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Sound And Vision: Rihanna Promises a New Album “This Fall” — Too Soon?

As Benjamin Franklin once said (and I’m about to paraphrase dramatically), only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.

Now we can add to that party of two another certainty: a new Rihanna album before the end of every year. Since making her debut with Music of the Sun in 2005, the singer has taken only one year off, 2008, during which she dealt with the fallout from the Chris Brown mess and still remained in circulation with an expanded second edition of Good Girl Gone Bad called Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded.

Her fifth album, Loud, which was only released last November, is still going fairly strong on the charts. It just spun off its fourth Top 10 single, “Cheers (Drink to That),” and one suspects that Rihanna and her label, Def Jam Records, could possibly milk it for at least one more. But she’s already making plans to move on to studio album No. 6. On September 15, Rihanna tweeted to fans that it’ll be in stores “this fall.” Four days later, again via Twitter, she revealed the title of the first single, “We Found Love.” As of September 23, an album title hadn’t been announced but an official release date was: November 21.

Enough already?

I suppose this gives die-hard Rihanna fans—and lord knows there must be tons of them out there to send 10 of her singles to No. 1 in five short years—but it also threatens to render her dangerously overexposed. And considering the fact that she’s set to make her film debut next May in the board-game-turned-action-flick Battleship, might we soon be in for Rihanna overload?

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Live Wired [Review]: iHeartRadio Festival

iHeartRadio is all about well…radio, and taking it to the next level. Not only does the site allow you to live stream talk and music radio stations locally and nationally, it also enables you to create your own custom stations based on your musical tastes. This past weekend, iHeartRadio went all out to promote their new and improved Web site, along with the launch of the iHeartRadio mobile app that grants users listening access from their phones. For the launch, they put on a giant, star-studded festival in Las Vegas, which sold out about ten minutes after tickets were made available. The theme of the night was very much focused on the diversity and popularity of the festival’s artists.

For the majority of fans who weren’t able to get a ticket or make their way to Vegas, iHeartRadio streamed the entire two-night event on their Web site. Here at Live Wired, we were part of that majority, and since we’ve been talking so much about streaming festivals online, we’re here to tell you what it was like. The evening kicked off with a half-hour “pre-show” hosted by two personalities from NYC’s popular radio station z100, followed by the first performance of the night. The Black Eyed Peas, who apparently are not on their hiatus yet, took the stage first and were pretty underwhelming. Not that they’re exactly known for their live shows (See: this year’s Super Bowl performance), but the audience didn’t seem too entertained either.

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The EditoriaList: Best And Worst #1 Singles 2000-2010

This was a brutal exercise, listening to at least large chunks of every Number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 for the years between 2000 and 2010 (I should have stopped at 2009, but I’m a glutton for punishment). Anyway, in order to avoid repetition, if a song was a Number 1 in more than one year (carried over from a previous year), I only considered it for the first year in which it hit the top spot. I thought I might see some kind of trend in quality of pop music, but no such luck—highs and lows abound throughout.

2000

Best: “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Rob Thomas tries really hard to wreck this song with his awful singing, but it’s still really catchy. Sorry Rob, but I’ve come from the future to tell you that you’ll have more success offending listeners with your solo record.

Worst: The epic and universal terribleness of “Arms Wide Open” by Creed beats out such dreck as “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon and a song called “I Knew I Loved You” by a band that wrote the name “Savage Garden” on a piece of paper, looked at it and said, “Yes. Let’s name our band that. That’s not totally stupid at all.”

Dishonorable mention: “Independent Women Part 1” by Destiny’s Child, for opening the song with a shout out to Charlie’s Angels, the movie in which it is featured, and for kicking off the verse with the lyric, “Question: Tell me what you think about me.” Yeah, that’s not a question, that’s a command. What do I think about you? I think that you’re too pushy and have a tenuous grasp on parts of speech.

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Soundcheck Album Preview: Will J.Cole Take Over With ‘Cole World’?

Jermaine Lamarr Cole, better known as J.Cole, has been hip hop’s best kept secret for years.  Ever since Jay-Z signed him to RocNation, we’ve been waiting to hear what all the hype was about.  After his debut album was pushed back…and back last Spring, our interest in the newbie only intensified. After a jam-packed summer of touring and teasing, the wait is finally over.

Cole will release his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story on September 27 on the heels of a massive build up.  In the months leading up to his debut release, Cole treated fans to new music through his “Any Given Sunday” campaign, delivering singles each week since July 13. While he had initially planned on dropping a mixtape prior to his major release, he changed his mind, deciding to stream music on his Web site and Ustream instead.

He told media in July, “The music I was gonna put on the mixtape I’mma just slowly drop it. I’ll just drop it out online and they’ll find it. You know, my fans will find it how they will. I’m confident. I don’t wanna run and drop a mixtape. I don’t want people to get confused with that. I don’t want them to love it, because they’ll love it. If I put out a mixtape they’re gonna love it cause I don’t know how to put out a bad mixtape. That’s the problem.”

Cole wasn’t being cocky.  His mixtapes are what gained the attention of Jay-Z back in 2007—The Come Up mixtape earned him a spot on The Blueprint 3 in 2009. After his secondmixtape, The Warm Up hit the streets that year, Jay signed him as the first artist at his RocNation imprint. Since then, Hov has kept his protégé on his toes, making him wait til the eleventh hour to lend a verse to “Mr. Nice Watch”.

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Sound And Vision: Director’s Cuts — From Lady Gaga to Kate Bush, the Mixed Results of Tampering with Your Own Songs

I’ll never forget the day Basia lied to me. Twice. I was interviewing the Polish singer (best known for her 1988 hit “Time and Tide”) shortly before the release of her 1994 album, The Sweetest Illusion, which was coming five years after her previous album, London Warsaw New York. That day, she promised me two things: First, she would never again make me wait so long for new music. Second, she’d never release a run-of-the-mill greatest hits album featuring, well, her greatest hits. She felt that at the very least, artists owed it to their fans to reprise their hits as brand-new tunes, not just repackage the same old songs.

Her next studio album, It’s That Girl Again, wouldn’t arrive until 2009, nine years after she had released Clear Horizon—The Best of Basia, one of those run-of-the-mill greatest hits albums featuring, well, her greatest hits.

The morals of this story: 1) You can’t rush inspiration. 2) The first cut isn’t only the deepest—sometimes it’s the best, too. That’s a lesson Mariah Carey may have learned last year when she scrapped plans to release Angels Advocate, a remixed version of her Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel album, after a new version of “Up Out My Face” (Memoirs‘ best song) featuring Nicki Minaj limped onto Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 100 and refused to go any further.

But apparently, Lady Gaga, the reigning queen of remix albums and EPs, still hasn’t received the memo. When she released Born This Way back in May, she put out a special edition that included a separate disc with remixes of five of the album’s songs. (Bryan Ferry did a similar thing with last year’s Olympia.) Divine inspiration or clever marketing ploy? Perhaps a little of both, but “Born This Way”-with-a-twang never would have spent six weeks at No. 1. The “Country Road Version” makes for an interesting one-time listen, but I never need to hear it again.

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Sound And Vision: How Christina Aguilera Can Ignite Her Comeback? (Psst, She Doesn’t Need Eminem!)

Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Ke$ha and, of course, herself. As Rihanna sees it—or saw it in the September issue of Glamour magazine—they’re the girls who run the world of pop in 2011.

What? No Britney Spears. I’m pretty sure leaving her duet partner on the recent No. 1 remix of “S&M” off the list was an innocent oversight. But what about Christina Aguilera? That omission must have been intentional. (By the way, I’d certainly argue that Pink, who’s between albums and focused on mommyhood at the moment, and Adele, whose 21 album is outselling all of theirs combined, would qualify as much as Ke$ha.)

There was a time at the dawn of the millennium when Aguilera was the pop princess-in-waiting, second only to Britney Spears. But 2010 was truly her annus horribilis. First, there was Bionic, her fourth studio album, which failed to produce a major hit single and didn’t even go gold. Then her summer tour was cancelled. (She blamed scheduling issues, but the forecast no doubt called for limp ticket sales). And by autumn, her tepidly received film debut in Burlesque (a guilty pleasure and future camp classic if ever there was one, but mostly thanks to costar Cher), was doing nothing to restore luster to her falling star.

Her October divorce from Jordan Bratman, the father of her 3-year-old son Max, blemished her personal record, and flubbing the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XLV in February, further tarnished her professional one. By the time she was arrested for public intoxication in West Hollywood on March 1, her career seemed to be flatlining.

Get it to the OR! Stat!

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Sound And Vision: Does Katy Perry Have Staying Power?

Go ahead. Admit it. The first time you heard Katy Perry‘s “I Kissed a Girl” way back in 2008, you knew that by the time the novelty of a song about dabbling in lipstick lesbianism ran its course, so, too, would the career of the straight woman who was singing it.

Then something strange and unexpected happened when the clock struck Perry’s 15th minute of fame: It kept right on ticking. How did she pull it off? I have a few theories.

No. 1. She’s shallow and proud of it. Unlike Lady Gaga, Perry won’t take credit for trying to save pop music, gay people or the world. She never pretendsthat her music is anything more than feel-good pop. Who else would invite Rebecca Black, the most-hated pop star who’s not really a star (“Friday,” which peaked at No. 58 on Billboard’s Hot 100, wasn’t the big hit everyone seems to think it was) to co-star in one of her videos (“T.G.I.F. [Last Friday Night]“)? “Firework” is about as deep as Perry gets—and lest she come across as too earnest, she tempered the semi-serious message with firecracking boobs in the video.

No. 2. She’s up with regular people, because she’s one of them. Gorgeous but not intimidatingly so, sexy without selling sex, Perry also manages to be quotably catty while still being likeable. Gaga is outrageous and memorable, but she keeps her emotional distance. For all her avowed egalitarian values, there’s something distinctly remote about Gaga, on and off her records. You don’t imagine yourself hanging out with her on a day off. Britney Spears has lived in a bubble for years. Beyoncé is too fabulous. And Rihanna plays with guns.

That leaves Perry to bring a little humanity to pop divadom. She doesn’t have to be photographed taking out the trash to convince fans that she’s just like them. She could probably have any guy in Hollywood or on the charts, but instead of hooking up with a genetically blessed stud of the moment (so Taylor Swift, so Miley Cyrus), she went and married Russell Brand, a goofy comic with a sketchy past.

No. 3. She rocks the singles scene. She lacks Adele‘s vocal power, and she uses many of the same producers and co-writers that her peers have been passing around for years (for the love of God, girls, give Dr. Luke a rest!). But Perry’s singles still stand out, and they’re sturdier than they might initially sound. “Teenage Dream” and “E.T.” don’t exactly blow you away on first or even the 10th listen. They burrow into your subconscious slowly. But once there, they don’t let go. (Ironically, Perry’s crowning musical achievement, the Timbaland collaboration “If We Ever Meet Again,” which I’ve seen fill dance floors from Buenos Aires to London to Melbourne, only went to No. 37.)

When Teenage Dream was released in August of 2010, the reviews were mixed to downright hostile. But Katy Perry is not an album artist. Her music is best digested in bite-sized nuggets. By the time Teenage Dream was logging it’s third No. 1 hit single (“Firework”), it had been nominated for Album of the Year at the GRAMMY Awards, alongside critical favorites by Eminem, Lady Gaga and Arcade Fire. Strong, distinctive videos pulled off without any assistance from hordes of gyrating dancers helped too. Look for her nine nominations at the August 28 MTV Video Music Awards (more than any other artist) to further boost Teenage Dream‘s staying power.

The album has created a fifth Top 3 single and shifted more than 1.5 million copies in the US, and it’s still going as strong as, if not stronger than, the superstar albums that came after it. Rihanna has sold nearly as many copies of Loud (released in November 2010), but after three No. 1 hits, she’s struggling with the fourth and fifth singles, neither of which is likely to go Top 40. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way opened spectacularly in May, then cooled off quickly, with none of the singles repeating the success of the No. 1 title track so far. And poor Beyoncé. Her fourth solo album, 4, has yet to produce a runaway hit at all.

By the time Gaga is trying to extend the lifespan of Born This Way with an expanded limited edition release featuring five new radio-friendly tracks, Teenage Dream’s “Peacock” or “Circle the Drain” probably will be scaling the charts.

But will we still be singing along in 2015? That’s open to debate. Pop history is littered with artists who fell out of favor after two huge albums (see Debbie Gibson, Perry’s “T.G.I.F.” video mom). But even if Perry is just a pop footnote by mid-decade, she’s already surpassed everyone’s wildest teenage—or grown-up—dreams.

 

 


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