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Never Go to a Party in Friendswood

A couple of years ago, we used Amazon.com sales data to examine the musical tastes of Houston and the suburbs. This time we've done that one better by ranking each municipality's taste -- we assigned each CD a rating of one to five stars, added them up and took the average score.

And lo and behold, just like last time, Friendswood is again the H-town area's Squaresville. (And it wasn't even close.) To find out the best, you'll just have to read on, but I will tell you this: This year, several of the burbs bested Houston…

(Note: This data measures what sells uniquely well, not what sells best overall. In other words, this stuff sells better in Houston or Conroe than anywhere else.)

13. Friendswood

1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Eve and Other Stories*

2. Hilary Duff, Most Wanted**

3. Wicked soundtrack**

4. Nickelback, All The Right Reasons*

5. Kenny Chesney, The Road and the Radio**

6. Various artists, Now, Vol. 20***

7. Walk the Line soundtrack**

8. Enya, Amarantine*

9. Rent soundtrack**

10. Black Eyed Peas, Monkey Business*

11. Coldplay, X&Y****

12. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

Avg.: 1.92

Notes: Coldplay passes for sophistication down there off FM 2351. Not good.

12. Missouri City

1. Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted****

2. Enya, Amarantine*

3. Nickelback, All The Right Reasons*

4. Michael Bublé, It's Time**

5. The Killers, Hot Fuss**

6. Coldplay, X&Y****

7. Eric Clapton, Back Home**

8. The Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang**

9. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

Avg.: 2.22

Notes: Anywhere Enya's ridiculously soothing sounds are popular has to be stressful. (See also Friendswood, Humble, League City, Richmond, Bellaire, Pasadena, Conroe and Baytown.)

11. Conroe

1. Black Eyed Peas, Monkey Business*

2. Enya, Amarantine*

3. Carly Simon, Moonlight Serenade***

4. The Essential Johnny Cash*****

5. Wicked soundtrack**

6. Michael Bublé, It's Time**

Avg.: 2.3 10. (tie) Humble

1. Roy Orbison, Black & White Night****

2. Mercy Me, The Christmas Sessions**

3. Wicked soundtrack**

4. 10 Years, The Autumn Effect**

5. Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today*

6. U2, Best of 1980-1990*****

7. Mitch Hedberg, Mitch All Together****

8. Jars of Clay, Redemption Songs**

9. Mitch Hedberg, Strategic Grill Locations****

10. Casting Crowns, Lifesong*

11. Michael Bublé, It's Time**

12. Chris Botti, When I Fall in Love**

13. Enya, Amarantine*

14. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

15. Pink Floyd, Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd*****

16. Various artists, More Than 50 Best Loved Hymns**

17. Trans-Siberian Express, The Lost Christmas Eve*

18. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts**

19. Herb Alpert, Whipped Cream & Other Delights****

20. Ray Charles, Genius Loves Company**

Avg.: 2.5

Notes: Welcome to the Deep South, where dead junkie comedians vie for attention alongside Christian rockers and all-American pop stars.

10. (tie) League City

1. Enya, Amarantine*

2. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Lost Christmas Eve*

3. The Bee Gees, Their Greatest Hits*****

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire soundtrack**

5. Wicked soundtrack**

6. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Facing Future****

7. Nickelback, All The Right Reasons*

8. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway***

9. Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today*

10. Depeche Mode, Playing the Angel***

11. Coldplay, X&Y****

12. Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor***

Avg.: 2.5

Notes: Kamakawiwo'ole was an outrageously talented and flamboyantly obese native Hawaiian singer made famous on the mainland by an episode of E.R. and a couple of TV spots. And I'm told that League City is home to many transplanted Polynesians.

9. Richmond

1. Kenny Rogers, The Gift*

2. Steve Tyrell, Songs of Sinatra***

3. Brooks and Dunn, Hillbilly Deluxe***

4. INXS, Switch**

5. Wicked soundtrack**

6. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

7. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison*****

8. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway***

9. Il Divo, The Christmas Collection**

10. Gorillaz, Demon Days****

11. Michael Bublé, It's Time**

12. Barbra Streisand, Guilty Pleasures**

13. Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor***

14. Diana Krall, Christmas Songs***

15. Enya, Amarantine*

Avg.: 2.53

Notes: This list seems somehow even worse than Friendswood's, but at least Richmond folks were smart enough to buy a real Johnny Cash CD instead of Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon's karaoke version.

8. Bellaire

1. Wicked soundtrack**

2. INXS, Switch**

3. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall*****

4. The Essential Johnny Cash*****  

5. Rent soundtrack**

6. Walk the Line soundtrack**

7. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway***

8. U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb****

9. Enya, Amarantine*

10. Neil Young, Prairie Wind****

11. Bonnie Raitt, Souls Alike***

12. Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor***

13. Nickelback, All the Right Reasons*

14. Black Eyed Peas, Monkey Business*

15. Rod Stewart, Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook IV*

Avg.: 2.6

Notes: Bellaire's top 12 are for the most part solid picks, but after that comes a train wreck of immense proportions -- putrid rock, rancid rap and dreadful standards. Bellaire, you coulda been a contender.

7. Katy

1. Kevin Fowler, Loose Loud and Crazy****

2. The Marshall Tucker Band, Anthology: The First 30 Years****

3. Steve Tyrell, Songs of Sinatra***

4. David Crowder Band, A Collision****

5. George Strait, Somewhere Down in Texas***

6. Anastasia soundtrack**

7. Wicked soundtrack**

8. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts**

9. Roy Orbison, Black & White Night****

10. Kingdom of Heaven soundtrack**

11. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, Alone in IZ World****

12. Gary Allan, Tough All Over****

13. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants soundtrack***

14. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Beethoven's Last Night*

15. My Chemical Romance, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge***

16. Rent soundtrack**

17. Alexz Johnson, Songs from Instant Star**

18. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Lost Christmas Eve*

19. Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today*

20. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

Avg.: 2.65

Notes: Katy's penchant for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, bland soundtracks and Rascal Flatts (quite possibly the worst widely popular band in America in any genre) drags down their average, but there is some really good stuff on here too. Crowder was a surprise to me -- a Christian artist who makes great music, and Fowler, Strait, Allan and the Marshall Tucker Band all go down easy with a brew or two. Also, angsty as they are, My Chemical Romance is still a cut above most of the shite on the Buzz these days.

6. (tie) Sugar Land

1. Chamillionaire, The Sound of Revenge****

2. Mariah Carey, The Emancipation of Mimi***

3. Chris Tomlin, Arriving*

4. Nickelback, All The Right Reasons*

5. Roy Orbison, Black & White Night****

6. Various artists, WOW Hits 2006*

7. The Backyardigans, The Backyardigans**

8. Wicked soundtrack**

9. Eric Benet, Hurricane****

10. Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour*****

11. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Eve and Other Stories*

12. Steve Tyrell, Songs of Sinatra***

13. John Lennon, Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon****

14. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway***

15. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

16. Various artists, Radio Disney: Ultimate Jams Volumes 1-6***

17. Kenny Chesney, The Road and the Radio*

18. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts**

19. George Strait, 50 Number Ones*****

20. Various artists, Now That's What I Call Christmas: The Signature Collection***

Avg.: 2.7

Notes: Schizo city -- up-to-date H-town rap, semi-obscure late-period Beatles, Lennon's anthology and damn good neo-soul and country, all balanced by Chesney's pseudo-Buffettry, lame Christian music, bombastic Christmas jams and more Nickelback. If I had never been there, I would have no idea what Sugar Land was like.

6. (tie) Spring

1. At All Cost, It's Time to Decide*

2. Crazy for You soundtrack**

3. Cory Morrow, Nothing Left to Hide**

4. Aselin Debison, Sweet Is the Melody***

5. Steve Tyrell, Songs of Sinatra***

6. Harry Connick, Where My Heart Finds Christmas***

7. Mindi Abair, Come As You Are*

8. Roy Orbison, Black & White Night****

9. George Strait, 50 Number Ones*****

10. Paul McCartney, Wingspan: Hits and History****

11. Wicked soundtrack**

12. Randy Travis, Glory Train****

13. Pride & Prejudice soundtrack**

14. The Cheetah Girls soundtrack*

15. Cats soundtrack**

16. Susan Tedeschi, Live from Austin TX****

17. Glen Campbell, All the Best****

18. Hilary Duff, Disney Artist Karaoke Series*

19. Various artists, More than 50 Best Loved Hymns**

20. Mitch Hedberg, Mitch All Together****

Avg.: 2.7

Notes: Spring stands alone -- 14 of 20 discs on its list are found on no others. You might think Spring was more tranquil than Sugar Land; after all, Spring's a McCartney town and Sugar Land's Lennon, and Spring is also big on easygoing Glen Campbell and the aural wallpaper that is the smooth jazz of Mindi Abair. But you wouldn't think so if you heard the anguished metalcore of Spring's chart-toppers, At All Cost.

5. Pasadena

1. George Strait, Somewhere Down in Texas***  

2. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison*****

3. Rascal Flatts, Feels Like Today*

4. Il Divo, The Christmas Collection**

5. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway***

6. Neil Young, Prairie Wind****

7. Enya, Amarantine*

8. Michael Bublé, It's Time**

9. Coldplay, X&Y****

Avg.: 2.78

Notes: Just when you start to think Pasadena still knows good country, Rascal Flatts pops up.

4. Cypress

1. George Strait, 50 Number Ones*****

2. Wicked soundtrack**

3. Faith Hill, Fireflies***

4. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts**

5. Michael Bublé, It's Time**

6. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Lost Christmas Eve*

7. Keith Urban, Be Here**

8. Sugarland, Twice the Speed of Life***

9. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Christmas Eve and Other Stories*

10. Reba McEntire, Reba #1's****

11. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison*****

12. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

13. Arcade Fire, Funeral*****

14. Depeche Mode, Playing the Angel***

Avg.: 2.86

Notes: The Arcade Fire? In Cypress? Cool.

3. Houston

1. Small Sounds, The Leonard Refrigerator****

2. Houston Symphony, Glad Tidings**

3. Z-Ro, The Life of Joseph W. McVey*****

4. Roger Creager, Live Across Texas***

5. Bowfire, Bowfire***

6. Rachel Buchman, Hello Everybody: Playsongs and Rhymes from a Toddler's World***

7. Lil' O, Da Fat Rat Wit Da Cheeze***

8. Zona Jones, Harleys and Horses****

9. Roger Creager, Having Fun All Wrong***

10. Various artists, Don't Mess With Texas Music****

11. Kevin Fowler, Loose Loud and Crazy****

12. Steve Tyrell, Songs of Sinatra***

13. UGK, Best Of*****

14. Soulhat, Outdebox***

15. Lakewood Church, We Speak to Nations*

16. Pat Green, Lucky Ones*

17. Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov**

18. Watermark, The Purest Place**

19. Tish Hinojosa, From Texas for a Christmas Night***

20. Carlisle Floyd, Cold Sassy Tree**

Avg.: 3.0

Notes: Z-Ro, UGK and Lil' O represent H-town's rap boom, though O's sudden popularity is a puzzler. (That CD came out in 2001.) The Small Sounds are an intelligent pop-rock band often found at the Continental and the Big Top.

2. (tie) Pearland

1. Roy Orbison, Black & White Night****

2. Laurie Berkner, Whattaya Think of That***

3. Seether, Karma and Effect*

4. Faith Hill, Fireflies***

5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Christmas Attic*

6. Bette Midler, Sings the Peggy Lee Songbook**

7. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, The Lost Christmas Eve*

8. Stevie Wonder, The Definitive Collection*****

9. Chris Tomlin, Arriving**

10. Queen, Queen's Greatest Hits*****

11. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison*****

12. Journey, Journey's Greatest Hits****

13. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Beethoven's Last Night*

14. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

15. Audioslave, Out of Exile***

16. Laurie Berkner, Buzz Buzz***

17. Rolling Stones, 40 Licks*****

18. Laurie Berkner, Victor Vito***

19. Tom Petty, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits*****

20. Reba McEntire, Reba #1's****

Avg.: 3.1

Notes: Pearland kinda cheated by raiding the canon: There are no fewer than six anthologies and a couple of reissued classics here. But what they lack in freshness they make up for in taste. Neither Seether nor even three Trans-Siberian CDs can drag down the collective heft of the best of Cash, Reba, Journey, the Stones, Queen, Tom Petty and Stevie Wonder.

2. (tie)Baytown

1. Johnny Cash, American III: Solitary Man****

2. Johnny Cash, The Legend of Johnny Cash*****

3. Walk the Line soundtrack**

4. John Prine, Fair and Square***

5. Johnny Cash, Essential Johnny Cash*****

6. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

7. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway***

8. Nickelback, All The Right Reasons*

9. Enya, Amarantine*

10. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison*****

Avg.: 3.1

Notes: Cash-mania amid the refineries. Probably unfair to rank Baytown this high, since it probably isn't usually this cool, but hey, this is a scientific article…

1. Galveston

1. Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall*****

2. Damien Rice, O****

3. Michael Bublé, Michael Bublé**

4. Various artists, Our New Orleans: A Benefit Album for the Gulf Coast****

5. John Prine, Fair and Square***

6. Van Morrison, Magic Time***

7. Il Divo, The Christmas Collection**

8. Diana Krall, Christmas Songs***

9. Celtic Woman, Celtic Woman**

10. Johnny Cash, The Essential Johnny Cash*****

Avg.: 3.3

Notes: Who knew G-town rolled like this? Jazz masters, modern Irish singer-songwriters, an Americana legend, the Man in Black and Van the Man, not to mention the best of the recent rash of Katrina benefit CDs…Well done.


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