Friday, May 25th, 2012

Soundcheck: Chris Brown Vs. Rihanna 2.0: Battle At BET Awards

This year’s BET Awards nominations are in with Chris Brown leading the pack, snagging six nominations, going head to head with his ex, Rihanna in two of the four categories she’s up for. We’re guessing the former flames will exchange friendly fire if their recent Twitter reunion is any indication. Rihanna recently began following Brown, prompting a fourteen-year-old fan to ask the singer if she and Chris could be rekindling their romance.  The singer fired back at the fan, It’s f—in’ Twitter, not the alter!

Point taken, RiRi¦but you can’t blame a girl for wondering why you would give a damn what your former attacker had for lunch.

Brown, (who is also nominated for Best Actor for his role in Takers) will be battling himself for Best Collaboration, where he’s nominated for Look At Me Now with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne and Deuces, his hit with Tyga and Kevin McCall. He will face Rihanna and Kanye West for their smash, All of the Lights.  West, who scored four nominations, will go against Drake (also four noms) again, along with B.o.B. and Rick Ross for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist. Chris is  joined in the Best Male R&B category by Trey Songz, Bruno Mars, Cee Lo Green and Usher.

Rihanna at the 2010 BET Awards

As far as the ladies go, Rihanna’s up against Keri Hilson, Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé and Marsha Ambrosius in the Best Female R&B race.  Nicki Minaj is also up against herself in the Viewer’s Choice category, where both Bottoms Up with Trey Songz, and Moment For Life with Drake are up for the honor along with Weezy‘s 6 Foot, 7 Foot featuring Cory Gunz and Mindless Behavior’s, My Girl, and Brown’s “Deuces.”

Willow Smith is up for three awards including the Young Stars Award, (up against Diggy Simmons and brother, Jayden) and Video of the Year for her smash hit, Whip My Hair.  Joining her in the Best New Artist category are J. Cole, Bruno Mars, Miguel, and Wiz Khalifa.

Cali Swag District is up for Best Group along with N.E.R.D., Diddy-Dirty Money, New Boyz and Travis Porter. They received their nomination news just days after their group member, M-Bone was gunned down in Inglewood, California.  The 22-year-old  Dougie dancer, Mante M-Bone Talbert of their breakthrough hit, Teach Me How To Dougie was killed in a drive-by shooting in his Inglewood neighborhood on May 15.  While there were several witnesses, Inglewood Police had no motive for murder and no clear suspects at press time.

R.I.P. M-Bone

Friend and fellow nominee, B.o.B. weighed in on the tragedy and reflected warm memories of the young rapper, telling MTV News He was the one; he brought a lot of the life with the dance moves. He was really innovative in that aspect of it. Initially, when I heard about the news”when you hear it, it’s almost like, damn, you don’t even want to believe it.”

While M-Bone had not appeared on the actual recording of Dougie, Jermaine Dupri explained what a big part of the group he was. “I believe that he was the one that they all looked to, to learn how to do the Dougie,” Dupri said. “Everyone was about it, but he was the one who went hard with it.”

Cali Swag District and the rest of the nominees will be onstage at the 2011 BET Awards, airing June 26, Live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Hollywood Stars Sing for Their Supper

From Justin Timberlake (The Social Network) and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side and Country Strong) to Janet Jackson (For Colored Girls) and Christina Aguilera (Burlesque), pop stars no longer act just to fill dead space between albums. And the career exchange is working the other way around, too. Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd had a hit single in the ’70s; Bruce Willis, Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace), Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy had one Top 10 apiece in the ’80s; and Jennifer Lopez spent the early ’00s as one of the hottest women in pop. But lately, what every actor (and reality TV star) seems to really want to do isn’t direct”it’s sing.
Leading the current musical parade is Gwyneth Paltrow, who scored a Billboard No. 1 Adult Contemporary hit in 2000 with a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Cruisin’,” a duet she mastered with Huey Lewis.  Now she’s targeting Nashville and possibly a second Oscar with her role as an alcoholic singer in Country Strong (opening December 22). She’s already getting country radio airplay with the title song and performed it live, to a standing ovation, at the Country Music Awards on November 10. She also just made her superstar guest appearance on Glee.

Meanwhile, Paltrow’s Country Strong costar Leighton Meester, who’s also a regular on Gossip Girl”which features moonlighting rocker Ed Westwick (Chuck Bass)”is releasing an album on the Universal Republic label, and already hit the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 last year as a featured artist on Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad.”

Paltrow’s Iron Man costar Jeff Bridges won an Oscar in March for playing the male version of her Country Strong character in Crazy Heart (music from the film, by rising country star Ryan Bingham, who also acted in the film, received plenty of accolades as well). Iron Man 2‘s Scarlett Johansson released Anywhere I Lay My Head, an album of Tom Wait covers, in 2008 and Break Up, with Pete Yorn, in 2009. And Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., has sung on the soundtracks to several of his films and onstage at the 2008 American Idol finale, appeared in an Elton John video and released a CD called The Futurist.

Joaquin Pheonix, Paltrow’s costar in last year’s Two Lovers, performed his own vocals for his Oscar-nominated performance as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line and spent the entire 2010 documentary I’m Still Here trying to make it as a rapper.

Maybe it’s the rebirth of the Hollywood musical”and/or the drive to hang on to fame by all means necessary”that’s convinced so many actors that they can make it in music, too (no, not you, David Hasselhoff). Phoenix’s Walk the Line costar Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for her singing efforts as June Carter Cash. Catherine Zeta-Jones scored both an Oscar (Chicago) and a Tony (A Little Night Music) for musical performances. Penelope Cruz just got nominated for uncaging her inner songbird in Nine, alongside fellow Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Dame Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Nicole Kidman, who”like Kate Winslet and the late Britanny Murphy (may she rest in peace)”has hit the Top 10 in the UK as a singer.

Even Oscar queen Meryl Streep has gotten into the song and dance, massacring the ABBA catalog in the 2008 musical Mamma Mia! And recent Academy honoree Mo’Nique delivered a song-stealing monologue on “Don’t Take Your Hat Off,” a track on Toni Braxton’s last album. Jamie Foxx, who won his Oscar for reincarnating music icon Ray Charles in Ray, has released two platinum albums and has a third set, Body, due on December 14. Kevin Bacon, Dennis Quaid, Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, Zoey Deschanel, Adrian Grenier, Juliette Lewis, Keanu Reeves, Jason Schwartzman and Robert Pattinson all have moonlighted as musicians; Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars seems to have become a bigger priority than acting; veteran actor Chris Mulkey (HBO’s The Boardwalk Empire) is also a well known country singer and Steve Martin’s The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo won a 2010 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Among the younger set, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez were all Disney stars before becoming successful recording artists (as were Fergie, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Aubrey Drake Graham spent eight years playing Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation before becoming platinum-selling rapper Drake. Will and Jada Smith’s actor kids are also making musical noise. Son Jaden, 12, had a Top 40 hit earlier this year rapping with Justin Bieber on “Never Say Never,” and his 9-year-old sister Willow‘s “Whip My Hair” is a current pop smash that has some calling her a future Beyoncé. Then there’s, Josh Groban, who will release his fifth album, Illuminations, on November 15 and also costars with Steve Carell in the 2011 comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love. He initially set out to be an actor, getting his big break in a 2001 episode of Ally McBeal, before detouring permanently into singing.

Since talent is optional in pop, and sometimes all you need is a good producer and auto-tune, reality stars are entering the mix, too. (No diss intended to Project Runway host Heidi Klum, who sang on “Wedding Day,” a track on her husband Seal’s 2007 album, System.) The Hills’ Heidi Montag and The Simple Life’s Paris Hilton, perhaps inspired by the pop careers of dueling starlets Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff in the mid ’00s, both released their own albums. Montag already tanked early this year (Earth to former reality star: If you want to be taken seriously in music, don’t call your debut album Superficial), but at least Hilton earned a Top 10 hit and decent reviews for Paris in 2006 and has a follow-up in the works.

Of course, Kim “I’ll do anything to stay in the spotlight” Kardashian is working with producer The-Dream (Rihanna, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey) on her debut album, and has said, “I would like the music to sound a bit like Lady GaGa, Britney Spears and J.Lo with a bit of an R ‘n’ B twist to it.” Such lofty ambitions!

Down south, The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Kandi Burruss, who had several hits with the girl group Xscape in the ’90s and co-wrote Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” and TLC’s “No Scrubs,” among other hits, is about to relaunch her music career with her second solo album, Kandi Koated, on December 14. And it’s probably only a matter of time before Hiltons’ The Simple Life costar, Nicole Richie, follows her dad, Lionel Richie, and her fiancé, Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, into the family business.

But no Hollywood star has made as much of a recent dent in pop as the cast of Glee, who just surpassed the Beatles’ record for the most hits on Billboard’s Hot 100. Their schtick of taking other people’s songs for one-week spins on the chart is wearing thin”I never got the show and probably never will”but these days in life, Hollywood and pop, only a few things are certain: death, taxes, another actor-turned-singer, and a weekly barrage of Hot 100 entries by the cast of Glee.

Kandi – Leave U [Official Video]

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

Gordon Pinsent reads excerpts from Justin Bieber memoir

Get your LOLs right here, folks. First up, a memoir written by a 16-year-old. Ha! And, it’s entitled First Step 2 Forever.  The laughs don’t end there. Here’s a video of the esteemed actor Gordon Pinsent doing a dramatic reading of Justin Bieber’s riveting tome. Enjoy”we did.

Alicia Keys gives birth to Egypt

Not the country! That would be sooo 3150 BC. Alicia Keys and husband Swizz Beatz (born Kasseem Dean) welcomed a baby boy this week named Egypt Dauode Dean. May he grow up to become a very successful pharaoh.

The Bad

Glastonbury Festival shelved for 2012 due to toilet shortage

We wouldn’t wish more port-a-potties on anyone, but this does give us pause. England’s Glastonbury Festival has been canceled for 2012 due to the Olympics taking place in London that same year ¦ and the ensuing toilet shortage. Athletes are such loo-sers.

Kanye’s album cover art banned? He wishes.

Kanye West is a legend in his own mind. But he may also be a victim in his own mind as well. The rapper griped on his Twitter page that Wal-mart had censored the cover art for his upcoming album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Tweeted the rapper: So Nirvana can have a naked human being on they [sic] cover but I can’t have a PAINTING of a monster with no arms and a polka dot tail and wings. Oh the injustice! Is it too much to ask for a man to be left in peace with his armless polka dot monster? IS SOCIETY SO INTOLERANT”what’s that? Wal-mart didn’t censor the cover? Oh. Uh, never mind. As you were.

The Ugly

Cantankerous singer pegs bottle at Mumford and Sons

Mark E. Smith of the band The Falls was getting ready for his set at a Dublin music festival when a terrible caterwauling struck his ears. Next door, the hugely successful English folk band, Mumford and Sons, was warming up. I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers, Smith explains. So, understandably, he threw a bottle at them to encourage them to silence their plaintive yawping. The bottle fell short of its target and Mumford and Sons went on to sell one trillion records.


Gym Songs for the Indie Rocker

For discerning music fans, there’s no more frightening experience than visiting the gym. Not only does it mean your pasty-white thighs are exposed to outside air for the first time in weeks, but you’re generally faced with two choices: bring your iPod, and experience the certain thrill of constantly re-stuffing a white piece of plastic into your ear while trying to figure out the best way to wrap a cable around a leg-extension machine. Or be subjected to 24 Hour Fitness’s satellite radio”which no doubt is playing techno, or hip hop or Top 40, or, well, anything other than then new Arcade Fire album.

Thankfully, some mainstream music isn’t as horrible as others”or, conversely, is just so horrible that it becomes music you want to run away from, which is exactly why the treadmill was invented. Below is a (totally subjective) list of songs that you actually want to hear in the gym:

  1. Cooler Than Me (Mike Posner): A smooth-voiced, overproduced popster sings about NOT getting laid, for a change; you can relate.
  2. Airplane (B.o.B. featuring Hayley Williams): A slow-building hip hop song with a soaring chorus from the Paramore girl” and an instrumental track that, sans drums, you could convince yourself is actually unreleased, sampled Radiohead.
  3. Bulletproof (La Roux): Perhaps the least-guilty guilty pleasure of them all: originally an 80s-sounding indie-dance hit, now a remixed techno classic; if you do have your iPod, check out Steel Train’s acoustic-rock re-re-reinvention.
  4. OMG (Usher featuring Wil.I.Am): Nerdspeak from the Black Eyed Peas guy and that dude who dances like Michael Jackson, at exactly the rate of your bike-pedaling.
  5. Whip My Hair (Willow Smith): There is something totally wrong (and yet, alarmingly right) about Will Smith’s pre-teen progeny singing the best stripper song of the year. Seriously.
  6. Rockstar (Nickelback): Actually, no. This is the worst song ever recorded.
  7. Love the Way You Lie (Eminem featuring Rihanna): Fortunately, a great chorus; unfortunately, you’re the only person in the gym who understands the irony in Rihanna singing the lyric “I like the way it hurts.”
  8. Any remix with Sweet Disposition (The Temper Trap) or Use Somebody (Kings of Leon): the more techno-y, the better: “Cause you know what they’re supposed to sound like.”
  9. Dynamite (Taio Cruz): A no-apologies ode to self-awesomeness, which can be good for self-motivation, especially if you yourself are also awesome.
  10. I’m Yours (Jason Mraz): No matter how overplayed (or how many commercials it makes you think of), there’s something ultra-satisfying about watching all the sweaty people around you try to pretend they’re not singing along too.

By Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is the LA editor of and has been writing about music professionally for over a decade for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Relix and