Monday, February 26, 2007

Collectibles #13: U218 Singles (2006)

U2 have released a greatest hits collection yet again. This time, it's dubbed U218 Singles, meaning the songs included in this set are songs that were released as singles, so they may not necessarily be their "best" or "greatest hits". Get the difference? Well, in order for it to be a hit, you have to release it as a single first right??

But anyway, since I'm a sucker of good packaging, I bought this set even though I have their second best of collection: 1990-2000. Yep, this is the Deluxe Limited Edition, and it contains a bonus DVD of their Vertigo tour in Milan.

The concert included here is probably a truncated one, as it contains only ten songs. But from the concert, it's not hard to see why U2's appeal has lasted more than two decades and is still going strong.

Frontman Bono is a well-loved showman who knows how to work his charm in his own way. He's not the world's best singer, and certainly not the most energetic, but somehow you still wanna watch him. The other band members are seasoned performers as well, and the quality of the songs, not their onstage antics, make them a formidable act till this day.

There are two obligatory new tracks included in this collection - The Saints Are Coming (a collabo with Green Day) and Window In The Skies. The former is a cover of Scottish punk rock band The Skids. It was rerecorded as a fund-raiser for the Hurricane Katrina victims last year.

Also included here, and the reason behind the premium price you have to pay for this set, is a 48-page booklet of colour photos of the band at various moments in history.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grammys 2007 Predictions

The 49th annual Grammy Awards are almost upon us - 15 hours away in fact. You can catch the live telecast on Channel 5 from 9am tomorrow.

As usual, I'm going to predict the winners for this year's awards, but as there are 108 categories, I'll only bother myself with the major categories worth caring about. If you didn't know by now, Mary J. Blige is leading the nominations with 8 noms, followed by a bevy of artistes with 5 noms, icluding Red Hot Chili Peppers, James Blunt, Dixie Chicks, Gnarls Barkley, Prince, John Mayer and

Record of the Year
1. Be Without You - Mary J. Blige
2. You're Beautiful - James Blunt
3. Not Ready To Make Nice - Dixie Chicks
4. Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
5. Put Your Records On - Corinne Bailey Rae

My prediction: Crazy
Why: This is one weird-sounding hit that totally sneaked up under the radar and nobody had ever heard of Gnarls Barkley before this. And it's uber cool and totally unconventional. Be Without You might be big, but it doesn't break any new ground.

Dixie Chicks' tune might be a tad too rebellious for some conservative Grammy voters. You're Beautiful is simply too whiny and tiresome. If the awards were in June last year, it might stand a chance, but not now. No one can bear it for that long. Put Your Records On is a breezy summer, feel-good hit, and it is the dark horse here. But I think the Grammy voters are crazy enough this year to award the gong to the deserving Gnarls Barkley.

Album Of The Year
1. Taking The Long Way - Dixie Chicks
2. St. Elsewhere - Gnarls Barkley
3. Continuum - John Mayer
4. Stadium Arcadium - Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake

My prediction: FutureSex/LoveSounds
Why: Among all of the nominees, Justin has had the biggest year. In fact, he was everywhere: the album had spawned 2 massive number 1 hits, he appeared in a slew of films, his breakup with Diaz was tabloid fodder, and he just embarked on a tour. And it doesn't hurt that the album is a radical departure from his Justified album, and he's got the hottest producer working on this album as well.

RHCP bounced back with a double album but double albums don't really win Album Of The Year awards. And it's not as strong as Californication. Gnarls Barkley at the moment seems to be a one-hit wonder, so Record of the Year might be enough reward for him. Dixie Chicks also bounced back after a difficult period (following their widely-publicised criticism of George Bush) and they might win some votes for being not ready to make nice. John Mayer's album is the dark horse here, since it was quite universally critically-acclaimed, but I'm hoping for a Justin win here.

Song of the Year
1. Be Without You by Mary J. Blige
2. Jesus, Take The Wheel by Carrie Underwood
3. Not Ready To Make Nice by Dixie Chicks
4. Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae
5. You're Beautiful by James Blunt

My prediction: Put Your Records On
Why: This one is more of a gut field than anything else. The difference between this category and the Record Of The Year is that this award is a songwriter's award, while the latter is awarded to the performer and producer.

I'm looking at a snub for Mary J. Blige, in the major categories at least. Even though she has already swept the Billboard Music Awards late last year. I don't know, but I don't see her being as good as she's made out to be. A little over-hyped I feel. Notice that she was shut out of the Album Of The Year category.

Best New Artiste
1. James Blunt
2. Chris Brown
3. Imogen Heap
4. Corinne Bailey Rae
5. Carrie Underwood

My prediction: Carrie Underwood
Why: She had a big year last year, and the fact that she's an ex-American Idol winner makes her all the more credible. In fact, she's the best Idol since Kelly Clarkson. If she doesn't win, look for Corinne Bailey Rae to make the trip to the podium.

Chris Brown is too slight for Grammys' taste - hip-hop hardly wins. James Blunt is a British artiste, so that's minus 50% of the votes already. And who the hell is Imogen Heap??

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
1. Ain't No Other Man - Christina Aguilera
2. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
3. You Can Close Your Eyes - Sheryl Crow
4. Stupid Girls - Pink
5. Black Horse And The Cherry Tree - KT Tunstall

My prediction: Ain't No Other Man
Why: Christina really showcases what she's capable of in this track, and she really does blow the competitio away. How can Pink even measure up in terms of vocal performance, if that's what this category's really about.

Sheryl Crow is a perennial Grammy favourite and it's a little sad to see that, because clearly her earlier material were better. Natasha Bedingfield being nominated here is also quite a sad fact. It's an ok song, but among the best 5 of the year? Come on!

Actually I'm rooting for KT Tunstall to win, cos I really loved the song. I wouldn't be disappointed if she grabs this one, but I think Christina will edge her out by just that little bit.

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
1. You're Beautiful - James Blunt
2. Save Room - John Legend
3. Waiting On The World To Change - John Mayer
4. Jenny Wren - Paul McCartney
5. Bad Day - Daniel Powter

My prediction: Save Room
Why: John Legend is a legend in the making, and Grammy loves soul artistes with style and substance (think Alicia Keys). His sophomore album was also critically acclaimed and he's about the nicest gentleman in the business, what's there not to like?

Bad Day was a number one hit no less, but it's quite pop fodder, not heavyweight enough to win. Paul McCartney is another Grammy favourite, but he's a little old to win this category (being ageist here, sorry). Blunt's song is annoying so he won't win. The other John (John Mayer) will give Legend a run for his money, so watch out for the 2 Johns for this one.

Best Pop Vocal Album
1. Back To Basics - Christina Aguilera
2. Back To Bedlam - James Blunt
3. The River In Reverse - Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
4. Continuum - John Mayer
5. FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake

My prediction: FutureSex/LoveSounds
Why: As I said, this is Justin's year. If he doesn't win Album Of The Year, at least he'll have this for consolation.

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
1. Talk - Coldplay
2. How To Save A Life - The Fray
3. Steady, As She Goes - The Raconteurs
4. Dani California - Rad Hot Chili Peppers
5. The Saints Are Coming - U2 & Green Day

My prediction: The Saints Are Coming
Why: This is one category where all the nominees are pretty strong, and it's real hard trying to pick a winner. But based on U2's sheer track record in the past Grammys, this one seems to be heading their way, together with Green Day, who witnessed a revival of their own 2 years ago with American Idiot.

That said, I personally feel that The Saints Are Coming isn't the strongest track here. My personal vote goes to Steady, As She Goes. Dani California was an ok lead single but I prefer Tell Me Baby, which wasn't nominated. Talk wasn't the strongest track off X&Y either, so it shouldn't win. How To Save A Life is pretty good and it might be the dark horse.

Best Rock Album
1. Try! - John Mayer Trio
2. Highway Companion - Tom Petty
3. Broken Boy Soldiers - The Raconteurs
4. Stadium Arcadium - Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. Living With War - Neil Young

My prediction: Stadium Arcadium
Why: RHCP should win this category easily, to make up for their losses in the other more major categories.

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
1. Ring The Alarm - Beyonce
2. Be Without You - Mary J. Blige
3. Don't Forget About Us - Mariah Carey
4. Day Dreaming - Natalie Cole
5. I Am Not My Hair - India.Arie

My prediction: Be Without You
Why: Same reason as above. Ring The Alarm shouldn't even be here. If Irreplaceable were nominated, it will win this category hands down. Mariah's track was such a long time ago and most people would have forgotten about it already. Natalie Cole seems out of place here so it's gonna be hard for her to carve out a win. India.Arie seems to be the forgotten starlet and I'm not sure everyone remembers her still.

Best R&B Album
1. The Breakthrough - Mary J. Blige
2. Unpredictable - Jamie Foxx
3. Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship - India.Arie
4. 3121 - Prince
5. Coming Home - Lionel Richie

My prediction: The Breakthrough
Why: Cos the Grammy voters don't want Mary J to leave home empty-handed.

And there you have it, my predictions for 11 categories. Remember to tune in tomorrow at 9am, Channel 5 to find out who the winners are! I'm hoping the musical performances would be good too..Justin, RHCP, Shakira, Beyonce are all set to perform. Hope it'll be good!