Sunday, October 31, 2010

UK Singles Chart, November 6, 2010

1. Promise This - Cheryl Cole

X Factor judge and Girls Aloud member Cheryl Cole scores her second #1 hit with "Promise This," the first single from her second album, Messy Little Raindrops, out tomorrow. It's been just a year since Cole released her first album and hit #1 with its first single. That song, "Fight for This Love," was a massive hit, raking in nearly 300,000 copies sold in its first week (the second highest tally for a #1 hit in 2009 after the Christmas #1), and was the year's fourth biggest hit. "Promise This" sold about 157,000 copies, a far cry from "Fight for This Love's" total, but still enough to make it the second-biggest first-week sales for a #1 hit so far this year after the "Everybody Hurts" Haiti relief single. Cole's had quite a year since "Fight for This Love," notable for the public dissolution of her marriage to footballer Ashley Cole and her nasty bout of Malaria contracted while on vacation in Africa, the latter of which forms the lyrical inspiration for this single (I'll set aside the discussion of the appropriateness of turning a near-death experience into a fun pop song).

2. Only Girl (in the World) - Rihanna

In the duel between big female pop stars, the one that is arguably bigger internationally has to settle for #2...yet again, as "Only Girl" becomes Rihanna's 8th #2 single, and third this year, following "Rude Boy" and "Love the Way You Lie." Soon she'll be in the running for "Queen of the #2s." Madonna and Kylie have both had 11.

8. Just a Dream - Nelly

Nelly climbs up three into the top 10, making "Just a Dream" his 13th top 10 hit.

11. Hollywood - Michael Buble

Michael Buble jumps 16 notches to #11 with "Hollywood," making it his second-highest charting single after #5 hit "Haven't Met You Yet."

13. Seek Bromance - Tim Berg (feat. Amanda Wilson)

This is a pretty decent dance track, so I'm surprised it couldn't fight its way into the top 10. It joins the long line of instrumental dance tracks--in this case Tim Berg's "Bromance"--that gets a vocal makeover to make it a pop hit.

14. Defender - Peter Andre

He's still making music? Who knew? Apparently enough people to put this into the chart at #14.

15. Runaway - Devlin (feat. Yasmin)

Here's another one I thought could have been in the top 10. British rapper Devlin hit #31 earlier this year with "Brainwashed," and comes close to the top 10 this with this second single, a rather grand mix of strings, pianos, beats, singing and rapping.

37. Stay the Night - James Blunt

Interest in James Blunt as a major pop star appears to be dead, as the first single from his third album limps onto the chart at #37. His first album generated four top 40 hits, including the massive international smash, "You're Beautiful." His second album's singles fared significantly worse, although he did manage a top 5 hit with its first release, "1973." That was 3 years ago, perhaps he was just away too long, although in truth I think he's just been coasting on the success of "You're Beautiful" ever since getting extraordinarily lucky with that tune.

UK new single releases next few weeks

Nov. 1

Will.I.Am & Nicki Minaj (feat. Cheryl Cole) - Check It Out
The Saturdays (feat. Flo Rida) - Higher
Alexis Jordan - Happiness (download)
Roll Deep (feat. Alesha Dixon) - Take Control (download)
Tinchy Stryder (feat. Taio Cruz) - Second Chance
Nadine Coyle - Insatiable (download)
Diana Vickers - My Wicked Heart

Nov. 8

Take That - The Flood
B.o.B (feat. Rivers Cuomo) - Magic
Pink - Raise Your Glass
McFly (feat. Taio Cruz) - Shine a light
Eminem (feat. Lil Wayne) - No Love
Shayne Ward - Gotta Be Somebody
Linkin Park - Waiting for the End
Tony Christie - Nobody in the World

Nov. 15

JLS - Love You More
Westlife - Safe
Florence & the Machine - Heavy in Your Arms (download)
Kanye West (feat. Pusha T) - Runaway
Example - Two Lives
Katy Perry - Firework (physical)
Nelly - Just a Dream (physical)
Hurts - Stay

Nov. 22

X Factor Finalists - Heroes
Duffy - Well, Well, Well
Olly Murs - Thinking of Me
David Guetta feat. Rihanna - Who's That Chick
The Script - Nothing
Jason Derulo - The Sky's the Limit

Nov. 29

Taio Cruz - Falling in Love
Shakira (feat. Dizzee Rascal) - Loca
Alexandra Burke - The Silence
Akon - Angel
Alesha Dixon - Radio
Brandon Flowers - Only the Young
Nicole Scherzinger - Poison
Pet Shop Boys - Together
Robyn - Indestructable
Kelly Rowland - Haters

Dec. 6

Far*East Movement - Like a G6
Eric Prydz - Nitron (The Reason)
Shontelle - Perfect Nightmare
Kings of Leon - Pyro
Kylie Minogue - Better than Today
Plan B - Love Goes Down

Dec. 13

The X Factor winner
N-Dubz - Girls
Miley Cyrus - Who Owns My Heart

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Album Review: Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown (4/5)

Until 2008, Kings of Leon was a relatively unknown southern band that had achieved moderate success in Britain with the occasional top 20 (but not top 10) hit. That changed dramatically with their last album, Only By The Night, which vaulted them several status notches up to be one of the biggest rock bands in the world. On the back of their two major international hits, "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody"--the latter of which won the Grammy for Record of the Year--they became pop stars as well.

Come Around Sundown then is their first album recorded while being extremely famous, making it a "sophomore" album of sorts. With expectations raised, what would they do? The answer is churn out something pretty similar to Only By the Night. While that album was a departure from their previously rougher, more retro sound, targeted squarely at the mainstream, this one plays it safe, delivering a pretty similar sound of mostly mid-tempo guitar rockers. "Radioactive" shares a similarly upbeat, radio-friendly vibe with their recent big hits, although it lacks as strong a hook and therefore won't be as big a hit.

Some of the moodier, multi-guitar songs are among my favorite, reminding me a bit of Interpol. "Pyro" is particularly good, channel a dual-guitar and bass melody over Caleb Followill's self deprecating lyric ("I will never be your cornerstone"). "The Immortals" has a similarly enticing guitar melody with a more prominent bass line. "No Money" goes for a crowd-stirring big guitar rock sound.

While fame hasn't affected their sound, they do address it in their lyrics. A common cliche yes, but it plays out in interesting ways. The notion of place for example--when you become famous, does it change where you live and where you call home? On the ominous opening track, "The End," the song concludes with "I'll forever roam, no I ain't got a home." Spoken like a rock star whose world tour has gone on a few weeks too long.

Other songs confirm though, that for this band, home is still the American south. Take "The Face," another lovely song, conveying an unfulfilled romantic ache like one last slow dance. It's a last-ditch romantic plea from a rural rocker to an urbanite female: "if you give up New York, I'll give you Tennessee." Despite the fact that the band could easily afford Manhattan digs, they refuse to be uprooted to their southern origins. "Radioactive" embodies this ideal more explicitly: "just drink the water, where you came from." No Evian for them. Twangy "Back Down South" seeks to dispel any notion about their geographic allegiance.

Another issue is whether they are seeking to maintain their newfound fame. Crafting Come Around Sundown to sound a lot like Only By the Night would seem to say they are, but near the end there's the rather irreverent "Mi Amigo" that says otherwise. Horns give a south of the border flavor while the lyrics are sure to raise eyebrows: "I've got a friend..showers me in boozes; tells me I've got a big ole dick and she wants my ass home." Didn't expect to hear that here. You certainly won't hear it on the radio.

Most of the songs go for mid-tempo with an emphasis on big guitar sound. There are few genuinely quiet songs apart from "Back Down South" and "Beach Side," which pushes the guitar back to just a repetitive plucking. Lovestruck "Birthday" is mostly a mellower song, save for its more rousing choruses. Closing track "Pickup Truck" is also a bit quieter by comparison.

This an interesting album and a worthy follow-up to their last, even though it isn't quite as satisfying. The first half has generally the strongest songs, although the album is pretty consistent throughout.

Best: Pyro, The Face, The Immortals, Radioactive, Back Down South, Birthday

Friday, October 29, 2010

Personal Chart, 10/30/10

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Billboard Hot 100, November 6, 2010

1. Like a G6 - Far*East Movement (feat. Cataracs and Dev)

A second week at #1 for "Like a G6." I'd expected "Just a Dream" to climb to the top this week, but it actually loses its bullet and drops a spot to #4.

3. Only Girl (in the World) - Rihanna

"Only Girl" climbs a notch to #3, returning to the peak position it reached when it debuted 6 weeks ago.

6. Bottoms Up - Trey Songz (feat. Nicki Minaj)

Trey and Nicki are this week's digital gainer and they climb four spots to #6.

10. Raise Your Glass - P!nk

While we're on the subject of drinking, P!nk's own ode to toasting climbs into the top 10 at #10 this week, becoming the singer's 10th top 10 hit, all of which were scored within the last 10 years.

2000 - There You Go #7
2000 - Most Girls #4
2001 - Lady Marmalade #1
2001 - Get the Party Started #4
2002 - Don't Let Me Get Me #8
2002 - Just Like a Pill #8
2006 - U + Ur Hand #9
2006 - Who Knew #9
2008 - So What #1
2010 - Raise Your Glass #10 (so far)

11. Mean - Taylor Swift
13. Mine - Taylor Swift

Last week before Taylor Swift's album Speak Now charts. Next week, there will surely be album cuts all over the place. Until then, this was the last of the "preview" tracks. With its banjo plucking, it's the most "country" song on her decidedly not country album. The album's official first single, "Mine," is close behind.

19. Please Don't Go - Mike Posner

Big jump this week for Mike Posner, up 15 spots from #34 to #19.

32. Loca - Shakira (feat. El Cata or Dizzee Rascal)

Shakira leaps 52 notches to #32, scoring her 9th top 40 hit. "Loca" is the first single from the Colombia singer's new album Sale El Sol. The single exists in both Spanish and English versions, with the former featuring El Cata and the latter featuring British rapper Dizzee Rascal, this week making his first appearance in the US top 40.

37. King of Anything - Sara Bareilles

Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles scores her second top 40 hit, as "King of Anything" climbs 5 spots to #37. Two years ago she had her first major hit with "Love Song," which hit #4.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Album Reviews

Joe McElderry - Wide Awake (3/5)

Big week for new pop albums in the UK. First up is the debut release for last year's X Factor winner Joe McElderry. I'm madly in love with his current single, "Ambitions," the most purely joyous pop songs to come along in some time. It suits McElderry well, for he is undeniably sweet, and this kind of sincere, upbeat pop should be his thing. Unfortunately, the powers that be try to push him in another direction for much of this album--toward more of a camp pop sound. Unfortunately, he just doesn't have the personality yet to pull them off, and they end up sounding like paler imitations of..well, the acts they surely try to imitate.

Take "Real Late Starter," a rollicking, upbeat pop song that struts along just like many of the songs from Mika, but, while this isn't a bad song, I don't believe that Joe feels at home here. Same goes for "Until the Stars Run Out," which shoots for a darker, broodier sound, not dissimilar to what Adam Lambert put out last year. It even interpolates a bit of George Michael's "Faith" (just because the lad is gay, do they really have to reference EVERY major gay pop star's sound for him?). The only merger along these lines that works really well is "Fahrenheit," which imitates the sound of Scissor Sisters' "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" right down to the retro sci-fi bleeps--I'm will to accept it under the "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" label.

McElderry generally works best when he's singing more traditional pop, where his sincerity and youthful appeal serve him best, such as the aforementioned "Ambitions," the bright and building "Someone Wake Me Up," and the title track. I also like "Smile," which manages to be bright and cheery without going over the top. Unfortunately, the worst songs are the big-ballad remakes, "Superman (It's Not Easy)" and "The Climb," which are just needlessly excessive and uninteresting.

I think McElderry has a lot of appeal, and I'd like to see him get a chance to put out a second album (the second album is always more interesting--just ask Kelly Clarkson or Will Young). I hope it happens though. Some are sounding the death knell after "Ambitions" peaked at only #6 (heaven forbid). And it seems that while McElderry has his British fans, the international market for sweet male pop singers is securely cornered by Justin Bieber.

Best: Ambitions, Fahrenheit, Someone Wake Me Up

The Wanted - The Wanted (4/5)

I was so looking forward to Joe McElderry's debut, that I never considered that I actually might like The Wanted's first album better. When the fivesome appeared in the summer, they looked the latest scrubbed boyband, yet they delivered a surprisingly decent first single in "All Time Low," a tuneful mid-tempo pop song that offers a nice surprise about two-third through when it magically transforms briefly into a bracing club tune.

Gratifyingly, The Wanted offers up many other such interesting surprises. The biggest of which has to be "Let's Get Ugly," which is an incredibly awesome pop song. It starts by sampling Ennio Morricone's iconic western film score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (which it also effectively references in the lyrics) and layers on a strutting melody and beat not unlike something from Hard-Fi. Rounded out with some tuneful strings-based transitions that sound like key changes and you have what should become a major, major hit. I shouldn't be surprised that the song is co-written and co-produced by one of my favorite behind-the-scenes talents, Guy Chambers.

Also worthwhile are some the ballads, which manage to be more than just cookie-cutter boyband stuff. "Heart Vacancy," has a sweet, guitar-based melody and a warm vocal delivery that borders on country. It's a nice song, although a bit of a grower. More immediately stunning is the piano ballad "Hi and Low," which, if you didn't know was from a boyband album, you might think came from some moody singer-songwriter type. It has a beautiful piano tune--especially great during the soaring transitional middle. The vocal is a bit rough around the edges too, which is one of this group's most appealing traits: they don't all sound the same. "Golden" is another nice piano-based pop song, written by Jamie Hartman, better known as Ben's Brother (if you like piano-based pop, check out his "Let Me Out").

Many of the other songs mine more traditional pop territory, but are certainly serviceable. "Lose My Mind, "Replace Your Heart," and "Weakness" hit all the right notes, even if they aren't the most original songs. Guy Chambers also worked on two other songs, "Personal Soldier" and "Made," which are fine, but not nearly as exciting as "Let's Get Ugly." By the time "A Good Day for Love to Die" rolls around, I feel like I've heard enough mid-tempo, guitar-and-synth driven pop for one night (at 13 tracks, the albums feels just a tad long). Overall though, this is a surprisingly fresh and decent listen.

Best: Let's Get Ugly, All Time Low, Hi and Low, Heart Vacancy, Golden

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rocky Horror Glee Show

Mr. Schuester and New Directions stage The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It all starts in the faculty lunch room, where Emma tells Will how much fun she had at a recent Rocky Horror Picture Show showing with her boyfriend, making him quite jealous, and leading to his spontaneous decision to have the kids stage it. Barry Bostwick and Meat Loaf from the original film make guest appearances. Sam's looking forward to showing off his abs in Rocky's gold bikini outfit, while Finn is nervous about baring his body in tighty whities as Brad.

I'm not going to do a song-by-song breakdown, since it's all just Rocky Horror songs done either on stage or in the rehearsal room. "Dammit Janet" unfolds in the rehearsal room with the characters in costume. John Stamos gets a musical number with "Hot Patootie," and he's pretty good too. Mercedes really hams it up as Frankenfurter in "Sweet Transvestite." Also getting a song (I believe for the first time) is Emma, who does a sexy "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" with a shirtless (and really hot) Will in the teachers' lunch room.

In general, I'm not a big Rocky Horror fan, but this was a fun episode.

Monday, October 25, 2010

November New Albums

Isn't November a great time for new music? Where each week has as many interesting new albums as most months do.


Take That - Progress (Nov. 22). After a 10-year break, Take That successfully reinvented themselves in 2006 with Beautiful World and followed it up with the even better The Circus, scoring major hits like "Patience," "Shine," "Rule the World" and "Greatest Day" in the process. But one key ingredient was missing--the group's bad boy Robbie Williams, who, as by far the most successful soloist, hadn't rejoined the band. That changes with Progress, the first release with all five members since Nobody Else in 1995. The album was produced by Stuart Price, a busy man this year, who also worked on the albums from Kylie, Scissor Sisters and Brandon Flowers. First single "The Flood" is quite spectacular.

Rihanna - Loud (Nov. 15). With her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, Barbadian singer Rihanna established herself as an international dance pop star, and then with her remarkable fourth album, Rated R, proved her artistry with a dark, introspective work. Loud promises to lift the heaviness of her last album in favor of a fun, party vibe, embodied by the album's first hit single "Only Girl (in the World)," one of several new tracks produced by Stargate. Other collaborators include Drake, Nicki Minaj, David Guetta, Taio Cruz, Timbaland and Shontelle.

Duffy - Endlessly (Nov. 29). Welsh singer Duffy had a spectacular launch in 2008 with Rockferry, the UK's biggest selling album of the year and winner of the Brit Award for Best British Album. It's hit single, "Mercy," was the year's biggest that didn't have anything to do with X Factor and also became a minor hit in the US. Rockferry was my personal favorite album that year. So my expectations are high for this follow-up, which Duffy wrote in collaboration with songwriter Albert Hammond. Duffy's said the album will have some hip-hop influence, and that she also worked with The Roots. First single "Well, Well, Well" is sassy fun.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Nov. 22). It's been 2 years since Kanye West took a break from his rap career and released the electronic pop album, 808s and Heartbreak, an album of sharp beats and melancholy tunes. He's back to rap for this, his fifth album, although so far it's getting more ink for its controversial cover than for its tunes. Early singles "Power" and "Runaway" have failed to really catch on so far, although I'd be surprised if West couldn't lob at least one major hit, considering that the guests include names like Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Bon Iver and John Legend, plus one track, "All of the Lights," that supposedly includes Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Elton John, John Legend, Fergie, and Kid Cudi.

Rumer - Seasons of My Soul (Nov. 1). Pakistani-Brit Rumer unleashed her enchanting voice late this summer with her first single "Slow," earning her comparisons to the late Karen Carpenter. She continues to show promise with her second single, "Aretha," a tribute to the legendary soul singer.

Cheryl Cole - Messy Little Raindrops (Nov. 1). Don't hold your breath for a Girls Aloud get together, considering that their star singer, X Factor judge Cheryl Cole, has released a second consecutive solo album without a release from the group. Coming just one year after the surprisingly decent 3 Words, this feels a bit rushed, but I'll withhold judgment until I've heard it. Will.I.Am reportedly returns, heading a list of collaborators that includes Starship, Dizzee Rascal, Travie McCoy, Ellie Goulding, Ne-Yo and Wayne Wilkins, producer of the album's first single "Promise This."

Robyn - Body Talk (Nov. 22). Robyn concludes 2010 with her third release this year. Not, as many expected a Body Talk Pt. 3 EP, but rather a full album with five tracks each from Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 plus five new songs, including a synthpop version of "Indestructible," which appeared in acoustic form on Pt. 2. Hopefully those of us who faithfully bought Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 will be allowed to cherry-pick the remaining five tracks.

Black Eyed Peas - The Beginning
(Nov. 29). About a year and a half on the heels of their massively successful album The E.N.D., the Black Eyed Peas deliver this follow-up, billed as a sequel to their 2009 hitmaking album. I don't know much about it, other than that the first single, "The Time," makes liberal use of the Dirty Dancing love theme "(I've Had) The Time of My Life."

Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday (Nov. 22). Nicki Minaj is set to release her solo debut. But what exactly will be on it is a still a bit of a mystery. While Minaj has been all over the place this year, she's mostly appeared as a guest on others' songs, save for her "Your Love." Even current single "Check It Out" with Will.I.Am may or may not appear (I've read both). Regardless, expectations are high for this debut, executive produced by Lil Wayne.

Pink - Greatest Hits...So Far!!! (Nov. 15). Drawing on 10 years of hits, stretching back to her first, "There You Go," Pink releases a career-spanning collection of her biggest hits. "Lady Marmalade" is not present, neither is the hard-to-find "Feel Good Time" from Charlie's Angels 2, but other than the strange omission of "Most Girls," all the other big ones are here. It also includes the hot new single "Raise Your Glass," which I expect will more than earn its place on this collection. Some versions also contain her rendition of "Whataya Want from Me," which she wrote for Adam Lambert.

Nov. 1/2

Briano Eno with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams - Small Craft on a Milk Sea. The famed U2 and Coldplay producer releases an album of electronic music inspired by film scores.

Mariah Carey - Merry Christmas II You. Mariah Carey puts out her second Christmas album, including single "Oh Santa," a new version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and 11 other tracks that represent a mix of new songs and old favorites.

Jay Sean - Freeze Time. Jay Sean offers up his fourth album featuring "2012" (with Nicki Minaj), a current hit in the UK and in the US.

Good Charlotte - Cardiology. The southern Maryland band releases its fifth album, which includes "Like It's Her Birthday," already a top 40 at US pop radio.

Pitbull - Armando. The Latino rapper featured on so many hits this year puts out his first Spanish album.

Jamiroquai - Rock Dust Light Star. Seventh album from him, featuring first single "Blue Skies."

Ne-Yo - Libra Scale. Still getting pushed back. The UK release is Nov. 1, but not until the 22nd for the US.

Pet Shop Boys - Ultimate. Pet Shop Boys get another greatest hits set, this time a 1-disc collection that goes for breadth, picking one to three singles from each of their albums, plus new track "Together."

Nov. 8/9

Roll Deep - Winner Stays On. They've had two #1 hits this year--"Good Times" and "Green Light"--both of which are included here, plus new single "Take Control," featuring Alesha Dixon.

Tinchy Stryder - Third Strike. Tinchy Stryder's third album didn't get off to a great start with its first single, "In My System," which only hit #10, but he's still got a Taio Cruz collaboration waiting in the wings, "Second Chance."

James Blunt - Some Kind of Trouble. It's been 3 years since Blunt released his second album, All the Lost Souls, which produced only the one modest hit, "1973," a far cry from the massive "You're Beautiful" from his first album. Although perhaps that's not a bad thing, as I read Blunt has lamented the fact that he hears people singing his song while drunk as a joke--a song that when written meant something to him. This third album is reportedly more upbeat than his others.

Natasha Bedingfield - Strip Me. She's still yet to launch a first hit single in the US off this, after trying with "Touch" and the title trap. So don't be surprised if this gets pushed back.

Susan Boyle - The Gift. SuBo returns a year later with her second album, a Christmas one. Expect big sales.

Nov 15/16

Nelly - 5.0. The hip-hop artist releases his sixth album. Unlike his last, this is off to a good start with its hit single "Just a Dream" poised to hit #1 soon in the US.

Shayne Ward - Obsession. The second X Factor winner's delayed album is due for release, featuring first single "Gotta Be Somebody."

McFly - Above the Noise. The British boy/pop band releases its fifth album, which is intended to have a more upbeat electro-pop sound than their previous rock-leaning work. First single "Party Girl" hit #6, while new single "Shine a Light" featuring Taio Cruz will be out the week before this.

Glee Cast - Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album. This is self explanatory.

Kid Rock - Born Free. His 8th album.

Annie Lennox - A Christmas Cornucopia. Annie Lennox puts out a Christmas album.

Westlife - Gravity. The Irish man-band, now 11 years on, releases its 11th album. Features first single "Safe."

Nelly Furtado - The Best of Nelly Furtado. The Canadian singer releases her greatest hits, including big hits like "I'm Like a Bird," "Promiscuous" and "Broken Strings" ("Give It to Me" is missing) and uptempo new single "Night Is Young."

Nov 22/23

JLS - Outta This World. The former X Factor contestants release their second album, including #1 summer hit "The Club Is Alive" and new single "Love You More," which is this year's Children in Need charity release.

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. The alternative band releases their fourth album.

Alesha Dixon - The Entertainer. Dixon's third album, featuring "Drummer Boy."

Burlesque - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Can Christina Aguilera act? Can Cher still sing? Both these questions shall be answered soon.

Nov. 29

Olly Murs - Olly Murs. Last year's X Factor runner-up releases his debut, featuring #1 single "Please Don't Let Me Go" and new single "Thinking of Me."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music of 1990: October

Yay! I got this one done on time this month.

United States

October 1990 had a new #1 hit every week. First up was British reggae artist Maxi Priest with "Close to You," his second top 40 hit. This was his biggest US hit. He hit the top 10 again next year, appearing on Robert Flack's #6 hit "Set the Night to Music." He made his final appearance in the top 40 in 1996 with Shaggy on "That Girl."

George Michael scored his 7th solo #1 with "Praying for Time," the first single from Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. Foresaking his carefully crafted image from the Faith years, the video for "Praying for Time" did not feature the singer, but instead just featured the song's lyrics over a dark background.

R&B singer James Ingram scored his last major hit with the #1 single "I Don't Have the Heart." Ingram is also known for his 1982 #1 with Patti Austin, "Baby, Come to Me," and his duet with Linda Armstrong that was the theme from the 1986 cartoon film An American Tail, "Somewhere Out There," which peaked at #2.

Showing no signs of cooling off, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 album saw its sixth single hit #1 the last week of October. Like her brother Michael's songs "Beat It" and "Dirty Diana," "Black Cat" saw Jackson exploring a harder-hitting rock sound. Although a risk, it paid off, becoming her fourth #1 hit and her fifth top 5 single of the year. The album would generate one more hit single, "Love Will Never Do (Without You)," which hit #1 in early 1991. Additionally, "State of the World" was an airplay-only promotional release, getting enough play to make it a top 10 hit at top 40 radio.

Oldies were strangely popular in 1990, starting early in the year with the Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers hit. But the biggest oldie hit of 1990 was The Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody," which became popular after its inclusion in the hit film Ghost. The original version hit #4 in 1965, but in 1990 it actually charted twice, due to some unusual circumstances. The version used in the film was the 1965 version, which became popular at radio, but wasn't widely available at retail, in fact, there was no cassette or CD single. To capitalize on the song's success, the duo recorded a new version of "Unchained Melody" that was available at retail as a cassette. Consequently, the older version with the more airplay peaked at #13, while the new version peaked at #19. Both singles were in the top 20 simultaneously the first week of November. At top 40 radio, the song peaked at #3, which is likely where it would have been had the airplay and sales of these two versions been combined into one.

Pebbles scored her third and last top 10 hit with "Giving You the Benefit," the first single from her second album Always. The song was written and produced by Babyface and L.A. Reid, who was her husband at the time. Her next single, "Love Makes Things Happen," peaked at #17 and was her last top 40 hit. She went on to manage popular R&B/pop group TLC. Another Babyface/L.A. Reid produced song was a top 10 hit in October, "Can't Stop" by After 7, which hit #6, becoming their second top 10 of the year, following "Ready or Not."

Australian band INXS became massively successful with their sixth album Kick, from 1987. Three years later they followed it with X. The album's first single, "Suicide Blonde," hit #9, becoming the group's 6th top 10 hit. The song was reportedly inspired by INXS frontman Michael Hutchence's then-girlfriend Kylie Minogue, who had dyed her hair for a role in the movie The Delinquents. The group would have one more top 10 hit, "Disappear," in the following year, and a few more top 40 hits after that. Hutchence killed himself in 1997.

The other songs that reached the top 10 in October 1990 were "Something Happened on the Way to Heaven" (#4), Phil Collins' fourth single from ...But Seriously; "Romeo" (#6), the second and last top 10 hit for Dino; "Oh Girl" (#8) by Paul Young; and "Everybody, Everybody" by Black Box.

United Kingdom

The liner notes of Now That's What I Call Music Vol 41 (1998) state that one in seven British residents owns an album by The Beautiful South. "A Little Time" was the first single from their second album, Choke, and their only one to ever hit #1. This was the band's third top 10 hit and they would have three others in the next few years. They released their last album in 2006 and broke up the following year.

With Maria McKee's "Show Me Heaven" lodged at #1 for the first three weeks of October, several songs were able to peak no higher than #2. The first of which was Londonbeat's "I've Been Thinking About You." The dance pop group, made up of Brits and Americans, peaked with this single, their second of four top 40 hits. It would go on to be a #1 hit in the US in early 1991.

"Unchained Melody" wasn't the only oldie being trotted out in the charts in the fall of 1990. In Britain, Bobby Vinton's "Blue Velvet," a #1 hit in the US in 1963, reached #2 after being featured in a Nivea commercial. The following week, "boogie" rockers Status Quo hit #2 with "The Anniversary Waltz Part 1," an upbeat medley of hit songs from the '50s, '60s and '70s, including "Let's Dance" by Chris Montez, "No Particular Place to Go" by Chuck Berry, "The Wanderer" by Dion, "I Heard You Knocking" by Gale Storm, "Lucille" by Little Richard and "Great Balls of Fire" by Jerry Lee Lewis. Part was released 2 months later and reached #16. If this formula sounds a lot like what Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers did, it was no coincidence--the covers of the singles referenced this fact with a little sketch of a rabbit, above which it was written "It's live sonny," to distinguish this live medley from the Mastermixers' remix work. Status Quo has had a remarkably long career. Although their heyday was in the '70s and '80s, they continue to endure, having scored a top 40 hit as recently as last month. In the US, their sole top 40 hit was their first single, "Pictures of Matchstick Men," way back in 1968.

Pet Shop Boys reached #4 with "So Hard," the first single from their fourth album Behaviour. It was their 11th top 10 hit and their 10th in a row to make the top 10, a run that their next single, "Being Boring" would break by peaking at #20 (surprisingly low given how this is considered such a classic song). Although Behaviour marked the end of mainstream popularity for Pet Shop Boys in the States, they continued to have top 10 hits in Britain, even into the last decade.

Technotronic hit #6 with "Megamix," which, as you would expect, is a medley mix of their previous hits "Rockin' Over the Beat," "Pump Up the Jam," "Get Up (Before the Night Is Over)," "This Beat Is Technotronic,"

Twenty4Seven feat. Captain Hollywood Project hit #7 with "I Can't Stand It," a typical slice of British dance music of the time. Captain Hollywood Project had a couple more top 40 hits later in the '90s, including "More and More," which was also a hit in the US.

New Kids on the Block hit #8 with double A-side release "Let's Try It Again" and "Didn't I Blow Ya Mind." "Let's Try It Again" is a slow love song from their album Step By Step, the third top 10 hit from the disc and the group's 7th UK top 10 overall. "Didn't I Blow Ya Mind" is actually an older song from their first album released in 1986 (it was a top 10 hit in the US in 1989). In this US, "Let's Try It Again" was the straw that broke the camel's back: after nine consecutive top 10 hits, including three #1s, this single peaked at a remarkably low #53.

UK Singles Chart, October 30, 2010

1. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

After three weeks away from #1, Bruno Mars returns to the top spot. It's the second single this year to make a return to #1. The first was Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," which made a return to #1 the first week of the year after two weeks away from the top. According to one source, he's sold 116,000 copies this week. If so, that's more than 30,000 more than he did his first week at #1, and the third-highest tally for a #1 hit so far this year.

2. Heart Vacancy - The Wanted

Hot new boyband The Wanted see their solid second single debut at #2 on the eve of the release of their first album. Their last single, "All Time Love," was a late-summer #1 and is still on the chart at #34. I was ho-hum about this single at first, but through the week I heard it at lot and it grew on me. I'm considering getting their new album.

5. Firework - Katy Perry

That was fast. Just a little over a month after "Teenage Dream" was a #2 hit comes its follow-up, "Firework," Perry's fourth top 5 hit this year. And "Teenage Dream," which is #19 this week, was only 2 months after her #1 hit "California Gurls." Is she afraid we'll get tired of her?

6. Cooler than Me - Mike Posner

Posner continues to climb, up three to #6. Physical release is 2 weeks away, but does that even matter anymore?

9. 2012 (It Ain't the End) - Jay Sean (feat. Nicki Minaj)

Jay Sean returns with the first single from his fourth album. "2012" debuts at #9, becoming his fourth top 10 hit. It features American female rapper Nicki Minaj, making her first appearance in the UK top 40. Although his recent singles "Down" and "Do You Remember" were big hits in the US, this one has not enjoyed a warm reception there.

1o. Best Behaviour - N-Dubz

British hip-hop group N-Dubz score their third top 10 hit, although just barely. It's not tied to an album as yet.

11. Just a Dream - Nelly

Nelly returns with his new single, the first from his album 5.0. It just misses the top 10 this week, although it may climb up in the next few weeks. The CD release is November 15. Nelly's last album, Brass Knuckles, failed to deliver a top 10 hit, managing only a couple of top 20 singles.

13. My Wicked Heart - Diana Vickers

Former X Factor contestant Diana Vickers misses the top 10 with her third single, although at #13, it's far and away a bigger hit than her second single, "The Boy Who Murdered Love," which petered out at #36. Lest we forget, her first single, "Once," was a #1 hit earlier this year. Career longevity seems to hang in the balance for this one.

17. Make You Feel My Love - Adele

For real? This song is really staging this big of a renaissance? This is its 5th week in the top 40 since it reappeared in September.

20. Shame - Robbie Williams & Gary Barlow
21. Ambitions - Joe McElderry

These two singles take a big tumble out of the top 10, with "Shame" dropping 13 spots and "Ambitions" falling 15. Robbie & Gary will likely be back with an even bigger hit soon when "The Flood" comes out 3 weeks from now. And Joe's debut album, Wide Awake, is out tomorrow.

30. Mine - Taylor Swift

American country-pop star Taylor Swift scores her third top 40 hit with "Mine," the first single from her third album, Speak Now, which is out tomorrow.


Next week should be another exciting chart--as Cheryl Cole releases "Promise This," the first single from her second album, Messy Little Raindrops, up against Rihanna's "Only Girl (in the World)," the first release from her upcoming album, Loud. Also with an eye on the top 10 are James Blunt's first single in 3 years, "Stay the Night," dance track "Seek Bromance" by Tim Berg (feat. Amanda Wilson), and hip-hop track "Runaway" by Devlin (feat. Yasmin). Plus I'd love to see some top 10 time for Rumer's second single "Aretha."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Personal Chart, October 23, 2010

Black Eyed Peas new single, "The Time"

Well, I guess this is really happening. I had my doubts that Black Eyed Peas would actually release a new album before the end of the year, but now the first single from The Beginning is out. It's called "The Time (The Dirty Bit)," and makes liberal use of the melody from Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes' 1987 #1 hit from Dirty Dancing, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." It's quite clubby, and it's nice to hear Will.I.Am push their sound in an edgier direction (while he continues to produce songs for others that sound a lot like stuff he's done before).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Album Review: Carole King & James Taylor - Live at the Troubadour (4/5)

James Taylor and Carole King are before my time, but I was intrigued by King after hearing her on Gilmore Girls and discovering her classic pop album Tapestry. It was enough to get me interested in Live at the Troubadour, a 15-track live set these two greats recorded in 2007 and released as an album back in May. The Troubadour, a West Hollywood, California, nightclub, was the first venue the two played together in 1970, one of many collaborations during their careers.

They clearly go together like peanut butter and jelly. Pulling on their rich catalog of material, mostly from the early '70s, the two make heartfelt live performance sound so effortless. Tracks alternate between solo work and duets, with spoken word interludes during which Taylor and King discuss the background of the songs. Taylor's highlights include country-flavored "Machine Gun Kelly," tender guitar ballad "Something in the Way She Moves" "Carolina in My Mind" is an obvious audience favorite, although not one of mine, and his stuff can get really sentimental, like "Sweet Baby James," which he introduces by telling a story the audience finds quite funny about how someone in his family named a baby after him.

I tend to prefer King's songs, such as the tender piano ballad "So Far Away." And of course it's great to hear soulful "It's Too Late" and stirring "I Feel the Earth Move," the two songs that constituted the big double-A side #1 hit from Tapestry. "It's Too Late" has a particularly nice piano solo in its bridge.

But the highlights are when they come together, like on the "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," the sincere love song King penned with her ex husband Gerry Coffin which has been recorded by many artists, including a #1 rendition by The Shirelles. And of course on "You've Got a Friend," a song King wrote and recorded for Tapestry but that Taylor also recorded and took to #1. This song just sums up everything that this album is about: a true collaboration sincerely espousing the importance of friendship that ends with the invitation to "meet me at the Troubadour." And it sounds so, so, so '70s. So much of Tapestry is represented here, it's a shame they couldn't fit in "Where You Lead."

If I'd been alive and listening to pop music in the early '70s, I'm sure I'd appreciate this even more, since much of its appeal seems derived from hearing two greats come together years later to sing the songs that made them famous. Come awards season, I think it is clear this will be a frontrunner for an Album of the Year Grammy nomination, and given Grammy's tendency to honor the greats, it may just win.

Best: You've Got a Friend, So Far Away, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, It's Too Late, I Feel the Earth Move, Machine Gun Kelly

Billboard Hot 100, 10/31/2010

1. Like a G6 - Far*East Movement (feat. Cataracs and Dev)

Far*East Movement claims #1 from Bruno Mars, who spent the last 4 weeks at at the top. "Like a G6" is perhaps the most unusual and unexpected #1 hit this year. The bouncy, dance pop track is from the subgenre "electro house" a fusion of electro and house dance music, although I've also seen the group described as "electro hop," a combination of electro and hip-hop. Whatever they are, it's a winning formula, making "Like a G6" the 12th chart-topper of 2010.

6. Back to December - Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift continues her pre-release onslaught in the run up to her new album, Speak Now. The album's title track debuted at #8 last week, while this, now third top 10 hit from the album debuts this week at #6. The album's first official single, "Mine," hit #3 a couple months ago (it's currently #14). Probably one more top 10 out of her before the album drops, as this week's preview track, "Mean," is currently #1 at iTunes. Interestingly, although these things tend to fall fast ("Speak Now" is #48 this week), "Back to December" is still in the iTunes top 10 at present.

10. Bottoms Up - Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj

Trey Songz scores his second top 10 hit this week, a collaboration with hot new female rapper Nicki Minaj, who, with this single, finally lands her first appearance in the top 10.

11. Raise Your Glass - P!nk

Pink leaps into the top 40 at #11, up 40 spots. "Raise Your Glass" is the new single from Pink's forthcoming greatest hits set Greatest Hits...So Far!!! It's a typically great pop song from pink, with the insatiable rock-leaning vibe and cheeky attitude that embodies most of her most memorable tunes. We shouldn't be surprised the hook is courtesy of Swedish pop producer extraordinaire Max Martin, along with Shellback. "Raise Your Glass" is Pink's 16th top 40 hit. I expect it will reach the top 10; it's blowing up at top 40 radio.

27. Lucky - Glee Cast

"Lucky" is not another Britney Spears remake, but a song by Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz. It's the only track from last week's Glee to make the top 40 this week ("River Deep, Mountain High" is quite close at #41). No new episode of Glee this week means it's doubtful the show will score any top 40 hits next week, although the music from the Rocky Horror episode is already available.

34. Please Don't Go - Mike Posner

Mike Posner follows his recent top 10 hit with a second top 40 single.

36. We No Speak Americano - Yolanda Be Cool feat. Dcup

How cool to see a dance song in the top 40! It's so disappointingly rare. This is one of the biggest international hits of the year, having hit #1 in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Irelands, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK (although only #4 in the performers' native Australia).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take That Progress

The cover and tracklist for Take That's upcoming album Progress are are. The set is 10 tracks long, all produced by Stuart Price. Tracks:

1. The Flood
2. SOS
3. Wait
4. Kidz
5. Pretty Things
6. Happy Now
7. Underground Machine
8. What Do You Want From Me?
9. Affirmation
10. Eight Letters

I'm quite in love with "The Flood" at the moment. Great song.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Wanted "Heart Vacancy"

The Wanted, who hit #1 with their first single, "All Time Low," are back with their second, "Heart Vacancy." This time it's a ballad, almost country sounding. At first, I didn't care for it as much, but it's been growing on me and now I think I like it. It's a contender for #1 in Britain this week, facing off again last week's #1 by Cee Lo and a resurgent Bruno Mars.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UK Singles Chart, October 23, 2010

1. Fuck You - Cee Lo Green

Cee Lo holds on to #1 for a second week. His sales figure is about 75,000, which is kind of low compared to last year. From this point last year until the end of the year, every #1 hit except for "Bad Romance" sold over 100,000 copies--many significantly more than that.

2. Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars

Bruno rebounds with his former #1, up 2 to #2.

3. Barbra Streisand - Duck Sauce

The biggest new hit of the week is Duck Sauce's "Barbra Streisand," one of the few pure club tracks to chart so high this year. This is basically a dance instrumental; the song's only lyric is "Barbra Streisand," spoken at various times. The song doesn't appear to sample any of the famed singer's work, so it's really just a tongue-in-cheek tribute.

6. Ambitions - Joe McElderry

Last year's X Factor winner comes back with his first real single, "Ambitions," from his debut album out next week. Unfortunately, he makes a comparatively poor showing, as this is the lowest the winner's second single (i.e. the one after the victory one) has ever charted. Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke hit #1 with their singles, Shayne Ward hit #2, and Leon Jackson hit #3. The only one to fare worse was Steve Brookstein, who never released a second single.

9. Cooler than Me - Mike Posner

Mike Posner jumps 13 notches to score his first top 10 hit.

12. Broken Arrow - Pixie Lott

Here's another underperformer. Pixie Lott's first two singles were #1 hits last year, so I would've thought that this new single, which isn't on her album, would have been a slam dunk. Instead, it misses the top 10. I fault the song--it's quite ho-hum in comparison to her previous work, which was varied and distinctive.

17. Hollywood - Michael Buble

Old school jazzy pop singer Michael Buble debuts with his 5th top 40 hit.

29. Hands - The Ting Tings

The Ting Tings broke out big in 2008 with their first single, "That's Not My Name," which hit #1, and was followed with another top 10 hit, "Shut Up and Let Me Go," both of which were also hits in the US. So I'm scratching my head over what went wrong here. "Hands" seems like a perfectly decent single. Not enough promotion perhaps?

53rd Annual Grammy Awards: General submissions

Album of the Year

Keeping in mind the analysis I did last year, I'm looking at the top nominees across the genres to be the strongest contenders here:

Pop: Carole King & James Taylor's Live at the Troubadour is possibly the strongest AOTY contender this year, in a year that didn't really see a blockbuster album (like Taylor Swift last year). After them, the only other marginally strong pop contender is Lady GaGa's The Fame Monster, although it's an EP and she was nominated last year, so it doesn't feel right to me.

Rap: Eminem's Recovery is the other album getting a lot of buzz for a nod, expected to top Jay-Z's The Blueprint III.

R&B/contemporary R&B: Sade feels like a pretty good bet for Soldier of Love. Wouldn't it be great to see Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid?

Rock/alternative: Hard to gauge what album(s) will be the one(s) coming from here this year, as there's no surefire contender. Even last year that was the case: Although U2 and Green Day looked the most promising, they were actually passed over for the left-of-field pick, Dave Matthews Band. With that in mind, it could be something like Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' Mojo over more obvious choices like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs or Vampire Weekend's Contra. I just don't see an AOTY nod going to Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns, Pearl Jam's Backspacer or Muse's The Resistance.

Country: Here's one to spark an argument. A country album will likely get in the mix, but it will be the more commercial, pop-leaning Need You Now by Lady Antebellum or the more acclaimed and purely country Revolution by Miranda Lambert. Given Grammy's penchance for commercial hits, bet on the former.

Record of the Year

This is a race sure to be dominated by four singles: Jay-Z & Alicia Key's "Empire State of Mind," Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," and Eminem & Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie."

After that it gets harder. Katy Perry & Snoop Dogg's "California Gurls" was the biggest summer jam, but big summer jams only have about a 50/50 chance of getting a ROTY nod ("Crazy in Love," "We Belong Together," "Umbrella," and "I Gotta Feeling" made the cut, while "Hot in Herre," "Promiscuous," and "I Kissed a Girl"--tellingly a Katy Perry track--did not). I have a warm feeling about Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet," but that's not universal. A more offbeat move could be to throw in Florence & the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over." If Live at the Troubadour proves irresistable, perhaps Carole King & James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend." Timing could be good for Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are."

Don't look for Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," which was apparently not eligible, nor B.o.B & Hayley Williams' "Airplanes," which wasn't submitted (they submitted "Airplanes II," the alternate vresion that also features Eminem, which was an odd choice).

Best New Artist

There are 444 submissions in this category, including (in alphabetical order): Justin Bieber, B.o.B, Susan Boyle, Taio Cruz, Jason DeRulo, Drake, Florence & The Machine, Ke$ha, Kid Cudi, La Roux, Adam Lambert, Mumford & Sons, Neon Trees, Noisettes, Owl City, Mike Posner, Mark Ronson & the Business International (really?), The Script, Shontelle, Jamie T (really??), Two Door Cinema Club, Vampire Weekend (really???), and The XX.

Surprising omissions: Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, and Nicki Minaj.

53rd Annual Grammy Awards: Rock and Alternative submissions

Rock album

Frontrunners:Pearl Jam's Backspacer and Muse's The Resistance. I wouldn't count out Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Mojo, as way for Grammy nostalgia to wield some influence here.

Other contenders: Gaslight Anthem's American Slang is quite deserving, as is Linkin Park's A Thousand Suns. Also could go to Lynard Skynard's God & Guns, Neil Young's Le Noise, or Paramore's Brand New Eyes.

Notes: Robert Plant's Band of Joy was not submitted, although it was put in for Album of the Year. Lil Wayne's Rebirth was submitted, but surely has no shot of a nod.

Alternative album

Frontrunners: The two biggest buzzworthy alternative albums this year were The Arcade Fire's The Suburbs and Vampire Weekend's Contra, both of which sound easily get a nod. Also, LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening, supposedly his last album, may be hard to resist. Finally, I'd like the think that The National's highly acclaimed masterful album High Violet is a front runner.

Other contenders: Broken Bells, The Black Keys' Brothers, MGMT's Congratulations, M.I.A.'s Maya, Hot Chip's One Life Stand, Gorillaz's Plastic Beach, Spoon's Transference, Yeasayer's Odd Blood, Sleigh Bells' Treats and Of Montreal's False Priest.

53rd Annual Grammy Awards: Dance and electronic submissions

Best Electronic/Dance Album

Frontrunners: With Lady GaGa over in pop, this is open for someone else to win this year. How about La Roux's self-titled debut? That looks good to me. Robyn also submitted both Body Talk Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, although I think only one can be nominated, so I'd give the edge to Pt. 1. Kelis's Flesh Tone and Goldfrapp's Head First, look good here too. and

Other contenders: The Chemical Brothers' Further, Little Boots' Hands, 3Oh!3's Streets of Gold.

Best Dance Recording

Frontrunners: Hard to say this year. I suppose Robyn's "Dancing on My Own" and Rihanna's "Only Girl (In the World)." Mike Posner's "Cooler than Me," Kelis' "Acapella" and La Roux's "In for the Kill" should be there too. But don't count out David Guetta for "Gettin' Over You."

Other contenders: Lady GaGa's "Dancing in the Dark," which wasn't a single, but was submitted (and is a great one), Goldfrapp's "Rocket," Yolanda Be Cool's "We No Speak Americano," M.I.A.'s "XXXO," and Christina Aguilera's "Not Myself Tonight."

Note: Don't look for Kylie's "All the Lovers," since it wasn't submitted.

53rd Annual Grammy Awards: Rap and R&B Submissions

Rap Album

Frontrunners: This is a race between two albums: Eminem's Recovery and Jay-Z's The Blueprint III, both of which are also strong contenders for album of the year. Eminem's sold better, but both have generated major hits likely to be nominated for Record of the Year. I'd give Eminem the edge at this point.

Other contenders: B.o.B's The Adventures of Bobby Ray, Drake's Thank Me Later, 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct, Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon, The Roots' How I Got Over, and Big Boi's Sir Luscious Left Foot.

Rap Solo Performance

Frontrunners: This is Eminem's to lose for "Not Afraid."

Other contenders: Nicki Minaj "Your Love," Drake "Over," Kanye West "Power," Ludacris "How Low,"

Of note: Glee's Matthew Morrison was submitted for "Gold Digger"...hopefully as a joke.

Rap/Sung Collaboration

Frontrunners: The state of rap and pop music in as it is, this is much more competitive than the solo category. Major submissions include Jay-Z & Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind," Eminem & Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie," and B.o.B & Bruno Mars' "Nothin' on You."

Other contenders: "Wake Up! Everybody" by John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common; "Down" by Jay Sean & Lil Wayne; "Hard" by Rihanna and Jeezy; "Check It Out" by Will.I.Am and Nicki Minaj; "Bedrock" by Young Money & Lloyd; "Hot Tottie" by Usher & Jay-Z;
and "Deuces" by Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall.

Of note: Nice to see Daniel Merriweather & Wale on the list for "Change." Tracks that are more songs than rap like "California Gurls" and "Break Your Heart" were submitted in pop. "Airplanes," although arguably more rap, was also submitted in pop (although as "Airplanes II").

Contemporary R&B Album

Frontrunners: Because so many potential nominees submitted in pop instead, this category would be the easy one for this year. Seriously--only 27 submissions? Will they even be able to have 5 nominees? One of the biggest questions about this year's submissions was were Janelle Monae would stick her groundbreaking genre-hopping album The ArchAndroid. Pop? Alternative? R&B? The answer is R&B, which does seem the most logical choice, and given the lack of submissions, should give her a good shot at a nod. Despite its trouble finding hit singles, Usher's Raymond v. Raymond looks pretty good here too and, although ridiculous, so does Beyonce's live album, I Am...Yours.

Other contenders: Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, The-Dream, Trey Songz

R&B Album

Frontrunners: Another big question this year was where Sade would submit. The answer is here, making Soldier of Love the frontrunner here and a likely AOTY nominee. Sade won pop album in 2002 for their last album, Lovers Rock. I also expect to see Alicia Keys' The Elements of Freedom, John Legend & The Roots' Wake Up! and Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part II.

Other contenders: Fantasia, Kem and Monica.

53rd Annual Grammy Awards: Pop Submissions

A lot of submissions that could have gone into contemporary R&B or dance categories ended up here, making pop more competitive this year than I expected. Pop album in particular is a doozy--358 submissions, vs. only 27 for contemporary R&B album and 72 for electronic/dance album.

Carole King and James Taylor are the frontrunners in the pop category this year for Live at the Troubadour. Their album is a strong contender for Album of the Year and thus the strongest contender for pop album as well. Plus, the combination makes for lots of potential nods--female, male and collaboration. Lady GaGa is also, of course, a very strong contender. Glee submitted songs in female, male, and collaboration, plus two in duo/group.

Pop Vocal Album

Frontunners: Carole King and James Taylor have this in the bag. They'll probably win. Their strongest competition is Lady GaGa, who submitted The Fame Monster--despite The Fame having been submitted in dance last year instead of pop. John Mayer, a perennial Grammy favorite, will probably get a nod for his Battle Studies.

Potential contenders: I'd love to see a nod for Corinne Bailey Rae's The Sea, which ended up here and not in an R&B category. Same goes for Rihanna's Rated R, which doesn't have as much buzz as a strong contender as I'd hoped. Maroon 5, Adam Lambert, Jack Johnson, Paul McCartney, OneRepublic, Susan Boyle, Norah Jones, Sara Bareilles and Sheryl Cole should all have a legitimate shot at this. Katy Perry was submitted, but despite having some great singles, it's a poor album. I really hope it wouldn't get nominated here.

Of note: Kylie Minogue and Mark Ronson submitted here instead of in dance/electronic. I think this was a particular error for Kylie. No way Aphrodite's getting a pop album nod, but it might have had a shot over in dance. Two Door Cinema Club (not really a contender, but a group I like) submitted here instead of alternative. No Glee submissions for pop album (Volume 1 was submitted in the soundtracks category)

Pop Female

Frontrunners: Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" has to be the hands down frontrunner at this point. Other's that I imagine are strong are Rihanna's "Rude Boy," Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream," Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," and Carole King's "So Far Away" (a contender mostly because the album will be).

Potential contenders: Corinne's Bailey Rae's soulful "I'd Do It All Again" and Britney Spears' "3," both of which could have ended up in R&B and dance categories, respectively. Also Sara Bareilles for "King of Anything" and Sheryl Cole (a Grammy favorite) for "Summer Day." A nostalgic nod could go to Carly Simon, who submitted "You Belong to Me" and "Let the River Run." If Susan Boyle is still generating interest, her "Wild Horses" could be a possibility. Same goes with Norah Jones' "Chasing Pirates."

Of note: Kylie Minogue submitted "Get Outta My Way" and Beyonce submitted two songs--"Fever" and a live version of "Halo." Also, Christina Aguilera's "You Lost Me" was submitted. Some people think she a shot--I do not. Same goes for a live version of Pink's "Glitter in the Air." Nice to see Glee's Lea Michele submitted for "Rain on My Parade."

Pop Male

Frontrunners: As usual, there are more strong female choices than male ones (although there was actually 1 more submission in the male category than in the female one). I think the most obvious choice has to be Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet," which I think is also a contender for ROTY. I also think Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are" is strong contender, and it's peaking at the perfect time to possibly also be a good cotender for ROTY. After those, I imagine it will be a mix of AC-leaning, R&B-leaning and legacy nominees. The AC choice would probably be John Mayer for "Half of My Heart," the R&Bish one should be Taio Cruz's "Dynamite" (although it could as easily be Jason DeRulo's "Whatcha Say"), and the legacy nod will probably go to James Taylor for "Carolina in My Mind."

Potential contenders: Jack Johnson for "You and Your Heart," Adam Lambert for "Whataya Want from Me," Jason Mraz for "A Beautiful Mess," Seal for "Secret," Robert Plant for "Harm's Swift Way," Rob Thomas for "Someday," Sting for "Roxanne" or "Soul Cake," and Paul McCartney for "My Love."

Of note: Glee's nod in this category was Mark Salling's great rendition of "Sweet Caroline." Also, can Grammy folks resist giving one last nomination to Michael Jackson, submitted here for "This Is It?"

Pop Duo/Group

Frontrunners: This category is kind of snooze this year. The thing is that the two songs that most people would probably consider frontrunners weren't eligible: Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" and La Roux's "Bulletproof"....However, rather sneakily they actually were submitted since "live" versions were recorded and released within the eligibility window. So will Grammy be enticed to nominate live versions of the actual songs it wants to nominate? It worked in the past for Maroon 5, who was nominated for a live version of "This Love," after the original was no longer eligible (and it won too). Speaking of which, their "Misery" is probably a strong contender, as is Paramore's "The Only Exception." Also would expect a strong showing for The Script's "Breakeven" or Sade's "Babyfather," the only pop submission for Sade this time around.

Potential contenders: A love for Ryan Tedder could boost OneRepublic's "Secrets," submitted over "All the Right Moves." Also Bon Jovi, who's been nominated a few times in recent years, submitted "What Do You Got?" and Lifehouse did "Halfway Gone."

Of Note: Two Glee songs were submitted, the regionals version of "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Defying Gravity." It doesn't have a shot in hell, but it's nice to see Scissor Sisters' "Fire with Fire" submitted. MGMT's "Congratulations" is an odd choice. No submissions from Black Eyed Peas--I think songs like "Meet Me Halfway" and "Imma Be" would be ineligible, since The E.N.D. won an award last year.

Pop Collaboration

Frontrunners: Four songs look pretty good here: Lady GaGa and Beyonce's "Telephone," Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg's "California Gurls," Usher and Will.I.Am's "OMG," and Carole King and James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend."

Potential contenders: B.o.B. submitted "Airplanes II," the version of the song with Eminem and Hayley Williams, rather than just Hayley. This seems like an odd choice, since it's not the popular version, but nevertheless, it's probably a good contender, although if this odd choice counts against it, perhaps Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars' "Billionaire" could get the nod instead.

Of note: Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli submitted their "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," while Glee submitted the Kristin Chenoweth collaboration of "Alone." Gorillaz submitted "Stylo."

Grammy Submissions

The lists of what albums and tracks were submitted for contention for the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards leaked late Friday night. Due to my expectation this would happen (and careful monitoring), I have reviewed the lists! (Last year I didn't get to).

If you're going to make a credible prediction of what's going to be nominated, you really need to review these lists, since nomination is predicated on submission and there are lots of particulars about how it works. Artists can have multiple submissions in a particular category, but can only receive 1 nomination, so generally submitting more than 1 thing is a bad idea, since it can split votes. Consequently, it's good to know things like how last year Taylor Swift submitted "You Belong to Me" for Record of the Year over "Love Story," so no point predicting "Love Story" would be nominated, or how in 2007 Kanye West's "Stronger" wasn't submitted (a major oversight).

Also, it's up to the record companies to decide what categories to submit music to, and they can only submit something twice--once in a genre category and once in a general category (Record or Album of the Year). In today's pop landscape, knowing what genre a particular song has been submitted to is critical, since so many songs could go pop, dance, or R&B.

This year's eligibility window was a long one--13 months from September 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010.

Later in the year I'll make my nomination predictions, but for now, I want to go through the submission lists and highlight frontrunners, interesting submissions, and even some omissions.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rumer "Aretha"

Not much happened on the Hot 100 today. Another week at #1 for Bruno Mars (go Bruno!). But otherwise, not much to tell. So instead, I'd rather share Rumer's new single. I was quite enchanted with her first single, "Slow," and now she's back with this soulful tribute to Aretha Franklin. I'm really looking forward to this album.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Glee "Duets"

Mr. Schuester assigns the kids to sing duets, but that’s just the background for the big story—new kid Sam has finally joined the glee club after Puck gets sent to juvenile detention. Rachel concocts a scheme to make the new guy feel welcome by throwing the week’s singing contest, while Kurt falls for him and convinces him to duet with him. But he’s got his eye on someone else…Quinn. This episode has some fun moments, but it’s a knockout. Next week looks like it’s going to be fantastic though…Rocky Horror.

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (Elton John & Kiki Dee) – Finn & Rachel. Finn and Rachel give a rousing, if traditional read of the late ‘70s classic.

River Deep, Mountain High (Ike & Tina Turner) – Mercedes & Santana. The girls team up for an equally peppy rendition of the campy classic. Is there a song more energetic than this on record? (I admit, I was a big fan of the 1996 Celine Dion version.)

Le Jazz Hot (From “Victor/Victoria”) – Kurt. Kurt ditches Sam--after being convinced singing with him will lead to Sam’s premature departure from the club—and strikes out to perform a duet by himself from the classic musical. Chris Colfer does a good job with this and he’s got a really fun costume. Wow, he just hit a really high note. While everyone’s been good, this is the standout performance so far.

Sing! (From “A Chorus Line”) – Tina and Mike. Another showtune gives Mike his best vocal showcase so far. It’s nice to see him getting some screentime for a change. I don’t really care for the song, but they perform it well.

Born Again? (not sure) – Finn & Rachel. Rachel dressed up as nun and Finn a priest (with jeans) in their attempt to “throw” the duets competition.

Lucky (Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat) – Sam & Quinn. I’m really enjoying Chord Overstreet, who may quickly become the bets male singer on the show. They sound great together. But this is yet another song I don’t really care for.

Get Happy (Judy Garland)/Happy Days Are Here Again (Barbra Streisand) – Kurt & Rachel. Showtunes…again. This is one of those montage moments, although I do always enjoy Rachel does Barbra. They look like they’re having fun singing together, which is cool.

Booker Prize 2010

In a surprising upset, Howard Jacobson won the Booker Prize for The Finkler Question. I got further on the Booker shortlist this year than ever before, having cracked four of the six titles (I only made it through three though, as I found Peter Carey's book so dull I had to put it down after 100 pages).

Oddsmakers gave the advantage to Tom McCarthy's C, which was a strange, but enjoyable read. Also strange was Damon Galgut's In a Strange Room, which I enjoyed, even though the protagonist was annoying spineless. I was rooting for Emma Donogue's Room, my favorite book I've read so far this year. It's an amazing story told from the point of view of a 5-year-old boy whose lived his whole life trapped in a room with his mother, who was abducted 7 years prior by a creep who keeps her locked up and rapes her regularly. As dark and disturbing as such a premise could be--and it has its moments of breathtaking cruelty--the overall tone is actually one of youthful discovery, as the boy begins to fully grasp how small his world is and the larger world beyond.

Booker Prize Pop Music Trivia: Which book included a reference to a pop musician who had a UK #1 hit earlier this year? Which artist was it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Music of 1990: September

Late again with this...but I promise to finish out the year. I guess I'm not really that excited about September. None of the month's #1 hits rank among my favorites from the year, although there are a few interesting hits from this month.

United States

The month's biggest hit was "Blaze of Glory," Jon Bon Jovi's solo single. It's his only #1 or even top 10 hit as a soloist. The song is from the soundtrack to Young Guns II, which, like Madonna's I'm Breathless album, features songs both "from" and "inspired by" the film. It's apparently aimed at re-creating the flavor of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive," although I think "Blaze of Glory" is better.

Wilson Phillips followed up their #1 hit "Hold On" with a second #1, "Release Me," making them the first act to score a second #1 hit in 1990 (Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey would also do so). "Release Me" is less bouncy than "Hold On," but otherwise it's similarly adult-oriented mid-tempo harmonic pop. It was actually a bigger hit at top 40 radio than "Hold On," which actually wasn't a #1 there, while "Release Me" spent 3 weeks atop the radio pop chart and 2
weeks at #1 on the Hot 100.

Also scoring their second major hit of the year was trio Bell Biv Devoe. "Do Me!" hit #2 in September, charting higher than their previous single, "Poison," although I think most people would consider "Poison" to be their bigger hit. I've actually always liked this better, despite how its overtly sexual tones sound quite immature by today's standards. This was the last major hit from the former New Edition members, who would go on to have a few more top 40 hits, but none were nearly as big as their first two.

Girl groups were a dime a dozen in 1990. Seduction, Cover Girls, Expose, En Vogue, Wilson Phillips...etc. Apart from Wilson Phillips, the only other one to score a #1 hit was Sweet Sensation. "If Wishes Came True" sounds really quite unremarkable to my ears now. I much prefer the single that preceded it, their remake of The Supremes' "Love Child," which hit #13. "If Wishes Came True" was the group's third and final top 40 single. Way to go out with a bang!

The month's final #1 hit (there were 4) was Nelson's "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection," the single from the duo with the long blond locks whose sibling Tracy starred on the hit TV show Father Dowling Mysteries (a favorite in my house at the time). This is serviceable pop rock masquerading as "hair band" music. Before you label them one-hit wonders, consider that they had a top 10 hit following this, "After the Rain," (#6), plus two others that reached the top 40 in 1991.

Speaking of hairbands, here's one with a little more credibility. Poison are best known for their #1 hit "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," but the band had other hits include two top 5 singles in 1990. The first of which, "Unskinny Bop," was the first single from their album Flesh & Blood, which the band recorded live. It's got a great bassline and a ridiculous although catchy lyric. I mean, just what is an "unskinny" bop? The fat dance? Poison member Bret Michaels managed to achieve quite a bit of notoriety this year due to his health scare and appearances on reality shows American Idol and America's Got Talent.

MC Hammer followed his massive hit "U Can't Touch This" with the amazingly subdued "Have You Seen Her," a rap remake of the Chi-Lites #3 hit from 1971. Most rap songs popular at the time sound a lot like dance pop, so this ballad was a bit of an outlier. "Have You Seen Her" hit #4.

Between his Batman soundtrack and the hit-filled album Diamonds and Pearls, Prince made another movie, Graffiti Bridge, a sequel to Purple Rain and Prince's fourth movie after Under the Cherry Moon and Sign 'o' the Times. The movie may have been a dud, but it produced a decent top 10 hit, "Thieves in the Temple," one of Prince's darker songs.

I imagine New Kids on the Block didn't intend "Tonight" to be a swan song, but it's really quite perfect for it, given that the song was their last top 10 hit while paying homage lyrically to many of their others: "Remember when I said girl please don't go and how I'd be loving you forever. Taught you 'bout hanging tough as long you got the right stuff." It's also a pretty unusual song, with a changing tempo that slows down for the strings-backed versuses and speeds up for the choruses. In a way, it was a pretty gutsy release as boyband singles go, certainly one of their most interesting, even if it's not remembered as one of their biggest. "Tonight" peaked at #7 and was their ninth consecutive top 10 hit. They would have one more top 20 single a few years later, "If You Go Away," their last major hit until their 2008 reunion gave them an 11th top 40 hit, "Summertime."

Also making the top 10 in September 1990 were rock band Faith No More's "Epic" and Johnny Gill's "My, My, My," his smooth R&B follow-up to his #3 hit "Rub You The Right Way." It was his last top 10 hit.

United Kingdom

Lots of songs made the top 10 in the UK in September, but I'm going to talk about a few of them.

Maria McKee's "Show Me Heaven" reached #1 the last week of September and stayed there for 4 weeks, one of eight singles to stay that long at #1 in 1990 (only Elton Johns' 5-week run with "Sacrifice" was longer). This is far and away the biggest hit for the American singer, who's never had a top 40 hit in her native country. The song is from the soundtrack to Days of Thunder, the first of several movies Tom Cruise and his ex-wife Nicole Kidman collaborated on.

Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" was a #1 hit in the US in 1974. Sixteen years later it also topped the UK chart after appearing in a Levi's commercial. In fact, it was a hit all over Europe in 1990. The song would resurface again in 2001 as a sample in Shaggy's #1 hit "Angel."

Deee-Lite hit #2 with "Groove Is In the Heart," which would also be a top 10 hit in the US later in the year, reaching #4. It was the group's biggest pop hit, paired with "What Is Love." It was also a #1 hit on the American dance chart, their first of six dance chart-toppers.

Scottish pop group Deacon Blue's EP Four Bacharach and David Song spent 2 weeks at #2 with its track "I'll Never Fall Love Again" getting the most airplay.

Other top 10 hits from the month:

Betty Boo's "Where Are Baby" hit #3.
KLF hit #5 with "What Time Is Love."
The Farm's "Groovy Train" hit #6.
Adamski hit #7 with "The Space Jungle."
Snap's "Cult of Snap" hit #8
Jason Donovan hit #9 with "Rhythm of the Rain"

And if that's not all...New Kids' "Tonight" (mentioned above) peaked at #3. George Michael's "Praying for Time" hit #6 (I'll talk about that in October for the US). Jive Bunny and the MasterMixers "Can Can You Party" reached #8. And Mariah Carey's "Vision of Love" hit #9. Whew.