Monday, October 31, 2011

Ed Sheeran "Lego House"

Ed Sheeran is so popular now he gets to have Ron Weasley star in his video! Fun to see Rupert Grint here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

UK Singles Chart, November 5, 2011

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

Professor Green and Emeli Sande lead a strong sales week on the singles chart. "Read All About It" clocked in 153,000 copies sold, just under the 154,000 One Direction moved during its #1 week for "What Makes You Beautiful," making "Read All About It" the second-biggest #1 hit so far this year. It's the fourteenth week this year the #1 song sold over 100,000 copies. That matches the 14 weeks of 100k sellers there were last year. This is the fifth top 40 hit and third top 10 single for Professor Green, enjoying his first time at #1. This is Emeli Sande's fourth top 10 hit and also her first turn at the top spot, beating her #2 summer single "Heaven." Her own single, "Daddy," will be out soon.

2.(NEW) Earthquake - Labrinth (feat. Tinie Tempah)

Labrinth was well outsold by Professor Green this week, but nonetheless racked up a rather impressive 115,000 copies sold--more than all but eight of the year's #1 hits. This is Labrinth's fifth top 40 hit, all but one of which have reached the top 3, and two of which were guest appearances on two of Tinie Tempah's biggest singles, "Pass Out" (#1, although he was uncredited) and "Frisky" (#2). This is Tinie Tempah's 13th top 40 hit.

4.(6) Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson climbs two notches to #4 to score her top 5 hit. In the US, this is turning out to be a minor hit for her, but in the UK, it's now her second-highest charting single, even beating out the #5 peak of "Since U Been Gone."

8.(NEW) When I Was a Youngster - Rizzle Kicks

Rizzle Kick's first single "Down with the Trumpets" peaked at #8, but it took it 7 weeks to get there. This second single achieves that peak position instantly. Counting their appearance on Olly Murs' #1 hit "Heart Skips a Beat," this is the group's third top 10 hit.

12.(18) Lego House - Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran continues to climb with his third single, still a couple weeks from a release date.

14.(NEW) Paradise - Coldplay

So, this is a bit ridiculous. A few years ago the chart rules were liberalized to allow basically any track to chart, allowing for all those old singles performed on the X Factor to chart, plus shenanigans like the alternative Christmas #1 of 2009. But as much as the rule changes were supposed to open up the chart, apparently there were some exceptions, to which Coldplay fell victim with this single. "Paradise" was released as a single on September 13, but because the track was available as "free"download for pre-purchasing their album Mylo Xyloto (this week's #1 album), the single was eligible for the chart. Nevermind the fact that it was also available as a standalone purchase. Seems really crummy to me. Billboard managed to figure it out. Why couldn't The Official Charts Company? Upon the release of the album, the single has (finally) allowed to appear, but surely this would have been a top 10 hit in the last couple of weeks. Such a shame.

As it is, "Paradise" debuts at #14, becoming Coldplay's 15th top 40 hit, the 13th to reach the top 20.

16.(NEW) You Make Me Feel... - Cobra Starship (feat. Sabi)

Cobra Starship debuts at #16, beating by just 1 notch the #17 peak of their only other top 40 hit, "Good Girls Go Bad."

19.(NEW) Runaway Baby - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars' recent X Factor performance sends this album track into the top 20, making it his 8th top 40 single.

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

With Rihanna being one of the biggest global superstars of the year, it's no surprise this Mylo Xyloto album track (and apparent future single) got cherry-picked enough to land it in the top 40 as Coldplay's 17th top 40 hit.

36.(38) Set Fire to the Rain - Adele

Despite never reaching the top 10, this single, released back in July, has held onto the chart a remarkably long time--20 weeks in the top 40 now. Adele just announced that "Rumour Has It" will be 21's fourth UK single. Speaking of which, the album, released over 8 months ago, finally fell out of the top 5 this week, dropping from #4 to #8. Prior to this week, the album had never fallen any lower than #4. That's an incredible chart run for an album, considering how the albums chart has turned over almost as fast as the singles chart in recent years. In the US, where there's generally a new #1 album every week, 21 has performed similarly well, spending 13 weeks at #1 (including this week) since its late February release.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

10 Videos

Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris) - We Found Love
How long before Rihanna shows up in a movie? She seems interested in acting, with many of her videos depicting stories. "We Found Love" is the most fully formed we've seen from her yet, the story of a passionate but deeply troubled young couple on a drug-fueled course to self destruction. It has the look of a grimy art house film.

Beyonce (feat. J. Cole) - Party
Wow. This video is really cool and kind of shameless. It takes the beautiful (and filthy rich) Beyonce and recasts her as a trailer park girl. Love the grainy '80s look. The best bits--the girl who drinks from a hose, Beyonce smiling with the frying pan, the crimped hair, and the yellow faux fur jacket. Look for cameos from lil sis Solange and cousin Kelly.

Beyonce - Countdown
This video, dressed in '60s chic, couldn't be more different from "Party." As fun as that one is, this is really the better of the two, with a lot of interesting and retro visual film elements. The Audrey Hepburn homage works great. Check out the clearly pregnant Beyonce at 0:36.

Olly Murs - Dance with Me Tonight
I hadn't even heard this song yet until I just watched this video. What can I say? Great '50s swing-influenced song and a super cute video. Olly's looking better than ever.

Lady Gaga - You and I
This isn't exactly recent, but I hadn't watched it yet. It's definitely worth checking out. After the lo-fi production of "The Edge of Glory," "You and I" sees Gaga return to a more typically epic video. It's inspired by the song's lyrics about returning to Nebraska to salvage a failed relationship, but takes that story to an extreme, with imagery of a cybernetic chic Gaga, mermaid Gaga, and even a male Gaga, along with a ripped mad scientist (Taylor Kinney).

Nero - Crush on You
At first blush, it looks like this is going to be some gauzy teen love story set at a boarding school. Then--bam! It morphs into a '70s style horror movie, complete with cool lo-tech effects and lots of creepy images.

The Saturdays - My Heart Takes Over
Beautifully shot on location in Iceland with imagery that compliments the ballad nicely.

Loick Essien - Me Without You
"Me Without You" tries to do for Los Angeles was "How We Roll" did for London, but unfortunately doesn't pull it off. I think this video is dull, which is a shame, because I really like this song.

Labrinth (feat. Tinie Tempah) - Earthquake
This is mostly uninteresting computer animation with a blatant Mini product placement. Although I do like the weird robed guys that show up at about halfway.

David Guetta (feat. Usher) - Without You
Speaking of earthquakes...This video is awfully silly. The premise is that people all over the world dancing simultaneously to David Guetta's irresistible music cause massive tectonic upheaval that sends the continents on course to merge, allowing the people dancing on the various shores to unite and dance together in harmony. Of course if this were to really happen, they all wouldn't be smiling, they'd be dead.

Album Reviews

Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (3.5/5). "Stronger" as a title for this album is fitting if describing the singer behind it but unfortunately not its songs. Kelly's never sounded better, but the songs on this albums, while generally well-crafted, lack the strong pop hooks she's known for. This is evident on the album's first single "Mr. Know It All," which has managed to reach the top 20 but not the top 10 on the back of its decent melody and delivery but weak chorus.

The zippy second track, "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," sounds like it would have made a better lead single, although its lyrics can be a mouthful too, reminding me of the problem Alanis Morissette had on her second album. Lyrics are a problem throughout, particularly on "You Can't Win," during which Clarkson sings "if you're gay, why aren't you waving a flag?" Well, Kelly, maybe I have other things to do with my time, thanks. One song that actually manages to deliver a memorable chorus is "I Forgive You," a charged track that comes about halfway through.

Since most of the album posits Clarkson in that fast-and-angry mode she's become known for, I appreciate its few slower, effective moments, like the lovelorn "Honestly" and the tender "Standing in Front of You." Also welcome are the forrays into country--a genre Clarkson is showing increasing interest in. Although nothing here is full-on country, there are hints, like the shuffle of "Hello" and the slow song finale "Breaking Your Own Heart."

Max Martin was the producer responsible for many of her biggest hits, so it's surprising he doesn't show up in the liner notes, with Clarkson instead turning to a mostly new slate of pop producers, such as Greg Kurstin and Brian Kennedy. Despite it being a commercial flop, I'd love to see Clarkson do something as gutsy as My December again. I think it would be a lot more interesting.

Best: What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger), Mr. Know It All, Honestly, I Forgive You, Standing in Front of You

Kasabian - Velociraptor! (4/5). Q Magazine named West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum their favorite album of 2009, but I wasn't sold on it. This isn't that much different, but for some reason, it works better this time. I'm hearing a strong '60s influence again, particularly on the album's three opening tracks, which I think are its strongest. They've moved from psychedelia into '60s spy movie territory on "Let's Roll Just Like We Used To," an energetic and slightly sinister track that reminds me of U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." "Day Are Forgotten" is an even more muscular rock track, contrasting with the sweeter Beatles-esque romanticism of "Goodbye Kiss." The rest of the album isn't as strong, but its never weak either, mixing in some surprising sounds like the Middle Eastern touches on "Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm)" and '80s synths in "I Hear Voices." Best: Days Are Forgotten, Let's Roll Just Like We Used to, Goodbye Kiss, Re-Wired.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, November 5, 2011

1.(1) Someone Like You - Adele

Adele spends a fifth week at #1 with "Someone Like You." I think her days at #1 are numbered. The song has started to drop off in both sales and airplay, slipping from #1 to #3 on Digital Songs and, at radio, losing its bullet at top 40 (where it looks like it has peaked at #2). It's still #2 with a bullet on Radio Songs, but it just can't seem to dislodge "Moves Like Jagger" at radio. Billboard has reported that since this song has now spent 5 weeks at #1, that makes Adele the fourth female artist to rule #1 for at least 5 weeks twice within a calendar year, after Mariah Carey in 1995 with "Fantasy" (8 weeks) and "One Sweet Day" (16 weeks, 5 of which were in 1995), Monica in 1998 for "The Boy Is Mine" (with Brandy, 13 weeks) and "The First Night," and Beyonce in 2003 for "Crazy in Love" (8 weeks) and "Baby Boy" (9 weeks). If you count featured appearances, you can also include Rihanna in 2010 for "Rude Boy" (5 weeks) and her appearance on Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" (7 weeks).

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

I suspect that shortly Rihanna will collect her 11th #1 hit. She's up four this week with the first single from her forthcoming sixth (!) album. She's also making good strides at radio. In the UK, this is the #1 hit for a third week.

4.(4) Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

This stupid song (which I actually kinda like), holds at #4 but is this week's airplay gainer. Depending on how it plays out with Rihanna, this could have a shot at #1, but it's going to be tight. At radio though, it has the upper hand.

9.(97) Make Me Proud - Drake (feat. Nicki Minaj)

Canadian rapper Drake makes an incredible (but not record-breaking) 88-spot jump to #9, scoring his 7th top 10 hit. The song, featuring of-the-moment female rapper Nicki Minaj, must owe some of this to the duo's Saturday Night Live appearance from about 2 weeks ago. "Make Me Proud" out-charts Drake's other recent single, "Headlines," which is bulleted at #16 this week but peaked so far at #13. The song is this week's Digital Gainer.

11.(NEW) Mistletoe - Justin Bieber

It's too soon to be thinking about Christmas! But apparently not for the Biebster, whose seasonal-themed single becomes both his third-highest charting single and, according to Billboard, the third-highest-charting seasonal single ever after the Chipmunks' 1958 #1 hit "The Chipmunk Song" and New Kids on the Block's 1989 #7 hit "This One's for the Children."

15.(38) Paradise - Coldplay

Nice jump for Coldplay, up 23 notches to #15 this week on the eve of their album's release. This is the group's fourth top 40 hit, charting just a notch below where their summer hit, "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" peaked. The group may get a nice surprise next week, as cherry-picking has Xylo Myloto album track (and reported future single) "Princess of China" currently #4 at iTunes.

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

Also seeing a nice bump on the eve of her album's release is Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know It All," which is still threatening to go down as the lowest-charting first single from a Kelly Clarkson album, having peaked at only #18.

20.(25) 5 O'Clock - T-Pain (Lily Allen)

T-Pain and Lily crack the top 20 this week. Awesome.

21.(27) Ni**as in Paris - Jay-Z and Kanye West

I'd thought the fervor of Watch the Throne had died down, but apparently not, as the album is possibly going to score its second top 20 hit.

28.(34) Fly - Nicki Minaj (feat. Rihanna)

Here's the song that represents over 10 percent of this week's top 40. Nicki Minaj and Rihanna both have two other singles in the top 40, meaning that 1 out of every 8 top 40 hit this week features one or both of them.

33.(47) It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Mars's new single rebounds this week. It initially peaked at #28.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grammy Submissions

So I haven't been able to get a list of this year's submissions for Grammy Awards. Apparently they're really hard to come by this year. This source has a nice list by artist, so here's my list, based on that and other research by category of who some of the frontrunners are this year:

Album of the Year

Adele - 21
Jason Aldean - Dirt Road Anthem
Tony Bennett - Duets II
Beyonce - 4
Bon Iver
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown
Lady Antebellum - Own the Night
Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Bruno Mars - Doo Wops & Hooligans
Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday
Rihanna - Loud
Taylor Swift - Speak Loud
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye West & Jay-z - Watch the Throne

Record of the Year

Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson - Don't You Wanna Stay
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga - The Lady Is a Tramp
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
Lady Antebellum - Just a Kiss
Lady Gaga - You and I (or Judas)
Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger
Bruno Mars - Grenade
Nicki Minaj - Super Bass
Mumford and Sons - The Cave
Katy Perry - Firework
Pitbull - Give Me Everything
Rihanna and Calvin Harris - We Found Love
Taylor Swift - Back to December
Kanye West & Jay-Z - Otis
Kanye West and Rihanna - All of the Lights

Song of the Year (listed by performer)

Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Jason Aldean - Don't You Wanna Stay
Bruno Mars - Grenade
Lady Gaga - You and I (or Judas)
Mumford & Sons - The Cave
Katy Perry - Firework
Taylor Swift - Back to December
Kanye West - All of the Lights

Best New Artist

The Band Perry
James Blake
Bon Iver
The Civil Wars
J. Cole
Jessie J
Foster the People
Lykke Li
Nicki Minaj
Christina Perri
Wiz Khalifa

Best Pop Album

Adele - 21
Katy B - On a Mission
Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Bruno Mars - Doo Wops and Hooligans
Rihanna - Loud
Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

Best Pop Solo Performance

Adele - Someone Like You
Beyonce - Best Thing I Never Had
Kelly Clarkson - Mr. Know It All
Lady Gaga - You and I (or Judas)
Bruno Mars - Grenade
Katy Perry - Firework
Pink - Fuckin' Perfect
Rihanna - S&M
Britney Spears - Til the World Ends
Taylor Swift - Back to December

Best Pop Group Performance

Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
Glee Cast - Teenage Dream
Gym Class Heroes and Adam Levine - Stereo Hearts
LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem
Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull - On the Floor
Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera - Moves Like Jagger
Nicki Minaj and Rihanna - Fly
Katy Perry and Kanye West - E.T.

Best R&B Album

Marsha Ambrosius - Late Nights & Early Mornings
Beyonce - 4
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
Jill Scott - The Light of the Sun
Jazmine Sullivan - Love Me Back

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Bad Meets Evil and Bruno Mars - Lighters
Beyonce and Andre 3000 - Party
Dr. Dre, Eminem and Skylar Grey - I Need a Doctor
Rihanna and Drake - What's My Name
Kelly Rowland and Lil Wayne - Motivation
Kanye West and Rihanna - All of the Lights

Best R&B Solo

Beyonce - Countdown
Jill Scott - The Light (Piano Mix)

Best Alternative Album

Bon Iver
Foster the People - Torches

Best Rap Performance

Chris Brown, Lil Wayne - Look at Me Now
J. Cole - Work Out
Lil Wayne - She Will
Nicki Minaj feat. Drake - Moment 4 Life (or Right Thru Me)
Kanye West & Jay-Z - Otis

Some odd submissions:

Lady Gaga did not submit "Born This Way" or "The Edge of Glory" for ROTY or SOTY
Beyonce's ROTY/SOTY submission was "I Was Here" instead of "Best Thing I Never Had"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Album Review: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (4/5)

Coldplay has always been a band that demands, or rather asks politely, to be liked. Since their 2000 debut, their subsequent albums have all taken slightly different directions, but none have strayed too far from an essential formula of guitar- and piano-driven pop songs that shoot for and generally succeed in delivering uplift and optimism with the occasional “woe is me” ballad thrown in to keep those hearts bleeding.

Mylo Xyloto’s twist is that it’s a concept album--albeit one that Green Day already covered--a story of two young lovers, Mylo and Xyloto, trying to find their way in a dystopian world. There’s also some business about New York graffiti and Nazi-era, Anti-Hitler German intellectuals. Even HBO's (brilliant series) The Wire is reportedly an inspiration. Not really sure how it all adds up, as I didn’t get a digital booklet to let me parse the lyrics this time. Regardless, it certainly adds up to tuneful, uplifting, U2-loving pop/rock, which is all anyone is really hoping for from a Coldplay album in the first place.

“Hurts Like Heaven” is a killer opening track bursting with the kind of bright energy that proclaims something great is coming. This is the first of several songs with a strong electronic presence, during which even Chris Martin’s vocals get more than their usual processing.

The happy feeling continues through current single “Paradise” and “Charlie Brown,” both of which are typical big-sounding Coldplay pop songs. “Paradise” is particularly pop-oriented, with its beat veering ever so close to hip-hop, recalling OneRepublic’s similar flirtation when it teamed up with Timbaland. It goes for the big sonic build, overlaying synthesizers, strings, hand claps and, during the chorus, the backing choir. “Charlie Brown,” a track many have named as a standout, has Asian touches not unlike Viva La Vida’s “Life in Technicolor” or “Lovers in Japan.”

The album concept comes on strong for “Us Against the World,” the album’s first slower song. I appreciate that Martin’s vocal is pretty clean on this song, and the production, which tends to be overbearing throughout, has a lighter touch here. It’s almost folksy, in a Bon Iver-ish way.

Another instrumental signals a segue to the album’s next segment. Whether its title “M.M.I.X.” is a musical reference, “2009,” or some reference to the characters name is unclear, but the interlude is over before you’ve had time to overthink it, pushing quickly into summer hit “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall.” It’s certainly welcome to this party, an anthemic tune that sits nicely alongside the band’s greatest hits. I love how the bass really picks up at 1:40. “Major Minus” follows. It’s the most traditional rock arrangement on the album and thus sounds more like U2 than anything here. I find its comparatively restrained production refreshing, hearkening back to A Rush of Blood to the Head days, and wish more of the album sounded like this.

This section of the album is a real mishmash of sounds. After the uplift of “Teardrop” and the darker rock sound of “Minus” comes the softly acoustic almost interlude “U.F.O.,” followed by what will surely be the most divisive track on the album, the aforementioned Rihanna collaboration. “Princess of China” is awash in distorted synths, burying Chris and RiRi in layers of electronic sounds. It’s not a bad song, but it’s overproduced. It’s certainly better than the song that follows, “Up in Flames,” which is the album’s low point. Nothing much happens in the song. It’s a middling hip-hop beat, piano and a soft vocal, with a tune that just seems to repeat over and over.

Last stretch of the album brings two welcome tracks. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” may be traditional Coldplay stadium filler, but it’s not an album filler, pumping up the album’s sound at just the right point. “Up with the Birds” is gentler, switching gears from airy synths and strings to more muscular guitar halfway through, an effective transition that ends the album on a strong note.

All this wanting to be loved feels like it goes just a little too far on this album. It’s like the nerdy ninth grader who suddenly decides he can be cool by dressing like and hanging out with the cool kids. Thus Coldplay dress their songs in so of-the-moment synths and hip-hop beats and even spends some time with the coolest pop kid of the moment, Ms. Rihanna. They even nod to last year’s coolest rock album, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, evoking that group’s shimmery multi-instrument layering on Mylo’s opening instrumental. Still at its core, this is definitely a Coldplay album, and while not their strongest work, it’s a welcome addition to the family.

Best: Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall, Hurts Like Heaven, Major Minus, Paradise, Don’t Let It Break Your Heart

Sunday, October 23, 2011

UK Singles Chart, October 29, 2011

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

Rihanna spends a third week at #1 with "We Found Love." It surpasses "Take a Bow" and "Only Girl" to become her second-longest running #1 hit. It's got a long way to go if it were to surpass her biggest #1, "Umbrella," which spent a whopping 10 weeks at the top spot.

2.(NEW) Lightning - The Wanted

Early in the week it looked like The Wanted might have been headed for their third #1, but in the end, they will have to wait a bit longer for that, as "Lightning," was surpassed at midweek by Rihanna, who kept her momentum through the weekend. Thus the single lands at #2, following summer's #1 hit "Glad You Came." This makes The Wanted's chart run of late look a lot like how they performed last year, when their first single, "All Time Love," was a summer #1, followed by a fall #2, "Heart Vacancy." The group's second album, Battleground, is out in 2 weeks.

3.(7) Wherever You Will Go - Charlene Soraia

What seemed like a novelty has turned into a bona fide hit, as Charlene Soraia's "Wherever You Will Go" storms the top 5, up four this week to #3. It will be interesting to see if this sticks around for the holidays--seems like it definitely could. I wouldn't even count it out for a #1 contender. Despite the stiff competition, there are some weeks ahead where it's possible.

4.(2) Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5 (feat. Christina Aguilera)

After 7 consecutive weeks at #2, Maroon 5 falls to #4 this week, ending the longest second-place streak since All-4-One's "I Swear" did the same thing in the summer of 1994. Can't tell you when a song has spent longer at #2, or even if one ever has. During the '80s, the longest run at #2 was Wham! with "Last Christmas/Everything She Wants (Remix)," which spent 5 weeks at #2.

6.(NEW) Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson scores her 11th top 40 hit with the forthcoming first single from her fifth album, Stronger. This is Clarkson's seventh top 10 hit.

9.(NEW) Video Games - Lana Del Rey

This is an unusual, but in my mind welcome sound in the top 10. Lana Del Rey, the stage name for American singer Elizabeth Grant, has created a haunting tune with a stirring acoustic arrangement, ironically free of the electronic enhancement its title might suggest.

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

David Guetta scores his 12th top 10 hit as "Without You" climbs 6 spots. This is Usher's 16th appearance in the top 10, first so far this year.

11.(NEW) Got 2 Luv U - Sean Paul (feat. Alexis Jordan)

Beginning in 2002, Sean Paul had five top 10 hits early in his career, plus appearances on Blu Cantrell's #1 single "Breathe" and Beyonce's #2 hit "Baby Boy." But it's been 6 years now since he's appeared in the top 10. He misses out again this week, but just barely. This is the third chart appearance for Alexis Jordan.

18.(30) Lego House - Ed Sheeran

I was thinking that Ed Sheeran's third single might not follow his previous two into the top 10. But 3 weeks from its release, it's already #18 and rising fast. The song has grown on me a lot in last couple weeks and now might be my favorite from him.

21.(NEW) Mistletoe - Justin Bieber

It's WAYYYY to early for this. I think the low chart placing is proof of that.

22.(NEW) The One that Got Away - Katy Perry

Katy Perry scores her 12th top 40 hit, the sixth single from her 2010 album Teenage Dream. All of the album's previous five singles reached the top 10. I think this one will struggle to do so (and in fact, I expect that it won't).

23.(6) Run for Your Life - Matt Cardle

it's not looking good for Matt Cardle. Last year, Joe McElderry's single "Ambitions" debuted at #6 and then dropped to #21. This week, Matt Cardle's single, which debuted at the same spot, falls even farther. Nonetheless, he's done well on the albums chart, debuting at #2 with Letters.

32.(37) Crush on You - Nero

Nero follows his recent #1 hit "Promises" with a significantly lower chart placing for "Crush on You." Surprised this didn't chart higher. This is Nero's fourth but smallest top 40 hit.

37.(74) Natural Disaster - Laidback Luke vs. Example

Another single I'm surprised didn't chart higher.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Janet Jackson - Control (1986)

It must feel good if you’re an artist struggling to find an audience and finally discover the sound that fits your style and delivers what the public has been hungry for. That’s what Janet Jackson did with her third album, Control, which was wildly more successful than her hitless first two albums.

Although she was already famous for her television work (and for just being a Jackson), Control proved that Janet was an artist in her own right. The hard-edged dance pop sound was honed by Minneapolis-based production duo Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, cementing a musical relationship with Jackson that would last into the ‘00s, producing hit after hit.

What’s satisfying about Control is that as much as it delivered hit singles—five top 10s in the US—it also holds together well as an album, both musically and thematically. It’s a statement about independence, professionally, personally, even sexually.

The title track spells it all out with its spoken-word intro before breaking into the album’s signature high-octane dance pop. “Nasty,” my favorite track, finds Jackson bending gender stereotypes, treating men like playthings she can love or leave on her own terms. Its deep bass grind still feels fresh and fun. “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” finds Jackson on the verge of a breakup, but rather than a sob story about some guy dumping her, she’s the one laying out how’s it going to be if he wants her to stay.

As in your face as these songs are, “Let’s Wait Awhile” shows that you don’t have to give up control to be sensitive, with Jackson telling her beau she wants to forgo sex…for now. She later seals the deal on closing track “Funny How Times Flies (When You’re Having Fun),” introducing Jackson’s signature sexual coos that permeate many of her later albums, although at this early stage, it doesn't yet feel so tawdry. Elsewhere, the album stays aloft with the joyful dance pop of songs like “The Pleasure Principle,” “You Can Be Mine” and her first #1 hit “When I Think of You.” A true ‘80s gem.

Best: Nasty, When I Think of You, What Have You Done For Me Lately, Control, Let’s Wait Awhile

Further Listening: Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989)

I already wrote about this album as part of my 1990 series, since its multiple hit singles (seven top 5 hits) were such an integral part of that year’s music landscape. But the album did come out in the twilight hours of the ‘80s, so it deserves mention here, since it’s even better than Control, with Jam & Lewis pushing Jackson further into groovy dance pop with a touch of new jack swing. After the inward-looking Control, Rhythm Nation’s theme looked outward at the problems of the world, but also found time for love, sex and hedonistic fun. Best: Rhythm Nation, Miss You Much, Love Will Never Do (Without You), Come Back to Me, Alright, Escapade, Black Cat, State of the World.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

UK Singles Chart, October 22, 2011

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

Rihanna and Calvin Harris spend a second week at #1, bringing to an end an 11-week run of weekly turnover at the #1 spot. That's the longest such run since early 2004, when there were 12 weeks of different #1 hits.

3.(NEW) Stereo Hearts - Gym Class Heroes (feat. Adam Levine)

Gym Class Heroes score their fourth top 10 hit, debuting at #3 with "Stereo Hearts." Its peak ties with their first major hit, "Cupid's Chokehold" from 2007. The placement gives Adam Levine side-by-side top 5 hits this week, as Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" spends a 7th week at #2.

4.(12) Jar of Hearts - Christina Perri

"Jar of Hearts" gets a burst of new energy, climbing 8 spots, reclaiming the peak position the song reached 2 months ago.

6.(NEW) Run for Your Life - Matt Cardle

All X Factor "victory-lap" singles have hit #1. But their "first pitch" efforts? That's a different story. Only two acts have managed to reach #1: Leona Lewis with "Bleeding Love," which went on to become a massive international hit, and Alexandra Burke with "Bad Boys." Shayne Ward did pretty well too, hitting #2 with "No Promises." After that, the songs get particularly less memorable. Leon Jackson's "Don't Call This Love" hit #3, but he never had another top 40 hit. Joe McElderry performed similarly last year, hitting #6 with "Ambitions," but missing the top 40 with its follow-up. No one's done as poorly as Steve Brookstein, who's never scored a top 40 hit beyond his victory single, "Against All Odds."

When I first heard "Run for Your Life," I thought it was solid, so I'm surprised to see it land toward the bottom of X Factor artists first post-X Factor singles. Chances are, his next single will fare significantly worse.

7.(20) Wherever You Will Go - Charlene Soraia

The remake of The Calling's hit single jumps 13 notches to become a top 10 hit.

9.(13) The A Team - Ed Sheeran

Seriously? Back in the top 10? I'm really tired of seeing this on the chart. It's been around 18 weeks now! Sheeran's new single, "Lego House," enters the top 40 at #30 this week, while his last single, "You Need Me," drops 7 notches to #39.

21.(48) Super Bass - Nicki Minaj

Big jump back into the top 40 for Nicki Minaj. The song originally peaked at #8 in August.

25.(57) Wherever You Will Go - The Calling

Way to capitalize! The Calling re-enter the top 40 this week, bolstered by their song's resurgent popularity due to the Charlene Soraia remake.

Music of 1991: October

Last year, I did a monthly series looking at the hits from the same month 20 years prior. It was a lot of fun, and although I haven't been writing about 1991 this year, I've been listening to songs from each corresponding month as the year's gone by. So I decided I might resurrect this feature.


Mariah Carey had the month's biggest hit with "Emotions," the lead single from her second album of the same name. It was Carey's fifth #1, leaving little break between it and her previous #1, the last single from her self-titled debut, "I Don't Wanna Cry," which was a #1 hit in May and June. Although most of Carey's singles to date had been ballads, she chose an uptempo track to introduce emotions, with production courtesy of dance pop powerhouse duo David Cole and Robert Clivilles, the men behind the C&C Music Factory that had scored a #1 hit earlier in the year with "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."

Mark Wahlberg is best known as the Oscar-nominated star of acclaimed and hit films like The Fighter, The Departed, Boogie Nights, and Planet of the Apes. But 20 years ago, he was the hard-bodied, pants-dropping, little brother of New Kids on the Block's Donnie Wahlberg, who, with his own act, Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, scored a #1 hit with "Good Vibrations." The track is frothy dance pop with rapped verses by Wahlberg and a chorus comprised of a sample of Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation" (so much so that she was given a featured credit). Although the sound is unmistakably 1991, the idea has a lot in common with the current trend of blending electronic dance pop production and rap. The video effectively showed off his body, and while it's pretty silly, in 1991, I thought he was totally hot (and I know what wasn't alone there, not by a long shot). Marky Mark had another top 10 hit with "Wildside," and even released another album a year later. Following the music career, Wahlberg capitalized on his penchant for showing off his tightie-whitie briefs by becoming a Calvin Klein underwear model. He made his film debut in the 1994 Danny DeVito film Renaissance Man.

Natural Selection was never a household name, but they did have one big hit, "Do Anything, "which spent 3 weeks at #2 in October. For this song, the Minneapolis-based trio employed the vocal talent of Niki Haris, best known as one of Madonna's longstanding backup singers at the time. The track is a laid-back mid-tempo R&B/pop sound, kind of like a mellow New Jack Swing. The group would have another minor top 40 hit, "Hearts Don't Think (They Feel)."

Light rockers Extreme scored their second major hit, "Hole Hearted," the follow-up to their #1 debut hit "More than Words." In contrast to that song's slow tempo, "Hole Hearted" was upbeat, slightly folksy, but showcased the same blend of guitar and harmonized vocals. "Hole Hearted" peaked at #4 and was the group's last top 40 hit.

Bonnie Raitt had been making albums since the early '70s, but didn't achieve massive success until 1990, when she broke through to mainstream consciousness by winning the Album of the Year Grammy Award for Nick of Time. Capitalizing on that success, she followed that album in 1991 with Luck of the Draw, which gave the singer her first top 40 singles, the bigger of which was the top 5 hit "Something to Talk About." The following year, Raitt would win the Grammy Award for Female Pop Vocal Performance for this song, which was also a Record of the Year nominee.

Martika, who scored a number of top 40 hits in 1989, including #1 single "Toy Soldiers," had her only other top 10 hit in October, "Love...Thy Will Be Done," which peaked at #10. This wasn't something I was particularly into back then, but I really like it now. It's a gorgeous song, with a pretty static rhythm that builds a bit with some strings but mostly reaches its stirring climax because of Martika's vocal. It was written and produced by Prince, who found the time to do this despite having his own album coming out at the time. The song was a hit in many other countries, including Australia, where it hit #1.

Rapper Heavy D had appeared on Janet Jackson's #4 hit "Alright" the previous year, but scored his first major hit on his own with "Now that We Found Love," which hit #11. I remember really like this song at the time, which is propelled along at good clip by its dance pop rhythm. The track is a remake of a song by the O'Jays, although it was not a single for them.

Prince had a huge hit in 1991 with "Cream," which became a hit so fast it basically buried what had been Diamonds & Pearl's first single, "Gett Off," which peaked at #21 in October. As good as "Cream" is, I've always been partial to the dirty grind of "Gett Off." Given its suggestive lyrics and racy video--not to mention his butt-baring MTV performance--it's no wonder the record company released "Cream" just 6 weeks after "Gett Off," rightly sensing it was too hot for radio (it did not reach the top 40 at pop radio). "Cream" eclipsed "Gett Off" after just 3 weeks, but "Gett Off" was still climbing the chart, an unusual occurrence for an artist to have two singles climbing within the top 40 at the same time.

When it comes to her singing career, actress and former Miss America Vanessa Williams is best known for her hit ballads--songs like "Colors of the Wind" and "Love Is." But she had some uptempo releases too, of which "Running Back to You" was the biggest. It was the first single from her second album The Comfort Zone, which in 1992 would give the singer her landmark #1 hit "Save the Best for Last."

British alternative group Siouxsie and the Banshees had only one top 40 hit in the US, "Kiss Them for Me," which reached #23 on the Hot 100 (which surprisingly wasn't a big hit for them at home, hitting #32 in the UK). It was the first album from the group's 10th album.


Prince & the New Power Generation - Diamonds and Pearls. This was Prince's 13th album and first with his band The New Power Generation, which he also used for his 1992 album, Prince logo.svg. Prince's popularity wanted in the '90s, but at this early point, he was still really hot. Diamonds and Pearls was his biggest hit album of the '90s, scoring two major hits--"Cream," which hit #1 and the title track, which reached #3, plus minor top 40 hits "Gett Off" and "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," as well as "Insatiable," which hit #3 on the R&B chart. The album cover was notable for its 3D image.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Essential Albums of the '80s: Madonna - True Blue (1986)

This was the first true album by Madonna that I owned, and in 1988 I listened to it pretty much nonstop, instantly falling for its bold productions like the dark ballad “Live to Tell” and the gutsy “Papa Don’t Preach”—both of which were “story” songs, although not necessarily personal stories from Madonna’s own life (that would come later on Like a Prayer).

As much as Like a Virgin was big leap from Madonna, True Blue was yet another big step forward for the singer, who opted for a more mature and broader sound here. Notably, she began preferring her lower vocal register, so she sounds quite a bit different (and better) on True Blue than on her previous albums. The sugar-coated pop sound of Like a Virgin is mostly abandoned for a more adult pop sound, particularly on the album’s first half. The instrumentation is richer too, with strings and electric guitar forming a muscular sound for “Papa Don’t Preach,” while thick layers of keyboard coat “Live to Tell” in a sort of beautiful gloom.

She employs a lighter touch on the album’s second half for the sprightly “Where the Party” and the retro sounds of “Jimmy Jimmy” and the title track. She also unveils her first Latin-influenced song, “La Isla Bonita,” which would be a running theme for some time (“Who’s that Girl,” “Spanish Eyes,” Evita, for example). All of these new sounds paid off: True Blue is Madonna's biggest-selling album internationally and her biggest hit-producing album, generating five top 5 hits in both the US and the UK, including three #1 hits in each country.

The album benefits greatly from the 2003 remastering, more so than Like a Virgin, which didn’t have as strong a production in the first place. The richness of the album’s sound really shines now. I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite among Madonna’s first three albums, but this is definitely a strong contender. Best: Papa Don’t Preach, Live to Tell, Open Your Heart, True Blue, La Isla Bonita.

Further Listening: You Can Dance (1987)

You Can Dance was one of the first remix albums by a major pop artist (following Pet Shop Boys’ Disco), which helped usher in the format, which is still popular today (Radiohead and Britney both released remix albums this week). Although some might consider it a cash-in, I’ve read that Madonna was intimately involved in creating the album, as she was very protective of her sound. After the Who’s That Girl soundtrack, this was the second work I ever bought of Madonna’s. I remember opting for You Can Dance over True Blue at the record store because it had “Spotlight,” which was on the radio at the time. Curiously, there are four versions of this album. The vinyl LP contains the seven songs proper; the CD version adds dub versions of “Holiday,” “Into the Groove,” and “Where’s the Party”; and then the cassette version drops the “Where’s the Party” dub but instead has dub versions of “Spotlight” and “Over and Over”--one of those instances where the cassette has more songs than the CD. Additionally, there is a very rare version of the album that contains only single edits of seven songs—something I would love to get my hands on at some point. Also of note is that the songs are mixed together to form two continuous suites, a technique Madonna would use again on Confessions on the Dance Floor (2005).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Billboard Hot 100, October 22, 2011

1. (1) Someone Like You - Adele

Adele nabs the top spot on the Hot 100 for a third week. That gives her 10 weeks total atop the chart this year--the most of any artist. She's just ahead of the 9 weeks for Katy Perry and well ahead of the 6 weeks for Lady Gaga. "Someone Like You" is this week's Airplay Gainer, but it's been kept from #1 on the radio chart by Maroon 5, which has ruled that chart for the last 3 weeks.

Just like "Rolling in the Deep," "Someone Like You" is a multi-format smash: this week it's #2 on Pop Songs, #10 on Adult Contemporary (where "Rolling in the Deep" is #1 this week for the 17th consecutive week), #1 on Adult Pop Songs, #30 on Dance Club/Play Songs, #26 on Rock Songs, and #48 on Latin Songs (don't get why she's charting on Latin charts).

Finally, this week its download sales surpassed 2,000,000 units, which I guess makes it double-platinum. "Rolling in the Deep" is the year's biggest selling track, with over 5 million units sold.

3.(3) Pumped Up Kicks - Foster the People

"Pumped Up Kicks" spends a 7th consecutive week at #3. Billboard reported that's the third-longest a song has spent at #3 as a peak position, tied with H-Town's "Knocking Da Boots" (1993) and behind the 11 weeks for Real McCoy's "Another Night" (1994) and 8 week's for LL Cool J's "Hey Lover" (1995).

30.(62) 5 O'Clock - T-Pain (feat. Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen)

T-Pain hit #33 with "Best Love Song" from his upcoming fourth album RevolveR, but apparently that wasn't an "official" single, which this single is. This is T-Pain's 9th top 40 hit as lead artist; he's also had 20 as featured artist.

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that this is Lily Allen's first appearance in the top 40. Although she's had 10 top 40 hits in Britain, the closest she's come in the US was #49 for "Smile." The song is this week's Digital Gainer.

39.(43) Fly - Nicki Minaj (feat. Rihanna)

Nicki Minaj scores her sixth top 40 single from her album Pink Friday, a string of hits begun well over a year ago with "Your Love" (#14), "Check It Out" (#24), "Right Thru Me" (#26), "Moment 4 Life" (#13), and "Super Bass" (#3). It's her 14th top 40 hit overall, all of which were earned either this year or last.

This is Rihanna's 5th top 40 hit as a featured artist, bringing her top 40 tally to 26 singles.

Monday, October 10, 2011

UK Singles Chart, October 15, 2011

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

What looked at the start of the week to be a rather dull chart actually turned into quite an interesting one. Rihanna's first single from her forthcoming 6th album wasn't due for release until next month, but it got suddenly moved up and released midweek this week. That meant the song didn't appear on the midweek chart until Friday and then at #3. So instead of a week of no big new releases, we get a new #1 hit. This is Rihanna's sixth chart-topper. Her producer, Calvin Harris, takes a featured credit on this, scoring his third #1.

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

The casualty of Rihanna's move is Maroon 5, who is yet again kept from #1, spending a 6th consecutive week at #2. It looked like this would be the week that the song would finally, finally hit #1. But it wasn't meant to be. And looking at the crowded new release schedule ahead, I think this was its last shot. It's possible the song will stall at #2 even longer, although I bet Matt Cardle and Gym Class Heroes claim the top two spots this weekend. The last song that spent longer at #2 without hitting #1? Near as I can tell, that was All-4-One's "I Swear," which spent 7 consecutive weeks at #2 in the summer of 1994, kept from the summit by Wet Wet Wet's "Love Is All Around." That a long-running #1 hit would keep a strong-selling single from #1 seems like the obvious scenario that would cause this. That's Maroon 5's been kept from the summit by six different singles over 6 weeks strikes me as quite extraordinary. Or just bad luck.

5.(3) Iris - Goo Goo Dolls

Usually the "X Factor Effect" is short-lived, so it's a surprise to see Goo Goo Dolls in the top 5 again this week. It is a great song, so I suppose 13 years late to the party is better than never.

7.(20) Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

LMFAO scores their second top 10 hit following spring's massive #1 "Party Rock Anthem." Their last single, "Champagne Showers" misfired at #32, although likely because audiences weren't ready to move on from "Party Rock Anthem" yet.

16.(24) Fly - Nicki Minaj (feat. Rihanna)

Another climb for Minaj and Rihanna. Let's talk more about Rihanna and what a chart powerhouse she is. This year, she's had 10 tracks in the top 40--six of her own plus guest appearances on four others (Eminem, David Guetta, Kanye West and Minaj). Frequently she's had multiple hits in the top 40 at once, in fact, during the first 4 months of the year, there were 12 weeks where she had four singles in the top 40. Only during 3 weeks--Aug. 27 to Sept. 10--were there no Rihanna singles in the top 40. What a dark time that must have been for her

20.(NEW) Wherever You Will Go - Charlene Soraia

Clustered in the 20s are the week's other new singles. The Calling's 10-year-old hit single gets a remake by British singer Charlene Soraia. The track's popularity is due to its use in a Twinings ad. The original version hit #3 in July 2002.

25.(NEW) Radioactive - Marina & The Diamonds

Marina & the Diamonds was tipped as one of the hottest new acts of 2010, scoring #2 on BBC Sounds of 2010, but didn't quite live up to that hype. Although she scored three top 40 hits from her debut album, none reach the top 10 (her biggest was "Hollywood," which hit #12). She had an interesting sound, too quirky really for massive mainstream appeal. Back for album #2, she's put forth a much more radio friendly sound with this dance pop track. Not bad, but still not the hit she may be looking for.

27.(NEW) Shake It Out - Florence + the Machine

Florence sends a second single from her upcoming second album into the top 40 this week, the first, "What the Water Gave Me," having hit #24 just over a month ago. I like this one a lot better and am surprised that it didn't make it into the top 20 at least. This is her sixth top 40 hit in total.

40.(27) Collide - Leona Lewis/Avicii

Leona Lewis plummets to #40 in just the 5th week for "Collide." If it exits next week (which, surely it will), it will tie "Forgive Me" for her shortest stay within the top 40 for an official release (and "Forgive Me" was quickly followed by massive #1 hit "Run," so it was, so to speak, forgiven). The album had been due for release in November, but has been pushed back to spring. Clearly some needed re-jiggering is in the works.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Single Serving

*Beyonce - Countdown. Beyonce gets props for her surprisingly artistic fourth album. The flipside of that though is that it's struggling to find a real hit. "Best I Never Had" took off in the UK, but not really in the US. Doubt this will either, but it's another really fun song, with quite a frenetic production stuffed with beats, horns, keyboards and, of course, that great Boyz II Men sample.

Birdy - People Help the People. Surprising stirring vocal turn from such a young singer. Could be a surprise hit in the UK.

Bombay Bicycle Club - Lights Out Word Gone. This is decent piece of pop/rock. I like the laidback vibe.

*Matt Cardle - Run for Your Life. When it comes to the guys, X Factor has produced more misses (Steve, Leon, Joe) than hits (Shayne). With the epic sweep of this single, courtesy of Gary Barlow, I'm thinking Matt will go in the former category, at least for now. Rousing strings, confident piano chords and chugging guitars recall Brian McFadden's solo work.

*Kelly Clarkson - Mr. Know It All. Kelly doesn't sound like herself on this. I think it's because her vocals have become even stronger, a bit deeper. Not sure this going to reach the top 10, but I still like it.

*Coldplay - Paradise. Some fans may balk at the obvious pop and hip-hop influences here, but I rather like it. Coldplay making a stadium-filler may be a cliche, but they are so good at doing it, that they still make you believe. Fantastic and can't wait for the album.

Taio Cruz (feat. Flo Rida) - Hangover. Cruz hit pay dirt last year with the one-two punch of "Break Your Heart" and "Dynamite," both massive hits. Which makes this shamelessly bad ode to drinking--and not the fun part, but the nasty later part--all the more disappointing. "I can drink until I throw up," he sings. Yuck.

*Dappy - No Regrets. N-Dubz member's solo single is surprisingly decent. The modern production isn't anything remarkable, but I like the big pop chorus.

Gavin DeGraw - Not Over You. When I first heard this I thought "Ryan Tedder," and thus wasn't surprised to find out he produced and co-wrote it. Sounds good on the radio, but it's not really that special of a song.

*Delilah - Go. Delilah, the singer featured on Chase & Status's "Time," steps out on her own, with this clever interpolation of classic "Ain't Nobody" turned into a dark, swirling track full of angsty, breathy vocals.

LMFAO - Sexy and I Know It. The silliest act on the charts seems to have found a winning formula, as this is looking like it will be another big hit. If you like "Party Rock Anthem," you'll probably like this, and if you didn't, too bad. It's probably going to be on the radio for a long time.

*Loick Essien - Me Without You. After the charming introduction of summer's "How We Roll," Loick Essien returns with this nicely realized mid-tempo pop ballad. This showcases his voice even better. Really liking this.

*Florence and the Machine - Shake It Out. I wasn't crazy about her last single, but I like this one a lot better. She goes for a really big sound this time--organ and drums.

*Friendly Fires - Hurting. Friendly Fires is a group I keep hearing good stuff from, but I haven't taken the jump and bought one of their albums yet. After "Paris," this is probably my second favorite song from them. Takes indie pop into the DJ booth for some gentle soundplay that gives this a clubby boost.

Wolfgang Gartner (feat. Will.I.Am) - Forever. The Black Eyed Peas frontman gives a vocal assist to what would otherwise be a pretty nondescript electronic hip-hop/dance pop outing.

*Skylar Grey - Invisible. Shame this wasn't a bigger hit. I rather like it. Sounds like a mini version of "Bleeding Love."

*David Guetta (feat. Usher) - Without You. David Guetta finally put out something this year that I really like. He tones down his usually overstuffed sound, delivering a nice base to Usher's heartfelt vocal.

Enrique Iglesias (feat. Pitbull) - I Like How It Feels. Iglesias and Pitbull team up again and churn out another hit. This is the kind of song you expect will be played at sporting events to whip the crowd up--it even already has the crowd noise.

JLS - Take a Chance on Me. Speaking of which, JLS's new single is, in typical November fashion for them, a ballad. Hits all the right notes, but not quite as grand as last year's "Love You More."

Jessie J - Domino. For her latest US single (not available in the UK), Jessie J sounds more like Katy Perry than ever before, singing sweet nothings over a bold synth-pop melody. It's already reached top 40, but isn't showing signs it will be a big hit.

Lady Leshurr - Lego. One song about Legos is enough. This sounds like a tuneless Nicki Minaj knockoff.

Cher Lloyd (feat. Mike Posner) - With Ur Love. I thought "Swagger Jagger" was terrible. But Cher Lloyd's new single, while no pop masterpiece, is quite a bit better. Also, I heard her interviewed extensively on Radio 1 today and she was hilarious, which made me like her a lot more.

Jennifer Lopez - Papi. After the smoother R&B of "I'm Into You" it's back to the dance floor for Lopez, which is where I like her best. This even has more of a Latin sound, which is nice to hear from her.

Pixie Lott (feat. Pusha T) - What Do You Take Me For. Every Pixie Lott single has been stylistically different from the last, and this is no exception, trading the dance pop of "All About Tonight" for some swaggering hip-hop flash. It's due to go head-to-head with the next JLS single, which should make for an exciting chart week.

Marina & the Diamonds - Radioactive. The songs she put out last year were too quirky to really catch on. This dance pop piece is a more blatant stab at a mainstream hit. I like it better, although it's not a knockout.

Bruno Mars - It Will Rain. For Breaking Dawn Part 1, Mars has recorded this appropriately dark love ballad. In that vein, it kind of sounds like "Grenade," but isn't nearly as good. Not feeling this yet.

*James Morrison (feat. Jessie J) - Up. Expect James Morrison to repeat the popularity of his Nelly Furtado team up with this second single from his new album, due out late next month. This is what the Bruno Mars song should have sounded like.

Nero - Crush on You. Nero interpolates The Jets' "Crush on You" to give his latest single an obvious '80s flavor, making it his most mainstream release yet. It's fun, but I think I like "Promises" better.

Noah and the Whale - Waiting for My Chance to Come. This fourth Last Night on Earth single has a rollicking Tom Petty quality to it. I haven't really been into them, but I like this.

J. Pearl (feat. Shayne Ward) - Must Be a Reason Why. J. Pearl, whoever she is, has churned out a fun tune by interpolating Wamdue Project's "King of My Castle" and adding a new vocal by Shayne Ward (who, regrettably, is overprocessed here).

*Professor Green (feat. Emeli Sande) - Read All About It. This may be a Professor Green single but what makes it special is Emeli Sande, proving that her epic vocal from her summer hit "Heaven" was no fluke. Loving this.

Rizzle Kicks - When I Was a Youngster. Rizzle Kicks get lighter and brighter on this follow up to "Down with the Trumpets," which has a faster tempo and a Caribbean flavor.

Kelly Rowland - Down for Whatever. Although it's about sexual creativity, it might as well be about pop music production methods. The new X Factor judge may continue to strike out in the US with her R&B ("Motivation" was a minor hit, but just), but her dance pop has done well in the UK, so I expect this should do well.

Ed Sheeran - Lego House. Falls somewhere between the gentle acoustics of "The A Team" and the bolder, upbeat "You Need Me." It's a nice song--like the assertive piano and drum melody. Not sure it's going to be another top 5 hit though.

Skrillex - Ruff Neck (Full Flex). Dubstep is all over the place and this guy is being touted as one of its forerunners. It takes some getting used to, but the disco touches are what makes this one stand above the pack.

Snow Patrol - This Isn't Everything You Are. If "Called Out in the Dark" was a bit of a departure for them, this is back at home base, embodying the grand rock sound they've hit gold with before ("Run," "Chasing Cars"). Despite that, there's something about this song that's just not doing it for me. Not bad, but it feels forced.

Sean Paul (feat. Alexis Jordan) - Got 2 Luv U. Sean Paul has never really been my thing ("Get Busy" being his best work, in my opinion). This isn't really doing it for me either even with the delightful Alexis Jordan doing the chorus.

Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris) - We Found Love. This is calculated to be a major hit, which I'm sure it will. I like it, but I don't love it. It's not up to par with "Only Girl" or "What's My Name." Does the trick though.

*Britney Spears - Criminal. This was a personal favorite from Femme Fatale, so I'm excited it was chosen as the album's fourth single. A slight tweak in the mix keeps this mid-tempo standout sounding fresh. It's darker and less flashy than her last three singles, which is what makes it interesting.

*T-Pain (feat. Lily Allen & Wiz Khalifa) - 5 O'Clock. T-Pain liberally samples Lily Allen's hit single "Who'd Have Known," building around it a sexy hip-hop track with light piano that hits the right notes. One of his best. Recalls the trick Eminem pulled on "Stan" with Dido's "Thank You."

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Garden. Intriguing, but ultimately not particularly memorable late-night "chill" kind of sound.

*The Wanted - Lightning. Eschewing the fall boyband trend, The Wanted follows "Glad You Came" with an even zippier dance pop track. Smart move. It should be another easy hit for them.

Fall Album Releases Update

Check out the original preview here.

Bold entries are new or substantially altered from the preview.

(*) indicates a highlight release.


Steps - The Ultimate Collection (Oct. 10)
Evanescence (Oct. 10)
Radiohead - TKOL RMX 1234567 (Oct. 10)
Bjork - Biophilia (Oct. 10)

Britney Spears - B in the Mix Vol. 2 (Oct. 10). Britney leads her second remix album with slightly reworked radio version of her new single "Criminal" and then moves into the expected dance floor territory with hits from her last 3 albums, including #1 dance hits "Gimme More," "Piece of Me," "Till the World Ends" and "I Wanna Go."

Joe Jonas - Fastlife (Oct. 11). The middle Jonas brother follows the younger in releasing his first solo album, taking an urban pop route with help from producers like Danja and Brian Kennedy (Nick's was a rock album). Features his singles "See No More" and "Just in Love."

Matt Cardle - Letters (Oct. 17)
*Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Oct. 17)
Patrick Stump - Soul Punk (Oct. 17)

*Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto (Oct. 24)
*Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (Oct. 24)

Michael Buble - Christmas (Oct. 24). Canadian singer Michael Buble turns out a seasonal set of traditional favorites like "White Christmas" (featuring Shania Twain) and his take on Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

Justice - Audio, Video, Disco (Oct. 25)

*Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials (Oct. 31).

Professor Green - At Your Convenience (Oct. 31). British rapper releases his second album, featuring single "Read All About It" with Emeli Sande.

Rizzle Kicks - Stereo Typical (Oct. 31). English rap duo releases their first album, featuring hit single "Down with the Trumpets" and new single "When I Was a Youngster."


Susan Boyle - Someone to Watch Over Me (Nov. 1). Perhaps sensing the 15 minutes will be up soon, SuBo releases her third album in 3 years, featuring an eclectic mix of covers, including "Enjoy the Silence," "Unchained Melody" and "Mad World."

Pixie Lott - Young Foolish Happy (Nov. 7). British singer releases her second album, featuring recent #1 hit "All About Tonight" and new single "What Do You Take Me For" (feat. Pusha T).

The Wanted - Battleground (Nov. 7).

Birdy (Nov. 7). At only 15 years old, British singer Birdy has already had a top 20 hit earlier this year, a remake of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love," and now is set to release her debut album, featuring new single "People Help the People."

Cher Lloyd - Last One Standing (Nov. 7). Former X Factor contestant releases her debut, featuring recent #1 hit "Swagger Jagger" and new single "With Ur Love" (feat. Mike Posner).

Maverick Sabre (Nov. 7)

Gym Class Heroes - The Papercut Chronicles II (Nov. 14). Gym Class Heroes put out their fifth album, featuring current hit single with Adam Levine, "Stereo Hearts."

JLS - Jukebox (Nov. 14). X Factor boyband releases its second album, featuring summer #1 hit "She Makes Me Wanna" and new single "Take a Chance on Me."

*R.E.M. - Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011 (Nov. 14). The recently disbanded R.E.M. releases a career-capping two-disc greatest hits set featuring songs from all 15 of their albums plus a few new tracks.

Snow Patrol - Fallen Empires (Nov. 14). Northern Ireland's Snow Patrol releases its sixth album, featuring recent single "Called Out in the Dark" and upcoming release "This Isn't Everything You Are."

Drake - Take Care (Nov. 15)

*Rihanna - Talk That Talk (Nov. 21). With the ink not dry on the story that was Loud, her fifth album released just a year ago, which produced three major #1 hits, Rihanna is back with album #6. Don't know much about it yet, but the dance pop sound of first single "We Found Love," produced by Calvin Harris, suggest another party-pop-oriented set like Loud.

The Saturdays - On Your Radar (Nov. 21). British girlgroup releases its third album, featuring recent hits "Notorious" and "All Fired Up" plus upcoming single "My Heart Takes Over."

One Direction - TBD (Nov. 21). The latest British boyband to make a big splash releases a debut album, featuring recent #1 hit "What Makes You Beautiful."

Michael Jackson - Immortal (Nov. 21). Not another new album from the MJ vault, but a compilation/remix album tied to the Cirque de Soleil show featuring Jackson's songs. Similar in concept to The Beatles' Love.

Nickelback - Here and Now (Nov. 21). Their seventh album.

Westlife - Greatest Hits (Nov. 21). No longer a "vol. 2" set but now encompassing their full career in 1-disc and deluxe 2-disc versions. Features new single "Lighthouse" written by Gary Barlow and John Shanks.

Olly Murs - In Case You Didn't Know (Nov. 28)


Taio Cruz - TY.O (Dec. 6). Taio Cruz releases hits third album, featuring new single "Hangover" featuring Flo Rida.

Moved to 2012: Leona Lewis, Loick Essien.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Adele 'Someone Like You' Video

"Someone Like You" finally has a proper video. It's a lovely black & white affair shot in Paris, with Adele wondering around town looking sad. Reminds me of Duffy's "Warwick Avenue" and Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2U" videos.

Billboard Hot 100, October 15, 2011

1.(2) Someone Like You - Adele

Adele returns to #1 for a second week at the top with "Someone Like You." The song is #1 in sales, #2 in airplay. It's currently #3 at top 40 radio, where it's the fastest gaining song (it should be #2 tomorrow). This is the third #1 hit to spend nonconsecutive weeks at #1 this year, following Bruno Mars' "Grenade" and last week's #1, Maroon 5 & Xtina's "Moves Like Jagger."

5.(4) Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO (feat. Lauren Bennett & GoonRock)
6.(10) Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

"Party Rock Anthem" may have sounded like a one-hit wonder's #1 hit, but alas, LMFAO has a second hit, "Sexy and I Know It," up four places to #6 this week.

7.(NEW) Strange Clouds - B.o.B (feat. Lil Wayne)

B.o.B is back with the first single from his second album, which is this week's highest Hot 100 debut and B.o.B's fourth top 10 hit.

9.(16) We Found Love - Rihanna (feat. Calvin Harris)

Last week Rihanna was in the top 10 with her fifth top 40 hit from Loud, "Cheers (Drink to That)." This week, she's there with the first single from her upcoming sixth album, Talk That Talk. Notably, "We Found Love" is Rihanna's 20th top 10 hit, a feat she's achieved in just over 6 years, which is a record for a solo artist. Madonna held the record previously, having amassed her first 20 top 10 hits in just under 7 years. Mariah Carey did so in about 10 years. Among groups, The Beatles far surpass all of them, having amassed their first 20 top 10 hits in just 2 and a half years. "We Found Love" is this week's airplay gainer.

21.(22) Rolling in the Deep - Adele

Just wanted to acknowledge that this single is still "rolling" around the top 40, up a notch to #21 in its 39th week on the Hot 100.

28.(NEW) It Will Rain - Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars scores his 8th top 40 hit with It Will Rain, the single from the upcoming soundtrack to Breaking Dawn Part I, the movie Twilight fans can't wait to sink their teeth into this fall.

30.(38) Mr. Know It All - Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson may yet make a hit out of "Mr. Know It All." After an initial debut at #18 fueled by first-week sales, the single has had trouble catching on at radio, but it doesn't seem to be going away. It's currently #18 at top 40, gaining but not moving.

35.(45) Ni**as in Paris - Jay Z & Kanye West

Watch the Throne produces its third top 40 hit this week. It's released simultaneously with "Why I Love You (feat. Mr. Hudson)."

Monday, October 03, 2011

UK Singles Chart, October 8, 2011

1.(NEW) Loca People - Sak Noel (feat. Esthera Sarita)

The record-setting run of 11 British artists in a row topping the singles chart comes to an this week, as Spanish DJ Sak Noel claims the top spot with his dance tune "Loca People." It's a humorous track about a newcomer to Spain who's shocked that the people there just party "all day and all night" and thus exclaims "what the f**k!" Reminds me a lot of late '90s dance stuff like Sash!

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

Maroon 5 and Xtina spend a fifth consecutive week at #2. That's more than last year's big #2 hit, Eminem & Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie," which spent 4 weeks in the runner-up spot. If this song has a chance of finally hitting #1, it's this weekend. Its sales were only marginally less than Sak Noel's--75,000 to 73,000. And this week's new release list lacks a marquee hit.

3.(Re-entry) Iris - Goo Goo Dolls

The soundtrack to the hit film City of Angels scored several major hits in the US, but none really took off in the UK, until now. "Iris" was particularly big in the US--it spent 18 weeks at #1 on the airplay chart (it was ineligible for the Hot 100 at the time, because it wasn't available as a commercial single). In Britain, it reached only#50, although a re-release the following year sent it to #26. Credit this time doesn't go to City of Angels but (of course) to X Factor. This gives Goo Goo Dolls far and away their biggest hit.

10.(13) Lighters - Bad Meets Evil (feat. Bruno Mars)

Bad Meets Evil climbs into the top 10 in its 8th week in the top 40. This is the fifth top 10 for Bruno Mars, the previous four of which were all #1s.

17.(21) Go - Delilah

Delilah climbs into the top 20 with her first single, "Go." She was a guest vocalist on Chase & Status's single from earlier this year, "Time," which hit #21.

18.(19) Without You - David Guetta (feat. Usher)
20.(NEW) Sexy and I Know It - LMFAO

Here's some future hits, both of which are likely to reach the top 10 soon. Perhaps #1, but it's a tough season.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Grammy Awards 2012 Album of the Year - Early Thoughts on 20 possible contenders

The eligibility period for the 2012 Grammy Awards ended Friday. The nominees won't be out until December, but the list of eligible contenders will be out until sometime later this month. Here's a look at 20 possible contenders for Album of the Year (AOTY):

Top contenders

Adele - 21. There are two albums I expect are a lock. 21 is this year's true musical sensation, a surprise mega-hit from a singer who got mainstream attention for her first album, but not nearly on this scale. For it: A commercial and critical success that continues to score hits around the globe and the year's best-selling album. Against it: Nothing.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is the other one. For it: West has proven himself a popular AOTY contender, with three previous nominations, and this album was widely heralded as his masterpiece. Against it: Unlike those three albums, MBDTF failed to score a hit on par with the likes of "All Falls Down," "Gold Digger" or "Stronger." The release of his collaboration with Jay-Z could split some votes, since it's unlikely voters would nominate both.

After that, it gets less clear, so in keeping with the tradition of AOTY generally representing a mix of genres, I'm going to proceed from that context:


Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What. For it: This could get the Grammy veteran/nostalgia nod. Simon has a long history of Grammy awards. He's won 12 of them and been nominated in AOTY either solo or with Art Garfunkel 7 times, including 3 wins. This album received high praise from critics and has been a commercial success too. Against it: Last year, AOTY didn't have a nostalgia-type nominee (see snub of Carole King & James Taylor), so if they want to keep the category for young/new/hot acts, then Simon won't be it.

Bruno Mars - Doo Wops and Hooligans. For it: Grammy demonstrated interest in Mars last year, awarding his "Just the Way You Are" with Male Pop Vocal Performance and nominating two of his productions--B.o.B's "Nothin' on You" and Cee-Lo's "Fuck You"--for ROTY. The musical diversity of his debut and its legs with hit singles "Grenade" and "The Lazy Song" should make a strong contender. Against it: Since Adele is a lock, this has a shot only if voters are willing to nominate more than one pop album (which, among all the genres, is the one they are most willing to do that for).

Lady Gaga - Born This Way. For it: Gaga's The Fame and Fame Monster were both AOTY nominees, and Born This Way continued to up the bar creatively and was received just as well by critics. Against it: Commercially, Born This Way didn't quite meet expectations, and Gaga suffered some backlash this year. Since I expect 21 to be a shoo-in and Doo Wops to outscore this, I think it a very long shot for her this time.

Rihanna - Loud. For it: Loud, Rihanna's fifth album, was a major commercial success, scoring three #1 hits. Against it: critics have never fawned over Rihanna, and while Loud was a solid pop album, it lacked the artistry of her previous effort, Rated R, which I had thought her best possible contender yet for this, but it wasn't nominated.

Tony Bennett - Duets II. For it: Bennett is an old Grammy favorite who won the 1994 AOTY for his MTV Unplugged album. So he's got nostalgia plus that Amy Winehouse duet, "Body & Soul," which looks like a possible ROTY contender. Against it: As liberal as the music industry is, his recent public statements about 9/11 may turn off voters.


Bon Iver - Bon Iver. For it: Bon Iver's second album was this year's indie alternative favorite, and since such an album won AOTY last year (Arcade Fire's The Suburbs), I think it a good chance that we'll see another similar album in the mix this year. Critics also really liked it; it's one of the most praised releases this year. Against it: Although the enduring appeal of his first album and this album's release put Bon Iver more in the spotlight, it might not be enough to score an AOTY nod.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light. For it: Foo Fighters are longtime Grammy favorites. All of their albums except their first were nominated for Rock Album, an award they've won three times. Their last album, 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, was an AOTY nominee and critical consensus seems to be that Wasting Light is even better. It's also been a decent success commercially. A mainstream rock album is almost always nominated and what other work in that genre released this year is on par? Against it: Grammy strayed last year by not nominating a mainstream rock album, so if Bon Iver fills the bill again this year, Foo Fighters could be overlooked; however, I think it quite possible that both albums will be nominated.

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. For it: Longtime industry bad boys received universal praise for this, their 8th album. Their 1986 debut, Licensed to Ill, is now considered a classic. Against it: Although they've been nominated before, they don't have a particularly strong history, although they did win an Instrumental Album award for their last album, The Mix-Up. This might not be mainstream enough to get a nod.


Beyonce - 4. For it: It's no secret Grammy loves Beyonce. "Halo" won the Female Pop Vocal award for 2009, and because it was loved so much, a live version of the song was nominated again the following year. 4 sets a new bar for Beyonce creatively, and critics responded in turn (it's her highest rated on Metacritic). Her last album, 2008's I Am...Sasha Fierce, was her first nominated for AOTY. Against it: Critical success doesn't necessarily translate to an AOTY nod--Sasha Fierce, her only nomination--has the lowest score among her works at Metacritic. More importantly, 4 has been a major disappointment commercially, so far generating no significant hit in the US.

Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday. For it: Nicki Minaj has been one of the year's biggest breakout stars, an ascension that began with major buzz late last year and climaxing this summer with her major hit "Super Bass." She's certain to get a Best New Artist nomination, where she'll be duking it out with Bruno Mars for the win. Against it: It look a long time for Pink Friday to really catch on, although in a way that shows the album had remarkable staying power. Critics liked, but did not love, the album.

Kanye West & Jay-Z - Watch the Throne. For it: Two of the industry's biggest stars team up and deliver great results. West is a frequent AOTY nominee, but Jay-Z has often been overlooked. Those wanting to finally give him some credit could kill two birds with one stone by nominating this. Against it: It's a solid album, but not a knockout, certainly inferior to West's own album, which is far more deserving. It's sold well so far, but not produced any major hits.

Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer. For it: Grammy already showed it liked Cee Lo by nominating the album's hit single, "Fuck You!," in ROTY last year. Plus he's been nominated before with Gnarls Barkley. Against it: Despite what I think is its obvious appeal, no one seems to be talking about it.

Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV. For it: Lil Wayne was the toast of the rap world in 2008, widely regarded as an important creative force. His Tha Carter III was a major commercial and critical success and earned an AOTY nod. Against it: In 2011, this no longer seems to be the case. Too much time away from the spotlight while serving a prison term and some ego-serving vanity projects (the ill-fated "rock" album, for example), have chipped away his credibility. The album has been very successful commercially but received mixed reviews from critics.

Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'. For it: Stone Rollin' is a solid, retro-leaning R&B album with strong praise from critics. Against it: Saadiq isn't exactly a household name, so while this may be a strong contender for R&B genre awards, I don't think its up for a general category.

Michael Jackson - Michael. For it: Nostalgia for Jackson, gone just 2 years now, is still strong. For many, he is the epitome of popular music talent. His 1982 album, Thriller, is an undisputed classic. It won AOTY, and he was also nominated for Bad (1987) and History (1995) (Let's pause and note the injustice that History is an AOTY nominee, but not Off the Wall). Against it: Nostalgia won't be enough to drive this controversial and frankly underwhelming posthumous release to an AOTY nod.


Taylor Swift - Speak Now. For it: Taylor Swift proved herself a Grammy darling last year, winning AOTY for Fearless and awards in three other categories. Against it: Speak Now is no Fearless, with sales about half of its predecessor and, critically, none of those big crossover hits.

Jason Aldean - My Kinda Party. For it: Although I wouldn't consider him a crossover artist, he came close with this album, reaching the top 10 with his acclaimed hit "Dirt Road Anthem" and even drawing some top 40 airplay with his Kelly Clarkson duet "Don't You Wanna Stay"--both of which were #1s on the country chart. Against it: Most country albums that have snagged an AOTY nod in recent have been artists with major crossover appeal (Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks, Taylor Swift), and Aldean isn't quite there yet (however, Vince Gill got a nod in 2007, so it is possible).

Lady Antebellum - Own the Night. For it: Lady Antebellum became Grammy darlings this year, winning Record and Song of the Year for "Need You Now," a massive crossover hit last year from their second album of the same name, which was also an AOTY nominee. Anticipation was great for this third album, and its first single, "Just a Kiss," looks like it will be another crossover hit for the group. Against it: Critics gave Own the Night mixed reviews and the group doesn't seem to have the cache it did a year ago.