Saturday, November 28, 2009

Iyaz "Replay"

This is Scott Mills song of the week, he's been playing it every day this week and it's really grown me. Written by Jason DeRulo (who also just scored his first hit with "Watcha Say") "Replay" is a cool pop-tinged R&B number, the chorus has an interesting nursery rhyme styled melody. It's already scored Iyaz his first top 5 in the US and hoping it will do the same over here. Check out the song below:

Friday, November 27, 2009

30 Seconds to Mars "Kings and Queens"

I haven't been paying much attention to American rock band 30 Seconds to Mars, I know they're now on their third album, This is War, out next month, however I really liked their new single "Kings and Queens" after hearing it on the radio last night, it's very cool alternative rock, with an epic chorus to boot. Orchestration, electronic guitars, strings, rapid drums and booming vocals intact.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 5th Dec. 09

1. Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z Feat. Alicia Keys
2. Bad Romance - Lady GaGa

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys enjoy another bulleted stay at #1 with "Empire State of Mind," holding strong with both airplay and sales, however nipping at their heels is Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" which scoes the singer her fourth top 5 with a 7 spot leap, also this weeks biggest digital gainer--ultimately due to her show-stopping performance at the American Music Awards 09.

5. TiK ToK - Ke$ha

Scoring her first solo top 5 single is Ke$ha with "TiK ToK," rising 5 spots up the chart. This single is so hot--it's sure to be a #1 by the end of the year or early next year.

7. Sexy Bitch - David Guetta & Akon

After conquering the UK, David Guetta brings his dance-pop magic stateside. "When Love Takes Over" with Kelly Rowland became dance hit but failed to set the Hot 100 alight, only managing a disappointing #76, however proving there is love in the states for European-influenced dance-pop, "Sexy Bitch" (which along with "When Love Takes Over" topped the UK singles chart earlier this year) becomes Guetta's first top 10 hit and Akon's seventh.

12. Meet Me Halfway - Black Eyed Peas
16. Already Gone - Kelly Clarkson

More effects of the American Music Awards. After stalling at the bottom half of the top 20 for the last couple weeks--the Black Eyed Peas finally recuperate rising 3 spots to #12. They're currently at #10 on Mediabase. After staling at #20, #19 and #21 for the last few weeks Kelly Clarkson finally picks up greatly, rising 4 spots to #16.

29. Baby By Me - 50 Cent

I thought this was mildly interesting, 50 Cent's latest single "Baby By Me" falls down to #29 this week still remaining bulleted.

31. Happy - Leona Lewis

Is Leona Lewis' "Happy" finally going to be a hit? It sure looks that way, this week it rises 28 spots up the chart to #31. On the flip side--It seems Lewis is suffering the sophomore slump with her second album, Echo. This week it debuts at a dismal #13 with soft sales of 67k. Ouch!

Album Review: Rihanna - Rated R (4.5 / 5)

If Rihanna hadn't committed to 'going bad' on her last album, then she's fully embraced the transformation for her dark fourth album, Rated R, showcasing her desire for aphotic scenery, disheartening atmosphere and foul-mouthed endeavours through a moody blend of electro-pop, rock and R&B. First impressions were, following the whole Chris Brown scandal, the demeaning shift in sound could have been good for her, but the whole move is rather hit-and-miss. Rated R doesn't have the likability of Good Girl Gone Bad, however more edgy and solid than her first two albums thus dampening the pop appeal that had made her career in the last two years such a breakthrough. Good Girl successfully broadened her appeal, earning her new fans who appreciated her fun blend of pop, R&B and her occasional rock-influenced work ("Shut Up and Drive").

So is this a failure? Well, like my recent review of Leona Lewis' second album, Echo, Rated R is pretty comparison-worthy. Like Kelly Clarkson--after releasing her highly successful second album, Breakway, dubbed one of the best pop albums of the decade, she followed it up with the more dark and personal, My December, which was considerably less-successful and didn't fair well with fans and critics either, accused of detouring away too far from the lighthearted pop/rock of Breakway. Similarly, Rated R achieves the same thing, whilst there are still some pop and R&B influences (which will most likely be overlooked as there's not many), ultimately Rihanna's departure from the pop of her last album is apparent.

I respect Rihanna for embracing change, there's no better sign of true artistry as when an artist takes a risk or showcases versatility, which is what is making me appreciate this album even more--even despite not every single song being an instant knockout. Unlike Good Girl, Rated R didn't have its "Umbrella" to garner enough attention for it. The unnerving ballad "Russian Roulette" scored Rihanna her tenth top 10, reaching #9--however was considered to have ultimately failed as a lead single (If you say so). The pulsating ballad doesn't open the album, however planted in the middle, its the center-point of the project, setting the lurid tone of the album.

After the brief "Mad House" opener, a organ-driven interlude, with a Michael Jackson "Thriller" reminiscent ambiance as a haunting deep voice repeatedly says ("welcome to the madhouse") before the darkening bass line kicks in and we're introduced to Rihanna's introductory vocalizing, which leads into the first track "Wait Your Turn" (which sould be called "The Wait is Over") a downbeat, bass driven piece with eletronic undertones as Rihanna big's herself up on the verses ("there's so much power in my name"/"I'm such a fuckin' lady") boasting her star-power, a surprising burst of confidence that was hidden for the first four years of her career. I like the up-turn in the chorus and the hook, as the synth-lines ascend to the forefront and the melody avails a lighter tone, a false sense of hope that her dark mood will be letting up any time soon.

The next track "Hard" is so strong, even the Young Jeezy feature isn't a big deal. It's a swaggering number, compact with consistent drums, poignant piano-keys and a brewing bass line that keeps the song down-beat. Following is piano-driven "Stupid in Love" a possible re-telling of the trials and tribulations of Rihanna and Chris Brown--the lyrics, especially on the verses are raw, she explains: "blood on your hands and still you insist on repeatedly trying to tell me lies"/"I thought I saw your potential, guess that's what made me dumb." If it wasn't for the 808 drum machine in the chorus, it would have sounded much more heartfelt and endearing as she eludes such passion within her vocal as proclaims: "I may be dumb but I'm not stupid" never quite distinguishing the difference between "dumb" and "stupid," however leaving you with a thought.

Strutting "Rockstar 101" thumps a slick beat-driven composition, supporting a tasteful electronic guitar undergoing the grits of the song, possibly finding Rihanna at her most reluctantly confident, similar is "G4L" (abbreviated from "Gangsta for Life") which is just as confident, however very miserably composed--opening lyrics: "I lick the gun when I'm done 'cause I know that revenge is sweet," an obvious indication to the listener that their in for a blackening next 3 minutes. This is probably my least favorite track on here, she's throwing as many curse-words out there as she possibly can, but I don't find it convincing and it climaxes to an unbearable state of depression where she repeats: "We got our guns in the motherfucking air." The chorus is messy, however I like the rapid synths that mud over her vocals but that's about it. Following is "Te Amo" which attempts to change the darkening mood--with its Spanish-influenced sound, with strings, rapid hand-claps and light bass intact however it doesn't quite work.

Some '80s influences come into call on "Fire Bomb," beginning with a gushing electronic guitar, a brief entrance of orchestration before the bass kicks in, dubbing down as the piano keys and vocal enter. It's very Leona Lewis-styled pop/rock, but still very fitting. I like this a lot. Following is skittering, Jamaican hip-hop influenced "Rude Boy" which finds Rihanna at her most loose (no sexual-puns intended) although the sexual-references do contribute to its slightly change up in the aphotic mood so far. makes an appearance on the subtle "Photographs" which pulses with strings then transform to a more retro sound when the drums kick in.

If she didn't have quite enough to say, the last two tracks are surely packed with lyrics for thought. First of the two "Cold Case Love" once again hints relationship talk as she belts: "Your love was breaking the law, but I needed a witness"/"Will it ever be solved or am I taking the fall" on the chorus. The song is a slow burner (it's 6 minutes long), however eventually rises to a climatic, which eludes hart hitting-drums, effective beat-box noises, an electronic guitar and a stunning moments of orchestration. Closing the album is the aptly titled "The Last Song" which goes for the same climatic sound as "Cold Case Love," however maybe not as effectively. As the title implies, the song concludes the dark chapter of her life, which should hopefully mean a lighter fifth album.

I appreciate Rihanna for sticking with her guns, taking a risk and releasing the album she wanted, even if the shift in sound wasn't quite full-proof. I'm not convinced she's as down-in-the dumps as she claims. Her potty mouth, especially in "G4L" is really not convincing, maybe more of a brief stunt of a... Good girl going bad and returning to prominence a year later.

Best: Russian Roulette, Stupid in Love, Hard, Wait Your Turn, Fire Bomb, Rude Boy, Photographs, Cold Case Love

Personal Airplay, 26th Nov. 09

TW LW Title - Artist
1 ... 1 ... Meet Me Halfway - Black Eyed Peas (2 weeks @ #1)
2 ... 6 ... Bad Romance - Lady GaGa
3 ... 7 ... Russian Roulette - Rihanna
4 ... 2 ... Happy - Leona Lewis
5 ... 3 ... Everybody in Love - JLS
6 ... 4 ... Fireflies - Owl City (1 wk @ #1)
7 .. 10 .. Watacha Say - Jason DeRulo
8 ... 5 ... 3 - Britney Spears (2 wks @ #1)
9 .. 14 .. To Love Again - Alesha Dixon
10 .. 11 .. Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Susan Boyle to slaughter US charts next week

Britain's Got Talent's overnight sensation, Susan Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, (the first lines of the song that made the 48 year old a star) is set to dominate on next weeks Billboard 200. According to Billboard, the album is set sell around 550k to 700k copies this week, placing her way ahead of her major competitors such as Lady GaGa, Rihanna and Adam Lambert. I'm shocked! As much as I dislike classical music, maybe I should start paying attention to this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chris Moyle's Parody Album

Steering away from this weeks more serious releases such as Rihanna and Lady GaGa. Out this week is BBC Radio 1 DJ, Chris Moyle's Parody Album (check out the cover, reminiscing Take That's Circus above) a hilarious re-working of recent popular pop songs and surprisingly, considering he's not a singer, he sounds pretty good on most of these tracks. Out of the lengthy 20-track set, highlights so far include "Lorrydriver" (Britney Spears "Womanizer") "Meat Again" (JLS "Beat Again") "The Boy Does Plenty" (Alesha Dixon "The Boy Does Nothing") "Waterproofs" (La Roux "Bulletproof") arguably the most funny track on here, which is a tough call.

Features are intact as Calvin Harrison makes an appearence on his own re-working of "Dance Wiv Me," and Ricky Wilson on "I Predict a Diet" (Keiser Cheif's "I Predict a Riot"). Fairly, there are some original numbers, such as the annoyingly funny "Nana Window," the cheesy traditional piano and orchestration ballad "Funeral Song" (although not as cheesy as his morning show anthem) and christmas anthem "Never Gonna Snow," the '60s sounding trumpets and jingles remind me of the music from Family Guy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

End of Year/Decade lists

I thought I had successfully compiled all the best/my favorite albums of this decade into a solid top 50 last week, when I started planning the list--until I scanned through google, searching for the most popular albums tipped to top most end of decade lists in December and the album that came up most was The Stroke's first album, Is This It, released back in 2001. I've never gave the album a fair listen as I've only really started listening to alternative rock-influenced music this year and a good part of last.

It received a 5 out of 5 rating from Allmusic and Q Magazine. A 10 out of 10 from NME, and takes the top spot for their end of year list so I guess to say Is This It was a universally acclaimed album would be an understatement.

I bought the album today from iTunes and gave it a close listen and taking note to its back-story, no sooner than track 5, the exuberant "Someday" (which I had loved prior) did it click, why it's possibly the most acclaimed album of the decade. It's going to take some serious horizon expanding to appreciate this in its entirety, but I'm willing to make the sacrifice.

Album Review: John Mayer - Battle Studies (3/5)

Following up to one of today's modern masterpieces, Continuum, was always going to be hard task, so it's that much of a worry that John Mayer's fourth album doesn't quite live up to expectations. As you do after you have just had a hit album (unless your Mariah Carey) you want the next album to take a shift in sound, either to show versatility or show you are an exciting artist. One of Mayer's biggest comparisons, Nora Jones (who funnily enough has a new album out right now) did the same thing after her first album, Come Away with Me, became an earth-shattering monster hit--she changed up her acoustic-pop, jazz sound, embracing some folk for her follow-up and it worked.

Where, Battle Studies, doesn't quite click is that it goes in a completely different direction from Continuum. Mayer now indulges in a more serious blend of alternative rock and pop-orientated folk, which could have been a winning combination, but unfortunately it's not, but that goes without saying that there are handful of highlights here such as opening track "Heartbreak Warefare," which lives up to that more serious alternative sound as its backed by heavy-drums, strings and keyboards. Guitar-heavy "All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye" is a sweeping ballad and so it the breezy collaboration with Taylor Swift on "Half of My Heart."

I see some Jack Johnson influences on the folky lead single "Who Says," I like this song a lot--possibly the best on the album following "Heartbreak Warfare." "Perfectly Lonely," is another favorite, however there's the feeling that it could have been something more, maybe building up to a bigger climax rather its flat showings throughout the whole song.

Well, that's the good over with. I like the electronic guitars in "Assassin," but its ultimately a very bland track. Keyboard-heavy "Crossroads," sufferers from the same problem. "War of My Life," well it's a very epic title, so I guess it's ironic that the actual thing is pretty boring and I normally like songs that just use drums, strings and vocal.

Chilled "Edge of Desire," bring up the album. It's slightly Coldplay-esque, with keyboards, drums and guitars. It's really nice and it's the only good song on the second half on the album as the last two tracks are anything less than amazing. Twingy strings and subdued skittering hi-hats take the forefront on "Do You Know Me," which isn't a bad composition, but is it so bland? Closing track "Friends, Lovers or Nothing" is an cool ballad, but it's defiantly no "Dreaming with a Broken Heart."

Battle Studies, is a disappointing album--the shift in sound really fell short for Mayer, it's lucky the first five tracks are so strong or it would have been less than a 3 out of 5. I would love for him to return to what works for him the next time around, maybe he should have took notes from Mariah and used the if-it's-not-broken-don't-fix-it technique. I wonder how Nora Jones' album will compare.

Best: Heartbreak Warfare, All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye, Half of My Heart, Who Says, Perfectly Lonely, Edge of Desire

Album Review: 50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct (3/5)

The last time we he heard from Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent, he was challenging Kanye West in the now infamous album race to determine would shift more units on their release week, of course West won, and rightfully so as he did have the better album, however Jackson's Curtis was still a solid album.

Being such a staple to hip-hop music during his years of power, particularly 2003 to 2005, his fourth album, Before I Self Destruct, depicts signs of that power beginning to wear off. It definitely didn't embrace the charm that made his breakthrough, Get Rich or Die Trying, so appealing and likable or the blend of catchy poppy hooks and flaming hip-hop beats that made, The Massacre, an instant million-seller. Or maybe Jackson's running out of things to say, not that its his lyrical wit that made his first two albums glisten--If he does have anything to say it's too buried beneath his excessive boasting and lyrical put-downs to others. Once billed the hottest man in hip-hop, Before I Self Destruct leaves a lot to be accounted for.

Now, there are a handful of good tracks on here, such as its best track "Baby By Me" featuring Ne-Yo, thumping a slick rhythmn and recurring poignant piano keys towards each second half of a verse. I particularly like the beginning, which Jackson briefly raps ("have a baby by me, be a millionaire") over the strutting bass line--which repeats again before each verse begins. It's definately no "Ayo Technology" but it's a really good song. The R. Kelly collaboration on "Could've Been You" is pretty good, I like the drum line and R&B-styled strings.

More good tracks include "OK, You're Right" which goes for that big dominating orchestration sound and the swaggering drum line to keep things leveled. I like the female vocal sample in "Strong Enough," in which Jackson also gives an aggressive vocal on the chorus. The light piano keys and consistent bass line in "Stretch" is another winner.

Then there's the cliche "Death to My Enemies," which is really an archetypal (but more brutal) rant at haters, which he's done on every single album. It gets boring after the first two times. Jackson attempts playful rapping on "Crime Wave," over the hard-hitting piano chords (which I really like) he sounds creepy, I'm not sure if that was the goal.

As well as being generally disappointing, sales for the album are look dim also. Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3, this is not. If I were to compare it, an obvious choice would be Eminem's Relapse--I also gave it a 3/5, but I do like it better than Before I Self Destruct. Funnily enough there's a pretty pleasing Eminem collaboration on here titled "Physco," mainly built around kinetic handclaps and orhcestration.

Maybe I'll grow to like it as I'm I am a fan of 50, but thinking are just not clicking. Has hip-hop moved on? Is 50 passed his prime? Or is he just too good for the current state of hip-hop? Before I Self Destruct maybe a disappointment, but there's still the good old three first albums to back to listen to.

Best: Baby By Me, Could've Been You, Strong Enough, OK You're Right, Strech, Physco

New Britney Album due in Spring

Digital Spy say Britney Spears' seventh studio album is due out next year in Spring, around May. As you would guessed I'm very excited for this, but they also note she's working with Max Martin again--It's getting boring--she needs a new edge. I wish she would just deliver her Ray of Light.

J.Lo Returns

Jenner Lopez is back with her new single "Fresh Out the Oven" featuring Pitbull. What do you think? I'm afraid she's not as hot or "fresh" as she use to be, there's something really off about this song--almost like she tried to make Beyonce's "Video Phone" better. I don't like it. It's the first single from her forthcoming seventh album, Love? I guess her first greatest hits album has been scrapped. Check out the video below:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Album Review: Leona Lewis - Echo (4.5/5)

How do you follow-up an insanely successful first album, that proved an X Factor winner can indeed conqure the pop music scene, and do it well? avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump, well this is how: Capitalizing on what made the first album so good and so successful and enhancing them, doing a bit of growing up without coming across too big for your trousers which is what Leona Lewis' second album, Echo, manges to capture effectively. It's still the same mix of pop and soft rock, ballads, mid-tempo and uptemo's like the first album but now embracing influences from dance-pop.

If you want to make a comparison, Echo, could have emulated the same sound Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway went for, a more apparent blend of rock and pop, as Lewis is now in the same position Clarkson was five years ago--her first album, Thankful, was a solid success, spawned three hits ("A Moment Like This," "Miss Independent" and "Low") but the question remained as how Clarkson would fair with her second album--whether she would falter or solidify her name as serious pop singer and not just another corporation puppet driven by Simon Cowell--then Breakway was born, one of the best pop albums of the decade, landing Clarkson 5 top 20 hits in a row and selling 13 million copies worldwide.

Leona's career so far follows the same sort of story. Her first album, Spirit, was a success... a monster of a hit, becoming the UK's second biggest selling album of 2007, also becoming the 27th biggest selling album in UK history and selling a staggering total of 3 million copies in the UK as well as an additional 4 million worldwide. Her victory on the X Factor followed both Shanye Ward and Steve Brookstein--who both, particularly Shayne, had put out albums following their success on the X Factor which had amounted to fair success in the UK, but failed to branch out successfully to notable countries outside the United Kingdom and Ireland, which brings us to Spirit's most biggest achievement as it made Leona the first British solo-act to top the US Billboard 200, let-alone being the first X Factor winner to achieve success overseas. Not too shabby for a first album, don't you think?

Another comparison you could make is with Mariah Carey, a woman Leona is closely associated with to the public. Spirit, successfully emulated the same sort of structure as Mariah's first album, released back in 1990, both a blend of upbeat pop (Mariah's "Someday" and Leona's "Forgive Me") balladry (Mariah's "Vision of Love" and Leona's "Bleeding Love") and R&B influences (Mariah's "All in Your Mind" and Leona's "Yesterday"). So if, Spirit was Leona's Mariah Carey, then Echo should be Leona's Emotions, right? Right! Mariah's second album used the same If-it's-not-broken-don't-fix-it mind-frame Echo is using--although I think it's far better than Emotions as its songs aren't just bland retreads of the ones on the last album.

Unlike Emotions, Echo showcases a cohesive, winning blend of pop, R&B and soft rock whilst remaining solid. Surprisingly there's no filler, which is normally the problem that pulls down even today's best pop albums, although there's at least two tracks that haven't completely won me over. Opening track and lead single "Happy" successfully recalls "Bleeding Love" in its likable haunting balladry, probably because their both produced by Ryan Tedder, who appears again on the album towards the end. More parallels s to "Bleeding Love" It's brilliant mid-section in which the orchestration become more quiet after she sympathetically sings ("don't say victim, don't say anything") and the chorus approaches with just the piano as in "Bleeding Love" before she belt ("I'll be wearing these scars for everyone to see") the bass becomes more apparent, soon quieting for the orchestrated chorus plays out.

After "Happy" the next four tracks are pretty solid. First up is the Max Martin-penned "I Got You," starting out with strings intact and Lewis' subtle vocal on top--before embracing a bigger sound, mostly with hard-hitting drums, as the fantastic chorus approaches and her vocals become stronger and forceful without straining, possibly among the few songs that sum-up the albums title well. Following is "Can't Breathe," which begins with a brief rapid collision of bass before emerging as a bit of a slow jam, with orchestration and big bass sounds intact. It's another winner, however I do think the hook is a tad inaudible--It sounds like she's saying ("I don't wanna... Gaga") over and over again or maybe it's just me. However her soaring high-pitched vocals on the chorus are just sensational.

"Brave" opens with subtle progressive orchestration as it ascends into an interesting foreign sound ending after the lyric ("I wish I was that brave") before things pick up magnificently with guitars, drums and kinetic handclaps aligned together to create that big sound that "Can't Breathe" also goes for. The song builds up to a breathtaking climax, finding Lewis effectively using her upper vocal range, almost reminiscent to the kind of upper register tricks Mariah does at the end of almost every ballad she does, at this moment I'm thinking of "Bye Bye."

Instantly showing some of the differences between Echo and Spirit is the techno-influenced, second single "Outta My Head," pounding with '80s styled synth and Gameboy-like sounds, backed with a booming hook and chorus--possibly the most exciting Leona has been since maybe "Forgive Me," her last upbeat single.

Towards the middle, the album doesn't remain as consistent as it does with its first five tracks. Dramatic bass and piano driven ballad "My Hands" is a lovely song, not a highlight for me personally though. The opening guitar strings in "Love Letter" that briefly recall same kind of opening of Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You." It's a lovely number, but it would be nice if built up to a big dramatic climax like some of the previous tracks do, as after the bridge it doesn't go anywhere, but serious piano laced ballad "Broken" makes up for it as it successfully a heart-stirring dramatic climax, in which Lewis' eludes probably her most magnificent vocal performance ever. Fresh "Naked" goes for the classic teen-orientated pop/rock sound. It's pretty good.

Towards the end of the album, there's a pretty near remake of Oasis' "Stop Crying Your Heart Out." Another climax-friendly ballad that works perfectly. Following is Justin Timberlake-penned, piano and string backed ballad "Don't Let Me Down," which hits all the right notes in-terms of a decent ballad, not enough right ones to emulate an instant winner, however I do like how the orchestration plays out the song at the end. "Alive" is another piano, string and drum affair--It goes for a climatic ending. Closing the album is "Lost Then Found" which features OneRepublic, which many Bloggers have noted it's more OneRepublic than Leona and I agree, but it is a pretty nice dramatic piano, bass and drum fueled ballad. A nice way to conclude the album.

If your comparison crazy--Echo could have been either been Leona's Breakway or her Emotion's like I mentioned before. If it's her Breakaway and her career turns out like Kelly Clarkson's, then this album should receiver critical acclaim and sell a lot and her next album will be a complete shift in music, end up as a flop and result in collisions with the record label, however if this is her Emotion's and her career trails Mariah Carey's then this album will be a moderate success and be over fairly quickly, however then her next album should be an earth shattering hit--her Music Box.

Best: Happy, I Got You, Outta My Head, Brave, Broken, Stop Crying Your Hear Out, Naked

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Billboard Hot 100, 28th Nov. 09

1. Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

After a string of four top 5 singles ("03 Bonnie & Clyde (with Beyonce)," "Dirt off Your Soulder," "Run This Town (with Rihanna & Kanye West) Jay-Z finally scores his first #1 on the Hot 100 with his latest single "Empire State of Mind" with Alicia Keys, ending Owl City's two-week stay at the top with "Fireflies." It's astonishing that his first number-one comes after fourteen years in the business. This week "Empire" is also airplay gainer, much contributing to its rise to the top. Congrats to Jay.

5. Need You Now - Lady Antebellum

Country group Lady Antebellum score their highest charting single ever with "Need You Now" lead single from their forthcoming second album of the same name, rising 17 spaces up. Prior to this their highest charting single was "I Run to You" last single released from their first self-titled album, landing the group their first top 40 hit, peaking at #27 earlier this year.

6. 3 - Britney Spears

Britney rises two spots up the chart with her latest single "3" which topped the chart 8 weeks ago, landing Spears her third #1. This week her new Singles Collection debuts #26 with sales of 28,000.

10. TiK ToK - Ke$ha

Newcomer Ke$ha scores her first solo top 10 with her debut single "TiK ToK."

11. Bad Romance - Lady GaGa

Following her impressive top 10 debut and a sturdy fall down to #18, Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" rises 7 spots up to #11. Her appearence on Gossip Girl may have helped.

Personal Airplay, 19th Nov. 09

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Meet Me Halfway - Black Eyed Peas (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... Happy - Leona Lewis
3 .... 5 .... Everybody in Love - JLS
4 .... 1 .... Fireflies - Owl City (1 wk @ #1)
5 .... 3 .... 3 - Britney Spears (2 wks @ #1)
6 .... 8 .... Bad Romance - Lady GaGa
7 ... 10 ... Russian Roulette - Rihanna
8 .... 6 .... Bad Boys - Alexandra Burke feat. Flo Rida
9 .... 7 .... Fight for This Love - Cheryl Cole
10 .. 23 .. Watcha Say - Jason DeRulo

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Preview Albums

November is always such a ridiculously busy month for music I just can't keep up. Here are brief reviews of albums released this week. Full reviews of all of them will be up shortly, I use the term 'shortly' loosely:

Leona Lewis - Echo. Leona returns with her sophomore effort. Echo is more confident than her debut but still rather tame, using the formula of big ballads ("Happy") and uptempo dance-pop ("Outta My Head"). I'm very impressed with this.

N-Dubz - Against All Odds. Fantastic follow-up to Uncle B, an even more comfortable blend of grime, hip-hop, pop and R&B--touching sensitive teen-oriented subjects such as the teen-pregnancy driven "Shoulda Put Something On" and the tastefully cocky "I Don't Wanna Go to Sleep." Second single "Play with Fire" with Mr. Hudson is awesome.

Nora Jones - The Fall. I wasn't a fan of Nora's last album, Never Too Late, which found the jazz singer try to branch out into different territories away from the blend of acoustic-pop and bluesy jazz that made her first album so successful. Her fourth album confirms she won't be returning to that any time soon, but it's still pretty good showcasing a solid blend of subtle-rock and more apparent acoustic-pop.

John Mayer - Battle Studies. Not as great as his masterpiece last album Continuum as Mayer decided to stray away from the winning blend of acoustic-pop and soul and indulge in a more folksy, country and rock endeavour.

Justin Bieber - My World. Possibly the least impressive of the bunch. Justin Bieber's music is lighthearted pop fun aimed at teenagers girls, which would explain why I don't get the appeal but I did check it out, but with such a limited 8-track set, mostly filled with the same beat-driven stuff it's hard to elude Bieber from the 'just another pretty face teen fad' category. Remember what Jesse McCartney used to be? But ballad "One Less Lonely Girl" is pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Album Review: Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster (4/5)

After brightening the pop world with her successful first album, The Fame, Lady GaGa returns with her much talked about 8-track EP The Fame Monster, initially tipped to be a re-release of The Fame, then a sophomore album and now a stand-alone EP.

Ultimately, The Fame Monster cuts from the same vein as the stuff on The Fame, which isn't necessarily a bad thing as lead single "Bad Romance" is still a killer track, despite its close association with "Poker Face." If this was released in the '80s it would have made the perfect studio album, of course having an album with only 8 tracks on it these days is considered ridiculous.

A comedic GaGa introduces synth-stomping favorite "Alejandro," recalling the same styled-synths as "Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)." Following is thundering mid-tempo "Monster," which sounds fantastic. Next up is "Speechless" which receives a swift change-up in comparison to the first three tracks. First it's a ballad, with a composition that reminisces "Brown Eyes." Second there are no synths but strings, piano, guitar and a swooning melody. Very nice. Returning to electro-pop is "Dance in the Dark" a personal favorite, I like the '80s throwback vibe in the chorus.

Collaboration with Beyonce on "Telephone" is brilliant. The telephone dialing tones that ring throughout work effectively. The pulsating bass line, the rhythmic hand-claps and robotic stuttering vocals. Electro-pop brilliance. Last two tracks, the unusually jaunty "So Happy I Could Die" and the just weird "Teeth" I'm not too interested in right now.

As far as short 8-track EP's go, I'm absolutely loving this right now. Even loving her first album it took me awhile to jump on the GaGa bandwagon completely, but I think I'm on board now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

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Album Review: Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star (4.5/5)

Now, I haven't been dictating Robbie Williams' career and music from the beginning, when I say the beginning I'm referring to post-Take That. In fact, if there was any legendary British pop act I haven't been closely familiar with it would be Robbie.

Whilst I knew the hits, such as "Angels," "Let Me Entertain You" and "Feel," his last album, Rudebox, was the first album I bought of his--a fun and cheeky blend of electronic, dance-pop and R&B that was largely considered a flop, whatever. I bought his previous album Intensive Care a year later--a more serious effort, spawning its biggest hit "Tripping" unfortunately not being able to follow-up any others.

Now after overcoming personal troubles, Robbie delivers his eighth album, Reality Killed the Video Star, a return to classic British pop--a far cry from the many experimental endeavours Rudebox showcased. It's more confident than Intensive Care and more tame than Rudebox. I would say it's my favorite Robbie Williams album thus far, but it wouldn't be a fair say as I've only ever given his last two albums a proper listen. Life thru a Lense and Sing When Your Winning are suppose to be his best ones.

There's not much rock on here, it's mostly pop as melodic opening track "Morning Sun" implies as it showcases a jaunty and laid back collaboration of strings and grand piano keys but building up to a bold climax towards the end, setting up the perfect leeway for the confident "Bodies" dubbed Robbie's comeback single, a tough number pulsing with hard hitting drums, guitars and gushes of orchestration which all align well as the big chorus kicks in.

Next up is current single "You Know Me" that boasts an instantly likable '60s flair, backed with melodically tied guitars, strings and drums and soaring backing vocals that elude the classic ("Shoop-bop-shoop-bop") that solidifies that '60s sound it goes for. Following is the beautiful "Blasphemy" a subtle ballad, stripped down to vocal, strings, piano and orchestration. It's really nice.

Personal favorite "Do You Mind" is an upbeat, summery number--probably the albums most rock-influenced number and probably its more carefree and lighthearted. The chorus is sheer fun, effectively showcasing poignant piano keys, ripples of guitars and strings and fantastic melody. The lyrics: ("Don't call it a comeback") is probably the main thing to take from '80s club influenced "Last Days of Disco" using strings and synth to flaunt its '80s throwback. Like ww_adh writes, it does recall The Pet Shop Boys.

I'm so use to most of today's pop albums having the recurring problem of having a strong first half and a weak second that I expect it now however Reality, seems to avoid that problem which strikes me as a bit of a surprise. Normally after track 6 or 7 I begin to expect the worst, however on here its second half is just as robust as the first. "Somewhere" is a short atmospheric orchestration fixed interlude that leads swiftly into "Deception" a mellow acoustic and piano tied ballad, it's rather brilliant how such a subtly composed piano-ballad can be so compelling. It's really lovely. Following is the just as brilliant "Starstruck," pounding with sharp synths, the tweaked vocals on here work effectively. Disco influences prop up on "Difficult for Weirdos." I like this a lot it kind of reminds me of La Roux.

Another personal favorite is "Superblind" a delicate, touching ballad backed with piano keys, strings and bass. It's really beautiful. Robbie sounds awesome on here also baring such a soulful vocal. Going for the big sound is "Won't Do That" that incorporates horns, drums and the rest of it that slightly recalls Take That's "Shine" but less glitzy. The album closes with a short reprise of the opening track "Morning Sun."

Reality Killed the Video Star, has surely become one of my favorite pop albums of the year. I'm thoroughly impressed with this. I'll definately be checking out his past work, which honestly is a crime that I hadn't already done before, isn't it? I was so close to giving this the full 5--it really should be as I like every track--although there are some I just love more.

Best: You Know Me, Bodies, Last Days of Disco, Do You Mind, Starstruck, Superblind, Blasphemy, Won't Do That

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Janet Jackson discography

Next week pop singer Janet Jackson will drop her second double-disk greatest hits album titled, Number Ones (The Best, in Europe). Here's a in-depth look at Jackson's compelling catalog spanning back to early '80s.

Janet Jackson, 1982 (3.5/5). Janet's music career didn't get off to the best of starts. Her first self-titled album was a blend of '80s disco and uptempo funk that was suppose to set the charts alight, but that wasn't the case, released in the same year as brother Michael's Thriller, that wasn't going to happen and ultimately flopped although not without scoring the R&B hit "Young Love," which earned Jackson her first top 10 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts and whilst follow-up singles failed to generate any interest for the album, the results weren't bad--or as dismal as critics indicated--Jackson's subtle vocal and the disco-influenced production made for some good '80s dance-pop, such as the frothy and lighthearted "You'll Never Find (A Love Like Mine)" or strutting horn and synth backed "Don't Up Mess Up This Good Thing," even holding up its end on ballads such as "Love and My Best Friend" and "Forever Yours," however still managing to cram in a side of uncanny filler. Best: Young Love, You'll Never Find (A Love Like Mine), Say You Do, Love and My Best Friend, Forever Yours.

Dream Steet, 1984 (3/5). Like her first album, Dream Sreet was still an uninspired ode to light '80s disco pop described as 'bubblegum soul.' It became an even lesser success than Janet Jackson, with the uptempo synth laden "Don't Stand Another Chance" becoming the albums only single to chart in the US, it was definitely not the success Jackson had hoped it would be however like Janet Jackson, it wasn't as underwhelming as critics had deemed it. It was probably more solid and consistent, leading away from the strict disco sound and indulging a more apparent blend of soul and pop. Mid-tempo "Fast Girls" thrives as Jackson cooes a cool chorus, frothy "Two to the Power of Love" and Michael Jackson produced "All My Love to You" are pretty good too. Best: Fast Girls, Two to the Power of Love, Dream Street.

Control, 1986 (4.5/5). After two back-to-back flops, Janet finally delivered the blockbuster everyone had been waiting for. Seeking the help of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who would become staples in her career from here on and firing her father Joseph Jackson as her manager, Control was born. A striking declaration of Independence. The lyrics became deeper, the bass lines became more consistent and the compositions became more tighter, showing her artistic flair, earning her first all-round great album and era, which began from the feisty "What Have You Done for Me Lately" a simple yet compelling ode to lazy boyfriends and as well as introducing to the world those legendary Janet dance-moves choreographed by Paula Abdul in its accompanying video, also began a string of 5 top 5 hits, which ran through "Nasty," famous for the line: ("No, my name is not baby. It's Janet. Miss. Jackson if your nasty"), Her first #1 "When I Think of You," "Control," and personal favorites "Let's Wait Awhile" and "The Pleasure Principle," which only peaked at #12 but was a success either way and so was Control as it became Jackson's first to top the Billboard 200 as well as earning her four nominations at the Grammys. Not too shabby for a third try. Best: Lets Wait Awhile, Nasty, What Have You Done for Me Lately, Control, The Pleasure Principle.

Rhythm Nation 1814, 1989 (5/5). Three years later Janet returned continuing her streak of success as she delivered one of the best pop albums of all time. Now a certified pop star, Jackson could explore different territories regarding the message she wanted elude from her music, in this case Rhythm Nation 1814 was a politically and socially fueled project--conjuring up that feeling of strong emotion with cutting-edge bass lines and Jackson's fairly bold vocals like on opening track "Rhythm Nation" a Michael Jackson-esque clanging '80s hard hitting stomper with a brilliant chorus. If Control was her most aggressive then Rhythm Nation was more most confident and undaunted. The production was more crisp and invigorating, like the retro "The Knowledge" a skittering jab at the education system and "Miss You Much" which began a string of 7 top 5 hits, which made Rhythm Nation the only album to achieve this. Synth-driven ballad "Love Will Never Do (Without You)," rock-influenced "Black Cat" and buoyant "Escapade" are just among the many tracks of the 20 track set (excluding Jackson's infamous 5 second interludes, this would be the first time she'd used them) that made the album one of the books. Best: Rhythm Nation, Miss You Much, Love Will Never Do (Without You), State of the World, Black Cat, The Knowledge, Livin' In a World (They Didn't Make), Alright.

janet, 1993 (4.5/5). For her fifth album Janet really came into her own, stripping down and baring herself musically and visually for the first time--hence the title of the album--delivering a sultry blend of R&B, soul, rock, pop, dance and jazz an ultimately well-rounded album that solidified Jackson yet another winner. Driven by the magnificent production work of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, janet. adopted the New Jack Swing sound that found popularity in the early '90s, which was the main sound behind the silky lead single "That's the Way Love Goes" and the more uptempo's "You Want This" and "Because of Love." Whilst collectively a more lighter album than Rhythm Nation, Jackson still found room to elude her frustrations (wich came in the form of sex or anger) on here, like the cutting edge masterpiece "If," "New Agenda," which talks about racism in America, the haunting, operatic "This Time" and the albums most sensual point "Any Time, Any Place." Whilst mostly everything on here works, there are some awkward moments such as the Nu Jazz-influenced "Throb" and the bland Brazilian-influenced "The Body that Loves You." Best: That's the Way love Goes, If, New Agenda, This Time, Again, You Want This, Because of Love.

The Velvet Rope, 1997 (4.5/5). After a four year long break (two of those years filled with personal endeavours and depression for Janet) she returned with her sixth album, the darkest offering of her career--an aphotic blend of electronica, pop, soul and jazz. And whilst Jackson was definitely not on happy trails, The Velvet Rope worked very well, the 77-minute set tells the story of overcoming boundaries and embracing self-empowerment, which the orchestration-heavy title track "Velvet Rope" featuring violin player Vanessa-Mae implies. The album dealt with a cluster of sensitive subjects such as domestic abuse with the aggressive rock-influenced "What About," loneliness with the bold R&B flavored "I Get Lonely," being afraid of love with the angelic piano laced "Every Time," sexuality with the jazz-influenced semi instrumental "Free Xone" and remake of Rod Stewart's' "Tonight's the Night," AIDS with the albums biggest hit "Together Again" and lastly, sexual outlets with the otherworldly "Empty" which talks about sexual endeavours over the Internet and the seductive "Rope Burn." Best: I Get Lonely, Velvet Rope, Together Again, What About, Tonight's the Night, Every Time, Empty, You, Got 'Til It's Gone.

All for You, 2001 (4/5) Showcasing a more lighter more frothier sound, Janet returned at the beginning of the decade with her seventh album, a more comfortable and easy blend of pop and R&B as the title track "All for You" encloses. And whilst Janet had eluded her anger and depression, her sexual desiers were still there as she expresses on a string of horny ballads, which begin at track 6 "When We Oooo" and works its way through "China Love," and "Love Scene (Ooh Baby)," and ends at track 9 when finally goes all out on her most sexually driven anthem to date "Would You Mind," even simulating the sounds of sex towards the end of the song. I like All for You a lot however it's not as consistent as her previous three albums, while the sound is mainly pop--she tried to divert to too many thing such as the out of place but still good rock-influenced "Trust a Try" and the albums biggest mis-step, but still personal favorite "Son of a Gun (I Betcha Think This Song is About You)," but the albums saves itself as it still delivered a handful of good songs such as merry guitar strung "Someone to Call My Lover," mellow R&B-influenced "Feel So Right," Nutty Professor II theme "Doesn't Really Matter" and dated but still enjoyable closing track "Better Days." Best: All for You, Someone to Call My Lover, Would You Mind, Feels So Right, Truth, Doesn't Really Matter, Trust a Try, Son of a Gun.

Damita Jo, 2004 (4/5). If off the bat you would dub Damita Jo a 'bad' album then you probably haven't given it a fair listen. After shocking America by revealing her nipple at the 2004 Superbowl (Oh, Justin Timberlake was involved in that too, or did you forget?) Janet's eighth album was destined to flop and ultimately succumb to unfair reviews. The three singles it spawned were blacklisted by pop radio--they were also the albums biggest highlights--the electronic guitar studded "Just a Little While," Motown-influenced "I Want You" and the funky, heavily dance orientated "All Nite (Don't Stop)." And whilst I'll admit there's a fair bit of the album that isn't up to par, there's a lot of good songs on here such as Kanye West -penned "My Baby," laid back summer anthem "Spending Time with You," disco-influenced "SloLove" and R&B sounding "Like You Don't Love Me." Best: Just a Little While, I Want You, My Baby, Like You Don't Love Me, SloLove, Spending Time with You, All Nite (Don't Stop), Damita Jo, Strawberry Bounce.

20 Y.O, 2006 (2.5/5). Celebrating 20 years of Control was Janet's ninth album--which became yet another sales failure and only spawning one hit, "Call on Me" with Nelly that only managed a peak #25 in the US. For the most part I thought the album was lazy and uninspired and Janet's "return" to modern R&B failed to give the album any sort of edge, however despite being quite lackluster there is a couple of good songs such as the dramatic R&B flavoured "Do it 2 Me," the electronic guitar studded "This Body," string and piano laced ballad "With U" and the lighthearted "Enjoy." Best: Enjoy, With U, Do it 2 Me, This Body, Call on Me.

Discipline, 2008 (3/5). I've been quite bi-polar about Janet's tenth album--I liked it when I first heard it but then I realized it wasn't very strong on its own let alone if you compared to anything post-All for You however it was a wide improvement over 20.Y.O. The electronic stomping of "Feedback" was a highlight (also earning Jackson her first top 20 hit in over 7 years). The urban-flavored "LUV," disco-influenced "2Nite" were pretty good too, but there wasn't much to take into account especially after the second half sagged so much. I liked the two ballads "Never Letchu Go" and "Greatest X" and the closing mid-tempo "Curtains." Best: Feedback, LUV, Greatest X, Never Letchu Go, Curtains, 2Nite.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rihanna's 'Rated R'

I've been listening to the new Rihanna album all day. You wouldn't be wrong if you guessed the new album conveys a darker sound in comparison to her previous three albums... a very darker sound, it's almost awkwardly disheartening, but Rihanna pulls it off well as delivers a aphotic blend of rock, electro-pop and R&B. I'm not a prude or anything but if there was a Rihanna album that deserved a parental advisory tag it would be this one, she sure let her potty mouth go on this one.


2) Wait Your Turn. A cutting-edge urban flavored number with hard hitting electronic bass line.

4) Stupid in Love. A dramatic ballad, laced with a piano front and rhythmic clicks. She sounds pretty good on here. It's probably the same eery vibe "Unfaithful" tried to go for.

5) Rockstar 101. Possibly the albums biggest departure from Rihanna's archetypal sound as she embraces a blend of rock and R&B, including a thundering electronic guitar played by former Guns N Roses' member Slash.

6) Russian Roulette. Haunting (depressing) ballad, still sounds good.

8) Rude Boy. Something more lighter and tastefully sexually fueled.

12) Cold Case Love. Very subdued for the first half however quite compelling still--it has a nice melody. I like the '80s styled electronic guitars that soar at the songs climax.

This is pretty good however I do think it'll do for Rihanna what, My December, did for Kelly Clarkson, whilst it critics liked it--the shift in her sound didn't connect too well with fans and ultimately limited sales. Full review will be up shortly.

Music I'm listening to...

Haven't done this in a while, here's what's been on heavy rotation on my iPod this week:

Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
. Proving she's today's biggest forces in today's pop music is Ms. GaGa with her latest single "Bad Romance" a stomping, electro-studded number--taken as the first single from her forthcoming sophomore album, The Fame Monster. I can't wait to hear what the album has in store. I'm sure my friend rcLoy will be first in line to cop that.

TiK ToK - Ke$ha. Feisty, fun and electronic would be just a few of the words I would use to describe the debut single from newcomer, Ke$ha. I like this a lot especially that killer chorus, but I wonder how she can follow this up without it being samey.

Russian Roulette - Rihanna. A somewhat weird choice for a lead single from Rihanna, in previous years we've had "Pon De Replay," "SOS," and "Umbrella" so "Russian Roulette is a pretty dramatic change-up, but I still like it. Moody, darkening and almost emo-ish.

Fifteen - Taylor Swift. Country balladeer Taylor Swift drops her fourth single from her highly successful second album, Fearless. A likable country ballad--that almost all teenagers can relate to.

Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys. I like almost all of Jay-Z's songs, but "Empire State of Mind" is a knockout! Alicia Keys brings such soul to the chorus whilst Jay-Z holds up his end with the verses--If this isn't enough to earn the rapper his first #1 in the US then I'm not sure what is.

Hello Seattle - Owl City. Lighter than "Fireflies" but still as electronic, something summery for the winter. The lyric: "I'll disguise my self a sleeping pill and descend inside of you" still gets me every time. I'm not sure if it's up for second single or not, but it damn well should be.

You Know Me - Robbie Williams. I absolutely love the smooth '60 flair in Robbie's new single and he sounds great. I think I like this more than "Bodies."

About a Girl - Sugababes. I'll admit I wasn't too keen to listen to the new Sugababes single when it hit the web a couple months ago, the whole band member drama put my off, however giving it a proper listen (and watching the cute video) this is pretty good.

I Need You - N-Dubz. I've loved everything N-Dubz have put out since 2006, they made most of my Secondary School life. Their new single "I Need You" is nice, but not as good as, say "Better Not Waste My Time," or "I Swear" but needless to say the hook is fantastic. I'm really looking forward to their second album, Against All Odds out Monday.

Happy - Leona Lewis. Not as compelling as "Bleeding Love" but still good. Leona's new single is pretty much the same conventional ballad structure we've come to expect. I've been hearing good reviews about her second album, Echo, can't wait to check it out for myself.

Delusional - Simon Curtis. As recommended by Paul, Simon Curtis' new single "Delusional" is pretty good, with the opening bars reminiscing Muse's "Supermassive Black Hole," however its more synth pop, electronic, R&B flavored.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beyonce & Lady GaGa "Video Phone"

Moments ago the re-worked Beyonce track "Video Phone" now featuring Lady GaGa premiered. I didn't like the song in the first place but seems a bit better with GaGa on the track, I guess. I really like the new horn additions towards the middle. It's the video I'm waiting for.

Album Review: Carrie Underwood - Play On (4/5)

After winning over the hearts of the American public as she reigned as the fourth winner of US talent show American Idol, Carrie Underwood has become one of the leading forces in country music (and with the arrival of Taylor Swift a couple years ago) completely overshadowing previous leaders such as LeAnne Rimes and Faith Hill--save she hasn't released an album for awhile. Underwood sold 7 million copies with her debut album, Some Hearts, and followed-up well with her second album, Carnival Rides, which unsurprisingly became one of the best selling albums of 2007.

There's no doubt Underwood's third album, Play On, will be another big seller for the singer, but does it follow-up well to Carnival Ride? Well, unlike the last two albums Play On doesn't acquire such a strong pop presence as opening track and lead single "Cowboy Casanova" implies, in which Underwood gives a bold vocal performance as the dramatic collision of drums, strings and banjo subside, kind of like "Last Name" from Carnival Ride. The rapid drums and twingy strings fuel country ballad "Quitter" well, although it's not the best ballad on the album or her most compelling, such as next track "Mama's Song," in which Underwood talks about a faithful husband: ("He makes promises he keeps, no, he's never going to leave").

"Change" sounds as if it was produced by Ryan Tedder, including all his dramatics that made Beyonce's "Halo," Kelly Clarkson's "Already Gone," and Leona Lewis' "Happy" so good, it would make such a good single or be a big hit, but this is a country album therefore they only way this song achieves a country attempt at a Tedder-ish sound is with Underwood's bold vocal, dramatic combination of drum and guitar and a climatic orchestration. Still sounds pretty good.

Finding the albums at its most playful is "Undo It" which probably has the albums best chorus, Underwood really lets lose as belts a catchy playground chant on the title:"I wanna uh-uh-uh-uh-undo it." It's refreshing to hear the raw "Someday When I Stop Loving You" stripped to just string and drum, almost as if it were fashioned to sound like a Lullaby.

What, Carnival Ride, managed to avoid was sagging during its second half, which unfortunately this becomes a victim of. Its second half is lackluster, mostly taken up by a cluster of bland ballads, such as "Temporary Home," which fails to build a solid melody on the chorus. "Look At Me," is just as underwhelming as it suffers from the same problem. "Unapologize" is a bit better as it goes for a more rockier sound, but it's pretty much still a ballad.

However it's not all bad--there are still some pretty good tracks on the second half. The breezy uptempo "Songs Like This" and the more slower, but still compelling duet with country trio Sons of Syliva on "What Can I Say," are pretty good. The album closes with title "Play On" a conventional, inspirational ballad in which Underwood delivered a stunning vocal. A nice way to close the album, especially after an underwhelming second half.

Play On, is a good country album, as good as Carnival Ride? Probably not. I like its strong country sound and not retreading the light pop presence of the last two albums and although the album begins to sag greatley towards its second half, it's still pretty solid. Just for note: How stunning does she look on that cover?

Best: Cowboy Casanova, Change, Undo It, Mama's Song, Quitter, Change, Someday When I Stop Loving You, Play On

Personal Airplay, 12th Nov. 09

TW LW Title - Artist
1 .... 2 .... Fireflies - Owl City (1 week @ #1)
2 .... 4 .... Meet Me Halfway - Black Eyed Peas
3 .... 1 .... 3 - Britney Spears (2 wks @ #1)
4 .... 6 .... Happy - Leona Lewis
5 ... 14 ... Everybody in Love - JLS
6 .... 3 .... Bad Boys - Alexandra Burke Feat. Flo Rida (2 wks @ #1)
7 .... 5 .... Fight for This Love - Cheryl Cole
8 ... 10 ... Bad Romance - Lady GaGa
9 .... 9 .... Haven't Met You Yet - Michael Buble
10 .. 18 .. Russian Roulette - Rihanna

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Album review queue

This and last weeks GCSE exams interrupted my lineup of albums I was planning on reviewing. Here's the lineup of albums up for review in the forthcoming weeks:

Carrie Underwood - Play On
Robbie Williams - Reality Killed the Video Star
Leona Lewis - Echo
50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct
Biffy Clyro - Only Revolutions

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Snow Patrol "Just Say Yes"

Promoting Snow Patrol's first greatest hits collection Up to Now is "Just Say Yes" one of three new tracks included on the album. I'm late in reporting but I've really only gotten its appeal now--trickling with synth, strings, piano keys, soaring harmonies and a bold chorus, maybe not as compelling as "You're All I Have" or "Chasing Cars" but still a winner either way.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Britney Spears: The Singles Collection

Britney Spears' Singles Collection arrived in stores Tuesday. I've never been one to be interested in compilations as I think their pointless considering iTunes playlists work as a more efficient and cheaper alternative, however I've always been one to roll over every time Spears snaps her fingers. The new collection is the second in Spears' discography, following 2004's My Prerogative: Greatest Hits, which featured three new tracks--the singles "Do Somethin'," and the cover of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative" both becoming top 5 hits in the UK and electronic studded "I've Just Begun (Having My Fun)" which I've never been too fond of. It's a bit odd she's releasing another compilation only after two albums. Unlike her previous compilation, the tracklisting is sequenced according to the order of release and only features one new track, her third US #1, "3." Here's a closer look at the singles:

1. ...Baby One More Time (US #1, UK #1)

Her first single still remains her most paramount piece. Produced by Max Martin who had previously stuck gold upon the teen-pop genre with the likes of N'Sync and Backstreet Boys, "...Baby One More Time," quickly solidified Britney as a household name, According to Wikipedia, topping charts in almost every country in charted in, establishing the song as one of the most successful debuts ever. It was the biggest selling single of 1999 in the UK going 2x platinum, selling a sturdy 1.5 million copies. You couldn't have asked for a better debut.

2. Sometimes (UK #3, US #21)

Britney's more slower, frothy second single wasn't as big of a hit as her first, although still successful as it reached the top 5 in most countries it charted in, save for the US, which found the single charting at a disappointing #21 due to delays with the physical single, however the single became another platinum seller in the UK.

3. (You Drive Me) Crazy [The Stop! Mix] (UK #5, US #10)

"(You Drive Me) Crazy" was a brief return to prominence on the charts for Britney, the single scored Spears her second top 10 in the US and third top 5 in the UK. The single itself proved Spears to be the ultimate pop powerhouse of her time; crashing basslines, solid vocals and booming chorus, "Crazy" is an undeniable stomper and possibly among the best singles in her discography.

4. Born to Make You Happy (UK #1)

Despite not being released in the United States and only selected regions in Europe, which technically means it wasn't a single in the US, "Born to Make You Happy" is still being included on the original tracklisting. One might wonder why "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart," isn't included--it was single in the US but not in any other country. The single joined a string of slick frothy pop songs, which easily became Spears' forte--not as energetic as "Crazy" but no less brilliant, backed with strings, soaring background vocals, drums and a knockout chorus. Born to make (me) happy indeed. The single earned Spears her second #1 in the UK, also becoming the first #1 of the decade in the process, not too shabby for a fourth single.

5. Oops! I Did it Again (UK #1, US #9)

Shortly after everyone and their mother had a copy of ...Baby One More Time Britney quickly released "Oops! I Did it Again" to promote her second album Oops!... I Did it Again and to keep the momentum going--that title would be used to mock her eventual breakdown 7 years later. Not wanting to mess with the formula "Oops!" pretty much acquired the same pop froth blueprint as "...Baby" and whether you think that was cheap or consistent in either case it became yet another hit for her, nabbing her third #1 in the UK and third top 10 in the US reaching #9, according to Wikipedia this was mainly due another physical delay--I learned this was done to boost album sales, so it would be important to mention that Oops!... I Did it Again still holds the title for fastest selling female album in the US, selling a mass of 1.3 million copies in its first week.

6. Stronger (UK #5, US #11)

Narrowly missing out on a fourth top 10 for the singer was follow-up single "Stronger" a statement of self-proclamation as she references her first single: "My loneliness ain't killing me no more." This was Spears' first single to acquire a slightly more aggressive tone--a far cry from "Born to Make You Happy." The single scored Spears yet another top 5 in the UK, peaking at #5. Whilst I was never too in love with the song, I've always loved the video.

7. I'm a Slave 4 U (UK #4, US #27)

If your a fan like me, you've noticed so far two singles have been left off the album "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" and "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know," which had some success in the UK, peaking at #12. Late 2001 and Britney has a adopted a more sultry sound and a sexier image and capitalizing on the transformation was "I'm a Slave 4 U" the lead single from her third self-titled album Britney which was her first album feature little involvement from Max Martin to make slight distance from her poppy roots which would explain why "Slave" acquired such a urban-doped, seductive sultry sound thanks to the Neptunes. Although Spears' was at her ultimate celebrity peak at this time the single still managed to under perform in the US, only reaching #27, the first in a string of under performing singles from this era, however in the UK the single became a seventh top 5.

8. I'm Not Girl, Not Yet A Woman (UK #4, US #102)

No "Overprotected"? Strange. Capitalizing on the bridge between her morph from a teenage girl to a woman was piano and string laced ballad "I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman," released to promote her first film Crossroads (2002). I've always loved this, it's such a fine ballad--a bit unorthodox title but it doesn't detract from its meaning. Whilst a hit in the UK its chart performance in the US was abysmal becoming her second to miss the Hot 100 completely possibly why this isn't included on the US version of this compilation. Apparently around this time Britney was being blacklisted by pop radio, can anyone confirm this?

9. Boys (Co-Ed Remix) (UK #7, US #122)

Released to promote the Austin Power's Goldmember soundtrack was "Boys (Co-Ed Remix)" featuring Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes. Fashioning a sultry combination of strings, drums, horns and whiserpy vocals, I liked "Boys" a lot. The song earned Spears an 11th top 10 in the UK, whilst proving another flop in the US.

10. Me Against the Music (UK #2, US #35)

After a year long break, Britney returned to the music scene with "Me Against the Music," an underappreciated collaboration with Madonna, promoting her fourth album In the Zone, the best album of her career. The slightly urban flavored, string ridden single earned Spears a 9th top 5 in the UK as well as her highest charting since "Oops! I Did it Again." In the US the single proved to be a decent hit, reaching the top 40 the first time she'd done that since "I'm a Slave 4 U" and also topping the Hot Club Dance Play tally.

11. Toxic (UK #1, US #9)

The following year Britney released "Toxic," possibly the biggest song of her career, following "Baby One More Time," the song made Spears relevant to the changing faces of the music industry and went on to become among the most iconic pop songs of the decade. It's not my favorite Britney single, but knowing what it did for her career always amazes me. The song gave Spears her fourth #1 in the UK, debuting ahead of Kylie Minogue's "Red Blooded Woman," whom the song had been intended for, ironic huh? In the US the song peaked at #9 scoring Spears' first top 10 in over 4 years. The song also won Spears her first Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Bond-theme pop with string, violins, poignant bassline and a catchy chorus "Toxic" is pop perfection.

12. Everytime (UK #1, US #15)

The last commercial single released from In the Zone was "Everytime," a deep heartfelt ballad finding Spears at her most vulnerable as she pours her heart out in falsetto. The song because Spears' fifth and last UK #1 and her seventh top 20 in the US. It would be the last single Spears would release for a lengthy 5 years as her personal life took a turn for the worst.

13. Gimme More (UK #2, US #3)

After a series of unfortunate events which shadowed Britney's music career throughout 2005 to 2007. An unstable Spears returned to the music scene a wounded puppy, it seemed the glittering blond-haired pop star we knew was no longer. Capitalizing on the dark times in her life, Spears released Blackout an ode to blocking out negativity, which would explain why the album lacked any depth and is the darkest album in discography. Lead single "Gimme More," pulses with synth lines and bold vocals as Spears' stepped in the electronic age of music. With no promotion (apart from that dreadful performance at the 2007 VMA's) the single was a sizable success, scoring a fourteenth top 5 in the UK and a second top 5 in the US, becoming her highest charting since since her first.

14. Piece of Me (UK #2, US #18)

Positive reviews flooded in for "Piece of Me," which earned Spears a fifteenth top 5 in the UK and ninth top 20 in the US, but Spears personal life had hit rock bottom as she was ridden off into a Physiatric Ward, leaving little hope that a recovery was actually just around the corner.

15. Womanizer (US #1, UK #3)

After four and a bit years of personal traumas, a healthy Britney returned to prominence with her ultimate comeback single "Womanizer," an electronic studded club stomper that earned the singer her first US #1 in over 8 years. Her sixth album Circus also proved a success for the singer selling half a million copies in its first week and with her fifth tour on the rise, Britney was indeed back.

16. Circus (US #3, UK #13)

Continuing her comeback trail was urban flavored the second single taken from Circus--proving yet another success becoming her first single to debut inside the US top 5, although becoming the first time her second single from an album had narrowly missed the top 10 in the UK.

17. If U Seek Amy (US #19, UK #20)

Whilst on tour Britney released the controversial "If U Seek Amy" going into its meaning is irrelevant right now. A romping pop strut that kept the ball rolling on her comeback trail although it didn't have the chart success of the previous 2 singles.

18. Radar (US #88, UK #46)

Last on the compilation disc is "Radar" originally released on Blackout but re-released as a bonus track on Circus and released as fourth single and with no promotion it flopped hard but with such a successful tour going on at the same time, did it really matter? But with "Radar" out of the way, it feels so good to say Britney's last #1 in the US was only a couple weeks ago.