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Adam’s Top 100 of 2013: #4, Olly Murs – “Troublemaker”

Olly olly oxen free.

Have an Olly Olly Christmas. (It’s the best time of the year!)

First Chart Entry: “Heart Skips A Beat” (#6, 2011)
Biggest Hit To Date:
“Troublemaker” (#1 for three weeks, 2013)

“TROUBLEMAKER”
#1 for three weeks, 28 weeks in the top 40

Music Video:

After his In Case You Didn’t Know era delivered three consecutive top ten singles on my chart in 2011 and 2012, former X Factor U.K. runner-up Olly Murs had a lot to live up to when it came to his next era. Well, he and it did, to the point that he proved that, not third, but the fourth time was the charm when it came to topping even my personal tastes.

Murs achieved that feat when “Troublemaker” spent three weeks at #1 in January, which was concurrent with its overseas run. The song was co-written by Murs, Claude Kelly and producer Steve Robson. With a bouncy guitar-driven beat a la Maroon 5‘s “Misery”, this one was a no-brainer when it came to taking over my playlists. In fact, “Troublemaker” was one of five singles to make my top 40 this year from the original edition of Right Place Right Time; the other four were, in order of release, “Army Of Two” (#5), “Dear Darlin'” (#17), “Hey You Beautiful” (#23) and “Hand On Heart” (#35). That makes it his most successful year yet in terms of total number on entries and brings his chart history up to eight songs. I guess you could say that I knew he was trouble when he walked in (and I’m quite okay with that.)

After the disappointing results of the U.S. release of “Heart Skips A Beat”, which barely edged into the Hot 100, “Troublemaker” had a much easier time landing on station playlists, going top ten on the CHR airwaves. It also charted on a few other radio surveys during the late spring. That’s about the extent of what Murs has done here; the label recently gave up on a remixed version of “Dance With Me Tonight” after multiple delays, which earned some Hot AC play but couldn’t take off. It’s safe to assume that nothing else from the album will be promoted here, which is a shame as something like “Hey You Beautiful” would’ve at least ranked somewhere in the lower rungs nationally. Oh, well.

Murs is set to release his next studio album in mid-2014 in Europe; no word on what the Stateside promotion for it will look like if anything. Whatever the case, I’m ready for some more Jolly Olly fever. Be on the lookout, people.

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CONCERT: Olly Murs (Acoustic), 9/11/13 – Worcester, MA

Right picture right time.

Right picture right time.

He took the tube by storm on The X Factor in the United Kingdom in 2009, and he even though he finished as a runner-up, he’s clearly a winner to a lot of people. 29-year-old Olly Murs is now back to promoting his Right Place Right Time album here in the U.S. after a successful summer tour with Robbie Williams in Europe. Although Murs isn’t a household name here at the moment, he and his label, Syco/Columbia, are doing their best to keep his name out there as he’s transitioning between singles and eras in different countries, with a new album in the works for next summer. Nevertheless, this was his time to shine for a small radio event in central Massachusetts and what a buzz it was.

First of all, I have to give props to his two backing singers, Darren and John, who were so on point during the sound check when I was checking people in that I was blown away. Their sound reminds me a lot of an early 90’s flavor a la P.M. Dawn or Seal. They have something special, and that two-part harmony was killer. I think they’ll eventually make it on their own, but they certainly have a good opportunity at the moment.

As expected, the gals (kids, were you cutting class?) were all excited for the show, coming up one by one to ask if they could take pictures, get signatures, etc. They love their boy, what can I say? After peeking through a side curtain about a half-dozen times, there he was, Olly Murs, the troublemaker himself on stage. He thanked everybody for coming out, noted that he was still getting over a little jet lag, but was happy to be back in America to play a few shows. I believe this was his first stop following the flight. Appropriately, he began with “Troublemaker”, his biggest hit to date so far here in the States. I have to admit, I think it sounded better in acoustic setting than on the record, but he sounds vocally exactly like he does on the record. That’s a good problem, folks. Instantly impressed, I was. He’s quite the charmer and his energy filled up the small room we were in, and as you might expect, everyone was singing along. Everything just jived together.

Between songs, Murs talked about his wearing of hats, noting that the grey fedora he had on was bought at a vintage shop in New York City and it was love at first sight. A question was then asked about how he loses his English accent when he sings, and mentioned a few other musicians who experience the same thing. He then broke out onto a few bars of “Troublemaker” with his thicker speaking accent, which got a few laughs from the crowd and a “Yeah, that doesn’t feel the same, does it?” out of him. At this point, a young girl who couldn’t have been more than 10 asked him to marry her, to which he replied that there might be some “legal complications”. However, she did manage to sneak a peck out of him at the end and an autograph on her red Murs t-shirt. Lucky, lucky.

Up next was “Heart Skips A Beat”, the song that was released as his debut single here last year. It went to #1 in the U.K. a year prior in the fall of 2011 as the leadoff single from his second album. Unfortunately, it didn’t so well on this side of the pond and a remix with Chiddy Bang and two different music videos for the U.S. didn’t help the matter, but it still gave Murs a bit of radio time as he opened for boy band One Direction. This was the most interactive song of the afternoon, as Murs played off the crowd’s call-and-response “oh-oh” chants and swayed a bit around the stage. Again, solid vocal and presence, even if it wasn’t the most familiar song of the event.

At this point, Murs talked about his road to a third audition at The X Factor. Coming from the small town of Witham, he said that he wasn’t enjoying his job at a call center. So, after two failed attempts at auditions for the show in 2007 and 2008, he gave it one last go in 2009, competing in the Over 25s category rather than with the Boys as was the case the two prior times. It proved to be the right choice, as Murs came in second despite some fierce competition. Onto another tune it was, which he mentioned was inspired by his parents’ record collection with a bit of a modern twist.

As you can probably guess from that description, the last song of the afternoon was “Dance With Me Tonight”, which is finally being promoted to the hot adult contemporary format here in the States. I originally heard the remix which was serviced of “Tonight” back in June, which was then on target for an August radio date, only to be pulled until later this month. Missed opportunity? Perhaps. I always thought that the song would sound good in a medley with “Quarter To Three” by Gary “U.S.” Bonds and “Runaround Sue” by Dion, which both capture that same essence of the early 60’s swing sound. This was Murs at his best, having fun and gyrating all over the place like he was Elvis Presley. He’s got a few moves, and of course, the voice to boot. Plus, Darren and John got into the act too with some syncopated hip flips, which was cute. In fact, we were all clapping along and shaking it a bit, to be honest. How could you not? Just like “Three” or “Sue”, there’s no way you could just sit down to a jump jive an’ jam like that. Mission accomplished.

Unlike some of the other shows I’ve worked, because of the crowd, I wasn’t really able to chat it up with he or his team and, inevitably, push the fact that there was meant to be a write-up coming, which you’ve now read! So, if you’re out there, I hope I accurately captured what went on! He’s a great guy with a lot of appeal and, most importantly, he loves what he’s doing now. You have to root for him and I think he’ll be around for some time, at least in his native country. The U.S. market is so different that it’s hard to tell at this point whether Murs will have any staying power in the States in terms of the casual radio listener or retail buyer, although he has the fan base to back him up. Whatever the case, he’s making his case on this latest radio tour of his, ending with an appearance on CBS’s The Talk on September 27. So, keep talking him up until then — to the point where he’s “stuck in [your] brain.” I think this will be for me.

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Worth The Wait: Showing Up Late For The States

In the United States, we often see delays in hit singles from British-based artists making it over to our part of the world, especially from brand new or newer acts. Sometimes a label tries to concentrate their artist in one part of the world and isn’t ready to break them anywhere else, but the results are often frustrating for American audiences who are ahead of what a record group intends to do. Take these two songs which were huge in the United Kingdom. One song reached the top there nearly a year ago and the other goes back even further to the fall of 2011. Gosh, someone took their sweet time in making these decisions. Well, wait no more. They’re finally here and ready to blow up:

"Feel" appeal.

“Feel” appeal.

RUDIMENTAL featuring JOHN NEWMAN – “Feel The Love”
Original Release Date: May 2012 (U.K.) / U.S. Release Date: June 25 (CHR radio)

Surprised about this one? I definitely was, and I’ll admit it, I didn’t exactly “get the song” when it first came out. I just thought it sounded like a messy, grimey drum and bass track, which I’m not the biggest fan of general. However, the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed it. It really pumps you up and gets you energized. Both the quartet and solo singer Newman are originally from the United Kingdom, the former from London and the latter from Northern England. The song was originally released last May in the United Kingdom, debuting in the #1 spot, giving both Rudimental and John Newman their first ever #1 singles. Success was varied across the European countries, though it went top ten in a handful of countries, including down under in Australia and New Zealand. In fact, it proved so popular in Australia that it’s now been certified three-times Platinum alone there. Rudimental recently released an album Home in the U.K., featuring another top 20 single with Newman and Alex Clare, “Not Giving In”, and a #1 collaboration with Ella Eyre, “Waiting All Night”. Newman has also moved onto a solo career, launching his first single, the beautiful “Love Me Again”, next month. (You can view my profile on him here.) “Feel The Love” goes to radio on June 25 on Roadrunner Records, the same label that handles acts like Nickelback and other rock outfits. An edit has been serviced that reduces the song to just under three minutes long, which you can hear above. They’ve proven their success before on both on the Alternative and CHR surveys, but a hard-hitting dance single like this is a risk. Hopefully it works in their favor.

Dancing to his own drum.

Dancing to his own drum.

OLLY MURS – “Dance With Me Tonight”
Original Release Date: November 2011 (U.K.) / U.S. Release Date: at CHR radio now

You can rock it and you can roll it at the hop and Olly Murs knows a thing or two about hopping from shore to shore. After “Heart Skips A Beat” failed to blow up last fall, Syco and Columbia Records managed to make a hit out of “Troublemaker”, which peaked recently. That went to #1 in the United Kingdom, as did his new single here… only this new single was originally out in 2011. That would be “Dance With Me Tonight”, which hit the top for one week in December 2011. It’s a glossy swing-inspired number that is reminiscent of some of the big hits of the era like 1961’s “Quarter To Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds and “Runaround Sue” by Dion. “Tonight” has been slightly remixed for the U.S. radio release of it, and you can hear that new version of it. If you’re familiar with the album version that was out in Europe, I’ve managed to pick out some of the main differences. In the introduction, there’s now a solid piano line underneath the announcer where there was once a guitar line. You’ll probably notice there’s also more emphasis on a new percussive line, and volume on that has been increased in several places, including the chorus and middle eight. The horns are also lowered on the chorus. Lastly, at the end, the repetition of the “Girl just close your eyes/We can dance all through the night” line has been removed and replaced with a couple of newly recorded ad libs. It was hot in Europe and it has the potential to be bigger than in 1998 when the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies hit it big. The new edit was serviced out earlier this week, so start perfecting your jitterbug, jive and lindy hop now.

Are you a fan of either track? Can’t wait to see Rudimental and John Newman crack the U.S. market or Olly Murs pick up another hit? Let me know! Comment below or find me on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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Clash Of The Tourmates: Olly vs. Robbie

It takes "Two" to make a thing go right.

It takes “Two” to make a thing go right.

They both have millions of fans on social media, combined to do a tour together, but now, the heat is on as both Olly Murs and Robbie Williams release their newest singles on the same day. Drama! On March 10, both “Army Of Two” by Murs from Right Place, Right Time and “Be A Boy” by Williams from Take The Crown will be out on iTunes in the United Kingdom with new digital EPs. So, let’s put them to the test in a bit of a battle. Which single knocks the other one out of the ring? Jolly Olly or Wreck-It Robbie? Somebody ring the bell…

ROUND ONE: WHO HAS THE BETTER COVER ART?
Alright, this one’s fairly easy for me. Though I appreciate the creativity that went into building the “Army of Two” title out of the smaller “army of two” bits, I’m not a fan of the salmon-colored background and Murs, himself, just looks like a combination of bored and upset. Was that an outtake shot? I mean, would it hurt to give him a marching band leader outfit? This is supposed to be fun! I love the Williams cover, however. Yes, it’s a white base, but the paint oozing down his face and onto his neck is an awesome effect and pops really well. Oh, and he’s smiling too. At least, I think he is. It has a boyish charm about it. Even if I didn’t know who he was or what he sang, I would totally stare at it in a record shop. Good times.

Verdict: This one for sure goes to Robbie. That puts him up 1-0.

ROUND TWO: WHO HAS THE BETTER SINGLE?
Let’s start off with Williams this time around and his third single, “Be A Boy”. Williams wrote the single with Tim Metcalfe and Flynn Francis and it was produced by Jackknife Lee; that combination is pretty much responsible for much of the album. Metcalfe and Francis are relative newcomers, both from Australia, while Lee has produced for acts like R.E.M. and U2, among others. “Boy” is an 80’s-inspired effort and yes, I am a sucker for a sassy saxophone solo, so that’s a plus. The message of it is what you probably expect it to be: the dreams of youth and the “magic” that goes away when you grow older. As Williams sings, “They said it was leaving/They said it with joy/Now I can make this last forever/And be a boy.” Yet, there is also a desire to find comfort in knowing that you can still find the boy in yourself as you age: “I’m half your age and lived twice your life/Now I don’t sleep alone at night/Your time did come but it’s long gone/Takes a big man to be someone.” It’s a relatable tune, and you can still dance to it with all those fluffy pop synths and chants.

On the other side of the ring, we have the second single from Murs, “Army Of Two”. He penned the song with Wayne Hector, Iyiola Babalola and Darren Lewis while it was produced by Future Cut. Hector’s worked with a number of pop acts over the years and previously hooked up with Murs on his 2010 single, “Thinking Of Me”, which went top 5 in the U.K. in November. Babalola and Lewis are both a part of Future Cut, who previously worked with Lily Allen on hit singles “LDN” and “Smile”. It begins with a lush crescendo of strings, the tap of a drum, and, oh, hey, let this pop confection take over. The song itself is a dedication to his fans, with lyrics about staying together as a troop (“we’ll be swimming in the same direction/and we’ll never lose this connection”), the goals and standards of the mission (“Oh, faith is the bullet/Hope is the gun/Love is all we need”) and perseverance in the battle (“Now, march with the band/Raise your right hand/We’ve only just begun.”) Yes, it’s a tad cheesy, but I think the sentiment works, plus the arrangement is a nice fusion of the traditional and modern-day popular sounds. I think you’ll want to join the gang too. Those snare drums are pretty hot.

Verdict: I do like both, but I’ll give the edge to Olly; it’s a strong song and it’s already on my personal chart. Each is tied at 1.

ROUND THREE: WHO’S MORE LIKELY TO GET A HIT?
This is a hard one. Both Murs and Williams started off their respective eras with a #1 single that spent two frames at the top; “Troublemaker” and “Candy”, respectively. Williams went onto release “Different” during the Christmas Week, but it wasn’t promoted well and ended up missing the top 40. I would hope his label would rethink their strategy for this release. Murs, on the other hand, would be coming off that #1 single. Now, you may assume that this would give him the upper hand, but, he’s waited months to release a second single and he’s currently on a radio tour with some additional television performances in the States. Since his album is out here in April, he may be spending some additional time here rather than focusing his efforts across the pond. In short, it’s pretty much anyone’s guess as to how both of these releases will actually chart. (I’m rooting for both, but one has to top the other one, you know?)

Verdict: Gonna leave this one at a tie. Too tough to decide.

Let’s add up all the points… jeez, I was never good at math. Oh, you say they both have two points a piece? Well, well. I guess that means you’ll have to help me out. Which one do you like better: “Army Of Two” or “Be A Boy”? Or, are you stuck like me and enjoy both? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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Troublemakers and Heartbreakers: Will These Brits Breakthrough Big in 2013?

Murs and Marina: don't sit on them any longer.

Murs and Marina: don’t sit on them any longer.

The U.S. music scene can be a cruel place for artists trying to make the jump over the Atlantic and onto our shores. Even if it’s a hit in the artist’s home country, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be a hit in the States. Songs by acts like Cover Drive, Sak Noel and Tulisa became big number-ones in the U.K. without ever making it over here, while others by Example and Florence + The Machine made it on the Dance Chart, but not on Pop playlists. Some of these British acts have never released here before and others have underperformed on the national charts here this year, but that’s alright. They’ll have another chance to impress American audiences with some new sounds in 2013. Here’s a preview of what’s to come from a few of these acts, still praying for a big breakthrough.

JAKE BUGG
18-year-old Bugg’s been huge on the U.K.’s independent scene, so much so that his self-titled debut album went to #1 in that country. Only one single from his album made it into the top 40 of the Singles Chart there and it’s the same one being tested on the U.S. market. “Two Fingers” goes for Alternative adds at the end of January. Like much of his album, it’s country and folk-tinged tune that you can clap and tap your feet to. It’s a song about longing for independence and leaving all the non-essentials behind. It’ll take you a while before you come to the realization that this is indeed a young person singing and writing this and not an older, more experienced performer. This one has zero chance of crossing over to the mainstream formats, but if Bugg gets the recognition at Alternative and AAA radio, he should be very proud of himself.

MARINA & THE DIAMONDS
This one-woman band, originally born in Wales, has been a strong seller on Album Chart in the United Kingdom. Debut album The Family Jewels attained a peak of #5 and shipped Gold and her latest release, Electra Heart, was certified Silver earlier this year after hitting the top spot. The leadoff single, “Primadonna”, went to #11 on the U.K. Singles Chart, and made a minor splash on the U.S. Pop airplay chart, rising to #39. It was most likely dismissed as a Katy Perry sound-alike by radio programmers, though Marina’s roots go deeper than that. She has a socially-conscious dance-pop sound, especially on her latest release, a concept album of sorts about the American Dream and the negative shades of it as seen through the lens of a ruthless young female. She’ll be trying again in the U.S. in 2013 with second single “How To Be A Heartbreaker”, which is even more radio-friendly and will hopefully her first big single in the States. It goes for adds in January. I’ve certainly enjoyed listening to it over the past few months. With a rocking guitar line mixed with her rule book-style lyrics, it should entice a wider audience to her music. Sometimes you gotta go more simple to break the scene: that’ll teach ’em how to be a chartbreaker.

OLLY MURS
Since placing second on his season of The X Factor, Murs has been a consistent seller on the charts, racking up four number-one singles in the United Kingdom in a period of two years. One of those, “Heart Skips A Beat”, was released in the U.K. in a version featuring rap duo Rizzle Kicks. When the song was sent to the U.S., a new version was recorded featuring a rap break from duo Chiddy Bang. Despite two videos filmed and numerous appearances, the song couldn’t make it past the top 30 on CHR radio. His album, Right Place, Right Time, has been pushed back until April here (though a certain someone already ordered the U.K. deluxe edition, I wonder who) but for good reason. His recent #1 hit in his native U.K., “Troublemaker”, will be released to CHR radio here in the States in early January. It bears a similar guitar line to Maroon 5‘s “Misery” from 2009 but in a different key, and knowing the tween audience, I would doubt they’d remember it. Bottom line is, it’s insanely catchy and even an appearance by Flo Rida is harmless in the general scheme of things. Murs deserves a chance to have a successful career in the States. Will he successfully cause some Trouble in 2013? It remains to be seen.

RITA ORA
You’ve probably heard about this lady in the press recently after an ex-boyfriend blasted her on Twitter, but since that other party is irrelevant and just wants attention (it runs in that family), that’s as far as I’ll go with that one. Luckily, Ora has far more talent than he does, racking up three number-one singles and one number-one album in the United Kingdom. Two of her singles, “How We Do (Party)” and “R.I.P.”, became minor radio hits here in the States. The latter single was initially issued with rapper Tinie Tempah, but Drake replaced him for the U.S. version. Stuck in a rut and on the verge of getting her album shelved here in the States, Ora is now releasing a third single, “Radioactive”, due at U.S. radio early next week. The chorus has an anthem-like quality and the dance-pop sound of it would fit in neatly on today’s radio. If not a Pop smash, it’ll certainly take the Dance chart by storm. As the old saying goes, third time is the charm. Let’s see if it’s really true for Ora and her U.S. standing.

SAM & THE WOMP
File this one in the same folder with Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP‘s “We No Speak Americano”. A #1 hit in the United Kingdom in July 2010, it took until November to peak in the United States, and it only became a minor-charting hit mainly because it was such a polarizing Dance single. The debut single from this trio, “Bom Bom”, which hit the top in the U.K. back in August, casually strutted into the CHR top 50 just a few days ago. You’re either going to love or hate this one; it’s in-your-face and features a pulsating rapped vocal as well as some trumpet solos that almost sound African-influenced. The duo hasn’t charted in the U.K. since, so expect this one to be their only charting record on both shores. Radio might be on the fence with this one, but if consumers start catching onto it, it may just become inescapable in the new year.

Of course, more U.K. sensations will be taking their chance on the U.S. as the year goes on. I’ve noted Stateside efforts by Conor Maynard and The Saturdays in earlier posts. Here’s to you, British acts. May the odds ever be in your favor.

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