A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:

Lady Gaga, Xcel Energy Center. Mother Monster reminded us that behind the outrageous outfits, profanity-laced language and extravagant personality, there is a soulful, emotional, 26-year-old woman with a passion for music.

Pink and Nate Ruess, "Just Give Me a Reason." With some help from fun.'s lead singer, she delivers a simple yet moving dialogue in this flawless ballad.

Shakira gives birth to son. On Jan. 22, Shakira and her boyfriend, soccer player Gerard Piqué, welcomed Milan Piqué-Mebarak into the world. Not many pictures of Milan are available, but if he's anything like his parents, he will be the cutest baby on the planet.

Michael Reinhardt,


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Real-Phonic Radio Hour, J.J. Hill Library. This unpretentious, musically rewarding monthly concert (www.realphonic.com) was especially delightful this time. Not only was it Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles playing a rare solo set and Molly Maher and Eric Koskinen serving up choice new tunes, but it was the specialness of generous Mary Gauthier, with her dark songs and disarmingly funny conversation.

ZZ Ward, Varsity. Backed by a hip-hop savvy trio, this newcomer showed impressive instincts for blues, soul and catchy choruses. Judging by the reaction of her mostly female crowd, I think ZZ's career will have legs.

Kelley Hunt, Dakota. The veteran Kansas City blueswoman proved once again that she's one hard-working, highly skilled piano player. When she traveled to church and found a groove, she was in fine vocal form, too.

Jon Bream, Star Tribune