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Your Week in Music: Tired of twerking? So are we

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Plenty of twerk-free action happened at the 2013 VMAs, all of which is worth noting. (Source: MGN) Plenty of twerk-free action happened at the 2013 VMAs, all of which is worth noting. (Source: MGN)
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(RNN) - Much ink has been spilled and pixels dedicated to the debaucherous dance of two performers at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards.

And quite frankly, three days later, we're ready to banish the word "twerk" from our cultural vocabulary. Too bad it's set to join our actual vocabulary – Oxford Dictionary announced the addition, along with "selfie."

A few other things happened at the VMAs ... and this week in music. So, here's your twerk-free review of all that matters musically this week.

Mother Monster Lady Gaga hit the VMA stage first - without introduction - and stunned viewers with her performance of Applause. After taking a hiatus due to hip surgery, Gaga made her return at the VMAs and showed that going under the knife can't keep her from rocking out. Not only were her vocals off the charts, but she underwent half a dozen costume changes during her four-minute performance, the majority of which were made onstage. She owned her performance and the applause at the end was well-deserved.

If you don't know the history behind Kanye West's performance of Blood on the Leaves, you may have thought the lights weren't working properly. However, it was all done purposefully to make a big statement.

The backdrop for West's performance was more than just a piece of art - it was artist Steve McQueen's Lynching Tree. The painting depicts a tree near New Orleans that was used to hang slaves. The song playing behind West's voice is Nina Simone's 1965 cover of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit - a song depicting the "strange fruit" that once hung from "southern trees." Blood on the Leaves explores a dark and heavy history, and West's performance completely embodied it.

And you can't mention a strong social message without mentioning Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

The talented hip-hop artist won the Moonman for Best Hip-Hop Video for Can't Hold Us and for Best Video with A Social Message for Same Love. The duo also put on a pretty heartfelt performance of Same Love, featuring Mary Lambert and a surprise performance from Jennifer Hudson.

In case you weren't aware, Lambert is gay and the co-writer for Same Love. She turned her moving chorus for Same Love into a song of its own, called She Keeps Me Warm.

There were also quite a few premieres during the VMAs, including Bruno Mars first live performance of Gorilla, Katy Perry's premiere of Roar and Daft Punk's brand-new clip of Lose Yourself to Dance featuring Pharrell Williams.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't give Justin Timberlake some credit for stealing the show. If his performance was a short preview into what a JT concert would be like, then sign us up. It was entertainment in a nutshell.

Wanted: album producer

Shania Twain is a producer and some studio time away from releasing her first album of original material in more than 10 years. Twain, who has been filling her time with her own show in Vegas, told Rolling Stone she's got a stack of songs and just needs the right person to produce the album.

"I still want to remain positive with my lyrics and stay in that mode with my music, because I enjoy uplifting myself, if you will, with my songs. But at the same time I'm going deeper, and I'm being more realistic with my point of view on things. It's really such a personal journey making a record, but even more so writing the songs," she said.

Her last album of original material, Up, was released in 2002 and featured the title track, plus I'm Gonna Getcha Good and It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing. Twain released a greatest hits compilation in 2004.

As for what a new album may bring, the musical direction is still a work in progress.

"I'm different, I've evolved, and I want that to be reflected in the music. At the same time I don't want to abandon the root of what I am. So it's just really determining where am I really at and just looking through that," she told Rolling Stone.

Wicked talent

Being pulled onstage to sing with your favorite performer at a concert can be an unforgettable experience for a fan. For the audience, that's not always the case.

But both the audience and performer got more than they expected when Broadway star Kristen Chenoweth pulled fan Sarah Horn onstage at a recent concert in California.

To quote Chenoweth, "holy crap, harmony."

Chenoweth plucked Horn from the audience to sing her iconic song For Good from Broadway's current No. 1 musical, Wicked.

Horn, without a vocal warm-up or rehearsal, nailed the song in front of thousands at the Hollywood Bowl.

"Note to self: Don't have anyone better than you," Chenoweth quipped after the song ended.

Turns out Horn is a music teacher at California Baptist University with a master's degree in music. And with a voice like that, she's the kind of teacher you want instructing your kids.

But if she quit her day job to cut an album, we wouldn't be too disappointed, either.

Either way, Sarah, we have been changed for good.

Stream entire new Nine Inch Nails album

Earlier this year, Nine Inch Nails secretly recorded an album. Slowly but surely, they've been allowing fans to preview songs, including Everything, Copy of A and Came Back Haunted. However, this week they put it all on the line.

A week ahead of its release, the entire new album Hesitation Marks can be streamed on iTunes.

According to the New York Times, Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor teamed up with Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham on three of the tracks.

Hesitation Marks will be released Sept. 3.

Kleenex alert

When 96-year-old Fred Stobaugh's wife of nearly 73 years died just before their wedding anniversary, he poured out his love for her and grieved the depth of his loss in a song he wrote.

Around the same time, a local recording studio in his hometown of Peoria, IL, held a songwriting contest.

What transpired after that is a beautiful collaboration of kindness in a video that will make grown men cry. 

Worth a watch ... just not before an important meeting or guy's night out.

New Releases

Ellie Goulding: Halcyon Days - Aug. 27

Stellar Kart: All In - Aug. 27

Alabama: Alabama & Friends - Aug. 27

For King and Country: Hope is What We Crave Live - Aug. 27

John Mayer: Paradise Valley - Aug. 20

Jimmy Buffet: Songs from St. Somewhere - Aug. 20

Lee DeWyze: Frames - Aug. 20

Upcoming

Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks - Sept. 3

John Legend: Love in the Future - Sept. 3

Rod Stewart: Rarities - Sept. 3

Ariana Grande: Yours Truly - Sept. 3

Sheryl Crow - Feels Like Home - Sept. 10

Keith Urban - Fuse - Sept. 10

And Finally

If you were a child of the '80s, chances are you gamed the original Nintendo Entertainment System so much, you heard the Super Mario theme in your sleep.

YouTube user WarialaskyRock apparently couldn't get the theme out of his head, so he cranked it out on his guitar.

Check out his homage to Super Mario and some of the greatest tunes in video game history.

What we're listening to

Sara Bareilles - I Choose You

Have a music tip? Drop us a line! You can also follow us on Twitter @AScottRNN and @ReporterJennRNN.

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