen</p>

Bruce Springsteen

Credit: Pier Paolo Cito/AP

Reminder: Catch Springsteen's only TV performance to promote 'The Promise'

Artist performs with the Roots tonight on 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon'

New details have emerged on Bruce Springsteen’s appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” tonight, Nov. 16.As we posted last week, "Fallon" will be his only television performance to promote his new boxed set, “The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story,” out today.

Springsteen will bring E Street guitarist Steve Van Zandt and keyboardist Roy Bittan with his performance with the Roots,  “Late Night’s” house band.  The Boss is the only guest booked for the hour, which starts at 12:35 on NBC, and is expected to play two songs.

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<p>The Beatles</p>

The Beatles

Credit: Apple Corp.

Are the Beatles headed to iTunes, finally?

After years of holding out, the Fab Four are joining the digital age, says the WSJ

Apple wants to hold the Beatles’ hands. After years of negotiations, Apple’s iTunes is set to announce the addition of the Fab Four’s catalog to its download service, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Talks have been ongoing between Apple, the Beatles representatives at Apple Corps. (which sued Apple for several years over infringement); and EMI, the owner of much of the Beatles’ catalog. Earlier today, Apple added the following announced to the iTunes homepage: “Tomorrow is just another day that you’ll never forget.” The announcement is set for 10 a.m. EST. 

Maybe we’re reading too much into it, but “just another day,” is, of course, a phrase from “Another Day,” a song added onto the CD version of  Paul McCartney’s “Ram” album. McCartney’s solo material and his work with Wings are already on iTunes.

There are still a number of high profile holdouts when it comes to iTunes, including Garth Brooks, AC/DC and Kid Rock.

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<p>Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda</p>

Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda

Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance set 2011 U.S. tour dates

Are they rocking an arena near you?

Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance will both be hitting the road in 2011 and both bands are offering incentives to fans who purchase tickets early.

Linkin Park, whose album, “A Thousand Suns” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year, will start its 2011 trek Jan. 20 at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla. Also on the bill on various dates are The Prodigy,  Pendulum and Does It Offend You, Yeah.  Fans will be also be able to download a live recording of the show they attend by texting a code from their mobile phones that will change with every concert. For more information, go to www.linkinpark.com.

Fans will have to wait a little longer for MCR’s tour, which starts April 1 at Portland, Ore.’s Roseland Theater.  Registered fans on the band’s website who buy tickets via a presale will receive a free digital copy of the band’s new album, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” which streets on Nov. 22. More details are available at www.mychemicalromance.com/tour.

Dates for Linkin Park’s 2011 tour:

Jan 20 Sunrise, FL @ Bank Atlantic Center
Jan 22 Tampa, FL @ St Pete Times Forum
Jan 23 Atlanta, GA @ Phillips Arena
Jan 25 Detroit, MI @ Joe Louis Arena
Jan 26 Chicago, IL @ United Center
Jan 28 Minneapolis, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
Jan 29 Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
Jan 31 Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
Feb 1 Boston, MA @ TD Garden
Feb 4 New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
Feb 7 Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
Feb 8 Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
Feb 10 Washington DC @ Verizon Center
Feb 11 Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun
with The Prodigy:
Feb 15 Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
Feb 17 Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
Feb 19 Las Vegas, NV @ MGM Grand – Garden Arena
Feb 20 San Diego @ Viejas Arena
Feb 23 Los Angeles, CA @ Staples Center
Feb 25 Salt Lake City, UT @ Energy Solutions Arena
Feb 26 Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center

Dates for My Chemical Romance’s The World Contamination Tour:

1st                                Portland, OR                        Roseland Theatre
2nd                               Vancouver, BC                     Center for Performing Arts
3rd                                Seattle, WA                                     Showbox Sodo
5th                                Edmonton, AB                     Edmonton Event Centre
6th                                Calgary, AB                           MacEwan Hall
8th                                Salt Lake City                    In the Venue
9th                                Denver, CO                           Fillmore
10th                             Des Moines, IA                  Val Air Ballroom
12th                             Minneapolis, MN                  First Avenue
13th                             Milwaukee, WI                       Eagles Ballroom
15th                             Chicago, IL                           Aragon  *
17th                             Cleveland, OH                      House Of Blues
20th                            Montreal, QC                         Metropolis
22nd                            New York, NY                     Terminal 5

5th                                Boston, MA                          House Of Blues
6th                               Philadelphia, PA                  Tower Theater  *
7th                                Sayreville, NJ                         Starland Ballroom
10th                             Washington, DC                   9:30 Club
11th                             Atlanta, GA                            The Tabernacle
17th                             West Palm Bch, FL                         Revolution
18th                            Orlando, FL                           House Of Blues
20th                             Houston, TX                                     House Of Blues **
21st                             Dallas, TX                               House Of Blues **
24th                            Phoenix, AZ                          Marquee

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<p>Michael Jackson's &quot;Hold My Hand&quot;</p>

Michael Jackson's "Hold My Hand"

Listen: Michael Jackson's new track with Akon, 'Hold My Hand'

Is it worthy of the King of Pop?

Has it really to come to this? Michael Jackson, one of the most popular singers of all times, needs an intro like Jason Derulo?

“Hold My Hand,” his collaboration with Akon, opens with an “Akon, MJ” shout-out that instantly dates it and, somehow, cheapens it. However, that’s nothing like the cold-splash-of-water opening line with Jackson singing, in a bit of tragic foreshadowing, “This life don’t last forever.” Who knew that two years later, he would be dead?

That’s the bad news, the good news is the song, the new posthumous Jackson collaboration with Akon, is a sweet tribute to friendship and solidarity when the darkness comes. Its “united we stand, divided we fall” ethos works well. There’s also a bit of a romance theme, if you want to go there, about letting Akon be “your one and only” until the morning comes, but mainly, it’s a salute to being there for each other.

The chorus is redolent of Hootie & the Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand,” embellished with strings and swirls. The song ends with some trademark Jackson hoots and hollers, but, quite frankly, they could have been lifted from any MJ song (like “Man in the Mirror”) over the last 30 years. Jackson and Akon originally began working on the track in 2007. An unfinished version leaked after Jackson's death. The final version opens strong with Jackson, but he resorts to a featured role as the song goes on. It follows another new track, "Breaking News," which radio began playing two weeks ago.

The song, from the Dec. 14 album, “Michael,” is a nice effort, but more in the “Oh, isn’t that sweet” way rather than in any kind of groundbreaking, “we have to have it” way.

Listen for yourself here.

What do you think? Is "Hold My Hand" worthy of the King of Pop?


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