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Cher Finishes New Album; Works With Scissor Sisters Frontman

Pop diva Cher has finished her follow up to 2001′s Living Proof, and both her and the rest of the music world owe a great deal of thanks to Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears. “Got to down & Finish last song ! Then it DONE !! Jakes here putting some parts down & a Harmony !” Cher said Saturday on Twitter, before she announced the album’s completion this morning.

For those following along, Cher’s new album was actually due to be released in March, but production delays have pushed the album to later in 2013. There were rumor at one time that the record would feature creative collaborations with the likes of Timbaland and P!nk, but whether or not those efforts will make their way into the final product remains to be seen. For now, click below and enjoy a Cher classic. We still believe in life after love, do you? Continue reading ‘Cher Finishes New Album; Works With Scissor Sisters Frontman’

Justin Timberlake Premieres “Suit & Tie;” Announces Comeback Album

It is hard to believe half a decade has passed since Justin Timberlake last topped the pop charts, but all that is about to change.

Last night Justin Timberlake officially returned to the world of music with the release of his comeback single, “Suit & Tie.” Featuring a guest appearance from Jay-Z and production from Timbaland, the track proves once and for all that no one understands where the future of pop is headed quite like Timberlake. It’s a song with a foundation rooted firmly in classic pop song structure, but with enough spice to make everything feel new once again. You can stream “Suit & Tie” below.

In addition to releasing his single, Timberlake also revealed plans to release a new album entitled The 20/20 Experience later this year. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

If you like Justin Timberlake, be sure to check out OS artist Ty Mayfield!

Missy Elliott To Release Two Singles Over Labor Day Weekend

I hope you didn’t forget how to work it. Or put your thing down, flip it, and reverse it, for that matter.

Beloved hip-hop songstress Missy Elliott is slated to make a return to the pop landscape over labor day weekend with the release of two new singles, “9th Inning” and “Triple Threat.” While Elliott has performed the tracks live in the past few months, their commercial release marks the first new music in over four years from the performer born Melissa Arentt Elliot.

If these tracks are anywhere close to the quality of past singles such as “Work It,” “Lose Control,” or “Get Ur Freak On,” then we’re looking at the comeback story of the year, ya’ll.

Continue reading ‘Missy Elliott To Release Two Singles Over Labor Day Weekend’

Sound And Vision: Post-Mortem Pop, Starring Drake’s Aaliyah Resurrection and the Second Coming of Whitney Houston

Drake must be the luckiest guy in music. He’s got an enviable portfolio of assets: looks, talent, street cred, excellent connections, gold and multi-platinum. Now the Canadian rapper has a beautiful woman, too—at least a controlling interest in her legacy. But is ownership of the next posthumous phase of Aaliyah’s career one benefit too many?

That’s what some are wondering as we approach the 11th anniversary (on August 25) of the death of Aaliyah, who was killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001, at age 22, cutting short one of the most promising careers in music. Since then, there’s been scant new material issued under her name. I Care 4 U, a posthumous album released in December of 2002, was followed by nearly a decade of silence.

Until now. Earlier this month, Drake unveiled a new Aaliyah track, “Enough Said,” credited to Aaliyah featuring Drake and produced by the rapper’s Take Care collaborator Noah “40” Shebib. There’s more: Drake has promised a new Aaliyah album, executive produced by himself and 40, with 13 or 14 tracks, to be released later this year.

“Enough Said” Aaliyah featuring Drake

But is it a true Aaliyah album if key players in her life and legacy—namely her immediate family—are left out of it? Her brother, Rashad Haughton, went so far as to deny the family’s involvement on Aaliyah’s Facebook fan page. “There is no official album being released and supported by the Haughton family,” he posted on August 7, several days after Drake released the new single. Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Post-Mortem Pop, Starring Drake’s Aaliyah Resurrection and the Second Coming of Whitney Houston’

Sound and Vision: The Fall of R&B: How Pop Is Selling Its Soul for a Dance Beat

Remember the days when R&B and hip hop was the sound of pop? From the ‘90s to the mid ‘00s, music’s most dependable hitmakersMariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, R. Kelly, Usher, Brandy, Monica, Alicia Keys, Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé, among themspecialized in “crossover” soul, climbing both the R&B charts and the Hot 100 in tandem.

But lately, something strange has been happening on Billboard’s R&B /Hip-Hop Songs chart: A hit is no longer necessarily a hit. Just because a song is big in the R&B sphere doesn’t mean it’s big anywhere else. For the week ending April 7, 2012, only one song in the R&B/Hip-Hop Top 10Tyga’s “Rack City”had managed a comparable placing on the Hot 100.

The song at No. 1, Beyoncé’s “Love on Top,” which had been there for multiple weeks, was way down at No. 54 on the Hot 100. (It briefly entered the Top 40 last September, debuting and peaking at No. 20 after Beyoncé performed it at the MTV Video Music Awards.) Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single R&B diva in the Top 40 aside from Janelle Monae, who got there by guest-singing on rock band fun.’s No. 1 hit “We Are Young.”

What happened to pop’s soul? There’s a disconnect between the pop and R&B charts that hasn’t been so pronounced since the days when Michael Jackson’s label, CBS Records, threatened to pull all of its artists from MTV if the then-fledgling network didn’t play Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: The Fall of R&B: How Pop Is Selling Its Soul for a Dance Beat’

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: Hot Summer Collabos

As the end of summer approaches, so does the last of the hot summer music from hip hop’s finest.  The latest batch of all-male mash-ups are comprised of some surprising pair-ups and lots of old school favorites. Here’s what we’ll be bumping ‘til the weather cools off.

Chris Brown ft. Kevin McCall: “Strip”:  The first single from Breezy’s hip hop mixtape, Boy In Detention (due out this week) features a fantasy world starring Chris and a stripper, with McCall providing the rap over Brown’s sexy crooning “Take it off / I want to love ya / Everybody, want to touch ya / Your movin’ right / I want to see what’s up under / You can back it up / Beep, Beep / Like a trucker”.  The up-tempo track was produced by Tha Bizness.

Game ft. Wiz Khalifa & B.o.B: “Standin’ On A Corner”: This trio was a bit unexpected, but managed to deliver a delicious dose of Cali swagger.  More melodic than most Game records, this single gives each of emcee equal time to shine over the unique beat.

Gucci Mane ft. Waka Flocka Flame & Rocko: “In My Business” The second Rocko-tinged single from Ferrari Boyz features Waka Flocka in full effect over the heart-pounding, hard-hitting beat of this street style track that can’t help but make you feel ballsy.

Wale ft. J. Cole: “Bad Girls Club”: The duo dropped this track in July sending the ladies into a frenzy with their sexy ode to their ideal “perfect 10”.  In his signature style, Wale kicks off the track by commanding “Bad bit*hes get low right now” followed by Cole’s sensual delivery of loving lyrics.

Timbaland ft. Pitbull and David Guetta: “Pass At Me”: This sexy single took a second to grow on me, but now that it has, I can’t get the sassy song out of my head.  While the sound is a twist for Timbaland’s usual club-banging style, Pitbull’s command of the latin sound shines through; resulting in a unique ditty you can’t help but salsa to.

Pusha T ft. Tyler The Creator: “Trouble On My Mind”: Pusha goes hard in this mash up with Odd Future’s Tyler the Creator, who delivers a particularly appealing verse, proving his ability to stand out from the Wolfpack.  He and Virginia-bred T (who took the opportunity to congratulate Obama on off-ing Bin Laden) served up a big budget video starring the do as a pair of comical criminals.

Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Hot Summer Collabos’

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.

 

Sound And Vision: Disappearing Acts—Music’s M.I.A. Stars

“The waiting is the hardest part,” Tom Petty once sang. And for fans of David Bowie, Kate Bush and Fiona Apple, none of whom have released studio albums of new material for the better part of a decade, that couldn’t be more true. Meanwhile, Red Hot Chili Peppers, once a reasonably prolific alternative-rock outfit, has made nary a sound since 2006′s Stadium Arcadium. Like Apple and Bush, the band supposedly has new music in the works, but I’ll believe it when I hear it. (As for Bush’s Director’s Cut, due May 16, it doesn’t count, as it features reworked songs from 1989′s The Sensual World and 1993′s The Red Shoes and will likely make her fans miss her even more.)
There once was a time when the average music star released a new album every year or so. In the ’80 few things in life were more certain than death, taxes and a new Prince album every calendar year. In the ’90s, Mariah Cary took the prolificacy baton and dashed off with it. Nowadays we can go years without hearing a peep out of her. Overexposure can damage pop careers (proceed with caution, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber, Pitbull and all those other ubiquitous rappers), but underexposure can be just as bad, for AWOL recording artists and for their fans, especially if it means being stuck with the same songs by the same ten artists on repeat all day and all night.
When Justin Timberlake was a member of ‘N Sync, he released four albums between 1997 and 2001. Now it’s been five years since FutureSex/LoveSounds. If I didn’t know better—and I kind of don’t—I’d think he’d abandoned pop for Hollywood. It’s nice to occasionally get him guesting on someone else’s album—Timbaland‘s, Madonna‘s, Sheryl Crow‘s, Ciara‘s, Duran Duran‘s—but right about now, it feels like he could be the one to save us from the auto-tuned mess that modern pop has become.
Or maybe Amy Winehouse could come back and help Adele shoulder the burden of making pop safe again for female singers offering more than a pretty face and manufactured beats. Since breaking through with the five-GRAMMY-winning Back to Black album in 2006, she’s been sort of everywhere—and nowhere at the same time. For a while, she dominated the tabloids and was in and out of court. She did vocal duties on Mark Ronson’s 2007 hit “Valerie,” she formed a still-unrecorded group with ?estlove from the Roots, and she’ll be singing with Tony Bennett on his upcoming duets album (due in September), but there’s still no follow-up to the modern classic that gave us “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.”
Every time I hear the latter as the theme song to Secret Diary of a Call Girl, it makes me miss her even more. Hopefully, La Roux (second to Winehouse among my favorite British imports of the last few years) won’t drag their feet that way Winehouse has been, and Lily Allen, who has said she’s out of the pop-star business, will have a change of heart.
Absence does indeed make the heart go fonder, but out of sight out of mind? Stay away for too long, and you risk being forgotten and replaced by younger models. It happened last year with Christina Aguilera‘s Bionic, which came four years after her previous studio set Back to Basics, and Avril Lavigne‘s recently released Goodbye Lullabye may have fared better had it come out a year or two ago (first week sales: 87,000, down nearly 200,000 from 2007′s The Best Damn Thing). May Kelly Clarkson—only out of circulation for a couple of years, though it feels like so much longer— make a safe solo return with her new studio album in September (a new release date she recently announced on Facebook).
But if she doesn’t, there still might be a silver lining. Sade returned last year after a decade-long break to massive sales, and the band is now on tour. No doubt hoping to follow Sade’s lead, Shania Twain just announced that she’s working on her first album since 2002′s Up. Maybe she and Faith Hill, also M.I.A. for far too long and reportedly working with rock producer Brendan O’Brien on a 2011 comeback, can team up, go on tour together and show Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert how it’s really done.

Sound And Vision: Does Madonna Still Matter?

Last week I finally got around to seeing The King’s Speech, and during one particular scene, my mind wandered to Madonna, of all people. No, the queen of pop doesn’t appear in the film, nor are any of her songs on the soundtrack, but two secondary yet pivotal Speech characters, the UK’s King Edward VIII and his double-divorcée American paramour Wallis Simpson, will take the lead in Madonna’s upcoming directorial effort W.E.
While I’m not expecting her to pull off a Ben Affleck-style transformation from middling actor to acclaimed filmmaker (she also co-wrote W.E. with her Truth or Dare director Alex Keshishian), stranger things have happened over the course of her career. (Remember her Golden Globe win and medium-level Oscar buzz for Evita?) But if, in a left-field twist of fate, Madonna wins over both critics and moviegoers with W.E. the way Barbra Streisand did with Yentl in the ’80s, and she gives up her old day job for this new one, will anybody miss her on the charts?
I have my doubts. Her last album, Hard Candy, was released April of 2008, a nearly three-year eternity on the pop timeline. Though it spawned her record-breaking 37th Top 10 single “4 Minutes” (sorry, Elvis!), it was Madonna’s first studio album not to be certified platinum by the RIAA, and like its two predecessors, 2005′s Confessions on a Dance Floor and 2003′s American Life, it didn’t produce a second Top 40 hit in the US.
Since the end of 2009, when Celebration, her greatest-hits compilation, failed to boost her sagging chart fortunes, Madonna has retreated to behind the scenes. She made W.E., designed a fashion line with her daughter Lourdes, and launched Hard Candy Fitness in Mexico City (the second branch of the gym line arrives in Moscow in mid-March). But on December 17th, she posted a message on her Facebook wall saying that she’s ready to rock again: “Its official! I need to move. I need to sweat. I need to make new music! Music I can dance to. I’m on the look out for the maddest, sickest, most bad ass people to collaborate with. I’m just saying……”
The big question: Can she rise from the dust of Celebration, whose two new singles were neither great nor hits? The title track peaked at No. 71 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2009, and the follow-up, “Revolver,” didn’t even bother to chart. Fans were RSVPing in droves to the parties of pop’s younger stars, while Madonna’s celebration, dogged by sparse attendance and a general lack of interest, was over almost as soon as it began. For the first time in her career, Madonna knew what it feels like for a girl standing in the shadow of someone else.
That someone else would be Lady Gaga, who in recent years has been anointed alternately as the second coming of Madonna and the reason why she’s so over. But Gaga can’t take all of the credit for the tough time Madonna has been having on the charts. Madonna had one of the longest hit-making runs in pop history, but as Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey well know, every fierce ruling diva has her day when the hits become fewer and farther between. Also hogging the spotlight in Gaga’s rear, there’s Britney Spears, Rihanna and Katy Perry, post-Madonna starlets who, like the original material girl, made up for their vocal shortcomings by hooking up with the right collaborators and striking perfect pop poses.
How can Madonna compete with baby divas half her age? Does she even have to? She has one of the sturdiest back catalogs in pop music, good enough to inspire an entire episode of Glee and produce last year’s No. 1 soundtrack EP Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna. At this point, she could coast on her history, make like the Rolling Stones and continue to rake in huge bucks from touring without ever releasing another record. But since she recently departed from her long-term label, Warner Bros. Records, and signed a reported $120 million 10-year contract with concert promoter Live Nation that encompasses tours, merchandising, albums, DVDs and music-related film and TV projects, bowing out of the business of making new music isn’t an option.
She should let those other divas fight for scraps from flavor-of-the-month producers. Timbaland and Pharell did her few creative favors on Hard Candy, and David Guetta, who produced “Celebration” and “Revolver,” is overrated and overbooked. Rihanna, his latest diva-for-hire, can have him. Madonna should steer clear of anyone having anything to do with any of the No. 1 singles from the last year. So if Max Martin or will.i.am are on her speed dial, she needs to delete them both.
Searching for the maddest, sickest, most bad ass people to collaborate with looks good on paper—and on her Facebook wall—but Madonna is best one on one, not trying to cover every musical angle with a gallery of hot producers. She should go out and find the next William Orbit, the next Mirwais, the next Stuart Price, someone her competitors have yet to get their hands on. With the right guy onboard (or girl—I’d kill to hear her side by side with someone like Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), all she’ll need to do is strap on her dancing heels and let the confessions begin.

 


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