Latest Blog Posts

<p>Eminem and Rihanna</p>

Eminem and Rihanna

Eminem and Rihanna's 'Monster' rules the singles chart

Duo spends its third week in the top spot, holding off Pitbull and Ke$ha

Eminem and Rihanna log a third week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “The Monster.” In doing so, the pair keeps another makeshift duo, Pitbull and Ke$ha, out of the top spot as “Timber” stays at No. 2.
In the slow holiday week, the top six spots stay static on the Billboard Hot 100: OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” is No. 3, A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s “Say Something” is No. 4, Lorde’s “Royals” is No. 5 and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” is at No. 6.

Songs already within the top 10 shift spots for the last four positions: Passenger’s “Let Here Go” rises 9-7, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” falls 7-8, Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” slips 8-9 and One Direction’s “Story Of My Life” stays at No. 10.

The highest debut belongs to Beyonce, whose “Drunk in Love,” featuring her husband Jay Z, bows at No. 12.  It is her highest-reaching Billboard Hot 100 appearance in four years, according to Billboard.

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<p>Salaam Remi</p>

Salaam Remi

Interview: Grammy nominee Salaam Remi on 'In the Chamber,' Nas and Jennifer Hudson

Watch the title track music video featuring Akon

Salaam Remi will have a lot to celebrate about 2013 as he rings in the new year. He was recently nominated for four Grammy Awards, including one for his recent solo set “Salaam Remi One: In the Chamber,” for Best Urban Contemporary Album, plus others for his work with Miguel, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Mack Wilds. The producer, songwriter and studio instrumentalist launched his label Louder Than Life, too, for which he can hand-pick his collaborating artists.

Above, you can hear just one of his recently collaborations, with Akon “One in the Chamber” (directed by Robby Starbuck).

For 2014, Remi will be all over the next Jennifer Hudson effort, and will at least be taking phone calls with Nas; “In the Chamber” will also get the deluxe edition makeover for re-release in March 2014.

Below is an abridged interview I had with Remi, on his past – like working with the Fugees, Amy Winehouse, posthumous Michael Jackson material and “Sparkle” – and what it takes to have a successful future as an engineer and label head.

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<p>Beyonce</p>

Beyonce

Credit: Robin Harper/AP

Six releases that shook up the music world in 2013

Jay Z, Beyonce, and David Bowie created their own rules

As the traditional music business continues to morph into a new animal that no one has managed to tame, a number of artists shook up the status quo further in 2013 by trying innovative release strategies that bucked the norm. Instead of operating under the standard modus operandi of releasing a single to radio a few months before a widely-announced album release, planning a promotional campaign to build anticipation for the release, and running the press gauntlet, these artists rewrote the rule books. They didn’t all achieve the same level of success, but they all make the industry think as they caught the eyes and ears of consumers.

The biggest losers: print press and terrestrial radio: in most cases, both media were left out of the equation. Artists like Justin Timberlake turned to TV,  appearing for five nights straight on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Here's a look at six artists who did things a little differently in 2013: 


David Bowie, “The Next Day”
With not so much as a hint that he had been in the studio, on Jan. 8 (his 66th birthday), David Bowie dropped a new single, “Where Are We Now.” Its arrival served as the announcement of his first album of new material in 10 years, “The Next Day,” and proof that, contrary to popular belief, he hadn’t retired.  Bowie didn’t give a single interview for the project, instead letting producer Tony Visconti be his mouthpiece, as well as letting a number of stirring, creative interviews speak for the project. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling the most copies of any of his albums in the 22-year history of Nielsen SoundScan.

Justin Timberlake, “The 20/20 Experience”
Surely tired of being asked when he would release a follow-up to 2006’s  “FutureSex/LoveSounds,” Timberlake coyly announced in January via a Twitter video that he had been back in the the studio. Three days later, he wrote an open letter to his fans on his website, announcing the album, and releasing first single “Suit & Tie,” featuring Jay Z. Timberlake did no print interviews for March release, instead he took to TV, appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” for five straight nights and then appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” An exclusive with Target also helped propel the title, which sold 958,000 in its opening week, the most of any album in 2013. A Vol 2 was released in September. 

Jay Z, “Magna Carta, Holy Grail”
In a sign of things sure to come,  in July the rapper aligned with electronics company, Samsung, to distribute up to 1 million copies of “Magna Carta, Holy Grail” for free to Samsung mobile users one week before the album was available to traditional retail. In return, Jay Z reportedly received $5 million up front in part of a multi-pronged $20 million deal. The release was plagued with problems, including people having trouble downloading the app and complaints about data mining, but there’s no doubt that these kinds of deals, with the kinks hopefully worked out, will continue.

Garth Brooks, “Blame It All On My Roots”
The country superstar never does things in a small way, so to mark the start of his return after a 10-year hiatus, he dropped an 6 CD/2DVD boxed set at WalMart Thanksgiving night that included 4 CDs of new material and sold for less than $25. With very little advance promotion  and no radio single, he debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with only 4 days of sales his first week, rose to No. 1 his second week, and would have snagged another week at the top if Beyonce hadn’t launched her sneak attack. Brooks, who has a live CBS special and did lots of promotion following the release, is going to have to figure out how to sell his material online in a way that works for him —he is the lone superstar hold out from iTunes. When that happens, he’ll see if he’s bringing along younger fans. But in the meantime, with sales of more than 600,000 in four weeks through one retailers, he’s showed that there is still a pent-up demand for his material...and that physical releases aren’t dead yet.


Beyonce, "Beyonce"
She upped Bowie by dropping an album out of the blue at midnight Dec. 13. She went completely the opposite way from Brooks, with her album only available via iTunes... and she managed to do something that is virtually impossible: for the first week, iTunes sold the album (and videos) as a total package, as opposed to a la carte. She shattered all kinds of iTunes records for the first week (even with only 3 complete days of sales) and remained on top for a second week, even as brick-and-mortar outlets like Target declined to carry the album.  She conducted no interviews, had no promotion, released no advance single (to the chagrin of radio, which counts on partnering with major pop stars like Beyonce), and still managed to become one of the top sellers of the year. You better believe other superstar artists will be studying this kind of stealth attack for ways to make it work for them.

Justin Bieber, “Journal”
For the 10 weeks leading up to the release of his new movie, “Believe,” Bieber released a new song every Monday in a gambit tagged #MusicMondays. After the 10 weeks concluded,  on Dec 22, fans could download all 10 songs, plus 5 previously unreleased tracks and a new video as a completed album, “Journal.” The compilation was No. 2 on iTunes’ album chart, but with no singles climbing the charts and “Believe” opening to a paltry $1.2 million on Christmas Day, the lack of excitement for the project was perhaps even more ominous than Bieber’s Christmas Eve tweet that he planned to retire.



 

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<p>Oscar Isaac in &quot;Inside Llewyn&nbsp;Davis&quot;</p>

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

Credit: CBS Films

Sound mixers Skip Lievsay and Peter Kurland on bringing the sonic world of 'Inside Llewyn Davis' to life

Capturing live performances created a whole new set of challenges

Nearly three decades ago, two young Minnesotans named Joel and Ethan Coen went down to Texas to shoot a film called "Blood Simple." It was their first feature. And to use a cliché, "the rest is history." But they were not the only artists making their debuts on that film who would later go on to become staples in the American film industry. Actress Frances McDormand, sound designer Lee Orloff, cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, composer Carter Burwell, sound editor Skip Lievsay and boom operator Peter Kurland also cut their teeth on "Blood Simple."

Lievsay, now sound re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor, and Kurland, now production sound mixer, have worked with the Coens on every feature film the siblings have made since then, the most recent of which, "Inside Llewyn Davis," is a sound showcase.

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<p>Ray&nbsp;Liotta in an iconic scene from &quot;Goodfellas&quot;</p>

Ray Liotta in an iconic scene from "Goodfellas"

Credit: Warner Bros.

Thelma Schoonmaker remembers how 'Goodfellas' almost didn't happen

The film owes a debt to her late husand, director Michael Powell

Talking with Thelma Schoonmaker recently, it became quickly apparent that I wasn't even going to scratch the surface of her career's work with Martin Scorsese in a single piece. I couldn't help but play the retrospective game with her, and while I of course didn't address all 19 feature collaborations, I was curious about six films in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of their work together. Each of them — "Who's That Knocking At My Door," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Goodfellas," "Bringing Out the Dead" and "The Departed" — has received its own space in the last few days.

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<p>&quot;The Americans&quot;</p>

"The Americans"

Credit: FX

'The Americans' Season 2 premiere set for February

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys return for more '80s hijinks
FX has finally set an official premiere date for the second season of the acclaimed drama "The Americans" 
 
The cable network celebrated the day-after-Christmas by breaking the unofficial TV news moratorium to announce that "The Americans" will return on Wednesday, February 26 at 10 p.m. 
 
Currently shooting in New York City, "The Americans" premiered last January to an audience of 5.1 million viewers, making it FX's most-watched drama debut ever. Ratings subsequently dropped dramatically, but critical admiration continued.
 
"The Americans" picked up for Television Critics Association Award nominations last summer, winning for Outstanding New Program of the Year. While not a big Emmy player, "The Americans" picked up nods for guest star Margo Martindale and for Nathan Barr's title theme music.
 
In HitFix's recently announced Television Critics' Poll, "The Americans" finished seventh overall and third in the Best New Show category behind only "Masters of Sex" and "Orange Is The New Black."
 
 
So far, very few details have leaked regarding the second "Americans" season. FX lists Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Annet Mahendru, Alison Wright and Susan Misner as cast regulars, while Martindale reassured HitFix's Greg Ellwood that she'll be back in some capacity, even as she works on CBS' semi-hit comedy "The Millers."
 
TUSK!
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<p>Christmas for &quot;The Middle&quot;</p>

Christmas for "The Middle"

Credit: ABC

TV Ratings: 'The Middle,' 'Blue Bloods' repeats lead Christmas Wednesday

CBS wins overall, while ABC takes the key demo
Fast National ratings for Wednesday, December 25, 2013.
 
People don't really watch network TV on Christmas night.
 
With audiences occupied either by family togetherness or else tuning in to a "Doctor Who" special on BBC America or NBA basketball on ESPN (cable ratings to come), the most watched show on Christmas Wednesday was, oddly, a repeat of the Friday drama "Blue Bloods," while the top shows among young viewers were repeats of "The Middle" and "Modern Family."
 
A slew of holiday season repeats also drew middling audiences to NBC, FOX and The CW.
 
On to the unimpressive numbers...
 
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<p>&quot;Lee Daniels' The Butler&quot;</p>

"Lee Daniels' The Butler"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Roundup: Why Hollywood's still playing catch-up on equality

Also: Melissa McCarthy is 2013's most-rented star

There's been much talk  about how this stands to be a banner year for black-themed film and black artists at the Oscars -- though how much does that reflect any kind of industry upswing? Not enough, writes John Horn: "A few weeks of feel-good inclusion can't alter the more troubling fact that opportunities for people of color remain scarce and that, for all of the Academy Award interest these directors and actors are receiving, Hollywood ultimately will judge their value using the only yardstick it believes matters: box-office performance." He goes on to list the hard facts and stats that need improving on the racial and gender front; not to kill the holiday mood, but a good read. [LA Times

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<p>Anna Gunn as Skyler White in &quot;Breaking Bad.&quot;</p>

Anna Gunn as Skyler White in "Breaking Bad."

Credit: AMC

'Breaking Bad': 'Ozymandias' review, take two

Revisiting the series' greatest and most devastating hour from a more sober point of view

Back in mid-September, "Breaking Bad" gave us its best episode ever in "Ozymandias, on the exact same day I wound up in the hospital with a burst appendix and a bad infection. I watched, and wrote about, "Ozymandias" only hours after surgery, while very high on painkillers, and though my review was not full gibberish, it was gibberish enough that it's nagged at me ever since.

So the following is an attempt to get right what once went wrong, possibly "Quantum Leap"-style, by writing the review I wish I could have written back on September 15. I can't promise it won't be colored by things that happened in the ensuing "Granite State" or "Felina," so if you happen to be coming to this review years from now as a person lucky enough to be watching "Breaking Bad" for the first time, you may want to read the semi-coherent original review and return to this later.

A whole lot of thoughts on "Ozymandias" coming up just as soon as I remind you to put on your seat belt...

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"Doctor Who"

 "Doctor Who"

Credit: BBC America

'Doctor Who' recap: What did you think of Matt Smith's send-off?

Big moments, homages and one important cameo are all crammed in

In many ways, Matt Smith's final episode of "Doctor Who" seemed an apt reflection of the actor's particular take on the character. The show was strikingly poignant, charming, a little sexy and yet sometimes bordered on frantic. Maybe too frantic; by the end, the show was playing so fast and loose with mythology it felt as if Steven Moffat was trying to pull a fast one on all of us. 

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<p>Bruce Dern on &quot;Inside the Actors Studio&quot;</p>

Bruce Dern on "Inside the Actors Studio"

Credit: Bravo

Exclusive: Bruce Dern explains his 'Nebraska' character's backstory on 'Inside the Actors Studio'

He wanted to instill a sense of honesty and fairness in Woody Grant

"Nebraska" star Bruce Dern has said the same thing all season when the conversation has inevitably turned to his personal history as an actor: "I knew if you wanted to be an actor, you had to do three things. You had to go to New York, you had to try to get into the Actors Studio, and you had to work for Mr. Kazan."

He pulled all that off and tomorrow he gets a bit of a homecoming as he and daughter Laura will be appearing on Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio" with James Lipton. The episode will air at 7pm ET/PT.

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<p>Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in &quot;The Wolf of Wall Street.&quot;</p>

Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Wolf of Wall Street."

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Martin Scorsese's crazed trip finally hits theaters today

He kept us waiting, but it's finally heeeeeere: for a time, it seemed that Martin Scorsese's long, crazed trip through the stock-market hedonism of the 80s and early 90s might not manage a 2013 release at all, but it's now in theaters as the year's most deliciously inappropriate Christmas gift. It was such a late arrival that I still haven't got a bead on the critical consensus, though it already has a number of fiercely devoted admirers -- including HitFix's Drew McWeeny, while you can read Kris's early reaction here.

I'm still sorting out my feelings about it: it's certainly a frenzied blast of energy, and I was more stimulated than I was by Scorsese's last two films. At the same time, however, I wasn't left with much when the circus was over: its moral stance, such as it is, is laid out early on, leaving us jogging furiously in place for three hours. Largely the point, no doubt, but still. Anyway, we're curious to know how you land on this one: share your thoughts here, and vote in the poll below.

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