Amy Winehouse Dead At 27

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“Rehab” singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment today. The cause has not yet been determined. For those who have followed her longstanding battle with depression, eating disorders and substance abuse (a constant source of fodder for tabloids), this sad news may not come as a huge surprise. In August of 2007, Amy came close to death after overdosing on a cocktail of heroin, ecstasy and cocaine – and later that year was found wondering barefoot outside in nothing but a bra and jeans. These incidents were preceded by Amy’s marriage in May of 2007 to Blake Fielder-Civil, who was quoted by a British tabloid as saying he introduced Amy to heroin and crack cocaine. Earlier that same year, Amy performed for VH1 Unplugged. Blake and Amy divorced in 2009.

The singer dominated the 2008 Grammys with five awards for Back to Black, her sophomore album, winning in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Known for her singular voice and unorthodox retro look (tattoos, extreme cat-eye makeup and beehive hairdo), Amy is said to have paved the way for artists who wouldn’t previously have fit into the mainstream. Lady Gaga, for one, famously told AOL: “Because of Amy, very strange girls like me go to prom with very good-looking guys. She’s a different kind of woman. I don’t believe that what I do is very digestible, and somehow Amy was the flu for pop music.” Regardless of whether this is true, Winehouse certainly seemed to pave the way for fellow British songbirds Adele and Duffy, both of whom share Amy’s ’60s soul vibe.

In June, YouTube videos surfaced of an intoxicated and discombobulated-looking Winehouse forgetting her own lyrics and getting booed off stage in the first stop of a European tour, which subsequently had to be canceled. Amy was reportedly working on a third album. She joins a long list of musicians who have died at 27. A phenomenon known as The 27 Club, Brian Jones, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain are among those who died at the same age. Let her legend begin.

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Shearer’s Spotlight: Early Favorites For The 2011 Video Music Awards

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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.

The nominations for the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards were announced this week, and here are three categories that I?ll be paying particularly close attention to:

1.) VIDEO OF THE YEAR
?Rolling In The Deep,? Adele
?Yonkers,? Tyler The Creator
?Firework,? Katy Perry
?Grenade,? Bruno Mars
?Make Some Noise,? Beastie Boys

If you?re going to hand out an award based purely on song alone, than Adele?s ?Rolling In The Deep? will have no problem winning. Video-wise, ?Make Some Noise? seems to be the most eye-catching clip of the bunch. I?m not thrilled with the other three nominees: the poignancy of Katy Perry?s ?Firework? evaporates once sparklers start exploding from her bosoms; Tyler The Creator?s ?Yonkers? video is Nine Inch Nails-lite, and Bruno Mars? ?Grenade? lacks the bigness to be distinguished as Video of the Year (although I do give him props for dragging that piano all around town).

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Tearin’ Up My Heart: The Top Five Emotive Music Video Performances

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Demi Lovato unleashes the waterworks in the video for her new single “Skyscraper” (which just debuted at #10 in the Billboard Hot 100)?a rare appearance of tears in a video that is about overcoming a struggle. (More often, the performer in such a song is the supportive voice for a crying actor, as Pink does for Tina Majorino‘s character in the video for “F?king Perfect.”) Of course, despite plenty of crossover into film and television by musical artists, singers are not usually the most emotive actors in their videos. Here are five notable exceptions:


5. Demi Lovato “Don’t Forget”
“Skyscraper” is the big single today, but in the video for her 2009 single “Don’t Forget,” co-written by the Jonas Brothers, Lovato gets out of the rain, only to shed a tear over the lost love she sings about.

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

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New Feist Album Coming Soon…We Think
You Oughta Know alum Feist has launched the first in what appears to be a series of teaser videos for her upcoming album. The audio is extremely compressed, but we’re still curious. [listentofeist.com, via Pitchfork]

Part 1 Of Eli Porter Documentary The People’s Champion Premieres
Remember “Iron Mic: Eli Porter vs. Envy”? The high-school freestyle-battle clip went viral in 2008 and became so well-known that Kanye mentioned it in his “H.A.M.” verse (“like Eli, I did it”)?but no one really knew much about where the clip came from…until now. This 33-minute segment explains the production of the iconic rap-battle video in thrilling detail (although the line-by-line exegesis of Porter’s rap drags a bit). [Vimeo]

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Bruno Mars And Phil Lawrence Shill For PopChips, Adorably, With “Love Gone Sour”

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Bruno Mars and songwriting collaborator Phil Lawrence sing a slow jam for Sour Cream & Onion PopChips in an ad either shot backstage at a venue, or designed to look like it was. The uploaders missed the first lesson of viral advertising: don’t let viewers know it’s an ad (the handle “popchipsfans” is kind of a dead giveaway)?but we’re big enough Weird Al fans that we’ll watch pretty much any joke video about food, even if its chorus happens to be “Sour cream & onion, I love the way you taste/ Sour cream & onion, I want you all over my face.” If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “What if Boyz II Men were singing about making love to snack food?”, then this clip is definitely for you.

Bruno Mars Serenades His ‘Greatest Love’: Watch [Billboard]

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Playful Rihanna Is Not Above Groping (Or Getting Groped By) Her Fans [PHOTOS]

by (@unclegrambo)

As we witnessed earlier today when they took to Twitter to complain about the VMA nominations, Rihanna has a very strong and incredibly vocal group of fans. How does one cultivate such a fan base, exactly? Of course, there’s no exact formula, but one such way is by hitting the road and playing live for the people that love you most. And on her Get Loud tour this summer, Rihanna has stepped her game up a notch.

Not only is she bringing the goods when it comes to her live performances, but she’s got her social media game on point. Witness Rihanna’s Facebook page, where she has posted close to 1,300 pictures (!) she’s taken with fans during Loud meet and greets. Unlike a lot of other superstars who begrudgingly perform these duties with a frown on their face, RiRi clearly seems to be having fun interacting with her friends, grabbing body parts and, shockingly, letting her own body parts be grabbed. Check out our gallery of a dozen Rihanna fans who will never forget the night that they got groped by (or copped a feel of) Rihanna!

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No Doubt Bring Major Lazer To Jamaica Studio For Final Stages Of Recording New Album

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No Doubt are way past ready to finish their new album. After writing songs and recording demos on and off for nearly three years, the band committed in earnest to getting everything on tape in 2011. As of last month the band had completed a number of songs and was previewing a couple for Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. Since then, they’ve all holed up in a studio in Jamaica, including multi-instrumentalist and touring member Gabriel McNair (far left in the above picture), for what they hope will be the home stretch of recording.

Last night they shared the above photo on Twitter, revealing that in addition to the production of Mark “Spike” Stent, they’ve recruited production team (and artists in their own right) Major Lazer, also known as Diplo (center, in plaid) and Switch (second from right, with the Fred Perry polo). As Major Lazer, they’ve produced for Beyonc? (“Run the World (Girls)”) among others, and they have plenty of other credits to their names individually. Who knows what sound the duo will be bringing to the table with No Doubt? One thing’s for sure: they will probably try to record more dancehall MCs for Major Lazer’s sophomore effort, since they’re already in Jamaica?on someone else’s dime, no less. We are very excited to hear No Doubt’s new album, which will, with any luck, come out later this year.

Major Lazer in the Studio With No Doubt [Pitchfork]

Is “Frat Rap” The Next Big Trend In Hip Hop?

by (@Lacezilla)

From L to R: Rich Hil, Asher Roth and Chet Haze
In the nineties, you could count the number of commercial white rappers on one hand. Beastie Boys. Vanilla Ice. Marky Mark (and the Funky Bunch). Maybe Everlast and even 3rd Bass count too, although their “household name” reach wasn’t nearly as long. As a result, an entire generation of hip-hop fans grew up listening to a genre that was based in a primarily Urban setting, rarely poking its nichey head above ground into the pop arena. That didn’t stop the audience’s obsession with hip-hop though, and regardless of content relatability, the music managed to draw a crop of loyal, melanin-lacking disciples.

Putting his unquestionable talent aside, it’s not a huge surprise that Eminem’s Slim Shady LP was so well-received when Interscope helped him to first put take his underground music into the mainstream back in 1999. Paving the way for the constant flow of new, up-and-coming white rappers who idolized him back then, Eminem came to market with a blunt, true-to-self, lower socio-economic class character that was refreshing and different from the previous attempts of white rappers past. Looking the accidental mockery in the face, who can forget The White Rapper Show, for example? Whether you hated it or loved it, it was a trainwreck that you couldn’t resist watching, if only to laugh at the contestants’ hilarious missteps.

On Monday, it was announced that white rapper Rich Hil, son of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, was signed to Warner Brothers Records. This news not only continues to feed the growing trend of white rapper signings, but also the perpetuates the sub-genre craze that is now commonly referred to as “Frat Rap.” Focusing less on conveying social commentary or more personal issues, Frat Rap flaunts a party lifestyle, celebrating the cliche reckless behavior associated with college fraternities, like getting hammered, bagging girls, and partaking in experimental gateway drugs. Executing lyricism and celebrating the Bronx-born culture aren’t really a priority.

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Britney, Rihanna, Gaga Fans Protest VMA Nominations On Twitter, Wikipedia

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The 2011 VMA Nominations, revealed late last night, contained not a few surprises for pop music fans, many of whom flocked to Twitter (where #vmanominationfailure is still trending) or Wikipedia (where the 2011 VMAs entry is locked after hours of vandalism).

The loudest fanbase is that of Lady Gaga, who received three nominations (one for “Born This Way” and two for “Judas,” which the Little Monsters apparently prefer)?a pittance to these fans, especially in contrast to Katy Perry‘s nine and Adele‘s seven. The latter was more galling to the pop monsters, who after only a bit of Katy Perry slut-shaming moved on to “Adele is fat” jokes (or, more generously, “‘Rolling In The Deep’ is great but the video is boring” complaints). Britney Spears‘s and Rihanna‘s fans are also quite vocal about the two and zero nominations the artists got, respectively. (Rihanna is a featured artist on Eminem‘s three-times nominated?though not for Best Collaboration?”Love the Way You Lie” and Kanye West‘s four-times nominated “All of the Lights” but has no nominations for her own videos.)

Other much-observed snubs include Ke$ha (no nominations despite the eligibility of both “We R Who We R” and “Blow”), J. Cole for Best New Artist (with fans particularly surprised that Kreayshawn and Tyler, The Creator got nominated) and Jennifer Lopez‘s “On The Floor,” which, as our Song Of The Summer metrics have documented, has performed much better on YouTube than anywhere else.

Demi Lovato: “It’s Unfortunate That Pop Songs Have Become So Much About Partying And Clubs”

by (@unclegrambo)

In November of 2010, Demi Lovato made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. After a violent altercation with one of her backup dancers while she was on tour with the Jonas Brothers, the Disney starlet checked herself into rehab to deal with “emotional and physical issues.” After spending a few months in treatment, she emerged in January of this year and proceeded to keep a fairly low profile. That is, until last week, when she released her brand new song, “Skyscraper,” which has jump-started her comeback.

The soaring ballad about standing strong in the face of emotional turmoil quickly shot to the top of the iTunes charts, making it the biggest hit of Demi Lovato‘s young career. Fans instantly connected to the powerful track and homemade covers of the song began flooding YouTube. We spoke to Demi late on Tuesday night about the creative evolution of “Skyscraper,” shooting the tear-strewn video with director Mark Pellington, and her dismay with the ubiquity of alcohol references currently in the Billboard Top Ten.

VH1: What can you tell us about the time when the song sort of first made its way to you, and what was it that originally drew you to the song ?Skyscraper??

Demi Lovato: I recorded it a year ago, and when I first heard it I was blown away. I was emotionally attached to the song and I really related to it, like a lot of other people. Like a lot of my fans. I think that?s kind of the beauty of the song, that it’s really relatable, but for me when I first recorded it, it was kind of a cry for help. It was before I went to treatment, before everything had kind of hit the fan. I went to treatment and I came out, then I tried to rerecord “Skyscraper” because my voice had changed and it just wasn?t the same. There was something in that first try, that first run through of the song that was kind of magical. It was so much emotion in it, and to this day, it?s still really special to me. I?ve never been so vulnerable or emotional while recording a song, to the point where I was almost doubled over in tears in the studio. I was crying when I recorded it, I was bawling my eyes out. I don?t know, it just felt really great to open up like that.

I know that you co-wrote the song with Toby Gad, whom you had collaborated with before on your previous records. Can you tell me a little about some of the lyrical contributions that you made to this particular song?

Actually, all I did was perform it. I sang it and poured my heart out into it. Working with Toby was amazing; he wrote the song with a artist named Kerli and she too is just an incredible vocalist, they did an amazing job and I just had the amazing opportunity to record it.

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