A weekly column taking a look at the acts breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts. This week: Lucy Woodward, Joe Budden, BoySetsFire, and the Faint.
Welcome to Breaking & Entering, a weekly column launched with the redesign of Billboard.com. Each Wednesday, we'll take a look at the latest acts that are breaking at radio and retail and entering the Billboard charts.
THEY LOVE LUCY: Lucy Woodward has been on the fast-track since signing with Atlantic Records. Her single, "Dumb Girls," was the beneficiary of a major promotion on AOL near the end of last year, and the cut was streamed more than a half-million times in two months. A glistening power-pop tune, with a riff taken from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," "Dumb Girls" is equal parts cocky and self-deprecating, and has positioned Woodward as an older, wiser Avril Lavigne. It also drove her debut, "While You Can," to a No. 148 entry last week on The Billboard 200.
The 26-year-old's first effort was co-produced by John Shanks, who has worked with Michelle Branch and Sheryl Crow, among others. Woodward knows that will invite comparisons. With pop star desires, she also knows that people may be skeptical, but Woodward, who has been singing in New York clubs and commercials since she was 16, makes it clear that she didn't let a major producer come in and shape her first album.
"I've been writing for the past five years, but the last year I got really serious about it," Woodward tells Billboard.com. "I had written half these songs before I met John, and I wanted to work with him for a long time, before he produced Michelle Branch and became 'John Shanks.' I knew I was going to make a guitar-based record, and I loved what he did. When you're the new act on Atlantic Records, people come forward and try to work with you, but I was like, 'No, it has to be John.'"
Woodward, in fact, comes off as a sunnier Shelby Lynne, as evidenced by such soul-leaning tunes as the "The Breakdown," with a bluesy bar-band feel and a chorus that references the Rolling Stones, and the vulnerable coming-of-age tale "Is This Hollywood." Yet there's plenty to attract hook-hungry mallrats, as likely future single "Blindsided" sounds like Dr. Dre producing Sheryl Crow, with its repetitively simple keyboard swinging the rhythm.
Woodward is currently putting together a band, and hopes to tour later this year.
BUDDEN'S PUMPING: Joe Budden's "Pump It Up" sounds as if it were tailor-made for NBA half-time shows, a high-energy rap track propelled by rhythmic handclaps and a bass that does somersaults around Budden's thick-tongued delivery. The New Jersey-based rapper has already made a name for himself in New York nightclubs, and "Pump It Up" has steadily become a bookend to 50 Cent's "In Da Club" on the hip-hop party circuit. The cut is starting to find a mainstream following, debuting last week on Billboard's Hot 100 at No. 75.
"Pump It Up" has already penetrated the top-25 of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks tally, and its success is making Budden one of the year's most buzzed about rappers. Budden had his first East Coast club hit last year with "Focus," one of his many songs that found its way into the hands of DJ's after being sold on New York's underground mixtape circuit. The artist released a number of mixtapes to the streets over the years, and a selection of cuts from them are now being streamed on his official Web site.
ON FIRE: The hardcore industrial grind of BoySetsFire has long stood out on the independent metal scene for its heavy leftist stance, and current events have clearly inspired the Delaware-based band to ratchet-up the anger. On "Tomorrow Come Today," the group's first effort for Wind-Up Records, BoySetsFire slams anti-terrorist bill the USA Patriot Act, and what it perceives as rampant globalization on the part of American corporations. Musically, "Tomorrow Come Today" places a larger emphasis on recognizable choruses, and the album, mixed by Jay Baumgardner (Godsmack), is the band's most mainstream effort to date. It's also the group's first full-length album to reach any the Billboard charts, debuting last week at No. 141 on The Billboard 200.
While BoySetsFire has amassed a sizable cult following on Chicago's respected punk and hardcore label Victory Records, Wind-Up has put some additional promotional muscle behind the album. To introduce the band to a larger audience, Wind-Up placed a BoySetsFire cut on its successful
soundtrack to "Daredevil," and select tracks from the current album were streamed on the band's Web site.
FAINTING SPELL: New-wave revivalists the Faint have become one of the better-known bands in the '80s-nostalgia movement, a scene largely fueled by dance clubs in New York and Europe. With a sound straight out of 1984, the Faint's 2001 effort, "Danse Macabre," recorded for hot indie label Saddle Creek Records, struck a nerve with nightclub revelers who wanted an updated take on early Depeche Mode. Then a slew of press, and a sold-out club tour, landed the band a support slot on No Doubt's recent outing.
The heavy touring has kept the band too busy to record a new effort, so in the interim, the Faint has released an album of remixes. Featuring contributions from Paul Oakenfold, Photek, Ursula 1000, and Thin White Duke, among others, "Danse Macabre Remixes" (Astralwerks) has given the Omaha, Neb.-based act its first appearance on the Billboard charts, arriving last week at No. 19 on the Top Electronic Albums tally. The Faint is currently on the road in support of the effort, and for those awaiting new Faint material, the band recently recorded a song that will appear on an upcoming compilation from Saddle Creek.