Monday, October 31, 2005

Album Review: Rachel Stevens - Come and Get It (4.5 / 5)

When Rachel Stevens first appeared in 2003, I wasn't that interested. At first, I thought "Why would someone write a love song about the Los Angeles airport (LAX)?" The song in question, "Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex," grew on me, but not enough to get me interested in her first album, Funky Dory, although the additional tracks added for the sole purpose of becoming singles ("Some Girls" and "More, More, More") were pretty decent. Still, to me she was just a former "SClubber," nothing to take seriously.

That's why I can hardly believe that I am about to gush, just gush, about Rachel Steven's second album, Come and Get It. This is pop music at its best--the way it should be. The songs are fun, high energy, and varied enough to keep it interesting, but similar enough to hold it all together. The key influences seem to be the same '80s electro/retro sound that infected Kylie and her sister Dannii's last albums, but with a stronger willingness to keep it all fun. Allison Goldfrapp would have a fit over this--but she's clearly had some influence too, even if her '80s electro/retro is "serious" stuff.

The album opens with early single "So Good," a pulsing, thundering single, that should have climbed higher than #10 on the UK singles chart. Rachel keeps it moving with the campy "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)," which is almost overproduced, except that to take anything away from it would burst the pure pop joy of this song. And I challenge anyone to resist tapping their toe to the insistent bass pulse of "Crazy Boy." Rachel mellows out for "I Will Be There," which, as some reviewers have pointed out, does sound very Pet Shop Boys. Other highlights include the other early single, "Negotiate With Love," the R&Bish "All About Me," and the slightly dramatic "Nothing Good About This Goodbye." My current favorite track would have to be "Secret Garden." It opens with this great staccato keyboard/vocal combo that repeats during the chorus that I just love. This song reminds of something..I can't put my finger on, but it is great. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to find a track on this album I don't like. Perhaps, "Je M'Appelle," if only because it's a little too repetitive and lacks a good dance beat like most of the other tracks. A slight complaint for sure.

The sad thing, as has been widely written about this album, is that it is expected to completely flop. So far, it's debuted on the UK album chart at #28 and plummeted this week to #58, so I guess the pundits are right. I for one do not understand it. This is a great pop album--one of the best of the year. I'd like to see it turn around and without the addition of bonus tracks to re-release it. It's good as it is and as good as it gets.

Natalie Imbruglia in the U.S.?

Sunday afternoon at the Gap (okay, Gap Factory Store) I heard none other than "Satisfied" by Natalie Imbruglia. I was so excited! Does this mean RCA is finally going to promote her in the U.S. and release Counting Down the Days? I combed the web and checked out the RCA Web site and found nothing. "Shiver" would be a huge Hot AC hit if it were released here.

If anyone's heard anything, please comment.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

UK Charts commentary, 11/5/2005


#1 "You Raise Me Up" - Westlife

Westlife are a bit of an anacronism. By most accounts, the boyband movement is dead; Take That, Boyzone, Five, and Blue have all crumbled. But these guys have managed to weave themselves into the British collective, and hence score their 13th #1 hit in the UK with "You Raise Me Up," extending their chart career to over six years now. Significantly, this is their first #1 hit since the departure of Brian McFadden, who last year released his solo album and this year raised eyebrows with his much-publicized relationship with Australian pop singer Delta Goodrem. Brian leaving Westlife would be akin to Nick Carter leaving Backstreet Boys, begging the question, could the band continue? Last years Frank Sinatra covers collection, Allow Us to Be Frank, yielded no hit singles, a frankly (groan) smacked of desperation from an aging act in age where their relevance was fleeting. Coming back with yet another album of new material AND landing the first single at #1 is a testament to their strong popularity outside of the boyband trend. Media attention for member Mark Feehily coming out of the closet didn't hurt either.

The song itself is not bad, although nearly identical to other recordings. Americans will recognize this song, made famous in the US by Josh Groban, an AC (adult contemporary) fave. Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell released his own version in the UK two years ago, charting at #22. Others have recorded it too. Westlife are no strangers to remakes, having scored some of their biggest hits with them (I Have A Dream, Mandy, Uptown Girl, Against All Odds, etc.).

Next up for Westlife: A favorite for Christmas #1, a duet with Diana Ross, "When You Tell Me That You Love Me."

4. "King of the Mountain" - Kate Bush

I don't know as much about Kate Bush, but this is a cool song. I'm surprised (happily) that it has charted well.

7. "Wake Up" - Hilary Duff

This is a bit of a disappointment. Somewhere there must be a rabid group of Hilary Duff fans--likely age 8 to 13 and dedicated to Disney Radio. This song is just not that interesting and her continued success in the US and now the UK baffles me. Her "greatest hits" album, which was #1 recently in the US, is an embarrasment. She's only had two albums and only two substantial singles, "So Yesterday" and "Come Clean," both top 10, but not #1 and not particularly enduring. So of course, a greatest hits album was the logical next move. I think Scissor Sisters are ready for a greatest hits album. James Blunt too. To each his own.

8. "Just Want You to Know" - Backstreet Boys

Unlike Westlife, BSB took a break, Nick put out his poorly-received solo album, and everyone thought they were done. Not so, as we witnessed their fairly successful ressurection this year. "..Know" is the second single from Never Gone, following the also successful "Incomplete." This one is more uptempo, a little more rock, although still very top 40. BSB deserve some credit for this comeback. New Kids on the Block tried the same thing in 1995, five years after they had also apparently gone away, and weren't nearly as successful.

52 "Low C" - Supergrass

Disappointing to see this so low. Supergrass is a great group and this is a great song. Their album, Road to Rouen, is a mature turn for the band. From what I hear, Supergrass used to be a party band, best known in the US for "Alright," which appeared in the film Clueless.

68 "Heart Like a Wheel / Old Town" - The Corrs

No love for them. Remember in 1998/1999 when they were HUGE?

In albums, no surprise that Mr. Robbie Williams takes the top spot with his 6th album, Intensive Care.

ww_adh Top 10, for week ending 10/29/2005

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 ..1.. 7 .....Tripping - Robbie Williams (3 weeks @ #1)
2 ..2 ..7 .....Push the Button - Sugababes
3 ..3 .10 ...Because of You - Kelly Clarkson
4 ..4 ..8 .....High - James Blunt
5 .12 .5 .....Switch It On - Will Young
6 ..6 ..6 .....Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
7 ..5 ..9 .....Do You Want to - Franz Ferdinand (1 week @ #1)
8 .11 .4 .....Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall
9 ..7 .13 ....Fix You - Coldplay (4 weeks @ #1)
10 NEW 1 Hung Up - Madonna

I'll start with just the top 10 this week. Perhaps later I'll start posting the entire top 40 in expanded posts. TW=This week, LW=last week, WKS=wks on chart (entire top 40, not just top 10). Bolded TW numbers indicate singles generally climbing the chart. Number one singles, including former number ones, will show how many weeks they have spent at the top.

This week - Robbie Williams spends a third week at the top with "Tripping," the first single from his new album Intensive Care, which this weeks tops the UK albums chart. My copy hasn't arrived yet, but I eagerly anticipating it. A rare top 10 debut also this week, but no surprise that such a feat would be achieved by Madonna. "Hung Up" is the first single from her forthcoming Confessions on a Dancefloor, and is sure to spend many weeks at the top of my list. All but #3 are current UK hits, #3 and #6 are big US top 40 hits, while #7 and #9 have achieved some airplay on other US radio formats. Mediabase data show that Madonna is rapidly climbing the top 40 and has cracked the top 30.


Welcome to my first blog. This blog will mostly be devoted to music--today's best popular music as heard in the United States and Britain. I'm planning to post: my own chart, a weekly singles chart based on my own musings, but usually made up of songs that are currently popular in the US or UK; commentaries on official charts; reviews of new albums and singles; information and commentaries about music awards; and whatever else I feel fits the theme. At year's end, expect to see some "best of the year" stuff too. Comments are of course welcome and appreciated.