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Hot New Music Trend: Standards?!

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Heading into Year Two of the Economic Apocalypse, some curious cultural trends are developing. Here’s one that really surprised me.

Funnily enough, songs first made popular during the Great Depression are burning up the charts at the dawn of the twenty-tweens.

That’s right kids. Remember when “electronica” was the hot new musical trend? When rap-rock ruled the airwaves? Or when emo was the big new thing?

Throw all that out the window, because there’s a new genre that is absolutely dominating record sales.

Standards!

Yes, the classic pop chestnuts of the Great American Songbook may be eligible for AARP, but they have once again become as popular as they were in the days when Jacob Gershowitz and Israel Baline tore up the charts while masquerading under their hep alter egos, “Geo Gershwin” and “Irv Berlin.”

Strike up the band with that fascinating rhythm! Shoo bop shoo bop, skiddily bee bop bow!!!

An incontrovertible sign of this new trend appeared last week, when a highly anticipated battle of divas turned in an unexpected direction.

Gawker’s Brian Moylan previewed the showdown as “A Battle for Gay America’s Soul“:

September 29th is a day that will go down in ginfamy (that is gay infamy) as the day that Mariah Carey, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and Britney Spears battled for supremacy in gay hearts and minds. Who will stand victorious?

That’s right, today is the drop date for Mariah Carey’s Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, a collection of slow jams that includes her instant classic cover of “I Want to Know What Love Is;” Madonna’s greatest hits double-disc collection Celebration, that features two new singles; and Barbra Streisand’s Love is the Answer, a collection of cabaret standards. Not to be outdone by those older and wiser, Britney Spears tried to steal some of the spotlight by releasing the single “3” today. Smooth movie Britney. And it’s pretty good, as far as catchy, crappy pop songs go.

So, who will be the big victor in the Diva Death Battle 2009? Lady Gaga of course! What? She doesn’t even have an album out today! Precisely, but she is poised to be the gay icon of the youngest babygays that are just taking their first fledgling steps on the big pink road we call queendom. While there is definitely plenty of crossover between the Madonna/Mariah/Britney crowd, only confirmed bachelors of a certain age are going to be purchasing the new Streisand.

Silly, silly Moylan. Gayheaded hyperfocus blinded him to the reality of the situation.

Dance floor tracks can be quite continental, but cabaret standards are a girl’s best friend.

In retrospect, Mariah, Madonna and Brit Brit never had a chance. Nor did any other artists who released records that week.

When the dust settled after a frenzied week of record sales, MTV.com was aghast at the results.

One of their favorite musical acts, cheesy emo rockers Paramore, were expected to dominate the week with their new album.

That’s not how it played out…

Paramore shouldn’t feel too bad that they were just barely beat out for a #1 debut by one of pop’s all-time classic divas: They beat out a mega-selling modern diva — and notched their best first week ever in the process.

Though the band’s third album, Brand New Eyes, will bow at #2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart next week, after selling 175,000 copies, they can rest easy knowing that they were just a nose behind legend Barbra Streisand, whose album of jazz standards, Love Is the Answer, snagged the top spot with sales of 180,000. The feat, Babs’ ninth #1 album, gives her at least one top debut in each of the past five decades.

The news was not as good for Mariah Carey, whose Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (168,000) sold considerably less in its first week than her last album, E=MC2 (463,000), according to figures provided by Nielsen SoundScan.

With eight new contenders, next week’s top 10 got. Rockers Breaking Benjamin hit #4 with Dear Agony (134,000), followed by revived grunge icons Alice in Chains, whose first new album in almost 15 years, Black Gives Way to Blue, debuts at #5 (126,000). Madonna’s final effort for Warner Bros., the greatest hits album Celebration, isn’t much of a cause for one, landing at #7 on sales of just 72,000, tailed by country singer Miranda Lambert’s Revolution (#8, 66,000). Kiss and Tell, from “Wizards of Waverly Place” star Selena Gomez (and her band, the Scene), is less than 75 copies behind at #9.

“Just a nose behind”?!

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Take all the cheap shots you want, MTV — Babs made those cash registers sing!

The following week, another shocking upset rattled the music world.

Once again, record sales predictions thoroughly underestimated the power of standards, and another shit band was shocked to learn that they’d been bested by an old-timey crooner.

This time, it couldn’t have happened to a bigger group of d-bags.

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Did you know that in KISS’s epic career, they’ve never had an album reach the No. 1 on the Billboard chart? After they released their record last week, that final prize seemed at hand…

The stage had been set; a six month lead-up to their return kicked off by a celebrated appearance at the American Idol finale, Gene Simmons sharing the mike with Adam Lambert. Their first album release in 11 years was being backed by the current gold standard of record releases — a Walmart exclusive. With the album tracking in the 150,000 sales range, the music press had all but proclaimed it a lock on the #1 slot.

And then today, somewhere out there in KISS’ tour bus, Gene Simmons stepped over passed-out groupies and the bodies of decapitated farm animals from last night’s victory party. He made his way towards the front of the bus where today’s Billboard had just arrived, pausing to roll his cow tongue up and down the cooling strippers’ pole, giving himself a little bracing jolt before he took in the new issue which would feature his made-up face under the banner hed “#1!”

And then he looked down and saw…Michael Fucking Buble.

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Standards 2, All Other Genres Zero!

Buble CRUSHED the saggy, aging KISS, smashing their record sales after an Oprah appearance pumped up his profile:

After only three days of sales, Michael Bublé’s “Crazy Love” opens atop the Billboard 200 chart with 132,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, giving the pop singer his second No. 1 album.

Bublé’s last set, 2007’s “Call Me Irresponsible,” debuted with 212,000 at No. 2 before moving to No. 1 the following week. “Crazy” is the artist’s third top 10 album, as his second studio set, “It’s Time,” debuted and peaked at No. 7 in 2005.

The release of “Crazy” was pushed up from its original date of Oct. 13 to Friday, Oct. 9 — likely to capitalize on Bublé’s chat and performance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” that same day. Because SoundScan’s tracking week ends at the close of business on Sunday evening, Buble’s opening frame is all the more handsome, since it only had three days of availability.

Rock legends Kiss crash in at No. 2 with new Wal-Mart-exclusive studio album “Sonic Boom,” selling 108,000 copies. It is the band’s highest-charting album ever, and the 108,000 opener is its second-best sales week since SoundScan began tracking data in 1991.

Second-best is right! Eat it, Gene Simmons!

Needless to say, this standards trend will inevitably culminate at the 2010 Video Music Awards, where the big controversy will be an “accidental” Streisand nip-slip, or Jane Monheit and Diana Krall making out in front of everybody.

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

One Response to Hot New Music Trend: Standards?!

  1. Nils Coq au Vin, Esq. says:

    Back when I was living in France, I had an Ella Fitzgerald tape that I listened to constantly, I practically warped it from playing it so many times. Then I started getting laid…cured that affliction, tout de suite.

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