Music Power Rankings: Google vs iTunes? Drake, Miley and JoBros all make the list

Music Power Rankings: Google vs iTunes? Drake, Miley and JoBros all make the list

Plus, get your vuvuzela ready to herald World Cup music

Will Google succeed where Microsoft failed? Will Google be the one to stop Apple’s digital domination?  This week more reports surfaced that Google will launch Google Music by the end of the year.  The music service will offer both downloads and streams, all compatible with the Android.  It could be the first real game changer in the digital music space.

1.  Google Music (not ranked last week):  TechCrunch even reportedly found a logo for the new music service that the search engine will bow this fall. Although there’s no official announcement, for the last several months, Google has been quietly showing demonstrations of its offering. Bye Bye Zune.

2.  Drake (not ranked):  His “Thank Me Later” is on track to sell up to 475,000 next week, making it the third highest-total of the year. Plus, the Canadian rapper had his free South Street Seaport concert in Manhattan canceled earlier this week when the crowd became too unruly. Nothing says popular like a near riot; just ask Justin Bieber.

3.  Glee (not ranked): The show is over for the season and its power remains undiminished. A new “Glee” album, “Journey to Regionals,” debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 this week, ahead of the “Twilight Saga: Eclipse”  soundtrack. That makes three “Glee” albums to debut at No. 1 in a matter of months. Plus, Coldplay, which had been one of the few acts to prohibit “Glee” from using its music, caved. We smell “Viva la Vida” or “Yellow” in next season’s premiere.

4.  Miley Cyrus (not ranked): Not only will her new album, “Can’t Be Tamed,” come out earlier than its schedule June 22 release date due to demand, she has been tapped to star in “Wake,” a movie based on a paranormal thriller.  We’re guessing the casting director didn’t see Cyrus in “The Last Song.”

5.  The Jonas Bros. (not ranked): They may be struggling a little this summer on the concert circuit, but their entrepreneurship is in full bloom as their management company, The Jonas Group, partners with AOL and brand strategy company MGX Lab, to launch Cambio, a new video network for the web geared toward 13-to-24 year olds, which will feature original programming.

6.  Prince  (not ranked):  The musical genius will be honored at the June 27 BET Awards with a lifetime achievement award. We wonder if he’ll arrive in a little red corvette.

7.  Jason Hirschorn (not ranked): Departing his post as co-president of MySpace after only four months may seem like a strange move for the former MTV executive, but we say it’s a sign of his desire to get off a sinking ship. MySpace continues to struggle as it figures out exactly what its role is in the current social networking and online music space.

8.  Eminem (No. 4 last week): The release date for “Recovery” moves up to Monday, June 21, after the album leaked out. There’s a real buzz around him again that has not been there in years.

9.  World Cup themes (not ranked): They may not be as omnipresent at the continuous bleating of vuvuzelas at the World Cup in South Africa, but “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” by Shakira and “Wavin’ Flag” from K’naan are spreading the FIFA message around the globe. “Waka” debuts on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 44 this week, while K’naan’s track tops the European Hot Singles chart, as well as going to No. 1 in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. GOAL!!

10.  Of Montreal and Janelle Monae:  OK, the summer touring season is in the toilet, but it looks like the fall could be aces. Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes told Pitchfork that his Athens, Ga.-based band and Monae will tour together this fall. They’ve collaborated before, most recently on “Make the Bus,” but the chance to see them on a full-scale tour together live makes us wish the summer would fly by. 

What do you think?

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

Previous Ratings:

June 11
June 4

May 28

May 22

May 15

May 8

May 1

April 23





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Credit: AP Photo

Commentary: Live Nation and why the summer concert season sucks

Tours from Rihanna, Kings of Leon, Jonas Bros. suffer; We suggest how to make it better

It was bound to happen. Last year, while practically every other business sector took a hit during the recession, the concert industry eked out an okay, if not stellar, year. Now the chickens have come home to roost.  Billboard has declared 2010 the worst summer touring season since the mid-90s. And that’s before it’s even officially summer.

Some tours that seemed like sure summer sell-outs are struggling or have been cancelled outright. Christina Aguilera postponed her “Bionic” tour only three days after tickets went on sale. The official reason was that she had too much on her plate to prepare the type of show her fans deserved. Right. Her managers, who are the brightest in the business, didn’t realize that until after they put tickets on sale? The Eagles canceled three dates from their summer tour, while the multi-artist Country Throwdown tour wiped four poorly performing dates off its roster after they’d gone on sale.

Additionally, Billboard reports that Rihanna, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Limp Bizkit, Jonas Bros., and the Go-Go’s have either canceled dates or tours. Plus, Lilith festival dates are soft.  Add in U2 postponing its sold out (or nearly sold out) summer tour due to Bono’s back injury and many artists deciding to boycott Arizona because of its new immigration policy and you have the makings of a brutal summer season.

There are several reasons for the slowdown and we’ll go through each of them: first and foremost, the economy, despite reports, is still in the toilet for most people. Secondly, concert tickets for many acts, but not all, are simply too expensive. Other factors include too much traffic, festival drain-off, unreasonable discount expectations by fans and weak line-ups.

But first, we wanted to get a feel for how bad it is. We decided to try a little experiment and our research found that folks aren’t buying tickets for some acts even when the concert is fast upon them.

Tonight, the Eagles play my hometown, Raleigh, N.C. With the concert only a few hours away, we were still able to purchase a pair of 12th row seats on the floor—smack dab in the middle—close enough for Don Henley to practically sweat on you. The cost? $195/ticket. There are no additional service fees.

With only four days left until the show, we could still purchase 12th row seats on the floor at the top tier price of $176 each for Sting’s June 21 appearance with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.   (And how much was the service charge per ticket? $18.96). Total for two tickets with service charge: $389.92.

Not to pick on St. Paul, but Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are playing the same venue the next night. All the floor seats were gone, but five days out, we were still able to score some lower level seating about halfway down the side of the arena at $125 per seat. With a face value of $250 for a pair of seats, service charges brought the total tally up to $284.04. Now here’s a charge we can’t figure out: if you want to print out your own tickets, use your own paper, your own ink, it still costs you $2.50 per ticket.

These acts have older fans, many of them with disposable incomes and they still are having trouble selling tickets at the top ticket price.  And yet, ticket prices continue to soar upward. The average ticket price for the top 10-grossing tours in 2008 was $151. That’s up more than $100 from 10 years ago, when it was $47, according to Billboard.

So, basically, some acts are just too darn greedy. Though his Las Vegas tickets are now $125, when Garth Brooks routinely toured arenas 10 years ago and sold out multiple nights in every city, the ticket prices were never more than $25 for the top ticket, and he still managed to make a tidy profit, we imagine.

Oddly, in an effort to balance out high ticket prices, promoters may have gone too far. In a move that now seems shortsighted, last summer, anyone who paid full price for a concert ticket must have felt like an idiot.

Every week, Live Nation rolled out a promotion designed to goose sales, whether it was $10 lawn seats at participating venues to special packages that offered fans six tickets for the price of four. This year, Live Nation, the country’s biggest promoter, declared June “no-service fee” month.  In a press release, the company, which merged with Ticketmaster earlier this year, stated that 8 million tickets to shows by 110 artists would be offered without service fees in June at Live Nation’s 50 owned-and-operated venues in North America.

For a company like Live Nation, the real money comes not from ticket sales, but from parking, concessions and merchandise sales for the venues it owns, so putting butts in seats is what matters. After last summer, concert goers are conditioned to wait for the last minute. So even though Live Nation is offering no service fees this month, it’s entirely possible that next month, it will begin offering deep discounts on lawn seats or other promotions. Given how slowly tickets are moving, there’s no reason for casual fans to worry that if they don’t buy early, they won’t get to see bands they like—possibly at a price far lower than initially offered.

However, sometimes it’s not even a matter of price that keeps fans away.  The Country Throwdown tour, which is produced by Kevin Lyman, co-founder of the Warped Tour, averages a $31 ticket price for a whopping 21 acts. However, it still canceled four dates in soft markets.  In a statement, Lyman blamed a crowded marketplace so “we end up cannibalizing one another,” as well as “low ticket sales.”  The line-up is awesome—it includes Montgomery Gentry, Jamey Johnson, Jack Ingram and Little Big Town—but the absence of a surefire chart-topper has no doubt hurt ticket sales.

There are a few bright spots. On the solo tour front, Taylor Swift just concluded a sold-out arena/stadium tour by selling 57,000 seats at Boston’s Gillette Stadium. Lady GaGa tickets are moving quickly. We couldn’t find any for her July 1 tour opener in Boston on Ticketmaster (however, we’d like to add that a $175 top ticket price for Lady GaGa is absolutely ridiculously high—even if her fans will pay it.)

Additionally, a number of multi-day festivals, such as Coachella, Stagecoach and the just-concluded Bonnaroo have posted banner years this summer. Here’s why: for a price similar to what one evening with the Eagles cost, festival goers could have their pick of more than 100 acts over a three-day period.  (Despite the bang for the buck, several multi-act festivals, such as Virgin Festival Canada, Rothbury and All Points West went on hiatus this year).

As great as a festival like Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo may be, it then drains the marketplace for other acts coming through, plus makes it so that artists playing those festivals can’t come back to that region for several months, That’s fine for the headliners, who are paid a lot, but for a mid-to-small level band playing a festival, it can cause issues.

So what’s the solution? Acts need to check their egos at the door and stop gouging the public with such high ticket prices. Smart artists focus on building a career, not trying to drain the market each time through.

The average music fan only goes to two concerts a year—if you want it to be one of yours, make it impossible for the fan to resist what you have to offer.  Plus, Ticketmaster (or Live Nation Entertainment or whatever you want to call it), has to realize that fans really are tired of exorbitant ticket fees and even if Live Nation says there are none, most fans are savvy enough to know the fees have just been folded into the one ticket price.  Of course Ticketmaster should charge a fee for the convenience of buying online, but there needs to be some middle ground.

Booking agents also need to be smarter about routing. If Lady Gaga is coming to Seattle, an act with a similar following—whether it’s Rihanna or Ke$ha—needs to wait a good two months before hitting that market.  Plus—and this has been an issue for years—70% of concert touring happens during the summer.

For acts that are dependent upon outdoor shows for their atmosphere—like Jimmy Buffett or James Taylor—we certainly understand that, but there’s no reason for an act like Tom Petty, who’s mainly playing indoor arenas, to tour during the summer (yes, we know it’s behind the new album), but why not wait until the crowd thins out a bit.

Are you going to fewer concerts this summer?

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<p>Kevin Rudolf</p>

Kevin Rudolf

Credit: AP Photo

HitFix Interview: Kevin Rudolf talks new album, Lil Wayne, Weezer, Lifehouse

Producer/songwriter explains why he flipped us all the bird on 'Let It Rock'

Even though most people didn’t hear the name Kevin Rudolf until his hit song “Let It Rock” two years ago, the producer/musician/songwriter/artist has been toiling away for more than a decade.

Rudolf’s first real brush with potential stardom came in 2001 when his band, Binocular, signed with Madonna’s Maverick label. The album flopped, but Rudolf went on to work with Timbaland, playing guitar on records for the Black Eyed Peas, Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado and many others.

But the lure of being an artist remained. “Let It Rock,” from his debut album “In the City,” sold more than 3 million copies. On June 15 Rudolf returned with his second album, “To the Sky,” which features Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Flo Rida, and his Cash Money label boss Lil Wayne and others.

In the meantime, he’s also worked with Cobra Starship, Leona Lewis and Lifehouse, including co-writing their Spring smash, “Halfway Gone.”

The first single is called “I Made It.” When did you know you’d made it?

I think that making it is something that you do in stages. There’s a certain feeling of ‘I made it’ when you have a hit on the radio for the first time and people are feeling it and buying it and reacting to it at shows. But I’ve also set new goals since then too for myself so it’s like, I think the ‘I Made It’ feeling is something you get as you achieve new goals.

I’m sure you felt like you’d made it when you signed the record deal as Binocular. What did you learn from that experience?

I learned that you can’t depend on anyone. It taught me more as an artist, as a producer, that I have to be in control…I turn in my albums completely finished. On this new album, that’s exactly what it is. It’s like a mix tape. It’s just whatever I wanted to do over the last two months … there’s people I had over to my house, like Rivers Cuomo, when I was working on Weezer and he jumped on a song. Then I was working with Flo Rida and I said, ‘Check this out. Do you want to hop on this?’ And he did. I had a song that was left over that Wayne and I did, like a secret track, and I put that on the album.

What is Weezer’s River Cuomo like to work with?

He’s like such a cool, sweet, gentle person. Really open, really creative. Wants to try anything, everything. I love that about him…He can be very shy, but he’s a good guy. He’s got a great vibe to him. You don’t have to convince him to try something new and that’s what I love about working with him.

After Binocular ended, you started working with Timbaland. What’s the most important thing he taught you?

You have to go with your gut, you have to work quickly and you have to be the best at what you do. I loved the way he put his drums together and made tracks. He’s a genius at that so I would just watch and soak it up like a sponge…If it’s not working right away, don’t keep going with it. He does a lot of records, he does them very quickly. That’s what I do to. If it’s not magic, go back to the drawing board.

You did this record in two months.

Entirely, writing and everything. I probably did it in less, I was just doing so many shows in between, it drags it out.

What happens to you when you’re not inspired?

You know what I learned? Inspiration is like a muscle. You can work it. Like going to the gym. You don’t have to feel like going. You sit in front of your keyboard or guitar and you have to just write, you have to experiment and get the juices flowing.…The  greatest songwriters—Diane Warren to Billy Joel—they all have a scheduled time when they go sit in front of their instrument and they work. Every bad song you write is closer to a great song too, so you kind of can’t lose with it as long as you’re willing to do the work.

What is the difference between working with a Leona Lewis vs. working with a Lil Wayne in terms of what you bring to the project?

With Lil Wayne, it’s very easy, all you have to do is give him a great beat and let him be himself and let Wayne do Wayne. With Leona Lewis, it’s different because in that case I came in with a completed song and it was about getting a great performance out of her and then going back and finishing the production.

Who are you dying to work with?

I’m a huge Jay Z fan, I’m a huge Sade fan although I don’t think Sade is going to do another album for another 10 years. Personally, it would be a dream.

You’re not mentioning many rockers.

I’m not as interested. I mean, I’d love to work with Eddie Vedder, but he’s his own thing. He doesn’t need me.

Let’s talk about working with Lifehouse. The band’s Jason Wade talked about how you build songs differently than he does. What was that day in the studio like?

I didn’t know what to expect. I was always a Lifehouse fan. I got into the room and set up my keyboards and we just started to vibe. I thought we’d come up with something really good just because I know [Jason’s] a great songwriter and when someone’s great at what they do like that, it’s very easy; you just have to point [them] in a certain direction or help execute the vision really….honestly, [it was] probably No. 1 experience for me as far as best experience working with people. I love him.

What’s something we would be surprised to know about Lil Wayne?

He really knows what he’s doing. He’s very intelligent. I know he sort of comes off as if it all just happened, you know, and he ended up as Wayne, but he created himself in that way. Very intelligently, by the way. He created that persona and now he’s living that life and I think he’s way more aware of it and more intelligent than people may know.

What do you mean when you say he’s living that life? He’s in prison.

I wasn’t referring to prison. I was referring to his persona, his aura that he’s created for himself where he’s really turned himself into a superstar.

I think most people do not realize how cynical a song “Let It Rock” is. If you just listen to the chorus, it sounds like a party song, but you’re very bitter in that song.

You’re absolutely right. It is really bitter. “Let It Rock” came from an angry place; it didn’t come from a party place. It came from a place where I was frustrated with the world and my life and trying to make it, trying to make something happen, being frustrated with my situation. It’s about hypocrisy. Basically that song is about sticking your middle finger to the world and saying, “when I come through, I’m going to bring truth; I’m going bring something real.” When I say, “let it rock,” I’m saying “F-You.” I’m not saying put your hands up in the air.

What’s the biggest way your world has changed in the past two years?

Well, I’m not broke. That helps. I’d say that the best thing that’s happened is I’m in the game as an artist, as a writer and as a producer. That I can actually have the freedom and power to make the music that I want to make the way I want to make it, deliver it and get it out into the world.


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<p>Big Boi in &quot;General Patton&quot;</p>

Big Boi in "General Patton"

Watch: Big Boi's new video, 'General Patton'

Nothing says five-star general like a good game of bowling

When the going gets tough, the tough go…bowling. Or at least that’s how it plays out in “General Patton” the latest video clip from Big Boi’s July 6 album, “Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty.”

They also roam around New York and do some other stuff, but primarily, they bowl. We’re not sure if Big Boi knows something about the General that we don’t.  Maybe he liked to bowl when he wasn’t planning military strategy.

We like the track, which features Big Boi rapping over an operatic piece (if you know what the music is, let us know).

As far as the video goes, we don’t like it as much as we did the clip for “Shutterbugg,” which was much more deceptively inventive. Plus, why don’t the video and audio match up? We thought it was just our computer, but we found several other folks complaining about it.

What do you think?






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<p>OK Go in &quot;End Love&quot;</p>

OK Go in "End Love"

Watch: OK Go go full color for 'End Love' video

We wish we were the goose

Is there anyone making videos as charming as Ok Go there days? There’s something utterly guileless about their clips, even when they’re as low key as the new video for “End Love.” They could take a cardboard box and a roll of duct tape and still come up with a video we’d find compelling.

Here, there’s not a lot more going on than the four guys in pastel hoodies and pants hanging out in Los Angeles’ Echo Park park with stop-gap photography.  The choreography is pretty rudimentary, even for these guys, but it’s still captivating. Plus, when they’re joined by some friends in the park, it simply becomes an exercise video and we still can’t look away. As far as the song goes, it’s very New Order.

They’re goofballs, plain and simple, whether they’re playing around on treadmills or designing a Rube Goldberg contraption. Like the goose in the video, we’d follow them anywhere.





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Watch: MGMT builds the perfect beast in video for 'It's Working.' Or do they?

Watch: MGMT builds the perfect beast in video for 'It's Working.' Or do they?

Watch ice cream come from a dude's head

It’s not as if MGMT’s videos are in any way, shape or form linear, but we actually think we may understand what’s going on in the brand new clip for “It’s Working,” and that scares us a little. We also know it has more bright colors than a bagful of Skittles and we dig that a lot.

French artist So Me, who has worked with Kanye West and Kid Cudi, directed the clip, the second video from MGMT’s sophomore album, “Congratulations.”

In the mini-movie,  MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden build a box with complicated instructions and lots of tools. But the box has magic properties, you see. First off, it turns the duo’s drab duds into psychedelic, rainbow bright outfits.  But that’s the least of it powers. A girls in a school girl outfit with FM pumps mysteriously appears. Then comes the drummer, wearing an awesome sombrero that you can pour candy into and it comes out as soft-serve ice cream, There’s lot more, including a pirouetting giant angel and a whole “Is this just a dream?” sequence.

I always feel like I’d understand MGMT’s videos a lot better if I dropped a tab of acid shortly before viewing.

A lot more happens and we don’t want to give away the ending, but we think the message may be something along the lines of “be careful what you wish for.” Either that or weird things come in medium-sized packages.





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<p>Adam Lambert in &quot;If I Had You&quot;</p>

Adam Lambert in "If I Had You"

Watch: Adam Lambert sports a crazy mullet in 'If I Had You' video

Where's Mad Max when you need him?

It’s Adam Lambert in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.” No, wait! It’s Adam beyond Thunder Dome. No, hold on! It’s Adam in Wonderland.

In his new video for “If I Had You,” Lambert may be singing that if he had his lover,  he wouldn’t need anything else… no money, fame or fortune, but clearly the said lover is  nowhere in sight, so the former "American Idol" runner-up  ventures from his woodland home into the big city with lots and lots of bells and whistles, spiked shoulder pads, a very cool top hat, a mullet and miles of guy liner.

The video is a glorified performance piece, which is fine. Writhing dancers, some of whom are copping moves from “Thriller,” groove as if they’re at the coolest quasi-masquerade party ever, while Lambert sings in various disguises. It’s all very colorful and dramatic and oh-so-Adam. The song is a delicious throwback to the ‘80s—it’s a cross between Stacey Q and Foreigner, and we mean that as a major compliment. It will no doubt be a huge dance hit, but we’d like to see Lambert have a flat-out radio smash.

The clip’s concept was inspired by Lambert’s experience at the Burning Man festival five years ago, according to a statement. It also is a love letter to his friends and fans who have stood by him as he’s climbed up and down fame’s ladder. “Over the past year, in addition to my unbelievable opportunities, I have also been faced with the unique challenge of staying positive in light of some critics and closed mindedness,” he said in a statement. “My friends, family, and my devoted fans have been a key force in keeping me grounded. I wanted to make a video that paid tribute to the wonderful people who’ve inspired me to become the artist and spirit I am today." That’s all well and good, but that message soared right over my head. I just liked the outfits.


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Credit: AP Photo

Drake, Robyn, Sarah McLachlan and Tom Petty deliver new treats this week

Veterans Devo and Steve Miller Band return after two decades

After a long absence, some classic artists, such as Devo, Steve Miller, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Sarah McLachlan, return June 15. We also see if Drake can live up to all the hype with his first full-length album for Lil Wayne’s Cash Money label.  Robyn and Kevin Rudolf also make sure we keep the party going.

Devo, “Something for Everybody” (Warner Bros.): The red flowerpot hats may be gone, but Devo whips it good with its first album of new material in 20 years. Producers include Santigold, the Dust Brothers’ John King and The Bird & the Bee’s Greg Kurstin. Drummer John Freese sits in with the classic line-up of Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh and Gerald and Bob Casale.

Drake, “Thank Me Later” (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown): After mix tapes, a Grammy nomination and several hits,  Drake finally releases his first official full-length album. Joining the Canadian rapper are his mentor, Lil Wayne, as well as Jay-Z, T.I., Alicia Keys and The Dream.

The Gaslight Anthem, “American Slang (SideOne Dummy): New Jersey band and Springsteen acolytes pair with producer Ted Hutt for its third, adventurous, rocking album.

Sarah McLachlan, “Laws of Illusion” (Arista): Ethereal singer/songwriter puts out first studio album in several years. McLachlan recorded much of the album live (including six songs in five days) giving “Laws” a looser, more spirited feel than some of her previous works. While first single “Loving You is Easy” may be one of her breeziest songs ever, some of the other tunes deal with the heartbreaking dissolution of her marriage. Read review here.

The Steve Miller Band, “Bingo” (Space Cowboy/Roadrunner/Loud & Proud): The original space cowboy delivers first album in 17 years, just like that. Abracadabra.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Mojo” (Reprise): In the band’s first new album since 2002’s “The Last DJ,” Petty and the boys deliver a stripped-down, blues-influenced set.

Punch Bros., “Antifogmatic” (Nonesuch): Steller acoustic outfit that often rocks harder than most plugged-in bands pairs with producer Jon Brion for a set of 10 originals. The Chris Thile-fronted band is on tour with Steve Martin for several dates this summer and are also featured prominently on Dierks Bentley’s new, bluegrass-influenced set, “Up on the Ridge.”

Robyn, “Body Talk PT. 1,” (Cherrytree/Interscope): Swedish singer continues a career resurgence with her latest set of  electronic-based pop, fronted with first single,  “Dancing on my Own.” In addition to playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival,  Robyn starts a co-headlining tour with Kelis July 23.

Kevin Rudolf, “To the Sky” (Cash Money/Universal):  Producer/songwriter Rudolf, known for his work with  Lil Wayne, Lifehouse and Cobra Starship, follows up his debut album (which spawned the hit, “Let It Rock”), with his sophomore set, which combines pop, rock and hip-hop.

Various Artists, “NOW  34 That’s What I Call Music!” (Capitol/EMI): The latest in the never-ending, popular series includes hits from Black Eyed Peas, Justin Bieber, B.o.B., Ke$ha, Rihanna, Usher, Lifehouse and lots more.


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<p>Sarah McLachlan</p>

Sarah McLachlan

Credit: AP Photo

Review: Is Sarah McLachlan's 'Laws of Illusion' worth the seven-year wait?

Lilith co-founder returns with new music just in time for this year's fest

Even the most casual of Sarah McLachlan fans knows the Canadian singer/songwriter does bittersweet, regret and wistfulness as well as any artist.

What may come as a surprise to listeners of “Laws of Illusion,” her first album of new material in seven years, is how well she does joy. On opening single, “Loving You is Easy,” an almost impossibly carefree McLachlan sings about the first giddy blushes of a new romance. There may still be a heartbreak hotel at the end of lonely street, but McLachlan has found a way out. Or as she sings on "Heartbreak": "Heartbreak, no, you can't catch me/I have on heels, but I move too fast." Stream the album here.

“Laws of Illusion” finds McLachlan again working with her longtime collaborator/producer Pierre Marchand. After almost 20 years together, the pair wisely shake things up a little on “Laws.” Instead of laboriously spending days meticulously fixating over every note, they recorded six of the 10 new songs in five days live.  That process gives much of the album a fresh, raw feel.

Since 2003’s “Afterglow,” life has kicked McLachlan around a bit: now 42, she and her husband split two years ago shortly after the birth of their second daughter and the detritus of that marriage is strewn throughout “Laws.” Whether it’s the electronic, propulsive  “Awakenings,  in which she wonders, “how the hell did I end up like this?” or the heartbreaking “Forgiveness,” in which she is neither ready to forgive nor forget, her broken love lies bleeding throughout much of the album.

But the story doesn’t end there. “Laws” follows an arc of despair and then on hope. On the layered, sweet, guitar-driven  “Illusions of Bliss,”  McLachlan, tentative and a little gun shy, nevertheless dives back in to love’s waters. By the time we reach “Loving You is Easy, she’s delightfully in over her head again.
If she’s not willing to let go on “Forgiveness,” on “Rivers of Love,” she’s come to the conclusion that it all comes down to “leaving it all behind,” and how long is it before you “drown” in the river of love.

McLachlan’s marvelous voice, which shifts effortless from ethereal to weather beaten here, sounds as strong and pliant as always. Marchand’s true gift is surrounding it with the perfect instrumentation, whether it’s the guitars on “Illusions of Bliss” or the synths on the hypnotic “Love Come” or gentle drums on the shut-out-the-rest of-the world track, “Out of Tune.”

There’s a legitimate complaint to be made that two of the 12 tracks here, “Don’t Give Up on Us” and “U Want Me 2” (about the dissolution of her marriage) were already available via her greatest hits set, 2008’s “Closer.” Plus, she covers Susan Enan’s “Bring on the Wonder,” which, by now, is very familiar to McLachlan fans (although her largely a capella version is breathtaking). But those are small quibbles about an album that otherwise feels like a very welcome return from an old friend.

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<p>Scissor Sisters</p>

Scissor Sisters

Watch: Scissor Sisters light up the night with new video for 'Fire with Fire'

Can they finally break through in the U.S.?

Scissor Sisters are winning fans one at a time in their new video for “Fire with Fire,” the debut single from “Night Work,” the group’s first albums since 2006’s “Ta-Dah.”

The mid-tempo, piano-based tune is one of those tracks that doesn’t seem that infectious at first, especially compared to the band’s earlier work, but then it embeds itself in your brain. If their new label, Downtown, plays it right, it could become a summer sleeper anthem.

Though the band recorded most of the album in London, the co-ed outfit takes to the New York City streets on the back of a flatbed truck to spread the word as fans and spectators look on.  This has been done much better by the likes of U2 but it’s a fun, colorful video, nonetheless.

“Night Work,” produced by Stuart Price, comes out June 29 in the U.S. and the day before in the U.K., where Scissor Sisters are bonafide stars.





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