BILLCS Music Blog’s Top 75 Songs of 2012 – #75 to #61

As in other years, most of my favourite songs of 2012 boiled down to the following criteria:  Music that makes you feel good and want to dance along, and voices/lyrics that just amazed.  There were several new great voices and faces, some returnees, and of course the completely unexpected.  In order to appear on this list, a song must have appeared and peaked on my personal chart between January 2 and December 17 published charts.  If it hadn’t attained its peak position yet, it will appear on my year end chart for 2013.

Click here to view songs #75 to #61  🙂

Three carryovers into 2012 in our first group of #75 through #61 are The Midway State’s “Fire!”,  Lady GaGa’s “Marry The Night”, and “Angel” by Darren Hayes.  Wrapping up their touring on their Paris Or India album, Toronto quartet The Midway State otherwise took a break from music in 2012, and I hope these talented friends will engage us again next year.  You could hear an excerpt of “Fire!” in Bell Canada commercials, and of course their biggest hit “Never Again” is the ringback for Rogers cellular phones.  GaGa was everywhere in 2012, it’s hard to say where The Born This Way Ball didn’t visit!  But a new Ball is on deck as is her forthcoming album ARTPOP, and I’m expecting a new single sometime in early 2013 to promote her touring in North America.  “Angel” by Darren Hayes was a personal choice to carry over.  You couldn’t possibly ask for a more reverent Madonna cover choice – it kept appearing on my iPod Touch shuffle, and as the vinyl flip side to “Talk Talk Talk”, it landed on my chart after the run of another song on this list, “Stupid Mistake”.  Darren’s Secret Codes And Battleships continued to be one of my most played albums into 2012, and one more carryover from that album is ranked higher on this list.  Watch the stunning video for “Stupid Mistake” and listen to Bright Light Bright Light’s percolating remix below as well.

More than ever, my chart contained a cornucopia of worldwide artists appear more than in any other year in recent memory.  Music has no official borders, only those that the music industry continues to put up which hinders availability of recordings and the ability of performers to tour.  Latvia is represented with singer/DJ/model Markus Riva and his dance rave-up “We Dance 4 Reason”, with another song to follow higher up.  “Turn It Up” is the high energy follow up to “Pitiful” for Portugal’s Carlos Nobrega, who is one of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 and has another song much later in the countdown.  The worldwide breakout from France this year is M83 whose hook from “Midnight City” (outstanding video below) is imprinted on the year (and an even better cover version appears higher up on the list), which led to sellout shows around the world.  Canadians Marianas Trench had their most successful year ever with last year’s Ever After album and the single “Fallout” among others.  Lead singer Josh Ramsay not only produced that album but is now a Grammy-nominee for co-writing Canadian label mate Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”.  German DJ/producers Spencer & Hill paired up with the always amazing US vocalist Nadia Ali for “Believe It”, which is your dance song for weekend release after a hard work week.

There are three UK artists in this group.  Keane had a successful year around the world with their Strangeland album, led by the glorious “Silenced By The Night” this past Spring.  “Lights Out” was the second single from duo Bim’s EP of affecting and emotional electropop, Lifelines.  Bim are another of my 13 Performers to Watch for ’13 And a favourite from her Little Belter shows and the subsequent album, Elouise covered “Could It Be Magic” – less like the Barry Manilow version and more like Donna Summer’s – which turned out to be somewhat bittersweet as the song appeared on my chart at the time of the disco legend’s death.  Elouise is off to dazzle Australian audiences with the Little Belter show in early ’13 – the rest of the world will undoubtedly follow.

Three USA performers round out the list.  L.A. quartet Saint Motel released a quirky but very smart album Voyeur this past summer, and toured to support it.  The band’s singer also is responsible for directing the group’s unique videos, so check out the one for “Benny Goodman” below.  Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die” dominated airwaves and TV video play at the top of the year and solidified her instant presence on the pop music scene (strangely yielding no Grammy nominations).  And the mixtape Hunter by Baiyu, generating the title song on this list, dazzled enough people to land her as a contestant on The CW’s “The Next” and on my 13 Performers To Watch for ’13 list.

BILLCS Chart #379 – May 21/12

While the chart’s a tad late, it’s worth the wait, he says poetically 🙂 There’s a new #1 song and 14 songs in a row that are surging upward.  Not surprising, we’re springing closer to summer!

With writing so much lately about the ongoing successes of Bright Light Bright Light, it’s no surprising that Rod Thomas takes #1 for a third time on my chart with the extraordinary “Waiting For The Feeling”.  It comes in anticipation of his debut album Make Me Believe In Hope, and more new songs too!  River Tiber’s mystical “Symmetry” holds at #2 from the exceptional indie effort From Now On, which also yields “Someday”, which slips down to #3.  Judging from his website, it appears that Colin Munroe has signed to Capitol Records, and my #4 “The Fight Of My Life” (featuring Pusha-T), is no longer available for free download but is on iTunes for sale.  It’s well worth the purchase; in the interim get his newer song “Invincible” (featuring RZA and Memoryhouse) from his website with an email subscription.  The energetic “Call It What You Want” by Foster The People now rounds out the Top 5.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.  Any free downloads that are identified are sanctioned by the performer.

I’d love to comment on all 12 songs ranking #6 through #17 but I’m going to focus on those that are fast rising or in the Top 10.

Two songs from This Beat Is… Poptronik Volume One bookend that list.  At #6 is the frenetic “Celeb” by The Netherlands’ Tao Hypah, and moving up to #17 is Latvia’s Markus Riva with the beautifully sung “How It Feels To Be A Man”.  Look for more Poptronik to bust onto the chart in the coming weeks.

I had the pleasure of seeing Tyler Hilton in concert for the second time on May 17.  The positive energy in his show was contagious and he was really stoked to play a second night in my city.  He focused on new songs from Forget The Storm (bypassing my favourite Tyler song, “The Letter Song” – but it wouldn’t have fit the set anyway 😉 ).  “Prince Of Nothing Charming” leaps into the Top 10 at #7 , appropriately becoming Tyler’s 7th Top Tenner on my chart.  Not only this, but the first song we all heard way back in January in advance of Forget The Storm, “Loaded Gun”, bows at #21 just in time to reacquaint yourselves with it (live clip from the Toronto show above).  If you don’t know it yet, download it for free 🙂  Below is a list of Tyler’s Top 10’s from my chart:

When It Comes, #3
The Letter Song, #1
When The Stars Go Blue (with Bethany Joy Galeotti), #2
How Love Should Be, #10
Missing You, #4
You’ll Ask For Me, #7

Sam Sparro’s upcoming Return To Paradise album is being released in Canada by EMI Music, not sure about the rest of the world.  “Happiness” is a great start to that record at #8.  It’s somewhat fitting that a cover of a song Donna Summer recorded (albeit as a cover itself) was on my chart at the time of her passing last week.  Elouise’s faithful but still original spin on “Could It Be Magic” moves up to #10.

The fastest rising song (for the second time at the top of this blog) is one of the most insanely catchy and instantly likeable songs of 2012 thus far.  Mixed with some traditional elements and personality plus, “One Kiss” by another Netherlander, Jeronimo, soars 24-9, looking to be a key player on the chart very soon.  Look forward to Jeronimo’s One Kiss album as well!

The official release of Scissor Sisters’ “Only The Horses” just passed as their album Magic Hour soon approaches.  It climbs 19-11.  “Music Freak” by Adam Tyler inches closer to becoming the third Top 10 hit from Shattered Ice at #12 this week.  I’m still enjoying the fab Bright Light Bright Light remix of “Stupid Mistake” by Darren Hayes, and the song moves up to #15.  Separated by three chart points are two songs that are so different yet so go together for many reasons, obvious or not 😉  Quigley (aka Casey Carlson) is the featured vocalist on her beau FrankMusik’s “Notice Me” (billed as Vincent Did It) at #16, while her own stunning ballad “Inkblot Game” (also produced by FrankMusik) jumps to #19.  Don’t forget to download Quigley’s EP Pleiades and Vincent Did It’s The SOPA Opera EP both for free while you can.  Next up from her is a video for the song “Making Plans”.  And don’t think that the modest 5 point move will slow down the UK’s Conor Maynard.  “Can’t Say No” is well on its way at #23.

I’ve already written recently about the other two debuts.  “Collecting Sunlight” by Sweden’s Andreas Moe is another song that just reaches in and grabs your enthusiasm, and will be a summer delight, at #25.  The good nature of the rocking “All Our Love” by Boston’s Gentlemen Hall will brighten your day and bows at #26.

BILLCS Chart #378 – May 7/12

The new chart is anchored at the top once again by Toronto group River Tiber, with the rocking “Someday” at #1 for a third appearance (6 weeks) and the quiet and thoughtful “Symmetry” moving up to #2.  The band is working on their next album, and will be playing in Toronto on Saturday June 16 as a part of NXNE at C’est What restaurant and bar.  Check them out if you’re in Toronto!

Closing in at rapid speed though is “Waiting For The Feeling”, the latest single by Bright Light Bright Light, from the upcoming Make Me Believe In Hope album, due now in a month.  If the lyrics don’t strike you at the first couple of listens, they do hit home not long after.  Hence “Waiting For The Feeling” is the fastest riser on the chart, moving 14-3.  Rod Thomas (aka Bright Light x2) has already had two #1’s on my chart, “A New Word To Say” and “Love Part II”, in 2010.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.  Any free downloads that are identified are sanctioned by the performer.

Moving along, Toronto’s Colin Munroe is also working on a highly anticipated album, but in the meantime “The Fight Of My Life” climbs to #5, followed behind at #6 by “Call It What You Want”, the insanely catchy song that is the true follow up to “Pumped Up Kicks” by L.A.’s Foster the People.  I’m looking to catch Ryan Star’s show in Toronto on June 5 at Lee’s Palace when he opens up for The Parlotones.  In anticipation of a follow up album to 2010’s 11:59, “Stay Awhile” rises to #9.

Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that “Happiness” by Sam Sparro and “Could It Be Magic” by Elouise have only inched up to #11 and #12, but there’s a load of competition brewing underneath.  “Prince Of Nothing Charming” by Tyler Hilton jumps to #13 – I have my tix to his May 17 show at The Virgin Mobile Mod Club here in Toronto.  As far as I know, it’s Tyler’s first show in Toronto since 2006.  Adam Tyler’s “Music Freak” can be found mid-way at #15, followed by the soaring “Silenced By The Night” by Keane at #17 (and another Toronto concert on deck, for June 19 at Sound Academy), and the three-fold punch of “Warrior” by Mark Foster/A-Trak/Kimbra at #17.  “Only The Horses” by Scissor Sisters is turning into a current favourite with its bright melody and urgent Jake Shears vocals at #19, followed by “Stupid Mistake” by Darren Hayes at #20 (live clip from his New Year’s show is below).

(Psssst watch Twitter and Facebook for what will be surely some online celebrations of Darren’s 40th birthday on Tuesday May 8!)

I’m hopeful for some success of the five very strong debuts which have hit the chart.

My raving about the supurb dance compilation This Beat Is… Poptronik Volume One continues, as some favourites from that record have surfaced to rank alongside the six songs on the record that have already appeared on my chart during the last year.  There are so many great songs inside that I play regularly, but there are two that I’m going to more often.  The one that’s grabbed me and won’t let go is the Lindsay Lohan-inspired “Celeb” by half-Dutch, half-Japanese singer Tao Hypah, which bolts onto the chart at a stunning #14.  The bouncy and fun vibe of this song is worth your time as Tao Hypah prepares to release more new songs, including his latest “Play The Girl”, whose video will be online in a few weeks (pic from the video is above).  In the meantime, you can get “Celeb” on the Poptronik release, though it has been available as a free download on Soundcloud for quite sometime as well and you can get it right here.

Also very impressive and bowing at #27 from the Poptronik album is “How It Feels To Be A Man” by Latvian sensation Markus Riva.  Markus is a true DIY performer – already a noted singer, actor, and model in his home territory – so “How It Feels” serves as a sturdy breakout for him (he also directed the video, above).  Some genuine lyrics carried by Markus’ rich voice, which reminds me a lot of British singer Peter Murphy’s low timbre (listen to “The Sweetest Drop” for example), make the theatrical-sounding song highly recognizable.  I’d love to hear some remixes too!

Two songs immediately carry over from my last post to arrive quickly on the chart.  Jeronimo’s “One Kiss” spells Mass Appeal and has the potential for worldwide success.  It’s from Jeronimo’s upcoming album and bows at #24.  “Can’t Say No” by UK sensation Conor Maynard is a nice companion to “One Kiss” with its good-natured fun, and premieres at #28.

Lastly at #25 is a song whose intriguing video of psychological drama (ab0ve) I wrote about a few months backQuigley (aka Casey Carlson) hits the chart with “Inkblot Game”, from her brand new EP Pleiades.  Pleiades is a star cluster within Taurus, hence why lovely Quigley released the EP on her Taurian birthday!  The EP is available for free download at http://www.quigleyofficial.com and “Inkblot Game” arrives concurrently with her featured vocal on “Notice Me” by Vincent Did It (aka FrankMusik) moving up to #22.  Of course “Inkblot Game” and the two other gorgeous songs in Pleiades (which all also appear in instrumental form) are all produced by FrankMusik.  The music of Quigley and Frankmusik will not be free forever.  This is high quality craftmanship most deserving of way more than online success.  FrankMusik has also posted a few more of his demos for you to hear on his Soundcloud page.  I just can’t get enough 🙂

Final chart geek note:  You’ll notice on my chart that “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy has hit the magic mark of 11 appearances (22 weeks) on the chart.  One of my few rules is that songs drop off after a 10 appearance run, but because “Memorize Me” has had two non-consecutive runs, it continues past the 10 appearances 🙂

BILLCS Top 30 #376 – April 9/12 plus Stunning New Videos from Darren Hayes and Mark Foster/Kimbra/A-Trak

The new chart has another changeover at the top and four debuts, plus I have comments on two new videos in what will likely be my only blog post till the weekend.

Being a former college radio programmer, I have always been a huge supporter of independent music.  And while independently released music has appeared in my chart over the years, it wasn’t until around 2009 when the calibre and quantity of quality independent music appeared to dominate the commercial releases through major record labels.  So more than half of my current chart currently consists of independently released songs or ones that are not yet available in North America.

Advancing to the top therefore is the independent release of “Someday” by Toronto band River Tiber.  “Someday” is a song that slowly draws you in, basking in some great guitar work, and then takes you on a little journey that keeps you hanging in till singer Tommy Paxton-Beesley’s last breath at the end.  River Tiber also has a quieter more moody song in the Top 10 at #7 with “Symmetry”.  This one relies on a vocal climax followed by relaxing jazzy instrumentation and has an incredibly dreamy feel-good vibe.  Be sure to buy River Tiber’s From Now On album on iTunes.  You can view the videos for both songs by reading my comments about From Now On right here.

All eyes are on One Direction and The Wanted right now, but the latter’s “Glad You Came” has won me over and soars to #4 on my chart.  Ya gotta admit – everyone has their favourite boy-band songs.  For me, the last one that was special was the BT-produced “Pop” by N Sync, which got to the top of my chart for a month in 2001.  In addition to “Symmetry”, song on the rise in the lower Top 10 include “Something” by JMSN at #6 (the drums/percussion arrangement alone is outstanding), “Summer Is Over” by Jon McLaughlin & Sara Bareilles at #8, and Colin Munroe’s magnificent “The Fight Of My Life”, featuring Pusha-T at #9.  I can’t wait for more from the talented Colin, including perhaps a video for this song?  Listen below.

The rest of the chart is jam-packed with great songs, some of which by all rights should be in my Top 10 if there wasn’t so much fantastic music out right now.  As M83’s “Midnight City” slides down the chart, the unique cover by The Knocks featuring Mandy Lee is the fastest riser, climbing 19-11 and about to pass the #10 peak of the original.  Nadia Ali is one of the busiest female singers in dance music today, and she lends her many talents to Spencer & Hill’s “Believe It” which ranks #12.  Ryan Star is about to embark on another tour in support of his upcoming album, led by the single “Stay Awhile”, which climbs to #13.  

“Could It Be Magic” by Elouise revives Barry Manilow and/or Take That via Donna Summer’s rendition at #15, followed by “Happiness” by Sam Sparro (making us anxiously wait for the Return To Paradise album) at #16, Foster The People’s “Call It What You Want” at #17 (which makes a great mix with Scissor Sisters’ “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin'”), Kaya & Pierre Lewis’ beauty of a ballad “When I Was Blind” at #18, “Hand Dance” by that tantalizing teasing trio Liquid Diet at #19, and “Prince Of Nothing Charming”, the understated lead single from Tyler Hilton’s top notch Forget The Storm.  I’ll have my own review of Forget The Storm soon – I didn’t realize it until reading further about it, but Tyler released Forget The Storm through his own Hooptie Music label (whose name comes from Tyler’s song “When it Comes”).

Debuting in this edition though are four songs, the first of which you can view at the top of this blog post.

Rod Thomas under his Bright Light Bright Light moniker is a performer whose releases I always listen for since I first heard “A New Word To Say” more than two years ago.  “Waiting For The Feeling” is classic Bright Light x2 as Rod always finds those moments in time in-between everything and captures them beautifully in words and music.  His Make Me Believe In Hope is now due in June and I just can’t wait to hear it in full.  “Waiting For The Feeling” debuts at #23 and will undoubtedly join his best songs near the top of my chart very soon.

Next up is “Music Freak” by Adam Tyler from his Shattered Ice album.  As “Like A Drug” departs my chart (but is still in the midst of full-on promotion thanks to its compelling video), I’m adding “Music Freak” because over the several months since the release of Shattered Ice, the lyrics of this song have become increasingly important to me as a music fan.  Being a music freak myself, I can’t let it hide in the midst of several strong songs on the album, so “Music Freak” debuts at #24.  You can listen to it right here.

I’ve already posted blogs about the next two songs, but they bear repeating!  Keane has come out of the gate blazing with “Silenced By The Night” at #25, the first gorgeous single from the upcoming Strangeland album.  Watch the video below.  And lastly, Scotland’s Aerials Up is a talent to watch for with their independent release of “I Am” at #26 – video is posted again below.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.

Darren Hayes “Stupid Mistake”

I got up this morning to find that Darren had posted his new video for “Stupid Mistake”, which I had heard was to be the fourth single from the singer’s fourth brilliant solo album Secret Codes And Battleships.  The video is captivating in its simplicity, which shows Darren alternately in stage make up or in the process of removing it.  In relationships whether we know it or not we all put on masks, which eventually get stripped away like make up.  And if you keep the mask on too long, then you lose yourself in your daily life which becomes a performance and ultimately will hurt the ones you love.  Watch it all the way through, it’s amazing!  Those of you who have had long-term relationships end will completely relate.

Mark Foster + Kimbra + A-Trak = “Warrior”

It’s a sly bit of promotion for Chuck Taylor Converse shoes and Journeys, but what a cool way to do it!  Who’d have ever thought Foster The People’s Mark Foster, New Zealand singer Kimbra, and Canadian DJ extraordinaire A-Trak would all get together for a project, let alone film a highly entertaining video?  “Warrior” is a must-view and listen, and could be a sneaky hit in the making for the trio.  I seriously wonder how many bruises were achieved during the making of the video.  I’m not into watching wrestling but the entire concept is spot on.  Best of all, you can download “Warrior”for free from the Journeys website right here.  Kudos to whoever planned this project – more please!

BILLCS Chart #375 and Canadian Music Week Update

My new personal chart is taking a backseat to my Canadian Music Week update.  Despite lots and lots and lots of walking as well as shifting my regular body clock a few times to accommodate some shows, I was really glad I decided to purchase a Canadian Music Week wristband this year.  I had been to shows during CMW in the past but I really had the urge to get out and see some shows, since my winter months were pretty concert-deprived.

As much as I love the dance music that takes regular residence on my chart, getting away from autotune and seeing mainly raw live performances was well worth it.  I got to meet a lot of great people which shows me that the people making music out there are still the ones I enjoy most.  There are many talented people behind the scenes, but too much of a requisite amount of a-holes.  I used to find that with performers, too, but not in recent years.

So here are my highlights – if you follow me on Twitter, you pretty much realized that I needed to be cloned 😉

THE TEMPER TRAP:  The Aussie quintet is back with its self-titled follow up to Conditions due this Spring.  The group provided an entertaining mix of savvy pop, rock and dance music, capped with its big hit “Sweet Disposition”.  The new songs sound very gripping and I can’t wait to hear them.  Dougy Mandagi is an engaging front man.  Check out the video for new single “Need Your Love” below.

MARTHA WAINWRIGHT:  It was way too long since I last saw Martha open up for her brother Rufus in one of his shows about 7 or 8 years ago.  I saw an in-store 20 minute acoustic set, and she was very inspiring and in fantastic voice.  Another upcoming album that will be well worth the wait.

AERIALS UP:  The first of my pop collectives, as I blogged about last week, the 7 piece Scottish unit led by Alan Kemlo offered up one of the very best shows I saw with a perfect balance of instrumentation.  The band was totally wrapped up and in the moment on stage, and the songs from their upcoming album due in April sounded fabulous.  Despite an effort to see them a second time that was screwed up from wrong information I received from the venue, I will look forward when Aerials Up return to Toronto.  I think they made a whole lot of fans here.

GENTLEMEN HALL:  Despite mediocre and sometimes distorted sound, the 6 piece Boston rock band led by Gavin Merlot and Cobi Mike who were my second pop collective stirred up a tempest on stage.  With synthesizers prominently in the mix, the band did not hesitate to add heavy guitars or some lovely melodies for a diverse set.  I got new appreciation for their song “Gravity Will Break Our Bones”.

IN MY COMA:  Though I didn’t get to see their CMW show, I did catch a set by the three piece Toronto band led by Jasper James that I wrote about recently a few days before CMW.  The band is tight with a rich contemporary take on post-grunge rock that is presented in their finely crafted CD package Magnets And Miracles.

BIG SCARY:  Big Scary is a duo from Australia comprising Tom Iansek and Jo Syme.  Lest you think that a the market for a two piece band with a female drummer comprised The (now defunct) White Stripes and Matt & Kim, we’ll you’re wrong.  Big Scary indeed does have a big rock sound (guitar/keyboards/drums) that takes inspiration from post 80’s new wave.  There seems to be lots of room for anything in their mix so I’ll look forward to hearing songs from their recent album Vacation.

THE SLAKADELIQS:  I’ve written about this Toronto outfit led by Slakah the Beatchild twice now, and was fortunate to catch their premiere public show.  Despite being sabotaged by poor sound, the band invited guest vocalists up on stage, to give their show a real community vibe.  This in turn was enhanced with their guitar players alternating with some fantastic dual cello work!  Best of all at the end came Justin Nozuka, who lifted the set into an entirely different game with his vocals for “Keep Breathing” and “Love Controls The Sun”.

RIVER TIBER:  It was very cool for me to actually meet Tommy Paxton-Beesley at The Slakadeliqs show, before I saw his band play their own set in a well-attended graveyard shift (3:00 a.m.) the next night.  River Tiber delivered the goods in performance especially on “Someday”, “These Are Centuries”, and a well-chosen rendition of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun”.  As I wrote a few weeks back, River Tiber’s From Now On is one of the few Must Hear records of 2012 thus far.

With that having been said, let’s move into chart mode 🙂

I could not leave Eric Saade stranded at #2 with “Backseat” after 10 weeks.  The last song I remember in a similar situation was “Crush (1980 Me)” by Darren Hayes, which got one appearance at #1 in 2002, but became one of my 10 favourite songs of the last decade!  I love the rock flavour and sexual undertones in “Backseat”.  If you haven’t heard it yet, listen below.  His other song on the rise on the chart, “Fingerprints”, slides up to #3 too.

Then back we go to Tommy Paxton-Beesley and River Tiber.  “Someday” is currently taking over my iTouch and it climbs 11-2 to challenge for #1 in two weeks.  Not only that, but another River Tiber song “Symmetry” will grab you when you’re not looking.  It debuts at #12.

The rest of the Top 10 shapes up with single point gains with songs by Graffiti6, JMSN, and Joe Jonas.  M83 enters at #10 with “Midnight City”, but it’s The Wanted that unexpectedly storm the Top 10 with “Glad You Came” at #9.  Oh, and boy bands are NOT back.  They never went away.

As the release of his Promising Promises album arrives in May, the stirring duo of Jon McLaughlin with Sara Bareilles on “Summer Is Over” inches towards the Top 10 at #11.  On a different bent, Colin Munroe’s inspiring “The Fight Of My Life” draws me in listen after listen and moves up to #13.  Last week’s other debuts all fare well.  The Knocks’ take on “Midnight City” rises to #19; “Could It Be Magic” is transformed by Elouise and climbs to #20; “Happiness” by the ever-talented Sam Sparro jumps to #22 (video is below); Kaya and Pierre Lewis  take “When I Was Blind” to #23; and “Call It What You Want” is at #24 for Foster The People.

It’s been almost 5 years since Tyler Hilton appeared in my chart with “You’ll Ask For Me”, but in the interim he’s been busy performing both on stage and on camera in film and on TV (“One Tree Hill”).  It’s hard to believe that Forget The Storm will only be his sophomore full album release, his first being 2004’s The Tracks Of Tyler Hilton.  But if the pensive and laid back “Prince Of Nothing Charming” (debuting at #26 – his 7th entry on my chart though!) proves anything it’s that Tyler Hilton is on his way to continuing to please his many fans and expand worldwide.  Watch for the release of Forget The Storm on April 3.

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.

BILLCS Top 30 #374 – March 12/12

As the top 5 songs on my chart remain exactly the same (that’s 4 appearances – 8 weeks – at #1 for “Memorize Me” by Rune RK & Databoy, plus 5 appearances at #2 for Eric Saade’s “Backseat” – and both songs are still red hot!), the rest of the chart gets a shake-up with 6 additions.  I’ve chatted about all of these songs before except the highest debut.

While the regular big hits from TV’s “Glee” now seem to have stopped, that doesn’t prevent the show from helping the original versions of some  of the songs they are performing to become huge hits in North America.  How many of you knew “We Are Young” by fun. featuring Janelle Monae before you saw the “Glee” performance”?  It’s currently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  And not too far behind it is “Glad You Came” by The Wanted.  There’s nothing complex about this one – a simple unadulterated catchy fun song that deserves to be a hit.  It bows at #22 on my chart, yes a little belatedly, but nothing stops a good song.

In a bit of a chart first from these last 14 years, I’m charting the same song by two different performers.  “Midnight City” by M83 in its original version slides up comfortably to #12, but the version I premiered a few weeks back by The Knocks featuring Mandy Lee has its own vibe and merits and debuts at #23.  Plus – it’s a free download 🙂

The next two debuts don’t have official videos and both hail from the UK.  I do say it’s time for a revival of the Barry Manilow/Take That hit “Could It Be Magic”, this time as performed by captivating chanteuse Elouise.  Read my last blog post about her album Little Belterthe song debuts at #27.  It’s her 6th entry in my chart world – 2010’s “Pretender” even got as high as #2.  Then we have a chart premiere for young American singer Kaya with “When I Was Blind”, which has a preview on You Tube but is also available on iTunes in its original ballad form.  It features talented UK singer Pierre Lewis in a truly harmonious vocal pairing.  Pierre got to #2 in 2009 on my chart with “Broken” and has come close again with some other recent songs.  But “When I Was Blind” is a beautiful, classic ballad with loads of potential.  You can get the Florian Maier dance mix for free right here.  The song arrives at #28.

A video is forthcoming for Sam Sparro’s “Happiness”, from his upcoming Return To Paradise album, which premieres at #29.  Sam has just been back to his native Australia and is now poised to offer up lots of “Happiness” to the rest of the pop world 🙂  The last debut has been kicking around in my head, well at least since last November when I wrote about it.  I think I’ve still been a bit attached to “Pumped Up Kicks”, and while “Helena Beat” was promoted as the follow up I think the true successor is still “Call It What You Want” and its imaginative video.  It steps onto the chart at #30.

There’s still some impressive movement happening on the rest of the chart.  I like the sound of Graffiti 6 at #6, as “Free” continues its ascent.   Joe Jonas still has a two-fer in my Top 10 with “Make You Mine” hanging at #3, and “Not Right Now” now moving up 10-7.  JMSN’s “Something” climbs 14-8 as the singer prepares some more thought-provoking videos for our entertainment.  “Fallout” by Marianas Trench becomes their fifth top tenner at #9, and “Better Than I Know Myself” lands at #10 for Adam Lambert – very interested in hearing the other songs from his upcoming album Trespassing.  Last week’s new ones all made some fine gains this week.  Ryan Star’s “Stay Awhile” rises 25-18, while “The Fight Of My Life” by Colin Munroe featuring Pusha-T jumps 27-19.  Liquid Diet, who performed their first live show last night in New York City, slide up 29-24.

However, it’s “Someday” by River Tiber that you must keep your eyes and ears on.  A huge 26-11 jump smells of a #1 contender once the current dance music up top takes a break.  I’ll have lots more to say about Tommy Paxton-Beesley and his band in the coming week as River Tiber performs a couple of shows in my city.  I’ve been listening steadily to River Tiber’s From Now On album and the new EP Massachusetts, and have plenty to talk about once I collect my thoughts.  In the meantime, here’s that video for “Someday” again…

You can view the full chart using the link under ***BILL’S PERSONAL CHART*** to the right, or you can click right hereYou can hear all of the songs on the chart or watch their videos by clicking on the pics on the chart page.

Showstopper: Elouise’s Little Belter album, Plus New Songs from UK’s Bim and Pob (ex-Boy Banned)

It’s not yet available outside of the UK, but I’m bringing you spectacular tidings:  The Little Belter album by our darling of delightful drama and dance Elouise is a showstopper that is not to be missed.  For one, it includes the entire 2009 EP Stardust (“Another Day”, my still-fave “Pretender”, and the campy “Fireman of My Dreams”); for two: The retooled rendition of “Tainted Love” (released as a digital single); for three: Another favourite, her cover of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” from the Stardust Memories EP; and for four:  Enchanting, well chosen renditions of some classics and some that have passed both you and me by…

So I’ll focus on the 9 songs new to Little Belter, a generous selection that makes the inclusion of the other songs all the more wonderful.  There are three showy show tunes for Elouise, “As Long As He Needs Me”, a standard from “Oliver!”, the always ear-catching “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Barbra Streisand’s “Funny Girl”, and the more obscure but beautifully rendered Noel Coward song “If Love Were All” (listen to it below).  Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” gets a pleasing makeover, while “I Like to Hate Myself In The Morning” does both Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey proud.  The Cilla Black UK hit “Something Tells Me” gets an almost behind-the-scenes storybook-like fun reworking, while Elouise puts her own commanding spin on Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”.

Elouise and her wonderful team including musical director Steve Anderson and show producer Terry Ronald don’t leave more contemporary music aside either.  Paul McCartney’s James Bond theme “Live And Let Die” retains the drama but becomes empowering with a big band turn.  And “Could It Be Magic” (I previously blogged about the Le Kid dance remix, also included here) is a faithful and timely cover that ties in all of the Barry Manilow, Donna Summer, and Take That versions together!!

As if her previous releases didn’t scream it out loud enough, Little Belter is Elouise’s international calling card.  Her shows are currently selling out all over England and the rest of the world is waiting to be slayed.  I’ll let you know as soon as I know that Little Belter is available outside of the UK.  Even if you’re not particularly attached to any of these songs as you know them, I will guarantee that in the hands of Elouise and her team there is no disappointment.  If you’re in the UK do try and catch her live show at http://www.littlebeltershow.com.

Listen to “If Love Were All” by Elouise below.

Bim “Scream”

Also coming to you, in early April, is the official single release of “Scream”, by UK indie duo Bim, who captured many hearts and minds with their 2010 effort Scatterheart, which yielded one of my favourite singles that year with the heartwrenching “Head Over Heels”.   Rebecca Rosier and Denmark Davis are definitely out to best themselves because “Scream” is one of the most touching and ear-catching new releases of 2012.  Vocally, it is a little more aggressive than past releases, and I particularly enjoy how Denmark’s voice jumps front and centre past the minute mark to match Rebecca’s power immediately preceding.  Watch the video for “Scream” below and listen to acoustic and remix versions too.

Pob “Shout It Out Loud”

It hasn’t been too long since we bid adieu to UK’s Boy Banned via their gorgeous swan song “The Stars Are Saying Yes”, and I’ve certainly noticed that band members Ethan and Pob (aka Paul O’Brien) have both struck out on their own immediately.  Pob seems to be the first one out of the gate with songs hinting at a diverse new direction with the help of some great songwriters.   “Shout It Out Loud” is contemporary and memorable and with wishful assistance of some remixers could find its way discretely into clubland.  We’ll have to wait a bit longer to hear where Pob plans to head music-wise, but this is a pleasing surprise that’s a bit of a grower.  Pob’s started to showcase his music in concert too – a debut London date is scheduled for March 30.  Listen to “Shout It Out Loud” – which has nothing to do with a certain hit by KISS 😉 – below.

Published in: on March 8, 2012 at 11:55 pm  Comments (2)  
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Shapes of Things to Come: New Music from Rufus Wainwright, Vincent Did It and Quigley, Sam Sparro, Elouise, Wilde Project & Matt Blue, Eleven:Eleven

Rufus Wainwright “Montauk” and “Out of The Game”

While Rufus has released a number of projects over the last few years, including the House Of Rufus boxed set, it’s really been since 2007’s Release The Stars and his 2008 concert tour to promote Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall (I last saw a Rufus concert on my birthday that year) that I’ve really been in tune with his pop music.  I stepped away from the All Days Are Night: Songs For Lulu album, a beautifully enough done record but alas one that I could never listen to or play regularly.  And believe me, Rufus’ music from all of his other albums is played regularly on my iTouch 🙂

I first encountered his songs while at a listening station at Tower Records in 1998.  It was his first self-titled album and I simply hadn’t heard anything like it before.  So I caught an intimate show at Toronto’s Rivoli Club, just Rufus and his piano, and I was completely sold.  I have seen him in concert five times.  So I am really happy that we find Rufus in a different place in pop for Out Of The Game, which is due for official release in late April.  Produced by Mark Ronson, the sampling of two new songs below, “Montauk” and the title track, signal that the amazing lyricism that you find in songs like “April Fools”, “Greek Song”, “Tulsa” and more is well intact.  “Montauk” is beautifully and personally written for his baby daughter about a touristy beach resort in New York where she will eventually visit.  “Out of The Game” shows Rufus in more classic pop singer-songwriter territory.

If these songs are just previews of what to expect, definitely continue to count me in this game 🙂

“Montauk” click right here and listen after the advertisement

“Out Of The Game” click right here (from Mark Ronson’s tumblr)

Vincent Did It “Notice Me” and Quigley “Inkblot Game”

I’m writing about these songs together because they are each so different, yet two of a perfect pair 🙂 Of course Vincent Did It is Vincent Frank (formerly Frankmusik) and Quigley is his gal Casey Carlson, who have already performed in concert together on Frankmusik’s Fall tour in support of Do It In The A.M.  Though the Galaga arcade game sounds are a delightful distraction, it’s Quigley’s soul-tinged vocals that showcase “Notice Me” and make romance-at-a-distance in an arcade the backdrop.  Quigley’s debut “Inkblot Game” also gets Vince’s magic production touch – the melody does remind me a bit of “Hurt You Again” at times – but it’s a multi-layered song that makes you think, especially when faced with the seemingly simple but deliberately paced video.  Her vocals convincingly portray someone torn apart internally who has withdrawn into a safe place.  Just beautiful.

Listen to “Notice Me”

Watch “Inkblot Game”

Sam Sparro “Happiness”

It’s been four years since Australian-via-L.A. Sam Sparro dazzled us with “Black and Gold”, which became a stunning huge hit worldwide and is a staple for dance competitions everywhere.  His debut self-titled album was an R&B-laced fun fest which kind of went quiet a bit too fast.  Several remixes and other projects later and Sam returns with his sophomore effort Return To Paradise and debut single “Happiness”, currently available only in Australia – lucky Aussies.  This one takes me back 30 years to infectious R&B pop courtesy of George Benson, Chaka Khan, Patrice Rushen, and Quincy Jones, but yet done with a slick and distinctive Sam Sparro vocal spin that will also fit in just fine next to today’s club sounds.  After all, we all need a little bit of “Happiness” and “Paradise” don’t we?  Can’t wait to hear the rest of the album! 🙂

Elouise “Could It Be Magic” (Le Kid remix)

To most of us around the world, “Could It Be Magic” is an excellent choice for UK’s Little Belter herself Elouise, who can bestow upon it all of the drama and power that is required.  In North America, we know it as a Top Tenner from Barry Manilow in 1975; it became a hit in the UK three years later after Barry became king of “Copacabana”.  But Donna Summer gave the song its disco savvy in 1976, which was later captured by Take That in its 1992 Top 10 UK hit version.  Those great folks behind Le Kid have given the song a splashy remix that doesn’t overpower the original.  Watch Elouise sing the song in concert below.  We need Elouise in North America SOON!

The Wilde Project featuring Matt Blue and Matic “She’s A Maniac” (Traxx remix)

Michael Sembello’s 1983 hit from “Flashdance” comes alive again through this Eurohouse remix featuring one of my favourite new vocalists, Holland’s Matt Blue.  Matt’s stellar voice is the perfect vehicle to drive the chorus from “Maniac” back on to the dance floor for late night fun.

Eleven:Eleven “Electric Sex” and Empire of The Sun “Walking On A Dream” (Eleven:Eleven remix)

Eleven:Eleven is a duo from Austin, Texas comprising vocalist Sicca and producer Jake Childs that shows that the nu-underground disco that I’ve associated with New York City is spreading elsewhere.  “Electric Sex” is sinewy late night dance floor affair all rolled into one that leaves you wanting more after 3 minutes.  To satisfy that, take the duo’s delightfully intensified remix of Australian duo Empire of The Sun’s 2009 hit “Walking On A Dream”, which could find its way back into clubs again because of the fresh take on the song.  Eleven:Eleven are ones to watch.  Download these songs for free from the links below.

“Electric Sex” 

“Walking On A Dream” 

Bill’s Top 75 Songs of 2011

That annual ritual is upon us again.  I kicked it off with my previous post “And Visions of 2011 Danced In His Head”, which talked about my favourite 20 performers (and one compilation album) that made 2011 glitter for me.  I won’t go into much depth about those performers again, other than those whose songs are in my Top 10.  I’ve provided links to some notable videos and/or songs in my list below (click on the relevant song titles), particularly some you may not know, as well as some comments.  You can see the web-pretty list using the Best of 2011 list in the sidebar to the right or click right here.

Before we begin, only one performer has more than 4 songs on the list, and that is Simon Curtis, who had my #1 song of 2010 “Beat Drop”.  Among 7 entries, he has three duets on the list!  Then with four songs is Frankmusik, and with three songs apiece we have Penguin Prison, Elouise, Eric Saade, Ro Danishei, and Kyle Brylin.  These are no surprises if you’ve read this blog throughout the year.

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin 🙂

BILL’S TOP 75 SONGS OF 2011

75 TILL THE WORLD ENDS  Britney Spears

Unlike much of the pop world, I have never much been a fan of Ms Britney.  But this year she recorded the best song of her career thus far which kicks off my year end list.  In fact one of the very best reasons for expanding my list to 75 songs this year was to include this song.  Well done – more like this please!
74 METAPHOR  Nick Hagelin

Watch Nick’s Twitter account for word about his upcoming single “X Games”!
73 JILTED LOVERS & BROKEN HEARTS  Brandon Flowers
72 WE DON’T MISS A BEAT Van Go Lion

Portland, Oregon duo Amy Paige and Josh Hoertzel make magical melodies together, and “We Don’t Miss A Beat” is their best yet.  Watch for more in 2012.
71 ICE MELTS  Matt & Kim
70 ANOTHER DIMENSION   Bass Robbers featuring Matt Blue
69 NEVER WILL BE MINE  Rye Rye featuring Robyn
68 THE CITY (Richard X emix)  Patrick Wolf

It was so grand to hear British singer Patrick Wolf full of positive and happy energy with songs like “The City” from his recent album Lupercalia.
67 TILL IT HURTS (Radio mix) Native Underground

Native Underground and singer Javi Silva (who gave us last year’s tantalizing “Situation”) are part of a New York City new dance/disco undercurrent.  Watch for more from them in 2012, including Javi’s other project Chasing The Ghost.
66 CINEMA  Benny Benassi featuring Gary Go
65 FALLING Bright Light Bright Light

BrightLightx2 aka Rod Thomas recorded this free download and unique interpretation of the theme from TV’s “Twin Peaks”, originally sung by Julee Cruise.

64 WHITE HORSE  Jessica 6
63 MORE (Red One Jimmy Joker remix)  Usher
62 STUPID WITH YOU  Eric Saade
61 MY FIZZY POP   Kyle Brylin
60 THEN I GO TWISTING  Erasure
59 ALL YOU NEED IS NOW  Duran Duran
58 THE LOVER’S RUMBA   Elouise

The first of three contemporized ballroom songs to appear in this list from the fantastic Ballroom Remixed compilation from our favourite UK torch song chanteuse.

57 KEEP YOUR HEAD UP  Andy Grammer

One of the most upbeat and carefree songs of the year also had one of the most enjoyable (and interactive) videos!

56 BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE  Chris Brown featuring Benny Benassi

I must say I was totally enthralled with Chris Brown’s performance of this song on the Grammy Awards – though it was really a lot of special effects that catch your attention more so than the song, you can imagine how much work went into it.  But I was totally puzzled that his record company did not promote this song to pop radio, and instead it became a #1 Dance Club Play hit.

55 TAINTED LOVE  Elouise

Another magnificent Steve Anderson production which turns the song best known as the 80’s hit by Soft Cell into a seductive, smoky, and empowering torchy rendition.
54 ALORS ON DANSE  Stromae

53 NEVER LOVE A DJ  Kyle Brylin

52 THE EDGE OF GLORY  Lady GaGa
51 DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART  Agnes
50 SUNLIGHT Bag Raiders featuring Dan Black
49 FAMOUS Audio Playground featuring Kardinal Offishall or Randy Raymond

Canadian dance trio Audio Playground enlisted Kardinal Offishall for this infectious dance song that perked up Canadian radio playlists this Fall.

48 LADY LUCK  Jamie Woon
47 ROCKETEER  Far East Movement featuring Ryan Tedder
46 BAD DOG  Neon Hitch
45 THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL   Elouise

From the little belter herself, a live clip of this version of the ABBA hit which shows that Elouise has the goods and you’ll hear much more from her in 2012.


44 SET FIRE TO THE RAIN  Adele
43 MOVES LIKE JAGGER  Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera
42 MONSTER  Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj

I will always listen to Kanye West’s music knowing that he can come up with greatness with the help of such friends… and to me Nicki’s outstanding rap in this song is what helped get her on the map.
41 FAIR WARNING (Dirty Vegas remix) Penguin Prison
40 VENOM Long Story Short

A hooky, movie theme-inspired rock song from this duo, who are from Quebec and L.A.  Watch for more from Long Story Short in 2012.
39 THE PUPPET WHO GAVE HIMSELF STRINGS  Simon Curtis

The most adorable song from Ballroom Remixed which shows a different side of Simon.
38 PREY TO THE BEAT   Ro Danishei

Prey To The Beat is the hidden gem in Ro’s End Of The Rainbow album.  It can easily slay the dancefloor!
37 BLOCK AFTER BLOCK  Matt & Kim

Block After Block is set to one of the best videos of the year – it’s just so much fun, like the duo themselves.

36 PULL THE TRIGGER  Adam Tyler
35 MULTI-MILLIONAIRE (Shook remix)  Penguin Prison
34 TALK TALK TALK  Darren Hayes

33 FIX ME  Matthew Kurz

Fix Me is one of the most heart-wrenching ballads of the year by L.A.’s Matthew Kurz, a new singer with an amazing voice.  Download his Mixtape featuring Fix Me right here.
32  CINNAMON  Matt Webb 

Guitarist Matt Webb  initially released Cinnamon as a limited free download before appearing on his debut EP Coda and Jacket.  It’s one of those perfect summer heartbreak songs that shows another side of this Marianas Trench member.
31 EVERYTHING I’M MISSING  Kyle Brylin

As Kyle enters an acoustic phase of his career, his electropop of 2011 leaves its mark especially with this hypnotic song with a video that makes you watch, even reluctantly. And what is it about the eye makeup that helps give this song a bit of a sinister side? 😉

30 SUPERHERO  Simon Curtis

Your Superhero arrived in May to stage the arrival of R∆.

29 STUPID (Brad Walsh remix)  Databoy

It takes a few listens until you realize what a smart release this is from this Austin TX duo.  It’s still available as a free download right here.

28 I WON’T LET YOU GO   Adam Tyler

Watch the colourful video from the best song on Adam’s Shattered Ice debut release.


27 MICHELLE  Ro Danishei featuring Simon Curtis

Watch Ro and Simon perform this blistering duet from London, the first of two videos from that show in this list!

26 BORN THIS WAY  Lady GaGa
25 I’M IN LOVE  Christian TV

The first of two pop/dance confections on this list from the Detroit performer who now goes by the moniker JMSN.  Watch for more tricks up Christian Berishaj’s sleeve in 2012.
24 PRISONER OF LOVE  Jessica 6 featuring Antony Hegarty

Prisoner of Love is just one of those to-die-for duets that happen once in a while.  Hopefully this will be the first of many Nomi Ruiz/Antony Hegarty pairings!


23 BLOODSTAINED HEART  Darren Hayes

There are few performers who can convey heartbreak so conscientiously as Darren Hayes.  The best song on his Secret Codes & Battleships album is also one of his finest vocal performances.  Watch the video all the way through.

22 PUMPED UP KICKS (Skeet Skeet Show remix)  Foster The People

It’s very clear from their sold out concerts and their praised performances (even on TV’s Saturday Night Live) that Foster The People is not a one-hit pony.  Despite the strange subject matter, the song became one of the defining hits of the summer, but my preference is for the frenetic Skeet Skeet Show remix.
21 JACKSONVILLE  Brandon Flowers

Held over from 2010, Jacksonville is one of the songs on the deluxe version of Flamingo, an album that could have fared very differently if the excellent deluxe tracks had been the the core of the record.  Nonetheless, this is Brandon at his most unique – Jacksonville could have also been kicked up a notch with some dance remixes.
20 DISCO MOMENT Bright Light Bright Light

One of Rod Thomas’ very best songs contains several lyrics that can leave you teary-eyed while you dance:  “And I am open, I am open, but I might just close if… /You make it so hard to be around”.  The outstanding video will twist your emotions on the spot.


19 OUT WITHOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND  Jerry Reid featuring Ben Waters

The best song from the Ballroom Remixed compilation is this contemporary jive number, aided immeasurably by the magic fingers of Ben Waters.  Jerry Reid, too, is a new bad boy talent to watch in 2012.
18 TALK TO ME  Andrea Lewis featuring Simon Curtis

Toronto’s Andrea Lewis has another hold over from 2010 release 54321, with her 60’s retro sounding duet with Simon Curtis.  Watch the exclusive performance by these best friends from London below.


17 HURT YOU AGAIN Frankmusik

Pre-dating the Do It In The AM album by several months, it’s one of the rare tender ballads you will hear from Frankmusik, originally available as a free download.
16 SOMEONE LIKE YOU Adele
15 S&M Rihanna

Rihanna was a non-stop music-making machine in 2011, but S&M to me exceeded all expectations and made the music that followed pale in comparison.  She was at the top of her game but is now probably due a break for fear of that other industry-eating event, over-exposure.  The song also accompanied an interesting cadre of songs with suggestive topic matter, which all ended up in Billboard’s Top 4 on the Hot 100 earlier in year – the others were “Born This Way” by Lady GaGa, “Fuckin’ Perfect” by Pink, and “Tonight (I’m Fuckin’ You)” by Enrique Iglesias 🙂

14 DO IT IN THE A.M.  Frankmusik F/ Far East Movement

13 CAN’T HELP MYSELF (KEEP DANCING)  Matt Blue

One of 2011’s must-talents to watch is 19 year old Matt Blue, who hails from the Netherlands.  Songs like “Can’t Help Myself” transcend the record industry barriers for official release through their videos.


12 LOVE 2 BABY Christian TV

If there was any song that should’ve been a hit in 2011 it was “Love 2 Baby”, dance pop at its best and somewhat hedonistic video to boot.  Watch for the artist now known as JMSN in 2012.


11 NO I.D. Frankmusik featuring Colette Carr

One of the most joyous treats of 2011 was watching this completely unexpected video throwback to “Grease”.  Frank and Colette have great chemistry together – hopefully they’ll record again.


10 MADE OF POP  Eric Saade

It was never released as a single *hrumpf* but this love letter to Eric’s fans has some of the best lyrics that pop music could offer in 2011:  “My kings and queens /Are speaking through me / Got my degree / In the big P-O-P”.

9 ROLLING IN THE DEEP  Adele

Rolling In The Deep is the song that defines 2011 in pop culture.  It endured the entire year, became a massive hit beyond expectations, was covered – sometimes magnificently – a gazillion times.  More than any other song in the 21 album, it showcases the many broad talents of Adele.  Now let’s hope her voice recovers and we hear more magnificence in the next few years.


8 NIGHT AIR  Jamie Woon

One of the most mysterious and oddly appealing songs by this new English singer with deep down embedded talents.  While the video surely must have had “Twilight” as a source, its quiet is incredibly elegant.


7 THE FEAR INSIDE  Frankmusik

The best song from Do It In The AM was Frank’s first single from the album, released about a year ago.  Just release yourself to this one.

6 GOLDEN TRAIN Penguin Prison

Penguin Prison held court on my chart at the top of the year for two months with this song, which was made even better when Chris Glover paired it in a stunning mashup with Michael Jackson’s “Workin’ Day And Night”, which you can hear and download in the link in song title.

5 LASER GUNS UP  Simon Curtis

It lasted from the first time I heard it in a live clip from a January show throughout the year.  Laser Guns Up is still my anthem for 2011.  And I still want some LEGO laser guns.  “This one’s for the people who’ve been told they’re never good enough / The little girls and boys who dream of what they wanna be / The little girls and boys who grow up into you and me”.
4 JUST ONCE Databoy

I had just heard “Stupid” and had not yet charted it before I was introduced to Databoy at the Superfraiche showcase in New York City in April.  And that’s where I heard this song.  Instantly, it became my song for the upcoming summer, and when it arrived as a free download there was no other competition.  I can’t wait for more Databoy music in 2012.

3 WICKED BABY Ro Danishei featuring Simon Curtis

We had to wait till late Summer for this bonus track from the deluxe edition of Ro Danishei’s End of the Rainbow, but the best was saved for last.  This is the child of Ace of Base’s The Sign that you’ve all been waiting for, with a stunning dubsteppy breakdown amid another smoking Ro/Simon duet.  And I wasn’t the only one who loved it, check out My Fizzy Pop’s thoughts on the song too!

2 FLESH  Simon Curtis

There was no song more unique in 2011 than this second single from Simon’s R∆ album.  Totally different from even the songs within R∆, it’s a tour-de-force of sensual imagery carried by fierce production that will simply throttle you.  I still want to see it featured in a segment on TV’s “The Vampire Diaries”:  “You put your hand upon my neck and feel the pulse beat-beat-beat-beat /It’s like a trigger getting ready to shoot” and “Hold me up against the wall / Give it till I beg, give me some more /Make me bleed, I like it raw / Like it R∆ R∆ R∆”.
1 POPULAR  Eric Saade

“Popular” is the best and most captivating song of 2011 to me, which threw Swedish singer Eric Saade even more into the spotlight when the song won the Melodifestivalen contest and came third in Eurovision.  It signalled things to come, with Saade’s Volume One and Volume Two albums dropping before year’s end and giving us the year’s most  lighthearted, feel good, crunchy electropop, which hopefully will find its way around the world in 2012.  Eric Saade and his team have created the template, the rest of the world needs to catch on.  And if you’re a male pop singer, all eyes should be on Eric!  Watch the star-making performance from Melodiefestivalen again below.


And Visions Of 2011 Danced In His Head…

2011 is a special year in many ways for me.  Utterly fantastic music was to be heard at every turn, whether it be a Facebook or Twitter link, a video, a concert… we were just a few clicks away from something amazing.  I’ve met and made contact with some of the genuinely nicest people who are either performers, writers, songwriters, producers … and are always music fans.   For someone like me who has sometimes odd music tastes and often wants to stand up on my seat and root for the underdog, it’s reassuring to know that there are so many of us out there in the world.

In anticipation of my year end Best Songs list – which will be a Top 75 Songs for the first time since around 1992 – I’m going to rave on about 20  performers (and one compilation project) who made 2011 a watershed year, particularly for pop music online (he says after listening to the radio and finding so little of interest on it).  So this post is a little longer than usual… they are in no particular order, except for the last five 🙂

The Script

The Irish trio toured around the world and then seemed to do it again, sideways, finally landing a show in my city.  Their Science And Faith album proved to be a consistent soft rock entry, spawning long-lasting hits like “For The First Time” and “Nothing”.  It’s a record that you can put on at any time and know that you will get something different back in each play every time.  The band in concert has an earnest, contagious energy which will serve them well in their rock career.

Jamie Woon

If I hadn’t heard the magical and eerie “Night Air”, well represented by a beautifully-shot video, Jamie Woon’s Mirrorwriting would not have been one of my most played albums of the first quarter of the year.  Englander Jamie has one of those deep musical souls, highly evident in gripping R&B/Blues-influenced songs like “Tmrw”, “Street”, “Waterfront” and “Shoulda”.  I can’t wait to see where his next album will take him, and us.

The Midway State

The Toronto-based quartet had me a bit puzzled with their sophomore release Paris Or India, but it’s really an album that grows on you with time.  First you must get over the hurdle that it’s quite different, and much more produced, than their 2008 debut Holes.  But the songs do resonate, particularly “Fire!”, “All Anew”, “Hartley Salter’s Kite”, and “St. Paul And The Wolf”.  The band proved how much they’ve grown touring back and forth across Canada and are now a formidably tight unit in concert.  Keep them on your radar!

Jon McLaughlin

What’s one to do after leaving your major record label of 6 years?  Why, you tour the hell out of North America in support of the album that you couldn’t agree upon, that’s what!  So Indiana’s Jon McLaughlin released Forever If Ever on his own, as if to reacquaint us with an increasingly lost image – the singer/songwriter/piano man.  I mean, a full blown piano solo in the album’s best song, “Promising Promises”, really?  The record is mainly soft rock, but also rocks out on “What I Want” and “These Crazy Times”.  And Jon proved himself to be a compelling presence in concert, prepared to bang out that keyboard until it falls apart.

Adam Cohen

I was fortunate enough to win last minute tickets to see Adam Cohen’s show in Toronto in October.  And I was treated to a low key, enthusiastic small event to showcase his first English solo album, Like A Man, since 1998, after recording one in French in 2004 and of course having some success with his rock band Low Millions.  So Adam has now embraced some of father Leonard’s style and grace on the album.  But these are Adam’s songs which tell interesting tales of love, lust, and beauty, as well as a coming of age of sorts.  At 39, Adam has decided to continue with a pop music career after nearly talking himself out of it.  And so out of that we have Like A Man, one of the best albums of 2011.

Jessica 6

This New York City trio is among a select few who seem to be reinventing the late night dance music of their city.  There’s no better example than their See The Light album, full of dark and sensual rhythms carried by the sultry-plus voice of Nomi Ruiz.  “Fun Girl”, “White Horse” and especially the knockout duet with Antony Hegarty on “Prisoner Of Love” will serve as benchmarks in this sub-genre which will continue to grow.

Ballroom Remixed

It almost seems like a no-brainer.  But with the success of contemporary dance in our pop culture spectrum now, thanks in large part to TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, no one had thought about putting a contemporary spin on traditional ballroom dances until now.  Dance choreographer extraordinaire Melanie La Patin executive-produced this fun and diverse compilation, with all songs written and produced by one group of incredible individuals, so it comes off as a dedicated and attractive affair to suit your every dance mood.  And the performers who participated?  A who’s who of Internet pop from across the globe – Simon Curtis, Kyle Brylin, Gravitonas, Elouise, Lee Latchford Evans, Romy Low, Neo, plus stunning newcomers like Jerry Reid, Joshua Desjardins, and Jeronimo.  Putting together such a compilation in these times must have taken massive effort but the results are exceptional, so check it out if you haven’t.

Bright Light Bright Light

Rod Thomas creates sad and romantic electropop with a big heart.  And while we haven’t yet seen a full album release, this London-based Welsh singer/producer/DJ continued to dazzle us in 2011 with the heartbreak of “Disco Moment”, “How To Make A Heart”, and a unique interpretation of the “Twin Peaks” theme (originally sung by Julee Cruise) “Falling”.  And then there are his numerous dance mixes, often courtesy of his nightclubbing event “Another Night”.  Bright Light Bright Light is on my must-listen list.

Adam Tyler,  Kyle Brylin, and Nick Hagelin

All of these fine young men didn’t strike me with their first few songs.  But 2011 has shown that all are coming into their own, with endless possibilities ahead.  All are very prolific, whether engaging us with their own originals/collaborations, or with well-chosen cover versions.

Adam released his debut album Shattered Ice, toured most of the U.S., and also visited England, Sweden and Japan.  The well-received electronic album included pre-released single “I Won’t Let You Go”, plus club bangers such as “Like A Drug”, “Pull The Trigger”, and the anthemic “Music Freak”, but also showed Adam’s softer side as well, which truly highlights his voice, very apparent in his non-album free download covers of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” or Adele’s “Turning Tables”.

It seemed that every month saw a new Kyle Brylin release.  And I’d be the first to back off a bunch of songs that sound like they were being thrown against a wall to see what stuck.  But there is enormous quality to multi-instrumentalist Kyle’s versatile performances,  most of which were available as free downloads.  The year started with the interesting “Committed”, and quickly got turned upside its head with a visceral version of Rihanna’s “S&M”.  “Everything I’m Missing” was hypnotic, his best song yet.  He gave us a tongue-in-cheek side with “I’m A Man (Not A Piece of Meat)” from the Ballroom Remixed compilation.  More aggressive electronica followed in the form of songs like “Make It So” and “Never Love A DJ”, countered by sweet pop like “Bay” and the joyful “My Fizzy Pop”.  The year wrapped up with precursors to an album with the many remixes of “Revenge” along with the The System EP.  OK I’m officially out of breath.

For the first while, all I could associate singer/songwriter/guitarist Nick Hagelin with were dancing pandas (from his video of “ICU”).  So when the acoustic cover versions of “The Story Of Us”, “Sometimes I Cry”, and “Marry You” all surfaced, along with a beaut of an R&B/Pop EP called Take Off, then I knew Nick would be here to stay, with much to look forward to next year.  Take Off is available for free download and features the sultry “Metaphor” and wistful title track.

Erasure

September brought me back to an always pleasant experience – my fifth Erasure concert (I saw them first back in 1986!) – but this year’s event focused on both their greatest hits and music from their album Tomorrow’s World, produced by their opening act, Frankmusik.  The album itself stands as unique among all of the Erasure albums because it updated the duo’s sound, which attracted many new listeners, more than evident in the audience at the concert.  And the concert showed that Andy Bell and Vince Clarke are still very fine performers indeed – and just count all of those hits they played.

Ro Danishei

The L.A. based singer/songwriter released the first album of 2011 online for free, and in a year of such high profile women singers, Ro Danishei held her own with End Of The Rainbow.  It’s a collection of songs that would best resemble what a de-layered Kesha might sound like, but with much more focus on deeper lyrical content and solid production (courtesy of Jeff “Jadion” Wells) than image or novelty.  Her duets with Simon Curtis on the blistering “Michelle” and the child of Ace Of Base that is “Wicked Baby”, as well as solo efforts like “Baby Doll”, “Drunk Txt”, and “Blackout” put Ro Danishei on her own platform, waiting to be heard more in 2012.

Lady GaGa

Despite naysayers, Born This Way as an album (but more particularly as a song) is a triumph.  Every generation has its excesses, whether they be by Elton John, David Bowie, or Madonna.  Lady GaGa has her own invention of excess, but with all of her talent, and her ability to get right down to a fan’s level, she still comes across as a multi-layered and unique person.  And there’s no denying the variety in Born This Way, from the humorous “Government Hooker” and “Scheiɮe”, through to the more dramatic “Marry The Night” and “Judas”, and the anthemic “Hair” and “The Edge Of Glory”.

Adele

21 is the most stunningly beautiful best-selling album of many recent years.  Who would have thought a year ago that the New Artist Grammy winner from 2009 had created a record with songs that will serve as bellwether performances for years to come.  The honest emotion in “Rolling In The Deep”, “Someone Like You”, and “Set Fire To The Rain” transcended the year, and will continue into 2012.  21 is certainly a dream come true, a vocal tour-de-force with stunning arrangements.

Darren Hayes

Secret Codes and Battleships is Darren’s first album since the magnificence that is 2007’s This Delicate Thing We’ve Made.  It’s a softer and very personal affair, full of emotion and positive energy.  “Talk Talk Talk” was the danceable introduction to the album, followed by the intense “Bloodstained Heart” and feverish “Black Out The Sun”.  There’s no shortage of fine songs, with “Don’t Give Up” and “Roses” continuing to show the quality and beauty that Darren and his team put into their music.  What’s best though about this record – Darren’s finest vocals throughout.  Can’t wait for the North American concert dates.

Here now are the five quintessential performers in 2011 who require your attention in 2012 and beyond!

Elouise

England’s “Little Belter” certainly captured my attention last year with her knockout Stardust EP, which showcased her powerful voice on “Pretender”.  This year we saw Elouise take up a residency at Madame JoJo’s in London for several sequined-dress laden Little Belter shows, including “Santa’s Little Belter” at year’s end, which promoted her same-name EP of a trio of Christmas songs, including the lost disco gem “Dear Santa (Bring Me A Man This Christmas)”.  She also released another three song EP Stardust Melodies (as with the others, lovingly produced by Steve Anderson), featuring a warm and spot-on cover of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All”.  Plus she dared to cover “Born This Way” while Lady GaGa’s Grammy performance was still fresh in our minds (releasing it as a free download), as well as a sexy and sultry version of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”.  Then we found her contemporized on the Ballroom Remixed compilation with “The Lover’s Rumba”.  It was a great year for Elouise, and it will only get better from here.  A tour of England first; the rest of the world awaits!

Penguin Prison

Chris Glover and his band were everywhere in 2011.  The year started off with the single “Golden Train”, which Penguin Prison then mashed up with Michael Jackson’s “Workin’ Day and Night”.  Then came the Prince-worthy “Multi-Millionaire” and an older single “Fair Warning”, in numerous different remixes.  Chris also entertained us with various remixes and mixtapes throughout the year, until the self-titled Penguin Prison album dropped, first in England, and then in North America in October.  The album was more than worth the wait, with the crunchy and ribald “Don’t Fuck With My Money” scoring the lead-off track role.  But there’s more to Penguin Prison than making an outstanding fusion of dance past and present, as “Desert Cold” and “In The Way” will inform you upon listening.  Despite their relentless touring throughout 2011, I hope to see a Penguin Prison show again in 2012.

Simon Curtis

Our Boy Robot from last year’s 8bit Heart free download release threw his hat into the official release game with R∆ pretty much taking over my Twitter timeline for the month of June.  He also performed a few shows throughout the year, including the Superfraiche showcase in New York City which I saw in April.  R∆ is a hard-hitting and emotionally heart-felt triumph which is not always an easy listen.  In fact it’s better to be broken up into several parts.  

The song that stands apart from the rest in R∆ is second single “Flesh”, Simon’s most unique offering to date that wraps you up and doesn’t let you go, with its impressive vocals, all of its sexy and sensual imagery, and whirlwind production from Jeff “Jadion” Wells.  Then we have the anthems – first single “Superhero”, concert fave “Laser Guns Up”, love letter to the fans “Get In Line”.  Then smouldering dance/pop courtesy of “Soul 4 Sale”, “Don’t Dance”, and “Enemy”.  Lastly, the intensely raw songs like “How To Start A War”, “I Hate U”, “Pit of Vipers”, and “Joshua” – I for one would not want to be the subject of any of these songs for fear of having to crawl under a rock somewhere.  

Despite its flaws, R∆ proves that Simon Curtis can take his music to the next level and beyond… I’m gonna have to be extremely patient waiting to see what’s in store next.

Frankmusik

Frankmusik left me breathless in 2011 after what seemed to be a simple start with the release of the infectious “The Fear Inside” at the top of the year.  But then the rollercoaster effect started, with the online free release of fine songs that didn’t end up on his September album release Do It In The A.M.  One of those songs is “Hurt You Again”, one of my favourite ballads of the year with a tender vocal which we hadn’t yet heard from talented Vince Turner.  

In the midst of it all, Frankmusik produced Erasure’s album Tomorrow’s World, from which he also gave us a raw cover of the band’s single “When I Start (To Break It All Down)”, and then opened up for them on their North America and England tours.  And in the midst of all that, songs from Do It In The A.M. were leaked months in advance of the album’s release, prompting Frankmusik to release several more songs for free download, including a song about London’s summer riots “Living In The Mayhem”.  

But back to the album – flat out and edgy dance pop, featuring collaborations with Far East Movement, Natalia Kills, and Colette Carr, all Cherrytree labelmates.  The music from the record shaped my playlists for late Summer and Fall, with the swinging title track, the jaunty “No I.D.” (with a fantastic “Grease” inspired video), and dance floor fillers like “Wrecking Ball”, “Ludicrous”, “We Collide”, and “Struck By Lightning”.  

Frankmusik now occasionally broadcasts on uStream from his studio and says he’ll be releasing his next album for free online.  But I’m sure this busy fellow will have more up his sleeve and should not be underestimated in this strange world of pop music.

Eric Saade

I’m so glad I keep an open mind about music or else I may not have returned to listen to Eric Saade’s records this year.  His previous releases, huge hits in the Scandinavian countries, didn’t connect with me.  

And then this year’s Melodifestivalen contest happened in Sweden, with Eric’s “Popular” one of the contenders.  Like with Mans Zelmerlow in 2009, the show extracted a stunning live performance  by Eric.  I was converted and  “Popular” is the defining song for me of 2011, followed in the summer by a full album, Saade Volume One.  This isn’t just Swedish electropop, it sets the standard for the way contemporary electropop should be.  Eric and his fine team of songwriters and producers covered the entire pop spectrum, from the caring and personal “Me and My Radio”, “Stupid with You” and “Timeless”, through to his own anthem for his fans “Made of Pop”, and the brilliantly bizarre “Killed By A Cop”.  

In November, Volume One was followed fearlessly by Volume Two, an even harder hitting, forceful collection of grittier arpeggio-laden electropop, led by a stunning first single featuring Dev, “Hotter Than Fire”.  But there are comparable songs within such as “Fingerprints”, “Love Is Calling”, “Explosive Love”, and “Crashed On The Dancefloor”.  Put Eric on a double bill tour with Swedish legend Robyn in 2012 along with a few other noteable performers and we will have Electropop Heaven.  

Not only does Eric Saade create electropop done so right that makes you feel so good, but he leads the way in which a male performer can rightly find his place in such a female performer-driven business these days.  If there’s any guy who should break into the worldwide pop marketplace in the next few years, it’s Eric Saade.  With Volumes One and Two, he’s created the template.  So other male pop performers, your challenge is here:  The Glove Is Now On.