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Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Arctic Monkeys' debut hits #1 in the UK: January 29, 2006

Originally posted January 29, 2012.



“Within the course of a year, the [Arctic Monkeys] rose from the ranks of an Internet phenomenon to the biggest band in the U.K., all on the strength of early demos circulated on the Web as MP3s. Those demos built the band a rabid fan base before the Monkeys had released a record, even before they played more than a handful of gigs. In effect, the group performed a complete run around the industry.” STE When Whatever People Say I Am hit the streets, it sold 363,735 copies in its first week, selling more than the rest of the Top 20 combined and making it the fastest selling debut in British history. WK

“Last time such excitement surrounded a new British guitar band it was a decade earlier, as Britpop hit overdrive with the release of Oasis’ 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe. All four members of the Arctic Monkeys were a little bit shy of their tenth birthday at the time, a bit young to be sure, but old enough to have Oasis be their first favorite band. So, it’s little surprise that the Gallaghers’ laddism – celebrating nights out fueled by lager and loud guitars – is the bedrock foundation of the Arctic Monkeys, just the way as it has been for most British rock bands since the mid-‘90s.” STE

However, “the Monkeys’ true musical ground zero is 2001, the year the Strokes stormed British consciousness with their debut, Is This It. The Arctic Monkeys borrow heavily from the Strokes’ stylized ennui, adding an equal element of the Libertines’ shambolic neo-classicist punk, undercut by a hint of dance-punk learned from Franz Ferdinand.” STE

“But where the Strokes camouflaged their songwriting skills with a laconic, take-it-or-leave-it sexiness and where the Libertines mythologized England with a junkie poeticism, the Arctic Monkeys at their heart are simple, everyday lads.” STE “Lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner tells stories from their lives – mainly hookups on the dancefloor and underage drinking, balanced by the occasional imagined tragic tales of prostitution and the music industry.” STE

The recycling of not-so-old sounds and styles can leave the Monkeys’ debut “surprisingly predictable” STE but “the one thing that sets them apart, and does give them promise, is Alex Turner’s writerly ambitions.” STE “While his words can be overcooked – allusions to Romeo & Juliet do not necessarily count as depth – he does tell stories, which does distinguish him from his first-person peers. But it's a double-edged sword, his gift: the very thing that sets him apart – his fondness for detail, his sense of place – may be the quality that makes his work resonate for thousands of young Britons, but they also tie him completely to a particular time and place that makes it harder to relate to for listeners who aren’t in his demographic or country (and perhaps time).” STE





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Friday, January 20, 2006

High School Musical premiered on TV: January 20, 2006

Originally posted January 20, 2012.



Disney “struck platinum with High School Musical, a made-for-cable movie that was mega-popular on the Disney Channel before spawning a mega-popular soundtrack. Echoing Grease, the plot involves two students” EV who meet at a New Year’s Eve party while their families are on vacation at a ski lodge over winter break. “During a karaoke contest at the teen party, they discover their love for singing... and an interest in each other.” AZ However, Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens) is a “shy transfer student who excels in math and science” WK and Troy (Zac Efron) is the captain of the basketball team. When they discover they go to the same high school, they try out for the lead parts in the high school musical “and challenge the status quo of their cliques in the process” HP as they “resist peer pressure and rivalry, inspiring others along the way not to ‘stick to the status quo’.” WK


“The movie’s soundtrack isn’t exactly challenging;” HP “the songs are typical Disney pop: on the bland side but also very well-crafted.” EV “It does feature a pretty engaging mix of music and empowering messages, most of which can be found in earnest ballads such as Start of Something New, When There Was Me and You, and Breaking Free. Meanwhile, We’re All in This Together sets lyrics like ‘Everyone is special in their own way/ We make each other strong’ to music inspired by ‘Hollaback Girl’s marching-band/cheerleader motif.” HP



“Among the standouts are Get’cha Head in the Game, which incorporates” EV “an urban pop melody” HP with “noises from a basketball game (squeaking sneakers, bouncing balls, whistles) to great effect.” EV There’s also “the fab tribute to 1970s piano-pop What I’ve Been Looking ForEV which “flirts with satire” HP because its “melody is so bright and the vocals so relentlessly cheery, it sounds like a parody of a show tune.” HP It is “sung by the theater kids who are threatened by these upstarts from other cliques invading their territory.” HP Similarly, the “big chorus” HP on “the old-school show-tuney Stick to the Status QuoEV “urges everyone to just ‘go with the flow’.” HP

“The music falters” EV when it “comes closer to sounding like the usual teen pop product issued by Disney, especially on I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You and the Latin-flavored Bop to the Top.” HP “Still, the album has enough personality to set it apart from the status quo of the studio’s other releases” HP and can “get kids to bounce and sing along nicely.” EV




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Saturday, January 7, 2006

Mary J. Blige hit #1 with “Be Without You” and The Breakthrough: January 7, 2006

Originally posted January 7, 2012.



LaShonda Barnett, author of I Got Thunder: Black Women Songwriters and Their Craft, wrote that the “authenticity, the emotional honesty and the vulnerability Blige reveals in her music” SF have much to do with many people calling Blige “our generation’s Aretha Franklin.” SF Indeed, “nobody knows heartache like Mary J. knows heartache.” TL Throughout her career, Blige has delivered dramatic “songs steeped in heartbreak and disappointment.” AK

Her seventh album, The Breakthrough, “features the best round of productions Blige has been handed since the mid-‘90s.” AK “Blige and producers Dr. Dre, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Will.i.am tasked themselves with stirring a river of hurt into some of the highest-caliber hip-hop/soul to hit the airwaves since she burned up the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack with ‘Not Gon’ Cry’.” TL

The album’s lead single, “Be Without You”, became Blige’s biggest hit to date. It was her fifth Billboard R&B chart topper, peaking on that chart the same week The Breakthrough debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart. “Without You” spent 15 weeks at the summit, making it the chart’s biggest hit in nearly 60 years. The last song to spend more weeks at #1 was Louis Jordan’s “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” with 17 weeks in 1947. With a massive 75 weeks on the R&B chart, “Without You” also became the champion for most weeks total. WK

The song and album garnered Blige some Grammy gold. “Without You” won for Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and was also nominated for Record and Song of the Year. The Breakthough won a Grammy for Best R&B Album.


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