Hit Machines: The Ten Best Singles Runs From Post-Confessions R&B Albums

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In his recent review of R&B singer Miguel's fantastic Art Dealer Chic series of EPs, The A.V. Club's Evan Rytlewski explained the singer's rise in popularity by floating the idea that his 2010 album All I Want Is You contained "arguably the most engaging singles run of any R&B album since Usher's Confessions." This argument is much closer to the truth than it may seem on first blush.

Though the genre has experienced a bit of a downswing in the past few years, it's been a reliable source of great pop music since Confessions' release in March 2004. But is Rytlewski's claim correct? Let's look at the R&B albums with the best runs of three consecutive singles since the beginning of 2004 and find out.

But first, some ground rules: The three singles must have been released consecutively—a dud single at any point breaks a string—and off a single album (sorry, Ciara and Ne-Yo); each must have charted on Billboard's R&B chart; and the three singles don't have to be the first off the album, though on this list they all ended up that way.

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Live: Mariah Carey's Grand, Real-Talk-Filled Return To The Stage At Gotham Hall

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via YouTube
Mariah Carey w/Diddy
Gotham Hall
Thursday, March 1

Better than: A promotional tote filled with branded swag.

Initally, some words about Diddy's performance were going to open this review, but when Mariah Carey hit the stage after him, his portion of the show was all but forgotten. Still, for the sake of context, a brief explanation of his purpose.

Diddy opened last night's event at Gotham Hall, a promotional event for Caesars Entertainment Corporation's unveiling of their new loyalty member program called "Total Rewards." The whole production was an over-the-top spectacle that was streamed online, with live performances happening in four cities around the country: Maroon 5 was in Chicago, Gavin Degraw in New Orleans, Lil Wayne in Los Angeles.

But none of those artists had more buzz going in than Mariah Carey, and none of them rose to the occasion quite like she did. Diddy was fun, performing his Bad Boy catalogue, but when Mariah hit the stage, she owned it.

Carey opened with "It's Like That," her dancefloor-tailored 2005 single from The Emancipation of Mimi, and for someone who was supposedly getting her sea legs back, it didn't seem like she's lost a step—instead, it seemed like she gained one. Most of the dancing duties were handled by her stable of male backup dancers, but Carey, sporting a sleek black gown, sashayed, leaned, and grooved along with her sharp band.

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Radio Hits One: Adele Brings The Ballad Back To No. 1

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Adele's 21 has ruled the American charts for most of 2011, and it's done so almost entirely on the back of one song: the lead single "Rolling In The Deep." While the British singer was topping charts in her homeland and several other countries with the follow-up single, the ballad "Someone LIke You," her US promotional campaign just kept on milking the uptempo "Rolling." The Ryan Tedder co-write "Rumour Has It" thrived on a few niche radio formats this spring and summer (it hit No. 1 on the Triple A chart), but for most of America, Adele has been synonymous with only "Deep" in 2011. And in an age where promotional blitzes include multiple singles preceding an album's release (Lady Gaga was on her third single by the time Born This Way hit stores in May), selling so many copies of an album because of one hit is a staggering achievement.

Last month, a couple weeks after "Someone Like You" was sent to American radio for adds, Adele finally properly launched the single's stateside campaign with a performance of it at MTV's Video Music Awards. The strategy seemed to deliberately mirror the way it was launched in the UK; a performance of "Someone" at the BRIT Awards had sent the song skyrocketing to the top of that country's charts all the way back in January. And given that the performance, frankly, felt kind of drab and low-energy when contrasted to the headline-grabbing performances by Beyoncé and Gaga, I was pretty skeptical about the odds of the BRIT effect repeating itself. But evidently it worked, because "Someone Like You" ascended to the top of the Hot 100 last week.

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100 & Single: Considering The Album-Chart Class Of 9/11, 10 Years Later

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A king of hip-hop, retaking the penthouse of the album chart with his latest blockbuster.

A middle-of-the-road rock band, reviving a turn-of-the-'90s "alternative" sound that's now squarely mainstream.

A sexagenarian legend who debuted in the '60s and who still captures Boomers' hearts and CD-buying dollars.

And a younger, big-lunged diva, looking to continue her pop dominance after a notable MTV appearance and a blitz of multimedia omnipresence.

I could be describing some of the current inhabitants of the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 album chart. If I were, they would be, respectively: rap king Lil Wayne, who debuted at No. 1 this week with nearly a million in sales; aging alt-funksters the Red Hot Chili Peppers, debuting right behind Wayne at No. 2; '60s ingénue turned veteran diva Barbra Streisand, at No. 9 in her third week in the winners' circle; and vocal powerhouse Adele, hanging in at No. 3 after a commanding MTV Video Music Awards performance that, just this week, sends her ballad "Someone Like You" to No. 1 on the Hot 100.

But I could also be describing four acts who, on this day a decade ago, dropped new, Top 10-destined albums: hip-hop king Jay-Z; lite-grunge revivalists Nickelback; reluctant '60s-generation spokesman Bob Dylan; and pop/MTV queen turned ill-fated actress Mariah Carey.

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100 & Single: Pitbull Turns The Hot 100 Back Into A Boys' Club (For Now)

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If, like me, you've been putting together your annual summer playlist to pump at block parties and barbecues, you may have found yourself with a historically odd problem: a relative dearth of hits this year by dudes. After you've rounded up buzzy tracks by the Queens of Pop—from Adele to Nicki Minaj to Robyn—you might find yourself hunting for worthy male vocals, just for diversity.

On the charts, the guys have reasserted control—at least for this week. Cuban-American club-rapper Pitbull assumes the throne on Billboard's Hot 100 with "Give Me Everything," his first chart-topper. The Miamian born Armando Christian Pérez is the first lead male to top the authoritative song chart in, no joke, 20 weeks.

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Radio Hits One: The Elusive Superstar Duet (Or Three-Way)

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In last week's breakdown of Lil Wayne's chart ubiquity, I noted that while Lady Gaga's Born This Way and its singles seemed to be everywhere, she hasn't staked out much additional Billboard territory with collaborations. Her only charting collab of late is "3-Way (The Golden Rule)," a little orgy-themed ditty with The Lonely Island and Justin TImberlake that debuted on Saturday Night Live's season finale last month. The episode aired after the release of the Lonely Island's latest album, so the song was thrown out as an iTunes single and spent a week at No. 3 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart (which charts songs that haven't yet made the big singles chart, but are just scraping its bottom). "3-Way," like previous Lonely Island/Timberlake viral hits "Dick In A Box" and "Motherlover," is a catchy R&B tune full of dirty jokes. But it's also an opportunity for two of the world's biggest pop stars to make a song together while shrugging off the kind of expectations that would ordinarily accompany such a high-profile duet.

Pop music may be more collaborative than ever, but that's almost entirely due to hip-hop. The nature of its loop-driven production style and the traditions of posse cuts and guest verses have made it all too easy to cut and paste 16 bars of one rapper into another MC's song, or use a rapper's verse as a bridge in a pop song, or let a pop singer belt out the hook for the rapper's radio-friendly single. As hip hop's influence has seeped into almost every corner of the pop charts, it's become increasingly rare to find two pop stars simply singing a song together.


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Mariah Carey: Totally One Of Those People Who Takes Meanings From Songs' Titles (And Nothing Else)

Songbird and butterfly enthusiast Mariah Carey gave birth to twins over the weekend, and according to reports, the first song she played for the kids was her monster 2005 hit "We Belong Together." OK, it's a much-better-than-fine ballad, and one that certainly is worth a spin at many a pop-song-bereft moment, but it's kind of a bummer way to welcome kids into the world, no? (A reminder of the words that lead into the chorus: "When you left I lost a part of me/ It's still so hard to believe/ Come back baby, please/ 'Cause we belong together." Maybe she's pre-emptively mourning their leaving the nest for college in 2029?)

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The-Dream Responds To (Our) Allegations That He Ruined Mariah Carey's Memoirs

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Well, you know, not by name or anything. But we did write this headline the other day. So we gotta be in the conversation at least, right? Anyway, we stand by our verdict: too much show jumping, not enough "Love Vs. Money." Same goes for Rihanna's record. Nice boots though. [@OfficialDream, via Rap Radar]


Come On, The-Dream: Was "Obsessed" Really the Best Eminem Diss Song You Could Write for Mariah?

As you may recall, Eminem kicked off his press tour for Relapse by claiming that he had urinated on Mariah Carey, back when they were dating. She also makes a cameo or two on the actual album, in amongst the Kim Kardashian and Sarah Palin references. Her pint-sized husband, Nick Cannon, eventually stood up for her (on the internet, anyway), calling Eminem "Slim Lamey," before backing down, hilariously, and deleting the blog post. So now Mariah--no slouch, she--has been forced to come to her own defense, releasing "Obsessed," the Tricky Stewart & The-Dream penned/produced first single to Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel.

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