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The Musicians With The Most Eyebrow Raising Pieces Of Body Art

Many musicians have talents and creative energy that require outlets music just can’t provide. Some are writers, penning books of turgid prose to match their affected prosody. Some act, and can be seen on both big or small screens with a bit part here or a cameo role there. Then there are those that feel the need to express themselves through the static visual medium of paint. And what greater canvas is there than that of the living canvas, the human body?

Yes, it seems like every musician is getting inked up these days. Hell, 45 million Americans of all walks of life now have some form of permanent body art on their person. But, as any fateful walk on along the beach these days will tell you, not every tattoo is a winner. It’s hard to say that any work of art is bad, per se since taste is subjective. One man’s Rothko on his pec can be another woman’s velvet Elvis on her wrist.

In this spirit, join us as we chronicle some of the most, um, “eyebrow raising” pieces of body art on some of our favorite musical acts.

Continue reading ‘The Musicians With The Most Eyebrow Raising Pieces Of Body Art’

Is the Next Adele a Guy?

For at least another year or two, all of the U.K.’s up-and-coming sisters (and brothers) with voices will have their work cut out for them. As if it’s not already tough enough to rise above the pop pack, they’ll also have to contend with all of those inevitable Adele comparisons.

Is she (or he) the next Adele, the future of U.K.-bred pop talent hoping to achieve global domination?

Admit it: You wonder, too—every time a great new voice emerges from the British music scene. With the ruling pop diva of the last two years now between albums (perhaps she’ll be back in the autumn singing the theme for the next James Bond film, Skyfall) and expecting her first child with boyfriend Simon Konecki, the battle is on for the keys to the kingdom that the princess hasn’t even yet vacated.

If you’ve got a great voice and/or a slightly unconventional pop sound and/or look, if you’re more substance than style, to the front of the line you go. It’s the latest greatest aspiration in pop since the days when it was all about being the next Amy Winehouse, whether you sounded anything like her or not. Challenging Adele might be as scary a proposition as walking in the late Winehouse’s scuffed shoes might have been (terrifying for reasons that had everything and nothing to do with Winehouse’s talent), but at least fans are in for some great music. Recently, I heard a Rumer (the off-the-beaten-pop-path singer behind 2010′s Seasons of My Soul and this year’s Boys Don’t Cry), and my first thought was “Is this it?”

Rumer isn’t the only talented singer who’s making me listen and wonder. Here are three others:

Emeli Sandé (Current hits: “My Kind of Love” and “Next to Me”) In June, a friend sent me the video for Sandé’s recent single, “Next to Me,” on Facebook, with a short and sweet message: “love…” After watching the clip, my first impression was “Sara Bareilles with a really dated look.” White on black is so mid-‘90s! My second impression: How is it that everybody all over the world doesn’t already know her name (which, incidentally, is actually Adele Emeli Sandé)?  Continue reading ‘Is the Next Adele a Guy?’

Sound And Vision: Celebrity Feuds — Pop Is a Battlefield, World War II

“Take back Vanessa Redgrave
Take back Joe Piscopo
Take back Eddie Murphy
Give ‘em all some place to go”

— Tom Petty, “Jammin’ Me” (1987)

“Fuck Tom Petty!”—Eddie Murphy

Oh, those crazy stars! What will they say next? And will they ever learn? What a tangled web they weave when they start to take pot shots at each other.

Celebrity feuds have existed since before the dawn of the pop charts. Eminem owes much of his early notoriety to cutting down to size the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync and Moby in videos and on record. Meanwhile, off the record (though always totally for attribution), Katy Perry has never met a fellow chart-topper she wouldn’t slag off.

But lately, stars keep colliding and disturbing the peace in the music galaxy. Liam Gallagher just filed suit against his brother Noel over the latter’s claim that Liam pulled out of a high-profile Oasis gig in 2009 due to a hangover and over comments Noel made blaming Liam for the demise of the band. But then brothers in arms have engaged in verbal—and occasionally, physical— combat since the heyday of the Kinks, which featured the dueling Davies, Ray and Dave. Chris and Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, William and Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain, and Kings of Leon‘s Followill brothers have the battle scars to prove it.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Celebrity Feuds — Pop Is a Battlefield, World War II’

Sound And Vision: Can Simon Cowell Rise Again With The U.S. ‘X Factor’?

If there was any lesson to be learned last season on American Idol, it’s this: There’s life after Simon Cowell. And Scotty McCreery, America’s 10th Idol, wasn’t the only beneficiary of the show’s still-beating heart. So was replacement judge Jennifer Lopez‘s stalled singing career.

Yes, folks, life went on. Despite the departure of Simon Cowell last year after season nine, American Idol continued, popularity more than in tact. The Wednesday performance night edition was still the No. 1 show on prime-time TV during the 2010-2011 season, with an increase in overall average weekly viewership since last year to 25.86 million, up from 22.97 million, which had been a considerable drop from season eight’s 25.53 million. (Should we blame Ellen DeGeneres, who joined as a judge for the ninth season only and left along with Cowell and Kara DioGuardi, or a continuation of the season-to-season erosion in viewers that had plagued the show for several years before the tenth-season upswing?) Meanwhile, the May 25 season finale attracted 29.29 million viewers, five million more than season nine’s denouement.

So what does this mean for Simon Cowell? When his US version of The X Factor, the show he created in the UK in 2004 and judged until last year, debuts September 21 on Fox (the network that airs Idol), he’ll have the playing field all to himself. The Voice, featuring the judging panel of Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton and Maroon 5′s Adam Levine, just finished its well-received run on NBC (at No. 20 for the season, with a weekly average of 11.97 million viewers), and it will return for a second round next year. But will the US X Factor be too much too soon. Has America discovered enough new pop (and country) idols for one year?

Cowell will no doubt be a draw, but perhaps less of one than we might have expected before Idol carried on so nicely without him. And the bad press over the hiring and firing of Cheryl Cole, the Girls Aloud member who was plucked from the judges table of the UK X Factor for the US one, has raised the show’s profile without really helping it.

Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, who had previously been tapped to cohost but will now take Cole’s place as a judge, is a much smarter choice, but why the eleventh-hour switch? (Cole had already participated in auditions and still will appear in some episodes when The X Factor premieres.) Some reports have indicated that Cole was let go because of the fear that her thick British accent would be unintelligible to viewers in the US, but I’m not buying that weak excuse. She had the same accent when she was hired that she had when she was fired, and surely her speaking voice was considered before anyone signed on the dotted line.

I’d bet Steven Tyler‘s hair extensions Cole’s dismissal had everything to do with the other reported reason: that Cole didn’t quite click with Paula Abdul, Cowell’s former Idol co-worker whom he hired to reunite with him on the US X Factor as a judge. (Music mogul L.A. Reid will be the fourth wheel.) And there you have it! As a draw in the States, Abdul is so much more valuable than Cole, a big star in the UK but one who is pretty much unheard of in the US.

If people are going to tune into The X Factor in droves, it won’t necessarily be for the great music or even to hear what Simon Cowell is going to say next. (He did, after all, become a broken record of sorts about five seasons in on Idol.) It will be to once again tune into The Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul Love/Hate Show. I know that’s why I won’t miss it. I want to see the ex-sparring colleagues hiss and make up all over again and again and again.

And that will be the most important ex factor of all.

10 Things In Pop Music To Look Forward To In 2011

What’s the best thing that can happen in 2011? I’m praying for chart comebacks by Shania Twain, Amy Winehouse and Cher; an ABBA and/or Smiths reunion; and the disappearance of Ke$ha, Susan Boyle and Auto-Tune. But this isn’t a New Year’s wish list, or my beautiful dark twisted fantasy. Reality bites most of the time, but the pop forecast calls for some exciting stuff that actually will happen.
Kelly Clarkson’s new album. Our lives would suck without her! It’s been too long since Clarkson’s last chart sighting, and if the recent preview of “You Still Won’t Know What It’s Like” at the “A Night for Hope” event in Nashville is a harbinger of what to expect when she releases her fifth album (in early 2011, according to her October 4 tweet), it’s already hovering near the top of my to-download list.
Best New Artist at the 2011 GRAMMYs: Florence + the Machine? The eligibility requirements in this category have been muddy for years: Four of the five nominees released music before the 2010 eligibility period. And last year offered such an embarrassment of riches that, for better or worse (mostly better), new hitmakers like Ke$ha, Jason Derülo, Bruno Mars, B.0.B, Le Roux, Mike Posner, Nicki Minaj, Adam Lambert and Susan Boyle didn’t make the cut. Fellow Canucks Justin Bieber and Drake will have the commercial edge on February 13, but a vote for the UK’s Florence + the Machine would be a vote for quality over quantity of sales.
A Glee-free Matthew Morrison. I first met Morrison about 10 years ago when he was in a boy band called LMNT (as in “Element”— and, yes, dreadful name). I always thought he had star quality, but I don’t think Glee, on which he’s saddled with the straight-man role, properly spotlights his musical gifts. May his optimistically titled February album, Bringing It to the Masses, show the world that there’s much more to Mr. Schuester than a can-do attitude and a sweet, crooked smile.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame welcomes (drum roll)… Neil Diamond. I’ve had my issues with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees over the years, but they wouldn’t include Diamond, who’s finally being recognized after years of not even being nominated. For those who gripe that he’s not really rock & roll, the Hall has never been about the genre as strictly defined by snobby purists. Otherwise, legends like Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Cash and Madonna wouldn’t be in it. Neither would any of Motown’s classic ’60s and ’70s stars (including Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and, yes, Michael Jackson), Steely Dan, or Paul Simon. So on March 14, raise a glass of red red wine to Diamond. He rocks.
Britney Spears gets grimier. Rumors of her career’s demise a few years ago were greatly exaggerated—and premature. Producer Dr. Luke has promised that Spears’s seventh album, due in March, will be “harder in some ways, and maybe a little more deep into electronica—and grimier.” If that means we can expect it to be more Blackout than Circus, I’m totally in.
The Cars get on the road again. Even with all the reunions of ’80s bands in recent years, I didn’t see this one coming. Free, the Cars’ first studio album in 13 years (featuring all the original members, minus Benjamin Orr who died in 2000), will be out in the spring, and the band is revving up for a tour. They’ve posted three previews on their Facebook page, and like the best teasers, they leave you wanting more.
Justin Timberlake brings sexy back—again. Timberlake’s The Social Network turn as Napster founder/inaugural Facebook president Sean Parker was odd but intriguing, as he played him as equal parts swishy playboy, smooth operator, party monster and raging opportunist. But my favorite of his scenes was his first, when he wakes up in bed with a total stranger. I’m looking forward to more clever post-coital banter when Friends with Benefits, his romantic comedy with Mila Kunis, opens on July 22.
Simon Cowell’s The X Factor. Where Simon goes, I suspect American Idol fans will follow. But if he’s really signing on Cheryl Cole—who’s huge in the UK but a nobody in the US—as a judge for the new US version of the talent search, which launches in September, he’d better reach for the superstars for the third one.
Jennifer Hudson proves that her Oscar win wasn’t a fluke—or not. After three more-or-less filler films following her Academy Award for Dreamgirls, ex-Idol contestant Hudson’s first leading role in Winnie (a biopic of Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife) will be the real test of her Hollywood potential. But to pull off this tough assignment, she’ll have to offer more emotional depth than the slightly vacant look she wears throughout the trailer.
No more Mariah Carey pregnancy rumors. This media obsession with baby bumps and celebrity procreating has got to stop. Who cares? Frankly, I’ve got more interesting trivial pursuits with which to fill my spare time. But thank God, unless Carey gets knocked up again immediately after delivering twins next year, we can all get over her belly and move on to more important things, like Katy Perry’s.

 


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