Listen: Jennifer Hudson's new single 'Where You At'

Listen: Jennifer Hudson's new single 'Where You At'

Former 'American Idol' gets help from R Kelly on first song from 'I Remember Me'

Jennifer Hudson may be skinny now, but that doesn’t mean all her troubles are over— just listen to her new single, “Where You At,” from her second album “I Remember Me.”  Sounds like she lost an additional 160 pounds of excess weight since she’s just been ditched by her man.

Or as she more poetically puts it: “I went to sleep in the cloud and woke up in the dirt/ Said you’d be my hero/but as it turns out you were a no show.”

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<p>Manson girls and the Doobie Brothers</p>

Manson girls and the Doobie Brothers

Credit: AP Photo

Music on Main Street with the Manson Girls, the Doobie Bros. and Low Anthem

Things from from weird to wonderful at Sundance

PARK CITY — Our Monday started off on a weird note, even for the “anything-can-happen-at-Sundance” vibe.
There is a new movie coming called “Manson Girls.”  Directed by Susanna Lo, the drama is about several of the women who followed murderer Charles Manson. Included in the cast is Monica Keena, who plays Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Laura Harring (Alice Rainer), Heather Matarazzo (Sadie Atkins), Jennifer Landon (Mary Brunner), Tania Ramonde (Leslie Van Houten) and Taryn Manning (we don’t whom she plays).

It turns out that two members of the Doobie Bros., John McFee and Guy Allison, wrote the theme to the movie, so someone thought it was a good idea to bring them all together in Park City and webcast the gals and the two Bros. playing some classic rock together.  The media event kicked off with McFee and Allison playing some cues they’ve written for the movie, which were appropriately dark and ominous. Then things got weird. Matarazzo came out to join them for the Beatles’  “Sexy Sadie.” It sounds like a smart move given Matarazzo is playing Sadie. However, Matarazzo looked panic-stricken. She greeted us with “Hi fuckers, you ready?,” then grabbed the mic stand with both hands and held on with a death grip, staring upward the whole time and sang as if she would rather be having root canal without novocaine. In her defense, the room was the size of a postage stamp and the closeness to the audiences would have daunted the most experienced of singers. She sounded decent, but she sang so softly that the band totally overpowered her. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was over, not because she can’t sing, but because she seemed so damn uncomfortable.

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<p>Iron &amp; Wine's Sam Beam</p>

Iron & Wine's Sam Beam

Jan. 25 release slate brings new Iron and Wine, Talib Kweli and Wanda jackson

Amos Lee and Cold War Kids also bring new sets

As January draws to a close, bringing with it some of the slowest sales weeks we’ve seen since the 1991 dawn of the Nielsen SoundScan era, we end the month with a slate of tasty critical releases. However, none are likely to stoke the chart fires.  Jan. 25 brings new sets from Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson (with a little help from Jack White), Corrine Bailey Rae, Talib Kweli,  Iron and Wine and Gang of Four’s first set in 14 years.

Corinne Bailey Rae, “The Love EP” (Capitol): British songstress is all about amore on this five-song covers set that includes her takes on Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover,”  Wings’ “My Love” and first single, “Is This Love,”  the Bob Marley song, not the Whitesnake one.

Carolina Chocolate Drops, “Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii” (Nonesuch): North Carolina string band combined with the New York City gypsy outfit Luminescent Orchestrii for this 4-song EP.

Cold War Kids, “Mine Is Yours” (Downtown): Third set from Long Beach, Calif.-based band moves it further into the mainstream  and away from its quirky beginnings as they work with Jacquire King, best known for producing Kings of Leon and Modest Mouse.

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Now That's What I Call Music 37 includes Eminem, Katy Perry, Kesha and more

Companion album offers 'new classics' from Susan Boyle, Michael Buble and Colbie Caillat

On Feb. 8, we get not only the 1,285th edition of “Now That’s What I Call Music!” (actually, it’s No. 37),  but a new companion title, “Now That’s What I Call the Modern Songbook,” which features adult contemporary hits and titles that weren’t solid radio hits, but the labels hope you’ll want anyway.

This quarter’s “Now That’s What I Call Music” includes major hits from Eminem, Bruno Mars, Pink and more. The developing artists on the collection are Greyson Chance, whom you will recall, is signed to Lady Gaga’s label.

The “Modern Songbook,” includes such “newclassics,” as the label describes them (we think that’s really reaching, plus it’s an oxymoron), as Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” and Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly,” which is neither new, nor a classic. Okay, we’ll admit we woke on the wrong side of the bed today and just provide the track listing for the two albums below.

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Watch: Avril Lavigne's video for 'What the Hell'

Watch: Avril Lavigne's video for 'What the Hell'

She's a girl gone mild in the product-filled video

In Avril Lavigne’s new endorsement fest, uh, we mean video, for “What The Hell,” she’s a girl gone mild. She wants to be a bad girl, but, quite honestly, she just doesn’t seem to have it in her, despite declaring that all she wants to do “is mess around.” But we will say, she seems to have mad basketball skillz.

We know discussing plot points and suspension of disbelief in videos is really pointless, but the thrust of the song is she’s cheated on her boyfriend. We never get any hint of that here, since she wakes up with him and ends up back in bed with him at the end. Instead we get a romp that begins when she pushes him out of her apartment right after spraying on one of her two perfume lines. Maybe he’s upset that she steals a NY taxi for a joyride and then joins a pick-up basketball game before running to a boutique that, coincidentally, happens to sell her Abbey Dawn line of clothing. What are the chances of that?

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<p>Carole King</p>

Carole King

Music on Main: Lou Reed and Carole King concerts liven up Sundance

The two Rock & Roll of Hall of Famers appear two event documentaries

PARK CITY—Lou Reed and Carole King are both 68. They both have been inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Both have movies at Sundance: King and touring partner James Taylor are the pivots for “Troubadours,” while Reed is here with “Red Shirley,” a documentary about his aunt. And both played here on Jan. 23.

But that would be where the similarities end. Reed played at one of Sundance’s hottest tickets, the annual Celebration of Music in Film, while King performed at a party at Cicero’s (dubbed The House of Hype during Sundance) to celebrate “Troubadours.”

Reed opened with “Ecstasy,” the title track to his 2000 concept album. Accompanying himself on electric guitar and with a sideman in piano and synthesizer, he delivered a wonderfully nuanced version of the song. Of course, part of the irony of the droning tune is how mournful it sounds, in direct contrast to its title.

He then delved back almost 30 year for 1982’s “The Blue Mask.” As with so many of Reed’s songs, the harrowing lyrics are startlingly cinematic, with the lyrics creating fully-developed scenes.

Reed lightened it up a bit with The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Sticking With You,” as well as “Small Town,” from Reed and John Cale’s “Songs for Drella.”  His delved back into “Ecstasy” for “Rock Minuet,” a gritty look at a troubled son that includes the hard-to-forget lines “In the back of the warehouse were a couple of guys/they had tied someone up and sewn up their eyes/ and he got so excited, he came on his thighs.”

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<p>K'Naan performs at the World Cup in June.</p>

K'Naan performs at the World Cup in June.

Credit: AP Photo

Hitfix Interview: K'Naan talks about working with Glen Hansard for his new album

Somalian-Canadian rapper indulges in a little 'Wavin' Flag' at Sundance

PARK CITY—Somalian-Canadian rapper/singer K’Naan has recorded with everyone from Mary J. Blige and Keane to Maroon5’s Adam Levine and Nas and Damian Marley. Although he’s   a star in Canada, where he won artist and songwriter of the year at the 2010 Juno Awards, he remains best known in the U.S. for “Wavin’ Flag,” the Coca-Cola anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, that was a massive hit around the world.

Though some of the attendees at the ASCAP Cafe at Sundance here may not have known of K’Naan before his electrifying performances Jan. 22 and 23, there was no doubt they were fans after experiencing his spellbinding, riveting show.

K’Naan’s songs are glorious exclamations about life in all its often wretched beauty. He may start a song, such as “Take A Minute,” crooning as beautifully as Otis Redding, before the tune becomes breathtaking spoken-word poetry that ties in Mandela and other political inspirations. “Somalia,” about his home country that he left as a boy, details the horrors wrought on his native land from war, starvation and drugs and how the world largely turned a blind eye.

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<p>The cover of 'The King is Dead' by The Decemberists</p>

The cover of 'The King is Dead' by The Decemberists

The Decemberists have a good January on the Billboard 200

Will they sell enough to debut at No. 1?

It may be January, but it’s the Decemberists’ month. The group’s new set, “The King is Dead,” shows the band is very much alive as it is set to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week.

The title will sell upwards of 75,000 copies, which is almost twice as many copies as Cake sold this past week to land in the top spot, according to Hits Daily Double. As you recall, Cake’s “Showroom of Compassion”  is No. 1 this week with the lowest tally ever, around 42,000, to ever land an act at the summit.  Not only will it be the Decemberists’ first No. 1 album, it tops sales of its last album, 2009’s “The Hazards of Love,” by a mile. That set debuted at No. 14, selling 19,000 copies. Read our review of "The King is Dead" here.

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<p>Harry Belafonte</p>

Harry Belafonte

Credit: Victoria Will/AP

Hitfix Interview: Harry Belafonte and his harsh words for Barack Obama

The star of new doc, 'Sing Your Song,' also takes on today's artists

PARK CITY - One of the most stirring documentaries making the rounds at the Sundance Film Festival this year is “Sing Your Song,” a film about the life of Harry Belafonte. While the movie traces his musical career, its focus is his life-long role as a civil rights leader and humanitarian and as someone who has never feared speaking truth to power. It shows him walking side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr., gently chiding the Kennedys for dragging their feet in supporting civil rights, rebuking Bill Clinton for his actions in Haiti, and celebrating Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

His actions have come at a cost:  the FBI spied on him relentlessly and ultimately broke up his first marriage. He’s been chased by the Ku Klux Klan and threatened many times.

We got a chance to talk with Belafonte at Sundance in one of the few interviews he conducted. We also spoke with his daughter, Gina, who co-produced “Sing Your Song,” and the film’s director, Susanne Rostock. They said they are fielding many offers for the picture and they’d like for it to have a theatrical as well as television run, but ultimately, their goal is to have the movie used as a teaching tool in schools about the Civil Rights movement and power of the individual to make a difference.  As Gina Belafonte says, “We want it to be everywhere.”

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<p>'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'</p>

'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Review: 'The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975'

What can Swedish footage from that time teach us about our own country?

“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975”  has a powerful opportunity to teach us something about our American past, but the film, which had its world premiere at Sundance Jan. 21, needed a stronger guiding hand and voice to reach its full potency.

The documentary is crafted around footage shot by Swedish journalists from 1967-1975 as they attempted to understand the Black Experience in America.  The 16mm material, which surfaced 30 years later, and director Goran Olsson uses it as the basis for his 96-minute film.

The footage veers from produced pieces that aired on Swedish television to talking head interviews with blacks about their daily living experiences in places like Harlem, as well as film of civil rights leaders and activists coming to Sweden.

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