Mary J. Blige Wins Christmas Music Race, Streams Holiday Song

Every year, the Christmas season starts earlier. It seems like more and more marketers view the beginning of October as the starting line to the holiday shopping season. Stores begin to include holiday merchandise on shelves, talk of the infamous ‘black Friday specials’ begins, and at least one major record label rushes to get their big seasonal releases on shelves ahead of the competition. In 2013, the winner for the first big seasonal release is Mary J. Blige, and starting today you can stream her version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” via our friends at VIBE.

If you’ve heard one over-orchestrated version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” you’ve heard them all, and though Blige’s signature voice is as pristine as ever, there is simply not much unique about her take on the classic song. Still, Mary blesses us so rarely with new material these days it’s comforting to know she can still deliver when she wants to, and surely fans of Blige and fans of, well, Christmastime, will fall for this reinterpretation.

If you would like to hear more holiday classic reworked by Mary J. Blige, you’re in luck! The pop icon will release her seasonal album, A Mary Christmas, on October 15.

Miley Cyrus To Team Up With Dr. Luke Again On New Release

It’s not even worth asking if you remember “Party In The USA.” Of course you do. Miley’s 2009 hit was so infectious that it would have taken a blood transfusion to get rid of it that fall. But it wasn’t just Miley who created that monster hit. Aiming for total chart domination, she teamed up with mad pop genius Åukasz Gottwald a.k.a. Dr. Luke, the same man who masterminded hits like “I Kissed a Girl,” “My Life Would Suck Without You,” “Tik Tok,” “We R Who We R,” “Teenage Dream,” “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and practically every other chart-topping pop song that you’ve heard in the past half decade. The man is a pop music machine, and he’s not done with Miley yet. After inking a new deal with RCA records, Miley will once again be collaborating with Dr. Luke on her new album along with other big names like Tyler The Creator and Mary J. Blige. Prepare your ears for complete invasion.

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'The Voice' Is Back: What's New For Season 3?

It’s hard to believe that The Voice is already back, but we’re not complaining.

The second season of the hit singing competition, which stars Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Cee-Lo Green as judges, only just wrapped in May. With the third season kicking off tonight, here are some exciting new twists you can look forward to.

  • Bigger teams: The teams have been increased from 12 up to 16 contestants, which is twice as many as were on the Season 1 teams. The result? Battle rounds AND “knockout rounds.” This is going to be intense.
  • Stealing: We’ve all seen this happen: Two amazing contestants go up against each other, their coach rambles on about how much s(he) loves both of them, and said coach eventually has to make the heartbreaking elimination. Now, the other three coaches will have the ability to steal the eliminated contestant and add them to their team. This is sure to cause some drama (and heightened competition between the coaches).
  • New mentors: The Voice is all about musical diversity. Last season, we had the opportunity to see contestants of all backgrounds get mentored by the likes of Alanis Morissette, Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie and Ne-Yo. This time around, they’ll be working with mentors from completely different genres than their coaches, which is sure to make for some great TV. Offering up their pearls of wisdom will be Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (Team Christina), Mary J. Blige (Team Adam), Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 (Team Cee-Lo), and Michael Bublé (Team Blake).
  • More familiar faces: Viewers of the first two seasons may have noticed some singers they already knew, including Dia Frampton of Meg & Dia, Juliet Simms of Automatic Loveletter, and singer-songwriter Charlotte Sometimes. This season, we’ll be seeing former Hey Monday vocalist Cassadee Pope…and maybe even an OurStage artist or two?
  • More singing from all contestants: In the past, we’ve gone too long without seeing certain contestants sing, depending on the competition schedule. This season, all current contestants will sing during live shows, so you won’t miss your favorites.
  • More Purrfect: We all know that the real breakout star of Season 2 was Purrfect, Cee-Lo’s snow-colored, sour-faced cat. She randomly showed up in his arms about halfway through the competition, and was soon immortalized on his clothing (and on Twitter). Judging from her most recent tweets, the famous feline will be back on Mr. Green’s lap for more vocal warefare this fall.

Season 3 begins with a three-night premiere starting tonight at 8PM EST. Check out a special preview of the blind auditions below!

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Can D'Angelo Save Contemporary R&B's Soul?

D’Angelo who?

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.  (more…)

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Your Country's Right Here: Madison Violet Begin to Blossom in U.S.

For all the heavy-duty bluegrass star power at the most recent DelFest in Cumberland, Md., it was the Canadian folk duo Madison Violet that arguably was the most exciting “find” of the event.

Known individually as Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac, the duo has won an array of awards and has ardent fans throughout their native Canada, in Europe, and beyond. Yet the two are just now making a name for themselves in the U.S. An unexpected illness forced the duo to cancel the last two dates of the U.S. tour behind their latest album The Good in Goodbye, but the pair hope to be back in American clubs soon.

“We haven’t toured in the U.S. very often in the 13 years we have been playing together,” said MacEachern citing work permits and other red tape that has kept them away. “Now we have more of a focus on the States and that’s great. Our music shouldn’t be a struggle in the States; it’s kind of got an Americana feel.”

Although that’s true, the music clearly also has international appeal as underscored by the many fans” especially from Germany”that fly to Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, to catch Madison Violet shows. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider the judges, including Elton John, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige, that chose Madison Violet as the 2009 Grand Prize Winners of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The duo are the first Canadians to win the award.

While the prize certainly bolstered the group’s confidence in their own abilities, they still see a long road ahead as they work to establish their names in the States. The joy for them is that fans are fans and seem to have similar responses to their music, wherever they play. If they can just get before a crowd, as they did on Memorial Day weekend at DelFest, chances are they’ll win converts.

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