It’s Time For A Good Old-Fashioned Flo Rida Vs. Norsemen Smackdown

newCB.pngEd. note: Chris “dennisobell” Molanphy, our resident chart guru, looks at the upward, downward, and lack of movement on the Billboard Hot 100 in the latest installment of “100 And Single”:

For a fifth week, Flo Rida’s “Low” rules Billboard‘s Hot 100. But that bit of warmed-over southern crunk finally has some competition: “With You,” Chris Brown’s collaboration with Norwegian pop-masters StarGate, is the biggest gainer in both sales and airplay on the entire chart. Unless there’s a left-field surge by a fast-rising Rihanna, Mr. Brown will likely evict Mr. Rida from No. 1 in another week or two.

StarGate: Infinity: Quick–who’s most ubiquitous in the Top 20 this week? T-Pain? Taylor Swift? Sean Kingston? Lil Wayne? (We can dream!)

Look closely at the fine print on the chart, and the most oft-recurring names are “T.E. Hermansen” and “M.S. Eriksen”–Tor and Mikkel to their friends, StarGate to the rest of us. They are co-writers and producers on no less than four hits in the Hot 100′s top quintile: Brown’s “With You” (No. 4), Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” (No. 7), Jordin Sparks’s “Tattoo” (No. 12) and Rihanna’s duet with Ne-Yo, “Hate That I Love You” (No. 19). Look a little further down the chart, and they’re also credited on Trey Songz’s former Top 20 hit “Can’t Help But Wait” (No. 28).

Of these current hits, “Hate…” was cowritten by Ne-Yo, and he’s basically the conduit through which the Norwegians first gained access to the U.S. charts. StarGate’s streak began in earnest in 2006, with Mr. Yo’s (okay, I’ll stop now) No. 1, “So Sick.” But the duo reached the stratosphere with Beyonce’s 2006-07 megasmash “Irreplaceable,” and they’ve been on a tear ever since. Ne-Yo cowrote the Beyonce hit, too–but as this week’s chart shows, the ‘Gate guys aren’t reliant on him so much anymore. The other four hits are cowritten by an array of chart mainstays, like Jermaine Dupri protégé Johnta Austin and veteran U.K. songwriter Amanda Ghost.

Even if you haven’t heard Brown’s latest hit, you probably know what it sounds like. The StarGate guys have developed a trademark sound: midtempo pseudo-ballad, strummy acoustic guitars, square-on-the-nose pop melody and–the neat trick–a lite-R&B quality that somehow doesn’t sound weird coming from a pair of Scandinavians. On the Ne-Yo tracks and, more recently, Rihanna’s, they often shamelessly channel Michael Jackson–which basically makes them heirs to Rod Temperton, another very white European who somehow wrote some of the most indelible R&B melodies of the ’70s and ’80s.

Yeah, the StarGate sound is getting a little tired–which makes their latest Rihanna collaboration encouraging. “Don’t Stop the Music” is a driving club throwdown–very Eurodisco and, with its Michael Jackson sample, certainly in their wheelhouse, but still a kinda-new thing for them. The song’s leap into the Top 10 this week suggests a smash in the making, which might finally give Tor and Mikkel a reputation as something more than one-trick ponies.

Okay, We Won’t Call It a Comeback: A couple of weeks ago, Janet Jackson’s “Feedback” looked like a return to chart form, hurtling toward the Top 40 and selling well on iTunes. It was evidence that, whatever her recent travails, Janet’s fans were loyal.

The question is whether anyone else cares: “Feedback” reverses course this week, down five notches to No. 56. Rather than pile on Damita Jo, we should point out that the picture actually isn’t so bleak–but her promo people may have their work cut out for them.

“Feedback”‘s drop this week is entirely due to digital-sales slippage. It sold well on iTunes for the first couple of weeks, as diehard fans and other curiosity-seekers piled on; now that they’re satisfied, sales are inevitably slowing. So here comes radio to the rescue: the song just debuted on the Hot 100 Airplay chart this week, a good sign for her.

From here, “Feedback” will have to earn its way up the chart the normal way–radio leading to renewed sales and requests, leading to more airplay, etc. After two flop albums, the tough part will be convincing radio programmers to stick with the song while sales are modest. The other good news for Janet: she’ll probably get another sales burst in late February, the week after Discipline, the album, drops.

MileyWatch: I dedicated a whole segment last week to Miley Cyrus, and I won’t go crushing on “See You Again” again–except to point out that, after scoring her first Top 40 hit under her own name last week, she now has her second. Her duet with daddy, “Ready, Set, Don’t Go” (credited to “Billy Ray Cyrus with Miley Cyrus”) leaps six spots to No. 40. Damned Cyruses, don’t know when to leave well enough alone…

Stuff to Watch: Rather than dedicate this last bit to songs on the rise, I’ll just point out a few that are on the wane, some more surprising than others. Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” is finally, blessedly out of the Top 20 (down 10 spots to No. 25)–amazing how long it’s taking to disappear. Kanye West’s awesome “Flashing Lights” has hit an unfortunate ceiling, losing its bullet at No. 29 (up one spot). As nicely as her album’s selling, Mary J. Blige’s current single, “Just Fine,” isn’t: up two to No. 35, and also bullet-less. And you Juno-haters out there can enjoy the schadenfreude of its fluke hit, “Anyone Else But You” by stars Michael Cera and Ellen Page, falling to No. 98 from No. 91–that is, unless the Oscar nods give the soundtrack a boost next week…

The top 20, with last week’s position and total weeks charted in parentheses:
1. Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low” (LW No. 1, 13 weeks)
2. Alicia Keys, “No One” (LW No. 2, 20 weeks)
3. Timbaland feat. OneRepublic, “Apologize” (LW No. 3, 25 weeks)
4. Chris Brown, “With You” (LW No. 6, 8 weeks)
5. Fergie, “Clumsy” (LW No. 5, 15 weeks)
6. Chris Brown feat. T-Pain, “Kiss Kiss” (LW No. 4, 19 weeks)
7. Rihanna, “Don’t Stop the Music” (LW No. 13, 9 weeks)
8. Sean Kingston, “Take You There” (LW No. 10, 12 weeks)
9. Finger Eleven, “Paralyzer” (LW No. 7, 33 weeks)
10. Sara Bareilles, “Love Song” (LW No. 11, 12 weeks)
11. Snoop Dogg, “Sensual Seduction” (LW No. 12, 8 weeks)
12. Jordin Sparks, “Tattoo” (LW No. 9, 17 weeks)
13. Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly” (LW No. 8, 30 weeks)
14. Taylor Swift, “Teardrops on My Guitar” (LW No. 17, 33 weeks)
15. Alicia Keys, “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” (LW No. 16, 11 weeks)
16. Taylor Swift, “Our Song” (LW No. 20, 17 weeks)
17. Natasha Bedingfield feat. Sean Kingston, “Love Like This” (LW No. 19, 14 weeks)
18. Wyclef Jean Featuring Akon, Lil Wayne & Niia, “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)” (LW No. 18, 19 weeks)
19. Rihanna feat. Ne-Yo, “Hate That I Love You” (LW No. 14, 21 weeks)
20. Linkin Park, “Shadow of the Day” (LW No. 21, 11 weeks)

idolator
  • Al Shipley

    Those guitars totally are strummy, though, and I was getting very very sick of them. As much as I liked their work on Ne-Yo’s first album, all of Stargate’s identical post-”Irreplaceable” hits soured me on them big time. Didn’t know they did “Don’t Stop The Music,” too, that’s definitely an encouraging sign of something a little different.

  • Chris Molanphy

    To Matos et al.: I think I went with “strummy” because, as with anything on a megapop production by the likes of StarGate, you never know how organic any instrumental part is. “Strummed” implies an au naturale guitar vibe that I don’t associate with anything on a heavily worked StarGate production.

    Not that I dislike heavy pop production, mind you–I wouldn’t write this column if I didn’t–but…”strummed”? That implies some dude sitting in the studio and just playing a guitar. And sure, that’s where the sound no doubt started. And sure, maybe on each of these soundalike tracks the guys have been doing lately, they actually record a new guitar line. But there’s also a part of me that suspects they have two hard drives’ worth of acoustic samples they summon up and deploy by keystroke.

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    they’re not “strummy,” they’re strummed. it’s like describing a blonde as “blonde-ish.”

  • Chris N.

    I think “strummy” implies relatively rapid strumming. “Strummed” could be any tempo.

  • Al Shipley

    i don’t know what Chris meant, but I meant they’re strummed and crummy.

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    edit nitpick: why “strummy acoustic guitars”? why not just “strummed”?

  • MrStarhead

    I had to be directed to the Internet in order to be convinced that that Linkin Park song was really them. Wow, is that song wussy.