For Robbie Williams, Coronavirus ‘Can’t Stop Christmas’

Happy quarantined holiday from Robbie Williams!

The singer unveiled his new holiday song “Can’t Stop Christmas” on Thursday (Nov. 19), but with a 2020 twist. “You can’t take away our season, like you can’t take away our wine,” he sings in the all-too-familiar chorus. “Santa’s on his sleigh, but now he’s two metres away.”

The song is featured on the star’s holiday album, The Christmas Present, which features a mix of festive classics and collaborations with Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Jamie Cullum, Tyson Fury and more.

Listen below.

R. Kelly Lawyer Says Singer Is ‘Suffering’ Mentally as Trial Date Set for April

A federal judge has ordered a start date in the trial of singer R. Kelly, according to information provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. In a schedule set down by U.S. District Court Judge Ann M. Donnelly, jury questionnaires will be distributed between March 15 and March 25, 2021, jury selection begins April 6 and the trial kicks off on April 7.

Kelly is facing charges in New York of racketeering, coercion of a minor, transportation of a minor and coercion to engage in illegal sexual activity relating to six different victims. The indictment alleges that for over two decades, R. Kelly was the leader of a racketeering enterprise made up of managers, bodyguards, drivers, personal assistants and runners who recruited women and girls to engage in illegal sexual activity with the singer. The sexual activity was often filmed and photographed by Kelly, according to the court filing by the Department of Justice. He is also awaiting trial in Illinois regarding separate sexual abuse allegations and is currently being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Kelly has been incarcerated since July 2019 after being arrested in Chicago while walking his dog named Believe by Homeland Security officers and members of the New York police department. He has made repeated requests to be released on his own recognizance pending trial, but his requests have been repeatedly denied.

In October, Donnelly also granted the prosecution’s request for Kelly’s case to be heard by an unnamed/anonymous jury that would be partially sequestered for the duration of the trial. The government requested that “the identities of all prospective jurors, including their names, addresses and places of employment, not be revealed to either party or their attorneys,” and that “from the time each juror is empaneled until the conclusion of the trial, the jurors eat lunch together and be accompanied in and out of the courthouse by members of the United States Marshals Service each day,” according to court records. Prosecutors argued that these precautions were necessary because of the trial’s expected media attention and because of Kelly’s “incentive and means” to interfere with the jury.

“He is charged with leading a criminal enterprise that paid out large sums over the past two decades to bribe witnesses and cover up his misconduct, and he faces a significant prison term if convicted,” wrote Donnelly in her order granting the request by the prosecution.

Kelly’s attorney Michael I. Leonard tells Billboard that extra jury precautions are “bizarre” and “inappropriate,” as anonymous juries are typically reserved for dangerous defendants such as a “Mafia kingpin or drug cartel leaders” where there is a realistic and legitimate reason to fear for someone’s safety.” He claims this kind of protective measure does not fit the facts of Kelly’s case and hinders his ability to prepare for a fair trial.

He also says that Kelly’s isolating incarceration, with constant lockdowns in prison due to COVID-19, has affected his client mentally.

“In terms of his mental well-being, I think he’s suffering under these COVID conditions because they had an enormous outbreak previously,” Leonard says. “It’s not a good environment to be in.”

Despite all that, Leonard says his client is looking forward to having his day in court.

“It’s been long and onerous, but on the other hand I think he is eager to get to trial,” says Leonard.

Radiohead Speaks Out on ‘Negligence’ in Deadly 2012 Stage Collapse

Radiohead has given their thoughts on engineer Domenic Cugliari, who was responsible designing the Toronto Downsview Park stage that collapsed in June 2012, killing drum tech Scott Johnson.

The band noted that on Instagram on Friday (Nov. 20) that earlier this week, the Discipline Committee of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) conducted a hearing to investigate the engineer.

“Mr Cugliari has acknowledged in this hearing, his catalogue of errors and the negligence on his part that led to the stage collapse and Scott’s death,” the post reads. “These admissions are 8 years too late. If the evidence now accepted by Mr Cugliari had been agreed at the original court case brought against him, @livenation and the contractor Optex Staging, it would have been complete in one day, with a very different outcome and some justice would have been delivered. As it is, Mr Cugliari has now retired and, is seemingly beyond any legal recrimination.

“This is a sad day. Our thoughts and love are, as ever, with Scott’s parents, Ken and Sue Johnson, his family and friends, and our crew,” the statement concludes.

See the post here.

Live Nation, scaffolding company Optex Staging and Services and Domenic Cugliari were charged in 2013 under the Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, and in 2017, an Ontario judge stayed the charges.

How Shawn Mendes’ ‘In Wonder’ Doc Strips Away the ‘Mythology’ of a Star & Reveals the Human Underneath

Shawn Mendes spent the majority of 2019 on his 109-show, world arena tour. The nine-month trek, which grossed $96.7 million and sold 1.3 million tickets, was his biggest yet.

But a tour of that magnitude came with its fair share of highs, lows, mental pressure and physical demands. Netflix’s upcoming documentary, In Wonder, follows the 22-year-old superstar’s journey to self-discovery over the past year, and how he channeled it all into a creative new album.

To capture his story, Mendes enlisted director Grant Singer, who is best known for his work on high-profile music videos such as The Weeknd’s “The Hills,” Lorde’s “Green Light,” Zayn and Taylor Swift’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” Troye Sivan’s “My My My” and countless more. “It’s interesting because I come from a world of music video directing where the role of a director is very visible and my imprint aesthetically is large, conceptually and in terms of my role on set,” he explained of filming In Wonder. “Whereas, when you’re making a documentary, the intent is the inverse, to be invisible and just let the moments unfold and witness them without having a hand guide them.

“It was a learning experience for me to really disappear when I was present to make him comfortable so he can live his life without feeling like we were filming,” he added.

The director certainly accomplished that sense of authenticity. In Wonder covers massive musical milestones like Mendes’ sold-out show at the Rogers Centre in Toronto and his sultry “Señorita” duet with girlfriend Camila Cabello at the 2019 VMAs — weaving in how the pop star felt at every turn and his more vulnerable, human moments.

In one of Singer’s standout scenes, Mendes is forced to cancel his Nov. 30 show in São Paulo, Brazil after struggling with a vocal strain. “I felt like I was witnessing something very intense unfold in real time,” he said of the devastating moment. “That is a powerful thing to witness and document, and I felt privileged to be able to be there for that.”

“We build up pop stars to be super human beings, but one of the things this film does is—they’re just like us,” he continued. “They have fears, insecurities, desires as we all do. This film focuses more on Shawn as a person and less on Shawn as the mythology of him as an artist, and I think that’s what I like about it.”

Singer feels that the “In My Blood” star is very much in “the first chapter” of his career, and therefore, spotlighting his journey is more important now than ever. “What you really want to capture is something real, an honest moment,” he shared. “I really wanted to strip things away, where we really get to the heart of who Shawn is and what he’s about and his passion and his character.

“Even if you’re a massive fan of someone, there’s only so much content you have and it’s through a certain lens, through the albums themselves, interviews, press things, photos,” Singer concluded of what he hopes viewers will take away from the documentary. “But I hope this film gives fans access to a very intimate, off-the-cuff way to see him for who he is and who the real Shawn Mendes is in a way that gives them a terrific, expansive scope.”

In Wonder is available to stream on Nov. 23 on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

 

First Spin: The Week’s Best New Dance Tracks From Anabel Englund & Lee Foss, Pharrell & Black Coffee & More

New Music Friday is intense. Hundreds of songs drop from artists around the world, and you’re supposed to somehow find the best ones. It’s fun work, but it’s time-consuming — so we at Billboard Dance want to give you a hand. Each week, we sift through the streams and dig in the digital crates to present the absolute must-hears from the wide breadth of jams.

Dance music is all about the community, and in that spirit, this week is delivering a litany of heavyweight collabs. There’s Louisahhh getting a heavy-ass edit from Imogen, Oliver Heldens big upping his excellent new Heldeep signee Aspen King and the unusually long list of group efforts below. Grab a friend, and let’s dig in.

Armand van Helden & Chris Lake Feat. Arthur Baker & Victor Simonelli, “The Answer” 

Chris Lake and New York house legend Armand van Helden tag team for the buoyant, infectious anthem “The Answer,” which samples 1991’s “Why Can’t We See,” a plea for justice and love by pioneering producers Arthur Baker and Victor Simonelli. The 2020 power duo’s take on the classic comes from a four track EP of the same name, with the collab starting quite humbly over coffee last November.

“The vibes were flying after we sat down on the first morning, chugging coffee, visualizing what could be made,” Lake says in a press release.” “The title track came together so quickly,” van Helden adds, “we just followed the energy in the room.” Take their lead and follow the energy in this track to whatever area of your house you host your dance parties for one.

Wolfgang Gartner & Kill the Noise, “Battlestations”

Wolfgang Gartner and Kill the Noise join forces for “Battlestations,” which is as aggressive, unpredictable and slick as one would expect from these two longstanding masters of low end. (There’s also a very welcome electro vibe and some influence from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, stronger.” The single’s cover art depicts the hounds of hell facing off against a gaggle of red-eyed skeletons outside the steps of a buIlding very reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol Building, giving a heavy hint of the battle the two producers had in mind when assembling all of the power builds.

Lee Foss, Detlef & Anabel Englund, Thunder & Lightning EP

It’s been six years since Lee Foss and Anabel Englund released music through the lauded Hot Creations imprint, with the work they did alongside Jamie Jones (as Hot Natured) via the label in the early 2010s delivering some of the era’s slinkiest house anthems.

Their homecoming is the Thunder & Lightning EP, a collaboration with Greek producer Detlef. The sound is both fresh and exactly what you’d expect from the trio of deep house cool kids, with the sexy, bumping productions serving as a carrier for Englund’s always smoldering vocals. which on the title track exist alongside samples of traditional tribal singing. (A recent trend in dance music, with similar samples also recently coming from TroyBoi and Bicep.) The project follows Foss and Englund’s May single “Warm Disco.”

Cedric Gervais & Franklin feat. Nile Rodgers, “Everybody Dance”

When Nile Rodgers is involved in new music, all you must do is find a space where you can turn the music up loud. The new jam in question is in fact also an old jam, with French veteran Cedric Gervais and rising star Franklin collabing on a high energy (and in fact kind of NRG-sounding) remix of  Chic’s 1977 club classic “Everybody Dance.” The update adds a tropical vibe and some serious disco swirl around the killer bassline of the original, with everything coming together for a track with the joy and spirit of a jazzercise marathon.

Black Coffee Feat. Pharrell & Jozzy, “10 Missed Calls”

Pharrell has been dipping his toes in the deep end of dance pool this year, with he and Neptunes partners Chad Hugo working with deadmau5 on the May single “Pomegranate.” Whereas that track veered into fruity-cocktails-with-little-umbrellas-vibes, Pharrell’s just-released single with honey-voiced singer Jozzy and South African star producer Black Coffee is more suited to a late fall snuggle. It’s not necessarily a game changing piece of music, but if you want a piece of R&B-influenced effervescent house music upon which to float away on into the weekend, this is your jam.

Escpe, Cloud Walk EP

To be fair, the bulk of the Cloud Walk EP by TK producer ESCPE is solo work, although the project’s star track (and lead single) “Suncrown” is a collab with respected Finnish producer Axel Thesleff. The entire EP is populated by experimental, often ambient bass that delivers some of those good old back in the day Low End Theory vibes. Escpe has also has a cosign from Clozee, so you know it’s quality.

First Country: New Music from Garth Brooks, Morgan Wallen, Lee Brice, Chris Young and More

Garth Brooks, Fun

(Only available to Amazon Music  subscribers, but listeners can sample the album here)

From his self-titled debut album 31 years ago, Brooks has always known his strength: not trying to be anyone but himself, not even his hero George Strait (though “That’s What Cowboys Do” sounds like it fell off a Strait album). He’s never paid attention to trends or fads to curry radio’s favor. But when you’re the top-selling solo artist in the U.S., calling your own shots is not only your prerogative, it’s mandatory. Many of the oft-delayed Fun’s 15 songs, including previous singles “The Road I’m On,” “All Day Long” and “Dive Bar” with Blake Shelton, live up to the upbeat title, as does Cajun twister “Party Gras (The Mardi Gras Song),” but there’s a lot more going on in this diverse set. Brooks shows off his underrated soulful side on the gospel-tinged, rollicking “Amen” (which is about anything but heavenly pursuits), and he and Charley Pride are beautifully simpatico on “Where the Cross Don’t Burn,” a duet about the enduring friendship between a young white boy and older black man, despite racist times. Lovers of such songs as “The Change” will likely champion “The Courage of Love,” a lush, anthemic turn about finding the strength to do what’s right, and fans of his wife, Trisha Yearwood, will eat up their cover of A Star Is Born’s “Shallow,” where she holds a powerful command. Brooks’ fans know he always reserves the last spot on the album for his favorite song and “(Sometimes You’ve Got to Die To) Live Again,” a dramatic, piano- and string-based ballad featuring Brooks’ supple vocals soaring from falsetto to arena rocker with ease, will likely be a listener favorite as well.

Morgan Wallen, “Livin’ the Dream”

The newly crowned CMA new artist of the year drops three tracks from his forthcoming 30-track set, Dangerous: The Double Album. “Somebody’s Problem” is an acoustic charmer about realizing you’re happily about to take on someone else’s problems as you fall in love and “Still Goin’ Down” hits all the usual tropes about pride in small-town life, but the real winner for Wallen here, lyrically and musically, is the dark “Livin’ the Dream,” which gives insight into the isolating and often corrosive effects of stardom (all the more illuminating given Wallen’s issues earlier this fall that led to his losing his SNL musical guest spot). It’s arresting in its honesty.

Chris Young & Kane Brown, “Famous Friends”

Brown has been duetting with lots of folks across the musical spectrum lately, including Swae Lee and Khalid, but he comes home to his country roots on this snappy uptempo tune with Young. They name-check various counties in Tennessee as they reminisce about their famous friends there — the local heroes who never make it to the big city, content to be big fish in small ponds. Unlike Garth, they’ve got “friends in high places,” as they salute the local sheriff, preacher and teacher. The earworm of the fall and winter is undoubtedly No. 1-bound as these two “famous friends” complement each other perfectly.

Lee Brice, Hey World

Brice’s new set has already spawned two No. 1s, “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” with Carly Pearce, and “One of Them Girls.” For the casual fan, Brice’s “everyman” appeal hides his superpower as one of Nashville’s top songwriters. He co-wrote all the tracks here with fellow heavy-hitters, and the tunes reflect a wide range of topics, from country living and drinking to weightier themes. Not every one of the 15 tracks here rises to the level of current single “Memory I Don’t Mess With” (a worthy successor to “More Than a Memory,” the Brice-penned 2007 No. 1 for Garth Brooks), but songs like “Save the Roses,” a tune written from the perspective of a dead person at his funeral, are keepers from first listen.

Russell Dickerson feat. Florida Georgia Line, “It’s About Time”

“It’s about time for a drink,” Dickerson sings on this uptempo party of a song that will make you forget every one of your troubles and make you want to open up a cold one yesterday. The sung/spoken tune is as lightweight as they come and blessedly so, given these dark times. Look for “We’re ready as truck stop ice” to become your next catchphrase.

 

Koe Wetzel, Sellout 

This isn’t your grandfather’s country: Wetzel’s first album after officially signing with Columbia Records (hence the title) comes with plenty of explicit lyrics warnings. But the Texas country/rock hybrid quickly shows he’s lost none of his independent edge or unpredictability. “Crying From the Bathroom” is slow building, explosive rock kiss-off to an ex-friend, while “Lubbock” will have you two-stepping around your living room.  Wetzel sounds like he’s been influenced as much by Soundgarden as by Hank Williams: “SideChick” sounds straight out of ‘90s Seattle, both in its grunginess and content (“Why won’t you love me,” Wetzel drones over and over to the sound of pills rattling in the background). All the better to segue into “Drug Problem,” a heavy mid-tempo rocker.  Wetzel, whose voice has an arresting clarity and emotion, co-wrote or wrote all of the tracks on the set, except for the unsettling “Outcast.”

 

Collin Raye, Scars

“I told you you were dead to me when you walked out the door”: So kicks off ’90s hitmaker Raye’s first album of all-new material since 2009. It’s a helluva opening statement, but “Ghost Story” is just the tip of the iceberg. Produced by David Ferguson, Scars is an apt title for an album that meets Raye where he is now: older, wiser, bent but not broken. The title track, a poignant duet with Miranda Lambert, is a standout, as is heartbreaker “Dancing Alone in the Street.” To be sure, there are some upbeat moments, like “Never Going Back There Again” (which, inconceivably, recalls Don Henley’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance”) and the yodeling “Rodeo Girl” featuring Vince Gill, but the beauty is found in the hard-won experiences here. The album ends with “Mama Sure Could Sing,” written by Raye and his brother, and largely sung a cappella. Though new, it feels like it’s been around forever. The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach plays electric guitar throughout.

Sarah Buxton, Signs of Life

Buxton, who has written tunes recorded by Keith Urban, Big & Rich, Gary Allan, The Band Perry, Trisha Yearwood and Florida Georgia Line, steps back into the spotlight on this pop-influenced EP. Set opener “Some Things Don’t Change” sounds straight off a Sheryl Crow album, while “Little Bit Better” allows Buxton’s vulnerable vocals to shine on the acoustic guitar-based ballad.

Ashland Craft, “Two Wildflowers and a Box of Wine”

New Big Loud signee makes a big loud entrance with the captivating Southern rock-tinged, chugging track that recalls Gretchen Wilson. The romance is real as she and her beau take some time away from the rat race for each other and indulge in some simple pleasures. Co-written by Craft, the sinewy song shows off a strong new talent.

Dillon Carmichael, “Hot Beer”

Honky-tonker Carmichael returns with a song that comes with quite the pedigree. The rowdy track was produced by Jon Pardi and co-written by unstoppable hitmaker Ashley Gorley. Carmichael’s low twang is as authentic as it comes, as is his disgust as he declares he’d rather drink a hot beer than get back with his ex, who cheated and lied and wrecked his Ford. In Carmichael’s mind, drinking a hot beer is convincingly roughly akin to sticking a hot poker in your eye…perhaps worse.

Robert Counts, “What Do I Know”

The official music video emerges for Counts’ gritty, swampy tune that recalls Brantley Gilbert. “Dirt on my hands, sweat on my blue collar/ Got everything I need right here in the holler,” he sings in this defiant tune as workers go about their jobs in the country, not kowtowing at all to city slickers who will never understand.

Hannah Dasher, “Girls Call Tte Shots”

Big-haired and big-personality Hannah Dasher shines on this understated, throughly country midtempo ballad about how boys may think they’re running the show, but the smart ones know “guys buy the drinks, girls call the shots.” Her voice has just the right amount of leather and lace.

SAINt JHN Hosts a Model-Filled Photoshoot in ‘Monica Lewinsky’ Video

SAINt JHN called on DaBaby and A Boogie wit da Hoodie for his melodic While the World Was Burning track “Monica Lewinsky,” and on Friday (Nov. 20) the trio unveiled a luxurious new video for the song.

“She’s my Monica Lewinsky / She gon’ bust it right here, ’cause it’s risky / She got the code like DaVinci / Only gotta text one time that you miss me,” JHN flows in the chorus, as he has his collaborators saunter around a photoshoot surrounded by stunning models.

The brand new While the World Was Burning features two remixes of his breakout hit “Roses,” plus a number of high-profile collaborators including Kanye West, Kehlani, Future, Lil Uzi Vert and more.

Watch the “Monica Lewinsky” video below.