Album Review: 1000 Forms of Fear by Sia

Sia is an excellent songwriter for others...but its possible she saves the best for herself...

Chart Highlights: Sanna Nielsen Takes "Undo" To #1

Ahead of the release of her 7th studio album (properly titled "7"), Celine Dion inspired Swedish singer Sanna Nielsen takes her Eurovision to #1 with a 2-1 lift, while setting an airplay record.

Chart Highlights: DJ Fresh Opens Top 20, Vita Chambers Scores 4th Top 5

This was an extremely competitive week on the Hot 50, with over 60 songs having fair shots at claiming spots. DJ Fresh and Ellie Goulding's "Flashlight" debuts within the top 20 and Vita Chambers climbs to the top 5 for the 4th time. "A+D" follows "Fix You", "Masquerade" and "What If?" as Vita's 4th top 4 entry.

Summer Songs Competition Kicks Off

Summer Songs 2014 Competition kicks off this week!

Which Song Is Better?: "Problem" or "Break Free" (Poll)

Which track is better? Vote for "Problem" or "Break Free" now!

Album Review: Ultraviolence Is in the Same Place With A Different Story

Lana Del Rey's most recent outing deals with subject matter oh so similar to what we saw on her major label debut, Born to Die. So what's so special about Ultraviolence? Its story.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Social Songs 100 Forecast: The Script Leads

It's that time of week again! The mid week numbers are finally through, and there's some interesting chemistry going on. Here's my mid week analysis of tracks duking it out on the Social Songs 100. It's going to be one wild week, so remember to keep it here for more news, and don't forget to vote for your favorites of the week by clicking here! See the biggest climbers and highest entries through the mid week point just below.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

CDS Picks: Kiesza, Weezer, The Script & More

Welcome back to another installment in the wildly popular CDS Picks feature. This time, I'm focusing on new recordings by Kiesza, Weezer, The Script and more. 6 more songs will be covered in part 2 of this week's CDS Picks series. Have more picks for this week? Just tweet me them and I'll give them a spin? Maybe they'll be make next week's rundown.

Sam Smith - "I'm Not the Only One"
While I critically panned one of his prior singles for being completely hypocritical ("Leave Your Lover"), Sam Smith proves that he's still a strong musician with "I'm Not the Only One". While his styles are completely haphazard and occasionally horribly confusing, he's still able to write decent material. "I'm Not the Only One" is one of the brightest highlights from his debut album In The Lonely Hour. See my original comments below.

"There's no denying that Sam Smith can tell a vibrant, passionate, heart-wrenching story, but when you compare the bold and downright ridiculousness of "Leave Your Lover" to what you hear on "I'm Not the Only One", you get a sense of confusion. For those criticizing "Leave Your Lover" for being hypocritical, it's hard to still call Sam Smith a hypocrite by the time the end of strings and chords come to a bitter end in "I'm Not the Only One". Why? Because you've already forgotten about the previous track, and are engrossed at the possibilities of what's next to come.

I'll give Sam Smith one thing: he's surprisingly good at telling a type of story that he hasn't had much experience with."

Kiesza - "So Deep"
While she's still riding high on the waves of "Hideaway" and "Giant In My Heart", there's a few other styles to be explored on her debut extended play, Hideaway. "So Deep" offers up a whole new image to the young budding singer. On this track, she swaps electronic deep house beats for a sexy r&b thump beat that still has some hints of progressed rhythm while feeling like a brand new experience. It's not as instantly captivating as her other works, but it works on a different level, and is a subtle grower. In a review for her Hideaway EP, I briefly touched on "So Deep". Here's a snippet of my original thoughts:

"..."So Deep" displays a trace/dance quality that feels so unique and glamorous all together..." 

Drake - "0 to 100 / The Catch Up"
Approximately a full year after his "Hold On, We're Going Home" became a massive hit on the CDS Music Chart Hot 50 (reaching #5 on the tally), Drake is back with a darker single to lead off his highly anticipated 4th studio album Views From the 6. "0 to 100 / The Catch Up" is a two part song that smoothes out from start to finish. It's a whole lot more grainy and really reminiscent of his early 2013 release "Started From the Bottom" (which ended up becoming my 2nd least favorite mainstream release of 2013), which leads me to believe that "0 to 100" will also become one of my least favorites of the year. Thankfully, it's not nearly as terrible. It's worth at least a listen or two.

Weezer - "Back to the Shack"
After 4 years of silence, American band Weezer is finally back with a brand new set of music.

The Script - "Superheroes"
During the last album cycle, British band The Script failed to impress me on many occasions, with "Hall of Fame" falling short of the CDS Music Chart Hot 50 back in 2012. Thankfully, The Script is back with a fresher sound. While "Superheroes" sounds a lot like the stuff on their last album, it's ripe with a new form of energy. 

Alexandra Stan - "Dance"
Stan's last effort ("Cherry Pop") got off to a less than pleasant start back in May, and barely missed inclusion on the CDS Music Chart Hot 50 on numerous occasions. Despite the mixed success of "Cherry Pop", Alexandra Stan's new single "Dance" could reverse her course.

Come back for more posts soon!

CDS Music Chart Hot 50: July 24th, 2014

See this week's full Hot 50 chart. I've attached the chart highlights as a guideline.

Click "View More" to see the full Hot 50 and skip the highlights.

This was an extremely competitive week on the Hot 50, with over 60 songs having fair shots at claiming spots. But with a chart only 50 positions long, there's bound to be some unfortunate situations. The thing that made this week especially gripping? There was a whole bunch of action over on the Social Songs 100 component chart, which had tons of songs vying for top 10 positions as well as constant rank changes throughout the week. It all came down to the last few hours of voting. Voting came in waves so large that the list saw more votes than the previous two weeks combined, as well as posting the largest volume of views and votes in over two months. The double point multiplier was not unlocked this past week, but as another hot week of voting begins on Monday, it's likely to be unlocked for the very first time.

When all was said and done, DJ Fresh and Ellie Goulding's revamped collaboration ("Flashlight") was crowned the #1 song of the week on the Social Songs 100. With the victory, "Flashlight" became the most approved #1 song in the 3 month history of the component chart with 94% of all votes for the track being counted as positive. That huge social presence translated into a massive debut for the track on the Hot 50. Remember, the Social Songs 100 is just 1 of the 4 main components that combine to create the Hot 50. See exactly where "Flashlight" entered on the Hot 50 after coverage of the top 10.

The Hot 50 chart is counts points from Saturday to Friday and is formulated using the following:

  • Official US Radio plays that I listen to count as 1 point each. Referred to as the Radio Songs Chart.
  • Plays through my iTunes or Spotify (mainly the former) libraries count as 2 points each. If the track is not available to purchase at a given moment, plays of the track's official audio on Youtube or Soundcloud also count for 2 points each. Referred to as the Streaming Songs Chart.
  • The release of a track's official music video sees the song in question receive a one time bonus of 5 points if I watch the video within its first two weeks of release. If a song first charts over two weeks after the video's release, it is eligible to get the five point bonus within its first two weeks of charting. There is no component chart for this category given that it awards a one time bonus.
  • The top 10 most voted for songs on the "Vote For Your Favorites of the Week" chart receive points. #1 gets 10 points, #2 gets 9 and so on and so forth. If voting reaches a certain threshold during any given week, the 2x multiplier will be unlocked. If the 2x multiplier is unlocked, #1 gets 20 points (instead of 10), #2 gets 19 points (instead of 9) so on and so forth. #11 gets 10 points (instead of none), and #20 gets 1 point (instead of none). Referred to as the Social Songs 100 Chart.
As I do every weekend, let's dive deeper into the numbers and how things played out on this week's Hot 50 chart.

Maroon 5's "Maps" stays put in first place for a 3rd consecutive week, edging closer to the group's record stay at the summit. The band has sent 4 singles to the top off the Hot 50, totaling a grand total of 9 weeks at the top of the chart. Here's how the breakdown goes:

Weeks - Title - Start of Reign
4 Weeks at #1 - "Payphone (feat. Wiz Khalifa)" - April 19th, 2012
3 Weeks at #1 - "Maps" - July 10th, 2014
1 Week at #1 - "Love Somebody" - September 20th, 2012
1 Week at #1 - "One More Night" - September 13th, 2012

Back to "Maps", the track tacks another week on the summit bolstered by major strides on component charts. Additionally, its two biggest competitors decline in points this week. In other words, "Maps" holds the summit with a comfortable lead. With "Maps" posting a gain and Kiesza's "Hideaway" dipping approximately 2%, Maroon 5 holds the top position with a 12% lead. Last week, a mere 7.5% separated the two tracks.

With 135 all format points counted this week, the track gains by approximately 3% (+2.96%) which suggests "Maps" will lead for a large amount of time than originally anticipated. The cut leads Pop Songs for a third week, holds at #2 on Streaming Songs for a second straight week and bullets yet again at #1 on Radio Songs (which it has lead for a 5 consecutive weeks). The track descends 1-7 on the Social Songs 100 after just a single week on top. Additionally, "Maps" spends a 3rd frame atop Adult Pop Songs and a 5th week atop Adult Songs.

To date (including this frame), Maroon 5 has notched a cumulative total of 8 weeks at #1 on the Hot 50 since 2012 across 4 entries (out of 8 top 10s). Maroon 5's previous 7 top 5 hits are as follows: the #1 peaking "Payphone (feat. Wiz Khalifa)", the #1 peaking "One More Night", the #1 peaking "Love Somebody", the #3 peaking "Lucky Strike", the #5 peaking "Doin' Dirt", the #5 peaking "Daylight" and the #5 peaking "Moves Like Jagger (feat. Christina Aguilera)". With just under 250 points through its 5th frame, "Maps" is already on pace to wind up with a total past 900, with a 2x Platinum certification (1250+ points) within reach. That would put it between "Payphone" and "One More Night", as the band's second biggest single to date (2012-present).

Kiesza's "Hideaway" holds strong in 2nd place for a sixth week. The track, which spent its first 6 weeks at #1, has logged 12 consecutive weeks with the top 2. While that's nowhere bear the record, it's worth noting that only one other song has achieved more weeks in the region in all of 2014: OneRepublic's "Counting Stars" previously spent a massive 13 weeks in the area, with a record 11 of those being at #2. Amazingly, Kiesza still holds the second longest running #1 debut (behind the 11 non-consecutive week run of "Applause") as well as the only song to rack 100 points or more for 12 weeks, further extending its record lead (it surpassed "Do What U Want" after its third week past 100) though that's not saying much given that every track in the top 10 wound up past 100 points this week. Currently, "Hideaway" is ranked as the #1 song of the summer as the annual competition enters its eighth week, furthering its lead over Sanna Nielsen's "Undo" (which held the #1 seasonal slot to date for 3 weeks).

Kiesza's "Giant In My Heart" holds at its #3 peak position for a 2nd consecutive week to notch its 4th week within the top 10. Previously, her debut single "Hideaway" reached the summit of the Hot 50 chart for 6 consecutive weeks at #1. With 124 points scored this week, the track barely slipped into the #3 position this week. At this point, it is highly likely that "Giant" winds up taking the #1 position from the current leader (Maroon 5's "Maps") within the next few weeks. That would make it Kiesza's second #1 single. At this rate, Kiesza's "Giant In My Heart" could end up joining "Hideaway" in the Summer Songs top 10. We'll know more about where it could rank in a few weeks, as the competition is just beginning its second half.

Sanna Nielsen's "Undo" holds tight at #4 on the CDS Music Chart Hot 50's summit after reigning at #1 for 3 consecutive frames, which tied Loreen's "Euphoria" as the longest reigning #1 hit from any edition of the Eurovision Song Contest (coincidentally, both female artists represented Sweden in the annual competition). This week, "Undo" slides to 122 points, a 3 point drop. With its continued slip, "Undo" continues to fall below Kiesza's "Hideaway" in terms of overall points in the 2014 Summer Songs competition. As of the eigth week of summer tracking, "Undo" is now the #2 best performing track of the season (Kiesza's "Hideaway" shifts to 345 points, to continue holding the #1 seasonal rank).

Vita Chambers' "A+D" ascends 10-5 to become the Canadian artist's  4th consecutive top 5 single. The track follows Vita's "Fix You, "Masquerade" and "What If?" (which peaked at numbers 1, 2 and 3 respectively), which all hit the region between December 2012 and October 2013. The track posts this week's biggest top 10 increase courtesy of a 43-3 blast on the Social Songs 100 (which gives the track an 8 point bonus) as well as a 5 point boost thanks to the release of the track's official video.  While "A+D" was the only Vita Chambers song to not debut within the top 10, the track has clearly made up for it with this surge. With this frame, it spends a fifth week past 100 points and a 6th overall week in the top 10.

In 6th and 7th place, Nico & Vinz and Sia each advance one position with their singles "Am I Wrong" (7-6) and "Chandelier" (8-7) respectively. Nico & Vinz's track shifts upwards in overall chart points, and shuffles up on several genre based and component charts thanks to its lift. It bounds 4-3 on Pop Songs, 8-4 on Radio Songs, 5-3 on Adult Songs and 4-2 on Adult Pop Songs. Sia's power pop single is also up in overall chart points while making huge strides on the Social Songs 100 (18-5). The track additionally bumps 9-3 on Radio Songs, bounds 5-4 on Pop Songs, 6-4 on Adult Songs and 5-3 on Adult Pop Songs. It has also become Sia's second most successful single to date (after her collaboration with David Guetta, "Titanium", which ended up hitting the #1 position for two consecutive frames), outing her collaboration with Flo Rida's "Wild Ones" (which peaked at #8 on the Hot 50 for just a single frame).

After spending 4 weeks within the top 5, Clean Bandit's "Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)" drops 5-8 on this week's Hot 50. Out of its 23 weeks on the chart, the track has spent 14 non-consecutive weeks in the top 10. It previously tallied two weeks at #9 toward the start of its run and a total of five non-consecutive weeks at #10 (a record tying total). Katy Perry's "Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J)" first strung together 5 non-consecutive weeks at #10 between December 2013 and February 2014. Given the track's impressively strong track record (and decent hold this week), "Rather Be" will likely close past 1000 chart points (it passes 925 points this week), which ranks as the #4 best performing single of the year to date.

Iggy Azalea's "Fancy (feat. Charli XCX)" drops 6-9 after spending the past month stalled at #6. This week it racks up a 9th week within in the top 10, still marking gains on the chart. Additionally, it makes noticeable strides on Radio and Streaming components. It leads Hip-Hop/Rap Songs for a 11th straight week, though it slips considerably on the Social Songs 100. It should be on pace for an 12th week at #1 on Hip-Hop/Rap Songs, given the fact that its biggest competitor (Nicki Minaj's "Pills N Potions") drops 1 rung to #15 this week.

After 4 weeks between #11-14, Disclosure's "Latch (feat. Sam Smith)" returns to the upper tier for the first time in just over a month. The Electronic hit previously peaked at #3, and spent 3 weeks at #4 (the most weeks at the same position for the track). The track's fantastic hold can be mainly attributed to its massive presence at United States radio and its massive move on the Social Songs 100. The single will easily wind up becoming one of the biggest successes of the summer and possibly of the entire year. "Latch" will likely become one of the biggest dance tracks of the year, and has a shot at becoming a heavily nominated track at the 2014 CDS Music Chart Year End Awards.

Just outside the top 10, DJ Fresh and Ellie Goulding team together to launch "Flashlight" (a revamped version of the original Halcyon Days track from 2013), which enters the CDS Music Chart Hot 50 at #19, barely debuting within the top 20. The track becomes Ellie Goulding's 10th charting single, and 9th top 20 single. It's also DJ Fresh's first track to debut on the Hot 50 (though he has gotten close 5 times prior, most recently with his "Dibby Dibby Sound" in February 2014). Up and coming American alternative/indie-pop artist (well actually her genre is an amazing combination of a whole bunch of sub genres; you need to give her a listen) VÉRITÉ debuts as the second highest entry with her first ever single "Strange Enough". Other entries include "We Are Done" by The Madden Brothers, "Right Here" by Jess Glynne and "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" by Paloma Faith on the lower end of the Hot 50.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Album Review: Laura Walsh's "Laura Walsh" EP

Well known for her stint on Gorgon City's massive #1 single, Laura Welsh just popped up out of nowhere with her debut release "Break the Fall". While the single has yet to officially crack the CDS Music Chart Hot 50, it is worth pointing out that the alternative tinged track was actually the track of the week at the end of June. Looks like her quick success has lead to even more. Her debut extended play (called Laura Welsh) has already made a whole bunch of waves since its quiet July 8th launch date. The 4 piece album sampler is the current iTunes album of the week. Included on the tracklist is "Break the Fall" and two other tracks for a heavily discounted price alongside a track called "Ghost", which is offered for the premium price of $1.29.

Rating (Out of 100)
Generally Positive

Monday, July 21, 2014

Album Review: Sanna Nielsen's "7"

Sanna Nielsen may not have won the 2014 installment of the Eurovision Song Contest for her home country of Sweden, but not to worry. She's still serving up new tracks by the boatload. Channeling her inner Celine Dion, Nielsen crafted her latest album, 7, mainly just this year. Recording sessions took place between the end of December 2013 and May 2014. The end result is one of the finest works by Sanna to date. Despite being only 9 tracks long, 7, is a nice volume of music.

The highlights range from the pop power ballad "Undo" (which ended up peaking at #1 on the CDS Music Chart Hot 50) to "Breathe" a fast paced pop track that shows a sunnier side of Sanna. "Rainbow" (the album's second single) is also an adrenaline packed punch that could wind up being another smash single for Sanna.

What sets 7 apart from other pop albums is immediately clear upon first listen: It doesn't try to hard, because its material is strong enough to support itself. "Undo" leads the pack in terms of vocal punch, with even live performances being extremely outstanding. "Rainbow" and "Breathe" are also huge standouts that have major potential. "Skydivin" and "Trouble" are among the more moderate tracks with "Ready" being the worst track (that's really not saying that much though).

While this album is kind of in the middle of the road for Sanna (it's a departure from her mainly Swedish discography while still capturing her voice in the style of Celine Dion lil her previous works), it seems like the right direction. For the most part, Sanna Nielsen gets it spot on (there are still a few tough areas), which makes 7 one of her most impressive albums to date.

Rating (Out of 100)
Generally Positive
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