<p>Ciara, &quot;Basic Instinct&quot;</p>

Ciara, "Basic Instinct"

Michael Jackson, R.Kelly, Diddy and Crystal Bowersox lead Dec. 14 release slate

Ciara and Tank also weigh in on R&B-heavy week

R&B albums dominate the last major release date before Christmas, as we get new sets from Ciara, R. Kelly, and Diddy Dirty Money. Plus, a posthumous Michael Jackson set arrives for the holidays, as does the major label debut from "American Idol" runner up Crystal Bowersox.

Crystal Bowersox, “Farmer’s Daughter” (19 Recordings/Jive): Season 9 “American Idol” runner-up shows off her singer/songwriter chops by penning 10 of the 12 songs on her Jive debut. Read review here.

Greyson Chance, “Waiting Outside the Lines” (ElevenEleven/Guy Oseary/Geffen): In case you can’t wait for his full-length album next year, high school kid who caused an YouTube sensation with his cover of Lady GaGa’s “Paparazzi” puts out three songs just in time for Christmas, including, of course, “Paparazzi” and first single, “Waiting Outside the Lines.”

Ciara, “Basic Instinct” (LaFace): It’s barely been a year since her last album, “Fantasy Ride,” but the R&B/pop singer is already back. First single, “Ride,” came out way back in April, and two other singles have already hit radio. In her official bio, she explains her motivation:  “Ultimately, Ciara hopes to set herself and her family up so they never have commercial concerns. Planning for tomorrow, Ciara focuses on handling her business today. I talk to my team, I say, “We got to get that money’.” It’s up to you whether you want to help her out or not.

Diddy Dirty Money, “Last Train to Paris” (Bad Boy/Atlantic):
It’s P Diddy and two female singers plus a train-load of his famous friends on his fifth studio album. See if you can find them buried underneath contributions from Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Lil wayne, Drake and nearly a dozen more. Four tracks on the set, which Diddy describes as “electro-hip-hop-soul-funk,” have already been released, including R&B hit “Hello Good Morning” featuring T.I.

Michael Jackson, “Michael” (Epic): MJ’s first posthumous album filled with all previously-unreleased treats. The work spans from way back to the “Thriller” era up to shortly before his 2009 death. Producers Akon and Teddy Riley are among those who completed the 10 tunes.

R. Kelly, “Love Letter” (Jive): Kelly shows off his romantic side on this set, inspired by such influences as Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. First single, “When a Woman Loves,” received a Grammy nomination for best traditional R&B vocal performance.

Leona Lewis, “The Labyrinth Tour: Live from the O2,” (J): British thrush’s light has dimmed Stateside slightly, but not her voice. It remains strong and vibrant on this live set from London’s O2 arena.

Tank, Now or Never” (Atlantic):
His switch from Blackstreet to Atlantic slowed the release of the R&B singers for a hot minute, but he’s back with a suite of sexy tunes. Clothing optional.

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<p>Crystal Bowersox, &quot;Farmer's Daughter&quot;</p>

Crystal Bowersox, "Farmer's Daughter"

Album Review: Crystal Bowersox's 'Farmer's Daughter'

Does the 'American Idol' runner up sow the seeds for success?

American Idol” has been going through growing pains lately. Ratings for the past season were down, they’re rearranging judges and, in the most obvious sign of viewer fatigue, albums from contestants are sinking like a stone.

The most obvious casualty is Season Nine winner Lee DeWyze, whose “Live It Up,” has sold less than 70,000 in its first three weeks and is falling fast. Does a similar fate await runner up Crystal Bowersox with her debut, “Farmer’s Daughter” out Dec. 14?

Hopefully not because it deserves better, although we say that we some reservations. There are some fine tracks on here-- just enough to make me wish that the album were stronger than it is because there is promise as Bowersox attempts to show us she is a singer/songwriter worth taking seriously. Bowersox has a lovely voice and can belt at times. She wants to follow in the footsteps of her idols Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge, but, unfortunately, she has none of their natural grit. There are also a number of misfires that prevent the album from being all it could be.

The album opens with  “Whatever happened to good old rock and roll,” the first line of the catchy “Ridin’ With the Radio.”  She goes on to sing “The shit that they play now, it just don’t feel like it should.” Suggestion No. 1: when you’re a new artist, it might be smart to not piss off the radio folks that you’re hoping will play your music right from the start.  I’m sure the intent was to be all rebellious and declare her authenticity because she’s got a song (“Ooh, look how edgy Crystal is!”) and she’s going to just sing it, but the minute she appeared on “American Idol,” she showed a certain willingness to play the game.

[More after the jump...]

Another issue is sequencing. When the second song on the album is a cover of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” that sends out a bit of distress signal that there wasn’t enough strong glue to hold the album together. On a debut, you pull out a cover like that for the last position on the album or a bonus track. I could be wrong, but there seems to be no connection between Bowersox and the song--she didn’t perform it on “AI.”  It’s an odd choice for an album that is  intensely self-reflective.

Indeed, “Farmer’s Daughter” is a treasure trove of confessions and personal moments: she even includes “Mason” here, a song she and her husband sang to each other at their October wedding.  Bowersox wrote eight of the songs by herself and co-wrote two others. She has moments of strong songcraft, such as on the top-tapping delightful “Lonely,” a bouncy track that sounds straight off a Sugarland album. She also sings of the terrible abuse she suffered and this is where there seems to be the biggest disconnect. On the title track (and first single), she sings “When you broke bones, I told the school I fell down the stairs.”  A recounting of such a horrible, intolerable childhood should evoke a much stronger, punch-in-the-gut response than it does, but because it’s delivered like every other line in the song, it doesn’t.

And that’s the ultimate problem with “Farmer’s Daughter.”  To Bowersox and producer David Bendeth’s credit, this album sounds exactly like the album she wanted to make and yet, oddly,  the emotional connection to the songs just isn’t there. I don’t think we’re going to have Bowersox coming back in six months saying she didn’t get her way on here (despite the presence of a Kara DioGuardi/Chad Kroeger song that doesn’t add anything to the album). The album is folkie in spots where it should be, bluesy when Bowersox clearly wants it to be, such as on “Speak Now” (not to be confused with Taylor Swift’s song and track of the same name), and pure pop when it should be. There’s nothing on here that doesn’t sound authentically hers, and yet none of it resonates the way it should. Here’s hoping she gets another chance because there’s talent her, but just like any farmer knows, every crop develops in its own time and maybe the songs here were harvested a bit too soon.

<p>Susan Boyle</p>

Susan Boyle

Credit: ABC

Can T.I. knock Susan Boyle out of the top slot in the Billboard 200?

'Tis the season for holiday albums to dominate the chart

Just as she owned the charts this time last year, Susan Boyle continues her reign at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week, as “The Gift” is poised to sell up to 270,000, according to Hits Daily Double. The fall’s other It girl, Taylor Swift, continues to sell briskly surpassing the 200,000 mark to land at No. 2, while “Glee’s” Christmas album and Jackie Evancho’s “O Holy Night”  are in a dead heat for No. 3

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<p>Carrie Underwood</p>

Carrie Underwood

Credit: Matt Sayles

Music Power Rankings: Train rolls to the top

What is The Doors' Jim Morrison doing on the list?

Four year ago, Train had run off the rails. The band was on an extended hiatus of undetermined length, possibly forever. But during that break, the three key members, Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood, began to miss each other, and, moreso, the music they created together. They switched management companies, changed up some other key behind-the-scenes personnel, but, more importantly, altered their attitude and focused on the pluses of being together, rather than the minuses. The result?  Not just a comeback single,but “Hey Soul Sister” is the top-selling tune of the year for iTunes. That means it sold more than any song by Katy Perry, Eminem, Rihanna or Ke$ha, all of whom got the lion’s share of the attention. Not only that, according to Billboard, “Hey Soul Sister” is the only song by a rock band to land in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 all year.

1) Train (last week, not ranked): “Hey Soul Sister” sells a staggering 4.6 million downloads. Clearly many people feel “a game show love connection” to “Sister.”

2) Carrie Underwood (not ranked): She’s crowned the big winner——with six trophies, or guitars as the case may be here---at the inaugural American Country Awards. If an artist wins an award on a barely seen awards show does it still count?

3) Class of 2011 (not ranked): What do Neil Diamond, Alice Cooper, Tom Waits, Dr. John and Darlene Love all have in common? They are the inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2011, according to Hits Daily Double--although the official announcement doesn't come out until Wednesday. See Alice, school is never really out.

4) Jim Morrison (not ranked): Nearly 40 years after his death, The Doors front man has been pardoned by the state of Florida, cleared of his indecent exposure charge from a 1969 concert. Wherever he is, the Lizard King is laughing his ass off.

5) Aretha Franklin (not ranked): The Queen of Soul, and simply one of the most powerful voices and forces in music for five decades, is diagnosed with cancer. Sending her nothing but get well wishes.

6) Doug Morris (not ranked):  Once Lucian Grange took over, some folks were all too ready to put the UMG chief out to pasture, but it looks like he will find yet another life as CEO of Sony Music--in his 70s. If it comes to pass, that means he’s headed three of the four major record companies: Warner Music Group, UMG and Sony.

7)  Barry Weiss (No. 4) : As Morris possibly comes to Sony, the talented Weiss leaves to go to UMG. Will he take a bevy of Jive artists with him as soon as he’s able?

8) Spotify (not ranked): The ad-supported streaming service, already big in Europe, announces that it won’t launch in the U.S. by year’s end as had been planned. Whether Spotify is ever able to make a go of it in the U.S. remains to be seen but it has made the industry sit up and seriously pay attention to ad-supported and subscription models in a way, after other players have failed. 

9) Susan Boyle (not ranked): You may not listen to her-- and radio barely plays her-- but someone sure as hell is. For the second straight holiday season, she’s dominated the charts. She is “The Gift” that keeps on giving.

10) Howard Stern (not ranked): He tells listeners that he has re-signed with Sirius XM. Sources say the five-year contract will pay the King of All Media for $400 million or as the Daily Beast broke it down: $2,008/minute on the air.

<p>Train</p>

Train

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Hey, guess who has the top-selling single on iTunes in 2010?

Which two artists land two songs in the top 10?

“Hey Soul Sister,” Train’s comeback single, brought the San Francisco band back in a big way: so big that the finger-snapping song was the top-selling tune on iTunes in 2010, according to the music download service.

“Sister” sold a staggering 4.6 million copies.

Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg snagged second place, while Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna came in third (Eminem’s “Recovery” was the top selling album on iTunes, as it was at retail in general.

Rounding out the top 10 are B.o.B’s “Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams,  Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite,” Usher’s “OMG,” Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart” featuring Ludicris,  Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and Eminem’s “Not Afraid.”


 

<p>Michael Jackson</p>

Michael Jackson

Watch: Michael Jackson and Akon's video for 'Hold My Hand'

The King of Pop makes a few cameos

How do you create a music video for a song by an artist who’s dead? If said artist is Michael Jackson, there’s a wealth of footage to glean from so why is there so little footage of Jackson in the new video for the clip for “Hold My Hand,” his duet with Akon?

Instead, the director focused on children dancing, which is cute to be sure, as well as people in various stages of duress looking skyward and lots of shots of, you got it, hands...and, oddly enough, Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (watch until the end for a weird shot there). There are also babies and seemingly hundreds of MJ fans releasing balloons in his honor. Akon always gets his due, as he’s shown singing in front of a white screen.

In other words, it’s a montage of images, coming very quickly at you throughout the mid-tempo ballad.  The theme follows the lyrics: life is much better and easier if you have someone’s hand to hold. There’s no disputing that message and it’s nice that the director didn’t resort to cliches of only couples holding hands. We just wish they’d thrown in more Michael than the obligatory shots shown here.

Sadly, all the pretty images, nice photography and cute kids can’t save the song, which is like warmed-over Justin Bieber-meets-Hootie-and-the Blowfish.

“Hold My Hand” is featured on “Michael,” which comes out Tuesday.
 

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<p>Adele</p>

Adele

Watch: Adele's 'Rolling in the Deep' music video

Maybe you can explain it to us

There are bad things going on in Adele’s house. Dishes, lots of them, are being thrown, there’s a renovation project gone horrible wrong,  and there’s some demented court jester writhing around in a room filled with white powder. And that’s just the first minute of the video for “Rolling in the Deep.”

Then there’s a model of a miniature city, the buildings erected all in white, that goes up in flames as further symbolic proof that all has gone wrong.  (Or maybe it stands for the fire that has started in Adele’s heart). Our favorite are the seemingly thousands of water-filled glasses trembling along to the bass beat. It’s a great visual that does seem matched to the line about finally seeing everything “crystal clear.”

Having said that, I have absolutely no idea what this video is about. It’s abstract as they come. Adele sits in a chair never rising as she sings, oblivious to the destruction going on in the other rooms. We don’t know why the jester’s scenes are shot in black and white. Maybe it’s just an artistic choice or maybe it means something much more. Sometimes there’s no need to have a linear storyline and this video proves it. It’s compelling and fascinating in a kind of “Hmmm, am I supposed to understand this?” way. I hope the answer is no, I’m not.

What do you think the video is about?

 



 

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<p>A Day to Remember</p>

A Day to Remember

A Day to Remember, New Found Glory set to rock Bamboozle Music Festival

Festival also features Boys Like Girls, Waka Flocka Flame and more

It’s still five months away, but mark your calendars for April 29-May 1 for the Bamboozle Festival.

The three-day event, which takes place at the new Meadowlands Stadium, Rutherford, N.J., will feature A Day to Remember, Boys Like Girls, New Found Glory with Marky Ramone, Circa Surviva, Waka Flocka Flame, Streetlight Manifesto, Forever the Sickest Kids, LMFAO, Ryan Cabrera, Senses Fail, The Ready Set and RX Bandits. More artists will be added.

The festival, which launched in 2003, is one of the first mega-artist on the 2011 slate, preceded only by Indio, Calif’s Coachella, which will be held April 15-17.  Bamboozle runs the same weekend as Coachella’s country cousin, Stagecoach.

New to Bamboozle next year will be The Temple of Boozle,  a stage featuring DJs, including Super Mash Bros. and Wait What.  The B-Boy Battle’s breakdancing competition returns, as does The Break Contest, a talent search.

Three-day early-bird passes are on sale now for $99 through www.thebamboozle.com.


 

<p>Katy Perry in &quot;Firework&quot;</p>

Katy Perry in "Firework"

Katy Perry's record-setting run sets off 'Firework' on the Billboard Hot 100

Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Florence + the Machine also have cause for celebration

Katy Perry just scored a hat trick. As “Firework” powers its way to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100  this week, she becomes the first female artist in more than a decade to take three consecutive singles from one album to the top.

“Firework” follows “California Gurls” and “Teenage Dream” to the summit. All three appear on Perry’s second album, “Teenage Dream,” which garnered an Grammy nomination for album of the year last week.

She beats a record set by another current Grammy nominee, Monica. The R&B singer took “The Boy is Mine” featuring Brandy, “The First Night” and “Angel of Mine” to the top spot over an eight-month span starting in June 1998, according to Billboard.

In other Hot 100 news, Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” switches places with “Firework,” slipping 1-2. Rihanna sees a surge with “What’s My Name” rising 5-3, giving women the top 3 slots, while her “Only Girl (In the World) moves 3-6.

Although the Black Eyed Peas’ “The Beginning” starts its Billboard 200 run at a disappointing No. 6, first single “The Time (Dirty Bit)” continues its rise, leaping 9-4. Rounding out the top 5 are Grammy wunderkind Bruno Mars, whose “Grenade” continues to blow up, soaring 10-5.  His “Just the Way You Are” falls 4-7.

Ke$ha’s former No. 1, “We R Who We R,” tumbles 6-8. Coming in at No. 9 is Nelly’s “Just a Dream,” down one from last week; and Trey Songz’ “Bottoms Up” featuring Nicki Minaj creeps back into the top 10, inching up 11-10.

As new entries slow to a trickle through the holidays, the top debut belows to—who else— the cast of “Glee.” New Dimension’s version of Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” bows at No. 22, leading the four other “Glee” Hot 100 entries this week. “Glee’s” cover also helps lift Flo’s original 58-21.

<p>Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear</p>

Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear

Interview: Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste reveals plans for the next album

When can we expect the follow-up to 2009's revered 'Veckatimest?'

Grizzly Bear, whose 2009 album, “Veckatimest” topped many best-of lists, will head back into the studio early next year, according to the Brooklyn-based band’s frontman Ed Droste.

“We’ll start writing after Christmas,” Droste tells Hitfix. “We just finished our last show in October. We thought maybe we can pretend we’re not in a band for three months and hopefully not be in a bus or a plane.”

With that mission almost accomplished, Droste says he and his Bear mates — guitarist Daniel Rossen, bassist Chris Taylor, and drummer Christopher Bear — will “start dipping our toes into a writing process and see where that takes us. We want everything to just happen.”

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