<p>Lorde</p>

Lorde

No, Lorde's 'Royals' is not racist. Can we dial back the lyric parsing?

Must every song and action be picked apart for signs of offense?

It all started, as these things often do, with a blog post. A few days ago, Veronica Beyetti Flores on the Feministing website, alleged that Lorde’s “Royals,” the No. 1 song in the U.S. is racist.

It took a few days, but by last night, her accusations had blown up with news sites like CNN and Time weighing in on the made-up controversy.

Flores’ interpretation of the song is that Lorde, by mentioning elements sometimes associated with rappers—and her rejection of them— is being deeply racist. She cites the lines “But every song’s like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom/Blood stains, ball gowns, trashing the  hotel room/ We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams/But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece/Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.”

“While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist,” writes Flores. “Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? Why aren’t we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East? Why not take to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality? I’m gonna take a guess: racism.”

What? I don’t doubt that Flores truly somehow sees the song that way, but I don’t really understand the giant leap she’s making. The song is a rejection of material things, not of blacks or anyone who wants these things. It’s written from the standpoint (or at least my interpretation of it) of a teenager who realizes she is being sold to at every moment and has decided not to buy into the conspicuous consumption.  As she sings: “And we’ll never be royals/It don’t run in our blood/That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.”

And yes, while we may hear more rappers bringing up Maybachs or Cristal than a country artist, the fact is that rap songs are the pop music of the day. Kanye West had it absolutely right when he said that rap stars are the rock stars now so these symbols are touchstones of wealth for anyone who is listening to pop music, whether they are White, Black, Hispanic, Asian or any other ethnicity.

Lorde has not responded to Flores' colum, but, as the CNN piece points out,  earlier told NPR, "I was just sort of reeling off some of the things which are commonly mentioned in hip-hop and the Top 40. I've always loved hip-hop, but as a fan of hip-hop, I've always had to kind of suspend disbelief because, obviously, I don't have a Bentley. There's a distance between that and the life I have with my friends." How does that make her racist? It just makes her like the 98% who can't afford a Maybach.

Have we gone so overboard that we are now parsing every lyric of every song and every movement of every artist?  In just the past few months, the critique of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” developed after a blogger wrote that she found the song “rapey.” The song had been out for a few months before that and no one seemed to have much of a problem with it. And while that one probably had a little more validity than these others, next came a blogger accusing Miley Cyrus of being racist because when she twerked on the VMAs she was appropriating black culture and because all of her dancers were black.

We’re getting into dangerous territory here. There is so much true racism that still exists in the world that we should be fighting against instead of looking for signs of it that aren’t there. Has Cyrus shown any kind of pattern of racism? None that I can see. Is there anything else on Lorde’s album that could be interpreted as racist? Not that I heard-- but then I didn’t hear racism in “Royals.”  We can probably find something offensive in every song if we want to and if we are so desperate for page views, but sometimes, it’s just not there. And every time we spend the energy trumping up a controversy, it takes our eyes off the real offenders.

Do you find Lorde's "Royals" racist?

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<p>Lady Gaga in &quot;Machete Kills&quot;</p>

Lady Gaga in "Machete Kills"

Listen: Lady Gaga shows you her 'Aura' in new song from 'Machete Kills'

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Momma Monster also releases track listing for 'ArtPop'


Lady Gaga asks if you want to see her naked in her new song, “Aura.” Haven’t we already done that?  The fun, campy song is from “Machete Kills,” the new Robert Rodriguez film that features Gaga in her first movie role, as well as Danny Trejo, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Mel Gibson, Michele Rodriguez, and Carlos Estevez (aka Charlie Sheen).

The song opens with a sultry voice over by Gaga that recalls Shirley Bassey before switching up to a kitschy, snyth-laden, stuttering vocal portion before more spoken word from Lady Gaga. Eventually it moves into a catchy sung portion, where she questions if you want to see the girl who lives behind the aura. Rinse and repeat. It works fine in the context of the movie, not so much as a stand-alone tune.

The lyric video is really more of a trailer for “Machete Kills,” although the song also appears on “ArtPop,” as indicated by Lady Gaga’s mention of her Nov. 11 release at the end.

Lady Gaga released the track listing for “ArtPop” today via a series of tweets by a group of Momma Monster’s fans.

"ArtPop" track listing

"Aura"
"Venus"
"G.U.Y."
"Sexxx Dreams"
"Jewels N' Drugs"
"MANiCURE"
"Do What U Want"
"Artpop"
"Swine"
"Donatella"
"Fashion!"
"Mary Jane Holland"
"Dope"
"Gypsy"
"Applause"

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<p>Childish Gambino</p>

Childish Gambino

Credit: AP Photo

Childish Gambino sets release of new album, 'Because The Internet'

Listen to track, 'Yaphet Kotto'

Donald Glover’s rap alter ego, Childish Gambino, will release his new album, “Because The Internet,” this winter.

The video preview for track, “Yaphet Kotto,” features Gambino floating face down in a pool, aka  William Holden in the opening of “Sunset Boulevard,” as we hear him rapping about the criticisms he’s received  (“worst rapper to ever spit on an open mic”), while the "Community" star is busy bring in the dough and the ladies.  It also name drops other artists including Obie Trice, Wiz Khalifa and Erykah Badu.

At the end of the 90-second clip appear the words “Because The Internet” and “Winter Break.” 

Below is the 90-second video, as well as the full audio of “Yaphet Kotto.”  No idea why the song is named after the actor, who is best known for starring on "Homicide: Life On The Street." 

The album is Gambino’s first since 2011’s “Camp.” Glover is also working on his new series for FX, "Atlanta." 

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<p>Lorde performing in Los Angeles</p>

Lorde performing in Los Angeles

Credit: Paul Hebert/Invision/AP

Lorde's 'Royals' remains atop the Billboard Hot 100

Static Top 10 features no new debuts

Lorde’s reign atop the Billboard Hot 100 continues as “Royals”  spends its second week at No. 1.

The New Zealander teenager also receives good news on the album front, as her debut, “Pure Heroine,” bows at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

“Royals” leads digital single sales at 309,000 downloads, moving the song past the 2 million mark.

Katy Perry’s former No. 1, “Roar,” stays at No. 2, leading the chart in airplay.  Perry, whose new album, “Prism,” arrives Oct. 22, is also on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Walking on Air,” which debuts at No. 34.  Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball,” also a former No. 1, remains at No. 3, according to Billboard.

Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!” jumps one spot to No. 4, trading places with Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” featuring Majid Jordan, which drops to No. 5.

And yes, Ylvis’s “The Fox” continues to scoop up the chart, rising 8-6, largely on the strength of streaming and downloads, as airplay has yet to reach a significant level. 

Jay Z’s “Holy Grail,” featuring Justin Timberlake, slips 6-7, pushing Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” down one to No. 8.

Lady Gaga’s “Applause” hangs on in the Top 10 at No. 9, as it continues to gain airplay, while Lana Del Rey and Cedric Gervais’s “Summertime Sadness” remains at No. 10.

For Britney Spears’ chart watchers: “Work B**ch” jumps 41-13, following its debut two weeks ago at No. 12. The rise can be attributed largely to streaming and excitement from the video’s release last week.

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Listen: New TLC song, 'Meant To Be'
Credit: LaFace/Epic

Listen: New TLC song, 'Meant To Be'

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Tune will make you miss the old days

TLC honors the memory of Lisa R20;Left Eye” Lopes with new song “Meant To Be.”

“No matter what, it will always be us together,” the remaining members T-Boz and Rhonda “Chilli’ Thomas sing on the Ne-Yo penned track. Yes, it could be about romantic love, but it’s also a sweet song about the trio.

It’s a shame, however, that the mid-tempo song doesn’t hold up, despite the sweet message. Without being too harsh, the vocals sound pretty rough. Time has not been their friend. Plus the song, with its “Hey” background sounds like it’s trying to be wrongly contemparize what is meant to be an old school tune. . Ne-Yo  sounds like he's just trying to replicate their past hits instead of coming up with something memorable. Still, if you’ve been pining for new TLC, this will be a comfort to you.

The track is one of two new songs on “20,” a best-of set commemorating TLC’s 20th anniversary, as well as the trio’s VH1 movie.
 

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<p>Miley Cyrus on the &quot;Today&quot; show</p>

Miley Cyrus on the "Today" show

Credit: AP Photo

3 on 3: Does Miley Cyrus finally leave her childhood behind with 'Bangerz?'

Is Miley Cyrus a punk artist?

Miley Cyrus’ “Bangerz” has a lock to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart next week and it is the defining album of the twerker’s career so far. But what will it mean for Cyrus going forward?

She’s already shown that she can captivate both the partying crowd, with first single “We Can’t Stop,” as well as the broken-hearted bunch, with ballad “Wrecking Ball.”  While all eyes have been on Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, is it time to say that there is a new Pop Princess in town?

3 on 3 features three HitFix editors tackling three questions about a project or artist. Today, Dave Lewis, Katie Hasty and I ponder Cyrus’s future and wave a fond goodbye, once and for all, to Hannah Montana.

Will “Bangerz” leave any memory of Hannah Montana in the dust?

Dave Lewis: Since "Montana" was aimed squarely at wee ones, there may be a generation who will always have a hard time seeing Cyrus as anything but the Disney Channel star. However, for the rest of us, her identity as "Montana" was hardly set in stone. No one remembers Mark Wahlberg as *just* Marky Mark, and Cyrus has already found enough success with her new persona that she won't face the same obstacles as, say, Vanilla Ice.

Katie Hasty: I think "Hannah Montana" still symbolically holds a place in Miley Cyrus' status as a pop singer and celebrity. Her previous album "Can't Be Tamed" had a lot of "grown up," adult-listening qualities, but her use of more childish imagery like teddy bears in ("We Can't Stop" and the MTV VMAs) and literally heading back to high school for "23" is purposely staging "Hannah" days up against her nude thongs, foul language and hip-hop production. As she said on "Saturday Night Live," "I'm not going to do Hannah Montana, but I can give you an update on what she’s been up to: she’s been murdered." Her Disney alter-ego hasn't vanished, it's only been upheld as a childhood drum on which Cyrus can now beat.

Melinda Newman: Yes. Cyrus herself declared Hannah Montana dead on “Saturday Night Live,” and Cyrus has done everything she can to besmirch the memory of her Disney character for the past few years, whether it was posing nearly nude, smoking from a bong, pole dancing, her VMA performance. Plus, most Hannah Montana fans have long outgrown their love for the show and are as eager as Cyrus, though perhaps not as aggressive about it, to put their Hannah years behind them.

Is Miley calling the shots or is she being played by producers and her record label?

Dave Lewis: This is a tougher question than it appears to be. Although she doesn't appear to be the completely compliant drone that O'Connor accused her of being, Cyrus' decision to play up her sexuality (if it indeed was her decision, as her defenders say) certainly wouldn't have met much
resistance from the execs raking in the cash every time she sticks out her tongue. She may be making the decisions, but they just happen to be the same decisions that execs have made with countless pop stars in the past.

Katie Hasty: Sinead O'Connor's open letters to Cyrus re-focused on the cold underbelly of the entertainment industry, which by and large shows little restraint on exploiting teenagers' and young women's sexuality for profit. Some women roll  with it, and some do not (and, hey, they're all allowed to change their mind, guys). That being said, Cyrus is 20 years old, and after the tightly controlled PR campaign that was her Disney life, she's ripe for a personal rebellion and obviously interested in expressing her sexuality. I don't think RCA texted Cyrus, "Nudez 4 T Richardson, y or n," but I'd be cautious to say Miley Cyrus' adoption of ratchet culture and riding on a wrecking ball naked were all her idea. There's a lab somewhere that's helping for all parties involved to come to the same conclusion.

Melinda Newman: Sinead O’Connor’s open letters to the contrary, for better or worse, Cyrus seems to be in complete control of what she’s doing. What she could use is some good advice and a few more people around her who aren’t yes-men. When someone’s star is so ascendent, it’s hard to find people who will do anything but scrape and bow in the star’s presence and preside in the echo chamber. Having said that, Cyrus has been a star since she was little and she may know her brand better than anyone. However, if she wants to appeal to more than fellow 20-year olds, she may want to listen to someone who’s not 20 and who isn’t dropping Molly and smoking pop at every opportunity.

One critic called Cyrus the "most punk artist" out today. Agree or disagree?

Dave Lewis: Since the term "Punk" hasn't really meant anything specific in more than 30 years (if it even meant anything specific in 1977), then,sure, making millions of dollars for yourself and for faceless corporate overlords while jumping on every new trend in sight is "punk." But it's also clearly not.

Katie Hasty: "Punk" being a highly subjective term these days, calling a major label-signed female pop star doing what major label-signed female pop stars are expected to do is hardly counter-cultural or fiercely independent. Punk makes me think Cyrus would stand for something: a subversion of norm, a way of life, a community standard. I see a hodge-podge of fun cultural references pinned on a performer with some raw talent struggling to know where to stick it.

Melinda Newman: That’s a ludicrous, laughable notion. She’s about as punk as Hannah Montana. A key element of punk is rebellion and there is nothing that Cyrus is rebelling against... other than clothes. She is not thwarting society’s norms in anyway, in fact, in many ways, she’s playing right into them.






 

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<p>Cassadee Pope &quot;Frame By Frame&quot;</p>

Cassadee Pope "Frame By Frame"

Album Review: 'The Voice' winner Cassadee Pope's 'Frame By Frame'

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Can the Season Three winner be the first to score a hit?

Has “The Voice” finally produced a winner who will turn into a  true radio star?

Though “The Voice” now outdraws “American Idol,” unlike “Idol,” it has yet to produce an artist who has caught hold at radio. The coaches remain the stars of the show rather than the contestants. Season One and Two winners Javier Colon and Jermaine Paul gained no traction following their wins.

With Cassadee Pope, “The Voice” may have come up with a winner whose career extends beyond the end of the television season.

Pre- “The Voice,” Pope had a pop background with the group Hey Monday, who toured with such groups as Fall Out Boy and All Time Low. She also sang on a number of other artists’ songs, including The Cab, We The Kings, and Cobra Starship.

Now, she’s traded in her pop career for a country one... sort of.  “Frame By Frame,” out today, is such generic, slick country pop that the label’s intent to cross her over to pop given half the chance is painfully obvious. It’s all more the shame because Pope has a strong voice. It’s not particularly distinctive and she tends to sound like Taylor Swift a bit too much, but it’s powerful and rich.

Pope co-wrote five on the songs on here, but mainly relies on the top tier of songwriters here, including Max Martin and Shellback, best known for their work with Britney Spears, and Nathan Chapman, one of Swift’s main collaborators. That’s fine to bring in ringers, but when their songs sound like they could have gone to any number of female pop singers (“Proved You Wrong” sounds like it was written for Demi Lovato; first single, “Wasting All These Tears,” for Avril Lavigne), it’s time to look for something a little more distinctive.

Speaking of  “Wasting,” the tune is  No. 25 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. That would not be such a feat except for the chart is totally male dominated right now (she is only one of four women in the Top 30), so the fact that she has any traction is a positive sign.

It’s a shame that so much of the material is so cookie cutter, because when Pope turns personal, such as on “11,” a genuine song about how her life changed when her father deserted the family, she shows what she can do when she opens up. It’s emotional and it doesn’t sound like every other song on the radio. Similarly, “You Hear A Song,” a song about how hard girls are on themselves—  “I see a mess in the mirror/you see the girl of your dreams”—could resonate with young country female fans for its sweet sentiment.

Pope also has the push of CMT behind her: she stars in her own reality show on the cable outlet about her post- “The Voice” life as she navigates trying to make it as a solo artist.

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<p>Pearl Jam</p>

Pearl Jam

Stream Pearl Jam's 'Lightning Bolt' in full on iTunes

Eddie Vedder: 'I have the shelf life of an avocado'

Pearl Jam’s “Lightning Bolt” comes out Oct. 15, but fans can stream the full album now on iTunes.

We’ve already heard the punk snarl of first single, “Mind Your Manners,” and the gentle, wistful beauty of “Ballads.”

The band is giving few interviews this time around, preferring instead to parse out their interviews with some famous friends: director Judd Apatow, surfer Mark Richards, former NFL player Steve Gleason, and musician/”Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein, but  lead singer Eddie Vedder gave a good interview to Huffington Post, which you can read in its entirety here. Our favorite line: “My shelf life in the public viewpoint, I feel like it has the length of an avocado.” Maybe that explains the cover of the 2006 “Pearl Jam” album.

We’ll have a full review of “Lightning Bolt” closer to the album’s release.

"Lightning Bolt" track listing:

Getaway
Mind Your Manners
My Father's Son
Sirens
Lightning Bolt
Infallible
Pendulum
Swallowed Whole
Let The Records Play
Sleeping By Myself
Yellow Moon
Future Days

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Watch: Eminem's new video for 'Survival' ties in with 'Call of Duty': Watch

Watch: Eminem's new video for 'Survival' ties in with 'Call of Duty': Watch

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His compelling performance is the reason to watch

Eminem plays a commando tagger in his video for “Survival,” the second track from “Marshall Mathers LP2,” following “Berzerk.”

We first heard the song, which also features the New Royales' Liz Rodrigues on vocals, a few weeks ago when it premiered as part of “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” and the video game plays into the music clip as Eminem performs in front of a screen showing the game.

When he’s not performing in the clip, he’s a graffiti artist leaving his mark, a skull face, all over Detroit. I’m sure his hometown thanks him, as the symbol will now end up showing up all over parts of town, I bet. He also walks through a neighborhood, stopping longingly at decrepit  boarded up structure with the number 19946 on it, which is his former home. The house is current up for sale and is featured on the cover of the original “MMLP,” and now, boarded up, on his forthcoming album.

There’s not that much going on in the video, but Eminem’s performance is really all you need: it’s intense and passionate and is a reminder of what a compelling live artist he is.
 

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<p>Chad Kroeger and Avril&nbsp;Lavigne</p>

Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne

Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Newlyweds Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger duet on 'Let Me Go': Listen

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Sad, subdued ballad brings out the best in both

Do newlyweds Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger make beautiful music together?

Well, that may be stretching it, but on their new duet, “Let Me Go,” they both bring out the best in each other and dial back on the bombast.

“Let Me Go,” which will be on Lavigne’s new album out in November, is light years better than first single, the snotty “Here’s To Never Growing Up” and rambunctious second single “Rock ‘N Roll.”

The piano/strings ballad is reminder that Lavigne can really sing, and she sounds so much better when she drops the vocal affectation that is on so many of her songs. Yes, the song sounds very ‘80s-ish, but, hey, if you’ve seen “The Goldbergs,” you know the ‘80s are back.

Kroeger shows admirable restraint on his one verse and if you’re not a Nickelback fan, the good news is that you only have to hear him for about 30 seconds and during a short call-and-response section. If you are a Nickelback fan, you may find yourself wishing for more Kroeger.

There's a very long, nearly 40-second fade that most radio stations will chop, but it's a nice outro.

I smell a huge AC hit.

What do you think of "Let Me Go?" 

 

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