Inside Music with Melinda Newman

UPDATED: Watch the video for Pearl Jam's emotional, gorgeous new single, 'Sirens'

Eddie Vedder had never sounded so lovely

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<p>Pearl Jam - 'Sirens'</p>

Pearl Jam - 'Sirens'

After the punk blast of “Mind Your Manners,” the first single from Pearl Jam’s upcoming album, “Lightning Bolt,” the Seattle group comes back with a gentle, very melodic ballad, “Sirens.”

With an acoustic guitar and piano base, the song unfolds at a leisurely pace. Eddie Vedder is such an intense singer that when he lays back behind the groove a little bit here, it’s such a pleasure to hear him hold back, while sacrificing nothing emotionally.  And, make no mistake,  there’s a lot of emotion in “Sirens,” as he sings about the possibility of losing the woman he loves to another man or to his "going away." If that happens, it's vital that she know he always loved her, as he stirringly sings, "When I see your face, the fear goes away.”

Pearl Jam has no shortage of lovely ballads and this one has the same graceful beauty as "Backspacer's"  "Just Breathe," but there’s something melodically about “Sirens,” especially with the layered harmonies and Vedder’s vocal performance here, that will grab you by the throat before you realize it.  Plus, there’s a lived-in feel to the lyrics and an emotional acceptance that I’m not sure Vedder could have pulled off before he got into his 40s. “It’s a fragile thing, this life we lead,” he sings.

If “Mind Your Manners” and “Sirens” are any indication, “Lightning Bolt," which comes out Oct. 15, is going to be a hell of an album.

What do you think of "Sirens?"

UPDATED: Pearl Jam released a performance video for "Sirens" today, as well as made the song available on iTunes.

 

Album Review: Elvis Costello & The Roots, 'Wise Up Ghost'

Colloboration haunts and grooves in equal measure

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<p>Cover art for 'Wise up Ghost'</p>

Cover art for 'Wise up Ghost'

Credit: Blue Note Records

On “Wise Up Ghost,” Elvis Costello and the Roots make surprisingly compatible musical companions. 

From the first jagged synthetic rhythms that open the sinister-sounding “Walk Us Uptown,” it’s clear that there’s something special happening that unfurls through the course of 12 tracks.

The British singer/songwriter, known for his often snarling observations, and the Philadelphia hip-hop collective find an immediate groove that plays to both their strengths: Costello’s trenchant, biting words and complex melodies and The Roots’ imaginative and creative song construction that pulls in a wide array of influences.

[More after the jump...]

 

Don't trifle with Katy Perry on new track 'Dark Horse': Listen

Juicy J spices up the song with his rap

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<p>Cover art for Katy Perry's 'Prism.'</p>

Cover art for Katy Perry's 'Prism.'

Credit: Capitol Records

Katy Perry unlocked another song from “Prism” at midnight on iTunes, unleashing “Dark Horse,” an atmospheric, spaced-out track featuring rapper Juicy J.

Perry continues the animal imagery started on “Prism’s” first single (and chart topper) “Roar,” as she compares herself to dark horse, although she uses the term in a slightly different meaning than the usual underdog meaning: “So you want to play with magic/boy you should know what you’re falling for/baby do you dare to do this because I’m coming at you like a dark horse,” she sings.

It’s not as out there (literally and figuratively) at “E.T.,” but it’s definitely not Perry’s standard pop with typical verse and chorus, though with its finger snaps and pulsating, hypnotic beat, it will certainly fit in at radio. Juicy J’s rap —outside of regrettable line “She cuts your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer”—fits in smoothly, though makes the cut sound a little dated. I know it’s only been a little over a year since almost every pop track had a dropped-in rap out of seemingly nowhere, but we’ve already moved on from that somewhat. At least Juicy J’s rap fits in thematically, but for some reason, his heavily autotuned line, “There’s no going back,” takes me right back to  Psy saying “Gangnam Style.”

With both “Roar” and “Dark Horse,” Perry has presented songs about a woman regaining her power and overcoming vulnerability. It’s too soon to know if that’s where all of “Prism” is headed but it does sound like she’s pushing her own boundaries in a way that is commendable and in a way that shows growth, but still leaves plenty of the goofy Perry that people know and love (you only have to look at the adorable video for “Roar” to know that).

What do you think of “Dark Horse?”

Katy Perry ties record for most No. 1s on Billboard's Pop Songs chart

With whom does she share the title?

<p>Katy Perry, seen here at the MTV Video Music Awards</p>

Katy Perry, seen here at the MTV Video Music Awards

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

As Katy Perry’s “Roar” zooms its way 5-1 on Billboard’s Pop Songs radio airplay chart, Perry finds herself not only queen of the jungle (check out the video), but queen of the chart... or at least co-queen.

“Roar” becomes her 10th chart topper on the 21-year old Pop Songs chart, tying Rihanna, according to Billboard.

In third place is Pink, Billboard’s newly named Woman Of the Year, with nine.

Not only is Perry a chart topper, she’s a speedy one at that. She is the only act to take six weeks or less to send her songs to the top in eight years. Just as it took “Roar” six weeks to achieve the feat, she accomplished the same wtih “California Girls” in 2010.

As evident from the below list, women rule the chart, occupying seven of the top 10 positions.

10, Katy Perry?
10, Rihanna
9, P!nk
7, Lady Gaga?
7, Britney Spears?
6, Beyonce?
6, Mariah Carey?
6, Maroon 5
6, Bruno Mars?
6, Justin Timberlake

 

Watch: Strap on your skates for Avicii's new video for 'You Make Me'

'West Side Story' meets 'Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger' at the roller rink

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<p>A moment from the new Avicii video</p>

A moment from the new Avicii video

Credit: Island Records

In Avicii’s new video for “You Make Me,” featuring Salem Al Fakir,  folks strap on their roller skates for a roller boogie version of “West Side Story.”

The follow up to the video Ralph Lauren commercial for top 5 hit, “Wake Me Up,” is a fun look at rivalries, over a girl, naturally, and a poke at everything from the classic musical to “Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger,” if it took place in a roller rink.

Mercedes, the waitress, is the object of desire for Chang, her ex, and Henry, cleverly dubbed The Highroller for his skating prowess. Chang, who works at the rink and has the glamorous job of de-oderizing skates despite his fairly phenomenal way on skates, wants his girl back so he and Henry have a skate-off that’s intentionally cheesy, but also highly entertaining.

We won’t say who wins, but let’s say they ride off into the sunrise together in a way that you definitely shouldn’t try at home, kids.

“You Make Me” is the second single from “True,” Avicii’s first full-length album, which comes out tomorrow. Read our interview with his collaborator, Incubus’s Mike Einziger here.  Speaking of collaborators, Avicii also worked with Chic’s Nile Rodgers on the album, although not on this track, which is a shame since it feels like the perfect time to reference Chic’s “Good Times” and its “clams on the half shell and roller skates” line

Britney Spears' 'Work Bitch': What are the critics saying?

We round up the good, bad and oh-so-ugly reviews

<p>Cover art for Britney's latest</p>

Cover art for Britney's latest

Credit: RCA

Britney Spears’ new single, “Work Bitch,” dropped 24 hours earlier than expected, leaving reviewers scrambling on Sunday night. Now that the dust has settled a little, we’ve collected a sampling of the reviews and they are definitely mixed. We’ve sorted them into Good, So-So and Bad (if not downright ugly). After a few listens, I fall in the so-so camp. Good for Spears for saluting her dance following, but it feels like she’s a guest on her own single to me (although HitFix editor Gregory Ellwood is much fonder of it than I am). Plus, Spears has tweeted about how this album is so personal, so maybe my expectations were for something totally different. However, by now, we all know not to judge an album by its first single since that’s often thrown out just to get the conversation started, and Brit Brit certainly did that.


THE GOOD

IDOLATOR: Spears sets high, rap-informed standards for those who dare to reckon with her glittering, Vegas-informed reality: “You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work, bitch.” (She should call Ace Hood sometime.) And as the propulsive club banger gains steam to skittering, lawn-sprinkler synths, the pop diva dares to sing, “Go call the police! Go call the governor!” with traces of a British accent. Early critics were right — that part of “Work Bitch” really is the best, albeit just one of several great quotable lines here.


DIRECTLYRICS.COM: Is "Work Bitch" the new motivational anthem of our generation?. Hell yeah! Whether you're depressed at home, on your way to work, at the gym, or letting yourself go in a club, Britney Spears' new single is the perfect the song for you. It will get you pumped up right away...The track is trance, pop, spacey, fist-pumping, massive, loud, infectious, catchy, and I could keep going with the adjectives. Britney's trademark singing, and the return of her British accent, complete the amazingness of "Work Bitch".


HOLLYWOOD LIFE: Brit is back sounding amazing with her new hit song, ‘Work B**ch,’ and we are so obsessed already. Honestly, we haven’t loved a song of hers this much since ‘Circus!’ Nice come back, girl!It is safe to say that this isn’t the Britney we’re used to hearing. Coming in fierce with a dance club beat that almost feels like an alarm, Britney does more commanding than singing, as she repeatedly tells someone that they “better work, bi**h.” It’s sort of like a more adult way of saying, “Come and get it.”


THE SO-SO


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:The will.i.am-produced song — which clocks in at a robust (for Britney) four-plus minutes — is tailor-made for the dance floor. Spears lets listeners know that, whatever they want in life, whether it be a Bugatti, a Maserati, or a hot body: “You better work, bitch.”

ROLLING STONE: The pounding dance track, which features mostly spoken lyrics, serves as a testament to the fine things a strong work ethic can bring about. "You want a hot body, you want a Bugatti, you want a Maserati?" Spears asks. "You better work, bitch."

POP JUSTICE: It recalls the attitude of ‘Blackout’, but in a song crafted for a post-EDM pop landscape. This record wouldn’t sound like it does if EDM hadn’t happened, but at the same time it’s a Britney track first and foremost. The most exciting bit is the middle eight which goes all epic and spacey with some proper hands-in-the-lasers lyrics.

THE GUARDIAN: As with last year's collaboration with will.i.am, "Scream & Shout," "Work Bitch" feels slightly like a cluster of phrases and bits of melody hunting for a song to attach themselves to, although the overall result is much more appealing. Over a thundering electronic riff and a relentless jackhammer beat, Britney lists various things you'll need to work quite hard in order to achieve: "You wanna live fancy, live in a big mansion, party in France? You better work bitch". It's a sweary motivational anthem from an over-zealous life coach basically, with Britney challenging the listener to get the law involved ("go call the po-lice, go call the guv-a-nah"), but aware that they probably won't be able to help ("I am the guv-a-nah"). It's a pretty relentless onslaught that reflects pop's current love for chucking in everything up to and including the kitchen sink, but there's enough of Britney's personality – the myriad vocal tics, the ridiculous middle-eight breakdown bit – to make sure she hasn't been fully obliterated by will.i.am's production sledgehammer.


THE UGLY

UNDER THE GUN: The pop icon who kickstarted the a new wave of solo female acts at the end of the 1990s is doing whatever she can to keep her career alive with a trendy, albeit completely forgettable single that leaves a lot to be desired.Hitting the net Sunday (9/15), the long-awaited return of the girl who did it again is nothing more than a derivative, EDM-eccentric track that carries almost no unique qualities whatsoever when stacked against everything at radio right now. It’s slick, dance floor ready music meant for clubs that will sell to diehard fans and people trying to keep their workout playlists current while preparing to battle winter weight gain.


SLANT: Co-written and produced by will.i.am, the song finds the singer vamping in the same faux-continental accent she dubiously employed on the pair's recent Top 5 hit "Scream & Shout"—or is it just a ghastly attempt at British? "Work Bitch" follows the current EDM model of painfully aggressive, treble-heavy beats, harsh synths, and tuneless hooks, but makes even "Scream & Shout" sound like a melodic feast. At its best, that song plays like an homage to dance music's recent past, with nods to Underworld's "Born Slippy" and even Spears's own "Gimme More"; "Work Bitch," on the other hand, seems to aspire to classic bitch-queen anthems, but Spears's repeated instructions to "work, work, work" (to reach, if the cover art is any indication, the desired Nomi Malone levels of success) feel mechanical and forced.

5 Observations from Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears' 'SMS (Bangerz)' cover art

Don' look too closely at Spears' hand

<p>Miley and Britney on the SMS (Bangerz)&nbsp;cover art</p>

Miley and Britney on the SMS (Bangerz) cover art

Credit: RCA

We don’t know if Miley Cyrus couldn’t stand for the spotlight to shift off of her for a minute or if she decided to smartly take advantage of the wave of publicity Britney Spears received after new single, “Work Bitch,” leaked yesterday, but Cyrus struck while the Spears iron was hot.  On Sunday night, she tweeted the cover for their duet, “SMS (Bangerz),” which is also the title track of Cyrus’s new album, out Oct. 4.

Here are five observations from the cover:
 

1. Both Spears and Cyrus are capable of posing with clothes on. Yes, Spears in in a mini dress and Cyrus is in a very short trench coat, but otherwise, both ladies are completely covered up... so much so, they could almost wear these outfits to church without melting the minute they approached the altar...as long as they didn't bend over.

2. Miley can pose without sticking out her tongue, though she clearly has to be doing something else with her mouth: in this case, pensively biting a nail

3. Miley may or may not be shooting us the bird. Check out the position of her middle finger on her left hand by he mouth. If so, it’s the subtlest gesture she’s ever made.

4. On the other hand, literally, Spears seems to be missing digits or is the victim of some bad photo shopping. She and Cyrus have both formed a circle with their thumb and index fingers, with Cyrus’s by her mouth and Spears forming a Junior Birdman monocle over her right eye, but try to find Spears’ other fingers on right hand other than her pinky (and possibly her fourth finger). It will start to weird you out if you look for too long.

5. The “SMS (Bangerz)” cover follows the same ‘Miami Vice”/‘80s pastel vibe of the album cover, and, in fact, features Cyrus in the same pose (just flipped) and with the same trees in the background. She’s working a theme or they really didn’t want to do different photo shoots.

What do you think of the "SMS (Bangerz)" cover?

Exclusive: Download Eric Hutchinson's live album for free

Watch his hilarious animated video for 'Amsterdam/Shine on Me' here first

An animated Eric Hutchinson

An animated Eric Hutchinson

We at Hitfix are big fans of singer/songwriter Eric Hutchinson. In fact, his 2012 top 10 hit, “Watching You Watch Him,” was our No. 5 single of 2012.

So we’re very excited to announce that Hutchinson is releasing a new live album, “Almost Solo In NYC,” today and, even better, it is free to the first 1 million fans. Take that Jay Z and Samsung.

Fans get a free download of "Almost Solo in NYC" by sharing it. Go to www.erichutchinson.com and click on the Pay with a Tweet button to unlock the free download.

“I couldn't sleep after the first show on The Almost Solo Tour, it was such a buzz doing the songs stripped and just hanging out with the audience. I wanted to do this forever. Just the audience and the music. So, I recorded a live album on the tour,” says Hutchinson. “I love the idea of giving this album away for free as a thank you to all the amazing people who have supported me through the years.”

Hutchinson recorded “Almost Solo in NYC”  last fall at City Winery during his sold-out tour of intimate venues. Accompanied only by longtime band member/multi-instrumentalist Elliott Blaufuss, Hutchinson ran through a number of his most beloved tunes from his first two albums, including “Rock & Roll, “OK, It’s Alright With Me,” and, of course, “Watching You Watch Him,” as well as a new song, “Shine On Me,’ and a cover of Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic.”

The album also includes Hutchinson’s now famous between-song patter, including his tale of selling out to Red Lobster, “Watching You Eat Shrimp,” and his ode to annoying his New York neighbors as he wrote songs, “I’m A Foot Stomper.”

Hitfix is exclusively premiering the adorable and funny animated video for “Amsterdam/Shine On Me,” during which Hutchinson describes exactly what happened to him when he partook of a certain delight in the Dutch city, before launching into the new song.

To herald the release of “Almost Solo in NYC,” Hutchinson will play two gigs: Oct 3 at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley, and Oct. 9 at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall.

Almost Solo In New York City - Track Listing


1) Ok, It's Alright With Me
2) I'm a Foot Stomper *
3) Watching You Watch Him
4) Watching You Eat Shrimp *
5) Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
6) Emo in College *
7) Breakdown More
8) Outside Villanova
9) Amsterdam *
10) Shine On Me
11) Rock & Roll

*Spoken word tracks
 

Music Power Rankings: Miley Cyrus and Bruno Mars top this week's edition

What did Morrissey and Vince Gill do to make the list too?

<p>Miley Cyrus</p>

Miley Cyrus

Credit: John Shearer/AP

1. Miley Cyrus: She sets the Vevo record for most video views in 24 hours with her new song, “Wrecking Ball.” Somewhere, Bruce Springsteen laments that he didn’t pose nude in the video for his song, “Wrecking Ball.”

2. Bruno Mars: We hadn’t heard of Mars five years ago and now he’s playing the biggest show in town: the Super Bowl half time. And he’s going to tear it up like a gorilla.

3. Morrissey: Moz pulls his autobiography mere days before its publication. He heard his editor was eating a cheeseburger and yanked the project.

4. Vince Gill: Other artists have certainly confronted the yobs from Westboro Baptist Church (including Ke$ha’s dancers), but certainly no one has done it with more humor and defiance and right-on-point messaging than the country superstar. “I wanted to see what hate looked like,” just about sums it up.

5. Apple: iTunes will launch iTunes Radio on Sept. 18. Every station comes with a cheap plastic tuner.

6. Sigur Ros: Icelandic band will appear on season 4 of “Game Of Thrones.” I’m sure if I’d watched even one episode of “GoT,” I’d be able to make a joke here.

7. Kacey Musgraves: The country artist stuns Nashville by leading nominations for the CMA Awards with six as one of the freshest voices to come out of country in a long time shows that you don’t have to write fluff and dress like Barbie to have success.

8. K.D. Lang: The gorgeous-throated singer will make her Broadway debut in “After Midnight,” a new musical about the Cotton Club. How could that voice not have been heard on the Great White Way yet?

9. Billy Joel and Carlos Santana:
The veteran music starts are among the elite five to receive Kennedy Center Honors. Don’t you want to see Obama jam on “Captain Jack” and “Smooth?”

10. David Bowie: His acclaimed “The Next Day” is one of 12 albums competing for Britain’s Mercury Prize. Don’t be surprised if it’s one of the five titles competing for an album of the year Grammy in a few months.


 

Grammys 2014: Best New Artist contenders pit Macklemore & Ryan Lewis vs. everyone else

Nope it's not too early to speculate

Grammys 2014: Best New Artist contenders pit Macklemore & Ryan Lewis vs. everyone else
Credit: AP Photo

The Grammy nominations won’t be announced until December, but an important date is coming up: the eligibility period ends Sept. 30. So as that date approaches, we look at some of the leading contenders for Best New Artist. It’s not as strong a field as last year, and, in fact, we’ll go out on a limb and say that it’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s to lose, but there are always some wild cards in the category.

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