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If there’s one thing you can expect when Halsey kicks off her “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” tour later this year, it’s this: fire.

“I’ve always been very extra with the fire,” the Washington, New Jersey-native told me last month. “Any chance I have to bring fire on my stage, I’m going to do it.”

Matter-of-fact, Halsey revealed to me that during her Billboard Music Awards performance rehearsal, she kept practicing the song over-and-over in part due to the fire that was planned for the set. She certainly didn’t mind the rehearsing; she was once hit with her own fireworks during a Coachella performance (Halsey escaped unscathed).

But besides the obvious visual, there is also a meaning behind the use of fire that relates to the singer’s chart-topping album.

“My record, ‘Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,’ is kind of about an underworld,” Halsey, born Ashley Frangipane, explained. “It’s kind of about this parallel universe where love conquers all. It’s a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story so bringing in the fire is a really, really cool way for me to kind of rope my audience in to my universe that I’ve tried to create.”

Fans across the country will have the opportunity to witness that universe on the singer’s first-ever arena tour, although Halsey is no stranger to big rooms. She headlined and sold-out Madison Square Garden in 2016; the show went on-sale three weeks after her debut LP “Badlands” came out.

“The whole world went, ‘What do you think you’re doing? You just put out your album. You can’t play MSG,’” she recalled of critics’ initial reaction to the news. “That venue has always been the pinnacle of music for me.

“I was playing a show at Webster Hall. I was playing to 1,500 people (the night tickets for The Garden were released). And I walked up-stage and I got the news that we were about to sell-out Madison Square Garden.”

Halsey said that as amazing as she thinks the arena dates will be, it will be hard to top playing MSG, which she described as, “one of the best experiences of my life.”

She’ll find out when the tour kicks off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on September 29… her birthday.

I was on the red carpet to cover arrivals at The Garden Of Laughs Comedy Concert, which benefited Madison Square Garden’s Garden Of Dreams Foundation, and spoke with actors Norman Reedus and Susan Sarandon along with performers Sebastian Maniscalco, John Oliver, Leslie Jones, Bob Saget and more.

The event raised $2 million for the charity, which helps kids throughout the tri-state area overcome obstacles. Other performers at the benefit included Chris Rock and a surprise set from Jerry Seinfeld.

Panic! At The Disco is on the “Death Of A Bachelor” tour, headlining sold-out arenas across the country. But for lead singer Brendon Urie, the album cycle is basically finished.

“I’m literally trying to jump right in to the next record cycle,” the front man told me backstage at Mohegan Sun Arena before the trek’s opening night show. The interview was conducted for Mohegan Sun’s Facebook page. “I know that seems crazy but I’ve got a bunch of ideas I’ve been working on for the last couple months. I’m seriously pursuing recording them in the next month or two.”

The “Victorious” singer is also going to try his hand again at projects that don’t exclusively involve music.

“Theater really interests me and acting really interests me,” he continued. “I’ve done a couple of auditions, a few years ago, and they didn’t go so hot. So I want to try and redeem myself a little bit.”

The fact that Urie wants to branch out might be a testament to how gratifying and fulfilling the band’s latest LP was. “Bachelor” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with the highest first-week sales for Panic! yet. It also earned Urie a “Best Rock Album” nomination at this year’s GRAMMYs.

“That was a huge milestone,” he said of the nod. “I was filled with so much happiness. I was just like, running around… did a lot of drinking that night to celebrate.

“But it was amazing, man. It’s definitely put a nice little hat-tilt to this tour.”

Speaking of drinking, Urie joked (or maybe semi-joked?) that as far as essential tour items, beer definitely makes the list. He also revealed a Panic! pre-show ritual: shots.

“We did one night where we tried whiskey,” he explained before laughing. “This is going to sound so weird but, we were on stage and we all just kind of looked at each other and we all felt grumpy.”

The remedy? A switch to double-shots of tequila. Urie said it puts the band in party-mode in part by killing the group’s “hyper-awareness.” Judging by the rave reviews that the show is receiving so far, it seems to be working.

It wasn’t all a dream… it actually came true for Little Mix last week.

The girl group, which is currently supporting Ariana Grande her “Dangerous Woman” tour, traveled through a schedule last week that is hectic even by the girls’ standards. Little Mix started in Uncasville, Connecticut at the original Mohegan Sun Arena on Friday February 17. The day began with a whirlwind radio promo schedule, continued with an album signing and acoustic performance in The Shops at Mohegan Sun and ended with a performance for the sold-out arena crowd.

Then the girls crossed the pond to perform at The Brit Awards, the UK’s version of our GRAMMYs, on the 22. Little Mix was also nominated for three awards and took home the hardware for “British Single Of The Year” thanks to “Shout Out To My Ex.” The track hit number one in the UK for multiple weeks and served as the first single from the group’s fourth LP, “Glory Days.”

The next day: back to the U.S. Little Mix hopped back on Grande’s tour to open up for the pop star at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden.

“We love it,” Jesy Nelson responded when I inquired about how they navigate the long travel and many responsibilities. “It’s tiring and it does take its toll but at the end of the day when we get on stage that just makes up for it because we get to see all of our fans and it’s just the most incredible feeling.”

I chatted with the girls in between the acoustic performance and autograph signing in Connecticut and when I brought up the week that included both The Brits and the MSG performance, there seemed to be more excitement than nervousness amongst them.

“To make two dreams come true,” Nelson said as the other girls talked about the idea of both possibly winning a Brit and taking the stage at The Garden, “C’mon, that’s pretty cool.”

They’ve even found some time amidst the madness to celebrate the success of their latest album.

“We do go out quite a bit,” Jade Thirwall admitted, rather sheepishly, before eliciting laughter from her bandmates. “Hey if we’ve got something to celebrate, there’s nothing wrong with that!”

Of course, the only thing better than having something to celebrate is having two things to celebrate. But the quartet, which formed during the eighth season of “The X-Factor” in 2011, will be hard-pressed to fit that into its schedule. Little Mix will continue to tour with Grande through mid-April and then embark on its own headlining trek overseas in May. There’s a sizable break in shows during the months of September and October, but the ladies revealed that those months are set-aside at the moment for studio time to begin work on the next album.

On my first day of coverage in Los Angeles for The 59th GRAMMYs, I attended The Recording Academy Producers And Engineers Wing 10th Annual event which honored 12-time GRAMMY winner Jack White. The artist’s friend Conan O’Brien was on hand and stopped to chat about his Patriots winning Super Bowl 51. I also spoke with Regina Spektor and Academy President Neil Portnow.



I rang in the New Year in Times Square. Just two nights later, my Father and I stepped on to the ice after the Sabres beat the Rangers inside Madison Square Garden.

Yeah 2017 is off to a pretty solid start.

So one of my Dad’s good friends from back home in Niagara Falls is this guy named Ron DeFazio. Ron is a little older than Ralph Sr. and the owner of my Dad’s go-to watering hole, a venerable spot called Stadium Grill on Hyde Park Boulevard. Now even though he lives and works in Western New York, Mr. D is a life-long New York Rangers fan.

And he’s never been to Madison Square Garden. Period. Not even for a non-hockey event.

A few months ago, my Dad and his buddies were at the bar and they decided that it was time for Mr. D to see the Blueshirts on Broadway, especially with Ralph Jr. (me) working literally above MSG.


I made a few calls and scored us tickets to see the Rangers, who conveniently enough were playing the Sabres on January 3. The men booked their travel accommodations and those few months passed in seemingly a few days; next thing you know I’m hanging out with my Dad, my cousin Mike Hooper, Paul Parise and Mr. D inside Smith’s in Hell’s Kitchen. We did a bit of bar-hopping on Monday night with stops at Rudy’s and Jimmy’s Corner. Then on Tuesday, we started off the evening with happy hour at the Oyster Bar followed by a beer at Stout, a tour of the radio station and then a trip downstairs to The World’s Most Famous Arena.


Thanks to my friends at MSG Networks we were able to get Mr. D’s name on Gardenvision during the first period. Then my friend Nicole hooked up this once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity after the game.

The Sabres ended up beating the Rangers to Mr. D’s chagrin but regardless, it turned out to be a trip that none of us will ever forget.

Yes, I have been taking what seems to be a lot of time off lately. Maybe I’m the only one who feels like it’s a lot because I can’t remember a stretch in my career when I went so many consecutive weeks without working a full one. But the perfect storm of my “American Music Awards” trip followed by Thanksgiving and combined with 10 vacation days created a rather unusual situation for me.

Hey, use ‘em or lose ‘em right? And I’m not in the business of losing… certainly not to the extent of two weeks’ worth of vacation.


So last weekend was another of the long variety, but what I found interesting about it is that I ended up at the studio every single day. On Friday I met colleagues in midtown before joining them at Kelsea Ballerini’s Irving Plaza show. I had to buy Syracuse/UConn tickets from the Madison Square Garden box office on Saturday, so eventually I went upstairs to use the restroom and check something on my computer.

Then on Sunday I was asked by our sister station NASH FM 94.7 if I could fill-in from 3-7 pm. Sure!


I had a lot of fun over the four hours and to be honest, didn’t realize how much I would enjoy the music. That Luke Bryan sings a catchy tune.

Then Monday I was back at the studio before heading downstairs to watch my Syracuse Orange lose… again… this time to former arch rival UConn.


Some other weekend highlights: family made their now annual trip to the city. I took them to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes. The show, as usual, was fantastic.

We followed up our trip to Radio City Music Hall with a trek up to my neighborhood for grab dinner at Carmine’s – the first time I had visited that particular location. The carbs were both plentiful and delicious.


Sunday night after my show on NASH FM I brought the fam to Snack Taverna in the West Village. I wanted them to experience what a typical New York City dining experience is like: dim lighting, close tables, small and large plates you order for everyone to share.

I enjoyed it but I don’t think that will be making the family’s annual itinerary. It was a rather unusual experience for them… and not the kind that leaves you with 10 vacation days to burn before the end of the year.

If I had to use one-word to conjure up my feelings for Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards I would use: disjointed.

Before I tell you how little I enjoyed of the three-and-a-half hour broadcast (not including the mess that was the red carpet special), let me commend MTV execs for one thing: attempting to break the mold and trying something different. It was obvious from the minute that Vanguard Award-recipient Rihanna took the stage to open the show that this was not going to play out like your typical award show. Yes, it is refreshing to see the network take a chance with its biggest annual flagship program and create a new type of experience.

That said, they failed. Miserably.

We’ll start with the aforementioned Rihanna. Instead of receiving one long block of programming to showcase her prolific work and accept her “lifetime achievement” award, the singer was split in to four different performance segments, culminating with long-time collaborator Drake presenting her with the honor named for the late Michael Jackson. This alone exposes one of the VMAs major issues: a lack of star power so unavoidable that one of the night’s biggest performances was sprinkled throughout the course of the evening.

Think about music’s biggest names that were not in attendance: Justin Timberlake, Adele, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris, Coldplay, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
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Yes there was Beyonce, whose 15-minute medley of songs from “Lemonade” proved to be the night’s undisputed high point. Kanye West offered another bizarre, rambling diatribe before premiering a new music video from “The Life Of Pablo.” Britney Spears, introduced by Kim Kardashian West, appeared to return to old form with a performance of “Make Me” that featured rapper G-Eazy.

But you would have needed five Beyonce-like performances to make up for not only the missing names but mess that occurred when a performance or award presentation wasn’t happening. Comedian Jay Pharoah, who might have been better suited for a more-traditional hosting role or relegated to pre-taped vignettes (think Kevin Hart circa 2011 VMAs) was instead randomly inserted in to the program to showcase his various impressions. DJ Khaled proved that his energy and array of catchphrases play better on Snapchat opposed to live TV.
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And comedians Key and Peele, who again should be commended for attempting something that breaks from the norm, failed in their quest to parody the “social media influencers” (coincidentally, like Khaled) who have become regulars on branded-content heavy programs like this one.

Perhaps just like those influencers, MTV needs to think of yet another new act. Ratings for this year plummeted 34 percent, from 9.8 to 6.5 million viewers.

Deputy Style Editor at People Magazine Sharon Clott Kanter called in after the 2016 MTV VMAs to talk about her favorite red carpet look, the moment backstage that melted hearts and Republic Records’ After Party at Vandal in New York City.
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Fuse Digital Deputy Editor Jason Lipshutz called in ahead of the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards to talk about what he was expecting from the award show and what he was most looking forward to.
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