Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
Barbra Streisand stays mostly the way she was on 'Partners'

Amid the breathless genuflection that constituted Jimmy Fallon’s much-hyped interview with Barbra Streisand this week on “The Tonight Show” – “It’s unbelievable to stand next to you,” he actually said at one point -- Fallon somehow managed to extract a piece of useful information from his guest: that her goal with her new duets album was not simply to remake some of her biggest hits but to “reinterpret” them – to provide, in the case of “People,” for instance, “a whole other way of looking at the song.”

Let’s get real, Babs.

Most of the dozen tracks on “Partners” -- which features duet partners such as Michael Bublé, Andrea Bocelli and the singer’s son, Jason Gould – offer no such vantage. A vaguely bluesy rendition of “Come Rain or Come Shine” with John Mayer differs little from the vaguely bluesy rendition on Streisand’s 1979 album “Wet.” Her blustery harmonizing with Josh Groban in “Somewhere” tells us far less about the “West Side Story” war horse than the weirdly trippy take she...

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Lifetime announces Nov. 15 premiere date for Aaliyah biopic

Lifetime has set a date for its Aaliyah biopic.

"Aaliyah: Princess of R&B" will premiere Nov. 15, the network announced Thursday. Lifetime also released a new still from the film showing Alexandra Shipp as the late R&B star.

Lifetime’s original movie about the singer’s life, including her rise and tragic death in a 2001 plane crash at the apex of her fame, has been controversial. When the network announced the project over the summer there was a backlash from the singer’s fans and family.

Fans protested the casting of Disney star Zendaya Coleman in the role of the singer-actress affectionately known as Baby Girl. Numerous petitions even popped up online.

Jomo Hankerson, the singer’s cousin and president of her label Blackground Records, also spoke out against the film. Hankerson told the New York Daily News that the family’s issues weren’t with Zendaya’s casting but with Lifetime.

“It’s never been about the actress. The problem that we have is that Aaliyah was an icon and she deserves...

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Throwbacks: Reissues by ABBA, Bedhead, JB's, Kinks, Paramount, more

These days everything's pretty dusty in Southern California. To paraphrase Travis Bickle, someday a real Discwasher will come and brush all this grit off the vinyl. Until then, experts with good ears will have to suffice.

Below, the week in reissues, archival recordings and old tape, all gussied up for new ears.

 -- Four Swedes helped define pop music in the 1970s. Their names: Agnetha, Frida, Benny and Bjorn, and together they were ABBA, purveyors of hits including "Knowing Me, Knowing You," "Take A Chance," "Waterloo," and many heavenly others. At the peak of its popularity, the quartet ruled the charts with breathtaking singles that still sound essential 40 years later. Proof: the forthcoming "ABBA -- Live at Wembley Arena."

Recorded at the end of 1979 at the peak of the group's fame, the Wembley set spans 25 songs, and will arrive from Universal Music Sept. 30 on double-disc and triple 180-gram vinyl.

Also coming out will be the only ABBA-sanctioned book ever issued, called "ABBA...

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Jason Isbell leads winners at Americana Music Awards

If there were a triple crown in Americana music, Alabama singer and songwriter Jason Isbell took it Wednesday night in Nashville, collecting artist, album and song of the year honors at the 2014 Americana Music Awards.

Isbell’s album “Southeastern,” which also generated an award for producer Dave Cobb, spawned the song of the year winner with “Cover Me Up.”

Accepting that award, Isbell saluted the musician who is arguably the most revered songwriter in country music history. "Happy birthday to Hank Williams," he said. "If it wasn't for that guy, we'd be doing this in some burned-out Kmart in Murfreesboro."

L.A.’s own rootsy twosome, the Milk Carton Kids, a.k.a. Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, won for best duo or group, and rising Kentucky singer and songwriter Sturgill Simpson took home the emerging artist award.

Guitarist Buddy Miller, who also led the house band at the ceremony in Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, was named instrumentalist of the year.

This year’s three...

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Gwen Stefani, Blake Shelton lip sync with Jimmy Fallon

OK, so it was an in-house NBC promo for the new season of “The Voice," but as self-promotional sketches go, Wednesday’s lip-sync contest between “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon and “The Voice” coaches Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani was pretty entertaining.

Country star Shelton quickly jumped out of his native genre by opening with Indonesian pop singer Taco’s 1983 version of “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” a track that allowed him to let his motorcycle boot-clad feet fly during the tap-dancing interlude.

That segued to Fallon’s first selection: Ellie Goulding’s “Burn,” which benefited from Fallon’s canny use of a mini flashlight for his big finish.

Stefani’s opening salvo--after dissing Fallon by thanking Jimmy Kimmel--was Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” in which the No Doubt front woman ratcheted up the energy level and showed what a bona fide rock star has over a country singer and a musically savvy comedian when it comes to performance authority.

Shelton returned in the second round...

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Ariana Grande: A pop star obsessed with her fans

According to the New York Daily News, baby-doll singer Ariana Grande said something very unkind about her fans in a closed elevator to the always dubious source, the “industry insider.”

After signing autographs and having her photo taken for a recent radio visit, Grande, who has one of the most interactive relationships with her fans in pop today, stepped into an elevator, waited for it to close and said, “I hope they all [expletive] die.”

Some things are better left unsaid, right? Especially while Grande’s sophomore album, “My Everything,” is starting to slip down the charts. (It debuted at the top but is now at No. 3 two weeks after its release.) The Boca Raton, Fla., native has weathered many claims of diva behavior lately -- including pushing VIPs out of the way, insisting she’s photographed only from the left, and displaying other strange predilections (um, demons).

Whether the above ill-tempered statement is true or not, it shines an uncomfortable spotlight on Grande’s obsessive...

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Jhene Aiko surprises fans with pop-up concert at L.A.-area dispensary

The line in front of West Hollywood marijuana dispensary the Farmacy was a block deep on Tuesday night.

There wasn’t a sale on pot, although there were a bevy of stoners in attendance. The shop was packed with Jhené Aiko fans who scurried to the shop to catch a surprise performance from the alt-R&B singer.

Aiko used her Twitter and Instagram account to give her fans a one-hour notice to get to the dispensary.

About 50 fans got into the shop that was transformed into an intimate performance space with a few rows of seats, but dozens more waited outside and crowded the windows to steal peeks.

Accompanied by just a guitarist, Aiko breezed through a small three-song set that included her hit “The Worst” and songs from her recently released debut, “Souled Out.”

The album debuted at No. 3 on this week’s Billboard 200, adding another notch to the L.A.-bred singer’s breakout year that included a shining set at Coachella and an EP that had a Top 10 debut.

Although the 26-year-old earned a great...

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Katy Perry shows all sides of her 'Prism' at Honda Center

During Katy Perry’s encore at her Tuesday night show in Anaheim, she pulled an ecstatic tween from the crowd and onto the stage. 

After learning that the girl’s birthday was Wednesday, Perry placed her atop a throne made of white-frosted cake. They rode together over the arena’s 14,000 fans, while Perry sang the effervescent funk single “Birthday” right at her feet. 

What a lovely present. But then the girl then did what most of her peers would have done in that situation: She pulled out her phone to record it, watching the whole spectacle through a six-inch screen.  

Hope the Instagram points were worth it, because that’s what Katy Perry is up against as a massive pop star now at the edge of 30. 

How can any singer truly hold teenagers’ attention today? Pop’s younger fans only see music (and, increasingly, every experience) as an endless slipstream of video content, existing to populate your social media portals for a few hours. Even in-the-flesh live shows are just real-time music...

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Kanye West on disabled-fan controversy: 'Welcome to today's news'

The unstoppable Kanye West took time Monday during the final stop of his recent concert swing through Australia to address the pounding he’s taken on social media for halting a performance a few nights earlier to ensure that anyone not standing was legitimately disabled.

In yet another rant, West referred to criticism directed at him saying, “This is such big media-press-news and everything that obviously they trying to demonize me for. It’s like, ‘Welcome to today’s news, ladies and gentlemen.’ We’ve got Americans getting killed on TV, kids getting killed every weekend in Chicago, unarmed people getting killed by police officers…It makes you just want to reflect on what are the things that are a little bit more sensationalized than others.”

The trouble started at the Friday night show of The Yeezus Tour in Sydney, at which he was quoted by the Daily Mail Australia as saying, “I can’t do this show until everybody stand up. Unless you got a handicap pass and you get special parking…....

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Bruce Springsteen headlines Nov. 5 Stand Up For Heroes benefit

Bruce Springsteen will join comics Louis C.K., John Oliver and John Mulaney for the eighth Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert Nov. 5 at Madison Square Garden in New York to raise money to assist injured military service personnel and their families.

The annual shows have raised more than $21 million for post-9/11  service members who have returned from active duty with injuries. Tickets for this year’s event go on sale Wednesday, Sept. 17.

“Lee and I are so humbled by the generous contributions of the talent, sponsors, and variety of organizations in honor of our nation’s heroes and their families. Each year the show gets bigger and better, demonstrating the unwavering support of all those involved,” said Bob Woodruff, ABC News Journalist and co-founder of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, co-presenter of Stand Up For Heroes with the New York Comedy Festival.

“We, as well as the show’s talented performers, want to show our appreciation for and give back to the brave men and women who...

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Five Things: Katy Perry at Honda Center

Katy Perry brought her new "Prismatic" tour to Honda Center in Anaheim on Tuesday night. A full review is coming, but here are a few early thoughts from the margins of our notebooks. 

1. Christian protesters have got the wrong target.

Outside the Honda Center, several dozen earnest, young evangelicals waved signs with such slogans as "The Wages of Sin Is Death" to persuade Perry concertgoers to flee and repent. But the object of their protest is a former Christian pop singer who has a teary, redemptive single called "By the Grace of God" that's about finding spiritual salvation to overcome depression. If you're looking for more overtly biblical-sexual metaphors to protest in pop music, try "Anaconda."

2. On the other hand, the Old Gods looked pretty compelling.

For the "Dark Horse" segment of Perry's show, she got her dance troupe in sinister Egyptian streetwear that made Anubis, Osiris and all seem worthy of a religious revival. Three hundred years from now, maybe the All Seeing Eye...

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Saxophonist Steve Coleman honored with MacArthur 'genius grant'

Influential saxophonist, composer and educator Steve Coleman has been named as one of the 2014 MacArthur Fellows.

In presenting the honor, the MacArthur Foundation praised the 57-year-old Coleman for "infusing iconic spontaneous music idioms with the melodic, rhythmic and structural components of an eclectic range of musical traditions to create a distinctive new sound."

Born in Chicago and counting Sam Rivers, Von Freeman and Sonny Rollins among his early influences, Coleman is also known as the driving force behind M-Base, a loose musical collective that began in the 1980s as well as an evolving school of creative thought. An acronym for Macro-Basic Array of Structured Extemporizations, M-Base emphasizes artistic expression of personal experiences without structural or stylistic limitations, a philosophy that continues to be heard across the spectrum of contemporary jazz.  

Among the many artists influenced by Coleman and M-Base include Ambrose Akimusire, Cassandra Wilson, Greg Osby,...

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