<p>Christina Aguilera</p>

Christina Aguilera

Credit: AP Photo

Christina Aguilera's new set, 'Bionic,' hits stores in March

Album includes contributions from Sia, MIA, Goldfrapp and Santigold


Is Christina Aguilera channeling Lindsey Wagner with her fourth studio album, “Bionic, out in March?  Or maybe she’s just talking about what a woman has to be to juggle a career, marriage and motherhood.
As we mentioned earlier, the project, her first album of new material since 2006’s two-CD set, “Back to Basics,” includes collaborations with Santigold, Goldfrapp and MIA. One of her biggest partners in crime was Sia, with whom she co-wrote three ballads. Among the pair’s songs are “Lullaby” and the title track. Aguilera describes the song “Glam” as Madonna-era “Vogue.” Aguilera, revealed all to Marie Claire, on which she appears on the cover of the February issue, according to Idolator. Given the nature of those collaborators, it sounds like the songs will be much slicker and electronic than some of the tracks on the Linda Perry-produced “Back to Basics,” which contained one disc of fairly stripped down material.
We last heard from Aguilera, who took some time off to have a child, with a greatest hits set, available last year exclusively through Target.


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Wilco extends tour with new March dates

Shows, billed as 'An Evening with Wilco' precedes Japan swing


Wilco has extended its spring tour with an East coast swing that starts March 22. The shows, billed as “An Evening with Wilco,” begin at the Fillmore in Miami Beach, Fla. and multiple nights at Montclair, N.J’s Wellmont Theater before wrapping at Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh. Following the U.S. dates, Wilco will head for an already announced swing through Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Tickets for the new dates  go on sale Jan. 6 through wilcoworld.net.

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is also producing an album for Mavis Staples for Anti- Records, as well as working on the band’s new album, according to Billboard.


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<p>Trey Anastasio</p>

Trey Anastasio

Phish's Trey Anastasio returns to the stage

Backed by Classic Tab, guitarist performs from his eight solo sets


Fresh off of Phish’s sold-out 2009 tour, the band’s singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio is hitting the road again for three weeks of dates. This time, he’ll be backed by the wonderfully named Classic Tab, the outfit that has played with him on previous solo projects.
The shows will draw primarily from Anastasio’s eight solo albums, including last year’s “Time Turns Elastic.”
The tour kicks off Feb. 8 with a benefit concert at Charlottesville, Va.’s Jefferson Theater. Proceeds will go to the Kristine Anastasio Manning Memorial Fund, which the money donated to causes supported by Anastasio’s late sister.  
2/8            Charlottesville, VA            Jefferson Theatre                      
2/9            Washington, DC            9:30 Club                                   
2/11            Philadelphia, PA            Electric Factory                                  
2/12            Boston, MA                        House of Blues                                   
2/13            Wallingford, CT            Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre           
2/14            Red Bank, NJ                        Count Basie Theatre                       
2/16            New York, NY                        Terminal 5                                   
2/18            Milwaukee, WI                        The Pabst Theater                       
2/19            Chicago, IL                        Riviera Theatre                                   
2/20            Minneapolis, MN            State Theatre                                   
2/21            Kansas City, MO            Uptown Theatre                                   
 2/23            St. Louis, MO                        The Pageant                                   
2/25            Nashville, TN                        Ryman Auditorium                       
2/26            Charlotte, NC                        The Fillmore                                   
2/27            Atlanta, GA                        Tabernacle                                   
2/28            Knoxville, TN                        Tennessee Theatre   


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<p>Jay-Z in &quot;On to the Next One&quot;</p>

Jay-Z in "On to the Next One"

Watch: Jay-Z’s hypnotic video for 'On to the Next One'

We can't figure it out, but we like it

We can’t even pretend to understand it, but we love the video for Jay-Z’s hypnotic new single for “On to the Next One” featuring Swizz Beatz.

Shot in black and white—his preferred color scheme these days—the video is little more than seemingly unrelated images morphed together into a collage. There are visuals that are take-offs (or at least we think they are) of Heath Ledger’s Joker and Marilyn Manson. There’s something about it that’s oddly compelling, even the shots of milk.

Toward the end, Jay Z sings “y’all should be afraid of what I’m gonna do next. “ Guess what, Hova? You’re wrong. We can’t wait. “The Blueprint 3” and its singles have shown a reinvigorated Jay-Z who just grows stronger and stronger.

And in case you're wondering, that insinuating sample you hear running throughout the whole song is Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.”

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<p>Ke$ha's &quot;Animal&quot;</p>

Ke$ha's "Animal"

Review: Ke$ha's 'Animal' aims straight for the party girls

Not a girl to take home to mother, unless... does your mom likes threesomes?

Listen up party girls for whom throwing up in the closet and waking up on the front lawn are merely signs of a night well spent: We have the perfect role model for you.

But then again, you probably knew that already since more than 2 million of you have downloaded Ke$ha’s first single, “Tik Tok,” or loved her as the female voice on Flo Rida’s remake of “Right Round.”

With her slatternly come-ons and complete array of every tired trope imaginable from the backstabbing girl to the cheating boy, Ke$ha has created the perfect album for community college dropouts in dead-end  jobs who live to go clubbing on the weekend and aspire to be Snooki from  “Jersey Shore.”  Ke$ha calls it electro-pop, but it’s really just mindless pop you can dance to, thanks to some slick production work by Dr. Luke and Max Martin. Most of it is delivered in her tough, Fergie wanna-be, spoken style.

Living for the weekend—and all its excesses—has long been exalted in song, but it’s hard to recall someone who has captured it with the single-minded, totally committed, trashy brio displayed on “Animal.” There’s no subtlety here. There’s none of the cleverness of a Lady GaGa (although Ke$ha rips her off every chance she gets), the adorableness of a Katy Perry or even the insouciant charm of a Britney Spears. Instead there’s hit-you-with-a-sledgehammer, let’s-get- drunk-and-screw-with-the-bad-boys songs where the only thing to look forward to is doing it again the next weekend. On the first few listens, it’s all harmless, PG-13 fun. After the fifth listen, it just seems sad and empty. Not that any of Ke$ha’s fans are likely to give it that much deep thought.

In fact, thinking too much is what gets Ke$ha, who co-wrote the songs here, in trouble. She’s fine wading in the shallow end with bouncy tunes like the literal “Take It Off,” toe-tapping “Backstabber” and even playing the aforementioned puking party girl in “Party at a Rich Dude’s House” (although “Blah, Blah, Blah” with a slumming 3oh!3 is just wretched). It’s when she tries, unconvincingly, to show that although she may like to party, she’s sensitive and vulnerable on tracks like “Hungover” and “Animal” that the album veers wildly off track. Honey, the minute you put a dollar sign in your name, you forfeited the right to any hopes of being taken seriously. Stick with the party anthems and on crafting such fine lyrics as “Want to dance with no pants on? Holla!”

“Animal” is perfect for getting your groove on (and for licensing:  the music supervisor for “Sex and the City 2” should grab “Boots & Boys” right now), but like  most of the drunken nightclub crawlers at closing time, you don’t really want to bring Ke$ha home with you.

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<p>Ke$ha's &quot;Animal&quot;</p>

Ke$ha's "Animal"

2010 begins with the 'Tik Tok' of Ke$ha's clock, plus Kanye and Kat

New sets gets the new year off to an eclectic start

As my colleague, Katie Hasty, and I wrote about a few days ago, there are lots of reasons – at least 25 of them — to be excited about in 2010. One of the albums we highlighted, Ke$ha’s “Animal” drops tomorrow, Jan. 5 along with a small handful of others. The year gets off to a slightly slow start otherwise, but here are the brief highlights.

Ke$ha “Animal” (Kemosabe/RCA) “Tik Tok” has already made an impression on Ke$ha fans, more than 2 million of them actually. That’s how many times the chart topper has already been downloaded. It has also set the record for highest number of downloads by a female artist in one week. Look for the party to continue on “Animal,” produced by Britney Spears'  cohorts Dr. Luke and Max Martin.
Katharine McPhee, “Unbroken” (Verve Forecast): “American Idol” season five finalist returns with his second album and it’s a major departure from her pop/R&B oriented debut. McPhee is a striking platinum blonde on the album cover and her music seems similarly adult and mature. This time, her pipes are wrapped bout adult contemporary tunes that suit her perfectly. She co-writes with a number of fellow sensitive female types, including Ingrid Michaelson and Kara Dioguardi.
Kanye West, “ VH1 Storytellers” (Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella): This DVD/CD set, recorded shortly after the release of his fourth album “808’s & Heartbreak,” offers more than 70 minutes of West, spanning his career. DVD also includes a Q&A.
Various Artists, “A Single Man” (Relativity Media): The soundtrack to the likely Oscar contender, which takes play in the early ‘60s, combines composers Abel Korzeniowski and Shigeru Umebayashi’s scores with songs from the era, such as Booker T & the MG’s “Green Onions,” and Etta James’ “Stormy Weather.”
Various Artists, “Youth in Revolt” (Lakeshore): The soundtrack from New film featuring Michael Cera is in alternative delight with cuts from Fruit Bats, rapper Fatlip (formerly of Pharcyde)  and Beulah, as well as Cera himself singing “I Have a Boyfriend” and 60s’ singer Jo Stafford’s “My Romance.”


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Chris Cornell has announced that Soundgarden will reunite

Chris Cornell and Soundgarden look like they are about to reunite.  Does anyone care?

Credit: AP Photo

Soundgarden rings in 2010 with news of a reunion

'School is back in session,' declares Chris Cornell


Twelve years after disbanding, Soundgarden is reuniting The Seattle band, fronted by Chris Cornell, cryptically hinted at the reunion on a new website, www.soundgardenworld.com, which went live Dec.31. Additionally, Cornell tweeted the news as 2009 came to a close as well: “The 12-year break is over & school is back in session. Sign up now. Knights of the Soundtable ride again!”

The formation has been in the works for the last several months, according to Rolling Stone, as the band has been revisiting its grunge legacy. . The plans include collating previously unreleased material for a boxed set. In July, Cornell told Rolling Stone, “I think the catalog and legacy of the and has been ignored by the record label and previous management, so we decided to get together and start working towards putting something like that out.”
No box set yet, but it sounds like fans will get something much better with the reunion. In addition to Cornell, who has had a rather spotty solo career since the band called it quits in 1997, Soundgarden included guitarist Kim Thayil, drummer Matt Cameron and bassist Ben Shepherd. Its biggest success was 1994’s “Superunknown,” which included the Grammy-Award winning singles, “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.” During the hiatus, Cornell served as lead singer of Audioslave, which also included members of Rage Against the Machine.
The announcement leaves a lot of questions, such as if the reunion means a new album or tour or both. Plus, Cameron has been fellow Seattle band Pearl Jam’s drummer since 1998. Pearl Jam wrapped up its 2009 tour in November, but has a three weeks’ worth of summer European dates, including a number of festivals, June 22-July 10, 2010.
[Are you excited about Soundgarden reuniting? Share your thoughts below]


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Credit: AP Photo

Ke$ha's 'Tik Tok' beats its way to a digital sales record

Party anthem sets new digital sales record for a female artist


Let’s hear it for the party girls! They have spoken loud and clear. Ke$ha’s trashy “Tik Tok” set the record this week for most downloads by any female artist since Billboard started tracking digital sales in 2003. It beats the previous record held by  Lady GaGa's "Just Dance" by almost 200,000 copies.


That’s right, more than 610,000 downloads of “Tik Tok” were sold this past week, making it only the second song to surpass the 500,000 mark in a 7-day period. The first to rush past that tally was Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” which holds the title for the most downloaded song at more than 5 million copies. “Tik Tok” has already passed the 2 million mark for cumulative digital sales.  
We find it a bit ironic that "Just Dance" is the song "Tik Tok" beats since it ips off both “Just Dance” and "Love Game" with its opening beats. The video makes Ke$ha slightly less classy and appealing than Snooki from MTV's “Jersey Shore,” But who can resist a girl that brings her own beer? As she curls up in the bathtub to sleep it off, the only thing that’s missing is the rushing to the toilet to vomit and the hangover. Plus, what’s with the line about Mick Jagger? He’s old enough to be her granddad. In terms of party anthems, this is the skanky girl’s version on “Party in the USA.”  Party on…
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<p>Melissa Etheridge</p>

Melissa Etheridge

Credit: AP Photo

Melissa Etheridge is about to rock and rock and rock

How her kids convinced her not to call her album 'Fearless'

When I think about some of the most memorable music moments of the decade, I think about Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone’s no-holds-barred performance of “Piece of My Heart” at the 2006 Grammy Awards. It was Etheridge’s first appearance since she’d announced she was battling cancer. She got up on stage, bald as a cue ball from chemotherapy, and sang her heart and soul out. I was backstage in the press room and there wasn’t a dry eye in there. Even if you weren’t a fan of Etheridge’s music, you couldn’t help but fall in love with her that day for her utterly fearless, radiant, joyous, performance.

I recently hung out with Etheridge on the set of her music video for her new single, “Fearless Love. “ The video shoot was at a house in Tarzana, Calif., that time had forgotten. A very sweet elderly lady lived there and had left it virtually unchanged since the Eisenhower era.

As Etheridge and I chatted in her doily-filled dining room, the lady of the house asked Etheridge what kind of music she made. She had a preference for jazz herself. Etheridge politely told her rock and roll and expressed her hope that it wouldn’t be too loud for her as we headed into the performance segment.

The owner interrupted us a second time and Etheridge was as respectful and courteous with her as if she were her own grandmother, even though we were on a very tight time schedule, but that’s how Etheridge is. For a rock star, she’s always been exceptionally grounded—maybe it’s her Midwestern roots. Her bout with cancer left her humbled, but also determined to enjoy every minute and to allow herself, her voice and her fame to be used for causes she supports: whether it be the environment, gay rights or breast cancer awareness.

I’ve interviewed Etheridge a number of times, but on this night, she was more present and vibrant than I’d ever seen her. She’s tremendously excited about her new album, “Fearless Love,” which comes out in early 2010, and heralds it as a return to her rock roots (Her kids had to talk her out of calling it "Fearless," reminding her there's another artist who claimed that album title recently). 

“The whole album just rocks and rocks and rocks,” she says. “It doesn’t give up. Every song is very emotional and intense.  There’s all kinds of different subjects in it. Most of the songs are about me. There’s a couple where I sing about other people, situations, where I’m the third-person observer. I don’t do that very often. I decided I want to do that more.”

Etheridge can’t wait to get back on the road, or more specifically, back on stage. “It’s an exchange of energy,” she says, between her and her audience. “And there are people who come to listen and have it be a one-way conversation and then there are people who literally talk to me. I don’t always hear them.”

I add that they’re usually shouting out, “Melissa, we love you!”

“Thank you very much is how I usually answer… and it’s a two way conversation.”

“Fearless Love” is her 10th studio album and she feels she finally has enough material for “the perfect set list,” she says. “Oh! This album puts it over the top. I can interchange now.”

For the rest of our interview with Etheridge, click here.

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<p>Why is this man smiling?: Chris Martin of Coldplay</p>

Why is this man smiling?: Chris Martin of Coldplay

Credit: AP Photo

Best Albums and Songs of the Decade: Springsteen, Kanye, Coldplay

Where do Radiohead and Green Day fit in?

As my colleague Katie Hasty and I -- as well as every other critic in the world -- have been doing over the last few weeks, it’s time to unveil yet another list.

Below are my Top 12 choices for best albums and singles of the 2000s. “Best,” which is clearly a subjective term, means a few things here: not only was the album or song a superior effort, it’s also one that I loved (and continue to love) to play over and over. The latter meant more to me than critical acclaim from fellow writers and whether any of these selections showed up on other lists. I deliberately left out anything that I put on my Best of 2009 tallies, for singles and albums.

What are your favorites of the decade?
Best Albums of the Decade

1) “Magic,” Bruce Springsteen
2) “American Idiot,” Green Day
3) “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends,” Coldplay
4) “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” Justin Timberlake
5) “This is It,” The Strokes
6) “Back to Black,” Amy Winehouse
7) “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” U2
8)  “Taking the Long Way,” Dixie Chicks
9) “Late Registration, “ Kanye West
10) “Kid A,” Radiohead
11) “Evil Urges,” My Morning Jacket
12) “Final Straw,” Snow Patrol
Best Singles of the Decade

1) “Viva La Vida,” Coldplay
2) “Crazy in Love,” Beyonce
3) “All My Life,” Foo Fighters
4) “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
5) “Clocks,” Coldplay
6) “Hey Ya,” Outkast
7) “American Idiot,” Green Day
8) “Girls in their Summer Clothes,” Bruce Springsteen
9) “No One Knows,” Queens of the Stone Age
10) “Golddigger” Kanye West
11) “Starlight,” Muse
12) “99 Problems,” Jay- Z

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