Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Personal Chart, 12/3/05

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 6 .... Hung Up - Madonna (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... 9 .... Switch It On - Will Young
3 .... 7 .... 3 .... No Worries - Simon Webbe
4 .... 8 ... 12 ... Push the Button - Sugababes
5 .... 10 .. 5 .... Let There Be Love - Oasis
6 .... 4 ... 15 ... Because of You - Kelly Clarkson (1 wk @ #1)
7 .... 9 .... 7 .... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
8 .... 3 ... 12 ... Tripping - Robbie Williams (4 wks @ #1)
9 .... 6 ... 11 ... Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
10 .. 5 ... 10 ... Don't Love You No More (I'm Sorry) - Craig David

Third week at #1 for Madonna's "Hung Up." In case you're wondering, it's her 17th #1 single on my chart, officially putting her in first place (full list below). Janet Jackson is second with 16 #1 hits. Will Young spends a third week at #2 and loses his bullet, so no #1 for "Switch it On." Simon Webbe's "No Worries" and Oasis' "Let There Be Love" both make big jumps in the top 10, although I don't believe either will hit #1, since I'm expecting "Hung Up" to stay up there awhile. No new entries in the top 10, although I almost almost put "One Way Ticket" by The Darkness at #10. Maybe next week, although they'll have to fend off newer tracks by Coldplay, Robbie Williams, and the Sugababes.

Madonna's #1 hits on my chart
1. Oh Father, 1/20/1990 (1 week)
2. Vogue, 5/12/1990 (3 weeks)
3. Justify My Love, 1/5/1991 (2 weeks)
4. This Used to Be My Playground, 7/25/1992 (2 weeks)
5. Erotica, 10/17/1992 (3 weeks)
6. Deeper and Deeper, 1/30/1993 (1 week)
7. I'll Remember, 5/28/1994 (4 weeks)
8. Secret, 11/5/1994 (3 weeks)
9. Take a Bow, 1/7/1995 (9 weeks)
10. Frozen, 3/28/1998 (3 weeks)
11. Beautiful Stranger, 8/7/1999 (2 weeks)
12. Music, 9/2/2000 (8 weeks)
13. Don't Tell Me, 2/3/2001 (2 weeks)
14. Die Another Day, 11/2/2002 (4 weeks)
15. American Life, 4/19/2003 (4 weeks)
16. Me Against the Music, 11/29/2003 (1 week)
17. Hung Up, 11/19/2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Grammy Nominee Predictions

The 2005 Grammy Award nominations (handed out in February 2006) will be announced December 8. Eligible albums for Album of the Year are those released between 10/1/04 and 9/30/05. I've found predicting Grammies to be much harder than predicting Oscars or Emmies, given that the Grammies sometimes go conserative, sometimes more mainstream. Last year, the Album of the Year nominees appeared to roughly represent the favorite albums in each of the genre categories (i.e. Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, Alternative, etc.), so I based my prediction somewhat on that.

Here's my prediction for Album of the Year:

1. Mariah Carey The Emancipation of Mimi (Gets the R&B slot, as the biggest R&B album of the year, also one of the year's bestsellers and a comeback album for an industry giant. Nominated in this category in 1995 for Daydream and in 1990 for Mariah Carey)

2. Coldplay X&Y (Gets the alternative slot. Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head wasn't nominated in 2002, and this was a big year for them)

3. Gwen Stefani Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (The pop slot. A close call with Kelly Clarkson, but Stefani was seen as having more edge and was favored by Critics, even though Clarkson sold more.)

4. U2 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (The rock slot. It's a bit old at this point, but still qualifies. U2 is a Grammy favorite, and critics loved this album. Nominated in this category in 2001 for All That You Can't Leave Behind, in 1992 for Achtung Baby; won the award in 1987 for The Joshua Tree.)

5. Kanye West Late Registration (The Hip-hop slot. Critics and the public liked this as much as his first album, which was nominated last year. Better still, this album produced a bigger hit in "Gold Digger," a likely Record of the Year nominee.)

Other possibilities:

Kelly Clarkson Breakaway (She was very popular in 2005, but hasn't yet earned enough critical praise for a nomination. Definitely a shoo-in though for a Record of the Year nomination for "Since U Been Gone")

Missy Elliot The Cookbook (Was nominated in '03, but that album was more popular and received greater critical praise. "Lose Control" could be a Record of the Year contender.)

Fall Out Boy From Under the Cork (Probably not, but it's mainstream and popular enough to get some notice.)

50 Cent The Massacre (He wasn't nominated in 2003, but it's still a possibility.)

Gorillaz Demon Days (A critical favorite that finally got some notice after "Feel Good Inc." became a big hit, but I still see Coldplay getting the alternative nod.)

Jack Johnson In Between Dreams (Adult pop stuff like Norah Jones and Bruce Springsteen fared well in the early part of the decade, although not as much the last couple of years. This wasn't a big album, but it's still a possibility.)

Rob Thomas ...Something to Be (Again, like Jack Johnson, if Grammy is feeling more conservative, it could go his way, but this album wasn't as big as expected.)

Weezer Make Believe
White Stripes Get Behind Me Satan (Either one could take Coldplay's slot as the alternative nominee if Grammy passes over Coldplay again. White Stripes' Elephant was nominated before, but this album wasn't as strong.)

Even more difficult to predict are the nominees for Record of the Year, since there are so many possibilities. Often, most most of nominees are from albums nominated in the Album of the Year category, but of course, this is not always the case. Nominees are usually (but again, not always) big hits.

My prediction for Record of the Year:

"We Belong Together" - Mariah Carey

"Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson

"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" - Green Day

"Hollaback Girl" - Gwen Stefani

"Gold Digger" - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx

I went the big hit route with my prediction, but there are usually songs nominated that aren't big hits (and for the last five years, the song that charted the lowest has won). So other possibilities:

"Don't Lie" - Black Eyed Peas
"Speed of Sound" - Coldplay
"Lose Control" - Missy Elliot Featuring Ciara
"Karma" - Alicia Keys
"Live Like You Were Dying" - Tim McGraw
"Over and Over" - Nelly Featuring Tim McGraw
"Rich Girl" - Gwen Stefani Featuring Eve
"Lonely No More" - Rob Thomas
"Vertigo" - U2
"Beverly Hills" - Weezer

Simons Settle

Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell have apparently reached a settlement in the lawsuit Fuller and his company 19 Entertainment brought against Cowell. Fuller had accused the popular American Idol judge of copying the format of the Idol series, launched in 2001 with the British Pop Idol, with the creation of Cowell's The X Factor.

"I am happy that we have been able to sort out our differences and find an amicable solution to our problems," said Cowell, who has apparently signed a 5-year deal to appear on American Idol following the settlement.

"This means we can go forward and concentrate on working together for the next five years on developing other successful projects," he added in a statement released by his agent.

See more at UK Yahoo Launch.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Madonna: Underrated

Entertainment has a great feature on its site right now: A list of 10 underrated Madonna tracks, which they describe as "unjustly ignored." Their list (in release order):

1. "Think of Me" from Madonna
2. "Over and Over" from Like a Virgin
3. "More" from I'm Breathless
4. "Waiting" from Erotica
5. "Bedtime Story" from Bedtime Stories
6. "Buenos Aires" from Evita
7. "Drowned World/Substitute For Love" from Ray of Light
8. "Shanti/Ashtangi" from Ray of Light
9. "I Deserve It" from Music
10. "Nobody Knows Me" from American Life

Here's my own take:

1. "Who's That Girl" from Who's That Girl (1987)
It was a #1 hit in 1987, but being left off of The Immaculate Collection means it remains undiscovered to new fans and virtually forgotten even by the old. This was the single that got me hooked on Madonna, and will always have a special place in my pop heart.

2. "Spotlight" from You Can Dance (1987)
Also released during my formative pop years, this great track failed to receive a proper single release. Too bad, it's great '80s dance, rivalling her best.

3. "Spanish Eyes" from Like a Prayer (1989)
This a dramatic, epic ballad, presumably about a woman watching her Spanish soldier/lover go off to war.

4. "What Can You Lose" from I'm Breathless (1990)
An arresting Madonna ballad and duet with Mandy Patinkin.

5. "Where Life Begins" from Erotica (1992)
It's very sexy, even dirty, but the seductive soundscape evokes "nighttime in the city" better than any Madonna track.

6. "You'll See" from Something to Remember (1995)
Since it wasn't on an album and got left off GHV2, this top 10 hit seems destined to be forgotten, which is a shame, since it is one of Madonna's all-time best ballads. Much better than "Take a Bow," which was her definining mid-'90s moment.

7. "Goodnight and Thank You" from Evita (1996)
A cheeky number chronicling Evita's bed-romping rise to the fame. Also features Antonio Banderas.

8. "To Have and Not to Hold" from Ray of Light (1998)
A moment of darkness from Madonna's late '90s electronic masterpiece. This is the perfect song for feeling brokenhearted vengeance.

9. "Time Stood Still" from The Next Best Thing (2000)
A great William Orbit ballad that got passed over for single release in favor of the tepid "American Pie" remake. A pity, this is a very beautiful song.

10. "Amazing" from Music (2000)
Sure it sounds like "Beautiful Stranger," but who cares? This was William Orbit's last good moment with Madonna before being discarded for Mirwais (who was subsequently discarded for Stuart Price--Oh Madonna, you really like Eva Peron in "Goodnight and Thank You.").

Singles Reviews, 11/28/05

Walk Away – Franz Ferdinand (4 out of 5)

One of the great joys of Franz Ferdinand’s second album is how the group displays greater depth than they did on the first. “Walk Away” is a break from the jaunty sound they are known for. It’s a great track, with slower versus and louder choruses, with definite signs of ‘60s influence. Perfect choice for follow-up to the brilliant “Do You Want To.” (Released 12/5)

Luxurious – Gwen Stefani (4/5)

Stefani returns with a fifth offering from Love. Angel. Music. Baby. Not my favorite at first (I was initially disappointed this was chosen over “Serious”), but it’s grown on me. Stefani slows the tempo down even more than on “Cool,” drawing on more urban and less ‘80s influences for a smooth R&B cool down. Definitely makes me want to buy some cashmere and Egyptian cotton. (12/5)

Heard ‘Em Say – Kanye West Featuring Adam Levine (4/5)

Not as immediate as “Gold Digger,” but still satisfying. Kanye West has scored another mainstream hit, this time pairing his rhymes with the falsetto voice of Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. Tinkling pianos and deep bass keep it all moving forward. (12/5)

Ugly – Sugababes (4/5)

Revisiting similar terrority that TLC covered in “Unpretty,” the Sugababes take up empowerment pop, throwing it in the face of the bullies who said they were ugly. One look at these girls and you’ll know that anyone who would accuse them of being ugly must be blind, and this direction isn’t doing any favors for their supposed street cred. Still, it’s a polished pop record and easy to sing along with too. (12/5)

Even God (Can’t Change the Past) – Charlotte Church (3/5)

After two campy vampy singles, Charlotte Church puts a damper on the party for this somber pre-Christmas release. It’s almost as if she realized her old fans would be in record stores this time of year and might be shocked to see her standing in her knickers, so she threw on a frumpy frock and hid the cigarettes. Yes, the girl can sing, but this song offers little excitement. (12/5)

DHT – Listen to Your Heart (3/5)

Years ago the dance music world embraced hi-NRG retreads of ‘80s classics, the cream of crop being DJ Sammy’s remake of Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” in 2002. So DHT are a little late to the table with their Roxette remake. It’s enjoyable, well-done, but so five years ago. It was also a huge hit in the US, where top 40 has all but shut the door on house music (It’s topped the iTunes dance chart for like 6 months). It will be interesting to see how the UK, which has recently been rejecting dance tracks, receives this. (12/5)

Under The Weather – KT Tunstall (3/5)

For her fourth single from Eye to the Telescope, Tunstall has put out a laid back, acoustic-guitar and keyboard-driven folksy track. Is there a campfire nearby? Tunstall ups the amp after the second chorus, but this still isn’t as enjoyable as her last offering, “Suddenly I See.” (12/5)

Forget Me Not – Lucie Silvas (3/5)

Here's stretching an album to death. "Forget Me Not" is Silvas' fifth single from Breathe In, an album that scored two top 10 hits, but saw its last two releases peak only at #38 and #24. "Forget Me Not" is very simple--just Lucie and a piano. It's pretty, but also pretty forgettable. (12/5)

Don’t Bother – Shakira (2/5)

First release from her forthcoming second English-language album, Oral Fixation Vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was the Spanish album from earlier this year). I like how it starts, promises to be dark and dramatic, but it quickly loses my interest after that. Am I the only one thinks she can't sing? Her voice is warbly and that growl she does is really annoying. Take her advice--don't bother. (12/5)

Juicebox – The Strokes (4/5)

The Strokes are back with the lead in to next year's First Impressions of Earth. The bassline is obviously a take on Henry Mancini's "Peter Gunn Theme." It sounds a lot like their previous stuff, which isn't bad, and maybe a bit more mainstream, which might be helpful after their last album's underwhelming sales (in comparison to their debut, Is This It?, which was a worldwide phenomenon). (12/5)

Your Body - Tom Novy Featuring Michael Marshall (3/5)

A simple straight up club track and one of the few this year to crack the UK top 10. It's not setting any new trends, but it sounds great on the radio against all the slower winter songs. (11/21)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

UK Chart Analysis, 12/3/05

Madonna triumphs again, topping the singles, airplay and albums chart for a second week!


1. Hung Up - Madonna

Madonna spends a third week at #1 with "Hung Up," the single is now in a three-way tie with "Papa Don't Preach" and "Like a Prayer" as her third longest-running #1 single. Only "Into the Groove" and "Vogue" spent more weeks at the top, 4 weeks each to be exact.

2. You Raise Me Up - Westlife

Westlife deserve some recognition this week, for "You Raise Me Up" is achieving something few of their singles are able to--top 10 longevity. Westlife singles are notorious for debutting high and then plunging, but this track continues to sell well despite decent competition from other singles and the release of the band's album, Face to Face (#5 on the albums chart this week). In fact, no Westlife single in its fifth week has ever charted this high, the best up to now being the #4 position of "I Have a Dream," which had spent its first 4 weeks at #1. By comparison, the group's last #1 single, "Mandy," was at #14 in its fifth week, and their biggest plunge ever for a #1 single was "Fool Again," which was #28 by its fifth week.

4. No Worries - Simon Webbe

A fairly slow week of new releases (surprising, given the time of year) means a few singles are able to climb. Particularly noteworthy is the three place move by Simon Webbe's "No Worries." The track is in its 3rd week now, and matches its debut position from 2 weeks ago. It's a great track, and has been receiving increasingly amounts of airplay since its release (#5 last week). Arctic Monkeys also move up 1 to #8 and Craig David moves up 2 to #9.

6. Dirty Harry - Gorillaz

Blur's Damon Alban returns with his "cartoon" band for a third top 10 single from Demon Days. Not as great a showing as their first two singles this year, "Feel Good Inc (#2)" and "Dare (#1)," but those were phenomenal pop songs, while this is just mediocre. "Dirty Harry" is the "group's" 7th top 40 hit and 5th to make the top 10.

10. Your Body - Tom Novy (Featuring Michael Marshall)

For a change, something clubby enters the top 10, but only just barely. Tom Novy is not a new act, having released a few singles over the last five years, but this is his first to crack the top 10.

11. Window Shopper - 50 Cent

50 Cent earns his 8th top 40 hit (11th counting featured appearances), barely missing the top 10. It caps a lucrative chart year for 50, as 7 of his 11 chart appearances were this year, the best of which was the #4 peak of "Candy Shop" in April. His biggest chart hit, however, remains his debut, "In the Club," a massive #3 hit in 2003.

17. Rewind - Stereophonics

Stereophonics also cap a lucrative chart year with their fourth single from Language. Sex. Violence. Other? As with most of their singles, expect this one to drop like a stone next week.

Can Madonna earn a 4th week at #1? It is possible, but she will have to fend off new releases from Oasis and The Pussycat Dolls to do it.


Madonna spends a second week at the top of the albums chart with Confessions on a Dancefloor, holding off a serious challenge from Will Young's Keep On, his third album. Both of Will's first two albums, From Now On and Friday's Child debutted at #1, but likely didn't face the difficult prospect of unseating Madonna. Enya has the other new entry of the week in top 10 at #8 with Amarantine.


Madonna's "Hung Up" spends a fourth week as the most played track at UK radio, followed by the Sugababes' "Push the Button" which is still #2. KT Tunstall moves into the top 5 with forthcoming single "Under the Weather."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Take That: The Golden Years

In a move that smacks of desperation, Take That has reformed (sans superstar Robbie Williams, of course) and will tour the UK in spring 2006. This may explain why the band recently released a greatest hits album, Never Forget: The Ultimate Collection, having already put out a complete collection of their hit singles when they split up in 1996.

The members of Take That are Gary Barlow, Jason Orange, Mark Owen and Howard Donald. While Robbie William's post-Take That chart successes are well-documented, the other members have gone up to the plate solo as well, with mixed results. Gary Barlow, originally the one expected to become a star over Robbie, had two #1 singles, "Forever Love" in 1996 and "Love Won't Wait" in 1997, but fizzled thereafter. Mark Owen managed a few top 5 singles, including, most recently, 2003's "Four Minute Warning." The other two have not had chart hits.

For tour dates, visit Yahoo Launch UK.

UK Christmas #1: Update

Oddsmakers have readjusted their bet for UK Christmas #1. With the announcement that this year's winner of The X Factor will release his/her/their single the week of Christmas, whatever artist and song this turns out to be is now favored for #1. Westlife and Diana Ross, the early favorite, is now third, and may slip further since it was just announced that the track would be released a week earlier (12/12 instead of 12/19). Here is William Hill's top 10 best odds for Christmas #1 from Friday:

01 "X-Factor" winner - title tba (2/5)
02 Nizlopi "JCB Song" (9/2)
03 Westlife/Diana Ross "When You Tell Me..." (9/1)
04 Girls Aloud "See the Day" (25/1)
05 Keedie + England Cricket Team "Jerusalem" (10/1)
06 McFly "Ultraviolet / Ballad of Paul K" (50/1)
07 The Choirboys "Tears In Heaven" (12/1)
08 Robbie Williams "Advertising Space" (20/1)
09 Mariah Carey "Don't Forget About Us" (50/1)
10 Crazy Frog "Jingle Bells" (20/1)

My reaction: This is already out of date, and doesn't appear to reflect the updated new release schedule. Eminem's upcoming single, "When I'm Gone," was recently moved to 12/19, making it a serious contender for Christmas #1. Also, Westlife & Diana Ross were just pushed up to 12/12, lowering their chances. Also, I think people are putting too much stock in The X Factor. Steve Brookstein, last year's winner, had his single released a couple of weeks after Christmas, presumably to steer clear of Band Aid 20 and allow him a decent shot at #1. Also, remember when Pop Idol 2 released its Christmas single? It was the "guaranteed" #1, but only made #5.

Oddschecker posts updated odds from various betting houses such as William Hill and Ladbrokes.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 12/3/05

Billboard Hot 100 (Singles):

Chris Brown spends a second week at #1 with "Run It." There are no immediate challengers, as the rest of the top 10 is mostly static; only two tracks are bulleted. D4L moves up one place to #6 with "Laffy Taffy." At #7, Madonna makes another good jump with "Hung Up," up from #14 and this weeks Sales Gainer award winner (it's currently #1 at iTunes). "Hung Up" is Madonna's first top 10 hit since "Die Another Day (#8 in 2002)" and her biggest since "Don't Tell Me," #4 in 2001. All of the proper American Life singles missed the top 10, and in fact, only one (American Life, #37) made the Hot 100 at all. "Hung Up" is a return to form then for the popular singer, whose had an amazing 46 top 40 hits and 36 that have hit the top 10. The track is also #1 on the Dance/Club Play chart for a third week.

Outside the top 10, Mariah Carey earns the Airplay Gainer award and jumps up 6 places to #11. Although available for over a week now for purchase on iTunes, the track is surprisingly unable to attract online buyers, considering that it not available on the original version of Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi. 50 Cent makes a big jump, up 10 to #20, with "Window Shopper," and Gwen Stefani moves up 5 places to #24 with "Luxurious," her fifth single from Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

Three tracks enter the top 40 this week, none of them new entries to the Hot 100. The highest is country singer Dierks Bentley up 11 places at #31 with "Come A Little Closer." Beyonce (featuring Slim Thug) is up from #55 to #34 with "Check on It," Beyonce's sixth Top 40 hit. Although it features neither Kelly Rowland or Michelle Williams, the track is one of the new songs included on Destiny's Child's greatest hits collection #1's. Kanye West (featuring Adam Levine) moves up 5 places to #38 with "Heard 'Em Say," the third single from West's Late Registration and his fifth Top 40 single (seventh, counting featured appearances). Next week, a trio of country artists (Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, and Keith Urban) look set to enter the Top 40.

Billboard 200 (Albums):

Madonna scores her sixth #1 album this week with Confessions on a Dancefloor. Her last album, American Life, also debutted at #1, but quickly tanked in the sales department and failed to generate any hits. Confessions cannot do worse, and will likely do much better. It's first single is already in the top 10 and rising quickly. Carrie Underwood debuts at #2 with her first album, Some Hearts. This year's American Idol winner has crafted a collection designed to appeal to her diverse fanbase: both pop fans and country fans should find something to like. Buoyed by the re-release of its "platinum edition," Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi moves up 11 places to #4. The new version of the album includes current hit "Don't Forget About Us." Two other albums debut in the top 10: Big & Rich's Comin' to Your City at #7 and Green Day's live album Bullet in a Bible at #8.

Looking down the chart, lots of albums are bulleted this week, a usual occurrence in the run up to Christmas. Wait till January--nothing will be bulleted.

R&R CHR/Pop (Top 40 Airplay):

Kelly Clarkson reigns supreme for a fourth week with "Because of You." It's likely her last week at the top, as Chris Brown, who moves up 1 place to #2 with "Run It," looks set to top the chart next week. Clarkson has proven her staying power, having racked up six top 10 hits over the last three years, including four #1s. Singles from her current album, Breakaway, have been quite successful: "Breakaway" spent a week at #1 in October 2004, "Since U Been Gone" topped the chart for seven weeks, beginning in March; "Behind These Hazel Eyes" was kept from #1 by Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together," but spent an impressive eight weeks at #2 (I'm willing to give her a #1 equivalency for that); and then of course there's "Because of You." These tracks have also shown amazing longevity, the first three spending about 30 weeks in the Top 40 each.

Elsewhere in the top 10, The Pussycat Doll's "Stickwitu" and Mariah Carey's "Don't Forget About Us," continue to make big gains in airplay, but stand pat at #7 and #8 respectively. Young Jeezy (Featuring Akon) jumps into the top 10, up 7 to #10 with "Soul Survivor."

Outside the top 10, several tracks also gain significantly in spins, but don't move too many places. Gwen Stefani moves up 3 to #13 with "Luxurious," and is within striking distance of scoring her fourth top 10 single from her recent album. Her last track, "Cool," peaked at #10 and she spent six weeks at #1 earlier this year with "Hollaback Girl." All-American Rejects are up two places to #19 with their second top 40 single, "Dirty Little Secret," one place shy of the #18 peak of their first hit, "Swing Swing Swing." Beyonce moves up 4 places to #20 with "Check On It," and D4L are up 6 to #27 with "Laffy Taffy."

Biggest mover of the week is Eminem, up eight places to #21 with "When I'm Gone."

Two new entries in the Top 40: Switchback at #38 with "Stars" and Saving Jane at #40 with "Girl Next Door."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Simon & Simon: Idol Franchise in Trouble

The future of the Idol franchise is in jeopardy, as a court battle unfolds between producer Simon Fuller and the show's popular judge Simon Cowell, who went on to create his own British music reality competition, The X Factor, last year. Fuller and his company 19 TV are taking action against Cowell, claiming that The X Factor is a rip-off of shows like American Idol and Pop Idol.

The X Factor was further troubled today by the announcement that one of the show's core judges, Simon Walsh, was quitting the show midseason after suffering humiliation from the show's other judges, Cowell and Sharon Osbourne. Walsh is the manager of Irish boy band Westlife.

The rift between Fuller, producer of American Idol, and Cowell, the show's ascerbic core judge, could mean that Cowell's days on the popular show, set to begin its fifth season next spring, are numbered. Since its inception, Simon Cowell, known for his bitter remarks and harsh criticisms, has served as a judge along with Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Cowell's mean-spirited commentary is a core fixture of the show, which has made him a celebrity in the US.

Cowell has called the legal action "utterly ridiculous." Court proceedings were set to begin today in London; however, they have been postponed until tomorrow, a sign that the parties may be trying to reach an out-of-court settlement.

Since debutting in the summer of 2002, American Idol has been one of the most successful shows on American television, and was the most popular show for the last two seasons. The show itself is a spin-off of the British Pop Idol, which since debutting in 2001, has also spun off versions in Norway, Australia, Denmark, Portugal, Malaysia, and New Zealand, among others.

American Idol and Pop Idol were the launching pods for international superstars Kelly Clarkson and Will Young, and launched a number of other acts that were also successful (sometimes only briefly) in their respective countries, including Gareth Gates, Darius (Danesh), and Sarah Whatmore in the UK, and Fantasia (Barrino), Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, Joshua Gracin, Kimberley Locke, Bo Bice, and Carrie Underwood in the US.

X Factor debutted on British television in 2004, seemingly as a replacement for Pop Idol, which fizzled in its second season after winner Michelle (McManus) turned out to be a flop. The show's first season winner, Steve Brookstein, took his first single, a remake of "Against All Odds" to #1 in January of this year. The show is currently airing its second season, where 12 musical acts (not always individuals, like on Idol) are being narrowed down each week by audience votes. Currently, there are six acts remaining.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Album Review: Keep On - Will Young (4/5)

Will Young returns this week with his third album, and he's now light years beyond his Pop Idol origins. Working again with Stephen Lipson, the producer responsible for his solid second album, Friday's Child, Will has crafted another great pop collection of both brassy, sassy numbers and winsome, tender ballads.

As the former reality star competition winner, Will was quickly mislabelled by the early release of a handful of milquetoast ballads, namely the remake of Westlife's "Evergreen," and the horrid Beatles remake, "The Long and Winding Road." As if to tease us, "Keep On" begins with gentle strings and horns--and then wham--cue the electro beats. This aint your granny's Will Young. "Keep On" is fast, modern, and flirtatious, building to a powerful musical climax of driving beats, horns, strings, and vocals. It's closest Friday's Child relative is "Your Game," but Young is clearly interested in pushing the limits of the his pop oeveur. The energy continues with "Switch it On," a loud, boisterous, almost messy number that also builds up the musical layers of drums, elecric guitars, and horns to a satisfying conclusion. There's even a screeching cat sound effect. If Will's coy about his sexuality in his lyrics, his song's musical structure make his intentions clear.

After the album's frenetic opening, "All Time Love," arrives with Will's gentle falsetto over slow piano chords and strings. It's a lovely ballad, and excellent choice as second single for fans who weren't ready for the bombast of "Switch it On." From there, we move on the jazzy swagger of "Ain't Such a Bad Place" and "Think it Over," before being treated with another winning ballad, "Who Am I." "Happiness" is also enjoyable, brimming with loungy bossa nova beats, strings, and guitars. In fact, there's not a bad track in the bunch, even the weird "All I Want" delivers. The album closes with "Home," a downbeat-flavored, six-and-a-half minute meditation of acoustic guitars, low beats, strings, flute, and piano, that Young wrote during an unhappy period last summer.

The promise of Pop Idol (and American Idol) was the creation of a new generation of iconic pop musicians. Contestants that have shown the greatest willingness to grow beyond the show's roots and show their own colors, namely Will Young and Kelly Clarkson, are the ones that have delivered on that promise.

Personal Chart, 11/26/05

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 ....1 ..... 5 ..... Hung Up - Madonna (2 weeks @ #1)
2 ... 2 ..... 8 .... Switch it On - Will Young
3 ... 3 .... 11 ... Tripping - Robbie Williams (4 weeks @ #1)
4 ... 4 .... 14 ... Because of You - Kelly Clarkson (1 week @ #1)
5 ... 5 ..... 9 .... Don't Love You No More (I'm Sorry) - Craig David
6 ... 6 .... 10 ... Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
7 ... 25 ... 2 .... No Worries - Simon Webbe
8 ... 7 ..... 11 ... Push the Button - Sugababes
9 ... 12 ... 6 .... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
10 . 19 ... 4 .... Let There Be Love - Oasis

Madonna spends a second week at #1, holding off challenger Will Young from the top spot. Three new entries in the top 10 dominated the lower half, including the very quickly rising Simon Webbe. The Pussycat Dolls score their first top 10 hit at #9, and Oasis has their third for the year with ballad "Let There Be Love."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kylie to Release Digital-Only Single on Christmas

Kylie Minogue has announced she will release on Christmas day a digital-only single of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," a live version of the Wizard of Oz classic. Minogue performed the track during her Showgirls world tour, currently on hold while the Australian singer recovers from breast cancer.

The single will also feature a B-side of "Santa Baby." Additionally, eight other live tracks and three video tracks will be made available for download purchase in early December. Live tracks are:

1. Better The Devil You Know
2. What Do I Have To Do?
3. Spinning Around
4. Slow
5. Red Blooded Woman/Where The Wild Roses Grow
6. I Believe In You
7. Cant Get You Out Of My Head
8. Love At First Sight

According to Kylie's Web site,, the tracks will be available from and "all usual digital outlets."

Singles Reviews 11/21/05

Let There Be Love – Oasis (4.5/5)

Here’s a real treat for Oasis fans--A song featuring both Liam and Noel on lead vocals. This year’s release Don’t Believe the Truth was heralded as a return to form for the the group, and this beautiful, gentle third single stays the course. After two great hard-hitting singles (“Lyla” and “The Importance of Being Idle”), they’ve chosen to release their mellowest single to date. The vocals roll out slowly over piano chords and acoustic guitar strums. Near the end, hand claps predictably ensue, but you’ll enjoy it more if you start to sway gently. A perfect late fall release (11/28).

Because of You – Kelly Clarkson (4.5/5)

Already a huge hit in the US, Clarkson switches to ballad mode for her third UK Breakaway single (“Breakaway” itself still having not been released in Britain). The song was produced and co-written (with Clarkson) by David Hodges and Ben Moody, formerly of Evanescence. While not as dramatic as that band’s singles, there is some drama here and certainly some darkness: the song is about a woman wounded by a failed relationship, who by not letting anyone else get close to her, is in fact making the same emotional mistakes that ruined her former mate. Not exactly Britney Spears balladry, eh? It’s brooding and dark, scored with pianos and soaring strings. A classy single from the classiest act of the current brood of young pop stars (11/28).

Hospital Food – David Gray (3.5/5)

Like “The One I Love,” this sounds upbeat until you listen to the lyrics. Lots of guitars and keyboards, with a jaunty plodding melody. Definitely a livelier choice for second single than “Alibi,” as previously reported. The verses aren’t that great, but the chorus pulls it all together well (11/28).

Stickwitu – The Pussycat Dolls (3.5/5)

If “Don’t Cha” was a divider (either you bought the hard bass girl group revival they were going for or you thought it was trite), then “Stickwitu” is a uniter. It’s a by-the-numbers, old-fashioned pop ballad with sweet synth, strings, piano and even harmonica underlying the girls gentle harmonies. The song builds nicely to its bridge, but loses steam afterwards. Still, it’s a pleasant affair that will sound great on the radio this winter (11/28).

You Are My Sister - Antony & The Johnsons (Featuring Boy George) (4/5)

Here's something different. Antony & The Johnsons were the surprise winner of this year's Mercury Music Award, the UK's prestige music award. Their gig: Antony's warbly, androgynous voice over gentle, dark, sometimes jazzy piano-and strings-driven tracks. For this track, Boy George offers his assistance too, and the results are haunting and slightly reminiscent of Evanescence's "My Immortal." It's quality stuff, but don't expect it to chart well (11/21).

Denial Twist - The White Stripes (4/5)

Think White Stripes' simple formula is getting old? Think again. Jack and Meg deliver another floor-stomper, not unlike their last single, "My Doorbell." They even perk this one up with a few additional instruments: piano, maracas, and bass guitar. It's brash, immediate, and clocking in at 2:37, over before you know it. Short and sweet.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

UK Chart Analysis 11/26/05

Kudos to Madonna for scoring a triple crown this week -- #1 single, album, and airplay.

UK Singles:

1. "Hung Up" - Madonna

Madonna spends a second week at #1 with "Hung Up," fending off an amazing week of new entries--six in the top 10 alone. The release of her album this week, Confessions on a Dancefloor, could have sent the single tumbling down the chart, but it's considerable popularity keeps it at the top. It's the first Madonna #1 to spend more than a week at the top since 1990's "Vogue." Of her 11 #1s, "Hung Up" is the 6th to spend a second week at the top. Her longest run at the top is 4 weeks, achieved by both "Vogue" and 1985's "Into the Groove."

3. "My Humps" - Black Eyed Peas

The highest new entry of the week is a bit of a surprise. Highly anticipated new entries from forthcoming albums by Will Young and the Darkness have been overshadowed by this--the third release from an album that has been out for months. After a #6 entry for previous single, "Don't Lie," Black Eyed Peas match the peak of their current albums first single, "Don't Phunk With My Heart." I can't pretent to like this song--I think it's quite atrocious, and as a fan of both Will and the Darkness (and Girls Aloud and the White Stripes to a lesser degree), this is a personal disappointment.

4. "Biology" - Girls Aloud

Girls Aloud are the second-highest new entry this week with "Biology," their 10th top 40 single and second released from their forthcoming album Chemistry. Girls Aloud hit #7 in August with "Long Hot Summer," a disappointing chart performance (particularly for a then "album-less" single), causing pundits to predict their impending fall from popular grace. The #4 placing reverses this a bit, although it's still shy of their initial chart success--seven consecutive top 3 hits (including two #1s).

5. "Switch it On" - Will Young

Now this is a disappointment, both personally and for Will Young, who scores his lowest-charting single yet for "Switch it On." Yes, it was a crowded week, but this was the first release from the man who won Pop Idol 3 years ago, scored the highest first week sales ever for a debut artist's single, (for "Evergreen"), and sent three more singles to the top spot, including his last album's first single "Leave Right Now." It seemed an easy call for #1, but consumers have apparently rejected the somewhat experimental track (and its clever gay Top Gun spoof of a video). Expect safe balladry for single number two. Album Keep On is out tomorrow.

6. "A Night to Remember" - Liberty X

Midweek, this was outside the top 10, so credit its charity-cred for kicking the single up into the top 10 by week's end. Yes, this is the annual Children in Need single, a perennial bestseller (last year it was the #1 "I'll Stand By You" by Girls Aloud, in 2002 it was Will Young's #2 "You and I"). It's the 7th top 10 hit for the former popstars runner-up group. Surely we can consider them the winner now, since they are, in fact, pop stars, while the winner, Hear'say, is no more. Oddly, this track was not included on their recent album, X, released only a month ago.

8. "One Way Ticket" - The Darkness

The Darkness' lead single and title track from their forthcoming album manages a disappointing #8 placing. The group amassed a considerable following with their first album, Permission to Land, and hit #2 with its feature track "I Believe in a Thing Called Love." They also had a serious challenge for Christmas #1 in 2003, with the #2 "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)." New track is campy, wild, and fun, and therefore surprising that it didn't go top 5.

10. "The Denial Twist" - The White Stripes

The White Stripes continue their chart consistency, landing at #10 with their third single from Get Behind Me Satan. it matches the performance of their last single, "My Doorbell," which itself entered only 1 place below first single "Blue Orchid." Might we expect a fourth release?

17 "Jesus of Suburbia" - Green Day

Green Day's fifth and reportedly final American Idiot single caps a very successful 14 months for the band. Three of the album's singles went top 10, a feat they had scored only once before in their 11-year career (with their first single, the #8 "Basket Case"). "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (#5 in December '04) became their greatest hit. Of the political voices we heard in rock music (which sadly, there were too few), theirs was the loudest. "Jesus of Suburbia," fully titled "Jesus of Suburbia/City of the Damned/I Don't Care/Dearly Beloved/Tales of Another Broken Home," is a 9-minute 5-part opus, which was not edited down for the single. American Idiot will be hard to top.

42 "Twenty Four Hours" - Athlete

The law of diminishing returns (it's the fourth single from Tourist) conquered the power of massive airplay (it was #6 last week) in attracting consumers' attention for this track. It's no "wires," but decent enough.

UK Albums:

1. Confessions on a Dancefloor - Madonna

Madonna scores another #1 album the same week her single remains at #1 as well. Confessions on a Dancefloor is her 11th album of new material, of which it becomes her 7th to top the chart. She also has had #1 albums with The Immaculate Collection greatest hits collection and the Evita soundtrack.

2. Never Forget: The Ultimate Collection - Take That

Second biggest new entry is an entirely unnecessary greatest hits collection for Take That, the infamous boyband where Robbie Williams cut his teeth (and his taste for trouble) and which racked up 16 top 40 hits (including 8 #1s) between 1991 and 1996. All 16 hits were previously packaged together in their 1996 Greatest Hits collection; the only new business here then is a live version of "Pray" a new remix of "Relight My Fire," and an previously unreleased track. The only thing motivating this release is greed.

The other entries in the top 10 are Green Day at #6 with their live album Bullet in a Bible and Babyshambles' Down in Albion at #10. The pre-Christmas greatest hits cash-ins continue at #25 with Savage Garden's lamely titled Truly Madly Completely and at #44 with Alanis Morissette's disappointingly incomplete The Collection. Simon Webbe also limps onto the chart at #28 with Sanctuary, his debut solo album. Webbe's singles may be faring well (both debuted at #4), but former Blue bandmate Lee Ryan's solo album made much more of an impact when it debuted at #6 in August.

UK Airplay:

Madonna remains the airplay champ for a third week with "Hung Up."

Friday, November 18, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 11/26/05

Billboard Hot 100 (Singles):

Fresh face Chris Brown tops the chart this week with his first single, "Run It," ending the 10-week run at the top for Kanye West & Jamie Foxx's "Gold Digger." "Run it" is another choice example of the the popular R&B sound of crunk, the style under such recent #1 hits as Ciara's "Goodies" and Usher's "Yeah!" The single's rap bridge comes courtesy of Juelz Santana, who has been in the top 10 twice before as a featured guest on Cam'ron's top 10 hits, the #4 "Oh Boy" and the #3 "Hey Ma." He also has a solo single climbing the chart; "There It (Sic) Go! (The Whistle Song)" moves up 6 places to #23. The rest of the top 10 is fairly static, with the exception of the newcomers. At #7, D4L's first hit, "Laffy Taffy" climbs six places and earns this week's Sales Gainer award. At #9, and The Pussycat Dolls make a big jump, up 9 to score their second top 10 hit with the earnest ballad "Stickwitu." Their first single, "Don't Cha," peaked with three weeks at #2.

Below the top 10, kudos to Madonna for reversing her chart decline. After two weeks of dropping, "Hung Up" rebounds strongly--up 13 places to #14. The single had debutted three weeks ago at #20. The rebound appears to be in sales, not airplay as I had predicted it would be, certainly generated by pre-album release buzz. "Hung Up" is #1 today on the iTunes sales chart. Mariah Carey's "Dont Forget About Us" is up three places to #17. This marks its last week on the chart without digital sales, as the track has been available since Tuesday, included with the re-released of Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi. Strangely the track is not among iTunes biggest sellers currently, given that it is hugely popular and not available on the version of the album the great majority of Mimi owners purchased. Must be lack of awareness, which will probably change soon. Trina Featuring Kelly Rowland earn this weeks Airplay Gainer award and move up 5 places to #19 with "Here We Go." Gwen Stefani makes a big move, up 10 to #29 with "Luxurious," the fifth single from her Love. Angel. Music. Baby.

50 Cent scores his 9th top 40 hit (13 if you count his "featuring" appearances) with "Window Shopper," which moves up 34 places to #30. The track is from the soundtrack to 50 Cent's current film, Get Rich or Die Tryin', which is stirring up controversy over a slate of violent acts committed in or near theatres showing the film. Two other new entries into the Top 40; Kenny Chesney, aka the former Mr. Renee Zellweger, at #39 with "Who You'd Be Today," up from #46; and All-American Rejects at #40 with "Dirty Little Secret," their first Top 40 hit.

A new entry in the Hot 100 come from Lindsay Lohan at #66 with "Confessions of A Broken Heart," Surprisingly, acording to my sources, this is Lohan's first Hot 100 single. She has previously charted on the R&R Top 40 chart with "Rumors," and just below the Top 40 with "Over." Eminem enters the Hot 100 at #87 with "When I'm Gone," with what will surely be a huge hit. It's his 12th Hot 100 single (again, if you count featured appearances, it's his 13th). The track is from his forthcoming greatest hits collection, Curtain Call, due for US release 12/6/05. Finally, Mary J Blige enters the chart at #93 with a great new single, "Be Without You," from her forthcoming release, The Breakthrough. Blige's career goes back 13 years now, producing some of R&B's most consistent quality work, most notably her #1 single from around this time of year in 2001, "Family Affair."

Billboard 200 (Albums):

For the second time this year, Kenny Chesney has a #1 album, this time with The Road and the Radio, which unseats Now 20 for the top Spot. Last time at #1 was in February with Be As You Are. Since then of course, Mr. Chesney married Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger, a relationship that Zellweger ended as quickly as it began with an annullment, citing "fraud." 50 Cent has to settle for 2nd place with the soundtrack to his current film Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Like Chesney, this is 50 Cent's second album release this year, following the #1 The Massacre, which came out in March. Technically, this is not a 50 Cent album but a soundtrack credited to "Various Artists;" however, 50 cent appears in 14 of the 18 tracks, making it in my mind a 50 Cent album. As such, it is his second titled Get Rich or Die Tryin', which was also the name of his 2002 debut. Neil Diamond debuts at #4 with 12 Songs. With the exception of a 1992 Christmas Colletion, Diamond has not had a top 10 album since 1982's Heartlight, inspired by the pulmonary organ of that year's favorite extraterrestrial--E.T. Floetry debuts at #7 with Flo'ology, their second album and first to make the top 10.

Also worth noting in the top 10 is the reappearance of Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway, which climbs two spots to #10. Since appearing on the chart nearly a year ago (49 weeks ago to be exact) at #3, the album has spent 19 weeks in the top 10 and has never fallen below #20, bolstered by the incredible chart performance of each of the albums (to date) four singles. In comparison, her debut album Thankful entered the chart at #1, spent 8 additional weeks in the top 10 and a total of 45 weeks in top 200. Even though Breakaway wasn't a #1 album, it's longevity should mark it as clearly more successful than Thankful, chartwise.

R&R CHR/Pop Top 40 (Airplay):

Lots of chart activity here this week. Kelly Clarkson spends a third week at #1 with "Because of You," and should stay there another week before facing serious competition from Chris Brown's "Run It," at #3 this week. There are a healthy 3 new entries into the top 10 this week, the highest of which is The Pussycat Dolls at #7 (up 5) with "Stickwitu." At #8 (up 5),

Mariah Carey continues on her comback bandwagon with the third top 10 hit from The Emancipation of Mimi, "Don't Forget About Us," a track recently added to the re-released platinum edition of the album. Carey's record on the chart is feast or famine. Starting out, she scored an amazing string of 10 #1 singles in a row, from her debut "Vision of Love" in 1990 to "Hero" in 1994. This was followed by three years' worth of another 8 singles to go top 10 (including 2 more #1s). Then her luck turned south, with 10 straight releases over the course of 8 years that made the top 50, but failed to make the top 10. This year she rebounded, having already scored two #1 singles ("We Belong Together" and "Shake it Off"). Doing the math, "Don't Forget About Us" is Carey's 21st top 10 hit.

Finally, at #10, Sean Paul scores his first top 10 hit since his massive 2003 "Get Busy," with "We Be Burnin'." It's his seventh R&R top 40 hit.

Beyonce Featuring Slim Thug is this week's biggest mover; they're up 8 places at #24 with "Check On It."

Lastly, there are an amazing seven new entries in this weeks top 40. Leading the pack at #29 is Eminem with "When I'm Gone." It's this week's biggest chart gainer and his 14th top 40 hit. Not satisfied with just one new entry, Trick Trick Featuring Eminem debuts at #39 with "Welcome 2 Detroit." Backstreet Boys continue their comeback with their third top 40 this year with the ballad "Crawling Back to You," which debuts at #40. It's their 17th top 40 hit. Other debuts are D4l at #33 with "Laffy Taffy," Trina Featuring Kelly Rowland at #35 with "Here We Go," Relient K at #37 with "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been," and Three 6 Mafia at #38 with "Stay Fly." Next week, expect Switchfoot to debut with their third top 40 single, "Stars."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sony Recalls Infected CDs

As reported yesterday in USA Today, Sony BMG has switched positions, and decided to pull CDs from stores that contain its XCP rootkit copy-protection program, which has been accused of acting like spyware and threatening users' personal computers by allowing easy access for hackers.

Sony BMG had previously stated it would halt production of new CDs containing XCP, but had declined to remove discs containing the software from stores. USA Today also reported that Sony BMG would offer to exchange consumers' CDs that contain the rootkit.

Sony BMG's Web site does not reflect these reversals, nor does it list which CDs contain XCP, making it dificult for consumers to identify which of their discs has the dangerous program.

More reading:

Great Q&A from USA Today

And for some visual humor, alerted to me by my friend Jim:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Album Review: Confessions on a Dancefloor - Madonna (4.5/5)

Nobody whips up a media frenzy like Madonna, but with her latest release, Confessions on a Dancefloor, the queen of pop will whip up listeners too with her hardest-hitting pure dance record yet. This time she's left behind the politics, the ballads, and the heavy-handedness, instead delivering a collection of frothy beat-driven numbers that celebrate one of Madonna's greatest passions: The dance.

It's easy to forget that Madonna the singer/actress/mother/wife/children's book writer/icon originally set out for New York City from Michigan with aspirations no greater than to be a dancer. Through the years these roots have been celebrated in some of her best hits: "Into the Groove" ("You can dance for inspiration"), "Vogue" ("Strike a pose there's nothing to it"), and "Music" ("Hey Mr. DJ put a record on, I wanna dance with my baby."). She may be the queen of pop, but she's the galactic empress of dance, having amassed 34 #1 hits on the club play chart, twice that of 2nd placer Janet Jackson. While obviously a mainstream phenomenon, Madonna's core audience remains the (hopefully) gracefully aging club-going set of gay and straight clubgoers that have shaken their asses through over 20 years of Madonna hits and remixes.

Working with Stuart Price, British DJ/producer who also goes by monikers Jacques Lu Cont and Les Rythmes Digitales, Madonna dives head on into the history of club music over the last 30 years, ressurrecting Abba, disco, new wave, synth, and '90s House influences, while Stuart Prices shakes and stirs these sounds with his deft techno touch to produce what she calls "modern disco," but what we'll just call damn good dance grooves. All twelve tracks are seamlessly mixed into one another, just like if you were listening in a danceclub. Deep bass, keyboards, and modern sound effects weave in and out vying for dominance with Madonna's voice, which is strong as ever.

No Madonna album has opened as strongly as Confessions' first three tracks. "Hung Up" is the album's poppiest moment, and it delivers a catchy, upbeat come-on laid over a brilliantly exploited sample of Abba's classic "Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)." From there the music plunges into the darker, "Get Together," which obviously draws on Stardust's classic '90s house track "Music Sounds Better With You" (which appropriately drew upon her classic '80s dance classic, "Holiday"). It's the album's strongest track, pulsing with feedback-enriched deep synthesizer chords weaving in and out of the Housebeat and Madonn'a vocals. It's like a late-night version of Kylie's "Love at First Sight." From there, the beat races ever faster through the winsome "Sorry," currently slated as the album's second single.

After "Sorry," the album is still good, but with each successive song the album's flaw, which is one by design, begins to show: the songs lack distinction. That's not to say that they're bad. They're quite good, and grow on me with successive listens, but since the whole package is meant to be greater than its parts--one continuous night on the dancefloor--few songs are individually memorable. Still great moments can be found. "Jump" is a particularly strong Depeche Mode-esque number that deserves to be a single, "Push" swaggers onto the scene with a slower beat and cool voice modulation effects, "I Love New York" is a cheeky ode to the metropolis from which she launched. "Let it Will Be," which also owes its sound to late '80s Depeche Mode, is also good.

Least interesting of the bunch are the only Mirwais-produced track, "Forbidden Love," (not a remake of the Bedtime Stories, but Madonna over-vocoderized) and "Isaac," the now obligatory strange track, joining the legacy of "Act of Contrition," "Mer Girl," and "Paradise." The song is an ode to her spiritual practice of Kabbalah, but with its middle eastern sounds and strong male voice, feels out of place.

Not without coincidence, the previous Madonna album Confessions most resembles is Erotica, her underrated 1992 underground dance concept album that got caught up in the negative publicity generated by Sex and Body of Evidence. The spoken word openings of "Future Lovers" and "Jump" are reminiscent of Erotica's broad use of the technique. Perhaps Confessions will generate renewed interest in what I consider one of her top 5 albums.

Confessions closes with "Like it or Not," where she proclaims that she is who she is, lest we need another reminder. The rhythm is straight from "Personal Jesus," but bathed in rich synth strings and keyboards. The electronica lifts at the end though, to the sound of a single acoustic guitar, a reminder after all that whirlwind of modern disco, that the simple things are important too.

How Confessions stacks up: Quick Ratings of Her Other Albums

Madonna (1983) (3.5/5)

Very club-influenced, Madonna could almost sound at home on the radio now, given how promiment the '80s sound has become in current pop.

Like a Virgin (1984) (4/5)

The album that made her a star, and delivered several key hits.

True Blue (1986) (5/5)

Her first classic--a cohesive pop album that was serious ("Live to Tell"), controversial ("Papa Don't Preach"), retro ("True Blue"), and just plain fun ("Where the Party").

Like a Prayer (1989) (5/5)

Madonna drew on a broader musical tapestry and explored personal themes for this; often cited as a her best album.

I'm Breathless (1990) (3/5)

A '20s-style concept album that didn't quite live up to its goals, but still enjoyable, if only for its last track, the decidedly modern "Vogue."

Erotica (1992) (4/5)

Underrated previous dance concept album that explored a variety of rich sounds and dark themes. Time to give it a second chance.

Bedtime Stories (1994) (3/5)

Safe and lacklaster follow-up to Erotica, whose purpose was damage control and a guaranteed hit (which she got with the Babyface-produced "Take a Bow").

Ray of Light (1998) (5/5)

First and best forray into electronica, Ray of Light was a Madonna back on track with a newly-trained voice, daughter, and spirituality to inform the music.

Music (2000) (5/5)

Also electronic, but edgier than Ray of Light, Music was just as good.

American Life (2003) (3/5)

The bomb of the bunch, but still worth a listen, particularly for its willingness to explore different territory. "X-static Process" is Madonna sounding rawer than she ever has.

ww_adh Top 10, week ending 11/19/05

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .....2 .....4 .... Hung Up - Madonna (1 week @ #1)
2 .....4 .....7 .....Switch It On - Will Young
3 .....3 ....10 ... Tripping - Robbie Williams (4 weeks @ #1)
4 .....1 ....13 ....Because of You - Kelly Clarkson (1 week @ #1)
5 .....9 ....8 ......Don't Love You No More (I'm Sorry) - Craig David
6 .....6 ....9 ......Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
7 .....5 ....10 ....Push the Button - Sugababes
8 .....8 ....8 ......Free Loop - Daniel Powter
9 ....10 ...4 ......I Said Never Again (But Here We Are) - Rachel Stevens
10 ..12 ...4 ......Number 1 - Goldfrapp

Madonna nabs the top spot from Kelly Clarkson, and is sure to settle into a long stay at the top, unless Will Young can unseat her, but that's a big if. Bullets in the top 10 are few this week, with Craig David making a big jump, only because so few other singles are rising. This will surely change in the next few week as the glut of new releases charge the top 10. Below the top 10, only 8 of the 30 songs are not bulleted, and several songs make big jumps. Looking to hit top 10 next week are The Darkness, The Pussycat Dolls, Arctic Monkeys, and Oasis.

Microsoft and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Act Against Sony is reporting that Microsoft, in response to the security threat created by Sony BMG's copy-protection software, is taking action to protect its customers by upgrading its anti-spyware software to identify and remove the Sony program. Sony BMG's copy-protection program, XCP, which is bundled on recent CD titles acts as spyware and can make home computer systems vulnerable hackers.

A representative of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also warned music companies from crossing the line from protecting their intellectual property to undermining home computer system security.

Read the story here at

Monday, November 14, 2005

Singles Reviews, 11/14/05

"A Night to Remember" - Liberty X (3.5/5)

"Song For Lovers" was an odd direction for Liberty X, so it's nice to see them back to form. More "Got to Have Your Love" than "Being Nobody," it's mid-tempo, '70s influenced, and enjoyable. It's also this year's Children in Need charity single, so expect it to chart well--better than it would under normal circumstances (released 11/14).

"Dirty Harry" – Gorillaz (2.5/5)

Not a sequel to the band’s debut two-step single “Clint Eastwood,” as the title might, “Dirty Harry” is more laid back and more hip-hop than (and not as good as) “Feel Good Inc.” and “Dare,” the “group’s” brilliant pop singles released earlier this year. The song is basically a slow hip-hop beat and hand claps interspersed with children singing and synths, with a rap in the second half (released 11/21).

"Biology" - Girls Aloud (2/5)

Not terrible, but nothing compared to what we heard from their last album. By winning Popstars in 2002 by hitting #1 with their debut single, "The Sound of the Underground,"Girls Aloud showed a lot of promise, and they delivered--particularly with their second album. "Love Machine," was a thrilling pop single, and "The Show" and their remake of "I'll Stand By You" were fine too. By comparison, "Biology" is boring, by the numbers, and lacking in spark (out 11/14).

"No Worries" - Simon Webbe (4.5/5)

Another winner from former Blue member Simon Webbe. Soulful, uplifting, and just as good as (maybe even better than) his brilliant debut "Lay Your Hands." It sounds like the second coming of the Lighthouse Family, but that's fine (I miss them). The "sample" that appears in the song is not actually a sample, but a newly recorded vocals by singer Yvonne John Lewis (released 11/7). Certainly kicks anything Lee Ryan could do to the curb.

"Ai No Corrida" - Uniting Nations Featuring Laura More (3.5/5)

8 in 2000. 7 in 2001. 4 in 2002. 3 in 2003. 4 in 2004. and only 1 (so far) in 2005. That's how many dance tracks (and yes, "dance" is a broad term, but bear with me) have topped the UK singles chart since each year since the beginning of the century. Dance is a dying breed. It's popularity in the US exists only in the club, with about a once-a-year ressurection on pop radio that sends House enthusiasts proclaiming that dance is back, only to see it sputter. Dance has always had a more welcome mainstream home in Britain (and all of Europe) than in the US, but these days even the non-Yanks seem to be snubbing their noses at it. "Ai No Corrida" is a fine track, better than Uniting Nation's last ("You and Me"), yet it suffered a miserable #18 debut on the UK singles chart yesterday, following the fate of other fine House tracks. It's upbeat, energetic, and fun, but alas, not what's selling these days (released 11/7).

11/21 is kind of a boring week for singles releases (hence all these reviews of stuff released today and last week), but never fear! 11/28 is a powerhouse (Oasis, David Gray, Kelly Clarkson, The Pussycat Dolls) and 12/5 is mamoth (Charlotte Church, Franz Ferdinand, Sugababes, Gwen Stefani, Kanye West, KT Tunstall, Lucie Silvas, The Strokes, and Shakira). The Christmas run-up is always a feast for hits.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

UK Chart Analysis, 11/19/2005


1. "Hung Up" - Madonna

Madonna earns her 11th UK #1 with "Hung Up," her first single to top the chart since "Music" in 2000, knocking Westlife to #2. This ups her tally of UK top 40 hits to 59 (63 if you count releases of "Holiday," "Borderline," and "Crazy for You"), a pretty impressive haul. "Hung Up" is a return to form after no singles from her last album, American Life, were able to hit the top.

3. "Ticket Outta Loserville" - Son of Dork

I said in my review that this reminded of me of Busted, apparently for good reason, as I since read that it is made up of former members of that band. A decent chart placing, but not as impressive as McFly hitting #1 first time out two years ago (McFly being the Westlife to Busted's Boyzone).

4. "No Worries" - Simon Webbe

Simon Webbe matches the peak of his first single, "Lay Your Hands" with his second. Webbe is of course the third member of Blue to test chart waters away from the group. Duncan James did it first (with Keedie) just a month before the band released its last single, followed by in July and Webbe in August. No word yet on when we can expect something from Anthony Costa.

11 "Modern Way" - Kaiser Chiefs

Kaiser Chiefs just miss the top 10 with their fourth top 40 single, the only one not to peak in the top 10. It wraps up a very successful year for the band, who are arguably the biggest new UK band of the year. I read recently that their album Employment is the 3rd biggest seller of the year (behind James Blunt and Coldplay). While the end of the year Christmas sales may change that it bit, it's quite an achievement.

16 "Bad Day" - Daniel Powter

"Bad Day" just won't die, as the song moves up one place to #16 in its 16th week on the chart, despite the release this week of his follow-up single, "Free Loop."

?? "Free Loop" - Daniel Powter

Speaking of "Free Loop," where is it? Apparently, the song was disqualified from appearing on the chart because all versions contain a live version of "Bad Day" as a B-side, and which breaks the chart eligibility rule that a single cannot contain a current top 40 hits as a b-side. Maybe his record company doesn't care, as they will still know how well it sells (and keep the profits), but in the record books and databases, there will be no entry of its appearance.

18 "Ai No Corrida" - Uniting Nations Featuring Laura More

With the exception of Madonna, club music continues to fare poorly on the chart of late. Uniting Nations had a big hit the end of 2004/beginning of 2005 with "Out of Touch," part of the dance movement to take an '80s sample and loop it over and over with a good House beat. The biggest hits derived from this practice were Eric Prydz's "Call On Me," Sunset Strippers "Falling Stars" and LMC's "Take Me to the Clouds Above" (which doubled as a U2/Whitney Houston mash-up, another dance trend). The novelty of this sound appears to be dying, and since it was dance's best trick recently, the whole genre suffers with it.

27 "(Don't) Give Hate a Chance" - Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai continues to reap the benefit of its winning formula of retro disco-funk, albeit with diminishing returns. This is the third single from their most album, the first of which "Feels Just Like It Should" made #8 in June, the second, "Seven Days in Sunny June" #16 in August (and a fair amount of airplay too). While the sound works for the group, it would be nice to hear something different for a change.

37 "You're Beautiful" - James Blunt

James Blunt's huge hit from the summer makes a surprise reappearance in the top 40, in the process selling more this week than his current single, "High" (down 6 places at #40). Like Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," it just won't go away.

Next week should be a health contest for the top, as we have new singles from Will Young, The Darkness, Girls Aloud and a charity release from Liberty X challenging Madonna's biggest hit in five years.


Another year, another album from Il Divo. The slick, all-male singing quarter whose sounds is supposed to meld pop and classical singing released their first album a year and a week ago to claim the top spot last November. They've done it again with their new release, Ancora, which tops the UK albums chart to unseat another all-male singing quartet, Westlife, albeit one without any "classical" singing pretensions. Judging by the tracklisting, it's more of the same, and perhaps a love letter to Celine Dion, as it features remakes of two of her hits ("All By Myself" and "Pour Que Tu M'aimes Encore") plus a duet with the French-Canadian chanteuse herself ("I Believe in You"). Kate Bush debuts at #3 with Aerial, her first album release in twelve years. Eurythmics celebrate their 25-year career (during which time they released 8 albums and scored 23 top 40 hits, including the classics "Sweet Dreams," "Sisters Are Doin' It For Themselves," "There Must Be An Angel," and "Here Comes the Rain Again") with the release of Ultimate Collection, which debuts at #5. The 19-track set opens and closes with new material, including current single "I've Got A Life," before plunging into a survey of their hits. Most are included, although strangely omitted is any representation from their 1989 album, We Too Are One, such as "Don't Ask Me Why" or "Angel," which did earn inclusion in their 1991 Greatest Hits. Instead fans get the singles from their 1999 reunion album, Peace. Just below Eurythmics at #6, Anastacia celebrates her 5-year career (during which time she released 3 albums and scored 12 top 40 hits, including the classic, er, "Left Outside Alone"(?) with her greatest hits collection, Pieces of a Dream. No omissions here (otherwise it would be an EP), as all 12 singles are represented, plus her duet with Ben Moody (which was oddly not released in the UK), 3 new tracks, including forthcoming single "Pieces of a Dream" and a megamix melting everything together. The pre-Christmas season always sees a flood of greatest hits collection releases, some of which exist to showcase icons of pop whose catalogues could fill volumes of greatest hits discs, while others have to mine album tracks to justify their length. Anastacia, thankfully doesn't have to result to that to fill this disc, but this still feels premature, as she surely has several albums left in her. The point is made brilliantly by the juxtaposition of chart entries between Anastacia and Eurythmics, a band whose back catalogue is so long they had to omit several key tracks while still delivering a longer, better set than hers. Expect a blog entry on Greatest Hits collections soon. Outside the top 10, Texas debuts at #16 with Red Book, their follow-up to 2003 album Careful What You Wish For. The placing is a bit disappointing, considering that their last album made #5 on the back of weak single "Carnival Girl," while the new album, which has gotten good reviews, has already seen the release of two great tracks, "Getaway" and "Can't Resist," and has been heralded as a return to form for a band whose last album was a disappointment. Next week, it's a sure bet that Madonna will take the top spot.

UK Airplay:

The same songs occupy the top 5 slots this week, the only movement being Craig David's "Don't Love You No More (I'm Sorry)" moving up two places to #3. Madonna, who tops the singles sales chart, spends a second week at #1 with "Hung Up." After falling out the top 10, Athlete's "Twenty Four Hours" makes a big jump, up 7 to #6, pushing Will Young's "Switch It On" down a spot. Liberty X scores a phenominal airplay debut with this year's Children in Need chartity single at #8 with "A Night to Remember," far outpacing the performance of their last single, "Song 4 Lovers." Lower down, David Gray makes a big leap from #42 to #16 with "Hospital Food," second single from Life in Slow Motion, and Gorillaz also makes an impressive jump up 12 spots to #22 with "Dirty Harry," third single from Demon Days. Also debutting within the top 40 are Oasis at #25 with "Let There Be Love," KT Tunstall at #28 with "Under the Weather," The Pussycat Dolls at #32 with "Stickwitu," Girls Aloud at #34 with "Biology," and Tom Novy at #38 with "Your Body."

Madonna: Looking Back

The release of a new Madonna album is always a significant happening in the pop music world, for Madonna is the greatest living pop musician. Yes, others have had more #1 hits (Mariah Carey in the US, and, cringe, Westlife in the UK), sold more albums (Michael Jackson), had longer careers (Elton John), and won more Grammies (she's won so few), but nobody on balance has achieved these milestones and so much more in the way that she has (other than the Beatles and Elvis, but I did qualify my statement with "living"). Her influence is omnipresent, heard in the hits of Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, and others, seen in countless music videos, and informs the image of every female pop star looking to copy her successful blend of sex, mystery, smarts, and consistency.

Confessions on a Dancefloor is Madonna's 11th album (yes that counts I'm Breathless, which was not the soundtrack to Dick Tracy, and no, it does not count GHV2 or The Imacculate Collection, which were compilations, not albums). As such, I felt it proper on the eve of its release to take a moment to look back upon her career thus far. The challenge I put to myself: Selection the 10 singles that best enscapsulate Madonna's career. I do not posit these songs are her greatest hits or my favorite songs, but rather 10 markers of the breadth of her catalogue, 5 songs from the '80s, 4 from the '90s, and 1 from the '00s.

1. "Holiday," from Madonna (1984)

By the time of its release, Madonna had already been making waves at dance clubs, but Holiday introduced her to masses, giving her the first of many top 40 hits. Not the biggest hit from Madonna, but certainly the most memorable. It's won a special place in fans hearts, and apparently Madonna's too, as it is the only song she has included in the setlist of every tour.

2. "Like a Virgin," from Like a Virgin (1984)

"Holiday" made her a star, but "Like a Virgin" made her a worldwide superstar, and marks the beginning of the important incorporation of image into her work, a process repeated by every major star since. With the video, the album cover photo, the press appearances, the blatant display of sexuality, and the attitude, Madonna began not just selling her music, but selling herself.

3. "Into the Groove," from Desperately Seeking Susan soundtrack (1985)

Like a Virgin was more a pure pop album than her clubby debut, Madonna, so "Into the Groove" was a return to her club roots, which showed to her now swelling fanbase weaned on Virgin that disco may be dead, but you can still dance. Interestingly, "Into the Groove" is her biggest hit that never was. Everyone knows it. It still gets a lot of radio airplay. But, at least in the US, it was never a single (it was in the UK, and a big one-- weeks #1).

4. "Papa Don't Preach," from True Blue (1986)

True Blue proved that Like a Virgin wasn't a flash in the pan, and that Madonna was here to stay. The album was overall more consistent, and "Papa Don't Preach" was its shining star, a lushly produced, more mature, somewhat dark number about a troubled (pregnant) young man seeking the support (not advice) of her father, as she is determined to make the relationship work and keep the baby. It also shows Madonna's strategy of embracing controversy as part of her work, as the song drew fire from both the left (because it sounded somewhat pro-life) and the right (she was, afterall, having the baby out of wedlock).

5. "Like a Prayer," from Like a Prayer (1989)

Up to Like a Prayer, Madonna was making catchy, well-crafted pop music, but it lacked an essential ingredient--the personal. Like a Prayer changed that and began the exploration of several personal themes that would repeat themselves throughout her work: her deceased mother, her evolving relationship with her father (and family in general), her faith and relationship with god, and her romantic attachments. "Like a Prayer" was the album's opening and strongest moment, blending imagery of religion and romance (how taboo), laced with choirs, organs, and electric guitars. The controversial video, of course, was notorious for scaring off sponsor Pepsi.

6. "Vogue," from I'm Breathless (1990)

I count 1990 as the peak of Madonna's career and the best example of her ability to create synergy--one of her most important star-making traits. In 1990, everything Madonna touched was gold, and everything tied together, cross-marketing the entire neat package. Her image, the blond vamp of the '20s, remains her most iconic image, best showcased by "Vogue," the brilliant modern dance single (and video) that pays tribute to past icons of dance and showbiz. The same year, she co-starred in Dick Tracy, one of her few films to escape scathing reviews. It was the perfect vehicle for her to maintain the '20s vamp image (she basically played herself in the movie), win Hollywood's hottest guy (Warren Beatty), and upon which to base her own album of '20s-inspired songs. The year also saw her hottest, most theatrical tour to date, Blonde Ambition, and was capped by the release of The Immaculate Collection, the definitive model of how to a greatest hits collection right.

7. "Erotica," from Erotica (1992)

If 1990 was her highest point, then 1992 was her lowest. All the momentum she built just two years earlier came crashing down with another broad effort to create synergy, but one the public was not ready for. This time the image was sex, raw and pure. First came the album. Erotica, produced solely by Shep Pettibone, was concept album with dark bent full of cutting-edge dance music and sexual energy, that was underrated and quickly overshadowed by what came next: the book. Madonna published her first book, Sex, a photo-fantasy of sex and sadomasochism, where she assumed the identity of Dita, that was literally a disaster (the spiral bound product fell apart easily) and earned her scads of negative press. Finally, there was the movie, Body of Evidence, where she played a woman accused of murder through sadomasochistic sex, which earned poor reviews and more bad press. "Erotica," was the album's first single, a cold club thumper featuring Madonna purring as Dita, owing more than a little resemblance to an earlier hit, "Justify My Love."

8. "Take a Bow," from Bedtime Stories (1994)

So, time for some damage control. Madonna followed Erotica with Bedtime Stories, which by the title sounds like more of the same, but was actually Madonna playing it safe for the first time. Instead of 1 producer, she pulled in a whole entourage of the most popular R&B/Pop producers. "Take a Bow," produced by Babyface, gave Madonna one her biggest hits ever in the US (but strangely one of her smallest in the UK) and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks-her longest haul ever. It's a sweet, sentimental ballad about a relationship at its end. The song talks about endings, but representing the beginning of an important Madonna transformation from the sex-starved club-going Dita to the proper, mature, even matronly Evita.

9. "Ray of Light," from Ray of Light (1998)

Since 1993, Madonna had refined her image, taken vocal lessons, restored her credibility, given birth to Lourdes, and even won an award for acting (1996 Golden Globe for Evita, take that you nasty movie critics). Her recovery from Erotica complete, Madonna once again turned her focus back to her principal craft, and released her best album since Like a Prayer. Ray of Light saw Madonna (working with William Orbit) effectively meld pop and electronica, drawing on a multitude of dance, trip-hop, personal, and spiritual influences. "Ray of Light" flies by faster than any previous Madonna hit and earned her a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year.

10. "Music," from Music (2000)

Madonna scored another triumph in 2000, with Music. Still electronic, but different from Ray of Light, with a little more sonic edge--mostly the product of French producer Mirwais. "Music" was its best moment, a thumping celebration of club-going, dancing, and enjoying music for music's sake.

Looking to make a mix CD or iTunes playlist sampler of Madonna? Here's what I suggest: Find radio edits of the above 10 singles and add these eight tracks: "Material Girl," "Crazy For You," "Live to Tell," "Justify My Love," "I'll Remember," "You'll See," "Frozen," and "Hung Up." The whole thing should come in just under 80 minutes (the CD maximum).

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How #1 is #1?

For chart wonks and stats freaks only...

So, Kelly Clarkson is #1 at Top 40 radio in the US this week, as I reported yesterday in my weekly US chart analysis. This is based on the Radio and Records tally, which aggregates spin data from every CHR/POP station (CHR means "Contemporary Hits Radio" aka Top 40) in the country. But how consistent is that across the country?

I decided to investigate to what extent the national chart matched up against the CHR/POP charts of the largest US cities. To do so, I used data from Mediabase's Mainstream Hit chart and sortable database(comparable to R&R and easier to manipulate). I have not been able to figure out what the difference is between Mediabase's "CHR/POP" chart and "Mainstream Hit" charts, other than that Mainstream Hit appears to include more stations and is easier to use on the Mediabase site.


According to Radio and Records, these are the CHR/POP stations in 10 largest US markets:
1. New York, NY (WHTZ)
2. Los Angeles, CA (KIIS)
3. Chicago, IL (WKSC)
4. San Francisco, CA (Yikes! Doesn't have a CHR/POP station)
5. Dallas/Fort-Worth, TX (KHKS)
6. Philadelphia, PA (WIOQ)
7. Houston, TX (KRBE)
8. Washington, DC (WIHT)
9. Boston, MA (WXKS)
10. Detroit, MI (WKQI)
And I'll add one more so I have a 10 city sample to make up for San Francisco...
11. Atlanta, GA (WSTR)


As of the 7-day period ending today, "Because of You" has 9830 spins, which puts it 250 spins ahead of #2 ("Gold Digger") and about 1000 spins ahead of #3 ("Run it"), and and 4800 spins ahead of #10 ("Don't Forget About Us"). Based on that, I would expect there's a pretty good chance that these 10 station's #1 hits could be Kelly Clarkson or Kanye West, but a lesser chance that it would be any other songs.

Because my sample is the largest cities, and counting "spins" gives every station equal footing on the chart, I resorted the chart by "audience impressions." Doing so gives stations with more listeners (typically in larger cities) an advantage in the make up of the chart. I wanted to see if there was much difference, and there really was not, except to see that Sean Paul's "We Be Burnin'," which is #11 by spins is #7 by audience impressions, which leads me to believe that big cities play Sean Paul more, and perhaps he will chart higher in my sample. Kelly Clarkson was still #1, so her audience is about 3 percent larger than Kanye's and also about twice as large as the audience for #10 (still Mariah)


Interesting. Of the CHR/POP stations in the 10 largest US cities with such stations, "Because of You" was #1 at only one of them (Atlanta). It was #2 at 2 stations, #3 at 5 stations, and #4 at 1. It did not appear in the top 10 at all in Detroit (where it was #16). Even at "Because of You's" format leaders (the 10 stations that played it the most), it was #1 in only 1 (Richmond). Among the 10 sample stations, "Gold Digger" was the most common #1 (4 stations), followed by "Run It" (3 stations).

The #1 songs at the sample stations were:
1. New York ("Gold Digger")
2. Los Angeles ("Run It")
3. Chicago ("Run It")
5. Dallas ("Run It")
6. Philadelphia ("We Be Burnin'")
7. Houston ("Gold Digger")
8. Washington ("Gold Digger")
9. Boston ("Gold Digger")
10. Detroit ("Soul Survivor")
11. Atlanta ("Because of You")

I was right about Sean Paul. "We be Burnin" was the most common non-national top 10 to appear in these stations' top 10s (6 stations), and was even #1 in Philadelphia. None of the stations top 10s contained the same 10 songs as the national list, as there were at least 3 songs that different at each station (Dallas, Philadelphia, Houston, and Boston were the closests, with only 3 songs each that were different). Detroit had the most variance, with 7 songs in its top 10 (including its #1, "Sour Survivor") that weren't in the national 10 top. Among the 10 stations, there were 25 different songs in their top 10s that didn't appear in the national top 10, led by Sean Paul (6), Beyonce's "Check on it" (3), and Akon's "Belly Dancer" (3). "Because of You" and "Run It" each appeared in 9 of the station's top 10's; least common of the national top 10 songs to appear was "Wake Me Up When September Ends," which only appeared in Atlanta's top 10. This actually isn't surprising, since it was the song that fell out of the national top 10 to admit Sean Paul when I adjusted it to measure audience impressions instead of spins.


Because of the number of CHR/POP stations in the US (I don't know how many, but I would assume several hundred), it would appear that it counts more chartwise to get your song played on lots of stations than it does to get it played a lot at just a few. Kelly Clarkson is not #1 in many of the 10 largest cities, or even among the cities that play her the most, but I imagine that she has good breadth of coverage nationally. There's also a decent amount of variance among the stations' playlists, which is good news for those who bemoan the increasingly homogenous nature of radio. At least they're getting some choice in how much they play songs, if not what they play.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Sony BMG to Discontinue Use of Dangerous XCP Copy Protection is reporting that Sony BMG has agreed to temporarily suspend making CDs with XCP copy protection technology, which can leave home PC computers vulnerable to hackers.

Full story:

My related post about the issue:

Madonna available on MTV's "The Leak": my very self-indulgent first impressions

MTV's "The Leak" now has Madonna's Confessions On A Dancefloor. Go here to listen to the entire album before it is released next week:

Here are my first impressions (I won't review it until next week):

1. Hung Up

The track we already know and love, but it sounds like its been extended in parts. I love that hard bass. Yes, it is definitely longer, and includes that "underwater" part, like in the video.

2. Get Together

The so-called "seamless" mixing consisted only of that ticking alarm clock from the beginning of "Hung Up." Opens with rich keyboards. This sounds cool, sort of like "The Music Sounds Better With You," with its loud, pulsing keyboards. The beat kicks in a bit late, but I like it--more late evening/early morning than "Hung Up." Again, the keyboards take over and drown out the beat during the bridge, but then the beat comes back.

3. Sorry

"Sorry's" been flagged as the second single, so I hope it doesn't disappoint. The beat really builds at the beginning and hits hard. This is great. Very fast and doesn't really sound like anything else, except, and I know this sounds strange, but maybe Depeche Mode? It has that dark edge to it. She's speaking a different language now, hmmm...

4. Future Lovers

Is Madonna unhappy? Not since Erotica have we had so many songs written in minor keys. Speaking of Erotica, this opens with spoken word, which was so characteristic of that album. I don't think this album has enough hard bass and loud low-tone keyboards (sarcasm). This song is okay, but not as good as the last three tracks, which I thought were all great. Maybe it will grow on me.

5. I Love New York

The seamless mixing is working better now. I almost didn't notice this song's start. She just said "dork" rhymed with New York. Now she's dissing Los Angeles, Paris, and London, two of which she has called home at some point. New York needs a love song from Madonna, and this one is pretty fitting. "f-off" now, oh my, and a kitten sound affect. This is fun, but I'm not sure if I like it yet, since it's so weird.

6. Let It Will Be

Opens with strings, a la "Papa Don't Preach," but I have a feeling this will go somewhere else. Sounds very synth-80s, kind of like Depeche Mode again. I like this song. The sound keeps growing through the song, good stuff.

7. Forbidden Love

So Madonna's already had a song called "Forbidden Love," (Track 7, Bedtime Stories). There's some strong vocoder effects at play here, and more '80s-sounding synths. So it's not a remake of the original "Forbidden Love" at all, which is good. This is fine, but less interesting than most of the songs that have preceeded it, and sounds a lot like the last song, actually.

8. Jump

Hopefully not a Van Halen or Pointer Sisters remake. Okay good, it's clearly not. More Erotica-esque sexy spoken word. This sounds good so far--great vocals. Hard bass, repeating synth strings. Singing about her family again, very Madonna. Sounds good. I think it would make a good single.

9. How High

I assume this is a response to the last song (" high?"). Weird vocal effects and that ticking clock again (although it sounds like it's hiding under a sweater). This reminds me a bit of "Angel" and "Over and Over." I wasn't sure at first, but this is sounding good. Nice synth strings for the bridge. Again, I think this is one I'll need to listen to a few times before I decide if I like it.

10. Isaac

Where did the bass go? Oh boy, there's someone (a guy, not Madonna) chant/singing in a different language. Madonna's back, but there are some strange sounds at work here. Ray of Light had "Mer Girl," Music had "Paradise," American Life had "X-Static Process," and yes that's right, Confessions on a Dancefloor has a weird track too. This is okay, not as weird as Mer Girl, but it's certainly dark. Now some guys is talking about the gates of heaven and angels, like he's being interviewed. Not my favorite.

11. Push

Sounds vaguely middle eastern as it builds off of Isaac. Pulsing keyboards again, with a heavy, but slower beat. One thing's for sure, Stuart Price (the producer) is a master with a synthesizer. There is some very cool, innovative keyboard layering and sound effect work at play. I'm afraid I can't say this song is that great either, although it's better than the last. It might grow on me.

12. Like It Or Not

Last tracks on Madonna albums are either excellent ("Vogue," "Take a Bow," "Secret Garden," "Gone" or forgettable "Mer Girl," "Love Makes The World Go Round," "Act of Contrition."). This starts out kind of like "Frozen," but then gets louder. Again, I have to draw on Depeche Mode for comparison, to say that the beat is reminiscent of "Personal Jesus." The message here is "this is who I am, like it or not," which is always good, but we've heard it before from Madge. Now she's singing about the garden and the snake--wasn't that in "Mer Girl?" Closes with acoustic guitar. Madonna has left the dance floor.

Overall, decent. Not a classic, but certainly solid. The sound, while obviously loud and fast, is also very dark, with every song written in a minor key, just like Erotica was, and like that album, she's only worked with one producer, so the album is very unified. The continuous mixing wasn't quite as interesting as I thought it would be, and was hardly noticeable in some cases. I was expecting more 70s influence, but I thought it sounded more 80s, drawing on 80s dark synth stuff, especially Depeche Mode. A consistent quality to it is that multi-layering sound effect like you would get with a DJ mixing in a club, which is exactly the sound they're going for. Lots of hard bass, lots of deep keyboards, with the bass and keyboards weaving in and out for dominance. If I had to choose what album this most closely sounds like, I'd probably say Erotica or Ray of Light, since it's so obviously club-influenced like those albums. Definitely better than American Life, which I nonetheless admire for its experimentation. I'll write an official review by next weekend.

Sony Copy-Protection Software Alarms Music Consumers

Sony BMG Music's XCP copy protection program included on some of its compact discs acts as spyware when installed on a home computer, and puts such systems at risk for easy access to hackers and viruses, raising alarms among music consumers--many of whom now use a home computer as their primary entertainment system.

According to widespread reports in the press and on the Internet, XCP, known as a "root-kit" program, has been bundled with about 20 recent Sony BMG titles. When one of these CDs is loaded into a Windows PC system, a pop-up appears prompting users to "agree" to install the program in order to play the CD. Once installed, XCP is not visible to computer users, is not detected by traditional anti-virus software, and attempts to remove it may destroy the computer system.

More troubling, XCP appears to allow computer viruses easy access to computer systems. As reported today by BBC News, three virus variants have been found that are designed to take advantage of the opportunity Sony BMG has created to damage a home computer system. Macintosh systems appear to be unaffected.

Sony response inadequate - even dangerous

Sony has since apologized for the problem and claims it is working with a computer security firm to address the problem. Last week, Sony BMG put a "patch" on its Web site for the antipiracy program; however, the "patch" does not remove the program, but merely removes its "cloak" to make it visible on a consumer's hard drive. Further investigation of the "patch" by some computer users found that it may also add additional files to the XCP program. Disturbingly, when asked what responsibility Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG's global digital business division, feels over this issue, he replied, "Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

The problems with XCP were discovered last month by Mark Russinovich of, whose computer suffered system falure when he tried to remove the program. Russinovich also found the problems associated with the so-called "patch," which was issued by First4Internet, a British company that also wrote the XCP program. According to Russinovich, the method the "patch" uses to remove the XCP "cloak" could cause Windows to crash. The patch does not remove or uninstall the program.

Identifying CDs with the root-kit

Sony stated that about 20 CD titles carry the new root-kit, but has refused to identify the specific titles. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit watchdog group for electronics consumers, was able to identify 20 titles it found carry the XCP file; however, these have not been confirmed by Sony, and it is possible there are others. Titles include popular releases by Switchfoot, Natasha Bedingfield, and Amerie.

EFF advises consumers to examine a CD's packaging to look for the IFPI logo indicating the disc has a copy-protection. The IFPI logo is a circle with a triangle inside it, with another circle and triangle, roughly forming a "C within a C" (for "copy control"). These CDs will also have "playability" information on the back. Since there are other copy control programs besides XCP, check the fine print. If it directs you to "" for help, then the CD is encoded with XCP.

Personal experience

Concerned over the dangers to my own computer system, I examined my CD collection in search of CDs with the IFPI logo. I found three titles with it: Will Young's Friday's Child, Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten (UK version), and David Gray's Life in Slow Motion (US version). Thankfully, none of them appear to use the XCP program, and I have had no problems uploading these CDs to my computer for use with iTunes and my iPod. I'm not sure how my computer has managed to avoid these CDs' copy protection features, but it may be because I always have iTunes already running whenever I upload a new CD, therefore the computer never tries to launch any "auto-play"programs on the CDs to play them with other programs. My computer is also set to prompt me as to which program I want to use "auto-play" CDs with, so I can control how CDs and DVDs with auto-play are launched. I would recommend avoiding putting any XCP CDs in your computer, but also to disable your CD drive's "auto-play" feature to prevent unwanted software from automatically installing itself on your computer.

Further reading

Here are links to further information on this subject that I found most helpful:

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) - list of XCP-infested CDs and how to identify thems: **

EFF - The XCP end user license agreement (I didn't discuss this above, but it is also problematic): column on this issue by Section Editor Molly Wood:

The Register, information on how Sony can damage your computer:

BBC News: How viruses are already taking advantage of Sony's XCP:

BBC News: Story on the so-called "patch" Sony offers:

The Register: The contemptible response by Sony's president:

Blog by Mark Russinovich of

UKMix: Good discussion on my favorite music BB side about this issue:

**Note (Updated 11/11/05, 2:45 p.m. ) A quick scan of the new CDs at a record store today uncovered some additional titles that contain the XCP. They are the new discs from Bette Midler andMontgomery Gentry.