Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Personal Chart, November 3, 2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 12 ... Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Valerie - Mark Ronson Featuring Amy Winehouse (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 3 .... Apologize - Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic
4 .... 8 .... 2 Hearts - Kylie Minogue
5 ... 13 ... Rule the World - Take That
6 .... 4 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Feat. Keri Hilson & DOE
7 .... 2 .... About You Now - Sugababes (2 wks @ #1)
8 .... 9 .... Wake Up Call - Maroon 5
9 .... 7 .... Hate That I Love You - Rihanna Featuring Ne-Yo
10 .. 6 .... Can't Get Along (Without You) - Hard-Fi

New from Dannii Minogue

Kylie's little sister is back with this new single "Touch Me Like That," produced by Jason Nevins. Dannii's actually got a lot going on these days. She's joined The X Factor as a judge, along with Simon Cowell, Sharon Osborne, and Louis Walsh. She also has a remix album, Unleashed, out next week, although this single isn't on it, so I'm not sure why this is being released.

Monday, October 29, 2007

UK Chart Notes

Leona Lewis claimed #1 on the UK singles chart this week in magnificent style with her second single, "Bleeding Love," the first release from her forthcoming debut album, Spirit. Not since Will Young has a British reality TV act emerged with such potential to actually make it big.

While many X-Factor and other reality TV winning acts have been able to transform their TV fame into an initial #1 hit, prospects after that often fall quickly. Take Michelle McManus, winner of Pop Idol's second season, who hit #1 with her first single "All This Time," but was dropped by her record label after her second, "The Meaning of Love," failed to hit the top 10. Lewis, who last year won the third season of X-Factor, is in fact the show's first alum to score a second #1. I'm hopeful that her album, which attracted the assistance of Clive Davis as co-executive producer (with Simon Cowell).

Lewis didn't just top the chart though, she did it with by far the best sales figure of the year, moving over 218,000 copies of "Bleeding Love," more than double the year's previous best sales week for a single, the nearly 86,000 copies The Proclaimers featuring Brian Potter and Andy Pipkin moved of "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" in its first week in March.

In any other week this year then, the single at #2 this week, Take That's "Rule the World," would have been the single with the biggest one-week sales total, for it moved almost 98,000 copies. Still, although it was kept from #1 by a monster hit, the single is a vast improvement over the #17 performance of their last single, "I'd Wait for Life," which ended their run of six consecutive #1 hits.

Another act kept from #1 that is likely accustomed to be there by now is McFly, who lands at #3 with their 13th single, "The Heart Never Lies." Seven of the band's singles have hit the top spot, including their last, "Baby's Coming Back," with 9000 sales fewer than their latest hit. I'll say it again: It was an amazing sales week for the UK singles chart.

Oasis debuts at #10 with their latest, "Lord Don't Slow Me Down," ending their run of 18 consecutive top 5 hits. Not since "Live Forever," their classic 1994 release, have they charted so low.

While next week can't possibly be as grand as this, it's shaping up to be pretty exciting too, as Westlife will go head-to-head with Leona with their latest, a remake of Michael Buble's "Home," which they are hoping will be their 15th #1 hit. Also out are new singles from Timbaland, Samim, Robyn, Keane, Avril Lavigne, Akon and Celine Dion.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Personal Chart, Year to Date, 3rd Quarter

As of the end of September, here's the top 10 songs of the year on my personal chart:

# .. Peak ... Title - Artist
1 .... 1(1) ... Glamorous - Fergie
2 .... 1(6) ... Big Girls Don't Cry - Fergie
3 .... 1(3) ... The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani Featuring Akon
4 .... 1(1) ... Say It Right - Nelly Furtado
5 .... 1(1) ... What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake
6 .... 1(2) ... U + Ur Hand - Pink
7 .... 1(3) ... Umbrella - Rihanna Featuring Jay-Z
8 .... 1(1) ... Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs
9 .... 1(1) ... Makes Me Wonder - Maroon 5
10 .. 1(2) .. Shine - Take That

Album release update

My listing of key album releases over the next few weeks. With the runup to Christmas now fully loaded there are lots of hits collections and big-name releases. This year's annoying trend would seem to be that if you don't have a new product to release, just put out your last one and call it a "deluxe" edition. Dates reflect UK release dates:

October 29

  • Britney Spears - Blackout. See my review.
  • Freemasons - Unmixed. Not sure what's on this.
  • Backstreet Boys - Unbreakable. Kevin's gone now, but the other four are still at it, releasing their 6th album. While their last album, the 2005 comeback Never Gone, gave them a decent-sized hit in "Incomplete," the first single from this album, "Inconsolable," is a flop.
  • Ministry of Sound (Various Artists) - The Annual 2008. The annual 3-CD release of current dance hits.
  • The Libertines - Time for Heroes: The Best Of. Greatest hits set from Pete Doherty's infamous defunct group. Includes tracks such as "Can't Stand Me Now" and "Up the Bracket."

November 5

  • Westlife - Home Again. Their 9th studio album, which, judging from the tracklist contains a number of remakes such as first single "Home" (Michael Buble), "Have You Ever" (Brandy), and "I'm Already There" (Lonestar).
  • McFly - Greatest Hits/All the Greatest Hits. Greatest Hits contains only #1 hits, "That Girl," and three new tracks, while the longer All the Greatest Hits includes all that plus other singles that weren't #1s.
  • Amy Winehouse - Back to Black (Deluxe Edition). Includes a bonus disc with some new songs plus "Valerie."
  • Dannii Minogue - Unleashed. A remix disc.

November 12

  • Spice Girls - Greatest Hits. Finally finally finally the Spice Girls release their greatest hits collection. And they even reformed for it, are touring, and have a new single, "Headlines (Friendship Forever)."
  • Leona Lewis - Spirit. This may be the first album worth buying from an X-Factor winner, Britain's current answer to American Idol. Leona is set to hit #1 this afternoon with her second single, "Bleeding Love."
  • Celine Dion - Taking Chances. This is a return of sorts for Celine, who hasn't released a hit-seeking English language album since 2003's One Heart (Miracles, her 2004 Anne Geddes tie-in looked like a one-off). First single "Taking Chances" is actually pretty decent.
  • Killers - Sawdust. The Killers B-sides, rarities, and remixes set is thankfully heavy on B-sides and rarities, so unless you're a collector, it may feel like a new album. Includes singles "Shadowplay" (US release) and "Tranquilize" (UK release).
  • Craig David - Trust Me. British Pop/R&B singer Craig David releases his fouth album, featuring first single "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)," which features a liberal David Bowie sample.
  • Seal - System. Mr. Heidi Klum puts out his fifth album, only his second not to be named just "Seal." Includes a duet with his wife, "Wedding Night," (cringe) and first single "Amazing," which isn't bad. Rumour is that it will be more dance-oriented like his first album.
  • David Gray - Greatest Hits. Predictable collection that includes new single "The World to Me."
  • Garth Brooks - Ultimate Hits. Two-disc collection of Garth Brooks' singles, which gets an earlier (Nov. 6) release in the US.
  • Take That - Beautiful World (Deluxe). Another re-release, presumably to also include current hit "Rule the World"
  • Groove Armada - GA10 (Greatest Hits). Celebrates 10 years of the band with a 2-CD set of hits, such as "I See You Baby" and last summer's Mutya Buena collaboration, "Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)"

November 19

  • Alicia Keys - As I Am. Her third album, released too late in the year to qualify for a Grammy nomination. Maybe next year. Features first single "No One."
  • Girls Aloud - Tangled Up. Their fourth album, to include recent single "Sexy! No No No..."
  • Now 68. The latest hit collection.

November 26

  • Kylie Minogue - X.If I said earlier this year that Kelly Clarkson's My December was the album I was most anticipating this year, I was lying. It's this one, Kylie's first album in 4 years, featuring first single "2 Hearts."
  • Shayne Ward - Breathless. The former X-Factor winner puts out his second album.
  • Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds (Deluxe). Another re-issue, to include the new duet version of "Until the End of Time" with Beyonce.

December 3

  • Mary J. Blige - Growing Pains. Her 8th album.

December 10

  • Nelly - Brass Knuckles. His 5th album, which gets a November 13 release in the US.

December 18

  • Natasha Bedingfield - N.B. (US version). Natasha Bedingfield's second album succumbed to a serious sophomore slump--its third single, "Say It Again (feat. Adam Levine)," didn't even chart in the top 75 when it released. Ouch! She's having better luck in the US so far though, with "Love Like This (feat. Sean Kingston)" charting strongly on the top 40 airplay chart.

Not on the list:

  • Mariah Carey. Her 10th studio album has been pushed back to February 2008.
  • Dido. Current estimated date is March 2008, four and a half years after Life for Rent. According to Q Magazine the album will be more acoustic than her first two.
  • The Feeling. Second album, The Moon, is expected in early 2008.
  • Goldfrapp. Their fourth album, titled Seventh Tree, is due in February.
  • Whitney Houston. Clive Davis promised us an amazing album by the end of the year, but it's not in the cards. Frankly if this ever gets released it will be a miracle. No word yet on a date
  • Madonna. Her 12th studio album is expected in March 2008, with a greatest hits package to follow sometime after she's done promoting singles from it. This will finish out her Warner Bros. contract so she can begin her Live Earth era.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Looking Back: Kylie's Albums

The release of Kylie Minogue's 10th album, X, is less than one month away now. Here's my overview of her previous nine releases:
Kylie (1988). (3.5/5) Light and frothy late ‘80s pop that made Kylie a name all over the world. In the U.S., “The Loco-Motion” became, for years, her sole major hit. But in the rest of the world, particularly Europe, the album spawned multiple hits, most notably “I Should Be So Lucky,” perhaps the best example of super producers Stock Aitken Waterman’s (SAW) work at the time. It doesn’t try to be anything more than a good time and it succeeds very well. Essential: I Should Be So Lucky

Enjoy Yourself (1989). (3/5) Kylie’s second album was essentially more of the same SAW fluffy pop. This album falls down a bit though when Kylie tries on a few slow songs, which have never been (and probably never will be) her strong suit. Aside from that though, it’s pretty good. Essential: Hand on Your Heart

Rhythm of Love (1990). (4/5) Things get a little more interesting with Kylie’s third album. Still a SAW production, but with a concerted effort to update Kylie’s sound for the ‘90s, the album wisely avoided the balladry that weakened her last album. The results are not unlike what Cathy Dennis—a future critical collaborator—was doing at the time. “Better the Devil You Know,” the album’s first track, remains one of Kylie’s strongest early singles. Essential: Better the Devil You Know

Let’s Get to It (1991). This is the only Kylie album I don’t own, so I can’t say much about it, but the fact that I don’t have it says something about my lack of interest in it. This was the first albeit tentative step into more adult territory for Kylie, who was becoming increasingly interested in asserting herself in her music and not being just a dance pop producers’ plaything. The singles from the album, if they are indicative of the rest, are just average though. Essential: Finer Feelings

Kylie Minogue (1994). (4/5) After taking a 3-year break and emerging on a new record label, Kylie Minogue was a forceful statement that Kylie was taking a new, more mature direction with her music. Freed completely from the Stock Aitken Waterman production house that made her a household name, Kylie was free to experiment. Nowhere is this more evident than with “Confide in Me,” the haunting, vaguely Middle Eastern first single that is markedly different than anything else Kylie has ever done. Dance pop is still the emphasis, but the flavor is much more adult than teen oriented. Essential: Confide in Me

Impossible Princess (1997). (3/5). Here’s where things got really weird. This is the furthest from dance pop that Kylie ever ventured, and the results are interesting but mixed. The disc spans from the dark trip-hop of “Jump” to the soulful and upbeat “Some Kind of Bliss.” Essential: Some Kind of Bliss

Light Years (2000) (4.5/5). Another long break and Kylie emerged once again into a new musical era, this time embracing the frothy dance pop that made her famous, updated for the new millennium and injected with a heady dose of ‘70s disco influence. Light Years is confident, joyous fun, particularly her campy collaborations with Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams on “Loveboat,” “Kids,” and “Your Disco Needs You.” But the more contemporary tracks, “Spinning Around,” “On a Night Like This,” and “Please Stay,” were good too, and returned Kylie to the top of the charts after the relative drought of her experimental period. Essential: Spinning Around

Fever (2001). (5/5) Fever is the best dance pop album ever made and one of my favorite albums. Every track is a winner and the thoroughly modern sound fits Kylie like a glove. While the camp and retro elements of Light Years were fun, I don’t miss them here at all. This time the inspiration came from the best of current dance music, such as the obvious Daft Punk influence on “Love at First Sight.” Cathy Dennis’ remarkable work on “Come Into My World” and the classic “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” is also notable. Essential: Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Body Language (2003). (4/5) Kylie shifted her emphasis again for Body Language away from house dance pop toward a more electro sound with ‘80s influence. The results aren’t as enjoyable as her last two albums, but this is still solid, particularly on the sexy, breathy “Slow” or “Chocolate.” Upbeat tracks like “Secret (Take You Home)” and “Still Standing” are great too, as is the Justin Timberlake-influenced “Red Blooded Woman.” Essential: Slow

Album Review: Britney Spears - Blackout (2/5)

While Britney’s been a bad girl for some time, it used to be that bouts of bad behavior were followed by coquettish statements from her PR machine. On her own now sans PR (clearly), Britney is content to not even try to hide her bad side, but to exploit it, as evidenced by the title of her 5th album, Blackout, a state she’s surely been in more than once over the last year, a period during which she's shed any last shred of dignity. There are tabloid queens and then there is Britney--shaving her head, checking in and out of rehab, acting like a zombie on MTV, hitting and running, doing who knows what to lose custody of her kids, I could go on and on, and that was all just since January.

That Blackout isn't a complete disaster could come as a surprise, until you remind yourself that Britney's albums have always been producer-driven affairs, with her contribution coming in the form of image, packaging and desirability. So what we have here is basically a bunch of really hot producers offering up ready-made sleek pop songs not unlike what they've produced recently for other artists. Britney showed up (more or less) to do the vocal and voila: slick, electronic, beat-heavy pop with lots of vocal processing and a good dose of attitude. I like a good futuristic electro-pop romp as much as the next guy, but the results here are disappointing, with Blackout being the weakest of Britney's five albums.

There are a few good songs, but "good" is relative. Nothing here stands up to "...Baby One More Time," "Toxic," or even "Stronger." The album's best track is "Heaven on Earth," which 0pens with a pulsing synth bass line and has a faster tempo than most of the other songs. The melodic song embodies an ‘80s sound, reminiscent of the work Gwen Stefani’s been doing lately. First single, "Gimme More," also manages to be pretty good when stacked up against the rest of what she's done here.

I also like both of the songs produced by Bloodshy and Avant, the duo that made Britney's second-biggest hit, "Toxic," a few years ago. "Piece of Me" is Britney's chance to take on her detractors, and the highly processed track makes her sound pretty good, even if it lacks enough melody to really hold together. "Toy Soldier" has a better beat and an interesting sound, but the producer/songwriter who boasts in the opening, "hear a smash on the radio, bet I penned it,” may be waiting to hear this on airwaves anytime soon.

The rest is unfortunate, uninteresting, and in a few cases just unlistenable. Nate "Danja" Hills, who crafted the awesome "Say It Right" for Nelly Furtado, tries to work similar magic for Britney with "Break the Ice," "Hot as Ice," "Get Naked (I Got a Plan), " and "Perfect Lover." "Break the Ice" is the best of this pack, and comes closest to emulating "Say It Right," but emulation isn't a very high bar for a producer, are fine, but nothing special.

Of the rest, "Radar" is electronic, attitude-filled, and bland. "Freakshow" is just bad--a lean track of bleeps, hand claps, and vocals. By the time the end of the album rolls around with "Ooh Ooh Baby" and Pharrell Williams' "Why Should I Be So Sad," I'm too bored to really care.

Anyone who thinks Britney miraculously took a break from her headline-bating ways over the last few months to sit down and pour herself into crafting a fine pop album is kidding themselves. Critics have been surprisingly generous with this; Entertainment Weekly, for example, gave it a B+, but I'm not buying it (literally--I listened to it on MTV's the Leak, which is all I'd recommend doing).

When she doesn't get drowned out by the beats and bleeps, Britney's vocal delivery sounds like it was phoned in. She’s not the greatest singer, and these songs don’t need her to be, which is why a few songs do work, but too often she gets lost in the production. But hey, she likely wasn’t very involved in it in the first place.

Best: Heaven on Earth, Gimme More, Piece of Me, Toy Soldier, Break the Ice

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kylie X preview

Kylie's MySpace page is offering a free download mix of new tracks from her forthcoming X album. You can get it here. It includes:

"2 Hearts" - The single we already know and love.
"Like a Drug" - Sounds cool. Electronic dance music reminiscent of "Can't Get You Out of My Head."
"The One" - This is produced by the preeminent dance group the Freemasons, and it sounds like it's a standout.
"In My Arms" - At first I thought this was the Calvin Harris track, "Heart Beat Rock," but it's clearly "In My Arms," and it sounds good.

Based on this, it sounds like X will be a good blend of the electronic sound of Body Language, but with a stronger melodic emphasis like that of Fever. Could be really great.

UK Chart Notes

  • The Sugababes spend a fourth week at #1 on the UK singles chart this week, making "About You Now" their longest-running #1 hit, besting the 3 weeks spent at the top by "Push the Button."
  • Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse move into pole position with "Valerie," which also spends a second week at #1 on the UK airplay chart. The move ties Mark Ronson's current single with his previous biggest hit, "Stop Me" featuring Daniel Merriweather, which hit #2 earlier this year.
  • Britney Spears returns to the UK top 10 after a two-year absence with "Gimme More," which makes its debut on download sales at #3, giving Britney her 10th top 3 hit, the last being "My Prerogative," which hit #3 just under 3 years ago. In total, she now has 18 top 10 hits in the UK.
  • Timbaland makes a big splash at #6 with "Apologize (featuring OneRepublic)," whose official release is still over a week away. Both of Timbaland's last two singles, "The Way I Are" and "Give It to Me" were #1 hits.
  • The Freemasons land their biggest hit yet at #8 with "Uninvited (featuring Bailey Tzuke)," their dance remake of Alanis Morissette's 1998 hit, which was not released in the UK. The dance act's previous best was the #11 hit from 2 years ago, "Love on My Mind."
  • The Killers make a splash at #13 with "Tranquilize," the first single from their forthcoming B-sides/rarities/remixes collection, Sawdust. At #13, the single performs better than all of the Sam's Town singles except its first, "When You Were Young," which hit #2, making it the Killer's highest-charting UK single.
  • Orson makes a disappointing #21 upon the physical release of "Ain't No Party," the first single from their second album. The band's first single, "No Tommrow," was a #1 hit last year, and even their second single, "Bright Idea," hit #11.
  • This weekend's chart is shaping up to be a major chart battle, with a good number of notable releases: Take That's "Rule the World," Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love," McFly's "The Heart Never Lies," Britney's physical release of "Gimme More," Freemasons' physical release of "Uninvited," Newton Faulkner's "All I Got," and Mutya Buena's "Just a Little Bit." Any of the first four tracks on this list could easily hit #1: the new Take That single (its airplay is massive and "Patience" and "Shine" were huge #1 hits), the new Leona Lewis single (the first "real" single from a former reality show winner), McFly's new single (they've had seven #1 hits, always hitting #1 with the first two singles from a new album, and this is the first from their greatest hits), and Britney (who debuted very high at #3 last week on downloads alone).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Personal Chart, 10/27/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Valerie - Mark Ronson Featuring Amy Winehouse (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... About You Now - Sugababes (2 wks @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... Apologize - Timbaland Featuring One Republic
4 .... 3 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Featuring Keri Hilson & DOE
5 ... 11 ... Happy Ending - Mika
6 .... 8 .... Can't Get Along (Without You) - Hard-Fi
7 .... 9 .... Hate That I Love You - Rihanna Featuring Ne-Yo
8 ... 17 ... 2 Hearts - Kylie Minogue
9 ... 10 ... Wake Up Call - Maroon 5
10 .. 12 .. Ain't No Party - Orson

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Album Review: Radiohead - In Rainbows (4.5 / 5)

Quick history of Radiohead: First there was their debut Pablo Honey, which gave them their sole U.S. hit single, "Creep;" then highly regarded yet conventional The Bends; followed by highly regarded yet unconventional OK Computer, often cited as one of the '90's best albums (The Bends often is too); then the truly unconventional electronic departure of Kid A and its companion Amnesiac, which some people declare are genius albums and others go "huh?" Then finally Hail to the Thief, a return to a more conventional rock sound, albeit still pretty experimental.

This time the experiment goes beyond just the sound and over to the marketing. Radiohead has been a notable holdout in offering their catalog on iTunes, claiming they don't want consumers to pick tracks off their albums, as they insist they record their work as total album experiences. This is a claim, while pompous, that I would mostly agree with. But with record stores dying off quickly, what's a band that insists it's in the albums business to do? Self-release is Radiohead's answer, the band famously making In Rainbows available only on-line through its Web site, and even more famously, allowing purchasers to name their price (I paid $10, since I figured that's what I'd have been willing to pay had they offered this on iTunes). It's a clever experiment that's generated record heaps of press for the band, and probably delivered more sales in $3-$5 increments than they would have ever hoped to make with a conventional release at $10-$15 a pop.

It's a good thing too, for it's an astounding album. Some electronic flourishes remain, but this album's focus is on good songcraft, not just the soundcraft of Kid A. It's may more accessible than that album, Hail to the Thief, or even OK Computer. It's quite lovely too, with a good blend of upbeat and laid back tracks. Opener "15 Steps" is one of my favorites: laden with drums and blips, the track takes a nice mellow electronic break in the middle. It's a great opening track. Another upbeat track, the feedback-rich "Bodysnatchers" follows. Has Radiohead rocked like this since The Bends? I don't think so.

"Nude" is an aptly titled ballad, stripped of the typical flourishes, it's a simple vocal/acoustic guitar/keyboard/drum track, with just enough ambient synth effects to lend richness. "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" is lush, laid back acoustic guitar and haunting vocal with a musical build-up. It's fine, but goes on a bit long for what it is, making it my least favorite track. Emotional "All I Need" is another standout. Electronic bass and piano pulse forth here with a slowly delivered vocal and a rich, dramatic finish. "Faust Arp," short for arpeggio, is the album's shortest track, a lovely taste of acoustic guitar and strings.
On its face "Reckoner" would appear to be pretty straightforward--guitar and heavy percussion--until halfway through there's an abrupt break in the music, which switches to vocal harmony and strings, before then blending the two elements in the end. "House of Cards," which uses heavy reverb on Thom Yorke's vocals, manages to convey an unusual warmth for Radiohead, despite its atmospherics.
"Jigsaw Falling Into Place" is darker and a more conventional mix of typical band elements, with a good acoustic guitar and bass middle section. Piano chords begin "Videotape," the bleak closing track, which slowly adds in the other elements: vocals, bass, drums, background vocals, and sounds effects. They all recede until only the piano strikes the album's final note.
Media manipulation aside, In Rainbows is a fine album, and although it's rumored that more tracks will be included next year when the album gets a physical release, it feels complete as is. I've admired Radiohead for some time, but I didn't really consider myself a fan until now.

Best: 15 Steps, Bodysnatchers, All I Need, Reckoner, Nude, House of Cards, Faust Arp, Videotape, Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chart Notes

  • Sugababes spend a third week at #1 with "About You Now," matching the 3-week run at the top from about 2 years ago this time of year for "Push the Button." The track is up to #2 on the airplay chart.
  • Amy Winehouse has her biggest UK hit this week thanks to her producer Mark Ronson's single "Valerie," featuring vocals from Winehouse. The single rises four spots to #3 this week, beating the #7 peak of her previous best, "Rehab." "Valerie" also climbs to #1 this week on the UK airplay chart, her second #1 after the summer's big airplay hit "Tears Dry on Their Own."
  • The Hoosiers debuts at #5 with "Goodbye Mr. A," matching the peak of their last single, "Worried About Ray." This was last week's airplay #1 (there's been a good deal of turnover on the airplay chart of late).
  • Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" is up to #14, a new recent high for the single, originally a #2 hit in 1981. This single is perhaps the best example of the potential for the revised UK chart rules, which allow any commercially available track to chart, no matter how old or whether its an official "single" release.
  • After only four days of airplay, Kylie Minogue's new single "2 Hearts" managed to debut on the airplay chart all the way up at #17. The single release won't come until November 12. "2 Hearts" is her first single since 2005's "Giving You Up," the second single from her 2004 greatest hits collection.


  • Timbaland's "Apologize" moves up a notch to #3, matching the peak of his last single, "The Way I Are." Given that it's this week's sales gainer, the chances of it moving higher--even #1--look good.
  • Alicia Keys scored her fifth top 5 hit this week with "No One," the first single from her forthcoming third album. Her last top 5 hit was as 1/2 of 2004 #1 hit "My Boo"with Usher.
  • Kanye West (featuring T-Pain) holds at #10 with "The Good Life," his second Graduation single. The track matches the peak of the Michael Jackson track it samples, "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)."
  • Justin Timberlake's "Until the End of Time," now a duet with BeyoncĂ©, moves up four spots to #24. The track is the sixth top 40 hit from Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds, which is the most top 40 singles to come from one album since Michael Jackson had seven with 1991's Dangerous.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Album Review: Annie Lennox - Songs of Mass Destruction (4/5)

Former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox's solo career hasn't exactly set the world on fire--she's released only four albums in the last 15 years--but when that foursome includes 1992's Diva, one of the perfect pop records of the '90s, then anything after is worth at least glancing examination. Which was all that her last album, the lackluster Bare, was worth, save for its few winning tracks like "Wonderful," "Honestly" or "A Thousand Beautiful Things."

While Songs of Mass Destruction doesn't hold a candle to the divinity of Diva, it's an improvement over Bare, a winning mix of ballads, upbeat tracks and even '80s throwbacks. At her best, Annie Lennox proves again that she is the best white British soul singer there is. In first single "Dark Road," Lennox reaches into her pain to find strength and hope amid synthetic keyboards and, at its high point, climactic organs. It's a great opening, followed by another soulful number, the upbeat "Love Is Blind," which sounds like it could have come from one of her '90s albums. "Smithereens" is the next great song, a synth and piano ballad with strong choruses, followed by energetic "Ghost in My Machine."

Then the album takes a dip with "Womankind," a typical Lennox woman empowerment song, one of two on this album, neither of which are lyrically very inspiring (they certainly don't measure up to say Diva's "Legend in My Living Room"), although the second one, "Sing," manages to be a pretty decent song despite its pretentions. It opens with an African woman talking about how the song was recorded to raise awareness of AIDS in Africa, although the lyrics are simple feminist stuff "Sing my sister sing, what won't kill you will make you strong" etc. Musically, it's pretty good though, the kind of melodic upbeat song you can't help but shake to. The big coup here is that features background vocals from the "choir of 23," which features a brigade of some of the world's biggest female artists, including Madonna, Beth Orton, Celine Dion, KT Tunstall, Faith Hill, Fergie, Gladys Knight, Sugababes, Melissa Etheridge, Pink, Sarah McLachlan, Isobel Campbell, KD Lang, Joss Stone, Marth Wainwright, Bonnie Raitt, Anastacia, and Dido. No Joke! Funny thing is, the only one I can make out distinctly is Madonna--she must have been close to the mic.

Other highlights include "Lost," a lovely piano-backed ballad about the pain of war. If it sounds familiar, it may be because you saw Paul Haggis' excellent recent film, In the Valley of Elah, where this song appears as the closing credits roll. "Coloured Bedspread" is good too, if only because it nods back so explicitly to the synth-heavy energy of the Eurythmics. I also like the classy closing number, the mellow and melodic piano piece "Fingernail Moon."

Whether the credit goes to Lennox or producer Glen Ballard (who is the producer of one of the '90s other perfect pop albums, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill) for reinvigorating Lennox's musical style remains a mystery, but kudos to Annie for getting her groove back.

Best: Dark Road, Love Is Blind, Smithereens, Lost, Sing, Ghost in My Machine, Coloured Bedspread, Fingernail Moon

Personal Chart, 10/20/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... About You Now - Sugababes (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 5 .... Valerie - Mark Ronson Feat. Amy Winehouse
3 .... 4 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Feat. Keri Hilson & DOE
4 .... 8 .... Apologize - Timbaland Feat. OneRepublic
5 .... 3 .... Stronger - Kanye West (3 wks @ #1)
6 .... 2 .... Who Knew - Pink
7 .... 7 .... Ayo Technology - 50 Cent Feat. Justin Timberlake
8 ... 11 ... Can't Get Along (Without You) - Hard-Fi
9 ... 13 ... Hate That I Love You - Rihanna Feat. Ne-Yo
10 .. 10 .. Wake Up Call - Maroon 5

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kylie "2 Hearts"

Kylie Minogue is back and in great form with her new single and video "2 Hearts." The vampy track has a prominent bass-line, thundering piano, and strong vocal delivery from Kylie, who's sounding a lot like Goldfrapp here.

Personal Chart, 10/13/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 4 .... About You Now - Sugababes (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Who Knew - Pink
3 .... 1 .... Stronger - Kanye West (3 wks @ #1)
4 .... 2 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Feat. Keri Hilson & DOE
5 .... 9 .... Valerie - Mark Ronson Feat. Amy Winehouse
6 .... 5 .... LoveStoned - Justin Timberlake
7 .... 7 ... Ayo Technology - 50 Cent Feat. Justin Timberlake
8 ... 14 ... Apologize - Timbaland Feat. OneRepublic
9 .... 6 .... 1973 - James Blunt
10 . 12 .. Wake Up Call - Maroon 5

I'm Back

I'm back from my week-long vacation in Montreal and Toronto, Canada. Both were lovely although different cities. Montreal was more unique and had a European feel--especially in the old part of town. It was impressive to be in a bilingual city. Toronto was larger and more commercial, like a more manageable (and much cleaner) version of New York. Both had great shopping and very nice, fashionable people.
One of the places I visited in Montreal was the Basilica Notre-Dame, a 19th century church where one famous French-Canadian pop singer, Celine Dion, was married in 1994. As the tour guide told us, most people prefer to get married in the smaller, more intimate wedding chapel at the back, but Celine and Rene used the larger main space and broadcast it on Canadian TV. Here's Celine recording her new single, "Taking Chances":

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I'll be out of the country for the next week, so don't expect any new entries until I get back. While I'm gone you should be listening to....

  • Annie Lennox's new album, Songs of Mass Destruction

  • Hard-Fi "Can't Get Along (Without You)"

  • Sugababes "About You Now"

  • Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic "Apologize"

  • Robyn "Handle Me"

  • Fergie "Clumsy"

  • Kanye West Featuring T-Pain "The Good Life"

  • Mark Ronson Featuring Amy Winehouse "Valerie"

  • Arctic Monkeys "Teddy Picker"

  • Orson "Ain't a Party"

  • Rihanna Featuring Ne-Yo "Hate That I Love You"

  • Ida Corr vs. Fedde Le Grande "Let Me Think About It"

  • Travis "My Eyes"

Fall TV

I've sampled several new TV shows. This is what I think:

1. Pushing Daisies (ABC). I think they've invented the new genre of "cheery noir" and I love it. The pilot was bold, colorful, funny, yet also dark and sinister. The leads really make the show--Neurotic Ned and his perky undead girlfriend. Best so far. A

2. Cane (CBS). A sweeping prime time soap. Powerful families. Lovely people. It's all a cliche, but it's well done and so far manages to be interesting. B

3. Back to You (Fox). Just as NBC's Thursday night, the pantheon of sitcoms, has done away with any vestiges of canned laughter and 4-camera cinematography, here comes a good ol' fashioned sitcom with veteran actors (Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton) that actually is funny. B

4. Bionic Woman (NBC). The pilot was disappointing. Way too much attitude. I get tired of characters that are just mean to each other, like they're just looking for the next opportunity to unspool a pithy comeback. The second episode was much better though, so I'm still holding out hope this will be good. B-

5. Dirty Sexy Money (ABC). I love Peter Krause, and he's the best thing about this silly, soapy drama, and frankly the only actor worth watching among the ensemble, most of whom make up an obscenely wealthy family, none of whom are at all likable. Who wants to watch a show where are the characters are unlikeable unless it's reality TV? D

Chart notes

  • Britney Spears' "Gimme More" surges up the Billboard Hot 100 this week, advancing 65 spots to land at #3, making the single her second highest charting ever after her 1999 #1 hit "...Baby One More Time." This is Britney's fifth top 10 hit, following "...Baby...," "(You Drive Me) Crazy," "Oops!...I Did It Again," and "Toxic." The big surge is undoubtedly attributed to the single going on sale last week at iTunes, as its airplay has plateaued of late. Over on the R&R Top 40, for example, the song holds at #18 despite having climbed rather rapidly over the previous weeks.

  • Two other singles make big jumps into the top 10. Up 16 at #6 is the third recent top 10 for Timbaland, this time featuring OneRepublic on the ballad "Apologize." His last single, the upbeat "The Way I Are" with Keri Hilson and DOE is still in the top 10, down one place this week at #4. Timbaland hit #1 earlier this year with "Give It To Me (feat. Justin Timberlake & Nelly Furtado)." The other big climber is Feist with "1,2,3,4," which moves up 20 places to #8. The single has been getting VH1 play for awhile, but got a big boost with the prominent feature of the song in the new Apple iPod Nano ad campaign.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Toxic Death Day

While I'm on the on subject of mash-ups here's an even better one. Toxic (Britney) + Die Another Day (Madonna) + What U Waiting For (Gwen) = "Toxic Death Day"

Natasha Bedingfield vs. Chicane "Bruised Water"

Cool mashup: "I Bruise Easily" by Natasha Bedingfield + "Saltwater" by Chicane.

Keane, "The Night Sky"

Keane is releasing a new single later this month, "The Night Sky," to benefit the charity War Child. Listen below.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Madonnna nominated for Hall of Fame

Twenty-five years into her official musical career, Madonna has been nominated for induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Acts qualify for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Madonna released her first single, "Everybody," in 1982. Although not a major hit, it did well at the clubs, and was followed a year later by her first top 40 hit, "Holiday."
Other nominees this year include John Mellencamp, the Beastie Boys, Donna Summer, and Chic. Last year's inductees included R.E.M., Van Halen, and Patti Smith. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Cleveland, Ohio right on the lake. It's pretty cool, if you've never been.

Personal Chart, 10/6/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Stronger - Kanye West (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... The Way I Are - Timbaland Feat. Keri Hilson & DOE
3 .... 4 .... Who Knew - Pink
4 ... 15 ... About You Now - Sugababes
5 .... 5 .... Lovestoned - Justin Timberlake
6 .... 3 .... 1973 - James Blunt
7 ... 12 ... Ayo Technology - 50 Cent Feat. Justin Timberlake
8 .... 8 .... Young Folks - Peter Bjorn & John Feat. Victoria Bergsman
9 ... 18 ... Valerie - Mark Ronson Featuring Amy Winehouse
10 .. 6 .... Suburban Knights - Hard-Fi

Monday, October 01, 2007

Preview Songs of Mass Destruction

Annie Lennox's fourth solo album Songs of Mass Destruction is out today (tomorrow in the US). You can preview the entire thing here. My initial reaction is very positive--possibly her best since Diva.

Radiohead says pay what you want

Radiohead's 7th studio album, In Rainbows goes on sale October 10. Until December, it will be available only as a download and only from their own Web site--no iTunes, etc. The real catch so to speak is the price--you get to pay whatever you want. That's right. Name your price. I don't know if there's a lower (or upper) limit, but the Web site would appear to accept anything. One thing to be careful of is that it's in British pounds, so if you enter in 10, thinking you're paying $10, you're actually paying $20.44. I think a fair price would be $10, which is what I'd probably pay were it offered on iTunes. That converts to £4.89 as of today's exchange rate.