Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show GIFs

Fox's Super Bowl broadcast kept attempting to convince us the Super Bowl halftime show was the most important concert of the year, but we all knew that wasn't true. Still, I was pretty excited to see it. I'm sure I wouldn't enjoy it as much as I liked Beyoncé in 2013, but there was one extra aspect this year that got me pumped:

See also: The Super Bowl's Biggest Winner: Jon Daly's Chili Peppers Parody

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5 Ways Bruno Mars Can Out-Do Beyonce's Super Bowl Half-Time Performance

Categories: Bruno Mars


Last week, news broke that Bruno Mars will be the 2014 NFL Super Bowl half-time show performer. Given the beautiful orgasmic infamy of Beyonce's 2013 half-time show, we thought it would be useful to give Bruno some helpful suggestions on how to avoid being overshadowed.

See also: Top 5 Worst Super Bowl Halftime Shows

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Oddsmaking: Will Mumford & Sons Upset "Rolling In The Deep" In The Grammys' Record Of The Year Race?

Every year, when I get involved in Grammy debates with my cooler friends, I tell them the problem with the awards isn't that they reward mass-appeal schlock. If the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is doing its job right, it should be rewarding popular, undeniable, and somewhat unhip records. The problem is that NARAS can't even reward the popular stuff right.

Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the Record of the Year category, which, next to the coveted, show-closing Album of the Year prize, should be the marquee award of the night. If NARAS were on its game, it would nominate five high-gloss, career-defining singles that crushed at Top 40, R&B/hip-hop, country or rock radio and then give the big prize to a title that makes everyone say, Yeah, okay, love it or hate it, that record dominated.

Instead, Record of the Year has largely become a head-scratching nonevent, in which NARAS, like a middlebrow missile, homes in on a song that's neither hip enough to be a critics' favorite nor undeniable enough to appeal to the casual TV viewership. Just in the last decade, NARAS has given you such Records of the Year as the Dixie Chicks' most atonal and bile-filled single; two little-heard "event" duets by Ray Charles with Norah Jones, and Robert Plant and Allison Krauss; and a U2 song some like to call a "9/11 anthem," ignoring the fact that anthems are usually widely known and this song came out a year before the tragedy and missed the Hot 100, not even charting after 9/11. Even some of the better RotY picks have been wrongheaded—I happen to like Coldplay's "Clocks," winner in 2004, but over OutKast's "Hey Ya!" and Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love"? Way to miss the plot, NARAS. (I wish YouTube had a clip from the '04 show of presenter and friend-of-OutKast Mary J. Blige, visibly deflating when she opened the envelope and read "Clocks," like the word was "broccoli.")

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Oddsmaking: Should The Grammys Just Give The Album Of The Year Award To Adele Now?

For the last twenty years, the award for Album of the Year, the biggest Grammy honor of them all, has tended to go to two types of people: young women and old men. Female solo artists under 30 (Lauryn Hill, Taylor Swift) and male veterans over 40 (Tony Bennett, U2) have dominated the category for two decades with only a few exceptions: the youngish male rappers in Outkast, the wide range of musicians on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and the thirtysomethings in the Dixie Chicks and the Arcade Fire. This year, that pattern's unlikely to be broken, with only one of the five nominees falling outside either of those two categories.

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Oddsmaking: Will Adele Go "Rolling" Over Her Song Of The Year Competition?

The Grammys have a determinedly behind-the-times history, and Song of the Year is one of the ceremony's most reliably old-fashioned categories. It's given to the songwriter—even though what constitutes a "song" today is a lot different than when the Grammys began in 1959, back when sheet music was still a major music-biz income source. Usually the nominations overlap heavily with Record of the Year (which is given to artist and producer), with a couple of differences, sometimes confusing ones. (Take 2010—since when was Beyoncé's "Halo" more of a "record" and "Single Ladies" more of a "song"?) This year, the category seems like as much of a straight shot as the other Big 3 (Album and Record). But as with everything the Grammys do, from picking the nominees to putting on a show, there's always the possibility of surprise—last year looked like it belonged to Eminem, and he got shut out. It's highly doubtful that'll happen to Adele, whose "Rolling In The Deep" is nominated here, but with Grammy, you truly never know.

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Radio Hits One: How The Whistle Became Pop's Secret Weapon Of 2011

After Billboard released its 2011 year-end charts on Friday I pored over them, looking for patterns and trends with which I could make sense of the year in pop. If someone asked you to pinpoint "the sound of popular music in 2011," there are countless fads and running themes that you could point to. The insistent thump of European dance music from producers like David Guetta and Afrojack ruled pop radio, while Lex Luger's frenzied hi-hats dominated mainstream hip-hop. Questionably talented singers continued to abuse AutoTune, while rap superstars both on and off the Young Money roster jettisoned "like a" from their wordplay in favor of the ever-popular "hashtag" (or, as I like to call it, "grocery bag") punchline.

Looking over the year-end Hot 100, however, I noticed a much more mundane musical accessory that had been quietly dominating the airwaves all year: Whistling. One of humankind's oldest forms of melodic expression, the whistle has long been a tool mostly relied on by those who might not be able to sing or play an instrument. Recorded music has relegated whistling to more of a novelty, something that might pop up memorably in the occasional classic like Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"—more of a whimsical finishing touch than a central hook.

2011 changed all of that.

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100 & Single: A Dozen Contenders For Billboard's Year-End Top 10, And Their Fight Against The "Last Christmas Effect"

Later this week, Billboard is expected to announce its tallies for the biggest hits of 2011. And what a year for music it's been. Remember all those big hits: "Like a G6," "We R Who We R," "Raise Your Glass," "Fuck You!" and "What's My Name?"

What's that—you say the songs I just rattled off are kinda old? Like, 2010-old? You're absolutely right. But don't be surprised if these vintage hits feature prominently among the biggest Hot 100 hits of 2011.

Billboard's "chart year" runs from December 1 through November 30. Blame old-fashioned dead-tree production schedules—they do this so they can announce the year-end victors before the holidays arrive and run the lists in a big, collectible magazine the size of small phone book. (Makes a great stocking stuffer. Seriously!)

The upshot of this skewed calendar: Take a good look at what's topping the Hot 100 right now. Hits like Rihanna's "We Found Love" (No. 1), LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" (No. 2), or Bruno Mars's fast-rising "It Will Rain" are going to feature conspicuously among the top Billboard hits... of 2012, next December. On the 2011 list, they won't be very prominent at all.

Even with its abundance of aging tracks, the 2011 list will still be worth poring over when Billboard drops it in a few days. Unlike the year-end album chart—which is based on straight Soundscan sales totals, and whose victor is already a foregone conclusion—the formula of digital sales, radio airplay and online streaming that determines the weekly Hot 100 means year-end predictions require a lot more guesstimating. Which is more fun, anyway.

Let's run down, in alphabetical order, a baker's dozen of hits that are likely to figure prominently on Billboard's Top Hot 100 Songs of 2011. These are tracks likely to make the final Top 10 or at least the Top 20.

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100 & Single: The Increase In Hot 100 Rebounders, And The iTunes-Radio Tug Of War

The first week I remember ever hearing American Top 40 with Casey Kasem on the radio, back in the summer of 1981, the No. 1 spot was a real cliffhanger.

As Kasem explained, the week before, Kim Carnes's synth-pop smash "Bette Davis Eyes" had ceded the top spot after about a month, to a song by a Dutch novelty act calling itself the Stars on 45. Their goofy hit was a lite-disco clap track riding over a medley of rerecorded pop tunes (70% by the Beatles, an easy way to score a smash if ever there was one). In the year of Jane Fonda and aerobics-mania, the Stars on 45 were a momentary worldwide obsession.

Emphasis on "momentary": After a one-week pause, Carnes rebounded to the No. 1 spot, a happy ending to my first exposure to Billboard's iconic Hot 100. (The charts are fun when you've got a rooting interest.)

What I couldn't have known in 1981 was how rare, relatively, a song returning to the top spot was. Prior to Carnes's hit, only 28 songs out of the more than 500 Hot 100 chart-toppers since 1958 had rebounded to the top.

It's not all that rare anymore. In fact, the song sitting atop the Hot 100 right now, in its third week there, is a rebounder: Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," featuring Christina Aguilera. In 2011 alone, it's the fourth song to move back to No. 1 after falling out.

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Live-Blogging The 2011 Video Music Awards: Teenage Dreams Of Vomited-Up Cockroaches

Sort of the way I remember it.

Welcome to Sound of the City's liveblog of the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, the cable channel's annual paean to musically borne decadence and its own self-storied past. Tonight's roster of performers includes Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown, Pitbull, and Young the Giant, as well as a "surprise" performance by Jay-Z and Kanye West, a tribute to Britney Spears (not dead and celebrating the 10th anniversary of her dancing uncomfortably with a snake), an homage to Amy Winehouse (R.I.P.), and the looming possibility that Tyler, The Creator will crap himself onstage. The blogging starts below.

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Radio Hits One: The Disappearing Urban Crossover Hit Says "Look At Me Now"

Chris Brown's "Look At Me Now" has topped Billboard's R&B/Hip-hop Songs chart for seven weeks in a row, and it recently peaked at No. 6 on the Hot 100. In terms of Brown's career, it's notable for being the singer's first top 10 hit in the two years since that whole violent incident with then-girlfriend Rihanna that he's done such a terrible job of making anyone but the most diehard #teambreezy members forgive or forget. But on a broader scale, "Look At Me Now" is significant for becoming the first R&B chart-topper to crack the top 10 since Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" hit No. 1 on both charts back in late 2009. (Brown's first big comeback hit, "Deuces," as it happens, was the only R&B No. 1 to crack the top 20 of the pop charts last year.)

That may not seem especially unusual, but consider this. The Hot 100 has been absolutely dominated by urban radio hits for pretty much the entire past decade; rappers and R&B singers occupy the chart's No. 1 spot more often than pop singers, and certainly far more often than rock bands. And it sure doesn't feel like hip-hop's been any less ubiquitous or culturally relevant the last couple years than it'd been before that, does it? But the impact of hip-hop has reached a lot of places far outside the purview of urban radio lately, which kind of explains what's going on.

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