<p>Kesha and Pitbull</p>

Kesha and Pitbull

Credit: AP Photo

Pitbull and Kesha slay Eminem's 'Monster' to reach No. 1

'Timber' knocks the Rihanna duet out of the top spot

One duo replaces another Pitbull and Ke$ha reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100 this week with “Timber.”
The pair displaces Eminem and Rihanna’s “The Monster,” which ruled for four weeks, keeping “Timber” at bay.  “The Monster” falls to No. 3.

“Timber” is Pitbull’s second No. 1, following 2011’s “Give Me Everything,” featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer. It’s Ke$ha’s third climb to the top, after “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R,” both in 2010, according to Billboard.

OneRepublic, who will appear on The People’s Choice Awards tonight, move one spot closer to the top as “Counting Stars” advances 3-2. Otherwise, the top 5 remains the same as last week with Lorde’s “Royals” at No. 4 and A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” at No. 5.

Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, is the lone new entry into the Top 10, riding in at No. 6, a leap of five spots. It is her 13th Top 10 hit.

 Passenger’s “Let Her Go”  stays at No. 7, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” rises 10-8, Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” rebounds 12-9, and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” slides 6-10.

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: NBC

Why I'm not buying Lady Gaga's apology

Here's what's really bothering me about her blame game

Was Lady Gaga right to apologize to her fans? Yes, but maybe she didn’t apologize for the right thing. I’ve been thinking about that since I posted yesterday about the missive Momma Monster wrote to her fans on LittleMonster.com.

You can read the message in its entirety here, but she started by blaming others for the delay in her “Do What U Want” video with R. Kelly and then spreads to broader blame for “Artpop’s” disappointing performance so far. She ended by apologizing for how “Artpop” has rolled out and asked for a second chance from her fans as she plans a relaunch.

Lady Gaga is an artist I like and that I admire. The fact that she took this extraordinary measure on her fan site isn’t that surprising. Lady Gaga and her most ardent fans have a very close, co-dependent relationship. She seems almost to not exist outside of their sight; she is a reflection of their adoration for her. Part of that is because she is an artist who has come to prominence in the age of social media and can communicate directly with her fans, but it is also due to canny promotion on her part to make her fans feel like they are family members.

Here’s are a few things that struck me as off base about the apology:

*How did she not realize the train had derailed until now? The first half of the message she is passing the buck to those she feel betrayed her. This is an artist who from her first burst of fame has made it clear that she is a proud control freak; she oversees everything and nothing happens without her approval.  There are plenty of artists who were swindled by their team, but they didn't keep their eye on the ball like Lady Gaga claims she does. Artists like Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks have teams around them that help facilitate the artist's vision and enhance it because these artists know 100% what they want and they have their fingerprints on every decision made about their career. Yes, she says she, understandably, focused on recovering from her hip surgery last February, but when interviewed previously about her recovery, she talked about what a creative time it was for her, not the “hands-off the wheel” she describes  in the apology. “I had six months to beef up my brain and my body. I got to put a giant white or black sheet of paint over my whole canvas and I got to review ‘Artpop’ again,” she told USA Today last August after the November release of “Artpop” was announced.” “I was given the time to really be creative because it's a gazing process, it really is. I have to gaze into the work for long periods of time for it to be good.”

*How was her label, as she claims, unaware of the issues with the “Do What U Want” video and other problems? Unless she’s working under something far different from the normal arrangement, Interscope is bankrolling such things as radio promotion, marketing, and music videos (in the traditional structure, the label fronts the money and then recoups a percentage from album sales). Even if she is now simply licensing her music and videos to the label and paying for everything upfront herself, the label is still a resource for her and her decision to exclude them was a mistake.

*Finally, here’s what’s really bothering me. Maybe the problem with “Artpop” isn’t everything that came after its release or the fault of her now ex-team. Maybe it’s something that Lady Gaga doesn’t dare mention in her apology: Maybe it’s the music and the fact that the album just isn’t good enough.  That seems to be something she can't conceive of as an issue as spreads the blame around to others and then promises to right her ship.

The album received mixed reviews and nothing that Lady Gaga has done to promote it, including a network special on Thanksgiving night with the Muppets, has done much to move the needle (when the Muppets can't help you, then you really are in trouble). “Applause” did well, but “Do What U Want” has stalled at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Maybe flashing her backside on the cover art wasn’t the best message.

The album, to many reviewers, including me, felt too insular and delivered from the rarified air of fame, and, therefore, much less relatable that her previous efforts. Only so many of us can imagine—or care— what hanging with Donatella Versace is like. There are some strong songs on the album, especially “Dope” and “Gypsy,” that could lift the album back up, so, hopefully, they can provide a strong second half.

It’s nice that Lady Gaga apologized and I don’t doubt her sincerity and the depth of her anguish over what has happened to her latest labor of love, but maybe when she’s looking at who to blame, she needs to look in the mirror.

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Album Review: Bruce Springsteen's 'High Hopes'
Credit: Columbia Records

Album Review: Bruce Springsteen's 'High Hopes'

Does he make a cohesive album out of odds and sods?

For Bruce Springsteen fans— and I am an unabashed, unapologetic one— dropping the needle on a new album is a moment full of excitement, hopeful expectation, and not a small amount of anxiety. For longtime fans, we have a lot— perhaps too much— invested in Springsteen because we know how good his music can make us feel and the deliverance it can provide at its peak.

With “High Hopes,” out officially Jan. 14, but streaming on CBS.com now, fans didn’t know quite what to expect since the album is a mix of three covers, some already familiar songs newly recorded with Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, and a handful of never released tunes.

Such an odds-and-sods collection can be just an excuse to dump old material, but here, Springsteen has created an album that, surprisingly, hangs together pretty well (despite a few bumpy transitions such as from “American Skin” into “Just Like Fire Would”). Springsteen has written about dashed hopes and disappointments his entire career, so bringing together a number of songs on the topic  that span more than a decade doesn’t provide any major conceptual challenge.

Produced largely by “Wrecking Ball’s” Ron Aniello, “High Hopes” marks the first time Springsteen has recorded a studio album while he was on tour and the result is an energy that leaps out from much of the material, including the title track. Plus, he’s excited as a puppy with a new pal over the freshness he feels Morello, who filled in for Steven Van Zandt on the Australian leg last year, brings to the band. Even if you don’t agree with his assessment of Morello, who plays on eight tracks here, there’s no denying the pep Morello adds to Springsteen’s already damn peppy step.

Not every album has to be a masterpiece —and this is not one— but nor should it be discounted as a placeholder or a throwaway. Instead, it’s as Springsteen called it in his own words, a bit of an “anomaly.” For hardcore fans, you’ll hear traces of previously recorded songs in most of these and part of the fun is figuring out where you would have sequenced them on past albums.

As Springsteen showed on 1998’s “Tracks,” the excellent 4-CD box set of songs that didn’t make earlier albums, a tune doesn’t always get cut because it’s bad—most of the tracks here are far above average—they just needed to wait a little longer for their time in the spotlight.

“High Hopes” doesn’t bring the rush of a new album full of a batch of recently-birthed songs, but it still has plenty of delights.

Below is a track-by-track review of “High Hopes”:
“High Hopes”: The title track and first single, a cover of a song by LA-based band The Havalinas written by Tim Scott McConnell, is a tight, percussion and horn-driven mid-tempo rocker that is a good shuffler for concert. Lyrically it kicks off the album with a certain amount of world weariness-yet-hopefulness- that hints at what’s to come. GRADE: B

“Harry’s Place”: Gritty and propulsive, “Harry’s Place” has some good lyrics, but thematically and production wise, it sounds like it would have fit in perfectly to an episode of “Miami Vice” in the mid-‘80s, which is strange since it was written around 2007 about the Bush administration for the excellent “Magic” album. Singing part of the song through a bullet mike and the rest in a gravelly, mysterious voice does the tune no favors (though it worked great on "Reason To Believe"). Morello’s shredding is somewhat wasted here. Admit it, you can hear Glenn Frey singing this right after he finishes “You Belong To the City.” GRADE: C

“American Skin (41 Shots)”:  Originally written to protest the brutal 1999 police killing of Amadou Ballo Diallo —he was an unarmed black immigrant whom the police shot at 41 times—and first performed on the reunion tour in 2000, “American Skin” has matured gracefully. On the newly recorded version, Springsteen trades in some of the anger of the original for a sense of melancholy and resignation, especially in light of the Trayvon Martin killing. The verse about the mother reminding her son to never talk back to the police retains its initial sadness, although the song still feels unwieldy. GRADE: B-

“Just Like Fire Would”:
Originally recorded by Australian band The Saints (and covered by Springsteen during this tour down under), this jangly upbeat track will thrill fans of tunes like “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.” It’s about as pop as Springsteen gets and is a reminder of how great he sounds when he indulges his pure pop side. Nice Beatlesque horns life the track even higher. GRADE: B

“Down In The Hole”: Produced by Brendan O’Brien and originally written for “The Rising,” the mid-tempo, organ-drenched tune is about 9/11 as he sings about “wake to find my city’s gone to black...” and “I’m going to dig right here until I get you back.” There’s a chugging beat similar to “I’m on Fire.” Quietly devastating. GRADE: B

“Heaven’s Wall”: A repetitive, clap-along, gospel-inflected song that consists mainly of “Raise your hands, raise your hands, raise your hands... “ for lyrics. Springsteen does biblical references and gospel well, especially in the refrain of songs like “The Rising,” and this is more of a chance for him to do that without the heaviness. You don’t find yourself saying this often about a Springsteen tune, but there’s a great dance remix in here dying to be made. GRADE: B

“Frankie Fell In Love”: A loose-limbed track that starts acoustic and then bursts into a full-on band tune originally recorded for “Magic.” Between Springsteen’s relaxed vocals, country inflections, and generally upbeat tone: “it all starts with a kiss,” as he reminds us, “Frankie” is a fun, lightweight track that’s not meant to have any deeper meaning. GRADE: B-

“This Is Your Sword”: Celtic-flavored “This Is Your Sword” is an upbeat sweet song about “giving all the love you have in your soul” on the battlefield of love. Musically, it’s redolent of “American Land” and fans of “The Seeger Sessions” will love it for its acoustic drive. It’s good on record, but it’s one of those tracks that could really soar live. GRADE: B

“Hunter of Invisible Game”:
One of the best tracks on the album, produced by Brendan O’Brien. The lilting, string-laden waltz beat is in contrast to the lyrics that are quite dark as he sinks down to the valley “where the beast has its throne.” It’s a track where everything gels about the passage of time and love. It’s easy to get lost in and it features one of his best, if Dylanesque, vocals. GRADE: A-

“The Ghost of Tom Joad”: As fans who have witnessed it in person know, Morello’s addition on the title track from the 1995 album turns it into a ferocious monster with Morello and Springsteen trading guitar licks between singing about the loss of the American Dream. Morello started performing the tune with the band in 2008 and the version here is pretty similar to the one fans hear live with Springsteen generously handing the keys to the car to Morello, who soars off into prog-rock territory during this last extended solo. Despite the pyrotechnics, the song still retains its original poignancy and call for justice. GRADE: B+

“The Wall”: A mournful track about Vietnam that even references Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who led the escalation of U.S. troops in that war. Elegant and ghostly, Springsteen sings in the track about the wall that built up around the soldiers and their families and about the Vietnam Wall memorial in D.C. Stark and haunting and unforgiving: not toward the soldiers who fought, but to those who sent them there. GRADE: A-

“Dream Baby Dream”:
Springsteen began performing a hypnotic version of the Suicide tune around 2005 with just him and an organ on the “Devils & Dust” solo tour. This studio version is shorter and loses a little of the mesmerizing intensity of the live version with some added instrumentation. It’s more of a sweet benediction than the magnetic solo version, but compelling nonetheless. Plus, from “The Wall” to “Dream Baby Dream” is the album’s best transition. GRADE: B
Will you buy "High Hopes?" 

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<p>Lady Gaga performing last month on 'The Voice'</p>

Lady Gaga performing last month on 'The Voice'

Credit: AP Photo/NBC, Trae Patton

Lady Gaga claims betrayal and mismangement in stunning post

Missive reveals reason for 'DWUW' video delay and apologizes to fans

In an stunning, revealing post, Lady Gaga blames betrayal and mismanagement for the delay in the “Do What U Want” video  and plaintively asks her fans for forgiveness in what becomes a broader apology for her new album “Artpop’s” performance so far.

The missive, posted Sunday on Lady Gaga's fan site, LittleMonsters.com, explains that she was only given a week to plan the video for the song, which features R. Kelly, and that wasn’t enough. She originally expected it to bow in December.

Without ever naming specific individuals, she adds that those who have “betrayed me gravely....let me on my own to damage control any problems that ensued as a result. Millions of dollars are not enough for some people. They want billions. Then they need trillions.”

She adds after her hip surgery last year, she was “too sick, too tired, and too sad to control the damage on my own. My label was not aware that this was going on.”

The rest of the post asks for their forgiveness in how “Artpop” has rolled out and she asked for another chance to “Let me be for you the Goddess that I know I truly am.”  Lady Gaga declares that “the next few months of “Artpop” will truly be its beginning.”

In November,  “Artpop” debuted at No. 1 with sales of 258,000 —more than 100,000 less than expected— and mixed reviews. Despite first single “Applause’s” success at radio, the album quickly dropped out of the Top 10 as if a heavy stone had been tied to it. A week prior to the album’s release, she parted ways with her longtime manager, Troy Carter, for reasons neither has disclosed, and Lady Gaga does not name Carter specifically in the post.

Lady Gaga has been communicating with her fans through the Little Monsters site much more heavily than her Twitter account, including informing one of her fans that she and her mother would like to hire her to help run her Born This Way Foundation yesterday. After not tweeting since Jan. 1, this morning Lady Gaga tweeted, “In this lifetime how will you use the power in your voice? Wlil you give back to the world what you receive, or are you just talking?” 

In addition to what sounds like a relaunch for “Artpop,” Lady Gaga’s The Artpop Ball tour kicks off May 4 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., following a seven-date residency at New York’s Roseland Ballroom starting in March before the theater shuts down. While tickets remain for that tour kick-off, according to Lady Gaga's website, a number of shows on the arena outing are already sold out. 

Below is the full text of Lady Gaga's message:

DWUW Video

It is late because, just like with the Applause video unfortunately, I was given a week to plan and execute it. It is very devastating for someone like me, I devote every moment of my life to creating fantasies for you. All my my most successful videos were planned over a period of time when I was rested and my creativity was honored. Those who have betrayed me gravely mismanaged my time and health and left me on my own to damage control any problems that ensued as a result. Millions of dollars are not enough for some people. They want billions. Then they need trillions. I was not enough for some people. They wanted more. I am very grateful to the photographers and designers who have always stood by me to make sure my fans are never aware of the things that happen behind the scenes, but unfortunately after my surgery I was too sick, too tired, and too sad to control the damage on my own. My label was not aware that this was going on. The next few months of ARTPOP will truly be its beginning. Because those who did not care about ARTPOP's success are now gone, and the dreams I have been planning can now come to fruition. Please forgive me that I did not foresee this coming, I never thought after all the years of hard work that those I called friends and partners would ever care so little at a time I needed them the most. Give me a chance to show you the meaning of seeing art all around you. Open your hearts to me again that I may show you the joy of us coming together through our talents, that we are stronger as a unit than when we are alone. Let me be for you the Goddess that I know I truly am, let me show you the visions that have been in my mind for two years. I love you. Forgive me monsters. Forgive me ARTPOP. You are my whole world.


What do you think of Lady Gaga's message? 


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<p>Beyonce performing earlier this year</p>

Beyonce performing earlier this year

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Top 10 Albums of 2013: From Beyonce to Bowie

Yes, even Tom Jones makes the list

Each year, my colleague, Katie Hasty, and I trade off on producing a video piece on our favorite singles and albums. This year, she came up with a great list of albums for her video piece, while I did my top songs.

But I also wanted to spend a little time before the end of the year sharing a list of 10 albums that kept me smiling- or crying- through much of the year. Here are my top 10 albums of the year.

1. “Southeastern,” Jason Isbell: What a beauty of an album. Stripped down and lonely in all the right places, “Southeastern” features the former Drive-by Truckers singer sober and reflective. Some of the lines will tear your heart out if you let them and that’s a good thing.

2. “Spirit In the Room,” Tom Jones: The second in his trilogy with producer Ethan Johns, “Spirit in the Room” is Jones’ masterwork, right up there with Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash’s series of albums. He sinks his teeth into Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul Of A Man” with a relish that can only come from someone who has really lived the words. A revelation.

3. “The Next Day,” David Bowie: Many of his fans had feared he had retired, but how wonderful to be wrong. In his first new studio album in 10 years, Bowie brought us right back into his arty, weird, magical world...on his terms. And it was beautiful, from the questioning “Where Are We Now” to the lovely “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and the dance-y, yet lamentable “Love Is Lost.” Plus, the videos were some of the most provocative of the year. There’s Bowie...and then there’s everyone else.

4. “The 20/20 Experience,” Justin Timberlake: No, it’s not perfect by any stretch and too much of the album feels unfinished, but when it hits its mark, as it did with “Mirrors,” “Pusher Love Girl,” and Prince homage, “Strawberry Bubblegum,” it was exhilarating.

5. “Beyonce,” Beyonce: The beauty of doing my list so late is that I get to add in Beyonce’s album that she dropped with no warning on Dec. 13. Sexy, potent, and powerful, the album’s 14 tracks show her breadth and why she is the Queen. Bow down and get drunk on Beyonce.

6. “Wake Up Ghost,” Elvis Costello and The Roots: On paper, this sounds like it shouldn’t work. In reality, the British singer/songwriter and the hip-hop collective created a work of funk, slightly sinister, groove-filled tunes that jump out of the stereo, from unrepentant “Refuse to Be Saved” to the beautifully gentle “Tripwire.”

7. “Same Trailer, Different Park,” Kacey Musgraves: One of country’s freshest new voices, Musgraves somehow managed to be both cynical on songs like “Blowin’ Smoke” and uplifting on “Follow Your Arrow” without ever sounding like she was contradicting herself. The perfect antidote to all the “bro country” out there right now.

8. “The Beast In Its Tracks,”
Josh Ritter:  Singer/songwriter Josh Ritter took the shards of his busted marriage and crafted them into songs of heartbreak and loss that were often breathtaking in their honesty. As he finds a new love, his despair gives way to forgiveness, but he hasn’t forgotten what it is like to feel shattered.

9. “The Electric Lady,” Janelle Monae:
  Yes, she’s a star, but why isn’t Monae a superstar? She has the talent, the vision, the ambition...and it was all displayed on this versatile set. You don’t have to buy into the concept—she’s playing android Cindi Mayweather— all you have to do is dance and groove and enjoy.

10. “Random Access Memories,” Daft Punk:
If the album was only remixes of  “Get Lucky” and “Instant Crush,” it would have still made my list, but it’s so much more. The French duo fearlessly combines their electronica with pop, disco and rock for a shape-shifting, often mind-bending musical exploration.


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<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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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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