<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: John Shearer/Invision/AP

2014 Grammy Predictions: Album of the Year

Will a rap album finally snag the biggest prize?

As we get closer to the Sunday’s Grammy Awards, we’re making our predictions in the Big Four categories: Record, album, song of the year and best new artist.

Yesterday, we tackled Record of the Year. Today, we look at the award artists covet the most: Album of the Year.

This year’s nominees are:

“The Blessed Unrest,” Sara Bareilles
“Random Access Memories,” Daft Punk
“Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” Kendrick Lamar
“The Heist,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
“Red,” Taylor Swift


It’s a weird grab bag competing in this category this year. No one, and I mean no one, predicted that Bareilles’ “The Blessed Unrest” would grab one of the 5 spots, and albums that seemed like good bets, such as Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience,” Kanye West’s “Yeezus” and Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox,” were left by the wayside. No rap album has ever won in this category, but if one were to grab the brass ring this year, I’d give the nod to “The Heist” over “Good Kid,” simply because of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ broader audience. Bareilles could come in and grab the award, especially if folks like the idea of voting for a total underdog, a talented one, but an underdog none the less. Daft Punk won’t win on the basis of one song, “Get Lucky.” Swift won before in 2010 for “Fearless.”  Given that she will draw from both pop and country voters, I think she’ll win again.

Should Win: “The Heist”
Will Win: Taylor Swift


Who do you think will take home Album of the Year?

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<p>Justin&nbsp;Timberlake</p>

Justin Timberlake

Credit: John Shearer/Invision/AP

Justin Timberlake delivers a TKO at The Forum despite horrible sound

He proves again why he's the ultimate entertainer

LOS ANGELES—To all the performers who justify lip-syncing because they are so breathless from dancing, we have one name for you: Justin Timberlake.

For nearly 3 hours last night at the re-opened Forum here, he proved he is a true song-and-dance man, as the agile entertainer was a perpetual man in motion for the entire show.  While ably assisted by four strong back-up singers who did some of the heavy lifting during certain songs and some judiciously placed backing vocals, for the most part, Timberlake sang live throughout the evening. What a concept…

Dressed in a white tux, he spanned his entire post- ’N Sync career, but focused, as one would imagine, the bulk of the show on songs from both volumes of  “The 20/20 Experience,” last year’s top selling release.

The issue with many of the songs on the two albums—the lack of identifiable hooky choruses —was amplified in concert as many of the songs indistinguishably segued from one into one another. Timberlake clearly designed a show to shift effortlessly between songs, but the absence of clearly defined melodies in some cases just meant masses of music that were no different from the song coming before it or after, unified by a repetitive throbbing beat.

Timberlake was also plagued by atrocious sound, especially for the first half of the concert. The Forum reopened last week after a $100 million renovation. The Eagles, who are playing six shows here as part of the rebranding, showed that for clear voices, harmonies, and acoustic instrumentation (with some electric guitar and bass thrown in), the acoustics are great. But the sound system was not prepared for what Timberlake’s band of 15, JT and the Tennessee Kids, threw at it and the bass-heavy beats echoed off the low ceiling throughout the evening in ways that were both earsplittingly painful and distracting. But worst of all, they often so overshadowed Timberlake’s vocals as to drown him out almost entirely.  Even on songs that were meant to be softer and toned down, such as the excellent “Drink You Away,” which he performed surrounded in a semi-circle by his band, suffered from over amplification.

When he was audible, such as on “My Love” or a pumped-up “Cry Me A River,” he sounded great, ably shifting from his normal voice to his instantly-recognizable falsetto effortlessly.

The production values were state-of-the art. A huge white honeycomb-patterned screen filled the entire back of the stage, leaving no room for the jumbotrons that usually flank the stage). Throughout the night different images were projected on the screen, including close ups and video pieces for a constant barrage. About a third of the way into the second half, Timberlake and his four backup singers rose high above the audience on a plank from the stage that transported them to the back the arena. While artists flying over the crowds in buckets or bridges is almost commonplace in big arena shows now, the lighted up plank, with stairs reaching out on the sides, was far more elaborate than usual. Timberlake  and the singers spent more than half an house on the plank dancing and singing before coming down to a stage in the back of the house where he performed a choice cover of “Heartbreak Hotel,” by fellow Memphis son Elvis Presley, and “Human Nature,” by his hero, Michael Jackson.

There’s nothing Timberlake doesn’t do well and to watch him sing full out after dancing a complicated routine time and time again was a tribute to his professionalism, talent, and hard work. And he seemingly did it all without ever breaking a sweat…and in a cummerbund.

By the time he closed the show with a gorgeous version of “Mirrors,” he still had enough gas in the tank to deliver a heart-felt energetic take on the best song from “The 20/20 Experience Vol 1.”

While all the bells and whistles may play to the back row, Timberlake is an artist who truly doesn’t need any of that, which is what makes him such an exceptional entertainer. It’s a shame that a muddy sound mix prevented him from being heard at his best.
 

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<p>Queens of the Stone Age</p>

Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age will close Grammys with NIN, Dave Grohl and friends

Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham will also join in

The Grammys will end with a bang this year: best rock album nominees Queens of the Stone Age will close the 56th annual edition of the awards show on Sunday (26). And they’re bringing a few friends.

Nine Inch Nails, sometime QOTSA member Dave Grohl and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham will join the band for the show closer.

No word yet on what they will perform. Grohl played on five tracks on the current album, “...Like Clockwork,” while NIN’s Trent Reznor sang on the track Bowie-esque “Kalopsia,” so that may find its way into the appearance.

In addition to “...Like Clockwork’s” best rock album nod, the set is also up for best engineered album, and the band received a nomination for best rock performance for “My God Is The Sun.”

Following the Grammys, the band hits the road for two weeks in the U.S., before joining Nine Inch Nails for their co-headlining tour of  Australia and New Zealand, March 6-22.  QOTSA also has a date with Coachella this year.

Other acts performing on Jan. 26’s Grammy Awards include Beyonce and Jay Z, Taylor Swift, Pink, Metallica, Katy Perry, Lorde, Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Keith Urban. The show will air live at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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<p>Daft Punk</p>

Daft Punk

Grammy 2014 Predictions: Record of the Year

Is it Daft Punk or Bruno Mars?

The 56th annual Grammy Awards will air this Sunday (26). Starting today, we’ll predict the winners in the four major categories —album of the year, song and record of the year, and best new artist. On Friday, we’ll throw in predictions for a number of other categories.

Let’s start with Record of the Year:

“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
“Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons
“Royals,” Lorde
“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars
“Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell and T.I.


People, understandably, get confused between this category and song of the year, especially because they often include some of the same songs. Record of the year goes to the artist, producer, engineer and mixer. Song of the year goes to the composer of the tune. So think of this as an award for everything that happens to the song after it is written: the voice that goes on it, the instrumentation, the arrangement, the production, the recording, the engineering and the mixing.

While I think leaving Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” out is a major omission, all five of these songs sound great: “Get Lucky” takes Chic’s ‘70s disco sound and updates it, “Radioactive” combines rock and a little touch of dubstep in a very interesting way. Lorde’s “Royals” has deceptively simple production with loops and Lorde’s voice up front. “Locked Out of Heaven” is busy, but in all the right ways that Mars excels at, and “Blurred Lines,” despite its somewhat controversial lyric, strikes the perfect tone between pop and R&B.

Given that Imagine Dragons and Lorde didn’t get best new artist nods, which they definitely deserved, I don’t think either can win this. I also think the voters won’t be able to separate “Blurred Lines’” production with the controversy, so I’m eliminating it.  That means it’s between “Get Lucky” and “Locked Out Of Heaven.” It’s close, but I’m going with “Get Lucky.”

Should Win: “Get Lucky”
Will Win: “Get Lucky”

Who do you want to win Record of the Year?

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Lance Bass releases new single, 'Walking On Air': Listen

Lance Bass releases new single, 'Walking On Air': Listen

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We waited 12 years for this?

Lance Bass has been way too busy planning his escapade into space, dancing with pseudo-stars, writing his autobiography, planning his wedding, participating in the blink-if-you-miss-it ‘N Sync MTV Video Music Awards reunion, and executive producing documentaries to make new solo music, but after a 12-year hiatus, he’s back.

His new song, “Walking on Air” —not to be confused with the Katy Perry tune —is a collaboration with DJ/producer Anise K, featuring Snoop Dogg. I’m now convinced I could get Snoop Dogg to be on my single if I asked him.  The song got a little coming out party at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, where it was featuring in the opening segment, according to E! News.

Bass told E! that he’d been looking for material for two years
and Anise K’s track resonated with him. Listen to "Walking On Air" here.  

Well, maybe should have kept looking... or waited until he had more time.  While he is listed as the artists on the cover art here, he’s basically a guest on Anise K’s record.  He does get his own verse.... maybe it was the line about being a “satellite” that drew in the future astronaut.

And as for Snoop Dogg, he comes in at the beginning and then drops a totally tepid verse on the totally tepid, unremarkable song.

“Walking On Air” is way too grounded for its own good. A slightly different version, featuring Ian Thomas, came out in Belgium a few months ago. That version is below.

 

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Beyonce and Jay Z to perform at 56th annual Grammy Awards
Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Beyonce and Jay Z to perform at 56th annual Grammy Awards

Is Madonna also on the bill?

Beyonce and Jay Z are headed for the Grammy stage.

Just as Justin Timberlake got a big performance platform on last year’s Grammys, despite not being eligible for any statues, it looks like Beyonce will get the boost this year for her December surprise, "Beyonce." 

She and husband, Jay Z, were listed as performers in a commercial that aired Sunday night for the Jan. 26 Grammys.

They join Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, Lorde, Kendrick Lamar, Metallica, Pink, Katy Perry, Keith Urban and a slew of other artists who have already been announced as performers on the awards ceremony.

No word yet on if the pair is performing together, perhaps on “Drunk On Love,” or separately. Jay Z has nine nominations, including for best rap album.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that Beyonce would appear, breaking the news before Sunday night’s commercial. The same LA Times piece also said that Madonna will join one of the night’s nominees in a performance, but that has yet to be confirmed by the Grammys.

Will you be watching the Grammys on Sunday night?

 

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<p>Bruce Springsteen</p>

Bruce Springsteen

Credit: AP Photo

Will Bruce Springsteen be the Boss in album sales next week?

Or will 'Frozen' freeze him out of the top spot?

Bruce Springsteen will likely be the Boss of the charts next week as his new album, “High Hopes,” is poised to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

However, “Frozen,” who kicked Beyonce’s self-titled set out of the top spot, could dash Springsteen’s “Hopes,” if the soundtrack sees a post-Oscar nomination surge over the holiday weekend (The chart tally runs Monday-Sunday).

“High Hopes” is the only title that will likely crack the 100,000  mark, and it will do so just barely, according to Hits Daily Double. It is poised to sell 100,000, while “Frozen” will drop to No. 2 with sales of 85,000.

Springsteen’s album will be joined by three other debuts in the top 10: the latest installment of “Kidz Bop Kids” at No. 3 (65,000), Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettle’s solo debut, “That Girl” at No. 5 (50,000), and Switchfoot’s latest, “Fading West” at No. 6 (40,000).

Inbetween are “Beyonce” at No. 4 (60,000), Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” at No. 7 (30,000), Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP2” at No. 8 (30,000), Katy Perry’s “Prism” at No. 9 (22,000), and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions” at No. 10 (20,000), according to Hits Daily Double.

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<p>Neil Young</p>

Neil Young

Credit: AP Photo

Report: Neil Young records covers album with Jack White

Set includes 12 tunes from other singer/songwriters

Has Neil Young completed an album of covers, produced by Jack White? So says Days of the Crazy website. And the idea isn’t that farfetched.

Young was spotted in Nashville recording a few covers for Record Store Day, including Bert Jansch’s “Needle of Death” and Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter" (Of course, White also produced Lynn's "Van Lear Rose"). Young is also on “Willie Nelson & Friend At Third Man Records,” which came out last year.

The blog cites a source associated with the project, who confirmed that the pair have recorded the full album and it will likely come out through Third Man, and, possibly, Young’s label, Warner Bros.

Days of the Crazy mentions a Neil Young-devoted website, Thrasher’s Wheat, which also confirmed the news of the 12-track set with no originals.

We’re reached out to both Young and White’s reps for confirmation and have not heard back.

 

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<p>Beck - 'Morning Phase'</p>

Beck - 'Morning Phase'

Beck reveals release date for 'Morning Phase'

Check out the track listing, too

Beck released a video today that shows the loving pressing of a vinyl copy of his forthcoming album, “Morning Phase,” and reveals a Feb. 25 release date.

It also confirms the track listing — by the engineer holding up Side 1 and Side 2 of the vinyl and the Capitol Records logo.

“Morning Phase” will be Beck’s first album of new material since 2008’s “Modern Guilt”  and is being compared stylistically to his 2002 set, “Sea Change.” “Blue Moon,” The song playing on the video certainly confirms that. The track, which will come out as a single on Monday, according to Billboard, is also on the “Girls: Volume 2” soundtrack to the HBO series.

Beck told an Argentinian news service that part of the reason for his long absence was a spinal injury that has been very slow to heal, and his issues with streaming sites, such as Spotify, and the rates they pay artists.

“Morning Phase’s” track listing:

“Cycle”
“Morning”
“Heart Is A Drum”
“Say Goodbye”
“Blue Moon”
“Unforgiven”
“Wave”
“Don’t Let It Go”
“Blackbird Chain”
“Phase”
“Turn Away”
“Country Down”
“Warning Light”


 

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Eric Church's new video, 'Give Me Back My Hometown': Watch

Eric Church's new video, 'Give Me Back My Hometown': Watch

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Someone's done someone wrong

Eric Church’s evocative new video for “Give Me Back My Hometown”  hints at some deeper story than the song’s lyrics alone.

The mid-tempo, building track, from the lyrics, seems to strike out at some romantic interest who has skipped town, but her ghost remains and Church can’t walk through town without being haunted by the memory of everywhere they used to go, like the Pizza Hut.

In the Peter Zavadil-directed video, the story takes on a more sinister tone. It opens at a funeral and travels back in time as a murder mystery involving townies and carpetbaggers who come and take what isn’t theirs.

It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, some of which will probably be answered in future videos. For those under 20, that’s a cassette that the protagonist takes out of his car and tosses. We used to listen to music on them.

“Hometown” is the second single from Church’s new album, “The Outsiders,” which comes out Feb. 11.

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