Saturday, 25 April 2015

V is for Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend is an indie rock band made up of lead vocalist Ezra Koenig, guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, drummer Chris Tomson and bassist Chris Baio. They are renowned for their unique blend of punk rock and African music. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2008, and it contained the singles A-Punk, Mansard Roof, Oxford Comma, Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa and The Kids Don't Stand a Chance. Its release was met with critical acclaim.

Their second album, Contra, was released in 2010. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and was also met with critical acclaim. It contained the singles Horchata, Cousins, Giving Up the Gun, Holiday, White Sky and Run. It was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 53rd Grammy Awards, but lost to Brothers by The Black Keys. They would eventually win in that same category with their third album, Modern Vampires of the City.

Released in 2013, their third album also debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, marking the first time that an independent rock band has managed to score two back-to-back #1 debuts on the chart. The album was ranked #1 for the year by several publications including Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. It produced four singles, Diane Young, Ya Hey, Unbelievers, and my personal favorite, Step.

Friday, 24 April 2015

U is for Usher

Usher is an R&B singer who is perhaps as famous for his good looks as he is for his dance moves. His self-titled debut album was released in 1994, but his breakthrough didn't come until his second album, My Way. Released in 1997, the album contained his first song to peak at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Nice & Slow. The album also contained two further singles, You Make Me Wanna and My Way, both of which peaked at #2.

His third album, 8701, was released in 2001. It contained the hit singles, You Remind Me and U Got It Bad, both of which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, with the former also netting him a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance Male in 2002, his first ever win. He would win again the following year in that same category, for his song, U Don't Have To Call, the third single from the 8701 album.

His fourth album, Confessions, was released in 2004. It sold more than 1 million copies in its first week of release, and would go on to sell more than 8 million copies that year. Often considered his most endearing work, the album produced four singles that all peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Yeah!, Burn, Confessions Part II and My Boo. It also received eight nominations at the 47th Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year, but only won three awards, Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

His fifth album, Here I Stand, was released in 2008. It contained the hit single, Love in This Club, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. His sixth album, Raymond v. Raymond, was released in 2010. It produced the #1 hit, OMG, marking Usher's ninth #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as making him the first artist to achieve that peak from releases between five consecutive albums. He released a follow-up EP called Versus that same year, and it contained the top five hit, DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love.

His seventh album, Looking 4 Myself, was released in 2012, and it marked a significant shift from previous albums, making it his most experimental. It included contributions from the likes of Empire of the Sun and Swedish House Mafia, and he managed to incorporate their sound into his music without losing sight of his R&B foundation. This is most evident in the album's first single, Climax, a song that scored him his most recent Grammy for Best R&B Performance at the 2013 ceremony.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

T is for Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is an American country singer who shot to fame following the release of her self-titled debut album in 2006. The album contained the crossover hit, Teardrops on My Guitar, which peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also produced three further singles, Tim McGraw, Our Song, and Should've Said No, the last two of which peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Her second album, Fearless, was released in 2008. It produced the crossover hits, Love Story and You Belong to Me, the former remaining her bestselling single till date with more than 8 million copies sold. The album itself was a commercial success, and it became the bestselling album of 2009 with 5.2 million copies sold. It would go on to win four Grammy awards that same year, including one for Album of the Year, making Taylor Swift the youngest person to do so at age 20.

Her third album, Speak Now, was released in 2010 and it debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with more than 1 million copies sold within its first week of release. It earned her two further Grammys for its single, Mean, one for Best Country Song and the other for Best Country Solo Perormance. Her fourth album, Red, would also debut at #1 in 2012 with sales exceeding 1 million in its first week. Its lead single, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, gave Taylor Swift her first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

For her fifth album, 1989, Taylor Swift decided to look beyond her country roots, choosing to draw inspiration from some of the pop songs released during the decade of her birth instead. The album was not only well received, it also became the fastest selling album in the US within the past 12 years, selling 1.27  million copies within its first week. Its first two singles, Shake It Off and Blank Space, have both peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The third single, Style, is presently one of my favorite songs in her entire catalog.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

S is for Swedish House Mafia

Swedish House Mafia was a supergroup composed of DJs Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello. Their first official single was released in 2010, even though they had released several collaborations between themselves prior to that. The song, One, was a purely instrumental track that attained international success. A version with vocals provided by Pharrell Williams was subsequently released as One (Your Name).

Their next single was a collaboration with British rapper, Tinie Tempah, titled Miami 2 Ibiza. The song would feature on both artists debut albums, with the Swedish House Mafia album also consisting of a continuous mix of remixed recordings by the group, as well as some material from their individual/solo projects. The album (Until One) was released in 2010, and it was accompanied by a documentary (Take One) showcasing their live performances.

In 2011, they released their first of two collaborations with Swedish singer, John Martin. The song, Save the World, received a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 54th Grammy Awards. Its release was followed by that of two further singles, Antidote and Greyhound, the latter featuring an interpolation of Hans Zimmer's score from the 2010 science-fiction movie, Inception.

Their second collaboration with John Martin was released in 2012. The song, titled Don't You Worry Child, was their final single as a group. It was included on their second compilation album, Until Now. It earned them a second Grammy nomination in the Best Dance Recording category, as well as becoming their most successful single with more than 5.5 million copies sold worldwide.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

R is for Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American rock band whose current lineup comprises of lead singer Anthony Kiedis, bass guitarist Michael "Flea" Balzary, drummer Chad Smith and lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. They are renowned for their rap-driven, funk-inspired songs and their energetic live performances. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, in honor of their career spanning more than three decades.

Their self-titled debut album was released in 1984. This was followed by Freaky Styley in 1985, The Uplift Mofo Party Plan in 1987, and Mother's Milk in 1989. But their breakthrough didn't come until 1991, when they released their fifth album, Blood Sex Sugar Magik. It contained the hit singles, Under the Bridge and Give It Away, the latter of which would earn them a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Unable to cope with their newfound fame, the band's then guitarist, John Frusciante, decided to leave in the middle of a world tour. He was replaced by Jane's Addiction guitarist, Dave Navarro, for their 1995 album, One Hot Minute. He would later return in 1998, following a string of drug-related problems. And in 1999, the band released its bestselling album Californication to critical acclaim. It contained their hit single Scar Tissue, which earned them another Grammy, this time for Best Rock Song.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers released their eight studio album in 2002, By the Way. Its music and melodies were largely composed by John Frusciante, and it contained the singles, By the Way, Can't Stop, The Zephyr Song, and Universally Speaking. The band released a Greatest Hits album in 2003, which also contained two previously unreleased songs, Fortune Faded and Save the Population.

In 2006, the band released the double album, Stadium Arcadium, which debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, their first album to do so. The album would go on to earn them seven nominations at the 49th Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year. They took home five awards at that particular ceremony, including two for their song, Dani California, whose video is noted for paying homage to the evolution of rock music.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Q is for Queen

Queen is an English rock band that consisted of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. They rose to fame after the release of their self-titled debut in 1973. This was followed by Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack in 1974. Their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, was released in 1975, and it contained one of their biggest hit singles, Bohemian Rhapsody, which topped the UK singles chart for nine weeks.

They released their sixth album, News of the World, in 1977, and it contained two of their most recognizable hits, We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. In 1981, the band released the album Greatest Hits, a compilation of hits from 1974 - 1981; it remains the bestselling album in UK chart history with more than 6 million copies sold.

Queen enjoyed additional success for the rest of the 80s with singles like Radio Gaga. But by the end of the decade, rumors had started to circulate that its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, was suffering from AIDS. The singer would eventually confirm those rumors in 1991, in an official statement written on his deathbed. He died barely 24 hours after the statement was released, from bronchial pneumonia brought on by his illness.

Queen remains one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Their album sales are believed to be in excess of 300 millions copies. Their biggest hit is the song Another One Bites the Dust, which was featured on their 1980 studio album, The Game. The song, which also happens to be one of my favorites, has sold more than 7 million copies.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

P is for P!nk

P!nk is one of the most talented women to emerge out of the music industry in the past decade and a half. She is also one of the most successful, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Born in 1979 as Alecia Beth Moore, she started out as a member of a girl group called Choice. The group disbanded in 1998, and their debut album was never released, prompting P!nk to pursue a solo career.

Her debut album, Can't Take Me Home, was released in 2000. It contained the singles, There You Go, Most Girls and You Make Me Sick. It was also around this time that she did a collaboration with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim and Mýa, recording a cover version of the popular classic, Lady Marmalade, for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. The song, which topped the US singles chart after its release, would earn them a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

For her second studio album, P!nk decided to make a shift from the R&B/urban sound of her debut to the pop/rock sound for which she is better known today. The shift proved successful, as the album, Missundaztood, remains her bestselling till date, with more than 13 million copies sold. It was released in 2001, and contained the hit singles, Get the Party Started, Don't Let Me Get Me and Just Like A Pill.

2003 saw the release of her third album, Try This, whose first single, Trouble, earned her another Grammy, this time for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. She released her fourth album, I'm Not Dead, in 2006, and her fifth, Funhouse, in 2008, the latter of which contained her second US #1 single, So What. In 2010, she released her first compilation album, Greatest Hits...So Far. The album was promoted by the single, Raise Your Glass, which marked her third #1 single in the US.

Her sixth studio album, The Truth About Love, was released in 2012. It contained the singles, Blow Me (One Last Kiss), Try, and her fourth US #1 single, Just Give Me a Reason, a collaboration with fun. lead singer, Nate Ruess. In 2014, she released a collaborative album with Dallas Green of City and Colour fame, under the moniker You+Me. The album, titled rose ave., was recorded within the span of a week.

P!nk is renowned for the theatrical nature of her recent live shows, most of which have her dangling from a wire high above her audience. She is also a supporter of the animal rights organization, PETA, as well as the LGBT community, and she typically expresses that support through her music and videos, as can be seen in the video for one of my favorite songs in her catalog, Raise Your Glass.