Saturday, February 27, 2010

10 songs for a rainy day + 1 to cheer you up

Today is one gloomy day in Boston. It's raining, it's pouring, it's sometimes sleeting-snowing? And since the weather can't make up it's mind, you might be restless and depressed. Never fear, there's a playlist that knows just how you feel.

Rainy Day Playlist No. 12 & 35

But if you're a 'glass-half-full' type like me, you probably want to get out of your rut. If so, this catchy pop gem from the Swedes in I'm From Barcelona will surely turn that frown upside down.

(YouTube disabled video embedding for this one, but you can click the image below to get to the video)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Caren Explains the 25 Biggest Hits in iTunes History

Lest anyone doubt Apple's stronghold in the music industry, iTunes is about to deliver its 10 billionth song download. How big is 10 billion? Well, 304m Americans would have had to purchase 33 songs each to achieve this milestone, or else each of Europe's 830m citizens would have had to purchase 12 songs (an entire album) off of iTunes.

In preparation for the celebration, iTunes released a playlist of its most downloaded songs of all time. The top five?

1) "I've Got a Feeling," Black Eyed Peas
2) "Poker Face," Lady Gaga
3) "Boom Boom Pow," Black Eyed Peas
4) "I'm Yours," Jason Mraz
5) "Viva La Vida," Coldplay

Looking through the full list (and doing a fair bit of Nielsen SoundScan research), I observed a few things:

- There is no one recipe for success. Only six (6) of the songs debuted at #1, while nine (9) of the Top 25 songs never made it to #1, including "I'm Yours" and "Viva La Vida," which nevertheless rank in the Top 25 of all time. Slow and steady won the race for Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" (which entered the charts at #85 and took 27 weeks to reach #1), whereas "Boom Boom Pow" debuted at #1 and spent 10 weeks in the top spot. See all my findings here.

- More than half of the Top 25 songs debuted in 2008. This is not that surprising, considering the trend in consumption and the cumulative number of downloads served across time:

We should also consider that iTunes installed base has grown over time, which means if 5% of users download a #1 song, the resulting sales look much different in 2003 than 2009. For example, when "Hey There Delilah" was at #1 in 2005 it sold 130,000 units a week; when "I Gotta Feeling" debuted at #1 in 2009 it sold 250,000 units a week -- nearly double what "Hey There Delilah" generated.

- No songs added to the catalog in 2004, 2006 or 2010 made the cut (though I expect a few hits from 2010 will by the end of the year). Were 2004 and 2006 just bad years in music? According to Billboard, the most popular songs in 2004 and 2006 were, respectively, "Yeah!" by Usher and "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. Perhaps people went out and bought those CDs rather than digital editions? Or the songs were timely but not timeless? (I certainly don't need to hear "Bad Day" ever again).

- For all their popularity and exposure, no American Idol winners made the list... not even Carrie Underwood.


One thing I'd be interested to learn is the Top 25 digital albums of iTunes history. As you can see below, the best selling physical albums from 2003-2009 did not produce Top 25 digital singles, save Taylor Swift with "Love Story" in 2009.

- 2003: "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" - 50 Cent
- 2004: "Confessions" - Usher
- 2005: "The Emancipation of Mimi" - Mariah Carey
- 2006: "High School Musical" soundtrack
- 2007: "Noel" - Josh Groban
- 2008: "Tha Carter III" - Lil Wayne
- 2009: "Fearless" - Taylor Swift

Any songs you expected to see on the list that didn't make the cut?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Caren Explains Why Bishops are Unplugging their iPods for Lent

Last year during Lent I gave up Facebook, with the stipulation that I could only log-in if I needed to respond to an urgent message (in which case I received a notification to my Gmail account).

It seems like a silly sacrifice, but quitting it for a month was not easy, given how much communication happens across Facebook's platforms. In going through this period of Easter preparation, though, I realized how much Facebook had been detracting from my offline life.

First (and most obviously) during Lent, I found myself spending less idle time online, and instead put that time towards other activities. Second (and more importantly), giving up Facebook forced me to be deliberate about my communication with friends and family. Instead of passively maintaining relationships (i.e. knowing what someone was doing based on their status updates or photos) I had to seek people out and inquire about their well-being... as any friend or relative should.

This year bishops from the Church of England have asked something similar, but more drastic, of the Christian community: give up technology, even for just a day. They also encouraged a "Go Green for Lent" plan which you can read about here.

Most often I hear of people giving up chocolate or swearing or fried food for Lent. But as the Bishop of Oxford explained, "Giving up chocolate is a symbol of that but giving up technology is a more serious way of looking at the issues that face us as a global community.... We have galloped forward so fast, maybe we have out-run our global responsibility in [our own consumption of technology]."

Within this statement I see room for a counter-argument, though: without technology it would be difficult to connect with that global community.

What do you think, Blogosphere: is our current level of technology consumption necessary or detrimental?

Monday, February 08, 2010

3 Eccentric Essentials for Winter Weather

Baby, it's cold outside and we Bostonians got a few inches of snow today. Time to stock up on supplies! Here are three of my favorite things for winter weather.

A wool hat with a ponytail hole? Knit gloves with finger hoods? A scarf with an smartphone pocket?! So pretty! So functional! So sad that the company is winding down... take advantage of its fire sale at

Delicious flavors like White Grapefruit and Hot Cinnamon Spice arrive in chic tins and boxes. You can get 20 sachets of loose leave tea for $8. Sure beats the $1.80 per cup you pay at the cafeteria or local coffee shop for sub-par tea.

I hardly take advantage of my NetFlix DVD discs anymore, choosing instead to stream content from NetFlix Instant portal to my TV using XBox Live. What the Instant list lacks in New Releases it makes up for in catalog depth, especially documentaries (like Please Vote For Me, Born Into Brothels and Helvetica). Perfect if you're snowed in and the mailman can't reach you.

What would you add?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Need a Song for Your Sweetie? 15 Songs for Valentine's Day

There's a new card commercial that says, "Your Valentine
is who you want to sit by; who you get in trouble with; who you tell your secrets to; who you play with at recess" [Ed: well, after you realize there is no such thing as cooties].

But if you don't want to pay for Hallmark's rhetoric, maybe you want to proclaim your [budding/established/unrequited] love through song.

Here are 15 lovely songs that you won't find on the Billboard 100.

12 Memorable Super Bowl Commercials of Old

Are you ready for some football? (I sure am).

But since I don't have a vested interest in the Colts or the Saints, I'll be rooting for the commercials. Go advertisers!

While we wait to see which brands will surprise and delight us this year, here are twelve great commercials from Super Bowls of old.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A LOST Music Monday: Drive Shaft (Manchester, UK)

To borrow a phrase I heard from Joe Kirk, I've been lost without LOST (so lost, in fact, that I can't even keep my days straight, which explains why I'm posting a 'Music Monday' entry on a Tuesday).

But tonight my world will be alright again!... I just can't say the same for the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815....

LOST returns for its final season and I imagine that the Questions-to-Answers ratio will remain high throughout the season. Among the questions I want answered:

- Is the "anti-Jacob" in fact younger brother Esau (and does that somehow tie back to the theme of a "bad twin")?
- Why did people in Phuket freak out about Jack's tattoos?
- What the heck happened to Claire?
- Have we seen the last of Walt?
- Who do the Adam & Eve skeletons belong to?
- What is the significance of the numbers?

Before we dive back in tonight, LOST geeks might want to revisit (and/or challenge) this interesting Time Loop Theory... it's very well done.

Until then, let's hear a song from Charlie Pace (R.I.P.) and his band, Drive Shaft: