We previously discussed some of the big changes to The Voice as of Season 3, but there’s already huge news about Season 4: Usher and Shakira will be replacing Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera as judges. With all of the recent drama surrounding new American Idol judges, we were hoping that The Voice would continue to keep their loveable set of coaches. Sadly, the show must go on, and so must the coaches’ own careers.
With a new album and subsequent tour, X-Tina will be replaced by Latin/pop crossover artist Shakira. Shakira seems like an odd choice, considering the other coaches are constantly dominating the charts, but we’re willing to give her a shot. Usher, on the other hand, is an excellent replacement for Cee-Lo (though we’ll certainly miss Lo’s crazy outfits…and pet cockatoo). He will be leaving the show to work on his upcoming sitcom.
Season 3 of The Voice is currently airing on NBC on Monday and Tuesday nights.
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As breaking news of the day goes, it’s not exactly groundbreaking. Still, there it was, in multiple variations, splattered across the online pages of E!, Us Weekly, Entertainment Weekly (which called it a “hair break-over”), People magazine and so many other websites devoted, in large and small part, to such trivialities. You’d think Samson had risen from the dead and taken up guitar.
But wait! Shouldn’t Delilah — I mean, Katy Perry — have been the star of this life (and a new ‘do)-after-love story? Traditionally, the celebrity tabloids and gossip websites pursue female celebrities about whom they date, whom they marry, whom they divorce, to search for baby bumps, and fashion dos and don’ts. Guys generally get in only when they’re dating one of them. (Why do you think Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger, who once went from long to short without causing so much as a media ripple and is now engaged to Avril Lavigne, is suddenly “newsworthy”?)
By those standards, John Mayer must be some kind of publicity-baiting genius. In the last several years, he’s made himself as much of a tabloid fixture as an A-list starlet by dating a succession of them: Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Aniston, Taylor Swift, and most recently, Katy Perry, his pop-star paramour of a few months. Continue reading ‘Sound And Vision: Why Hasn’t Tabloid Notoriety Turned John Mayer into a Total Joke?’
If you’re a music lover of a certain age, too young to remember when contemporary R&B wasn’t joined at the hips with rap, or didn’t come dressed up in a shimmering electro-pop sheen, we’ll forgive you for asking.
Now let the history lesson begin! Flashback to 1995, back when 21-year-old D’Angelo (born Michael Eugene Archer) was quickly becoming one of the hottest things in music. Released that year, his debut album, Brown Sugar, helped usher in the era of neo soul, and with Voodoo, his long-delayed 2000 sophomore album, for whose “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” video he bared both body and soul (literally!), he became an R&B rarity: a sex symbol capable of seducing both fans and critics with his bulging talent.
The only way was up, it seemed. But instead of ascending, D’Angelo dropped out. In some ways, it wasn’t so surprising. When I met D’Angelo in the mid-‘90s before a taping of MTV Unplugged, I was immediately disarmed by his cheerful but low-key and unassuming manner. He easily could have passed as any guy in the audience who’d wandered into the performer’s circle by mistake—and I mean that as a compliment. Modesty in a hunky package, D’Angelo, unlike the egocentric superstars crowding the charts today, clearly wasn’t in it for the star trip. Whether sitting at the piano or plucking a guitar, he was playing for love of the game, not the “F.A.M.E.” and “Fortune” (to quote the crass titles of the two most recent albums by Chris Brown, D’Angelo’s modern-day antithesis).
After taking five years to release his sophomore effort, D’Angelo spent the next decade well outside of the spotlight, only making occasional scattered appearances on leaked songs and other people’s records (including Mark Ronson’s Record Collection). And like so many musical geniuses before and after, he was plagued by demons, which may or may not have shaken up his turbulent romance with fellow singer Angie Stone, the mother of his teenage son Michael, and which definitely led to several legal scrapes, including a 2005 arrest for drunk driving and drug possession, and another in 2010 for soliciting a female undercover police officer for sex in New York City. Continue reading ‘Can D’Angelo Save Contemporary R&B’s Soul?’
Time flies, they say, when you’re having fun (probably more so when you’re having fun in fun.!), and 2012 appears to be whizzing by at a faster clip than usual. Not everyone is having such a blast, though. Yes, these are the best of times—still!—for Adele, but how could they not be? She continues to hover around the top of the charts with 21 more than a year after its release.
What about her brothers and sisters in pop? Here’s a scorecard for the first half of 2012.
Rihanna with a beat A word of advice to Rihanna: Don’t stop the dance. After she spent 10 weeks at No. 1 with “We Found Love”—her collaboration with Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and the first single from Talk That Talk, her sixth album— neither Jay-Z (on the album’s title track), nor Chris Brown (on the single remix of “Birthday Cake”), nor Coldplay (on whose Mylo Xyloto track “Princess of China” Rihanna appears) could boost Rihanna back into the Top 10.
It took a return to strobe-light pop, with Harris as co-producer (along with Dr. Luke and Cirkut), to give Rihanna her first new Top 10 hit of 2012, with “Where Have You Been.”
Lady Gaga in Southeast Asia The year began pretty quietly for Gaga until she kicked off her “The Born This Way Ball” tour in Southeast Asia in April. Then everything that could possibly go wrong did. Christian groups in South Korea, where she played Seoul on April 27, slammed her less-than-holy stage antics, resulting in government-imposed over-eighteen age restrictions for the opening-night show. Meanwhile, the protestations of the Muslims in Indonesia led to the cancellation of her June 3 show in Jakarta.
In Thailand, things went from bad to scandalous. First, she incited the ire of locals by touting Bangkok’s supply of “fake Rolex” moments after arriving for her May 25 concert there. Then they ripped her apart some more for wearing a traditional Thai headdress with a bikini and for sitting on a motorbike with a Thai flag tied to it during the show. At least she didn’t simulate sex with a statue of Buddha.
White boys with an edge Nothing but the beat isn’t just the title of David Guetta’s latest album. It’s become pretty much a mantra for most of the women in pop (see Rihanna) and many of the artists formerly known as R&B and hip-hop stars (Usher, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj).
But in reality, it isn’t all about the beat. The two biggest No. 1 singles of the first six months of 2012—fun.’s “We Are Young” and Gotye‘s “Somebody That I Used to Know”—are both quirky pop songs that have little to do with the prevailing sound of the times (dance music). Where either act goes from here is anybody’s guess, but it’s nice to know that in 2012, you can still score a big hit even if you can’t dance to it.
Madonna’s latest album Okay, so the Queen of Pop is in no danger of being evicted from her throne and sent to the poor house anytime soon. She can still demand top dollar (as in hundreds of them) for mediocre seats and sell out her current “MDNA” world tour anyway. And her 12th album, MDNA, did debut at No. 1 with 359,000 copies sold in the week after its March 26 release.
Alas, it spent only a pair of weeks in the Top 10 (dropping a record 86.7 percent in week two), and by the time the “MDNA” tour kicked off in Tel Aviv on May 31, it was out of the Top 100 completely. Meanwhile, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” the first single, hit No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but it was on and off the charts within two months, and thus far, there’s not a follow-up hit within earshot.
Lionel Richie Sometimes it’s not where you start but where you end up a few weeks later. Although Richie’s latest album, Tuskegee, entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart in the runner-up position to Madonna’s MDNA, it didn’t stay there for long. It eventually crawled up to No. 1, and by May, it was the second best-selling album of 2012 (with 789,000 copies sold), right behind Adele’s 21.
Adam Lambert His sophomore album, Trespassing, did debut at No. 1, making him the seventh American Idol contestant to get to No. 1. Unfortunately, Lambert did so with only 77,000 copies sold—the lowest sum for a No. 1 debut since February of 2011, when Amos Lee’s Mission Bell began on top with first-week sales of 40,000. And it was only downhill from there. After four weeks on the Top 200 album chart, Trespassing was way down at No. 54.
Where were those Glamberts when Adam needed them? Did they defect to Team Beliebers?
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….
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?’
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.
Usher released his long-awaited follow-up to the über successful Raymond vs. Raymond today with an unexpected new sound. Though many critics call Usher’s seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, one of his strongest ever; the project left me looking for my money back.
The 14-track album features tracks from Rico Love, Will.I.Am, Jim Jonsin, Max Martin, and Diplo among others. It also features cameos from Rick Ross, ASAP Rocky, and Pharell. While his first single, “Climax” is currently at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on the Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart, it has failed to win me over since its release last month.
I can respect and actually applaud an artist who isn’t afraid to push boundaries and challenge preconceptions, but I think Usher has taken this reinvention a bit too far. What many critics are praising as ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘genre-crossing’ really just sounds retro and recycled to me. The lines between innovation and replication have blurred, and I’m left with an album that feels like a cross between pop hits from the late 1980s and *NSYNC circa 2001 on their No Strings Attached tour. Continue reading ‘Soundcheck: Usher Releases ‘Looking 4 Myself’’