Sunday, December 31, 2006
Out: Mel Gibson
In: Rappers guest starring on pop singers' songs
Out: Pop singers guest starring on rappers' raps
Out: Beats without melody (I'm crossing my fingers on this one)
In: What the Arctic Monkeys will do next
Out: What The Strokes will do next
Out: Trans Fat
In: Hot Urban AC (several stations changed their format to this last year)
Out: Rap (sales were way down last year)
In: Nick Lachey
Out: Jessica Simpson
In: Hoping Whitney Houston can make '07 a comeback year
Out: Hoping Janet Jackson can make '06 a comeback year
In: James Bond martinis, shaken not stirred
Out: Smoking (banned in DC bars and restaurants as of 1/1/07)
In: The Dixie Chicks
Out: Toby Keith
In: The '90s
Out: The '80s
In: iTunes Store (Fergie gets accidentally deleted one week and she plummets on the charts)
Out: Tower Records (Rest in peace)
Rank....Peak.....Title - Artist
1 .... 1(3) .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
2 .... 1(4) .... Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado (featuring Timbaland)
3 ... 1(10) ... I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters
4 .... 2(2) .... Get Together - Madonna
5 .... 1(2) .... Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera
6 .... 1(1) .... SOS - Rihanna
7 .... 5 .... Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
8 .... 1(2) .... Too Little, Too Late - Jojo
9 .... 4 .... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
10 .... 3 .... My Love - Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.)
11 .... 1(3) .... Is It Any Wonder? - Keane
12 .... 1(3) .... All Time Love - Will Young
13 .... 2(2) .... Maneater - Nelly Furtado
14 .... 2(2) .... Sexyback - Justin Timberlake
15 .... 4 .... Unfaithful - Rihanna
16 .... 2(2) .... When You Were Young - The Killers
17 .... 2(2) .... Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
18 .... 1(2) .... You're All I Have - Snow Patrol
19 .... 1(4) .... Sorry - Madonna
20 .... 1(2) .... Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
21 .... 2(2) .... Never Be Lonely - The Feeling
22 .... 3 .... No Tomorrow - Orson
23 .... 1(2) .... Hips Don't Lie - Shakira (featuring Wyclef Jean)
24 .... 8 .... Be Without You - Mary J Blige
25 .... 1(2) .... Stickwitu - The Pussycat Dolls
26 .... 3 .... Buttons - The Pussycat Dolls
27 ... 11 ... What's Left of Me - Nick Lachey
28 .... 2(1) .... Fill My Little World - The Feeling
29 .... 4 .... Check On It - Beyonce (featuring Slim Thug)
30 .... 1(2) .... Sewn - The Feeling
31 .... 4 .... Who Am I - Will Young
32 .... 8 .... Hurt - Christina Aguilera
33 .... 5 .... You're Beautiful - James Blunt
34 .... 1(1) .... Smile - Lily Allen
35 .... 2(2) .... Nature's Law - Embrace
36 .... 5 .... Who Knew - Pink
37 .... 1(1) .... Fergalicious - Fergie
38 .... 4 .... You Give Me Something - James Morrison
39 .... 2(1) .... It's Not That Easy - Lemar
40 .... 2(2) .... Red Dress - Sugababes
41 .... 3 .... Jump - Madonna
42 .... 2(1) .... The Hardest Part - Coldplay
43 .... 2(2) .... Ugly - Sugababes
44 .... 2(3) .... Easy - Sugababes
45 .... 4 .... Stupid Girls - Pink
46 .... 3 .... She Moves in Her Own Way - The Kooks
47 .... 4 .... Lovelight - Robbie Williams
48 .... 2(1) .... Irreplaceable - Beyonce
49 .... 2(2) .... Push the Button - Sugababes
50 .... 6 .... In the Morning - Razorlight
Disappointing album and single: Janet Jackson - 20 Y.O. and "So Excited."
I used to love Janet Jackson. Rhythm Nation 1814 was my favorite album for a long time, and I loved Janet, especially "If." Even The Velvet Rope was a favorite, but her career has been in a decline now for years. All For You was a commercial success, but not as compelling as her earlier stuff. Damito Jo was a real disappointment, but it at least had a handful of good tracks. Sadly, I could find only one worthy song on 20 Y.O. ("Enjoy" - should be a single, it's fantastic). Everything else sounded so tepid, especially "So Excited," where she sounds...so bored.
Disappointing new TV show: Ugly Betty
Admittedly, there were surely far worse shows that I completely avoided, but I was really excited about Ugly Betty, and it let me down. It played out like a TV version of The Devil Wears Prada, but without Meryl Streep. The same thing again and again, eventually I quit watching.
Disappointing movie: Bobby
It's got an A-list cast including Oscar winners (Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt) Oscar nominees (William H Macy, Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone), and lots of other big names, including Demi Moore and her husband Ashton Kutcher along with Lindsay Lohan, Joshua Jackson, Martin Sheen, Freddy Rodriguez, Heather Graham, Elijah Wood... I could go on and on. And its an interesting subject--what happened the day Bobby Kennedy was killed. But with too many characters and meaningless subplots, the movie completely lacks focus and provides little reason to care about most of the stories. Too ambitious for Emilio Estevez's first major outing as director.
I hadn't watched this show until this year; what was I thinking? This is fantastic television: thought-provoking stories with parallels to current global events, well-drawn characters, superb acting from a uniformly good cast. It doesn't get better than this.
2. Project Runway (Bravo)
What does it say that my two favorite shows of the year were from cable networks? Project Runway really hit its stride in its third season. It's the most compelling "reality" TV because it blends creativity and goes easy on the fake drama. Tim Gunn provides a warm presence, and Heidi Klum is a real ham ("You're Aut!").
3. 24 (Fox)
24 had a watershed year in its fourth season and managed to keep it up for season five. The only downer was the last 2 minutes--can't Jack get a break?
4. Lost (ABC)
In its third season now, Lost is sadly waning, but still manages to be pretty good. We just need something to happen.
5. 30 Rock (NBC)
I watched the pilot and didn't think much of it. Then my partner had me watch another episode, and I thought it was hilarious, and every other episode I've watched since then has been too. Alec Baldwin and Jane Krakowski are particularly funny.
6. The Sopranos (HBO)
This season was a sharp fall off in quality for the Sopranos, but when it's starting point is so high, even a so-so season of the Sopranos is better than the majority of other TV shows.
7. The Office (NBC)
Last season of the office was great; this season hasn't been that good, and I can't quite put my finger on why. Still worth watching.
8. The West Wing (NBC)
Prior to this year, I'd watched maybe one or two episodes of this, but my partner was really into it, so I started watching it, and it was actually pretty good, due to the election story with Alan Alda and Jimmy Smits.
9. Arrested Development (ABC)
What a tragedy this show didn't make it. So offbeat and fun.
10. 30 Minute Meals (Food Network)
I got into this while working out at our former gym, and I love it. Rachael Ray has a great approach to food: no snobbery, top quality ingredients, and a willingness to experiment. Credit her for taking a winning approach to get people back in the kitchen.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
I had a hunch early on that British band The Feeling would be something special, and I wasn't disappointed. Their debut single, "Sewn," however, didn't at all indicate the direction most of the band's music would take. While "Sewn's" piano balladry evoked Coldplay and Keane, the rest of the band's 2006 singles, "Fill My Little World," "Never Be Lonely," and "Love It When You Call" showcased the band's knack for catcy, joyful retro pop/rock. They're my pick for best new artist of 2006.
Orson was the other hot new band of the year. Despite being quite popular in the UK and still unheard in the US, they hail from Hollywood California. "No Tomorrow" remains their best release, but "Bright Idea" and "Happiness" weren't bad. Like The Feeling, Orson never heard a pop hook they didn't like.
Lily Allen was this year's hottest new solo artist. She burst on the scene during the summer with #1 hit "Smile," about taking pleasure in an ex's folly, followed quickly by "LDN," her ode to London.
Corinne Bailey Rae
1. Sorry - Madonna (47)
2. I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters (45)
3. Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera (45)
4. Get Together - Madonna (41)
5. Nature's Law - Embrace (40)
6. SOS - Rihanna (38)
7. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (36)
8. All Time Love - Will Young (36)
9. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (36)
10. Promiscuous - Nelly Furatdo (34)
11. No Tomorrow - Orson (34)
12. You're All I Have - Snow Patrol (33)
13. Who Am I - Will Young (33)
14. Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae (32)
15. It's Not That Easy - Lemar (32)
16. You Got the Love (New Voyagers Remix) - The Source Feat. Candi Staton (30)
17. Sewn - The Feeling (30)
18. Red Dress - Sugababes (28)
19. Is It Any Wonder? - Keane (27)
20. Never Be Lonely - The Feeling (27)
21. A Bad Dream - Keane (26)
22. Easy - Sugababes (26)
23. Jump - Madonna (26)
24. Ugly - Sugababes (26)
25. Maneater - Nelly Furtado (26)
26. My Love - Justin Timberlake (26)
27. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol (25)
28. Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson (25)
29. Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters (25)
30. In the Morning - Razorlight (24)
31. The Hardest Part - Coldplay (24)
32. Nothing in My Way - Keane (24)
33. Stupid Girls - Pink (24)
34. Bright Idea - Orson (24)
35. When You Were Young - The Killers (23)
36. Lovelight - Robbie Williams (23)
37. Rock Steady - All Saints (23)
38. Fergalicious - Fergie (23)
39. Hung Up - Madonna (23)
40. Crystal Ball - Keane (23)
Monday, December 25, 2006
1. A Moment Like This - Leona Lewis
Sadly, the Christmas #1 is no surprise at all. As early as 9 days ago when Leona Lewis was crowned the winner of this year's musical reality show, The X-Factor, really a slight reformulation of precursor Pop Idol (which spawned the wildlly successful US version, American Idol), the fate of this year's Christmas #1 had been sealed. Weeks ago it was announced that the winner of X-Factor, whoever that would be, would release their debut single the week before Christmas. Shortly thereafter it was announced what song it would be, a remake of American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson's US debut, #1 hit "A Moment Like This."
So how about the song? Leona Lewis sounds like she's a good enough singer, but "A Moment Like This" is a rather foolish choice. First off, as a song, it is merely mediocre to begin with. Second, in the hands of the very accomplished Kelly Clarkson, it managed to rise slightly above mediocre because Kelly sings it so earnestly, but Lewis, while good, is no Kelly Clarkson. So the song pales by comparison, making it a poor launch for a new artist whose cards are already stacked against her.
Stacked against her? Quite so. Sure she's Christmas #1 this week, but a quick glance at the fortunes of prior X Factor contestants shows that she'd better enjoy her 15 minutes before they're up. First season winner Steve Brookstein hit #1 with a remake of "Against All Odds," never to be heard from again. Second season winner hit #1 last Christmas with "That's My Goal," then #2 with "No Promises" before getting a disappointing #14 with "Stand By Me." Unless he puts out a real winner of a second album, his hour is probably up too. It seems for every Will Young, there's a Gareth Gates, for every Liberty X, a Hear'Say, and for every Girls Aloud, a One True Voice. So while some reality TV-generated acts have gone on to surpass their origins to actually become stars, winning a reality show is a guarantee of only a good launch, not lasting success.
3. Sorry's Not Good Enough - McFly
McFly's 11th single keeps up their perfect record of top 10s. Were it not for the #9 placing this week last year of "Ultraviolet/The Ballad of Paul K," the band would have a perfect record of top 5 hits. At #3, this second attempt at getting a Christmas #1 fares significantly better than last year's release, and manages to be one of the better songs the band's released.
4. I Think We're Alone Now - Girls Aloud
Also keeping up their perfect record of top 10s is Girls Aloud, who scores their 14th top 10 hit with "I Think We're Alone Now." Originally a #4 hit in the US by Tommy James and the Shondells in 1967, it was '80s pop artist Tiffany who made the song a massive #1 hit in 1987. Girls Aloud do a pretty good job of it too, translating it into their hyperactive electro-pop style that has suited them so well on songs like "Biology," "No Good Advice," and "The Show."
6. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues
Is someone not paying attention? Don't the chart rules specific that after 52 weeks without a re-release songs are not eligible to chart? Apparently The Pogues have been granted a reprieve, rising four spots to #6 with "Fairytale of New York," a #3 hit a year ago this week that recently charted again on downloads sales. It's even getting a good dose of airplay, all the way up #3 this week.
17. Before I Fall to Pieces - Razorlight
#2 on the airplay chart isn't enough to give another top 10 hit to Razorlight, who have to settle at #17 with "Before I Fall to Pieces." Some may bemoan this, but not me, as I find this song merely so-so, certainly not as good as their current album's first single, "In the Morning."
30. The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore - James Morrison
Also charting surprisingly low is James Morrison's third single, "The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore." Now this is a disappointment, as I really like this song, and it deserved to join his other two singles as a top 10 hit.
33. MJB Da MVP - Mary J Blige
And another disappointment. This is a fun single that namechecks Blige's biggest hits and albums to tell the story of her career, all set to the tune of the Game's "Hate It Or Love It." I shouldn't be too surprised though, as Blige is not a major chart force in the UK. "One" hit #2 earlier this year, but that might have more to do with Bono's presence on the single than her star power. Even "Be Without You," a massive American hit, peaked at only #32 in the UK.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
1. Patience - Take That
Holding strong on a fairly competitive week, Take That scores a fourth week at the top with their big comeback single, now clearly one of the biggest singles of the year. By spending four weeks at the top, it matches the 4-week peaks of their two previous singles to spend the longest at the top, "Pray" and "Back For Good." Their new album, Beautiful Life, spends a third week atop the albums chart, giving them a 3-week triple. According to one chart source, this is the first time someone's done that in 10 years, when the Spice Girls topped the singles chart with "2 Become 1" and the albums chart with Spice. While their album is probably safe at the top for another week, their single will surely succumb to young Leona Lewis's debut.
2. 21st Century Christmas / Move It - Cliff Richard
Cliff Richard holds the record for most UK #1 singles. Luckily he doesn't extend that run with "21st Century Christmas," perhaps the most poorly titled Christmas song in recent memory. I haven't heard it, but it sounds really cheesy. His last top 5 hit was another Christmas song, 2003's "Santa's List."
3. Wind It Up - Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani climbs to #3, giving her the highest-charting solo hit of her career. In the US it's her second-highest charting hit, hitting #6 a couple of weeks ago, although it's top 40 airplay hasn't been so hot.
4. Truly Madly Deeply - Cascada
Cascada hit the top 10 in both the UK and the US with her first single, "Everytime We Touch." Luckily she's remained a one-hit wonder in the US. This is a tepid remake of Savage Garden's massive 1998 hit, set to a hi-NRG House beat. Boring.
7. You Know My Name - Chris Cornell
Chris Cornell's Casino Royale Bond Theme scores another top 10 hit for the international spy thriller franchise. I made a mistake in my discussion a few weeks ago about Bond themes. "Licence to Kill" was recorded by Gladys Knight, hitting #6 in 1989. So that makes "You Know My Name" the 11th Bond theme to hit the top 10. Here are the others, in descending peak order:
A View to a Kill - Duran Duran #2 (1985)
We Have All the Time in the World (From "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") - Louis Armstrong #3 (1969)
Die Another Day - Madonna, #3 (2002)
The Living Daylights - A-ha #5 (1987)
License to Kill - Gladys Knight #6 (1989)
Nobody Does it Better - Carly Simon #7 (1977)
For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton #8 (1981)
James Bond Theme (From "Tomorrow Never Dies") - Moby #8 (1997)
Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney #9 (1973)
Goldeneye - Tina Turner #10 (1995)
8. Tell Me - P Diddy Featuring Christina Aguilera
He's known now in the US as "Diddy," but in Europe he's still "P Diddy," due to some legal rights to the name "Diddy." One wonders why he finds "Sean Combs" so objectionable, but that's his choice. This single peaks one spot higher than his last single, "Come to Me," his collaboration with Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. This is Christina Aguilera's third appearance as a featured artist following her appearance on Ricky Martin's "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely (#4, 2001) and Nelly's "Tilt Ya Head Back" (#5, 2004).
10. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues
The Pogues rise into the top 10 on downloads this week. Supposedly, this song won't be chart eligible next week, so expect it to vanish next week, despite the fact that the week before Christmas it will probably sell even better than it did last week. It will vanish because current rules allow a single to chart no longer than 1 year after it's release, and this single was re-released last year at exactly this time.
12. A Whole New World - Katie Price & Peter Andre
People buy this? For real? Why? Peter Andre is a has been beefcake popstar, whose biggest contribution was a couple of #1 hits in the mid '90s. Katie Price, also known as Jordan, is a well-endowed model and tabloid fodder. They're married now, and this is from an album full of duet remakes from them.
16. Last Christmas - Crazy Frog
Wham's original version of "Last Christmas" is readily available at on-line shops (and would probably be charting in the top 20 this week, if it was allowed), so why on Earth would anyone want this? Christmastime seems to really bring out the worst in the singles-buying public's taste.
21. Littlest Things - Lily Allen
Meanwhile, Lily Allen scores a disappointingly low #21 with "Littlest Things," the lovely and earnest ballad that's the third single from her debut album, Alright Still, but becomes the first to chart outside the top 10, following #1 hit "Smile" at #6 "LDN."
34. Illegal - Shakira Featuring Carlos Santana
"Hips Don't Lie" may have been an international #1 hit, but "Illegal" scores a lowly #34, strengthening the argument that "Hips Don't Lie" was a one-off for her. Perhaps a Wyclef Jean collaboration album will be in the works?
42. Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters
Normally I ignore anything outside the top 40, but I had to note the dismally fast decline of the Scissor Sisters' latest single, "Land of a Thousand Words," which plunges from its lowly peak ot #19 all the way to #42, making it the only Scissor Sisters single to spend only 7 days in the top 40. Meanwhile, their last single, "I Don't Feel Like Dancin" is riding high at #27 and is still in the UK airplay top 10. What went wrong with this release? Hopefully they'll turn things around with the third single, which I'm hoping will be "She's My Man."
Monday, December 18, 2006
So who else has a shot at being in the Christmas top 10? Several other artists come to mind, primarily McFly, who've never had a single not land in the top 10. "Sorry's Not Good Enough" is actually their most decent single in a while. It's a got a good hook in the chorus; good enough to take them into the top 5. Girls Aloud also offer up a new single, the second from their recent greatest hits album. It's a remake of Tiffany's '80s classic, "I Think We're Alone Now," souped up in modern Girls Aloud style by producers Xenomania. Opt for the new single mix, which has superior keyboards to the original album version (trust me, it's better).
Rock band Razorlight scored a massive #1 hit with their last single, "America," and are looking for another top 10 with "Before I Fall to Pieces," a fun single, but as I've said in other reviews, suffers from the poor vocal performance from the band's lead singer--his first line has an obviously off-key delivery, not a good sign. It's too bad, because otherwise this would be a really great song.
James Morrison returns with the beautifully soulful "The Pieces Don't Fit Here Anymore," perhaps his best single yet. Mary J. Blige offers "MJB Da MVP;" originally from her last album, The Breakthrough, the song also appears on her new greatest hits collection, and appropriately so, given that the song charts her rise as a popular hip-hop/R&B artist, naming her albums and major singles in the process, all over a generous sample of The Game's "Hate it or Love It." All Angels covers Robbie Williams' "Angels." Given that no one else should be singing that song (certainly not Jessica Simpson), skip that, in favor of the other track on the double-A, a lovely version of "Silent Night."
Leona Lewis (3/5), McFly (3.5/5), Razorlight (3/5), James Morrison (4/5), Mary J. Blige (4/5), All Angels (3.5/5)
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Here's my annual round up of this year's albums. It's most of the albums I got this year, except Arctic Monkeys and Tiga, which I found too disappointing to review. I still might look into getting Justin Timberlake's or the Dixie Chicks' albums, so this list is subject to change. I was worried I wouldn't find a true standout album--many of my reviews were 4.5 out of 5--but I finally found a 5-star album this month in Muse. Click on the links to read my original reviews:
British rock band Muse delivered the year's best, most consistent album. A gothic journey of war, aliens, Mars, and love built on influences ranging from classical music and Mexican folk to Depeche Mode, Queen, and Radiohead. Nothing was more flawlessly executed this year.
(Best: "Map of the Problematique," "Starlight," "Take a Bow," "Invincible," "Supermassive Black Hole," "Assassin," "Knights of Cydonia")
Scissor Sisters returned with another dose of solid, campy pop, although with a darker lyrical undercurrent. This time with Elton John in tow, the band touched on themes of loneliness, anger, and even Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans.
(Best: "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," "She's My Man," "Land of a Thousand Words," "Kiss You Off," "The Other Side")
Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell and former Queens of the Stone Age singer Mark Lanegan blended her angelic voice with his raspy one, together crafting a haunting and surprisingly beautiful collection of country and '60s-influenced dark pop.
(Best: "The False Husband," "Black Mountain," "Deus Ibi Est," "Honey Child What Can I Do," "Revolver")
Like the Scissor Sisters, 2004 breakout band Keane returned this year to deliver it's "difficult" second album. Exploring similar, but darker and more experimental territory, the album delivered my favorite song of the year, the stunning "A Bad Dream," slated as the album's fourth single early next year.
(Best: "A Bad Dream," "Is It Any Wonder?," "Nothing in My Way," "Atlantic," "Leaving So Soon")
British singer Jamelia delivered this year's best pure pop album, an ode to melodic '90s pop and R&B, with apparent influences from En Vogue to Depeche Mode, that stands refreshingly in sharp contrast to the beat-driven pop/R&B that's so fashionable these days.
(Best: "Beware of the Dog," "Something About You," "Do Me Right," "Window Shopping," "Ain't a Love")
Mercury Prize-nominated Editors album The Back Room is good, technically-proficient rock music in the best traditional sense: dark, insistent melodies, dueling guitars, and a lead singer that can actually sing.
(Best: "Munich," "All Sparks," "Bullets," "Lights," "Camera")
Breaking from the quiet tedium of their last album, Final Straw, Snow Patrol this year delivered a great set chronicling a relationship journey from love through dysfunction to ultimate resolution that really rocks.
(Best: "You're All I Have," "Hands Open," "Chasing Cars," "Set the Fire to the Third Bar")
"Retro" to most artists this year meant the '80s, but British pop/rock band The Feeling went even further back to the '60s and '70s exploring those eras feel-good pop delivered by acts like Supertramp, 10cc, and Electric Light Orchestra.
(Best: "Never Be Lonely," "Love It When You Call," "Fill My Little World," "Sewn")
The Killers moved in a new direction for their second album, taking on the challenge of aping U2 and Bruce Springsteen for a broader rock canvas than they delivered with their '80s-influenced debut Hot Fuss, although thankfully some of that New Wave influence lives on here too.
(Best: "When You Were Young," "Bling (Confessions of a King),"Read My Mind," "Bones")
The better of the two Air side projects this year finds them crafting lovely electronic melodies for French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of one of the band's favorite musical influences.
(Best: "The Songs That We Sing," "5.55," "Everything I Cannot See," "Tel Que Tu Es")
After some disappointing efforts, Pet Shop Boys were firmly back on track this year, with a moody synth-driven collection taking them back to their ‘80s roots.
(Best: "I'm With Stupid," "I Made My Excuses and Left," "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show," "Psychological")
Robbie's best album since Sing When You're Winning is a campy collection of electro, dance-pop, and remakes so loaded with cheekiness it almost lacks any seriousness at all, which makes it Williams’ most honest album yet.
(Best: "Lovelight," "She's Madonna," "We're the Pet Shop Boys," "Viva Life on Mars")
Critics were too kind to Stefani's messy first album, but may be too harsh to this one, a fun collection of Gwen's now signature '80s-style pop and hip-hop lite, that's more consistently good than Love.Angel.Music.Baby.
(Best: "4 in the Morning," "Fluorescent," "Early Winter")
Like a more accessible Mike Skinner or a more mainstream Nellie McKay, Lily Allen uses her sweet voice and dirty mouth to tell stories about her life as a young Londonite chased by dirty men, dining al fresco, and partying, all while taking note of the stories that unfold around her as well.
(Best: "LDN," "Smile," "Littlest Things")
As improbably as it sounds, Embrace delivered a bigger, grander, more epic sound than an any previous album, channeling U2 now more than Coldplay to deliver anthemic, stadium-ready rock.
(Best: "Nature's Law," "I Can't Come Down," "Target")
Timbaland gave a much-needed jump start to Nelly Furtado's career this year, giving her huge international smash hits with "Promiscuous" and "Maneater." While some of the R&B/pop doesn't work, much of it does, and when it's on, it's on.
(Best: "Promiscuous," "Afraid," "Maneater," "All Good Things")
Christina Aguilera went really high-concept this time with her double album that's at first an ode to soul and later a mish-mash of Linda Perry-produced oddities. It's ambitious, has some great moments, but could use some cutting.
(Best: "Ain't No Other Man," "Hurt," "Back in the Day")
18. Shiny Toy Guns - We Are Pilots
I haven't written a full review for this, but trust me, it's good. Male and female voices weave over electronica and dark retro-'80s dance/pop.
(Best: "You Are the One," "Le Disko," "Don't Cry Out," "Rainy Monday")
19. Darkel - Darkel
The other Air project, Jean-Benoît Dunckel's solo project under the pseudonym "Darkel," isn't as satisfying as the Gainsbourg set, but it's still pretty good, and even gets more experimental, sometimes moving beyond the "Air" sound of many of its tracks.
(Best: "At the End of the Sky," "Be My Friend," "Bunny Girl")
Hollywood-based Orson made a big splash in Britain this year, hitting #1 with debut single "No Tomorrow." Their debut album delivers what you’d expect—a 10-song collection of the kind of retro/funk/pop/rock reminiscent of Maroon 5 or the Killers, although not quite up to par with those bands, at least not yet.
(Best: "No Tomorrow," "Bright Idea," "Happiness")
After losing her momentum with third album Trouble, Pink regains some ground with her fourth album, hitting the right blend of pop, rock, and R&B that made her second album such a hit, while managing to make quite a few statements about politics and deadbeat guys.
(Best: "Stupid Girls," "Who Knew," "Dear Mr. President")
Razorlight's album was a disappointment for me, but still had some great moments. Their problem is the lead singer--he just can't sing that well--but sometimes he manages to sound okay, so when the rest of the band really soars, such as on "In the Morning," they work great.
(Best: "In the Morning," "America," "Who Needs Love?")
Friday, December 15, 2006
Canadian Daniel Powter is the first non-American act to top the Billboard Hot 100 since Nickelback, also Canadian, topped the chart in 2002 with "How You Remind Me." Interestingly, the top 6 spots are held by foreigners this year, which is a Hot 100 first. In 1988, non-US acts held the top 4 slots--George Michael, George Harrison, and Rick Astley from the UK and INXS from Australia--but this year, the top 6 slots go respectively to a Canadian, a Jamaican, another Canadian, a Brit, a Colombian, and another Brit.
The top 10 Billboard Hot 100 singles of 2006 are:
1. Bad Day - Daniel Powter (5 weeks @ #1)
2. Temperature - Sean Paul (1 wk @ #1)
3. Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado (featuring Timbaland) (6 wks @ #1)
4. You're Beautiful - James Blunt (1 wk @ #1)
5. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira (featuring Wyclef Jean) (2 wks @ #1)
6. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (#5)
7. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (7 wks @ #2)
8. Ridin' - Chamillionaire (featuring Kayzie Bone) (2 wks @ #1)
9. Sexyback - Justin Timberlake (7 wks @ #1)
10. Check On It - Beyonce (featuring Slim Thug) (5 wks @ #1)
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Last year it was Shayne Ward with "That's My Goal," a mediocre Westlife-ish single. He followed it with slightly more decent "No Promises" before landing outside the top 10 with third single "Stand By Me."
This year the winner will either be 18-year old Raymond Quinn or 21-year old Leona Lewis. The winner will be announced this weekend, and their debut single will be in shops Monday. Of course, we also know what song it is, a remake of Kelly Clarkson's debut single, "A Moment Like This," which wasn't released in the UK. How boring can it get?
Reality TV has had its Christmas setbacks though. In 2003, the Pop Idol Finalists' remake of "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" looked like a shoo-in for #1, but was beaten by melancholy ballad "Mad World" by Gary Jules. Actually, at #5, it was also beaten by The Darkness ("Christmas Time, Don't Let the Bells End"), the previous week's #1 (Kelly and Ozzy Osbourne's "Changes") and Bo Selecta's "Proper Crimbo." Take that! First season X Factor winner Steve Brookstein had to endure the humiliation of having his debut single, "Against All Odds" released a week after Christmas to get out of the way of the mega-selling charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas 2004" by Band Aid 20.
Who's duked it out for Christmas #1 the last few years? Here's a rundown:
1996: Spice Girls beat Madonna landing at #1 with "2 Become 1" to her "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" at #3.
1997: It's the Spice Girls again with "Too Much," beating out the "Perfect Day" charity single and the Teletubbies.
1998: Three years in a row at Christmas #1 for the Spice Girls, who topped this year with "Goodbye" beating South Park's Chef's "Chocolate Salty Balls" at #2 and Denise and Johnny's remake of Kylie and Jason's "Especially For You" at #3.
1999: In a really competitive Christmas week, newcomer boyband Westlife was #1 with their remake of ABBA's "I Have a Dream," beating Cliff Richard's "Millennium Prayer" (#2), a re-release of John Legend's "Imagine" (#3), the Cuban Boys' "Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia" (#4), S Club 7's "You're My Number One" (#5), and Steps' "Say You'll Be Mine"/"Better the Devil You Know" (#7).
2000: In his second week on the chart Bob the Builder's "Can We Fix It" beats Eminem and Dido's "Stan" for #1. New entries for Robbie Williams ("Supreme," #4) and Kylie Minogue ("Please Stay," #19) also make the top 10.
2001: In their second week at #1 it's Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman's festive remake of "Somethin' Stupid," my personal favorite Christmas #1 in recent years. Gordon Haskell's "How Wonderful You Are" is #2 while Daniel Bedingfield's hot debut single "Gotta Get Thru This" is #3.
2002: Reality TV's first year of chart influence finds Popstars winners Girls Aloud at #1 with their first single "The Sound of the Underground" beating the show's other finalists, boyband One True Voice with their debut, "Sacred Trust."
2003: Perhaps the most surprisingly Christmas #1 is Donnie Darko soundtrack single "Mad World" by Michael Andrews featuring Gary Jules. Goofy rockers The Darkness are #2 with "Christmas Time (Don't Let the Bells End)," while Pop Idol finalists are relegated down to #5 with their remake of "Happy Xmas." Atomic Kitten and Sugababes are also in the top 10.
2004: Far and away it's Band Aid 20's "Do They Know It's Christmas."
2005: X Factor winner Shayne Ward's "That's My Goal." Blah.
French techno group Air released one of my favorite albums of 2004, Talkie Walkie, a divine collection of ambient and pop electronica. The band are due to release their fifth album in March 2007, but have hardly taken a break during the last three years, instead dabbling in side projects.
September saw the release of two such projects: An Air-produced album from French actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg, followed two weeks later by Air-member Jean-Benoît Dunckel's first solo project, Darkel. Both albums embody a similar spirit to that of Air's last album, which makes them both an enjoyable listen, although Gainsbourg's album manages to soar above Darkel's, which manages to sound too much like Air outtakes.
Air has named Charlotte Gainsbourg's musician-father Serge Gainsbourg as one of their influences, and now they have chance to be the principal influence on his daughter's second album, the accomplished 5.55. Title track "5.55" opens with a soothing piano and synth combo under Charlotte's quiet vocals. The piano is particularly at the forefront in this track, which also features quite a few strings; it's an immediate standout on the album. "Af607105" in particular sounds like a Talkie Walkie outtake with Gainsbourg's vocals replacing Air's.
"The Songs that We Sing," another of the more upbeat moments, is loaded with urgent strings and punctured by quiet moments among the piano and percussive instrumentation. In contrast, restrained and plaintive "Beauty Mark" is sexy and mellow. "Everything I Cannot See" overlays dramatic piano with acoustic guitar, breaking into a Tori-Amos like staccato with Gainsbourg's chanting vocals during the chorus. It's another arresting number.
Other highlights include more upbeat and slightly sinister "The Operation" and "Little Monsters," the moody piano-heavy "Tel Que Tu Es," and etherial "Jamais." My complaints are really few. Repetitive "Night-time Intermission" goes on a little too long to be just an intermission. The only other drawback is that while quiet beautiful, the album feels a little too safe, focusing on the crowd-pleasing side of Air's music, without much experimentation.
In contrast, on Darkel, free of Nicolas Godin, Dunckel takes the opportunity to stretch himself, although many tracks also manage to sound like something Air could have thrown onto their last album. Dramatic, synth-heavy "Be My Friend" is a good opener in the traditional Air vein, but second track "At the End of the Sky" takes a new direction closer to pop and the '70s with piano and warm piano and guitar.
While I welcome the new direction with "At the End of the Sky," I find "TV Destroy" grating, like something from Fatboy Slim. "My Own Sun" is good though, another upbeat, fun, retro-styled pop song. "Earth," while kind of fun, is just too long. "Beautiful Woman" is boring.
The more familiar Air-sounding tracks by and large work very well. Romantic "Some Men" is lovely, although a little too plodding coming right after the raucous "TV Destroy." "Pearl" has a nice piano sound and I like the church bells (reminds me of the bells that start Jai's 1997 album Heaven), but it gets too repetitive quickly. "How Brave You Are," on the other hand, sounds like another great example of Air soundtrack music, and "Bathroom Spirit" captures their cool outerspace lounge vibe. Mellow piano-driven closer "Bunny Girl" has a great piano sound.
Best tracks: (5.55) 5.55, Tel Que Tu Es, The Songs that We Sing, Beauty Mark, Little Monsters, Everything I Cannot See; (Darkel) Be My Friend, At the End of the Sky, My Own Sun, Bathroom Spirit, Bunny Girl.
Babel led this year's nominees with 7 nods, including 3 in supporting acting categories. The Departed got 6 nominations and Dreamgirls came in with 5, both of which got 3 acting nods. The Queen received 4. Here are the nominees with my observations; I bolded ones I didn't predict from yesterday.
Best Picture (Drama)
Babel, The Departed, and The Queen were the three obvious nominees, so I'm glad they all got it. Little Children is a pleasant surprise, as I loved that film. Bobby is just plain a surprise. Bobby?! Really?! It's gotten mixed reviews. It's the only one I haven't seen here, but based on what I've read, I think there were more deserving films, most notably Flags of Our Fathers, which I'm disappointed and surprised didn't get it, particularly since Clint Eastwood was nominated for it for director (see below). Interesting that United 93 isn't in there. It's been getting a lot of critics list buzz, much more than I remember it getting critical buzz at the time it was released.
Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)
The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
Thank You For Smoking
That fifth slot was the toughie here, and I'm pleasantly surprised to see the inventive Thank You For Smoking get it. Dreamgirls is the obvious frontrunner here, since it's the most talked about for getting a Best Picture Oscar nomination, which usually go to dramas. The only other one that may have a shot is Little Miss Sunshine.
Best Picture (Foreign Language)
Letters from Iwo Jima
The Lives of Others
I didn't predcit Apolcalypto because I wasn't sure how the Globes would react to it, being as it is controversial, but there it is. No other surprises. Letters from Iwo Jima is the clear frontrunnter, as it is quickly emerging as a strong Oscar contender, stronger even than Eastwood's other film, Flags of Our Fathers. Interestingly, Letters won't get a foreign film Oscar nomination, since, as an American film, it doesn't qualify. For the Globes, a film has to be a in a foreign language; for the Oscars, a film has to be produced in a foreign country and submitted by some official entity in that country to be considered.
Best Actor (Drama)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
Peter O'Tool, Venus
Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker is the frontrunner to win, but look at Leo go with two lead nominations, something else that won't happen at the Oscars, as it's not allowed. Peter O'Tool seems like a really out there nomination to me, as I only vaguely remember Venus coming out. Too bad Ryan Gosling from Half Nelson didn't make the list, I still think he'll be an Oscar contender, given that only 4 of these nominations are.
Best Actor (Comedy/Musical)
Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Aaron Eckhart, Thank You For Smoking
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kinky Boots
Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction
The comedy acting categories can be tough to predict, as awards always focus more on dramas. Chiwetel Ejiofor is an interesting choice. I honestly haven't even heard of Kinky Boots, but he was great in 2002's Dirty Pretty Things. Johnny Depp for Pirates is a lame nomination though. Sure he got an Oscar nomination for playing this role two years ago, but this is the big-budget, less-regarded sequel. Come on.
Best Actress (Drama)
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Kate Winslet, Little Children
I was 5 for 5 here; glad I went on a limb for Maggie Gyllenhaal. Although, sadly, I can think of few other performances worth highlighting. Maybe Cate Blanchett in The Good German? Helen Mirren has it in the bad though, she's been voted best actress among all of the critics groups so far, not even sharing the honors with anyone. The nice part is that she completely deserves it too.
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical)
Annette Bening, Running With Scissors
Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine
Beyonce Knowles, Dreamgirls
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Renee Zellweger, Miss Potter
Again, I nailed it 5 for 5. I must know my actresses. Or again, who else would you put up? Hollywood's sexism for lack of good female parts is really showing this year. My money's on Streep as the frontrunner here--she'll probably take Gyllenhaal's spot among the Best Actress nominees come Oscar time.
Best Supporting Actor
Ben Affleck, Hollywoodland
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Jack Nicholson, The Departed
Brad Pitt, Babel
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
This is a really tight race. With all these ensemble pictures this year (Babel, Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, Flags of Our Fathers) there's lots of smaller roles with actors that really shine. Ben Affleck is a surprise, but I didn't see Hollywoodland, so I can't judge if it's fair. Mark Wahlberg is a surprise too, although he did get at least one critics' group nod. Although I'm upset not to see the other three I predicted here, particularly Michael Sheen for The Queen, I can't really complain, as there are so many performances worth recognizing here. Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond is supposed to be fantastic, and he's been getting critics nods, so I expect he'll still get an Oscar nod. Jackie Earle Haley was fantastically creepy and complex in Little Children. Steve Carell was amazing against type in Little Miss Sunshine. Adam Beach was phenominal as an honored yet disenfranchised American Indian soldier in Flags of Our Fathers. Tough tough category.
Best Supporting Actress
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Again, like the supporting actors, there's a lot of good performances that could have been recognized, so it's a tough call. I'm really glad Adriana Barraza got it for Babel. She was so good in that movie, and I felt that her performance was the most moving of any in the film. Emily Blunt is a nice surprise. I'd forgotten about her, and she was a lot of fun as a catty assistant in The Devil Wears Prada. I must say though that Anne Hathaway is probably tired of starring in films where all the other main players get awards recognition but her. Rinko Kikuchi is a nice surprise for Babel, who's character was probably the most unusual of any in that movie. Too bad that little Abigail Breslin from Little Miss Sunshine didn't make the cut. Her scene-stealing performance near the end of the film (you know what I'm talking about if you've seen it) is the funniest thing ever in a movie.
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Clint Eastwood, Flags of Our Fathers
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Martin Scorsese is probably the frontrunner, as he is getting his due this year for The Departed, having played bridesmaid the last few years despite some amazing films (Gangs of New York, The Aviator). The double nomination for Eastwood is awesome. At age 76 he's become a directing powerhouse, making consistently honest, thought-provoking films. His two this year join the ranks of Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, and Unforgiven as some of the best films of the last 20 years. I'm glad Inarritu made it here too. No love for the comedies directors, but oh well, they know they're playing second fiddle to the dramas anyway. And of course there's always that question mark when a movie gets nominated for best picture, but it's director doesn't get recognized, in this case Bobby's Emilio Estevez. To me, it looks like the snub is Eastwood's lack of Best Picture recognition for Flags of Our Fathers.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
1 .... 3 .... Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... All Good Things (Come to an End) - Nelly Furtado
3 .... 6 .... Fergalicious - Fergie
4 .... 1 .... Patience - Take That (3 wks @ #1)
5 .... 7 .... Irreplaceable - Beyonce
6 .... 2 .... Love It When You Call - The Feeling
7 .... 9 .... Beware of the Dog - Jamelia
8 .... 5 .... My Love - Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.)
9 ... 11 ... The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore - James Morrison
10 . 16 ... You Know My Name (from "Casino Royale") - Chris Cornell
Have a little patience, Take That remains on top of the UK singles chart for a third week. I think you won't have to wait long for a new #1 though, five of this week's debuts were on downloads only, so next week's chart should be really interesting. In their heyday, Take That had two singles that spent 3 weeks at the top--"Never Forget" and "How Deep Is Your Love"--bested only by the two singles that spent 4 weeks at the top, "Pray" and "Back for Good." They give up #1 on the airplay chart to Nelly Furtado, scoring her first airplay #1 of the year with "All Good Things (Come to an End)." This is her second airplay #1, after 2001's "Turn Off the Light."
2. Boogie 2 Nite - Booty Luv
Dance hit "Boogie 2 Nite" climbs a spot to #2 this week. That's pretty impressive to accomplish that during this most competitive time of year.
4. Bing Bang (Time to Dance) - Lazy Town
It's been awhile since I remember a children's show chart tie-in, but that's what we have at #4. Lazy Town is an unusual Iceland/US collaboration, airing on Nick Jr in the US and the BBC in the UK. Children's tie-ins have scored chart gold in the past--recent notables include #1 hits for The Teletubbies and Bob the Builder.
8. Wind It Up - Gwen Stefani
The highest of the five downloads-only debuts comes from Gwen Stefani. Her new album The Sweet Escape bows in on the albums chart at a disappointing #26, but the "Wind It Up" single has a surprisingly good showing on its first week downloads sales, indicating she's a strong contender for #1 next week. This is Gwen's fifth sixth appearance in the top 10 as a soloist. Her highest charting moment came just about a year ago at #3 as a guest on Pharrell's "Can I Have It Like That." Among her own hits, she's been to #4 twice, with "What U Waiting For" and "Rich Girl."
10. Beware of the Dog - Jamelia
Jamelia scores her second top 10 hit this year with the upbeat dance pop "Beware of the Dog." This is her 7th top 10 hit. The song includes liberal sampling of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," a #13 hit in 1989.
12. You Know My Name - Chris Cornell
Another downloads-only debut makes a big splash at #12. Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" is the theme to the 21st official James Bond film, Casino Royale. It's a great rock take on the Bond theme, fitting in perfectly with the film. If it goes top 5 next week, it will be among the highest-charting Bond themes. Here's the full Bond theme chart discography:
Die Another Day - Madonna, #3 (2002)
The World Is Not Enough - Garbage #11 (1999)
Tomorrow Never Dies - Sheryl Crow #12 (1997)
James Bond Theme (From "Tomorrow Never Dies") - Moby #8 (1997)
Goldeneye - Tina Turner #10 (1995)
License to Kill - Patti Labelle (not a chart hit, 1989)
The Living Daylights - A-ha #5 (1987)
A View to a Kill - Duran Duran #2 (1985)
All Time High (From "Octopussy") #75 (1983)
For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton #8 (1981)
Moonraker - Shirley Bassey (not a chart hit, 1979)
Nobody Does it Better - Carly Simon #7 (1977)
The Man with the Golden Gun - Lulu (not a chart hit, 1974)
Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney #9 (1973--remade by Guns N Roses in 1991, #5)
Diamonds Are Forever - Shirley Bassey #38 (1972)
We Have All the Time in the World (From "On Her Majesty's Secret Service") - Louis Armstrong #3 (1969)
You Only Live Twice - Nancy Armstrong #11 (1967)
Thunderball - Tom Jones #35 (1966)
Goldfinger - Shirley Bassey #21 (1964)
From Russia With Love (instrumental) - John Barry #39 (1963)
From Russia With Love - Matt Munro #20 (1963)
James Bond Theme - John Barry #13 (1962)
16. I Just Want to See the Boy Happy - Morrissey
Morrissey scores his fourth top 20 hit this year. Haven't heard it, and don't really care.
17. Truly Madly Deeply - Cascada
Sadly, a downloads debut at #17 for Cascada's clubby remake of Savage Garden's 1998 hit "Truly Madly Deeply" means it will probably be in the top 10 next week. Oh well, you can't win it all.
19. Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters
Ouch ouch ouch! After scoring a massive, massive hit with "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," which spent 4 weeks at #1--the third longest run at the top this year--Scissor Sisters have the lowest-charting single of their career with "Land of a Thousand Words," the Ta-Dah ballad and that album's second single, limps in at #19. Their previous worst had been the #17 peak of their second single, "Take Your Mama."
20. Tell Me - P Diddy (featuirng Christina Aguilera)
Another downloads single that may go top 10 next week. Yawn.
22. Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade
23. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues
Two Christmas singles make their way into the top 40 this week, both of which are quite old. First up at #22 is Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody," which was Christmas #1 in 1973 and spent 5 weeks at the top of the chart. The song has been an enduring Christmas favorite, having been re-released in 1980 (#70), 1981 (#32), 1982 (#67), 1983 (#20), 1984 (#47), 1985 (#48), 1986 (#71), and a new version in 1998 (#30). I'm not familiar with the chart rules from the '80s, so I don't know if each year it charted was an official re-release, but this year, the original has indeed been re-released, giving it it's second-highest re-release position, and third overall considering its original place at #1.
At #23 is The Pogues with "Fairytale of New York." Originally released in 1987 where it hit #2, the track was re-released last year and hit #3. Due to current chart rules that allow singles to chart up to a year after their release, this track is appearing on the chart again due to download sales. Once it hits 52 weeks, just before Christmas, it will vanish from the chart. Expect it to keep rising until that time though.
27. Rewind - Paolo Nutini
Given it's strong airplay, I thought "Rewind" would be the song to return Paolo Nutini to the top 10, but instead give him his lowest-charting single yet at #27. Keep trying Paolo.
Best Picture (Drama)
- The Departed
- Flags of Our Fathers
- The Queen
- United 93
Best Picture (Comedy/Musical)
- The Devil Wears Prada
- Little Miss Sunshine
- Stranger Than Fiction
Best Picture (Foreign Language)
- Letters from Iwo Jima
- The Lives of Others
- Pan's Labyrinth
Best Actor (Drama)
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
- Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
- Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness
- Ken Watanabe, Letters From Iwo Jima
- Forest Whitaker, Last King of Scotland
Best Actor (Comedy/Musical)
- Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
- Aaron Eckhart, Thank You For Smoking
- Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction
- Jamie Foxx, Dreamgirls
- Greg Kinnear, Little Miss Sunshine
Best Actress (Drama)
- Penelope Cruz, Volver
- Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
- Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sherrybaby
- Helen Mirren, The Queen
- Kate Winslet, Little Children
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical)
- Annette Bening, Running With Scissors
- Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine
- Beyonce Knowles, Dreamgirls
- Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
- Renee Zellweger, Miss Potter
Best Supporting Actor
- Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
- Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
- Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
- Jack Nicholson, The Departed
- Michael Sheen, The Queen
Best Supporting Actress
- Adriana Barraza, Babel
- Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
- Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
- Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
- Catherine O'Hara, For Your Consideration
- Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
- Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima (or Flags of Our Fathers or both)
- Stephen Frears, The Queen
- Paul Greengrass, United 93
- Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Monday, December 11, 2006
1. Artic Monkeys – Whetever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (4)
2. Muse – Black Holes & Revelations (5)
3. Razorlight – Razorlight (5)
4. Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Stadium Arcadium (5)
5. The Killers – Sam’s Town (4)
6. Keane – Under The Iron Sea (4)
7. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (4)
8. Kasabian – Empire (4)
9. Scissor Sisters – Ta-Dah (4)
10. Gnarls Barkley – St Elsewhere (4)
Not too surprising. Some might quibble that they ranked 4-rated Arctic Monkeys above this years three albums to receive 5-ratings, but they've done that before (Keane's 4-rated Hopes and Fears was ranked above Franz Ferdinand in 2004, despite Franz Ferdinand's eponymous debut having been rated a 5). I'm glad to see Keane, The Killers, and Scissor Sisters sophomore albums all made the top 10. It's nice to see Muse at #2. I just got the album, and it is truly great.
It's cool that they did a top 100 this year, instead of just a top 50. Here's where some other albums ranked:
11. The Kooks - Inside In/Inside Out
12. Corinne Bailey Rae (self-titled)
14. The Feeling - Twelve Stops and Home
18. Snow Patrol - Eyes Open
23. Pet Shop Boys - Fundamental
26. James Morrison - Undiscovered
35. Orson - Bright Idea
36. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
40. The Strokes - First Impressions on Earth
48. Christina Aguilera - Back to Basics
55. Nelly Furtado - Loose
57. Lily Allen - Alright, Still
62. Jamelia - Walk With Me
Here's a the complete list. Be warned that whoever posted this made some spelling and word errors, but it's the best I could find.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
My pick for single of the week is "Littlest Things," the third offering from Lily Allen. Lily made a big splash last summer with "Smile," and kept it up with fall release "LDN." While most of her songs find her in maneater mode, "Littlest Things" instead has her reminiscing nostalgically about a past relationship. Although her usual ways are fun, it's a refreshing touch of tenderness.
Chris Cornell's Casino Royale Bond theme, "You Know My Name," looked a few weeks ago like it might not get a release, but it will arrive in stores next week. It's a shame this song a) was getting a bad rap and b) was omitted from the soundtrack, because it's a great song. It fits perfectly with the movie. Although I didn't care for it at first, after having seen the film (which is fantastic), it's really grown on me. This marks the sixth Bond theme in a row to be recorded by an American (or prediminantly American) artist, following Patti LaBelle ("License to Kill"), Tina Turner ("Goldeneye"), Sheryl Crow ("Tomorrow Never Dies"), Garbage ("The World is Not Enough"), and Madonna ("Die Another Day"). It's also the first theme since "All Time Love (From "Octopussy") to not use the film's title in the song.
Gwen Stefani returns with "Wind It Up," the first single from her second solo album, The Great Escape. I reviewed the album earlier this week, and was pleased to find that it was pretty good. This is one of the better tracks, and probably the best among the hip-hopish set of songs. Some people are turned off by The Sound of Music reference ("The Lonely Goatherd"), but I think it's fun. Strange move though to release this the week after the album. It could have had a shot at #1, but now I'd be surprised to see it in the top 5.
Finally there's Shakira, who despite having initially botched the release of Oral Fixation Vol. 2 with the lousy lead single "Don't Bother," was able to turn the project into a big success by re-releasing it with the ubiquitous hit "Hips Don't Lie." Rather than follow that up logically with another single though, the project has again languished for months until now. We finally get a third single: "Illegal," a lukewarm collaboration with Carlos Santana. It's okay, not as bad as "Don't Bother," but this certainly isn't going to set charts on fire like "Hips Don't Lie" did. Lily Allen (4/5), Chris Cornell (4/5), Gwen Stefani (4/5), Shakira (2.5/5).
So that's that for the quality stuff. There's still eight more singles to talk about. A couple of hip-hop tracks could find chart gold this week, particularly a new single from Eminem. "You Don't Know" is from Eminem Presents the Re-Up, which is sort of a new Eminem album--he appears on 8 of 23 tracks, with the rest coming from his buddies. "You Don't Know" doesn't interest me at all, and I've actually found myself liking some of Eminem's older stuff, particularly The Eminen Show-era releases. The other is Diddy's collaboration with Christina Aguilera, "Tell Me," which sounds overcooked, not as good as his Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger collaboration.
Dance vixen Cascada offers a new single, an unnecessary dance remake of Savage Garden's "Truly Madly Deeply." Cascada previously turned awful "Everytime We Touch" into a massive hit in both the US, where pop charts usually avoid dance music, and the UK, where pop charts usually avoid bad dance music.
Then there's the Christmas releases. Cliff Richard still holds the UK record for the most #1 hits. Let's hope "21st Century Christmas" doesn't join that tally. Yikes. Crazy Frog returns with double A-side remakes of "Last Christmas" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Peter Andre, usually washed-up muscle head pop singer who managed to re-release his early single "Mysterious Girl" in 2004 and send it to #1, has teamed up with model/singer/tabloid fodder Katie Price (aka Jordan) to record an album of remakes, including "A Whole New World." Finally, previous X Factor contender Andy Abraham teams up with Michael Underwood to bring us "December Brings Me Back to You," which is actually pretty decent--the only decent song of this lot for sure.
There are no significant album releases this week or next week or the week after that. So there!
Friday, December 08, 2006
Beyonce rises to #1 this week with "Irreplaceable," scoring her fourth solo #1. Technically speaking, this is her first true solo #1, as she had an assistant rapper on each of her previous #1s: Jay-Z on "Crazy in Love," Sean Paul on "Baby Boy," and Slim Thug on "Check On It." This is Beyonce's second #1 hit this year, after "Check On It," making her the second artist, after Justin Timberlake, to score two chart-toppers this year. There are only two charts left in 2006, and judging from the historical longevity of Beyonce #1s, the lack of srong competition (now that Akon's 2 singles have lost their bullets), I think she'll be spending the rest of the year at the top. This is her third B'Day single and clearly the biggest. Finally, at 13 letters, "Irreplaceable" is the longest one-word title to hit #1. Beyonce, as a member of Destiny's Child, had been tied for the 12-letter record for "Bootylicious."
4. Fergalicious - Fergie
Fergie gets the Sales Gainer award this week for "Fergalicious," rising six notches following a week in which it plumetted five spots. I think that the Sales Gainer award is a technicality, as I suspect there was some kind of technical error over at iTunes that mysteriously caused Fergie's album to disappear for several days, thus the big chart decline last week. With Akon in decline, she has a shot of beating her previous #3 peak for this song, although I doubt it has #1 potential.
6. Wind it Up - Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani rises another notch with "Wind It Up," edging ahead of "Rich Girl" to become her second highest charting solo single, now only behind #1 hit "Hollaback Girl." Her band, No Doubt, had two higher-charting hits: #5 "Hey Baby" and the #3 "Underneath it All." "Don't Speak," while widely regarded as the band's biggest hit, didn't chart on the Billboard Hot 100, since it wasn't released as a single, and back then charting airplay-only tracks wasn't allowed.
12. Say it Right - Nelly Furtado
Nelly Furtado makes a big jump with "Say it Right," up 13 spots to #12, supassing the #16 peak of her last single, "Maneater." If it goes top 10 next week, it will become her fourth top 10 hit.
22. Keep Holding On - Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne makes a tremendous Hot 100 bow this week with "Keep Holding On," the single from the soundtrack to the forthcoming fantasy & dragons epic Eragon. This is Lavigne's 6th top hit. Her last Hot 100 single, "Nobody's Home," just missed the top 40, peaking at #41.
40. Wait a Minute - The Pussycat Dolls
The Pussycat Dolls score their 5th top 40 hit this week with "Wait a Minute," which moves up a spot to #40. Their last single "Buttons" peaked at #3, their third top 5 hit. In the UK "Wait a Minute" will be their 6th single; their fifth was "I Don't Need a Man," which was not released in the US. I believe this makes them the most recent act to score 5 top 40 hits from one album since Kelly Clarkson, who did it earlier this year with "Walk Away," the fifth Breakaway single.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The most interesting story was the industry's great show of support for the Dixie Chicks, who earned five nominations including Album of the Year and Country Album for Taking the Long Way and Record and Song of the Year for "Not Ready to Make Nice." These accolades come despite the rather public manner in which country radio has turned its back on the band during the last two years, despite the girls having been one of the biggest things in country music prior to that. Taking the Long Way is considered more of a rock/AC-oriented album than country, so it's nomination for Country Album of the Year is a surprise. Their previous three albums, Home, Fly, and Wide Open Spaces all won the Country Album grammy, while Home and Fly were nominated for Album of the Year. This is the group's first year being nominated in the song and record categories.
British pop artists fared quite well this year. James Blunt and Corinne Bailey Rae were both nominated from Record and Song of the Year for "You're Beautiful" and "Put Your Records On." Both were also nominated for Best New Artist, as was British singer Imogen Heap. Blunt was also nominated for Male Pop Performance for "You're Beautiful," and his album Back to Bedlam was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album. Natasha Bedingfield and KT Tunstall picked up nominations for Female Pop Performance for "Unwritten" and "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree." I was surprised Tunstall didn't receive more nominations. Finally it was nice to see Keane nominated for Duo/Group Pop Performance for "Is It Any Wonder?" Last year they were a New Artist nominee.
Justin Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds was nominated for Best Album and Best Pop Album. He was nominated in both categories 3 years ago for Justified, winning the latter award. Although "Sexyback" wasn't nominated for Record of the Year, it was nominated in the Dance category. His other recent hit, "My Love," was nominated for Rap/Sung Collaboration with Vocal. He's the only other veteran Album of the Year nominee, besides the Dixie Chicks. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have previously won only one Grammy (for "Give It Away") were nominated for Album of the Year for Stadium Arcadium.
Largely overlooked this year were Nelly Furtado, whose megahit "Promiscuous" was honored only with a Pop Collaboration nomination, and Bob Dylan, whose Modern Times had been expected to be nominated for Album of the Year, but has to settle for a nomination for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album. His song "Someday Baby" was nominated for Solo Rock Performance and Rock Song.
Last year's American Idol winner Carrie Underwood scored an impressive 4 nominations, including Best Female Country Vocal, Song of the Year, and Best Country song for "Jesus, Take the Wheel," and Best New Artist. That puts her one nomination ahead of the three earned so far by American Idol goddess Kelly Clarkson. Clarkson received her first nomination in 2003, forFemale Pop Vocal nomination for "Miss Independent." Last year she was nominated twice and won both awards, Best Pop Album for Breakaway and Female Pop Vocal for "Since U Been Gone."