Friday, November 30, 2007
Yes, it's more news about Blake Lewis, but--much as it might seem like it--I'm not posting every time I find out new news--I managed to refrain from dedicating a post yesterday to the fact that you can now listen to clips of all the songs on the album here (I'm not listening; I'm going to [try to] wait until I've got the actual physical album before I listen to anything else from it that I haven't already heard; the fact that someone compared one of the songs to 'N Sync's "Pop," which I so wanted Blake to cover during Idol, nearly made me break that vow, though)--you've got to love how there's already a review bashing it and a review praising it based on no more than those clips--or to the fact that his official site is now up and running.
The main justification for this post for this post, though, is Billboard's review of the album.
One can't help but proceed with caution when an album is named after Attention Deficit Disorder, especially when the artist caught his break by beatboxing on a reality TV show where he used to sing the praises of 311. But skeptics can relax: "American Idol" season six runner-up Blake Lewis' debut, "ADD: Audio Day Dream," is indeed a little all over the map, but, surprisingly, it works. Unlike other run-of-the-mill debuts from former "Idol" contests, "ADD" is packed with electro-funk jams, hip-hop beats and soaring ballads that explode with Lewis' personality and uniqueness. Taking cues from Justin Timberlake ("Break Anotha"), Erasure ("End of the World"), Prince ("She's Makin' Me Lose It") and the Police ("1,000 Miles"), Lewis gives fans plenty to get excited about here, even those with short attention spans.
By the time this album actually comes out, Blake and reviewers are going to have mentioned literally every artist who ever released something in the '80's and half the male popstars of today, aren't they?
There's also a review of the Lupe Fiasco-featuring version of "Know My Name" (with a tiny bit about the album) here, which, presuming you've heard the leaked version, would probably only be interesting to you if you want to have some idea of what Lupe raps, or if you're *cough* being obsessive.
Quick edit to say that Entertainment Weekly's review (titled, though you can't see it there, "Half Blaked") is far from positive. Some excerpts:
[W]hile most of Lewis' tracks begin or end with a sputtering smattering of simulated vocal percussion — on top of a half-dozen interludes of the 'boxing s-s-st-st-stuff — the remaining 90 percent of the CD finds him trying to do what he doesn't do best: sing.
If there's a genre for his vocal style, it's ''poor man's Adam Levine.'' He certainly doesn't have the Maroon 5 frontman's chops, so a lot of Lewis' overproduced cuts keep him in a comfort zone where he can jump from midrange into a falsetto, bypassing too many pesky high notes. Emotion hardly factors in, with Lewis dead-set on asserting himself as the lothario who'll mosey into the club and steal your girlfriend (''What'cha Got 2 Lose?''). He's aiming to be the hip-hop-slang-slinging sibling of his brother-in-beatboxing, Justin Timberlake. But he's a pretty puppyish stud.
The pimp behind this transformation is Ryan ''Alias'' Tedder, the OneRepublic songwriter who co-penned and co-produced eight ADD tracks — and who's bent on doing for Lewis what Tedder's mentor, Timbaland, helped do for Timberlake. But Tedder's touch doesn't extend far beyond lyrical come-ons (''I'm givin' in to ya/You're givin' in to me/So give it away'') and halfway-realized hooks. Of his material, ''Gots to Get Her'' is the only real standout, and that's partly because it borrows so much of its rhythmic cadence from ''Puttin' on the Ritz'' that Lewis and Tedder share credit with Irving Berlin.
Remember him singing the Cure's ''Love Song'' on Idol? While he's no Robert Smith, he can at least aspire to ape Smith's lesser synth-pop contemporaries like Heaven 17. ''How Many Words'' and ''1000 Miles'' do an okay job of recalling New Romantic crooners who eked out careers by being sorta suave. If Lewis could just find a way to integrate all his early-MTV influences (A Flock of Fat Boys?), well...that album wouldn't be great either — though it'd be less forgettable than this exercise in pop adequacy.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Gots To Get Her"
The real key thing for this album is probably going to be the hooks, so the "halfway-realized hooks" part is worrying and, if true, a very good and important point to make. Otherwise, "overproduced" + "synth-pop" + "puppyish stud" = sign me up! Although that first sentence I quoted is quite the "zing," it (and the first paragraph, which I left out) kind of misses the point--it was never Blake's voice nor even his beatboxing that was the really exciting part of him on Idol or in terms of his potential (though the beatboxing was a great tool for exciting performances, I don't think your average viewer really cared whether Blake was an amazing beatboxer or an average one); for me, it's the style and, yes, the ideas that hooked me in. We just have to wait for the album to arrive to see how it all pans out.
In fact, we might be able to say I'm addicted to it. I know, I know, there's something kind of inherently non-classy about Lorie and it's not cool at all to like her (she's got a reputation as being just for little kids), but really, "Je vais vite" is fantastic dance-pop and (predictably) I've ordered the full album--the previews of it just sounded too good to pass up (I'll definitely write about it at some point after I get it), and I had to get the physical version if only to satisfy my curiosity about the credits for "Play" and to have any sort of chance at understanding the lyrics, as one site said (though possibly in jest) that the song "2Lor en moi?" was like her "Piece Of Me." As attempted reinventions go, Lorie might be "borrowing" pretty heavily from other artists, but she's hit on a pop subgenre that I enjoy too much for me to pass up. Plus, the video is nicely glossy and I like the dancing.
In preemptive celebration of the album, here's one of the more dance-pop sounding songs from her previous album, Rester la même.
On chante--this is rushing upbeat dance-pop that kind of bridges the gap between Lorie's earlier material and her new stuff (well, what I've heard of it, anyway)--it's got the dance influences of her latest album, but the kind of youthful unselfconsciouness of her earlier music (though even Rester la même was an attempt to "mature" her image and sound, I think). I do think Lorie is trying to make herself cooler now, and even if I'm amused by her definition of cool and really looking forward to hearing 2Lor en moi, there's something to be said for this bright style of music that's really all about fun. The lyrics may be cheesy, but they're very "aww" in a power-of-music kind of way as well. I love the little tossed off "on chante"s and "obsolètes". Pure pop greatness.
To buy Lorie's album Rester la même, go here (physical) or here (digital).
Next up: maybe something off a just-released and surprisingly very good Swedish album.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Just possibly yes...
Thanks to Alex for the tip that you can buy that Agnes/Måns Zelmerlöw "All I Want For Christmas Is You" duet I was talking about yesterday from Expressen here (you can also listen to a preview of the song there). I was able to buy it, so I presume anyone who has a credit card, regardless of country, should be able to do so as well, which is a big "yay." It's a slowed down version, going more for the "lovely" thing than the "jump around dancing" thing. You can watch a small news feature on it that features clips from the music video/ad here.
The actual song for today? Well, I'm not sure that I have that much to say about it--I wrote about Eurobandið just a little earlier and said that their song "Fullkomið líf" had qualified to the finals of Iceland's national selection for Eurovision. I think I really like it, so I decided to post it.
Fullkomið líf--oh, completely unrelated to this song, but have I mentioned how high Iceland is rising on my good list? Not only do they have some great artists of their own, a certain someone has his version of "You Give Love A Bad Name" getting frequent play on at least one of their big radio stations. Anyhow, "Fullkomið líf" (which I've read means "Perfect Life") is a big upbeat duet between Regína Ósk and Friðrik Ómar and yes, there were some "styling issues" (incidentally, they didn't look at all like they do in this picture), but the song is catchy and strong. Given poor Iceland's luck in making it out of the semifinals recently, I have no idea if this song would do the trick for them, but at least it'll be a good listen for Eurovision fans. One more note: the song is written by Örlygur (Öggi) Smári, who's done several of my favorite Icelandic songs from 2007, Páll Óskar's "International" and "Allt fyrir ástina."
I don't know of anywhere where you can buy this song yet, but I imagine Tonlist.is/.com will end up carrying the album for Laugardagslögin 2008 when it comes out.
Speaking of Iceland, apparently Birgitta Haukdaul (their 2003 representative) will be in the next semifinal (as part of a duet), a fact which I'd be more excited about (I think "Open Your Heart" is great) if her latest album didn't sound pretty dull from all the preview clips I've heard of it.
Next up: maybe something else from Iceland.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
She Wants You--one of the singles from Billie's first album. It does sound very much of its era, but it's still catchy and still good enough to be worth playing now. The song is mid-tempo but very suitable for dancing--well, at least for the choreographed group dance routines of the time. I think I remember reading that it was released in the U.S. or was supposed to be at some point as well?
To buy Billie Piper's debut album Honey To The B, go here (physical) or here (digital).
Next up: I went through a period of time where I was convinced Billie Piper was the best person on planet Earth ever, so we'll definitely have to go into the fantasticness that is her second album at some point, but I'm thinking a Swedish singer next.
Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is obviously the best pop Christmas song ever, right? And yes, I listen to Magnus Carlsson's cover of it. But somehow, I'd never expected the next version of it likely to get playlisted by me would be a duet between Måns Zelmerlöw and Agnes Carlsson, both contestants from the same season of Swedish Idol. Apparently no one wants to talk about it, but Aftonbladet says they've heard it'll be coming out as a single in the near future.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I can be kind of hypocritical about covers. As a general rule, I say I'm not in favor of them--I'd rather have an original song and often (though certainly this could apply to original songs as well) they just seem lazy (see a certain future Sir Robin's second non-holiday album). On the other hand, I'm fascinated by the recycled songs circuit (even if I'm not always a fan of it) and there's a good chance that if a current singer covers a song from the '80's or earlier or even probably early '90's, I'll prefer it to the original (though that might have something to do more with production techniques and so on). I know, like any sort of song, there are both good and bad covers, but I just have a particularly complex relationship with them.
Bryan Rice's first album was a prime example of that recycling of songs I mentioned earlier, and I kind of have a mini-obsession with documenting all the originals and covers of the songs on it.
His second album, released this fall, is a different story. I haven't yet pinpointed any "recycled" songs on it, but there is definitely a cover, and it's one of my favorite songs on the album. I imagine if you're a true fan of the original, which was a hit for British singer Tasmin Archer in 1992, there's a good chance you won't like this version, but I do. We still have the original artist who co-wrote the song and the other writers to thank for its quality, and whether I like this version as a companion to the original because it's more modern sounding or (knowing me, probably more likely) it's got a male singer, I'm not sure. You'd think, in this version, the song would be a bit one man boy band ballad sounding, but I don't think it is, and it still keeps the mysterious edge of the original. Plus, I have a relationship with Bryan similar to the one I have with Anders Johansson--something about them just rely endears them to me, even while I know their music will be too bland for some.
To buy Bryan Rice's second album Good News, go here (physical) or here (digital).
On a completely unrelated note, French singer Lorie's new album, 2lor en moi?, just came out and, while I freely admit that it's probably just overproduced shiny dance-pop, I'm really intrigued--heck, that probably just makes me want it more. I may pick it up as soon as I have money again; I'm really liking some of the preview clips of it, especially "Play" (is that a sample?), and I still love "Je vais vite." Apparently (maybe) she's also involved in a single theoretically being promoed to the rest of Europe and the U.S. called "Lonely." You can listen to a clip of the song, credited to 2AM feat. Lorie, here.
World, I am on my knees, begging you. Please let this song be a huge hit. It's the exact definition of a song that should be--pop to cross boundaries, distinctive enough to rise above the pack, class through and through, meaningful enough to tug at the heartstrings of everyone who hears it, and, yes, catchy. A literally perfect song.
What do I have to do? I'll do it. If there is one song this year that needs to be a crossover, cross-country/continent/world hit, it's this one.
(I think the opening two lines of this song may be the best opening lines of a song ever.)
That's the (to me, somewhat confusing) description of the song Paolo Meneguzzi is confirmed to be singing for Switzerland in Eurovision 2008. It'll be called "Era stupendo." No idea when we'll get to hear it for the first time, though.
Edit/update: and Oikotimes describes it as "a ballad with some disco elements." I'm still confused but also intrigued.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I happened to read Fluxblog today--I don't read it particularly faithfully, but some of its writing can really make you think--and was really caught by something Matthew Perpetua wrote. Describing Kate Nash's song "Pumpkin Soup," he says that he originally misheard the line "I hope that you don't think I'm unkind" as "I hate that you don't think I'm unkind," and still prefers the misheard lyric because "my misheard version adds an extra bit of insecurity that isn't quite as obvious as the rest of what she's singing. I like the idea that she's frustrated by the fact that this boy would think that she's too sweet, even when she's going out of her way to keep things purely physical and emotionally distant."
That almost instantly made me think of my reaction to Espen Lind's "Look Like Her." Technically, I never really misheard this song, but every time I listen to it, I can't help thinking that one little lyrical twist could have vastly increased my appreciation for the song--which, to be honest, is kind of odd for me, someone who rarely pays attention to lyrics and half the time has no idea what they're about anyway because she doesn't speak the language. Once I got the idea in my head, though, I just couldn't shake it.
Like much of Espen's third album, April, "Look Like Her" is a very simple acoustic ballad that just borders on feeling intimate but is so well-produced that it isn't quite. Espen has a great way with melody, which is a good thing--the album probably wouldn't stand up to much if he didn't. Over the course of ten songs, though, good as the formula is, the listener can start to wish that Espen would mix it up a bit.
As it currently stands, "Look Like Her" is just a little too straightforward for me--only the most minimal of instrumentation, all acoustic, simple catchy melody, and lyrics about how Espen has finally found his match. In the chorus, he sings
I have been waiting all my life
For someone to come and put things right
Never knew who she was
Never knew what she looked like...till now
Everyone said that I would know
When she appears, it’s gonna show
And now you are here
And from where I’m standing
You look like her
Pretty straightforward, right? Love at first sight kind of stuff, sung over a good if unsurprising acoustic ballad. And yet, the song could be so much more interesting if one little change was made in the theme. Keep the key line, the "You look like her," even keep how it's delivered, but change its meaning: make it so that Espen is singing about how this new girl reminds him of someone. In a heartbeat, the "You look like her" changes from simple recognition of attraction to a halfway wistful recognition of attraction mixed with loss. Sure, love and loss is just as common a theme in pop songs as is love itself, but the simple acoustic strums here don't lead you to expect that's where Espen is going with this song...and, as it turns out, he isn't; he's not creating this suprising matchup of music and lyrics. I just wish he was. The song would be more...meaningful and interesting for me that way.
To buy Espen Lind's third album April, go here (physical).
Next up: back to the traditional post format for something very poppy.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Airport Taxi Reception
To buy Sondre Lerche's album Phantom Punch, go here (physical) or here (digital). It's also available on iTunes stores throughout the world.
Next up: maybe that American songwriter.
Paolo Meneguzzi is going to represent Switzerland in Eurovision 2008!
Back with more intelligent commentary and other Eurovision-related news (which I know I've been bad at reporting recently) in a bit, when I've stopped freaking out (with excitement).
(I'll just edit my thoughts and stuff into this post.)
All right, so the idea of Paolo--my favorite Italian singer (well, technically Swiss, but his career is based in Italy) and an artist I've adored since PinkieDust first wrote about him over on You Call That Life--in Eurovision has me incredibly excited. He's entered some great songs in Sanremo over the years, and I would think if there's anything we can look at to get a good idea of the sort of song he's likely to sing for Eurovision, it would be the songs he's sung in Italy's national song contest than inspired Eurovision (though Italy has pulled out of Eurovision, Sanremo continues).
(Usually, since I tend to prefer studio versions over live versions, I'd post the music videos for these songs, but instead, to give an idea of what he's like live, for his Sanremo songs, I'm actually posting him performing them for Sanremo.)
In 2004, Paolo sang "Guardami negli occhi (Prego)" in San Remo. It's one of my favorite songs of his. If there's any artist who can make me pay attention even when he's not singing something danceable, it's Paolo; the mid-tempo and ballad songs he does are completely lush and gorgeous. "Guardami negli occhi (prego)" is catchy as well, though.
2005 brought the equally lovely though slightly sadder-sounding and slightly less energetic "Non capiva che l'amavo." It's another of my favorites of his. His songs tend to have this gorgeous (but also often strong and dramatic) orchestral backing, and this is no exception--love the strings.
In 2006, he sang probably the most "typical ballad" of these three songs, "Musica." Though I prefer recent single "Ti amo ti odio" (I'm still upset about its actual music video, so I'm just linking to the audio instead), it's good as well.
He can do danceable songs too, though! "Vero falso," from his album Lei è (which I strongly recommend getting in its 2004 reedition if you like any of the songs I've posted; it's one of the best albums I own), is dance-influenced, catchy, and fantastic.
I mean, a genuinely great professional singer who's also a great pop artist--could this get any better? Well, I guess the answer is that depends on the song, but I'm hopeful.
In other Eurovision news, Iceland, which has a pretty good recent history quality-wise if not ranking-wise in the contest, is in the middle of its national selection process. To be honest, I've not been paying the closest of attention to it, but from what I have watched, there are only three songs worth paying any sort of attention to so far, either because they're good or interesting or divisive in some way.
Mercedes Club's "Ho, Ho, Ho, We Say Hey, Hey, Hey" is a '90's-sounding techno-influenced upbeat song (with chants and drums) sung mainly by a female singer. It's notable both for the fact that its probably-not-sung-live-so-far nature (Iceland isn't requiring singers to perform live) makes what it will actually sound like at Eurovision (if it makes it) questionable and for the abundance of greased-up shirtless men in the performance (which is not as exciting as it sounds). It's through to the final.
Eurobandið, made up of Regína Ósk and Friðrik Ómar, two popular contestants from 2006 and 2007's national finals, sung the dance-influenced upbeat "Fullkomið lif" to the finals last night. They made a point of singing live. It's kind of schlager-y, if not quite (more in a "if you like Melodifestivalen's schlager, you might like this" sort of way).
The two-woman duo Hara's "I Wanna Manicure" disappointed me after having been intrigued by them earlier as a result of their song choices on X Factor and then intrigued again by the media buildup to their performance--the chorus isn't as catchy as I would've liked (the music's beeps are catchy, but the vocal melody in the chorus didn't feel catchy enough for me). I could change my mind when I hear the studio version, though. Still, their slightly punky pop song was backed up by enough staging and fireworks that I imagine people will remember at least the performance. "I Wanna Manicure" will probably make it to the second chance round (edit: but there's no guarantee--"Fullkomið lif" made it to the finals--and we'll find out if "I Wanna Manicure" makes it to the second chance round next week).
Speculation continues about Sweden's singers, though I think--if I'm remembering correctly--we're supposed to find out the official list this Tuesday. Expressen ran an article about the performers, though. We'll have to wait even longer to find out the wildcards--the annual rumor about Ace of Base has cropped up again (EDIT: and, unsurprisingly, we've just found out that they're not doing it) and Lena Philipsson has been said to be entering as a duo with her writer and touring partner Orup. I'm not so sure that I want Lena in Melodifestivalen again--she was great, but I'm just not that sure about entering again in 2008 when she won so recently (in 2004), just because it seems like you might want a little more time to bask in the glory of winning, but I would LOVE new music from her.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
For The Best--I guess this is mid-tempo as well, but it also feels somewhat more ballady than "Too Much Ain't Enough." Primarily piano-based, this song takes full advantage of Maria's voice--she does this...well, I used the word "wistful" before, but I'm not sure how accurate that is (especially for this song's lyrics). She sounds lovely on this song, though, whatever the proper word to describe its tone is. If you were really the guy she was singing to, I don't think you'd find much comfort from her assurances that your break-up was for the best and she didn't mean to hurt you and that she'll still be there for you as a friend--sure, there's some pretense at sympathy, but I imagine for her former partner she'd sound a little too strong and a little too magnanimous for her words to make him feel better at all. That's not so important for the listeners, though--the strength in the way Maria sings here makes the song catchier. And every now and then, just because that's the way Maria's voice works, it does sound like she is really experiencing some sad emotion. In essence, lovely catchy kind of MOR-y song theoretically expressing regret to the person Maria's broken up with.
Edit: or, actually paying closer attention to the lyrics, maybe a more likely interpretation for the reason Maria talks about remembering breaking his heart and making him cry so much is because she's trying to make herself feel better--those opening verses sure make it sound like her partner has moved on and is doing OK; maybe she's more trying to reassure herself, remembering what she felt like, even if she dwells mainly on her memories of the other person, not of how she felt--comparing how she actually felt and feels to what he actually felt and feels would be too painful. "Know that it was for the best" is probably more sung in hopes she'll remind herself (who still has a picture of this guy on her wall) of that fact (or hope) than to actually remind her ex-boyfriend, currently "doing fine" and with a new girl, of it, even if she's pretending it's vice-versa.
To buy Maria Arredondo's album For A Moment, go here (physical).
Next up: maybe that American singer.
On "Audio Day Dream" -- the title is a play on attention-deficit disorder -- Lewis tries hard to pack in everything he loves about music, flitting from Coldplay-style balladry ("Without You") to synthed-up electro-funk ("Break Anotha") to defanged hip-hop ("Know My Name," which features a cameo by Lupe Fiasco) [note from me: the leaked version is apparently an early unfinished version and it will, as this article mentions, feature rapper Lupe Fiasco; also on the subject of this song, apparently it's about/inspired by Natalie Portman]. He knows how narrow the window is for proving himself worthy of his audience's interest, so he's reimagined the debut album as a highlight reel.
Though it features input by industry heavyweights J.R. Rotem and Mike Elizondo, Lewis' principal collaborator on "Audio Day Dream" is songwriter and producer Ryan Tedder, whose band OneRepublic's "Apologize" (a collaboration with Timbaland) has ruled Top 40 radio this fall. Tedder and Lewis trick out their mercilessly catchy tunes with loads of delicious ear candy: In "Gots to Get Her," they layer a vocal melody inspired by "Puttin' on the Ritz" over fluttering acoustic guitars and triumphant R&B horns, while "Surrender" pairs grinding Depeche Mode keyboards with a pounding hard-rock beat.
"Idol" has produced several terrific vocalists, but it hasn't really yielded an artist as obsessed with sound as Lewis is. His singing on "Audio Day Dream" is fine; it gets the job done. Yet what arrests your ear are Lewis' ideas. With any luck, he'll get the opportunity to keep developing them.
Those last few sentences really capture why I was so excited by the possibilities Blake represented while on Idol--not so much because of his voice (though I like it and would much rather listen to him singing than the U.S.'s main male pop singer) but because of the sort of music he would (I hoped) be likely to make.
In further Blake news, I think I remember reading somewhere that there were more intros/outros than just those listed on the tracklist on Amazon--something like each song having them or something. It's also looking more and more obvious that he/his label/his management are doing the promoting after the album comes out, not beforehand. I hope that's a good idea, but I still feel iffy about it. There are pictures from the filming of the video that show him and a band in front of a green screen...so that really doesn't tell us much. Oh, speaking of the video, here are some more excerpts about it and the album from MTV:
"I worked with so many amazing people on this record, and the title came from this concept I came up with for the album," he explained. "I wanted to make a hip-hop mixtape or a great electronic mix — just one mix, start to finish, that takes you on a journey through metal, drum-and-bass with scratching on it to Michael Jackson pop into Erasure into Depeche Mode into some dub reggae. This album goes everywhere, and it was an amazing process to work on it. There's a song on the record that's [the Police's] 'Every Breath You Take' meets [1984 film] 'The NeverEnding Story.' "
Lewis worked with a cornucopia of producers on A.D.D., including OneRepublic's Ryan "Alias" Tedder, Sam Watters, J.R. Rotem, BT, David Hodges, Mike Elizondo, S*A*M and Sluggo, and Sean Hurley. The set features a guest spot by Lupe Fiasco, and fellow "Idol" finalist Chris Richardson even co-wrote a track. Lewis recently finished working on the video for the LP's first single, "Break Anotha," which was shot against a green screen and has an interesting concept behind it.
"It's hard to describe, but you know how when you open Rorschach inkblot tests, how they have two different sides? It's going to be like that," he said. "There's going to be, like, ink and water, and different effects behind me that come in."It's funny he mentions those inkblot tests, since one of the videos for frequent collaborator Ryan Tedder's band's "Apologize" makes me think of those.
In non-Blake news, three great sites have recently undergone remodeling or relocating and look great: The Zapping is all dressed up for Christmas, I'm Always Right is now at Adem With An E, and Lost In Limbo is now Popology.tv.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Ihmisten edessaä--singer from a reality TV-created group goes solo, gets some artier photos, and seeks publicity and credibility with her new more mature music and "controversial" subject matter? It might seem like it at first glance, since one of the most frequently discussed aspects of this song is its lyrics--what tends to be emphasized is the fact that it's probably about a relationship with a woman--but I think Jenni or at least this song (Jenni herself is remaining mum, saying her private life is private) is too smart to brush off like that.
That's probably overstating the...hmm, subtlety isn't the right word, but really, the song--well, I like that it takes a special strength from the nature of the relationship it's describing, but still uses lyrics that are very much relatable to anyone. The song is given extra meaning and poignancy when you add the dimension of a lesbian relationship if you already know that the song means "In Front Of People" and that Jenni is singing about having the strength to walk in front of people now that she's with her partner, even if people are staring and talking (you can read a translation of the lyrics here if you want to, as well as some of Jenni's thoughts on the song), but really, the music speaks by itself for all of us who don't speak Finnish. There's one perfect word to describe it: haunting. You might want to add in "beautiful" for a more complete description, though, and "catchy," though not in the way you usually think of catchy, or at least that I usually think of it--here, the catchiness comes from a mix of instrumentation--though the piano jumps out--that feels designed to be both mysterious and powerful in a quiet confidence sort of way. It's a very musicianship-y sounding sort of song.
"Ihmisten edessaä" is written by Teemu Brunila, who has now officially intrigued me--apparently a member of a band called the Crash, he also wrote Anna Abreu's "End Of Love" from earlier this year, making "Ihmisten edessaä" the second non-traditional, interesting, and yet still accessible pop single he's created this year. I know he's done a little writing for at least one or two other pop singers and I may investigate those, but I'll be very interested to see what he does next (in terms of writing for other people)--could just be a fluke, but I'm hoping not.
To buy Jenni Vartianen's album Ihmisten edessaä, go here (physical).
Next up: maybe that American singer, who I've featured before.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
- "retro '80's pop sound"
- "very synth-driven"
- "most of the record was done with programmed sounds, not a lot of live instrumentation" (is this not the opposite direction of that which every artist seems to go in? I love that!)
- "contemporary pop"
- Interviewer says that Jesse's always involved in writing his songs, feeding him an obvious credibility-building line, but Jesse's response is to correct him and say that after the last album he's learned that it doesn't have to be an album written all by himself--he just wants good songs (though he still loves to write)
And for those who are interested, Jesse says "Bleeding Love" might still end up on his album (though probably it won't fit with the style). Hmmm.
Anything else of report? He's writing songs that might be used by some boy bands, the new Menudo and Varsity. We can probably expect a single from Jesse in January and an album in March or April. I really think he could be the vehicle for some good music, some music I'd really like (and I've loved some of his stuff in the past), so I keep holding out hope this new stuff will be good. And you know who else said he was doing '80's-type pop and using synths? Blake Lewis.
Another thing I'm thankful for? John Barrowman's cover of "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." I'm not saying that to be controversial or not controversial or because I think he/his character is fantastic on Doctor Who and I don't care if it's recommended ironically or what it says about my taste in music--I love it.
Neither of those things is related to today's post, though, which is the new single from fifteen year old Swedish singer Amy Diamond. Though she's young, she's already released two albums (one each in 2005 and 2006) and has another due out November 28. She released the lead single, "Is It Love," for it a while back, but the recently released second single is better.
Since this is a new single, it'll only be posted for a short time.
You can preorder Amy Diamond's new album, Music In Motion, here (physical). I quite like the sound of some of the preview clips, though I'm not sure yet whether or not I'm going to buy the whole thing. Speaking of the album, you know how I mentioned Belinda's "Takes One To Know One" when writing about her songs "If We Were" and "End Of The Day"? Well, Amy's got a version of it on the album--but, as I suspected when I saw it on Amy's album, it doesn't look like Belinda was the first one to sing it. Jorun Stiansen from Norwegian Idol has a version on her album.
Oh, speaking of preview clips, apparently you can listen to clips from three new songs from Blake Lewis's album here, if you want to; I haven't yet, but I imagine I'll cave and do so later.
Next up: maybe that Finnish singer.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
That's How You Know--the scene this song accompanies is surely one of the most adorable musical sequences you'll get this year. The soundtrack version of the song I'm posting does (sometimes necessarily) miss out on some of the things that make the song in the movie so great, including Patrick Dempsey's adorable asides and expressions (yes, we're kind of used to this sort of thing now in the post-Shrek world, where one character stands off to the side and tries not to get caught up in the fairytaleness of it all, but he does it really well). Taking some influences from the Little Mermaid's "Kiss The Girl" in performance and Jamaican influence (among a bunch of other references you'll spot during the scene), "That's How You Know" is an adorable (yes, that word again--I can't help using it a bunch of times when talking about this movie) song performed by Amy Adams that starts out kind of traditional Disney song and then gets more fun and ebullient and irresistible as it goes along. It does sound like a song from a musical or movie, not the sort of thing you hear on the radio, but it's very much worth listening to on its own. And I promise you, the movie is even better than this makes it look (if you're worried that it's sickly sweet, it's not; it is very sweet, but it's also very well done).
To buy the soundtrack for Enchanted, go here (physical) or, if you live in the U.S., you can buy it from iTunes.
Next up: maybe an American singer.
*Though I just bothered to look it up and she's done a bunch of bigger films as well--I guess I just associate her with stuff like Junebug.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I Need To Hear It From You--kind of the first single from that album, though it didn't get the exposure that "Like Wow!"did. Very 2000-sounding, very much pop through and through (even though, yes, it has some strummy acoustic guitars), though more on the sweet side of 2000 bubblegum pop than in-your-face attitude pop. The last minute and a half on, from the middle 8, is probably the best part--it's built up a little more there, though the song, until the last 45 seconds (OK, yeah, correction/specification: those probably make up my favorite part of the song), always feels slight, just barely hovering on the edge of existence. In kind of a nice change from the usual "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"-esque "just tell me the truth if you're seeing someone else," this is actually a cute song that finds Leslie saying that her friends have told her "that you've been talkin' 'bout me/how I'm your one and only"
As I said, I don't think Leslie's debut album was ever technically released, but you might be able to find a promo copy on eBay. At the least, you can pick up her single "Like Wow" from Amazon here.
Next up: maybe that Finnish song.
Monday, November 19, 2007
This song will be posted for only a day because it's a new single. You can buy Me & My's new single "Too Much Christmas" here (digital) or pick up their greatest hits album from iTunes stores around the world (it doesn't have this song on it, though).
Next up: maybe something Norwegian, but I'm thinking more a song from circa turn of the century U.S. Or maybe that Finnish song.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Off the top of my head, I can't think of an album that has a better four opening tracks than Tangled Up, the new album from British group Girls Aloud; of course, I don't like "Call The Shots" as the opening track--something more energetic would've been nice--but that's only a small quibble. I've always loved "Sexy! No No No..." and the other two songs, track 2, "Close To Love," and track 4, "Girl Overboard," are complete keepers. (So far, "Can't Speak French" isn't really working for me--it's just too...squooshy. Or maybe it just suffers following four such fantastic tracks.) I legitimately think I need to memorize the lyrics to "Close To Love," especially the bridge--completely anthemic. The song is punchy, powerful, catchy, and makes sure that chorus, bridge, verse, middle 8, and all the little bits in between are all great. "Girl Overboard" is just as strong and exactly the sort of thing that you never get in the U.S. It's complete pop. The bouncy (is that a ska-like beat? I really need to learn my genres) "Control Of The Knife," less full of electro swirls than "Close To Love" and "Girl Overboard," is another early favorite of mine as well.
Girl Overboard--full of electronically created noises, but so very very pop. Even if the splashes during the chorus don't get you giggling, you at least get a great catchy chorus, based on those aforementioned electronics. I didn't find "Sexy! No No No..." too cool-for-the-sake-of-being-cool or without hooks or melody at all, but if you were worried about the too cool thing, it's not here at all--this is still a very Girls Aloud song, but it's not a world away from some stuff you get out of continental Europe from commercial pop acts, or that far away from the influences of a decade or two ago.
I'm completely confused at this point about where you want to order the album from so as to get everything you want--different covers, bonus CDs--so I'll just say that you can buy Girls Aloud's fourth studio album, Tangled Up, from their official site here (I think that'll get you the cover picture with them on it and with the lyrics inside the album booklet, but not the bonus mix CD or any pictures inside the album booklet...or something) or digitally here.
Next up: maybe something American or Norwegian.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Two Of A Kind--their latest single, though it's not exactly super super recent--I missed it when it came out earlier, in October or so, maybe. Catchy dance-pop with a good chorus, and I love the way sound builds during the verses into that horn-esque (but not really) electronic noise in the chorus.
I actually don't know anywhere where everyone can buy N.E.X.'s single "Two Of A Kind"--if anyone does, please let me know! All iTunes stores do have their first two singles, though, I think, and some (the Nordic countries) have "Two Of A Kind."
Next up: probably not until Sunday, but maybe something Finnish, if I can find a good quality version of it or decide to post it anyway.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Everything I Do--lovely (I'm using that word a lot, aren't I?) catchy dance-influenced pop + Ann's sweet young-sounding voice = great song. Ann's not really found success in Sweden, which is a real shame because she's never disappointed on the music front. Even if you're not in the mood for her dance-influenced music, she's got more bubblegummy stuff and disco-y stuff as well. Second album single "La La Love On My Mind" is another song to watch out for--truly catchy stuff. About the only bad thing about "Everything I Do" is that for ages every time I heard the name of Kate Ryan's song "All For You," I would instantly think of this song and wouldn't be able to think of the melody to Kate's song. Actually, that still happens most of the time...
If you like this, I definitely definitely recommend picking up the album it comes from, Everything I Am; it's very consistent and very good. Check out "Be The One," "Tonight," and "Broken Dreams" if you don't believe me. Both Ann's 2003 album Everything I Am and 2005 (I think those dates are right...maybe...ish) album Pink Collar Crime can be purchased from any country's iTunes store (Everything I Am and Pink Collar Crime). Physical CD-wise, I guess keeping an eye on eBay is your best bet.
Next up: maybe something new.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Du som tog mitt hjärta--or "You who took my heart," maybe. I guess this probably counts as middle of the road (a phrase I will never look at the same way again or hear without laughing thanks to Paul), but it really is glorious. It starts quietly enough and what really isn't that minimal--a piano, Patrik's voice, a few strings, and some synth-like sounds fading in and out--but compared to the build-up that comes, it kind of is. You start to get that build up at the first chorus, where Sarah's voice and more instruments join in, and then, as some breathy ad-libby vocals fade out at the end of the chorus, I guess whatever the equivalent of "the beat dropping" is in non-dance music happens, with drums and I guess guitars (who knows? I need to go to music school), and Sarah takes the verse. Then the chorus again, this time even bigger, complete with big backing vocals, a great feeling of rising up, and a huge "feel good" feeling (well, musically, although I get the impression the lyrics are sad, which is a shame, because musically this couldn't be more uplifting). Basically, it's big and wonderful and lovely and the best sort of middle of the road stuff you can get, and I completely and utterly love it.
To buy Sarah Dawn Finer and Patrik Isaksson's single "Du som tog mitt hjärta," go here (digital).
Next up: maybe a song from the latest Jessica Folcker album.
New music videos that really aren't worth embedding because they're not must-sees but may interest you if you like the song: Shayne Ward's video for "Breathless," probably notable mainly for the lovely shades of blue in it and for the fact that Shayne, despite wearing a suit for the "main" part of the video, finds another way to take his shirt off, and Maroon 5's video for "Won't Go Home Without You," notable mainly for making me wish they hadn't sold the chorus to "Nothing Lasts Forever" to Kanye West for that one song and could release that instead. Or "Not Falling Apart." If they wanted a ballad.
Another song from the upcoming Jordin Sparks album is out and about now, albeit with verbal tags and an annoying computer noise on it that I'm guessing aren't on the real version. It's called "No Air" and features Chris Brown. It actually feels like it's floating up among the clouds--I can't really describe it in words (though "refreshing" would probably be a good one), but it's definitely less...generic-sounding than "Tattoo" was. Radio friendly? Not sure, and I'm not sure that radio quality would capture this song's essence--it really needs that crisp clean sound. I've not made up my mind on it yet, but I could very well end up thinking it's great. If it didn't have those annoying tags, maybe even post-worthy, but at any rate, it's got me at least thinking about buying her album when it comes out November 20. (I'm sure YouTube has it, but if you're interested, you should definitely hear it in better quality than it'll be at on YouTube.)
Given that Robyn's now made reference to a video for it, it seems "Be Mine!" is the next single (though that's sort of what everyone already thought). Fantastic song--hope it does well.
Da Buzz's greatest hits album is out now. It features two new songs (excluding the already released singles "Take All My Love" and "Baby Listen To Me"). "Take A Chance," which might or might not be their new single (I'm not sure), is good, and you can make up your mind about the other new song by visiting You Don't Know Pop.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The video for the debut single, "Capaz de todo"--dangling microphones! Splashing water! Horn flourishes in the background music! Lyrics that still fascinate me and that strengthen my belief that they're not "just another boy band"!
Speaking of "not just another boy band," their performance of "Una lágrima" at Spain's national finals for Eurovision. Each of the finalists had to perform all of the five final songs. Even if this wasn't one of the final five artist-and-song combinations based on viewers' votes, I think it was the best and most interesting performance on the night overall--look at that! Arty and political! Ish. I don't want to overstate the significance at all, because ultimately I know it's mainly a styling choice influenced by the song (though none of the other acts did anything like that), but it definitely works. Love the chanty bit at what's the end of this shortened version.
Escúchame--it's funny, on my initial review of the album, I think this song just barely made the cut for my "must hear"/"top tier" recommendations, but it's grown on me and grown on me since then, which means that it's a song that starts out great and gets even better. I so nearly posted "Lo haré por ti," which is simply one of the most musically adorable songs ever, or maybe even "Sexy," which, with its "sexy" posing, muttered lyrics, and (literally) moans, risks being laughable if you're not "into it" (or even if you are), but offers a payoff of a great song if you're willing to take the chance. Or "Capaz de todo," which, as I've implied up there, I love. Or "Una lágrima," which takes what you've seen performed above and continues it, proving that their version of the song stands up without the performance. "Perversa," "Qué sabes del amor," and "I Love You Mi Vida" are only not in the running because I've posted them before. Instead, though, I've gone with this mid- to up-tempo boy band-sounding song, which goes for attitude but, instead of going for full-out musical brush-off during the chorus (though the lyrics are that), the song goes for an interesting compromise of some attitude but mainly just slick pop catchiness.
You can buy a digital version of the first edition of D'Nash's (then called Nash) first album, Capaz de todo, here and the second edition here, but you're probably better of buying the third edition of it, which includes all the songs from the first edition, one of the two new songs from the second edition ("Que sabes del amor" but not "Más allá de las estrellas"), and all of the top five songs from Misión Eurovisión and "Stand By Me," which they performed in the semifinals. That edition can be purchased here (physical).
Next up: see, that's the benefit of me saving up all this news and excitement for one post--yeah, it may seem a little over the top, but it probably means you all are safe from another post about D'Nash for a little bit. Well, until the album comes out, that is! Maybe that Swedish song I keep meaning to post. I'll probably get distracted again, though.
Monday, November 12, 2007
In Love Again--gorgeous. Lush. Lovely. Maybe I should just go look up a bunch of synonyms for "beautiful"? Electro-pop that I would say sounds positively heaven-sent if it wasn't so swooningly emotional in such a lovely (there's that word again), never-oppressive way.
To buy the Rogue Traders' album Here Come The Drums, go here (physical) or here (digital). It's also available in some--including the U.S.'s--but not all countries' iTunes stores.
Next up: maybe that Swedish group I've been meaning to write about, and it's one I'm pretty sure you all already know.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Pod sretnom zvijezdom--doesn't have the whistles of "Do Kraja," but makes up for that with strings and some disco influence, though it's still dance music of the sort that I'm getting the feel is "typical Colonia," if that exists and if there's any way I can guess at after only hearing two of their songs. Actually, scratch that--I think all I mean is it's on par with "Do Kraja." "Pod strenom zvijezdom" is dance music that manages to simultaneously be classy and throw-your-hands-up-in-the-air danceable at the same time.
If you at all like this, I strongly recommend picking up "Do Kraja;" both that song and the album named after at are available at numerous digital music stores, including all countries' iTunes stores. On the other hand, I'm not sure of anywhere where you can buy "Pod sretnom zvijezdom" yet. However, their official site has links to a bunch of places to buy their music, so I imagine it'll be updated with a link at some point. If it's for a new album, I expect that album will end up on iTunes eventually, too.
Next up: maybe one of the two Swedish things I've mentioned, or something Romanian.
Edit: maybe I should've watched all the videos of the new songs before posting, because I may like "Wow" even more.
I cannot wait for this album.
"Break Anotha" will be available on U.S. iTunes starting this Tuesday. I still feel like the version I've got isn't good audio quality, plus there's the whole, you know, legal/support the artists thing, so I'm pretty excited about that.
Additionally, the tracklisting for his debut album, Audio Day Dream (or A.D.D.), due out December 4, has debuted. Stolen straight from Amazon, with no additions or anything:
1.) Silence Is Golden... (Intro)
2.) Break Anotha
3.) Gots To Get Her (Inspired by "Puttin' On The Ritz")
4.) Know My Name
5.) How Many Words
7.) Hate 2 Love Her
8.) Without You
9.) Here's My Hello
10.) What'cha Got 2 Lose?
11.) She's Makin' Me Lose It
12.) Bshorty Grabs Mic!
13.) End Of The World
14.) 1000 Miles
15.) I Got U
16.) ..I Choose Noise (Outro)
Sigh at the "2"s, "U", and especially "Bshorty," but I guess what else could we expect when the lead single is called "Break Anotha"? And I'm not even sure what to say about the fact that one of the songs is "inspired by 'Puttin' on the Ritz.'" I can imagine Blake singing over the Taco version of the song without too much difficulty, though, so I guess him doing a song that takes off from there isn't inconceivable. Plus, yay at 14 "real" tracks!
Side note on songwriters: apparently he co-wrote "What'cha Got 2 Lose?" with Chris Richardson from Idol and J.R. Rotem...not that that really tells us anything. Oh, and remember Josh Hoge? No, probably not. Well, anyway, he's one of the co-writers of "Know My Name" (along with, once again, Ryan Tedder, among others), which has already leaked; it was originally going to be a song for him.
Is it just me, or is anyone else worried this might be too early for the album to come out? Not that I don't want to have it as soon as possible, but they've only just recently filmed the video and the song isn't officially shipped to radios until November 20 (though it is already getting some plays). Actually, I have no idea what the best strategy would be, so I'll just hope whoever's running this knows what they're doing.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I like this song:
(If Only Life Could Be Like) Hollywood
I really do believe that you should just like what you like. This, though, takes cheesy to the extreme. Mega extreme. Which I might be able to tolerate, if everything else about the singer--who's American--wasn't offputting. I mean, just look at this album cover:
Eek. Of course, maybe I don't have much right to speak, given that one of my most anticipated albums of the year has a cover that looks like this:
Plus, everything else this singer has done feels very...try hard, in the sense of "ooo, look at me, I'm innovative! And hip!" (shush at all the rest of you thinking "you could say the same thing about Blake"), and just doesn't work at all for me. Very MySpace-y.
But in the midst of all this "look at me with my stuttery rhythms and electro-pop!" overstyling is this really cheesy (cheesy of a completely different sort to the rest of his image and songs, because make no mistake, calling a song "B'Donkadonk" is cheesy, and in a way I just don't think I'm prepared to handle) upbeat catchy vocodered singalongy pop song. And I can't help it, I like it. Spelling, handclaps, catchy chorus--I couldn't resist. Why someone actually thought it was a good idea to release this as a single to mainstream U.S. radio in 2007 is BEYOND ME, though.
You can buy the album from here (physical) or from any country's iTunes store here.
Next up: maybe a Swedish group that I can't believe I haven't featured yet.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Trying not to jump ahead too much, though, Mexican singer Belinda became a child star with some acting and her self-titled debut album (the second single off of which was a cover of Kim Lian's "Teenage Superstar"), which came out in 2003. She must've decided the light pop (-rock) of most of that album wasn't what she wanted and that she wanted a more mature, "edgy" image, though, because in 2005 she starred in Mexico's resident knowingly-throwback-to-the-'80's rock group Moderatto's music video for "Muriendo lento" and featured on the song (though her collaboration in the U.S. would be with the decidedly less cool Cheetah Girls). In 2006, she released her second album, Utopia, pretty obviously designed to pitch Belinda as "edgier" and less "just for kids," even right down to the album artwork and accompanying photo shoots. This year, she re-released the album, retitled Utopia 2, with some of the songs on it re-recorded in English, and it's two of those I'm posting today (toyed with posting these when the album first came out, but then Electroqueer covered her; I think enough time has passed that it's worth mentioning her again, though).
If We Were--I have to say, I really think I like this a lot more in English. For some reason, the Spanish version didn't feel as catchy to me, somehow felt impenetrable--but, and it's probably just because I'm hearing the song in my native language now, the song feels catchier in this version. The fact that "If We Were" manages to beat out the original is no small feat, though, considering it loses my two favorite things about the Spanish version: the casually tossed off "you were hot...I forgot" (which, yes, was in English while pretty much the rest of the song was in Spanish, making it even more random and even funnier) and the snappy title of the original, "Ni Freud Ni Tu Mama," which is a heck of an awesome brush-off (Belinda's leaving a guy, and tells him she was never Freud [his therapist/someone who could change him] or his mom [someone to take care of him/make him grow up]). When Belinda sings in English, she often has a rough, harsh edge to her voice (not an extreme one, but it peeks through here and there), which can be a little bit of a problem when she's singing something as light as, say, her Cheetah Girls 2 song "Why Wait," but here, it fits the drama and strong dark electro sound of the song. The song's got a nice stompy feel to it that I love and fantastic backing music that apparently still works fairly well even though the message of the song has completely changed (from a brush-off to wanting to be with a guy).
End Of The Day--the English version of "Bella Traición" and, once again proving that I either didn't pay close enough attention the first time around or just "get" the songs more in English, the original version never jumped out at me as much as this one has. "End Of The Day" is a lot lighter and less electro than "If We Were," but it's still catchy and still really good pop, even if the line "I'm not sorry 'cause that would mean I'm not cool with myself" does make me laugh a little bit.
To buy Belinda's album Utopia 2, go here (physical) or here (digital). If you're looking for a dramatic half-power ballad, the English version of "Pudo ser tan fácil," "Takes One To Know One," is worth a listen.
Next up: maybe something else in Spanish, or Italian.