Album Review: Jessie J's "Sweet Talker" Is Her Best Yet

Filled with several song that could become severely massive hits (in addition to "Bang Bang"), Sweet Talker could actually be Jessie J's best effort to date. Charli XCX should be glad she moved her album off of its October 14 date before it was too late.

One Direction, Lorde, Fergie & More Return Next Tuesday, September 29th

It's going to be a tough frame for everybody next week, with "top selling singles" from Tove Lo, Jessie J, Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift being joined by a slew of hotly anticipated singles from Fergie, One Direction, Lorde and more.

Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett Set to Score #1 Debut with "Cheek to Cheek"? Maybe Not

Industry forecasters are saying that steep competition from veteran country singer Kenny Chesney and popular new groups Alt-J and Pentatonix could potentially push Cheek to Cheek to #2 when the final United States numbers run in.

September 30th Album Releases Battle For Supremacy

It's going to be along week ahead. With 8 major releases hitting physical and digital shelves this week, it's anyone's guess as to who comes out as the weekly bestseller. Will it be Tove Lo, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Prince, 3RDEYEGIRL, The Script, Steve Aoki or Colbie Caillat?

Forecast: Lorde's "Yellow Flicker Beat" Headed For Top Debut

Following the #1 peaking "Team", Lorde is finally back with a brand new single ("Yellow Flicker Beat") -- this time from the forthcoming Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack. The new track is likely to snag the top debut, ahead of comparable entries from Carrie Underwood and Fergie.

Album Review: Ultraviolence Is in the Same Place With A Different Story

Lana Del Rey's most recent outing deals with subject matter oh so similar to what we saw on her major label debut, Born to Die. So what's so special about Ultraviolence? Its story.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30th Album Releases Battle For Supremacy

It's going to be along week ahead. With 8 major releases hitting physical and digital shelves this week, it's anyone's guess as to who comes out as the weekly bestseller. Will it be Tove Lo, Blake Shelton, Lady Antebellum, Prince, 3RDEYEGIRL, The Script, Steve Aoki or Colbie Caillat?  Okay maybe I've overstating it, but there are at least two albums that have their eye on the top slot. At least two. Let's take a look at the contenders. Be sure to read through the whole list before reading my overview at the end of the post.

Bringing Back the Sunshine
Blake Shelton
Download on iTunes
While Blake Shelton has been a Country genre superstar since his 2001 debut, it wasn't until the 2010's decade that his work became widely appreciated by mainstream audiences. Bolstered by a taut release date, his 2011 album, Red River Blue, debuted at #1 in the United States on sales of 116,000. By standards, that would have been pretty grim start on any other frame in 2011. Just a few weeks before, Born This Way debuted at #1 on sales of 1 million copies.

When the end of 2012 rolled around, another new album from Shelton had emerged. Cheers, it's Christmas, while failing to reach the United States top 5, sold over 500,000 and remained popular with Christmas album purchasers over a year after its release. Early 2013 brought his most popular album to date and the 9th most popular album of 2013 in the United States: Based On A True Story... While failing to reach #1, it produced a string of 4 #1 Country singles.

Unfortunately, Bringing Back the Sunshine failed to create a mainstream hit with its lead single ("Neon Light"), unlike his last album, which could weaken sales. However, being the most popular coach on the hit United States television show The Voice (which helped propel sales of his last album), could give Shelton's Bringing Back the Sunshine the push it needs to become the frame's top seller.

Queen of the Clouds
Tove Lo
Download on iTunes
Little known. Sorry. Scratch that. Previously little known Swedish artist Tove Lo has seemingly sprouted in popularity over night. Her track, "Habits (Stay High)", which has been available since the end of 2013, recently skyrocketed into success stateside. It recently landed in the top 20 of the Radio songs chart in the United States and the top 10 of the Digital songs chart.

A September 30th release date for her debut album seemed almost perfect, except for the fact that "Habits" still hasn't climaxed in popularity. That makes the US release Queen of the Clouds seem a little pre-mature. Still, this could end up being a good thing. Maybe the continued popularity of "Habits" could keep album sales steady for several weeks? It'll be hard to tell but all I can assure you of is that Queen of the Clouds won't be the week's best seller.

No Sound Without Silence
The Script
Download on iTunes
The Script has had varying 'degrees' of success in the United States (pun intended for hardcore fans), with their second and third albums  starting with sales between 25,000-50,000 copies sold. Their first had sales too low to compare. However, with No Sound Without Silence, the band has taken a completely different path in terms of promotion.

"Superheroes", the first single from No Sound Without Silence, has been vigorously promoted to Adult Pop and Contemporary radio formats, a style that caters to more matured audience (typically). That demographic in particular has been known to cling on to specific songs and groups, which have led to some albums or singles staying popular for a significant period of time. In a case like Pharrell's "Happy", the track became so popular on traditional Mainstream/Top 40 radio that it started getting adds at genre specific stations as well. That led to an extended chart run and pushed sales of the song's parent album (GIRL) forward. While the success of "Superheroes" doesn't really compare to that of "Happy", it is possible that a much more contained version of the story is repeated. In other words, No Sound Without Silence should be able to become the band's most popular record to date (in terms of first week sales in the United States), but will a huge amount of competition stunt its growth?

Lady Antebellum
Download on iTunes
Other than Prince, of course, Lady Antebellum has been a powerhouse when it comes to album sales. After breaking out with the singles "I Run to You" and "Need You Now" in 2009, the group's second album (Need You Now) shifted over 450,000 copies in its first week of being on sale. Their third album, released 20 months later, saw sales of approximately 350,000 a still large sum. The group's Holiday album (released in late 2012), while failing to reach #1, became a staple in the long list of Christmas releases and has since been sold over 500,000 (note figures for the other two releases were first week only). 2013's Golden opened with sales of 160,000 copies, a fabulous start given that album sales in general were down significantly since the group had last released a proper, non-Holiday album.

With even more erosion and the presence of a lone Mainstream/Top 40 single ("Bartender"), 747 could have a bit of trouble with reaching 100,000 (which would be a sharp drop from Golden). Still, 747 has a decent shot at claiming the top position.

Download on iTunes
Almost everyone has heard of Prince (also known as at least 20 other names), whether it be through his standard discography or his contributions to the Purple Rain soundtrack (one of the 20 most successful albums in the United States). He has released countless...  34 studio albums, almost all of which ended up being somewhat successful, making him (along with Tony Bennett and Madonna) one of the longest lasting artists in the game. His last big album sold over 160,000 copies in its first week alone. If you've got that type of longevity, you're a legend to me (even if I'm not a huge fan of your work) as well as to most of the rest of the world.

With that being said, the release date and promotion for ART OFFICIAL AGE seemingly popped out of nowhere. With no supported singles or any sort of high profile appearances, it is hard to imagine this breaking first week sales of 80,000 in the United States. On the worldwide front, however, ART OFFICIAL AGE is the best selling album (at the moment), with the next biggest selling new release also being delivered by Prince. What? Yep. You read it correctly.

Download on iTunes
While it might be extremely rare for an artist to drop two separate albums on the same day (two you can't buy together), this sort of practice seems to be somewhat normal for Prince. He's the sort of artist that would release half a dozen albums in a single year just to get out of a record contract.

The lower profile album of the two he is releasing this week, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, created in collaboration with his all female band 3RDEYEGIRL, is bound to start with a much lower weekly total. Maybe 40,000? We'll have to wait and see.

Neon Future 1
Steve Aoki
Download on iTunes
Let's face it. Steve Aoki could never end up reaching #1 in the United States. He appears to be too extreme with his DJ techniques and while some of his material is fun and solid, there's a substantial amount of people who clearly dislike his tracks (notably "Delirious").

Either way, Neon Future 1 is an interesting case. It's poised to be one of the world's most popular new releases (behind only the new albums from Prince), but should underwhelm in the United States. I'm conservatively expecting 45,000 to 55,000 copies in the United States.

Gypsy Heart
Colbie Caillat
Download on iTunes
Colbie Caillat used to be a massive album seller. Keywords used to be. Unfortunately, the odd promotion of her new album will likely cause her winning streak to come to a screeching halt. It looks like Gypsy Heart could wind up as one of the week's worst performing new releases, currently barely holding within the top 20 on the tracking chart. To compare, her three prior studio albums all became massive successes, all reaching the top 10 in the United States. My guess is that Gypsy Heart will wind up with 45,000 copies sold in its first week, but that itself might be asking a little too much.

Based on my quick looks and data above, it seems that Blake Shelton's Bringing Back the Sunshine will rival Lady Antebellum's 747 to claim this week's top debut. Both should open past sales of 110,000 copies, and like last week, the race could come down to the wire, with the winner of the week being determined by just a few hundred copies.

Prince's ART OFFICIAL AGE should easily wind up in 3rd place with maybe 80,000-90,000 copies sold. Tove Lo's Queen of the Clouds should wind up in 4th place with perhaps 60,000 copies sold. The Script's No Sound Without Silence could place 5th with 50,000. Steve Aoki, Colbie Caillat and 3RDEYEGIRL will probably scramble for 6th, 7th and 8th place.

New predictions are saying that Blake Shelton's album is expected to sell 85,000-100,000 copies (less than 50% of the sales level that his last album did). Lady Antebellum is expected to sell 65,000-80,000 with their new album. Therefore, all sales prediction for the other albums are down at least 15,000 copies.

Come back for more posts and check this post later this week to see where the albums finally rank!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vote For Your Favorites of the Week (Week 22)!

Hot New Track This Week:

"L.A. Love (La La)"
From the forthcoming 2nd studio album by Fergie (Rumored to be called Smile Now, Cry Later. Due for release between December and February).
Release: September 29th

Thoughts: Fergie has never been a favorite of mine. I really just don't understand what people see her. Her newest track, "L.A Love (La La)", would have been a massive hit had it been released 8 years ago when she was still at her prime. I don't want to say that she's completely irrelevant, because we haven't seen how "L.A. Love (La La)" does in its worldwide expansion (it arrived to a handful of markets on Monday) on Tuesday. Based on what we've seen with the countries that already have the song available, and direct competition from Carrie Underwood, One Direction, and Lorde, it's likely that "L.A Love (La La)" ultimately fails to impress.

The track's biggest markets yet have been Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Spain. The track's strength in Ukraine initially looked fairly promising (quickly skyrocketing to the top 10), but as of a few hours later, it is already on its way downward.

One thing I can give it credit for? Being strong... by Fergie's viewpoint. It's a much better song than some of her other hits like "London Bridges" (which it is reminiscent of) and "Fergalicious". I mean both of those songs were pretty much garbage.

Listen to the track below.

Now you be the judge. Does "L.A. Love (La La)" have what it takes to debut on the Hot 50? If yes, vote it up, if no, vote down.

Last Week's Outcome: "Warriors" by Imagine Dragons failed to come anywhere near the CDS Music Chart Hot 50.

New Entries:
"L.A. Love (La La)" by Fergie
- "Something In the Water" by Carrie Underwood
- "Steal My Girl" by One Direction
- "Yellow Flicker Beat" by Lorde

Note: The final positions of the songs at the end of the week is equivalent to the Social Songs 100 chart. This is only accounts for approximately 1/3 of all points entered into the Hot 50 weekly issue.

Hey guys! There have been some concerns and questions on voting for your favorite tracks every week. To make things a whole lot easier, you can now vote songs up and down the list. At the end of the week, the points will be calculated and the ranker will be reset for the next week! All votes count! Don't see your favorite song? Feel free to leave a comment and I will add it! I will be updating the ranker from time to time as new tracks become available!

Welcome to the 22nd week of voting! Your votes help determine the top songs on the CDS Music Chart Hot 50. Please note that only the top 10 most approved tracks will receive bonus points toward their scores on the upcoming chart. Make sure you share this to get your favorite tracks into the top 10. If this gets 250 voters and/or 5,000 votes by the end of Friday, each track in the top 10 will get 2x the regular votes and #11-20 on the list will get the score that the top 10 usually gets.

Lists on Ranker

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Album Review: Jessie J's "Sweet Talker" Is Her Best Yet

In less than 4 years of being a professional singer, Jessie J has experienced everything that artists normally take many, many years (if not decades) to experience. She's had a massive first album with 5+ chart hits, been featured on numerous soundtracks (The Mortal Instruments, Kick Ass 2, Easy A, etc.), shaved her head, broken her leg, experienced severe controversy (The Voice UK), released an album that was considered a critical and commercial failure and experienced a second coming in career. As an example, it took Britney Spears over a decade to complete a similar cycle (maybe 12 years), while it took Madonna roughly 25 years.

After the surprising outcome and subsequent success of the lead single from Sweet Talker, "Bang Bang", which was billed as Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, people were finally starting to hop back onto the Jessie J bandwagon. All of a sudden, the British artist announced that she'd be releasing a new album to worldwide retailers on October 14th. Several days later, a not so good looking album cover was released and the album's tracklist soon followed. But does Sweet Talker having anything else besides "Bang Bang" that's 'sweet enough' to be marketed toward potential buyers and listeners? Based on what happened with her last album cycle ("Wild" and Alive), you'd think not. Fortunately, Sweet Talker is a marked improvement over J's previous album. In fact, I'd consider it her best if you (like me) think songs exclusive to Who You Are: Platinum Edition should be considered excluded because they were also released as a separate EP.

Although there are some distinct problems with several song on the album, the set as a collective piece feels like it works well enough to drum up enough sales. It has the already recognizable "Bang Bang", the album's instantly catchy second single ("Burnin' Up") and most surprising win of them all: the album's title track ("Sweet Talker"), which is mild yet extremely powerful at the same time.

While "Burnin' Up (feat. 2 Chainz)" is similar to some other songs we've heard recently (the french horn element has been really popular this year in grimy pop songs), it's diverse enough to be chalked up to a win. Here's what I said about it upon release:

"Burnin' Up (feat. 2 Chainz)" couldn't fit her new style better. Similar to Cheryl Cole's "Crazy Stupid Love", "Burnin' Up (feat. 2 Chainz)" is a trap inspired dance number with an irresistibly catchy chorus. The addition of a featured rap verse from 2 Chainz doesn't really feel necessary, but in this case, it doesn't detract from the quality of the song either. Bound to be an instant hit, "Burnin' Up (feat. 2 Chainz)" should easily replicate the success of "Bang Bang" in a handful of countries (namely the United Kingdom, Ireland and Scotland) and could potentially be another hit for the artist in the United States (where "Bang Bang" has reached #3).

Not only should it become a big hit, it could end up topping the United Kingdom charts as well.
As for other standout tracks, "Sweet Talker" would be my next favorite song from the album. While starting off much slower than the album's previous two singles, "Sweet Talker" packs a powerful punch, bolstered by impressive vocals from both the artist and her back up vocalists as well as a think skinned beat composition arranged by world class DJ Diplo. With a whizzing beat and out of the box production, the track feels like it could work on Adult Contemporary, Pop, Rhythmic and possibly Rap (if she re-releases the song to feature Tinie Tempah, the artist featured on the live version) radio formats and, while its likely that it won't, could become a hit in the United States.
However, there are several areas that need significant work. Elsewhere, on tracks like "Fire" and "Loud (feat. Lindsey Stirling)", Jessie J is thrown increasingly dramatic back beats. Unfortunately, the writers of those works decided that short handing the chorus and several portions of the verses would go unnoticed... untrue. I will applaud "Fire" for being in the style of a John Newman song (a style I like; he co-wrote it), but it just has too many kinks to work well. As for "Loud", Jessie J literally says the word loud nearly 100 times within the 4 minute and 30 second song. Violinist Lindsey Stirling doesn't add any value to the track at all; she's completely worthless on this song. I was expecting something along the line of Stirling's own "Shatter Me" (which would be a standout on this album). Unfortunately, no such luck. This is the biggest disappointment for me from the album.
Back to other tracks that deserve attention would probably be "Strip" and "Masterpiece". "Strip", while being reserved for the deluxe edition, is written and sung in the same vein that the artist's hit single "Price Tag" was. I could see it being used as a promotional tool/eventual single later on in the album cycle to drum up sales of the premium priced deluxe edition.

Overall, I'd say it's worth the purchase... Alive wasn't.

Rating: 81/100 (B-)

Album Development: Calvin Harris Announces "Motion" Album, Dami Im's "Heart Beats"

Calvin Harris Drops Motion Cover, Announces November 4th Release

Calvin Harris announced the release of his upcoming 4th studio album, Motion, just last night. Alongside the title reveal, the British DJ revealed that the disc will be pressed just in time for a November 4th release date. The album cover was released a number of hours later. The placement of the album's release on the schedule is likely a solid move, with November 4th being the only date that lacks a lot of competition for the rest of the year (only Nickelback will compete alongside Harris), though holdover competition courtesy of Taylor Swift's 1989 and Lil Wayne's Tha Carter V could slightly tarnish sales.

Still, Harris should be able to score a big debut with the album, which has already spawned a slew of number 1 singles in the United Kingdom ("Under Control", "Summer" and "Blame"). In the United States, "Summer" reached the top 10, while "Blame" became his fastest rising track of all time. On the CDS Music Chart Hot 50, "Summer", "Under Control" and "Blame" all reached the top 20, with "Under Control" reaching #10 (the highest of the three thus far).

Alongside the first three singles from the album, "C.U.B.A" (released as the B-side to "Blame") has been confirmed on the final tracklist. There hasn't been any other confirmations on collaborations, but the album is likely to be jam packed with vocals from other artists (like 18 Months was). The album's 4th official single is expected to drop on October 27th, but this hasn't been confirmed by Harris himself.

More news on this is arriving soon, so stay tuned!

Dami Im Announces "Heart Beats", Her First Album Composed of 100% New Material

Dami Im, one of The X Factor Australia's most coveted winners in recent history, has announced that she'll officially release her 3rd studio album (2nd on a major label and first composed of entirely new material) on Friday, October 17th, 2014 in her home Australia. As for the rest of the world, we'll have to wait for an international release date. She'll be up against stiff competition from Jessie J and Nico & Vinz among others, but could end up landing her second consecutive number 1 album on the national Australian charts (ARIA) since her X Factor win in October of last year.

The new album comes preceded by two Australian top 20 hits. The album's lead single, "Super Love", reached #11 on the ARIA single charts after being released to digital retailers on May 16th. The album's second official single, "Gladiator", generated universal acclaim from contemporary critics in Australia. They claimed it to be reminiscent of songs by Katy Perry. Upon release to retailers on August 8th, the track also eventually peaked at #11 on the ARIA single charts (though it debuted lower on the chart).

On September 26th, the album was put up on iTunes Australia for pre-order. A new single called "Heart Beats Again" was released to promote the pre-order, and an additional countdown single could be revealed within the weeks preceding the album's release.

See the full tracklist:

1. "Super Love"
2. "Gladiator"
3. "Living Dangerously"
4. "Without You"
5. "Moment Just Like This"
6. "Speak Up"
7. "Beauty in the World"
8. "Let Go"
9. "One More Time"
10. "Heart Beats Again"
11. "The Hunger"
12. "Heart So Dry"
13. "Solid Ground (Stop the World)"
14. "Beautiful"
15. "Without You (Acoustic)"

Come back for more new posts and keep it here for more Album Development features.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett Set to Score #1 Debut with "Cheek to Cheek"? Maybe Not

Industry forecasters are saying that steep competition from veteran country singer Kenny Chesney and popular new groups Alt-J and Pentatonix could potentially push Cheek to Cheek to #2 when the final United States numbers run in.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are some of the most popular artists of all time, with combined worldwide album sales towering past 75 million. Combined, they've won over 500 awards and have been considered among the top 10 artists of all time in their respective categories and genres (female pop and male jazz). When you put two artists like that together, you'd expect album sale results to be through the roof. Unfortunately for the artists, a fair amount of their fans appear to have skipped over their new collaborative album, Cheek to Cheek; forecasters are expecting a start lower than 125,000 copies. That's way down from Tony's 2011 album Duets II (which started with 180,000) and Lady Gaga's 2013 ARTPOP (which began with 260,000). So what's causing the album to 'underperform'? A number of things.

United States Performance
One of the most noticeable issues with the album as a whole is that the entire tracklist is comprised of "jazz standards". That means that every track had already been recorded by another artist (or, in some cases, multiple) before being re-recorded for Cheek to Cheek. In fact, most of the songs have a histories that began all the way back in the late 1940s. While Tony and Lady Gaga have certainly brought a fresh new take to the well known jazz collection ("Anything Goes", "Lush Life", "I Can't Give You Anything But Love"), some fans simply aren't used to Gaga singing someone else's work.

Not only this, a substantial amount of added competition is causing Cheek to Cheek to crack under the pressure. First week forecasts have Kenny Chesney taking the crown with his new release The Big Revival by a mere 10,000 copy margin. While Cheek to Cheek (like most Tony Bennett releases) is trending upward after being on sale for at least a day (which could give it a late week upward push), it may not be enough to get to #1. However, let's not forget that Bennett albums typically stay solid in sales for several weeks after release, which could help the album stay strong against forthcoming competition. While Alt-J and Pentatonix don't seem to attract the same core audience as Tony and Gaga do, their new releases are likely to eat away at a small portion of Cheek to Cheek's expected sales.

It's almost guaranteed that the collaboration album will land at #2 behind The Big Revival in the United States, but on an international scale, Cheek to Cheek easily has the top spot locked up.

Worldwide Front
Remember that country veteran I was just talking about (Kenny Chesney)? Based on a worldwide viewpoint, his album is currently outside of the International iTunes Top 100 album list (The Big Revival is at #110 or so). Meanwhile, Cheek to Cheek is the most downloaded album in the world for a third straight day. It will easily debut at #1 in at least 12 countries and could become one of the biggest/most successful jazz releases in years.

Come back for more!
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