dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

US Chart Roundup: So, About Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney's "FourFiveSeconds"...


Over the past week I've been preoccupied with whipping together Chart Rigger's epic 10-year anniversary Round Table feature (not to mention the 10-year anniversary playlist), so I didn't get a chance to comment on Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney's weekend bombshell, "FourFiveSeconds." And it's probably for the best that I let several days pass before chiming in, since I thought the song sounded like alley cats fucking in a garbage can the first time I listened.

But now that I've given it a few plays (three total, really), this trash doesn't sound like a bad song. In fact, I can actually hear a throng of RiRi fans chanting the chorus of this one in unison from their seats at some stadium venue while she has a down-tempo moment on stage.



Alas, right now we're not at a Rihanna concert. We just have this song to listen to from our computers. It's not conventional, as far as bombastic lead singles from Ms. Fenty go. In fact, I feel like the last time she turned out a ballad featuring guitars for a single was "California King Bed," back in Spring 2011, but that one had a far glossier production than the stripped-back "FourFiveSeconds."

I don't know — I guess it's growing on me. There's something charming about Rihanna chirping and warbling like a newly-hatched chickadee over McCartney's minimal guitar strumming here. Kanye, on the other hand, should just never attempt to sing.

This classy trash debuts at #54 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, which is pretty impressive considering "FourFiveSeconds" was only added to iTunes last Saturday night, and the chart cut-off for the week is Sunday evening.

Anyway, two interesting things to point out:

1. Out of Rihanna's seven released studio albums so far, only two have contained lead singles that missed out on topping the Billboard Hot 100: debut album Music Of The Sun ("Pon de Replay," #2) and Rated R ("Russian Roulette, "#9).

2. This year marks a full decade of RiRi. Her very first single, "Pon de Replay," arrived in May 2005.

P.S. everyone: It's 2015, and Fall Out Boy have a Top 10 single.  

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Uptown Funk" - Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars *4 weeks*
2. "Thinking Out Loud" - Ed Sheeran
3. "Take Me To Church" - Hozier
4. "Blank Space" - Taylor Swift
5. "Shake It Off" - Taylor Swift
6. "Sugar" - Maroon 5
7. "Lips Are Movin" - Meghan Trainor
8. "I'm Not The Only One" - Sam Smith
9. "Jealous" - Nick Jonas
10. "Centuries" - Fall Out Boy

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chart Rigger's 10-Year Anniversary Round Table: 15 Writers On How Blogging Changed Music Consumption & Created A Community (+ What The Hell Ever Happened To Pop Poster Girl?)

Ten years. How do you sum that up, and do so eloquently? Well, eleganza has never been my forte.

This space on the Internet sparked into being a decade ago (on January 22, 2005) in Los Angeles, after I was driving home in the evening from my job at Instinct Magazine and had the notion to create a forum to talk about pop music in everyday, Average Joe speak — none of this referring to my singular self as "we," calling my fucking couch "Chart Rigger HQ" or acting like a pompous know-it-all. Reading sites that employed that type of lingo always made me want to power-drill my dick to a tree.

I stopped at a Ralph's grocery store on the way home that evening, and, by the time I hit the parking lot to leave, decided that I'd head straigiht back to my apartment and create a blog. The name "Chart Rigger" just popped into my head as I climbed into my car.

One thing I remember clearly from very early on, once I had a fair amount of posts up here, is e-mailing a nice British girl named Jessica and asking her to pretty-please include Chart Rigger in the list of "ace pop blogs" on her own site, Dirrrty Pop. She did so, and I have never forgotten it. The second week of January 2006, local L.A. publication Frontiers included Chart Rigger in its list of "11 Essential Gay Blogs" (thanks, Alex!). Sometime also in early 2006, another blogger out of the UK named Paul Reynolds (then doing The Zapping) and a guy out of Washington D.C. named Stephen Sears (The Middle Eight) began commenting here regularly.

Through Paul and Stephen's own sites, I began to interact with an array of commentators possessing the same nerdy passion for pop. Music was all of our common ground in those days before Twitter, Facebook an Instagram. As the years have rolled by, I've even met several of these once-faceless online entities in person here and there, in cities far and wide. Hell, I work side-by-side with two of them today at Idolator, while a few others are in my pool of freelancers.

And then there's one of my very best friends for the past 20 years, John Hamilton (you know him as Moogaboo) — I've dragged the poor guy over to Chart Rigger to take part in countless gems such as Madonna: Banterview With The Vampyre, best lists, worst lists and even our infamous Hillary Clinton Mixtape. For that he deserves to be sainted.

So this brings us back to the original question: How exactly do you sum up ten years? In this case, I'm doing so with a little help from my friends.

To commemorate this classy milestone, I asked the below online personalities, all of whom I first connected with a decade or nearly a decade ago (save for John...see above), to give their unfiltered answers to a short set of specific questions. Some of them have gone on to actually work in the music business since the previous decade, or pursue writing professionally, or seek out an entirely different path altogether. But they are people I myself, and maybe you, remember as the champions of good pop in a thing that, not so long ago, was called the "blogosphere."

In alphabetical order:

Adem Ali (Audio Out, @AdemWithAnE)
Bobby Pop (Don't Stop The Pop, @Bobbypop)
Bradley Stern (MuuMuse / Idolator, @MuuMuse)
Dan Cullinan (This Man's World, @dancpharmd)
Jason Brady (Olga Loves Yuri, @olgalovesyuri)
Jessica Poptastic (This Must Be Pop, @Poptastic
John Hamilton (Chart Rigger, @foreverhamilton)
John Hill (Pop Music Notes, @ConstantLearnin)
Mike Sturm (Mobius News Blog, @SAWPWL
Mike Wass (Pop Trash Addicts / Idolator, @mikewassmusic)
Paul Reynolds (My Fizzy Pop, @myfizzypop)
Phil Robinson (Worrapolava, @phileastend)
Richard Chapman (RichardPchapman.com, @richardpchapman)
Stephen Sears (The Middle Eight, @xolondon) 

...and, of course, yours truly: Robbie Daw (Chart Rigger / Idolator, @chartrigger)

So pull up a chair, pour a glass (or, if you're like me on any given night, the entire bottle) and settle in for  Chart Rigger's 10-Year Anniversary Round Table!
Read more »

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shayne Ward's 'Closer': See The Tracklist For The Mike Stock-Produced Album

In case you've not been paying attention to the goings-on with Closer, the upcoming fourth studio album by one of pop's hottest pieces of tail Shayne Ward, here's a quick catch-up: The album has been entirely produced by pop luminary Mike Stock, onetime member of former British hit-making production trio Stock Aitken Waterman, and is being funded via PledgeMusic. That said, not only has the goal for Closer been met, Shayne's fans keep pouring in cash and now the whole damn thing is at 171%!

While Ward's album was originally due out in February, the release date got pushed late last year to April 13. Kind of a downer, but here's some good news: Over the past 10 days, one song title at a time was revealed. Yesterday brought the final one, so here now is the full tracklist:

1. Moving Target
2. My Heart Would Take You Back
3. I Never Said
4. The Way You Were
5. Too Much To Lose
6. Crying, Lying Eyes
7. I'm So Proud Of You
8. Make It Simple
9. Fake
10. I Let You Get Away

Given the Mike Stock connection, there may be speculation among PWL fanatics that "I'm So Proud Of You" is a cover of "So Proud Of You," a 1991 dance-pop number by former Yell! member Paul Varney that was produced by SAW.



I'll go out on a limb and predict that it's not — I mean, it's a great early '90s sugary house jam, but "So Proud Of You" flopped spectacularly upon release (only making it to #105 on the UK singles chart).

Also, there are only so many phrases to be used in song titles and lyrics. Just ask Kylie, who seems content to reuse "Love At First Sight" and "Right Here, Right Now" over and over again.

Hey-o, look at that — two more SAW references for you, kiddos!

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Chart Rigger 10-Year Anniversary Playlist: 20 Best Pop Singles From 2005 To 2014

Good god, somehow this ultra-classy corner of the Internet called Chart Rigger has been online for 10 years, as of yesterday (January 22). It's hard to fathom that I've been typing this trash out for a full decade (or that you've been reading it), and I actually have a lot more to say on the subject — there's a very special, somewhat large project I have coming, possibly tomorrow, possibly on Monday, to commemorate the occasion.

But until then, I thought I'd share the below anniversary playlist of 20 songs I whipped up on Spotify. It's actually all of mine and Moogaboo's picks for the #1 and #2 best singles of the year from our annual list each December, beginning with the top two choices in 2005 (#1 being Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and #2 being — wait for it — Kelly Osbourne's "One Word") up through 2014 (#1 was Clean Bandit's "Rather Be" and #2 was Nick Jonas' "Jealous").



I think these 20 songs actually make for a nice soundtrack to the past decade. I hope you enjoy!

And thanks again so much for reading my twisted takes on pop each day over the past 10 years. Like I said, there's a special feature I'm putting together for the occasion, so stay tuned!

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Jess Glynne's "Hold My Hand" Deserves To Be A Big Hit

It feels like Jess Glynne is incapable of releasing a bad song at this point. Her collaborative Clean Bandit smash "Rather Be" topped Chart Rigger's 10 Best Pop Singles Of 2014 list in December, and "My Love," Glynne's pair-up with Route 94, also made it into the same roundup. And let's not forget her follow-up showing on Clean Bandit's "Real Love," which made it to #2 on the UK chart late last year, or Jess' own debut single "Right Here," produced by Gorgon City.

Following up with all of that, Glynne's second proper single outside of all the features is "Hold My Hand," and solid house-pop number that instantly feels like a hit. It's a bit more pop than house, but there's a nice balance of both here.



"Hold My Hand" has a release date of March 23.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

US Chart Roundup: Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do" Enters The Top 40 & Now There's A Video

Do we care at all about Kelly Clarkson's new, Jimmy Eat World-ripping single "Heartbeat Song"? It's a question I'm still trying to answer for myself. I heard it on the radio when I was at Midtown Comics on Monday, and I guess it sounded okay in that context — background noise in a store full of geeks. But at the end of the day, "Heartbeat Song" is no "My Life Would Suck Without You"...or even "Catch My Breath," for that matter.

At any rate, Kelly's latest debuts this week at #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. Top debut honors go to Maroon 5, whose third V single "Sugar" goes straight in at #8. To be honest, living in a world where Maroon 5 have had eight consecutive Top 10 hits (and 11 overall) makes me want to jam a 12-guage flare gun in my mouth and pull the trigger.



Naturally, this brings us to Ellie Goulding and "Love Me Like You Do," her contribution to the Shit Sex Book, Even Shittier Movie soundtrack. (In some circles, that trash is referred to as Fifty Shades Of Grey.) The song jumps into the Top 40, at #36, and now there's a music video for us all to Barbie Doll-leg ourselves to.

I like this song. It's maybe what Kelly Clarkson should have aimed for this time around. But she chose to work with Greg Kurstin and Kara DioGuardi and Ellie went with Max Martin. So there you have it.

The U.S. Top 10:

1. "Uptown Funk" - Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars *3 weeks*
2. "Thinking Out Loud" - Ed Sheeran
3. "Blank Space" - Taylor Swift
4. "Take Me To Church" - Hozier
5. "Shake It Off" - Taylor Swift
6. "Lips Are Movin" - Meghan Trainor
7. "I'm Not The Only One" - Sam Smith
8. "Sugar" - Maroon 5 *new*
9. "Jealous" - Nick Jonas
10. "All About That Bass" - Meghan Trainor

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HBO's 'Looking' Is Just A Bad Show, But...

So my January-to-March TV watching includes Looking, which is a really, really bland show that I sometimes feel is more about nothing than Seinfeld ever was, but it somehow, at the last minute each week, manages to show some stylistic flourish — maybe it's a music choice, or the set design, or the credit treatment — that makes me think, Well, okay — I'll tune in to this trash just one more time.

Anyway, this past week's episode, the second one of the second season, had a whole bit where the Russell Tovey character (Kevin) confessed to Jonathan Groff's character (Patrick) that he had a crush on Take That whilst while growing up.



There's even a whole self-aware exchange about how the boy band weren't so big here in the States. Later, Patrick sheds his embarrassment and shows Kevin his tweenage Take That "Do What U Like" dance.

Here's Take That's "Do What U Like" video — the uncensored one where they wear a bunch of leather and then get mops jammed up their naked butts after rubbing whipped cream all over themselves.



Looking showrunner Andrew Haigh also did the infinitely more watchable 2010 flick Weekend.


By the way, the final moments of this past week's Looking episode also had Pet Shop Boys' "Thursday" playing in the background.



See what I mean? It's those last minute hooks that keep you coming back...

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My Ella Henderson Interview

As the headline suggests, I interviewed "Ghost" singer Ella Henderson (back in December), and our full chat was published last week right here.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's Giorgio Moroder & Kylie Minogue's "Right Here, Right Now"!

For the record, Giorgio Moroder and Kylie Minogue's "Right Here, Right Now," the first song we've heard from iconic dance music producer Giorgio's upcoming 74 Is The New 24 album (out in the spring from RCA), is a jam.



No, it's not going to change the pop game. But the song is bright and breezy house-disco that's charming enough to warm even the coldest of hearts in the winter time. Awww.

ALSO for the record, "Right Here, Right Now" has nothing to do with Kylie's same-titled album track off her 1991 Rhythm Of Love LP — but that is a damn fine jam, too.



Giorgio and Kylie's "Right Here, Right Now" is available now on US iTunes.

If you're interested, you can read my interview with Moroder from two years ago here, and my interview with Minogue from last February here.

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The Guy In Jimmy Napes' "Give It Up" Video Is Hot, But Where's Jimmy Napes?

You may recall me recently rambling about the proper outing as a pop star for Jimmy Napes, the British songwriter behind Disclosure's "Latch," Sam Smith's "I'm Not The Only One" and Clean Bandit's "Rather Be." His song "Give It Up" previews his upcoming EP, and now we have a music video for the funky track (which is produced by Howard from Disclosure).



The visual itself isn't really what I was expecting — it's one of these "artist is nowhere to be seen" affairs that tells the story of some random guy (pictured above) who has a drug addiction, is spiralling out of control, etc. etc. How very Sia of Jimmy.

At the very least, the guy has a nice mouth. And the track is still pretty rad.

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