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SXSW Music 2014: 20 acts to see

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The annual South By Southwest festival/conference/conventio-con is underway, with the music getting started in earnest on Tuesday and rolling headlong through Saturday night.

This year’s event has its share of big name visitors: Lady Gaga will be delivering the keynote address and performing, and the likes of Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Soundgarden, and Pitbull will be headlining a series of shows as part of the iTunes Festival.

But SXSW was originally designed as a showcase for new music, a place where baby bands could get their first big taste of exposure and where those artists who were about to break finally actually broke. EW will be on the ground covering acts both big and small, including these 20 on-the-cusp artists we’re going out of our way to check out.

Temples: Throwback psychedelia is hard to do, but this British quartet blends just the right amount of crushing beauty and off-kilter left turns.

Angel Olsen: In the grand tradition of PJ Harvey, Olsen marries muscular guitar with her delicate warble for blow-away blasts of folk-rock and power blues.

Perfect Pussy: Despite their censor-baiting name (and what honestly seems like a pretty standard-issue fuzz-punk sound), there’s a lot of buzz on this Syracuse foursome.

Sleepy Kitty: For fans of Sleigh Bells — but sub in post-grunge jangle for noisecore.

Cloud Nothings: Noisy Cleveland-based anarchists nearly made it big with their exceptional 2012 album Attack on Memory. Could the bigger, badder, forthcoming Here and Nowhere Else put them over the top?

Vertical Scratchers: Ultra-fuzzy indie jangle care of a pair of blissed out Californians.

SKATERS: Four New Yorkers who split the difference between driving punk surges and carefully-curated sonic tapestries, all wrapped in a whatever-man sneer.

ScHoolboy Q: Sure, he topped the charts with his latest album OxyMoron, but the top lieutenant in Kendrick Lamar’s army is ready to take the next step into household name-ness.

Chet Faker: The Australian’s downtempo bedroom R&B that would swerve dangerously into the cheese lane were it not for bearded mastermind Nick Murphy’s convincingly syrupy baritone.

You Blew It!: Don’t look now, but an emo revival is about to kick into gear, and this Orlando-based combo are the finest purveyors of the new pollution.

Oh Honey: Nothing but positive jams for this strummy, soulful Brooklyn duo. Like Matt & Kim with better production values.

READ FULL STORY

Frank Ocean sued by Chipotle, releases song with Diplo and former Clash members [UPDATED]

Well, this might not be the Channel Orange followup we’ve been waiting for. On Friday, burrito emporium Chipotle sued Frank Ocean for backing out on a deal to deliver a song for an advertising campaign. The suit alleges that Chipotle paid Ocean $212,500 to record a new version of “Pure Imagination,” the song made famous in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, for an ad benefiting the restaurant chain’s sustainable farming program. (Several artists, including Willie Nelson, have contributed to the program in the past.) The track was due back in August, but on the day that Ocean was supposed to deliver the tune, he told Chipotle he would not be delivering. READ FULL STORY

R. Kelly drops his 'White Panties'

R. Kelly — everyone’s favorite World Cup opening act (remember when that happened?) — revealed to V Magazine that he is planning a followup to Black Panties. It will be called White Panties. Because, of course.

But we can’t throw too much shade at Kells since Black Panties did debut at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 last year. Kelly said that this new album is going to be “a whole other level” and the sound will be in the vein of his early work: “Everyone has been asking me when I’m going to do another baby-making album, because that’s what started me out. I’ve been all around the world musically, in every genre. I can write ‘I Believe I Can Fly,’ and I can write ‘Bump ’N’ Grind.’ Now is the time to bring it back around.”

For those of you waiting with baited breath for more Trapped in the Closet, (I mean, cliffhanger. Is he still in there?) Kelly said what every fan was dying to hear: “One chapter led to another, and the next thing you know I have all of these chapters and now I have a leash on it. I can walk it wherever I want. I have a lot of characters. I have 57 more chapters that I haven’t released yet that are going to be released. This thing is forever.” So now you know.

Justin Bieber releases first post-arrest music: Hear 'Broken' here!

Considering all the stories about hotboxing private planes and rejecting very reasonable plea deals for his DUI arrest, it’s easy to forget that Justin Bieber is primarily famous for creating music. His extra-curricular activities have eclipsed his work as of late, though he’s making attempts to shift the focus back on the tunes.

Thus, the arrival of “Broken,” Bieber’s first post-arrest song and a seemingly direct response to his latest tabloid turmoil. Over the weekend, Bieber’s DJ Tay James dropped a mixtape called We Know The DJ Radio 4which contains “Broken” and features a guest rap by Blake Kelly. On the track, Bieber repeatedly announces “I cannot be broken,” and opens the track with the line “I guess they want a reaction/ I ain’t gonna give it to ‘em.” (Don’t work too hard trying to resolve the logic of that line—just go with it.)

Listen to “Broken” below.  READ FULL STORY

Nicki Minaj vs. Mariah Carey, round 253: Which video do you prefer?

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Even though they no longer share a judges’ table on American Idol, that doesn’t mean Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey can’t still go head to head.

Yesterday, both ladies unveiled brand new videos. Minaj pulled back the curtain on the clip for her new single “Lookin Ass N—a,” which puts her in the middle of the desert in stark black and white and gives her a machine gun (until the end, when she gets a second machine gun). It’s not especially subtle, but it does get her point across. Give it a watch below: READ FULL STORY

Charts: Bruno Mars gets a Super Bowl boost, Pharrell keeps getting 'Happy'-er

As it turns out, being on the most-watched television broadcast in history is good for business.

Bruno Mars, who provided the only semblance of entertainment during a lopsided Super Bowl 10 days ago, found himself back in the upper echelon of the Billboard album chart for the second straight week when his second album Unorthodox Jukebox made the jump to number three this week (last week, it sat at no. 7). The album, which was released back in December 2012, moved 81,000 units in the week following the Super Bowl, an 82 percent increase over the previous week’s total.

It wasn’t quite enough, though, to put Mars at the top of the chart this week. That spot belongs to Now That’s What I Call Music! 49, which sold 98,000 copies in its opening week. The seemingly indestructible compilation series has been providing listeners with 10-month-old hit songs since its debut in 1998 — this iteration provides hitherto unavailable access to Lorde’s “Royals,” Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” One Direction’s “Story of My Life,” and Imagine Dragons’ “Demons.” Now bumps the soundtrack to Frozen out of the top spot, where it had sat for two weeks. The Disney monster still sold 88,000 copies and is on its way to crossing the one million-sold mark next week.

But back to Bruno: Even more impressive than the bump for his Unorthodox Jukebox was the one received by his first album, Doo Wops & Hooligans, which nearly made its way back to the top 10 with 26,000 copies sold. That’s not bad for an album from 2010, though Mars shouldn’t necessarily crown himself king of everything just yet: Of the 112 million viewers who took in Mars’ halftime performance, that means less than one percent of those people turned around and bought an album. Wouldn’t you think the strike rate would be better than that, even considering the two million copies of Unorthodox Jukebox already in circulation?

Perhaps Mars should just get himself nominated for an Academy Award. Though Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” is once again the top song on the Billboard Hot 100, the big surprise this week is the surge of Pharrell Williams’ Oscar-nominated track “Happy,” which jumped from number eight to number two this week. Could Williams’ dramatic increases in airplay and digital sales possibly send him to the top of the Hot 100 next week, and out-race Perry’s “Horse”?

T-Pain says some rappers won't work with Frank Ocean because he's gay

Yesterday, with the internet ablaze over the NFL’s first openly gay prospective star, some equally interesting news about the (apparently not always) evolving view of homosexulity in hip hop got a little lost. Over the weekend, DJ Vlad released a video interview with T-Pain that had some interesting revelations on that topic.

“I think the radio is getting more gay-friendly,” said the Auto-Tune champion/noted boat enthusiast. “I don’t think urban music is getting more gay-friendly because if that was the case, Frank Ocean would be on a lot more songs. I know n—-s that will not do a song with Frank Ocean just because he gay, but they need him on the f—ing song and that’s so terrible to me, man.

You can watch the interview in the video below:

READ FULL STORY

Katy Perry, Lorde, Imagine Dragons all get early post-Grammys sales boosts

If Katy Perry is actually a witch, then she certainly cast the right spell on music buyers.

Though her performance during the 56th Annual Grammy Awards was met with mixed reviews (EW loved it; the rest of the Internet was more lukewarm), Perry has the biggest post-Grammys sales bump so far.

We won’t know which albums got the biggest spikes until next week (the sales numbers close Sunday night), though a number of songs—including Perry’s “Dark Horse,” featuring rapper Juicy J—have already seen noticeable increases following their appearance on Sunday night’s show.

“Dark Horse” has been on top of the iTunes singles chart all week, and it’s the number one song on Billboard‘s Digital Songs chart (which includes Monday’s sales) this week. It sold 294,000 downloads last week, up 12 percent from last week’s tally. That boost was enough to push “Dark Horse” into the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, which is Perry’s ninth trip to that plateau.

Other big gainers on the Billboard Digital Songs chart include Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (up 206 percent), John Legend’s “All Of Me” (a 110 percent gain), and Pink & Nate Ruess’ “Just Give Me a Reason” (a 122 percent boost). Imagine Dragons also got a jolt with the release of the Kendrick Lamar-assisted remix of “Radioactive,” which helped the song to a 58 percent sales gain.

It’ll be interesting to see who will see their album sales boosted by the Grammys, which were watched by nearly 30 million people. Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories will almost certainly see a giant bounce, as should Lorde’s Pure Heroine, Kacey Musgraves’ Same Trailer, Different Park, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist. However, it’s entirely possible the biggest winner of the post-Grammys week could be 2014 Grammy Nominees, the compilation album that debuted at number two with 59,000 copies sold.

What music did you buy in the wake of the Grammys? Let us know in the comments.

Staff Picks: Stream our January playlist featuring Broken Bells, Angel Haze, Black Lips and more

Pop’s superstars may be busy picking out their Grammy outfits, but a relatively quiet post-holiday release time just means there’s more room for lesser-known names (and a few old-school alt icons) in our headphones.

Read on to stream some of our favorite songs from the likes of Stephen Malkmus, Mø, Dum Dum Girls, Sevyn Streeter, St. Vincent, Mogwai and more — all from just-released or upcoming albums.

READ FULL STORY

On the scene: Prince electrifies the Mohegan Sun Arena

Over the course of his long, storied, and downright weird career, Prince has proven he can make just about any room his home—from the teeny (dig his epic sets at New York’s tiny City Winery earlier this year) to the gargantuan (he played the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of the modern era in 2007—sorry, Beyoncé).

But the Purple One’s ideal stomping ground is an arena, which he proved yet again Friday night (December 27) when he stampeded through the first of three shows at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Those rooms are intimate enough for Prince to individually invite women onto the stage to dance with him, but also large enough to contain his royal histrionics.

Decked out in an all-yellow suit and situated behind a microphone stand bearing the glyph that once stood in place of his name, Prince treated the first night of his three-night stay like an old-school soul review. “We’re just gonna jam tonight,” he told the crowd while introducing the New Power Generation, and he lived up to his word. The early part of Prince’s two and a half hour set featured him teasing out extra-long versions of staples both classic (“Let’s Go Crazy”) and modern (“Musicology”), and vacillating between being a living avatar of James Brown and the greatest descendent of Jimi Hendrix.

The most remarkable thing about seeing Prince live is the fact that the guy is a ridiculously great guitar player (or, as one bearded dude said to another during the solo that highlighted “Something In the Water (Does Not Compute),” “That motherf—er can shred!”). His guitar heroics showed up early and often, especially on the slowed-down, Zeppelin-ized version of “Let’s Go Crazy.”

When he wasn’t melting his six-string, he was holding court as the ringmaster of a sprawling funk band whose numbers seemed to keep multiplying (there were at least 18 other musicians on stage). READ FULL STORY

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