Live: Pepsi Throws A Birthday Party For Michael Jackson; He's Unable to Attend

Bad 25: Ne-Yo, Melanie Fiona, Swizz Beatz
Gotham Hall
Wednesday, August 29

Better than: an easy hair-burning joke.

"You just don't do a Michael song—you try and do the best you can." So said Ne-Yo, dabbing at his forehead, having sweated through his "Smooth Criminal" costume. On screens behind him, Michael spun and stopped on pointed toes, a smile and a wink, leaning so far forward you thought his nose and heels would somehow both touch the ground. Here and now stood Ne-Yo, effort running down his face and shirt and pooling around his back; his red shirt stained ombre. He'd just sung three songs off of Bad—tracks 10, 8 and a brisk version of 2—in a performance completely reminiscent of Tupac's hologram. He continued his thoughts on Michael Jac-karaoke, saying, "You attempt and pray it works," before beginning the EDM portion of his own catalog.

More »

Live: Is Michael Jackson: Immortal The Pop Spectacle Of The Future?

Michael Jackson: Immortal
Madison Square Garden
Wednesday, April 4

Better than: Ringling Bros.

Cirque du Soleil's take on Michael Jackson's catalog, Michael Jackson: Immortal, is certainly ambitious. The twoish-hour set has a live band, aerialists and fireworks, flips and flops, a dancing sequined glove, and, of course, the songs that Jackson imprinted on American culture, from "I Want You Back" on.

Structured somewhat chronologically and built around the concept of what the Cirque folks are calling "Michael's inspirational Giving Tree—the wellspring of his creativity," the show moved along at a fast clip. The plot, as it is, is structured around the deeper meanings of Jackson's more inspirational songs (as well as the controversial 1996 single "They Don't Care About Us"); healing the world, saving the children, how one becomes a dancing machine, et cetera.

More »

100 & Single: Of Monkees, Michael, and "Maria"—The History Of The Chart-Dominating, Lifestyle-Accessory Album

Cassandra (Tia Carrere): You've heard it?
Wayne (Mike Myers): Exqueeze me? Have I seen this one before? Frampton Comes Alive?! Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.
Wayne's World 2 (1993)

For chart geeks, the Monkees loom large. To us, the candy-colored group, which included among its members the recently departed Davy Jones, have a status probably no other cultural observers would give them: album artists. In fact, by one measure, the Monkees have one of the 15 top-performing albums of all time—and that list of outperforming discs is undergoing a shift right now, thanks to a certain best-selling fellow Brit.

But for all the Monkees' success on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart from 1966 through 1968—six Top Three hits, including three No. 1's—their real playground was the Billboard album chart. As veteran chart-watcher Paul Grein points out, the Monkees hold a distinction no other act has matched in 45 years: occupying the No. 1 spot with a record four albums in a single calendar year. With their first four discs, the group spent nearly two-thirds of 1967 monopolizing the top of what is now called the Billboard 200.

More »

100 & Single: Remembering Whitney Houston's Reign As Queen Of The Pop Charts

Let's ignore the uncanny timing of Whitney Houston passing the night before the Grammys, a showcase for music royalty conceived to honor pop queens like her. A better measure of Houston's legacy is sitting right on top of Billboard's two flagship charts the very week of her untimely death.

Taking over No. 1 on the Hot 100, with her latest hit "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," is Kelly Clarkson, a singer who has not only covered songs made famous by Houston—Clarkson's very career, launched a decade ago on American Idol, is the product of a big-voiced-diva culture Houston essentially codified.

Clarkson's single steals the penthouse from "Set Fire to the Rain," the latest hit by Adele. But the latter, no slouch in the big-voices department herself, held the top of the Billboard 200 album chart with 21 even before her six-award Grammy sweep last night. This is Adele's 19th week atop the U.S. album list, which, in the 21 years that Soundscan data has governed the Billboard charts, is the second-longest run on top by any title. The album 21 still falls shy of, however, is the Whitney-led The Bodyguard soundtrack, which held the top of the chart for 20 weeks in 1992 and 1993, powered by Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."

More »

The Grammys' 53 Record Of The Year Winners, In Order

53. Phil Collins, "Another Day in Paradise" [1991]

52. The 5th Dimension, "Up, Up and Away" [1968]

51. Olivia Newton-John, "I Honestly Love You" [1975]

50. Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On" [1999]

49. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, "A Taste of Honey" [1966]

48. Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" [1989]

More »

100 & Single: What Billboard's Rule Changes Mean For The Britney, Michael And Gaga Albums You Bought

When you go see a movie at a Saturday half-price matinee, should it count toward that weekend's box office? You paid less than the guy who saw the movie Friday night. Does that mean your viewing shouldn't count?

What about if you see an old movie at a revival house: Should that count toward the box office? I don't just mean a big, nationwide rerelease like this year's The Lion King in 3D. If enough people pay to see a restored print of Blade Runner, should it make the lower rungs of the box-office chart? What if that showing of Blade Runner was only playing at one theater, like the Ziegfeld in New York or Graumann's Chinese in Hollywood? Should that count?

These questions probably seem like no-brainers. Sure, count it all, you're saying. What's the big deal? Maybe the matinee-priced movie should count half as much as the full-price, but otherwise no one would object to all movies at all theaters competing for the weekend title. In fact, that's exactly how box-office tallying works. If it screens somewhere open to the public, it's counted and charted.

Switch the medium from movies to music, however, and answering these questions becomes a matter of hot debate.

More »

The 10 Most Overplayed Party Jams

This should probably not be how you do it.
It's a common dilemma of the booty club: You're buzzing off the overpriced drinks, two-stepping with the opposite sex. The lighting is right and you're getting closer and closer to each other... and then DJ Lack-of-Direction throws on some bullshit. You know, one of those songs that wack DJs use as crutches to hold up their mediocre-at-best sets.

The song being spun might not have been bad on first, second, or even 20th listen. But when you've heard it at every party you went to that week and it's not even new, being subjected to it again can throw a monkey wrench in your flow. And then, to further kill the mood, cornballs start singing along in unison. "Here we go yo! Here we go yo! So what, so what, so what's the scenario?!" Cool out, dude—we know you know the whole song by heart (though you mumble your way through most of Dinco D's verse). We know every word, too, and have since it came out in 1991.

Buzzkills like this aren't the patrons' fault, though. I blame the DJ and his/her lack of crate digging, lethargic mixing, and desire to get cheap thrills out of the crowd. (The DJ's probably the least intoxicated individual in the building, so it's not like they can blame their predictable choices on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol like the rest of us partygoers.) Below, and just in time for the long weekend, a list of 10 songs that any DJ in the know should already have banned from their sets, and any DJ with sense should probably get to swapping out soon.

More »

100 & Single: Is It Okay For Katy Perry To Bum-Rush Her Way Into The History Books?

Chart fandom makes strange bedfellows. Six months ago, if you'd asked me what act I'd root for in a head-to-head chart battle between pop princess Katy Perry and electrodance goofballs LMFAO, I'd probably have picked Perry, whose song catalog includes at least one or two gems. Her current hit, "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," isn't one of her best—it's nowhere near as well-crafted as "Teenage Dream" or "Hot N Cold"—but it's a charming, goodtime trifle, and marginally less stupid than LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem."

Now? I'm rooting for the goofballs over the princess all the way.

LMFAO's single (which, to be honest, has kinda grown on me) is the last firewall standing between Perry and her fifth Hot 100 No. 1 from Teenage Dream. Were "Friday" to hit that mark, Teenage Dream would tie a record that has so far only been reached by one album: Michael Jackson's Bad. Perry and her people are trying to hit that mark by cheating... or, to be fair, by taking advantage of a legal but shady tactic.

More »

The Top Five Music Videos Directed By Oscar Winners

MTV turns 30 today. To celebrate, we're running a bunch of pieces on the channel, its legacy, and its future.

Earlier today, we counted down the best music videos directed by people who took home (or, more likely, left at the podium) the Razzies' "Golden Raspberry" award for worst director. Now we're counting down the best music videos by those directors' raised-brow, Oscar-winning counterparts. Let's get right to it.

More »

100 & Single: The Dawning Of The MTV Era And How It Rocket-Fueled The Hot 100

What was the first rock and roll song? Ask music historians and you'll get a range of '40s and early '50 candidates, from "Good Rockin' Tonight" to "Rocket 88."

Ah, but when did the Rock Era begin? That's easier. Everybody knows that Bill Haley and His Comets' rendition of "Rock Around the Clock" was America's first-ever No. 1 rock and roll song, topping the Billboard charts in the summer of 1955 and launching the Rock Era as we know it. Occasionally, musical epochs can be demarcated easily, with a bright temporal line.

So it goes with the era of the music video. The promotional-music-clip format is more than a half-century old, dating to the 1940s and raised to a high-pop-art form by such pre-'80s acts as the Beatles and Queen, among others.

But the music video era, better known as the MTV Era, began unequivocally 30 years ago this weekend—on August 1, 1981, the day Music Television went live on cable TV. The No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot 100 that week was "Jessie's Girl," by a guy so telegenic he was crossing over from a soap opera: General Hospital's Rick Springfield. Appropriately, "Jessie's Girl" came packaged with a fairly slick (for its day) music video.

More »