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Shearer’s Spotlight: It’s A Glass Half Empty Kind Of Week

Each Friday here on the VH1 Blog, our VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer?s Spotlight with us. Be sure to tune into the Top 20 countdown tomorrow morning when it airs on VH1 at 9 a.m. ET/PT.

This week my glass is half empty. Here are three great things that kind of bum me out:

1) Krist Novoselic Performing Nevermind From Beginning to End

To pay homage to the 20th Anniversary of Nirvana?s Nevermind, founding member Krist Novoselic will be joining a collection of Seattle bands, in Seattle (Sept. 20), to play the stone classic in its entirety.

Why I?m Bummed: I won?t be there, and since the Foo Fighters will be playing in Cleveland that night, Dave Grohl won?t be there either. It also would have been cool if Kurt Cobain were around to perform these generation-forging tunes.

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by (@unclegrambo)

Demi Lovato’s Emotional “Skyscraper” Brings The Do Something! Awards Crowd To Its Feet [VIDEO]

You just watched Demi Lovato bring the house down with her soaring rendition of “Skyscraper” at the 2011 Do Something! Awards. We don’t have much more to say about it at the moment, mainly because we’re still wiping the tears out of our eyes. We’ll try to regain our composure by the morning, but for now, we’d just like to share this video of the pinnacle of tonight’s show with you so you can watch it over, and over, and over again.

RELATED: Check out our exclusive interview with Demi from late last month, where she opened up to us about about the creative evolution of ?Skyscraper,? shooting her own tear-strewn video with director Mark Pellington, and her dismay with the ubiquity of alcohol references currently in the Billboard Top Ten:
Demi Lovato: ?It?s Unfortunate That Pop Songs Have Become So Much About Partying And Clubs? (Exclusive Interview) [VH1 Blog]

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

Beck And Stephen Malkmus Riff In The Paper Of Record
In a Sunday New York Times feature posted today, Beck and Stephen Malkmus (formerly of Pavement) talk to Dave Itzkoff about the forthcoming Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks record Mirror Traffic, which Beck produced. [NY Times]

One Third Of Nirvana To Participate In Nevermind Anniversary Tribute Concert
Krist Novoselic is the latest performer added to the bill of a Nirvana tribute concert to be held on Nevermind‘s 20th anniversary at the Experience Music Project. He’ll be playing bass with the Presidents of the United States of America on one of the songs. [107.7 The End via Pitchfork]
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Belgium’s Pukkelpop Festival Postponed Indefinitely After Severe Storm Leads To Three Deaths

Three people have been confirmed dead and over seventy injured after a severe storm hit the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium, toppling trees and causing at least one of the stages to collapse. The Associated Press reports that many of the approximately 60,000 attendees fled the open-air festival in the face of high winds and hailstones approaching half an inch in diameter and high winds. Today was the first of the planned three-day festival (featuring Foo Fighters, 30 Seconds to Mars, Eminem, and others), which has been put on hold until further notice.

This news comes just five days after a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair, killing five and injuring forty prior to a Sugarland concert. Today’s storm was by all accounts a more serious one than those that have caused collapses in Indiana, Ottawa, and Tulsa, but may point to the same concerns about outdoor stage safety that have been raised in the last few days.

Our thoughts go out to the families of those who were killed.

Stage Collapses at Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium, At Least Three Dead, Scores Injured (Update) [Billboard]

[Photo: ABC News]

by (@Lacezilla)

Readying His Nearly-Finished Album, J. Cole Waits Patiently For A Verse From “Coach Figure” Jay-Z

The Force is strong with J. Cole. I first witnessed this during a performance in a small auditorium at New York University?s Kimmel Center in August of ?09, when tangible sincerity radiated off of Jay-Z?s first Roc Nation signee and alleged prot?g?. I?d become familiar with his mixtapes prior to the show and, like the NYU students, curious industry onlookers, and countless others who weren?t present, had started to believe in the young Jedi?s potential to herd hip-hop into the next golden era.

Fast forward to last night at Roc The Mic Studios in Manhattan where a tiny group of music writers gathered in the very same room where Cole recorded his ?A Star Is Born? verse for Hov’s Blueprint 3, where Beyoncé and her husband (no pressure!) stood by watching. It was the second of two intimate listening sessions for the North Carolina-bred rapper/producer?s first full-length album, Cole World: The Sideline Story, and (Jermaine) Cole was present to walk us through the sixteen tracks and single skit on his highly-anticipated September 27th release. Less nervous than he was for the first group of critics because the ice had now been broken, he made the disclaimer that he wouldn?t play songs we?d already heard (including Drake-featured ?In The Morning,? the album’s first single ?Workout,? or the song that got him signed, ?Lights Please?), but we?d get to hear everything else. While song titles and the track order may still change before Cole turns-in the final product, Jay-Z has already dubbed Cole World a ?classic.?

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by (@unclegrambo)

Who Is The Strongest Of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” Competition?

The down home diva Kelly Clarkson announced a release date (October 25) and a title (Stronger) for her fifth LP yesterday. Clarkson’s fans have been foaming at the mouth for months wondering when this album would officially come out, especially since a few songs (including “Dark Side” and “Let Me Down”) leaked last month and were well-received by her acolytes.

That said, when we first heard that she’d be titling her record Stronger, we couldn’t help but feel like, well, it had been done before. After all, it was only March of this year when country artist Sara Evans released an album bearing the same name. A little bit more research revealed that a handful of other well-known musicians have recorded tracks called “Stronger” in recent years, artists running the gamut from Kanye West to Britney Spears to Mary J. Blige to Faith Hill (the latter two of whom are, like Clarkson, former VH1 Divas). While it is still unclear if Clarkson’s new LP will have a title track of the same name, here’s a look at Kelly’s competition for becoming the strongest of the “Stronger” pack.

Artist: Mary J. Blige, “Stronger” (Listen to the song)
Album: More Than A Game (2009)
Refrain: “I’m stronger, stronger, stronger / I’m stronger, stronger, stronger”
Analysis: This song has very impressive DNA; it was written by Esther Dean, produced by Polow da Don, and sung by one of the best singers in the biz. However, it suffers retroactively because it’s so closely tied to the disappointing career arc of Miami Heat supervillain/choke artist LeBron James. The song first appeared on the soundtrack to the documentary about James’ high school years, More Than A Game, and feels overwhelmingly melodramatic and stripped of its potential anthemic power because of that association.
Rating:

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American Idol Producer Responds To Adam Levine’s Idol Closet Claim

Earlier this week Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine (of late a judge on NBC’s The Voice) went off on American Idol for not allowing contestants to be openly gay on the show. It didn’t take long for someone at Idol?producer Nigel Lythgoe, talking to Entertainment Weekly about the Emmys?to fire back. “There?s no reason that I would see why anybody that goes on television should start coming out with who they are, what they are, what their sexuality is, who they’re going to vote for or what their religion is,” the producer told James Hibberd when asked about Levine’s comments.

Lythgoe’s plea for privacy rings true, but it doesn’t address the particulars of the situation. Specifically, his claim, “If somebody wants to say they’re gay, it’s up to them” contradicts what Idol contestant Adam Lambert has said. In his episode of Behind The Music, Lambert recalls reading Mark Harris‘s cover story (coincidentally, for Entertainment Weekly) and wondering in regards to its speculation on his sexuality, “Why does it matter? But I guess it does.” (In this he agrees with Lythgoe.) But he goes on to claim that he was contractually unable to respond except on Idol or in an Idol-sanctioned group interview. So to an extend it wasn’t really “up to him.” We hardly expect Lythgoe to respond to a question he was not asked, but his remarks nevertheless fail to adequately defend the show from Levine’s criticisms.

Idol Producer Talks Emmy Odds, X-Factor, Openly Gay Contestants [EW Inside TV]

[Image: Getty Images]

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MTV Premieres “Stripped Down” Lady Gaga VMA Promos

The high-concept promo for the 2011 Video Music Awards’ Britney Spears tribute (which may be teasing a performance by Janet Jackson) has company: a titillating series of promos for Lady Gaga‘s upcoming VMA performance (just announced yesterday). The black-and-white spots are a striking contrast against both the clue-filled symbology of the Britney promo and the captivating grotesquerie of Lady Gaga’s videos (most recently “Yoü And I”)?that is, unless it’s a hint itself, at the Amy Winehouse tribute that is said to be in the works.

In one of the spots, Gaga removes her bra on-camera as she recasts “Yoü And I” in a lounge-jazz mold, not unlike the Sinatra-fied renditions of Pearl Jam‘s “Jeremy” and Cypress Hill‘s “Insane In The Brain” that Toby Huss (“Artie, The Strongest Man In The World” on The Adventures Of Pete And Pete) turned out for 1994′s “MTV Keeps You Plugged In” ad campaign (not to mention his medley, in the same style, of the Best Song From A Movie nominees, at the 1994 VMAs).
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Do Something Award Nominee Linkin Park Still Raising Money For Japan?With An Exclusive Show

Linkin Park scored a nomination for a 2011 Do Something Award thanks to the work the band has done in connection with its charity Music for Relief, which is currently supporting tsunami relief work in Japan. (Tune in to VH1 tonight at 9 p.m. ET to see if they won!) Want proof that the band doesn’t do this for the accolades? Look no further than the exclusive and intimate live show the band has planned for August 31 in Los Angeles. There’s only one way to score a pair of tickets: Raise at least $500 for tsunami relief.

In a clever turnaround of the Kickstarter-style “rewards for pledges,” which was inspired by non-profits’ fundraising techniques, the band booked a secret location (later revealed to be the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles) and have employed an online fundraising engine through which over 5,000 fans have raised nearly $275,000 so far in a competition for just over 1,000 tickets. Six days (and limited tickets) remain in the fundraising challenge, but it’s certainly still worth giving a shot if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area. If not, find a fan who’s near the goal and help her or him score tickets. All proceeds go to tsunami relief (Music for Relief’s partner organizations are listed on its website.)

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Number-Crunching The Throne: Jay-Z And Kanye West Hit #1, But Was Moving 436K Good Enough?

The big chart story this week is Katy Perry‘s record-tying fifth #1 single from Teenage Dream on the Billboard Hot 100. Below the fold, though, everyone’s talking about the #1 debut of Watch The Throne. Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s collaborative album sold 436,000 copies in its first week?the second-best single-week total of the year after the monster 1.1 million first-week Lady Gaga achieved in May (with help from Amazon) for Born This Way, but far short of the 600,000 some industry insiders had predicted.

The album’s release was unique in two key ways: its successful protection from leaks and its oddly-timed and digital-first release schedule (a Monday iTunes exclusive followed by a Friday physical release, instead of a simultaneous Tuesday release). Just as industry watched Amazon’s 99¢ Born This Way sale to determine strategies for other future releases, they watched The Throne to see how the duo’s unique strategies might affect sales.

So is 436,000 bad news? Not really. In the first place, those are still “big-boy numbers,” as Respect editor-in-chief Elliott Wilson put it to MTV News (besides which, the album’s promotion was primarily aimed at critical, not commercial, success).

More notably, that number fits neatly into the initial projections for Watch The Throne, which were shifted upwards based on the album’s first-day sales on iTunes?which turned out to be a mistake. The album may have set a new one-week iTunes sales record, but within a day of its release it had fallen to #9 on the live-updating iTunes album sales charts (and currently is languishing at #70).

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