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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.

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’

The EditoriaList: Top Seven Senseless Appearances In Rock Documentaries

You’re sitting there, enjoying Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, when all of a sudden Gore Vidal appears on screen to discuss the political implications of Bieber’s evolving hairstyle. OK, that didn’t happen, but the following actual rock doc commentators are just as jarringly inappropriate:

 

 

7. Stones in Exile
Will.i.am, Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair

I don’t even want to hear what Will.i.am thinks about The Black Eyed Peas, never mind what he has to say about The Rolling Stones’ masterpiece Exile on Main Street. Sheryl Crow shows up to tell us how much musicians revere the album. Was there literally no one else available? Due respect to Sheryl Crow, but her music doesn’t exactly evoke the gritty swinging awesomeness of Exile. And finally, Liz Phair seems to be included strictly by virtue of the reference in the title of her first LP, Exile in Guyville.

6. The Flaming Lips: The Fearless Freaks
Adam Goldberg, Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis

Unless they have some direct connection with the artists, I can’t get down with listening to actors talk about being a fan. Yeah, I’m a fan, too, that’s why I’m watching this. What possible insight are you providing me? What’s that you say? Yes, I know, I feel the same way. We’re both fans, you see. Wait, did you produce their last record? Oh, me neither. I think these three actors are all great, but what are the chances that the (at the time) romantically-linked Goldberg and Ricci each have something independently valuable to add to my understanding or appreciation of The Flaming Lips?

Continue reading ‘The EditoriaList: Top Seven Senseless Appearances In Rock Documentaries’

Sound And Vision: Where Is the Love? — The Disappearing Power-Ballad Duet

Back in the day, every major female pop star had one: a male pop star (or two, or three or more) who loved her—at least on the record and on the charts. Over the years, Barbra Streisand had Neil Diamond, Barry Gibb and Bryan Adams. Diana Ross had Marvin Gaye, Lionel Richie and Julio Iglesias. Olivia Newton-John, Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks had their pick of men (Andy Gibb, Don Henley, Aaron Neville, Tom Petty and John Travolta, among them.) Whitney Houston had Teddy Pendergrass, Bobby Brown, Enrique Iglesias and George Michael. Madonna had Prince. Celine Dion had Peabo Bryson and R. Kelly. Mariah Carey had Luther Vandross, and so did Janet Jackson.
But where did the love go? Though there have been scattered duet hits in recent years (Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown‘s “No Air,” Ciara and Justin Timberlake‘s “Love Sex Magic”), they are fewer and much farther between. On the Billboard Hot 100 dated March 19, 2011, “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson‘s country chart topper, was the only traditional male-female duet, way down at No. 34.
I’d say that part of the blame lies with the faltering power ballad, which isn’t the chart force that it was in the days when Celine Dion ruled the airwaves. Consider pop’s leading single males: Both of Usher‘s and Enrique Iglesias’s two recent Top 10 Hot 100 singles have been not ballads but dance-oriented collaborations with rappers and, in the case of Usher’s “OMG,” Will.i.am. Chris Brown’s comeback-in-progress also has been harder-edged and boosted by male guest stars like Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, and of Justin Bieber‘s two Top 10s to date, neither has been a ballad, both were with rappers.
But it’s not just about what the public seems to want— it seems to be what the artists want, too. Why play the conventional good girl, duetting with Usher or Iglesias, when it’s so much more fun being bad? In the past year or so, both Rihanna and Katy Perry have gone Top 10 with rappers (Eminem and Drake, and Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively). Meanwhile, Ke$ha went there with electronica hipsters 3OH!3 (after scoring her first hit riding shotgun with Flo Rida), and Beyoncé and Lady Gaga got there together.
As for the guys, boy-on-boy (or boys) rule: Bruno Mars with B.o.B and Travie McCoy, Jeremih with 50 Cent, Usher and Iglesias with Pitbull, Iglesias and Bieber with Ludacris. If it were 2001, Iglesias, or Ricky Martin, probably already would have zipped up the charts with Katy Perry and/or Rihanna on his arm. But it’s 2011, and just as every good girl wants a bad-boy rapper by her side, it seems the hit-making males would rather roll with the rough boys than mush it up with the ladies.
Will the power ballad survive the current disinterest in them? Can singing couples make a comeback? I’d be surprised if they didn’t. Pop music is cyclical, and if Jennifer Lopez can rise again, so can love (which, incidentally happens to be the title of J. Lo’s upcoming album, minus a question mark). All it needs is the right tag team to deliver it back into the public’s good graces and up the charts. I’d pay money to hear Pink and Adam Lambert together, but would the masses buy it? I’m not so sure, but wouldn’t it be just like them both to try and find out?

360-Degrees Of The Black Eyed Peas

So your friends cut you off from your “I Am T-Pain” app after they got sick of your excessive autotuning? Don’t worry! On January 24, Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am introduced the latest iPhone app designed to help fans get involved in their music.

The app, BEP360, is the first release from will.i.am’s newly-established company will.i.apps, and is available for $2.99 on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. It was developed by will.i.apps and Metaio, a company that develops augmented reality software. The first app of its kind, BEP360 gives fans the ability to control a 360° music video for the Peas’ “The Time (Dirty Bit).” It allows users to fully immerse themselves in video by swinging their phone around an axis. The app also gives users a chance to direct a virtual photo shoot with will.i.am and bandmates Fergie, apl.de.ap and Taboo. Other features include a Black Eyed Peas-inspired puzzle game and the ability to view and share comments with other BEP360 users.

According to a January 24 press release, the new Black Eyed Peas app will allow artists to connect with their fans on another level. “Will.i.apps and the BEP360 app have been established to help artists tap into the potential of our hyper-connected mobile world and bring fans deeper inside the music far beyond a four minute audio recording,” will.i.am explains. The release also states that BEP360 is only the first of several upcoming applications from will.i.apps that will “converge the worlds of creativity, music and advanced digital technologies.” Of course, we’d expect nothing less from a guy who recently signed on as Intel’s new Director of Creative Innovation. And hey – maybe the app will distract people from the Peas’ underwhelming Super Bowl performance.

For more information about will.i.apps and BEP360, check out the company’s Web site.

The Wait Is Over: Nicki Minaj Drops Pink Friday on Music Monday

Pink Friday officially arrived after an unauthorized leak last Wednesday, unleashing the storm that is Nicki Minaj’s first-full length album.  Today, on its release date, (Pink Monday?) Nicki’s debut—the 13-track LP which features cameos from an eclectic bunch including Drake, Eminem, will.i.am, and Natasha Bedingfield among others— is one of the most highly-anticipated records of the year.

With all the pre-album buzz swirling around her seemingly overnight super-stardom earlier this year, this album accomplishes the unattainable task of living up to the hype.

Nicki’s multiple personas are on full display, showcasing her versatility and depth as a writer and performer.  At times, she comes off as a soft, vulnerable woman caught in the trenches of love in songs like “Right Thru Me” and “Save Me”. The next moment, she’s a fierce firestorm of confidence, virtually unshakable with her no-holds-barred, aggressive rhymes that go toe to toe with some of the rawest men in the game on tracks like “Did It On ‘em” and “ Here I Am.”

“All these bitches is my sons…If I had a dick, I’d pull it out and piss on ‘em”

More inspirational tracks like “Fly”, featuring Rihanna, hone in on the quest to overcome life’s obstacles and succeed despite adversity. The uplifting track inspires hope and strength and was produced by Britney [Spears] collaborator, J.R. Rotem.  Minaj offers a glimpse into her core with “Dear Old Nicki”, a track she literally penned to her former self, reconciling her current success with the work it took to get it.  In a way, she’s congratulating herself on a job well done, while convincing herself and others it hasn’t changed her.

The beats on her album are as diverse as the content, jumping from hard, bass-driven sounds to pop-techno stylings on songs like “Check It Out” featuring will.i.am.  She samples Simple Minds’  1985 hit,  “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” on “Blazin,” featuring Kanye West and finishes the album with an unexpected  rock-tinged twist on “Last Chance” featuring Natasha Bedingfield.

Pink Friday promises a closer look into Ms. Minaj’s never-ending bag of tricks. If that’s not enough, Nicki has one final treat for fans when her MTV documentary My Time Now premieres November 28th.

1. I’m The Best

2. Roman’s Revenge (feat. Eminem)

3. Did It On ‘em

4. Right Thru Me

5. Fly (feat. Rihanna)

6. Save Me

7. Moment 4 Life (feat. Drake)

8. Check It Out (feat. will.i.am)

9. Blazin (feat. Kanye West)

10. Here I Am

11. Dear Old Nicki

12. Your Love

13. Last Chance (feat. Natasha Bedingfield)

14. Super Bass

15. Blow Ya Mind

16. Muny

17. Girls Fall Like Dominoes (Bonus Track)

By Cortney Wills

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

The National win best album at Q Awards

This week Q Magazine’s Q Awards took place, bringing together some of the biggest names in music. Winners included Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine for Best Female, Paolo Nutini for Best Male, and Mumford & Sons for Best New Act. The National beat the likes of Green Day, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon and Muse for the highest honor of Best Album for High Violet. Check out the full list of winners here.

Katy Perry gets hitched

Katy Perry and Russell Brand got married in a lavish ceremony on a wildlife reserve in India this past weekend. Bo-ring!

The Bad

Bon Jovi neighbor pens apology letter

“Dear Bon Jovi,

I’m sorry for throwing empty beer cans on your lawn.”

So begins a grand apology by a 17-year-old neighbor of Jon Bon Jovi, posted to TheAwl.com. So what possessed a teenage boy to vandalize the lawn of New Jersey’s favorite son? Bad lyrics, apparently. Read the letter in its entirety here—it’s funny stuff.

T.I. changes album title

Now that T.I. is facing 11 months in jail for violating his probation, his album name, King Uncaged doesn’t make much sense. This week the rapper announced that the new title will be No Mercy. Still no word on a release date … for the album … not T.I.

The Ugly

Alice Cooper loses blood and other stuff on flight to UK

Don’t you just hate it when the airline loses your fake blood, skulls and plastic bats? Oh, that’s right, you’re not Alice Cooper. The ghoulish rocker was en route to a Halloween show in London when he discovered his luggage had been misplaced, and with it, all sorts of props for his show. Cooper was not happy, nor should he be. Oversized syringes and skeleton arms don’t grow on trees.

Taylor Momsen flashes audience at New York show

Is there anyone, ANYONE, more desperate to be seen as a bad girl than Taylor Momsen? The dead hooker makeup, the underage smoking, the torn fishnets, the apathetic gaze, the pointless trash talking—it’s like a 17-year-old pretending to be Courtney Love for Halloween. The Pretty Reckless singer borrowed another move from the bad girl playbook this week when she flashed a crowd during a performance, revealing taped nipples a la Wendy O. Williams. Yawn. Julia Roberts’ performance in Pretty Woman was more shocking. Sorry Miss Momsen, you’re not bad, just unoriginal.

Miscellany

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Eminem and Jay-Z rock Yankee Stadium

Part one of Jay-Z and Eminem’s Home and Home Tour, which took place last week in Eminem’s hometown of Detroit, was a success (to put it mildly). And Part two, which took place this past Tuesday at Yankee Stadium in Jay-Z’s home turf, looks like it was just as epic, if not more so. Featuring repeat guest performances by Drake, Kanye West and Dr. Dre, the concert also featured surprise guests Swizz Beatz, Nicki Minaj and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who joined buddy Jay-Z for a medley that included snippets of “Clocks” and “Viva La Vida.” Check out the clip below—goosebumps on the house.

Ted Leo + Paul F. Tompkins = “Bottled in Cork” video

Lampooning the archetypal rise and fall of a rock star, this new video from Ted Leo is a real hoot, thanks to a comically rich performance by Paul F. Tompkins, who plays the part of Leo’s would-be manager, Reginald Van Voorst. Enjoy the LOLs.

The Bad

Hootie and the Blowfish to get SC monument

It seems mean-spirited to throw this in the “Bad” section, but we didn’t have room for it anywhere else. Honest. And even if we were griping about the expense of funding such a monstrosity (your words, not ours), it wouldn’t change the fact that Hootie and the Blowfish are getting a big monument in Columbus, South Carolina. The band formed there on the campus of USC nearly 25 years ago, and went on to sell 16 million copies of their record, Cracked Rear View. The monument will be unveiled on October 21. Put that spray can down.

Weezer autotunes the news

If you have a sour Hootie aftertaste in your mouth, cleanse your palate with this video wherein Weezer autotunes current events. Catchy and informational!

The Ugly

George Michael sentenced to prison

George Michael was sentenced to eight weeks in jail and a five-year suspension of his driver’s license after he drove his Range Rover into a Snappy Snaps photo store (real name) on July 4th. Somebody won’t be singing “Freedom” anytime soon.

Miscellany

 


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