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L.A. Reid Leaving ‘The X Factor’

Just as The X Factor’s second season is coming to a close, Chairman and CEO of Epic Records, L.A. Reid has chosen to step down from his spot in the judge’s chair.

Although his presence resulted in multiple contestant signings to Epic Records, Reid says of his departure, ”I have a company to run that I’ve kind of neglected.” Reid continued, “I have a huge responsibility to a roster of artists, and it’s kind of time for me to stop doing ‘the me’ show and get back to doing ‘the them’ show.”

Among Reid’s upcoming Epic Records projects will be Ciara’s next album and Avril Lavigne’s latest album.

If you like Ciara, check out OurStage artist Jasmyn Howard.

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Sound And Vision: Will Nicki Minaj Vs. Mariah Carey Hurt the Rapper While Helping “American Idol”?

“I’m gonna knock you out…. I told you I’m not f**kin’ putting up with her f**kin’ highness over there!”

It’s not exactly prose worthy of Bob Dylan, or even Eminem, her sometime partner in rhyme, but with those fighting words, rapper Nicki Minaj recently helped make American Idol hot for the first time in years. She hurled them directly at Mariah Carey on October 2 in Charlotte, N.C., during the audition rounds for season 12 of Idol, which kicks off in January of 2013. Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Will Nicki Minaj Vs. Mariah Carey Hurt the Rapper While Helping “American Idol”?’

PSY’s K-Pop Invasion: The Continued Decline of Western Pop Courtesy of the East

As if A-Pop wasn’t bad enough already. Just when one might have thought that American pop, with all its auto-tuned voices and fake plastic beats, couldn’t possibly make the eyes and ears bleed more, it’s about to get worse. Nicki Minaj is set to bombard us with more of her overexposure via a series of reality specials on E!, her new gig as a 12th-season American Idol judge, and, of course, more music, while Britney Spears, of all vocally challenged singers, is already sitting in judgment of wannabe A-Pop idols on The X Factor.

And last but not least scary, Ke$ha’s back, and going by the early success of “Die Young,” the first single from her upcoming sophomore album Warrior (out November 30), she’s here to stay—at least for the time being. Continue reading ‘PSY’s K-Pop Invasion: The Continued Decline of Western Pop Courtesy of the East’

Sound and Vision: An ‘American Idol’ Wish List– Who Should Replace Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler?

You couldn’t pay me to be an American Idol bigwig right now. The show is about to face its greatest challenge since the 2008 battle of the Davids (Cook and Archuleta).

The producers and the Fox network already have to worry about sagging ratings (the average viewership in season 11 dropped 23 percent to below 20 million for the first time in nine years, and the show fell from No. 1 for the season—to No. 2—for the first time since 2005), not to mention less commercially viable Idols and external competition from The Voice, The X Factor, and pretty much any reality show that promises to make a nobody a star.

Now, the producers have to deal with pleasing Mariah Carey, who has signed on as a judge next season, replacing either Jennifer Lopez or Steven Tyler, both of whom left after two years in order to focus full-time on their music careers (and in the case of Lopez, her “acting” career, too).

I once interviewed Carey for an Us Weekly cover story, and I found her to be warm, intelligent and surprisingly funny, but she’s a diva through and through. (She actually walked into the living room of her New York City hotel suite cradling her miniature dog!) Idol will reportedly pay her a very diva-like sum of between $12 and $17 million a season (a hefty and not altogether worthwhile expense, considering that Carey is well past her pop heyday), and I don’t even want to think about her list of perks and demands.

Meanwhile, there are murmurings that Randy Jackson, the last remaining original judge, currently in contract negotiations, might be moving from the judge’s table into more of a mentoring role, in an attempt to revamp the show for season 12, launching in January of 2013. Sadly, that restructuring doesn’t extend to Ryan Seacrest, the inexplicably still-highly employable host, who has signed up for another two years at a pay rate of $15 million per season. Is it too late to invite ex-judge Ellen DeGeneres back for the job they should have offered her in the first place?

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: An ‘American Idol’ Wish List– Who Should Replace Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler?’

Sound and Vision: Why Judging a TV Star Search Is More Valuable Than Winning One

The votes were counted and Phillip Phillips was crowned the 11th American Idol on May 23. So what’s next?

If this is going to be just another case of recent history repeating, a first blush of modest success (his Idol winner’s single “Home” entered Billboard’s Hot 100 at No. 10, with 278,000 downloads), maybe even a platinum post-Idol album (like his predecessor, Scotty McCreery), then… nothing much. Unlike American Idol‘s early seasons, which made durable stars out of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, taking the grand prize no longer comes with guaranteed gold or platinum (if only for one album).

Even Adam Lambert, Idol‘s eighth runner-up and the show’s lone international star launch in the past several seasons, is in the throes of a sophomore slump. Although Trespassing, his second studio album, released on May 15, entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 1, it did so with only 77,000 copies sold its first week. That’s 120,000 less than his 2009 debut, For Your Entertainment, and the lowest one-week total for a No. 1 album since last August, when Adele’s 21 sold 76,000 copies in its 12th non-consecutive week at No. 1. Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Why Judging a TV Star Search Is More Valuable Than Winning One’

Sound and Vision: One Direction and The Wanted — the Return of the Boy Band?

The British are coming—again!

It’s been more than a hot minute since multi-platinum boy bands like *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys roamed the earth and ruled the charts. Now, after a decade-long dormancy, cute, heavily-styled guys who sing in harmony and don’t play instruments are suddenly back in fashion.

Once again, the UK is leading the charge onward and upward. While Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were born in the USA, they enjoyed their earliest success in the UK. This time, though, the new wave of blushing boy bands represents an authentic UK-born-and-bred British invasion.

The members of The Wanted, whose “Glad You Came” single has climbed into the Top 3 of Billboard’s Hot 100 (the quintet’s self-titled US debut album arrives April 24), and One Direction, whose first album, Up All Night, just outpaced Adele to enter Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 1 (176,000 vs. 148,000 copies sold), all hail from Britain and Ireland.

In just a few months, both groups already have enjoyed more US success than Ireland’s Westlife, or Take That, perhaps the UK’s biggest boy band ever, who aside from one Top 10 single (1995’s “Back for Good”), never made it big in the States. (With the exception of Spice Girls and Bananarama, UK female vocal groups—including All Saints in the ‘90s and, more recently, Sugababes and Girls Aloud—haven’t fared much better in the US over the years.)

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: One Direction and The Wanted — the Return of the Boy Band?’

Can Mariah Carey Rise Again?

Since the turn of the century, Mariah Carey’s once-seemingly indestructible career has twisted and turned, going up and down and back around like that roller-coaster ride in the video for “Fantasy,” one of her biggest songs from the last century.

Ups: The Emancipation of Mimi, the best selling album of 2005 in the US, which featured “We Belong Together,” the biggest solo single of Carey’s career, and a well-reviewed supporting performance in the Oscar-nominated 2009 film Precious. Downs: a flop film/soundtrack combo (2001′s Glitter), under-performing albums and singles and that public meltdown that sent her star shooting in the wrong direction for most of the first half of the millennium.

Now that star is in a state of flux, teetering, thanks to her last album, 2009′s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, which yielded mixed results. Though it received decent reviews, it launched only one Top 10 single (the Eminem-dissing “Obsessed”), and became her first studio album not to at least go platinum. A Memoirs remix album, Angels Advocate, was scrapped, and not even a tacked-on Nicky Minaj cameo could pull “Up Out My Face,” the first single from the aborted project, higher than No. 100 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

But through the rain (to quote the title of one of her downs), nobody ever accused Carey of being over. In fact, the timing might be perfect for her to launch a full-scale comeback, which unofficially began on March 1 with a forty-minute show at New York City’s Gotham Hall, her first performance since giving birth to twins Moroccan and Monroe on April 30, 2011.

Adele is helping to make the Hot 100 once again safe for sisters with voices, and the death of Whitney Houston has increased the void that she and Carey spent the ’90s filling. Like Houston, she specializes in the sort of big, melismatic R&B ballads that have been MIA from the tops of the pops for several years now. Carey could use one to claw her way back to the top of the diva heap, but she’ll need a sturdy comeback plan. Here are five guidelines she should scribble on it.

Choose your collaborators wisely. Carey has released little new music since 2009, aside from her second holiday album, 2010′s Merry Christmas II You, and a re-recording of her own “All I Want for Christmas Is You” with Justin Bieber for Under the Mistletoe, his 2011 Christmas album. Though that’s precisely the kind of collaboration she should avoid in the future (a forty-something woman need not be seen and/or heard cavorting musically with a teenager), the recent news that she’s been in the studio with Jermaine Dupri, who co-wrote and co-produced “We Belong Together,” is already music to these cautiously optimistic ears.

Sure Carey could probably score at least one quick hit by hooking up with Dr. Luke, will.i.am or David Guetta, but why chase after the scraps that all of those other pop divas have been picking on, or invite such overexposed rappers like Minaj and Lil Wayne into the studio to spice up whatever she’s cooking up? She and her longtime cohort can produce a gourmet meal that fans won’t be able to feast on anywhere else.

Keep leaving “dem babies” at home. It was wise of her to refer to her twins with husband Nick Cannon only in onstage banter at the New York City show and not actually trot them out. Sex sells, and although motherhood is sexy, nobody wants to see Carey pushing around twin baby strollers in a little black dress.

Get involved: Sign up for as many extracurricular activities as possible. It’s hard to imagine that Jennifer Lopez would have scored a comeback hit last year with “On the Floor,” or a plum spot Oscar-presenting with Cameron Diaz at this year’s Academy Awards if she’d never signed on as an American Idol judge. (Does that mean she has Idol to blame for that unfortunately exposed nipple while co-presenting Best Costume Design and Best Makeup?)

Carey was at one point mentioned to fill the Idol seat that Lopez eventually snagged. Now that Paula Abdul is gone from the US X Factor, Carey should lobby hard with Simon Cowell to take her place and then use the show to launch the first single from her next album.

And don’t forget, you’re an actress, too. After a few false starts, Carey finally proved herself in Hollywood with her small but pivotal performance as a supportive social worker in Precious. Since Whitney Houston is no longer around to reprise her role as Savannah in the planned sequel to Waiting to Exhale, Carey should make sure that she, and not Oprah Winfrey, as has been suggested, is next in line to replace her.

Act your age, not Katy Perry’s. Carey once told me during an interview, that her baby-doll persona is totally wink-wink: those sideways glances, the fluttering of her eyelids, calling fans her “lambs”all an act. I got the joke, but unfortunately, it only made it easier to believe she’d suffered a serious breakdown in early 2001, since she’d always acted a little… off.

Now that she’s in her forties, it’s time to overhaul the life-size-Barbie image. Adele became the biggest pop star in the world without a single gimmick. Carey should follow suit and rely solely on her voice. It’s still in working order, and for all her ups and downs this century, it’s the one thing that hasn’t failed her yet.

Vocal Points: Voices To Look For In 2012

As great as 2011 has been, it’s time to start fresh. So, while you’re making your New Year’s resolutions, start thinking about what music will be your soundtrack to 2012. Here are some of the voices we’re looking forward to hearing more from in the year to come!

Paramore, who made news in late 2010 for their split with founding members Josh and Zac Farro, are scheduled to release a full-length album in early 2012. So far, we’ve heard singles “Hello Cold World”, “Renegade” and most recently “In The Mourning”. Still, we’re wondering how the full-length album reflects any change in the band’s style. And it’ll be particularly interesting to see if Hayley Williams‘ voice is strong enough to keep fans hooked.

We’re also looking forward to having John Mayer‘s voice back in 2012! His fifth studio album, Born and Raised, which was initially scheduled for the end of 2011, will now be coming out in 2012, as soon as Mayer’s voice has completely recovered. And since the album’s already mostly completed (just missing vocals) it looks like we don’t have too long to wait!

Mumford and Sons won’t be keeping us waiting much longer either. According to the band, their next LP will be more mature, sounding a bit like “Black Sabbath meets Nick Drake”. And after the success of Sigh No More, its hard for us to imagine the band’s follow-up being anything less than great. Our fingers are crossed. Continue reading ‘Vocal Points: Voices To Look For In 2012′

Sound & Vision: Hard Times for TV-Launched Pop Stars — Can Adam Lambert Save Them All?

Susan Boyle is underperforming on the charts with her recently released third album, Someone to Watch Over Me. American Idol‘s Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery missed a cue and was caught lip-syncing his single “The Trouble with Girls” at the 85th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Speaking of trouble and girls, on the same day, 10th season runner-up Lauren Alaina flubbed the words to the National Anthem Christina Aguilera-style before an NLF game between the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

November was cruel to the stars of TV’s talent searches. Frankly, though, they were already in danger of becoming an endangered chart phenomenon before the month kicked in. As of last season, Idol still brought in gargantuan ratings, but though McCreery is selling considerably better than his two Idol predecessors, the show hasn’t launched a runaway success since Adam Lambert three seasons ago. And despite decent ratings and a spin-off hit for two of its judges with Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera‘s “Moves Like Jagger,” The Voice failed to produce a single chart sensation in its first season.

The jury is still out on the US version of The X Factor, but with viewership well below half of Idol‘s 10th-season average (and an erosion of some 4 million viewers between its September debut and November), it’s hard to imagine that Simon Cowell and company will be able to create a star bigger than Idol has in recent years.

Continue reading ‘Sound & Vision: Hard Times for TV-Launched Pop Stars — Can Adam Lambert Save Them All?’

 


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