Sunday, July 30, 2006

Madonna Single: Like a Virgin (1984)


Madonna
“Like a Virgin”

Release: November 6, 1984

1. Like a Virgin
2. Stay

Producer: Nile Rodgers
Songwriters: Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly

Billboard Hot 100: #1 (6 weeks)
Billboard Dance/Club Play: #1 (4 weeks)
UK Singles Chart: #3


With a successful album under her belt, Madonna quickly returned to the studio to record its follow-up. “Like a Virgin” was the first single and title track from her second album, and followed “Lucky Star,” the last Madonna single, by only 3 months (in comparison, 6 months had passed between the release of “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”). When the single was released in November 1984, the masses were already familiar with it, since Madonna famously performed the track at the first MTV Music Video Awards in September. Dressed as a bride-of-sorts, Madonna came out an a cake and scandalized the public by writhing around on the stage and simulating masturbation with the veil. The performance was so popular that it sometimes considered a second video for the track—certainly it is noted as Madonna’s breakthrough attempt at manipulating the media through both image and music. It certainly could not have been ignored. The official video, directed by Mary Lambert, has Madonna cavorting around New York and Venice, dressing as a bride, and petting a giant cat.

Musically, “Like a Virgin” marked a somewhat new course for Madonna. Producer Reggie Lucas, whom Madonna never got along with anyway, was jettisoned in favor of Nile Rodgers, the man responsible for making Chic a staple of ‘70s disco. With an updated dance formula for the ‘90s, more slick and purely pop than her first album, Rodgers gave Madonna what she wanted and the sound was an instant hit.

“Like a Virgin” was Madonna’s first #1 hit and it remains one of her biggest ever. The track spent 6 weeks at #1 in the U.S., her second-longest stay at the top. Additionally, the single reached #1 in on the European chart as well as in Ireland, Canada, Australia, and Japan. As one of her most enduring signature hits, Madonna would perform the song again and again. Notable performances include the 1990 Blond Ambition tour performance, where she performed the song in a Middle Eastern style from a bed with male dancers wearing cone bras, and the 2003 MTV Music Video Awards performance featuring Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera—both of whom kissed Madonna at the end of the spectacle.

The video:


1984 MTV Music Video Awards:


1990 Blond Ambition Tour:


2003 MTV Music Video Awards (with Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears):

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Personal Chart, 7/29/2006

TW LW Wks Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... 5 .... Smile - Lily Allen (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... 7 .... Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera
3 .... 1 ... 11 ... Promiscuous - Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland (4 wks @ #1)
4 .... 4 ... 15 ... Get Together - Madonna
5 ... 11 .. 12 ... Unfaithful - Rihanna
6 .... 7 .... 7 .... In the Morning - Razorlight
7 .... 8 .... 8 .... Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol
8 .... 5 .... 7 .... She Moves in Her Own Way - The Kooks
9 .... 9 .... 6 .... Valerie - The Zutons
10 .. 25 .. 2 .... You Give Me Something - James Morrison

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Madonna Single: Lucky Star (1984)


Madonna
“Lucky Star”

Release: August 8, 1984

1. Lucky Star (Edit)
2. I Know It

Producer: Reggie Lucas
Writer: Madonna

Billboard Hot 100: #4
UK Singles Chart: #14



Saving the best for last isn’t the usual strategy for choosing singles off of albums, but that’s exactly how it worked for Madonna’s first album. “Lucky Star,” the album’s upbeat opening track, became the fifth and final single released from the album in the summer of 1984. It became the album’s biggest U.S. hit, peaking at #4. In the UK, it failed to chart when first released in 1983, but reached #14 upon its re-release the next year. It remains one of only five Madonna singles not to reach the top 10 in UK, a fate that would have befallen “Borderline,” had it not been re-released.

“Lucky Star” benefits from really cool synthesizer effects, thundering bass, and synthetic claps. It’s definitely my favorite cut from Madonna. Madonna’s high, nasally vocals also give way to lower-register singing, which she would use rarely until True Blue. The single features Madonna album cut I Know It as a B-side, ensuring that every cut on Madonna would appear as either the A- or B-side track on one of the album’s five singles.

The “Lucky Star” video is a simple dance video with Madonna dancing against white background with her two backup dancers—her brother, Christopher Ciccone, and Erica Bell.

Fergie needs a geography lesson


Fergie, the singer from the Black Eyed Peas, is going solo this summer. Her first single, "London Bridge," is out now. Above, is the picture on the cover of the single. Only problem is that she is standing in front of the Tower Bridge, not the London Bridge. At least said bridge is actually in London, but she should really get it right if this is going to be released in the UK.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Madonna Single: Borderline (1984)


Madonna
“Borderline”

Release: February 15, 1984

1. Borderline (Edit)
2. Think of Me

Producer/Writer: Reggie Lucas

Billboard Hot 100: #10
UK Singles Chart: #2

The success of “Holiday” assured a fourth single would be released from Madonna, and up the chart went “Borderline.” The single became Madonna’s first top 10 U.S. hit, peaking at #10. In Britain, it fared poorly upon initial release, peaking at #56. However, a re-release in January 1986 saw the track climb all the way to #2. The mid-tempo track is very ‘80s sounding and the closest thing to a ballad on Madonna. Again, it’s scored with keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines.

Although hard to see here, the cover has maps of New York and London in the background, which along with Los Angeles would be the most important cities where Madonna would be based over the course of her career.

Unlike “Holiday,” a stunning video was produced for “Borderline,” one of her best early works. The video was significant for telling a simple narrative story during a time when videos were mostly performances or obvious studio productions. Mary Lambert directed the cut, who would go on to direct other well-known Madonna videos such as “Like a Virgin” and the controversial “Like a Prayer.”

Lance Bass comes out

Lance Bass, formerly of the boyband N*Sync, came out today and announced that he is dating Amazing Race 4th season winner and model Reichen Lehmkuhl. It has long been speculated that Lance is gay--I had a friend in college that insisted on it, meanwhile everyone else was wrongly pointing fingers at Justin Timberlake. His relationship with Reichen has been somewhat public over the last few months, and the two took a very out-in-the-open vacation to gay destination Provincetown, Mass. a couple of weeks ago. Check out Reichen here: http://ihatewheat.wordpress.com/2006/07/26/no-surprises/

Lance is perhaps the biggest male American pop star to come out so far, but he's certainly not alone. "Out" gay pop/rock American acts include Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, the Indigo Girls, Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters), Jim Verraros (American Idol), RuPaul, Fred Schneider (B-52's), and Linda Perry. Michael Stipe is out too, but it isn't clear if he's gay or bi. Most of these acts had their biggest hits before coming out, with the notable exception of some of the women, such as Melissa Etheridge, who came out and then scored huge hits with "I'm the Only One" and "I Want to Come Over." k.d. lang also had her biggest hit post-coming out with "Constant Craving." Shears has had huge hits in the UK as an out artist, but not in the US.

Abroad, there appears to be more openly gay artists--particularly men--that have continued to be big hitmakers since coming out. George Michael came out in 1998, and went on to score a number of big hits, including "Outside," "As," and "Amazing." Elton John has also had continued success as an out artist, most recently with a #1 hit in 2003, "Are You Ready For Love." Biggest of all recently is Will Young, who came out while his first single, "Evergreen" was #1, and went on to score four more #1 singles and five other top 10 hits, including this year's "All Time Love."

Lance also isn't the only boyband member to come out. First up was former Irish Boyzone member Stephen Gately, who came out after the band broke up and had a top 10 hit, "New Beginning." Mark Feehily of Westlife, also an Irish act, came out last year, and then the band went on to score one of their biggest #1 hits, "You Raise Me Up." Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, Savage Garden, and Dead or Alive all have out lead singers.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Scissor Sisters New Track



The Scissor Sisters' new track, "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'," goes on sale at midnight Friday and will get its first play on BBC Radio 1 Friday morning. You can pre-order at 7Digital and hear a 30 second clip. I think it's going to be really really good. I'm quite excited.

The Killers New Track


The Killers' new track, "When You Were Young" can be heard in its entirety on their official Web site. Good song, but sounds a lot like "Mr. Brightside." I'm excited about the album, Sam's Town.

Madonna Single: Holiday (1983)


Madonna
“Holiday”

Release: September 7, 1983

1. Holiday (Single Edit)
2. Lucky Star

Producer: John “Jellybean” Benitez
Writers: Curtis Hudson & Lisa Stevens

Billboard Hot 100: #16
UK Singles Chart: #2 (1 wk)

“Holiday” was Madonna’s first big breakthrough—the song that got her on the radio. While her first two singles had been club hits, this was her first to crack the Billboard top 40, ultimately peaking at #16 and spending 11 weeks in the top 40. It also spent 5 weeks at #1 on the dance chart—her first of many dance #1s. In Britain, the single was released in January 1984 and hit #6 in February; it was then re-released in the summer of 1985 and peaked at #2 in the same week that another Madonna single, “Into the Groove” held the #1 spot (she also had position #19 that week with “Crazy for You”).

The track was the last recorded for Madonna, having been added to the album after it turned out another song, “Ain’t No Big Deal,” couldn’t be used because it’s original producer, who had produced Madonna’s demo that included the song, had sold it to another act. Madonna brought in her boyfriend “Jellybean” Benitez, who suggested she record “Holiday,” which had been offered to former Supremes member Mary Wilson, who turned it down.

The breezy track has proven to be one of Madonna’s most enduring classics and still receives frequent airplay on adult top 40 stations. Madonna has also included “Holiday” in the setlist in all but the current concert tours, often as an encore number. The track is Madonna simply musing about how nice it would be to go on vacation. The instrumentation is the same as that on most of Madonna’s tracks—synthesizers and drum machines, although it also includes a great keyboard solo during the song’s bridge, which is the song’s best moment.

“Holiday” was remixed by Benitez in 1987 for inclusion on Madonna’s You Can Dance retrospective. This version was then edited down for inclusion on Madonna’s 1990 greatest hits collection, The Immaculate Collection. In 1991, the single was again re-released in Britain, as well as a maxi-single known as “The Holiday Collection,” which included the original version of “Holiday” plus three other hits.

There is no proper video for “Holiday,” however, many consider her performance of the track on the TV show “Solid Gold” to serve as a good stand-in.

UK Singles Chart Commentary, 7/29/2006

1. Don't Stop Me Now / Please, Please - McFly

McFly scores their 9th straight top 10 hit and their 5th #1 with a double A-side of "Don't Stop Me Now," a remake of the Queen song, and "Please Please," a new track. It's a charity release, with the proceeds going to Sport Relief. Neither track appears on McFly's last album.

2. Unfaithful - Rihanna

Rihanna scores her 3rd #2 hit this week with the ballad "Unfaithful." She's been stopped from #1 by Oasis, Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, and now McFly, so her lack of a #1 is really just bad luck, as shown by the fact that "SOS" is one of the best-selling singles of the year so far.

5. You Give Me Something - James Morrison

Could this be the next James Blunt? British singer James Morrison hits the top 10 this week with his debut single, "You Give Me Something," a classic and classy pop track. Don't know much about James yet, but apparently he's only 21, which should give this lady a reason to be interested.

10. Smiley Faces - Gnarls Barkley

So how do you follow-up the best-selling hit of the year and the longest-running #1 single in 12 years? Apparently by scoring a lousy #10 placing for its follow-up, despite the fact that it's a decent track. It may be counter-intuitive, but it's actually pretty hard to follow-up mega hits. Look at Daniel Powter's lack of success with anything other than "Bad Day," which remains his only top 40 hit despite having released 3 other singles. Gnarls Barkley, like Powter, may be victims of their own success, with the music-buying public refusing to go in for anything by them other than "Crazy."

16. Tell Me Baby - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Here's another follow-up disappointment, although here I suspect it's because their fans have already bought the album, Stadium Arcadium, one the year's biggest hits. The Peppers have acutally never managed two top 10 hits from the same album, and the pattern here echoes that of their last album, 2002's By the Way, which gave us a #2 single in "By the Way," followed by the #11 placing of the second single, "The Zephyr Song." "Tell Me Baby," like "Dani California" embodies the classic RHCP sound and is a decent single from a once-troubled band that is now celebrating their third straight hit album.

18. Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera's fabulous new single "Ain't No Other Man," debuts at #18 on downloads, and is a strong challenger for #1 next week. If it makes it, it will be her fifth record to reach the top. Last time she charted was the end of 2004, hitting #4 in November with "Car Wash" and then #5 in December as a guest on Nelly's "Tilt Ya Head Back."

22. Never Gonna Be the Same - Sean Paul
23. Gimme That - Chris Brown

The law of diminishing returns is proven yet again this week by Sean Paul and Chris Brown. Their latest albums scored them #2 hits--"We Be Burnin"" for Sean Paul and "Run It!" for Chris Brown, follwed by tracks that just missed the top 10. Now they're outside the top 40.

25. Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol

I'm crossing my fingers this will go top 10 next week, as it's a beautiful song from them. Downloads only this week.

30. Eleanor Put Your Boots On - Franz Ferdinand

Again, it's the law of diminishing returns, as the fourth single from Franz Ferdinand's second album, You Could Have It So Much Better, limps in at #30, despite being a fantastic song. Second-best release from the album in my opinion after "Do You Want To."

36. Tell Me Why - Supermode

The looped-vocal House treatment strikes Jimmy Sommerville this week, as his band Bronski Beat's '80s hit gets recycled for the new century by Supermode to become "Tell Me Why." Top 10 next week?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Madonna Album: Madonna (1983)


Madonna
Madonna

Release: July 27, 1983

1. Lucky Star
2. Borderline
3. Burning Up
4. I Know It
5. Holiday
6. Think of Me
7. Physical Attraction
8. Everybody

Producer: Reggie Lucas (also John “Jellybean” Benitez and Mark Kamins)
Writer: Madonna, Reggie Lucas (“Borderline” and “Physical Attraction”) and Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens (“Holiday”)

Having released two singles that became decent dance hits, Madonna got the go-ahead to produce her first album. Working with Reggie Lucas, who had produced second single “Burning Up,” Madonna began work on the R&B-flavored dance pop collection. With Lucas, they crafted “Lucky Star,” “Borderline,” “I Know It,” and “Think of Me.” An additional song, “Ain’t No Big Deal,” written by her demo producer Stephen Bray, was recorded but couldn’t be used. Madonna found working with Lucas frustrating; being a seasoned record producer, he had his own way of doing things. Madonna being Madonna, she had her way too. After the completion of the album’s first seven songs, she was unhappy with the results and felt like Lucas had over-produced the songs. She solicited her then boyfriend John “Jellybean” Benitez to remix the completed tracks, and worked with him to record one more song, “Holiday.” Although Benitez didn’t get a producer credit, he polished the work to Madonna’s satisfaction.

Madonna has aged gracefully and still sounds fresh today owing to the current trend of pop songs being inspired by early ’80s dance music. At the time, the album fit prominently into the current keyboard and bass ‘80s dance sound, which developed out of the rejection of the ‘70s dance sound, disco. The album received mostly positive reviews from critics—the Rolling Stone remarked that her “girlish hiccup” distinguished her from the crowd. The cover features Gary Heery’s provocative black-and-white, head-on shot of Madonna, decked out in punkish ‘80s chains and rubber bracelets with her trademark (fake) mole above her lip. The album only peaked at #8 on the Billboard albums chart, but being Madonna’s first album, has sold well over time; to date it has been certified 5 x platinum.

I would rate this album a 4 out of 5. It’s solid work, although not very revealing. It’s also a bit short, but a good start for what would come.

Upcoming...

Here's what's upcoming in the next few months that I'm most excited about:

Scissor Sisters. Lead single "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" goes on sale at digital outlets next Friday; Ta-Dah is out September 18.

Christina Aguilera. Back to Basics, August 14

Justin Timberlake. FutureSex/LoveSounds, September 11

The Killers. Sam's Town, September 18.

Ladies Can't Get No Love

So there's been a great number of recent singles from well-known female artists, of which a surprising number seem to be tanking on US Radio. The Washington Post has an article about the lack of airplay for Madonna's Confessions on a Dancefloor singles, which of course are doing very well in other countries. Besides Madonna though, other established female artists are coming up short.

Christina Aguilera's "Aint No Other Man" peaked a couple of weeks ago at #6. Although that's nothing to snicker at, I thought it would do better--top 3 at least, given that it's such a great single for her, certainly much better than "Dirrty," the flop lead single from her last album. Jessica Simpson is still rising up the chart (she's #19 up from #22 on today's Mediabase Mainstream Hit chart) with "A Public Affair," but it's climbing slower than I expected.

In real trouble are two R&B mainstays. First, there's Janet Jackson, who's recent single "Call on Me," the lead from her forthcoming album 20 Years Old, stalled on the R&R Top 40 chart at #32. Janet needed a hit to launch this album, given the poor reception to her last album, Damita Jo. But "Call on Me's" chart performance is even poorer than that of Damita Jo's lead single, "Just a Little While," which was out at the height of the nipplegate scandal and still reached #19.

More noteworthy though is the relatively poor performance of Beyonce's lead single from her forthcoming album. Unlike Jackson, Beyonce is much-loved by the pop music public of late, having scored two #1 singles from her first album a few years ago, and a #1 hit earlier this year with "Check On It." "Deja Vu," her current single, peaked this week on the medibase top 40 airplay chart at only #14, and it's declining pretty quickly.

The reason for this may simply be overkill--there's a lot of singles by solo female artists out right now--and the newcomers appear to have an advantage over the seasoned artists, especially if the seasoned artists are just doing the same ol' thing. The top 4 singles on the R&R top 40 chart this week are female artists: Nelly Furtado, Rihanna, Cassie, and Shakira. Furtado has of course completely reinvented herself to score one of the year's biggest hits, Rihanna and Cassie are fairly new and brand new respectively, and Shakira also has a pretty original single in "Hips Don't Lie." Other female artists that have had big hits this year include Natasha Bedingfield, Mary J. Blige, and Kelly Clarkson.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mercury Music Award Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the Mercury Music Award--Britain's prestigious music award--was announced today. For those that don't know, the Mercury Music Award is an annual award given to one album selected from a list of 12 finalists. The nominees tend to be considered more critically acclaimed than the other major British music award, the Brit Awards, which tend to honor popular work. Mercury nominees run the gamut from the well-known to the unknown, and a typical year's shortlist usually has a good mix of rock, alternative, hip-hop, electronic, and folk. Last year, the award went to Antony & the Johnsons.

This year's list of nominees:

1. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2. Editors - The Back Room
3. Guillemots - Through the Windowpain
4. Hot Chip - The Warning
5. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas
6. Lou Rhodes - Beloved One
7. Muse - Black Holes & Revelations
8. Richard Hawley - Coles Corner
9. Scritti Politti - White Bread Black Beer
10. Sway - This is my Demo
11. Thom York - The Eraser
12. Zoe Rahman - Melting Pot

Arctic Monkeys may appear to be the front-runner, but the Mercurys doesn't usually go to the obvious choice. Take last year, where Antony & the Johnsons took home the prize over front-running Kaiser Chiefs (the award was also controversial since Antony is based in New York, although he was born in Britain).

There's few popular choices this year. Muse's album has become a major hit and Thom York (of Radiohead) is certainly well-known, but the rest of the group is mostly newcomers and unknowns. Besides Arctic Monkeys, the only other album on this list I have is Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan's, which is a really cool record of dark country/folk/rock. The Editors interest me, as do the Guillemots. Hot Chip is mildly intriguing. I haven't been able to hear anything from jazz pianist Zoe Rahman or the Scritti Politti albums. The rest are either boring or as the Brits would say, not my cuppa tea. So my money's on the Guillemots, but my heart is currently with Campbell & Lanegan.

Madonna Single: Burning Up / Physical Attraction (1983)


Madonna
“Burning Up” / “Physical Attraction”

Release: March 9, 1983

Burning Up (12” version)
Physical Attraction (Album version)

Producer: Reggie Lucas
Writer: Madonna

Cover art: Martin Burgoyne



With “Everybody” being a modest success, Sire/Warner Bros. green lit a second single. This time, the record company chose another, more experienced producer, Reggie Lucas, to helm the project, who would ultimately be the principal producer on Madonna. His influence is evident on “Burning Up,” which features an obviously more lavish production than Mark Kamins’s work on “Everybody.” “Burning Up” is a faster, tighter track. Although still scored most with synthesizers and sharp drums, there’s also a few blares of electric guitar.

Thematically, “Burning Up” turns to one of Madonna’s favorite enduring subjects: Sex. “Do you wanna see me down on my knees?” she asks, “Or bending over backwards, now would you be pleased?” “I have no shame,” she says, a fact that would be proven again and again through her provocative manipulation of the media. “Burning Up” is a solid dance track and holds up great in the current pop landscape obsessed with early ‘80s sounds (See Jessica Simpson’s new single, “A Public Affair,” which owes much to Madonna’s early sound). While technically a double A-side single, “Physical Attraction” isn’t nearly as interesting. It’s slower, and simpler—more like “Everybody.” It’s unusually long too, at almost 7 minutes.

“Burning Up” also charted at #3 on the Billboard dance chart, but didn’t dent the Billboard Hot 100, not even the Bubbling Under chart. The single was not released in the UK. “Physical Attraction” also appears as an “extended” remix (it’s actually shorter than the original version) on You Can Dance.

The video was Madonna’s first proper studio music video, and was directed by Steve Barron, who had just famously directed Michael Jackson’s video classic “Billie Jean.” The “boyfriend” in the video was apparently Madonna’s real boyfriend at the time, Norris Burroughs. The sexy video features some interesting visual effects, such as Madonna hanging her hat on a laser beam.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Madonna Single: Everybody (1982)


Madonna
“Everybody”

Release: October 6, 1982

Tracks:
Everybody (12” version)
Everybody (Dub)

Producer: Mark Kamins
Writer: Madonna
Illustration by Lou Beach

Billboard Dance/Club Play: #3, 16 weeks on chart


“Everybody” was Madonna’s first single, released in the fall of 1982 before plans for the Madonna album had taken shape. Although originally written by Madonna and Stephen Bray for her 4-track demo tape, the song is credited only to Madonna and is produced for the single by Mark Kamins, a New York DJ that was among the first to play Madonna’s demo at the well-known club Danceteria. Sire/Warner Brothers chose Kamins over Bray, believing the latter to be inexperienced. The 4-song tape, produced by Stephen Bray, included: 1) Ain’t No Big Deal, 2) Everybody, 3) Don’t You Know, and 4), Stay.

The track is a fairly simple R&B-flavored dance tune: synthesizers and drum beats with vocals. The lyrics contain nothing more than in invitation to dance, “dance and sing, get up and do your thing,” sings Madonna over and over. Madonna starts the song with a spoken intro—one of many of her songs to feature spoken, rather than sung, portions. Although a more formidable singer now, back in the early ‘80s it was clear Madonna had little (if any) formal vocal training. Both her range and vocal strength were limited, but her breathy delivery added a dash of sex appeal to make up for those shortcomings. It's a decent track, but not a classic, important only because it was her first official release.

The single did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, but it did make #7 on the Billboard Bubbling Under chart, which charted songs expected to hit the Billboard Hot 100. It did make #3 on the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart, a chart Madonna would go to rule over the next 24 years, scoring more #1 hits on it than any other artist. As Madonna was not featured on the single cover, many people did not know what she looked like; some assumed she was black, and she got some limited airplay on R&B stations. “Everybody” was not released in the UK. An extended remix of “Everybody” appears on Madonna’s 1987 dance retrospective, You Can Dance, and a “Dub Version” of the song appears on cassette versions of that album.

The low-budget video is very simple by Madonna standards. It's just her and two other dancers in a club. The moves her choreographed by Madonna's brother, Christopher Ciccone.

The ww_adh Madonna Project

Starting today, I've decided to embark on a Madonna project, which should last some time. Madonna is my favorite pop musician, arguably the most important current pop artist. I'm going to profile each of her singles and albums, with a focus on their history, quality, and trivia. As of right now, this undertaking will comprise about 70 singles, 11 albums, 5 collections, and 2 major soundtrack appearances (soundtracks that include at least 2 Madonna tracks). I'll put these articles up periodically in chronological order of release. Singles will include those released in either the US or the UK, as well as significant airplay-only tracks. Even if you're not a Madonna fan, I hope you find this interesting. You might learn something--I'm sure I will. Kicking it off is Madonna's very first single from 1983, "Everybody." Enjoy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

UK Singles Chart Analysis, 7/15/2006

My blog’s been neglected lately, and probably will be for the next couple of weeks until my life is more settled.

1. Smile – Lily Allen

Last week she topped the airplay chart and this week newcomer Lily Allen is riding high with first single, “Smile,” climbing all the way up to #1. The track’s timeless sound could have come from any year from now back to the ‘20s, and the breezy track is a perfect summer hit. The British singer has been compared to everyone from Sugababes to Norah Jones, embodying a sound both modern and old school. If that’s not enough to love her, she’s also the daughter of actor Keith Allen (Shallow Grave). Her hotly anticipated debut album, Alright, Still, is out July 17.

3. In the Morning – Razorlight

I’m a big fan of this song, and pleased to see it’s become Razorlight’s second-biggest hit, bested only by last year’s #2 “Somewhere Else.” Razorlight’s second album, Razorlight, is out July 17.

5. Last Request – Paolo Nutini

Here’s this summer’s first contender to be the next James Blunt. Paolo Nutini is not Italian, but rather Scottish (Italian father, Scottish mother). His debut album is also out July 17th (big week for new releases!). A quick listen to preview tracks on his Web site confirms the Blunt comparison. The 18 year-old singer has been getting lots of British press and was recently asked to join the Rolling Stones on tour. “Last Request” is no “You’re Beautiful,” but it’s a decent track. Hopefully he’ll follow it up with something more upbeat.

9. World Hold On (Children of the Sky) – Bob Sinclar Featuring Steve Edwards

The highest debut of the week come from Bob Sinclar, who just missed the top 10 earlier this year with “Love Generation” (#12). “World Hold On” is a rather uninspiring house track, but that didn’t stop it from topping the US dance chart this week, for a second week no less.

13. An Easier Affair – George Michael

The first release from the forthcoming George Michael retrospective, George Michael 25, fails to reach the top 10, landing at a rather unimpressive #13, the lowest a first single for him has ever charted. To be honest, it’s not that great, not nearly the quality of Patience’s first single “Amazing” or even the new cut from his last greatest hits collection, 1998’s “Outside.” It’s also questionable my Michael even needs a greatest hits package (other than to pay his mounting legal bills), since he’s had only a handful of them since 1998’s Ladies and Gentlemen collection.

18. Voodoo Child – Rogue Traders

The highest downloads-only debut of the week comes from Australian electro group Rogue Traders. Surely a top 10 next week. I know a lot of people like this, but I find it a bit grating, if only because the lead “singer” sounds awful. Good beat though.

20. We Are Your Friends – Justice vs. Simian

This is supposed to be really good, but I haven’t heard it yet, so no comment.

23. I Love My Chick – Busta Rhymes (Featuring Kelis)

Unfortunately, this dreck is expected to climb into the top 10 next week. The real version of this substitute’s “chick” with another term.

29. Hand on Your Heart – Jose Gonzalez

Gonzalez had his first hit earlier this year with the top 10 “Heartbeats,” a tender, acoustic guitar and vocal track. So what possessed him to follow that up with a similarly composed remake of Kylie’s #1 ‘80s hit “Hand on Your Heart?” The result is that a fun, upbeat pop gem gets turned into mush. Perhaps he’s trying to pay tribute to the pop singer until she’s able to return to the spotlight.

Friday, July 07, 2006

UK Singles Chart Analysis, 7/8/2006

1. Hips Don’t Lie – Shakira Featuring Wyclef Jean

It’s already topped every chart in the US, and now in its 3rd week, Shakira scores her first #1 hit on the UK singles chart with “Hips Don’t Lie,” becoming her biggest hit ever in the UK and all over the world. She knocks Nelly Furtado from #1, who in fact knocked Shakira from #1 in the US. Take that!

3. Buttons – The Pussycat Dolls Featuring Snoop Dogg

The Pussycat Dolls keep up their winning streak with their 4th top 3 hit, “Buttons,” which follows the #2 peak of last single “Beep.” I really don’t care much for this song, as they’ve strayed too far into hip-hop territory for my taste, but the song’s a genuine hit in both the UK and the US.

5. Sexy Love – Ne-Yo

Ne-Yo follows up his #1 hit “So Sick” with a top 5 placing for “Sexy Love.” Ne-Yo smartly skipped over “So Sick’s” US follow-up, the sexist “When You’re Mad,” in favor of this superior retro-flavored track.

7. She Moves in Her Own Way – The Kooks

The Kooks follow-up the top 5 career-best placing of “Na├»ve” with another Top 10 hit. “She Moves in Her Own Way” is a fantastic single, and remains at #2 on the UK airplay chart. The band is bigger than ever now, and their album Inside In/Inside Out has responded in kind, climbing up to #3 this week on the albums chart.

13. Smile – Lily Allen
Newcomer Lily Allen has the official highest debut of the week with her first single, “Smile,” which charts quite high on downloads only. It’s a strong contender for #1 next week. Lily Allen does take after people like Corinne Bailey Rae and Norah Jones, but it’s still a pretty decent track in it’s own right.

15. In the Morning – Razorlight

Another strong debut based on digital sales is Razorlight’s latest, “In the Morning,” from their forthcoming new album. The band first hit it big 2 years ago with top 10 “Golden Touch,” and then hit #2 last year with “Somewhere Else.” Their new release is just as good and should be top 5 next week.

19. Blood on the Dancefloor – Michael Jackson

Michael’s blood’s been shed, which means we’ve finally come to the end of the ill-conceived re-release of a large set of Michael Jackson’s greatest video hits. Singles were chosen because of their hit status and video (so great songs such as “Man in the Mirror” that didn’t have videos didn’t make the cut). Here’s how the lot performed, from best on down, with their original best peaks in parentheses. None of the tracks spent more than a week in the top 40, which is to be expected considering they were limited releases with limited in-store availability. His earlier hits fared better than his later ones, which may have been more a sign of fatigue for the process than an indicator of their success, given that many of Jackson’s later releases were significantly bigger hits in the UK than in the US, particularly “Earth Song,” which spent 6 weeks at #1, but was the lowest peforming track of the re-release bunch. Classic “Billie Jean,” a #1 in the UK and the US, easily topped the lot deservedly as Michael Jackson’s best single ever.

#11 Billie Jean (#1)
#15 Leave Me Alone (#2)
#15 Beat It (#3)
#15 Rock With You (#7)
#16 Bad (#3)
#17 Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough (#3)
#17 The Way You Make Me Feel (#3)
#17 Dirty Diana (#4)#18 Black or White (#1)
#19 Blood on the Dancefloor (#1)
#19 Smooth Criminal (#8)
#22 Remember the Time (#3)
#22 Stranger in Moscow (#4)
#22 Jam (#13)
#26 They Don’t Care About Us (#4)
#27 Heal the World (#2)
#30 You Are Not Alone (#1)
#34 Earth Song (#1)

22. Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

“Breakaway” was Kelly Clarkson’s first US release from her second album of the same name, but was held back from UK release until now, as the 5th and final release from her album. It doesn’t do very well, despite the fact that it’s #6 on the UK airplay chart. Kelly Clarkson has become a genuine hit in the UK over the last 2 years, having landed top 10 hits with “Since U Been Gone,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes,” and “Because of You,” all of which were HUGE top 40 hits in the US. Surely she’ll be back in the top 10 once she gets some new material out.

39. That Old Pair of Jeans – Fatboy Slim

Eight years ago, Fatboy Slim released an album that scored four top 10 hits, “The Rockafeller Skank” (#6), “Gangster Tripping” (#3), “Praise You” (#1), and “Right Here, Right Now” (#2). But that was 8 years ago. Clearly, no one cares anymore.