Saturday, February 28, 2009

March New Releases

Lily Allen was the only really big news for February. March looks more promising, with new releases from U2, Kelly Clarkson and Pet Shop Boys.

March 2/3

U2 - No Line on the Horizon. It's been almost 5 years since u2 released its Grammy-winning How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. They return with this, their 12th studio album, recorded with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, who've worked on many U2 albums before. First single "Get On Your Boots" isn't setting the world on fire, but word is that there are better songs waiting in the wings.

March 9/10
Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted. Kelly Clarkson's new album has already scored a #1 hit, "My Life Would Suck Without You," which is more than can be said for her last album, My December, which, as Clive Davis predicted, turned out to be a mostly hitless affair that polarized fans with its dark, introspective sound. Whether you think My December was brave or foolish, All I Ever Wanted is definitely a turn back toward something with broad commercial appeal, with people like Max Martin and Ryan Tedder behind the scenes to ensure the radio friendly hooks are present this time.

Shontelle - Shontelligence. While "T-Shirt" wasn't a major hit in the US, it appears to doing well in the UK. Hence the album is getting another chance with a re-release and some new tracks, including "Stuck with Each Other" featuring Akon.

Chris Cornell - Scream. Chris Cornell's delayed Timbaland-produced album finally gets a release. While bringing in Timbaland was surely a move to give Cornell's sound a boost of mainstream appeal (a la Madonna, Nelly Furtado, etc.), it doesn't appear to be working, with four singles released so far, none of which became hits.

Starsailor - All the Plans. Remember Starsailor? "Silence is Easy?" Anyway, this is their fourth album.

March 23/24

Pet Shop Boys - Yes. For their tenth album, Pet Shop Boys have teamed up with UK production masters Xenomania, still riding their wave of success with pop acts like Girls Aloud. First single "Love Etc." points to something good, and the band has been on an upswing the last few years with Fundamental (2006) outshining their disappointing 2002 effort, Release.

Hannah Montana: The Movie Soundtrack. Miley Cyrus will no doubt continue to prove that she's one of the music industry's hard-working and best-selling artists with the soundtrack from the forthcoming Hannah Montana movie. First single "The Climb" is quickly becoming another major hit for her.

50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct. 50 Cent's fourth album has been delayed over a year now. Will it finally come out? Perhaps his appearance with Eminem and Dr. Dre on #1 hit "Crack a Bottle" will be enough to finally shake this one loose (especially if "Crack a Bottle" gets added to the track list).

Royksopp - Junior. The Norwegian duo releases its third album.

Pearl Jam - Ten. Pearl Jam's landmark 1991 debut gets a remastered, remixed re-release.

March 30/31

Flo Rida - R.O.O.T.S. - Flo Rida releases his second album, which has already scored a #1 hit, "Right Round." It stands for "Route of Overcoming the Struggle."

Keri Hilson - In a Perfect World. Another long-delayed project that appears will finally see the light of day, thanks to hit "Turnin' Me On" with Lil Wayne. Timbaland produced this one.

Peter Bjorn & John – Living Thing. Peter Bjorn & John's third album brought the band into the spotlight with its hit "Young Folks." Living Things is actually their second album since then, following September 2008's Seaside Rock.

Best of 2000s: Robbie Williams - Swing When You're Winning (4.5/5)

Robbie Williams was a hot property in 2001, coming off a run of three successful albums and a slough of hits, including #1s like "She's the One" and "Rock DJ" and the classic "Angels." Rather than turn in another Guy Chambers-penned and produced set of masterful pop, Robbie & Co. looked to the past instead to deliver this winning collection of old standards, perfectly timed during the revival of the Rat Pack spawned by the succesful Steven Soderbergh remake of Ocean's Eleven. "I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen," the only new composition on this album, is as deliciously grandiose as a Hollywood film score, filled with soaring string orchestrations while name checking Steven Spielberg and Cameron Diaz. The old standards are handled with style and class from the zip of "Mack the Knife" to a reverent re-make of Frank Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year" that features Robbie on the first two verses and Sinatra himself on the third, changing the song from an eloquent memory to a life lesson. The guests all add welcome counterpoints, particularly Jane Horrocks on "Things" and Nicole Kidman on the Christmas #1 hit "Somethin' Stupid."

Best: Somethin' Stupid, It Was a Very Good Year, I Will Talk and Hollywood Will Listen, Mack the Knife, Things, Have You Met Miss Jones?

Friday, February 27, 2009

My favorite music stores

With record stores closing right and left, I thought it was appropriate to look back at what my favorite music stores have been. Too bad I wasn't a music fan in the early '80s (I was really too young), as there was a music store at the end of my street called Everbody's Record Company (later Everbody's Records, Tapes and Video). I went in just once; had I been just a little bit older it would have been amazing.

1. Tower Records, Beaverton, Oregon (late '80s through '90s)

This is where I spent most of my allowance from 1987 to 1995. Frequent trips were made, particularly on new release-Tuesdays. I'm so glad my mom indulged that, as I proudly purchased Madonna's Like a Prayer, I'm Breathless, Immaculate Collection, Erotica, and Bedtime Stories on the day of release...all from Tower. The Tower was located in Beaverton Mall, which I think has since renamed itself something pretentious and lame. It's amazing how 20 years ago the cost of CDs was actually higher than it is today.

2. Music Millennium, Northwest Portland, Oregon ('90s)

When I got a little older and ventured into the city more I discovered Music Millennium, a hip independent music store that sells a mix of new and used CDs. I think it's still there, although I haven't checked in many years. This is probably where I bought my Cranberries CDs.

3. Hot Poop, Walla Walla, Washington (late '90s)

The college music store! Just blocks off campus. The prices were a bit high (CDs veering much closer to $20 than $10), but it was a great place and independent, so it was worth supporting. I remember buying Erasure and Madonna's Something to Remember there during the first semester of freshman year at Whitman College.

4. Virgin Megastore, Oxford Street, London (1998)

Then there was the study abroad experience, which brought me to this masterful place. It was so wonderful. How I loved the full-wall display of all top 40 singles updated every Monday morning (yes, I strolled through before class). Madonna's Ray of Light surely came from here, as well as many singles.

5. Melody Music, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC (1999 - early '00s)

When I moved to DC, I quickly discovered this little independent store in Dupont Circle. I don't go there much anymore, but mostly just because I don't frequent that area as much as I did in my 20s. What do I remember buying here? Pet Shop Boys' Nightlife, for example--the 2 CD special edition.

6. Tower Records, The George Washington University, Washington, DC (early to mid '00s)

I worked downtown near here, but during grad school, I was here constantly, trolling the import CD singles section in particular. It was a great 2-story store, with pop/rock and singles upstairs. Good magazine section too. I remember treating myself to a shopping spree here on my birthday.

7. Virgin Megastore, Times Square, NY (early to mid '00s)

It wasn't as cool as the Oxford Street store, but the Times Square Virgin Megastore had the best imports section of any music store I ever saw. A trip to New York wasn't complete without a visit. Sadly, I neglected to go when I was there last month, and it was my last chance to visit. Last time I was there I bought Mark Ronson's Version, among other things.

8. Rasputin Music, San Francisco (mid '00s)

This is a great store, that I'm happy to report is still around. It's a multi-floor store near Union Square with the top floor dedicated to used CDs with great deals. One of its most interesting attributes is its elevator (there aren't public stairs), complete with elevator operator. Last time I was there in October she was grooving to Rilo Kiley while she took me to the top floor.

9. (early '00s to today)

Tired of paying double price or more for imports on or in music stores, I discovered that I could actually import the music myself and pay less. How novel. Among my first purchases: Cher's Living Proof, which was released in the UK months ahead of its US release, Steps' Greatest Hits, and Robbie Williams' Swing When You're Winning.

10. iTunes (today)

Now I can buy music whenever I want from the privacy and comfort of my living room chair. Dangerous, maybe; addictive, definitely; but well worth it.

More Virgins shutter

This is so depressing. The Union Square NY and Market Street SF Virgin Megastores are closing. I was just in the Market Street VMS in October with my friend Robin. We had so much fun wandering around the store looking at cool things. And I went in the Union Square store last month looking for Billboard's year-end issue (which they didn't have by the way). Boo hoo.

Personal Chart, 2/28/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Circus - Britney Spears (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... The Fear - Lily Allen (3 wks @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Up All Night - Take That
4 .... 4 .... Sober - Pink
5 .... 7 .... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
6 .... 6 .... Breathe Slow - Alesha Dixon
7 .... 3 .... Single Ladies - Beyonce (1 week @ #1)
8 ... 12 ... Gives You Hell - All-American Rejects
9 .... 8 .... Heartless - Kanye West
10 .. 11 ... I Hate This Part - The Pussycat Dolls

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kelly headed to UK #1

Kelly Clarkson looks set to score her first UK #1 hit this weekend with "My Life Would Suck Without You." All week she's been outselling Taylor Swift's "Love Story." Both are ahead of Lily Allen, who's been #1 for weeks with "The Fear." problems

Something is terribly wrong with the Web site. Several times while I've accessed it over the last week, I've gotten warnings that known attack sites are trying to access my computer. And today, while I was browsing the Hot 100, I got transferred to one of those phony Web sites that claims to scan your computer for viruses and spyware, sent there without clicking a thing. Billboard needs to look into this ASAP. Until they get their act together, I recommend learning about the Hot 100 and other charts from third party sources, such as Haven or Chartfreaks.

Billboard Hot 100, 3/6/2009

1. Right Round - Flo Rida (featuring Ke$ha)

No change at the top this week, as Flo Rida spends a second week at #1. The entry has been updated to include featured artist "Ke$ha," who, if she was a grammarian or email aficionado, would no doubt spell her name "Kesh@" instead, but as it is must be more a materialistic kind of girl.

2. Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake

T.I. and Justin have this week's airplay gainer, but the gains aren't enough to overthrow Flo Rida, so they spend a second week at #2.

4. Gives You Hell - All-American Rejects

All-American Rejects climb 2 spots to #4, becoming their first top 5 hit. I might use their name as an excuse to point out that this is an all-American top 10 this week. With Leona Lewis, Estelle, and Coldplay having hits recently, I've become accustomed to seeing foreigners in the top 10, but the last time a non-American appeared in the top 10 was 3 weeks ago when Barbadian singer Rihanna and T.I.'s "Live Your Life" spent its last week there. In fact, since that track's slipped to #21, it's an all-American top 20.

6. Poker Face - Lady GaGa
7. Just Dance - Lady GaGa featuring Colby O'Donis

Lady GaGa has back-to-back top 10 hits as "Poker Face" climbs 4 spots to #6 and "Just Dance" slips to #7.

9. Kiss Me Thru the Phone - Soulja Boy Tell 'Em featuring Sammie

Soulja Boy Tell 'Em lands his second top 10 hit this week as "Kiss Me Thru the Phone" jumps 8 spots to #9. His last top 10 was his #1 single "Crank That (Soulj Boy)."

28. I Love College - Asher Roth

Here's a song that has the potential to become the next big thing. Asher Roth is a 23-year old white boy rapper from Pennsylvania and "I Love College" is his John Mayer- and Weezer-sampling ode to the pleasures of college. No, not exposure to philosophy, enlightenment and famous guest speakers, but drinking, pot and sex. Right...those pleasures. It shows its true colors especially during the bridge ("chug chug chug," "keg stand, keg stand"). Oh boy. Its up 27 places to #28 this week.

36. God Love Her - Toby Keith
38. Sweet Thing - Keith Urban

The two Keiths of country both have top 40 debuts this week. Toby Keith, best known for his conservative views, is up 5 spots to #36 with "God Lover Her," and Keith Urban, best known for marrying Nicole Kidman, is up 8 places to #38.

39. How Do You Sleep? - Jesse McCartney

"Leavin'" became Jesse McCartney's biggest hit last summer, but it's follow-up "It's Over" was almost prophetic, flopping at #62. I say "almost" because now Jesse is back in the top 40 with "How Do You Sleep," up 18 notches to #39.

40. Day N Nite - Kid Cudi

The recent UK hit is picking up in the US now, up 14 spots to #40.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 2/28/2009

1. The Fear - Lily Allen

Lily Allen stays on top for a fourth week with "The Fear." That's the longest stay at the top for a British female artist since Estelle spent 4 week at the top with "American Boy."

2. Just Dance - Lady GaGa featuring Colby O'Donis

Following her 3 weeks at #1, Lady GaGa has held onto #2 for all 4 weeks of Lily Allen's run at #1, which is remarkable staying power.

3. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon

Speaking of staying power, Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," charged by their appearance and wins at the Brit Awards, surges up nine spots to #3. This has been on the chart for 21 weeks and it's hard to believe it wasn't a #1 hit (it peaked at #2).

4. Omen - The Prodigy

The Prodigy climb 4 spots to #4 with "Omen," making it their highest-charting single since they hit #1 in 1996 with "Breathe."

6. T-Shirt - Shontelle

Shontelle continues to climb, up 4 spots to #6 this week. The appeal is lost on me, and while it wasn't a major hit in the US, it has become one in the UK.

10. Whatcha Think About That - The Pussycat Dolls featuring Missy Elliott

This single finally gets released tomorrow. On downloads, it's been on the chart for 4 weeks now, up 5 this week to #10 to become the group's 7th top 10 hit, outshining their last single, "I Hate This Part," which peaked at #12 and is the group's only single to the reach the top 10.

12. Get on Your Boots - U2

U2 hit #1 with the first singles from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, All that You Can't Leave Behind, and Pop, their last 3 albums. So it's got to be disappointing that "Get on Your Boots," the first single from No Line on The Horizon, has missed the top 10 altogether. The last U2 single to fall outside the top 10 was the fifth single from Pop, "If God Will Send His Angels," which also hit #12. Although it's not their best single, I listened to the album yesterday, and I actually liked it quite a bit.

14. Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon's other single gets a post-Brits bump too, up 5 to #14. Kings of Leon have a new single out in just over a week--"Revelry"--but with "Use Somebody" and "Sex on Fire" still so popular, will anyone notice? Tellingly, "Revelry" has not made an impact on the chart yet, despite already being available for download.

15. Poker Face - Lady Gaga

In contrast the lack of pre-release sales for "Revelry," there's Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," which isn't out until the end of next month, but will probably crack the top 10 soon. It's up 7 spots to #15 this week.

16. Fly on the Wall - Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus's dominance in the US tween market has clearly extended across the pond now, as she earns her third top 40 hit. Interestingly, this wasn't a major hit in the US, while her last single, "7 Things," was her lowest-charting UK single (#25) but her highest-charting US hit (#9).

24. Everybody - Rudenko
25. Wonderful - Gary Go

Here are two singles that have gotten a good push at radio, but despite that have fallen flat. It's particularly surprising to see Gary Go's "Wonderful" fall outside the top 10, as he's gotten quite a bit of promotion as one of the new hot acts of 2009.

My Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are about to begin. Here are my predictions of who will win:

Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Supp. Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Supp. Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Original Screenplay: Milk
Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Foreign Film: Waltz with Bashir
Documentary: Man on Wire
Animated Feature: Wall-E
Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Costume Design: The Duchess
Make-up: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Visual effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sound Editing: Wall-E
Sound Mixing: The Dark Knight
Score: Wall-E
Song: "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire
Animated Short: This Way Up
Live Action Short: Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Documentary Short: The Witness

Billboard Hot 100, 2/28/2009

1. Right Round - Flo Rida

Hip-Hop dominates the upper end of the Billboard Hot 100 this week and the Grammy Awards give a few artists significant bumps. Leading the pack is Flo Rida with "Right Round." The newly released single jumps 57 spots to #1. It's the artist's second #1 hit following "Low," which spent 10 weeks at #1 during the beginning of 2008. The single breaks the record for most digital sales in 1 week, with sales of 636,000 copies. The previous record was set by Flo Rida himself, 467,000 copies of "Low" sold in 1 week in December 2007.

2. Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake

T.I. and Timberlake climb 7 spots to #2 with "Dead and Gone," this week's airplay gainer. I think it's a pretty safe bet this will be joining "Whatever You Like" and "Live Your Life" at #1 fairly soon. If it does top the chart, it will be T.I.'s fourth appearance at #1 and Timberlake's fifth. Both previously had a #1 hit together in 2006 with "My Love."

3. Crack a Bottle - Eminem, Dr. Dre and 50 Cent

Last week's #1 falls to #3, rounding out the hip-hop tracks at the top of the chart this week.

10. Poker Face - Lady GaGa

"Poker Face" is up 2 spots this week, becoming Lady GaGa's second top 10 hit. Her previous one, former #1 "Just Dance," is still in the top 10, down 2 to #5 this week.

13. Viva la Vida - Coldplay

Coldplay's Grammy performance of "Lost" and "Viva la Vida" was one of that ceremony's highlights. That, coupled with "Viva la Vida's" win for Song of the Year, sends the single back up the chart. It's up 11 spots this week. "Viva's" now spent 41 weeks on the Hot 100, all but 1 of those weeks within the top 40.

21. Chasing Pavements - Adele

Also getting a good bump this week is Adele, winner of the Best New Artist Grammy. "Chasing Pavements" rockets up 43 spots to #21 this week, giving Adele her first American top 40 hit. "Chasing Pavements" was a #2 hit in the UK about a year ago. As far as the Hot 100 goes, this now puts Adele ahead of Duffy, who peaked at #27 with her hit, "Mercy."

29. Thinking of You - Katy Perry

Not getting a bump from her off-kilter Grammy performance is Katy Perry, who holds at #29 this week.

33. Disturbia - Rihanna

Sympathy sales and airplay for Rihanna? "Disturbia" has been slowly sliding down the chart since it hit #1, but jumps back up 5 places this week.

40. Lost - Coldplay

Coldplay's "Lost" re-enters the Hot 100 and breaks into the top 40 for the first time. Previously it charted in its original version ("Lost!") and now with the version that features Jay-Z ("Lost+"); however, Billboard is still counting it as a re-entry.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Best of 2000s: Kylie Minogue - Fever (5/5)

Fever is, in short, the best dance pop album ever recorded. I absolutely love it for so many reasons, perhaps most of all because it strikes the perfect balance for what dance pop should be. Where her previous album, Light Years was cheeky, and over-the-top, Fever checks the camp just enough to be more direct but doesn't make the mistake of taking itself too seriously. The songs pulsate with energy and fun, with a less retro production than Light Years and a tempo that's never broken by a ballad (there are none). The songs that work best are the simplest: The Daft Punk-inspired "Love at First Sight," the stripped down "Can't Get You Out of My Head," and keyboard-throbbing "Come Into My World." But everything works here, from the electro-pop of "Fever" to the '90s sounding "Dancefloor," and disco stomp of "Burning Up." An underrated track that I love: "Your Love," which has an infectious dance beat underscored by acoustic guitar and keyboards.

Best: Can't Get You Out of My Head, Love at First Sight, Come Into My World, In Your Eyes, Your Love, More More More, Burning Up, Fever

Preview No Line on the Horizon

U2's new album isn't out until March 2 or 3, but it's already available for preview on MySpace music.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mediabase top 40 chart, 2/20/2009

I normally blog about the Hot 100 and not the airplay top 40 chart put out by Mediabase. But there's some wild stuff going on right now. Its updated daily the reflect the last 7 days, which is pretty cool.

1. Love Story - Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift claims her first #1 hit. It's only getting 8999 spins over the last week, which is pretty low. Generally #1 on this chart has at least 10,000 spins. Also, she manages to climb from #3 to #1 without a bullet, which is a pretty amazing feat for a song with declining airplay.

2. Circus - Britney Spears

Hot on Swift's heels is Britney, who is just 82 spins away from #1. If "Circus" tops this chart, it will be her fifth time there after "Baby One More Time," "Oops...I Did It Again," "Toxic," and "Womanizer," and notably her first time to score two #1 hits from one album.

4. Gives You Hell - All-American Rejects

Here's another potential #1. "Gives You Hell" is up from #7, making it their first top 5 hit. It may actually keep Britney from #1, since it's gaining spins at a much faster rate than "Circus."

7. Single Ladies - Beyonce

Dropping like a bomb, Beyonce falls six places from #1 where she was 7 days ago. That's a very dramatic drop in airplay, losing over 1300 spins. Perhaps its because both "Halo" and "Diva" are vying to be her next hit, with "Halo" at #40 and "Diva" at #49.

10. Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake

This week's biggest gainer is "Dead and Gone," up 6 spots with over 1000 spin gain. It follows T.I.'s #1 "Live Your Life" and is Justin Timberlake's 12th top 10 hit.

36. The Climb - Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus makes a big leap into the top 40, up from #55. It's her third top 40 hit.

Personal Chart, 2/21/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... The Fear - Lily Allen (3 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 3 .... Circus - Britney Spears
3 .... 2 .... Single Ladies - Beyonce (1 week @ #1)
4 .... 5 .... Sober - Pink
5 ... 16 ... Up All Night - Take That
6 ... 10 ... Breathe Slow - Alesha Dixon
7 .... 8 .... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
8 .... 6 .... Heartless - Kanye West
9 .... 4 .... Issues - The Saturdays
10 ... 9 ... Spaceman - The Killers

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Brit Awards

Adele may have beat her at the Grammys, but in her homeland, it was Duffy who reigned supreme at the Brit Awards tonight, winning three awards for best newcomer, British female, and the big award--Best British Album for her debut Rockferry. She beat out Grammy-nominated Coldplay's Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, the first Coldplay album not to win this award.

She didn't pick up Best British Single, which surprisingly went to Girls Aloud's "The Promise," beating Grammy Song of the Year winner "Viva la Vida" by Coldplay. I thought Estelle and Kanye West had a shot with "American Boy," but it didn't even make the final five. Best International Album went to--no surprise--Kings of Leon for Only By the Night, who also won best International Group.

Annie Lennox Collection

After a 5-month delay, Annie Lennox has finally released her greatest hits collection, The Annie Lennox Collection. I became a massive Annie fan in high school when Diva came out. It's still one of my all-time favorite albums, particularly "Why" and "Little Bird," which are amazing songs.

Rightfully, this collection is Diva-heavy, with that album's five singles all featured, including its biggest hit "Walking on Broken Glass." She's also included her non-album cut from that period, "Love Song From a Vampire," from the film Bram Stoker's Dracula. A slight gripe--"Little Bird" appears in its album version, rather than the slightly different single mix, which would have been nice to include.

Her next three albums get two singles each, including Medusa's "No More I Love You's," Bare's "A Thousand Beautiful Things," and Songs of Mass Destruction's "Sing." Although all three of her Bare singles were #1 dance hits in the US, she includes the album versions here. New tracks include her Keane remake, "Pattern of My Life," and current single "Shining Light."

iTunes is offering up a super-duper deluxe version that includes 8 bonus tracks, including Oscar-winning "Into the West" from the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Then there's also a collection of her videos, which mostly, but not exactly, matches the included singles.

Monday, February 16, 2009

UK Singles Chart 2/21/2009

1. The Fear - Lily Allen

Lily Allen tops the UK singles chart for a third week with "The Fear," making it now her longest running #1 hit. It's the third single in a row to top the chart for 3 weeks, following Alexandra Burke's "Hallelujah" and Lady GaGa's "Just Dance." While the competition heats up for the next chart--with new singles out by U2, Beyonce, Britney Spears and Gary Go--I wouldn't rule out a fourth week at the top for Allen. She reigns supreme on the UK airplay chart for a third week as well and debuts at #1 on the albums chart.

3. Breathe Slow - Alesha Dixon

Alesha Dixon climbs two spots to #3, likely the peak position for "Breathe Slow," which got its CD single release last week.

7. Single Ladies - Beyonce

Back up two spots to #7 is Beyonce's "Single Ladies." The track has charted no higher, but next weekend could benefit from its full CD release. Expect it to go top 5.

8. Omen - The Prodigy

Remember in the '90s when techno was going to be the next big thing? It never happened in the US (not really), but it did make some headway in the UK, particularly with The Prodigy, who had two #1 hits in the late '90s, "Firestarter" and "Breathe." While they haven't been very active in the '00s, they are putting out their fifth album soon and "Omen" is their first top 10 hit in 7 years.

21. I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris - Morrissey

Fans hoping this would be Morrissey's big comeback will be disappointed; however, it is the former Smiths member's 34th top 40 hit, which isn't bad.

40. Spaceman - The Killers

If this goes no higher I'm going to be very disappointed. This a really fantastic song--better, in my opinion, than "Human," which was a huge hit. This deserves to be as well.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pet Shop Boys "Love Etc."

Pet Shop Boys' new single "Love Etc." is up on YouTube. It's produced by Xenomania, famous for creating Girls Aloud's signature sound. It sounds pretty good. Hopefully the new album, Yes, will be good. I like their last album, Fundamental, but the one before that, Release, was disappointing.

Best of 2000s: The Strokes - Is This It? (4.5/5)

If the '90s grunge alternative movement reached its flashpoint with Nirvana's Nevermind, then the same could be said about the '00s garage indie movement getting its wings with The Strokes' Is This It. The title is a question, but lacking a question mark, it's undeniably the answer too--yes, this is it: the album that pushed indie toward the mainstream and helped define a major part of the decade's sound. Where would The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, and Arctic Monkeys be if The Strokes had not come before? The album is raw, pop-oriented, and to the point, marked by short, direct songs that never linger on their importance, but simply deliver their melodies and move on. Repetitive but appealingly simple guitar melodies underlie all the songs, from the relatively restrained opener "Is This It" to the more rambunctious, even dance-oriented tracks like "Someday" or "Hard to Explain."

Best: Someday, Is This It, Hard to Explain, Last Night, Soma, The Modern Age, New York City Cops

Green Day new album in May

Billboard has an update about the new Green Day album. It says that 21st Century Breakdown will be less political than American Idiot and divided into three sections. Interesting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You (4/5)

For her second album, Lily Allen has inched her pop sound a wee bit more toward the mainstream. While Alright, Still was dominated by indie-leaning pop that screamed "this is irony(!!!!)" by blending sweet piano-based melodies with cockney pottymouth, the new album goes for a more radio-friendly, electro-infused sound. Some fans will hate this, but frankly, I find it a rather welcome direction, since really, how long was the cutesy/dirty thing sustainable?

Not that Allen has dampered her personality in the transition. She still rails against everything and everyone who dares cross her path. Drug addicts get their comeuppance in the hard-hitting first track "Everyone's At It," the "it" of course being the "name your drug" of the moment. "The Fear" follows, which, although it may have taken awhile to win you over, is certainly imprinted in everyone's brain at this point as the year's first fabulous pop song. That chorus...backed by deep synth effects is just so perfect.

"Not Fair" reaches out to the Old West for its sonic backdrop and tells a rather cheeky story about the seemingly perfect guy who cannot...perform...adequately. Silly as it may seem, I find this song rather infectious. "22" (Never start a sentence with a number!) is good too. Like "The Fear" it features a killer chorus, amped up by layers of electronic effects, dissolving into a bit of player-piano at the end. "I Could Say" features prominent piano too, but sounds dreamier, with a dance pop beat, and a prominent synth melody. Pretty much everything up to this point is really fantastic.

"Back to the Start" opens with a barrage of hard synth beats. It's the first non-winner on this set, but not a major stumble. The chorus is a little too chaotic, with rapid-fire lyrics making a poor substitute for the winning melodies heard earlier. I'm also not too keen on the over-the-top "Never Gonna Happen." I do, however, enjoy the '70s-esque but thoroughly filthy "Fuck You." Yes, this fits in the cutesy/filthy vein I assailed earlier, but it's quite a bit of fun, so I don't mind. It's got a really great beat bubbling under the caramel-coated melody.

Things slow down at this point, but stay interesting. "Who'd Have Known" is a rather lovely ballad. It remind a bit of something you'd hear on Take That's latest disc--melodic, upbeat. "Chinese" is similarly endearing--a portrait about the simple pleasures of love, delivered, ironically, without irony.

The last two tracks are another weak point. "Him" is about god, which is typically disappointing of anything that would explore such a subject ("do you think he's ever taken smack or cocaine?...his favorite band is Credence Clearwater Revival"...sure Lily, whatever). From one father to another, "He Wasn't There" is a silly rant against an absent (male) parent.

Despite those few flaws, this is mostly a very enjoyable album from Lily Allen, which broadens her sound from her debut. Here we finally have the year's first good pop album.

Best: The Fear, Not Fair, I Could Say, Fuck You, Chinese, Everyone's At It, 22

Personal Chart, 2/14/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... The Fear - Lily Allen (2 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Single Ladies - Beyonce (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... Circus - Britney Spears
4 .... 3 .... Issues - The Saturdays
5 .... 7 .... Sober - Pink
6 .... 6 .... Heartless - Kanye West
7 .... 8 .... Change - Daniel Merriweather Featuring Wale
8 ... 10 ... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
9 ... 11 ... Spaceman - The Killers
10 .. 12 .. Breathe Slow - Alesha Dixon

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 2/21/2009

1. Crack a Bottle - Eminem Featuring Dr. Dre & 50 Cent

The return of Eminem is celebrated in style this week with a #1 placing for "Crack a Bottle." Suprisingly, this is only Eminem's second Hot 100 #1 hit after "Lose Yourself" in 2002. In the UK he's had a total of six chart toppers. The single rockets from #78 to #1 and moves 418,000 copies to break the first-week digital sales record. "Crack a Bottle" is Eminem's 17th top 40 hit.

2. Heartless - Kanye West

"Heartless" earns a new peak at #2 this week, making it Kanye West's fourth highest charting single after his three #1s.

9. Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake

T.I. scores his third top 10 hit from his album Paper Trail. He replaces himself in the top 10 as his former #1 hit "Live Your Life" slips to #11. This is Justin Timberlake's 10th top 10 hit.

12. Poker Face - Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa earns this week's sales gainer as she jump 11 spots to #12 with "Poker Face." The single has been on the chart for 8 weeks and will likely be in the top 10 next week. In contrast, "Just Dance" spent 15 weeks outside the top 10 before hitting #7.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Will Young: Fallen Superhero

Will turns in another unusual video for "Let It Go," the third single from the album of the same name.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Grammy wrap up

  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss were the evening's big winners, taking the top trophies: Album of the Year (AOTY) for Raising Sand and Record of the Year (ROTY) for the album's single "Please Read the Letter." Every other year for the last few years the Album and Record awards have gone to the same act: The Dixie Chicks in '07, Ray Charles & Friends in '05, and Norah Jones in '03. This is the first AOTY win for either Plant or Krauss (although Krauss was featured on the 2002 winner, the O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack). This is the first AOTY winner recorded by a duo that's a special collaboration (i.e. not a duo that's a usual act like Outkast) since jazz musicians Stan Getz and João Gilberto won in 1965 for their bossa nova great Getz/Gilberto. Robert Plant is the first Brit to win this award since Eric Clapton got it in 1993 for Unplugged.
  • "Please Read the Letter" continues an interesting trend of ROTY winners not being #1 hits--it's the ninth single in a row to win that did not top the Billboard Hot 100. In contrast, half the singles that won ROTY in the '90s were #1 hits and eight of the ten winners in the '80s were #1s. The single is the third collaboration to be honored this decade, following Ray Charles & Norah Jones' "Here We Go Again" in 2005 and Santana and Rob Thomas' "Smooth" in 2000.
  • Plant and Krauss also won the Pop Collaboration with Vocal award for "Rich Woman," which they also won last year for "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)." This is the first time the award has gone to the same act two years in a row. They also won Country Collaboration with Vocals for "Killing the Blues."
  • Coldplay picked up Song of the Year for "Viva la Vida," their first win and nomination in this category. Although "Clocks" won Record of the Year, it was not a song nominee. "Vida" also won for best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. The band also won Best Rock Album for Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. Previously, they won the Best Alternative Music Album in 2003 for A Rush of Blood to the Head and the year previous for Parachutes. X&Y was a Rock Album nominee in 2006.
  • Adele was named Best New Artist. As much as I like her, she's probably the artist with the least impact to win this award since Shelby Lynne in 2001. Adele has yet to score a major hit in the US--"Chasing Pavements" peaked at #82 on the Hot 100. This is the second year in a row a British female pop artist won this award (Amy Winehouse won last year). Female soloists have won this award 12 of the last 16 years, including the last 3 years in a row. Adele also won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance with "Chasing Pavements," which was the only nominee that wasn't a top 40 hit. Three of the nominees in fact were #1s--"Bleeding Love," "So What," and "I Kissed a Girl."
  • Duffy won Best Pop Vocal Album for Rockferry, which was a nice surprise. She beat The Eagles' Long Road Out of Eden. None of the Pop Album nominees were up for AOTY this year. The last time an album won Pop Album that wasn't an AOTY was Kelly Clarkson in 2006 for Breakaway (which beat AOTY nominee Love.Angel.Music.Baby by Gwen Stefani).
  • John Mayer picked up the Male Pop Vocal award for "Say." This is Mayer's fourth win in the category, following "Waiting on the World to Change" in 2007, "Daughters" in 2005, and "My Body Is a Wonderland" in 2003. He now ties Sting and Stevie Wonder, who also have both won this award four times.
  • Radiohead won Best Alternative Music Album for In Rainbows. They won this award twice before for Kid A in 2001 and OK Computer in 1998, and have been nominated three other times for the Airbag/How Am I Driving? EP, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief.
  • Finally, in what was unfortunately the evening's biggest news, Rihanna and Chris Brown canceled their planned performances after Chris Brown decided that, rather than appear at their industry's biggest awards night, a better way to spend the weekend was to beat Rihanna up and get thrown in jail for it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Live from the Grammy Awards

Highlights to 9:00

1) Song of the year goes to Coldplay for "Viva la Vida." Not a major surprise, although "American Boy" seemed like a good choice too.
2) Kid Rock is really annoying me.
3) Miley and Taylor sound pretty good together.
4) Robert Plant and Alison Krauss win the Pop Collaboration Grammy Award for the second year in a row. Last year it was for "Gone Gone Gone" and this year for "Rich Woman."

UK Singles Chart, 2/14/2009

1. The Fear - Lily Allen

Lily Allen spends a second week at #1 with "The Fear." Her album, It's Not Me, It's You is out tomorrow, surely to be the week's best-selling album.

4. Crack a Bottle - Eminem Featuring Dr. Dre and 50 Cent

Eminem returns to the singles chart with "Crack a Bottle," the first single from his upcoming album Relapse. Eminem's last appearance on the chart was about 2 years ago, when he hit #32 with "You Don't Know." Slim Shady has two of his friends in tow this time, Dr. Dre, with whom he's appeared on the chart twice before, and 50 Cent, who appeared with Eminem on the aforementioned "You Don't Know." Other than that single, everything else Eminem has released under his name has been a top 10 hit, seven of which were #1s.

5. Breathe Slow - Alesha Dixon

Alesha Dixon rises another notch to #5 with "Breathe Slow." The single is out tomorrow--can it unseat Lily Allen next weekend?

8. Change - Daniel Merriweather featuring Wale

Daniel Merriweather's debut solo single enters the singles chart at #8 this week. "Change" is produced by Mark Ronson, with whom Merriweather collaborated in 2007 for "Stop Me" from Ronson's album Version. "Stop Me" was that album's first single, hitting #2. I'm surprised this single wasn't top 5, as it's pretty good and has had solid airplay support. But #8 isn't bad. Merriweather also appeared on Wiley's "Cash in My Pocket" last year.

16. Whatcha Think About That - The Pussycat Dolls Featuring Missy Elliott

The Pussycat Doll's latest single is showing signs it will be another huge hit for them. It rises 20 spots to #16 this week on digital sales--the single will come out at the end of the month. Their last single, "I Hate This Part," became their first top miss the top 10, topping out at #12 during the busy holiday season.

28. Life in Technicolor II - Coldplay

Coldplay score their third top 40 hit from Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. With no official single, I'm doubtful it will any higher. "Lost!" was similarly promoted without an official single and only peaked at #54. The band's last major hit was "Viva la Vida," their first and only #1 hit from last summer.

Live from the Grammy Awards

At 8:30 we've had so far...

1) A so-so opening performance of U2's "Get on Your Boots," which isn't setting the world on fire.
2) Whitney Houston's return to the public eye. She looks great but sounds odd. She presented Jennifer Hudson with the Best R&B Album Grammy Award. Hudson seemed genuinely honored to win and to receive the award from Houston.
3) A great performance from Coldplay that started with just Chris Martin at piano singing "Lost," (which was lovely--I'd like to hear the whole song done on just piano) joined briefly by Jay-Z, before firing up the whole band for "Viva la Vida."

Best Movies of 2008

I posted a preliminary list at the end of the year, but there were still some films I wanted to see. Here's my official list:

1. Slumdog Millionaire

Three movies this year really stood out as being superlative. With a slight advantage for originality I give Slumdog Millionaire my top spot. I thought the film was really engrossing, harrowing, and ultimately uplifting. I really liked how it used the convention of a game show very familiar to westerners to draw us into the unfamiliar world of the India's poor class. Like the Booker-winning novel White Tiger, the India of Slumdog Millionaire is in transition and not as golden as the image the country is trying to sell.

2. Milk

The next really outstanding film of 2008 was Milk, the biopic of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to hold a prominent office in the US. Sean Penn is mesmerising as the title character and the film is full of other great supporting turns from James Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch. I really liked how the film portrayed being involved in politics, showing Milk's critical grasp of both the power of grassroots organizing as well as the importance of theatrics.

3. Gran Torino

The third really excellent film of 2008 was Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, where Eastwood plays a curmudgeonly old guy estranged from his family living in a neighborhood now populated by Asian immigrants threatened by gangs. The movie is surprisingly funny and heartwarming and the Hmong actors--mostly unknown--were fantastic, especially Bee Vang as the neighbor boy Eastwood befriends.

4. Doubt

This 1960s story about a Catholic church and school is a duel of wits between the school's nun-principal Meryl Streep and the young priest Philip Seymour-Hoffman. I really liked the philosophical examination of the basis of doubt versus certainty.

5. Man on Wire

A poetic documentary about Philippe Petit's 1974 stunt to walk across a high wire strung between the Twin Towers. Interesting and a fitting tribute to the World Trade Center.

6. The Visitor

Richard Jenkins stars as a washed up college professor whose passion is reawakened when he tries to help an immigrant family he finds squatting in his Manhattan apartment. The was a real surprise of last year--eye opening.

7. Frozen River

To describe this movie makes it sound like a farce: a working class white woman teams up with an American Indian woman to shuttle illegal immigrants across a frozen river from Canada into America so she can raise money to buy her family a double wide trailer after her husband runs out on them. It's really not funny though, and quite a well done indie. Melissa Leo is excellent as the desperate mother and I liked Misty Upham as her accomplice.

8. The Reader

Kate Winslet shines as the former Nazi who embarks on an affair with a teenage boy (David Kross- a real find) who later observes her trial when he's in law school and much later forms a second relationship with her in the time just before her release from prison.

9. Revolutionary Road

Kate Winslet is also amazing here as an unhinged suburban wife who feels like she is no longer living the life she wants with her husband (Leonardo DiCaprio), who himself suffers in job he hates. Michael Shannon steals the show as the mentally ill adult son of the neighbor realtor (Kathy Bates).

10. The Wrestler

Michael Rourke excels in this honest and brutal portrait of a former pro wrestler trying to pick up the pieces of his failed life.

Honorable mentions:

  • Burn After Reading (Nice to see the Coen Brothers make a comedy I actually liked, and Brad Pitt was great here)
  • Rachel Getting Married (Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt were both remarkable in this difficult film)
  • I've Loved You So Long (Slow but powerful and Kristin Scott Thomas shines)
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona (another fun Woody Allen romp)
  • American Teen (revealing documentary about American youth)
  • In Bruges (comedy film noir)
  • Happy-Go-Lucky (another great Mike Leigh film with Sally Hawkins as the upbeat to the point of aggravating lead)
  • Sex and the City (respectable TV-to-movie translation)
  • Wall-E (visionary animated film)
  • Iron Man (surprisingly good action/superhero movie)
Disappointments and overrated:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (pointless and unrelatable. Gorgeous but bloated film that reveals little about the human experience)
  • Frost/Nixon (fine movie, but offers little that the play didn't)
  • Tropic Thunder (what's so great about this? I thought it was silly)
  • The Dark Knight (not a bad movie, but very overrated, overlong, and too busy)
  • Quantum of Solace (Casino Royale was brilliant, but this follow-up had little going for it beyond some clever set pieces)
  • W (Says little about Bush as president, a missed opportunity)
  • High School Musical 3 (lacks the charm of the previous TV versions)

Grammy Predictions

The Grammy Awards will be given out tonight. Despite the fact that I'm a major fan of pop music, I'm more interested in who gets nominated for the Grammys than who actually wins them (or watching the show for that matter, which I rarely do). Still, it's worth looking at a few categories to see how things are shaping up this year...

Album of the Year
  • Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends
  • Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
  • Ne-Yo - Year of the Gentleman
  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
My instinct was to say that Coldplay is the frontrunner, and certainly enough pundits seem to agree; however, I can't help but notice how often the old favorite has beat the popular favorite recently, so I wouldn't rule out a win by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. In fact, if I were to place a bet, I'd give them the upper hand. If Herbie Hancock can beat Kanye and Amy, U2 can beat Kanye, Ray Charles can beat Kanye (poor Kanye West), then I think Rob & Allie can pull this one out too. Will win: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss; My pick: Radiohead

Record of the Year
  • Adele - Chasing Pavements
  • Coldplay - Viva la Vida
  • Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
  • M.I.A. - Paper Planes
  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Please Read the Letter
With the record of the year, unlike the album award, the more contemporary artist seems to stand a better chance. Recent winners include Amy Winehouse, Green Day, and Outkast, and Coldplay's been here before (for "Clocks"), so I expect they will walk away with it a second time for "Viva la Vida." Will win: Coldplay; My pick: Coldplay

New Artist
  • Adele
  • Duffy
  • Jonas Brothers
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Jazmine Sullivan
As new artist lists go, this year's isn't that spectacular. I think Adele definitely has the upper hand at this point, riding her wave of buzz that seems to hinge on her SNL appearance from months ago. If that's enough to justify a Grammy, I'm a bit disappointed, although I do like Adele, but she's not taken off in the U.S. Neither has Duffy, who I love. Jonas Brothers are too teen pop to win this. I wouldn't count out Jazmine Sullivan completely, as she good be a dark horse contender. Will win: Adele; My pick: Duffy

Female Pop Vocal
  • Adele - Chasing Pavements
  • Sara Bareilles - Love Song
  • Duffy - Mercy
  • Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
  • Katy Perry - I Kissed a Girl
  • Pink - So What
Adele and Leona Lewis are nominated in the Record of the Year category, so I'd say they have the upper hand. And I'd throw Pink in the mix as a strong contender. Will win: Adele; My pick: Duffy

Male Pop Vocal
  • Kid Rock - All Summer Long
  • John Mayer - Say
  • Paul McCartney - That Was Me
  • Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
  • Ne-Yo - Closer
  • James Taylor - Wichita Lineman
John Mayer's won this award three times already this decade, so I'm hoping Grammy decides it's someone else's turn. I could see this going to Jason Mraz. Will win: Jazon Mraz; My pick: Ne-Yo

Pop Duo or Group with Vocals
  • Coldplay - Viva la Vida
  • Eagles - Waiting in the Weeds
  • Gnarls Barkley - Going On
  • Maroon 5 - Won't Go Home Without You
  • OneRepublic - Apologize
No contest: Coldplay. Will win: Coldplay; My pick: Coldplay

Pop Collaboration
  • Alicia Keys & John Mayer - Lessons Learned
  • Madonna & Justin Timberlake - 4 Minutes
  • Maroon5 & Rihanna - If I Never See Your Face Again
  • Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Rich Woman
  • Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown - No Air
My gut says that Plant & Krauss are the frontrunner; however, they won this last year for another track from their album. Will Grammy give it to them 2 years in a row? I'm going to say yes for me. Will win: Plant & Krauss; My pick: Sparks & Brown

Pop Album
  • Duffy - Rockferry
  • The Eagles - Long Road Out Of Eden
  • Leona Lewis - Spirit
  • Sheryl Crow - Detours
  • James Taylor - Covers
None of these made it into the Album of the Year list, so no help there. There was a lot of buzz for The Eagles though, so I bet they'll get it. Will win: The Eagles; My pick: Duffy.

Album review: Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream (3/5)

Judging from the packaging Empire of the Sun should be the year's outrageous breakout band, akin to what MGMT were last year. Male duo that frequently goes shirtless? Check. Outrageous posturing and costumes? Check. Mining '80s new wave? Check.

So what's missing? Pretty much the key ingredient: vitality. Sure they have a really fun album cover that brilliantly apes Star Wars film posters, and their first single "Walking on a Dream" is pretty decent, but much of the rest of the album is surprisingly MOR. Much of the time they seem to be hiding behind their '80s sound rather than using it as a creative springboard to take a few risks and give us something new. And where they do take risks, the results are just odd.

The first half of the album has most of the better songs. "Standing on the Shore" is a brooding opener with a repetitive guitar refrain and '80s-style drumming. Lyrically I'm not sure what it's about--which is the case with many songs here--but the main point seems to be mental chaos ("don't want to talk; all I hear is noise"). Then there's "Walking on a Dream," which is a really great song. It's upbeat and fairly simple--guitar, bass, synthesizer and drums, all quite distinct. "Half Mast" is pretty similar and also very '80s sounding. "We Are the People" is more brooding, but better than "Standing on the Shore," since it has a more assertive melody. These are good songs (the best on the album), but I'm surprised by how mellow they are. This is not the raucous, crazy stuff you'd expect from two guys dressed as they are the album sleeve.

"Delta Bay" has a funkier sound and a prominent drum stomp, but it also has annoying vocal effects that make the lyrics undecipherable. "Country" has a reflective quality to it, blending gentle keyboard effects with acoustic guitar behind the synth melody. It's an instrumental with no drums either. "The World" follows with a similar dreamy quality. Again the vocals have been distorted, although I don't mind it so much in this song, where the falsetto singing blends in with the synths. "Sworfish Hotkiss Night" sounds somewhat like something Scissor Sisters might do, although not as good and with meaningless lyrics: "Kings Cross hot shot, Jesus Christ on web blog, Cowboy at a cop shop, Tiger in a drug store."

At this point in the album, I've pretty much lost interest, and there's nothing to bring me back. "Tiger By My Side" has retro space-age synth effects, electric guitar and a "wah ooh wee ooh" refrain. The final track "Without You" sounds so much like a mid-1980s ballad that they might of well have just remade The Cars' "Drive," since at least that song has a little more umph.

While there are some good songs up front, the party ends pretty quickly on this album, which I was pretty excited about and therefore disappointed with its lack of energy and invention.

Best: Walking on a Dream, We Are the People, Half Mast, Standing on the Shore

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Best of 2000s: Dido - No Angel (4.5/5)

Shortly after I almost wore out Madonna's Music, along came Dido's No Angel, which I listened to pretty much nonstop during the first few months of 2001. Her brand of pop music was very appealing and much imitated since. The formula was pretty simple: take the acoustic female singer-songwriter template--at the time championed by the likes of Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole and Chantal Kreviazuk--and make it hipper with a modern electronic production. Dido got that couresty of her brother Rollo Armstrong, one of the members of the dance act Faithless, with whom Dido sometimes collaborates. She's never sounded better than on the masterful "Here With Me," a beautiful slice of melancholy, scored with modern beats, dreamy synths and gentle acoustic guitar strums. It's one of my all-time favorite songs. She's been unfairly maligned as too laid back, a criticism that doesn't take into account fiery songs like "Don't Think of Me" and "Take My Hand," but laid back shouldn't be a bad word when it sounds as good as it does on "Thank You" or "All You Want." This set, Britain's best-selling album of 2001, was as good a debut as any artist could hope for.

Best: Here With Me, Thank You, Don't Think of Me, Hunter, All You Want, I'm No Angel

Friday, February 06, 2009

Personal Chart, 2/7/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... The Fear - Lily Allen (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... Single Ladies - Beyonce (1 wk @ #1)
3 .... 5 .... Issues - The Saturdays
4 .... 6 .... Circus - Britney Spears
5 .... 3 .... Broken Strings - James Morrison Featuring Nelly Furtado
6 .... 7 .... Heartless - Kanye West
7 ... 10 ... Sober - Pink
8 ... 17 ... Change - Daniel Merriweather Featuring Wale
9 .... 4 .... Just Dance - Lady GaGa Featuring Colby O'Donis (2 wks @ #1)
10 ... 19 ... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 2/14/2009

1. My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
2. Single Ladies - Beyonce
3. Heartless - Kanye West

It's a rather boring Billboard Hot 100 this week, with the same top 10 songs as last week, 5 of which don't move at all. Holding down the top spot for a second week is Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You;" if Kelly can stay #3 for a third week the single will become her longest-running #1 hit. As it stands now, it is tied with her 2002 debut, "A Moment Like This," which spent 2 weeks at the top. As this is the Valentine's Day chart, I suppose it is apt that a love song is #1, albeit one with a rather crude sentiment. Still, having this top a chart dated 2/14 is probably better than the anti-romantic title of this week's #2 single, Beyonce's "Single Ladies," or worse yet, Kanye West's "Heartless," which climbs a notch to #3 this week.

17. Prom Queen - Lil Wayne

No rest for Lil Wayne. After having a tremendous 2008, he is back with "Prom Queen," the first single from his next album (yes, already his next album) Rebirth, reportedly a more rock-oriented set due in April. The single is this week's Hot Shot Debut at #17. Wayne scored four top 40 hits from his Grammy-nominated Tha Carter III, including #1 hit "Lollipop."

21. Diva - Beyonce
23. Poker Face - Lady GaGa
24. Turnin' Me On - Keri Hilson Featuring Lil Wayne
28. Beautiful - Akon Featuring Colby O'Donis Kardinal Offishall

The top 10 may be static this week, but the twenties have four singles making big moves--future top 10 hits in waiting perhaps.

35. Thinking of You - Katy Perry

Katy Perry scores her third top 40 hit with "Thinking of You," this week's Sales Gainer, up 15 spots to #35. The single has been around at top 40 radio for awhile, growing much more slowly than instant hits "I Kissed a Girl" and "Hot N Cold." While initially cold on this single, it's actually starting to grow on me now.

37. Blame It - Jamie Foxx Featuring T-Pain

Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx returns with hits fifth top 40 hit, "Blame It." The singer and actor, best known for his award-winning performance in Ray as well as the Tom Cruise thriller Collateral, for which he was also nominated for an Oscar. Although there are lots of women who succeed in having careers in both screen and music (Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez are the best recent examples, also Cher, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, and Madonna), it seems there aren't as many men who can do the trick as well (Will Smith being a notable exception). Foxx "guest starred" on two #1 hits, Kanye West's "Gold Digger" and Twista's "Slow Jamz" (also with West).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Preview Lily Allen's new Album

Yes! I've been hoping this would happen. MySpace Music has Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You up for preview today. I was just listening to Alright, Still while folding clothes.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 2/7/2009

1. The Fear - Lily Allen

Brassy British pop singer Lily Allen knocks Lady GaGa's "Just Dance" from #1 with her new single "The Fear," the first release from her upcoming second album It's Not Me, It's You. This is Allen's second #1 hit following her debut, "Smile," which spent 2 weeks at #1 in the summer of 2006. Lily's had two other top 10 hits, "LDN," which hit #6, and her Mark Ronson collaboration "Oh My God," which hit #8. "The Fear" also tops the UK airplay chart for a second week.

6. Breathe Slow - Alesha Dixon

Alesha Dixon's second top 40 hit moves into the top 10 this week, still 2 weeks ahead of its physical release. As long as it doesn't lose steam, this looks like a good challenger for #1 soon. The single is only one spot lower than the #5 peak of her last hit, "The Boy Does Nothing."

10. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
18. Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon

Nothing major to report here, only how amazing it is that these two singles are still around. "Use Somebody" has been on the chart for 19 weeks now, "Sex on Fire" for 21 weeks. The chart performance of these two singles far outclasses anything this band charted prior.

14. Gimme a Call - Tommy Reilly

Rarely does a single debut as high as this on the UK singles chart that I've never heard of. Taken by surprise this week, I did a little research. My first search turned up a Tommy Reilly that's a harmonica player. Fairly certain that wasn't the right guy I kept hunting. It sounds like he's from a Channel 4 show about unsigned bands--a contest which he won. Other than that, I'm still not really sure who he is.

16. One Step at a Time - Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks is up 12 spots to #16 with "One Step at a Time." This is a download-only release. We'll have to see if it rises any further.

36. Whatcha Think About That - The Pussycat Dolls

The Pussycat Dolls make a very early entry in the top 40 with the third single from their latest album, which isn't released until the end of the month. Missy Elliott guest stars on this one, making her first appearance in the top 40 since "We Run This" hit #38 in September 2006.