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by (@unclegrambo)

Jordin Sparks Delivers Her Cover Of Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” Via Webcam

Everyone loves a good comeback story, and Demi Lovato‘s recent return from a stint in rehab (where she dealt with “emotional and physical issues”) seems poised to make her an even bigger star than she was before she sought treatment. Her new song, “Skyscraper,” is fast becoming a Millenial anthem due to its powerful (and, we should note, very timely) theme of remaining resilient in the face of bullying, and earned praise from the likes of Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian and fellow Disney product, Selena Gomez.

As is wont to happen these days, dozens of covers of “Skyscraper” are starting to pop up on YouTube, most of which are being sung by teens in their bedrooms into their webcam; one such cover, by YouTube user zeldaxlove64, has already racked up over 1.5 million streams. However, earlier today, a “Skyscraper” cover by none other than a former winner of American Idol hit the popular site. That’s right, Idol Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks sat down in front of her webcam, hit record and subsequently published her spin on Lovato’s empowerment anthem. It’s sort of a sign of the times: Instead of a big recording studio, an army of producers and engineers twiddling the knobs, and an expensive video shoot, it’s just a girl with a big voice and a webcam and a YouTube account. (Yes, we’re aware that a trio of high-priced songwriters penned the track, but still.) It’s hard to argue with the results!

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Get Up Kids Cover Blur’s “Boys & Girls” For A.V. Club

We’re fans of the A.V. Club’s “Undercover” series, in which bands visit their offices and play a cover song off a pre-selected list; the limitation means that sometimes the covers are uninspired, but at least as often they force bands to provide an interesting take on a well-known pop single. Even still, we’ve really only linked these clips as part of Last Lap roundups. Today’s entry, however, begs to be shared on its own. The reunited Get Up Kids powerslide their way through a straightforward yet compelling cover of Blur‘s “Boys & Girls,” long a Britpop fave of ours. Enjoy!

The Get Up Kids cover “Girls And Boys” by Blur [A.V. Club]

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Mercury Prize Shortlist Led By Adele, PJ Harvey

The Mercury Prize announced its twelve-album shortlist of the best British and Irish albums released between July 2010 and July 2011 earlier today, and Adele and PJ Harvey are the leading nominees?at least according to British bookies, who gave 4-to-1 odds for each of the two artists. Both have been nominated for a Mercury Prize before: Adele in 2008 for 19 and PJ Harvey three times, of which she won once, in 2001, for Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Other nominees that have gotten some traction with United States artists include British rapper Tinie Tempah and Jamie Lidell-via-dubstep soulster James Blake, who played at this weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival.

The closed-door judging process for the Mercury Prize, founded to be a “Booker Prize for music,” is best explained in a 2003 Guardian piece. The shortlist ranges from the obscure and localized (localised?), like King Creosote & Jon Hopkins‘s Diamond Mine, to, well, Adele. The nominees also span ages, from neophyte rock bands like Everything Everything to UK mainstays like Elbow. And despite some of the left-field nominees, the prize’s short history has British favorites of ours like Suede and Pulp, so we’re curious who will walk away with the prize in September.

Adele, PJ Harvey Top Mercury Prize Nominations [Billboard]

[Image: Getty Images]

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The Beastie Boys “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”?Even When Action-Figure Lives Are On The Line

We’ve been anticipating the Spike Jonze-helmed Beastie Boys action-figure music video for “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” since the band announced two weeks ago that they were reteaming with the director. Last night, the under-four-minute television edit premiered on Funny or Die, and early this morning the uncensored full-length video dropped on YouTube. Clocking in at over 11 minutes, and featuring not only the song’s LP version but also a French-house remix by Sebastian (when its musical soundtrack isn’t faded down for the Howie scream and other plot-related sound effects), the video is a suitable next chapter in the Boys’ continuing project of seventies pastiche. (Why haven’t they ever collaborated with Quentin Tarantino?)
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Tuned In: Wye Oak’s “Holy Holy” The Highlight Of An Exceptional Late-Night Music Slate

Last night’s television lineup was a bounty of musical riches: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros played Conan‘s Summer Concert Series; Bono and The Edge, promoting Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark (the show’s musical guests), performed “Stuck In a Moment” off-the-cuff; Britpop revivalists Viva Brother made their US television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Plus Jordan Knight and Imelda May! It’s not often that we have difficulty choosing a highlight among the evening’s musical performances, so we encourage you to check them all out (linked below).

That said, Baltimore’s Wye Oak won the night with their performance of “Holy Holy,” from their third album Civilian, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The duo has a knack for sounding bigger and louder than they appear, and this performance was no exception. Drummer Andy Stack always keeps his left hand free for backing keyboard chords, and lead singer Jenn Wasner‘s deceptively simple electric guitar playing alternately hangs back for verses and fills the air for choruses. The band has been slowly but steadily building a following since their 2007 debut If Children (re-released by Merge in 2008), and refining their sound with each new release. Last night’s television debut was a great showcase of March’s Civilian, their best album yet, and we expect even better from the band in the future.

Elsewhere on late night…
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Last Lap: Monday’s Odds And Ends In Music News

Patti Smith Weighs In On Song Of The Summer Competition
We heard on Friday that Patti Smith had covered Adele‘s “Rolling in the Deep” at a NYC show on Thursday night, and even dubbed it “Song Of The Summer,” but evidence didn’t surface until Saturday. Hear it below!

Paramore, Foster The People Premiere Videos
Paramore‘s Transformers 3 single “Monster” has a new video, in which the band is trapped in a time loop, accidentally tormenting themselves in an abandoned hospital. You Oughta Know band Foster The People go even more brutal and higher-concept with a video in which the band is tortured by a post-apocalyptic band of pre-teens who, judging frontman Mark Foster fit (as opposed to, say, the guy they run down with a van), transform him into a child by stealing the life of an old man with a bizarro hockey-mask/electricity contraption. ["Monster," "Helena Beat"]
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Five Fast Facts: Pitchfork Festival 2011

Sadly, we weren’t able to make it out to Chicago for this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, but we were closely following along at home?a task made somewhat easier this year with (now-dead) livestreams of some bands’ sets?and we wanted to share the fruits of that labor with you. So here’s what you (and we) missed:

1. SAXOPHONES
By our count, there were three saxophonists onstage at the festival for this Summer of Sax: one as part of Destroyer‘s smooth-rock band, and two playing with Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards. Those looking for a smooth sax solo could find it at Destroyer’s set, but the harmonic and punctuating use of saxophones was a highlight of Thursday’s Tune-Yards performance at Pier 54 in New York City, and judging from this clip of “Do You Want To Live?” Friday’s Pitchfork set was no different.
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by (@unclegrambo)

Song Of The Summer Countdown: Katy Perry And Adele Are Neck And Neck At Summer’s Halfway Point


[Click here for a larger image]

This marks our eighth week of charting this year’s Song Of The Summer contenders, and it’s been quite the race so far. Adele‘s unstoppable behemoth, “Rolling In The Deep,” has been at the top of the charts for five of those weeks, and Katy Perry‘s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” has held the top spot for three of ‘em. However, it’s Perry’s jubilant anthem about the joys of getting blackout drunk that has all of the momentum in its favor after grabbing the top spot in our VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown for the first time this week.

At the moment, everyone who isn’t named either Adele or Katy Perry is currently playing for third place, but that’s a tight race, too. Pitbull and LMFAO each continue to hold strong with their club-friendly megahits, while Lady Gaga‘s “The Edge Of Glory” makes its highest appearance on the charts so far this summer, despite its video being widely panned as being too underwhelming and not up to snuff with the rest of Gaga’s video canon. It’s also worth noting that OneRepublic‘s “Good Life” would also find itself in the running for the top prize, if not for a total lack of traction on YouTube and LastFM.

One last note: Rebecca Black‘s follow-up to “Friday”—a song which might just be the most popular (and hated) song of 2011 so far—is scheduled to be released at 8 p.m. this evening. We should know in less than 24 hours time whether this song has got what it takes to make a late summer run at #1.

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Ja Rule Gets Right With The IRS, To The Tune Of $1.1 Million And 28 Months In Prison

Lil Wayne‘s New York State prison term for gun possession may have come and gone, but Ja Rule‘s?stemming from an arrest made that same night after the same concert?just began last month, and the rapper has taken his moment of public penance to address other misdeeds, including a five-year stretch during which he paid none of the over $1 million in taxes that he owed. Today, just six weeks into his two-year rap for the gun case, Ja Rule was sentenced to 28 months in prison on the tax charges, resulting from a deal in which he pled guilty to charges relating to three of the five years of nonpayment. The sentence will be served concurrently with his current sentence, and is predicated on the payment of all back taxes and penalties.

We can’t imagine that getting one’s finances in order is an easy job when one is facing a gun possession rap (not to mention when one’s past financial mentor was Irv Gotti), but Ja Rule made no excuses. When he spoke to MTV’s RapFix a month before beginning his gun-possession sentence, he expressed only regret concerning his actions, particularly in terms of how their consequences would affect his family.

Rapper Ja Rule sentenced to 28 months in prison on tax charges [CNN]

[Image: Getty Images]

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Q-Tip Brings Kanye, Busta To The Stage At Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival 2011

Brooklyn rap fans were abuzz before Q-Tip‘s headlining set at the 2011 Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival on Saturday. After all, “Q-Tip + Friends” couldn’t just refer to the supporting sets by Random Axe, M.O.P. and others, right? Rumor had it that A Tribe Called Quest would reunite?which makes a sort of sense, since Ali Shaheed Muhammad was also on the bill and Beats, Rhymes, and Life is in theaters. What the crowd wasn’t expecting was that Q-Tip’s “friends” would include Kanye West. After performing “Dark Fantasy” and “All of the Lights,” Kanye backed Q-Tip on ATCQ classic “Award Tour” (something Kanye knows a little bit about). Watch the performance above!

Kanye wasn’t the only high-profile guest during Q-Tip’s set. Black Thought of The Roots performed with Q-Tip on a number of songs. And while Phife Dawg did not appear to complete a Tribe reunion, Busta Rhymes did, to perform his verse on “Scenario.” Watch below:

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