<p>Eminem</p>

Eminem

Credit: AP Photo

Track-by-track review: Eminem's 'The Marshall Mathers LP 2' is a compelling return to form

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Is there anyone who can match his rapping dexterity?

Eminem’s head has always been an intensely troubling place to visit and, despite getting sober and turning 40, Marshall Mathers seems to have found little peace, but his irreverent sense of humor is definitely still in place amid the freak show.

On “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” out Tuesday (5), Eminem, Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin have made an album that is not so much a sequel to his 2000 classic, “The Marshall Mathers LP,” as it recalls his unselfconscious stream of consciousness from an era when he  was less concerned with spouting a mood and message as he was with taking you on a wild and, often, very darkly entertaining ride. For some, it will be a welcome return to form; for others, it will be a reductive step back. I'm in the former camp.

Eminem’s fluid style and ADD delivery have always seemed as if someone shot a pinball into his brain and it’s bouncing from synapse to synapse, bringing forth a blitzkrieg of disparate, manic spillage as it pings willy nilly all over the place. But on “Marshall Mathers LP 2,” the level of word play and nimbleness are, at times, exhilarating to hear. And he still manages to drop more cultural references per song than most artists do in a lifetime. Think of someone: A Kardashian, a Detroit Lions player,  Ray J, Gwen Stefani, even Helen Keller, they’re probably name checked here in some form or fashion.

Sadly, part of Eminem’s schtick is still to bring in personas who are homophobic and misogynistic on songs like “Rap God” and “Evil Twin,” and by now, it’s simply up to the listener to decide if that’s a reason not to listen because he’s not going to change. While it’s not an excuse, for all the hate he may spew at others (and he’s way worse on females than gays; Em still has serious, serious issues with women), he reserves the greatest amount of vitriol  for himself. Time has not seemed to tame his self loathing.

Though he’s a dad with first world problems and he has a little trouble keeping up with the young whippersnappers when it comes to technology, he admits that he’s still got the maturity level of a 13-year old boy, if that. On “So Far...” he raps, “Turned 40 and still sad/teenagers act more fucking mature.” Ain’t that the truth, but I’m not sure his fans would want it any other way.

After 2009’s “Relapse” and 2012’s “Recovery”  seemed almost claustrophobic, on “The Marshall Mathers LP2” feels wide open. Whether it’s Rick Rubin’s production or the smart use of samples, the result is an album that, while extremely dense, feels cohesive and well thought out, even if at times you wish Eminem would just save some of it for his overworked therapist. Let’s face it, he’s never boring.

A track by track review follows:

“Bad Guy”: All it takes is one song on the radio, Slim Shady says, and before you know it, he’s up to his old antics from the early days: killing people with a shovel. It turns out the psycho killer spiraling downward here is Stan’s little brother (remember “Stan” from The Marshall Mathers LP?) No Dido here on the track produced by The Dividends and Street Runner (there’s a clear dramatic division between the song’s two styles). It’s a bracing, hands-off-the wheel story of someone coming unhinged that serves as an interesting, though not particularly compelling, introduction: GRADE: B-

“Parking Lot”: A 55-second skit composed mainly of sounds of footsteps of Eminem running as sirens come after him,and, horrifically, the sound of him shooting a dog before he’s taken out. GRADE: D

“Rhyme Or Reason”: Built around the Zombies’ “Time of Season,” Eminem answers back to such lyrics as “What’s your name” and “Who’s Your Daddy,” before going into his very credible Yoda impression to reference Rick Rubin. A seamless amalgam of the rock classic and Eminem's singing and rapping that really shouldn’t work, but it does. “There’s no rhyme or no reason for nothing,” Eminem declares in this exercise in working out his still-raging Daddy issues. Eminem's “a white honky devil with two horns that don’t honk” who has come to take back what’s his.  GRADE: B+

“So Much Better”: Oh, let’s face it, who hasn’t thought “My life would be so much better if you just dropped dead.” This is a lurching, supposedly comedic look at someone who’s broken his heart and he’s not about to get over it. “If it wasn’t for blow jobs/you’d be unemployed,” he declares and in reference to Jay Z, she’s all 99 of his problems. Musically, it’s a fun romp, but his misogyny runs so rampant here, that it’s tough to take and when he ends with “I’m just playing bitch, you know I love you,” he only makes it worse.  GRADE: C

“Survival”: An in-your-face track that opens with ringing, throbbing guitars. Lyrically, Eminem details his rise in music and his devotion to his craft in stark life-or-death terms: “If I don’t do this music shit/I lose my shit,” in his usual intense, matter of fact way, as compares rhymes wit "coming into battle" with him compete with the automatic weapons. He warns any newcomers that taking him on will be a lost cause. A chorus, sung by the New Royales’ Liz Rodrigues, reinforces the “Survival” theme, as she sings, “This is survival of the fittest...this is winner take it all.” GRADE: B

“Legacy”:  A trip into Eminem’s past  as he discovers rapping will be his legacy and maybe having his brain wired differently was all worth it. He addresses his ability to link “lines like crosswords” declaring “I ain’t halting until I die of exhaustion,” to all who came after him on this skipping track. New York singer/songwriter Polina plays Dido’s ethereal part here. It’s as close as Eminem gets to a self-empowerment song. GRADE: B-

“Asshole” (featuring Skylar Grey): One of Eminem’s best rants as he runs through his career like a freight train (check out the percussion on the track) on this hard-charging track taking on everything from Helen Keller to Gwen Stefani to mass murderer James Holmes. “Sometimes I forget I’m a parent,” he says, admitting he probably should never have been one. It’s a bit of a “many a truth is said in jest” song with Grey’s light-handed touch adding to the levity. GRADE: A

“Berzerk”:  Producer Rick Rubin’s hand hovers over this track more than a number of the other tracks here. The beginning has a distinctly Beastie Boys’ party feel (thanks to some fun BB samples) and the melody, based around Billy Squier’s “Strokin’, brings in a rock element to this chaotic track that lives up to its name. GRADE: B

“Rap God”: His speed, breath control and range here is nothing short of astonishing as Eminem moves from one topic to the next with such dexterity that he leaves you breathless. He wrestles with his demons and takes no prisoners. By the end, he manages to piss off all his detractors, but there’s no denying his supremacy in this six-minute track that comes closest to earning him the Rap God mantle, even if he does want it to appear that the song is tongue in cheek.  GRADE: A 

“Brainless”: Using a somewhat familiar mid-tempo beat and loop, Eminem addresses bullying and “If I could just get my head out of my ass, I could accomplish any task.” Somewhat a cousin to “Legacy,” he revisits high school when he had rhymes falling out of his pocket and no one to listen to them. GRADE: B-

“Stronger Than I Was”: A bit of a change of pace that seems to be about a relationship that went horribly awry. This is the closest Eminem normally comes to a ballad and the closest he comes to singing. “I’ll still be hopeful when I scream Fuck You because I’m stronger than I was,” he sings, in what passes for an improvement in his book. GRADE: B-

“The Monster” featuring Rihanna: “Love the Way You Live” duo reunites on this tale of a man who’s a monster, who’s trying to tame the monsters inside his head. The song, which debuted at No. 1 on the UK singles chart, is a look at fame that’s as chilling as it is catchy, although with none of the heartstopping menace of "Lie." GRADE: B-

“So Far...”:  Shady returns and he just wants to be left alone, especially when he’s dropping a load... so remember not to ask for his autograph when he’s using the bathroom. Eminem raps over Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” as he details first world problems, many of them unique to celebrities, others to anyone who’s lucky enough to not struggle in a day-to-day existence. This love letter to Detroit also contains some of his most hilarious lyrics ever. “Turned 40 and still sad/teenagers act more fucking mature,” may be his truest lyric on the whole album. GRADE: B

“Love Game” featuring Kendrick Lamar: Sampling Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders’ 1965 hit,  “Game of Love,” “Love Game” is absolutely irresistible musically. He and Lamar tangle with the intricacies of love and in Eminem’s world, there’s perhaps no more romantic statement than “I f**king love you, f**king bitch,” especially as the girl is holding a gun to his face. He’s dumped a girl because she blew Kanye, Lil Wayne, and seemingly a whole roster of rappers, but neither he nor Lamar, who’s style complements Eminem perfectly here, can let her go. It’s horribly misogynistic, and yet cartoonish in a De La Soul crossed with Digital Underground way. GRADE: A

“Highlights”: featuring Nate Ruess:  As anyone knows, Eminem has mommy issues and they play out writ large here in this slow jam that serves as an apology to his mother, but explains why “I’ll always love you from afar.” There’s no happy ending here. His deadbeat dad still, understandably, raises his ire given that he would (as he has proved) follow his daughter “to the end of the atlas” to find her, yet his father couldn’t be bothered to find him when his mother moved across town.  Fun.s’ Ruess provides a delicate refrain of “I guess we are who we are” that gives the song a lightness and reinforces the forgiveness that Eminem is trying to bestow.  GRADE: B+

“Evil Twin”: A six-minute rant where Eminem manages to name drop Sarahs Palin and Marshall and Jessicas Simpson and Alba, as well as a phalanx of other famous folks, as he tries to convince us that his evil twin is responsible for all the mischief before allowing that they are one and the same. He throws back to "The Real Slim Shady" (note the Burger King reference) in a song that feels like retread.  GRADE: C


 

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<p>Justin Bieber live on Oct. 25</p>

Justin Bieber live on Oct. 25

Credit: AP Photo

Justin Bieber has a 'Bad Day' on new single

Is it another song about Selena Gomez?

It turns out Justin Bieber’s newest song, “Bad Day,” is definitely an apt title. In case you’ve missed the lastest Biebs’ news, in the last 72 hours, he was supposedly caught leaving a Brazilian brothel, then he was struck with a water bottle while performing in San Paulo, and then if that weren’t enough, Katy Perry surpassed him on Twitter to become the new queen of social media.

All that, however, is nothing compared to the pain he’s feeling in the lulling, mainly acoustic “Bad Day,” his fifth release in his #MusicMondays flight of putting out a new song every week.

As the visual below shows, there’s a gray cloud over Bieber and it’s because his lady walked away “like it was nothing, baby.” He couldn’t breathe because “you took away the biggest part of me,” he sings.

The song goes into a sweet falsetto about a minute in as he remains stunned that it was so easy for for her to walk away.

Throughout the tunes we’ve heard so far from Bieber’s diary, he’s taken responsibility for the breakup, but he’s also been decimated by it. And, like the other songs we’ve heard, “Bad Day” is a nice pop song, but there’s nothing so dynamic on it that it feels like required listening.

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Listen: Britney Spears' new single, 'Perfume'
Credit: RCA

Listen: Britney Spears' new single, 'Perfume'

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Ballad from 'Britney Jean' shows her vulnerable side

Britney Spears wants to “mark her territory” with her scent in “Perfume,” the new single from “Britney Jean,” and it couldn’t be more different from first single, “Work Bitch.” Spears premiered the song on Facebook Sunday evening and, guess what? She's actually singing.

This is Spears as we haven’t heard her—or at least not for a long while: singing a straight-ahead ballad with no talking and no heavy beat behind her as on past semi-ballads like “Unusual You” or even all the way back to “Sometimes.”

Though still slickly produced, on “Perfume” the focus is on her vocal and the emotional weight of the lyrics as Spears hopes that the next woman to touch her man can smell her perfume on him. She admits she’s insecure and “I want to believe it’s just you and me/sometimes it feels like it’s three in here, baby,” and not in a good way as she extolled in 2009’s “3.” It’s the kind of ballad it’s easy to imagine Gwen Stefani taking on.

Spears’ singing is as strong as it has ever been here (let the guessing begin on how much it was doctored in the studio) and this is the best song she’s done in years. Plus, given how successful Spears’ several lines of cologne are, we can only imagine the tie ins planned between song and the scents.  Let the cross-branding begin!

"'Perfume' is incredibly special to me because it hits close to home, and I think the story is relatable to everyone," Spears told E! "Everyone's been through an insecure moment in a relationship that's left them vulnerable and I think this song captures that."

What do you think of "Perfume?"

 

 

Official artwork for Britney Spears' Perfume

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Watch: One Direction's new video for 'Story of My Life'
Credit: Sony Music Entertainment

Watch: One Direction's new video for 'Story of My Life'

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Time travel with the boy band to their past

One Direction takes the title of its latest song, “Story of My Life” literally in its new Ben Winston-directed video.

For the clip of the emotional break-up ballad, the quintet took a different approach. Surrounded by photos of thousands of photos, the lads take actual photos from their lives and bring them to life and into the current day.

For example, Harry Styles takes a photo of him of his mom from when he was a toddler and advances it the present. The other people in the photos age along with the boy band member but don’t interact with them at all, until the end.  Liam Payne’s photo is him in formal wear with his family; Zayn Malik and his sister have their moment in his choice, while Niall Horan shares a musical moment  with his brother.

Perhaps, the most touching vignette is when Louis Tomlinson advances a photo of him as a little boy posing on a sofa with his parents and grandparents (or grandparents and great-grandparents) and in the modern photo, the eldest couple are no longer there because they’ve died.

It’s a change of pace for the band and one that their fans will go over frame by frame, for good reason.

The track is the second single from One Direction's new album, "Midnight Memories," out Nov. 25.

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<p>Arcade Fire's Regine Chassagne and Win Butler</p>

Arcade Fire's Regine Chassagne and Win Butler

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire's 'Reflektor' will shine brightly on Billboard 200

Tis the season for Christmas albums to bow on the chart

Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” will kick Katy Perry’s “Prism” out of the top spot, as the Canadian group’s newest sells up to 140,000. “Prism” falls to second place with sales of around 95,000.

Coming in at No. 3 will be Clarkson’s “Wrapped In Red” with sales of up to 70,000, followed by The Robertsons’ “Duck The Halls” at No. 4, moving 55,000 units.

Two more country debuts follow: Toby Keith’s “Drinks After Work” looks good for No. 5 (40,000), while Thomas Rhett’s “It Goes Like This” will bow at No. 6 (35,000).

Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same” is in a dead heat with Linkin Park’s latest “Recharged,” for the No. 7 spot, with sales of up to 35,000, while Miley Cyrus’s “Bangerz” and Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” are duking it out for the No. 9 spot, with each targeted to sell up to 32,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

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<p>David Bowie</p>

David Bowie

Guess how much David Bowie's creepy new video for "Love Is Lost" cost?

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He has all that stuff just lying around?

It’s hard to tell which is more astonishing: that David Bowie made the video for  “Love is Lost” for less than your average dinner for two at McDonalds or that he has all of these creepy things lying around. Actually, it's definitely the former.

The clip, which premiered at Monday night’s Mercury Prize ceremony in London, works perfectly as a spooky Halloween treat. It features close-ups of Bowie’s face run through various filters, as well as the legend wearing a Bowie mask with blood on it, and other eerie images. It’s all accompanied by hand claps (which fits in with the fact that it’s the “Hello Steve Reich Mix” by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy.) There are also shots of Bowie obsessively washing his hands, which he does with a menacing intensity.

Let’s face it, Bowie doesn’t have to do much to be mesmerizing, but this one seems to have a particularly can’t-look-away factor, especially as he laments over and over “What have you done?” looking tortured.  The final shot of the empty bathroom with the faucet still running is especially chilling. It’s truly a case of your mind coming up with much more terrifying thoughts than if the video had shown specifics.
Bowie, along with his assistant and a buddy, made the video last weekend in his Manhattan office, according to a release. They grabbed some puppets from his archive (wouldn’t you love to go through that?) and shot away.  The cost was $12.99 for a thumbdrive.

The James Murphy remix of “Love Is Lost” is one of several new studio tracks featured on “The Next Day Extra,” which comes out Nov. 5 and is a companion to Bowie’s sure-to-be Grammy contender, “The Next Day.” 

In addition to the the “Hello Steve Reich Mix,” “The Next Day Extra” includes the original 14-song album, a 10-track companion with five new songs and two remixes and a DVD featuring four videos from “The Next Day.”

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<p>Dave Grohl, earlier this year</p>

Dave Grohl, earlier this year

Credit: AP Photo/Chris PIzzello

Exclusive: Dave Grohl producing Zac Brown Band, according to sources

Foo Fighter will appear with ZBB on CMA Awards next week

Dave Grohl is producing new music for  Zac Brown Band multiple sources have confirmed to Hitfix.

That’s a dream come true for Brown.  Earlier this year, Brown told The Country Vibe that “I want to work with Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl is one of our musical heroes as a band and he said that he would be interested in doing that too.”

It turns out the Foo Fighters frontman was true to his word and will be working with the country act on its follow up to 2012’s “Uncaged,” which won best country album at the 2013 Grammy Awards.

While the country/folk band and the former Nirvana drummer may seem like a strange musical match, they actually should work very well together. Fans who have seen ZBB live know their strength as players and they bring a rock edge to many of their tracks, while Grohl has worked with artists of all stripes from Norah Jones to Paul McCartney, so he’s shown there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do.

It will be a while before we get the new album, but not long before we see the two acts together: as previously announced, Grohl will perform with ZBB on Nov. 6’s Country Music Assn. Awards on ABC.  No word on if we will hear a new song that evening—and a CMA rep could not tell us what they were performing— but maybe we'll get more news about their studio collaboration then.

Both acts declined to comment.
 

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<p>Lorde</p>

Lorde

Lorde, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus rule over the Billboard Hot 100

Two newcomers crash into the top 10

Women continue to rule on the Billboard Hot 100 again this week as Lorde’s “Royals” spends its fifth week at No. 1, Katy Perry’s “Roar” logs another week at No. 3 and Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” holds at No. 3. 

This marks the seventh straight week that the women have held the top 3 positions (in different permutations), according to Billboard. 

Things remain static in the rest of the Top 5, as Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” remains at No. 4 and Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (featuring Majid Jordan) hangs at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, while topping Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs & R&B Songs for a fifth week.

The lower half of the top 10 gets some new blood as OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars”  soars 15-8, perhaps bolstered by frontman Ryan Tedder’s appearance on “The Voice” as a guest mentor.  And just in time for Halloween, Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” makes its move into the Top 10, gaining three spots to No. 9.

Rounding out the top 10 are Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” (featuring Justin Timberlake) at No. 6 and Lady Gaga’s “Applause” at No. 7: both titles rise two spots from last week’s positions, but have yet to surpass their peaks at No. 4.  In other Gaga news, her duet with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want” bows at No. 13.

Closing out the top 10 is Ylvis’s “The Fox,” which falls No. 6 to No. 10.




 

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<p>Ariana Grande in 'Right There'</p>

Ariana Grande in 'Right There'

Credit: Republic

Ariana Grande is Juliet in 'Right There' clip to Patrick Schwarzenegger's Romeo: Watch

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Big Sean plays the priest in lavish video

Taylor Swift dated Conor Kennedy in real-life, now Ariana Grande has her go at America’s equivalent of the royal family as she romances Kennedy’s cousin, Patrick Schwarzenegger, in the elaborate video for “Right There.”

The son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver isn’t required to do much more than look dreamily handsome in the clip, which he more than accomplishes.

Grande, whose album “Yours Truly”  debuted at No. 1 earlier this year, plays Juliet, while Schwarzenegger is Romeo at a masquerade ball. Big Sean, who appears on the track, plays the Priest.

With fans fluttering, masks in place, and gorgeous ball gowns to show off, Grande enters the party only to realize, to her delight, that her beau has crashed the ball. They even have a balcony scene just like in the Shakespeare play, although this video ends much happier than the Bard’s original tale.  Plus, I distinctly don’t remember everyone jumping into the pool with synchronized swimmers in Shakespeare’s version.

It’s a romantic, lavish video perfect for the song and perfect for the NIckelodeon star’s young fan base.

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<p>The members of Five Finger Death Punch</p>

The members of Five Finger Death Punch

Premiere of Five Finger Death Punch's 'Wrecking Ball' webisode: Exclusive

Why was recording the track from 'The Wrong Side of Heaven- Vol 2' so tough?

On Nov. 19, metal monsters Five Finger Death Punch will release the second installment of  “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell.”

As you’ll recall, “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell- Volume 1,” came out in July and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell - Volume 2” continues where “Vol. 1” left off. The band decided to release two sets this year after writing so much strong material for the first album that they knew they wanted their fans to hear all of it instead of having to leave some tunes unreleased because of space.

HitFix is pleased to premiere “Wrecking Ball.” No, it has nothing to do with the Miley Cyrus or Bruce Springsteen songs of the same name... just in case you didn’t know.

In this exclusive webisode about the song, vocalist Ivan Moody explains “I have a tendency to lose it every now and then. I’ve never been shy about it either so that song pretty much encompassed the other Ivan. Meet the monster.”

Drummer Jeremy Spencer adds it was one of the last songs recorded for Vol. 2, and as guitarist Jason Hook notes the band had to complete the song on tour. “that’s a freaking nightmare,” he says. Watch the clip and find out the surprising place he recorded his guitar solo.

You can pre-order 5FDP’s “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell-Volume 2” here.

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