Sunday, April 30, 2006

What is Top 40 today?

This week I've been living in the past--I spent several days looking at charts and listening to music from 1990? Why 1990? Two reasons--first, it was the year my chart started, and unfortunately I have lost all my charts from that year (my archives go back to 1995, but much of the '90s are spotty), so I'm trying to recreate some of them.

More importantly though, was that it was a great year for popular music, and back then popular music meant something different than it does today, particularly in the U.S. In 1990, there was much more variety in pop, in January alone the top 10 was made up of traditional pop (Paula Abdul/Taylor Dayne/Billy Joel), disposable dance pop (Seduction), Euro dance pop (Roxette), British aging male AC (Phil Collins), American aging male AC (Michael Bolton), Euro techno/rap (Technotronic), R&B dance pop (Janet Jackson), and hard rock (Aerosmith). As the year progressed, rap also made some headway in the top 40, and some more alternative bands too.

The current U.S. top 10, isn't nearly so varied, containing young female pop artists (Rihanna, Shakira, Natasha Bedingfield, and Kelly Clarkson), young male pop artists (Daniel Powter and James Blunt), R&B (Mary J. Blige), hard rock (Staind), and Hip-hop (Fort Minor, and reggae-influenced Sean Paul). For a long time it seemed the top 40 was only comprised of R&B, rap, or "alternative" rock, but that has improved some lately. But variety is still lacking.

That's one of the reasons I like the UK top 40, since it is much more varied than the US top 40.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 4/29/2006


1. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley

It's a 4th glorious week at #1 for Gnarls Barkley, now the longest-running #1 hit of the year by 2 weeks. A 5th week is a strong possibility, unless Snow Patrol can score their first #1.

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

She debuted at #5 last week on digital sales, and looked like a strong challenger for #1 this week, but has to settle for #2, the same peak as her first single, last year's "Pon Da Replay." It's a great track, and also top 5 at radio. Unlike her previous dancehall sound, this is pure dance pop, and listening to her album, it sounds like she's branched out quite a bit--next single, "Unfaithful" is a nice, traditional pop ballad.

4. From Paris to Berlin - Infernal

Breaking the House music curse this week are Danish group Infernal, storming up 30 spots to #4 with "From Paris to Berlin," a pulsing dance club track in the vein of '90s dance act Vengaboys. Great to see some dance in the UK top 10 again.

8. Dance Dance - Fall Out Boy

U.S. rock band Fall Out Boy scores their second consecutive #8 single with "Dance Dance," which rises 18 spots this week upon its physical single release. It's a better track than "Sugar, We're Going Down," but still not winning me over.

14. Dreams - Deep Dish Featuring Stevie Nicks

Deep Dish remakes Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" with new vocals from Stevie Nicks. It's a decent, but not very original house rendition of the popular song, remade memorably 8 years ago by The Corrs.

15. Leave Me Alone - Michael Jackson

Okay, I've been addressing these Michael Jackson re-releases with pithy comments lately, but this one deserves a bit more. "Leave Me Alone" was the 8th single released from Bad in the UK (the U.S. officially got only 7, although MTV did air this song's video), and reached #2, the highest peak of any of the album's 9 singles. The track was added a bonus cut to only the CD versions of the album, and had a pretty innovative stop motion video. As with every other of these re-releases, it manages to land in the 'teens.

16. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song - The Flaming Lips

I gave this track a mixed review a few weeks ago, but I've actually heard it on Radio 1 a few times since then, and have grown to like it. By making #16, it becomes their biggest hit (it's a travesty that "Do You Realize?" only made #32). It's the first release from their new album At War With the Mystics, which apparently is not a violent declaration against the Washington, D.C. women's basketball team.

17. Most Precious Love - Blaze Featuring Barbara Tucker

This is actually a remix by the Freemasons of a year-old dance track, but they managed to make it fresh and significantly improve upon its peak last year of #44.

20. Music is Power - Richard Ashcroft

His last single, "Break The Night With Colour" made #3, but despite being in the top 5 for airplay last week, "Music is Power" makes a measly #20. It's a okay song, but kind of bland, and too repetitive. It also seems to hark back to "Bitter Sweet Symphony," but isn't nearly as impressive of a song.

30. You're All I Have - Snow Patrol

Debuting at #30 on digital only sales is a great new track from Snow Patrol, and could be the highest entry in the top 10 next week.

Dannii Minogue Returns

Check out Dannii Minogue's new video: "So Under Pressure".

In case you don't know, Dannii Minogue is the younger, less famous sister of international pop star Kylie Minogue. While both specialize in Euro-styled dance pop, Dannii is more dance while Kylie is more pop. Dannii had at one point been scheduled to put out a new album last fall, but those plans have apparently been shelved in favor of a greatest hits set due June 12th. Last fall's teaser release, "Perfection," was a bit of a disappointment, but "So Under Pressure" seems quite cool.

Personal Chart, 4/29/2006

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 6 .... Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... 9 .... The Hardest Part - Coldplay
3 .... 5 .... 5 .... S.O.S. (Rescue Me) - Rihanna
4 .... 6 .... 6 .... Who Am I - Will Young
5 .... 2 ... 43 ... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (3 wks @ #1)
6 ... 15 ... 6 .... You're All I Have - Snow Patrol
7 .... 7 .... 9 .... No Tomorrow - Orson
8 .... 4 .... 9 .... Nature's Law - Embrace
9 ... 10 .. 24 ... Bad Day - Daniel Powter (2 wks @ #1)
10 . 11 .. 12 ... Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae

Rollling Stone on Keane

Kudos to Lady R's blog for alerting me to this great Rolling Stone article about Keane and their upcoming album, due for U.S. release June 20.

Read the article here. FYI--Check out the picture of the band: Tim Rice-Oxley is the one in the middle. He's looking better and better everyday, plus, as the article makes clear, he's the band's principal songwriter. What an amazing man.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

News Tidbits from Yahoo Music UK

Whitney Houston back in rehab.

Embrace premieres World Cup anthem, "World at Your Feet."

Britney Spears begins work on new album.

Michael Jackson plans new album for 2007.

Preview Gnarls Barkley on Myspace

My Space is previewing Gnarls Barkley's forthcoming album, St. Elsewhere, released Monday in the UK. The album includes the UK's current #1 hit, "Crazy." Gnarls Barkley is a fictionalized character, a la Gorillaz, that is a collaboration between DJ Dangermouse and rapper Cee-Lo. "Crazy" is going for adds at US radio next month.

New Radio Links Added

I added links on the right for my three favorite top 40 stations, all of which have on-line live streams:

1. BBC Radio 1. Imagine if NPR had 5 stations and one of them played Fall Out Boy, LL Cool J, and Rihanna. That's what you get with Radio 1--current Top 40 without commercials. Check out their playlist, tiered into A-, B-, and C-lists updated Thursdays. Also cool is that they archive all their shows for the week--I particularly like Jo Whiley's.

2. Capital FM. This was my favorite radio station when I was in London. It's also Top 40, although not as cutting edge as Radio 1. Recently they've limited their on-line streaming to UK addresses only; however, in the window that pops up telling you this, it lets you enter a UK postcode if you want to listen and conveniently provides a London postcode in the same frame.

3. Z100 - New York. This is the most-listened to Top 40 station in the US, and generally has a playlist that's more varied and innovative than most other Top 40 stations.

Personal Chart Rewind - 2001

This was my top 10 from 5 years ago this week....

TW LW Wks Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 6 .... All For You - Janet Jackson (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 ... 18 ... Here With Me - Dido (2 wks @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... 9 .... Never Had a Dream Come True - S Club 7
4 .... 3 ... 16 ... Thank You - Dido (2 wks @ #1)
5 .... 6 .... 5 .... Hanging By A Moment - Lifehouse
6 .... 5 .... 8 .... Butterfly - Crazy Town
7 .... 8 ... 12 ... Southside - Moby Featuring Gwen Stefani
8 ... 12 ... 6 .... Survivor - Destiny's Child
9 .... 9 .... 4 .... Follow Me - Uncle Kracker
10 .. 23 .. 2 .... Lady Marmalade - Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Mya, and Pink

Where are they now? Dido and Janet Jackson are supposedly working on new albums for the fall, S Club 7 broke up and spawned Rachel Stevens, Lifehouse recently had a big hit with "You and Me," Destiny's Child broke up and sent its members off into solo careers of varying success, never heard from Crazy Town again, Uncle Kracker - who cares, Moby's still doing his thing, Gwen of course went solo successfully, and the fearsome Moulin Rouge foursome are, respectively, 1) on the brink of releasing her third album, 2) in prison, 3) no longer popular, and 4) working her 4th album (see review below).

Friday, April 21, 2006

Album Review: Pink - I'm Not Dead (4/5)

Pink, or rather "P!nk" as she goes by is perfectly, cleverly encapsulated by her name. Feminine, yet rude, turning what you'd expect on its head just like that upside down "i" that makes an exclamation point makes a simple, powerful statement. On her fourth album, I'm Not Dead, P!nk delivers her best performance yet, blending rock, pop, and R&B sounds effortlessly like she did on her second album and making the statement she tried to make with her third album, Try This!, which ultimately flopped. Although a dyed-in-the-wool pop artist, P!nk is more punk than many punk bands without even really trying.

She starts the show with "Stupid Girls," a controversial, yet radio-friendly rant against dumb blondes that populate current pop culture. It's an effective and winning track--her best since "Just Like a Pill," the finale in the trio of brilliant singles from M!ssundaztood. She follows it with second single "Who Knew," a gentler mid-tempo number and piano-influenced "Long Way to Happy," another obvious single choice. In fact, few tracks disappoint on I'm Not Dead, which even wanders into folk and protest song territory--notably on "Dear Mr. President" a duet with the Indigo Girls--lesbian folk rockers with proven street cred--that is an unveiled shot against President Bush. The song is pretty, creative, and a refreshing surprise for a mainstream pop album, a genre that rarely, if ever, would attempt to tackle something so political. Also of interest is the folksy "I Have Seen the Rain," a hidden track duet with her father, Jim Moore, whom Pink explains in the intro wrote the song while he was in Vietnam. "The One That Got Away" is also a raw, folksy number, that showcases what a versatile vocalist Pink is. Whatever your politics or musical preference, it is notable for a pop album to experient in such an interesting manner.

Back to the more conventional fare. "Nobody Knows" is Pink's "Because of You," retreating to the depression/family problems territory she's previously covered in songs like "Family Portait." "Cuz I Can" sends Pink back to the dancefloor, territory she covered on her first Babyface-produced album Can't Take Me Home. "U + Ur Hand" is a tawdry rant against some jerky guy. "Centerfold" and "Fingers" are '80s-inspired dancefloor stuff--very Gwen Stefani. Clocking in at about an hour at 16 tracks (if you get the European version) there's something here for everyone, and amazingly, it all works pretty well.

US Chart Analysis, 4/29/2006

Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" hold onto #1 for a 4th week, while Rascal Flatts holds onto #1 on the albums chart. Sean Paul nabs airplay #1 from Mary J. Blige, leaping over Natasha Bedingfield and Rihanna. Click below to read the details.

Billboard Hot 1oo:

1. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

"Bad Day" remains #1 for a 4th week. One more week and it will tie Beyonce's "Check On It" for longest-running #1 single of the year.

4. Control Myself - LL Cool J Featuring Jennifer Lopez

Here's an interesting entry. "Control Myself" re-enters the chart this week at #4. !!! Bizarre though it seems, the single debuted 7 weeks ago and peaked the following week at #89 based on airplay. Last week it went on sale at iTunes and other digital outlets, and shoots back into the Hot 100 way up at #4. This isn't the first pairing of LL Cool J and Jennifer Lopez; the pair hit #1 in 2002 with "All I Have," the second single from her This Is Me...Then album. "Control Myself" is LL Cool J's 16th top 40 single, a collection that goes back to 1987's "I Need Love" and includes #3 hits "Hey Lover" from 1995 and "Loungin" from 1996. Jennifer Lopez has had 13 top 40 hits prior to this, the last being the #12 single from last year, "Get Right," the only single from her fourth album, Rebirth, to hit the top 40.

5. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

"Unwritten" reaches a new peak at #5, although it is no longer bulleted. "Single" has been selected to be her next U.S. single.

6. What Hurts the Most - Rascal Flatts

After making a great leap to #8 last week based on sales, I thought this might drop like a stone this week, but it actually manages to climb 2 spots to #6.

9. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Due to sales, "Dani Calfornia" rises 25 spots this week to #9, becoming their 3rd top 10 hit after their biggest, the #2 "Under the Bridge" and the #9 hit "Scar Tissue."

17. Let U Go - Ashley Parker Angel

Former O-Town member Ashley Parker Angel has the highest Hot 100 debut of the week with "let U Go," at #17.

29. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira

Shakira earns the airplay gainer award at #29, rising 4 sports--is this ever going to go on sale? If so, it has #1 potential.

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

Rihanna is still bulleted, but slips 2 spots. If this doesn't go on sale soon, Rihanna's going to have had a major missed opportunity to make some $$$.

Billboard 200:

Rascal Flatts retains #1 for a second week with Me and My Gang, fending off a challenge from Toby Keith's White Trash with Money, which debuts at #2. LL Cool J debuts at #6 with Todd Smith, while Daniel Powter's self-titled debut album debuts at #9.

Radio and Records Top 40:

After 4 weeks at #1 with "Be Without You" Mary J. Blige falls to #4, opening up a close contest for #1 among 3 rising tracks. The winner, by 60 plays, is Sean Paul, who scores his first #1 hit with "Temperature," beating his previous best of #3 with 2003's "Get Busy." Close behind at #2 is Rihanna with "S.O.S.," matching the peak of her first single "Pon Da Replay." "S.O.S." was actually leading "Temperature" for like a day this week, but not enough to be #1. Finally at #3 is Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten," who slides back 1 place despite still being bulleted. Two new entries in the top 10: Shakira, at #7 (up from #12) with "Hips Don't Lie," her third top 10 hit and Stained at #10 with "Right Here," their second top 10.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gareth Gates Dropped

Gareth Gates was apparently dropped from his record label last week. Nail in that coffin.

Keane's New Single - "Is It Any Wonder?"

I'm listening to Keane's new single "Is It Any Wonder?" for the first time! I'm very excited to finally hear it. Wow! It kicks off with electric guitars, which were completely absent from their first album. I wonder who's playing it. They're definitely rocking out a lot more now. The piano is still there, but just under the melody this time, instead of central. I like it. Still sounds like Keane, but with a new direction too.

On my iPod this week

What am I listening to this week?

"Faster Kill Pussycat" - Paul Oakenfold. He did "Starry Eyed Surprise" 4 years ago and is back with another great dance tune.

"S.O.S. (Rescue Me)" - Rihanna. I'm loving Rihanna's new single, which I was FINALLY able to buy on 7Digital (iTunes still doesn't sell it).

"Ain't Got No - I Got Life" - Groovefinder vs. Nina Simone. I always wondered about Nina Simone, and now I have a taste. Basically, it's an inventory of her body parts--all of them--set to dance music.

"Single" - Natasha Bedingfield. The US follow-up to "Unwritten" was actually her first UK single, and it's really really great. Love it!

"Who Am I" - Will Young. Another winner from Will.

"Naive" - The Kooks. Great song, especially the ending.

Charlotte to Pink: "See You Next Tuesday"

Personal Chart, 4/22/2005

TW LW Wks Title - Artist
1 .... 3 .... 5 .... Crazy - Gnarls Barkley (1wk @ #1)
2 .... 1 ... 42 ... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (3wks @ #1)
3 .... 6 .... 8 .... The Hardest Part - Coldplay
4 .... 2 .... 8 .... Nature's Law - Embrace
5 ... 10 ... 4 .... S.O.S. (Rescue Me) - Rihanna
6 .... 9 .... 5 .... Who Am I - Will Young
7 .... 5 .... 8 .... No Tomorrow - Orson
8 .... 4 ... 10 ... Stupid Girls - P!nk
9 .... 7 .... 8 .... Sewn - The Feeling (2 wks @ #1)
10 . 16 . 23 ... Bad Day - Daniel Powter (2 wks @ #1)

UK Chart Analysis, 4/22/2006

Gnarls Barkely reigns supreme for a 3rd week on the singles and airplay charts, while The Streets tops the albums chart. Click below for full details.

UK Singles:

1. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley

Gnarls Barkley--the fictional creation that is the collaboration of infamous producer DJ Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo tops the UK singles chart for a second week with another healthy week of sales. The album lands next week--expect a #1. Also, this drops at US radio next month--expect a big summer hit there.

2. No Promises - Shayne Ward

So, the true test of a reality pop star is not whether he or she can land at #1 with their first single (everyone does), but whether they can continue past that and actually establish a career based on music and not television. Will Young did it, so did Kelly Clarkson, but beyond that, few Pop Idols, American Idols, X-Factor Winners, etc. have managed to become solid stars. Take 2004's X-Factor winner, Steve Brookstein, had one #1 single, a remake of "Against All Odds," and then vanished from the face of the Earth (FYI--I had to go look up his name, so obscure has he become). So Shayne then has crossed the first hurdle, having released a second single, which manages to chart impressively at #2 with sales figures that would have landed him at #1, if it weren't for the massive Gnarls Barkley single. Although panned and trite, I must confess I actually like this single, and I think it's better than "That's My Goal," which was boring. As with the aforementioned Will and Kelly though, the first whole album is really obligatory contract stuff, and it's the second album that really shows whether a reality star can really stand up as an artist. If you doubt that Kelly Clarkson has a legitimate star, just take a look at those Breakaway sales figures--astounding stuff.

5. S.O.S. - Rihanna

Rihanna's third single debuts at #5, the second-highest digital only debut yet since the UK chart rules changed to allow singles to chart the week before their physical release based on their on-line sales. Gnarls Barkley, of course, is the only artist to debut at #1 with digital sales. This bodes well for next week, where Rihanna will surely charge up to #2 and maybe #1, if she can unseat Gnarls--a tough proposition.

10. Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae

After 2 weeks at #11, Corinne Bailey Rae rebounds into the top 10, in her 8th week on the chart. Clearly a record with legs.

14. Better Do Better - Hard-Fi

Hard-Fi's 5th single, a pretty amazing feat in itself, ties the peak of last single, December's "Cash Machine." It's a mellower release from them, but equally good. Cool band I think.

15. Here We Go - Trina Featuring Kelly Rowland

I may have misjudged this track when it was released a few months ago in the US. I didn't care for it at the time, but I've heard it on British radio a few times this week, and it's growing on me. This is Trina's first top 40 hit (she reached #45 in 2002 with "No Panties) and 5th solo-credited appearance for former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland, who hit #1 as a featured vocalist on Nelly's "Dilemma" and #2 with her own hit, "Stole."

16. Unpredictable - Jamie Foxx Featuring Ludacris

Jamie Foxx is an amazing ACTOR. He won an Oscar for his ACTING in Ray. He was really good in Jarhead, where he demonstrated his immense talent as an ACTOR. Okay, he was a lot of fun on Kanye's "Gold Digger," but this track does not hold up.

19. Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson

Now autobiographical.

26. Dance, Dance - Fall Out Boy

Again, here's another debut based on downloads that should shoot up into the top 10 next week.

27. Kids With Guns / El Manana - Gorillaz

This is a bit disappointing, although predictable, since Damon Albarn burned out after the first 3 singles from the first Gorillaz album too. I've really been into "Kids With Guns" this week--it's great.

29. I Feel It - Lorraine

I'm interested in where this group is going. Clever electronica is always worthwhile, and this band is getting good buzz. Album is supposedly forthcoming.

34. From Paris to Berlin - Infernal

Another downloads-only track destined for the top 10 next week. It's a great dance track, and will hopefully break through the glass ceiling that dance tracks have been trapped under thus far this year.

UK Albums:

The Streets tops the album chart this week with his third album, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, which shows he still is worth something, despite the lowly #8 peak of the album's clever first single, "When You Wasn't Famous." No other significant news this week

UK Airplay:

Gnarls Barkley continues to reign on the airplay chart for a third week with "Crazy," while Coldplay edges closer to the top at #2 with "The Hardest Part," the fourth release from X&Y, but which isn't being released as a physical single, a la "God Put Smile On Your Face" and "Don't Panic" from their previous albums. All 3 of the albums other singles topped the airplay chart last year. Richard Ashcroft moves up 8 spots to #5 with "Music Is Power," which it out in shops this week. His last, "Break The Night With Colour" hit #2 on the airplay chart. Snow Patrol also crashed into the top 10, up 18 spots to #7 with their fabulous forthcoming single, "You're All I Have."

Rihanna moves into the top 10 at #9 with "S.O.S." and Beatfreaks maves a 19 spot leap to #13 with "Somebody's Watching Me."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

US Chart Analysis, 4/22/2006

Daniel Powter remains atop the Billboard Hot 100, while country group Rascal Flatts scores a rare top 10 and a #1 album.

Billboard Hot 100:

1. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

"Bad Day" tops the Billboard singles chart for a third week, which makes it the second longest-running #1 hit yet this year, bested only by Beyonce's 5 week run with "Check On It."

8. What Hurts the Most - Rascal Flatts

Here's the chart gem of the week. Rascal Flatts, a country band that's been around for some years, are having an amazing week on the Billboard charts. "What Hurts the Most," the groups 13th Hot 100 single, is #1 on the country singles chart, and their album, Me and My Gang is #1 on the country and Billboard 200 albums chart. On the Billboard Hot 100, the track leaps 44 spots from #52 to #8. As Billboard's Fred Bronson points on in his Chart Beat column, it's only the 10th country single to make the top 10 this decade. Lately, since the Billboard Hot 100 was so dominated by airplay, a lot of singles had artificial chart "ceilings" based on their genres, since each genre has different sized audiences. For a while, only R&B/Hip-Hop tracks were likely to hit #1, since they had the largest audience, while country singles were stalling out in the mid-20s. Now that digital sales have made the sales half of the airplay/sales combination relevant again, other genres have been able to chart well, including, now, a bona fide country single that is not a pop or AC crossover.

15. Stupid Girls - Pink

Pink's "Stupid Girls" moves up 15 spots this week to #15 and earns the sales gainer award. If it reaches the top 10 next week, it would become her 7th top 10 hit. Pink's last appearance on the Hot 100, "Trouble," reached only #68 ("God is a DJ" didn't even chart).

24. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers leap into the Hot 100 at #24 with "Dani California," first single from upcoming Stadium Arcadium. It's the highest debut of the week, and the second-highest entry into the top 40. Amazingly, "Dani California" is only the 'Pepper's 6th top 40 hit, the biggest being the #2 hit "Under the Bridge" from 1992.

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

"S.O.S." is only #30? How can this be? Answer - It's not available for digital sale, so even though it's currently #3 on the Pop 100 Airplay chart, it's resting down here. Amazing how much sales account for chart positions again.

33. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira (featuring Wyclef Jean)

Shakira scores her 5th top 40 hit this week with "Hips Don't Lie," a new track that was added to her current album, Oral Fixation Volume 2, when it was re-released in March. Shakira's last single, "Dont Bother," just missed the top 40 by stalling at #42.

34. When You're Mad - Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo had his second top 40 hit this week, "When You're Mad," which follows-up up his #1 "So Sick." The track is fairly schmaltzy, not as good as "So Sick" and comes off condescending when it tries to be endearing.

Billboard 200:

Rascal Flatts tops the Billboard 200 with Me and My Gang, while Now Vol. 21 debuts at #2 and Pink's fourth album, I'm Not Dead, debuts at #6. By making #6, Pink's new album ties the peak of her second and most successful album M!ssundaztood. Her last album, Try This, peaked at #9. Also debuting in the top 10 this week is Bubba Sparxxx at #9 with The Charm.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Singles Reviews

Massive singles reviews. Last week's reviews were what was lost when Blogger was down. So here's a really long list of reviews for you....

S.O.S. (Rescue Me) - Rihanna (4.5/5)
The Hardest Part - Coldplay (4/5)
Kids With Guns / El Manana - Gorillaz (4/5)
Better Do Better - Hard-Fi (3.5/5)
No Promises - Shayne Ward (3/5)
Lie to Me - Daniel Powter (4/5)
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song - Flaming Lips (2.5/5)
From Paris to Berlin - Infernal (3/5)
Music is Power - Richard Ashcroft (2.5/5)

Click below to read my reviews.

S.O.S. (Rescue Me) - Rihanna (4.5/5)

Rihanna emerged last summer with "Pon Da Replay," a Caribbean-influenced slice of dance-pop. Eight months later, she's already releasing her second album, announced by lead single "S.O.S (Rescue Me)," a delightful slice of dance-pop that trades in dancehall for dance floor. This relentless electro track liberally and effectively samples Soft Cell's '80s classic "Tainted Love."

The Hardest Part - Coldplay (4/5)

Fourth X&Y single isn't as immediate as its predecessors, and although seemingly a strange choice for a single (it's hidden in the album's less showy second half), it works surprisingly well on its own. It's a mid-tempo MOR track--pretty much what you'd expect from Coldplay, so unlike "Talk," and there's no surprises here, which isn't a bad thing, since it's a decent song. The video is also quite something--a take on a '90s Lifetime television talk show.

Kids With Guns / El Manana - Gorillaz (4/5)

It's no "Feel Good Inc," or even "Dare," but "Kids With Guns" is still pretty impressive, even if it takes a few listens to appreciate it. It's pretty minimalist, pretty much just a prodding heavy bass beat with some space pop sound effects, synths, and kettle drums thrown in. But it works. "El Manana" is less interesting--basically a darker, simpler version of "Feel Good Inc."--but still not bad.

Better Do Better - Hard-Fi (3.5/5)

This is probably the mellowest track from Stars of CCTV, which isn't saying much, since even with a slower tempo, it manages to get pretty loud during the chorus. Good stuff, but not as good as "Hard to Beat" or "Cash Machine."

No Promises - Shayne Ward (3/5)

Shayne's first single, "That's My Goal" was propelled to #1 because he won The X-Factor. A few months out now, with his album due soon, it's time for Shayne to really prove himself. "No Promises" is actually surprisingly good--if you keep your expectations low. It hits all the right notes, but these are notes that everyone from Westlife to Gareth Gates have already hit before. Perhaps we'll have to wait for a second album--if he gets that far--to see what direction Shayne wants to take with his music. The video also isn't that interesting, as I guessed right away what was going on (think "The Sixth Sense").

Lie to Me - Daniel Powter (4/5)

I think I like this about as much as "Bad Day"--certainly more than his other 2 releases, "Free Loop" and "Jimmy Gets High." It's a guilty pleasure of a pop song, polished, over-produced, with an almost Motown feel to it. What the hell, just enjoy it.

The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song - Flaming Lips (2.5/5)

This on the other hand is supposed to be really good, but I'm not really into it. Critics are raving about their new album. But I don't know. The "yeah yeah yeah" but is grating. Otherwise it's okay--the guitars and drums are great. But the "yeah yeah yeah" is REALLY annoying and not clever or fun like they probably think it is.

From Paris to Berlin - Infernal (3/5)

House music is on life support this year--chart success has been very limited--yet artists keep trying. This heavy bass track is okay. Nothing special, but it's not bad. There's some good deep synth keyboards. I bet it sounds great in a club.

Music is Power - Richard Ashcroft (2.5/5)

This starts out promising, sort of Joss Stone-like, but then gets WAY too repetitive. "Music" may be power, but the music is missing here, since it's just the same thing over and over, even if the production is well done. Listening to it, you keep hoping that something will come in a break it up--but that clever bridge isn't present.

No love for D.C.

Neither Madonna nor Kelly Clarkson are coming to D.C. for their tours this summer. I'm particularly disappointed in Madonna, since her last 2 tours came to the (then) MCI Center, but she's not playing Verizon Center this year--not even close! Kelly's playing Nissan Pavillion, but no way are we driving out there for that.

Kylie is back!

Kylie Minogue's official web site posted pictures of her this week, under the headline "Exclusive: New Beginnings!" Her hair is, of course, quite short, but she looks happy and healthy. No word yet on when she will return to the studio, although I've heard rumors it could happen before the end of the year. She is scheduled to headline next year's Glastonbury music festival, which she had been scheduled to perform at in 2005, but had to cancel due to her illness.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Personal Chart, 4/15/2006

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 ... 41 ... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... 7 .... Nature's Law - Embrace
3 .... 6 .... 4 .... Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
4 .... 5 .... 9 .... Stupid Girls - P!nk
5 .... 3 .... 7 .... No Tomorrow - Orson
6 ... 15 ... 7 .... The Hardest Part - Coldplay
7 .... 4 .... 7 .... Sewn - The Feeling (2 wks @ #1)
8 .... 8 .... 7 .... When You Wasn't Famous - The Streets
9 ... 13 ... 4 .... Who Am I - Will Young
10 .. 18 .. 3 .... S.O.S. (Rescue Me) - Rihanna

Keane's New Album

Cannot wait!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 4/15/2006

1. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley

It's a second week at #1 for Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," which now benefits from physical sales and lands an easy week at the top. Surely at least a third week at the top will follow. The album, St. Elsewhere, is out April 24.

2. One - Mary J. Blige & U2

Last week it was #19 on digital alone, and this week it storms up 17 spots to #2, landing Mary J. Blige with the biggest UK hit of her career. Her previous best was the #4 peak of "As," a duet with George Michael from his 1998 greatest hits set that was memorable top 10 hit in early 1999, but for whatever reason (probably that restroom incident, still fresh at that time) was not included on the US version of his compilation. Her last top 10 hit was "No More Drama" in 2002. Her last single, "Be Without You," managed a disappointing #32, considering that it is a massive hit in the U.S.

Of course, this single isn't just Mary, it also gives U2 their 39th top 40 and their 4th #2 single, bested only by their six #1 hits (seven if you count the bigtime sample on LMC's "Take Me To The Clouds Above").

9. Why Won't You Give Me Your Love? - The Zutons

Biggest true debut of the week goes to the Zutons, a critical fave, who score their 6th and biggest top 40 hit.

14. The Fallen / L. Wells - Franz Ferdinand

It's a great double A-side single from hip band Franz Ferdinand. So what's it doing outside the top 10? C'mon folks.

17. Dirty Diana - Michael Jackson

Diana isn't the only one feeling dirty after being touched by Michael Jackson. Snicker snicker.

29. Laffy Taffy - D4L

This was a #1 hit in the US, but manages only #29 in Britain. I don't like it either.

Taking a Break

My blog's been taking a break because 1) Blogger went down while I was in the middle of writing a fairly lengthy post, which really pissed me off because it was lost, and 2) my iPod caused me major problems 2 nights ago, although I'm pleased to report I was able to nurse it back to health by last night. I promise some updates soon...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rumors and Innuendo

  • Madonna has announced her Confessions Tour to promote Confessions on the Dancefloor, but apparently is not coming to Washington, DC. What a bummer. The tour kicks off in Los Angeles May 21.
  • The Streets' "When You Wasn't Famous" may be about Rachel Stevens.
  • Snow Patrol looks set to release their latest album, Eyes Open, in the US at the same time it comes out in the UK: iTunes is selling a single from it, however, it's not the UK single "You're All I Have" but "Hands Open."
  • P!nk's new album, I'm Not Dead, includes a good ol` fashioned protest song, "Dear Mr. President," a duet with folk duo The Indigo Girls that pulls no punches in criticizing President Bush.

Personal Chart, 4/8/2006

TW LW WKS Title - Artist
1 .... 1 ... 40 .... Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... 6 ..... Nature's Law - Embrace
3 .... 3 .... 6 ..... No Tomorrow - Orson
4 .... 2 .... 6 ..... Sewn - The Feeling
5 .... 8 .... 8 ..... Stupid Girls - P!nk
6 ... 15 ... 3 ..... Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
7 .... 7 ... 33 .... You're Beautiful - James Blunt (5 wks @ #1)
8 ... 11 ... 6 ..... When You Wasn't Famous - The Streets
9 .... 5 ... 15 .... Walk Away - Kelly Clarkson
10 .. 9 ... 20 ... Be Without You - Mary J. Blige

Sunday, April 02, 2006

UK Chart Analysis, 4/8/2006

Gnarls Barkley sets a UK singles chart first, while Embrace scores yet another #1 album. Read the details below.

1. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley

It was only a matter of time. As I've mentioned in previous analyses, the UK chart rules changed this year to allow tracks with a planned physical single release to chart one week in advance of such release solely on the merit of digital sales. Singles without a physical release--such as the upcoming Coldplay release "The Hardest Part" are still not chart eligible. Since the rules have changed, several tracks have debuted in middle chart positions and then jumped up into the top 10, including last week's #1 hit, which jumped from #18 where it debuted the previous week on the basis of its downloads.

This week then we have the first single to debut at #1 on the basis only of download sales. The physical single is released tomorrow, so expect an easy second week at #1. "Crazy" is Gnarls Barkley's first top 40 hit, but who is Gnarls Barkley? His Web site hints at his enigmatic origins, but also the pleasant fact that Danger Mouse is somehow involved. The real scoop is the Gnarls Barkley is a collaboration between Cee-lo and Danger Mouse. In any event, it's a pretty cool retro R&B/Hip-Hop track, and a big UK hit (it's also #1 on the airplay chart).

3. You Have Killed Me - Morrissey

A surprisingly high debut for Morrissey shows he's as hot as ever. He's now 16 years into his post-The Smiths solo career and shows no signs of slowing down as "You Have Killed Me" goes in at #3, tying his career-high placing set 2 years ago with "Irish Blood, English Heart." It's a decent track, although not really my thing.

6. Naive - The Kooks

They debuted last week at #28 on digital sales and this week score a top 10 hit with physical sales.

8. When You Wasn't Famous - The Streets

This is a bit disappointing, as I was sure this would be #1. For it to not even land in the top 5 shows that the Streets may be losing steam. I still think it's a great track--danceable, clever, funny. While artists eschew fame by whining about how awful it is, he throws his hat in the ring to complain about how when you're famous it's still hard to get girls that are famous too. Love it. "When You Wasn't Famous" is Mike Skinner's 4th top 40 hit.

12. Suffer Well - Depeche Mode

Third single from Depeche Mode's latest album is perhaps the best yet, and improves (deservedly) upon the #15 placing of their last single, "A Pain That I'm Used To."

17. The Way You Make Me Feel - Michael Jackson


19. One - Mary J. Blige and U2

"One" debuts at #19 based only at digital sales, so expect to see it in the top 10 next week.

21. All Sparks - Editors

They hit #10 with their last single "Munich," but no top 10 love for "All Sparks," even though it's great.


Embrace scores another #1 album with This New Day, their fifth release. Massive Attack's greatest hits set, Collected, is in at #2. Hotly anticipated Yeah Yeah yeahs album, Show Your Bones, debuts at #7.

Album Review: This New Day - Embrace (4/5)

This New Day is the second album for Embrace v.2, not that the band lineup changed, but since their last album, 2004's Out of Nothing, the band has enjoyed a second wind to their career, which started off grandly in 1998 with their first album, The Good Will Out, but then faltered with their second and third releases. Out of Nothing put them back on track, and their current streak continues with This New Day.

Their sound doesn't deviate much from their last album--if anything, it's bigger, grander, more epic--as improbable as that sounds. If Coldplay was the muse for Out of Nothing, then U2 is the muse for This New Day, which is packed with stadium-ready numbers infused with full-throttle electric guitars, piano, string symphonies--even choirs--interspersed with "quiet" moments to allow the bigger moments even more drama.

And quiet moments are relatively few, as even the ballads, such as first single "Nature's Law," have so much going on in them that they hardly count as "quiet" songs. "Nature's Law" is a beautiful piano and orchestra-driven number that breaks into colossal choir-backed choruses. Even "I Can't Come Down, " a piano and stringes laden number that begins along the lines of Nothing's "A Glorious Day," manages to build itself up to bombastic proportions before the song ends. On other tracks, such as the opener "No Use Crying," "Target," or "The End is Near," the U2 influence is evident from the very first notes. "Target" sounds so much like U2 that it's a shock to hear Danny McNamara instead of Bono.

The big sound present on every track is not for everyone, and fans picked up from Out of Nothing may be disappointed that there isn't another low key moment like "Gravity" or "Looking as You Are" on this album. Those were Coldplay-esque tracks, quite trendy among British bands these days, but really not what Embrace is about. If longing for a day where you might stand in a big stadium swaying to the beat with your lighter (or cell phone) lofted above your head isn't for you, then neither is Embrace. This New Day is in several ways a realization of what this band is about--like it or not--marked by bombastic full-sounded rock numbers, and finally, good production values missing from earlier works.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

US Chart Analysis, 4/8/2006

Daniel Powter ascends to #1 with "Bad Day," continuing the rapid turnover at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, while Prince tops the albums chart with his 26th album. Read below for details.

Billboard Hot 100 (Singles):

1. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

The Billboard Hot 100 rapid-fire turnover continues with Daniel Powter topping this chart this week with "Bad Day." This is 2005's 7th #1 single, and the 4th in a row by a male artist, which last happened in 1988 when George Michael, Rick Astley, Michael Jackson, and Billy Ocean topped the chart with consecutive singles. "Bad Day" was a massive hit in Britain last summer; it spent 25 weeks in the top 40, including 3 weeks at #2 and spent 3 weeks at #1 on the airplay chart. "Bad Day's" US popularity owes itself to the fact that it is a great pop single, but also because American Idol has made it the weekly "loser's theme," playing over the montage of scenes from the performer who gets booted each week. Powter, a Canadian artist, is the third foreign-born act to top the US chart this year, after Britain's James Blunt and Jamaica's Sean Paul.

9. Ms. New Booty - Bubba Sparxxx Featuring Ying Yang Twins

Little else of interest in the top 10 this week--5 tracks are nonmovers--except for "Ms. New Booty," which is the only entry into the top 10, up from #13.

16. Move Along - All-American Rejects

"Move Along" is the week's biggest mover within the top 40, up 16 spots this week to #16. It's also this week's Sales Gainer. Last time out the Rejects hit #9 with "Dirty Little Secret," their second top 40 hit.

23. Savin' Me - Nickelback

Nickelback returns with "Savin' Me," their second top 40 hit from All the Right Reasons. The track is the highest entry in the top 40 this week, up 19 spots from #42. "Savin' Me" is only Nickelback's 4th top 40 hit, following the #2 hit "Photograph," and is the first time they've ever managed to score a 2nd top 40 from an album.

28. Poppin' My Collar - Three 6 Mafia
31. For You I Will (Confidence) - Teddy Geiger
37. Over My Head (Cable Car) - The Fray
39. What You Know - T.I.

Nickelback leads a pack of 5 entries in the top 40. Three 6 Mafia score their second top 40 hit at #28 with "Poppin' My Collar," the follow-up to last year's #13 hit "Stay Fly;" Teddy Geiger and The Fray have debut singles "For You I Will (Confidence)" at #31 and "Over My Head (Cable Car)" at #37 respectively. Finally T.I. scores his fifth top 40 at #39 with "What You Know."

Billboard 200 (Albums):

1. 3121 - Prince

Prince lands his 26th album, 3121, at #1, his fifth #1 album, despite the fact that the album lacks a strong hit single. Prince's chart career spans back to the late '70s--nearly 30 years--and reached its pinnacle in 1984 with Purple Rain, a dual album/film project that spawned his greatest hit, "When Doves Cry," as well as "Let's Go Grazy" and "Purple Rain." Prince is one of the most prolific albums artists, releasing one or more (one year even three) albums per year.

Prince's album history with Billboard 200 peak positions (by year with "key track"):

1. For You (1978) #163 - "Soft and Wet"
2. Prince (1979) #22 - "I Wanna Be Your Lover"
3. Dirty Mind (1980) #45 - "When You Were Mine"
4. Controversy (1981) #21 - "Controversy"
5. 1999 (1983) #9 - "Little Red Corvette"
6. Purple Rain (1984) #1 - "When Doves Cry"
7. Around the World in a Day (1985) #1 - "Raspberry Beret"
8. Parade (1986) #3 - "Kiss"
9. Sign 'O' The Times (1987) #6 - "U Got the Look"
10. Lovesexy (1988) #11 - "Alphabet St."
11. Batman (1989) #1 - "Batdance"
12. Graffiti Bridge (1990) #6 - "Thieves in the Temple"
13. Diamonds & Pearls (1991) #3 - "Cream"
14. (The Love Symbol Album) (1992) #5 - "7"
15. Come (1994) #15 - "Letitgo"
16. The Beautiful Experience EP (1994) #92 - "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"
17. The Black Album (1994) #47***
18. The Gold Experience (1995) #6 - "I Hate U"
19. Chaos and Disorder (1996) #26
20. Emancipation (1996) #11 - "Betcha By Golly Wow"
21. New Power Soul (1998) #22 - "Come On"
22. Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic (1999) #18 - "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold"
23. The Rainbow Children #109 (2001)
24. N.E.W.S. (2003) (Did not chart)
25. Musicology (2004) #3 - "Cinnamon Girl"
26. 3121 (2006) #1 - "Black Sweat"

***Recorded in 1987, but shelved for 7 years.