<p>12 time Grammy winner Alicia Keys.</p>

12 time Grammy winner Alicia Keys.

Credit: AP Photo/Jim Cooper

Alicia Keys turns to the elements for fourth studio album

'The Element of Freedom' streets Dec. 1, listen to 'Doesn't Mean Anything'

Alicia Keys will release her fourth studio album, “The Element of Freedom,” on Dec. 1 on MBK/J Records (did we miss the announcement that she now has her own imprint? Someone has clearly renegotiated her deal—or if it’s always been that way, we never noticed before).

Keys has already won 12 Grammys in her short career and is sure to up her statue count with “The Element of Freedom,” which she co-wrote and co-produced with longtime partner Kerry “Krucial” Brothers.

Of the new album, Keys says in a statement: ““The music is really strong, and the drums are really aggressive, but my voice is vulnerable and delicate.” Her process, she continues, was“eliminating all of the boundaries and all the limitations, so that you can feel your freedom and express your freedom in every way you possibly can and that’s what I did with this album.”

First single “Doesn’t Mean Anything” was the Hot Shot Debut on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this week, bowing at No. 61. It’s sure to rise as it goes on sale this week and the video, which debuts Oct. 16, provides additional exposure.

In addition, Keys can be heard on Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” from his “The Blueprint 3” set.  She also wrote co-wrote Whitney Houston’s current hit, “Million Dollar Bill.”


Listen to "Doesn't Mean Anything" in the embedded player below.






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<p>&nbsp;Michael Jackson</p>

 Michael Jackson

Credit: AP

Listen: Michael Jackson’s ‘This is It’

Is new posthumous single fit for a King (of Pop)?

This is it? This is the last recording we’re going to get from Michael Jackson? “This is It,” released Monday at midnight, is the first unreleased track to come out after Jackson’s June death—although we’re sure it won’t be the last.

It’s the title track to the forthcoming CD that serves as the companion piece to the “This is It” movie, a documentary about the making of his tour, that was preempted by his passing.

The song starts out strong enough, with Jackson’s voice (and a few trademark vocalizations) instantly recognizable. It’s great to hear his unique vocals again. The mid-tempo tune has all the usual Jackson hallmarks: fingersnaps, choir-like back-up singers, but there’s just not much there. Toward the end, Jackson’s voice sounds strained and frayed. The song sounds unfinished and we wager it was. The producer and engineer, I believe the latter was multiple Grammy winner Al Schmitt, were left to patch together the song like pieces of a quilt.

After its strong beginning, it peters out with no hint of a catchy chorus or any kind of memorable hook. After several listens, we’re not so sure we even know what it’s about, except he never thought he’d be this person’s lover. Another version of the song, with Jackson’s brothers singing background, will be on the CD, which comes out Oct. 27, one day before the movie opens its two-week run. That version will also play over the documentary’s closing credits.

Despite that and the fact that there’s no discernible chorus, we predict the song will go straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 because of download sales.

Give it a listen:

Tell us what you think.

UPDATE: Singer/songwriter Paul Anka raised a ruckus, understandably, after hearing the song saying that he was a co-writer with Jackson on "This is It." Jackson's lawyers responded quickly and have added Anka as a co-writer.  That will be a nice little payday for Anka, who remains best known for writing "My Way."

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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift remains 'Fearless' well into 2010

Music's newest superstar sets new tour dates

Taylor Swift may be wrapping up her tremendously successful “Fearless” tour this weekend, but it will be back. A second leg of “Fearless” starts in Feb. 4 on Brisbane, Australia. The winter swing will also include close to 30 more cities in North America. Kellie Pickler and Gloriana will continue as opening acts.

Swift, who stands a great chance of being named the youngest recipient of the County Music Assn.’s  Entertainer of the year next month,  continues on an amazing upward trajectory. Her first headlining tour sold out all 52 dates, according to her label.

Let’s see Kanye do that next time he goes out on tour… whenever that may be.

Below are Swift’s 2010 tour dates. Venues are still to be announced.

February 4 - Brisbane, Australia
February 6 - Sydney, Australia
February 8 - Newcastle, Australia
February 10 - Melbourne, Australia
February 12 - Adelaide, Australia
March 4 - Tampa, FL
March 5 - Orlando, FL
March 7 - Sunrise, FL
March 10 - Austin, TX
March 11 - Dallas, TX
March 12 - Corpus Christi, TX
March 18 - Philadelphia, PA
March 19 - Philadelphia, PA
March 20 - Charlottesville, VA
March 26 - Detroit, MI
March 27 - Detroit, MI
March 28 - Cincinnati, OH
March 31 - Oklahoma City, OK
April 1 - Wichita, KS
April 2 - Kansas City, MO
April 6 - Denver, CO
April 7 - Denver, CO
April 10 - Fresno. CA
April 11 - San Jose, CA
April 15 - Los Angeles, CA
April 16 - Los Angeles, CA
April 29 - Lexington, KY
April 30 - Columbia, SC
May 1 - Raleigh, NC
May 6 - Des Moines, IA
May 7 - St. Paul, MN
May 8 - Moline, IL
May 12 - Newark, NJ
May 13 - Newark, NJ
May 14 - Uniondale, NY
May 15 - Uniondale, NY
May 20 - Ottawa, ON
May 21 - Toronto, ON
May 22 - Toronto, ON
May 25 - Houston, TX
May 26 - Houston, TX
June 2  - Washington, DC

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Watch: OneRepublic’s video for ‘All the Right Moves’

Does Ryan Tedder-led band have anything to ‘apologize’ for?

OneRepublic is one  in the seemingly endless stream of  faceless rock bands with one real difference: the writing power of lead singer Ryan Tedder. He wrote the band’s megahit “Apologize,” and when he’s not writing for OneRepublic, he’s penning hits for artists like Leona Lewis (“Bleeding Love”), Beyonce (“Halo”) and Jordin Sparks (“Battlefield”)

So after a long hiatus, OneRepublic returns with “All the Right Moves,” the first single from its new album, “Waking Up,” out Nov. 17.

Here’s the sad truth: The song is catchy in that gauzy, slightly hypnotic way that “Apologize” was, but songs Tedder writes for others are so much interesting than the ones he writes for OneRepublic. Or maybe it’s just that his perfectly pleasant vocals can’t compete to with the ladies’ supersized voices when it comes delivering his words.

The sumptuous video was directed by legendary video director Wayne Isham, who’s handled clips for everyone from Britney to Metallica.  It’s a glorified performance clip that takes place at a masquerade ball. Think “Eyes Wide Shut” with a cameo by a panhandling/pocketpicking  Oliver Twist.

It’s lush, gorgeous and, oh yeah, absolutely nothing happens.

Given the oft-repeated “We’re going down” refrain, stage the ball on the Titanic (there’s even a line about “sinking in the ocean”) or add some drama.  It’s a squandered opportunity or maybe all the budget went for the magnificent costumes.


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<p><span id="_oneup" style="font-size: 11px;"><font color="red">Kiss</font> perform at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario, during their &quot;<font color="red">Kiss</font> Alive 35&quot; tour, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009.</span></p>

Kiss perform at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario, during their "Kiss Alive 35" tour, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2009.

Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young

Gene Simmons gets ready to 'Kiss' the sky with first album charttopper

'Sonic Boom' set to make large noise at retail


Trick or Treat: Just in time for Halloween, those face-painting rockers Kiss are poised to have their first ever No. 1 album.

Like Pearl Jam two weeks ago, Gene Simmons and the boys are looking pretty sweet to claim the top spot on the Billboard 200 next week with their self-released set that goes through a single retailer. (Pearl Jam’s “Backspacer” was a Target exclusive, with a few caveats;  Kiss is going through Wal-Mart.) “Sonic Boom” is a 3-disc set of new and classic Kiss, plus a DVD. Hits Daily Double predicts it will sell up to 160,000 copies, which is twice as much as Toby Keith’s “American Ride,” which is slated to come in at No. 2 with sales of around 80,000. Let’s take a minute to ponder that the two top spots will belong to platinum plus acts who have decided to go on their own rather than remain on major labels. Times are definitely changing…

The only other titles slated to debut in the Top 10 are country rising star Luke Bryan, whos likely to come in around No. 6 and the Backstreet Boys, who, despite having to cancel appearances because of Brian Littrell’s swine flu, will slide into the Top 10  with sales of 45,000 copies. It’s not too long ago they were selling close to a million copies in their opening week. Last week's charttopper, Barbra Streisand, slips to No. 3, while Mariah Carey falls to 6 or 7. Madonna slides right out of the Top 10.

The wild card is Michael Buble’s “Crazy Love,” which comes out off-cycle on Friday. Instead of sticking to with the planned Oct. 13 release, Warner Bros. moved it up to Oct. 9 to take advantage of his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”  on Friday.

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Jennifer Lopez bakes a new dance hit, 'Fresh Out of the Oven'

Jennifer Lopez bakes a new dance hit, 'Fresh Out of the Oven'

J-Lo's alter ego Lola does the nasty with Pitbull

First there was Garth Brooks and Chris Gaines, then Beyonce and Sasha Fierce. Now we have Jennifer Lopez and Lola.

J. Lo just released “Fresh Out of the Oven” under the name Lola. Her alter-ego performs the Neptunes-produced dance track with Pitbull. We don’t know anything about this Lola character other than she sounds like one slightly pushy, sexy dame. She certainly has the power to get Pitbull worked up with her innuendo. When did “cookie” become the new slang for sex? Do we have Steve Harvey and his best seller to thank for that?

Listen to the track here. Or in the embed below.

"This is a hot club record that the label loved and Jennifer thought was fun," Amanda Ghost, president of Epic Records tells PEOPLE. "Jennifer and Pitbull got together and the record leaked. Lola is a fun character just for this song.”

Although People.com says the song will not be on Lopez’s new January album, she does a good job of promoting her next project by spelling out its title, L-O-V-E, during the song.

At first J. Lo is giving us a dance tutorial and then it evolves into a fairly pedestrian dance track with a little interplay between Lopez and Pitbull.

Hear it here. Does it sound fresh baked to you or is it the same Jenny from the block?


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<p>Keith Urban</p>

Keith Urban

Circle the wagons: Keith Urban and Sugarland to headline 2010 Stagecoach

Country music fest takes place April 24-25 in Indio, Calif.

Round up your doggies and mark your calendars now: Stagecoach has set its dates and headliners for the 2010 event.

Stagecoach is the country cousin to the Coachella and usually takes place closely after the alternative music festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif.

The next Stagecoach takes play April 24-25 with headliners Keith Urban and Toby Keith appearing at the festival for the first time.  Returning headliners include Brooks & Dunn--making their final Stagecoach appearance before they go their separate ways- -and Sugarland.

Other acts already confirmed include Billy Currington, Gary Allan, Phil Vassar, Merle Haggard, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jamey Johnson, Ray Price, Carlene Carter, Joey + Rory, BJ Thomas, The Avett Brothers, Bobby Bare, Nick 13, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Baxter Black, Steel Drivers, Easton Corbin, Mallary Hope, Chuck Mead, Mary Gauthier, Bill Anderson, Waddie Mitchell and the wonderfully- named Trampled By Turtles.

Tickets go on sale Oct. 16 and start at $99 for two-day passes.

The fourth edition of Stagecoach will be presented by ABC Daytime and Soapnet. 


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<p>Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "Twilight Saga: New Moon"</p>
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Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in "Twilight Saga: New Moon"

Review: Death Cab for Cutie's 'Meet Me on the Equinox' music video from 'New Moon'

Watch: A shirtless Robert Pattinson and a stupefied Kristen Stewart


Rob Pattinson fans, here's all you really need to know about the Death Cab for Cutie's video for "Meet Me on the Equinox" from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon": the money shot comes at 3:13. That's when Pattinson-or Edward Cullen to his legions of devoted fans-takes off his shirt and reveals his pale pecs in all their ghoulish glory.

The clip, which debuted Wednesday night on MTV as a major media event, features a few scenes from "New Moon" interspersed with Death Cab for Cutie playing the song in a lodge of some sort. If the Death Cab footage-and the scene where they are frozen as if they're playing Freeze Tag-has any greater significance and ties in with the "New Moon" theme, it's completely lost on us.

Anyway, back to the movie footage: Bella, played in her usual stupefied stoner state by Kristen Stewart, sees Edward in a forest, but he kisses her on the forehead and walks away, leaving her heartbroken and in anguish... maybe. It's really hard to tell since Stewart's expression never really changes.  The there's some astonishingly cheesy (even by "Twilight" standards) footage of Bella fleeing on a motorcycle but a giant spectral image of Edward in the sky startles her-or we assume it does. Have we mentioned her expression never changes from one of befuddlement?  It's as if you can see a "how the hell did I get here?" thought bubble over her head. During the song's bridge, Stewart dives off a bridge (ah... nice symmetry)  into very cold water before being plucked from the frigid waters by a mystery stranger-cut to a random amp shot.

Then we travel to somewhere clearly not in the Pacific Northwest (or it could be-we know squat about "New Moon's " plot or the Pacific Northwest, but it looks like a monastery in an Italian village.  Bella is racing to get to Edward, who is walking out of the monastery, but first feels the need to unbutton his shirt. She leaps over a fountain, frantic to get to him. Cut... It's all very dramatic and doesn't make a lick of sense if you don't know beyond the basic plot.

We're still a little surprised that Death Cab jumped on the "Twilight" bandwagon, but I guess they have a lot of teenage girl fans and, god knows, so does the "Twilight" series.  And, we guess they're as hungry for a hit as the next act. You can't really blame them for that.  To be fair, the song isn't that different from anything you'd find on a Death Cab album.

The band explains its involvement-and how you actually can meet on an equinox-- this way in a statement:  "We wrote 'Meet Me On the Equinox' to reflect the celestial themes and motifs that run throughout the 'Twilight' series, and we wanted to capture that desperate feeling of endings and beginnings that so strongly affect the main characters," said Death Cab for Cutie bassist Nick Harmer. "This song marks the first attempt that Death Cab for Cutie has ever made at contributing new, unreleased material for a film.  It just seems a perfect synergy that a band from the Northwest would create a song for a series of novels set in the Northwest.  We are not only proud to be a part of the 'Twilight' legacy but also honored to join so many other fantastic artists that have lent their amazing creativity to this soundtrack."

What do you think of the video?


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<p>Even the impressive sales of Michael Jackson's "Number Ones" can't stop the music industry's scary slide.</p>

Even the impressive sales of Michael Jackson's "Number Ones" can't stop the music industry's scary slide.

Credit: SONY BMG

2009 album sales continue to fall over the cliff

Despite strong sales from Michael Jackson and Beatles, decline goes on


Well, at least they're consistent.  Album sales continue to slide, marking declines for eight out of the last nine years.

In the third quarter 2009, sales were down 11.1% from the same period in 2008, according to Billboard. For the year so far, sales are done 13.9% from last year.  In case anyone's still counting, in 2008, sales were down 14% from 2007. And so it goes.

Even the splendid sales from Michael Jackson and the Beatles didn't slow the drop much. Third quarter sales from the two iconic acts in the third quarter helped stem the tide, but didn't stop the bleeding. In the third quarter, Jackson sold close to 5 million albums in the U.S. following his June 25 death, while the Beatles have sold 1.3 million units since their catalog was re-released  Sept. 9. 

The top seller of the year so far is Jackson's "Number Ones" with 1.8 million units. That title has quite a ways to go to catch last year's winner: Lil Wayne's "The Carter III," which sold 2.5 million copies in the 2008 calendar year. Is it too cruel to remind you that there were years, not too long ago, when a title from a superstar, such as Eminem or Garth Brooks, would sell one million copies in a week? Makes you cry, doesn't it?


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Ten Minutes With... Brandi Carlile

Ten Minutes With... Brandi Carlile

Singer/songwriter enlists Elton John, Amy Ray and Rick Rubin for new album


Real artists don't need smoke and mirrors; they just need their voice and a guitar. The first time I heard Brandi Carlile play was in a conference room and she held us all in the palm of her hand with her soaring, tremendous vocals and stirring lyrics. Since then, she's toured with the likes of Sheryl Crow and Ray LaMontagne, as well has had her music heard in TV shows like "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," and "So You Think You Can Dance."

Carlile's third Columbia album, "Give Up the Ghost," came out Tuesday, Oct. 5. On the Rick Rubin-produced CD, she's joined by such illustrious guests as Elton John, the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray, Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith and Tom Petty and Heartbreakers' keyboardist Benmont Tench.

Hitfix talked to Carlile while she was on the road outside of Boston.


You've got Elton John, Amy Ray, Chad Smith and Benmont Tench  on this record. You must have felt like, "Okay, I can die now..."

(laughs)Particularly the Elton John sequence. I got on my plane after that and I was like, "This plane could have crashed, I think I'd be okay at that point." It's not just Elton, I've been so lucky to have so much happen.

What was it like recording with Elton in the studio? Were you afraid to sing in front of him?  

I didn't have to sing, it was already done. I have to say, he was wonderful. His piano playing was amazing; he got it in one take. I knew he was going to sing, I was really excited, but I have to tell you I couldn't  have prepared myself to hear him sing my words I'd written. It took the breath right out of my lungs. I had my brother on my phone and had the phone in my pocket so he could hear it.

Elton also sent you 100 albums to listen to. Which ones are you still playing?

I'm listening to each of them systematically so if I should see him I can pass the quiz.

 You worked on "Ghost" for a year. Was recording all you were doing 24/7?

Me and the twins [bandmates Tim and Phil Hanseroth] are a live band. We've been touring for so long. That's how we've cultivated our songwriting live, we play our songs a year before we ever record them. That's how we did this record: writing songs, playing live, touring in the middle of recording, always integrating the live and studio.

Some artists love the studio, some love playing live. What about you?

I don't think they have to be [separate].  A studio can be like a vortex, you forget how to play for the love of music and start to play to get the take. You go to play a show and realize you're not accepting the energy coming from the crowd, you're playing for the take and that's no way to play. I think you can capture energy and raucousness in the studio if you can stay in that place. We feel most like ourselves when we play in a live setting.

The opening track is "Looking Out," which features the Indigo Girls' Amy Ray. Talk about that track.

Amy's my dearest friend in life and I've loved the Indigo Girls since I was 15. "Looking Out" is a song that's so powerful; it needed a big voice to be a background vocal. When you take a song like that and have a man sing it, it sounds like a power ballad duet, like "A Whole New World." But if you sing your own harmonies, it sounds overproduced. I needed a genderless powerful voice on that song; her voice has male and female properties.

This big change in this album from your two past projects seems to be the depth of the lyrics.

The record being called "Give up the Ghost," we had big talks about transcendence and about how we couldn't write a record about being on the road. So many bands put out their first record and it's about coming of age, it's about their life up to now. Then their second record is about being signed and being on the road. That's unrelateable for most people and it's a temporary condition. We decided there was still so much on our past that we could write about and so much in our future, we didn't need to write about being on the bus.

For some, the title can be tough if you believe in a bleak ending, but for me, it's a lifted weight

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