Saturday, December 13, 2008

Beyoncé hit #1 with “Single Ladies”: December 13, 2008

Originally posted December 13, 2011.

With “Single Ladies” Beyoncé gave the world “a dance craze that requires little more than the deployment of jazz hands with a wrist twist.” NPR’09 It helped that the song was accompanied by a “stunning, iconic black and white video” AB’00 which featured Beyoncé and two other dancers. It was famously lampooned on Saturday Night Live by Justin Timberlake and launched more than a few parodies on YouTube. Rapper Kanye West thought it so worthy of attention that he infamously interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the Video Music Awards to tell the world so.

With a message “as complicated as half a decade of psychotherapy,” TM the song captured the persona of Beyoncé as a woman “who won’t settle for less than the best.” TM She “sounds like a total pro: contained, on-message,” NPR’09 as she issues “her definitive statement for ladies stuck in limbo with a dude who can’t commit.” RS’09

Musically, “Single Ladies” “encapsulates the lessons pop songs have picked up from hip-hop: that a great beat and a great voice can carry a lot of weight, that a slightly sour sound (the little electronic swoop that keeps tugging at the song’s fringe) can make everything else sweeter, that looping your audience into a hook is a great idea.” TM

The song also established The-Dream and Tricky Stewart as “the premier pop songwriters and producers of the late 2000s” NPR’09 and even let Beyoncé “stake a claim to the title Queen of Pop,” NPR’09 even if the likes of Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry were waiting in line to swipe it from her.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

American Music Award of Merit

Annie Lennox, the last recipient of the American Music Award of Merit;
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After a four-year layoff, the American Music Award of Merit returned in 2008. The award was initiated in 1974 as one of the original awards for the first annual American Music Awards show, which was televised on February 19, 1974. Here are the recipients from 1974 to 2008:

  • Alabama (2003)
  • The Beach Boys (1988)
  • Irving Berlin (1976)
  • Chuck Berry (1981)
  • Bon Jovi (2004)
  • Garth Brooks (2002)
  • James Brown (1992)
  • Johnny Cash (1977)
  • Perry Como (1979)
  • Bing Crosby (1974)
  • Neil Diamond (1990)
  • Gloria Estefan (2000)
  • Ella Fitzgerald (1978)
  • Benny Goodman (1980)
  • Berry Gordy Jr. (1975)
  • Bill Graham (1993)
  • Merle Haggard (1991)
  • Whitney Houston (1994)
  • Janet Jackson (2001)
  • Michael Jackson (1984)
  • Billy Joel (1999)
  • Annie Lennox (2008)
  • Little Richard (1997)
  • Loretta Lynn (1985)
  • Paul McCartney (1986)
  • Willie Nelson (1989)
  • Elvis Presley (1987)
  • Prince (1995)
  • Kenny Rogers (1983)
  • Frank Sinatra (1998)
  • Stevie Wonder (1982)
  • Tammy Wynette (1996)


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Vocal Group Hall of Fame

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The Vocal Group Hall of Fame was conceived by Tony Butala, a member of the group The Lettermen. In 1998, he and a financial partner opened The Vocal Hall of Fame & Museum Company in his hometown of Sharon, Pennyslvania. That year, the first class was inducted and that was continued through 2008. According to the website, the 10th anniversary (and last) induction ceremony was held November 6-9, 2008, at the Chevrolet Center in Youngstown, Ohio.

Only groups and duos are eligible. Inductees must have at least a ten-year history in the music business, have had a significant hit record or composition, and have a minimum of three-party harmony. There are also categories for each year’s slate of inductees incluing ‘40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and duos. Here are the inductees during that time with their years of induction in parentheses:


  • Abba (2002)
  • Alabama (2005)
  • America (2006)
  • American Quartet (2005)
  • The Ames Brothers (1998)
  • The Andrews Sisters (1998)
  • The Angels (2005)
  • The Association (2003)


  • Hank Ballard & The Midnighters (1999)
  • The Bangles (2000)
  • The Beach Boys (1998)
  • The Beatles (2004)
  • The Bee Gees (2001)
  • The Boswell Sisters (1998)
  • Bread (2006)
  • Brooklyn Bridge (2005)
  • The Byrds (2006)


  • The Cadillacs (2004)
  • The Chantels (2002)
  • The Charioteers (2003)
  • The Chiffons (2005)
  • The Chi-Lites (2005)
  • The Chordettes (2001)
  • The Chords (2007)
  • The Clovers (2002)
  • The Coasters (1999)
  • The Commodores (2003)
  • The Crests (2004)
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash (1998)
  • The Crystals (2005)


  • Danny & The Juniors (2003)
  • The Dells (2004)
  • The Del Vikings (2005)
  • Deep River Boys (2006)
  • The Diamonds (2004)
  • 5th Dimension (2002)
  • Dion & The Belmonts (2000)
  • The Dominoes (2006)
  • The Doobie Brothers (2004)
  • Dixie Hummingbirds (2000)
  • The Drifters (1998)
  • The Duprees (2006)


  • The Eagles (2001)
  • Earth Wind & Fire (2003)
  • The Everly Brothers (2004)
  • The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi (1998)
  • The Five Keys (2002)
  • The Five Red Caps (2007)
  • The Five Satins (2003)
  • The Flamingos (2000)
  • The Fleetwoods (2006)
  • Fleetwood Mac (2005)
  • The Four Aces (2001)
  • The Four Freshman (2001)
  • The Four Knights (2002)
  • The Four Lads (2003)
  • The Four Preps (2007)
  • The Four Seasons (1999)
  • The Four Tops (1999)
  • The Four Tunes (2004)


  • The Golden Gate Quartet (1998)
  • Hayden Quartet (2006)
  • The Harptones (2002)
  • The Hi-Lo’s (2006)
  • The Hilltoppers (2005)
  • The Hoboken Four (2007)
  • The Hollies (2006)
  • The Impressions (2003)
  • Isley Brothers (2003)
  • Ink Spots (1999)


  • The Jackson 5 (1999)
  • Jay & The Americans (2002)
  • The Jive Five (2007)
  • The Jordanaires (2004)
  • Journey (2006)
  • The Kingston Trio (2000)
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips (2001)
  • Kool & The Gang (2007)


  • The Lennon Sisters (2001)
  • The Lettermen (2001)
  • Little Anthony & The Imperials (1999)
  • The Lovin’ Spoonful (2006)
  • Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers (2002)


  • Manhattan Transfer (1998)
  • Mamas & The Papas (2000)
  • The Marcels (2002)
  • The Marvelettes (2004)
  • The McGuire Sisters (2001)
  • The Mel-Tones (2005)
  • Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (2007)
  • The Merry Macs (2003)
  • The Mills Brothers (1998)
  • The Miracles (2001)
  • The Modernaires (1999)
  • The Moody Blues (2006)
  • The Moonglows (1999)
  • The Monkees (2007)


  • The Neville Brothers (2005)
  • The Oak Ridge Boys (2001)
  • The O’Jays (2004)
  • The Orioles (1998)
  • Tony Orlando and Dawn (2007)


  • The Peerless Quartet (2003)
  • The Penguins (2004)
  • Peter, Paul & Mary (1999)
  • The Pied Pipers (2001)
  • The Platters (1998)
  • The Pointer Sisters (2005)
  • Queen (2006)


  • The Rascals (2005)
  • The Ravens (1998)
  • Martha Reeves & The Vandellas (2003)
  • The Revelers (1999)
  • The Righteous Brothers (2005)
  • The Ronettes (2004)
  • Ruby & The Romantics (2007)


  • The Shangri-las (2006)
  • The Shirelles (2002)
  • Simon & Garfunkel (2006)
  • The Skylarks (2000)
  • The Skyliners (2002)
  • Sly & The Family Stone (2007)
  • Sons of the Pioneers (2005)
  • The Soul Stirrers (2000)
  • The Spaniels (2005)
  • The Spinners (1999)
  • The Stylistics (2004)
  • The Supremes (1998)
  • The Swan Silvertones (2002)


  • The Temptations (1999)
  • Three Dog Night (2000)
  • The Tokens (2004)
  • The Traveling Wilburys (2007)
  • The Tymes (2005)
  • The Vogues (2001)
  • The Weavers (2001)
  • The Whispers (2003)
  • Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs/The Gladiolas (2007)


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blender Magazine's 100 Greatest American Albums

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In October 2008, Blender Magazine created a list of the 100 Greatest American Albums. I’m sure Canada will surprised to learn that two of their favorite singers – Neil Young and Joni Mitchell – have been declared American by Blender. With flaws and all, here’s the list:

1. Madonna: The Immaculate Collection (1990)
2. Beastie Boys: Licensed to Ill (1986)
3. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
4. Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (1973)
5. Guns N’ Roses: Appetite for Destruction (1987)
6. Ramones: Ramones (1976)
7. Blondie: Parallel Lines (1978)
8. Chuck Berry: The Great Twenty-Eight (1965)
9. Nirvana: Nevermind (1991)
10. Joni Mitchell: Blue (1971)

11. Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)
12. Metallica: Metallica (aka 'The Black Album') (1991)
13. Michael Jackson: Off the Wall (1979)
14. Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966)
15. Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On (1973)
16. Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962)
17. Velvet Underground & Nico: Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
18. Prince & the Revolution: Purple Rain (1984)
19. Neil Young: Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
20. James Brown: Sex Machine (1970)

21. Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)
22. Robert Johnson: King of the Delta Blues Singers (1936-37)
23. R.E.M.: Murmur (1983)
24. Parliament: Mothership Connection (1976)
25. The Notorious B.I.G.: Life after Death (1997)
26. Van Halen: Van Halen (1978)
27. Al Green: Call Me (1973)
28. Aerosmith: Rocks (1976)
29. Beck: Odelay (1996)
30. Little Richard: Grooviest 17 Original Hits! (1955-59)

31. Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (1928)
32. Curtis Mayfield: Superfly (1972)
33. Hank Williams: 40 Greatest Hits (1953)
34. Steely Dan: Katy Lied (1975)
35. The B-52s: The B-52s (1979)
36. Chic: Risque (1979)
37. Beastie Boys: Paul’s Boutique (1989)
38. Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)
39. Elvis Presley: The Sun Sessions (1955)
40. Hole: Live Through This (1994)

41. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (1968)
42. Patti Smith: Horses (1975)
43. Sly and the Family Stone: There's a Riot Goin' On (1971)
44. Dr. Dre: The Chronic (1992)
45. Pearl Jam: Vs. (1993)
46. Run-D.M.C.: Raising Hell (1986)
47. Various Artists, produced by Phil Spector: Back to Mono (1958-69)
48. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (1959)
49. Eminem: The Slim Shady LP (1999)
50. Kiss: Destroyer (1976)

51. Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (1974)
52. Randy Newman: 12 Songs (1970)
53. A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory (1991)
54. Frank Sinatra: In the Wee Small Hours (1955)
55. Bob Dylan & The Band: The Basement Tapes (1967)
56. Rage Against the Machine: Evil Empire (1996)
57. Mary J. Blige: My Life (1994)
58. Grateful Dead: American Beauty (1970)
59. Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)
60. Paul Simon: Graceland (1986)

61. The Coasters: 50 Coastin’ Classics (1954-68)
62. Bruce Springsteen: Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
63. Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison (1968)
64. Gram Parsons: Grievous Angel (1974)
65. Billie Holiday: Lady in Satin (1958)
66. The Modern Lovers: The Modern Lovers (1973)
67. Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted (1992)
68. TLC: Crazy Sexy Cool (1994)
69. Lynyrd Skynyrd: Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd (1969)
70. Prince: Sign ‘O’ the Times (1987)

71. LL Cool J: Radio (1985)
72. Carpenters: Singles – 1969-1981 (1969-81)
73. Pixies: Surfer Rosa (1988)
74. Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul (1968)
75. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
76. Muddy Waters: At Newport (1960)
77. Jane’s Addiction: Nothing’s Shocking (1988)
78. Elvis Presley: From Elvis in Memphis (1969)
79. Woody Guthrie: Dust Bowl Ballads (1940)
80. Nine Inch Nails: The Downward Spiral (1994)

81. Various Artists: Nuggets – Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (1965-68)
82. De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
83. The Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)
84. Buddy Holly: Greatest Hits (1955-59)
85. Willie Nelson: Red-Headed Stranger (1975)
86. Neil Young: After the Gold Rush (1970)
87. R.E.M.: Automatic for the People (1992)
88. DJ Shadow: Endtroducing… (1996)
89. Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980)
90. Weezer: Weezer (1994)

91. Eagles: Hotel California (1976)
92. Lucinda Williams: Lucinda Williams (1988)
93. Tori Amos: Under the Pink (1994)
94. Nirvana: In Utero (1993)
95. Nilson: Nilson Schmilsson (1972)
96. Kid Rock: Devil Without a Cause (1998)
97. The Doors: The Doors (1967)
98. The Replacements: Let It Be (1984)
99. Stevie Wonder: Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974)
100. Otis Redding: Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Taylor Swift charts with “Love Story”: September 27, 2008

Originally posted September 27, 2012.

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With her debut album, teen singer Taylor Swift became a major country star, landing two songs atop the country charts and another three in the top 10. While setting up a seemingly inevitable sophomore slump, Swift opted instead to conquer the pop world as well. “Everything you need to know about Taylor Swift’s talent is summed up here in four star struck minutes. Wide-eyed innocence served up in slick, perfectly calibrated Nashville pop? We’ll take four million, please.” MX

Swift wrote the song about a love interest but she never had a relationship with him. He was not popular with her friends and family. Swift wrote the song from the perspective of Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As she said, “The only people who wanted them to be together were them.” WK She replaced the play’s tragic ending with a happy one – the ending she felt the characters deserved and the one which females hoped for. WK

Paste magazine’s Kate Kiefer said it is impossible not to sing along with the song. WK Slant magazine’s Jonathan Keefe saw the song’s success hinging on its prominent hook while The Boston Globe’s James Reed saw its strength in the songwriting. WK The BBC’s Fraser McAlpine said that the song, “although obvious, a bit dramatic, and probably targeted towards younger audiences, was just lovely and that Swift proved herself a true princess of pop with the song.” WK’s Sean Dooley deemed the song responsible for transitioning Swift from a “fresh-faced star to crossover star.” WK

“Love Story” was only the fifth song to top both the adult contemporary and country charts, following Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts the Most”, Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”, Faith Hill’s “Breathe”, and Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One”. SF It became Swift’s best-selling single WK and was once the best-selling country single of all time. WK Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) declared it the Country Song of the Year while it took Video of the Year honors at the CMT Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards.


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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Forty Years Ago Today: Jimi Hendrix charts with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (9/14/1968)

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The Jimi Hendrix Experience “All Along the Watchtower”

Writer(s): Bob Dylan (see lyrics here)

Released: 9/2/1968, First charted: 9/14/1968

Peak: 20 US, 5 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Jimi Hendrix is largely credited with reinventing the electric guitar and his prowess is never more apparent than on his take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” “Raging and climactic where Dylan’s had been soft-paced and relaxed,” AMG Hendrix’s version pulls off the rare feat of giving the world a cover that outdoes its original source. After hearing Hendrix tackle it, “you can’t imagine it...any other way.” BBC Dylan himself has admitted that in his subsequent performances of the song, he strove to emulate Hendrix’s version. RS500 “When I sing it,” Dylan said, “ I… feel like it’s a tribute to him.” LW-129

Dylan first recorded the song for 1968’s John Wesley Harding. Musically, the song is a perfect example of why Dylan songs lend themselves so easily to re-interpretation. “Aside from a few harmonica flourishes, it is a fairly basic affair,” BBC both “direct and unadorned.” LW-129

Lyrically, the song took the form of a conversation between a joker and a thief in “an allegorical tale about the sweeping away of society’s old guard.” BBC Peppered with “Biblical imagery and apocalyptic words,” AMG the original has “such an odd, abstract lyric that hardly anyone…could have held on long enough to spot the song hidden within,” MA-147 but Hendrix’s interpretation does so, “obliterating the lyric’s pretensions” MA-147 and giving the song an “urgency and edginess…far more in keeping with its apocalyptic message.” BBC

While at a party, Hendrix proclaimed to Traffic’s Dave Mason his interest in recording the song just a few weeks after its release. Just days later, the pair assembled with drummer Mitch Mitchell at London’s Olympic Studios to nail down their rendition AMG that has now become a rock standard.

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lady Gaga Releases The Fame: August 19, 2008

Originally posted August 19, 2011.

In only three years, Lady Gaga has amassed ten top-ten hits in the U.S. and another nine in the U.K. While fans awaited the 2011 Born This Way sophomore album, she served up the eight-track EP The Fame Monster in 2009 and a remix collection the next year. Both were top ten U.S. albums.

It all started with 2008’s The Fame. “Just Dance” was the debut single to launch the album and was followed up by “Poker Face”. Both songs were #1 hits in the U.S. and U.K. and rank in the top 100 songs of the 21st century. “Paparazzi” and “LoveGame” were top ten hits in the U.S. as well. All four songs sold at least a million copies; the first two rank amongst the world’s all-time top 100 best-sellers.

Based on the album’s prevalent themes regarding the pursuit of celebrity and the lifestyle of the rich and famous, the spotlight was exactly where she wanted to be. She was “a self-styled, self-made shooting star, one who mocked the tabloid digital age while still wanting to wallow in it – and one who’s smart enough to pull it all off, too.” STE Her versatile personae, along with a predilection for over-the-top outfits, an ability to manipulate the press, and a provacative image suggested “that she was the second coming of Madonna, a comparison GaGa cheerfully courts and one that’s accurate if perhaps overextended.” STE

Dave’s Music Database ranks the album in the top 1000 albums of all time. The Fame also took home the Brit Award for International Album of the Year. It also won a Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album and was nominated for Album of the Year.

Click photo for more about the album.

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

M.I.A. debuted with “Paper Planes”: August 2, 2008

Originally posted August 2, 2012.

image from

Nothing says pop hit quite like a Sri Lankan-born singer using “negative, violent stereotypes of immigrants as source material,” AB’00 “mocking the perception of dark-skinned immigrants as somehow dangerous,” PD and giving “shout-outs to Third World slums.” RS’09 Rapper Maya Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., combined those unlikely commercial elements for “one of the unlikeliest Top 10 jams ever” RS’09 with “Paper Planes,” the third single from her second album, Kala. It was “the sound of the third world and the digital age colliding head-on, with results that were equal parts scary and thrilling.” MX She took “third-world survivalism and, while not glamorizing it, certainly [made] us feel it at a level far more elemental than easy sympathy.” LR

Paper Planes

A year after its initial release, the trailer for Pineapple Express gave the song a second life, letting it expand “from its hipster dance-music niche into broader consciousness.” PF It also packs a whollop at a pivotal moment in Slumdog Millionaire, “the Oscar-winning film that was the late-00’s other great border-hopping underdog story.” PF

The song wraps “irresistible catchiness, political relevance, and musical surprises in one tight package” AB’00 “with global-minded beats and revolutionary chic.” PF The song is built over “a beat sampled from the Clash’s ‘Straight to Hell,’” RS’09 “which itself was an indictment of immigrants’ treatment in the West, permeated with southeast-Asian tonal influences” PD and wrapped in a “gently rolling, almost lazy sounding package so laidback that the first time you hear the gunshots it may jolt you out of your seat.” AB’00 The song’s success suggested “that given the right synergy of personality, topicality, and marketing, something like a mass audience could still gather around even the unlikeliest of phenomena.” PF


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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Forty Years Ago Today: Steppenwolf charted with “Born to Be Wild” (7/13/1968)

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Steppenwolf “Born to Be Wild”

Writer(s): Mars Bonfire (see lyrics here)

First charted: 7/13/1968

Peak: 2 US, 18 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: An entire genre of music owes its name to this song RS500 – even though “Born to Be Wild” wasn’t heavy metal (it is too fast and complex) CR-763 and the phrase wasn’t original to Steppenwolf. In his 1962 novel The Soft Machine, William Burroughs used the phrase “Heavy Metal Kid” to describe his character Uranian Willy, explaining to The Paris Review that it was “sort of the ultimate expression of addiction…that the final stage reached is not so much vegetable as mineral.” SF

Dennis Edmonton, who was a former member of Sparrow and the brother of Steppenwolf drummer Jerry Edmonton wrote the song under the pseudonym Mars Bonfire. AMG Inspired by a motorcycle poster with the slogan “Born to Ride,” he crafted this classic with the phrase “heavy metal” describing the roar of a motorcycle. TB-104

The song achieved iconic status when Dennis Hopper used it for the film Easy Rider. RS500 Originally Peter Fonda asked Crosby, Stills & Nash to soundtrack the film, RS500 but “Born to Be Wild” perfectly captured the movie’s “spirit of rebelliousness and freedom.” CR-763

Driven by “John Kay’s growling vocals” AMG and that “chugging guitar and swirling organ” CR-763 the song which started life as a ballad AMG not only has “one of the great, greasy riffs in rock” CR-763 but has become “a slice of ‘60s revolt” AMG which come to be “associated with motorcycle clubs in particular and outlaw behavior in general.” CR-764 Now it is a song “that practically screamed to be blasted out of car radios while driving at radar-triggering speeds.” AMG

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Coldplay lands its only #1 in the U.S. with “Viva La Vida”

Updated 1/15/2019.

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Viva La Vida


Writer(s): Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, Chris Martin (see lyrics here)

Released: 5/25/2008

First Charted: 5/24/2008

Peak: 11 US, 11 AC, 111 AAA, 12 MR, 11 UK, 4 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: 6.14 US, 1.44 UK, 8.23 world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: 0.6

Video Airplay *: 538.71

Streaming *: 200.0

* in millions


Chris Martin, Coldplay’s lead singer, saw the phrase “Viva La Vida” on a painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. He told Rolling Stone he “loved the boldness of it” and decided the use the phrase – which loosely translates to “long live life.” SF Guy Berryman, the band’s bassist said the song – which never actually uses the phrase “Viva La Vida” – was “about a king who’s lost his kingdom.” SF Martin echoed that idea, saying it was about a deposed dictator reduced to sweeping the streets. He saw it as a “turning-over-a-new-leaf kind of song.” SF He also explained that lines like “I know Saint Peter won’t call my name” referred to the “idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it.” SF Berryman also said the song reflects the idea that “We're human beings with emotions and we're all going to die and the stupidity of what we have to put up with every day.” SF

Musically, the song eschewed the band’s usual guitar or piano base for a riff consisting mostly of a string section and digital piano. WK IGN critic Chad Grischow said it was “their one and only foray into unabashed orchestral pop” but that it was “far too charming and lively to dislke and even harder not to love.” WK

Several acts accused Coldplay of plagiarizing the song. Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, claimed the song resembled his 1973 “Foreigner Suite.” SF Guitarist Joe Satriani filed a lawsuit accusing Coldplay of lifting the melody from his 2004 song “If I Could Fly.” The case was settled out of court. SF Music professor Dr. Lawrence Ferrara showed in a 2011 documentary how the melodies of all three songs resembled “Se Tu M’ami” by Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who died in 1736. WK

Creaky Boards’ singer Andrew Hoepfner alleged Martin attended one of their concerts in October 2007 and lifted the melody from “The Songs I Didn’t Write.” It turned out “Viva La Vida” was written and demoed seven months before the night in question. SF Creaky Boards later suggested both songs might have been inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda. WK Will Champion, Coldplay’s drummer, said, “It’s tough when people accuse you of stealing something, when you know that you didn’t…There are only eight notes in an octave and no one owns them. And there are probably about 12,000 songs that feature the exact same chord progression.” SF

Coldplay was the first British male group since Jesus Jones and Escape Club in 1991 to land a second top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100. SF When the song went to #1, it made Coldplay the first British group since the Spice Girls (“Wannabe”) in 1997 to top the U.S. charts. SF The song, which won a Grammy for Song of the Year, was iTunes’ best-selling song of 2008> WK The band opened their 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance with “Viva La Vida.”

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Fifty Years Ago Today: The Everly Brothers achieve a “Dream”: #1 on 4 charts simultaneously (6/2/1958)

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The Everly Brothers “All I Have to Do Is Dream”

Writer(s): Felice Bryant, Boudeleaux Bryant (see lyrics here)

First charted: 4/14/1958

Peak: 15 US, 13 CW, 15 RB, 17 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 5.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 6.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: Don Everly was working as a writer in Nashville in 1954, having crafted songs for Kitty Wells and Justin Tubb. KL-50 When the Everly Brothers tried to launch their own careers, they struck out on their first recording session, but then tapped the husband-and-wife writing team of Felice & Boudleaux Bryant, KL-50 who’d written hits for Little Jimmy Dickens, Joe Smith, and Eddy Arnold. BR1-37

The Bryants went on to write the Everlys’ first three big singles – “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” All three topped the country charts and the latter two topped the pop charts. However, “Dream,” “with Chet Atkins’ innovative tremolo chording backing the brothers’ high-lonesome harmonies,” RS500 also topped the R&B and UK charts, making it the biggest hit of the Everlys’ career. On June 2, 1958, the song became the only record to hit #1 on all four of Billboard’s singles charts simultaneously. WK

Phil Everly recalls first hearing the song “on an acetate and it was just Boudleaux and his guitar. I said, ‘You could put that out and it would be a hit.’” KL-50 “‘It’s just a great, great song. It’s beautiful.’” SF

Phil’s sentiments have been echoed in subsequent decades. Richard Chamberlain had a #14 hit with it in 1963. In the ‘70s, Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell had a top 40 version of the song and in 1981 Andy Gibb dueted with Victoria Principal for yet another charted version. In the end, though, it is the Everlys who own the “definitive version.” HL-13 Theirs is “so pretty, so evanescent, so – dreamlike” WI-41 that they “don’t sound like two guys. But they don’t sound like one guy, either. They sound…like an angel.” WI-42

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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.