Hits the spot
- Critic's Rating A-
- Readers' Rating A
The members of Matchbox 20 has always been lovers of power pop, but their music didn’t always reflect that bent. Too often, they tried to exist in both pop and rock simultaneously. While they’ve certainly been successful, sometimes they sounded a bit unfocused.
However, with new single “She’s So Mean,” MB20 has shot an arrow straight at a power pop target and hit a bullseye. With its handclap intro and catchy guitar refrain, “She’s So Mean” is an ear worm waiting to invade your brain and not let go for the rest of the year. The song is redolent of ‘70s power pop—that territory that Fountains of Wayne has mined so successfully— yet it never sounds overly retro. Listen to it here.
The production is deceptively simple, but each drumbeat, every little yelp by Rob Thomas, only makes the song more seductive. Plus, hasn’t everyone had the one person who you can’t let go no matter what he or she does? “Every now and then she makes you a little bit crazy/she’ll insert a knife in your back and then she’s calling you baby.” Who’s the crazy one?
It’s been 10 years since Matchbox 20 has put out an album of all new material (2007’s “Exile on Mainstream” combined old and new tunes) and it seems like the time away has done them good. The Matt Serletic-produced song, the first single from “North,” sounds deliberate in the band’s commitment to pop. There’s no line straddling, no trying to be something they aren’t.
“North” comes out in September.
How does Tom Cruise sound?
- Critic's Rating C+
- Readers' Rating B
The success of “American Idol” and “Glee” has created a major market for collections of cover songs that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.
For a long time, people (i.e. me) wondered why would anyone want the equivalent of karaoke versions (albeit very well-produced ones) of songs rather than the usually far superior original. A legion of “Gleeks” proved they do.
Therefore, there would seem to be a built-in audience for the soundtrack for “Rock Of Ages,” out today, June 5. which features the same executive music producer, Adam Anders, as "Glee." The movie, adapted from the long-running Broadway musical, opens June 15.
If you’ve given much thought to how Tom Cruise would sound as an Axl Rose/Joe Elliott-type lead singer or if Alec Baldwin’s estimable talents extend to warbling (we’ll go ahead and tell you “no” on that one), this album gives you the answer.
As with most ventures of this sort, some tracks work better than others. Similar to the Broadway cast album, five of the tracks are mash-ups of two or more songs and the result can be a train wreck. Add up to six different actors/singers vying for space on the same song and it creates quite the pile-up, such as on Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” which features five different singers trading lines.
We’ll get the obvious out of the way: any track that features Mary J. Blige, who plays strip club owner Justice, is a pretty safe bet given that she has more vocal chops than all the other singers put together. On a mash-up of “Shadows of the Night/Harden My Heart” she and Julianne Hough’s voices have a nice contrast: Hough’s voice, in general, is sweet and thin, and the way the duet plays out in the movie as they first meet works on record as well. Sadly, Blige has no songs of her own on here, but, then again, there’s no shortage of those in real life.
Diego Boneta, who plays the young male lead, Drew, is second to Blige in vocal talent. He’s a strong singer who has already released two solo albums. His straight-up pop rock voice makes him a natural on both his tender tunes, such as “Waiting For a Girl Like You” with Hough or on thumping “I Wanna Rock.”
So how is Cruise? Better than anyone could have expected. As you probably know, he studied with Axl Rose’s vocal coach to learn to sing and while he never sounds like he’s totally comfortable (or looks it, in the movie), he does a fine job. His best numbers are the rockers, such as on, not surprisingly, “Paradise City,” since he’s mimicking Rose (which can’t be easy) and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” although he and Malin Akerman pull off a decent version of “I Want To Know What Love Is.” His absolute commitment is commendable.
There are a few missteps: Hough’s and Cruise’s take on the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is one of two cringeworthy moment. It’s an unfair fight to begin with: few could ever equal Klaus Meine’s full-throated vocals, but they have taken a dull knife to a gunfight. Same with Catherine Zeta-Jones’ cover of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” As she showed in “Chicago,” Zeta-Jones can sing, but her performance here is so mannered and awkward that it’s offputting.
The audience for the album will be those who see the movie and the staunchest fans of each of the participating acts--anyone who’s that crazy about these ‘80s hits will want the originals. There’s not a likely single on here that radio would play, though, remember, that’s not unheard of: Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow had a No. 1 adult contemporary hit with their cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin” from “Duets” more than a decade ago.
Plus, animals get in on the cuteness
And he's taking Ludacris with him
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating n/a
Today, Justin Bieber released “All Around The World,” a new track from “Believe,” his new album out June 19. It’s the third song we’ve gotten, following “Boyfriend” and “Die in Your Arms.”
While all three have been about love, they have all been strikingly different musically. “All Around The World,” which is, conveniently the title of Bieb’s upcoming NBC special, is a flat-out electro-pop dance track. “Boyfriend” started with its whisper intro before paying homage to Justin Timberlake, whereas “Die In Your Arms” recalled Michael Jackson and other soul icons.
[More after the jump...]
Brian Wilson reunites with his band for a harmonious effort
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating A
The Beach Boys are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, but in some ways, the designation is misleading. While the initial quintet originally formed in 1961, there have been long periods—decades, actually—when the group’s brain trust Brian Wilson has not been an active member of the group.
In fact, his surprising reuniting with his bandmates for “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” out today (June 5), is the entire reason to buy the set. It’s his first full album with the group in decades. He’s joined by fellow founding members Mike Love and Al Jardine and nearly-founding members David Marks and Bruce Johnston.
For the casual fan, those who know such hits as “Good Vibrations” or “Kokomo” or “I Get Around,” there’s plenty here for you, such as “Shelter,” whose beautiful chorus makes up for the weak verses, or “Beaches In Mind.” Years later, the surf’s still up and the summer is endless.
[More after the jump...]
How she prepared for her 'Rock of Ages' strip club owner role
If Mary J. Blige has her way, she’ll be bringing her volatile, inspiring life story to Broadway. The multiple Grammy winner revealed her plans during an interview with Hitfix on June 3 about her role as strip club owner Justice Charlier in “Rock Of Ages.” The movie opens June 15; the soundtrack is out June 5.
“I’m thinking more of my own life,” she replied when asked what role she’d like to play on the Great White Way. “That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not thinking of anything else right now for Broadway. My life is a musical.”
Wearing awesome red glasses to match her red belt, Blige told Hitfix that she’s “in talks” about the idea, “so it’s definitely something we’re going to do. You’ll see it. We’re going to do it.”
Blige also revealed how visiting strip clubs helped her prepare for her character and the back story she created for Justice.
Below is our Q&A with Blige. It includes primarily questions we asked, but also a few asked by a reporter from another outlet as the two of us sat down together with Blige.
HITFIX: A lot of people don’t know that have covered rock tunes like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Whole Lotta Love” and U2’s “One.” How did your love affair with rock start?
MJB: I grew up listening to it as well as R&B and hip hop. I got exposed to the heavy metal through MTV. MTV was the only video station we had so we got exposed to Van Halen and Led Zeppelin and Journey, you know what I’m saying? And then I grew up on soft rock because there was no Hot 97 or WBLS or 98.7 when I was five years old, so I know a lot of songs from WABC and WNBC [Editor’s note: These are all New York radio stations], That’s the radio station we were listening to and just growing up, listening to music period, you just love it. Great music is great music.
In “Rock Of Ages,” you play a strip club owner named Justice, who takes Julianne Hough’s character, Sherrie, under her wing. Did real life imitate art here? Did you share any of your experience with her?
Julianne is pretty smart and pretty wise to be so young, but the character called for me to be that person and I had to find that person in her that I was when I was a kid and someone had to help me. There were women that helped me get on my feet and helped me to remember that I’m smart and beautiful and strong regardless of whatever people say or think about me. There’s a lot of truth to the character: I had to be strong in those bad environments and believe in myself and not my circumstances, and teach her and all the girls all the same thing. That’s who Mary is a lot of, but that’s who Justice is too.
What attracted you to the script?
It was the fact that she had depth and that she saw herself in Sherrie and she wanted to help her. If she was just a strip club owner, I would have been like “I’m not doing that.” If she was a dingy, ditzy owner, it would... it had to have something that related to me in order for me to play it, be drawn to the role. She was loose and fun and it was another side of her, just like there’s another side of me that people don’t see, they always see this strong, marching through side. they don’t ever see the fun loose person.
Justice is a woman who’s made it in a man’s world, like you.
She lost something when she was a child and she lost it to men and she kept losing it to men and so she wanted to gain back the ground and power over them in that area by keeping her identity and running the joint, like “I have power here, this is my place.” And that’s [like] being a strong woman in the music business. I have my identity. I fought for who Mary J. Blige is. I have power over a lot of the men in the industry.
That’s a complete back story that we don’t know about her. Did you create that or did director Adam Shankman give you that?
No. That’s how I see her...Why would she be there? Why would she be in a strip club? She’s supposed to be looked at as a beautiful. strong. powerful business woman. Why is she there? She’s there to get back the power that some man took from her all her life and she’s gotten that back. That’s fair enough to say. She tells them how much money to spend, she brings the girls out and she’s running the club so she has the power over men in the club.
You’re the most experienced and best singer of the cast, which includes many actors not known for their singing. Did you coach any of them?
No. they didn’t need my help (laughs)
Which was your favorite song to sing?
The “Shadows of the Night/Harden My Heart” mash-up because those songs mean so much to me. I loved “Harden My Heart.” I loved “Shadows of the Night.” I love, love those songs.
Julianne said she prepared by going to strip clubs. How did you prepare?
I went to strip clubs. That was fun! It was actually fun because the women there were so sweet and nice and, you know, they just want to talk to you. They knew exactly who I was so I got bombarded and stampeded and I had to sit and talk to them all night. They didn’t want to dance, they just wanted to talk. I got the chance to talk to Maiden, the “Justice” of the club and she’s young too and she’s sweet. But they’re happy where they are. They’re confident and they’re beautiful, so I learned how to carry myself from watching them.
Were you bummed you had no scenes with Tom Cruise?
I mean I was not bummed. I did one. They might show it briefly when they do the behind-the-scenes. If you blinked, you’d probably miss it.
When you’re recording for a soundtrack and are in the booth, are you recording as Mary J. Blige or as your character?
The character. You’re Justice. You’re singing from whomever you made Justice out to be. Mary’s delivering the vocal stuff, but the pain and the depth is coming from Justice’s experience.
What’s your next movie role?
It’s “Parallel Lives.” It’s a Lifetime movie and we start shooting in September and October. It’s about [civil rights advocate] Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King. It’s about the lives of the women behind the men. [I play] Betty.
How do you prepare for that?
Gotta get an acting coach. I already started going online and looking up her interviews, so I’m already looking.
That’s such a responsibility when you’re playing a real person.
It is a responsibility. So you’ve got to do your homework to really nail... you don’t want to mess it up.
Is Broadway in your future?
Of course, there’s Broadway.
What role would you like to do?
Well, I’m thinking more of my own life, you know what I’m saying? That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not thinking of anything else right now for Broadway. My life is a musical.
Have you talked to anyone about that? Is that in formative stages?
Yeah. What’s crazy is... yeah. We’re in talks about there’s different things happening. People are staying the same thing. The same thing you’re asking, people are saying the same thing, so it’s definitely something we’re going to do. You’ll see it. We’re going to do it.
John Mayer and Bob Dylan also make the top 10
1. Madonna: She kicks off her tour in Tel Aviv on Thursday to generally strong reviews, except for from one particular blonde who has her paws up in protest.
2. John Mayer: Without singing a note to promote it, he lands his third No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with “Born and Raised.” We continue to wish him a speedy vocal recovery.
3. Justin Bieber: He practically brings Oslo to a halt with a free concert and then the next day walks into a glass door and gives himself a concussion. #Attentionhog.
4. Beyonce: In her first concerts since giving birth to the world’s most wonderful baby ever, Bey brings the house down. Is it too soon for Blue Ivy to start seeing a therapist to deal with mommy issues?
5. Bob Dylan: President Obama awards America’s finest singer/songwriter the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Soy Bomb’s invitation was lost in the mail.
6. Axl Rose: He wins douche of the week by banning anyone wearing a Slash t-shirt to Guns N’ Roses concerts in Britain. Let it go, man.
7. Hollywood Palladium: the venerable LA theater, which has been home to concerts by Jay-Z, U2 and many others (and one of The Beat Goes On’s favorite places to see a show) is for sale for up to $80 million. If those walls could talk: both JFK and MLK Jr. delivered speeches there and it was the home the Emmys and Oscars. Here’s hoping the wrecking ball isn’t in its future.
8. Big & Rich: The country duo lands the highest debut ever on the country singles charts in the modern era with “That’s Why I Pray.” God clearly heard them.
9 Music video dancers: One of the first efforts from the combined SAG-AFTRA leads to coverage for dancers in music videos, who previously have had no union protection. Does booty shaking count as dancing?
10. Usher: Speaking of dancers, the R&B star will use digital dancers for his London concert stop: fans watching online can create avatars and have them dance on stage with him during “Scream.” Does SAG-AFTRA know about this?
What did you think of this week's rankings? Share your thoughts below.
Some unusual suspects show up in the top 10
John Mayer’s “Born and Raised” is likely to remain at No. 1 for a second week on the Billboard 200, although it drops significantly in sales.
Mayer’s third No. 1 album will fall roughly 150,000 in sales down to between 70,000-75,000 copies, but that’s enough to top Adele’s “21,” which will hold at No. 2 with around 60,000 units.
Were they thumbs up or thumbs down?
Madonna’s “MDNA” tour opened last night at Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan stadium and from all reports, the two-hour performance was quite the extravaganza.
She also used the setting to deliver a call for peace, telling the audience mid-set: “I chose to start my world tour in Israel for a very specific and important reason. As you know, the Middle East and all the conflicts that occur here and that have been occurring for thousands of years…They have to stop…You can’t be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world, OK?”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Shirley Halperin called the concert “pure spectacle...complete with eight wardrobe changes (including a Gaultier-designed update of her iconic cone bra), 22 dancers (including one Rocco Ritchie), a gospel choir and two slackline walkers.”
Halperin gave Madonna high marks for her vocals, “which, like her physique, were also in tip-top shape,” but criticized Madge for resorting to the trick of featuring only snippets of some of her biggest hits, while right songs from “MDNA” were performed in full. She also questioned the often violent images, including Madonna toting an AK47, in contrast with her calls for peace.
Similarly, the Jerusalem Post noted the show’s violence: “Amidst her opening acts was a particularly violent number, Gang Bang, in which she shot a man as she sat under a large cross and sang, “Bang, bang, shot you dead.” Blood appeared to splatter on a separate screen on stage.”
Perez Hilton’s hyperbolic, breathless review called Give Ma All You Luvin a high point. “ There was a flying marching band! Literally! Her dancers were suspended high above and bangin' the drums! It was sick! The energy during this two-song segment was OUT OF THIS WORLD! It was definitely the climax of the show and a moment that could not be topped.”
Though he had a few problems with some of the song selection and pacing, overall, he concluded “nobody puts on a show quite like Madonna! No one even comes close!”
ABC News reported that the show was not sold out (although other sources said the 32,000-seat stadium was full, and that in addition to Rocco, Madonna’s oldest daughter Lourdes was also one of the dancers.
As we previously reported, the show also includes a mash-up of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and Lady Gaga sound-a-like “Born This Way.”
Check out our photo gallery of opening night here.
Below is the setlist from opening night, according to Madonnalicious:
“Girl Gone Wild”
“Papa Don’t Preach”
“I Don’t Give A”
“Express Yourself” (Ft. “Born This Way”)
“Give Me All Your Luvin’”
“Turn Up the Radio”
“Open Your Heart”
“Justify My Love”
“Candy Shop”“Erotica / Human Nature”
“Like a Virgin”
“Nobody Knows Me”
“I’m a Sinner”
“Like a Prayer”
Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean come along for the fun
Chris Brown, who seems to be releasing a new video a day now, lobbed another one over the fence yesterday with “Till I Die,” and he brought along friends Wiz Khalifa (seriously, does that dude just hop from one person’s record to the next?) and Big Sean.
Brown certainly likes to take on different personas, and for this one he trades in the smooth lover in “Sweet Love” for an old school rapper complete with gold grill, lots of bling, and an elevator that goes to the 420th floor, where Khalifa and Big Sean are waiting. Once they get outside, they hop into a car commandeered by rapper patron saint Snoop Dogg filled with classy-looking dames. Yeah, we are kidding about that last line, especially since Big Sean talks about seeking women who are “smoking my d**k” and are “ass up, nose down.” Line forms to the left, ladies!!
[More after the jump...]