Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Izdaju me koljena a nisam se zaljubila

I stop following Croatian singer Franka Batelić for a few months, and what does she go and do?

Only continue proving herself to be one of the best popstar projects going. Her team is doing a fantastic job of matching her up with the right music, provided here by the same people as those behind "Ruža u kamenu" (as well as her entry this year in Croatia's national finals for Eurovision, "Pjesma za kraj"). That poppy electro-disco beat, that chorus melody--I would have been sold even without the "ooo bop bop bop" backing vocals. I once jokingly said I wished someone would match Franka up with Xenomania, but even if that were financially and logistically possible, she doesn't need it, not as long as she can keep getting songs from Boris Đurđević (member of dance group Colonia and fantastic songwriter), Miro Buljan, and Nenad Ninčević.

"Možda volim te" "Ruža u kamenu," and "Pjesma za kraj" show just as much songwriting skill as anything any of the British, Swedish, American, or otherwhere-based songwriters I and the Internet go on and on about--I just wish more people would appreciate it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't wanna kiss, don't wanna touch, just want one cigarette and run

It's been a very good few days for leaked songs.

Generating some of the most column inches have been Lady GaGa's "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro." The former is the final version of her new single, following up on the leak of the demo a few weeks ago. I might just be suffering from "preferring what I'm used to" syndrome, but I prefer the sound of the demo at this point; the final version has elements that occasionally come across as harsh and unmelodic--synths that are distractingly abrasive, random shouting, changes to the way her voice is handled--and cuts ones that enhanced the opposite perception.

Luckily, we've still got the synths-meet-ABBA/Ace of Base-ish "Alejandro," a clip of which leaked as "Don't Call My Name" a while ago, to make up for that loss.

I mentioned on Twitter that I was looking forward to Timbaland's new album far more than I would have expected given the lack of any high quality material out there (some of the low quality recordings are tantalizing, though, including what we've heard of the Miley Cyrus song), but we've now actually got something to listen to: "Morning After Dark," featuring French artist SoShy. Timbaland's voice sounds strangely high-pitched on the chorus, but if you can get over that fact, "Morning After Dark" proves that the producer, much maligned by many for repetition after his revival in 2006, still has something to offer pop fans.

Contrary to what one of my recent posts may make you think, I don't often take to really hating songs. That's at the point I'm at with Leona Lewis's "Happy" at the moment, though. Knowing she had songs like "Strangers" and "Perfect Stranger" for her upcoming second album helped me accept that disappointment, but as it turns out, neither of those tracks made the tracklisting in the end. Luckily, "I Got U" did.

Penned by Max Martin, "I Got U" is the closest Leona has come to recapturing the magic of "Bleeding Love" in my eyes. It bears more similarity to Leona's debut single than it does most of Max's recent work, though you could make a case for Backstreet's "Bigger," I guess. It's the best of Max's late '90s/early '00s sound combined with "Bleeding Love"s drums. "I Got U" is gorgeous, a ballad but with a quicker than a ballad feel, with a pulse, and with a smart repeated "hit it strong-back off" two-syllable pattern to emphasis its chorus. Leona's "I Got U" may not be a cover of the also Max-written Nick Carter song "I Got U," but it's just as special a ballad.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hold on just for a while

A few notes on artist and songwriter-related subjects:

Martin Stenmarck's upcoming album, I Septemberland, features five songs from the team at Swedish music publishing and production company TEN (A*Teens, Amy Diamond, Erik Hassle). In this case, though, the songs don't seem to be by the Tysper/Grizzly/Mack team (who in addition to the aforementioned successes have also been the creators of Industry's "My Baby's Waiting" and VV Brown's "Shark In The Water") but rather by Elof Loelv and Kim Wennerström, who also worked with Erik Hassle and produced Malena Ernman's "La Voix." Kim is also a member of the band DYNO and Elof has worked with them (if you're not already a fan, now's the time to fall in love with them; they're overdue a post here, but in the meantime, check out coverage on #1 Hits From Another Planet and Don't Stop The Pop), who are now under TEN's wings. Anyway, I wouldn't expect a change in Martin's style, but hopefully this is a good sign in terms of quality meeting accessibility. The song titles TEN is involved with are:

I Septemberland
Gråa Hjärtans Sång
Happy Ending
Jag Vill, Jag Vill, Jag Vill
J, Jeff och Jesus

Kris Allen apparently wrote some songs with Eg White (Will Young's "Leave Right Now," "Who Am I," "Let It Go," "I Won't Give Up," "Tell Me The Worst," James Morrison's "You Give Me Something," Adele) for his upcoming debut major label album. The tracklisting isn't finalized yet, so it's uncertain which if any will make the cut.

(Side note: the first tastes of Adam Lambert's new music is out, but it's a non-album power ballad, "Time For Miracles," for the 2012 soundtrack and is apparently not indicative of the sound of the album. Oh, and Dr. Luke recently mentioned he was adding retro synths to a song for Adam--I'm hoping he means Van Halen's "Jump"-style synths.)

Bosson released a greatest hits collection this past summer. Did anyone else not know that? A quick glance at the tracklisting doesn't show any new songs beyond a version of "One In A Million" featuring Elizma Theron. I hope he releases new material soon...and that it's more like his older songs, not like "Wake Up." He's friends with Twentyfive Productions (Lisette Vares, Danny's "I Need To Know") on MySpace, which could mean they just produced the new version of "One In A Million" or he's working on them with new stuff.

As Paul of Fizzy Pop and PopMuse have written, the video for Will Young's new single, "Hopes & Fears," is out. It's a great song, one of those gentle mid/up-tempo hybrids that just makes you feel better about the day.

Seven of the songs on Magnus Carlsson's upcoming album Pop Galaxy are by Pitchline (Velvet's "Take My Body Close" and "Come Into The Night" and a song with Elin Lanto that I still hope to hear some day--speaking of which, Scandipop has great Elin news about a new single and possible participation in a certain music festival).

Kleerup, Natasha Bedingfield, and newcomer Jonas Myrin (you might know him best as the male mannequin in Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Get Over You" video) all worked on a song together--presumably for Natasha. It was such a surprising combination that I had to mention it.

James Morrison has a new single, "Get To You," coming out to promote the rerelease of his second album, Songs For You, Truths For Me. It's produced by Mark Taylor, the same man who produced "Broken Strings," his excellent duet with Nelly Furtado, as well as many, many other songs. It's not quite as great as that earlier single, but it's good.

Nanne's great recent single "Otacksamhet" was co-written and co-produced by '80s Swedish popstar Paul Rein. Given how much I ADORE the Epicentre-penned "Kom Hit," on which Nanne duets with Paul, I'm thinking they should collaborate more often.

I'm sure all the hardcore Agnes fans already knew this, but half of Agnes's demo version of "Say Love," the song which eventually ended up being released by Sandra, is streaming in the music section of the website of the song's cowriters, Epicentre's Anders Wikström and Fredrik Thomander.

Don't hear the sound

With a hat tip to Schlagerprofilerna, one of the twenty-seven Melodifestival entries revealed yesterday has been disqualified.

Sadly, it's not that much of a surprise: "Never Heard Of Him" (edit: which has been confirmed as the song Anorah was going to sing--poor her) had been available on songwriter Figge Boström's MySpace. This marks at least the second time Figge has had some disqualification trouble: he wrote the original Hungarian entry for this year's Eurovision, which was eventually revealed to have been released years earlier in Sweden by Operation Robinson contestants.

A replacement has not yet been announced, but remember: a song not making the final Melodifestival cut to begin with doesn't necessarily mean it's of poor quality--see "Cara Mia" from 2007 for an example. Presumably the replacement will come from one of the songs that just missed out, a list that can be viewed on SVT's official Melodifestival website here.

In other Melodifestival news, the web joker entries are available online. I haven't had a chance to listen to many yet, but if you want to wade through them, they're here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And Matt Damon's not meant for me

To semi-counteract the abundance of words in my Melodifestival post below, here are a few quick notes on some songs I'm loving at the moment. There are bunches more, but I better break them up into a few posts.

As Chart Rigger has already covered, the new Leighton Meester single, "Somebody To Love," is really pretty good. It's electro-pop, but of a more restrained, loungey sort (which isn't actually lounge courtesy of its beat). Leighton's voice is kind of emotionless, but it's perfect for the song. Speaking of voices, this is the first time I've ever found Robin Thicke's voice sexy (my usual attitude towards him is loving "When I Get You Alone" and wishing I liked him more to spite Justin Timberlake), but boy, it's enough to make up for lost time. Worth more writing later.

My three favorite songs from the Saturdays' new album, Wordshaker, are, in order, "Open Up," "Ego," and "Wordshaker." I see what they meant about going in a more rocky direction, but really, don't be scared: they didn't. A few more guitar-mimicking sounds here and there, but it's just as pop as their debut. "Open Up" may be too cheesy for some, but for me, it's pure Swedish pop perfection, with fantastic verses, bridge, and second half of the chorus.

"Ego," just designated the second single, is a perfect choice, modern electronic pop just like we want from the British girl group.

"Wordshaker," like "Ego," is a fierce critique of a boy doesn't even sport many of those guitar-esque elements.

As I mentioned on Twitter (follow me!), Shakira's "Men In This Town" sports bonkers lyrics and a dancey pop beat.

As a catch-up note, I haven't mentioned British group's Ou Est Le Swimming Pool's dark-but-accessible electronic pop song "Dance The Way I Feel" yet. It's ADDICTIVE and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to all pop lovers, no matter how much cool you like with your music.

Never heard of...them

The song titles and composers for the non-wildcard entries for this year's Melodifestival were released today. As you can imagine, I'm beyond excited.

As I did last year, I have to throw in my two cents on the various entries. In general, there's an almost shocking lack or reduced number of the old staples, the songwriters who have dominated the entries for years. For example, Henrik Wikström and lyrics writer Ingela "Pling" Försman don't have any songs this year, while Anders Hansson and Fredrik Kempe, composers of many of my favorite entries of recent years, only have one song each (nor does Alexander Bard, who you can usually expect to have an entry, have any this year). Few of this year's writers are unknowns in a Marie Lindberg sense (i.e., never having had a song recorded before), but compared to previous years, there are few known names. Melodifestivalen is sometimes criticized for freezing out songwriters outside of its establishment, so it will be interesting to see how the quality this year measures up; it could go either way.

Once again like last year, I've also incorporated information from the Swedish press about the tracks. Sources: GP, UNT, DT, ESCToday, Gylleneskor, QX, Schlagerprofilerna, and Expressen

Most recent update: Expressen published an article speculating on some of the artists. Where their names hadn't already been brought up, I've edited them in.

If you've got any more information or any corrections, I'd love it if you left them in the comments. This will probably be the post where I'll edit in all new information as it comes out (mainly for personal reference, since I'll try also to mention it in a new post).

("m" is for music, "l" is for lyrics. Just in case you were wondering.)

A Place To Stay, m & l: Torben Hedlund
No idea on this one.

The Swedish media report that its'a poppy mid-tempo song with synthesizers and there is talk of the singer being a woman who is known in a certain context. Jenny Silver sings the demo.

Doctor Doctor m & l: Tony Nilsson, Mirja Breitholtz
You all know by now I LOVE Tony. His big break was with Ola's series of hit singles that started with his second album (meaning he's been involved with nearly every Ola song I love--"Natalie," "S.O.S.", "Can't Get Enough," "Love In Stereo," "Feelgood") but since then he's made songs for Johan Krafstrom (the slightly more pop-rock Ola sound of "Disarmed" and "Chain Reaction"), Velvet ("The Queen" and "Radio Star," both pop bliss), Marie Serneholt ("Disconnect Me"), and Elin Lanto ("Discotheque" and "My Favorite Pair Of Jeans"). Mirja is, if I'm remembering correctly, his girlfriend, with whom he's co-written a previous Melodifestival entry ("Love In Stereo," I think). Anyway, I LOVE his work and am super-excited for this song.

The Swedish media report that there are rumors Elin Lanto is going to sing this song, modern up-tempo pop, which would THRILL me. Since her early 2008 makeover into a dance-pop princess, she's been going from strength to strength. Maybe this will help her get an album out.

Headlines, m & l: Tony Nilsson, Peter Boström
My dream team! Tony plus Peter "Bassflow" Boström is a great combination--together, they've made most of the songs of Tony's I just listed above. Peter is a writer and producer (and remixer--see what he's done to Martin Stenmarck's singles) in his own right, working with just about every amazing Swedish pop act (including producing Bosson's "One In A Million" and "You" and Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero"). Many people felt disappointed with Marie's "Disconnect Me" this year, but I'm hoping people will be won over by these two in the Melodifestival context--not just the Ola on the radio context--in 2010.

The Swedish media speculate that the performer will be male and report that "Headlines" is upbeat with ironic lyrics. Expressen guesses that Galaxy One will be the performer.

Heaven And Hell,m & l: Håkan Larsson, Jörgen Svensson, Björn Lönnroos
None of these names rang a bell for me--all I've got for sure is that all three of them wrote some songs for Shebang, a fun pop-rocky attitude-filled Swedish girl duo (none of their big hits, though), but they say they say on their MySpace (which, as you'd expect given their group name, makes their work sound traditional dansband-ish) they've worked with Fame, Fame's former member Jessica Andersson, and Charlotte Perrelli.

A woman sings the song on the demo. The song is reported to be a rock--very much hard rock--song that alternates between a ballad and uptempo and Expressen reports that Linda Pritchard is being strongly considered. Edit: though now that she's probably singing "You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot" they'll be looking for someone else.

Hippare Hoppare, m & l: Vlatko Ancevski, Vlatko Gicarevski, Mats Nilsson, Teddy Paunkoski, Otis Sandsjö, Stevan Tomulevski, Douglas Leon

Oh boy. Andra Generationen, who made the, um, unforgettable "Kebabpizza Slivovitza," a Balkan-flavored pop song, are back. Just what I was hoping for.

Edit: actually, apparently not. It's said this song will likely be performed by reggaeton rapper Dogge Doggelito (thanks, Len and Damian!).

Human Frontier, m & l: Tobias Jonsson, Anneli Axelsson
Tobias Jonsson co-wrote the fantastic BWO-esque disco-pop Neo song "Flower Power Supergirl." Given that both writers have Hitworks connections, I'm expecting one of their acts (the stable from which Neo, Anniela, Hilda, Ida, and Sister Love come) to perform the song, which could mean the first opportunity for the company to get some real cross-Sweden exposure.

The Swedish media report that the song is uptempo pop and Expressen guesses Anneli Axelsson, who has sung backing vocals before, will be the performer. I tend to side with QX's prediction of Neo, though.

Hur kan jag tro på kärleken? l: Kenneth Gärdestad, m: Tony Malm, Niclas Lundin
Niclas Lundin, Maria Marcus's husband/partner, tends to do more European chart pop than, say, Melodifestival-style songs, though I guess there's not a huge difference--sometimes pop-rock, though not always. Tony Malm is equally varied in what he's done, so let's just cut to the description of the song...

...which is that it's in the style of Ted Gärdestad's 70s hits. No, I didn't know either (edit: though as Len pointed out, I clearly should have remembered). From what I gather, that means vaguely folky ballad. Expressen guesses Erik Linder will perform the song, a delicate ballad.

I Did It For Love, m: Lars "Dille" Diedricson, t: Kristian Wejshag
Lars is a songwriter whose name appears fairly often in the contest, usually in association with traditional schlager or dansband songs (Linda Bengtzing's "Jag ljuger så brå," Scotts' "Jag tror på oss," Sarek's "Älvorna," and Charlotte Perrelli/Wizek's winning 1999 entry "Tusen och en natt").

Apparently Jessica Andersson sang the demo for this song and says she would love to perform it in the contest, though that decision will be left to SVT. She's been on this retro-pop kick lately (see: "Wake Up"), so I'm hoping this song isn't totally like that. The fact that that she says the song is a beautiful ballad and QX says it's a classic dramatic pop ballad(and not, say, a "Jag ljuger så bra" redux) is a disappointment for me, though.

Idiot, m & l : Niklas Jarl, Per Aldeheim
Given those names, I'm expecting this to be a rocky entry; both the writers have been involved in some poppier songs, but that's not their general tendency and, combined, I think they'll be playing up their real love.

QX says it's an up-tempo pop song in Swedish.

Innan alla ljusen brunnit ut, m: Stefan Moody, l: Danne Attlerud
Danne is a familiar name, linked to some poppy, schlagery entries (Fame's "Vindärna vander oss," Magnus Carlsson's "Live Forever"), but since he wasn't involved with the music, looking at Stefan Moody's past would probably be more helpful. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with him.

The song is said to be a ballad or sentimental mid-tempo/ballad with a French twist. Expressen reports that SVT is starting to look for an artist and has Lisa Ekdahl on the list.

Jag vill om du vågar, m & l: Pontus Assarsson, Jörgen Ringqvist, l: Daniel Barkman
Former Fame Factory contestant Pontus has written many a schlagery song (Fame's "Vindarna vänder oss," Fame's "The One That You Need"), poppy song (Jessica Folcker's "When Love's Coming Back Again"), dansband-y song (Erik Segerstedt's "Saturday Night," nearly E.M.D.'s entry last year, Scotts' "Vilken natt" from their most recent album). He's also done ballads, but it's unlikely this song is one...

...because it's rumored Pernilla Wahlgren may sing this entry, a killer traditional schlager song which QX describes as an "uptempo/shuffle schlager with a modern beat." Poor Pernilla has had trouble getting back in the contest in recent years due to Christer Björkman (who semi-infamously gave Linda Bengtzing "Alla Flickor" instead of having demo singer Pernilla sing it because he dubbed her too old) despite having a Melodifestival '80s classic in the form of "Picadilly Circus." Pernilla is overdue for some new music and at least a mini-musical comeback (well, in my mind, anyway, even if Sweden may feel she's a little too present in the media). I'm hoping this is great and will help fill my schlager fix (incidentally, for a taste of modern Pernilla schlager, check out rejected Melodifestival entry "I min värld" from a few years ago).

Magisk stjärna, m: Micke Wennborn, m & l: Py Bäckman
The names weren't familiar to me, but if I knew my '80s Swedish pop better, I'd apparently know the name Py Bäckman. She and Micke have worked together in modern times on other artists' music, too, though, including one of the good up-tempo songs on dansband Barbados's pretty good album Stolt ("Vi Kan Int Va Tillsammans") and Nanne's also good duet "Ett Vackert Par" (which she nearly took to Melodifestivalen in 2002, before it was disqualified), which has sort of a quick slightly pop-rockish vibe.

"Magisk stjärna" is a ballad or mid-tempo song which will be performed by one singer, which Expressen says will be Jan Johansen.

Manboy, m & l: Fredrik Kempe, m: Peter Boström
This is another freak out worthy track for me. Opera-pop singer Fredrik Kempe has been on a Melodifestival roll since 2007 (the year of "Cara Mia"), even delivering the winning entry the past two years (Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero"--written by Fredrik and produced by Peter--and Malena Ernman's "La Voix"). Given that title, I'm expecting something fierce, uptempo, and discopoptastic.

...and it looks like I'd be right to expect that, albeit with a spin: "Manboy" is an uptempo song in the "Cara Mia" style (and rumored to be equivalent in quality, too) which will probably be performed by a young guy. Several sites speculate that that guy will be Eric Saade, member of Swedish boy band What's Up.

Manipulated, m & l: Sarah Lundbäck, Iggy Strange-Dahl, Hayden Bell, Erik Lewander
Sarah Lundbäck seems to have a delicate singer-songwriter sound when she's performing her own material, but apparently these writers are all part of a collective known as the Dogboys which has sold songs to some artists scattered throughout Europe--nothing big, though (though former Idol contestant Nathalie's debut album apparently featured a lot of their work), and all scattered in style.

A woman will probably sing the song; Expressen guesses that woman is Sarah herself. QX says "Manipulated" is a modern dance song you can't sit still for.

Never Heard Of Him, m & l: Figge Boström, Anna Engh
I hesitate to say anything, but...well, let's just say I'm not sure we can say this is completely previously unheard.

Swedish media describe it as an uptempo song.

Edit: Len reports that a Twitter comment makes it seem like Anorah (Anna Nordell, the incredibly underrated Swedish singer who has released an album and participated in the Danish Melodi Grand Prix but has never really had a chance to be front-and-center in Sweden, despite doing loads of demos and backing vocals) will be participating in the contest this year. If that's true, I'm thinking it's most likely she'll be singing this song.

"Never Heard Of Him" was disqualified and replaced by...

"You're Making Me Hot-Hot-Hot" m & l: Tobias Lundgren, Johan Fransson, Tim Larsson
These three songwriters (often along with a compatriot who no longer works with them) are responsible for some of Melodifestivalen's modern favorites (well, favorites of fans, even if not all of them advanced as far as they should have)--Linda Bengtzing's "Alla Flickor" and "Hur svårt kan det va?", Alcazar's "Alcastar," Jessica Andersson's "Kalla nätter," and Jessica Folcker's "Om Natten" among them--as well as a song many fans hate, Martin Stenmarck's "Las Vegas" (I'm not in that group, though I agree it definitely wasn't the best song that year). They've done songs that earn less attention either way, too, but in general, any entry by them is one to get excited about.

Schlageprofilerna reports the song is going to be sung by a woman former Idol contestant (well, in the early stages) Linda Pritchard.

Road Salt, m & l: Daniel Gildenlöw
Another name new to me, Daniel is apparently a member of rock band Pain of Salvation.

It's reported that he hopes he or his band will perform the song, a sentimental, calm song played on electric piano--not a rock song at all.

Run, m & l: Niclas Arn, Karl Eurén, Gustav Eurén
These three have a talent for catchy which they occasionally try to spoil with heft amounts of gimmicky poppy rap thrown in. Sometimes it works (Markoolio's "Markoolio Anthem" and "Värsta Schlagern," Miio's "När vi två blir en," B-Boys International feat. Paul M.'s "One Step Closer") and sometimes they veer off in the wrong direction (Markoolio's "Kärlekssång från mig"), but thankfully sometimes they set aside the rap entirely (Alcazar's "Burning," Verona's "La Musica" and "Ti Sento," Nina & Kim's "En gang för alla"). They also did Brandsta City Slackers' entries to Melodifestivalen.

This particular entry is said to be a poppy uptempo song with folk/ethnic elements and may be sung by Erika Selin from this year's (still ongoing) Idol competition. Expressen says SVT is also considering Sofia Jannok.

Singel, m: Hamed "KeiOne" Pirouzpanah, l: Håkan Bäckman
KeiOne co-wrote Ola's latest single, "Sky's The Limit," but don't let that fool you: he's usually more hip-hop and urban in style (though as usual I'll take any opportunity to rep for Adam Tensta's "80s Baby," which does a great job of incorporating poppy '80s beats into hip-hop).

This entry is said to be a hip-hop song which will be performed by a rapper. It's KeiOne on the demo, but it's unclear who the ultimate performer will be. Expressen speculates that it will be Frispråkarn.

Stop, m & l: Mikaela Stenström, Dimitri Stassos
Dimitri Stassos is a known name in Melodifestivalen from his songs for Sofia, "Hypnotized" and "Alla," but he also co-wrote Soraya's "La noche es para mí" (Spain's 2009 Eurovision entry) and has written some songs outside of those contexts (like a few songs on Ola's first album).

There is significant speculation that Sibel, the big-voiced former Idol contestant who performed "That Is Where I'll Go" in 2008, will sing this song, which is described as a fast cool modern swing track in the '30s style. QX reports that the authors say it's like nothing that's been in Melodifestivalen before.

This Is My Life, l: Kristian Lagerström, m: Bobby Ljunggren
Melodifestival stalwart Bobby has made songs in many styles (in 2008, for example, the top three entries were all co-written by him and ranged from Charlotte Perrelli's disco-pop "Hero" to Sanna Nielsen's giant ballad "Empty Room" to BWO's "Hung Up"-sounding "Lay Your Love On Me").

2008's fifth place Idol finisher Anna Bergendahl is said to very likely be the performer of this song, a beautiful positive mid-tempo track.

Thursdays, m: Thomas G:son , Peter Boström, l: Sharon Vaughn
G:son is legendary for his schlager songs, true, but he's kind of hit and miss for me--he can be great or he can be kind in sound. Still, the addition of Peter and Sharon (albeit only on lyrics in this case) Vaughn of Agnes's recent work gives me hope this will be one of the hits.

...I have to admit I'm kind of worried, though: the song is said to be performed by Lovestoned, the two-boy two-girl mainly Swedish pop group who you might know from their reggae-pop single "Rising Girl" earlier this year (and not Ace of Base-style reggae beats either). Expect "Thursdays," a "happy pop song" according to QX, to easily fit on the same album as "Rising Girl," considering it's said to be a mid-tempo reggae song with Scandinavian influences.

Tonight, m & l: Sharon Vaughn, Anders Hansson
Anders Hansson has been producing brilliant songs for ages--since the '80s and certainly even more recently with his work with Lena Philipsson (production work on Det gör ont en stund på natten, the album from which 2004 winner "Det gör ont" comes) and BWO, but his prominence and individual recognition has really gone up with his work on Agnes's Dance Love Pop album, which is all done by him...and which Sharon worked on. They do make ballads, sometimes, though--see Agnes's "Big Blue Wall."

Swedish media reports make it sound like we should be ready for another of those ballads, since "Tonight" is said to be a dramatic megaballad made for one singer. Sigh. There go my hopes of pop fabulousness. Expressen says that it's rumored this song will be performed by a new Alexander Bard project (that Gravitonas rock project he's mentioned or something else?).

Underbart, l: Lina Eriksson, m: Johan Moraeus
Lina Eriksson has written many songs, often poppy, but in Melodifestivalen world she's known for Thorleifs' "Sweet Kissin' in the Moonlight," Magnus Bäcklund's "The Name Of Love," and Nordman "I lågornas sken." Once again, though, looking at the music composer might be more helpful. You might vaguely remember pop-rock band Ella Rouge from some mild blog buzz a few years ago; Johan was part of that group (yeah, totally had to look him up, but I did remember the band once I heard the name and saw the album cover).

"Underbart" is a midtempo song with folk music elements according to one source, while QX says it's an uptempo happy song which is not pop. Expressen guesses the group Orsa Spelmän will perform the song and QX says it's meant for a male artist.

Unstopable [sic], m & l: Dimitri Stassos, Alexander Kronlund, Hanif Sabzevari, Ola Svensson
Some familiar names in there! Let's start with the one that isn't: Hanif is apparenetly a music critic. As for the rest, Alexander Kronlund is a BIG name--think Britney Spears ("If U Seek Amy" and "Lucky"), Robyn ("Don't Stop The Music," "Who's That Girl"), Linda Sundblad (in Lambretta--"Bimbo" and "Creep"--and solo--"Lose You"), Sugababes ("Side Chick" and "Can We Call A Truce"), and more. Dimitri Stassos doesn't sport quite the same success outside of Melodifestivalen that Alexander does--a few songs for Clea, a few songs from Ola's first album ("My Home" and "Given To Fly" are both by him and are underrated, albeit nothing like "S.O.S" or "Natalie")--but co-wrote both of Sofia's entries to the contest as well as "La noche as para mí," Soraya's Eurovision entry last year for Spain. Ola has been a vehicle for great poppy pop songs in the past, and I hope this is another case of that.

Hanif describes the song as a classic Billboard hit and a modern uptempo song. Ola sang the demo and it's speculated he's likely to sing it in the contest, too. QX/Schlagerprofilerna's Ronny Larsson reports that it's rumored this song is on par with "Natalie." I can see how it could be--Alexander going back to pure pop could and should be fantastic.

We Can Work It Out, m: Bobby Ljunggren, Marcos Ubeda, l: Andreas Johnsson
Bobby and Marcos are both fairly common names in the contest. Bobby has done a wide range of styles, as I suppose has Marcos to some degree, but I associate him with a typical Melodifestival sound, for lack of a better phrase. Andreas Johnson (spelled in the press release with two s's but seemingly taken by the Swedish press to be the artist we all know--best known internationally for "Glorious" but now usually selling a certain type of pop-rock in Sweden) entered the contest for several years running with "Sing For Me," "A Little Bit Of Love," and his Carola duet "One Love," but there's some media speculation he's hesitant to sing this song. QX, though, says he's the likely performer but that it's not in the retro pop style of his previous entries.

Yeba, l: Getty Domein Mpanzu, m: Tuomas (Tiny) Pyhäjärvi
I had NO idea who either of these two writers were.

Getty is apparently likely to perform the song, which is in Lingala.

Åt helvete för sent, m & l: Lina Eriksson, Mårten Eriksson, Susie Päivärinta
Yes, yes, those are the names of the '80s pop sister duo Lili & Susie...

...but don't get too excited because it's reported they won't be performing this beautiful orchestral ballad which either a man or woman could sing. Expressen says that SVT wants to have Thorsten Flinck or Olle Ljungström sing it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

'Cause my heart is breakin' not fallin' this time

Apparently recovered, Brian Littrell joined the other three Backstreet Boys for a performance of their new single, the Max Martin-penned "Bigger," on Jimmy Kimmel.

As I've hinted at before, I love the song. That doesn't mean I don't have reservations about it as a single, though--much as it would make me happy to hear it on the radio, I'm not sure if there are enough nostalgics around and that its sound will appeal to today's radio programmers for it to make it into the upper half of the top 40. I'd be happy if they could get a hit the size of New Kids on the Block's "Summertime," though I'm not really expecting even that.

Speaking of Backstreet Boys single news, the new Jennifer Paige (you remember her--"Crush," an intoxicating, vaguely exotic late '90s teen pop song) single, "Beautiful Lie," co-written by Carl Falk, is a duet with Nick Carter that sounds pretty good. There's a strong electro-synth beat beneath it, but it's definitely not in the current electro-pop trend--it's more just pop.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate

Darin's cover of "Viva La Vida" is in all likelihood only going to appeal to a limited demographic, but for those of us who love his voice--on my part, I'd say it's my favorite male voice going in pop--it's a special treat. It never fully soars, never fully explodes, never gives us that moment of totally swooning, but that was my main problem with Coldplay's original version (the "ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh-ohh"s of the middle 8 come close, but, particularly on the original, never quite got there for me).

Strangely, much as the the main vibe of this song is one of contemporary electronic somewhat R&Bish pop (no violins here...I think I might have welcomed having them somewhere in the mix), Darin's cover actually comes closer in a moment or two the the U2esque production I think I would have loved the original to have. It's just a second or two that comes around no more than a handful of times, but it's reminiscent of the soaring filtered electronic guitars we heard in that band's classic era.

As I said, though, in general, it's a mid-tempo reworking thoroughly in Darin's style. There's no particular musical edge or bite to it--we're talking gentle electronic, not hard electro--and it's perhaps not quite as grand as I'd like (fun diversion to tie in with Idol, not future classic Christmas single or the mark of a new album campaign), but in that context, it gets my approval.

Anyway, for any of you out there who are as interested in the song as I am...

(I'm still seeking good options for uploading songs that will allow people to stream them in full and not be ridiculously easy to download as mp3s. Yes, I realize it's still pretty easy with Imeem, but there's at least one more step involved. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I guess I could go the YouTube route, but I'm reluctant to do so.)

Darin's new single "Viva La Vida" is not yet available for purchase, but you should soon be able to buy it from here (digital). In the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend his latest album, 2008's Flashback, to any lover of modern chart music. You can buy it here (physical) or here (digital). There are far too few popstars, especially male popstars, making music like this.

I'm running out of ways to make you see

Every now and then, a hit song comes along that you hate. Not the sort of song that you'll almost absentmindedly flip away from on a radio station in hopes of finding something better, or even the sort of song you complain about--I'm talking about those songs that make you angry in a violent visceral way, the ones you'll do anything you can avoid in any facet of life and that everyone around you either avoids when you're nearby or plays just to torture you.

...and every now and then, the artist who created that song you can't stand goes and makes a song you like. You try to fight it at first--after all, this isn't just an act who you were previously indifferent to; this is an act who engaged in nothing less than torture for several years while radio worked its horrific offspring out of its system--but then a few cracks appear. One moment, you let the song continue to play when you hear it on the radio, so long as no one who knows of your previous dislike for that artist is around, and the next you're buying it off of iTunes, playing it of your own volition.

At least two-thirds of the time, this new song you've taken to doesn't do nearly as well as the hit you hated, which feeds into that (admittedly ridiculous) vicious self-righteous cycle you've created in your mind. It's too late now, though--you like the song now, and there's no going back.

Over the past season or so, I've fallen for a couple of songs by acts whose previous hits I avoided at all costs. The latest is Snow Patrol's "Just Say Yes." Sure, slow as the tempo is, the synth backing intermeshed with the group's more typical pop-rock sound gives it a more dynamic feel which probably automatically gave it a better chance of winning me over, but I think there's more to it than that; there's just something about the song that seems inherently comforting, that gently picks you up when you've fallen down (and that demands all the cheesy analogies you can think of).

Apparently the band originally gave it to Nicole Scherzinger to use on her eventually canceled solo album, which is amusing me to no end.

Why do I love Colbie Caillat's latest single, "Fallin' For You," when I couldn't stand "Bubbly"? I'm chalking it up to that mysterious and fallback-ish explanation called "melody," but if you really pushed me for a reason, knowing full well the explanation I concocted in my head probably wouldn't be anywhere near the real one, I might start talking about how "Fallin' For You" is much smoother, much more full in sound. The video notwithstanding, "Fallin' For You" has a genuine but not overbearing sweetness to its acoustic-guitar-singer-songwriter-meets-mainstream-producer sound.

Oh well. At least, after a blip (his really pretty fantastic cover of "Freefallin'"), John Mayer has returned to releasing singles I can hate in peace.

Feel what I feel

Addendum to the Swedish music update: Magnus Carlsson news.

The Christmas album the former Alcazar and Barbados singer is releasing has turned out to be a repackaging of his two previous Christmas albums to tie in with his Christmas tour, but he promises it will have new bonus material. That includes a new single, "Änglarnas tid," which will have five songs on it. He's finished most of the work on Pop Galaxy, his upcoming pop album. He says he's got a new single coming out in a few months which is '80s-styled; I'm guessing that's from Pop Galaxy and not the Christmas album, though I suppose the aforementioned Christmas single could be '80s-sounding.

Addendum 2: Melodifestivalen.

With the addition of an entry chosen via Internet vote, the chance to hear one of this year's Melodifestival entries begins next Wednesday, when 175 newly submitted entries by writers who are not established in the Swedish music industry will be made public for voting on the official Melodifestival website. (h/t ESC Today)

No way, not in this world I'm gonna fall for someone cheesy like yourself, find somebody else

Swedish music update:

Jessica mentioned Darin doing a cover of Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" a few days ago and linked to a trailer for Idols which featured it (you may have to wait for an ad to play first). In typical Darin style, it sounds great; I imagine I'll like it more than the original. In all likelihood it was produced by Johan "Kermit" Bobäck. Apparently said cover, which puts an electronic beat beneath the song, will be released on Friday and is a new single.

In further Darin single news, Scandipop announced that "Breathing Your Love" will be released in the UK in November. Still a fantastic song (it took the #6 spot on my Favorite Singles of 2008 countdown).

Kim-Lian (a Dutch singer best known for the great "Teenage Superstar") and Linda Bengtzing (who like Scandipop I have to say is my Swedish diva of choice) have released the video for their much-anticipated (well, by maybe a couple dozen people online) collaboration "Not That Kinda Girl." It's way more poppy than I anticipated given Kim-Lian's move towards a somewhat harder pop-rock sound and comes across to my ears like a mix of Pink's "So What" and Lady Gaga with a big helping pure pop thrown in (though in retrospect I have to agree with a commentor who pointed out an "If U Seek Amy" similarity in the beat in the verses and with EurovisionEssex who called it "Katy Perry schlager"). We're not talking something that's going to get taken to the US or UK here, but if you love your Swedish pop (which I think we can at least partially count this as, given the Linda connection--though it's the lead single from Kim-Lian's upcoming album--and its songwriters), you'll probably enjoy this. It may not be schlager, but hey, at least it's got those schlagery "ah-hah"s and, if Linda still loves rock, she could do worse than to release songs in this vein. Plus: Linda in English! Not that she's ever needed it to make the amazingness of her songs apparent, but it's a nice treat.

(Before you say anything, yes, we all know the outfits are ridiculous.)

I really like Sweden's entry to this year's Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Sure, it probably won't do well, but to my ears, "Du," written by thirteen year old performer Mimmi Sandén (yes, another of the Sandén sisters) and co-written and produced by Alexander Kronlund and Ali Payami, does an admirable job of taking a pinch of relevant-to-contemporary-R&B-pop-radio production and mixing it with Swedish pure pop. I've had "ah oh ah" stuck in my head since the Melodimen wrote about it.

Oldish news: Basic Element's next single "Baby Baby" features work from Empire Music (Alcazar's "Burning," West End Girls, Star Pilots). They've previously collaborated on "Out Of This World" from their album Empire Strikes Back.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

How many "either/or"s?

Prepare the stones: I think I really like the new Justin Bieber single.

Justin Bieber's "One Less Lonely Girl" is the new "With You," with cheesier lyrics (no, I mean it--really cheesy). Keeping in mind that I could even tolerate the lyrics to Jesse McCartney's "Beautiful Soul" for the sake of the great pop song that contained them, you'd think my reaction to that fact would be based on 1.) what I thought about "With You" and 2.) how well I cope with pre-pubescent male voices.

I thought "With You" was fine but not amazing and as a rule don't enjoy not-yet-broken singing voices in boys (I made an exception for Lil Chris), so by rights the best Justin should be able to hope for from me is a reaction similar to mine about his debut single, the Tricky and the-Dream-created "One Time": cute but hardly thrilling, the sort of song you might listen to now and again when it came on the radio but nothing to get excited about.

It's not as if "One Less Lonely Girl" is hugely original, with its Stargate-aping strummy verses and simple R&B-pop stylings, but somehow, I'm totally enchanted. The melody is, once again, über-cute, as are the electronic squiggles that swirl around the chorus, and I don't even mind Justin's voice (if you can't stand it, there's an earlier version by Chris Lawrence, but it leaves out some of the parts and production tricks that make the song for me). Why does it work? I've got no idea--well, that chorus is blissfully poppy to my ears, but it's not as if I know why that is--but what I do know is that when I should be listening to, say, Britney's "3" while jogging, the chorus of the not exactly uptempo"One Less Lonely Girl" is what's giving me that happy adrenaline rush and barely concealed grin.

If this is what today's kids will look back on with the nostalgia I have for the Cheiron and teen pop songs of the late '90s, I'm on board.

(Random thought: David Archuleta could have done worse than to have a song like this on his album, even if it might have been sickly sweet for some people.)

Justin Bieber's second single, "One Less Lonely Girl," is available to Americans and Canadians to purchase digitally from iTunes.

Who are you when I'm gone?

I've already written about a few of these songs on Twitter, but I still feel a need to cover them in a (slightly) more expansive way. This is the first of such songs.

Sixteen-year-old eventual fourth place finisher Allison Iraheta was one of my three favorite contestants on the past season of American Idol, so I was thrilled when she received a major label deal. If we needed further evidence of the fact that her label was willing to invest some money in her, her debut single, "Friday I'll Be Over U," is by Max Martin. Maybe not LOADS of money--there's something that feels a little second tier about this buzzy pop-rock track, though whether that comes from something inherent to the song or from Allison's voice (I'm hoping it's not the latter; even if someone else could bring more power to the chorus--and I don't know that anyone could--I don't think they could totally sell the verses) I'm not sure--but no Max Martin song is going to come cheap.

"Friday I'll Be Over U" positions Allison somewhere between Kelly Clarkson/Pink and Disney's stars (the verses flirt with youth-oriented cheeky mall pop-punk here while the bridge and chorus just go for straight on powerful pop-rock a la "My Life Would Suck Without You" with more guts), which theoretically makes sense as a marketing objective, targeting both mainstream radio play and younger fans. In practice, I'm not sure it'll work; the result is enjoyable, full of little moments worthy of praise (the opening lines of the chorus, the guitar solo and Allison's "oh"s before the final chorus) and easily winning repeat plays from me, but not the 100 percent knockout I was hoping for. I don't want to overstate my disappointment, but the song sometimes feels like it runs a little too close to assembly line. Sometimes--most of the time--I'm lost in the fun anger of Allison's brush-off...and other times I'm left feeling like "Friday I'll Be Over U" is a Max Martin knockoff made by an experienced, capable songwriter who just doesn't have the gift for taking a song past "serviceable."

For now, though, I'm hooked, just with a few worries about lasting value. It's better than "Party in the USA," at any rate.

Allison Iraheta's debut single "Friday I'll Be Over U" isn't available for purchase yet, but expect it to hit American iTunes and other digital retailers fairly soon.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Nothing in common

This is more of a Twitter-riffic post than something with enough substance to merit space on the blog, but Ben Adams, following up his crazy/brilliant video about a1's dance routines, has posted a video of a1 working on new songs that includes clips of some of the songs. They're working with David Eriksen, a Norwegian songwriter who I tend to associate with a kind of pure pop sound (several of the songs on the Saturdays' last album were by him, including "Lies" and "Set Me Off"), on that first song, which sounds more uptempo electronic than I was expecting. There's also more Zac Efron and Robert Pattinson than I might have expected.

Let's be honest: I'd probably buy that first song, the one I'm guessing is called "No Regrets," and "Nothing In Common" right now if I could.