<p>Eminem and Rihanna</p>

Eminem and Rihanna

Eminem and Rihanna's 'Monster' rules the singles chart

Duo spends its third week in the top spot, holding off Pitbull and Ke$ha

Eminem and Rihanna log a third week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “The Monster.” In doing so, the pair keeps another makeshift duo, Pitbull and Ke$ha, out of the top spot as “Timber” stays at No. 2.
In the slow holiday week, the top six spots stay static on the Billboard Hot 100: OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” is No. 3, A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” is No. 4, Lorde’s “Royals” is No. 5 and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” is at No. 6.

Songs already within the top 10 shift spots for the last four positions: Passenger’s “Let Here Go” rises 9-7, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” falls 7-8, Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” slips 8-9 and One Direction’s “Story Of My Life” stays at No. 10.

The highest debut belongs to Beyonce, whose “Drunk in Love,” featuring her husband Jay Z, bows at No. 12.  It is her highest-reaching Billboard Hot 100 appearance in four years, according to Billboard.

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<p>Beyonce</p>

Beyonce

Credit: Robin Harper/AP

Six releases that shook up the music world in 2013

Jay Z, Beyonce, and David Bowie created their own rules

As the traditional music business continues to morph into a new animal that no one has managed to tame, a number of artists shook up the status quo further in 2013 by trying innovative release strategies that bucked the norm. Instead of operating under the standard modus operandi of releasing a single to radio a few months before a widely-announced album release, planning a promotional campaign to build anticipation for the release, and running the press gauntlet, these artists rewrote the rule books. They didn’t all achieve the same level of success, but they all make the industry think as they caught the eyes and ears of consumers.

The biggest losers: print press and terrestrial radio: in most cases, both media were left out of the equation. Artists like Justin Timberlake turned to TV,  appearing for five nights straight on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Here's a look at six artists who did things a little differently in 2013: 


David Bowie, “The Next Day”
With not so much as a hint that he had been in the studio, on Jan. 8 (his 66th birthday), David Bowie dropped a new single, “Where Are We Now.” Its arrival served as the announcement of his first album of new material in 10 years, “The Next Day,” and proof that, contrary to popular belief, he hadn’t retired.  Bowie didn’t give a single interview for the project, instead letting producer Tony Visconti be his mouthpiece, as well as letting a number of stirring, creative interviews speak for the project. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling the most copies of any of his albums in the 22-year history of Nielsen SoundScan.

Justin Timberlake, “The 20/20 Experience”
Surely tired of being asked when he would release a follow-up to 2006’s  “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” Timberlake coyly announced in January via a Twitter video that he had been back in the the studio. Three days later, he wrote an open letter to his fans on his website, announcing the album, and releasing first single “Suit & Tie,” featuring Jay Z. Timberlake did no print interviews for March release, instead he took to TV, appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” for five straight nights and then appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” An exclusive with Target also helped propel the title, which sold 958,000 in its opening week, the most of any album in 2013. A Vol 2 was released in September. 

Jay Z, “Magna Carta, Holy Grail”
In a sign of things sure to come,  in July the rapper aligned with electronics company, Samsung, to distribute up to 1 million copies of “Magna Carta, Holy Grail” for free to Samsung mobile users one week before the album was available to traditional retail. In return, Jay Z reportedly received $5 million up front in part of a multi-pronged $20 million deal. The release was plagued with problems, including people having trouble downloading the app and complaints about data mining, but there’s no doubt that these kinds of deals, with the kinks hopefully worked out, will continue.

Garth Brooks, “Blame It All On My Roots”
The country superstar never does things in a small way, so to mark the start of his return after a 10-year hiatus, he dropped an 6 CD/2DVD boxed set at WalMart Thanksgiving night that included 4 CDs of new material and sold for less than $25. With very little advance promotion  and no radio single, he debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with only 4 days of sales his first week, rose to No. 1 his second week, and would have snagged another week at the top if Beyonce hadn’t launched her sneak attack. Brooks, who has a live CBS special and did lots of promotion following the release, is going to have to figure out how to sell his material online in a way that works for him —he is the lone superstar hold out from iTunes. When that happens, he’ll see if he’s bringing along younger fans. But in the meantime, with sales of more than 600,000 in four weeks through one retailers, he’s showed that there is still a pent-up demand for his material...and that physical releases aren’t dead yet.


Beyonce, "Beyonce"
She upped Bowie by dropping an album out of the blue at midnight Dec. 13. She went completely the opposite way from Brooks, with her album only available via iTunes... and she managed to do something that is virtually impossible: for the first week, iTunes sold the album (and videos) as a total package, as opposed to a la carte. She shattered all kinds of iTunes records for the first week (even with only 3 complete days of sales) and remained on top for a second week, even as brick-and-mortar outlets like Target declined to carry the album.  She conducted no interviews, had no promotion, released no advance single (to the chagrin of radio, which counts on partnering with major pop stars like Beyonce), and still managed to become one of the top sellers of the year. You better believe other superstar artists will be studying this kind of stealth attack for ways to make it work for them.

Justin Bieber, “Journal”
For the 10 weeks leading up to the release of his new movie, “Believe,” Bieber released a new song every Monday in a gambit tagged #MusicMondays. After the 10 weeks concluded,  on Dec 22, fans could download all 10 songs, plus 5 previously unreleased tracks and a new video as a completed album, “Journal.” The compilation was No. 2 on iTunes’ album chart, but with no singles climbing the charts and “Believe” opening to a paltry $1.2 million on Christmas Day, the lack of excitement for the project was perhaps even more ominous than Bieber’s Christmas Eve tweet that he planned to retire.



 

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Top 10 Singles of 2013

Top 10 Singles of 2013

You won't find Lorde or Miley Cyrus here

This year was a transitional time for pop music: after years of beats trumping melodies, songs you could sing along to returned to the top of the charts in 2013. Not only were tunes you could hum back in vogue, so were mid-tempo ballads as songs like Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” Rihanna’s “Stay,”  and Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” dominated at radio.

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” featuring Pharrell and T.I. spent the most weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100,  but it was female artists who brought the sizzle to the charts in the form of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” and, of course, Lorde’s “Royals.”

Picking my top 10 songs was a bit of a struggle this year. The Top 5 came easily enough, but then there about 20 songs that I liked but didn’t love. Domestic talent has seen a resurgence, so I was a little surprised that 1/3 of my list came from new British singer/songwriters, none of whom have broken through yet in a meaningful way here...even though they are all certainly worthy contenders to continue to build in 2014.

I’m a big country fan, but as so many other critics have written this year, the current top country male artists have tied themselves up in a bundle of cliches, leaving women such as Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe and Brandy Clark to produce the most interesting work —even if mainstream radio isn’t embracing them as it should. 

My Top 10 is a totally subjective list: each song had to be a radio single released in 2013  and we had to be able to get a high-quality copy of the video (in all honestly, that changed one position on the list when we couldn’t get one clip), but other than that criteria, the list is simply the songs that I found myself listening to over and over this year, especially the Top 5. 

Additionally, two songs that seems to have made everyone else’s list—Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and Lorde’s “Royals” — are nowhere to be found in my top 10. While I ended up begrudgingly liking “We Can’t Stop” after hearing it for the 1,000th time, it was never a song that resonated with me. While I understand all the hype over “Royals,” by the time I got around to making my list, I was so burnt out on it that it joins songs like “Stairway to Heaven”  and “Losing My Religions” that I never need to hear again in my life.

What were your favorite songs of the year?

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<p>Beyonce on her Mrs. Carter Tour</p>

Beyonce on her Mrs. Carter Tour

Credit: AP Photo

Beyonce set to spend another week at No. 1

Her self-titled set reigns supreme for a second frame

Beyonce’s self-titled set will spend a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week with sales of up to 280,000 copes.

Holiday sales continue to kick in as seven of the top 10 titles could surpass the 100,000 mark. Garth Brooks’ Wal-Mart only box set, “Blame It All On My Roots,” will hold at No. 2, moving up to 210,000 units.

One Direction’s former No. 1, “Midnight Memories,” is at No. 3 (175,000), followed by a pair of holiday titles: Kelly Clarkson’s “Wrapped in Red” at No. 4 (140,000) and The Robertsons’ “Duck the Halls” at No. 5 (135,000).

Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” is at No 6 (120,000) and Katy Perry’s “Prism” at No. 7 (100,000).

Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” and Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” are tied for No. 8 (75,000), while “Now 48” and Michael Buble’s “Christmas” are too close to call for No. 10 with both pegged to sell around 70,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double.  

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<p>Jason Schwartzman as Richard Sherman in&nbsp;&quot;Saving Mr. Banks&quot;</p>

Jason Schwartzman as Richard Sherman in "Saving Mr. Banks"

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Interview: Composer Richard Sherman on 'Saving Mr. Banks'

What did he really think about P.L. Travers and Walt Disney?

Richard Sherman and his late brother Robert wrote some of the most beloved songs in movie musicals, including “Trust in Me” from “The Jungle Book,”  “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” from the musical of the same name, the theme to “Winnie The Pooh,” and “Bedknobs & Broomsticks’” “The Age of Not Believing.”  But it is for their work on “Mary Poppins” that they are most remembered through such songs as the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Feed The Birds.”

“Saving Mr. Banks,” which opens wide Friday (20), tells the true story of how Walt Disney spent 20 years trying to woo “Mary Poppins” book author P.L. Travers into signing over the rights to create a movie about the beloved nanny. More specifically, the film deals with a two-week period in 1961 during which The Sherman Brothers (played by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak), writer Don DeGradi, and British author Travers struggled to come up with a story line for the film that would meet her approval.

“Those two weeks I would hate to go through again,” Sherman, 85, says. Even though he loved “Mary Poppins,”  working with Travers was even worse than it appears in “Saving Mr. Banks,” he says. “Mrs. Travers was very, very difficult.”

He adds that neither he nor his brother knew anything of her backstory that the movie lays out: that she was raised in Australia as Helen Gough and that she spent much of her young life dealing with her charming, yet alcoholic, father.

In addition to handling the taciturn, stubborn Travers, the Shermans, Disney, and DeGradi had to deal with the fact that her book didn’t have much of a plot. “When we first read the books, we thought ‘There’s no story here. We have to tell the story,” he says. “There’s a reason Mary Poppins comes. It’s because it’s an unsettled household. The father’s paying no attention and the mother is off with the suffragette movement. This is stuff we trumped up.”

Disney loved the plot twists that the Shermans help devise, as well as their songs for “Mary Poppins,” but he was often spare with his compliments to their faces. “He never said anything was great,” Sherman says. “Behind our back, he’d say he loved our songs, but [to us], he’d say, ‘That’ll work.’ That was his praise. That’s what he said to everybody.”

Sherman, who worked as a consultant on “Saving Mr. Banks,”  told screenwriter Kelly Marcel such nuances, which found their way into the script and then into Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Disney. Of the fact that his brother, Travers, DaGradi, and Disney have all passed, leaving him the only one with first-hand knowledge of the story, Sherman ruefully says, “I’m the last one standing.”

For Sherman and his brother, Disney “was like a second father. We both loved him.” In fact, he quickly rises to Disney’s defense when reminded that Disney’s legacy has been tarnished by accusations of racism and anti-semitism. “Let me tell you something, a lot of people talk about Walt in negative ways. There was nothing negative about Walt Disney,” he says. “He was dedicated to doing great things. He reached for the stars all the time. He was a wonderful, wonderful boss.”

“Mary Poppins” blew the Sherman Brothers’ careers wide open. They became staff writers as Disney and worked on dozens of projects for both the Mouse and other studios over the decades. Sherman continues to write, often feeling his brother’s spirit with him. But he often thinks back to “Mary Poppins.” “It meant so much to us,” he says. “We knew this would be the doorway to our success as songwriters because we had been writing songs and had a couple of hits, but nothing huge. This was a huge thing for us.” 
 

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Eminem and Rihanna's 'The Monster' remains the top song in the U.S.

Eminem and Rihanna's 'The Monster' remains the top song in the U.S.

Pitbull and Ke$ha are coming on strong

Eminem and Rihanna make it a second week at No. 1 with “The Monster” on the Billboard Hot 100, although another duo, Pitbull and Ke$ha remain hot on their trail with “Timber,” which holds at No. 2. “Timber” is also closing the gap between the two songs, which means it could overtake the top spot next week.

OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” stays at No. 3, but the rest of the top 5 gets a shake up as A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” leaps 8-4 pushing Lorde’s “Royals” down 4-5, according to Billboard.

In slots 5-10, Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” moves 7-6, trading places with Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” Miley Cyrus’s ballad, “Wrecking Ball” falls 5-8, Passengers’ “Let Her Go” hangs on to its No. 9 spot, and One Direction’s “Story Of My Life” moves 11-10, moving back into the Top 10 after peaking at No. 6.

Beyond the Top 10, Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, gallops 36-22, followed closely by Lorde’s “Team,” which rises 32-23.






 

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John Mayer and Katy Perry coo at each other in 'Who You Love' video: Watch
Credit: Columbia Records

John Mayer and Katy Perry coo at each other in 'Who You Love' video: Watch

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The two lovebirds are sickeningly sweet in new clip

A few days ago, Beyonce and Jay Z showed us how they were “Drunk In Love,” today fellow real-life couple John Mayer and Katy Perry make googly eyes at each other for our voyeuristic pleasure in the video for languid, mid-tempo ballad “Who You Love.”

There’s something about watching a real couple singing and cooing at each other that feels a little strange to me, especially when you wonder if they’ll be together this time next year or if the video will serve as an embarrassing reminder of their forever love before forever ended  (Yes, we're also talking to you Kanye West and Kim Kardashian).

In the Sophie Mueller-directed clip, various couples hold on for dear life as they ride a bucking bronco in a symbol that love is a rough, exhilarating trip for all of us. It then switches to Mayer and Perry, looking like something out of “Little House on the Prairie,” holding each other closely and singing gently as they gaze meaningfully into each other’s eyes. It feels like we’re intruding on a personal moment, which is exactly the point. Perry looks seductively into the camera every now and then to show us the depth of her affection for Mayer.

Here’s hoping the crazy kids make it. If they don’t, they’ll certainly have a video to remind them of the days their hearts were intwined...before the ride got too rough.
 

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<p>Kurt Cobain of Nirvana</p>

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana

Credit: MTV

Why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame only got it half right this year

Who should have gotten the nod that didn't?

Last night, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its class of 2014:  Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Kiss, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt, and Cat Stevens.

There are a number of things right with this picture. And a number of things wrong.

First off, before any discussion of the Rock Hall and its induction process can begin, let’s first agree that such conversations are always subjective. Plus, it helps to remember that the majority of the 600 voters are white, middle-aged men, many of them rock critics, who, especially in the early years of the Hall, tried to compensate for the way white rockers appropriated black music in the ‘50s and ‘60s as the building blocks of rock and roll by making sure that a number of unappreciated black acts got their just due by being inducted. For example, in 1986, six of the 10 inaugural inductees were black. This time, there are none.

Secondly, throw away any notion that Rock & Roll means anything other than pop music. The Hall never limited itself only to true “rockers,” but every time someone like Madonna gets inducted, as she did in 2008, people work themselves up into apoplectic states about how she’s not “Rock.” Well, neither are about 50%, if not more, of the inductees.

So with that out of the way, I’d say that without question, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters, of which I used to be one, got it right this year with Peter Gabriel, Kiss and Nirvana.  All three acts are pioneers at what they do/did.

Both as a member of Genesis and as a solo act, Peter Gabriel elevated rock to an experimental art form, blending in other genres and fearlessly pushing boundaries. Kiss,  who has been eligible for more than a decade and whose fans have done everything but storm the Rock Hall’s castle in protest, took metal in a cartoonish yet innovative way to the masses. Nirvana, one of the few acts to get in the first year it was eligible, ushered in the grunge movement and has continued to influence the next generation of rockers.

After that, it gets a little sketchy. The other acts on the 2014 ballot were Yes, LL Cool J, The Replacements, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, NWA, The Meters, Link Wray and the Zombies.

I would have picked Chic before Ronstadt, H&O, or Cat Stevens. Yes, they were a disco band, which automatically makes them second class to many voters, but they were so much more. They brought in R&B and a certain loose-limbed aesthetic to their music that proved to have great legs long after disco died. It seemed like Nile Rodgers work with Daft Punk would have helped bring him and the band to the fore this year, but they’ll have to come back again... for a ninth time.

I would have also gone with Link Wray this year. Best known for “Rumble” and “The ‘Batman’ Theme,”  Wray invented a whole new language on the electric guitar that thousands of musicians have adopted from rock to punk and country. 

Thirdly, I would have picked NWA. Yes, they were long shots, and some of the more conservative voters may have objections to their politics or feel like Public Enemy’s inclusion this year gives them a pass on hard core rap for a little while, but their music represents the rebellion and social protest that the absolute best music represents. Albums like “Straight Outta Compton” and “Niggaz4Life” are time capsules of the racial tensions brewing on the West Coast in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

I'll go a step further, I absolutely believe that Hall & Oates should be in, though I would have waited a few more year, but I'm not so sure that, as much as I love both Ronstadt and Stevens, that either one of them  should be included. At some point does it just become popular names? 

Of course, there are still a number of acts who weren’t on the ballot this year that deserve inclusion, among them Cheap Trick and Todd Rundgren.

Do you think the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters got it right this year?

 

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<p>The legendary Nirvana will soon be members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.</p>

The legendary Nirvana will soon be members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Nirvana, Kiss voted into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Who else will be in the Class of 2014?

Kiss fans, rejoice! The hard rock band has finally gotten its due and will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.

The make-up wearing band will be joined by Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Cat Stevens and Linda Ronstadt, according to Rolling Stone.

Acts are eligible 25 years after the release of their first recording, which means Nirvana, to no one’s surprise, will be inducted in its first year of eligibility. For both Kiss and Hall & Oates, their entry comes after years of fans lobbying for their inclusion.

Peter Gabriel is already in the Hall as a member of Genesis.

On the ballot, but denied this year were Yes, LL Cool J, The Replacements, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, NWA, The Meters, Link Wray, and the Zombies.

The E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen's backing band, will be presented the award for musical excellence, while Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham will be inducted as non-performers.

The induction ceremony will be held at Brooklyn’s Barclay Center on April 10, 2014, after being held at LA Live this year.  Tickets will be made available to the general public and will go on sale in January. HBO will air the ceremony.

 

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Beyonce's new 'XO' video is a thrill ride: Watch
Credit: Columbia Records

Beyonce's new 'XO' video is a thrill ride: Watch

She's on a rollercoaster of love

Beyonce’s “XO” video, her second in a few days following “Drunk in Love,” compares love to a carnival.

Shot at Astroland at Coney Island, the clip features a sultry, slightly euphoric looking Beyonce walking on the boardwalk and dancing her way through the midway alone and with friends, intercut with other folks at the theme park and the rides. It also includes brief footage of her on stage.

It’s an interesting clip, almost as if we’re seeing her in some state of heightened reality enhanced by some mood-altering substance-- or maybe that’s just what love does to Beyonce.  "XO" will go to top 40 radio at the beginning of year.

In the meantime, “Beyonce,” the album she dropped at midnight on Friday, continues to sell well. It set a iTunes record for best U.S. sales in a week at 617,000.
 

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