<p>Mick Jagger in &quot;12-12-12&quot;</p>

Mick Jagger in "12-12-12"

Review: '12-12-12' doc takes viewers behind the scenes of Superstorm Sandy benefit

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Dave Grohl, a Beatle, the Rolling Stones, Kanye and taking viewers behind the scenes of Superstorm Sandy benefit

Here’s a tip: if you’re planning a star-studded disaster benefit, get Paul McCartney to say yes and then the other acts will fall in line.

That’s one of the key tidbits viewers will take away from the “12-12-12,” a documentary directed by Amir Bar-Lev, that pulls back the curtain on the Madison Square Garden charity concert that took place Dec. 12, 20012 to raise money for victims of Superstorm Sandy. Joining McCartney were Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Dave Grohl, Roger Waters, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Who, Kanye West and many others.

The film, which opens today, is the tale of powerful people—Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein, Clear Channel’s John Sykes, and MSG’s James Dolan— using their vast network of connections to bring together an amazing array of talent on incredibly short notice and the behind-the-scenes story of what it takes to pull off such a staggering feat six weeks after the disaster. While there is some incredible performance footage, it is not so much a concert film, as a film about how the sausage gets made.

To be sure, most of us when we watch these benefits don’t think about how difficult it is to  set up an infrastructure to handle the millions of phone calls and online donations for only a few hours. As the producers note, if someone gets a busy signal or can’t log on, that’s lost money.  The booking of the talent is almost the easy part compared to the back end logistics.

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<p>A moment from Rihanna's latest</p>

A moment from Rihanna's latest

Credit: Island Def Jam

Watch: Rihanna's compelling new video for 'What Now'

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She is mesmerizing in haunting clip

Rihanna is haunted by demons in the artfully shot video for “What Now.”  The two-sided mirror she speaks of in the first verse seems to actually be her own emotional issues. The good side, in white, keeps getting taken over by her dark side.

It’s a compelling video and a testament to Rihanna’s star power that her face and performance are so mesmerizing that she keeps you glued to the screen. There are a few cutaways to animals and insects during the bridge when it appears that some sort of exorcism or emotional breakdown is happening (that and the shaky cam give it away), but this video relies almost solely on Rihanna’s charisma. And that’s saying something. She talks about making the video here.

Plus it shows how easy it is to change the narrative. This could have been a straight-ahead video about a complicated love story, but instead she turns it into something much more complicated and menacing.

The song is a intriguing ballad and deserved to be a single earlier in “Unapologetic’s” life, but her mega-ballad “Stay” probably kept that from happening.

Watch David Bowie's new NSFW 'Love is Lost' video
Credit: ISO/Columbia

Watch David Bowie's new NSFW 'Love is Lost' video

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This one costs more than $12.99

David Bowie’s initial video for “Love is Lost” cost $12.99. This new NSFW one looks like it cost considerably more.

The 10-minute clip, set to James Murphy’s remix of “Love is Lost,”  opens with enough quick-cut, computer generated handclapping images to drive you a little batty before giving way to other cool black and white images with geometric shapes forming into what looks like an eye, but it could be anything really.

Computer images continue to morph into different shapes from mountains to water to body parts until it’s clear we’re building a man and woman here, so it’s Bowie’s version of the Creation story.

The second half features the computer-generated naked couple come to life and enjoying themselves as the video goes back and forth between seeing them clearly and seeing them in blurred, visual effects. In the end, they sadly devolve. Dust to dust... that kind of thing.

Other than what looks like close-ups of Bowie’s eyes, he does not appear in the video.

It’s arty and interesting, but probably not the best use of your 10 minutes. "Love is Lost" is the latest single from Bowie's "The Next Day." 

<p>Rihanna</p>

Rihanna

Behind the scenes on Rihanna's new 'What Now' video

Why isn't she putting out an album this year?

Rihanna’s video for “ What Now,” the latest single from “Unapologetic,” looks like it will not have a happy ending.

“It’s going to be kind of eerie, very creepy,” Rihanna says in this behind-the-scenes three-minute short. Instead of a love story that follows the lyrical narrative, she decided to go with something “a little demented.”  And by “demented,” it looks like she means an exorcism takes place or, at least, she does an “exorcism dance.” Is that like the Humpty Dance? Or a Safety Dance?

Shot in Thailand, the full video will bow tomorrow.

For Rihanna fans, today marks the year anniversary of the start of the 777 promo tour to : Rihanna took a plane-load of contest winners and journalists on a plane to play seven shows in seven days in seven countries. It was a wild ride to say the least. I was on the plane and here are a few thoughts about it.


For those keeping count, Rihanna has released a new studio album every year since
 her 2005 debut, “Music of the Sun,” except for in 2008. Since 2009, she has put out a new studio album each November. So this will mark the first time in four years that we don’t have a new studio set from Ri-Ri for the holiday season in five years.

So why no new album this year? The primary reason is most likely that she has been on tour for most of 2013, showing up late in many cities, but on tour, nonetheless.

Secondly, there are conflicting reports about whether she is done with her contract with Island Def Jam. On the Rihanna tour last year, sources indicated that “Unapologetic” was the last album on her contract, but then took that back.  Most contracts are for one or two albums with options for up to seven albums, so she has fulfilled that requirement. Plus, I have no doubt that after her initial success, she renegotiated her contract, so the initial contract would no longer be applicable.

She remains a strong seller: “Unapologetic,” bolstered by such hit singles as “Diamonds” and “Stay” has sold 1.11 million albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan and her digital downloads also are noteworthy, for example, “Stay” has sold more than 3 million downloads this year.

Regardless of the reason, it's not a bad idea for Rihanna to sit this holiday season out, as it's a bit of a glutted field this fall with new sets from Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga already here and with Britney Spears' "Britney Jean's" imminent arrival.

<p>Miley Cyrus</p>

Miley Cyrus

Credit: AP Photo

Lorde, Eminem, Miley Cyrus dominate the Hot 100

Lady Gaga's 'Applause' and Katy Perry's 'Roar' also make some, er, noise

Lorde’s “Royals” spends its seventh week atop the Billboard Hot 100, making it the hit of the fall.  The big question is if Eminem will knock the crown off the song next week.

Eminem’s duet with Rihanna, “The Monster,” climbs 3-2 and is his highest rank on the Billboard Hot 100 since his 2010 duet with Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie,” which spent 8 weeks at No. 1.

Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” switches places with “The Monster,” falling 2-3, while Katy Perry’s former chart topper, “Roar,” holds at No. 4 and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” stays at No. 5. (Perry’s new single, “Unconditionally,” rises 25-21).

Rounding out the  Top 10, Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” featuring Majid Jordan, inches 7-6 (after peaking at No. 4), and OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” soars 9-7, according to Billboard.

Lady Gaga’s latest, the gorgeous ballad “Dope,” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 8, powered by her performance of the song at the YouTube Music Awards and MTV’s EMAs. It is Lady Gaga’s 13th Hot 100 top 10. She also occupies No. 10 with “Artpop’s” first single, “Applause.”

At No. 9 is Imagine Dragons’ “Demons,” which slips 8-9.
 

<p>Imagine Dragons in &quot;On Top of the World&quot;</p>

Imagine Dragons in "On Top of the World"

Imagine Dragons' fun new video for 'Top of the World': Cue the conspiracy theories

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It's all about the kid in the tin-foil hat

Imagine Dragons has certainly had a great year as its mainstream breakthrough continued with tunes like  “Radioactive,” “It’s Time,”  and “Demons.”

For the jaunty “Top of the World,” the group takes a decidedly lighthearted approach. They take the idea of “Top of the World” literally, as the video reacts the 1969 moon landing, as seen through the eyes of hippies, tin-foil-wearing space-loving children, the astronauts, and even Richard Nixon.

The Matt Eastin and Corey Fox-directed video is one of those clips that you notice new things every time you watch, including the spoof of the Beatles’ Abbey Road crossing and the notion that the moon landing was a staged event and didn’t really happen. Let your conspiracy theories begin now.

There are no fighting puppets as in the “Radioactive” clip, but there is a hyper monkey.

However, for pure heart, Imagine Dragons’ video for “Demons,” which features them with a hardcore teenage fan, Tyler Robinson,  who died of cancer remains their most moving and is a testament to the bond between and act and its fans.

Imagine Dragons is on an international tour in support of "Night Visions," and will return stateside for a new U.S. outing starting in February.

 

<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: AP Photo/Jorge Saenz

Justin Bieber takes an unhappy turn on new song, 'All Bad'

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He's not all bad, he promises

Romantic woes continue to plague Justin Bieber. On “All Bad,” the steady slow drum beat and atmospheric production reinforce the fact that Bieber’s upset and ready to defend his reputation.

“I ain’t all bad,” he sings/whispers over and over as he proclaims that he’s trying to be your best friend, even though he knows he’s not perfect. “Want to be everything I oughta be to you/and be the same thing jealous of you/that’s what they do.” He and his girl would be OK, if she’d just understand he’s not like the others.

It’s an interesting change of pace from some of the other songs we’ve heard during Bieber’s “Manic Monday” series, but we have yet to hear anything that grabs us into warranting repeated listenings. However, it’s clear with these songs that the album is the arc of a relationship and not one that has a happy ending...if the frowny emotion didn’t let you in on that.
 

<p>Mariah Carey on stage in October</p>

Mariah Carey on stage in October

Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Mariah Carey's new single, 'The Art of Letting Go': Listen

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The song ends strong, but is it too little too late?

It’s old school Mariah Carey on her new single, “The Art of Letting Go,” even to the point of the song opening to the sound of a needle dropping on a vinyl.

The string-laden ballad, which Carey calls “such a personal record to me,” recalls ‘60s soul with its slow build and deliberate laid-out lyrics as Mimi takes someone to task, someone who is now nothing more than a “liability.” “I wrote the lyrics so that anyone and everyone could relate to them and hopefully release anything that they need to let go of that’s holding them back or bringing them down,” Carey wrote on her Facebook page.

The confessional song reads like a journey entry, and let the guessing game begin on whom it is about. But private thoughts don’t always make for great public statements. As heartfelt as her sentiment may be, it’s a tremendously clunky one, as exemplified by these lyrics:

“Your audacity is too much to be believed soooooooooooo go to Mimi on your contacts, press delete/Letting go ain’t easy/ oh it’s just exceedingly hurtful/because someone you used to know is flinging your world around.”

Although we have to admit, the line about how to press delete is as campy and fierce as it is clumsy.

The Rodney Jerkins production builds into a nice girl group-like bridge and a really strong ending by Carey, but by then you’ve either bought in or you’ve tuned out to the lugubrious tune.

The good news for Carey fans is that her vocals sound bold, powerful and clear and a Carey who is eager to tell someone to crawl back under that rock after hurting her is usually a Carey worth listening to. Sadly, this one falls short.

“The Art of Letting Go” is the title track, or was the title track, to Carey’s 14th studio album, which was supposed to come out this summer, but was yanked to give her more time to work on it. It was originally slated for last year, but after first single “Triumphant (Get ‘Em)” didn’t build much excitement (except for some remixes) and “Beautiful” featuring Miguel peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 (it deserved to go higher), the project keeps getting retooled.

 

 
<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for 42 West

Watch Lady Gaga's wacky live performances at 'Artpop's release party

She turns the Brooklyn Navy Yard into a living gallery for the night

Lady Gaga performed a number of tracks from “Artpop” at her Artrave album release event at the Brooklyn Navy Yard early Monday morning.

Her hip problems are clearly past her as Momma Monster danced and gyrated through a series of songs from "Artpop," out today.

Earlier in the evening, Lady Gaga introduced a flying dress, but the excitement from her fans was clearly for the mini-concert. Check out the footage of Lady Gaga  performing/lipsyncing the title track, “Artpop” in a black and white dress/flotation device.


Among the tunes she performed from the album were a very spirited  “MANiCURE,” “Applause,” “Do What U Want” (with an absent R. Kelly on backing track), “Dope," and "Gypsy," which she dedicated to "a very special person...a true hero, Jeff Koon," the artist who designed the cover of "Artpop," and who is clearly Lady Gaga's new muse. 

<p>James Blunt</p>

James Blunt

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Why James Blunt is having the last laugh

His take on Whitney Houston and his takedown of himself

James Blunt is having the last laugh. His new album, “Moon Landing,” which came out Nov. 5 in America, debuted at No. 2 in the U.K. and first single, “Bonfire Heart” is burning up the chart in a number of countries, including Germany where it’s his first No. 1 single.

The album reflects a change of pace for the British singer songwriter and represents the truest side of himself he’s shown since his breakthrough smash “You’re Beautiful,”  from 2005’s “Back to Bedlam,” which catapulted him into superstardom, and inspired a level of vitriol among his detractors that seemed far out of proportion.

“‘You’re Beautiful’ stripped me of my indie roots and put me in a dirty, dirty place called mainstream,” he says, only half joking (Indeed, many reviews for “Back To Bedlam” are glowing, comparing Blunt to Elliott Smith and Badly Drawn Boy, but as soon as “You’re Beautiful” became massive, the backlash started).  

Blunt adds that he has loved and is grateful for all that came after, but it took until “Moon Landing,” his fourth studio set, to settle down enough to strip away the veneer he’d built up since then and write from a place of honesty

With “Moon Landing,” written largely in Los Angeles, he and “Back To Bedlam” producer Tom Rockroth went back to the beginning. “It was important to go back to him without my band, to go back to a place before that audience was there,” Blunt says. He admits on his last two albums, 2007’s “All The Lost Souls”  and 2010’s “Some Kind of Trouble,”  “I was writing songs for an audience, not the words I needed to say;  I didn’t want to be as open because I didn’t want to put myself through that again.”

But he found he yearned to express that side of himself and he thinks that reclaimed genuineness is what people are responding too. “I’m not hiding behind anything,” he says. “Before, I think I was feeling [defensive] when [I] was asked in an interview, ‘Are you romantic,’ and not in a positive way, it means you’re not macho. And I’d say, ‘No, I’m not. I’m a soldier’,” says the Kosovo army veteran.

Still, he has his limits when it comes to expressing himself too much. He and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder wrote “Bonfire Heart,” a song about falling deeply and passionately in love.  But coming out and telling Tedder directly that was the thinking behind the song was a bit too much. “I never normally say ‘this is what I’m going through’ because I’m a man and that would feel very uncomfortable to me’,” he laughs. Instead, he went on tour with OneRepublic and on the tour bus, he and Tedder would write, inspired by the gentle, steady feel of the wheels turning beneath them. “We spar off each other with lyrics. That’s unusual for me. We’d make a racket, we’d make a noise.”

For the most part, “Moon Landing’s” songs tackle such universally shared emotions as love and longing, “I write about what is it to be a very simple human being; what we feel en masse,” he says. “I don’t write songs about how incredible or how different I am, which many songs do. I write about what it’s like to be normal. That definitely comes out of having been in the army and traveling around  and meeting people.”

In fact, the experience of writing “Moon Landing” has made him acutely aware of artists who aren’t showing their true selves. “I’m on the charts with artists who surround themselves with expensive cars, expensive jewelry, girls... that’s just kind of bullshit,” he says. “They’ve constructed an image, smoke and mirrors. They want the audience to think that they are big and strong and powerful, but they’ve surrounded themselves with bodyguards who are much bigger and stronger.” When asked if he had any artists specifically in mind, he said, “I’m definitely not naming names.”

One artist he’s not wary of naming by name is Whitney Houston. The song “Miss America,” was written about her and her tragic downfall.

 “We never met and in many ways I’m glad we didn’t,” he says. “In the same way that an audience member looks at a singer and thinks they know him, we go online and buy magazines to see them at their best and their worst. It’s about her incredible voice and talent and it’s the same story as Amy Winehouse and Princess Diana and and Michael Jackson and, maybe in the future, Justin Bieber. It’s how much we enjoy speculating on their downfall a bit too much.”

Ever since “You’re Beautiful,”  Blunt has had plenty of critics who have wished for his downfall. And lately, he found a new way to silence them: poke fun at himself on Twitter.

For the last few years, his label had encouraged him to engage with his fans more via Twitter, but he just couldn’t fathom tweeting what he’d had for breakfast or some other minutiae.

A few months ago, however, he decided that instead of interacting with his fans, he’d find the people tweeting the most hideous things about him and he’d answer them. But instead of talking trash back, he’s let his sense of humor shine through. Below are a few examples.

 

 


“The first two I did, I thought they were amusing and self deprecating. My label called me and said, ‘Don’t do any more of that. It’s not cool,’ he recalls with a laugh. “And I thought, ‘What the f**k am I going to do?’”

What he did was ignore his label and he continued not only replying to the negative commenters but seeking them out.  And it’s clear it’s done more to change the perception of Blunt as an uber-sensitive, keening male singer than anything Atlantic Records could have ever planned. The label, once eager to silence his replies now includes a link to a Buzzfeed article about his tweeting.

“I suppose because of marketing, I’ve come across as earnest,” he says. “When the truth is, I take myself less seriously than anyone I know.” With Twitter, he appreciates the fact that there’s no filter. “It could have gone all wrong because what I’m doing is I’m going online and searching my name. I’m running tweet deck and all [my fans] are doing is saying ‘retweet me,’ and I’m looking for the ones saying mean things. I find myself completely avoiding the ones I should be engaging with, but I really enjoy engaging my detractors....the people who sit in the comfort and security and shadows of their bedrooms. It’s just great fun.”

Plus, as anyone who follows him on Twitter knows, he is never mean spirited in his replies, even to people who say horrible things to him. “It some ways, I’m saying, ‘jump on the stage with me and say that out loud’,” he says. “And I try my best to not be rude or horrid, only to myself, which is easy.”