He wasn’t pulling double duty like Bruno Mars did back in October–or like Justin Bieber will do in just two week’s time–but there was still plenty of opportunity for Adam Levine to show off what his day job is like during his first Saturday Night Live hosting gig. He’s been stretching his acting muscles in recent months, but Levine stuck to his musical roots just enough to bust out a catchy hook and taking part in the formation of a brand-new beef, the latter taking place when Pat Monahan of Train (Taran Killam) steps to his own Maroon 5. Employing one of our necessary rules for successful hosting, Levine was not above mocking his own group, and the bands squared off in a battle of harmless guitar riffs and lady-killing stares while the likes of Jason Mraz (Jason Sudeikis) and John Mayer (Bill Hader) looked on.
But the night was not complete without the return of the digital short and the Lonely Island, whom we miss now more than ever. Levine joined Andy Samberg (welcome back!), Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer to hold court along the famous Grease raceway, reminding us that yes, we only live once, and we probably shouldn’t take that for granted with stupid stunts that will make us momentarily Internet-famous.
The year is running down, and like everyone else, we are bundling up our most memorable musical moments from the year into a slew of Best Of’s. Before we get to the more obvious lists — the best albums, the best songs — we thought we would have a little fun. First up: 9 delightful collaborations, made all the more so for their unexpectedness. We aren’t talking Watch The Throne-style of-course-they-would team-ups, we’re talking collaborations that we couldn’t in our wildest dreams have imagined or that we thought we would never see, like — well, these nine:
Barton Hollow is totally “an indie record much cooler than mine,” but more careful observer might have predicted this unlikely but delightful collaboration, as Swift began yammering about her fellow Nashville transplants The Civil Wars on twitter long before this was even a possibility. We, however, were left breathless upon learning that one of the day’s biggest pop stars had teamed-up with one of our favorite You Oughta Know acts — and for a song for such a pivotal moment in the Hunger Games movie, no less! Joy Williams harmonizing turns Taylor’s girlish coo haunting, and John Paul White‘s patient guitar plucking gets the whole thing swirling. See also: “The Last Time,” Taylor’s distressed duet with Gary Lightbody of Northern Ireland’s mostly absent as of late folk rock set Snow Patrol. Taylor is a slick machine when it comes to her music, and it was a surprise to see her reaching out of bounds for this one.
Hard to believe as it may be given the boom box beats and all the sing-rapping that resulted, Warrior is allegedly a tribute to the genre Ke$ha loves the most: rock and roll. If you really strain your ears, you may hear some of that “old hippie rock” in the breakdown of “Die Young.” You won’t have to try so hard with “Dirty Pop,” which features Iggy Pop, a true and blue rock star and someone Ke$ha has spent a lot of time talking about through the years. The joy she must have felt the first time she heard him call her “Wild Child” on her own song is evident. See also: “2012,” K$’s duet with fellow weirdos The Flaming Lips.
50 Cent didn’t take much of a gamble with “My Life,” the first single off Street King Immortal which he describes as his “recovery, his comeback.” The song is radio-friendly and carefully calibrated for success, with features from a hip hop legend (that’d be: Eminem) and a chart-topping pop star (cue: Adam Levine) and a thoughtful role-out strategy that includes a radio premiere yesterday, a live-debut on The Voice last night (see below) and this geared up new video.
The big-budget video finds the song’s stars on the lam, in fancy cars and on foot as they run from helicopters and spotlights. “The video is kind of abstract; it’s kind of metaphoric in a sense, like the paranoia of feeling like we’re being chased,” Eminem told MTV News last month, explaining that they’re running to keep their personal lives safe from fame and fortune’s trappings because, “Whether it’s true or not, it’s kind of how we feel.”
50 Cent is a smart business man. For his new single “My Life” featuring Eminem and Adam Levine, the choice of his co-collaborators screams dollar signs. Somewhere around a round conference table 50 Cent told his team, “Get me the two hottest guys out right now–a rapper and singer–and we’re going to make a boatload of money.” Well played, 50. Read more…
Earlier this afternoon we shared a sneak preview from Gym Class Heroes‘ VH1 Unplugged taping, where they were joined by their longtime collaborator and Fall Out Boy lead singer Patrick Stump for a stripped down version of their smash hit “Stereo Hearts.” Stump, although filling in on the song, felt right at home. “Gym Class is a band I am more directly involved with than any other band except for Fall Out Boy,” he told us before the show, laughing that “the shortest call in the world” was all it took to get him there.
As Stump tells it, Gym Class Heroes first caught his attention with a shout out on an early demo of the 2004 time-capsule “Taxi Driver.” “We were super tickled by it,” he explains. “Unfortunately, it is very rare that something makes you sit up and be like, ‘Wow, this is great!’ And I was in the van and I was like, Pete [Wentz], listen to this, this is really good. And so he took it and ran with it, and before we knew it they were singed.”
The honor, though, he insists is mutual. “You have no idea how much they made themselves and how awesome it is to watch them,” he told us, making sure to point out that this will be his first Unplugged appearance with be with them and not his own Fall Out Boy. “I get to be a fan that has the best seat in the house.”
Before the tapping, we caught up with Stump to get the scoop on his work with Gym Class Heroes, his impressions (musical and otherwise), and what comes next:
Earlier today, Billboard revealed that teen icon Justin Bieber sold 374,000 copies of his new album, Believe, which makes it this year’s fastest selling album and the best debut since Drake moved 631,000 copies of Take Care back in November. When you consider the size of the Belieber Nation, though, this number feels a little light, which opens the doorway for a new act to debut at #1 next week.
The top contenders for next week’s crown are Maroon 5 and Linkin Park, both groups that have well-established fanbases and current hit on the charts (“Payphone” and “Burn It Down”, respectively). Industry bible HITS Daily Double has Linkin Park pegged to edge out Maroon 5 after one-day sales, but there’s still a long way to go in this race. When we caught up with Adam Levine and James Valentine on Monday, we asked them if reaching that milestone was one of their goals. (Watch their response in the video above.)
In the last year, we have seen an explosion of reality singing competitions on the television airwaves. American Idol has, of course, been the most popular show on American television since its premiere ten years ago in June of 2002, but in the last year and change, we’ve seen NBC (The Voice), ABC (Duets) and Fox (The X-Factor) all launch competitors to the veritable Idol institution, to the point where the market for these programs has become totally saturated. Most Americans would be hard pressed to name the most recent winners of any one of these programs, let alone all four, but there’s no denying that reality television has given an incredible career boost for Adam Levine and his bandmates in Maroon 5.
Today sees the release of Maroon 5′s fourth studio album, Overexposed. One of the tracks on the album, “Tickets,” has been generating some Internet buzz as conspiracy theorists have suggested that it’s a diss track directed at Levine’s co-star on The Voice, Christina Aguilera. Lines like “She’s got tickets to her own show/But nobody wants to go” and “You’re perfect on the outside, but nothing at the core” certainly could be interpreted as being very Aguilera-esque, so when we caught up with Adam Levine and guitarist James Valentine at New York City’s Crosby Street Hotel yesterday afternoon, we asked them point blank to shed some light on the story. (See our video above.)
Within the last 10 years there hasn’t been a music success story quite like the one of Kanye West. He managed to transform himself from a well respected but not yet household name producer to a global rapper. He began producing in the late 90s for heavy hitting acts and became known for his soulful beats. It wasn’t until 2001 when he got his big break from Jay-Z’s “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” From there he continued producing but began vocalizing his interest in rapping. Admittedly, no one one believed he could rap, thus labels weren’t willing to take the risk on signing him. Finally he signed to Dame Dash and Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella record label and debuted College Dropout in 2004. Kanye had proved everyone wrong, not only showing that he could rap, but that he could be great while doing it (College Dropout debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts).
That was eight years ago when Kanye was a hungry 27-year-old trying to turn his dreams into reality. Today he’s 35 with five albums under his belt, one collaboration album, countless producer credits, a fashion line and his own G.O.O.D. Music record label. Publicly, he’s been scrutinized for his crass statements on live TV. His public missteps and ego aside, Ye continues to be one of the greatest music talents that has emerged in the last decade. To honor his 35th birthday, check out our list of his 35 greatest songs (which we have also turned into a Spotify playlist). Feel free to disagree with our list and add your own in the comment section below.
35. “Who Gon Stop Me”
The production is insane, Kanye and Jay’s verses are a mere bonus.
34. “Hell of A Life”
Yeezy’s darkest moment has him falling in love with a porn star. Naturally, it doesn’t end well.
For the dream chasers out there, “I wonder/if you know/what it means/ to find your dreams.”
32. “All Falls Down”
We can’t help but think of Stacey Dash every time we hear this one.
31. “Gotta Have It”
Outside of the tambourine in the opening, there’s a whole lot of flossing in this one track. Read more…
We’re totally swooning over how fine Adam Levine looks in the “Payphone” video featuring Wiz Khalifa. (Admittedly, the repeat button was abused.) It’s all shoot ‘em up bang bang in this hot new vid, which is the lead single off Maroon 5′s upcoming Overexposed album. The story begins at the ending. A scraggly Levine attempts to reach a woman on the payphone. Although this happens first in the video, in the timeline of events this really occurs after he plays superman at the bank to save the woman he loves from robbers. He escapes a hail of gunfire only to find the police outside, and guess who they think is the culprit of the robber? Surprise (not really): Levine.
Shortly after Wiz valet parks his drop top Levine steals the car and take the cops on a high speed chase leaving his lucky woman behind. Hence the “I’m at a payphone, trying to call home” chorus. He eludes the cops and makes it to the desperately needed payphone. “Payphone” is without a doubt action packed — a gun fight, police chase and exploding cars all withing less than five minutes. Is Levine trying to tell us something regarding acting aspirations? We totally envisioned this as a movie. A predictable one, but a movie nonetheless.