<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: Joel Ryan/AP

Five ways to improve the Grammys

From the actual show to nominations, things can always get better

The Grammy Awards are doing fine without our help: the 2010 broadcast attracted 25.8 million viewers, which was the show’s best rating since 2004 (by comparison, last year’s Oscars drew 41 million).  But we’re not above making a few suggestions about how the “Music's Biggest Night” can become even better, as well as a few ideas about the nomination process.

1) Bring back a solo host for the Grammy Awards and have the show air live on the west coast. Yes, it’s a thankless task and it’s really hard to find someone who works. But the Grammys moved to Sunday from a week night several years ago in an effort to build an Oscar-like following and make the Grammy Awards an event.  They haven’t achieved that type of status yet, but given how much coverage the Oscar hosts receive and how much debate it causes after the fact, this could be a great way to make folks tune in even if they don’t care who’s up for the top awards. Last year, although not an official host, Stephen Colbert did deliver a monologue of sorts. It makes the evening feel more cohesive. We hear Ricky Gervais has an opening for an awards show host slot. Plus, it you want to be considered a real event, you should air live on the west coast not tape delayed.Hell, even the Golden Globes get that honor.

2)  Revamp the Best New Artist  category...again. It is easier to answer the Sphinx’s riddle than figure out Grammy voting, but we give the Recording Academy credit for its willingness to revamp eligibility requirements when appropriate. For example, last year, after Lady Gaga was deemed ineligible for Best New Artist because she had received a previous nomination for “Just Dance,” the Recording Academy changed the rules so that a previous nomination did not eliminate an artist from Best New Artist (although a win does). Now, the Recording Academy needs to get rid of the requirement that an act must have released an album to be nominated. Both Nicki Minaj and Bruno Mars, who were clear contenders, were ineligible because their debut full-length sets came out after the Sept. 30 cut-off.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Wiz Khalifa</p>

Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa takes the Steelers to the top of the Billboard Hot 100

But who will land the 1000th No. 1 on the chart next week?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss is Wiz Khalifa’s win as his tribute to the Superbowl losers, “Black and Yellow,” soars 4-1 this week on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song marks his first trip to the top of the chart, as he knocks Bruno Mars’ second No. 1, “Grenade” out of the top spot.

Not to talk anything away from Khalifa’s achievement, but all eyes are on next week’s chart, when, if Khalifa doesn’t hold for a second week--which is very unlikely-- the 1000th song in the history of the Billboard 100 will ascend to the top spot. While it’s way too early to tell what song may claim that distinction, it’s looking less like Pink’s “F**kin’ Perfect” will reach the summit, as the song drops to No. 4. A real possibility is Katy Perry’s “Firework.” If her version returns to No. 1, then we’ll have to wait another week for No. 1,000. However, if the “Glee” version comes in at No. 1, that would ring the bell.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Lady Gaga's &quot;Born This Way&quot;</p>

Lady Gaga's "Born This Way"

Reminder: Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' single bows Friday at 6 a.m.

Pre-orders for Target's deluxe album edition with 8 extra tracks starts at 8 a.m

Set your alarms Little Monsters: Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” will premiere at 6 a.m. EST Friday morning on probably every radio station you can possibly imagine except for talk radio. It will be available for purchase starting at 9 a.m. EST.  Earlier this week, Lady Gaga released the cover image of the single, which is a little creepy, quite frankly.

Additionally, Target will exclusively release a deluxe edition of the “Born This Way” album, out May 23. Target’s edition includes three additional studio songs and five remixes.

Fans can pre-order the album starting Feb. 11 at 8 a.m. CST. They will receive a free download of the title track by doing so.

Another friendly reminder: Lady Gaga will perform on Feb. 13's Grammy Awards, airing on CBS at 8 p.m. EST.


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<p>John Mayer</p>

John Mayer

2011 Grammy Predictions: Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance

Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Macca: What's wrong with this picture? A lot

As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting a category a day. Today, we look at best solo rock vocal performance. We picked this category for a very specific reason: we want to rant a little.

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance

“Run Back To Your Side,” Eric Clapton
“Crossroads,” John Mayer
“Helter Skelter,” Paul McCartney
“Silver Rider,” Robert Plant
“Angry World,” Neil Young

Good God, Clapton, McCartney, Plant and Young are legends and it’s great that they are still making vibrant, if not vital, music, but could we please nominate some artists who aren’t card-carrying members of the AARP?  Not that he’s much younger, but what happened to John Mellencamp in this category?

For whatever reason, there are very few solo rock males breaking through in any meaningful way right now. The music space is lousy with pop/R&B-leaning solo males, but most rocking males seem to prefer to be in groups right now rather than go it solo. In fact we just ran through Billboard’s current Rock Songs chart and there is not a single solo male in the Top 25.   Kid Rock’s “Born Free” album came out too late to be considered, but it seems like the first single was out by the Sept. 30 cutoff.  We imagine both Gregg Allman and Amos Lee, who are eligible next year, may show up in 2012.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Justin Bieber at the &quot;Never Say Never&quot; premiere</p>

Justin Bieber at the "Never Say Never" premiere

Credit: AP Photo

Movie Review: Justin Bieber's 'Never Say Never'

Should you say yes to this documentary about his life?

There’s a reason Justin Bieber’s “Never Say Never” is coming out Feb. 11: It’s a big, wet juicy Valentine to his fans...actually, make that a sweet, safe peck on the cheek.

At 16, Bieber is the first teen idol to rise to superstar prominence so ably aided and abetted by social networking. Between his discovery via the internet, where his videos have now surpassed 1 billion total views, and his dedication to Tweeting his seeming every thought, Bieber conducts a near-constant conversation with his fans.

It’s no wonder that, as one of Bieber’s adoring —and adorable— tween fans says in the movie, “I think about him, like, 99% of my life.”

The documentary’s main purpose, other than reinforcing Bieber’s overall puppy-like appeal, is to make the fairly convincing case that there is nothing pre-fabricated about Bieber, unlike with so many teen idols. At two, he exhibited such a natural rhythm by beating his hands on chairs that family friends bought him a tiny drum kit. By the time he was eight, a local benefit was put on to raise money to purchase a full size drum kit. But he wasn’t just drumming; Bieber was singing and teaching himself other instruments, as well.  Soon, he was entering local talent contests in his hometown of Stratford, Canada (population 32,000) and busking on the steps of the Avon Center.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Panic! at the Disco</p>

Panic! at the Disco

Watch: Panic! At the Disco's video for 'The Ballad of Mona Lisa'

Band goes all steampunk to catch a murderer

Something is amiss in Panic! At the Disco-ville. There’s all kinds of chicanery and murder most foul, going on during the video for “The Ballad of Mona Lisa,” the first single from March 29’s “Vices & Virtues.”

The video has absolutely nothing to do with the real Mona Lisa —not unless she’s showing up in an episode of “The Vampire Diaries” where they’re zipped back to to the turn of the century and are all wearing Steampunk clothing and handlebar mustaches.

And, seemingly, it has nothing to do with the song lyrics, which are vague at best and seem to tell the tale of a woman struggling with the guilt surrounding certain decisions she’s made.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>'The Last Play at Shea'</p>

'The Last Play at Shea'

DVD Review: 'The Last Play at Shea' combines the best of the Mets and Billy Joel

Who hits a homerun and who fouls out in doc about the closing days of the stadium

In July 2008, Billy Joel played the last concerts to take place at Shea Stadium before the tired gray, 44-year old facility gracefully retired to make way for the New York Mets new home,  the shiny and bright Citi Field.

The Last Play at Shea,” which comes out on DVD today (Feb. 8) through Lions Gate, attempts to tie together the rise of Shea, the Mets and Joel in a 90-minute documentary that makes its case convincingly at times and not so much at others, but is always entertaining. If nothing else, both the New York Mets and Billy Joel are resiliently scrappy.

Director Paul Crowder, who has helmed  a number of other docs, most notably “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” as well as “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who” and “Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos,” makes superb use of the  wonderful archival footage available. Even the most casual of sports fans knows the story of the historic ’69 Mets, when a black cat ran out in front of the Chicago Cubs’ dugout during the pennant race. The Mets came from behind not only to win the game, but the pennant and the World Series. “Nothing in life is ever like that,” says one commentator.

And, of course, Shea has a rich music history: the first concert at Shea was a little band called The Beatles in 1965 (and again in 1966).  Many others followed, including the Police, The Who and Simon & Garfunkel.

[More after the jump...]

In a little too laborious detail, Crowder details how Shea Stadium came into being after the Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles. Using clever animation, he ties in developer Robert Moses’ expansion of Queens up to bordering Long Island and the simultaneously suburban  suburban development of Long Island. Not so  coincidentally, little Billy Joel’s parents relocated to Long Island during this time. 

Despite the fact that from the get-go, Shea Stadium was by any measure, a white elephant,  the players love for it comes through loud and clear.  As Mets announcer Gary Cohen declares, out of 55,000 seats, only 3-4,000 were any good, but as Darryl Strawberry adds, it was a dump, but “it was our dump.” Player after player, from Tom Seaver to Ron Darling to Mike Piazza share loving, amusing memories of their time at Shea.

As the Mets are building their dynasty,  Joel is creating his. Crowder shows the development of the songs: “Movin’ Out,” is a direct result of Joel and then-wife Elizabeth’s decision to move from New York to Los Angeles to try to get out of an onerous record and publishing deal with Artie Ripp  (Walter Yetnikoff, former president of Columbia Records and one of the music industry’s most colorful characters, almost steals the show when he profanely and hilariously recalls how  Columbia parent CBS bought  Joel out of his initial deal, ultimately giving him back his publishing as a birthday present).  “Piano Man” came from the six months when Joel played in a bar on Wilshire Blvd. during the early ‘70s. The film intersperses archival footage of Joel playing early songs like “The Entertainer” with him playing them at Shea.

The doc also ties in New York City’s bankruptcy and a number of Mets’ disastrous seasons  in the late ‘70s with Joel’s turbulent mid-‘80s, when he discovers that Elizabeth’s brother, who takes over management of Joel after he and Elizabeth divorce (who the hell thought that was a good idea?) absconds with much of Joel’s money. Joel becomes a road warrior to try to make up his lost funds. Those absences, in part, and his increased drinking, lead to his divorce from wife No. 2, Christie Brinkley. Brinkley is featured heavily in the doc as a talking head. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth is not.

The marriage of Joel and the Mets works best when Crowder uses a Joel song to accent  a particularly historical or poignant time in Shea’s history, even though the tune and event are completely unrelated. Two striking examples shine. He underscores the Mets’ amazing victory over the Boston Red Sox (apologies to Sox fans) in game six of the 1986 World Series, when Mookie Wilson’s grounder goes between Bill Buckner’s legs to “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” 

Then, in a heartrending segment, he shows Shea Stadium being used as a staging area for supplies and for first responders following 9/11, as well as the Mets’ extremely emotional return to the field on Sept. 21, 2001 (Mike Piazza’s comments are especially stirring. Sometimes a game becomes much more than just a game).  Crowder plays Joel’s building “Goodnight Saigon,” both the recording and the artist playing it live at Shea in 2008, to score the scene. Troops join Joel on stage for the rousing “We would all go down together” chorus.

Many times it seems as if Crowder is trying to get his arms around way too big a ball by trying to give equal time to the Mets and Joel and Shea. That leads to unwieldy transitions, especially when he brings in the Mets groundskeeper, who just happened to drive the Beatles onto the field in 1965 and is still there to do the same in 2008, when Paul McCartney poetically joins Joel to close the last concert with “Let It Be” and to bring it all full circle.

“The Last Play At Shea” isn’t a home run. It’s more like a triple. But just like America’s favorite past time, it is an extremely pleasurable way to wile away a few hours.

For those who want just the concerts, Columbia Legacy will release “Billy Joel - Live At Shea Stadium” on CD, DVD and Blu-Ray on March 8.


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<p>Katy Perry </p>

Katy Perry

Credit: AP Photo

2011 Grammy Predictions: Best Pop Vocal Album

Lady Gaga and Katy Perry lead race that includes Susan Boyle and Justin Bieber

As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting a category a day. Today, we look at Best Pop Vocal Album, which pits Lady Gaga against Susan Boyle and Justin Bieber. On Friday, we'll look the big four: record, album and song of the year, as well as best new artist.

Best Pop Vocal Album

“My World 2.0,” Justin Bieber
“I Dreamed a Dream,” Susan Boyle
“The Fame Monster,” Lady Gaga
“Battle Studies,” John Mayer
“Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry

Bieber and Boyle share little more than unfortunate hairdos, but that’s part of the schizophrenic nature of this category. We vaguely recall a best traditional pop vocal category in years past that would neatly house acts like Tony Bennett, but that seems to have disappeared, leaving Boyle sticking out like a sore thumb in this category...although we’re sure her defenders would claim she actually is the best singer in the bunch.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Lemmy, of Motorhead</p>

Lemmy, of Motorhead

Motorhead, Cut Copy, 'Now 37' leads slow album release slate

Black Keys' protege Jessical Lea Mayfield and Over the Rhino also have new sets

We don’t want to say it’s another slow week when it comes to major releases because we’ll sound like a broken record. Plus, just because there’s not a potential blockbuster in the bunch doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of tasty sets coming out  Feb. 8. But, for the love of God, would a name that most record buyers recognize please put out an album!  Okay, we’ll calm down now, especially since we know that we that the drought temporarily ends Feb. 22 when Adele releases “21.”

In the meantime, here are Feb. 8’s top treats.

[More after the jump...]

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Adele rolls into the U.S. with a May tour

Concert outing follows release of British singer's second album, '21'

Adele, whose sophomore album, “21,” comes out Feb. 22, embarks on her first full tour U.S. tour in two years on May 12. The  six-week outing starts at Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 club and concludes June 20 at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. The closing date is especially fitting given Adele’s confessed new love of country music. Most country artists consider the Ryman sacred ground.

A pre-sale starts Feb. 9 with tickets on sales to the general public starting Feb. 11.

[More after the jump...]

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