HITS Daily Double
Idol’s most important lesson for the record business is the fact that giving people a way to make an emotional investment in an artist is the surest way to build the kinds of stars whose albums they will buy.


But It'll Be a Lot Colder Sunday at Soldier Field
Gary Lucas/Gods & Monsters, Coming Clean (Mighty Quinn): “Evolving so unique and autonomous/That it almost appears to be a separate universe,” sings collaborator David Johansen on the co-written, biblical “One Man’s Meat,” and he could almost be referring to the progress of noted guitar muso Lucas himself. As one of the rock world’s best-kept secrets, Gary’s major claims to fame include membership in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band circa their early ’80s Virgin albums and founding Gods & Monsters, the N.Y. outfit where he first worked with the late Jeff Buckley, co-authoring classics like “Grace” and “Mojo Pin,” a version of which is included here. Unlike most axe wizards, the eclectic Lucas doesn’t allow his guitar pyrotechnics—which range from Leo Kottke/Jerry Garcia-style bluegrass vamping on songs like “Fata Morgana” and the dobro-esque Delta strum in his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Ain’t Got You” to the searing solo in the title track or the spot-on British Invasion psychedelia of “Land’s End”—to get in the way of his lush melodies. A true believer that music is a vehicle for spiritual transcendence as well as sexual climax, the Yale English lit major balances metaphysics in the Byrds/Eagles/R.E.M.-like “Follow” (“And when the feeling flows/From your head down to your toes/And the light within you shows/There’s a way beyond this woe”) with pure sensuality, as in the oozing “Skin Diving,” where Euro singing star Elli Medeiros echoes his twangy, percolating guitar lines by cooing seductively in French. His three-piece band’s take on Bernard Hermann’s “Psycho” theme is yet another highlight, turning the famed Hitchcock riff into a miniature, Wire-like punk bash. Aside from Johansen, Lucas is joined by his original Gods & Monsters bassist, Harvard grad and former Modern Lover Ernie Brooks, Television drummer Billy Ficca and Bongos’ lead singer Richard Barone, creating a band of new wave all-stars in the tradition of his legendary group with Buckley. And if you doubt that Lucas was Jeff’s finest collaborator, dig the version of their “Mojo Pin” here, featuring supple vocals by N.Y. singer/songwriter Michael Schoen. He may have Ivy League credentials, but Gary Lucas isn’t afraid to get down and dirty.

2. Nas, Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam/IDJ): This old-school rapper from the same troubled N.Y.C. projects of the QB, Queensbridge, that produced both MC Shan and bad boy baller Ron Artest puts his finger on the genre’s malaise, which seems pretty prophetic considering the desultory commercial performance of recent high-profile albums by reigning East Coast champ Jay-Z and West Coast heir The Game, both of whom make cameos here. Considered a master MC with lyrical flow rivaling such revered figures as Tupac, Biggie and Rakim, Nas lives up to the rep of his acclaimed Illmatic debut on this first album for old rival Jay-Z’s label. Enveloping himself in a fatalism and despair over rap’s current direction, he laments the lack of loyalty in “Carry on Tradition,” pointing out “The Jewish stick together/Friends in high places/We on some low-level shit/We don’t want niggaz to ever win.” With a sample of James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” underneath, Nas laments rap’s short memory in “Where Are They Now?,” then plucks classic old-school samples of “In a Gadda Da Vida” and “Apache” from Michael Viner’s mid-’70s Incredible Bongo Band for the title track, in which he prays, “If hip-hop should die before I wake...” Our man gets on the smooth “Girl From Ipanema” tip with Kanye West and Chrisette Michele on “Still Dreaming,” then tackles a Marvin Gaye confessional on “Hold Down the Block.” “Blunt Ashes” has a druggy double meaning in its lament of past tragedies from the JFK assassination and Zapp’s Larry Troutman killing his brother Roger to the murder of Bill Cosby’s son and Donny Hathaway jumping out of a hotel window. “Can’t Forget About You” takes a sample of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” and some classic scratching to ruminate with tongue in cheek about rap’s history (“Can’t forget when the first rap Grammy went to Jazzy, Fresh Prince/Fat Boys broke up, rap hasn’t been the same since”), tossing lyrical nods to Michael Jordan’s retirement and Robert Horry’s shot “to win the game in the finals, kid.” For all his doom-saying, though, you know where Nas’ heart is as he states: “Heinous crimes help record sales more than creative lines/And I don’t wanna keep bringing up the greater times/But I’m a dreamer nostalgic with the state of mind.” On the final “Hope,” he insists, a cappella, “This is our thing…,” while the female voices chant as if in prayer, “Live hip-hop live, Stay hip-hop stay.” Despite his harsh pronouncement, Nas provides some hope hip-hop can rebound like Dennis Rodman in his heyday.

3. Incubus, Light Grenades (Epic/Immortal): Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since vocalist Brandon Boyd hooked up with his Calabasas High classmates, guitarist Michael Einziger and drummer Jose Pasillas, and formed a band to launch what Ivana used to call "gated community rock." The group’s sixth album is a brooding meditation on the yin-yang/pain-pleasure of romantic love in these perilous times, combining the group’s patented post-punk/grunge-funk/nu metal apocalypto (“A Kiss to Send Us Off,” “Pendulous Threads”) with an emerging melodic bent that channels such influences as U2 (“Dig”), the Police (the reggae/world beat of “Anna Molly”) and the Beatles (“Love Hurts”). Boyd’s plaintively expressive vocals, Einziger’s gnarled, buzzsaw guitars and turntablist Kilmore’s array of sounds define the album’s parameters, with the singer mashing up the political and the personal on songs like “Quicksand” (“Some people fall in love and touch the sky/Some people fall in love and find quicksand”), “Love Hurts” (“But sometimes it’s a good hurt/And it feels like I’m alive”) and “Diamonds and Coals” (“I’m not calling you an animal/I just think we fight too much”). And while more than willing to reconcile those opposites (“Give it time girl/The fire feels divine”), by the time he gets to “Pendulous Threads,” in which he compares picking at his open wounds with an unraveling sweater, Boyd’s literally at the end of his rope, revealing the gaping vacuum in his chest. As he measures the distance between dreams and reality, our hero is “fettered and abused…naked and accused,” hurting, but defiantly alive. “Tonight we drink to youth,” sings Boyd. “And holding fast to truth.” Light Grenades manages to do both.

4. NFL Championship Games: Ever since my J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets were eliminated, the only thing I care about is seeing someone wipe that self-satisfied smirk off Patriot coach Bill Belichick’s face, even if it is the equally smug, but always rattled in the playoffs, Colts QB Peyton Manning. Manning has failed twice before to get past the Pats in the postseason, and there’s no reason to believe he can succeed here, even if Indianapolis holds a home-field advantage which, according to the bettors, is worth three points even before the game starts. That said, the odds could favor the beleaguered QB this time, despite two very un-Manning-like games in a row so far, maybe Pey-back is in order. My hate for the Patriots may be getting in the way, but I like the way the Colts defense is playing, and I think holding the game indoors before a boisterous home crowd is a big advantage for Indy. Tom Brady is surely a pain in the ass, but I’m taking Colts rookie running back Joseph Addai over his Pats counterpart, Lawrence Maroney, as well as the long-suffering Tony Dungy against the totally insufferable Belichick, say 17-14, with ex-Pat Adam Vinatieri providing the juicy exclamation point against his old mates. The NFC game is equally compelling, with the favored Chicago Bears going up against America’s favorite team, the New Orleans Saints. The sentimental choice is, of course, the one-time Aints of Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and bright young head coach Sean Payton (why do the Giants always let the best ones get away from them, e.g. Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry, Belichick, etc.?). And, of course, no one wants to put their money on much-maligned Bears QB Rex Grossman, but the Bears’ defense is formidable, and this time, I think the fact they’re outdoors in Soldier Field, with its howling winds, will help them shut down a stiff Brees, even with his two-headed Deuce-Bush backfield. Let’s say Da Bears, 24-21, in a close one.

5. Tony Bennett: An American Classic (Columbia Music Video): This DVD version of the legendary crooner’s recent prime-time network special formed part of the 80th birthday celebration that included his best-selling Duets album, and cements his standing as the last of the classic pop stylists. Conceived and directed by Chicago’s Rob Marshall, it’s a throwback to ’60s TV musical specials like My Name Is Barbra, complete with the high-stepping Tony Bennett Dancers on the fake black-and-white NBC variety show paid homage to by Tony’s duets with Diana Krall (“The Best Is Yet to Come”) and Colombian superstar Juanes (“The Shadow of Your Smile”). Interspersed with spoken testimonials by Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bruce Willis, John Travolta and Robert DeNiro, the show outlines Bennett’s impressive career, from the 52nd St. jazz speakeasies of the ’40s (“Sing, You Sinners,” a choreographed Chicago-styled set piece with John Legend) and a recreated recording session at the old Columbia studios (his first hit, “Because of You,” accompanied by k.d. lang and trumpeter Chris Botti), through stints at the Vegas Sahara (a campy turn with Elton John on “Rags to Riches” and Michael Buble on “Just in Time” in the middle of fan-dancing chorus girls), Carnegie Hall (a take on “For Once in My Life” with Stevie Wonder and full orchestra) and on his Grammy-winning MTV Unplugged comeback (“Steppin’ Out” with a rather demure Christina Aguilera). The gracious Bennett allows his co-stars to share the spotlight, whether it’s the solo opening version of “Smile” with a kvelling Barbra Streisand or the slightly embarrassing collaborations with a clearly out-of-their-league Elton and Aguilera. Still, the highlight is Bennett’s solo finale, his trademarked “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” which he nails, as he always does, with an unassuming modesty and warmth that harks back to a far more elegant, innocent time. This warm and sincere tribute to Bennett’s impressive musical legacy has the bittersweet feel of the end of an era and makes you realize just what we’ll be missing when he’s gone.

6. American Idol: Who are we to argue with a cultural phenomenon? I mean, 37.3 million viewers can’t be wrong, can they? What this juggernaut does prove is that a great many people still do care about music, but Idol’s most important lesson for the record business isn’t Cowell’s English arrogance, Abdul’s wackiness or even Randy’s self-possession. It’s the fact that giving people a way to make an emotional investment in an artist is the surest way to build the kinds of stars whose albums they will buy. Of course, that hasn’t worked in every case. So far, the show has produced what look like two solid pop music careers in winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, but there is a whole other group of non-finalists, including Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson, who appear to have promising futures in front of them as well going as well. What the record labels could learn from this is that it’s all about building, and serving, your particular community, in the hopes it becomes self-sufficient enough to stand on its own. Unfortunately, the show’s self-congratulations seem to have caught up with it this year. The very popular audition shows have featured the staple of all reality television—utter humiliation of not just clueless wannabes but also those suffering from the sort of abject misfortune that has been a tradition in this genre since one of my fave childhood game shows, Queen for a Day, where contestants competed for a new refrigerator awarded to the one with the most wrenching real-life sob story. And while I’m certainly a fan of the “make ’em squirm” comedy perfected by Sacha Baron Cohen, the self-satisfaction of Idol’s judge-and-jury triumvirate—who hold the participants’ fates in their undeserving hands—is too demeaning and cruel for even this hard-core rubbernecker. Now, if Borat was added to the panel instead of Jewel, I might keep watching.

7. The Knights of Prosperity (ABC): ABC’s strategy of building a comedy block on Wednesday nights involves sandwiching this newcomer between Jim Belushi’s According to Jim and the new In Case of Emergency. Originally titled Let’s Rob Mick Jagger, the sitcom comes from David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants production company, was created by his longtime chief writer Rob Burnett and includes an executive producer credit for Mr. Rubber Lips, whose interspersed segments, taped as a Cribs-style program on E!, are pretty much the funniest part of the show. The always-enjoyable Donal Logue plays a janitor who decides to quit his job and form a gang of thieves to rob the rocker, with a typically sitcom group that includes a 300 lb. black man named Rockefeller Butts with the voice of Barry White (the wonderfully deadpan Kevin Michael Patterson), an Iranian stand-up playing an Indian cab driver who was a doctor back in his native land (Maz Jobrani) and a pasty-faced innocent (Josh Griseti) who is a ringer for a similar character on 30 Rock, the page Kenneth played by Jack McBrayer. There’s also, of course, the requisite female, gamely played by Sofia Vergara, a big-breasted Latino whose funny accent is exploited for laughs, a little too close to the maid played by Nadine Velazquez in My Name Is Earl. And therein lies the show’s main problem—the fact most of its attempted funniest bits are lifted from other shows. And while the faux ’70s A Team graphics are clever enough, nowhere is the line between funny and stupid more clearly delineated than when you compare the blue-collar, lowest-common-denominator yucks of Knights against its far superior, amazingly written high-brow-as-low-brow competitor My Name Is Earl. It’s no contest, even with the Jagger subtext.

8. Scoop: Woody Allen’s previous movie, Match Point, was actually a promising return to form, and who would have thought audiences would prefer the onetime stand-up doing a drama that was actually promoted more as a Scarlett Johansson flick than a Woody film. It’s not hard to realize where his latest film—like Match Point, set in London and also starring the fetching Johansson, here doing My Girl Friday Rosalind Russell meets Mia Farrow in anything when she was still with her ex—goes off the mark. It occurs when Woody himself shows up playing a bumbling expatriate magician (don't ask) who dubs himself The Great Splendini (real name: Sid Waterman) as the film’s supposed comic relief, except it’s no relief to see him fall on his face with a series of tepid one-liners and moldy, by-the-number mannerisms. In fact, watching Woody shlep around, no longer even pretending to be the romantic interest, but rather an avuncular source of failed gags, is almost as sad as seeing Muhammad Ali, a once-febrile physical specimen reduced to a shadow of his former self. The movie literally stops in its tracks whenever Allen pulls out his warmed-over bumbling shtick. There is the occasional zinger, like when he deadpans, “I used to be of the Hebrew persuasion, but I converted to narcissism,” but they are few and far between…and not nearly enough to sustain this attempt at a whimsical comedy mystery to its conclusion.

9. Golden Globes/Oscar Buzz: Just wanted to remind everybody, my Oscar picks from last year were Dreamgirls as Best Picture, Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren as Best Actor and Actress, respectively, DreamgirlsJennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy in the Supporting categories and Martin Scorsese for Best Director, which just happened to be the winners at the Golden Globes. I have a feeling that all these will duplicate their feat on Oscar night, with the possible exception of Scorsese, who could just be upset in this category by either Clint Eastwood for Letters from Iwo Jima or possibly Bill Condon for Dreamgirls. And while Dreamgirls hasn’t really built up a huge momentum going into next Tuesday’s nomination announcement, it’s hard to see any other film overtaking it, like Crash did with Brokeback Mountain last year. Though the Golden Globe winner for Best Dramatic Movie Babel could just sneak in, the fact most voters will be watching it at home on DVD doesn’t help its cause like it did for Crash last year, with a character-driven story that came off even better on a small screen than it did in theatres. So, unless The Queen makes an unexpected late run, or there’s a sudden surge for Little Miss Sunshine, it sure looks like the Best Picture Oscar is Dreamgirls' to lose. And I, for one, don’t think it will, while the other awards all should be spread pretty evenly among the contenders, just like they were at the Globes. Now if only Sacha Baron Cohen could win a Best Adapted (?) Screenplay Award and make another acceptance speech.

10. Gripe of the Week: I know it’s kinda lame to complain about commercials in this post-TiVo age when you really don’t have to watch’ em, but sometimes they still manage to sneak through to assault the sensibilities. My current unfavorite is the horrible Carl’s Jr. spot for their disgusting Philly cheese steak hamburgers with those two cab drivers speaking an almost unintelligible garble that’s supposed to be some kind of accent, translated into subtitles. I don’t know why this ad bugs me so, except everything about it is so patently calculated, and even a meat lover like myself is disgusted by that giant hunka steaming beef the guy literally shoves in his mouth. Just gross on so many levels, I can’t even begin to explain. —Roy Trakin

Choose 10 celebrities from any field—the arts, politics, science, sports—from anyplace in the world, who you think will shuffle off this mortal coil in the coming calendar year. The operative word here is “celebrity,” which means a person generally known outside his or her chosen field, and particularly accepted by the generals who run this contest: the Executive Committee (that’s us). In case of dubious celebrity, the Executive Committee will decide. All picks must be individual humans.

Nine of your ten picks may be old, infirm, ailing, morbidly reckless, fatally high-living or the probable targets of ideological malcontents. The 10th pick, however, must be someone for whom there is no good reason to think that his or her candle will be snuffed out in the coming year. Your wild card pick must be under 50 years old and free from a life-threatening disease, handicap or mental illness. He or she may not enjoy a position of political prominence or a vocation or avocation that places him or her in constant jeopardy. No wild card with a publicly known dependence on drugs or alcohol will be accepted (if it’s disclosed anytime during the year that your wild card has turned 50 and/or suffers from such an abuse problem or disease, he or she will be instantly forfeited as a wild card and relegated to the regular pick list). Celebrities immersed in a culture of violence (i.e,. gangsta rappers, Mafia capos, etc. are prohibited as wild cards). If your wild card hits, you will win half the pot and the hit will count in the aggregate.

The most popular picks this year are Fidel Castro (97); Brooke Astor (83); Lady Bird Johnson (69); Billy Graham (62); Ariel Sharon (52), and Tammy Faye Messner and Charles Lane (39 each).

NOTE: The announcement that Lindsay Lohan has checked herself into rehab renders her ineligible as a Wild Card for any substance-abuse-related death over the coming year. Should she fall prey to a rapacious wolverine, a red-light-running taxi, an e-coli colony in her spinach salad, or some other randomly fatal misfortune, the Executive Committee would be inclined to accept the hit. The Committee reserves the right to determine a Wild Card hit eligibility in the future and wishes Ms. Lohan the very best of luck. —The Committee

Mark & Valerie Pearson’s Dead List
1. Kitty Carlisle:
She survived the JFK assassination and a role in Night at the Opera.
2. Miep Gies: The Dutch woman who helped harbor Anne Frank—not that she deserves to die.
3. Art Linkletter: Y’know, people are funny…even when they’re dead.
4. Mitch Miller: He A&R’d all of Miles Davis’ original Columbia albums, including Kind of Blue, so don’t blame him for Sing Along With Mitch.
5. Les Paul: How many rock guitar gods owe this guy a portion of their royalties?
6. Ariel Sharon: Anyone in a coma is a good bet in this poll.
7. George Beverly Shea: A great gospel singer who will be welcomed in heaven.
8. Eli Wallach: How about a Supporting Actor nod before he goes?
9. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: It ain’t over until it’s over...which may be soon.
10. (Wild Card) Dave Adelson, Wire Image: Perishes in a boating accident or dies from food poisoning in Ho Chi Minh City.

Todd & Kerry Hensley’s Dead List
1. Betty Ford:
Can she survive being widowed after 58 years without drinking?
2. Delores Hope: If you listen carefully in Burbank, you can hear her going quietly into that good night.
3. Ernest Gallo: Will serve no wine before it’s his time.
4. Albert Hofmann: Invented LSD and, at 100 years old, proves the adage of “better (and longer) living through chemistry.”
5. Charles Durning: Will the Hot Tin Roof be high enough to keep him above ground?
6. Lady Bird Johnson: Protected by the Secret Service longer than anyone else in history, can they keep her from the Reaper? Fact is she’s been on our list for years and will probably outlive us.
7. Billy Graham: Has always said he wanted to be closer to God.
8. Oral Roberts: Similar to #7, however not sure if God wants him.
9: Mickey Rooney: Is be Hardy enough to make it thru ’07?
10: (Wild Card) Keifer Sutherland: If Jack Bauer is gonna drink 24 tequila shots at the Coach & Horses, he should consider taking a taxi rather than driving.

The NAMM Show, which opened today at the Anaheim Convention Center and runs through the weekend, is only open to the trade and draws thousands of music-products retailers and manufacturers eager to check out the gear, attend professional sessions and rap it down with their peers. For more information and news updates from the 105th NAMM Show, go to www.thenammshow.com.

Friday, Jan 19th
Senses Fail with Saosin and The Sleeping @ Jannus Landing in St Petersburg, FL

Reverend Horton Heat with Junior Brown and the Legendary Shack Shakers @ House of Blues on Sunset

Saturday, Jan 20th
Memphis Grizzles @ Clippers

Arizona Wildcats @ UCLA Bruins: This is an enormous PAC 10 showdown of what are probably the two best teams in the conference.

NOFX @ House of Blues Las Vegas.

Sunday, Jan 21st
Saints @ Bears on Fox: I think the Bears’ run will come to an end against a better team all around. Sean Payton’s guys are on a mission, and possibly on the way to an appointment with destiny. What a great story it would be for them to advance to the Super Bowl. We are all rooting for them…except, of course, Chicago fans.

Patriots @ Colts on CBS:
I’m hoping this is the time Payton Manning finally beats Tom Brady and the Patriots. What better time than now?

Nothing of any significance is opening this weekend, but a lot of movies up for major awards are now opening wide. So if you haven’t seen Babel, Pan’s Labyrinth or even Flags of Iwo Jima, now is the time to get caught up.

A new year has begun, and that means all the bad movies start coming out. Rarely do we get a good movie until at least March. My recommendation is to review my top movies of the year below and check out the ones you have yet to see.

V for Vendetta
This is my favorite movie of the year, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.

Babel: This may be the most depressing movie I have ever seen, but also maybe one of the best. It’s simply breathtaking and almost leaves you speechless when it ends. I must warn you that this film isn’t easy to watch, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

The Last King of Scotland:
All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable, and although there are still plenty of good movies to come out, I hope Forrest wins for this role. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

Happy Feet:
Sheer brilliance. More than just an animated movie about penguins, it has real-life political views and it is definitely a movie the whole family can enjoy. The music is awesome, and the dancing is sensational, thanks to Savion Glover.

Notes on a Scandal: Really good and really intense, and both Kate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench are amazing.

Blood Diamond:
Yes, it’s extremely violent and gory, but well worth seeing nonetheless. Plus, Jennifer Connelly is so beautiful.

Little Children
This movie is incredible in so many ways, including the unique way it was executed. Hard to describe, it’s one of those movies that just leaves you breathless.

Casino Royale:
One of the best Bond movies I’ve ever seen.

Borat: All I have to say is, “very niiiiiiiiice, I like it.” This is by far the funniest movie of the year.

World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.

The Illusionist:
Giamatti and Norton are truly brilliant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.

Mission: Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.

An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.

The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.