Monthly Archives: January 2013

REWIND: Pop’s Biggest Paternity Case Turns 30

A little slice of Michael madness.

A little slice of Michael madness.

“If my ears are correct,” says KIIS-FM music director Mike Schaefer, “Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ is going to the top of the charts. I crank it up every chance I get. The bass line, the lyrics, they’re just incredible. I’m telling you, it’s a mutha!” — Billboard Magazine (January 22, 1983)

Well, Schaefer’s ears didn’t deceive him: “Billie Jean” became the big hit record that he and a lot of other programmers thought it was going to be. Released as the second single from Michael Jackson‘s landmark album, Thriller, it marked a clear distinction from the first taste that listeners got of the album, a #2 duet with Paul McCartney from late 1982, “The Girl Is Mine”. The song became an international success and an iconic single for a multitude of reasons. Here’s just a fraction of why the song stands in the high ranks that it does today.

Recorded in 1982, the song details a woman, a groupie of sorts, who meets the protagonist at some sort of club and claims that he “is the one” who fathered her young child, which the protagonist denies. She tries to further prove her point by showing him a picture of the newborn son, whom he notes that “his eyes were like mine” but still refutes the statement that he is indeed the father of him. By the end, we don’t exactly know who is telling the truth in this story. Now, Jackson’s claimed in a few interviews that the character of Billie Jean is a sort of composite of some of the girls he and his brothers would encounter on tour during their early days in the late 1960’s. One biographer, J. Randy Taraborrelli, pointed out that in 1981, the year before the song was composed, a woman wrote a letter to Jackson claiming that he was the father of her child, continuing to send him letters that he ignored until one day, he received a package with photograph of the fan, as well as a letter and a gun. The latter incident would seem a little more believable as the inspiration for the song given the timing, but while he was alive, Jackson never really specified that one particular source was correct. I suppose we’ll never know, but whatever case you believe, the lyrics still make for quite the haunting tale.

Sonically, the bass line is everything in this song. It’s booming and intense and makes you just want to dance, despite the dense lyrical matter. It’s mixed together with guitar, strings, and of course, Jackson’s snapping and hiccup-style vocals. Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates mentioned that Jackson admitted to him that he essentially “copied that groove” from the duo’s 1981 hit, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”, but that Hall was fine with it, remarking that he himself had lifted it from someone else. At least he was inspired somewhere good. It’s hard to believe that Quincy Jones, the legendary producer, didn’t actually like the song when it was first created; he thought it was too “weak” to appear on Thriller. The two fell out over several issues, including a co-producer credit for Jackson, but eventually reconciled and decided that song, after being mixed by Bruce Swedien a total of ninety-one times, was finally ready to put on the record. Man, were things about to blow up for his status on the music scene.

Jackson’s single was one of the first big releases of that new year; thus, it was an instant impact once sales and airplay data starting rolling in. “Billie Jean” rocketed straight onto the Hot 100 at #47 on the chart dated January 22. It entered the top 40 next week, climbing to #37, then to #27, a more modest climb to #23, and then a huge rise up to #6 on the chart dated February 19. Two weeks later, it was spending its first of seven weeks at #1, ending its run in mid-April just as next single, “Beat It”, hit the top 5. The latter single only spent one week at the top. “Billie” last held a spot in the top 40 on May 21, at #29, spending a total of seventeen weeks there and twenty-four within the Hot 100. The song landed as the #2 song of the year on Billboard’s year-end chart. It also spent two weeks at #1 on rival Radio & Records’ airplay-only chart and six weeks at the top on Cashbox Magazine Top 100 chart.

On top of all this success, “Billie Jean” became one of the first big music videos by an African-American artist played on MTV in heavy rotation: the network had been criticized for not playing many of those artists since its inception a few years back. It earned GRAMMY Awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. Plus, who can forget the moonwalk he danced during the song’s performance at Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever? The song broken down racial barriers while breaking onto all kinds of charts. It remained one of the big sellers after Jackson’s death in 2009 as well, selling in excess of 3.5 million copies in the States when combining digital, physical and ringtone sales. It’s a true classic, one that we’ll be remembering for many years to come. Forget Maury — the biggest unsolved paternity case of all-time just celebrated its 30th anniversary of making the charts. Congrats to the long-gone, but still celebrated, King of Pop.

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TURN IT UP TUESDAY: What’s New In Stores This Week (Jan. 22)

A little more Country than that.

A little more Country than that.

Ready for a busier week of new albums hitting the shelves? Here are the new releases out in stores on Tuesday, January 22:

  • Country veteran Gary Allan returns with Set You Free, his ninth studio album. Leadoff single “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” is currently a top 5 record on Country radio, his biggest hit in five years. Expect that to give this newest release of his a big boost. Allan has yet to score a #1 album, but he’s made the top 5 with his last three consecutive albums. (iTunes)
  • Also pulling into the Release Ranch this week is the third album from Randy Houser, How Country Feels. The title track is currently #1 at Country radio. His only other top ten record was “Boots On”, a #2 hit in 2009. (iTunes)
  • The GRAMMY Awards are almost here! This 22-track compilation features songs by big nominees like fun., Gotye, Kelly Clarkson and more. (iTunes)
  • Popular Christian group Casting Crowns release their first acoustic-based compilation, The Acoustic Sessions: Volume One. It also features two new songs. (iTunes)
  • Punk Rockers Bad Religion returns with True North, their first album since 2010. (iTunes)
  • His first single was released way back in 1960 and he’s still singing today. Aaron Neville‘s latest album, out today, is My True Story, another album of cover songs. (iTunes)
  • My personal pick of the week belongs to Luke McMaster‘s All Roads. His debut album features his recent adult contemporary hit with Jim Brickman, “Good Morning Beautiful”, as well as remakes of tunes by Al Jarreau and Hall & Oates. (iTunes)
  • Just in time for award season, Mumford & Sons release a deluxe edition of their album Babel, the Gentlemen Of The Road Edition. It’s also available in a box set version. (Amazon)
  • Two albums get a released today that are Valentine’s Day themed: Billy Joel‘s She’s Got A Way: Love Songs, a collection of eighteen of his classic hits (Amazon) and Now! That’s What I Call Love Songs, a collection of titles by various artists. (Amazon)

New digital-only singles that you can buy this week include:

  • “Now”, the first single from Paramore‘s self-titled forthcoming album. (AmazonMP3)
  • “Love Me”, the latest from Lil Wayne, featuring additional rappers Drake and Future. (iTunes)

See you on Tuesday, the 29th, for the next edition!

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Inauguration Sensation: The Presidents of Pop

Mr. President, meet Mr. President.

Mr. President, meet Mr. President.

Today, January 21, 2013, marks the public ceremony of the second inauguration of President Barack Obama. Regardless of whether you voted the candidate or not, it’s always interesting to see the different performers during the event and hear what the President has to say during his speech. This year, the acts include Beyoncé (“The Star Spangled Banner”), James Taylor (“America The Beautiful”) and Kelly Clarkson (“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”.) In order to prepare for the big day, I thought I’d put together a list of some of the songs and artists that have charted nationally using the word “president” or any variation of it (presidents, presidential, etc.) There’s some intriguing finds in the bunch, so I hope you enjoy.

Surprisingly enough, out of the eleven Hot 100 singles to contain some form of the word “president”, none have made the top 40. Some were novelty songs like 1960’s “Alvin For President” by David Seville and the Chipmunks and 1968’s “Snoopy For President” by The Royal Guardsmen. Two were by young female singers: 1962’s “My Daddy Is President” by 7-year-old Little Jo Ann, supposed to be taken from the perspective of then 7-year-old Caroline Kennedy, and 1975’s “Please Mr. President” by 10-year-old Paula Webb, a spoken-word appeal to Gerald Ford from a young girl whose father had lost his job at an automobile plant.

Three made the top 50 while just missing a coveted spot in the top 40. In 1996, rapper Jay-Z scored his very first hit single with “Dead Presidents”, about the faces of presidents you see on dollar bills, which went as high as #50. In 1969, soul singer Johnnie Taylor got up to #48 with “I Could Never Be President”. However, it was the Godfather Of Soul, James Brown, who passed the closest to the top 40, peaking at #44. His charting entry was “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” in 1974, referring once again to Ford’s presidency just after Richard Nixon’s resignation from office.

By the way, the last presidential song to hit the Hot 100 was “President Carter” by Lil Wayne, an album track from Tha Carter IV that charted due to digital download sales. It peaked at #94 in the fall of 2011.

As for the acts, the first of them to chart was way back in the fall of 1970. They called themselves The Presidents, a soul group based out of the national’s capital. Over the Christmas holiday, they peaked at #11 with their only big hit, “5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years Of Love)”, before dropping out rather quickly after that. They made the Hot 100 with a followup single, “Triangle Of Love”, but it failed to climb higher than #68 and the group fell off the radar.

In the 90’s, a trio out of Seattle made some waves on Alternative radio, calling themselves The Presidents of the United States of America. In 1995, they hit the #1 spot on rock radio with “Lump”, which became a mainstream crossover, but failed to make the Hot 100 due to a lack of a physical CD or vinyl single at the time. However, their next release, “Peaches”, made up for that. It was another top ten record on the Alternative survey and gained about the same mainstream exposure as “Lump”, but with the added sales, it made it to #29 on the Hot 100 in 1996. The band is still together today and making music, though they haven’t broken onto any chart, genre-specific or overall, since 1997.

The last of the three presidential acts and most recent is from a one-man, two-woman trio out of Germany, Mr. President. The group was pretty successful in their native country for the latter half of the 90’s, scoring seven top-20 hits, including a #2 in 1996 called “Coco Jamboo”. It quickly spread across Europe and Asia, becoming a significant top ten hits in most of those countries. It eventually made it to the States in 1997, peaking at #21 on the Hot 100. It was the band’s only charting song here. They last hit the Austrian and German charts in 2003 and broke up in 2008.

Don’t forget to tune in to see all the coverage of the inauguration — check your local listings to see when the festivities begin in your respective time zone. In the meantime, thank you for casting your ballot for POP! Goes The Charts and follow the blog and my personal Twitter account (@AdamFSoybel) for more music news!

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Highlights from Adam’s Top 40: January 20, 2013

Pretty "Young" things.

Eight is enough for this trio.

DEBUTS
40. Josh Groban – Brave
39. Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man
38. Olly Murs – Army Of Two
30. Justin Timberlake – Suit & Tie | HIGHEST DEBUT

TOP GAINERS
31. Bon Jovi – Because We Can (35)
28. Taylor Swift – 22 (32)

THIS WEEK’S TOP TEN
10. Kelly Clarkson – Catch My Breath (09) | PEAK: #09
09. Maroon 5 – Daylight (11) | PEAK: #09
08. Jason Mraz – 93 Million Miles (05) | PEAK: #05
07. Hunter Hayes – Wanted (08) | PEAK: #07
06. The Script – Six Degrees Of Separation (06) | PEAK: #06
05. Train – Mermaid (07) | PEAK: #05
04. Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble (04) | PEAK: #04
03. Pink – Try (03) | PEAK: #02
02. Olly Murs – Troublemaker (02) | PEAK: #02
01. fun. – Carry On (01) | PEAK: #01 for eight weeks

Top 10 Next In Line:
1. Aerosmith featuring Carrie Underwood – Can’t Stop Lovin’ You (2)
2. The Saturdays – What About Us (4)
3. Of Monsters And Men – Mountain Sound (3)
4. Gentlemen Hall – Sail Into The Sun (-)
5. Kenny Chesney – El Cerrito Place (7)
6. Cassadee Pope – Over You (-)
7. Little Mix – Wings (-)
8. Train – This’ll Be My Year (9)
9. Kelly Clarkson – People Like Us (10)
10. Maroon 5 – Love Somebody (-)

In The Mix:
Carly Rae Jepsen – Tonight I’m Getting Over You
Caro Emerald – Back It Up
Cher Lloyd – With Ur Love (new)
Conor Maynard – Animal
Emeli Sandé – Clown
Goo Goo Dolls – Rebel Beat (new)
Jewel – Two Hearts Breaking (new)
Jilette Johnson – Torpedo (new)
Shiny Toy Guns – Somewhere To Hide
Stefano – Yes To Love
Tristan Prettyman – Say Anything

See my full chart on the M4BCC message board.

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Voices Carry: Screaming and Shouting Up The Survey

Would you hold it against her?

Would you hold it against her?

Pipe down! Better yet, pipe into this. This week on the Hot 100, the collaboration between will.i.am and Britney Spears, “Scream & Shout”, rises to #6. It’s the first main-credited solo top ten hit for the leader of the Black Eyed Peas and twelfth for Spears. Question is, which word has appeared in the top ten more times before? “Scream” or “Shout”? You may be yelling at the top of your lungs when you find out. I would save your voice, however. Here they are:

THE SCREAMERS
MICHAEL & JANET JACKSON – “Scream” (#5, 1995)
One of the most hotly anticipated singles of the decade went in with a roar but bowed out pretty quickly despite two big names and a $7 million music video, which has influenced a number of other videos over the years. The song debuted on the radio during the third full week of May, with a CD single release just a week afterwards, combining in a huge #5 debut on the Hot 100 on the chart dated June 17. However, the airplay suddenly stopped building less than a month after it debuted and the single sales, though strong for a few weeks, started dropping by the end of July. The hype was just too big and it couldn’t sustain it. Both artists would hit the #1 spot on the Hot 100 after this single before Michael passed away in 2009. Janet’s last hit on a genre-specific chart was as recent as 2010.

USHER – “Scream” (#9, 2012)
This singer’s latest album, Looking 4 Myself, was one of his more polarizing to date in that it took him into a more dance and electronic direction, which alienated a lot of his Urban audience despite a few hits at the format. This was his only major mainstream hit from the album, which got to #6 on CHR radio and #9 on the Hot 100. 2013 marks the 20-year mark for Usher on the national charts, and I’m sure he’ll be around with some more big singles for years to come. (This is the most recent occurrence of the word “scream” appearing on the charts.)

THE SHOUTERS
JOEY DEE & THE STARLITERS – “Shout (Part One)” (#6, 1962)
Several months earlier, the band had a big debut #1 hit in “Peppermint Twist”, knocking out Chubby Checker‘s rereleased version of “The Twist”. This was followed by the similar “Hey, Let’s Twist”, which only got to #20. By that point, the countdown was all twisted out with a twister of songs by Billy Joe & The Checkmates, Gary U.S. Bonds, Sam Cooke and more. So, the band went in a different direction, recording this live version of the old Isley Brothers tune and shouting their way to a peak of #6. The band would continue to hit the Hot 100 through 1963.

ERNIE MARESCA – “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)” (#6, 1962)
Though he only charted with one solo song, Maresca was very successful as a songwriter, co-writing/writing two big hits for Dion in 1961, “Runaround Sue” (#1) and “The Wanderer” (#2). He was also part of the band The Regents, who did the original version of “Barbara Ann” in 1961 (#13) before the Beach Boys made it into a top seller four years later. Maresca’s song peaked within two weeks of Dee’s; in fact, for the week of May 4, both songs were in the top ten! Dee & The Starliters fell from 6-10, while Maresca soared from 16-8. Now that’s something to shout about. He continued to write and sing until the end of the decade.

TEARS FOR FEARS – “Shout” (#1, 1985)
This English duo was just coming off a #1 hit with “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, so expectations were high for their American followup, and it did not disappoint. “Shout” hit #1 in eight countries, including the United States, and launched parent album Songs From The Big Chair into the top spot on the Albums Chart. The group had two other top-5 hits following this, and a handful of top-40 entries, their last one being “Break It Down Again” in 1993.

(We’ve had some shouters on the air and selling big since then. The most recent top-40 appearance of it was in a rereleased version of “Twist and Shout” by The Beatles in 1986. It hit #23 after it was featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Shaggy also scored a CHR radio entry in 2000 with “Dance & Shout”, which sampled “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)” by The Jacksons. It went as high as #22 on that format chart and just missed the Hot 100.)

So, there you have it. There have been two other “Scream” titles and three other “Shout” titles besides “Scream & Shout” to make the top ten. It’s a pretty close race. Will the screamers eventually topple the shouters? Will a combination of two in “Scream & Shout” prove to be a #1 record in the next few weeks? Anything can happen in the chart game. For more music information, don’t raise your voice, just follow the blog and follow me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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That’s A Rap: The Obligatory (But Disposable) Rent-A-Rapper Break

You've gotta hand it to 'em.

You’ve gotta hand it to ’em.

You may try to hide from it, but it’s all over the radio. Rap music. The golden age of it may be long gone, but it won’t go away. So, how did the art of spitting a rhyme go from legendary to lackluster? One major reason in today’s music is the mainstream radio rule of the obligatory rent-a-rapper break. You’re listening to a harmless pop song, and then you hear some gruff voice out of nowhere take over, and then it’s back to the original song. Looking for street cred? Rent a rapper. Breaking America? Rent a rapper. Even if your song is perfection, it’s not going to be a hit unless you have a rapper. Why did it have to come to this predictable pattern? Let’s take a look back at how it developed.

The first rap break in a mainstream song was done by Debbie Harry in 1981’s “Rapture” by her group Blondie, toasting about men from Mars and eating cars, etc. As R&B music became more commonly accepted at radio in the mid-80’s, rap breaks appeared again on records like Chaka Khan‘s “I Feel For You”, featuring Grandmaster Melli Mel. By 1986, a movement began in which rappers interpolated other records into their own while they would freestyle over the beat. Run-D.M.C. and Aersomith scored a top-5 hit out of 1986’s “Walk This Way”, and rap trio the Fat Boys managed two top-20 hits, 1987’s “Wipe Out” (chorus by the Beach Boys, what an odd pairing) and 1988’s “The Twist”, featuring the original singer, Chubby Checker. This is when the disposable rap began, at least on the CHR format.

In 1990, two songs went to #1 that included rap breaks, but neither were issued with a rap-free edit. In February, Paula Abdul‘s “Opposites Attract” hit the top with a remixed version featuring two raps credited to the animated MC Skat Kat (vocals by Romany Malco and Derrick Stevens). Then, in July, Hawaiian-born balladeer Glenn Medeiros managed to push an uptempo number to #1, “She Ain’t Worth It”, featuring a rap by Bobby Brown. The latter example seems like a more obvious case of the record label really wanting a hit, but Brown was hot at the time, so, the song took off. Other songs that year that had an optional break for radio include “Alright” by Janet Jackson (added rap by Heavy D) and “Groove Is In The Heart” by Deee-Lite (album version featured a rap by Q-Tip.)

By 1992, the Jacksons struck again. “Jam” by Michael and “The Best Things In Life Are Free” by Janet and Luther Vandross were generally heard with their added rappers on them; Heavy D for the former and Bell Biv Devoe for the latter. (“Best” did have a rap-free edit, however.) With the fall of the CHR format beginning around this time, guest rappers also began to fall out of fashion as mainstream radio turned to alternative rock to balance out the airwaves.

For the last half of the decade, rap breaks came and went, but most remixed singles were heard in their original album versions at CHR. The driving force behind these was superstar Mariah Carey, known more for ballads than R&B material. By 1995, that was changed with the release of “Fantasy”, released with a new version featuring rapper Ol’ Dirty Bastard. It went to #1. The following year, “Always Be My Baby” got a remix on behalf of producer Jermaine Dupri, which included rapper Da Brat, hitting #2. The results were more mixed for 1999’s “Heartbreaker”, where the album version featured Jay-Z (an edit without him was issued.) A separate remix also featured Da Brat and Missy Elliott. Though it hit #1 on the Hot 100, it missed the top 20 at CHR radio, continuing a downward spiral for the singer at the format.

Other than Carey, songs like 1996’s “No Diggity” by BLACKstreet featuring Dr. Dre and 1998’s “No, No, No (Part 2)” by Destiny’s Child featuring Wyclef Jean became minor CHR crossovers, but much bigger hits on the Hot 100. The only rock band to experiment with the concept during this time period and succeed was Sugar Ray, who featured reggae singer/rapper Super Fly on their 1997 #1 hit, “Fly”. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that something seemed to click between rap and the teen audience.

It took a boy band out of Canada to reignite the disposable rap for popular radio. “Faded”, the debut hit for trio soulDecision, featured an optional rap break by rapper Thrust. It climbed to #6 on pop radio in October, signaling a new era in boy bandemonium: the rap remix. The Backstreet Boys did it with “The Call”, remixed by The Neptunes in 2001. It didn’t exactly help the song. However, a remix of *NSYNC‘s “Girlfriend” with a rap by Nelly did go top 5 in 2002. By that summer, boy bands were largely off the airwaves save for a few acts, both groups and members gone solo. For example, Justin Timberlake‘s first solo single, “Like I Love You”, which featured a rap break by The Clipse, went top 5 in late 2002.

Once the boy bands got going, the females followed. In 2001, pop group Dream had their second single, “This Is Me”, remixed with added raps by P. Diddy and Kain. The collaborative #1 remake of “Lady Marmalade” with singers Christina Aguilera, Mya and Pink featured a rap break from Lil’ Kim, who was often edited out. Aguilera would use rapper Redman on her 2002 single “Dirrty”. Competitor Britney Spears added Pharell to a remix of her 2002 single, “Boys”. Both were low charters, though the Spears record did worse. One of the more important figures of this era was Jennifer Lopez, who scored two #1 singles in a row with remixes featuring rapper Ja Rule that were played over the album version: 2001’s “I’m Real” and 2002’s “Ain’t It Funny”. Lopez’s next three releases to the format all included rappers. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Other artists to add raps during this period included Joe, Lenny Kravitz and No Doubt, who had two singles: 2002’s “Hey Baby”, featuring Bounty Killer and “Underneath It All”, featuring Lady Saw.

Things slowed down with CHR radio in crisis again, though some singers like Beyoncé and Ciara continually delivered hits with featured rappers between 2003 and 2006. The former scored #1 singles with 2003’s “Baby Boy”, featuring Sean Paul and 2006’s “Check On It”, featuring Slimm Thugg. The latter took “1, 2 Step”, featuring Missy Elliott, to the top in 2005. Lopez’s overuse of the technique proved to be her downfall in 2005; both singles from Rebirth underperformed. Teen singers got in on the action as well to mixed results. JoJo‘s 2004 single, “Baby It’s You”, added a rap by Bow Wow and went top ten. Jesse McCartney‘s 2005 single, “She’s No You”, awkwardly remixed with Fabolous, barely went top 30. Frankie J, The Pussycat Dolls and Usher also saw big hits during this period that included guest raps. Some bands, like Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, desperately tried to get another hit by featuring rappers at this time, but both flopped. Something tells me you don’t remember 2003’s “You Are My Number One” (with Ranking Roger) and “Mr. Bartender (It’s So Easy)” (with ProHoeZak), respectively.

Rap breaks began to pick up again in mid-2006 just because so many were suddenly going to #1, thanks in part to the second coming of Timbaland. From May until October, four songs dominated that all had a featured rapper/production artist: “Hips Don’t Lie”, by Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean, “Promiscuous”, by Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, “Buttons”, by The Pussycat Dolls featuring Snoop Dogg and “SexyBack”, by Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland. Timberlake would also hit #1 later in the year with “My Love”, featuring T.I., for four weeks. This continued in 2007 with hit singles by Fergie and Rihanna. In fact, the former artist’s ballad, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, was reissued in a very unnecessary remix with reggae and rap artist Sean Kingston, which pretty much set the standard for most of the cash-in remixes going forward. This means we’re getting to the point where everybody needed a rap break to get airplay.

By 2008, not only were R&B singers like Ray J and Usher using the trick, but pop acts like Natasha Bedingfield (“Love Like This” with Kingston) and yes, even the Jonas Brothers, were including rappers on songs. Remember “Burnin’ Up”? Well, this continued in force, and then the labels decided that in order for us to suffer more, they would be exporting their already successful British singers into the United States with specially crafted “We need an American rapper on this” remixes. Thus, Jay Sean‘s 2009 single “Down” went to #1 with Lil Wayne tacked on, and Taio Cruz went to #1 in 2010 with “Break Your Heart” featuring Ludacris.

As for the American acts, don’t think they weren’t left out of this. Katy Perry went to #1 several weeks after that with “California Gurls”, featuring a rap by Snoop Dogg, and Usher took “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” to #2 with a rap by Pitbull. Perry’s label noticeably issued digital remixes of many of her songs with added guest rappers in an attempt to secure a record amount of consecutive #1 singles for her. “E.T.”, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, and “The One That Got Away” featured Kanye West, Missy Elliott and B.o.B., respectively. The former two went to #1; the last stalled at #3.

Now, Enrique Iglesias, still living off the royalties of “Hero” and his mole, heard these songs one day and I’m sure went “Oye! There’s my comeback hit!” Thus, it was that “I Like It”, featuring Pitbull and “Tonight” with another phoned-in rap by Ludacris both became big hits in 2010 and 2011. (All of Iglesias’s singles since those two have featured rappers, one other with Pitbull.) For some reason, this inspired Justin Bieber to call up his grandfather Luda and ask him for a rap and you could just see the dollar signs shining in his eyes, so Ludacris again was featured on Bieber’s 2011 hit, “Baby”.

Now, every good comeback deserves another one, so the formerly washed-up Jennifer Lopez, then a judge on American Idol, returned with 2011’s “On The Floor” with a familiar face, Pitbull. Three of her next four singles featured rappers, the biggest one being 2012’s “Dance Again”, again with Pitbull. Last year, pop/rock bands began to try again with rapped portions. Maroon 5‘s “Payphone”, with a break by Wiz Khalifa, went to #1. Additionally, “I Like It Like That”, by Hot Chelle Rae and featuring the New Boyz, made the top 20.

So, you’re probably wondering where we are at this point with current singles that utilize a guest rapper. Here’s everything in the current CHR top 50:
#04: Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj“Beauty And A Beat” (no rap-free edit)
#12: Alicia Keys (featuring Nicki Minaj) – “Girl On Fire” (album version without rap)
#22: The Script featuring will.i.am“Hall Of Fame” (international edit without will.i.am)
#23: Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z“Suit & Tie” (rap-free edit issued)
#29: Olly Murs featuring Flo Rida“Troublemaker” (international edit without Flo Rida)
#46: Skylar Grey featuring Eminem“C’mon Let Me Ride” (no rap-free edit)

Additionally, one song just below the top 50 features Flo Rida on it: “Say You’re Just A Friend” by Austin Mahone. No rap-free edit is available on that one… yet.

So, as you can see, as much as we may desire them to get off the radio, the overexposed guest rapper who already a dozen hits on his or her own isn’t leaving anytime soon. The concept will always be floated around as a way to get a hit, even if it means selling out for the sake of it. Although it may go out of style for a few years, it always seems to come back around and picks up momentum in no time with the same names on every song. I usually prefer a rap-free version of a song, but that’s just me and my more pop/rock-driven tastes. If you have an opinion on this or if I missed any big examples, let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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Pop About To Drop: Love Is In The Air

That's a whole lotta "Love".

That’s a whole lotta “Love”.

Valentine’s Day is under a month away, and while you’re out buying candy and flowers, here are some sweet new singles just in time for the big event:

CHER LLOYD – “With Ur Love”
Lloyd’s already had two charting songs at CHR radio: “Want U Back”, which hit the top ten, and “Oath”, which recently hit the top 30. This third single was already a top 5 seller in the United Kingdom way back in the fall of 2011, so it’s a little surprising that it’s getting a release in the States just now, but hey, I am totally not her record label. The former version featured American “singer” Mike Posner, but fortunately, he’s been dropped on this newer version. (Probably doesn’t look good that the promotion of his second album has been a dud. It has yet to be released.) The song has quite the hit team behind it, with writing and production credits for Shellback, and additional writing credits for Savan Kotecha and Max Martin. All three have had success independently, but have also worked together on big songs like “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” by Usher and “I Wanna Go” by Britney Spears. It’s a cute and catchy tune that should be a winner with the tween girls and fits in with the 80’s electronic inspired movement at mainstream radio with a drum and synth-heavy arrangement. Lyrically, Lloyd has just as much as attitude and edge as her previous stuff, although radio may be hesitant to play it with a lyric like “Used to always think I was bulletproof/But you got an AK and you’re blowing through,” given all the discussion lately about gun violence. I suppose it depends on the radio market. Other than that, it’s a harmless song that finds the girl bragging about the guy she has and how strong she feels her love is. Coming off an underperformer in “Oath”, this may not be the record that returns Lloyd to the top ten, but it should hopefully get some decent airplay during the spring. (P.S. a new video is coming soon for the solo version.)

MAROON 5 – “Love Somebody”
No, this is not a hot Rick Springfield remake. Their third single, “Daylight”, isn’t falling off the charts quite yet, but a music video is in production for this fourth single from their album Overexposed. The song was co-written and co-produced with Ryan Tedder, lead singer of OneRepublic and Nate Motte of the duo 3OH!3, along with lead singer/songwriter Adam Levine, songwriter Derrick Cagaanan and songwriter/producer Noel Zancanella (he’s a part of Tedder’s Patriot Records.) Most of the band’s albums have gone four singles deep, so expect this one to likely be the last release from it until their next studio release, which is already in the works. “Somebody” sees the group in a more dance direction than the previous hits, which are straight up pop/rock, but it’s an easy transition for Levine, who doesn’t miss a beat. Plus, I’m sure the fact that Motte and Tedder are behind the soundboard probably influenced the overall feel of the song. The song itself is about a guy looking for romance from a girl, who can “take [him] all the way” so that he can feel complete. Yet, he states, “if I fall for you, I’ll never recover/If I fall for you, I’ll never be the same,” which seems to indicate that the girl may be a risk for him. Oh, well, he still wants her, so don’t blame me if she turns out to be trouble. It’s a decent song, nothing new or great, but because it’s Maroon 5, it’ll probably be a mid-charter before leaving the national surveys in the spring. Levine should be back on television judging on the show The Voice by the time this song is gaining airplay, so at least it will be promoted well enough. Maybe the clip for it will premiere on there.

If you’re looking for a little more “Love”, here are some other songs to check out that are new on the radio:
LAWSON – “Learn To Love Again” (Single review!)
MUMFORD & SONS – “Lover Of The Light”
NEON TREES – “Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night)”
STEFANO – “Yes To Love”
THE LUMINEERS – “Stubborn Love”

For more new music as it comes in, follow the blog and let me know what you think on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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PROFILE: Third Time Is The Charm For Gentlemen Hall

Caught in the "Sun".

Caught in the “Sun”.

Christmas may be over, but independent band Gentlemen Hall hopes to deck the halls with some shiny certification plaques with their newest release, a song I hope can be their first major hit in 2013.

The sextet originally formed in Beantown in 2008, performing on the club circuit until a chance meeting with two area DJs at a house party led to some airplay on the now-defunct Alternative station WFNX. The band went onto win a Breakout Artist Award for the Boston region at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009. I guess you could say that they neatly fit into the MGMT/Passion Pit category of psychedelic-leaning rock fare, but they have a poppier side to them reminiscent of Foster The People or OneRepublic that sets them apart and gives them an advantage when it comes to commercial potential.

I first heard of them two years after that when the band released their first single to radio, a song called “Gravity Will Break Our Bones”. It bubbled under my top 40 for nine weeks in the fall of 2011. It did, however, accumulate some minor airplay at Hot Adult Contemporary and made the top 50, but dropped off shortly afterward. Followup release “All Our Love” gained even less attention, picking up just a handful of stations, and again, bubbled under my chart for seven weeks in the early summer of 2012. I actually heard that latter release a few times on the station before its demise in July.

It’s now 2013 and the band is releasing their third single overall to radio, another self-released tune called “Sail Into The Sun”. It’s from a forthcoming full-length studio album, no title yet, which should be out in the spring or summer. It was recently sent to Alternative radio, but by the sound of it, they’ll be crossing over with the song eventually. “Sail” just sounds like the perfect song to use in an advertisement. Oh, wait. Cue the video. It’s a good start so far. (Yes, I know that “Gravity” was in an online video for the Windows Phone, but you’re probably looking at this on your iPhone, so shall we move on?) It’s not too deep lyrically, not that it’s a bad thing with this kind of song, but it’s taken from what I think is the perspective of a boy dreaming about his significant other, wanting to break free from the normality of life, the sun and the rain, etc. He sings, “I’ll pull you closer when we’re floating far away / And I / Don’t need no reason, we’ll just get away / When we sail into the sun.” As he goes on, he questions the landscape of this fantasy world and whether it will complete his curiosity of the unknown out there: “Will we ever leave? Will we find that all we saw we really need?” before stating that he just wants go “home” or whatever he calls the place he finds comfort with his lover. Again, this isn’t the most essential part of the song, but, at least it’s not a self-righteous monologue about money, women and cars, you know?

This is such a glorious song sonically. It’s one of those songs that makes you feel good because the arrangement is so thoughtfully done, a beautiful combination of a lot of different elements. It’s a mix of (and correct me if I’m wrong) drum, guitar, keyboard/synthesizer, tambourine, and a triangle/xylophone. That’s quite a bunch, but it all flows together into one seamless effort. I did say the lyrics portrayed the protagonist in a dream-like state, and the lushness of the instruments enhances that quality. Unlike their other singles, this one doesn’t have a standard lead vocal, and there’s a lot of background harmonizing during the verse. Again, it’s just very pretty. Also, it ends with hand claps. Seriously, it sounds like “Car Wash” suddenly invaded the track, but I can dig it. It’s such a cool song that you just have to listen to it a few times and you’ll get it.

The only thing standing in the band’s way of getting a big hit is the whole lack of a major label promoting them. They’re an independent act. Now, I understand the whole notion of some bands not liking the process of that, but I think they would really benefit from it if someone good took them under their wing. They are that good. The world just needs to hear them now. Here’s to some smooth sailing from this just-west-of-Bostonian in this new year.

Buy “SAIL INTO THE SUN” on iTunes.

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Shop Around: A Trip To The Musical Mini-Mart

"Shop" 'til you drop.

“Shop” ’til you drop.

Ready to pop some tags? Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘s “Thrift Shop” has been one of the big breakout records so far this year, already in the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s a novelty record, and though that’s not the tone of their whole collaborative album, The Heist, it’s the song that’s seemed to catch the attention of fans and radio programmers alike. However, with a #5 peak thus far, it’s not the biggest single to mention a retail store in the history of the charts. Grab your cart and your list because we’ll be spending this next post looking at some different locations and “shop”-titled hits that rang up on the registers.

It should be noted that the most covered “Shop” song to hit the charts used the word as a verb rather than a noun. It’s “Shop Around”, originally a #2 hit for The Miracles in 1960 and then covered by The Captain & Tennille in 1976, which got as high as #4. The song itself is a about a young man who is told by his mother that he though he’s older now, he still has time to “shop around” for girls before he “takes a bride”. For the 1976 remake, the gender roles were changed. An answer record, “Don’t Let Him Shop Around” by Debbie Dean, hit the charts for a few weeks in 1961. The same thing happened for the similarly titled “Don’t Have To Shop Around” by The Mad Lads in 1965. Both didn’t reach higher than #92.

Other more general titles to hit the charts include “Love In Store” by Fleetwood Mac (#22, 1983) and “Window Shopper” by 50 Cent (#20, 2006).

Let’s divide the rest of our charting hits into four different categories:

CAFÉ/COFFEE SHOP
Five songs fit into this category, which is the most out of the four. The first was “Old Home Filler-Up An’ Keep On A-Truckin’ Café” by C.W. McCall, a #54 entry in 1974. He’s best known for his #1 hit, “Convoy”. In 1977, Carole King charted with her penultimate top-40 hit, “Hard Rock Café”, which went as high as #30. Finally, in 1981, the last charting song for jazz group Spyro Gyra peaked at #77: “Café Amore”. They hit the top 40 two years earlier with their lone hit, “Morning Dance”. The two other titles in this group didn’t hit until late 2007 and early 2008: “Coffee Shop” by Yung Joc featuring Gorilla Zoe (#78) and “Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop” by Landon Pigg (#93). The latter gained some digital strength from its use in an AT&T commercial.

CLOTHING
Besides the thrift shopping we’ve been doing as of late, the only other song about shopping for clothes to make the charts was way back in 1960. The Coasters, the same group who landed a #1 hit with “Yakety Yak” in 1958, took “Shoppin’ For Clothes” to #83 two years later. Plenty of songs mentioning articles of clothing have hit the charts since then, but none about actually buying them. I’ll spare you the list of those until another time. It will happen.

FOOD/BEVERAGE
Although not specifically mentioned in the title of the song, Toni Basil took a crazy trip to the supermarket to #77 in 1983, a song called “Shoppin’ From A-Z”. It was the followup to her #1 hit, “Mickey”. (Toni, what are you wearing in that video?!) Basil would hit the charts once more with another underperforming single before disappearing from the music scene. In 2011, rapper Mac Miller took “Frick Park Market”, named after a supermarket near his hometown of Pittsburgh, to #60 on the Hot 100. He has yet to make the top 40.

The biggest food-specific store song to hit the charts is also the biggest one on this list. It hit #1 for nine weeks, but even with the kid-friendly title, I’m not sure you would want to be sending your children there. “Candy Shop”, by 50 Cent and Olivia, was one of the massive Urban hits that year. Cent has had several top-5 hits since then, but they’ve been largely forgettable. His current single featuring Adam Levine and Eminem, “My Life”, recently peaked at #27 on the Hot 100.

One other additional entry, a novelty spoken-word record about a drunken man calling into an alcoholic beverage store, made the top 100 in 1971. That was “Ajax Liquor Store”, a #43 hit for the comedic duo of Hudson & Landry. They hit the top 100 once more the following year.

LAUNDRY
Need some clean clothes? Two songs about the laundromat have hit the Hot 100. The highest-charting one was a parody of 1964’s “Leader Of The Pack”, a #1 hit by girl group The Shangri-La’s. “Leader Of The Laundromat”, as done by a vocal group called The Detergents (lot of originality there) hit #19 the following year. They didn’t hit the top 40 again. In 2003, Nivea followed up her big top ten hit, “Don’t Mess With My Man”, with the song “Laundromat”, featuring vocals from R. Kelly. It peaked at #58.

Still have some money left over? Well, then you can spend it at any of the top 100 hits about restaurants, hotels, vacation destinations, etc. Don’t forget to take your Grandma’s coat with you.

For more chart information and music news, follow the blog and let me know what you think in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

EDIT: On January 23, it was announced that “Thrift Shop” hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s now the second “shop” title to reach the spot since the aforementioned “Candy Shop”.

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TURN IT UP TUESDAY: What’s New In Stores This Week (Jan. 15)

Sometimes you wanna go Ware everybody knows your name.

Home is Ware the chart is.

It’s that time once again! Here are the new releases out in stores on Tuesday, January 15:

  • My pick of the week is a digital-only EP: If You’re Never Gonna Move by British songstress Jessie Ware, a relative unknown in the U.S., though she’s had some international success in the past year. The five-track EP features one of her former singles, the title track (originally known as “110%”) and current release “Sweet Talk”, but I’m really intrigued by her take on the Bobby Caldwell 1979 classic “What You Won’t Do For Love”, which is given a 90’s experimental R&B-infused twist and remains just as smooth as the original jazz number. This EP won’t likely see a lot of chart action here in the States, but her full-length album, Devotion, may just be a decent-sized breakout for her here in this new year. It’s just too bad that “Love” isn’t on that one. It’s the real treat on this short trip through Ware’s musical identity, a brilliant concoction of the avant-garde mixed with the soul of the quiet storm. (iTunes)
  • The late Queen of Ivory Soul, Teena Marie, gets a posthumous release in Beautiful, an album she had just completed at the time of her death in late 2010. Lead single “Luv Letter” is receiving minor airplay at Urban Adult Contemporary radio. (AmazonMP3)
  • Rapper A$AP Rocky delivers his first album, LONG.LIVE.A$AP. “… Problems” has been a big hit at Rhythm and Urban radio. This may be the highest debut on next week’s chart, though given the low sales climate in January, it’s unclear whether it will be #1 yet. (iTunes)
  • Are you a kid who wants to sing along to watered down lyrics of your favorite songs as performed by other children with stage moms who wants all the glitz and glamour themselves? Well, look no further than the 23rd (how the hell did they get to 23?) edition of Kidz Bop, featuring mediocre renditions of big hits like “We Are Never Ever Wearing Black Together”, “Locked Out Of Homeroom”, and “Fail Again”. You’re sure to be schooled by this one. (iTunes… unfortunately)
  • Alternative band Yo La Tengo releases their thirteenth studio album, Fade. It’s their first since 2009. (iTunes)
  • A former American Idol contestant takes on the world of Christian music, though it’s not his first foray into the genre. Jason Castro‘s Only A Mountain is in stores this week. (AmazonMP3)
  • Already a big seller at Amazon, The Tenors (formerly The Canadian Tenors) are back with Lead With Your Heart, produced by the world-renowned David Foster. Expect this one to be a big hit with the older demographic. (AmazonMP3)
  • The duo 2Cellos put out their appropriately titled second album, In2ition, featuring their take on popular songs by AC/DC, Elton John and Rihanna and more as only they could. (AmazonMP3)
  • Former Danity Kane member Dawn Richard puts out GoldenHeart, her solo debut. (AmazonMP3)

New digital-only singles that you can buy this week include:

  • “Suit & Tie”, the sexual and soulful new hit from Justin Timberlake, featuring Jay-Z. (iTunes)

Things begin to pick up a little bit more next Tuesday – we’ll see you then!

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