Friday, March 31, 2006

Janet Jackson Preps New Album

Billboard reported today that Janet Jackson is currently working with longtime collaborators Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (the producers of all of her albums since Control) to release her 9th album this fall. The album's first single is due in May, while the album is due by the end of September--no word yet on titles for either.

The success of this album will be important to re-establish Janet Jackson as a credible pop star, after PR nightmare of "nipple gate" and the failure of any of the tracks from her last album, Damito Jo, to become hits. At her best, Jackson has been an extremely successful singles artist. All 7 singles from her 1989 album Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 were top 5 hits--four were #1s.

Singles Reviews

All singles released April 3 in Britain:

Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (4.5/5)
One - Mary J. Blige & U2 (3.5/5)
The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand (4/5)
It's in the Rain - Enya (3/5)

Click below for the reviews

Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (4.5/5)

This is set to be a massive hit in the UK, surely a #1, and it's well deserved. The track sounds like it's from the '70s, a little funk, a little dance, with a laid back groove. I don't think Gnarls is a real person, in fact it appears to be a collaboration between several already well-known hip-hop artists (although I wouldn't really call it hip-hop).

One - Mary J. Blige & U2 (3.5/5)

This is enjoyable--Mary sounds great--but adds little to the song. The arrangement is just like the original and you get Bono doing his thing like usual.

The Fallen - Franz Ferdinand (4/5)

This is actually a double-A side single (I haven't yet heard the other track, "Lindsay Wells"). "The Fallen" is a great opening for the album and makes a good single too. Sounds a lot like their breakthrough single, "Take Me Out," which isn't a bad thing. It rocks.

It's in the Rain - Enya (3/5)

Speaking of sounding the same--does she do anything else? At least she does what does well, but still.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Crazy Will Young Video

So I guess the new music video trend in Britain is lampooning old TV shows. First Coldplay, now Will Young, whose "Who Am I" video is a tribute to the UK children's show Blue Peter.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Crazy Coldplay Video

Check out Coldplay's new music video, "The Hardest Part" . This is one bizarre music video. Chris tells me that "Attitudes" was an actual TV show in the '90s.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Personal Chart, 4/1/2006

TW LW Wks Title - Artist
1 .... 3 ... 39 .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (1 wk @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... 5 ..... Sewn - The Feeling (2 wks @ #1)
3 .... 6 .... 5 ..... No Tomorrow - Orson
4 .... 7 .... 5 ..... Nature's Law - Embrace
5 .... 4 ... 14 .... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
6 .... 2 .... 9 ..... Red Dress - Sugababes
7 .... 9 ... 32 .... You're Beautiful - James Blunt (5 wks @ #1)
8 ... 11 ... 7 ..... Stupid Girls - P!nk
9 ... 10 .. 19 ... Be Without You - Mary J. Blige
10 .. 5 ... 12.... Sorry - Madonna (4 wks @ #1)

Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" tops my chart this week, taking 39 weeks to get there. "Unwritten" originally charted in November 2004, peaking at #6 in December of that year. It re-entered my chart last year upon its release in the US; it's currently #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the R&R top 40. This is Bedingfield's second #1 hit on my chart, following "These Words," which was #1 in September 2004. Her brother Daniel has topped my chart 3 times, in 2002 with "Gotta Get Thru This" and "If You're Not The One" and in 2003 with "Never Gonna Leave Your Side."

Monday, March 27, 2006

On My iPod This Week

Of course there's a lot on my iPod, but here's what I'm really into this week:


"What You Wasn't Famous" The Streets - Mike Skinner is back with a great beat and self-deprecating humor. Very good.

This New Day Embrace - Embrace's new album is pretty good. I need to listen a few more times before I review it, but so far I like it. Back to the epic sound they started out with, but with more craft to it.

"Lie to Me" Daniel Powter - Daniel Powter has finally decided on a follow-up single to "Free Loop," his chart-ineligible release from like 5 months ago. I feel like I shouldn't like DP, but I do, and I think this song is really great. It makes you feel good just listening to it.

"Sewn" The Feeling - I still really like this and can't wait for the album. When is it coming out?

"Satin Chic" Goldfrapp - At one point this was slated to be the next single, although now it looks like it will be "Fly Me Away." Too bad, as "Satin Chic" is way better. Love the wicked player piano.

"Crazy" Gnarlz Barkley - Retro rules right now, and this sounds great, like it's fresh from the '70s.

"Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" - I didn't like "Run It!" Crunk isn't my thing, since it's devoid of melody, but this is better.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 4/1/2006

Ne-Yo and Embrace battle it out for #1 on the singles chart while 2 former X Factor contestants claim the top 2 spots on the albums chart. Click below for details.

UK Singles Sales:

1. So Sick - Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo leads a pack of 3 recent US Billboard Hot #1 hits to debut on the UK chart this week. "So Sick" was #1 in the US this week and claims the title in the UK this week also. It was reportedly a tight race, with the #2 track leading at midweek. "So Sick" is a decent R&B ballad, and having your first single debut at #1 is a great way to begin a career

2. Nature's Law - Embrace

As stated above, they were leading at midweek but have to settle for #2. As is often the case with "indie" singles, they start out strong with fan anticipation driving sales, but peter out toward the end of the week. Still, this is by far Embrace's biggest single ever, outpacing th #7 peak of the first single from their last album, the Chris Martin-penned "Gravity" as well as their previously highest charting single ever, 1998's "Come Back to What You Know." This is the first single from their new album, This New Day, out tomorrow in the UK. I've been listening to it all day, and it's not bad (album review forthcoming).

4. Stupid Girls - P!nk

Also debuting with a first single from a forthcoming album is P!nk, who charges in at #4 (actually up from #49 last week) with "Stupid Girls," the best track she's released since 2002's trio of fab pop singles. This is P!nk's 13th top 40 single and 6th to hit the top 5. After the disappointing releases from her last album, this is a real turnaround--a gem of a pop single.

11. Temperature - Sean Paul

Second in the line of recent Billboard #1s. This is actually the #1 single this week in the US, and I'm a bit surprised it didn't go top 10, as Sean Paul has usually done well in Britain. Honestly though, I don't think it's that great, so I'm not disappointed.

16. Bad - Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson continues his re-rereleases, which have consistently charted within the top 20, but not, alas, within the top 10. "Bad" was the second single from Bad, hitting #3 in October 1987.

18. Gold Lion - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

They've been getting heaps of praise for this single and their forthcoming album. "Gold Lion" becomes their second highest-charting hit, just under 2003's #16 release, "Date With The Night."

24. Grillz - Nelly Featuring Paul Wall, Ali, & Gipp

Whoa Nelly! 2This is the last of the 3 recent Billboard #1s to chart, and it comes in surprisingly low for Nelly, who's usually good for a top 10 hit, and has topped the UK chart 4 times, most recently just a few weeks ago as a featured artist on The Notorious BIG's "Nasty Girl."

25. Heart in a Cage - The Strokes

The Strokes score their 8th top 40 hit this week with "Heart in a Cage," second release from First Impressions of Earth. This placement is a bit low for them and may signal fan fatigue, as it's a decent track. I remember a time when The Strokes were cutting edge; now they seem a bit tired.

28. Naive - The Kooks

Speaking of cutting edge, get ready for the Kooks. Retro-rockers in the Franz Ferdinand vein--this is actually their fourth single, and is charting this week on downloads only. Get ready for a top 10 debut next week.

Albums Chart

Welcome to the X Factor album chart. Journey South, a contender group in the last X Factor competition, debut at #1 this week with their self-titled collection of covers. Their sound is vaguely countryish, but very pop. The fact that they topped the chart probably means that when Shayne Ward (the X Factor winner) releases his album soon, it will be big. But wait! At #2 is the debut album by another X Factor contender, Andy Abraham's The Impossible Dream. Andy's sound is jazzy pop and like Journey South is a decent, but unmemorable collection of covers. Down in the bottom rungs of the top 10 are debuts by established artists, Prince debuts at #9 with 3121, presumably the address of his last fling, and at #10 Beverley Knight's greatest hits collection debuts.


It's a third week at #1 for Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On," while James Blunt holds at #2 with "Wisemen." Orson finally make an appearance in the top 5 at #4 with "No Tomorrow."

Keane Preps New Album

Keane's Web site announced the title and tracklisting of their forthcoming album this week. Under The Iron Sea will be released June 12 (June 20 in the US). It is the follow-up to their debut album, Hopes and Fears, which was the second best-selling album in the UK in 2004 and the winner of that's year Brit Award for best album. The album's first single, "Is It Any Wonder?," will be released May 29.

Under the Iron Sea tracks:

1. Atlantic
2. Is It Any Wonder?
3. Nothing in My Way
4. Leaving So Soon?
5. A Bad Dream
6. Hamburg Song
7. Put It Behind You
8. The Iron Sea
9. Crystal Ball
10. Try Again
11. Broken Toy
12. The Frog Prince

Personal Chart, 3/25/2006

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 4 ..... Sewn - The Feeling (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... 8 ..... Red Dress - Sugababes
3 .... 4 ... 38 .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
4 .... 6 ... 13 .... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
5 .... 3 ... 11 .... Sorry - Madonna (4 wks @ #1)
6 ... 11 ... 4 ..... No Tomorrow - Orson
7 ... 10 ... 4 ..... Nature's Law - Embrace
8 .... 9 .... 5 ..... Wisemen - James Blunt
9 .... 5 ... 31 .... You're Beautiful - James Blunt (5 wks @ #1)
10 .. 8 ... 18 .... Be Without You - Mary J. Blige

US Chart Analysis, 4/1/2006

The rapid turnover on the Billboard Hot 100 continues, as there is yet another new #1 single this week, while the High School Musical soundtrack returns to #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Click below for full analysis details.

Billboard Hot 100:

1. Temperature - Sean Paul

Sean Paul's "Temperature" climbs 1 spot this week to become his third #1 single. "Temperature" is his 6th top 40 hit (9th counting featured appearances). Sean Paul broke onto the chart scene in 2002 with "Give Me The Light," which was followed in 2003 by the #1 "Get Busy," as well as his #1 collaboration with Beyonce, "Baby Boy." "Temperature" is the 6th #1 single of 2006, which is the rapid turnover of #1 singles this early in the year since 1991. Comparatively, last year the 6th #1 single didn't chart until Sept. 17th--nearly 6 months later in the calendar year. This week also marks the first time since 1990 that there has been 3 male artists with back-to-back #1s. Sean Paul follows #1s by Ne-Yo and James Blunt. Back in 1990, it was Maxi Priest ("Close to You") followed by George Michael ("Praying For Time") and then James Ingram ("I Don't Have The Heart"). Finally, "Temperature" is also this week's Airplay Gainer.

2. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

Daniel Powter continues his rapid chart rise with "Bad Day," up 3 this week to #2. "Bad Day," this weeks Sales Gainer winner, is now within striking distance of #1. More on the track if it achieves the feat next week.

6. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

New peak for Natasha Bedingfield, up 1 spot this week to #6. The track is #2 on the Top 40 airplay chart (Radio and Records). Nothing new in the top 10 this week.

30. King Without a Crown - Matisyahu

Matisyahu had the highest entry in the top 40 at #28 last week, but drops 2 spots this week.

32. Move Along - All-American Rejects

All-American Rejects score their second top 40 hit this week with "Move Along," the follow-up to their top 10 hit "Dirty Little Secret." The track moves up 19 spots to #32 to become this week's highest entry in the top 40.

35. Tell Me When To Go - E-40 Featuring Keak Da Sneak

E-40 has the second highest entry at #35 (up from #58) with "Tell Me When To Go."

38. S.O.S. (Rescue Me) - Rihanna

Finally at #38 is the last this weeks 3 entries into the top 40. Rihanna rises 6 spots to #38 with "S.O.S.," her third top 40 hit. Her biggest, last year's "Pon Da Replay," spent 3 weeks at #2. "S.O.S." has gotten heaps of airplay, but has been hampered in the chart because the track is not available for digital sale. Also of interest is its liberal use of a sample of Soft Cell's '80s classic, "Tainted Love."

Billboard 200:

The High School Musiscal Soundtrack returns to #1, jumping up over James Blunt's Back to Bedlam, which holds at #2. The biggest debut of the week is E-40 at #3 with My Ghetto Report Card. Fall Out Boy makes a big move this week up 33 spots to #9 with From Under the Cork Tree. The reason for the rapid rise is that the album was just re-released with 5 new bonus tracks.

Top 40 Airplay (Radio and Records):

Mary J. Blige takes "Be Without You" to #1, her second #1 hit on this chart (after 2001's "Family Affair"). Moving up 2 to #2 is Natasha Bedingfield with "Unwritten," although it looks like she won't be able to overtake Blige to hit #1. Most likely the next #1 will come from Rihanna's "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)," up 1 this week to #6. Sean Paul gets his fourth top 10 hit with "Temperature," up 4 to #8. Kelly Clarson's "Walk Away" looks like it will stall out at #5, to become the only one of the five Breakaway singles not to reach at least #2.

The biggest mover this week is Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," up 6 to 29. Two new entries in the top 40 this week, former Mr. Jessica Simpson, Nick Lachey, moves up 5 to #36 with "What's Left of Me," his first solo top 40. In 2000, he had a #18 duet with Jessica Simpson, "Where You Are" (presumably the recording sessions for this was how they met). With his former band, 98 Degrees, Nick had 9 top 40 hits, including top 5 tracks "The Hardest Thing" and "I Do (Cherish You)." The other top 40 entry is Daddy Yankees at #37 with "Rompe."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Battle of the Jimmys

Does anyone else find it an odd concidence that the current pop troudabours of choice--James Blunt and Daniel Powter--both have songs about Jimmy on their albums? James has "So Long Jimmy," while Daniel has "Jimmy Gets High." Either way, Jimmy seems to be going on a trip. Let's take a closer look at what Jimmy's been up to...

1. Jimmy is a rock singer.

Given that "Jimmy" is a nickname for James, it appears that the Jimmy in question in "So Long Jimmy" is the singer himself, while the "Jimmy Gets High" Jimmy is some kind of rocker--perhaps even James Blunt. Either way, Jimmy is definitely a rock singer.

2. Jimmy is bipolar.

"So Long Jimmy" is all about hanging out with Jimmy--the social guy, while in "Jimmy Gets High," he likes to be by himself. Make up your mind! Don't be a social/antisocial wreck.

3. Other people have a love/hate relationship with Jimmy

In "So Long Jimmy" everyone thinks Jimmy is "the one" when he's singing, but in "Jimmy Gets High" everyone "hates (him) when (he's) living off of rock n roll." Clearly the rock music critics are split on the merits of Jimmy's talent.

4. Daniel and James like Jimmy

Regardless of what other people think, both Daniel and James like Jimmy. Daniel says, "Jimmy you and me we get along awhile," while James says "we were just chillin' on the sofa." Sounds friendly.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Singles Reviews

When You Wasn't Famous - The Streets (4.5/5)
You Have Killed Me - Morrissey (3.5/5)
Naive - The Kooks (3.5/5)
All Sparks - Editors (4/5)
Alibi - David Gray (3/5)

Click below to read my reviews.

When You Wasn't Famous - The Streets (4.5/5)

The Streets is back with the first track from his forthcoming third album, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (April 10). It's a great upbeat track--original and humorous. The schtick is that it's easy to get girls when you're famous, unless you're going for a famous girl, then it doesn't count for anything. The video's good too. A sureshot to become his second #1 single. (March 27)

You Have Killed Me - Morrissey (3.5/5)

Morrissey is also back with the first track from his forthcoming album, Ringleader of the Tormentors (April 3). Following his last album, 2004's You Are The Quarry, will be tough feat--his last album scored 4 top 10 singles, including his highest charting ever as a soloist, the #3 hit "Irish Blood, English Heart." "You Have Killed Me" is a decent track, although not as gripping as you want it to be (March 27).

Naive - The Kooks (4/5)

The Kooks. Don't know anything about 'em, but I like this track. It's your standard guitar-driven, attitude-ridden, retro-ish rock sound. Check it out. Better than Arctic Monkeys (March 27).

All Sparks - Editors (4/5)

Editors have gotten a good boost of publicity lately--they're prominently featured on iTunes this week (last single "Munich" was last week's free track). "All Sparks" is just as good as "Munich." (March 27)

Alibi - David Gray (3/5)

This works well as the album opener, but by itself it's just so-so. A little too maudlin, given the relative jauntiness of his last 2 releases. Lots of strings, piano, and crescendo. (March 27)

UK Chart Analysis, 3/25/2006

A deserving track surprisingly hits #1 and Corinne Bailey Rae returns to the roost on the albums chart while continuing to top the airplay chart. Click below to read more

UK Singles:

1. No Tomorrow - Orson

It's always exciting when a track manages to actually climb to #1, since the bulk of UK #1s debut in the top spot. Even more exciting when the #1 song is actually deserving to be at the top. After suffering two weeks of the dreadful Chico single, American rock band Orson reaches the summit after debuting at #5 two weeks ago and rising to #2 last week their first single, "No Tomorrow." Orson have yet to break in the US yet--testing the waters abroad isn't a novel idea--but surely they will be big once "No Tomorrow" hits stateside. It would sounds perfect for frat house parties, sunny days at the beach, twenty-something urban hipster nights, and--crucially--top 40 radio. Who cares that they're being called this year's Maroon 5; Let the onslaught begin.

3. Pump It - Black Eyed Peas

My comment above that singles rarely climb to top the UK chart may soon become anachronistic, as new chart rules that went into effect recently allow singles to debut on the chart the day before they are released as a physical single--hence they would chart in their first
week based solely on download sales. Since physical sales still outpace downloads, this will inevitably lead to a lot of singles debuting low on the chart and leaping up during their second week--their first week of physical sales. The first major beneficiary of the new policy are the Black Eyed Peas, who debuted last week at #16 (downloads only) and this week climb 13 spots to #3 (downloads and discs). Too bad it isn't a more worthy track. I'm not a fan of this group, but surely even fans would be disappointed in "Pump It," an uninspired retread of "Miserlou." In bleaker news, their fifth Monkey Business single, "Gone Going," is already getting heavy airplay in the US, so look for it in the UK soon. I really wish they would "get going."

6. Whole Lotta History - Girls Aloud

Girls aloud have the highest pure debut of the week with "Whole Lotta History," their 12th top 40 single and 12th straight to make it into the top 10. At #6, this is actually the second-highest charting entry from their third album Chemistry--the highest being the #4 peak reached by "Biology" in November. Overall, the Chemistry singles have been somewhat lacking, especially in the charts department, given that #4 was the lowest a Girls Aloud single had charted prior to the first release from this album. Of note, however, is the rapid-fire way they're released singles from this disc--this is the fourth single from the album in less than 7 months, and with 3 months separating this and their previous release, "See The Day," this is actually the longest they've waited to release a follow-up from this album. Only 1 month separated "Biology" and "See The Day."

11. Make a Move On Me - Joey Negro

I haven't been able to hear this song, and I'm quite curious. It debuts at #11 this week. Anyone heard it?

13. One Wish - Ray J

Brandy's brother debuts at #13 with "One Wish." Yippee.

15. Beat It - Michael Jackson

Surely the Michael Jackson music house thought re-releasing his back catalogue would result in a slew of #1s or at least top 10s like we had with Elvis last year. Whatever. Beat It debuts at #15, lower than "Billie Jean," which managed #11 last week. Beat It was originally a #3 hit in April 1983.

16. Piece of My Heart - Beverley Knight

Beverley Knight has never had a major hit--her 2 top 10 hits peaked at #9 and #10--despite being critically acclaimed and garnering a good deal of airplay. "Piece of My Heart" isn't the greatest song, but she does a good job with this remake and actually makes me like it a bit. Not as good as last year's offering though, the fabulous "Keep This Fire Burning." It's her 13th top 40 single, and is from her forthcoming greatest hits album. If she's new to you, check out "Come As You Are," "Shoulda Woulda Coulda," and "Keep This Fire Burning." She's worth it.

17. Live With Me - Massive Attack

At #17 it's another "we gotta have a new track" single from an established artist's greatest hits collection. This time it's Massive Attack with "Live With Me," their 11th top 40 hit and precursor to their forthcoming hits collection, Collected. Like Beverley Knight, Massive Attack are well-known and critically acclaimed, but have never had a major hit. Their highest charting hit was the #10 "Teardrop" from 1998, a very very cool track. Their best known is probably 1991's "Unfinished Sympathy," which showed up on the 1993 soundtrack to the movie Sliver.

18. So Sick - Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo debuts at #18 this week, the highest downloads-only debut this week--watch for it to move up big next week, maybe even to #1. "So Sick" is already a big hit in the US--a former Billboard Hot 100 #1.

20. Fly - Hilary Duff

This was a minor US hit 2 years ago, finally getting a UK release. Next.

21. Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson

The Kelly Clarkson hit machine finally hits a snag in the UK. After 3 straight top 10s, "Walk Away" her fouth Breakaway single in the UK (fifth in the US) manages only #21. Perhaps it's time to walk away and come up with something new Kelly. We love you, but overexposure is a danger.

23. Wisemen - James Blunt

Speaking of overexposure, James Blunt's 4th (sort of) single debuts this week at #23. I say sort of, because this charted over a year ago as his second single, although it failed to hit the top 40 (making only #44). Thinking it could do better now that he's mega-famous, Blunt has re-released his second single. This is the second time he's done this. "High" was originally his first single, released in late 2004, and didn't chart at all, until its October 2005 re-release, which saw it hit #16. Whether or not you like him (I happen to be on his good side), at least he's good for interesting chart trivia.

UK Albums:

Corinne Bailey Rae is back at #1 and Placebo debuts at #7 with Meds. Not much else of interest going on here.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Embrace Returns, Channels U2

Embrace was doing anthemic piano-driven rock years before Coldplay was (okay it was only 3 years), but the band wasn't compared to them until the release of their last album, Out of Nothing, in 2004. Back then they were seen as blending the sounds of reigning Britpop greats Oasis and The Verve. They first charted in 1997 with the brilliant "Fireworks," and then had a trio of top 10 hits over the next year from their debut album, The Good Will Out: "All You Good People," "Come Back to What You Know," and "My Weakness Is None of Your Business."

Second album Drawn From Memory (1999) took them into experimental territory, which failed to generate the calibre of hits that their first album did. Same story with weepy third album, If You've Never Been (2001).

Then came Out of Nothing (2004), a showcase of Coldplay-esque anthemic rock (Chris Martin even penned the album's big hit, "Gravity") that returned them to the top 10. The album was remarkably good, having a big, rich sound without the excesses they had been accused of indulging on earlier works. In interviews the band talked about how hard they worked on the album as if it took everything out of them, and the effort clearly shows.

Next up then is This New Day, out March 26th, and it sounds to me (at least from the Clips on 7 Digital) to be decidedly U2-inspired. First single, "Nature's Law" is really quite good. I'm very excited about the album.

US Chart Analysis, 3/25/2006

Billboard Hot 100:

Ne-Yo's "So Sick" spends a second week at #1. The big story in the top 10 is Daniel Powter, who earns the Sales Gainer award and climbs up 9 spots to land at #5 with "Bad Day." Will he make like James Blunt (Currently #3 and bulleted again with "You're Beautiful") and hit #1? Both tracks were huge hits in Britain last summer. Natasha Bedingfield is up 3 this week to #7 with "Unwritten," and the Airplay Gainer award goes to Dem Franchize Boys' "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It" holding at #9.

The Pussycat Dolls are up 9 spots this week to #16 with "Beep," a decent move, considering the track's top 40 airplay is idling. Former American Idols are back-to-back at #19 and #20. The orginial American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, is up 6 at #19 with "Walk Away," while recent winner Carrie Underwood climbs 4 places to #20 with "Jesus, Take the Wheel."

Hasidic rapper Matisyahu has this weeks biggest entry in the top 40 with "King Without a Crown," at #28 (up from #61).

Billboard 200:

Rap asserts its dominance with 2 top 10 debuts by very different artists. Juvenile debuts at #1 with Reality Check and Matisyahu debuts at #4 with Youth. Meanwhile, James Blunt's Back to Bedlam rises 7 spots to #2--it's highest position yet, putting Blunt within striking distance of having a #1 album on the US chart. David Gilmour, currently #1 on the UK albums chart, debuts at #7 with On an Island. Johnny Cash is all the rage at #8 and #9. His collection, The Legend of Johnny Cash is down 2 to #8, while at #9 (up 2) is a bit of a surprise--the Walk the Line Soundtrack, which features Johnny Cash songs performed not by Cash but by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.

Singles Reviews

Nature's Law - Embrace (5/5)
Stupid Girls - P!nk (4/5)
Piece of My Heart - Beverley Knight (3.5 /5 )
So Sick - Ne-Yo (4/5)

Click below for full reviews

Nature's Law - Embrace (5/5)

Brace yourself for the next chapter in the career of Embrace. "Nature's Law" is the perfect announcement for their upcoming album. Similarly to "Gravity" from their last album, the single announces the direction of the forthcoming longplayer, which sounds even more ambitious--even epic--in scope. This is a beautiful song that effectively pulls together a really big sound that still manages to retain some pretty intimate moments. They've been compared to Coldplay, but perhaps U2 may be more appropriate now. (Released March 20)

Stupid Girls - P!nk (4/5)

"Stupid Girls" is a return to form for P!nk after the disappointing releases from her third album. How to describe? Perhaps as a great blend of sounds, like good P!nk singles in the past were. A little bit rock, a little bit R&B, but all pop. Lots of name-dropping too. Fred Segal and 50 Cent get a couple of slams early on (Fred Segal deservedly--that place is rediculous).

Piece of My Heart - Beverley Knight (3.5 /5 )

This is a decent remake of the classic "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart," a song I don't really care for, but it's hard to dislike in the hands of Beverley Knight, who is completely underrated. It's all soul and swagger like you'd expect, and Beverley really sings her heart out too. (Released March 13)

So Sick - Ne-Yo (4/5)

This is currently #1 on US top 40 radio, and it's a pleasant surprise. It's a beautiful little R&B love song about being "so sick" of love songs. Chris Brown is getting a lot of attention, but my money's on Ne-Yo for the long haul (March 20).

Personal Chart, 3/18/2006

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 5 ..... 3 ..... Sewn - The Feeling (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 3 ..... 7 ..... Red Dress - Sugababes
3 .... 1 .... 10 .... Sorry - Madonna (4 wks @ #1)
4 .... 4 .... 37 .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
5 .... 7 .... 30 .... You're Beautiful - James Blunt (5 wks @ #1)
6 .... 6 .... 12 .... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
7 .... 2 ..... 6 ..... Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
8 ... 10 ... 17 .... Be Without You - Mary J. Blige
9 .... 11 .... 4 .... Wisemen - James Blunt
10 .. 17 .... 3 .... Nature's Law - Embrace

The Feeling scores their first #1 on my chart with their first single, "Sewn." I've said it before and I'll say it again--they're going to be big this year. Sugababes score their third straight #2 single with "Red Dress." James Blunt has 2 entries in my top 10, his current US hit, "You're Beautiful" and his current UK hit, "Wisemen." Embrace is back in the top 10 with "Nature's Law." First single from their last album, "Gravity," topped my chart for 4 weeks in 2004.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 3/18/2006

New chart rules went into effect this week, allowing singles to chart the week before a physical release, therefore having first-week sales completely attributed to downloads. Additionally, new rules also limit older songs abilities to continue to chart based on downloads when the physical single is deleted from shops, so no more pesky "You're Beautiful" spottings. Despite the excitement this might cause, Chico remains #1 and Corinne Bailey Rae finally surpasses Madonna on the airplay chart. Click below to read more

UK Singles:

1. It's Chico Time - Chico

It's another week at #1 for Chico's "It's Chico Time." Since last week, I've learned that in addition to being a former goat herder, he's also a former stripper. Perhaps if the pop singer career doesn't work out he could combine the two?

2. No Tomorrow - Orson

Orson moves up 3 spots to #2 with "No Tomorrow." I don't know what to attribute this to. Perhaps a slow week? Orson are being heralded as the next Maroon 5. I think that's underestimating them.

4. Red Dress - Sugababes

Third single from Sugababes' Taller in More Ways keeps up the consistent quality we've seen with releases from this album as well as the consistently high chart placings. "Red Dress" becomes the highest-charting third single from a Sugababes album, the last "In The Middle," managed #8, and prior to that, "Stronger" came in at #7.

6. Touch the Sky - Kanye West (Featuring Lupe Fiasco)

Fourth single from Kanye West's Grammy-winning Late Registration returns Kanye to the top 10 after the disappointing #22 peak of "Heard 'Em Say." "Touch the Sky" actually bests the #8 peak of the album's first single, "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," to become the album's second-biggest hit, second of course to "Gold Digger." It's West's 5th top 10 hit (7th counting featured appearances).

11. Billie Jean - Michael Jackson

The Michael Jackson re-releases seem to be growing in popularity as "Billie Jean," the fourth such re-release, almost manages to crack the top 10. "Billie Jean" hit #1 in 1983, becoming his second UK #1. In total he's had 7 UK #1 hits, of which 5 are part of this year's re-release lineup ("One Day in My Life" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" having been strangely omitted).

12. Incredible - Shapeshifters

Third single from the Shapeshifters (perhaps from a forthcoming album?) fails to ignite on the chart, despite being a completely decent house track. Their first single from 2 years ago, "Lola's Theme" was the summer dance smash of 2004, and even their last, "Back to Basics" made the top 10 last year.

13. Because I Want To - Placebo

14th Top 40 hit from Placebo fails to make a memorable dent in the chart. Their best were #4 hits in 1996 ("Nancy Boy") and 1998 ("Pure Morning").

16. Pump It - Black Eyed Peas

Ugh! Just go away already! Black Eyed Peas' fourth Monkey Business single is just as annoying as their last. This time they take the great opening music from Pulp Fiction, Dick Dale's "Misirlou" and overlay it with their annoying rants and Fergie's panting. How unfortunate that the single scores a chart first -- the first major release to benefit from the new chart rules and get a fairly high debut the week before the physical single sales kick in. Expect this to rise into the top 10 next week.

18. Unbelievable - Craig David

The singles from Craig David's third album seemed to be on impressive chart roll (#4 "All The Way," #5 "Don't Love You No More") until he hit a brick wall here. Not surprising really. It's a nice song, but somewhat saccharine. At #18, "Unbelievable" actually manages to be his lowest charting top 40 single (his lowest ever was the #43 peak of the 6th single from his second album, "You Don't Miss Your Water").


David Gilmour's On an Island knocks Corinne Bailey Rae's aponymous debut from the #1 spot. Andrea Bocelli debuts at #4 with Amore. It's interesting to see that Simon Webbe has somehow managed to make it into the top 10, at #7 (up 2) with Sanctuary.


Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" is number one, knocking Madonna's "Sorry" from the top after it spent 5 weeks there. Three singles make decent moves into the top 5: James Blunt's "Wisemen" is up 4 to #3, The Feeling's "Sewn" moves back up 2 to #4, and Pink's "Stupid Girls" leaps into the top 10 up 9 to #5. Sugababes "Red Dress" falls 5 to #9 despite being released this week. Surprisingly for them, since both "Push the Button" and "Ugly" were airplay #1s. Perhaps it will rebound next week. Orson moves back into the top 10, up 3 to #8 with "No Tomorrow."

Just outside the top 10, Beverley Knight makes a big move up 12 to #12 with "Piece of My Heart," a remake of the classic "Take Another Little Piece of My Heart," and Embrace move up 4 to #14 with their beautiful "Nature's Law."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Album Review: Goldfrapp - Supernature (4.5/5)

Supernature was first released in September 2005, but its record company held its US release until this week. After 6 months of listening to this, I like it more everyday, and I'm glad to see that Goldfrapp is finally achieving some commercial success with their third album. First single, "Ooh La La," became their first UK top 10 hit, followed by a second top 10 hit "Number 1."

Goldfrapp, made up of Allison Goldfrapp and composer Will Greggory, first appeared on the scene in 2000 with Felt Mountain, a collection of off-beat, atmospheric electronica that was quickly billed as chic dinner party music. It's follow-up, Black Cherry, drew from this sound, but expanded it into the harder realm of '80s-inspired electro. Since then, Goldfrapp has attracted a number of imitators, including the mainstream (and surprisingly decent) work of former S Club 7 singer Rachel Stevens.

Supernature doesn't stray too far from the territory of their last album, Black Cherry, but refines that sound, making it more accessible. Tracks on this album work as songs moreso than those on Black Cherry, which sometimes were more like electro compositions. "Ooh La La" owes more than a little to Cherry's "Strict Machine," but amps up the sex appeal. "Lovely to C U" is decent, but "Ride a White Horse" shines as one of the albums best tracks. Introduced by a continuous bass pulse over which other sounds layer and build, "Horse," along with "Ooh La La" and "Satin Chic" are standout tracks. "Satin Chic" starts out like it's going to be another round of Satanic circus music (ala Mountain's "Oompa Radar"), but quickly shows that it's so much more. The song's downbeat is stronger than its upbeat (is that correct musical theory? who knows). There's also a great '20s-era type piano going on. Lately, I've really really been into this track, and am happy to see it's slated as the album's fourth single.

If you're in the mood for the mellower old school Goldfrapp, that's here too. "Time Out From The World" resembles Cherry's "Hairy Trees," a sexy downbeat electronic ballad. "Let it Take You," is a similar sounds good at 3 a.m. groove. There's little to not like here. "You Never Know," is simple, yet effective, with plodding electronic keyboard chords. "Fly Me Away," sounds like something I've heard in a travel agency TV advertisment (a really clever one, of course). "Slide In" layers the '80s keyboards and electro whizzes to impressive effect. "Number 1"is sufficiently retro too, and an effective closer.

Snow Patrol returns

Snow Patrol's Web site has been updated with a clip of "You're All I Have," the forthcoming first single from their next album, Eyes Open, out May 1. Snow Patrol's last album, Final Straw, was great, particularly their big hit, "Run."

Personal Chart, 3/11/2006

TW LW WKS Title Artist
1 .... 1 .... 9 ..... Sorry - Madonna (4 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... 5 ..... Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
3 .... 5 .... 6 ..... Red Dress - Sugababes
4 .... 3 ... 36 .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
5 ... 14 ... 2 ..... Sewn - The Feeling
6 .... 8 .... 11 ... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
7 ... 10 ... 29 ... You're Beautiful - James Blunt (5 wks @ #1)
8 .... 4 .... 6 ..... Thunder in My Heart Again - Meck Featuring Leo Sayer
9 .... 6 .... 14 ... All Time Love - Will Young (3 wks @ #1)
10 .. 12 .. 16 ... Be Without You - Mary J. Blige

US Chart Analysis, 3/18/2006

Billboard Hot 100:

1. So Sick - Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo makes a big jump up 8 to #1 this week with "So Sick," after finally being released in iTunes so it could get digital sales. This is Ne-Yo's first top 40 hit. It's a love song that purports to be "so sick" of love songs. It's a pretty, tuneful, soulful song. Ne-Yo knocks James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" from #1 after just 1 week at the top.

2. Temperature - Seal Paul

Sean Paul earns the Airplay Gainer award this week, rising 1 spot to #2, surely angry that Ne-Yo leaped over him to reach #1.

4. Be Without You - Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige continues to climb within the top 10 with "Be Without You," however, she's still below her initial peak of #3.

9. Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It - Dem Franchize Boyz

Spellling-challenged Dem Franchize Boyz score their first top 10 hit with "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It," up 2 to #9.

14. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

Daniel Powter earns the Sales Gainer award this week with "Bad Day," up 15 spots to #14. Look for the Canadian singer, already a hit in Europe, to be top 10 next week.

35. Always on Your Side - Sheryl Crow & Sting

Sheryl Crow's had a time of it lately. Breast cancer. Breaking up with Lance Armstrong. "Always on Your Side," a slow track from her album Wildflowers, gets a lift with more radio-friendly production and the addition of Sting, to make it a great single from Crow. It debuts in the top 40 (and the hot 100) at #35 this week.

39. Tonight I Wanna Cry - Keith Urban

Australia country singer Keith Urban, currently beau of Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, scores his 10th top 40 hit with "Tonight I Wanna Cry," up 7 to #39. Urban has had 7 #1 hits on the Country chart, where "Tonight I Wanna Cry" is currently #4.

Billboard 200:

Not content with just topping the singles chart, Ne-Yo's debut album, In My Own Words, also tops the album chart in its first week of release. Ne-Yo leads of trio of top 10 debuts. At #3 is Hawthorne Heights with If Only You Were Lonely and Alan Jackson debuts at #4 with Precious Memories. Also worth noting is that the Kelly Clarkson's bubble seems to finally have burst; Breakaway dives 12 spots this week to #26, its lowest chart position in its 66-week run.

Singles Reviews

Not a particularly exciting week, even with the return of Massive Attack. Click below to read the full reviews.

Wisemen - James Blunt (4/5)
Another Place to Fall - KT Tunstall (4/5)
Whole Lotta History - Girls Aloud (4/5)
Live With Me - Massive Attack (4.5/5)

Wisemen - James Blunt (4/5)

James Blunt's last 2 singles seemed to demonstrate his range of speeds--"High" being the fastest we've heard from him and "Goodbye My Lover" the slowest. "Wisemen" lands somewhere in the middle. It's what we've come to expect from Blunt, guitar-driven, clever, but edgy, but not exactly bland either. Like "High," this is actually a re-release, having first charted at #45 early last year before "Your'e Beautiful" made him a star. (Out Mar. 13)

Another Place to Fall - KT Tunstall (4/5)

"Another Place to Fall" is Tunstall's 5th single from Eye to the Telescope and upholds the consistent quality of the previous four releases. It's amazing that she keeps coming out with them, considering that she's never had a top 10 hit ("Suddenly I See" came closest at #12) and the last, "Under the Weather," made a piddly #39. But the girl can sell albums, and certainly she deserves a top 10 hit--maybe this will finally be it. This release is darker than her previous ones. Low, minor electric guitar chords with acoustic guitars overlain forms the basic structure. I think there might be some accordion in there too. Reminds me of Sarah McLachlan's "Building a Mystery." (Mar. 13)

Whole Lotta History - Girls Aloud (4/5)

Girls Aloud have struggled to score a major hit off their latest album Chemistry, which scores that rare feat of actually working better as an album than as a collection of 4-5 singles with filler. "Whole Lotta History" is another ballad, and although I would say Girls Aloud's strong suit is campy uptempo, this track works very well. Think Spice Girls' "Too Much." I like it a lot better than "See The Day," which I think may qualify as their worst release. This song has a sexy swagger, retro feel, strings, acoustic guitars, and keyboards. (Mar. 13)

Live With Me - Massive Attack (4.5/5)

Massive Attack are back on track, after the misfire of their last album, 100th Window. "Live With Me" swirls in like dark smoke, with the sexy bass vocals of Terry Collier. This is the new track from their upcoming greatest hits collection, and it should fit right in, like it could've come from Mezzanine. (Mar. 13)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 3/11/2006

Another X Factor contestant tops the singles chart (leading 16 new entries in the top 40), while Madonna maintains her grip on the airplay chart, while Corinne Bailey Rae, denied a #1 single, scores the more rewarding feat of having a #1 album. Click below to see the commentary.


1. It's Chico Time - Chico

Chico, full name Chico Slimani was eliminated after the Dec. 3rd episode of The X Factor, but as they contests have shown in the past, you don't have to win to score a hit single. Hence, Chico now launches his career with "It's Chico Time," perhaps the worst single to top the UK singles chart since, well, Shayne Ward. Sadly, it will probably be #1 next week too. At least he's kinda cute and probably the first Morrocan and former goat herder to top the UK singles chart.

2. Beep - The Pussycat Dolls (Featuring Will.I.Am)

After hitting the top with "Don't Cha" and "Stickwitu," the #1 momentum ends for The Pussycat Dolls, but #2 aint bad, especially when up against Chico. "Beep" owes a bit of its structure to the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps," but is ultimately a better track, even if it falls short of their first 2 releases.

5. No Tomorrow - Orson

Orson has been called this year's Maroon 5, and on the back of their debut single, "No Tomorrow," I wouldn't mind hearing more from them. I'm actually surprised this topped British band The Feeling (#7), who seem tipped to be this year's Keane. I'm also surprised that there hasn't been any movement to break them in the US yet, given that the 5-man band is from Hollywood, Calif. I'm eagerly anticipating their album this spring.

7. Sewn - The Feeling

The Feeling is the other great new band with a top 10 hit this week. Like Orson, they are a 5-man band, but heralding from less glitzy Sussex (except for 1 from London). All members are between 25 and 27, and I think better looking than Orson too. They are happy to describe themselves as "pop" and "MOR," a bit modestly I think. This track is great and I'm eagerly anticipating their album too, even more so than Orson.

9. Don't Bother - Shakira

Shakira is back. Yipee. I hope you can hear the excitement in my words. Given the relatively low chart placing (her debut, "Whenever, Wherever" landed at #2 and was one of 2002's 10 best sellers), I think she may not be in it for long haul. Boring.

14. Moodswings (To Come at Me Like That) - Charlotte Church

In contrast, the 4th single from Charlotte Church's first pop album, manages to perform better than expected, outperforming the #17 of her last single, "Even God..." Not bad Charlotte, but I hope she goes back into the studio and comes up with something more brassy/sassy for her second pop album, since "Crazy Chick" and "Call My Name" were so deliciously fun.

15. Rock With You - Michael Jackson

3 down, 17 to go. Can't wait for July.

19. Watchin' - Freemasons Featuring Amanda Wilson

Freemasons are back this week too with "Watchin'," a pretty decent House track that manages a fair top 20 placing. I'm betting top 10 for the Shapeshifters next week.

28. Better Together - Jack Johnson

Now this is surprisingly low for Jack Johnson, considering that he had the #1 album last week and that the track is top 5 in airplay.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar Predictions

Off topic, but I love the Oscars. Click below to see my predictions in every category.

Best Picture - Brokeback Mountain

It's a good year for picture nominees, as I liked all 5. The only one I'd be disappointed to see win would be "Good Night, and Good Luck," but only because I didn't like it as much as the others. Two of the films rose above the others--"Munich" and "Brokeback Mountain," and I'm going with the latter as both my prediction and my favorite.

Best Actor - Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

I'd vote for Heath Ledger, but I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman will win, and he's definitely deserving as Truman Capote. The others were also all good, although again, I'd be disappointed if it went to David Strathairn, if only because I felt we never actually learned much about his character's personal side.

Best Actress - Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Again, if I was voting I'd go for Felicity Huffman, whose performance in "Transamerica" was transformative (in more ways than the obvious). It was amazing how unlike her character on Desperate Housewives she was--hence the good acting. But Reese Witherspoon was good too, and I'd be happy to see her win. Judi Dench always makes it look so easy, because she is such a fabulous actress. Keira Knightley was excellent also in "Pride & Prejudice." I'd only be disappointed if Charlize Theron won, because "North Country" was just so-so.

Supporting Actor - George Clooney, Syriana

This is a tough category as there are many fine performances. I'd vote for Jake Gyllenhaal, but I also really liked Matt Dillon in "Crash." William Hurt was great, but maybe too hammy and he was only in 1 scene. Paul Giamatti was fine, but he didn't wow me in "Cinderella Man." I think Hollywood will honor Clooney more for being Clooney than for being great in "Syriana."

Supporting Actress - Amy Adams, Junebug

I'm gunning for an upset here. Amy Adams was fantastic in "Junebug," and this category has a history of honoring newcomers and surprising roles. Let's hope that happens this year, otherwise, I felt like the nominees were kind of boring. Michelle Williams was great in "Brokeback Mountain," and I'd probably vote for her, but I didn't think she was any more deserving than Anne Hathaway, who wasn't nominated. Also, Catherine Keener is a great actress, but she really didn't have much to do in "Capote," so I feel like her nomination is kind of boring. Ditto for Rachel Weisz, who I thought was fine but not exceptional in "The Constant Gardener," which I feel is getting more end of year praise than it deserves. If were up to me, I'd kick out Weisz, Keener, and maybe even Frances McDormand (who was good in "North Country," but again, I found the movie underwhelming) and replace them with Maria Bello (Mesmerizing in "A History of Violence"), Hathaway, and maybe even Thandie Newton from "Crash."

Director - Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

In a rare but what makes sense move, the 5 nominated directors perfectly match the 5 nominated films. Ang Lee will win, even if "Brokeback Mountain" doesn't win best picture, although that's unlikely. I love that Lee has demonstrated he can skillfully execute romantic comedy, British costume drama, family melodrama, fantasy/martial arts, and now gay western films (we'll let his forray into action superhero films slide).

Adapted Screenplay - Brokeback Mountain

"Brokeback Mountain" is a 50-page short story by Annie Proulx that originally appeared in a short story. On the back of that thin source material, the screenwriters have expanded the story--adding layers and characters without abandonning its original spirit. Marvellous.

Original Screenplay - Crash

If I was voting, I'd probably cast my lot with "Match Point," but "Crash" was great too and covered a lot of issues and characters effectively. It will win, particularly because it won't win best picture, even though it's considered the dark horse there.

Animated Feature - Wallace & Grommit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

I haven't seen "Howl's Moving Castle," and "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" was cute, but nothing special. "Wallace & Gr0mmit" was clever, fun, and well-done. It will win deservingly.

Art Direction - Memoirs of a Geisha

"Memoirs of a Geisha" is the one I haven't seen, but from what I've heard (and from pictures) it looks to be the most lushly realized--a colorful palette of historic detail. Were I voting though, I'd go with "Pride & Prejudice," which was lovely, but realistic in portraying the lifestyles of multiple classes of people.

Cinematography - Brokeback Mountain

"Brokeback Mountain" gets a lot of attention here for the lovely scenery, but the more interesting cinematographic detail was the clever shot compositions that juxtaposed reality and fantasy--sometimes even in the same shot (the last one, for example, with the Brokeback Mountain postcard on the door and the flat, dull Wyoming terrain out the window). It should win, and it's my pick.

Costume Design - Memoirs of a Geisha

Since it's closely linked to Art Direction, expect "Geisha" to dominate here too, although again, since I haven't seen it, I'd probably vote for "Pride & Prejudice." Any why is "Walk the Line" nominated? Johnny Cash just wore black.

Documentary Feature - March of the Penguins

Haven't seen any here I'm afraid (although "Murderball's" in my Tivo queue and "Penguins" is in my Netflix stack). I expect the most popular film, "March of the Penguins" to get the prize.

Documentary Short - The Death of Kevin Carter

I have no clue and have not seen any, so I'll go with EW's choice here. Sounds interesting.

Film Editing - Crash

"Crash" effectively wove together multiple story lines and characters and completely deserves to win here. Were I voting, I'd probably still vote for "Crash," even though I'd be tempted to vote for "Munich," since it was my 2nd-favorite movie of the year, and I'm afraid it's not going to win any Oscars.

Foreign Film - Paradise Now

EW predicts "Tsotsi," but I'm going with "Paradise Now." I didn't see any of these films, but I saw this film's trailer a lot, and it looked intriguing.

Make-Up - Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars won 7 Oscars, Empire Strikes Back 2, and Return of the Jedi 1. The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones won none however, and this is the only chance to award the technical wizardry of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Regardless of what you thought of the stories and characters, the artistry and special effects of the films were extraordinary, and the makeup required to transform Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader--lava burns and severed limbs--was well done.

Original Score - Brokeback Mountain

John Williams is a perennial favorite (he's been nominated 45 times and won for such instantly recognizable scores as "Schindler's List," "E.T.," "Star Wars," and "Jaws"). He may win for "Memoirs of a Geisha," but the stark guitar-based score for "Brokeback Mountain" haunted me for weeks afterward as much as the story did. Although I also loved the music for "Pride & Prejudice," I'm sticking with "Brokeback."

Original Song - "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," Hustle & Flow

The pundits all over the place here. The Academy decided to nominated only 3 songs, but that doesn't make predicting the winner any easier. EW is going with "In The Deep" from Crash, but I don't remember that song. Others suspect Dolly Parton will be recognized for Transamerica's "Travellin' Thru," but the song doesn't really do much for me. "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" was clever, memorable, and central to Hustle & Flow's story arc. It should win, and the fact that "Lose Yourself" won 3 years ago kills that argument that the Academy is too conservative to honor it.

Short Film (Animated) - 9

I've only seen "Badgered," and it's really cute and funny, but I suspects its traditional animation will get beaten out by computer animation, either by the perrennial winner animation powerhouse Pixar ("One Man Band") or more likely the edgy "9."

Short Film (Live) - Ausreisser (The Runaway)

iTunes has these for sale, and they are surprisingly good. "Our Time is Up" is quite funny, but my favorite has to be "Ausreisser (The Runaway)" which is funny, sinister, and touching (in that order).

Sound (Mixing) - Walk the Line

Traditionally, it seemed this award was going to big-budget blockbuster types, but last year it went to "Ray," so this year, perhaps "Walk the Line" has an advantage.

Sound (Editing) - King Kong

Even more so, this award is about special effects, so expect "King Kong," the year-end effects extrvaganza with Peter Jackson cred to take it.

Visual Effects - King Kong

Again, it should go to Kong. The award are given out tomorrow night. Enjoy!

US Chart Analysis, 3/10/2006

Billboard Hot 100:

1. You're Beautiful - James Blunt
8. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

There's a new #1 this week--the first British artist to top the US singles chart in 8 years. James Blunt ascends to the top with his first single, "You're Beautiful," a classic pop/rock ballad about lost love that spent 5 weeks at #1 in Britain last summer. Last time a Brit was #1 on this chart was Elton John in 1997 with his tribute to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind 1997." Although it took about 8 months for Blunt to catch on (he had previously released 2 singles that failed to make the top 40), once he did, he was huge. His album Back to Bedlam, currently in the top 10 and rising in the US, was the top-selling album in Britain last year. "You're Beautiful" ends the 5 week run at #1 for Beyonce's "Check on it." Blunt, along with Natasha Bedingfield (up 1 to #8 this week with "Unwritten") are leading the way for a resurgence in popularity in US. Sugababes anyone?

3. Temperature - Sean Paul

Sean Paul is up 1 to #3 this week with "Temperature," which earns this week's airplay gainer award. The track is Paul's highest-charting solo hit since his #1 "Get Busy" in 2003.

10. Everytime We Touch - Cascada

Cascada earns the sales gainer award and climbs 6 places to land in the top 10 with "Everytime We Touch," a high-energy House track in the vein of last year's DHT remake of "Listen to Your Heart."

29. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

Canadian artist Daniel Powter has the highest top 40 entry (up 12 from #41) with "Bad Day." The single was a big hit in the UK last year, spending 3 weeks at #2 (and 4 wks @ #1 on the airplay chart). I really like the clever video, which is the first example I've seen of graffiti flirting. Very cute.

31. Beep - The Pussycat Dolls Featuring Will.I.Am

The Pussycat Dolls score their 3rd top 40 this week with "Beep," up 19 from #50. Although decidedly weaker than "Don't Cha" or "Stickwitu," it's still pretty fun. Although I gets compared to Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps," I like it much better.

37. Who Says You Can't Come Home - Bon Jovi

Here's a real chart veteran. Bon Jovi enters the top 40 at #37 (up from #54) with "Who Says You Can't Come Home," their first top 40 hit in 6 years. Their 22-year chart career began in 1984 with "Runaway," which peaked at only 39. It was their third album, Slippery When Wet, that made them household names and gave them 2 #1 hits, "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Livin' on a Prayer." This new track is their 20th top 40 hit, and the last since "It's My Life" hit #33 in 2000.

Billboard 200

Over on the albums chart, High School Musical finally ascends to #1, a move we dreaded but which seemed inevitable. Also dreadful is the #2 debut of Kidz Bop 9, the popular series that takes bad remakes of popular songs and adds kid voices to the choruses. Good news at #5 though for James Blunt's Back to Bedlam, which moves up 3 to reach a new peak. Hot new Brit act Arctic Monkeys debut at #24 with Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.

Personal Chart, 3/3/2006

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 8 ..... Sorry - Madonna (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 8 .... 4 ..... Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae
3 .... 4 ... 35 .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
4 .... 2 .... 5 ..... Thunder in My Heart Again - Meck Featuring Leo Sayer
5 .... 7 .... 5 ..... Red Dress - Sugababes
6 .... 3 ... 13 .... All Time Love - Will Young (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 6 .... 6 ..... When the Sun Goes Down - Arctic Monkeys
8 .... 9 ... 10 .... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
9 ... 18 ... 3 ..... Amazing - Westlife
10 .. 12 .. 28 ... You're Beautiful - James Blunt (5 wks @ #1)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Singles Reviews

It's a fabulous week for new releases around here. Sewn and No Tomorrow came out Monday in Britain, and Red Dress and Incredible are out next week. I have a feeling that The Feeling and Orson are going to be hot bands this year. Click below to read reviews of these singles:

Red Dress - Sugababes (5/5)
Sewn - The Feeling (5/5)

No Tomorrow - Orson (4.5/5)
Incredible - Shapeshifters (4.5/5)
Unbelievable - Craig David (3/5)
Jimmy Gets High - Daniel Powter

Red Dress - Sugababes (5/5)

The Sugababes have demonstrated a consistency to deliver catch, fun, innovative pop singles unlike no other girl group around. Girls Aloud, who've suffered a bit of chart blight lately, would kill for a single like this. "Red Dress" is bold and brassy, underscored with horns and plenty of percussion. How could you not smile when listening to this? It's energetic, sexy--everything a great pop single should be. The single version of "Red Dress" also highlights the debut of the band's new member, Amelle Berrabah, who replaced departing member Mutya Buena just after the release of "Ugly." I always liked Mutya, but frankly she's not missed. Amelle has a deeper, richer voice than her, and rounds out the others voices nicely. Slam dunk for the Sugababes.
(Out March 6)

Sewn - The Feeling (5/5)

At first, this sounds like an Embrace clone, but then it opens up and becomes so much more. What a great song. Guitar and piano driven, which of course is a cliche these days, but we're starting to see bands that screw it up (Starsailor's "This Time," for example, was underwhelming). There's some great lengthy sections of repetitive guitar and piano chords that build and segue between verses and choruses. I really love it, and can't wait to hear more from this band. Check out The Feeling's Web site; their lead singer is hot. (2/27)

No Tomorrow - Orson (4.5/5)

Another exciting new band. Orson's album isn't out until May, but "No Tomorrow" is a great lead single--short and sweet, sort of Killers-ish. From their Web site, you can sample other tracks from their forthcoming album, Bright Idea, and I think you will agree that they have potential. "No Tomorrow" doesn't rock as hard as Arctic Monkeys, but it has a enjoyable almost retro feel. (2/27)

Incredible - Shapeshifters (4.5/5)

So at first I was upset that there weren't any dance singles charting well, and then I was upset that the dance singles coming out sucked. That all changes with Shapeshifters, back after a year's absence with another great dance track. It seems they will never top "Lola's Theme," one of the best House tracks released this decade, but "Incredible" is a great track, and improves after repeat listens. It really says "night out in London" to me. (3/6)

Unbelievable - Craig David (3/5)

It seems Craig David never gives up--he managed to squeeze 6 singles off his second album, even though none were #1s. He's still not as hot as he was in 2001 with his debut, but at least his third album shows some growth. This a decent, but not very original, love ballad. Lots of acoustic guitar and some strings too, of course. (3/6)

Jimmy Gets High - Daniel Powter (2.5/5)

"Bad Day" was a great single, but badly overexposed, and Powter still hasn't recovered from it. Because of an ineligibility snafu, his last single, "Free Loop," didn't chart, and "Jimmy Gets High" is an even lesser release than his first 2 singles. It's okay, rolls along with jolly pianos and overproduction, but really doesn't do much for me. Sorry Daniel. Still love that cute "Bad Day" video though. (3/6)