Archive for January 5th, 2007

What the kids are listenin’ to.

Once “Just To Feel That Way” was selected as Taylor Hicks’ first single, there was much rejoicing in the Kingdom of Soul. After all, they’d been running polls and holding discussions, and JTFTW frequently came out on top as the Soul Patrol’s hand-pick for a first-release single. But it was interesting. Here you had a group of people, most of whom freely admit to having stopped listening to radio ages ago, weighing in on which of Taylor’s songs was the most radio-friendly. Were they basing it on actual knowledge? Intuition? Or did they merely have an idea of what was being played on the radio, but without an actual clue?

So what is being played on the radio these days? I don’t pay much attention to it, so I took a stroll over to the Billboard Hot 100 charts and the MediaBase airplay charts. And here’s what’s the kids are listening to these days. (Note: the MediaBase charts change frequently, so they may not exactly reflect what I’m claiming in this blog post, but it’s accurate as of the time I posted.)

MediaBase Hit Pop Charts:

1. Beyonce, “Irreplaceable”
2. Justin Timberlake, “My Love”
3. Fergie, “Fergalicious”
4. The Fray, “How To Save a Life”
5. Akon, “Smack That”
6. Akon, “I Wanna Love You”
7. Hinder, “Lips of an Angel”
8. Nelly Furtado, “Say It Right”
9. Paula Deanda, “Walk Away”
10. Nickelback, “Far Away”

John Mayer has a hit at #17 with “Waiting on the World to Change.” JoJo, Daughtry, Ludacris, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna help round out the top 20.

The Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart is essentially a reproduction of the MediaBase chart, although Jim Jones’ “We Fly High” and The All-American Rejects “It Ends Tonight” are in the Top 10.

The Mediabase Hot AC chart contains much of the same, though Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” KT Tunstall’s omnipresent “Suddenly I See,” and tunes by Rob Thomas and Matt Kearney also pop up in the top 10.

The Mainstream AC chart is where things get a little shaken up, although there’s nothing shocking. Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” is still clinging for dear life to the number-one spot, trailed by “Bad [Friggin’] Day.” Rascal Flatts, Five for Fighting, Rob Thomas, and Nick Lachey are there, as is Mayer’s tune and KT’s “Black Horse.” Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” makes a noticeable appearance. (Traditionally–I do know this much–songs have a much longer lifespan on AC, even if they start out on the pop charts).

But far and away, the most interesting chart is MediaBase Urban AC. While the Fergies and the Timberlakes cloud up the Hot Urban chart, Urban AC is comprised of almost an entirely different set of artists. There, the number-one spot is claimed by Ruben Studdard (!!) with “Change Me,” followed by Mary J. Blige, Brian McKnight, and Robin Thicke. Beyonce makes her obligatory appearance, but she’s tailed by Lionel Richie, Anthony Hamilton, India.Arie and John Legend.

Hmm. It’ll be interesting to see where Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee wind up. I don’t see the likes of “Over It” and “Each Other” being embraced by Urban A/C, though she’ll probably get decent pop airplay, if not at least one major hit. Taylor, on the other hand, will probably have to settle for middling rotation of his “Just To Feel That Way” on the pop charts, but like other pop castoffs, it may find a semi-permanent home on Mainstream A/C.

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Survey says:

Katharine McPhee nets her first semi-legitimate review (from PhillyBurbs.com) for her new single, “Over It.” The bad news: he thinks the song sucks. The good news: he likes her, and thinks she can do better. Darling, I believe that’s the definition of “American Idol.”

Keep in mind, kids, I’ll be posting all semi-legitimate reviews of Kat’s single and album, just like I posted the good, the bad and the ugly for Taylor. And by “semi-legitimate,” I mean that I won’t be posting any reviews of the “OMG i just heard katharine’s single and it’s so hawt i luv her!!!” variety. I didn’t do that for Taylor, either. So here we go:

Anyone expecting to hear the young woman who wooed audiences on American Idol will be sorely disappointed…Don’t get me wrong; Kat has a great, natural voice. It’s just that you can barely hear it. As for the song’s melody – well, there hardly is one. The song’s loud, thumping bass drum and tinny snare accents overwhelm any significant song structure or harmony…It is obvious this piece of crap song was painstakingly pieced together in the studio with Kat’s vocals seemingly added only as an afterthought.

You want reviews? I got yer reviews. And opinions. And analysis. And kvetching.

From The Rocky Mountain News:

If not for the show, Hicks might have landed an indie contract by now. He could be a modestly successful singer-songwriter eking out a living with what credibility he could muster from his mediocre songwriting talents and undeniable vocal charisma. Yet the Idol victory adds pressure on Hicks to be more than that, though to be fair, less has come to be expected of Idol contestants over the years. That’s good for the Alabama singer, because Taylor Hicks is paint-by-numbers neo-soul with a slightly more vivid palette than usual.

Taylor Hicks’ songwriting is rather mediocre, but he does show glimpses of brilliance with songs like “Somehow.” I’d luurve to see him get picked up by American Recordings and work with producer Rick Rubin, who is widely known as a slave driver willing to beat good songs out of his artists, if that’s what it takes. (Just ask Neil Diamond. No, seriously, ask Neil Diamond. And then go listen to his 12 Songs album.)

And this from Mary Colurso (although yeah…she may not be the most even-handed reviewer):

During an interview in late November, Hicks was evasive about radio play, saying his team wasn’t going to force a single onto the public airwaves. The right song, he hinted, would somehow pop to the surface and appear more naturally. (Ed. note–you mean an Arista focus group team that floated and tested four songs for public consumption is “natural?” Heh.)

Granted, he’s worked hard and done a very decent job with this 12-track debut, produced in a six-week flurry after the “Idol” tour concluded. It’s a highly professional CD, with enough of Hicks’ gritty personality to please fans and enough of a pop focus to satisfy the record company. But it’s as simple as this: You can’t see him. As his TV appearances prove, Hicks’ essential appeal has a strong visual component. Watching him sing makes the vocals really hit home. It adds to the pleasure. It makes “eh” turn to “ooh!” Any recording artist needs the right material ” Hicks’ disc scores in that regard about 50 percent of the time ” but the fact remains that he’s a highly physical performer. For maximum oomph, you need to use eyeballs as well as eardrums.

No. I disagree. I do enjoy watching Taylor perform, but at the same time, I find his best moments to be undoubtely purely vocal. “Somehow” and “In Your Time” from his first CD; “Hell of a Day” from his second; “In the Ghetto,” “Something” and “You Are So Beautiful” from Idol are my favorite Taylor Hicks performances…all performances where his sweet, sweet growl is the star, and his crazy antics are…well, not there. I think that was part of the mistake of this album–many of these songs are “whomp”-y and high-octane, and they are performing songs. There’s simply not enough of Taylor’s vocals on this CD.

Trouble arises, however, when Hicks attempts to pull off songs I can only characterize as filler ballads. Diane Warren’s drippy “Places I’ve Been,” for example, plays to his weaknesses instead of his strengths. Hicks’ vocal limitations come to the fore, and you just don’t buy the performance. Same goes for the forgettable “Just to Feel That Way,” which usually induces my finger to push the skip button. Hicks fares better with “The Right Place,” vocally shaping the number into a tender Ray Charles homage.

Yeah, “Places I’ve Been” sucks, and Taylor does nothing with it. But I do like “Just To Feel That Way,” and I hate sappy pop ballads, because Taylor works it. And why Colurso is including the Brother Ray gospel number “The Right Place” in a list of pop songs is beyond me.

Clive could have made better decisions here. He could have shipped Taylor off to, say, the Burgundy devision of Sony/BMG, enrolled him in an intense crash-course in songwriting, let him churn out a John Legend or John Mayer-ish album, and marketed him as Idol’s answer to neo-soul, tailor-made for the Starbucks crowd. Instead, the album Taylor wound up putting out (whether it was Taylor’s idea from the get-go, or Clive’s, or some kind of compromise) did nothing other than reinforce the stereotypes that people already held about him. If you loved his monkey dancing and penchant for upbeat music on Idol, you ate this CD up with a spoon. If you saw him as nothing more than an unfortunate Tourette’s case, this album didn’t change your mind. And that’s one hell of a missed opportunity.


January 2007
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What the kids are sayin’



"I hate them all. The judges, TPTB, the blatant manipulation, the songs, the contestants, everything. I'm a die-hard Cook fan, but for the love of god, at least try to look like you're enjoying yourself up there! Please? Syesha was awesome but she ruined it by being completely shameless and disgusting. Yes, being on American Idol is exactly like the civil rights movement, except for the part where you're fighting to make the world a better place."



"All I can say after the disgusting display tonight of favoritism towards the mediocrity that is David A. - good luck trying to market and make money off of that kid, American Idol. (Not to mention good luck dealing with his father.) All the teeny boppers may buy up his American Idol coronation single, but they will quickly forget about him before the album comes out. And I shudder to think of a David A. album - song after song of unrelenting sameness and heavy breathing. Why they are pimping him for the win is beyond me."



"This show was simply a hot buttered mess tonight. And Jason "needs to be arrested for what he did to I Shot the Sheriff. But I hope he stays. He amuses me. "
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