Ah, who doesn’t love a good ‘come-up’ story? Schoolboy Q has reason to celebrate as his third LP Oxymoron takes over the no. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. Apparently, them “Collard Greens” were pretty potent, as 139,000 people decided to add Oxymoron to their music collection. 139,000 copies isn’t the ‘end all be all’ in regards to album sales, but its definitely sound for what could be considered an up-and-comer, even three albums into a rap career. Compared to his colleague Kendrick Lamar, the numbers are less favorable (Good Kid M.A.A.D. City missed the top spot, but sold 241,000 copies), though Kendrick also had bigger buzz surrounding him at the time, not to mention the fourth quarter to propel him.
Schoolboy Q fended off that feisty Frozen Soundtrack, which continues to put up respectable numbers. This week, the magic number for the runner up was 91,000, which according to billboard.com was an increase from the previous week. Frozen kept another new release and veteran, Beck from the runner-up spot. Beck settles for no. 3 with 87,000 copies sold of Morning Phase, his first album in six years. Even though Beck couldn’t match a previous high watermark – a no. 2 peak for 2005 effort Guero – or its robust 162,000 copies start, he managed to outperform prognostications.
Surprise albums seem to be all the rage these days, with Kid Cudi’s oddball Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon fitting right into the trend. Kid Cudi doesn’t quite have the Beyoncé effect, but does debut at no. 4 with 87,000 copies. Compared to last year’s slightly more accessible Indicud, the numbers are down for the left-field rapper. In fact, Satellite Flight is Cudi’s lowest debuting album as of yet. The next closest in terms of his discography was his debut, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, which sold 104,000 good for a no. 4 bow. Previous album Indicud debuted at no. 2 selling 136,000 copies. Indicud was a drop-off itself, specifically from Cudi’s sophomore album, Man on the Moon: The Legend of Mr. Rager, which debuted at no. 3, but sold 169,000 copies. Is Scott Mescudi just too odd for sustainable commercial success? Perhaps.
Keeping things close (and new), Romeo Santos debuts at no. 5 with Formula: Vol. 2. Formula sold 85,000 copies, awesome numbers for a Latin album. Dierks Bentley didn’t quite get in on the “80s” action (80K that is), but Riser did debut at no. 6 with 63,000 copies. 63,000 copies doesn’t have much of a ceiling itself, but Bentley isn’t exactly country’s most consistent selling male artist. Still, 63,000 copies isn’t too shabby. The Fray would’ve enjoyed being even remotely close to 63K; they settle for a no. 8 bow and 37,000 copies sold of Helios. Seems like the popularity of “Over My Head (Cable Car)” hasn’t translated to the band’s more recent efforts. Other than Frozen, the only holdovers are Eric Church (The Outsiders), Now 49, and Beyoncé (Beyoncé). Good sales week – finally!
Pharrell Williams goes into next week’s chart with the momentum of retaining no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Happy“). Pharrell’s second solo album GIRL is one of the competitive albums fighting for the top two spots on next week’s chart. Second solo album you ask? Well ole boy released In My Mind a couple of years back and snagged a Grammy-nomination for the LP. Rick Ross should have no. 1 locked up as he releases his sixth LP, Mastermind. With the exception of Ross’ best LP (in my opinion), Teflon Don, Ross has locked down no. 1 four previous times. Lea Michele wishes she could muster up the numbers expected from Ross or Williams, but according to Billboard prognostications, she won’t come close. And as for Eli Young Band, well 10,000 Towns is far behind. I won’t even mention Ashanti’s Brave Heart – it doesn’t have a shot.
Oh and going back to the Billboard Hot 100, what about my homeboy John Legend breaking into that top four (last week I believe)? Who would’ve thought that “All Of Me”, an old school, piano-driven ballad would be a hit in 2014? It remains at no. 4 this week according to Billboard. Rock on John, rock on!
The Frozen Soundtrack is sort of like winter itself – it just don’t stop! Once more, Frozen finds itself atop the Billboard 200 Albums Chart selling 89,000 copies. It is surprising that Frozen was able to rise to the top once more, particularly after Eric Church blew the competition out of the water with last weeks no. 1 debuting The Outsiders, which had sold 288,000 copies. This week, Church takes a step back to no. 2 with only 74,000 copies sold… yuck! Country newbie Cole Swindell debuts respectably with 63,000 copies of Cole Swindell, good for a no. 3 bow. Issues – an up and coming rock band – lands at no. 9 with Issues, selling 22,000 copies. Notice Candice Glover misses the top 10 with debut album Music Speaks. What a shame. Also no signs of Phantogram‘s Voices.
By the way, the “Dark Horse” has been dethroned… Pharrell Williams takes the incredibly fun “Happy” to no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. First he “got lucky” at no. 2 and now he’s incredibly “happy” at no. 1. Top spot baby! Who’s got next on next week’s charts? Beck (Morning Phase), St. Vincent (St. Vincent), and Schoolboy Q (Oxymoron) are all strong candidates. Where they will land, well only time will tell.
February 25, 2014 is filled with a number of notable new music releases. Last week had some notable albums released from Cole Swindell, Candice Glover, and Lost in the Trees amongst them, but only Cole Swindell looks to have a bit of momentum behind it. Bummer. Maybe better luck this week; the likes of Beck, Dierks Bentley, and The Fray are on deck.
It has been a minute since Beck’s last album, six years to be exact! 2008 effort Modern Guilt was a collaboration with ubiquitous production wizard Danger Mouse (Brian Burton). After such a long layoff though, Beck returns with Morning Phase led by single “Blue Moon”.
Singer/Songwriter Annie Clark, better known as St. Vincent, releases her fifth studio album, simply titled St. Vincent. St. Vincent follows up the singer/songwriter’s previous release, 2012 effort Love This Giant, a collaborative album with David Bryne. St. Vincent rides solo this go-round. Also worth noting is that St. Vincent is being released on Republic Records; this is the artist’s first major-label release.
2014 has definitely seen numerous releases from country male artists. Not wanting to feel left out, Dierks Bentley follows up his 2012 effort Home with Riser. Riser is led by promo single “I Hold On”. Early single “Bourbon in Kentucky” (from summer 2013) has long been available, and serves as the set’s opener.
Another Long Night Out
What better way to celebrate a debut album than to rerecord it and make some musical changes? Brian Culbertson does just that on Another Long Night Out, a re-recorded edition of Culbertson’s 1994 album, Long Night Out. While reinterpretations and re-recording can be iffy sometimes, having personally reviewed Another Long Night Out, I can attest to its excellence and high level of musicianship.
The Fray returns with its fourth studio album, Helios. Helios is the follow-up to 2012 effort Scars and Stories. “Hurricane” is the current single from Helios (January 2014). A previous single, “Love Don’t Die” materialized back in October 2013.
Formula Vol. 2
Romeo Santos is one of the hotter names in Latin Music as of late. His 2011 debut, Formula, Vol.1, debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. 2014 ushers in the release of its follow-up, Formula, Vol. 2. In between both releases, Santos also released a live effort entitled The King Stays King: Sold Out at Madison Square Garden.
Oxymoron should be one of the most anticipated rap releases of 2014. Whether it really is or not, well only the numbers will tell. But Schoolboy Q built some momentum back in 2013 when he and Kendrick Lamar delivered a joint entitled Collard Greens. Also judging by the strengths of his collaborations in the past, Oxymoron is probably and album that likely shouldn’t be slept on.
Live Through It
Gospel music often does get much love where reviewing is concerned, but I still appreciate a good inspirational, uplifting affair. Live Through It comes courtesy of gospel standout James Fortune. Fortune’s breakthrough album came out in 2012, when Identity debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. Keep in mind, gospel albums rarely crack the top ten, unless you are Kirk Franklin, or Tye Tribbett and Marvin Sapp as of late.
Mehliana: Taming The Dragon
Brad Mehldau & Mark Guiliana
Where jazz pianists are concerned, Brad Mehldau is one of today’s best. Mark Guiliana is an electronic artist…electro-jazz is part of that mix. The two combine for what should be quite an interesting listen…
This isn’t an anticipated release per se, but does anybody remember Neneh Cherry’s 1989 album Raw Like Sushi? Cherry had released her first album in 16 years when 2012 effort The Cherry Thing came about. Blank Project serves as the follow-up.
Let the “Church” say yes… Corny, I know. But one of country’s rising stars, Eric Church, just continues to rise. The Outsiders gives Church his second no. 1 album, selling a healthy 288,000 copies. Sub 100K weeks are done, at least this week. How does The Outsiders’ numbers compare to the numbers that greeted Chief? Well ole boy “Doubled Up”… or nearly doubled up (145,000 copies). In a slow weak for new releases, well, Church was the bright spot. Compilations continue to do soundly though, as Frozen Soundtrack sold another 100,000 (no. 2) and Now 49 sold 77,000 copies after a no. 1 debut. From there, the numbers are only so-so. What is notable, however, is that Toni Braxton & Babyface only see a small drop in sales of Love Marriage & Divorce (it is no. 8 this week). Go figure.
On The Billboard Hot 100, Katy Perry continues to rule the roost with some help from Juicy J on “Dark Horse”. However, being “Happy” definitely helps Pharrell Williams, who’s Academy Award nominated hit sits at no. 2.
As for next week’s chart impact from new releases, Candice Glover, the American Idol season 12 victor, released her debut album Music Speaks. Unfortunately, with little fanfare behind the album, who knows how well it will sale. Otherwise, unless Cole Swindell is incredibly established as a new country force, sales might underwhelm.
Ah, another week and the necessity for new music. February has been a slow month, particularly last week’s scant choice of releases. The three most notable releases last week included two country music artists Eric Church (The Outsiders) and Frankie Ballard (Sunshine & Whiskey), as well as a more underrated R&B release from British singer Daley (Days & Nights). This week isn’t exactly stacked, but there are seven new releases worthy of your consideration, particularly if the music collection is becoming a bit uninspired!
After much delay, American Idol season 12 victor Candice Glover drops her debut album Music Speaks, led by single “Cried”. Unfortunately, season 12 could be described as a ‘bust’ (at least in my eyes), so there isn’t a great amount of buzz surrounding this album. Still, Glover possessed a powerful voice; don’t sleep on it!
My sole experience with indie-pop duo Phantogram (Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel) involves a Flaming Lips song called “You Lust” in which the duo guests. If their work on that track is an accurate preview, sophomore album Voices – their first album in five years – could be something special. On their official Facebook page, Phantogram’s music is described as “a mix of organic and electronic sounds, with swirling guitar, spaced out synths, and chopped up samples and rhythms.” Sounds right up my alley!
One of my flaws as a music journalist as of late has been not giving enough love to country music – shame on me! I missed an opportunity with the release of Eric Church’s The Outsiders last week, the biggest music release last week, as well as Frankie Ballard’s Sunshine & Whiskey, but I’ll make sure I give Cole Swindell some press. Why – well he’s a newbie. It is always difficult to breakthrough, particularly in the crowded market of country male singers. Think about it folks, how many new country male artists have come and tried to dint the charts? Additionally, there seem to be fewer country female artists lately for whatever reason. Regardless, Cole is the latest artist looking for a breakthrough.
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Half the City
Single Lock Records
Don’t let folks tell you that soul is dead – it ain’t. St. Paul & The Broken Bones, a Birmingham, Alabama based sextet, releases their soulful debut, Half The City on Tuesday. There is a distinct difference between soul and contemporary R&B; his band is about the authenticity of soul. Kudos St. Paul, kudos.
In recent times, rapper Talib Kweli hasn’t exactly lit up the charts (2007’s Eardrum Warner Bros. album did manage a no. 2 bow on the Billboard 200), but he keeps on releasing albums. This year, following 2013’s Prisoner of Consciousness, TK releases Gravitas. With a shortage of rap in 2013 – until the big-time Schoolboy Q release on February 25th – TK might just be the album to tide rap fans over.
City Heart Southern Soul
Underrated as albeit, Noel Gourdin quietly releases his third album, City Heart Southern Soul via Shanachie Records. Gourdin’s previous efforts came courtesy of two different labels – major label Epic and indie powerhouse eOne. Gourdin is no household name and likely will never achieve such status, but having personally reviewed his previous two LPs, I can attest to the fact that Gourdin is no slouch. The man can sing! Don’t sleep on him either!
Lost in the Trees
Who exactly is Lost in the Trees? Lost in the Trees is an indie-rock/pop group led by Ari Picker. The group’s 2012 LP A Church That Fits Our Needs was an exceptional album that tackled the topic of Picker’s mother’s suicide. Sure it had its sad moments given the heavy topic, but it was masterfully done. One of the year’s most underrated and overlooked albums, A Church That Fits Our Needs truly showed off Lost in the Trees’ musicianship and incredible potential, blending sound compositional technique and exceptional lyricism. 2014 effort Past Life certainly has a tough act to follow, but it’s definitely worth checking out to see what this creative collective comes up with.
From one compilation to another, Now 49 debuts at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. In yet another sub 100,000 copies week, Now 49 sells 98,000 copies. Frozen doesn’t fall too far from grace – it is no. 2 and managed to sell another 88,000 copies. The big news on the charts is how much of an impact the Super Bowl had on Bruno Mars, who’s Unorthodox Jukebox returns to the top 3, with 81,000 copies sold. While his compilation contemporaries may not have near the bragging rights given their numbers, Mars should be proud. Unorthodox Jukebox was released in December 2012 and in February 2014 has managed to re-enter the top echelon of the charts. Now that’s swag.
Now 49 wasn’t the only debut. Toni Braxton & Babyface surprisingly outperform as Love Marriage & Divorce sells 67,000 copies, goo for a bow at no. 4. Sure 67,000 copies still doesn’t leave the duo a great ceiling, but it’s respectable given the status of R&B these days… well save for ‘Yoncé. Broken Bells land at no. 5 with their sophomore album, After The Disco. 44,000 copies isn’t too shabby considering Broken Bells isn’t exactly a household name. Lil Mix isn’t either, yet their sophomore album Salute lands at no. 6 with 43,000 copies. The numbers don’t exactly equate to prolonged success mind you, but in some regards, all four of the newbies on the chart performed better than I anticipated at least.
“Dark Horse” she’s not ladies and gentleman as Katy Perry continues to shine atop the Billboard Hot 100 with pal Juicy J. Changing gears though, as for who’s got next on the albums chart, put your money on Eric Church’s latest, The Outsiders. Church’s previous studio album, Chief debuted at no. 1. This is a relatively quiet release week.
Now 49 is an improvement over previous compilations
Various Artists • Now 49: That’s What I Call Music • UMe • US Release Date: February 4, 2014
Compilation efforts have great intentions, but also can possess their respective flaws as well. The Now Series is a superb way to give music lovers some of the biggest hits via one album. The problem with the series is often by the time some of the hits make the compilation they’ve actually faded or cooled off a bit. Part of this is the restlessness of society while part of it is the assemblers being mindful of what’s currently “hot” and what’s “not”. Now 49 serves its purpose like its colleagues, but of course there are puzzlements with the inclusion of certain songs given the timing. Ultimately though, Now 49 is an improvement over previous compilations.
Some excellent choices found on Now 49 definitely includes the opener, “Timber”, a recent number one hit performed by Pitbull and featuring Ke$ha. “Timber” fits perfectly because it is arguably the freshest song on the track list. Another excellent choices with release date being a considered is “Say Something” by A Great Big World featuring Christina Aguilera. While “Say Something” has been out a while, A Great Big World’s debut effort Is Anybody Out There? was just recently released. Additionally, the former Billboard Hot 100 top five hit has remained and only grew in popularity. Another solid choice is “Demons” by Imagine Dragons. With “Radioactive” still incredibly popular after a lengthy run, current single “Demons” seems ‘brand new’, even with album Night Visions original bowing in 2012. One could also make the argument for others, like “Unconditionally”, Katy Perry’s outgoing single before the rise of the “Dark Horse” (featuring Juicy J), or the sustained popularity of “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (Drake featuring Majid Jordan) or “Stay The Night” (Zedd featuring Hayley Williams). There are some solid tracks featured on Now 49.
As always, there are also question marks. Britney Spears’ “Work Work” (an edited version of “Work B**ch”) may have no issue given its relevance where time is concerned, but Britney Jean as a whole was a bomb. “Work” received some attention, but it certainly wouldn’t earn the honors as the pop star’s best single ever. Similarly, “TKO” by Justin Timberlake feels out of place with much bigger, more relevant hits. The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 definitely didn’t match the popularity of the original. “TKO” could’ve been axed from this set and wouldn’t have been missed. “Gorilla” by Bruno Mars is an excellent song (I didn’t think so when I first heard it over a year ago, but it grew on me), but it has ‘expired’ for this particular set. To the ear, one truly nitpicky person might even chastise the inclusion of Lady Gaga’s duet with R. Kelly, “Do What U Want”. While ARTPOP‘s best joint has only been on the Hot 100 for about 15 weeks, it’s ‘peak’ success has been finished for a couple of weeks at this point.
Ultimately though, Now 49 seems to be an improvement over the last couple of compilations. There are fewer miscues in regards to who and what is included. Now 49 is not perfect, but what compilation is? On greatest hits albums don’t the assemblers often goof somewhere? Sometimes aren’t soundtracks only so-so when listening to them outside the context of the film? Now 49 sports enough meat to please fans, particularly those who want some of their favorites for their own personal playlist.
It’s been an awesome winter for the Frozen Soundtrack, as it spends yet another week atop the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. This week, the album sold another 94,000 copies according to Billboard.com. On the one hand, it is good that there is an album that’s infusing the industry with some, well, sales. On the other hand – the more pessimistic one – yet another sub 100,000 copies week is amongst us with sales down. Still, close by Frozen is another compilation the Grammy Nominees 2014, which remains at no. 2, but surges in sales with 87,000 copies sold. Both albums post gains, which are pros, but the realist in me has an observation to make.
In years past, Grammy-award winning albums or nominees who performed have sold massive numbers to top-load the charts following the week after the Grammys. This time, a holdover soundtrack remains the album to beat, while the Grammy compilation itself outsells victorious albums. It definitely says something about the sales of albums in recent times. Personally, I don’t see record sales regaining their swagger, save for a blockbuster like Beyoncé’s Beyoncé, which sits at no. 5 this week.
But enough chitter chatter, what about the new albums – that’s what y’all came for right? Of Mice & Men bow at no. 4 with Restoring Force selling 51,000 copies. Casting Crowns’ latest, Thrive, starts at no. 6 with 43,000 copies sold. For Casting Crowns, a Christian band, these numbers are actually underwhelming considering the success the band has had in recent times. If this were any other Christian or gospel act, 43,000 copies and a number six bow would be remarkable. However, Casting Crowns has both peaked and sold more robustly in the past, namely 2007 album The Altar and The Door which debuted at no. 2 with 129,000 copies. Still, 43,000 in the current music economy is sound…I suppose.
Other than Yoncé’s small gain, Other Grammy winners saw some increases, though not like years in the past. The percentages are similar to the past, but the actual amount of sales isn’t. Those included in the gains are Lorde, Bruno Mars, Imagine Dragons, Katy Perry, and album of the year victor, Daft Punk. Daft Punk perhaps get the shortest end of the stick for an album of the year winner as Random Access Memories rose to no. 10, but only moved 31,000 copies. Sure, the French duo rose 300% in sales according to Billboard.com, but remember that’s relative to the current music economy, which is down. Herbie Hancock’s upset victory a couple of years back (over Kanye West and Amy Winehouse) scored him a top 5 album with 54,000 copies sold. Adele and Mumford & Sons, both album of the year winners, had huge surges following the Grammys. It is what it is though. At least Daft Punk and the rest of us were able to “Get Lucky” all summer long – no pun intended.
Ultimately, the Grammys’ influence makes this a busier chart week, even if the optimism is only short-lived and doesn’t match the same amount of sales of the past. Next week, among new albums arriving include Broken Bells (After The Disco), Now 49, and a duets album courtesy of Toni Braxton & Babyface (Love, Marriage & Divorce). Bruno Mars’ sales may still rise depending on how much impact his awesome Super Bowl halftime performance had beginning on Monday, the day once sales are tallied for the new week. His full gain in sales probably wouldn’t have been felt on Sunday, the day of the big game… well lopsided game.
Another year and another Grammys ceremony has come and passed. As always, there were moments that thrilled me while others made me curse under my breath. Luckily, as a music journalist, this guy has learned how to think like the Recording Academy, hence the accuracy of many of my picks this year. Still, even being correct, you have to wonder what the Academy is thinking sometimes. Yes, I’m specifically referencing the fact that Kendrick Lamar was shut out – ridiculous! But here goes nothing examining the awards given.
The Big Four:
Record, Album and Song of the Year & Best New Artist
Honestly, “Get Lucky” had been a lock for Record of the Year all summer. Even with such a tight category, “Get Lucky” felt like the strongest candidate here. Additionally, Daft Punk’s victory in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category was a lock.
Album of the Year: Random Access Memories, Daft Punk
Personally, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City would’ve been my choice for album of the year, but using Recording Academy psychology, I knew Kendrick Lamar didn’t stand a chance – NONE! So ultimately, Random Access Memories seemed the logical, safe choice for voters. It was also a great album and moved some major numbers for an electronic album. Not even Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ brand of hip-hop was going to take this one. Additionally, Daft Punk was a lock in the Best Dance/Electronica Album category.
Here, voters made the best choice in regards to impact. “Royals” was a gargantuan hit, with only “Roar” rivaling in regards to buzz. “Same Love” was a breakthrough record (same sex marriage equality, etc.), but would’ve been a stretch over the most unique record of the bunch. And as good as “Same Love” was, was it necessarily more special than P!nk’s “Just Give Me A Reason” or Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven”?
“Royals” victory in the Best Pop Performance category was also #winning; it was the most unique song/performance of the bunch.
I picked Kendrick Lamar, but honestly, I’m not too angry about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis winning this one. Still, Kendrick is the more valuable long-term artist in my eyes.