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    Tough Questions for Mark Ronson

    During his first career as a so-called celebrity DJ, Mark Ronson spun for everyone from P. Diddy to Martha Stewart. But in 2000, he had an epiphany that led to his becoming a producer. "I was playing 'Groove Is in the Heart' for the 17 millionth time," says Ronson, 35, "and I just felt like a sellout. I remember going home and saying, 'This has to end.'?" By 2006, he had successfully rebranded himself; the producer tag stuck when Amy Winehouse's Back to Black went multiplatinum and won him five Grammys. Version, his album of covers with the likes of Lily Allen and Santigold, followed. Now there's Record Collection, his raucous set of originals with the Business Intl. (Q-tip, Boy George, and D'Angelo, among others).

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    Tough Questions for Phil Collins

    It would be both annoying and inaccurate to quip that diminutive, balding drummer-turned-singer Phil Collins became a music-industry titan against all odds. As evidenced by his multitude of hits, both solo and with Genesis, the 59-year-old Englishman made banging out karaoke favorites look easy. But despite his compositional prowess measurable by eight Grammy awards, a Best Original Song Oscar, and a memorable scene in the recent comedy The Hangover in which Mike Tyson air-drums to his "In the Air Tonight" -- Collins hasn't written a song on his new Going Back (Atlantic), a collection of faithful Motown covers.

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    Tough Questions for OutKast's Big Boi

    Back in 2006, as OutKast was coming off a dizzying run that saw five consecutive studio albums hit No. 2 or higher on the Billboard chart, André 3000 and Big Boi announced that each would put out solo records before releasing their next joint project. Four years and one Who's Your Caddy? later, Big Boi (né Antwan Patton) is finally ready to set that plan in motion -- and silence any breakup rumors -- with Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, featuring collaborations with B.o.B, T.I., Jamie Foxx, and, yes, André 3000. The 35-year-old Atlanta rapper called us to discuss the long-awaited record from a hotel room in New York City, where he was "just grinding it out, doing interviews, and having fun." How's it going, Big Boi? Yo. What's happening, playa? What's happening with you, dawg? Playa and dawg? Awesome. Bless you.

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    Renee Fleming Trades Opera for Indie Rock

    For a woman who belts out arias at sold-out opera houses without using a microphone, Renée Fleming speaks in surprisingly soft tones. "I have a terrible speaking voice," says the 51-year-old soprano, by phone from her New York office. "If I go to restaurants, people can't hear me." Fans of the band Muse are reading her loud and clear, as her sultry cover of "Endlessly" has received positive online buzz.

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    Tough Questions for Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba

    Since forming Alkaline Trio in his native Chicago in 1996, Matt Skiba has been hit by five cars and drawn the ire of Christian radio stations for talking about his membership in the Church of Satan. Despite those crises, his band's 2008 album, Agony & Irony, peaked on the Billboard chart at No. 13. Last year Alkaline Trio amicably left Epic and struck a deal with Epitaph to form their own label, Heart & Skull, on which they've released their seventh full-length, This Addiction. Twenty-five minutes after our scheduled interview time, the 33-year-old Skiba -- who has "Hello, Cleveland!" tattooed across his ribs -- phoned from his Los Angeles home. You're late! What was so important that it couldn't wait?I have been showering my body. And now I'm making coffee for it. Interesting. Are guitarists required to use Axe body wash? I don't.

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    Tough Questions for Scott Stapp

    Whether it was for his quasi-religious posturing or his bombastic, Vedder-lite vocals, Scott Stapp was certainly a divisive force in rock during his rise to fame with Creed in the late 1990s. Trouble with alcohol and the law led to the group's contentious 2004 breakup. But like the messianic figure often alluded to in Stapp's lyrics, Creed have risen again with Full Circle, the reunited band's first album since 2001's multiplatinum Weathered. The newly shorn 36-year-old singer called us from a tour stop in Denver. You're wearing leather pants right now, aren't you?No, I'm not, bro. But I have some on tour with me. To be honest with you, they're from 2002. I can't believe I can still wear them. It's good to see that some things haven't changed. Unlike your hair.Yeah, people kind of identified me with that. I keep it short now.

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    Tough Questions for Devendra Banhart

    Born in Texas but raised in his mother's native Venezuela, Devendra Banhart has built an enviable career out of being an outsider. The 28-year-old singer-songwriter broke out in 2002 with a lo-fi album made up of largely folky ditties he left on people's answering machines, quickly amassing a passionate following. On his sixth album What Will We Be (Warner Bros.), he once again blends Latin Grooves with mellow California vibes -- just don't call it freak folk. "That's the most embarrassing term in the world," says Banhart, by phone from his L.A. home. "it's humiliating." SPIN reached the talkative Banhart as he took a break from designing ironic T-shirts. Am I interrupting anything else?You know what I was thinking about, honestly, right before you called? About how Moses didn't part the Red Sea. He parted the Reed Sea. That's been fucking me up all morning. I see.

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    Q&A: Monsters of Folk

    The term "supergroup" tends to get thrown around a lot, but often the tag just doesn't sit right. Consider Damn Yankees. Or Zwan. Or more recently, Chickenfoot. While these groups technically fit the definition -- a band whose members are already famous from having performed individually or in other groups -- does anyone truly believe that they're super? But Monsters of Folk -- the new band featuring Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, and indie darling M. Ward -- is exactly the sort of outfit for which the S-word was coined. Just don't tell them that. "Calling us a supergroup seems so presumptuous," laughs James, sitting in a grungy hotel room in lower Manhattan on a sofa next to his bandmates.

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    15 Questions for Paramore's Hayley Williams

    Last year, after a few canceled concerts, word swirled that Paramore, the Tennessee pop-punk band fronted by the colorful 20-year-old Hayley Williams, would not survive to see their third album. Yet September 29 brought the release of brand new eyes. Considering that their 2008 single "Decode" sold more than 800,000 copies by virtue of appearing on the Twilight soundtrack and that they spent their summer as an opening act on No Doubt's reunion tour, rumors of Paramore's death seem not just exaggerated, but hard to fathom. Williams spoke to us from Sacramento, California, where she was on tour with her band, which totally still exists. What color is your hair today?My hair is pretty bright. It's a little more orange than usual. I take it red is your favorite color?I've always loved it.

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    The 50 Greatest Cover Songs: 10-1

    Our countdown of the 50 best covers continues! Check out entries No. 20-11 from our list -- and weigh in with your own favorites in the comments section below. To check out 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, and 20-11, click here. 10. The Clash, "Police and Thieves" Originally By: Junior MurvinThe Clash revealed its adventurous side with this 1977 homage to an unlikely influence by trading Murvin's smooth vocal for Joe Strummer's scratchy yelp and coupling rock chords with reggae rhythms. 9. Elliott Smith, "13" Originally By: Big StarBig Star's original is a slice of power-pop heaven, but Smith's stripped-down, country-tinged salute was raw enough to cut to the bone. 8.

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