Is he still a boy, not yet a man, on new set?
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating A+
Justin Bieber finds himself at an important, but tricky, intersection with his new studio album, “Believe,” out June 19. Now 18, can Bieber transition from his teen idol status to an artist that transcends that nearly unbreachable hurdle?
It’s unclear on the mixed-bag “Believe,” a 16-track collection that takes a certain scatter shot, cut-and-paste musical approach. It’s like that saying about the weather: if you don’t like it, stick around for five minutes and it will change: If you don’t like it when Bieber delves into electroclash as he does on “All Around the World,” then wait a few minutes and he’ll be imitating his retro soul musical heroes on the Motown-inspired “Die In Your Arms” or taking the listener to church on the title track. “Believe” is an album for those with short-attention-spans, i.e., anyone under 21. In fact, it would be fascinating to see if his fans can even digest the whole set in one sitting. Probably not.
Bieber is in the dream business: he wants to love you and support you and remind you that you’d be nothing “if your heart didn’t dream/if you didn’t believe.” R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” has nothing on Bieber’s positivity. And that’s not meant as a bad thing. In a craven world, Bieber remains overtly non-cynical.
Pivoting around themes that strike a direct bulls-eye into the heart of his tween/teen female fanbase—almost every song is based on love and infatuation, Bieber continues to have A-List rappers on speed dial, all of whom seem only too happy to pair with the Biebs. On this album alone, Ludacris, Drake, Nicki Minaj and Big Sean show up, but they add nothing other than their name value.
Instead, “Believe” is about showcasing Bieber as a singer. He positively croons on sweet, gentle, mid-tempo R&B ballad “Catching Feelings.”
There’s the obvious comparison to be made with the other Justin— Timberlake—who, himself, extremely successfully transitioned from pop star to highly respected artist before pretty much abandoning music to focus on acting and other endeavors. Bieber, while no slouch, doesn’t have Timberlake’s vocal talent but he surpasses Timberlake in the vital ambition department. For anyone who follows Bieber on Twitter, being Bieber is a 24/7 job. No artist has ever tried so hard to stay in constant touch with his millions of fans and let them know how much he appreciates them.
There’s some delicacy here that Bieber dances through beautifully, to his credit. He may have come of age, but many of his fans are much younger, and he wisely knows that indulging in the raunch that even artists only a few years older, like Rihanna, routinely turn to is a one-way trip to Nowheresville at this stage. To that end, the album is G-rated from start to finish, without ever seeming Disney-fied. That is a noteworthy feat in and of itself. Even on “One Love,” in which he declares he wants to “lie down beside you,” he pledges fidelity.
Bieber’s greatest assets are his likability, his musical curiosity and his almost preternatural ability to balance being a regular teen with the pressures and responsibilities that come with being a multi-million dollar enterprise. The only time Bieber ever addresses such conflicts is on closing track “Maria,” a direct response to the woman who accused Bieber of fathering her child last year. The thumper, which sounds like a companion to his hero Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” or “Dirty Diana,” is one of the most interesting musically on the album in part because it’s clear that the incident, understandably, really riled Bieber. There’s a bite to the song that no other material on “Believe” possesses.
For all his rampant popularity (his upcoming tour was a quick sell out) radio has been a little fickle with Bieber. He has yet to score a No. 1 single (contrast that with Rihanna, who has 22 top 10 hits). “Boyfriend” made some headway, but only with a with his label mightily pushing that rock uphill. “Believe” seems to acknowledge that gap between his massive fan base and radio play by containing tunes that would fit right in with current radio playlists, but doesn’t pander to them.
Bieber’s voice is now recognizable, but the problem with “Believe” is too many of the songs sound generic, as if they come from the same music factory pumping out every song on the radio today, except for “Somebody That I Used To Know” or “We Are Young.” Every tune is catchy, but not particularly memorable. There’s nothing on here that comes close to the earworm-ability of “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen (who is now signed to Bieber’s manager’s label). Bieber is great at selling sincerity, emotion and inspiration. Now he just needs to work on getting some great hooks.
September indie fest expands to two days
Refused, M83, Beirut and Sleigh Bells will headline the 9th FYF Fest, to be held Sept. 1-2 at Los Angeles State Historic Park. This indie-music festival expands to two days this year, a first since it moved to its current location four years ago.
Among the other acts on the 75-artist bill are Against Me!, Cursive, Quicksand and Wild Flag.
Tickets for the all-ages festival go on sale June 22 and start at $77 for a weekend pass. The festival, which is put on in conjunction with concert promoter Goldenvoice, runs from noon-midnight.
FYF FEST LINE-UP
Paul Banks (Interpol)
DJ Coco (Primavera Sound)
Father John Misty
I Break Horses
King Khan & the Shrines
Simian Mobile Disco (Live)
The Allah La's
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Soft Pack
The Suicide of Western Culture
Tiger & Woods
'Just Tell Me That You Want Me' out in August
MGMT, Best Coast, New Pornographers, Lykke Li and The Kills are among artists contributing to “Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute To Fleetwood Mac.”
Out Aug. 14, via Hear Music/Concord, the 17-track set features indie rockers and Fleetwood Mac contemporaries such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons examining the popular group’s catalog.
Some acts, such as Best Coast and Karen Elson, took on more familiar Fleetwood Mac tunes, while others, such as Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren paired with St. Vincent to dive deeper into the group’s 45-year catalog. A complete track listing is below.
Movie music supervisor Randall Poster and Geyla Robb put together the collection; they were also behind last year’s “Rave On Buddy Holly” compilation that included reinventions of Holly tunes by such artists as Paul McCartney, The Black Keys and Cee Lo Green.
As longtime Fleetwood Mac fans know, former member Bob Welch committed suicide earlier this month. MGMT covers “Future Games,” a tune recorded under his tenure in the group. The current members of Fleetwood Mac—Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John McVie—are expected to tour again, perhaps this year. The band’s website notes “check back soon for more details on the upcoming tour.” Fleetwood told Billboard last November “we’re all up for touring in the early summer of next year.” That timeframe is clearly not happening, but look for an announcement here once details are firmed.
'Just Tell Me That You Want Me' A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac' Tracklist:
1. "Albatross" - Lee Ranaldo Band Featuring J Mascis (4:16)?
2. "Landslide" - Antony (3:33)?
3. "Before The Beginning" - Trixie Whitley (4:46)?
4. "Oh Well" - Billy Gibbons & Co. (4:45)
5. "Rhiannon" - Best Coast (3:07)
6. "Think About Me" - The New Pornographers (2:56)
7. "Angel" - Marianne Faithfull (4:59)?
8. "Silver Springs" - Lykke Li (4:11)
9. "Gold Dust Woman" - Karen Elson (5:43)?
10. "Storms" - Matt Sweeney And Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (4:46)?
11. "Straight Back" - Washed Out (3:44)?
12. "That's All For Everyone" - Tame Impala (3:43)?
13. "Sisters Of The Moon" - Craig Wedren with St. Vincent (3:45) ?
14. "Dreams" - The Kills (4:46)?
15. "Gypsy" - Gardens & Villa (4:40)?
16. "Tusk" - The Crystal Ark (5:30)
17. "Future Games" - MGMT (9:02)
Madonna, Usher, and Adam Levine also make this week's tally
1. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Call Me Maybe” finally goes to No. 1 on the Hot 100 after selling more than 3.3. million downloads.. Definitely the song of the summer.
2. Usher: His new album, “Looking 4 Myself” will find its way to No. 1 next week and is receiving some of the best reviews of his career. An artist starts what looks to be a brilliant new chapter.
3. Madonna: It may not have been elegant or classy, but she certainly got our attention not once, but twice, this week by flashing her nip and flashing her G-string in concert. Hey Madge, leave the antics to those who don’t have talent and a gazillion Top 40 hits to draw upon.
4. Adam Levine: First “American Horror Story” and now “Can A Song Save Your Life.” The Maroon 5 frontman/”The Voice” judge lands his first leading role in a motion picture, starring alongside Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. Someone wants more than just Grammy Awards.
5. John Janick: The mastermind behind the Fueled By Ramen label (home to fun., Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes, Paramore and more) jumps from WMG to Interscope president/COO in one of the biggest label coups in recent years.
6. Rebecca Ferguson: The “X Factor U.K.” runner up is on Simon Cowell’s label and she’s managed by the same folks who handle One Direction. Plus she can really sing. Go ahead and get onboard now.
7. EMI/UMG merger: After it seemed like a relatively sure bet, all bets are off as the European Commission steps up its scrutiny and Senate Judiciary Antitrust hearings announced their dockets of witnesses for June 21’s hearings.
8. Long Live Rock: After a relatively fallow period, rock is surging with new releases from Neil Young, Linkin Park, and the Offspring this month. Coming soon: Muse, Green Day, No Doubt, Aerosmith and many more.
9. The Beach Boys: As incredulous as it sounds, the boys of summer score their best chart debut ever in their 50 year career as “That’s Why God Made the Radio” bows at No. 3. Surf’s Up, boys.
10. Frances W. Preston: Though not known widely outside the music industry, the former BMI head, who died this week at 83, was a pioneer in every sense of the word: the first female corporate executive in Tennessee was a songwriter’s best friend. Goodbye to one of the last trailblazers.
What happens to Adele?
Usher’s “Looking 4 Myself” should handily come in at No. 1 on next week's Billboard 200 as it’s poised to be the only title that will surpass the 100,000 mark.
The R&B superstar’s album is one of five new releases that will come into the Top 10. Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” will just miss the 100,000, as it is projected to come in at No 2 with sales of 90,000-95,000, according to Hits Daily Double.
British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran’s “+” will land at No. 4 with a tally of between 45,000-50,000. Country singer Josh Turner’s “Punching Bag” will land at No. 6 with 40,000-45,000 and rapper Waka Flocka Flame’s “Triple F Life” looks good at No. 8, with sales of up to 32,000.
The rest of the Top 10 shakes out with Adele’s “21” falling from No 1 to No. 3, One Direction’s “Up All Night” will be at No. 5 (unless it can’t head off a charge by Turner). Alan Jackson’s “Thirty Miles West” goes from No. 2 to No. 7. John Mayer’s former No. 1, “Born and Raised” goes to No. 9 and Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away” lands at No. 10.
What happens when a superstar dies 24 hours before the big show?
Earlier this week, The Recording Academy debuted “A Death in the Family: The Show Must Go On.” The 26-minute documentary details how the 54th annual Grammy Awards put together a tribute to Whitney Houston for the telecast 24 hours following her death.
I was out of town and couldn’t attend the June 11 premiere and Q&A in Hollywood, but the short film is available for viewing on Grammy.com and will also be part of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
The documentary is decidedly and deliberately non-showy: small talking heads often appear in a corner of a shot of an artist performing before expanding to the full screen. There’s a certain low-tech, news story approach to the whole enterprise.
The piece doesn’t go into any of the back story behind’s Houston’s death, instead staying focused on its mission: What happens when one of music’s top names dies 24 hours before the Grammys? With the show locked, how quickly can everything change and how does a show pay homage without seeming exploitative? Producer Ken Ehrlich, show writer David Wild, exec producer Terry Lickona, and Recording Academy head Neil Portnow are among those detailing how the Feb. 12 telecast was updated practically minute-by-minute following Houston’s death. Host LL Cool J also chronicles how he approached Houston’s death and his highly unusual decision to insert a prayer in his opening monologue.
Everyone speaks totally with one voice, as if there was never any debate at all as to how to honor Whitney, while taking care not to turn the program into the Houston show. That could be because they don’t want to show any possible dissension or there was never any discussion at all over how to honor Houston after Ehrlich thought of having Jennifer Hudson, who did a remarkable job, pay tribute or because the train had already left the station so there was no time for discussion, just execution.
The doc’s title is a bit of a misnomer: Houston’s death didn’t happen in a vacuum with the rest of the show totally locked and loaded: With less than 48 hours to go, Paul McCartney decided that he wanted to change his show closer from “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” to the much smarter “Abbey Road” medley that includes “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” Not only was the Beatle changing his tune, literally, he now wanted Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen to join him. It would have been interesting to know how the producers dealt with the extra time needed for both Houston's tribute and the longer McCartney number.
While the emotional appeal of calling the documentary “ A Death in the Family” is understandable, the documentary is just as much about the McCartney performance as the Houston addition. Plus, the McCartney portion provides some of the most glowing commentary. Where else will you hear Springsteen raving like a fan boy about playing with McCartney, the fulfillment of a wish he’s had since 1964? Or hear Grohl say he felt like he was standing next to Mt. Rushmore as he looked over at McCartney, Walsh and Springsteen?
The documentary works well on face value, but it has a very important additional role here that has nothing to do with educating the Grammy-watching public: The Grammys are using the film as a way to reach out to Emmy voters, and it is none too subtle. Part of Portnow’s main role in the film is to brag about the team that produces the show and really stress the exceptional way the Grammys, every year, not just this one, come together.
Remarkably, the Grammys have never won an Emmy for best program, as Gold Derby points out, and if it’s going to happen, this is the time. Not only did the Grammys score their second highest ratings ever, drawing 39 million viewers, they tied this year’s Oscar ratings and beat the 2011 Oscars, even though the Oscars are traditionally considered the much “bigger” show and the Grammys have always suffered a little in the Academy Awards’ shadow.
In case all the talking heads haven’t made their points persuasively enough, the documentary ends, as Springsteen’s Grammy-opening number “We Take Care Of Own” plays, with a montage of the 20 or so extremely diverse performances that took place during the 3-hour telecast...as if to say to voters, “C’mon. Is there really any other show that deals with as much technical switch-ups as we do? Really?” It’s as subtle as a sledge hammer, but very effective and impressive.
Whether you want to view “A Death in the Family” as a documentary or as a marketing tool, it’s a compelling look behind the curtain of how the “biggest night in music,” as the Grammys have self-proclaimed their evening to be, comes together under unbelievably challenging circumstances...even when “one of their own,” as LL Cool J called Houston, doesn’t die on the eve of the show.
What does she find 'nerve wracking' about her next movie?
Julianne Hough wasn’t born until 1988, a year after “Rock of Ages” takes place, but she seems the perfect choice to play the naive, hopeful Sherrie Christian in the movie, which opens today.
With her all-American looks and her sweet voice, Hough personifies the girl who arrives on a bus from the midwest and with a gee-whiz, can-do attitude chases her dreams along the Sunset Strip.
The movie, unlike the play, tells its story through Sherrie’s eyes as she experiences all of Hollywood’s excesses for the first time. Though Hough, who was introduced to audiences through “Dancing With the Stars,” has appeared in other movies, such as “Burlesque” and “Footloose,” “Rock Of Ages” was the first to pair her with such megastars as Tom Cruise, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta Jones and Alec Baldwin.
Playing the ingenue who temporarily captures the attentions of Stacee Jaxx (played by Cruise) was a blast, Hough says, who jokes that she didn’t have to act when her character is starstruck by Jaxx. However, as much as she loved playing opposite Cruise, her favorite scenes took place in the strip club, and with her love interest, Drew, played by Diego Boneta. “We had so many fun scenes,” she says. “All the strip club stuff was fun. I really love the love montage we did because that was Drew and Sherrie falling in love. They were all these short little scenes and they were setting the tone of the movie. That was the most fun for me.”
Though she is an extraordinary dancer, Hough says she was in awe of the talents displayed by the “pole specialists” in the movie. “ They’ve got some ripped bodies, that’s for sure,” she says.
Hough also enjoyed developing a friendship with Blige, who plays the strip club proprietor who takes Sherrie under her wing. She was struck by Blige’s humility as the Grammy-winning singer continues, like Hough, to develop her acting skills. “She’s one of the most influential women in music and yet she doesn’t know it,” Hough says. “I’d be like, ‘That’s amazing!,” and she’d be like, ‘Really? You really thought that was okay? I’m not sure about it.’ The fact that she’s that humble and she’s who she is is just a testament how there are so many people in this world we put in pedestals and they’re just human beings, you know.”
With each new movie, Hough, who is also signed to Mercury Nashville as a recording artist, says her faith in her abilities grows. “I just keep getting more confident and more secure,” she says. “Also, because I learn so much from each movie and a lot of technical things: how a movie is made and the process, so I know how to use my stamina, you know what I mean, and be top energy all day long. That’s a hard part.”
Hough went straight from promoting “Rock of Ages” to filming “Safe Haven,” a romantic drama starring Josh Duhamel based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. It will be one of Hough’s first non-singing roles. She admits she’s nervous about not having singing and dancing to fall back on, but also excited. “I love having a challenge and I think that’s what makes me better as a performer, as an actress, or whatever I may be pursuing, but I think the most nerve wracking part is I’m literally having to leave the press tour of ‘Rock of Ages’ to start shooting right away. I’ve always had a lot of prep time for movies so... that will be a little different, but I love different. I get bored if I’m doing the same thing long.”
The Queens of the Stone Age singer plays a bartender in farewell clip
Queens of the Stone Age singer/guitarist Josh Homme helps pay tribute to Glen Campbell in the legend’s farewell video, “A Better Place.”
The song, featured on Campbell’s final album, last year’s excellent “Ghost on the Canvas” (and my album of the year), addresses his Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis on the song, singing “Some days I’m so confused, Lord/My past gets in the way/I need the ones I love, Lord/More and more each day.” The album also includes contributions from Jakob Dylan and Paul Westerberg.
[More after the jump...]
First album in trilogy comes out in September
As you know, Green Day plans to drop three albums between September and January. Today, we got the cover art for “Uno,” the first release in the trilogy.
The below trailer doesn’t give away much, but at least we get to hear a little music, which is more than we got to hear in this other teaser when the trio talked about the trio of sets and run down their past album titles. Green Day has also announced that one of its few 2012 live dates will be at New Orleans' Voodoo Music Experience in October.
[More after the jump...]
Katy Perry also has reason to celebrate
After hanging out at No. 2 behind Goyte’s long-running “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” hits No. 1 definitely on the Billboard Hot 100 chart this week.
In doing so, Jepsen becomes the first solo female to send her first Hot 100 entry to No. 1 since Ke$ha did so with “Tik Tok” in January 2010, according to Billboard. The song, which has been on the Hot 100 chart for 16 weeks, has already sold more than 3.3 million downloads.
There’s only one new entry into the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 and that also belongs to a solo female: Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” zooms 19-9 to become Perry’s 11th career top 10.
The rest of the Top 10 remains fairly static: “Somebody That I Used To Know” featuring Kimbra slips to No. 2 after eight weeks at No. 1, while Maroon 5’s “Payphone” featuring Wiz Khalifa and fun’s “We Are Young” featuring Janelle Monae stay at No. 3 and No. 4 respectively.
One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” swap places with “Beautiful” rising one to No. 5 and “Starships” dropping one to No. 6. Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” featuring Sia remains at No. 7.
Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been,” the singer’s 22nd Hot 100 Top 10 hit, rises one spot to No. 8 this week, while Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend” drops two spaces to No. 10. However, the news isn’t all bad for Bieber: “All Around The World” featuring Ludacris, another track from “Believe,” bows at No. 22, earning it Hot Shot Debut honors.