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Lady Gaga Lives Up To Monster Expectations on "Born This Way"

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

It’s hard to believe that only 31 months ago, Lady Gaga was an underground electro-pop artist struggling to get her songs played on American radio. She sang about losing her phone and turning her shirt inside out, and she seemed destined to be the type of artist celebrated by the blogosphere but ignored by mainstream pop (an American Robyn). She’s since become the most important pop star on the planet, and today, released one of the most anticipated records of the 21st century.

The promotion Born This Way has received is unrivaled by any album in recent memory, thanks to Gaga hyping it long before we even knew what it would be called (She said she wrote the “core of it” more than a year ago). She went as far as to call it the “greatest album of this decade,” fueling the anticipation, and showcasing a hubris we’ve come to expect from the likes of Kanye West and pre-fatherhood Brandon Flowers. While self-promotion is an essential skill for every pop star, Gaga’s unprecedented plugging threatened to backfire – the entire project buckling under the weight of  unrealistic expectations and self-importance – unless she delivered the groundbreaking opus she promised.

Anti-War Rock in the 2000s Dixie Chicks Madonna American Life Green Day American Idiot

Ain’t No "Fortunate Son": Reflecting on ’00s Anti-War Rock

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Artists like the Dixie Chicks, Green Day and Madonna sang about their opposition of President George W. Bush and the Iraq War during the ’00s, but without a draft, their music lacked the same fire of the anti-war rock of the Vietnam era.

With my iTunes on shuffle, I read the latest issue of Newsweek, a rush released edition on the death of Osama bin Laden. Out of the countless hours’ worth of music in my library, it was quite the coincidence when songs from Green Day’s American Idiot, Madonna’s American Life and Bloc Party’s Weekend In The City all played, and I couldn’t help but reflect on the impact the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the War on Terror and the Iraq War had on the music of the ’00s.


CHART WATCH: On A Roll: Adele Building Steam on Hot 100

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

Katy Perry clenches the No. 1  spot for a fifth non-consecutive week with “E.T.” featuring Kanye West, and it’s become painfully obvious that Perry’s fourth Teenage Dream chart topping single is not a flash-in-the-pan.

“E.T.” is coming off its best sales week ever two weeks ago (344,000) and is down slightly this week with figures slightly north of 300,000.  In total, “E.T.” is on track to be the top-selling song of 2011 to date. Its 2.48 million sales are hot on the tail of Cee Lo Green’s 2.49 million sales of “F**k You.” Sales of “E.T.” are on par with last summer’s smash “California Gurls” feat. Snoop Dogg, and they might even eclipse her ode to the Golden State, becoming her best-selling single ever.

Cheryl Cole Boombox X Factor US Girls Aloud

British Record Artist Cheryl Cole Tapped for U.S. X Factor

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music, TV

British pop star Cheryl Cole will join Simon Cowell on the American X Factor, but what does that mean for her former chart topping and critic charming group Girls Aloud?

British recording artist and U.K. X Factor judge Cheryl Cole has been announced as the third judge on the American edition of X Factor alongside Simon Cowell and record executive L.A. Reid.

It’s doubtless that many people will assume they know who Cheryl Cole is upon hearing her name. She’s the one who dated Lance Armstrong and sang that one song about soaking up the sun, right? Wrong. You’re thinking Sheryl Crow. Although both ladies make music and are known for their high profile relationships and subsequent breakups with professional athletes, the similarities end there.

Cheryl Cole rose to fame in 2002 at the age of 19 as a contestant on the reality singing competition Popstars: The Rivals. The show whittled down contestants to form two groups, the boy band One True Voice, and the girl group Girls Aloud, who competed on the British charts for the coveted Christmas No. 1 spot. One True Voice released a predictable and boring reality show single, while Girls Aloud dropped the most inventive reality show coronation song ever – “Sound of the Underground.”


The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll in 25 Songs: Bill Haley and the Comets – "Rock Around The Clock"

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll is 17 Track’s attempt to squeeze more than sixty years of music onto a mixtape.There are many ways to tell a story, and the story of rock ‘n’ roll is one that has been told many times in many ways. It’s messy, complicated and difficult to follow in some parts, and the entire history of it could fill volumes. But what if you didn’t have volumes? What if you only had a blank CD-R and you had to tell the story through songs? Each song in this list represents a moment or movement in the development of popular music. It’s not a list of the best, most important or most influential songs, it’s exactly what it professes to be – a history.

The second song, Bill Haley and the Comet’s “Rock Around The Clock,” tells the story of rock ‘n’ roll reaching the mainstream, and the challenges it faced along the way.


CHART WATCH: It’s Game Change Alright: Britney Goes Rogue, Beyonce Flops and Rihanna’s Maverick Wears Off

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

After spending a single week at the summit, Rihanna’s “S&M” featuring Britney Spears slides to No. 4 as Katy Perry’s “E.T.” featuring Kanye West retakes the No. 1 position with an impressive burst of sales and radio airplay.

In my last Chart Watch column, I compared the battle between Perry/West and Fenty/Spears to a presidential campaign, and likened Spears to the Sarah Palin of pop. Those comparisons aren’t that far off. Def Jam’s last minute decision to add Spears to “S&M” was a calculated Hail Mary. The label correctly assumed that by courting Britney’s rabid fan base, the song could finally break from its No.2  position and overtake “E.T.”

Remember when McCain picked Palin and suddenly, the disgruntled Republican base had someone to cheer for on the ticket? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.


CHART WATCH: What’s the Difference Between a Pitbull and a Femme Fatale? Lipstick…

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Chart Watch is 17 Tracks’ weekly look at the happenings on the Billboard Hot 100 with chart expert Hunter Schwarz.

Kelly Clarkson announced the completion of her fifth studio album this March, but RCA is pushing the release date to September. One could assume the delay is due to the overcrowded pop market right now. If RCA wants Clarkson to make the biggest splash possible, they’re doing themselves a favor by waiting until the airwaves have calmed down a bit.

For the past several months, the upper echelons of the Hot 100 have been dominated by female pop stars. Katy Perry stays at No. 1 this week with “E.T.” featuring Kanye West, Rihanna comes up short once again with “S&M” at No. 2, and both Britney Spears and Lady Gaga have songs in the top 10.


CHART WATCH: Winning Streak: Katy Perry Goes 4-For-4

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Lady Gaga finally gives up the No. 1 spot after six weeks as “Born This Way” drops to No. 4. In its place is Katy Perry’s “E.T.” featuring Kanye West. This gives Perry her fifth No. 1 and her fourth from 2010′s Teenage Dream album. Her perfect record – four for four – puts her in an elite club. Excluding compilation albums, Teenage Dream is only the ninth album in chart history to be home to more than three No. 1 songs.

What makes Perry’s feat all the more impressive is that her album is nearly seven months old. That’s a lifetime in the world of pop. Sure, Britney Spears sent “Hold It Against Me,” Femme Fatale‘s first single, to No. 1, but the follow-up, “Till The World Ends,” spent a single week in the top ten (and don’t be surprised if it doesn’t return). Getting a splashy debut with the first single from a new album is relatively easy if the record label plays their cards right. A big enough artist with a large enough fan base will snap up anything the moment it’s released. What’s a lot more difficult is scoring four No. 1s. If you can do that, there’s a lot more at work than just overeager fans.


Is This It? Yes, It Is: The Strokes Are Back

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

New York-based band The Strokes released one of the decade’s most acclaimed albums 10 years ago and failed to live up to it since — until now.

The Strokes virtually defined an infant decade’s emerging sound when they released Is This It in 2001. Songs like “Last Nite” and “Someday” were the template for other melodic, garage rock bands hoping to receive the same level of universal critical praise and commercial success as the Strokes. End-of-the-decade lists revealed people still hold the band’s debut in high regard. Critic-aggregating site ranked Is This It as the third most acclaimed album of the decade.


Synthesizers Not Included: How Adele Broke In America

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

This year, Adele became the first artist since the Beatles to have two top five albums and singles simultaneously in the UK. Her album, 21, and the single “Someone Like You,” have remained atop the British charts for weeks.

With dance pop ruling the airwaves, it doesn’t seem like British soul singers in their 20s could sell many records. Somehow, 22-year-old Adele has done it though. Her sophomore album, 21, debuted atop the charts in ten countries, including the United States. In the UK, she became the first artist to have two top five albums and singles in the chart at the same time since the Beatles in 1964.