Jax vs. Clay. Tara vs. Gemma. Gemma vs. Clay. Jax vs. Gemma.
The repetitive nature of the conflicts on "Sons of Anarchy," and the way they always seem to resolve themselves through time or plot contrivances, have led to a frustrating state of inertia. It feels like the more these characters argue, the less there actually is at stake. Nothing ever really changes.
But what if something actually does change? Maybe, after last season's cop out finale, Clay actually could die. Or SAMCRO could splinter. Or Jax could, finally, leave. We know that "Sons" has at least two seasons left in Kurt Sutter's master plan, but we don't know what those seasons will look like. And right now, halfway through Season 5, it's a tantalizing prospect to imagine.
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Jax vs. Clay. Tara vs. Gemma. Gemma vs. Clay. Jax vs. Gemma.
Last night’s Knockout Rounds represented a TKO for “The Voice”. This new phase of competition emphasized performance over backstories, yielding ten total head-to-head battles over the course of a two-hour installment. That’s a lot of performances for a show that dragged out the auditions and Battle Rounds right up to the point of human endurance. Tonight, we do it all over again, this time carving Team Christina and Team Blake in half before heading into the live episodes next week. Adam Levine and CeeLo Green already have their teams, so they can sit back and make bland critiques tonight without the responsibility of anyone’s future directly in their hands.
[The following reviews were written before Hurricane Sandy cruelly confiscated Alan's power for a yet-to-be-determined, but still-ongoing duration.]
It's evening round-up time, with quick review of tonight's episodes of "Ben and Kate," "New Girl" and "Happy Endings," coming up just as soon as I have a mustache glued on top of my mustache...
Craving a little “Breaking Dawn —Part 2?” Green Day can help you with that. Today, the band released its video for “The Forgotten," which is featured on the soundtrack for the last film in "The Twilight Saga."
[More after the jump...]
Taylor Swift is going to sing! And another couple is going home. But Taylor Swift is going to sing! Of course, she hasn't really been under wraps this week or anything. I feel like I can turn on ABC almost any time of day, and she's right there, promoting her new album, "Red." She must be exhausted. But hey, you can never get too much Taylor Swift, right? Oh, and we're also getting some Jason Mraz, so it's a red letter day. Or "Red" letter. Your choice.
Disney now owns the Muppets, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. In breaking news, they are currently in negotiation with my parents to buy the rest of my childhood for an undisclosed six-figure sum.
And we don't get the first new "Star Wars" film until 2015, eh? Guess I'm going to have to start exercising and eating right after all.
First, I think it's a safe bet that all of your poring over your "Star Wars" expanded universe novels to figure out if he's doing the Thrawn movies or the New Jedi Order series can relax. They won't be adapting books. They mentioned today that Lucas has written treatments for three new films, and there is no way he's going to let those films say "based on a story by Timothy Zahn". Those stories exist, fans are able to enjoy them now, and simply translating them to the screen is a losing proposition on all sides. The general public has no investment in those books, and for filmmakers who become involved with the series moving forward, there's no up side to simply adapting someone else's "Star Wars" story when there is almost limitless room to invent new stories that take place in that universe and even in that continuity.
Don’t tell Taylor Swift that album sales are in the doldrums. Her fourth studio album, “Red,” sold a staggering 1.208 million copies in its first week to debut easily at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. That’s the highest one-week tally since Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” sold 1.322 million in 2002. That’s when, although the slide had already started, albums still sold.
The total is also the second highest single sales week by a female artist, only trailing Britney Spears’ “Oops... I Did It Again,” which sold 1.319 million in 2000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Swift’s last album, “Speak Now,” also surpassed the million mark in its opening frame, selling 1.047 million in 2010.
The last album to sell more than a million in its first week was Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” although it did so with the help of 99-cent album downloads offered by Amazon for two days during the album’s first week.
Swift’s label, Big Machine, barred Amazon from selling the album in its opening week, giving a one-week digital exclusive to iTunes. The album was also greatly aided by Target’s exclusive offering of a deluxe version, which featured three bonus cuts and three remixes. According to Billboard, the Target exclusive accounted for 396,000 copies sold, while iTunes sold around 465,000 album downloads. Papa John’s Pizza also sold the album for $13.
Hitfix will have a full story on this week's Billboard 200 on Wednesday.
Lady Gaga has big plans for “ARTPOP,” which, as we can tell by the use of all CAPS for its title, will be a very, very, very important album.
In a talk with her followers on LittleMonsters.com, she is considering releasing two volumes of the epic, according to Idolator. The first edition, out in Spring, and dubbed by LG as “VOL 1,” “should have all the commercial songs, and then save the experimental material. [But] to be honest even the experimental stuff is catchy. VOL 1 is a bit more modern.” She would release the experimental version a few months later.
Here’s the thing about Lady Gaga: she has, to her credit, really helped redefine the parameters of pop over the last few years. She plays with sonics, time signatures, and busts the door down on preconceived notions, so while a traditional and experimental versions may be smart marketing tools or, let’s give her credit, better expressions of how she’s like for her music to be presented, there’s no need to separate the two in our book.
During her chat, she also revealed a few details: “Princess Die,” a ballad that addresses suicide that she premiered on the road, will not likely make either volume. “I don’t think ‘Princess Die’ will make the cut, but I wrote another version of ‘Princess Die’ that is uptempo. ‘Princess Die’ isn’t as good as all the other songs I wrote.”
She also noted there is a “hip-hop/j-pop/pop song” on the album that is “more underground Chicago gay club trap” than traditional hip-hop.
We also know from previous communiques from Lady Gaga, that she has collaborated with both Kendrick Lamar and Azealia Banks and that the album will include some kind of sequel to “Telephone,” with or without Beyonce.
Who knows, maybe there will even be a collaboration with Calvin Harris after LG and the Scottish DJ kissed and made up yesterday via Twitter.
The 46th annual CMA Awards air live Thursday on ABC from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. Hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, who have developed true chemistry and comedic timing in their four previous years as hosts, are back. This year's program promises plenty of drama, including will Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert continue to be king and queen of the country prom? They've snagged male and female vocalist for the past two years. Will other multiple-year consecutive winners such as Lady Antebellum and Sugarland continue their streaks?
Among the performers, many of whom are debuting new songs, are Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, Jason Aldean, top nominee Eric Church, Kelly Clarkson, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Zac Brown Band and Keith Urban.
It’s been a strong year for country music and there continues to be an infusion of new, exciting talent. Below are my predictions on who will take home the big prizes. Short version: It's Eric Church's night.
We’ll be live blogging the CMAs, so join us here at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Nov. 1 for all the action.
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
All of these artists are great brand ambassadors for country music, which is an unspoken part of this award. Having said that, I would have swapped out Blake Shelton for Lady Antebellum, who had a tremendously successful world tour this year. While it’s easy to judge this solely on their live shows, the CMA tends to award someone more for all-around strength. Having seen all the nominees in concert over the past year or so, if it were solely on concert merit, I would give the award to either Chesney or Paisley, but Aldean’s star is rising and he’s now, like Chesney, risen to the stadium level. Combine that with his tremendous album sales and he’s the winner.
Will Win: Jason Aldean
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Hmmm. Let’s review, shall we? Kelly Clarkson is a pop star who occasionally crosses over (very credibly and well) into country music. Taylor Swift is a former country star who is really now a pop star. The overall weakness in this category shows how dominated country music is right now by male artists. McBride has the purest voice of the bunch, but the past winner won’t take home the trophy this year. Underwood’s voice is unbelievable as well. She’s the best singer to ever come out of “American Idol” (sorry, Kelly). Reigning winner Lambert is on a roll that shows no signs of stopping--nor should it.
Will Win: Miranda Lambert
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
These are all solid hit makers and each is leaving his own mark on country music right now. It also shows the changing the guard: Urban is the only one that any of us had heard of 10 years ago (even though reigning champ Shelton was making records already, he didn’t really break through until a few years ago and then, since “The Voice,” has really exploded. Church, who is the most nominated artist this year, has carved out a slow and steady career for himself that seems about to bust wide open. His twang is instantly recognizable and CMA voters like the ring of stubborn authenticity he brings to the format.
Will Win: Eric Church
VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Band Perry
Eli Young Band
Little Big Town
Zac Brown Band
What was I saying about how strong solo males are in country right now? So are groups. This category rises and falls, but has a bumper crop this year. LBT has put out the best album of its career, ZBB brings lots of younger fans into the format who listen to way more than country music. Eli Young Band has momentum with last year’s “Crazy Girl” and then “Even If It Breaks Your Heart.” Lady A and TBP just keep getting stronger. While it may not be fair, it feels like it’s time to give Lady A a little bit of a rest from competition this year after the trio snagged the award the past three years.
Will Win: Eli Young Band
VOCAL DUO OF THE YEAR
Big & Rich
Love and Theft
The Civil Wars
Perennially one of the weakest categories with the CMA often resorting to tired duos who have not received a lick of airplay in years to round it out, the vocal duo of the year category is having a little bit of a resurgence this year. For more than a decade, it was dominated by Brooks & Dunn and lesser acts, and then Sugarland took over the title. This year, five-time winner Sugarland is one of the weaker offerings (they didn’t put out a new album during the eligibility period, though they toured). Big & Rich came rebounding back, while Love and Theft is gaining momentum and Thompson Square had its biggest hit so far. The Civil Wars are astounding and are definitely country leaning, despite the fact that country radio doesn’t care about them.
Will Win: Thompson Square
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Love and Theft
This tremendously strong slate features new acts all of whom have scored major hits this year (even if, like Brice and Gilbert, they have been around as songwriters for awhile helping other artists have hits). Having said that, it feels like a race between Hunter Hayes, Brantley Gilbert and Thompson Square, with Thompson Square seeming like the elder statesmen of the category. At 21, Hayes seems to represent young country, and country loves lauding artists who help lower the aging demographic. Plus, “Wanted,” which he co-wrote,” is a killer track.
Will Win: Hunter Hayes
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Luke Bryan, Tailgates and Tanlines
Eric Church, Chief
Miranda Lambert, Four the Record
Dierks Bentley, Home
Lady Antebellum, Own the Night
It's a toss-up between Lambert's "Four The Record" and Church's "Chief," both of which were critical favorites (though Lambert's album not so much as her previous efforts including 2010 winner "Revolution"). Bryan's album seems like the weakest link here, but there's no denying his appeal and he is very liked in Nashville. For all its strength, "Own The Night" is not Lady A's best album.
Will Win: "Chief"
SONG OF THE YEAR (Award goes to songwriters)
Eli Young Band, "Even if It Breaks Your Heart" - written by Will Hoge and Eric Paslay
Blake Shelton, "God Gave Me You" - written by Dave Barnes
Dierks Bentley, "Home" - written by Dierks Bentley, Dan Wilson and Brett Beavers
Miranda Lambert, "Over You" - written by Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton
Eric Church, "Springsteen" - written by Eric Church, Jeff Hyde and Ryan Tyndell
Since this award goes to the songwriters, I always think of how the song would sound accompanied only by acoustic guitar or piano. Stripping down a song to its core elements is usually a good way to judge it. “Over You,” written about Shelton’s brother, is heartbreaking and a strong contender. It’s going to be a close race between “Over You” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which took on a collective meaning for anyone who’s ever pursued a dream. A the selections show, the CMA tends to favor songs with "meaning," over fluff.
Will Win: “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”
SINGLE OF THE YEAR (Award goes to artist and producer)
Jason Aldean, "Dirt Road Anthem"
Blake Shelton, "God Gave Me You"
Dierks Bentley, "Home"
Little Big Town, "Pontoon"
Eric Church, "Springsteen"
“Dirt Road Anthem” seems a little too past its prime to still be forefront in voters’ minds. “God Gave Me You” is a syrupy ballad and “Pontoon,” as summer-loving fun as it is, is a trifle (though it did provide LBT with its first No. 1). “Home” hits all the right notes: patriotic without being jingoistic. However, it’s Eric Church’s year...and, apparently, Springsteen’s too.
Will Win: “Springsteen”
With writer John Gatins and star John Goodman in the air leaving Savannah after film festival tributes there, Paramount had the highlights of its "Flight" crew -- Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington -- back in New York Monday to promote the film, which releases Friday. Zemeckis was set to appear on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" while Washington was all set for "The Late Show with David Letterman." Then Hurricane Sandy came a'knockin'.
Thought you'd seen "The Artist" win its last award? Think again. The Casting Society of America pretty much partied like it was 2011 at last night's Artios Awards -- the premier honor for casting directors in the industry, given the absence of an Oscar category for the discipline. (That absence is often lamented, but let's be honest -- the average Academy member knows even less about casting than he does about sound editing.)
Anyway, while a scattering of early 2012 releases -- "The Hunger Games," "21 Jump Street," "Friends With Kids" -- had cracked the nominee list, the CSA was all about the awards contenders of 2011 when it came to choosing the winners. "The Help" took the prize in the Big-Budget Feature: Drama category, which is hardly surprising, given the number of ensemble awards (culminating in SAG's top honor) the film took down last season.
About a third of CeeLo Green's 14-track Christmas album is pretty solid. This includes consideration that CeeLo's overall approach to singing tends toward the heavy-handed, an attribute absolutely compatible with Christmas records. But the most unnatural elements -- the forced styles outside his comfort zone, clunky duets, uninspired excesses -- are what ultimately causes "CeeLo's Magic Moment" to stumblebum around the season with only a few perfectly packaged gifts.