The new Number One album in the country is titled “The Album About Nothing” by Wale. And it prominently features a popular TV personality and stand-up comedian who made a living on a 1990s television sitcom that was known for being about just that…nothing. (I’ll get to all of that in a minute.) So this week, in commemoration of this nothingness, I thought I’d just post some random music thoughts that are collectively about…well, nothing. Nothing in particular anyway. No long, drawn-out articles or lengthy opinion pieces, just random thoughts…about nothing.
- With last week’s passing of Bob Burns, drummer for 1970s-era Southern Rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, are we once again reminded that the group, which originated in Jacksonville, FL, is likely the best band of its genre? (Songs like “Freebird,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “What’s Your Name?” still offer convincing evidence).
1b. Did you buy the band’s claims that its heavy use of rebel flag images was about “heritage” not “hate”? The band once famously denounced the flag and what it symbolized and decided to discontinue the use of such images at its concerts until loyal fans protested. Still, they maintained their use of the flag was about southern roots and not racism. Hmmm…
- Azealia Banks, one of the latest female rappers to hit the scene – and a very controversial one at that – graces the cover of this past week’s Billboard Magazine (dated April 11). Yet none of her songs have reached any one of the publication’s major singles charts (The Hot 100 or the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart). She’s apparently less known for her music than she is for her outspokenness and for launching social media wars with other more successful rappers…mainly Iggy Azalea.
2b. Since I went there with Lynyrd Skynrd, do you agree that Azealia Banks is a bigot? Or do you think she’s just starving for attention with her well documented comments about hating “fat white Americans” and “messy f*ggots” serving as shock gimmicks?
2c. Whether she’s real or not, one thing we can all agree on is that the spelling of her first name gives writers fits…whenever I write about her, I have to look it up.
- Was this week’s celebration of National Siblings Day just another social-media made-up event? And speaking of siblings, are Janet Jackson and her late brother Michael the most successful set of any two siblings that didn’t normally record together (with the exception of 1995’s “Scream”)? And would that make the Carpenters the most successful set of two siblings that normally did?
3b. Did I dare list Janet ahead of Michael in the above question? My bad.
- Is “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars now the biggest hit of this decade (so far) by virtue of spending its 14th(!) straight week at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (as of next week’s chart dated April 18)? Will it also be considered the biggest hit in history if it manages to tie or break the 16-week record established by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” in 1996? And are you as surprised as I am by the possibility of any of this?
4b. Were you as impressed as I was that I was able to find images of two different artists featured in this week’s blog donning pink hair rollers (Azealia Banks and Bruno Mars above)?
4c. Speaking of Bruno Mars, I think it’s now official that he has been the top male artist of the 2010s, with six #1 singles totaling over 30 weeks at the top, and numerous other hit singles to boot. (His other Number Ones: “Nothing On You” by B.o.B ft. Mars, “Just The Way You Are,” “Grenade,” “Locked Out Of Heaven,” and “When I Was Your Man.”)
4d. And speaking of “Uptown Funk,” did you know that it’s been the only song to rank at #1 during the entire existence of djrobblog, which I started doing back on January 24? The song reached #1 on the Hot 100 chart dated January 17, 2015. To illustrate how long ago that was, only one other song that was in the top ten that week is still there now: Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”
- Regarding that first blog article, was I premature in writing the eulogy for rap and hip-hop music? Since late February, five different rap/hip-hop albums have reached #1 on the Billboard chart, including the latest one by Wale on next week’s list. His new album, “The Album About Nothing,” sold 100k equivalent album units to land at the top on the chart dated April 18. (The five #1 rap albums through the first four months of 2015 already equal the total number that topped the chart in all of last year.)
5b. As a result of Wale’s accomplishment, I’ve updated my list of rap/hip-hop albums that have reached Number One on the Billboard 200. Click here to see the list and to access my updated Spotify playlist containing a song from each of the now 145 albums that qualify.
5c. Wale’s “The Album About Nothing” isn’t really an album about nothing. Unlike the 1990s TV sitcom that partially inspired it, the album is actually about something. Despite containing songs with deceptively empty titles like “The Helium Balloon” and “The White Shoes,” the Nigerian-American rapper tackles everything from depression to drugs to love and death in this – his second Number One album.
5d. I know, your next thought was probably the question: “Why Seinfeld?.” If you listen to the album, you’ll hear the stand-up comedian and TV star actually narrating throughout the album, waxing eloquently about things like helium balloons and white shoes (okay, maybe his parts really are about nothing). The answer: Wale, who is often cited as a serious, sometimes socially conscious rapper, is also a huge “Seinfeld” fan who grew up loving the show and the comedian.
5e. Did I over-punctuate the “Why Seinfeld” question in 5d.? Did I just do it again?
5f. Upon further review, wasn’t “Seinfeld” really about something, too?
- And my final rap-related thought: Songs either by or featuring rappers account for more than 25% of the tunes in this week’s Top 40 (of the Billboard Hot 100). So the genre is apparently still alive and well in 2015!
Fun Fact #1: the pop/rock groups Toto and Kansas are both on the Billboard album chart this week. That news is surely to make Dorothy and the Wizard very happy. The two bands with names recalling “The Wizard of Oz,” both of which found fame in the 1970s and ’80s, haven’t co-existed on the chart since 1988 – according to Billboard.
And because I started with a Southern Rock-related thought, I’ll end with one…
7b. Fun Fact #2: Did you know that Southern Rock is but one of many, many sub-genres of rock music? I managed to identify 50, including the following: Acid Rock, Alternative Rock, Americana, Art Rock, Blues-Rock, Boogie Rock, British Rock, Cello Rock, Celtic Rock, Chicano Rock, Christian Rock, Classic Rock, College Rock, Death Metal, Doom Metal, Electronic Rock, Experimental Rock, Folk Rock, Garage Rock, Glam Metal, Gothic Rock, Grunge, Hard Rock, Heartland Rock, Heavy Metal, Industrial Metal, New Wave, Noise Rock, Piano Rock, Pop/Rock, Post-Grunge, Progressive Metal, Psychedelic Rock, Punk Rock, Raga Rock, Rave Music, Rhythm & Blues, Rock-N-Roll, Rockabilly, Shock Rock, Ska Punk, Soft Rock, Southern Rock, Space Rock, Stoner Rock, Swamp Rock, Thrash Metal, Trance, Trip Rock, and World-beat.
Whew! Now try finding at least one artist for each of those rock music genres and you’ll be on to something. Let me know what you find.
Until next week…