Every once in a blue moon, a successful local band may find one of its singles in the Billboard Hot 100, a weekly chart of songs whose rankings are based on both airplay and sales.
The Hot 100 was solely the province of mega-bands until a couple of years ago, when Billboard started tracking digital downloads from internet services such as iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, and others, which opened the door to otherwise unknown, primarily regional artists. In October, an obscure R&B singer known as Akron, for example, made an 80-position jump in a single week based on download sales alone. Now, I’m not saying that his spike in sales wasn’t legit.
But remember that about 15 years ago, when the chart first came out, some artists peddled their singles for pennies for the express purpose of cracking the Hot 100. Neither you nor I remember any of the artists’ names, hence the $64,000 question of whether a genuine career can be born from chart celebritydom; something for Akron to consider, and also something to be mulled over by Black Tie Dynasty, the Fort Worth New Wave-rock band that last week had not one but two songs in the Hot 100. At No. 76 was “Tender,” the first single from the band’s debut album, last year’s Movements, and arguably Black Tie’s strongest song to date. And making its debut at No. 38 was “I Like U,” the band’s second single and, in my humble opinion, weaker cousin to “Lakes,” my favorite number on the album, favorite Black Tie tune, and one of my favorite modern rock tracks of all time, right up there with Roxy Music’s “Angel Eyes,” Gary Numan’s “I Die You Die” (and most of Telekon), and everything from New Order’s Substance.
The c.d. single/e.p. on which “I Like U” can now be purchased also includes what I hope isn’t an evolution – a less-driving, acoustic version of “Lakes” in which singer Cory Watson trades in his signature muscular baritone for the kind of high, weepy, diaphanous resignation popularized by the late Jeff Buckley. I’m not saying “I Like U” isn’t strong – it is. It’s just not “Lakes.” Anyway, in addition to offering the acoustic “Lakes” and two versions of “I Like U,” one straight from the album and one edited for radio, the e.p. also serves up a track called “The Vex” and another called “Christmas Time.” A jumpy, non-ironic holiday tune, “Christmas Time” features a shout-out to Josh Venable, the long-time Edge DJ who broke the band, and backing vocals from PPT, a North Texas rap trio that shares with Black Tie the Dallas record label Idol. Naturally, when I saw “Christmas Time” and “PPT” together, I immediately thought, “Holy shit! Black Tie and PPT are covering Run-D.M.C.’s ‘Christmas in Hollis!’” (You remember: “It’s Christmastime! / In Hollis, Queens! / Ma is cooking chicken and collard greens” – bad-ass.)
Well, I was wrong, but I can’t say I’m disappointed, if only because a locally based band had the balls to do something as allegedly anti-cool as write and perform an original Christmas song. However, I wouldn’t recommend a similar move for local bands that haven’t breached the Billboard Hot 100 yet.
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