Thursday, November 30, 2006

Grammy Nominees Predictions

The Grammy Nominations come out a week from today. Last year my predicitons for both album and record of the year were pretty good--4 out of 5 in each category. Here are some predictions for this year:

Album of the Year

Mary J Blige - The Breakthrough
Bob Dylan - Modern Times
Nelly Furtado - Loose
Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium

Justin Timberlake and Bob Dylan look like shoo-ins to me, and Mary J Blige looks pretty strong. Red Hot Chili Peppers have never been nominated here, but Stadium Arcadium was universally praised, and "Dani California" was a fairly big hit, so they have a shot. Loose got mixed reviews, but scored some big hits, and last year's Mariah Carey album was seen as a shoo-in, and its reviews weren't as good as Furtado's. The Dixie Chicks seem like a longshot here, but some say it's possible. Beyonce or the Fray could be longshots too. Let's not even consider the High School Musical soundtrack.

Record of the Year

Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
Mary J. Blige - Be Without You
James Blunt - You're Beautiful
Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland - Promiscuous
Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland - Sexyback

Gnarls Barkley and Nelly Furtado are very obvious here, and I think Justin Timberlake and Mary J Blige have a good shot here too. It's that 5th spot that's hard to predict. Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" could get it just as easily as James Blunt, but I like James Blunt better, so I'm going with him. Chris Brown's "Run It" seems like a longshot, and Beyonce doesn't have a standout here, unless they decide "Irreplaceable" is qualified--seems like a better choice for next year. I'd love to see Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" here, but given that Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" was shut out last year, there's no hope for Natasha.

Female Pop Vocal

Christina Aguilera - Ain't No Other Man
Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
Kelly Clarkson - Walk Away
KT Tunstall - Black Horse & the Cherry Tree

Althought it's called a "pop" category, adult contemporary always seems to dominate. So expect whatever was big on pop AC to do well on the solo and group pop categories. If they do stray more toward top 40, Rihanna's "SOS" could have a shot, as could Jojo's "Too Little, Too Late" or even Madonna with "Hung Up," although Madonna rarely gets Grammy nominations.

Male Pop Vocal

James Blunt - You're Beautiful
Jack Johnson - Upside Down
Nick Lachey - What's Left of Me
John Mayer - Waiting on the World to Change
Daniel Powter - Bad Day

Rob Thomas didn't have a hit this year, so maybe he won't be nominated, unless "Streetcar Symphony" or "Ever the Same" squeaks in. Don't expect to see Justin Timberlake here, since he had rappers with him, so he'll show up in the collaborations category. Lionel Richie's "I Call It Love" might have a shot, but I'm hoping Nick Lachey can get a nomination, as "What Left of Me" was a classy pop song, and a big hit. James Blunt and Daniel Powter will duke it out for the win though.

Pop Duo or Group with Vocal

The Fray - Over My Head (Cable Car)
Gnarls Barkley - Crazy
The Killers - When You Were Young
Nickelback - Photograph
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Dani California

Unlike the solo categories, this one doesn't necessarily swing AC, so it can be a lot harder to predict. Last year the White Stripes showed up here with "My Doorbell." Was that a US pop hit? Certainly not. There was also a live version of Maroon 5's "This Love" nominated. Who could predict that a 2004 hit would show up again as a "live" nominee? They even won! So my nominees are a real stab in the dark.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals

Mary J Blige featuring Bono - One
Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland - Promiscuous
Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean - Hips Don't Lie
Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland - Sexyback

Thanks to Timbaland, this is a hot category this year, assuming Grammy goes the way I think they will. I expect this will be Shakira's only real recognition for "Hips Don't Lie,"which will be overshadowed by bigger hit "Promiscious." I have no idea what the fifth nominee will be, so I won't even guess.

Billboard Hot 100, 12/9/2006

1. I Wanna Love You - Akon (featuring Snoop Dogg)

Akon sits pretty at #1 for a second week with "I Wanna Love You." He's lost his bullet though, so I expect a new #1 next week, and there's a hot track at #2.

2. Irreplaceable - Beyonce

After two subpar singles ("Deja Vu" and "Ring the Alarm") Beyonce is back in true form with "Irreplaceable," which has a good shot at becoming her fourth #1 single next week. The single rises a notch this week to #2 and is the chart's greatest airplay gainer--a very good sign she will continue moving upwards next week.

3. Smack That - Akon (featuring Eminem)

Akon's other big hit keeps its bullet, despite moving down a spot to make room for fast-rising Beyonce. The track gave up its #1 spot in Britain this week for Take That's comeback hit, "Patience."

5. How to Save a Life - The Fray

It peaked at #3 awhile ago on sales and now The Fray manages to creep back into the top 5 on it's growing airplay support, up three this week from #8. Their first single, "Over My Head (Cable Car)" peaked at #8.

7. Wind It Up - Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani makes a big leap this week--up 18 spots this week to #7 with "Wind It Up," this week's greatest sales gainer. At #7, the single matches the peak of her second most successful solo single, "Rich Girl," surpassed only by #1 hit "Hollaback Girl." Counting her appearance on Eve's #2 hit, "Let Me Blow Ya Mind," this is Stefani's fourth top 10 hit.

10. Fergalicious - Fergie

Fergie takes a big dip this week, down five spots to #5, losing her bullet. I suspect this is a product of the bizarre occurance whereby her album, the Dutchess, was mysterious missing from iTunes for a few days this week. It's back now, but the missing sales days seems to have taken its toll on her chart performance. "Fergalicious" tumbles from #2 to #11 on the Digital Songs chart. Ouch. I wonder if Apple or Fergie's label is to blame for this.

20. That's That S*** - Snoop Dogg (featuring R. Kelly)

Snoop Dogg scores his 6th top 20 this week, making a big leap into the top 40 up 65 slots to #20 with "That That S***." This is R. Kelly's first appearance in the top 40 this year; his last big hit was last year's #22, "Trapped in the Closet (Chapter 1)."

25. Say It Right - Nelly Furtado

Nelly Furtado scores her 5th top 40 hit this week with "Say It Right," the third single from her massively succesful third album, Loose. "Maneater," although a #1 hit in Britain, proved an unworthy US successor to #1 hit"Promiscuous," peaking at only #16. "Say It Right" appears to be on track to surpass "Maneater," rising an impressive 41 spots this week to #25.

41. Wait a Minute - The Pussycat Dolls

Just outside the top 40 this week is the fifth US single from The Pussycat Dolls, "Wait a Minute," which rises 12 spots to #41. The Pussycat Dolls already have 4 top 40 hits under their belt, including "Dont Cha" (#2), "Buttons" (#3), and "Stickwitu" (#5). "Beep" was their only single to miss the top 10, peaking at #13.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Billboard Music Awards Nominees

Billboard announced their BMA nominees today. BMA categories are based upon Billboard's year-end charts, with the award going to whoever is #1 for the year in that category. The nominees for the Hot 100 are:

"Bad Day" - Daniel Powter
"Promiscuous" - Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland
and "Temperature" - Sean Paul

So one of those three songs is the #1 single of 2006 in the Billboard Hot 100. Interestingly, all of them are foreign artists; Daniel Powter and Nelly Furtado are Canadian and Sean Paul is Jamaican. So a non-American is guaranteed to top the Hot 100 this year, which last happened in 2002 when Canadian group Nickelback was #1 with "How You Remind Me."

I can think of at least three other foreign artists that might land in the top 10 of the year-end Hot 100, Rihanna's "SOS" (Barbados), Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten" (Britain), and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" (Colombia). That's quite a turnaround from last year when the highest a non-American act charted was #18 (Rihanna with "Pon Da Replay"). Foreigners held down the top 4 spots of the Hot 100 in 1998, with George Michael (Britain), INXS (Australia), George Harrison (Britain), and Rick Astley (Britain).

As for this year's "nominees," my bet is that Nelly Furtado is going to be this year's Hot 100 chart topper.

The albums set to top the year-end Billboard 200 are a sorry lot:

"All the Right Reasons," Nickelback
"High School Musical" soundtrack, Various Artists
"Some Hearts," Carrie Underwood

I read somewhere that High School Musical is the best-selling album of the year, so look for that at #1. Carrie Underwood has certainly done well for herself, becoming arguably the second most successful artist from American Idol. I would expect that Rascal Flatts and Mary J. Blige will also show up in the top 10.

Personal Chart, 12/2/2006

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Patience - Take That (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Love It When You Call - The Feeling
3 .... 4 .... My Love - Justin Timberlake
4 .... 5 .... Lovelight - Robbie Williams
5 ... 10 ... Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters
6 .... 3 .... Rock Steady - All Saints (2 wks @ #1)
7 .... 9 .... Fergalicious - Fergie
8 ... 15 ... All Good Things (Come to an End) - Nelly Furtado
9 ... 14 ... Irreplaceable - Beyonce
10 .. 6 .... Easy - Sugababes

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New Music Monday, 11/27/2006

No serious challenge to Take That spending at second week at #1, although a few singles will vy for the top 10. The week's big release is Nelly Furtado's third Loose single, "All Good Things (Come to an End)," which made a big splash on the singles chart last week by debuting at #13 on downloads, an unusually high debut for an album's third single. Furtado keeps up her winning streak with another great track, this time a ballad written by Coldplay's Chris Martin.

The Killers offer their second Sam's Town single, Bones, another of the album's standout tracks with a good dose of '80s-style keyboarding. Fergie's second single, "Fergalicious" is silly, but so much fun. It has a better beat than "London Bridge," and is great fun. Scottish rockers the Fratellis had their first top 1o single with their last release, "Chelsea Dagger." They hope to repeat that success with "Whistle for the Choir," a fantastic song.

Straight to the rubbish bin goes Janet Jackson's latest single "So Excited." So bored is more like it, as that's how she sounds and after a listen so will you. My how the mighty have fallen. Nelly Furtado (4.5/5), The Killers (4.5/5), Fergie (4/5), The Fratellis (4/5), Janet Jackson (1/5).

Boybands will be duking it out for #1 on the albums chart this week. Most notable is the release of Take That's comeback album, Beautiful World, featuring current #1 single "Patience." The other big challenger for #1 is another boyband of sorts, "classical" singers Il Divo, who release their third album, Siempre. Both of their other albums topped the UK albums chart. Trip-hop group Faithless releases their fifth studio album, To All New Arrivals, which features current single "Bombs."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 12/2/2006

1. Patience - Take That

Back at number one this week after a 10 year hiatus is Take That, the British boyband that arguably started the European boyband craze, which is still going to this day (Westlife's 14th #1 hit, "The Rose," is down to #5 this week). Take That released their first single, "Do What U Like" in 1991, but it failed to catch fire. It wasn't until their fourth single, "It Only Takes a Minute," hit the top 10 that the group made the public's notice. From their second, third, and final greatest hits collections they scored eight #1 hits, which would have been consecutive save for the #3 performance of "Love Ain't Here Anymore." They called it quits in 1996 with their swan song #1, "How Deep Is Your Love," venturing off into solo career territory.

In the last 10 years, Gary Barlow and Mark Owen had a few hits each, with Barlow hitting #1 twice. Robbie Williams, how left the band early has gone on to become an international superstar. Now the band, minus Williams, has reunited. New album Beautiful World is out tomorrow and it's first single, the lush pop ballad "Patience," is this weeks #1, becoming Take That's ninth chart topper.

3. Downtown - Emma Bunton

Emma Bunton scores her 7th top 10 hit this week with "Downtown," a remake of the 1960s Petula Clark song that was chosen as this year's BBC Children in Need charity single. "Downtown's" cheery '60s pop fits Emma Bunton perfectly, and sounds like the perfect soundtrack for downtown holiday shopping, which commenced in force this weekend in the US.

13. All Good Things (Come to an End) - Nelly Furtado

Making a big splash on downloads is Nelly Furtado's third Loose single, Chris Martin-penned ballad "All Good Things (Come to an End)," which has a strong chance of being in the top 5 next week. This is a surprisingly high downloads showing for a third single. Even "Promiscious" managed only #15 for its downloads pre-release week.

16. Snow (Hey Oh) - Red Hot Chili Peppers

The modern renaissance of the Red Hot Chili Peppers continues this week with "Snow (Hey Oh)," which at #16 matches the peak of their last single, "Tell Me Baby." They've been consistently good over the last few years and keep it up here.

18. Love It When You Call - The Feeling

I'm surprised this didn't make the top 10, despite it being the band's fourth single. "Love It When You Call" tops the UK's airplay chart this week for a second week, holding off Take That. It's a great song, but haven't they all been from this band? Definitely one of 2006's most impressive newcomers.

19. Boogie 2Nite - Booty Luv

Debuting on downloads at #19 is Booty Luv's "Boogie 2Nite," a good bet it will be in the top 10 next week. It's actually a dance remake of a 2002 song by Tweet, best known for her top 5 hit "Oops (Oh My)." Not a bad song, but nothing truly great either.

21. Someone Should Tell You - Lemar

Lemar makes a disappointing #1 with "Someone Should Tell You," which follows up his top 10 hit "It's Not That Easy." His first single, "Dance (With U)" remains his highest charting hit (#2 in 2003), however I would argue that "If There's Any Justice," (#3 in 2004) is his biggest hits.

26. Bombs - Faithless (featuring Harry Collier)

A fairly mellow release for Faithless, the first from their forthcoming fifth album, To All New Arrivals, out Monday. Cool video, but the song isn't one of their greatest. Last time on the chart they hit #17 a year ago with "Insomnia 2005," a new version of their biggest hit, "Insomnia," which hit #3 in 1995.

27. Nobody Knows - Pink

Pink's latest suffers fourth single woes as "Nobody Knows" comes in at only #27 after three straight top 10s. It's a great track, but I can't say I'm surprised. Fourth single from Trouble, "Last to Know" also came in quite low (#21).

Album Review: Robbie Williams - Rudebox (4/5)

Robbie Williams has had a time of it lately. The press trashed single “Rudebox,” proclaiming it a career-ending mistake. I can’t understand why. Sure, it’s disposable, but it’s silly fun. If left everyone guessing though about what the album would be like.

If Intensive Care was Robbie’s bid to be taken seriously, then Rudebox is a complete 180. This campy collection of electro, dance-pop, and remakes is so loaded with cheekiness that I daresay it may completely lack any seriousness at all, which makes it Williams’ most honest album yet. His public persona has always been over-the-top with a wink, so it’s nice to him finally make some music to match.

Take “She’s Madonna,” a Pet Shop Boys-produced ode to pop icon Madonna that namechecks a few of her songs (“The Look of Love” and “Frozen”). It involves Robbie forsaking some woman in favor of Madonna, who he proclaims that “no man on Earth” can resist, the implication being no matter if he’s straight or gay. It’s my favorite track on the album and sounds very Pet Shop Boys, with lush synths and electronic bass beats.

The other Pet Shop Boys-produced track is hilarious and makes me laugh every time I hear it. “We’re the Pet Shop Boys” was originally recorded by My Robot Friend as an ode (or joke) about PSB, who, being jokesters themselves, recorded their own version as a B-side in 2003. Now they hand it over to Robbie Williams and make it a duet with him. It just strikes me as very funny to hear Robbie Williams and Neil Tennant singing together “we’re the Pet Shop Boys.”

“Rudebox” itself is offensive, silly, meaningless, but irresistible. “To the rudebox, shake your rudebox” commands a woman while Robbie raps and a computerized voice sings the chorus. Spaceships are involved somehow too. The sci-fi theme continues on “Viva Life on Mars,” which includes banjo and an effect similar to what was heard in Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.”

“Lovelight” approaches something closest to a “normal” song. It’s a remake—one of several—and sounds like something George Michael would put out. Woman of the moment Lily Allen shows up on “Bongo Bong/Je ne t’aime plus,” which features more Robbie rap and some horns. It’s okay, not one of the better moments. “Kiss Me” is another fine moment, a remake of Stephen Duffy’s energetic 1981 single; Duffy being Williams’ principal collaborator on Intensive Care and the new tracks on Greatest Hits.

Odes abound on this album. Besides those to Madonna and the Pet Shop Boys, there’s also odes of sorts to drugs and actors. “Good Doctor” is an ode to prescription narcotics. I want “Xanax, Vicadin and Oxycotton,” says Robbie over a soulful organ and piano arrangement. “The Actor” is an ode to actors, or rather how annoying they can be. Robbie sings about how irresistible actors can be, even if they’re bad, while a woman spouts acting clich├ęs (“all I have is my instinct”). Then Robbie raps off a bunch of actors’ names, reminiscent of Madonna’s “Vogue,” a list that includes Madonna Ritchie sandwiched between Judi Dench and Meryl Streep, which sounds like a slap, despite the ode a few tracks back. Fickle, isn’t he? I love how it ends: “Joaquin..Joaquin..Joaquin, Joaquin, Joaquin, Joaquin, SWANK!”

Despite the artifice, an RW trademark, Rudebox can be surprisingly personal too. “The ‘80s” and “The ‘90s” form an interesting couplet that tell first the story of his childhood and then life with Take That. They’re more interesting as stories than as songs. Both have Robbie rapping about his past (he’s talked about how he’s jealous of rappers, for their lifestyles). He can’t resist another jab at Gary Barlow, although he claims to have still loved him despite it being hard to get along with him. The song ends at around 1995, at Robbie’s lowpoint just before launching his solo career (which we all know bloomed beautifully in 1997 with the release of “Angels,” still his best moment).

Among all this experimenting, there are some experiments that just don’t work. “Louise,” despite being a Human League remake and produced by William Orbit, is a but dull (much better is Orbit’s other track, “Summertime”). “Burslem Normals” is about some graffiti gang in the town where Robbie grew up, and is similarly dull electro. “Keep On” opens with some nonsense about Motel Hotel and the Holiday Inn, while Lily Allen, in her second appearance, sings about how she loves her mom and dad. Robbie raps, lush keyboards come in. I’m not sure what to make of this eclectic mess, but it is interesting. That’s a good place to leave this. Rudebox is an eclectic mess, but a good mess, one that finally finds Robbie doing something different, fun, and personal.

Best tracks: Rudebox, Viva Life on Mars, Lovelight, She’s Madonna, The Actor, We’re the Pet Shop Boys, Kiss Me, The ‘80s, Summertime.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Keane 4th Under the Iron Sea single

"A Bad Dream" showed up on the upcoming releases schedule for a Jan. 22 release. Yay! This is my favorite song on the album and I would've been very disappointed if it hadn't been released. Given the relatively poor chart performance of "Crystal Ball" and "Nothing In My Way," I wouldn't have been surprised if there wasn't a fourth single. Keep your fingers crossed it holds.

Personal Chart, 11/25/2006

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 15 ... Patience - Take That (1 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 7 .... Love It When You Call - The Feeling
3 .... 1 .... Rock Steady - All Saints (2 wks @ #1)
4 .... 4 .... My Love - Justin Timberlake
5 .... 5 .... Lovelight - Robbie Williams
6 .... 2 .... Easy - Sugababes
7 .... 6 .... The Saints Are Coming - U2 & Green Day
8 .... 3 .... Jump - Madonna
9 ... 10 ... Fergalicious - Fergie
10 . 16 ... Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters

Thursday, November 23, 2006

US Chart Analysis, Billboard Hot 100, 12/2/2006

1. I Wanna Love You - Akon (featuring Snoop Dogg)
2. Smack That - Akon (featuring Eminem)

There's no one hotter than Akon at the moment, who manages the stellar feat of having both the #1 and #2 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 this week. Last time this happened was September 2005 when Mariah Carey was #1 and #2 with "We Belong Together" and "Shake it Off." Impressively, Akon is a trans-Atlantic chart topper this week, as he is also #1 on the UK singles chart, although with "Smack That" instead of "I Wanna Love You."

That "I Wanna Love You" and not "Smack That" is #1 is a bit of a surprise though. Last week the top 4 was a locked in a fierce competition between four bulleted and fast-rising singles. "I Wanna Love You" shoots to #1 from #17 this week, pushing those four singles back a bit, becoming Akon's first #1 hit.

3. Irreplaceable - Beyonce

Continuing her impressive rise is Beyonce, up one to #3 this week with "Irreplaceable," which is this week's greatest airplay gainer. This song still has a good shot at being #1, as it currently tops iTunes singles sales chart. She now matches the peak of her 2004 hit "Naughty Girl."

4. My Love - Justin Timberlake

After 3 weeks at the top Justin Timberlake's "My Love" loses its bullet and tumbles to #4 amid stiff competition in the top 5.

5. Fergalicious - Fergie

Despite retaining its bullet, "Fergalicious" back-pedals a bit, falling two spots to #5. Inexplicably Fergie has been deleted from iTunes this week, a really stupid move just before the holiday shopping season moves into full force. Unless that's a technical error, expect this to drop like a stone next week without its sales.

Not much else going on outside the top 10. So I'll leave it at that.

UK Chart Analysis, 11/25/2006

1. Smack That - Akon (featuring Eminem)

In another contentious chart battle for #1 this week the upper hand goes to Akon, who scores his second #1 hit this week with "Smack That," which features another popular rapper, Eminem, who himself has had six #1 hits and eight other top 10s.

2. My Love - Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake must content himself with #2, a peak he has now achieved with four of his five top 10 singles. The exception being his last top 10 hit, "Sexyback," which became his first and so far only #1. "My Love" is currently #1 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Mediabase top 40 airplay charts.

4. Patience - Take That

Debuting all the way up at #4 on downloads is the big comeback single from Take That, "Patience," a lush radio-friendly ballad that will vault them to #1 next week, a place they haven't been in over ten years.

8. Lovelight - Robbie Williams

Of course former Take That member Robbie Williams is not participating in the boyband's revival, but at least he joins his former bandmates in the top 10 this week with "Lovelight." The second single from his latest album, Rudebox, becomes his 25th top 10 hit. In an odd twist, the is the fourth time (and third in a row) that the second single from a Robbie Williams album peaks at #8 (presumably this won't climb next week). "Lazy Days," second single from his debut album Life Thru a Lens, hit #8 the summer of 1997. More recently, "Misunderstood," the second Greatest Hits single, hit #8 in December 2004, and last year Intensive Care's second single "Advertising Space" hit #8 in December.

So where will Robbie go with single number three? Here it gets trickier. "Lazy Days" was followed by "Angels," arguably Robbie's career-defining single and one of the greatest moments in British pop music from the last 1o years, while "Advertising Space" was followed by "Sin Sin Sin," his lowest charting single ever. Somewhere in between then likely for his next release.

11. Hurt - Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera can't help but feeling a little "Hurt" by placing just outside the top 10 this week with her second Back to Basics single. Although it bears a resemblance to the formula that gave Christina one of her biggest hits, 2003 #1 hit "Beautiful," this just doesn't measure up to that peak performance. This is only her second single to land outside the top 10, after 2000's "I Turn to You" (#19), but it actually has a chance to climb into the top 10 next week, which would give her a 14th top 10 hit.

18. Set the Fire to the Third Bar - Snow Patrol (featuring Martha Wainwright)

Good news first. Martha Wainwright scores her first top 20 hit ever with "Set the Fire to the Third Bar." Bad news: Snow Patrol follows two consecutive top 10 hits, including their biggest hit ever, "Chasing Cars," with a great song that barely manages to stay within the top 20. Sure "Chasing Cars" was an amazing chart story--the single having been only #15 the week of its physical release and then six weeks later hit #6--but I just don't see that kind of feat being accomplished by this track.

19. I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters

The singles from Scissor Sisters averaged about 5 weeks on the top 40 each, dropping pretty quickly from their debut spots. In contrast, I Don't Feel Like Dancin' is showing some amazing longevity, actually moving up a notch this week in its 12th week within the top 20, of which 9 weeks were spent in the top 10 and 4 at #1. "Land of a Thousand Words," the second Ta-Dah single, will be eligible for download sales in two weeks, so expect some overlap.

23. Coming Around Again - Simon Webbe

Getting a strange reprieve is Simon Webbe, who climbs two spots to #23 this week with "Coming Around Again" after a massive plunge last week from #12.

24. Downtown - Emma Bunton

Second-highest debut on downloads is the latest from Emma Bunton. This is the former Spice Girl's 9th top 40 hit and as this year's BBC Children in Need charity single, has a good chance at doing very well next week, perhaps #2 or #3 (nobody will be able to stop Take That, certainly not Emma Bunton).

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Music Monday, 11/20/2006

Big releases both on the singles and albums lists. Leading the singles pack is the much-anticipated comeback track for Take That. Ballad "Patience" hits all the right notes, updating the band's sound to the modern boyband sound--you have to remember that Take That called it quits before Backstreet Boys even took off. While the All Saints' comeback seems to already be over--their album Studio One debuted at a measly #40 this week--Take That is set to soar. New album Beautiful World is due next week.

Emma Bunton has the honor, or rather the luck, to record this year's BBC Children in Need charity single, "Downtown," a remake of the Petula Clark '60s classic. Coming off her last album, the jazzy '60s throwback Free Me, this suits her perfectly, and the draw of the Children in Need single is likely to deliver her biggest hit since "What Took You So Long."

The Feeling delivers another winning single in "Love It When You Call," their fourth release from Twelve Stops and Home, which continues in the upbeat retro/rock vein of their last two releases. It's already #1 on the airplay chart, and could become their fourth top 10 hit. Lemar offers a second from sophomore album, The Truth About Love. "Someone Should Tell You" is a good song, although next to his last, "It's Not That Easy," or his greatest, "If There's Any Justice," it's a bit bland.

Red Hot Chili Peppers' third Stadium Arcadium single, mid-tempo "Snow (Hey Oh)," is another winner. Pink offers surprisingly tender moments in piano ballad "Nobody Knows," her fourth I'm Not Dead single. Take That (4.5/5), Emma Bunton (4/5), The Feeling (4.5/5), Lemar (3/5), Red Hot Chili Peppers (3.5/5), Pink (4/5).

The big album of the week is the "greatest hits" package from Oasis, Stop the Clocks. I put that in quotes because this retrospective is the band-selected collection of their favorite songs, not necessarily their greatest hits. It includes recently-released B-sides like "The Masterplan" and "Acquiesce" over #1 hits like "All Around the World" and "D'You What I Mean."

Also offering up hits packages are U2, with the 1-disc U218 featuring recent Green Day collaboration "The Saints Are Coming. " If you didn't splurge for their 1998 and 2002 sets, this might be for you. Burt Bacharach offers a definitive collection while the Corrs and the Carpenters offer ultimate collections. Even Gloria Estefan has a new "Best of."

Releasing new material, sort of, is Westlife, who's 9th release, The Love Album, is a collection of remakes of love songs, including recent #1 "The Rose." Rappers Akon and Jay-Z put out new discs, Konvicted and Kingdom Come, respectively.

And if that's not enough, here's a few bizarre items being offered this week. First off is the Billy Idol Christmas album, Happy Holidays, which is supposedly a straight-up Christmas album of classic renditions. Michael Bolton swings his pony tail to Frank Sinatra on Bolton Swings Sinatra. Ten years deceased doesn't stop 2Pac from releasing his 6th posthumously created album, Pac's Life, featuring a flood of guest starss. Finally there's Love from the Beatles, which amounts to a remix and mash-up collection put together by George Martin's son.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Scissor Sisters' "Land of a Thousand Words" Video

I love Scissor Sisters and James Bond--how cool to combine the two.

Album Review: Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah (4.5 / 5)

Scissor Sisters ignited gay parties and dance clubs in 2004 with their debut album, Scissor Sisters, an eclectic collection of campy, retro-inspired dance pop that drew on inspirations like Wham!, Pink Floyd, the Bee Gees, and Elton John. Globally, it was a phenomenal success, becoming the best-selling album of year in the UK. Given such unexpected success, the five-piece group--fronted by flamboyant Jake Shears and self-proclaimed gay-man-in-a-woman’s-body Ana Matronic—faced the daunting task of creating a follow-up.

Ta-Dah then smartly sticks to the smart wink-and-a-slap formula established by its predecessor. But see how that exclamation point is missing? Subtle yes, but indicative of the darker side of the album, which mostly shines through its mysterious, voluminous lyrics. The exterior may be all dances and smiles, but look deeper and there’s pain, anger, and hurt bubbling beneath the surface. And while the some of the same camp influences show up here—Elton John co-wrote and plays piano on “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”—more serious influences such as the devastation of New Orleans and literary references to Walt Whitman and Michael Cunningham are present too.

“I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” has to be the most danceable, upbeat, and energetic ode to feeling blue and not wanting to dance imaginable. The fun, frothy track opens the album brilliantly, picking up the party from where Scissor Sisters left off, but interjecting a subtle not of melancholy, one that weaves itself throughout the album lyrically, if not musically.

“She’s My Man,” is similarly electric, but listen closely and you’ll hear the darker tale it tells about New Orleans and some mythic crazy woman who chokes people on her riverboat. Lyrically, the Scissor Sisters approach Alanis Morissette territory with some of these songs, which are stuffed full of words describing who knows what counter-cultural reference they managed to dig up. The tune takes a page from Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing.”

Like the first two songs, third track cloaks a darker tale in an upbeat production. “I Can’t Dance” is a jaunty, silly melody, complete with banjo, but the lyrics tell of a depressed and jilted lover mulling the fate of the one who wronged him, “I can’t decide whether you should live or die.” Randomly, Gina Gershon shows up here playing the harp. “Lights,” despite being a fairly upbeat, mid-tempo number, is actually inspired by the last words of Shears’s dying aunt, “when you cut the lights out, think of me.”

Ana Matronic takes a welcome turn at the lead mic with “Kiss You Off,” a track she co-wrote with Shears and Babydaddy, the band’s two principal songwriters. It’s energetic, electro-tinged, and another highlight in an album that has few off-key moments. The only track I don’t care much for is “Intermission,” the other Elton John collaboration, which is a strange bit of cabaret. No drums here, just piano, vocals, and an odd assortment of other instruments.

Mid-tempo “The Other Side” is another highlight. The song was inspired by Michael Cunningham’s latest novel, Specimen Days, and includes some Judy Garland dialogue. It’s awash in synths, but has a good electric guitar bridge.

“Ooh” struts in like a pep talk among the depression and features some Dracula-esque organ/keyboarding during its middle section. “Paul McCartney” is an odd one. This sounds very ‘80s to me, makes no reference (at least none that I can detect) to either Paul or the Beatles, yet supposedly is inspired by Sir. McCartney. There’s no denying Scissor Sisters is a strange band, and its songs like this that remind you that despite the seriousness on display here, they still can do something just for the hell of it.

Slower tracks are good too. “Land of a Thousand Words” takes a break from the dance floor, slipping in melodic piano chords and strings, similar, yet grander that last album’s “Mary.” “Might Tell You Tonight” finds someone on brink of declaring their love and intention to settle down, something you’d never imagine the Scissor Sisters would ponder, but yet here it is.

The album almost can’t help but not live it to its hype—how do you top a best-selling album? But it certainly comes close, delivering a smart collection that improves listen after listen and offers no duds. Now if only their homeland would wake up and embrace them too.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Billboard Hot 100 Analysis, 11/25/2006

1. My Love - Justin Timberlake

What an exciting time for the Hot 100. Remember when, just a few years ago, it was so boring an stale? Justin Timberlake retains the #1 position for a third week, but with his bullet gone, the 3 songs from #2 to #4 will be vying for #1 next week, and it's a tight, tight competition.

2. Smack That - Akon (featuring Eminem)

Akon leads the pack of would-be #1s for next week with "Smack That," his collaboration with Eminem. At #2, it's already two spots ahead of previous best, 2005's "Lonely," which peaked at #4. This song is posing huge airplay gains at top 40. Interestingly, this track is leading at top 40, not on the R&B and rap charts, where it is climbing, but not yet top 10.

3. Fergalicious - Fergie

Fergie holds at #3, but continues to post strong gains at top 40. I think she's going to get mowed over by Beyonce at #4 though.

4. Irreplaceable - Beyonce

With lines like "to the left, to the left," and "don't you ever think, you're irreplaceable," it's easy to confuse this song for an election commentary. At #4 this week it matches the peak of first B'Day single "Deja Vu," and should climb even higher, given it's momentum. It's this week's Airplay Gainer winner.

8. Show Me What You Got - Jay-Z

A few places below Beyonce is her boyfriend Jay-Z, who scores his sixth top 10 hit this week with "Show Me What You Got," making a big leap from #47. He's only had two top 5 hits as lead artist, his best being #4 "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" with girlfriend Beyonce. Wouldn't you like to have separate top 10 hits at the same time with your girlfriend? I'm sure they love counting up the $$$s.

11. It Ends Tonight - All-American Rejects

All-American Rejects is up 7 spots to #11 with "It Ends Tonight," pulling it ahead of the #15 peak of their last single, "Move Along," to become their second-highest charting hit. Top 10 next week?

16. Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood

Fresh from having won a CMA award for Female Vocalist of the Year (to the chagrin of Faith Hill), Carrie Underwood is fastly establishing herself as the second most successful American Idol alumna. She has a long, long way to go to catch frontrunner Kelly Clarkson, who's topped any incarnation of a Billboard chart 41 times now, 30 #1s ahead of second-place Fantasia's 11 number ones. "Before He Cheats" climbs 9 places this week, scoring a third top 20 hit for Underwood. Only Clarskon has had more top 20 hits on the Hot 100 (she's had 7).

17. I Wanna Love You - Akon (featuring Snoop Dogg)

Not content with just one hit in the top 20, Akon's second rises three to #17 this week. This single is bigger at R&B stations, but is also impacting at top 40, and wil surely score him another top 10.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Personal Chart, 11/18/2006

Click below for full top 40

1 1 Rock Steady - All Saints (2 wks @ #1)
2 2 Easy - Sugababes
3 3 Jump - Madonna
4 4 My Love - Justin Timberlake
5 6 Lovelight - Robbie Williams
6 9 The Saints Are Coming - U2 & Green Day
7 16 Love It When You Call - The Feeling
8 5 Too Little, Too Late - Jojo (2 wks @ #1)
9 7 Wonderful World - James Morrison
10 13 Fergalicious - Fergie
11 10 Coming Around Again - Simon Webbe
12 17 Self Control - Infernal
13 8 Nothing in My Way - Keane
14 15 Hurt - Christina Aguilera
15 39 Patience - Take That
16 33 Land of a Thousand Words - Scissor Sisters
17 12 I Don't Feel Like Dancin' - Scissor Sisters (10 wks @ #1)
18 11 Welcome to the Black Parade - My Chemical
19 22 Irreplaceable - Beyonce
20 21 Set the Fire to the Third Bar - Snow Patrol
21 24 Someone Should Tell You - Lemar
22 32 Wind It Up - Gwen Stefani
23 29 All Good Things (Come to an End) - Nelly Furtado
24 31 Bones - The Killers
25 30 Yeah Yeah - Bodyrox Featuring Luciana
26 26 Put Your Hands Up For Detroit - Fedde Le Grand
27 25 Beware of the Dog - Jamelia
28 28 Who Cares? - Gnarls Barkley
29 14 Something Kinda Ooooh - Girls Aloud
30 38 The Rose - Westlife
31 18 This Is Not Real Love - George Michael & Mutya
32 36 The Masterplan - Oasis
33 34 Nobody Knows - Pink
34 35 Shoot the Runner - Kasabian
35 20 Runaway - Jamiroquai
36 19 America - Razorlight
37 37 Lithium - Evanescence
38 NEW Snow (Hey Oh) - Red Hot Chili Peppers
39 NEW Say It Right - Nelly Furtado
40 NEW Downtown - Emma Bunton

Sunday, November 12, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 11/18/2006

What an exciting chart week. As I’ve discussed, this week had a flood of major releases, including three huge singles competing for the top three. This week brings 13 debuts and three risers that debuted on download sales last week. Five of the debuts are downloads-only sellers, so next week should be really exciting too. With all this tight competition, the record of the week is…

1. The Rose - Westlife

Westlife it is then. Despite not appearing on either the BBC Radio 1 or Radio 2 playlists, Westlife continues to defy all logic to score yet another #1 single. The 21st single of their career—all of which have gone top 5—becomes their 14th #1 single, lengthening their chart career to nearly 8 years now. The track, a remake of the song made famous by Bette Midler, is from The Love Album, the eighth Westlife longplayer (they’ve released one every November since their debut in 1999, including a greatest hits collection in 2002). This is their sixth remake #1, following “I Have a Dream,” “Against All Odds,” “Uptown Girl,” “Mandy,” and “You Raise Me Up.”

2. The Saints Are Coming – U2 & Green Day

Pole position then goes to U2 & Green Day with “The Saints Are Coming,” a remake of the 1978 punk rock song by Scottish band the Skids. The single is a charity release to benefit the music industry of New Orleans, still struggling since Hurricane Katrina. At #2, this tops the #3 performance of “American Idiot” just over 2 years ago to become Green Day’s highest-charting single. This is U2’s fifth #2 single, matching the performance of their last release, “One,” a remake of their own 1992 hit and another collaboration, that time with Mary J. Blige. It will appear on U2's forthcoming greatest hits collection, U218.

3. Rock Steady – All Saints

As if by introduction, “The Saints Are Coming” is followed at #3 by the All Saints and their big comeback “Rock Steady.” Not heard since late 2000, the previously dismantled All Saints reformed this year, and appear to be going as strong as ever. The band appeared on the scene in 1997, hitting the top 10 with “I Know Where It’s At.” They followed that with “Never Ever,” which first debuted at #3, but stuck around in the top 10 for a long time, hitting #1 eight weeks later. The single was a huge seller, and won the Brit Award for best British single of 1997. The success of “Never Ever” propelled the girl group to stardom as the cool antidote to the Spice Girls, whose star was beginning to fade. All Saints scored four more #1 singles, including 2000’s second-biggest seller, “Pure Shores,” from the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach. New album Studio One is out tomorrow.

8. Easy – Sugababes

Losing out on the top 5 competition are the Sugababes with “Easy,” their fantastic new single from Overloaded: The Singles Collection, out tomorrow. This is a surprisingly low placing for them, owing to the unusual competition from Westlife, U2 & Green Day, and the All Saints. Surprisingly, this track hasn’t gotten much airplay, a sharp contrast to last year’s “Push the Button” and “Ugly” which both were airplay #1s. This is their 12th top 10 hit, all of which appear on the new collection.

9. Jump – Madonna

Here’s a pleasant surprise. Despite the very stiff competition and the well-known “diminishing returns” effect (the fact that subsequent singles from an album usually chart progressively lower), Madonna’s fourth Confessions on a Dancefloor single manages to become the 4th straight top 10 hit from that album, just a couple of rungs below the #7 peak of the last single, “Get Together.” More radio friendly than its predecessor (and scoring better airplay, having peaked at #3 last week on the airplay chat), “Jump” is fun dance/pop. Even if the video is bit lame, this is a great single, her 58th top 10 (not counting re-release placings).

12. Smack That – Akon (featuring Eminem)

A surprisingly high downloads debut for Akon, perhaps owing to his co-star’s popularity. Akon scored three top 10 hits from his first album, including #1 single “Lonely.” This is the first single from his forthcoming second album.

14. My Love – Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.)

The second-highest downloads only debut is from Justin Timberlake, who hit #1 with his last single, “Sexyback,” could it be #1 next week?

15. This is Not Real Love – George Michael & Mutya

George Michael’s greatest hits collection, TwentyFive, is out tomorrow, promoted by this release, a smoky ballad duet with former Sugababes member Mutya Buena. Her old sisters beat her by seven places, but Mutya and George’s voices do go well together on this sexy, simple song. At #15, this is 2 places lower than his summer single, “An Easier Affair,” also included on the new collection. This is George Michael’s 34th solo top 40 hit and Mutya’s first.

17. Shoot the Runner – Kasabian

Kasbian’s 6th top 40 hit becomes their 6th straight to go top 20. More accessible than previous release, the top 10 “Empire” from the summer, “Shoot the Runner” is a fun sing-along track. Can’t you just hear this playing during sporting events?

18. Self Control – Infernal

Why wasn’t this a bigger hit? This is a fantastic song, a remake of one of Laura Branigan’s biggest ’80s hits. They hit #2 earlier this year with their first single, “From Paris to Berlin,” which, at last as of July, was the second-biggest selling single of the year.

22. Wild Blue Yonder – Paul Weller

Paul Weller, founder of The Jam, has an enduring popularity in the UK, that doesn’t stretch far beyond those waters. This is his first top 40 single for 2006; his last top 10, “From the Floorboards Up,” hit #6 in the summer of 2005.

28. Lovelight – Robbie Williams

Debuting on downloads is Robbie Williams’ second Rudebox single, “Lovelight.” Covering more familiar pop territory than previous single “Rudebox,” “Lovelight” is a fun retro/disco remake. Should go top 10 next week. “Lovelight’s” #28 debut bests “Rudebox’s” #30 downloads debut from 2 months ago.

29. I Just Wanna Know – Taio Cruz

I’ve never heard of this guy, but it sounds like typically bland U.S. R&B, although it does have a nice strings bridge. That’s about the only thing going for it.

33. Hurt – Christina Aguilera

Also debuting on downloads is the second Back to Basics single from Christina Aguilera. This time she’s gone to the album’s eclectic second disc for a Linda Perry-penned Ballad, “Hurt,” which explores similar territory to her 2003 #1, “Beautiful.” Last time out she hit #2 with snappy “Ain’t No Other Man.”

37. Set the Fire to the Third Bar – Snow Patrol (featuring Martha Wainwright)

Snow Patrol debuts at #37 on downloads alone. Last single “Chasing Cars” took 8 weeks to reach its eventual peak position at #6, and it’s still hanging around the top 40, rising one place this week to #26 in its 17th week. Will “Set the Fire to the Third Bar” perform similarly? Likely not, given the glut of big new releases over the next month that will push older singles out of the top 40 faster than during the summer.

39. I Found Out – The Pigeon Detectives

I don’t what this is, but I don’t like it. Yuck.

So that’s it for this week. Next week Justin Timberlake and Akon will try to unseat Westlife for #1. Hard to tell if they’ll do it. Westlife’s last single, “You Raise Me Up” became a surprisingly big hit, spending 2 weeks at #1, but nine of their #1s spent only a week at the top, a few with big falls the week after.

Album Review: The Killers - Sam's Town (4/5)

A little band named The Killers became the hottest thing in music in 2004 with their debut album Hot Fuss. Fun, quirky songs, accomplished guitar and keyboard combos, and a new wave sensibility with a wink caught hold both abroad and in the U.S.

They became the band everyone wanted to emulate, forcing the band in a new direction for second album Sam’s Town. Rather than change their winning musical sound though, the band has gone for depth, mining the sounds of big ‘80s American rock, namely Bruce Springsteen and U2 (I know U2 is Irish, but would anyone argue that The Joshua Tree isn’t an American album?). The results are mostly winning, certainly just as grand as their first album, even if they fall short of the album’s epic goals.

Opening track “Sam’s Town” demonstrates the band’s musical formula isn’t straying far from what they established on Hot Fuss: electric guitars and keyboards with Brandon Flowers wailing for all he’s worth. It’s a concert-ready track, breaking into a pre-packaged sing-along refrain at the end.

“When You Were Young” covers similar but faster territory. Flowers sings like a maniac offering up lines like “he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus.” It surpasses “Mr. Brightside” to become their single finest musical moment yet.

“Bling (Confessions of a King)” has a guitar rhythm reminiscent of Hot Fuss’s “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” and a keyboard scored chorus straight from the ‘80s. Mid-tempo “Read My Mind” is a pretty song, its lyrics creating the small-town American landscape in tribute to Springsteen. It would make a great third single. Darker “Uncle Jonny” is good too, though at times a little plodding. Second single “Bones” is another new-wave styled highlight. Twinkly keyboards and a dose of horns add a good sense of fun.

“This River is Wild” radiates musical energy with two layers of electric guitars and keyboards that really come to the forefront (they get buried on many songs in favor of the guitars). Gentle “Why Do I Keep Counting” is good too and particularly melodic, as is the closing "Exitlude."

No bad tracks, but some are better than others. “For Reasons Unknown” stretches Brandon’s vocal abilities too far. He’s criticized as being somewhat limited as a singer, and while I don’t find him annoying, like say the lead singer of Razorlight, I do agree that he’s not well-suited for some of the songs here that require a Bono-like belter that Flowers just isn’t. “My List’s” piano, strings, and bass opening is the album’s quietest moment, which unfortunately also reveals Flowers’ vocal weakness. He sounds better when the song picks up with guitars, perhaps because his of the multi-tracking on his vocals. His vocal “wavering” gets old.

Sam's Town is not as far-straying from Hot Fuss as perhaps intended (or not, given that it sold tons), but thoroughly enjoyable, and thankfully not over-long at 10 songs (with 2 interludes). Highlights: When You Were Young, Bling (Confessions of a King), Read My Mind, Bones, This River is Wild.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More trouble in Bond land?

It's no secret the latest Bond film, Casino Royale, has been wracked with problems getting to the screen, but now something appears to be up with the movie's traditional Bond Theme. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave had recorded and released on-line "You Know My Name." However, it appears that plans to release the song as a single have been scrapped, and the song does not appear on the tracklisting of either the US or UK version of the soundtrack. Very strange.

New Music Monday, 11/13/2006

While not as exciting as last week, this week, as well as the next few, offer some pretty good singles releases as well as a great volume of the perennial greatest hits collections that hit stores this time of year in advance of the holidays.

Leading the pack are a trio of second releases from major artists' latest albums. Justin Timberlake follows up "Sexyback" with "My Love." Covering more accessible and traditional pop/R&B territory for him, "My Love" is slinky, sexy pop, similar to his 2002 hit, "Cry Me a River." Will the UK embrace this as easily (and quickly) as the US did? My guess is 'yes.' Also following up an uncharacteristic release, in this case late summer's "Rudebox," Robbbie Williams offers "Lovelight," a lovely, upbeat mid-tempo retro piece of funky pop that wouldn't have sounded out of place coming from Jamiroquai. Christina Aguilera follows hyperactive "Ain't No Other Man" with fornlorn power ballad "Hurt." It's a lovely song, and although Aguilera can't resist punching those sharp chorus notes, she does show some restraint as well.

Snow Patrol will have a tough time following the single of their career, "Chasing Cars." They've chosen strange ballad "Set the Fire to the Third Bar," a surprisingly choice in my mind. It starts out as quiet and understated but gets quite dramatic as it goes on. Good, but doesn't hold a candle to "You're All I Have" or "Chasing Cars." Orson mines their album for a fourth single, "Already Over," which is pretty good, but like Snow Patrol's, not as good as what preceeded it.

Finally, Oasis has released an EP with a handful of tracks from their forthcoming greatest hits. The one getting airplay is "The Masterplan," a fan favorite and unreleased title track from their collection of B-sides. It's a great song--clearly should've been a single in 2000--and stands beside songs like "Live Forever" and "Wonderwall" as embodying the classic Oasis sound.

My ratings: Justin Timberlake (4/5), Robbie Williams (4.5/5), Christina Aguilera (4/5), Snow Patrol (3.5/5), Orson (3/5), Oasis (4/5).

The big album of the week is the return offering from the All Saints. Studio One features their current hit single, "Rock Steady," and from listening to the preview clips, many hits to come. Simon Webbe offers his sophomore effort, Grace, featuring "Coming Around Again," and Jack Black's band Tenacious D, releases its second album, The Pick of Destiny, a tie-in to the forthcoming film.

Greatest hits collections dominate the rest of the new releases. The biggest of which is the Sugababes' Overloaded: The Singles Collection. It includes two new tracks--current single "Easy" and "Good to be Gone"--along with 13 of their 16 singles, smartly jettisoning three of their less memorable releases.

The other two releases are a bit of a head scratcher. In 1998, Depeche Mode released two separate collections of singles, that included the remastered single versions of all of their singles in chronological order from 1981-1985 on the first release and 1986-1998 on the second. It was the perfect move for casual Depeche Mode fans as well as the more dedicated ones, since their singles often drifted from their album verions.

In contrast, the new release The Best of Depeche Mode, Vol. 1, is neither chronological nor comprehensive. It doesn't even include all of the new tracks released since the 1998 collection; the only single included from Exciter is "Dream On," and then only two tracks from Playing the Angel, "Precious" and "Suffer Well." There's a new track, current single "Martyr," and then 14 of their older singles, all of which were included on the 2-disc 1998 releases. These are, however, their biggest and best-known songs, so this would make a good first taste of the band, but to anyone else it is unsatisfying.

The other one is even more baffling. George Michael also released a 2-disc greatest hits offering in 1998. Although not comprehensive, nor chronological, it included most of his major releases and even some rare cuts and B-sides, as well as three new tracks. Since 1998, he's released only one album to score any singles--Patience--all six of which can be found on TwentyFive. The collection spans two or three discs depending on which version you buy. The two-disc version features faster tracks (labeled "For the Living") on one disc and the slower ones ("For the Loving") on the other (similar to how his last collection's discs were titled "For the Feet" and "For the Mind"). A third disc, "For the Loyal," includes cuts from his 1999 covers album and the other seven tracks from Patience. Yes! all 7 of them. The entire Patience album, save for the short closing cut, is included in TwentyFive. The only saving point here is that he's included four of the Wham! singles, though that excludes some really big ones. And "I Want Your Sex," which was missing from the 1998 collection (it included a remix), is still missing here.

Finally, Enya offers an unnecessary re-release of last year's Amarantine, now with a second disc of four Christmas tracks, including her take on "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

Friday, November 10, 2006

US Chart Analysis, 11/18/2006

1. My Love - Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.)

Justin Timberlake (featuring T.I.) tops the Billboard Hot 100 for a second week with My Love, his second #1 hit and the only artist to have repeat #1s so far this year. T.I. had his biggest solo hit earlier this year with "What You Know," which hit #3 in March. "My Love" still has a ways to go before matching the 7-week #1 peak of Timberlake's last single, "Sexyback."

2. Smack That - Akon (featuring Eminem)

Akon's "Smack That" spends a third week in pole position. Akon's previous best was last year's #4 hit, "Lonely."

3. Fergalicious - Fergie

Fergie earns the Sales Gainer award this week, moving up another three spots to #3 with "Fergalicious." While I initially hated "London Bridge" (it later grew on me), I'm totally loving "Fergalicious," which is poppier and even sillier than prior #1 single. She could be the second artist with repeat #1s in 2006.

9. Irreplaceable - Beyonce

Beyonce's third B'Day single, quickly released on the back of tepidly received "Ring That Alarm" outruns its predecessor this week, soaring 15 spots to #9, becoming Beyonce's 7th solo top 10 hit. This single is looking really good. It should easily outperform the album's first single, "Deja Vu," which peaked at #4, but had only lukewarm airplay and burned out quickly.

15. Welcome to the Black Parade - My Chemical Romance

They may have spent 2 weeks at #1 in Britain, but in the U.S., My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to the Black Parade" could only make #13, from where it slips this week to #15.

18. It Ends Tonight - All-American Rejects

All-American Rejects are on a roll. "It Ends Tonight," the third single from their second major album, edges up 14 spots to #18, a climb similar to that performed by their last single, "Move Along," which rose from 32 to 16 in one week. If it can crack the top 10, this will be their second, after "Dirty Little Secret," which hit #9 in January.

22. Hurt - Christina Aguilera

Christina's 13th top 40 hit, "Hurt," climbs five places this week to #22. We'll see if it can crack the top 20 next week to become her 11th top 20 hit.

40. Wind It Up - Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani makes a splashy Hot 100 debut at #40 with "Wind It Up," the first single from her forthcoming second solo album. "Wind It Up" is Stefani's fifth top 40 solo hit, who hit the top 40 four times with singles from her first album, Love.Angel.Music.Baby. Singles from that album had a bell curve of peaks: #s 47, 7, 1, 13, 21, and 49 for "What U Waiting For," "Rich Girl," "Hollaback Girl," "Cool," "Luxurious," and "Crash."

Another #1 for Madonna

"Jump" climbed to the summit of the Billboard Dance (Club Play) chart this week, becoming Madonna's 37th #1 on this chart. She's 4 for 4 on hitting #1 with Confessions on a Dancefloor singles.

I'd really like to see Madonna release a retrospective collection of dance remixes. She's due for a collection anyway, since they come every 3-5 years from her (1987, 1990, 1995, and 2001). Since the '87 collection was dance remixes and the '90 collection had dance remixes on it, perhaps she should start with 1992 forward. Here's my suggested tracklist:

Disc 1
1. Jump
2. Get Together
3. Sorry
4. Hung Up
5. Nothing Fails
6. Love Profusion
7. Hollywood
8. American Life
9. Die Another Day
10. Impressive Instant
11. What it Feels Like for a Girl
12. Don't Tell Me
13. Music

Disc 2
1. American Pie
2. Beautiful Stranger
3. Nothing Really Matters
4. Ray of Light
5. Frozen
6. Don't Cry For Me Argentina
7. Bedtime Story
8. Secret
9. Fever
10. Deeper and Deeper
11. Erotica
12. The Beast Within (Justify My Love)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Album Review: Christina Aguilera - Back to Basics (3/5)

Blonde teen pop singers Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears both released their phenomenally successful debut albums in 1999, setting up a situation for easy comparison ever since. In my mind, the biggest distinction has been Britney’s quantity to Christina’s quality. Britney had released two more albums by the time Christina released her 2002 follow-up, and Britney has released a total of six discs now at the point where Christina is just getting around to her third. However, despite al of Britney’s releases, she’s managed only three #1 hits on either the Billboard Hot 100 or R&R Top 40, whereas Christina has had five, as well as a more consistent top 10 record. Britney virtually lives in the tabloid world, allowing them to report every mundane detail of her barefoot, convenience store-going life, while Christina rarely appears in the tabs and certainly never barefoot. While Britney has trashed her image, Christina has refined hers—and she’s never looked better than she does these days.

With that in mind, it’s a shame Christina’s taken a page from Britney in delivering a mammoth album of 22 songs spread over two discs. Back to Basics is not just one concept album, but two: Disc 1 is a soulful, jazzy collection of heavily retro-inspired R&B, a tribute to Christina’s musical influences produced mostly by DJ Premier, while Disc 2 is a mix of circus freakshow and ‘40s-style songs produced by Linda Perry. It’s certainly an ambitious undertaking and there are some great moments, but unfortunately at it’s length there’s a lot that could have been cut. Let’s take it disc by disc.

The first disc’s intro sets up the concept: “get inside the minds of every legend I ever wanted to stand beside.” This followed by the fairly simple, soulful piano and choir-backed “Makes We Wanna Pray,” a good but not great start.

The album picks up with the next two tracks. “Back to the Day” reiterates the challenge set forth in the intro, with Christina singing that she’s going back to where it began, name-checking artists like Lena Horne, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong. It’s a fun song, with record scratching and scratchy ‘70s-sounding sampling. “Ain’t No Other Man,” the first single, is the real gem of the album. It’s a fantastic, fast, horn-laden romp of a song and Christina really sings the hell out of it. Really great.

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the really great moments on Disc 1. Other good songs include the slower ‘70s-sounding “Understand;” piano ballad “Oh Mother,” which features a great strings bridge; “On Our Way,” which has a similar piano and scratchy record sound; and mid-tempo acoustic guitar number “Without You,” which is not another Badfinger remake, but does remind me of early ‘90s Mariah Carey stuff.

The rest, while not bad, is decidedly so-so. “Slow Down Baby” is too repetitive, “Still Dirrty,” an obvious ode to last album’s single “Dirtty,” is fun but not very musically interesting, and “Here to Stay” declares she’s not going away, although at this point I’ve had more horn blasts and retro record scratchy noise than I think I can take, so I really am ready for something else.

There’s also some unwelcome egomania going on here. “F.U.S.S.” stands for “F.U. Scott Storch,” a slam against her Stripped producer who bad-mouthed her during an interview after he was passed over for production work on Back to Basics. “Thank You (Dedication)” is recordings from fans telling Christina about how much they appreciate her and how she’s changed their lives. Please.

If disc 1 suffers from too much of the same, then disc 2 has the opposite problem. It’s a bizarre mix of styles that lacks cohesion. It’s almost like disc 2 was an afterthought—a favor to friend Linda Perry, who produced all of the second disc’s tracks.

It opens with “Enter the Circus,” an intro of sorts with creepy circus music, a ringleader, and a choir of voices. It wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tim Burton soundtrack. It’s bizarre and frankly a little scary. This is followed by “Welcome,” the second intro, which continues with the circus theme, adding strings and piano. It’s one of disc 2’s better moments, but that’s not saying much.

What does work here are three tracks of varying stylistic origin, namely “Hurt,” the album’s second single. “Hurt” is an emotional pop ballad lined with lush piano and strings and a knockout vocal performance by Aguilera, who both reins herself in and lets it out on this number, an obvious successor to “Beautiful.” It’s out of place on this disc, but only because it lacks the strange artifice of the rest of the songs. Also good is “Candyman,” an energetic early ‘50s-sounding number, with horns, hand claps, and a spot-on vocal delivery. It doesn’t really fit here either, but I like it. Understated “Save Me From Myself,” is also good, featuring an unprocessed raw vocal, acoustic guitar, and some strings. It’s such a contrast to the surrounding bombast.

The other four tracks are either okay or just bad. “Nasty Naughty Boy” establishes a fun, sexy ‘40s cabaret style, but quickly wears out its welcome. “Mercy on Me” has too much production: organs, weird choir vocals, strings, etc. Dull “I Got Trouble,” another ‘40s-ish track announces its old by the underlying vinyl static (Wasn’t the purpose of digital music formats to eliminate this?). The album’s final track, “The Right Man” goes too far over the top to be enjoyable.

Back to Basics
would have been a fantastic album, if it had been only half as long. Disc 1 in particular shows innovation, creativity, and class, but has too many similar songs. Disc 2 is just a mess, but does have a few salvageable moments. Aguilera deserves a lot of credit for taking some major risks on this project and for really stretching herself and the bounds of pop music. But someone should have reined her in.

Get it: Ain’t No Other Man, Hurt, Back to the Day, Candyman, Makes Me Wanna Pray, Oh Mother, Without You, Understand, Save Me From Myself
Skip it: F.U.S.S., Thank You (Dedication), and everything else on Disc 2.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Personal Chart, 11/11/2006

Click below to jump to entire top 40

1 5 Rock Steady – All Saints (1 week @ #1)
2 2 Easy - Sugababes
3 3 Jump - Madonna
4 4 My Love – Justin Timberlake
5 1 Too Little, Too Late - Jojo (2 wks @ #1)
6 9 Lovelight – Robbie Williams
7 7 Wonderful World – James Morrison
8 8 Nothing in My Way - Keane
9 27 The Saints Are Coming – U2 & Green Day
10 12 Coming Around Again – Simon Webbe
11 10 Welcome to the Black Parade – My Chemical Romance
12 6 I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ – Scissor Sisters (12 wks @ #1)
13 15 Fergalicious - Fergie
14 13 Something Kinda Ooooh – Girls Aloud
15 16 Hurt – Christina Aguilera
16 26 Love It When You Call – The Feeling
17 30 Self Control - Infernal
18 17 This Is Not Real Love – George Michael & Mutya Buena
19 11 America - Razorlight
20 22 Runaway - Jamiroquai
21 29 Set The Fire to the Third Bar – Snow Patrol
22 25 Irreplaceable - Beyonce
23 14 When You Were Young – The Killers
24 NEW Someone Should Tell You - Lemar
25 32 Beware of the Dog - Jamelia
26 34 Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit – Fedde Le Grand
27 19 Ooh La – The Kooks
28 NEW Who Cares? – Gnarls Barkley
29 37 All Good Things(Come to an End) – Nelly Furtado
30 NEW Yeah Yeah – Bodyrox Featuring Luciana
31 39 Bones – The Killers
32 NEW Wind It Up – Gwen Stefani
33 NEW Land of a Thousand Words – Scissor Sisters
36 Nobody Knows - Pink
35 NEW Shoot the Runner - Kasabian
36 NEW The Masterplan - Oasis
40 Lithium - Evanescence
38 NEW The Rose - Westlife
39 NEW Patience – Take That
40 18 It’s Not That Easy - Lemar

Monday, November 06, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 11/11/2006

An exciting week for the chart--14 new singles in the top 40 plus one big mover into the top 10 and a new number one. Number one on the album's chart: the fantastic greatest hits collection from Girls Aloud.

1. Put Your Hands Up For Detroit - Fedde Le Grand

I've written a lot about how poorly dance music has fared on the charts this year. That changes miraculously, as we have two proper club hits at the top of the chart this week. Fedde Le Grand debuted in the top 40 at #2 this week, but with McFly dropping like a stone and no real competition until next week, his single climbs to #1. Classifying Madonna and Scissor Sisters as pop, this is the first true club #1 since Meck's "Thunder in My Heart" hit #1 in February. This actually sounds like it could have come from that late 90s/early 00s era of House music.

2. Yeah Yeah - Bodyrox Featuring Luciana

The dance music continues at #2 with Bodyrox. In at #11 on downloads last week, this looked like it could be #1 this week, but has to settle for #2. The track was originally done as an instrumental, but added the vocals of Luciana a couple of months ago. She's not the greatest of vocalists, but this has an irresistable beat. It's growing on me.

6. The Saints Are Coming - U2 & Green Day

The highest debut of the week comes from the superstar matchup of U2 and Green Day, two of the hottest rock bands around--U2 are arguably legends of rocks--both of which have achieved tremendous international acclaim, many awards, etc, etc. Last time out for U2 was their duet with Mary J Blige, a remake of their classic "One," which hit #2 in April, giving Blige her highest charting UK hit yet. This is U2's 31st top 10 hit, and next week it could become their 7th #1. This is Green Day's 5th top 10 hit, and could become their first #1.

9. Star Girl - McFly

While McFly singles have a consistent history of hitting #1--this was their 6th--they also have an unfortunate history of tumbling quickly thereafter. By falling 8 spots this week, this becomes their biggest tumble from #1. Ouch.

11. Rock Steady - All Saints

Here's a good comeback story. All Saints were the hottest girl group of the very late '90s, becoming the cool alternative to the Spice Girls in 1998. Three years later though and both groups would be finished. All Saints racked up eight top 10 hits over their 4-year run, including five #1 hits. Best known for huge huge hits "Never Ever" and "Pure Shores," the All Saints called it quits amid rumors of infighting and general ugliness. However, their subsquent solo and the Appleton duo project never amounted to much. So back together then 5 years later and they are set to have another hot top 5 hit next week--possibly a 6th #1.

12. Coming Around Again - Simon Webbe

Call it "After All This Time" part 2, as it sounds so much like his last single. This, his first from his forthcoming second album, is a great feel-good pop song. I'm surprised it wasn't top 10. Webbe's got a really great voice, and this is a classy pop production.

13. Martyr - Depeche Mode

This is Depeche Mode's 41st top 40 hit, the advance release from their forthcoming greatest hits album, which I will discuss further in a later post. Typical Depeche Mode stuff--minor key, heavy synths, etc. Pretty good, but not a DM classic.

17. Janie Jones: Strummerville - Babyshambles

This is the Babyshambles third single and the first to debut outside the top 10. Lead singer, playboy Pete Doherty (FYI, it's pronounced "DOCK-er-tee") spends way too much time in the tabloids for his nonsense. He's so boyish looking, like Gareth Gates's evil brother.

18. Runaway - Jamiroquai

Surprised this didn't make the top 10, as it sounds a lot like any other Jamiroquai release, and he usually does well. This is from his greatest hits collection, which was #1 on the albums chart last week (perhaps that's why this is so low, never never have the single come out after the album). Jamiroquai's career spans 12 years; he is best known for "Deeper Underground" (#1), "Virtual Insanity" (#3), "Canned Heat" (#4), and "Little L" (#5).

19. Nothing in My Way - Keane

Even a great new single can't reverse the surprisingly decline in Keane's popularly. "Nothing in My Way" is a beautiful single that perfectly typifies the sound of the band. In my mind, it should have been a reversal over atypical "Crystal Ball," but it only manages to debut one place higher at #19, and given next week's slate of releases there is no way this will be climbing. The album didn't even get a good boost off this; it's up 2 to #27. I'm stil crossing my fingers we get "A Bad Dream" as a fourth single.

22. Herculean - The Good, the Bad and the Queen

This is odd, but not bad. It was released and then deleted on Monday, so copies were probably really limited.

24. P.O.D. - Tenacious D

What is this? Tenacious D? Pod? Weird. This is their second single; "Wonderboy" peaked at #34 four years ago. POD stands for "Pick of Destiny." Whatever.

25. I Write Sins Not Tragedies - Panic at the Disco

This was a huge, huge hit in the US, but didn't break the group's streak of sub-Top 20 hits in the UK. Still, this third single's placing is better than the #39 peak of last single "Lying Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have without Taking Off Her Clothes."

26. It's Okay - The Game Featuring Junior Reid

Low placement for The Game's first single from his second album. His highpoint remains the #4 peak last year of "Hate It or Love It." Any rap that opens "Yo Dre" certainly deserves better, doesn't it? This is awful.

29. Magick - Klaxons

First top 40 hit for British group Klaxons. How is it? Well it starts off sounding like an alarm going off. Sounds more like yelling than singing. If you've got some extra-strong hair gel and colorful makeup on, then maybe this is for you, but it's not for me.

30. Easy - Sugababes

The last of the downloads-only tracks to debut in the top 40. I'm betting this will be one of four top 5 debuts next week, but count it out of the three-way contest for #1, which will feature the above two advance releases plus Westlife's "The Rose," which was not sold for downloads this week.

31. (When You Gonna) Give It Up To Me - Sean Paul Featuring Keyshia Cole

The four singles from Sean Paul's first album all made the top 10, but only one single from his second--"We Be Burnin'"--did so. This tepid fifth release featuring singer Keyshia Cole manages to be his lowest-charting single ever.

Outside the top 40, here's where the other downloads-only debuts fared: Jump - Madonna (#59), Self Control - Infernal (#61), Shoot the Runner - Kasabian (#65). Look for those to chart in the top 20 next week and All Saints, Westlife, and U2 & Green Day to duke it out for #1.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Music, 11/6/2006

This is one of those weeks that make pop music geeks like me salivate. What a week of new singles releases! 9 major new singles released today in the UK, surely to create massive turnover in the top 10. It even seems possible for debuts to occupy at least 4 of the top 5 slots. Incidentally, I had prepped this article to be about 10 singles, but Christina Aguilera blinked, and moved the the release of "Hurt" to next week. Here they are:

1. Rock Steady - All Saints

After an almost 6-year abscence, '90s girl group All Saints have reformed and released a real stomper of a comeback single. It's my pick of the lot to be #1 next weekend. The electronic production and sexy vocal delivery shows they are at the top of their game as much today as they were back in 1998-2000 when they hit #1 multiple times with hits like "Never Ever," "Pure Shores," and "Black Coffee." Brilliant comeback--can't wait for the album in a couple of weeks (5/5)

2. Easy - Sugababes

In any other week, this would be an easy #1, but the Sugababes will have to settle for another top 5 hit. This fantastic single features very lean versus that give way to pounding synth transitions and then finally the retro-80s sounding chorus. It's no secret I'm a big fan of the 'babes--they are my favorite British girl group--and this is another good slice of pitch-perfect pop. From their forthcoming Overloaded: The Greatest Hits collection. (5/5)

3. The Saints Are Coming - U2 & Green Day

Big-time pop soloists are always collaborating on special edition singles, but two big-time rock bands? U2 is arguably one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and Green Day, while not quite at that level yet, is certainly well-regarded, particularly after their last album. This matchup, from U2's upcoming greatest hits collection, U218, manages to tow a perfect balance between sounding like a U2 song and a Green Day song. It opens quietly, quickly building to great heights. It would be fun if this landed at #2, as a sort of introduction for the All Saints at #1 (just a thought). (4.5/5)

4. The Rose - Westlife

Irish boy band Westlife (yes they are still around) returns with the first offering from their 7th album, a covers collection called simply The Love Album, is a rousing remake of Bette Midler's "The Rose." Don't you just want to smack them? That makes four out of their last six singles that are remakes. Still, the boys can sing, and you got to hand it to them for making the group work since Brian McFadden's departure three years ago. They still look good too, after being at it in the limelight now for almost 8 years. They even have a gay member. So suck it up and enjoy this surprisingly good remake of "The Rose." (4/5)

5. Self Control - Infernal

It's another remake, but it's really really good. Infernal had a major hit earlier this year with "From Paris to Berlin," which was good, but grew tiresome after awhile. This Laura Branigan remake is way better. It makes me happy every time I hear it's energetic retro synth-laden power vocal vibe. Or maybe it makes me want to don a unitard, sweatband, and legwarmers. (5/5)

6. Jump - Madonna

"Get Together" was my favorite track from Confessions on a Dancefloor, but it's obvious why it didn't become the hit that "Hung Up" and "Sorry" were: too clubby. Fourth and presumably last single "Jump" lands on more solid pop territory: good buildup, good hooks, great melogy. Another very strong winner from Madonna, capping off the best set of singles she's put out since Ray of Light's. (5/5)

7. Shoot the Runner - Kasabian

Sing-along "Shoot the Runner" is easily more accessible than last single, "Empire." Great British rock track. (4/5)

8. Who Cares? - Gnarls Barkley

Gnarls Barkley still has the year's biggest hit in "Crazy," but fizzled with "Smiley Faces," which made only #10. "Who Cares?" is a more fun track, but they'll be lucky to be in the top 10. (4/5)

9. This Is Not Real Love - George Michael & Mutya Buena

How fun is it that former Sugababes member Mutya Buena's duet with George Michael is up against their new single, "Easy?" I really liked this single when I first heard it, but I've become bored with it recently. It's not bad, but not that exciting. I nice mellow duet ballad. (3.5/5)

On the albums side of things, Damien Rice releases his second album 9, which I know nothing about. Jamiroquai's greatest hits, High Times: Singles 1992-2006 is out, featuring "Runaway," The Magic Numbers new album, Those the Brokes, McFly's new album, Motion in the Ocean, and Moby's Go: The Very Best of Moby hits collection. Pretty ho-hum, although I expect McFly will come out on top followed by Magic Numbers.