<p>Kendrick Lamar in &quot;Swimming Pools&quot;</p>

Kendrick Lamar in "Swimming Pools"

Countdown to MTV's Video Music Awards: Best Hip-Hop Video

Drake and Kendrick Lamar compete against themselves in strong category

As MTV’s 2013 Video Music Awards approach, we’ll countdown to the Aug. 25 ceremony, which airs live at 9 p.m. ET from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Justin Timberlake and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lead the nominations with six each, closely followed by Bruno Mars, Pink, Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus and Thirty Seconds To Mars.

Among the artists performing on the show are Lady Gaga, who will open the awards; Timberlake (with a rumored ‘N Sync reunion), Mars, and Cyrus.

We’ll look at a different category each day leading up to Aug. 25.

Best Hip Hop Video

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, "Can't Hold Us"
Drake, "Started From The Bottom"
Kendrick Lamar, "Swimming Pools (Drank)"
A$AP Rocky feat. Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, "F--kin' Problems"
J. Cole feat. Miguel, "Power Trip"

With its explorer theme, “Can’t Hold Us” is certainly the most ambitious of the five clips, and also the most uplifting. “Swimming Pools” is the most emotional. The gritty clip for “Power Trip” has a body count. “Started From The Bottom” is the funniest, and A$AP has the most booty, but is the least ambitious.

Who should win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us”
Who will win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis f. Ray Dalton,”Can’t Hold Us”

Previous Predictions:

Best Pop Video
Best Female Video
Best Male Video


 

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<p>Selena Gomez's &quot;Come and Get It&quot;</p>

Selena Gomez's "Come and Get It"

Credit: Hollywood Records

Countdown to MTV's Video Music Awards: Best Pop Video

It's a close race between Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez

As MTV’s 2013 Video Music Awards approach, we’ll countdown to the Aug. 25 ceremony, which airs live at 9 p.m. ET from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Justin Timberlake and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lead the nominations with six each, closely followed by Bruno Mars, Pink, Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus and Thirty Seconds To Mars.

Among the artists performing on the show are Lady Gaga, who will open the awards; Timberlake (with a rumored ‘N Sync reunion), Mars, and Cyrus.

We’ll look at a different category each day leading up to Aug. 25.

Best Pop Video

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"
Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors"
Fun., "Carry On"
Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop"
Selena Gomez, "Come and Get It"

This is a race between Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” and Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” and given that it’s a fan-voted award, Cyrus’s fans will probably be the more active voters.  “Mirrors” is the most artistic of the group, Cyrus’s is the weirdest.  Fun.’s “Carry On” does a great job of setting the inspirational mood of the song and blends performance and story, but the band’s voters probably won’t come out en masse. Bruno Mars captures just the right energy for the retro “Locked Out Of Heaven.” Selena Gomez is the dark horse here- her fan base could coalesce to push “Come and Get It” to the top spot. It’s a beautifully shot clip with lush fields and lots of fashion changes.

Who Should Win: Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
Who Will Win: Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop”

Past Predictions

Best Female Video
Best Male Video



 

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What if the Dixie Chicks hadn't insulted George Bush from a London stage?
Credit: The Weinstein Company

What if the Dixie Chicks hadn't insulted George Bush from a London stage?

Would they still be burning up the country charts?

This week HitFix is revisiting some of the key turning points in recent entertainment history and considering what would have happened if history had turned a bit differently. What if...?

In 2003, The Dixie Chicks were on top of the country world, garnering airplay and selling out venues around the world for their tight, strong melodies, lead by Natalie Maines’ strikingly strong, compelling vocals. They were a new breed of country star: completely contemporary and modern. They appreciated the past, but had no desire to revisit it.

Then, while on tour in London in March 2003, as the U.S. was preparing to invade Iraq, under President George W. Bush’s command,  Maines looked out at the audience and said, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

Quicker than you can say “weapons of mass destruction,” country radio retaliated, dropping the Chicks’ music and angry Americans burned their albums.

Two days later, Maines followed up by saying that she felt that President Bush was ignoring the opinion of many Americans. Four days after the initial comment, she issued a half-hearted apology, saying, “As a concerned American citizen, I apologize to President Bush because my remark was disrespectful.” She went on to say that she wanted to see every viable option explored before the U.S. went to war, but the apology was too little too late.

What if Natalie Maines had never dissed President Bush  from the London stage?

Three things that might not have happened:


1. Country music wouldn’t be drowning in tired, hackneyed tropes about pick-up trucks, girls in short skirts and cowboy boots, and tractors. The Dixie Chicks brought a certain sophistication to country music. Their music was awash in country instrumentation—fiddles, mandolins, banjos —but their lyrical approach was fresh and innovative, adding a spunky  twist to  topics such as domestic abuse (“Goodbye Earl”) escaping a bad marriage (“Sin Wagon”), or just the need to break away from home (“Wide Open Spaces”).

2. The Dixie Chicks wouldn’t have appeared nude on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. As part of their publicity campaign to explain their political position, Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison posed nude for the cover of the magazine with words such as “Traitor,” “Hero,” “Brave” and “Free Speech” on their bodies.

3. The Dixie Chicks wouldn’t have swept the 2007 Grammys. Yes, the trio’s “Taking The Long Way” was a strong effort, but the five trophies, including album of the year, and record of the year for “Not Ready To Make Nice,” were as much a statement of solidarity by the music community as it was an acknowledgement of creative achievement.

Three things we predict might have happened:


1. They would have continued to make great records. In many ways, it felt like the Chicks were just hitting their stride and finding their voice. Instead, after the 2006 “Taking the Long Way” album and “Shut Up and Sing” documentary, they retreated to lick their wounds and have only occasionally played gigs.

2. Both Maines and her band mates, siblings Maguire and Robison would have also had solo careers run parallel to the Chicks. We probably still would have gotten the two excellent Courtyard Hounds sets, as well as Maines’ rock album, “Mother.”

3. Country music would have embraced more outspoken female artists. To an extent that has happened with Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves, but way too many country females still tend to play it safe, content to not stir the pot.

Did history work out for the best?

No. In terms of their commercial career, the Dixie Chicks plunged off a cliff. As “Shut Up & Sing,”  the documentary about their fall,  chronicles, they received death threats and the public has been very slow to forgive her words, even though other artists have made far more incendiary comments. While they seem to be touring more —the trio just announced a slate of Canadian dates for late summer and early fall— they are a voice that is severely missed.

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<p>Katy Perry at the 'Smurfs 2' premiere.</p>

Katy Perry at the 'Smurfs 2' premiere.

Credit: AP Photo

Does Katy Perry 'Roar' into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 over 'Blurred Lines?'

Where does Lady Gaga's 'Applause' land?

Katy Perry’s “Roar” may be loud, but it’s not quite ferocious enough to topple Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” featuring T.I. and Pharrell, which stays atop the Billboard Hot 100 for an 11th week.

Perry’s “Roar” still make an impressive leap, jumping 85-2 in its second week on the charts. That’s the largest leap for a song since Drake’s “Make Me Proud,” featuring Nicki Minaj, soared 97-9 in November 2011. While “Roar” is getting plenty of airplay, the digital sales are what propelling the tune: “Roar” sold 557,000 this week, a career high for Perry, according to Billboard.

“Roar” pushes Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” down 2-3, which inches Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” down one spot, 3-4.

Jay Z’s “Holy Grail,” featuring Justin Timberlake, holds at No. 5. Perry’s fellow pop diva, Lady Gaga, also zooms into the top 10, bowing at No. 6 with “Applause.” It moves to No. 1 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Songs chart.

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” destined to be locked out of the top spot, continues to fall, slipping 4-7. Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” move 7-8, Anna Kendrick’s “Cups” 6-9 and Capital Cities’ “Safe and Sound” 9-10.

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<p>Miley Cyrus's &quot;We Can't Stop&quot;</p>

Miley Cyrus's "We Can't Stop"

Credit: RCA Records

Countdown to MTV's Video Music Awards: Best Female Video

Can anyone beat Miley Cyrus' unstoppable 'We Can't Stop?'

As MTV’s 2013 Video Music Awards approach, we’ll countdown to the Aug. 25 ceremony, which airs live at 9 p.m. ET from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

Justin Timberlake and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lead the nominations with six each, closely followed by Bruno Mars, Pink, Robin Thicke, Miley Cyrus and Thirty Seconds To Mars.

Among the artists performing on the show are Lady Gaga, who will open the awards; Timberlake, Mars, and Cyrus.

We’ll look at a different category each day leading up to Aug. 25.

Best Female Video
Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko, "Stay"
Taylor Swift, "I Knew You Were Trouble"
Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop" 
Pink feat. Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me A Reason"
Demi Lovato, "Heart Attack"


We can pretend for a hot minute that anything other than Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” will win here, but her wacky video is a shoo-in. Remember, it’s a fan voted away and the clip has already garnered close to 150 million page views on Vevo in two months. But for the sake of argument: Rihanna lets her vulnerability, and a lot more, show in her clip for “Stay.”  She spends most of it sitting naked in a tub, until Mikky Ekko comes into the same bathroom with Rihanna no longer there.  It’s beautifully shot, but there’s not a lot more to it than that. Not that there needs to be. Pretty much the same thing with Pink’s video for “Just Give Me A Reason”: nice and emotional (this time on a floating bed instead of in a bath) but not strong enough to topple Cyrus. Like Rihanna, Demi Lovato shows herself with very little make-up, which signifies vulnerability, in “Heart Attack,” which is a glorified performance clip with some very cool effects. On “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Taylor Swift wakes up lying on the cold ground from a most un-Swift-like rave. It’s a bit of a change of pace for Swift who takes off with the bad boy after a long voice over and dabbles in dubstep. Not her best, though admittedly intriguing.

Who Should Win: Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop”
Who Will Win: Miley Cyrus: We Can’t Stop”
 

PREVIOUS PREDICTIONS

Best Male Video

 

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<p>Britney Spears</p>

Britney Spears

Credit: AP Photo

Britney Spears starts countdown clock on her website: To new single? Vegas dates?

Watch for an announcement on Sept. 17

Heads up, Britney Spears fans. Something Britney this way comes on Sept. 17.

Spears posted a countdown clock on her website today with the words “Britney Spears” and “All Eyes On Me” with the clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to some big event.

Is it a new single? A new album? Her long-awaited Las Vegas residency a Planet Hollywood?

We know that Spears has been working on a new album. She’s talked about it plenty without really saying anything in that Spears-ian way of hers.

She’s collaborating with William Orbit, Naughty Boy, and will.i.am, who is the executive producer for her eighth studio set.

Spears told Ryan Seacrest in June, “Will has a lot of really interesting different tracks that I've listened to that are really cool that I haven't actually written on yet, but there's a lot of guitar and I think people will be surprised with this album. It's gong to be really different."

Given that Spears says she and will.i.am were in the “beginning stages” in June, it seems unlikely that Sept. 17 will signal an album release. Maybe it’s more news about a potential album release. We will add, however, that albums drop on Tuesdays and Sept. 17 is  a Tuesday.

As far as “All Eyes On Me,” an eagle-eyed commenter on Billboard.com, noted that the phrase appears in the words to Spears’ song, “Circus.” I’m not really sure there’s anything to be made from that, but there you go.
What do you think will happen on Sept. 17?
 

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Watch: Avril Lavigne's new video for 'Rock N Roll'

Watch: Avril Lavigne's new video for 'Rock N Roll'

HitFix
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More Bearshark, please

If the Sony product placement at the very beginning of Avril Lavigne’s video for her new song, “Rock N Roll,” doesn’t stop you in your tracks, her stilted acting will.

Lavigne plays a comic book bad-ass come to life in a post-apocalyptic world. Call her "Mad Avril," if you will. Lavigne may be a lot of things—including a spunky, strong singer— but an actress is not one of them. It’s almost painful to watch her try to emote her way through her tough-girl antics.

[More after the jump...]

 

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<p>'N Sync</p>

'N Sync

6 Things We'd Love To See at 'N Sync's VMA reunion this Sunday

How about a little mash-up of 'Mirrors' and 'This I Promise You?'

Following the New York Post’s report that ‘N Sync will reunite at MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday (Aug. 25), speculation is running rampant about the boy band’s first performance together in 10 years.

MTV isn’t confirming, but the Post presents the news as fact (not that that makes it true), but Timberlake has already been announced as a performer (and recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award), so it would seem a cinch to get his former bandmates, J.C. Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone, and Chris Kirkpatrick to join him.

The NY Post adds fuel to the fire by noting that the foursome were all at Timberlake and Jay Z’s Aug. 16 performance in Miami. What a perfect time to rehearse, right?  (On a separate note, we saw Fatone Aug. 15 in “Celebrity Autobiography” in Los Angeles — a show where actors read aloud from other celebrities’ autobiographies—and he was hilarious. Great comedic timing).

If the reunion is true, we hope it’s got more teeth than the Destiny’s Child Super Bowl reunion earlier this year.
Here are our six suggestions:

1. ‘N Sync covers Timberlake’s “Sexyback” with their trademark robotic dance moves, then segues into Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” with their beautiful harmonies. Or 'N Sync's "Gone" into "River" works.

2. The group recreates their  “Bye Bye Bye” video, complete with their performance as marionettes on a string and Chris Kirkpatrick’s bright orange jacket and the anti-gravity moves.

3. The boys perform a mash-up of “Mirrors” and “This I Promise You.” They’re both about finding a lasting love, right?

4. They are brave enough to come out with their hair styles from the “I Drive Myself Crazy” era. If you have scrubbed that from your brain, Chris Kirkpatrick was sporting the helicopter dreads on tops of his head (what was he thinking) and both Lance Bass and Justin Timberlake’s hair was so platinum blond it glowed in the dark.

5. They salute boy bands from the past, including the Jackson 5 (They could go from J5’s “I Want You Back” into their same-titled song) and New Kids on The Block’s “Step By Step.”

6. ‘N Sync starts with their own tune and then calls up the members of One Direction to officially pass the boy band torch, ending the performance with “Best Song Ever.”

 What do you want to see? 

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Album Review: John Mayer's 'Paradise Valley' features a mature Mayer, Katy Perry and Frank Ocean
Credit: Sony Music

Album Review: John Mayer's 'Paradise Valley' features a mature Mayer, Katy Perry and Frank Ocean

HitFix
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It's a graceful, heartfelt, musical ride

Whether it was life slapping him around a bit, his lengthy recovery from his vocal surgery, or just a general maturing, over the course of 2012’s excellent, underrated “Born and Raised” and “Paradise Valley,” John Mayer’s sturdy new album out today, Mayer has found his voice again. And a confidence that he never previously possessed.

Even though Mayer is only 35, he’s developed an old soul. He’s talked in interviews about not really fitting in at mainstream radio anymore and that may be true, but his former pop sheen has been replaced with something that sounds a lot like career longevity.

Almost everything on “Paradise Valley” has an unrushed, pleasing, timeless feel to it that never sounds forced. It’s tempting to use the word tasteful, if it weren’t now a polite synonym for boring and bland, which “Paradise Valley” is absolutely not.

Don Was, who produced “Born And Raised” and co-produces with Mayer here, has created an intimacy that feels as if Mayer is playing in your living room. His vocals and his guitars are closely miked and there’s a lot of air around the notes. Just as the recording sounds unhurried, it also sounds blessedly uncrowded, a rarity these days. Most songs have wide open spaces to let the notes breathe and let the excellent musicianship shine through. 

Mayer has always had a ear tuned toward country and he lets it flourish on “You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down,” a Randy Newman-like amusing, yet pointed, look at love gone sour with an extremely pliant pedal steel solo by the master, Paul Franklin, as well as Chet Atkins-type playing by Mayer.

Franklin returns for another of “Paradise Valley’s” finest tracks, “Dear Marie,” a swaying, chugging country cut about looking up a lost love. “From time to time, I go looking for your photograph online/some kind of judge in Ohio is all I find,” Mayer sings. There’s a simple beauty and truth to the track.

The piano ballad, “I Will Be Lost (At Sea),” has a sure touch, anchored by Chuck Leavell’s gorgeous keyboards, and lyrically, it speaks of a certain redemption no matter how rough the water. It feels like that redemption may be here now for Mayer.

If you need more proof that this is not your Mayer of yore, he’s looking for longtime love on “Waitin’ On The Day,” a gentle ode to fidelity that is as far from “Your Body Is A Wonderland” as possible. Similarly, on the lilting “Who You Love,” featuring his current girlfriend and co-writer Katy Perry, Mayer and Perry address the joy of falling in love with someone when you least expect it. It’s sweet and deliberately non-showy, although Perry's giggle at the end is a little twee. Perry’s not the only love interest referenced here: first single, “Paper Doll” (with its of-the-moment Prancercising video) is rumored to be about Taylor Swift.

Other than Perry, the other high-wattage guest is Frank Ocean on “Wildfire,” a 88-second emotional track with Ocean on lead about a suicidal friend. A second “Wildfire” serves as Mayer’s response to Ocean’s song.

Mayer wrote all the tracks here except for Ocean’s “Wildfire,” and a southern fried cover of  the late JJ Cale’s “Call Me The Breeze,” which just drops off as if it were a first take. Like most of the songs here, Mayer’s clean, crisp guitar playing is surrounded with the lightest of accompaniment: drums, bass and keyboard. When the players are as accomplished as these, no further embellishment is needed.

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<p>The Foo Fighters</p>

The Foo Fighters

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Foo Fighters done writing new album, head back to studio in early 2014

Dave Grohl reveals why he won't listen to Nirvana's 'In Utero'

The next album from the Foo Fighters is already written and fans can expect to hear it in 2014.

After telling Hitfix at South X Southwest in March that the new set was in the “very earliest stages,” head Foo Dave Grohl told London radio station XM a few days ago that progress has definitely been made: "We have been in our studio writing and in the past few weeks we've written an album, and we are going to make this album in a way that no one's ever done before and we're pretty excited about it," he's quoted as saying. "It's a little ways off — it's not ready to happen right now, but I think next year is going to be a really big year for the Foo Fighters without question." 

It’s hard to imagine that there’s a new way to make an album: the Foos have recorded live, analog, digital, in a garage, in a home studio, in a professional studio... how many other options are there?

In case you needed further confirmation, Foo guitarist Chris Shiflett told Rolling Stone over the weekend, before a Chris Shiflett and the Dead Peasants show in San Luis Obispo, Calif., the band is already playing together again. “”We actually just started making a new Foo Fighters record within the last few weeks,” he said. “We’ve started rehearsing...we’re going to start recording the new Foo Fighters record at the beginning of next year.”

All this news comes a year after Grohl said the Foo Fighters wouldn’t play again for a “long time,” but maybe he means there will be no tour behind the next album or maybe, thankfully, “long time” means something different to Grohl than to the rest of us. He completely dodges the rumor of some small Foo Fighter gigs in the U.K. next year in the XM interview.

Regardless, even Shiflett is surprised the band is coming back together so soon. “I knew we weren’t done,” he says about Grohl’s “long time” comments, “but I just thought it’d be a little longer. But whatever —it’s good. It’s good getting back to work.”  The album will be the group's first since 2011's "Wasting Light."

In the XM interview, Grohl also talks about the release of 20th anniversary, 70-track deluxe re-release of Nirvana’s “In Utero," out Sept. 24. “It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by,” he says, admitting that so much of the past two decades feels like a “blur.” He's most excited for fans to hear some improv tunes in Brazil.  "Whenever I hear that, it really reminds me what it was like to be in Nirvana," he says. "I don't like listening to In 'Utero,'" he says with a bittersweet laugh. "It's too real. We hit record and we managed to honestly capture the emotional state of the band and it was a weird time for us. It was dark. It was kind of a little too real. It's the most honest recording I've ever made in my entire life." He calls it "heartbreaking" that they aren't making music anymore, following Cobain's 1994 death.

He also jokes about taking his kids to Nirvana’s exhibit at Seattle’s Experience Music Project. “They really couldn’t care,” he laughed.

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