Latest Blog Posts

<p>Jay-Z and Beyonce in Cuba.</p>

Jay-Z and Beyonce in Cuba.

Credit: AP Photo

Jay-Z strikes back at Cuba trip critics with new song 'Open Letter': Listen

Rapper also addresses recent brouhaha over the Brooklyn Nets

Sounds like vacation is over for Jay-Z.

The rapper recently took a much-publicized trip to Cuba with his wife Beyonce, but it didn't take long for him to churn out a new track -- with a surprising subject matter. 

Several Florida republicans (including Senator Marco Rubio) weren't too happy about music's No. 1 power couple breaking the U.S.A.'s longstanding tourism restriction of the Caribbean island, but Jay-Z isn't about to let their words keep him (and Bey) down. 

In just a matter of days, Jay recorded and released what can only be called a diss track entitled "Open Letter."

Short, stripped down and to the point, there's no mistaking to whom this "Letter" is addressed. And, to paraphrase an earlier Jay-Z track, he don't need no hook for this sh*t.

"They wanna give me jail time and a fine/Fine/let me commit a real crime," Jay-Z threat-raps, no doubt responding directly to Rubio and co.'s letter-wrting and Twitter campaigns decrying the duo's Cuban vacation. 

Later, "I'm in Cuba/I love Cubans" is followed by the sound of Jigga taking a puff on a cigar, "Scarface"-style. 

In the song, Jay-Z claims he got "White House clearance" from his pal the president. He raps, "Obama said, 'Chill you're goinna get me impeached'/You don't need this shit anyway/Chill with me on the beach."

Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury Department stated that the couple's trip was indeed legit, having been previously authorized as an "educational and cultural exchange."

However, just hours after the song was released today, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney addressed the issue, saying that, while Jay-Z indeed followed proper protocol, he didn’t communicate directly with President Obama. Carney added, hilariously, "I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury. Because Treasury gives licenses for travel and the White House has nothing to do with it."

Hova also addresses the recent kerfuffle about the NBA team he co-owns, the Brooklyn Nets, saying "I would've moved the Nets to Brooklyn for free/Except I made millions off you f*cking dweebs/I still own the building/I'm still keeping my seats/You buy that bullshit/you'd better keep your receipts."

It's been a while since "dweeb" has been used with such venom, but somehow Jay-Z makes it work. 

Listen to "Open Letter" here:

What do you think of "Open Letter"? And Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba?

Read Full Post
Exclusive: Sarah Brightman duets with Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on 'Hawaii '78'

Exclusive: Sarah Brightman duets with Israel Kamakawiwo'ole on 'Hawaii '78'

Late, great folk singer joins a famed soprano on space-bound song from 'Dreamchaser'

Sarah Brightman has an unusual and beautiful duet partner on the latest song to arrive from her new album. "Hawaii '78" features the late and great Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, who originally released "Hawai'i '78" for his 1993 album "Facing Future." That album also featured his most famous track, his cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and coincidentally "Hawai'i '78" was another expression of hope and prayer.

Here, Brightman is joining in that vision with this interpretation, "Hawaii '78." A bonus track available only on Target's limited edition CD of "Dreamchaser," this version sends the roots-laden song space-bound, with the famed soprano's voice padded with harmony, synths and strings.

Listen to the exclusive premiere of "Hawaii '78" below, and then give a go at the original.

Brightman's interstellar sound here is part of the larger aesthetic on "Dreamchaser," which expresses the Broadway star's ultimate goal of traveling into space. And she may yet: last year, it was announced that Brightman is "anticipated to be the first musician to travel to the International Space Station." You can learn more about the voyage in the vid below.

Read Full Post
<p>In an ideal world with limitless time, I'd have the time to check back in on &quot;Elementary&quot;&nbsp;and lots of other shows. I&nbsp;do not work in an ideal world.</p>

In an ideal world with limitless time, I'd have the time to check back in on "Elementary" and lots of other shows. I do not work in an ideal world.

Credit: CBS

How much good TV is too much?

As more outlets present original programming, it becomes harder for a TV critic to keep up with it all

This used to be a pretty simple job when I first became a TV critic. There were the Big Four networks, plus the WB and UPN (and when I started in the summer of '96, they were barely worthy of notice) and the occasional HBO or PBS production that demanded a write-up. It was easy to stay current with all the new shows, and all the returning ones — to feel, even if you weren't watching every episode of every show (because that wasn't possible even in the Clinton years), like you could see the whole picture of TV, even if some parts were more in focus than others.

Then HBO got more serious about original scripted programming, and the rest of cable followed, and suddenly there were new dramas and sitcoms popping up all over the place, even as the original broadcast networks were shifting more towards reality TV. There was more to watch, and more to write about, but it was exciting to see what the medium was capable of becoming (a.ka. the subject of my book).

Every now and then, someone would ask me if I felt there was too much good TV on TV, and I would always respond that more good TV is simply more good TV. What could possibly be the downside of that?

Well, this TV season is the first time I've began to feel like there may, in fact, be too much good TV.

Read Full Post
<p>On &quot;Southland,&quot;&nbsp;Lucero (Anthony Ruvivar)&nbsp;and Cooper (Michael Cudlitz)&nbsp;got taken hostage.</p>

On "Southland," Lucero (Anthony Ruvivar) and Cooper (Michael Cudlitz) got taken hostage.

Credit: TNT

Review: 'Southland' - 'Chaos'

Cooper and Lucero are taken hostage in another amazing Michael Cudlitz showcase

A review of last night's "Southland" coming up just as soon as I need a haircut...

Read Full Post


Credit: ABC

'Nashville': Did Juliette make a mistake by stealing Dante for herself?

The tortured mother-daughter duo hits a new speed bump

It seems like everything is getting back on track in "Nashville." Well, Lamar had a massive heart attack, but if you don't like Lamar very much, maybe that's just part of the week's good news.

Read Full Post
<p>Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman star as Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson in '42'</p>

Lucas Black and Chadwick Boseman star as Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson in '42'

Credit: Warner Bros

Review: Jackie Robinson biopic '42' cut from familiar and cheesy Hollywood formula

Brian Helgeland indulges some myth-making with an assist from Harrison Ford

We have become a baseball family.

When you have kids, you end up building a fair amount of your schedule around the various interests that they pursue, and baseball has become a major part of Toshi's life each year. He's a natural, and we've tried other sports before settling on baseball. The football parents were a nightmare, the basketball league was a mess, and tae kwon do mainly just made Toshi cry. But the little league that we found in our area is outstanding, well-organized, well-managed, and the kids and the parents that we've met as a result of being part of baseball have been an amazing addition to our lives.

One of the things that I find most enjoyable about the league is the inclusiveness. There are girls on their team, and every ethnic and cultural background seems very well-represented, and the kids don't seem to notice because that's simply how their world looks. That's what they were born into, that's normal to them, and the reason it's remarkable to me is because I know that's not what it looked like when I was younger. I was a kid of the '70s, and I thought of my childhood as a particularly permissive time. By the point I was aware of things, there was a rough hewn push towards equality. It may not have been perfectly executed, and if you look at a film like the original "Bad News Bears," much of the cultural attitude at that moment was defined by the frictions that still existed and the desire to move past them.

Read Full Post
<p>Andrea of &quot;Survivor: Caramoan&quot;</p>

Andrea of "Survivor: Caramoan"

Credit: Greg Gayne/CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Caramoan' - 'Cut Off the Head of the Snake'

An episode of heavy strategizing culminates in a wacky Tribal Council
Pre-credit sequence. When last we left our castaways, Corinne had just been unceremoniously blindsided. Now what? Monkey! Monkeys everywhere! It's like they've been waiting for Corinne to leave. Did Corinne eat monkeys? That would explain so much! "I look at last night as a victory," says Reynold, basically figuring even if his alliance fell flat, any time somebody other than him goes home, it's a win. Eddie and Reynold are beginning to recognize that they're female kryptonite, noting that any time a girl aligns with them, she goes home. Uh-oh. Stop cutting to Adorable Andrea. I don't like what you're implying, editors. "I am iron-clad with my guys, with Eddie and Malcolm," says Reynold, who decides that the time has come to flirt with Andrea. "I still have the only Idol that nobody else knows about," observes Malcolm. "They thought they cut off the head of the snake. They thought they killed the rebel leader, I guess. They don't know they missed yet," Malcolm says. I hope that's not foreshadowing. But I'm sure that between Andrea getting next to Poison Reynold and Malcolm's cockiness, something is sure to be foreshadowed.
Read Full Post
2013 MTV Movie Awards predictions: 'The Avengers,' Channing Tatum and more

2013 MTV Movie Awards predictions: 'The Avengers,' Channing Tatum and more

'Django Unchained' and 'Ted' led the nominees but other films look likely to prevail

Yep, we're still talking about the MTV Movie Awards this week. Speaking of which, if you missed our look at some fun facts about the annual ceremony, go give 'em a look!

This year the big nominees are "The Avengers," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Django Unchained," "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Ted," which, on the whole, is an obvious step up from recent years. Will "The Avengers" walk out of there a winner on Sunday? Or will nominations leaders "Django Unchained" and "Ted" have something to say about that?

Read Full Post
<p>Keri Russell in &quot;The&nbsp;Americans.&quot;</p>

Keri Russell in "The Americans."

Credit: FX

Review: 'The Americans' - 'Only You'

The FBI closes in on Gregory as the KGB tries to get him out of the country

A review of tonight's "The Americans" coming up just as soon as I can find a travel agent staying in a motel under his own name...

Read Full Post
Song Of The Day: Lightning Dust's 'Diamond'
Credit: Ila Meens

Song Of The Day: Lightning Dust's 'Diamond'

Get your Sinead fix

Get your sad synth on: Lightning Dust's new song "Diamond" cuts deep, and it is divine.

The electronica duo is prepping the release of "Fantasy" on June 25, and have come with a light load. This, their third full-length, will be a concentrated effort of minimalism, and "Diamond" gives the listener a good idea of just what that really means.

Read Full Post
<p>The &quot;American Idol&quot; Top 6</p>

The "American Idol" Top 6

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' - Top 6: Burt Bacharach and Song I Wish I'd Written Night

It's a double theme night, as we get 12 performances

We're down to the Top 6 on "American Idol" and since the shows aren't getting any shorter, that means we're looking at a double-performance night. And with each singing going twice, we also have a pair of dueling themes.

We have that old "Idol" standby with Songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David -- I didn't have enough characters to get "Hal David" in this headline, but he's important, too -- and then we have the more ambiguous Songs I Wish I'd Written. 

Wouldn't it have been cool if "Idol" had turned that second theme sideways and let any contestant with writing chops do a song they actually had written? Who amongst us wouldn't want to watch a full performance of Angie Miller's original? And I hear Janelle writes, too. Bring it on! Oh well.

On to the recap. Share your thoughts below...

Read Full Post
Watch this beautiful music video for James Blake's haunted 'Overgrown'

Watch this beautiful music video for James Blake's haunted 'Overgrown'

Another gorgeous go from Nabil

Pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty, haunted.

Check out Nabil's breathtaking video for James Blake's "Overgrown," the title track from his latest album, out this week. Reconsider your feelings on lightness and dark. Repeat.

Watch other videos from Nabil Elderkin, including some from Bon Iver ("Holocene"), Kanye West ("Coldest Winter") and Antony & the Johnsons ("Cut the World").

Read Full Post