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Taylor Swift Achieves 50th “Billboard” Hot 100 Song

After only six years in the spotlight, Taylor Swift has yet another milestone under her belt, marked by her latest release, I Knew You Were Trouble. Joining superstars MadonnaAretha FranklinDionne Warwick, and Connie Francis, Swift has achieved her 50th charting song on the Billboard Hot 100.

Although this is due in large part to the fact that many of her releases were preview tracks from her albums rather than official singles, it still marks an incredible triumph for Swift, one which took others over a decade to complete.

Of the four other women to boast this same triumph, Aretha Franklin was the quickest to reach 50 entries into the chart, taking just over 14.5 years.

If you like Taylor Swift, check out OurStage artist Jessica Lynn.

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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?

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Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012.

Sound and Vision: Can Taylor Swift Do Joni Mitchell Justice?

Taylor Swift has yet to top Billboard’s Hot 100, but who needs a No. 1 pop single when you’ve sold more than 20 million albums (as of March of 2011), been named Entertainer of the Year twice in a row by the Academy of Country Music (in 2011 and 2012), been awarded the 2010 Hal David Starlight Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame (an honor previously bestowed upon John Mayer and Alicia Keys) and won an Album of the Year GRAMMY (in 2010, for Fearless, her second album)? She makes every princess of pop this side of Adele seem like an underachiever.

At the age of twenty-two, Swift has accomplished what it takes some icons entire careers and then some to achieve. (Neither Bruce Springsteen, nor the Rolling Stones, nor Aretha Franklin, nor Madonna, nor Eminem, has yet to win an Album of the Year GRAMMY.) But it’s Swift’s latest honor, being the frontrunner for the role of Joni Mitchell in the upcoming film Girls Like Us, a biopic based on Sheila Weller’s book about the lives of Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King in the late ’60s, that has her detractors”and some fans even”protesting “Too soon!” and wondering “Who? Her?”  (more…)

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.

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Aretha Franklin, Clive Davis Reuniting on New Album

After 70 years, Aretha Franklin is still going strong. At her birthday party at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel in New York, the singer announced that she would be reuniting with former mentor Clive Davis to work on a new album. Davis, who is the Chief Creative Officer for Sony Music Entertainment, previously worked with Franklin during his reign at Arista Records. The pair released several hit records during that time, including “Jump To It,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” and “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me.”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"The Voice": Back To The Battleground

Last night, The Voice brought us back to the battleground for the next round of intense and emotional vocal warfare.

The night kicked off with a battle as epic as last week’s final matchup between Anthony Evans, Jr. and Jesse Campbell. Sera Hill and Geoff McBride both brought their soulful and powerful voices to the stage for Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” in a battle that either one could have walked away from victorious. Sera’s vocal acrobatics were a perfect compliment to Geoff’s unbelievable tenor, but she ultimately took home the win.

The next jaw-dropping battle came between seasoned rocker Juliet Simms and androgynous folk singer Sarah Golden. Juliet, whose audition left the coaches fighting over her, seemed to have the upper hand from the beginning, as the pair were assigned a song by rock legend Rod Stewart. Sarah’s smooth and rustic tone made her a sharp contrast to Juliet’s dynamic, raspy growl, but”to paraphrase Christina Aguilera”Juliet was the “no-brainer” winner.

Indie rockers Lindsey Pavao and Lee Koch performed a sleepy and “creepy” (Adam Levine’s words, not ours) version of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box.” Their performance really didn’t give us any reason to look up from writing this post…but Blake Shelton’s comment about never having hearing the original, did. No, he wasn’t kidding. Kurt is rolling in his grave…

Thankfully, the night ended on a literal high note, with Jamar Rodgers taking on good friend Jamie Lono on Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” Jamie’s nerves got the best of him and caused his voice to crack, but Jamar picked up the slack and murdered the song on his own.

Next week, we’re promised “a shocking battle round first.” We can’t wait to see what goes down!

Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)

A US Presidential election, Summer Olympics mania (London’s calling”again!), Rihanna’s film debut (in Battleship, out May 18) and the possible end of the world. Those are a few of the things I won’t be looking forward to in the coming year. Fortunately, music will offer enough thrills to distract us from all that we’d rather forget. Here’s what’s topping my 2012 anticipation list:

1. Madonna makes fiftysomething fabulous all over again. Although I’m curious to hear what Madonna does with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the final cut of “Gimme All Your Luvin'” when the single is released the last week of January, that’s not the main reason I’m excited about her upcoming twelfth studio album (due in late March), her first since turning fifty in 2008.  “Masterpiece,” a new song featured in the Madonna-directed W.E. (which goes into wide release on February 3, two days before her Super Bowl XLVI performance) and her reunion with her Ray of Light producer William Orbit, is an achingly beautiful ballad that recalls the best of ’90s Madonna while gently proving that she can still create pop magic all on her own.

2. Madonna vs. Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Chris Cornell vs. Glenn Close (!) at the Golden Globes. Too bad the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from competition at the February 27 Oscars. Why? Because it’s the second song featured during the closing credits, and eligible songs must either be in the body of the film, or the tune that plays when the credits start to roll. Oscar’s loss. The January 15 Golden Globes showdown featuring five monsters of pop, rock and soul and acting will be just as star-studded”and as tough to call”as George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Ryan Gosling in Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

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