Album leaks aren't my thing. I prefer to wait until the scheduled release date, at which time iTunes will tell me my preordered purchase is ready for download. But sometimes being a traditionalist is not possible. When there's water dripping from your ceiling, you've got to get a bucket. R. Kelly's Black Panties isn't due out for another week, but someone forwarded me a link to the leak. So off to fetch a bucket I went. I wish I could say I hate myself for it, that it wasn't worth contravening my commitment to legality. But if listening to Black Panties early is a jailable offense, then lock me up and throw away the key.
In a row, that is. And overall. (Only 1999’s The Slim Shady LP didn't hit no. 1.) The Marshall Mathers LP 2moved 792,000 copies last week, giving Eminem the year's second-place spot behind Justin Timberlake's 20/20 Experience — 1 of 2, which debuted at 968,000 in March. Eminem's sales have increased in the last few years, from Relapse’s 608,000 debut in 2009 to Recovery’s 741,000 in 2010. It's still nothing compared to Shady's first few albums, and possibly nothing compared to his own expectations; on the Zombies-sampling, Yoda-imitating "Rhyme or Reason" he raps, "The last Mathers LP done went diamond / This time I'm predicting that this one'll go emerald." There's no way MMLP2 — in 2013, when we're maybe a year away from kids learning how to use torrents during first-grade computer lab — is selling 10 million copies, much less whatever amount one needs to achieve the elusive, imaginary emerald certification.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced 16 nominees this morning, and a few of the biggies include Hall & Oates, Nirvana, the Replacements, the Zombies, N.W.A., Kiss, and LL Cool J. This is the second year fans get to vote online, joining "historians and music industry insiders of the Rock Hall voting body." The voting happens at Rolling Stone’s website — you can pick five nominees, you can't pick Nirvana five times, and you may not make it out of the comments section alive. Fan influence may be pretty negligible overall, depending on your interpretation of this sentence: "The top five acts will comprise a 'fan's ballot' that will count as one of the more than 600 ballots that determine the Class of 2014." Makes you feel like a special part of the process, right?
It's hard for the half-dozen or so megawatt rap stars on planet Earth to each stunt about being the best out there and for us to take it seriously, but this round goes to Drake, no contest. Nothing Was the Sametopped the Billboard chart with 658,000 copies sold in its debut week. The third LP from Canada's favorite “ex–child actor turned MC/semi-competent singer” is behind only Justin Timberlake's first 20/20 Experience disc (968,000 copies) in terms of 2013 releases, which gives new significance to the line "Who else is making rap albums, doing numbers like it's pop?" Drake's almost J.T.-esque sales beat Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail debut (527,000 copies, not counting the weird Samsung stuff because it totally doesn't count); NWTS also decisively bested Kanye "At This Point I Could Give a Fuck About Selling a Million Records" West's Yeezus (327,000 copies) and Lil Wayne's I Am Not a Human Being II (217,000 copies). So enjoy it, Drizzy — at least until Eminem shows up next month with The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and sells all the copies, regardless of whether the record is any good or not.
By way of introducing their new series Spotify Landmark, an audio documentary behind-the-music type thing, Spotify has smartly just gone ahead and dropped the inaugural edition on us. It's a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the release of Nirvana's In Utero, featuring contributions from Krist Novoselic, Steve Albini (who produced the album), the Meat Puppets' Curt Kirkwood, and, of course, Bobcat Goldthwait. Wait, Bobcat Goldthwait? Yes, Bobcat Goldthwait! The '80s comedy staple opened shows for the band and also directed a promo video for the album. There's no Dave Grohl (although he has reminisced on the album elsewhere), but there is a dulcet-voiced introducer/segue-er, bold tales of corporate subversion, first-take grabs, practical jokes, and family vibes. And if nothing else, this is at least an opportunity to hear Bobcat talk in his regular speaking voice. Surreal! Check it out at spotify-landmark.com.
For his last couple of album cycles, Kanye West has skipped the full-fledged arena tour in favor of one-off appearances at festivals and well-compensated private parties. Usually, the latter means cell-phone release events. This Saturday, it meant the wedding of Aisultan Nazarbayev, the grandson of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, widely considered an autocratic dictator. Oops?
As the Daily Mail reports, "In 2011, Sting pulled out of an arranged concert for the president over claims of human rights violations on oil workers in the Central Asian country. He said at the time, 'Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing.'" According to David Mepham, director of Human Rights Watch, the country's "deteriorating human rights situation includes credible allegations of torture, the imprisonment of government critics, tight controls over the media and freedom of expression and association, limits in religious freedom, and continuing violation of workers' rights."
For the first time since 2007, Paul McCartney will be dropping an album of all-new original material this year. Only appropriate, then, that the new album, out October 15, is called New. And if you're all, "Hello! Hello! Kisses on the Bottom! What about Kisses on the Bottom??" Listen: That LP, from early last year, was mostly a covers album. Also, stop yelling "kisses on the bottom" at me.
The title track and lead single from New has already been made available, and it's a thoroughly Macca-esque production, all full of sunshine, rainbows, and the chirping of cartoon birds. Check it out!
On Sunday, during the VMAs, Eminem announced a new album, his first since 2010's Recovery. It's called The Marshall Mathers LP 2, and it's coming to us November 5. Last night, we even got the lead single, "Berzerk." Pulling out the herky-jerky kill-spray everything flow, Em has a good ol' time.
Because 'N Sync reunion! 'N Sync reunion! It's only for one night, and it's more of a promo stunt than an actual full-blown reunification, but it's really happening! We're getting an 'N Sync reunion! As the New York Post reports, "Justin Timberlake and his former band members are set to reunite for a special performance on the VMAs Sunday night at the Barclays Center. MTV announced that Timberlake will perform at the VMAs and receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. But we're told former bandmates J.C. Chasez, Lance Bass, Joey Fatone and Chris Kirkpatrick are scheduled to join him onstage for a reunion performance." Congratulations Joey, Lance, Chris, and (to a mildly lesser extent) J.C.: Justin Timberlake's about to momentarily let you back into the Garden of Eden.
Earlier this month, Billboard announced that it won't count the "pre-sales" of Jay-Z's new album — a.k.a., the million copies that Samsung has already purchased of Magna Carta Holy Grail to give away to Samsung customers — for Jay's Billboard tally. Even though Samsung did pay Jay-Z for them (at $5 a pop), Billboard's rules stipulate that albums bought in bulk and then given away are not eligible. Says Billboard's editorial director Bill Werde: "The ever-visionary Jay Z pulled the nifty coup of getting paid as if he had a platinum album before one fan bought a single copy. In the context of this promotion, nothing is actually for sale." The RIAA, however — the organization that hands out gold and platinum certifications — was not only similarly impressed, but actually moved to change. On Monday, they announced a tweaking of their rules in direct response to Magna Carta Jesus Lincoln Strawberry Fields Forever.
Well, would you look at that after teasing diehards with a covers EP and a corresponding wave of vague non-denials, the Replacements are actually getting back together. As with every time a beloved band reunites after an acrimonious split and years off, it felt like it would never happen, until it did happen, and so now it feels like it was totally inevitable the whole time.
As SPIN reports, the band has three gigs lined up so far, stops on this year's punk-leaning touring festival Riot Fest: Toronto on August 24 and 25, Chicago on September 13 to 15, and Denver on September 21 and 22. (A just-launched new band site pretty much only has that information.) As for who'll actually be in the Replacements 2.0 — well, it's complicated.
For years now, Kanye West has operated under a semi-official media blackout. Figuring — totally correctly! — that he, unlike his fellow unwashed pop star masses, was crafty and clever enough to fashion his public image only through Twitter and Tumblr spiels. Kanye has put the kibosh on most major magazine interview opportunities. In 2010, Slate put together a "profile" of Kanye using only quotes and anecdotes he'd already shared online ("'Fur pillows are hard to actually sleep on,' Kanye West tells me"), and noted that, since the 2007 death of his mother, he had only really sat down and talked to a reporter at length three times. Since 2009's Swiftgate, that mentality seems to have only calcified.
Which means, while there certainly have been dribs and drabs here and there (possibly about his fashion line?), this New York Times interview with our dude Mr. West is the first real sit-down he's granted in something like four to six years. And boy was it worth the wait. Please, do read the whole thing yourself, if only to see 'Ye in one hell of an elegantly tattered red balaclava. But, for now, some choice cuts.
After all the rumors, anticipation, impeccable marketing campaign gambits, and, oh right, the actual music, Daft Punk's highly anticipated comeback record, Random Access Memories, landed on May 17 into a swirl of love and hate and ubiquity. (A few weeks ago, a friend told me he heard "Get Lucky" four times in one night at his cousin's bat mitzvah in New Jersey.) And all of that has paid off, sales-wise. According to Billboard, the funky robots from space (via the 17th arrondissement) have racked up their first no. 1 album, with first-week sales of 339,000.
First week sales estimates for Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience have been trending toward the milly mark all week, and Tuesday evening the number became official. In his much-desired, equally maligned return to the art form of singin' and dancin' all cute, JT moved 968,000 copies. That's huge. That is huge.
Billboard has the salient frame-of-reference details: "20/20 logs his best sales week yet. It follows his last release, 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, which arrived atop the list with his previous high: 684,000." It's also "the 19th-largest week for an album since SoundScan started tracking data in 1991” and the year's "biggest overall sales frame since Taylor Swift's Red debuted with 1.2 million on the Nov. 10, 2012-dated chart." One more: "Among male artists, Timberlake has the largest week in nearly five years. The last larger by a man was when Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III debuted with 1.01 million on June 28, 2008."
After a three-year live-show hiatus related to his chronic throat issues, John Mayer is headed back to the road. It'll be a 40-city, four-country tour, kicking off with warm-up shows at Jazz Fest in New Orleans at the end of April, and running through dates in Brazil, L.A. and, of course, Milwaukee. Mayer has been cleared to sing again after doctors resolved his granuloma, which is severe tissue inflammation on the vocal cords. As Billboard reports, Mayer first went to Dr. Steven Zeitels, the doc who saved Adele's pipes and got a subsequent shout-out at the Grammys (it was actually Mayer who recommended Zeitels to Adele). But Zeitels's surgery/throat-Botox regimen didn't solve Mayer's throat issues, which were complicated by "stress on [his] voice from constant touring and performing, and a longtime struggle with acid-reflux exacerbated by poor diet and drinking." Tragically, John Mayer's lifetime of carousing with the world's most beautiful women had caught up to him.