As if one needed further proof of a downward-trending music industry, Adele’s 21 became the first album of the Soundscan era to lead all album sales two years running. In other words, nothing released during all of 2012 could unseat an album released in the first month of 2011. All that with Adele sidelined by vocal-chord issues and her pending pregnancy.
Taylor Swift tried and failed to block that path, with Red falling 1.3 million from 21 despite having four top ten hits, none of which ranked inside the year’s top ten overall. The year’s big winners — Gotye, Carly Rae Jepsen and Fun — dominated single sales with their first Hot 100 releases. No one knew their names when the year began, and it remains questionable whether either can follow it up.
With the fresh start a new year brings, we need to face facts: LPs no longer draw long-term interest from fans, who prefer the instant gratification of a viral hit single. And no matter how many singles get parceled out to radio stations month after month, an artist lives or dies by the success of the last one.
Singles don’t drive album sales — they simply drive demand for more singles.
Having sacrificed the long-term stability inherent in developing artists over the long term, labels must now watch as newcomers either instantly dominate or free-fall. Veteran acts, meanwhile, either find ways to continually churn out successful singles to dying radio while courting fickle audiences online or they cling to the hope that their next album will prove different. Just ask Aerosmith how that worked for them.
Welcome to the new industry normal. Observing which bands find ways to use these trends to their advantage will provide the real fun of chart-watching in 2013.
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New Releases in Music
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Black Veil Brides – Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones (Universal Republic)
Broadcast – The Berberian Sound Studio (Warp Records)
Conor Maynard – Contrast (Capitol)
This kid’s already getting called 2013’s next pop superstar, and with production assistance from hip-hop / r&b heavyweights including Pharrell Williams, Ne-Yo, Stargate and Frank Ocean, he already has a leg up on the competition hype-wise. Too bad “Better Than You,” which features Rita Ora, doesn’t particularly shout “buy me!” for anyone outside the Bieber generation.
David Bronson – Story (David Bronson)
Dropkick Murphys – Signed and Sealed in Blood (Dropkick Murphys)
Though they once tried to whitewash the Irish music of their childhood from their blend of Boston-bred punk-rock fury, the stamp of Dropkick Murphys’ heritage remains indelible on the third track off Signed and Sealed in Blood. Thank God the band figured out that building upon one’s influences doesn’t have to mean the same as simply wallowing in them. With their latest effort, the band has crafted the exciting shot across the bow fans have long waited. Let the imitators struggle to keep up.
Never Shout Never – Indigo (All The Best)
Nolwenn Leroy – Nolwenn (Decca)
Skinny Molly – Haywire Riot (Ruf Records)
Solange – True (Terrible Records)
If you’re into hybrid pop which blends elements of disco with modern r&b club flourishes, “Losing You” has moments where it hints at a passable hook. But the remainder of this forgettable EP, getting a CD pressing after two months of online availability, simply showcases that Beyonce’s forgotten younger sister doesn’t have the pop know-how to rise beyond a mere curiosity.
Thorcraft Cobra – Count It In (Redeye Label)
Twenty One Pilots – Vessel (Fueled By Ramen)
Produced by Greg Wells, who earned Grammy nods working with Weezer and Adele, this debut effort morphs hip-hop, indie rock and punk in ways which shouldn’t work. Oddly, “Holding On To You” has the hooks of Fun and Paper Tongues, with a video which owes as much to Gotye as it does Panic! at the disco. This definitely warrants a second look if you’re a fan of genre-bending pop.
Wooden Wand – Blood Oaths of the New Blues (Fire Records)
Zatokrev – The Bat, The Wheel and a Long Road to Nowhere (Candlelight)
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New Releases: DVD / Blu-Ray
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James Berardinelli of ReelViews calls Looper the year’s best movie, arguing that, unlikely any other film this year, it succeeds on three levels: intellectual, visceral and emotional. “I was engaged by the twisty, unpredictable narrative, which reached a hard-hitting, logical conclusion. I cared about the characters and the dilemma presented. And I was fascinated by some of the choices made with respect to how time travel is presented.” I’ll spare you any spoilers, but if you’re at all a fan of science fiction, you can’t skip this film.
A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work. This film and Silver Linings Playbook showcase Bradley Cooper’s surprising acting range, making him much more than “that guy from The Hangover.” Deemed overly clever and dramatically inert by many critics, the movie could better forge a connection with audiences when viewed from the comfort of your sofa.
Little Birds (DVD)
The Trouble With Bliss (DVD)
Proving yet again that America loves Charlie Sheen in any form, these ten episodes showcase that as much as things change, they more often remain the same. If you liked Sheen on Two and a Half Men as a womanizing jingle-writer, you’ll probably feel pretty much the same about him as a non-traditional shrink specializing in anger management therapy. You’ll laugh, you’ll yawn, you’ll take a nap. And FX will produce 90 more episodes just like these, pleasing the syndication gods thusly.
Dallas: The Complete First Season (DVD)
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PJ Lifestyle Tech Watch
Every father who has ever complained his progeny leave too many lights on will love the latest tech innovation from Belkin. Think controlling all the electrical devices in your home by your smart-phone remains the tech of the future? Wrong! The Belkin WeMo switch works with the free WeMo app to give you wireless control of your home appliances and electronics, making it simple to set schedules for appliances and electronics, allowing you to control as much or as little of your home as you choose. As an added bonus, you can purchase the WeMo Switch and WeMo Motion Kit (sold separately) which allows you to program any light in your home to become motion-sensing!
The perfect professional backup option for any small business, the LaCie 5big Office brings the networking professionals use at the proper scale for your individual situation. Protect your data using industry standard Windows Home Server 2011, with a powerful 1.6 GHz Intel 64-bit Atom processor, allowing you to secure and share your data both within and outside your office network, without suffering undue maintenance costs. For the at-home user, try the smaller-scaled LaCie Network Space 2 1TB Ethernet Network, which offers fast storage, secure backup and global remote access for your home network, making widespread data-loss from hard-drive crashes a thing of the past
Forget about the old-fashioned Lego bricks we all had as kids. These days, you can build your first robot in 30 minutes or less, using Lego Mindstorms NXT, complete with new robot models, even more customized programming, and all-new technology including a color sensor. Combining the unlimited versatility of those classic Lego bricks with an intelligent microcomputer brick and drag-and-drop programming software, only you now limit what you can create. This summer Lego will release its EV3 platform, expected to introduce an even younger generation to the excitement of building and programming robots. But why wait when there’s so much already at your fingertips?
For those adventurous folks among us who want the world to experience things exactly as you lived them, these Inventio-HD sunglasses make the perfect accessory. Advanced video stabilization technology eliminates shaky-cam issues, while an 8GB internal hard drive allows the intrepid user to capture extreme point-of-view video wherever a challenge leads! Don’t expect to sneak in under the radar wearing what clearly will never pass for Bond-style spy tech, but if you want to own “the most advanced video-recording sunglasses on the planet,” now’s your chance to have the best conversation starter $130 ever bought.
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That’s all for this week’s edition of Tuesday New Releases! We’re open to your suggestions as we develop this column to best serve you. If you have suggestions for future coverage, or if you have a product you’d like featured or reviewed here, simply email Jonathan Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.