Sunday, February 28, 2010

UK Singles Chart, March 6, 2010

1. In My Head - Jason DeRulo

Exciting week on the British singles chart. Leading the pack is American R&B singer Jason DeRulo with his second single "In My Head." Most of the week, it looked like the song at #2 would top the chart, but on Friday the tables turned and DeRulo edged head. His first single, "Whatcha Say," hit #3 and also topped the US Billboard Hot 100, where "In My Head" is currently #9.

2. You Got the Dirtee Love - Florence + The Machine feat. Dizzee Fascal

So "FloDizz" holds at #2 with "You Got the Dirtee Love," the mashup of "You Got the Love" and "Dirtee Cash." It's sort of meta isn't it? A mashup of remakes, one of which was originally a mashup itself.

3. Rude Boy - Rihanna

Rihanna climbs 3 spots to #3, scoring her 12th top 5 hit. It's just one notch short of her last single, "Russian Roulette," which hit #2. "Rude Boy" is massively more radio friendly, so I expect this one to stick around awhile, in addition to becoming a big hit in the US.

4. Starry Eyed - Ellie Goulding

The winner of the BBC Sounds of 2010 sees her first single proper debut at #4, a pretty decent showing for her first stop out of the gate and much better than the first single from last year's winner, Little Boots, who missed the top 10. Her album, Lights, is out tomorrow. Here's how the other Sounds Of poll winners fared with their first singles since winning that honor:

2009 - Little Boots: "New in Town" #13
2008 - Adele: "Chasing Pavements" #2
2007 - Mika: "Grace Kelly" #1
2006 - Corinne Bailey Rae: "Put Your Records On" #2
2005 - The Bravery: "An Honest Mistake" #7
2004 - Keane: "Somewhere Only We Know" #3
2003 - 50 Cent: "In Da Club" #3

7. Wear My Kiss - Sugababes

Sugababes debut at #7 with their latest single "Wear My Kiss." It's the third single released in advance of their upcoming album, Sweet 7, pushed back several times, most notably for re-recording after the fall departure of Keisha Buchanan. It's their third single in a row to make the top 10, following "Get Sexy" (#2) and "About a Girl" (#8), meaning Sweet 7 will be released with 3 top 10s under its belt--a feat the Sugababes haven't achieved since three albums ago with Taller in More Ways. Sales have surely been driven by the fact that the album is unavailable, but still I remain a bit stunned by the continued interest in what I see as their blandest period musically.

9. Everybody Hurts - Helping Haiti

Big drop for this, down 8 spots after 2 weeks at #1.

10. One Shot - JLS

Fully released "One Shot" fails to achieve a third #1 hit for JLS. In fact the arrival of the physical single manages to elevate it 4 spots to #10. Four weeks ago, the single peaked at #6.

11. Parachute - Cheryl Cole

This isn't fully released until March 15. Surely a future top 5 hit for Cheryl Cole, as "Parachute" climbs 8 more notches to #11 this week.

12. The Opposite of Adults - Chiddy Bang

This cleverly titled cover of MGMT's "Kids" manages to out-chart its source material by 4 notches, debuting at #12. I don't know anything about this group; according to its MySpace page its a hip-hop duo from Philadelphia. In the absence of the MGMT sample, would anyone care?

13. Hollywood - Marina & The Diamonds

Nice rebound for Marina this week, up 9 spots to #13, just one spot shy of the single's #12 peak.

14. I Got You - Leona Lewis

Sophomore slump seems to have hit Leona Lewis, who sees her second album's second single "I Got You" miss the top 10 this week, as it climbs 26 notches to #14 upon its CD single release. This is a great single--should have been top 10.

26. Blah Blah Blah - Ke$ha feat. 3Oh!3

Interesting that this isn't charting higher, as she's really blown up in the US. It's up 4 spots to #26 and the CD release is out tomorrow.

29. Hole in My Heart - Alphabeat

The Danish pop act, whose second album gets its UK release tomorrow, scores their 5th top 40 hit; however, it is their lowest-charting to date, falling below previous low mark "The Spell," their last single, which peaked at #20.

35. Gravity - Pixie Lott

Here comes Pixie Lott with her brilliant fourth single "Gravity." It's probably my favorite from her so far. Radio is really behind this one--it shoots up from #56 to #5 on the UK airplay chart this week. But being the fourth single, will retail follow? We'll see. This one gets its CD release on March 8.

38. Resistance - Muse

21st top 40 hit for Muse, besting last single "Undisclosed Desires," which missed the top 40 when it peaked at #39.

Next week--Can Jason DeRulo hold on for a second week? Or will Boyzone score their first #1 hit in 11 years.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Music of 1990: February

United States

February was owned by Paula Abdul and her fifth major hit, "Opposites Attract," which spent 3 weeks at #1, matching the success of her first top 40 hit, "Straight Up." I've already wrote a whole entry about this song, so I'll move on.

Girl groups were big in 1990, with Wilson Phillips and Sweet Sensation scoring #1 hits. Expose, who'd had a string of hits in the late '80s, continued into the '90s with a few more hit singles, including "Tell Me Why," their 7th top 10 single, which hit #9 in February. They would have one more top 10 hit in 1993 with "I'll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me." The biggest girl-group hit of February came from Seduction, whose "Two to Make It Right" spent 2 weeks at #2, kept from #1 by Paula Abdul. It was the group's second top 40 hit following "(You're My One and Only) True Love," which hit #23. It was later part of the lip-synching scandals of 1990 when it was found that the lead vocal was actually performed by Martha Wash. This was Seduction's first and only top 10 hit, although they had two other top 20 singles, "Heartbeat" (#13) and "Could This Be Love" (#11).

British rocker Rod Stewart, who'd been hugely successful in the '70s and '80s, continued to do so in the early '90s. "Downtown Train," a cover of a song written by Tom Waits, was the first of two hit singles released from his 1989 greatest hits set, Storyteller. The single hit #3 on the Hot 100, and was a #1 hit at top 40 radio. Later in the year he'd have another top 10 hit with Ron Isley on the Isley-Brothers remake "This Old Heart of Mine." Stewart's biggest hit of the '90s would come in 1993, on the #1 collaboration with Sting and Bryan Adams, "All for Love."
Aerosmith's 1989 album Pump produced three top 10 hits, more than any other of their albums. The second, "Janie's Got a Gun," peaked at #4 in February, their third-highest charting single after "Angel" (#3) and "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (#1). The song's video was one of the most notable of the year. It was directed by David Fincher, known already for having directed Madonna's "Express Yourself" and most of Paula Abdul's videos. In the early '90s, he moved into films, directing a string of visually compelling thrillers--Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room, and Zodiac--before directing last year's Oscar Best Picture nominee, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. "Janie's Got a Gun" has a cinematic visual style, intercutting band performances with a grisly drama that includes actress Lesley Ann Warren.

Finally, February would bring the last hit single from German dance-pop act Milli Vanilli. "All or Nothing" hit #4, completing the string of five consecutive top 5 hits that include three #1 singles ("Baby Don't Forget My Number," "Girl, I'm Gonna Miss You" and "Blame It on the Rain"). Although I do enjoy many of their singles, this is definitely the least appealing. Late in the year, Milli Vanilli would be subject to the year's biggest of the several lip-synching scandals and would be stripped of their Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

United Kingdom

In Britain, Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2U" climbed to #1 the first week of February and stayed there all month. The single is one of the most notable of 1990, hitting #1 all over the world, and is one of four singles that hit #1 in Britain that year that were also #1 hits in the US (along with "Hangin' Tough," "Vogue" and "Ice Ice Baby"). It was her only major US hit, and only UK top 10 hit (she had a handful of less successful top 40 singles). The song was written by Prince and produced by O'Connor and Nellee Hooper, who would go on to produce many other hit singles, for Bjork, Madonna and No Doubt. It's a really gorgeous song, with an effecting vocal and lush strings arrangement. I'll write more about it once I get to the time it was a hit in the US.

With "Nothing Compares 2U" lodged at #1 for the whole month, February's second-biggest hit was the second single from Belgian dance act Technotronic, "Get Up (Before the Night Is Over)." Like its predecessor, "Pump Up the Jam," the single peaked at #2 in the UK and was also a top 10 hit in the US. Unlike "Pump Up the Jam," the single's rap and vocal were appropriately attributed to Ya Kid K, who'd missed out when model Felly had been given credit for Ya Kid K's work on "Pump Up the Jam" (see Lipsynching Controversies of 1990). "Get Up" is similar to "Pump Up the Jam," but a bit lighter and more upbeat.

American dance pop singer Lonnie Gordon never had a major hit in the states, but she hit #4 with her first of three top UK hits, "Happenin' All Over Again." It sounds a lot like what Kylie Minogue was doing at the time, so no surprise that it's a Stock Aitken Waterman production. Gordon would later score three #1 hits on the US dance chart, including a remixed version of this song.

And the dance hits keep coming with Black Box's "I Don't Know Anybody Else," also a #4 hit. Were I to pick, this would probably be my favorite single from this group. In Britain, this followed their #1 hit from 1989, "Ride on Time." It was also their second single in the US after "Everybody Everybody." Oh, and it was also subject to a lip-synching controversy, with lead vocal sung by an uncredited Martha Wash.

Lisa Stansfield scored her second top 10 hit with "Live Together," following her #1 hit "All Around the World." It has a slower, mid-tempo feel than most of her dance pop singles. It was not released as a single in the US, where "You Can't Deny" was instead the second single from her album.

Friday, February 26, 2010

March New Releases

Quite the new release line-up in March. Third album from Gorillaz, fifth album from Goldfrapp, and the seventh album from Sugababes, along with several debuts I've been looking forward to.

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (March 9). The "band" that gave us "Clint Eastwood" in 2001 and "Feel Good Inc." in 2005 is back with its third album. What must have been started as a lark has morphed into one of the biggest electronic recording acts of the last 10 years--even if they don't really exist. From what I can glean, Danger Mouse is not a producer this time, but lots of big guests show up, particularly hip-hop acts like Snoop Dogg and De La Soul. Pulsing first single, "Stylo," features R&B great Bobby Womack along with Mos Def. Check out their Web site for lots of cool promotional content, including videos featuring 3-D renderings of the island shown on the album cover.

Goldfrapp - Head First (March 22). British duo Goldfrapp returns with their fifth album, the follow-up to 2008's rather tame fourth outing, Seventh Tree. If first single "Rocket" is indicative of the album's sound, then the group is taking a new direction into sunnier pop territory that is very, very '80s.

Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History (March 1). This is another new act with a good amount of buzz. They were on the BBC Sounds of 2010 list, although they didn't place in the top 5. A surprise, for a listen to early single "I Can Talk" finds them a confident band that mixes electro-pop with guitar rock, like Delphic blended with the Editors. "Undercover Martyn," the track chosen as the first single to promote the album proper is another winner, mellower than "I Can Talk," but no less interesting.

Jason DeRulo - Jason DeRulo (March 1). His "Whatcha Say" hit #1 in the UK last year, and its follow-up, "In My Head," which recently hit the US top 10, looks set to top the UK singles chart this weekend. The album is produced by J.R. Rotem, one of the hottest pop music producers at the moment who has also worked with JLS and Iyaz.

Broken Bells (March 9). Here's what Danger Mouse has been up to, collaborating with James Mercer, lead singer of The Shins. First single, "The High Road" is high-class laid back electronic pop.

Ellie Goulding - Lights (March 1). Lots of buzz for this singer, winner of the BBC Sound of 2010 poll--the third female singer in a row after Little Boots and Adele to claim this honor. Lights is the English singer's debut, featuring early single "Under the Sheets" and current release "Starry Eyed," that looks set to debut in the UK top 5 this weekend.

Alphabeat - The Beat Is... (March 1). This Danish pop act released their second album in the fall, but it doesn't get its UK release until now. It features the hit single "The Spell" and new single "Hole in My Heart."

Sugababes - Sweet 7 (March 8). Having traded out Keisha Buchanan for Jade Ewen, the popular British pop act, now in its fourth incarnation, releases its seventh studio album. This will include early singles "Get Sexy" and "About a Girl," as well as new single "Wear My Kiss."

Boyzone - Brother (March 8). Boyzone reunited in 2008 for a greatest hits album and tour, which apparently went so well that they decided to make a full new album. Sadly, Stephen Gately died recently, and therefore appears on only a few tracks, including the album's first single "Gave It All Away" written by Mika. Also included is a remake of Kaiser Chiefs' #1 hit, "Ruby," and a remake of Boyzone's #3 hit from 1995, "So Good."

Justin Bieber - My World 2.o (March 23). Little Justin turns 16 on Monday, just weeks before the release of his album, the follow-up to his EP debut that spawned hits "One Time" and "One Less Lonely Girl." New album includes current hit single "Baby."

Gabriella Cilmi - Ten (March 22). Australian singer releases her second album, featuring first single "On a Mission."

Craig David - Signed Sealed Delivered (March 22). Craig David releases his fifth studio album, including first single "One More Lie (Standing in the Shadows)."

Lifehouse - Smoke and Mirrors (March 2). Their fifth studio album featuring single "Halfway Gone."

Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep (March 2). The former 10,000 Maniacs singer releases her fifth studio album.

Usher - Raymond vs. Raymond (March 30). It's been delayed several fact, when I first drafted this entry, this was due March 1 and already it's been pushed to the end of the month. And it hasn't yet generated a hit. Usher's bright light has definitely faded.

Ludacris - Battle of the Sexes (March 9). Features current single "How Long."

Madonna - Sticky and Sweet (March 30). A live album, her third.

Mariah Carey - Angels Advocate (March 30). A remix album with tracks from Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel.

Agnes - Dance Love Pop (UK) (March 29). This finally gets its UK release. Includes "Love Love Love," the remix of "I Need You Now," and two new tracks, "You Rain" and "Secret Love."

Looking ahead, April looks relatively for the sophomore release from one of 2008's big breakout bands, MGMT.

Personal Chart, February 27, 2010

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Billboard Hot 100, March 6, 2010

1. Imma Be - Black Eyed Peas
(2. Tik Tok - Ke$ha)
(11. Blah Blah Blah - Ke$ha feat. 3Oh!3)

Black Eyed Peas score their third #1 hit this week with "Imma Be," the fourth single from their Grammy Award-winning album, The E.N.D. It the third single from that album to top the chart, following last year's mammoth hits "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling." The last album to produce three #1 hits without the benefit of a special edition re-release was the Black Eyed Peas own member Fergie's solo debut, The Dutchess, which scored #1s with "London Bridge," "Glamorous" and "Big Girls Don't Cry."

The 'Peas knock Ke$ha down to #2 after 9 consecutive weeks at #1. Quite an impressive run for her first single. "Blah Blah Blah" is on the way up, holding at #11 this week.

10. Say Aah - Trey Songz feat. Fabolous

Trey Songz scores his first top 10 hit. The 26 year-old singer has had a couple of top 20 hits, including "Cant Help But Wait," which hit #14 in 2007. This is rapper Fabolous' 7th top 10 hit.

21. Nothin' On You - B.O.B. feat. Bruno Mars

B.O.B. and Bruno Mars have the week's biggest mover in the top 40, up 17 notches to #21. This is their first single.

23. Rude Boy - Rihanna

Rihanna makes a big move, up 41 spots to #23, landing her 18th top 40 hit (she snuck in a Haiti charity single when I wasn't looking, "Stranded," with Jay-Z, Bono and The Edge). It's this week's Airplay Gainer. The single is the third from her fourth album, Rated R, following "Russian Roulette" (#9) and "Hard" (#8). I think it will be the biggest one yet from this album.

34. All The Right Places - OneRepublic

Ryan Tedder's made a big name for himself as a producer and songwriter, responsible for some of the biggest hits of the last few years--"Bleeding Love," "Halo," and "Already Gone," to name a few. So it's almost a shock to realize that "All the Right Places" is only the third top 40 hit for his band, OneRepublic, following their #2 debut, "Apologize," and #12 hit "Stop and Stare." The single climbs 7 spots this week.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Westlife "Talk Me Down"

I wasn't taken in by Westlife's last single, a remake of Daughtry's "What About Now." But, I am totally into their gorgeous new single "Take Me Down." What a massive song.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

UK Singles Chart, February 27, 2010

1. Everybody Hurts - Artists for Haiti

The Haiti charity single spends a second week at #1. I haven't seen the sales tally yet, but I'm guessing it dropped off significantly from last week's 450k.

2. You Got the Dirtee Love - Florence + the Machine feat. Dizzee Rascal
(12. You've Got the Love - Florence + The Machine)

I'm bummed I haven't actually heard this song yet, but it sounds like a lot of fun. At last week's Brit Awards, Florence and the Machine and Dirtee Rascal teamed up to perform a mash-up of her "You Got the Love" and his "Dirtee Cash." Given the success of the Glee mash-ups last week, what amazing timing for this.

This represents the latest in a string of incarnations for "You Got the Love." The song was first recorded in the '80s, but rose to prominence in 1991 with the first single version by The Source Featuring Candi Staton, itself a mash-up with Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle's "Your Love." The single peaked at #4. Then in 1997, a new remix of the song, the "Now Voyagers" remix, pushed the single one spot higher to #3. This version featured a significantly different backing melody and is the version the Florence and the Machine remake is most closely based on. The song is best known outside the UK as playing during the final scene of the series finale of Sex and the City. Another remix, the "New Voyagers" remix, which adheres fairly close to the "Now Voyagers" remix, hit #7 in 2006. Somewhere there's also a version by Black Box, but I don't think it was ever a single. So a quick rundown:

#4 - 1991 - Original by The Source feat. Candi Staton
#3 - 1997 - New Voyagers Remix
#7 - 2006 - Now Voyagers Remix
#5 - 2009 - Florence and the Machine remake
#2 - 2010 - Florence and Dizzee Mashup

This is Florence and the Machine's second top 10 hit--following the original "You've Got the Love" that hit #5 (and rebounds to #12 this week)--and her highest charting single. This is Dirtee Rascal's 6th top 10 hit.

6. Rude Boy - Rihanna

Rihanna continues to climb, up 4 to #6 this week.

8. The Way Love Goes - Lemar

Remember Fame Academy? Although he placed 3rd, Lemar has certainly become the biggest thing to emerge from that early 2000s reality competition TV show. He launched his career with 5 consecutive top 10 hits, but then his star faded, and he hasn't had a top 10 hit in 4 years. So it's nice to see him back. This is from his greatest hits album.

40. I Got You - Leona Lewis

Leona Lewis scores her 8th top 40 hit. Will it become her 7th top 10 hit next week?

Big week next week, with new singles out from JLS, Ellie Goulding, Leona Lewis, Jay Sean, Alphabeat and Sugababes.

Album Review: Sade - Soldier of Love (4/5)

Some things never change...the scent of Old Spice, the taste of Colonel Saunder's chicken and the sound of Sade. It's been just over 9 years since they released their last album, Lovers Rock, in late 2000, but Soldier of Love picks up right where that left off, which wasn't that much different from where the band left off from their prior album, Love Deluxe. And the 8-year span between that and Lovers Rock was almost as long as between their last and current albums.

But knowing what you're going to get doesn't make it bad, and on Soldier of Love, Sade continues to deliver their unique style of laid back, romantic adult-pop music. As if it isn't obvious from their album titles--the word "love" or a variation is always featured--Soldier of Love once again mines for its material all variations of love stories both sad and hopeful, although judging from the general minor keys of the album, probably more of the former.

Opening the album is a trio of lovelorn ballads, scored with weeping strings and electric guitar melodies. Ditched by a guy she's still in love with, Sade Adu laments dramatically on “The Moon and the Sky” that "you left me there dying, but you'll never let me go." Yet she soldiers on, literally, during the title track (“I’ve lost the use of my heart, but I’m still alive…still looking for the light”). To emphasize the militaristic metaphor, the song has a rather heavy bass beat for Sade, as if kissed by a Timbaland production (he had nothing to do with though, as they produced the album themselves). Her resolve breaks on “Morning Bird,” an even sadder piano and strings-based song about romantic abandonment (“the ghost of my joy won’t let me be”).

The downer of an opening lifts for “Babyfather,” which is my favorite song on the album. “Kiss of Life” and “By Your Side” provided uplifting moments for Love Deluxe and Lovers Rock respectively, and “Babyfather” does that trick here. It’s a really sweet song—a mother telling her child about how she fell in love with the father.

The joy doesn’t last though, followed by downright gloomy “Long Hard Road,” scored with mournful strings and given a dose of hope only in its closing lyrics. Slightly country tasting “Be that Easy” is still a downer but has a gentler, more comforting arrangement. “Bring Me Home” picks up the rhythm but not the downbeat sound.

“In Another Time” is another clear highlight. Perfect for a slow dance, the song provides a long instrumental section for the piano, strings and finally saxophone to really shine. “Skin” has a nice laidback groove, and final track, “The Safest Place” slows the tempo way way down for a satisfyingly mellow finish.

For a band that doesn’t really make music consistently anymore, getting a new Sade album feels like a real treat. And Soldier of Love doesn’t disappoint.

Best: Babyfather, In Another Time, Soldier of Love, The Moon and the Sky

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Billboard Hot 100, February 27, 2010

1. Tik Tok - Ke$ha

Ke$ha rules the Hot 100 for a 9th consecutive week. One more week and she'll tie Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" for longest run at #1 for a female artist's first single (a technicality, since Ke$ha's appearance on Flo Rida's "Right Round" was uncredited).

2. We Are the World 25 for Haiti - Artists For Haiti

In Britain, big charity singles come out and shoot to the top of the charts. In America, we do things differently, as "We Are the World 25 for Haiti," the all-star remake of the #1 1985 charity hit, debuts at #2. Surprised? I guess I was, but really shouldn't be. Only three charity singles have ever topped the Hot 100. The first was the original "We Are the World," to fight famine in Africa. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Quincy Jones, "We Are the World" was a major hit, spending four weeks at #1 and eventually going on to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Rather shockingly, its parent album, We Are the World, was also nominated for Album of the Year, despite just being a compilation of songs donated by various artists to raise money and not an actual album product. The other charity singles to reach #1 in the US were Dionne Warwick and Friends' remake of "That's What Friends Are For," an AIDS charity single and another big #1 hit that was also a Record of the Year Nominee, and George Michael and Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," a #1 hit in 1992 to benefit various charities. To be fair, there has been a significant amount of charitable giving in the US toward Haiti. Doing it through record-buying just isn't so popular, as novelty singles in general are not a big deal in the US.

6. Need You Now - Lady Antebellum

They slide back 3 places but are still bulleted and earn this week's Airplay Gainer. Mediabase currently shows them at #17 at top 40 radio and that chart's fastest-rising hit at the moment.

9. In My Head - Jason DeRulo
(43. Solo - Iyaz)

Jason DeRulo climbs two notches to #9, scoring his second top 10 hit with "In My Head," the follow up to #1 single "Whatcha Say." Like "Whatcha Say," it's produced by J.R. Rotem, who continues to add to hits significant credits as one of the biggest hitmakers du jour. Iyaz's new single "Solo," which debuts just outside the top 40 this week, is another of his productions.

11. Blah Blah Blah - Ke$ha feat. 3Oh!3

While still content at #1, Ke$ha's next single, "Blah Blah Blah" is about to return to the top 10. It appeared at #7 when the album first came out due to strong first-week sales. This week, it climbs 11 notches to #11 and is this week's Digital Gainer. While "Tik Tok" did eventually win me over, this one has yet to do so.

28. Breakeven - The Script

The Script makes a big move this week, up 12 spots to #28, the biggest move within the top 40.

30. Today Was a Fairytale

Taylor Swift also makes some good movement, up 9 places with "Today Was a Fairytale." The song is from the film Valentine's Day, which was #1 at the box office last weekend, despite very bad reviews.

40. Already Gone - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson slips 4 spots to #40 in what is surely the last week in the top 40 for "Already Gone." A follow-up, "All I Ever Wanted," has finally been announced, although it won't really hit until March. "Already Gone" was released as a single in August and has spent 23 weeks in the top 40--longer than her #1 hit "My Life Would Suck Without You" spent in the top 40, despite "Already Gone" peaking at only #13.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Door Cinema Club

I featured this band a couple of months ago with "I Can Talk." Their debut album, Tourist History, is out March 1. I just listened to 1-minute samples of all the songs, and I'm really excited about the album now. I think it's going to be quite good. Their new single "Undercover Martyn" is out soon. Here's an album track highlight, "What You Know."

Brit Awards

Lady Gaga, JLS and Florence and the Machine were the big winners at the Brit Awards tonight. Lady GaGa picked up 3 awards for Best International Female, International Breakthrough and International Album for The Fame.

Lily Allen won best British female, beating Florence and the Machine , who won the Mastercard British Album award for Lungs, beating Kasabian, who picked up the Best British Group award, beating JLS, who the American Express British Single award for "Beat Again" (actually it's not named after American Express, but that would be funny wouldn't it?).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

UK Singles Chart, February 20, 2010

1. Everybody Hurts - Helping Haiti

No surprise to see this at #1 this week. The star-studded charity single, a remake of R.E.M.'s 1993 hit, "Everybody Hurts" sold over 453,000 copies this week. That's got to be a record for February. The only other single released within the last year that's sold that many copies in week was Rage Against the Machine's Christmas #1. Helping Haiti, in fact, sold even more copies than Joe McElderry's "The Climb" in its first week of release.

It will be interesting to see how well "Everybody Hurts" and "We Are the World" do on the charts and whether they end up competing with one another. Both singles are released in both the US and the UK. On UK iTunes, "Everbody Hurts" is currently #1 and "We Are the World" is #20. In the US iTunes store, "We Are the World" is #1 and "Everybody Hurts" is #56.

4. Empire State of Mind II - Alicia Keys
7. One Shot - JLS

Alicia Keys continues to climb with "Empire State of Mind II," up one spot to #4, and JLS also climbs one place to #7. This gets a full release on Feb. 22, the same week as JLS. Will Helping Haiti cooled off enough by then to make way for a new #1? Probably not.

9. Halo/Walking on Sunshine - Cast of Glee
14. It's My Life/Confessions - Cast of Glee
(5. Don't Stop Believin' - Cast of Glee)
(11. Don't Stop Believin' - Journey)
(33. Somebody to Love - Cast of Glee)

Glee scores its second top 10 hit this week with the girls' mashup of "Halo" and "Walking on Sunshine," with the boys' counterpart single just a little ways outside the top 10 at #14. It's great to see these two songs become hits. Both were among the 6 Glee top 40 hits in the US, but charted far lower on the Billboard Hot 100--#30 for the boys and #40 for the girls. Interesting that the girls did better in the UK. Personally, I think the boys' mashup was superior.

Glee's first single remains in the top 1o at #5, even as the original "Don't Stop Believin'" slips outside the top 10 to #11. Plus Glee's also at #33 with "Somebody to Love" to make four top 40 hits this week--10 percent of the chart. How fantastic.

10. Rude Boy - Rihanna

Rihanna climbs 10 notches to #10, scoring her 12th UK top 10 hit. "Rude Boy" is released Feb. 22.

26. Parachute - Cheryl Cole

Cheryl Cole's third single looks like its set to join the first two as a major hit. "Parachute" doesn't get released until March 15, yet it debuts in the top 40 this week at #26. That's a pretty impressive lead. It follows #1 hit "Fight for This Love" and #4 hit "3 Words."

27. You Used to Hold Me - Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris climbs 11 spots to #27 with "You Used to Hold Me," the fourth single from Ready for the Weekend (5th if you count "Dance wiv Me").

38. Wile Out - DJ Zinc feat. Ms. Dynamite

Remember Ms. Dynamite? She was one of the big breakout acts of 2002, scoring top 10 hits with "It Takes More" and "Dy-Na-Mi-Tee." Since then, she had a kid, released a second album that received little notice and had a bad scuffle with the law. In fact, it's been 5 years since she's appeared on the chart, the last time being the #25 single "Judgement Day."

Album Review: Lady Antebellum - Need You Now (3.5/5)

Lady Antebellum is a country threesome consisting of Charles Kelley (brother of singer Josh Kelley), Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood. Kelley and Scott do the vocals, frequently harmonizing, and both are quite good singers. Haywood does the rest, including backup vocals. The group exploded over the last 2 years, winning several Grammys the other week.

Need You Now is their second album and it's already off to a good start, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 with strong first-week sales and scoring a #1 country hit, "Need You Now," that is currently #3 on the Hot 100. That title track is the album's standout highlight, a mid-tempo, minor-keyed love song of sorts that finds the two lead singers late at night "a little drunk" and pining for each other. It's a great song that pop audiences, primed by the recent crossover success of Taylor Swift, are ready to embrace.

On the brighter side, "American Honey" is a pleasant piece of Americana nostalgia ("I just want to go back in time to American honey), although, frankly, I'm not sure what they're singing about. Is it a girl? Summertime? Literally the gooey golden bee stuff? All three? The even more upbeat "Stars Tonight" is another winner, a guitar-heavy, toe-tapping song that's really itching to get played at a bar dance floor.

A few of the more lovelorn ballads are good too, such as "Hello World." The song begins with Kelley's deep, expressive voice over a repeating piano refrain. It's a nice song, even if does get a little too bombastic at the end. "When You Got a Good Thing" is another good one, with a stronger slide guitar (that's the "country" guitar sound).

Apart from these songs, I feel like a lot of the album is kind of bland. Second track "Our Kind of Love" is case in point. It's got country-style guitar and strings, a pleasant mid-tempo rhythm, and appealing harmonies from Kelley and Scott, but it doesn't have spark. There's nothing wrong with it, but nothing really right either. "Perfect Day" has appropriate exuberance and "Love This Pain" finds Kelley and Scott doing a good harmony over a rollicking guitar and mandolin melody. Later on there's "If I Knew Then," another sad love song, "Something 'Bout a Woman," the most "down home" country-sounding song here, and finally "Ready to Love Again," another sad love song.

I'm not a big country listener, but I don't need a broad grounding in the genre to know this sounds very commercial. It's clearly meant to generate hits, which is a double-edged sword. Sure, it sounds slick, and there are some winners here, but there's also nothing really different or interesting that hasn't been done before.

Best: Need You Now, American Honey, Stars Tonight, Hello World

Friday, February 12, 2010

Personal Chart, February 13, 2010

Glee - The Mashups

Judging by the midweek reports, it appears Britain has seen "Vitamin D," the mashups episode of Glee. In this episode, Mr. Schuester pitted the boys against the girls and challenged them to come up with an original mashup combining two songs into one. The girls chose Beyonce's "Halo" and Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine," while the boys did Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" and Usher's "Confessions Pt. II."

The resulting mashups were two of the season's most memorable songs, and because they did not appear on the soundtrack, two of the season's most popular chart-wise. Both were top 40 hits in the US, with the boys peaking at #30 on the Hot 100, and the girls at #40.

Both appear on track to become Glee's second and third-biggest hits in Britain; however, this time the girls are ahead. By Thursday, they were in the top 10, while the boys were just outside the top 10. "Don't Stop Believin'," however, looks set to remain in the top 5. How fun would 3 Glee top 10s in 1 week be?



Which do you like better? While both are great fun, I think the boys came out ahead.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Billboard Hot 100, February 20, 2010

The effects of last week's post Grammy Award sales continue to be felt on the Hot 100, perhaps moreso, since last week there was only Sunday night and Monday to factor in.

1. Tik Tok - Ke$ha

Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" spends an 8th week at #1. That's the longest a single from a solo female artist has been at #1 since Beyonce spent 10 weeks at #1 with "Irreplaceable" 3 years ago.

2. Imma Be - Black Eyed Peas

"Imma Be" is up two notches to #2. The song's fast rise is quite impressive, considering this is the album's fourth single, and has been available digitally for many months now.

3. Need You Now - Lady Antebellum

The country threesome rises 5 spots to #3, finally besting the single's first peak when it charted as a country hit in November. "Need You Now" is this week's digital gainer.

7. Hey, Soul Sister - Train

Train climbs two spots to #7, matching the peak they achieved 3 weeks ago. I'm still a little amazed to see this in the top 10, which I believe is mostly a sales-based phenomenon at this point. Why the sudden interest in Train? They haven't had a major hit since 2001 when "Drops of Jupiter" hit #5.

9. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas

You know you have a massive, massive hit on your hands when it can manage to appear in the top 10 almost 8 months after its first appearance there ("I Gotta Feeling" debuted at #2 in late June 2009). It's been on the chart now for 35 weeks, and it's never appeared outside the top 20.

11. In My Head - Jason DeRulo

Jason DeRulo is on the brink of scoring his second top 10 hit, as "In My Head" rises 3 spots this week.

16. Telephone - Lady GaGa feat. Beyonce

New high-water mark for "Telephone," up 3 this week. It's one of three Lady GaGa singles in the top 40 this week, with "Bad Romance" still in the top 10 and "Paparazzi" holding on at #33.

18. Glitter in the Air - Pink

Her Grammy performance may have been the oddest of the night, but that didn't stop fans from gobbling up "Glitter in the Air," the song Pink performed in a next-to-nothing outfit while hanging from a spinning ribbon secured to the ceiling. The track debuts at #18 this week, one notch below the #17 peak of her last top 40 hit, "Please Don't Leave Me." This is the fourth top 40 hit from Pink's fifth album, Funhouse. Only her second album, Missundaztood, produced as many top 40 hits. "Funhouse," another Funhouse single, peaked outside the top 40 at #44.

20. According to You - Orianthi

Australian singer Orianthi rises a notch to #20, scoring her first top 20 hit. I'm sure this will be top 10 soon.

28. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon

At 54 weeks, "Use Somebody" is the oldest single in the top 40. It's up 3 this week, surely still benefiting from last week's Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

30. Haven't Met You Yet - Michael Buble

Did you see Michael Buble on SNL 2 weeks ago? He was great, and the appearance helped "Haven't Met You Yet," which climbs 6 spots to #30.

36. Say Something - Timbaland feat. Drake

Timbaland and Drake climb 10 spots to enter the top 40 at #36, becoming Timbaland's fifth top 40 hit (as a performer) and Drake's 8th.

37. Naturally - Selena Gomez and The Scene

Disney's latest star scores her first top 40 hit. Selena Gomez stars on the Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place. Along with her band, The Scene, she climbs 18 spots back into the top 40 this week (the single initially peaked at #29 three weeks ago). It's a frothy pop song with a touch of dance and rock (think Miley Cyrus's "See You Again").

40. Breakeven - The Script

In 2008, Irish pop/rock band The Script had a fairly impressive European launch. Their biggest hit, "The Man Who Can't Be Moved," hit #2 in Ireland and the UK. Now the group finally scores their first US top 40 with "Breakeven," which was their third single, peaking at #10 in Ireland and #21 in Britain.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Introducing Broken Bells

Broken Bells is a collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins. Their album, Broken Bells, is due out March 9. The first single, "The High Road," is this week's US iTunes freebie. Reminds me a bit of The Good, the Bad and the Queen, another Danger Mouse collaboration--that time with Damon Albarn of Blur (who also created Gorillaz, whose second album was produced by Danger Mouse--the musical connections unfold before your eyes).

Next Pop #1 - Orianthi

Snow continues to fall in DC. It's really windy and snowing so hard right now that visibility is greatly reduced. I haven't been to work yet this week. What a mess, although a lovely mess at that.

So....Over at the Mediabase top 40 chart, there hasn't been much turnover in the top of the chart. Ke$ha planted herself firmly at #1 the last few weeks and looks good to stay there a few more. Lady GaGa's been at #2 that whole time, since spending a couple of weeks at #1 herself. Iyaz, who was #1 the first week of the year is still #4, and David Guetta's hovering at #3 with "Sexy Chick," and looking to go no further.

Meanwhile, a crop of singles have been below the top 5 and bulleted for weeks, and it's been unclear which would emerge as the strongest challenger to the Iyaz-GaGa-Ke$ha bloc. While contenders were Rihanna's "Hard," now falling, and Boys Like Girls and Taylor Swift's "Two Is Better than One," rapidly losing steam, it appears that "According to You," the debut single from Orianthi will be the one most likely to be the chart's next #1.

So who is Orianthi? She's an Australian pop singer of Greek descent. The singer, who is also a guitarist, was set to play guitar on Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts. Her album, Believe, was released last year, and charted in the top 10 in Australia and Japan.

"According to You" is a fusion of rock and pop reminiscent of Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson, although with a heavier dose of rock guitar--courtesy of the singer herself. I checked out a few other tracks from Believe too: "Suffocated" is an even harder, dark rocker; "Bad News," co-written by Desmond Child, is another minor-keyed track; "Believe," co-written by Ronan Keating, is gentler with some uplift--this sounds like the next single. Definitely holds promise.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pixie Lott "Gravity"

I'm really into Pixie Lott's fourth single, "Gravity." It reminds me a lot of Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten." It's interesting that all of her four singles have been really different, starting with the retro-soul of "Mama Do," then the upbeat electro of "Boys and Girls" that sounds like something Girls Aloud or Sugababes would do, then back to the old soul soul, but slower this time for "Cry Me Out."

1990 Grammy Awards

Looking back on the 1990 Grammy Awards (for 1989 music), there are a few key differences between what the awards are now from what they were then:

1. There weren't as many awards, and in particular, there aren't genre album awards like there are now.

2. "Performance" categories (i.e. those that aren't "album," "record," or "song") were a mix of albums and singles--something I always found really confusing. How, as a voter, could you reliably compare an album competing with a single when voting?

3. The key awards weren't as diverse, with AOTY and ROTY dominated by adult-leaning pop/rock.

Bonnie Raitt was the evening's big winner, snagging Album of the Year for Nick of Time. Although it was her tenth album, Raitt had never been a major star, and the award really catapulted her career into a higher level. Nick of Time shot up to #1 about a month later, one of the last times that an AOTY award did that for an album. It's second single, "Have a Heart," almost became a top 40 hit, peaking at #49. Raitt also won best female pop performance for "Nick of Time" (the song), best female rock performance for Nick of Time (the album), and best traditional blues recording for "I'm in the Mood" with John Lee Hooker.

The success Raitt found in 1990 with Nick of Time would be sustained for the next few years. Luck of the Draw (1991) was also nominated for Album of the Year, hit #2 on the albums chart, and gave Raitt her biggest hit, "Something to Talk About," which peaked at #5. Two other singles, "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "Not the Only One" were also top 40 hits. "I Can't Make You Love Me" in particular has enjoyed enduring popularity; it has been covered by many artists, including George Michael, and frequently makes "best songs of all time" lists. Her 1994 album, Luck of the Draw, was also nominated for Album of the Year, hit #1 on the Billboard albums chart, and produced another top 20 hit, "Love Sneakin' Up on You."

I'm listening to Nick of Time for the first time while writing this, and it's quite good, landing at a comfortable intersection between pop, rock, blues and country. It has a surprising amount of synthesizers in it--I guess was expecting something more acoustic--but has quite lovely melodies. Nick of Time beat Don Henley's The End of the Innocence, Fine Young Cannibals The Raw and the Cooked, Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever, and The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.

Better Midler snagged Record of the Year for "Wind Beneath My Wings," the song from the film Beaches that was a #1 hit during the summer of 1989. Midler's "The Rose" was nominated in 1981, and she would be nominated again in 1991 for "From a Distance," a #2 hit in December 1990. "...Wings" beat three other #1 hits for the award--Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy," and Mike + The Mechanics' "The Living Years," as well as Don Henley's top 10 hit "The End of the Innocence." Although it was first recorded in 1982, "Wind Beneath My Wings" also won the Song of the Year award, a category that had four of the same nominees, substituting Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville's "Don't Know Much" for "She Drives Me Crazy."

Best New Artist went to Milli Vanilli, and then was taken away after it was found out they had lip-synched their way through Girl You Know It's True. I'm still saving all the details for a piece on lip-synching controversies, since this was just one of several big ones at the time (although it was by far the biggest). Other nominees in this category were The Indigo Girls, who had an enduring career, Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul and Tone Loc.

Other key wins:

k.d. lang won best female country performance for Absolute Torch and Twang, her second Grammy Award.

Michael Bolton picked up best male pop vocal performance for his #1 hit, "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You."

Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville won best duo or group pop performance for "Don't Know Much."

Young MC won Best Rap Performance for "Bust a Move." This was the second and last time the award would be given--in 1991 it was split into separate solo and duo/group awards.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

UK Singles Chart, February 13, 2010

Snowmageddon has given me Monday off from work, which I'll probably squander doing things like writing about the music of 1990 and playing Wii. We have almost 2 feet of snow here and anyone who dares drive in it is an idiot. On to the charts...

1. Fireflies - Owl City

A third week at #1 for Owl City's "Fireflies," which holds off a challenge from...

2. Under Pressure (Ice Ice Baby) - Jedward feat. Vanilla Ice

...Jedward, the 6th place X Factor competitor and most successful of the groups from last year. They performed this live with Vanilla Ice and now put out a recorded version, becoming their first hit. This, of course, gives Vanilla Ice his first hit in a very, very long time. "Ice Ice Baby" was a #1 hit in Britain in 1990, and was followed by a top 10 hit, "Play that Funky Music." A couple more top 40 singles followed in 1991, but nothing significant. When I was writing about Vanilla Ice for my 1990 lookback about rap the other week, I never dreamed he'd actually have another hit just a week later. Bizarre.

3. If We Ever Meet Again - Timbaland feat. Katy Perry

Timbaland and Katy Perry rocket up 14 spots to #3, much higher than I thought this single would peak. This makes the single a bigger hit than his last, "Morning After Dark" (w/Nelly Furtado), which hit #6. How well will "Carry Out" do in Britain?

5. Empire State of Mind II - Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys' solo version of "Empire State of Mind" continues its ascent, up 2 spots to #5 this week, becoming her fourth top 5 single in the UK after "Fallin," (#3), "My Boo" (w/Usher, #5), and the original "Empire State of Mind (w/Jay-Z), which hit #2. It really is pretty amazing that another version of the same song can be such a big hit within such a short span of time. Although...

4. Don't Stop Believin' - Cast of Glee
9. Don't Stop Believin' - Journey

....Stranger things have happened, or rather are happening, as "Don't Stop Believin'" appears in the top 10 in two different forms for the fourth straight week. I do love to see Glee in the top 10 though.

11. Blah Blah Blah - Ke$ha feat. 3Oh!3

Ke$ha's second solo single debuts at #11. This time she's got 3Oh!3 in tow for support. "Blah Blah Blah" is the follow up to "Tik Tok," which hit #4, and has spent the last 7 weeks at #1 in the United States. "Blah Blah Blah" isn't out until March 1, so expect this to rise for a few weeks.

12. Hollywood - Marina & the Diamonds

One of the year's most hyped new artists scores her debut top 40 hit. Marina & The Diamonds enters the chart at #12. Marina was the runner-up in this year's BBC Sound of 2010 poll. It's a far better showing than last year's runner-up, White Lies, whose first top 40 single, "To Lose My Life," peaked at #34 although also much less a success than 2008's runner up, Duffy, whose breakthrough single "Mercy" was one of the biggest hits of 2008.

26. Somebody to Love - Cast of Glee

Glee scores its third top 40 hit. This was the show's second top 40 hit in the US, hitting #28.

38. You Used to Hold Me - Calvin Harris

Calvin Harris scores his 7th top 40 hit with "You Used to Hold Me," the latest single from his Ready for the Weekend album. This single is out tomorrow.

39. Telephone - Lady GaGa feat. Beyonce

"Telephone" returns to the top 40 after a 9-week absence. The single initially debuted at #30 the week The Fame Monster was released, but then fell outside the top 40. The single is out March 15.

Next week--"Everybody Hurts" will surely debut at #1 with massive, massive sales.

Goldrapp "Rocket"

Goldfrapp jumps on the '80s bandwagon with their new single, "Rocket." This really pushes their electro-pop sound into the new wave revival. Hear it at MySpace. This is first single from their upcoming fifth album, Head First, out March 22.

Music of 1990: Paula Abdul

In February of 1990, Paula Abdul scored another major hit with "Opposites Attract" (featuring the Wild Pair). Remixed for its single release, including an opening from from "MC Skat Cat," the single spent 3 weeks at #1 and featured an impressive video with mixed live action/animation choreography between Abdul and her "Skat Kat" counterpart (actually The Wild Pair for everything but the opening rap.

Abdul dominated the pop charts in 1989, with her infectious and accessible dance pop and visually stunning music videos, most of which featured dance routines choreographed by the artist herself. After, "Knocked Out," an R&B #1 that almost made the top 40, "Straight Up" was her breakthrough single, and first #1 hit, followed by a second #1 hit ("Forever Your Girl"), then a third #1 hit ("Cold Hearted"), and then "(It's Just) The Way that You Love Me," which peaked at #3. This made her album, Forever Your Girl, the fourth album to generate four #1 hits, following Whitney Houston's Whitney, Michael Jackson's Bad (which had 5 #1s, still a record), and George Michael's Faith.

Paula Abdul's meteoric rise in popularity was not unlike what we saw over the past year for Lady GaGa, who similarly delighted music fans with her accessible dance pop and style, and like Abdul, scored an impressive string of major hits starting with "Just Dance," followed by "Poker Face," "Lovegame," "Paparazzi," and "Bad Romance." A sixth hit, "Telephone," appears to be imminent. Abdul continued her streak in 1991 with a second album, Spellbound, which delivered her biggest hit, "Rush Rush," a sixth #1, "The Promise of a New Day," and her eighth and last top 10 hit, "Blowing Kisses in the Wind." After that, Abdul's pop career went downhill fast, with a third album released in 1995 generating only a couple of moderate hits--a similarly I'm sure GaGa hopes to not replicate.

Entertainment Weekly, which is also looking back to 1990 this year since it's their 20th anniversary, did a nice piece this week on "Opposites Attract," including how the video was inspired by Gene Kelly and led Abdul to befriending the legendary performer.

Check out the Grammy-Award-winning video here (not embeddable). I'd forgotten about the tap-dancing bit at the end. How come nobody tap dances anymore?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Album Review: Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea (4/5)

Deep guitar chords begin The Sea's gorgeous opening track "Are You Here," a stately and effectively simple opening track, one of several on which the singer explores the emotional impact of her husband's death. Twice the song builds to sonic levels unheard from the generally quiet Corinne Bailey Rae. It's immediately striking that this isn't the sunny soul pop of her debut, although it's not all gloomy either, which is refreshing too, since no one would have begrudged her a full on weepy.

The next track, which also deals with her huband, seems to do so with both a tear and a smile, looking back before his death and to the ups and downs they experienced, but proclaiming anyway that she'd "Do It All Again." "Feels Like the First Time" is a little more uptempo and funky, with rhythmic drumming and warm strings, but also has an edge, delivered by the slightly dissonant piano tinkles. The also upbeat "The Blackest Lily" is a nice blend of rock and soul elements, even a little Kanye West-like vocal processing. "Closer" is a slinky and laid back adult soul/pop kind of song with a jazzy horns section coming in during the second half.

If the last few songs seem kind of breezy, the album's darkest song, "Love's on It's Way," follows to tamp that spirit down. It's a lover's lament on par with the kind of soulful melancholy Sade are so good at (re)producing. The lyrics of "I Would Like to Call It Beauty" most clearly address her husband's death ("so young for death; we walk in shoes too big, but you play it like a poet like you always did"). Musically I find the song quite soothing with a takes-it-time pacing that gives each vocal, guitar and brass note its proper space.

More upbeat songs then follow; first the particularly upbeat and lovely "Paris Nights/New York Mornings," then the edgier, retro "Paper Dolls." "Diving for Hearts" sounds like it will be a gentle song, but then big guitars increase the sound volume on the harder chorus. It's another good song, on an album that really has no missteps. The title track closes the album with a mix of sadness and beauty.

I never listened to Corinne Bailey Rae's debut. I enjoyed a few of her singles, but viewed her as lightweight. With The Sea, she's definitely changed that perception. Although it's tragic that it took such a terrible event to pull her emotions out, she should be lauded for her willingness to go there musically.

Best: I'd Do It All Again, Are You Here, The Blackest Lily, Closer, Feels Like the First Time, I Would Like to Call It Beauty, Paris Nights/New York Mornings

Friday, February 05, 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Country Crossovers

With Lady Antebellum returning to the top 10 and quickly becoming a hit at top 40 radio (it's up 7 to #31 this week on Mediabase), I think it's safe to say that "Need You Now" has crossed over from being just a country hit to a mainstream one. Country crossovers have been an occasional thing on the charts the last 20 years, particularly from the late '90s to early '00s, but now they seem to be popping up again. Frequently they are country songs that have been remixed for a "pop" market; however, as far as I know, no such remixing has been done to "Need You Now."

Here's a rundown of the 10 biggest country crossovers of the last 20 years...

1. How Do I Live - Leanne Rimes (#2, 1997)

Until it was beat last year by Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," this single held the record for longest stay on the Hot 100 at 69 weeks. An even "more" country version was also recorded by Trisha Yearwood. Country fans responded more to Yearwood's version, which peaked at #2, while Rimes' peaked at #43.

2. You're Still the One - Shania Twain (#2, 1998)

Shania Twain's second album, Come On Over, is the best-selling album by a country or female artist. Released in the fall of 1997, it immediately starting scoring big country hits--it had 11 country singles, including 8 top 10s--but then in 1998, remixes of these songs starting becoming pop hits too. This was the biggest, and like Rimes's "How Do I Live," was also a top 10 hit in Britain in 1998. Turning this "country" song into a "pop" song seemed to require little more than removing a few twangy guitars. Both songs are quite similar otherwise.

3. Breathe - Faith Hill (#2, 2000)

Faith Hill's "Breathe" never topped the Hot 100, but was the chart's biggest hit of 2000. This was the second and biggest of Hill's string of pop hits from 1998 to 2001. The single was remixed as a "pop" version.

4. Amazed - Lonestar (#1, 2000)

The original version topped the country chart in 1999, then the pop/AC remix hit #1 on the Hot 100 the following year. It was by far their biggest hit.

5. You Belong with Me - Taylor Swift (#2, 2009)

You already know this one. Swift's second major hit of 2009. There is a pop version of this song, but it's not very well known. The video features the country version and unlike for "Love Story," the pop version is not available as a single. It features heavier guitars and no banjo. I prefer the country version.

6. Achy Breaky Heart - Billy Ray Cyrus (#4, 1992).

This was the first major country crossover hit of the '90s. Despite not having a pop version, it was still a top 30 hit at top 40 radio, in addition to being a nominee for the Record of the Year Grammy. Kids these days will know him better as Miley Cyrus's daddy. She was born just a few months after this was a hit.

7. Over and Over - Nelly feat. Tim McGraw (#3, 2004)

This is so much a country crossover as an interesting intersection between country and hip-hop, when rapper Nelly teamed up with country superstar Tim McGraw for this ballad from Nelly's album suit. Although McGraw has had lots of Hot 100 hits, this is his highest-charting one and only significant pop hit.

8. Love Story - Taylor Swift (#4, 2009)

Swift's big 2009 crossover began with this single, which was remixed for pop audiences.

9. That Don't Impress Me Much - Shania Twain (#7, 1999)

In contrast to the other major Come On Over hits, this single got a significant overhaul on its journey to becoming a pop hit. The arrangement is completely different, pushing the upbeat country song into almost dance pop territory.

10. From This Moment On - Shania Twain (#4, 1998)

As a country single, this was a duet with Bryan White, but as a pop single, his appearance in the verses were removed, making him just a backup singer during the chorus and other key points. It's a really lovely song, one of my favorites from her. Musically, the two versions are pretty similar--just a slightly different arrangement, again with twangy guitars removed.

Billboard Hot 100, February 13, 2010

Here in Washington, DC we're preparing for the "snowpocalypse." We're supposed to get between 16 and 24 inches of snow this weekend, starting tomorrow around noon. That's record snowfall, and trust me, we don't handle snow here well, so it's going to be chaos.

1. Tik Tok - Ke$ha

Ke$ha leads the Hot 100 for a 7th consecutive week with "Tik Tok." That's longer than any hits spent at #1 last year except for the two Black Eyed Peas #1s.

2. Bad Romance - Lady GaGa

Speaking of 7 weeks, Lady GaGa gets her 7th week at #2 with "Bad Romance." She's getting close to being one of the longest-running #2 hits. The record is 10 weeks, shared by Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You" and Missy Elliott's "Work It." It's bulleted this week, perhaps due to her appearance at the Grammys, which affected quite a few songs.

3. Bed Rock - Young Money feat. Lloyd

Young Money climbs another notch to #3 and is this week's airplay gainer.

4. Imma Be - Black Eyed Peas

"Imma Be," Black Eyed Peas' fourth single from The E.N.D. makes a big jump into the top 10, up 7 spots. It already outcharts their last top 10 hit, "Meet Me Halfway," which peaked at #7. This is the group's 7th top 10 hit. (Lots of 7s this week, must be a lucky week). BEP's performed this song, along with "I Gotta Feeling," at the Grammys Sunday.

8. Need You Now - Lady Antebellum

Lady Antebellum jumps 10 spots to re-enter the top 10 at #8. Their new album debuts at #1 on the Billboard 200 this week with over 481,000 copies sold, the biggest first week sales of a country album since Taylor Swift's Fearless, which sold nearly 600,000 in its first week. They also performed at the Grammys.

11. Carry Out - Timbaland feat. Justin Timberlake
13. Hallelujah - Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris feat. Charlie Sexton

It's been almost 4 years now since Justin Timberlake released an album, yet he remains a potent force in popular music. This week he's got two singles on the verge of being top 10 hits. At #11 is the latest single from Timbaland's "Shock Value," which proves to be a much bigger hit than the album's first two releases, "Morning After Dark" with Nelly Furtado and "Say Something" with Drake, which both missed the top 40. It climbs 4 spots this week.

At #13 is the biggest new entry in the top 40, climbing 35 spots and earning this week's digital gainer. It's a charity release from the Hope for Haiti album. This is the same song that Alexandra Burke remade and released as her X Factor victory single just over a year ago.

14. In My Head - Jason DeRulo

Big move for Jason DeRulo, up 14 spots to #14 this week with his second hit single.

31. Use Somebody - Kings of Leon

The Record of the Year! It climbs 5 spots to #31. It has now appeared on the Hot 100 for 53 weeks.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Haiti Relief Singles

Get ready for the imminent release of dualing cross-Atlantic Haitian relief charity singles. In one corner--the United Kingdom with "Everybody Hurts," a remake of the 1993 R.E.M. single. Produced by Simon Cowell, it features 21 artists, including Leona Lewis, JLS, Kylie, Mariah Carey, Cheryl Cole and Alexandra Burke. It's already made its Radio 1 debut (see below). In the other corner--the United States with "We Are the World: 25 for Haiti." Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie had planned to do a 25th anniversary version of the song anyway, but used the Grammys as an opportunity to pull together 75 artists, a real who's-who of today's hottest acts: Akon, Justin Bieber, Keri Hilson, Jennifer Hudson, the Jonas Brothers, Kanye West, Britney Spears, Will.I.Am, Usher, Lil Wayne, Jason Mraz, and on and on and on. Lady GaGa was supposed to do it too, but apparently backed out. The one artist who appears on both records? Miley Cyrus. Both are sure to be big hits.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Leona Lewis - I See You (from "Avatar")

With Leona Lewis's sophomore album a flop in the US, I'm surprised there hasn't been a bigger attempt to push her Avatar theme song, "I See You." It's not a bad song, the video nicely mixes footage of her with the film, and everything Avatar touches is turning to gold--it is poised to become the highest grossing film of all time in the US this week, having already achieved that feat worldwide. Perhaps if it gets an Oscar nomination tomorrow, we'll start seeing it more.

Record of the Year

With the 2009 Record of the Year honor now awarded to Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," I thought it time to reflect on two decades worth of ROTYs.

An interesting trend in the ROTYs of the 2000s vs. the 1990s is the lack of chart hits. During the 1990s, five of the winners were #1 Hot 100 hits: Phil Collins' "Another Day in Paradise," Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," Seal's "Kiss From a Rose," Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," and Santana feat. Rob Thomas's "Smooth." Four others were top 10s, Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" (#2), Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" (#2), Eric Clapton's "Change the World" (#5), and Shawn Colvin's "Sunny Came Home" (#7, although I saw it suggested it would have peaked higher had the single been released sooner, as I remember this being a huge hit at top 40 radio). Only Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable" missed the top 10, peaking at #14.

In contrast, none of the ROTYs of the 2000s were #1 hits, and in fact, many weren't even top 40 hits. The biggest were Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," which peaked at #2, Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Be Nice" and Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," which both hit #4, and Amy Winehouse's "Rehab," which hit #9. Three other ROTYs were top 40 hits: U2's "Beautiful Day" (#21), Coldplay's "Clocks" (#29), and Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why" (#30). The last three never appeared on the Hot 100: U2's "Walk On," Ray Charles & Norah Jones' "Here We Go Again," and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's "Please Read the Letter." "Walk On" hit #10 on the alternative songs chart, but the other two songs don't appear to have charted at all, according to data on

I'm not quite sure what to make of this trend. One potential cause is a greater diversity of nominees. With the growth of the Grammy genre awards, ROTY has become representative of the best across genres, whereas in the past, it was pretty much all just pop and rock nominees. Despite the differential, it's not the case that ROTY went to the biggest hits during the '90s. Sure that's true for "I Will Always Love You" and "Kiss from a Rose," but "All I Wanna Do" was up against bigger hit "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men, "Tears in Heaven" against Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last," and "Unforgettable" defeated #1s by Bryan Adams ("Everything I Do, I Do It For You") and Amy Grant ("Baby Baby").

Another interesting trend is what type of song constitutes a ROTY winner has changed. In the '90s it was adult pop: Collins, Cole, Houston, Crow, Seal, Colvin, and Dion all certainly fit this bill. This decade it was rock: U2 (twice), Coldplay, Green Day, and Kings of Leon.

Grammy Awards Wrap Up

Taylor Swift and Beyonce dominated the Grammys last night, both setting records. Swift took home the evening's top prize, Album of the Year, for Fearless, her 2008 sophomore album that was last year's best-selling album. At just 20 years old, she's the youngest person to ever win this honor, besting Alanis Morissette, who was 21 when she won in 1996. Fearless is one of a handful of country albums to crossover to the pop charts with its big hits "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me." The album also won Best Country Album, and its track "White Horse" won Best Female Country Performance and Best Country Song.

Beyonce took whom the most trophies--six in all--breaking the record for most Grammys won in one evening by a female artist. Her biggest award was Song of the Year (shared with the other songwriters) for "Single Ladies." She also won best Contemporary R&B Album for I Am...Sasha Fierce, which was a contender for AOTY, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Halo," Best Female R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for "Single Ladies," and Best Traditional R&B Performance from "At Last," from her film Cadillac Records.

In a bit of an upset, Dave Matthews Band's Big Whiskey and GrooGrux King was the only album nominated for Album of the Year that didn't win a genre award, when it lost Best Rock Album to Green Day's 21st Century Breakdown. Lady GaGa's The Fame took whom the honor for Best Electronic Album and The Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D. won Best Pop Album. Also snagging an genre album award was Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, which beat The Yeah Yeah Yeahs for Best Alternative Album, and Maxwell's BLACKsummers'night, which won Best R&B Album.

Record of the Year went to Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody," beating the year's biggest hit, "I Gotta Feeling" for the honor. More on ROTY to follow.