Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 Grammy Nominees for Album of the Year

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Blog updated on 1/11/2012 to include images and links. Content untouched.

With the Grammy nominees out now, it is time to let the complaining begin...except that I don’t have much to complain about, at least not about the Album of the Year nominations. This year’s crop – Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter III, and Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman is better than most years. All were successful and critically acclaimed. There’s not a lemon in the batch and nothing is completely out of left field.

Click to read more about the album.

So this year’s winner will be...Raising Sand. It’s the safest and most middle-of-the-road. Not a bad choice, actually. It’s hard to argue with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss walking home with album of the year honors. Both are artists well deserving of any accolade thrown their way. It was also an interesting experiment in pairing two artists from seemingly opposite sides of the fence that paid off.

Click to read more about the album.

Still, it would be nice to see Radiohead or Coldplay crowned with the award, but it would be yet another case of getting an album of the year award for the wrong album. Radiohead’s unquestionable pinnacle was 1997’s OK Computer while Coldplay won much more attention and critical acclaim for 2000’s Parachutes or 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

Click to read more about the album.

Radiohead and Coldplay also fall into too similar a genre and will end up canceling each other out anyway. The same problem is true of Lil’ Wayne and Ne-Yo. The rap and R&B crowds will be split between the two choices.

Click to read more about the album.

So, not a bad crop this year and any of them could win and be less of a head scratcher than some year’s winners.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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Blog updated on 1/11/2012 to include images and links. Content untouched.

Well, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been announced for 2009. As always, there’s a mix of unquestionable inductees (Metallica), those that are somewhat deserving, but debatable (Jeff Beck) and those that make you go “huh?” (Little Anthony? Bobby Womack? Run-D.M.C.?).

What always makes the latter category more dramatic is when you consider those acts who haven’t been inducted (Kiss, Genesis, Yes, Rush, Deep Purple, Bad Company, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop & The Stooges). So, here’s a little guide on how to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

1. Don’t be prog rock. Genesis, Yes, Rush, Jethro Tull – this means you. Apparently being a hugely influential and successful rock band is insignificant if you’ve ever done a thematic album, written a song longer than 8 minutes, and dared to integrate classical music into good ol’ rock and roll.

You aren’t likely to see The Rock Hall nominating committee wearing these.

2. Being an authentic rock and roll act is not required. Now that the Hall has caught up with the rap era, they’ve seen fit to induct Grandmaster Flash & Run-D.M.C. Do they belong in a rap hall of fame? No question. But rock and roll?

However, the nominating committee might wear these.

3. In fact, you may be better off being an R&B act. Now, no one should be signing any petitions to get the likes of Ray Charles, Fats Domino, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cook booted from the Hall. They are great examples of acts that have hugely influenced both R&B and rock. However, the Rock Hall seems to have taken it upon themselves to represent whatever R&B act they see fit, regardless of whether they have much to do with rock & roll or its development. Little Anthony & The Imperials? The Flamingos? The O’Jays?

The Rock Hall nominating committee practically has this mantra tattooed on their foreheads.

4. Being a blues pioneer is a huge plus. Actually, I don’t have a quibble with this one. Rock and roll is so rooted in the blues that you’d have to question the credibility of a Hall without B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, and Howlin’ Wolf.

You could definitely hear the Nom Com spout this mantra.

5. Last of all, don’t be Kiss. Look, when the weird kid in my junior high argued about how great Kiss was, it was easy to dismiss him. I’ve never been a fan of the band anyway. When you think of how huge they’ve been in rock and roll, however, it’s time to get a grip. Apparently, the Rock Hall is about politics and Kiss have rubbed them the wrong way. Perhaps the Hall could use a little reminder that the roots of rock and roll is all about rubbing people the wrong way. Get a clue and put in the act that most deserves it that isn’t in yet.

A face only a mother could love? Certainly the Rock Hall has no love for this face.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Forty Years Ago Today: “Proud Mary” set sail on the charts (1/18/1969)

image from

Creedence Clearwater Revival “Proud Mary”

Writer(s): John Fogerty (see lyrics here)

First charted: 1/18/1969

Peak: 2 US, 8 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 5.0 Video Airplay (in millions): --

Review: “Proud Mary” established Creedence Clearwater Revival as the best act out of New Orleans since Fats Domino, an impressive feat since they’d never been there! SJ-72 Their signature swampy sound understandably gave them a Louisiana vibe, but a guitar solo which singer John Fogerty said was influenced by Booker T & the MG’s Steve Cropper helps tie the song to the musical South as well. The fact that it also sounds “like an ancient gospel song in its rousing rallying cry” AMG doesn’t hurt either. Add in steamboat-themed lyrics and the connection is complete.

Fogerty called “Proud Mary” “the first really good song I ever wrote.” RS500 He said he started singing about the river and then decided to make the song about the boat. RS500 This blossomed into a tale of a man abandoning the city for work on a steamboat, a theme which fit well with the 1969 back-to-the-country counterculture movement, even if Fogerty’s message was really about “a working man finding release, not a middle-class hippie yearning for a pastoral ideal.” AMG

As the band’s first U.S. top ten, “Proud Mary” has also become the definitive CCR song, blending Americana, swamp rock, blues, country, rockabilly, gospel, and soul. AMG The song gave the band a dubious record – as the first of five CCR singles to peak at #2, the band gained the distinction of hitting the runner-up slot the most times without ever going to #1. WK

While it didn’t go to the top, it pulled off a rare feat in becoming the signature song for not one, but two major recording acts. Ike and Tina Turner enhanced the song’s gospel and soul vibe to create “a raveup with the feel of a church revival.” AMG It landed the duo at #4 on the pop charts and #5 on the R&B charts in 1971.

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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, January 3, 2009

Lady Gaga hits the charts with “Poker Face”: January 3, 2009

Originally posted January 3, 2013.

image from

Writer(s): Stefani Germanotta/ Nadir Khayat

Released: 23 September 2008 First charted: 3 January 2009

Peak: 11 US, 13 UK, 75 RB, 12 AA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 1.0 UK, 9.8 world

Airplay (in millions): 0.5

Review: As her follow-up single to the #1 “Just Dance,” Lady Gaga had her work cut out for her with “Poker Face.” With lyrics about gambling and her own experiences with bisexuality, she wasn’t exactly going for the most radio-friendly theme either. She told Fashionista 101 that the song was about “playing with guys as if she was a poker player.” SF As she said to an audience at an April 11, 2009, performance in Palm Springs, California, the song was about being “with a man but fantasizing about a woman, hence the man in the song needs to read her ‘Poker Face’ to understand what is going through her mind.” WK

No worries, though – the song not only followed “Just Dance” to the top of the U.S. charts, but peaked at #1 in sixteen other countries as well. WK It made Gaga the first artist to top the U.S. charts with her first two entries since Christina Aguilera did it nearly a decade earlier WK with “Genie in a Bottle” and “What a Girl Wants.” It became “the song with which she placed her stamp on the waning months of the decade.” LR

Producer RedOne, with whom Gaga wrote “Poker Face” and “Just Dance,” told Billboard magazine how the two clicked immediately. “We’re not overthinking. We just do what we feel right.. Before you know it the song is pretty much done…We wrote ‘Just Dance’ in one hour. Done. ‘Poker Face’? One hour. It just happened. Magic.” SF

Both songs sold 4 million downloads in the U.S., making her the first artist in digital history to do so. WK The songs have gone on to sell six million each. Another 900,000 downloads in the U.K. also made “Face” the most downloaded song in Britain since they introduced the download chart in 2004. WK

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