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Raphael Saadiq Kicks Off Top 20 Live With Style (And Funk)

We’ve had such success with You Oughta Know artists coming to VH1 to play great You Oughta Know Live sets?like Two Door Cinema Club‘s semi-acoustic take on four songs, including “What You Know”?that we knew we had to get more established Top 20 Countdown favorites into our offices, too. And who better to inaugurate our new series than the multitalented Raphael Saadiq?

Even short a keyboardist, a guitarist, and one of his vocalists, Saadiq proved a crack bandleader?and not just thanks to his history with Tony! Toni! Ton?! and as a member of Prince‘s touring band. Vocal sideman B.J. Kemp and the other players onstage weren’t merely hired hands but sharp musicians with whom Saadiq has a history, and whose input he sought during recording. It’s easy to forget, especially when the new jack swing epicenter was in the northeast, that Saadiq is Oakland born-and-raised, but the guitarist came up under the bay city’s twin suns: Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power.

That’s why his unique brand of blues doesn’t feel like a history lesson. On “Day Dreams,” guitarist Rob Bacon (whom Saadiq recruited after hearing his effortless replications of sampled riffs for DJ Quik‘s Bay Area hip hop) and bassist Calvin Turner (who’s also got plenty of production and arrangement in his long list of credits, and who also came up on Tower of Power) make the blues form pop with the lightest of touches. (Lemar Carter, drumming on a wooden box, didn’t really have the opportunity to show off his chops, but you can see him get funky on YouTube.)

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Taylor Swift Grows Up In “The Story of Us,” But Boy Trouble Still Follows Her Around

Taylor Swift may have just released a music video two weeks ago on CMT, but while country radio has taken to “Mean,” it’s “The Story of Us” that’s been picking up steam on pop radio. So here we are, with “The Story of Us,” which literally just premiered on MTV. In fact, if you’re reading this in the first half hour it’s been posted, turn on MTV right now to see Sway interview Taylor Swift live on air and ask fan questions that have been submitted since Friday through MTV.com or via Twitter (using @MTVNews and the hashtag #AskTaylor).

But if you missed the special, you can still watch the new video, above. It’s more in the schooltime vein of “You Belong with Me”, though Swift has graduated (geddit?) to some sort of Gothic collegiate campus, though she’s still having boy trouble. Look how sweet she is:

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by (@unclegrambo)

In Honor Of Bob Dylan’s 70th Birthday, A List Of Bob Dylan’s 70 Greatest Songs

Today is the 70th birthday of a true American legend, one Robert Allen Zimmerman. Or, as he’s more widely known, Bob Dylan. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who came in at #5 on our list of 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time, we’ve compiled a list (which, I should add, is the opinion of me and only me!) of Bob Dylan’s 70 Greatest Songs (the format of which, I should also add, was inspired by The Awl’s recurring “Listicles Without Commentary” feature).

So, what makes me equipped to rank the Dylan catalog? Well, I suppose the biggest reason is that I’ve been a fan of his for well over thirty years now. I used to spend a lot of time as a youth listening to Dylan’s Sixties era output with my father, whether it was while we were outside doing yardwork or blasting him on the car stereo while we were on road trips. Although a great deal of the subject matter was way above my head at the time, I remember pouring over his lyrics in an incredibly studious fashion well before I even finished elementary school. And as I grew older and spent more time exploring Dylan’s body of work during my college years (particularly his 1970s output) and beyond, I came to recognize all of the reasons that he’s touted as such a singular talent, one whose proflic output and cultural influence is likely never to be reproduced.

So, I’d love to hear from you guys. Did I get these right? Am I way off-base? Feel free to debate me on my choices in the comments section and I will reveal my justifications there. For now, though, it’s on with the show!

70) “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” (from the 1966 album, Blonde On Blonde)
69) “If Not For You” (from the 1970 album, New Morning)
68) “One Too Many Mornings” (from the 1964 album, The Times They Are A-Changin’)
67) “Highway 61 Revisited” (from the 1965 album, Highway 61 Revisited)
66) “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol” (from the 1964 album, The Times They Are A-Changin’)
65) “Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands” (from the 1966 album, Blonde On Blonde)
64) “Standing In The Doorway” (from the 1997 album, Time Out Of Mind)
63) “Every Grain Of Sand” (from the 1981 album, Shot Of Love)
62) “This Wheel’s On Fire” (from the 1975 album, The Basement Tapes)
61) “Most Of The Time” (from the 1989 album, Oh Mercy)

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Bon Iver Channels Donny Hathaway, Bonnie Raitt on Fallon

Justin Vernon‘s star has steadily risen since the release of his band Bon Iver‘s critically acclaimed 2008′s For Emma, Forever Ago. The follow-up, Bon Iver, Bon Iver, won’t be released until June 21, but the lead single “Calgary” is available for free download from the band’s website, and Vernon appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?but to perform not the single, but its B-side, his emotive take of Bonnie Raitt‘s 1991 mega-hit “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” with a snippet of Leon Russell‘s “A Song for You” (made famous by Donny Hathaway) as a lead-in and a bit of Raitt’s “Nick of Time” as a coda.

Vernon’s sorrowful falsetto impressed not only Fallon (who described For Emma, Forever Ago it in his interview with Vernon as a “fantastic record” to “have a couple glasses of wine, get drunk…and start crying your eyes out”) but also Kanye West, who recruited Vernon to sing the hook of “Lost in the World” on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and invited him to appear onstage with West at Coachella.

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Inside Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside

MTV’s documentary Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside, which premieres Thursday, May 26th at 9pm ET, promises an exploration of how Stefani Germanotta found her way to becoming the Lady Gaga we all know so well. That’s a bit of an overstatement?the documentary is primarily based on a conversation conducted with a horned and felt-birthmarked Gaga in a single spotlight on a stage?but even in this mediated form it’s fairly revealing. A portion of the interview retreads ground covered before, as in Vanessa Grigoriadis‘s March 2010 profile of Gaga for New York, but Gaga does meet the filmmakers somewhere near halfway, plus filling in the blanks of the Gaga narrative, for example explaining that her fascination with wigs and with the permeability of her hair stemmed from her inability to get lead roles in musical theater (specifically, Adelaide in Guys and Dolls) as a brunette.

What comes across most strongly in the documentary is Gaga’s relationship with her father, a strict but supportive man who bequeathed his love of music (in particular, Bruce Springsteen) to his daughter. Gaga frames much of her early years in context of finding her own way outside of her father’s influence (but not too far): she remarks, “I needed to f**k myself up and go to ground for a couple of years” but admits that her father paid half of her rent for three of the twelve months she spent finding herself in a studio on the Lower East Side (a largely solitary experience that may have unconsciously inspired her fascination with incubation).

Another revealing aspect is the way Gaga describes herself and her fans, and their relationship. “I’m a perpetual underdog,” she says, which seems an odd thing to say when one is the most media-saturated pop star on the planet right now. Yet when she speaks of insecurity and being bullied in high school, she almost subconsciously connects this with the struggles she believes her fans might now experience, which draw them to her music. Her 2007 obsession with Rhonda Byrne‘s The Secret (per the New York piece) has evolved into a nonreligious evangelism, in which Gaga has achieved her dreams and she believes her monsters can and will do the same. Certainly this explains why Gaga can be so simultaneously annoying and compelling.

The filmmakers are currently finishing post-production?the rough cut shown today is missing an entire exploration of Gaga’s interaction with, and experience of, New York City?but even in this state it was indeed compelling. Tune into MTV on Thursday night at 9 p.m. to see the complete documentary.

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Was Beyonc?’s Billboard Music Awards Performance Plagiarized?

As Beyonc?‘s show-stopping 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance spread across the internet yesterday, Vulture noticed that an eagle-eyed fan recognized the screen-projection portion of the choreography as strikingly similar to a performance by Italian television personality Lorella Cuccarini at the 2010 Sanremo Festival. This enterprising viewer placed the performances side by side in one video, for comparison’s sake (viewable above). But upon watching the Cuccarini performance alone, the suggestion of plagiarism gets a lot more complicated:

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Storytellers Sneak Peek: Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie‘s new album Codes and Keys will be released a week from tomorrow, but you can hear the band perform three tracks from the album on VH1′s Storytellers: Death Cab for Cutie, this Friday night at 11 p.m. ET/PT. We’ve shared this performance of the album’s lead single with our friends at Rolling Stone (and, of course, with you). Tune into VH1 on Friday night to hear the band open up about Codes and Keys‘s title track and album closer “Stay Young, Go Dancing,” as well as tracks from four previous albums, reaching back to their 1998 debut Something About Airplanes. Read more…

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Top 20 Sneak Peek: Jason Derulo, “Don’t Wanna Go Home”

Jason Derulo‘s “Don’t Wanna Go Home” premieres online on Wednesday in advance of its appearance on VH1′s Top 20 Countdown Saturday at 9 a.m. ET/PT, but we (and our MTV siblings) have an exclusive thirty-second sneak peek, which you can see above!

“Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the lead single off Derulo’s forthcoming Future History, samples the 2009 remix of Robin S.‘s early-nineties house classic “Show Me Love,” while lyrically riffing on Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”?namely “daylight comes, and we don’t wanna go home.” Written out, it sounds like an unworkable combination, but Derulo pulls it off! I mean, he is the the guy who wrote a hit single around the “Dear Sister” break, so it shouldn’t really be surprising.

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Gaga Assists the SNL Motherlovers on “3-Way (The Golden Rule)”

With Lonely Island featured player Justin Timberlake hosting the season finale of Saturday Night Live, it’s no surprise that he and Andy Samberg reprised their roles as the “D**k in a Box” duo (the pair who may as well be called “Color Me Really Really Bad, Like, Awful”). But their riff on the “Same Girl” gets a Shyamalanian twist: the “girl” is played by none other than musical guest Lady Gaga, and she suggests the titular “3-way”: Read more…