<p>Bruce Springsteen</p>

Bruce Springsteen

Credit: AP Photo

Ranking Bruce Springsteen's 10 best albums

Is your favorite on the list?

It's a good day to be a Bruce Springsteen fan: His new album, "High Hopes," came out today and even if it's not chockful of winners, it's enough to tide us over until a true new studio album emerges. Plus, Springsteen & The E Street Band were announced as headliners for New Orleans' Jazz Fest in May, which could mean there is a U.S. tour coming, their first stateside outing since 2012.

I reviewed "High Hopes" last week, and now I'm looking back at what I consider to be the best 10 studio albums of Springsteen's career. I excluded live and compilation albums and, as with all things, this list is totally subjective. What struck me as I reviewed his 18 studio albums is how potent Springsteen's music was from the start and  it hasn't let up. My choices span 1973-2007 (that tells you two of them right there). Springsteen has been making meaningful, important, joyous music for more than 40 years, seldom succumbing to laziness or nostalgia.

Be sure to list your favorite albums below and take our poll.

<p>The Boss</p>

The Boss

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire, Springsteen, Vampire Weekend and Clapton headline 2014 Jazz Fest

Christina Aguilera, Foster the People also on New Orleans bill

The 45th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival may be the only festival that Outkast isn’t playing this year, but they will hardly be missed.

Toplining the festival, which runs April 25-27 and May 1-4, are Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (in their only 2014 date so far), Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend, Eric Clapton, Phish, and Christina Aguilera.

Among the more than 80 acts on the bill are Robin Thicke, Santana, Foster the People, The Avett Brothers, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, John Fogerty, Alabama Shakes, The Head & The Heart, and Jason Isbell.

The festival prides itself on featuring hometown talent and this year, such New Orleans local heroes as Aaron Neville, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Irma Thomas, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk and the Radiators are on the bill.

Unlike Coachella, which features the same line-up both weekends, Jazz Fest offers different acts each weekend:  Phish and Clapton will play the first weekend, while Arcade Fire and Springsteen will be the heavy hitters for the second.

For the full line-up, go here or watch the announcement video below.  Tickets go on sale today.

Foster the People return with dreamy 'Coming of Age': Listen
Credit: Columbia Records

Foster the People return with dreamy 'Coming of Age': Listen

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New album, 'Supermodel,' headed for stores in March

It’s been more than a minute since Foster the People broke through in 2011 with “Pumped Up Kicks” from its major label debut, “Torches.”

The trio, led by Mark Foster, returns with a new album, the Paul Epworth-produced “Supermodel,” on March 18. First single, “Coming of Age,” hits airwaves today.

Foster the People have shifted slightly away from their Beach Boys obsession (although only slightly given how the tune ends) and moved on to new wave and  late-‘80s Brit Pop for “Coming of Age,” a shimmering, yet propulsive guitar-and-synth driven track.

“I try to live without regrets,” Mark Foster sings, though he knows that’s easier said than done, especially “when my fear pulls me out to sea,” leading him to hurt the ones he cares about the most. It’s a more personal, reflective tune than their previous hits.

Bolstered by sweet backing vocals and a nice bridge three-quarters of the way in, the track has staying power and could build to be a nice winter/spring time hit.  Foster shows Brian Wilson a little love with the ending vocals.

Coachella-bound Foster the People recorded the album in Morocco, Los Angeles and London with Epworth, best known for his work with Adele.  In addition to Coachella, the group is also confirmed for two club dates this month: Seattle, Jan. 19, and Portland, Jan 20.

The video below is time-lapse footage of a mural painting of the cover art in downtown Los Angeles. Below the video is the tracklisting for "Supermodel." 

 

"Supermodel" track listing

1. Are You What You Want to Be
2. Ask Yourself
3. Coming of Age
4. Nevermind
5. Pseudologia Fantastica
6. The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones
7. Best Friend
8. A Beginner’s Guide to Destroying the Moon
9. Goats in Trees
10. The Truth
11. Fire Escape

 

 

Lea Michele's title track, 'Louder': Listen
Credit: Columbia Records

Lea Michele's title track, 'Louder': Listen

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Don't let anyone turn out your heartlight

 After the video for Lea Michele’s new  single, “Cannonball,” bowed last week, the “Glee” singer is back with the title track from her upcoming album, out March 4.

If “Cannonball’s” message is about starting to live today, “Louder’s” take-away is to ignore anyone who’s trying to extinguish your inner flame.

“Louder” is similarly anthemic and mid-tempo, but has a softer approach than “Cannonball,” despite its exhortation to “scream a little louder.”  The song is an inspirational ode to “come out of the shadow, step into the light, this could be the moment that could change your life.” While it could be a single, it's melodically too close to "Cannonball" to be the follow-up.

The “Glee” star told Billboard, which debuted the track, the song’s mission statement resonated with her. "I always think it's so important to live your life to the fullest, and love as hard as you can love, and fight as hard as you can fight. Be loud, be bold, be yourself, whether or not people understand that message. That's what I think of when I think of the song and album."

What do you think of “Louder?”

 Shakira and Rihanna's 'Can't Remember To Forget You': Listen

Shakira and Rihanna's 'Can't Remember To Forget You': Listen

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You can certainly shake your hips to it

Shakira and Rihanna bounce through their heartache on “Can’t Remember To Forget You,” an ode to a guy who is bad in all the good ways.

The two play off each other, trading parts about the boy who makes them forget everything other than “kissing in the moonlight.”

The track, which premiered today on “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,”  is relentlessly and aggressively upbeat, bringing in Latin beats in homage to Shakira’s Colombian background, and Caribbean touches, as tribute to Rihanna, who is from Barbados. Plus, it adds in an ‘80s, Police-like rhythm, similar to that heard on Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” as MTV and other outlets also noted.

It’s loud and in your face and it comes out in time to be hitting its stride when Shakira returns as a coach on “The Voice” on Feb. 24. The song will be on Shakira’s new album, out March 25.

Given that the song credits list six songwriters — Shakira, Rihanna, John Hill, Tom Hull, Daniel Ledinsky and Erik Hassle — you’d think they would have come up with a more memorable chorus. Instead they seemed to rely on the star appeal of their names and lots of bells and whistles. Having said that, it’s certainly better than another recent superstar collaboration: Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears’  paste-up on “SMS (Bangerz).”

What do you think of “Can’t Remember To Forget You?”
How do you like it compared to Shakira’s 2007 collaboration with Beyonce,  “Beautiful Liar,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100?

 

<p>Beyonce</p>

Beyonce

Credit: AP Photo

Beyonce headed back to No. 1 next week

Rapper Kid Ink poised for a big bow

Beyonce returns to dominance on the Billboard 200 next week as “Beyonce” is poised to thaw “Frozen” out of the top spot.

It will mark “Beyonce’s” fourth non-consecutive week at No. 1, as the soundtrack to the Disney animated features slides to No. 2.  

With the holidays over and no new releases from major artists, no title will top the 100,000 mark, with “Beyonce” slated to sell around 85,000 units and “Frozen” reaching for 75,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

The one debut in the Top 10 in the slow release week will belong to rapper Kid Ink with his major label bow, “My Own Lane,” at No. 3 (50,000).

The rest of the Top 10 belongs to major acts who have been lodged in the Top 10: At No. 4 will be Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” (40,000), Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” at No. 5 (35,000); One Direction’s “Midnight Memories” at No. 6 (26,000), Katy Perry’s “Prism” at No. 7 (22,000), Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz” at No. 8 (21,000) and Drake’s “Nothing Was The Same" and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions” in a dead heat for No. 9, with each moving up to 19,000 copies.








 

<p>Tom Morello</p>

Tom Morello

Credit: nightwatchmenmusic.com

Inspired by Springsteen, Tom Morello's ready to rock on solo album

His stint in the E Street Band paved the way

Becoming a temporary member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band has so inspired Tom Morello that he now intends to make his first solo rock record.

Though Morello certainly let his rock god out with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, his four solo sets have been gentler, folkier outings under the moniker The Nightwatchman.

After touring with Springsteen in Australia this past summer as the replacement for Steven Van Zandt, who was filming “Lilyhammer,”  Morello tells Billboard he was inspired to rock out. “The first time I ever sang with an electric guitar in my hands was 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' [with Springsteen] at the Anaheim (Calif.) Pond in 2008. Until then I'd kept my folk singing career and my electric guitar shredding career completely separate," Morello told Billboard. "It was on that (Anaheim) stage that I realized there might be a way to combine all the things I do as a songwriter and a guitar player, and this record is going to be that."

Morello has a number of songs already written but he’ll have to wait to hit the studio until he returns from playing South Africa, New Zealand and Australia (again)  with the E Street Band.  “I want to make the craziest guitar record that anyone’s ever heard,” he says.

Morello can be heard on Springsteen's new album, "High Hopes," out Jan. 14. The guitarist is on eight of the tracks.

<p>U2 at the premiere of 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'</p>

U2 at the premiere of 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'

Credit: AP Photo

Predictions: Will Justin Timberlake or U2 win a Golden Globe Sunday?

In a year with no frontrunners, who takes home the statue?

My colleagues on the film and television side posted their Golden Globe predictions in all categories yesterday and I’m happy to see that they had as tough a time as I did when it came to picking who they felt would win in the two music categories. Both races seem wide open as we head into the final days before the 71st annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night (10).  Will the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. members go for the biggest pop star over the best song when it comes to Best Original Song as they have in the past? How much of an advantage does John Williams have for Best Original just because he’s John Williams?
Here are my predictions for the music winners:

Best Original Song - Motion Picture

“Atlas” (“Hunger Games: Catching Fire”)
“Let It Go” (“Frozen”)
“Ordinary Love” (“Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”)
“Please Mr. Kennedy” (“Inside Llewyn Davis”)
“Sweeter Than Fiction” (“One Chance”)


Unlike last year when Adele’s “Skyfall” was the clear frontrunner, there’s no obvious winner this year. In the past, the HFPA. members have been starstruck and picked the biggest name... how else do you explain Madonna’s victory for “Masterpiece” (“W.E.”) in 2011? If the voters go traditional, then “Let It Go” from “Frozen” will win. Otherwise it could come down to which music superstars they want to honor:  Coldplay for “Atlas,” Taylor Swift for “Sweeter Than Fiction,” Justin Timberlake for “Please Mr. Kennedy” or U2 for “Ordinary Love.” Between Bono’s appeal and Mandela’s passing (and the fact that it’s a nice song), the winner will be “Ordinary Love.”

Winner: “Ordinary Love”



Best Original Score

“All is Lost,”  Alex Ebert
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” Alex Heffes
Gravity,” Steven Price
“The Book Thief,” John Williams
12 Years a Slave,” Hans Zimmer


Williams has been nominated a staggering 25 times in this category so while it’s tempting to think he’s the automatic leader, he’s only won four times, so he’s not a shoo-in. Both Ebert and Price had the more interesting composing challenges here since their films had so little dialogue for long stretches. Looking over past winners, HFPA has honored both sweeping, orchestral scores and very of-the-moment, pop-oriented scores.  All the nominees here did their jobs very well, but there are parts of Zimmer’s score that were especially haunting and memorable.

Winner: “12 Years a Slave”
 

Who do you think will win? 

<p>Jason Aldean</p>

Jason Aldean

Credit: AP Photo

Jason Aldean ignites Burn It Down tour

Florida Georgia Line and Tyler Farr will join him on 50-date outing

We smell pyro... Country superstar Jason Aldean will hit the road with his 2014 Burn It Down tour starting May 1.

The outing, which includes Florida Georgia Line and Tyler Farr, will alight in 50 cities, including stops at several baseball stadiums across the country, making Aldean one of the few country artists with an audience big enough to play stadiums.

Stops include Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park, Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.

“It’s no secret that I grew up dreaming of playing baseball stadiums, I just thought it would be as a first basemen,” Aldean said in a statement.

Aldean is no stranger to stadiums, having played University of Georgia’s Sandford Stadium, Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park last year.

Tickets for the tour go on sale Jan. 24. While exact dates haven’t been announced, below are the cities Aldean will visit.

2014 BURN IT DOWN TOUR Stops:

Roanoke, VA                       
State College, PA                      
Atlantic City, NJ                     
Birmingham, AL
Atlanta, GA
Baton Rouge, LA**                            
Jacksonville, FL**                 
Darien, NY                 
Cincinnati, OH                     
Washington, D.C.               
Pittsburgh, PA
Twin Lakes, WI*  **              
Philadelphia, PA
Hartford, CT
Detroit Lakes, MN **
Prairie du Chien, WI*  **
Chicago, IL
St. Louis, MO
Toronto, ONT
Saratoga Springs, NY
Bangor, ME
Charlotte, NC
Raleigh, NC
Virginia Beach, VA
Knoxville, TN
Lexington, KY
Denver, CO
Albuquerque, NM
Phoenix, AZ
San Diego, CA
Irvine, CA
Mountain View, CA
Sacramento, CA
Winnipeg, MB
Bismarck, ND
Sioux Falls, SD
Erie, PA
Detroit, MI
Tampa, FL
West Palm Beach, FL
San Antonio, TX
Houston, TX
Dallas, TX

* Florida Georgia Line will not appear
** Tyler Farr will not appear            

 

<p>Eminem and Rihanna</p>

Eminem and Rihanna

Who says no black artists scored No. 1s in 2013?

Dive a little deeper into the methodology

For the first time in the Billboard Hot 100’s 55-year history, no black act as the lead artist took a song to No. 1 in 2013.

Yesterday, New York public radio station WNYC published a piece on its website about the interesting development. I want to dive a little bit deeper.

Part of the issue is semantics. WNYC chose to not include featured artists in the list, which, if they had, the stats would have instantly made it a non-story. For example, Eminem’s “The Monster,” featuring Rihanna reached the top of the chart in mid-December.  Similarly, Wanz hit No. 1 with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as the featured artist on “Thrift Shop,” as did Ray Dalton with “The Heist” duo on “Can’t Hold Us,” and, of course, “Blurred Lines” from Robin Thicke featuring Pharell and T.I. spent a whole season at No. 1.

Even if WYNC chose not to include featured artists (and I can somewhat see its rationale), it’s a strange distinction to make, especially since Billboard counts a feature on a record  in that artist’s tally of chart toppers.  For example, “The Monster” is Rihanna’s 13th No. 1.

Speaking of Rihanna, she made WYNC’s whole story possible when she failed to reach No. 1 with “Stay,” which peaked at No. 3. It marked the first time in three years she missed having not only one Hot 100 chart topper, but several:  She took two songs to No. 1 in 2012 and 2011 and three in 2009.

Playing by WYNC’s rules, three black acts hit the top in 2012 and 2011, and five in 2010. For 2009, when Top 40 radio was much more rhythmic leaning than it is now, it was 10. But again, some of this is wording: because “Empire State of Mind” is listed as Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, as opposed to Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys,  that counts as two black artists.

The bigger question is if the methodology by which the Hot 100 is calculated now had an effect. Last year, The Hot 100 added YouTube streaming into the mix. Chartwatchers saw the immediate impact of the move when Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” vaulted to No. 1, despite relatively little radio airplay. Same with Ylvis’s “What Does The Fox Say.”   The three components that go into determining chart position are radio airplay, digital sales and streaming (Billboard--or, to be more precise, Nielsen-- already counted a number of streaming outlets, but adding megamonster YouTube did have an effect).

To give a little bit of a more well-rounded picture, five black artists registered Top 10 hits in 2013 as lead artists, compared with seven in 2012, and 14 in 2011.

The milestone is worth noting, but I don’t think it’s alarming or a signal of same great shift other than that we are in a cycle where mid-tempo pop songs are dominating radio. Some other pop sub-genre will swing into vogue in a year or two. That’s how it always happens.

What do you think?