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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Pop Shots - A Look At The Charts
Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to your weekly dose of pop world musings. Covering all things pop culture, this week Pop Shots is hitting you with some Billboard singles chart analysis, as Top 40 radio has been featuring a whole bunch of fresh voices, along with some new music from veteran acts. The chart positions I’m using are from the Billboard Hot 100 as it was listed on Billboard.com this past Thursday, and since this is Pop Shots, you know everything is seasoned with a little bit of attitude.

13) Clean Bandit w/ Jess Glynne - Rather Be

Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” might be the most original song on Top 40 radio today. With the band’s mix of electronic, and classical, music, the foursome, who have no lead singer, but instead work with a different singer for nearly every song on their album, have a truly fresh sound. They also have a video that features a cute girl, a helpful cat, and a fish market. During my interview with Clean Bandit’s violinist Neil Amin-Smith he joked about the latter, saying that when it comes to videos of fish markets, “That traditional area of YouTube does awfully well.” He also told a funny story about the first time he heard “Rather Be” on the radio, which happened in a taxi, and must now seem like forever ago, as the song is now on its way to breaking into the Top 10.

15) Iggy Azalea w/ Rita Ora - Black Widow

Everyone who was hoping Iggy Azalea would be forgotten about as soon as summer ended is going to be REALLY disappointed, because “Black Widow” will be keeping her around a little bit longer. Actually, we may be experiencing the beginning of a mini era of Iggy, as her team has found the perfect formula for her music – write a killer chorus, and have a singer who’s on the cusp of fame, but not there quite yet, sing it, so while everyone sings along, they still think of it as an Iggy Azalea song. On “Fancy” that job belonged to Charli XCX, who quickly followed it up with a gigantic hit single of her own. This time it’s Rita Ora, a singer whose career has flirted with fame for years now. After “Black Widow” I wouldn’t be surprised to see her finally find success on her own.

17) Becky G - Shower

I’ll say this for Becky G’s team, they’re a persistent bunch, as they’ve been trying for years to get her known. I remember first hearing her back in 2012 on Cher Lloyd’s single “Oath,” and now she finally has a hit of her own with “Shower.” Here’s the problem, although Becky G isn’t bad, she doesn’t sound like a pop star, she sounds like a kid imitating her favorite pop star (dare I invoke the name Kidz Bop?). Partly it’s the simplistic production, partly it’s her vocals, which sound very tween-ish. All that said, I’m not surprised “Shower” is doing well, because it’s the exact kind of song that every tween and young teen can sing along to while thinking about their current significant other. There’s an innocence to it that’s befitting her age (which is 17). As an aside, I can't help but think it was a little cruel to give a girl with a noticeable lisp a chorus with such prominent s-words.

18) Ariana Grande w/ Zedd - Break Free

Ariana Grande has reached a height of pop stardom I had previously reserved only for Taylor Swift, and that’s my personal “Can Do No Wrong” category. How do I define that category? It’s easy, they’re the only two pop stars whose albums I will go out and buy without hearing anything more than the radio singles, because I know the rest of the songs will be great. Grande’s vocals are always incredible, and the producers she works with are phenomenal (Babyface did half of her first album. Nuff said!). Her latest single, “Break Free,” is distinctly more EDM, with Zedd handling production, but it’s still right in Grande’s vocal wheelhouse. The video for “Break Free” is a little strange, as it seems like it was created by people who did a lot of drugs and then decided to watch Star Wars and Xanadu back to back. To put it another way, enjoy the boob rockets!

43) Echosmith - Cool Kids

The first time I heard “Cool Kids” was over a year ago. I was prepping for the 2013 Warped Tour, and wanted to know more about Echosmith since they were one of the up and coming acts on the tour that were starting to generate some buzz. I dug the song. It has hints of 80s pop, and lead singer Sydney Sierota has a really nice, expressive, voice. I saw them on Warped Tour that year, and interviewed the band when they opened for Tonight Alive later that fall. Since then Echosmith has basically lived on the road, hopping on tour after tour. Maybe that’s why the rest of the world is finally catching on to “Cool Kids,” the band’s ode to outsiders. I know I speak for quite a few folks when I say, ABOUT TIME! It should also be noted Sierota is the same age as Becky G, and songs like “Cool Kids” are why I feel it’s OK to hold young singers to high standards.

66) Katy Perry - This Is How We Do

I think Katy Perry has reached the stage of her career where she basically lives in her own Katy Perry Land, and that’s perfectly OK. It’s clear she knows who she is at this point, and she’s not about to screw around with what’s made her successful as a pop star. Her latest single, “This Is How We Do,” probably wouldn’t work if any other artist attempted to do it, but because it’s Katy Perry it not only works, it’s going to be a gigantic hit. The song is ridiculously silly, sounding like it’s the logical follow-up to “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” and the video features a litany of crazy visuals, my personal favorite being the twerking cartoon ice cream cone at the end. The entire clip is a prime example of Katy Perry enjoying her own little world, and occasionally inviting us in to see what goes on there. Hey, all I can say is the visits are always nice!

And with that, my time is up for the week, but I'll be back next week with more shots on all things pop.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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