By Chuck Arnold Carlos Greer
April 21, 2014 12:00 PM

CHUCK’S PICKS

The 5 Most Important People in Music Now!

1. Beyoncé Knowles

First, there was the fact that a veritable pop goddess like her could pull off dropping a surprise album, forever changing the release game. Then at the same time, she blessed the world with a visual feast of videos for every track. But four months later, what really amazes is that Beyoncé gets better and better with each listen. Flawless.

KEY TRACKS

“Drunk in Love,” “Blow,” “Partition,” “Haunted”

2. PHARRELL WILLIAMS

In the last year, no one else has made more feet happy. After four Grammy wins in January, he rocked the Oscars and scored his first No. 1 solo hit. On top of his own G I R L, he is a hot producer and will be a Voice coach next season.

KEY TRACKS

“Happy,” “Get Lucky,” “Blurred Lines”

3. AVICII

At 24, Sweden’s superstar deejay has given EDM a sound and a face – which has graced ads for Ralph Lauren – that the masses can embrace. Fresh off his True (Avicii by Avicii) remix album, he brings his tour to the U.S. this month.

KEY TRACKS

“Wake Me Up,” “Hey Brother,” “Addicted to You”

4. SIA

The Aussie has become the go-to songwriter for just about every major pop diva, from Rihanna and Katy Perry to Britney Spears and, yes, Beyoncé. Now she’s got her own new single “Chandelier,” with an album due in June.

KEY TRACKS

“Diamonds” (Rihanna), “Pretty Hurts” (Beyoncé)

5. KENDRICK LAMAR

Leading the West Coast rap renaissance, this Dre protégé commands such respect that after he lost to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for the Best Rap Album Grammy, Macklemore texted Lamar: “You got robbed. I wanted you to win.”

KEY TRACKS

“Backseat Freestyle,” “Swimming Pools (Drank)”

BUZZ ARTIST

5. SONGS TO DOWNLOAD STAT!

Sam Smith

While the smashingly soulful Englishman, 21, killed it on his March 29 Saturday Night Live performance, his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, doesn’t drop until June 17. For now, check these out:

“Latch”

He’s the human heart amidst the electronic beats on this dance jam with Disclosure.

“La La La”

Another trance-inducing twirler, this pairs him with fellow Brit Naughty Boy.

“Nirvana”

With its undulating groove and Smith easing from a whisper to a wail, this bliss creates a sexy-spooky mood.

“I’ve Told You Now”

The breathtaking ballad from his Nirvana EP showcases the liquid-silk lushness of his voice.

“Stay with Me”

One of Smith’s two Saturday Night Live numbers, it goes from solemn confessional to gospel-powered plea.

TRIBUTE

Frankie Knuckles 1955–2014

The dance floor in heaven just got busier: Frankie Knuckles, a pioneering deejay and Grammy-winning remixer known as the Godfather of House Music, died March 31 at 59. Knuckles brought his soulful, soul – lifting sounds to clubs all over the world – whether through spinning his own sets, his countless remixes for artists like Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston or original productions like “The Whistle Song” – elevating the deejay to a true artist.

MY FAVORITE BROADWAY TUNES

Billy Porter

“I’ve Gotta Be Me”

I wanted to pay tribute to Sammy Davis Jr., who made the song famous. He defied genres and transcended race. It’s an anthem of empowerment.

“Luck Be a Lady”

Cyndi [Lauper, who wrote the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots] is my lady luck, so it’s a tribute to her and how much her presence in my life has changed the trajectory of my journey. But even before I knew her, she was always very inspiring.

“Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy”

When Cyndi agreed to be on the record, that [medley] was the first thing that came to mind because Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand sang it on The Judy Garland Show.

“On the Street Where You Live”

When I sang it at the height of the AIDS crisis at AIDS benefits all over, I made it become a reflection on loss.

“I Am Changing”

It’s from Dreamgirls, which is the show that changed my life! I remember watching the Tonys as a kid, when it was up for Best Musical, and I saw all these black people onstage. That was the moment I realized I could do this for a living.

A BUYER’S GUIDE

The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

From Nirvana and Kiss to Linda Ronstadt, here is a look at the April 10 honorees and their must-have albums.

• NIRVANA

With the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death on April 5, it’s fitting the grunge gods are enshrined now.

MUST-HAVE ALBUM: Nevermind (1991)

HALL AND OATES

The duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates were the definitive blue-eyed-soul men of their era.

MUST-HAVE ALBUM: Rock ‘n Soul Part 1 (1983)

• KISS

Only the group’s original members (Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss) made the institution’s cut.

MUST-HAVE ALBUM: Alive! (1975)

PETER GABRIEL

Already inducted with Genesis in 2010, the art-rocker gets a second nod for his solo career.

MUST-HAVE ALBUM: So (1986)

• LINDA RONSTADT

Thankfully there is at least this ’70s star, famous for her versatility, to represent the ladies this year.

MUST-HAVE ALBUM: Heart Like a Wheel (1974)

CAT STEVENS

Now known as Yusuf Islam, he was one of the quintessential singer-songwriters of the ’70s.

MUST-HAVE ALBUM: Tea for the Tillerman (1970)

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