Adam Levine and Jimmy Fallon

Watch: Adam Levine's great Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson impressions on Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon's Iggy Azalea impression? Not so great

Move over Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon has a new music buddy: Last night on “The Tonight Show,” he and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine debuted a new feature, Wheel of Musical Impressions

Using the “musical impressions generator,” different artists, such as Michael Jackson or Frank Sinatra, came up paired with tunes such as MAGIC!’s “Rude” or the theme to “Sesame Street,” and each had to do an impression. Levine was the clear winner as he hit it out of the ball park with his Sinatra impression. We think his Jackson impression sounded a little more like Stevie Wonder than the King of Pop, but his take on Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder was spot on. As for Fallon’s Iggy Azalea impression,  let’s just say, better luck next time.


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Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert ties record for most CMA Award nominations

Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban also score big

The 2014 CMA Awards voters must have sent in their ballots before Taylor Swift announced she was going full-on pop: she received a nomination for female vocalist of the year today, marking what will surely be her last country nomination for awhile.

She did not score in the coveted Entertainer of the Year category, an honor she’s already won twice: competing for that award this year will be Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, George Strait, and Keith Urban.

Lambert leads all nominees with nine. She is now tied with herself for the most nominations in one year for a female artist. Dierks Bentley received five nominations, while Eric Church and Urban each landed four.  Bryan, Shelton, Kacey Musgraves, and Carrie Underwood, who will host the show with Brad Paisley, each landed three. Read our interview with Bentley here.

Competing for album of the year are Bryan’s “Crash My Party,” Urban’s “Fuse,” Lambert’s “Platinum,” Bentley’s “Riser,” and Church’s “The Outsiders.”

Up for single of the year are Lambert’s “Automatic,” Bentley’s “Drunk On A Plane,”  Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Tim McGraw’s “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s,” and Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You.”

In the Female Vocalist category, Swift will compete against Underwood, Musgraves, Martina McBride and Lambert, who has won the award the past four years.

Lambert’s husband, Shelton, who has won Male Vocalist for the past four years, is up again for the honor, competing with Bentley, Church, Urban and Bryan.

The 48th annual CMA Awards will air Nov. 5 on ABC.

For a full list of nominees, go to 


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Shovels & Rope

Interview: Shovels & Rope on 'Swimmin' Time'

Husband-wife duo and their literary heroes

“There’s not a person walking this world that doesn’t have some suffering that they’re burdened by,” says Cary Ann Hearst, who, with her husband Michael Trent, make up the country folk duo Shovels & Rope.

And damned if  every single one of those people hasn’t stumbled into the various songs on “Swimmin’ Time,” Shovel & Rope’s searing new album, out now.

The collection features tunes about down-on-their-luck folks who seek the higher road, but that shot at salvation sometimes seems just out of reach. On twangy  “The Devil Is All Around,” a person drenched in fear travels down a path. He’s a “shell of a man,” but determined to become a better one.  On the stomping, ominous title track, there’s nothing good coming around the bend. On swampy dark “Evil,” a tune HitFix premiered in July,  two misfits, a young tomboy and an older man, find each other.  Of course, there’s a murder ballad or two. The literate tales are made all the more vivid by the way Hearst and Trent’s voices wrap around each other as they spin their stories over largely acoustic instrumentation.

 So where do these characters come from? In some cases, they’re drawn from real life. Hearst admits to “an annoyingly happy childhood,” but has a “family history that is weighty and complicated and overburdened with a disproportionate amount of sorrow,” she says. “A lot of people in our family struggle, whether it’s self sabotage or substance abuse.”  

The pair’s writing is also greatly influenced by classic American authors ranging from Cormac McCarthy and John Steinbeck to their fellow Southerners Flannery O’ Connor and William Faulkner, with whom they share a knack for painting full characters in a few words.  “We’ve always been drawn to stories with dark twists,” says Trent. “We were listening to ‘Grapes of Wrath.’  on tour. Driving from the west coast to the east coast, we would make our way through the book.”

Like most acts, Shovels & Rope had their share of romantic songs, but it was when the duo began writing about experiences beyond themselves that they found their first real traces of success. “I’m not trying to brag, but when we started writing together and our content moved away from self-selective  and waxing romantic to looking out from ourselves and looking at other people’s big stories, things changed,” Hearst says. “Michael is especially good at that: he’s able to reduce a really big complicated emotional story into a 3-to-5 minute narrative that is really colorful.”

While keeping their head down and touring relentlessly behind 2012’s breakthrough album, “O’ Be Joyful,” their compelling craft caught the attention from their peers and heroes alike.  Their tune, “Birmingham,” from “Joyful”  won  Song of the Year at the 2013  Americana Music Awards, where the act also won Emerging Artist of the Year.  Jack White asked the duo to open three shows for him and word has even come back to them that Martin Scorsese is a fan. “We’re just a couple of ragamuffins doing our thing, and there was this trajectory going on outside of our periphery,” Trent says.

Indeed, though the couple has now traded up from a van that carried only themselves and their dog, Townes,  (“He’s hairy medicine,” Trent says) to a bus that they share with their small crew,  they admit that they operate, happily so, in their own “bubble.” They create their music totally free of label interference,  their band is just the two of them, and alone together is their natural state. “Last night, Michael was hanging out at the motorcycle garage and his absence was like a black hole,” Hearst says. “You’d think I couldn’t wait for him to get out of here, but his absence was weighty. We don’t know anything different than being together. Ever since we got married, we’ve been on the road and never looked back.”

Natuarlly, Hearst and Trent recorded “Swimmin’ Time,” a darker and more intense album than “‘O, Be Joyful,”  alone at their home studio in Charleston, S.C. “There’s no pressure. The clock isn’t running,” Trent says. “We can make our own schedule.”

If there’s a downside to their increasing fame, it’s that their own schedule doesn’t allow for reading as much as it once did, but they still manage to sneak in some time for the classics. Hearst jokes that they may have a surprise for their fans with their next project given the author whose works have been keeping them company lately. “We got distorted by [“Game of Thrones” author] George R.R. Martin,” she says. “Our next album will be nothing but dragons.”

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Maroon 5

Album review: Maroon 5's 'V' presents pristine pop

Adam Levine-led group works with Dr. Luke, Shellback, Sia, Nate Ruess

“The Voice” has probably helped no one’s career as much as coach Adam Levine and his band, Maroon 5.

While they certainly weren’t dormant, the NBC talent reality show revived the band and brought them back to a level they hadn’t seen since their breakthrough, 2002’s “Songs About Jane.” Ever since 2011’s “Moves Like Jagger,” featuring fellow sometimes “Voice” coach Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5 has seldom been of a pop or AC chart.

Just as Maroon 5 did on its last album, 2012’s “Overexposed,” for new set, “V,” the group also enlisted a phalanx of hit songwriters and producers —  Ryan Tedder, Shellback, Dr. Luke, Sia, Stargate, Benny Blanco— to come up with the poppiest of pop material. The result is a shiny, pristine album that sounds great, if a little anodyne and generic. Maroon 5’s self-penned earliest hits like “This Love” and “Harder To Breathe” were less well-crafted, but more distinctive. That said, there’s plenty on “V” to recommend it, even if it doesn't have anything quite as catchy as "Overexposed's" "Payphone."

Below is a track-by-track review:  

“Maps”: Tedder co-penned opening track and first single features Levine doing his best Sting imitation on this jaunty Police-lite tune about following your love. Already peaked in the Top 10. GRADE: B+

“Animals”: A little something different for M5, “Animals” boasts a heavy drum loop as Levine compares finding love to stalking prey, as he plans to hunt her down. “Baby, you think you can hide, I can smell your scent for miles.” Ew… GRADE: B-

“It Was Always You”: Again, something different from M5. An echo-y, electronic ‘80s track grounds a terrific in-your-face vocal from Levine about searching for what was missing to realize it was in front of him all along. Would have felt right at home in an episode of “Miami Vice,” and we mean that as a compliment.  GRADE: B

“Unkiss Me”: M5 takes on OneRepublic on this loping song about a cheating girl. Levine even sounds a little like Ryan Tedder as he sings in a lower register. Interestingly, this isn’t one of the tracks to which Tedder contributed. GRADE: B

“Sugar”: The best Katy Perry song she hasn’t cut. Actually, she did— it was called “Birthday.” Co-written by Dr. Luke and Mike Posner, among others, it’s combines acoustic guitar with punchy electronic instrumentation. Total earworm—despite your best intentions. GRADE: B+

“Leaving California”: Soaring ballad co-written by fun.’s Nate Ruess allows Levine to show off his fine-tuned falsetto. GRADE: B

“In Your Pocket”: Another mid-tempo track, built around a chugging drum loop, about mistrust as two lovers circle each other and each other’s cell phones. GRADE: C

“New Love”: Frenetic, drum-loop based song drowns under its own weighty production— one of the very few on the album where that happens. Probably because it’s not a strong song to begin with. GRADE: C-

“Coming Back For You”: Throwback ‘80s with synth and drum loops galore is bolstered by Levine’s strong vocal, but it needs a catchier chorus. GRADE: B-

“Feelings”: Fun, disco-oriented track about a lighthearted romance. Put on your boogie shoes and clap along to this one and don’t worry about the mindless lyrics. Just give yourself over to the rhythm. GRADE: B

“My Heart Is Open,” featuring Gwen Stefani: Levine and his fellow “The Voice” coach, Stefani, take what doubles as a promotional plug for the new season and turn it into a nice ballad, reminiscent of A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something.” The Sia co-wrote sounds like a hit, even if it didn’t have a TV show connection. Grade: B+



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Bruce Springsteen

15 Greatest Songs about Working for a living

It's our Labor Day salute to working men and women everywhere

We can’t sign off for the long weekend without saluting the men and women who put the labor into Labor Day. There’s been no shortage of songs written about the drudgery of working 9-to-5, and below, here’s a list of the 15 finest songs (oops, that just reminded us that we didn’t include R.E.M.’s “Finest Worksong”) devoted to describing how we spend most of our lives. So clock out, grab a beer, salute your fellow worker, and enjoy.

And, if it’s not too much work, add your favorite song about work in the comments.

1. “9 to 5,” Dolly Parton (1980)
A deceptively upbeat melody and Parton’s sweet delivery run counter to the dark sentiment of such lyrics as   “Barely getting by/It’s all takin’ and no givin’/they just use your mind/and they never give you credit.”

2. “She Works Hard For The Money,” Donna Summer
Few jobs are more grueling than waitressing: all the heavy lifting, being on your feet all day, working for tips. Summer captures it all on this disco hit about a lady who has spent 28 years slinging plates. You better treat her right.

3, “Working on the Highway,” Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Springsteen has built a career singing about the working man and on this exuberant tune from “Born In The USA,” he dreams of a better life than holding a red flag as part of a highway construction crew. Lyrically, it’s a downer (he ends up in prison), but the melody is so upbeat, most listeners never notice

4. “Working For a Living,” Huey Lewis & The News (1982)
We’re all just working for the man…

5. “Bang On The Drum All Day,” Todd Rundgren (1983)
This anti-work anthem still gets played by radio stations near and far at 5 p.m. on Friday

6. “Working For The Weekend,” Loverboy (1981)
Have truer words ever been spoken? Loverboy combine the weekend with the always alluring possibility of romance, even if it comes via a lazy rhyme: “You want a piece of my heart?/You better start at the start.” Red headband and leather pants optional. (This is the official video, skip to 2:24 to finally get to the song)

7. “Shiftwork,” Kenny Chesney and George Strait (2007)
A clever play on words: take out the “f” in “shiftwork” and you get the idea built around monotony of shiftwork, whether you’re working, as the song states, “Seven to three/Three to eleven/Eleven to seven.”

8. “Chain Gang,” Sam Cooke (1960)
Let’s face it, as bad as your job may be, it still probably doesn’t compare to working on the chain gang, picking up trash on some highway, yoked to some other prisoner. And yet, Cooke still sounds like the happiest angel in the world.

9. “Sixteen Tons,” Tennessee Ernie Ford (1955)
Pair this with Lee Dorsey’s “Working In The Coal Mine” and you can double down on the misery of working where “the sun didn’t shine.” Funny, yet trenchant, lyrics detail the inability to get ahead, so much so that heaven even seems out of reach because “I owe my soul to the company store.”

10. “Working Man,” Rush (1974)
Working leaves little time for any of life’s simple pleasure other than “a nice cold beer.” At least for Alex Lifeson, it gets you a very cool guitar solo.

11. “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights),” Styx (1978)
Take your Styx hatred somewhere else, buddy. It’s one thing to not like “Mr Roboto,” but to not bow down to this working man’s anthem, sung by Tommy Shaw instead of usual Styx warbler Dennis DeYoung, is to prove that you’ve never even gotten so much as a paper cut at work.

12. “Taking’ Care of Business,” Bachman Turner Overdrive (1974)
This chugging ode pays homage to those who “get up every morning from your ‘larm’s clock warning” to trudge into the city like a clone, only to rinse and repeat the next day.

13. "Five O’Clock World,” The Vogues (1966)
Also used as the theme to The Drew Carrey Show, this joyous tune discards the doldrums of the working day for that magical moment when the whistle blows. Listen for the glorious production, if nothing else.

14. “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere,” Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett (2003)
Yes, yes it is…And that means it’s time to punch out and head to Margaritaville.

15. “Take This Job and Shove It,” Johnny Paycheck (1977)
This list ends, as it must, with country singer Paycheck’s biggest crossover hit because it’s a sentiment that everyone— no matter what kind of music you listen to or job you do — has wanted to tell his or her boss, but knows that unless they are the last words you plan to say as the door hits you on the way out, have to remain unsaid.


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Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani

Say 'yes' to Maroon 5 and Gwen Stefani's duet, 'My Heart Is Open'

M5's Adam Levine and his fellow 'The Voice' judge Gwen Stefani make beautiful music

It certainly worked out well  when Maroon 5 duetted with Adam Levine’s  fellow "The Voice"  judge Christina Aguilera on "Moves Like Jagger."  Not so much for judges Blake Shelton and Shakira on "Medicine."

Now, just in time to get us excited for the Sept. 22 Season 7 premiere with new coaches Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams comes “My Heart Is Open,” a gorgeous duet between Maroon 5 and the No Doubt singer.

Sure, it’s prefabricated and meant to get us interested in “The Voice,” but it also works on its own. In fact, it reminds us a little of Aguilera’s collaboration with A Great Big World, “Say Something.”

The song, which is featured on Maroon 5’s new album, “V,” out Sept. 2, starts with a heavy piano before going into Levine asking someone to take a chance on him. Stefani takes the second verse, picking up where Levine left off, declaring “it won’t take me long to find another lover, but I want you.”

The mid-tempo track, co-written by Sia, feels like an Adult Contemporary smash. Their harmonies work well and both Levine and Stefani tone down the drama so the focus is on the song.

What do you think?

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Broken Bells

Broken Bells believe we are not alone in 'Control' video: Watch

Yep, the pink orb makes it into this video too

James Mercer and Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton), collectively known at Broken Bells, definitely believe that we are not alone.

In the video for “Control,” the two perform before footage of space travel, crop circles, images of the earth from space, UFOs, and other signs that there is life out there far beyond our own life on Earth.

The combination of real news footage and the footage of the same pink orb that has appeared in every video for tunes from “After The Disco” creates the a cool, interplanetary vibe that fits the spacey “Control” perfectly as Mercer sings about not being in control.

The duo resumes its current tour Sept. 26. The video is below the tour dates.

09/26/14 - New York, NY - Rumsey Playfield
09/27/14 - Philadelphia, PA - Electric Factory
09/28/14 - Richmond, VA - The National
09/29/14 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
10/01/14 - Athens, GA - Georgia Theatre
10/02/14 - Birmingham, AL - Iron City
10/04/14 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
10/05/14 - San Antonio, TX - The Aztec Theater
10/07/14 - Dallas, TX - South Side Ballroom
10/08/14 - Tulsa, OK - Brady Theater
10/11/14 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
10/24-25/14 – Los Angeles, CA - Orpheum Theatre
10/24-26/14 – Las Vegas, NV - Life Is Beautiful Festival
10/28/14 - San Francisco, CA - The Masonic Auditorium


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Tom Petty

Album sales drop to new low in the U.S.

Streaming continues to turn listerners into renters instead of buyers

In a summer that brought “Weird Al” Yankovic, Tom Petty and Wiz Khalifa all their first No. 1 records, the rest of the news has been all bad for album sales.

For the weekend ending Aug. 24, album sales totaled 3.97 million, marking the first time the weekly tally has dropped below 4 million in the 23-year Nielsen SoundScan era, according to Billboard. The same week a year ago, album sales were 4.88 million. There have only been five weeks this year where total album sales surpassed 5 million copies (and I imagine we’ll see it happen again when Taylor Swift’s album comes out in October and possibly when Garth Brooks releases his album around Black Friday).

The culprit is streaming, which many fans do for free on ad-supported outlets, or they pay a low monthly fee, such as $10 to services like Beats Music and Spotify. Digital sales, once considered the savior of the industry, have not proved to be the lifeline many thought they would be.

For the year, album sales in the U.S. are down across the board: physical sales are down 14.6 percent, digital album sales down 11.8 percent, and track-album-equivalent sales are down 12.8 percent.

Billboard analysts reveal that the bottom for the preceding year is usually the next year’s top, so it’s likely that next year, weekly album sales will surpass 4 million a handful of times, but for the majority of the time, they will come in at under 3.9 million and continue to drop.

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Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert

Lady Gaga joins Adam Lambert and Queen for 'Another One Bites The Dust': Watch

Which one wins in the belt-fest?

In an abundance of vocal riches, Lady Gaga joined Adam Lambert and Queen on stage in Australia for a powerhouse version of “Another One Bites The Dust” last night.

The two belted the lyrics as if they were having a sing-off or trying to raise the roof in Sydney. Lady Gaga is down under with her ArtRave tour. (h/t Idolator)

As you know, the second half of Lady Gaga’s name is an homage to Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga.” She referenced the song in an Instagram post: “Tonight I felt alive in a way I have not before. I returned to the Radio Gaga Mothership to pay homage to my leaders. It was emotional and wild.”

Though we don't recommend it, it's worth even watching with the sound down to get a load of Gaga's outfit.


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Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift bows at No. 1 with 'Shake It Off'

Take that, T-Swift haters

Taylor Swift’s complete switch to pop is being met with resounding success: Her new single, “Shake It Off,” debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 today.

The song, which was bolstered by immediate radio play, sales, and streaming, following its release on Aug. 18, is Swift’s second Hot 100 chart topper, following 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The single sold 544,000 downloads this past week, the greatest weekly tally so far in 2014, according to Billboard.

For trivia buffs, “Shake,” the first single from Swift’s fifth studio album, “1989,” out Oct. 27, is only the 22nd of the 1,038 songs that have topped the Billboard Hot 100 to bow at No. 1. The last, coincidentally, was Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” in March 2013. Billboard created a fun list of the most successful chart songs with "Shake" in the title here.

“Shake’s” good news is bad news for Nicki Minaj, whose “Anaconda” soars 39-2, kept out of the top spot by Swift. Both artists performed their latest hits on MTV’s Video Music Awards Sunday night. Nonetheless, the No. 2 spot is Minaj’s highest Hot 100 perch. She previously peaked at No. 3 with “Super Bass” and her feature on Britney Spears’  “Till The World Ends.”
All this activity pushes Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” down 2-3, despite a gain in chart points. Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” similarly drops one place to No. 4.

As Swift’s ”Shake” is coronated in the top spot, Magic!’s “Rude,” tumbles from the throne after six weeks at No. 1 to No. 5.

On the bottom half of the Top 10, Iggy Azalea’s “Black Widow,” featuring Rita Ora rises 8-6, Ariana Grande’s “Break Free,” featuring Zedd, falls 4-7, Sia’s “Chandelier” inches 9-8, as does Jessie J, Grande and Minaj’s “Bang Bang,” which moves 10-9. Nico & Vinz’s “Am I Wrong” slips 6-10.

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