Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 in Review: Best Albums

Coldplay delivered the year's only classic album, but there were other good works. Here is my list of the best albums of 2005. Click below to see comments and track highlights for some of the albums.

1. Coldplay - X&Y
2. Rachel Stevens - Come and Get It
3. Madonna - Confessions on a Dancefloor
4. James Blunt - Back to Bedlam
5. Will Young - Keep On
6. Natalie Imbruglia - Counting Down The Days
7. Goldfrapp - Supernature
8. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
9. Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
10. Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV
11. KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
12. Girls Aloud - Chemistry
13. White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
14. Robbie Williams - Intensive Care
15. Supergrass - Road to Rouen
16. Sugababes - Taller in More Ways
17. Feeder - Pushing The Senses
18. Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi
19. Athlete - Tourist
20. Gorillaz - Demon Days
21. David Gray - Life in Slow Motion
22. Charlotte Church - Tissues and Issues
23. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
24. Annie - Anniemal
25. Arcade Fire - Funeral

Overrated: Sufjan Stevens - Come On Feel the Illinoise!

1. Coldplay - X&Y
The year's best (and only album I would rate a 5/5). Coldplay continued to show growth, incorporating a broader range of sounds and showing better songwriting depth. Chris Martin never sounded better, as do the rest of the band, which proved themselves as indispensible. Standout tracks: Talk, Speed of Sound, Fix You, White Shadows, Square One, The Hardest Part, Swallowed In The Sea, Kingdom Come.

2. Rachel Stevens - Come and Get It
The year's best pop album came from an unlikely source--a former member of S Club 7 whose first album failed to atract much attention. Truth be told, neither did this album, but it should have. Each song crackles with pop delight and retro and contemporary influences are both diverse and ranging. Standout tracks: Secret Garden, Nothing Good About This Goodbye, So Good, I Said Never Again (But Here We Are), Negotiate With Love, Funny How.

3. Madonna - Confessions on a Dancefloor
After the disappointing American Life, the greatest living pop star returned to deliver a knockout. Dance music has always been Madonna's bread and butter, and here she delivers a truly delectable meal of "modern disco." Standout tracks: Get Together, Jump, Hung Up, Sorry, Push, How High, Like it or Not.

4. James Blunt - Back to Bedlam
James Blunt is the UK's biggest new artist this year, and his album brims with potential. The album consists of beautiful love songs, contemplative ballads, and upbeat adult pop permeated with joy and sadness, even the pain of war (he served in the British forces). He's been called the next David Gray; let's hope he can live up to it. Standout tracks: You're Beautiful, Goodbye My Lover, High, Tears & Rain, Cry, Wisemen.

5. Will Young - Keep On
The former Pop Idol (he'll never live it down) returned this year with his third album, which turned out to be just as good as his smash Friday's Child, showing his willingness to continue exploring both new musical and thematic territory, even his sexuality, if only tentatively. Standout tracks: Keep On, All Time Love, Switch it On, Aint Such a Bad Place to Be, Who Am I, Happiness, Home.

6. Natalie Imbruglia - Counting Down the Days
She'll always be known for her supersmash "Torn," but this was a good attempt to craft something equally memorable. It may be a guilty pleasure, but this is expertly crafted adult pop with instant radio potential. Standout tracks: Shiver, Starting Today, Satisfied, Sanctuary, Perfectly.

7. Goldfrapp - Supernature
Alison Goldfrapp's third album is musically similar to her second, Black Cherry, and that's a good thing. Here she delivers another round of pop-friendly electro and downbeat, spiked with disco. Standout tracks: Ooh La La, Ride a White Horse, You Never Know, Fly Me Away, Number One, Slide In.

8. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have it So Much Better
Bands that deliver wildly successful debut albums often have a hard time following it (cue The Strokes). Franz Ferdinand managed it spectacularly though, with this disc, which manages to maintain the fun and energy of their first album while delving into a more mature sound too. Standout tracks: Do You Want To, Walk Away, Eleanor Put Your Boots On, The Fallen, This Boy, What You Meant.

9. Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
Wildly successful debuts, Kaiser Chiefs is this year's Franz Ferdinand, and Employment delivers an a great set of fun '80s influenced indie rock, not unlike the Killers. Standout tracks: I Predict a Riot, Modern Way, Everday I Love You Less and Less, Na Na Na Na Naa, You Can Have It All, Born to Be a Dancer.

10. Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV
Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, and Hard-Fi. The retro/indie sound wsas all over 2005 and never wore out its welcome. Hard-Fi's debut is tight, fun, and even a little bit dark. Standout tracks: Cash Machine, Hard to Beat, Tied Up Too Tight, Unnecessary Trouble, Move on Now, Feltham is Singing Out.

11. KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope
Taking over for Sarah McLachlan and kicking it up a notch, Tunstall is sure to break big into the U.S. market next year when this is released in the spring. It's a fine slice of chick folk/rock. Best tracks: Suddenly I see, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, Another Place to Fall, Under The Weather, Miniature Disasters.

12 Girls Aloud - Chemistry
How much fun can one girl pop group possibly have? Certainly no more than these five have on this album--a frothy modern blend of pop spiced with experimental electronic production. Best tracks: Models, Biology, Wild Horses, Watch Me Go, Whole Lotta History, Swining London Town.

13. White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
Not much different than Elephant, but more experimental in places. Who cares when it sounds this good. Best tracks: Blue Orchid, The Denial Twist.

14. Robbie Williams - Intensive Care
The verdict on Robbie Williams without songwriting partner Guy Chambers: smooth sailing. Robbie continues to tantalize us with his swagger, confounding lyrics, and sexuality. Standout tracks: Tripping, Advertising Space, Spread Your Wings, Make Me Pure

15. Supergrass - Road to Rouen
Former punkish Britpop outfit goes mature, with mostly positive results. Standout tracks: St. Petersburg, Tales of Endurance, Sad Girl, Low C.

16. Sugababes - Taller in More Ways
Mixed bag, but when it works it works really well. Very sad they lost Mutya this year, her voice was perhaps their strongest. Standout tracks: Push the Button, Ugly, Gotta Be You, Joy Division, Red Dress.

17. Feeder - Pushing the Senses
Fomer indie Britpop outfit goes Coldplay, with fans up in arms, but higher charting singles. Standout track: "Tumble and Fall."

18. Mariah Carey - The Emancipation of Mimi
After three duds, Mariah Carey (bless her for keep trying) finally made another decent album. Her voice isn't quite a spry (she's never hitting those "Vision of Love" notes again), but she still sounds great, and all the better for having endured a public meltdown and coming back strong with a pop/R&B album that effectively embraces both modern and classic sounds. Best tracks: We Belong Together, Say Somethin', Mine Again, Shake it Off, Don't Forget About Us.

19. Athlete - Tourist
Former indie Britpop outfit goes Coldplay, with fans up in arms, but higher charting singles. Do we see the musical trend of the year yet? Standout tracks: Wires, Twenty Four Hours, Chances, Half Light, Trading Air.

20. Gorillaz - Demon Days
It took me awhile to embrace this, but I came around to Damon Albarn's pop/indie/hip-hop album that vastly surpasses his first attempt at this. Standout tracks: Feel Good Inc, Dare, Last Living Souls, Dirty Harry.

21. David Gray - Life in Slow Motion
Expertlly crafted adult pop, sounds more upbeat than it should, but good. Standout track: "The One I Love"

22. Charlotte Church - Tissues and Issues
Former angelic child classical prodigy picks up cigarette and burns a hole in her wing. Tabloid photos ensue as does vampy pop makeover. Fun, but should be better. Standout track: "Crazy Chick."

Friday, December 30, 2005

Eminem to Remarry Former Wife, Kim Mathers

Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, is apparently going to re-wed his former wife Kim Mathers on January 14, 2006. They were married in 1999, divorced in 2001, and have a daughter, Hailie, age 10.

Kim has apparently been charmed by the lovely things Eminem has said about her in his music. While most people go in for "you're the best thing that's ever happened to me" or simply "I love you," here a sampling of some of the things Eminem has said about Kim (mentioned often by name) in his music...

"You really f**ked me Kim," from "Kim," The Marshall Mathers EP
"I said get out bitch!," from "Kim," The Marshall Mathers EP
"Now shut the f**k up and get what's comin to you," from "Kim," The Marshall Mathers EP

Music to Kim's ears for sure.

2005 in Review: Personal Chart Top 100 of 2005

Kelly Clarkson was the biggest artist of the year on my chart and landed 3 singles in the year-end top 10. This chart is based on compiling points from each week's top 40 chart for the year.

1. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson
2. Behind These Hazel Eyes - Kelly Clarkson
3. You're Beautiful - James Blunt
4. Speed of Sound - Coldplay
5. We Belong Together - Mariah Carey
6. Filthy/Gorgeous - Scissor Sisters
7. Shiver - Natalie Imbruglia
8. Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
9. Because of You - Kelly Clarkson
10. Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani

11. Bad Day - Daniel Powter
12. Fix You - Coldplay
13. Dakota - Stereophonics
14. Push The Button - Sugababes
15. Listen To Your Heart - D.H.T. Featuring Emdee
16. Tripping - Robbie Williams
17. Let Me Love You - Mario
18. Out Of Touch - Uniting Nations
19. Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz
20. Rich Girl - Gwen Stefani Featuring Eve
21. I Believe In You - Kylie Minogue
22. Cool - Gwen Stefani
23. These Words - Natasha Bedingfield
24. Beverly Hills - Weezer
25. Wake Me Up When September Ends - Green Day
26. Switch It On - Will Young
27. Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx
28. Do You Want To - Franz Ferdinand
29. Hung Up - Madonna
30. I Bruise Easily - Natasha Bedingfield
31. The One I Love - David Gray
32. Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls
33. Shake It Off - Mariah Carey
34. Lady - Lenny Kravitz
35. Wires - Athlete
36. All These Things That I've Done - The Killers
37. Crazy Chick - Charlotte Church
38. Giving You Up - Kylie Minogue
39. The Importance Of Being Idle - Oasis
40. I Predict A Riot - Kaiser Chiefs
41. Dare - Gorillaz
42. Mr. Brightside - The Killers
43. Holiday - Green Day
44. High - James Blunt
45. Ooh La La - Goldfrapp
46. Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
47. Collide - Howie Day
48. Lose Control - Missy Elliot Featuring Ciara
49. Incomplete - Backstreet Boys
50. In The Morning - The Coral
51. Lyla - Oasis
52. Out Of The Blue - Delta Goodrem
53. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2
54. Falling Stars - Sunset Strippers
55. Chariot - Gavin Degraw
56. Don't Love You No More (I'm Sorry) - Craig David
57. Just A Ride - Jem
58. I Don't Want To Be - Gavin Degraw
59. Need To Feel Loved - Reflekt Featuring Delline Bass
60. Lonely No More - Rob Thomas
61. Getaway -Texas
62. Half Light - Athlete
63. True - Ryan Cabrera
64. Breathe (2 Am) - Anna Nalick
65. Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson
66. Blue Orchid - The White Stripes
67. Call My Name - Charlotte Church
68. Almost Here - Delta Goodrem & Brian Mcfadden
69. Don't Phunk With My Heart - Black Eyed Peas
70. Let There Be Love - Oasis
71. They - Jem
72. Caught Up - Usher
73. Over And Over - Nelly Featuring Tim Mcgraw
74. Must Get Out - Maroon 5
75. Talk - Coldplay
76. Counting Down The Days - Natalie Imbruglia
77. Soldier - Destiny's Child
78. Suddenly I See - Kt Tunstall
79. Beautiful Soul - Jesse Mccartney
80. Precious - Depeche Mode
81. Advertising Space - Robbie Williams
82. City Of Blinding Lights - U2
83. Wrap My Words Around You - Daniel Bedingfield
84. I'll Stand By You - Girls Aloud
85. Ugly - Sugababes
86. No Worries - Simon Webbe
87. Like Toy Soldiers - Eminem
88. Free Loop - Daniel Powter
89. Look What You've Done - Jet
90. Back To Basics - The Shapeshifters
91. Mockingbird - Eminem
92. Keep This Fire Burning - Beverley Knight
93. Get Right - Jennifer Lopez
94. If There's Any Justice - Lemar
95. Walk Away - Franz Ferdinand
96. Put Em High - Stonebridge Featuring Therese
97. You And Me - Lifehouse
98. When You Tell Me That You Love Me - Westlife Featuring Diana Ross
99. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
100. Don't Cha Wanna Ride - Joss Stone

Thursday, December 29, 2005

And the New Sugababe Is...

Amelle Berrabah.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Personal Chart, 12/31/2005

Last chart of the year, and it's a third #1 this year for Coldplay...

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... 8 .... Talk - Coldplay (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 ... 11 ... Hung Up - Madonna (6 weeks @ #1)
3 .... 4 ... 11 ... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
4 .... 3 .... 7 .... Advertising Space - Robbie Williams
5 .... 6 .... 3 .... JCB Song - Nizlopi
6 .... 5 .... 8 .... Ugly - Sugababes
7 .... 8 .... 6 .... Don't Forget About Us - Mariah Carey
8 ... 12 ... 4 .... All Time Love - Will Young
9 ... 13 ... 5 .... Goodbye My Lover - James Blunt
10 . 15 ... 4 .... See The Day - Girls Aloud

Coldplay finally boots Madonna from the top after her 6-week stretch at the top. This is Coldplay's 5th #1 single on my chart, and the third this year from their album X&Y. The Pussycat Dolls move into position to have one of next year's first #1s with "Stickwitu." Three new entries in the top 10, including the forthcoming second Keep On single from Will Young, "All Time Love."

Monday, December 26, 2005

Album Review: Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV (4/5)

The Killers and Franz Ferdinand, meet your new opponent. Hard-Fi, formed in 2002 by lead singer/songwriter Richard Archer in Staines, England, are the latest entry in the indie/retro/fun rock movement, and a welcome one for sure. Stars of CCTV is an accomplished debut that manages to be both darker and less clever than the aforementioned bands, while still maintaining a sense of fun and musical urgency.

The opening track, "Cash Machine" struts along with fuzzy electric guitars, feedback-laden vocals, and just enough retro-electro and keyboard to remind us that '80s influences are still strong in rock. The rhythm and electric guitars get turned up a notch for "Middle Eastern Holiday," and then the electro for "Tied Up Too Tight." "Gotta Reason" keeps up the pace too, but things get really interesting with "Hard to Beat," which is this album's equivalent to "Somebody Told Me." The track swirls with electronics, electric guitars, and noise, and breaks out staccato keyboard for the chorus that sounds like it came from Madonna's "Into The Groove."

A reprieve is offered by "Move On Now," a Coldplay-ish piano ballad that Archer delivers with an emotional vocal. With its slight use of electronics, it's almost downbeat. "Better Do Better" draws on big band, resulting of course in a big sound when combined with keyboards and guitars. "Living For The Weekend" is another dark, loud, electric number. Overall, somewhat derivative, but a solid and enjoyable debut.

Upcoming Releases

Next week I'll be looking back at my favorite albums and singles of 2005. But first, I wanted to look ahead at what new albums are coming out early in 2006 that look most interesting:

1. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth (Jan. 2). Usually the first week of the year is dry dry dry, but not so this year, as no less an act than The Strokes are trotting out their third album, preceded by the single "Juicebox."

2. Richard Ashcroft - Keys to the World (Jan. 23). Former frontman for the Verve puts out another longplayer; lead single "Break The Night With Colour" sounds decent.

3. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's what I'm Not (Jan. 30). They hit #1 with "I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor," and have a second single out in early January. Full album will be available at the end of next month.

4. KT Tunstall - Eye to the Telescope (US Release) (Mar. 6). I knew it was only a matter of time before KT showed up stateside. Her fantastic debut album is tailor made for Hot AC radio, and if anything, will spice it up a bit.

5. Christina Aguilera - TBA (Apr. 3) Finally! It's been over 3 years since Stripped. I haven't heard anything about it yet.

6. Snow Patrol - Eyes Open (Apr. 10) I liked their last album, Final Straw, and hope this will be good too.

Still not sure what plans are for the new Scissor Sisters album. I've seen it listed as being released in "February," but with no specific day yet. I think it looks like it's getting pushed back.

Personal Chart, 12/24/2005

I almost forgot to post this!

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 10 .... Hung Up - Madonna (6 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 5 .... 7 ...... Talk - Coldplay
3 .... 4 .... 6 ...... Advertising Space - Robbie Williams
4 .... 6 .... 10 .... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
5 .... 3 .... 7 ...... Ugly - Sugababes
6 .... 38 ... 2 ..... JCB Song - Nizlopi
7 .... 11 .... 6 ..... When You Tell Me That You Love Me - Westlife & Diana Ross
8 .... 13.... 5 ..... Don't Forget About Us - Mariah Carey
9 .... 2 ...... 8 .... Let There Be Love - Oasis
10 .. 14 .... 4 .... Under The Weather - KT Tunstall

It's a 6th week at #1 for Madonna, her third-longest run at #1 on my chart. Her record is 9 weeks for "Take a Bow," and she also got 8 weeks at #1 for "Music." It's also her first #1 on my chart for the week of Christmas, the closest she's come are 2 tracks that made #1 the first week of January: "Justify My Love" in 1991 and "Take a Bow" in 1995. Lots of activity in the top 10 this week, including four new entries. The biggest mover is the week is Nizlopi with "JCB Song," which was #1 on the UK chart last week. At #7, Westlife (along with Diana Ross) score another top 10 single with "When You Tell Me That You Love," which was #2 on the UK chart last week. Mariah Carey scores another top 10 hit with "Don't Forget About Us," her 24th top 10 hit on my chart. At #10 is the second top 10 hit of the year for KT Tunstall, who hit #7 just a couple of months ago with "Suddenly I See." At #2 this week with "Talk," Coldplay is poised to strike #1 next week to earn their third #1 hit this year; however, Madonna could hold them at bay for a 7th week at #1.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 2005 Year-End

Mariah Carey tops the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart for the first time in her 15-year career with her massive #1 hit "We Belong Together," while 50 Cent's The Massacre is the year's biggest album. Kelly Clarkson is #1 and #2 on Radio & Records' year-end Top 40 chart.

Keep reading for analyses of the top 10 Billboard singles and albums and the Radio and Records top 40 airplay of 2005.

Billboard Hot 100

Billboard, having changed it's chart formula a bit this year, has restored greater equilibrium between music's greatest genres: namely R&B, pop, and rock, after R&B had dominated the 100 for several years. It's mostly veterans at the top of the chart this year, with the exception of The Pussycat Dolls.

1. We Belong Together - Mariah Carey

2005 was Mariah Carey's year--the year she came back strong with a best-selling album, multiple Grammy nominations, and a handful of hits topped by this one, which spent 14 weeks at #1, just 2 weeks shy of the record (held by Carey herself for "One Sweet Day"). Although she's had 17 #1 hits, including some very big ones, this is the first time Carey's topped the year-end Hot 100 chart. She came closest in 1996 with "One Sweet Day" at #2. She was #8 in 1993 with "Dreamlover," #5 in 1994 with "Hero," and #5 in 1996 with "Always Be My Baby." I believe "Vision of Love" and "Someday" may also have been in the top 10s for their years (1990 and 1991).

2. Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani released her solo album, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. late last year, and 2004 was filled was no less than 5 singles from the album. This one was the biggest, and spent four weeks at #1. She also hit #7 with "Rich Girl." Although 2005 saw Stefani stepping out solo, she's no stranger to the charts. With her band, No Doubt, Stefani's had three top 10 hits, the biggest of which, "Underneath It All," hit #3 in 2002. ("Don't Speak" was chart ineligible in 1996/97 since Billboard did not yet chart tracks that weren't commercially released as singles.) This is actually Stefani's second appearance as a solo act within the year-end top 10; in 2001, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" by Eve Featuring Stefani was the 7th biggest hit of the year.

3. Let Me Love You - Mario

Mario hit #1 the first week of the year, and spent 9 weeks there--the third-longest stay this year. This was his second top 40 hit, after his 2002 remake of "Just a Friend," which made #4.

4. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson had a #1 single in 2002 ("A Moment Like This") and a top 10 hit in 2003 ("Miss Independent"), but in 2005 she crossed the superstar line: four top 10 hits. "Since U Been Gone" was the biggest, peaking at #2 and spending nearly a year on the chart (46 weeks). It's the track that Avril Lavigne, Pink, or Liz Phair wished their last albums included, instead it ensured Clarkson would be lasting name.

5. 1, 2 Step - Ciara Featuring Missy Elliot

Ciara is the only artist in this year's top 10 who was also in the top 10 last year. Her first single "Goodies" spent 7 weeks at #1 and was the 9th biggest hit of 2004. She quickly followed it with "1, 2 Step," which spent 7 weeks at #2 early this year and 39 weeks on the chart (1 more week than "Goodies." Ciara returned the favor of her featured artist Missy Elliot, and did vocals on Elliot's "Lose Control," which finished just below the top 10 at #14 this year.

6. Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx

Kanye West and Jamie Foxx were featured artists on the 2004 #1 Twista single, "Slow Jams." This year, West finally had his own #1 single (also featuring Jamie Foxx). The track was the second-longest running #1 single of the year, spending 10 weeks at the top. Excluding "Slow Jams," it was West's second top 10 hit, after the 2004 single "All Falls Down" which reached #7.

7. Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day

Green Day had never had a Billboard top 40 hit until this year. It's a bit of a technicality, created by the fact that they never release proper singles and Billboard wouldn't allow tracks that weren't singles to chart until 1999. But still, fair being fair, Boulevard of Broken Dreams is Green Day's first Billboard top 40 hit, which climbed to #2 and stayed there for 5 weeks. Technicalities aside, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is Green Day's biggest hit, no matter how you slice it. It's an epic grand slice of rock, which they followed by the equally brilliant epic slice of rock, "Wake Me Up When September Ends," as well as the less serious and jaunty "Holiday." Green Day's been in the public eye for 11 years, but 2005 was their biggest yet.

8. Candy Shop - 50 Cent Featuring Olivia

50 Cent had the #1 hit of 2003 with "In Da Club," his second single. Since then, he's raked up 7 more top 40 hits (plus 4 others as a featured artist), including two #1 hits. This was his biggest since "In Da Club," and spent 8 weeks at #1 this year.

9. Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls

Not since the Spice Girls has a girl group been as instantly successful as The Pussycat Dolls. "Don't Cha," their first single, spent 3 weeks at the top last summer.

10. Behind These Hazel Eyes - Kelly Clarkson

Not content with just one single in the year-end top 10, Kelly Clarkson shows up again with "Behind These Hazel Eyes," a less rambunctious and more serious rock/pop opus. It only peaked at #6, but it's spent 34 weeks on the chart (it's currently #42 and won't let go, even though she's released 2 tracks subsequently). Clarkson also appears in the year-end chart at #27 with "Breakaway" and #72 with "Because of You."

Billboard 200:

2005 was not a good year for new artists, and the Billboard 200 top 10 is made up entirely of veterans, several of whom have been in this top 10 in recent years past, although none of the artists in last year's top 10 made it back this year. For for the fourth year in a row, the top album is by an R&B/hip-hop act.

1. The Massacre - 50 Cent

50 Cent was #1 in 2003 with Get Rich or Die Tryin' and he's back again at the top this year with The Massacre, a similar affair of gangsta and party rap, best known for the #1 single "Candy Shop" as well as top 10 hits "Disco Inferno," "Just a Lil Bit," and "Outta Control."

2. Encore - Eminem

Following 50 Cent is his former musical mentor Eminem, whose fourth album becomes his third to land in a year-end top 10 chart following The Marshall Mathers LP (#3 for 2000) and The Eminem Show (#1 in 2002). Rumoured to be his last album, Eminem followed it with a late-November greatest hits collection. The album is best known for the top 10 hit, "Just Lose It."

3. American Idiot - Green Day

Green Day had their biggest year for singles from American Idiot, which also became their biggest album, and second to land in a year-end top 10 list (1995's Dookie was that year's #7 album). Released in the fall of 2004, the album was a nominee last year for the Album of the Year Grammy. Best known for top 10 hits "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends."

4. The Emancipation of Mimi - Mariah Carey

The accolaides just keep rolling in for Mariah Carey, who enjoyed a banner year in 2005, returning her to the level of fame and success she achieved in her early- and mid-'90s heyday. The album was a big-seller, biggest since Daydream, reaching just under 4.6 million in sales by the end of 2005 (although #4 for the chart year, the album may easily be the #2 best-selling album of the calendar year, given that the #2 and #3 albums won't sell as well during December 2005). This puts it under her two megasellers--1995's Daydream (7.5 million) and 1993's Music Box (7.2 million) and even her 1990 debut, Mariah Carey (4.8 million), but well ahead of the dismal sales for her last two albums, the embarassing 2001 release, Glitter (600,000 copies sold) and 2002's Charmbracelet (1.1 million). This is Mariah's fourth year-end top 10 album, following Daydream (#2 in 1996), Music Box (#2 in 1994), and Mariah Carey (#1 in 1991).

5. Breakaway - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson's first album, 2003's Thankful, generated a couple of significant hits, namely the top 10 "Miss Independent," and included her #1 debut from 2002, "A Moment Like This," but failed to really take off in the sales department; it sold about 2.4 million copies, finished the year at #31 and was outsold by American Idol 2nd year runner-up Clay Aiken's debut, Measure of a Man (2.8 million copies). By comparison, Breakaway has generated 4 top 10 hits, including "Since U Been Gone," has sold over 4.1 million copies, and is still in the top 10 after 55 weeks, having never fallen below the top 20 during that time.

6. Love. Angel. Music. Baby. - Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani stepped away from No Doubt late year to release her debut solo album to spectacular results. The hugely successful album generated 4 top 40 hits, including the #1 single "Hollaback Girl" and was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year. Counting her time with No Doubt, this is her second appearance in the year-end top 10, after No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom, #2 in 1997.

7. Destiny Fulfilled - Destiny's Child

Believe it or not, Destiny's Child's fourth album is their first to land in the year-end top 10; Survivor, the groups third album from 2001 is by far their best-seller, but because it was released mid-year, only reached #12 at the year-end chart. Destiny Fulfilled, as the title and subsequent hits package imply, is the last album from Destiny's Child. The group reached their pinnacle early this decade with hits like "Say My Name," "Independent Women," and "Bootylicious" from their second and third albums. This one wasn't as good, but did contain 1 great single, the stomping #3 smash "Lose My Breath."

8. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - U2

U2 continues their streak of solid hit albums, and scored another Grammy nomination for album of the year with their latest, released late in 2004. Best known for "Vertigo."

9. Greatest Hits - Shania Twain

Shania Twain's album always sell well, in fact her 1997 album, Come On Over, is the biggest-selling album by a female or country artist, and at 20 times platinum (double diamond) is the 7th best-selling album of all time in the U.S. It should come as no surprise then that her Greatest Hits package, released late in 2004, continued to sell well into 2005. Twain was #3 in 2003 with "Up!," #3 in 1999 with Come On Over, #5 in 1998 with Come On Over, and #6 in 1996 with The Woman in Me.

10. Feels Like Today - Rascal Flatts

Country star Rascal Flatts had a big hit album this year, but I really don't know anything about it.

Radio & Records CHR/Pop Top 40 (Airplay):

Kelly Clarkson pulls a 1-2 punch, ending the year at #1 with "Since U Been Gone," which spent 7 weeks at #1, and at #2 with "Behind These Hazel Eyes," which spent 8 weeks at #2. Close behind at #3 is Mariah Carey with "We Belong Together," the track that kept "Hazel" from #1.

R&R Top 10:

1. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson
2. Behind These Hazel Eyes - Kelly Clarkson
3. We Belong Together - Mariah Carey
4. 1,2 Step - Ciara Featuring Missy Elliot
5. Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
6. Let Me Love You - Mario
7. Let Me Go - 3 Doors Down
8. Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani
9. I Don't Want to Be - Gavin DeGraw
10. Don't Cha - The Pussycat Dolls

UK Chart Analysis - The Christmas Chart, 12/25/2005

Winner of this year's The X Factor, Shayne Ward nabs Christmas #1 with over 700,000 copies of his debut single, "That's My Goal," sold.

Continue reading for full chart analysis.

1. "That's My Goal" - Shayne Ward

Really no contest for this year's Christmas #1. Before this single was even recorded, titled, maybe even written, it was predicted to be Christmas #1 as soon as it was announced that the winner of Britain's The X Factor talent contest would release his/her/their single Monday. As Shayne Ward was crowned winner of the contest last Saturday night, the honor of 2005 Christmas #1 was assumed to be his. The record company rushed out 750,000 copies, not available in shops until Wednesday. Of course, the two extra days did nothing to help the other contenders, and Shayne Ward is Christmas #1 for 2005, with a decent, albeit cliched pop track. Cheers to Shayne!

2. "JCB Song" - Nizlopi

Nizlopi is a distant runner-up with what was last week's surprise #1 about a 5 year-old boy running around with his dad on their tractor. Sweet, but couldn't possibly compete with The X Factor.

3. "Fairytale of New York" - The Pogues Featuring Kirsty MacColl

A third re-release for The Pogues' Christmas single means another spell in the top 10. First released in 1987, it was Christmas #2 that year. A 1991 re-release saw the track climb only to #36, so if you like the track (which I don't particularly) then you'll be happy that this time it's almost up to its original peak.

5. "When I'm Gone" - Eminem

Eminem earns his 16th straight top 10 UK hit this week with "When I'm Gone," from his greatest hits collection, Curtain Call. It's been rumored to be his last single, although I expect he will release "Shake That," already out in the U.S. at radio. Given that he's had six #1 hits, this would've been a strong Christmas #1 contender if it hadn't been for The X Factor. That it was beaten also by the Pogues should disappoint the blond rapper a bit, but perhaps he should also point the blame at himself, for releasing something that simply rehashes the same story we've been getting from him for years now, while not offering anything new. Disappointing for him and for us.

9. "See The Day" - Girls Aloud

It doesn't look like Chemistry is going to produce a #1 single, as its third track becomes its lowest-charting. It's a decent ballad for the group, but not the best from the album, which is about as much fun as you can have listening to a record. At #9, "See The Day" becomes their lowest-charting single overall.

10. "Talk" - Coldplay

Coldplay is an albums artist who also happens to release great singles. They've never had a #1, but since first having a top 10 hit in 2000 with "Yellow"their subsequent 7 singles have also made top 10. "Talk" is the third release from X&Y, just beat out by James Blunt to be the second best-selling album of 2005. It's a brilliant track--my personal favorite from the album--and effectively samples Kraftwerk's "Computer Love." Now, the big question is, will Coldplay dare release a fourth X&Y Single, as they have yet to have a fourth single from an album.

11. "Goodbye My Lover" - James Blunt

James Blunt just misses out on having a top 10 hit with his fourth release from Back to Bedlam, the year's biggest album. It's an improvement over his last single though; "High" managed only to get to #16. It's a beautiful ballad, even more downkey than his massive #1 "You're Beautiful."

On the albums side of things, not much going on. Eminem is #1 for a fourth week, while James Blunt moves up to #2. No new entries or even old entries moving back into the top 10.

Nellie McKay Drops Record Label on Eve of Release

Just 2 weeks before the planned January 3rd release of her second album, Pretty Little Head, Nellie McKay has announced she has left her label, Columbia Records.

Although no official reason has been cited by McKay or Columbia, her departure may have been the result of a dispute between the artist and the label over the length of the new album. McKay has been publicly critical of Columbia's plans to release a 16-track 48-minute version of the album, insisting they release a 23-song version at 65 minutes. McKay has gone as far as giving out Columbia Records executives email addresses during concerts and asking fans to press for the longer release.

Her first album, 2004's Get Away From Me, was spread over 2 discs and included 18 tracks.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 12/31/2005

Billboard Hot 100 (Singles):

A hearty congratulations to Mariah Carey this week, who scores her 17th #1 hit with "Don't Forget About Us." Depending on how you count it, this either ties her in second place with Elvis Presley or puts her just 1 single below the King in terms of acts with the most #1 singles; the Beatles remains the record holder with 20 #1 singles. "Don't Forget About Us," recently added to the Platinum Edition of The Emancipation of Mimi, is her fourth release of 2005 and her second #1. Carey is the only artist to top the Hot 100 twice in 2005. "Don't Forget About Us" caps an amazing year for Carey, the year in which she staged a strong comeback to once again dominate the pop chart, as well as the Grammy nominations.

Carey's string of #1s began with her very first single, "Vision of Love," in 1990, which she followed with four consecutive #1s. Her collection of chart-topping singles includes the longest-running #1 single, "One Sweet Day," her duet with Boyz II Men that spent 16 weeks at the top in 1995 and 1996. She also had long runs at #1 in 1993 with "Dreamlover" (8 weeks), "Fantasy (1995, 8 weeks)," and this year's "We Belong Together (14 weeks)."

Her complete list of Billboard #1s:

1. Vision of Love, 4 weeks, 1990
2. Love Takes Time, 3 weeks, 1990
3. Someday, 2 weeks, 1991
4. I Don't Wanna Cry, 2 weeks, 1991
5. Emotions, 3 weeks, 1991
6. I'll Be There, 2 weeks, 1992
7. Dreamlover, 8 weeks, 1993
8. Hero, 4 weeks, 1993
9. Fantasy, 8 weeks, 1995
10. One Sweet Day, 16 weeks, 1995
11. Always Be My Baby, 2 weeks, 1996
12. Honey, 3 weeks, 1997
13. My All, 1 week, 1998
14. Hearbreaker, 2 weeks, 1999
15. Thank God I Found You, 1 week, 2000
16. We Belong Together, 14 weeks, 2005
17. Don't Forget About Us, 2005

Elsewhere in the top 10, Nelly (Featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp) is this week's Sales Gainer with "Grillz," which moves up 1 place to #3, and The Pussycat Dolls move up 2 to #5 with "Stickwitu." Two singles move into the top 10: Beyonce makes a big 10 spot jump to #8 with "Check On It," which becomes her 6th top 10 hit, and Juelz Santana is up 2 to #10 with "There It Go! (The Whistle Song)."

Further down the chart, Jamie Foxx and Ludacris are back to back at #47 and #48 with singles that feature each other. Jamie Foxx (featuring Ludacris) is at #47 (up from 58) with "Unpredictable," while Ludacris (featuring Jamie Foxx) is the week's biggest new entry at #48 with "Georgia." Ne-Yo is this week's Airplay Gainer winner with "Sick Yo," up 9 spots to #26. Four singles enter the top 40: Carrie Underwood at #31 (up from #42) with "Jesus, Take the Wheel," Purple Ribbon All-Stars at #35 (up from #43) with "Kryptonite (I'm On It)," Tracie Adkins at #38 (up from #46) with "Honky Tony Badonkadonk [Whatever that is!]," and Billy Currington at #39 (up from #44) with "Must Be Doin' Somethin' Right," winner of this week's apostrophe award.

Billboard 200:

Eminem remains on top for a second week with Curtain Call - The Hits, but faces a challenge from Carrie Underwood, who rebounds from #5 to #2 with Some Hearts. Biggest new entry of the week is Underwood's former American Idol competitor Bo Bice at #4 with The Real Thing. Buoyed by support from the excellent film, Walk the Line, Johnny Cash moves into the top 10 at #10 with The Legend of Johnny Cash. Kelly Clarkson also re-enters the top 10, up 3 to #8 with Breakaway. As is expected the week before Christmas, 37 of the top 50 album titles are bulleted this week. (In two weeks, expect little if any bullets in the top 50).

Radio & Records top 40 (airplay):

Chris Brown is #1 for a 4th week with "Run It! (Featuring Juelz Santana)"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Single review: Shayne Ward - "That's My Goal" (3/5)

So, for weeks its been on the upcoming release schedule as "The X-Factor Winner," and now finally we have a name behind the track that was proclaimed frontrunner for Christmas #1 before it had even been recorded. Shayne Ward, 20 from Manchester, England claimed the title as the show's winner Saturday. With music industry presses waiting, 750,000 copies of "That's My Goal" were quickly produced to be in stores by today. With such volume, it will almost surely be #1, as Nizlopi, last week's #1, sold 81,660 copies last week, and "That's My Goal" sold 175,000 today! So no contest then really, as "That's My Goal" will surely be Christmas #1 all over Britain this Sunday.

So what about the song itself? Does it really matter? This single is about being an event, not about being a song. It's a fine song, nothing about it is either spectacular or really awful. A lot like Will Young's "Evergreen" or Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This," decent songs that offered little in the way of what those artists could become. Ward could go the way of Clarkson and Young, or end up on the other end of the stick with Justin Guarini and Michelle McManus. It's a ballad of course, somewhat mid-tempo, with piano, strings, acoustic guitars, and a 3rd quarter key change (Ahh, don't we just love that biggest of all pop ballad cliches). Could be worse--at least it's not Bob The Builder for Christmas #1.

Album Review: Girls Aloud - Chemistry (4/5)

Girls Aloud have always intrigued me, but never won me over enough to buy one of their albums. I'm a Sugababes guy when it comes to my UK girlgroups. So while I enjoyed the singles from their last album, particularly "Love Machine" and "The Show," I was never moved enough to buy What Will The Neighbours Say?, which is probably a good thing, since I hear it wasn't that great beyond the released tracks (even the fourth one, "Wake Me Up" was not much). Then here comes third album Chemistry, preceeded by the underperforming "Long Hot Summer" in August, and then the stomper "Biology," which at first I thought was just so-so, but later I warmed to it. Now we have Christmas release "See The Day," which is also good, but doesn't quite knock it out of the ballpark.

Critics love Chemistry, and I want to also, but alas it's just good, not excellent in my mind. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on here--futuristic sounds, slick production, and a definite lack of versus in many of the tracks. "Models" is a lot fun, even jauntier than "Biology." "Wild Horses" starts out like it's from Harry Potter's school chorus before jumping into frenetic guitar-driven elegance. "Watch Me Go" is a standout track with an irresistable beat whose sound owes a lot to the 'babes "Hole in the Head." Not a surprising coincidence, as I hear they often share the same producer, Xenomania. "Swining London Town" also stands out for being brash, bold, and loud. The whole lot is fun--almost too much fun, but certainly enjoyable. "Whole Lotta History," the album's other ballad, grounds this party from getting too out of control, and would make a great fifth single (after "Models"). In all, it's quite good--better than the Sugababes latest album, but without the powerhouse standout like "Push the Button."

As a special bonus--get the 2 CD Christmas version of Chemistry, which includes a second disc of Christmas songs (and alternate sleeve art).

Mutya Leaves Sugababes

In a very upsetting move, the Sugababes announced today that Mutya Buena is leaving the group. I watched a few of their videos so I could figure out which voice is hers, and sadly, I think Mutya has the most unique voice of the group--it's her voice that gives them their unique sound. Stories imply that Heidi and Keisha will continue on, and that a new third member will be sought, but in my mind, it won't be the same. Siobhan was easily replaced during their early years (and Heidi is better than Siobhan), but Mutya is a core contributor.

According to the band's Web site, the new member will be announced within a day.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas #1: Last Look

Alright then, with the pre-Christmas chart out of the way, let the Christmas week begin! Nizlopi, having nabbed this week's #1, is a strong contender to stay atop the chart; however, Wednesday will bring the release of Shayne Ward's debut single, "That My Goal." Ward was crowned the winner of this year's The X Factor contest last night on UK television, and will rush out the release of this single by Wednesday. Will the loss of 2 days of sales hurt his chances of having #1? Other key releases out tomorrow: Eminem's "When I'm Gone," Girls Aloud's "See The Day," and a re-release of the Pogue's "Fairytale in New York." My prediction:

1. Shayne Ward
2. Eminem
3. Nizlopi
4. Girls Aloud
5. The Pogues
6. Westlife
7. The Pussycat Dolls
8. Madonna
9. Black Eyed Peas
10. Coldplay

UK Chart Analysis, 12/24/2005


1. JCB Song - Nizlopi

Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Nizlopi nabs the top spot this week with "JCB Song," a lovely, memory-like song told from the perspective of a 5 year-old remembering a fond day of riding around on the family JCB (a type of tractor) with his dad. It's a lovely little song, perfect for holidays. As for the band itself, its two members (Luke and John) met at school in England when they were 13, collaborating on various musical ventures before dedicating themselves to Nizlopi and producing their first album, Half These Songs Are About You.

2. When You Tell Me That You Love Me - Westlife (Featuring Diana Ross)

Once tipped as the frontrunner from Christmas #1, Westlife must settle for #2 this week, only their 6th of 19 singles not to reach #1. The song is of course a remake of Ms. Ross's 1991 hit, which spent two weeks at #2 on the UK chart, and features Ross herself, who sounds lovely alongside the boys. In what appears to be standard policy at 19 Entertainment, this is not the first of their artists to use this song, as the Season 4 American Idol finalists released this track in the spring, taking it to #39 on the Billboard Hot 100. They've recycled songs before: Westlife's 2001 album track "Evergreen" became Will Young's debut single in 2002, Westlife's 1999 #1 single "Flying Without Wings" became American Idol winner Ruben Studdard's debut single in 2003. It's not bad, if you go in for this sort of thing (which I do), but if the thought of still listening to boy bands 6 years after their heyday makes you ill, then skip it.

5. Jingle Bells / U Can't Touch This - Crazy Frog


8. Advertising Space - Robbie Williams

A somewhat low placing for Robbie Williams' second Intensive Care single, a sweeping dramatic ballad in the vein of "Angels" (but certainly not as classic). "Advertising Space" is Williams' 24th top 40 single (25th if you count the featured appearance on 1 Giant Leap), all but 1 of which have reached the top 10. It's also his third to enter at #8; last year at this time he hit #8 with "Misunderstood."

9. Ultraviolet / The Ballad of Paul K - McFly

McFly's 8th single becomes their first to miss the top 5. The double-A side fails to generate much interest, and I would agree that these two tracks are fine, but not their best work, and cannot compete with the current slate of high-powered pre-Christmas releases.

10. You Raise Me Up - Westlife

Worth noting here is that for the first time Westlife has 2 singles in the top 10 at once, a rare achievement for any act. You Raise Me Up also extends its run in the top 10 to 8 weeks, the longest top 10 run of any Westlife track.

11. Don't Forget About Us - Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey's fourth Emancipation of Mimi single becomes the first to miss the top 10--surprisingly, as the track is not available on the original version of the album, having been added to the Platinum Edition that came out last month. It's a decent track, very much like her comeback smash "We Belong Together."

15. A Pain That I'm Used To - Depeche Mode

An underwhelming choice for second single from Playing the Angel, although there are some cool remixes by Telex, Goldfrapp, and Madonna's producer Stuart Price (aka Jacque LuCont).


Not much going on here. Eminem's Curtain Call - The Hits is #1 for a third week, while Robbie Williams and Westlife hold at #2 and #3. Gorillaz and Katie Melua return to the top 10 at #9 and #10 respectively.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 12/24/2005

Hot 100 (Singles):

Sixteen year-old Chris Brown spends a fifth (and likely last) week at #1 with "Run It," his debut single. At #2, Mariah Carey moves up 5 places with "Don't Forget About Us," which also earns this week's Airplay Gainer award. It's likely to win the Sales Gainer award next week, as the single is (finally) now available for purchase at iTunes (where it is #1). If the track reaches #1 next week, it will be Carey's 17th #1 hit, putting her one place behind Elvis' 18 #1 singles. Nelly earns his 11th top 10 hit with "Grillz (Featuring Paul Will, Ali & Gipp)," which moves up 7 places to #4. The Pussycat Dolls reach a new peak with "Stickwitu" at #7 this week, up from #9.

James Blunt performs spectacularly this week with "You're Beautiful;" the track is the highest new entry in the top 40 at #22 (up from #46) and is this week's Sales Gainer winner. Mary J. Blige makes a good jump with "Be With You," up 7 places to #25. Three other tracks enter the top 40: Ne-Yo at #34 with "So Sick," Lil Wayne at #35 with "Fireman," and Rihanna at #38 with "If It's Lovin' That You Want."

Billboard 200 (Albums):

Three new entries dominate the chart. Eminem enters at #1 with Curtain Call - The Hits, his fourth straight #1 album. Lil Wayne's fifth album, Tha Carter II, is his highest charting ever as it debuts at #2. Korn debuts at #3 with their 8th album, See You On The Other Side.

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

Chris Brown spends a third week at #1 with "Run It." Tracks 2 - 5 are gaining, but none have enough spins to pose a serious challenge to Brown for #1. Best shots in a few weeks go to The Pussycat Dolls' "Stickwitu" up 1 to #3 this week, and Mariah Carey's "Don't Forget About Us," up 1 to #5 this week. Beyonce scores her fifth top 10 hit this week with "Check On It," which moves up 3 to #9. Biggest mover this week is Fall Out Boy, up 5 to #22 with "Dance, Dance." Only two new entries, neither of which are particularly noteworthy: Staind at #39 with "Right Here" and Lifehouse at #40 with "Blind."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Singles Reviews, 12/13/2005

"JCB Song" - Nizlopi (4/5)

Well this is a sweet little song. I'd never heard about Nizlopi until this track started showing up on lists as a possible contender for Christmas #1. For those that don't know, a JCB is a kind of tractor, and the song is about the singer thinking back to when he was a boy riding around on the JCB with his Dad, instead of being in school. It's a gentle ballad of a song that starts slow and kicks into a folksy upbeat section near the end. The singer sounds kind of like the guy from Counting Crows (but British). (12/12)

"See The Day" - Girls Aloud (3.5/5)

I want to like Girls Aloud. I hear their album, Chemistry is fab (and I'll probably order it next week), but for some reason, their singles this year have all fallen short of what I expect. "Wake Me Up" was the weakest link from What Will The Neighbours Say, "Long Hot Summer" didn't generate the heat it should've, and "Biology" ultimately got me, but it took awhile. This torchy ballad is again decent (like all their other stuff), but it's not as good as last year's ballad, "I'll Stand By You." I say Sugababes are still winning the race for coolest Brit girl group of the moment.

"Cash Machine" - Hard-Fi (4.5/5)

If you haven't heard Hard-Fi yet, it's high time you pick up their album, Stars of CCTV, as it is fabulous. Similar vein to The Killers/Franz Ferdinand/Kaiser Chiefs, and just as good. "Cash Machine" has a good retro swagger to it and just enough attitude to make it enjoyable. Great track.

Personal Chart, 12/17/2005

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 8 .... Hung Up - Madonna (5 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... 7 .... Let There Be Love - Oasis
3 ... 10 ... 6 ... Ugly - Sugababes
4 .... 9 .... 5 ... Advertising Space - Robbie Williams
5 .... 8 .... 6 ... Talk - Coldplay
6 .... 6 .... 9 ... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
7 .... 4 .... 5 ... No Worries - Simon Webbe
8 .... 3 ... 14 .. Push The Button - Sugababes
9 .... 5 ... 11 .. Switch it On - Will Young
10 .. 11 .. 4 ... Luxurious - Gwen Stefani

Madonna gets a fifth week at #1, but Sugababes, Robbie Williams, and Coldplay have lined up to duke it out to be her successor. Gwen Stefani gets her fourth top 10 of the year.

UK Chart Analysis, 12/12/2005

I'm on the road this week, so updates may be limited...

UK Singles:

1. Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls

It's a second week at #1 for The Pussycat Dolls' "Stickwitu," which now matches the two-week peak at #1 of their first single, "Don't Cha." Nothing else to say about it really. Good pop song.

3. Ugly - Sugababes

The highest new entry of the week is a #3 for the Sugababes and "Ugly," the second single from their current (and 4th) album, Taller In More Ways. It's a great song with a teenage-girl power theme a la TLC's 1999 hit "Unpretty." This is actually a first for the 'Babes--the first time they've had a top 5 hit that wasn't a #1. Sort of strange, considering they'd had nine top 10 hits before this: 4 of them #1's ("Freak Like Me," "Round Round," "Hole in the Head," and "Push the Button") and 5 of them peaking between #6 and #10 ("Overload-6," "Stronger-7," "Too Lost in You-10," "In the Middle-8," and "Caught in a Moment-8"). Overall, it's the groups 14th top 40 hit.

4. You Raise Me Up - Westlife

"You Raise Me Up" breaks a record for Westlife this week: longest stay in the top 10. Until now, no Westlife single had spent more than 6 weeks in the top 10, achieved first by 1999's Christmas #1 "I Have a Dream," and then 2001's "Uptown Girl." They also look set to achieve another first next week: 2 singles in the top 10 at once, as "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" will likely enter in the top 10 (and is favored for #1).

5. Juicebox - The Strokes

A surprisingly high debut for The Strokes with "Juicebox," the first single from their forthcoming album First Impressions of Earth. At #5, it becomes their highest charting single, beating the #7 peak of "12:51," the first single from their second album Room on Fire, which, while good, was a disappointing work to many. "Juicebox" may be their most mainstream single to date, which bodes well for better success for their third album.

7. Listen to Your Heart - DHT Featuring Emdee

Another House-style reworking of an '80s classic makes its way into the top 10, beating out the chart performance of other recent dance tracks (Ai No Corrida and You Don't Have to Take Your Clothes Off, for example) which charted lower than expected. In an odd twist, this was actually a hit in the US first and a big one. The track was all over pop radio all summer (I believe it peaked at #2 on top 40 airplay) and a slow version also became a huge hit at adult radio. Very unusual, since dance music has not done well in the US for some time, with only 1 or 2 dance hits a year.

11. Just Can't Get Enough - Herd & Fitz Feat. Abigail Bailey

Dance music again at #11. A decent, but unremarkable House track. Nice to have though against all the ballads coming from the big acts.

13. Walk Away - Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand scores their fifth top 40 hit this week with "Walk Away," a decidedly mellower (but not mellow) release from their current album, You Could Have It So Much Better.

17. Even God (Can't Change the Past) - Charlotte Church

Charlotte hides the booze and cigarettes for this third single from her pop album Tissues and Issues. The gentle ballad, mostly just piano and vocals, harks back to her old days as a classical singer, perhaps knowing that her old fans may be in stores more often for the Christmas Season and might be shocked into heart attack if they picked up "Crazy Chick." Not a top 10, but this is a decent placing for the single, in my opinion.

22. Heard Em Say - Kanye West (Featuring Adam Levine)

A shockingly low placing for Kanye West's third Late Registration single, "Heard Em Say." It's a slower, easy-going (but with a message) track from West, who just received a sleigh-load of Grammy nominations. This also isn't taking off in the US, even though it's a decent, enjoyable track. I can't believe I'm defending West (I used to find him arrogant and obnoxious), but he's won me over of late.

32. What Else is There - Royksopp

A great track from an unusual band. Downbeat and enjoyable.

35. I Cried For You - Katie Melua

Yes, Katie's an albums artist, but her record company can't be happy about this very low debut. Perhaps it would help if they'd offer her up on digital sales venues. Arg!

39. Under The Weather - KT Tunstall

Huge airplay for "Under The Weather," Tunstall's fourth single from Eye to the Telescope, didn't propel the track into big sales. At #39, it's by far the lowest-charting single from the album and comes on the heels of her biggest hit, "Suddenly I See" #12. I just got this album (expect a review soon) and it really is great.

44. Luxurious - Gwen Stefani

Few artists can get away with trying to release 5 singles from an album and have them all do well; apparently Stefani is not one of them, as "Luxurious" has missed the top 40 altogether, a disappointing end note to a year where she did very well.

49. Merry Xmas Everybody - Tony Christie

The magic is gone. Christie's last single "(Is This The Way to) Amarillo" spent an amazing 7 weeks at #1 and is the best-selling single of the year. Tied into the Comic Relief charity, it was a huge huge hit. But Christmas doesn't give Christie a similar pay off.

53. Amarantine - Enya

Tough week! All these big artists languishing below the top 40. Oh well, the album will move millions.


Speaking of albums, Eminem earns a second week at #1 with Curtain Call - The Hits. No new entries in the top 10 this week, but two albums move back into the top 10 on the back of their singles, the Sugababes are up 13 places to #8 with Taller In More Ways and The Pussycat Dolls are up 3 to #10 with PCD. Girls Aloud have the highest debut of the week at #11 with their third album, Chemistry, which is apparently very good.


Madonna is #1 for a sixth week with "Hung Up." Robbie Williams may challenge her for #1 next week, as "Advertising Space" moves up 2 to #3. Also moving up within the top 10 are The Pussycat Dolls at#4 with "Stickwitu" and the Sugababes at #5 with "Ugly." Just outside the top 10 are two pop acts whose singles have sold well this year, but earned them big airplay hits until now. Kelly Clarkson is up from #27 to #11 wtih "Because of You," and Girls Aloud are up from #34 to #12 with "See The Day." Highest new entry within the top 50 is Nizlopi at #34 with "JCB Song."

Next week: Look for Westlife (featuring Diana Ross), Robbie Williams, and Nizlopi to duke it out for #1 on the singles chart.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 12/17/2005

I'm keeping this brief to get to the Grammies.

Billboard Hot 100 (Singles):

Fourth week at #1 for Chris Brown (Featuring Juelz Santana) and "Run It." A challenger for #1 has emerged in D4L, which moves up 2 to #2 with "Laffy Taffy." Mariah Carey moves into the top 10, up 5 to #7 with "Don't Forget About Us," which earns this week's Airplay Gainer award. The Sales Gainer is a top 10 single also; Eminem moves up 17 places to #8 with "When I'm Gone."

Just outside the top 10, Nelly (Featuring Pall Wall, Ali & Gipp) is poised to enter it next week with "Grillz;" his ode to barbecue climbs 8 to #11.

New entries in the top 40 include Mary J. Blige at #32 with "Be Without You" up from #50, the Cast of Rent (the film) are up 10 to #33 with "Seasons of Love," and Carrie Underwood scores her second top 40 hit with "Jesus, Take the Wheel" at #40. Next week, expect Shakira and James Blunt to break into the top 40.

No major new entries; the biggest is dance artist Cascada at #86 with "Everytime We Touch."

Billboard 200 (Albums):

Now 20 returns to #1, having held the spot upon its debut 4 weeks ago. Chris Brown makes his Billboard 200 debut at #2 with Chris Brown. The album features this week's #1 single, "Run It." Carrie Underwood moves back up to #3 with Some Hearts. Shakira's Oral Fixation Volume 2 debuts at #5, one place lower than the June debut of its Spanish counterpart, Fijacion Oral Vol 1. Enya, who debutted last week at #8 with Amarantine, moves up 2 to #6.

Grammy watch: This year's album of the year nominees will likely get a bump in sales over the next two weeks, but as of now their chart positions are: Mariah Carey (#7), Green Day (#28), Kanye West (#35), Gwen Stefani (#60), U2 (not in the top 200).

2005 Grammy Nominations Announced

The 2005 Grammy Award nominations were announced today. The biggest surprise of the bunch was Keane's nomination in the best new artist category. I LOVE Keane and this is a monumental achievement for them, considering how little exposure they've gotten in the US. Also surprising to me was that Kelly Clarkson didn't get a Record of the Year nomination for "Since U Been Gone." To me, no other single says 2005 like that song (except for maybe "We Belong Together." Mariah Carey really shined, and she should be pleased, as she's obviously worked hard to recover from her 2001 disaster and once again dominate the popular music world. My Grammy predictions for the top categories (Record and Album of the Year) were pretty close: 4 out of 5 right for each.

By award, here are the nominees for the general categories and my initial thoughts:

Record of the Year
We Belong Together - Mariah Carey
Feel Good Inc - Gorillaz
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
Hollaback Girl - Gwen Stefani
Gold Digger - Kanye West Featuring Jamie Foxx

I thought sure that Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" would be nominated here, and am still shocked that it was not. Instead we have Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc," which is a great song, and looking back I'm surprised I didn't put it in my "maybe" list. I think this award will come down to Mariah Carey and Green Day. This is Carey's third nomination after "Vision of Love" in 1990 and "One Sweet Day" in 1995, and Green Day's second after "American Idiot" last year. It's the first for everyone else.

Album of the Year
The Emancipation of Mimi - Mariah Carey
Chaos & Creation in the Backyard - Paul McCartney
Love. Angel. Music. Baby - Gwen Stefani
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb - U2
Late Registration - Kanye West

After 10 years, Mariah Carey has once again been nominated in the album category, following 1995's Daydream and 1990's Mariah Carey. Mimi was heralded as a comeback for her, so it's no surprise it was nominated. But in some ways, it is surprising. Thinking back to when this album was released, it didn't really bowl over critics, and it probably isn't as good as Mariah was in her early to mid '90s heyday. In my opinion, her debut remains her strongest album (followed closely by Daydream and 1993's Music Box). Still, it's probably the favorite here. Gwen Stefani's album was well-liked, but there's no story there like there is for Mariah. U2's album was embraced by critics (some called it their best since The Joshua Tree), but failed to score any major hits, so it's unlikely to win. Kanye West didn't win last year, even though he was a favorite for The College Dropout. Look for Kanye and Mariah to duke it out (and show up next year with a rap/sung collaboration that has major #1 hit written all over it). Unlike in the first category, I'm not surprised that Kelly Clarkson wasn't nominated, as Breakway lacks the edge that Grammy likes in pop Albums to be nominated here. I am surprised to see Paul McCartney, which feels like one of those Grammy throwback nominations. I was hoping for Coldplay. Maybe next time boys. This is Carey's third nomination, West's second, and Gwen Stefani's first, and U2's fourth. McCartney was last nominated in 1997 (for Flaming Pie), but before that I couldn't tell you how many times he's been nominated.

Song of the Year
Bless the Broken Road (Rascal Flatts) - Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna & Marcus Hummon
Devils & Dust (Bruce Springsteen) - Bruce Springsteen
Ordinary People (John Legend) - W. Adams & J. Stephens
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (U2) - U2
We Belong Together (Mariah Carey) - J. Austin, M. Carey, J. Dupri & M. Seal

It used to be that this category pretty much mimicked Record of the Year; this year only one song, "We Belong Together," was nominated in both. The difference being that Record honors the performer while Song honors the songwriters. Something tells me that if a really great song was performed terribly that it probably wouldn't be nominated, but no matter. I'm not sure who has the advantage right now, as I'm only familiar with two of the songs.

New Artist
Fall Out Boy
John Legend

I'm so excited to see Keane here--what a pleasant surprise. Of course, they have no chance of winning. My money's on John Legend beating Fall Out Boy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Q Magazine Best Albums 2005

Here's Q Magazine's top 20 albums of 2005:

1 Coldplay - X&Y
2 Gorillaz - Demon Days
3 Kaiser Chiefs - Employment
4 Oasis - Don't Believe The Truth
5 Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
6 James Blunt - Back To Bedlam
7 Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better
8 Arcade Fire - Funeral
9 KT Tunstall - Eye To The Telescope
10 Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV
11 Goldfrapp - Supernature
12 Kanye West - Late Registration
13 The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
14 The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
15 Antony & The Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now
16 Neil Young - Prairie Wind
17 Paul Weller - As Is Now
18 Jem - Finally Woken
19 Eels - Blinking Lights And Other Revelations
20 Bruce Springsteen - Devils & Dust

Q Magazine's albums list is my favorite each year. No surprise that Coldplay tops the list. X&Y was one of two albums reviewed by Q this year that got five star (the other was Bright Eyes at #5). Hard-Fi at #10 is a bit of a surprise. Goldfrapp at #11 is much higher than how Black Cherry ranked in 2003. I'm surprised Jem is so high, but Q gave it a high rating when it came out.

Personal Chart, 12/10/2005

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 7 .... Hung Up - Madonna (4 wks @ #1)
2 .... 5 ... 6 .... Let There Be Love - Oasis
3 .... 4 ... 13 .. Push The Button - Sugababes
4 .... 3 .... 4 ... No Worries - Simon Webbe
5 .... 2 .... 10 . Switch It On - Will Young
6 .... 7 .... 8 ... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
7 .... 6 .... 16 ..Because of You - Kelly Clarkson (1 wk @ #1)
8 ... 12 ... 5 ... Talk - Coldplay
9 ... 13 ... 4 ... Advertising Space - Robbie Williams
10 . 14 ... 5 ... Ugly - Sugababes

It's a fourth week at the top for Madonna, who should easily fend off Oasis at #2. Three new entries at the bottom of the top 10 may challenge her though: Coldplay at #8, Robbie Williams at #9, and Sugababes at #10. Can Madonna hold out for 2 more weeks and be my Christmas #1? We shall see.

When Radio Calls The Shots

Typically, record companies decide what singles (or tracks rather) get released from their albums and when. Every once in awhile though, radio will favor a track so much that it charts, basically, as if it was released. This phenomenon is usually limited to major artists with albums that are already out--basically, it's radio taking a chance on major acts they know listeners like and seemingly trying to predict what their next single is, presumably because they're afraid audiences may be tiring of the previous one. Sometimes the record companies go with it and sometimes they don't.

There's a great case of it right now. Kelly Clarkson's official 5th Breakaway single is "Walk Away," which is #85 top on the Mediabase Mainstream chart, up from #103. However, just above the track at #70 is another Kelly Clarkson song, "Gone," which is up from #78. Currently, "Gone" is gaining more spins than "Walk Away" too.

So who's playing which track? "Walk Away" has 6 format leaders, including Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle pop stations, while "Gone" has 9, including New York, DC, and Boston. "Gone's" biggest champion is Norfolk, where the track is #3, while "Walk Away's" is Nassau/Suffolk, where it is #21. Billboard reviewed "Walk Away" last week, which I thought might push it ahead in this little Kelly-Kelly race, but so far that's not the case.

This sort of thing has happened in the past, and it's usually the track the record company chose that pulls ahead. Janet Jackson's official follow-up single to "That's The Way Love Goes" was "If," but a lot of radio stations started playing ballad "Where Are You Now," enough so that it peaked at #30 on Billboard's airplay chart. Eminem's follow-up to "Without Me" was "Cleaning Out My Closet," but stations played album "Hailie's Song" too, sending it to #50 on R&R's radio chart. In both cases, the official release was the "winner."

Not so for a case in 1993 with Michael Jackson. The official 6th Dangerous single was planned as "Give In to Me." A video was even shot; however, radio instead embraced the album cut "Who Is It," and the record company went along with it, releasing "Who Is It" instead of "Give In To Me" in the US (both were released in the UK).

Monday, December 05, 2005

Singles Reviews, 12/5/2005

I'll be on the road next week, so I'm reviewing UK releases for 12/12 and 12/19, in addition to others of interest. Here among these 14 tracks may lie the contender lucky to be Britain's Christmas #1...

Talk – Coldplay (5/5)

The one I've been waiting for. It's my favorite track from my favorite album of the year. Coldplay have produced three excellent albums, and have grown with each one. "Talk" is a lovely ballad with an austere electronic sheen over scratchy electric guitars. The song explodes during its choruses, highlighted by the effective interpolation of Kraftwerk's "Computer Love." iTunes says I've listened to this 20 times, and I still love it. (Released 12/19)

Be Without You – Mary J Blige (4.5/5)

It's musical, seductive, and sustains your interest--what great R&B should be, but has often fallen short of lately. Mary J sounds great and "Be Without You" should deliver her first big hit since "Family Affair" 4 years ago. (12/19)

When You Tell Me That You Love Me – Westlife Featuring Diana Ross (4/5)

Just in time for Christmas, Westlife (with Diana Ross) releases this winning, traditional ballad. If it sounds like it could have been recorded in the ‘90s, that’s because it was. Diana Ross took the track to #2 (UK) in 1991. According to their Web site though, this is a new recording with Ross, and unlike their 2000 “duet” with Mariah Carey, it does sound like they were singing together. Yes it’s a cliché, with its soaring string-laden choruses, but it works. Don’t be a scrooge and just rejoice in the still-talented Ross (she sounds lovely, her voice marked with the character that only age can produce) and the four-part Westlife harmonies. (12/12)

What Else Is There? - Royksopp (4/5)

Here's an unexpected pleasure. A perfect-for-winter downbeat number from Norwegian due Royksopp. This is their third single from second album The Understanding. Electronic sound effects, driving beats, and strange (but effective) vocals add up to a perfect grey day number. Grab a latte and sulk with the best. (12/5)

Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt (4/5)

If Kaiser Chiefs were 2005's Franz Ferdinand (the new artist with edge), then James Blunt was this year's Keane: the new artist without an edge (but more sales), but that you still loved anyway. After the energy of "High," Blunt slows things down, even slower than "You're Beautiful" for this lovely piano-driven ballad. Perfect for lovers separated during the holidays. (12/19)

Advertising Space – Robbie Williams (3.5/5)

After the brilliance of "Tripping," anything would be a let down, but "Advertising Space" should be more than it is. It pushes all the right buttons--but just doesn't reach the heights you feel it should. Great opening--electric guitars and keyboards that resolve into sharp acoustic guitars and Robbie's vocals. It's no "Angels," "Eternity," or "She's the One," which is perhaps why it feels like a let down--he's done this before and better. (12/12)

Don’t Forget About Us – Mariah Carey (3.5/5)

After years of duds, "We Belong Together" returned Mariah Carey to #1 on the US charts (and safely inside the UK top 10). So what's a girl to do with her sudden comeback fame? Quickly record another "We Belong Together," which is basically what we have with "Don't Forget About Us," a tuneless, but decent R&B ballad that should continue Carey's rediscovered hitmaking ability. (12/12)

Flying High – Jem (3.5/5)

Like Dido, Jem broke first in the US before hitting her UK homeland. Unlike Dido, she didn't really succeed in the US, but found a decent-sized (but not Dido-sized) audience. This fourth single from Finally Woken is a gentle acoustic ballad. A good departure from "Wish I," which sounded too much like "Just a Ride." Acoustic guitars and Jem's voice dominate the track, along with some second-verse keyboards to add richness. (Release was planned for 12/12, however it does not appear on this week's schedule, meaning that the release may have been deleted).

When I’m Gone – Eminem (2/5)

Eminem has a daughter named Hailie, who also has a little sister. Eminem was married to Kim, and it didn’t go well. Eminem is famous, but he used to be poor. When he was poor his family life was troubled, but at least he got to see them. We know all this, and know it well, because Eminem has rehashed his family melodrama for us time and again and again. Enough! Isn’t there anything else he has to say? Apparently not, and perhaps the upcoming greatest hits collection (which will again feature a cover photo of Mr. Mathers on a curtain-flanked stage) is the perfect opportunity for him to exit stage right. (12/19)

Amarantine - Enya (3/5)

Close your eyes and imagine what you already know about Enya. Recall that cool multilayering thing she does with her voice, which is quite nice by the way. Then recall that she plays all the instruments you're hearing too, so lots and lots of time in the studio went into this. Then recall that ever since you bought her 1989 album Watermark, that nothing much has changed. It will work just as effectively as a makeout soundtrack today as it did in high school, college, those early years in the city, grad school. Yes, this sounds good, but just the same as everything else she has done. Put it on low and throw a good dinner party (or hookup party). (12/5)

The Ballad of Paul K – McFly (3/5)

I've never been a big McFly fan, but somebody is buying these records, since they're doing quite well. Here the lyrics seem too silly for the melody, which is a more mature sound for the group than on previous efforts. Not bad, but I'm still not running out to buy the album. (12/12)

A Pain That I Am Used to – Depeche Mode (1/5)

A pain I am not used to is Depeche Mode sounding this bad. "Precious" was such a great return to form, that it's sad they have to follow it up with this mess. Very disappointing. (12/12)

O Holy Night - Il Divo (3/5)

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It's technically pretty difficult to sing, and so many singers overdo it with so many vocal acrobatics that it loses its grace. While the thougth of Il Divo (sic) usually sickens me, I actually think this a great rendition of this song. It's traditional, sung with conviction, but not overdone, and has a nice orchestral backing. Well done.(12/5)

Fairytale in New York – Pogues & Kirsty MacColl (1/5)

This sounds dreadful. I think the singer may be constipated. I think it's a rerelease. Perhaps if I had been around the here it when it first came out, I might have some sentimental connection to it. (12/19)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

UK Chart Analysis, 12/10/2005


1. Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls

The Pussycat Dolls score their second #1 single, knocking Madonna from the top spot. While their first single "Don't Cha" was a summer party anthem, "Stickwitu" is a traditional pop/R&B ballad. It's got a great bridge and shows that, in addition to having fun, these girls really can sing.

2. Let There Be Love - Oasis

At midweek, Oasis looked set this week to score their 3rd #1 single from their album Don't Believe The Truth, which would have been a first for the band. Instead they have to settle for #2, which isn't bad at all. It's their 19th consecutive top 5 hit and 6th #2 single. Surprisingly, the single does little to help sales of the album (it's up only 4 places to #47), which is one of the primary purposes of a single, in addition to selling itself.

7. Because of You - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson gets her 4th top 10 single, 3rd from her current album Breakaway, which unlike Oasis' longplayer is selling well (it's #9 this week). The #7 entry of this single bests that of her last, the #9 hit "Behind These Hazel Eyes," but is still short of her biggest hit, "Since U Been Gone" (#5).

8. Albion - Babyshambles

Third top 10 hit for Babyshambles, the group fronted by former Libertines singer Pete Doherty. Not really of interest to me.

11. If It's Lovin' That You Want - Rihanna

After making a big splash at #2 earlier this year with her debut "Pon Da Replay," Rihanna just misses the top 10 with her second single. It's not as good either, and in fact, I'm surprised it's done this well.

12. Ever Blazin' - Sean Paul

Sean Paul lands outside the top 10, a first after having 7 consecutive top 10 hits, including appearing on Blu Cantrell's #1 hit "Breathe." Although not his highest charting hit, I still say his greatest moment was the #4 hit, "Get Busy."

34. Hospital Food - David Gray

After scoring the second biggest hit of his career with "The One I Love (#8), David Gray follows it up with his second-lowest, debuting only one place higher than his lowest-charting single, "The Other Side" (#35, 2002). This is a surprisingly poor showing, as it's a decent track and got a fair amount of airplay. Still, as evidenced by the fact that he's had only 2 top 10 singles, it is clear that he is an albums artist.

35. Hoppipolla - Sigur Ros

Icelandic group Sigur Ros (Victory Rose) earns their first top 40 hit with Hoppipolla, a lovely piano and rock number that is both slightly off-kilter and endearing.


Eminem's greatest hits collection, Curtain Call, gives the rapper his 4th UK #1 album and knocks Madonna off the top spot. G4 debuts at #6 with their second album, G4 & Friends; their debut, G4, was a #1 album in March of this year. The biggest shock of the week is the low placing of the new album from The Darkness, One Way Ticket to Hell, which manages only a #11 placing. Their single, "One Way Ticket," similarly underperformed when it debuted at #8 two weeks ago.


She may have been knocked from #1 on the singles and albums charts, but Madonna reigns at #1 for a fifth week on the airplay chart with "Hung Up." Oasis moves up to #2 with "Let There Be Love," and Robbie Williams moves into the top 5 at #5 with "Advertising Space."

Billboard Awards: 2005 Finalists

Tuesday night, Billboard will hand out its annual music awards. The show has grown in popularity since it began 15 years ago, eclipsing the American Music Awards, which are now totally irrelevant.

The finalists are listed on Fox's Web site. They are not nominees, since they are determined solely by the top placings in Billboard's year-end charts for the 2005 chart year (December 2004 - November 2005). Therefore the winners were determined along with the finalists, but won't be announced until Tuesday. The full year-end charts should be available on Billboard's Web site soon and published in their final issue of the year.

Here's a rundown of the nominees in some of the top categories (in alpha order):

Hot 100 Song of the Year:
1. Mariah Carey, We Belong Together
2. Kelly Clarkson, Since U Been Gone
3. Mario, Let Me Love You
4. Gwen Stefani, Hollaback Girl

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this award goes exactly in the order above. It's certainly a contest between Clarkson and Carey. I give an edge to Carey, since R&B tracks usually do better than pop tracks on the Hot 100.

Album of the Year:
1. 50 Cent, The Massacre
2. Mariah Carey, The Emancipation of Mimi
3. Eminem, Encore
4. Green Day, American Idiot.

I'm pretty sure Mariah Carey had the year's best-selling album, so the award will go to her. Surprised not to see Kelly Clarkson or Gwen Stefani here, who are surely #5 and #6.

New Artist of the Year:
1. Fantasia
2. The Game
3. Gwen Stefani
4. Rob Thomas

Some creative accounting was certainly used to determine "new artist" eligibility here. Most egregious are the inclusions of Gwen Stefani and Rob Thomas. Gwen Stefani has been around on the charts since 1996 with her band No Doubt, and was featured on 2 top 40 hits in 2001, including the #2 hit "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" with Eve. Rob Thomas has been around since 1997 with Matchbox Twenty, and was the vocalist on the 1999 mega-hit "Smooth" with Santana. No way should they be considered new artists. And Fantasia had a #1 hit last year with "I Believe." In my mind, only The Game should qualify, but Gwen Stefani was the biggest of this bunch.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Are Singles Releases Coming Faster?

Here's the standard model for major pop artists today: Albums come every 2 to 4 years, with usually 3 (if you're lucky 4) singles released off it, spread out about 4 months apart, to keep the album in the limelight for a year. The story is the same for the US and the UK, with perhaps slightly more singles released in the latter country. With about 4 months between singles, there is a bit of a gap between singles, unless they are huge hits. In 2004, we had 4 singles from Usher, but apart from the final 5th from Confessions early this year, there's been none in 2005 and won't be any more until he puts out another album. There were 4 releases from Kelly Clarkson within the last year, but none the year prior. Basically you get a wave effect of a year in the light followed by a year off.

However, looking at the UK upcoming singles releases list this week, I realized that several major acts are putting out new singles only a couple of months or less after their last. Will Young's "All Time Love" is out Jan 9, just 8 weeks after "Switch it On." Girls Aloud's "See the Day," out Dec. 19 comes only 5 weeks after "Biology." Westlife, whose "You Raise Me Up" was released Oct. 24 and is currently #2 on the UK chart, is following it with "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" on Dec. 12; with just 7 weeks between them, it's possible they will both be in top 10 at once. Even James Blunt's "Goodbye My Lover," coming 11 weeks after "High" is pretty fast.

The "wave effect" I mentioned earlier is a recent phenomenon. In the '50s and '60s, major pop acts released a steady stream of singles. The Beatles put out a dizzying 14 singles in the US in 1964. Elvis Presley put out 6 in both 1956 and 1957, and frequently 5 singles for a few years thereafter. Unlike today, these artists didn't take 2-4 year breaks between albums: there were at least 2 singles from the Beatles every year between 1964 and 1970, same for Elvis between 1956 and 1972. Granted, these were the biggest recording artists of their time (perhaps all time), but lesser artists of that period were similarly prolific; Brenda Lee put out 4 singles a year between 1960 and 1963, Bobby Vinton averaged about 3 a year (without a break) between 1962 and 1969.

Even in the '80s, popular acts put out more product. Madonna had 3 or 4 singles each year between 1984 and 1989 (except for '88 when she took a year off for Speed The Plow). Prince had usually about 2 or 3 singles a year between 1983 and 1989.

For whatever reason, it was the '90s where the music industry greatly slowed the speed of new releases for an artist and radio really stretched the length of time it played a song. 1996-97 was Celine Dion's peak, with Falling Into You, but the album generated only 3 singles, released 6 months apart, but the first 2 each spent 30 weeks in the top 40. Third Eye Blind released 2 singles from its self-titled album in 1997, but waited a full year before releasing the third, as the second, "How's it Going to Be," spent 40 weeks in the top 40. The biggest "stretcher" award for the '90s has to go to Goo Goo Dolls, who put out 4 tracks from Dizzy Up the Girl, between April 1998 and April 2000, an average of 8 months between releases. At the time when "Broadway" came out in April 2000, I thought they had a new album, but no.

Thankfully, things seem to be going faster now, with major artists creeping back into releasing 5 singles from an album (Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Gwen Stefani, etc.), keeping radio fresher and fans more interested. And why not? In the US at least, artists are no longer obliged to release a physical single, a situation that irritated me in late 90s/early 00s, but isn't a big deal now with digital sales available for album tracks. If the new release schedule is any indication, perhaps things will be even faster next year.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

US Chart Analysis, 12/10/2005

Billboard Hot 100 (Singles):

Chris Brown (featuring Juelz Santana) earns a third week at #1. With no significant challengers to speak of, I'd expect him remain on top for awhile, probably for the rest of the year. His strongest competition for the top may in fact be his guest. Juelz Santana's solo outing, "There It Go (The Whistle Song)" is up from #19 to #11 and wins this week's Airplay Gainer award. D4L moves up 2 to #4 with "Laffy Taffy," the only other bulleted track in the top 5. No move for Madonna, but she keeps her bullet at #7 with "Hung Up," which is #1 this week on the Hot 100 sales and digital sales charts. She also rules the dance charts, where "Hung Up" is #1 for a fourth week in Club Play, and is also #1 in Dance Airplay and Dance Singles Sales. The Pussycat Dolls move up 2 to #8 with "Stickwitu," a new peak for the single.

Big chart jam outside the top 10; positions 11 -16 are all bulleted. Since so few tracks in the top 10 are still moving up, expect some movement in the top 10 next week. Besides Juelz Santana at #11, there's Mariah Carey at #12 with "Dont Forget About Us," which moves down a notch but is still bulleted.

Nelly (Featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp) makes up a big move into the top 40, up 33 places to #19 with "Grillz." This is Nelly's 12th Top 40 (15th counting featured appearances). Also making a big move into the top 40 is Eminem, who moves up 44 places to #25 with "When I'm Gone." The track, from his forthcoming greatest hits album, is his 13th top 40 hit. The energy from these two tracks must have drained the chart, as there are no other new entries in the top 40.

Highest new entry of the week is Natasha Bedingfield at #77 with "Unwritten."

Billboard 200 (albums):

System of a Down scores there second #1 of the year with Hypnotize, the companion piece to Mezmerize, which was #1 in June. Madonna gets knocked down to #4 after only a week at #1 with Confessions on a Dancefloor. Enya debuts at #8 with Amarantine, the second highest placing of any of her albums, bested only by the #2 peak of her last album, A Day Without Rain, which featured her biggest hit, "Only Time." Juelz Santana's second album, What The Game's Been Missing debuts at #9, one place shy of the peak of his first album, From Me to U. At #10, Chamillionaire debuts with his first album, The Sound of Revenge.

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

Chris Brown tops the pop airplay chart this week with his first single, "Run It," knocking Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" from the top after 4 weeks at #1. Chris Brown looks set to stay at the top for the rest of the year; the closest challenger is The Pussycat Dolls' "Stickwitu," which climbs up 2 to #5 this week. Gwen Stefani scores her 4th top 10 hit of the year with "Luxurious," which moves up 3 to #10.

Big movers outside the top 10 include All-American Rejects up 7 to #12 with "Dirty Little Secret," Beyonce (featuring Slim Thug) up 4 to #16 with "Check on It," and D4L up 3 to #24 with "Laffy Taffy." Eminem's latest track "When I'm Gone" looked really hot when it debuted, but has cooled considerably in spin gains; the track is up 3 to #18.

Fall Out Boy has the highest new entry in the top 40 with their second top 40 single, "Dance Dance" at #31. This week's other debut is from Ray J at #38 with "One Wish." Next week, expect new entries from Juelz Santana and Click Five.