<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: Dan Steinberg/AP

Music Power Rankings: Justin Bieber invites us to his 3D world

Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj also have a great week

Justin Bieber’s released two editions of “My World,” but this weekend we find out it’s really true as Paramount’s “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” opens in more than 3,000 theaters across the U.S.  It will top the box office if it can beat the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston rom-com “Just Go With It.”   The movie is aimed straight at the heart of Beiber’s 7-13-year old female demo, but it very palatable to parents who have to take their kids. Read my review here; my colleague Drew McWeeny’s here.

1) Justin Beiber (not ranked last week): He’s an underdog for best new artist at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, but he may be top dog at the box office this week with “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”

2) Lady Gaga (not ranked): Did you feel the seismic shift at 6 a.m. EST Friday morning as a meteor hit the earth? What? That was just the globe reacting to Momma Monster’s new single, “Born This Way,” as it shot to the top of the iTunes chart. She’s the subject of a “60 Minutes” profile  on CBS Feb. 13 right before she appears on the  Grammys. Yes. It’s all LG all the time from now until “Born This Way’s” May 23 release.

3) Irving Azoff (not ranked): He’s having a good week. Not only does he become chairman of the board of Live Nation Entertainment, LNE buys the remaining stake it did not own in Azoff’s Front Line Management for $116.2 million (which he split with MSG). We’d wager that Azoff is now worth more than WMG, which lost $100 million in shareholder value this week. We know which one we’d feel more comfortable buying stock in.

4) Guy Hands (not ranked): After putting EMI through a few years of turmoil  and a nasty lawsuit with Citi that ended with Citi taking control of EMI, he’s confirmed rumors that he has actually interested in buying back EMI. What’s the definition of insanity? Oh yeah, doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

[More after the jump...]

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Credit: Jason DeCrow/AP

2011 Grammy Predictions: It's Eminem vs. Lady Gaga in album of the year

Who's taking home song, record, album and best new artist of the year?

We’ve been counting down to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards by highlighting a category a day, but today we tackle the Big Four: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.  The entire Grammy voting body can vote for this quartet and they are considered the most precious of the 109 trophies handed out.  There are some surprises in each of the four categories, so hang on tight, here we go.


“Nothin’ On You,” B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars
“Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem featuring Rihanna
“F*** You,” Cee-Lo Green
“Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
“Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum

It just goes to show what a big year it was in pop when it’s easy to come up with at least  four other songs that could have easily been in this category: Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,”  Sade’s “Soldier of Love,” Bruno Mars‘ “Just the Way You Are” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.”
Record of the year goes to the producer, engineer and artist so the criteria is how does the performance sound. For our money, “F*** You” is the best sounding record in the bunch with its razor sharp, bouncy  production, but we have a feeling every award Eminem is up for is his to lose.

The winner: “Love the Way You Lie”


“The Suburbs,” Arcade Fire
“Recovery,” Eminem
“Need You Now,”  Lady Antebellum
“The Fame Monster,”  Lady Gaga
“Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry

At 38, Eminem is the grand old man in this category. That’s quite a change from when Grammy voters usually pick some geezer to slot in here. Clearly missing from this selection is Sade’s first album in 10 years, “Soldier of Love,” which seemed like shoo-in for album of the year when it came out last February.  It could be very telling that Lady Gaga received no nominations for song or record of the year. I’m taking it as a sign that this award is going to “Recovery”: there’s not enough buzz on “The Suburbs,” and voters aren’t going to award a country artist  here two years in a row after honoring Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” last year.

The winner: “Recovery”


“Beg Steal or Borrow,” Ray Lamontagne, songwriter (Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs)
“F*** You,” Cee Lo Green, Philip Lawrence & Bruno Mars, songwriters ( Cee Lo Green)
“The House That Built Me,”  (Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
“Love the Way You Lie,” Alexander Grant, Holly Hafferman & Marshall Mathers, songwriters (Eminem featuring Rihanna)
“Need You Now,” Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

No offense to LaMontagne, but what is he doing here?  “Beg Steal or Borrow”is a fine song, but not worthy of being in this category.  What about Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man” or Sade’s “Soldier of Love?” This award goes to the songwriter(s), so it’s best to think about the song if you heard it with no bells and whistles, played on an acoustic guitar or keyboards. By that standard, it’s new country standard “The House That Build Me,” a simply beautiful and heartwrenching tune.

The winner:  “The House That Built Me”


Justin Bieber
Florence & The Machine
Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

 Neither Nicki Minaj nor Bruno Mars were eligible because they had not yet released an album by the Sept. 30 cut-off.  In one of the biggest snubs of the 2011 Grammys, voters decided they wanted nothing to do with Ke$ha despite her making lots of money for the industry. We take that as a good sign, but then the Grammys overcompensated by putting Esperanza Spalding in here, sending millions of people running to their computer to Google her name. They couldn’t similarly ignore Justin Bieber or maybe they let their kids cast their vote, but his inclusion should come as no surprise given that former teen idols Jonas Brothers were nominated for this award in 2009.  The clear winner is Drake, who had one of the best selling albums of 2010 and stood out in a pack of new urban-leaning pop male artists.

The winner: Drake

Whom do you want to win?

Follow Hitfix for complete coverage of the Grammys Sunday night. I’ll be live blogging the  Grammy Awards starting at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST. We’ll also have red carpet photo galleries and other features for your one-stop shop for all things Grammy.

A look back at our other 2011 Grammy Predictions:

Best solo rock vocal performance

Best Pop Vocal Album

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Best Contemporary R&B Album

Best Short Form Music Video

Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

Best Alternative Music Album



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<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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