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Jake Owen: The EW Pop Culture Personality Test

Jakeowen_lIn April, Jake Owen will be vying for the titles of Top New Male Artist and Vocal Event of the Year (for his "Life in a Northern Town" collaboration with Sugarland and Little Big Town) at the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Earlier this week, however, after he rocked Good Morning America in support of his second album, Easy Does It — and before he flew home to Tennessee for a party celebrating his cover of Nashville Lifestyles magazine, which dubbed him country music’s most eligible bachelor — he grabbed a beer with EW in New York City and took the prize for our most revealing Pop Culture Personality Test yet. And not just because he talked about buying condoms…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Billy Currington told us he hasn’t had a TV since, like, 2001. Say you own a TV, even if you’re lying.
JAKE OWEN: I do have a TV, but I never watch it. I can’t stand to just sit there. If I’m gonna sit down, I usually play guitar or I play with my dog [a bulldog named Vern, after country great Vern Gosdin]. I’ve been dating a girl [2006 Miss Tennessee USA Lauren Grissom] for a while, and she was mad because I don’t have a TV anywhere in my house other than in the downstairs area. I was like, Why? If you’re gonna be in the bedroom, there ain’t no need for a TV. You know what I mean? [Laughs] If you’re that bored, then we don’t need to be dating.

You were on the road to becoming a professional golfer. [After a waterskiing accident in college, he had reconstructive shoulder surgery that put his left arm in a sling for months. That’s when he picked up the guitar.] Who’s the best celebrity golfer you’ve encountered?
That’s what kind of bothers me: When I see Golf Digest and they rate the top celebrity golfers, my name’s not ever on there. Not to be cocky, but I’ll take on anybody.

Will you take on Justin Timberlake, who was ranked No. 15 among musicians in 2008?
There’s not a lot of things that I could tell you I’d take Justin Timberlake at, but I would smoke him in a game of golf. Tell JT to bring it. I’ve already tried to set that up.


Taylor Swift's 'Fearless' tops the charts...again

Taylorswift_lIt’s starting to feel like deja vu every time I write these words: Taylor Swift’s Fearless is the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart this week. This is her 10th non-consecutive week in the top spot, the most any album has racked up since Santana’s music-revolution-sparking Supernatural lasted 12 weeks 10 years ago. (Remember that?) Part of the explanation for Swift’s success has to do with ever-declining CD sales trends. She only had to move a relatively tepid 62,000 copies this week to get to No. 1. But there’s no denying that Ms. Swift is as close to a major young pop star as you get in 2009. What’s more, she’s done it without the benefit of the Disney or American Idol machines — she’s a textbook-definition indie rocker, like it or not, and people buy her CDs because she writes tight, catchy tunes that they can relate to. (I’m not ashamed to admit that "Love Story" is a jam, despite the comically off-base literary references and the sorta-creepy final verse about teenagers getting married.) Not bad at all for a 19-year-old.

There were a few other notable entries on this week’s albums chart. Coming in at No. 2 with 58,000 sold was Charlie Wilson — not the guy with the war, the Gap Band singer who’s pals with Snoop Dogg. Lady GaGa jumped up to No. 10, her highest showing yet, with 32,000. And Morrissey’s Years of Refusal landed at No. 11.

So let’s hear it. What do you think about Taylor Swift’s apparently unstoppable chart reign, or any of those other sales results?

More on Taylor Swift:
Review: ‘Fearless’
She was one of EW’s best-dressed Grammy attendees this year
EW profiled her last year…
…and chatted with her back in ’07
How much do you love her "Love Story" video?

Julianne Hough, Keith Urban to perform at Sunday's Daytona 500

Juliannehough_lApparently, we need to start taking Julianne Hough’s country singing career semi-seriously. The Dancing With the Stars pro and ACM Top New Female Vocalist nominee — who’s already toured with Brad Paisley and will hit the road with George freakin’ Strait this summer — will perform the National Anthem at Sunday’s Daytona 500. Pre-race festivities begin at 2 p.m. on Fox.

Another reason to tune in (besides the always entertaining commentary of my favorite NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip): Keith Urban is set to perform a pre-race concert. Urban also wrote, performed, and produced the theme song for a series of vignettes Fox will debut Sunday. The Adventures of Digger and Friends capitalizes on the popularity of the animated alter-ego to Fox’s Gopher Cam, which is embedded in the track to give fans a tire-level view. The five two-minute shorts follow Digger, a clever teenage NASCAR fan/gopher who will always outsmart the Wile E. Coyote-like schemes the "under-track security guard" Lumpy Wheels employs to catch him. Also making appearances: Digger’s girlfriend Annie, who is said to be "preoccupied by her many interests, which don’t include racing" (mildy offensive!); his good friend Marbles, an aspiring NASCAR mechanic; and his grandfather Gramps, a former racer who reportedly has a cantankerous side. 

Sunday also brings the premiere of a commercial starring Kevin Costner, who’s been named the spokesman for 2009’s charity-driven NASCAR Day (May 15). His band Kevin Costner & Modern West’s single "Backyard" is the theme song for this year’s NASCAR Day, so get used to hearing it during broadcasts. Costner also recently narrated the CMT NASCAR documentary The Ride of their Lives, which hit DVD Tuesday.

Anyone else planning on tuning in to the Daytona 500? (Go Mark Martin!)

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Brad Paisley leads ACM noms, Carrie Underwood up for Entertainer of the Year

Paisleyunderwood_lBrad Paisley led the field this morning with six nominations for the 44th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, which will air April 5 on CBS and once again be hosted by Reba McEntire. Paisley is pitted against Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Keith Urban, and Carrie Underwood for the top prize, Entertainer of the Year. Though I’m backing Urban in the fan-voted category (voteACM.com), it’s worth noting that Underwood would be only the 7th woman to take the title — and the first since the Dixie Chicks in 2000. This year, fans will also weigh in on the three newcomer categories (female, male, vocal duo or group) by voting on GACTV.com. The winners will then move on to a new category, Top New Artist. George Strait, who received three nominations, was also named Artist of the Decade, and will be honored in a CBS special airing later this year.

See the full list of nominees after the jump. (Note: Album of the Year contenders will be announced in March.)

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Carrie Underwood's Grammys guitarist: Who was that?

Many of you were wondering last night about the young woman who livened up Carrie Underwood’s performance of "Last Name" with a face-melting guitar solo. Who was that righteous axe warrior, anyway? Question answered: Her name is Orianthi, she’s a 24-year-old Aussie, and guitar heroes including Carlos Santana, Prince, and Steve Vai reportedly agree that she rocks. Check out Orianthi’s MySpace here, relive last night’s "Last Name" below (skip to around 1:50 for the serious shredding), and get ready: Orianthi is signed to 19 Recordings/Geffen Records, with a debut album in the works. Anyone else psyched to hear it?

More on the 51st annual Grammys:
Gallery: Best and Worst Performances
Gallery: Best and Worst Style
Full list of winners
Our PopWatch live blog

Grammy Rehearsals, Day Two: Kenny Chesney

First off, let me report that Lil’ Wayne — who was previously not seen in my last Grammy rehearsal post — did in fact show up on Thursday, and his tardiness was apparently due less to him being on hip-hop time and more to L.A. traffic. (It’s been raining pretty steadily here, and everyone gets all confused when that happens.) Due to a variety of scheduling conflicts of my own, I was only at Staples for a couple hours on Friday, but that was enough time to catch a few run-throughs of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” production number, a Sapphic, dancey thing that comes complete with YouTube videos of fans singing along (in a twist on the “My Grammy Moment” contest), and one big reveal that I’ll not spoil, though it’s something she’s done at least once before. I also picked up some gossip on the shattering, explosive F/X involved in what the always post-apocalyptic Rihanna’s got planned. But the real reason I was there can be seen below: A chance to talk to country superstar Kenny Chesney, who’ll be performing a simple and lovely version of “Better as a Memory” on the broadcast. Fun fact about that song: It was pseudonymically written by his publicist, Holly Gleason, who you’ll see at the very start of the video. That’s a good publicist. Roll tape!

Grammys '09: Backstage video with Sugarland and Adele

As previously mentioned, my friend and yours, Whitney Pastorek, is all up in the Staples Center this weekend chillaxin’. And by "chillaxin’" (her word!), she meant "shooting awesome backstage videos." Below, check out what Whitney got to see last night at country trio Sugarland and Brit crooner Adele’s rehearsal together. Pretty cool! Looks like this year’s show is shaping up nicely, no?

More on the Grammys:
Gallery: Who will win the Grammys? Who should?
Katie Couric’s All-Access Grammy Special: 10 things we learned
Grammy Rehearsals, Day One: Sugarland, Smokey Robinson… and a tardy Lil’ Wayne
The Grammys are selling. Are you buying?

Dierks Bentley: The EW Pop Culture Personality Test

Dierksbently_lCountry singer Dierks Bentley is a man known for hitting the road hard, so it’s appropriate that when PopWatch met him Wednesday night in New York City, where he’s been promoting his new album, Feel That Fire, he had just returned from a day trip to Philadelphia. After signing 700 autographs in three hours at a Pennsylvania Dave & Buster’s, he needed alcohol. So first, he captured our toast for the Flip videos he shoots and edits for his website. “The best location I’ve ever had an interview in: Irish Pub,” he said, holding a Guinness he was forced to drink. (Mindful of his deal with Bud Light, he quickly added, “This is a Bud Light. This is Bud Light.”) Then, he submitted to an EW Pop Culture Personality Test, which eventually spread to the next table…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The best concert you’ve ever seen?
Dierks Bentley:
It would definitely be U2. Would it be their final show, Dec. 9, 2006 in Hawaii, or would it be here in New York on Nov. 22, 2005, or would it be May 9, 2005 in Chicago, where they actually shot their Vertigo DVD? I would probably say here. My wife and I came up for my 30th birthday, we had a great dinner, we were in the circle at the Garden, we went to some club afterward and Usher was there, so I got a picture with Usher. That was a momentous trip.

The band you’ve seen most often in concert?
The Sidemen. They play at a little bar called The Station Inn in Nashville. When I was growing up — musically growing up, I moved to Nashville when I was 19 — I’d go watch this bluegrass band play every Tuesday night and just absorb banjo, mandolin, upright bass, acoustic guitar, harmony singing. The cover charge was $5. It was definitely the best music lessons I ever got, and I ended up getting extremely hammered. I probably saw them play 50 times a year for about five years.

Your position on karaoke?
I love it. I carry a Jeep behind the tour bus, because it’s fun to go out in the festival campgrounds at 1 a.m., and hang out for as long as we can before it gets crazy. One time, we pulled up and these guys had a karaoke machine set up in the back of their truck bed. And I’d had just enough drinks where I thought it’d be funny if I got up there and sang “What Was I Thinkin'”, one of my own songs that I’d just got done singing in front of 30-40,000 people, and now I’m singing my hit for a gathering of 20 to 30 from the back of a truck bed. But it was fun at the time. I wish I’d had my camera. That would’ve been good footage to capture.

That is a story those guys will be telling for the rest of their lives.
And no one will believe. “Dude, he was singin’.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me guess, he was singing ‘What Was I Thinkin'”. “Yeah, he was!”

Do you have a fallback karaoke song that’s not your own?
It would probably be a poor rendition of “My Way,” “I’ve Got the World on a String,” “I’m Walking Behind You,” “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “South of the Border,” “Learnin’ the Blues.” I always go for Frank. Have the drink in one hand, the mic in the other…. The last time I karaoked was in a private room in Japan. I did Billy Idol’s “White Wedding.” I’m a huge fan of Billy Idol. I spiked my hair every day like him in 7th and 8th grade. My autograph, to this day, is based off of his. I signed Billy Idol’s name so much, my autograph has the same sharp edges that he did.

Your pop culture blind spot?
I’ve very intrigued by the Jonas Brothers. I’ve gone online and had a listen and watched some stuff. What am I missing here?

And what did you think?
It’s good music. I actually downloaded a tune… [Looks at tape recorder] I hate to have that on tape.

Which song?
The line that stuck out was something about “you can take this, you can take that, you can take this awesome scarf my grandma made for me.” Do you know what song I’m talking about? [“Girl of My Dreams”] I loved it. They’re singing it all punk. [Scrunches up his face and sings] “You can take this awesome scarf my grandma made for me.” It’s lyrics for a younger audience, but they really perform with a lot of bravado and they have a lot of great moves. When I was 13, I was just figuring out how to play “Eruption,” poorly, by Eddie Van Halen.

What song do you wish you’d written?
“Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Keith Whitley. [Sings] You ever heard that?

Maybe. Keep singing.
[Laughs] She’s got her eyes closed because she’s thinkin’ of someone else. That’s a good country song. I’m a huge Keith Whitley fan. He would’ve been the greatest country singer of all time, but he drank himself to death at 33.

You have a great song on your new album called “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes.”
So yeah, I flipped it around. I wanna make you close your eyes. I thought about it. And I thought about calling it “Close Your Eyes.” It’s a little different sentiment, a little happier song than Keith’s.

And then you had that hit “Come A Little Closer.” You’re like Conway Twitty, always trying to find creative ways to say, “I want to have sex with you.”
Yes. Yes. I think “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” is a little more blatant. Some of those lines in the second verse: “If you need a little bit of help from me/Babe, there’s not a button that I can’t reach.” I think the parents will pick up on that one; hopefully the kids won’t. We have fun with that. Seeing how far you can take it.

Has your label ever had to rein you in on a song?
I’ve never taken it too far on anything I’ve turned in to the label. I wrote a song for my 4-month-old daughter: “I love boobs, boobs, boobs. Boobs. Boobs. Boobs.” ‘Cause she does, she loves boobs. I thought I was a big fan of boobs, but she really likes boobs. But that’s never gonna be released on an album.


Taylor Swift to headline Fearless Tour: Awesome? Scary?

Taylorswift_lShe’s been at the top of Billboard‘s all-genre album chart for two months and was 2008’s top-selling artist, so it’s no surprise that Taylor Swift has plans to headline her own tour in 2009. Her 50-city Fearless Tour officially kicks off April 23 in Evansville, Ind., with special guest and BFF Kellie Pickler. (Click here for dates.) "My favorite thing when Igo to a concert is having lots of changing things to look at, so I’vebeen working really hard to make this show as multi-dimensional aspossible," Swift says in the announcement. According to the release, it will "feature anincredibly theatrical presentation of graphics, sets and visualelements designed by Taylor herself. During each show, Taylor will playfive different guitars, as well as the piano. Multiple costume changesand a fairy-tale castle illuminated by more than a million lumens oflight are just some of the highlights of the three-act show."

What do you folks think? One on hand, I love to see a young woman take that kind of creative control, on the other, the phrase "designed by Taylor herself" makes me nervous. I don’t expect her to just stand there and tap her right foot like George Strait, but I do want to know that her focus is on singing and not changing costumes mid-song (which she loves to do). Not that spectacle and sound quality have to be mutually exclusive — see Keith Urban, who combines them perfectly — but what’s more important to you?P.S. The castle does sound dreamy. I just hope it’s not like a strand of Christmas lights. If one bulb breaks….P.P.S. Anyone else teetering on Taylor overload? I love the album. I just don’t need to see her everywhere: New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. SNL. An upcoming episode of CSI (at least, she’s a fan).

More on Taylor Swift:

2009 Grammy Nominations Concert: Non-nominees perform old songs!
On a scale of 1 to 10: Taylor Swift + Def Leppard = ?
Crushing on Taylor Swift’s "Love Story" video
Taylor Swift: A Date With Grammy?
Getting to Know Taylor Swift

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Billy Currington takes the EW Pop Culture Personality Test


“I’ve been on vacation since, like, the first week in December. Somebody’s gotta pull me off this vacation,” Billy Currington told us Monday, phoning PopWatch from the Dry Tortugas, a cluster of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West. If the man behind the R&B-flavored country hit “Don’t” wants to put thoughts of his steamy “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” video in our heads spend some time promoting his third album, Little Bit of Everything, we’re happy to oblige. After we confirmed that he’s sailing with the proper provisions — bottled water, “lots of wine,” rum, coconuts, and blackfin tuna — we kept the conversation appropriately breezy with an EW Pop Culture Personality Test. At least until he mentioned that he doesn’t own a TV…

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In your “Don’t” video, you slide across the hood of a car Luke Duke-style. The first time you’ve ever done that, or just the most recent?
Billy Currington: I’d never done it before. Here’s how that shot made it into the video. We were just standing there, we were pretty much done, and a guy’s like, “Why don’t you just take off runnin’ and slide across that car.” I was like, “Okay.” I just did it one time. I jumped a little too high, and when I landed and hit the hood, it didn’t feel good, you know what I mean? It kinda hurt a little bit.

CMT has resurrected the old MTV show Cribs.
What’s Cribs?
You’ve never seen Cribs?
I’ve never seen Cribs, but you know, you’re talkin’ to a guy who does stuff like what I’m doin’ now. I’m always outdoors somewhere. I never, ever see the TV. Tell me about it. I’ll do it. Don’t think I won’t do it! I’ll do the show!
They bring cameras to your home, and you give them a tour. My question is, when the crew arrives at your house, what’s the first thing you hide?
Ooh, my dope, my pot. No. I’m just kiddin’. [Laughs] Let’s see… dirty clothes. Everybody wants to hide those.

What song do you have to dance to anytime you hear it?
Anything Marvin Gaye. A good ol’ groove type song.

What song is your ringtone?
You know what, I want to have a song for my ringtone, but I can’t figure it out. If I could figure that out, Ray Charles’ “Georgia” would be on there today. [Currington is from Rincon, Ga., outside Savannah.]

If you could have written any song, what would it be?
“Candle in the Wind” [by Elton John and Bernie Taupin]. Every time I hear that song, I’m just like, Wow. What a great poet.

You said you don’t watch a lot of TV, but is there a movie you do have to watch every time you spot it on cable?
Really, I don’t even own a TV anymore. [Laughs]
[Not laughing] You don’t own a TV?
No. I don’t own a TV. I did a long time ago, but I gave it away. I bought it at a pawn shop that I used to work in, and it wasn’t that good anyway, so I gave it away, and I’ve never bought one since then.
How many years ago was that?
That was before I got a record deal, and that happened in 2001… I know I seem kinda behind the times, but I don’t pay it no attention anyway. It just makes noise for me.

Okay, let’s try movies. Is there a chick flick you’ll admit to liking?
I got you a good one on that. I like that movie where the two old people, at the end of the movie, die lying in the same bed together.
The Notebook?
Yeah, I love The Notebook. I’ve mentioned that before, and you wouldn’t believe how people have gotten on me for saying that. Like it was girlie, or somethin’. I mean, who wouldn’t like The Notebook? [Laughs] I mean, seriously, that’s a heartfelt, make you cry, make you feel somethin’ kind of a movie. I’m afraid to mention that again, but I just did, right?


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