<p>Zac Brown Band</p>

Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown Band, Maroon 5, Santana, Selena Gomez lead new music week

Will any of them be able to topple Linkin Park from the top spot next week?

The sheer volume of releases slows slightly this week from last, but there are plenty of heavy hitters out Sept. 21 including new albums from Zac Brown Band, Maroon 5, Santana, Billy Currington and John Legend.

Zac Brown Band, “You Get What You Give” (Atlantic): The reigning Grammy best new artist winner follows up the double-platinum “The Foundation by continuing with its melange of country, rock, soul and blues that appeals to country and jam fans alike.

Paula Cole, “Ithaca” (Decca): After 2007’s jazz-oriented “Courage,” singer/songwriter Cole returns to her confessional song stylings, this time singing about motherhood, her divorce and finding love again.

Billy Currington, “Enjoy Yourself” (Mercury Nashville): Country singer landed his sixth straight No. 1 with first single, “Pretty Good at Drinking Beer.” The rest of the set follows the upbeat, feel-good tone fun.

Michael Franti & Spearhead
, “The Sound of Sunshine” (Boo Boo Wax/Capitol): Coming off the biggest pop hit of his career, last year’s feel-good ditty  “Say Hey (I Love You),” Franti and Spearhead fill-up their seventh studio album with feel-good tunes inspired by Franti’s recovery from a burst appendix. http://www.hitfix.com/events/michael-franti-and-spearhead-the-sound-of-sunshine

Selena Gomez & the Scene
, “A Year Without Rain” (Hollywood): Disney starlet’s second studio album is off to a strong start with the title track climbing the Hot 100. The music is mainly meant for the teen and tween girl set, but she never panders to her audience.

John Legend & the Roots, “Wake Up” (Sony Music): Legend and the Roots combine to record some of the best-known soul songs from the 60s and ‘70s, all of which share a theme of activism and engagement, including Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes’ “Wake Up Everybody, and Marvin Gaye’s “Wholly Holy.”

Maroon 5
, “Hands All Over” (A&M/Interscope): Adam Levine-led group returns with third album, produced by legendary producer Mutt Lange. It’s another collection of clean, upbeat pop, rock and funk lead by first single, “Misery.” Read review here. r

Methods of Mayhem
, “A Public Disservice Announcement (Roadrunner): Tommy Lee-fronted band releases its second album in 11 years. The songs include demos the band posted online and fans then contributed to  (We’re curious how the songwriting credits look).

, “Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics of All Time” (Arista): Legendary guitarist pairs with the likes of Chris Cornell, Rob Thomas, Chris Daughtry, Gavin Rossdale, Pat Monahan and several others for this set of classic rock guitar tracks such as “Whole Lotta Love,” Sunshine of Your Love” and “Photograph.”

Serj Tankian
, “Imperfect Harmonies” (Reprise): System of a Down’s Tankian’s second solo album is a rock set with elements of electronic and orchestral music. As usual, he doesn’t shy away from politics: “Yes, It’s Genocide” addresses last century’s Armenian genocide by the Turkish.


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<p>&nbsp;The cover of Maroon 5's Hands All Over</p>

 The cover of Maroon 5's Hands All Over

Review: Maroon 5's 'Hands All Over'

Should you get your hands on it?

Ever since Maroon 5 arrived in 2002 with its multi-platinum debut “Songs About Jane,” the group has blended pop, rock and funk in a pleasing, but unedgy fashion. For third album, “Hands All Over” (and its first since 2007’s “It Won’t Be Soon Before Long”) the quintet enlisted producer Mutt Lange, best known for his work with Def Leppard and Shania Twain, who brings a pristine, high-gloss sheen to the band’s already crisp sound.

First single, “Misery,” took some time to grow on me, but the Top 10 hit showcases the best of Maroon 5: nimble, clean playing, catchy choruses and lead singer Adam Levine’s distinctive, high-pitched vocals. As evidenced since  the band’s first hit, “This Love,” Maroon 5’s strength is its light touch. The members’ instruments seem to skip happily over the melodies in a way that some bands would confuse with lack of abiity. Instead, Maroon 5 is canny enough to know what each song needs and brings a fun bounce to the tracks.

The group’s weak point remains its lyrics, which are fairly forgettable, run the gamut from love found, love lost, love found again, and seldom rise about standard pop cliche. (Levine saves the drama for the band’s psycho-sexual videos, some notions of which we wish he’d reserve for his therapist).

Therefore, it’s best to judge Maroon 5 primarily on the songs’ feel and tone and there’s plenty on “Hands All Over” to keep the listener’s toes tapping, including “Stutter,” a nice, breezy shuffler, and “Don’t Know Nothin,’” a catchy, instant earworm of a song that has a bit of a Motown feel. It’s the best thing on the album. There’s nothing here that’s terrible, by any means, but there’s also nothing here that made me crave more Maroon 5.

 For better or worse (and for us, it’s always been better), Lange’s signature is his ability to make a huge, layered pop sound and that is largely absent here, save two tunes. The title track, “Hands All Over”  is a heavy thump of a song that sounds pure Lange with a big kick drum propelling it forward. “How” features a more layered sound that is vintage Lange. Maroon 5 also moves out of its comfort zone--easily so-- on “Out of Goodbyes,” a lovely mid-tempo ballad featuring Lady Antebellum that will work on current country radio as well as AC. Lady A Hilary Scott’s and Levine’s voices blend beautifully together.

Not everything succeeds: other than closing track ‘Out of Goodbyes,” the album runs out of steam after about two-thirds, but it’s an overall strong candidate. Maroon 5 doesn’t reinvent the wheel here, but expands its musical arc just enough to make fans feel like they aren’t buying a rehash of the first two albums. 


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Black Eyed Peas

Will.iam and Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas

Credit: AP Photo

Are the Black Eyed Peas headed to the Super Bowl half-time show?

We handicap the other rumored artists: Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks and Bon Jovi

Are the Black Eyed Peas playing the halftime show at the 2011 Super Bowl? Sports blog Sports by Brooks
wrote today that a source had confirmed the selection to him. The NFL declined to comment, but, as he notes, the Peas have a solid history with the NFL, including performing at the 2005 Super Bowl pre-game and at the 2009 NFL Kick-off Concert.

The last few years, the NFL has relied on veteran acts (and all males) such as The Who, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Prince. The BEP’s Fergie would be the first female to play the half-time since Janet Jackson in 2004. It's a good, mainstream choice that would keep the energy level up and draw in non-football playing fans and men who want to see Fergie.

Rolling Stone chimed in after Brooks’ report showed up and suggested that the Super Bowl may be leaning more in a country direction, quoting Fox Sports president David Hill, who said, “it’s kick-ass country down in Texas.” We’re not so sure he wasn’t speaking geographically, as opposed to musical genre.

Rolling Stone says the rumor mill includes Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks and Bon Jovi. Here’s our take on those three. McGraw: would be great as part of a package, but probably not on his own. Kenny Chesney, who has a new album out this fall, would be a better bet. Bring Jimmy Buffett and Dave Matthews on and now you’re cooking. Brooks: No. Not the right time. First, he and the NFL tussled when he did the “Star Spangled Banner” in 1993. We’re sure that riff is all healed, but Brooks is going to wait until he’s got something new to push and that means waiting until he’s done with his Vegas deal and his youngest is through high school. Look for him to possible do this in January 2015. In fact, if the NFL is smart, go ahead and book him now. Bon Jovi: Great, populist choice. They have a greatest hits coming out this November that is getting a huge worldwide push, so why not give them one of the biggest worldwide platforms. Plus, they can rock the house in a way that works perfectly with football fans. If, as some speculate, the half-time show is for all the non-football fans out there, then that still makes Bon Jovi the perfect choice.

We’re reached out to a representative for Black Eyed Peas and haven’t heard back. We’ll update when we do. 

Who do you want to see perform at this year's Super Bowl half time show? 

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Linkin Park

Linkin Park is back with "A Thousand Songs." Well, not literally...

Does Linkin Park or Trey Songz come out on top of next week's Billboard 200?

Who gets a bump from the MTV VMAs?

Linkin Park’s “A Thousand Suns” has a slight edge over Trey Songz’ “Passion, Pain & Pleasure” for a close battle over No. 1 on the Billboard 200 going into the weekend.

Eminem’s “Recovery” is the only holdover from this week’s chart as six of the top seven slots are filled with newbies. Linkin Park and Songz will both handily top the 200,000 mark, but no other title will even approach 100,000.

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<p>Lady Gaga at the MTV&nbsp;VMAs</p>

Lady Gaga at the MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Music Power Rankings: MTV VMA edition with Lady Gaga and the Biebster

Sara Bareilles, Enrique Iglesias and Florence + the Machine make their debut

Welcome to this week’s Music Power Rankings: the MTV Video Music Awards edition (or at least the first half, anyway). The show drew massive ratings and made instant stars out of Florence + the Machine. Lady Gaga used her VMA platform to repeatedly endorse gay rights and to announce the title of her forthcoming album. Taylor Swift graciously responded---one year later-- to Kanye’s dis at last year’s awards and the Bieb... well, he's starting to make us a Belieber. That’s all we’re saying.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Kelly Rowland</p>

Kelly Rowland

Watch: Kelly Rowland takes off her 'Rose Colored Glasses' in beautiful clip

Will she finally have a new well-deserved pop hit?

To our mind, Kelly Rowland has never gotten the post- Destiny’s Chid mainstream stardom she deserves. Sure, she’s had her moments and experienced strong dance club support, but maybe “Rose-Colored Glasses” will finally do it.

The mid-tempo ballad details a horrible relationship that all her friends don’t see. “They see the lies/I see the truth,” she sings, later adding, “I can’t believe all this time my pain just brought you pleasure.”

The video is mainly a fashion showcase for Rowland instead of any kind of literal telling of the story. She changes outfits and hairstyles about a million times and looks fantastic throughout. We see the villain a few times, but mainly he just glowers at her.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Watch: Lady GaGa talks about new album, 'Born This Way' in concert

She also inserts a metal break in new song, 'You and I'

Fresh off her eight wins at MTV’s Video Music Awards Sunday night, Lady Gaga, revealed details about “Born This Way,” at a concert in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

“It was killing me, I wanted to tell you my new album title so bad... it was almost like I was having trouble coming out on stage. The new album is finished...And I’m so proud of it. You know how I am about everything whether it’s this song. I just get so wrapped up in the ideas and the music and the imagery and what I want to do. I’m living in the new album," she says in the video we found on gagadaily.com.

“I’ve never worked so hard on anything my whole life,” she continues. “I just can’t wait for you to hear it,” describing the creation process as all-consuming.

She then launches into “You and I,” which she debuted in concert earlier this summer. “It’s going to get real heavy in here,” she said, so if so inclined, “you might want to light up a joint about right now,” before quickly adding, “I’m not promoting drug use.”

As you’ll see below, the song has morphed a little from its earlier unveiling, including a crazy part where she plays guitar with her boot.


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<p>Katy Perry</p>

Katy Perry

Credit: Victoria Will/AP

Katy Perry's 'Dreams' stay afloat on the Billboard Hot 100

Who will knock her off the top? Bruno Mars or Rihanna?

Katy Perry’s “Dream” continues as “Teenage Dream,” stays at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the second week in a row. This means she and Eminem have had a lot on the No. 1 spot for the last four months between “California Gurls,” “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna, and now “Dreams.”

Who’s in position to end their stranglehold? It could be Bruno Mars, whose “Just the Way You Are” moves 4-3 on the Hot 100 and into the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Digital Songs chart. The song is also gaining radio listeners which bodes well for its continued ascension, according to Billboard.biz.
Also in contention is Rihanna. Her poppy “Only Girl (In the World” debuts at No. 42 on this week’s chart, but Billboard predicts digital sales of around 200,000 and airplay will propel it into the top 5 and, possibly, No. 1.

Other noteworthy moves on the Hot 100 include Flo Rida’s fifth Top 10 with “Club Can’t Handle Me” featuring David Guetta, which moves  13-9. The track has already sold 743,000 downloads.  Disney cutie Selena Gomez and her group, The Scene, mark their third debut in the Top 40 with “A Year Without Rain,” the first single and title track from her Sept. 21 album.

Michael Buble, coming off his biggest pop hit yet (“Haven’t Met You Yet”), enters the Hot 100 with “Hollywood.” The track, off of the deluxe “Crazy Love Hollywood Edition,” coming Oct. 25, bows at No. 55. “Haven’t Met You Yet” peaked at No. 24.

In a sad note, the death of LFO’s Rich Cronin sends digital downloads of the trio’s biggest hit, “Summer Girls,” soaring. The track, which reached No. 3 in 1999, sees a 502% gain in downloads following his passing.


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BC Jean

Commentary: BC Jean, Clive Davis and the future of pop music

Writer of Beyonce's 'If I Were a Boy,' strikes out on her own

Is BC Jean the future of pop music? Clive Davis would like for you to believe so. The legendary music executive (we have him to thank for artists ranging Patti Smith to Whitney Houston) hosted a party for key music journalists and radio programmers on Monday to introduce us to the spunky newcomer. Davis, whose career spans more than five decades, is founder of Arista Records and J Records, but now holds the title of Chief Creative Office for Sony Music.

Jean’s main accomplishment is penning Beyonce’s lovely “If I Were a Boy”--no small feat considering she just turned 23. Davis believes she has the potential to be the next Alanis Morissette or Pink. He also thinks she can be an artist who sells albums, not just digital downloads.

Before he played five tracks from Jean’s forthcoming debut album, he lamented how Top 40 disenfranchises so many artists. It’s a topic most executives are too afraid to bring up for fear of pissing off programmers, but he’s absolutely right. While Top 40 is opening back up, for the last few years it has been dominated by urban-leaning pop. Trends are always cyclical, but it’s been quite a long cycle with very few rock bands breaking through (remember, we’re talking only Top 40 airplay  here) or male singer/songwriters.

Davis also scoffed at the popular notion that the world no longer needs labels and that an artist can simply disseminate his or her music via the internet and achieve mainstream success. On this point, I agree with Davis. To be sure, there are acts that can make great livings and earn large followings without a label’s assistance, but at some point--for now--they reach a plateau simply because unless they are independently wealthy, they don’t have the money to promote songs to radio or produce professional videos. The landscape has been changing for the past decade, but we’re not to the point where major labels--or labels in general--have become obsolete. Jeff Castalez, who runs Dangerbird Records, best known as home of Silversun Pickups, said it best to the LA Times recently--and we’re paraphasing: instead of only a few skyscrapers (i.e.the four major record companies), we’re morphing to where there are many two-and-three story buildings. In the short term, Davis is absolutely right: to reach the mass mainstream, most artists still need to be signed to a major--or at least to a large indie. There are a handful of exceptions, like Ingrid Michaelson, but they are very rare, and even they often hire major labels for some kind of distribution or other services.

So back to Jean. Davis played tracks written by Jean with such ringers as the Matrix, Max Martin and Ryan Tedder (she also had a co-writer for “It I Were a Boy” in Toby Gad). They were straight-up pop tunes, mainly propelled by a massive beat. Davis is thinking Alanis, I’m hearing Avril Lavigne. First single, “Just A Guy,” which went to radio this week, is a galloping rush of a song that will be catnip to female-oriented Top 40. The other stand-out track was mid-tempo ballad, “Anyone,” which could be her “I’m With You.”

Jean then came out to perform the same songs that Davis had just played us, but the move served two purposes: it started to build familiarity with the material--which is key to any pop tune’s success-- and showed that Jean can deliver. In fact, she sounded better and edgier live in some cases than on the slickly-produced tracks, especially on “Narcissistic  Boys,” which took on a perky, Gwen-Stefani feel live that has been washed out of the recorded version. 

Do we think she’s an album artist? Davis has more knowledge in his pinkie than we have in our whole body, but we don’t think so. If nothing else, Katy Perry’s weak opening album sales for “Teenage Dream” two weeks ago--combined with her tremendously strong digital singles downloads--showed that even loyal followers of a pop artist prefer to buy a la carte on a song-by-song basis. Do we think a year from now “Just a Guy” will have sold 2 million downloads. Yes, we do.

Below is Jean’s first single, “Just a Guy.”

What do you think?


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<p>Jay-Z at Yankees Stadium in New York</p>

Jay-Z at Yankees Stadium in New York

Credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Kanye West, Chris Martin, Beyonce join Jay-Z, Eminem onstage in New York

What did the critics have to say about the Yankess Stadium show?

Chris Martin was there. So were Drake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Swiss Beatz,  Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre. And, oh yeah, Eminem and Jay-Z.

Slim Shady and Hova rolled out the red carpet for guest after guest at the pair’s opening night at New York’s Yankee Stadium, Sept. 13.  Yeah, you know, that gig that Eminem had to leave the MTV Video Music Awards for before he could collect any of his trophies.

It was the third show by the pair, following two gigs earlier this month in Eminem’s home town of Detroit. This time, they were on Jay-Z’s turf.

The New York Times’ Jon Caramanica praised the evening as a whole, but not without reservations:
"In New York, Eminem was no match for Jay-Z’s specificity, the intangible quality that allows songs to resonate more powerfully in one baseball stadium than in another several states away. It’s the thing that makes “Big Pimpin’,” Jay-Z’s most committed foray into the style of Southern hip-hop, actually the soundtrack of New York rap triumphalism."

He went on to call Jay-Z and Beyonce’s take on “Young Love” “dour,” but praised Jay-Z and Coldplay’s Martin’s take on “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” “Most Kings” and “Vida La Vida.”

Of Eminem’s performance, Cararmanica wrote: “Eminem worked hard, a combustion engine vibrating at full throttle, and did an impressive job of making what is essentially deeply technical, deeply insular art appear spacious and arena-worthy.”

The New York Post’s Dan Aguilante was more effusive, calling Eminem “incredible...His raps were fast and clear, and his rhymes hit their targets with a marksman's accuracy. In a way, it's surprising how well Eminem's music worked in a stadium setting. Power raps such as "Stan" and the new "Not Afraid" became unexpected sing-alongs, where the fans sounded like a hired choir."

The Associated Press's Nekesa Mumbi Moody also positively reviewed the show, calling Eminem's portion "impassioned, if imperfect," giving the slight edge to Jay-Z: "For Jay-Z, who has been hip-hop's reigning king for some time now, mingling with rock stars, presidents and baseball champions with ease, Monday's performance only seemed to confirm why he's still one of rap and pop's most engaging figures some 15 years after his debut," she wrote. "He delivered hits like '99 Problems,' 'On to the Next One' and 'Hard Knock Life' with precision, backed by glitzy graphics. He gave West a moment to shine as West rapped his hits 'Power' and "Good Life," and the two brought out Minaj for their buzzed-about new song 'Monster.'"

Even though Eminem and Jay-Z will play Yankee Stadium again tonight in the closing night of their four-date tour, it sounds like Jay-Z summed up Monday night perfectly, telling the audience as the show moved past midnight,  "This is historic: They ain't never gonna be another night like tonight."


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