So, this all-star season is actually shaping up to be some kind of awesome, at least when it comes to the level of dancing we're seeing. Of course, with the dancing being pretty impressive across the board (with a few exceptions), this season may be more of a popularity contest than usual -- and great choreography is going to be more important than ever. We've already seen some stinker routines, and there's only been one week of dancing -- so I hope that the stars aren't the only ones committed to bringing their A games to the floor.
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Did you hear that sound Sunday night? It was the door slamming on eligibility for the 2012 Grammy Awards.
The Grammy year runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30, so Sunday at midnight marked the last moment that artists could release albums for consideration. The Grammy nominations will be announced Dec. 5 during a CBS special. The 55th annual Grammy Awards will take place Feb. 10, 2013.
In July, we looked at early contenders for album of the year with the caveat that September would see a rush of contenders. The past two months have given a little perspective on some earlier selections. For example, I would not expect Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel...” to still be a front-runner.
Here are my predictions for the ten albums most likely to get an Album of the Year nod. There will be five titles in contention, six if there is a tie among Grammy voters. I listed them alphabetically, but I’d put Mumford & Sons and Frank Ocean under sure bets.
The Black Keys, “El Camino”: This album seems to have garnered less excitement than “Brothers,” but it’s a very solid effort that continues to expand on Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s musical exploration that combines rock and blues in a way that appeals to both the mainstream audience and purists.
Bob Dylan, “Tempest”: Dylan devotees love this album, calling it his best and most cohesive in years. This year also marks the 50th anniversary since he released his first album. He’s won this award before in 1998 for “Time Out Of Mind.” Voters may be aware that time to honor our greatest living singer/songwriter could be running out.
Florence + The Machine: “Ceremonials”: Flo and friends’ second album didn’t have the massive mainsteam hit like “Dog Days Are Over.” It has something better: a breadth of cuts that keep springing forth from the set, making the album far more consistent than “Lungs.” There seemed to be a new video every month and the act spent a lot of time touring here, which got them in front of lots of eyeballs, as well as ears.
Maroon 5, “Overexposed”: It’s not a likely choice, to be sure, but it is a pop album that delivered this year: two top 10 hits and counting, and helped continue bring back Maroor 5 on the back of “Moves Like Jagger.”
John Mayer, “Born & Raised”: John Mayer’s latest suffered greatly due to his inability to promote it properly because of his vocal issues. It’s a shame because it is a beautiful album, full of nuanced guitar playing and songs from a singer who has grown up in front of us and is finally acting like a man.
Mumford & Sons, “Babel”: While the British folk-rock group isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, even people who don’t love their furious acoustic tunes, admire their musicianship and the emphasis they put on live instrumentation. They’ve been nominated before and were good enough to play with Dylan, for goodness’s sake.
Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”: Released to universally strong reviews, “Channel Orange” is an exceptionally intimate, interesting R&B album that appeals to a wide audience. Plus, Ocean’s story is a compelling one that complements, instead of overshadows, the music. If he can keep momentum going, he’s the closest thing to a sure bet for a nomination.??
Bonnie Raitt, “Slipstream”: Grammy favorite Raitt’s first album in seven years showcases her seemingly effortless guitar work as well as her always touching, raspy vocals. Every year, the Grammys look to honor veteran artist and she could fall into that slot, although even suggesting that she’s in any way a token nominee denigrates her great work on “Slipstream.”
Bruce Springsteen, “Wrecking Ball”: As he did with “The Rising," The Boss taps into these troubled times and crafts an album full of what we need to hear, even if we don’t want to. Plus, the strength of a number of cuts, including “Rocky Ground,” “Jack of All Trades,” and “We Take Care of Our Own” are undeniable, even if the album as a whole is not consistently great. ??
Usher, “Looking 4 Myself”: Seven studio albums in, Usher released a tour de force that displayed a new maturity, without sacrificing his famous playful or sexy sides. He fearlessly incorporated other styles in a way that never felt forced or contrived, but instead seemed to be a natural evolution. The set hasn’t sold particularly well, so lack of commercial success could hamper its chances. ?
Dr. John, “Locked Down”
Gotye, “Making Mirrors”
Norah Jones, “Little Broken Hearts”
Lionel Richie, “Tuskegee”
Rihanna, “Talk That Talk”
Jack White, “Blunderbuss”
Who do you think will be nominated on for Album of the Year?
And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
When I saw "Beasts of the Southern Wild" back in May at Cannes -- in the early stages of a festival that, for all its cinematic riches, hadn't offered awards pundits much to chew on -- I felt emboldened to make my first confident Oscar prediction of the year: that, whatever the film's fate elsewhere, 8 year-old Quvenzhané Wallis was poised to become the youngest Best Actress nominee in history, on the beguiling strength of her onscreen presence and off-screen charm.
I stand by that call, even if the category has got slightly more competitive than it seemed prior to Toronto. But if/when the young dynamo gets the nod, it'll be without any help from that prime Oscar bellwether, the Screen Actors' Guild -- which has ruled Benh Zeitlin's Sundance sensation ineligible in their 2012 awards. In addition to freeing up a Best Actress spot, that also takes the film out of the running for SAG's ensemble prize.
Bruno Mars is one of the brightest names to emerge in the pop world over the last few years as an singer, writer and producer (as one-third of the Smeezingtons).
He returns today after nearly a year away with “Locked Out Of Heaven,” the first single from his sophomore set, “Unorthodox Jukebox,” out Dec. 11.
[More after the jump...]
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #9: "The Man With The Golden Gun"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Guy Hamilton
Screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz
Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / Roger Moore
Scaramanga / Christopher Lee
Mary Goodnight / Britt Ekland
Andrea Anders / Maud Adams
Nick Nack / Herve Villechaize
Hai Fat / Richard Loo
Hip / Soon-Tek Oh
Chew Mee / Francoise Therry
J. W. Pepper / Clifton James
Rodney / Marc Lawrence
Lazar / Marne Maitland
M / Bernard Lee
Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
Q / Desmond Llewelyn
This is one seriously weird Bond film.
There's something almost "Prisoner"-esque about the film's opening sequence. I like how in the book, Scaramanga's third nipple is mentioned in passing as part of a briefing dossier, but in the film, they immediately zoom in on his chest in extreme close-up with a dramatic music sting, as if this is important plot information that we're going to need later.
Somewhere today, the Hughes Brothers are very, very sad.
As unlikely as it sounds, they once claimed that a big-screen version of "Little House On The Prairie" was one of the projects they most wanted to make. They grew up watching the show, and they felt a real love for the material.
As equally unlikely as it sounds, the director of "Your Highness," "Pineapple Express," and "George Washington" is now the man who will bring the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to the big-screen, with a script by Abi Morgan, best known for the Fassbender-f**king-everything-that-moves drama "Shame."
I think it's a no-brainer for some studio to develop this material again. After all, the books by Wilder were the inspiration for the TV series that ran from 1974-1983, but I would hardly call the show a faithful adaptation. The books are an industry unto themselves, and the eight books published while Wilder was alive were just the starting point. There were at least four books published posthumously based on her writing, and a number of other series that built off of what she wrote, eventually chronicling something like five generations of her family, from their time in Scotland to the age of her daughter living in San Francisco. Her personal papers have been combed through repeatedly by scholars and writers, and there's plenty of material for the filmmakers to use when they sit down to decide what story they're telling.
What a Monday for Oscar.
First, Adele and Sony Pictures confirms the news everyone already knew, that she has recorded the title track to the new James Bond film, "Skyfall." Second, the Academy announced a somewhat surprising choice to host this year's Academy Awards, Seth MacFarlane. Combined, the duo could help Oscar hit its highest ratings in years.
As rumors of a Smiths’ reunion light up the the internet again today, we reached out to former lead singer Morrissey’s publicist, who shut down the possibility of the British band reuniting at Glastonbury... or anywhere else.
“The Smiths will NEVER get back together,” Morrissey's rep replied to our email request for a response to the flurry of rumors running rampant. That mean, of course, that this round of speculation would seem to be like the 1,289 ones before it: totally false. The uppercase is from the publicist, not us. She sounds suspiciously like she's quoting Taylor Swift's current single, doesn't she?
Ever since the band broke up 25 years ago, these rumors crop up periodically with varying degrees of support and varying amounts of zeros after the dollar sign (The going rate was apparently $75 million six years ago for a 40-date Morrissey/Johnny Marr outing). Despite Morrissey saying he would “rather eat my own testicles” than reform the band, the rumors still come back again like a bad penny every so often.
This time, ground zero seems to be a U.K. entertainment website called Holy Moly, which is reporting that it is hearing from more than two sources that “The Smiths will reform in 2013...It’s a done deal...Dates are booked...Glastonbury is one of four dates.” As you will recall, there have also been rumors that Coachella offered to turn the whole event vegetarian if that would lure non-meat-eater Morrissey to reunite with his former bandmates. But there is apparently not enough tofurkey in the world to get this crew on stage together again.
As badly as The Smith fans want to see Morrissey reunite with Marr, Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, it looks like, to paraphrase one of their album titles, “The Smiths Are Dead” ... and remain so.
Week 2 of the TV season is a bit slower, with one of the bigger premieres (the final season of "30 Rock") something we didn't get a screener for. Still, we have two shows we're happy to see the return of, and then we have lots of time to discuss other recent episodes, early ratings, and more.
Some bands hide their pretensions of grandiosity. Muse would not be one of those bands. Like Queen, the British rockers have a flare for the dramatic and their guitars seem to be perpetually set on stun.
On the group’s sixth studio album, “The 2nd Law,” lead singer Matt Bellamy and the band take the listener on a journey surrounded with prog-rock power chords, shrieking vocals and lyrics filled with heavy portent. And that’s just on the album opener, the Led Zeppelin-influenced “Supremacy.”
Muse’s overwrought flamboyance has helped make it one of the most popular touring bands of the last several years. But what works well with 18,000 fervent followers with raised arms in an arena can just sound like too much excess in the confines of an album. With its operatic chants and message about vengeance, explosive first single (and Olympics theme) “Survival” felt more like a parody than a true anthem. The band toned down the theatrics for second single, the synth-poppy “Madness” and was rewarded with a No. 1 tune on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
While the album’s volume and thrust is set to 11 the majority of the time, there are moments of loveliness and surprise on “The 2nd Law.” (The album takes its title from The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states a object that keeps growing cannot sustain expansion and will eventually dissolve...or something like that)
“Panic Station” has a sprightly Franz Ferdinand-like bounce that will delight fans of the band’s pop side. The first part of “Animal” features a strong jazz-meet-Rush guitar lead by Bellamy that pierces through the song. On jaunty “Big Freeze,” Bellamy recalls David Bowie on “Heroes.”
“Explorers” is Muse at its most majestic Queen-like, as Bellamy channels Freddie Mercury as he chants “Free me from this world...it was a mistake, prisoning ourselves.” Plus, the lulling piano end will remind any Queen fan of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
For a band that wears so many of its influences on its sleeve, Muse still ends up coming up with its own brand of explosive rock that draws on metal, pop, and, at times here, even funk. Bellamy’s clear, powerhouse vocals tie it all together.
But when Muse gets too inside its own geek-boy mythology, it is severely testing the limits of all but its most devoted fans. On the two-song closing “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” suite, the noise level ratchets up as a voice actually reads the thermodynamic law.” The cacophony gives way to a “Tubular Bells”-type second movement before the voices come back, filled with doom about an economic collapse (based on the same theory as the law).
“The 2nd Law” will likely have Muse fans salivating over the group’s continued bombastic musical salvos, while non-believers will have plenty more to hold against the band.