Paramore Talks Hard Times

United States band Paramore has shed its punk proclivities for a funkier sound on “Hard Times” lead single off upcoming fifth studio album After Laughter. The music video is a nifty one, and we’ve embedded it below. Paramore scored a Top 10 hit in its homeland thanks to “Ain’t It Fun” from the last album. The band comes from the U.S. State of Tennessee.

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US New Wave a Hit Thanks to Future Islands

Recently released The Far Field is proving to be a hit album for United States’ new wave band Future Islands. According to iTunes, it is Top 20 in both the US and UK and Top 10 in Canada! New wave has often done better in Canada than the United States with songs like “Let’s Go” by The Cars and “Rock Lobster” by the B’52s, both American bands, charting much better in the land of the maple leaf. Future Islands’ ability to capture the new wave sound is not just in the instrumentation but the singing style which masters the measured theatrics and pitch down bending techniques used by such acts as Simple Minds (UK), Sniff ‘n’ the Tears (UK), The Cars (US), and The Spoons (Canada). While millennials and boomers may be able to get into this, the Future Islands band is considered a breath of fresh air for Gen X-ers, and it helps too that Blondie’s Debbie Harry is featured on a track. Below is video for track “Ran”.

Katy Perry Doesn’t Like Being Chained to the Rhythm

As far as Twitter followers go, Katy Perry of the United States is the world’s most popular recording artist. After a contemporary Christian album under her birth name Katy Hudson was released in 2001, she hooked up with top producers Glen Ballard, Dr. Luke, and Max Martin to go mainstream. “I Kissed a Girl” launched her to superstardom in 2008, and she has been on a roll ever since.

Katy’s latest single is “Chained to the Rhythm”, co-authored by the aforementioned Max Martin of Sweden and Sia of Australia. It debuted in the Top 10 official charts of the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia, most successful in Canada at #3. Katy released the music video today which is done in a 1950s futuristic theme and explores the conformity concept used in science fiction stories like A Wrinkle in Time. The song features a reggae vocal snippet from Bob Marley’s son Skip. The MV, embedded below, surpassed 6 million views in its first day of release.

The Most Popular American Song of 2016?

What better way to determine the most popular American song of the year than by looking at the American charts. Let the Americans be the judge of their own music. According to the Billboard USA Hot 100 year-end chart for 2016, which combines digital sales, radio airplay, and streaming data, the #1 song of the year in the country was by a Canadian artist. In fact, the top four songs were by non-American artists. “Love Yourself” from Justin Bieber was number one, and his “Sorry” was #2. Drake, also Canadian, was #3 with “One Dance”. At #4 is Barbados’ Rihanna with “Work” which features Drake. The saying goes that Canadians prefer British music, the Brits prefer American music, and the Americans prefer Canadian music. Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the … border, isn’t it. The top American artist entry on the chart is “Stressed Out” from Twenty One Pilots at #5 of the year. This is a rap-pop duo from the U.S. city of Columbus, Ohio. The duo has been around since 2009 but had a massive breakthrough with its fourth album.

ABCs Fong and Wang Together on Flow

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Chinese American singers Wang Leehom and Khalil Fong have decided to collaborate together on “Flow” a track on the latter’s upcoming album Journey to the West (Black). Wang Leehom became one of the most popular male soloists in new millennium C-Pop. Though born in the United States (Rochester, New York), he chose to become a recording artist for the Chinese world. Wang became famous for incorporating traditional Chinese instruments into modern R&B music. Khalil is newer at the game. Also born in the States (Hawaii), he grew up listening to old school R&B like Stevie Wonder. Raised in Shanghai, he wrote children’s English language songs for the curriculum of his mother’s English school and slowly made his way into the Hong Kong scene by writing songs for other artists. View the MV below.

The Gagster Summons a Perfect Illusion

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. Who? Okay, let’s simplify it … Lady Gaga. Yes, the dance music diva originally from New York, USA is back on the scene with new song “Perfect Illusion” which vaulted up to the top spot on iTunes in a number of countries around the world. Gaga’s rise to superstardom seemed to happen overnight back in 2008 with the release of her first single “Just Dance” and her debut album The Fame which sold an estimated 15 million copies worldwide. We last heard from her with the surprisingly well-received collaboration with adult contemporary crooner Tony Bennett. Have a listen to “Perfect Illusion” below.

Katy Perry Tussles with a Parachute

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The first gold medal of the Rio Olympics has been won by the United States, in the sport of shooting. How typical! A number of American A-list singers are expected to release new albums this year including Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, and Katy Perry. The latter has released a new music video for her latest Olympic-themed song “Rise” in which she tussles with a parachute. Have a look below. After releasing an independent album in 2001, Katy Perry broke through with One of the Boys in 2008. “Rise” is her 19th Top 40 hit in the States. An oft-cited record of hers is that she became the first female soloist to score five number one hits from an album in the United States. Mylène Farmer and Delta Goodrem have also accomplished this, in France and Australia respectively.

Make Me, Britney Spears

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The big news in English-language music recently is that, besides the new single “Rise” from Katy Perry, her more senior fellow American pop star Britney Spears has dropped “Make Me”. The two songs are vying for the top spot on the iTunes charts in both The United States and Canada with Katy currently at #1 and Britney #2. Things are a little different in the UK with Katy at #2 and Britney at #12. In Australia, Katy is #1 and Britney #10. What is interesting about “Make Me” is that Britney has opted to write and produce the song not with an industry veteran but with a hot newcomer, Britain’s Matthew Burns to be exact. It was a big risk that seems to have paid off. We feel the song, with its catchy spy guitar riff, would sound better without the rap segment, although we understand there are some who like that sort of thing. It is done by G-Eazy from The States.

Britney Spears took much of the world by storm in 1998 with her debut single “Baby One More Time”. Her album of the same name set a world record for the most sales from a debut, standing at 30 million to date. Born is the U.S. state of Mississippi, Ms. Spears brought teen power back to pop music, something that had been lacking since the late-80s when Debbie Gibson, Glenn Medeiros, and Tiffany slayed the charts . Britney Spears has sold an estimated 200 million records worldwide (both singles and albums).

G.R.L. to Re-Form

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It has been announced that ABC girl group (the ABC stands for American British Canadian) will be re-forming with a new single ready to launch, hopefully this summer.

GRL was first started up by Robin Antin, the woman responsible for the formation of The Pussycat Dolls and other acts. GRL released an EP and rocketed to stardom with a Pitbull collaboration in song “Wild Wild Love”. “Ugly Heart” was a massive hit in Australia, peaking at #2, and the girls participated in an big televised interview there, the video of which is embedded below. The lineup was Emmalyn Estrada (Canadian), Lauren Bennett (British), Natasha Slayton (American), Paula van Oppen (American), and Simone Battle (American). Songs were composed by a number of big names including Sweden’s Max Martin and Canada’s Henry “Cirkut” Walter.

The group’s increasing momentum was halted by the untimely death of Simone Battle. The four remaining members released a beautiful pop song dedicated to her called “Lighthouse”. Following this, the group disbanded.

On June 18, 2016, it was announced that Robin Antin was reforming the group. Both Paula and Emmalyn opted not to rejoin, the latter stating on Twitter, “I’m not a part of what the other girls are doing, it isn’t the right path for me but I’ll always love and support them.” Both Lauren and Natasha have committed and new member(s) are currently being sought.

Whether all of this actually materializes remains to be seen, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Justin Timberlake Can’t Stop the Feeling of Trolls

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Justin Timberlake becomes only the second U.S. artist to top the Billboard U.S. Hot 100 since Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” championed the chart in mid-July 2015. All number one singles after that came from non-U.S. artists: Jamaica’s OMI, Canada’s The Weeknd and Justin Bieber, The UK’s Adele and Zayn, and Barbados’ Rihanna. The chart’s love affair with consecutive foreign artists on top ended in May 2016 with “Panda” by American rapper Desiigner for two weeks. Canada’s Drake took over May 21 with “One Dance”. Justin Timberlake now reigns as of the May 28 chart with “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from the Trolls motion picture soundtrack.

Timberlake rose to fame as a member of boy group NSYNC. His solo career began in 2002. Since then, he has scored 16 Top 40 hits as a lead artist in his home country. The new song, like many, coming out of The States these days, is short on melody. However, the dance-themed music video (see below) gives it some appeal.

Calvin Harris and Rihanna Reunite

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British dance music specialist Calvin Harris and Bajan singer Rihanna have teamed up on new single “This Is What You Came For”, and it has topped the iTunes singles chart in a number of countries. They previously worked together on 2011 smash hit “We Found Love” which sold 14.5 million copies worldwide. Since 2007, Rihanna has scored eight #1 hits in the UK while Calvin Harris holds the British record for most Top 10 hits from an album, thanks to 2012’s 18 Months which spawned a total of 8. The new song is a mid-tempo EDM track with softer vocals from Rihanna and combines old school Chicago house with modern tropical beats.

Lemonade at The Pirate Bey

Rather than keep her new album off all streaming services like Taylor Swift did initially for 1989, the latter’s fellow American recording artist Beyoncé made Lemonade available for streaming exclusively on Tidal, a site which requires a subscription. Digital Music News has reported that the album’s unavailability on ad-supported free streaming sites has led to a spike in piracy. Beyoncé’s new album Lemonade, out for under a week, is already the fifth most illegally downloaded album at The Pirate Bay. The most illegally downloaded album at the site is Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo which was also available for streaming exclusively on Tidal. Contributing to the rampant piracy is that the album will not be available on CD until May 6. It is available at the lower 256 kbps quality at iTunes (CD quality is 1141 kbps).

Welcome Back, Utada Hikaru!

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The United States’ Utada, Hikaru holds the distinction of having the best-selling Japanese language album of all time, First Love, which, after its release in 1999, sold 8 million copies in Japan alone. Utada has released both Japanese and English language albums through her career. International Music Blog editors regard her album Heart Station as one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2010, Hikki announced a hiatus citing fatigue issues. In 2015, she gave birth to a baby boy and shared plans for a new album. She has released a couple of new singles which will both serve as themes for television shows. Her website announces a fund raising project based on the new music to plant cherry blossom trees in the tsunami-damaged region of Japan following the 2011 earthquake. One of her new singles, “Hanataba wo Kimi ni” (“Bouquet for You”) has debuted on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 at #3. Fans are encouraged to show support for her new projects with the Twitter hashtag #おかえりHIKKI (Welcome back Hikki).

RIP Prince

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One of music’s biggest icons, Prince (Rogers Nelson), was found dead today at his home in suburban Minneapolis, USA. He was 57. The cause of death is unknown at this time. He did postpone a recent concert saying he had a bout of the flu.

Starting out in 1978 when he was 19, Prince’s first significant hit was “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (from his self-titled album) which peaked at #11 in the United States on January 26, 1980. But his string of hits began two and a half years later with the release of quadruple platinum album 1999 which spawned Top 10 singles “Little Red Corvette”, title-track “1999”, and “Delirious” through 1983. Prince scored five #1 hits in the U.S. through his career beginning with “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” from the 13x Platinum Purple Rain soundtrack (1984), “Kiss” (1986), “Batdance” (1989), and “Cream” (1991). In all, he had 19 Top Ten hits and 30 Top Forty hits in the United States.

Prince collaborated successfully with Sheila E. on “A Love Bizarre” and the UK’s Sheena Easton on “U Got the Look”. He also wrote songs that became big hits for other artists, including “Manic Monday” from all-girl group The Bangles, “I Feel For You” from Chaka Khan, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” from Ireland’s Sinéad O’Connor .

Short in stature at just 157 cm, Prince was a promising basketball player but decided to pursue a music career. Though blessed with success, he spent stores of energy over the course of his career battling his record label over control of his music and his name. He began a new life when he married a Canadian in 2001 and relocated to Toronto where he lived for several years. Hailed for innovatively fusing Black funk and White pop together in a production that was danceable, Prince was inducted into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 which described his music as “androgynous, sly, sexy and provocative”. A diligent musician and showman, Prince released music frequently and toured extensively right up to his untimely and sudden passing on April 21, 2016.

Taylor Swift Flirts With New Romantics

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American country sweetheart turned pop superstar, Taylor Swift, has released a new MV for “New Romantics” a track from the deluxe version of her blockbuster album 1989. The music video is a collection of behind-the-scenes clips from her 1989 world tour, a tour that  grossed an estimated quarter of a billion USD.