Hot 100 Roundup: Eric Church And Luke Bryan Milk It, Eminem Gets Silly, And More

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It's almost September (it already is on the Hot 100, which is dated over a week ahead of time), and the labels are starting to roll out the medium-sized guns: Muse! The Script! Trey Songz! Slaughterhouse? The best stuff is older, though: The Chief Keef track is from a mixtape released in March, and the Eric Church and Luke Bryan tracks are both over a year old and milking best-selling albums. None of this week's entries is great, and three of them are awful (guess), but the fall season has officially started. Don't forget to duck.

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Q&A: Eric Church Talks Reaching Fans Outside Of Country, Metallica's Influence, And The Misinterpretation of "Homeboy"

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With Sinners Like Me and Carolina, Eric Church established himself as one of the most exciting young artists in the country music, mixing man-up rockers like "Lotta Boot Left to Fill" with mature, never-quite-melancholy reflections ("Those I've Loved," "What I Almost Was") on the different paths and people that open and close over the course of a lifetime. Last year's Chief, meanwhile, proved to be his breakout, leading to a tour and a spot at this weekend's Metallica-curated Orion Fest. In advance of that once-in-a-lifetime gig, the two of us talked over the phone about the music he heard growing up, his history of playing rock bars, and how it feels to be the only country act on the festival's bill.

Hey Eric, how's it going? I'm sure you're excited for this weekend.

Man, I'm excited and I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm a little bit nervous about it. I've been to Metallica shows, and I've seen that. Being from another genre, I think it's a crazy thing and a great thing that they're doing this. It says a lot about them, involving other genres like they are is one of the coolest things I've ever heard of. I'm just nervous to get out there and see what people think of us.


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Radio Hits One: Bruce Springsteen And Mick Jagger Stop Making Pop Hits, Start Inspiring Them

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It's been a busy year for Bruce Springsteen. In March, he released Wrecking Ball, his seventeenth studio album and tenth release to top the Billboard 200, and after packing in arenas across America throughout the spring, he took the E Street Band to Europe. His name is also in a top-40 entry on the Hot 100 for the first time in over a decade—but the funny thing is, the song's not his. Eric Church's "Springsteen" sits on the chart this week at No. 19, which was coincidentally also the peak position for Bruce's last pop hit, the Jerry Maguire-spawned ballad "Secret Garden," in 1997.

"Springsteen," a wistful midtempo number with lyrical nods to The Boss's classics "I'm On Fire" and "Born To Run," is North Carolina country star Eric Church's biggest Hot 100 hit to date. It also peaked at No. 3 on the Country Songs chart and is the third single from his third album, Chief, which topped the Billboard 200 last summer. It's a quiet, subtle song, and something of an unlikely crossover hit, aside from the fact that it pays tribute to such a famous singer. This isn't the first time a top 40 hit has been named for Springsteen, though—Rick Springfield got to No. 27 with "Bruce," a playful track about how irked he was when confused with a bigger star with a similar last name.

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Live: Eric Church Drinks A Little Drink (But Doesn't Smoke Any Smoke) At Hammerstein Ballroom

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Eric Church
Hammerstein Ballroom
Thursday, March 14

Better than: Watching some laptop soundscaper at SXSW and making an "I don't think Waylon woulda done it that way" joke to an unappreciative stranger.

Spending the past summer touring the country, preparing crowds for the massive star Toby Keith, Eric Church played understudy. His guitars could crunch, but never too loud; his fans could sing, but only with the knowledge that the Toby Keith lifers would be looking at them out of the sides of their eyes; and at the end of his set, this alpha male would have to defer to a former college linebacker who has enough "Drink in My Hand"s that his greatest-hits collection could reasonably expand to three discs.

Last night, however, all eyes fell on Church, who didn't walk onstage but who appeared from behind a cloud of smoke, then played a song called "Country Music Jesus" and summoned fire when the lyrics called for it.

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Live: Toby Keith Plays His Hits At PNC Bank Arts Center


Toby Keith w/ Eric Church and J.T. Hodges
PNC Bank Arts Center
Friday, September 2

Better than: Most other Ford commercials.

Toby Keith is a hell of singer. He plays guitar, too—a nice acoustic one (when he returns for the encore it will have an American flag painted on it)—but tonight it's not plugged into anything, and it's certainly not being picked up by the microphone into which he's singing. There's a little contraption about halfway up the mic stand that I at first think might work to catch the chords coming from the guitar, but I soon realize that it's actually a customized cozy for his black Solo cup.

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