Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pop Sweep: April 5, 2014...


I'm ready to kick off the first of today's five "chart sweeps", checking out the songs making their way on to the various singles charts in Billboard magazine this week. As always, I'll start with the pop side of things, then later on bring out the newest in rock, R&B, country, and dance.

On the "big" chart, Billboard's Hot 100 chart, which combines tallies from radio airplay, sales, and internet "streaming", Pharrell Williams hangs in for a fifth week with "Happy"...

(On a side note, the sadly reoccuring "stunt" charting of songs that have been a bit of a stain on their credibility, had unknown French singer Soko land a #9 debut with "We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow", which was the background music for a viral video "art statement" that turned out to be a clothing line ad. Needless to say these types of videos ebb and flow pretty quickly, but she is nowhere to be seen on the entire Hot 100. Even overlooking the fact that an ad basically placed in the supposedly spot-clean chart, but to have it sink like since screams of shenanigans. And for the big question, does this signal any value at all on the music industry? How much could Soko have even made if anything for this? In fact you can't even search the artist/song and find the viral video to begin with.)

*off soapbox*

Well, the biggest debut of this week is a more believable success. Scottish dance music DJ, producer, and singer Calvin Harris lands at #69 with "Summer". His previous album, the amazing 18 Months, spun off six hit singles in America, including his #1 collab with Rihanna, "We Found Love", and top-10 roof-raiser with Florence Welch, "Sweet Nothing". So it's no surprise that there's anticipation for his upcoming third album, and with everyone in total cabin fever from this harsh winter, "Summer" is definitely optimistically welcome. Calvin handles his own vocals here, as he did with his first American success, "Feel So Close"...


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I admit I haven't been a fan of Tim McGraw's music direction as much since his move to Big Machine Records, with forays into faux-butch posturing ("Truck Yeah") and stuntcasting ("Highway Don't Care"). Now he's leading off his next album's promotion with "Lookin' For That Girl" at #96, an Auto-tuned midtempo pop song aiming for the bro-cap market, although showing his age by throwing in "Funky Cold Medina" as a rap reference point instead of T-Pain. And Tim, love ya, but c'mon, you're physical, um, "transformation", is kinda scaring me....


The third debut in this slow week is from the movie The Hunger Games: Divergent. Ellie Goulding enters at #98 with "Beating Heart", making her sixth time on the big chart. So far her biggest has been her breakthrough hit "Lights", which went to #2 in 2012. This song has reached me more quickly than her current hit "Burn" has, and the theme and film backdrop suit her childlike ethereally breathy vocals...


And now on to the pop radio format charts...

On the Mainstream Top-40 radio panel, "Happy" makes it two weeks on top...

Hot Chelle Rae, the Nashville pop/rock group featuring the brother of Glee's Chord Overstreet, Nash, comes in at #37 with "Don't Say Goodnight", the first single from their upcoming third album Recklessly. It's basically in the squeaky-clean boy-rock-band realm, albeit with the barely hidden allusions to "Mary Jane" and "getting high". With an anthemic chorus, is it suppose to show they've "grown" from their top-5 pop hit "Tonight, Tonight", which happened to be my little niece's favorite song ever that year? And I guess that's their target audience.


British X Factor winners Little Mix are still trying to be a thing in the States, and their second hit to make this format chart, "Move", clicks in at #38. While not as immediate as their previous "Wings" (#26), it's got a bubbly charm, and the girls have definitely got pipes that most of the boy-band ilk only dream of.


Meanwhile, on the older-skewing Adult Top-40 format, Pharrell leaps three spots to #1 with "Happy"...

Debuting at #37 is Norwegian soul/pop duo Nico & Vinz with their first American hit, "Am I Wrong". With African-style rhythms and a video filmed in Botswana, the song already has been a top-10 hit in all of Scandinavia as well as the desirable German market. It's both different from what's flooding the airwaves as well as accessible to mainstream ears, and it's my "Pop Pick of the Week"..


English indie-folk singer Birdy originally released her cover of Bon Iver's "Skinny Love" back in the beginning of 2011, yet somehow slowly but surely the delicate reading of the song had crossed over to quietly conquer the world, reaching top-5 status in places like Australia and France. She already had nicked the Modern Rock chart in this country last year, and now makes the adult top-40 list at #40. Simply stunning.


Lastly, on the Adult Contemporary, or "Easy Listening" radio chart, another indie folk singer from Britain, Passenger, takes over at #1...

Mariah Carey flies in at #26 with "You're Mine (Eternal)", the third promoted single from her yet-to-be-released The Art Of Letting Go album. The first, "Beautiful", from over a year ago, made it to #23 here. This new one is slowly getting a little play on pop, dance and R&B stations, and now works its way here. Carey, now in her 40's, is experiencing the same push-out that happened what she came on the scene in the 1990's, when older artists were cast aside by pop radio no matter the quality to aim for the extra-youthful audience. While I can't say "You're Mine" is one of the most memorable of songs, it's a respectable and restrained effort that does catch some of "We Belong Together"'s groove. Mariah has topped the AC chart seven times before, from her debut "Vision Of Love" until 2010's "Oh Santa!"...


Speaking of "veterans", Elton John lands his record-setting 70th hit on the chart with "Can't Stay Alone Tonight". It's the second from his latest The Diving Board to make the chart; "Home Again" went to #14 last year. Out of the seventy, fifteen have topped the AC chart, from "Daniel" back in 1973 to "Something About The Way You Look Tonight", which held on for ten weeks in 1997. This ultra-lite-blues is in his wheelhouse now, not straining his battered voice too much, so going with the flow in a way totally appropriate for his now-67 years. Still, this is more of a lesser album cut than his previous single.


That's it for the start of today's musical journey....I'll return in 90 minutes with the latest on rock radio...


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