Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Now I don't speak Spanish, Japanese, or French

Jesse McCartney's "Body Language" is nearly everything I hoped it would be. Hyper-cute urban-glossed catchy pop with ridiculous lyrics ("breaking it down articulately" plus FUN WITH LANGUAGES).

I'm open to being convinced otherwise (Jesse does a decent job with "Rock Ya"), but so far, when we're talking about his nominally more R&B direction, Jesse's shown himself to be best with this hyper-cute mid-tempo pop that uses the aforementioned urban sheen to barely disguise just how poppy and kitschy it actually is, as opposed to, say, the ballads or the edgier and less melodic songs. "Body Language" doesn't approach the brilliance of its predecessors "Leavin'" and "How Do You Sleep," but it's a respectable entry into this era of Jesse's work.

In other news: BWO. As I mentioned, Swedish newspaper/tabloid Expressen recently allowed us to listen to the album in advance, but Big Science, the group's fourth studio album, is out tomorrow. I feel pretty pleased with it, but I'm going to elaborate on that in a future post since after allowing myself to indulge on Sunday I cut myself off from the album so I didn't overplay it before I got the full thing properly. As I'm a bit pressed for time now, though, I do want to say that the next single, "Right Here Right Now," is great (though to be completely honest on my first listen and after so much build-up around it, I didn't quite see the big deal; I quickly came to love it, though, and it may very well be my favorite song on the album at this point). Quick favorites (in no particular order) that haven't been fully thought through and are basically based on only one only-just-took-place listen since Sunday:

Right Here Right Now: BWO in sound, but with some more strings. It's not the sometimes menacing electro drama of Prototype, but this is still the BWO we now--maybe more Halcyon Days BWO, which I'm fine with. As I mentioned somewhere, the up-tempo remix of "You're Not Alone" reminded me of September's "Satellites" in its beat and "Right Here Right Now" has a little of that, too, though much toned down and overlapped with those lovely strings and that lovely pretty melody and with some kind of "Chariots Of Fire"-esque choral moments tossed in.

Rise To The Occasion (proper--not Expressen--quality): also mid-tempo-ish, but with more of an up-tempo feel than its technical tempo would make you think. Poppy. A catchy female vocal hook (sung by Märta of Cocktail Studios, according to Oswalds Popcorn) seals the deal on this already catchy song. Oswalds Popcorn compared it to Ace of Base, only modernized, and that's spot-on.

Rhythm Of The Night: the song opens with that classic BWO sound (you'll know what I mean when you hear it--it shows up throughout Prototype). Also really catchy. Wow, I really shouldn't be attempting this at all if I'm not going to be able to put the proper time into coming up with good descriptions until later. Anyway, maybe kind of like a slightly slower "Gomenasai." Not slow, though.

Shoot From The Heart: maybe the most "dance attack"-type song. It's still more on the pop side than the electro side, though.

In Too Deep: I've yet to see anyone else write positively about this song, let alone call it one of their favorites, but it really is for me (I think perhaps its placement and hearing the album through as a whole via Expressen helped). BWO go for one of those washing-over-you mid-tempo songs, but this time it actually works for me instead of seeming too chintzy (and yes, I realize I just got done praising a song with the word "kitschy" a few paragraphs up) and manages to get under my skin. Thankfully, the electro sounds here are smooth instead of that buzzier electro sound used in "Give Me The Night" and "The Bells Of Freedom," which I was really beginning to fear would characterize most of their future work. It was fine for "Give Me The Night," but I like my BWO smoother, a la "Gomenasai."

Thunderbolt: the Empire Music song. The beginning of "Thunderbolt"'s chorus isn't quite as melodic as that of other songs, but it's still a fun song (and it basically has an A chorus and a B chorus anyway), as well as also one of the dancier ones.

That was kind of ridiculously uninformative and poorly descriptive. I'll try to actually do a proper write-up when I have more time. My general comment would be that the sound here is generally more...middle of the road? That's not the right phrase (especially since it comes with a negative connotation), but I wouldn't say you're getting anything edgy or abrasive for most of the album. On the one hand, I'm much more satisfied with it than I was with Fabricator, so it's won at least one fan who was beginning to feel a bit alienated back. On the other hand, I can see it losing them the people who really go in for the harder electro sounds as well as not winning back people who loved Prototype but not much more. I feel really pleased with it, though: I'll admit their experimentation with other genres (see "Love Came Crashing Down" and "Burning Down The House," for example) isn't my preference, but there is enough here of electronic pop BWO--and, more importantly, good electronic pop BWO--that I feel satisfied.

Buy BWO's new album, Big Science, here (physical).

Next up: maybe something about Måns. Or Erik. Or Lily. Or not.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Drunk on margaritas

As much as I'm constantly raving about European music, there are moments when I realize how very American my tastes can be.

(Yes, I realize that's ridiculous generalizing and Europeans can like the above song and Americans can hate it.)

That was the Paradiso Girls--Robin Antin's (of the Pussycat Dolls) new girl group--with "Patrón Tequila," produced by Polow Da Don. And yes, I have been playing it again and again via YouTube. It has this drum part to it which reminds me a bit of "Captive," a rejected demo for the Pussycat Dolls--did Polow also do that?--but it's both trashier and better than that song...and I loved "Captive." There better be some dancing going on at the end of the music video with that extended instrumental ending. And how great would it be if this was another Polow production based around product promotion (if it's unintentional here, they sure better work out a deal quick)?

(For your reference, a Keri Hilson-sung version of this song leaked earlier under the title "Hey Girl.")

Sunday, March 29, 2009

When the world comes alive, I'll be by your side

Do you remember Sylwia Chaliss? The Swedish model released a dance-pop album, Loud Enough, back in 2003. A few singles were taken from it, but the combined results of that campaign and the response to "Blinded By The Light," the 2005 Von Der Burg-penned lead single for her second album, weren't good enough to take her past that second album lead single (or at least that's my presumption based on the fact that she didn't release any further music).

"Meet You At Midnight," today's song, wasn't on her debut album, so I can only guess that it was intended for her second album. To tell the truth, I prefer it to "Blinded By The Light," though I can see how "Blinded By The Light" might be the more memorable of the two. At least in this form, "Meet You At Midnight" isn't the sort of Von Der Burg song that you can see having international success like September's "Cry For You" or Alcazar's "This Is The World We Live In," but it's the sort of song that went straight onto my iPod: a string-touched sweet catchy dance-pop song with a revvy beat underneath it, albeit a restrained one. "Meet You At Midnight" has fewer club influences than the work VDB generally does for September but isn't worlds removed from that sound; it's much less sweeping, though. Much of the difference may also be a result of Sylwia's voice: it isn't nearly as dark as Petra's, so "Meet You At Midnight" has a much lighter, fluffier, more carefree feel to its dance groove.

Edit: I got so caught up in writing that I didn't make clear that "Meet You At Midnight" might very well not be by the Von Der Burgs. "Blinded By The Light" is, but as for whether or not this song is, I couldn't say for sure.

I can't find anywhere online still selling Sylwia Chaliss's debut album, Loud Enough, but you can buy her single for "Check All Exits" here (physical).

Next up: maybe I'll write about one of those albums I've been saying I'll write about or do a run-through of some of the songs on my frequently played list right now.

Don't you see your destiny was never in your command?

Pre-listen to BWO's new album Big Science here (below full quality, but very listenable--better than MySpace). I'm only beginning to do so myself, so no further comment as of yet, but I'll be back with thoughts, I'm sure.

Much thanks and credit to Aces and Damian for the link!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First off, I can't keep a promise, no one to count on at all

I would do a post like the one below for the upcoming Backstreet Boys album if it wasn't for the fact that there's no way I could ever gather all the information on my own. When somewhere else is doing it better than you could and saving you the time, what would be the point? Read through the list of songwriters they've worked with here and watch them performing a bit of the Max Martin-penned "Bigger" a cappella at a sound check below. Apparently in its studio version it's up-tempo, though I'm not entirely sure how reliable that fact is. The production style is what's going to be make or break on this, but I'd be lying if I said that when this clip hit the Internet a few weeks ago my hopes didn't jump. I know it's too much to hope that it'll be dressed up in the classic Cheiron style, but hopefully it'll be a more pop-friendly format than the Max songs on Never Gone.

All the planets are aligning

...and, coming on the heels of the South African pop update, here's an update on Swedish singer Ola.

He's been working on his third album for a few months now. I wouldn't say release is imminent--he's still in the process of recording--but he's talking about artwork with his "people," so it's not a matter of being intangibly distant.

Keep in mind that, with no formalized tracklist, what songs will make it onto the album isn't yet determined. We do know, though, that he's worked with:

Tony Nilsson--if Ola wasn't working with him again, he'd be absolutely insane. If it was up to me, he'd probably do the whole album with Tony. Heck, if it was up to me, everyone would have Tony write for their album.

KeiOne--I think he did Adam Tensta's "80s Baby," which I love, but I'm not familiar with him at all; it looks like he's worked more with R&B in the past.

Ishi--mentioned here recently because of his involvement in Måns Zelmerlöw's new album (he co-wrote "One Minute More," "Find Love, "Saved Again," and "Home"), but more famous for his work with Lazee.

Patric Sarin--I've got a big post dedicated to Patric that's been sitting as a draft for quite some time that I may have to dig out, but rest assured he's done more than his fair share of amazing brilliant songs over the years (Darin's "Desire" and "Insanity" and Margaret Berger's "Samantha," "Will You Remember Me Tomorrow," "Robot Song" are just the tip of the iceberg).

Dilba--Dilba and Ishi worked together for at least one song.

maybe Michael Garvin, who wrote the lyrics for Ola's "S.O.S." and who I wasn't familiar with but apparently also co-wrote "Waiting For Tonight" and Natalia's "I've Only Begun To Fight"

He's also mentioned that, given his record label's (very, very positive) response when he played it to them, there's a good likelihood the lead single will be a song written by Tony Nilsson, KeiOne, and Ola himself. There's a song written by Ishi that Ola thinks is a strong contender to be a later single.

Additionally, he's recorded a song he really likes which he said was called "Lead me the way" (sic).

The Ishi and KeiOne connections (and Patric Sarin, to a lesser degree) make me think maybe Ola's going for a slightly edgier sound, with just a little more of that urban electro sound in it, but I think his record label and management has a good sense of where he gets his popularity from and will keep him very much pop. Plus, Tony Nilsson's involved, and I still have absolute faith in him. I just hope his songs make up more of the album this time around. Ola has established himself as a "summer single" sort of artist and he's got a fall tour coming up, so maybe we could hear a single as early as late this spring.

Apparently in his free time he's been seeing He's Just Not That Into You with Sarah Dawn Finer and talking about the financial crisis with Dr. Alban. The tangled webs of celebrity lives...

'Cause I know love would have no meaning without you in my life

A mini-South African pop music news update (though some of the news is pretty old):

NKD just released their self-titled second album yesterday. I don't know of anywhere that ships internationally selling it, but I'm not sure if I'd buy it anyway. After the trio of former Idol contestants got off to such a good start with the poppy and often Swede-penned songs on their debut, the underrated What's That Noise, they started talking about going acoustic for this new album. Their version of Amy Pearson's "Don't Miss You" is much inferior to Amy's version. Still, I am interested to hear what their latest single, "Step Right Up," sounds like in hopes it'll revive my true interest in them. If the album cover is anything to go by, they've lost a lot of their financial ability to or interest in making themselves a quality girl group. At least we've got songs like "What I Believe," "Quicksand," "Forget Forgetting Me," "Shooting Star"...I'm just going to make myself depressed if I keep thinking about how good they used to be. It was so nice to have a South African girl group that wasn't just going for cheap and (the bad kind of) cheesy.

Quick side note: the pop industry in South Africa isn't that big and, as a result, there is a lot of using songs from other countries that goes on. Sometimes this comes in the form of just buying songs written by foreign songwriters, but other times it moves into somewhat ridiculous recycling of songs. Afrikaans artists in particular have a tendency to end up covering Eurovision and national final songs, in addition to Scandivanian artists' work. At times, the results can be surprisingly good (who would have guessed Arash's "Temptation" would work so well as an Afrikaans language boy band song?), but other times it just becomes...silly.

David Fourie, no stranger to covering songs from Sweden, is apparently working on a new album. The Afrikaaner former Idol contestant has released (as far as I know of) two albums so far, one of which included a version of Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy" that I love to a degree that confuses everyone around me. He also did an Afrikaans version of Fame's "Vindarna Vander Oss" which was the version I ever heard of that song. Anyway, I've yet to figure out whether the fact that I smiled at the news he's recorded a version of Velvet's "Take My Body Close" for his new album was a matter of "what on Earth...?" laughing at or if I'm kind of pleased by the idea. Probably both. Maybe it's affection from nostalgia, but his covers seem to actually have a bit of effort put into them and be pretty well-done, at least compared to those of other artists (though I'm under no illusions that Swedish pop fans will enjoy his version). He better keep the dance style, though, or else we'll have to have a talk.

Apparently Jacques Terre'blanche released "Set Me Free" (which I wrote about maybe a year ago) as a single. Perfect choice. I'm still mightily suspicious of the fact that MOR-y South African artist Mark Beling supposedly wrote this Phixx-esque song, but it's still great. Also, world: he did the dance version of "I Won't Forget" before Belgium, thank you very much (though that's not the version you'll hear in the video in that post and though the song, presumably in a version simiar to that you'll hear in the video, was originally for short-lived British boy band 365). The Colour Red, his latest album, was surprisingly good, with some nice dance-oriented experimentation--we're not talking "import it now" good or anything, and certainly nothing to compete with the best of Sweden's Idol boys, but it had some good songs. I do wish he'd take some decent promo pictures with his shirt on, though.

Another South African girl band also made up of former televised singing contest participants, Jamali, has a...well, I'm not sure if I should call it a cover or interpolation or what. "Re-interpretation" might be the best description. Anyway, they've got a re-interpretation of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" called "Love At First Sight" on their latest album (listen to a clip here). I'm frankly shocked at how much I love it: it's an adorable sweet little pop song in their hands. Totally post-worthy, so I may do just that in the future (I've been meaning to for a while now). All you other South African artists, take note: how to do a pop cover version right.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You know the winner takes it all

The period between the end of national finals and the beginning of Eurovision can be pretty rough to get through. Songs from the national finals of past years are one of my main methods of coping, and there aren't many that do the job of cheering me up better than Birgitte Einarsen's "Good Evening, Europe!". Entered in Norway's 2003 Melodi Grand Prix and with a sound much more common in the early '00s than it is now, it ended up taking third out of twelve.

I usually prefer "Saturday," Birgitte's MGP entry from 2006, to "Good Evening, Europe!"--it's dancier and swooshier--but, as you might guess from its title, "Good Evening, Europe!" is an adorable little celebration of Eurovision which throughout the course of its lyrics manages to allude to numerous previous entrants (though not always their Eurovision songs). Like "Saturday," it has disco influences, albeit tamer ones, but mainly it's just a good sweet Scandinavian-flavored upbeat pop song.

Oh, what the heck, while we're talking about Birgitte, we might as well watch her perform "Saturday," which made it to Norway's final but not its super-final (and which I wrote about briefly a while ago). It's a great string-featuring disco-pop song, just the sort of stuff I hope to get from national finals.

I don't know of anywhere selling the CD for the Melodi Grand Prix 2003 at the moment, but it's always possible it might show up on eBay.


Christophe Willem, the unique Nouvelle Star (French Idol) winner whose electro-pop single "Double Je (Remix)"--it's got a beat kind of like the Sugababes' "Push The Button" but is still fresh, exciting, and one of those songs that makes the language barrier completely disappear--was one of the best songs of 2007, is back.

"Berlin" is the name of his new single, just released to some French digital music stores (as well as to seemingly all continental Europe iTunes stores). You can listen to it here.

Good news: Christophe hasn't ditched the electro. Of course, that wasn't to be expected, giving who we've heard he's collaborating with for this album. He's rocked up his sound just a little bit for this song, but all that really means is we get a hard-hitting drum part and some processed sounds with a bit more edge to them in addition to the cooler electro squiggles. It might be a song that is more a matter of "oh, that's really interesting" than as absolutely totally addictive as "Double Je," but I still think I really like it...and not much in the world is as able to get under your skin like "Double Je" can. Christophe is certainly one of the most interesting French popstars going, so I'm hoping he'll deliver throughout this project.

His new album, Caféine, will come out May 25. I don't speak French at all, but if I'm understanding this correctly, said album has a duet with Kylie Minogue that is a reworking of her "Sensitized," a cover of Britney Spears's previously unreleased but leaked "State Of Grace," and a song written by one of the members of Superbus. We've previously heard that Christophe is working with Steve Anderson...hopefully on original songs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It was just a fling before--now, you're the one

Two very different songs I'm loving at the moment:

As far as rap (or grime) meets pop goes, we're in a pretty decent moment right now and British artist Tinchy Stryder's upcoming single "Number 1" looks to continue that trend. Here, the pop is vaguely electro, with some strings thrown in for good measure, but, good as the verses are, it's nearly all about the chorus, which is just really good catchy pop stuff. It's perfect for singing along, over-the-top gesturing, iPod play, radio play...just about anything. Co-writer Fraser T. Smith is really on a roll, as well as showing some writing diversity: he also wrote James Morrison and Nelly Furtado's "Broken Strings."

I have to thank Bobby of Don't Stop The Pop for giving me the go-ahead to write about Via Gra's "My Emancipation" since DSTP's Swedish season means he can't write about it right now. The song, a 2008 single from the Russian/Ukrainian group with enough line-up changes to easily put the Pipettes to shame, had me hooked from the moment that hard disco-electro beat kicked in--it's a bit like the sort of thing I'd expect Dimitris Kontopoulos to come up with, though it doesn't go for full-force punch in quite the same way. The music video, depicting a bank robbery, is full of synchronized strutting (including through a laser-filled chamber) and men falling to the ground at the mere sight of the girls, in addition to including what is probably the most amazing gun shot in music video history. Fabulousness personified? Oh yes.

The art of giving back in style

Good news: the new single from Neo, the Swedish singer Don't Stop The Pop introduced blog world to, must be the Melodifestival-tastic "Flower Power Supergirl" since that song now has a music video. That's got to be the best choice he and his management could have made, so I'm very happy. Am I expecting success on Swedish radios? No, not really, but as a Swede pop lover, I hope the song gets a little more attention among similarly minded music fans as a result.

One, the album from which "Flower Power Supergirl" comes, can be purchased physically here or digitally here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seven minutes for our lives while my coffee's gettin' cold

Since I was awaiting the video for one Xenomania creation earlier today, let's spend a moment talking about one of the less famous songs from their back catalogue: Frank's "Mr Beautiful." I know not everyone clicked with the TV tie in girl group (their complete lack of commercial success was proof of that, if nothing else), but "Mr Beautiful," the b-side to the group's 2006 debut single "I'm Not Shy," is Xenomania doing mid-tempo heartbreak at their best. The songwriting and production team's everything and the kitchen sink approach and disregard for pop song structures might not be on show here, but the song is still evidence of their ability to create musical magic. A strummy guitar part and a simple repeated beat with a half-bounce to it that could have come straight out of the late '90s Cheiron studio run into melancholic ripples every time the song enters the chorus, with those ripples being swapped out in the verses for backing vocals that achieve a different kind of poignancy; to the casual listener, it's a sonically simple creation, albeit one that avoids acoustic stylings, but "Singapore"'s more jaded and consequently more listless sister tugs at your emotions more than its air of resignation would lead you to expect.

To buy Frank's single "I'm Not Shy," which has "Mr Beautiful" as the b-side, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe something else from a British girl group.

Like beautiful robots dancing alone

Counting down the hours until 3 PM EST...

(and hoping it will be brilliant)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Allting har sin tid

I know blogs about the process of blogging have to be one of the less exciting things I could possibly write about, but here comes another one: I had real trouble deciding which new Shirley Clamp song to post. We've heard the studio version of Sonja Aldén's "Miracle," the English version of "Att älska dig," already as well as Shirley's live performance of the song, so I set aside "Miracle" first.

Choosing between "My Love Light," the English version of "Min kärlek," and "Det finns inga givna svar," the only completely new track on Shirley's new greatest hits album, was the real dilemma. We'd already heard Shirley sing a bit of "My Love Light" live and without musical backing, but we've been waiting years to hear an English version of this song. Sure, the Swedish lyrics of "Min kärlek" are so unbeatable than an English version probably can't beat the original, but has that made us any less interested in hearing an English version of this fantastic song, even if only as a curiosity? "Det finns inga givna svar," on the other hand, has to be the first original uptempo schlager song Shirley's given us in years. Then again, as a song, I don't really know that it can be better than "Min kärlek." Still, even if it won't be challenging my personal Shirley holy trinity of "Min kärlek," "Lever mina drömmar," and "Do They Know It's Christmas," I've been waiting for Shirley to return to this sound and "Det finns inga givna svar" is absolutely a good song--the fact that it's got a dance beat full of hits, sparkles, and swooshes underneath it, breathy "ah-ha" backing vocals, and is catchy enough to get stuck in your head after one listen means it clearly wants to endear itself to schlager fans, and that's always a good thing in my book.

My indecisiveness's result? I'm posting both songs, but only for a short time. Grab "My Love Light" here and "Det finns inga givna svar" here. "Min kärlek" is a modern classic, a schlager song with a surprising musical darkness to it that grows and grows on you until it's buried itself under your skin, so if you haven't heard it before, I strongly recommend checking it out in its original version.

Remember, though, that you can buy För den som älskar - En samling, Shirley's new greatest hits album, here (physical), here (physical), and probably here (digital) within a day or two.

Speaking of buying music, in all my excitement over Måns Zelmerlöw posting songs to his MySpace a week ago, I totally forgot about the existence of track 11 of MZW. If you want to own "Whole New World" or just want to buy the album digitally, you can purchase Måns's new album track by track or as a whole album (as mp3s) here. I was able to buy from it today even though I'm based in the U.S., so you should be able to use that store no matter where you live. Måns also provided comments on each song and the proper list of songwriters on his official website. I'll be writing a bit about the album soon, and about the Melodifestival final (and Erik Hassle...and Lily Allen...).

Next up: maybe more Swedish music with a dance beat.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stay with me, honey, stay with me, honey, stay with me

Speaking of things I should have written about long ago...

Swedish artist John ME's (a stage name for Mattias Edlund) "Love Is My Drug" first came to my ears in December, I think, but I didn't fully realize its brilliance until it was too late for it to make my 2008 singles countdown. It very well could have, though: appropriately enough, it's intoxicating. Pop-rock covered with synths and catchy throughout, it's one of those songs that manages to be commercial and credible all at once. John has a distinctive voice--well, perhaps not distinctive exactly, but surely the kind that is rare to hear over this sort of backing, that is strong enough to carry the song without it ever devolving into total mushiness (the aforementioned synths and overall production help with that, too, keeping the song interesting and out of the acoustic singer-songwriter danger zone) but plaintive enough to tug on the heart strings.

Preorder John ME's album I Am John here (physical). It comes out April 8 and won't be John's first album (he used to be the lead singer for the Motorheads, who from the little I know of their work did croony gentle rock music, the sort of stuff that sounds like it should be soundtracking TV shows), but it is his first solo album. I'm tempted to preorder it, but the official commentary that "[t]he first single ”Love Is My Drug” is an infectious floor-filler and provides an interesting contrast to the crooner style that characterizes many of the album’s other tracks" has me too nervous to do so.

Next up: something else from Sweden, maybe.

Time for you to shine

Do you remember former A*Teens' member Sara's Sara Love project? It's been abandoned, but at least it left us the great trashy urban-electro-pop-R&B "Glamour Bitch."

Had Sara not abandoned her Sara Love identity for an acoustic singer-songwriter sound, I can imagine Swedish singer Anniela's new single "Strip-teaser" sounds like something Sara might have done. It's not yet out, but you can listen to a clip of it here. The song was released earlier by Greek group Crush5, but this version sounds like it will be much better.

This post has been sitting in draft for a few days now, so I've been scooped by several other blogs when it comes to several artists. Kimberly Cole is one of them. Check out The Beat Review's write-up of this American singer's music. "Superstar (Smash It)" is the song I should be most drawn to, given that it comes from the school of modern electro-influenced female solo artist pop, but I'm surprisingly drawn to several of her more mid-tempo songs even more.

Also on the scooped front: Haffi Haff (check out Scandipop's write-up and, while you're over there, the Velvet interview, too). It's probably been far too long since I last wrote about a song from Iceland. If you watched the country's national final in 2008, you might have seen Haffi Haff participating with "The Wiggle Song," an electro-squiggly song which, though interesting in theory, wasn't as good as Eurobandið's "Fullkomið líf." He's back now with some image revamping (the emo hair has been ditched) and a song written by the same man who wrote the song that beat him back in 2008--Örlygur "Öggi" Smári, maker of Iceland's best dance-pop (he's also responsible for Páll Óskar's successful comeback in 2007)--and Malta's Gerard James Borg (of many Maltese national final entries). If you were disappointed that Öggi set aside dance-pop in favor of pop-rock in this year's national final, you might be extra-pleased to hear Haffi Haff's "Give Me Sexy," which is electro-dance-pop that is schlager-fan friendly but not schlager and with just a bit of (cheesy) edge to it.

Margaret Berger, the Norwegian singer of brilliant electronic songs like "Samantha" (epic), "Will You Remember Me Tomorrow" (musical electro sunshine, even if not lyrically so), and "Robot Song" (which many have rightly pointed out Röyksopp and Robyn's "The Girl And The Robot" bears similarities in concept to) has a potential new single, "Lost In London," that might be coming out this fall (news from Popjustice and Margaret's MySpace). Great news. Now, if only Linda Sundblad would give us any sort of new music update...and Selma, too, if I'm really dreaming...

Don't Stop The Pop recently interiewed Swedish pop princesses Agnes and Rosanna; the interviews are worth your time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Make you smile again

Oh, thank goodness, I'm not totally crazy...

Last year, I was convinced that the version of Måns Zelmerlöw's "Miss America" being played on Swedish radio, at least some of the time, was different from the version on the album--subtly different, just really with enhanced drums, but I was sure that difference existed. Despite all my searching, though, I couldn't find anything to support that information. The only remixes available at the time were definitely not the version I thought I'd heard: they were all dance versions.

I only just saw that American iTunes has a remix by Grizzly, though, and as soon as I clicked the preview button, I heard louder drums but a still pop--not dance--song. That's got to be it. Why it was released to American digital music stores and not Swedish ones, I've got no idea. Bought it, of course, though it's not better than the original (which I really should have had on my singles countdown last year; just a case of taking him and it for granted).

Måns also appeared on game show Så ska det låta last night. If you've ever wanted to see him sing Linda Bengtzing's "Jag ljuger så bra" (!), Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," Gyllene Tider's "Sommartider," Björn Afzelius's "Tusen Bitar," "Var ska vi sova inatt" (complete with performance that, if not earth-shattering, is at least literally floor-shattering), Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me," you can watch the whole hour long show here. I'm sure clips will be on YouTube shortly if they aren't already. He's such a star. And he knows his international political history! Sigh.

Speaking of Måns, I never linked to one of my new favorite pictures of him or the comic strip that had me laughing for quite some time. I wish I lived somewhere where newspapers would publish comics referencing schlager stars. Oh, and CDOn confirmed that the only difference between the regular and deluxe editions of MZW is the booklet; the songs are the same.

Umm...to make this post seem slightly less pointless, did you know '80s Swedish group Secret Service (of "Flash In The Night") have a new single out? It's called "Different" and was an unreleased song unearthed while one member was moving boxes around.

Speaking of remixes and "Flash In The Night," I went on a mini-spree tonight, buying a couple of remixes by the Attic, the duo whose latest single was a cover of that old Secret Service hit but who quality-wise are one of the most reliable presences in the Swedish dance scene. At the end of 2008, Australian singer Candice Alley had her 2003 single "Falling" remixed by the Attic and released in the U.S. The Attic's reworking of the song suits it to a T, with the plaintive but commercial ballad-ish vocal part from Candice melding well with the fairly gentle dance beats underneath it. The other the Attic-related remix I bought was member Michael Feiner's fantastic remix of Daniel Lindström's "Saturday Night" (which is also not new but I've been meaning to buy from iTunes for some time). The song is much more interesting in this interpretation and, like the Attic's remix of "Falling," manages to be fun dance with some moving emotion behind it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I know nobody's perfect, but I guess that I am very close

Poorly chosen song titles, example one: "Love Sux," the name of German former TV singing contestant Linda Teodosiu's debut single. Looking at that spelling, I felt my expectations for the song instantly plummet. I'm not necessarily opposed to slang or informal-style spelling--"In The Ayer," for example, had to be spelled as it was--but looking at "Love Sux," I was expecting really bad punk-pop or something.

Nothing could be further from the truth. "Love Sux" is actually a pop song by none other than Quiz and Larossi who, having found so much success recently with the Saturdays' "Up," seem to be continuing to explore that sound. With its more sashaying-friendly melody, "Love Sux" isn't a carbon copy of "Up," but the production styles are similar, just not in a too-similar-for-comfort way. The video makes Linda's out-of-nowhere unexpected greatness even better: save for the fact that the director could have done a better job casting her ex-love interest, it's a surprisingly well-done dynamic and pose-friendly affair that makes it clear whoever is backing Linda is invested in doing this whole popstar business right.

Add to that the fact that "Good At It," the free track being given away on Linda's website, is on just about equal footing with "Love Sux" and Linda is off to a promising start. "Good At It," based on a stompy electro beat and just-on-the-right-side-of-shouty vocals, is an attitude filled pop song that comes across like a mix of the Saturdays' up-tempo songs and the Pussycat Dolls' "When I Grow Up." "Girls Rule The World," a song Linda has performed, continues the great up-tempo song trend, though it sounds like it has a bit more of a smooth dance sound.

The main producers of Monrose's last album have done the vast majority of songs on Linda's upcoming album, which does make me a little nervous since I felt sadly underwhelmed by the majority of that album. I'm not sure that that was due to the production, though, so I'm still going to hope Linda can deliver an album full of top-quality modern pop songs with slightly edgy impact to them. She's a surprising but welcome addition to the music scene: getting acts like Linda who appears with guns blazing, holding no punches as they introduce themselves with songs like these--completely commercial but not wishy-washy in any way--is a rare but exciting thing.

To pre-order Linda Teodosiu's single "Love Sux," go here (physical).

Next up: maybe an American singer featured on a TV show a few weeks ago.

Don't you notice how I look at you?

As Rick pointed out in the comments, I've been neglecting the world's greatest male popstar. Darin, as I've written about before, is doing a sort of special charity promotional single thing with album bonus track "What If" to promote anti-bullying organization Friends while releasing "Runaway" as his proper next single. It seems like ages since we first heard about the filming of a video for "What If," but it's finally out now. The video is good but only a must-watch if you're a Darin addict and/or love watching him pronounce words, especially his trademark "oo"s. Not that I know anyone for whom that last part is true.

In a meeting of two very different famous singers, Darin also did a duet with Owe Thörnqvist for Swedish TV program Musikministeriet. Watch them work on it here and download the Middle Eastern-meets-urban-electro-pop "Julie" here (if you want to listen to the original song which inspired it, Cheb Khaled's incredibly famous "Didi," go here). Sadly it only lasts two minutes, with Owe taking up the first half and Darin doing the second--I wish so much that it was longer (especially, let's be honest, if the whole song being sung by Darin, just because his style is more in line with my tastes). This information, by the way, was stolen straight from Popknark.

As I mentioned when it happened, during the fourth semifinal of Melodifestivalen, Darin performed a cover of Jan Johansen's "Se på mig," Sweden's 1995 Eurovision entry, during the interval act. Watch the performance below.

Darin will also be appearing on Let's Dance, Sweden's version of Strictly Come Dancing, a few hours from now. Edit: if you want to watch Darin's dance-filled medley of "Breathing Your Love," "Step Up," and "Runaway," go here (though I had to open it in an Internet Explorer tab because it wouldn't play in Firefox). Warning: he opens the performance wearing some ill-advised glasses.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I wanna make it serious, it's so more than a silly crush

I love Velvet. I really do. For fun Swedish dance-pop, the sort of thing made for throwing your hands in the air and losing yourself on the dancefloor, she's pretty hard to beat. It's been about two years since the release of the first single from her second album, "Fix Me" and since then, she's had us at her feet with nearly every single release.

With The Queen, that long-awaited second album, only including four previously unheard songs ("Radio Star," "Play," "My Destiny," and "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes," the last being a cover of an Ultravox song), it would be easy for the album as a whole to come off as nothing more than a way to hear those four songs. The infectious dance vibe of the previously heard songs has remained so untarnished, though, that The Queen ends up being a cohesive celebration of pop that is far more than the sum of those four songs.

It helps that the previously heard but not formally released songs have been tweaked. "My Rhythm" sounds much less demo-like with its newer punchier production and is even more single-worthy than it was in its already great original version. The incredibly dance-friendly "Sound Of Music" was perfect as it was, but its alterations are subtler and don't detract from the song; choosing to include it on the album was one of the best decisions Velvet and her management could have made since it's songs like this one that sum up what Velvet is about to me.

That there are some real highlights among the new songs surely helps, too. "Radio Star" is penned by pop genius Tony Nilsson, also responsible for "The Queen," and it shows: as opposed to the swooshy dance-pop production that characterizes much of Velvet's other work, there's a little more restraint here, but when the melody is this good--and this cute, for all that Velvet and Swedish writers may comment that her work with Tony is "cooler"--that's not a problem; it just puts the song a little closer to the pop side of the spectrum than the dance side, while still staying absolutely danceable. Does anyone make a chorus of pop bliss like Tony does? "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes" won't surprise anyone who knows the song or any of the numerous dance covers of it, but it's a song that suits being dance-pop-ified and Velvet's style. It easily sits alongside the rest of Velvet's work. The same can't quite be said of "My Destiny," by virtue of it being the album's only ballad (though the occasional '80s synth touches help it seem a little more in place), or "Play," also of considerably more subdued than the rest of the album, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're bad songs.

The main reason the album is such a remarkable success, though, is that the songs are flat-out great. The staying power of songs like the dance attack "Fix Me" and horns-featuring "Chemistry" is pretty tough to beat, with time only further proving them to be some of the best dance-pop music the world has made in the past two years. There's no reason we shouldn't be playing follow-ups like "Take My Body Close" and "Come Into The Night" years from now either; both those songs provide the very musical definition of "sparkling" as they spin you around and get you searching for the nearest empty space to turn into your own personal disco. "Sound Of Music" may beat them at their own game, but even if time proves that to be true, that doesn't make them any less great or any less fun. The aformentioned "The Queen" deserved far better than its stuck-in-semifinal fate in this year's Melodifestival and is a perfect pop song.

In short? Buy buy buy! The Queen is practically a greatest hits album and a must-listen for all Swedish pop lovers or anyone who loves pop you can dance to. Velvet makes pop music worth celebrating and perfect for celebrating to--a pop lover's dream.

Next up: maybe off to Asia or sticking in Sweden.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sick of waiting for your love

German singer Jeanette, launched as a result of the teen pop boom of the late '90's and early '00's, gave us great pop in the form of her 2002 single "Rock My Life," a knockoff of Mandy Moore's "In My Pocket" which didn't quite live up to the impossibly high standard set by its inspiration but still holds up all these years on. Special mention also has to go to the more pop-rock "Rockin' On Heaven's Floor," even if only for its title alone.

When the hype for her new single "Undress To The Beat" started early this year, I was hopeful that Jeanette was about to turn herself from a singer with a few lucky moments of brilliance into a proper popstar. Once we finally got to hear the whole thing properly, it wasn't quite as fantastic as I hoped, but it was still a good fun song that indicated an interesting direction for Jeanette's new album, as if she might pursue a danceable pop sound that combined Holly Valance, Rachel Stevens, and some Kylie but wasn't exactly like any of those singers. That Jeanette would ever truly exceed either of the aforementioned artists was always unlikely--something a little more...downmarket was to be expected--but I was left hoping the album of the same title as the lead single would provide us some solid pop moments.

With the album out now and me only having partially digested it so far, I can say it does that. As expected, this isn't an album that those whose music tastes run towards more sophisticated pop will take to their hearts, nor is this an album I'm going to go around begging everyone to listen to--it has more niche appeal than that. Boy, though, what a niche. If you've got a love for your random European pop starlets doing up-tempo modern pop songs (as I do), you'll enjoy even those and probably find the album as a whole not only listenable but exciting. It has some great electro-dance-pop songs, ones which I can imagine many the fan of the European pop scene loving.

Picking which song to share was pretty difficult. The sweet poppy "All Mine"? The slinky but up-tempo electro "Feline" (which has fantastic verses and bridges but a chorus that isn't quite as good until same backing vocals are added to it the last few times around)? "Undress To The Beat," which, despite mentioning numerous times and linking to, I've never actually posted? "In Or Out," with its expansive catchy synth-filled chorus and slightly less great but also slightly more haunting verses? The cheesier stop-start synths of the more mid-tempo "No Rules"? The choppy "Chasing A Thrill," with its insistent drum beat, layers of synths hooks, and catchy vocal part? "Material Boy (Don't Look Back)," originally pitched to Monrose and with a dirty electro sound and strong percussion part that makes it unsurprising that the song comes from Remee and Thomas Troelsen, who did that group's "Hot Summer" (though it's not as amazing as that song and has changed since its appearance as a Monrose demo)? I could keep going, but the bottom line is that you probably already know whether or not this is an album for you. I'm sure by tomorrow, when more than two hours since I first heard the album have passed, I'll be thinking that I chose the wrong song and will be feeling the urge to dedicate a new post to a new song, but for now, here's "This Love," which I think is kind of Rachel Stevens-esque. The chorus doesn't quite attack like I want it to, but the song is still pretty great.

To buy Jeanette's album Undress To The Beat, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe more about Måns or about Erik. Or another Jeanette song.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Love will last forever

Do you know who's amazing? Commenter Wiola P, who alerted me to the fact that Måns Zelmerlöw had uploaded MZW to his MySpace.

Do you know who's also amazing? Måns. Getting to listen to this album a week earlier than expected is making my day.

"Forever" is dance-tastic. It sports a musical line that my first response to was "that sounds like Basshunter's 'DotA,'" but I've always liked that song anyway. "Freak Out" is so poppy, despite its R&B and electronic influences, and so catchy that I've already got a huge crush on it. "Rewind" answers my prayers by being in the dance direction I hoped but didn't dare expect it would be, and the same could be said for any number of other songs on MZW. In general, the sound seems to be much more grown up, fully fleshed out, modern, and with an electronic bite to it; more international, but still Måns. It's not a schlager album, but, at least in a partial listening, it's the album I was hoping Måns would make, especially once we knew the collaborators.

Given that I'm pressed for time at the moment (skipping class to listen to an album has never sounded so appealing), I can't say more or even listen to all the tracks before I leave (I'll write more when I get back). Let's just say that, after this album, any chance of me escaping Måns's effect on me is pretty much gone.

Buy MZW here (physical) or here (physical). It comes out next week, but you can preorder it now.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It doesn't matter if life wanna prove us wrong

I was reading about Måns Zelmerlöw's upcoming album MZW and was pleased at a few bits of information I hadn't previously heard. Though we already knew that the Fredrik Kempe/Henrik Wikström team was involved (see: "Hope & Glory"), that Ishi was involved, and that "Impossible" was written with Aleena Gibson and Dan Sundquist, there were a few names linked to the album as either writers or producers that were new: Moh Denebi, Jason Gill/David Clewett, and Peter Boström, a.k.a Bassflow! I bet you all can guess which name I'm most excited about.

As for the others, Jason Gill has done many songs, among them Sofia's "Hypnotized," Ola's "Given To Fly" and "My Home" (I know most of you think Ola didn't do anything noteworthy until his second album and I'll agree that's where his music suddenly became amazing, but I do like a few songs from his debut album), but it's one of his most recent pieces of work that I love the most: Darin's "Paradise." David Clewett wasn't a name I was familiar with, but apparently he co-wrote Bananarama's "Move In My Direction." "Move In My Direction" + "Paradise" would be a divine combination, but, much as I'd like it to happen, I can't imagine it will: that would require a.) both songwriters to be living up to their best, and b.) a dancier direction than Måns is probably taking for this album. At least one Gill/Clewett song (I don't know how many there are) is probably "Rewind," which has in a songwriter context been referred to as "Rewind (Back To Summertime)," a fact which probably only interests you if you're desperate for every little bit of information you can get about this album...like me.

Moh Denebi is someone I associate with Dilba (including, coincidentally enough, "Every Little Thing"). His songs often have some of that "ethnic" flair to them and can be kind of R&B.

I've mentioned Ishi and his involvement with this album before. As I said then, he's done work with Petter and Lazee which, at its most interesting, combines hard electro with R&B. "Hold On" is the title of one of the songs on Måns's album and for a second the idea that it was a version of the Lazee and Neverstore track co-written by Ishi crossed my mind, but given that that was a single (and not just an album track like Fredrik Kempe's "Miss America"), it's far too unlikely that Måns would re-use it. I think.

The album is potentially shaping up to be pretty R&B-ish, but I'm going to hold onto the hope that with Måns that will just mean pop with some bite to it. Maybe the best news is that, though Oswalds Popcorn has a middling opinion of the album as a whole, Ken loves "Forever," which is a Fredrik Kempe song. Apparently it's Måns's least favorite song on the album, which is a worrying; granted, I haven't heard it yet, but I hope the (honestly respectable) fourth place finish he pulled on Saturday didn't so disillusion him that he stops working with Fredrik entirely. That would be a real shame.

On the random front, Måns has obviously co-written many songs that haven't made the cut, but, much as I love the idea of him and Johan Bobäck (Elin Lanto's "Speak 'n Spell," Cyndi Lauper's "Into The Nightlife," Darin's "Seasons Fly," Jeanette's "Undress To The Beat") collaborating together, let's be honest: it's probably best that a track with the title "Sexceed" won't be appearing on the album (it was also co-written with Joachim Nilsson, so it could easily not have been on the edgy electro side like I wish it was). Måns said in an interview last fall that he was working with Anders Bagge, but I've not seen any reference to those songs making it onto the album.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'm still standing for hope and glory

Would you believe I MISSED THE MELODIFESTIVAL FINAL on Saturday? No, I can't either. I think that's got to be the first sign of the apocalypse. Huge apologies for not doing any sort of write-up before or immediately after it--I fully planned to, wanted to, and don't know how I'm going to get all this energy, a mixture of tension and excitement, out of my system since I didn't do that.

I'm watching it right now and I've managed to avoid finding out the result up to this point. I'll be on blog/e-mail/comments embargo until I've finished.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Do you know how it feels when the ground seems to shake underneath your feet?

After I wrote about Alcazar's "Burning" for the first time, I spent my next trip to the gym listening to nothing but that 52 second clip on repeat. Literally nothing else the entire time.

I offer that fact up as a way of explaining that there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to hold myself back from posting the full song once we had it. Disco Defenders is full of great songs which could easily hold up their own post, but "Burning," with its Alcazar-meets-Star-Pilots vibe--read "swooshy, hands-in-the-air, full-throttle dance-pop inspired by the '80's-sampling dance hits of modern times that is pure fun and completely contagious" if you're not familiar with Star Pilots--is irresistible and my easy favorite of the songs on the album we hadn't previously heard in full. It's always dangerous to start throwing phrases like this around, but if "Burning" isn't one of the best songs of 2009 by the year's end, we'll have had a breathtakingly good year for music. "Burning" has to be the most international and crossover-friendly Alcazar have sounded for quite some time. It's also exactly the sort of song this blog is here to promote, praise to the heavens--because make no mistake, "Burning" is nothing less than a gift straight from the gods of pop--and beg you to buy.

One of the most surprising things about the album is that the best songs come from various different writers; superproducer Anders Hansson may be responsible for a plurality of the tracks, but the highlights come from multiple writers. "Stay The Night," "We Keep On Rockin'," and the previously unheard "My My Me And Mine" are all by Anders Hansson, "Baby" is by the Pet Shop Boys, and "Burning" is from Empire Studios' Johan Fjellström, Joakim Udd, and Karl Eurén. I'd also put Figge's "Put The Top Down" near that list, though the fact that it includes acoustic guitar work and is more a cruising down the avenue song than a dancing in the club song may make me fairly alone in that belief. Still, if I'm going to put that song near the best of list, then I'm going to have to start talking about "Harlem Nights," too, which is better and probably belongs in that first list, and then I'll just start listing off almost every track on this great album.

If you don't live in Sweden, you can buy Disco Defenders here or here.

Next up: maybe Erik Hassle or someone else if I can manage to stop playing Alcazar's new album for long enough to think about anything else.

Strut their stuff again

Alcazar's new album, Disco Defenders, is out now, after some problems with availability. I haven't heard it yet, but you can read a review of it over at Scandipop and listen to short clips from it below.

As a reminder for those of you who might usually ignore Alcazar news (what, are you crazy?), "Baby," the seventh track on the album, is written by the Pet Shop Boys. It starts playing at 2:25.

If you don't live in Sweden, you can buy Disco Defenders here or here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You're just too good for me

For the past few months, one of my main default "I don't know what song to play" sources for music has been Swedish songwriter and producer Kocky or, more specifically, my two favorite songs of his. Both are collaborations with Rosanna, the former Play member and solo artist of the brilliant "Gameboy," and come from his second album, Stadium Status. They're electronic in base but not in an '80s throwback sort of way, instead having a modern catchy sheen with its roots in dance but which doesn't add up to dance-pop. There's a bit of R&B thrown into the mix, too. Reading that description, you won't really get a feel for what Kocky's music sounds like, but a few listens to his productions will give you a feel for the generally fun style he's got going. I'm sure he'd totally disagree with me, but there's something kind of bubblegum about his beats, a fact I love--despite all the synth obsession going on, no one else quite has this sound going.

"Oh!" was, according to Kocky, inspired by an electro-house remix of Fergie's "Glamorous" which Rosanna loved. He took from it the idea to mix pop/R&B with a harder dance track and the result was a bleep-filled but still melodic song with a welcome bite to its chorus. The beats in "Fast Car" don't pound with the same intensity, but they're not meant to: the music has a bit more sashaying or strutting and bounce to it--though it's still propelled forward--as Rosanna works a car analogy for all she's worth.

To buy Kocky's second album, Stadium Status, go here (physical) or here (digital). It's also available on iTunes internationally.

Next up: maybe Erik Hassle (very good international release-related news about him came out recently!) or that German dance-pop.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I know I should get away

I've got some catching up posts to do to make up for songs I should have written about over the past few months but just never got around to. Starting us off is Sweden's Cloetta Paris. The duo is often written about in reference to their underground-level italo-disco music which has led to them becoming a blog favorite often mentioned in the same sentence as Sally Shapiro. You could just as easily compare her latest single, "You And Me By The Stereo," to a toned down version of Annie's cosmic electro-pop "Songs Remind Me Of You," though. Still, the music may not bite in the same way as that Annie song, but the vocals, though still delicate, are just a little less slight--or maybe just a little warmer--a welcome difference. Somehow the song seems to have created much less buzz online than their earlier work, but it's definitely worthy of a little more love.

To buy Cloetta Paris's latest single "You And Me By The Stereo," go here (digital).

Next up: maybe I'll finally write about Erik Hassle's album or that Swedish pop-rock or that German dance-pop song I've mentioned several times.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The right way straight to my heart

There aren't many artists more generous with their material than Magnus Carlsson. While, say, Frankmusik's generosity tends to take the form of constantly sharing new songs he's created, Magnus shares older demos of often unreleased songs, but I'm just as eager to hear those, even if they lack the production touches we would have heard if they'd been worked up for a proper release.

The most recent selection of songs Magnus shared on his official site are from his work with the Da Buzz team. Apparently, after participating in Melodifestivalen in 2006, Magnus felt an urge to begin working on English language material and, being a fan of Da Buzz's work, he recorded some demos with the group (well, with the two men in the group) in the summer and fall of 2006. Only one of the songs made it onto the main edition of the album in the end, but the song that made the cut was one of my absolute favorites, though I didn't realize it was by Da Buzz until now: "Don't You Worry," the song I've always imagined in my alternative handling of Live Forever - The Album to have been the late fall/early winter 2006 single (with "Crazy Summer Nights" as the summer 2006 single instead of "Waves Of Love"). It's an incredibly sweet but poppy song which I strongly recommend you seek out the album version of.

Anyway, Magnus recently uploaded to his official site the demos from his work with Da Buzz, though some of the songs--all the ones never previously released except for one, and that one's a ballad--are only long clips, not the full thing. If you bought the deluxe digital version of Live Forever - The Album, you already had the demos for "I Belong To You," "I Found Love" and "Don't You Worry," but the amazing transformation of the latter from its demo to final version hints at what a treat we might have been in for had these demos--which are already pretty good--ever been reworked for actual release. The previously unheard (as far as I'm aware) songs are "Can't Believe," "Even If I Want To," and "Rescue Me." I'd love to hear full versions of those last two if they exist, given how great their up-tempo pop sounds to my ears, but I'm mainly glad we got this little glimpse into Magnus's and Da Buzz's recording vaults.

Can I get a minute and a couple seconds of your time?

Darin correction: Darin's official site posted yesterday that "Runaway" is the official new single from the Swedish artist and is being promoted to Swedish radio stations. Despite that, I know stations just got shipped a version of "What If" (listed as an album bonus track despite being on all versions of the album) credited to "Darin featuring Friends" or "Friends featuring Darin" which was made available digitally for purpose today; he filmed video for "What If," too.

I think the situation is what I initially thought it was: "What If" is just to promote an anti-bullying campaign for the organization Friends. "Runaway" is the actual third single from Flashback.

"Runaway" isn't a bad song by any stretch and it would be more than welcome on my American radio any day, but it's very much not in my top tier of songs from the album (if we're talking of things other than club-friendly urban dance tracks, "Road Trip" and "Paradise" are far ahead of it in my eyes). Still, my taste in Darin's music and the Swedish public's taste doesn't seem to line up very often, so I'll be hoping the single and maybe his performance during the interval of Melodifestivalen about a week ago can give the album a bit of a sales boost, something it really needs.

You got me waiting all alone

I know barely anything about Swedish group Le Kid. What I do know, though, is that their song "Telephone" is fantastic. Disco-pop meets the '80s and packed full of hooks, "Telephone" has the sort of production I live for, that swooshy dance-pop sound, but differentiates itself with a vocal melody and delivery almost appropriate for '80s pop-rock.

Songwriter and apparent group member Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad, who I'm assuming is at least partially behind this song, is at this rate headed for a quick induction into my songwriter pantheon. For sparkling dance-pop productions, is anyone more reliably great? Magnus Carlsson's "Walking In My Shoes," Velvet's "Sound Of Music," Luigi Masi's "Strangers Again," Lutricia McNeal's "Same Same Same"...here's hoping "Jump Straight Into The Fire," the song of his on Alcazar's new album, is just as great. "Poptastic" has never been more appropriate than it is for his work.

We absolutely have to give credit to Cocktail Studios, too, though. Felix Persson frequently collaborates with Anton and the duo that makes up the studios, Felix and Märta Grauers (who are also in the group, I believe), co-produced Agnes's latest album with Anders Hansson and did MissMatch's album, the highlight of which for me isn't even actually on the album: the radio edit of "Breathe In/Breathe Out." They apparently also worked on the upcoming BWO album, presumably continuing their collaboration with Anders Hansson.

There is as of yet nowhere to purchase Le Kid's "Telephone," which I think is getting a single release, but visit their MySpace here.

Next up: maybe Swedish italo-disco.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mijn beeld van liefde is zo vaak kapot gemaakt

Why didn't anyone tell me Dutch singer Jim had a new single out?

Boy, I love his voice. If you're not already familiar with Jim or haven't been won over by his previous work, "Door Jou" isn't the place to start, but I really like it; uplifting gentle pop-rock is a subgenre I have a lot of patience for, and Jim did it nearly unbeatably with "Fenomeen," a track from his last album which was one of my absolute favorite songs of the year it was released. I'd be thrilled if the album from which "Door Jou" comes ends up featuring some electro-pop edge like the also fantastic "Altijd" from that album, too. If I'm speaking of Jim songs I love, there's at least one more that I can't leave out: his 2003 debut single "Tell Her," a precious (gasp!) ballad that owes much of its emotional edge to that voice of Jim's. Watch him perform it while looking almost unreasonably pretty below.

Though I enjoy "Door Jou," I'm pretty sure I could tell you how it came about: Jim's people saw the unbelievable success Dutch singer Jeroen van der Boom had with his cover of David Bisbal's "Silencio" and went out and found another track written by Colombian hitmaker Kike Santander. I say "unbelievable" not for any reasons related to the song itself--I adored "Silencio," a 2006 single from David's most recent studio album and, though less dancey, a worthy successor to songwriter Kike and David's earlier hits together like "Ave María" and "Bulería"--but because I'm under the impression that Jeroen somehow ended up gaining a lot of credibility with his cover of it. Anyway, the result here is a cover of Cristian Castro's "Azul," but in this case, unlike with David and Jeroen, I like the cover version a lot more; I've never loved "Azul" as much as I wanted to and, in addition to the advantage of Jim's voice, the Dutch language lyrics just feel as if they fill out the vocal part of the song more completely to me.

Jim's latest single "Door Jou" can be purchased from all countries' iTunes stores here (digital).

In other news about male European singers who took second in the first season of Idol in their countries to some other male singer, it looks like Darin is properly releasing the anti-bullying song "What If" as his next single. It's been known for a while now that he filmed a video for the song, but I just always figured it was a tie-in with some campaign or something; now, though, "What If" is officially listed on the singles release list.

Next up: maybe that '80's Danish song, Swedish pop-rock, or Swedish/Finnish dance.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Don't deny me

I've been meaning to say this since Brad first posted the song, but, even though I'm very late by this point, I can't not tell everyone to listen to the Röyksopp feat. Robyn song "The Girl And The Robot" over on MuuMuse.

Yes, this makes for a pretty pathetic post, but just go listen to it.

Edit: oh, of course I would finally get around to linking you to the radio rip on the day the full album leaks.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I never knew that I would rewrite the time of my life to not knowing better

I had my iPod on shuffle the other day and two songs from Dilba's 2003 album Revolution, which I took as a sign to post something from it. The Swedish-Kurdish singer has released three studio albums so far as well as a new single last year. The first album's main single, "I'm Sorry," was a floaty semi-soulful pop song, but for "Every Little Thing," the lead single for her third album, she added an electro bite to her sound. "Every Little Thing" may be six years old by now, but its sound is one I think hasn't dated at all; if this was the debut single by some new singer, it would still be worth getting excited about. A strong melody--especially in that chorus, but it's a Swedish song, so would you expect anything less?--Dilba's often delicate voice, the dark electro squiggles interwoven throughout the song, some sometimes evocative lyrics, and the strong percussion beat add up to a great distinctive subtly powerful song.

To buy Dilba's third studio album Revolution, go here (digital).

Thursday, March 05, 2009

But I end up falling back into your arms

Sorry for the mini-disappearance! It's been mildly crazy around here (nothing bad--just lots of things to be busy with), but the good news is everything will clear up soon. There might not be a proper post today, but tomorrow, I'll be fully back, posting again and catching up with e-mails, comments, and other blogs.

Monday, March 02, 2009

DJ, show me some sympathy

I've been meaning to write about today's song for something like a week now. Melodifestivalen and life got in the way, but, as I try to distract myself from the fact that we've now heard all of the year's Melodifestival songs, today's a good day to return to Janet Leon.

Janet joined the Swedish girl group Play after one of its members departed. In the time since the group's members went their separate ways, she's still been around the the music industry, just doing less noticeable work. She got her chance to shine again when she was chosen to participate in Made In Sweden, a Swedish TV centered on the music industry. It featured Andreas Carlsson, Anders Bagge, and Laila Bagge, all members of the Idol jury, helping several acts create albums. One of those acts was Janet, who released the mid-tempo pop-R&B song "Let Go" as her lead single earlier this year.

For me, far more exciting than "Let Go" are some of other songs on her recently released debut album (well, sort of debut album--it's eight tracks long and will be reissued with more songs later, I believe). It will come as no surprise to you that I'm drawn to up-tempo tracks like "Heartache on the Dance Floor" and "Breakaway," but there are other good songs, too (the mid-tempo electronic but string-featuring "Anyway" comes to mind). Andreas, Anders, and Laila were clearly shooting to make music with an international-friendly sound and they get it right pretty often, even if they don't necessarily create anything hugely original. "Heartache On The Dance Floor," for example, slots nicely into the post-Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music" landscape, bearing a beat with a resemblance to that song but being totally enjoyable on its own merits. "Breakaway," possibly the strongest track on the album, doesn't have any such similar-looking foreign siblings. That makes its hard synth hits and plethora of hooks even more enjoyable, even if many of those hooks come via repetition.

To buy Janet Leon's debut solo album, Janet, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe an '80's-sounding Danish song, a German song I've mentioned multiple times, or a guitar-featuring Swedish song.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

There can be no wrong or right

With Melodifestivalen songs now officially available for download, let's see how things stand on the Swedish iTunes chart:

Malena tops the chart, with only three non-MF songs--Depeche Mode, Lady GaGa, and James Morrison and Nelly Furtado--making it into the top ten. All the participants charting in the top 100 as of 3:30 PM EST:

1.) Malena Ernman, "La Voix"
2.) Måns Zelmerlöw, "Hope & Glory"
3.) Agnes, "Love Love Love"
4.) Alcazar, "Stay The Night"
6.) Velvet, "The Queen" (on sale for days now)
7.) Sarah Dawn Finer, "Moving On"
8.) Star Pilots, "Higher"
*Possibly my favorite part of the whole Swedish iTunes chart right now is that, though "In The Heat Of The Night," the group's earlier single, has reentered at #52--as is to be expected and with other artists' earlier singles doing the same thing--Boy Meets Girl's "Waiting For A Star To Fall" has also entered the iTunes chart at #53. Apparently a lot of people picked up on that similarity.
11.) Lili & Susie, "Show Me Heaven"
16.) Anna Sahlene & Maria Haukaas Storeng, "Killing Me Tenderly"
17.) H.E.A.T, "1000 Miles"
20.) Molly Sandén, "Så vill stjärnorna"
25.) Emilia, "You're My World"
32.) Maja Gullstrand, "Här för mig själv" (on sale for days now)
33.) Marie Serneholt, "Disconnect Me"
37.) Amy Diamond, "It's My Life"
39.) Nina Söderquist, "Tick Tock" (on sale for weeks now)
40.) Cookies 'n' Beans, "What If"
46.) Sofia, "Alla"
47.) Caroline af Ugglas, "Snälla Snälla"
58.) Rigo & the Topaz Sound feat. Red Fox, "I Got U"
67.) Jan Johansen, "Se på mig" (an entry from years past making an appearance due to Darin's performance of it during the interval act)
70.) Susanne Alfvengren, "Du är älskad där du går"
71.) BWO, "You're Not Alone (Oscar Holter Radio Mix)"
*charting higher than the ballad version of the song actually entered in the contest is this dance remix
83.) BWO, "You're Not Alone (Ballad Radio Edit)"
84.) Thorleifs, "Sweet Kissin' In The Moonlight"
85.) Lili & Susie, "Show Me Heaven (Oscar Holter Remix)"
*a great slightly edgier version of the song

Noticeable absences include E.M.D.'s "Baby Goodbye" which, though for sale elsewhere, hasn't been released to iTunes yet. Scotts' "Jag tror på oss" (which I actually really like) is available from iTunes but isn't in the top 100. Charting better than might be expected due to their placing are Velvet, Anna Sahlene & Maria Haukaas Storeng (though they're only doing better than one act that beat them in their semifinal final, showing either the strength of that fourth semifinal or that the fact that it just happened means more songs from it are being bought), Maja Gullstrand, and Marie Serneholt, with Nina Söderquist and Sofia also putting in showings better than might be expected from their results in the contest.

In reality, reading too much into these numbers would be silly...but what fun would that be? If we pretend they're an accurate representation of Swedes' preferred songs and ignore the fact that the duel system means almost anything can happen and lends itself towards strange results (see the huge number of votes in the Carola and Andreas vs. Nordman duel last year), that iTunes buyers don't necessarily coincide at all with telephone voters, and that having just watched the fourth semifinal Swedes are probably thinking more about those songs than those of past weeks, what would these chart placings mean would happen on Saturday?

Sarah Dawn Finer would easily beat Scotts and Lili & Susie would beat BWO. In the Sarah vs. Lili & Susie matchup, Sarah would win, qualifying to the final.

In the bottom half of the bracket, Star Pilots would beat Amy Diamond and Caroline af Ugglas would beat Rigo, with Star Pilots going on to beat Caroline and thereby qualifying to the final.