<p>Miley Cyrus</p>

Miley Cyrus

Credit: RCA Records

Listen: Miley Cyrus's 'Bangerz' full-album stream

Hear it one week before its official release

Miley Cyrus’s “Bangerz” goes comes out for another week, but fans can stream the album in full on iTunes.  Hear Cyrus's  the complete album here.

Featuring guests, including Britney Spears (on “SMS Bangerz”), Nelly (“4x4”), Future (My Darlin’”), Big Sean (“Love Money Party”) and French Montana (“FU”),  “Bangerz” was co-executive produced by Cyrus and Mike Will Made It.

The album’s first single, “We Can’t Stop,” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, while second single, ballad “Wrecking Ball” is atop the singles chart currently.

"Bangerz" official release date is Oct. 8.

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<p>Justin Timberlake in concert</p>

Justin Timberlake in concert

Credit: Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

Are the critics too harsh on Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2?'

Do we expect too much from the multi-talented artist?

Do critics expect too much from Justin Timberlake? By and large, he is tremendously liked by most pundits and yet the reviews for “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,” which came out yesterday, are mixed at best, and dismissive at worst.

I gave  "The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2" a B-. Several critics agree with my thought that between March’s “The 20/20 Experience” and “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,” there is a fine album, but to stretch the 20-plus songs over two albums was too much. But I can’t help wondering if we all judge Timberlake a bit too harshly given how talented he is and hold him to an almost impossibly high standard because it seems like he can do everything really well. As I read these reviews, most of which are pretty tough, I wanted to defend JT for his willingness to experiment and try to do something new. Yet, at the same time, I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what was said.

See what you think after reading the review round-up  below.

Associated Press: "The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2" uses the same formula that's becoming his musical trademark — the trance-inducing grooves and futuristic electronic beats helmed by Timbaland and Timberlake, who co-wrote each song. Unfortunately it doesn't feel new. Like "FutureSex" and the first "20/20" album, the songs on "2 of 2" are long, but they aren't as entertaining or as cohesive as his first effort. Some tracks sound like leftovers from past recording sessions, and — dare we say it — actually drag on.

Consequence of Sound: The first half of Pt. 2 suffers because it’s the first time it appears that Justin Timberlake is actually trying. His first two records, his time with N*SYNC, his acting experiences, his Lonely Island collaborations, and even his Justin Vernon impression have always succeeded because of the air of effortlessness that surrounded him.

Los Angeles Times: Yet for all his newfound machismo, Timberlake — who heads out on tour again next month — is actually most convincing here at his softest, reaching back in a handful of songs to before the first "20/20 Experience." "Not a Bad Thing" is a dewy, blue-eyed soul number that sounds like it could've come from the final 'N Sync album...And "Pair of Wings," an unlisted acoustic track, closes the disc with a lovely (and unexpected) flash of modesty: "I know I can't save you from the troubles of the world," Timberlake sings in a near-whisper. "But if I could I'd fly you away on a big old pair of wings." Perhaps the sign of true power is knowing when not to use it.

People: This sequel – recorded during the same sessions as the first installment, with the same producers (Timbaland and Jerome "J-Roc" Harmon) – isn't just the collection of leftovers that it could have been. It stands as a stellar set in its own right. Although it can't top its more challenging, cohesive predecessor – a few songs run too long, and a couple maybe could have been dropped – this more singles-driven disc actually has more to satisfy fans of Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds.

Spin: The sequel rarely beats the original. Cinematic exceptions include the return of the Corleone family, the Empire striking back, and the encore early-'80s outing of a certain blue-tights-wearing beefcake superhero; musical exceptions don't really exist at all. Justin Timberlake's follow-up to the spring 2013 commercial juggernaut The 20/20 Experience won't change that. On The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2, you won't find an aggressive, exotic foot stomper worthy of its predecessor's "Let the Groove Get In"; nor will you find a shimmering weeper like "Mirrors," or a mid-tempo burner that makes your shoulders twitch as vibrantly as "Pusher Love Girl." The end result is disappointing, but only slightly, in the same way virtually all other second comings let you down.

Hiphopdx: Instead of letting this "experience" marinate, Justin Timberlake made "The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2" a continuation to an album that didn't need a sequel.
Even the most talented artists don’t always know when to leave well enough alone. So when they don’t, they usually make the ill-fated mistake of over-extending their art, which proves to be unnecessary and at times, a hasty blunder. And unfortunately, that summarizes Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2.

Idolator: How “Pair Of Wings” and half the other songs on this album got through any vetting process and were deemed worthy follow-ups to Part 1, we may never know (hopefully that making-of will delve into it!). It’s the first real blemish on JT’s catalog, and more than disappointment, The 20/20 Experience – 2 Of 2 elicits frustration, because it was so unnecessary. Justin Timberlake didn’t need to do this, and that’s exactly how it sounds.

Chicago Tribune:
[Timberlake] and Timbaland aren’t satisfied just to create songs -- they want to make musical events. Many of the tracks are outfitted with lush orchestration and extended codas that at their best suggest a type of progressive pop or neo-soul music, but just as often come off as indulgent and tedious.

Is the press too harsh on Justin Timberlake? 

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<p>Jason Schwartzman announcing the first YouTube Music Awards</p>

Jason Schwartzman announcing the first YouTube Music Awards

Lady Gaga, Eminem and Arcade Fire set to appear on first YouTube Music Awards

Nov. 3 awards show will honor the most watched videos of the year

Lady Gaga, Eminem and Arcade Fire will perform at the first YouTube Music Awards.

Director Spike Jonze will serve as the creative direction of the the new awards show, which will take place Nov. 3 at New York’s Pier 36. Nominations for the awards, which will honor the most watched and shared videos, will be announced Oct. 17.  “We’re setting out to create a night that’s all about making things and creativity in the spirit of everyone that uses YouTube,” Jonze said in a statement. “As well as giving out awards, we’ll be making live music videos. The whole night should feel like a YouTube video itself.”

The awards show will also celebrate its homegrown stars such as violinist Lindsey Stirling, whose video channel has garnered more than 400 million views, and Cdza, the collective of NYC musical virtuosos, who debut a new wacky yet musically accomplished video experiment every other week such as “History of Lyrics That Aren't Lyrics” or “History of Wooing Women”

Jason Schwartzman will host the awards show, which will be live streamed around the world on YouTube. Check out his announcement video below.

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Review: Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' is a royal success
Credit: Universal Music

Review: Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' is a royal success

New Zealand teen rides the line between observant and precious

Few artists have made such an initially strong impression as Lorde, the 16-year old New Zealand singer/songwriter. Her breakthrough, the finger-snapping, cynical “Royals” became the first song by a solo female to top Billboard’s Alternative chart in 17 years... longer than she’s been alive.

Her debut album, “Pure Heroine,” arrives today (30) and it’s a welcome reminder that most 16 year olds have a lot more on their minds than Disney would like us to believe. It’s not always sunny and not everyone is dreaming of which One Direction member they’d like to date.

While “Pure Heroine” sometimes drowns under the weight of its own pretension, most of the time Lorde sounds exactly like how a world-aware, savvy teenager should.

Most tracks are built around loops and beats that she created, and while few reach the insanely catchiness of “Royals,” there’s a lot here to sustain interest. On album opener, the snappy “Tennis Court,” she talks about smiling through the fear as she and her friends hide behind their fake images. It’s the high school in “Heathers” set to a beat.

On “Ribs,” which sounds like it could have been a Lana Del Rey cut, Lorde sings in a low smoky swirl of a voice, but it’s a little hard to take her seriously when she sings, “It’s feels so scary getting old.”
It may not be fair, but it’s almost impossible not to compare Lorde to last year’s “It” girl, Lana Del Rey. Both rely heavily on beats, an often breathy delivery, a certain insouciant mystery (Lorde told Billboard if it were up to her she’d never do interviews) and a made-up persona (Lorde’s real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor). Even though she’s younger, Lorde seems to already have her identity more clearly defined and she’s more self-assured than Del Rey. Plus, the hype preceded Del Rey’s radio success, whereas with Lorde, it was the reverse.

Some of the lyrics verge on the overly precious, as if she’s trying too hard: on the hypnotic “Buzzcut Season” she sings, “I remember when your head caught flame/I kissed your scalp and caressed your brain.” Yikes.
Too much of “Pure Heroine” sounds alike, so when a track like “White Teeth Teens” comes around with its militant, rat-a-tat drums and the kaleidoscope background singing, it’s a nice and needed change of pace.  “I’ll let you in on something big/I’m not a White Teeth Teen,” she sings, happy to be seen as the ultimate outsider.
Similarly, with “Team,” her voice rises over the beats, as she she sings in that way that only a teenage girl can: “I’m over being told to raise my hands up in the air/So there...”  “A World Alone” starts with a lonely guitar note, as she rides off in the car with an older boy. “Let them talk as we’re dancing in this world alone,” she sings.

If Lorde’s handlers can tamp down the hype and let her story continue to build, it will be fascinating to see where she goes as she develops to find her own voice. She’s off to an auspicious start, but we can hold off on the “voice of a generation” heaviosity for now.

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<p>Miley performing at the iHeartRadio Music Festival</p>

Miley performing at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

Credit: Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision /AP

Listen: Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears' leaked 'SMS (Bangerz)' duet

Is 'Bangerz' a bust?

The sum of the parts is greater than the whole on Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears’ highly anticipated “SMS (Bangerz),” which leaked today.

Sampling Salt N’ Pepa’s far superior “Push It,” the track, from Cyrus's forthcoming "Bangerz" album, is a very strange mixed bag.

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<p>Katy Perry, seen here at the iHeartRadio Music Festival</p>

Katy Perry, seen here at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

Credit: AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau, Brian Jones

Listen: Katy Perry's new dance track, 'Walking On Air' will have you floating

Robyn inspired deep house track

Katy Perry goes hardcore into the clubs with “Walking on Air,” a dance twirler she released today from her forthcoming album, “Prism,” out Oct. 22.

The house track is redolent of ‘90s dance thumpers and is light as cotton candy and just as enjoyable. It will make you long for C + C Music Factory... almost.

Klas Ahlund produced the track, which Perry recorded in Stockholm. Perry told Billboard the track was inspired by Ahlund collaborator Robyn, who toured with Perry on her California Dreams tour, and by seeing roller skaters in New York’s Central Park.

The track opens with another female with a big Martha Wash-type voice singing “I’m walking on air,” before Perry comes in, singing “You’re giving me sweet sweet ecstasy, yeah you take me to Utopia. you’re reading me like erotica, boy you make me feel exotic yeah,” Perry sings before rushing into the breathless chorus.  She goes on to sing about a love so strong that even heaven is jealous. At the end, she unleashes her best Christina Aguilera impression.

Walking On Air” is the third track released from “Prism,” following chart topper “Roar” and “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J.

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<p>Cover art for 'The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2'</p>

Cover art for 'The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2'

Credit: RCA

Track-by-track Review: Justin Timberlake's 'The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2'

Some songs shine, while other sink on the second half of JT's 'Experience'

Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2,” the second half of his 2013 musical exploration, arrives today and it’s a more diverse companion to its March successor, “The 20/20 Experience.”  Similarly to that album, the best-selling album of 2013 so far,  “2 of 2”  features song sketches, most of them longer than 5 minutes, than traditional chorus/verses in most cases, although the last half has some beautiful, more conventional tracks. The big band feel of the JT and the Tennessee Kids is largely gone here, other than on the horn-driven “Take Back The Night.”

Whereas “The 20/20 Experience” felt sensual, “2 of 2” feels carnal and more blatantly sexual between Timberlake’s delivery and Timbaland’s pulsating production. Plus, the lyrics often take a dark turn as love breaks bad, real bad.

While there is a lot here to admire especially in terms of Timberlake’s adventurous and willingness to stretch out here, there’s still a little too much bloat,  just as there is on the first volume. Between the two sets, there are about eight really strong songs that would have made for a tremendously impressive single set.

Here’s a track-by-track review:

“Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)”: A sultry, sexy funky number with a chorus redolent of Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life.” (Just listen to it and see if the “how ever do you need me/how ever do you want me” refrain doesn’t pop into your mind.).  It’s an rhythmic invitation to what’s still to come. There’s also a “SexyBack” feel that’s tremendously appealing. GRADE: A

“True Blood”:
  A nine-minute-plus rambling funk, beat track that will work in the clubs. Timbaland throws in all kinds of odd sounds, including ringing phones, different loops, Chic-like disco bells, a Vincent Price-like maniacal laugh, and African rhythms as Timberlake vocalizes occasionally over the cacophony about the “demon whose got me screamin....I tasted your blood and found you was the perfect fit.”   Like many of the songs on “The 20/20 Experience,” the last third turns into a different song entirely. The aural equivalent of Chubby Hubby ice cream, it’s got a little too much going on...although a catchy chorus would not be one of them. GRADE: C

“Cabaret”:  “It’s a cabaret,” Timberlake sings as Timbaland repeats “It’s a show, get on the floor” in this loop-driven ode to getting down with your lady, who’s taking off her clothes as quickly as she can. Again, nothing here you could hum as the song is all about the beats and repetitiveness. “You got me saying Jesus so much, it’s like I’m laying in a manger,” Timberlake says in the song’s cleverest line. Drake comes in for a rap that works perfectly with the song in their first collaboration. At 4:32, it’s the album’s shortest song. GRADE: B-

TKO”: The second single from “2 of 2” features Timberlake singing in his regular register about getting knocked out in love by his woman, “trying to go below the belt.” She’s not fighting fair as he admits he’s “out for the count,” over a catchy bed of busy loops, strange sounds and beats. The final quarter slinks into a spare arrangement with Timbaland beat boxing over Timberlake’s lonesome vocals. GRADE: B-

“Take Back The Night”:
A glorious throw-back to ‘70s disco with a horn-driven chorus (yes, JT’s singing “And the horns say,” not something that sounds more offensive), the first single didn’t storm up the charts in part because “Mirrors” was still holding strong, but it’s a song that will do great in concert and as time passes. GRADE: B+

Murder”: A rambling mess of song as Timberlake, even if it has a chorus/verse structure, sings about a woman who has so much going on below the waist that it can only lead to murder.  Jay Z comes in for a rap that name drops Yoko Ono, of all people. Way, way too busy. GRADE: D

“Drink You Away”:
The album’s best track with potential to be  “2 of 2’s” “Mirrors.” A gorgeous, organ-drenched, acoustic-guitar-based  tune that features JT passionately singing, “I can’t drink you away. I’ve tried Jack, I’ve tried Jim... Now, tell me baby, do they make a medicine for heartbreak.” It’s a stomping, full-out  swampy tale of a man whose gotten to the bottom of the bottle and still has further down to go. The hand-clapping gospel feel plays beautifully into Timberlake’s Memphis roots. Far and away the most captivating track on the album. GRADE: A

“You Got It On”: A dreamy, sexy song. Think Timberlake channeling Usher, which means, of course, he's also channeling Marvin and Donny.  It’s all about sexy time. “Tell me what’s better than than the two of us because you by yourself is more than enough for me,” he croons in falsetto. Cue the disco ball for this slow jamming, finger-snapping slinky paint-by-numbers description of how Timberlake is going to make his lady very, very happy.  GRADE: B+

“Amnesia”: Another slow jam, but this in case, Timberlake is lamenting that his woman has left him.  “Ain’t no we anymore, she’s a stranger that I used to know,” he sings, over a steady, swirling beat and strings. A sweeping, hypnotic song that morphs into a different track for the final third.  Someone should do a mash-up with Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” immediately. GRADE: B-

“Only When I Walk Away”: 
  An autotuned Timberlake laments that his woman only loves him when walks away on this moody, dramatic track.  “She loves me only when I walk away,” he sings, as a heavy chorus and beat nail the track to the floor. There’s a darkness and experimental tribal break that sounds like something Michael Jackson would be creating today. One of the album’s more interesting tracks for both Timbaland’s production and Timberlake’s delivery. GRADE: B

“Not A Bad Thing”:
And now for something different. For the album closer, “Not A Bad Thing” starts as a breezy, hand-clapper that doesn’t sound that dissimilar to something that  ‘N Sync would have sung on its best day.  It’s a lovely, lilting straight-up pop tune. “Don’t act like it’s a bad thing to fall in love with me,” he croons. He promises fealty to his girl because she’s worth it. GRADE: A

“A Pair of Wings”: Not sure if this is part of “Not A Bad Thing,” given how much shape-shifting goes on on so many of the tracks or if it’s just a hidden bonus track on the same track, but from “Not A Bad Thing,” after a few seconds of silence, Timberlake goes into a lovely ballad featuring only him and a flamenco-inflected acoustic guitar (although strings come in later).  With the world getting uglier, all he wants to do is fly away on a pair of wings with his love. It’s a gentle, sweet lullaby that serves as a romantic song or an ode to the child he has yet to have. It’s the  polar opposite from a track like “Murder.”  A sweet capper. GRADE: B


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<p>Arcade Fire</p>

Arcade Fire

Credit: NBC

Arcade Fire debuts three new songs in trippy, star-studded NBC special

James Franco, Bono, Michael Cera also on hand to promote upcoming 'Reflektor's' release

Following its appearance on the Season 39 opener of “Saturday Night Live,” hosted by Tina Fey, Arcade Fire kept the music going with “Here Comes The Night Time,”  a trippy, 30-minute special on NBC that aired immediately after “SNL.”

The double shot was in service to promote “Reflektor,” the band’s new album out on Merge on Oct. 29. It will be the Montreal-based group’s first set since 2010’s “The Suburbs,” which won the Grammy for Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

In addition to current single/title track, “Reflektor,” and “Afterlife,” which the band performed in “SNL,” Arcade Fire debuted three new songs from the forthcoming album during the special.

UPDATED: Arcade Fire has tweeted a link to audio of the three new songs

A bizarre trailer featuring paper mache versions of the band members that surfaced Friday set the tone for the equally strange, theatrical special that felt like a cross between a hipster’s Halloween and New Year’s Eve party. It opened with Arcade Fire’s lead singer Win Butler, clad in a red and white suit with a black bandit mask painted across his eyes,  leading a conga line, filled with costumed characters, including a bunny, from the “SNL” set to The Salsatheque  a club in their hometown. The show opened with new song “Here Comes The Night Time,” which exploded from a English Beat-like bouncy to a rave-up with Butler joining the dancing, costumed  crowd.

The club crowd line danced to new song, the new wave-y “We Exist,” as if they were re-enacting “The Time Warp” from “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

James Franco, Aziz Ansari, Ben Stiller and Bono—the latter two with the big paper mache heads featured in the “Reflektor” video— and a Spanish-speaking Michael Cera, posing as an irritated, Arcade Fire-hating bartender in the club, all made cameo appearances. In a oddly unfunny sketch,  Bill Hader and Zach Galifianakis posed as astronauts who beamed in with Butler wishing them a safe return because “we need another ‘Hangover’ movie.”

The band then changed gears and clothes and the millieu for an ‘80s vibe (intercut with the current club scene), with Rainn Wilson as their bearded, bandana-ed roadie named Carl and Jason Schwartzmann as a centaur for the chaotic “Normal Person.”

In addition to “Reflektor,” the band is also scoring Spike Jonze’ new movie, “Her.”

We'll post video of the special as soon as it's available, but in the meantime, enjoy AF's performance of "Reflektor" from "SNL." 

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<p>Kanye West</p>

Kanye West

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

Music Power Rankings: Kayne West takes on Justin Timberlake and Lorde

One Direction also makes the list

1. Kanye West: He compares himself to Michael Jackson, declares himself the No. 1 rock star in the world, and gets in a Twitter fight with Jimmy Kimmel.  His work here is done.

2. One Direction:
Music’s billion-dollar boys top Billboard’s 21 Under 21 list. Sounds like that decision was made before the VMAs...  #mileywasrobbed

3. Drake: The rapper so many critics love to hate will make a major splash on the Billboard 200 next week as “Nothing Was The Same” will sell up to 690,000 in its debut, making it second only to Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” for highest selling premiere of the year.

4. Paul McCartney: He appears on “Jimmy Kimmel” and performs a 15-song concert for the 10,000-strong crowd on Hollywood Blvd., far and above the performance shown on the broadcast. That’s how you stay a star for 50 years.

5. Justin Timberlake:
He also plays on “Kimmel”  (even though sick as a dog), but the real highlight is his and Jimmy Fallon’s #hashtag skit.  #funnystuff #istherenothingJTcantdo? #Questloveisthebest #JTEGOT

6. Lorde:
Her star continues to rise as her debut album comes out Monday and is sure to bow in the Top 10 on the strength of mega-hit “Royals,” while she also finds a slot on the “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack.

7. Mumford & Sons:
The British folk-rock group announces it will go on hiatus. Marcus Mumford wills his vest to The Avett Bros. for the duration.

8. Avicii: Six songs from his album debut, “True,” land on Billboard’s dance/electronic songs chart this week. The only artist to ever land more debuts in one week? Daft Punk with 12. Wake me up, indeed!

9. Rock The Bells: The bell tolls for the once-mighty hip-hop festival which sadly cancels the last two dates on its festival circuit due to lack of ticket sales.

10. Jack Johnson: Part-time musician/full-time surfer dude Jack Johnson scores his fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Not bad for an artist who releases albums with very little fanfare. 

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Credit: Al Powers/AP

Drake' 'Nothing Was The Same' changes everything on next week's Billboard 200

Rapper is one of six debuts in the top 10

It will be another week of huge debuts on the Billboard 200 album chart next week as six albums bow in the top 10.

No one comes close to Drake, whose “Nothing Was The Same” will sell up to 695,000 copies, according to Hits Daily Double. That gves it the second-highest debut sales week of the year, second only to Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience,” which sold 968,000. This will mark his third consecutive No. 1 album and will surpass his previous weekly high, 631,000 for “Take Care.”

Following Drake in a distant second will be Kings of Leon’s “Mechanical Bull,” which will sell up to 120,000 copies. Cher’s “Closer To The Truth” will bow at No. 3 with 70,000, while Elton John’s “Diving Board” comes in at No. 4 (45,000-50,000).

This week’s No. 1, Jack Johnson’s “From Here To Now To You,” slides to No. 5 (40,000), while former No. 1, Luke Bryan’s “Crash My Party” goes to No. 6 (37,000), while staying atop Billboard’s Country Albums Chart.
The other new entries in top 10 belong to Dream Theater, whose self-titled album launches at No. 7 (35,000), and Sting with “The Last Ship” at No. 10 (23,000).

Rounding out the top 10 are Justin Moore’s “Off The Beaten Path”  at No. 8 (27,000) and 2 Chainz’ “B.O.A.T.S. II #Me at No. 9 (23,000).

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