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EditoriaList: 10 Best And Worst Super Bowl Halftime Performances

The Super Bowl Halftime Show has become an overblown spectacle of such proportions and delusionary grasping at the straws of musical-artistic relevancy that it quite simply may never be good again. Yet there have been some standout performances – mostly those that concentrate on actual performing. There were some very dark years here and there that were not focused on the artists and their music as much as the pageantry (I’m looking at you Disney), so I didn’t even count those. There were also a lot of ‘meh’ moments that are not really worth getting into.

Worst

2000: PHIL COLLINS, CHRISTINA AGUILERA, ENRIQUE IGLESIAS, TONI BRAXTON

I don’t remember this and I’m not going to watch it, but it’s awful. It’s literally the worst thing I’ve never seen.

Continue reading ‘EditoriaList: 10 Best And Worst Super Bowl Halftime Performances’

Discourse & Dischord


The Good

The GRAMMYs deliver highs and lows

The GRAMMYs were held this week, and per usual, the night was filled with the great and the ghastly. Sophia Grace and her hype man, Rosie, covered the red carpet for Ellen, and creeped us out a little bit when they sang the salacious chorus to “Moves Like Jagger.” It made Lady Gaga’s lip lock on Sir Paul and Nicki Minaj’s sexy monks feel almost wholesome. Katy Perry’s performance of “Part of Me” delivered a sonic kick to Russell Brand’s crotch. Chris Brown was pissed off too, after haters suggested he was unworthy of all the airtime he got on the show. At least Adele was happy—the chanteuse took home six trophies for 21. Oh, and so was Diplo, but only after he smoked a doob with Rihanna and Dave Grohl.

Justin Bieber gets married

This story warmed our heart grapes. Justin Bieber surprised six year-old Avalanna Routh, who is battling a rare form of brain cancer, with a Valentines date this week. The Biebs took to Twitter afterwards, saying it was “the best thing I’ve ever done” and calling Routh “Mrs. Bieber.” Watch the young bride describe her first meeting with the hubs below.

The Bad

Whitney Houston dies

The world lost “The Voice” this week when pop icon Whitney Houston passed away unexpectedly at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The singer, who was scheduled to attend Clive Davis’s pre-GRAMMY party, died just hours before the event, which took place in the same building. The cause of death was reported to be a combination of Xanax and other prescription drugs and alcohol, though toxicology results are still pending. Houston was only forty-eight, and leaves behind a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, with her ex-husband Bobby Brown. Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to the great singer during the GRAMMY awards with a performance of “I Will Always Love You,” which you can watch below. R.I.P.

Madonna, Nicki Minaj disappointed in MIA’s finger

The woman who kissed Britney Spears at the MTV Video Awards and the woman who had sexy monks dancing onstage at the GRAMMYs announced their disappointment in the controversial behavior of M.I.A., who flipped the bird during the Super Bowl. Sorry Madonna and Nicki Minaj, but we’re calling the kettle black on this one.

The Ugly

Shakira faces down a crazed sea lion

When animals attack, Latin pop stars sometimes get hurt. Such was the case when Shakira got too close to a sea lion while vacationing in South Africa. The sea lion got in her face and roared after mistaking the reflection of her Blackberry for a tasty fish. Shakira was whisked away to safety by her brother, getting scratched up by rocks as she scrambled away. Guess you could say those hips don’t lion. Sorry, that was terrible.

Kid Rock pens a poison letter to reporter

Kid Rock’s Made in Detroit brand may not be actually made in Detroit, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to talk smack. Reporter Susan Tompor learned this when she wrote an article for the Detroit Free Press calling into question the hometown authenticity of the singer’s clothing line. Kid Rock responded with a scathing letter defending his company. Be thankful you’re not Tompor—Kid Rock’s ire can be brutal.

Miscellany

Sound And Vision: Why I’m Seriously Considering Boycotting Music Award Shows

On November 9, Nashville celebrated itself (again!) with the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards. For the fourth consecutive year, the event was hosted by Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, but the masters of ceremonies weren’t the only thing that gave me that old deja vu feeling. Hadn’t these accolades already been handed out just a few months ago?

Wait, those were the Country Music Television (CMT) Music Awards in June. And before that, there were the Academy of Country Music Awards. And, just in case that’s not enough Music City honors for you, there are the 2nd annual American Country Awards coming up on December 5.

Pop and R&B are just as self-congratulatory, offering the MTV Video Music Awards, the MTV Europe Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the American Music Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, the BET Awards, the BET Hip Hop Awards, the NAACP Image Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards.

Then, of course, there are the GRAMMYs, which following so many other back-slapping fests, have been losing their lustre for years now—though that’s hardly the only reason. Winning one used to be the musical equivalent of snagging an Oscar, but now its just more clutter for the awards shelf.

In a few weeks (November 30, to be exact), the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 2012 GRAMMY Awards (to be held on February 12). Doesn’t it already feel like we’ve been there and done that over and over and over already this year? Am I the only one who doesn’t doubt that we’re in for another repeat of The Adele Show, with a very special appearance by Lady Gaga. Good as it is, like Christmas, I only need to sit through it once a year.

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Sound And Vision: How LMFAO, David Guetta and Lady Gaga Are Making Dance Music Cool (and Bankable) Again

“She wants to party. She wants to get down. All she wants do to is, all she wants to do is dance.”

So sang then-ex-Eagle Don Henley in 1985. Ironically, “All She Wants to Do Is Dance,” Henley’s third great solo Top 10 hit, was neither particularly danceable nor was it actually about about a woman who lived to shake her groove thing underneath the strobelight (no matter what the video says). The careless, carefree dancing queen was a metaphor for a United States that was more concerned with buying thrills than curing societal and political ills.

More than twenty-five years later, in the world of pop music, it’s all about movement—and not as an ambitious political metaphor. With the possible exception of  Bruno Mars (who’s really going to have to toughen up and speed up the tempo if he’s ever going to get my love), all everyone—male and female, from Lady Gaga to Rihanna to Foster the People—wants to do is dance (and make romance). Red Hot Chili Peppers even closes its latest album, I’m With You, with a song titled, fittingly, “Dance Dance Dance.”

When Henley offered his biting political commentary with a beat, “disco” was still a dirty word. That’s probably why he was able to use it as a stand in for hedonism and get away with it. The truth, though, is that disco never really left the building: In the ’80s, a number of artists—from Michael Jackson to Madonna to Prince to Janet Jackson—were incorporating it into their pop.

Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: How LMFAO, David Guetta and Lady Gaga Are Making Dance Music Cool (and Bankable) Again’

Soundcheck: Don’t Call It A Comeback

While there’s always one or two artists trying to get back into the limelight each year, frantically attempting to revive their once vibrant careers; few succeed.  This year, however, the hip hop scene is flooded with one-time favorites who seem poised for positive reception.  Check out the list of this year’s biggest, weirdest and most exciting comebacks, as well as some old favorites we’ll be rooting for.

Nelly: After his 2008 release, Brass Knuckles failed to make a big splash, Nelly released his long-delayed album, 5.0 in November.  Singles, “Just a Dream” and “Move That Body” have been in heavy radio rotation for months, and his most recent release, “Gone” with Kelly Rowland is reminding everyone just how much they used to love the Midwest’s golden boy.

Bow Wow: At age 24, Bow Wow’s been at this game for years and enjoyed unparalleled success.  Now, he’s re-branded himself with a new look, new sound and new label, signing up with Young Money Records in August.    His single, “Ain’t Thinkin’ Bout You”  featuring Chris Brown is one of his best in years, and his upcoming release, Underrated promises to show us a new side of the one we’ve raised from a pup.

Eve: It has been nine years since Philly rapper, EVE released a solo project, but it looks like this just may be her year.  She is currently featured on singles with Jill Scott, Swiss Beatz and Alicia Keys, and recently told fans to keep an ear out for a “big record” she recorded with fellow Ruff Ryder alum, Swiss, called “Mama In The Kitchen”. Fingers crossed for  a green-lit release date, we expect big things from her upcoming fourth album, Lip Lock.

Dr. Dre: After ten years of rumors and speculation, Dr. Dre made his triumphant return to the mic this year at The GRAMMY Awards.  While his album, Detox, still hasn’t hit store shelves, twosingles, “Kush” and “I Need a Doctor” have made notable radio impact.  While some are still skeptical, the label is promising a May release date for the long-awaited project.

R. Kelly: Kelly has been laying low since his 2007 child pornography trial, his viral video circulation and his ill-fated ‘Unfinished Business’ tour with Jay-Z put him on everyone’s sh*t list.  Now, the Chicago-based singer, (who was found not-guilty on all charges) will hit the road with Keyshia Cole for the Love Letter Tour, kicking off this summer.

Eminem: After his 2009 album Relapse failed to impress, many thought this one-time icon had seen his last days of glory.  The world was shocked when he released Recovery bringing him back to the forefront stronger than ever before, and making him the best-selling rapper of the year.  The Detroit emcee racked up ten GRAMMY nominations for the project, bringing home the award for Best Rap Album and Best Solo Rap Performance.  Now, he’s back on top and bringing some friends with him, including longtime friend and mentor, Dr. Dre, and newbie, Yelawolf.

Salt N Pepa: The ladies who put female rap on the map are ready to do it again, celebrating twenty-fve years since their debut, Hot, Cool & Viscious launched them to super-stardom with their Legends of Hip Hop Tour. The three lovely ladies lead a hip hop revival, joined by trailblazers like Whodini, Kurtis Blow, Doug E Fresh, Biz Markie, Naughty By Nature, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee and Slick Rick to name a few.

Chris Brown: Depite making headlines again for his ill-tempered antics, his album F.A.M.E. is certified gold and debuted at Number 1 on the charts. He kicked off his F.A.M.E. Tour in Australia last week to a crowd of adoring fans, and his singles, “Deuces”, “Look At Me Now”, and “ Yeah” have been some of this year’s most successful songs.

Kelly Rowland: The former Destiny’s Child member is back to her R&B roots with her new, yet-to-be-titled album.  While she heated up dance tracks internationally with her last project, it failed to register stateside.  Now,  she’s climbing back up the charts with her Nelly collabo, “Gone” and her sexy single, “Motivation” featuring Lil Wayne.

Da Brat: Recently out of jail from a 2007 aggravated assault incident, Da Brat rose to fame in 1994 when her hit, “Funkdafied” made her the first-ever platinum-selling female rapper.  Nowshe’s back and hungry for a comeback, re-joing longtime friend and collaborator, Jermaine Dupri for her upcoming mixtape, due out Memorial Day weekend. She has already released three tracks, “Racks” featuring YC and “Fab 5 Freddy” featuring J.D. as well as a remix to Kanye’s “All The Lights” titled, “Turnt Up” featuring Dondria.

Lauryn Hill: After some impromptu appearances and rumors of a comeback swirling for months, Lauryn’s Coachella performance gave a big indication that she’s ready to return.  The former Fugee performed fan favorites including “That Thing” and “Ex-Factor”, songs she had previously refused to perform anymore.  She seemed more like the grounded superstar of her Miseducation days than she has in years, and she hinted at a surprise that would shock fans.  Unless it’s a sixth child, we’re guessing she’ll be delivering news of a new album any day now.

Sound And Vision: The Rise and Rise of Pop’s Singles Scene

Looking for some hot chart action? The US singles scene is the place to be. Thanks to iTunes and pop’s hottest stars, lately, it’s moving and shaking— especially over on Billboard’s Hot Digital Songs chart. For the week ending March 26, 2011, Katy Perry‘s “E.T.” ruled, with 216,000 downloads sold. At No. 5, Britney Spears‘ “Till The World Ends” had moved 158,000 units. The entire Top 10—which features songs by Jennifer Lopez (215K), Lady Gaga (176K), Rihanna (168K), Cee Lo Green (157K), Ke$ha (140K), Pink (124K), Dr. Dre (124K) and Chris Brown (117K)—had enjoyed downloads north of 100,000.
Whoa! What’s this? Isn’t the music industry supposed to be on life support, hanging by a thread? Well, it is, but as album sales continue to decline (only the Top 2 albums, by Lupe Fiasco and Adele, sold more than 100,000 during the same week), the singles market is prospering. Year-to-date album sales were down 7 percent compared to the same 2010 period, while year-to-date single sales were up 7 percent. One decade ago, the demand for singles was waning rapidly in the US, en route to bottoming out. Fewer labels were releasing physical CD singles, and Billboard’s Hot 100 was becoming increasingly weighted in favor of airplay, as many of the songs climbing the chart weren’t even available for purchase outside of the albums on which they appeared.

But iTunes has turned the singles scene around. With the click of a mouse, fans can have whatever song they want from a particular artist without having to buy an entire album. As a result, there’s been a surge in singles stars, recording artists like Katy Perry, Ke$ha and Bruno Mars, who sells tons of singles each time out while enjoying respectable but relatively modest album sales. For the week ending March 26th, Perry was on the verge of landing her fourth No. 1 Hot 100 single from her Teenage Dream album. Back in the day, an album would be platinum several times over by the time it launched its fourth No. 1—see Michael Jackson‘s Bad, or Janet Jackson‘s Rhythm Nation 1814—yet Perry’s album is currently only around 1.2 million, which is a long way from double-platinum.
The new crop of solo stars aren’t the only ones whose chart numbers are benefitting from the resurgent single. The cast of Glee recently surpassed Elvis Presley‘s record for putting the most songs on the Hot 100 almost completely on the strength of single sales, and the Glee kids keep putting out the hits. Four Glee songs debuted on the March 26 Hot 100, and three of them—”Landslide” at No. 23, with 115,000 downloads, “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” at No. 57, and “Kiss” at No. 83— featured Gwyneth Paltrow on vocals.
The Academy Award winner just signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records, and although she has yet to release an album, she’s already sung lead on eight Billboard chart hits. But Atlantic executives shouldn’t count on seeing much green from the Paltrow deal just yet. Though single sales are more robust than ever, at just around $1.29 a download, they don’t line the coffers of record companies the way album sales do.
If Paltrow is to help reverse the industry’s sagging fortunes, she’ll have to appeal to fans beyond one-single stands and inspire album-length devotion, which few new solo stars aside from Lady Gaga and Adele have done in recent years. (In three weeks, Adele’s 21 sold roughly half of what Teenage Dream, with its four hit singles, did in six months.) The road is long and hard, and with so many pop divas currently slogging through it, it’s going to take a lot more than a Gleek following for Paltrow to pull out into the lead.

Sound And Vision: Where Is the Love? — The Disappearing Power-Ballad Duet

Back in the day, every major female pop star had one: a male pop star (or two, or three or more) who loved her—at least on the record and on the charts. Over the years, Barbra Streisand had Neil Diamond, Barry Gibb and Bryan Adams. Diana Ross had Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias. Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks had their pick of men (Andy Gibb, Don Henley, Aaron Neville, Tom Petty and John Travolta, among them.) Whitney Houston had Teddy Pendergrass, Bobby Brown, Enrique Iglesias and George Michael. Madonna had Prince. Celine Dion had Peabo Bryson and R. Kelly. Mariah Carey had Luther Vandross, and so did Janet Jackson.
But where did the love go? Though there have been scattered duet hits in recent years (Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown‘s “No Air,” Ciara and Justin Timberlake‘s “Love Sex Magic”), they are fewer and much farther between. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated March 19, 2011, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson‘s country chart topper, was the only traditional male-female duet, way down at No. 34.
I’d say that part of the blame lies with the faltering power ballad, which isn’t the chart force that it was in the days when Celine Dion ruled the airwaves. Consider pop’s leading single males: Both of Usher‘s and Enrique Iglesias’s two recent Top 10 Hot 100 singles have been not ballads but dance-oriented collaborations with rappers and, in the case of Usher’s “OMG,” Will.i.am. Chris Brown’s comeback-in-progress also has been harder-edged and boosted by male guest stars like Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, and of Justin Bieber‘s two Top 10s to date, neither has been a ballad, both were with rappers.
But it’s not just about what the public seems to want— it seems to be what the artists want, too. Why play the conventional good girl, duetting with Usher or Iglesias, when it’s so much more fun being bad? In the past year or so, both Rihanna and Katy Perry have gone Top 10 with rappers (Eminem and Drake, and Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively). Meanwhile, Ke$ha went there with electronica hipsters 3OH!3 (after scoring her first hit riding shotgun with Flo Rida), and Beyoncé and Lady Gaga got there together.
As for the guys, boy-on-boy (or boys) rule: Bruno Mars with B.o.B and Travie McCoy, Jeremih with 50 Cent, Usher and Iglesias with Pitbull, Iglesias and Bieber with Ludacris. If it were 2001, Iglesias, or Ricky Martin, probably already would have zipped up the charts with Katy Perry and/or Rihanna on his arm. But it’s 2011, and just as every good girl wants a bad-boy rapper by her side, it seems the hit-making males would rather roll with the rough boys than mush it up with the ladies.
Will the power ballad survive the current disinterest in them? Can singing couples make a comeback? I’d be surprised if they didn’t. Pop music is cyclical, and if Jennifer Lopez can rise again, so can love (which, incidentally happens to be the title of J. Lo’s upcoming album, minus a question mark). All it needs is the right tag team to deliver it back into the public’s good graces and up the charts. I’d pay money to hear Pink and Adam Lambert together, but would the masses buy it? I’m not so sure, but wouldn’t it be just like them both to try and find out?

Soundcheck: Hot Ticket Tours – This Year’s ‘Can’t Miss’ Show Line-Up

Now that the snow is finally melting and Spring is right around the corner so is the Spring/Summer concert season. Every year, I anticipate festival line-ups and envision my ideal headlining mash-ups, and every year, I’m pleasantly surprised with at least one can’t-miss tour. This year, you may want to start pinching pennies early, because there’s more than one hot ticket in town.

Janet Jackson will embark on her largest world tour to date with her “Number Ones: Up Close and Personal” Tour. The seasoned superstar who recently starred in Tyler Perry’s critically-acclaimed film, For Colored Girls recently completed her first book and has a new man to be giddy about. The North American leg is a 35-city tour, which promises all the nasty girl’s fan favorites from her latest LP, Number Ones, kicks off in Texas on March 3rd, wrapping up in Las Vegas on April 24th.

Another throwback must-see is the ‘Hip Hop Legends’ Tour. Salt N Pepa will celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1986 debut, hit album Hot, Cool & Viscious. Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandy “Pepa” Denton and  Deidre “Dee Dee” Roper, better known as DJ Spinderella will hit 20 cities and be joined by fellow hip hop veterans like Doug E. Fresh, MC Lyte, Slick Rick, Whodini, Kool Moe Dee and  Naughty By Nature among others. Kicking off the tour on February 4th in Cleveland and wrapping up in Atlanta on April 2nd.

The hottest ticket in hip hop is undoubtedly Lil Wayne’s “I Am Music II” Tour, which kicks off in Buffalo, NY on March 18th. The 24-city tour will feature NickiMinaj,Rick Ross, Travis Barker and Beastie Boys’ Mixmaster Mike and promises to be worth the wait at the ticket counter.

Snoop Dogg will continue his “Get Wet” Tour through March with stops in Las Vegas, Houston and Pittsburg among others. Some lucky concert-goers will get twice as lifted with special engagements featuring Wiz Khalifa in select cities.

Kid Rock has set out on hisBorn Free” Tour with his Twisted Brown Trucker Band for the 28-city stretch, kicking off in Kansas City last week. He will headline the 2011 Rockfest Music Festival July 14th-17th in Wisconsin, performing songs from his latest album, Born Free.

Sade will hit the road with John Legend on June 16th for the first time in 10 years for her 50-date “Soldier of Love” Tour. The GRAMMY-winning pair will also appear at Coachella in April.

Rihanna is currently overseas on her “Last Girl on Earth” Tour, but will be back in the states to kick off her “LOUD” Tour in Baltimore on June 4th. When she wraps up her stateside leg, she will head to Europe on September 29th, where she won’t wrap until December 17th. Let’s hope RiRi doesn’t poop out on her ‘round the world stretch.

Two of my favorite festivals are sure to deliver some serious line-ups this year, with Eminem heating up Chicago for Lollapalooza, along with Muse and Foo Fighters among others. The 3-day festival held in Grant Park is August 5th-7th, with the official line-up coming soon. Coachella is another favorite desert destination, and this year’s star-studded line-up includes Kanye West, Cee-Lo Green, Lauryn Hill, Wiz Khalifa, Nas & Damien Marley and Erykah Badu. The hot and sweaty, weekend-long, jam session gets rollin’ April 15th date in Indio, CA.

 


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