Lady Antebellum

Who has ruled the charts for the first six months of 2010?  Country superstars Lady Antebellum.

Who's the top seller of 2010 so far? Hint: It's not Eminem

How much worse are sales from the first six months of 2009?

 It’s looking like a royally good year for Lady Antebellum. At the half-way mark, the country act’s second album “Need You Now” is the top seller of 2010 so far, registering sales of more than 2, 355,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album remains a strong seller and stands at No. 10 this week on the Billboard 200 23 weeks after its release.

The leading digital track is the all-star charity sing-along “Hope for Haiti,” according to Billboard, although it did not supply sales figures.

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<p>Lady Gaga with Grammys</p>

Lady Gaga with Grammys

Credit: AP Photo

Commentary: Grammy's new artist rule changes and why they didn't go far enough

It's too late for Lady GaGa, but who will the new rules help?

Call it the Lady GaGa rule. The Grammys have changed the eligibility requirements for best new artist, but we don’t think the decision went far enough.

First, some background and then our reasoning. After Lady GaGa, who was the clear front runner, was declared ineligible because “Just Dance” had been nominated for best dance track a year before, Grammy governing body, NARAS (the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) went back to the drawing board to reevaluate the rules. (Ultimately, Zac Brown Band took home the best new artist trophy this year.)

Now, future Lady GaGas will have no such issues. Effective immediately, any artist who has been nominated for a Grammy, but has not won, and who fits the remaining criteria will be eligible.
Here are amended rules for qualification for Best New Artist with the change in italics:

The current eligibility requirements state that the artist must have released, as a featured performing artist, at least one album but not more than three; and the artist must not have been entered for Best New Artist more than three times, including as a performing member of an established group. Any previous GRAMMY nomination for the artist as performer precludes eligibility in the Best New Artist category (including a nomination as an established performing member of a nominated group.)  If an artist/group is nominated (but does not win) for the release of a single or as a featured artist or collaborator on a compilation or other artist's album before the artist/group has released an entire album (and becomes eligible in this category for the first time), the artist/group may enter this category in the eligibility year during which his/her/their first album is released.

A little background here:  Even if it’s often been behind the curve, NARAS has done a fair job of amending the rules to adjust to changes in the music industry without kowtowing to every passing fad.  For example, after Whitney Houston was deemed ineligible for best new artist eons ago because she sang back up on Luther Vandross’s records, the eligibility requirement was amended to allow artists who had sung backing vocals, but were not the featured performer, to be eligible for best new artist when their debut release came out.

The three-album rule came about several years ago when Shelby Lynne, who had released something like eight albums but had flown largely under the mainstream radar, won best new artist. For those of us who had been following the supremely talented Lynne for years, it was a mockery of what the category stood for. How could an act who had been releasing albums for something like 10 years suddenly be crowned best new artist? Like every rule, this one cuts both ways: for example, Phoenix, which finally broke through last year with “Lisztomania,” was not eligible for best new artist because it was the group’s fourth album.

Here’s where NARAS had the chance to be with the times—not even ahead of the curve—and failed.  When changing the rules this year, NARAS should have amended “album” to track.  As album sales continue to decline (both as a physical and as a digital commodity), NARAS has to find some way to acknowledge new artists who are breaking through, who might not have had an album drop yet, but have had significant impact through singles. For example, should Kid Cudi have been eligible for best new artist this go-round even though his album did not come out during the eligibility period based on his success? Will Drake be eligible for best new artist next year despite the fact that he’s released several mix tapes? Do they count toward his three albums?  Or should he have been eligible for best new artist already, but wasn’t because he didn’t release an “official” album until this year? 

The Grammys, which hold themselves up to be the gold standard for artistic music awards, needs to figure out how to move into the digital age. To be sure, it is making some strides, in terms of allowing digital only tracks to be eligible in many categories. We understand the desire that there be criteria that must be met to maintain the integrity of the awards, but continued freshening is vital. The Grammys already get knocked around—often unfairly—for seeming  behind the times even though they’ve never pretended to be the faux-hip  MTV Awards  and have made strong efforts to bring younger voters into the fold—but it’s not enough.  Maybe next year.


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Are the Beatles next? Apple Records enters the digital age with James Taylor, Badfinger

Are the Beatles next? Apple Records enters the digital age with James Taylor, Badfinger

Remastered sets, including Billy Preston and Mary Hopkin, come out Oct. 26

You still can’t get the Beatles catalog on iTunes, but maybe this is a step in the right direction. Apple Records, rights holder of all things Beatles, is remastering and reissuing 15 albums non-Fab Four albums released on the label. Additionally, for the first time, the albums will be available digitally, marking the first Apple releases to be offered via download.

Among the titles, all out Oct. 26, are classic albums from James Taylor, Badfinger, Mary Hopkin and Billy Preston, some of which record collectors have been paying as much as $75 for recently.

The Beatles began signing artists to the label in 1968 as Apple’s way to reward them for their success. Often the Beatles participated on the albums: for example, Paul McCartney and George Harrison perform on Taylor’s breakthrough hit “Carolina in my Mind.” McCartney produced Hopkin’s monster hit, ‘Those Were the Days,” and wrote and produced Badfinger’s “Come and Get It.” Harrison produced Preston’s label debut, ‘That’s The Way God Planned It.” John Lennon brought in The Modern Jazz Quartet, while Ringo Starr (Happy birthday, Ringo!! Btw) recruited modern classical composer John Tavener.


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<p>Scissor Sisters live</p>

Scissor Sisters live

Scissor Sisters set to do some night work on new U.S. tour

Bring your dance shoes to the August gigs

Following the release of their sassy new album, “Night Work,” Scissor Sisters starts a North American tour Aug. 21 at Atlanta’s Buckhead Theater.

Tickets for the month-long tour, which ends Sept. 16 in Vancouver, go on sale July 9 through the band’s website. Will they be immune to the summer horribilus hitting so many other acts? Too soon to tell, but we may have them in slighter smaller theaters here, although it looks like many of the venues were selected to allow fans maximum dance room.

The band has also announced a December arena tour in the U.K.

“Night Work” came in at No. 2 in the U.K., where the dance band has a much bigger following. Here, it looks like it will eke out a top 20 start. We’ll know for sure on Wednesday.

Below are the U.S. dates.

8/21            Atlanta, GA                                    The Buckhead Theatre                       
8/23            Washington, DC                        DAR Constitution Hall                        .
8/24            New York, NY                                    Terminal 5                                   
8/27            Philadelphia, PA                        Electric Factory                                   .
8/28            Boston, MA                                    House of Blues                                   
8/29            Montreal, QC                                    Metropolis                                   
8/31            Toronto, ON                                    Sound Academy                      
 9/2            Chicago, IL                                    Riviera Theatre                                   
9/3            Milwaukee, WI                                    The Rave                                   
9/4            Minneapolis, MN                        Epic Nightclub                                   
9/6            Denver, CO                                    Ogden Theatre                                   
9/10            Las Vegas, NV                                    The Pearl Concert Theatre           
9/11            Los Angeles, CA                        Hollywood Palladium                       
9/12            Oakland, CA                                    Fox Theater                                   
9/14            Portland, OR                                    Roseland Theatre                       .
9/15            Seattle, WA                                    The Showbox SODO                       
9/16            Vancouver, BC                                    Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park           


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<p>Kylie Minogue</p>

Kylie Minogue

Credit: AP Photo

Review: Will 'Aphrodite' make you fall in love with Kylie Minogue all over again?

Listen for yourself to a free stream

On the cover of Kylie Minogue’s new album, “Aphrodite,” out today, the dance diva stands, clad in a diaphanous blue gown, her arms outspread like Jesus, looking up beatifically.

That’s right. Minogue is your savior. She is here to save you from all the boring, meaningless dance music out there that doesn’t understand anything but a throbbing beat and that leads only with its loins and feet. As ferocious as the groove may get, Minogue always leads with her heart here. Have a listen.

On “Aphrodite,” her first studio album since 2007’s “X,” she creates a collection whose 12 tracks all fit safely within the parameters of dance, but uses every square inch within those confines. It’s a limited tool box, to be sure, but darn  if Minogue doesn’t use every instrument in it.

Aphrodite, of course, is the goddess of love and, to an extent, Minogue is working a theme here, whether it’s asking for a kiss in “Cupid Boy” or seeking love in the irresistible “Looking for An Angel” (we would have moved that one way up instead of sticking it in the dead-end No. 11 slot).

The title track has a fun, ‘80s vibe and when she sings “I am the original,” you want to scream, “You got that right, sister.” There’s a warmth to Minogue that many other artists plying in dance music don’t have.  Here, she feels like our friend who’s back to lead us by the hand to the dance floor and shepherd us through the maze of beats, whether it’s the techno-dreaminess of “Closer” or the pop, piano-based “Beautiful.” First single, the driving “All the Lovers,” remains one of the strongest cuts, but is far from the only gem on the album.

Much to her credit, Minogue isn’t chasing trends here—there’s nothing remotely Lady GaGa or Ke$ha-like on the album (although there are a few vocoder moments on some tracks that are redolent of current-day Britney)  and we love that at 42, she is completely—and understandably so—comfortable in her own skin.

At the same time, there’s also nothing particularly innovative or forward thinking here.  Working with Stuart Price, best known for his work with Madonna, Minogue has crafted a stellar dance pop record that doesn’t push the boundaries too much (as some felt “X” did) and feels like a warm disco blanket to wrap yourself up in. The songs are all lighthearted, but, working with such writers as Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and Keane’s  Tim Rice-Oxley, Minogue has selected tunes that fit her to a tee and  none of them sounds disposable.

There’s a reason she has been a superstar for close to 20 years outside of the U.S. The only question is why has the Australian never made it big on our shores.  As strong as “Aphrodite” is, it is unlikely to change that.

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Credit: AP Photo/Katy Winn

HitFix Interview: Pharrell talks scoring 'Despicable Me,' his nighttime habits and Jay-Z

Producer/artist gets animated about working with Steve Carell

Working with Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Madonna or Justin Timberlake?  Awesome.  Working on “Despicable Me?” Priceless. 

Just ask producer/artist Pharrell Williams. The multiple Grammy winner composed the score and wrote four tracks for the new 3-D animated feature starring Steve Carell. Additionally, he co-wrote a track with Robin Thicke.

Pharrell spoke with Hitfix about “Despicable Me,” his cartoon habit and working with Jay-Z. Plus, he  tries to convince us why the bikini clad girls in the new N.E.R.D. video for “Hot ‘N Fun" are liberated.

You give Jack Johnson credit for inspiring you to do “Despicable Me.” How so?

He did the “Curious George” soundtrack and I was so envious of what he’d done, it was so amazing. I was like, “Man, I want that opportunity,” so when I got it, I just seized the moment as much as I could.

What did you think when you first saw footage from “Despicable Me?”

I was blown away and I couldn’t believe I’d gotten the opportunity, so I just worked really hard because I’m a huge kid myself. There’s plenty of times when I’m blessed to be at home and if I’m up late at night, I’ll go eat breakfast cereal at 2 a.m. in the morning, right? Go turn on Boomerang, the vintage cartoon network. That is a fun time for me…I don’t know how to grow up. I haven’t figured it out yet.

“Fun Fun Fun” has this wonderful ’70s lighthearted vibe and plays during an amusement park scene. Were you looking at the footage when you wrote it?

I just imagined what would feel good if you’re up in the air, whatever miles per hour that you travel when you’re doing that. What that felt like.

And it comes to you that easily?

Well, one thing leads to another. It’s not so fast.

The “Despicable Me” theme has some very different elements than a usual theme. What did you want to convey with that?

I wanted to push that experience a little bit better and push the envelope and  the experience on a film that you love by hearing something that you love too. You just wouldn’t expect to hear a Steely Dan melody or chord progression in the world of animation. That’s why I wanted to do it. I wanted to challenge what people would do typically.

You worked with Heitor Pereira on the score. What did you learn about instrumentation that you didn’t know before?

If anything, I got to learn feel. I got to learn more about allowing the moment to talk to you and tell you what to do because I’ve known that, but it’s always been, “yes, you must express it in one of five different ways of expression.” With a film, it has no walls, no parameters. You just have to be very honest with what you give.

What do you want to do next? You’re a huge “Star Trek” fan. Do you want to do a live action movie?

If given the opportunity I’ll seize it.

That sounds very low key.

No, I’m very aggressive about it. It’s just that I don’t like to talk so much about what I’m about to do.But I’m very excited and I’m very thankful for this opportunity because it has just opened so many doors that I didn’t know existed.

Does this mean that you have something that you’re not willing to tell us yet?

(slowly says) Yeeeessss.

Does this mean there’s another movie project lined up?

Well, I don’t want to say so much.

I believe that just happened when you were asked about working with Jay-Z. You said you were sworn to confidentiality.

Yeah. The bigger the artist, the more they don’t want you to talk.

The new N.E.R.D. album, “Nothing” comes out Sept. 7.

It’s very inspired by everything that’s been going on in the world. The last time people had a lot to talk about was in the early '70s and I’d say that’s where we are now. Our album has a really hippie, revolutionary feel to it.

The video for “Hot ‘N Fun" may have a hippie vibe, but you’re surrounded by scantily-clad, beautiful women of all shapes and sizes. That’s a nice perq of being a rock star.

You know what? We want to liberate the women.

Really? Tell me how you’re doing that?

Because we want you to appreciate yourself for yourself and not an industry standard. So it’s not that you can’t wear those nice clothes, just know that you’re a beautiful person, foremost, without them and they don’t make you better necessarily. Once you know that and you know that you’re the cream of the crop and that you’re important to everyone’s existence, then it’s fine for you have those clothes and you’ll actually love wearing those clothes even more, but don’t let those clothes make you feel encouraged or discouraged. They’re just clothes. While we really love that and I love how they look on women, in a flash you could have none of that on and be just as gorgeous, if not better.

That’s very interesting coming from a man who runs a clothing line.

Yes ma’am.

Quincy Jones recently talked about how he was concerned that today's new producers are no longer  learning how to produce like he and his generation did. Is that a valid concern?

Yeah, it’s a valid concern, but the business is changing. Unfortunately, people are caring more about the technology and less about the content. To Quincy’s point, there has to be equal consideration given to both because content is nothing without technology and technology has no purpose without content.

Whom are you dying to work with?

Eminem. I think GaGa could be interested. There’s a lot of people.

I last saw you at a Springsteen concert. What about the Boss?

He’s interesting. I would love to. I can’t imagine that he’d want to or could envision what we do, but I’d love to work with him. I like working with challenging people across the board.

You can hear Pharrell's work on the big screen this Friday when "Despicable Me" opens in theaters nationwide.

Are you excited about N.E.R.D.'s new album?

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<p>Big Boi</p>

Big Boi

Big Boi, Kylie Minogue and Trent Reznor show their independence with new releases

Kelis and Bret Michaels also offer new albums

With much of America on vacation because of the July 4 weekend, only a few artists practice their independence with July 6 release dates. Big Boi’s “Sir Luscious Leftfoot,” which it feels like we’ve simultaneously waited for forever and already heard 45 tracks from, finally arrives after label entanglements. We also get new Enrique Iglesias and Kylie Minogue.

Big Boi, “Sir Luscious Leftfoot…Son of Chico Dusty” (Def Jam): One-half of Outkast, Big Boi brings in the big guns for his solo effort: T.I., Lil Wayne, Jamie Foxx and B.o.B. Fun feisty tracks like ‘Shutterbugg” and “General Patton” make this a likely contender to enter near the top of the chart.

Enrique Iglesias, ‘Euphoria” (Universal): He already has an mid-level hit in ‘I Like It” featuring Pitbull, in part thanks to the inclusion of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” cast. The bilingual album also includes Wisin & Yandel and Pussycat Doll/”Dancing with the Stars” champ, Nicole Scherzinger.

How to Destroy Angels, "How to Destroy Angels" (The Null Corporation): A NIN-less Trent Reznor returns with an EP of new tunes featuring his wife and frequent collaborator Atticus Ros.

Kelis, “Flesh Tone” ( music group/Interscope): Singer brings her musical milkshake back to the yard with this, her first album on the label run by the Black Eyed Peas’ frontman. He produced the dance-oriented effort, as did David Guetta, DJ Ammo and a few others. First single, “Acapella,” reached No.1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

Bret Michaels, “Custom Built” (Poor Boy): Poison frontman continues his improbable comeback, health willing, with his first album in five years. The set includes a cover of Sublime’s “What I Got” and the creepy duet with Miley Cyrus, “Nothing To Lose.” Bandana not included.

Kylie Minogue, “Aphrodite” (Astralwerks/EMI): Fronted by first single, “All the Lovers,” Aussie Minogue brings another dose of her intoxicating pop dance brew. Will the U.S. ever catch up to the rest of the world when it comes to Miss M’s fabulosity? 

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Watch: Fantasia classes up the joint in video for 'Bittersweet'

Did she make the right decision letting her man go?

Fantasia is often underrated as a vocalist since, quite frankly, there’s usually so much crazy surrounding her and her wacky family that takes center stage, but she is one of the most talented vocalists spawned by "American Idol."  In the new clip for her soulful “Bittersweet,” she wonders if she made the right decision letting loose her man. She wonders in her house, in the club, in the street. And she looks fabulous doing it.

The song, which is climbing Billboard's R&B charts, has a delicious ‘70s soul vibe, while the video looks a little ‘40s retro. Plus, we love the “A Star is Born” turn at the end—but we don’t want to give away the twist exccept to say, yeah, it's bittersweet.



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Guess who will top next week's Billboard 200 in our chart preview?

Can The-Dream spoil Eminem's party?

It’s beginning to look like Eminem’s world and we just live in it. “Recovery,” which sold 741,000 this week, will handily top next week’s Billboard 200.

“Recovery” should move around 340,000 copies, meaning it tops 1 million sold in two weeks. That’s an astonishing feat for anyone, but all the more so in these days of plummeting sales.

One only has to look at the rest of Hits Daily Double’s chart prediction to see how bleak it is if your name isn’t Marshall Mathers or Drake, whose former chart-topper “Thank Me Later” stays in No. 2 with predicted sales of around 125,000.

The highest debut next week looks to be The-Dream’s “Love King,” which will come in at No. 3 with sales of around 60,000, although the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse” soundtrack may push it to No. 4. The only other title to bow in the top 10 will likely be 3Oh!3’s “Streets of Gold,” with around 40,000 sold.

Miley Cyrus’s “Can’t Be Tamed,” which came in at No. 3 this week drops to No. 7 and sales of around 40,000.


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Music Power Rankings: Eminem's 'Recovery' has healing powers

Where do Vans WarpedTour and Katy Perry rank this week?

No surprise here. Who wouldn’t put Eminem at No. 1 this week? You score the highest one-week album sales tally of the year and the honor comes with the top spot on Music Power Rankings.

Eminem sold 741,000 copies of the aptly-named “Recovery,” making it the highest seller since AC/DC’s “Black Ice” debuted in October 2008. Plus, there was more good news for the rapper: his stadium dates with Jay-Z in New York and Detroit sold out so quickly that more concerts were added. No slump here.

1. Eminem (No. 3, last week): “Recovery” outsells its nearest competitor 7:1 and lifts a sagging music industry, even if just for a moment. Talk about a stimulus package.

2. Vans Warped Tour (not ranked): The longest-running touring festival in the U.S. returns for its 16th iteration, drawing 12,000 fans to the first of its 42 dates. Bolstered by a reasonable ticket price and 90 acts to choose from, the festival continues to set the standard for how it’s done.

3. The Sound Strike (not ranked): The initiative started by Rage Against the Machine’s Zack De La Rocha to boycott performing in Arizona is picking up steam. The movement protests the passage of a law that makes it mandatory that police stop residents they believe may be undocumented. The latest artists to join the cause are Nine Inch Nails, My Morning Jacket, Maroon5 and Ben Harper. De La Rocha said this week that Sound Strike is considering a series of protest concerts this month. Not attending? Gov. Jan Brewer.

4. Lucian Grange (not ranked): Haven’t heard of him yet? You will. The former head of Universal Music International moves stateside this week to start his reign as co-CEO of Universal Music Group with co-CEO Doug Morris before Morris steps down for good in several months. Meet the new king.

5. Warner Music Group (not ranked): The label group, home to such acts as Linkin Park, Michael Buble, Jason Derulo, Flaming Lips, Metallica and others, inks a deal with MTV Networks to have the music video outlet handle ad sales and marketing for Warner artists’ clips across a range of platforms. Plus, according to the Wall Street Journal,  MTV Networks promises WMG preferential treatment across its channels, which might mean something if they played videos anymore.

6. John Lennon (not ranked): The beloved Beatle’s post-Fab Four output will be digitally remastered and re-released in October to commemorate what would have been his 70th birthday. Additionally, expanded versions and new collections will be included. Widow Yoko Ono will oversee the initiative. Imagine.

7. Katy Perry (not ranked): She spends her fourth week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it the biggest hit of her young career. I guess she doesn’t have to wish we all were “California Gurls.”

8 Brad Paisley (not ranked): The country superstar knocks the presumtive CMA song of the year, Miranda Lambert’s “The House that Built Me,” out of the top spot with “Water,” his 15th No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Jason Aldean, whose “Crazy Town,” gets stuck at No. 2 again prays for a drought.

9. Pandora (not ranked): The online radio station that recommends tunes based upon listeners’ preferences is declared by Forbes as the future of music. The songwriters and publishers Pandora paid a collective $30 million to in royalties last year wholeheartedly agree. 

10. HMV (not ranked): Given that music sales are tanking, we have to really hand it to British chain HMV, whose profits soar 18% by expanding its offerings and pushing CDs into a little bin in the front. We kid about that last part…sort of.

What do you think?

Music Power Rankings appear every Friday in The Beat Goes On on HitFix.

Previous Ratings:


June 25

June 18

June 11
June 4

May 28

May 22

May 15

May 8

May 1

April 23



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