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<p>Kanye West: Belle of the Met Ball</p>

Kanye West: Belle of the Met Ball

Credit: AP Photo

Album Review: Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’ impresses and offends

Race-conscious, sexist, wild and urgent: rapper is a deity, not a hero

He’s not trying to be a hero or anti-hero. He’s not even a villain. On “Yeezus,” as much as before, Kanye West has declared himself God, a rapper and artist of his own dominion without the same rules of conduct or moral compass as mortals. West, too, is a petulant child, an aspect of his deific persona that stomps to make itself heard throughout this 10-song album, the shortest of his career. 

“Yeezus” isn’t dotted with singles in the same way that “My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy” was. It finds a foothold with its usual audience through “Black Skinhead,” a critical observance on race and hypocrisy, all set to a Gary Glitter beat. He lords over a blustery hook about Romans (the Rome kind) and Trojans (the rubber kind) but then warns against “Stop all that coon sh*t / early morning cartoon shit.” Like the term “Black Skinhead,” West treads his own oxymoronic line, comparing himself both to the Antichrist and Jesus Christ, screaming in one breath and chanting “God” in the next.
Speaking of caricatures, he puts Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and rapper Chief Keef together on the same track, the attention-grabber “Hold My Liquor,” as Kanye recalls the woman he craves using aching guitars from a Ratatat album and bleary EDM from 1985. It's production sounds as poured-over as its lyrics, and to a blistering, satisfying effect.
Fresh from that hungover head-holder, he goes straight into poon, literally, for “I’m In It,” which is meant more as a provocation than a bedroom banger. “Eatin' Asian pussy, all I need was sweet and sour sauce,” he lazes. “Put my fist in her like a civil rights sign,” he shocks. “Neck, ears, hands, legs, eatin' ass… your titties, let 'em out, free at last,” he’s just banging on pans. It’s at this point and several others that you realize West, intrigueingly, keeps inviting you into the room, only to try to force you out, as his pathos crests and topples over detailed and radical production, burring synths, hulking beats, trap artifice with mock-pop melodies.
West samples Nina Simone’s hallowed “Strange Fruit” for his own ends for “Blood on the Leaves,” a lyric he alludes to earlier in “New Slaves” and, like many Kanye West grudges, he can’t let go. The gall it takes to borrow that song – which is about a black man lynched from a tree in the South – to humiliate and shame his subject with a “$2,000 bag with no cash in your purse.” And yet its story and his very stature challenges the notion that some musical works are untouchable, especially since it seems that all art, to some degree, can be bought, even for petty purposes for a gorgeous track.
He balances his revile for the “fairer” sex with condemnation for the fairer skinned on “New Slaves” “You see it's broke nigga racism / that's that ‘Don't touch anything in the store’ / And this rich nigga racism / that's that ‘Come in, please buy more / What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain? / All you blacks want all the same things.’” It’s commentary on the “buying” of his race with a set of Maybach keys, a response to a post-racial hypothetical where even the richest of rappers can’t overlook how poor blacks are still targeted by “white” corporations or – worse still –a “white” justice system. There’s where the lyric “blood on the leaves” comes in most handy, wedged between the immature declaration “I’d rather be a d*ck than a swallower” and the modest threat that this black man with mouth-f*ck “your” white wives. Comparing himself to King Kong, riffing on the “black men coming for your white women” trope, and mixing it all in with class warfare and self-entitlement… West doesn’t need Nicki, Jay-Z, Rozay or a gun to be a “Monster” here, or to play with what a "monster" really is.
Songs like it are a complex, vengeful, misogynistic affront that’d have no place on “Watch the Throne” nor “My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy” (even with condescending “Blame Game” skit). With a rebel yell, he rejects the rap-game rejectors on “I Am a God,” where he crowns himself a deity and ironically demands the most petty, un-Godly effects. “I am a God / so hurry up with my damn massage / in a French-ass restaurant / hurry up with my damn croissants,” he rhymes, and he knows that it’s funny (particularly when he notes that God Himself guests on the track).
From the chest-thumping bombast of opener “On Sight” to the good girls and bad bitches on honeyed finale “Bound 2,” West creates and thrives in this dark punk fantasy, without flinching. He’s dressing for the job he wants – using muffled acid house, Michael Bay-sized clanks, brooding piano, bleating horns, an eclectic stable of contributors and his tattered bark, he aspires to be a God among men, not just rappers. It’s not chance that “Yeezus” also happens to be his most sexist and/but race-conscious effort yet.  Aspirant and harsh, musically flighty and aggressive, West flourishes in these harsh environs risk-taking and culture-war drama-making, especially as his skills as a rapper improve. “Yeezus” isn’t pleasant, but that doesn’t bar it from being thought-provoking, substantial and very, very good.


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<p>John Mayer</p>

John Mayer

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: John Mayer's prancercising video to new song, 'Paper Doll'

Is it about Katy Perry?

It had to happen: sooner or later, someone was going to capitalize on the Prancercise craze. We just didn’t expect it to be John Mayer.

[More after the jump...]

 The lyric video for his new single, “Paper Doll,” features Prancercise creator and viral video sensation Joanna Rohrback, introducing the video: “By now you know the foremost Prancercise, but what about a prance to romance to,” she somewhat awkwardly asks.*

She then gracefully Prancercises to the song as the lyrics scroll across. The video is filmed primarily in a single shot (we caught only one edit once Rohrback starts doing her thing), so we can get full advantage of Rohrback’s graceful, fluid movements as she prancercises through a suburban neighborhood getting her Prancecise on.  She also, quite honestly, is getting quite the work out in, especially as she imitates the angel wings in the lyrics.

But what about the song? It’s a lovely, stripped down, lilting ballad, the kind of which we’ve been hearing from Mayer ever since “Wonderland.”  This time, he’s not bedding the girl, he’s romancing her and trying to woo her back after after she’s gotten spooked. “You’re like 22 girls in one, and none of them know what they’re running from," he sings.  He throws in lots of colors: black, gold, blue, mint green, moroccan red —as he runs through fashions made specifically for a seasons as a metaphor for her running away. It’s hardly a song of girl empowerment to compare a girl to a “little paper doll,” but not everything has to be an anthem.

The coda is a little too reminiscent of “Mockingbird,” but that may have been intentional.  The bigger question is if the song is about Mayer's off-and-on-again girlfriend, Katy Perry, who told Vogue that she is "still madly in love" with Mayer in a July cover story. (Interestingly, Rolling Stone speculates that the song is about Mayer's ex, Taylor Swift, because of the use of the color red, her current album title  and the number 22, which is her age and also a song title on her current album).

Mayer pairs once again with Don Was, who produced the fine “Born and Raised,” for “Paper Doll,” the first single from Mayer’s forthcoming album, “Paradise Valley.” Here, as is often Was’s trademark, the production is spare, with nothing extraneous added in. Both Mayer's vocal and guitar sound warm in inviting.

Mayer starts his first full tour in three years, following his vocal issues, July 6 in Milwaukee (following a July 4 appearance at 4th of July festival in Philadelphia). For full list of tour dates, go here.

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See pics from the 'Veronica Mars' movie set

See pics from the "Veronica Mars" movie set
Here are Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring, AKA Logan Echolls, last night on their first day filming the movie.

NBC to air a Valerie Harper special
Meredith Vieira and her NBC News team will follow the sitcom legend as she battles incurable brain cancer, but no date for the one-hour documentary has been set.

Police pics released of Evelyn Lozada's bloody forehead caused by Chad Johnson
Johnson pleaded no contest to headbutting his wife, a  VH1 reality star last year, causing a forehead laceration of three inches.

"Today" gives Miss Utah a do-over

This time, she came prepared to answer the question.

Amazon won't follow Netflix's binge-viewing model
All 10 episodes of John Goodman comedy "Alpha House" won't be released at the same time, but Amazon hasn't decided on a release model.

Who does "The Voice" think should win?
Danielle seems like the most marketable, but could another Blake Shelton team win hurt the show?

"Dexter" giving away "Killer Combo" ice cream sandwiches

The treats will be available at all Coolhaus retail outlets and trucks in New York and Los Angeles.

Meet the new "Breaking Amish" stars

Here's a glimpse of the L.A. season.

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<p>James Franco</p>

James Franco

Credit: AP Photo

James Franco goes the crowdfunding route - but it's not all about him

Franco will foster new talent on a planned trilogy based on his own short stories

Upon reading the news that James Franco is the latest name talent to take the crowdfunding route on a new film project, my first reaction was, "Well, of course." My second reaction was, "Wait, is this only the first time he's doing this?" Franco's extracurricular activities beyond acting -- filmmaking, art, writing, what have you -- are so many and varied, and executed with such can-do scrappiness, that the crowdfunding model seems like something he might have invented just to keep them all going.

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Valerie Harper

 Valerie Harper

Credit: NBC

NBC greenlights a doc about 'Rhoda' star Valerie Harper's dying days

The low-rated network circles the cancer-stricken star

It turns out you don't have to kill anyone to get your own TV special, but it does help if you're dying. NBC News today announced that it has greenlit an exclusive, hour-long documentary chronicling Valerie Harper’s battle with a rare, terminal cancer.

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Dan Harmon writes a formal apology for trashing 'Community' Season 4

Dan Harmon writes a formal apology for trashing "Community" Season 4

After saying "I feel bad" on Twitter, Harmon wrote on his blog: "What I said was disrespectful to your love for this show, love that I sometimes erroneously equate with validation of me as a person."

"Parks and Rec" merchandise coming to stores
Coming soon: A talking Ron Swanson bobblehead or "Parks and Rec" trading cards.

Howard Stern critiques Jimmy Fallon, tells him he can't do Video Game Week at 11:35
The shock jock criticized the "Late Night" host for not stepping it up in advance of "The Tonight Show" move.

Steve Carell: "I lied" about not appearing in "The Office" series finale

"I lied for months to the press, to almost everyone, really," he says. "And I felt terribly for the cast and for (executive producer) Greg Daniels, because they all lied, too."

Check out the new "Big Brother" house

This season's set is more "masculine," "sophisticated" and "grown-up."

Nigella Lawson's husband admits to assault and gets a police caution

Charles Saatchi went to police after talking to his lawyer.

Oscar-winning "Silence of the Lambs" director to direct AMC's "Line of Sight" pilot
Jonathan Demme will also executive produce the drama project, which is AMC's first sci-fi series.

"The Bachelor" host writing a book, coming out with his own wine
That's in addition to Chris Harrison launching his own line of menswear.

Questlove releasing his memoir
The "Late Night" bandleader talks about his new book, "Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove."

Watch the "Ray Donovan" pilot
Showtime has posted an edited version of the Liev Schreiber series on YouTube.

"The Bachelorette" hits a low

Monday's episode attracted 5.4 million viewers, a season low.

Ron Howard narrates "Arrested Development" fan tweets

Watch him not read the fan tweets verbatim.

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<p>What sort of threats do you think Superman (Henry Cavill) is going to face in the sequel to 'Man Of Steel'?</p>

What sort of threats do you think Superman (Henry Cavill) is going to face in the sequel to 'Man Of Steel'?

Credit: Warner Bros.

3 on 3: Does 'Man Of Steel' effectively set up a shared DC Universe on film?

And what does the mixed critical reaction mean for the series?

We already gathered here at HitFix for one "3 On 3" regarding "Man Of Steel," but we decided to go another round now that the film's in theaters and people are starting to weigh in on the film.

I've actually been surprised by the response to the film. I never considered that people might find it controversial or that there would be a huge debate about certain elements of the plot. It just didn't occur to me, so I'm a little flabbergasted about some of the conversations I had this weekend.

Once again, Greg Ellwood and Kris Tapley joined me to answer three questions that we still have about the movie. Check out the conversation below.

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<p>Billy Crystal's laugh is as unmistakable as his voice in Pixar's new film 'Monsters University'</p>

Billy Crystal's laugh is as unmistakable as his voice in Pixar's new film 'Monsters University'

Credit: HitFix

Billy Crystal discusses his chemistry with 'Monsters University' co-star John Goodman

Plus why is the new film a prequel?

One of the pleasures of doing what I do for a living is the opportunity to meet people whose work has meant something to me over the course of my life as a film fan, and at this point, I feel like I've met a lot of biggest names on the list.

Until I was invited to the "Monsters University" press day, I didn't realize how much I wanted to meet Billy Crystal, but once it was on my agenda, I got excited about it. One of the shows that I love the most from the '70s was "Soap," and every five or six years, I revisit the series and fall in love with it all over again. There are a number of reasons to adore the series, but one of the most significant things about it was the character Crystal played. At a time when gay culture was basically just a punchline for the mainstream, Jodie Dallas was allowed to be witty and sharp and decent and way more than just a joke. Crystal's career could have ended there, but he somehow managed to avoid getting labeled or typecast.

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'Client List' standoff: Jennifer Love Hewitt demanding her baby daddy play her baby daddy

"Client List" standoff: Jennifer Love Hewitt demanding her baby daddy play her baby daddy

Lifetime hasn't renewed "The Client List" for a 3rd season, according to Deadline Hollywood, because Hewitt wants her off-screen love Brian Hallisay to play her on-screen baby daddy, even though that idea isn't supported by the network or the showrunner. Deadline says both sides are trying to compromise but are willing to walk away.

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"The Bachelorette"

 "The Bachelorette"

Credit: ABC

'The Bachelorette' fellas strip down for a fake pageant in Atlantic City

One date takes a tour of Hurricane Sandy devastation

"The Bachelorette" heads to beautiful downtown post-Hurricane Sandy Atlantic City! It seems a bit like the bachelors have been promised a black-and-white television if they attend a grueling pitch for time shares, but I'm sure ABC has found a way to make this jaunt seem just as fabulously romantic as the others. Yay!

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<p>Kick-Ass may be a better fighter this time, but will that be enough to save him when an old friend comes back bad and ready for revenge?</p>

Kick-Ass may be a better fighter this time, but will that be enough to save him when an old friend comes back bad and ready for revenge?

Credit: Universal

'Kick-Ass 2' green band trailer features Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, and a scary Jim Carrey

The summer's rudest superhero movie goes as clean as it can for new ad

Later this week, I'll be publishing my set visit reports for "Kick-Ass 2," and I think you'll get a really great in-depth exclusive look behind the scenes at how Jeff Wadlow is following up Matthew Vaughn's first film. I had a few days on set by myself, and I was already familiar to the cast from the first film, so I think you'll get an uncommonly intimate look at the making of the movie.

It seems like Universal's really starting to push things into high gear for "Kick-Ass 2" this week. There's a new green band trailer for the movie, and while it's not overtly profane, they left enough of the edge in that it feels like they got away with something.

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<p>Jack Johnson performs at the 2013 Bonnaroo Music Festival.</p>

Jack Johnson performs at the 2013 Bonnaroo Music Festival.

Credit: Wade Payne/Invision/AP

Jack Johnson sets fall tour dates with all proceeds going to charity

Fresh off Bonnaroo gig, Johnson plans to hit the road again in September

Fresh off his headlining gig at Bonnaroo, where he stepped in for Mumford & Sons, Jack Johnson has announced a fall tour.

If he weren’t already the good guy after filling infor M&S, who dropped out due to Ted Dwane’s emergency surgery, Johnson will earn even more karma points with the tour because he is donating 100% of the profits to charity (as he has since 2008).

The outing, which is in support of his sixth studio album, “From Here To Now To You,” out Sept. 17, starts in Europe Sept. 5 and kicks off the U.S. portion Sept. 22 in Canton, Mass.

Proceeds from the tour will go to 75 community groups that focus on sustainable local food systems and plastic-free initiatives.

Johnson released the album’s first single, “I Got You,” a few weeks ago.

From Here To Now To You tour:

September 5      Cologne, Germany           E-Werk
September 6       Munich, Germany            Circus Krone
September 7       Amsterdam, Holland        Heineken Music Hall
September 8       London, UK                   Hyde Park - BBC Radio 2 in the Park
September 11      Manchester, UK              Lowery Theatre
September 12      Birmingham , UK           Symphony Hall
September 14     Paris, France                   Olympia          
September 16      London, UK                   Roundhouse Theatre - iTunes Festival
September 22      Canton, MA                   Life is good Festival
September 25      Washington, DC             Constitution Hall
September 26      Upper Darby, PA             Tower Theatre
September 28      Toronto, Canada            Massey Hall **
September 29      Akron, OH                     EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall
October 1           Atlanta, GA                    Fox Theatre
October 2           Nashville, TN                 Ryman Auditorium
October 3           Durham, NC                   Durham Performing Arts Center
October 5           Indianapolis, IN              Murat Theatre
October 6           Chicago, IL                    Chicago Theatre **
October 7           Minneapolis, MN            State Theatre
October 9           Denver, CO                    Paramount Theatre
October 12         Oakland, CA                  Fox Theatre
October 14         Vancouver, BC               Orpheum Theatre
October 15         Seattle, WA                   Paramount Theatre
October 16         Portland, OR                  The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
October 18         San Diego, CA               Balboa Theatre
October 19         Los Angeles, CA             Orpheum Theatre
October 20         Santa Barbara, CA           Arlington Theatre


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