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HBO's 'Girls' To Feature New Songs By Beck, Lily Allen, And More

GirlsHBO’s third season of Girls premiered last night, and with the new season will come a slew of new songs by Lily Allen, Jenny Lewis, and Miguel, along with a new Beck song that will debut prior to his upcoming album release.

“The Jenny Lewis [song] scores a very emotional moment that happens in the second episode,” explains music supervisor Manish Raval, “where the case is reunited with Jessa. I love the song, I love the moment, I love the last image of that moment. I think that’s my favorite spot of the season,” he said. “This season, a big chunk of an episode is based around a Harry Nilsson song. It’s something we haven’t done before … we have an episode this season that has an artist covering a Warren Zevon song. There isn’t anyone who we wouldn’t use. I think that’s the rule with this show; there should be no rules.”

Catch the new tunes Sundays at 10pm on HBO.

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Beck Covers John Lennon’s Love
Beck’s ˜Morning Phase’ Track Listing

New Release Roundup: The Week of September 18th

Today’s new albums are an eclectic batch in the world of pop! Looks like female vocalists are taking over this week.

The Killers – Battle Born (9/17)
The band’s fourth LP after their year-and-a-half hiatus.


Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss (9/18)

The Canadian popstar’s sophomore album after skyrocketing to fame earlier this year with her smash hit of the summer “Call Me Maybe.”

(more…)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Theatrical Effects

Having shelved her career as a recording artist in favor of family life, Lily Allen recently revealed to Elle magazine that she has “nearly finished a musical.” The musical in question being the stage adaptation of 2001’s loveably painful chick flick Bridget Jones’s Diary, for which little has been said since last summer. On paper, Allen appears to have all the right reasons for this career shift”a new husband and baby on the way, and a blood line that lends itself to the stage (dad is British actor/musician Keith Allen, who’s credits include two Harold Pinter plays at the Almeida Theatre). However, the singer is hardly the first musician making the jump from the Billboard charts to Broadway.

Headlines have been monopolized in the past months by the drama surrounding U2‘s scored Spider-Man musical. After a series of setbacks including financial problems, injured cast members and scathing write ups, original director Julie Taymor threw her hands up in what we would imagine an exasperated manner and called it quits. Production was shut down for three weeks in March and given a serious face lift by new director Philip William McKinley and went on to rake in $1.7 million in its first week, qualifying it as a “hit.” While Spider-Man certainly lends itself to the powerful anthems and epic ballads found in U2’s discography, Bono was quoted as saying scoring the show was “harder than we ever thought”.

They should probably update the press materials

David Albarn and Jamie Hewlett of alt hip hop/rock group Gorillaz have also lent their talents to the stage, creating a musical adaptation of the Chinese story Journey to the West in 2007 which saw several runs over the next two years under the billing Monkey: Journey to the West. After further adaptation of some characters and music for inclusion in BBC’s coverage of the 2008 Bejing Olympics was met with criticism, Hewlett went on the defense, tagging negative reviews as hypocritical.

This all begs the question, why are these perfectly successful recording artists putting themselves through the theatrics (literally) of transitioning their talent to the stage? Some could argue ego, Broadway being just another feather in the hat of self-centered stars. Or maybe its the next step on the ladder of conquering the music industry as a whole. We’re hoping it boils down to the talent part. Chances are the Bonos and Lily Allens of the world are just incredibly talented human beings always seeking new creative outlets. But while a record is a neatly packaged representation of that talent, Broadway is an entirely different beast with more than one flair for the dramatic that requires its participants have the right amount of screws loose to partake. While Allen may be writing the music for Bridget Jones, we can’t really picture the new mom as the star, sliding down a fire pole ass first. Then again, she has been known for her own moments of quirk.

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.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Mark Ronson Takes Duran Duran Back to the Future on 'All You Need Is Now'

The regal reputation of London-born, New York-bred producer/DJ/musician Mark Ronson is based in large part on his track record for producing breakthrough albums by some of Britain’s biggest young pop stars over the last several years, including Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, and Adele. With that kind of résumé, Ronson probably wouldn’t have been too many people’s first pick to attempt a revival of Duran Duran‘s career by overseeing the 1980s icons’ thirteenth studio album. And yet, his is the name you’ll find credited with just that when All You Need Is Now is unveiled.

The original Duran Duran lineup has been back in business since the 2000 release Pop Trash, but their last effort, 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and in the aftermath of its poor chart and sales performance, the band found themselves outside of major-label land for the first time in their three-decade career. Clearly, the latter album’s follow-up had to be a make-or-break proposition. Enter unlikely savior Ronson, who”as Duran singer Simon LeBon recently revealed on British television, was a fan with a plan. You need somebody with a vision, and Mark’s a fan, explained LeBon. He had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do with this album. He said he felt that we went wrong after [1982 smash] Rio. We had to do a lot of backtracking, added LeBon jokingly. He said ˜I want to make the follow-up album to Rio that should have been made. He was very clear about that, and had a practical way of making it happen.

According to LeBon, the unabashedly ambitious Ronson facilitated this admittedly tall order in part by bringing the band face to face with what he saw as their audience’s expectations. Had I suggested singing a line a certain way, says LeBon, I might have felt a bit self-conscious about it. I might have felt it was a bit retro, a bit old-school. But Mark said ˜No, that’s what people want to hear from you!’ The results of the collaboration must have lived up to even Ronson’s exacting standards; after his labors were completed, he talked the project up, saying I’m a huge Duran Duran fan, and it’s one of my favorite Duran Duran records of all time, seriously. And I’m not just saying that because I worked on it.

In fact, the fanboy tendencies of the superstar producer”who was seven years old when Rio was released”began revealing themselves pretty early on in the process. Ronson, who hosts a weekly online radio show at New York’s EastVillageRadio.com, couldn’t resist sharing his work with the world, and started sneaking snippets of the album’s demos into his radio shows over a year ago, with the air of a naughty schoolboy, remarking at the time They can’t fire me, I’ve got all the files at my house. These are the lost tapes that’ll come out after I die, and they’ll surface on whocares.com. All You Need Is Now is set for a US release today as an iTunes-exclusive digital download, with the physical CD and LP scheduled for February 2011 (probably non-coincidentally, the thirtieth birthday of Duran Duran’s debut album). More recently, Ronson has been giving some of the completed tracks their world premiere on his show, Authentic Sh*t, as well as bringing the band themselves into the studio. And judging from the sneak previews of the uptempo, angular, New Wave-tinged Blame The Machine, the funky-but-melodic dance-pop tune Runway Runaway, the percolating, undeniably ˜80s-flavored Being Followed and the more mid-tempo, anthemic title track, Duran Duran may be ready to revisit the sonic realm of Rio after all.

Track list

  1. All You Need Is Now
  2. Blame the Machines
  3. Being Followed
  4. Leave A Light On
  5. Safe
  6. Girl Panic
  7. The Man Who Stole A Leopard
  8. Runway Runaway
  9. Before the Rain

Bonus tracks [LP/CD]

  1. Mediterranea
  2. Other People’s Lives
  3. King of Nowhere

By Jim Allen

Jim Allen has contributed to a wide range of print and online outlets including RollingStone.com, MOJO, Village Voice, Uncut, VH1.com, iTunes, All Music Guide, CMT.com, The Advocate, Prefix, Blurt and many more.

Pop Is a Battlefield

Musicians are an unruly bunch. They’re in constant competition on and off the charts, going for each others’ jugulars”talking first and thinking later. Rappers have been throwing stones back and forth since the ’80s days of LL Cool J vs. Kool Moe Dee and Roxanne Shanté vs. The Real Roxanne. From the Supremes and the Rolling Stones to the Verve, Oasis and Sugababes, infighting among groups is nothing new. Solo pop stars, in comparison, were relatively cordial for years, and then the steel claws came out.

In a 1998 Movieline interview, Jennifer Lopez asked that Madonna not “spit” on her acting craft, while also aiming her slingshot at then-non-singer Gwyneth Paltrow as well as Winona Ryder.  Elton John, perhaps the most outspoken guy in pop, not only criticized the quality of his former BFF George Michael’s 2004 Patience album, but he also went on the record to caution Michael on the evils of his substance-abusing lifestyle. John, who famously pitched a hissy fit directed at Tina Turner while the two were rehearsing for VHI Divas Live in 1999, also once called “Die Another Day” by Madonna “the worst [James] Bond tune of all time.”

The bigger you are, the harder they go after you, and these days, Taylor Swift aside (and more on her later), nobody’s bigger than Lady Gaga.

Former Spice Girl turned designer Victoria Beckham went to town on Gaga in an interview this month with Women’s Wear Daily. If I’m being completely honest, is it fair to say she may have become a little bit of a parody of herself?” she asked. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s quite the turnaround from Beckham’s Gaga POV in a Daily Mirror interview this past July: Bit by bit she is finding her image, and it’s nice to see it, as she is undoubtedly a talented girl. I suppose it’s a pop star’s prerogative to change her mind”and it definitely makes for more interesting reading.

So does M.I.A.’s take on Gaga. She griped in NME last spring that Gaga was ripping off Madonna and Grace Jones and dismissed her as a “good mimic.” Then in June, Katy Perry took a thinly veiled swipe at Gaga’s controversial “Alejandro” video, tweeting that “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.”

Gaga isn’t the only one bringing out the beast in her fellow performers. Elaine Paige referred to her No. 1 fan Susan Boyle as a “virus” during an interview after the South Banks Show Awards in January. And depending on whom you believe, Lou Reed may have blocked Susan Boyle’s attempt to sing his “Perfect Day” on America’s Got Talent in September (his people say US licensing issues, not Reed, were to blame), but he made it up to her by directing the video for Boyle’s “Perfect Day” video.

All is forgiven. If only things had gone so smoothly for Kanye West.  After he dissed Taylor Swift last year at the MTV Video Music Awards, legions of stars, including Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Adam Lambert jumped to Swift’s defense. Of course, Katy Perry joined the anti-West brigade tweeting the following message to the rapper: “FUCK U KANYE. IT’S LIKE U STEPPED ON A KITTEN.” Meow!

When words fail them, some stars let their videos do the dissing. Pink lampooned Jessica Simpson, among other starlets, in her 2006 “Stupid Girls” video. Eminem has skewered Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, ‘N Sync, Moby and Michael Jackson in his videos, and he’s gone several rounds with his alleged (by him) ex-lover Mariah Carey, who retaliated by dressing in drag as Eminem and playing him as a stalker in her “Obsessed” video.

Over in the U.K., Lily Allen has stood in for Gaga as a favorite pop-star punching bag since she broke on to the global pop scene in 2006. Katy Perry, naturally, started a war of words with her a few years back when she described herself as being a “slimmer version of Lily Allen.” In retaliation, Allen called Perry “crass” and in a truly post-millenial move, threatened to post her telephone number on the internet. What happened to simply challenging her to a fist fight, as an irate Mary J. Blige did in the ’90s during an Interview magazine chat with model Veronica Webb?

Joss Stone also took aim at Allen last year, calling her “more of a personality than she is a singer,” and responded to her anti-filesharing stance by saying, “[Lily] needs to sell records because she’s not a singer, and that’s not an offence to her because I think that she knows that too.”

And on October 31, UK X Factor judges Cheryl Cole and Dannii Minogue gave Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay a rather frosty reception after his band performed on the show because of some expletive-laden comments Kay made about the show and the credibility of its judges shortly before his appearance. (The printable portion: “You’re useless. The pair of you.”) Cole won the war a week later when her second solo effort, Messy Little Raindrops, entered the UK album chart at No. 1, six notches above Jamiroquai’s new Rock Dust Light Star. Check. Mate.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

Timbaland announces Timbo Thursdays

First Kanye West announced he would release a free download every Friday, dubbing them G.O.O.D. Fridays. Then Swizz Beats jumped on board with Monster Mondays, wherein HE would ALSO release a free track. Now Timbaland is getting in on the free-for-all with Timbo Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter to see if he puts his music where his mouth is.

New album, free track from The Decemberists

The Decemberists have announced the release date and title of their new album. We don’t want to spoil the surprise, so head over to their Web site for all the details, and a free MP3 of Down By The Water. Off you go now.

The Bad

Kanye West considered the worst thing about Dubya’s presidency

Of all the many less-than-stellar moments of George W. Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office, it was Kanye West calling him racist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that really stuck in his craw. In his new book, Bush recalls telling his wife it was the worst moment of his presidency. Let’s be clear, that would be worse than 9-11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the actual devastation of Katrina. Words. From a rapper. Were the worst. To quote West himself, no one man should have all that power.

John Mayer links malaria to Justin Bieber in PSA

Funny, and a little inappropriate”in other words, your typical John Mayer public speaking engagement. In this PSA for Malaria No More, Mayer urges donors to help African children reach Justin Bieber’s age. With your help, by buying a malaria net for just $1, we can help, by the end of the year, to get these kids to Bieber. Next year we’ll go Jonas Brothers; after that Twilight kids, but baby steps, baby steps. Let’s get them to Bieber. See the PSA in its entirety below.

The Ugly

King Hammer releases terrible video

Oh boy. OK, so here’s the back story again for those who missed it. In Jay-Z’s track So Appalled, he took a swipe at MC Hammer with the lyric, Unlike Hammer $30 million can’t hurt me. Hammer wasn’t having that, and went straight to work crafting a bush league rebuttal called Better Run Run. The cringe-worthy video is below. Watch a dude who is supposed to be Jay-Z get chased through the woods by a devil, and then get baptized by Hammer. Which part is scarier? You tell us.

Demi Lovato throws down in airport

When Disney stars go bad, they go real bad. Teen sweetheart Demi Lovato dropped off the Jonas Brothers tour after a physical altercation with a backup dancer in an airport in Peru this week. Lovato, who is reported to have battled bulimia, promptly checked herself into a treatment facility.

Miscellany

The Celebrity Social Network: Pop Stars on Twitter

Twitter, it gets stars into trouble. Big trouble. In March, Justin Bieber‘s manager was arrested for not tweeting to discourage fans from descending on the mob scene that was a Bieber mall appearance on Long Island, New York. That was just about the time Chris Brown was re-opening his Twitter account following three months of inactivity due to an embarrassing tweet tirade that accused U.S. retailers of conspiring against him by not stocking his latest album, Graffiti. A month later, David Archuleta was accused of being homophobic after tweeting first and thinking later. Meanwhile, Britney Spears, Lily Allen and even U.S. President Barack Obama have all fallen victim to various Twitter hackers, one of whom spread a rumor from Spears’ account that she had died.

You’d think by now celebrities would be more wary of Twitter, especially Kanye West, quite possibly the artist most likely to publicly put his foot in his mouth. Yet the rapper, and so many of his fellow pop stars, can’t stop till they tweet enough”reaching out to fans and to each other. In the last week alone, West used it to apologize to Taylor Swift (whom he “follows” on Twitter), presumably for interrupting her onstage at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards, to give props to fellow rapper Lloyd Banks and to declare his favorite unit of measurement “a shit load.” But his most revealing Tweet of all: “I just told Mike Dean put some the soulful drama juno chords on that new La Roux track … Don’t tell Elly I’m messing with the beat though.” Who knew West was down with the “Bulletproof” duo?

And what did La Roux tweet about this past week? On September 6, they, too, paid tribute of sorts to Taylor Swift, quoting one of her hits: “Today was a fairytale, you wore a dress I wore grey t shirt.” As for Swift, her recent Twitter activity includes raving about going to see Paramore and New Found Glory in concert in Nashville, sending messages to Perez Hilton, Miranda Lambert and her mom, and revealing her favorite rap song of the moment. Drumroll: It’s not West’s “Power.” “I’m so in love with that new Nelly song,” she shared on August 25th. Sorry, Kanye. Maybe next time.

By Jeremy Helligar

Jeremy Helligar is a former staff writer for People, Teen People, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly, who now writes about celebrities and pop culture from his couch in Buenos Aires.