dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Brief, Minor Detour Into Rocky Territory

The Shins have the #2 album this week, Billboard reports. I've never found them that great before, but their latest single, "Phantom Limb," is so Beach Boys, you can't deny its radness...

At 118,000 copies sold, its the best sales week and highest debut for any artist on indie label Sub Pop Records.

Elsewhere, The Killers are doing another American tour in April. You can see the dates here. Coincidentally, Sam's Town has yet to sell a milllion copies in the States.

Finally, Courtney Love has confirmed to Us Weekly that she's been asked to at least be a guest judge on American Idol. She also said she can't talk any more about it, but "a source" said the exec producer is considering having her replace Paul Abdul on the show. How hot would it be if Courtney was viewed as being more stable than Paula?

Dammit. Now I might have to start watching.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Four Quick Updates

1. Katharine McPhee's album, out tomorrow, isn't totally urban sludge!

There are actually three decent songs on it in addition to "Over It" -- "Dangerous," "Do What You Do" (whose lyrics eerily resemble those of Paris Hilton's "Turn You On") and "Everywhere I Go" (this one's rad!).

2. You've probably noticed the drop-menus on the sidebar by now -- our Banterviews, which will be returning soon, and the weekly U.K. & U.S. Chart Recaps. Think of Chart Rigger when you wanna research all things Top 10 in the last two years!

3. Also in the sidebar, there's now going to be a weekly poll, and suggestions for this are always welcome. This week it's all 'bout '90s Eurodance, so pop an E and get voting.

4. La Toya Jackson fans, put down the razor blade! Yes, CBS axed Armed & Famous after only four episodes. But the Church Of La Toya fan site reports that the show has been picked up by VH1. Praise Jesus.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mika Gets Last Laugh On Simon Cowell

Mika retains the #1 position on the official U.K. singles chart for a second week with "Grace Kelly." Interestingly, he recently said in an interview that Simon Cowell once trashed his songwriting skills when he called him in after hearing Mika's demos. It's worth pointing out that "Grace Kelly" bumped Cowell's latest skank, Leona Lewis, from #1.

Fall Out Boy's "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" is the top debut, at #6 (in the States, it went in at #2). And while emo seems to be riding high in the British Top 10 -- My Chemical Romance also pop in at #8 -- poor old Keane's "A Bad Dream" barely dents the Top 30. At #27, it's their lowest-charting single to date.

That's a shame, since keyboardist/songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley is so hot...

The U.K. Top 10:

1. "Grace Kelly" - Mika *2 weeks*
2. "Starz In Their Eyes" - Just Jack
3. "Perfect (Exceeder)" - Mason vs. Princess Superstar
4. "Too Little, Too Late" - JoJo
5. "Same Jeans" - The View
6. "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" - Fall Out Boy *new*
7. "Golden Skans" - Klaxons
8. "Famous Last Words" - My Chemical Romance *new*
9. "I Luv U" - Ordinary Boys
10. "Proper Education" - Eric Prydz vs. Floyd

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Music Junkie Digest: Mika Takes That, Jacko Returns & Erasure Possibly Done Sucking

Mika is shaping up to be the first breakout pop star of 2007. His celeb-skewering single "Grace Kelly" (now on U.S. iTunes!) is currently atop the British singles chart (while the celeb-skewering "Starz In Their Eyes" by Just Jack is just below it at #2) and he just did a couple successful showcase performances here in the States. And now, Take That have asked the Lebanese-born Brit to open for them on
their upcoming U.K. tour.

For those that still care, Michael Jackson has moved back to the U.S.

Now for the good news -- if you happen to be in Japan in March, you can pay $3,300 to meet the Fright Wigged One. At a "platinum VIP party" where Jacko most likely won't perform, guests will get treated to some grub, an autographed picture and the pleasure of meeting him for "30 seconds to one minute." Chart Rigger will be auctioning off Miss Pussy's fur and boa collection to fund the trip.

Moving on, I fell for Erasure in 1988, when their album The Innocents made a big impression on a 14-year-old D'luv...

Then their albums started getting a bit wonky by the mid-'90s, and they dropped off the face of Planet Relevant. I think when I saw them do an interview for their 2003 greatest hits where they were both chain-smoking and looking bored, I'd all but given up on them. Nevertheless, the very first post on this site was about the duo's single "Breathe," off their 2005 album Nightbird. Vince and Andy just announced in a video interview on their official site that their new studio album, A Light At The End Of The World will be out May 21st in the U.K. and May 22 in the U.S., with the single "I Could Fall In Love With You" released April 2nd.

Not to be outdone, Neil Tennant wrote earlier this week on the Pet Shop Boys' site that he and Chris have been in the studio working on new songs. Also, the single for "Read My Mind" by The Killers will be released February 26, containing "The Pet Shop Boys Mix," and Robbie Williams collaboration single "She's Madonna" is out in March.

So now there's nothing left to do but take in this hot clip of Dollar performing "Mirror Mirror"...

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Katharine McPhee: Too Little, Too Over It

JoJo's "Too Little, Too Late" was apparently so good, Katharine McPhee's producers bit the sound for her new single, "Over It." All in all, not half bad. The expensive video really gives it a certain flair.

Kathy's (does she mind if we call her that?) self-titled album is out this Tuesday, but the rest of it, as someone emailed, is "urban sludge"... which, if true, is yet another similarity with JoJo!

Meanwhile, are Idols allowed to look this vixen-y?


Thursday, January 25, 2007

This Ain't A Scene, It's A Chart Race

Eh? What's going on here? There are actually four non-R&B-tinged singles in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles this week, with Fall Out Boy earning the Hot Shot Debut at #2. The publication notes that it's the highest debut for a band since Aerosmith entered at #1 in 1998 with "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing."

In its eighth week, this could well be the last one at the top for Beyoncé, as digital sales of "Irreplaceable" have taken a tumble in the past week. But that broad's had a long enough run. The other new entry into the Top 10 is last season's American Idol loser Chris Daughtry, going simply by his last name, at #6. Outside the upper tier, Corbin Bleu's "Push It To The Limit" finally arrives on the chart at #14, and Gwen Stefani also enters the Top 20 as "Sweet Escape" climbs to #19. Finally, Hellogoodbye, the little band that could, move up six spots to #32 with "Here (In Your Arms)."

It's good to see a "winter thaw" of sorts, with some new singles breaking things up.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Irreplaceable" - Beyoncé *8 weeks*
2. "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race" - Fall Out Boy *hot shot debut*
3. "Say It Right" - Nelly Furtado
4. "I Wanna Love You" - Akon feat. Snoop Dogg
5. "We Fly High" - Jim Jones
6. "It's Not Over" - Daughtry *sales gainer*
7. "Fergalicious" - Fergie
8. "Smack That" - Akon feat. Eminem
9. "How To Save A Life" - The Fray
10. "Welcome To The Black Parade" - My Chemical Romance

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lara McAllen Records Beam & Angel City Singles While Working On Solo Material

Angel City came along in 2003, and like Black Box and Real McCoy, they were a dance act with a distinct sound you could get excited about.

Comprised of two Dutch DJs and former Shakira background dancer Lara McAllen on vocals, Angel City's debut single, "Love Me Right" (an overhauled cover of Ready For The World's "Oh Sheila") sounded très '90s Eurodance, and became a #11 hit in the U.K. It even cracked the U.S. chart three years ago (of course, "cracked" means it went to #93).

After a cover of "Touch Me (All Night Long)," the group finally cracked the U.K. Top 10 with their last two singles, "Do You Know (I Go Crazy)" and "Sunrise." Their album was supposed to get a U.S. release on Ultra Records in July of 2004, and I zipped over to Tower Records the day it was to come out only to find it had been pulled by the label here. Love Me Right finally came out in England in January 2005.

So where the hell has Angel City been since then? Lara left them to pursue a solo career, while Hugo Zentveld and Aldwin Oomen (those Dutch dudes) carried on remixing singles for other artists. A new singer was apparently set to front the next Angel City album, but according to Lara McAllen's MySpace page, she returned to record a new song called "24/7" with them, which -- depending on where you read -- will either be out in March or May.

Also on Lara's MySpace site, you can hear a bunch of new solo material she's recorded, the standouts being "Off Limits," "Unforgettable" and the fab electro number, "Not Coming Back."

In the meantime, if you're like D'luv and need to statiate your need for new Lara McAllen material on your iPod, DJ Beam cut a song with her called "Bodyrock," which, if you can believe it, is actually available on U.S. iTunes. You can hear it at Beam's MySpace. The best mix is the "Beam vs. Egohead Deluxe Mix." It sounds kind of like Angelmoon.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What's New, Pussycats?

Recently there was some clamoring for an update on what the heirs D'luv have been up to lately. Well, rest assured, they're both extremely busy.

For those of you who've just joined us, Miss Pussy is D'luv's -- shall we say, more colorful male child...

...while Cracker is a wild, untamed, butch Tomcat to be reckoned with!

And they say gay parents are bad influences! Anyway, every day, I like to teach the children something new to broaden their minds...

...and they both wait rapt with anticipation for each new lesson!

Miss Pussy and Cracker are the best of friends, and nothing could ever come between them...

But being raised in the house D'luv is akin to living a 24/7 boot camp, and so both fuzzy cherubs are impeccably well-behaved....

...and would never dream of getting into any kind of trouble.

I must admit, though, it breaks heart to think of how they must cry out their little voiceboxes all day, waiting for me to come home...

Alas, it's the sad life of being latch-key pussies.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Ride On Time

Somehow, some way...Chart Rigger is two years old today.

I don't really have anything poignant or witty to say about the occasion, but I think this story kind of sums up the Chart Rigger philosophy...

Over the Christmas break, I was back in Western Pennsylvania at the house I grew up in, visiting my parents. I usually trek back there twice a year, and on the past two or three trips, I'd been looking high and low in my old closet for a box of CDs I knew I still had stashed somewhere -- the ones that sadly got left behind when I made the move to California in 1999. My Dad managed to locate a box in the attic that was like a time capsule of the years 1994, 1995 and 1996, full of Christmas cards from practically every person on my dorm room floor in '94, college class notebooks, comic books and -- Yee-haw! -- the missing CDs.

I brought three of them back with me when I returned to L.A., the first of which being the single for the ravey 1990 cover of "Strawberry Fields Forever" by Candy Flip. [Video] I remember hearing this song that summer, when I was 16, and completely, well, flipping for it! Incidentally, the cute singer, Danny Spencer, has gone on to be one half of Soul Mekanik, who most recently produced "Rudebox" and three other songs off Robbie Williams' latest album.

The second one was the single for the 1994 Wet Wet Wet cover of "Love Is All Around," which was a massive hit in England and a minor one in the States thanks to its inclusion on the Four Weddings And A Funeral soundtrack. Not sure why I brought this one. Chalk it up to nostalgia.

But by far, the third disc I rescued from exile is the one that deserves to be remastered, reissued and bought by every fan of pop on the planet -- Black Box's Dreamland, the best set of Italian house floorfillers ever.

I'd gotten my driver's license in the summer of 1990, and my parents were just starting to let me drive the car by myself when "Everybody Everybody" [Video] became a Top 10 hit that fall. I used to cruise around the chilly, rural outskirts of my suburban hometown with friends playing it at full volume on the radio. Their next single, "I Don't Know Anybody Else" [Video] was my favorite, so naturally it only went to #23 on the singles chart. Then "Strike It Up" [Video] went on to became a classic anthem, influencing a whole decade of dance/rap tunes by folks like Real McCoy, DJ Bobo and La Bouche.

It was really exciting to hear these European house songs on American radio, played in between trash by Bon Jovi and M.C. Hammer. Feeling like I was the only kid on the planet who liked this stuff, I was just thankful for whatever miracle occasionally caused artists like Black Box to cross over here.

16 years later, on Sunday, I drove around listening to Dreamland -- which has completely stood the test of time -- and realized that's what I was gonna write about on this site's two year anniversary. After all, Chart Rigger wasn't created to be an in-the-know news site. It's not about gossip, nor is it an MP3 blog. It's simply about music, old or new, that's probably not getting written about too much in Rolling Stone or played on MTV.

It's a marker, a confessional recording, a hastily-scrawled diary entry about that song we all end up playing a dozen times in a row within the confines of our bedroom. It might be one you haven't heard since you were struggling with the gravity of being an adolescent in a small town, but hopefully it's one that made you feel.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Billie Piper's Gonna Party Like It's 1999

Talk about chart rigging! U.K. Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles played Billie Piper's former #3 hit "Honey To The Bee" Tuesday morning, encouraging listeners to download it and take advantage of the new chart rules...

...since any old song can now be eligible for becoming a hit again thanks to download availability, Billie's "Honey To The Bee" entered the official U.K. singles chart at #17 this week, eight years after it's original release. But mark D'luv's words, this is just the beginning of these types of stunts.

Elsewhere, last week's #3 and #4 singles, by Mika and Just Jack respectively, charge up to #1 and #2. And with rockers The View at #3 with "Same Jeans," the top three positions perfectly match the top three downloads from U.K. iTunes. Meanwhile, with no physical single in sight, The Fray's monumentally whiny "How To Save A Life" debuted at #29 off downloads.

With any luck, that'll be that, and England will steer clear of those mind-numbingly dull bastards.

The U.K. Top 10:

1. "Grace Kelly" - MIKA *1 week*
2. "Starz In Their Eyes" - Just Jack
3. "Same Jeans" - The View
4. "Too Little, Too Late" - JoJo
5. "Proper Education" - Eric Prydz vs. Floyd
6. "A Moment Like This" - Leona Lewis
7. "I Luv U" - Ordinary Boys
8. "Patience" - Take That
9. "Calm Down Dearest" - Jamie T
10. "Boogie 2Nite" - Booty Luv

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Robbie Williams' "She's Madonna" Video: A Complete Drag

Here's Robbie Williams doing what he does best in the video for his new single, "She's Madonna": Talking endlessly about himself. Sadly, there's nary a Pet Shop Boy in sight.

Incidentally, that heftier drag queen in black drinking the martini is called Momma, and D'luv once gave her a ride to one of her shows about an hour outside Los Angeles and back. The generous old dame placed some "gas money" on the dashboard, which I politely waited till after she'd gone to count up: $3 and some change. Also, love the subtle shimmying by the most talented of all Arquettes at 3:18!

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Our "Who Would You F*ck From Take That?" Contest: The Results

Well, from all the responses to the contest -- even the vile, naughty ones emailed in (Shudder!) -- one thing is for sure: Howard Donald (above far right) appears to be, sadly, unf*ckable. Not a single one of you horny bastards wrote out some torrid scenario involving poor Howard.

At any rate, it was indeed a hard decision to make, coming up with the winner of the Take That Never Forget: The Ultimate Collection CD we're giving away. However, life is full of these types of challenges, so D'luv had to stay the course and choose one.

Naturally, we expected there to be some love for ol' "Lazy Eye" Barlow, but no one predicted Paul's rant:

"I'd rip that sweater vest right off him and to be honest he looks like he knows his way round a sling, a greased up dildo and furry handcuffs, and really that's all a bloke can wish for in a shag these days."

I had to do a double-take to see who wrote that at first, because, naturally, initially I thought, Mom!??! But I can't believe Too Little, Too Orangutan was the only one who shared my penchant for dirty dancing Jason Orange...

Oh, well. At any rate, in the end, it came down to these two:

Brian on Mark Owen: "Which of the take that boys would i shag? Mark Owen! Being the on the go person I am i dont have time for all the foreplay and stuff. I need a man that can get the job done quickly and fast. Mark and I'd do it like rabbits on the London Underground circle and he'd give me the four-minute warning just before the grand finale. It would be quicker and hotter than you could say Tottenham Court."

RobPop on Lulu (!!!!!!!): "Lulu! Shes a fan of AbFab AND shes always seen flying from David Furnish to Will Young at every shindig at the ShadowLounge. She'd Shout at every orgasm and namedrop the BeeGee's during foreplay something which I find rather boring. Entertainment all round then!"
Both were brilliant, but ultimately, we had to go with Lulu, who of course famously dueted with The That on their gayer-than-gay rendition of "Relight My Fire." So congrats, RobPop!

Shoot over an email at chartrigger@yahoo.com and we'll get this trash out to you asap! And thanks to everyone for playing.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Woah, Nelly

It's official: Nelly Furtado now appears to have morphed into a tranny, as evidenced by this photo nicked from her official site.

It's like she followed Gwen Stefani into the wig shop and said, "I'll take the same thing in brown." Hmmm....

At any rate, her latest single, "Say It Right" is one of the few to make a move on this week's Billboard Hot 100 chart. In fact, no new songs enter the Top 10. "Say It Right," which moved up one spot to #4, replaced "Irreplaceable" as the most downloaded song on iTunes yesterday, so for a minute I got excited that it might go to #1 next week, but then I remembered that Gnarls Barkley had the most downloaded song on iTunes for awhile and only got to #2.

Justin Timberlake will most likely enter the Top 10 next week with "What Goes Around...Comes Around" -- the best of his three singles so far off his latest album. It's already jumped up nine positions to #12 on the new chart. And speaking of Gwen Stefani, that broad skitters like a wild, frenzied kitten chasing its tail from #53 to #31 with "The Sweet Escape," which is also the Airplay Gainer this week.

Finally, our pals Hellogoodbye finally crack the Top 40 after 11 weeks, as "Here (In Your Arms)" ascends to #38.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Irreplaceable" - Beyoncé *7 weeks*
2. "I Wanna Love You" - Akon feat. Snoop Dogg
3. "Fergalicious" - Fergie
4. "Say It Right" - Nelly Furtado
5. "Smack That" - Akon feat. Eminem
6. "We Fly High" - Jim Jones
7. "How To Save A Life" - The Fray
8. "My Love" - Justin Timberlake feat. T.I.
9. "Welcome To The Black Parade" - My Chemical Romance
10. "It Ends Tonight" - The All-American Rejects

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Music Junkie Digest: The Brits, The Slip-Sliding U.S. Album Sales & Jake Does Dreamgirls

Nominations for The Brit Awards -- England's version of The Grammys -- were announced this week. Proving that The Brits can be as big a pile of sha-dazzle as our awards shows, X-Factor-winner Leona Lewis got a nod for Best Single for "A Moment Like This," a song that's almost five years old. Never underestimate the vast depths of Simon Cowell's wallet.

That's not to mention the four nominations this overrated windbag got...

There's always the hope that when Lily Allen slinks up to the stage in a drunken stupor, cigarette in hand and tongue barbed to let loose some nonsensical insult once she reaches the mic, she'll trip and impale herself with the award. Dare to dream, pop children.

Fresh off its three Golden Globe wins on Monday, Dreamgirls' soundtrack is the top-selling U.S. album for a second week. However, last week it became the lowest-selling #1 of the SoundScan era (i.e., since 1991) on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, moving only 66,000 copies. This week the set beats that record by selling only 60,000.

But while album sales are down a staggering 17.5 million copies compared to this time last year, here are three tracks you can grab from U.S. iTunes that are currently on heavy rotation in the House D'luv:

In fact, the Eric Prydz and David Guetta songs, already Top 10 hits in the U.K., are available on the import compilation Anual 2007, from the Blanco Y Negro label. "Rain Down Love" by Freemasons is currently #12 on the official U.K. singles chart.

Meanwhile, it recently became news that Morrissey piped up about possibly writing a song for the Eurovision contest...

...but now Jarvis Cocker is putting the option out there as well. That's swell, but we're still holding out for Ned's Atomic Dustbin.

Finally, even though it's a couple days late, Chart Rigger would like to honor Martin Luther King Day by revisiting this clip of Jake Gyllenhaal in drag as Jennifer Hudson playing Effie White in Dreamgirls, from last weekend's Saturday Night Live:

Get jazzed, because tomorrow we'll announce the winner of the Take That shagging contest. Wah-hoo!

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Robbie Williams vs. Ashley Hamilton: Exactly Who Wrote "She's Madonna"?

The writing credits for the supposed next single from Robbie Wiliams -- "She's Madonna" -- list Robbie, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.

However, Ashley Hamilton, one-time actor and former husband of Shannen Doherty, is claiming that he wrote the song with Williams years ago. He actually co-wrote Robbie's 2003 single "Come Undone," and the two were apparently friends at one point, so the claim does have some foundation. But now The Ham is threating legal action against Robbie. This could explain why a release date for "She's Madonna" has yet to be set.

It could also explain the supposed harrassing barrage of phone calls and text messages Robbie's been leaving Hamilton -- reportedly calling him at one point 10 times in 24 hours.Here's what Ashley told London's Daily Mirror about the whole "She's Madonna" drama:

"We came up with this idea over coffee one afternoon and worked on the lyrics together."

"The next thing I know, a producer's ringing me up to say congratulations for getting my song on Robbie's record. I didn't know what he was talking about!"

"I was shocked. When you work with someone, you're legally entitled to a share of the publishing."

"I have demos of the tape and will see him in court if I have to. I just want him to be a man and do the right thing."

Meanwhile, Robbie has said he wrote the song after seeing Madge perform at the 2006 MTV Europe awards. His spokesperson maintained to the paper, "'She's Madonna' is a collaboration between Robbie and the Pet Shop Boys."

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