Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Music of 1991: November

Prince was a pop icon of the '80s, but managed to keep his career hot through the first half of the '90s too. "Cream" was his fifth and final #1 hit, the quick follow-up to "Gett Off," which peaked at #21 just the month prior. Although I personally like "Gett Off" better, this is an undeniably good Prince song, with a quirky melody. And what's it about really?

The first two singles from Michael Bolton's Time, Love & Tenderness reached the top 10, but he scored the album's biggest hit with its third release, a remake of "When a Man Loves a Woman," which became Bolton's second (and last) #1 hit. The original version by Percy Sledge was also a #1 hit 25 years prior.

Karyn White was never hotter than she was in November 1991, when she scored her biggest hit with #1 single "Romantic." I've always liked this song, and listening to it lately, it's cemented a position as one of my favorite singles of 1991. The song has a vibrant upbeat production courtesy of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the men responsible for Janet Jackson's Control and Rhythm Nations (you can hear definite similarities to Rhythm Nation in the production of White's 1991 album, Ritual of Love). I also like classy luxe video shot by Matthew Rolston, a longtime music video director (Miley Cyrus' "The Climb," Sugababes' "Push the Button," Destiny's Child "Bootylicious," En Vogue "My Lovin'").

November was chalk full of #1 hits--four of them--the last of which came from PM Dawn with their first hit single, "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss," a vibrant piece of hip-hop dance pop. The song liberally sampled Spandau Ballet's "True," which hit #4 in 1983.

Canadian rocker Bryan Adams followed the year's biggest hit, "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," with this #2 hit, upbeat pop/rock single "Can't Stop This Thing We Started." His 1991 album, Waking Up the Neighbours, would score three more top 40 hits in 1992.

Rap group Naughty by Nature scored one the year's biggest mainstream hip-hop hits with the anatomically minded "O.P.P." (#6). A minor pop culture phenomenon, the song, about cheating, cleverly hints at the female and male sex organs as "another word to call a cat a kitty" and "a five-letter word rhyming with cleanest or meanest," respectively. When compared to Rihanna's "suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion," it seems rather tame, but at the time it had everyone in titters. The group would go on to have a few more top 40 hits, including top 10 hit "Hip Hop Hooray," but nothing was ever as memorable as this.

Amy Grant reached the top 10 for the third time in 1991 with the ballad "That's What Love is For" (#7). Sandwiched between her album's bigger hits--#1 "Baby Baby," #2 "Every Heartbeat" and 1992's bubbly top 10 hit "Good for Me," this one never really struck my fancy.

November 1991 was the last month of musical history where most people hadn't heard of Nirvana, meaning that it was also the last call for hair band rock, that breed of heavy metal rockers that shined so brightly in the '80s but faded in the early '90s as alternative rock and grunge became rock's mainstream sound. Guns N Roses were certainly one of the biggest heavy metal groups, having scored big with their 1987 album Appetite for Destruction and its hit singles like "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child o' Mine." In 1991, GNR delivered the one-two punch of Use Your Illusion volumes 1 and 2, two separate albums released on the same day. Although volume 2 initially took off faster, thanks to its Terminator 2 song "You Could Be Mine," ultimately volume 1 had the bigger hits, including "Don't Cry," the group's fifth top 10 hit (an alternate version of "Don't Cry" appeared on volume 2). The video, directed by Del James, is a moody cinematic affair, the first of several such videos from this era of the band.

For anyone under the age of 20, Paula Abdul is best known as a judge on American Idol and X Factor, but years ago she was a pop star too! She had six #1 hits in the span of two and a half years, which is nothing to sneeze at. Her second album, Spellbound, was as successful as her first, although it did show her softer side. After topping the chart with Forever Your Girl's exclusively dance pop releases, she chose a ballad to launch Spellbound. That song, "Rush Rush," became the singer's biggest hit. After another dance release, "The Promise of a New Day," became her final #1, she once again chose another ballad as album's third single. "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" peaked at #6, becoming Abdul's eighth and final single to reach the top 10. It's a nice song with a beautiful video, although it does tend to emphasize the limits of her vocal prowess. I remember a good friend of mine got to see her concert and was particularly impressed with this song's staging, which recreated the ballet dancing but had them flying through the air.

Hip-hop girl group Salt-n-Pepa scored another major mainstream rap hit with "Let's Talk About Sex," the group's third top 40 hit from their 1990 album Blacks Magic, peaking at #13. Although the song's title was bound to spark controversy, it's a really great message, encouraging people to have an open, frank discussion about sex and HIV/AIDS during a time when the right (and even portions of the left) were all up and arms and ready to censor popular culture.

Male solo pop stars are a rarity today, but in 1991 they were pretty common. In addition to those named above, British pop singer Chesney Hawkes scored his only major hit with "The One and Only" (#10), jazz/pop artist Curtis Stigers had his only major hit with "I Wonder Why" (#9), Washington D.C.-born R&B singer Tony Terry had his only major hits with "With You" (#14) and Luther Vandross scored his third top 10 hit with "Don't Want to Be a Fool" (#9).

Something old and something new teamed up on the love song duet "Set the Night to Music," the kind of pop ballad that used to be so common but it pretty rare today. Roberta Flack was a major pop star in the '70s, during which she had three #1 hits, two of which I'd consider classics ("The First Time Ever I Saw Your face" and "Killing Me Softly with His Song"). Maxi Priest, however, scored his first #1 hit just the year before with "Close to You" (he had a minor top 40 hit in 1989, "Wild World"). A love song between a 54 year-old woman and a 30 year-old man isn't the most believable, but it's a decent enough song. The song, written by Diane Warren, is actually a remake first recorded in the '80s by Starship.

Several acts who scored big summer hits had their only other top 40 singles peak in November. The biggest of which was Jesus Jones, who followed up their summer #2 hit "Right Here, Right Now" with "Real, Real, Real," which hit #4. Rythm Syndicate, who's summer hit "P.A.S.S.I.O.N." also hit #2, reached #13 with "Hey Donna." And EMF, the British indie band who scored a #1 hit with "Unbelievable," reached #18 with their second single, "Lies." In all of these cases, these singles were these groups' last appearances in the top 40.

Also making their last appearance in the top 40 was British pop group Simply Red. The group hit #1 in 1986 with "Holding Back the Years" and topped the chart again 3 years later with "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Although they continued to be quite popular in Britain, scoring top 10 hits as recently as 2003, this was the end of the road for them in the US, as "Something Got Me Started," which peaked at #23, was their final top 40 single. It's follow-up, "Stars," was a great song that just missed the top 40, peaking at #44. "Fairground," their 1995 release that was their only UK #1, never touched the Hot 100.

Monday, November 28, 2011

UK Single Release Dates

Nov. 27/28

X Factor Finalists (feat. JLS & One Direction) - Wishing on a Star
Emeli Sande (feat. Naughty Boy) - Daddy
Lady Gaga - A Very Gaga Holiday (EP)

Dec. 4/5

Amy Winehouse - Our Day Will Come
T-Pain (feat. Wiz Khalifa & Lily Allen) - 5 O'Clock
Example - Midnight Run
Plan B - My Manners Ill
James Morrison (feat. Jessie J) - Up
Jason Derulo - Fight for You
Katy Perry - The One that Got Away
Lady Gaga - Marry the Night
Estelle - Back to Love
Christina Perri - A Thousand Years
Foster the People - Call It What You Want
Matt Cardle - Starlight
Beyonce - Love on Top
The Black Keys - Lonely Boy

Dec. 11/12

The X Factor Winner's Single
Wretch 32 (feat. Etta Bond) - Forgiveness
Alexandra Stan - Get Back (ASAP)
Hurts - All I Want for Christmas Is New Year's Day
Foo Fighters - These Days

Dec. 18/19

Lil Wayne (feat. Bruno Mars) - Mirrors
Delilah - Love You So
Nero - Reaching Out
Nicki Minaj - I'm the Best

Dec. 25/26

The Wanted - Warzone
Pixie Lott - Kiss the Stars
Rizzle Kicks - Mama Do the Hump
Annie Lennox - The Holly and the Ivy

Sunday, November 27, 2011

UK Singles Chart, December 3, 2011

1.(1) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Despite stiff competition, Rihanna remains at #1, logging a sixth week in the top spot to become the year's longest-running #1 hit. That's the longest a single has been #1 in four years, since Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love" spent 7 weeks at the top of the chart. Rihanna also tops this week's albums chart with her new release, Talk That Talk, giving her a chart double. She also scored a chart double back in January with "What's My Name" and Loud and, according to what I've read on the web, this makes her the first female artist to score two chart doubles with different albums within a calendar year.

2.(NEW) Dance with Me Tonight - Olly Murs

Olly Murs was running neck-and-neck with Rihanna all week long, but in the end must settle for #2 with "Dance with Me Tonight," his fifth top 40 hit and fourth to reach the top 5. This is the second single from his second album, In Case You Didn't Know, which is out tomorrow.

3.(2) Good Feeling - Flo Rida
4.(NEW) Levels - Avicii

A rather unique sight in the top 5 this week, as Flo Rida's "Good Feeling" sits one notch above the single it samples, Swedish dance musician Avicii's "Levels," a new entry at #4. Both tracks feature a vocal sample of American soul musician Etta James' "Something's Got a Hold on Me."

6.(NEW) Down for Whatever - Kelly Rowland

Two months ago I first heard this on British radio and finally the single is out. It's Kelly Rowland's ninth top 10 hit and second official release from her third album, Here I Am.

9.(12) Take Care - Drake (feat. Rihanna)

Drake scores his first top 10 hit as a lead artist as "Take Care" climbs three notches to #9. He's previously appeared in the top 10 as a guest on the aforementioned Rihanna track, "What's My Name." It's just another feather in the cap for Rihanna, who is so red hot right now. This is her 7th appearance in the top 10 this year. And not the last time I'll be talking about her in this post.

10.(NEW) Nothing's Real But Love - Rebecca Ferguson

Last year, Rebecca Ferguson lost The X Factor to Matt Cardle, but that doesn't mean she can't be a pop star too. Thus she joins G4, Chico, JLS, Diana Vickers, Jedward, Cher Lloyd, One Direction and the aforementioned Olly Murs as X Factor "losers" who have gone on to score top 10 hits, a group that collectively has had 11 #1 hits--the same number of #1 hits scored by the show's winners.

11.(13) Paradise - Coldplay

Another climb for Coldplay this week up 2 to #11. Can it reach the top 10? Would be great to see that.

23.(Re-entry) Don't Let Go (Love) - En Vogue

Before Destiny's Child, before TLC, En Vogue was the ruling R&B girlgroup of the '90s, back in the chart this week due to their song being performed on The X Factor. Most of their songs that were big hits in the US, were also their biggest UK hits, including this, their fourth and final top 10 hit in 1997.

25. (NEW) Talk That Talk - Rihanna (feat. Jay-Z)
39. (NEW) You da One - Rihanna

The release of Rihanna's new album Talk That Talk gave fans the chance to cherry-pick tracks if they didn't want to buy the whole thing, send two of those tracks into the top 40 this week. Jay-Z helped Rihanna score her biggest hit in 2007, "Umbrella," which spent an amazing 10 weeks at #1. The duo is back together on the title track from Talk That Talk, well above the #39 debut of "You da One," already the album's official second single in America.

I mentioned earlier that Rihanna's had 7 top 10 hits (so far) this year. As for top 40 hits, she's had a rather remarkable 14 of them this year.

Rihanna's top 40 hits of 2011 (*peaked in 2010)
Title Peak
1. What's My Name (w/Drake)
2. Only Girl
3. Who's That Chick (w/David Guetta)
4. Love the Way You Lie (w/Eminem)
5. All of the Lights (w/Kanye West)
6. S&M
7. California King Bed
8. Cheers (Drink to That)
9. Fly (w/Nicki Minaj)
10. We Found Love (w/Calvin Harris)
11. Princess of China (w/Coldplay)
12. Take Care (w/Drake) 9
13. Talk That Talk (w/Jay-Z) 25
14. You da One

Album Review: Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials (4/5)

Florence Welch nicely sidesteps the sophomore slump on Ceremonials, her well-wrought if it at times overwrought sequel to her 2009 debut, Lungs that positions the singer as a powerful, more distinctive voice in pop music. Lungs was a good start, but I found it hard to slog through, a problem I don't experience with Ceremonials, which features overall better songwriting and musical diversity. Welch is still delivering a big, massive, pillar-shaking sound with her voice so strong (and well mixed) to always rise above the layers of strings, harps, organs and outsize drums.

Somber "Only If for a Night" opens the album on a strong note and then kicks it up a notch with "Shake It Out," the delightfully upbeat single that keeps growing on me. It opens with just vocal and organ and then grows from there with an uplifting lyric about picking yourself up and moving on ("It's always darkest before the dawn"). Promotional teaser "What the Water Gave Me" contrasts nicely, with a moody, understated sound with occasional bursts of guitar, harp and choir. The only metaphor big enough to match Florence's sound is the landscape itself, so it's no surprise she fills "Never Let Me Go" with imagery of being carried out to a turbulent sea.

"Breaking Down" sounds like Arcade Fire making a really great pop song. It's prominent strings carry the melody forcefully. "Lover to Lover" finds Welch in an Adele-like soulful mood, adding some '60s-style piano to the mix. "No Light, No Light," recently announced as the next single, is another highlight, alternating tender verses with forceful choruses. "Spectrum" is a particularly fiery track, with Welch's command to "Say my name" feeling like something one would be rather foolish to not comply with. Second-to-last track "All This and Heaven too" may sound like a lot to promise, but you almost believe they can deliver it with their sheer force of will (and thankfully, this is one of the album's calmer tracks, giving a needed rest toward the end). It would have made a fine closing track, making "Leave My Body" feel unneeded, but not necessarily unwelcome.

When reviewing Lungs, I said Florence Welch reminded me other quirky pop singers of the day--voices like Feist and Bat for Lashes. On Ceremonials, she and her band make a stronger case for themselves as a distinctive force on the pop music landscape, a landscape they fully inhabit with their larger-than-life sound.

Best: Shake It Out, Breaking Down, Only If for a Night, No Light No Light, What the Water Gave Me, Spectrum

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, December 3, 2011

1.(1) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

It's the first week of the 2012 Billboard chart year, and once again, Rihanna leads the Hot 100 with "We Found Love," spending its fourth week at #1. The song is (or has been) #1 all over the world, including in Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The song is the Airplay Gainer for a fourth consecutive week.

5.(9) It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars climbs four spots, earning this week's Digital Gainer. It is his seventh track to reach the top 5.

9.(NEW) Take Care - Drake (feat. Rihanna)

It's not an official single yet, but just like she did for Coldplay's "Princess of China," Rihanna's appearance as guest vocalist enticed buyers to cherry-pick this album cut enough to make it chart. It debuts at #9, matching the peak of the album's official second single, "Make Me Proud." Similarly, the track debuted at #12 in Britain this week.

10.(15) The One that Got Away - Katy Perry

Katy Perry's "The One that Got Away" climbs 5 spots to #10, becoming her ninth top 10 hit. Most notably, this is the sixth top 10 hit from her album Teenage Dream, making it only the seventh album in history to achieve such a feat and the first in 17 years.

Michael Jackson - Thriller (1982)
Title Peak
The Girl Is Mine (w/Paul McCartney) 2(3)
Billie Jean 1(7)
Beat It 1(3)
Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' 5
Human Nature 7
PYT (Pretty Young Thing) 10
Thriller 4

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA (1984)
Title Peak
Dancing in the Dark 2(4)
Cover Me 7
Born in the USA 9
I'm on Fire 6
Glory Days 5
I'm Goin' Down 9
My Hometown 6

George Michael - Faith (1987)
Title Peak
I Want Your Sex
Faith 1(4)
Father Figure
One More Try
Monkey 1(2)
Kissing a Fool

Michael Jackson - Bad (1987)
Title Peak
I Just Can't Stop Loving You (w/Siedah Garrett)
Bad 1(2)
The Way You Make Me Feel
Man in the Mirror
Dirty Diana
Another Part of Me
Smooth Criminal

Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)
Title Peak
Miss You Much
Rhythm Nation
Escapade 1(3)
Come Back to Me
Black Cat
Love Will Never Do (Without You)

Janet Jackson - Janet. (1993)
Title Peak
That's the Way Love Goes
Because of Love
Any Time, Any Place
You Want This

Katy Perry - Teenage Dream (2010)
Title Peak
California Gurls (w/Snoop Dogg)
Teenage Dream
E.T. (w/Kanye West)
Last Friday Night (TGIF)
The One that Got Away

11.(NEW) Rumour Has It/Someone Like You - Glee Cast

The hits from Glee have really dried up this season. Similar to what has happened on the UK singles chart, their singles that used to be no stranger to US top 40 have been absent until this year. Season 1 yielded 15 top 40 hits, including their highest-charting, "Don't Stop Believin' (#4). Season 2 produced an amazing 31 top 40 hits, including two top 10s: "Teenage Dream," (#8), the track that holds the record for Glee's biggest 1-week sales, and "Loser Like Me" (#6), one of the few original songs from the show.

This season though, the hits have dried up. The first five episodes produced no top 40 hits--the closest being their version of Coldplay's "Fix You," which peaked at #53. The mashups have been among the show's most interesting musical productions, so it's no surprise that the third season's best mashup becomes its first major hit, debuting at #11 with the show's fifth-best sale (behind the three aforementioned top 10 hits and "Forget You," which also hit #11).

One final somewhat related note: Over on the albums chart, Adele's 21 spends a 39th consecutive week in the top 5, breaking the record for the longest such streak previously held by Michael Jackson's Bad, which spent 38 consecutive weeks in the top 5. Among 21's 39 weeks in the top 5, a third of them (13 weeks) have been spent at #1. No album has spent that many weeks at #1 since the Titanic soundtrack logged 16 weeks at #1 in 1998.

14.(73) You Da One - Rihanna

Rihanna's second Talk That Talk single rockets up 59 notches to #14 after its first full week of sales. Watchers of the daily top 40 radio chart may be scratching their heads over the track's airplay trajectory. After reaching #20 within its first week, the track has dropped to #26 as of today and is shown without a bullet. Apparently, the song was pushed rather hard at radio during its first day of release, causing an incredible spike in its airplay for the first 7 days and then a rather dramatic drop once it reached day #8. My question is...why? What was behind the push? Did money exchange hangs? If so, this is very problematic.

18.(NEW) The Motto - Drake (feat. Lil Wayne)

Another Drake album cut with a big-name guest star cherry-picked into the top 20.

35.(45) Not Over You - Gavin DeGraw

DeGraw scores his fifth top 40 hit. His first, 2004's "I Don't Want to Be," remains his biggest, having peaked at #10.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

UK Singles Chart, November 26, 2011

1.(1) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna spends a fifth week at #1 with "We Found Love," tying Adele's "Someone Like You" as the year's longest-running #1 hit.

2.(NEW) Good Feeling - Flo Rida

Rapper Flo Rida lands at #2 with his new single "Good Feeling." It's the second top 10 hit in the last few months to sample an Avicii track that itself samples another track. Flo Rida's Avicii sample is "Levels," which gets a single release next week, and features elements of soul singer Etta James's song "Something's Got a Hold on Me." In September, Leona Lewis hit #4 with "Collide," featuring a sample of Avicii's "Penguins" (aka "Fade Into Darkness"), which sampled Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Perpetuum Mobile."

3.(NEW) Gotta Be You - One Direction

This looked a surefire #1 hit this week and led midweek reports through Thursday. Well, something must have gone horribly wrong over the weekend, as it lands instead at #3 on the eve of the group's release of their debut album. Not a bad song, but not a stunner, so #3 is probably really quite appropriate for this.

5.(5) Lego House - Ed Sheeran

This week marks the "official" release of "Lego House," which has been available as a download ever since the album came out. So it looks like it's going to peak at #5, following the #3 peak of "A Team" and #4 peak of "You Need Me, I Don't Need You."

7.(9) Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 (feat. Christina Aguilera)

Maroon 5 climbs back up a couple notches this week with "Moves Like Jagger," a song that never reached #1 but spent an amazing 7 consecutive weeks at #1 (while #1 turned over each week). Although it never topped the singles chart, the song is the year's fourth best-selling single, and, as of this week, has spent 10 weeks at #1 on the UK airplay chart.

12.(NEW) Take Care - Drake (feat. Rihanna)

The UK response to Drake's "Take Care," a track from his new album out this week, appears similar to that in the US, where this song will most surely debut in the top 10 on next week's Hot 100 chart. This placement is much higher than that of his "official" singles "Headlines" (#57) and "Make Me Proud" (#49), and is, in fact, Drake's highest charting single yet in the UK. it's success is likely owed to the appearance of Rihanna as guest vocalist.

13.(20) Paradise - Coldplay

Speaking of Rihanna guest appearances, although her turn on Coldplay's "Princess of China" threatened to overshadow proper single "Paradise," at threat appears to have waned as "Paradise" reaches a new peak of #13 this week.

15.(NEW) My Heart Takes Over - The Saturdays

The Saturday's new ballad misses the top 10, becoming only their second single to do so after "Work" peaked at #22. If this never reaches the top 10, which I doubt it will, this ends their streak of 6 consecutive top 10 hits.

18.(NEW) Marry the Night - Lady Gaga

The official release of this is 2 weeks away, so a #18 bow this week hopefully tees this up for the top 10. "Marry the Night" is the fifth single released from "Born This Way," after "Born This Way" (#3), "Judas" (#8), "The Edge of Glory" (#6) and "You and I" (#23), as well as promotional release "Hair," which hit #13.

28.(59) Who You Are - Jessie J

The law of diminishing returns means that despite being a brilliant pop song, Jessie J's fifth release from album Who You Are, manages to reach only #28. Really loving this song though.

32.(NEW) Lighthouse - Westlife

Speaking of diminishing returns. Used to be a time when Westlife was a major chart powerhouse. The group had 14 #1 hits (including their first 7 singles) and never knew anything other than a top 5 hit until "Us Against the World" hit #8 a few years ago. These days though, the best they can do is #32, a sure sign that the apparent decision to release a greatest hits set and call it quits is surely a wise one.

35.(NEW) Rumour Has It/Someone Like You - Glee Cast

Speaking of once powerful chart forces. Used to be a time when Glee regularly produced top 40 hits: season 1 produced 17 top 40 hits (topped by #2 signature single "Don't Stop Believin'"), season 2 produced 12 top 10 hits, although notably none that reached the top 10. This third season has seen the hits dry up. So far this season, nothing has reached the top 40 (goes for the US singles chart as well). Honestly, nothing has really been that deserving until this brilliant mash-up of Adele's "Rumour Has It" and "Someone Like You" came along, putting the show back on the chart.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Personal Chart, November 19, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, November 26, 2011

1.(1) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna spends a third week at #1 with "We Found Love." This is her 37th week at #1 (I erroneously said so last week, but it was only her 36th then). That ties her with Michael Jackson as the artist with the sixth-most weeks at #1. Leading that list is Elvis Presley and Mariah Carey, both with 79 weeks at #1. Among female acts, Rihanna is second behind Carey and just ahead of the 36 weeks Beyonce has spent at #1, the 33 weeks for Janet Jackson, and the 32 weeks for Madonna.

"We Found Love" is this week's Airplay Gainer, although I imagine next week that honor may fall to Rihanna's new single, "You Da One," which debuts at #73 on the Hot 100 this week and is up 3111 spins at top 40 radio this week, where it is currently #21.

4.(6) Without You - David Guetta (feat. Usher)

David Guetta and Usher are up two this week to #4, earning this week's Digital Gainer. This rise makes the song David Guetta's highest-charting hit in the US, surpassing the #5 peak of "Sexy Chick/Bitch."

9.(12) It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Mars climbs two notches to #9, scoring his fourth top 10 hit as lead act, eighth top 10 hit overall including featured appearances.

10.(NEW) If This Was a Movie - Taylor Swift
13.(NEW) Ours - Taylor Swift
26.(NEW) Superman - Taylor Swift

When Swift's Speak Now was released last year, a special edition was available exclusively at Target with a second disc of bonus material, including three additional songs. A year after that release, those songs were made available as downloads this week, sending those three tracks into the top 40 this week. The biggest of them, "If This Was a Movie," becomes Swift's eighth release to debut inside the top 10 (a record). This is Swift's 10th top 40 hit. In total now, the country/pop singer has had 31 top 40 hits.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Glee "Rumour Has It"/"Someone Like You"

Like a lot of people, I haven't been as into the third season of Glee as I was in the past. The storytelling has been really messy, I'm tired of Sue (sorry Jane, I still love you), and I felt like the show was straying too far from what made it great...a delightful balance of true-to-life teenage stories and larger-than-life theatrics. That new Irish kid? I don't think he's needed. That Quinn wants to get her baby back story? Ridiculous. That Jane v. Burt for Congress story? That's absolutely ridiculous and completely implausible. Hopefully it will wrap up soon, although in real life, the election isn't for another year.

Nonetheless, I've been impressed with the last two episodes--the one where Blaine/Kurt and Rachel/Finn contemplate having sex for the first time, and this week's annual mash-up episode. I thought both were handled well, and the latter finally gave this season a truly worthwhile musical moment.

Will Young "Come On"

"Come On" is another great track from Will Young's album Echoes, a remake of a Kish Mauve track released 2 years ago. I'm not into dog shows, or dogs for that matter, so I wasn't sure I was going to like his new video, but by the end, I decided it's pretty cute.

The One That Got Away

Katy Perry's released another stylish video. Finally I get to hear the single mix of "The One that Got Away." Do you like the makeup or does she pull a J. Edgar?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Single Serving

*Adele - Rumour Has It. For her fourth 21 single, Adele has chosen another surefire hit--the album's most stomping, upbeat track. Love the rhythm and bass on this.

*Coldplay (feat. Rihanna) - Princess of China. My initial reaction to this song when I reviewed Mylo Xyloto was that it didn't fit on the album. As a single though, it's starting to grow on me, especially if you consider it a Rihanna song with an amazing backing band instead of a Coldplay song.

Drake - Headlines. This strikes me as pretty typical from Drake: skittering beats, staccato keyboards.

Example - Midnight Run. Hip-hop/dance pop artist Example churns out another decent tune as his fall release, although it's not quite as delicious as "Stay Awake."

Foo Fighters - These Days. This third or fourth (depending on where you are) single from Wasting Light is one of the album's highlights, with an uplifting rock melody.

Foster the People - Call It What You Want. This third single from Foster the People keeps their party going with an upbeat, piano-backed melody. Not quite up there with "Pumped Up Kicks" and "Helena Beat," but still fun.

Fray - Heartbeat. Remember The Fray? Five years after "How to Save a Life" became a massive hit, they are still trying to find another. Not going to do it with this. Sounds like top 40 radio filler.

Cee Lo Green - Anyway. New track from the re-release of Green's album The Lady Killer sounds more modern and upbeat than the album's generally retro sound.

Michael Jackson - Immortal Megamix. MJ gets the Vegas treatment..a la The Beatles' The Love Album, with this megamix of "Can You Feel It," "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Billie Jean" and "Black or White."

*Jessie J - Who You Are. This song has really gotten under my skin lately. I love the lean guitar arrangement and Jessie J sounds really great here. I just wish they'd have made her vocal even more bare, as she's turned in a pretty great vocal performance for this one. Way better than US single "Domino."

Jo Jo - Disaster. The girl who had massive hits in the '00s with "Leave (Get You)" and "Too Little, Too Late" is grown up now. In pop music parlance, strings=maturity, so you can expect quite a few here. It's merely fine--nothing original on display here.

*Lady Gaga - Marry the Night. Born This Way's opening track and stand out cut finally gets its turn in the sun. Another winning dance pop "anthem" from one of pop music's most interesting voices. Can't wait to see what she does for the video.

Avril Lavigne - Wish You Were Here. Although Lavigne seems best known for her perky brand of pop "punk," I think her slower songs are generally her best work. This guitar-driven ballad might be my favorite release from Goodbye Lullaby.

Nicki Minaj - I'm the Best. This is about the 10th single released from Pink Friday, depending on whether "promotional" releases can be counted as "singles" (who knows these days). Anyway, it's a pretty fun song--not a standout on the album, but not bad either. It's upbeat, bright and boastful, a perfect fit for Minaj's personality.

Moby (feat. Inyang Bassey) - The Right Thing. Moby's underwhelming album from earlier this year, Destroyed, is somehow managing to continue generating singles. The song, like the album, isn't particularly notable, although vocalist Inyang Bassey (no apparent relation to Shirley) gives a nice performance.

One Direction - Gotta Be You. The newest kids on the block deliver their follow-up to UK #1 "What Makes You Beautiful." In typical fall boyband fashion, this one is a ballad, drenched in strings. I'm sure it will sell bucket-loads, but it's missing the spark that made their first single something special.

*Rihanna - You Da One. Just like frothy "Only Girl" was followed by the more laid back "What's My Name," so now does Rihanna follow clubby "We Found Love" with this breezy Dr. Luke production as the second Talk That Talk single.

Alyssa Reid (feat. Jump Smokers) - Alone Again. Heart's "Alone" is a great song because 1) it's just a great heartbroken love song and 2) it sounds awesome when a singer really lets loose on the chorus, as in the Heart original, and to some extent the recent Celine Dion and Glee versions. Alyssa Reid, whoever she is, lacks the vocal chops to do this song justice.

*Emeli Sande (feat. Naughty Boy) - Daddy. Emeli Sande turns in another trip-hop kissed pop tune, slinkier than "Heaven," so not as showy, but still a very decent track. Her album, when it appears, will be a must-have.

*The Saturdays - My Heart Takes Over. Steve Mac produced this ballad, the third On Your Radar single. It's about as good a ballad as The Saturdays have executed, with a production sound big enough to make Leona Lewis jealous. Some good remixes of this out there too.

The Wanted - War Zone. After two dance pop tracks, it's ballad time for The Wanted. I've never been a fan of war metaphors for pop songs, but this does have a nicely varied production though, pushing up the tempo a bit on the second verse, with piano throughout. Capital FM is already playing this to death, despite its January release date.

Westlife - Lighthouse. Although co-written by Gary Barlow (with producer John Shanks), this bears no resemblance to the gritty electro-pop from Take That's last album. It's classic Westlife all the way...a typical pop ballad with piano, strings and a big middle section. I think after this Greatest Hits set, they are done.

*Amy Winehouse - Our Day Will Come. I'm glad that we're getting some Amy Winehouse extras with the upcoming posthumous release. But I think it's going to be clear that when you get "extras," there's a reason they were left off the album. Thus, this sounds an awful lot like Back to Black's closing track "Addicted," but not as hard-hitting. Still, a nice song though and very welcome on the radio.

*Will Young - Come On. Second Echoes single is another winner, a mid-tempo, downbeat, lovelorn track that finds Young once again baring some fragile emotions over a mature electronic melody. Hope it's another hit for him.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

UK Singles Chart, November 19, 2011

1.(2) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna returns to the top spot for a fourth week at #2 after 2 weeks away from the top spot. That gives the song a fourth week at #1, tying it with LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" as the second-longest-running #1 hit of the year. Both songs are behind the year's biggest #1 hit, Adele's "Someone Like You," which spent 5 weeks at #1 and was also the most recent single to also have an interrupted run at #1.

2.(NEW) Take a Chance on Me - JLS

What looked like a surefire #1 ends up at #2 this week, unable to stop the resurgent Rihanna. Thus ends the JLS tradition of a November ballad #1 started in 2009 with "Everybody in Love" and continued last year with "Love You More." The song's failure to hit #1 mimics that of The Wanted recent single, "Lightning," also a #1 hopeful that stopped short at #2. This is JLS's 8th top 10 hit.

5.(6) Lego House - Ed Sheeran

"Lego House" climbs another notch to #5, becoming Ed Sheeran's third consecutive top 5 hit.

7.(10) Without You - David Guetta (feat. Usher)

"Without You" has been in the top 20 for the last 8 weeks, steadily climbing to this week's new peak of #7.

10.(NEW) What Do You Take Me For - Pixie Lott (feat. Pusha T)

Pixie Lott's new single misfires this week, debuting at #10. Last time Pixie Lott released a single just before putting out an album, it hit #1. That was 2009's "Boys and Girls," released just a week before her debut album, Turn It Up. Now, on the eve of Young Foolish Bad, Pixie just manages to scrape her way into the top 10. As Pixie Lott singles go, "What Do You Take Me For" is among the least interesting, but only making it to #10 doesn't bode well for future singles from the album.

12.(26) Shake It Out - Florence & the Machine

"Shake It Out" debuted at #27 and then fell out of the of the 40. But since last week, it's shown a remarkable resurgence, re-entering the top 40 at #26 and jumping this week to #12. It now ties "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" as their third highest charting hit.

14.(NEW) Me Without You - Loick Essien

British pop singer Loick Essien debuts at #14 with his second single, the follow up to summer hit "How We Roll," which reached #2. I'm shocked this has debuted so low. I like this song and thought it was good for the top 5. Apparently not. Sorry Loick.

16.(NEW) It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars earns his 8th top 20 hit this week, albeit his smallest as "It Will Rain" debuts at #16. His last solo single, "Marry You," reached #11.

18.(NEW) I Need - Maverick Sabre

Summer release "Let Me Go" hit #16, and now Sabre follows that with #18 hit "I Need."

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, November 19, 2011

1. (1) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna spends a second week at #1 with "We Found Love." Doing so means the single outpaces all three of the Loud singles that reached #1, as each of those only spent 1 week in the top spot. This is Rihanna's 36th week at #1. Although she's one #1 hit short of Madonna's 12 chart-toppers, Rihanna's spent 5 more weeks at #1 now than Madge. "We Found Love" is also this week's airplay gainer, up three spots to #4 on Radio Songs.

2.(3) Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

LMFAO moves into second place with "Sexy and I Know It," making it a possible #1 contender. It's strong in both sales (#2) and airplay (#5).

6.(7) Without You - David Guetta (feat. Usher)

Also a future #1 contender is David Guetta, whose "Without You" looks poised to be #1 at pop radio within a week. It's up one this week to #6.

8.(12) Good Feeling - Flo Rida (feat. Etta James)

Flo Rida climbs four spots scoring his sixth top 10 hit. The song samples Avicii's "Levels," which itself contains a sample of Etta James' 1962 hit "Something's Got a Hold on Me." James doesn't gets a featured credit on the song, but if she had, it would be her first top 40 appearance since her 1967 single "Security." The 73-year-old soul singer first appeared in the top 40 in 1960 with "All I Could Do Is Cry" (#33).

12.(21) It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars' Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 single "I Will Rain" is this week's digital gainer, up 9 notches this week. I kinda thought this single might flop, but apparently not.

18.(34) The One that Got Away - Katy Perry

Katy Perry has this week's biggest mover within the top 40, up an impressive 16 notches to #18. The video for this song debuts tomorrow, and judging from the trailer (yes, music videos, which once basically were trailers, now have their own trailers), it's going to be epic. I think it's a safe best now that Teenage Dream will become the 7th album to score at least six top 10 hits. Still though lingers the big one--will it become history's first album to score six #1s.

20.(30) Dance A$$ - Big Sean (feat. Nicki Minaj)

I hadn't heard of this before, so I decided to check it out. It's interesting. This is American rapper Big Sean's third and so far biggest top 40 hit. It samples MC Hammer's iconic 1990 hit "U Can't Touch This." It also features Nicki Minaj in her 100th chart appearance this year. Well, okay, I think it's her 8th, but still, that's a lot.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

UK Singles Chart, November 12, 2011

1.(1) Read All About It - Professor Green (feat. Emeli Sande)

It's relatively quiet week on the UK singles chart, as there is no change at #1, giving Professor Green a second week at the top spot. After the intense turnover at #1 from late July to early October, it's a real switch to have a second single in a row spend more than a week at #1.

4.(NEW) With Ur Love - Cher Lloyd (feat. Mike Posner)

The biggest new single of the week turns in a solid, although slightly disappointing performance. Cher Lloyd's debut single "Swagger Jagger" was a surprise #1 in August, albeit one of the lowest sales tallies for a #1 hit this year. I found this second single to be quite a bit more charming than her first and, although it's released a week ahead of the album, it pulls in only at #4. Yes, it is a much more competitive time of year, but I would have thought this could have managed #2.

6.(12) Lego House - Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran's latest climbs into the top 10, up 6 notches. Still a week away from its release. Will be interesting to see if he can keep climbing like this. Radio is all over it.

18.(NEW) Try With Me - Nicole Scherzinger

This fifth single from Scherzinger's debut album is a new track from the upcoming re-release of her album. I haven't heard this song yet. I don't think it's had much promotion, which the #18 debut might reflect.

33.(NEW) People Help the People - Birdy

Birdy scores her second top 40 hit.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, November 12, 2011

1.(2) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna continues her amazing hit streak, racking up her 11th #1 hit this week as "We Found Love" climbs a notch to ascend to the top spot. Rihanna is the 8th artist in pop music history to have achieved 11 #1 hits, after The Beatles (20), Mariah Carey (18), Elvis Presley (17 or 18, depending on what you count), Michael Jackson (13), The Supremes (12), Madonna (12) and Whitney Houston (11). Among the ladies, she's tied with Whitney Houston for third, edging ahead of the 10 #1 hits from Janet Jackson. Apart from the British Beatles, she's the only other nonAmerican on this very exclusive list.

The song's success has most been sales-driven at this point, although it is this week's airplay gainer. At top 40 radio it's currently #8 and the second-fastest gaining track behind LMFAO's "Sexy and You Know It," currently #3 on the Hot 100. The song's producer, Calvin Harris, who also bestowed upon himself a featured artist credit, enjoys his first American #1. Although Calvin Harris productions have been hot in Britain for years, this is his first major success in the US.

10.(19) Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson

Well, I didn't think this song would do it, but I'm proven wrong as "Mr. Know It All" jumps a solid nine spots to become Kelly Clarkson's 9th top 10 hit. The single had previously peaked at #18, and with airplay cooling off, it didn't look like it was going to climb any higher. But a sales rally this week sends the single into the top 10 for the first time. I think credit goes to the release of Clarkson's album, Stronger, which debuted at #2 on the albums chart this week.

12.(31) Good Feeling - Flo Rida

Flo makes a 19-point jump to #12 this week. This is the first single from his fourth album, Only One Rida (Part 2).

20.(NEW) Princess of China - Coldplay (feat. Rihanna)

Also benefiting from the release of their new album is Coldplay. Their fifth album, Mylo Xyloto became the group's third #1 album this week, while its track and future single debuts at #20 on the back of strong cherry-picking sales. Certainly its the presence of the song's featured vocalist driving that, giving Rihanna a second (albeit far less significant) chart note this week. "Princess of China" follows previous Mylo singles "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" (#14) and "Paradise" (#15) into the top 20, making this album by far their biggest producer of hit singles, since they've only ever had two other top 20 hits.

34.(55) The One that Got Away - Katy Perry

Katy Perry scores her sixth top 40 hit from Teenage Dream, the album that has so far produced five #1 hits. All eyes will be on this one to see whether it can climb to #1. It's growing fast at top 40 radio, but the song needs a sales boost--perhaps if the rumored single mix comes out or when the video debuts.