The Knack Music News

'New Year's Rockin' Eve' Preview: Ryan Seacrest & Jenny McCarthy

Grammy's 2015 Best Songs Preview

Macklemore on Hip Hop & Cultural Appropriation

Jessie J on Writing “Party in the USA”

Jenny McCarthy and Ryan Seacrest selfie'New Year's Rockin' Eve' Preview: Ryan Seacrest & Jenny McCarthy

Ryan Seacrest is once again ready to ring in the new year as the emcee of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, hosting the annual countdown for the 10th year and ringing in 2015 with Jenny McCarthy, who will be on hand for the fourth straight year. Taking over the tradition from the late Dick Clark, Seacrest will preside over the midnight countdown live from Times Square, with McCarthy providing on-the-ground coverage to allow viewers across the globe to soak in the madness from the heart of New York City.

This year's Rockin' Eve broadcast is especially ambitious, with over five hours of musical performances planned for the show, which kicks off at 8:00 pm ET on ABC on Wednesday night (Dec. 31). Taylor Swift will be on-hand in Times Square, along with Florida Georgia Line, Idina Menzel and MAGIC!; on the other coast, the Billboard Hollywood Party (hosted by Fergie) will include performances from One Direction, Iggy Azalea, Charli XCX and Meghan Trainor, among many others; sets from Lady Antebellum and Gavin DeGraw will be streamed from Nashville; and Elton John is set to make his NYRE debut with a special performance of "I'm Still Standing" from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Seacrest and McCarthy were positioned next to the illustrious ball in Times Square on Tuesday morning, answering press questions 36 hours before the insanity of New Year's Eve kicks into high gear. Billboard spoke to the hosts, who discussed their best musical bets of 2015, naked Times Square attendees and how to stay warm during such a frigid event.

Billboard: What do you guys enjoy about doing this every year?

Ryan Seacrest: The insanity, the craziness, that it is. The fact that everybody's got a smile on their face. Out of all the moments of the year, I don't think everybody's on the same page as [much as] they are at midnight on New Year's Eve.
Jenny McCarthy: You'd have to be crazy to stand outside and host this show -- that's what everyone says. But once you're there and you experience what Times Square is like on New Year's Eve, you'll understand why we come back year after year. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever done, work-wise.

What's the craziest thing you guys have witnessed in Times Square?

McCarthy: Usually the naked people.
Seacrest: Naked people are always crazy, especially when it's zero degrees.
McCarthy: And you know that they're not drinking, because you can't really drink out there. So, they're being nuts sober!
Seacrest: They're having much more fun in real life.

How cold do you guys get out there? You're in the moment, but do you ever say, "I really wish I had an extra hat right now?"

Seacrest: I put warmers in my shoes. The first year I thought, "This isn't that cold!" But then it's the duration of time in the cold.
McCarthy: And your mouth freezes after a while, so your brain's still functioning but your mouth slows down, and you slur.

What are you personally most excited about for this year's lineup?

Seacrest: I think there are two incredible live moments that we're going to have here in New York. One is Taylor Swift celebrating the incredible year that she's had, live. And then we're going out to Barclays Center [in Brooklyn] to Elton John, who will be standing by. This show has been going for decades, and this is the first time he's been on our show, so that's exciting for us.
McCarthy: The fact that we've got so many artists this year makes it feel like it will be the best year yet. At rehearsals yesterday, the producers said, "Without a doubt, this is our favorite show."

Who do you think will be the breakout artist of 2015?

Seacrest: There's an artist that is big globally that I think is going to have a big year in the States named Prince Royce. I think Royce is going to come out with a pop album that will be pretty big. I also think that we heard from Nick Jonas this year with "Jealous," but I think he's going to have a big year in 2015.

Do either of you have resolutions this year?

McCarthy: Mine is to stop self-criticizing. I'm gonna try my best to do that.
Seacrest: And mine is to criticize myself more.

Last question: describe New Year's Rockin' Eve in one word.

McCarthy (thinking): Shoot!
Seacrest: That's a great word! (laughs) I would say "electric."
McCarthy: No no, what I'd really say is… "spiritual." I go to church when I'm out there. I feel the holy spirit!

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Grammy's 2015Grammy's 2015 Best Songs Preview

"Shake It Off"
Taylor Swift
From: 1989
Label: Big Machine Records
"Four years ago I put out a song called 'Mean' from the perspective of 'Why are you picking on me?' " Taylor Swift told Billboard earlier this year. " 'Shake It Off' is like, 'You know what? If you're upset and irritated that I'm just being myself, I'm going to be myself more, and I'm having more fun than you so it doesn't matter.'" With "Shake It Off," the 24-year-old singer-songwriter's declaration of independence came through loud and clear: Stand up for yourself even when the haters gonna hate, hate, hate. An instant Hot 100 No. 1, "Shake It Off" helped make its parent album,  1989, the top-selling LP released in 2014. The album came too late for Grammy consideration, but it's no surprise that its first single (Swift's only eligible release) picked up three nominations.

"All Of Me" (Live)
John Legend
Label: Columbia Records
It was the 56th annual Grammy Awards that kicked John Legend's piano ballad, "All of Me," into overdrive. After he performed the song during the 2014 telecast, sales of the single almost tripled. Released in August 2013 "All of Me" took a full nine months to reach No. 1, the first time Legend, 36, has ever topped the Billboard Hot 100. (The studio recording was submitted for nomination last year, so this live version is eligible this year.) Dedicated to model Chrissy Teigen, whom he married a month after the song came out, and inspired by Billy Joel's "She's Always a Woman," Legend knew that the slow, stripped-down track wasn't typical radio fare: "People are used to music that makes them dance," he says. "But every once in a while, you want to hear something that pierces your heart."

From: 1000 Forms of Fear
Label: RCA Records/Monkey Puzzle Records
Iggy Azalea wasn't the only woman from Australia to make an impact on music in 2014. But at age 39, Sia Furler -- best-known as a songwriting hit factory for Rihanna and others -- took a more circuitous path to the top. Azalea's celebrations of pure hedonism were classic pop fantasy, but when Sia sang "I'm gonna swing from the chandelier/I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist," it was the pain and despair in her voice that made "Chandelier" so powerful. The tone was also in keeping with Sia's reluctant approach to promotion: She doesn't appear in the music video, didn't do any interviews, and when she performed the song on TV, she kept her back to the camera and never showed her face.

"Stay With Me" (Darkchild Version)
Sam Smith
From: In the Lonely Hour
Label: Capitol Records
"I just feel like it's not a radio song," says Sam Smith, 22, of his biggest solo hit. "Well, it is now, but it's a very odd song to be a radio hit. It's gospel-influenced, and it's not the certain speed that a song should be in the summer." When a track is powerful enough, of course, such rules are meant to be broken -- especially when the anticipation is as high as it was ahead of Smith's debut. His featured spots on memorable uptempo hits by British beatmakers Disclosure ("Latch") and Naughty Boy ("La La La"), and the buzzy response to a four-song EP released in the United Kingdom, led to Smith's appearance on Saturday Night Live even before his Grammy-nominated first full-length, In the Lonely Hour, was released. And after his slow-burning performance of "Stay With Me" on that legendary stage, there was no stopping the year's biggest new artist.

"Happy" (Live)
Pharrell Williams
Label: Columbia Records

Inspired by Curtis Mayfield and originally intended for Cee Lo Green, "Happy" was first released in June 2013 on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. But that was before a groundbreaking "24-hour music video," an Oscar nomination and Billboard chart domination this year turned the song into an undeniable phenomenon. With the studio track submitted for nomination in 2013, this live version is in contention for the 57th annual Grammy Awards. Built on a hook that took over your brain the first time you heard it, "Happy" ruled the world all spring and summer, spending 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and topping the charts in two dozen countries. " 'Happy' doesn't have the word 'sweat' in it or girls booty-shaking," says Williams. "It was pure emotion."

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MacklemoreMacklemore on Hip Hop & Cultural Appropriation

As the conversation around race and hip-hop continues, Macklemore stopped by the Ebro in the Morning show -- on New York City's radio station Hot 97 -- to talk about cultural appropriation, his experiences as a white rapper, and Kendrick Lamar. Check out the interview below.
The conversation moves to Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea around the 28 minute mark. Macklemore made it clear he doesn't want to get involved in the ongoing beef -- Azealia Banks called Action Bronson "a coward" yesterday -- but he said "there's a lot of truth in [Banks'] interview." Macklemore continued, "I saw a Tweet, it was something along the lines of 'Hip-Hop was birthed out of the Civil Rights Movement.' This is a culture that came from pain, it came from oppression, it came from white oppression… you cannot disregard where this culture came from and our place in it as white people."

Macklemore also stressed the importance of listening. "I learned from [Q-Tip's] Twitter," Macklemore said. "That's a OG breaking down truth. Again I'm not getting into how [Iggy] responded, I'm just saying it's important to listen and to be humble… this is not my culture to begin with. This is not a culture that white people started. So I do believe, as much as I have honed my craft, as much as I have put in years of dedication into the music that I love, I do believe that I need to know my place, and that comes from me listening.

The conversation later turned to Macklemore's relationship with Kendrick Lamar. Macklemore said he made a mistake last year by publicizing his post-Grammy Awards apology to Lamar. "First and foremost, the mistake came from Instagramming the text message and betraying my homie's trust… I betrayed Kendrick's trust." "The language that I used was a bad call," Macklemore continued. "'Robbed' was a bad choice of a word -- white people have been robbing black people for a long time."

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Jessie JJessie J on Writing “Party in the USA”

In an interview with Glamour UK, Jessie J revealed that the royalties she received for writing Miley Cyrus' enormous hit "Party In The U.S.A." paid her rent "for, like, three years."

She co-wrote the track -- with the veterans Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly -- and initially hoped to record it herself. After the label demurred, Cyrus ended up with the song, and it went on to spend 28 weeks on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 2.

"You've got to write songs," Jessie J explained in the Glamour cover story. "That's where the money is, being an artist…That's where I get most of my money. I write songs. I'm a singer. I love endorsements and stuff, but that's all added on."

Jessie J is not the only artist looking to move from hit writer to hit singer. After helping Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea find the charts, Charli XCX is now breaking into the pop world as a lone star. In R&B, singers like Sevyn Streeter and Rico Love are attempting the same transition. This is even more common in country music -- Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt, for example, both got their start writing songs for others.

Jessie J released her third album, Sweet Talker, in October.

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