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Best and Worst 2012: The year in country music

Ah, what a year in music it’s been! Here at EW, we’ve been in retrospective overdrive, looking back at the best and worst albums, singles, lyrics, and soundtracks that 2012 had to offer.

But since I’m already primed to hop onto a plane and head home down South for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to take let my music tastes do the same and take a deep-dive into the country music world. Here’s my take on the year that was — country music style:

BEST: Little Big Town The hard-working quartet has always had the respect of Nashville for their on-point harmonies and sumptuous live performances, so it was nice to see them find true mainstream success in 2012. “Pontoon” was a fresh, tongue-in-cheek summer smash that motorboated all the way to No. 1.

BEST: Eric Church With a sand-papery voice, a trademark baseball cap (which have now officially replaced cowboy hats), a drink in his hand, and some genuinely great melodies, Eric Church joined country’s A-list this year. “Springsteen” was a wide-open crossover hit that gave his confidently country disc Chief the mainstream appeal it deserved. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Chief won the CMA Award for Album of the Year, either. READ FULL STORY

Taylor Swift lies on cold, hard ground in 'Trouble' video

Ready to see Taylor Swift’s wub-a-dub-dub hit “I Knew You Were Trouble” set to a visual? Then you’ll have to wait a couple of minutes!

T-Swizzle’s latest single from Red, currently the country’s No. 1 album, has just been given a brand new Reeve Carney-starring, Anthony Mandler-directed clip. And, yes, it takes notes from Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” video (also directed by Mandler) in that you have to sit through a multi-minute monologue before getting to the desolate-desert drama you didn’t know you came for.

READ FULL STORY

Someone already wrote Taylor Swift and Harry Styles' breakup song, and it's perfect -- VIDEO

Taylor Swift and One Direction’s Harry Styles are dating now, but let’s be real: they’re going to break up. I’m sure of it. You’re sure of it. Anyone who has thought about Taylor Swift for even one minute over the past five years is sure of it. This is just what she does. Swift kisses and kisses and kisses, and then she tells (with varying degrees of coyness) on her multi-platinum albums.

But thanks to American Idol Season 9 alum Tim Urban (straight outta left field, I know!), we no longer have to wait for Swift’s inevitable confessional about Harry Styles on her inevitable fall 2014 album. Urban’s written one for her, and it’s hilariously, almost unbelievably on-point. Seriously, is he her secret ghost writer?

The opening couplet had me on board right away. “He was the wrong direction with a beautiful face,” Urban sings. “He made me smile on those December days.”

I mean, that’s just classic Swift, right? But it was the sassy kiss-off at the end of the chorus that sealed the deal for me: “There won’t be a next time for him/ And he can keep his accent.” Ahhhh, how is this not already a real Taylor Swift song?!

Check out the full tune below (it kicks off at 0:44): READ FULL STORY

EW's Grammy nominee Spotify playlist: Listen here

Even if you’re a full-on obsessive music fan, the Grammy nominations can present a daunting array of talent. Sure everyone’s heard the Hot 100 hits from Carly Rae and Taylor and Gotye, but what about Robert Glasper? Lamb of God? Sistema Bomb?

Chances are you don’t have the time or the interest to listen to every nominee in full, so we’ve compiled a highlight-heavy 2013 Grammy nominees playlist on Spotify.

It’s a healthy sampler of the nominees from every major category, from high-profile categories like Best New Artist to the ones that tend not to make the televised portion of the ceremony (metal, Americana). So throw it on shuffle and give it a spin:
READ FULL STORY

Grammy nominations announced: Frank Ocean, fun., and the Black Keys dominate

Taylor Swift wasn’t the only one with surprise face at Wednesday night’s Grammy nomination concert.

A partial list of the nods for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards were revealed in a live televised concert event tonight, and it produced a fair share of bookie-flouting snubs and nods.

The show, which took place in Nashville under the watch of awkward-slash-charming cohosts Swift and LL Cool J, handed out a slew of golden-ticket invites to the February ceremony: First-timers Frank Ocean and fun. nabbed multiple (and fairly anticipated) nominations — including Best New Artist and Record of the Year — as did fellow rookies Gotye, Hunter Hayes, the Lumineers, Ed Sheeran, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Alabama Shakes.

A partial sampling of the nominees (for the full list, click here): READ FULL STORY

Best of 2012: The year in lyrics, from Taylor Swift to Carly Rae

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Music makes the people come together — but lyrics might be even more powerful as unification tools. Think about it: Whether you’re a rap fiend or a hater of all things hip hop, you have to admire a guy who figures out a way to rhyme “narcissist” with “lobster bisque.” See below to find out what we’ve dubbed 2012′s top five lyrics, which artists warbled 2012′s worst five lyrics, and which lyric won the dubious honor of being the year’s best AND worst at the same time. (Hint: Think “Call Me Maybe.”)

READ FULL STORY

Album sales: One Direction top Billboard 200 for second time this year

They may have had a trophy-free night at last weekend’s American Music Awards, but One Direction still have the votes of more than half a million album buyers (you know who you are).

For the second time this year, the British boy band has snagged the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart thanks to their sophomore effort Take Me Home. And taken to many homes they were: the group moved 540,000 units in the week, a vast improvement from the 176,000 their record-breaking debut Up All Night earned them back in March.

The new numbers give them the third largest debut week of the year, with only Taylor Swift’s Red (1.2 million) and Mumford & Sons’ Babel (600,000) surpassing them.

Of course, when someone goes up, someone’s gotta come down. Swift’s three weeks atop the chart came to an end, dipping to the second spot with 145,000 for its fourth week. (That puts Red‘s running total at 1.89 milli.)

Rounding out the top three this week is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 soundtrack, which pulled off 93,000 in sales for the frame — a decent showing, but markedly less than their first installment’s soundtrack (which debuted at No. 1 with 165,000) or the New Moon edition (which moved 153,000 units).

READ FULL STORY

American Music Awards: See the winners list here!

America proved its Bieber Fever was strong: The teen singer dominated the American Music Awards on Sunday night.

Bieber’s wins included the show’s top award, artist of the year. The singer’s mom joined him onstage as he collected the top award. He looked to his mom: “I wanted to thank you for always believing in me.”

He said it’s “hard growing up with everyone watching me” and asked that people continue to believe in him.

The 18-year-old also won favorite pop/rock album for Believe, and male artist.

He performed two songs at the award show, one stripped and another upbeat with Nicki Minaj. As Bieber won his second award, he was kissed on the neck by Jenny McCarthy, who presented the award.

Here is a full list of the winners:  READ FULL STORY

MTV's Europe Music Awards results: Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift win big

North America, eff yeah! U.S. citizens and Canadians dominated MTV’s Europe Music Awards in Frankfurt last night, snagging awards in 11 out of 16 total categories. Newly single canuck Justin Bieber and native Pennsylvanian Taylor Swift had especially good nights, bringing home three globe-topped statuettes apiece. And as a bonus, the late Whitney Houston was honored with this year’s Global Icon award; previous winners include Bon Jovi and Queen. Check out a full list of winners below:

Biggest Fans: One Direction

Best Female: Taylor Swift

Best Song: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”

Best Male: Justin Bieber

READ FULL STORY

Taylor Swift's massive 'Red' sales: What's her ceiling?

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Congratulations are in order for Taylor Swift, who may not have won Entertainer of the Year at the CMAs last night but for all intents and purposes made it rain with her new album Red. The country-popper’s fourth release moved 1.21 million copies in its opening week, and set a boatload of records along the way. Most notably, she became the only woman in the SoundScan era to sell over a million copies in a week on more than one occasion, as her previous album Speak Now also went instant-platinum back in 2010.

But there’s one statistic that really stands out, and that’s the fact that Red represents the biggest single week for a release since 2002, when Eminem’s The Eminem Show moved 1,322,000 copies in its opening week. Red is still only the eighth biggest opening week of all time, but it’s way more impressive a showing than a lot of the albums in front of her, the bulk of which were released between 2000 and 2002, when music was the centerpiece of the pop culture conversation, record stores still existed, TRL remained a power player, and the evil Internet had yet to make its full impact on downloading culture (Napster was at its height, but in the pre-iTunes universe, most people were still wary of online music, and the shift to universal broadband hadn’t set in yet).

The fact that Swift has not only put up such a big number but actually improved upon her last album is nothing short of remarkable. The industry has only narrowed since she last released an album, and yet here she is cranking up her sales numbers. So while she basks in the glow of her latest industry-related victory, the question arises: What is Taylor Swift’s ceiling? READ FULL STORY

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