Sometimes it is good to be an American Idol finalist that people had counted out. After sitting out most of Season Nine of American Idol, I came back on board last year with the advent of new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. Even with the disappointing treatment that third place Haley Reinhart received from the judges for not conforming to their expectations, I got sucked in again this year for Season Eleven, only to lose interest once they reached the Semi-Final rounds. One of the few sparks for me was Phillip Phillips’s Dave Matthew-esque take on more contemporary fare. By the time the show got down to the Final Three (Phillips, Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet), I was back on board and loving all three. I braced myself for horrible final songs, and Sanchez didn’t disappoint with her bizarre “Change Nothing.” And then the unthinkable happened…Phillip Phillips got a decent song. “Home” is the first Idol download I’ve purchased since David Cook triumphed in Season Eight, and its Coldplay meets Mumford and Sons vibe has lodged itself in my head randomly over the past two months.
“Home” instantly shot to number one on iTunes and debuted at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100, but enthusiasm died after a couple of weeks. That enthusiasm returned during the 2012 Olympics, as NBC used his coronation song as the theme music for the now Gold-winning US Women’s Gymnastics team. “Home” currently finds itself back at home on top of the iTunes Singles chart, guaranteeing it will make a strong return to the upper half of the Hot 100 after re-entering at number 84 this week. Seeing that they have momentum at their backs, 19 Recordings decided to finally release the video for “Home.” It’s nothing exciting, which might explain why they didn’t bother releasing it, but it’s got some great scenery.
Someone who has taken a lot longer to finally break through is Season Six finalist Chris Richardson. We’ve been beating the drum for Chris pretty hard for a while now, but things have finally kicked into gear with the release of his first official single on Cash Money Records. Chris hit the Hot 100 last year singing the hook on rapper Tyga’s “Far Away,” and now Tyga is returning the favor by dropping a verse on the intro to “Joy and Pain,” a track that precedes his full-length debut later in 2012. “Joy and Pain” is very of-the-moment in sound and structure, and Chris sounds like he’s having fun with the track. The Tyga rap feels like an add-on rather than part of the song, but it doesn’t take much to picture this fitting in to current Top 40 and R&B radio station playlists. While I prefer some of his self-released tracks, “Joy and Pain” is not a bad way to introduce Chris to a wider audience.
Phillip Phillips’s “Home” is available on digital single now in the US. Chris Richardson’s “Joy and Pain” doesn’t have a release date yet, but he tweeted on July 29th “#JoyandPain cover art almost done. Radio add date is close. Hope y’all Are ready, cause I am.”
I have a history for liking male pop artists that got their start on American Idol. Elliot Yamin, Blake Lewis and (most importantly) Chris Richardson have all made their mark on the pop charts post-Idol to some degree, but none of them have had what you’d call a superstar career. Chris Rich may be on his way to the next level via Young Money, but that remains to be seen (check back in about a week or so for more on that). In the meantime, it’s time to welcome Stefano Langone to the club. His initial hook on the show was his soulful vocals (especially his cover of Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now“), but he made his mark on the semi-finals with a remixed version of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Lately.”
While making it to seventh on American Idol is nothing to sneeze at, it sure isn’t a guarantee of a recording contract. In fact, of the ten previous 7th place finishers, only Academy Award-winning Jennifer Hudson has had any enduring success in the music business. However, season 11 was different. When Pia Toscano was unexpectedly eliminated after Top Nine Week, Interscope Records quickly put out a press release saying that her signing was inevitable, showing the equation for signing Idol artists would be a little different now that Jimmy Iovine was directly involved in the show. So when an announcement was made in January 2012 that Stefano was signed to Hollywood Records, no one was really surprised. Fast forward three months later, and here is the initial offering from Stefano Langone:
Full disclosure: The first time I heard “I’m On a Roll,” I didn’t know what to make of it. I expected something slightly more R&B than pop, but after a few listens, the song is now stuck in my head. The lyrics aren’t going to set the world on fire, but the song is fun and it fits right in with what is getting airplay in the US right now. If this is the direction he planned on going, he’s made a pretty brilliant play for pop success, even bringing along in-demand rappers the New Boyz for the ride. However, I believe Stefano may be setting himself up for getting a foot in the door so his more soulful vocals and writing can get to a wider audience. That in itself makes rooting for “I’m On a Roll” to be a success even easier to do.
Stefano Langone’s “I’m On a Roll” comes out on April 24th in the US, and he will perform the song for the first time on American Idol on the 26th.
Once again, I find myself being sucked into the new season of X Factor, primarily because its US counterpart (American Idol) has become such a pitiful shell of its former self. While the X Factor tryout episodes are just as annoying at times as the US tryouts are, every once in a while you get a glimpse of talent so unexpected that it blows you away. Such is the case with 16-year-old Cher Lloyd, who blew the judges and live audience away with her performance of Keri Hilson’s cover of “Turn My Swag On”. To give some context, here’s the video for Keri’s take on the Soulja Boy original:
And then check out Cher’s intro and performance. This, my friends, is why I love the talent shows. Despite the fact that Cher is modeling her style and choreography off of Keri’s performance, she is a natural-born performer.
Honestly, I could watch that over and over and over again. If ever there was an example of someone having an X Factor, it’s Cher. Next stop is boot camp, and it has to be all but a given that she’s going to make it onto the main competition. If you watched the end of the audition video, you would swear that Cheryl was plotting some diabolical plan to steal either Cher’s talent or her soul. I haven’t decided which yet.
As for Keri Hilson, she should have an album coming out soon, although her release dates bounce around quite a bit if her debut CD is any indication. Idolator posted a new track called “Still a Girl”, and while Robbie likened the sound to TLC, I hear a LOT of Gabrielle’s “Dreams” in the backing track. Solid album cut, although I don’t think it has hit potential, but it’s an interesting direction for her. You have to wonder if “Turn My Swag On’ will end up on the new record, but in the meantime you can pick up the remix version of Soulja Boy’s track with Keri singing the hook at Amazon MP3 or iTunes.
What the heck…let’s close this out with a Gabrielle flashback. Rumor has it she is coming out with a new album in the near future.
– If you’re not on board the Marina and the Diamonds bandwagon yet, here’s your chance: “I Am Not a Robot” is the iTunes Single of the Week here in the US. The full-length is also released today, so if you haven’t checked it out, now’s a great time to.
– Tonight is the season finale for American Idol season 9, and you can hear the collective yawn around the country from people who really don’t care. I have gotten pulled in this past week based on Lee DeWyze’s version of “Hallelujah”, which by all rights should be retired and put out to pasture, but he does a great version of it. He’s definitely got a David Cook vibe, although I gather he will be a bit more like Dave Matthews in his own musical style. If you like the live version, I strongly recommend the studio version as well.
– June is going to be an amazing music month, with full-lengths from Robyn, Scissor Sisters, Crowded House, Christina Agui…oh, wait. No one seems to care about that one anymore. Anyway, my most anticipated release for the month is not anything current, but the 20th Anniversary reissue of the Cure’s Disintegration. I was convinced back in 1990 that I was “deep” because of my love of this record. I now know that it was more the vibe than the sentiment that I really related to, but that CD was played on more than a few late-night road trips. To celebrate, why don’t we take a look at what used to be one of their lesser known singles here in the US until it became a go-to track for Hewlett Packard, “Pictures of You”.
– I have said in the past that I think Jason DeRulo’s “In My Head” would be a killer track live, and Jason showed and proved last night on American Idol‘s results show. It’s sad that the only reason I pay attention to Idol these days is for the guest appearances. Given how Usher’s “O.M.G.” and Diddy’s “Hello Good Morning” vaulted into the Hot 100 last week, there is a good chance that DeRulo will also make a big move next week, since it has more airplay than either of those tracks. As of right now, Jason is at #6 on iTunes’s Top Downloads, which will probably translate to a jump into the Top 3, but probably not #1.
– I let out a small gasp when I read that punk visionary Malcolm McLaren passed away today from cancer. Even if you don’t know WHO Malcolm is, you at least have a sense that he was an important figure in the music industry in his time. While most folks know him as the man behind the rise of the Sex Pistols in the late 70s, my first contact was his early 80s experimentation with hip-hop on “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch”. I have no doubt that my love of hip-hop comes from Malcolm taking a raw American musical genre and interpreting it in a way that made it much more accessible to the masses. How many people can say that they had an influential hand in two musical genres during their lifetime?
– Speaking of shocking, you MUST check out the interview over at DontStopThePop with a Swedish producer. No name is ever given, but who cares? Accusations of payoffs, favoritism and manipulation have always been considered a given to some degree here in the States as far back as the Payola scandal, but to hear the accusation surface about Sweden’s pop perfection industry just seems sacrilegious. If nothing else, it is a riveting interview to try and figure out who is gutsy enough to put the accusations out there.
– Remember what I said about ukeleles last week? In a sign that it is already overused, Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy (didn’t he used to be Travis?) debuts at #92 on the Hot 100 with “Billionaire”. Any good thought I had of tiny guitar flew out the window as the track started. Shark, meet ukelele.
It’s the first day of spring here in Denver, which means it’s a beautiful day outside, as long as you love sunny, cold days with a lot of snow on the ground. The high on Monday will be in the 60s…welcome to the Colorado rollercoaster!
– It’s been interesting to watch the parallel climbs of American Idol Season 8 winner Kris Allen and the Script up the Pop airplay chart over the past two months. For those not familiar, Kris’s “Live Like We’re Dying” is a Script original that was the b-side to their debut single “We Cry”. I really like the Script’s debut, and “Breakeven” has always been my favorite track on their debut, but I am not a fan of their version of “Live”. Seems like a win-win situation for everyone…Kris gets a top 20 hit out of the box, and the Script get a natural boost after their US debut “Man Who Can’t Be Moved” didn’t quite set the charts on fire. Here’s the Script version of “Live”:
– Mr Hudson will score his first US top 40 hit next week, but only as a featured artist on Jay-Z’s “Young Forever”. The single comes in at #41 this week on the Billboard Hot 100, up a strong 18 spots from last week. Island/Def Jam still has Hudson featured on the front page of their website, so maybe he’s still a priority.
– I was watching Chelsea Lately this evening, and a makeup commercial used Paloma Faith’s “Stone Cold Sober”. Is an American invasion in the cards for Paloma? With fellow Brits Jay Sean, La Roux and Taio Cruz making strong runs at the American pop chart, maybe this is the time to have a go at it. By the way, do you think La Roux’s success on Cherrytree here in the US has anything to do with labelmate Lady GaGa? Just wondering…
And while we’re also speaking of Chelsea, I saw her live last weekend. Let’s just say that I would have been better off using that money for one of my upcoming shows in April. With Miike Snow and Sia on the slate, it should be a good music month.
I was not going to comment on American Idol until they got past Hollywood week, but tonight saw what I would argue is the best first audition in the history of Hollywood Week. Andrew Garcia took a well-known pop song and changed it into something much more crunchy and edgy. It is because of moments like this that I love this show. Let’s see how long the clip stays up to be viewed: