Keyboardist died today of cancer
Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors has died. We have posted the AP obit, but it's giving Manzarek short shrift to not get to hear his contributions. The keyboardist was instrumental in crafting the Doors’ sound (especially in his innovation of playing bass parts on the keyboards). After the Doors ended, he went on to produce some incredible work for other artists, including Echo & The Bunnymen and X.
While he is probably best known for his transcendent, instantly recognizable keyboard work on “Light My Fire,” he had several other wonderful moments.
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Plus, watch Dave Grohl perform 'Bitch' with The Rolling Stones
When I wrote about hearing John Fogerty’s new album, “Wrote A Song For Everyone,” which pairs him with acts like Miranda Lambert, My Morning Jacket, Bob Seger and Keith Urban on some of his best-known songs, I raved about the raw energy of his remake of “Fortunate Son” with the Foo Fighters. Now you can hear for yourself.
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Guests on third country set include Lady Antebellum and Sheryl Crow
Several years ago, I interviewed Darius Rucker as Hootie & The Blowfish’s third album was coming out. He talked about how anyone could make a first album, the second one would happen if your first one did OK, but if you got to make a third album, then you had a career. By that point, you probably had enough hits under your belt that fans and radio really had started to believe in you as an artist.
And so tomorrow (May 20), Darius Rucker puts out “True Believers,” his third country album as a solo artist (he put out a pop solo album during his Hootie days that I’m not counting here). And his words have proven true once again.
There are a lot of reasons for Rucker’s country success: Perhaps, most importantly, his timing was impeccable. Many of Hootie fans from the ‘90s have migrated to country radio since what country radio plays now much more closely approximates what they were listening to then than today’s Top 40. Also, despite having sold millions of records, Rucker approached the country format with the humility of a brand new artist. He went to every radio station, shook every hand, kissed every baby, and never, ever acted as if his multi-platinum pop success gave him any kind of leg up. Furthermore, unlike many of the pop carpetbaggers who just happened to declare their love of country when their pop career dried up, Rucker really did grow up listening to country music. You don’t want to go against him in a conversation about Merle Haggard or George Jones’ catalog. You will lose.
And then, of course, there’s the music. As he shows again on “True Believers,” he has established himself as a country artist who loves singing about his kids and his family, which makes him 100% the same as every other country act, but he does it with a lighthearted honesty that resonates. On the title track, which peaked at No. 24 on the Country Songs Chart, he admits that even though “we are one, now and forever,” there have been difficult times in his marriage. On “Miss You,” he sings about longing for the person who shares a bed with him, yet feels so far away. Maybe he just sells these ideas better than other artists even though he’s mining the same territory.
Second single, the good-timey, jaunty “Wagon Wheel,” a remake of the Old Crow Medicine Show tune, featuring backing vocals by Lady Antebellum, hit No. 1. and with good reason. It’s a charming, toe-tapping slice of Americana that doesn’t sound like everything else on the radio. “Take Me Home” has the same roots/gospel feel (and a rollicking piano bed) that recalls The Band.
Other highlights include “Love Without You,” a stripped-down ballad about trying to move on featuring Sheryl Crow. There’s a nice, jazzy piano touch on the tune. “Heartbreak Road” is another peppy trip down those Carolina highways and byways he loves so much with a flirty, catchy twist.
Rucker throws in a soulfulness and bluesy touch on many of the songs. “Leavin’ The Light On” starts with “A Rainy Night In Georgia” feel before seguing into praising nocturnal activities. “I feel like I ought to tip my hat to the man upstairs” for his wife agreeing to leave the light on may be a bit of a lyrical stretch, but we’re sure many men may try to convince their wives that it’s the godly thing to do now. “Radio,” a upbeat reminiscence about controlling the car radio, has an irresistible funky back beat that should be a summer single.
Rucker’s music isn’t challenging or particularly deep, but from his star’s perch, he still manages to touch on the mundane aspects of quotidian life in a way that seems totally genuine and relatable whether you’re a CEO or a fork-lift driver. That could be an even bigger gift than his gritty, instantly recognizable vocals.
Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber and Prince set to perform
7:55 p.m.: It's time for the Billboard Music Awards. When I was West Coast Bureau Chief at Billboard, the BMAs were one of my favorite events. Back then, they were in December and they were based on the year-end Soundscan/BDS numbers. Two years ago, after a four-year hiatus, the BMAs were resurrected for May sweeps, so now they are awarded based on the top sellers between that well-recognized March-to-March period. In other words, ABC gave Billboard the slot and Billboard had to come up with awards that somehow made sense. Of course, they aren't the only awards that don't follow a calendar year: the Grammys cover October to September.
Among the performers on tonight's show are Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Pitbull with Christina Aguilera (and with Jennifer Lopez), Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Prince. Here we go, into the breach...
8 p.m.: The evening opens with Bruno Mars performing on what looks like a "Soul Train" set from the '70s, full of disco balls. Performing the retro-sounding "Treasure," Mars and his band are all dressed in similar red suits and have the same dance moves. It's delicious. He ends with a bit of the medley of "Locked Out of Heaven." I say this every time I write about Mars, he is a stone-cold star.
8:06: Tracy Morgan is hosting. He comes out behind a shroud of scantily-clad Vegas show girls because that's never been done before...yawn. I won't be doing this all night, but when I was at Billboard, I'd say the best hosts were Kathy Griffin, who was hilarious, and Bernie Mac, may he rest in peace. Morgan gets through his monologue with some tired jokes, such as how you don't want to date Taylor Swift because she'll write a song about you, but he lands his joke about Mr. Vegas, Wayne Newton being his long-lost father.
8:09: Shania Twain, who has a residency at Caesars Palace in Vegas, presents top rap artist to Nicki Minaj, who has on a beautiful red dress. She first exclaims that she didn't expect this. I will say that when I was aware of how the awards were handled, the winners really didn't know in advance. They knew they were finalists, but that was it (although given that the awards are based on SoundScan and BDS data, in some cases, it's not too hard to figure out who will win). Minaj gives a restrained, fairly generic thank you speech with no mention of Mariah Carey at all...
8:17: That's some fine lipsyncing by Selena Gomez on "Come and Get It," her first top 10 hit. I've seen her do a variation of this performance about four times now with different costumes and slightly different motifs, but it's all been pretty much the same. She looks beautiful, but this is nothing more than a girls revue performed to an extremely mediocre song that sounds like a Rihanna cast-off.
8:21: The Band Perry, or Kimberly Perry and her two back-up brothers, are performing "Better Dig Two," the first single off their current album, "Pioneer." I wonder why they're doing that instead of current single, "Done." Now the three siblings are banging on drums in front of them. I've seen Blue Man Group do the exact same thing, but they do it with lots and lots of groovy-colored paint splashing everywhere. But they don't have to sing while they're doing it. Advantage: The Band Perry.
8:30: Carly Rae Jepsen introduces Icona Pop who are performing their hit "I Love It." Two thoughts: Jepsen has sadly become a one-hit wonder. There's still, of course, time for that to change, but it makes me a little sad that she hadn't had more success. Second thought: "I Love It" took a tremendously long time to catch on at top 40-- after tunneling through countless commercial placements. So far, all of the performances have been uptempo, which is a smart move. Oh my, we're going straight from synthetic (albeit catchy) Icona Pop to Psy. Psy and Tracy Morgan are having a dance off and Morgan is calling Psy fat, which I wouldn't say. But they use it as a way to segue into Chris Brown's performance of "Fine China." Based on some of the clams he's hitting, he is definitely singing live when he's singing, although most of the singing is taped. At least he's not even pretending to be singing when he's not. My God, the man can dance. Working off the China motif, he goes into a ninja routine (I googled, yes, ninjas are Japanese, but apparently some of the moves originated in China-- entertaining AND informative... ) Orianthi comes on and adds some guitar shredding. Michael Jackson had tagged her as the guitarist for the "This Is It," so maybe she'll now sign on with Brown since he so badly wants to be Jackson.
8:40: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are performing "Thrift Song," which I'm still loving, probably because of the horns and Wanz's poppin' tags. They may be lip syncing, but it's a very entertaining performance.This was pre-taped at Tryst at the Wynn.
8:54: Huh? Why is Tracy Morgan giving a shout out to Michael Jackson and wearing a silver MJ jacket. TI thought he was going to give a shout out to the new Cirque du Soleil show , "Immortal," that's coming to Mandalay Bay, but no, it's just some random thing. Now Kid Rock, who seems inebriated, comes out and lambasts the folks who are lip synching. He presents Top Rap Song to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for "Thrift Shop." They accept from The Wynn, so maybe their performance wasn't pre-taped.
9:02: Don't you think Jabbawockeez dance crew when you think Taylor Swift? Well, you might not, but she does. They, and a league of other dancers, join her on a fun-filled "22." As usual, she hits some notes that sound a little flat, but it's a lively performance that starts in her dressing room and runs through the backstage of the arena. Tracy Morgan comes back, still in his MJ jacket, to make a bad joke about how the show is so hot by the time it ends, Elvis Presley, TuPac and Notorious B.I.G. will have come back to life.
9:09: Kacey Musgraves is performing her country top-10 hit, "Merry-Go-Round." This needed more of a set-up than Florida Georgia Line since about 98% of the people watching have never heard of her. It's a very restrained, low-key performance, which means people could hear the words, including one of my favorite lines from this year, "Mama's hooked on Mary Kay/Brother's hooked on Mary Jane/Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down. Her album, "Same Trailer, Different Park" is one of my favorites so far this album, but this reeks of her label saying they wanted her on the show if Billboard was going to get some other big names.
9:15: Will.I.Am is presenting Madonna with the top touring artist. Oh, Madge, she's a BDSM Jackie O from the top up with her fur coat and sunglasses and chain lock around her neck, and hooker from the waist down since she forgot to wear pants and is in a garter and thigh highs. She's giving a very boring speech thanking the folks who put her tour together, including the music director and set designers. Oh, yeah, she just remembered to thank her four children, two of them who worked on the show. Go child labor! She finally gets around to thanking her fan. "Without you, I wouldn't have a show to do and a show girl needs her fans. Thank you for supporting me for three decades." I don't even know what to say. Madonna had a chance to give a really heartfelt speech about her fans and about being able to have this amazing career for 3 decades. A chance to actually show some emotion. Most disappointing performance of the night. What's the matter with her (m)DNA? Thighs: 10, Heart: 0.
9: 25: Justin Bieber wants to take us home in his baggy black leather pants... they're so loose, there's room for all of us in there. I am not in the Bieber-Hater club, but what a wretched song and performance. Did he sing a word of that? The global graphics were cool, but does he think he's a reject from "The Matrix" or something? He climbs into a pod at the end. Time for the mothership to beam him back to Canada.
9:33: Taylor Swift's "Red" wins Top Billboard 200 album, again, thanks to the timetable of the awards. She runs through her laundry list, but comes back thanks her fans and calls their support "magical." Madonna could learn from Swift. A classy looking Ke$ha (I know, I know, that sounds like a oxymoron) introduces Pitbull and Christina Aguilera, who are performing "Feel This Moment." Aguilera, who can really, really sing, is lipsyncing for some reason along to some super-enhanced vocals, but it doesn't matter, because all the press will talk about is how great she looks now that she's dropped some weight. And she does. I'm a sucker for this song and for a lot of Pitbull songs. Maybe in this case, it's the interpolation of the melody from A-ha's "Take On Me," but in general, he's just good time dance pop that isn't meant to be anything more than that. They're supposed to be joined by a special guest. And it's A-ha's Morten Harket, who looks great! He's also lipsyncing and no one over 30 will know who he is, but it's a nice little homage.
9:42: When did Miley Cyrus become, as Morgan calls her, is one of the biggest stars on the planet? Really? Maybe one of the biggest tabloid sensations. She's supposed to perform her new single tonight. We'll see. Now she's presenting top male artist, which goes to Justin Bieber. He redeems that performance by thanking his fans, the Beleibers. However, the camera is much more concerned with how his once and possibly current girlfriend Selena Gomez is reacting...which is not much. All I can think of is how sad I feel for Mally, the monkey he abandoned in Germany.
9:47: Miguel's performing "Adorn." His Grammy performance was one of the highlights of the Grammys and, like Bruno Mars, I think he's a really strong new talent, but there's something off about this performance... or is it just me? He and his band don't seem to by in sync, but at least he's singing.
9:52: We've got a little more than an hour left and the show has been very fast paced. Like most award shows, the awards are a complete afterthought and most aren't being given out on TV. I really hate how much people are lipsyncing. I wonder when it became totally acceptable to do that on a live TV show, even when you're not dancing around? I have to think that Kid Rock's comment about it was ad libbed because there's no way that someone would have written that in... guess he won't be back. Hell, I think he should host next time.
9:56 I could cry with relief. Ed Sheeran is actually singing live. He's singing "Lego House," but if I close my eyes and ignore the accent, I swear I hear Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." Is it just me?
10:00: The third hour opens with Pitbull and "global superstar," Jennifer Lopez performing "Live It Up." Like Madonna, Lopez forgot her pants. In truth, I am in awe of their bodies, but that doesn't mean their outfits look great. "Live It Up" is much less catchy than Pitbull's number with Aguilera and I can't enjoy it because I'm too afraid Lopez's heel is going to get caught on the grate. Wow. We just got a full Lopez crotch shot. She is very well groomed. The gifs of that slide will start in 3...2...1. Is that Lopez screaming "Put me down!" at the end?
10:07: Billboard, I hope you feel good about totally just selling out with this horrible O.D.I.V (One Day In Vegas) spot with Sky Blu that's part of the programming. I hope the tourism board paid you buckets. I know sponsorship and placement within shows has become acceptable, but they will never seems unclunky to me. Rest easy, Madonna... you're off the hook with your acceptance speech. There's a new low.
10:12: David Guetta wins top EDM artist. The award was co-presented by Kelly Rowland. If you aren't familiar with his and Rowland's song "When Love Takes Over" from a few years ago, as soon as the show is over, go listen. It's fantastic. I also still love "Without You" featuring Usher. He gives a very sweet acceptance speech about how he thought Billboard was crazy when they put him on the cover a few years ago, heralding EDM as the next big thing.
10:14: Bieber and his baggy leather pants are back to perform "That Power" with will.i.am. I know this is absolutely nothing new, but I'm so bored with performances that double at aerobics routines. A real song, as Ed Sheeran showed earlier, doesn't need that and great dance moves can't redeem a boring song.
10: 24: David Guetta, Akon and Ne-Yo are performing "Play Hard." Guetta, who probably makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per appearance now, has the easiest job in the world. He gets to hang out in the DJ booth, spin, and play with hair or raise his hand as an emphasis point every now and then and/or clap. No wonder he can't get that grin off his face. Props that his green headphones match the green laser. What's it say when the EDM guys are among the few not lipsyncing?
10: 28: Did Tracy Morgan just call Cee-Lo his favorite poop stain? Anyway, Cee-Lo and a lucky winner, who's much more poised than Morgan, is presenting the fan-voted Milestone Award. It's supposedly for innovation, but it's just a popularity contest. Swift is forced to look happy for him as he stands there holding the award with his sunglasses on, looking like a douchebag. Seriously, unless you have pink eye, take off the damn sunglasses inside. "I'm 19 years old, I think I'm doing a pretty good job," Bieber says, before he starts talking about his "craft" and being taken "seriously" and not all the other "bull." My hat is off to you, Billboard... tonight I have experienced two things I never thought I would: Taylor Swift performing with Jabbawockeez and Beiber using the word "craft" in a sentence to express his career.
10:38: Taylor Swift wins artist of the year. Sounding perfectly rational she's talking about how her music covers an"extreme emotional spectrum.. Those are the crazy emotions and I want to thank you for making it the soundtrack to your crazy emotions. You are the longest and best relationship I ever had." Aah... Are you listening Madonna?
10: 44: Nicki Minaj is now giving Lil Wayne a lap dance as they perform "High School." Now she's shaking her booty in the camera. Between that and the shot of Jennifer Lopez's lady business, I'm good... I feel very safe in saying that they don't deserve to be taken seriously. I'm all for women (and men) expressing their sexuality, but Jesus, when did flashing your crotch or shaking your ass become some indicator of your talent?
10:49: Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae, wearing the outfits they sport in their "Q.U.E.E.N." video, are introducing Prince, who's won the Icon Award. They can say all they want about Prince, but I really want to ask them how they feel about Nicki Minaj's performance. I think it's safe to say that we'll never see these two wonderfully talented women giving someone a lap dance on stage.
10: 52: I guarantee you with every dollar I have in my bank account, Prince made them put the line about his being a champion for performers' rights in this taped piece.
10:53: Prince, with a full afro, is doing a slow-down, funkified "Let's Go Crazy." I bet he's never lipsynced in his life.He's got what looks like an all-female band. Here's a thought: he and Jack White should take their all-girl bands out on the road together. Or he and Beyonce. I would pay lots of money for that. Now he's gone into ferocious version of a relatively new song, "FixUrLifeUp," before he goes back into "Let's Go Crazy" with some incredibly shredding, Hendrix-style. Game, set, match. Prince, thank you for getting the taste of Nicki Minaj out of my mouth. For the kids watching, go pull out every single one of your parents' Prince CDs and listen to them over and over and over again so you actually understand what real music is.
11:02: So the BMAs started very strong with a great performance by Bruno Mars and ended with a strong, electrifying performance by Prince. There were certainly some good moments inbetween, but not enough. My favorite performances were Mars, Prince, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Ed Sheeran and Pitbull/Christina Aguilera. Tracy Morgan was a dud of a host (even though I know it's a really thankless job).
What did you think?
Yes, that is really the new album's title
Kanye West debuted “Black Skinhead” on “Saturday Night Live” last night. The song, as well as “New Slaves,” which he also performed on the show, are believed to be on his new set, “Yeezus,” out June 18. West's girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, instagrammed a photo of what appeared to be the album cover, giving away the new set's title as well, following his "SNL" performance.
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“Black Skinhead,” performed in from of a projection screen which often flashed the words “Not For Sale,” includes the lyrics “You see black man with white woman/at the top floor they come to kill King Kong/Middle America packed in/Come to see me in my black skin,” as well as, “I’ve been a menace for the longest/and I ain’t finished, I’m devoted/y’all can’t keep playing with my emotions.” West performed it over a melody line from Marilyn Manson's 1996 tune, "The Beautiful People,"
West’s second song, “New Slaves,”which also addresses racial issues, received a bit of a coming-out party on Friday when he projected the video on 66 buildings around the world, according to Rolling Stone.
He’s been bowing new material all week. He played a new tune at the Met Ball, a soulful autotuned ballad reportedly about Kardashian, that he also performed at an Adult Swim Upfront party on Wednesday.
What do you think of the new Kanye songs?
'The Great Gatsby' and Beyonce's bey-bey also make the list
1. Candice Glover: She becomes the 12th “American Idol” champion and the first female since 2006. We’re not sure how much the crown matters anymore, but we raise a glass anyway.
2. Daft Punk: “Random Access Memories,” which comes out May 21, could sell as much as 300,000 in its first week in the U.S., according to Billboard. That’s twice as much as its last studio album in 2005.
3. Vampire Weekend: First single “Diane Young” is shaping up to be their biggest hit yet, thanks to radio and the band’s exposure on “Saturday Night Live.” Once bitten...
4. “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack: The movie may be getting so-so reviews (ok, bad reviews), but the soundtrack from the 1920 film is definitely finding favor with 20-somethings as it debuts at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. Plus, Daisy Lana Del Rey looks like she will have a hit with “Young & Beautiful.”
5. Beyonce: Bey is expecting another bey-bey, according to several reports. Looks like “dehydration” is the new code word for preggers.
6. Mariah Carey: Live or Memorex? She performed a 5-minute medley of her greatest hits on “American Idol” on Thursday night and the interwebs instantly lit up with accusations that she was lipsyncing. She just scored her 27th Top 10 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart, she’s fine...
7. Robin Thicke: Think TV doesn’t matter? His song, “Blurred Lines,” featuring T.I. and Pharrell, zooms to the top of the ITunes chart following his performances on “The Voice” and “Ellen.” Nothing out of focus about those results
8. TicketMaster: The ticketing giant has to pony up $23 million for a class action suit. Funny, that’s exactly what my ticketing fee was for my Rolling Stones tickets.
9. Google: The online giant launches its All Access music streaming service. Unless it comes with Candy Crush, I don’t care.
10. P Diddy: The rapper tweets that he is joining the cast of “Downton Abbey” as a joke. If you fell for that, prepare for next season when the PBS show will also bring back Sybil and Matthew from the dead.
Who is in the lead?
Vampire Weekend, George Strait and Demi Lovato walk into a bar... wait a minute, that’s not right. Actually the three artists are in a tight race to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 next week.
Going into the weekend, it looks like Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” has the edge and is poised to sell up to 135,000 copies. The other two titles are both going to top the 100,000 mark as well. George Strait’s “Love Is Everything” will move up to 120,000 copies for No. 2, while Demi Lovato’s “Demi” is looking good for 115,000 units, which will land her at No. 3.
Unless Amy Grant’s latest sneaks in, that looks like it for debuts next week. Dropping 2-4 will be “The Great Gatsby” soundtrack. Though it moves downward, it is still targeted to sell up to 95,000, according to Hits Daily Double. This week’s No. 1, Lady Antebellum’s “Golden,” will likely drop to No. 5 with sales of 65,000.
“Now That’s What I Call Music 46” will be at No 6. Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” and Michael Buble’s “To Be Loved” are in a dead heat for the No. 7 spot, with each looking strong to sell up to 45,000 copies.
The chart ends on a country note with Pistol Annie’s “Annie Up” at No. 9 and Kenny Chesney’s “Life On A Rock” at No. 10.
The chart closes Sunday night.
They let their fingers do the talking
The 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, which airs May 18 on HBO, includes some blazing performance. One of the hottest is John Mayer and Gary Clark Jr.’s smoking take on Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
Mayer inducted the late King and then came back to join Clark on a soulful, funky rendition on the classic. Mayer keeps his mouth shut in this exclusive clip provided to Hitfix and wisely lets his guitar talk. Not that he and Clark can’t stop smiling at each other as they did deep on the track.
The R&R Hall of Fame ceremony was taped April 18 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.
In addition to King, the other inductees are Heart, Rush, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Donna Summer, Lou Adler and Quincy Jones. A 24-hour marathon will start immediately on HBO Signature.
Yesterday, we exclusively debuted part of Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins’ hilarious induction speech for Rush. You can see that here.
How do you auto-tune a smurf?
“Take my hand, we can go all night” “It feels so good I don’t want to stop.” “Fingers in my hair and I’m letting go tonight.”
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Ummm....yes, these are lyrics for a song in a kids’ movie, Britney Spears’ “Ooh La La” for “The Smurfs 2,” to be exact...and we’re sure that your 6-year old won’t even think to ask you what any of those mean. Seriously.
Otherwise, it’s a sweet, slight, little love song about loving someone for their true blue self. For some reason that’s inexplicable, the song is really three songs in one:
The first segment is pure pop with a bit of electonica thrown in, a little Avril Lavigne-ish.
The second segment features Spears speak-singing, Ke$ha style, over an electro-clash beat that kids will either love or be scared by: “”Mommy, why does it sound like Britney is mad at us?”
The third, the acoustic-guitar-driven part is fluffy, retro pop that sounds like Madonna from her early-‘80s period. Nice and innocent and feather-light, in a good way.
Then rinse and repeat and wait for another wacky breakdown toward the end of the five-minute tune.
In other words, quite frankly, anyone could have done this song. There’s nothing particularly “Britney” about it, other than the fact that her vocals are autotuned within an inch of their life and are emotionally flat.
We wish the song, co-written by Katy Perry tunesmith Bonnie McKee, had just focused on the poppy third act, which is far and away the catchiest part. Speaking of Perry, she returns in her role as Smurfette in the film, which opens July 31.
The Twitterverse says yes, her rep says no