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Finding A New “Home”: Will These Songs Hit The U.S. In 2015?

Those international hits keep making their way to the U.S. to plenty of love, and the trend is likely to stay around through the new year. The latest CHR radio stats put smashes from Lilly Wood & The Prick / Robin Schulz, Milky Chance and Vance Joy just below the top 40, while acts like Sheppard and ZHU are gearing up for impact dates in the next few weeks. What’s up next from across the pond? Here are four singles that could make the U.S. their next home in the coming  months:

Fritz Kalkbrenner

FRITZ KALKBRENNER – “Back Home”
Origin: Berlin, Germany

The Kalkbrenners like to keep it all in the family, at least when it comes to their work. Both Fritz and his older brother Paul are in the music business producing dance records and performing. From the recent album Ways Over Water, currently in the charts in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, among other countries, the music video for this release recently reached 1 million views on YouTube and is still charting nicely in a few European territories. With a huge following on Facebook, it is hard to believe that a U.S. label hasn’t partnered with him (he’s based on a German indie group, Suol.) This song is smooth.

Lukas Graham

LUKAS GRAHAM – “Mama Said”
Origin: Copenhagen, Denmark

Named after their lead singer, the quartet has accumulated a number of top ten songs in their home country in the past few years, with “Mama” becoming their third and latest #1. It also hit the top ten in Norway, their first song to do so. Currently recording for their second full-length album, the followup to their 4x Platinum self-titled debut, it’s clear that the boys are hot over there. However, they have yet to see anything make it to the U.S. market. Given the remake of Annie coming this December to theaters and the melodically close chorus to “It’s The Hard Knock Life”, maybe something could be brewing.

Selah Sue

SELAH SUE – “Alone”
Origin: Leefdaal, Belgium

She’s all of 25, but she certainly has a look that goes back decades further than that. Beginning to make music by her teens, Sue made her debut on the national charts with a track called “Ragamuffin”. It went top 20 on surveys in both Belgium and France in 2010. By the following year, two of her songs managed to crack the top 2 in her home country: a solo entry titled “This World” and a feature on a charity single, “Zanna”. So, with her return and an album in the works, her core audience is  already embracing “Alone” and it sounds to me like a U.S. crossover (CHR/Hot AC) single in the making. Hope it happens!

Xavier Rudd

TIME SQUARE featuring XAVIER RUDD – “Follow The Sun”
Origin: Brescia, Italy / Torquay, Victoria, Australia

Here is another one of those album cuts plucked from out of nowhere and mixed into something totally cool. Originally on  the 36-year-old Rudd’s album Spirit Bird, which went to #2 on the Australian charts last year, the song did nothing, but did the catch the attention of the mysterious Italian act behind the remix of it. “Sun” has been shining its rays with a clip that is now over 1.3 million views on YouTube and it is currently in the top 40 in Italy. With a prominent harmonica line and that effortlessly breezy sound of summertime, it should continue to build in Europe and brighten our airwaves in the new year.

Which of these four songs will make it to the U.S. first and do the best here? Let me know! Comment below or click on the “Get Social!” tab above to find PGTC on Facebook and Twitter.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Andy Grammer – Magazines Or Novels

Finding a "Home" at Hot AC.

If loving him is wrong, I don’t wanna be write.

30-year-old singer/songwriter Andy Grammer took his sunny California sound and brightened up the charts starting in the fall of 2010 with hits like “Keep Your Head Up” and “Miss Me”. It was a stellar first era for the performer and his breakout on the scene was well deserved after years of busking on the streets. Now, three years after his self-titled debut comes his second album, a set called Magazines Or Novels. With a diminished amount of airplay and profile, the build has been a struggle, plus it doesn’t help that the album itself has its inconsistencies and forced arrangements. Nevertheless, it is good for a read, even if it’s not a full one.

The album begins on a bouncy note with “Honey, I’m Good.” If he needs a period firmly placed in that title, the thirst must be real. Nevertheless, it’s a great retro-influenced track about the power of temptation and a woman with a serious attraction. It does end on a happy note, however, as Grammer shows that he’s faithful in his established relationship: “You got me all wrong baby/My baby’s already got all of my love.” This is followed by first single “Back Home”, a safe and folksy cut about the good old days and recognizing your roots. The former top ten single on my chart is currently stalled out at Hot AC radio.

Grammer tries for a more confident pop sound on “Pushing”, track three in the lineup; much like the title, well, it’s pushing it. The edgier tune plays more like a Karmin reject, but it’s passionate enough to deliver on a needed intensity: “We stay in the fire and hope we can burn our way out/The road to my heart gets hot as hell.” A few steps up from there is “Forever”, soaked in a classic R&B style with a cute touch of brass. It’s the closest thing to this era’s “Fine By Me”. He sings to his love, “You take forever/But you’re always worth waiting for… I guess I’ll wait a little more.” It’s neat and to the point.

Things go awry at this point, beginning with “Holding Out”, a reggae inspired track with a playful but goofy lyric set. “Remind You”, reminiscent of a late 70’s art rock aesthetic, essentially gets lost in the shuffle for sounding like every indie band trying to break the blogosphere. “Masterpiece”, a slight improvement from there, would sound better for Mat Kearney. However, I do appreciate the lyrics in it, especially the desire to perfect a romance and to not “stop ’til it is beautiful.” It’s very different from “Sinner”, track eight, which dives into pseudo religious theme, not unlike OneRepublic‘s recent material.

Luckily, past that middle section, the remaining three cuts on the album are worth the listen. Standout track “Red Eye” brings  that self-titled album vibe back around, a solid ode to curious nights and the big dreams that lie ahead. Grammer sings, “While the world sleeps under my feet tonight/I’m chasing myself in the sky… I’ll be up here learning to fly.” “Blame It On The Stars” sees the singer spitting some rap game, though it’s a fervent chorus that is truly the highlight of this. Lastly, “Kiss You Slow” is a gentle sendoff, a piano-led ballad in which the performer states, “I was born with a compass in my hand and a restless soul.” Unfortunately, that compass may be leading him in too many directions at once.

Grammer’s versatility on his second full-length album is to be admired, but the payoff isn’t necessarily there. The guy is great when performing on tour and I love him as an act, but when this album inevitably struggles to stick on the charts, it will be for a reason. The effort is decidedly more magazine than novel, a glossy affair that can be skimmed without missing too much. It is a shame that this can’t be as cohesive as his debut, but maybe there’s a lesson to be learned from this going forward. Hey, at least it’s better than your standard summer reading list.

(Stream and pre-order Andy Grammer’s Magazines Or Novels, due in stores August 5)

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SINGLE REVIEW: Andy Grammer – “Back Home”

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“Home” is where the chart is.

(Listen to “Back Home”) (Download “Back Home” on iTunes **APRIL 8**)

Shortly before Halloween in 2010, I discovered a video from a newcomer that really caught my eye. In the clip, you could choose which direction you wanted it to continue in from a series of two options, a bit like the Goosebumps books I’d read as a kid. Well, it took a few months for the song behind it to finally be serviced to radio, but when it did, it became the first hit for a then 27-year-old singer named Andy Grammer, and what a ride it’s been for him since.

With three singles ranking on the Hot AC chart, two making the Hot 100 and achieving Gold (“Fine By Me”) and Platinum (“Keep Your Head Up”) certification, and a solid album to boot, it’s been a great first few years for both Grammer and S-Curve Records, who signed him four years ago. Since third release “Miss Me” peaked, however, not much has been known about his second album. An EP from the singer, consisting of the live-tested “Crazy Beautiful” and “I Choose You”, made their debut in May, but neither saw much promotion besides a small appearance on The Bachelorette. When I interviewed producer and songwriter Matt Radosevich in early December, he noted that he was involved in the sessions for the effort, but wasn’t sure when it would be out. Now, we have our first official taste of it in a new single called “Back Home”.

Mixing Grammer’s signature sound with a noticeably more folk-driven twist, the now 30-year-old singer’s latest tune is an ode to the good ol’ days and sticking to your roots, one that’s particularly infectious, I might add. Lyrically, the song tells of he and friend, presumably at the bar, toasting to “nights that you can’t take back” and how “we live hard, but we love to laugh.” He sings of how they planned to “get rich fast” by means of relocation, only to realize that money “don’t compare to the friends that last.” Yet, through the troubles and uncertain times that occur with growing up, hometown pride is also a constant: “We won’t forget where we came from/This city won’t change us/We beat to the same drum.”

This sentiment continues in a sing-along chorus, ending on the message that “we always find our way back home.” Into the second verse, the two friends reminisce about the memories of “cheap sunglasses/Red Bull and minivans/And people who had your back when the world didn’t understand.” Now that time has passed and their experiences have returned them to the place where they started, they two realize that despite the changes and much like they began their night, “we’ll still be raising our cups to the same damn things.” It’s a concrete story and one that I’m sure is relatable on more than one level to  Grammer’s core audience. While many recent acts have cruised into that pop-folk crossover, this single, thankfully, does not sound as forced and should be enjoyed for what it is: a nice song with a positive vibe.

Even though the material is worthy of being a hit and I’m sure his base will come out when the song is up for downloading, the radio situation is a little bit concerning at the moment. S-Curve doesn’t have as much pull at radio as it did a few years ago with acts like Duran Duran and We The Kings, mostly because the landscape of the formats have changed and so have the panels in terms of their ratios of large company stations versus independent ones. However, given that Grammer is one of their bigger artists at the moment, perhaps they’ll be able to build up their resources in order to deliver on giving him a proper leadoff to his second album.

Look out for “Back Home” on a radio station playlist near you when it’s serviced later this week and be sure to support the latest project from Andy Grammer by downloading his new single when it hits digital retailers on Tuesday.

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