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Shakira serves as coach on "The Voice," NBC's hit reality vocal competition series that searches for the nation's best voice.
Over the course of her career, Colombian singer-songwriter and Grammy winner Shakira has sold close to 60 million albums worldwide and has won numerous awards including two Grammys, nine Latin Grammys, four World Music Awards, three American Music Awards and five Billboard Music Awards, to name a few. Her collaborations with such stars as Beyonce and Alejandro Sanz have helped keep her audience expanding continually, and she is the only artist from South America to have a No. 1 song in the US. She has had four of the 20 top-selling hits of the last decade, more than any other artist - including 2006's unforgettable "Hips Don't Lie," the biggest-selling single of the 21st century, which reached the No. 1 spot in an astonishing 55 countries.
Shakira began writing songs at the age of eight, learned to speak English by studying the work of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Walt Whitman, and took history classes at UCLA during her break between albums. At the age of 18, she founded the Pies Descalzos (Barefoot) Foundation which currently provides education and nutrition to over 6,000 impoverished children in Colombia and is expanding its work to other countries, including newly launched projects in Haiti and South Africa.
"Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," along with its Spanish language version, "Waka Waka (Esto es África)," was another worldwide sensation. It was the theme song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the event's biggest song ever released. The official video has received nearly 500 million YouTube hits, making it the No. 3 most-watched video of all time and the No. 3 most-watched music video. The track was also the soundtrack to Shakira's 1Goal campaign for universal education. On her ninth album, "Sale El Sol/The Sun Comes Out," the global superstar continued her creative journey by looking both forward and back. Released on the heels of the worldwide success of "Waka Waka," the album also marked the next chapter after 2009's critically-acclaimed, dance-oriented "She Wolf," the long-awaited follow-up to 2005's groundbreaking one-two punch comprised of "Fijación Oral, Volume 1" and "Oral Fixation, Volume 2" - a pair of albums that sold over 12 million copies combined worldwide and secured the young Colombian-born singer's place among pop music royalty.
Shakira is currently in Barcelona recording her new album.
"On this album, different things inspired me," says Usher. "Normally, I'm pulling from personal relationships and from older musical styles, but the things that motivated me this time were sounds and music that were very new and indie, like going to the Coachella festival or to Ibiza. I've traveled the world, toured nearly every continent - this phase of my life and my career is very open to exploring."
On his seventh studio album, "Looking 4 Myself," seven-time Grammy winner Usher Raymond takes some bold steps into unexpected musical territory. Assuming the most active role of his career as a songwriter and working with a wide range of producers and collaborators - including Diplo, Swedish House Mafia, Max Martin, will.i.am, and Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun - one of the best-selling musical artists in history has blended electro dance beats with his signature, era-defining R&B, pop and hip-hop sounds to create a style that goes beyond category.
"I felt the creative freedom to be daring," he says. "There's a moment where you question, is this something that my audience is ready to accept? But I listened to artists like the Beatles and Prince and Marvin Gaye at pivotal moments, where they really spoke how they felt, and I took that liberty to be as creative as possible."
Judging from the reaction to the first single, the simmering, atmospheric "Climax," Usher need not have worried. The song's video was viewed more than 8 million times in less than a month, earning rave reviews from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and USA Today. In addition, "Looking 4 Myself" is being released on the heels of two wildly diverse, multi-platinum chart-topping collaborations featuring Usher: "Without You" by David Guetta, which held the No. 1 spot on the pop charts, and "Promise" with Romeo Santos, which reached No. 1 on the Latin charts.
Challenging himself creatively and testing musical boundaries are characteristics that have defined Usher's career since he was first discovered an unbelievable 20 years ago on Star Search. Since then, he has sold over 43 million albums worldwide. Billboard named him the second most successful artist of the 2000s decade, with his 10-million-selling 2004 album "Confessions" ranked as the top solo album of the decade. Usher has attained nine Hot 100 Number One hits and 17 Hot 100 Top Ten singles.
Along the way, Usher has recorded with everyone from Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Shakira to Jay-Z, T.I. even Enrique Iglesias. He has appeared everywhere from Broadway to the Super Bowl. He is part owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, has a best-selling line of fragrances and a business venture with RBMG (Raymond Braun Media Group), home to superstar Justin Bieber.
"I've never been one to repeat myself, but I do want people to get the essence of the Usher they like," he says. "I think people understand that I'm well-traveled and that I've continued to develop - but also, that I haven't lost myself, but expanded myself, and I keep that heart and soul in everything I'm singing."
Realizing that with success comes responsibility, Usher has also proven to be a major philanthropic force. Founded in 1999, his New Look Foundation empowers youth from impoverished communities to become leaders. In recognition of his accomplishments, Usher has been honored by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Trumpet Foundation, Do Something, the NAACP, and as the 2010 Ford Freedom Award Scholar.
All of this experience, vision and ambition come through on "Looking 4 Myself," beginning with the title song (a collaboration with Luke Steele of Empire of the Sun), which Usher says was directly inspired by his visit to the indie/dance mecca of Coachella. Over a breezy, percolating track, he muses on the search for fulfillment. "You're in pursuit of this goal, searching for perfection, but you're never going to reach it," he explains. "It feels like a bearing of the soul, but it's about shedding a skin you no longer need - you cannot go forward if you continue looking back."
Perhaps even more striking is the propulsive, ominous "Sins of My Father," produced by Salaam Remi. "When you hear that title, you think about the Old Testament, or maybe even politics," says Usher. "How as a society, we reap the repercussions of liberties taken, like you're serving a sentence for a crime you didn't commit."
"Also, that's a chapter I never spoke about, how my dad was not in my life as a child, and now, when I'm dealing with my children and relationships, that can lead to karma and consequences. I thought these were all things that would be intriguing to talk about."
Other songs reveal different moods. "It's cool to be serious, but without fun, you ain't living," says Usher. "Scream" (produced by Max Martin), the follow up single to "Climax," and "Can't Stop Won't Stop" with will.i.am, are arm-waving, club-banging rave-ups. "Those are just ultimate party records," he says, "bridging the gap from urban to world audience - no color, no genre." On "Lemme See," Usher rewinds things a bit. "Having Rick Ross on this one is that little touch that tips it over the edge," he says. "Everybody loves it in the hood, but it ends up worldwide. And I'm kinda going back to my childhood in that one, taking my shirt off!"
The inspiration for the easy-rocking "Show Me" came from an unexpected place. "I was reading 'Going on a Bear Hunt' to my boys, and there's a line 'You can't go over it, you can't go around it, you gotta go through it,'" Usher recalls. "That made me think about life and its obstacles. I had just performed 'Stand by Me' on the Grammy nominations television special, and it made me want to do something uplifting like that."
Yet another direction emerged on "Euphoria," produced by Swedish House Mafia. "I kind of looked at that song like 'Thriller,'" says Usher. "A record that really gives people an experience, where your bedroom starts transforming into a whole new place and it feels like there are lights and people coming out of everywhere."
Even with all of these new creative partners and experimental approaches, Usher maintains that no one pushed him harder than himself. "I really did exceed my own expectations," he says. "Not only did I get the records I wanted, but I got hits, records that will really affect people. I proved that I can get with Diplo or Swedish House Mafia and be able to make that connection, make something people would respond to."
To Usher Raymond, "Looking 4 Myself" represents the next stage in his own coming of age; it's a project he could not have undertaken until this phase in his life. "As a young artist, you live vicariously through others until you have your own experiences," he says. "Younger artists might have to go through just doing one thing, like how Picasso had his blue period. But as you grow older, you become able to articulate yourself better and know what works for you."
"So this album is not a monochromatic thing - certain songs were specifically intended to get certain things out, different tones and emotions. And as an artist, that brought out the best in me."
As the front man of Grammy Award-winning recording group Maroon 5, Adam Levine has left an indelible mark on popular music. The primary songwriter for the band and a guitar player, Levine's talents give Maroon 5 their signature sound. His heartfelt ballads and pop anthems have become part of the fabric of this decade's music scene.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Levine first connected with Maroon 5 members Jesse Carmichael and Mickey Madden while attending Brentwood School in Los Angeles. The band has since gone on to have massive critical and commercial success worldwide. Capturing their first of three Grammy Awards as "Best New Artist" of 2005 and going on to sell more than 17 million albums, Maroon 5's releases have gone gold and platinum in over 35 countries. Maroon 5 won over fans and critics alike with the hybrid rock/R&B sound they introduced on their debut album, "Songs About Jane," and followed it up with the double platinum album, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long," which included hits like "Makes Me Wonder" and "If I Never See Your Face Again."
In September 2010, the band released their third studio album, "Hands All Over" that also recently went platinum. The album featured two hit singles including the Hot AC smash "Misery" and the anthemic "Moves Like Jagger," which climbed to the No. 1 spot on the Top 40 and Hot AC charts and also claimed the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Both singles received GRAMMY Award nominations in the category of "Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals," marking the group's eighth Grammy nomination overall and fifth in that category. With the success of "Moves Like Jagger" on the Hot 100 chart, Maroon 5 frontman Levine became the first artist in the chart's 53-year history to reach No. 1 as part of a group and enter the Top 10 at the same time as a soloist, as he is also featured on Gym Class Heroes' "Stereo Hearts."
This summer marked the release of Maroon 5's highly anticipated fourth studio album, "Overexposed." Recorded in Los Angeles, California, the album is a rich, pop-infused collection that Levine refers to as "our most diverse and poppiest album yet." A key track on the album is the stand out lead single "Payphone," featuring Wiz Khalifa, which immediately shot straight to No. 1 on both the Top 40 and Hot AC charts.
Levine will make his small-screen acting debut on "American Horror Story" this season, and has landed a lead role in the major motion picture film, "Can a Song Save Your Life?" from director John Carney.
Levine has also collaborated with various musical acts including Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Natasha Bedingfield, Slash and K'naan. Levine has also made several appearances on television, including "Saturday Night Live," "30 Rock," "The Daily Show with John Stewart" and "Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars."
Blake Shelton serves as a coach on "The Voice," NBC's hit reality vocal competition series that searches for the nation's best voice.
The world has finally learned what country fans have known since the beginning - Blake Shelton is superstar material.
Shelton is the breakout star of NBC's "The Voice," a show that gave the handsome Oklahoman the spotlight his fans have long hoped he'd get. Week after week, millions have gotten to see the talent and charisma that have made him one of country music's brightest lights.
Perhaps no one summed it up better than Entertainment Weekly editor-at-large Ken Tucker, who cited Shelton's "steady transformation into a real TV star, a country sage whose charm is squarely in the great TV traditions of Roger Miller, Jimmy Dean, and Tennessee Ernie Ford."
None of that is news to those who have watched Shelton's career unfold. Ever since the power and drama of his 2001 debut single "Austin" brought him to national attention, he has proven himself to be one of the genre's most versatile and accomplished vocalists as well as one of its most compelling entertainers. Shelton's first and only holiday album, "Cheers, It's Christmas," will be available everywhere on October 2, 2012 on Warner Bros. Records. The album will feature several duet performances including fellow advisor on "The Voice," Michael Buble, long-time friend, Reba McEntire and a very special duet that he co-wrote and performs with his mother, Dorothy Shackleford. The album includes classic Christmas songs that have touched Shelton over the years.
His versatility is evident in the wide range of singles he has made his own. He has proven his ability with the stark drama of "The Baby" and "Home," the honest regret of "She Wouldn't Be Gone," the warm intimacy of "Who Are You When I'm Not Looking," the celebration of the moment in "All About Tonight," and the over-the-top fun of "Hillbilly Bone." His skill as an entertainer is apparent every time he takes the stage and carries fans on one of music's most enjoyable journeys.
The first four singles from his Grammy-nominated Country Album of the Year, "Red River Blue," have all peaked at No. 1 on the charts. Blake has had seven consecutive No. 1 singles and 12 overall. "Honey Bee," "God Gave Me You," "Drink on It" and "Over" only hint at the riches inside "Red River Blue."
Shelton's latest runs the gamut of everything he does well, from the romance of "Over," with its big chorus and passionate vocals, to the clever wordplay and pure country fun of "Hey" and "Get Some." There is also "Ready to Roll," a laid-back celebration of love and leisure, "Good Ole Boys," with its echoes of Waylon and its nod to country boys in a hip-hop world, "I'm Sorry," which displays one of the biggest voices in the genre closing the door on a love gone wrong, and the title track, a classic-sounding look at separation and longing with guest vocals from Miranda Lambert.
If it sounds like more than even a dreamer such as Shelton could have envisioned, you'll get no argument from the man himself: "If you'd have told me a few years back that my life would be this good," he said, "I'd have told you that you were crazy. But I'll damn sure take it."
The journey has been a testament to the talent, the persistence and the sheer dynamism Shelton brings to the table. He left Ada, Oklahoma, at 17 - two weeks out of high school - for Nashville after encouragement from legendary songwriter ("Heartbreak Hotel") Mae Axton. He met and worked with another legend - Bobby Braddock ("He Stopped Loving Her Today") - and earned a deal on Giant Records. It would be several years before that led to a contract with Warner Bros. and "Austin," which launched his career. Since then, his star power, world-class voice and irreverent personality have brought him the acclaim that has translated so well from the world of country music to a wider audience.
"I'm still learning, still reaching and growing," he said. "And it's great to have more and more people along for the ride."