Taylor Swift Is “Closest Thing Today…to Michael Jackson,” Says Fun. Guitarist

ABC NewsTaylor Swift is a great songwriter: that's a fact.  But is her talent comparable to that of Michael Jackson?  According to one of her Grammy-winning pals, yes.

Taylor is good friends with actress Lena Dunham and her boyfriend, fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff; she and Jack teamed up to write the Golden Globe-nominated song "Stranger than Fiction" from the movie One Chance.  Now, in a new interview in GQ magazine, Jack compares Taylor to the late King of Pop.

"I think Taylor Swift is one of the best songwriters ever," Jack tells the magazine. "Taylor Swift is cool, because she's the closest thing today that hearkens to Michael Jackson -- to great, great pop music. There's a difference between her and Gaga and Katy Perry and Lily Allen and all that. It all feels throwaway, comparatively."

Jack also says he longs for the good ol' days -- back in the '90s -- when everyone seemed to like the same music, like grunge, for example.

"The world was a slightly better place -- we were a much more connected generation," he says of the days when Pearl Jam ruled the charts. "It's not like you can look at an 18-year-old and think, I know what he listens to. It's just so broad. There's a lot of junk. People have to spread out and find more interesting stuff, because they're not being fed it the way they're supposed to be."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

“Weird Al” Thrilled that Every Artist He Wanted to Spoof on New Album Agreed to It

RCA RecordsMany times in his career as pop music's best-known parodist, "Weird Al" Yankovic has been turned down by artists who won't let him make fun of their hit songs -- James Blunt and Eminem are just two who said no.  But he says with his new album Mandatory Fun, the likes of Lorde, Imagine Dragons and Pharrell Williams were all totally down for him to spoof their hits.

"I was very lucky --  this is my first album in a long time that didn't have any actual drama," "Weird Al" tells Billboard. "It seems like my last few albums have always had some problems around the release, and this is the first time where I've gotten everybody that I wanted, and I couldn't be happier about it."

In particular, Al says he's happy that Pharrell was into the idea, because on Mandatory Fun, he takes on not one but three songs the Oscar-nominated star was involved with writing: his own hit "Happy," Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk.  In Al's hands, "Happy" becomes "Tacky," "Blurred Lines" is turned into an attack on bad grammar called "Word Crimes," and "Get Lucky" is part of his now-traditional polka medley.

"My manager was having a tough time getting ahold of Pharrell through his representatives," Al tells Billboard. "In the meanwhile, I somehow -- and I'm not at liberty to say how -- got Pharrell's personal e-mail address and I sent him an e-mail requesting permission, and he could not have been nicer. He sent me a very sweet e-mail back immediately saying he'd be honored. I was just blown away. He was just the sweetest guy."

Al also turns Lorde's "Royals" into "Foil," rapper Iggy Azalea's #1 hit "Fancy" into "Handy," and Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" into "Inactive."  Imagine Dragons were more than happy to provide Al with certain sonic effects he needed for that song -- turns out their bass player, Ben McKee, had his photo taken with Al when was 12 years old, and he sent it to him.  "He was a fan from way back, so I would imagine he was happy about the parody," says Al.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Justin Timberlake Sends Roses & Thank You Note to Broadway Stars Who Paid Tribute to Him

ABC/Randy HolmesIf you can't get tickets to see Justin Timberlake's current tour, the next best thing might be hearing his music sung by professional Broadway performers.  That's what happened Monday night in New York City, as the stars of shows like Pippin, Cinderella, Newsies, The Book of Mormon and Hedwig & the Angry Inch got together for Broadway Sings Justin Timberlake  -- and JT himself couldn't have been happier.

As Playbill reports, the show's producer Corey Mach showing a bouquet of roses and a note which Justin sent to him and the cast.  According to Mach, there were four dozen roses, and the note read, "Break legs! I am very honored. Best, JT."

The production featured performances of Justin's hits "Cry Me a River," "My Love" and "Suit and Tie," as well as his hits with 'N SYNC, backed by a full jazz band.  Another installment of the show will be performed Monday, July 21 at the New York club Le Poisson Rouge [leh pwah-SOHN rooj].

Other artists whose songs have been featured in the ongoing Broadway Sings series include Adele, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio




Pat Monahan Gets Pistol-Whipped in New Train Video, Pre-Order New CD Now

Columbia RecordsTrain's new single, "Angel in Blue Jeans," sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a Western, and that's what the band has cooked up for the song's video.

In the new clip, weather-beaten tough-guy actor Danny Trejo of Machete and Machete Kills fame rides through the desert on a motorcycle.  He pulls up to an old diner and lips-syncs the song's lyrics while looking at old photos of a woman.  He flashes back to a time when he was being held on his knees at gunpoint, a pistol to his head, while the same woman, played by Hannah Simone of New Girl fame, is screaming and being held back by a bunch of bad guys.

In the present, Trejo goes into the diner, where the members of Train -- but not singer Pat Monahan -- are playing cards and drinking.  Then Pat pulls up in a car with Hannah, and we realize he was the guy in the flashback holding a gun to Danny's head.  However, he's wearing a sheriff's badge.  Is he a good guy or a bad guy?

In the diner, Hannah sits down next to Danny, and he passes her a knife wrapped in a bandana. She takes it and holds it to Pat's throat, while Danny pulls a gun on him.  For a second, it looks like Pat's going to get shot, but Danny simply whacks him in the head with the gun.  Hannah takes all the cards and the money, throws them in the air, and she escapes with Trejo on his motorcycle.  Pat races after them, firing his own gun, but misses.

Train's new album, Bulletproof Picasso, is now available for pre-order.  The band has also unveiled the track listing for the disc, due September 16:

"Cadillac, Cadillac"
"Bulletproof Picasso"
"Angel in Blue Jeans"
"Give It All"
"Wonder What You're Doing for the Rest of Your Life"
"Son of a Prison Guard"
"Just a Memory"
"I'm Drinkin' Tonight"
"I Will Remember"
"The Bridge"
"Baby, Happy Birthday"
"Don't Grow Up So Fast"

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Ellie Goulding: Taylor Swift Tells Me to Suck It Up

Louie Banks/InterscopeEllie Goulding says having two other chart-topping female singers as friends -- Katy Perry and Taylor Swift -- is a good thing not just because they're musicians too, but because they totally get what it takes to be a global pop star these days.

Speaking to Glamour UK, Ellie says, "We're friends because they understand the predicaments. They see what is and isn't real. I'm not anywhere near their level of fame, but if I say, 'Oh God, Taylor, this happened,' she'll be like, 'Girl, that's nothing.' [Like a] suck it up kind of thing!"

"I have strong female characters all around me, really cool women," Ellie adds. "My tour manager is a woman, my manager is a woman. I want to be surrounded by powerful women, not men."

One thing Ellie's learning to deal with is the rumors that surround female pop stars -- like the one about how she supposedly had a boob job. "I'm petrified of anything like that. My friends will think that's hilarious," she tells Glamour, explaining, "I ran every day for seven months, maybe too obsessively, and when I stopped I became curvier."

"My boobs look bigger because my waist is smaller," she adds. "People underestimate how you can shape your body. Since I stopped eating meat and fish, my body's better than ever."

"There's an innate part of me that is very strong," she says of her ability to soldier through the rigors of stardom. "But there'll always be that part of me that I go to to write songs, that weakness, that vulnerability. That's what I access to write my music. In this industry, oh God, do you need a thick skin! But it's that thinner skin that's gotten me here."

You can read the entire interview with Ellie by downloading Glamour UK now.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Pharrell Williams to Curate “NBA 2K15″ Video Game Soundtrack

Columbia RecordsPharrell Williams was just named as curator of the soundtrack for NBA 2K15, the latest installment of the basketball video game, which is due out October 7.  The singer couldn't be more humble about being tapped to work on it.

"It was something that I accepted, but I couldn't believe my name got tossed in the hat for it, I'm honored," Pharrell told reporters during a press conference in New York City.

Pharrell says he took a new approach when trying to decide what songs and artists to put in the soundtrack for the game: he gathered all the women from his staff and had them weigh in.  Turns out he felt insecure about following in the footsteps of stars like LeBron James and Jay Z, who curated the game's soundtracks in the past.

"They know so much more about the sport than I do," he admitted. "I'm not screaming...'Touchdown!' but after free throw, lay up and couple dunks...I know what a crossover is, but don't know how to do one."

So why bring in the women? He explained, "These are girls that play the game and...their boyfriends play or their friends play, I thought it would be such an interesting twist to have the girls weigh in on the song list, they listen to it just as much, I tried to pick an alternative approach... How do you follow up LeBron and Jay? I gotta take a different route. I don't know. I just thought it'd be cool."

Pharrell also said that these days, his son Rocket, who's six, is the one who shows him how to use the latest video games and gadgets.  "My son teaches me, it's crazy, he teaches me [about games]," he said, adding that Rocket also shows him tricks on the iPad.

So, does Pharrell plan to do more with 2K and more with video games?  "Looks like there should be more things," he said. "I was just talking to them [representatives from 2K] off camera about an idea ...I've always wanted to do something in the Sims world, too."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Fun.’s Jack Antonoff Goes Solo with Side Project Bleachers

RCA RecordsFun. guitarist Jack Antonoff steps out on his own Tuesday with Strange Desire, a solo album which he's releasing under the name Bleachers. While he's technically the only member of Bleachers, Jack made the album with a variety of collaborators, including one who's quite unexpected: Yoko Ono, the 81-year-old widow of late Beatles legend John Lennon.

In addition to being Lennon's widow, Ono is also a recording artist and a fine artist in her own right, and has a reputation for being pretty avant-garde, which is exactly how Jack says she acted when she showed up to record her part on the album.

"I get freaked out when people aren't what you imagine them to be, and Yoko is very much what I imagined, in the sense that she's wild," Jack tells ABC News Radio. "You know, she came in, there were all these cookies on the desk, she ate a bunch of cookies, she listened to the track, she stopped it halfway through, she was like, 'I'm going in.'" 

"She goes into the booth, first thing she does is screams so loud into the mike that the engineers in the studio were like, freaking out, turning the compressors down," Jack laughs. "And she proceeded to do, like, primal noises, singing, spoken word...and I spent 10 hours in bed that night going through everything she did."

Another off-kilter aspect of Bleachers is the way that Jack chose to reveal the album's title and release date: instead of jumping on Twitter or Instagram, he did it via an ad on Craigslist, of all things.

"I think that everyone is obsessed with how social media works.  And I think that we're at a time when it's actually cool to take a step backwards," he says, explaining why he went so low-fi and old-school. "I also have a hotline where I debut new music. I just think it's just more exciting to have to wait for stuff...I'm not gonna do the whole, like, 'Big announcement Thursday on Twitter,' and then, like, blast it out that way.  I just wanna put it in places where people can find it, and be excited."

Now that the Bleachers album is out, Jack is ready to hit the road: he'll be performing at a slew of festivals in the coming months.  But even though he won't have the guys in fun. backing him up, he's not exactly stepping onstage alone with just a guitar.

"There's two drummers and then there's two other guys playing, like, worlds of synths and guitars," he tells ABC News Radio about his live show. "It's a big production.  I didn't think about live when I made the album, and so there's a lot to tackle."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

A Great Big World to Come Full Circle with “So You Think You Can Dance” Performance

Joseoph Llanes/Epic RecordsLast year, after A Great Big World's "Say Something" was featured on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, people sat up and took notice of the heartfelt ballad, including Christina Aguilera, who contacted the duo about recorded a duet version.  The success of that single pretty much made the duo's career -- so this week, they'll be coming full circle by actually performing on the Fox show.

A Great Big World will take the stage on So You Think You Can Dance on Wednesday, July 16 to perform "Say Something."  Recalling how important the show was in making "Say Something" a hit, the duo's Ian Axel tells ABC News Radio, "After So You Think You Can Dance, it went up on the charts on iTunes right away and we're like, 'Whoa, this is not what we were expecting at all!'" 

"We were just so happy that the people that were watching the show got to hear the song and the dance was so beautiful," he adds. "And we actually threw a [viewing] party for that and it was a really big moment for us."

And there's more good news for A Great Big World: the video for "Say Something" has just been VEVO certified for more than 100 million views.  Pretty good for a song that the duo initially had no interest in releasing as a single in the first place.

"At first when Epic Records wanted to release it as a single, we resisted. We said, 'Whaddya mean? This is not a single for radio!'" the duo's Chad Vaccarino tells ABC News Radio. "[We said], 'It's a ballad, it would never work!' [But] they saw something we didn't see." 

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Adam Levine: “I Wish Somebody Would Believe I Could Play a Non-Musician”

Courtesy: The Weinstein CompanyAdam Levine has garnered generally positive reviews for his movie debut in the film Begin Again, where he plays -- big stretch -- a rock star.  He wants to do more acting, but he says he's somehow got to convince people that he can actually play other roles as well.

“I just wish somebody would believe I could play a non-musician," he complains to the New Yorker magazine.  Asked if taking acting classes might help him, Adam replies, "Acting lessons are like a fire extinguisher in a glass case, and I don’t think I’ll ever need to get myself into an uncomfortable enough place to break the glass."  Apparently, Adam thinks he's terrific without any formal training at all.

"There’s natural qualities that I possess -- being at ease in front of a camera, and very moldable -- that I don’t want to squash just yet," he says, explaining why he doesn't want to study acting. "I didn’t learn my lines for the movie till the night before, or the morning of, and I did great.”

If Adam sounds overly confident about his acting abilities, well, he's overly confident about everything in his life.

"In real life, I’m unapologetic. I am a confident person -- I don’t think that’s a crime," he tells the New Yorker. "It’d be arrogant to believe you’re actually the sexiest man alive, but I do think my comfort with myself can come off as -- dare I f***ing say this? -- sexy.”

It's pronouncements like that that lead many to dislike the Maroon 5 frontman, but he says at this point in his career, he has no problem with people thinking he's a jerk.

"Before [The Voice], people who didn’t know me thought I was a bimbo, that all I could do was sing and date models," he says. "Now they actually know me, so when they say, ‘You’re an a**hole!,’ I’m, like, ‘O.K., cool!’”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Jason Mraz Announces New North American Tour Dates

Jen Rosenstein/Atlantic RecordsJason Mraz, whose new album YES! is out on Tuesday, has announced more tour dates for the U.S. and Canada.  Previously, he only had shows scheduled for late August and early September, but his new dates now stretch all the way through November.  A fan pre-sale for those shows is currently underway.

The shows will feature Jason and Raining Jane, the female quartet with whom he recorded his new album.  The largely acoustic tour will feature them playing intimate theaters.  Jason revealed during a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything chat that he's looking forward to performing his very first hit, "The Remedy," on the tour, explaining, "I've recently fallen in love again with [it]."

Meanwhile, Jason is planning a "special announcement" on Wednesday in New York City.  On Thursday, he'll perform on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and on Friday, it's NBC's Today show.

Here are Jason's newly announced tour dates:

8/23 -– San Diego, CA, Civic Theatre
8/30 -- Los Angeles,CA, Pantages Theatre
9/09 -– Atlanta, GA, Fox Theatre  
9/10 -– Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium
9/12 -– Boston, MA, Citi Wang Theatre
9/13 -– Boston, MA, Citi Wang Theatre
9/14 -– Hartford, CT, The Bushnell – Mortensen Hall
10/07 -– Montreal, QC, Place Des Arts
10/08 -– Toronto, ON, Massey Hall
10/09 -– Toronto, ON, Massey Hall
10/11 -– Pittsburgh, PA, Benedum Center
10/12 -– Philadelphia, PA, Academy of Music
10/13 -– Washington, D.C., Warner Theatre
10/15 -– Columbus, OH, Palace Theatre
10/16 -– St. Louis, MO, Peabody Opera House  
10/17 -– Milwaukee, WI, Riverside Theater
10/18 -– Minneapolis, MN, State Theatre
10/21 -– Seattle, WA, Benaroya Hall
10/22 -– Spokane, WA, INB Performing Arts Center
10/23 -– Vancouver, BC, Queen Elizabeth Theatre
10/24 -– Portland, OR, Keller Auditorium  
11/05 -– Indianapolis, IN , Murat Theatre, Old National Centre  
11/06 -– Detroit, MI, Fox Theatre
11/07 -– Chicago, IL, Chicago Theatre
11/08 -– Chicago, IL, Chicago Theatre

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio