March 10, 2011

Matthew Morrison, "Summer Rain"

Matthew Morrison, "Summer Rain" Matthew Morrison, better known as Will Schuester on Glee, just became the second cast member to branch out and release solo material while in the midst of his Glee fame. Mark Salling was the first to venture out in the pop scene with his own music, and while his debut album, Pipe Dreams, didn't have the same instant impact as any of his Glee tracks, that doesn't mean it will be the last we'll hear from him. Honestly, we're a little surprised that more of the very talented cast haven't been flooding the market with their own releases, so maybe Matthew Morrison's single, "Summer Rain," is a sign of things to come. The track is from the lighter side of pop/rock and is reminiscent of singer-songwriters such as Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson. It's quite a change of pace from his sultry take on Prince's "Kiss," a duet with Gwyneth Paltrow on the newly released Glee: The Music, Volume 5.

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Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Missy Elliott, More: Napster Playlists Featuring Women

As we continue our celebration of Women's History Month, we thought it would be nice to highlight some of the many Napster playlists focused on music made by women. These are from all different genres and styles, so have a look, click on whatever sounds good to you, and let's hear it from the ladies!

American Women American Women Popular roots music and country hits from some of the top female artists in America. Includes songs from June Carter Cash, Loretta Lynn, and Sheryl Crow.

Hot R&B Female Vocalists Hot R&B: Female Vocalists: Some of the hottest tracks and biggest hits from major stars, including songs from Keyshia Cole, Fantasia, Alicia Keys, and Beyoncé.

Essential Lite Female Vocalists Essential Lite: Female Vocalists: Great soft pop and ballads from many eras, featuring artists such as Peggy Lee, Blossom Dearie, and Roberta Flack.

Women of Comedy Women of Comedy: Hilarious bits from the funniest females in stand-up comedy, including Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Silverman, Sandra Bernhard, and Lisa Lampanelli.

Legendary Ladies of Country Legendary Ladies of Country: Unforgettable female stars of the '60s and '70s who paved the way for today's generations. Includes Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn.

Grrrl Power Grrrl Power: Celebrate the women of alternative rock with a slew of classic tracks from such mainstays as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hole, PJ Harvey, and more.

Pioneering Women of the Blues Pioneering Women of the Blues: Though blues artists tend to be men, a surprising number of women have made a crucial impact, including Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox.

Pop Divas The '80s Pop Divas: The '80s: A platinum setting of hits from some of the decade's most glittering solo female superstars, including Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, and more.

Female Jazz Vocalists of Today Female Jazz Vocalists of Today: Music from stellar comtemporary vocalists informed by both traditional and modern jazz. Features Dianne Reeves, Cassandra Wilson, and Diana Krall.

Composing Women Composing Women: Works from female composers working in what was once a male-dominated field. Includes Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Meredith Monk.

Women of Contemporary Christian Music Women of Contemporary Christian Music: The most uplifting tracks from female artists leading the way in CCM, featuring Francesca Battistelli, Bethany Dillon, and Heather Hedley.

Ladies First Female MCs Ladies First: Female MCs: Get in touch with the first ladies of hip-hop. But don't expect them to go easy on you—these MCs, including Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, are fierce.

Femmes Fatales Femmes Fatales: Devastatingly seductive sounds from the dark side of alternative music, including music by Björk, PJ Harvey, Portishead, Morcheeba, and more.

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March 09, 2011

Phil Collins Bows Out After All

Phil Collins, Face Value Following a strange flurry of press reports that he would be retiring and a denial of said reports through a publicist, Phil Collins has posted a letter on his website indicating that he is indeed "calling it a day." He also tackles some of the issues raised in all that press — issues that were raised due to interviews Collins did with FHM and Rolling Stone, where he came off sounding positively bummed out and strange. Example: "I don't think anyone's going to miss me. I'm much happier just to write myself out of the script entirely. I'll go on a mysterious biking holiday and never return. That would be a great way to end the story, wouldn't it?" Or this, from the Stone interview where he also talks about his interest in the Alamo and "paranormal energy" indicating he may have acutally fought there in a past life: "Phil Collins will disappear or be murdered in some hotel bedroom, and people will say, 'What happened to Phil?' And the answer will be, 'He got murdered, but, yeah, anyway, let's carry on.' That kind of thing." Well. We can see why he might want to address this. Collins' letter says he isn't quitting music because of bad press, feeling unloved, or feeling like he no longer fits in, but rather so he can be a full-time father to his two young sons. (That's more like it.) And he accepts at least part of the blame for being portrayed as a "tormented weirdo," writing, "Some of the things mentioned...have been said by me in various interviews, but said as asides with a smile on my face and in passing...This clearly doesn't come over in print and I should know better." And after thanking his fans for their continued support, he insists "there's no need for the straitjacket." Sounds healthy enough to us! If Collins has been off your musical radar for awhile, let us remind you of the man's many, many hits (through both songwriting and drumming) on both his solo albums and with Genesis, as well as some adventurous fusion with his "other" band, Brand X.

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Katy & Rihanna, Taylor & Nicki, Ke$ha & Britney, Lady Gaga & Willow: Pop's Female Friendships

Katy Perry, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Nicki Minaj With both International Women's Day yesterday and Women's History Month officially in full swing, we thought it'd be nice to look at some friendships that have developed among women in the pop world. The cliché that women are all catty to each other is easily dispelled by examples such as Rihanna and Katy Perry. These two are known to be BFFs and made headlines during Katy's bachelorette party. And although they seem like the model of professional camaraderie, what about Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj? The country-pop superstar recently revealed her love of hip-hop's leading lady and even rapped along with one of Nicki's tunes. Who knew that T. Swizzle could rap? Ke$ha and Britney Spears, meanwhile, seem like another perfect pair. Brit's newest dance-pop single, "Till the World Ends" was penned by Ke$ha, who has said, "it's an honor to write for one of pop music's biggest icons." And finally, as if to prove that age differences don't matter when it comes to friendships in the pop world, none other than Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, says that 10-year-old Willow inspired her to "whip her hair" during her "Born This Way" Grammy performance. So here's to all the women of today's pop scene and the friendships that have been established; we can't be the only ones waiting for a Katy and Rihanna duet, right?

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March 08, 2011

Sara Evans, Stronger

Sara Evans, Stronger Sara Evans has away from the recording studio for quite some time. Her last studio album of all original material was Real Fine Place, released way back in 2005. Since that time, she hasn't entirely been out of the spotlight, however. Evans famously bowed out of Dancing with the Stars to deal with a painfully messy and public divorce, and in its aftermath, she took some time away from the music business to straighten out her personal life. Now she's back with Stronger, an album and title that resonates with her emergence from the difficulties of the last few years. And if the tracks on the album are any indication, Evans has, indeed, not only survived the turmoil, but come back a little bit stronger than she was before (just like the song says). As a whole, Stronger isn't necessarily perfect, but it's a great thing to finally get to hear new music from one of country's finer female voices.

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Women Who Rock: Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Cyndi Lauper, and More

Joan Jett, I Love Rock N' Roll Patti Smith, Horses Cyndi Lauper, She's So Unusual Today, March 8, is International Women's Day, so why not take a moment to listen to some women who rock? To list all of the essential female artists who have contributed to the vast array of rock music would take a very long time because there are so many, but let's at least consider a few here: There's the softer side, represented by Karen Carpenter (who certainly rocked on the drums), folk-rock icon Joni Mitchell, and genius songwriter Carole King; the classic, gritty rock sounds of the legendary Joan Jett, the revered poet Patti Smith, and arena rockers Pat Benatar and Ann & Nancy Wilson (who might surprise you with their earlier sound), and '80s icon Cyndi Lauper (who recently threw one of the most interesting performances ever); the alt-rock righteousness of Kim Gordon, the angelic voice of Elizabeth Fraser, the dark electronic edge of Beth Gibbons, and the ethereal indie plane of Karen O.; and then there's the heavy hitting epicness of Cristina Scabbia, Lacey Sturm, and Juliette Lewis (who once upon a time actually spoke to us). What would the world of rock be without these amazing artistic forces, as well as the countless others not mentioned? Give some of these ladies a listen, and then let us know which women you think rock the most!

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Beth Ditto, Patrick Stump, Beady Eye: New Alternative Music

Beth Ditto This week we have three new alternative releases from frontmen/women either going solo or starting new projects: At the top of our list is a new EP (pictured) from Gossip frontwoman, fashion icon, and activist Beth Ditto. Taking a break from her band's power-punk aesthetic, Beth's solo EP is a collaboration with Simian Mobile Disco, and the resulting four tracks are all shimmery electropop. It's a nice change of style for the outspoken star. Second up is former Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump, who also takes a different approach with his new solo material. Whereas Beth's EP is merely a side project, Fall Out Boy officially broke up last year, so we've been waiting to see what new music would emerge from the former bandmates for quite some time. Fans of FOB's emo-pop will still enjoy Patrick's Truant Wave EP but should expect a diverse range of musical styles on the six tracks of what he calls "soul punk." And last but certainly not least, we have Beady Eye, led by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. Liam and his brother Noel, the duo who formed Oasis, were infamous for fighting with each other, so it was only a matter of time before the band imploded. Liam and three of his former bandmates quickly formed a new band, and their new debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, has a familiar sound and will surely be welcomed by Britpop fans. While it's the least musically adventurous of these three releases, let's just say it's Liam who most needed the break among these three singers.

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New Music Tuesday: Exclusive Pearl Jam, Glee Cast, Lupe Fiasco, Sara Evans, R.E.M, Avril Lavigne

Most new music comes out on Tuesdays, and each week we cull through the mountain of new releases to bring you some of the best from different genres. Click below, or find them in Napster’s New Releases/Featured Music section.

Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) Pearl Jam, Vs./Vitalogy (Deluxe Edition) (Alternative, Rock): Napster has four exclusive bonus tracks available for streaming as a preview of the upcoming combined reissue of Vs. and Vitalogy on March 29. The exclusive tracks include previously unreleased live versions of "Even Flow," "Once," and "Daughter."


Glee Cast, Glee, The Music, Volume 5 Glee Cast, Glee: The Music, Volume 5 (Pop, Soundtracks): The latest volume from the series about everyone's favorite glee club includes the "Thriller/Heads Will Roll" mash-up, The Human League's "Don't You Want Me," "Kiss" and "Landslide" featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, and two original songs, a first for the series.


Lupe Fiasco, LASERS Lupe Fiasco, LASERS (Hip-Hop/Rap): Originally titled LupE.N.D., since it was to be the Chicago rapper's last album, this set was tied up in label limbo until fans demanded its release. LASERS expands to Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile, and features "Words I Never Said" and "The Show Must Go On."


Sara Evans, Stronger Sara Evans, Stronger (Country): After a six-year hiatus, the country superstar releases a new album of material. With personal issues behind her, she's now ready for a major comeback, starting with the album's lead single "A Little Bit Stronger," which was also featured in the movie Country Strong.


R.E.M, Collapse Into Now R.E.M, Collapse into Now (Rock): Not many groups can boast 15 studio albums under their belts, but R.E.M. isn't just any group. For their latest, they go for a more expansive sound, enlisting guests including Patti Smith, Eddie Vedder, and Peaches. Their first single is "Mine Smell Like Honey."


Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby (Pop, Rock): After several setbacks and delays, the Canadian pop star's latest album finally sees the light of day after two-and-a-half years in the making. Lavigne's writing can be found on all of the album's tracks, including the current single "What the Hell."
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March 07, 2011

Josh Groban Sings into, Then Eats, Banana for
Sara Bareilles

Josh Groban and a banana This is really a post about Sara Bareilles' new single and video, but we just have to say: Josh Groban is a comedian. You might not know it from his music alone, which tends to be quite serious, but he's really been a cut-up lately. Just a few weeks ago he turned up on Jimmy Kimmel singing Kanye West 's tweets, and now here he is in an off-the-wall cameo in the super-fun new video for "Uncharted," the aforementioned new Bareilles single. We've previously made known our affection for Ms. B and her album Kaleidoscope Heart, but we're especially glad that she and the powers that be chose "Uncharted" as the follow-up to "King of Anything," which has enjoyed a very long chart run. "Uncharted" is a great song, and now it has a cool YouTube-style video to go with it: It's filled with clips of people like Groban, professor Ben Folds, Maroon 5's Adam Levine, Pharrel Williams,  and even Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland lip-synching to the song, dancing, and generally goofing off. And for good measure, viral lip-synch master Keenan Cahill also figures prominently. (Bareilles is in it, too, in a black-and-white message-in-a-bottle story intercut with all the cameos, but we don't see her face until the very end, and then only for a second.) Bareilles says this clip is "about as personal as it gets," because she's such a fan of her fans and fellow performers: "This is about being a fan of people who take chances, who are fearless, who have integrity, and go off into the world saying yes to what's around them," she explains. Everyone in this thing is cool as far as we're concerned, especially Jennifer Nettles, who just about steals the show—in her pajamas, no less. But it's Groban, deadpan with banana, who really gets us, because you just don't see that every day. Way to go, Grobanator.

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NAACP Image Awards Music Recap

John Legend, NAACP The 42nd Annual NAACP Image Awards took place last Friday to honor, as always, outstanding people of color in film, television, music, and literature. In case you missed the show, here are the deets on the music portion of the show: Pre-teen prodigy/phenom Willow showed exactly why she's a "21st Century Girl" by taking home the Outstanding New Artist Award (beating the likes of B.o.B, Bruno Mars, Jason Derulo, and Nicki Minaj). Although that win may have left some scratching their heads, the following wins were entirely in line with expectations: Usher for Outstanding Male Artist, Mary J. Blige for Outstanding Female Artist, John Legend & The Roots for Outstanding Duo, Group, or Collaboration, Mavis Staples for Outstanding Gospel Album, Fantasia's "Bittersweet" for Outstanding Song, and John Legend & The Roots' Wake Up! for Outstanding Album. For years, the NAACP Image Awards have entertained us while recognizing outstanding talent, and this year did not disappoint.

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