Five Better Producers for Michael Jackson's New Album

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No one was more disappointed than I was with the fact that producers were deciding to capitalize on unreleased Michael Jackson material with the album Michael just one year after the King of Pop passed away. It was a crass, money-making maneuver, and the album showed it.

They're doing it again this year with a new record called Xscape, produced by a collaborative team headed up by Timbaland and due in May. The saddest part of the whole deal is that Michael probably did leave behind some worthy scraps for producers to craft into a new record, but the people in charge of that unreleased material are picking the wrong producers to work with it.

I propose that we could actually experience a legitimately great posthumous work by Jackson if it were in the right hands. These five producers, for example, might actually do something cool with those tracks now in the MJ vault.

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The Seven Toughest Pop Songs to Understand

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Island Records
U2, some time before they became "Numb"
Recently, Rocks Off looked at the most difficult song lyrics to understand in all of music, period. While that was fun, my editor brought it to my attention that virtually all of modern death-metal could qualify for that list. Since the advent of screaming, including metal in a list like that is like playing Mortal Kombat with cheat codes on.

So with his blessing, I embarked on a much more challenging route: discovering the most difficult song lyrics to understand in all of pop music, where understandable lyrics are part of the appeal. Almost all popular music in the last 50 years has focused on the same lyrical content for a reason.

A pop song with incomprehensible singing is a rare beast indeed, but I have tracked down some of the most difficult in existence. If you can recite the following lyrics from the top of your head, you are probably a true karaoke master.

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Blackbird Raum: Encouraging Weirdness, Even on MTV

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Photos courtesy of Blackbird Raum
Blackbird Raum
Recently, Blackbird Raum went where no folk-punk band has gone before -- to MTV.

MTV Iggy, to be exact. The Santa Cruz, Calif. anarcho-folk outfit, now ten years into their run as a band, was recently featured on the Web site, which focuses on "cutting-edge global music."

Lest anyone think they've traded in their DIY ethic for the bubbleheaded superstardom of the Snookis of the world, a few of the band's members sought to ease worried minds in advance of their show tonight at East Side Social Center.

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Houston Bands Have Cancer Covered at Fitz Benefit Show

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Photo by Jim Bricker
Featherface performs at Fitzgerald's, 2012
Houston may be home to ten trillion tribute bands aping everybody from Pat Benatar to Pantera, but even with not one, but two Concert Pubs giving the people what they want on a weekly basis, there's not a lot of opportunity out there to hear a local group covering more offbeat acts like Air or Nile Rodgers. The fine folks over at Fitzgerald's are setting out to change that this month -- and they're doing it for a good cause.

Pegstar, the local promoters behind Free Press Summer Festival and the partial owners and operators of the historic Heights club, is turning eight of their favorite local bands into the city's hippest tribute acts for one night only this Saturday. H-Town faves Featherface and New York City Queens will be appearing as Big Star and Tears for Fears, respectively, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The goal will be to raise $10,000 with one show to benefit Be the Match, an organization that's created the world's largest marrow registry in the fight against life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.

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South Side Roller Derby Seeks Local Bands to Rock the Track

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Photos courtesy of South Side Roller Derby
"She was five-foot-six and 215, a bleached-blonde mama with a streak of mean
And the roller derby program said that she was built like a 'fridgerator with a head."

That's how singer-storyteller Jim Croce described his "Roller Derby Queen" 40 years ago, but times have changed. Today's player is a fitter athlete, chiseled by boot camps and regular competition, and there's no better place to see the difference than the South Side Roller Derby. The league began its season in January and continues with matches this Saturday evening at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Music has been a large part of what the Pearland-based league offers its fans. Since it formed in 2006, the derby's rough-and-tumble matches have routinely featured local bands at halftime or post-game activities. And now that it's grown to its largest following, the league is calling out to area bands to come play for its fans.

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The 10 Best Aqua Teen Hunger Force Musical Guests

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Aqua Teen Hunger Force, also known by its alternate titles Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, Aqua Something You Know Whatever, and Aqua TV Show Show, has been one of the most bizarre and ubiquitous shows in television history. As an 11-minute animated feature on Adult Swim, it's been enormously successful, spawning a film and ten seasons and counting.

It's crazy how popular the show has been and how long it has survived, especially given that every other show it debuted with in 2001 has since ended or been canceled. Nevertheless, Aqua Teen survives and has a massive cult fanbase.

Since show creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis are both musicians and big music fans, it should come as no surprise that they've managed to attract some big names to their obscure, weird TV show. Some of the best episodes, in fact, have centered on the latest rock star or rapper to show up and wreak havoc in the Aqua Teens' world. Today, let's take a look at the ten best of the bunch.

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Six More Rap Collaborations That Need to Happen

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Photo by Marco Torres
Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon and Ghostface Killah
Where once it was in vogue to beef, the current trend in rap these days seems to be friendship. Everywhere we see rappers forming collaborative duos for albums, and it's honestly producing some pretty amazing results. There was Watch the Throne, Run the Jewels and lately we've even had The Abstract and The Dragon by Busta Rhymes and Q-Tip.

In light of that, I got to thinking who I'd love to see jump on the bandwagon and do a full album together. Some seemed pretty obvious from the get-go, while others took a little bit more thought as to who might gel. At the end of the day, though, these six need to happen before this fad gets old.

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Six Houston Hardcore Acts to Look Out for in 2014

Photo by Nathan Smith
Die Young (TX)
For the first time in a long time, Houston's hardcore punk scene is thriving. Maybe it's just a part of the wave of hardcore revivalists around the country, but then Houston has never been trendy. What we have here, though, is a burgeoning scene in and of itself, formed through the grassroots efforts of its members. That's pretty commendable.

2014 doesn't seem to be letting up at all. In fact, the scene just seems to keep growing and now Houston is drawing in more and more major-label and legendary hardcore acts to play at places like Fitzgerald's and Walters with each passing month. Here are some of the great local names you might encounter at those shows, and who you should be watching as the year goes on.

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January: Houston's Month of Tribute Bands

Photo courtesy of Michael J. Media
Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime
I spend a lot of time working out my concert calendar. Even if I don't make it out to all the shows I want to go to, I still like to know when all my favorite bands are going to be in town. So besides the Houston Press' own concert calendar, I spend a lot of time on the great Web site Space City Rock, both of which feature a constantly updated schedule of all the shows going on around Houston.

Thanks to their tireless work, I also happened to notice recently that, wow, there are a lot of tribute bands coming through town this month. I don't exactly know why, but hey, I can't begrudge the phenomena. I mean, it allows people to see Guns N' Roses performed by someone who isn't an asshole, as GN'R impersonators Appetite for Destruction did this past weekend at House of Blues alongside sham-glam rockers Poison'd and Red, White & Crue. And if the '90s are more your speed, the Nirvana Experience and Evil Empire -- whose lead singer even rants just like Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha -- were right next door at HOB's Bronze Peacock Room.

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Eight Albums to Look Forward to in 2014

The cover of Warpaint's upcoming self-titled record
I know we're still all digesting the musical releases of 2013, but it's officially a new year and time to start talking about 2014's offerings. With the early part of the year's release schedule set in stone, we know we have a lot to look forward to, and it won't stop there. With albums expected to be released, we're looking at a hell of a year.

So to get you an early start, here's a guide to what I'm looking forward to and what you should be anticipating going into the new year. It's an eclectic bunch.

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