Your Essential Grammy Awards Playlist

February 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm , by

We looked at 81 different Grammy categories—and multiple songs within every category—to pick our 15 favorite songs you need to hear before music’s biggest night. Take a listen, and even if you don’t know your Fun. from your Frank Ocean, you’ll be an expert by Sunday!

Taylor Swift and Fun. (Larry Busacca/

1. “We Are Young” – Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe

record of the year, song of the year, album of the year, best new artist, best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album

2. “Thinkin Bout You” – Frank Ocean

record of the year, album of the year, best new artist, best urban contemporary album

3. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift

record of the year

4. “I Will Wait” – Mumford and Sons

album of the year, best rock performance, best rock song, best Americana album

5. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson

record of the year, song of the year, best pop solo performance, best pop vocal album

6. “Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys

record of the year, album of the year, best rock performance, best rock song, best rock album

7. “Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye Featuring Kimbra

record of the year, best pop duo/group performance, best alternative music album

8. “Payphone” – Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa

best pop duo/group performance, best pop vocal album

9. “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” – Eli Young Band

best country duo/group performance, best country song

10. “Madness” – Muse

best rock song, best rock album

11. “Wide Awake” – Katy Perry

best pop solo performance

12. “Love On Top” – Beyoncé

best traditional R&B performance

13. “Wanted” – Hunter Hayes

best new artist, best country solo performance, best country album

14. “The Motto” – Drake

best rap song, best rap album

15. “We Take Care Of Our Own” – Bruce Springsteen

best rock performance, best rock song, best rock album

The Reader Interview: Taylor Swift

November 19, 2012 at 9:00 am , by

Every month an LHJ reader will get the chance to interview one of their favorite celebrities. This month, Gigi Kidary of Winter Park, Florida quizzes the singer-songwriter about her new CD, the most influential person in her life, and more.

Why is your new album called Red?
Most of the songs on this album are about fast-paced, out-of-control love. And the title track, “Red” is about a love that’s so intense, you can’t forget it. To me, intense emotion is red. This album documents my experiences with those types of relationships, from beginning to end.

Do you write better songs when you’re happy or sad?
I write songs about both the good and bad parts of love, so it’s hard to say which is the better inspiration. Sometimes sadness can be so overwhelming, it stifles you. I’d much rather be happy, so I choose that as my preferred inspiration.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of great artists. Is there someone you haven’t worked with yet that you would like to?
All of the artists I wanted to work with more than anything are on this album. ;)

How long does it usually take you to write a song?
It varies. I could get a lightning bolt of inspiration and write a song in 20 minutes, or I could labor over one for four months and put it down, then go back to it. That’s what I love about songwriting. You never know how or when it’s going to happen.

When you find time to read, what kind of books do you read?
I love The Hunger Games series and I was so honored to get to write music for the movie. Those books suck you in and keep you engaged like nothing I’ve read before.

Who is the most influential person in your life?
My mom. I’ve never gone a day without talking to her, and she gives me the wisest advice. But most of all, she’s put her kids first since we were born. Growing up, she was always there for me when I needed a friend. That’s why she’s still one of my closest friends now.

Win A Signed Copy of Sugarland’s Latest Album, The Incredible Machine

May 31, 2012 at 8:00 am , by

Here at the LHJ offices, we love to listen to good country music and Sugarland—which consists of bandmates Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush—is one of our favorites. And even though the Grammy-winning duo hasn’t released a new album since 2010, they’re satiating fans this summer with an interactive “in the hands of the fans” tour where fans can make song requests for each show, so every night is a brand new set. Jennifer Nettles took some time out of her busy schedule (she also stars on ABC’s new show, Duets) to speak with us for July’s In My Words interview, and she was nice enough to sign copies of their most recent album, The Incredible Machine, for three lucky fans to win! So if you’re a big Sugarland fan, here’s your chance to get an autographed copy! And if you’re new to their music, this is the perfect opportunity to get acquainted. Enter to win by leaving a comment on this blog post. Only one entry per person, per email address. Good luck!

Official Rules

Win Kelly Clarkson’s New Album, Stronger!

April 26, 2012 at 8:00 am , by

Credit: RCA Records

Ever since Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol in 2002, she’s been America’s singing sweetheart. And 10 years later she’s still crankin’ out hit after hit, from power anthem “Since U Been Gone” to the more recent jam, “Stronger,” which is also the title of her new album. Still haven’t had a chance to take a listen? Well you’re in luck, because we’re giving away twenty-five copies of the deluxe version of Stronger, which also includes her hit single “Mr. Know It All.” Do your iPod a favor and enter to win by leaving a comment on this blog post. Good luck!

Official Rules

Country Spotlight: Sherrié Austin

January 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm , by

Some have pegged Sherrié Austin as the Taylor Swift of the Sex and the City generation. While it was Swift who titled her 2008 album Fearless, it’s Austin who’s had a longer track record of making big, brave moves to get to where she wanted to be. From moving as a teen from her native Australia to L.A. (when she won a role on the sitcom The Facts of Life), to leaving L.A. behind to chase down her dream of making country music in Nashville and even later tackling a few roles on Broadway, Austin’s made a habit of staring down challenges and coming out on top.

If you think about it, Austin’s new CD Circus Girl could also have easily been titled Fearless: She funded the CD, coproduced it and is promoting it, all without the support of a major label. She also took full creative control, penning three of its songs and cowriting all of the others. The task would be a tightrope walk for any country act but it was even more so for Austin, considering that this marks the first time she’s thrown her own hat into the Nashville ring in eight years. Though the singer enjoyed a string of country hits that started in the late 90s (“Lucky In Love,” “Put Your Heart Into It”, “Never Been Kissed,” “Streets of Heaven”), she’s remained mostly behind the scenes the past few years writing songs for others, including some pretty big hitters (think Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, George Strait and Trace Adkins).

When Austin visited us here at LHJ recently, she was honest about how daunting her Circus Girl endeavor was, even though she came out the other side stronger than ever. “There were times when I just woke up and said, ‘Why am I doing this? I’m taking such a big risk here with my time, with my money,’ ” she admits. “But every day this voice just kept saying to me, ‘Keep going. Take another step, take another step.’ I just listened to it. And I have no regrets.”

Continue on after the jump to watch Austin's live, acoustic performance in our LHJ Ladies' Lounge.

Why would she? From its first track to its last, Circus Girl soars, bursting with a real sense of Austin’s effervescent personality and pluck. There are tracks that will make you laugh out loud (“I Didn’t,” “If I Was a Man”), tracks that will make you cry (“Get Your Leavin’ Done,” “Tryin’ to Be Me”) and even tracks that will make you want to … ahem … get a little frisky (“I Just Want to Love You Tonight”). Lyrically, Austin absolutely nails it when she captures the internal thoughts that run through everywoman’s head. In her single-lady lament “Friday Night Girls,” for example, she sings, “Trying to look twenty-one / is getting old and it ain’t no fun / That mirror don’t lie / like it used to.” And in “If I Was a Man,” she vows to burn her push-up bra, singing, “Wouldn’t mind me a girl / with some meat on her bones / I’d love me just as I am / If I was a man.”

For the time being in her life as a lady, though, Austin’s main man is singer-songwriter Shane Stevens (a cowriter on Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey”), with whom she stars on the Sundance Channel’s Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys. The show, just nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for outstanding reality program, follows the relationships of four straight women and their gay best friends down in the heart of Music City. While being a part of GWLBWLB has helped reintroduce Austin to her fans, it’s also reminded her that performing is something she loves to do. And that’s certainly music to all of our ears.

For a video of Austin’s live and acoustic performance in our LHJ Ladies’ Lounge, read on after the jump. You’ll also get the scoop on this once again rising Nashville star and find out what her hesitations were about doing GWLBWLB, the unique way she wound up writing her favorite song, what country (and pop) stars she’d love to hear sing her tunes, and lots more.

Read more

LHJ Book Club: Allison Pearson’s Favorite Crush Songs

October 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm , by

The October LHJ book club pick, I Think I Love You, is truly all about love—the BFF kind of love, the unexpected romance kind of love, and, of course, the starry-eyed teenage kind of love. After all, its about 70s heartthrob David Cassidy, and his songs (and his smile, and his eyes, and his dance moves …) made girls all over the world weak in the knees. The folks at Random House asked author Allison Pearson for her favorite lovey-dovey crush songs, and they really take us back. Click the links to listen to them (and then pick up the book!)—we dare you not to swoon.

I Think I Love You David Cassidy - “The classic Partridge Family anthem to unrequited love still comes up paint-fresh after an incredible 41 years. Great tambourine work from the younger Partridge kids and, of course, vocals from the boy in the posters on my bedroom wall, David Cassidy himself.”

Daydreamer  David Cassidy: “Oh God, I can still feel his breathy voice on the back of my neck. He was so gorgeous!”

Oh Lori – Alessi Brothers: “The quintessential summer love song, sizzling with youthful infatuation and testosterone. And they manage to work in the word ‘bicycle.’ Respect.”

Dear Mr. Gable, You Made Me Love You – Judy Garland: “Check out the young Judy in her nightgown singing to a photo of Clark Gable. One of the songs that made me want to write my new novel – to try and explain why it is we never forget our first crush.”

I’m Not In Love – 10cc: “Like a metaphysical poet, the singer tries to clamber out of the pit of obsessive infatuation, but only slips in deeper. John Donne, eat your heart out. This is beautiful.”

Seasons in The Sun – Terry Jacks: “This infuriatingly catchy ballad of doomed teen love gets into your brain like gum. I prefer Franki Valli’s heart-stoppingly lovely My Eyes Adored You.”

(They Long to Be) Close To You – The Carpenters: “This is the ten ton truck of crush songs. I wasted several sentences in my novel trying to capture the genius of Karen Carpenter’s voice—molten chocolate etc.—but you only have to hear her opening ‘Why’ to submit utterly. ‘On the day that you were born, the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true/So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair and golden stardust in your eyes of blue.’ ”

Puppy Love – Donny Osmond: “I was a Cassidy fan back in the early Seventies, when you were either a Donny or a David girl, but I have to admit this ballad of teen yearning holds up well and Donny looks better every year. He’s right when he sings that we patronize first love and underestimate its primal power. Here he is at the Ohio State Fair in 1972, with a backing track of screams. Way to go, girls!”

(via Random House Reading Group Center)

How to Get Kids to Read Music? Introduce them to Freddie the Frog

April 7, 2011 at 6:03 pm , by

Freddie the Frog and the Thump in the NightMy 4-year-old son, Scott—”I’m not four! I’m four and three-quarters!”—was not quite two when, of his own accord, he started tapping out the rhythm of the subway trains. Ba-bum ba-BUM. Ba-bum Ba-BUM. The boy loves music, has great rhythm and sings right on-key. So naturally I’ve tried to encourage music at home.”Hey, Scott, can you do this?” I’ll say, as I tap out a rhythm on the conga drum. Scott practically rolls his eyes and wanders off. I’ve tried to teach him simple songs on the keyboard, using whatever his current favorite tune is, and no dice—he’ll either start randomly banging and laughing, cracking himself right up, or he’ll play two notes and then bail. If Mom’s trying to teach it, it must not be worth knowing. Same reason I had to sign him up for swim classes, even though I was on a fricking swim team! God help me when he’s a teenager.

So anyway, when I heard about Freddie the Frog, a four-volume children’s book and CD series designed to help familiarize young kids with musical notes and rhythm notation, I thought, “Surrrrrrrre.” But I was willing to check it out. We’ve been Freddie the Frog and the Bass Clef Monsterreading the first three off and on for a couple months now, and I’m a total convert. The books follow the adventures of Freddie and his best friend Eli the elephant. They are typical kids’ picture books with mystery, drama, humor and fun illustrations—and a nefarious plan to teach your kid about music.

Each book has an accompanying CD that helps the story come alive with music and voice characterizations.The first book in the series is set on Treble Clef Island—can you guess what it covers? Second one is on Bass Clef Island, and the third, Tempo Island. The music-reading stuff is kind of woven in to the story, but not really… Like, in the first book when it mentions azaleas, there’s a drawing of an A note on the treble clef, just kind of jammed in there. But you know what? After just a few reads, Scott’s already starting to recognize the notes! Read more

Categories: Ladies' Lounge | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments