Wow…how quickly was Adam absorbed into the corporate pop machine? “Time for Miracles”, from the upcoming movie 2012, is as slick a power soundtrack ballad as they come, and the video is as cheesy as you would expect. But it’s really about the song itself, and that song is pretty decent compared to the usual movie-closing filler. If Adam can carry a tune like “Miracles”, his solo debut coming out next month should be monumental.
In an age where a successful tour is measured in terms of spectacle and bang for the buck, it is very easy to lose sight of what brought you and those artists together: the music. We want the biggest bang for our buck, and if anything even remotely doesn’t measure up to our expectations, you can count the seconds until someone starts demanding a refund. That is why I am still in awe almost a day after watching the Gossip tear it up live last night.
First off, I am a little disappointed in my fellow Denverites, who did not make the show a sell-out, but trust me when I tell you that the folks that did fill the lower level of the theater did a fine job of making the bands welcome. I thought I was beyond being an active participant at concerts, but last night found me dancing around enough to qualify for entrance to the mosh pit. I may have had a couple of beers, but the music did the majority of the work.
Opening act Men (which confused me at first, based on the Gossip’s Music For Men) got things going on the right foot with their fun synth-pop that sounded like what you would expect if Depeche Mode had started up about 20 years later than they actually did. Le Tigre came to mind as a comparison, and it turns out that JD Samson of Le Tigre fronts the group. I would not have known him if I walked past him on the street, but their set was a blast, and I would go to their show if they came back to town. Signs, chainmail, house helmets and tight red pants are all visuals that will stick with me for quite a while.
While Men was playing, there was this woman down close to the stage dancing around and having a blast, and she had the brightest pink hair I have ever seen. I feel pretty dumb right now, because it turns out that it was lead singer Beth Ditto, hanging out in the crowd and enjoying the opening act. I am not sure how Beth could be cooler to me than she is, but once I realized who it was, the cool quotient just took off. It wasn’t just the hair that caught me off guard, though. Beth is a bit shorter than I expected, but once she took the stage and took control of the audience, all that mattered was her presence, which owned everyone in attendance. Seeing her play some festival stage seems like a mandatory show for my future.
Musically, I was blown away by how a foursome could sound so much bigger than their individual parts. Hannah Blilie’s driving beats, Nathan Howdeshell’s guitar riffs and Beth’s powerhouse vocals combine for an infectiously rocking experience, and Chris Sutton’s killer bassline propelled the band’s music throughout their set. Normally I will feel one or two lulls in a show, but the Gossip were not having it. From the opening bass of “Dimestore Diamond” to the encore performance of “What’s Love Got to Do With It”, the show was relentless, and I loved every minute of it. Highlights for me were “Heavy Cross” and “Pop Goes the World”, although there wasn’t a dog in the bunch. My biggest disappointment was not getting to hear “Standing in the Way of Control”. I figured that was a given, but the set did lean heavily on the current record, so it’s only a small blip on an otherwise amazing show.
In between acts, I got a chance to talk with Tara from their management company about where they are heading from here. After they complete their trek across the U.S., it’s off to Europe for a month of shows, and then Australia gets blessed with their presence. For those of you who didn’t get to see them on this leg of the tour, there should be a second U.S. tour in the spring that will focus on the southern states (Atlanta, anyone?). Hopefully Denver showed out enough to get a return engagement. If another show does pop up, I will be going door to door recruiting folks to go, because that show rocked my world. If they come to your town, go. They are worth every penny of admission.
Our savior from the Black Eyed Peas juggernaut, Jay Sean, may have given up his hold on the top of the Hot 100, but “Down” is still just about everywhere I turn these past few weeks. I have watched the video a couple of times, but while watching it this morning on the VH1 Top 20 Countdown (#1, btw), Rebbie Jackson’s epic video “Centipede” came to mind. Watch ’em both and let me know what you think…
Did some major turf war break out in the UK? Well, no. This is what happens when I am stuck in traffic with Radio 1. While I was grooving to “Break Your Heart”, my mind started thinking about Taio’s chances here in the US, and that lead to fellow UK R&B crooners JLS. So what are the chances of either of these acts even getting a chance to crack the American market, let along actually get a hit? Check out the breakdown below…
Taio Cruz – “Break Your Heart”
“Break Your Heart”, at least to my ear, sounds like a male version of “Just Dance” that doesn’t need Akon as a guest because, well, Taio handles that part of the equation just fine. This record would fit perfectly into the current pop landscape, and GaGa’s stratospheric rise proves that the marketplace is open to a complete unknown making it big. Is there a drawback to this record? Honestly, it would be Taio’s name. Could be a blessing or a curse. But that’s a minor drawback. If his A&R folks back in the UK aren’t already grooming him for the US, they should have their heads examined.
JLS – “Beat Again”
Even though these X Factor veterans are already on single #2 (“Everybody In Love”), the only chance they have of breaking in America right now is their upbeat jam “Beat Again”. Sadly, I don’t know that this is the environment to try and reinvigorate the boy band concept in the US, although the makeup of the band is perfect from a demographic standpoint. You’ve got the buff guy, the skinny one, the more realistically good looking dude, and the average joe. Someone for everyone!
Winner? Not even close. Taio should have a happy career ahead of him here in the US, as long as his handlers get it right.
You would think that with the collective damage that the Black Eyed Peas have done via their chart domination over the past six months, I would take a step back and avoid any BEP-related posts. Apparently, I am a glutton for punishment. Here is their new video for “Meet Me Halfway”, which finds our foursome on some kind of quest to find…eternity? Each other? L.A.? The solution to Rubik’s Cube? No clue, but the song is still one of my favorites for the year so far.
Two country-pop videos for you today. Video number one is a bonafide hit with a bizarre video to accompany it, courtesy of Carrie Underwood. She’s heading for the top of the country chart in no time at all, but honestly, what does this video have to do with a “Cowboy Casanova”?
On a much more classy note, here is the newest video from Sugarland’s Life on the Inside entitled “Keep You”. The song follows in the footsteps of their massive hit “Stay” with a slow burn, but the video has a strong impact for a such a simple premise. One more example of how the right song combined with the right video can be magic.
When I decided to write up a review of the new Blake Lewis CD Heartbreak on Vinyl, I did so with a bit of hesitation. Not only do I know severalpeople in the blogosphere will be looking at this release quite closely, but also because I really loved his debut CD, and no one likes to be disappointed, right? It’s not like I haven’t had a good idea of what is on the CD from the preview tracks “Binary Love”, “Heartbreak on Vinyl”, and current single “Sad Song”. The good news is that this record ups the dance quotient exponentially from Audio Day Dream, while holding onto the clever wordplay that helped ADD become a standout 2007 release.
I could rave about the title track for several paragraphs, but the first real standout track for me is “Freak”, which finds Blake flirting some authentic dancefloor beats that mix with a trance-like feel. “Rhythm of My Heart” goes straight for the 80s era synths with some beatbox scratching in the mix, and then “Afraid” comes back to 2009 with potentially the most radio-friendly track on the CD. While they are all dance tracks, each track has a distinct style. Having said that, the common denominator is the way that Blake takes the lyrics of each track and uses them to build the vibe of that particular songs. These are not songs where a melody is written first, and then the lyrics are written to fit that melody after the fact. The music, the beats, and the lyrics all come together to establish a mood that is greater than each individual part could do on its own.
Heartbreak, for all of the strengths, still has one glaring issue that slows down the middle of the disc. For me, the production on some tracks that sounds a bit amateurish. “Left My Baby For You” is a good example, where some of Blake’s repeated lyrics just sound flat and don’t really go anywhere. It’s like you are waiting for this great rollercoaster, and then your car goes down the first hill just as slow as it went up, even though you are waiting for top speed.
It wouldn’t be a Blake Lewis CD without a beatbox track, but on this disc, he keeps it to a one-minute track called “SuperScratchaVocalisticTurnatableLicious”, and it works because it’s just a quick vignette, and then we are back into the lyrical content. “Our Rapture of Love” is the first mellow song, reminding me of slower tracks on classic dance CDs like Kosheen’s first album, and then “The Point” steps a little bit away from the dance tracks, providing a vocal highlight for Blake. With all of the vocal acrobatics and beatboxing that Blake is capable of, it’s great to hear a track where he just sings, and sings well.
Overall, the CD is terrific. In a world where dance albums are often just a lot of filler to milk buyers looking for one killer jam, Heartbreak makes sure it doesn’t break your heart with inferior material. Blake kept his promise about the material being more love-related, but it’s not a sappy collection at all. In fact, the appropriate response to this kind of love is to hit the dancefloor and dance. Mission accomplished.
– Current songs that sound really good on the radio: Alphabeat’s “The Spell”, which is up on Radio 1 in advance of its release on October 18th, and REALLY needs to see a US release; Britney’s “3”, which I heard coming out of David Guetta’s “Sexy Bitch”, making for a pretty impressive (and surprising) one-two punch; and Carrie Underwood’s “Cowboy Casanova”, which needs to see a pop radio push at some point in the near future. Even in its original form, it is incredibly catchy.
– Who decided that Crazy Frog needed a new album, let alone one that’s an exclusive to Wal-Mart? And how disturbing is it that “Cha Cha Slide” is among the tracks covered? Or “Last Christmas”? Thankfully, there aren’t samples on the website, or I might be typing wounded right now.
So for the record, how many bloggers even collect a paycheck for what they do, let alone get freebies from a record label? Personally, I can count on one hand the number of times I have received promotional material from a label, and even then, I let them know point blank that I will not promote anything that I do not believe in. I can see the potential for a class-action lawsuit against the FTC on this, but when was the last time you paid money into the music blog lobbying fund? Yeah…me either.
– The new Usher? Good, but not great, although it’s a definite return to Confessions-style slowjams.
Sometimes the musical blogosphere seems a bit detached from the rest of the world, because we seem to operate with our own agenda and timetable, and that doesn’t always match up with reality. A few months ago, you would have sworn that the new Pet Shop Boys was released worldwide, but the reality of that was America saw a release several weeks after most other countries. So it seems a bit odd to me that we are looking at record companies pushing artists with buzz here in the U.S. that have been out elsewhere for a while now. Here are a few of the more interesting arrivals on American soil over the past few weeks. Make sure that you read through to the end for a cool little giveaway…
– Gary Go – So I RAVED about “Wonderful” when it came out. Amazing song, cool video, quirky artist, but where do you go from that? Well, in the case of Gary Go, you only get to #25 with the single and #22 with the full-length before you turn your attention to…America? Yeah, that’s not the typical model, but I have a feeling that it might work with Gary. This could actually help him out at home as well, because if the powers that be back at Decca see that he is become successful in the U.S., there will inevitably be a second push for Gary back in the U.K.
My initial reaction to tracks from the CD was not that great, but after having heard the full domestic release, I am hooked. Americans won’t necessarily recognize the Gary Barlow-like songwriting, but they will recognize the Coldplay-like song structure with a bit more of a personal touch. Besides, who couldn’t use a little uplifting these days, courtesy of “Wonderful”? Personally, I see the similarly-upbeat “Open Arms” making some bigger waves, but I really like the more mellow “Heart and Soul” and the elegant “Brooklyn”.
– La Roux – Oh, Elly Jackson. I am sure you mean well, with your punkish attitude and your mile-high hair. The public loves a polarizing figure sometimes if there is some redeeming quality. Unfortunately, at this moment, there really isn’t one for La Roux in the U.S. (released digitally this month), because while she may have an interesting persona, the music just isn’t where the American public is currently. It’s a really good CD…former #1 dance track “Bulletproof” will lodge itself into your head for hours at a time, and “In For the Kill”, despite certain frequencies of Elly’s voice, is a pretty classy electronic pop romp. The rough part for Elly and Co is that in order to crack the pop charts here in the States, you either need a sound that draws off of something that’s already been a hit, or something that is completely new, different, and impactful. I just don’t see this happening with anything on the current release, but hopefully they develop enough of an underground following that will sustain them through to their sophomore effort.
– Noisettes – I admit it…”Don’t Upset the Rhythm” was not an immediate hit with me. Despite all of the raving that was going on for the track, it just did not fully click with me. Fortunately, there was more to this trio from London than just an all-out funky jam (which is currently in the Top 5 of the Billboard Dance/Club Play chart). “Never Forget You” seeped into my brain, and has made regular appearances for the past month, making it a strong candidate for “Earworm of the Year”. If there is a track that can crack America, it is “Forget”, which has a bit of an Amy Winehouse vibe to it, but with a lot more 60s-era class. This is custom-made for the VH1 set, and it would only take one breakthrough performance on a show like Saturday Night Live (think Adele last year) to bring this album to the masses. Here’s hoping…
So speaking of bringing this record to the people, I have three copies of the Noisettes’ Wild Young Hearts to give away. All you have to do is leave a note in the comments section with a good reason I should send you a copy. Creativity and knowledge of the band don’t hurt the cause, and living in the US or Canada would be good as well, because that’s as far as we can ship at the moment. Good luck!
No, this isn’t a Hilary Duff flashback. This is a flashback to the mid-90s, when Toni Braxton ruled the Pop, Dance and R&B charts with hit after hit. She’s back after a few years away from the charts with “Yesterday”, her first single on Atlantic Records. At first listen, this song sounds like a lot of other songs that have been released over the past two years, and those comparisons are completely legit. But the song is a Toni Braxton song, and the vocals are 100% Toni. She’s not trying to sound like anyone else, because there isn’t anyone in the music game right now that can sound like Toni. The track is already Top 40 at Adult UC, and is rapidly climbing the R&B chart, so a pop crossover may not be that far-fetched. If ever there was a time where I would put money on a comeback, this is the one. What do you think?
You can pick up the single at her website. Rumor has it that the full-length is coming out sometime in early 2010.