Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Siobhan Donaghy "Don't Give It Up"

Why wasn't this a bigger hit? It's #45 this week on the UK singles chart, and that's after the single's physical release, so I doubt it will go higher. Too bad, as it's a cool song.

Siobhan got her start in the Sugababes, but left after their first album before they became really big, replaced by the lovely and talented Heidi.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Album Review: Hilary Duff - Dignity (2.5 / 5)

Tempted by reviews comparing Hilary Duff's new sound to Rachel Stevens and Kylie Minogue, I eagerly purchased Dignity hoping for another Euro/Goldfrapp-esque pop pastiche.

To put it mildly, it falls a bit short of my expectations. A few of the opening tracks are pretty good and she mines her recently failed relationship with Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, which is notable, given that her previous work--all under the Disney Buena Vista Records label--was (lacking further analysis) likely pop trifles, albeit occasionally decent ("Come Clean" was a pretty good song).

Opening track "Stranger" has a good groove, a mild Middle Eastern flavor, and obviously explores said relationship with Madden. Faster "Dignity" rails on the trappings of the fake Hollywood lifestyle, dropping brand names like Jimmy Choo, and is probably my favorite track. First single "With Love" is good too, sounding vaguely like Nelly Furtado's "Afraid." "Danger," another decent track, comes closest to sounding like something from Rachel Steven's Come and Get It.

After those four tracks though, there's little else I found very distinctive or interesting about this album. "Gypsy Woman," sadly not a Crystal Waters remake, is a monotonous mess. "Never Stop" takes a sip from the '80s throwback fountain, but isn't as grand as something Gwen Stefani or even Dannii Minogue would unleash from their multiple trips back for another drink from there.

The only other song worth mentioning is "Outside of You," which, after a series of well-produced but unmemorable songs, provided at least a reminder in closing that Hilary Duff has the potential to be something More interesting than she is. The ideas are here to make Hilary Duff into something great, they just aren't fully formed yet.

Best Tracks: With Love, Dignity, Stranger, Danger, Outside of You

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Personal Chart, 4/21/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani (feat. Akon) (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Glamorous - Fergie (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 6 .... I Wanna Have Your Babies - Natasha Bedingfield
4 .... 2 .... Stop Me - Mark Ronson (feat. Daniel Merriweather)
5 .... 9 .... Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
6 .... 7 .... U + Ur Hand - Pink
7 .... 8 .... Give It to Me - Timbaland (feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake)
9 .... 4 .... Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs (1 wk @ #1)
10 .. 12 .. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne

Monday, April 16, 2007

UK Singles Chart Analysis, 4/21/2007

1. Give It to Me - Timbaland (Feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake)

It's so long to the charity #1 this week as The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)," resurrected for Comic Relief falls three spots to #4 to make way for new #1 single "Give It to Me" the superstar collaboration between producer/sometimes rapper Timbaland and two of his surely most grateful pop subjects, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, who both had #1 Timbaland-produced hits last year with "Maneater" and "Sexyback" respectively (and another 4 singles between them that topped the U.S. chart, in addition to "Sexyback" doing it in both countries).

"Give It to Me" is notable for being the first single of 2007 to have topped both the U.K. and U.S. singles charts. In a nice twist, it manages the feat in both countries in the same week. Interestingly, the only single to manage to simultaneously top both countries' charts last year was Timberlake's "Sexyback." Two other records, Ne-Yo's "So Sick" and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie," topped both charts, but did so at different times (another record, James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" was #1 in the U.S. after having been a U.K. #1 in 2005).

"Give It to Me" is Timbaland's first #1 hit as an artist, his previous best being the #22 single from 2004 "Cop that Sh#!" credited to Timbaland and Magoo. Both Timberlake and Furtado both have other top 40 hits this week, his "What Goes Around...Comes Around" at #16, her "Say It Right" at #25.

New York Times Magazine: What Makes a Hit?

The New York Times Magazine yesterday had an article examining what it is that makes a hit song. They report on a study where listeners heard a batch of songs from artists they would have never heard of and had them rate, and if they wanted to download, the songs. Some people were given information about what other people had downloaded, while others weren't. The results are quite interesting.

Read it here:


Kelly Clarkson "Never Again"

Listen to Kelly Clarkson's new single "Never Again" on her Web site here. Interesting. Different than the stuff from Breakaway, certainly angrier and rockier.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Album Review: Mika - Life in Cartoon Motion (3 / 5)

Mika emerged on the U.K. pop music scene in January with an infectious radio friendly first single "Grace Kelly." The bombastic, hook-laden track drew instant comparisons to Scissor Sisters and Queen, and quickly raced to the top of the charts.

"Grace Kelly" opens Mika's first album, Life in Cartoon Motion, but sadly, the promise of that first single is not fulfilled on most of the rest of the collection. There are some other winners, notably second single "Love Today," which similarly dives into Mika's love for joyous melodic pop, but too many songs take the party a little too far.

"Lollipop" is a case in point. Mika sings really high (Jimmy Sommerville high) in parts, scored by piano chords, hand claps, etc. But with lyrics like "Sucking too hard on your lollipop," it's just too sickly sweet. Two other tracks suffer similarly. "Billy Brown" is a silly love ballad with a gay twist (Mika's own sexual orientation remains tightly under wraps) and "Big Girl," seemingly an inspirational ditty for overweight women, instead manages to sound insulting. Scissor Sisters like to have campy fun too, but Mika doesn't yet know when to quit. He doesn't sing these songs so much as hover over them like some sort of circus ringleader.

Back to the positive though. Some of the more "serious" tracks are fairly decent. "My Interpretation" is great piano-driven mid-tempo pop, akin to something we'd have gotten from Robbie Williams pre Rudebox. Frankie Loves Hollywood-inspired "Relax, Take it Easy" is good too.

But the serious stuff can go awry too. The strings on otherwise quiet "Any Other World" are so forward in the mix I feel like I'm being assaulted by them. "Happy Ending" swells to big choruses, but for Mika to be relegating the drama of a song to a chorus seems wrong somehow.

First albums can be tough if an artist hasn't formed a strong identity yet, and that seems to be the case here. Mika tries out a variety of hats--dramatic, campy, silly, serious--and finds that a happy medium is probably the best course. Hopefully we'll get more "Grace Kelly" and "Relax" next time out.

Best tracks: Grace Kelly, Love Today, Relax, My Interpretation

Personal Chart, 4/14/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani (feat. Akon) (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Stop Me - Mark Ronson (feat. Daniel Merriweather)
3 .... 2 .... Glamorous - Fergie (1 wk @ #1)
4 .... 6 .... Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs (1 wk @ #1)
5 .... 4 .... Shine - Take That (2 wks @ #1)
6 .... 8 .... I'm Gonna Have Your Babies - Natasha Bedingfield
7 ... 10 ... U + Ur Hand - Pink
8 .... 9 .... Give It to Me - Timbaland (feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake)
9 ... 13 ... Back to Black - Amy Winehouse
10 .. 5 .... What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake (1 wk @ #1)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Album Review: Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (4.5 / 5)

Kaiser Chiefs formed in 1997, but came to prominence in 2005, one of a handful of bands riding a post-Coldplay new wave revival (Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, etc.) First album Employment was frothy, cheeky fun, chock full of “na na nas,” keyboards, drawing both from the ‘90s Britpop movement, ‘80s new wave and ‘70s California rock. I think it’s fair to say they became British equivalent to the Killers, rising in popularity at about the same time.

On Your Truly, Angry Mob, the band’s second album, the keyboards and cheeky new wave retreat, while the guitars and good rock hooks come forth. Not unlike their cohorts the Killers, Kaiser Chiefs have tried to make a slightly more serious album, although, refreshingly, without the obvious U2 influences, but mostly stays with the winning formula from Employment. Swaggering first single “Ruby,” their biggest hit to date, fires on all thrusters—a big, anthemic track that’s a love song to boot. “The Angry Mob,” the album’s longest song but no means long (4:48) is structurally interesting, with an end section that departs from the rest of the song like a chant (“we are the angry mob, we read the papers everyday, we like who we like we hate who we hate, but we’re all so easily swayed” over and over). Like “Ruby,” the song has a big, rich sound full of guitars and piano, but is fairly mid-tempo.

“Heat Dies Down” picks up the pace, adding percussive hand claps and tambourines to the mix, and works very well lyrically; over-emphasizing certain words for the sake of rhyme makes them more memorable too (“I just can’t face another ar-gu-ment about the rent”). “Highroyds” keeps up the frenetic “riot rock,” with pulsing electric guitars.

My favorite song is the albums slower one, “Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning),” which scores points for a clever title but holds up to multiple listens because of its great melody, atmospheric Keane-like opening, and, in contrast to the other tracks so far, acoustic guitar. I like the overlapping vocals at the end too.

“Thank You Very Much” could be this album’s “I Predict a Riot,” an up-tempo New wavy track with great staccato flourishes, sing-along choruses, and effective repetition. Similar “Everything is Average Nowadays” was chosen for the second single, an up-tempo, melodic piece. Both singles clock in under three minutes.

Mellower “I Can Do It Without You” is also quite good, very melodic, and pulls together a full, rich rock sound very effectively, adding a faint piano to the mix for the last minute. “My Kind of Guy” has a darker sound, like it could accompany a Broadway street fight scene, and goes a little wacko near the end, like an alien spaceship landing while eerie horror-movie like keyboards jump in.

I largely prefer the first half of the album, but latter tracks are still good, albeit a bit strange at times. “Boxing Champ” is a very short (1:33) interesting little track, just a vocal over piano, telling a story about being influenced by a boxing champ. “Learnt My Lesson Well” stomps along with low-range chords that alternate between piano and guitar. Mellow “Try Your Best” comes off like an atmospheric soundtrack to an old western. Closing track “Retirement,” apparently the answer to the whole last album (Employment), also sounds somewhat dark and spooky.

Not a bad track in the bunch and an altogether tighter affair than their first album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob clearly conquers the dreaded “sophomore slump,” securing the Kaiser Chiefs a place among the current British bands to be reckoned with.

Best tracks: Love’s Not a Competition (But I’m Winning), Ruby, I Can Do It Without You, The Angry Mob, Everything is Average Nowadays, Thank You Very Much, Heat Dies Down.

U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) Chart Analysis, 4/14/2007

1. Don't Matter - Akon
2. The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani (feat. Akon)

It's a one-two punch for Akon this week, topping the Hot 100 for a second week with "Dont Matter," his second #1 hit, while also rising 4 spots as guest vocalist on Gwen Stefani's "The Sweet Escape," earning a new peak position at #2.

5. Girlfriend - Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne climbs two spots this week with "Girlfriend," matching the peak position the single reached four weeks ago. Propelled by strong airplay now, it will surely climb higher. "Girlfriend" is Lavigne's third top 5 hit after "Complicated" (#2) and "I'm With You" (#4).

6. Beautiful Liar - Beyonce & Shakira

After making a big (record?) #94 to #3 leap last week on sales, "Beautiful Liar" slumps a bit to #6. The airplay on this is so-so, not as good as you'd expect, but it could pick up.

10. Last Night - Diddy (feat. Keyshia Cole)

Whatever-you-want-to-call-him Sean Combs is back in the top 10 with "Last Night," following his last top 10 single, last year's "Come to Me," which featured Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger. Never alone, now he's with Keyshia Cole.

13. Last Dollar (Fly Away) - Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw makes a big 68-spot leap with "Last Dollar (Fly Away)," his highest-charting solo single since 1999's "Please Remember Me," which hit #10. Tim's highest ever appearance on the Hot 100 was at #3 when he was featured on Nelly's 2004 hit "Over and Over."

39. The River - Good Charlotte

Good Charlotte scores their second top 40 hit this week with "The River," up from #68. Their first top 40 single was "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," which hit #20 in 2002. Several other singles from the band have charted just outside the top 40 such as "The Anthem," "Girls and Boys" and "I Just Wanna Live."

Music Notes

Things to be aware of....

Snow Patrol have recorded a song from the upcoming Spider-Man 3 soundtrack, "Signal Fire." There's a short clip on their Web site (www.snowpatrol.com). Sounds okay, but no "Chasing Cars" or "You're All I Have."

Hilary Duff's new album, her third studio set, may actually be decent. It's getting pretty good reviews and comparisons to Kylie and Rachel Stevens for having a more electro sound. I like first single "With Love" (sounds kind of like Nelly Furtado's "Afraid").

Maroon 5's new single from their forthcoming second album is really really good. You can hear "Makes Me Wonder" on their Web site (http://www.maroon5.com/main_site/main.html).

Gareth Gates is trying to revive his career with a third album. First single "Changes" is decidedly average. Gareth is looking good these days though (http://www.garethgates.com/).

Friday, April 06, 2007

Personal Chart, 4/7/2007

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani (feat. Akon) (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Glamorous - Fergie (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Stop Me - Mark Ronson (feat. Daniel Merriweather)
4 .... 3 .... Shine - Take That (2 wks @ #1)
5 .... 4 .... What Goes Around...Comes Around - Justin Timberlake (1 wk @ #1)
6 .... 7 .... Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs (1 wk @ #1)
7 .... 6 .... She's My Man - Scissor Sisters
8 ... 18 ... I Wanna Have Your Babies - Natasha Bedingfield
9 ... 13 ... Give It to Me - Timbaland (feat. Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake)
10 .. 14 .. U + Ur Hand - Pink