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<p>Taylor Swift</p>

Taylor Swift

Credit: AP Photo

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Record of the Year

Will it be Taylor Swift, fun., or Gotye?


As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at one of the top four awards, Record of the Year.

Record of the Year nominees:
“Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys (The Black Keys & Danger Mouse, producers)
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You,” Kelly Clarkson (Greg Kurstin, producer)
“We Are Young,” fun. featuring Janelle Monae (Jeff Bhasker, producer)
“Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye featuring Kimbra (Wally de Backer, producer)
“Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” Frank Ocean (Frank Ocean, producer)
“We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift (Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift, producers)

WHO’S MISSING: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is a much better record than song (see the explanation below) and it would have fared better in this category than in Song of the Year. Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” continued what “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave” started, which is strong acoustic guitar and banjo playing brought to the forefront in the mix, which isn’t something you hear every day on pop radio.

THE PLAYERS
: Unlike Song of the Year, which goes to the songwriter, Record of the Year is an award for the artist and the other people involved in the sound of the record, including the producer and engineer. All of the selections here offer interesting productions, but “We Are Young” and “Somebody That I Used To Know” were especially noteworthy for their non-traditional, innovative productions. Clever arrangements made both songs stand out like beacons in the cluttered radio landscape. They sounded like nothing else coming out of the speakers and they both helped usher in a new era of pop music that is smart as it is accessible.

THE ODDS:
Fun. has more nominations than Gotye overall and that can sometimes sway voters. Both “We Are Young” and “Somebody That I Used to Know” were massive hits. In fact, four of the six songs nominated here were Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers.

THE WINNER:
“Somebody That I Used To Know,” Gotye (by a nose)

Previous predictions:

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Song of the Year
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Best Rock Song
Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Album
Best New Artist
 

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<p>Hollywood Week on &quot;American Idol&quot;</p>

Hollywood Week on "American Idol"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'American Idol' Season 12 Live-Blog - Hollywood Round, Part 1

Auditions are over... Let the madness begin!

I'm feeling OK about Season 12 of "American Idol" so far. How about y'all? 

No, I haven't felt like the audition episodes suggested talent unparalleled in the show's history, but it seemed like there was some talent. And, more importantly, it felt like the new judging panel had personality and a particular chemistry, even if that chemistry was vaguely toxic. After two years with Wacky Cypher Steven Tyler and Sexy Cypher Jennifer Lopez, I'll even endorse the cringe-worthy tension between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, plus the "How the heck did I come to be stuck in the middle of this?" benign coolness of Keith Urban. 

How will that chemistry evolve in Hollywood? Let's find out!

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<p>Hey, look, it's Han Solo, here to deliver massive page views thanks to the near-Pavlovian response of every OT&nbsp;'Star Wars' fan out there.</p>

Hey, look, it's Han Solo, here to deliver massive page views thanks to the near-Pavlovian response of every OT 'Star Wars' fan out there.

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

'Han Solo' and 'Boba Fett' films added to the list of 'Star Wars' standalones being developed

Neither seems terribly surprising, but isn't that the point?

This is going to be a significant test of how much of a character belongs to the writing and how much is about the performance.  If Disney wants to make a young Han Solo movie, I'm willing to watch that.  Sure.  Absolutely.  Part of me hopes someone completely insane decides to spend $100 million on technology to let Harrison Ford give a motion captured performance as young Han Solo because I think that would be "Hellraiser"-level creepy, but accidentally, and I'd have to watch it every day because it would be totally deranged.

Obviously, no one is going to make that movie, and so they're going to end up casting someone to play young Han Solo, and no offense, Hypothetical Young Actor they haven't found yet, but those are some mighty big shoes to fill, and pretty much everything you do is going to get hyperscrutinized.  You are always going to be compared to Harrison Ford in his prime, and even Harrison Ford can't win when that comparison is being made.  It is a losing proposition because of the nature of fandom, and I contend that the moment you give the fans what you think they want, they will turn on you and tell you that they never wanted it after all.

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<p>Julie Delpy and&nbsp;Ethan Hawke in &quot;Before Midnight&quot;</p>

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"

Credit: Sony Classics

Sony Classics sets release dates for 'Before Midnight,' 'I'm So Excited' and 'Blue Jasmine'

Will the summer bows be remembered when awards season rolls around?

I'd say I've written about Richard Linklater's beautiful and profound "Before Midnight" enough as it is. Sony Classics picked up the film out of Sundance and I've been waiting for release plans anxiously. Because if played right, this is a film that could land nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress, easy.

So it's looking like May 24, according to a Tweet from Exhibitor Relations. The film will begin with New York and Los Angeles bows and move out from there. That's right after Cannes. They won't be taking it there since it's playing Berlinale, but a post-Cannes bow worked for Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," which debuted at the fest in 2011, released soon after and was kept in theaters long enough to be a box office story and, eventually, an Oscar winner.

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Listen: Another new Prince song 'Breakfast Can Wait' rises
Credit: AP Photo

Listen: Another new Prince song 'Breakfast Can Wait' rises

What are you waiting for

I would almost never call Prince "headphones" music, but his production and engineer expertise sometimes warrants a closer listen. "Breakfast Can Wait" is a flirtatious, sultry little jam (with an annoying octave pitch, but whatever), and his halcyon call for you to hit "snooze" in favor of a pajama-less party sounds so pure and clean next to your eardrums. So delicious, I could eat it... for... some other meal.

This is the third song the Purpleness has "leaked," quotations due to the fact that you can purchase it now from 3rdeyegirl.com, home to those other recently released tunes. No word on a new album yet.

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<p>Fitz and the Tantrums</p>

Fitz and the Tantrums

Fitz & The Tantrums announce 'Dreamy' new album

'More Than Just a Dream' due on May 7

Fitz & The Tantrums' sophomore set will finally drop this spring. "More Than Just a Dream" is due May 7 through Elektra, a change-up from the soulful band's first album drop through indie Dangerbird.

The first single from "Dream" will be "Out of My League," described in a release as "an exhilarating slice of pop-soul."

The Los Angeles-based sextet released "Pickin' Up the Pieces" in 2010, but grew in stature much more substantially in 2011, when they performed at some of the country's biggest music festivals. That growth was also amped by their single "MoneyGrabber," so with any luck, "Out of My League" will have the same effect.

Second album releases are also crucial for a tour-heavy band like Fitz, giving them a promotional opportunity to head back into the waters. When I interviewed lead Michael Fitzpatrick in 2012, he was all too aware of the need to grow, as well as the need to satisfy with the songs.

"For me, the focus is  songwriting, like challenging myself as a songwriter, as a producer, to make sure that I like really push myself, evolve and write the kind of songs that I think are going to hopefully sustain us for a whole other record. I don't want to suffer from the sophomore slump," he said at the time.

This time, it's producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, M83, Phoenix) who is helping to shoulder the weight of a new record. The biggest hurdle may be radio, and moving over to a major may help. Elektra (an "independent entity within Warner Bros.") was dormant for a minute in the aughts, but relaunched a couple of years ago by moving over the careers of Bruno Mars and CeeLo; Elektra's new president Jeff Castelaz co-founded Dangerbird, and so his success has been their success, too. So there's hope?

The single release, as well as expected tour dates, will follow soon.

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"Cheer Perfection"

 "Cheer Perfection"

Credit: TLC

'Toddlers & Tiaras' to return plus a peek at the season finale

'Cheer Perfection' also picks up an order for 8 more episodes

TLC has renewed "Toddlers & Tiaras" for a sixth season as well as ordered an additional eight, one-hour episodes of "Cheer Perfection." Both series are slated to return summer 2013.

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<p>That, ladies and gentlemen, is a 'Big Ass Spider!'</p>

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a 'Big Ass Spider!'

Credit: Big Ass Spider!

SXSW announces the 2013 Midnighters with a 'Big Ass Spider' and Zombie and Vampires in love

An eclectic mix with a Wingard/Barrett showcase as a special sidebar

It is the announcement of the midnight section of the SXSW festival that always gives me that final nudge to the ribs that finally signifies the end of Sundance and the start of the next phase of my year.  Today, SXSW Midnighters reveals its line-up, and the festival snaps into complete focus, and unsurprisingly, it's going to be a ton of fun in Austin from March 8th to the 16th.

I think the fact that the still they chose to send out today is for "Big Ass Spider," the new film by Mike Mendez, pretty much sums up the attitude of this particular midnight selection.  There is an irreverence that is part of their programming that always makes it a kick.  It is worth it to stay up late at SXSW.  You want to be there in that room when something like "Attack The Block" plays for the first time because you want to feel that energy from that crowd

Much of the SXSW line-up has already been announced, and you can see it at the festival's official site.  Meanwhile, taco-crazed Jarod Neece fired up the e-mails this morning to send out a missive in which he details what kind of lunacy awaits festivalgoers this year.  “Full of scares, sex, madness, laughs, chills and major mind f*cks, we hope there's a little something for everyone.”  What's really scary is that when you're talking to Neece, you can hear the asterisks in his swearing.  It's something else.

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Charles Esten in "Nashville"

 "Nashville"

Credit: ABC

Interview: Charles Esten of "Nashville" says why he's fighting for Deacon's sobriety

The former improv star says acting and singing aren't that different

As Deacon Claybourne on "Nashville," Charles Esten plays a talented musician with a troubled past, a conflicted relationship with both female stars of the show (Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere) and a history of addiction. In real life, Esten is also a singer/songwriter, but fortunately he doesn't share Deacon's angst. I spoke to the actor at this winter's TCAs, and found the former "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" improv artist and onetime Buddy Holly (for the London production of  "Buddy") to be country-cool and thrilled to be putting his real-life songwriting skills to use. 

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef' will cook up season 11 and kicks off nationwide try-outs

The popular Bravo show wants you... if you can really cook

Foodies, rejoice! Bravo has announced that "Top Chef" will be returning for an eleventh season. Open calls for chefs interested in competing in the high-stakes culinary competition series will be held in cities across the country starting on February 11th. Additional information and downloadable applications can be found at www.bravotv.com/casting. 

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<p>'The Avengers'</p>

'The Avengers'

Credit: Marvel Studios

'The Avengers' cast members to present at the Oscars

Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson won't be making the trip

While "The Avengers" may not be up for any major awards at this year's Oscars, the Academy has still found a way to include some of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

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<p>Josh Groban</p>

Josh Groban

Credit: AP Photo

Interview: Josh Groban on rocking out on 'All That Echoes' and tattoos

Famous baritone enlists Paul McCartney and Pearl Jam players for set

While a Josh Groban album may be the last place one would expect “Kashmir”-like strings and guitars, on “All That Echoes,” the classical crossover singer veers momentarily into Led Zeppelin territory on the lushly atmospheric  “Hollow Talk.” 

If the detour surprises his fans, that’s just fine with the multi-platinum singer.  “I feel like we’ve done something really special, hopefully they will too,” he says. “Most importantly, if it’s honest, they’ll get that, but I always enjoy giving people what they didn’t know they wanted.”

“All That Echoes,” which came out Tuesday (Feb. 5), and quickly topped iTunes albums chart,  features the famous baritone singing seven songs he co-wrote. Groban’s songs stand side-by-side with five others by such noted songwriters/artists as Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Webb, and Glen Hansard.

Produced by Rob Cavallo, Groban’s sixth studio album aims to capture the vibrant feel of his live shows. To facilitate that energy, Cavallo, best known for producing acts like Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, and My Chemical Romance, collected a who’s who of rock musicians to play on the set, including drummers Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam) and Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul McCartney), as well as bassist Chris Chaney (Jane’s Addiction), guitarist Tim Pierce (Dave Matthews) and keyboardist Jamie Muhoberac (Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac).  The rockers played alongside a harpist, violinist and cellist.

“They balanced each other out in such an amazing way to see every day,” Groban says. “The rock guys brought an energy to the orchestral players and the orchestral players brought a fluidity and a musicality and kind of more of a restraint, if you will, to the guys that were coming form the rock side...When we’re in [the studio], we’re just thinking about making really exciting things come out of the speakers. It doesn’t become more complicated than that.”

While the album falls well within the boundaries that Groban’s longtime popera fans expect, he’s also eager to go against any perceived stereotyping he’s experienced.

“Anybody in the public eye at any level in any part of the entertainment or sports world feels expectations from their fans and feels a certain amount of pigeonholing from their fans. I don’t think I’m any exception to that,” he says. “At the same time, it’s a delicate balance when you’re in the studio and kind of siloed in your own little world and you’re battling between what you’re inspired by everyday and what the expectations of the fans are and what your main goal is, which is to be a communicator of music to make people feel good or to feel the music fully. Ultimately if you’re having the time of your life but people aren’t connecting to your sound, then, to a certain extent, you’ve kind of missed the cause.”

One of more striking songs on the album is “Below the Line,” which Groban wrote after volunteering with “Live Below The Line,” a non-profit that raises funds for people living in extreme poverty. It also spreads awareness by asking people to live on $2 a day, the amount that 1.3 billion people living in poverty subsist on. 

“I just happened to be exploring that particular charity and going through the fasting period on a day I had to write and so while the song itself is not specifically about that organization, it triggered a lyrical message that we ran with and that we felt was a good universal, humanist kind of message. That song was written within two or three hours... and I was really hungry. That message [is] if we’re not helping others  and not seeing the bigger picture of what’s happening in the world, then we’re truly not helping ourselves.”

Groban, who will appear on “CSI: New York” as himself on Valentine’s Day, co-hosted “Live with Kelly” a number of times and was rumored to be in the running to become the permanent co-host before Michael Strahan got the job. Groban stresses he could have never handled full-time hosting duties with his busy music schedule, but adds he loved interviewing people and it gave him a new sympathy for journalists.
“You’re trying to fill many roles when you’re interviewing. On a show like that, you’re genuinely curious about things that are going on with them, but you have about 30 seconds to get the answer and then you have to make sure, of course, that you’re making them look good and that you get it all in before commercial,” he says. “You’ve got a million things going on around you while you’re trying to have the conversation.”

The singer, who has also acted on "The Office," and "Crazy,Stupid, Love,"  among other shows, recently told Reuters that he hopes to take a hiatus from making music in the next few years to do theater.

The prodigious (and often hilarious) Tweeter will hit the road to support “All That Echoes”  in April. On the schedule are three shows at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl. Sure to be in attendance are his most fervent fans, dubbed Grobanites. Some of his fans feel such ardor towards the singer that they go so far as to get tattoos os his signature.

Though flattered by his fans’ passion, Groban says he has no one’s name he’d like permanently etched on his body. “You know, if I were going to get a tattoo, i probably would have gotten one by now,” he says. “No, I think that I try to keep my tattoos ingrained in my brain.”

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