Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fall Music Preview 2008

And the floodgates are open. After a tepid summer--really year--of new releases, September marks a turning point. The tendency for labels to release their major artists' products during the 3-month period of September through November has never been more pronounced than this year. Here are key releases arranged by month and sorted roughly by my interest. Highlights are the must haves.

Fall Music Preview - September


Album of the month: Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson (9/29) Since appearing on American Idol, Jennifer Hudson has been known more for her acting than her singing abilities, starring in this summer's hit film Sex and the City and winning an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls. But singing is how we first knew her, so it's with much anticipation that Hudson finally releases her debut. First single, the Ne-Yo penned "Spotlight," is a hit at R&B radio, although unfortunately not at top 40. That could change with the newly released remix featuring Young Jeezy. Besides Ne-Yo, Stargate, Timbaland, Dianne Warren, Ryan Tedder (One Republic), Robin Thicke, T-Pain and Missy Elliott also make appearances.

Will Young - Let It Go (9/29) The original "idol" returns with his forth album, following up 2005's Keep On, which featured the hit single "All Time Love." He's already hot at UK radio with the album's great first single "Changes," although I can't help but be peeved that Radio 1 hasn't put it on their playlist. Still, I'm hopeful this will be great, as all Will's albums have been so far.

Robin Thicke - Somethin' Else (9/22) The R&B crooner who hit it big last year with his single "Lost Without You" returns with his third album, featuring first single "Magic."

The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed (9/15) The Streets is to the UK as Eminem is to the US, with perhaps even more critical acclaim. He stumbled a bit with his last album, although I liked "When You Wasn't Famous." This is his forth album, featuring first single "Everything is Borrowed."

Ne-Yo - Year of the Gentleman (9/15) Ne-Yo is perhaps best described as the next Babyface. Although he's well-known as a pop star, having hit #1 in the US and the UK with hits like "Closer" and "So Sick," he's also written major hits for other artists, including "Irreplaceable" for Beyonce, "Unfaithful," "Hate that I Love You" and "Take a Bow" for Rihanna, and the aforementioned "Spotlight" for Jennifer Hudson. The release of his third album should allow him a little time in the spotlight himself.

The Pussycat Dolls - Doll Domination (9/15) Having struck out on her attempt to launch a solo career (the album never materialized), Nicole Scherzinger is back with her girls and their "groupies" (yes I know it sounds like something else, believe me--I run around the house singing it all the time) on the 'Dolls second album. Includes current single "When I Grow Up." It posts an A-list cast of writers and producers, including Timbaland and Danja, Kara DioGuardi, Dr. Dre, Rodney "DarkChild" Jerkins, Ryan Tedder, Taio Cruz, Scott Storch and The Clutch.

New Kids on the Block - The Block (9/2) They're back! After a 14-year hiatus, the New Kids on the Block have a new album, their fifth. Timbaland, Ne-Yo, The Pussycat Dolls, and Teddy Riley show up here. "Summertime" was a modest U.S. hit this summer.

Travis - Ode to J. Smith (9/29) Just over a year after their last release, The Boy with No Name, Scottish band Travis are back with their sixth album. The lead single is "Something Anything," which I haven't heard yet.

Nelly - Brass Knuckles (9/15) To say this album has been troubled is an understatement. Its first single, "Wadsyaname" was released over a year ago, but performed so poorly that it has actually been dropped from the album, which was due for a release back then, but got pushed back and pushed back. Then "Party People" with Fergie came out early this year and just barely cracked the top 40. Then there was "Stepped on My J'z" and now finally "Body on Me" featuring Ashanti, which hit #17 in the UK. Finally it looks like the album will see the light of day, but it's doubtful Nelly, whose scored four US #1 hits, will earn a fifth anytime soon.

Daniel Powter - Under the Radar (9/15) Canadian singer Daniel Powter scored a big break in 2005 with "Bad Day," a major UK hit, which went on to become the biggest hit of 2006 in the US after being featured on American Idol. He had great follow-up singles, but none of them became major hits. Now he's back with his second album, featuring first single "Next Plane Home." My question--does he ever take off that hat? I'm tired of seeing it, and he's a good looking guy, so he has nothing to hide.

James Morrison - Songs for You, Truths for Me (9/29) It's hard to believe he's only 24, but the English singer-songwriter, who scored a major hit in 2006 with "You Give Me Something" is back with his second album, featuring first single "You Make It Real."

Kings of Leon - Only by the Night (9/22) Southern Tennessee rockers Kings of Leon return with their fourth album, said to "rock harder" than their previous works. Features first single "Sex on Fire."

Metallica - Death Magnetic (9/12) Metallica's ninth studio album, the first to feature bassist Robert Trujillo. Two singles, "The Day that Never Comes" and "My Apocalypse" were recently released.

Keri Hilson - In a Perfect World (9/29) Keri Hilson has been around as a songwriter for awhile, and made her first major appearance as a vocalist on Timbaland's massive 2007 hit "The Way I Are." Now she's putting out her debut album, produced primarily by Timbaland and Danja. Features first single "Energy."

Gym Class Heroes - The Quilt (9/9) Gym Class Heroes broke out big last year with "Cupid's Chokehold," but this is actually their fourth album.

Little Jackie - The Stoop (9/1) Little Jackie is a pop duo that includes singer Imani Coppola, who had a top 40 hit in the UK 10 years ago with "Legend of a Cowgirl." First single "The World Should Revolve Around Me" is quickly becoming a hit in both the US and the UK--particularly the latter. This is the UK release (the album is already out in the US).

Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty (9/22) California indie rockers return with their second album.

TV on the Radio - Dear Science (9/22) Spin Magazine named TV on the Radio's last album, Return to Cookie Mountain, the best album of 2006, and their first album, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes beat The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Wilco and The Streets for the Shortlist Music Prize in 2004. So no pressure here for their third album.

Jessica Simpson - Do You Know (9/9) Since her last album bombed, Jessica Simpson is back, this time as a country artist. Whatever.

Natalie Cole - Still Unforgettable (9/29) Natalie Cole's 1991 album, Unforgettable...with Love, was a major commercial and critical success. Since then she's...pretty much gone nowhere, hence the return to the formula that gave her the biggest hit of her career. Yes, there's even another virtual duet with her father.

Plain White Ts - Big Bad World (9/22) Last year, "Hey There Delilah," from their 2005 album, became a major international hit. Now they're back, but I'm not expecting great things.

McFly - Radio:Active (9/22) Britain's biggest pop band this decade releases their fourth album.

T-Pain - Thr33 Ringz (9/30) The current king of auto tune brings his third album.

T.I. - Paper Trail (9/30) Rapper T.I. is sitting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Whatever You Like," which made the biggest jump to #1 in history, up from #71. This is his sixth album.


The Rasmus - Black Roses (9/15)
Cassie - TBD (9/15)
LL Cool J - Exit 13 (9/8)
The Coral - Singles Collection (9/15)
The Chemical Brothers - Brotherhood (hits) (9/1)
Cliff Richard - They Said It Wouldn't Last (My 50 Years in Music) (9/15) 8 CD Set

Fall Music Preview - October

Album of the Month: Keane - Perfect Symmetry (10/13) They've been around since just 2004 and already Keane are poised to release their third album. They fell prey a bit to the dreaded sophomore slump for Under the Iron Sea--great album, but not as successful as the band's debut Hopes and Fears, the UK's second best-selling album of 2004. Known for their piano-backed guitarless pop/rock, the first singles from this album, "Spiralling" and "The Lovers Are Losing," already point to a new and exciting direction, heavy with synths and even featuring electric guitar.

Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul (10/6) Oasis's career has been a bit rollercoaster. Lately its been on the up though, so I'm hopeful this, their seventh album, will be really great. Last album, Don't Believe the Truth, gave us the great singles "Lyla," "The Importance of Being Idle," and "Let There Be Love," and this new album has already produced an upbeat first single, "The Shock of the Lightning" and the dark album cut currently offered by iTunes "Falling Down."

Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns (10/27) Until 2004, Snow Patrol were a little-known band. Then their third album Final Straw produced a major UK hit, "Run," and then their fourth album Eyes Open, which was the best-selling album in the UK in 2006, produced an even bigger international smash, "Chasing Cars." The album's first single, "Take Back the City," gets its UK radio premiere next week.

Kaiser Chiefs - Off with Their Heads (10/13) Another band that had a bit of a sophomore slump (although they did hit #1 with "Ruby") is back for album number three. This time they've enlisted hot retro soul producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse) to steer their sound in a new direction. First single "Never Miss a Beat" is a great start.

Pink - Funhouse (10/27) Pink is back with her fifth album. It's first single "So What" finds the singer in her usual punkish pop/rock vein, and already it's a massive hit, debuting in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and the Australian ARIA chart this week. Max Martin, who helmed her last album's two major hits "U + UR Hand" and "Who Knew" produces the track.

Chris Cornell - Scream (10/14) Timbaland produced--no joke. First single "Long Gone" is, as expected, a bit reminiscent of OneRepublic's "Apologize" from last year. From Nelly Furtado, to Justin Timberlake, to Madonna, Timbaland is positively the hottest producer in popular music right now, if not this whole decade. Struggling has-beens everywhere are selling their souls to have him produce their next hit, although he doesn't seem to be as good at launching new artists (see Nicole Scherzinger).

Bloc Party - Intimacy (10/27) The British indie band offers their third album. Already available as a download, the CD gets its release in late October with a few bonus tracks. First track "Mercury" sounds a lot like their previous stuff.

High School Musical 3 Soundtrack (10/20) With the Disney gang hitting the big screen for outing #3, this is sure to be one of the best-sellers of the year, considering that HSM1 was the best-selling album in the US for 2006 and HSM2 was #2 for 2007.

Sugababes - TBD (10/20) The 'babes stumbled a bit with their fifth album Change, which scored only one major hit (the #1 "About You Now") and became their first album not to have a fourth single. The jury's still out on first single "Girls," which features a lot of horns.

John Legend - Evolver (10/28) Soulful R&B singer John Legend puts out his third album. First single "Green Light" finds him teamed with Outkast's Andre 3000, exploring a more modern sound than we've heard from him before. Then there's the more traditional "If You're Out There," which he performed at the Democratic National Convention.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor - TBD (10/27) Her fourth album, with songs produced by Calvin Harris (including the Cathy Dennis-penned first single "Off and On," which is on her myspace page) and Freemasons. After the underwhelming performance of her third album, Sophie needs a hit.

Peter Bjorn & John - Seaside Rock (10/6) Swedish Indie band that had a hit last year with "Young Folks" offers their fourth album.

Razorlight - TBD (10/27) Not much info on this yet, other than it's possibly coming in October.


Anastacia - Heavy Rotation (10/27)
Ludacris - Theater of the Mind (10/21)
Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (10/6)
Hoobastank - Untitled (10/14)
Boyzone - Greatest Hits (10/13)
Jennifer Lopez - Greatest Hits (10/27)
Sarah McLachlan - Closer (greatest hits) (10/7)
Katie Melua - The Collection (10/27)

Fall Music Preview - November/December


Release of the Month: Dido - Safe Trip Home (11/3) Finally, after 5 years, Dido is finally ready to release the follow-up to Life for Rent, Britain's biggest album of 2003. Her downbeat-influenced pop made her one of the world's most successful female artists early this decade. First single "Don't Believe in Love" debuts at radio next week, and her Web site is currently offering a free download of the track "Look No Further."

Beyoncé - Virtuoso Intellect (11/11) Timbaland produces, but not much else is known about Beyoncé's upcoming third solo album, other than it will surely be a massive success once it's out.

The Killers - Day and Age (No date). Produced by Stuart Price, the man behind Madonna's clubby Confessions on a Dance Floor, so expect this to be more along the lines of their first album, Hot Fuss.

Kelly Clarkson - TBD (11/18) Kelly Clarkson made headlines last year for her publicized spat with record exec Clive Davis. A very bad move, and her career suffered for it. My December, while not a bad album, was a commercial disaster, scoring only one somewhat major hit in "Never Again," damaging the momentum created by her amazing second album, Breakaway. Consequently, Kelly repented, vowing to improve on her fourth album. Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic is on board as producer.

Timbaland - Shock Value II (11/4). As if he isn't busy enough producing for others, Timbaland has another one of hits own star-filled collections coming out. This time he'll be featuring Madonna, Linkin Park, Gwen Stefani, Jordin Sparks, the Jonas Brothers, Rihanna, T-Pain, Kelly Rowland and Akon. Nobody you've heard of.

U2 - No Line on the Horizon (11/18) Perhaps the biggest band in the world for the last 20 years, U2 are on a roll. Last album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb won the Album of the Year Grammy in 2006. The band has hinted at a more experimental direction for this, their 12th studio album.


Fall Out Boy - Folie a Deux (11/4)
David Archuleta - TBD (11/4)
Brandy - Human (11/11)


Ciara - Fantasy Ride
Britney Spears - 6th Album

Hopefully sometime this lifetime:

Whitney Houston - 6th studio album.

Kaiser Chiefs "Never Miss a Beat"

Kaiser Chiefs return in October with their third album, Off with Their Heads, produced by Mark Ronson. He may seem like an unusual choice, but remember Lily Allen covered the Kaisers' "Oh My God" for Ronson's album Version. The first single is "Never Miss a Beat." Check it out:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Personal Chart, 8/30/2008

The full top 40 this week, by request:

1 .... 3 .... Forever - Chris Brown (1 wk @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Viva la Vida - Coldplay (4 wks @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Disturbia - Rihanna
4 .... 1 .... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry (1 wk @ #1)
5 .... 4 .... All Summer Long - Kid Rock
6 .... 8 .... Closer - Ne-Yo
7 .... 9 .... Love Is Noise - The Verve
8 .... 7 .... When I Grow Up - The Pussycat Dolls
9 ... 14 ... I Decided - Solange
10 ... 6 ... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
11 ... 15 ... Changes - Will Young
12 ... 18 ... The Man Who Can't Be Moved - The Script
13 ... 10 ... 5 Years Time - Noah & the Whale
14 ... 24 ... Stepping Stone - Duffy
15 ... 17 ... The World Should Revolve Around Me - Little Jackie
16 ... 16 ... One Step at a Time - Jordin Sparks
17 ... 19 ... Spiralling - Keane
18 ... 12 ... Burnin' Up - Jonas Brothers
19 ... 13 ... Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings
20 ... 35 ... Pjanoo - Eric Prydz
21 ... 11 ... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem (2 wks @ #1)
22 ... 26 ... American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
23 ... 21 ... Dance Wiv Me - Dizzee Rascal Featuring Calvin Harris & Chrome
24 ... 30 ... Better in Time - Leona Lewis
25 ... 29 ... I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time - Mariah Carey
26 ... 25 ... In This Life - Delta Goodrem
27 ... 23 ... Take a Bow - Rihanna (1 wk @ #1)
28 ... 31 ... Save the Lies (Good to Me) - Gabriella Cilmi
29 ... 22 ... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
30 ... 32 ... Spotlight - Jennifer Hudson
31 NEW> So What - Pink
32 ... 28 .... Warwick Avenue - Duffy (2 wks @ #1)
33 ... 33 ... 7 Things - Miley Cyrus
34 ... 37 ... Cry for You - September
35 NEW> Pretty Please (Love Me) - Estelle Featuring Cee-Lo
36 NEW> The Shock of the Lightning - Oasis
37 ... 27 ... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
38 ... 20 ... If This Is Love - The Saturdays
39 NEW> Girls - Sugababes
40 ... 36 ... Summertime - New Kids on the Block

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Album Review: Solange - Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams (3/5)

Here's an album I was really hoping to love that let me down. Sure there are some great songs here--particularly the hit single "I Decided," which is what drove my expectations up in the first place. But unfortunately there just isn't enough similarly good moments and there's some pretty disappointing filler too that wasn't needed, making Sol-Angel a lesson in knowing when to quit.

The album opens lightly with "God Given Name," which alludes to Solange's desire not to be compared with her famous sister Beyoncé. Not bad, but things don't really get going until the swaggering '70s soul of "T.O.N.Y," an acronym Solange explains stands for "the other night yeah." Sure the retro soul thing is getting overworked, but it still sounds great, especially with songs like this, which make up the best parts of this album. "Dancing in the Dark" goes for a more '60s vibe, while sweet "Would've Been the One" invokes girl group soul.

The album's high note though is the one-two punch of "Sandcastle Disco" and "I Decided." Both are fantastic songs. "Sandcastle Disco" is sweetly upbeat and melodic, while "I Decided" excels with just a simple backing of hand claps, keyboards and piano. It becomes a real stomper in its Freemasons remix form later on the album. Other retro-flavored highlights are the Mark Ronson-produced "6 O'Clock Blues" and "Ode to Marvin"--Gaye that is.

If she'd just stopped there, this album would be wonderful. Definitely a "4." But unfortunately, it just sinks after that. The second half gets experimental, with a couple of attempts at trip-hop psychedelia. "I Told You So" kicks off this patch. It's not too bad, but not nearly as fun as what preceded it. The real problems are "Cosmic Journey" and "The Bird." Both are over 6 minutes long. The first is mostly synth chords without much melody that morphs into a clubby dance workout near the end. It's an interesting experiment, but it just doesn't work. "The Bird" goes for something more trippy, but ends up quite flat. It spoils what had been such a good time up to now.

Still, the highlights make Sol-Angel worthwhile, infusing Solange with some personality and a chance a real pop career. Hopefully album #3 will do the trick.

Best tracks: I Decided (original and remix), Sandcastle Disco, T.O.N.Y., Would've Been the One

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kara DioGuardi to join American Idol

Pop songwriter Kara DioGuardi has been announced to join Simon, Randy and Paula as the fourth judge on American Idol. This is great news for Kara, surely to raise her profile to the masses. Behind the scenes she's already huge. She's one of the most important pop songwriters of this decade--up there with Chantal Kreviazuk, Max Martin, Cathy Dennis, Ne-Yo and Guy Chambers.

Her songwriting credits include "Spinning Around" by Kylie Minogue (co-written with her new co-star Paula Abdul), "Walk Away," "Gone" and "Where Is Your Heart" by Kelly Clarkson, "Ain't No Other Man" by Christina Aguilera, "Pieces of Me" and "Boyfriend" by Ashlee Simpson, "Rich Girl" by Gwen Stefani, "Beep" by the Pussycat Dolls, "Not Me, Not I" and "Predictable" by Delta Goodrem, "Come Clean," "Without Love" and "Fly" by Hilary Duff, "Starting Today" and "Perfectly" by Natalie Imbruglia (great songs from an underrated album)

Here she is performing her song "Taking Chances," which became a hit last year when Celine Dion recorded it. Recognize the guitarist? It's Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Whitney and Akon

Maybe Whitney Houston will finally get her 6th album out. Fingers crossed...

Annie delayed

The Annie Lennox Collection has been delayed until March 2009. Oh well.

Keane's "Lovers Are Losing"

Here's a YouTube posting of Keane's new single, "Lovers Are Leaving," the first official single from Perfect Symmetry. It's pretty good, yeah? "Spiralling" has grown on me so much though that it's hard to say which I like better. I'm really hopeful this new album will be fantastic.

Dido returns with free track

Dido will (finally) release her third album this November. Safe Trip Home will feature the first single "Don't Believe in Love." Currently, is offering a free download of the track "Look No Further," a lovely ballad that features a lush full orchestral backing and less downbeat influence than her previous work.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Personal Chart, 8/23/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (4 wks @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Forever - Chris Brown
4 .... 3 .... All Summer Long - Kid Rock
5 ... 10 ... Disturbia - Rihanna
6 .... 6 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
7 .... 8 .... When I Grow Up - The Pussycat Dolls
8 .... 9 .... Closer - Ne-Yo
9 ... 13 ... Love Is Noise - The Verve
10 .. 18 .. 5 Years Time - Noah & The Whale

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sugababes return with "Girls"

The Sugababes new single "Girls" will be out at the end of September. Their sixth album will follow in October. Hear a sample on their Web site:

Popjustice has the whole thing in low quality.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Coldplay video

The video for "Viva la Vida" is finally out. It finds the band merging into the painting used for the Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends album cover. Amazing that despite several reviews of that album declaring it didn't contain any obvious singles, "Viva la Vida" has become Coldplay's biggest hit.

Billboard Hot 100, 8/23/2008

1. Disturbia - Rihanna

Barbadian singer Rihanna climbs two spots this week to score her fourth #1 single with "Disturbia." That puts her in the ranks among five other artists (Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, Nelly and Ludacris) that have had four #1 hits this decade. Only one other artist has more--Usher, with seven chart-toppers. Rihanna becomes the first artist to score a second #1 hit this year. It's also the fourth single from a foreigner to top the Hot 100 so far this year.

2. Forever - Chris Brown

Chris Brown holds at #2, retaining his bullet.

5. Paper Planes - M.I.A.

British rapper M.I.A. is highly regarded by music critics--her album, Kala, was one of last year's best-reviewed albums. But until now, she's never had a major hit in the U.S. "Paper Planes" correct that this week, jumping 11 spots to give M.I.A. her first top 10 hit. This is a rather unexpected jump for a single released 6 months ago, and the success is owed in part to the song's appearance in promotional trailers for the new film The Pineapple Express.

9. Burnin' Up - The Jonas Brothers
11. A Little Bit Longer - The Jonas Brothers

iTunes continues its special promotion of The Jonas Brothers, releasing "A Little Bit Longer" as the last track to come out before the release of the album last week. It gives the brothers their 7th top 40 hit. Meanwhile, their official single, "Burnin' Up," rebounds into the top 10.

38. Better in Time - Leona Lewis

"Better in Time" moves up 12 spots, giving Leona Lewis her second top 40 hit. The singer is due to perform at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, in honor of London being the 2012 host. "Better in Time" is one of five singles in the top 40 this week by British female artists, along with Lewis's other single, "Bleeding Love," and tracks by M.I.A., Estelle and Natasha Bedingfield.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Album review: Mêlée - Devils & Angels (3.5/5)

Mêlée is a pop rock band from Orange County, California. Devils & Angels is their second album, released over a year ago in the U.S., although it didn't get my attention until its release and promotion of the single "Built to Last" in the UK this summer.

Devils & Angels is about as straight up a pop/rock album you can get. No indie punk tricks here. The band's upbeat songs exude rich melodies, driven prominently by piano and guitar with sweet singing and an emphasis on the strong choruses. "Built to Last" is a prime example, a great opener, with a strong chorus reminiscent of The New Radicals "You Get What You Give." "Rhythm of Rain" has a stronger guitar emphasis, both electric and acoustic, but retains a similarly strong melody while being more downbeat.

"Frequently Baby (She's a Teenage Maniac)" brings back the piano and ups the tempo to a frenetic California pace. Here they remind me of the The Feeling's more upbeat efforts. Then the band switches gears on "For a Lifetime," infusing a bit of small town angst, but not losing any of the driving tempo. The piano on "For a Lifetime" is particularly impressive, and the song has a strong '80s vibe to it. In general, the sound here is a reminder of that late '80s/early '90s male pop/rock sound--think Bryan Adams, Hall & Oates, Richard Marx, Tom Cochrane, etc.

After a strong opening, the album sags a bit in the middle. It kind of feels like they pulled out all their best tricks on the first four tracks, and then the rest sounds about the same. "Drive Away" follows in that charging '80s pop/rock vein. "Can't Hold On" is the first slow song. It's quite earnest, as you'd expect, with piano chord combos building with acoustic guitar and strings for the big chorus. It's the kind of song a band likes to have in their pockets in case they become famous enough to fill stadiums. I'm quite impressed with the band's lead singer, Chris Cron. He's got a great voice and plays piano very well too. I wonder he does both at once when they play live?

The only other song that really stands out for me is "She's Gonna Find Me Here." Every song but this one is a huge production. This song is mostly just Chris on vocal and piano, with a few production tweaks. It's more understated, and it's quite lovely.

Overall, I appreciate what the band is doing. I like the strong emphasis on melody and well-crafted pop songs. I'm just not sure it's something I see myself listening to long term. A little more experimentation would have been nice. Still, I can't complain about any of these songs, it's just that after the opening salvo, they lost their distinctiveness.

Best: Built to Last, For a Lifetime, She's Gonna Find Me Here, Frequently Baby, Rhythm of Rain

Happy 50th Madonna!

Today Madonna looks at her 40s and says "This Used to Be My Playground," as the world's biggest pop star turns 50. What was Madonna doing at my age? Enjoying the success of Like a Prayer, which makes me more than a wee bit jealous. To help Madonna celebrate, here's my 10 favorite Madonna vids:


You can't top "Vogue." Fantastic song, beautiful video. I used to do the dance--it was a "thing." I got a lot of mileage out of it over the years.

Express Yourself

Visually a very cool video. Very expensive. Madonna looks fantastic.


That Madonna launched her 1998 comeback with this understated masterpiece was an inspired move. Fantastic.


I love the look, the animation, the '70s-style split screen cutting.

Ray of Light

A day in the life, with a disproportionate visit to a dance club.

Get Together

Cool animated video.

Open Your Heart

Stripper befriends a child. Pushing the envelope as usual.

Oh Father

Madonna's most beautiful "story" video. The Like a Prayer videos in general are my favorite.

Deeper and Deeper

There's something sort of tacky and dirty about this video, which I used to not like, but I find it more appealing now.


Hot mermen--yum.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Personal Chart, 8/16/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry (1 wk @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (4 wks @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... All Summer Long - Kid Rock
4 .... 1 .... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem (2 wks @ #1)
5 .... 6 .... Forever - Chris Brown
6 .... 4 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
7 .... 9 .... Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings
8 ... 10 ... When I Grow Up - The Pussycat Dolls
9 ... 11 .... Closer - Ne-Yo
10 .. 12 .. Disturbia - Rihanna

Friday, August 08, 2008

Personal Chart, 8/9/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 5 .... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry
3 .... 2 .... Viva La Vida - Coldplay (4 wks @ #1)
4 .... 3 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
5 .... 8 .... All Summer Long - Kid Rock
6 ... 10 ... Forever - Chris Brown
7 .... 7 .... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
8 .... 6 .... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
9 ... 12 ... Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings
10 .. 17 ... When I Grow Up - The Pussycat Dolls

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Album review: Estelle - Shine (4/5)

I'd hardly given Estelle much thought until this year. Her first album hadn't produced any singles that interested me, and her guest spot on a Natasha Bedingfield song didn't do much for me either. Then along came "American Boy," the fantastic single from earlier this year that dominated the UK charts last spring. It's upbeat yet cool, retro yet modern, features Kanye West, and was produced by Black Eyed Peas member Will.I.Am--in short, it had all the ingredients of a major hit, and its finally caught on in the U.S. too.

"American Boy" may be the best thing about Shine, Estelle's sophomore set, but it's not the only thing going for this disc, which was executive produced by John Legend and features turns at the wheel from many of today's hottest production hands, including Mark Ronson, Wyclef Jean, and Swizz Beats. They contribute most of the album's best cuts, but the producers don't get all the credit--Estelle really shines here as a formidable music force in her own right. She's got a sweet, soulful voice and raps occasionally too.

Old school-flavored modern soul is what a lot of this album has on its mind. "No Substitute Love," one of the Wyclef-produced tracks, liberally curbs from George Michael's "Faith," delivering a warm, punchy track that sounds great this summer. Sixties-sampling "In the Rain" is similarly upbeat and summery.

Besides "American Boy," my second favorite cut has to be the other Wyclef number, "So Much Out the Way," which is upbeat and funky, gets better during the chorus, and then really punches up the rhythm for the chorus-to-verse bridge. It's great fun. As is the Caribbean-flavored Mark Ronson production, "Magnificent," which features Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall, who is finally making a name for himself in the U.S. this year with his solo work.

The album's strongest moments come at the beginning, middle, and end. First track "Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)" is a funky, synth-backed opener. The last cuts are great too. "Pretty Please (Love Me)" effectively nods to Motown and features Cee-Lo. The Swizz Beats-produced "Shine" is one of the most modern-sounding songs, featuring a melody of synths and piano.

The upbeat numbers are the album's best. The slower songs like "More than Friends" or "Come Over" are fine, but don't stand out as much. Better is the slow 70s vibe of "Back in Love" and "You Are" which features the man of the hour, John Legend himself.

Estelle snagged herself a Mercury Prize nomination for Shine, a surprise for such a mainstream work. It's nice to hear some really great R&B that, like a lot of the genre's recent best, seamlessly combines elements like modern hip-hop beats and '60s Motown soul. It's also nice to hear a British singer who isn't trying to sound like Amy Winehouse, despite some similar influences.

Best: American Boy, So Much Out the Way, No Substitute Love, Pretty Please (Love Me), Shine, Magnificent

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Keane single

Keane is offering their new single "Spiralling" for free from their Web site this week. Check it out:

I think it's really good and definitely a different sound for them. It's strut reminds me a bit of David Bowie's "Let's Dance." Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so, since I found a "Spiralling"/"Let's Dance" mashup on Youtube, although it wasn't very good, so I won't trouble you with it.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Billboard Hot 100, 8/9/2008

1. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry

Katy Perry extends her run at the top to 6 weeks, making "I Kissed a Girl" now the second-longest running #1 hit of 2008. She's still got a ways to go if she's going to beat Flo Rida's 10-week run with "Low."

4. Disturbia - Rihanna

"Disturbia," the 7th single from Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad, rockets up 11 spots to give the Barbadian singer her 9th top 10 hit. Counting the original and special editions of Good Girl Gone Bad, this is the fifth top 10 single from that album, making it only the third album this decade after Usher's Confessions (2004) and Fergie's The Dutchess (2006) to score five top 10 hits. The previous four were "Umbrella" (#1), "Hate that I Love You" (#7), "Don't Stop the Music" (#3), and "Take a Bow" (#1). "Take a Bow" is still in the top 10, at #2 in fact, making her one of two artists with two hits in the top 10 this week (along with Lil Wayne, who's at #6 with "A Milli" and #7 with "Lollipop").

16. American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West

Estelle's "American Boy" is finally taking off, up 10 spots this week and earning the sales gainer award. Along with Leona Lewis and Natasha Bedingfield, she's one of three British female singers in the top 10 this week.

34. One Step at a Time - Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks continues to move up with "One Step at a Time," up 5. Last week the single became her fourth top 40 hit.

38. All Summer Long - Kid Rock

Already a major hit in the UK, Kid Rock's "All Summer Long," which has been showing well at top 40, finally cracks the Hot 100 this week, giving him a third top 40 single.

Another Dance #1 for Madonna

"Give It 2 Me" tops the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart this week, giving Madonna her 39th #1 on this chart. In fact, every Madonna single since "Nothing Really Matters" has topped this chart. BTW, Madonna turns 50 in 2 weeks.

Her U.S. Dance #1s:

1. Holiday/Lucky Star
2. Like a Virgin
3. Material Girl
4. Into the Groove
5. Open Your Heart
6. Causing a Commotion
7. Spotlight
8. Like a Prayer
9. Express Yourself
10. Keep It Together
11. Vogue
12. Justify My Love
13. Erotica
14. Deeper and Deeper
15. Fever
16. Secret
17. Bedtime Story
18. Don't Cry for Me Argentina
19. Frozen
20. Ray of Light
21. Nothing Really Matters
22. Beautiful Stranger
23. American Pie
24. Music
25. Don't Tell Me
26. What It Feels Like for a Girl
27. Impressive Instant
28. Die Another Day
29. American Life
30. Hollywood
31. Me Against the Music (w/Britney Spears)
32. Nothing Fails
33. Love Profusion
34. Hung Up
35. Sorry
36. Get Together
37. Jump
38. 4 Minutes
39. Give It 2 Me

Annie Lennox "Best of" Finally

Annie Lennox has recorded two new tracks for her upcoming greatest hits collection, due for release in mid September. I haven't seen a track list yet, but I read it will have 14 tracks. If I could choose the 12:

  1. Why
  2. Walking on Broken Glass
  3. Little Bird
  4. Love Song for a Vampire (From "Bram Stoker's Dracula")
  5. No More 'I Love You's'
  6. A Whiter Shade of Pale
  7. Pavement Cracks
  8. A Thousand Beautiful Things
  9. Wonderful
  10. Into the West (From "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King")
  11. Dark Road
  12. Sing

Snow Patrol

Billboard is reporting that Snow Patrol will release their fifth album in October, titled A Hundred Million Suns. The band is best known in the U.S. for their 2006 hit "Chasing Cars," which was also a major UK hit, along with "You're All I Have" and 2004's "Run."

Mercury Prize 2008

The Mercury Prize nominees were announced last week. I was surprised by how mainstream they are this year. I actually own most of the nominated albums, which is a first. The nominees:

Adele - 19
British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
Burial - Untrue
Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
Estelle - Shine
Laura Marling - Alas, I Cannot Swim
Neon Neon - Stainless Style
Portico Quartet - Knee Deep in the North Sea
Rachel Unthank and the Winterset - The Bairns
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understanding

Click on my links to see what I think of seven of these. Among those, Radiohead is by far my favorite, and I think they would be very deserving of the award this year. The Last Shadow Puppets album is good, but Arctic Monkeys have been nominated for both their albums (and won in 2006). Interesting that Adele was nominated and not Duffy.

Among the five I don't know, I'm most interested in checking out Burial, whose album is supposed to be awesome. Portico Quartet is a modern jazz group, which could be interesting. Estelle's album is supposed to be good, having generated the biggest hit from any of these albums ("American Boy" with Kanye West).

Friday, August 01, 2008

Personal Chart, 8/2/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Believe Again - Delta Goodrem (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Viva la Vida - Coldplay (4 wks @ #1)
3 .... 3 .... Leavin' - Jesse McCartney
4 .... 6 .... The One - Kylie Minogue
5 .... 5 .... I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry
6 .... 4 .... Give It 2 Me - Madonna
7 .... 7 .... Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield
8 ... 10 ... All Summer Long - Kid Rock
9 .... 9 .... Hometown Glory - Adele
10 .. 11 ... Forever - Chris Brown