Thursday, April 30, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 5/2/2009

1. Number 1 - Tinchy Stryder featuring N-Dubz

I'm really late doing my UK chart analysis this week, but I was having fun looking for songs that had "number" themes, so I thought I'd at least post this. Tinchy Stryder hits #1 with his hit "Number 1." It marks the first time someone's gone to #1 with a "number 1." There have been three recent top 10 #1s, the highest being S Club 7's "Number One" which hit number 2, followed by the Tweenies "Number 1" that hit #5, and Goldfrapp's "Number 1" that hit Number 9. Quite a distance down you got Pharell & Kanye West's "Number One" which was quite the underachiever at #31.

Of course you got your numbers game overachievers too. Twice "Mambo No. 5" has gone to #1, first for Lou Bega and then for Bob the Builder. And Brian Adams' "Cloud #9" managed to hit #6.

Billboard Hot 100, 5/9/2009

1. Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas spend a fourth week at #1 with "Boom Boom Pow." That puts it ahead of Lady GaGa's "Just Dance" as the second-longest stay at #1 so far this year, behind Flo Rida's 6 weeks for "Right Round." The track is also doing well at top 40 radio; it's #3 on Mediabase and rising fast, likely to overtake Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" within a couple weeks.

3. Day N Nite - Kid Cudi

Kid Cudi's "Day N Nite" climbs 3 spots to #3. The version that's popular in the US is the standard version, not the fun clubby Crookers remix that hit #2 earlier this year in the UK.

4. Blame It - Jamie Foxx Featuring T-Pain

Jamie Foxx is also up 3 spots to #4. Did I ever mention that I don't really care for this song?

7. Sugar - Flo Rida

Flo Rida takes an 8-spot leap to #7 with "Sugar," this week's sales gainer. As "Right Round" is still in the top 10, down 2 to #5, he's got two hits in the top 10 this week. This is Flo's fourth top 10 hit.

10. Halo - Beyonce

Also moving into the top 10 this week is Beyonce with "Halo," her third top 10 hit from I Am...Sasha Fierce and her 12th top 10 hit overall. Every Beyonce single that's cracked the top 10 has at least hit #4--she's had three #4s, three #3s, and five #1s.

19. If U Seek Amy - Britney Spears

Britney cracks the top 20 with "If U Seek Amy," her 12th top 20 hit.

37. Funny The Way It Is - Dave Matthews Band

Dave Matthews Band scores their fourth top 40 hit. When I was in college in the '90s, I remember this was one of the college rock band. The band had their biggest hits during that era--songs like "What Would You Say," "Ants Marching," and "Crash into Me," but since that was during the non-singles era where such airplay only hits weren't allowed on the Hot 100, those hits are not reflected in the band's chart history.

48. Viva la Vida - Coldplay

One week shy of its 1-year mark, "Viva la Vida" falls three spots to #48. If it can hang on just 1 more week, it can join the elite club of songs that have spent a year on the Hot 100. Only 22 songs can claim that feat.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rolling Stone loves 21st Century Breakdown

Rolling Stone's review of Green Day's new album, 21st Century Breakdown, is up on the site (read it here). They give the album 4.5 stars and say it's better than American Idiot. Expectations continue to rise...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

May new releases

April brought surprisingly good albums by The Doves (new to me) and Depeche Mode (and old favorite back in good form). Here's what's coming in May...

Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown (May 15)
Five years after their landmark American Idiot, Green Day returns with their eighth studio album. Faced with the difficult challenge of following up Idiot--a concept album about post 9/11 America that became the band's biggest commercial and critical success--the band has risen to the challenge, producing another epic concept rocker. Continuing in the everyman political vein, Breakdown is the story of a young couple living in contemporary America told in three acts. Early reviews have been very positive. Says the Guardian with four stars: "Green Day's greatest accomplishment, though, is the manner in which they've constructed a supremely cohesive whole out of such seemingly disparate parts. The characters, themes and motifs that recur throughout 21st Century Breakdown are marshalled into an engrossing narrative that recalls both Bruce Springsteen and novelist Chuck Palahniuk." This could very well be the most exciting new album release of the year so far.

Eminem - Relapse (May 18/19)
Also back with a first album since 2004 is pioneering rapper Eminem with his sixth album, following 2004's Encore. After such a long break, during which Mr. Mathers has been focusing on his efforts as a producer, Relapse will be an important test of whether audiences still love his shtick--which based on first singles "We Made You" and "Crack a Bottle" hasn't changed much--or have grown tired of it.

Daniel Merriweather - Love & War (May 25)
Mass audiences got their first taste of Australian singer Daniel Merriweather on Mark Ronson's 2007 album, appearing as featured vocalist on Ronson's "Stop Me" remake. Now he's got his first major label release out. First single "Change" hit the UK top 10 earlier this year, and new single "Red" is garnering airplay. Ronson appears to have worked on several of the songs here, as well as Eg White, who worked with Will Young on his last release. Even Adele shows up to duet on "Water and a Flame."

Passion Pit - Manners (May 18/19)
American electro pop act Passion Pit releases their debut album. Last fall they whetted appetites with the EP Chunk of Change, and the album's first single "The Reeling" is starting to get airplay. Along with Dan Black (his Un is out May 25), Passion Pit is one of the two BBC Sounds of 2009 artists releasing albums in May, making a total of five of the top 10 acts to do so thus far.

Also out this may:

May 4/5

Ciara - Fantasy Ride
Maccabees - Wall of Arms
Madina Park - Attics to Eden
Fischerspooner - Entertainment

May 11/12

Bloc Party - Intimacy Remixed
Sarah McLachlan – Closer: The Best Of

May 18/19

Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers
Tori Amos – Abnormally Attracted to Sin

May 25/26

Gary Go - Gary Go
Mandy Moore - Amanda Leigh
Dan Black – Un
Zero 7 - The Best of

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Album Review: Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe (4/5)

When I first heard that Depeche Mode was going to record Sounds of the Universe with a lot of old synthesizers, I immediately hoped the new album would sound like Violator and Music for the Masses--albums the band released in their late '80s/early '90s heyday. Hoping for songs like "Enjoy the Silence," "People are People" and "Never Let Me Down Again," I was initially disappointed by this album when I first listened to the tracks that had leaked onto YouTube.
However, in the course of listening to it over the last week, I've grown to rather like its moody atmospheres.

"In Chains" pierces us with noise for about the first minute, before settling in with old school synth chords and subtle beats. Rather than open with a bang, the album begins with this slinky number, which is perhaps appropriate, since nothing on this album really provides a big "bang." "Hole to Feed" rumbles with synthetic beats, but also provides a gentle warmth underneath them. As does "Fragile Tension," with its shimmery reverbed guitar wrapped in its synth textures, along with a beat that's at least fast enough to warrant some head nodding. Although there's nothing to dance to here, there isn't a lack of musical drama. "Wrong," the album's first single, is charging and angry with a chorus of voices repeating the song's title.

The songs in the middle are among my favorite. "In Sympathy" has a chugging beat, synth arpeggios, and growling bass line, along with a judiciously used guitar melody. The '80s futurism of "Peace" is a contrast to its warm harmonized vocals. It's a lovely song, probably a future single. Equally lovely is "Come Back," on which David Gahan's vocals remind how well a singer can evoke emotions--here, an aching longing for a lost lover--over a synthetic-based melody.

The moods on the album are often extreme and satisfyingly varied, from the heartache on "Come Back" to the angry "Wrong" and the yearning expressed in "Perfect." The melodies of "Little Soul" are discongruent enough to be disturbing but not so much as to be off putting. Same goes for the layering guitar noise on "Miles Away/The Truth Is," which has a bit of western swagger recalling "Personal Jesus," albeit for more understated.

Martin Gore takes over lead vocal duty on "Jezebel," and while he has an expressive voice, it lacks the heft of Gahan, and this plodding track isn't as interesting as those that surround it, although it does have some nice instrumental synth passages. Dark synth pulses course through "Corrupt" like the soundtrack to an '80s sci-fi film.

It's interesting how both Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode have reached into their pasts for their latest albums, but have done so in very different ways. While Pet Shop Boys' Yes seeks to capture the style of that band's earlier work, Sounds of the Universe finds its own style despite using sounds the band used in '80s. And while I at first missed the energy prevalent in Depeche Mode's '80s work, eventually I came around to appreciate the range and musical textures here.

Best: Wrong, Come Back, Peace, In Sympathy, Fragile Tension, Miles Away/The Truth Is

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Best of 2000s: Goldfrapp - Black Cherry (4.5/5)

Goldfrapp followed their dreamy downbeat debut with an even better second album of stomping electro-pop, replacing the ethereal loveliness of signature tracks like "Lovely Head" with sexy disco romps like "Tiptoe" and "Strict Machine." But mellower tracks like "Hairy Trees" and "Forever" show that even while exploring their new sound, Goldfrapp can still chill.

Best: Tiptoe, Strict Machine, Hairy Trees, Crystalline Green, Train, Black Cherry

The Boyband Returns: Introducing V Factory

Bubbling under the airplay top 40 right now is the first single from a new boy band, V Factory. Will "Love Struck" usher in a new era of boybands? They seem to come in waves every 10 years or so, so the timing is probably about right.

All the elements appear to be in check: 5 scrubbed members all with a slightly different look (ranging in age from 19 to 25), Swedish producers (David Jassy and Darin), and an upbeat first hit. Check it out:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Personal Chart, April 25, 2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Poker Face - Lady GaGa (4 wks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Halo - Beyonce
3 .... 3 .... Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) - A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls
4 ... 13 ... I'm Not Alone - Calvin Harris
5 .... 7 .... If U Seek Amy - Britney Spears
6 .... 5 .... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson (3 wks @ #1)
7 .... 9 .... Please Don't Stop the Rain - James Morrison
8 ... 14 ... In for the Kill - La Roux
9 .... 6 .... Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake
10 .. 17 ... Not Fair - Lily Allen

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Madonna readying greatest hits collection

Madonna will put out a new greatest hits collection this fall. No word yet on what it will be, but I'm hoping for a career retrospective, since a set of hits since 2001 wouldn't be all that great. This follows her 1987 dance compilation, You Can Dance, her 1990 greatest hits, the classic The Immaculate Collection, her 1995 ballads set Something to Remember, and her 2001 second greatest hits set, GHV2.

Here's my suggestion: a 3-CD set with each CD representing a different decade (plus one new track on each album that hearkens to that era, an '80s-flavored dance track, a '90s-styled ballad, and a '00s electronic track.

Madonna the '80s
1. Holiday
2. Borderline
3. Lucky Star
4. Like a Virgin
5. Material Girl
6. Crazy for You
7. Into the Groove
8. Live to Tell
9. Papa Don't Preach
10. True Blue
11. Open Your Heart
12. La Isla Bonita
13. Who's That Girl
14. Causing a Commotion
15. Like a Prayer
16. Express Yourself
17. Cherish
18. (new track)

Madonna the '90s
1. Vogue
2. Justify My Love
3. This Used to Be My Playground
4. Erotica
5. Deeper and Deeper
6. Fever
7. Rain
8. I'll Remember
9. Secret
10. Take a Bow
11. Bedtime Story
12.You'll See
13. Don't Cry for Me Argentina
14. Frozen
15. Ray of Light
16. The Power of Good-bye
17. Beautiful Stranger
18. (new track)

Madonna the '00s
1. American Pie
2. Music
3. Don't Tell Me
4. What It Feels Like for a Girl
5. Die Another Day
6. American Life
7. Hollywood
8. Me Against the Music
9. Love Profusion
10. Hung Up
11. Sorry
12. Get Together
13. Jump
14. 4 Minutes
15. Give It 2 Me
16. Miles Away
17. (new track)

Billboard Hot 100, 5/2/2009

1. Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas' latest single lives up to its name, regaining its bullet for a third week at #1. While it stagnates, at least there's some more movement in the top 10 this week than last. Although I must say, I'm surprised "Poker Face" didn't regain #1. It's going gangbusters at top 40 radio, where she's 11,000 spins within the last week. At radio at least, "Poker Face" is now clearly the bigger hit than "Just Dance."

4. The Climb - Miley Cyrus

Sweet little Miley Cyrus nabs her first top 5 hit this week, as "The Climb" moves up four spots to #4. She's got another hit a little farther down too.

9. We Made You - Eminem

Biggest debut of the week comes from Eminem at #9 with "We Made You," becoming his 11th top 10 hit. This is Eminem's first single to debut in the top 10. It follows his recent #1 hit "Crack a Bottle," which entered the lower end of the Hot 100 on early airplay, then shot up from #78 to #1 the week it became available as a digital single.

17. Crazier - Taylor Swift
18. Hoedown Throwdown - Miley Cyrus

Hannah Montana: The Movie continues to exert its influence, with its two other hit singles (after "The Climb" at #4) back to back at #17 and #18. Taylor Swift's hit is this week's sales gainer, up 21 notches to #17, while Miley's other top 40 hit "Hoedown Throwdown" climbs 10 places to #18.

39. Knock You Down - Keri Hilson Feat. Kanye West & Ne-Yo

Keri Hilson manages to land a second top 40 hit from her debut album, up 7 spots to #39. It doesn't hurt that the track, "Knock You Down," features two of the hottest males stars in popular music.

40. Know Your Enemy - Green Day

Finally, Green Day debuts at #40 with the first single from their hotly anticipated new album 21st Century Breakdown. The track didn't get a full week of sales, as it was released late in the week, so I expect it could climb next week. Amazingly, this is only Green Day's fourth top 40 hit, the other three being the big singles from their last album, American Idiot: "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which hit #2, "Holiday," which hit #19, and "Wake Me Up When September Ends," which peaked at #6. Despite having quite a few big radio hits in the '90s, like "When I Come Around" and "Time of Your Life," they never appeared on the Hot 100 (my guess is that they were never given physical single releases).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 4/25/2009

1. I'm Not Alone - Calvin Harris

This week saw the physical releases of Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" and Beyonce's "Halo," which, back in the day would have signaled a massive chart battle. But in the age of the download, "Poker Face" has been out for quite awhile and already had its turn at #1, and "Halo" didn't get the expected bump from a physical release. In fact, this "bump" effect seems to be diminishing lately, which is to be expected as more people turn to downloads as their primary way of buying music. So it's yet another new release this week--Calvin Harris's "I'm Not Alone"--that remains at #1 a second week after having been available last week as a download.

2. In for the Kill - La Roux

Another indicator that the charts are different these days is the ability of singles to grow in popularity over time--climbing up the chart from their debut rather than debuting at their peak. Such is the case for La Roux, who debuted 4 weeks at #11 and have been climbing ever since. This week they're up two spots to #2, positing themselves as potential challengers to Calvin Harris's #1 throne next week.

5. Love Sex Magic - Ciara Featuring Justin Timberlake

"Love Sex Magic" climbs a notch to #5 this week, giving Ciara her fourth top 5 hit.

8. We Made You - Eminem

Eminem debuts at #8 with "We Made You," the second single from his upcoming fifth album. His last single, "Crack a Bottle," peaked at #4, which is pretty low considering that the first singles from The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, and Encore were at #1 hits. Even his first single, "My Name Is" reached #2. "We Made You" is a more typically "Eminem sounding" track, so perhaps it will outshine "Crack a Bottle," as its still weeks away from a CD release.

10. Not Fair - Lily Allen

Speaking fo weeks away from a CD release, "Not Fair" cracks the top 10 this week on digital sales, giving Lily Allen her fifth top 10 hit.

Album Review: Doves - Kingdom of Rust (4/5)

Kingdom of Rust is Manchester, England-based Doves' fourth album. I'm new to the band, having not listened to them before other than their occasional hit, so I can't put this in context with their previous work, but I can say that I rather liked this album, even more so with repeated listens.

In particular, the first third of the album excels. Moody "Jetstream" has electronic flourishes to round it out, but not so much that it qualifies as new wave revival, as the guitar remains squarely prominent. The song builds slowly in the beginning, piping in an insistent electronic pulse during the second verse. "Kingdom of Rust" is an epic track with strings flourishes that sound like they come from a '60s cowboy film. It's another great song, managing to be both brooding and uplifting. The cool keyboard effect that kicks off "The Outsiders" (it's hard to describe, closest I can come is say its like Missy Elliott's "Lose Control"), as well as the lyrics (" the universe, just the two of us") give the song some space age pretentions reminiscent of Muse but not as over the top. "Winter Hill" is more down-to-Earth, a love song with pastoral imagery beginning with layered guitars that return for the choruses.

The middle section plays a bit mellower, going for haunting sounds. "10:03" slows down the tempo with a haunting sound achieved with heavily echoed vocals, before throttling forward with drums and loud guitar at the very end. "The Greatest Denier" also goes for an echo-ey epic sound, although it also has a playful staccato bassline at the end of the chorus. "Birds Flew Backward" is quite lovely and lush--no drums this time, just strings and guitar with vocals about the approaching summer. More upbeat "Spellbound" has a great guitar melody.

"Compulsion's" strutting bass melody and synth effects give it a '70s feel, then it's back to the sounds of the wild west on "House of Mirrors," which features both the Western-style reverbed guitar and your more typical rock guitar. "Lifelines" finishes the album with a warm guitar and piano melody. It's not a highlight, but it's not bad. In general this a pretty great album, with quite a bit of variety ranging from the big-sounding epics to the more intimite middle section.

Best: Kingdom of Rust, Jetstream, The Outsiders, Spellbound, Birds Flew Backward, Compulsion, Winter Hill

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Best of 2000s: White Stripes - Elephant (5/5)

Siblings though they are not, what Jack and Meg White--a.k.a. The White Sripes--are is the decade's leader of the so-called "garage rock" revival. Their music is minimalist--often composed solely of vocals, drums and guitar--and frequently referred to as "punk soul," which I think is a fitting way to describe their songs, which can ranging from roaring frenetic rock to laid back blues, sometimes within the same track. This decade they've released an album every other year, with Jack moonlighting on other projects in between like doing the folk songs for Cold Mountain, producing Loretta Lynn's acclaimed Van Lear Rose, and starting two other bands on the side. Elephant remains the Stripes' high point. It leads off with the charging hit single "Seven Nation Army," followed by the frenetic "Black Math," then dives under the table for laid back "There No Home for You Here" and a cool remake of "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself." And that's just the opening act.

Best: Seven Nation Army, Black Math, The Hardest Button to Button, There's No Home for You Here, I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself, In the Cold Cold Night

Friday, April 17, 2009

Personal Chart, April 18, 2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Poker Face - Lady GaGa (3 weeks @ #1)
2 .... 2 .... Halo - Beyonce
3 .... 5 .... Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) - A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls
4 .... 3 .... Right Round - Flo Rida
5 .... 4 .... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson (3 wks @ #1)
6 .... 6 .... Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake
7 .... 9 .... If U Seek Amy - Britney Spears
8 ... 10 ... Don't Upset the Rhythm - The Noisettes
9 ... 13 ... Please Don't Stop the Rain - James Morrison
10 .. 11 ... No You Girls - Franz Ferdinand

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 4/25/2009

1. Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas

This week the Hot 100 attempts to be about as boring as it possibly can. A static top 7, a bulletless top 4, and no movement in or out of the top 10. Black Eyed Peas gets a second week at #1 with "Boom Boom Pow."

7. Day N Nite - Kid Cudi
8. The Climb - Miley Cyrus

Kid Cudi is this week's Airplay Gainer, although he doesn't rise at all. Miley Cyrus is the sales gainer, but "Climbs" just two spots to #8.

13. Halo - Beyonce

"Halo" makes a four spot climb to #13. Hopefully it will hit the top 10 soon.

17. Sugar - Flo Rida featuring WynterSpryngSummyrFyll

Flo Rida is the biggest mover within the top 10, up 14 spots to #17 with his "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" inspired hit "Sugar."

28. Hoedown Throwdown - Miley Cyrus

With the Hannah Montana movie a huge hit in theatres, Miley Cyrus scores another top 40 hit with "Hoedown Throwdown," up a hefty 34 notches to #28. It's her fifth top 40 hit.

38. Crazier - Taylor Swift

Speaking of Hannah Montana, the soundtrack scores yet another hit at #38 with Taylor Swift's "Crazier." I was expecting this to bet yet another Fearless single, but it's not featured on that album.

Green Day "Know Your Enemy"

"Know Your Enemy" was added to iTunes later in the week, perhaps today, as I didn't see it up yesterday. It seems pretty great and a very typically Green Day song. I like it! Here's a radio version from YouTube:

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Music

Daniel Merriweather's first single, "Change," wasn't the monster hit I thought it would be. His second single "Red" will be out next month. It's a lovely song, although I'm not sure I like how he sounds on it. What do you think?

Calvin Harris's "I'm Not Alone" is the UK's #1 single this week. It's a great track--probably his best so far. I hope this goes on sale at iTunes in the US tomorrow (new music Tuesday!).

Kanye West's "Paranoid" is the third 808s and Heartbreak single and my favorite track from the album. Still no video yet though. Hopefully soon.

Speaking of third singles, here's Girls Aloud's "Untouchable" video. The single's gotten a slightly new mix, which I like. In particular, the long running time's been cut down to something more manageable.

Little Boots' first single since winning the BBC Sounds of 2009 is going to be "New in Town." It's a got a good '80s vibe to it. Not as good as "Stuck on Repeat," but still decent.

"Tiny Dancer" by Ironik Featuring Chipmunk and Elton John is a nice slice of hip-hop meets disco.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 4/18/2009

1. I'm Not Alone - Calvin Harris

One of the greatest things about being an American watcher of the UK charts is the opportunity to discover great hit pop songs that would never be a major hit in the US. Over the last few years, it's been pretty common for such songs to be #1 hits in the UK, but so far this year, pretty much every single to top the UK chart has also been a US hit (save for the novelty release of "Islands in the Stream")...until now. "I'm Not Alone" is the kind of great clubby hit single that can still top the UK chart, but wouldn't have a chance in hell of being a hit in the states. This is Calvin Harris' second #1 hit, following last year's Dizzie Rascal collaboration, "Dance Wiv Me," and his fourth top 10 hit overall.

4. In for the Kill - La Roux

La Roux continues their climb, up three spots to #4, scoring their first top 5 hit with "In for the Kill." The single also has finally taken off at radio, jumping 39 notches to #21 on the airplay chart.

6. Love Sex Magic - Ciara feat. Justin Timberlake

Ciara has her fifth top 10 hit this week with "Love Sex Magic," making its debut at #6. This is Justin Timberlake's 13th top 10 hit.

16. Fields of Anfield Road - Liverpool Collective feat. The Kop Choir

Here's another great tradition of the UK chart that you never see in the US--a football song. It debuts at #16 this week.

22. No You Girls - Franz Ferdinand

So Franz Ferdinand didn't get the sales boost I was hoping for this week. The track climbs two spots to #22 upon its physical release. Putting it two spots lower than the #20 peak of their last single "Ulysses." Considering that I think "No You Girls" is a vastly better single than its predecessor, this is quite a disappointment.

24. Wrong - Depeche Mode

Another band with a disappointing return this week is Depeche Mode. "Wrong" is the first single from their upcoming album Sounds of the Universe, and this week it debuts at #24. If it doesn't rise any higher (which it probably won't), it will go down as the lowest charting Depeche Mode single in over 10 years, since "Useless," the fourth Ultra single, peaked at #28.

36. Daniel - Bat for Lashes

Bat for Lashes became a minor sensation in 2007 when her first album, Fur and Gold, was shortisted for the Mercury Prize. Despite that honor, the album yieled no major hits, and this week Bat for Lashses scores her first top 40 hit with "Daniel," the first single from her second album Two Suns.

39. Please Don't Stop the Rain - James Morrison

Apparently there's no official single for "Please Don't Stop the Rain," which makes it unlikely this song will repeat the success of James Morrison's last single, "Broken Strings," which became his biggest hit, peaking at #2.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Best of 2000s: Other albums 2000-2002

I've worked my way through 2002 in my best albums of the decade series. Here are 10 more notable albums from 2000-2002:

NSYNC - No Strings Attached
With their second album, NSYNC emerged from the shadow cast by Backstreet Boys. Whereas Backstreet was best with mid-tempo ballads, NSYNC excelled with a more uptempo sound. Those with time on their hands could probably have a rather heated debate as to whether BSB's "I Want It That Way" or NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye" is the definitive boyband song. Essential: Bye Bye Bye

Sade - Lover's Rock
It had been 8 years since their last album, but Lover's Rock showed that Sade hadn't lost their touch for romantic adult pop. Backed by gentle percussion, guitar, strings and keyboards, Sade Adu's voice sounds just as you remembered it. Essential: By Your Side

Janet Jackson - All for You
During the late '80s and early '90s Janet Jackson owned the dance pop scene. While her status has steadily declined throughout this decade, All for You was her last successful album, delivering another mostly enjoyable mix of upbeat anthems, ballads and sexual come ons. Essential: Someone to Call My Lover

Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film Moulin Rouge!
The Moulin Rouge! soundtrack was a surprise hit in 2001. While the pop diva remake of "Lady Marmalade" was a smash hit, the album delivered other gems like "Elephant Love Medley," which creates a story line by stealing bits and pieces from famous love songs, and the affecting original song, "Come What May." Essential: Come What May

Airlock - Drystar
Whatever you call it--downbeat, ambient, "chill"--sometimes a good dose of laid back electronic music hits the spot. I discovered this album a few years after it came out and got hooked by its dark beats and smooth melodies. Essential: Slipinside

Radiohead - Amnesiac
Kid A was a stunning departure from OK Computer, but Amnesiac was even weirder, disturbing even. Songs like "Pyramid Song" would be merely haunting if it wasn't for the lack of even tempo that injects it with disquieting unease. Essential: Knives Out

Muse - Origin of Symmetry
With their second album, Muse really made a name for themselves. Their over-the-top gothic, space-age rock is something to be behold, laced with electronic effects, organs, mad drumming and crazy falsetto vocals. Essential: Bliss

P!nk - M!ssundaztood
After churning out a few Babyface-produced R&B/pop hits, Pink declared "enough of that" and emerged on her second album with a personality of her own--and a strong one at that, working with Linda Perry to create a stunning pop fusion of rock, dance, punk and R&B. Can't Take Me Home may have been Pink's first album, but M!ssndaztood was her debut. Essential: Get the Party Started

Moby - 18
Play made Moby a superstar, so it's no surprise that 18 is similar. Songs like "In This World," "In My Heart" and "Extreme Ways" (which became famous for its use in the Bourne films) repeat the effective formula of pairing old soul samples with electronica and tinkling piano. The gorgeous title track instrumental proves that electronic music can be a moving experience. Essential: 18

Daniel Bedingfield - Gotta Get Thru This
His little sister Natasha may be the more famous Bedingfield now, but brother Daniel was the first to achieve success, scoring three UK #1 hits between 2001 and 2003. His 2002 debut album was an exercise in versatility, jumping from garage ("Gotta Get Thru This") to rock ("I Can't Read You") to adult contemporary ("If You're Not the One"). Essential: Gotta Get Thru This

Friday, April 10, 2009

Best of 2000s: Green Day - American Idiot (4.5/5)

With Green Day's new album coming out next month and the announcement that American Idiot is being developed as a rock musical, I thought it was high time I paid proper attention to this album. While I've listened plenty of times to "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends," I haven't given this album a thorough shake yet.

My verdict is that this is a pretty decent rock album, and the more I listen to it, the more I like it. The narrative is pretty loose, so the conversion to a musical is going to take some creativity. The "story," so to speak, involves a "Jesus of Suburbia," who consists on a steady diet of "soda pop and Ritalin," and this other tough guy "St. Jimmy," as well as this nameless rebellious girl ("Whatsername") whom Jesus likes, and then Jesus and Jimmy turn out to be the same person, the girl dumps Jesus/Jimmy, Jimmy then commits suicide (but not Jesus), and the girl...well, she lives on, troubling Jesus. And all the while, they live in the disillusionment of post 9/11 George W. Bush Americana. Admittedly, it's not the greatest story.

But it is great rock music! "American Idiot" is a fantastic, energetic opening number. It's followed by the five-part opus "Jesus of Suburbia/City Of The Damned/I Don't Care/Dearly Beloved/Tales Of Another Broken Home," then "Holiday," another great rock song, although not as great as "American Idiot." That's followed by "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which is a really fantastic song. Oasis has tried to claim its rip-off of "Wonderwall," and frankly, I think that's a dubious claim. "Are We the Waiting?" is U2-style stadium rock just begging for several thousand people to lift their lighters into the air and sway to.

"St. Jimmy" then pumps up the tempo and introduces our next character of the same name, who is not to be messed with, declaring that he's "a teenage assassin executing some fun i the cult of the life of crime." alrighty. Escapist "Give Me Novocaine" is a little gentler and a bit '60s sounding with its acoustic guitar. Punky "She's a Rebel" briefly introduces the next character, Whatsername, tellings us she's a rebel and vigilante, but then worldy "Extraordinary Girl" lets us know that she's got a sensitive side too. Then on "Letterbomb," Whatsername gives Jesus of Suburbia the shaft, declaring that "you're not the Jesus of Suburbia" and that "St. Jimmy is a figment of your father's rage and your mother's love." Ouch.

Then comes the album's greatest moment, "Wake Me Up When September Ends," which amazing, works on so many levels. First, within the narrative of the American Idiot story, it's Jesus's lament for having lost Whatsername. Second, it's Billy Joe Armstrong's reflection on painful the death of his father in September of 1982. Third, it's a reflection of the angst of September 11th (the song's about September and it's track 11). Fourth, it's just a beautiful song that gives me goosebumps when I listen to it, especially when the guitars kick in during the second good. Turn it way up and enjoy.

"Homecoming" is another five-part song during which Jesus of Suburbia's alter-ego St. Jimmy is dispensed with and he gets a "normal" job that he can't stand (during part II, "East 12th Street," which is pretty cool), but still misses Whatsername, which also is essentially the point of the final track "Whatsername."

No doubt this is a very ambitious album, that generally succeeds. While the storyline is pretty thin, it's cool a idea. More importantly, the album's best songs stand alone, particularly the ballads "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends," which must be Green Day's single finest moments. I'm looking forward to seeing what this translates to on the stage. I hear the Spring Awakening people are involved, and I enjoyed that show, so hopefully this will be good too.

Best: Wake Me Up When September Ends, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, American Idiot, Holiday, Are We the Waiting?, Jesus of Suburbia..., Give Me Novocaine

Personal Chart, 4/11/2009

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 1 .... Poker Face - Lady GaGa (2 wks @ #1)
2 .... 5 .... Halo - Beyonce
3 .... 3 .... Right Round - Flo Rida
4 .... 2 .... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson (3 wks @ #1)
5 ... 11 .... Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) - A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls
6 .... 7 .... Dead and Gone - T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake
7 .... 4 .... Gives You Hell - All-American Rejects
8 .... 6 .... Circus - Britney Spears (1 wk @ #1)
9 ... 10 ... If U Seek Amy - Britney Spears
10 .. 15 ... Don't Upset the Rhythm - The Noisettes

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 4/18/2009

1. Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas score their first #1 on the Hot 100 chart, climbing 38 spots to #1 with the digital debut of their latest single racking up the highest first-week sales from a group ever. This is the band's fourth top 10 hit. Their first was their 2003 smash "Where Is the Love," which, while probably their best-known hit, suffered from being released just before the era of download sales, and therefore, as a mostly airplay-driven hit, peaked at #8, while subsequent but less popular singles "Don't Phunk with My Heart" and "My Humps" both peaked higher at #3. While the band may be enjoying their first #1, one of its members, Fergie, has already had three #1 hits on her own, "London Bridge" in 2006 and "Glamorous" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" in 2007.

2. Poker Face - Lady GaGa

With Black Eyed Peas enjoying a massive first-week sales, Lady GaGa gets knocked from #1 after just a week; however, I expect GaGa may rebound as she retains her bullet, even while dropping to #2.

7. Day 'N' Nite - Kid Cudi

Kanye West's protege Kid Cudi climbs four spots to claim his first top 10 hit this week. The song will be familiar to Brits, who loved this single all the way to #2 on the UK chart earlier this year.

9. You Found Me - The Fray

The Fray climb back into the top 10, up 5 to #9 with "You Found Me." The single peaked at #7 about 2 months ago, but has spent most of the time since then outside the top 10. The single appears to be following in the footsteps of the band's first couple hits, both of which displayed incredible longevity. "Over My Head" peaked at #8 and then dipped outside the top 10 for 4 weeks before returning to the top 10 for 4 more weeks. The band's biggest hit, "How to Save a Life," which spent an amazing 58 weeks on the Hot 100, peaked at #3, started dropping, climbed back up to #5, dropped as low as #9, then climbed back up to #5 before steadying declining thereafter.

18. Halo - Beyonce

After struggling to find an audience, "Halo" looks like it may just be a hit yet, climbing 5 spots into the top 20 at #18 this week. The single has been on the Hot 100 for 11 weeks now. By contrast, "If I Were a Boy" hit #3 in its third week and "Single Ladies" was #7 by its seventh week. "Halo" has now slightly surpassed Beyonce's other recent single, "Diva," which peaked at #19.

25. Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) - A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls

"Jai Ho" does a bit of "yo-yo" on the chart. The single debuted at a very strong #15, before dropping like a stone and ending up at #48 for two weeks. Now it's back up, climbing a hefty 18 notches to #25 this week.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 4/11/2009

1. Poker Face - Lady GaGa
2. Don't Upset the Rhythm - The Noisettes
3. Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) - A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls
5. Halo - Beyonce

Lady GaGa gets a third week at #1 with "Poker Face," matching her 3-week run at the top with "Just Dance." While the Noisettes hold at #2 and A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls climb two spots to #3, I think GaGa has at least another week at #1 in her, if not two, given that this gets a physical release April 13, the same week as "Jai Ho" and Beyonce's "Halo," which slips a bit to #5.

6. Shake It - Metro Station
7. In for the Kill - La Roux

Two other singles wthin the top 10 get a boost this week. Metro Station climbs 3 spots to #6 and La Roux scores their first top 10 hit, up 4 places to #7 with "In for The Kill." Both had already been released, so this isn't a physical release boost, just increased interest as far as I can tell.

12. Not Fair - Lily Allen
16. Takin' Back My Love - Enrique Iglesias feat. Ciara

Still over a month away from its CD release, Lily Allen's second It's Not Me, It's You single climbs 4 notches to #12. Top 10 next week?

17. Embers - Just Jack

Just Jack returns to the chart this week with "Embers," debuting at #17. He made a name for himself in 2007 with "Starz in Their Eyes," which hit #2. None of his other singles released around that time became major hits, so at this point, I doubt this will pick up. Little enduring appeal it seems.

28. Kingdom of Rust - Doves

I'm a little surprised this didn't do better, as it's a really cool song, and the first single from their new album of the same name out tomorrow. The first singles from their last two albums were both top 10 hits--"There Goes the Fear" from The Last Broadcast hit #3 in 2002, and "Black and White Town" from Some Cities hit #6 in 2005.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Best of 2009 Quarter 1

With one-fourth of 2009 out of the way, here's how'd I rank the 10 albums I've reviewed so far this year....

1. U2 - No Line on the Horizon
2. Pet Shop Boys - Yes
3. Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You
4. Kelly Clarkson - All I Ever Wanted
5. Diana Krall - Quiet Nights
6. White Lies - To Lose My Life
7. Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
8. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
9. Lady GaGa - The Fame
10. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream

Album review: Diana Krall - Quiet Nights (4/5)

I'm not much of a jazz listener, although I've been tuning in more and more recently. Two things I've been into so far are bossa nova, the South American jazz style popularized in the late '50s and '60s and perhaps best represented by the 1964 album Getz/Gilberto, and Canadian vocalist Diana Krall.

That the two come together on Quiet Nights is a real treat. While bossa nova is traditionally guitar and vocals often with piano and light drumming, here it also gets a glossy orchestral sheen, emphasizing the songs' lush romantic tones. This is the kind of gentle tunes that sound good with a romantic dinner or late-night cocktails.

Many of the songs will sound familiar, particularly those popularized by Getz/Gilberto and remade countless times since, such as the classic "The Boy from Ipanema" and the title track, an English translation of "Corcovado." There's also a great version of Burt Bacharach's "Walk on By," as well as the Bee Gee's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" (you may recognize it from the Al Green/Joss Stone version that appeared during a key scene in Sex and the City last summer.)

Since so much of the album is similar, and similarly well done, it's hard to pick specific highlights. However, in addition to those mentioned above, I also enjoy the lovely opener "Where or When" an the playful "So Nice."

This certainly isn't cutting edge, envelope-pushing stuff. It's just impeccably produced bossa nova jazz classics with an appealing singer. Something nice to turn to when you need a break from New wave-sampling, hip-hop flavored indie pop and Lady GaGa.

Best: So Nice, Walk on By, Where or When, The Boy from Ipanema, How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Best of 2000s: David Gray - A New Day at Midnight (4.5/5)

While David Gray became a name for his 1999 album White Ladder and its hit single "Babylon," I'm much more a fan of his darker 2002 follow-up, recorded after his father's death. Songs like "Dead in the Water," "Freedom" and "The Other Side" develop the album's introspective moodiness. It's not all gloom and doom though, as songs like the upbeat "Caroline" and ballad "Be Mine" lift the mood as well. Gray's blend of singer-songwriter songs with a production that's half acoustic, half electronic recalls the winning formula of British singer Dido.

Best: Dead in the Water, Caroline, Be Mine, Long Distance Call, Last Boat to America, The Other Side

Friday, April 03, 2009

Doves Kingdom of Rust

I'm really taken by what I've heard so far from Doves' new album Kingdom of Rust. I'm not a fan of the band, but I've been listening to the album on MySpace, and it's really good. First track "Jetstream" is quite propulsive, while "Kingdom of Rust" has an epic, Western feel to it. The album comes out next week.

Personal Chart, 4/4/2009

Today I turn 32! So this is my personal birthday chart of 2009:

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 3 .... Poker Face - Lady GaGa (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 1 .... My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson (3 wks @ #1)
3 .... 4 .... Right Round - Flo Rida ft. Kesha
4 .... 2 .... Gives You Hell - All-American Rejects
5 ... 15 .... Halo - Beyonce
6 .... 5 .... Circus - Britney Spears (1 wk @ #1)
7 .... 9 .... Dead and Gone - T.I. ft. Justin Timberlake
8 ... 12 ... Talk You Down - The Script
9 .... 8 .... Sober - Pink
10 .. 14 ... If U Seek Amy - Britney Spears

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 4/11/2009

1. Poker Face - Lady GaGa

Lady GaGa claims her second US #1 hit with "Poker Face," just under 3 months after she scored her first #1 with her first hot 100 hit "Just Dance." As Billboard reported, she is the first artist since Christina Aguilera to hit #1 with her first two hit singles. Aguilera did it 9 year ago with "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants." "Poker Face" is the fourth single to top both the US and UK singles charts this year. The two countries' charts on more parallel this year than they've been at any point since I've been following the UK charts for the last 11 years. Last year, there were only 3 common #1 hits between the two countries (4 if you count "Bleeding Love," which hit #1 in the UK in 2007 and in the US in 2008). Why not do a little analysis?

Songs this decade that have hit #1 in both the US and UK (by year #1 in US):


1. Music - Madonna
2. Independent Women Part 1 - Destiny's Child


1. It Wasn't Me - Shaggy
2. Angel - Shaggy
3. Lady Marmalade - Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil Kim, & Mya


1. Dilemma - Nelly & Kelly Rowland
2. Lose Yourself - Eminem


1. Crazy in Love - Beyonce


1. Yeah! - Usher
2. Burn - Usher
3. Goodies - Ciara (2005 in UK)




1. You're Beautiful - James Blunt (2005 in UK)
2. So Sick - Ne-Yo
3. Hips Don't Lie - Shakira
4. Sexyback - Justin Timberlake


1. Give It to Me - Timbaland ft. Justin Timberlake & Nelly Furtado
2. Umbrella - Rihanna
3. Stronger - Kanye West


1. Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis (2007 in UK)
2. Take a Bow - Rihanna
3. Viva la Vida - Coldplay
4. I Kissed a Girl - Katy Perry

2009 (so far)

1. Just Dance - Lady GaGa
2. My Life Would Suck Without You - Kelly Clarkson
3. Right Round - Flo Rida
4. Poker Face - Lady GaGa

8. The Climb - Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus "climbs" back into the top 10 at #8. The single debuted at #1.

10. Love Sex Magic - Ciara Featuring Justin Timberlake

Ciara and JT zoom up 17 notches to #10, landing Ciara her 8th top 10 and Justin Timberlake his 11th. It's this week's sales gainer.

39. Boom Boom Pow - Black Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas land their 8th top 40 hit and this week's Airplay Gainer as "Boom Boom Pow" climbs 15 spots to #39. It's the first single from their upcoming fifth album, The E.N.D.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

UK Singles Chart, 4/4/2009

1. Poker Face - Lady GaGa

I know I'm late posting this, but better late than never. Lady GaGa spends a second week at #1 with "Poker Face." If she's #1 again next weekend--and it's looking like she will be--"Poker Face" will match the 3 weeks at #1 she spent earlier this year with "Just Dance." Incidentally, this is the first #1 hit (top 40 hit to be sure) that has "Poker" in its title. Near as I can tell, its the first time the name of a popular card game has appeared in the title of a UK #1 hit.

2. Don't Upset the Rhythm (Go Baby Go) - The Noisettes

British indie band The Noisettes score by far their biggest hit this week as "Don't Upset the Rhythm" debuts at #2. Their previous high-water mark was "Sister Rosetta," which peaked at #67--well outside the top 40.

4. Halo - Beyonce

"Halo" is struggling on the Billboard chart, but in the UK, it's already a bigger hit than "Single Ladies," which peaked at only #7. It's actually not that unusual for Beyonce's chart fortunes in the US and the UK to differ. While she's had 5 US #1s and 4 UK #1, only one #1 hit--"Crazy in Love"--is common among the two countries. This week "Halo's" up 5 spots to #4. It's also the UK's airplay #1. Given that it's still a couple weeks away from release, I think this could be a #1 contender.

5. Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny) - A.R. Rahman & The Pussycat Dolls

"Jai Ho" makes a 15 spot jump to #5 this week, giving The Pussycat Dolls their 8th top 10 hit. The last one came just over a month ago when "Whatcha Think About That" hit #9. Like "Halo," this is coming out April 13th. Chart showdown!

9. Shake It - Metro Station

Miley Cyrus may be the bigger star, but this week her big brother Trace gets bragging rights over something she doesn't have--a top 10 UK hit. His band Metro Station moves up to #9 this week with their first hit, "Shake It." The closest Miss Cyrus has been was #11 with "See You Again."

12. Show Me Love - Steve Angello & Laidback Luke Featuring Robin S.

Greek/Swedish DJ/producer Steve Angello and Dutch DJ/producer Laidback Luke teamed up to remix American singer Robin S.'s "Show Me Love." To what we owe this recycling of one of the '90s signature dance hits, I do not know, but this isn't the first time it's been done. In the '90s the single hit the top 10 twice: #6 upon its initial release in 1993 and #9 when it was re-released in 1997 as "Show Me Love '97." Additionally, versions released in 2002 and 2008 charted below the top 40.

16. Not Fair - Lily Allen

This isn't released until like 6 weeks from now. Ms. Allen could have another major hit on her hands. "Not Fair" debuts at #16.

22. No You Girls - Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand rises another 5 spots on downloads with "No You Girls." The single comes out next week. I'd love to see this go top 10.

34. Farewell to the Fairground - White Lies

White Lies just aren't catching on it seems, as their second single "Farewell to the Fairground" matches the same peak as their last single, the superior (IMO) "To Lose My Life." Sorry guys.