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

Justin Bieber

Credit: AP Photo/Francois Mori

5 steps Justin Bieber needs to take immediately

What he should do to save himself and his career

“Wait. I’ve already seen this movie and I know how it ends…and it almost always ends badly.”

That’s what I thought this morning when I read about Justin Bieber’s arrest in Miami for driving under the influence and drag racing. Though anyone who has paid any attention to Bieber over the past year could have seen this coming—in fact, the only shock is that it took so long. However, just because someone is on an obvious collision course, that doesn't make the ensuing wreck any less sad.

Bieber has been under a relentless spotlight for more than four years. He’s gone from a 15-year old with a tragically bad haircut and a seemingly preternatural maturity level to a punk who’s acting out every chance he gets.

For the last year or so, very few Bieber headlines have been about his music. Instead, they’ve been about his and his friends’ behavior: speeding through his gated community, egging a neighbor’s house, urinating in a bucket, spitting on his fans, getting caught with pot on his tour bus, sending photos of his penis to ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez…really, there’s no shortage of incidents.  None are so major individually as to elicit too much concern, but collectively they are a massive red flag that he is in trouble.

Five steps Justin Bieber needs to take to get his career—and life— back under control before he becomes another fame casualty:



*He needs to go to rehab: After the egging incident and assorted other hijinks, Bieber contested that he was simply being 19. No, he’s simply being 12....or he's being a 19-year old with substantial abuse issues. He needs to realize he has a problem—whether it’s with pot, alcohol, lean, or whatever else is being alleged—and get some help, not only with the physical addiction but with learning what it means to be an adult and to take responsibility for his actions.

*He has to clean house:
Bieber has way too many enablers circling him feeding off his fame. According to reports, his entourage blocked off a residential street in Miami last night so he could drag race. Really?  No one thought to tell him this might not be a bad idea? Whether it was Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson or a host of other gone-before-their-time superstars, surrounding yourself with people who are paid by you  to do your bidding (and, therefore, will never tell you no)  is a one-way ticket to disaster. He may need to clean all the way to the top, including manager Scooter Braun— or Braun may be the one person who can still talk sense into his young charge. The usually chatty Braun has been silent on Twitter since Biebs' arrest.

*He needs to disappear for awhile: Bieber hasn’t really had a break since he broke through four years ago: he’s either been on tour or making music. Yes, with teen idols, there is the need to strike while the iron is hot because of the built-in short shelf life, but he has been in the news almost every week. He needs to quit Twitter (his 49 million followers will somehow survive if they don’t know his every thought) and he needs to go to an undisclosed location…perhaps a bunker… and concentrate on being a 19-year old instead of a worldwide superstar.

*He needs to concentrate on the music: Last fall, Bieber released one song each Monday for several weeks before they were collectively available. The #musicmonday series was also meant to build excitement for his new theatrical documentary, “Believe.” The music gained no traction whatsoever and the movie tanked. The problem with the music wasn’t the delivery system, it was that none of the songs were compelling enough to warrant repeat listens. So after a nice, long, healing hiatus, he needs to focus on the music and figure out what works for him because the recent flight of songs didn’t.

*He needs to spend some time with Brad Pitt:
Pitt and his partner, Angelina Jolie—our generation’s Richard Burton and Liz Taylor— seem to navigate fame in a way that enables them to shine light on the causes and projects they want to promote. They have cameras in their faces all the time and they never fuss or complain. Yesterday, Bieber posted a picture of what it was like for him at the beach in Miami, and it showed him being stalked by three photographers. It is horrible that he is so mercilessly trailed, but he has to find a way to come to terms with his fame and the paparazzi and no one has done that better than Brad Pitt.

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<p>Macklemore &amp;&nbsp;Ryan Lewis</p>

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

2014 Grammy Predictions: Best New Artist

Will James Blake be the surprise winner?

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.

Monday,  we tackled Record of the Year. Tuesday, we looked at Album of the Year. Yesterday, it was Song of the Year. Today, we make our pick for Best New Artist.

The nominees for Best New Artist are:

James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran


You could hear gasps in the press room when Lorde and Imagine Dragons weren’t included in this category given that they were two of the biggest success stories of the year. Having said that, it’s hard to argue with this bumper crop —with one exception. The one act who shouldn’t have been nominated is Ed Sheeran. Given that he received a song-of-the-year nomination last year for his break-through hit, “The A Team,” last year would have been the time to nominate him for this award. It used to be that if you had been nominated for a Grammy, you couldn’t be eligible for Best New Artist subsequently, but that rule changed a few years ago.

I would say that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have a lock on this award, but the Grammy voters are notoriously hard to predict here, for example, picking Bon Iver, who had already had enough success that he shouldn’t have been eligible in 2012,  or jazz darling Esperanza Spalding in 2011. If the Nashville contingency all votes for Kacey Musgraves, she could take it, just as Zac Brown Band did in 2010. And I’d never rule out Blake somehow nabbing it.

Should win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Will win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

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<p>Pink</p>

Pink

Credit: AP Photo

2014 Grammys Predictions: Song of the Year

It's Pink vs. Bruno, Lorde, Katy and Macklemore

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.

Monday,  we tackled Record of the Year.  Tuesday, we looked at Album of the Year. Today, we look at song of the year, an award that goes to the songwriter. This year, all of the performers of the nominated songs are also among the co-writers (Fun Fact: Ella Yelich O’Connor is Lorde’s real name and Macklemore’s real name is Ben Haggerty).

Song of the Year nominees:

“Just Give Me A Reason,” Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess  (Pink)

“Locked Out Of Heaven,” Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars (Bruno Mars)

“Roar,” Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter (Katy Perry)

“Royals,” Joel Little and Ella Yelich O’Connor (Lorde)

“Same Love,” Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert and Ryan Lewis  (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis)



The Grammys often like to award songs that have a certain amount of heft or message to them in this category,  though certainly not always. “Just Give Me A Reason” is a touching ballad with a traditional verse and chorus, so that may appeal to some of the voters who appreciate that song craft  (should it win, fun.’s Nate Ruess will capture the award two years’ running after “We Are Young’s” victory last year. “Roar” is all about empowering yourself but it feels a little lightweight here, same with the incredibly catchy “Locked Out Of Heaven.” “Royals” is a better record than song. “Same Love,” other than Mary Lambert’s part, is basically spoken word, but its willingness to step out in support of gay marriage certainly makes it the most message oriented of the nominees.  In a year with no clear frontrunner, my hunch is this is a race between “Just Give Me A Reason” and “Same Love,” and I’m going with “Just Give Me A Reason.”

Should Win: “Just Give Me a Reason”
Will Win: Just Give Me a Reason”

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<p>Ke$ha and friends</p>

Ke$ha and friends

Credit: AP Photo

Pitbull and Ke$ha's 'Timber' remains the most popular song in the land

Can it fend off a charge from Katy Perry?

Pitbull and Ke$ha continue their reign at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 as “Timber” spends its third week in the top spot.

It fends off a charge from Katy Perry, whose “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, trots 4-2. If it reaches the summit, three co-ed collaborations in a row will have hit No. 1 following “The Monster” by Eminem and Rihanna and “Timber.”

Perry’s ascension pushes OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars”  down 2-3 and the aforementioned “The Monster” down 3-5. A Great Big World’s “Say Something,” featuring Christina Aguilera rebounds 5-4, according to Billboard.

Passenger’s “Let Her Go” holds at No. 6 and Lorde’s “Royals” at No. 7. Lorde pulls off a neat feat: she also holds the No. 8 song with “Team” leaping 11-8.  One Direction’s “Story of My Life” rises 10-9 and Bastille’s hit “Pompeii” makes its first appearance in the Top 10, moving 12-10, more than three months after it topped Billboard's Alternative Songs chart.


 

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Six Grammy Performances You Don't Want To Miss
Credit: AP Photo

Six Grammy Performances You Don't Want To Miss

Which pairing will provide the next watercooler moment?

The Grammy Awards pride themselves on coming up with one-of-a-kind match ups every year.  Whether it was Eminem and Elton John in 2001 or the Gorillaz, Madonna & De La Soul mash-up in 2006.

The collaborations help boost viewership and create potential water cooler moments, but they are also a way to shoe horn lots of artists into the show, especially acts who may not be in the mainstream currently, such as Leon Russell, who played with the Zac Brown Band in 2010.

For Sunday night's show, the number of pairings are insane, with at least 10 on-stage partnerships, including Robin Thicke and Chicago, and Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Blake Shelton. And there are some big question marks that we address as well. The Grammys air Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET.

 Here’s a look at six you don’t want to miss:

Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl, Nine Inch Nails and Lindsey Buckingham:  Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are both performing on the Grammys, but it’s unclear if the Beatles will play together.  If they were, wouldn’t they be the closers? (see below) Instead, we already know the final performance will be loud and it will be this collection of artists creating a great racket to send us into the night. You might need earplugs even if you’re watching on TV.

Beyonce and Jay Z: The Grammys haven’t officially confirmed that they are appearing together —only that they will both be on the show— but chances are really good that we’ll get the first live performance of “Drunk In Love.” Given that Jay Z has nine nominations, we’re sure he’ll pull something off of “Magna Carta Holy Grail” to perform as well, like the nominated “Part II (On the Run),” though I’d love to see them go from “Crazy In Love” to “Drunk In Love” into “03 Bonnie & Clyde.”

Daft Punk with Nile Rodgers, Pharrell and Stevie Wonder:
Daft Punk appeared with Kayne West in 2008, when the French duo joined the rapper for “Stronger.” Their appearance this year with Wonder as their guest is sure to be a highlight. The question is which Wonder tune will they segue into after “Get Lucky?”

Sara Bareilles and Carole King:
Bareilles was a very surprising recipient of an album of the year nomination and the pairing of the singer/songwriter with the legendary King promises to be a lovely, if low-key, event. I imagine facing pianos as they perform Bareilles’ “Brave” and then any number of King’s hits…Perhaps “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” or “It’s Too Late” or “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.” King will be honored Friday night as MusiCares Person of the Year, so this is a smart way to get her onto the televised event.

Metallica and Lang Lang Sunday will mark Metallica’s first performance on the Grammys since 1991 and they will be paired with Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang. Metallica is no stranger to performing with classical artists: Its 1999 album, “S&M,” featured the metal band playing with The San Francisco Symphony conducted by the late Michael Kamen.

Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons:
Two of 2013’s top new artists will join together for “Radioactive” and a Lamar song. Can you imagine hearing Imagine Dragons joining him on “Bitch, Don’t Kill Me Vibe?” Actually, I can’t… and I’m not sure the Grammys would go for that.

Two to watch for:

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr: Even though they are getting the 2014 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, it seems like they are performing separately. In fact, The Grammys have gone out of their way to state that they “will each perform,” as if to stress it won’t be together. That just seems like a wasted opportunity, but the Grammys may be saving the reunion for a tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that tapes the Monday night after the Grammys and will air on CBS Feb. 9

Madonna and ????: The Los Angeles Times reported last week that Madonna will appear with an artist on the show as a surprise guest. I know it sounds a little crazy, but I’d love to see her perform “Royals” with Lorde.

Which performance are you looking forward to seeing on the Grammys Sunday night?


 

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<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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