The late ˜70s gave us a plethora of short-term disco stars who lived”and quickly died”by the groove, while the Tacos, the Kajagoogoos and the After the Fires of the early ˜80s, arrived wielding synthesizers and tressed for fifteen minutes and less of success. More recently, in 2005 and 2006, sensitive singer-songwriter guys Daniel Powter (Bad Day) and James Blunt (You’re Beautiful) helped usher out the pre-Rihanna/Katy Perry/Lady Gaga phase of pop.
In 2009, as a higher number of headlining newcomers than usual ascended to the summit (Lady Gaga, Jay Sean and Jason DeRülo, among them), at least one, Owl City”the act behind Fireflies”was bound to never fly anywhere near those heights again. And last year, with dance music dominating the airwaves more dramatically than it had since the aforementioned disco age, we got indie-pop with a beat for exactly one massive hit single, courtesy of Foster the People, who went all the way to No. 3 with Pumped Up Kicks.
Which of 2012’s first-timers so far are most likely to not still be succeeding by their next single? fun., the rock trio that recently spent six weeks at No. 1 with “We Are Young”? Or Gotye, who rode a quirky song and an even more oddball video all the way to the top?
At a quick glance, Gotye seems to have all of the trappings of a one-hit wonder. Interesting name that one might need a pronunciation key to get right? Check. Song that sounds unlike anything else on the radio? Check. A colorful video that jumps off the screen for reasons that have as much to do with the high concept as the song itself? Check.
It’s been more than a hot minute since multi-platinum boy bands like *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys roamed the earth and ruled the charts. Now, after a decade-long dormancy, cute, heavily-styled guys who sing in harmony and don’t play instruments are suddenly back in fashion.
Once again, the UK is leading the charge onward and upward. While Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were born in the USA, they enjoyed their earliest success in the UK. This time, though, the new wave of blushing boy bands represents an authentic UK-born-and-bred British invasion.
The members of The Wanted, whose “Glad You Came” single has climbed into the Top 3 of Billboard’s Hot 100 (the quintet’s self-titled US debut album arrives April 24), and One Direction, whose first album, Up All Night, just outpaced Adele to enter Billboard’s Top 200 album chart at No. 1 (176,000 vs. 148,000 copies sold), all hail from Britain and Ireland.
In just a few months, both groups already have enjoyed more US success than Ireland’s Westlife, or Take That, perhaps the UK’s biggest boy band ever, who aside from one Top 10 single (1995’s Back for Good), never made it big in the States. (With the exception of Spice Girls and Bananarama, UK female vocal groups”including All Saints in the ˜90s and, more recently, Sugababes and Girls Aloud”haven’t fared much better in the US over the years.)
That’s what John Taylor of Duran Duran recently told Time Out Melbourne on the subject of illegal downloading. When I read Taylor’s comments, I applauded as if his band had just completed a rousing encore of Skin Trade. Finally, a pop star who understands what it’s like to be low on cash but high on music.
Back in the old pre-Internet days, before iTunes, Amazon and having access to the latest hits 24/7 on YouTube, if you couldn’t afford to pay to listen to the music you loved anytime you wanted to, you had to improvise. For me, and, apparently, for Taylor, that meant pushing a tape recorder up the speakers of the radio, waiting for your favorite song to come on, pressing play when it did, and praying for no outside noise to interfere with the sweet music coming from the speakers.
During the early weeks of the year, 2012 sounded a lot like 2011, as Adele continued to rule Billboard’s Top 200 album and Hot 100 singles charts with 21, one year into the album’s life span. For all of her ongoing success, by February, the tops of the pops finally began to welcome some much-needed counterprogramming to The Adele Show, featuring rotating regular guest stars Katy Perry, Rihanna and Bruno Mars.
For several weeks, the late Whitney Houston became the chart force in death that she hadn’t been in life for more than a decade (“I Will Always Love You,” her signature No. 1 hit, re-charted and rose to No. 3, and one week, she had three albums in the Top 10), while a number of vets and newcomers arrived on the singles scene looking for a hit. They all came out swinging, but not everyone scored. Although the night”er, the year”is still young, look who’s winning (and losing) now.