Forget Justin Timberlake and Destiny's Child -- Timbaland and Pharrell Are Back!

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So, Justin Timberlake and Destiny's Child dropped two singles over the weekend, and people who mostly grew up in the last decade rejoiced. Everybody else was like, "What the hell is this all about?"

Both these major pop entities haven't dropped new music in a long while. Timberlake, who hasn't released an album since that monster hit FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006 and has been spending his time trying to be a movie matinee idol, had people worrying he might end up being the white-boy version of D'Angelo. Meanwhile, Destiny's Child hasn't released any music as a group since their 2004 album Destiny Fulfilled. I'm sure we all assumed the show on those three were over since Beyonce Knowles went on to become THE BIGGEST POP DIVA OF ALL TIME. So, why the hell would she need to get the band back together again?

See Also:
-12 (More) Big Deal Albums We're Hella Excited For
-Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, And The Shifting Nature of Pop Star Fandom
-I'm A White R&B Singer From Red Hook, Brooklyn: Should I Even Bother?


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Hit Machines: The Ten Best Singles Runs From Post-Confessions R&B Albums

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In his recent review of R&B singer Miguel's fantastic Art Dealer Chic series of EPs, The A.V. Club's Evan Rytlewski explained the singer's rise in popularity by floating the idea that his 2010 album All I Want Is You contained "arguably the most engaging singles run of any R&B album since Usher's Confessions." This argument is much closer to the truth than it may seem on first blush.

Though the genre has experienced a bit of a downswing in the past few years, it's been a reliable source of great pop music since Confessions' release in March 2004. But is Rytlewski's claim correct? Let's look at the R&B albums with the best runs of three consecutive singles since the beginning of 2004 and find out.

But first, some ground rules: The three singles must have been released consecutively—a dud single at any point breaks a string—and off a single album (sorry, Ciara and Ne-Yo); each must have charted on Billboard's R&B chart; and the three singles don't have to be the first off the album, though on this list they all ended up that way.

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Five Cover Songs To Take You Into Your Weekend

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Greg Dulli covers Leonard Cohen. (I know!!!)
Antony's heartwrenching take on "Crazy In Love" last night capped off a week where cover songs were seemingly dropping into my lap on a daily basis. Why not take time out of your schedule to enjoy them now?

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Radio Hits One: VH1 Takes On The '00s Pop Canon

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VH1 spent last week counting down what the channel, and its panel of celebrities and "experts," consider The 100 Greatest Songs of The '00s. They certainly haven't been the first to assemble such a list—Rolling Stone and Pitchfork and every blog under the sun had their say about two years ago, and I recently put together a list of my 522 favorite singles of the decade. But VH1's take is noteworthy because the network has become the highest-profile outlet for the kind of listmaking that's gone from a music-geek compulsion to watercooler fodder in the decade since High Fidelity was adapted into a Hollywood movie.

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The Lonely Island Better Not Lose Its Emmy Race To A Song From Freaking Family Guy


Four songs from this past season of Saturday Night Live—three by the Andy Samberg-led pop-comedy troupe the Lonely Island, and Justin Timberlake's protestation that he's so over being a pop star—have been nominated for Emmys in the Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics category. (That's four of the category's six slots, for those of you who were counting.) As it happens I listened to the still-giggle-worthy "Jack Sparrow," the Michael Bolton-assisted paean to the club and summer blockbusters, this morning while trying out Spotify (about which more later), and it's one of the three Lonely Island tracks up to bring home the trophy on Sept. 18. (Sorry, "Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie And Clyde.") The full slate of original-song nominees after the jump, plus a bonus "hey this track got robbed!" entry from one of this season's best new shows.


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The Top Ten Failed First Singles Off The Game's The R.E.D. Album

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This list began as a joke, but the longer I contemplated it, the more depressing its basic concept became. Consider: not only could I easily string together ten of Game's fruitless attempts to force label executives to release The R.E.D. Album, his followup to 2008's LAX; I had to make decisions about which ten to include. If you can think of a more damning condemnation of both commercial gangsta-rapper woes and major-label wastefulness, I'm all ears.

For mid-level major-label rappers like Game, keeping your fans satisfied while they wait impatiently for a product you keep desperately promising is right around the corner has become a melancholy fact of life. Unless you currently have at least two Top Ten hits currently floating in the radio-playlist soup, your album is a theoretical construct, no more "around the corner" than universal health care.

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Radio Hits One: The Elusive Superstar Duet (Or Three-Way)

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In last week's breakdown of Lil Wayne's chart ubiquity, I noted that while Lady Gaga's Born This Way and its singles seemed to be everywhere, she hasn't staked out much additional Billboard territory with collaborations. Her only charting collab of late is "3-Way (The Golden Rule)," a little orgy-themed ditty with The Lonely Island and Justin TImberlake that debuted on Saturday Night Live's season finale last month. The episode aired after the release of the Lonely Island's latest album, so the song was thrown out as an iTunes single and spent a week at No. 3 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart (which charts songs that haven't yet made the big singles chart, but are just scraping its bottom). "3-Way," like previous Lonely Island/Timberlake viral hits "Dick In A Box" and "Motherlover," is a catchy R&B tune full of dirty jokes. But it's also an opportunity for two of the world's biggest pop stars to make a song together while shrugging off the kind of expectations that would ordinarily accompany such a high-profile duet.

Pop music may be more collaborative than ever, but that's almost entirely due to hip-hop. The nature of its loop-driven production style and the traditions of posse cuts and guest verses have made it all too easy to cut and paste 16 bars of one rapper into another MC's song, or use a rapper's verse as a bridge in a pop song, or let a pop singer belt out the hook for the rapper's radio-friendly single. As hip hop's influence has seeped into almost every corner of the pop charts, it's become increasingly rare to find two pop stars simply singing a song together.


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Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, And The Shifting Nature Of Pop-Star Fandom

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Today is the official release date for Lady Gaga's long-incubating Born This Way, and it's being accompanied by aggressive efforts to move copies--today the album's retailing for 99 cents at Amazon MP3, while Best Buy is doling out free CDs to anyone who signs up for a smartphone contract this week--as well as promotional appearances from Gaga herself. Tonight she'll be signing things at Best Buy in Union Square; Wednesday she'll perform on the American Idol finale; and on Saturday she joined Justin Timberlake on Saturday Night Live, performing three BTW tracks (and breaking water to close things out), transforming into an ersatz Stacey Q for a Digital Short, and appearing in a couple of sketches, one of which served as a sort of metacommentary on what a pop star has to do to be famous these days.

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

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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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Annoyed Scientist Wants All You Narcissistic Pop Stars To Get Off His Lawn

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Today's Times has a piece on a psychologist's theory about song lyrics of the current day being proof that we are all self-obsessed narcissists. The psychologist who came up with the theory, Nathan DeWall, was apparently inspired to embark on this quest by Weezer's "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)," which uses the mournfully humble Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" as its melodic base but spangles the tune with lyrics that are alternately self-aggrandizing and threatening. Despite the idea of someone taking a later-period-Weezer song at lyrical face value being somewhat dubious, and furthermore despite the 360-degree relationship between extreme narcissism and toxic self-loathing that one would think any fan of Rivers Cuomo would be very aware of, DeWall continued on with his digging. He was aided by a team of psychologists and a computer, which is a great idea because a machine will never miss a literary point, right?

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