Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coldplay "Violet Hills"

Quick releases without much notice seems to be the latest trend. Following the lead by Radiohead and The Raconteurs, Coldplay released the first single from their upcoming fourth album, Viva La Vida, this week. It was added to BBC Radio 1's playlist this week, straight in on the "A" list, which is a rare event (most new singles are added to the third-tier "C" list).

For 1 week, they are offering it as a free download through their Web site ( Unfortunately, this feature doesn't work as well as it should. It requires you to submit your email address and says an "email has been sent" to my account with download instructions. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and I tried it four times. Finally the email arrived the next morning. Thankfully, its claim that the download expired "in 6 hours" was a lie, otherwise it would have melted away while I was at work.

Personal Chart, 5/3/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake (4 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
3 .... 4 .... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
4 .... 3 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown (1 wk @ #1)
5 .... 5 .... Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
6 .... 6 .... Cry For You - September
7 .... 9 .... Without You - The Feeling
8 ... 10 ... Cold Shoulder - Adele
9 .... 7 .... See You Again - Miley Cyrus
10 .. 8 .... Mercy - Duffy (6 wks @ #1)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Album Review: Madonna - Hard Candy (5/5)

When I first heard that Madonna was going to work with Timbaland, Danja and Pharrell Williams on this album, I had reservations. These are very popular producers, known for infusing a modern hip-hop sensibility into whatever project they deem worthy of their vast talents. They turned staid, folksy Nelly Furtado into a glam, sexy vixen. They turned boyband hopeful Justin Timberlake into this decade's hottest male pop star. Furtado needed a makeover, Timberlake needed a boost, both got exactly what they needed.

So what would Madonna, a tried-and-true veteran with decidedly the longest active pop career in the business, need with them? Well, for one thing, a U.S. hit. Madonna's last American #1 was "Music" in 2000. Her clubby 2005 album, Confessions on a Dancefloor, was a hit in Europe but not at home, and 2003's American Life was a disaster. Madonna was a major pop force in the U.S. in the '80s and '90s, but this decade, that baton has passed--unwillingly for sure--to other, younger stars like Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne and Christina Aguilera.

While Madonna has frequently switched up her producers--opening the door for lesser knowns whom went on to great heights, like William Orbit, Mirwais and most recently Stuart Price (who, by the way, is producing the next album from The Killers)--only once before has she turned to well knowns. That was for 1994's Bedtime Stories. Following the commercially disappointing clubby Erotica (sound familiar?), Madonna wanted a hit, and turned to well-known Pop/R&B producers Nellie Hooper, Dallas Austin, and Babyface, the last of which gave her a big U.S. #1, "Take a Bow." Bedtime Stories wasn't a smashing success, but it did the job, returning Madonna to #1 and repairing her damaged image.

Mostly I was worried Hard Candy would sound like Timbaland and Pharrell and not like Madonna, but thankfully that isn't the case. Hard Candy is way less hip-hoppy than Furtado's Loose or Timberlake's FutureSex/LoveSounds. The album successfully straddles R&B, house, and pop--i.e. it's dance pop, the sub-genre of pop that Madonna pioneered and has reveled in for decades. Sure the beats are harder, more street, but the vibe is Madonna through and through. Double entendres, naughty lyrics, and delicious hooks permeate throughout, such as opening track "Candy Shop's" "Sticky and Sweet" lyric, which is surely waiting for some budding DJ to loop continuously through a club remix. The Pharrell-produced track is relatively stripped down, featuring acoustic percussion and guitar, as well as synths for the chorus. It's a nice understated opener.

By contrast the heavy production of "4 Minutes" is an assault on the senses. It took a few listens to sink in, but once it does it works really really well. I love how the opening slowly builds with Timbaland, horns, beats, and synths, before breaking through to the melody and bass before the opening verse. It's a great first single, pulsing with energy--more so than "Hung Up," which I liked, but never loved. Justin Timberlake and Madonna work great together too, and she's so rarely shared vocal duties with anyone. The energy accelerates with Pharrell-produced "Give It 2 Me," a very clubby song and future single in waiting. It has a really great middle section with cowbells and Madonna rapping "get stupid...get stupid...get stupid...don't stop it." Totally cool. I was wondering whether I'd prefer the Timbaland/Danja or Pharrell tracks, but I can't say that I do. They both have some great moments here. "Heartbeat" throttles back a bit, but boosts the melody and synths. Another winner.

Then there's "Miles Away," which is instantly stunning--you know this one will be a single. It's a great blend of the harder Timbaland beats with the lush dance-pop Madonna sound. Acoustic guitars kick it off, followed by heavy bass beats and percussion. Think "Nothing Fails" or "Power of Good-Bye" with a little more juice. The opening five tracks are all fantastic, making the album's first half particularly strong. The sixth track, '80s groove "She's Not Me" isn't as good, but it's not bad though, just a little more understated. It's also pretty long--6 minutes--with the last couple sounding a bit like "Get Together."

The second half isn't as immediate as the first, but there are some really great tracks here, their charms emerging upon repeat listens. "Incredible" is kind of a quirky track, which I wasn't sure about at first, but now I really like. I has an unusual beat and vocal for a Madonna song. The danceable and retro "Beat Goes On" brings us the album's other guest--Kanye West--and frankly, he's the least interesting part of the song. I rather like everything else about it. It's got a great groove, and I feel like he doesn't really add that much. Justin Timberlake shows up again although not as prominently on "Dance 2Night," which has a particularly great chorus. It's slower than you'd expect and very '80s, bathed in rich synths.

"Spanish Lesson" is the album's low point, and in fact, the only track that hasn't yet won me over. What is it with Madonna's Spanish/Latin interest? "La Isla Bonita," the "Who's That Girl" chorus, "Spanish Eyes" the matador in the "Take a Bow" and "You'll See" videos, Evita. I guess being a Catholic Italian-American from Michigan turned British Kaballah follower just isn't enough.

The last two tracks are the slowest, and by that I mean mid-Tempo as opposed to dance floor stomping. Both are from Timbaland, Danja and JT. "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" is dark and moody with a layered synth production, piano, even a rainstorm (borrowed no doubt from Janet Jackson, who I don't believe used her signature storm sound on Discipline). "Voices" is a little more upbeat, although still pretty dark in tone. "Who is the master, who is the slave?" intones Madonna and Justin at the beginning, recalling the dark fetishism of Erotica. This is another lovely track, awash with the hard/soft contrast of hip-hop beats and lush strings. That's kind of the point of the album, it's very title "Hard Candy" implying the combination of something hard and something soft.

I really love this album, much better than her last. I like that Hard Candy is a little bit messy--sticky and sweet, in Madonna's words. Confessions on a Dancefloor, while great, was just a little too tame, a little too formal. This album feels much freer and more personal. There's also no "weird" track on this, like "Mer Girl," "Paradise (Not for Me)" or "Isaac," that provided head-scratching moments on otherwise great albums. It's definitely Madonna's best album since Music, and I'm looking forward to a year of hit Madonna singles, for there are surely many here.

Now my quandary...what rating to give. While I'm a pretty easy reviewer, I don't give out "5s" lightly. Only one album got it last year, Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, and since then there have been two albums I gave 4.5s that in retrospect I should have given 5s (Radiohead's In Rainbows and Duffy's Rockferry). There aren't any tracks I don't like, save for one that's just so-so, and a whole bunch that I really like a lot. So there it is Madonna...a "5" for you. And at nearly 50, how amazing that she can still churn out such a thrilling pop album.

Best: 4 Minutes, Miles Away, Give It 2 Me, Heartbeat, Candy Shop, Beat Goes On, Dance 2Night, Incredible, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, Voices

Sunday, April 27, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 5/3/2008

1. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake
2. Black and Gold - Sam Sparro

It's a second week at the top for Madonna, now at the summit upon the sales of the fully released single. Meanwhile, Sam Sparro rebounds to second place with "Black and Gold" Both artists have new albums out tomorrow. While Madonna is sure to grab #1 there, it will be interesting to see how well newcomer Sparro will fare on that chart.

4. Wearin' My Rolex - Wiley

Rapper Wiley, who's gotten the club treatment here, debuts at #4 on downloads with "Wearin' My Rolex." The single isn't out for another week, so expect so serious competition with Madonna for #1. Remind's me of Bodyrox's "Yeah Yeah."

8. Heartbreaker - Will.I.Am

Will.I.Am climbs into the top 10 on downloads with "Heartbreaker." This isn't the version that's supposed to be charting though. That would be a new version featuring additional vocals by Cheryl Cole of Girls Aloud. That version isn't available until May 5 though, but demand for the track is so great people are buying the pre-Cheryl album version. Potentially, come the May 11 chart, both singles could appear in the top 40.

10. Heartbeat - Scouting for Girls

Several weeks after its physical release, demand for Scouting for Girl's "Heartbeat" continues to grow, this week pushing the single into the top 10 for the first time, making "Heartbeat" the band's third consecutive top 10 hit. Airplay for the track is quite strong too, which doesn't hurt.

18. Cold Shoulder - Adele

This has to be something of a disappointment. Tapped at the beginning of the year as #1 on the infamous BBC Sounds of 2008 poll, Adele isn't quite living up to expectations. While the #2 artist on that list currently has the year's biggest selling single and album (that would be Duffy of course), Adele hasn't achieved that level of success. "Cold Shoulder's" placement this week comes on the back of its physical release too, so don't expect it to go any higher. Despite it being produced by hot-producer-of-the-moment Mark Ronson, it's not a hit.

25. Trippin' on You - Cahill Featuring Nikki Belle

This is a pretty decent club track, another casuality in the dance singles backlash it seems, limping in at #25.

26. Party People - Nelly Featuring Fergie

Okay, this is already selling on downloads and its not out for like a month. Future hit in the making.

30. We Cry - The Script

This is the debut single from new Irish band The Script. It's selling on downloads this week--I'm hoping it will be top 10 next week, as its pretty decent. An interesting blend of rock and R&B.

38. Who's That Girl - Robyn

This single is out Monday. On downloads this week it becomes Robyn's 7th top 40 hit.

Album Review: The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age of the Understatement (4/5)

The Arctic Monkeys took awhile to grow on me. At first, I felt like they were way overrated. Their songs were too short, too gritty, for me to really get behind them. Eventually I came around to seeing that was kind of the point--short bursts of raw, melodic rock about the life of twentysomething partiers.

So here we have The Last Shadow Puppets, the side project by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and his buddy Miles Kane, from the decidedly less famous band, The Rascals (their first album is due in 2 months). Consider this like taking the Arctic Monkeys and parading them through Amy Winehouse and Duffy's recording studios, with a little does of John Barry for inspiration. Now you get short bursts of melodic rock blended with '60s pop influences. It's certainly less raw. "The Age of the Understatement" glides along with lush strings and mariachi guitars, but is as insistent as ever.

"Standing Next to Me" is quite good. Even more '60s-ish. The strings are even more prominent here, coming courtesy of the 22-piece London Metropolitan Orchestra. This is really a lovely track, over too soon, as many of these tracks are. "Calm Like You" is more rock-oriented, with prominent bass. There's a certain darkness to these songs, owing to their minor keys, but certainly everyone involved in having a good time. Even on something like "Separate and Ever Deadly," which sounds so Arctic Monkeys that its probably a Favourite Worst Nightmare leftover.

"The Chamber" is mellower, more meditative, with instrumentation that sounds inspired by James Bond scores. The song seems to start and stop about every 45 seconds. The western influence returns for "Only the Truth"; you can almost see the galloping horses from the credits of some old-time western. Pulp Fiction comes to mind too.

"My Mistakes Were Made for You" is quite a lovely blend of '60s guitars and sinister orchestration underscored with that fuzzy bass that plays in the Bond theme. It's another highlight, as is the following track, "Black Plant," which allows the orchestra to shine best among any of the tracks. It's the album's longest cut--almost four minutes! Both songs are deliciously steeped in drama.

"I Don't Like You Anymore" starts off quietly, before bursting forth. This is an odd one, and while some reviews I've read, like NME, praise this track, it's probably my least favorite. "In My Room" sounds like James Bond meets The Addams Family, with organ providing that "Halloween" effect, along with the yearning strings.

After these two odd tracks, the closing numbers are, by contrast, relatively restrained. "Meeting Place" is downright peaceful, with just enough swagger to remind us who we're listening to. "The Time Has Come Again" starts with just acoustic guitar and vocal, before adding strings and background singers. It's even more gentle than "Meeting Place," a nice closing track. Finally, it's worth mentioning that one of the B-sides from "The Age of the Understatement" single, "In the Heat of the Morning," is worth having too. It would have been welcome on the album, if it wasn't a David Bowie remake.

With few exceptions, understatement is clearly not on anyone's mind. Although it's hard to judge, since we haven't yet heard The Rascals, but this album is so Arctic Monkeys-esque that it's hard not to think that Turner is the more prominent player in this collaboration. Accuse them of jumping on the retro bandwagon if you well, but I rather like the results.

Best: Standing Next to Me, Black Plant, My Mistakes Were Made for You, The Age of the Understatement, Meeting Place, Only the Truth, The Time Has Come Again

Saturday, April 26, 2008

May New Release Roundup

Goodbye April, hello May. Here's a rundown of the month's key new album releases:

May 5/6:

Missy Elliott - Untitled Seventh Album. I don't know how this album is coming out so soon, given that it doesn't have a released title or a first single. Timbaland and Nate Danja are said to be featured prominently. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets pushed back.

Neil Diamond - Home Before Dark. His 29th studio album, includes a duet with Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks

Clay Aiken - On My Way Here. Clay's fourth album, really his second though, if you don't count the Christmas and remakes albums. First single, the title track, was co-written by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, who also co-wrote Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love." Clay could use a hit--his last album was certified gold versus the triple-platinum certification of his 2003 debut, Measure of a Man.

Gavin DeGraw - Gavin DeGraw. His second album, featuring current single "In Love with a Girl."

Scarlett Johannson - Anywhere I Lay My Head. Yep. She's putting out an album. Supposedly folk.

Ja Rule - The Mirror. His 7th album. Been awhile since he's had a hit, hasn't it? I haven't heard whether Ashanti will show up on it.

May 12/13:

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt. I haven't heard much about this album, the second collaboration between Belle and Sebastian's Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, but I loved the first, Ballad of the Broken Seas, so I'm hopeful this will be as good.

Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs. Their sixth album.

Whitesnake - Good to Be Bad. Their 11th album and first in over 10 years.

Jakob Dylan - Seeing Things. The son of legend Bob Dylan and Wallflowers frontman releases his solo debut.

Amy Winehouse - Frank (Special Edition). Includes a second 18-track CD of remixes, B-sides, and rarities.

May 19/20:

The Ting Tings - We Started Nothing. Their debut, featuring first single "Great DJ."

3 Doors Down - 3 Doors Down (II). This the fifth studio album from 3 Doors Down, and in a move reminiscent of Cher, their second to be self-titled, following their debut.

May 26/27:

Usher - Here I Stand. Usher's fourth solo album, perhaps the most anticipated new album of the second quarter, featuring #1 hit "Love in This Club."

Futureheads – This Is Not The World

Pigeon Detectives – Emergency

Sandi Thom – Pink And The Lily

Billboard Hot 100, 5/3/2008

1. Lollipop - Lil Wayne Featuring Static Major

Rapper Lil Wayne knocks Leona Lewis from #1 this week with "Lollipop." The smooth single features Wayne's vocals "auto-tuned," a process first popularized by Cher's 1998 hit "Believe" that has been popping up a lot lately, particularly in hip-hop (see T-Pain). Static Major, the featured guest, died two months ago in a Kentucky hospital. That makes Static Major the first artist with a posthumous #1 since Soulja Slim, who was featured on Juvenile's "Slow Motion," which hit #1 in 2004 about 9 months after Slim's death.

2. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis

So Leona gets punted back a bit after her second non-consecutive week at #1. She's this week's airplay gainer though, and has just topped the top 40 airplay chart, so a return to #1 (a third time!) is certainly a possibility.

3. No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chri Brown

Jordin and Chris hold on at #3, the single's highest peak so far. On the top 40 airplay chart this single is #2 and would have been #1 had it not been for Leona leaping over it this week.

10. See You Again - Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus, in her 20th week on the Hot 100, finally breaks into the top 10. The last 10 weeks for this single has been spent hovering between 11 to 14 (4 of those week at #11). This is Miley's first top 10 hit. The last time we had a Cyrus in the top 10 was almost 16 years ago when her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, hit the top 10 with his country crossover hit, "Achy Breaky Heart."

12. Say - John Mayer

John Mayer soars 23 spots to #12 this week with "Say," this week's sales gainer. I'm not sure what's behind this, as I find the single only mildly appealing. Surprisingly, this is actually Mayer's highest-charting single. He's never had a top 10 hit, and his previous best was the #13 peak of his first single, "No Such Thing." Four other singles made the top 20: "Waiting on the World to Change," (#14) "Your Body is a Wonderland" (#18), "Daughters" (#19), and his recent #19 apperance on Fall Out Boy's "Beat It" cover.

16. Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield

Natasha Bedingfield continues her ascent with "Pocketful of Sunshine," up nine spots this week, just passing the #17 peak of "These Words" to become her third-highest charting single. She's now had four top 20 hits in the U.S., twice as many as her brother Daniel.

23. Bye Bye - Mariah Carey

Upon the release of her 10th album, E=MC², the album's second single "Bye Bye" became available for sale and instantly becomes Carey's 32rd top 40 hit. The album did very well this week, bowing at #1 with sales over 450,000, making it her biggest debut sales week. The album is her 6th #1, following Mariah Carey, Music Box, Daydream, Butterfly, and The Emancipation of Mimi. That ties her with Madonna and Janet Jackson, and puts her just two under Barbra Streisand's record eight #1 albums for a female soloist.

34. Realize - Colbie Caillat

Former internet sensation Colbie Caillat, who scored a top 5 hit last year with her debut, "Bubbly," lands her second top 40 hit this week with "Realize." Frankly, I'm even less interested in this than her last, but she does have her fans.

40. Party People - Nelly Featuring Fergie

Finally Nelly debuts at #40 with "Party People," the first official single from his forthcoming fifth album, Brass Knuckles. I say "official," because the album already had its first single, "Wadsyaname," which flopped when released in August of last year. Subsequently, the release of the album was pushed back, and that single actually dropped from it. So "Party People" is the album's first single, giving Nelly his 13th top 40 hit (16th counting guest spots). His last appearance on the chart was as guest on Janet Jackson's 2006 single "Call on Me," which hit #25. This is Fergie's 6th top 40 hit, following her amazing run of five top 5 hits from her solo debut, The Dutchess. Fergie's 6th Dutchess single, "Finally (feat. John Legend)" failed to dent the Hot 100 earlier this year.

Friday, April 25, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 4/26/2008

1. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake

After bouncing around the top 10 for the last few weeks, Madonna defies the odds, bounding up to #1 with "4 Minutes." This despite the fact that last week the physical release still wasn't available--this was a climb based only on the download, which had already been out a few weeks. Bizarre, but cool. "4 Minutes" gives Madonna her 13th UK #1, edging ahead of her 12 U.S. #1s. It's her first since "Sorry" spent a week at the top in February 2006. It's also Justin Timberlake's third #1, following his appearance last year on Timbaland's "Give it To Me" and his 2006 #1, "Sexyback." Hard Candy is out next week.

5. Cry for You - September

September scores a top 5 upon its physical release with the great dance track, "Cry for You." It's the third top 5 hit this year from the Hard2Beat dance label, who scored #1 with Basshunter's "Now You're Gone" and #2 with H two O's "What's It Gonna Be." Personally, I like this track better than both of this, but competition at the top is really tight right now, with Madonna, Estelle, Sam Sparro and Flo Rida refusing to give up the top 4 this week.

6. Love in This Club - Usher Featuring Young Jeezy

Usher scores his 12th top 10 hit this week with "Love in This Club," moving up 8 spots to #6. Usher had his first UK #1 10 years ago with "You Make Me Wanna..."

9. The Age of the Understatement - The Last Shadow Puppets

Arctic Monkey Alex Turner's side project--along with Miles Kane of the Rascals--lands its first single in the top 10 this week. The album, of the same title, will surely top the UK albums chart this week. This is Alex's 6th top 10 hit, if you count his five with the 'Monkeys. The Rascals have never had a top 40 hit. Their debut album is actually due out in June. Wonder whether Kane will spend more time promoting that or this. Seems like there's more $$$ to be made here. But how dare I suggest $ would be the motivating factor.

15. Break the Ice - Britney Spears

Britney makes a poor showing at #15 with "Break the Ice." This is only her third single to miss the top 10, and her lowest-charting single so far, falling just below the #12 peak of "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know" and the #13 peak of "I Love Rock & Roll." To be honest, "Break the Ice" is a far better single than either of those two duds, so it's too bad it couldn't place higher. Maybe next week.

25. Happiness - Goldfrapp

Also falling a bit short is Goldfrapp, with their second Seventh Tree single, "Happiness." This is more akin to a typical Goldfrapp single than their previous, "A&E," yet that it misses the top 20 is a shame. The band had 3 top 20 hits from their last album, including top 5 hit "Ooh La La."

35. Time to Pretend - MGMT

This came out a few weeks ago, but after falling off the chart, MGMT rebounds to score their first top 40 hit this week with "Time to Pretend," one of the best songs from their debut album, Oracular Spectacular.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Album Review: Mariah Carey - E=MC² (4/5)

Sometime in the late ‘90s, Mariah Carey and I parted ways. Having been a fan since her 1990 debut, “Vision of Love,” I started losing interest as her music became increasingly R&B and decreasingly AC flavored. More about singing through her nose and less about exploring her amazing range. Rainbow was the first Carey album I didn’t buy, as its singles “Heartbreaker”—a “Fantasy” repeat—and “Thank God I Found You”—just dreadful—failed to win me over. It was soon after that she hit bottom with Glitter and Charmbracelet, so from an investor’s perspective, I got out just in time.

But like a reliable blue chip, Carey made a comeback. In 2005 she put out The Emancipation of Mimi, a winning combination of old school and modern R&B sounds that delivered one of her biggest hits, “We Belong Together,” and her third Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.

Now Carey offers E=MC², which doesn’t stray far from Mimi’s winning formula. It provides a mix of more purely modern R&B—there are fewer retro-flavored tunes and no torchy ballads like “Mine Again” or “I Wish You Knew.” Having scored such a major hit in “We Belong Together,” as well as “Don’t Forget About Us” from Mimi’s special edition release, many of the songs on E=MC² are cut from those tracks' template of mid-tempo pop R&B, heavy in bass and skittering hi-hat beats. Frankly, that’s about half the album, with the other half consisting of slightly faster upbeat jams featuring a who’s who roster of guest rappers. Mimi gave us Snoop Dogg, Twista, and Nelly. E=MC² gives us T-Pain and Young Jeezy, both of whom have already had guest turns on #1 hits this year.

Despite its formulaic basis, I actually like E=MC² better than The Emancipation of Mimi, for its her best album since Butterfly. If she’s figured out what works and stuck with it, then I can’t fault her. Sure she’s not taking many risks, but few Mariah Carey albums ever have. And while I was kind of ho-hum listening to this during the week at home in D.C., down in sunny Florida, it sounded a lot better. E=MC² is a soundtrack for driving in the sun and going out with friends, despite some of its surprisingly personal more serious moments.

The album opens strong with three particularly breezy tracks. First there’s upbeat “Migrate” with T-Pain, featuring sharp bass beats and the vocal auto-tuning Cher popularized 10 years ago with “Believe.” Both Carey and T-Pain migrate from the car to the club to the party to the after party to the hotel…etc. The song has nothing else on its mind than going out and having fun, which it does well. Next up is “We Belong Together” clone (the first of several) “Touch My Body,” the album’s current #1 hit. The mid-tempo track features the aforementioned sharp bass and skittering hi-hat, plus some piano twinkles. The schizophrenic lyrics are interesting too, during the chorus she’s uninhibited, asking her lover to “put (her) on the floor” and “throw (her) on the bed,” but during the verses she cautions that if their tryst ends up filmed for YouTube there’ll be trouble. “Cruise Control” adds a Caribbean vibe to the party.

Next comes ballad “I Stay in Love,” which stands out because it has more melody than most of the other “We Belong Together”-style mid-tempo numbers such as “Last Kiss” and new single “Bye Bye,” of which all I can say is that they’re pleasingly bland. “Bye Bye,” however, is somewhat interesting because it mines more personal territory than we’re used to hearing from Carey. In it she reflects on lost loved ones, but on other tracks, namely “Side Effects” and “I Wish You Well” she reflects on her marriage to Tommy Mottola. In the former she enlists the assistance of guest rapper Young Jeezy to tell her rather dark story over a harder hip-hop vibe, confessing that she “kept (her) tears inside because (she) knew that if (she) started (she’d) keep crying for the rest of (her) life.” Yikes. “I Wish You Well” is the soulful closer, in a similar vein to Mimi’s “Fly Like a Bird.”

There are a few other noteworthy highlights. Among the uptempo numbers, I liked “I’m that Chick” quite a bit. It’s probably the album’s fastest song, with a slightly retro ‘80s-sounding groove. “I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time” is also fairly uptempo and a little old school, employing horns, piano, bass, and keyboards in the production-heavy mix. “O.O.C.” for “out of control” starts out with an interesting beat, but never takes off. There’s a wind instrument (flute?) that could have used a good solo. I also liked “For the Record,” a mid-tempo number with a dark streak and an ‘80s influence.

E=MC² is Einstein’s formula explaining the relationship between energy, mass and velocity. For Carey, it’s an acknowledgement that this album owes a great debt to its predecessor: E (Emancipation of Mimi) = MC (Mariah Carey) 2 (Part 2). I think Carey actually has a simpler formula in mind: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Best: Migrate, Touch My Body, I’m that Chick, I Stay in Love, I’ll Be Lovin’ U Long Time, Cruise Control, Side Effects, For the Record

Personal Chart, 4/26/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake (3 wks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
3 .... 2 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown (1 wk @ #1)
4 .... 5 .... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
5 .... 4 .... Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
6 .... 9 .... Cry for You - September
7 .... 6 .... See You Again - Miley Cyrus
8 .... 7 .... Mercy - Duffy (6 wks @ #1)
9 ... 13 ... Without You - The Feeling
10 . 12 ... Cold Shoulder - Adele

NY Times on Ashlee Simpson

The New York Times reviewed Ashlee Simpson's third album, Bittersweet World, saying she’s "shameless enough" to copy Avril Lavigne, Gwen Stefani, and Madonna. Didn't Gwen Stefani ape Madonna? Why not just say "Madonna" and be done with it.

I actually wasn't at all interested in Ashlee's new disc, but the more I read about it, the more I think I might like it. I haven't heard a second of it yet though.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Personal Chart, 4/19/2008

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
4 .... 3 .... Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
5 .... 6 .... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
6 .... 7 .... See You Again - Miley Cyrus
7 .... 4 .... Mercy - Duffy (6 wks @ #1)
8 .... 9 .... Love in This Club - Usher Featuring Young Jeezy
9 ... 13 ... Cry for You - September
10 . 12 ... Always Where I Need to Be - The Kooks

Monday, April 14, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 4/19/2008

1. American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West

Estelle remains at #1 for a third week with "American Boy." If it can stay on top next week, it will become the third #1 hit in a row to spend 5 weeks at #1. We're now well into the 2nd quarter, and we've had only 3 #1 hits so far this year. By this point in 2000, we'd had 12 #1 hits (the 12th of which makes an appearance on the top 40 this week). Estelle also climbs to the top of the airplay chart this week.

2. Black and Gold - Sam Sparro

I thought this would have a shot at #1. No cigar, but close. The single rises to #2 upon its physical release. Hopefully Sam's debut album, out later this month, will be as good as this fantastic first single.

4. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin

After a dip last week, Madonna and JT rebound to a new peak at #4. The physical release is still a week away and #1 is still looking good.

5. Touch My Body - Mariah Carey

Mariah manages to climb a spot with "Touch My Body." Her 17th top 5 hit.

9. Cry for You - September

Now this is good news! I've been into this single for about a month, but since I hadn't seen it on the chart, I was afraid it had flopped. In actuality, it hadn't been released yet in the UK, despite having appeared on Radio 1's playlist for quite some time. Upon its digital release the singles sails into the top 10 at #9, and with the physical single out this week, it has a chance at #1 next week. It's from the same label that brought up "Now You're Gone" earlier this year, but don't let that stop you from loving this. Of course, a cool dance track like this would have to be Swedish.

16. Toca's Miracle 2008 - Fragma

This was that #1 from 2000 I mentioned above. "Toca's Miracle" gets a slight remix for this release. Doesn't serve much purpose really, other than to remind us of one of the decade's best dance singles.

19. Heartbeat - Scouting for Girls

After two top 10s, Scouting for Girls miss out with "Heartbeat." Frankly I'm tired of them, and this single is only so-so.

24. The Age of the Understatement - Last Shadow Puppets

Alex Turner of Arctic Monkey's side project makes a digital-sales debut at #24. This single is also out this week, and will surely land in the top 10.

38. Hometown Glory - Adele

Adele's first single makes another appearance in the top 40. Odd timing? I must have missed something. Why isn't her new single, "Cold Shoulder" charting yet?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Billboard Hot 100, 4/19/2008

1. Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
2. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
3. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin

Mariah Carey remains on top for a second week with "Touch My Body," extending her total aggregate weeks at #1 to 79, tying Elvis Presley's record. Last week Carey surpassed Elvis' number of #1 hits when "Touch My Body" became her 18th chart topper. While's she's still two #1s shy of reaching the Beatles' record 20 #1s, because their hits tended to spend little time at the top, she's already way ahead of their aggregate 59 weeks at #1.

Spending another week at the top with this single may be a tough proposition for Carey though, as the competition is really tight. "Body" loses its bullet this week, and "Bleeding Love," rebounds up to #2. It's gaining really fast at radio--at its current rate it should be #1 on the top 40 airplay chart next week--and the release of Lewis's album Spirit should help sales further this week. "Touch My Body" appears to be slowing down at radio, and E=MC² is still a week away.

Madonna, meanwhile, manages to hold her ground and keep her bullet at #3. I was afraid the single would suffer from a first-week sales surge, but it's actually managed to improve its sales position, climbing to #1 on the digital sales charts, while "Touch My Body" is the single to burn out, falling from #1 to #4 on those charts. "4 Minutes" is currently #1 at iTunes.

4. Lollipop - Lil Wayne Featuring Static Major

This week's Sales Gainer is Lil Wayne's "Lollipop," up three spots to #4 this week. The single is just one spot shy of Lil Wayne's highest charting single, the #3 peak of Destiny's Child's "Solider," on which Lil Wayne made an appearance. Most of his major hits have been as guest star, such as on Lloyd's "You" (#9 in 2006), and Chris Brown's "Gimme That" (#15 in 2006).

7. No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown

"No Air" slides back two slots this week, but is the Airplay Gainer, so it's still a contender. I really like this song, and I hope it can peak higher than #5, where it was last week.

25. Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield

Natasha Bedingfield makes the biggest move within the top 40 this week, up 13 spots to #25. That's close to her bigest ever jump within the top 40, when "Unwritten" bounded 14 spots from #28 to #14 in its fifth week within the top 40.

37. Nude - Radiohead

Radiohead has this week's highest debut on the Hot 100 with "Nude" at #37. It's a surprisingly good show for the band, whose only other major U.S. hit was their first single, "Creep," which peaked at #34 in 1993.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sam Sparro the Album

Here's the cover for Sam Sparro's forthcoming debut album. Looks pretty cool, although Kanye will probably be wanting his sunglasses back.

Introducting: The Last Shadow Puppets

More musicians succumb to the "superband" bug. Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of The Rascals teamed up to form a new group, The Last Shadow Puppets. The album is out April 21st, and sound clips are available at 7digital. It sounds really promising, and I could potentially like this more than Arctic Monkeys. I like the first single, "The Age of the Understatement" (video below).

Album Review: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2/5)

Earlier in the year after having reviewed Hot Chip's latest album, I remarked that I needed to learn the lesson that I don't care for nerdy indie/electronica. Apparently, another lesson I need to learn is that I don't care for older guy storyteller rock. Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! has received almost universal acclaim, but it just doesn't do it for me. The appeal would seem to be in the stories being told, but as I've said before, I'm rarely interested in the lyrics; I'm more about good melody and hooks, and there aren't a lot here.

Nick Cave does have an interesting voice, deep and powerful. It's too bad he doesn't use it more. Many of the vocals are delivered as spoken-word or a sort of barely sung manner, often rather maniacally so, such as in the title track, which concerns Jesus having resurrected Lazarus, only to find "Larry" rather pissed off to no longer be dead. This track is fairly MOR for this album--other tracks are more upbeat, others less so.

"Moonland" has a nice, laid back vibe and prominent bass. "Lie Down Here (and Be My Girl)" has more melody to it than most tracks, including driving guitars and a piano riff. "More News from Nowhere," the album's last track, is quite long (almost 8 minutes), but it's pretty decent too, with a plodding, bass-driven melody. Otherwise, I'm taking a pass.

Best: Dig Lazarus Dig, Lie Down Here (and Be My Girl), More News from Nowhere

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My new book blog

I just started a new blog where I'm going to write about books. Check it out:

Personal Chart, 4/12/2008

Madonna scores her 19th #1 on my personal chart....

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 4 .... 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown (1 week @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
4 .... 2 .... Mercy - Duffy (6 wks @ #1)
5 .... 6 .... American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
6 .... 7 .... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
7 .... 8 .... See You Again - Miley Cyrus
8 .... 3 .... Love Song - Sara Bareilles
9 ... 10 ... Love in This Club - Usher Featuring Young Jeezy
10 .. 12 .. Low - Flo Rida Featuring T-Pain

Sunday, April 06, 2008

UK Singles Chart, 4/12/2008

1. American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
2. Low -Flo Rida Featuring T-Pain

No change at the top this week. Estelle's "American Boy" reigns for a third week, keeping Flo Rida in pole position for a second week with "Low."

3. Always Where I Need to Be - The Kooks

The Kooks score their biggest hit yet with "Always Where I Need to Be," the first single from their second album Konk. The band hit in big in 2006 when their fourth single, "Naive," became a top 10 hit, making #5. It's follow-up, "She Moves in Her Own Way," was also a top 10 hit.

4. Black and Gold - Sam Sparro

This is where Madonna and Justin wished they were, #4 on downloads with its physical release out Monday--this has the best shot next week of unseating Estelle and Kanye for #1.

6. Touch My Body - Mariah Carey

She's #1 in the U.S., but over in the UK, Mariah has to settle for #6., two spots short of where the first single from her last album peaked ("It's Like That" from The Emancipation of Mimi, #4 in 2005). Carey has actually amassed a surprising number of UK top 10s--this is her 24th--for an artist has had so few #1s--only "Without You" and her Westlife collaboration, "Against All Odds" went all the way to the top. Her recent high-water mark was her #2 hit in the summer of 2005, "We Belong Together."

8. 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin

After making a good splash on download sales the last couple of weeks, Madonna and Justin fall back three spots to #8. It's still 3 weeks until it hits the shops, but backward movement at this point it not a good thing for a single that should be knocking at #1 by now.

21. Nude - Radiohead

Radiohead lands their 17th top 40 hit this week with "Nude," the second single from their acclaimed seventh album, In Rainbows, besting the #30 peak of their last single, "Jigsaw Falling Into Place." This single is notable for having been made available in all its component parts so you too can assemble them back together in whatever remixed form you can come up with. So if you bought, say, the vocal track only, does that count for a whole sale or one-fifth?

25. Break the Ice - Britney Spears

It's not out until April 14, but "Break the Ice" is making an impressive already on downloads. This is Britney's third Blackout single to hit the top 40. "Gimme More" and "Piece of Me" peaked at #3 and #2 respectively.

29. Toca's Miracle '08 - Fragma

Dance act Fragma returns to the chart this week, with a mild reworking of their 2000 #1 hit, "Toca's Miracle." The single is out Monday, so look for a top 20 placing next week.

Billboard Hot 100, 4/12/2008

1. Touch My Body - Mariah Carey

Another great week for the Hot 100! The delayed availability of "Touch My Body" as a download pays off this week, as the track soars 14 spots this week to give Mariah Carey her historic 18th #1 hit. The track sold 286,000 digital copies in its first week, a new record. As I noted in an earlier post, this puts her above the 17 #1 hits collected by Elvis Presley to make Mariah Carey the solo artist with the most #1 hits, second among all acts only to The Beatles, who had 20. Prognosticators are now speculating as to whether (or more like when) she'll best The Beatles. While I agree it's possible, I don't expect it to happen soon. She'll need three more #1 hits to beat them, and only once--with her debut--has Mariah managed to score four number ones from one album. So while it's a good bet she may have another #1 hit from E=MC², it's unlikely there will be more, and given that she's now doing albums about once every 3 years, it could be 2011 or later until she would accomplish this feat. One last point, many, including me (and this week Entertainment Weekly) have acknowledged Leona Lewis as "the new Mariah Carey," but with Mariah knocking Leona's "Bleeding Love" from #1, this week it would appear that the reverse is true.

3. 4 Minutes - Madonna & Justin Timberlake

The King takes not one, but two hits this week. In addition to Mariah Carey beating his #1s record, Madonna scores her 37th top 10 hit this week, replacing Elvis as the artist with the most top 10 hits. It's worth noting that a top 10 hit in the U.S. is a rarity for Madonna these days. In heyday from 1984 to 1990, she scored three or four top 10 hits every year (save for 1988, the year she took a break from music). That started to slow through the '90s, and lately she's had one top 10 single every 3 years, the last being "Hung Up" (#7 in 2005), and previous to that, "Die Another Day" (#8 in 2002). No doubt Madonna is hoping the more American sounding Hard Candy will turn this trend around for her. In Britain, where she's continued to consistently land top 10 hits, "4 Minutes" is her 61st top 1o single. As for Justin Timberlake, this is his 9th top 10.

5. No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown

Despite getting leap-frogged by Mariah Carey and Madonna, Jordin Sparks manages to hold her own, moving up another spot to #5 with "No Air," a new peak, after spending the last month locked at #6.

22. Beat It - Fall Out Boy (Featuring John Mayer)

The Michael Jackson resurrection continues, although probably not as expected. While the Thriller 25th Anniversary re-release failed to chart any major hits with its remixes, this live version of his "Beat It" by Fall Out Boy and John Mayer does so instead. This is Fall Out Boy's 5th top 40 hit and John Mayer's 6th.

38. Pocketful of Sunshine - Natasha Bedingfield

Natasha Bedingfield jumps 19 spots to score her fourth top 40 hit with "Pocketful of Sunshine," the title track and second single from her second album. Nat has now scored twice as many top 40 hits as her brother Daniel.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Upcoming Releases - April

The second quarter has arrived! There are some major releases ahead. This month's biggest will be the latest albums from Madonna and Mariah Carey, already breaking records with their albums' first singles. Here's a rundown of key new albums:
April 1

  • R.E.M. - Accelerate. The band's 14th album. See review below.
  • Kylie Minogue - X (U.S. version). Kylie's tenth album gets its U.S. release, which includes two additional tracks, "Magnetic Electric," and a new version of "All I See" featuring rapper Mims, which has been serviced to radio as the album's first single.
  • George Michael - TwentyFive (U.S. version). Also getting a stateside release is George Michael's 2006 greatest hits compilation, with just a few substitutions.

April 7/8

  • Courteeners - St. Jude. New group's first album, featuring single "Not Nineteen Forever."
  • Leona Lewis - Spirit (U.S. Version). Leona Lewis's debut album gets its U.S. release. A few tracks a missing, including her #1 debut, "A Moment Like This," but includes two new tracks, which are generally more upbeat than her others.
  • The Breeders - Mountain Battles. The band's fourth album.
April 14
  • Mariah Carey - E=MC². She's #1 in the Billboard Hot 100 this week--her record-breaking 18th #1--with this album's first single "Touch My Body." Reportedly very much in the vein of her career-reviving last album, The Emancipation of Mimi.
  • The Kooks - Konk. The British band returns with their second album, featuring first single "Always Where I Need to Be."
  • Air - Moon Safari (10th Anniversary Edition). Features second disc of live, rare, and remixed tracks.
April 21/22
  • Ashlee Simpson - Bittersweet World. Her third album. Snooze...
April 28
  • Madonna - Hard Candy. Madonna's 12th album has already delivered a top 10 hit--the energetic Justin Timberlake collaboration "4 Minutes." Hard Candy promises a new direction for Madonna, with production duties led by Pharrell Williams and Timbaland.
  • Sam Sparro - Sam Sparro. He's already scored a top 10 hit with the awesome "Black and Gold." I'm hopeful this might be a really great debut album.
  • Portishead - Third. It's been 11 years since their last album. If first single "Machine Gun" is any evidence, they've taken a new, very strange direction.

Album Review: R.E.M. - Accelerate (3.5/5)

Following the band's period of major success in the early '90s, the renowned band, by most accounts, has been on a downward spiral, which included the loss of drummer Bill Berry after their 1996 album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Accelerate, so they so, is supposed to be R.E.M.'s long-awaited return to form. But I do not always agree with them, and while I would like to report that Accelerate lives up to my expectations, it falls short.

Not that it's a bad album--it's not--but R.E.M. has achieved greatness, so judged against that, it falls short. To its credit, the album is lean and direct: 11 tracks clocking in at just under 35 minutes, with most of the songs coming in at around 3 minutes (some just 2). Each song makes its point and we're moved along at a clip. Accelerated it is. The opening tracks in particularly come on quick and strong. "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" is quite hard-hitting, an apt opener. "Man-Sized Wreath" keeps up the pace and ups the feedback. First single, "Supernatural Superserious" is another salvo of energetic rock.

After a fairly decent opening, the middle of the album sags. The tempo doesn't take a break until the beginning of "Hollow Man," but the piano and acoustic instruments of the opening (and subsequent verses) are quickly replaced by the electric guitar and drums of the chorus. "Houston" is even mellower, a lightweight rumination on Katrina, that lacks a good melody and ends before it can go anywhere. "Accelerate" is more upbeat, but gloomy ("where is the cartoon escape hatch for me?).

"Until the Day is Done" turns it around though, a clear highlight. This song sounds like classic R.E.M.: acoustic instruments, thought-provoking lyrics, vaguely western ambiance. The target here is modern day America, specifically the war and other follies and the lies told to cover up our problems. "Mr. Richards" is a quirky number. I kind of like it, but it's a little too repetitive. "Sing for the Submarine," at almost 5 minutes the album's longest song, is a moody rumination on what I'm not sure.

The albums ends with two more very short songs (shorter together than track 9 by about half a minute). "Horse to Water" is the better of the two. Michael Stipe's insistent lyrical delivery recalls "It's the End of the World as We Know It," but lack's that song's sense of fun (that R.E.M. could write a "fun" song about the apocalypse 20 years before the current wave of "ironic" indie shows what innovators they once were). "I'm Gonna DJ" is another short, loud burst, where Stipe proclaims "I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world," yet again recalling that 1987 classic.

As a reassurance, after about my fourth time through Accelerate, I switched gears and listened to "Drive" from Automatic for the People. The dark melody, repetitive bass guitar, and lush strings gave me goosebumps, reminding me of how great R.E.M. could be, and in particular how much I love Automatic for the People. Yes, this band is capable of great music, I just didn't hear much of it on this new album.

Best: Supernatural Superserious, Until the Day is Done, Man-Sized Wreath, Living Well Is the Best Revenge, Horse to Water

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Mariah Carey's #1s

This week, Mariah Carey broke Elvis's record to become the solo artist with the most #1 hits--18--and second only to the 20 #1 hits from the Beatles in terms of overall artists with the most #1s in the rock era. Here's a rundown of all 18 of her chart toppers:

1. Vision of Love (4 weeks, August 1990)

Mariah Carey's first single, which went on to become her first #1, remains, in my opinion, one of her best. The dramatic ballad perfectly showcases her vocal prowess. The song went on to snag Grammy nominations for best record and song of the year, and won Carey one of her first two Grammys, Best Female Pop Vocal (the other being Best New Artist). "Vision of Love's" parent album, Mariah Carey, was also nominated for Album of the Year. Unlike other big pop artists of the time, such as Madonna or Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey's success (once she got a record deal and released material) was instantaneous. The video isn't that great. Given that she was an unknown quantity at the time, its expectedly simple. Although Wikipedia says they spent money on it, it looks pretty cheap to me. I remember seeing it on VH1, but the video itself was not a hit. The tight black outfit she wore in it was her signature look at the time.

2. Love Takes Time (3 weeks, November 1990)

"Love Takes Time" was another ballad for Carey, and her second consecutive #1, although it almost wasn't, as the song was a last minute addition to Mariah Carey. I remember friends liking this single better than "Vision of Love," although I never did. The video, like "Vision of Love," also wasn't very interesting--B&W Mariah on a beach.

3. Someday (2 weeks, March 1991)

Another personal favorite. After two ballads, it was nice to hear something upbeat from Carey, and "Someday" easily became her third #1 hit. Given the more up-tempo track and youthful targeting of the video, it was around this time that Carey's popularity really took off, having reached a broader audience. Around this time Mariah Carey hit #1 on the albums chart, spending 11 weeks at #1, and going on to be Billboard's #1 album for 1991. The song got a remix for the video, which was filmed on location in a New Jersey high school complete with bucket drummers and dancers. This was her first decent video, and unlike her previous two, received a lot of play on MTV.

4. I Don't Wanna Cry (2 weeks, May/June 1991)

"I Don't Wanna Cry" was the fourth and final single from Mariah Carey, and like the previous three, it also hit #1, giving the singles from Mariah Carey a 100 percent #1 striking rate and matching the recent, albeit still remarkable feat of scoring four #1 hits from a debut album (Paula Abdul had just done it with Forever Your Girl). This one was another ballad, not bad, but not a classic. Unlike the previous ones, its video was also a hit.

5. Emotions (3 weeks, October 1991)

"Emotions" quickly followed "I Don't Wanna Cry" as the first single from Carey's second album, Emotions. Although not as a successful as Mariah Carey, Emotions was still a decent hit, and gave her another #1--now her fifth consecutive chart-topper--securing her still unbroken record as debut artist with the most consecutive #1 hits (a record that, incidentally, future Carey duet partner Westlife holds in the UK with their first 7 #1 hits). Having struck a hit with a younger audience in "Someday," "Emotions" features a similar uptempo dance-pop production, this time courtesy of David Cole and Robert Clivilles, who hit #1 earlier in the year with their dance act C+C Music Factory. This set the template for singles releases for future albums: lead with a breezy upbeat track and follow it with a ballad, in this case, "Can't Let Go." "Emotions" was nominated for the female pop vocal Grammy. It's a pretty decent song, although I liked "Someday" better. The video is somewhat unusual in that its color was drained and then tinted red, yellow, or blue in alternating takes. Carey's next single, "Can't Let Go," would break her #1 streak when it peaked at #2.

6. I'll Be There (featuring Trey Lorenz) (2 weeks, June 1992)

As a stopgap between Emotions and Music Box, Mariah Carey released an EP of her MTV Unplugged appearance in the summer of 1992. This was the first of a number of albums based off the MTV Unplugged show, two of which--works by Eric Clapton and Tony Bennett--won Album of the Year Grammy Awards. This remake of the Jackson 5 classic because Carey's sixth #1, and a was a major hit at radio that summer. The MTV Unplugged release was nominated for the best female pop vocal Grammy, and "I'll Be There" specifically was nominated in the R&B duo/group performance category.

The video is simply that portion of her MTV Unplugged appearance featuring this song, although it does have an interesting quirk, which is that Carey is heard introducing Trey Lorenz before his vocal segments, which was edited out of the album and single version of the song.

7. Dreamlover (8 weeks, September-October 1993)

The first single from Mariah Carey's third album, Music Box, was another breezy slice of upbeat radio friendly pop. Fans eagerly, propelling the single to #1, where it stayed for nearly 2 months, doubling Carey's previously longest stay at the top. This song I love, as it epitomizes what Carey was about at the time: carefree, tuneful pop. The appropriately lightweight video find Carey frolicking with dancers in a lush meadow and swimming in a lake in upstate New York. The track was nominated for the Female Pop Vocal Grammy.

8. Hero (4 weeks, December 1993-January 1994)

"Hero" was the last of a 3-single consecutive run of #1s. Released at the end of 1993, the song has become perhaps her most memorable of her early ballads. It was also nominated for the Female Pop Vocal Grammy. The video is rather uninteresting; it's a live performance. The album's following single, "Without You" has a similar video, recorded during the same concert. "Without You" was the first Mariah Carey single not to top the radio top 40 chart ("Can't Let Go" and "Make It Happen," which missed the top of the Hot 100, were still top 40 radio #1s). Notably, however, "Without You" was her first UK #1. "Hero" isn't bad, but I always liked "Without You" a lot better.

9. Fantasy (8 weeks, September-November, 1995)

"Fantasy" was the first single from Daydream, Mariah Carey's fourth album and second to get nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy. Daydream, like her last album, Music Box, would go on to be certified diamond by the RIAA for shipping in excess of 10 million units. Daydream is actually her best-selling U.S. album, and second worldwide only to Music Box. "Fantasy," like "Dreamlover," was a breezy pop ditty, although with a more R&B feel and a sample of Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love." "Fantasy" was notable for debuting at #1, the second single ever to do so, following Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone." The feat owed more to record company manipulation than instant popularity--due to Billboard rules at the time, only tracks with commercially available singles could appear on the chart, so if companies withheld their singles for a few weeks until airplay was peaking, voila, instant #1. "Fantasy" was nominated for the Female Pop Vocal Grammy, one of five nominations Carey received that year (Daydream was also nominated for Best Pop Album). The video showcases a new hairstyle for Carey--straighter and blonder--than her previous long curly brown locks. Set mostly at an amusement park, the best bits are watching Carey try to lipsync while riding an actual rollercoaster. She's understandibly a bit off.

10. One Sweet Day (with Boyz II Men)(16 weeks, December 1995-March 1996)

I still amazing to think that "One Sweet Day" spent 16 weeks at #1. That was nearly 4 months, a longer stay at #1 than most #1 singles released in 1990 even spent in the entire top 40. Boyz II Men got equal billing with Carey on this, although I still mostly think of it as her single, given that it came from Daydream and did not appear on a Boyz II Men album. At the time, the 16-week run beat the longevity record established 3 years earlier by Whitney Houston's 14-week stay at #1 with "I Will Always Love You." It remains the longest-running #1 single of all time. The single was nominated for the Record of the Year Grammy, as well as Best Pop Collaboration with Vocal. The video is rather boring--it's just footage of them recording the song in the studio.

11. Always Be My Baby (2 weeks, May 1996)

In a nod toward the fact that Carey's sound was increasingly movng away from pop and toward R&B, this single was nominated for the Best Female R&B Vocal Grammy. The video finds Carey this time romping around a summer camp.

12. Honey (3 weeks, September 1997)

"Honey" was the first single from Butterfly, Carey's fifth album and further showed her move away from straight up pop toward R&B. It's a pretty decent song, one of my favorites, but the video has to be her best. The James Bond spoof is well done, Carey looks great, she really hams it up at the beginning, and I love how she escapes by diving into a swimming pool while changing her clothes, which is something Bond really would do. There's even some good dancing, courtesy of her personal crew of Navy men. Very cool and a nice break from her heretofore breezy or performance videos. The song got two Grammy nods, for female R&B vocal and R&B song.

13. My All (1 week, May 1998)

It was around this time that in the U.S., it became frequent practice for record companies to not always release a commercial single for popular tracks, which instead were promoted only through radio and video in hopes of strengthening album sales. In an apparently stroke of luck, Carey's record company withheld official singles from what turned out to be her weaker performing tracks at radio ("Forever," "Butterfly," and "The Roof") which resulted in her having a second 5-single string of consecutive #1 hits from "Fantasy" to "My All." This is one of my least favorite of her #1s. It's okay, but it's too simple and too slow for my taste.

14. Heartbreaker (2 weeks, October 1999)

At first I didn't care for "Heartbreaker," as I felt it was a retread of "Fantasy," given that it samples the same song. In time though, I've actually come to see its charm. It's even breezier than "Fantasy," if that's possible, and it has a cute video. But this is Carey at her absolute least substantive moment--meaningless song, singing through her nose, repetitive, sample-heavy, and Jerry O'Connell shows up in the video, apparently two-timing Mariah with her mean twin, while attending an animated film that features Mariah. Later good Mariah and bad Mariah duke it out in the girls room.

15. Thank God I Found You (feat. Joe & 98 Degrees)(1 week, February 2000)

This is my least favorite Carey #1. It sounds vaguely like "Love Takes Time," but not nearly as good. I'm not sure how it managed to score a Grammy nod for best pop collaboration with vocal. This was 98 Degrees biggest hit too. Boring vid.

16. We Belong Together (14 weeks, June-September 2005)

From "Vision of Love" in 1990 to "Thank God I Found You," in 2000 Carey had presence at #1 in every year. That all changed in 2001 with Glitter, Carey's first album not to score a #1 hit. It wasn't just that it didn't have a #1 though--it was a flop, and Carey's career suffered dearly. The lukewarm 2002 follow-up, Charmbracelet, did little to restore her credibility. Then came 2005's Emancipation of Mimi, which found Carey hitting R&B sounds--both traditional and contemporary--harder than ever. The first single, "It's Like That," wasn't a major hit, but the second one "We Belong Together" was the song that saved Mariah Carey's career. The earnest ballad become her first #1 hit in 5 years, and one of her biggest hits ever, spending 14 weeks at #1. It's a great comeback single, which ushered in the latest era of her successful career. The song and its album were also responsible for giving Carey her most Grammy nominations in one year yet--8 nods--including her third Album of the Year nomination--and wins for best contemporary album for Mimi, and for this song, best female R&B vocal and best R&B song. The song was also nominated for Record and Song of the Year.

17. Don't Forget About Us (2 weeks, December 2005-January 2006)

Having scored such a major hit with "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey re-released The Emancipation of Mimi just before Christmas in 2005 with new tracks, including this single, which is basically a remake of "We Belong Together." It's not bad, but it's nothing new. It also managed to score Grammy nods for Female R&B vocal and R&B song.

18. Touch My Body (April 2008)

That brings us to present day, with "Touch My Body," Carey's 18th #1, which pushes her just above Elvis's 17 #1 hits and second only to the Beatles' 20 for most #1 hits.

Spirit - U.S. Version

Leona Lewis' debut album, Spirit, gets its U.S. release next week, hot on the heels of her recent #1 hit, "Bleeding Love." The U.S. version is a little different than the original: there are only 13 tracks instead of 14. Gone are Leona's first #1 hit, the remake of Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Llike This." This is an expected omission. Also missing are "The Best You Never Had" (relegated to an iTunes exclusive) and "Homeless," (just gone) the latter of which is particularly a surprise, since it's a good song. Instead there's the more upbeat and swinging "Forgive Me," which isn't bad, and "Misses Glass," which is also more uptempo than what it replaces, but not as good.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Personal Chart, 4/5/2008

That was my April Fool's top 10. Here's the real one:

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 3 .... No Air - Jordin Sparks Featuring Chris Brown (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Mercy - Duffy (6 wks @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... Love Song - Sara Bareilles
4 ... 15 ... 4 Minutes - Madonna and Justin Timberlake
5 ... 20 ... Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
6 ... 27 ... American Boy - Estelle Featuring Kanye West
7 .... 8 .... Touch My Body - Mariah Carey
8 .... 6 .... See You Again - Miley Cyrus
9 .... 2 .... Better in Time - Leona Lewis
10 .. 10 .. Love in This Club - Usher Featuring Young Jeezy

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Personal Chart, 4/5/2008

TW LW Title - Artist

1 .... 1 .... Now You're Gone - Basshunter (5 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 5 ... When You Look Me in The Eyes - Jonas Brothers
3 .... 4 ... Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis
4 .... 2 ... Take You There - Sean Kingston
5 .... 7 ... Feels Like Tonight - Daughtry
6 .... 3 ... Rockstar - Nickelback (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 6 ... Sorry - Buckcherry
8 ... 12 .. Sexy Can I - Ray J and Yung Berg
9 .. 18 .. Shawty Get Loose - Lil Mama Featuring Chris Brown & T-Pain
10 .. 8 .. Teardrops on My Guitar - Taylor Swift (1 wk @ #1)