Sunday, March 30, 2008
2. Low - Flo Rida
A British girl sits atop the American singles chart this week, and an "American Boy" tops the British chart for a second week. British hip-hop performer Estelle successfully fended off a challenge from American hip-hop act Flo Rida, whose "Low" has been in the top 10 for the last 3 weeks selling on pre-release downloads, but upon its physical release, didn't net enough sales to eclipse Estelle, whose single also saw its physical release this week.
4. Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
While the physically released singles vie for #1, singles due to be released in the next few weeks are lined up to strike. First up is newcomer Sam Sparro, whose first top 40 hit is up 19 places this week. Last week the single charted at #23 based on early sales of a remix, this week the proper single version is out, but the CD single won't hit shops until next Monday, making this a strong contender for the next #1.
5. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin
Also selling well on downloads--although not as well as some would expect--is the superstar collaboration between Madonna and Justin Timberlake (as well as Timbaland) that is the lead single from her forthcoming 12th album, Hard Candy. This single won't be available on CD until April 21, so it still has a few weeks to go, and #1 is still a distinct possibility.
8. With You - Chris Brown
Chris Brown moves into the top 10 with his now fully released "With You." The single, which currently tops the U.S. top 40 airplay chart, is Brown's second UK top 10, following his 2006 debut, "Run It!," which peaked at #2. I wonder if his popularity could be used as a launching point for Jordin Sparks in the UK, via their "No Air" collaboration.
10. Fascination - Alphabeat
The fascination with Alphabeat refuses to die, as the single rebounds into the top 10 this week.
20. Carry You Home - James Blunt
Last week I maligned James Blunt, thinking that "Carry You Home" had been fully released and flopped. In actuality, it didn't get its CD release until this week, and upon doing so manages to at least give him his fifth top 20 hit. Not a major achievement, but still certainly better than the #57 peak of his last single, "Same Mistake."
36. Break the Ice - Britney Spears
Britney manages to make a top 40 appearance on downloads well ahead of the 4/14 release for this track. I find it rather uninteresting, but still it manages to give Britney her 21st UK top 40 hit. All but two of her previous 20 singles were top 10 hits, with five going all the way to #1.
Next week Estelle will try to fend off download sales from Sam Sparro and Madonna, while fully released singles from Mariah Carey, The Kooks, and Radiohead shoot for the top 10.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Consolers opens with its sort-of title track "Consoler of the Lonely," a rough-around-the-edges, upbeat track notable for its shifting tempo, which I love. "Salute Your Solution" is even more insistent, with driving drum work not unlike what Meg White would be doing with Jack (except of course that it's Patrick Keeler). These are short, quick songs, followed by the contrasting "You Don't Understand Me," a longer track, with a dialed down tempo and really great piano part. As long as this song is, I actually wish it were longer, for it features an awesome piano and guitar instrumental at the end, which probably could have gone on for at least a couple more minutes of build up. Perhaps they are saving such tricks for live shows. "Pull This Blanket Off" also has great piano work, but again, I'm left wanting more; at 1:59 it's the album's shortest track.
Other instruments make key appearances on various tracks, lending flavors of other styles, but never pushing the songs away from their bluesy/classic rock cores. The violins of "Old Enough" lend it a folksy feel, although the vibe is mostly '70s rock. For "Top Yourself," its the banjo that lends a folksy air, holding its own against the electric guitar. "The Switch and the Spur" features a prominent horn section, distinctively southwestern, creating a sound that alternates between that and the '70s rock sound. Horns also show up on the particularly bluesy "Many Shades of Black." Such varied instrumentation is kept to a minimum though. "Hold Up," "Five on the Five," and "Attention," the album's most frenetic rock tracks, put the electric guitar front and center.
Despite clocking in with 14 tracks (but really only 55 minutes), the albums closing numbers don't lose any momentum. "Rich Kid Blues" is a more melancholy track, and reminds me a bit of Led Zeppelin of all things (I'm not much of a Led Zeppelin expert though, so I could be way off). It starts off slow, but really picks up, before abruptly pulling the tempo back down again. "These Stones Will Shout" has the album's best acoustic guitar work. Dreamy "Carolina Drama" is a great closer--a dramatic story about domestic discord in a troubled South Carolina household.
No surprise, The Raconteurs sound on Consolers for the Lonely has a lot in common with the White Stripes, albeit less avante garde. That makes the album more instantly accessible and just a lot of fun. The Stripes' Icky Thump took me awhile to warm to it--this I liked from the first spin. Best rock album of the year so far.
Best: Consoler of the Lonely, You Don't Understand Me, Rich Kid Blues, The Switch and the Spur, Top Yourself, Salute Your Solution, Carolina Drama, Old Enough, Attention
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Ah...this is the stuff chart comentators live for. Leona Lewis ascends to #1 this week with "Bleeding Love," knocking Usher 's "Love in This Club" from the perch after a 3-week stay, and in doing so sets a couple of notable chart milestones. First off, Leona Lewis is the first in the recent slate of acts to get their start on a reality music competition show to top the singles charts in both the U.S. and the UK. This, I think, is the more notable feat. Like 'em or not, these shows have been an important source for emerging pop acts in both countries over the last few years, helping to launch high-profile, award-winning careers for household names like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, and Jordin Sparks in the States; Will Young, Girls Aloud, Shayne Ward, Gareth Gates, and Liberty X in Britain; and of course Leona Lewis. By my count, such artists have scored six number hits in the U.S. and 22 number one hits in the UK.
That Leona Lewis is the first of the gang to score #1s on both sides of the pond is remarkable. That it was a Brit and not an American to make the achievement is extraordinary, given that for years now the British chart has been more hospitable to Americans that the Billboard Hot 100 has been to Brits. In fact Leona Lewis is only the second British act to score a Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit this decade, following James Blunt's #1 hit "Your'e Beautiful" from 2006. To Lewis's credit, she achieves the feat as a legitimate pop artist to the American public, not as a reality TV product, for most Americans are likely unaware of her stature as Britain's equivalent to say Jordin Sparks. While American Idol airs in the UK, The X Factor does not air in the U.S. So the draw that makes a lot of these artists score quick hits out of the gate--that the audience has gotten to know them first on TV--plays no factor in Lewis's U.S. #1.
Back to Lewis being the only the second Brit to hit #1 this decade. She's also the first British female soloist to hit #1 since Kim Wilde did it in 1987 with "You Keep Me Hangin' On." The last time any British ladies were atop the Hot 100 was 1997, when the Spice Girls hit #1 with their debut "Wannabe." While there were a number of Brits hitting #1 during the '90s, they were mostly guys or groups (George Michael, Elton John, EMF, UB40, to name a few). Meanwhile, American female pop artists hit #1 in the UK all the time, with such recent hits coming from Beyonce, Madonna, Ciara, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez, to name but a few.
Lewis is also the sales gainer this week--a strength she'll need if she's to retain #1 next week, given that the long-anticipated new singles from Mariah Carey and Madonna finally hit iTunes this week. That's all the really interested me about the chart this week, but I think it was enough.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
1 .... 1 .... Mercy - Duffy (6 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Better in Time - Leona Lewis
3 .... 4 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown
4 .... 6 .... Love Song - Sara Bareilles
5 .... 3 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
6 ... 11 ... See You Again - Miley Cyrus
7 ... 12 ... Can't Speak French - Girls Aloud
8 .... 9 .... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
9 .... 8 .... Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
10 .. 19 .. Love in This Club - Usher Featuring Young Jeezy
Monday, March 24, 2008
Black and Gold - Sam Sparro. I adore this song. It has a cheeky sinister quality, plus I love the pulsing '80s synths and beats, not dissimilar to Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." Sam Sparro is cute too, and I think he could be big.
Cry for You - September. You wouldn't be faulted for thinking this a mash-up of "Can't Get You Out of My Head" with "Smalltown Boy," for this Swedish dance-pop single owes a debt to both those classics.
American Boy - Estelle (feat. Kanye West). I didn't pay this much attention, until it hit #1 this weekend. It's actually a pretty decent blend of UK soul, hip-hop, and pop, and Estelle and Kanye are great together.Run - Gnarls Barkley. Yes, it's no "Crazy," but what is? It's still pretty fun.
Funplex - The B-52's. It's been 15 years since we last heard from the B-52's (and that was the forgettable "Meet the Flintstones" theme), and the good news is they're still about the same silly fun they've always been. Sure this is a lot like "Love Shack,"--being as it as about a party place--but that's fine.
Happiness - Goldfrapp. So, I'll confess, while I like Seventh Tree, I think I would've liked it better with a little more pep. So "Happiness" is a natural standout for me. With a little remix, this one could really stomp.
Without You - The Feeling. Did The Feeling write this song while visiting the DC area in late 2006 (As immortalized by XOLondon here )? Surely they'd have had no other opportunity to observe "it's raining hard in North Virginia." This laid back track is a great choice for second single.
Nude - Radiohead. In Rainbow's second single finds the band at its melancholy best. This is a lovely, austere track, featuring more than its fair share of acoustic instruments.
Finally - Fergie (feat. John Legend). So we know Fergie can be as silly as she wants to be. So for her sixth and likely final single from The Dutchess, she's chosen this classic ballad, backed by an orchestra and John Legend on piano.
Didn't see that coming. After 5 weeks at #1, Duffy's massive "Mercy," falls from the top to give Estelle, of all people, her first #1 hit. Estelle Swaray, who goes only by her first name, is a British rapper whose first album, The 18th Day, yielded a few top 40 hits, most notably "1980" which hit #14. Got her name out there, but nothing truly major. Since then she made on appearance on Natasha Bedingfield's debut album, and released her second album, Shine. It's first single, "Wait a Minute," tanked when it was released in November. Enter Kanye West, the most important rapper in the world at the moment, and suddenly Estelle goes from the basement to the penthouse with "American Boy." West's appearance surely doesn't hurt, but I can't help but feel this could have been a hit without him, for it's a fairly winning slice of retro-flavored pop/R&B. This is Kanye's second UK chart-topper, following last year's "Stronger." It's selling on downloads this week too--it's physical release is today--so another week at the top seems likely.
6. Low - Flo Rida (feat. T-Pain)
Up another notch, this single is now fully released as of today. Expect it to be a contender for the top 5, but no longer #1, not after Estelle and possibly...
7. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake
This one flew up the charts this week upon its limited digital release, and the physical release is still 3 weeks away. The track is a far cry from the clubby Euro sound of Madonna's last album, having ditched British producer Stuart Price for American hip-hop/pop producers Timbaland and Nate "Danja" Hills. Tim and Danja were responsible for successfully resurrecting Nelly Furtado's career, keeping Justin Timberlake at the top of his game, and making OneRepublic into a household name--all within the last 2 years. Now Madonna's hoping they can give her something she hasn't had in 8 years--a massive U.S. hit, which by the looks of it, will likely also be a massive UK hit.
8. Something Good '08 - Utah Saints
The fully released Utah Saints single manages to nudge up only one place to #8, falling short of its original #4 peak in 1992.
9. Can't Speak French - Girls Aloud
While Girls Aloud do beat the Sugababes into the top 10 this week, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed that this fell short of the top 5. "Can't Speak French" is one of the more clever tracks they girls have produced, and after "Call the Shots" performed rather well, hitting #3, it's too bad this didn't do better.
15. Denial - Sugababes
A full physical release does nothing for the Sugababes, who stand pat this week at #15 with "Denial," the third single from their current album, Change. This makes two in a row to miss the top 10, a bad streak the band hasn't had since its first album, making the massive success last year of "About You Now" look like a one-off.
23. Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
Sam Sparro from Los Angeles, originally from Australia, gets his first top 40 hit this week with "Black and Gold." This is one to watch, for it this week based on the availability only of its remixes, with the digital single version out this week and the physical single in 2 weeks. It's a cool swirl of '80s synths, electronic beats, and Sparro himself.
27. Love Like This - Natasha Bedingfield (feat. Sean Kingston)
Another British female sees her career rescued by a hip-hop star. This time it's Natasha Bedingfield, whose last few singles failed to generate much heat. Her last in fact, "Say It Again" with Adam Levine, failed to chart. Enter Jamaica Sean Kingston, who had a bi-coastal #1 hit last year in "Beautiful Girls," and now appears on this track, "Love Like This," which does not appear on Bedingfield's second abum, NB, but on her second U.S. album, Pocketful of Sunshine, which features half the tracks from NB plus a whole bunch of new ones (including the title track, currently a hit in the U.S.). I'm not sure whether Pocketful of Sunshine will get a release in the UK or if NB will be put out as a special addition with new tracks, but surely either one will happen. "Love Like This" gave Bedingfield an American hit late last year, and makes a decent debut on downloads this week, with its physical release in 2 weeks.
32. Run - Gnarls Barkley
Remember when "Crazy" took the UK charts by storm 2 years ago? Gnarls Barkley's new material doesn't look set to repeat that success, coming in at a lowly #32 this week.
65. Carry You Home - James Blunt
Still, that's better than James Blunt's doing. "Carry You Home" is his second single in a row to miss the top 40, after "Same Mistake" hit #57. Guess he makes the same mistake. Ha ha. (lame, I know).
Saturday, March 22, 2008
My only previous exposure to Elbow was their 2004 album Cast of Thousands, which I have, but haven't listened to much. Their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid, has been getting stellar reviews, and I like the first single, so I thought I'd check it out. While not necessarily my sort of thing, there are some lovely moments and some certainly interesting compositions in set.
"Starlings" is atmospheric and weird--a song that opens mostly with mellow piano until it gets rudely punctuated by loud bursts of horns. The singer sounds like Chris Martin with a little more character. It's interesting, but not a winner. "The Bones of You" is a little better, more melodic and upbeat, although upbeat would be the exception here. The album hits its stride on "Mirrorball," which uses a lovely sort of repetition to atmospheric effect, along with warm strings. "Grounds for Divorce," the first single, is the kind of song that begs to be sung along to, like an old working song souped up with rock guitar and drums.
After that, the songs alternate between the strange and the sublime. "An Audience with the Pope" is an odd one, both in theme and its unusual mix of instruments. It's also too repetitive to interest me much. Admittedly, "Weather to Fly" is rather repetitive too, but I like it better. Here the horns create a warm middle section. Then there's "The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver," the album's epic climax. The track unfolds in its own time, pausing with an acoustic guitar borrowed from the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack, before swelling with strings, a deep vibrating instrument I can't place, electric guitar, and vocals. Then its back to oddity with "The Fix," which reminds me a bit of last year's The Good, The Bad and the Queen album.
"Some Riot" opens with distorted piano and other instruments. It's another moody, atmospheric piece, fairly minimal. "One Day Like This," one of the more upbeat and epic-sounding tracks, pushes its strings prominently forward in the mix. The song rings a strong note of hope, contrasting with some of the other more melancholy tracks. It's really quite lovely, not as sappy as it could be, striking that good balance like Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" does. It has a great ending too, the kind of song that begs to be played in a stadium before a swaying crowd of thousands singing along. The somber final track, "Friend of Ours," is dedicated to the band's friend, musician Bryan Glancy, who died 2 years ago. As such tributes go, it is moving and understated--well done.
I found much of The Seldom Seen Kid more interesting than enjoyable to listen to. It has a lot of lovely moments, creating a dramatic mix of atmospheres. Like art in a museum, I enjoyed the exhibit, but, save for a few choice pieces, I wouldn't necessarily want it all hanging in my house.
Best: One Day Like This, The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver, Grounds for Divorce, Mirrorball, Weather to Fly, Friend of Ours
Thursday, March 20, 2008
It's a rather static top 10 this week; positions 1-7 and 10 remain unchanged, given Usher a third week at the top for "Love in This Club." As stays at the top for Usher go, this is still relatively small, besting only the 2-week stays for "Nice & Slow" and "Confessions Part 2." He's got a long ways to go to beat the 12-week run he had for "Yeah" in 2004.
8. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
About the only interesting thing to happen this week in the top 10 is the great leap up for Leona Lewis. "Bleeding Love" rises 13 spots to #8 this week, giving Lewis her first top 10 hit in America. Lewis is one of three artists to appear in this week's top 10s for both the U.S. and the UK--two of which (Lewis and OneRepublic) appearing with different tracks.
11. See You Again - Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus, who this week legally changed her name to Miley Ray Cyrus (from Destiny Hope I believe) is on the cusp of scoring her first top 10 hit, up two this week to #11.
16. Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
One Republic makes a surprisingly strong rise this week, up eight to #16. "Stop and Stare" feels like it's been out forever, but apparently still going strong. Their other hit, "Apologize," which has been out forever and ever, is still in the top 10, down one spot to #9 this week.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
1 .... 1 .... Mercy - Duffy (5 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... Better in Time - Leona Lewis
3 .... 2 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
4 .... 6 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks feat. Chris Brown
5 .... 5 .... With You - Chris Brown
7 .... 3 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue (1 wk @ #1)
8 .... 9 .... Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
9 ... 13 ... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
10 .. 15 .. Something Good '08 - Utah Saints
11 .. 19 .. See You Again - Miley Cyrus
12 .. 16 .. Can't Speak French - Girls Aloud
13 .. 14 .. If Only - KT Tunstall
15 .. 11 .. Apologize - Timbaland feat. OneRepublic (2 wks @ #1)
16 .. 22 .. Denial - Sugababes
17 ... 8 ... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
18 .. 23 .. Come on Girl - Taio Cruz feat. Luciana
19 .. 30 .. Love in This Club - Usher feat. Young Jeezy
20 .. 24 .. Great DJ - The Ting Tings
Sunday, March 16, 2008
2. Better in Time - Leona Lewis
It was an amazing chart battle for #1 this week, and very very close. Early sales figures suggest only 300 copies separated these two, less than 1% of each record's sales. In the end, it is Duffy's brilliant "Mercy" that pulls out another week at the top, becoming the second single in a row to spend more than a month--i.e. 5 weeks--at #1. While this doesn't sound that amazing, it actually is when you consider that it hasn't happened in 15 years--not since the end of 1992 and early '93 when Whitney Houston's 10-week run at #1 with "I Will Always Love You" was followed by a 5-week run for 2 Unlimited's "No Limit." Duffy also holds onto the top spot of the airplay chart for the 5th week, and her album, Rockferry, spends at second week at #1 on the albums chart.
So Duffy's victory is Leona Lewis's downfall, and it's actually a fairly significant defeat. Late last year she looked unstoppable, having the year's biggest selling hit in "Bleeding Love," which is making a significant crossover in the U.S. at the moment (see my last post). That "Better in Time" is the follow-up to last year's biggest hit should've been enough to create enough interest to send it to #1, but then when you add the fact that it's a charity single--and Brits seem to love those--this should have been a slam dunk. That's it's not a testament first to Duffy, but also to the fact that "Better in Time" is mediocre--a poor choice to follow-up the powerful "Bleeding Love." A number of tracks from Spirit could have done the job better. Needless to say, I seriously doubt this will be chosen as the U.S. follow-up.
6. Fascination - Alphabeat
Campy "Fascination" ascends another spot to #6. Well done.
7. Low - Flo Rida feat. T-Pain
Flo Rida also manages a little climb, up two spots, and still more than a week away from its physical release. Surely a potential challenger now to unseat "Mercy."
9. Something Good 2008 - Utah Saints
Also a challenger is this track, a remix of the band's 1992 dance hit that made #4 at that time. Fully released Monday, it's the week's biggest contender. My guess: look for at #3 next Sunday behind Duffyand Leona.
15. Denial - Sugababes
16. Can't Speak French - Girls Aloud
Neck-in-neck in the teens are Britain's two leading girl pop acts. Both are physically released Monday, so look for these in the top 10 next week. Sugababes will be trying to redeem themselves, after the dismal #13 peak of their last single "Change." Girls Aloud will be trying to keep up their top 5 record for their latest album, Tangled Up, as both its previous singles, "Sexy! No No No..." and "Call the Shots" managed.
35. I Shall Overcome - Hard-Fi
Poor Hard-Fi. Can't find a hit these days. Pity. It's another great single.
It's a second week at #1 for Usher and Young Jeezy's "Love in This Club." I neglected to note last week that Usher now furthers his lead as the artist with the most #1 hits so far this decade, "...Club" being his 7th. He still has a way to go if he wants to amass the number of chart-toppers the '90s leader had--that would be Mariah Carey, who scored 14 #1 hits between 1990 and 1999. Here's the leaders for the most #1 hits by decade for the last three decades:
- Usher (7)
- Beyonce (4, plus 2 more with Destiny's Child)
- Justin Timberlake (4, plus 1 more with *NSYNC)
- Nelly (4)
- Ludacris (4)
- Mariah Carey (14)
- Janet Jackson (6)
- Boyz II Men (5)
- Madonna (4)
- Whitney Houston (4)
- Celine Dion (4)
- TLC (4)
- Michael Jackson (9)
- Phil Collins (7, plus 1 with Genesis)
- Madonna (7)
- Whitney Houston (7)
- George Michael (6, plus 2 with Wham!)
4. Love Song - Sara Bareilles
6. No Air - Jordin Sparks (featuring Chris Brown)
Sara Bareilles and Jordin Sparks are the most obvious challengers for #1 at the moment. Bareilles moves up a spot to #4. Sparks holds at #6 but is this week's airplay gainer.
7. Sexy Can I - Ray J & Yung Berg
10. Superstar - Lupe Fiasco (featuring Matthew Santos)
Ray J scores his first top 10 hit this week. He came close 3 years ago with "One Wish," which peaked at #11. Also scoring his first top 10 is Lupe Fiasco with "Superstar." The track was already a top 10 hit in Britain earlier this year.
16. Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body" moves within striking distance of the top 10, up eight spots to #16 this week. The single is still not available at retail, keeping it at bay for now.
21. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
Leona Lewis makes a big splash in the top 40 this week, up 20 spots to #21. It's also this week's sales gainer. As I predicted last week, Lewis becomes the first product of the recent UK reality music competitions to score a top 40 hit in the U.S., a feat that so far has eluded the likes of Will Young, Girls Aloud, Shayne Ward, etc. This is unsurprising, as only Kelly Clarkson among American Idol acts has managed to make it in the UK, despite the domestic popularity of other acts like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry and Jordin Sparks.
37. Feels Like Tonight - Daughtry
Speaking of Daughtry, he scores his fourth top 40 this week.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
If Only - KT Tunstall. KT Tunstall's second album isn't generating as many sparks as her first. Shame this third single--the best so far--will likely get buried. The slightly discordant verse gives way beautifully to the richly melodic chorus.
Cold Shoulder - Adele. This was such an obvious choice for a single--the Mark Ronson produced homage to Massive Attack's classic "Unfinished Sympathy." On the album it sticks out as being a bit overproduced, but on its own it's pretty good. The most lively we'll probably see Adele.
Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield. In 2004 I loved Natasha Bedingfield, but lately she's disappointed me. "Babies" was a let down, so was "Say it Again," and "Love Like This" bored me. This upbeat track is much better--the closest she's gotten to "Unwritten" yet.
Something Good '08 - Utah Saints. The theme this month is dance music is "the old is new again." While that's generally the case, now we're getting straight up new remixes (not remakes) of former dance hits. I've never the original of this, so I don't know how much it differs, but it's a pretty fun high-energy dance track.
Toca's Miracle 2008 - Fragma. Here's the other. This was a #1 hit in the UK in 2000. The remix is pretty light touch, actually mellowing it out a bit with deeper keyboards. Fine, but not a must have.
Love in This Club - Usher (feat. Young Jeezy). Usher's back with a monster hit. Of course the premise is rediculous--he's so horny that he's going to drop trow and do it with his SO right on the middle of the nightclub floor with everyone watching, no doubt taking video for YouTube and photos for MySpace. That aside, it's pretty catchy, and gets better with repeat listens.Sunshine in the Rain - BWO. Silly fun from the Swedish pop band. BWO stands for "Bodies Without Organs," which is surprisingly unpleasant thought for a band with such a light touch.
Us Against the World - Westlife. Worst Westlife single ever. Dull dull dull.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
1. Michael Jackson - Thriller
2. George Michael - Faith
3. Madonna - Like a Virgin
4. Prince - Purple Rain
5. Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation
6. Whitney Houston - Whitney Houston
7. Phil Collins - No Jacket Required
8. Debbie Gibson - Out of the Blue
9. Dirty Dancing Soundtrack
10. Cyndi Lauper - She's So Unusual
Best pop albums of the 90s
1. The Bodyguard Soundtrack
2. Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
3. Backstreet Boys - Millennium
4. Madonna - Ray of Light
5. Spice Girls - Spice
6. Celine Dion - Falling Into You
7. Ace of Base - The Sign
8. Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time
9. Hootie & the Blowfish - Cracked Rear View
10. Janet Jackson - Janet
1. Rocferry - Duffy (albums chart)
That's right, I put "charts" up above to note that Duffy scores a double this week, topping both the singles chart--for the fourth week--and the albums chart, with her debut, Rockferry. She gets a triple if you count the airplay chart, where she reigns for a fourth week. And these are solid #1 hits too. "Mercy" has actually gained in sales every week it's been #1, topping 100,000 units this week, a first so for this year. Only three #1 singles last year managed to sell more than 100,000 units, the year's big charity single (Proclaimers' "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" remake), The Christmas #1 (X-Factor winner Leon Jackson's "When You Believe"), and Leona Lewis' debut ("Bleeding Love"). That Duffy does it with her debut single ("Rockferry" doesn't really count) that is a) not a charity release, b) not a reality show tie-in, and c) released during the 1st quarter--traditionally the slowest time of year for music sales--is really quite impressive. The last time it happened was 1999, when Mr. Oizo's March release, "Flat Beat" hit #1 selling 283,000 copies (more copies I might add than last year's biggest week for a #1 hit).
Rockferry tops the albums chart this week, moving 180,000 copies, more than double the year's second-biggest #1 week--last week's 75,000 units sold by Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, buoyed no doubt by her big Grammy night. Again, this is an unusually strong debut--only two albums managed to debut at #1 with bigger sales weeks last year, Arctic Monkeys and Leona Lewis.
2. What's It Gonna Be - H Two O Feat. Platnum
"What It Gonna Be" spends a third week at #2. Dance music may be making a comeback this year, with this a solid hit and Basshunter's #1 "Now You're Gone" from earlier this year. Just around the corner are some remix/re-releases of older dance hits poised to be resurrected--Utah Saints' 1992 hit "Something Good," and Fragma's 2000 #1 hit "Toca's Miracle."
4. Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
The band's solo debut single, following its #3 Timbaland collaboration, "Apologize," manages to fall just one spot short of that previous single's peak. Not bad, considering that "Stop and Stare" isn't nearly the single "Apologize" was (still lingering on the chart at #25).
5. Come on Girl - Taio Cruz
Taio Cruz just may be the new Craig David. "Come on Girl" sounds just like something David would (or rather should) be doing. This is by far Taio Cruz's biggest hit to date, his previous best being last year's #26 peak for "Moving On." (Craig David's last single, the disappointing "6 of 1" limped onto the chart at #39, his second worst showing). The single features dance vocalist Luciana, who hit #2 in October '06 with "Yeah Yeah."
7. Fascination - Alphabeat
Danish pop act Alphabeat scores their first major UK hit with "Fascination," making an impressive 16 spot leap into the top 10. They're getting compared to the Scissor Sisters, owing to their flamboyant style and male and female vocalists.
8. Up Against the World - Westlife
Poor, poor Westlife. Sure they have the third most #1 hits of any musical act, but until this week, they'd never had a single that wasn't a top 5 hit. "Us Against the World," which, let's face it, is a lame single, ends their run of 22 consecutive top 5 hits, 14 of which went all the way to #1.
9. Low - Flo Rida feat. T-Pain
Two more weeks until this is fully released. It's already spent 10 weeks at #1 in the U.S., and now it looks like it could be a #1 contender in the UK.
13. Something Good 2008 - Utah Saints
The aforementioned dance act, making a good showing on unofficial early download sales--unofficial because the only version yet available is a long remix off a dance compilation. The single version is out now, with the physical release following next week.
15. After Hours - We Are Scientists
American indie band We Are Scientists score their biggest hit yet with "After Hours" at #15, first single from their new album, Brain Trust Mastery.
20. Can't Speak French - Girls Aloud
34. Denial - Sugababes
The leading Brit girlgroups have unfurled their latest third singles form their respective curernt albums. Girls Aloud are up 15 this week with "Can't Speak French," looking for their 18th top 10 hit when this is fully released next week. Sugababes debut in the top 40 at #34 with "Denial," hoping to do better than their last single, "Change," a flop at #13 at Christmas following "About You Now," which spent 4 weeks at #1.
23. Better in Time - Leona Lewis
Here's the big competition for next week. Duffy may be the reigning chart singles champion, moving huge quantities of singles, but Leona Lewis is a chart powerhouse, as demonstrated by "Bleeding Love," last year's biggest hit. It's follow-up isn't nearly as good, but given her momentum, this will pose a serious challenge to Duffy's dominance this week. Should be a fun chart battle to watch unfold.
1 .... 1 .... Mercy - Duffy (4 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
3 .... 2 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue (1 wk @ #1)
4 .... 8 .... Better in Time - Leona Lewis
5 .... 5 .... With You - Chris Brown
6 ... 19 ... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown
7 .... 4 .... A&E - Goldfrapp
8 .... 7 .... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
9 ... 10 ... Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
10 .. 16 .. Love Song - Sara Bareilles
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Adele and Duffy...Duffy or Adele. If they weren't such nice girls, these two could be having quite the rivalry at the moment. Both topped the prestigious BBC Sounds of 2008 poll at the beginning of the year (Adele at #1, Duffy at #2). Both have been tagged as "the next Amy Winehouse," of which I feel Duffy is more deserving (Adele is more "the next Lily Allen meets Norah Jones"). Both have been launched in about the same way: limited releases of more unusual tracks last fall to build buzz (Adele's "Hometown Glory," Duffy's "Rockferry"), followed by bigger, heavily promoted releases early this year (Adele's "Chasing Pavements," Duffy's "Mercy,"), and then finally the albums, Adele's 19 and this album, Rockferry.
Duffy won round one, her single "Mercy" is firmly planted at #1 on the UK singles chart, while Adele's "Chasing Pavements" only made it to #2, kept from #1 by, ahem, Basshunter. Now Duffy looks set to win round 2 as well. Adele's 19 was #1 in its first week, but moved only 73,000 units; Duffy's Rockferry looks set to sell twice that much in its debut week. The British public have spoken.
And I'm with them. While I like 19, Rockferry is the superior album, a gorgeous and swinging piece of retro pop. Like Amy Winehouse's Back to Black it recalls the sound of heavily produced '60s pop quite well, but while that album was a mix of nerve and tragedy, Rockferry is more cheerful, even if it doesn't reach the emotional highs and lows of Winehouse's disc. The emotions are there, but they don't run as deep; thankfully there's no evidence of a drug-fueled bender on the horizon.
The first four songs are fantastic--all of them winners, and showcasing different musical styles that all fit into the retro package Duffy is offering. "Rockferry" features a wall of sound combining piano, strings, electric guitar and acoustic guitar into a plodding rhythm. It's the album's biggest song in terms of sheer volume, and its starting-over message. This theme is carried over into "Warwick Avenue," although rather than moving to a small town she's settling in the tony London neighborhood of Maida Vale (I have a special affinity for this song, since the Warwick Avenue tube station was the closest to my flat when I lived in London, so I can just picture Duffy waiting outside there). This is also a very good song, back with strings that swell during the chorus and bass guitar that carries the melody through the verses.
Groovy "Serious" is upbeat, featuring more of those lovely strings, soulful even, with a bit of Motown swing. Whereas Mark Ronson sought to inject a modern sensibility in into Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, this just sounds like a long lost hit from years ago. Darker "Stepping Stone" was an instant highlight for me, an atmospheric ballad about the temptation to return to an abusive relationship ("You got your kicks you get your kicks from playing me. And the less you give the more i want so foolishly"). It's a haunting song, sad and beautiful. The only letdown in the first half is "Syrup and Honey," a minimal ballad of just Duffy and reverbing guitar that is very, very slow.
The second half has some great highlights too, notably "Hanging on Too Long," which steals its groove from "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," creating a dark, reflective mood for examining yet another failing relationship ("I was a fool for you, right from the start"). Then there's the above mentioned current hit "Mercy," which needs to explanation. This is brilliant pop. "Delayed Devotion" is another up-tempo mix of piano and strings, and intriguingly, Duffy sounds different somehow on this song, singing in a lower range than most of the other songs and reigning in her vocal power. As a singer, it should be said that she is very good, demonstrating a broad range and great control--a pleasure to listen to. Closing track "Distant Dreamer" ends the album on an up note. The building track finds Duffy dreaming of a better today. Even if she's still trapped in a bad relationship she can escape, at least in her mind.
I liked this album immediately, but throughout the week, the more I listened to it, the better it got, as the depth of the songs emerged. This is a powerful, confident debut from a singer I think we're going to be hearing a lot more from. Best album of the year so far.
Best: Mercy, Stepping Stone, Warwick Avenue, Serious, Distant Dreamer, Hanging on Too Long, Rockferry
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Last week I wrote about the chart jam in the Hot 100, both the singles queued up behind Low Rida's "Low," which had reigned at #1 for 10 weeks, and the pack of singles bunched up just outside the top 10. That logjam is broken forcefully this week not by any of those singles, but by a single that last week wasn't even in the top 50. Rising 50 spots to hit #1 is the latest single by R&B/pop sensation Usher. If this had a been a sales-driven climb I wouldn't have been as surprised, but Billboard named this its airplay gainer for the week, making this feat all the more impressive. Usher has been a dominant force in pop music this decade. His last album, Confessions, scored five top 10 hits, four of which became #1s. In total, "Love in This Club" is Usher's 8th #1 hit, a run that began just over 10 years ago when his second top 40 hit, "Nice & Slow" became his first #1 in January 1998.
5. Love Song - Sara Bareilles
So of those three songs that last week hoped to be this week's #1, all three slide back one place, clearing the way for Usher, and two of them, Chris Brown's "With You" and Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music," lose their bullets. Only Sara Bareilles continues to show chart momentum, despite slipping back a spot to #5.
6. No Air - Jordin Sparks (feat. Chris Brown)
Jordin Sparks makes an impressive leap into the top 10 with her third top 40 single, "No Air," a duet with the aforementioned Chris Brown. "No Air" instantly becomes Sparks' biggest hit to date, outshining her previous single "Tattoo," which peaked at #8. The honor is well deserved, as "No Air" is a vastly superior single and a contender for a future #1.
19. Feedback - Janet Jackson
Here's something I didn't expect. Janet Jackson hasn't had a top 40 hit since the summer of 2001, when her last decent (IMO) single, "Someone to Call My Lover," was a #3 hit. This single had been hovering around the 50s the last few weeks, but upon the release of her album, Discipline, shoots up to #19, making it a higher charting single than anything she released from her last two albums.
41. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
Finally, bubbling just under the top 40 is Leona Lewis' debut single "Bleeding Love," which was a major #1 hit in her British homeland last year. If Lewis enters the top 40 next week, which she most certainly will, she will become the first British import originating from a reality music competition show to score a top 40 hit in the U.S., a feat not achieved by Will Young, Girls Aloud, Liberty X, Shayne Ward or any other of the recent UK acts whose fame was born on television.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
That this will probably be a very American, hip-hop influenced sounding album is a big depature for from her last, Euro-leaning dance album, Confessions on a Dance Floor, produced principally by Brit Stuart Price. For Madonna to switch producers is nothing new--she does it frequently, in fact few producers can say they were principally responsible for more than one Madonna album, the chief exception being Patrick Leonard, who was the principal producer for True Blue, Like a Prayer, and I'm Breathless (he even contributed a few tracks to Ray of Light, including its biggest hit, "Frozen").
Check out this low quality YouTube version (recorded from French radio) of lead single "4 Minutes," featuring Timbaland and Justin Timberlake:
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
1 .... 1 .... Mercy - Duffy (3 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Wow - Kylie Minogue (1 wks @ #1)
3 .... 3 .... Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
4 .... 4 .... A&E - Goldfrapp
5 .... 7 .... With You - Chris Brown
6 .... 5 .... I Thought It Was Over - The Feeling
7 .... 6 .... Chasing Pavements - Adele (3 wks @ #1)
8 ... 15 ... Better in Time - Leona Lewis
9 .... 8 .... Apologize - Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic (2 wks @ #1)
10 .. 10 .. Stop and Stare - OneRepublic
Sunday, March 02, 2008
We appear to have a chart jam on the Hot 100. Conditions are just so to prevent much movement in the top 10. Within the top 10, #4 and #5 switch places, and so do #9 and #10. Otherwise, there's no movement. The lack of singles exiting the top 10 has meant that would-be challengers are stacking up, with singles in positions 11 through 15 now bulleted and waiting (waiting..wating..) to enter the top 10.
There's also a glut of singles waiting for Flo Rida to relinquish his grip on #1, which extends its run at the top to 10 weeks this week. The singles joins the elite club of tracks spending at least 10 weeks at the top, a group that extends to 10 singles now so far this decade, which includes: Santana's "Maria Maria" (10 wks, 2000), Destiny's Child's "Independent Women Part 1 (11 wks, 2000-01), Ashanti's "Foolish" (10 wks, 2002), Nelly and Kelly Rowland's "Dilemma" (10 wks, 2002), Eminem's "Lose Yourself" (12 wks, 2002-03), Usher's "Yeah" (12 wks, 2004), Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" (14 wks, 2005), Kanye West's "Gold Digger" (10 wks, 2005), and Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" (10 wks, 2006-07).
2. With You - Chris Brown
3. Don't Stop the Music - Rihanna
4. Love Song - Sara Bareilles
There's also a glut of singles teed up to hit #1. Flo Rida no longer has his bullet, so the question is which of these singles will be the next #1 and how soon? Both Chris Brown and Rihanna had #1 hits last year ("Kiss Kiss" and "Umbrella" respectively). "Love Song" is Sara Bareilles' first top 10 hit.
11. See You Again - Miley Cyrus
12. Superstar - Lupe Fiasco (feat. Matthew Santos)
13. No Air - Jordin Sparks (feat. Chris Brown)
14. Like You'll Never See Me Again - Alicia Keys
15. Shadow of the Day - Linkin Park
Here's that group of bunched up singles just below the top 10. Miley Cyrus leads the pack, but Jordin Spark's "No Air" is the fastest moving, rising 10 spots this week to #13 as the week's biggest sales gainer. Alicia's Key's new single has stalled partly because her previous one, "No One," won't give way (it's down one spot to #5 this week).
34. Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey makes her top 40 debut this week with "Touch My Body," the first single from her forthcoming 10th album (11th if you count the Christmas album), E=MC2. This is Carey's 31st top 40 single, a run that includes 17 #1 hits (the second most of any artist after the Beatles's 20 and tied with Elvis Presley's 17).
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Erykah Badu – New AmErykah
Get Cape Wear Cape Fly – Searching For The Hows And Whys
Young Knives – Super Abundance
BWO – Fabricator, Halcyon Days, and Prototype. This Swedish pop act appear to be getting a simultaneous release of all three of their albums in the UK this month, propelled no doubt by the current popularity of their 2005 single "Sunshine in the Rain."
We Are Scientists – Brain Thrust Mastery
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
Teenagers – Reality Check
Taio Cruz – Departure
The B-52s - Funplex. The B-52s, best known for their 1989-90 hits "Love Shack" and "Roam," return for their first album in 16 years.
Supergrass - Diamond Hoo-Ha. The band's sixth album, which I heard will be more upbeat than their mellow 2005 release, Road to Rouen.
Panic At The Disco – Pretty. Odd
Counting Crows - Saturday Nights And Sunday Mornings
Guillemots - Red
R.E.M. - Accelerate. Will this finally be the one to restore the band's luster? First single "Supernatural Superserious" points to "yes," but the band hasn't had a major hit album now in over 10 years. This is R.E.M.'s 14th studio album.
Moby - Last Night. Moby promises this will be a more upbeat, dance-oriented affair.
Yael Naim - Yael Naim
The album opens strongly. "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" begins with a metallic clanging noise before the electronic keyboards and effects kick in. It's fairly mellow, as is second track "Pyramid Song," a darker track notable for its strong piano chords played in an off kilter time signature. That, combined with the There Will Be Blood-like strings that come in later, create an eerie, unnerving sound.
My favorite track has to be "Knives Out." It's the one track on the album that most closely embodies a timeless Radiohead sound--dark, layered and melodic with crooning vocals. It's also more traditional musically, with guitar, bass and drums driving the melody rather than synthesizers. "You and Whose Army?" is a lovely piece of melancholy that starts with only guitar, Thom's distorted crooning and some mellow background vocals. Eventually the drums kick in, then some sharp piano chords, swelling the melody during the song's second half.
"I Might be Wrong" is an upbeat rock track, opening with prominent bass guitar over a long synth effect. It's the album's most rhythmic, head-nodder, not unlike the more upbeat numbers of In Rainbows. "Dollars and Cents," another harbinger of the In Rainbows sound, albeit darker, is a cool mix of beats, electric guitar and strings.
As for the other tracks, there's nothing bad here, but it's just not as interesting. "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors" is probably my least favorite track, consisting of little more than fuzzy beats and '60s-style sci-fi effects (I think I hear the Star Trek transporter), with a little tinkle of piano here and there. "Morning Bell/Amnesiac" is actually a new version of Kid A's "Morning Bell." The inevitable comparisions between Kid A and Amnesiac are by definition most strongly made here. Kid A's "Morning Bell" is a warm track of keyboards and beats. Amnesiac's "Morning Bell/Amnesiac," drops the beats and keyboards for an eerie cacophony of tinny sounds. I have to say I prefer the Kid A version, although it's interesting how the mood of the song can change with a different production.
The last part of the album is its weakest. "Hunting Bears" is a moody instrumental track of sparsely played electric guitar and keyboard. The grand electronic sound effects and distorted synths of "Like Spinning Plates" remind me of Muse (is there a band that owes its sound to Radiohead more than Muse?) "Life in a Glass House" is probably the album's most bizarre track. Featuring piano, horns and vocals, it sounds like a sad lounge act nearing the end of a depression-fueled bender of an evening.
Still, overall it's pretty good, backing off just a bit from the Kid A experiment with some more traditional songs like "Knives Out" and "You and Whose Army" and going into darker, eerier territory.
Best: Knives Out, Pyramid Song, You and Whose Army?, Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box, Dollars and Cents, I Might Be Wrong