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Sound and Vision: Usher Vs. Justin Bieber Vs. Chris Brown– Will the Next King of Pop Please Stand Up?

For ages in pop, it’s been all about the women: Adele and Katy Perry this, Rihanna and Lady Gaga that, with Britney, Beyoncé, Ke$ha, and—lately—Carly Rae Jepsen each demanding her own spotlight.

But this summer, as pop’s three hottest males—Usher, Chris Brown, and Justin Bieber–release new albums, the guys will be giving the ladies their stiffest competition in years. Are any of them most likely to succeed Michael Jackson as the new King of Pop, this season or in seasons to come? Read on….

The Princes-in-Waiting

Usher Vocally, Usher is without a doubt the most-talented man in pop, and he already has a hit list that’s long enough to guarantee his place in music history. Commercially speaking, though, he seems to be settling into middle age, a comfortable place where he’s still good for the occasional big hit single (2010′s No. 1 “OMG” and his recent David Guetta collaboration “Without You”).

But he’s hardly a chart shoo-in anymore. “Climax,” the first single from his new album Looking 4 Myself, which was released on June 12, peaked at No. 17 on Billboard’s Hot 100, 16 notches lower than “Yeah!,” the premiere single from 2004′s Burn that spent 12 weeks on top. Meanwhile, after one day in stores, Looking 4 Myself was projected to sell only up to 130,000 copies in its first week, some 200,000 less than 2010′s Raymond v. Raymond. Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Usher Vs. Justin Bieber Vs. Chris Brown– Will the Next King of Pop Please Stand Up?’

Sound and Vision: Songs of the Season — 10 Great “Summer” Singles

Summer and songs. They fit together like Santa and snow, like sex and the city, like Coldplay and Rihanna in the “Princess of China” single and video, which both acts no doubt are hoping will be the song of the summer of 2012. (And if it’s not, Rihanna’s got another shot anyway, with “Where Have You Been,” the fifth single from her Talk That Talk album.)

But the songs of summer aren’t just about the latest, greatest hits when warm weather starts to roll around. If they were, we all would have been stuck with Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” on an endless beach loop last summer (and certainly some of us were). The hottest season has been figuring prominently into pop since the beginning of time, regardless of the temperature outside.

This year, it will be no different. So while the rest of the world is sweating it out to Rihanna and Coldplay, or Rihanna on her own, or brand new music from Justin Bieber, Usher, Chris Brown, or Fiona Apple (my personal beach pick), feel free to pad your summer mix with these ten entries, some of the best “summer’ songs ever.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Songs of the Season — 10 Great “Summer” Singles’

Sound and Vision: Wanted: An Out and Proud Gay Or Lesbian Chart Phenomenon!

Gays and lesbians have come a long way in entertainment since the days when George Michael had to have faith and pretend to want a woman in the “Father Figure” video to sell millions of albums. Although there’s no telling whether Queen would have been as successful in the ’70s and early ’80s had Freddie Mercury definitively outed himself as a lower-case queen, for the most part, today’s closeted male superstars don’t have to wait until they are about to succumb to an AIDS-related illness to publicly acknowledge their sexuality (like Rock Hudson did)—or not (like Liberace and, well, Mercury).

That doesn’t mean coming out of the closet still won’t have a negative effect on the bankability of gay music stars. This is why most of them still choose to wait until they don’t have too much to lose. Elton John, Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken, Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes and Michael all did it after their blockbuster days were over.

Though Hayes continues to release solo records that earn critical raves, it’s been years since he was A-list on the charts. John is a superstar for life, but his most notable post-coming out success (the 33 million-selling worldwide No. 1 single “Candle in the Wind ’97″) was with a song he sang to a dearly departed princess. How gay! Rufus Wainwright, despite critical plaudits, has never had gold album in the US.

Then there is Adam Lambert, the perfect example of how to be an out and gay pop star. He has a vociferous fan base, but his commercial performance isn’t commensurate with his level of fan devotion. He should be selling as many singles as Justin Bieber, but his last one, “Better Than I Know Myself,” was a chart dud (No. 76 on Billboard’s Hot 100), resulting in Trespassing, his sophomore album, being pushed back from March to a May 15 release date. Do we blame it on a weak single, or a pop constituency that’s still skittish about fully embracing a proudly out singer? Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Wanted: An Out and Proud Gay Or Lesbian Chart Phenomenon!’

 


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