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Charts on Fire / Livebloggin’: MTV’s Top 20 Videos of the Day, 3/17/10

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 17, 2010

One of the many wonderful benefits of being a partial insomniac /vampire is that I’m often actually awake for the hours of the day that MTV shows music videos (yes, this really does still happen, although it was a close call for a couple years in the mid-00s). Even better, apparently MTV now has a regular countdown of its top 20 videos of the day from 8:00-10:00 AM, a development which would’ve cost me about about an aggregate year’s worth of sleep if it had happened back when I was 12. And since I’m up for good and have a couple hours to kill before going to the first of my two jobs today–don’t be like me, kids–I figured this would be a good opportunity for me to sound off on some of the top 40’s recent best and brightest. And what luck you all are in to bear witness to my period of semi-lucidity! (I missed #20 switching with Mike and Mike in the Morning–one of early-morning TV’s other rare pleasures–so we’re starting at #19).

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Charts on Fire: 05-07-09

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 8, 2009

Eiffel 65- Blue

No real time or purpose to string my thoughts into coherent paragraphs here, so just some thoughts worth sharing on the songs currently making waves in our top 40 and beyond:

  • (#1) Black Eyed Peas – “Boom Boom Pow Time has definitely softened my stance on the Black Eyed Peas, if it was ever particularly harsh to begin with. It occurs to me now that there are worse things in the world than a bunch of quirky, hyper kids making silly music for silly people, having too much fun to concern themselves with always being particularly comprehensible. The seemingly paradoxical ridiculously dated future-chic of this one only goes to further that, really. One question: Is the “I’m so 2008 / You so 2000-late” really good enough to justify the fact that the song didn’t come out until the spring of 2009? I say yes, personally.
  • (#4) Kid Cudi – “Day n NiteA #3 peak for “Day n Nite” is the best fate I could have asked for. The song’s too amazing to not have been huge, but too weird and singular to be an actual chart-topper. #3 seems about right.
  • (#5) Flo Rida – “Sugar I will never cease to be amazed how many hits Flo Rida is spinning off without leaving much of a mark on any of them. I feel that it’s oddly progressive for hip-hop–such a genre designed for the cult of personality–to have a superstar this totally anonymous, and I’m fascinated to see how much longer he can stay this popular essentially being a guest performer on his own singles. And let’s be honest–the hook to “Blue” always had more pop potential than the Eiffel 65 song it was stuck in anyway.
  • (#9) 3Oh!3 – “Don’t Trust Me The first time I heard this, I was convinced it was a Lonely Island production of some sort–pop songs just aren’t allowed to have lines like “Shush, girl / Shut your lips / Do the Helen Keller / And talk with your hips” as throw-ins, let alone as their entire bridges. Fantastic stuff, but the question of great significance now, of course, is if we can get these guys to go away forever–and I mean forever–once “Don’t Trust Me” has run its course. Normally I wouldn’t even think it was an issue, but in an era of pop music where Katy Perry and Soulja Boy somehow both managed second hits, I gotta admit, I’m a little worried.
  • (#12) Pitbull – “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) Jeepers, is this song good. Can’t remember the last time I heard a hit single with this kind of energy to it–due mostly, I think, to Pitbull’s brilliance in keeping the verses so mercifully short and pointless that the song is never more than four measures away from the nearest chorus. Of course, it helps when your song has about a half-dozen different choruses (in two different languages) going for it, as well as hooks zooming in and out from just about every direction, including a can’t-miss classic in the form of the Chicago “Street Player” (via Bucketheads’ “The Bomb,” and more pressingly, Nicola Fasano vs. Pat Rich’s “75 Brazil Street“) horn hook. It ends at just the right time, the video’s great….A+ all-around, really.
  • (#15) Shinedown – “Second Chance Uttelry perplexing. Just…Shinedown? In 2009? With a song this unremarkable? Christ man, at least Seether tried a little harder.
  • (#19) Soulja Boy – “Turn My Swag OnA third hit? Pop music, I don’t even know you anymore.
  • (#22) Keri Hilson f/ Ne-Yo & Kanye West – “Knock You Down Someone please, please hire Kanye West a pop culture reference editor. Yes, Kanye, it is true that Michael Jackson once had a hit single and album with the title of “Bad.” That does not mean that anything is necessarily gained with a line–in the middle of a supposedly heart-rending breakup testimonial, no less–like “It’s bad, real bad / Michael Jackson.” I was pretty sure that ‘Yeezy would never be able to top “How could you be so / Dr. Evil?” let alone this soon after. Yikes. And Keri Hilson…yeah, “Turnin’ Me On” was great and all, but I’m still not sold that there’s star potential to be had there. She can always take solace in having cemented her status as being only the second-least famous person on “The Way I Are,” though.
  • (#23) Jeremih – “Birthday Sex I was pretty sure already, and hearing this song back-to-back with Ray J’s “Sex in the Rain” on the radio recently confirmed it–unusual specificity is totally the new thing in dirty R&B. No one wants to hear anonymous loverman jams anymore, filled with vagueries and lacking that personal touch–these last few years it’s been all who and what, but totally lacking the where, when, why and how. Props to Jeremih for riding on the trend’s ascent, but mark my words when I tell you he won’t be the last one–songs like “Sex in Your Parents’ Bedroom,” “Period Sex” and “Sex Through Our Clothes” will be flooding the airwaves before you know it. I’m excited.
  • (#24) Kelly Clarkson – “I Do Not Hook Up I’ve made countless calls for the formation of an ANDL (Anti-Nerd Defamation League) to monitor pop culture materials insensitive and prejudicial towards the geeky, now I think it might be time for an ARWPDL (Anti-Rich White People) one as well. Sorry we can’t all be as street as you, Kells.
  • (#32) Eminem – “3 AM Maybe I’m just at a point where anything Eminem does is going to seem hollow and disappointing to me, but for an Eminem song about being a mass-murderer–at one point a surefire recipe for success–doesn’t this just seem oddly…boring? Eminem’s crime sprees used to be so purposeful, so pointedly bilious…and now he’s just killing a bunch of nameless, faceless people for no real reason? He doesn’t sound psychotic anymore, he just sounds tired and frustrated–and really, he barely even sounds like Eminem at all, his congested-sounding voice almost unrecognizable as the sneering toxic avenger he used to be. And no, he doesn’t even give a shoutout to Rob Thomas, so don’t bother asking.
  • (#35) Plain White T’s – “1,2,3,4Couldn’t have asked for a nicer second hit. We should all be thankful.
  • (#42) Kristinia DeBarge – “GoodbyeSuch a natural choice of sample hook that it’s positively stupefying that no one’s thought to do it before. This song could be huge, so while I love it right now, it’s the 200th time I hear it that’ll eventually be the make-or-break. Either way, score one for genetics in R&B hitmaking.
  • (#46) Green Day – “Know Your EnemyI was talking to a friend about this song last night and when actually trying to come up with something to say about it, we both just kind of shrugged and nodded. Basically, if you had asked me any point in the last five years what the lead single on the new Green Day album would sound like, I feel like I could’ve sang this song almost exactly. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing–Green Day’s earned the right to coast, and we’ve earned the right to enjoy the sounds of Green Day coasting–but I do hope they have a couple surprises in store. Five years and all.


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Charts on Fire: 02-06-09

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 7, 2009

Been a while, huh? Been even longer for Kelly Clarkson, though, who nabbed her first #1 since “A Moment Like This” last week with new single “My Life Would Suck Without You.” I don’t know whether to be totally dispirited or mildly amused by this, but if there was a more obvious case in pop music history of a successful artist attempting to venture out on their own, failing dramatically, and then crawling back through the “Supplicants” door begging for another chance, it’s hard to think of it. It sounds almost exactly like career-defining hit “Since U Been Gone”  (with an even Interpolian guitar line, if that was possible), except its tone is the polar opposite–once again Kells is on the outs with the bf, but rather than think about how this split has given her perspective and made her feel stronger as a result, this time she desides that, hey, maybe life without dude is purposeless after all. Frankly, though the smash was masterminded, like so many others, by Max Martin and Dr. Luke, it’s tough not to see the puppet strings of Clive Davis behind it, whispering “Yes, Kelly…you’ll not be making THAT mistake again.” Morality aside, the song isn’t really hitting me yet. Guess we’ll see after another hundred listens or so.

Minus Kelly catapulting to the top spot last week, the top ten has been relatively static with leftovers from last year–“Single Ladies,” “Just Dance,” “Live Your Life”–filling in most of the spots. There are three artists I would have never expected to see in the top ten again, though–The All-American Rejects (“Gives You Hell,” #6), The Fray (“You Found Me,” #7) and Jason Mraz (“I’m Yours,” #10). The Rejects seemed lucky to get the crossovers they did, and though “Gives You Hell” has grown on me significantly, it seemed like a Fade to Irrelevancy minor hit to me, not their best charter to date. The Fray song is disappointing, especially with the era of the medical drama appearing to be on the descent (ER‘s final season! How the hell did that happen??) and I kind of like the Mraz, but whatever. Meanwhile, all depressing T.I. songs (“Dead and Gone,” #11) sound pretty much the same, I’m pretty sure that Ne-Yo already had a song with “Mad” in the title (“Mad,” #15), and if the latest Pink song (“Sober,” #16) goes down in history for anything besides having maybe the first video in history where the artist makes out with themself…well, it seems fairly unlikely anyway.

Of course, this is all quite irrelevant, as I have seen the future of music, and its name is “Prom Queen” (#17). I had heard rumors/threats that Lil’ Wayne was planning on releasing an all-rock album sometime in the future, but I never would’ve guessed that the results would come this soon or be this stunning. The song is an odd mix of the forward-looking and the extremely dated, until I’m not really sure which parts fall into which category, but holy hell is this thing wonderful. The rock elements are predictably amateur-ish, but for whatever reason that just makes it fit in better with the song, and I’m way more about the vocals anyway–still rocking the auto-tune, but with echo and multi-track effects to boot now (who could have predicted how wonderful Weezy would sound harmonizing with himself?) The lyrics…well, they’ll do, and at least he managed to stay on the same subject for an entire song, something which I wasn’t convinced that he would ever quite be able to pull off. And how about the sneer on his voice when he talks about the title character’s “fancyyy underrWAYYY-ARRRR” in that second verse? I questioned Skip Bayless’s analysis when he compared Weezy to Prince on 1st and Ten, but maybe the cantankerous old sot wasn’t that far off.

Beyonce’s “Diva” (#21) is kind of weird, isn’t it? Love her “Ring the Alarm” type furors, but the chipmunky hook isn’t doing it for me, and I find her assertion of a diva being the female equivalent of a player to be sketchy at best. The Veronicas’ “Untouched” (#20) is ridiculously fantastic–glad to see them with a breakout finally after “4Ever” and “Everything I’m Not” both charted about 100 places lower than they deserved–and Lady GaGa’s “Poker Face” (#23) seems like a fairly decent second offering, slightly less undeniable than “Just Dance,” but only slightly, and that’s all that matters. My friend texted me the other day to tell me that he had concluded that Keri Hilson and Lil’ Wayne’s “Turnin’ Me On” (#24) was the best song since last summer, and while I can’t quite get on board with that analysis (and he called it “Turn Off” in his text anyway), respect to the “The Way I Are” chick for turning one out on her own, and for helping to keep Weezy’s guest Top 40 appearances on an ’08 pace for early ’09. And Akon has another song with lots of synths in it (“Beautiful,” #28). Hooray.

Meanwhile, I feel very personally invested in Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone” (#32) not climbing into the top 20, although the song is as OMGWTFLOL as any of his last eight or so–largely because the song features a now grown-up Sammie,  last heard from when he was a wee tyke of 13, capturing the hearts of the nation with the unfortunately forgotten “I Like It” (in an alternate universe, Sammie goes on to date Ciara and star in Entourage while Bow Wow is damned to appear on third-tier Soulja Boy hits). And really, doesn’t the song’s title remind anyone else of this scene? Gross. I’m hoping it’s just because I haven’t paid attention to the lyrics yet, but so far, I don’t hate Katy Perry’s “Thinking Of You” (#35)–it seems a little less obnoxious than the first two, at least, although admittedly that’s saying extremely little. The only other real movers this week are Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” (he’s back! With T-Pain! In time for that shitty new movie with Robert Downey Jr.! Making another song about alcohol being an excuse for poor behavior!! #37) and the return of heavily IITS-approved artist/HOT ONE factory The-Dream with “Rockin’ That Thang” (not overwhelmed so far, but most of his are growers, so let’s see about the whole album, #46)

Bruce has the #1 album this week. How about him doing “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” at the Super Bowl last weekend? Did not see that one coming.

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Charts on Fire: 07-31-08

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 1, 2008

What better way to mark the triumphant return of IITS than with our first Charts on Fire column in far too long? Unfortunately, the most important news is no better than it would’ve been had I written this column any other time in the last month and a half–Katy Perry is still at #1 with the most socially reprehensible single since “Before He Cheats,” its six-week reign on top officially/tragically marking it as the Summer Single of 2008. Making matters worse are the facts that a) “I Kissed a Girl” is the 1000th #1 hit of the Rock Era, permanently assuring it a place in Pop Trivia History, and that b) The song has still yet to redeem itself by inspiring some sort of reverse-perspective response song (“I Kissed a Dude”? “We’re Through, B**** (Cheating is Cheating)”? “You Use Too Much Tongue When You’re Drunk, Katy Perry”?). Where are the Sporty Thievez and Frankees of the world when you need them, anyway?

Anyway, enough about Ms. Perry–it’s Rihanna I really want to talk about in this post, who currently occupies two of the chart’s top five with “Take a Bow” (#2) and “Disturbia” (#4). When we first heard from the Caribbean pixie three years ago, storming the charts with the summer scorcher “Pon De Replay” (kept from an occupancy at pole position only by the 14-week reign of Mariah’s “We Belong Together”), she basically seemed like a decent enough placeholder vocalist blessed with a catchy beat and a decent chorus, soon to join the ranks of Lumidee and Nina Sky as quickly-forgotten dancehall one-offs. After the good but not as-good follow-up “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” stalled at #26 and none of the other Music of the Sun singles did too much, Rihanna seemed well on her way to fulfilling her destiny as a future 00s relic.

But then she came back next summer. And the summer after that. And the summer after that. And a funny and extremely improbable thing kept happening–each summer she came back, she managed to get bigger than the summer before. “Pon de Replay” was big, sure, but it was nothing compared to “S.O.S.,” which was nothing compared to “Umbrella,” which by the end of the summer will probably be nothing compared to the combined supremacy of “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia”. The first couple times seemed like a fluke, but after nine top ten hits, all but one or two of which being total winners, and at least two or three stone classics, I think we need to start talking about Rihanna being one of the key pop artists of the decade, closer to Janet Jackson than to Jody Watley. And if “Disturbia” is any indication, she’s really just getting going, since the song and video (pictured above) are definitely the weirdest she’s done yet, but don’t really sacrifice any sort of commercial appeal to achieve it–as sure a sign as any of an artist knowing what they’re doing. Good for her.

Lil’ Wayne also occupies two spots in the top ten this week, with ex-#1 “Lollipop” at #7 and ascending chart-blazer “A Milli” at #6. I don’t know if “A Milli” is quite the immortal single I’ve always hoped Wayne would be capable of, but it’s certainly much closer than “Lollipop,” and it must set some sort of record for the number of times title is repeated in the song without getting annoying (or possibly just at all, who knows). Elsewhere, Should’ve-Been Summer Jam “American Boy” by Estelle and Kanye West is finally bounding up the top 40, jumping 10 to #16, and Ne-Yo’s IITS-approved Hot One “Closer” lands a couple up on it at #14. Other notables include the facts that Jason Mraz is still alive and heavily unplugged (“I’m Yours,” #27), Flo Rida can sell a decent single mostly on his own (“In the Ayer,” #30), and that Flobots have managed to sneak their alt-rap/nu-metal/faux-Cake act into the top 40 (the possibly-terrible-but-definitely-wonderful “Handlebars,” #37).

Then there are the Top 50 debuts. Two of ’em belong to Shwayze and Cisco Adler, a duo I had no idea existed a few hours ago but which I now fear might be the decade’s likely successor to Sublime. Took long enough I guess, but “Buzzin‘” and “Corona and Lime” have the same kind of slacker/stoner/summer vibe that sold all those late-90s So-Cal singles, albeit with more of a hip-hop than punk slant, and without the unbridled joy contained in, say, OPM’s  “Heaven in a Halfpipe.” In any case, both are infinitely preferable to Rehab’s “Bartender Song (Sittin’ At a Bar),” a recent debut on the Modern Rock charts which, after a few listens, seems like it could make a pretty good case for being the worst rock single of the decade (ultimate judgement pending). Then there’s also new appearances by Keith Urban (the surprisingly decent “You Look Good in My Shirt,” #49) and Kid Rock (now officially moving into his “LORRRRDDDD I REMEMBER!!!” Bob Seger phase with the Zevon/Skynyrd-sampling “All Summer Long,” #38).

The real story, though, has to be the first ever Top 40 appearance of Sri Lankan sensation M.I.A., at #36 this week with “Paper Planes”. Anyone fortunate enough to attend NYU parties in the last 12 months (or at any other college campus worth a damn, I imagine) will wonder why America is only catching on to its jetsetting, misanthropic, Clash-sampling charms now, and it is of course its use in the trailer to pre-destined Surprise Summer Smash Pineapple Express that is to credit. I’m not as big of a fan of the song as many, and the trailers aren’t nearly as funny as I would think they should be, but it’s a pretty cool day for the Top 40 nonetheless. The DFA Remix, featured in Hancock for some reason, is also pretty bitching.

Lastly, Alkaline Trio throws their name in for contention for 00s Punk Band I Was Most Cacklingly Dismissive Of Until They Had a Decent Modern Rock Hit (“Help Me,” #20), challenging the previously unrivaled Against Me. Inspirational stuff.

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Charts on Fire: 04-10-08

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 13, 2008

“”Dudes are gonna hate this one… Ugly dudes, that is.” – Lil’ Wayne

Couple days behind on this week’s chart rundown, but it’s been a while, and there’s some mildly interesting stuff going on, so better irrelevant than never I suppose. “Touch My Body” is in its second week at #1, which is hopefully pretty close to the end of its run at the top–song’s good enough, but it’s a reputation #1 if there’s ever been one, and we wouldn’t want Mariah to get the wrong idea.
More intriguing to me is the #2 ranking of Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love,” which actually snuck a week at #1 away from Mariah and Usher while we weren’t looking. I’m still not quite sure what I think of the song, since the (admittedly memorable) chorus has yet to really stick with me in any positive way, but I think its classic potential is far greater than the singles straddling it at the moment.

One of those singles, by the way, is Madonna’s Timberlake and Timbaland-supported “4 MInutes,” which in its second week at #3 gives Madonna her first top five hit since “Don’t Tell Me” over 7 years ago. If “Elevator” was evidence that the Timbaland bubble was starting to burst, than “4 Minutes” is fairly definitive proof, as Timbo’s production (and JT’s backing vocals) not only sounds increasingly gun-for-hire, but also completely overwhelms anything unique or interesting that Madonna might tend to bring to the table, as Mrs. Ritchie sounds distinctly like a guest artist on her own semi-comeback single.  Clearly the public is still eating Timbo’s leftovers up with due dilligence, but that can’t last forever…can it?

Similarly perplexing to me is the success of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop,” at #4 this week. Now Lil’ Weezy has been listed among the greatest rappers alive for some time now, and based on miscellaneous guest appearances, freestyles and non-hits of his (last year’s “I Feel Like Dying” being a particular stunner) have been impressive enough to give him the benefit of the doubt in this respect. But I’ve never really heard that one great, undeniable single from him, nothing that could be stood up next to a “Big Pimpin'” or “Hypnotize” as the kind of universally loved crossover smash that the streets can still respect. “Lollipop” certainly isn’t it–it sounds like a weak, and even sort of lazy concession to pop-rap standards without the big hook to back it up. Plus, using the T-Pain voicebox and deploying the phrase “lovely lady lumps??” Still unacceptable for at least the next 20 years. Until he can crash the charts with a single far superior to this, I don’t really see how he can be considered one of the greats. Maybe the final release of the much-hyped Tha Carter III will convince me otherwise.

The rest of the top ten is old hat, but we got plenty else to discuss in the top 40. There’s the return of Danity Kane, whose “Damaged” (#19) still bears too much of Diddy’s stamp for comfort, but is still about a gazillion times better than ’05’s putrid top ten hit “Show Stopper”. Fall Out Boy are back for the first time in ’08 this year, with friend and kindred spirit John Mayer in tow, on a cover of “Beat It” (#21). FOB’s affinity for some of the most boringly overplayed hits of the 80s has been no secret for some time, and this being the 25th anniversary of Thriller and all, I guess it makes sense, but unless you’re a 12-year old pop-punk acolyte that doesn’t know why MJ should be considered anything but a pedophilic weirdo, goddamn does it feel pointless. Impressive enough shredding form Mayer, though. And just in case you forgot about him for two seconds, T-Pain is back on two new ones in the top 40 this week, Rick Ross’s “The Boss” (confirms Double R as one of the least-compelling figures in hip-hop, but at least Snoop and Slim Charles are in the video, #23) and 2 Pistols’ “She Got It” (more my synth-hop speed, #29).

The real story of the week, though, might be the appearance of Radiohead in the top 40, for the first time since 1993. Alas, the #37 debut of “Nude” on the chart is not as much attributable to a sudden open-mindedness in Top 40 radio or the song’s appearance on a season finale of The Hills as it is to Radiohead’s accidental (or extremely underhanded and shrewd) chartbusting technique of selling the five tracks to “Nude” (currently being used for a Radiohead fan remix contest) individually, counting each of them towards the song’s chart success. Well, it took fifteen years, but Radiohead can now breathe easy, having officially shed the “One-Hit Wonder” title. Something tells me the song might not be bouncing on its way to the top ten this time next week, though. Good song, by the way.

Also worth talking about is one of the notable new entries (of which there are a surprising number this week) on the normally stagnant Modern Rock charts–that of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Possess Your Heart” (#12). Oh, yeah, another new Death Cab single, ho hum–accurate 95% of the time, perhaps, but not so much here. Sez Ben Gibbard of new album Narrow Stairs, “It’s totally a curve ball, and I think it’s gonna be a really polarizing record. But I’m really excited about it. It’s really got some teeth […] I think abrasive would be a good word to use. [We were influenced by] heavy, sludgy, slow metal [and] synth-punk band Brainiac.” Normally this’d be a knee-jerk eye roll, but they do kinda back it up with eight-and-a-half minute lead single “I Will Possess Your Heart.” Abrasive isn’t exactly the word I’d use–more brooding, sinewy, and very very lengthy–but this certainly isn’t your grandmother’s Death Cab for Cutie, and that’s probably a good thing.

That new R.E.M. single, though (#85 Pop, #21 Modern Rock)? Not really so great. Plus, the title always makes me think of that horrific Al Gore episode of South Park where he keeps saying “I’m super, super serial.” Is that even a joke?

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Charts on Fire: 03-06-08

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 7, 2008

Meet the new boss, slightly less annoying than the old boss. That’s right, after Flo Rida’s ten week reign of mild intimidation on the top of the charts, we have a new #1, and I had never even heard of it before. Usher’s “Love in This Club“–his first official single since 2005–jumps 50 spots in its first week of iTunes availability and lands at pole position. The single itself, while destined to be the most pandering club success since that other song about the state of being In The Club, is actuallya fairly disappointing slow jam. Producer Polow Da Don (he of “Glamorous” and “Throw Some D’s” breakout success) brings his A game (or I guess this would technically qualify as his B+) but the song itself is relatively nothing–weak hook, unmemorable vocal, way more of a third or fourth single than a lead. Of course, the projected lead (“Dat Girl Right There,” leaked about four months ago) was weird enough to have the potential to break the pop charts had it succeeded, so maybe it’s for the best. Doubtful though.

Oh, and Jordin Sparks now has a second top ten single (Chris Brown duet “No Air,” #6). I thought we had reached the point where Idol winners were no longer guaranteed legit pop success unless they were also halfway decent pop stars, but the roundly unimpressive Sparks seems to be destined for Daughtry-Underwood-Clarkson numbers. Unfortunate. And just when you thought it was safe to go back to the city bars, Flo Rida has a new single in the top 20 (“Elevator,” #16). To prove that he doesn’t need big name guests to help sell his single, he’s gotten some no name called Timbaland to sing the hook, and keeps all the memorable shit for for his own verses, like….uh….well, I’m sure after hearing it 100 times I’ll probably remember a line or two.

Lest I be perceived as an all-out pessimist / doomsayer, there is some good news: I just saved a boatload of money on car insurance by switching to Ray J and Yung Berg’s new single, “Sexy Can I” (#13), not exactly a trailblazer but far above par from two of the more mediocre stars of the last few years (though to be fair, Berg’s “Sexy Lady” sounds exactly like one of those hits I’ll be ecstatic to hear for the first time in five years). And Janet Jackson has her first top twenty hit and first great single in seven years with “Feedback” (#19), off the #1 sales of her new album, Discipline. Or at least I assume she hasn’t a great single since–I don’t think I heard any from the last two albums more than twice (one of ’em sampled “Rockit,” right?) Anyway, good call from Janet to jump on the house-jackin’ bandwagon, definitely one of the more exciting trends to surface in R&B lately (and good call to have someone besides Jermaine Dupri produce it–recuscitating the careers of both her and Mariah Carey is just too much for one man to handle).

Speaking of Mariah, she’s back too, at #24 this week with “Touch My Body,” lead single from comeback-comeback album E=MC2 (automatic 500 points for that title, btx). Frankly, for a single that should prove that she’s still on top of the current R&B heap, this sounds practically retro–if you had told me this was some Butterfly album track, I doubt I would’ve given a second thought. That might not be such a bad thing–late-90s Mariah was a pretty special thing, and “We Belong Together” didn’t exactly break new ground either–but nice as it is, this song isn’t nearly as special as WBT was, so let’s hope she’s got more in her bag of tricks than this. And goddamn it JD, do you still really need to spend twenty seconds shouting yourself out? There’s a reason why Just Blaze is as popular as he is.

Aside from the ascnedance of the least exciting rap single since “A Bay Bay” (Shawty Lo’s “Dey Know,” 42-32), an infuriatingly misleadingly titled country song (Rodney Atkins’ “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy),” 45-40) and a Lifehouse song that somehow breaks their once-every-three-years hit streak (“Whatever It Takes,” 68-50) the real story in the lower reaches of the top 50 is the appearance of Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love“. I’d never heard of it, but apparently it was the #1 single in the UK of all 2007, and has gone to #1 in 15 countries (Lewis was a winner on UK talent competition The X-Factor, which I guess is a big deal in some places). Co-written be ex-pop star Jesse McCartney and one of the OneRepublic dudes, the song…doesn’t exactly sound like it should set the world on fire, but I guess they barely ever do until the 570th time you hear ’em, huh? We’ll see.

In other news, Glen Hansard and Market Irglova are at #61 this week with their Oscar winner “Falling Slowly,” a debut that would’ve been a lot more surprising a few weeks ago but which still ranks as surely as excellent a song as can be found on the charts these days. Also, Atreyu have their second top 20 Modern Rock hit with “Falling Down,” which sounds precious little like the band I remember my brother being super into in High School. I guess this just marks yet another formerly-underground band that he can bitch about being into before they were popular (joining the proud ranks of Bush, Limp Bizkit, and AFI).

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Charts on Fire: 02-07-08

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 8, 2008






Hey, this new blog definitely has its advantages. Week six for T-Pain and the guy with the funny name, though at least we’ve got some movement in the top five now, with Alicia Keys finally relinquishing the number two slot, sliding to #5, the lowest it’s been in ages and still at least 95 slots too high. Chris Brown is up to #2 with the tremendously unexciting “With You,” but at least Rihanna is right behind him with the surprisingly delectable “Don’t Stop the Music” at #3.

The big story of this week, I suppose, is the arrival of Yael Naim in the top ten, making her chart debut at #8 with “New Soul.” Now if you’re like me, you’re wondering “Who the hell is Yael Naim, and how did she manage to hack the Billboard database?” Naim’s chart credentials are legit, however, and come courtesy of a MacBook Air ad that much of America obviously found significantly more memorable than I did. The song is not exactly great–it makes “1,2,3,4” sound like “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” by comparison–but hey, at least I can listen to it without picturing the super-creepy stare of Sara Bareilles in my head (who, by the way, has shanghai’d the #6 spot this week–wtf, SWFs?)

Buckcherry looks to officially have the “Lips of an Angel” of 2008 (can you believe it’s been two years already??) with “Sorry,” currently only a spot out of the top ten. Almost as surprising is the success of Webbie’s “Independent,” now three slots away from being southern rap’s first ever top-ten hit about female empowerment, much less one taken from the male perspective. Rounding out the WTFness of the Top 20 is Miley Cyrus, at #17 with the surprisingly decent “See You Again.” Remember Hillary Duff’s underrated ’05 hit “Wake Up”? It’s kinda like that. Ignore that it’s being done by a 15-year-old (or don’t, I suppose, depending) and it’s actually something of a banger.

Not too much else of note in the top half of the charts this week. Lupe’s “Superstar” is up a bunch to #25, Jordin Sparks has a second single in the top 50 with her Chris Brown duet “No Air” (fuck both of ’em, really, #42), someone named Gary Allan is “Watching Airplanes” at #44, and that boring new Carrie Underwood single that isn’t about ex-girlfriend vigilanteism is at #47 (by the way, how the hell has NO ONE made a response song to that yet? “Maybe next time she’ll think before she FUCKS WITH MY GODDAMN CAR”) The Jonas Brothers are at #50 with super-ballad “When You Look Me in the Eyes,” which is as overwrought and uninteresting as “S.O.S.” was short and sweet. Hey, at least they got range.

Juno re-concedes the #1 slot on the album charts to Ms. Keys this week, though no doubt the appearance of the movie’s new video game will boost sales again in time. Interesting new on to the Modern Rock charts this week–Foxboro Hot Tubs’ “Mother Mary.” If you’ve never heard of ’em, like I hadn’t, give it a listen, and then read the Wiki page. It’ll be mad illuminating.

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Charts on Fire: 01-08-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 11, 2008

Something about the beginning of January–it’s always just about the worst time for the charts, full of mediocre top-rankers that never seem to go away. Last year at least we had “Irreplaceable,” but now we’re back with “Low’ by Flo Rida and some R&B guy you’ve probably never heard before. Though I gotta give it up to the guy for the amazing stage name (took me such a long time to see the double pun), can you remember the last #1 whose success had less to do with its main artist than this? Do we have to go back to the days of Shaggy and Ricardo “Ric Roc” Ducent for that? Ten years from now–hell, ten months from now–who’s gonna remember anything about this song except “Apple-bottomed jeans / Boots with the fuhhhrrrr”?

Anyway, “Low” is still #1, “No One” is still #2, “Apologize” is still #3 and “Kiss Kiss” is still #4. In fact, there are no new entries to the top ten, and no singles that move up more than two within it (Jordin Sparks, sliding 10-8 with “Tattoo”). Outside , we got movers from Chris Brown (the disappointing “With You,” 18-12), Snoop Dogg (so glad to see the public cottoning to “Sensual Seduction” as much as I do, 39-21), Alicia Keys (better “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” than that one closer to the top, 37-25) and Kanye West (glad to see last week’s backslide for “Flashing Lights” was just a fluke, 49-35).

Only two new entries to the top 50 this week, besides the re-entry of Bow Wow & Omarion’s execrable “Girlfriend”. OneRepublic’s “Stop and Stare” (64-49) is mildly promising–got that great ending guitar swell that’s about the only good thing about post-Coldplay senso-rock–though it’s pretty obvious that without “Apologize,” they’d still be nowhere. Webbie, Lil’ Phat & Lil’ Boosie’s “Independent” (#50) is a far more surprising proposition–a southern rap song saluting the self-sufficient working woman. Take that, hip-hop stereotypes, I suppose.

The top non-Miley Cyrus debut on the chart this week is Carrie Underwood’s “All-American Girl” (#68), a thinly veiled suggestion of Carrie’s own deserving of said status, and Plain White T’s are up in that business as well with their valiant attempt to prove themselves something besides the one-hit wonders they’re destined to be remembered as, “Our Time Now” (I could’ve sworn this was a Fall Out Boy song, #90). But the really remarkable debut is how somehow, against just about all rules, laws and guidelines that traditionally govern such matters, MOTHERFUCKING DRAGONFORCE have a top 100 single this week, albeit two years too late, with “Through the Fire and Flames” (#86)–possibly the first Power Metal single to crack said chart. If someone wants to take a gander at explaining this one to me…I’m all ears, really.

While I was in the area, I happened to check out the dance charts, and there sure is some weird shit going on around them parts these days. The #1 isn’t too weird, I guess–Kimberly Locke doing a version of Freda Payne’s country-soul standard (how many of those can you name?) “Band of Gold,” which is expectedly about half-decent. But much weirder are the two previous #1 singles–solo Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan’s “Kingdom” and (Yoko) Ono’s “No, No, No.” I assume that the chart-topping versions must’ve been remixes of some sort, but it’d be really cool if they weren’t, ‘coz the originals are mad good.

Radiohead have the #1 album this week, although with sales that barely match a third of HTTT’s. Hope someday we get the actual numbers on In Rainbows‘ success as a d/lable–at least before we permanently decry Radiohead as the triumphant insurrectors of the music industry like we all want to do so badly.

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Charts on Fire: 12-20-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 21, 2007

Unbelievable. One more week and “No One” matches “Fallin”‘s six-week run at the top spot. The only thing I find remarkable than the fact that this mediocre, mid-period single which it seems like no one is actually listening to (no pun intended) is that the Foo Fighters’ at best slightly-above-average hit “The Pretender” is currently in it’s eighteenth week on the top of the Modern Rock charts. 2008 really can’t get here fast enough at this point.

Not that we have much reason to believe that anything besides Keys will be #1 at the beginning of the new year. Not that I can really picture her spending an additional two weeks on top, but I don’t see any immediate threats, and honestly, Flo Rida and T-Pain’s “Low” (3-2 this week) ascending to the throne might be even more depressing. What the hell was wrong with Colbie Calliat anyway, America? My love for that song gets more improbable by the week.

No real movers in the top ten, frustratingly. One of the only rockets in the top 20 also comes courtesy of Keys, the unextraordinary but significantly superior “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” (prefer her sensual whispering to her strained yelping, 19-13). The other big ‘un is “Love Song,” from Rhapsody and VH1-approved White Girl With Piano Sara Bareilles (72-16). Can’t say I much care for this one, especially because I find the video uniquely unnerving–something about the way she stares into the camera during close-ups, dunno. Chris Brown’s eh-ish “With You” is knocking on the door as well, up fifteen to #25 this week.

There is good news to be found in this week’s chart, though. On the back of a radio-ready pop remix, Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on My Guitar” is up six this week (not sure which version I like more, if the difference is even really that notable, 30-24), Linkin Park’s “Shadow of the Day” is up eight (their best anthem since “Faint,” and one that Bono or Chris Martin is probably pissed as hell they didn’t write first, 37-29), and Kanye West f/ Dwele’s “Flashing Lights” is up 11 to land it in the top 40 for the first time (yet another Graduation single about a thousand times superior to “Stronger,” 50-39).

One of the other two top 40 debuts (the third being Bow Wow & Omarion’s “Girlfriend” at #33–couldn’t you have sworn that they did this song already) deserves special note, however–Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction” (or “Sexual Eruption” if your local radio station is feeling frivolous) is an early front-runner for ’08’s year-end. I have no idea how really to describe this song, except that it sounds sort of like a cross between T-Pain, The Gap Band and St. Etienne, and yes, that’s a very, very good thing. And if you haven’t seen the video yet…don’t wait another second to take that magic carpet ride. Potential HOT ONE for certain.

Rihanna got herself a new hit too, the “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” sampling and actually quite hypnotic “Don’t Stop the Music.” Josh Groban still has the #1 album, and Birdman has some new song that I couldn’t care less about. There’s ’07 for you, I guess.

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Charts on Fire: 11-29-07

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on November 30, 2007

Can we talk about how bad “No One” is? Not just that I happen to dislike it, but I think it’s genuinely a poor piece of music. I’m not the biggest Alicia Keys fan to begin with, but I’ll acknowledge her better songs–“Fallin,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” the irresistible reggae remix of “You Don’t Know My Name.” However, she just sounds off here–her voice is strained, the hook is weak, the lyrics are particularly boring. And yet here we are, week #2 at the top spot. C’mon, surely Soulja Boy deserved at least one more month at #1. How many people are gonna be Cranking Dat No One at Bar Mitzvahs 20 years from now?

There’s not really to much else to be said for the top ten this week–it’s virtually identical to last week’s, though “Apologize” and “Kiss Kiss” have swapped places (#2 and #3, respectively), Fergie is two spots away to having her fifth top five hit off of The Dutchess, and Rihanna’s back in the top ten with “Hate That I Love You” (as if she ever left, #9). For the second week in a row, four of the songs in the top ten have T-Pain on ’em, the first time that’s happened since that 50 Cent chart super-blitz in early 2005. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving robot, I guess.

More exciting for me is the chart success of two of the year’s better rock-goes-disco numbers, Finger Eleven’s “Paralyzer” (at #11 for the second week) and Good Charlotte’s “Dance Floor Anthem (I Don’t Wanna Be in Love)” (up nine to #26). Who could’ve possibly guessed these bands would have a second wind in ’em? Especially glad for the GC single, since their first excursion into funk territory, 2004’s super-underrated “I Just Wanna Live,” passed without half the notice it deserved. Dunno if I’m quite comfortable rooting for the band that once did “Little Things” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” but damn, these guys keep surprising me.

Meanwhile, bravo to country-pop princess Taylor Swift, getting her third top 40 hit of the year with “Our Song” (not quite as good as “Teardrops” or “McGraw,” but still better than 95% of country top 40 hits this year, #23). Also doing it big this week are Natasha Bedingfield’s “Love Like This” (kinda liked her as a two-hit wonder, oh well, 27-21), Plies and Akon’s “Hypnotized” (throw Plies on the pile of rappers who can’t seem to have a hit without Akon or T-Pain, 32-24), and Sean Kingston twice over, once on Bedingfield’s “Love Like This,” once on his own “Take You There” (less loveable without an oldie-stealing hook, 42-31). Also, Wyclef has his first top 40 hit in ages with “Sweetest Girl” (though I have a feeling Akon and Lil’ Wayne might have a bit more to do with it, 44-37).
Gotta give special props to Mary J. Blige this week, though. The idea of Mary doing a self-motivational anthem as her new album’s lead single would normally be a nightmare top 40 scenario for me–frankly, I don’t think I’ve liked a single hit of hers since “Family Affair” over a half-decade ago–but “Just Fine” puts a ridiculously big and improbable smile on my face. The cowbell on the chorus helps, as does the “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” pilfering, but really, it’s just a very nice, breezy song. Bizarre, huh? Moves up seven to 36 this week, hopefully with a good deal of climbing still to come.

Josh Groban has the #1 album this week. It’s so sad that the only cultural force with as much influence over popular music as American Idol is Oprah Winfrey.

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