The American Music Awards have gone down for four decades now. Four decades! That's a remarkable run for an event that, let's be honest, we all totally forget exists unless we're within 36 hours on either side of its broadcast. Which is to say this: The AMAs were on last night. Were they any good? Were they any good? They were the American Music Awards!
Taylor Swift won Artist of the Year (here's your full list of winners), but the night was actually carried by Timberlake. He got to run up for a bunch of awards early on, and each time was game enough to offer us his best Studio 8H shtick: correctly complimenting the cuteness of Rihanna's mother (more on that later); making consciously dumb "I can't believe I won this award, whatever this award is!" faces; in general carrying the correct amount of playful, respectable disdain for every single thing happening. (Let's give him points for bantering with Sarah Silverman, too, even though the sentence "This is the first time I have ever been racially profiled by a white lady" actually makes no sense. Bro bro, white people are usually the ones doing the racial profiling.) But JT's greatest accomplishment popped up early: It came during Pitbull's opening monologue's Olympic-level inanity, and it was making this face for a good 43 seconds.
Katy Perry's latest video, "Unconditionally," premiered last night on MTV.com, and it is yet another piece of the confusing aesthetic puzzle of the Prism era. The clip features Perry as an ethereal snow queen, an upscale ball straight out of Anna Karenina, and a fuckload of fairy-tale romance. There's a lot of velvet and brocade happening. It's very wintry. And then there's a slight callback to "Roar," as Perry holds an owl. She is still mistress of all the animals. Then she bursts into flame, either because she is a witch or because her sex is on fire. Then the bed literally bursts into flame because John Mayer's dick is made of butane. That's how insane and otherworldly his bedroom skills are. His penis is literally gas. Then she gets hit by a car and her pudenda combust into a rain of flowers that blanket the car. It's visually stunning and she looks beautiful, but it's also kind of dull.
Will Smith Caught Cheating: "Will Smith stepped into a private photo booth in New Orleans on Oct. 25 with a gorgeous, young blonde and, once safely ensconced behind the protective curtain, began nuzzling and hugging her, even baring his toned chest and pressing it up against her back as she suggestively lifted her own shirt, exposing her bra." SCANDAL. Will is known as a jokester, but "the closeness he exuded with his stunning costar, Australian actress Margot Robbie, was clearly more than mere friendliness." Robbie is the female lead in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Smith's costar in the upcoming Focus. Big Will "wasn't acting like a married man; he gave no signs that he was in a committed relationship. What kind of married man would go into a photo booth with a sexy 23-year-old girl and start to undress?" One who is in an open marriage, as Will and Jada have frequently been rumored to be? "Jada Pinkett Smith, Will's wife of 15 years, was nowhere to be found." Jada has made plenty of veiled references to cheating or openness in the Pinkett Smith marriage, but can they survive proof in the form of photobooth pics? Shooting Focus in New Orleans, Smith's family accompanied him on "a day of sightseeing in the alligator swamps" but left quickly thereafter. Witnesses at the wrap party claim Robbie and Smith were "hanging all over each other, laughing like they were a new couple in love." Smith had just finished shooting, so supposedly he wasn't drunk — "he knew what he was doing." Then Robbie climbed on Smith "piggyback style" and headed off to his trailer. "After they left the party, they were gone all night." The source says, "This was absolutely cheating in my book." Pinkett Smith was speaking at a Baltimore charity event, where she gave a telling speech that went "When you are going through a storm with your spouse … stop thinking about what you 'believe' a husband or wife should be." Hmmmm.
After a big rollout by her publicity team, Britney Spears's most recent single, "Work Bitch," stalled on the charts and never even made it into the pop heroes' circle currently monopolized by the likes of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. It was a big disappointment for fans anticipating her upcoming album, Britney Jean, as well as a reminder that no artist is indestructible, particularly in the fickle youth-centric landscape of pop music. "Work Bitch" sounded a little tired, even through Britney seemed more focused than she has in years. The music video was hyped up and hoped to help sales, but even Britney using her famously damaged knees in the choreography didn't help the song make much headway toward becoming no. 1. Then Britney let it slip during a radio interview that she hadn't so much chosen the video's sexy dominatrix theme as she had been pushed into it, and that she had asked for several edits to tone down the raunchiness.
Britney's "I'm a mom" rhetoric didn't sit well with everyone, but she's our Britney, and it's her choice. And unlike other pop stars (cough cough, Katy), Britney wasn't so much commenting on the sex-saturated state of the industry as just making a plea for herself. She doesn't want to wear the latex leotards anymore, so why make her? Just because fans want Spears to emulate the look she established as a teenager doesn't mean she has to. Maybe she's tired of being compared to her sexually precocious underage self and being accused of coming up short. With her Vegas residency starting soon and 31 years under her belt, Brit Brit should be able to coast on nostalgia and her catalogue of platinum hits without also needing to strip every night to make the audience sure that her abs are still high-def.
On this week's podghast, we start off getting into the Halloween spirit by discussing our Halloween costume hopes and fears. At what age is it appropriate to ask your parents to play the Castevets in a Rosemary's Baby group costume? Then it's time to recap our weeks in live music — Molly and Tess's evening of girl power with Katy Perry, Tegan and Sara, and Ellie Goulding; Emily's pilgrimage to the church of Yeezus. We also check back in with American Horror Story: Coven and compare notes on its success thus far, both as a TV show and as a season of American Horror Story. Finally, we wrap up with some Halloween movie recommendations for this evening. They were supposed to be scary movies, but if you're more in the documentary mood on this night of spooks, Molly has got you covered. Happy Halloween!
When you deploy a shimmering golden 18-wheeler to announce your new record, you're gonna debut at no. 1. There is no other way. And so it was that Katy Perry sold 286,000 copies of Prism to claim the top spot on the Billboard 200 this week, also securing bragging rights for 2013’s best debut week for a female artist. Perry passed Miley Cyrus's Bangerz by a tight 17,000 units and blasted by her first no. 1 album, Teenage Dream, which sold 192,000 copies in August 2010.
Harrison Ford is 71 now, and he's just so over trying to be cordial when he doesn't want to be. For example, take erstwhile Grantlander and current GQ-er Zach Baron's attempt to highlight Ford's apparent interest in the sci-fi genre, on the eve of Ender's Game. "If you say so," Ford said/likely growled. Quizzed on our national interest in Hunger Games–style narratives, Ford offers the flat, "Beats the shit out of me." Old Harrison Ford just cracked the top three for Harrison Ford roles.
You may now stream Arcade Fire's new album, Reflektor, in its entirety days before its official release on October 29. Via SoundCloud, you ask? Or perhaps an iTunes stream? Nay, ye Internet savvy — the tracks you seek may be found within but a humble YouTube clip. Yes, it's an album-length lyric video. Enjoy.
Last night, Molly Lambert and Tess Lynch ventured once more into the Hollywood Bowl, for the Katy Perry We Can Survive breast cancer benefit concert. It was truly the night of a thousand women. Well, OK, seven — Bonnie McKee, Kacey Musgraves, Tegan and Sara, Sara Bareilles, Ellie Goulding, and the lilac-lipsticked "Roar"-meister herself. We wondered how the Katy experience would measure up to the fine evening we spent at the Bowl with her boyfriend, John Mayer, earlier this month, and we traveled up several flights of stairless escalators to survey the Katycat scene.
Molly Lambert: It was another gorgeous night in the most beautiful venue in L.A., but with a totally different demographic than the Mayer concert. For one, there were children. Lots of them, everywhere, in tutus and glitter and rainbow-colored wigs. It was like being at a baby rave. Plus, instead of last time's garlic mayo–and–weed smoke vibe, Katy Perry's curated night smelled like caramel popcorn.
Tess Lynch: A kid fell onto our feet on the escalator, and we realized that instead of the drunk couples roaming around at the Mayer concert, this crowd was super-buzzed on Mountain Dew and Swedish Fish. The energy was crazy, plus all the musicians kept thanking everyone for buying tickets in support of the Young Survival Coalition, so in addition to the sugar and caffeine, everyone was feeling pretty good about themselves. Katy Perry handpicked the other artists, too, and was pretty candid.
Lambert: It was an inspiring night. Is it OK to say that? That I felt uplifted and inspired?
Did Gwyneth Paltrow Cheat on Chris Martin? Paltrow asked friends not to participate in an upcoming Vanity Fair story about her. Now we know why. "Vanity Fair is looking into an alleged affair that the movie star, who's been married to Coldplay singer Chris Martin since 2003, may have had with Miami billionaire Jeff Soffer." She thought it would remain a secret forever. Who is Soffer? Well, he's a "real estate developer worth $1 billion" who lucked into acquiring his father's successful real estate business. He and Gwyn must have had so much to talk about! Like benefiting from nepotism! He's now married to Elle Macpherson. "Gwyneth prides herself on presenting this image that she has the perfect life — that she's a domestic goddess with a talented husband and exceptional kids who has everything under control. Now she's caught up in a scandal." SCANDAL! It's all viral promo for Scandal. "Not only did Jeff, 45, fly the Iron Man actress to Miami" for the opening of his Fontainebleau hotel, "she stayed at his $14 million mansion in nearby Indian Creek." The adulterers "never went out in public. But they did attend parties at private homes and would hold hands around friends." Hold hands! Paltrow has mysteriously alluded to the nontraditional nature of her relationship with Martin several times. "I never say 'Where are you? You should be home by now.' I never place demands on him because I think he's a really talented man, and he's putting something good into the world." Girl. Paltrow's rep said, "Gwyneth and Jeff did not have an affair. They have been friends for many, many years."
One fun thing about the epic pop stan wars of Q4 2013 has been how every time a new single drops into the arena, everyone has to reevaluate the existing standings. Miley Cyrus got an early lead with "We Can't Stop," which gave her an entire summer free from major pop star competition to build anticipation for Bangerz. In mid-August, Katy Perry premiered "Roar," her first single from Prism, the follow-up to record-breaking smash album Teenage Dream. Reviews of "Roar" were extremely mixed, but it shot to the top of the charts immediately. "Roar" and "We Can't Stop" were both unexpectedly mid-tempo, perhaps a reaction to EDM oversaturation over the course of the last year, but some pop fans still clamored for more aggressively beat-driven songs. Two days after "Roar" leaked, Lady Gaga leaked her own new single "Applause."
Gaga had been talking a huge game about her album Artpop for months, so it was with a lot of fanfare that "Applause" hit the Internet, where it fizzled without any warning. "Applause," with its Kurt Weill theatricality and general "that weird lady's doing it again" vibe, spawned a thousand think pieces speculating about whether Gaga's hot streak was over for good. Meanwhile, the safe and cozy "Roar," which is the pop song equivalent of hot milk with honey, shot up through the ranks and easily elephant-stomped "Applause."
On the most recent Girls in Hoodies podcast, I aloofly declared that I wouldn't get around to Katy Perry's new album Prism for "a while." Life is full of beauty and I have time for only so much, you know? Molly Lambert and Tess Lynch called my bluff, and 36 hours later the conciliatory Edible Arrangements California Popsicle bouquets are already in the mail. I couldn't resist. As of this writing I'm eight deep in the 16 musical confections (13 + three bonus tracks) Ms. Perry dropped on us this morning via SoundCloud — #NP: "International Smile," which is basically a more well-traveled "California Gurls" with a Vocaloid breakdown. It is not the worst. I have also begrudgingly given into the Juicy J–assisted "Dark Horse" and the drunk Kids Bop party jam "This Is How We Do." (Sample lyrics: "Now we talking astrology, getting our nails did all Japanese-y," I mean ... probably? But also ... no no no no no.) Katy's still doing a lot of spiritual rebuilding on this album, as is her wont; there are a few tracks that are more or less "Roar" or "Firework" run through Thesaurus.com, but that's not really a failure; that's just staying on message. Anyway, the embed is after the jump. You've already heard the opening song, so I suggest diving right into the deep end with Track 3. Happy birthday ...
Our original plan had been to just talk about the '90s NBC sitcom Frasier straight through this week's hour for no particular reason, but the nostalgia gods granted us the humblest of current-day reasons to do so: this cast reunion in Entertainment Weekly! Seriously, though, we do spend a lot of time on the couch with the Cranes this week, including not one but TWO attempts at improvised a cappella of the theme song, so you've been warned. We also find time to talk about this season of Eastbound & Down and Katy Perry's recently leaked album Prism, which is not nearly as immaculate as its promotion has been, it turns out. Oh baby, we hear the John Mayer blues a-callin'.
You know when you feel like you've got a pretty good fake accent down, then you meet someone who has that real accent and you're all sweaty and terrified because you know you're a sham and they're going to rip you apart as soon as you say half a sentence? Fred Armisen does the exact opposite of that in this Funny or Die clip, sitting down with the Clash's Paul Simonon and Mick Jones in character as Ian Rubbish, a punk-obsessed Brit and stylistic plagiarist. The gents wind up in a spontaneous jam sesh, because "that's what punk's all about, innit? Not planning nuffink."
Last week, I broke my hands writing about Miley Cyrus's SNL double-duty hosting gig. Electric currents ran through my fingers from my very soul, and I typed 580,000 words without blinking. I thought, I should scale back. I told myself, Shut up, you're on Page 95. I couldn't stop, and I wouldn't stop, and some gigantic cosmic force had to step in my path and holler CEASE, BLOGGER. That force was Bruce Willis. Brevity is now my friend.
It's not that I have anything against Bruce Willis. I like Willis so much that I own a copy of his 1987 R&B album, The Return of Bruno, and have listened to it more than twice. Was I skeptical of this hosting choice? Maybe. Willis has nothing to promote at the moment, with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For lingering in post-production and Red 2 disappearing in the rearview mirror. A host without a vehicle doesn't necessarily spell disaster, but it seemed like weird timing. After SNL wakes up from its hiatus nap on October 26, Edward Norton — another actor with no current merchandise — is set to headline, which is strange enough that I have no choice but to assume that the government shutdown's ripple effect has extended to Hollywood like a butterfly flapping its wings in the Congo. The unfortunate casualty of employing an emcee with nothing to shill is that everything seems strangely post-dated (I see you, Armageddon reference), and the episode seemed like it dropped out of a wormhole, a mediocre object with no spatial or temporal relevance.