<p>The cover of J Cole's &quot;Born Sinner&quot;</p>

The cover of J Cole's "Born Sinner"

J Cole's 'Born Sinner' could top Billboard 200 next week

In light sales week, 'Sinner' may jump to No. 1

With Jay-Z’s 1 million Samsung downloads declared ineligible for the Billboard 200, expect J Cole’s “Born Sinner” to possibly ascend to the top of the chart next week.

A full report isn’t available, due to the July 4th holiday, but Billboard predicts that the album, which debuted at No. 2 last week (and stayed there this week), will move to No. 1 in a slow sales week.

“Born Sinner” will likely sell around 60,000 copies to handily beat any of this week’s newcomers, including new albums from Joe, Hillsong and Relient K, as well as topple this week's chart topper: Wale's "The Gifted."

In the Nielsen Soundscan era, albums tend to arrive at No. 1, as opposed to work their way up the chart. Should “Born Sinner” make the climb, it will be the first album since Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” to do so. Mars’ sophomore set rose to No. 1 12 weeks after it initially bowed on the chart at No. 2 in December, according to Billboard.



Read Full Post


Credit: AP

Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta Holy Grail': Track-by-Track Review

Where does the album shine and where does it fall short, other than Samsung fail

Jay-Z lives in such a rarified world that it’s nearly impossible for anyone to relate to what he’s rapping about on “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” whether it’s Art Basel, his Lamborghini, sleeping with Beyonce, on and on and on so there’s an immediate distance from performer and listener on his new set. Or at least it seems that way. However, as one digs deeper, on many of these songs, Jay-Z is contemplating issues that dog all of us, regardless of stature: spirituality, parenthood, and doubt.

The raft of guests and samples (h/t to Rap Genius for helping me ID some of them) is only outnumbered by the endless onslaught of products mentioned in the songs: you could stock a car dealership with the references to Maybachs, Lexuses, Bugattis, Lamborghinis, and more here. And that’s just the start: then there’s the designers, the watches, the liquor...etc., etc., etc. Jay-Z is the ultimate consumer. Forget about the $5 million Jay-Z got paid from Samsung for the privilege to release the album to Samsung users on July 4, several days before the official July 9 street date:  If he got money for every plug, he’d be a billionaire.

And a little bit about the Samsung experience: to download the album you had to agree to be data-mined eight ways ‘til Sunday. Then, the actual experience was extremely frustrating. Often, a song wouldn’t play for no apparent reason. I would have to turn off my phone and turn it back on for the download to work. Not a user friendly experience in the least. Having said that, even coming from my Samsung Galaxy Note, the sonics sounded superior, so I imagine on a great sound system, the album sounds stellar.

Below is a track-by-track rating of the album. My overall grade is a very solid B.

“Holy Grail” (produced by J-Roc, The-Dream & Timbaland):  Justin Timberlake takes the lead on this stirring, dramatic tale of  the fickleness of fame. “I’m the ni**a, caught up in all these lights and cameras/but look what that shit did to Hammer/Goddammit, I like it/The bright lights is enticing,” Jay-Z raps before breaking into an interpolation of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”: “We’re all just entertainers/and we’re stupid, and contagious.”  While it may strike some as biting the hand that feeds, it is one of “MCHG’s” most enticing tracks, in large part due to Timberlake’s ringing falsetto (and the end that recreates the same sonics as Timberlake/Timbaland’s “Mirrors.”)  GRADE: B+

“Picasso Baby” (produced by Adrian Younge, J-Roc & Timbaland): A driving track—with a sample of Adrian Younge’s “Sirens”— that will be remembered for comparing Beyonce to the Mona Lisa, if nothing else, and for the sheer number of painters’ names that Jay-Z drops in the song that shows he has more in common with an Upper East Side society matron than many street rappers. A wicked electric guitar comes in about halfway through to add some meat to the boasts.  GRADE: B-

“Tom Ford” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland): The most interesting part of this song, named after the fashion designer, is the way Jay-Z builds the song around M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” but other than that, and learning that instead of “rocking Molly,” Hova’s drug of choice is Tom Ford, there’s not a lot here other than lots of bragging.  GRADE: C

“F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit” (produced by Boi-1da, Timbaland & Vinylz): Featuring Pimp C and Rick Ross, this cascading track moves the locale from New York to Italy, where world citizen Jay-Z rules with his “Black mob” and their Lamborghini Countach. Pimp C’s intro that ties in his African ancestry where “we originated from kings” with “youngsters” wanting “shiny things” seems a bit of a stretch. Ross’s hook also seems a bit out of place as well on this track that seems like a cut-and-paste job even more so than some rap tracks.  GRADE: C

“Oceans” (produced by Pharrell Williams  & Timbaland): Frank Ocean’s line, “I hope my black skin don’t dirty this white tuxedo before the Basquiat show and if so, well f*ck it,” sums up the album: “MCHG” deals with social issues and what it’s like to be a black man in this world, but it’s through the filter of such an elite view that it’s nearly impossible to relate to. Having said that, with Pharrell and Timbaland at the helm, “Oceans” is a stunning track, with Ocean’s smooth voice playing perfect counterpoint to Jay-Z’s gruffness. Even when Jay-Z is patting himself for crashing through glass ceilings, he’s still aware that all is not well in terms of racial barriers: “Only Christopher we acknowledge is Wallace,” he raps, in a nod to Notorious B.I.G., adding “I don’t even like Washingtons in my pocket.” And then he gets on his yacht...  GRADE: A

“FUTW” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland): This track is all Jay-Z and it’s one of the most socially conscious tracks on the album as he exhorts his African-American brothers to “f*ck up this world,” but in a good way. “America tried to emasculate the greats/Murder Malcolm, gave Cassius the shakes/Wait, tell them rumble young man rumble/try to dim your lights/tell you to be humble/you know I’m gon shine like a trillion watts...” later adding, “it’s our time now.”  If only he measured that success in more than money and Maybachs... GRADE: B-

“Somewhere In America” (produced by Hit-Boy & Mike Dean): A bouncy track, via a sample of Jimmy Norman’s “Gangster of Love (Part 1), which, itself, comes from Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s “Gangster of Love.” While most notable for Jay-Z’s call for Miley Cyrus to keep “twerking,” the horns and piano and the message about infiltrating neighborhoods previously closed to him dominates. (Jay-Z: it’s called nouveau riche and you’re not the first one). GRADE: B

“Crown” (produced by Mike Dean, Travis Scott & WondaGurl): One of “MCHG’s” most atmospheric tracks, built around a sample of Sizzla’s “Solid As A Rock,” Jay-Z takes on mega-sports agent Scott Boras here, declaring he’s “over, baby,” while bragging about snagging New York Yankee Robinson Cano as one of the first clients for Hova’s new sports agency. (Really? Is taking on fellow sports agents going to be your new beef?). Travis Scott delivers the hook, which is all about “ni**as” trying to keep him down. So by this point, halfway through the album, Jay-Z has complained about how everyone is trying to knock him to his knees, but like a phoenix, he keeps rising...again and again. “See my name come across on CNN/‘Bout 6 minutes, you gonna see it again.”  GRADE: B-

“Heaven” (produced by J-Roc, The-Dream & Timbaland): Lyrically, one of “MCHG’s”strongest tracks as Jay-Z questions all kinds of authority, whether it be power, religion, or other people. He even quotes R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” Musically, the track’s high point is a sweet, angelic voice (uncredited, but believed to be Justin Timberlake) singing a hook “Have You Ever Been To Heaven?” over and over,  juxtaposed against his questioning. GRADE: B

“Versus” (produced by Timbaland): A brief palate cleanser in the middle of the album built around a kicky, retro sample and another chance for Jay-Z to boast that he’s all that and you are not. GRADE: C

“Part II (On The Run)” (produce by J-Roc and Timbaland): A sequel of sorts to “’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” “On The Run” is a dreamy embellished story of their love and all that matters is that they are with each other. “I will hold your heart and your gun,” Beyonce declares as she vows fealty to her man. Jay-Z compares her prettiness to that of his Mercedes and promises that their matching tatts will never come off, even if the rings do. In a world that often celebrates being a playa, it’s a sweet song about their love and devotion to each other with a stellar, soulful performance by Bey. GRADE: B

“Beach Is Better” (produced by Mike Will Made It): Another interlude dogging on a woman for taking so long to get ready —and that she better look as good as Halle Berry or Beyonce —as well as some riffing on spending mad money. Totally non-essential, but Jay-Z sounds great. GRADE: C

“BBC” (produced by Pharrell Williams & Timbaland): An intricate track and one of the album’s most infectious, due to a repetitive pop keyboard loop, and the energy that comes from having Beyonce, Justin Timberlake and former frenemy Nas all blending together in a mish-mash of sonics. The lyrics, some of them in Japanese, and all the name-dropping are totally irrelevant, even the “Britney, bitch” line. This is all about the groove and feel. And it feels great.  There will be some fantastic remixes from this one. GRADE: A

Jay Z Blue” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland):
Faye Dunaway’s rant from “Mommie Dearest” opens this, and the song even drops in the infamous “No wire hangers ever!” line in this track that shows Jay-Z featuring his doubts about his ability to be a good father, especially given that “my father never taught me how to be a father,” and that, by his own admission, his flight instinct still kicks in sometimes. At the same time, he is clearly so smitten with Blue Ivy. “Nothing could prepare us/for the beauty that you be Blue be.” The song samples Notorious B.I.G.’s “My Downfall.” GRADE: B+

“La Familia” (produced by J-Roc & Timbaland): Uneven track with an interesting off-kilter delivery from Jay-Z that, ostensibly, celebrates family, in all its forms, but ultimately goes nowhere.  GRADE: C

“Nickels And Dimes” (produced by Mike Dean):
Built around a sample of Gonjasufi’s “Nikels and Dimes,” the closing track is a woozy, autobiographical exploration inside Jay-Z’s mind that references Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” filtered through Johnny Cash. Jay Z’s in a contemplative mood as he once again questions fame (bringing the album full circle) and what it means to come from poverty and make it to millionaire. He has “survivor’s guilt,” and wonders if giving to some who is only going to use the money to get high makes him part of the problem instead of the solution. It’s a reflective, deep way to end this chapter of his life (plus, check out the Lady Gaga veiled reference and the dig at Harry Belafonte).  GRADE: A


Read Full Post
Listen: Jay-Z's 'Holy Grail' with Justin Timberlake and Nirvana tribute

Listen: Jay-Z's 'Holy Grail' with Justin Timberlake and Nirvana tribute

Track from 'Magna Carta Holy Grail' interpolates 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'

Happy Fourth of July!

We'll have a full review of Jay-Z's "Magna Carta Holy Grail," but until then, enjoy half of the title track, "Holy Grail," featuring Justin Timberlake.  Actually, the song way more than 'features' Timberlake. The first verse is his and the third, as he laments "I just can't crack ya code/One day screaming you love me/the next day you're so cold...and I still don't know why I love you so much."

While it sounds like it may be about a woman, upon closer listen, it seems to be about fame, as the two address how fickle a mistress fame is and how it's cut down many a man, including MC Hammer and Mike Tyson, both of whom are namechecked.

Jay-Z also drops Kurt Cobain's name before he and Timberlake go into a "Smells Like Teen Spirit." 

Timberlake sounds fantastic and you'll also recognize Timbaland's  touch on this one (especially at the end when it uses the same sound effects as "Mirrors." Damn if it's not a better vocal performance than almost anything on "The 20/20 Experience." 

What do you think? 


Read Full Post
Watch: Justin Timberlake's new NSFW video for 'Tunnel Vision'
Credit: RCA Records

Watch: Justin Timberlake's new NSFW video for 'Tunnel Vision'

Topless women gracefully glide through the 7-minute clip

Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke not only share a fierce falsetto, they now share a penchant for putting topless women in their videos.

Timberlake just dropped, very quietly, a NSFW, 7-minute video for “Tunnel Vision,” a track from “The 20/20 Experience,” this year’s biggest-selling album.

[More after the jump...]

 Unlike Thicke’s clip for “Blurred Lines,” Timberlake never interacts with the three nude women here, who maneuver through a bevy of modern dance moves either completely nude or with g-strings on. Instead, he’s dancing with himself in front of a white or grey screen crooning about how he has tunnel vision the minute his love walks into the room. Toward the end of the video he’s joined by his buddy, producer Timbaland, in some silhouette shots.

The whole thing seems rather tastefully and gently lit, with the women going through a number of graceful moves.

What do you think of “Tunnel Vision?”

Read Full Post
<p>Justin Timberlake</p>

Justin Timberlake

Credit: Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP

Justin Timberlake and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lead 2013 sales

Halfway through, who are the year's other big sellers?

Only one album has sold more than a million copies half-way through 2013 and that album is Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience.”

While the biggest-selling album of 2013, so far, belongs to JT, the top-selling single honors go to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” featuring Wanz, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“The 20/20 Experience” has sold 2 million copies, while “Thrift Shop” has shifted 5.6 million units. This marks only the second year in SoundScan’s 22-year history that only one album had hit the million milestone in the first six months. The last time it happened? Last year...

The top 5 selling albums of 2013 so far are, in addition to “The 20/20 Experience,” Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” (985,000), Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” (884,000), Blake Shelton’s “Based On A True Story...” (703,000) and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions” (692,000).  See Top 20 chart here.

The numbers only signify the copies sold since Jan. 1, 2013 but not the cumulative for an album that was released before then (for example, “Babel’s” tally since its release is 2.4 million).

Following “Thrift Shop,” the top-selling singles are Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason,” featuring Nate Ruess (3.5 million); Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” (3.4 million), Rihanna’s “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko (3.3 million), and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” (3.2 million).  See Top 20 chart here.

Album sales are down 6% over this time last year, while digital track sales fell  by 2%, according to Billboard.

Read Full Post


Credit: AP Photo

Fun. contemplates return to studio for follow-up to 'Some Nights'

But first comes headlining U.S. tour

Fun. is thinking about its next album, but before the trio follows up “Some Nights,” it has several nights to spend on the road.

“‘Some Nights’ was written and recorded in a two-month time period, and I think that’s one of the elements that made it successful as an album,” guitarist Jack Antonoff told Billboard. “It should be a documentation of a band in a moment, not a giant, three-year process. So the next album will be the same.”

Before the “We Are Young” group goes back into the studio, the band will be on tour throughout the rest of the summer. Its headlining Most Nights Summer Tour starts July 6 in Toronto.  Antonoff calls the outing “equal parts victory lap and a bridge to the next record.”

For now, Antonoff says there are “hints of a game plan” for the group’s third set, but nothing concrete. “I assume some time at the beginning of next year we’d like to be in the studio, but that all depends on when the feeling hits and when we have a concept that’s worthy,” he says. “Until then, we have the parameters of what the album really is, it’s hard to hone in on them and work specifically on it, and we’re not there yet.”

In the meantime, the band is working “Why Am I The One,” the fourth single from “Some Nights.”

Read Full Post
<p>Robin Thicke</p>

Robin Thicke

Credit: AP Photo

Listen to Robin Thicke's new song, 'Give It 2 You' with Kendrick Lamar

Sample tracks from the full 'Blurred Lines' album

With “Blurred Lines” still in residence at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, Robin Thicke has released a second song from his forthcoming album... and his obsession with his male member continues.

“Give It 2 You,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, is another booty call, though unlike the Marvin Gaye/Prince-influenced “Blurred Lines,” “Give” relies more on an electronic dance bed rather than ‘70s soul.

[More after the jump...]


Read Full Post
<p>Robin Thicke</p>

Robin Thicke

Credit: AP Photo

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' makes it 4 weeks atop Billboard Hot 100

Thicke continues to block Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' out of the top spot

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell holds at No. 1 for the fourth week on the Billboard Hot 100, but that’s not where the good news ends: the song also becomes the first in six months to sell in excess of 400,000 downloads in successive weeks.

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell holds at No. 2 (making it another in the long list of very popular songs that gets locked out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100).

Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” refuses to stop in its march up the charts, as it rises 5-3 to make it Cyrus’s second-biggest Hot 100 hit behind 2009’s “Party In the U.S.A.,” which peaked at No. 2, according to Billboard.

Imagine Dragon’ “Radioactive” slips 3-4, while Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us,” featuring Ray Dalton creeps back up into the Top 5, inching 6-5.

In a week that sees no newbies entering the Top 10, Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” featuring Nelly, drives down two, 4-6. Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” holds at No. 7, as does Bruno Mars’ “Treasure” at No. 8.  Selena Gomez’s” Come & Get It” stays at No. 9 and Ariana Grande’s “The Way,” featuring Mac Miller,” rebounds into the Top 10, rising 11-10, one spot shy of its No. 9 peak.

Read Full Post
<p>Justin Bieber: Angel or a 'witch?'</p>

Justin Bieber: Angel or a 'witch?'

Justin Bieber's new music will end 'witch hunt,' says manager Scooter Braun

When will we get new single 'Heartbreaker?'

Did you know that there’s a witch hunt going on against Justin Bieber. Uh huh, that’s right. According to his manager, Scooter Braun, once Bieber drops the new single, “Heartbreaker,” all the crazy talk will stop.

“We’re hoping the witch hunt’s gonna end when he just speaks for himself in the music,” Braun told MTV News. Of course, that begs the question, was he speaking for someone else before in his other singles?

Yes, Bieber has found himself in the news on a regular basis lately for everything but his music, whether it was for pot found on his tour bus or his abandoning his monkey in Germany or for a pro athlete threatening to tackle him if he doesn’t drive slower through their gated community or for hitting a paparazzo.

No specific word yet on when the single will drop and the witch hunt will be over. Bieber teased that the song was “coming soon,” last month on Twitter, but now it sounds like it may be closer to the end of the year.

Braun and Bieber have been talking about the Bieb’s “music journal,” but have yet to reveal how that differs from an album, although Braun hints to MTV that the distribution mechanism may be very different than the traditional means of delivery: “People and fans should be very excited for the end of this year because he's just written so many songs on the road,” Braun says. “And we decided there needs to be a way to release these songs in a different way than the normal album and be able to allow him to express himself in music while dealing with so many different bullsh-- stories every single day."

Furthermore, Braun says, “When you see 'Heartbreaker,' know it's coming directly from him and don't think [of] the normal 'Oh this is my single and this is going to be on the album' [rollout]. Realize there's gonna be a very unique way of how this music is going to be released unlike we've seen before from him."

More to be revealed later. Maybe he’s coming house to house to deliver the song to each of us personally.

Read Full Post
Janelle Monae lets her hair down in new video for 'Dance Apocalyptic'

Janelle Monae lets her hair down in new video for 'Dance Apocalyptic'

She's partying like it's 2099 in the stylish clip

Janelle Monae lets her hair down, literally, in the video for “Dance Apocalyptic,” the new track from her Sept. 10 release, “The Electric Lady.” 

She sheds her usual top-knot/up-do because if you can’t let loose when the end of the world is coming, well, when can you? With her tresses down and dressed in a white outfit that’s much funkier and less formal than her normal black and white get-up, she boogies her way through the impending end days with her all female band, as she cavorts to the jumpin', jivin' tune. Think she's not powerful? Think again. As the emcee warns us, she's so powerful, she knocked a man out with her eyelashes.

[More after the jump...]


Read Full Post