A-Ha, Dexys, Madness, and The Correct Definition Of One-Hit Wonder


A-Ha, Dexys, Madness, and The Correct Definition Of One-Hit Wonder

When it comes to music, there are many things that frustrate me…

… Established bands releasing covers as singles

… Paperless ticketing

… Drum solos

… The Video Music Awards

At the top of this rundown of vexation is when artists are referred to as “one-hit wonders” when they’re really not one-hit wonders.

It’s sloppy, ignorant, and lazy scholarship. 

It’s like ill-using “irony” or not knowing the meaning of “literally.”

The misapplication of “one-hit wonder” irks me because the phrase has negative connotations.  Using it inappropriately can besmirch an otherwise good artist.


This recently happened in a post on a USA Today blog about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III being demoted to second string.

Later in the article, the author speculates that Griffin will become “the NFL’s version of Dexys Midnight Runners.”

In other words, the author is calling Griffin a “one-hit wonder.”

Assess Griffin’s talents how you will, but Dexys Midnight Runners are not one-hit wonders! 

Sure, “Come On Eileen,” which went to number one in 1982, is the band’s only top 20 hit in the U.S., but Dexys had seven top 20 hits in the U.K.

Beyond that, they’ve made some good music.  Check out the album containing “Come On Eileen,” Too-Rye-Ay, it’s solid.

Dexys Midnight Runners’ Other Great Songs
"The Celtic Soul Brothers"
“Let’s Make This Precious”
“Plan B”
“There, There My Dear”

Yes, Dexys only had one chart-topper in the U.S. but they are much better than your typical “one-hit wonder.” 

The unflattering cognomen doesn’t apply to them and many other acts that have compiled a respectable musical corpus but haven’t experienced chart success.

So What Exactly Is A One-Hit Wonder?
If we go by how many Top 40 or Top 20 hits an artist has to their credit then we run into problems.  That system doesn’t really speak to an artist’s output.

If we only count acts that have cracked the Top 40, but not the Top 20, then Rush, Korn, Frank Zappa, Iggy Pop, The White Stripes, and Roxy Music are all one-hit wonders. 

But those acts are not one-hit wonders.  They are influential artists with a huge catalog of great songs.

If we only count acts that have cracked the Top 20 then Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, The Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, Kings of Leon, T. Rex, and Smashing Pumpkins are all one-hit wonders. 

But those acts are not one-hit wonders.  There are legends, icons, and superstars that have changed the face of music.

We usually think of one-hit wonders as artists who had fleeting careers—blink and you missed them.  Yet, there are several bands that have technically never even had a “hit” but are the cornerstones of popular music.

Artists that have never had a top 40 hit include Bob Marley, Phish, Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, The Ramones, Pixies, and Iron Maiden.

Here’s further proof that the charts are an inaccurate measurement of an artist’s output…

>>Bob Dylan has never had a number one single.
>>Lil Wayne (64) and the Glee Cast (51) have more Top 40 singles than The Beatles (50).
>>Mariah Carey is tied with Elvis Presley for the most weeks at number one (79).
>>Rihanna (13) has more number one singles than The Supremes (12), Madonna (12), and Whitney Houston (11).
>>Drake (91) has as many if not more Hot 100 entries than James Brown (91), Ray Charles (80), Aretha Franklin (73), and The Beatles (71).

One Song
Obviously, we can’t only use chart success in determining “one-hit wonders.”  It creates too many problems, exceptions, and paradoxes.

We also must be careful to assume that a one-hit wonder is an artist whose entire career is based on the popularity of one song.   

After all, where would Weezer be without “Buddy Holly,” Everclear without “Santa Monica,” Sinead O’Connor without “Nothing Compares 2 U,” or A-ha without “Take On Me?” 

Heck, where would KISS be without "Rock and Roll All Nite?"

Going back to A-ha, they are NOT a one-hit wonder.  In fact, they’ve reunited to release their tenth studio album and are preparing to collect concert tickets via a European tour.

A-ha had three top 20 hits in the U.S. and eight number one singles in their native Norway.

To define the term “one-hit wonder,” and to keep its negative connotations, we must say that it applies to artists who are artistically, commercially, and historically known for just one song.

If we use just the main singles chart, the Billboard Hot 100, then there are hundreds of one-hit wonders including the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Buffalo Springfield, Lou Reed, Randy Newman, Kate Bush, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, and Liz Phair.

Using my definition, which is infinitely more accurate, than there are actually very few one-hit wonders. 

That makes sense since most acts can parlay the success of one hit into another.  And truth be told, most artists actually have enough talent to put together a decent music career.

Still, not everyone can be U2, Coldplay, or Taylor Swift.

>>Brewer and Shipley, whose only Top 40 hit is “One Toke Over the Line,” have released 11 studio albums and are still performing live.  Therefore, they are not a one-hit wonder.

>>A Flock of Seagulls released three straight top 40 singles in 1982—one of them being
“I Ran (So Far Away).”  They’ve also won a Grammy Award.  Therefore, they are not a one-hit wonder.

>>Madness is best known for “Our House,” which peaked at #7 in 1982, but they sent “It Must Be Love” to #33 in 1981.  Therefore, it’s madness to call Madness a one-hit wonder.

Also, Madness owned the charts in their native U.K.  From 1979 to 1986, they charted twenty Top 20 singles.  If you’ve heard Madness then you know they are far more substantial than any one-hit wonder.

Actual One-Hit Wonders
Steam – “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" (1969)
Zager and Evans — “In the Year 2525” (1969)
Mountain – “Mississippi Queen” (1970)
Starland Vocal Band — “Afternoon Delight” (1976)
The Vapors — “Turning Japanese” (1980)
Tony Basil – “Mickey” (1982)
Michael Penn – “No Myth” (1990)
Lou Bega — "Mambo No. 5" (1999)
Baha Men — “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (2000)
Daniel Powter — “Bad Day” (2005)

My Recommendation
I recommend the author of the blog post drop the Dexys reference; it doesn’t make any sense (the band is not a one-hit wonder).

In its place, I’d suggest referencing The Georgia Satellites.  Their only hit was “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”  It went to #2 in 1986. 

Who’s Cooler: The Beatles Or The Rolling Stones?

BeatlesStonesWho’s Cooler: The Beatles Or The Rolling Stones?

As a writer, I don’t like to use the word “cool”—unless, of course, I’m writing about temperature.

I think it’s lazy; there’s always a better word.

Nonetheless, “cool” is part of our lexicon and our culture, but what exactly does the word mean?

It’s easier to cite examples of cool then it is to create a definition.  For example, Elvis Presley (before he started making movies), Jimi Hendrix, Joe Strummer, Morrissey, Kurt Cobain, and Jack White are cool.  Pat Boone, Milli Vanilli, and American Idol contestants are not.

To further complicate matters, one can evolve in and out of “cool.”  Neil Diamond is certainly cooler now than he was in the 1970s.  Time has not been so kind to Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth, and Dave Matthews.

We can parse the word “cool,” and argue over who deserves it as an honorific title, until the cows come home.  I hope we do since it strengthens my claim of not using the word when I write (I seldom use it in conversation either).

Beatles or Stones
There is one avenue, a battle really, where we don’t need to spend any time defining the word “cool.”  That’s rock and roll’s age old question of who is cooler: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

The question has been the subject of books, broken up friendships, and caused many a sleepless night (fans arguing until sunrise).

It’s time to ask the question again as both bands find themselves in the news.

In The News
The Beatles drummer Ringo Starr is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. The Beatles were inducted in 1988.  The other three have also made it based on their solo careers.

In 2015, the Rolling Stones are touring and re-issuing their 1971 classic album, Sticky Fingers.  Their tour begins May 24 and ends July 15.  The Rolling Stones in San Diego is their first tour stop while Quebec is the last.

The last time a Rolling Stones tour hit North America was 2013.

Cool Reputation
More times than not when this question is asked The Stones come out on top.  That’s because the usual metrics used in determining “cool” are in the Stones’ wheelhouse.

The Stones are bad boys who sing about sex, drugs, and partying.  For example, The Beatles have an album called Let It Be while the Stones have one called Let It Bleed.

For some reason, such decedent and deviant behavior attracts the label of “cool.”

If you asked this question on the Rolling Stones Facebook page, or on the Rolling Stones Twitter account, you’ll definitely find thousands of fans that will agree.  That should surprise no one.  It probably won’t surprise anyone if causal rock fans pick the Stones too—being cool is the band’s reputation.

Old Fogies
There are, however, a few things we need to consider before anointing either band as the coolest.

The Beatles were around for a decade.  The Stones are going on 53 years.

It’s always easier to be cool in the short run.  For example, we’ve all met what we thought was a super cool person at a party—we spend a few minutes with them over the course of an evening and we think they’re Lenny Kravitz.  Then we spend an entire afternoon with them and realize they’re lamer than our parents—they’re Billy Corgan.

The Beatles broke up in 1970 and therefore never had the embarrassment of releasing “Harlem Shuffle” or performing “Love Me Do” in their sixties.  The last image we have of The Beatles is the “Fab Four” in their late 20s performing on a rooftop.  That’s a pretty cool image.

The Stones have been suffering through jokes about their age for the past two and half decades.

“Old” generally repels “cool.”

Beggars Banquet
The Stones really didn’t become the “Stones” until December of 1968 when they released Beggars Banquet.  If you check the Rolling Stones archive you’ll find that the opus contains the classic tracks: “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Jigsaw Puzzle,” “Street Fighting Man,” and “Salt of the Earth.”

Their earlier stuff was really good but they didn’t really find their iconic big stadium, bluesy rock sound until Beggars Banquet.  The LP was released a month after The Beatles released The White Album.

Although the two bands were contemporaries their heydays were not congruent.  The Beatles hit their zenith from 1966 to 1969 while the Stones hit theirs from 1969 to 1972.

Sgt. Pepper’s
In 1967, in response to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Stones released Their Satanic Majesties Request.  It was a blatant attempt to capitalize on the success of Sgt. Peppers.

Not cool, man.  Not cool.

Bad Boys
Finally, The Beatles were actual bad boys but were cleaned up by their management.  The Rolling Stones were middle class kids going to art school billed as bad boys.  A role they eventually grew into.

For example, in 1967, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brain Jones were all charged with drug offences (Richards would go on to be arrested four more times).

The Answer
As you can see, to answer our original questions we must ask even more questions.  Do you take each band in its entirety?  Do you compare their heydays?  Do you ignore the 1980s and beyond?  Do you count Bill Wyman?

To make everything easier just consider the following…

Regardless of who is cooler, we all agree they both bands are pretty cool.  Now, almost all of The Beatles’ songs were about love.  It’s not easy to sing about love and be as cool as they were.

When singing about love it’s real easy to become trite, maudlin, and/or saccharine.   That never happened to John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

The Stones sang about love too but they sang a lot about sex and drugs.  It’s easier to sound “cool” when singing about that stuff.

And that’s why the answer to our question should be The Beatles.  But let’s not give an answer just yet.

The Cool Answer
My two favorite bands are The Beatles and the Stones.  I also think they’re the two greatest rock bands of all-time.  I list them as 1 and 1a.

So when it comes to cool why can’t we do the same thing?  After all, that’s the cool answer.

By the way, the coolest member of either band is, by far, Stones drummer Charlie Watts.

Six Famous Rock Stars Who Do Not Sing

Carlos SantanaSix Famous Rock Stars Who Do Not Sing

“Carlos Santana is the most famous rock star who does not sing.”

That’s part of the opening sentence to Chris Willman’s review of Carlos Santana’s new book, The Universal Tone: Bringing My Story to Light.  To learn more about the autobiography visit Santana’s Web site.

Is Carlos Santana the most famous rock star who doesn’t sing?  And by “sing” I mean lead vocals—Santana is frequently credited with singing backup.  There are a lot of rockers who don’t sing but few that are famous and even fewer that are as famous as Carlos Santana.

Below, Musicology-101 looks at Carlos Santana and five other rock stars who are very well known but eschew crooning.   As you’ll soon learn, Willman is on to something.  Of course, we’ll leave it up to you to make the final decision but Carlos Santana is definitely one of the most famous rock stars who does not sing.

Angus Young
AC/DC’s lead guitarist, Angus Young, may not be a household name, but his schoolboy-uniform and duckwalking are as synonymous with rock and roll as drugs and sexy groupies.  Young and AC/DC have sold more than 200 million albums during their hall of fame career.  Their 1980 opus, Back in Black, is one of the bestselling albums of all-time having sold more than 50 million units.  AC/DC may be known for using three-chords but Young is still widely regarded as one of the genre’s greatest guitarists.

Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana is one of rock’s greatest guitarists and successfully fused it with Latin music.  One or the other would have been enough to get him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but accomplishing both has made him a legend.  While Santana does sing backup, he does all his talking with his axe.  Santana’s 1999 album, Supernatural, is probably what prompted Willman to call Carlos the most famous non-singing rock star instead of “one of the most.”  The album sold more than 30 million copies and captured nine Grammy Awards.

Currently, Santana, both the man and the band, are in the middle of a residency at the House of Blues Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.  On March 8, 2015, Santana begins the “Corazon Tour” in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Less than two weeks later the group plays the first of three shows in Mexico.  Carlos and company return to the House of Blues in late May.

Eddie Van Halen
Let’s ignore the little lead singing Eddie Van Halen has done during his illustrious career (lead vocals on “How Many Say I” from Van Halen III).  After all, his guitar work speaks volumes—Van Halen has sold more than 80 million albums and Guitar World readers named him the greatest guitarist of all-time.  Eddie’s fame doesn’t stop there.  He appeared in an episode of Two and Half Men and was married to an actress (Valerie Bertinelli).  Within his own generation he’s the “most famous rock star who does not sing,” but when you start including rock fans from other eras he probably falls behind Santana.

Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page was the lead guitarist for one of rock’s most influential bands, Led Zeppelin.  He’s consistently in the top five when it comes to “greatest guitarists of all-time” lists.  If there was a Mount Rushmore for rock guitarists he’d be on it.  Page is probably Santana’s biggest threat to Willman’s honorific of “most famous rock star who does not sing.”  While every rock fan knows Page (and his riffs), he’s much more of a mystery than Carlos Santana.  For example, Carlos Santana has a Twitter page, Page does not.

John Bonham
John Bonham is the second member of Led Zeppelin on our list and the only drummer.  His death in September of 1980 caused the band to dissolve.  Bonham is arguably the greatest drummer in rock and roll history.  He inspired generations with his beats, innovations, and ability to find a song’s groove.  Just as everyone who picks up an axe tries to play “Stairway to Heaven,” everyone who picks up a pair of drumsticks tries to play “When the Levee Breaks.”

Saul Hudson plays a sweet guitar.  So sweet he has to go by the name Slash.  Whether in Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit, Velvet Revolver, or as a solo act, Slash has melted faces with his proficient guitar shredding.  Besides being a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Slash frequently finds himself high on rundowns of rock’s greatest guitarists.  If Guns N’ Roses had endured a little longer, Slash may have very well ran away with the title of “most famous rock star who does not sing.”  He’s still the most famous rock star who wears a top hat.

U2 Should Be Considered One Of The Greatest Rock Bands of All-Time

U2 Innocence Experience TourU2 Should Be Considered One Of The Greatest Rock Bands of All-Time

If you haven’t done so already you should start doing it now.  I’m talking about calling U2 one of the greatest rock bands of all-time.

I don’t mean putting them in a category that’s as broad as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (where 108 groups have been inducted).  I mean they should be in the argument for the greatest rock band that ever stepped onto a stage.  They’re on par with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and Pink Floyd.

If rock and roll had a Mount Rushmore, their likeness should be carved in the stone facade (although the logistics of that would be incredible).

U2 deserves such lofty consideration because they’ve consistently been one of the top rock bands of the last 35 years—ever since they released their debut album, Boy, in 1980.  To demonstrate the importance of that album, its opening track, “I Will Follow,” is the band’s most played song in concert.

None of the aforementioned titans of rock have reigned as long as U2.  The Beatles were around for less than a decade.  Led Zeppelin rocked for about a dozen years.  The Who are still touring but they’ve been a different band since the 1980s.  Only The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd have managed to post careers longer than U2’s.

U2 just released their 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence.  The album was free to download if you were one of iTunes’ 500 million customers.  According to the digital music retailer, 81 million people listened to the album while 26 million downloaded it.

In addition to all of those amazing numbers, Rolling Stone magazine named Songs of Innocence the top album of 2014.

Rolling Stone’s 13th studio album is Goats Head Soup–the LP that saw the Stones morph from rock force into rock farce.

Pink Floyd’s 13th studio opus is A Momentary Lapse of Reason.  It might as well have been called “A Momentary Lapse of Quality” as it’s not the band’s finest work.

When Songs of Innocence was released, U2 was approaching the 35-year mark (counting from the release of their debut album).

The analogous Stones album was Bridges to Babylon.  A pretty good effort but nowhere near as relevant as Songs of Innocence.

Pink Floyd was dissolved when their 35th anniversary rolled around.  The milestone occurred between the band’s final two albums, The Division Bell and The Endless River.  The last title was based on material recorded during the making of the former.  Both albums were excoriated by critics.

So, the Irish band is still relevant after 35 years.  That’s about as big of a deal as U2’s twitter account having 352,000 followers.  Neither accomplishment makes them worthy of the title of the greatest rock band of all-time.

That’s true but U2 has all the other things a band needs for entry into the Valhalla of Rock.

U2 has sold 150 million records.  That puts them behind every group in this article but The Who.  There is a caveat to U2’s album sales.  For the last fourth of their career fans have stopped buying recorded music.

U2 has 22 Grammy Awards on their mantle—no rock band has more.   They’ve won Album, Record, and Song of the Year twice.  All total, they’ve earned 47 nominations.

U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

U2 is responsible for the highest grossing concert tour of all-time (“The 360° Tour”) and are the world’s number one live act.

U2’s next concert series, “Innocence + Experience Tour,” begins May 14 in Vancouver, British Columbia.  The trek visits Madison Square Garden four times.  U2 is in New York on July 18, 19, 22, and 23.

U2 reminds me of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.  All three bands can play all night and not perform all their hits.  Chances are good that if you attend a U2 concert you won’t hear all of their popular songs.

On top of all that they have the intangibles: cool factor, genre bending, epic philanthropy, and a Sgt. Pepper’s type album (The Joshua Tree).

They’ve written great songs that have been covered by a bunch of great artists.  They are better live than they are recorded.  And even though they have a distinct sound their songs don’t all sound the same.

They are commercially successful, adored by critics, award-winning, and insanely popular.  Characteristics shared by all the other bands mentioned in this article.

If the band continues on their current path, and they’ve given no indication of slowing down, the question won’t be “Is U2 one of the greatest bands of all-time.”  The question will be “Who’s the greatest rock band of all-time after U2.”

Katy Perry Will Set Record For Most Watched Super Bowl Halftime Show Of All-Time

KatyPerrySuperBowlKaty Perry Will Set Record For Most Watched Super Bowl Halftime Show Of All-Time

I think it’s one of the most overrated gigs of the year.  It’s especially overrated if you’re a hardcore football fan. 

I’m of course talking about the halftime show at the Super Bowl.  Football fans spend all season using halftimes to go to the bathroom, reheat nachos, and/or watch another game.  But for the Super Bowl we all of sudden must endure several minutes of a performer who has nothing to do with the sport, game, or the two teams playing.

This year, the stage for the Super Bowl halftime show has been handed to Katy Perry.  Super Bowl XLIX is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2015 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona.

I’ll be honest; I don’t watch the Super Bowl for the halftime entertainment.  I watch it because I love football.  In fact, I don’t even go to Super Bowl parties anymore because I don’t want to be distracted from the game.

While I eagerly await the Super Bowl to crown a new NFL champion, many await the Big Game to experience a larger-than-life spectacle.  The NFL’s ultimate annual contest is the world’s biggest sporting event and that makes its halftime show, contrary to my opinion, relevant, important, and newsworthy. 

In the wake of the infamous wardrobe malfunction of 2004, the NFL booked a plethora of veteran rockers used to playing large stadiums: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & the Heartbreaks, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and The Who.

In 2011, with the image of Janet Jackson’s nipple nearly forgotten, the league decided to go back to attracting younger audiences.  To that aim they tapped The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, and Bruno Mars (they also threw in Slash and the Red Hot Chili Peppers for good measure).  In other words, Katy Perry’s selection wasn’t a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.”

Her selection was immediately greeted with open arms.  ABC News posted an article listing 5 reasons why Katy Perry was “the obvious choice.”  Their reasons are: her costumes are always out of this world, her sets don’t disappoint, she’s promising animal involvement, she loves her fans, and her Twitter presence alone will create a stir.  It’s a favorable write up but those aren’t reasons.  They’re descriptions. 

The Katy Perry love affair continued on CNN.com.  They ran down three reasons why Perry will “kill it.” 

The first is “she’s got energetic, exuberant pop.”  Hard to argue with that statement as Katy Perry has nine number one hits to her credit.

CNN’s second reason is “everyone from your grandma to your 3-year-old nephew knows her music.”  I disagree.  In the 1960s everyone knew what The Beatles sounded like, even those that didn’t like them.  Nowadays, you can be a major pop star with nine number one hits and few people outside of your immediate fan base know what you sound like. 

The news network’s final reason is the best: “She gives a show-stopping performance.”  No one can argue with that.  Say what you will about her music (and her aesthetic), but the girl can flat out get it done on stage.

I’d like to say that on Super Bowl Sunday she needs to deliver the performance of a lifetime but that’s not true.  It was true 20 years ago but not anymore.  The bigger train wreck you are the more attention you’ll get.  During her halftime performance, Perry can lip sync and fall off the stage and her celebrity will only increase.

Bottom line, Perry checks a lot of boxes for the NFL.  She’s young, popular, and safe—unless you object to cleavage and songs about chicks kissing one another.  She’s a social media über star; Katy Perry’s Twitter account has over 60 million followers—the most of any celebrity. 

As we learned from ABC News and CNN, the singer is a media magnet.  She forgets to cover her mouth during a sneeze and it’s all over the internet.  There will probably be more ink about her performing at the Super Bowl then there will be about the two teams actually playing in the game.

Her immense celebrity will make her recognizable to older football fans—they may not know her music but they will at least know her name. 

Male football fans may prefer a hard rocking band like Bon Jovi, or country music superstar Kenny Chesney, but at least with Katy Perry they’ll get some eye candy.

Where she’ll really pay huge dividends for the NFL is her ability to attract young women.  While a lot of chicks love the NFL I’m sure the league’s smallest demographics are girls/women in their tweens, teens, and early twenties. 

If you’re going to have a huge halftime show you might as well use it to draw viewers that might not otherwise check out the game.  Sure, the Super Bowl is a pop culture event that transcends sports, but booking Katy Perry might be enough to entice some people to skip the mall and watch the Big Game instead.

That’s why for the third time in four years the Super Bowl halftime show will set a record.  In 2012, Madonna attracted 114 million viewers.  In 2013, Mars broke that record with 115.3 million pair of eyeballs.  In 2014, look for Katy Perry to break the 117 million mark.


Taylor Swift’s 1989 And Other Famous Fifth Albums

TaylorSwift1979Taylor Swift’s 1989 And Other Famous Fifth Albums

Taylor Swift launches her “The 1989 World Tour” on May 5, 2015 at the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo.  The North American leg begins May 20 in Bossier City, Louisiana and ends Oct. 31 in Tampa, Florida—a small European leg is going down in June.  In December of 2015, Swift has plans to tour Australia.

Highlights of her upcoming route include Taylor Swift in Philadelphia on June 13, Taylor Swift in Dallas on Oct. 17, and Taylor Swift in Atlanta on Oct. 24.  Her massive world trek, which has the songstress performing in a bunch of huge stadiums, is named after her latest offering, 1989.  It might be hard to believe, especially since Swift turns 25 on Dec. 13, but this is her fifth studio album.

Below, Musicology-101 looks at famous “fifth” studio albums by prominent female singers.  As you’ll soon read, Swift has a lot to live up to because the following six albums are all quite good.  Of course, her oeuvre is selling quite briskly (at least by today’s standards) and critics can’t stop slobbering over it (see Rolling Stone magazine).  By the way, Adele, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Carrie Underwood have yet to release their fifth studio offering.

Mariah Carey – Daydream (1995)

In 1989 Swift ditches the twang of Nashville and embraces pop music (maybe you read about it on Taylor Swift’s Twitter account?).  Similarly, in Daydream Mariah Carey continued her migration away from adult contemporary and to R&B/hip hop.  Daydream produced three number one singles: “Fantasy,” which is the first single by a female artist to premiere at number one on the Billboard Hit 100; “One Sweet Day” with Boyz II Men, which is the longest-running number one single of all-time; and “Always Be My Baby,” which tied Carey with Whitney Houston and Madonna for the most number one hits by a female.  Daydream has sold more than 10 million copies and earned six Grammy Award nominations.

Christina Aguilera – Back to Basics (2006)

For Back to Basics, Christina Aguilera wanted to incorporate jazz, blues, and soul from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.  That really didn’t happened as her final product is a fairly accessible pop/R&B album with a lot of horn samples.  Back to Basics was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album and sold 4.5 million copies worldwide.  Some critics liked the fact that Aguilera tried something new while others thought it was too long.  The double album clocks in at more than 78 minutes.  Swift’s 1989 runs less than 49 minutes.

Britney Spears – Blackout – (2007)

Britney Spears did little to promote Blackout.  All she did was poorly sing “Gimme More” at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.  This lack or promotion is probably why Blackout didn’t debut at number one—a first for Spears.  Despite that, the album went on to sell more than 3 million copies worldwide.  Critics liked it but said her voice was over-processed and questioned whether the credit should go to her or her army of producers.  Even so, Blackout made a bunch of year-end “best of” lists.

Pink – Funhouse (2008)

Pink called Funhouse her most vulnerable album to date.  The opus peaked at number two on the billboard 200, was certified 2x platinum, and earned three Grammy Award nominations.  Funhouse also produced six singles: “So What,” “Sober,” “Please Don’t Leave Me,” “Funhouse,” “I Don’t Believe You,” and “Glitter in the Air.”  The first of those six songs went all the way to the top of the singles chart.  Pink wanted to call this work “Heartbreak Is a Motherf**ker” but her record label surprisingly balked.

Rihanna – Loud (2010)

Rihanna released Loud in November of 2010 and then seven months later she launched a world tour.  The album 1989 dropped in late October and seven months later Taylor Swift will launch a world tour.  That’s pretty much where the similarities end.  Rihanna’s Loud was a return to her dancehall roots while Swift’s 1989 is a complete departure from her country background.  Rihanna’s Loud peaked at number three while Swift’s 1989 debuted at number one.  Rihanna’s Loud garnered decent reviews, produced seven singles, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, and sold nearly 6 million copies worldwide.  Swift’s 1989 has received positive reviews but the jury is still out on the other stuff.

Beyoncé – Beyoncé (2013)

Beyoncé’s self-titled, fifth studio album hit the streets with no advanced notice or marketing.  The album was released exclusively on iTunes where it quickly became their fastest selling album ever.  A week later, physical copies hit store shelves (two discs, one CD and one DVD).  Critics loved the work but that’s not saying much.  When does a critic ever say anything bad about Beyoncé?  This is the first album Beyoncé made after the birth of her daughter.

The Who And Their Use Of The Word “Who”

 The Who Hits 50

The Who And Their Use Of The Word “Who”

On Oct. 27, The Who is set to release a compilation album called The Who Hits 50!  The 42-track, double-disc collection contains their greatest hits, rare tracks, and a brand new song called “Be Lucky.”  The name of this ultimate oeuvre is also the name of their upcoming world trek.  Both the album and The Who tour are celebrating the band’s 50th Anniversary.

The Who begins what they’re calling their last tour on Nov. 23 in Abu Dhabi.  It ends Nov. 4, 2015 in Philadelphia.  The North American portion of their odyssey kicks off April 15, 2015 in Tampa.  Highlights of their “Amazing Journey” include Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Boston, and New York City.

I won’t be at any of the above shows but I will be at the Sept. 25 Who concert in Portland, Oregon.  The Who are one of my all-time favorite bands and I’m not going to miss the chance to say goodbye.  I not only enjoy their music, I also enjoy the hilarious wordplay that their name inspires.

“Who are you listening to?”
“The Who.”
“I don’t know who, that’s why I’m asking.”

It’s silly but it’s always funny.  ALWAYS.

The Who are definitely aware of the fun that can be had with their appellation.  They’ve incorporated it into several song and album titles.  Below, Musicology-101 looks at the seven times The Who used their titular pronoun to name something.

Who’s Next (1971)
The Who Sell Out dropped in 1967 but without a question mark at the end it’s not asking someone to repeat a query (as in “who sold out?”).  The title is just telling us that the band has sold out.  Four years later, the band released one of the greatest albums of the 1970s and dubbed it Who’s Next—the first time The Who really played around with their name.

Originally, the project was called Lifehouse but it was so difficult to pull off that the idea was scuttled.  Instead, the band made Who’s Next, an album comprised of unrelated songs.  Key tracks on Who’s Next include “Baba O’Riley,” “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Who Are You (1978)
On the cover of Who Are You, The Who’s eighth studio album, Keith Moon is seen sitting in a turned-around chair.  The back of the chair reads “not to be taken away.”  Twenty days later Keith Moon died of a drug overdose.  Like Who’s Next, Who Are You contains a lot of tracks inspired by the failed Lifehouse project.  Also like Who’s Next, The Who used a lot synthesizers.

In Who Are You, Townshend (who wrote six of the album’s nine tracks) was trying to combine progressive rock with punk rock, two seemingly conflicting genres.  Did he succeed?  Not really, but Who Are You is a great album nonetheless.

“Who Are You” (1978)
“Who Are You” is the title track of the album of the same name (as well as the theme song to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation).  The single peaked at number 14 in the United States.  It’s The Who’s third-highest charting single on the other side of the Atlantic.

The song is based on a real story.  Like the first lyric of the song explains, Pete Townshend did wake up drunk in a Soho doorway, he was recognized by a police officer, and the cop did tell him to get up and go home.  Quite unusual for a mainstream rock album from 1978, “Who Are You” contains two instances of the “f-word.”

Who’s Greatest Hits (1983)
If you’re new to The Who a great place to start is 1983’s Who’s Greatest Hits.  The 13 tracks found on this collection represent the band’s finest work—from “Substitute” to “Who Are You.”  It also contains “Relay,” a fairly obscure track, and the original version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  Get this album on vinyl.  The Union Jack shirt on the cover is well worth the additional cost.

Who’s Last (1984)
Who’s Last is a live album released in 1984.  It was meant to be the band’s final opus.  It was not.  Most of the album was recorded Dec. 14, 1982 in Cleveland, Ohio.  The performance was billed as the last Who concert in the United States.  It was not.

Who’s Missing (1985)
Released in November of 1985, Who’s Missing is a collection of rare and unreleased Who songs.  Tracks on the compilation include “Shout and Shimmy,” “Barbara Ann,” “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand,” and “Bargain (Live).”  Two years later, The Who released a similar album called Two’s Missing.

Who’s Better Who’s Best: This Is The Very Best of The Who (1988)
Apart from the Who’s Greatest Hits, Who’s Better Who’s Best: This Is The Very Best of The Whois the band’s definitive collection.  It includes several tracks not found on the Who’s Greatest Hits including “The Kids Are Alright,” “I’m a Boy,” “I Can See for Miles,” “I Can’t Explain,” “See Me, Feel Me,” “Join Together,” and “You Better You Bet.”  The Who’s Greatest Hits rocks hard while Who’s Better Who’s Best showcases Townshend’s songwriting prowess.  Again, you’ll want this album on vinyl if for nothing else than the linear notes.

Pieces of Vinyl vs. Digital Music – Which is Better?

Vinyl Records

Pieces of Vinyl vs. Digital Music – Which is Better?

I entered the record store and was immediately bombarded by the sound of Joe Walsh performing live and the faint aroma of mold, mildew, and dust.  I exchanged greetings with the owner behind the counter and then made a beeline to the first row of vinyl records.

At the head of the row resided several dozen vinyl records that just recently entered the establishment’s inventory.  I began to flip through them looking for classic releases and hidden gems.

The Rolling Stones… Exile on Main St.  Gotta have that.

Simple Minds… Once Upon A Time.  Need it.

The Blues Brothers… Briefcase Full of Blues.  Can’t pass that up.

Then I came across this high fidelity album called Do The Hula.  It actually contains a multi-page insert that teaches one how to do Hawaii’s unofficial dance step.  Finally, I came across a record of Sammy Davis, Jr. singing Mel Torme’s California Suite.  It’s a definite must have.

Later that night, I turned the lights down low and procured a cold beverage.  I sat back in my comfiest chair and enjoyed my new vinyl records.  It was musical nirvana.

So I guess I’ve answered the age old question—well, a question that’s at least a decade old—what’s better: vinyl records (a.k.a.pieces of vinyl – thanks baba-booey!) or digital music.

Actually the answer to that query is digital music.  There’s no way around it.  Digital music is ubiquitous, utilitarian, and user-friendly.

Most people already have a computer, laptop, and/or smartphone capable of playing digital music player.  Digital music is cheap, and let’s not be naïve, it can even be free.  Even better, digital music takes up no space and can be played indefinitely.

Depending on how deep you want to get into digital music you can use it for working out, entertaining at parties, and while you’re driving around town.

Digital music wins the head-to-head battle but that doesn’t mean it’s the only champion in the equation.  The true story that began this article could not have happened with digital music.  Vinyl records lend themselves to excitement.

Nothing beats the experience of flipping through a stack of records and finding a piece of vinyl that strikes your fancy.  And nothing beats putting that vinyl record on your turntable and setting the needle on the groove.

There are pops, hisses, and crackles, but those noises don’t distract from the experience they add to it.  They’re charming.  The fact that you have to flip the record over is endearing not an inconvenience.

Then there’s the album cover.  The album is the perfect canvas for a piece of art.  Digital music has no cover, no linear notes, and no inner sleeves.  What do you read while listening to a digital piece of music?  What do you look at?  How do you know who produced the album or who played bass on the opening track?

My love affair with vinyl records isn’t coming from nowhere.  According to Nielsen SoundScan, the sales of vinyl records went from 4.5 million in 2012 to 6 million in 2013.

We are in the middle of a vinyl renaissance.  And why not?  Like I’ve extolled, vinyl records offer a great experience and are a whole lot of fun to listen to.  The format also favors artists who are talented and creative enough to fill both sides of a vinyl record with quality songs.  Digital music is tailor made for one-hit wonders.

The vinyl records Nielsen counted are obviously new releases, or relatively new releases.  The real fun comes when you find that quaint, little record store on some sleepy downtown corner.  Inside are must-own platters from the last half of the twenty century; the more eclectic the better.

You don’t need to subscribe to digital music news to realize digital music is a workhouse and vinyl records are a show pony.  Digital music is the dependable car that takes you to work every day.  Vinyl records are the hot rod you drive on dates.  Digital music is the familiar restaurant where you go for lunch every day.  Vinyl records are the restaurant you frequent every once-in-a-while, you know the type, the one where they set your food on fire.

You need digital music.  You should want vinyl records.

Some audiophiles swear that vinyl records produce a better quality of sound than digital music.  I’ve never had the system or the ears to hear if that’s true.  It really doesn’t matter.  The joy of vinyl records isn’t really the sound quality but the experience.

Vinyl Records & Digital Music Milestones

>>Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877.

>>Twelve-inch records were introduced in 1903.

>>In 1948, Columbia Records developed and marketed the 33 RPM LP.

>>In February of 1949, RCA Victor released the first 45 rpm single.

>>A Japanese-based company sells a turntable that uses a laser to read vinyl discs.

>>On July 7, 1994, the Fraunhofer Society released the first MP3 encoder called l3enc

>>Karlheinz Brandenburg used a recording of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” to refine the MP3 compression algorithm.

>>Winamp was released in 1997 and was quickly downloaded 3 million times.

>>In 1999, the first large peer-to-peer file sharing network was launched.  It was called Napster.

>>iTunes was released on January 9, 2001.

Ten Or Twelve Of The Greatest Stand-Up Comedy Movies Of All-Time

RichardPryorTen Or Twelve Of The Greatest Stand-Up Comedy Movies Of All-Time

Gabriel Iglesias is one of the funniest and most likable stand-ups working in comedy today.  He sells out shows all over the world and his DVDs always threaten the million-units-sold plateau.  That’s why it’s a surprise to learn that his concert film, The Fluffy Movie, opened with a $1.3 million weekend.  As of Sept. 1, the genial funny man’s live performance flick has earned a total of $2.8 million at the old box office.

I think Guardians of The Galaxy earned more than that in its first 17 minutes of release.

The Fluffy Movie was filmed during two Gabriel Iglesias tour stops—one on Feb. 28 and another on March 1.  The movie was directed by Manny Rodriguez and it dropped July 25.  The project was filmed and released in less than five months.

Don’t feel bad for Iglesias or his release.  Despite the seemingly underwhelming returns, The Fluffy Movie is the tenth highest grossing comedy film of all-time (if time started in 1982).  By the way, the list was compiled by the Web site Box Office Mojo.

If you think about it, this is not only one of the smallest cinematic genres of all-time but it’s also on life support—only two of the two dozen films are from this decade.  Not only have YouTube and Netflix killed the stand-up comedy concert film but so has the price of movies tickets.

If I’m going to take out a mortgage to go to the Cineplex, the movie better have at least three dimensions and enough explosions to permanently damage my hearing.  I’m not the only one who thinks like this.  Combined, the 24 films on BOM’s list earned less than $232 million.

Eddie Murphy Raw (1987)
The highest grossing stand-up comedy concert film of all-time is Eddie Murphy Raw.  It made more than $50 million.  At the time, and until 1990, Raw held the record for the most utterances of the f-word.  That iniquitous curse was spoken 223 times.  Now, the movie isn’t even in the top 30.

The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
The Original Kings of Comedy was directed by Spike Lee and contained sets from Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac.  The film was a huge success making more than $11 million in its opening weekend.  It also inspired a bunch of similar enterprises like The Original Latin Kings of Comedy, The Blue Collar Comedy Tour, The Queens of Comedy, and The Comedians of Comedy.

Anecdotally, The Comedians of Comedy (starring Patton Oswalt, Zach Galifianakis, Brian Posehn, and Maria Bamford) was released on Nov. 11, 2005.  It was shown in two theatres and grossed $354 in its opening weekend and $549 overall.

Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (1982)
Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip was the most lucrative concert film of the legendary comedian’s career.  That’s saying something because his 1983 concert film, Richard Pryor: Here and Now, is sixth on the list with $16 million.  Remember, Pryor invented this genre in 1979.  His Richard Pryor: Live in Concert is the first movie ever released that was devoted to one guy doing nothing but telling jokes on a stage.  In Live on the Sunset Strip, Pryor discusses the infamous incident when he was freebasing cocaine and lit himself on fire.

Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain (2013)
Let’s look at the numbers.  Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain grossed $32 million at the box office and cost $2.5 million to make.  His traditional film, Ride Along (2014), grossed $153 million and had a budget of $25 million.  I wonder what kind of movie Hart will make next?  The diminutive comic’s 2011 stand-up film, Laugh at My Pain, comes in at number eight (thanks to $7.7 million in gate receipts).  Let Me Explain was filmed at Madison Square Garden while Laugh at My Pain was recorded at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (2002)
Martin Lawrence has two stand-up concert films in the top ten: Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat is fifth with $19 million and 1994’s You So Crazy is seventh with $10 million.  Runteldat was filmed at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C the same venue where Eddie Murphy shot his television special Delirious.  You So Crazy was originally rated NC-17. It was then sold to another studio who released it as “unrated.”

Divine Madness (1980)
I’ve mentioned directly, or indirectly, nine of the top ten stand-up comedy concert films of all-time.  The only film I have yet to enumerate is number nine, Divine Madness.  Yes, the one with Bette Midler.  Although the 94-minute film has the Divine Miss M singing 16 songs it also has her performing several stand-up comedy routines.  Apparently, that qualifies it as a stand-up comedy film.  The $5.3 million it earned at the box office qualifies it for ninth place.

Comedian (2002)
If you reject Divine Madness then The Fluffy Movie moves to number nine and Comedian, starring Jerry Seinfeld, slides to number ten.  You can argue that Comedian should be disqualified from consideration because it’s more of a documentary than a performance concert.  If that’s the case then our new number ten is Eddie Griffin’s DysFunKtional Family (2003), which grossed $2.25 million.

Gabriel Iglesias
For the sake of argument let’s not count Divine Madness or Comedian.  If we do then all ten of the top grossing stand-up comedy concert films star minorities.  All but one, Iglesias’ The Fluffy Movie, star African-American comedians.

Also, of all the comedians in the top ten (or 12 if you include Midler and Seinfeld) only Iglesias and Hart are in their 30s.  In fact, everyone but Eddie Griffin (46) and Martin Lawrence (49) are in their 50s.  While many on the list still perform stand-up, all most all are working in film or television.  The only member of the top ten (twelve) that’s primarily a stand-up comedian is Gabriel Iglesias.

Garth Brooks To End Long Retirement With Tour And Album

GarthBrooksconcertGarth Brooks To End Long Retirement With Tour And Album

He’s back!

Garth Brooks is returning to the music industry with a world tour and a brand new studio album.  Both are firsts for the country music superstar since he retired in 2000.

His new tour begins Sept. 4 with a Garth Brooks concert in Rosemont (Chicago).  He has ten shows planned for the Windy City.  After that, Garth Brooks will be in Atlanta.

No word on when his new album will be released, but it’s been confirmed that he’s working on it.  When it does drop, it will be Brooks’ first new collection of songs since 2001’s Scarecrow.

Brooks officially announced his retirement on Oct. 26, 2000.  Yet, the following year he released a studio album and made a few promotional appearances.  That’s why you might see one Web site use “2001” and another use “2000” as the commencement date of his employment hiatus.  For the purposes of this article this Web site is using the 2000 date.

For the most part, Brooks has been relatively dormant during his retirement.  He released a couple of greatest hits collection, signed a deal with Walmart, and launched a four-year residency show in Las Vegas.  He certainly hasn’t been working on GarthBrooks.com.

You can argue whether or not he’s actually been retired but since the release of Scarecrow in 2001, Brooks hasn’t toured or recorded a new studio album.  Touring and recording is what singers do.  That’s why you can say, without fear of incrimination, that Brooks has been retired for nearly fourteen years.

Brooks’ break from making music is unprecedented.  Singers have stepped away from recording and touring for a few years but nothing close to nearly a decade and a half.

Below, Musicology-101 looks at the longest gap between albums for some of the biggest names in popular music.  What the following list doesn’t reveal is that all the singers released their first album long before Brooks’ debut.  Many of the acts on the rundown are from the decade of the sixties and their gaps occurred when they were in their sixties.

Longest Gap Between Albums
>>George Strait… 2 years
>>Madonna… 4 years (went seven years without touring)
>>Neil Diamond… 4 Years
>>Bob Dylan… 5 years
>>Elvis Presley… 5 years (but released several soundtrack albums during that time)
>>Paul McCartney… 5 years
>>Michael Jackson… 6 years (died without having released an album for 8 years)
>>Bruce Springsteen… 7 years
>>Elton John… 7 years
>>Billy Joel… 4 years (although he hasn’t released a rock album since 1993)

Just how long has Garth been on the sidelines?  He announced his retirement in October of 2000 and in January of 2001, iTunes was released.  Basically, Garth’s retirement from the music industry is older than the digital music industry.  He left when people were still buying albums and returns when they’re downloading songs from the internet.

To put the length of Brooks’ respite from touring and recording in perspective, Musicology-101 has put together a list of what was happening in the careers of today’s major recording artists.  As you’ll soon see, some of today’s biggest stars were barely old enough to pick up a guitar when Garth Brooks called a career timeout.

When Garth Brooks retired…
… Justin Bieber was 6…
… Harry Styles (of One Direction) was 6…
… Liam Payne (of One Direction) was 7…
… Louis Tomlinson (of One Direction) was 8…
… Niall Horan (of One Direction) was 7…
… Zayn Malik (of One Direction) was 7…
… Hunter Hayes was 9…
… Taylor Swift was 10…
… Miranda Lambert was 16…
… Jason Aldean was 23 and in between recording contracts…
… Florida Georgia Line was still a dozen years away from releasing “Cruise…”
… Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, and The Band Perry had yet to form…
… Vince Gill had only won 13 of his eventual 20 Grammy Awards…
… Brad Paisley was celebrating the release of his debut album…
… Keith Urban had just released his first solo album in the United States…
… Reba McEntire had yet to star in her own sitcom…
… Rascal Flatts had just one platinum album to their name (they now have seven)…
… Blake Shelton had yet to sign a record deal…
… Toby Keith owned exactly zero “I Love This Bar and Grills.”