Live: Brad Paisley Keeps It Real At Jones Beach

Brad Paisley w/ The Band Perry and Easton Corbin
Jones Beach
Friday, June 1

Better than: Going to a show where an aging radio host plays out his mid-life crisis by telling me what music I can and can't listen to.

He spent the '90s as a Nashville newcomer attempting to close the decade with his first No. 1 hit, but the past decade has seen Brad Paisley mature into one of the most popular and influential performers in country music, a regular guy who writes endearingly hokey songs about the peculiarities of domestic life, the melting pot that is the United States, and how much he loves water. No, really, it's better than it sounds: Those hokey songs are often quite clever, and they're clearly delivered by someone who means every word he sings and can play guitar like it's nobody's business. Besides, at the end of the day, who doesn't love water?

No one, I guess, but his Friday show at Long Island's Jones Beach would have been a touch more enjoyable if less of it had fallen from the sky and none of it had flooded the area directly in front of the stage, pushing doors back from 4:30 to 7 o'clock. Always charming, Paisley couldn't help but make light of the situation, slipping into what he considered a New York accent—it wasn't even close—to express how excited he had been to go ta the beach before leading his band through an inadvertently melancholic take on "Working on a Tan." Ah, what times we could have had, what memories we could have made, and what tans we could have worked on.

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Oddsmaking: Who Will Win This Year's Best New Artist Trophy At The Grammys?

In this week's Voice I wrote about Skrillex, the emo-dude-gone-dubstep-auteur who's spawned a bunch of funny-Photoshop blogs and garnered five Grammy nominations. One of the categories he's nominated in is one of the Big Four—Best New Artist, which seems to have shaken off its "one-way ticket to obscurity" stigma (recent winners include Maroon 5 and probably Woman Of This Year Adele). But does he have any chance at all of winning this genre-spanning category on Sunday night, and introducing those American viewers who aren't familiar with the EDM circuit to his aesthetic? In the first of a series of oddsmaking posts on SOTC over the next few days, we handicap his odds against The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj.

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Radio Hits One: Hot 100 Peaks Only Tell Half The Story For Cee Lo, Britney Spears, And Other Year-End Winners

One of the most frustrating things about discussing the Billboard singles charts is how a song's peak position—the highest spot it occupied on a chart during its run—is almost universally regarded as the permanent measurement of its success or popularity. Any song that reaches No. 1 is embalmed forever as a chart-topper, the biggest of the big, and any song that didn't is presumed to be less successful in every way. And in the iTunes era, peaks can be even more misleading, as songs by artists with big fanbases rocket up the chart the week after they go onsale, and then have to slowly pick up momentum in the slower moving world of radio to actually stay on the chart.

That's why I love looking at Billboard's year-end charts: you finally get authoritative rankings of how successful songs were relative to each other, based on their entire chart lifespan during the year, not just how popular they were on the particular week they reached critical mass. You can always use anecdotal evidence, or more complicated statistics like sales figures or radio spins to measure a song's staying power, but the 2011 year-end Hot 100 lays it all out, in simple single- and double-digit numbers as easy to understand as a chart peak. Of course, as my colleague Chris Molanphy has noted, the year-end chart runs from the beginning of December to the end of November, and heavily favors songs that broke earlier in the chart year. But even taking that into account, the 2011 list handily debunks the validity of the chart peak as the final word.

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