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Usher Seeks To Avoid Trial By Jury For Copyright Lawsuit Over “Burn”

Lawyers for Usher, Jermaine Dupri, and Bryan-Michael Cox have filed a last-ditch motion in hopes of stopping the copyright lawsuit filed against them in California Central District Court from going before a jury. The suit, which was brought in April of 2008 by Ernest Lee Straughter, alleges that Usher’s 2004 #1 single “Burn” copies “No More Pain,” a 1999 album cut recorded by Reel Tight based on Straughter’s “The Reasons Why.” Last month Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that Straughter’s case had sufficient grounds for a jury trial. Friday’s motion challenges that ruling.

Straughter’s case aims to prove that “The Reasons Why” is the basis for “Burn” based on both musical similarities and proof of exposure by the songwriters to “The Reasons Why.” A musicologist’s report indicates corresponding features of the two songs; you can listen to them both below. Friday’s motion mainly challenges the claim of exposure: “The fact that the song had virtually no radio airplay forecloses any inference that it was widely disseminated, let alone remotely popular.” Ouch! If Snyder rejects the motion, the case is headed before a jury. We suspect that the defendants still have pretty good odds of winning the case, but they are trying to avoid the sort of publicity a jury trial might invite.
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MUTEMATH’s New Video “Blood Pressure” Gets Our Blood Pumping

Usually a music video doesn’t say too much about the musicianship of the artist, but “Blood Pressure,” the new video from MUTEMATH, is a different story. The band has made playful videos before?see 2007′s “Typical”?but this all-night stop-motion fest, directed and edited by drummer Darren King, is a monument to timing. Stop-motion animation is a timeworn music-video tactic for bands with really patient members, but this clip stands beside similar clips helmed by Hammer & Tongs (Vampire Weekend‘s “A-Punk”) and Michel Gondry (The White Stripes‘ “The Hardest Button To Button”).

What does MUTEMATH’s clip bring to the table? For one, a keen eye for visual aesthetics: whether the clip includes intentional homages, or just coincidental similarities, to Kraftwerk album jackets and the midair portraiture Philippe Halsman, they’re a good look. For another, a pumping rhythm that allows the guitar to alternately serve as a second bassline and carve out its own melody?and which the title suits perfectly. MTV’s Buzzworthy premiered the video this morning, then sent it our way, and we can see why.
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Tuned In: Wilco Gets Love On Letterman



Wilco proved that a little Vox organ preset goes a long way when they played yesterday on The Late Show. After an introduction that only David Letterman could give (“Their new album is called Go Sit In The Truck!“?was he making a “dad-rock” joke?), the band launched into “Born Alone” from next week’s The Whole Love, a great Nuggets-influenced single. Though in retrospect it’s not that odd that Wilco looked to garage rock for a poppier sound on their new record, we would never have predicted it, but we’re into it. The band also played an hourlong set that’s now streaming at Live on Letterman, playing a bunch of new tracks intermingled with songs from as early as 1999, capping off a day of rock on the late night shows that also included The Kooks on The Tonight Show and Elbow on Late Night.

Elsewhere on late night…
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Top 20 Live: Gavin DeGraw Covers “Grenade” By Bruno Mars

Gavin DeGraw came by our offices this past Friday to record an exclusive Top 20 Live set for us, and we’ll have the whole set for you as soon as we can, but we were very excited about one particular song he performed, so we marked it “HIGH PRIORITY” before we put the master footage in the pneumatic tube (or, you know, however we sent it to the hardworking folks who digitize things around here).

“I’m a little nervous to perform this one,” DeGraw quipped, “as it’s very brand new. I wrote it this morning.” Then he pulled the pin on a killer cover of Bruno Mars‘s “Grenade.” He started with a lyric sheet just in case but quickly set it aside as, backed only by a guitarist, he put his own spin on You Oughta Know alum Mars’s single. We’ll have the rest of DeGraw’s Top 20 Live set as soon as we can, but we wanted to get this one out to you right away. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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R.E.M.emories: VH1 Staffers Reflect Back On Their Favorite Songs From The R.E.M. Catalog

R.E.M.‘s announcement earlier today that they’re “calling it a day as a band” after 31 years together hit the VH1 offices even harder than that earthquake did a few weeks back. As a means of aiding everyone accelerate through their own personal Kübler-Ross grief cycle, we reached out to a number of VH1 staffers and asked them to share their favorite R.E.M. memories. We sincerely hope that this feature is as instrumental in helping you reach your own personal Acceptance stage as it was for us. And if you have your own memories, please share them below in our comments section; we’d love to hear them!

“BEGIN THE BEGIN” (LIFE’S RICH PAGEANT, 1986) by TOM CALDERONE, PRESIDENT (@tomcalderone)
I was the program director of my college radio station, Buffalo State College’s WBNY, when Murmur came out. “Radio Free Europe” was the single, and R.E.M. was opening for the English Beat and Squeeze; that’s kind of what the pecking order was for them at the time. One day, their label called and said, “Hey, we’re selling a lot of records in Buffalo, and you’re the only radio station playing them, we want to have them come play Buffalo.” We said “Great!” So they played this place called the Lackawanna Sky Room. They told us, “We don’t really have much to play, we could use an opening act.” So we offered to help. At the time, the Goo Goo Dolls were so metal that it wasn’t the right call, but there was this other little band from Jamestown called the 10,000 Maniacs. We suggested them, explaining to them that this Natalie Merchant girl, she’s great, and the band’s really cool, and you guys will get along. That’s how the friendship between the bands began, back at the Lackawanna Sky Room. They were the nicest guys, incredibly giving to the college radio stations all across the country.

My favorite song by R.E.M. is “Strange,” which is actually a Wire cover. Of their originals, “Begin The Begin” is my probably my fave. It had a really cool edge to it, and sounded a little bit different than what they normally had done. It recently came to life to me again, about a year and a half or so ago, when The Decemberists did it live with Peter Buck on stage. I thought to myself, ‘I forgot how good that song was!’, so I revisited it again. Of their later material, “Crush With Eyeliner” was my favorite.

“EVERYBODY HURTS” (AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE, 1992) by SANDY ALOUETE, SVP MUSIC & TALENT RELATIONS
One of my former boyfriends was hellbent on buying the identical neon star from the cover of Automatic For The People, and he finally tracked one down outside of an abandoned motel in upstate NY. I loaned him the money to have it professionally cut down, I housed it for him in my parents? garage until he could clear out enough space in his Greenpoint apartment/recording studio, and then not long after he got the star, we broke up. Did I ever get the money back? Nope. Shouldn?t I by rights take the neon star for my very own? Yep. EVERYBODY HURTS.

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Last Lap: Wednesday’s Odds And Ends In Music News

Happy Birthday, Leonard Cohen!
Leonard Cohen turns 77 today. To celebrate, read Mike Barthel‘s chronicle of Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” and how it became a television-montage staple, or listen to “Suzanne” or “Everybody Knows,” or pre-order the Complete Leonard Cohen box set that’s on the way. [Pitchfork]

Wilco, Coldplay Live on Letterman
This morning we mentioned that Coldplay had appeared on The Late Show to perform “Paradise.” They also recorded a full concert for Live on Letterman that streamed last night and is now available on demand. Tonight at 8PM ET, Wilco (featuring a newly jolly Jeff Tweedy) will do the same. [Live on Letterman]
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R.E.M. In Memoriam: Their Top Five Videos

R.E.M.‘s first single “Radio Free Europe” came out less than a month before MTV’s first broadcast, and since then their videos have been by turns innovative, fun, and artistic, in ways that were often uncommon at the time but totally normalized as the band (and MTV and VH1) grew old together. Their decision to call it quits is, for people of a certain age, the end of an era. To commemorate the band’s long and successful run, we went back through their music video catalog and selected their five best.

5. “Electrolite” (1996)
R.E.M. worked with basically every major music video director in the 1990s?most notably for the singles from Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. (In the case of “Electrolite” it was Spike Jonze.) It’s easy to think of this as the band catching up after a decade of making music videos on their own or with Athens friends like Jim Herbert, but in retrospect what’s most striking about any of the videos from this period is how much they still feel like R.E.M. videos. The voice of a director like Jonze (or Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who gave their 1970s nostalgia a dry run in R.E.M.’s underrated “Tongue” video a year before perfecting it with the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979″) can easily overpower an artist’s own visual aesthetic, but despite R.E.M.’s seemingly gentle touch, that never happened. The inflatable deer inhabiting “Electrolite” should make clear, though, that this was not due to too much reverence for the band. Bonus points for Mike Mills plays an accordion and a keytar.
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Big Boi Joins Rally For Death Row Inmate Troy Davis, Spearheading More Vocal Hip-Hop Support

Big Boi has arrived in Jackson, GA to join the scores of protesters outside the Pardons & Paroles Board after Troy Davis was denied a stay of execution by the board yesterday. The Troy Davis case has been a cause c?l?bre for artists of all stripes (as well as activists and political and religious figures) because Davis’s conviction largely rested on evidence provided by eyewitnesses who have since recanted their testimony. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons‘s website Global Grind has a rundown of the case’s facts as well as Rick Ross affiliate Pill. Lupe Fiasco also spoke on the case at an Atlanta show last night. The case is not new, nor is the support of those who are protesting his execution, but the opposition has grown more vocal as time continues to run out for Davis. Many others not named here have also spoken on this issue, but as yet those who have the power to grant clemency have shown no signs of relenting.

[Image: Getty Images]

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R.E.M. Break Up

R.E.M. have announced on their site this morning that they are breaking up. They posted the following message:

To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.

More to follow.

R.E.M. Call It A Day [REM HQ]

[Image: Getty Images]

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Michael Stipe Shares Pictures Of His Junk On Webcam

Did you know Michael Stipe of R.E.M. had a Tumblr? Neither did we, but Stipe found a way to spread the word: he posted a time-lapse video of his bedroom and himself featuring a couple of full-frontal nude snapshots. Yikes! We’re kidding about Stipe’s intentions, of course?in fact, the video took almost two months to go viral?but you have to admit that the “artistic” presentation is sort of belied by the appearance of a cursor in each of the stills. The rest of Stipe’s Tumblr largely contains photographs of statues, but there’s also a cute post in which he gushes about “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies. If you’re just looking for the explicit stills, you can click through below for screengrabs.

Ever Wanted To See Michael Stipe’s Dick? Here It Is. [Fleshbot via Stereogum]

[Image: Getty Images]