Time flies, they say, when you’re having fun (probably more so when you’re having fun in fun.!), and 2012 appears to be whizzing by at a faster clip than usual. Not everyone is having such a blast, though. Yes, these are the best of times”still!”for Adele, but how could they not be? She continues to hover around the top of the charts with 21 more than a year after its release.
What about her brothers and sisters in pop? Here’s a scorecard for the first half of 2012.
Rihanna with a beat A word of advice to Rihanna: Don’t stop the dance. After she spent 10 weeks at No. 1 with “We Found Love””her collaboration with Scottish DJ Calvin Harris and the first single from Talk That Talk, her sixth album” neither Jay-Z (on the album’s title track), nor Chris Brown (on the single remix of “Birthday Cake”), nor Coldplay (on whose Mylo Xyloto track “Princess of China” Rihanna appears) could boost Rihanna back into the Top 10.
It took a return to strobe-light pop, with Harris as co-producer (along with Dr. Luke and Cirkut), to give Rihanna her first new Top 10 hit of 2012, with Where Have You Been.
Lady Gaga in Southeast Asia The year began pretty quietly for Gaga until she kicked off her The Born This Way Ball tour in Southeast Asia in April. Then everything that could possibly go wrong did. Christian groups in South Korea, where she played Seoul on April 27, slammed her less-than-holy stage antics, resulting in government-imposed over-eighteen age restrictions for the opening-night show. Meanwhile, the protestations of the Muslims in Indonesia led to the cancellation of her June 3 show in Jakarta.
In Thailand, things went from bad to scandalous. First, she incited the ire of locals by touting Bangkok’s supply of “fake Rolex” moments after arriving for her May 25 concert there. Then they ripped her apart some more for wearing a traditional Thai headdress with a bikini and for sitting on a motorbike with a Thai flag tied to it during the show. At least she didn’t simulate sex with a statue of Buddha.
White boys with an edge Nothing but the beat isn’t just the title of David Guetta’s latest album. It’s become pretty much a mantra for most of the women in pop (see Rihanna) and many of the artists formerly known as R&B and hip-hop stars (Usher, Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj).
But in reality, it isn’t all about the beat. The two biggest No. 1 singles of the first six months of 2012”fun.’s “We Are Young” and Gotye‘s “Somebody That I Used to Know””are both quirky pop songs that have little to do with the prevailing sound of the times (dance music). Where either act goes from here is anybody’s guess, but it’s nice to know that in 2012, you can still score a big hit even if you can’t dance to it.
Madonna’s latest album Okay, so the Queen of Pop is in no danger of being evicted from her throne and sent to the poor house anytime soon. She can still demand top dollar (as in hundreds of them) for mediocre seats and sell out her current MDNA world tour anyway. And her 12th album, MDNA, did debut at No. 1 with 359,000 copies sold in the week after its March 26 release.
Alas, it spent only a pair of weeks in the Top 10 (dropping a record 86.7 percent in week two), and by the time the MDNA tour kicked off in Tel Aviv on May 31, it was out of the Top 100 completely. Meanwhile, Give Me All Your Luvin’, the first single, hit No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but it was on and off the charts within two months, and thus far, there’s not a follow-up hit within earshot.
Lionel Richie Sometimes it’s not where you start but where you end up a few weeks later. Although Richie’s latest album, Tuskegee, entered Billboard’s Top 200 album chart in the runner-up position to Madonna’s MDNA, it didn’t stay there for long. It eventually crawled up to No. 1, and by May, it was the second best-selling album of 2012 (with 789,000 copies sold), right behind Adele’s 21.
Adam Lambert His sophomore album, Trespassing, did debut at No. 1, making him the seventh American Idol contestant to get to No. 1. Unfortunately, Lambert did so with only 77,000 copies sold”the lowest sum for a No. 1 debut since February of 2011, when Amos Lee’s Mission Bell began on top with first-week sales of 40,000. And it was only downhill from there. After four weeks on the Top 200 album chart, Trespassing was way down at No. 54.
Where were those Glamberts when Adam needed them? Did they defect to Team Beliebers?
In the months since famed producer T-Bone Burnett introduced The Secret Sisters, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama sisters have won thousands of hearts”and fans”with their brand of country music and their down-home personalities.
I have been making music for over 40 years and The Secret Sisters album is as close to pure as it gets,” Burnett has said.
“Listening to The Secret Sisters sing, you hear in their voices a sound that is timeless and of the moment. You hear the history of rural American music from the 1920s and a reverence for every musical genre this country has produced. Popular music requires the absolute honesty of The Secret Sisters, and I’m thrilled to be involved in presenting them to the world.
Laura and Lydia Rogers have spent a great deal of time talking to the news media about their backgrounds (harmonizing in church; a musically inclined family), their influences (everyone from Frank Sinatra to the Everly Brothers to classic country stars including Johnny Cash), to the happenstance Nashville audition that led to their discovery, but fans hunger for more about the just-turned-20-something sisters.
Now touring with Amos Lee, Loretta Lynn and others behind their self-titled debut album, the sisters chatted with OurStage to answer a bevy of questions about their backgrounds, their new-found fame, and just what inspired their classic style.
OS: What is the first song you ever heard that you wanted to buy?
Laura: When we were younger, our parents had the music we were raised on. I think the first one I bought”back in the days of cassette tapes”was a [Frankie Valli & the] Four Seasons tape.
Lydia: I was all into Mariah Carey and Hanson and Paula Abdul. I didn’t have any money, but when I did I probably bought one of those.
Laura: Mine was Michael Jackson. I would sit and cry because I loved him so much.
Lydia: Mine was the Backstreet Boys. I loved Nick Carter and all the guys from that band.
OS: What is your guilty musical pleasure?
Laura: I have the tendency turn my nose up at pop and have a bad attitude (about it) but I’m telling you when I come across Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, I love their music.
Lydia: I am a fan of Lil’ Wayne. He’s the only hip hop rapper guy I can stand all the time. That’s a confession!
OS: Where is your favorite place to shop?
Laura: I’m one of those weird girls who loves to furnish my house rather than buy clothes. I go shop for kitchen utensils, new plates, pillows. I always spend money on house things. I love Crate & Barrel.
Lydia: Urban Outfitters. I’m a big fan of that store. And I love Target. I don’t mind saying that. They have good bargains and it’s a great place to shop.
OS: What is your oddest fan encounter?
Lydia: I think both of our oddest was when we were in Texas on tour with Willie Nelson. This lady was pregnant and she wanted us to sign her belly! She came up and said “Would you sign my baby?” I was looking around for a kid and she pulled her shirt up. We do what we have got to do!
OS: Who is the most famous person’s email address that you have?
Lydia: We have Jack White’s email address. What’s even weirder to have is cell phone numbers. We have Martina McBride’s.
OS: When you are on tour, what’s the main item you miss from home?
Laura: Our mama’s country cooking! When we were in Europe we were sitting in fancy restaurants eating nice European meals. Lydia asked me if I could eat anything what would it be? I said fried potatoes and corn bread.
OS: What’s the one negative about fame that people don’t realize?
Lydia: How much time it takes! You lose so much time and you work about 30 minutes a day. Everybody sees that and thinks your job is so easy because you perform 30 minutes, you travel so many places and it’s a unique job. But you’re also never in your own bed, you live out of a suitcase and you are homesick and exhausted. I think that has been a really tough adjustment.
OS: Have you ever asked another musician for an autograph?
Laura: When you’re a musician it feels strange, but we have definitely done it.
Before we started [as musicians] we were huge Brandi Carlile fans. We went to see her a few years back and did the whole thing fan. Now we’re going on tour with her! I hope she doesn’t remember I took a picture with her and was a total fan girl!
The Secret Sister are on tour. Find out concert and other news on their Web site.
Remember the year 2000? When the world stopped panicking about Y2K and N’Sync topped the Billboard charts, selling 2.42 million copies of their sophomore record No Strings Attached in just one week? Oh, what a difference a decade makes. Today we scoff at Y2K hysteria, and artists rarely (read: never) see those kinds of astronomical sales. But on a positive note, this means that smaller acts can climb their way up the charts, and in 2011 a number of indie artists are finding their way to the top”albeit with significantly smaller sales figures.
It was California-based alt-rockers Cake who kicked off the year of unlikely chart-toppers. Showroom of Compassion”the band’s first record in more than ten years”debuted at the top of the Billboard Top 200, giving them their first Number 1 album of their career. The Decemberists followed with The King Is Dead, bumping Cake from the top spot to earn their first number one record. Then came Amos Lee, who earned his first number one album with his third full-length Mission Bell.
We’d love to tell you that the news is all good”that smaller acts are finally seeing sales that match their talent. Unfortunately, while these artists have been breaking records with their Number 1 hits, the numbers tell a different story. Cake’s Showroom of Compassion sold only 44,000 copies, making it the lowest-selling Number 1 record since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. The Decemberists fared slightly better, managing to move 94,000 copies in their first week atop the charts. It looked like album sales were increasing, but just two weeks after Cake set the record for fewest copies sold to earn a Number 1 slot, Mission Bell sold a meager 40,000 copies to claim the title.
These dismal sales have the industry poised for one of its worst years ever. In the week ending January 30th, while Amos Lee was atop the charts, overall album sales totaled 5.3 million units. According to Billboard, that puts sales down 18% from the comparable week of 2010, when sales reached 6.5 million.
But wait! There’s hope! Before you decide that this is a sign of the end times for the industry, consider the success of digital downloads, which Billboard reports aren’t suffering as much. While Cake was racking up the tiny number of sales they needed to earn a Number 1 slot, Britney Spears’ latest single “Hold it Against Me” was downloaded 411,000 times. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” saw opening week digital sales of 448,000. And during the week that Amos Lee broke the record, digital downloads were down just 1 percent from the comparable week of 2010.
So maybe there is hope for the independent artists out there. Perhaps pop stars will rule the world of digital downloads, while fans with indie sensibilities (and CD players) continue to purchase physical copies of their music. Or maybe, as Cake’s Vince DiFiore told OurStage in February, [Fans] must feel sorry for us, or something like that, buying our record instead of getting it for free.
The leaves have changed, the temperature has dropped…there’s no doubt that it’s officially fall. Before the really cold weather starts to set in, sometimes it’s nice to go for a walk with some hot chocolate and an awesome acoustic playlist.
Here are our picks for music as chill as the air outside” the soundtrack for that perfect autumn day. Click on each artist on the list to check out their OurStage profile!
1. Andrew Varner – “Autumn Leaves” Could there be a more perfect title for this playlist? Andrew Varner starts us off on the right foot with this soulful yet spunky tune, complete with some The Fray-esque piano parts.
2. Hana Kim – “Chase the Morning” Hana’s voice is beautiful and perfectly compliments the soft guitar parts on the track. If you like A Fine Frenzy or Missy Higgins, you’re sure to be a fan of Hana’s!
3. Caleb Lovely – “Stay” Caleb’s voice makes this love song soothing and endearing. Definitely love the hand drumming as well!
4. Ron Pope – “Drop in the Ocean” This song grabs you right from the start. It’s an older version of the song, which now has a full band on it. Ron’s piano playing is flawless and his vocals truly capture the emotion in the lyrics. Ron performed this song as an unsigned artist on MTV’s Total Request Live and was soon awarded a record deal with Universal Republic!
5. Jesse Thomas – “Say Hello” Like KT Tunstall, Jesse Thomas’ voice is both pretty and rough, with a slightly raspy quality that makes her stand out from the typical female singer-songwriter. If you listen closely to this cute and quirky tune, you may realize the lyrics are deceptively dark.
6. Jordan Tolentino – “Closer To You” Jordan’s got the right idea on this song, as he sings, “We can grab some hot chocolate, walk and talk about the things that make you who you are.” The vocal melodies, fantastic harmonies and lively guitar on “Closer To You” remind us of Jason Mraz!
7. Torin Dinh – “I Could Lose the Night” This song has an almost country-like feel to it. The bells in the background add a bright and bouncy quality to this sweet acoustic number.
8. Natalie Creel – “To California” Sounding like a young Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Creel’s voice is full of emotion and sincerity. With songwriting chops like this, it’s hard to believe she’s only 20-years-old!
9. Chris Ayer- “Say What You Mean” One listen to this song and you’ll see why Chris Ayer has received a multitude of awards and praise for his music. On this track, Chris’ warm and encouraging voice asks listeners to “Say what you mean this time and stay who you are.”
10. Micah Premnath – “Oh My” Micah’s impressively smooth vocals start off this track on a high note, and it only gets better when the reggae-style beat fills in behind the guitar. With romantic lyrics and a catchy chorus, “Oh My” is sure to please fans of Amos Lee and Bruno Mars.
Check out all the songs in the player below and let us know which songs you would add!