James Blunt Covers Katy Perry For Billboard

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Everyone else in the United States may have taken the day off yesterday, but Billboard‘s “Mashup Mondays” was in session?possibly because yesterday’s contributor, James Blunt, isn’t an American. Blunt and band leapt at the opportunity for contrast, covering Katy Perry‘s “California Gurls.” We’re not sure to what extent the scaled-back, near-acoustic rendition of last year’s Song Of The Summer is a gag; there’s a wink in every grin he gives the camera, though half the time it’s on lines like “they’ll melt your popsicle,” but the rendition isn’t sloppy.

Blunt jokes characteristically in the interview segment after the song. He explains his song selection by noting, “I sing like a girl myself, so why not?” and comments, on Perry, “I suppose I’ve always admired her, ’cause she’s just got great hands”:

We see what you did there.

We only wish Billboard had gotten footage of Blunt “trying the Snoop Dogg rap,” about which Blunt only says “It’s not on the track — particularly with an English accent it doesn’t really work.”

Beyonc? Introduces Macy’s 4th Of July Fireworks With “Best Thing I Never Had,” “God Bless The U.S.A.”

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When the producers of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks special contacted Beyonc? about introducing their display of forty thousand fireworks over the Hudson River with a musical performance, it must have seemed like the most obvious phone call. Thanks to a combination of factors, not least her relative resistance to the return of European dance sounds in pop, her promise to campaign for Barack Obama in 2012 (as she did in 2008), and her “Move Your Body” video for Michelle Obama‘s “Let’s Move” campaign, unpacked by Mike Barthel at Sound of the City, B has come to represent a certain facet of “America.” No other artist could as effectively have honored the 125th anniversary of the gift of the Statue of Liberty by performing at its base.

Plus she’s promoting her new album 4! So everybody wins. Above, watch her performance, to a crowd of adoring fans, of her single “Best Thing I Never Had,” for which a video will be premiering imminently.

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Is Lexi St. George The New Rebecca Black?

by (@unclegrambo)

If Ark Music Factory CEO Patrice Wilson has anything to say about, she will be! The man who turned Rebecca Black into an overnight sensation back in March has a new prot?g? named Lexi St. George, who was introduced to American audiences yesterday during a Good Morning America segment called “Instant Pop Star” (a name that, at least to us, doesn’t seem to place any sort of value in oldster values like “artistic integrity” or “career longevity”). The 14-year-old debuted her (unnecessarily parenthetical-laden) first single, “Dancing To The Rhythm (With Me),” on the show and, if you’ll allow us to damn it with faint praise, it sounds like just about everything else on Top 40 radio these days. Which is to say, it’s sung by someone with an appealing yet thin affect –think Katy Perry, think J. Lo– and, of course, its bridges and choruses are punctuated by sweeping, lite trance rhythms. It’s catchy, yet disposable, which sort of makes it a perfect pop song to play for your cadre of bleeding edge, irony-appreciating friends at a barbeque this weekend.

Lexi St. George reminds us a lot of Hermione Granger, if Ron Weasley‘s best babe decided to forego a career pursuing Defence Against Dark Arts and instead went the pop star route. She’s got clean-cut Everygirl good looks, and her dance floor skills would blend in perfectly at a junior high mixer. Most importantly, though, she looks like she’s having “fun fun fun fun” with her group of (hilariously) multicultural friends¹ in her video. Speaking of Rebecca Black, it’s too early to say whether or not Lexi St. George will experience the same rocket ride into the spotlight that Black enjoyed, but no matter what happens to her, you can bet that she’ll be the star of her school’s Homecoming dance come this Fall.

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Hip-Hop For Your Holiday Weekend

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We were pretty disappointed to report that Watch the Throne won’t be released on Monday, so we thought, since you might feel the same way, we’d offer a few listening alternatives:

“I Hate Myself” by Lil B

The false rumors had it that Watch the Throne would have a surprise digital release, which actually isn’t a bad strategy, as far as avoiding leaks is concerned. In fact, Lil B did exactly that two days ago; his new album I’m Gay showed up for sale on iTunes late Wednesday night. “I Hate Myself,” the album’s eighth track, samples a monster hit from a 1998 soundtrack. See if you can guess it without clicking. (Hint: the song holds the record for most weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart.)

For more thoughts on Lil B, click over to The Awl, where Dave Bry used “three makes a trendpiece” logic to talk about how young rappers like Lil B, Tyler the Creator, and Drake are referencing Marvin Gaye in order to permit themselves to talk about their feelings (while punning on the Motown legend’s last name). Or check the rave review penned by Lupe Fiasco, whose video for “Out of My Head,” featuring Trey Songz, premiered yesterday on MTV.

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Shearer’s Spotlight: Fireworks, Barbeques And The Fourth Of July

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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. This feature will include three things —sometimes related, sometimes not!— that Jim is obsessing over this week. Be sure to tune into the Top 20 countdown when it airs on VH1 at 9 a.m. ET/PT tomorrow morning, coming at you from the lovely environs of Long Branch, New Jersey.

For years I?ve been compiling Fourth of July mixtapes and playlists. Sometimes I keep them thematic, and sometimes it?s just about choosing tracks that will keep the backyard barbeque rockin?.

Anthems like Katy Perry?s “Firework,” Bruce Springsteen?s “Born In The U.S.A.,” or George Michael?s “Freedom! ’90″ are obvious boom-box picks, but if you want to get downright specific, here are my three favorite Fourth of July songs that actually mention the holiday by name:

?Good? by Better Than Ezra
Depending on how you listen to this classic ?90s modern rock ditty, you could either take it as joyous song of freedom, or a sad breakup tune. Either way, Better Than Ezra?s Kevin Griffin points out that the only time he?ll possibly call or write his ex is on?you got it?the Fourth of July.

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

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RIHANNA’S “MAN DOWN” VIDEO COST AN ESTIMATED $78,000 TO PRODUCE AND $1 MILLION TO PROMOTE
And that’s pretty much par for the course for a major-label pop single. NPR‘s Planet Money team investigated the economics of today’s pop market in a story for All Things Considered today, using “Man Down” as their example. The $78,000 breaks down in a pretty straightforward manner. The $1 million is a little fuzzier, possibly due to anecdotes like this one: “Paul Porter, who co-founded the media watchdog group Industry Ears, says…shortly after he started working as a programmer for BET about 10 years ago, he received $40,000.00 in hundred-dollar bills in a Fed-Ex envelope.” [Planet Money/NPR]

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Exclusive: Kanye West And Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne Will NOT Be Released On July 4

by (@unclegrambo)

Contrary to reports earlier today that speculated that Watch The Throne, Kanye West and Jay-Z‘s highly anticipated new collaborative album, would be released on July 4, VH1 can exclusively confirm that the record will NOT be dropping on our nation’s birthday. We spoke to sources close to Jay-Z‘s management team earlier today who have direct knowledge of the album’s release plans, and they confirmed that the rumored July 4th release date is “not happening.” Sorry to ruin your holiday, folks!

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

Stereogum Readers Name Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” As The “Indie Song Of The Summer”

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We’ve speculated at length (and crunched not a few stats) to help determine what is 2011′s Song Of The Summer. Stereogum has also been wondering about this subject, so the “indie rock blog” polled its readership, and the results are in: the Stereogum Indie Song of the Summer is “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, who, you’ll remember, is our latest You Oughta Know artist. Watch the video for “Pumped Up Kicks” above, or check out their stripped-down, You Oughta Know Live version.

And The Indie Song Of Summer 2011 Is? [Stereogum]

Charlie Sheen, Juggalo? The Warlock Wild Child Signs On To Appear At This Year’s Gathering Of The Juggalos

by (@unclegrambo)

The annual Gathering of the Juggalos is set to go down from August 11-14 in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, as we learned earlier this month when a 27-minute long informercial (!!!) was posted to YouTube by the Insane Clown Posse. It stands in stark contrast to some of the more mainstream music festivals (like, say, Coachella or Bonnaroo) in both its refusal to embrace corporate advertising dollars and the way it caters almost exclusively to the fringe culture of Juggalos, a mini-society of cultural outliers who share a common love of horrorcore music, face paint, and recreational drugs.

The Juggalos are a tight-knit group who don’t always warm to people they view as inauthentic; at last year’s festival, both Tila Tequila and Method Man were attacked by Juggalos during their performances by inebriated fans. That’s not to say that everyone who performs at the Gathering of the Juggalos gets pelted with urine, though: For example, Tom Green and Gallagher were both treated like royalty!

All of which is a lengthy lead-up to the following news. Adam Graham of the Detroit News reports that Charlie Sheen has signed a contract to appear at this year’s Gathering of the Juggalos. That’s right, the #WINNING warlock (who hasn’t really been #WINNING too much of late) will be the “guest host” for one of the nights of the festival. When asked if Sheen would be embraced by the community of Juggalos, Violent J replied, “To the best of my knowledge, when somebody’s being picked on, when somebody’s being (messed) with, when somebody’s got mainstream America pointing their finger at them, that’s when they do best in the Juggalo world. When they’re an underdog, so to speak, that’s when they shine.”

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Ice Cube Talks Early Rap Fandom On Behind The Music

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Some hip-hop heads like to talk about the “four pillars” of hip hop, as defined by Afrika Bambaataa: rapping, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti painting, as an all-encompassing view of hip-hop as a culture (and sometimes, a nostalgic lament for what’s been lost). But for a kid nearly three thousand miles away from hip-hop’s South Bronx birthplace, like, say, Ice Cube in South Central Los Angeles, the pillars were signifiers for those seeking information about the nascent musical style. In this exclusive sneak peek of Behind the Music: Ice Cube, which premieres Wednesday, July 6 at 10PM ET/PT, Ice Cube talks about being a curious kid in those days, after first hearing “Rapper’s Delight” and becoming obsessed with rap: “I used to be in the TV Guide, looking for anything that had anything to do with graffiti, breakdancing, rapping, scratching.”

Ice Cube also talks about working on Eazy-E‘s Eazy-Duz-It and feeling the anticipation building for N.W.A.‘s debut LP Straight Outta Compton:
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