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Top 10 Music Videos of 2010

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

2010 was a year of renaissance for the music video. It was the year the notion that the rules of the game have changed in a post-MTV world came to fruition. Your video can’t just be cool, it has to be cool enough that bloggers write about it.  It has to be cool enough that people send the link to their friends.  It has to be cool enough that people think it’s a good idea to recreate their own version and post it online for the whole world to see. There isn’t one right way to do it.  It can be simple or elaborate, funny or controversial, but if you want a YouTube hit, you need the clicks. Below are ten videos that succeeded in not only getting the clicks, but pushing the medium of the music video forward.

10. “Go Do” – Jonsi

Directed by Ami & Kinski

Pounding percussion, pigeons, and parakeets — what more could one expect from the first solo video released by Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi Birgisson? “Go Do” in video is as feathery, colorful, and eccentric as the album’s artwork suggested it would be. The influence of longtime Sigur Ros directors Ami & Kinski is evident in the energetic and abstractly artistic cinematography. The video, described as a “symphonic flutter,” features Jonsi in feathers, make-up, and wrapped in raiment that even your most effeminate of friends would pause before nodding with in approval. He scrambles across his trademark Icelandic settings, replete with traditional derelict buildings, cool waterfronts, and eerie trees, with one new addition: birds — lots and lots of birds. – JP

9. “Power” – Kanye West

Directed by Marco Brambilla

The album cut of “Power” clocks in at nearly five minutes, but when Kanye committed the song to music video, he cut it down to a minute and a half. Don’t let that lead you to believe that Mr. West settled on making a simple video. There’s no plot because there’s no time and no need. Instead, Kanye appears in the center of a complex living mural reminiscent of Hellenistic mythology as the view slowly moves out revealing the entire scene. Horned female guardians move their staffs to the beat as water bearers defy gravity by pouring water on themselves upside down. And of course, no visual representation of this era would be complete without a sexy female phoenix. – JP

8. “Too Much” – Sufjan Stevens

Directed by Deborah Johnson

For those who had the pleasure of seeing the King of Indie live on his most recent tour, it isn’t the meticulously choreographed dance moves in this music video that will consume you — No, it’s the devil masks, flashing lights, bright colors, and especially that Nike tank, that one simply can’t have “too much” of. Complete with an animated instrumental interlude, Animorph-esque dancers, and the erratic stop-motion effects of director Deborah Johnson, this video is an allusion to the deliberate change in Stevens’ music path and an accurate representation of his live performance. (If you’re interested in the reasoning behind his stylistic transformation, Stevens provided a brief twenty-five minute explanation at each live performance.)  “Too Much” is the second track on Stevens’ new album The Age of Adz, which was released in October of this year. – JP

7. “All The Lovers” – Kylie Minogue

Directed by Joseph Kahn

Kylie Minogue takes the flash mob to a new level in her “All The Lovers” video. Despite the skads of disrobing kissers, the video doesn’t seem sexual. Instead, the mountain of barely clothed lovers seem like a call for ending all war and hatred, a concept cemented by the white dove Minogue sets free. The Australian vixen errupts from the growing mountain like a phoenix from the ashes (fitting as this is her triumphant comeback following a battle with breast cancer and an underperforming album) as she leads her followers in taking it “higher, higher, higher.” – HS

6. “Window Seat” – Erykah Badu

Directed by Coodie

Just watch the video. Eyrkah Badu, followed by director Coodie, sheds one article of clothing at a time while walking in downtown Dallas. Once totally nude, she is shot dead in the same location of the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. As her body falls to the ground, blue blood leaks from her head and scribbles the word “groupthink” on the sidewalk.  She completes the segment with the following statement: “They who play it safe, are quick to assassinate what they don’t understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel more comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become, afraid to respect the individual.” – JP

5. “Born Free” – M.I.A.

Directed by Romain Gavras

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” reads Article 1 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. M.I.A. uses her “Born Free” video to graphically show how far humanity is from realizing that statement. Setting the video in an alternate reality United States where red heads are inexplicably hunted down, rounded up, and killed, M.I.A. brings the reality of genocide, something not uncommon in her native Sri Lanka, home of her Western audiences. It’s unclear if the video was simply intended to generate buzz or a pointed political statement (At the Bush administration? So 2000-and-late. At the Arizona immigration laws? Boring.), but whatever it was, the video was yanked from YouTube for a few days and did both.

4. “Telephone” – Lady Gaga feat. Beyonce

Directed by Jonas Akerlund

It’s one thing to compel people around the world to make homages to your music video if it features nothing more than black leotards and two back-up dancers, but somehow, Lady Gaga did it with a video over nine minutes long that stuffed in a prison, Pussy Wagon, and loads of product placement, not to mention several different phone hats. “Telephone” officially brought back the event music video in a way that hasn’t been seen since the heydays of Michael Jackson and Madonna, and she managed to created more iconic images in one video than Britney does for a whole album cycle. – HS

3. “Cold War” – Janelle Monae

Directed by Wendy Morgan

Unlike so many of the music video’s released this year, “Cold War” stands out for what it lacks. There is no product placement, there is no dancing, there is no violence, there are no special effects. The video isn’t even perfect. Monae breaks her flawless lip synch right after the line, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me and it hurts my heart.” First it seems like a simple flub, but then there’s more. A single tear streams down her face. But it’s more than just a tear of sadness. There’s regret there, yes, but there’s a feeling of resolve there too. “Do you know what you’re fighting for?” she asks. – HS

2. “We Used To Wait” – Arcade Fire

Directed by Chris Milk

Arcade Fire, Google, and artist/director Chris Milk have been successful in accomplishing at least one thing this year;  I no longer feel any shame for sporting my Funeral concert tee down the halls of my high school back in 2004. “The Wilderness Downtown” is an interactive video set that accompanies the band’s track “We Used to Wait,” the second single released from The Suburbs. After providing your childhood address, the project incorporates images from Google Maps and Google Street View to take you on a nostalgia-inducing tour of your hometown. Perhaps my favorite part of the experience is the chance to include a note to your younger self. Mine may have read something like this: “Jims, Arcade Fire is good. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.” – JP

1. “Runaway” – Kanye West

Directed by Kanye West

Kanye West might be a little offended that his video for “Runaway” topped a music video list; after all, the 35-minute clip is labeled “a film by Kanye West”. Still, “Runaway” is a worthy companion to the masterpiece that is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, as West rescues a nearly nude half-woman half-phoenix that crash lands in by a country road. West teaches his visitor about life on our planet, including his views on the media, fame, and the elite. The visuals are stunning, from the explosions and fire of the initial rescue scene to the over-sized Michael Jackson head and now iconic ballerinas. The video provides a look into the brain of one of the 21st century’s premier music makers. – HS

Graphic by Nick Smith

Text by James Porter and Hunter Schwarz

Eminem Leads Grammy Nominations

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

The 2011 Grammy nominations are in, and Eminem leads the pack.

Rapper Eminem received 10 Grammy nominations last night, more than any other artist, including in the coveted album, record, and song of the year categories. Other artists with multiple nods include newcomer Bruno Mars with seven, and Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and Lady Antebellum each with six apiece.

Eminem’s nominations mark the peak of a successful career rehabilitation. Despite being the biggest selling artist of the 2000′s, Eminem’s first album in over four years failed to meet expectations in 2009. His 2010 effort, Recovery, spent seven weeks at No. 1 and spawned two chart topping singles. Recovery is nominated for album of the year and “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna is nominated for both record and song of the year.

Bruno Mar’s debut album was released after the 2011 Grammy cutoff, but he received his seven nominations for his single “Just The Way You Are,” which was released in time as well as his collaboration with B.o.B on “Nothin’ On You” and writing credits on Cee Lo’s “F**k You.”

Lady Gaga scored two Grammy awards at last year’s show in the dance category and she returns with another contender, “Dance In The Dark,” a non-single track from The Fame Monster. The song is the only non-single that has been nominated for best dance recording and is up against singles such as Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” and Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” Gaga also enters the album race with The Fame Monster, an EP up against four full length albums.

Cee Lo Green seemed destined for the the casino circuit after Gnarls Barkely failed to excite much after “Crazy,” but he’s proven everyone wrong with “F**k You.” The song became an unexpected hit this summer and was given second life after being performed on Glee. The song’s censored exposure was enough to propel it into Billboard top ten. Now, Green’s hit, dubbed “the song otherwise known as ‘Forget You’” by the announcers at the Grammy nomination telecast, is up for song and record of the year.

The 53rd annual Grammy awards will be broadcast February 13, 2011.

SONG OF THE YEAR
“Beg Steal Or Borrow” – Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs
“Forget You” (aka “F**k You”) – Cee Lo Green
“The House That Built Me”- Miranda Lambert
“Love the Way You Lie” – Eminem feat. Rihanna
“Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum

BEST NEW ARTIST
Justin Bieber
Drake
Florence + The Machine
Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Nothin’ On You” – B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars
“Love The Way You Lie” – Eminem feat. Rihanna
“Forget You” (aka “Fuck You”) – Cee Lo Green
“Empire State Of Mind” – Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys
“Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
Recovery – Eminem
Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“King of Anything” – Sara Bareilles
“Halo (Live)” – Beyoncé
“Chasing Pirates” – Norah Jones
“Bad Romance” – Lady Gaga
“Teenage Dream” – Katy Perry

BEST MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Haven’t Met You Yet” – Michael Bublé
“This Is It” – Michael Jackson
“Whataya Want From Me” – Adam Lambert
“Just The Way You Are” – Bruno Mars
“Half Of My Heart” – John Mayer

BEST POP COLLABORATION WITH VOCALS
“Airplanes II” – B.o.B, Eminem & Hayley Williams
“Imagine” – Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No. 1, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare
“If It Wasn’t For Bad” – Elton John & Leon Russell
“Telephone” – Lady Gaga & Beyoncé
“California Gurls” – Katy Perry & Snoop Dogg

BEST PERFORMANCE BY POP DUO OR GROUP
“Don’t Stop Believin’ (Regionals Version)” – Glee Cast
“Misery” – Maroon 5
“The Only Exception” – Paramore
“Babyfather” – Sade
“Hey, Soul Sister (Live)” – Train

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
My World 2.0 – Justin Bieber
I Dreamed A Dream – Susan Boyle
The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga
Battles Studies – John Mayer
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry

BEST DANCE RECORDING
“Rocket” – Goldfrapp
“In For The Kill” – La Roux
“Dance In The Dark” – Lady Gaga
“Only Girl (In The World)” – Rihanna
“Dancing On My Own” – Robyn

BEST ELECTRONIC/DANCE ALBUM
These Hopeful Machines – BT
Further – The Chemical Brothers
Head First – Goldfrapp
Black Light – Groove Armada
La Roux – La Roux

BEST ROCK SONG
“Angry World” – Neil Young, songwriter (Neil Young)
“Little Lion Man” – Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford & Country Winston, songwriters (Mumford & Sons)
“Radioactive” – Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon)
“Resistance” – Matthew Bellamy, songwriter (Muse)
“Tighten Up” – Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney, songwriter (The Black Keys)

BEST ROCK ALBUM
Emotion & Commotion – Jeff Beck
The Resistance – Muse
Backspacer – Pearl Jam
Mojo - Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
Le Noise – Neil Young

BEST ROCK SOLO VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Run Back To Your Side” – Eric Clapton
“Crossroads” – John Mayer
“Helter Skelter” – Paul McCartney
“Silver Rider” – Robert Plant
“Angry World” – Neil Young

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS
“Ready To Start” – Arcade Fire
“I Put A Spell On You” – Jeff Beck & Joss Stone
“Tighten Up” – The Black Keys
“Radioactive” – Kings Of Leon
“Resistance” – Muse

BEST HARD ROCK PERFORMANCE
“A Looking In View” – Alice In Chains
“Let Me Hear You Scream” – Ozzy Osbourne
“Black Rain” – Soundgarden
“Between The Lines” – Stone Temple Pilots
“New Fang” – Them Crooked Vultures

BEST METAL PERFORMANCE
“El Dorado” – Iron Maiden
“Let The Guilt Go” – Korn
“In Your Words” – Lamb Of God
“Sudden Death” – Megadeth
“World Painted Blood” – Slayer

BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
Infinite Arms – Band Of Horses
Brothers – The Black Keys
Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Contra – Vampire Weekend

BEST FEMALE R&B VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Gone Already” – Faith Evans
“Bittersweet” – Fantasia
“Everything To Me” – Monica
“Tired” – Kelly Price
“Holding You Down (Going In Circles)” – Jazmine Sullivan

BEST MALE R&B VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Second Chance” – El DeBarge
“Finding My Way Back” – Jaheim
“Why Would You Stay” – Kem
“We’re Still Friends” – (Kirk Whalum &) Musiq Soulchild
“There Goes My Baby” – Usher

BEST R&B PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
“Take My Time” – Chris Brown & Tank
“Love” — Chuck Brown, Jill Scott & Marcus Miller
“You’ve Got A Friend” – Ronald Isley & Aretha Franklin
“Shine” – John Legend & The Roots
“Soldier Of Love” – Sade

BEST RAP SOLO PERFORMANCE
“Over” – Drake
“Not Afraid” – Eminem
“How Low” – Ludacris
“I’m Back” – T.I.
“Power” – Kanye West

BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
“Nothin’ On You” – B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars
“Deuces” – Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall
“Love The Way You Lie” – Eminem & Rihanna
“Empire State Of Mind” – Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
“Wake Up! Everybody” – John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common

BEST RAP SONG
“Empire State Of Mind” – Shawn Carter, Angela Hunte, Burt Keyes, Alicia Keys, Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic & Alexander Shuckburgh, songwriters (Sylvia Robinson, songwriter) (Jay-Z & Alicia Keys)
“Love The Way You Lie” – Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey & Marshall Mathers, songwriters (Eminem & Rihanna)
“Not Afraid” – M. Burnett, J. Evans, Marshall Mathers, L. Resto & M. Samuels, songwriters (Eminem)
“Nothin’ On You” – Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars & Bobby Simmons Jr., songwriters (B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars)
“On To The Next One” – Shawn Carter, J. Chaton & K. Dean, songwriters (G. Auge & X. De Rosnay, songwriters) (Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz)

BEST RAP ALBUM
The Adventures Of Bobby Ray, B.o.B
Thank Me Later, Drake
Recovery, Eminem
The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z
How I Got Over, The Roots

BEST COUNTRY SONG
“The Breath You Take” – Casey Beathard, Dean Dillon & Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (George Strait)
“Free” – Zac Brown, songwriter (Zac Brown Band)
“The House That Built Me” – Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
“I’d Love To Be Your Last” – Rivers Rutherford, Annie Tate & Sam Tate, songwriters (Gretchen Wilson)
“If I Die Young” – Kimberly Perry, songwriter (The Band Perry)
“Need You Now” – Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
Up On The Ridge, Dierks Bentley
You Get What You Give, Zac Brown Band
The Guitar Song, Jamey Johnson
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
Revolution, Miranda Lambert

BEST FEMALE COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Satisfied” – Jewel
“The House That Built Me” – Miranda Lambert
“Swingin’” – LeAnn Rimes
“Temporary Home” – Carrie Underwood
“I’d Love To Be Your Last” – Gretchen Wilson

BEST MALE COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Macon” – Jamey Johnson
“Cryin’ For Me (Wayman’s Song)” – Toby Keith
“Turning Home” – David Nall
“’Til Summer Comes Around” – Keith Urban
“Gettin’ You Home” – Chris Young

BEST COUNTRY PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS
“Free” – Zac Brown Band
“Elizabeth” – Dailey & Vincent
“Need You Now” – Lady Antebellum
“Little White Church” – Little Big Town
“Where Rainbows Never Die” – The SteelDrivers

Lady Gaga Brings Down the State Department… Sort Of

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Lady Gaga has gotten political when it comes to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, but her biggest impact is now in foreign policy where her music played an unlikely role in the leak of over a quarter million sensitive State Department cables.

The website WikiLeaks posted more than 250,000 leaked diplomatic cables from the State Department this week, sending shock waves around the world. And it’s thanks in part to Lady Gaga.

These diplomatic cables, communications to and from diplomats, military staff, and State Department officials, detail the inner workings of the United States’ diplomacy and deal what one official called an “epic blow” to the American diplomacy. Although the cables do not reveal startling secrets that would satisfy conspiracy theorists, they do give “an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats,” said the New York Times.

The US military believes the cable leaks can be traced to a former intelligence analyst, 22-year-old Bradley Manning. Manning is scheduled to face a court martial sometime next year and is charged with unauthorized downloads of classified material.

According to a chatlog between Manning and a hacker, a Lady Gaga CD was used to obtain the cables. “”I would come in with music on a CD-RW labeled with something like ‘Lady Gaga’ … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing … [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history,” the chatlog read.

“Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public … Everywhere there’s a US post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed. Worldwide anarchy in CSV format … It’s beautiful, and horrifying,” Manning added.

Outraged lawmakers are calling for WikiLeaks to be shut down immediately, saying that the leaks are an attack on national security, and it’s not as if the government doesn’t know how to shut down sites. Last month, Department of Homeland Security shut down over 70 websites for copyright infringements. Among the sites that were seized were illegal downloading sites where users could pirate Lady Gaga music for free.

Breaking Down The Beatles' First Week on iTunes

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

The Beatles might not have broken any records with their first week on iTunes, but they did shatter notions about how music fans in the 21st century view their body of work.

Two weeks ago, longtime digital holdouts the Beatles released their entire catalog on iTunes. Since then, the band has sold over 2 million songs and more than 450,000 albums. Not bad for a band that broke up forty years ago.

Still, those numbers are nothing ground breaking. Dr. Luke, the songwriter and producer responsible for the garbage warbled by the likes of Ke$ha, took pleasure in the fact that his flash-in-the-pan tune was outselling The Beatles’ songs when he tweeted, “Even with the Beatles now on itunes Ke$ha still #1…. WE R WHO WE R !!!!!” Not only is that one of the dumbest tweets in the history of Twitter, but it completely misses the point. The Beatles’ hits compilation, 1, was the best selling album of the 2000s, and the band sold more albums last year than everyone except Michael Jackson and Taylor Swift. Even setting sales figures aside, the Beatles don’t have to prove themselves to anyone.

Releasing the group’s entire catalog online at once wasn’t about first week sales, but it did provide a market test of how the public views the Beatles songbook four decades down the road. The results were surprising.

The best selling song was “Let It Be”, perhaps one of the most anthemic songs the band recorded. The second best seller wasn’t so predictable. Written by George and never released as a single, “Here Comes The Sun” doesn’t seem like one of the most obvious top sellers, but it ranked second. Even more surprising is the third place ranking of the Rubber Soul track “In My Life”. Although the song receives love from critics (Mojo named it the best song ever in 2000), it’s hardly one of the Beatles’ most memorable songs.

“Hey Jude” and “Come Together” came in fourth and fifth respectively, and like “Let It Be”, these songs seem like predictable top sellers. In sixth was “Yesterday”, another Beatles classic. Considering that “Yesterday” is their most played and covered song though, it’s shocking that five other songs sold better than it.

Here are the top ten best selling Beatles songs last week along with the number of digital downloads sold and the year they were originally released:

1. “Let It Be” – 63,000 – 1970
2. “Here Comes the Sun” – 55,000 – 1969
3. “In My Life” – 45,000 – 1966
4. “Hey Jude” – 38,000 – 1968
5. “Come Together” – 38,000
6. “Yesterday” – 35,000 – 1965
7. “Blackbird” – 32,000 – 1968
8. “Twist and Shout” – 30,000 – 1964
9. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – 27,000
10. “With a Little Help From My Friends” – 26,000 – 1967

We can better understand why some of these songs sold so well by checking out the tracklisting of the aforementioned 1 album. The album has sold over 11,700,000 copies, so a lot of iTunes users already have those songs on their iTunes. Not surprisingly, six of the top ten selling songs weren’t on 1. It makes sense that a lot of consumers were using the $1.29 song downloads to fill gaps in their collection as opposed to new fans cherry picking songs.

The line-up of Beatles albums was also interesting. Growing up, I was always under the impression that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was without question, the greatest album of all time. All the rock journalism I read, including Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, taught me that. It seems that the whole Sgt.-Peppers-is-God movement is facing a backlash from a younger generation as the record was only the fourth best selling one of the week. The top seller was the only album whose cover has become more iconic than Sgt. Pepper’s, 1969′s Abbey Road. With songs like the No. 2 best-selling “Here Comes The Sun”, another George Harrison penned track, “Something”, and “Come Together”, it seems like it would fare pretty well, but I’m baffled that it outsold more obvious picks like Rubber Soul and Revolver.

The second and third best sellers are surprising because of their cost difference. Most of the albums were priced at $12.99, but the double disc White Album which sold for $19.99 was the No. 2 best seller. In third place was In Stereo, a $149.00 box set of the entire Beatles discography. Soundscan counted it as its own album, but it could have easily added 13,000 downloads to each of the 13 Beatles albums included in the set.

There is a definite bias towards the latter end of the Beatles career with albums from the late 60s selling better than earlier ones. Even the 1967-1970 (Blue Album) greatest hits outsold the 1962-1996 (Red album) one.

Here are the top ten best selling Beatles albums:

1. Abbey Road – 1969
2. The Beatles (the White Album) – 1968
3. In Stereo – 2009 (In Stereo was a box set of the entire Beatles discography released last year)
4. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 1967
5. 1967-1970 – 1973
6. 1962-1966 – 1973
7. Rubber Soul – 1965
8. Revolver – 1966
9. Magical Mystery Tour – 1967
10. Let It Be – 1970

Oh, and Dr. Luke, “We R Who We R” might have outsold “Let It Be”, but six Beatles albums (including a $149.00 one) outsold Ke$ha’s Animal. Eat it.

CHART WATCH: Only Girl Sets Chart Records

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.

Two weeks removed from scoring her eighth No. 1 hit with “What’s My Name?” featuring Drake, Rihanna returns to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with another Loud single,  “Only Girl (In The World)”, setting a number of chart records.

What’s interesting is that “Only Girl” was the first single to be released from Loud but its second song to go No. 1. That has never happened in Hot 100 history. First appearing on the Hot 100 the week of October 3, “Only Girl” originally peaked at No. 3 and has yo-yoed up and down the top ten since then. Although it seemed like an obvious chart topper from one of the Hot 100′s most consistent pop stars, when follow up single “What’s My Name?” went No. 1, “Only Girl” seemed destined to be remembered as the older, more commercial, though less successful sister to “What’s My Name?”

“What’s My Name?” made it to the top due to a combination of strong sales and lack of tough competition. The week that it peaked in sales, “Only Girl” was waning, but it did have a foot up in radio airplay. The Hot 100 is a combination of both sales and airplay, but each of those components work differently. Sales are quick one or two week bursts, but can rarely sustain themselves for longer than that. Airplay builds slowly. It makes sense then that “What’s My Name?” was No. 1 for a single week because of its sales while “Only Girl” reached the top slot only after weeks of building at radio (And you might want to keep your eye on “What’s My Name?”. Even though it falls this week from No. 7 to 8, it was this week’s radio airplay gainer. Depending on how a number of other songs perform in the coming weeks, “What’s My Name?” could return to No. 1).

The other record Rihanna sets is in regards to the sheer number of chart toppers she’s had this year. The singer adds “What’s My Name?” and “Only Girl” to her other 2010 No. 1s, “Rude Boy”, and Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” to become the first female artist in Billboard’s 52-year history to land four No. 1s in a calendar year. Not only is Rihanna the only female to accomplish this feat, but this marks only the fifth time an artist has banked over three chart toppers in a year.

Here’s the chronological list of artists who have undisputedly dominated the Hot 100 during a calendar year:

1964 The Beatles (6): “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “I Feel Fine”

1965 The Beatles (4): “Eight Days a Week,” “Ticket to Ride,” “Help!,” “Yesterday”

1970 Jackson 5 (4): “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save”/”I Found That Girl,” “I’ll Be There”

2004 Usher (4): “Yeah!” (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris), “Burn,” “Confessions Part II,” “My Boo” (Usher and Alicia Keys)

2010 Rihanna (4): “Rude Boy,” “Love The Way You Lie” (Eminem featuring Rihanna), “What’s My Name?” (featuring Drake), “Only Girl (In The World)”

It’s not surprising that the Beatles managed ten No. 1s in two years considering the power of Beatlemania, and Usher’s four hits are a result of a Hot 100 skewed strongly towards airplay in the days after the death of the physical single but before iTunes. Both artists also had a profound impact on popular culture at the time. Have you seen clips of the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show? Do you remember how many cell phones had “Yeah!” as their ringtone in 2004? Even though Rihanna has spent three and a half months at the top of the Hot 100, she just doesn’t have the hold on pop culture that either the Beatles or Usher had when they dominated the Hot 100. She also doesn’t have a No. 1 album, something that both the Beatles and Usher have had plenty of.

Loud enters the album charts this week at a commendable third place. Despite all of her No. 1 hits (she has totaled nine in six years), Rihanna has never had a No. 1 album. But then again, neither did the Jackson 5. Although Loud could have been No. 1 a different week with first week sales of 207,000, I think that Rihanna’s lack of No. 1 albums indicates how the record buying public perceives her. She’s the definition of singles artist. She has great songs worth spending $1.29 on every so often, but people aren’t so willing to buy a whole album. I imagine that people felt the same way about the Jackson 5 in 1970.

Albums make more money than singles, so the folks at Def Jam are hoping Rihanna doesn’t stay a singles artist forever. Being a singles artist does have its benefits though if you’re hoping to break records on the Hot 100.  Rihanna’s albums sales and cultural impact are nowhere near as ubiquitous as other pop stars, but she beats them all on the singles chart. Just compare Rihanna’s nine No. 1 hits to Beyonce’s five, Britney’s three, and Gaga’s two.

Sure, the Jackson 5 never had a No. 1 album, but they also only had four No. 1 singles. Rihanna is eying her tenth which would put her in a tie for eighth place for artists with the most chart topping songs. How long can a singles artist and minor player in the pop landscape remain there with such a consistent and constant stream of hit songs? I contend that 2010 is the year that Rihanna became more than just a minor player. It is as if her greatest weakness turned into her greatest strength. People haven’t been willing to buy a full Rihanna album, but in five short years, they realize that they sure have downloaded a whole lot of her songs.

Here’s what’s happening on the rest of the Hot 100:

  • Pink’s “Raise Your Glass” lifts 7-2 to become her highest charting hit since her 2008 No. 1 “So What”.
  • Cee Lo enters the top 10 with “F**k You” thanks to Glee. The censored Glee rendition enters the chart at No. 11, but it seems that the record buying public preferred the dirty original version.
  • The King of Pop gets his 48th Hot 100 hit as “Hold My Hand” with Akon from the forthcoming Michael album debuts at No. 84.

Here’s this week’s top ten:

1. “Only Girl (In The World)” – Rihanna (1st week at No. 1)

2. “Raise Your Glass” – Pink

3. “Like a G6″ – Far East Movement feat. Cataracs & Dev

4. “We R Who We R” – Ke$ha

5. “Just A Dream” – Nelly

6. “Firework” – Katy Perry

7. “Just The Way You Are” – Bruno Mars

8. “What’s My Name?” – Rihanna feat. Drake (Airplay gainer)

9. “F**k You” – Cee Lo Green (Digital gainer)

10. “Bottoms Up” – Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj

Artists Entice Consumers with Deluxe Packaging

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Downloading might be on the rise, but artists like Kanye West and Katy Perry are convincing fans to chose plastic over digital.

In the age of digital music, the thought of getting in your car, driving to a store, and paying $10 for a full album that includes songs you don’t care for seems dumb in comparison to downloading a single song off iTunes from the comfort of your home. Although the record industry would gladly prefer consumers using legal downloading sites over online piracy, buying that $10 album would be even better.

I’m one of those weird people who loves buying physical albums. I realize that I could save money and space by just downloading songs, but there’s something magic about holding an album in your hands, flipping through the record sleeve, and popping the disc in your car. It’s an experience that iTunes cannot duplicate.

Luckily, some artists are making albums especially for people like me. Kanye West’s opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one such album. In addition to liner notes, the deluxe edition features five different covers printed on gold, high gloss paper that peeks through a window on the album cover. Of course, most people are buying the new Kanye record not for its packaging, but because it is a cultural milestone. In some instances though, those details can make a difference.

Take for instance Katy Perry’s sophomore set, Teenage Dream. It features the singer laying in clouds of cotton candy on its cover, and it actually smells like cotton candy.

“I was so taken with the experience and impressed by the gimmick that I actually bought a copy of the CD, even though I already owned a digital copy purchased the day before,” wrote Kyle Anderson for MTV.com after smelling the album for himself. “It’s rare that I’m even in music stores nowadays, and it’s even stranger that I’d be holding a copy of a brand new CD (most of the compact discs I buy are used, and most of my new music comes either digitally or on vinyl), so even the experience of exploring album packaging was strange and unfamiliar.”

Miss Perry doesn’t deserve much credit for her vocal ability or contributions to the pop canon, but her marketing skills are impressive. The experience of purchasing an album from a brick and mortar store and enjoying it is a foreign concept to so many these days, and bringing it back should be a high priority for artists and record labels. The demise of the large canvas vinyl provided surely contributed to it, but artists don’t do themselves any favors when their album sleeves are skimpy, lacking lyrics, commentary, or art. The album sleeve is an extension of the music and a deeper look into the artists’ mind and motives.

Considering the infrequency that most consumers buy an album from Best Buy or Wal-Mart, it would behoove record companies to make that the best possible experience for the buyer. And for heaven’s sake, put the lyrics in there. We’re all sick of exiting out of ringtone ads just to look up lyrics that are only half right on some sketchy website.

Thoughtful and engaging album packaging won’t save the hemorrhaging record industry, but it might slow the bleeding.