Top 25 Pop Songs of 2011

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

2011 didn’t turn out like it was supposed to.

It was supposed to be the year that the electro-Europop ushered in by Lady Gaga completed its rise to total airwave domination. It was supposed to be the year hip-hop gave up trying to be as relevant as it was in the ’00s. It was supposed to be the year rock staged a comeback. But none of those things happened.

Steve Jobs iTunes Apple Billboard Hot 100 Rihanna

How Apple Changed Music and Steve Jobs Made Rihanna (and the Cast of Glee and Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift, etc.) a Record-Breaking Star

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Apple marked the passing of its co-founder and former chief executive Steve Jobs Wednesday, calling him “a visionary and creative genius.” In the coming weeks, much will be said of Jobs and how he revolutionized the  way we live. Evidence of his impact can be found in pockets carrying app-filled iPhones, DVD collections sprinkled with Pixar films and of course, the Billboard Hot 100.

Before the launch of the iTunes digital store in 2003, the record industry was facing the unprecedented threat of online piracy. Consumers were freed from forking over $15 for an album with one hit song and a tracklist full of filler by file sharing services such as Napster. Suddenly, an industry that had made record profits in the late ’90s with this model (think Chumbawamba, Eiffel 65, Natalie Imbruglia, etc.) scrambled to restore revenue by resorting to lawsuits.


Do hit singles sell records? Conflicting messages from a recently released rapper on fire and a British soul singer on a roll

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Adele scores her second No. 1 this week as the heartfelt “Someone Like You” bounds 19-1, but her triumph has been nearly drowned out by news that Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV sold an impressive 964,000 copies in its opening week. The record industry has been used to bad news and declining record sales for a decade now, but this week represents a major bright spot.

Weezy’s sales figures are astonishing. Sure, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way might have outsold Tha Carter IV when it topped a million in its first week earlier this year, but Lil Wayne didn’t have the benefit of Amazon hawking digital copies of his album for 99 cents. He also didn’t have the benefit of a blockbuster hit single piquing public interest which raises some interesting questions. Just how important is a monster single to spurring album sales?

In 2008, Weezy sold over a million copies of Tha Carter III in its first week, a feat aided by his first No. 1 single, “Lollipop” feat. Static Major. This time around, Lil Wayne might have plenty of hits on his hands, just not one as big.

MTV Europe Music Awards 2004 - Show

Who needs the VMAs anyways? Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera go No. 1

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Cultural commentators frequently discuss the death of the monoculture in the digital age – the loss of shared cultural artifacts that span regions and generations. When Americans only had a few black and white channels to chose from, it was easier for them to experience the same cultural phenomena at the same time.

No matter how many YouTube views Justin Bieber gets, it’s not the same as a nation transfixed by Elvis’ swivelling hips on the Steve Allen Show in 1956 or overwhelmed by Beatlemania when the band performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963. Today, there are precious few events (the Superbowl, a high profile presidential debate, maybe the finale of American Idol during its heyday) that can bring us together that way.

While the fragmentation of culture makes it impossible to have another Elvis or Beatles or Michael Jackson, MTV proved the monoculture isn’t as dead as we thought Sunday when they attracted a record 12.4 million viewers for the annual Video Music Awards. And America didn’t just watch – they talked about it too. VMA commentary dominated Twitter trending topics. Beyonce and Jay-Z’s baby announcement broke a Twitter record with 8,868 tweets a second being sent out about Beyonce’s baby bump.


Perry’s "Friday" crashes "Party," ties record

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

It’s been a few days since Billboard announced the big news. Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream has tied Michael Jackson’s Bad for an album to launch the most No. 1 singles on the Hot 100. Since then, I’ve experienced shock, denial and pain. Hopefully now I’ve party rocked through the stages of guilt and can begin accepting the fact that the I Kissed a California Gurl [sic] girl has rewritten the Billboard record books.

This week, Perry’s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” overtook LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” for the No. 1 spot, giving Teenage Dream a fifth No. 1 single. It is the first time a female artist has managed the feat and the first time since Jackson pulled it off the summer of 1988.

When Billboard announced Perry’s historic achievement, she promptly took to Twitter to celebrate her “little-engine-that-could of a song” for finally going No. 1, and it’s a miracle that it did. After being stuck behind LMFAO’s summer conquering jam for three straight weeks, it seemed like the window of opportunity was quickly closing for Perry. So obviously, Capitol Records pulled out all the stops.


Help us LMFAO, you’re our only hope

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Twenty-three summers ago, a song by a rising pop act reached the summit of the Hot 100 before being steamrolled by one of the biggest recording artists of the decades achieving an unrivaled chart feat. The song was “Foolish Beat” by Debbie Gibson, and the steamrolling superstar was Michael Jackson whose “Dirty Diana” became the fifth No. 1 from his Bad album. A handful of albums have pulled off four chart toppers, but for more than two decades, Bad has been the sole album with a quintet of No. 1s. That could all change next week, however.

This summer, the foolish beat is “Party Rock Anthem” by rising pop act LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock. Katy Perry takes the role of pop juggernaut. Singles from her Teenage Dream album have been unstoppable in their march to No. 1. Last summer, she began her assault with “California Gurls [sic]” featuring Snoop Dogg followed by “Teenage Dream,” “Firework” and “E.T.” featuring Kanye West.


The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll in 25 Songs: Elvis Presley – "Hound Dog"

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 third song, Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” tells the story of rock ‘n’ roll getting it’s first true star who revolutionized rock forever.


Jimmy Eat World’s "Bleed American" turns 10

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

To say Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American is the soundtrack of my youth is an understatement. I’ve spun that disc – which turns 10-years-old this week – more than any other. Growing up Mormon in Gilbert, Arizona, it’s to be expected. Down there, Jimmy Eat World is bigger than the Beatles, at least in the crowds I ran with. Everyone loves them and everyone is familiar with each of the 11 songs on their breakthrough record like they were all smash hit singles.

I blasted “Sweetness” before every track cross country and track race I ran. I replayed the guitar riff in “Get It Faster” every time I listened to it and plucked it out on the piano regularly. I played “Hear You Me” the day a friend died. To this day, my brother and I play Jimmy Eat World at the end of the 11-hour car ride from Provo, Utah to Gilbert.

The album’s biggest hit, “The Middle,” was never among my favorite tracks from the album, mostly due to its radio saturation, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that all I need to know, I learned from that  song. Lessons like “don’t write yourself off yet,” “it’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on” and “you’re doing better on your own, so don’t buy in” are the type of pep talk lyrics we all occasionally need when things are rough. And in the “It Gets Better” era where pop stars are constantly reminding us we were “born this way,” Jimmy Eat World’s music video for the song featuring  a scantily clad house party where two dressed teens find each other and leave seems to portray the message of not trying to fit in better than Gaga’s most sincere pleas.


Lady Gaga Joins the Seven Figure Club

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

New York City subways were plastered in Lady Gaga images, one of the many tactics Interscope used in their mammoth promotional push for her album “Born This Way,” the 17th album to sell more than a million copies in a week.

The numbers are in, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way is the 17th album to sell more than a million copies in a week. Surprisingly, Born This Way is Gaga’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 album chart, and with the official tally at 1,110,420, it earns the distinction of shifting more copies in a week than any album since 50 Cent’s The Massacre in 2005, and more than any female artist since Britney Spears’ Oops!…I Did It Again in 2000.

As record sales tumble year after year, first week sales in the seven figures have become increasingly rare. Taylor Swift did it last year with Speak Now, but when you consider ten albums managed to sell more than a million during the first half of the ’00s (five of them in 2000 alone) while from 2005-2009, only two did, the decline of album sales is apparent.


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.