For about as long as there has been a pop chart and a country chart, well-written songs have found success on both. Whether it is Patsy Cline taking “Walking After Midnight” to number two on the US Country chart and number 12 on the Pop chart in 1957, or it is dueling versions of the same song by different artists (see “I Swear,” “I Can Love You Like That,” “How Do I Live,” “Back at One,” and of course “I Will Always Love You”), a great song is a great song no matter how much twang you sing it with. We probably should have seen an Adele cover coming from Nashville, but I did not expect to see THIS version:
When I saw that David Nail had recorded a version of “Someone Like You” and was releasing it on an EP, I was nervous. David is an amazing singer and is refreshing in the way he avoids a lot of the Country music clichés, but I didn’t know what his intentions were. Turns out that Nail uses the song to warm up before shows and only recorded the above video for acquaintances who wanted to revisit his powerful interpretation. A video lead to a posting on Vevo, which lead to fans demanding a studio version of the song. Fortunately, David’s record company MCA Nashville decided to play along, scheduling the song for an EP called 1979 that will be released on July 17th.
For those of you not familiar with David Nail, please believe me when I say he’s the real deal. He’s been at the music game for over a decade, but scored his first major hit in 2008 with “Red Light,” which went top 10 on the Country chart and even reached the middle region of the Billboard Hot 100. His biggest hit to date came last year with “Let It Rain,” which went to number one and cemented his status as one to watch. I saw him open for Lady Antebellum on their Need You Now tour in 2010, and he quickly won over an audience who primarily had no idea who he was. In fact, he was so good that he made a band on their first headlining tour look downright amateurish. The one thing I remembered about David Nail’s set is that he did not resort to a lot of covers like other acts do (including Lady Antebellum). He owned that audience simply by playing his own music and playing it well. Any success and respect this guy gets is well-deserved.
I have a history for liking male pop artists that got their start on American Idol. Elliot Yamin, Blake Lewis and (most importantly) Chris Richardson have all made their mark on the pop charts post-Idol to some degree, but none of them have had what you’d call a superstar career. Chris Rich may be on his way to the next level via Young Money, but that remains to be seen (check back in about a week or so for more on that). In the meantime, it’s time to welcome Stefano Langone to the club. His initial hook on the show was his soulful vocals (especially his cover of Smokie Norful’s “I Need You Now“), but he made his mark on the semi-finals with a remixed version of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Lately.”
While making it to seventh on American Idol is nothing to sneeze at, it sure isn’t a guarantee of a recording contract. In fact, of the ten previous 7th place finishers, only Academy Award-winning Jennifer Hudson has had any enduring success in the music business. However, season 11 was different. When Pia Toscano was unexpectedly eliminated after Top Nine Week, Interscope Records quickly put out a press release saying that her signing was inevitable, showing the equation for signing Idol artists would be a little different now that Jimmy Iovine was directly involved in the show. So when an announcement was made in January 2012 that Stefano was signed to Hollywood Records, no one was really surprised. Fast forward three months later, and here is the initial offering from Stefano Langone:
Full disclosure: The first time I heard “I’m On a Roll,” I didn’t know what to make of it. I expected something slightly more R&B than pop, but after a few listens, the song is now stuck in my head. The lyrics aren’t going to set the world on fire, but the song is fun and it fits right in with what is getting airplay in the US right now. If this is the direction he planned on going, he’s made a pretty brilliant play for pop success, even bringing along in-demand rappers the New Boyz for the ride. However, I believe Stefano may be setting himself up for getting a foot in the door so his more soulful vocals and writing can get to a wider audience. That in itself makes rooting for “I’m On a Roll” to be a success even easier to do.
Stefano Langone’s “I’m On a Roll” comes out on April 24th in the US, and he will perform the song for the first time on American Idol on the 26th.
It has been a year and a half in the making, but the wait has been worth it. World, meet Aiden Grimshaw:
As I type this, I realize many already know who Aiden is. He appeared on the 2010 edition of The X Factor UK, and was a surprise elimination early in the semi-finals, leaving before lesser competitors like Paije Richardson and Katie Waissel. The fact that Waissel was saved over Grimshaw was a glaring reminder that while talent competitions need talent, they also need drama. No matter. As of today, Aiden is in a much better place than Katie, as his first single for RCA Records (UK) is unleashed upon the world. “Is This Love” (out 3 June in the UK) finds Grimshaw in his element, matching his angsty yet ethereal vocals against a drum-and-bass track that places him right in the middle of a dance-primed pop market custom-built for the track. While his US prospects might not be as solid, you never know, as Alex Clare is currently climbing the Billboard Hot 100 with “Too Close,” thanks to a Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 advert.
So rather than talk about what “Is This Love” is like, let’s talk about what it is not like: anything on Syco Music. Being ejected from the The X Factor appears to have been a blessing, as he is not saddled with the formulaic common pop track that other acts like One Direction or JLS appear to be more than happy to record. That’s not to slam them, because there’s a place in the marketplace for that, and based on sales it’s a big place. Here’s hoping that Aiden Grimshaw blazes his own trail and defies the odds stacked against X Factor alumni who don’t finish in the Top 3.
Aiden Grimshaw’s full-length debut Misty Eye arrives on 13 August via RCA Records (UK). If Misty Eye is as solid as “Is This Love”, it will be ranked among the best albums released by an artist from any talent show, not just The X Factor.
As a music lover, I’m all about a groove or a vibe that moves my feet, my head or my soul. Having said that, for some reason I’m biased against dance music recorded by male vocalists. It’s not that I dislike male vocalists, but much of the time I just don’t buy the male vocal on a straight-ahead dance track. That’s why some of the dance-pop music that has come out over the past two months has been so impressive to me. Here are a few tracks that are keeping my earbuds jumping:
“The Rush” – Warren Nomi
Warren Nomi’s current release for Citrusonic, “The Rush.” is a bit different from a lot of the radio-ready dance music hitting the airwaves currently, but it’s not tough to imagine “The Rush” slotting into a dance-friendly playlist. I have a good feeling about this guy: he proved in his prior incarnation as Nomi Madness that he has a great ear for a strong hook (see “Red Wine Girl“), so here’s hoping this is just the start. Nomi’s deal with Citrusonic is currently just singles, but it only takes one track to take off for an album to get the green light and this may be the song to seal the deal. You can pick up “The Rush” on iTunes and Amazon now.
“Only the Horses” – Scissor Sisters
There is always a chance when an established act goes in a more mainstream-sounding direction that the word “sellout” will be slung at them. If that’s the case, I hope the Scissor Sisters are ready, because it is going to happen to them any minute now. After a bizarre but cool hip-hop track called “Shady Love” surfaced in January, they have launched the official first single from their upcoming fourth disc Magic Hour (out 28 May in the UK, out…sometime in the rest of the world). “Only the Horses” sounds like a cross between a remix of and a sequel to Night Work‘s “Fire with Fire”, with Calvin Harris and Alex Ridha along for the ride on production. Yes, this song musically sounds like much of the current dance-pop onslaught, but at the heart of the track are well-written lyrics and a strong vocal performance from Jake Shears. If I have a complaint, it’s that Ana Matronic seems to have been lost in the shuffle of Magic Hour‘s promotion, and I’m hoping her presence will be felt once the full album drops. Give in and love this track…I already have. (Out 13 May in the UK, hopefully around that time in the US?)
“Let’s Go” – Calvin Harris featuring Ne-Yo
Speaking about Mr. Harris, he unleashes what feels like the ninth single off of his hopefully-forthcoming album in the form of “Let’s Go.” While the majority of DJ tracks feature powerful female vocalists, Harris had the right sense to bring in Ne-Yo to give the track a fresh sound, and it’s obvious from the first verse that Calvin chose well. Ne-Yo proved that he could propel a hot track back in ’08 with “Closer”, and he doesn’t stray far from that formula here. Expect this to be massive everywhere, including the US once the current single “Feels So Close” dies down a bit. (Out 22 April in the UK)
Music should move you. It may seem like that’s a given, but when you listen to a lot of music, it’s easy to take that fact for granted. I haven’t been MOVED by much lately, so when something has that impact on me, I stop and take notice. Such is the case with “Otis,” sample number one from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s upcoming Watch the Throne, due on August 1st in digital form and August 5th on a physical CD.
It’s not a complex track, but its impact is potent. Otis Redding’s passionate vocals from “Try a Little Tenderness” imbue the cut with enough soul to fill an album, yet “Otis” only lasts 3 minutes. Jay is slick, Yeezy is bragging, and the track sets the tone that all competitors should think twice before attempting to steal the Throne. Every time you think hip-hop has lost its way, a track comes along to say “we honor the past while pushing toward the future.” “Otis” does just that.
I am in a weird place with music at the moment…either a new song is not worth mentioning or it is the best thing ever. There have been a few best songs ever in the past few weeks: Adele’s entire CD 21, “Moment 4 Life” by Nicki Minaj and Drake, and my current obsession “How To Make a Heart” from Bright Light Bright Light. I feel a bit repetitive raving about BLx2, especially since I sang their praises last year on the eve of releasing his first single “Love Part 2.” Until the world becomes hip to this electronic-with-a-soul music, I doubt I’ll shut up.
According to Bright Light Bright Light‘s frontman and sole member Rod Thomas, the video (created by Gavin Leisfield) is one of several videos we will see of songs from BLx2’s upcoming album Make Me Believe In Hope. This album cannot come soon enough, as every morsel released has been just as engaging and awe-inspiring as the last. Rod will be in the US in March, appearing on Sirius/XM OutQ’s “Morning Jolt,” as well as playing a few showcases at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. While I would love to see him live this time around at some small club in Austin, I have a feeling this won’t be the last trip Mr Thomas will make to these shores. To hold you over, the video is available as a free download here.
Talk about something coming out of left field!
Calling America! Great news for all Shayne’s US fans! The brilliant third album Obsession is set for a digital release on February 8th in the US! “Close To Close” will be the lead track in the States so don’t forget to call your local radio station and request it! 😉 Also visit VEVO on Tuesday to see the hot video for… ‘Gotta Be Somebody’ and be sure to follow Shayne on Twitter for more news.
The rumors of this happening have floated for every album since he debuted, but it seems a bit odd coming on the heels of a less-than-successful album like Obsession. Then again, Taio Cruz wasn’t exactly the biggest star in the UK when he released Rokstarr in the United States, and he ended up with two of 2010’s biggest hits in “Dynamite” and “Break Your Heart.” It will be interesting to see just how much promotion Shayne puts into the US, as well as if there will be a video for “Close To Close.” I think with the right push, he could actually do well here in the States. “Close To Close” sounds like something that could do well on the radio.