People's Choice Awards Winners: Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift

people's choice awardsThe people have spoken. And they love Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry.

After Timberlake scored awards for Favorite Album, Favorite Male Artist, and Favorite R&B Artist, he thanked Ellen DeGeneres “for all the personal inspiration and the cookies. [She] bakes a hell of a cookie.” Oh, and his parents, of course, “for continuing to instill in me that no dream is too big.”

Katy Perry snagged awards for her track “Roar” under Favorite Song and Favorite Music Video, while Taylor Swift took home Favorite Country Artist.

Check out the full list of winners below, which includes Britney Spears, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Demi Lovato. (more…)

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. (more…)

Sound and Vision: Pop's Greatest Gender Benders – Songs That Sound Better Sung By the Opposite Sex

One of the best releases of 2012 to date is Boys Don’t Cry, an album of covers recorded by Anglo-Pakistani singer-songwriter Rumer (nee Sarah Joyce). As a vocalist, Rumer is soothing and smooth, strictly middle-of-the-road enough to earn her an invitation from U.S. President Barack Obama to perform at the White House in May, the month her album came out ” but that’s not to say she doesn’t have a slightly subversive streak.

After all, who chooses to release a collection of remakes for their second full-length studio album. (Rumer’s 2010 debut, Seasons of My Soul, earned her widespread acclaim, two Brit Award nominations, and a platinum certification in the U.K.)

Then there is the theme of Boys Don’t Cry (whose title was not inspired by The Cure song, which is not among the album tracks): Everything on it was written and performed by male artists in the ’70s. Somehow Rumer makes quintessentially guy songs like Ronnie Lane‘s “Just for a Moment” (about an instant of clarity in a drunken haze) and Neil Young‘s “A Man Needs a Maid” (title: self-explanatory) sound strong enough for a man but made for a woman.

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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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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.)

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Sound And Vision: Fake Pop Stars — The Rise and Continued Rise of Rebecca Black

Paris Hilton.

Kim Kardashian.

Heidi Montag.

Julianne Hough.

In a world where making a record is as easy as starring on reality TV, and even easier when you have your own show, Rebecca Black was bound to happen.

Don’t worry. Black, the fourteen-year-old from Anaheim, California, who made us wonder if she was making fun of shallow pop stars or being one herself in her viral YouTube video “Friday,” hasn’t gotten her own reality show. Yet. But isn’t it only just a matter of time?

What she does have is a level of fame”or infamy, depending on how you want to look at it”without having any discernible singing talent. Before it was yanked from YouTube in June over a dispute between Black and her former record label, Ark Music Factory, her “Friday” video had logged some 161 million views. Black became an Internet favorite, with article after online article devoted to her and her music”well, her song. Some people loved her; some people hated her; everyone was talking about her. Everybody’s still talking. Katy Perry even invited Black to costar in her “T.G.I.F. (Last Friday Night)” video.

Yes, Rebecca Black is a huge hit. Ironically, though, she has yet to have one. For all of the hoopla surrounding it, “Friday” was never a commercial success as a single. It peaked at No. 58 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and didn’t fare much better anywhere it was released.

Australia, one of the few places where “Friday” made it to the Top 40, is about to launch its own fourteen-year-old star, Jack Vidgen, recent winner of Australia’s Got Talent. Sadly, it’s gonna take a miracle”or maybe a Black cameo in his video”to give Vidgen’s career any momentum in the US, which Justin Bieber aside, has been resistant to young male solo pop (i.e., white) stars since Justin Timberlake went Hollywood.

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