Twas the night before New Year's

It's been a couple months since my last post but, on this last day of 2011, I wanted to make sure to recap some of my top musical moments of the year.

Let me know your thoughts!

Top 10 songs of 2011:

10. Run - Matt Nathanson feat. Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush
9. Jesus - Amos Lee
8. Lights - Ellie Goulding
7. Good Life - OneRepublic
6. Mr. Know it All - Kelly Clarkson
5. Uncharted - Sara Bareilles
4. Edge of Glory - Lady Gaga
3. Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 feat. Christina Aguilera
2. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Carole King cover) - Amy Winehouse
1. Rolling in the Deep - Adele

Top 5 albums of 2011:

 5. Wasting Light - Foo Fighters
4. Mission Bell - Amos Lee
3. Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
2. 21 - Adele
1. Stronger - Kelly Clarkson

Top 10 concerts of 2011:

10. Matisyahu - Denver, CO

Kelly Clarkson debuts new material in Los Angeles

So, what happens when you remove the robotics from a Carrie Underwood song and add soul? You get this:

Last night, Kelly Clarkson performed a 13-song set at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, including four brand new songs from her soon-to-be-released album, Stronger (in stores this Monday, October 24). In addition to singing current single, "Mr. Know It All," and putting her own spin on the Carrie Underwood hit, "I Know You Won't," she also gave incredible first time performances of "Dark Side," "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," and "You Love Me." "Dark Side" and "What Doesn't Kill You" are in talks to be future singles, while the latter is a sassy, 80s-inspired track that Kelly has called her favorite of the new material.

Check out more videos from last night below (credit: kwab):

The tracks of (no more) tears: Kelly Clarkson releases "Stronger" tracklisting

Kelly's fifth album, "Stronger," is set to come out Monday, October 24
  1. Mr. Know It All
  2. What Doesn't Kill You
  3. Dark Side
  4. Honestly
  5. You Love Me
  6. Einstein
  7. Standing In Front Of You
  8. I Forgive You
  9. Hello
  10. The War Is Over
  11. Let Me Down
  12. You Can't Win
  13. Breaking Your Own Heart
  14. Don't You Wanna Stay (w/ Jason Aldean)
  15. Alone
  16. Don't Be A Girl About it
  17. The Sun Will Rise

Bonus EP:
  1. Hello (Smoakstack Session)
  2. The War Is Over (Smoakstack Session)
  3. You Love Me (Smoakstack Session)
  4. The Sun Will Rise (Smoakstack Session)
  5. If I Can't Have You (Smoakstack Session)
  6. I Can't Make You Love Me (Smoakstack Session)

Grace & her Nocturnals slick in Detroit

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals performed at Detroit's St. Andrew's Hall this week, giving Motown one part sugar and two parts killer rock show. If you haven't heard of this group, you're completely lame-dip ("sauce" is too mainstream for the musical pretentiousness I was going for). But, I'll cut you some slack and catch you up on the awesomeness of the soulful rock group and it's fearless lead singer, Grace Potter. (You can also click the fancy link at the beginning of this paragraph to peruse the band's website and - hint - buy some of their music.)

Musically, Grace is a 3008 mixture of Nancy Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Robert Plant and Jesus. She has the kind of voice you crave on vinyl. And the chemistry of the band (including Grace on organ and tambourine, Matt Burr on drums, Cat Popper on bass and Scott Tournet and Benny Yurco on guitar) is clearly magical. Grace may have lead billing, but the Nocturnals ain't no Kelly Rowlands.

Check out the Detroit setlist below and the rest of my photos by clicking here.

One Night with the Queen Changes Everything

At 69 years old, Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, is still commanding her propers. In seemingly good health (after a scare last year that forced her to cancel a string of concerts), she performed a hometown show at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Detroit this past Thursday. Throughout a nearly two-hour set, Aretha strutted, danced, joked and wailed, mingling her trademark hits with borrowed classics from Simon & Garfunkel, Jackie Wilson, Luther Vandross and more.

The evening was magical and life changing; witnessing the greatest voice of all time live and in person blew my mind and my soul.

Aretha Franklin is a true soul survivor and a national treasure. 

Check out the rest of my photos here as well as the full setlist below.

Harder, Better, Faster, STRONGER: New Kelly Clarkson album title and date announced

Kelly Clarkson has announced the release of her highly anticipated new album, Stronger. Available everywhere October 25th, Stronger is Kelly's fifth studio album and features the brand new single "Mr. Know It All".

Kelly will unveil the new single LIVE on her official site Tuesday, August 30th at 5:30pm EST. Save the date and RSVP to the event on Facebook.

Stronger is currently available to pre-order exclusively at Kelly's Official Music Store. Receive an instant download of the new single "Mr. Know It All" on 9/5 when you pre-order. Why wait until October 25th to reserve your copy? Click here to pre-order Stronger today!

Uncharted Territory: The talent and heart of Sara Bareilles

Sara Bareilles would like to have you believe that, deep beneath her skin, there is not a heart but a kaleidoscope. However, those of us lucky enough to call ourselves Sara B. fans know quite the contrary. Throughout her career - and especially through her actions over the past week - Sara has demonstrated an expanse of heart and wisdom equalled by few.

Last Saturday (only four days after I saw Sara and her band put on one of the most intricately beautiful sets at the House of Blues in Cleveland), a nightmare occurred at the Indiana State Fair when the concert stage collapsed in between Sara's opening set and country duo Sugarland's headlining set. While neither band was on stage at the time, five people (three fans, a security guard, and a stagehand) were tragically killed and dozens more were seriously injured. On twitter and her official website, Sara expressed the following:

Miss Independent to release "Mr. Know It All" on August 30

Finally. It's time.
So this morning one of the labels came in and played us the brand new track from Kelly Clarkson. I heard the leak a few months ago, and let me tell you this is not it! The track is called "Mr. Know It All" and it is AMAZING! Kelly still has the huge powerful voice, but does some new things with it and incorporates some great drum beats and tempo.

In my opinion the background has a "Just the Way You Are" sound and I instantly compared the vocal to Pink, with how raspy Kelly tries to go with it.

Unfortunately, I was not allowed to keep the copy, but got to listen to it twice. The single officially drops on August 30th, but as soon as I can put it up here I will and I am sure you will be hearing it on MyFM!
we can tell you more about Kelly Clarkson's single - it's called Mr Know It All & it will be out Aug 31*! Can't wait for you to hear it :)

*Note that the second source is based in Australia, which explains the difference in date from the first site

Kelly Clarkson and friends are "Already Famous"

Late last year, I posted about JillandKate (Jill Pickering and Kate Rapier), a duo that writes and performs its own songs as well as tours as background singers for Kelly Clarkson. Now, it seems, two artists have partnered with Kelly on a side project, creating the three-person band, Already Famous.

Very little information has been released at this point, but here's what we know so far:
  • The group members include Kelly Clarkson, Jill Pickering, and Kate Rapier
  • Three-part harmonies will be key
  • Recording has begun in an Oklahoma studio, and other contributors include Aben Eubanks, Chad Copelin, and Jarod Evans.

Click here for an eight-second audio sneak peak. What do you think? Excited?

Sugar High: Sugarland and Sara Bareilles perform in Detroit

Country-pop duo, Sugarland, performed in the Detroit area last night as part of their national Incredible Machine Tour. In addition to a quirky and unique brand of country music, Sugarland is known for its semi-surprising, yet ultimately fitting opening acts; this summer they have one of my absolute faves, Sara Bareilles, to warm up the crowd each night.

Detroit Gleek City

Glee Live! In Concert! came to the Detroit area this past Monday night performing to a sold out crowd at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Not originally intending to see the show, I succumbed at the last moment to a third row seat that I magically found the day of the concert. (Full disclosure: I don't have super powers. But, thank you for asking. Truth is, the night before the show, the venue opened up an entire new section in the pit adjacent to the stage.)

Not very far from the TV show's Lima, Ohio-based setting, 12 McKinley High Glee Clubbers performed a 22-song set: Lea Michele (Rachel), Cory Monteith (Finn), Amber Riley (Mercedes), Chris Colfer (Kurt), Kevin McHale (Artie), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Mark Salling (Puck), Naya Rivera (Santana), Heather Morris (Brittany), Harry Shum, Jr. (Mike), Chord Overstreet (Sam) and Darren Criss (Blaine). Dianna Agron (Quinn), typically part of the tour, was absent at this particular show, tweeting afterwards:

Detroit! I am terribly sorry I couldn't be at the show tonight, it was out of my power. I WILL be back tomorrow. Much love, Di

Two live Crystal Bowersox videos

Last week, I posted about the two fantastic Crystal Bowersox concerts in Toledo. I promised to post a couple videos I shot at the 10 p.m. show, and here they are. Enjoy and share!

Home is the Place for Crystal Bowersox

Saturday night, a year after finishing in second place on American IdolCrystal Bowersox came home to northwest Ohio. This time, she was here to give back, performing two sold out shows at The Valentine Theatre in downtown Toledo in front of family, friends, and fans.

The shows served as benefit concerts to support Toledo School for the Arts, which Crystal attended in high school. Current students from the school (and Tatiana Owens, a 2010 graduate making a name for herself in NYC) were given the opportunity to be Crystal's opening acts.

Adele, a Delight

Monday night, I had the pleasure of seeing the charming Adele live at Royal Oak Music Theatre in Michigan with my friend, Nick. We both knew beforehand how brilliant she is, yet we were still amazed at the extent of her talent, beauty, and overall spunk.

This year has been huge for Adele, who broke through with her first number one album (21) and song (Rolling in the Deep) in the U.S. Clearly, it's only the beginning for this lovely Brit.

A Happy Miss Independen(ce) Day

More than two years have passed since Kelly Clarkson released a new studio album, but she's been hard at work in the studio finishing her fifth record, due for release in September. Today, she posted an update on her Facebook, telling us that we can expect her new single in July.
I just heard another demo of mine leaked. I don't know how or who is doing it but they're demos and not the real deal. I record a ton of songs I write and songs that other people write when I'm making an album. Sorry for the confusion. I promise y'all I'm just as anxious to get my cd out! The recording is all done and now we're finishing up with mixing the record and getting ready to release the single in July.

 Get ready for a great (Miss) Independence Day!

How I Met Some Actors in Ann Arbor

(L to R) Anna Faris (The House Bunny, Scary Movie, etc.), my friend Kelly, me, Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Freaks & Geeks, etc.), and Chris Pratt (Parks and Recreation, etc.)
 On Sunday, some friends and I took a trip up to Ann Arbor for a brief (ala four-hour) vacation/Zingerman's Deli run. Turns out, Five Year Engagement (an upcoming film starring Emily Blunt, Jason Segel (also co-writer of the film), Chris Pratt, and more) is currently filming in town. We stumbled upon some of the cast as well as Anna Faris, Pratt's new wife, hanging out on Main Street. They were incredibly gracious and lovely.

Truly, Truly, Truly Bareilles

Sara B. brought her A-game to the Newport Music Hall in Columbus, Ohio this week, putting on one of the most phenomenal performances I've seen during my prestigious concert-going side career. It was in fact the 12th time I'd seen Sara in concert, either as a superstar headliner or as, in the mid-2000s, an opening act for an opening act. She's surely come a long way; in particular, her stage presence and overall concert production have grown by leaps and bounds, even in the past few months. I'm truly, truly honored to be a superfan as she continues building her lifelong music career.

Toledo Lady Rockets win WNIT

The University of Toledo Lady Rockets are National Champions! On Saturday, they beat the USC women's basketball team for the WNIT title. It is the first national title in history for any team in the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

Huge congrats to the team and its MVP, Naama Shafir!

At Ease in the Presence of Amos Lee

It's a magical thing when Amos Lee comes to town. A lock for a sellout any night of the week, Amos consistently and generously shares the music that flows through him so effortlessly. There are few musicians with a gift as rich as his, and the stars aligned once again last night when he brought his soulful charm back to Ann Arbor.

For this show, Amos performed with a full, eight-piece band. It was his second appearance at The Ark in the past year (he played in 2010 with a three-man band), and it's clear he's taken a liking to the intimate venue as well as its devoted fans. He did, however, note a desire to accommodate more fans on his next trip to Ann Arbor (The Ark seats approximately 400-500 people) and a hope of playing the much larger Michigan Theater, which, he joked, had opted for a Charlie Chaplin film festival last night instead of him.

Check out all my pictures from the night here along with last night's setlist (as I remember it) below.

*Video* Brand new Kelly Clarkson song: "Why Don't You Try"

Last night, Kelly Clarkson took part in Celebrity Fight Night, a star-studded annual event that honors Muhammad Ali and raises money for a range of charities, primarily the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.

As part of her three song set, she performed a brand new song (likely to be included on her fifth album, due in September) called "Why Don't You Try." The track was written by Eric Hutchinson, a singer-songwriter who served as Kelly's opening act on her All I Ever Wanted Tour. Check it out, it has a wonderful, soulful vibe that's sure to keep fans anticipating the new music this fall.

Thank you Ashley Donovan for taking and sharing this video (now of the full song)!

Here is another clip from a different angle as well (thanks to Arizona Foothills magazine):

And, below are a couple of bonus videos showing a "group effort" on the final song in Kelly's set, "My Life Would Suck Without You."

A tip of the yarmulke to TribeFest

This week I traveled to Las Vegas to attend TribeFest, "an entertaining, interactive and educational celebration that [drew] over 1,500 Jewish young adults (ages 22-45) from across North America. TribeFest [reflected] the vibrant setting of its host city, Las Vegas, offering meaningful, fun and top-quality content. Through presentations by dynamic leaders in politics, entertainment, music, art, food, religion and other aspects of Jewish life, TribeFest [offered] attendees many ways to connect to their own Judaism and how they see themselves as part of the community."

I attended the three-day conference for work and was truly inspired by the other attendees as well as the speakers. Highlights for me included Mayim Bialik (actress who is best known for her roles on "Blossom" and "The Big Bang Theory"), Ben Mezrich (author of several books, including The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, which was adapted into the screenplay for "The Social Network), Alina Gerlovin Spaulding (a humanitarian who emigrated to the United States in 1979 from the former Soviet Union. She shared a touching story of her family's heartache and perseverance), Vanessa Hidary (actress/poet), and NFL team owners Jonathan Kraft (New England Patriots) and Mark Wilf (Minnesota Vikings).

Here are a few photos I took as well as a couple short clips of Mayim Bialik and Vanessa Hidary:

Me with Mayim Bialik
Ben Mezrich
Mark Wilf and Jonathan Kraft

Believing in Gad

Kelly Clarkson's fifth studio album has been an elusive little thing, hasn't it? Well, after months of complete silence mixed with typical record label drama (Barry Weiss, Sony Music CEO, announced last year that he would be stepping down this April, causing many artists on the label to have their music put in flux), it seems the wheels are finally moving once again.

This week, Kelly has posted a few Facebook and Twitter updates and pictures related to her work with Toby Gad, a successful producer and songwriter known for songs like "If I Were A Boy" (Beyonce), "Big Girls Don't Cry" (Fergie), and "Untouched" (The Veronicas).

Kelly posted:

"I'm finishing up the last few songs for my album this week which means it shouldn't be too much longer .....finally! I will promise you though it's gonna be worth the wait! I've worked with a lot of great people and I can't wait to tour this album ....hell, I can't wait to tour period!"


"Finishing up with Toby Gad in the studio today, woohoo!"


"Finished up with Toby today! He's awesome and sweet!"


"Toby and I cut 2 songs for this record. Hope y'all like them!"


She also posted the following photos:

On his own personal Twitter, Toby posted about the meeting as well:

"here with @

 So, if all goes well, we should expect to have new KC music soon. Right?



Ann Arbor Fairy Tale

As most Midwesterners know, Ann Arbor is a magical place (even especially if you're aren't a football fan). One of the coolest, little-known elements of the city is that it features a number of "fairy doors" scattered throughout the area. Each one is designed and located differently. And, if you look closely, many have special surprises located inside.