<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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<p>Eminem and Rihanna at the 2010 MTV&nbsp;VMAs</p>

Eminem and Rihanna at the 2010 MTV VMAs

Credit: MTV

MTV Video Music Ratings soar a staggering 33% bolstered by Eminem, Lady GaGa and Kanye West

Biggest winner? Florence + the Machine

Proving it really doesn't matter how horrible the host is, Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards drew this ceremony’s highest ratings since 2002.

Roughly 11.4 million viewers watched at least a portion of the 2-hour show, which was hosted by Chelsea Handler and featured performances by Eminem, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Kanye West and others.  That makes the 2010 VMAs the third most-watched program in MTV’s 30-year history, according to MTV. Even though Lady GaGa didn't perform, she was the evening's big winner and received prominent stage time.

Handler's hosting duties have been widely panned by the media, including us here and here.

The ratings were up a staggering 33% in the key 12-34 demo. This is the fourth year the VMA ratings have surpassed the previous year.

Immediately reaping benefits were Florence + the Machine, whose performance of “Dog Days are Over” was a highlight of the show and many people’s first exposure to this British outfit led by Florence Welch. By Monday morning, the band's album “Lungs” had jumped to No. 2 on iTunes and digital download sales were up 275%.


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<p>Neil Finn</p>

Neil Finn

Credit: AP

Live Review: Crowded House's Neil Finn at Largo

We're dreaming it's not over

It’s rare that an artist can hold an audience’s attention for two hours alone on stage, it’s rarer still that an artist can do so with a show composed totally of obscure tunes some of which he couldn’t even remember.

But Neil Finn is that rare an artist. Best known as co-founder of Crowded House, the New Zealander took advantage of being in Los Angeles as the end of the group’s U.S. tour to stop at Largo for two sold-out nights, Sept. 11-12.

“Our boyfriend is back,” said the club’s proprietor by way of introducing Finn, who’s achieved something of a favorite son status at the 250-seat (or thereabouts) theater for his relatively common stops at the venue.

The affection is clearly returned by Finn, who commented many times on how much he loved the room and its pristine sound. Indeed, there was no hiding place as Finn ran through tunes that spanned his time in Crowded House, Split Enz, as a solo artist and with his brother, Tim, as part of The Finn Brothers.  He even trotted out the first song he wrote, at 14, noting, “it was the first time I got stoned and drunk the same night.”

“I’m going to whiz through a lot of songs I never really play,” he told the adoring crowd. At one early point, he played what sounded like the opening chords to Crowded House’s breakthrough U.S. hit, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” As the audience responded by bursting into applause, he laughed and said, “It’s not what you think. There’s none of those whatsoever tonight.”

He opened with the Finn Bros.’ track “Only Talking Sense,”  a song that is as good as any to dissect Finn’s tendency toward lyrics that address fears and the inability to confront them, often leaving the protagonist paralyzed and unable to move forward or back.  How many other writers pen lines like “Anytime’s” “I could go at any time/There’s nothing safe about this life.”

Finn’s other main construct is his undeniable, lush romanticism. He’s far too talented a songwriter to resort to simplistic “I love yous.” Instead he intimately declares, “I’m the one who reads your mind,” on the wistful “Wherever You Are.”

Often the two themes converge, such as on Split Enz’ gorgeous “One Step Ahead”: “If I stop I could lost my head/But I’m ready for romance/Either way I’m confused/I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” On “Step,” Finn was accompanied by  producer/composer and his good friend Jon Brion, who, himself, plays at Largo on Friday nights.

Melodically, Finn is a Beatles disciple, with tunes staying well within pop confines, but rarely succumbing to cliche or laziness.

At 52, Finn is still boyishly handsome and playful, his bangs falling across his forehead as he frequently checked his play list on the floor. At first, it seemed as if he may be consulting lyrics, but it became apparent that was not the case when he endearingly needed the audience’s help a number of times remembering the words to such songs as Split Enz’ “Missing Person.”

If Finn seems not to have aged, his warm voice has weathered slightly and he struggled with some notes, but the huskiness suited him well on such tunes as Crowded House’s “Never Be the Same.” A little hoarseness aside, Finn still has a beautiful ability to negotiate challenging intervals on many songs.

For his encore, Finn returned with his computer in hand and his brother, Tim, on Skype from Auckland, NZ.  In something that seemed like a modern day “Max Headroom,” he put a mike up to the computer, Tim's head filling the screen, and the two attempted to navigate through “Weather With You” together (his one concession to playing a hit). It was a somewhat glorious mess made all the sweeter by Finn egging on his young niece and nephew to join in on tambourine and backing vocals.


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<p>Linkin Park</p>

Linkin Park

Linkin Park, Weezer, Robert Plant, Brandon Flowers lead huge new music releases

Chromeo, Phish's Trey Anastasio, Jamey Johnson and more

After the summer doldrums with one or two major releases every week, we have the biggest release slate in several months. It’s a fall bonanza led by Linkin Park, Weezer, Jamey Johnson, the KillersBrandon Flowers, Trey Songz and Robert Plant. We picked the top  releases, but there are plenty of other great albums coming out Sept. 14, like new sets from Chocolate Genius Incorporated, Black Angels and Michelle Branch. Enjoy yourself and happy listening.

Trey Anastasio Band, “TAB at the Tab” (Rubber Jungle): Head Phish stick releases live set recorded at the Tabernacle in Atlanta in February. Includes 

, “Business Casual” (Atlantic): Dave 1 and P-Thugg serve up another steaming heap of ‘70s-influenced funk with a dose of pop thrown in. The Montreal duo is poised to break into the mainstream with its third album. Once you get a taste, you’re hooked.

Brandon Flowers
, “Flamingo” (Island): What started as songs intended for a new Killers’ project became the fodder for Flowers’ first solo album. The set, produced by Stuart Price, Daniel Lanois and Brendan O’Brien, all of whom also play on the album, includes homages to Flowers’ Las Vegas hometown. First single, “Crossfire,” is already a Rock Songs Top 20 hit.

Jamey Johnson
, “The Guitar Song” (Mercury Nashville): Outlaw singer/songwriter who set Nashville ablaze with the ACM song of the year “In Color,” in 2008 comes back with a double album: one side, the Black album, has sad songs, while the White album is sunnier. They all work for us.

Linkin Park, “A Thousand Suns” (Warner Bros.): LP reunites with Rick Rubin, who produced its last album, “Minutes to Midnight,” for an album that leans heavily on the rock, although reports are there’s  a hip-hop presence on at least one track. First single, the intense “The Catalyst,” has already hit No. 1 on the rock chart.

Of Montreal, “False Priest” (Polyvinyl):  They’re from Athens, Ga... so go figure. But fans already knew that since this is Kevin Barnes’ 10th album under the Of Montreal moniker. This time, he turns to producer Jon Brion, who adds some orchestrations to Barnes’ stylized vocal delivery.

Robert Plant,
“Band of Joy” (Rounder): The Led Zep singer started out trying to make a follow-up to Grammy-winning “Raising Sand,” his duet set with Alison Krauss. When that flamed out, he continued on with producer T-Bone Burnett for this exercise, cleverly named after his pre- LZ band. Plant is accompanied  by Patty Griffith and Buddy Miller on his musical journey of  relatively obscure blues and country tunes.

Trey Songz, “Passion, Pain & Pleasure” (Atlantic): Songz has been building slowly and steadily to this point, his fourth studio album. If you liked the first two singles, “Bottoms Up” featuring NIcki Minaj, which reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, and “Can’t Be Friends,” you’ve got an idea of what to expect from this R&B singer.

Mavis Staples
, “You Are Not Alone” (Anti-/Epitaph): Mavis Staples is 71 and that lifetime of experiences-- good and bad--are gloriously reflected in her voice. This time, she collaborates with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who guides her through a collection of gospel classics and new material, including two penned by Tweedy. Let Staples take you to church. You won’t be sorry.

“Hurley” (Epitaph): Rivers Cuomo and co. go indie on their first post-Geffen set and return to its more quirky side following the precious pop sounds of “Raditude.” Collaborators include Ryan Adams, Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, Linda Perry, No Doubt’s Tony Kanal, Desmond Child, and, believe or not, actor Michael Cera, who sings and plays mandolin. Read review here.

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<p>Taylor Swift sings &quot;Foregiveness&quot; at the 2010 MTV VMAs</p>

Taylor Swift sings "Foregiveness" at the 2010 MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Taylor Swift's 'Innocent,' her ode of forgiveness to Kanye West

Outside of the MTV VMAs, does the song work on its own merits?

There are more important things in the world than the Kanye West/Taylor Swift feud, but you wouldn’t know it from tonight’s MTV Video Music Awards. If West highjacked  the spotlight from Swift last night, she got the final say tonight with an incredibly classy introduction of a new song inspired by his jackass antics. Did anyone really think that she was going to come out and blast him? 

 “Innocent” appears on her Oct. 25 album, “Speak Now.” When Swift announced the new album’s release earlier this summer, she stressed that each song is about a specific incident in her life, but gave no hint that one song was about West.

The ballad is a letter of forgiveness to West, and, in some ways, a fan letter (We're thinking about the line "Your string of lights is still bright to me"). “Who you are is not what you did/You’re still an innocent,” she sings. She could be speaking to herself when she talks about how it was easier in those “lunch box days”; they've both been kicked around a bit as artists.  But the line about “lost your balance on a tightrope” is all about West: Swift is one of the most controlled artists in recent memory. As willing as she is to forgive (and by doing so, ensure her continued role as America’s Sweetheart), I’m sure that it is still inconceivable to her that someone could exhibit the lack of control that West did last year.

A true artist has to find some way to make the transition so that the songs have a universal appeal rather that apply only to the two people involved. In some ways, the song succeeds on that front because we’ve all done things we regret and we long for someone’s forgiveness; although the line about being 32 prevents this from wholly being the case.

In terms of her performance, Swift was terrifically composed in what had to be nerve wracking circumstances. She’s never looked more beautiful, dressed like a gorgeous doll from the ‘50s with wavy hair pinned back, a gorgeous, flared skirt and red lipstick. Her poise was striking-- made all the more so by the fact that she’s only 20.

And here’s the part that pains me. I want to give Swift nothing but praise tonight, but her voice keeps me from being able to do so. She was out of tune a number of times, which is easier to excuse when a singer is bouncing around (like Hayley Williams, who clearly hit a few clams tonight) than when someone is simply sitting and singing.  The song, which we’re sure her label Big Machine will find a way to service to radio overnight, has some beautiful lyrics, including this one we particularly like: “Time turns flames to embers/You’ll have new Septembers.”

The song receives a B. The performance is an A. Her singing is a C.

What do you think?


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

Lady Gaga at the MTV VMAs

Credit: AP Photo

Live Blogging the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards

Or Taylor vs. Kayne Round 2, as we like to call it

11:16: So another MTV Video Music Awards is over. Pluses are  Florence + the Machine's performance, Taylor Swift's graciousness, Usher's dance moves and Lady GaGa's singleminded commitment to support gay rights throughout the night. There were no horrific performances, Chelsea Handler excepted. The problem is MTV is 30 and it still wants to act like it's 12 and the brat in the room full of adults.  What did you think of tonight's show? 

11:15: Now that was weird. There was a moment where the voice of God announced "Ladies and Gentlemen...," as if Taylor Swift might come out, and then nothing. Kayne's song just ends. Uh...did we miss something. If anyone else saw that and understood what happened, please let us know.

11:10: Kayne West is closing the show. It sounds like there are a few boos, but he's mainly greeted warmly.Yes, he did a stupid thing, but hopefully this can put it all behind. He's singing "Let's have a toast for the douchebags. Let's have a toast for the assholes. Let's have a toast for the scumbags. Every one I know." Is Taylor going to join him? 

11:05: Good God. It's Cher in her seatbelt outfit from the "If I Could Turn Back Time" video. Holy Moly... I know she's had more plastic surgery than everyone else in the room put together, but that is something. She's 64. The video of the year goes to Lady GaGa for "Bad Romance." LG talks about how she didn't want to let down her fans. She seems very fragile tonight. She uses her final trip to the podium to announce the title of her new album: "Born this Way."

10:57: Linkin Park is performing its No. 1 rock hit, "The Catalyst" in a taped piece from Griffith Park. I know many critics don't like LP, but I'm a big fan. There's something about their intensity that I love. I posted earlier that if i were a 13-year-old boy i don't know how I would have responded to "Jackass." I, however, know that if i were a 13-year-old boy, I would have LOVED Linkin Park.  They're a one-trick pony, but I like that trick... a lot.

10:54: The fan-voted best new artist award goes to Justin Bieber. It was the only award he was nominated for. He'd tweeted for a last-minute voting push and it looks like it worked. God bless the Beliebers and their tiny, quick little voting hands.

10:44: B.o.B. is doing a mash-up of "Airplanes" with Paramore's Hayley Williams and "Nothing on You" with Bruno Mars. Lots more work for the overhead cam. Williams goes into Paramore's "The Only Exception." She's singing live. Fine, but one of the most boring performances of the night. But have we mentioned how much we love "Magic," B.o.B's song with Weezer's Rivers Cuomo?  Robyn just played us to commercial and you could practically hear people screaming at their TV sets: "Is that a surprise appearance by Pink!" Uh, no. 

10:39: The Converse commercial with the fake heads was the most creative thing I've seen all night.

10:32: Sofia Vergara is presenting best hip-hop video. Note that all the nominees were male. Maybe Nicki will get hers next year. The winner is Eminem for "Not Afraid." We know, we know. Elvis has left the building.

10:22:  Mary J. Blige, Drake and Swizz Beatz are performing "Fancy" after being introduced by the cast of "The Social Network." Remember when Justin Timberlake used to perform at the VMAs instead of introduce the acts? Yes, Justin, that's our way of saying that we want some new music! We miss you! Baby, come back. That said, I'm happy any time I'm watching  Queen Mary.

10:07: Taylor Swift's singing her response song to Kanye West.  She looks stunningly beautiful in a '40s style with her wavy hair and red lipstick. Is it a taped piece? The song is about loss of innocence, but she seems to be forgiving West in a really sweet way but still making her point. Lyrics: "32 and still growing up now." " Who you are is not what you did now." "Lost your balance on a tightrope. It's never too late to get it back." She sounds off-key, but I'm going to cut her some slack for once. It turns out she performing live, but I'm thinking she put down some really heavy conditions--she wasn't in the audience earlier for reaction shots when Handler was saying stupid stuff about her and there is no Kayne reaction shot to the song. We'll see if he says something when he performs later. Class act. Not that I suspected differently.

10:05: Gaga wins for best pop video and is wearing a dress so heavy, she has to be carried on stage. She's thanking the gays again and is clearly working her theme for the night. We have no problem with that.  If using her bully pulpit can make one gay kid's life easier, it's worth every minute.

10:04: Note to Chelsea Handler, if you're going to be really crude, at least try to be halfway amusing. The comment about wanting to ride home on  Joe Manganiello's face even had Ke$ha, who throws up in people's closets, looking like WTF? We're halfway done and I'm calling it. Handler is the Worst.Host.Ever. Not because she's blue, but because she's spectacularly unfunny.

9:54: Florence + the Machine (not much of a Machine there, actually) perform "Dog Days are Over" and class up the joint. Go order her album, "Lungs," now! I kept waiting for Kanye to rush on stage and ruin the moment. It seemed like we switched to some show that has placed some value on real talent rather than "can you believe that skank just said that." We're sure they'll be back to their regularly-scheduled programming in a moment. After all, we still have the cast of "Jersey Shore" to look forward to. What was that Ciara performance that seemingly came out of somewhere? Did I accidentally change the channel? Did I blank out for a minute? I can feel my IQ dropping. I'm going to be a spud in another hour.

9:44: Nicki Minaj just asked Katy Perry if she met Russell Brand at the VMAs last year and she said yes. Wait, didn't they meet on the set of "Get Him to the Greek?" Why am I even acting as if this matters?  Eminem wins best male video for "Not Afraid" and... he's already left the building! What, he couldn't stick around 40 minutes after his performance?  Hilarious. Minaj says he has to get back to NY for his concert with Jay-Z tomorrow night.  Right. We're sure he's on a commercial flight. That's one of the best disses we've ever seen.  And if Perry's line about the Moonman being stiff was an ad lib, it's the best line of the night and MTV should hire her to host next year's awards (she's already hosted the European VMAs).

9:37: Oh! It's my favorite tramp, Ke$ha! I give her credit for being in on the joke and wearing a dress made out of a trash bag. Did Trey Songz just pronounce Usher as Eersher?  Either way, Usher's dancing through a medley.  Got to be lipyncing. I guess no one is allowed to do just one song from start to finish. Nice energy.  But it's making us laugh that it's "Oh My Gosh" instead of "Oh My God." Maybe his kids are with him. Nice shot to Justin Bieber, who has to clap for his boss.

9:31: OMG! It's Justin Bieber. He's running through his hits. If he's not lipsyncing (and I can't tell since I'm watching on a tiny Slingbox screen), my little moppet can sing better than I've given him credit for. Now he's playing the drums, which is about as convincing as the dude in the Partridge Family drumming. The first one.

9:27: The "Jackass" gang just presented the award for best rock video and the camera has to pull away quickly as one of them disrobes.  I wonder if I were a 13-year-old boy if I'd think "Jackass" was funny?  Anyway, the award goes to 30 Seconds to Mars.  Jared Leto is one of the few actors who's managed to credibly (depending upon who you believe) transition to a rock artist. Platinum blond hair and all.

9:15: Lady G wins her third VMA of the night for best female video for "Bad Romance." The only suspense here was if she was going to win for that or "Telephone." She's very emotional and seems on the verge of tearing up. We're not quite sure what's going on.  She thanks "all the gays for remaking this video over and over again."

9:06: Lindsay Lohan continues her comeback in a taped opening with Chelsea Handler, asking Handler where her ankle bracelet is. It's unfunny, but will get MTV so much play on various media outlets Monday that it doesn't matter. Mission accomplished, Handler comes out with a house on her head in a Lady GaGa spoof. She calls Snoop Dogg an "angry black man." He's about as angry as the Pillsbury dough boy. She's the first female host in 16 years (since Roseanne). It's going to be another 16 years at the rate she's going.

 9:03: Eminem opens the show backstage with "Not Afraid," then came to the stage with Dr. Dre. He sounds really good and we're kind of in a stage where we're loving him hard right now. Now Rihanna, who'd been unannounced, chimes in on "Love the Way You Lie." And by 'chime in," we mean sings horribly off key. They have an awkward moment at the end for one of the least spectacular openings in recent memory.

8:56: Lady GaGa is on the red carpet seeming very restrained. Did we mention she's dressed like a peacock? She's got feathers growing out of her head! She brought along some members of the military who have all been discharged or left the military because of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. God bless her. I really love that side of her that does not tolerate prejudice of any kind. I just became a momentary Little Monster. By the way, Sway told her she's won two VMAs already for best dance video for "Bad Romance" and best collaboration for "Telephone." Here we go with Eminem.

8:32: Nicki Minaj is performing her mega hit "Your Love." She looks like she's a purple martian and about to lift off. Oh, now there is an actual lift-off, so I guess the image they were trying to convey worked.  Will.I.Am is singing "Check It Out" with her and he's in an all black rubber suit and is completely dark from head to toe. He looks like an all-black Tin Man from "Wizard of Oz."  We dig that he does have a pink stripe in his hair and armband to match Nicki's beehive. She is so fierce. And she scares me a little bit.

8:31: I was hoping the pre-show would least be some good fashion trashing, but it's really just an opportunity for MTV to promote its programming. Such a yawn.

8:27 p.m.: Justin Bieber, who's performing outside of the Nokia Theater tonight, just announced he's been playing drums since he was two. So he's got two weeks of experience under his belt...

8:25 p.m.: Welcome! We're living blogging the VMAs from our sofa in Los Angeles. No fuzzy slippers for us, though. We decided to dress like  leading nominee Lady GaGa, so we have on a bubble top and no pants. TMI?  We already know we're going to get Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift, Round 2, as Swift's song will be about the insults she suffered at West's hands last year (did he learn nothing from Joe Jonas, who was immortalized in song after he dumped Swift?) 

What are your thoughts on tonight's show? 

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Eminem and Sara Bareilles duke it out for No. 1 on next week's Billboard 200

Is Eminem 'King of Anything?' Not according to Bareilles

They make strange bedfellows, to be sure, but singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles and Eminem are in a dance over who will top next week’s Billboard 200.

Bareilles’ “Kaleidoscope Heart”  and Em’s “Recovery” are in a dead heat to sell around 90,000 each as we head into the weekend, according to Hits Daily Double. Bareilles has got a big hit on her hands with “King of Anything,” but Eminem is opening MTV’s Video Music Awards. He’ll see a bigger bump from that prestigious slot next week after Nielson SoundScan’s tabulating for the chart closes on Sunday night, but there are enough hours between his performance and the closing to give him the edge. It’s a nailbiter.

This week’s charttopper, Disturbed’s “Asylum,” will likely drop to No. 5 with sales of 60,000.
Also debuting in the Top 10 are likely to be Stone Sour’s “Audio Secrecy” at No. 6,  rockers Anberlin’s “Dark is a Way, Light is the Place,”  and Interpol’s self-titled set at No. 9.

They’ll all have to move out the way shortly, however, because the Sept. 14 release slate is the biggest we’ve seen in months, with a high number of big name releases including Linkin Park, Weezer, Jamey Johnson, Brandon FlowersRobert Plant, Of Montreal and Trey Songz.

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