Monthly Archives: December 2010

SURPRISE (POP) COMEBACKS OF 2010

Four artists I thought would never have another top 40 hit this year, well, did. At the end of 2009, I highly doubt anyone predicted Enrique, Nelly, Train and Shontelle would have big pop hits this year. If anything, this proves the power of a good song. Enrique, Nelly and Train were dead to pop radio for the last half of the decade and Shontelle seemed destined to be a one hit wonder. Although Enrique jumped on the electropop bandwagon with “I Like It,” (his first hit post mole-removal) Nelly, Train and Shontelle scored hits without conforming to the “in” sound OR featuring the hottest rent-a-rapper of the moment.

“Just a Dream” is classic mid-tempo Nelly–a catchy song with a sing-a-long chorus that tows the line between rap, R&B and pop. Train cooked up a surprise hit with “Hey, Soul Sister,” a funky, acoustic pop song with quirky lyrics. Last but not least, Shontelle, who seemed destined for “T-Shirt” fame, actually took a ballad (what’s that?) to the top 10 with “Impossible”–during the summer, nonetheless.

For these artists to score another hit, they have to continue to play to their strengths. So far, Enrique is the only who seems on track to score a follow-up hit. “Tonight (I’m Loving You)” is the perfect follow-up to “I Like It” and follows the exact same recipe that put him back on pop radio in the year 2010–catchy, dance pop that would sound perfect on “Jersey Shore.” Even though this song isn’t on his album, someone had enough sense to get him back in the studio. While a re-release is inevitable, his label/management had the right idea. They knew nothing else on the album would fly and if the follow-up to “I Like It” flopped, it would have been difficult (if not impossible) to regain his footing on pop radio. While I thought Shontelle’s “Perfect Nightmare” and Train’s “If It’s Love” were decent (although not nearly as strong as the songs that preceded them) follow-ups, radio didn’t quite take to them. These artists, who are treading on thin ice as it is, need to release equally as good if not better songs than the ones that landed back on radio. If not, pop radio will just give something by one of their core artists–Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady GaGa–another spin.

So, who will hit it big in 2011 with a surprise hit? Will Kat DeLuna finally be upgraded from one hit wonder status? Or will Jennifer Lopez finally score another hit? Maybe we’ll hear from Blink-182 or Ludacris again? Who knows, but here’s some advice: stick to what you do best and actually create a catchy song. Hey, it worked for these four last year!

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RIHANNA BRINGS IT ON THE X FACTOR

I love when artists make the most of a great promotional opportunity. Rihanna gave impressive performances of both “Only Girl (In the World)” and “What’s My Name” this season on The X Factor–a show that can make or break you in the UK. It’s certainly “made” Rihanna–she had three songs in the top 10 on iTunes after her performance this weekend (“What’s My Name,” “Only Girl (In the World),” and “Who’s That Chick”) and her album is now #1. Rihanna has really become a proper popstar over the past few months, with both her voice and stage presence improving. Her tour this year must have really made a difference, because she wasn’t even performing at this level a year ago. Check out her performance of “What’s My Name” (which includes stripping, a dance break and pyrotechnics–three prerequisites for a great performance) below:

Not to take away from her performance, but her legs may have sold a few of those downloads, too.

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BACK TO THE 90s

While I’m obviously a big fan of pop music and the electro/dance/pop fusion taking over top 40 radio at the moment, I’m getting ready to hear something a little different in 2011. While I think electropop and auto-tune will continue to be staples for the next few years, as with any trend, they come and go.

Usually after one genre or sound takes over for awhile, we are inundated with something completely different in its aftermath. The last time pop took over in the late 90s and early 2000s, more hip-hop and R&B (Ashanti, Ja Rule) and pop/rock (Nickelback, Avril Lavigne) records followed. Now, these sounds are few and far between on top 40 with another pop explosion underway.

While I’m certainly not ready for pop music to make a quick exit from radio, I’d like to see some more songs like these in the future:

“Kiss Me” Sixpence None the Richer

“Crush” Jennifer Paige

“I Love You Always Forever” Donna Lewis

“Love Fool” The Cardigans

You get the idea–sounds that were very popular in the mid-90s between the alternative/grunge era and the explosion of bubblegum pop. I’d love to see some of these singer-songwriter style songs make a comeback, with the use of real instruments and voices not auto-tuned beyond recognition.

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FIRST QUARTER CATFIGHT

So far, we have first quarter releases confirmed from Britney, Lady GaGa and Avril Lavigne—all women who have dominated pop music at some point within the past decade. I’m also expecting something from Kelly Clarkson and I’m sure Beyoncé is currently in the studio writing, producing, singing and playing all the instruments on her new tracks. Here’s what I think each of them need to (and should) do in order to not get lost in the shuffle of new, female pop music.

Britney
Britney has consistently delivered catchy, bubblegum pop music for the past 12 years and that’s exactly what I’m looking for with this new album. She’s never really followed the popular radio trends and has always stayed true to her pure pop roots. I’m fine with some electro and dance influences, as long as her songs don’t sound like Ke$ha or Lady GaGa rejects (we all saw how that worked out for Christina Aguilera). Britney’s at her best delivering sexy, fun (and somewhat mindless) lyrics over a beat that you can both sing-a-long to in the car and dance to in the clubs. Britney’s not all that serious and her music shouldn’t be either.

Aside from the music, Britney needs to prove she can both competently perform (and I don’t mean actually sing, because no one cares) and give an interview where she says something more than, “Yeah, it was really cool.” That’s all I ask.

Lady GaGa
First and foremost, Lady GaGa needs to stop touting “Born This Wasy” as the second coming. Even if it is, people will be disappointed because of all the hype. Let people discover how amazing the album is, instead of dictating it to them.

I’m not worried about GaGa’a music (or promotion). For one thing, she’s smart. I don’t think she will release a total clunker—she knows what her fans want and appreciates them too much not to deliver or be selfish and deliver something only she would like. I, for one, am expecting clever, well-written pop songs with an edge that makes them “cool” enough for everyone to enjoy. I’m sure there will be some crazy videos, performances and costumes along the way, too.

Also, I’m all for the up-tempo GaGa tracks, but I’m ready for that iconic ballad from her. She can really sing and I’d like for everyone to see that without all the gimmicks. So far, all of her releases have been fast and her first single should also be up-tempo, but she needs to switch it up with the second or third release from this album.

(One pre-era complaint: She announced the title of the album and started building hype too early. She should have stuck with the original plan of announcing the album title on New Year’s Eve. It’s already “old news” and the first single hasn’t even been released. You can only keep fans excited about something for so long.)

Avril Lavigne
I don’t think I care enough about Avril Lavigne to write anything and that’s the problem. I went through an Avril Lavigne phase in 6th grade and haven’t really been all that interested since. She was marketed as the anti-Britney in the beginning, but what’s special about her now? Anyone?

In addition to a lack of redeeming qualities, I’m already getting some serious “My December” vibes from this album (the label shelved it for months). However, I would be surprised if “What the Hell,” produced by Max and Luke, isn’t a hit. Given that she was a one single wonder last time around, I don’t expect much more from this effort.

Kelly Clarkson
What happened with “All I Ever Wanted”? The era started out very promising with “My Life Would Suck Without You” and “Already Gone” was another big hit, but she couldn’t crack a million. I think Kelly and RCA need to come to a compromise—a happy medium somewhere between “My December” and “All I Ever Wanted.” The latter had too much shine and polish to create a cohesive, honest album and the former didn’t have enough. Despite Kelly’s claims that “All I Ever Wanted” was, well, all she ever wanted, the album didn’t seem authentic enough following the all too authentic “My December.” I (and I think the majority of her fans) like the gritty, emotional Kelly, but also the Kelly that delivers big, pop/rock anthems. Until she decides to go country, there needs to be a balance between the two.

Beyoncé
From each of her three of solo albums, Beyoncé has delivered a career-defining hit: “Crazy In Love,” “Irreplaceable” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” I can only hope this trend continues and I’m sure Mathew and Tina will see to it that it does.

I’m torn when it comes to Beyoncé. Part of me wants to see her do something different and another part of me wants her to be Sasha Fierce forever. I hope Beyoncé keeps the hip-hop and R&B elements to her music because that’s what distinguishes her from all the other females. If she decides to go all dance/electro pop, I would be disappointed. Not to say that it wouldn’t be great, but there are enough people doing that at the moment. Stick to what you know (and do best) instead of latching on to the trend of the moment (once again, see: Christina Aguilera).

Regardless, I’m glad she’s not pregnant. I knew that wouldn’t be allowed anyway. Only Solange is allowed to make poor life decisions.

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