Radio Hits One: Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, And The Era Of The Hit Bonus Track

Superstar pals and Young Money labelmates Lil Wayne and Drake released two of the biggest albums of 2011—Tha Carter IV and Take Care—and both are still spinning off hits well into 2012. But a look at the singles charts reveals something odd: the biggest current hits off both albums aren't available on every copy of the album, but are instead bonus tracks from their deluxe editions. Drake's "The Motto," which features Wayne, currently tops the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and is at No. 19 on the Hot 100 after peaking at No. 16. And Wayne's own "Mirror," featuring Bruno Mars, is Weezy's highest current solo entry on the Hot 100, at No. 68 (it also peaked at No. 16). If you go into one of the few stores still selling CDs today, though, odds are that the versions of Tha Carter IV and Take Care in the racks won't include those current hits.

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The 11 Most Infuriating Songs Of 2011, No. 1: Jessie J Featuring B.o.B, "Price Tag"

The Song: Jessie J, "Price Tag"
The Crimes: Using what might be the entirety of her label's marketing budget to convince the world that she actually functions on a higher, post-capitalistic level; "video hos"; "ch-chang-cha-chang"; "bla-bling-bla-bling."

The year's most grueling pop personality was, without a doubt, the BRIT School-bred British yelper known as Jessie J. Born Jessica Cornish and known before 2011 as one of the people who helped birth Miley Cyrus's "Party In The USA," Jessie drop-kicked herself into the American consciousness earlier this year with one of those "big in the UK, but unknown here" Saturday Night Live performances, then stuck around, thanks in large part to her handlers booking her in any venue—the MTV Video Music Awards, VH1 Divas Live, your mom's 65th-birthday party—that might help up her Q rating.

While it's true that she could hold a note or two here and there, Jessie's barky voice and insistence on indulging every vocal trick in the book (stuttering, scatting, fake patois) turned her debut Who You Are (Universal Republic) into one of the year's most excruciating albums to sit through, a Katy Perry-like bludgeoning through pop that lacked even the scant amount of charm or self-awareness possessed by that singer. No song on Who You Are was more aggravating than the Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly-penned "Price Tag," a schlocky bit of lite reggae during which Miss J tries to be down with the recessionary populace she's shoved herself in front of by claiming that "we don't need your money, money, money" because "we just wanna make the world dance." Wait, does that mean those Vevo ads for your new video were paid for in hip-shakes?

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Underwhelmed And Overstimulated, Part II: PJ Harvey, Jessie J, And The Post-Pop Character Landscape


Sound of the City's year-end roundtable, with contributions from Tom Ewing, Eric Harvey, Maura Johnston, Nick Murray, and Katherine St. Asaph, continues. Follow along here.

Thanks Maura! And hello Nick, Katherine and Eric.

Post-megasales megastars? Beyoncé and Gaga fit the bill, for certain. There are convincing post-rationalisations of why sales on those albums were soft—Beyoncé can do what she likes, and what she likes right now is old-school soul belters; and Gaga's mix of hi-NRG and stadium rock is a maximalist step too far. But nobody would dispute Beyoncé and Gaga's presence. If you look at the top celebs on Facebook, the appetite for musicians is endless: scattered athletes and actors cower in the shadow of pop stars living and dead, G and B among them. So perhaps pop music is becoming like comics—a minor artform, fiercely loved by enthusiasts but nugatory in revenue terms, whose real value lies in powering something else. What comics IP does for the film industry, pop does for the celebrity biz—provide a stream of garish, blockbuster characters and never mind the source material.

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Live: VH1 Brings Out The Divas At The Hammerstein Ballroom

via VH1
VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul
Hammerstein Ballroom
Sunday, December 18

Better than: Whatever Ryan Seacrest is going to cook up for VH1 Soul.

Last night's VH1 Divas taping existed both as a performance and self-contained, 24-hours-out advertising opportunity for its broadcast. (Tonight at 9 ET!) TV tapings are always strange to experience first-hand, given the way they're designed for after-the-fact consumption; there are lots of long lulls in the action for the purposes of commercial breaking/set redesigning, and in "let's all get together and put on a show" scenarios like this one there are TelePrompTers with lyrics ready to assist the under-rehearsed. Despite the breaks and assists, though, this taping didn't have the hermetically sealed feeling of ones I attended during the pre-social-media era—people were encouraged to tweet and Foursquare check-in and let their pals on social media know what they were experiencing via corporately provided hashtag. In the 21st century, after all, all publicity is.

The night's bent toward soul meant that most of the acts on the bill had pipes and cred—Chaka Khan, Mavis Staples, Martha Reeves, and Wanda Jackson represented for the pre-music-video era, while the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Ledisi, Jill Scott, and Jennifer Hudson were among the new-schoolers. Jessie J's tireless, apparently unending promotional campaign also continued here; her new party trick involves her stuttering out words instead of singing them in toto, a tic that serves to both illuminate the bleatiness of her voice and make her seem even more malleable and annoying. She's the opposite of a diva, her jet-black-dyed artifice doing a miserable job of covering up the void within; I expect either a turn to Christian rock or the "mysterious" leak of a sex tape within the next 12 months.

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Will Bon Iver Be The Arcade Fire Of 2012? And Other Pre-Grammy Nomination Show Questions

D.L. Anderson
Aw, why so glum?
Tonight's Grammy nomination concert, airing at 10 p.m. on CBS, will not only jam-pack a bunch of performances by the likes of Lady Gaga and Jason Aldean into its 60 minutes, it'll also let us know which artists will be prostrating themselves in front of the globe and thanking their families and God during next February's awards ceremony. Sure, Adele not getting as many nominations as humanly possible for her much-beloved, best-selling 21 is probably the most shocking development that can transpire this evening, but there are other questions afoot, too. Will the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences allow Taylor Swift to look surprised again and nominate Speak Now for multiple awards? Will Kanye West get honored for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a year after it was greeted by nearly across-the-board critical love? Will the ambition all over Lady Gaga's Born This Way pay off in nominations? And is Bon Iver, currently racking up the "Best Album Of 2011" laurels from the likes of Paste, slated to rep for "indie" next February a la the Arcade Fire this year? Nick Murray and I answer these questions, and offer our picks for the Big Four categories' nomination slates, below.

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Jessie J Continues To Try Just A Bit Too Hard

Categories: Jessie J, Video

Videos like the one for "Who's Laughing Now," by the not-quite-launched-here pop irritant Jessie J, are made for slow music-news mornings like this one—the enterprising pundit can question the wisdom of a British pop singer releasing a "fight those people who are tormenting you by breaking shit and turning fire extinguishers on your enemies" during this week of tumult for England; or she can idly wonder about the unspoken class politics of the whole thing, given that the person tasked with cleaning up the raging, bowl-cut-haired student/Jessie stand-in's messes probably has no direct hand in her schoolday tormenting; or she can sigh at the idea that we're all pretty much never leaving elementary school, are we, if videos like this where people are still living out their nine-year-old traumas are becoming the norm; or she can note that the song isn't terrible, per se, but that Jessie's bleaty voice and overall "whatevah, I-do-what-ahh-WAUUNNTT" attitude are packaged much more effectively by Eric Cartman. And at least he's, you know, supposed to be funny. Clip below.

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Two Of The Songs On The New Kidz Bop Compilation Originally Had Titles That Couldn't Be Printed In A Family Newspaper

Clutch the pearls and cue the outrage, or at least the next round of thinkpieces about "raunch pop": The latest edition of Kidz Bop, out today, has on its track list sanitized versions of Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" and Pink's "Fuckin' Perfect" (they're under the guises of "Forget You" and "Perfect," respectively). If you feel like hearing how awkward the lyrical switches are, feel free to head on over to iTunes for a taste. I guess "I hate your ass right now" is a bit too strong of a sentiment for the delicate ears of today's youth? Anybody want to do a Facebook spot-check and see if this is the case?

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Jessie J Sings For Her Life On "Who You Are"

All the world's a stage, and singer-songwriter Jessie J's corner of it looks something like American Idol (or maybe X Factor, since she's a Brit). The 23-year-old's debut, Who You Are, is not so much an album as it is a pleading, 50-minute audition, the logical byproduct of someone who doesn't yet have the control of her own talent. Thus, it is temping to judge her with the same encouraging vagueness as the Idol panel ("Jessie's in it to win it!" "At first I wasn't sure, but then it felt really, really real!" "Zip zap zababble zab zezozose zadfrack, come on down and sit in my lap!"). Who You Are is a string of missteps, but the right path often feels just a few taste levels and stern talking-tos away.

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