Pop Bites: Kim and Kanye get hitched, Nicki and Mariah return
Each week, Los Angeles Times music writer Gerrick D. Kennedy dishes on everything that is sweet, sour and bittersweet in the ever-changing world of pop music.
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SWEET: Nicki Minaj gets her groove back.The rapper shocked music fans by doing something rather simple earlier this year: Undergoing a makeover. No more colorful wigs or zany outfits. And for months she’s dropped gritty, brazen singles that made us forget about all those dance-pop numbers that weighed down her last album. Minaj’s new single, “Pills N Potions” more than makes good on her promise to return to form – and she’s finally figured out to harness two worlds. Dr. Luke might have produced it, and the chorus could easily anchor a Rihanna record, but the song’s pop edge is just that. Welcome back, Nicki.
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BITTERSWEET: KimYe Wedding. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are finally husband and wife. It was the wedding of the century (for this year), at least for those who follow tabloids. Their sorta-top-secret nuptials dominated gossip news over the holiday weekend. There were plenty of questions ahead of the ceremony. What would she wear for her third walk down the aisle? How over-the-top would the festivities in Paris and Florence be? What celebs would be there? As Twitter and Instagram buzzed all weekend with pictures of the jaw-droppingly beautiful ceremony so did the chatter of one major snub as folks realized Yeezy’s bestie Jay Z and his wife Beyonce decided to sit things out.
SOUR: Macaulay Culkin’s cover band gets burned. Former child star Macaulay Culkin is in a band that takes classic rock tunes and turns them into tributes to America’s favorite cheesy, greasy food: Pizza. For instance, Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” becomes “Take a Walk on the Wild Slice.” Sure, everyone loves pizza. Songs about pizza, though, is another story. The “Home Alone” star was forced to cut a U.K. festival gig short when audience members began booing and tossing beers at him and his band. Even worse? Culkin buttered up the crowd with pizza before the attack.
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SWEET: The return of Eurodance divas.It’s been years since Robyn and La Roux made us sweat with their synthpop beats and hypnotic melodies. The wait is over and both have returned with new sounds. Robyn teamed with Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp for “Do It Again,” a mini-collaborative album that’s a trippy, downtempo yarn while La Roux opted to slowly build a groove on her comeback single, “Let Me Down Gently,” which teases her first album in five years. Our summer playlist is thankful.
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BITTERSWEET: Mariah Carey’s new album. We’ve given Carey a hard time of late, but for good reason. The road to her new album, "Me. I am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse," has been a frustrating one filled with stalled singles, countless delays and gimmicks (announcing plans to release a surprise album? Girl, bye) unbefitting of one of the highest regarded pop divas of all time – and one of the best selling. But the “Elusive Chanteuse” makes up for all the missteps with an album packed with R&B jams and bouncy hip-hop grooves. The album’s biggest problem? Too much time is spent trying to duplicate past glories.
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SOUR: ABC's 'Rising Star.'America clearly needs a rest from singing competitions, but television executives refuse to get the memo. If you can’t name the last winner of “American Idol,” didn’t bother to watch “The Voice” past the blind auditions and weren’t aware that “The X Factor” got the ax, good news: ABC is prepping another show for you to just ignore. Like so many shows that came before it, “Rising Star,” is currently thriving in another country so of course it’ll work here, right? This show, though, is all about cashing in on our obsession with a second screen TV experience with app-based voting. But just when ABC sold us on a show where contestants are voted and advanced in real-time voting they tell us Brad Paisley, Kesha and Ludacris are the panel of experts and Josh Groban will host. Suddenly we found something better to do.
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SWEET: Eminem's Mother's Day tribute. Eminem has long documented his contentious relationship with his estranged mother in his lyrics. But he does the unthinkable on his latest single, "Headlights": striking an apologetic tone. The song's emotional video features plenty of heart-wrenching flashbacks. The best part? He was reunited with his mother in the video, just in time for Mother's Day. Grab a Kleenex before watching.
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BITTERSWEET: Miley Cyrus' tacky kiss-off. The demise of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth's engagement provided two things: endless gossip fodder and "Wrecking Ball," the pop breakup anthem of twentysomethings. Having the song become a smash, along with its ridiculous video, really should have been enough for Cyrus. But no. At a recent show she went on an expletive-filled rant against an unnamed ex. Our favorite line: "I'm gonna take all my clothes off, I'm gonna sit on a big, giant … — sometimes two. I'm gonna swing around, and then I'm gonna hold the record for the most-watched music video on Vevo." Keeping it classy, as usual.
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SOUR: Solange and Jay Z's elevator fracas. Beyoncé, we have a huge problem. The Internet imploded after TMZ leaked a video that purports to show the pop diva's little sister Solange unleashing a physical attack on Jay Z in an elevator after a posh Met Gala after-party. The grainy video appears to show Solange wildly kicking and swinging on her brother-in-law as a bodyguard tries to restrain her. Bey hangs back as Jay tries to calm his sister-in-law, who continues to pummel him with jabs (even a purse becomes a weapon). Out of respect for family business we won't speculate, but this is a national emergency for the legion of loyal BeyHive fans. Times like this make us wish Olivia Pope could come to the rescue and fix it.
SWEET: Michael Jackson's revitalized legacy. Let's be honest, the news of a new, posthumous Michael Jackson album made us cringe. The estate for the King of Pop has mostly missed the mark on keeping Jackson's legacy going when it comes to the music (think "Michael"). Try listening to "Love Never Felt So Good" without a gleeful smile and a serious two-step. Even better? We've already forgotten about that last, spectacularly unfortunate project.
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BITTERSWEET: Usher returns with "Good Kisser." Usher has spent much of his time spinning around in a plush red chair on "The Voice," but he's finally making his way back to music. The R&B heartthrob unleashed "Good Kisser," a soul-funk number that will pack dance floors as we move into summer. It's a catchy groove, if you pretend the ode to kissing is about a sweet peck on the lips. It is not. Thanks, Usher. All the moms who love you will embarrass their kids by singing along.
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SOUR: Wu-Tang Clan "secret" album features Cher. Details have been scant on Wu-Tang's not-so-secret album — the one it wants to take to art galleries and auction off — but we do know one collaborator: Cher. Yes, Cher. We don't know why. When the project was announced, it was revealed the album would feature appearances by Bonnie Jo Mason, Redman, FC Barcelona soccer players and "a unique tapestry of guest performers." Mason was the pseudonym for Cher way back in the day, but why even bother? In a short snippet you can hear her warbling "Wu-Tang, baby. They rock the world." Guess Rihanna was busy?