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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

One More Time: A Decade Of Mixed Emotions And Pop Albums, Part 2

The decade's over after today. Here's the second half (part one linked at the end of the post) of what I listened to—and what personally made me tick—over the past 10 years.

2005: The blog I mentioned my friend and I started in 2004 became more of me ranting against Band Aid 20 and waxing on the merits of Green Day's American Idiot, and less about L.A.'s hot spots. So with 50 Cent dominating the airwaves in America, someone had to lament the lack of decent pop on U.S. airwaves. Thus, Chart Rigger was born that January.

My new iPod mini became my best friend, and made Sunday laps around the UCLA campus all the more enjoyable. My unhealthy obsession with buying import CD singles finally ended. Editors at Instinct changed. I went on a fun trip to Dallas.

Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" became an anthem to be reckoned with. I saw Interpol, The Killers, Shiny Toy Guns, Franz Ferdinand, Keane, Green Day and Secret Machines live (plus about 20 other concerts I can't remember right now). A British friend got me into Sugababes. I flew to London and caught Jason Donovan and Sinitta perform at G-A-Y.

The last five minutes of the Six Feet Under finale were really sad. I had to go to court as a witness in a restraining order case. I didn't "get" the hype over Coldplay's X&Y, though I did love "Talk" (chalk it up to Kraftwerk?). Crazy Frog was fun trash. Who knew Saint Etienne would release their last studio album to date that summer?

Nobody read Chart Rigger that year. Until my formerly-jobless friend, who was now the editor of a local publication, wrote about my love/hate relationship with Mariah Carey. Oh, baby, baby, we belong together.

2006: I happened upon a blog called XO's Middle Eight, and a British guy named Paul began commenting on Chart Rigger. Adem, Don't Stop The Pop and Poster Girl entered the fray. Others seemed to come and go—what ever did happen to Pinkie, or Samuel from Hotstuff Files?

Watching videos on YouTube became a new hobby. In January I went away for a weekend, and upon my return two days later something called High School Musical had begun to dominate iTunes. I watched the entire Disney Channel movie—which someone had uploaded to YouTube in nine parts! Saint Etienne came to L.A. that February, and I interviewed Sarah Cracknell.

I couldn't wait for the new Pet Shop Boys album, but in the end found The Feeling's debut, Twelve Stops And Home, to be much more exciting. There was a road trip up to San Francisco to see Editors one weekend. I got drunk and went to bed before the band ever took the stage. I did, however, buy Pink's I'm Not Dead and eat really good dim sum on that trip.

MTV's 25th anniversary inspired the very first Chart Rigger banterview. Nelly Furtado's Loose was surprisingly amazing. Timbaland reinvented Justin Timberlake as pop's suave James Bond.

Take That's reunion felt like something that shouldn't have been a big deal to an American music fan. But it kind of was.

2007: I bought the first season of The X-Files on DVD and figured it would take the whole year to watch. I flew through all nine seasons between February and October.

OneRepublic's "Apologize" and Keri Hilson's "The Way I Are" off Timbaland's Shock Value album proved to be masterful pop. Someone contacted me about interviewing Dan Gillespie Sells, the Feeling's frontman. I went on a week-long trip to France.

Rihanna's "Umbrella" was mesmerizing at first, then super annoying after the 147th listen on radio. There seemed to be no love for the Scooch reunion. Robyn was everywhere, and I was admittedly skeptical at first. She did win me over in the end.

The Spice Girls reunion tour was way more fun than it should have been—though, two years later, I almost forgot I even went. I read both the Gary Barlow and Jason Donovan autobiographies.

On a trip back to Pittsburgh that Christmas, I remember playing Shayne Ward's Breathless while driving through the city.

2008: There was a week I spent in Italy in April 2008 which will probably remain as one of the top three experiences of my life. I ate a lot of gelato. The two songs I remember hearing the most during that trip were Madonna and Justin Timberlake's "4 Minutes" and Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body."

After six years and three months, I left Instinct. It just felt like it was time to go. The final interviews I did for the magazine before departing were Robyn, Michelle Williams and Leona Lewis. Meanwhile, I'd done a Chart Rigger post on Leona Lewis right before that which drew her fang-baring fans out by the droves. I loved it.

I was kind of obsessed with Chris Brown's "Forever." There was a shift at radio, and pop finally began to infiltrate the Top 10 again. After ten years, Britney Spears finally landed a second #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Unlike the rest of the masses, I never warmed to Girls Aloud. But the Saturdays' debut was pure pleasure. Cut Copy and Lady Gaga released albums I didn't fully get into until 2009. I couldn't believe it had been 15 years since Pet Shop Boys released Very.

The U.S. elected Barack Obama as President. I got in my car that night and just drove for two hours. I don't remember what I listened to on the ride.

2009: On February 5, two days before my birthday, I was let go from the job I'd taken seven months prior. It felt liberating. I was ready to be a recessionista.

That same day, the new Pet Shop Boys single "Love etc." leaked. It sounded pretty fresh compared to their previous 15 years of output. During my four months of not working, I worked on a script I'd started writing in 2005. Every day I'd drive to Westwood and sit in Starbucks, writing while listening to Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You and Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours.

In June, I finished the first draft of the script. The next day I got a really awesome full time freelance gig writing new content for the ABC network's website. Michael Jackson died. Three weeks later my dad died.

What else can you do but work? I finished the ABC job in late August, the same week one of my best friends got into a nasty motorcycle accident. The following week I started another freelance job for Universal Music Group. It was a lonely time. I listened to Owl City's Ocean Eyes a lot.

This year marked a full decade of living in Los Angeles for me. The iBook G4 I'd had since November 2004 finally kicked it. I replaced it with a new MacBook Pro. I started writing for Idolator. This Christmas was the first one I didn't fly back to Pennsylvania since living here.

I did, however, play Beatles Rock Band for the first time this week.

The decade is over in 12 more hours. I still don't have a grasp on what all went down since 1999. And, really, maybe no one does.

* One More Time: A Decade Of Mixed Emotions And Pop Albums, Pt. 1
* The 10 Best Pop Singles Of 2009
* The 10 Worst Singles Of 2009
* The Top 40 Pop Singles Of The '00s
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2008
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2007
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2006
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2005

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One More Time: A Decade Of Mixed Emotions And Pop Albums, Part 1

The decade's over in a day. Here's the first half of what I listened to—and what personally made me tick—over the past 10 years.

2000: This was the year I spent practically every Saturday morning/ afternoon rollerblading at Santa Monica Beach with my discman (!) shoved in the pocket of my Capri pants (!!). I once played *NSync's "Bye Bye Bye" on repeat for three hours while zipping up and down the boardwalk. I also blasted Britney Spears' Oops!...I Did It Again on the way to see Aimee Mann in concert.

Other random things from that year: I took an acting class. I took a creative writing class. I bought my first cell phone. I worked as an assistant at Summit Entertainment—and when all the bosses were in Cannes that May, I converted the PAL VHS of the British Queer As Folk that I found on a former employee's desk to NTSC in the conference room. (It took two full days.)

By December, I'd reconnected with a long lost college friend, who was also randomly living in Los Angeles. I was financially and emotionally broke after my first full year living 2,500 miles from home, and had planned to move back to Pennsylvania in the new year. Steps' third album Buzz was the soundtrack to that December. You'll be so sorry.

2001: I had the CD single (remember those?) for A*Teens' "Bouncing Off The Ceiling (Upside Down)" and played it over and over one day that January on the way to this Italian restaurant called Goodfellas on Melrose Avenue. There was a waiter there I'd had a crush on since the prior summer, and we always had some good conversations. My friends convinced me to slip him my number on a napkin. So I did. He never called.

I read a lot of books in 2001. A co-worker got Julia Phillips to sign my ratty copy of You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again. She died six months later. Another friend of a friend of Bret Easton Ellis secretly had him sign my first edition copy of The Rules Of Attraction. It was my favorite book at the time, which shows you where my head was at.

ATC's "Around The World (La La La La La)" was always on somewhere in the background that spring. I didn't realize it would be the last true Eurodance single to cross over in the States. I went out to bars and clubs practically every weekend—pretty much the last year I would do so.

I didn't have a computer at home, so I bought a stereo that had a CD burner built into it. Daft Punk's Discovery was my personal favorite album of the year. I sat down to watch the news the morning of September 11 and ended up in front of the television for hours. I never did call in to say I wouldn't be coming to work that day.

And, needless to say, I never did move back to Pennsylvania that year.

2002: Technically, Cher's Living Proof and Kylie Minogue's Fever were released in late 2001 in Europe. And thanks to my pal Moogaboo, I had imports of both in my mitts upon their release.

That said, I played those CDs constantly in 2002. This was the year I left E! and went to work at Instinct. Natalie Imbruglia's White Lilies Island and Michelle Branch's The Spirit Room were in heavy rotation that spring, and Saint Etienne's Finisterre capped off the fall.

I housesat for a co-worker that August and just happened to flip on the TV and see Kelly Clarkson become the winner of some cheesefest called American Idol.

I felt sad a lot. And there was way too much rap on the radio.

2003: Music really kind of sucked in 2003. Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" was okay, I guess. I think I tried to force myself to like Fast Food Rockers' "The Fast Food Song." (The follow-up, "Say Cheese!", was far better.) And didn't some lame pop-punk band cover "The Boys Of Summer"?

Annie Lennox's Bare was depressing. I remember being in Las Vegas in July 2003 and playing that CD in the car. I kept wondering why there wasn't anything like "Walking On Broken Glass" or "No More 'I Love You's'" on it. I saw Mamma Mia! on that trip and thought the plot was pretty flimsy.

I visited Europe for the first time that November, and sat in a Japanese restaurant in the Canary Islands when I suddenly remembered that it was Thanksgiving back in the States.

2004: It made me feel old to realize it'd been 10 years since Kurt Cobain had died. I read Charles R. Cross' Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography Of Kurt Cobain that spring. It made me sad. Adding fuel to that was the fact that a good friend who started working at Instinct the same day I did two years prior quit in April. Things were shifting.

My jobless friend called me up while temping one day and said we should start a blog. So we did. We set about writing from the perspective of two Los Angelenos who regularly went out on the town and reported on the hip, happening goings-on in the city. There was just one problem: I was a total homebody at this point.

I was heavily into taking Polaroid pictures. I saw some band called the Killers open for Morrissey that May. I bought Hot Fuss at the now-deceased Virgin Megastore on Sunset Boulevard one Friday night that June, and played it the next morning while reading Clay's Way by Blair Mastbaum in the bathtub.

The 2004 election was a real fuck-over moment. On a flight to New York, I wanted to kill myself when the pilot announced that John Kerry had conceded. But instead I played Interpol's "Not Even Jail" on repeat for about two hours.

The night I first heard Gwen Stefani's Love.Angel.Music.Baby album, I was dragged two hours into the desert by a friend who made me go see the Eagles Of Death Metal play at some hick bar.

said it best with "Everybody's Changing." And I don't feel the same.

* One More Time: A Decade Of Mixed Emotions And Pop Albums, Pt. 2
* The 10 Best Pop Singles Of 2009
* The 10 Worst Singles Of 2009
* The Top 40 Pop Singles Of The '00s
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2008
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2007
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2006
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2005

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

JoJo Is All Grown Up, Working With Timbaland

I didn't have time to post this last week, but Chart Rigger's favorite age-inappropriate pop princess JoJo is no longer age-inappropriate—she turned 19 on December 20. That somehow makes me sad.

And now, following up with JoJo's YouTube video shriekfest—wherein the teen singer posted a clip back in June of her venting her frustrations with her record label—she sat down with Rap-Up for a video interview the other week. It's pretty good stuff, and JoJo comes off as being very mature. She talks about suing one of her labels, now being part of Interscope, putting university (Northeastern) on hold to release her third album (sometime in 2010).

She's working with Timbaland (yay!) on the album—which she says she's been recording for two years—as well as Pharrell (gag), "hopefully."

* JoJo + Timbaland = Pop Radness x 10
* JoJo Defends Gay Marriage, But Her Songs Are Yanked Off iTunes
* JoJo's Latest Scandal Trash
* Banterview: Is JoJo Pop's Most Age-Inappropriate Princess?

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Here's Hoping Joe McElderry Will Be Just As Successful As Leon Jackson

The brief Rage Against The Machine barricade that held X Factor winner Joe McElderry back from the #1 position on the U.K. chart last week has been removed, and now the 18-year-old can bang strippers on a pile of cash and feel good about himself for the time being.

Joe's cover of "The Climb" has topped the chart, and ensured that McElderry will at least reach the soaring heights that Leon Jackson did—i.e., one, maybe two hits, then gumming old men's knobs in a dimly lit tube station at midnight for smack money in about two years.

And speaking of The Saturdays, they ride the pole up ten places to #20 this week with "Ego." The single is officially released January 3.

Over on the album chart, Michael Buble is the one to finally topple Susan Boyle, as Crazy Love bumps I Dreamed A Dream down to #2. She probably loved every minute of it, and hit a high F note on her way down.

The U.K. Top 10:

1. "The Climb" - Joe McElderry *1 week*
2. "Killing In The Name" - Rage Against The Machine
3. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
4. "3 Words" - Cheryl Cole feat. will.i.am
5. "Starstrukk" - 3OH!3 feat. Katy Perry
6. "Meet Me Halfway" - The Black Eyed Peas
7. "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey
8. "Russian Roulette" - Rihanna
9. "You know Me" - Robbie Williams
10. "TiK ToK" - Ke$ha

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I'm in the mountains of Idyllwild, California, at the one and only establishment within an hour's drive that has wi-fi access.

Just wanted to wish safe and HAPPY HOLIDAYS to everyone! Be sure to drink and have lots of sex on top of pine needles (real or fake). Back in a few days.


P.S. Go check out Paul FizzyPop's hee-larious (intentional?) online Christmas card.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ke$ha Heard Our Pleas And Used Her Powers Of Slut To Hit #1 With "TiK ToK"

Ask and ye shall receive hooker. Back in March when Ke$ha was whoring the top of the chart up with her cameo on Flo Rida's "Right Round" (how did that one escape our 10 Worst Singles Of The Year list?), Chart Rigger posted 10 reasons why she needed to be your new favorite singer.

And here are about 14 more reasons—clips of her upcoming Dr. Luke/Max Martin-produced album Animal, which is due out January 5:

And so Ke$ha has finally ended the five-week reign of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State Of Mind" at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, with her jam "TiK ToK." Yes, it truly is a highly annoying three-plus minute affair, but it's one that gets in your pants head and never leaves.

Technically this week's chart is dated January 2, thus history will note that Ke$ha had the honor of landing the first #1 single of the new decade.

Over on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart, Kylie Minogue debuts at #13 with Kylie: Live In New York. On the main Top 200 Albums chart, Susan Boyle is #1 for a fourth week with I Dreamed A Dream, which has now sold 2.4 million copies in the States.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "TiK ToK" - Kesha *1 week*
2. "Empire State Of Mind" - Jay-Z feat. Alica Keys
3. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
4. "Replay" - Iyaz
5. "Fireflies" - Owl City
6. "Sexy Chick" - David Guetta feat. Akon
7. "Whatcha Say" - Jason DeRulo
8. "Down" - Jay Sean feat. Lil Wayne
9. "Meet Me Halfway" - The Black Eyed Peas
10. "3" - Britney Spears

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The 10 Best Pop Singles Of 2009

So last year it was down to Chris Brown's "Forever" and Rihanna's "Take A Bow" for the top pop single of 2008, and we went with fine upstanding gentleman and role model Brown. Sigh.

Ah, well. as 2009 comes to a close, so does this decade. Chart Rigger's trusty sidekick Moogaboo and I already counted down the 40 Best Pop Singles Of The '00s last month. And yesterday we brought you the 10 Worst Singles Of 2009. Now it's time to round up the noteworthy jams that provided a few bright spots in an otherwise lackluster year when Taylor Swift, the Black Eyed Peas and Susan Boyle were considered hot commodities.

10. Owl City, "Fireflies" (U.S. #1, DEN #1, CAN #2)

Moogaboo says: "This twee bastard won me over the first time I heard him and, y'now what? Whatever. I'd do him on his messy bed covered with laptops and Casios and other crap."
D'luv says: "Who cares if Owl City ends up being the White Town of the '00s? I mean, 'Your Woman' is still a total jam!"

9. Miley Cyrus, "Party In The U.S.A." (U.S. #2, CAN #3, AUS #6)

D'luv says: "America has a new horse-toothed diva to add to its songbook. They should make kids in school across the nation chant this while they tear out pages of the Bible to make paper airplanes each morning."
Moogaboo says: "There's a synth sound in the chorus that kind of goes "ZIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ" that makes me lightheaded (in the best way) everytime I hear it. "

8. Shakira, "She Wolf" (SPAIN #2, U.K. #4, U.S. #11)

Moogaboo says: "Leotards? Check. Swoopy strings? Check. Number one on any and all charts? No, and for that I lament modern life as a whole."
D'luv says: "That guy from the Bravery co-wrote this. Yeah, he shoulda just gone straight into the 'writing songs for Shakira' business from the get-go."

7. Pet Shop Boys, "Love etc." (U.S. Dance #1, GER #12, U.K. #14)

D'luv says: "The best reinvention of the Pet Shop Boys sound the British duo have staged since Very."
Moogaboo says: "Just when these old vampyres were starting to get boring (Battleship Potemkin? REALLY?) they inject a little frothy electro-pop back into their repertoire to make me love them again. Extra points for the trippy, Nintendo-esque video."

6. Girls Aloud, "The Loving Kind" (U.K. #10)

Moogaboo says: "I was taken aback when I read on another site that one of the members of Girls Aloud (Cipher #3?) shamelessly ripped their classiest ditty to filth over the summer, even going so far as to mock its chorus. And though I love 'The Loving Kind' for all of its sophisticated and bouncy heartbreak,that incident helped me make sense of the rest of their chintzy back catalog."
D'luv says: "I wonder how she'll feel about the song when she's miming it solo at a Gay Pride in Wales three years from now and getting paid in chicken kebabs?"

5. Kelly Clarkson, "My Life Would Suck Without You" (U.S. #1, U.K. #1)

Moogaboo says: "Let's face it, Kelly lost all semblance of me caring when she did that crummy video with Reba. Okay, I actually loved that, but it doesn't stop her from coming in at #5 on this, our Worst of 2009 chart. Oh wait, this is the BEST? Whatever, same thing when it comes to Clarkson."
D'luv says: "Isn't Moogaboo a good sport, folks? Memo to Kelly—next album: Sweden, Max Martin, Dr. Luke, period."

4. Saint Etienne, "Method Of Modern Love" (U.K. #56)

D'luv says: "Still as magical today as it was when the first short clip of it surfaced last December. That it didn't at least crack the U.K. Top 40 is one of the major pop crimes of this waning decade."
Moogaboo says: "The dolls need to stay on the Overproduced Express and put out more stuff like this. Even though it was only a hit in my mind, and most of the "hardcore fans" (VOMIT) were over it, I think it's got a cast-iron hook, sterling synths and borrows one of the best woah-ohs of all time from the Carpenters. Carry on, Etiennes!"

3. Annie, "Anthonio"

D'luv says: "The haunting remorse of a one night stand perfectly filtered through a chugging three-minute electo-pop song—and our second Richard X-produced tune in a row on this list!"
Moogaboo says: "Saint Annie made the greatest Flirts single that never was, and she didn't even have to get pawed by Bobby O to do it. Although, really, how great would that have been?"

2. Lily Allen, "The Fear" (U.K. #1, AUS #3, U.S. #80)

Moogaboo says: "Lily's finally realized obnoxious personality + good songs = obnoxious parts not so bad. 'The Fear' is both scathing and sympathetic, and a hell of a tune. Take note, Robbie Williams."
D'luv says: "The first song of hers I didn't wanted to strangle her after hearing! 'I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds'—did Lily somehow read my college entrance essay?"

1. Lady Gaga, "Poker Face" (U.S. #1, U.K. #1, GER #1, AUS #1)

Moogaboo says: "Lady, you wrote one hell of a hook, stole another one from Boney M, and basically made it so every gay west of Beijing pees himself twice at the drop of one of your goofy-ass hats. Love you. And P.S., because of you, even Alicia Keys is into goofy-ass hats now. Thanks."
D'luv says: "'Poker Face' proved to be the perfect recessionista anthem and the only good pop song to mention Russian Roulette this year."

* The 10 Worst Singles Of 2009
* The Top 40 Pop Singles Of The '00s
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2008
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2007
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2006
* The Best Pop Singles Of 2005

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Like We're Dying: The 10 Worst Singles Of 2009

Pop, you have given us some inexcusable, briny three-minute buckets of chum his year. (And surprisingly, Fergie wasn't warbling on all of them!) Luckily, D'luv and his trusty pal Moogaboo are here to swab the deck once again, and throw the worst offenders into the depths of the ocean like an unsavory pile of dead hookers. Jump below and read at your own risk!

10. Aqua, "Back To The '80s"

Moogaboo says: "Even though Aqua's comeback was something of a damp squib, I still have high hopes for the return of Qkumba Zoo!"

9. Kris Allen, "Live Like We're Dying"

Moogaboo says: "Kris finishes his song, waves goodbye to the audience and shakes Leno's hand as he's ushered backstage. Once in the alley, a door slams behind him. He is alone. A limo pulls up and he sidles into the backseat, the driver gives him a wink in the rearview mirror. It is Taylor Hicks. The limo speeds off into night, never to be seen, nor summoned, again."

8. Jeremih, "Birthday Sex"

D'luv says: "If anyone ever plays this on my birthday, they're not getting sex—they're getting tasered."

7. Drake, "Best I Ever Had"

Moogaboo says: "Although the lyric 'I can make your pussy whistle like the Andy Griffith theme song' does deserve some kind of Irving Berlin award, Drake's gross and his molest-y coach-themed video is just creepy."

6. Pixie Lott, "Mama Do"

D'luv says: "Just what the world needed—Duffy in a thong."

5. The Black Eyed Peas, "Boom Boom Pow"

D'luv says: "I was really torn with this one—on one hand, 'Boom Boom Pow' made me want to slit my throat from ear to ear by about the 149th time I'd heard it on the radio in the spring. And yet, here I am!"

4. Katy Perry, "Thinking Of You"

Moogaboo says: "Ballads only work if you have a voice that doesn't inspire suicide. Er, one exception—I like Britney's 'Sometimes.'"

3. Souljah Boy Tell 'Em, "Kiss Me Thru The Phone"

Moogaboo says: "So after this he goes back to the special school, right?"

2. Eminem, "We Made You"

D'luv says: "Remember all those dicks who used to dress like Eminem clones in the late '90s? Where are they now, I ask you—WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Certainly not downloading 'We Made You.'"

1. U2, "Get On Your Boots"

D'luv says: "I hope Nelson Mandela kicked Bono in the nuts when he heard this sonic abortion."

* The Top 40 Pop Singles Of The '00s
* The Worst Singles Of 2008
* The Worst Singles Of 2007
* The Worst Singles Of 2006

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rage Against The Machine Kick 'X Factor' Franchise In The Balls, Beat Joe McElderry To #1

This year's X Factor winner, 18-year-old Joe McElderry, found his supposed sure-fire trip to Christmas #1 fortune sideswiped on the U.K. chart by a 16-year-old Rage Against The Machine song.

A Facebook campaign launched early in the month by two people laid the groundwork for derailing The X Factor's grip on the top of the British singles chart each holiday—the Simon Cowell series has locked up the #1 single the week of Christmas every year since 2005. (Holla, Shayne Ward!)

Alas, RATM's "Killing In The Name" was the chosen tune anti-X Factor buyers chose to thwart Cowell And McElderry, and the 1993 song ended up selling 502,000 downloads to beat Joe's by-the-numbers cover of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" (which sold about 450,000 copies).

Both dirges belong on the scrap heap if you ask me. Moving on, two new festive entries arrive from pop's elder gay statesmen. First up is George Michael's "December Song (I Dreamed Of Christmas)," which debuts at #14 and becomes his highest-charting entry since his godawful 2006 single "An Easier Affair" crawled in at #13.

Next up are Pet Shop Boys, who scrape their way to #40 with the Christmas EP. Brava to those old broads, I say, for still managing to add another Top 40 hit to their canon.

A final mention should go to Alexandra Burke, who debuts at #36 with her RedOne-produced jam "Broken Heels" a few weeks ahead of its official release. Last year she had the #1 single at Christmas with "Hallelujah."


The U.K. Top 10:

1. "Killing In The Name" - Rage Against The Machine *new* *1 week*
2. "The Climb" - Joe McElderry *new*
3. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
4. "BBC Children In Need Medley" - Peter Kay
5. "Starstrukk" - 3OH!3 feat. Katy Perry *new*
6. "You know Me" - Robbie Williams
7. "3 Words" - Cheryl Cole
8. "Russian Roulette" - Rihanna
9. "Don't Stop Believin'" - Journey *new*
10. "Meet Me Halfway" - The Black Eyed Peas

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Bit Late To The End Of Ace Of Base Party

Things have been so hectic with the holidays that I completely missed Ace Of Base member Jenny Berggren's tweets from November 30 saying that the band is now pretty much over. Sort of.

From the sound of the remixes that were released last year, it at least seemed like we might have gotten one decent album of new material from the band. But since that didn't come close to happening (did it?), I guess it's like they never "reunited"—albeit briefly—in the first place.

At any rate, yesterday we posted the first "Backtracking" column at Idolator. I wrote it on Ace Of Base's sophomore album, The Bridge.

Here are the posts Jenny put on Twitter:
"Haven't read aceboards. As agreed with Ulf and Jonas, we are Ace of Base. I do my soloproject as they have done theirs.

"We didn't get a record out as three. My hopes are that we can work together in the future, when I have prooven myself as a soloartist.

"Meanwhile the boys in the band are doing their musical thing, as I do mine. We wich eachother the best of luck and work for the future.

"My dream is to make music so everybody can hear. Solo ended up to be the only possible way. Please respect that. I've worked hard for to...

"...get another result, but unfortunatly solo is the thing I can do. I'll just do the best of it and hope for AoB in the future. Take care!"

Sigh. Carry on smiling, and the world will smile with you...


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why The Hell Can't Ke$ha Use Her Powers Of Slut To Knock Jay-Z Off The Top Of The Chart?

First of all, wouldn't it be nice if Ke$ha or Lady Gaga or some other gyrating four-on-the-floor ho bumped Jay-Z and Alicia Keys off the top of the chart already? "Empire State Of Mind" seems to have hopped onto the crest of the Christmastime nostalgia/ home-is-where-the-heart-is/I New York wave, or whatever you wanna call it. But after five weeks, someone needs to dump a snow shovel full of slush over that damn song already.

As the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 doesn't have any new entries, let's instead flip on the weekly Cascada Watch. Oh, look—after 18 weeks, "Evacuate The Dancefloor" climbs up one more position, to #25. At this rate, Natalie Horler and Co. should be just below Jay-Z by May.

Astoundingly, with all the press Adam Lambert's gotten in the recent weeks, it's actually Kris Allen who is the first of the two American Idol finalists to land a Top 40 hit off their debut album. "Live Like We're Dying" jumps from #44 to #36, while Lambert no longer has a single on the Hot 100. It's always the quiet (and boffable) ones!

Kris' full LP, however, falls to #61 in its fourth week on the Top 200 Albums chart, while Adam's For Your Entertainment is at #30 in its third week.

Other than that, there are about 67 Glee tunes that have popped up in the Hot 100—including the cast recording of Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" at #51. Personally, I thought that one could have been done better than the straight-forward rendition that was presented on the show.

Back on the album chart, Susan Boyle remains at #1 for a third week, now having sold 1.8 million copies of I Dreamed A Dream in the States. Get that ca$h, you Scottish wildcat.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Empire State Of Mind" - Jay-Z feat. Alica Keys *5 weeks*
2. "TiK ToK" - Kesha
3. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga
4. "Replay" - Iyaz
5. "Fireflies" - Owl City
6. "Sexy Chick" - David Guetta feat. Akon
7. "Whatcha Say" - Jason DeRulo
8. "Meet Me Halfway" - The Black Eyed Peas
9. "3" - Britney Spears
10. "Down" - Jay Sean feat. Lil Wayne

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ahmir Get Moody With Owl City's 'Fireflies'

Unsigned Boston-based R&B boy band male vocal act Ahmir are going about finding a record deal the new-millennium tried and true way—by covering a current pop hit and posting the video on YouTube!

Said cover version is "Fireflies," the recent #1 smasheroo by cute synth geek Owl City. This morning OC (aka Adam Young) tweeted the link to Ahmir's cover, and I've been smitten ever since.

It's got a bit of an old-school P.M. Dawn vibe to it, no?

Clive, be a doll and hand these gents a contract and a quill pen from the desk in your frilly boudoir, would you?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leona Lewis' 'I See You' Video Has Me Leaning Toward Pet Shop Boys' 'Christmas'

For those inclined to purchase Leona Lewis' Avatar theme dirge "I See You," which was just placed on iTunes today, you're better off skipping it and just watching the music video (below). The sci fi flick's soundtrack isn't set up to allow the downloading of individual songs.

That ought to do a lot to curb the kidz from obtaining it illegally, eh?

Meanwhile, a far better purchase would be the Christmas EP from Pet Shop Boys, which was also made available today. Just like magic, the five-song set of jams landed at #7 last week on Chart Rigger's list of The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade.

Currently Christmas is #24 on U.K. iTunes, #41 on German iTunes and #61 at U.S. iTunes.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

My Interview With Kelis Is Up!

Just a quick note that my interview with Kelis—who dropped new song "Acapella" (produced by David Guetta) last month and whose upcoming album is due out in 2010—is now up over at Idolator.

Here's a bit from it:
Is there a part of you that was leery to sign with a major label again, after your experience with LaFace and Jive?
Oh, leery is not even the word! [Laughs] Leery does not even begin to express. I was dead set, like, I put my foot down—I am not signing to a major label again! It took me four years to get off my old label. I fought and fought. I spent so much time and energy getting off the label and getting out of my contract that when I finally did get out, I had not made any provisions or had any thoughts about what I was going to do next. So I took some time off. I really just shut down, even to the point where I was like, I don’t want to sing anymore.
* Ryan Tedder
* Annie
* Agnes
* Little Boots
* Sally Shapiro

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lady Gaga Lands Third U.K. #1 As The Aging Boy Bands Have A Sword Fight On The Album Chart

Hot. I'd been waiting for a chance to use this Lady Gaga pic. I just didn't think the opportunity would present itself so quickly. "Bad Romance" has slithered its way up to the top of the U.K. chart, giving the singer her third British #1 single. And, this feat also just happened to occur the same week Gaga flew over to meet and perform for Queen Elizabeth II. Coincidence?

The Saturdays debut way down at #35 with "Ego," the floundering girl group's second single off Wordshaker. You know, I really thought this was gonna be the album able to break these broads wide open—well, until I heard it, that is. Now the whole LP just smacks of sounding like Jordin Sparks leftovers. Pretty sad, since Chasing Lights was still on heavy rotation in the house D'luv for a good seven or eight months after its release last fall.

"Ego" is officially released on January 3, and if anything it at least gives the Saturdays their seventh Top 20 chart hit in the U.K.

Over on the Brit album chart, it's a boy band sausage fest in the Top 10 as Westlife debut at #2 with Where We Are, Take That enter at #3 with The Greatest Day—Take That Present: The Circus Live and JLS bring up all eight of their rears at #4 with their self-titled album in its fourth week.

Former Take That member Robbie Williams hangs in at #10 with Reality Killed The Video Star. See that—it's almost as if Rudebox never happened.

As Paul points out, this was indeed info dealing with last week's album chart—which goes to show I pay fuck all attention to Westlife.

The U.K. Top 10:

1. "Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga *1 week*
2. "BBC Children In Need Medley" - Peter Kay
3. "Russian Roulette" - Rihanna
4. "Meet Me Halfway" - The Black Eyed Peas
5. "TiK ToK" - Ke$ha
6. "Morning After Dark" - Timbaland ft. Nelly Furtado & SoShy
7. "Whatcha Say" - Jason Derulo
8. "Doesn't Mean Anything" - Alicia Keys
9. "Let The Bass Kick In Miami Girl" - Chuckie & LMFAO *new*
10. "Look For Me" - Chipmunk

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Mariah Carey Touring To Support The Flatlined 'Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel'

Poor Mimi. It all started off so well with Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel.

Oh, who am I kidding? "Obsessed," decent hit-sized jam that it eventually turned out to be, was a total slow burner. It debuted on the chart at #11 and took over a month to crack the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Evenutally, it peaked at a fair-to-middling #7. Had the butterfly finally flitted into the bug zapper?

Going with a cheeseball cover of "I Want To Know What Love Is" next was a desperate move, and when Memoirs finally dropped after several pushed-back release dates, it landed with the kind of thud that only one of Mariah Carey's silicone mimi's falling out of her bra and into a bowl of hardened cookie dough would make. Thwap! Thud! Flop!

So now the voluptuous songbird is hittin' the road in the new year in support of her doomed Angel. The Angels Advocate (clever) dates are below (she's playing the surprisingly un-diva-like Gibson Ampitheatre here in L.A., which is where I saw Keane in 2007 and Pet Shop Boys in '02). Also below is MC's new video for "H.A.T.E.U."

Who the hell thought this was a good choice for a single?

On a final note, I cleaned out the organizer basket on my desk last weekend for the first time in about three or four months. There, underneath a stack of papers and other trash was a promo copy of Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel. [Cue up Mimi's highest whistle register shriek.]

Dec. 31—New York, NY Madison Square Garden
Jan. 2—Atlantic City, NJ Borgata
Jan. 15-16—Mashantucket, CT MGM Grand Theatre at Foxwoods
Jan. 19—Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
Jan. 21—Hollywood, FL Hard Rock Live/Seminole Hard Rock Hotel
Jan. 25—Detroit, MI Fox Theatre – on sale 12/19
Jan. 27—Washington, DC DAR Constitution Hall – on sale 12/18
Jan. 30—Boston, MA Wang Theatre
Feb. 1—Philadelphia, PA Tower Theatre
Feb. 4—Montreal, Que. Bell Centre
Feb. 6—Ottawa, Ont. Scotiabank Place
Feb. 9—Toronto, Ont. Air Canada Centre
Feb. 10—Columbus, OH Schottenstein Center
Feb. 13—Chicago, IL Chicago Theatre
Feb. 16—Minneapolis, MN Northrop Auditorium
Feb. 18—Dallas, TX Nokia Theatre
Feb. 20—Phoenix, AZ Dodge Theatre
Feb. 23—Los Angeles, CA Gibson Theatre
Feb. 26—Oakland, CA Oracle Arena
Feb. 27—Las Vegas, NV The Pearl Concert Theater


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe kicked off the millennium with "You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You're Drunk," the third and final single off Pet Shop Boys' 1999 album Nightlife. Being a fan of the duo since "West End Girls," I tended to find myself getting increasingly disinterested with their output around that period. The 2002 album Release didn't help matters.

Was the music bad? Was I just finally outgrowing one of my favorite artists since my pre-teen days? Or was I just being cranky?

Whatever the answer is, Nightlife and Release only proved to be minor bumps on the road of classy output from the Boys during the Naughties in my book. So without further ado, I now bring you Chart Rigger's list of The Ten Best Things Pet Shop Boys Released Over The Past Decade!

10. "I'm With Stupid" (single, 2006)

After a four-year break between studio albums for the Boys, the Trevor Horn-produced "I'm With Stupid" was a much-welcomed return to synth-pop awesomeness. Casting Little Britain's Matt Lucas and David Walliams in the video was a nice flourish, too. And while the song's parent album Fundamental never quite lived up to the "former-glory" hype, IWS B-side "The Resurrectionist" proved to be a classy addition to the duo's oeuvre.

9. "Flamboyant" (single, 2004)

This second of two new singles released from the PopArt greatest hits collection perfectly sums up the banal fascination with celebrity culture that has run rampant over the past 10 years. Bonus points for the "Tomcraft Extended Mix," which, like previous single "Miracles" (more on that one to come), kicked off a return to good ol'-fashioned 12"-style mixes for the Boys.

8. Disco 3 (album, 2003)

Not to keep harping on what a downer Release was—but thank God the PSBs offered up this mini collection of remixes, B-sides and original material less than a year after its, uh, release. It's like Neil and Chris suddenly woke up and tapped into the electro-clash fad that had been happening at the time. "Somebody Else's Business" alone makes Disco 3, though "If Looks Could Kill" and Oh Romeo/Bobby O cover "Try It (I'm In Love With A Married Man)" are top notch, as well.

7. Christmas (EP, 2009)

Yes, yes, it's not even out till next week. But we all know what's on it at this point. The "Viva La Vida" cover/mashup with "Domino Dancing" was the euphoric high point of the Boys' Pandemonium Tour Tour this year, and they thankfully obliged fans by recording a studio version of the choon. Kudos for also finally giving "It Doesn't Often Snow At Christmas" a proper release—not to mention a bit of a jingly makeover. (Talk about "synthetic fun!") Admittedly, I'm still not totally sold on the re-swizzed "All Over The World" in comparison with the album version, but it's still "A" material when put up against, say, the X Factor Finalists "You Are Not Alone" cover.

The official "All Over The World" video

6. Catalogue (book, 2006)

The year 2006 was a good, if not expensive, period for those yearning for new Pet Shop Boys material—we got Fundamental, live album Concrete, three single releases and Catalogue, which is essentially the PSBs Bible. (There was also Robbie Williams' much-maligned Rudebox, which contains two collaborations with the duo.) It will probably take me at least 10 years to finally finish reading the entire thing, but the photos—every single album and single sleeve, video stills, fan club release, etc., with extensive commentary on each item—sure are purty. A total must for fans.

5. PopArt: The Videos (DVD, 2003)

Way more essential than the PopArt—The Hits double-disc collection of singles is the DVD containing all the music videos. Lest we let the passage of time make us forget, though the Pet Shop Boys were not among the first wave of MTV Generation pop stars, they definitely carved out their own place in all corners of the world during the latter half of the '80s. Passion, love, sex, money, violence, religion, injustice and death—visually Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have covered them all in their 25 years-worth of music vids. Plus, hey, those two guys in "Domino Dancing" still come across as hot today as they did back in '88.

4. "Love etc." (single, 2009)

This was a totally left-field choice for a first single off an album—which is exactly what we needed from the Boys after all these years. Teaming up with Xenomania, and thereby giving up some creative control, was the best thing the duo could have done to stay relevant with tenth studio album Yes. The first time I heard the bouncing "Love etc." was the same day I was let go from my job back in February—two great events occurring within hours of each other!

3. "Miracles" (single, 2003)

What should by all means have been a complete throwaway—one of two new songs tacked onto the PopArt—The Hits collection—turned out to be the Boys' best single of the decade. I was in London the weekend "Miracles" debuted within the U.K. Top 10, which was a sigh of relief after the singles from Release pretty much stiffed on the chart. The PSBs' own cover of My Robot Friend's "We're The Pet Shop Boys" as a B-side was also a stroke of genius. (It was later covered by Robbie Williams and produced by Neil and Chris on Rudebox.) Simple, straight-forward lyrics aside, "Miracles" never ceases to make me happy:

2. Performance (DVD, 2004)

Re-issuing the 1991 Performance Tour on DVD was like dredging up the legendary, majestic lost city of Atlantis. I had a T-shirt from the U.S. leg of the PSBs' trek, which I bought at age 17 from some mail order company back then. (Sadly, the closest they got to Pittsburgh that spring was Washington, D.C.) I'd rattle off a few highlights, but honestly, it's a complete crime to not to watch this concert from start to finish. You'd think this would have been the Boys' peak creative peak, both musically and visually, but Very was yet to come.

1. Yes (album, 2009)

Nearly a year after the release of the Grammy-nominated Yes, the dust has settled. Was it the huge commercial success everyone (fans, the record label, Pet Shop Boys themselves) had been hoping for? Not likely. But was it the album we always kind of knew the duo still had in them after reaching pop perfection in 1993 with Very? Hell yes. "All Over The World," "More Than A Dream," "King Of Rome," "Pandemonium" and "The Way It Used To Be"—as well as singles "Love etc." and "Did You See Me Coming?"—are all up there with the best of the PSBs' catalog. Plus, you know what? Even "Legacy" has grown on me. So bravo, Boys—after almost making me give up hope seven years ago with Release, this particular fan who bought "West End Girls" on 45 at age 12 hereby declares that you've ended the decade on the highest possible note. Carry on.

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