Category Archives: New Singles

THE RIGHT WAY

I love it when something exciting happens on the charts and a new(ish) artist makes an unexpected debut. Without much promotion beyond social media and next to no radio airplay, Ariana Grande’s “The Way” shot to #1 on the iTunes charts within hours this week. It’s also placed within the top 20 on many iTunes charts worldwide. Granted, she has over 5 million Twitter followers, but artists with double that have released singles that have failed to do even half of what “The Way” has already accomplished. But before we get to that, let’s rewind a little bit.

At the end of 2011, Grande released “Put Your Hearts Up.” The juvenile single butchered a sample of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” (I don’t know in what world that made any sense) and came complete with incredibly cheesy artwork and an equally terrible video. Everything about this single release has been a stark contrast from that. Even though the video for “The Way” is a low budget affair, it’s not something that looks like it would better suit a 12-year-old. It’s age appropriate and she makes out with Mac Miller at the end, which, at the very least, provides a memorable scene that will get people talking (and speculating). A juicy rumor is always helpful when jumpstarting a career and it’s the kind of thing that will send her young fans into a frenzy.

The song itself is sexy, but subtle enough in a way that it’s not desperate. Teen acts, especially coming from Disney or Nickelodeon, seem to never strike an appropriate balance as recording artists. It’s either too cheesy (see: Selena Gomez “Who Says”) or too overt (see: Miley Cyrus circa “Can’t Be Tamed”). Looking at the most recent crop of Disney stars that have released extremely juvenile material and maintained similarly vanilla images, it’s hard to imagine that Britney Spears released “…Baby One More Time” at sixteen-years-old. In 1998, she seductively cooed and showed her midriff and everyone survived. In fact, that’s why she became one of the biggest pop stars on the planet and why Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, et al. will never be.

“…Baby One More Time” didn’t sound like a sixteen-year-old was singing it, and “The Way” doesn’t exactly sound like a nineteen-year-old’s record (at least in the post-2001 era, where everything has been significantly toned down for teen acts). Grande’s voice and delivery (the breathy vocals, mixed with some powerhouse moments, and those whistle notes!) is reminiscent of Mariah Carey and that makes people pay attention. If the song came on the radio, I’m sure people would listen a little closer and wonder, “Who is this?” While sounding like another singer can be both a blessing and a curse, I think it’s a good thing for Ariana. Besides, if you have to be compared to another female vocalist, Mariah Carey isn’t too shabby. It’s the kind of comparison her PR people can really milk for some extra attention.

Beyond the lyrics and delivery, “The Way” is also a welcome throwback to the late 90s (or mid-2000s) pop/R&B and doesn’t follow the Dr. Luke-produced electropop trend (it’s on the way out, believe me). It’s a light, refreshing jam that sounds perfect for spring and summer, complete with a Big Pun sample (yes, the same one that Thalia used on her one and only crossover single). Miller also adds a bit of a “cool” factor that will further legitimize Grande as more than a Victorious cast member trying to launch a singing career. Like “…Baby One More Time,” it’s just sexy enough that it will reach an audience beyond 12-year-old girls and hopefully establish Grande as an actual recording artist, and not just a Nickelodeon star.

With Z100 and KIIS already on board, it doesn’t look like her quick ascent to the top of the iTunes chart will be a flash in the pan (a la Tamar Braxton’s “Love and War.”) She needs to continue visiting radio stations across the country and secure some high profile performance spots. She certainly has the chops to pull off a solid performance and hopefully her stage presence is equally impressive. A slutty Rolling Stone cover might also help, but I digress. If not, she will go the way of Leona Lewis, who is doing something, somewhere right now. On a similar note, Jordin Sparks co-wrote this song, so I hope she enjoys the royalty checks.

I also hope Grande has a killer ballad to include on her album. She definitely has the voice to do it. Mariah Carey built her early career on ballads and released “Vision of Love” at 20-years-old. I understand that we’ve been conditioned over the past decade to accept 20-year-olds singing about sleepovers and Barbie dolls, but with ballads also making a comeback on pop radio, Grande could really seal the deal with a modern slow jam.

Ariana’s got people talking, listening, and buying. Here’s to hoping they don’t drop the ball and keep the forward momentum going. I think she’s got what it takes…

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Filed under Future, New Music, New Singles, Sales, Successes

BREAKING & ENTERING

Havana Brown had a hit this summer with “We Run the Night,” but we could be hearing from another female Aussie in 2013. Samantha Jade won this season of The X Factor in Australia, but isn’t’ exactly a stranger to the music industry. She’s written songs for JoJo and Ashley Tisdale, was signed to Jive Records, and is featured on David Guetta’s album “One Love.” However, I’m all for not-so-amateur contestants appearing on singing competition shows (see: Cassadee Pope) and getting a second shot at success. Samantha’s winning single, “What You’ve Done to Me,” is far better than what most winners get to release following their coronation. The song was co-written by Jörgen Elofsson, who, by no surprise, is Swedish and a product of Cheiron Studios. He’s been penning hits for well over a decade, spanning from Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy” to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” Samantha’s song is the catchy pop we’ve come to expect, with a carefree electropop sound reminiscent of “Call Me Maybe.” Of course, the track has already hit #1 in her native Australia–but is the rest of the world next? This definitely sounds like it could be a hit worldwide, so it will be interesting to see if Sony gives it a push in 2013. She’s also really hot (see above) and the kind of commercial artist that wouldn’t have a shot in hell at winning The X Factor in the US, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Filed under Future, Music on TV, New Music, New Singles

BREAKING & ENTERING

I’ve been following Nikki since hearing her music on MySpace a few years ago (back when MySpace was still relevant). Yes, this is the same girl who wrote Lauren Alaina’s “Like My Mother Does” and appears on the Country Strong soundtrack. However, it’s been quite a few years since then, and her music has certainly evolved. Her first single, “Kill, Fuck, Marry” written by Sia and produced by StarGate, is a very solid introduction. The song sounds like something Lana Del Rey, Neon Hitch, or even Rihanna would record, but Nikki’s voice really makes the track something special. Like the aforementioned artists, she has a great tone, but with some real power behind it (she sounds just as good, if not even better, in this acoustic performance of the track). Nikki’s also been in the studio with Max Martin, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, Toby Gad, and Dallas Austin, and judging by the quality of this song and video, Island Def Jam has high hopes for this girl. Get to know Nikki Williams before everyone else does–I guarantee you’ll be hearing a lot about her in 2013!

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POP MATH

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What happens when you combine four of the catchiest pop songs of the past two years (produced by the likes of Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and David Guetta) into one track? You get one very catchy pop song to the fourth degree (produced by RedOne). This all adds up to one big, smash hit for Nicki Minaj.

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WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALL HER JESSIE JAMES?

It looks like Jessie James is finally getting her due time. Since her pop debut in 2009, Jessie’s remained one of the most underrated artists in the business. However, with her new country single climbing the iTunes charts, that’s all about to change.

Jessie’s not only a talented writer (her unreleased demos, like the personal “Newnan High,” are better than most artist’s singles), but she’s also an effortless vocalist. I mean effortless in the sense that she sounds exactly the same live as she does recorded and doesn’t feel the need to constantly oversing (I’m looking at you Christina Aguilera). She also performs while chewing gum. Now that’s talent.

Jessie’s sound is a throwback to the golden age of 90s female country (see: Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Martina McBride) that blended traditional Southern twang with the melodic stylings and instrumentation of pop and adult contemporary. She’s a breath of fresh air for country with a little bit of nostalgia to remind listeners of of the songs they grew up singing along to. Her new single, “When You Say My Name” is reminiscent of Faith’s “This Kiss,” a cute, mid-tempo love song that’s perfect ear candy for spring. If anyone’s going to follow in the footsteps of those female country greats, it’s going to be Jessie James. She’s truly the whole package and has already proven she’s capable of churning out catchy, relatable crossovers. She’s one to watch this year!

Her new single, “When You Say My Name,” is now available on iTunes. Katy Perry bought it. So should you.

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POP MATH

+ + + = Kelly Clarkson’s new single, “Mr. Know It All.”

Does this sound like a combination of a few other songs thrown in a blender and mixed together? Sure. Will that stop it from being a hit? No. The lyrics are reminiscent of Clarkson’s other bitter, man-hating singles, but the production is more subdued. Instead of giving us “Since U Been Gone” (Pt. 3), “Mr. Know It All” tones things down. Clarkson’s still angry, but the instrumentation lets the lyrics shine. The song’s not instantly catchy, but the lyrics are Facebook status ready–an important quality for this generation’s top 40 listeners. It also fits in nicely with the other pop divas’ mid tempo fall releases (think “Cheers” and “Yoü And I”). This one’s an earworm that you may not “get” instantly, but after a few listens it’ll grown on you–believe me. With that said, hopefully “Mr. Know It All” will be followed by “What Doesn’t Kill You,” a catchy, empowering anthem that leaked a few months ago and should be the big hit off the album.

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