<p>Macklemore and Ryan Lewis</p>

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis top Billboard Hot 100 for fifth week

Robin Thicke scores his first Top 10 hit

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us” featuring Ray Dalton continues its winning streak at No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 as the song spends its fifth week in the pole position.

The song’s title could also apply to Robin Thicke, who lands his first Hot 100 Top 10 with “Blurred Lines,” featuring T.I. and Pharrell. The song soars 11-6 and is the only new entry into the Top 10, according to Billboard.

Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” reaches a new height, rising 3-2, as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell also ascends one spot to No. 3.

Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason,” featuring Nate Ruess, drops 2-4, while Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” featuring Nelly, stays at No. 5.

Following Thicke at No. 6 is Selena Gomez’s “Come & Get It,” which falls 6-7; Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” which rises 9-8, Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” featuring Charli XCX, down two to No. 9 and Rihanna’s “Stay,” featuring Mikky Ekko at No. 10.

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<p>Mariah Carey</p>

Mariah Carey

Credit: AP Photo

Mariah Carey's new album comes out July 23

Will the new set be 'Triumphant' and 'Beautiful?'

Nearly a year after the release of the first single and a full season of “American Idol” later, Mariah Carey’s 14th studio album looks like it finally has a street day: July 23.

Shortly after noon, Carey tweeted “The New Era Begins...7/23 #MC723.”  Expect to see that hashtag a lot over the next several weeks as the campaign unspools.

As you’ll recall, Carey put out “Triumphant (Get ‘Em)” last August, her first new single in more than two years. Carey’s label positioned the tune as the first cut from her forthcoming album, “whose release will be announced in the months ahead.”  Twelve, to be exact.

When the single underperformed at radio (though it was a dance hit), word about any impending album release waned, which is a shame given that meant losing precious promotional tie-ins via her weekly national platform as an  “American Idol” judge.

However, Carey’s current single, “#Beautiful” featuring Miguel arrived just in time to take advantage of “American Idol,” with the diva performing it on the season finale, as well as on “Good Morning America”  (In the interim, Carey also released “Almost Home,” featured in the film “Oz The Great And Powerful” in February.”)

The new album will be her first new studio set since 2009’s  “Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel.”  Carey told Billboard that the new project features “more raw ballads than people might expect.” Producers include Jermaine Dupri, Bryan-Michael Cox, Big Jim Wright, Hit-Boy, The-Dream, Rodney Jerkins, and Mike Will.

Upcoming performances for Carey include appearing on NBC’s “Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular,” hosted by her husband, Nick Cannon, on July 4, and also featuring Tim McGraw.

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<p>&nbsp;'20 Feet From Stardom'</p>

 '20 Feet From Stardom'

Credit: Tremelo Productions

Review: 'Twenty Feet From Stardom' puts back-up singers in the spotlight

Meet some of the greatest voices you've ever heard

In “Twenty Feet From Stardom,” back-up singers step out of the shadows into the spotlight. It’s an illuminating, if not totally satisfactory, look at their lives on and off stage.

The Morgan Neville-directed documentary, which premiered at Sundance this January and opens in theaters June 14, takes a look at the history of the modern back-up singer and what it is like to live life in proximity of fame.

Just like the underscore in a movie, great backing vocals are often integral to the finished product, but the listener’s mind doesn’t consciously register them until they are stripped away and emptiness remains. Think about Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” and how it would sound without the “Doo do doo, doo do doo doo do doo,” or the wailing refrain of “rape, murder, it’s just a shot away” during The Rolling Stones’  “Gimme Shelter”  or “Hit The Road Jack” by Ray Charles.

In the late ‘50s/early ‘60s, as rock and roll blossomed, back-up singers transitioned from the polite, demure vocals sung by bland white girls to the gritty, full-throated singing made famous on Phil Spector’s productions. 

The story really starts with Darlene Love, lead singer of the Blossoms, and one of the all time great cautionary tales in music. Love was repeatedly screwed over by Spector, who would use her vocals, most notably on “He’s A Rebel,” but credit the song to his latest girl group (in that case, The Crystals), who would then lip sync the song. She could never get out from under his thumb. She eventually working as a maid, until in a Cinderella moment, she was cleaning a house when her signature song,  “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” came on the radio and she knew she had to go back to singing even if it broke her heart again. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, a grand acknowledgement of her accomplishments that had been long denied.

That lineage goes through other greats such as Merry Clayton, Claudia Lennear, Lisa Fischer and several others up to Judith Hill, a contestant on “The Voice” this season. Hill sang back up for Michael Jackson on the ill-fated “This Is It” tour and became a break-out star after singing at his memorial service. Eager to make it as a lead singer, Hill’s efforts to transition from the background to the foreground, in a story whose ending has yet to be written, frame much of the film.

If history serves as an example, Hill has a hard row to hoe. Few make it to the front lines with any great success, in part because they may possess great voices,  but they don’t play instruments or write their own songs and aren’t self-contained artists.  Sheryl Crow and Luther Vandross are the notable exceptions in the film who went from support to main attraction. While there’s no footage of Crow singing back-up for Michael Jackson with hair as high as heaven, there is magnificent film of Vandross singing backing vocals for David Bowie on “Young Americans” in 1973 as well as footage of Vandross, then a star, working with his backing vocalists: his nebulous instruction to them: “Can you give me more air?”

 But for the most part, these singers either don’t want the pressure of carrying the lead role and everything that comes with it, such as the responsibility of being a boss. Or they tried and failed, such as Tata Vega, who now tours with Elton John, or Lisa Fischer, whose excellent solo album received rave reviews and a Grammy, but she was never able to follow up. Instead of being a star of her own, she retreated to being a superstar among backing vocalists. For the last 20 years, she’s toured with The Rolling Stones.

As much as the documentary is about singing, it’s also about race and gender.  The vast majority of the back-up singers in the film, as in real life, are African American and they learned to harmonize by singing in church choirs.  Clayton talks about the conflict, as a black woman, of singing backing vocals on Lynyrd Skynyd’s seminal southern anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama.” However, she brings up the very nuanced (so nuanced that most folks missed it) “boo, boo, boos” that follow the line  “In Birmingham, they love the governor,” as a sign that the song is actually anti-racist. There’s unmined gold there in not developing the race issues further, especially for the singers in the ‘60s as the civil rights movement was coming to the fore.

Additionally, the overwhelming number are also female and that phenomenon goes unquestioned. To be sure, there are a few of male backing vocalists —the documentary includes David Lasley, who sings with James Taylor, but not the astounding Arthur McCuller (he’s the powerhouse voice you hear at the end of “Shower The People”). Why is that?  Are women’s voices better suited for backing vocals? Are men not willing to take a backseat and prefer to be the lead?

What’s missing from the film is the actual process. The backing vocalists talk about “the blend,” the magical moment when all their voices mesh to create something greater than the individual parts, but we rarely  see background singers working out their parts, showing us how it’s done. There are scant footage of  a producer or artist giving direction, but the movie focuses way more on the love of singing  than the nuts and bolts.

Furthermore, instead of hearing major artists like Bruce  Springsteen, Sting and Stevie Wonder talk about the role of backing vocalists, it would have been far more instructive—and entertaining—to have one of them break down a tune and explain how and why they decided to add backing vocals.  There is one scene with Sting rehearsing with Fischer on “Hounds Of Winter” and encouraging her to vamp and then the film cuts to her wailing on the song in concert as Sting totally cedes the spotlight to her.  The film would have been a much richer experience with more behind-the-curtain scenes such as that.

While it sounds like I didn’t like the film, I did, but it left me wanting because there’s so much potential in the topic.

Many of the singers are still patching together careers, going from song to song as hired guns. There’s a fun segment where the Waters Family talks about the odd jobs they’ve done, including vocalizing birds in “Avatar,” or African chanting in “The Lion King.”  But others tired of the road or with too many obligations to tend to have switched to more stable careers. For example,  Lennear has  taught Spanish for the last 15 years. “I never said it wasn’t for me,” she says of singing, still slightly heartbroken that she is no longer on stage, even if the spotlight was never on her.

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<p>LeAnn Rimes' &quot;`Spitfire&quot;</p>

LeAnn Rimes' "`Spitfire"

Credit: Curb

Album Review: LeAnn Rimes tells her side of the story on 'Spitfire'

Confessional new set showcases her strong vocals

LeAnn Rimes’ private life has played out very publicly in the tabloids for the past few years and has, unfortunately,  completely overshadowed her considerable musical talents. With “Spitfire,” out today, she attempts to get the focus back on her superior singing chops through, ironically, addressing the very issue with which the press has had a field day.

[More after the jump...]


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Watch: Taylor Swift joins The Rolling Stones on 'As Tears Go By' in Chicago
Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Taylor Swift joins The Rolling Stones on 'As Tears Go By' in Chicago

Is her version Faithfull to the original?

Taylor Swift did her best Marianne Faithfull imitation Monday night in Chicago as she became the latest artist to join the Rolling Stones on stage.

[More after the jump...]


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Credit: Todd Williamson/Invision for Water.org/AP Images

U2 eyes a fall release for new set

Band and Danger Mouse wrap up mixing in New York

U2 is nearing completion of its next album, which will likely come out this fall.

Producer Danger Mouse, who is also mixing the new set, received a visit from all four members —Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen Jr. —on Friday at New York’s Electric Lady Studios, according to Rolling Stone. The band later went to the roof of the studio to record “Sunday Bloody Sunday” for Inside Out, a global art project. Coldplay's Chris Martin also stopped by the studio, but it's unknown if he appear on the album.

The album will be the band’s follow up to “No Line On The Horizon,” which came out in 2009. Bono joked at the end of last year that the album would be called “10 Reasons to Exist,” but that really does look like it may have been a hoax.

The group also worked with Lady Gaga/Jennifer Lopez producer RedOne before picking Danger Mouse (though wouldn’t you love to hear the RedOne sessions?)

Lack of material does not seem to be an issue. Clayton told Hot Press earlier this spring, “We have an abundance of riches, we could make three or four different records and justify that to ourselves.”

Daniel Lanois, who has worked with the band before, said to expect an “adventurous” set. “It sounded amazing,” he told U.K. paper The Globe and Mail. “Very, very big and powerful sounding.”

Clayton said the band is looking at a release in September, October or November.


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<p>Beyonce performs at &quot;Sound of Change Live&quot; in London.</p>

Beyonce performs at "Sound of Change Live" in London.

Credit: Jon Furniss/Invision/AP Images

Watch: Beyonce delivers 'Standing On The Sun' in full

Does the song bring the heat?

Beyonce debuted the full version of “Standing On The Sun” before a very enthusiastic audience in Antwerp, Belgium the other night. And why wouldn’t they be excited? As she declared, she was performing it “just for you,” as she repeatedly stressed. Yep, just for them and the millions who will see it on YouTube.

[More after the jump...]

 Clad in a beautifully, billowing long red dress, Beyonce delivers the song like a Sun Goddess. It starts as an elegant presentation of the mid-tempo tune, which is all about how when her love touches her, she feels like she’s standing on the sun. Though it’s more of a simmering than a full-blown heat until she gets to the spoken-word part, where she actually says, yes, “I’m gonna love you a long time,” and goes into an African-influenced dance (as African rhythms explode in the background) that reflects her tasteful passion.

A snippet of the song first debuted in her H&M commercial in April. Along with “Standing On The Sun,” fans have also heard full versions of “Grown Woman,” and “Bow Down/I’ve Been On,” but there’s still no word as to when Bey will release a new album.

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

Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop"

Credit: RCA

Listen: Miley Cyrus' new single 'We Can't Stop'

Is it this summer's worst party anthem?

“We Can’t Stop,” Miley Cyrus’s new single, never really starts.

[More after the jump...]

 The tune, which will be featured on Cyrus’s RCA Records debut this fall, is like a 3 A.M., zoned-out version of the far superior “Party In The USA.”  Everyone is tanked out of their minds, but they won’t, or can’t, find their way home.

Co-written by Cyrus, Mike Will and Rock City, it is a slow-jamming ode to partying that never gets out of first gear. It’s offers an insinuating start with a hypnotic groove, but then has nowhere to go. It’s like the guest who won’t leave the kitchen.

Cyrus seems to continually shout out from the roof top that she is GROWN UP and in the world where grown up means flashing side boob, singing about getting high with Snoop Lion/Dogg, and posing naughtily for V magazine, she has convinced us. However, in the world where talent matters, she’s got a far way to go and that’s a shame because she has a fine voice.

The bigger sin against “We Can’t Stop” isn’t that Cyrus seems to want to party all the time, it’s that the song is so lazy in its attempts to show that.  You don’t have to be adult to write lines like this— “We like to par-tee/dancing with Mi-ley, this is our house, this is our rules.” — a six-year old could have written that.

But our favorite lyrical transgression is where Cyrus praises the girl with the junk in the trunk for shaking what her mama gave her as if she’s in a strip club. Get on that pole, girl, and remember, only God can judge you. You go!! In case you don’t want to listen below: “To my home girls here with the big butt, shaking it like we at the strip club remember only god can judge you forget the haters cos somebody loves ya.”

That’s followed by a line that I’m taking as a big coke reference, but I’m hoping I’m not hearing it right: “Everyone in the line for the bathroom trying to get a line in the bathroom, we are so turned up here, getting turned up yeah, yeah.”  If it is, it’s not that big a surprise, since Cyrus hasn’t flaunted her drug use like Rihanna, but she’s not hiding anything.

If Cyrus wants to go the trashy party girl  Ke$ha route, that’s her prerogative, but could she at least be a little more creative about it?

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<p>Nicki Minaj at the Billboard Music Awards</p>

Nicki Minaj at the Billboard Music Awards

Credit: Chris Pizzello/AP

Music Power Rankings: Daft Punk, Kanye 'Yeezus' West and Nicki Minaj

Who else makes this week's list?

1. Daft Punk: The French duo debuts on the Billboard 200 at No. 1 with a staggering 339,000 copies sold, the second-largest sales week of the year. Mon Dieu! Between Daft Punk and Phoenix, the French are overtaking the charts!

2. Nicki Minaj:
She announces her resignation from “American Idol” via Twitter, and states she intends to “focus on rap” for her third studio album. Ummm, what has she been focusing on for the first two?

3. Mariah Carey: Like Minaj, she also quits “American Idol,” presumably NOT to make a rap album.

4. Keith Urban: He does not quit “American Idol”... yet.

5. Kanye West: The cover of his new album, "Yeezus," supposedly has him posing on a cross. It's good to see that impending fatherhood has cured his martyr complex.

6. Adam Levine: He jokes  “I hate this country!,” after two of his contestants are voted off “The Voice.”  And actually has to usher a formal apology. Get a sense of humor, people.

7. 2 Chainz: He just keeps getting bigger as “We Own It” climbs the charts. The song is featured in the movie “Fast & Furious,” but the film title could just as easily be describing his career. 

8. Little Mix: Looks like the British female teen queens will be a little popular in the States too as their debut soars to No. 2 on the iTunes album chart. They were formed for “The X Factor” just like... get ready... One Direction.

9. Hanson: The band of brothers celebrates its 21st birthday (!!!) by bowing MmmHops beer.  Proceeds will go to  Oklahoma tornado relief efforts. And in an MMMBop you know...

10. Velvet Underground: More than 45 years later, the VU and the Andy Warhol Foundation of settled their dispute over Warhol’s cover art for 1967’s “The Velvet Underground & Nico. Sometimes a banana is just a banana...


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<p>Daft Punk</p>

Daft Punk

Credit: Matt Sayles/AP

Daft Punk will top the Billboard 200 for second week

Who are the chart's three newcomers?

Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” will spend a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 next week, as it fends off three newcomers.

The French duo’s set drops considerably from the 335,000 this week to sell between 90,000-100,000 copies, but that’s still enough to give it a handy lead over Alice in Chains’ “The Devil Put Dinosaurs” here, which will sell up to 65,000 copies for No. 2 and John Fogerty’s “Wrote A Song For Everyone” and Little Mix’s “DNA,” both of which are on target to sell between 45,000-50,000 for No. 3 and No. 4, according to Hits Daily Double.

The rest of the Top 10 are veterans as Darius Rucker’s “True Believers” and the soundtrack to “The Great Gatsby” are in a dead heat for No. 5 with sales of 40,000-45,000 each.

Vampire Weekend’s “Modest Vampires of the City” and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Vision” find themselves in a similar situation with the titles tied going into the weekend for No. 7 with between 30,000-35,000 units each.

Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” logs another week in the Top 10, most likely at No. 9, while Blake Shelton’s “Based On A True Story...” leaps back from No. 16 to No. 10.

A number of this week’s debuts tumble out of the Top 10, including The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me,” French Montana’s “Excuse My French,” and Thirty Seconds to Mars’ “Love Lust Faith + Dreams.”


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