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

Friday, February 27, 2009

$ucce$$!

Okay, first, how the fuck did I not know Dannii Minogue has her own blog!?!? Her Valentine's Day post alone was just photos of candy hearts with the words "Spread the love...."

Stripper, you've been spreading your luvs for years.

Second of all, there were apparently rumors that Dannii was going to be axed from The X Factor. But not only is she not getting thrown out on her bony, grafted ass, Simon Cowell is doubling her salary:

The 37-year-old Aussie star has been the centre of rumours that boss Simon Cowell plans to drop her from the show, but The Daily Mirror reports she will keep her job and her pay will be doubled to £1 million a series.

Simon told the paper: "As far as the judging panel is concerned, let's just say that if I was a betting man my money would be on Dannii returning to the show. She was great last year and I am adamant she should be there for the next series. All being well, pen will be put to paper this week."

...A source said: "Dannii feels she has been a bit redundant but Simon pleaded with her to stay and has offered her a much more lucrative deal, doubling her £500,000 fees to £1 million.

"That puts her on a par with Cheryl who has been offered £1 million to stay. Dannii is very excited and can't wait to sign on the dotted line."

That's pretty classy! Hopefully Dannii spends her money wisely—you know, like on recording another album that she funds entirely herself.

What a great investment! Word has it she's already recorded a track with The Freemasons to be released at some point. It's about time they stopped working with amateurs like Beyonce and brought a real songbird into the studio to trill over their gay jungle beats.

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Take That's Next Single Is 'The Garden'

The always classy News Of The World ran this shot of the sexy Take That boys looking sharp in black today while shooting the video for "The Garden" in South London.

I'd just been chatting with Paul Fizzy Pop online this morning when he mentioned that "The Garden" was going to be the third single off The Circus. Great news, since it really is the best track on the whole album!

UPDATED: The Sun says the video was filmed around Greenwhich, London's National Maritime Museum. Take That Appreciation Pages notes that "The Garden" will be released as a single in Germany on March 20, in lieu of "Up All Night."

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You Know It's A Recesession When This Is The Video For The Country's #1 Single



So here's the video for Flo Rida's "Right Round," which has been #1 for two weeks, and has also sold over a million digital downloads over two weeks.

Alas, that single is probably making more money than the record label distributing it. Hence the cheap-ass video. I think the 30-second commercial I made for my freshman year final project looked more professional, and that had boys wearing wigs in it!

Oh, well, with less cash spent on bling and ho's these days, maybe Flo will actually see a profit on this jam. Then he can keep hiring classy producers and pilfering '80s songs to have a hit.

Might we suggest renting Phil Spector, and sampling "What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)" next, Rida...?

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San Francisco, New York Virgin Megastores Closing This Spring, Leaving Only Three Left

And then there were three. It was already known that New York's Times Square Virgin Megastore was closing in April. But now sources have told Billboard that the city's Union Square Virgin Megastore—where, over the years on different trips, I bought CDs like Madonna's Confessions On A Dancefloor and the Killers' Sawdust—will also be shuttered at the end of May.

As well, San Francisco's Market Street Virgin Megastore—where I found the Japanese version of Scooch's Four Sure in 2000, and bought Pink's I'm Not Dead three years ago—is also closing down.

Only three of the stores remain will open in the U.S. for now: Orlando, Denver and Los Angeles (at the Hollywood and Highland complex, where the Oscars are held at the Kodak Theater).

The original L.A. Virgin Megastore on Sunset Blvd. was closed in January 2008, which is when I made this d'luvvly sad video:

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Week Of Good Girls And Tragic Album Sales

Egads! When Taylor Swift is #1 for a 10th week, and the album only moved 62,000 copies in the past seven days, the death knell is ringing loudly for commercial LP sales as we know them.

Remember only two years ago when the Dreamgirls soundtrack marked the lowest-selling week for a #1 album, with sales of 66,000?

Taylor's been selling consistently enough, however, to land on the cover of Rolling Stone's latest issue. "Secrets Of A Good Girl," eh? Sounds like fiction!

One of the few records to show an increase in sales this week is Lady GaGa's The Fame, which moves up to a new peak of #10 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. Right behind her at #11 is the debut of Morrissey's Years Of Refusal. The delayed Annie Lennox Collection comes in at #34.

All of this is just numbers and facts, of course. And the singles market is still alive an thriving. Besides, how many good albums are there really out there to motivate us consumers to part with our hard-earned cash for them? (Well, I can think of one.)

Over on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles, it's a second week at #1 for Flo Rida with "Right Round," while Lady GaGa's "Poker Face" jumps from #10 to #6. Her other hit "Just Dance" is right behind at #7.

You could almost choke on the dullness of this first quarter's music offerings so far. And who let Souljah Boy out of his cage? Entering the Top 10 again is grounds for facing the military firing squad!

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Right Round" - Flo Rida feat. Ke$ha *2 weeks*
2. "Dead And Gone" - T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake
3. "Heartless" - Kanye West
4. "Gives You Hell" - The All-American Rejects
5. "Crack A Bottle" - Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
6. "Poker Face" - Lady GaGa
7. "Just Dance" - Lady GaGa feat. Colby O'Donis
8. "Love Story" - Taylor Swift
9. "Kiss Me Thru The Phone" - Souljah Boy Tell 'Em feat. Sammie
10. "My Life Would Suck Without You" - Kelly Clarkson

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Just When You're Expecting A Shit Mail Day...

...along arrives Saint Etienne's London Conversations: The Best Of box set, which I ordered last week! It was an unexpected, d'luvvly surprise to find it comes in book form, and with pretty pictures and liner notes on each album.

Though it makes me wonder if they'll beef up the liner notes when each individual album is reissued throughout this year in the U.K.?

Anyway, now there's something to keep the limited edition Take That The Circus book/CD company in the CD cabinet D'luv.

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I'm Being Taken Over By 'The Fear'

Oh, God. Why me? Why now? How? HOW?

The danger started a couple months ago when I first heard Lily Allen's "The Fear." Uh oh, I thought. Lily's annoying voice is overshadowed by all the pretty pop production...this isn't good!

And then there's the pretty video, sort of a better, three-minute version of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, minus the bad stuff (Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Sofia Coppola, the movie itself, etc.).

Surely all the songs on the It's Not Me, It's You album couldn't be as good? Uh, oh. They are! "22" sounds like The Beatles meets old school Elton John? "Who'd Have Known" steals from Take That's "Shine"? Well, Lily, if you're gonna rip 'em off, rip 'em off classy!

Anyway, one iTunes birthday gift card later, and I've totally Lily'd up my life. And I can't stop listening. For those who were around these parts when Allen's first album came out three years back, you'll know what a complete turnaround this is for D'luv.

But oh, well. It's not my fault. It's how I'm programmed to function.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

So About This Whole Justin Timberlake And Ciara Duet Thing...

Behold! Justin Timberlake has teamed up with Ciara for a duet on her upcoming album, Fantasy Ride! Justin, Ciara...sure, why not.

Justin co-wrote "Love Sex Magic," which is produced by The Y's. After about three e-mails alerting me to how super duper it is, I finally decided to take a listen:



THE VERDICT: Ciara makes Janet Jackson sound like Aretha Franklin. And ever since Justin worked with Madge, he's become a real pussy. "Love Sex Magic" even sounds like part two of "Dance Tonight" off Hard Candy.

That said, total #1 American smash!!!

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Here's The New Pet Shop Boys Video (And It's From Parolophone, So It Won't Get Yanked)

I was out of it with the sick all weekend, so I missed when the video for Pet Shop Boys' "Love etc." leaked. It was gone by this morning.

Anyway, today Parlophone officially posted the animated clip to YouTube.



The PSBs are also celebrating the re-entry of their double-disc best of collection, PopArt: The Hits, in the U.K. album chart. The set originally peaked at #30 upon its November 2003 release, but this week appeared at #19 following the duo's Brit Awards performance.

PopArt now gives the Boys 15 Top 20 albums in the U.K.

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Coldplay And Gary Barlow Do 'Back For Good'



After last week's Brit Awards, Coldplay played a charity gig at Shepard's Bush Empire to benefit War Child. Bono, Gary Barlow and The Killers joined the band onstage throughout the evening.

There are lots of videos throughout YouTube from the night, but the above one of Coldplay and Gary doing Take That's "Back For Good" had the clearest sound (though not the clearest picture).

There is also a clip out there of Chris Martin calling out the Pet Shop Boys in the audience while singing "Viva La Vida," and Neil Tennant, in turn, leading the audience in the Woah-oh-oh-oh-ohs at the end—which was described in this Times Online article.

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Don' Innerupt. Rude.

Sorry for the interruption in Chart Riggerness over the past couple days. D'luv was feeling a bit under the weather (i.e., wrapped up in three blankets and cracked out on DayQuil).

So, to make up for it, I offer you the greatest visual entertainment known to humankind. Behold—MadTV's "Bon Qui Qui At King Burger":



The U.K. Top 10:

1. "The Fear" - Lily Allen *4 weeks*
2. "Just Dance" - Lady GaGa feat. Colby Adonis
3. "Use Somebody" - Kings Of Leon
4. "Omen'" - The Prodigy
5. "Breathe Slow" - Alesha Dixon
6. "T-Shirt" - Shontelle
7. "Broken Strings" - James Morrison feat. Nelly Furtado
8. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)'" - Beyonce
9. "Crack A Bottle" - Eminem feat. Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
10. "Watcha Think About That" - Pussycat Dolls feat. Missy Elliott

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Elusive Pet Shop Boys 'Living Daylights' Demo Finally Surfaces

My friend who recently moved back to England somehow managed to score a gig working backstage at The Brits on Wednesday (hence the pics). Here's one he snapped of Lady GaGa and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys standing in front of a poster of the Killers.

TWO CLIPS: 1.) The demo the PSBs did for the 1987 James Bond flick The Living Daylights, and d.) Neil and Chris Lowe being interviewed with Lady GaGa following their Brit Awards performance:



In the end the producers of The Living Daylights ended up going with A-Ha's theme s0ng instead, and the Pet Shop Boys' demo was later reworked into the track "This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave" on their 1990 album Behaviour.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Listen To The Pet Shop Boys' 'Yes'

Yes is available for pre-order as of today on U.K. iTunes, where you can hear all the clips. UPDATE: Here's a YouTube compilation of the clips:



Also check out this week's Pet Shop Boys-themed Towleroad column, which additionally asks for readers to post their "15 Albums That Changed Your Life." (Thanks, MoogaBoo, for tagging me on that meme on Facebook!)

Is it me, or is this upbeat, energized pop album going to be up there with Very? The clips of "Did You See Me Coming," "All Over The World" and "Pandemonium" are literally grabbing me by the shorts and making me dance, dance!

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Lady GaGa's Got Two Top 10 Singles And Flo Rida Finds Inspiration In Pete Burns

Did you ever think you'd see the day when Pete Burns would have a writing credit on a #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100?

Unless you've been living under a tarp covering a dead hooker in a dumpster (speaking of Pete Burns...), you'll know by now that Flo Rida's latest jam "Right Round" uses the melody of Dead Or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" for its chorus. The song was produced by Dr. Luke, who's now had two #1-charting singles in 2009, including Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You."

Meanwhile, will Pete see any cash from this? Didn't he sell his publishing rights to that old chestnut to Sony? Woopsie!

Lady GaGa this week scores her second Top 10 single of 2009, as "Poker Face" moves up to #10. Meanwhile, the Pet Shop Boys' remix of GaGa's "Eh Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)" was made available for free today from AOL Music.

Along with Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Lady GaGa performed last night with the Pet Shop Boys at the Brit Awards.

Elsewhere, following her Grammy win, Adele sees her 2008 U.K. #2 hit "Chasing Pavements" fly like a winged transvestite from #64 to #21 this week. Also, Coldplay's live version of "Lost" from the Grammys, which also features Jay-Z, pops up at #40.

This is all kinda snoozeville, though. I'm looking to next month, when Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever Wanted and the Pet Shop Boys Yes are both released. And also to my mailbox, for when Saint Etienne's London Conversations arrives, and saves me from the winter doldrums.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Right Round" - Flo Rida feat. Ke$ha *1 week*
2. "Dead And Gone" - T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake
3. "Crack A Bottle" - Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
4. "Heartless" - Kanye West
5. "Just Dance" - Lady GaGa feat. Colby O'Donis
6. "Gives You Hell" - The All-American Rejects
7. "Love Story" - Taylor Swift
8. "My Life Would Suck Without You" - Kelly Clarkson
9. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" - Beyonce
10. "Poker Face" - Lady GaGa

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pet Shop Boys Do The Brits With Lady GaGa And The Killers' Brandon Flowers

Pic courtesy of Quail By Mail.

The Pet Shop Boys knocked out a nice medley at the Brit Awards, even though it kind of started off a tad slow. They shoulda had the marching business wonks come out on stage a bit sooner, to have something else happening on stage other than Chris Lowe's wig.



But it picked up. Lady GaGa kinda struggled at first with "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" I think Dusty Springfield's own wig just flipped six times over that one. But she got ahold of the note eventually.

It was when she and Brandon Flowers shrieked the backing vocals of "West End Girls" that D'luv's eyebrows really shot up. By the way, "All Over The World," off the Pet Shop Boys' upcoming album Yes, sounds super!

Here's the full list of songs in the medley:

1. "Suburbia"
2. "Love etc."
3. "Left To My Own Devices"
4. "Always On My Mind"
5. "Go West/Paninaro/In The Night"
6. "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)"
7. "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" (with Lady GaGa)
8. "Domino Dancing"
9. "I'm With Stupid"
10. "Being Boring"
11. "It's A Sin" (with Brandon Flowers)
12. "All Over The World"
13. "West End Girls" (with Lady GaGa and Brandon Flowers)

The Pet Shop Boys were awarded the Outstanding Contribution To Music at this year's Brits ceremony.

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Take That = Sexy Geeks At The Brits

What more can you say? All four of Take That looked like hot Clark Kents (or even '80s nerd new-wavers Devo) on a glowing intergalactic Christmas tree stand when performing "Greatest Day" at tonight's Brit Awards.


Please tell me this wasn't lip-synced, because I'll cry; they sounded spectacular when harmonizing.

Well, okay, you can tell me they mimed it, but show me a pic of Howard Donald's butt when you do it. That'll ease the blow a bit.

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Chart Rigger Sleeps Its Way Into The Brits

Chart Rigger's got a well-placed camera backstage at the Brit Awards! So well-placed, in fact, it only takes photos when no one's in sight! Now, if only Chart Rigger knew of a well-placed U.S. TV station airing the Brits :( (Self: that's why God invented the Internet, dumb dumb!)

Hmmm. The proximity of the Pet Shop Boys to Lady GaGa kind of lends some legitimacy to those duet rumors for tonight.

On the Boys' official site, they say they'll have two guests perform with them. Well, let's see...there's Lady GaGa's dressing room. And there's...

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Why Saint Etienne Can Never Rack Up A Hit (And Why It Doesn't Matter)

So, Saint Etienne's first single (not counting last fall's Xenomania mix EP of oldie "Burnt Out Car") in three years, "Method Of Modern Love," was released last week and debuted on the U.K. chart at the sideways-smile emoticon position of #56.

MOML gave international fans of the trio a bit of a headache, as those wanting to secure a physical copy were met with the CD single only being dispatched to buyers with a U.K. address. Then there were the various downloads available...also only to English buyers.

Adding to the fanfare anticlimax, there was also no video and no major radio play in Old Blighty for "Method."

But, let's face it; Saint Etienne have surely given up on any aspirations of ever-elusive chart glory after 19 years. Yes, it's nice when your favorite bands dent the Top 10 now and then, especially when they've been slogging away at it for this long.

Hell, I was in London the day the Pet Shop Boys made it to #10 with "Miracles," and I wanted to kiss the nearest homeless woman I could find in joy!

However, Saint Etienne have always been the underdog. The wayward Balearic bastards of the Britpop movement. Jarvis Cocker dragged Pulp out of a decade-long bout of obscurity and pulled six consecutive Top 10 singles out of his bony arse while Oasis, Blur and Suede bitch-slapped each other to the top of the charts in the early-to-mid-'90s.

All the while, Saint Etienne, who once had Oasis opening for them on tour, scraped to #12 with their classic "You're In A Bad Way." Two years later, they bested that by hitting #11 with "He's On The Phone," a Motiv8-produced track that is the closest they've got to a giddy pop predecessor to "Method Of Modern Love."

But the only real time the threesome cracked the U.K. Top 10 was when Sarah Cracknell guested on Paul Van Dyk's 2000 dance track, "Tell Me Why (The Riddle)." With a "featuring Saint Etienne" credit, that technically got the band a #7 hit.

Cracknell herself came close to the Top 10 again last year by singing atop Mark Brown's "The Journey Continues." Alas, like "He's On The Phone," that single peaked at #11.

Saint Etienne were written off by their original fans for abandoning their dance sound, and slagged off by Britpop fans for being Johnny-come-latelys. But show me an artist who's lasted as long that hasn't hopped on a current bandwagon du jour at least once or twice?

I don't care. I like my Saint Etienne being the underdog. Because, really, as pop fans, we all kind of know what it's like being the underdog. I like "Avenue" and "Shower Scene" as much as I like "He's On The Phone" and "Sylvie."

And I defy Girls Aloud, Lady GaGa or Rihanna to come close to breaking my heart the way "Hobart Paving," "Like A Motorway" or "Teenage Winter" still do with each listen.

Looking back—or, rather, listening back—over SE's catalogue, I'm proud to have bean a fan from the beginning. If pop truly can be art, then, for me, this is it.

I bought Foxbase Alpha on cassette at Disc Jockey in Spring 1991, and I ordered the two-CD/DVD London Conversations: The Best Of Saint Etienne from Amazon UK today. (It's on sale!)

And I'll be in it till the end. Saint Etienne have always been there for my savage amusement, putting a spell over me...and smelling like lemon flavor.

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Did Lady GaGa Edge Out Girls Aloud To Duet With The Pet Shop Boys At The Brits?

Hey, the title of this post is so long and convoluted, it could be a Pet Shop Boys song title, no?

The always-reliable U.K. paper The Sun is reporting that Lady GaGa used her vinyl thighs to drop kick Girls Aloud into the stripper bin to duet with the Pet Shop Boys at Wednesday's Brit Awards.

Even classier if it's true—she'll be singing Dusty Springfield's PSB-written/produced 1989 hit "Nothing Has Been Proved" with them.

The Boys will be performing a medley of their tunes when they receive the Outstanding Contribution To Music award.

Meanwhile, the duo announced on their website yesterday that their upcoming album Yes will be released in a special edition with a bonus disc, which will be titled etc. Extras included will be a new song called "This Used To Be The Future," which features guest vocals by Human League's Phil Oakey, plus six instrumental dub mixes of album tracks from Yes.

You had me up till the dubs, lads.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sorry, Shontelle, But Here's A Much Better Version Of 'T-Shirt'

First off, how did one of Chart Rigger's 10 Worst Singles Of 2008 slink into the U.K. Top 10 this week? Yes, I'm talkin' about you and your "T-Shirt," Shontelle! Geez, someone really oughtta class this broad up a bit with some decent songs. (Although the fact that her album is called Shontelligence makes me think she probably at least does oral on the first date.)

Anyway, here's a much more enjoyable version of "T-Shirt," by these two little Irish U.K.-based (ahem!) dames, Ioanna and Eissa:



Second of all, Alesha Dixon shimmies up to #3 with "Breathe Slow" like an itchy stripper who smells a dollar bill at the top of the pole.

Fifth, The Prodigy (or is it just Prodigy this time around?) land their first British Top 10 hit since 2002. The band, now featuring all its original members for the first time in 12 years, sees "Omen" debut at #8.

And, yes, folks, this is really what there is to work with this week. Well, Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You debuted at #1 on the album chart...that's something right?

Fuck it, I'm going to eat nachos.

The U.K. Top 10:

1. "The Fear" - Lily Allen *3 weeks*
2. "Just Dance" - Lady GaGa feat. Colby Adonis
3. "Breathe Slow" - Alesha Dixon
4. "Crack A Bottle" - Eminem feat. Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
5. "Take Me Back" - Tinchy Stryder feat. Taio Cruz
6. "Broken Strings" - James Morrison feat. Nelly Furtado
7. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)'" - Beyonce
8. "Omen'" - The Prodigy *new*
9. "Day 'n' Night" - Kid Cudi Vs. Crookers
10. "T-Shirt" - Shontelle

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

...And Speaking Of Ace Of Base, Linn Is Never Ever Coming Back To The Band. Ever.

Here's a pretty fan pic of Ace Of Base from their show in Bucharest last year. Sorry, fan, you got cropped out.

Given D'luv's nostalgic AOB post from yesterday, it seemed like a good time to check out all things Base and see what's up with the trio.

And, well, lo and behold, Jonas "Joker" Berggren and Ulf "Buddha" Ekberg were here in Los Angeles the first half of February recording the music for their upcoming fifth album, which is being produced by Peer Aström (who co-produced Cyndi Lauper's "Into The Nightlife" and Madonna's "Get Together").

They also posted a blog entry on their MySpace wherein Ulf answers a bunch of fan questions, including one asking whether or not Linn Berggren will ever return to the fold.
"I think it’s very unlikely... Linn told us as early as 1995 that she wasn't really comfortable with the fame and craziness that comes with being a member of such a world famous band. She loved the singing, but travelling around the world was difficult for her.
"As I think most of you must have noticed, Linn has more and more over time faded out from the communicative part of the band (in photo sessions, videos, interviews etc) and on Flowers/Cruel Summer, Singles of the 90s and Da Capo she barely did any interviews or participated around promotion for the simple reason that she did not want to. The last 10 years she wasn't spending much time with the band and since last year she is not officially in the band anymore. To leave the band was her decision alone, we've supported her in that decision and accepted it.

"We had an amazing time together in the band and those memories will be there forever! She is now very happy living away from the public life, which never suited her and we are very happy for her. We are still close friends and I really love Linn, for the astonishing person she is and she will always have a special place in our hearts. She always appreciated all of you dedicated Acers and loved every moment with you and that’s her final goodbye."
Right, but so when is she rejoining the band, Ulf?

Anyway, below is a new song, "Sparks From A Fire," that Ace Of Base have been performing live. They're planning now for a more extensive 2009-2010 world tour.

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Take That Keep Fans Up All Night On Valentine's Day, But Not, Like, With Sex

Take That gave their core fanbase (read: thirtysomething British women and gay men around the world) a Valentine's Day jolt in the shorts today with info on their upcoming single, "Up All Night." The cover art was e-mailed out by the band's label, and it keeps with the trapeze theme of the That's album The Circus.

Also included was the fact that the single—out March 2 in the U.K.—will include the new song "84" as a B-side.

I like to think 84 is the number of times Howard Donald has banged Jason Orange in the back of the tour bus over the years. You know, a romantic ballad.

And then Gary Barlow walks back there to make eggs in the kitchenette and sees them is all like, "Guys, what are you doing? That's nasty!" and they're like, "Shut up and hop on, mate!" and Gary's all like, "Well, the wife is in the Canary Islands for the week. And what happens in Cornwall stays in Cornwall, right lads?" Then they all do boy band stuff with their mouths.

Voilà...instant B-side! Happy Valentine's Day!

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Throwback: Coffee, Drugs, Death And Ace Of Base

Fifteen years ago, in January 1994, spirited, wide-eyed college sophomore D'luv, age 19, assumed the position (!) of managing editor of my school's student newspaper. I was in my last semester at the community college I was attending before transferring to a four-year university that fall, and occasionally I'd bump into kids I went to high school with.

One such encounter was with two girls who I'd been pals with since the pre-teen days. I'd lost track of both of them since graduating from Butler Area Senior High. The one went on to study architecture in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University (or, as she referred to the grueling program, "archi-torture") while the other became a manager at a shoe store in Cranberry, Pennsylvania (home of Christina Aguilera).

I don't recall the specifics—whether it was a phone call out of the blue or one of us bumped into the other—but somehow we all got together one snowy Saturday night in mid-January 1994 for the first time in two years, and went into Pittsburgh for dinner. Shoe Store Girl was telling us about how she was in love with her boss, but was dating a guy we'd gone to high school with who was now a freshman at the University of Pittbsurgh. Archi-torture was driving. I was sitting in the back seat.

The radio was on, and while those two chattered away, that's when I heard it for the very first time; "...and now, here's the brand new single from Ace Of Base—'The Sign!'"

Wha'?? Surely Ace Of Base were only destined for one-hit-wonderdom in the U.S. It had to have been a fluke that "All That She Wants" was such a smash that previous autumn. How were these four Swedish goofballs getting a second crack at U.S. radio?

Alas, I didn't understand the iron-fisted, omnipresent ways of Clive Davis at the time!

Anyway, on came the clomping, somewhat lazy beat of "The Sign," and I was hooked. It was like the greatest thing I'd ever heard coming through car speakers, and those two broads in the car just wouldn't shut up. But I tuned them out and listened to every note the other two broads on the radio sang!



****
The onetime site of the Oakland Beehive in Pittsburgh.

The following Saturday, I got together with Shoe Store Girl again. She and a different friend, who we'll call Hippie Chick, picked me up at my parents' house. It was the weekend before the spring semester was to begin.

We drove into Pittsburgh to meet up with Shoe Store Girl's boyfriend at the University of Pittsburgh. The four of us then went to the Beehive, which was this really cool two-story coffehouse in Oakland near Pitt that also had a movie theater.

The outside of the Beehive was built to look like a castle. On Friday nights at midnight the place would show The Rocky Horror Picture Show, while on Saturdays they'd play Saturday Night Fever or another cult classic. All other times current indie movies were screened.

Later that night someone had the bright idea to score acid. We ended up in some parking lot near the Pitt campus that, like the Beehive, is no longer there. I'd never tried any kind of drug before that.

While Pitt Boy got out of the car to meet his contact in the parking lot, Shoe Store Girl, Hippie Chick and I sat there talking. I smoked a cigarette—something I only did on lost Saturday nights when I was feeling young and infinite.

Acid was acquired. We ended up back at Hippie Chick's house in our suburban hometown, and we all tried it. Nothing happened. At all. I'd never touched drugs before that night and I never did again.

****
Amidst freezing temperatures and a barrage of snow storms, the spring semester began that following Tuesday. But later that same night, we all got the call that my diabetic uncle had died. He was only about 45. It was the first time a close relative of mine had passed away.

I'd just started my new college classes, and now I had to miss the rest of the school week to attend the viewing on Thursday, and the funeral on Friday. And it was depressing.

Relatives came from far and wide, some I probably hadn't seen since I was a little kid. But that didn't stop them from talking to me like it was just yesterday when we'd last spoke. For them, it probably was just like yesterday. Many of them were in their 60s, while I was 19 going on 20, with the world ahead of me.

My parents and I went to the chuch service that Friday, but while they went on to the burial, I was allowed to skip it. I was feeling kind of out of it. So I called my friend Becky and she met me at the mall.

And that's when I walked into National Record Mart and was thrilled to find Ace Of Base's "The Sign" had now been released. I bought it on cassette single.

I'll point out that the much darker B-side, "Young And Proud," had a sort of urgency that, in retrospect, I was probably always going to be drawn to:

We're much too young
And life's so big
We don't know yet what the future brings in its hands for us
What tomorrow brings the future knows

****


THIS PIECE IS A CONTINUATION OF:
* Pet Shop Boys' 'Very' At 15: How Can I Even Try To Explain?
* These Are Days You'll Remember

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

No, 50 Cent, You Can Just Kiss Kelly Clarkson's Butt Right Now!

Goddammit! The other day I had to go and mention how around this time back in 2005, 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" was #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 for nine weeks, and subsequently kept far greater pop singles like Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" stuck at #2.

Well, the curse of 50 Cent has struck again, as his latest treacle with Eminem and Dr. Dre, "Crack A Bottle," has unseated Kelly's two-week reign at the top of the chart with "My Life Would Suck Without You."

This set some kind of record for first-week digital sales or something, but get in line, playahz—records are set every week, and you three knuckleheads can just kiss Kelly Clarkson's ample rump!

Lady GaGa's second single "Poker Face" is the week's Sales Gainer, and jumps from #23 to #12...and rightly so! There seems to be a lot of GaGa haters in the pop blogosphere, but, really, kids, this is a single worth touting.

Sure, the Lady in question might not have pretty fake tits like those slutbags in Girls Aloud, and she doesn't sing with marbles in her mouth (and up her squid pocket) like Lily Allen, but "Poker Face" is a more than decent jam.

One band who's probably thinking they could have it so much better is none other than Franz Ferdinand; their third LP Tonight: Franz Ferdinand drops like a wet stripper on a greased pole from #9 to #59 on the album chart. Sadly, even in the U.K. the Scottish group saw Tonight fall from #2 to #21 this past week.

Meanwhile, here in the States, The Fray's self-titled second album debuts at #1. It really is a cruel world sometimes.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Crack A Bottle" - Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent *1 week*
2. "Heartless" - Kanye West
3. "Just Dance" - Lady GaGa feat. Colby O'Donis
4. "My Life Would Suck Without You" - Kelly Clarkson
5. "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" - Beyonce
6. "Gives You Hell" - The All-American Rejects
7. "Love Story" - Taylor Swift
8. "You Found Me" - The Fray
9. "Dead And Gone" - T.I. feat. Justin Timberlake
10. "I'm Yours" - Jason Mraz

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chris Brown And Rihanna: Sadly, Was It Always Right There In The Lyrics?

Given the events of what happened Grammy weekend between Rihanna and Chris Brown—and, no one really knows what went down but them, even though it's being dissected daily—a look back at some of the two singers' lyrics is proving to have an eerie resonance.

Rihanna has always tackled singles that have either really inane, throwaway lines ("Break It Off") or very dark, desperate subject matter ("Disturbia", "Rehab").

Most of all, whatever did actually happen, it makes me sad. I really like these two. Domestic violence is absolutely not cool, though to paraphrase from Dusty Springfield via the Pet Shop Boys, nothing has been proved.

* "Rehab": Don't even recognize the ways you hit me, do you?/ It's gonna take a miracle to bring me back, and you're the one to blame... Damn, ain't it crazy when your love slams?

* "SOS":
S.O.S, please, someone help me/ It's not healthy for me to feel this way... This time please someone come and rescue me.

* "Unfaithful": Our love, his trust/ I might as well take a gun and put it to his head/ Get it over with/ I don't wanna do this anymore.

* "Hate That I Love You": And you completely know the power that you have... It's not fair how you take advantage of the fact/ That I love you beyond the reason why/ And it just ain't right.

* Take A Bow": Don't tell me you're sorry, 'cause you're not/ Baby, when I know you're only sorry you got caught.

* "No Air": If I should die before I wake/ It's 'cause you took my breath away... Tell me how I'm supposed to breathe with no air?

But perhaps the most , uh, disturbing lyrics come from "Disturbia," Rihanna's forboding #1 hit from last summer that Chris Brown wrote:

* "Disturbia": It's a thief in the night to come and grab you/ It can creep up inside and consume you... Release me from this curse I'm in/ Trying to maintain but I'm struggling/ If you can't go, I think I'm gonna ah, ah, ah, ah!

ALSO:
Remember this incident from last spring, where Chris Brown got into a brawl at at Munich dance club, then immediately did damage control with a video rebuttal of the event?



Thanks to Lisa Timmons for her Ri-Ri wisdom.

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Pet Shop Boys Vs. Erasure

Just a quick note to mention that this week's Towleroad column will be posted today, and it covers Erasure's forthcoming Total Pop!—Deluxe box set being released in two weeks in the U.K., and April 7 in the U.S.

Also, the Pet Shop Boys' new single "Love etc." has now been officially posted on YouTube by Parolophone (though not an official video). So, for the two people left who have yet to hear the Xenomania-produced lead track off their upcoming album Yes, here you go:

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ellen DeGeneres And John Mayer Sing Lady GaGa's 'Just Dance'...In A Bathroom



Somehow, this isn't the God-awfully horrendous trainwreck it by all rights should be! It's Ellen DeGeneres and John Mayer doing a cover of Lady GaGa's #1 hit "Just Dance" from yesterday's episode of The Ellen Show.

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Green Day Unveil Their '21st Century Breakdown'

Billie Joe Armstrong has always been one of those guys I'd like to get wasted and have a dirty 10-minute stand with. Of course, I'd probably drink a bucket of Clorox after and cry, but...

Anyway, it's been far too long—four-and-a-half years!—since Green Day's American Idiot was released. It was an album in heavy rotation on the stereo D'luv when I started Chart Rigger back in January 2005, and I used to rail against 50 Cent's "Candy Shop" for keeping both "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" and Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" stuck at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 during that time period.

Yesterday, Green Day announced that their new studio album 21st Century Breakdown will be out in May. Today the band unveiled the album cover (above), which features art by Sixten.

It'll be the band's eighth studio LP, and will feature co-production by Garbage's Butch Vig, who, amongst a zillion other albums, produced Nirvana's Nevermind and the Smashing Pumpkins' Gish and Siamese Dream.

ALSO SEE:
* The U2/Green Day Banterview!

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Is Vince Clarke Banging The Saturdays Or What?

Why is no one pointing out the obvious—that synth wizard Vince Clarke is either a.) boning all five of The Saturdays, 3.) investing a lot of money in The Saturdays, or c.) one of The Saturdays in drag.

The Erasure knob-twiddler (ahem!) has had a hand in three out of four of the British girl group's singles so far:

1. "If This Is Love" (sample's Yaz(oo)'s "Situation")
2. "Issues" (remixed by Vince)
3. "Just Can't Get Enough" (cover of his Depeche Mode debut single)

As for the other Saturdays single, "Up," Clarke was probably up one of those broads when they came up with the title.

Oh, I kid, I kid. Vince is happily married with children. Anyway, "Just Can't Get Enough" is this year's British Comic Relief charity single, out March 2. Below is the vid:

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Gary Go To Open For Take That, And His Song 'Wonderful' Is Pretty Rad

Gary Go is much nerdier-looking than this artsy photo from his MySpace allows. The 24-year-old has been announced as the opener for Take That's summer tour, so naturally D'luv had to do a bit of digging to see if this other Gary was worthy of the coveted slot with Gary Barlow & Co.

And, lo and behold, London-based Gary Go's music—or at least his single, "Wonderful"—sounds just like...Take That!



Gary Go is currently opening for The Script on a bunch of U.K. dates. Here's what he told ITN about meeting the That:
"[Gary Barlow] really got into my songs and liked them. Then he brought Mark to another show I was doing in a pub... My studio where I work was not far from where they were making their record. And, you know, I'd knock on the door and hear them while they're making this album, The Circus. I hung out with them and got to know Jason and Howard as well."
Riiiiiight. So when he says he "got to know" Jason and Howard...?

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Monday, February 09, 2009

It's OK If You Didn't Watch The Grammys, 'Cause You Can Just Read Me Rant About It

Much like every other awards show, I realized at about 7:30 p.m., "Oh, right, the Grammys are on tonight." So I watched about an hour of the telecast before the urge to see people murdered really kicked in and I threw on my Dexter Season 2 DVD.

Later I just read about/watched online what I'd missed from the awards show, like any normal person does these days.

Here are a few observations:

* Apparently Chris Brown might have hit Rihanna in the face hours before they were to perform on the show. He turned himself in to police last night. That's annoying, mostly because Chris was supposed to perform "Forever" at the Grammys.

* U2 opening with "Get On Your Boots" solidified that it's the worst U2 lead single choice ever. While "The Fly" and "Numb" weren't exactly commercial successes, at least they had a chorus.

* Whitney Houston—still completely cracked out of her gourd, now with a brand new face.

* The Brits reperesented last night! Duffy, Estelle, Adele, Radiohead, Robert Plant and Coldplay all picked up awards, with the latter winning Best Rock Album, Best Performance By A Duo Or Group and Song Of The Year, for "Viva La Vida." As well, M.I.A. performed—while 9 months pregnant!

* Chris Martin flashed his belly button about seven times while performing "Viva La Vida." A more effective tactic would have been guitarist Guy Berryman flashing his knob.

* Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) wore a white knot, to symbolize his support for gay marriage. He's been very vocal about gay rights lately. Oh, Dave, you had me when you used to french kiss Kurt Cobain on stage!

* Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus dueting on Swift's "Fifteen" was quite beautiful, and the high point of the night:

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