Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
'Four' in a row: One Direction sets record with No. 1 debut

That makes four for the five lads of One Direction.

Setting a new record, the British boy band's latest album "Four" entered the Billboard 200 chart at No. 1 on Wednesday, reflecting sales of 387,000 copies in the week that ended Sunday, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

It's the fourth chart-topper in a row from One Direction, making it the only group in the chart's history to have its first four albums debut at No. 1, as Billboard's Keith Caulfield points out. (Three solo acts have also done it: Britney Spears, DMX and Beyonce.)

"Four" is the second-fastest selling album of the year, behind Taylor Swift's "1989," which moved 1.287 million copies in its first week in stores last month.

Still, the album started with considerably less of a bang than One Direction's previous full-length. Last year "Midnight Memories" entered the chart at No. 1 on sales of 546,000 copies.

Behind "Four" on this week's tally, "1989" came in at No. 2 with 214,000 copies sold. That brings overall sales of...

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Authorized Kurt Cobain documentary due in 2015 on HBO

The first documentary on Nirvana singer, songwriter and lead guitarist Kurt Cobain to be made with the cooperation of his family is slated to premiere in 2015 on HBO.

“Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” is written, directed and produced by Brett Morgen, and Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, is executive producer.

“I started work on this project eight years ago,” Morgen said in a statement. “Like most people, when I started, I figured there would be limited amounts of fresh material to unearth.

“However, once I stepped into Kurt’s archive, I discovered over 200 hours of unreleased music and audio, a vast array of art projects (oil paintings, sculptures), countless hours of never-before-seen home movies, and over 4,000 pages of writings that together help paint an intimate portrait of an artist who rarely revealed himself to the media,” said Morgen, an Oscar-nominated filmmaker who made HBO’s Rolling Stones documentary “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Cobain, who struggled with substance abuse...

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Jordin Sparks issues first new music in five years with '#ByeFelicia'

Jordin Sparks hasn’t released an album in more than five years, but the former “American Idol” champ is back -- with a vengeance.

On Tuesday, Sparks issued her first mixtape “#ByeFelicia” — the title is taken from a popular meme that originated from the movie "Friday" — which has a lot more fire than the pop-inflected R&B of her earlier works.

So what has ignited Sparks?

Maturity, for one. She was only 19 when she issued her last album, 2009's "Battlefield." But there's also the recent high-profile demise of her relationship with fellow R&B singer Jason Derulo.

After three years together Sparks and Derulo split in September, and the breakup spiraled into messy gossip fodder. There were accusations that Derulo cheated and there was too much pressure for marriage -- but, maybe he shouldn't have “proposed” to her in a schmaltzy music video.

Regardless, Sparks has taken a cue from Taylor Swift and poured the breakup into music.

One track is especially biting. On the remix of Drake’s “How...

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Listen: Ariana Grande's holiday single 'Santa Tell Me'

Ariana Grande lets Santa Claus do double duty as Cupid in her new holiday single, “Santa Tell Me,” as she gears up for a busy schedule of activity through the end of the year.

In the beat-minded new track, her wish list to the man from the North Pole begins and ends with the gift of true love:

Santa tell me if you’re really there
Don’t make me fall in love again
If he won’t be here next year

The song, which Grande wrote with Savan Kotecha and Ilya Salmanzadeh, is available on iTunes and also as the sole new contribution to Target’s latest holiday music compilation “Target Presents iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Hits 2014.”

Following her appearance Sunday in Los Angeles for the American Music Awards, Grande moves on to a performance on “A Very Grammy Christmas” special on CBS airing Dec. 5, the same day she’ll be among the pop, rock and R&B acts at the kickoff of the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour at Staples Center, one of seven cities the tour will visit.

Early next year she’ll embark on her...

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Usher brings hits, but not much new to Staples Center

Despite having a career that spans two decades and boasts more hits than most of his competitors combined, Usher seems to be at a crossroads.

None of his latest singles have gotten the type of attention his releases typically garner, and his forthcoming album, “UR” -- which he’s spent the better part of the year teasing -- still lacks a release date.

He even aligned with soft drink and breakfast brands to give away tracks. The moves didn't generate much buzz and offering a tune through specially-marked boxes of cereal led to some serious online ribbing.

This hasn’t stopped the R&B superstar from going out on the road with an arena show to tease the new record. Dubbed the UR Experience, the flashy production is both a victory lap and a possible glimpse at where he’s headed.

The show, which played to a sold-out crowd at Staples Center on Friday, also further illustrated the curious position in which the 36-year-old has currently found himself.

An Usher show has long been an exhilarating...

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2014 American Music Awards: 12 things you didn't see on TV

The American Music Awards went off without a notable hitch on Sunday.

The dozen-plus performances were overly cautious, albeit with the predictable amounts of bare skin. There were no onstage surprises, or major mishaps (other than perhaps Wyclef Jean's inability to take off his jacket) to buzz about in the morning. 

But with a three hour show, not all the action made it on air. Here are 12 things that went down at the Nokia Theatre that you probably didn’t see on TV.

1. The Nokia was a virtual zoo. Fans crammed the courtyard of L.A. Live to gawk at those entering the venue, and even crowded the lobby windows to peek inside. Unfortunately, all they could see were guests chugging cocktails before showtime.

2. At one point a show producer promised that Iggy Azalea and Jennifer Lopez were going to re-create their buzzy music video to “Booty.” "Lots of booty on the way," he warned.

3. Sam Smith and Taylor Swift were the King and Queen of the AMAs, with both acts fielding photo opps during...

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