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Album Review: Luke Bryan's 'Crash My Party' seldom reaches top speed

Album Review: Luke Bryan's 'Crash My Party' seldom reaches top speed

Country superstar's latest stalls in mid-gear

Luke Bryan has made a career of being country’s polite party boy. He doesn’t have the dangerous edginess of an Eric Church or Jamey Johnson (or even of his good buddy, Jason Aldean), but he surely knows how to show you a good time (as evidenced on his “Spring Break” series of EPs), and possibly get you to shed your clothes while doing so.

On his new album, “Crash My Party,” out today, the reigning ACM Entertainer of the Year delivers another round of songs designed to show that he’s still the guy you want by your side, whether it’s to chug your beer or cry in it (and here, he does his fair share of crying). The songs are uniformly commercial and relatively risk free, but for Bryan fans, it will be a nice new chapter in a pleasingly familiar book, if not a particularly high-octane one. With his career riding a high on the back of this ACM award, it would have been nice if he’d taken a few risks, but that doesn’t seem to be what he or his fans want. Look for "Crash My Party" to bow atop the Billboard 200 and the Billboard Country Albums chart next week.

Here’s a track-by-track review:

“That’s My Kind of Night”:
  A straight-up, good time opener. As he does a lot, Bryan throws in all the country tropes: a truck, getting out into the country (he is the one guy that figures his little country cutie likes it “way out where the corn rows grow,” instead of downtown. He’s got a mixtape that includes country and hip-hop: “ A little Conway and a little T-Pain,” he sings. Despite (or perhaps because of) the lowest common denominator cookie cutter lyrics and his somewhat awkward delivery, the song is already soaring up the Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, no doubt due to the driving beat.  Grade: C

“Beer In The Headlights”: Country music provides cute word play in its titles better than anyone, and this song is no exception. This mid-tempo track delivers the same message as “That’s My Kind Of Night” —he’s alone with his girl out in the country, hanging out in or by his truck, and her beer is in the headlights—and yet he delivers it so much more convincingly here. His voice, which can be a little nasally, fits the melody much better. Grade: B

“Crash My Party”: After this "Spring Break" EPs and 2011 album, "Tanlines and Tailgates," it was understandable from the title alone that folks expected this tune, the first single and title track, to be an upbeat kicker. Instead, it’s a mid-tempo invitation to love, a less sensual, sweeter “Come Over.” His love is welcome anytime, anywhere because he knows she’s a better time than anything else he’s got going on. “This is a drop-everything, kind of thing, swing on by, i’ll pour you a drink, the door’s unlocked, I’ll leave on the lights...”  If a women sings it, sadly, it still can sound desperate. Here, it sounds like a beautifully open-ended invitation. Grade: B+

“Roller Coaster”:  Bryan is in the amusement park of love, and his lady is twisting him around like a roller coaster, keeping him on the edge of his seat, and not necessarily in a good way. It’s a potentially dark ride. Grade: B

“We Run This Town”:
Bryan takes a look back at his formative years in this wistful mid-tempo, guitar-driven track. “From crazy kids to dirt road kings/Oh, we didn’t know nothin’, but we knew everything,” he sings of those days when he and his buddies “thought we made the world go ‘round.”  Grade: B

“Drink A Beer”:
  Bryan does vulnerability well, no more so on “Crash This Party” than on “Drink A Beer.”  His friend has died and he has no answers. He sits on the edge of a pier, the one they used to sit on together, and drink a beer. Enhanced by spare production, the acoustic guitar ballad doesn’t try to be a tearjerker, and that’s part of its appeal. It just invites you to live in the moment of finding out bad news and being in shock and needing to just breathe. Grade: A-

“I See You”: Bryan, who co-wrote this spiky, jaunty track, returns to the bar, but in true fashion, is still stuck on the one girl who has dumped him. The bevy of beauties try to lure him onto the floor, but he can’t forget. Grade: B-

“Goodbye Girl”: Another mid-tempo track and another tune about a girl who has the ability to break his heart (though he never seems to crushed by anything). He’s given her the keys to his heart and even though she “scatter(s) in the wind just like a dandelion/reminding me again that you ain't ever mine for long,” he can’t be the one to pull the plug on the DOA romance. Emotionally, Bryan seems willing to take songs only so far and this is another example. Grade: B-

“Play It Again”: Bryan delivers the best sexual euphemism in this mid-tempo tale of meeting girl who he falls for on the spot. “Soon as I sat down, I was fallin’ in love/Tryin’ to pour a little sugar in her Dixie cup.”  I may be reading too much into this sweet tale of falling in love over a song and a dance. One of the best songs on the album. Grade: B+

“Blood Brothers”: The Dixie cups return, but this time he’s drinking “bad booze” out of them in this song, that like “We Run This Town,” looks back at an earlier time. This time the content is slightly edgier (as is the guitar), as Bryan recounts a rough-edged youth “We were young as we were dumb/when we piled in an old pile of junk/It was all-for-one and all for one/Bunch of outlaws without a gun.” Sadly, he can’t really sell the grittiness the song deserves.  Grade: C

“Out Like That”: He’s out with his girl in a truck again and he’s delivered songs like this on every track. His girl is driving him wild and he doesn’t want to hold back. They’re going to dance in the rain as the lights from his headlights capture the beauty of her face. A sure bet for a single and a likely No. 1. Slightly up-tempo rockers like this with this kind of theme are Bryan’s sweet spot. Grade: B+

“Shut It Down”: Another song with nice word play- this time build around how “any hay to make can wait for now” (literally), as this farmer and his wife go make hay while the sun shines figuratively. Who doesn’t love a guy with a farmer’s tan?  Grade: B

“Dirt Road Diary”: The second song on the set co-written by Bryan takes a seemingly autobiographical turn as he relives his youth, riding in a car with his dad and as he got older, reveling in “tan legs and some Dixieland delight.”  He seems to enjoy looking back a little on this album and the triptych of reminiscences serve him reasonably well. Grade: B


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"Toddlers & Tiaras"

 "Toddlers & Tiaras"

Credit: TLC

Watch: 'Toddlers & Tiaras' to bring back the crazy in September

The moms are just as mean this time around

Have you been yearning for some pint-sized drama and questionable parenting on your TV screen? Then rejoice, for TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" is retuning on Wed. Sept. 18 at 9:00 p.m. ET. 

As usual, each hour-long episode continues to feature pint-sized beauty queens and their "passionate" (read: insane) parents as they vie for the coveted crown at their local pageants. The show gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the lifestyles of these young competitors and their families as they prepare for and compete in each competition, ensuring these kids will someday have a vibrant future working a pole or asking, "Would you like fries with that"? 

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James Franco roasters include Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, Jonah Hill

James Franco roasters include Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, Jonah Hill

Also roasting Franco: Nick Kroll, Natasha Leggero and Roastmaster General Jeff Ross.

Oprah: I'm sorry racism incident "got blown up"

"I purposely did not mention the name of the store," Oprah said at the premiere of her new movie last night. "I'm sorry that I said it was Switzerland. I was just referencing it as an example of being in a place where people don't expect that you would be able to be there."

Stephen Colbert's Daft Punk appearance: What could've been
Colbert details how hard it was to nail down the electro-pop duo who refuse to speak, even proposing that he do a monologue while they just nodded their heads.

Jimmy Fallon talks to "Today" about his 5-year struggle to become a dad
The "Late Night" host also revealed the inspiration for his daughter's name Winnie -- Lake Winnipesaukee, where he got engaged.

Mischa Barton says no to an "O.C." reunion

"I think things have to feel right and it doesn't feel right," she says.

Thor meets "Arrested Development"
It's "Thorested Development."

"24" alum Leslie Hope joins FX's "The Strain"
She'll survive the outbreak in the Carlton Cuse drama.

Watch "Nashville's" Season 2 promo
The ABC drama returns Sept. 25 in all its "take your breath away glory."

"Glee" bringing back NeNe Leakes
Coach Roz will have a presence in Season 5. PLUS: Cory Monteith's possesssions moved out of his Hollywood apartment.

"Top Chef" returns Oct. 2

Watch the promo for the New Orleans season.

Has "Breaking Bad" become overanalyzed?
There has become a complete saturation of the "Breaking Bad" commentary market -- and it's taking the fun out of the show. PLUS: Which "Breaking Bad" myths did "MythBusters" bust?

"Teen Mom 2's" Jenelle Evans smiles in her mugshot

The 21-year-old was sentenced to 48 hours in jail after failing a drug test.

Bryan Fuller's "High Moon" casts its first stars
The moon-set Syfy series will feature Chris Diamantopoulos and Jake Sandvig.

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<p>Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made their best pitches for good and evil when we sat down with them to talk about their new film 'Kick-Ass 2'</p>

Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Aaron Taylor-Johnson made their best pitches for good and evil when we sat down with them to talk about their new film 'Kick-Ass 2'

Credit: HitFix

We ask Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chris Mintz-Plasse to win us over to their side for 'Kick-Ass 2'

Who makes the better case here? Good or evil?

Between my time on set, my panel moderating duties at Comic-Con, and a recent press day for "Kick-Ass 2" in New York, I feel like I've had a pretty good chance to ask the three main stars of the movie any and every thing I wanted to.

I decided to try something different when I sat down with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. If you somehow don't know the name of the character Mintz-Plasse is playing in the sequel to the cult hit "Kick-Ass," I should warn you that there's almost no way for this interview to be 100% safe for work. Even beeped, I think you'll get the idea.

Of the three main returning cast members, I think Mintz-Plasse is the one who really had to push into a whole new direction here. He's growing as an actor these days, and a lot of it just comes from experience. He has an idea of what he wants from his work now, and what he thinks he brings to something, and he seems happy to demolish any sort of niche that people want to put him in as an actor.

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<p>Dario Marianelli at the 2007 Academy Awards.</p>

Dario Marianelli at the 2007 Academy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo

BAFTA to spotlight work of Dario Marianelli and George Fenton

The pair selected for this year's Conversations with Screen Composers series

Last year, BAFTA inaugurated its Conversations with Screen Composers series, which proved a popular one: it's always nice to see industry groups highlighting its artists outside an awards context, particularly in a forum that's open to the public. Rachel Portman, the first woman to win a scoring Oscar, was the most prominent of three composers whose work was discussed and performed in a showcase at London's iconic Royal Albert Hall. The format was successful enough that it's being repeated this year with two significant film composers: Dario Marianelli and George Fenton.

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Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 196

Dan and Alan talk 'Breaking Bad,' 'Orange Is The New Black,' 'The Killing' and more


Happy Monday, Boys & Girls.
Last week? Lots of new shows to review.
This week? No new shows to review.
So we caught up on the end of the "Killing" season, which we skipped last week. And I finished "Orange Is The New Black," so we discussed the full season of that. 
And, finally, we did the first "Breaking Bad" discussion of the season, followed by our Summer Pilot Rewatch, the marvelous "The Wonder Years."
Next week? It could be a thin week, so send questions!
And we're doing a Pilot Rewatch Double from J.J. Abrams: "Felicity" and "Alias."
Today's breakdown:
Listener Mail - TV recruiting Twitter writers (00:01:20 - 00:12:05)
Listener Mail - "The Good Wife" flaws (00:12:10 - 00:22:35)
"The Killing" (00:23:25 - 00:40:25)
"Orange Is The New Black" (00:40:30 - 00:58:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:58:05 - 01:24:10)
Summer Pilot Rewatch - "The Wonder Years" (01:24:30 - 01:39:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.



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Listen: Nine Inch Nails' new song 'Copy of A'
Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Nine Inch Nails' new song 'Copy of A'

'Hesitation Marks' cut gets a studio premiere after live performances

Nine Inch Nails have been performing their new song "Copy of A" from "Hesitation Marks" as they've headlined at various music festivals recently. Now, there's the official studio version available for stream.

Trent Reznor has kept firm to his "no yelling" policy on "Hesitation Marks" thus far, and this song represents some of his more mellow vocals. The hollow effect on those on top of the looping sampler and itchy beat make for a happy little paranoid number, a good contrast to first single "Came Back Haunted."

"Copy of A" can be downloaded for free right now at Amazon UK. "Hesistation Marks" is out Sept. 3.

Watch NIN's "Came Back Haunted" music video by David Lynch. See below for tracklist and tour dates.

Here is the "Hesitation Marks" tracklist:

1. The Eater of Dreams
2. Copy of A
3. Came Back Haunted
4. Find My Way
5. All Time Low
6. Disappointed
7. Everything
8. Satellite
9. Various Methods of Escape
10. Running1
11. I Would for You
12. In Two
13. While I’m Still Here
14. Black Noise

Here are Nine Inch Nails' tour dates:

08/15 - Hasselt, Belgium @ Pukkelpop
08/16 - Biddinghuizen, Holland @ Lowlands Festival
08/18 - Hockenheim, Germany @ Rock 'n' Heim
08/21 - Belfast, Northern Ireland @ Belsonic Festival
08/23 - Leeds, England @ Leeds Festival
08/24 - Paris, France @ Rock en Seine
08/25 - Reading, England @ Reading Festival
08/28 - Milan, Italy @ Mediolanum Forum
08/31 - 09/1 - Philadelphia, PA @ Made in America Festival
09/28 - St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
09/30 - Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
10/01 - St. Louis, MO @ Chaifetz Arena
10/03 - Montreal, QC @ Centre Bell
10/04 - Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
10/05 - Cleveland, OH @ Wolstein Center
10/07 - Auburn Hill, MI @ The Palace of Auburn Hills
10/08 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Petersen Events Center
10/11 - Boston, MA @ TD Garden
10/14 - Brooklyn, NY @ Barclays Center
10/15 - Newark, NJ @ Prudential Center
10/18 - Washington, D.C. @ Verizon Center
10/19 - University Park, PA @ Bryce Jordan Center
10/21 - Raleigh, NC @ PNC Arena
10/22 - Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
10/24 - Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
10/25-27 - Asheville, NC @ Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit
10/30 - Sunrise, FL @ BB&T Center
10/31 - Orlando, FL @ Amway Center
11/1-3 - New Orleans, LA @ Voodoo Music Experience
11/05 - San Antonio, TX @ AT&T Center
11/08 - Los Angeles, CA @ Staples Center
11/09 - Phoenix, AZ @ US Airways Center
11/11 - El Paso, TX @ Don Haskins Center
11/13 - Broomfield, CO @ 1st Bank Center
11/15 - Las Vegas, NV @ The Joint
11/16 - Las Vegas, NV @ The Joint
11/18 - Portland, OR @ Rose Garden Arena
11/19 - Spokane, WA @ Spokane Arena
11/21 - Vancouver, British Columbia @ Rogers Arena
11/22 - Seattle, WA @ KeyArena
11/24 - Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
11/25 - Calgary, AB @ Scotiabank Saddledome

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<p>Meryl Streep in &quot;August:&nbsp;Osage&nbsp;County&quot;</p>

Meryl Streep in "August: Osage County"

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Will Meryl Streep be campaigned for Best Supporting Actress in 'August: Osage County?'

A role that won a leading Tony Award is reportedly sniffing out secondary turf

Anyone who's seen "August: Osage County" on stage knows that the role of Violet Weston, originated by Deanna Dunagan in the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Tracy Letts' play in Chicago and later reprised in a Tony-winning turn on Broadway, is catnip for any actress. Full of broad strokes and opportunity for chewing the scenery, it's a role that would have put whoever ended up with the film gig -- certainly Meryl friggin' Streep -- right in the middle of the Oscar race.

It's a clear leading role in a play with two of them (the other being Violet's daughter Barbara, originated by Amy Morton on stage and played by Julia Roberts in the film). Both, in fact, were nominated for Tonys, but the "bigger" role of Violet naturally brought in the attention and, ergo, the awards. So I don't quite know how you shuffle that performance, particularly coming from Streep, over to a supporting actress campaign, as Gold Derby is reporting, unless there has been some tinkering done with the script to make Barbara more of a fulcrum for the thing (which she kind of already is to an extent).

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Judge tosses Paula Deen racial discrimination lawsuit

Judge tosses Paula Deen racial discrimination lawsuit
The racial component of the case against the former Food Network star was thrown out, while sexual harassment claims were allowed to stand.

"New Girl" books Angela Kinsey and Eva Amurri

"The Office" and "Californication" vets will appear in the 2nd episode of the season.

NBC orders a prison break drama set in the future

Greg Berlanti's "Paradise" will be set in a Las Vegas prison in the late 21st century.

Freddie Prinze Jr. will reunite with his "Freddie" co-star on "Witches of East End"
He'll guest on the Lifetime drama, reuniting him with Madchen Amick, who co-starred with him on the 2005-06 ABC sitcom.

ABC buys a 3rd TV project from Shonda Rhimes, a comedy
This comedy script will revolve around a group of friends.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 195: 'Breaking Bad,' 'Orange is the New Black,' 'The Killing' & more

Dan and Alan also discuss 'The Wonder Years' pilot and answer your mail


After last week's advance review-heavy edition of the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, this week had no major premieres of note, so Dan and I instead looked back: on the "Breaking Bad" season premiere, on last week's "The Killing" season finale, on the entire first season of "Orange is the New Black," and way back to the '80s (and then the '60s) as our pilot rewatch stops on "The Wonder Years." Next week: A J.J. Abrams double bill with "Felicity" & "Alias." 

The rundown:

Listener Mail - TV recruiting Twitter writers (00:01:20 - 00:12:05)
Listener Mail - "The Good Wife" flaws (00:12:10 - 00:22:35)
"The Killing" (00:23:25 - 00:40:25)
"Orange Is The New Black" (00:40:30 - 00:58:00)
"Breaking Bad" (00:58:05 - 01:24:10)
Summer Pilot Rewatch - "The Wonder Years" (01:24:30 - 01:39:00)

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.

And as always, feel free to e-mail us questions for the podcast.
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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef' heads to New Orleans in October

The franchise expands with "Padma's Picks"

Love "Top Chef"? Well then, good news. The franchise is stretching like a well-oiled gourmet pizza dough yet again. The show heads to New Orleans for season 11 on Wed. Oct. 2 at 10:00 p.m. ET, and this season kicks-off with a new digital video series.

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: Interscope Records

Listen to Lady Gaga's new single, 'Applause' in full

Momma Monster really, really wants you to like her

After leakers got their hands on it over the weekend, an angry Lady Gaga officially released new single, “Applause,” today, a week earlier than planned.

The propulsive, driving track is a layered, dance twirler about how Gaga lives for, you guessed it, “Applause.”

The song opens with a staccato beat (a la “Paparazzi”) as  Lady Gaga sings in a very mannered, dramatic fashion, “I stand here waiting for you to beat the gong/to crash the critics saying, ‘Is it right or is it wrong’?.”

The song quickly bursts into a full-on dance track full of hand claps (as well as live audience applause later), and weaving synthesizers and echoes.  If Lady Gaga has drawn plentiful comparisons to Madonna, here she's in Annie Lennox mode when it gets to the bridge.

The production is an in-your-face assault of 3D sounds coming at you over and over as she reminds us again and again that she lives for her Little Monsters. While it's a bit overbearing, it’s a nice message for the fans to hear as she comes back with “ARTPOP” on Nov. 11. If this song is any indication, the album will explore her role in pop culture.

The song’s release comes two days after Katy Perry put out her new single, “Roar.”

Which song do you prefer?

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