Thursday, April 30, 2009

'Cause every time I go out I always end up alone

American singer Troy This!'s half-quirky, half-mainstream sound will not be for everyone. With an influences section on his MySpace that mentions David Bowie, Tina Turner, ABBA, and John Waters's Hairpsray and given that he's working with Johan "Kermit" Bobäck (of Elin Lanto's "Speak 'n Spell," Jeanette's "Undress To The Beat," and Cyndi Lauper's "Into The Nightlife") and Alexander Kronlund (a former member of Cheiron Studios who in the time since its closing has co-written Robyn's "Don't Stop The Music" and "Who's That Girl?", Britney Spears's "If U Seek Amy," and Linda Sundblad's "Lose You," among others), though, I'd had my eye on his MySpace to see what his new songs would sound like.

"Back That Up!" is the most immediate--read: catchiest--and mainstream of them. The backing is bouncy upbeat pop-rock, but it's had electro sparkles sprinkled all over it and is topped off with Troy's playful, unusual vocals. It's really the melody that sold me on this song (well, that and the drum and delicate synth hooks): I've had it stuck in my head since the first time I played the song. There's something kind of '80s about it, but in a more subtle way than the '80s mimickry so popular now. Troy This! isn't really electro or pop-rock, not indie or mainstream, too unusual for the pure pop addicts to chase after him while not unusual enough for blogs with more cred to champion him, which means he's in this odd place in terms of Internet-land categorization. "Back That Up!"'s quick-paced chorus has had me singing along all day, though, and that's enough for me.

"Hej Ya - Did You Mean That?" or "Do You Mean That (Hejja)" (man, is this going to play havoc with my tags), also on his MySpace, plays up that '80s side and the electro a bit more--there's even a moment or two that makes me think of Prince.

There's nowhere yet to buy Troy This!'s music, but you can visit his MySpace here.

Next up: maybe I'll finally get around to playing catch up.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I don't wanna waste your time

"Pucker Up," a Darkchild-created track from Ciara's upcoming album Fantasy Ride, sounds like it could have been on Britney Spears's Blackout--and it would have been better than half the songs on that album. Copping the jangling part of the beat from Britney's "Piece Of Me" and Cyndi Lauper's "Into The Nightlife" but glossing it up with that slick futuristic production more typical of Danja's work with Britney, "Pucker Up" has a disjointed, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink disjointed approach towards melody and hooks, but it's no lesser a song for that: it's exactly how fierce modern urban electro pop should be done and Ciara's best non-slow jam since the underrated "Like A Boy."

The other highlight from what I've heard so far of Fantasy Ride is the Dr. Luke-produced "Tell Me What Your Name Is." Smoochy Ciara slow jam? Yes, but a luscious one, and one that's not really even that slow, come to that.

Fantasy Ride, Ciara's third album, is released May 5 and can be preordered here (physical).

Despite how silly it sounds


The living legend Max Martin almost never gives interviews, let alone long ones, so don't miss out on Popjustice's conversation with him.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Turn and walk away tonight

Songwriter update (because yes, I am a total songwriter nerd-in-training):

Jessie J (pictured), the British singer that Worrapolava has championed, was signed a few months ago. That's not news. What is news is that she's had Dr. Luke and Claude Kelly (working together, Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You," Britney's "Circus") writing for her.

Claude Kelly (in addition to the songs mentioned above, Leona Lewis's "Forgive Me," Lemar's "If She Knew," Linda Teodosiu's "Love Sux") has also been working with Jordin Sparks, who, in addition to working with Lucas Secon (the Pussycat Dolls' "Hush Hush," Sarah Connor's "Under My Skin," Martin's "Show The World") on that song I posted about earlier this year, has apparently gotten at least one song from Ryan Tedder (Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love," Timbaland feat. OneRepublic's "Apologize") too: Popjustice revealed last week that the lead single for her second album is a Tedder-penned song called "Battlefied." Check out PJ's post for details.

Moving back to Claude Kelly for a moment, as I mentioned earlier, he's also done several songs with the Backstreet Boys recently. A video of him talking about them was posted, but it's since been set to private. In it, though, he mentions "Bye Bye Love" (an up-tempo club-friendly song which features the line "I think I want to stay single, so bye bye love," as revealed earlier), "Don't Try This At Home" (which they sang a cappella at a sound check; it's a "heartbreak record"), and "What I Know Now" (he calls it a "pop urban hybrid;" listen to a non-BSB featuring demo here). He's also working with Wynter Gordon and, somewhat surprisingly, American Idol's Jason Castro.

Ryan Laubscher, the main man behind Alex Roots, has clips of demos for several artists on his official site (click on "Music"). The most noteworthy ones in terms of artist names that I hadn't previously heard elsewhere are Amy Pearson's "Contagious," the title track from her second album (it's more upbeat and electro/dance than I was expecting); Tina Barrett's (formerly of S Club 7) "I'll Be Your Woman;" Alex Roots's "Prisoner" (which sounds like it could potentially be epic in its final form), and Christophe Willem's "Si je tombais" (there's a Pixie song, too, but the full version of that has been on his MySpace, and I think it might just be a demo available for purchase).

Fred Ball of Pleasure (see: his work with Bertine Zetlitz, his producer project Pleasure's "Out Of Love") has done "forthcoming" work with Sophie Ellis-Bextor (that he'd co-written a song with Ina Wroldsen, lately of work with the Saturdays, called "Synchronized" was already known, so this could be referring just to that or to more), Little Boots (not sure whether it's songs we've already heard or not), and Paloma Faith (whose name is popping up all over the place).

Speaking of Ina Wroldsen (as mentioned above, she was the glue that held the Saturdays together in terms of songwriting), I only just found out that she co-wrote the song Lucas Secon (who also co-wrote it) has had listed as Pixie Lott's second single for ages, before we even found out what the first single was, "Gravity." Her recent work also includes a song for Lindsay Lohan called "Stuck" (though given the limbo that project's in, I wouldn't hold your breath to hear it), songs for Leona Lewis called "Thank You Thank You" and "Your Heart," a song for Kat De Luna called "Break Me," and a song for Hayden Panettiere called "Top Up."

Xenomania (Girls Aloud) are keeping busy, with news coming out over the past month that they'll be working with Leona Lewis, and Shayne Ward, both of whom are British X Factor winners.

The most recent X Factor winner, Alexandra Burke (pictured), appears to be working with some big names for her debut album: RedOne (Darin's "Step Up," Lady GaGa's "Just Dance") Stargate (Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable," Rihanna's "Don't Stop The Music"), Brian Kennedy (Rihanna's "Disturbia," Chris Brown's "Forever") Timbaland (Nelly Furtado's "Maneater," Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack;" possibly just met, but maybe worked with), the Freemasons (remixes of Beyoncé songs, Kylie Minogue's "The One"), Claude Kelly, Savan Kotecha (Britney Spears's "If U Seek Amy," Shayne Ward's "No U Hang Up"), Soulshock & Karlin (Alesha Dixon's "Breath Slow"), and probably some people I've left out. In other words: big budget, brand name songwriters--taking Alexandra to major international success is obviously what her management is aiming for.

Do you remember the brilliant Dolly Rockers' song "How Did I End Up With You?" I posted a week ago? Popjustice wrote about it shortly after (and posted a clip of the studio version) and revealed (well, clued me in) that the songwriter behind it and the majority of the project is Ray Hedges.

On the subject of girl bands promoted on PopJustice, Girls Can't Catch's debut single "Keep Your Head Up" is written and produced by Chris Braide (the Saturdays' "Chasing Lights," D-Side's "Invisible"). The live version has shown the song so have a lot of potential, but the clips of the studio version we've heard so far are lacking punch; they sound like demos. Hopefully there's still time to improve the production on them.

I'm sure I forgot something I meant to mention, but that'll do for now.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I need you, baby, to stay with me tonight

Oh, boy, someone in their camp is going to be in trouble...following up "Bigger," four more demos--some full, some partial--have hit the Internet. One of them is "Masquerade," the Brian Kennedy-produced song which leaked as a demo (without them on vocals) a while ago and which I liked the chorus of even before the group ended up considering doing the song. The final version--what we can listen to of it--wasn't quite as amazing as I imagined their version would be, but it's good update: no, it is in fact amazing: up-tempo urban-influenced pop with electro and touches of piano...and a really catchy chorus and post-chorus (with the post-chorus doing that modern electro urban sound-meets-pretty that Brian Kennedy does so well). It's closer to what they need to come back with as the lead single, though I'm hoping their work with Claude Kelly is going to deliver the proper smash. Listen to all the songs on this channel.

"Fallen Angel" is also good.

Here's the full version of "Bigger," complete with those final fifteen seconds.

Edit: attempting to keep any of these videos working would be a futile exercise, so the links probably will be gone soon/are already gone.

But you don't care--you keep sticking around

I can't believe it--the new album is months and months away. The process of recording is still going on. I'm used to, say, Ciara or Cassie tracks leaking everywhere at anytime, but when was the last time we got a before-the-CD-is-even-put-together leak of a Max Martin co-written song?

And yet, somehow, a demo--demo, not final version, but featuring the boys' voices--of "Bigger" has appeared on YouTube.

(Yes, I'm deliberately not mentioning the group's name here yet because, despite not posting a link to the song itself, I'm worried the takedown notices may come without bothering to check that closely for something big like this. The video labels them, anyway.)

I'm a little too shocked to even evaluate it properly at the moment. I will say, though, that, though it's obviously not done yet, I can't believe just how pop (old school pop) it is...and that's a good thing. First single? Maybe best not--but it might just be exactly what I was hoping Max would give them.

Friday, April 24, 2009

And every other time is just a memory

Last Friday, I woke up with the thought "I should really give Jessie James's 'Wanted' another try." Like Pixie and other acts, Jessie James is one of those mainstream label acts who's been buzzing around Internet land for ages, slowly building hype in advance of her proper lead single (though musically she's nothing like her). "Wanted," that lead single, didn't click with me in any long-term way, primarily because the hooks of the chorus felt too weak, but somehow something--probably the change in weather that set in on Thursday--woke a desire in me to listen to it again.

I was glad I did: the country-rock-influenced pop song performed by big-voiced Jessie (the vocal comparison you'll read everywhere is Christina Aguilera) suddenly made all the sense in the world. Though "Wanted" hints at mixing sultriness into its up-tempo stylings, really, as much as "firey" might be an appropriate adjective for it, it's just one of those "all-American girl in the summer," good time, flirt-empowering sort of songs, the kind of song that makes you want to put on blue jean shorts and a fitted plaid shirt and have a party in a field with waist-high grasses with your friends, while an uninterfered-with sun shines down on it all. That or go get your friend with the pickup truck to drive everyone down some open roads in the back of it. It's pop--more pop than it probably wants to admit--but not hugely poppy, the sort of thing that I'm not expecting to take off in pop blog circles but that I'd love to have the chance to sing along with in my car (even if the project in general has an aura of calculation around it).

Anyway, if I fell for the song last Friday, why did it take me week to post about it? The weather took one (hopefully final) spin towards dark, chilly, and windy this week. With clouds everywhere, jackets in full force, and umbrellas making frequent appearances, "Wanted" just didn't feel welcome. Luckily, right on cue, the gorgeous weather is back--with "Wanted" to help us celebrate. Now, where did I put those shorts...

Jessie James's debut single "Wanted" isn't yet available for purchase, but her song "Blue Jeans" is on the Confessions of a Shopaholic soundtrack, which you can buy here (physical).

Next up: maybe something British or maybe I'll try to play catch-up.

Got me like nobody

I don't usually spend much time on mash-ups--rarely for me do they exceed the pleasure of listening to the original songs. Sometimes, though, even if they can't do that, they succeed in reawakening your love for the originals and cluing you in to aspects you never fully paid attention to before.

(Thanks to Alex for the tip!)

Just when I thought I was losing interest in "Poker Face," here comes DJ King Rollo with a mash-up of Charlotte Perrelli's "Hero" and Lady GaGa's "Poker Face," re-entitled "Hero Face." Taking the instrumental from "Hero" and the vocals from "Poker Face," the end result is a-mah-mah-mazing. It's really well done and, if nothing else, should increase your appreciation for just how killer (and beautiful) Fredrik Kempe and Bobby Ljunggren's writing and Bassflow's production are, as well as maybe get you thinking that the toplines Lady GaGa co-writes could work outside the RedOne context. Though I'm sure she'll never go in this direction, "Hero"'s combination of this style of electronic beats, longing strings, and piano all creating a poppy song is something that has a substance to it that I don't think even I--who loves "Hero"--fully appreciated until hearing this mash-up. As much as "Hero" got written off as a cheap Europop rip-off of "Cara Mia" in some quarters (not here!), if anything, this mash-up proves to me just how international in quality the work that went into it is.

In short: probably the best song I've heard this week (edit: though the chorus of Girls Aloud's "It's Your Dynamite" is really good).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's where my mother-in-law sleeps

I've always made a conscious effort to keep this blog only about music, which has been pretty tough at times. However, seeing as no less than Robyn appears in the video clip below, I feel justified in posting it. The Daily Show and Sweden, politics and music in the same segment? Sigh...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Also, if you think there's a better way to spend the 11 PM-midnight hour than watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, you are WRONG. Well, OK, maybe sleeping and catching up with them the next day. But otherwise, WRONG. This isn't the most hurt-your-stomach-laughing bit they've ever done, but when my loves collide like this, the world is a wonderful place to be.

In other Swedish pop news, Agnes's "Release Me" has been C-listed on the UK's Radio 1. Radio 1. I can't believe this is happening--as much as I thought the song was instant and had the potential to win over loads of pop fans who usually ignore Swedish music, I really expected the song to end up as another "well, no one's interested in playing it so we'll just release it as a download only and forget about the whole campaign" case. If you're not yet on board with the song with the best disco strings since the Freemasons remixed Beyoncé's "Ring The Alarm" (though the overall feel of the song is pure swooning joy, not the drama of that Beyoncé track), now is the time to become so.

Monday, April 20, 2009

No, I just can't disguise

Sometimes I post because I've heard a song I love and think other people will love, too. Other times, though, my posts are self-indulgent professions of love for songs I have no expectation that other people will love, except maybe a few people if I'm lucky. This post is one of those latter cases.

Yes, Swedish singer Anders Johansson is often seen as a one-man Westlife (though to say that with a totally negative connotation would be to forget about songs like "Something Right," "When You're Looking Like That," "World Of Our Own," and "Amazing," on which Anders provided backing vocals). Yes, commercial success has been eluding him lately. Yes, his latest single is, like "Alone," a cover of an '80s ballad. Let's not forget, though, that "Alone" was his best single in years: who knew Heart's power ballad would lend itself so well to the one man boy band style?

Apparently under the new name Anders Fernette (though I've yet to see radio stations referring to him with that name), he's just sent out his latest single to radios. What is it? A cover of this:

Listen to a clip of Anders's version here.

Setting aside for the moment that if anything has a Dirty Dancing connection I'm legally obligated to love it, I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying his cover--it's not amazing, but it is a good listen. It's been popped up a bit and had a mid-tempo beat put underneath it; the end result sounds sort of like something that Swedish boy band E.M.D. might do. Considering that that group has generally failed to impress me, you might expect that to be a condemnation, but it's not: this is just on the "good" side of the spectrum of that style. I'm a fan of Anders's voice, too, so to be honest that probably helps elevate the song for me: he's done some good up-tempo pop-rock songs and some dull ballads, but give him a good ballad and he brings something to it many artists don't.

I'm not quite sure when "Hungry Eyes" gets its single release, but I'll let you know or update this post when I find out. If you're new to him, my favorite of his original songs is probably "Is He The One."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Selfish, I know, but it keeps me alive

Continuing the epic saga of Annie and Anthonio, Anthonio (apparently here given voice by Sebastian of Heartbreak) has just uploaded the audio of "Annie" to YouTube.

"Annie," which actually works pretty well as a song in its own right, is getting a release, backed with the b-side "Angel Face," featuring Annie. Most importantly, though, Annie's single "Anthonio" comes out May 4 (though you'll want to wait on ordering the single if you play on trying to buy one of the super-limited ones that look like the package Popjustice received).

If you missed it earlier, I recapped the drama here, though I neglected to mention the MySpace messages left to Richard X's label Pleasure Masters.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One more number, one more race

Many other places have already written about the Yeah You's: Into The Groove was the first place I read about them and in the time since then Popjustice, Fizzy Pop, and the Guardian's New Band of the Day have talked about their music. Making music that could appeal to fans of the Feeling and is targeted straight at the radio, the British duo has some great up-tempo catchy fun songs in its pockets and has a pleasing willingness to flirt with Queen-like harmonies; the exuberance that comes through their music and their really interesting style and production (I can't describe it, but I love it; it's somehow the best possible mix of piano-pop-rock and electronic elements) means I don't think they qualify as MOR (though I can love MOR when it's done right). Check out any of the clips on their MySpace to get a feel for that side of them, though my recommendation would be to try "15 Minutes," "Ready To Love Again," and "If I Could" first.

"15 Minutes," full of catchy hooks, makes sense as a first single choice and I'm dying to hear "Ready To Love Again" in full (and it could scoop the following title once I have), but so far, the song I'm returning to again and again is "Carry Me Home," which is just a little less buoyant and theatrical than the rest of their work, though still more likely to leave you feeling uplifted than depressed. Even in demo form, the production is once again in this style I love but can't describe and there's a drama in the chorus I can't get enough of. The fact that it's immensely singalongable definitely helps with the attraction, too.

Good melodies, good hooks, good singing, good style of music--and good fun. So far, the Yeah You's have delivered on all counts. Let's hope the world agrees.

The Yeah You's' debut single, "15 Minutes," comes out June 1 in the UK, followed by an album this summer. There's nowhere to preorder either yet, but will sell them.

Next up: maybe an attempt at a lot of catching up.

Your beauty was the kind that could hurt

Worrapolava's most recent post sent me off on yet another "is there any chance I can find any sort of update on what Linda Sundblad is doing?" spree (though on the Worrapalava front, Phil's post about Adam & the Ants is worth your time and I have him to thank for hooking me on the group and Adam a little while ago). Sure, she's a "featuring" artist on two recently released Rasmus Faber songs ("Everything Is Alright" and "Always" on MySpace here), but my craving for Linda's solo career has only been getting worse and worse in the time since her debut solo album, 2006's Oh My God! The former lead singer of Lambretta told Emilia de Poret in September that she'd be releasing a single written by Max Martin and Alexander Kronlund in January which would be a little rockier than her last album (not a full return to the Lambretta sound, but a move in that direction). January has come and gone, though, and I've seen no update whatsoever, which is making me pretty nervous.

The only bit of information I've been able to find is that in March she worked with the Salazar Brothers--producers whose work is often urban-oriented but who did the latest Mando Diao (a Swedish rock group) album--but I have no idea whether that was actually for her own music career and not just in a "featuring" or songwriting capacity.

If you're unfamiliar with Linda's work, here's "Bimbo," a Max Martin-penned hard pop-rock single which her former band Lambretta released in 2001. Includes the legendary line "she's been faking since day one/A friendly kiss includes no tongue."

Linda's debut solo album set aside the rock of Lambretta in favor of an electronic pop sound. The mid-tempo, moving "Lose You" is a case of perfect match of song and singer. I really can't overstate how great this song is.

The also great "Oh Father" was the lead single from that album. Linda is usually stylish, but her look in this video doesn't work for me; it's a little too '80s Kylie, though maybe that was the point--play up the ironic innocence. It's not bad, but it might be better just to press play and switch away.

Give me more of the attraction

I haven't written anything about this yet since I was hoping to have more concrete information to tell you all, but seeing as I haven't been able to find out anything else, maybe one of you will catch something when it happens: there's a new Swedish group in development called Lovestoned and Peter "Bassflow" Boström has done a song for them. Not necessarily a single, just a song, but his involvement means I'm automatically interested.

That information comes from this lovely and adorable blog. The only thing I've been able to find about the group is this post from early March on another blog which I believe is referring to this same group; if that's the case, it's a four person group, two boys and two girls (picture second from the bottom).

That's all I know (well, that and if that post is really about the same group, one of the boys is named Robert), but I'll be interested to hear their music and keeping my eyes open. If anyone else knows more or ends up finding something out, please let me know!

Friday, April 17, 2009

How did I ever see a perfect 10?

Yes, once again taken from the Popjustice forums, and usually I just let things go, presuming everyone else will have read about them there, too, but since no one's talking about it:

British girl group and former X Factor contestants Dolly Rockers performing "How Did I End Up With You?" somewhere. The important thing is the song. I usually think of the group's music as...kind of spastic, cheeky, and sample-including and, while "How Did I End Up With You?" fulfills the latter criteria (Propaganda's "Duel" and 3OH!3's "Don't Trust Me"/the same thing as 3OH!3's "Don't Trust Me"/just happens to have a section that sounds like part of 3OH!3's "Don't Trust Me"), it's much more controlled and melodic while still having the fun of the group's sound...well, as much fun as is appropriate in a song like this, which includes references to abuse and falling for a married man (so that would be only occasional hints of it). "How Did I End Up With You?" is melancholy and frustrated but with an insistent up-tempo semi-"American" sounding modern electro beat behind it--a bit like "Hot 'n Cold," for lack of a better reference--that means we're not talking about a "The Loving Kind" or "Untouchable" remake. It's a great catchy pop song, being serious without ever losing sight of that fact, and just the sort of thing I want from a girl group or, really, any act.

Dolly Rockers have yet to release their debut single, "Je Suis Une Dolly," but it's out July 20 in the UK (hat tip). Presumably "How Did I End Up With You?" will be on the following album. It's not on their MySpace--which I'm hoping is a sign that they realize how great it is and don't want it hitting the Internet too soon--but you can listen to several other of their songs there.

Remember those photographs we took on that boat in Spain?

Stolen straight from the Popjustice forums, which in turn took it from his official site:

It's been ages since we heard news from Shayne Ward, but, as if I wasn't excited enough already for his third album, he's just revealed he's been recording with Quiz & LaRossi and Xenomania.

Amazing news. Add that to the fact he was working with Taio Cruz (I'm imagining him doing something like Avenue's original version of the Taio-penned "Set Your Body Free" or Taio's "Come On Girl") and it seems like he's headed in the right direction for his new album. While on paper I should have loved his last album--and in reality it was good, certainly better than the reputation it has--it didn't quite stick the way I wanted it to (though "No U Hang Up" took the title of my second favorite single of 2007 in my countdown). I'm not entirely sure why; maybe I felt like it was missing any bite or edge, though by "edge" I don't actually mean edgy, boundaries-pushing sounds necessarily but rather more music with a bit of a hard edge to it. I loved "No U Hang Up" and "Damaged," though, and both of those had a super-polished, cuddly, rounded-edges sound that apparently didn't bother me, so I'm not entirely positive that that's the right explanation.

Anyway, based on the collaborators for this new album (which also include Future Cut, the Underdogs, and Karen Poole), it's looking like if that was indeed what I felt the album was missing, that could be remedied here. I'm equally excited about Quiz & LaRossi, who've been on a roll recently, and Xenomania, who, short of the Pet Shop Boys, we haven't really heard work with male acts for quite some time. I still think Shayne has (here comes this phrase again) real popstar potential, so I hope he's taken in the right directions this time.

(This feels like a good time to revisit that album and see if I love it any more after some time has passed.)

You never said you had a girlfriend

Do you remember Linda Teodosiu? German singer, used to be on a televised singing contest, released the great "Good At It" as a free download in advance of her proper debut single, the poorly titled "Love Sux"?

"Love Sux" has just been released and, in high quality, just how fantastic the production is really comes through. A Quiz & LaRossi and Claude Kelley song the Pussycat Dolls rejected, it has a bleepy electro backing that makes its similarity to the Saturday's "Up," also by Quiz & LaRossi, undeniable, but it's not a carbon copy; it's similar in, say, the way that most Max Martin songs of the teen pop boom were similar. With Linda sounding like a big voiced diva, "Love Sux" sashays around over its electro beat, hitting hard when it needs to, in a way that still has me excited about Linda as a popstar: if they use this sound as the jumping off point for her album, it could be great. The video isn't perfect, but it has a number of great moments, particularly when it comes to choreography. The overall package--quality song, generally quality video--makes me hope her handlers have creating a real popstar as their goal.

To buy Linda Teodosiu's first single, "Love Sux," go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: maybe something about a few American singers.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Summer turns to snow

Several albums I'm looking forward to but aren't release for a while are available for preorder, two Swedish (well, one technically American, but Swedish in many of its aspects) and one French.

First, Erik Hassle's Hassle was supposed to be released March 25. Then the release date was pushed back to April 29. Just today I found out that now it's apparently June 10 (preorder it here). Despite having the album for months, I'm still going slightly crazy to have a physical copy in my hands, but I suppose the fact that Erik still hasn't had a proper breakthrough in Sweden yet--he's been floating around the edges of consciousness for a year now without fully breaking through--means that the decision to delay release makes sense. The tracklisting is the same as the one we all know by now, so I won't bother reprinting it here (though check it out here if you're not familiar with it).

Swingfly's similarly long awaited debut album (technically even longer than Erik's or Velvet's since the lead single came out in January 2006, though the "awaited" period can't rival Velvet's for me) is still set to come out on the second date Erik's album was set to be released, April 29 (preorder it here). Titled God Bless The IRS, it features singles "Something's Got Me Started," "Save The Trees," "Winner," "Singing That Melody," and "Touch And Go" and production work from Andreas Kleerup, the Åhlund brothers, RamPac, and Thomas Rusiak. I've yet to see an official tracklisting for it, but from what we've heard so far the album from the voice of Teddybears' "Hey Boy" is shaping up to be great. Watch the video for "Touch And Go," which I still love and think everyone in the world should, too (just as I still love "Singing That Melody"), below.

Christophe Willem's second album, Caféine, is still set for a May 25 release date (preorder it here). He lists the "collaborators" as "Kylie Minogue, Guy Chambers, Zazie, Jean-Pierre Pilot, Jennifer Ayache [of] Superbus, Corinne Bailey Rae, Skye, Alexandre Azzaria, [and] Jamie Hartman [of] Ben's Brother" The tracklisting has been released, too, though it doesn't include the one song we haven't heard that I was expecting to be on it, "L'or est tombe du ciel" (which I think is the French version of Britney's "State Of Grace")--maybe it's been renamed? Audio for electro-rock lead single "Berlin," which I wrote about a few weeks ago, is embedded below, followed by said tracklist.

1.) Ouverture
2.) L’homme en noir
3.) Sensitized (Duet with Kylie Minogue)
4.) Berlin
5.) La demande
6.) Entre nous et le sol
7.) Plus que tout
8.) Coffee
9.) Fragile
10.) Trash (Duet with Skye)
11.) Tu te fous de nous
12.) Heartbox
13.) Yaourt et lavabo
14.) Si je tombais (Acoustic)

Caféine Bonus Deluxe Edition :
1.) Holé Holé (Original Version of "L’Homme en noir")
2.) Berlin (Alternative Version)
3.) La Demande (Remix)
4.) Si je tombais
5.) Walk away (Duet with Skye)

You might be able to listen to clips of the songs here, though I'm not able to.

Multiple versions of the album are available for purchase, as you can tell from the above: a regular CD version, a deluxe CD version, and mp3s of all the songs on the deluxe version (I think--I don't speak French, so please correct me if that's wrong!). If you preorder Caféine, you'll get the English version of "Berlin" on the day of the album's release. You also can sign up for free for access to some sort of "backstage" area of the website.

Christophe is offering "Trash" as a free download if you subscribe to his newsletter. If you want to get a feel for what you'd be subscribing for, there's a clip here. "Trash" is much more electro than "Berlin," complete with verses that have a vaguely Prince-y feel to their synths. It's album track type material, but it does continue to show how interesting Christophe can be. It and "Berlin" have been all well and good, but if I'm being a worrywart, I do hope when the album comes around I'm not just left saying "interesting."

Do you even feel a thing?

Most viral marketing campaigns are pretty lame (even more lame than using that word to describe them). The one tied in with Annie's upcoming single "Anthonio," though, is about as awesome as it is possible for something to be. In case you're just tuning in, here's the story up to now.

Stage One: Annie announces the release of a single called "Anthonio." It turns out to be about a summer love affair who loved her and left her--left her pregnant, in fact.

Stage Two: in response to e-mail inquiries in February about the song (before it had been heard), producer Richard X mentions that the song's release was hindered by efforts by Anthonio, the subject of the song, to prevent it from coming out.

Stage Three: "Anthonio" (the guy) has a MySpace and YouTube account on which he interacts with Annie, complaining about the song's release and befriending a number of other hot Norwegian blondes.

Annie leaves a comment on a photo of Anthonio telling him how good he looks but asking who the blonde he's with is...

...having previously left messages trying to get in touch with him.

Fellow blonde Nordic popstar Sally Shapiro leaves a message on Anthonio's MySpace expressing support for Annie...

...and a message on Annie's saying she's willing to babysit if Annie ever does a gig in Sweden.

Anthonio leaves a comment on Sally's MySpace telling her she's crazy but if she's ever in Brazil to come look him up...

...while Annie thanks Sally for her support.

Meanwhile, Anthonio leaves a message on the official YouTube video of the single "Anthonio" complaining about the song.

Stage Four: Popjustice receives the promotional CD for "Anthonio," which comes packaged as a letter from Norway sent to Brazil but returned to sender (as in the lyrics of "Anthonio").

Stage Five: "Anthonio" (the guy) sends an answer-back song to Popjustice titled "Annie."

What will happen next? We can't be sure of the details, but it's sure to keep proving how brilliant a popstar Annie is. As I said over at XO's, while it's true that this Annie vs. Anthonio drama is mainly amusing twenty people on the Internet, it's doing a really good job at amusing those twenty people...and I'm loving it. If Annie has the resources to not truly worry about how she'll chart in the UK and this campaign isn't really intended to make the single massive--mainly to appeal to the Internet world and pop geeks (which I gladly count myself among)--then I'm absolutely fine with it.

"Anthonio" is released May 4 and should be available digitally internationally (as well as available in a physical version).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Music is the consequence of love

If you know Swedish artist Maria Marcus, it's probably for her lovely melodic pop songs like "Music Is" and "Why (You Confuse My Mind)" or perhaps her duet with Brinck, Denmark's representative to this year's Eurovision. Who knew that lurking underneath that (very good) singer-songwriter-style exterior was someone equally capable of producing biting dance-pop? I certainly wouldn't have guessed it.

Sadly, it seems as if Maria has for the moment set aside her own recording career in favor of writing and producing for other artists. If we're looking for the silver lining, though, it's that demos like "Alone With The Music" and "Everytime" (which aren't new) are pretty great, especially for demos. As far as I can tell, Maria sings both (though I'm not entirely positive about "Alone With The Music"), though I presume the ultimate plan is for them to go to another artist. "Alone With The Music" doesn't put quite as much weight in its chorus vocal melody as, say, past work from Maria like "Music Is," but it helps make up for it that with its heavy electronic pulses and the riffs that crop up. The verses also wisely have a more distinctive melody and, though keeping the genre of the chorus, take a few steps back so that chorus still has something to build up to . The end result may be slightly style over substance and I'll freely admit to having a predisposition towards anything with this sort of electro-dance-pop production, but it's still more than solid work from Maria.

"Everytime" is slightly less hard in its sound, but it's just about as catchy.

Some of Maria's work that doesn't feature her singing is just as good. She's apparently one of the main songwriters working with Freja, an act Don't Stop The Pop, always ahead of the curve, wrote about a year ago. "Baby Run Run" (which I'm guessing is co-written by Maria, but I'm not certain of that) is also good, albeit on the demo-y side in some ways; it's kind of like the beat of Katy Perry's "Hot 'n Cold" (though not that great, but little is) but with a smoother, more traditional pop-rock vocal part in the chorus. "Give It Up," which I'm not sure who sings, is more pop than "Everytime" or "Alone With The Music" but might have the best melody out of all this songs.

In case you missed Maria's earlier work, here's the beautiful pop song "Music Is," which I think should appeal to those beyond the hardcore fans of über-poppy Swedish music.

You can't buy any of the songs I've posted, but you can purchase Maria's single "Music Is" here (digital).

Next up: maybe a conglomeration post.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The finest thing I've seen

Yesterday was so rainy and cold that about the only good thing to result from the weather was me being forced to turn to one of my instant pick-me-ups: Patrick Nuo's "5 Days." Don't Stop The Pop introduced me to the Swiss singer's work a while ago and it was love at first listen: I love this sort of musically upbeat, catchy male pop-(light)rock, an offspring of the teen-pop boom. In fact, the only problem with "5 Days," Patrick's 2003 debut single, is that you can't simultaneously listen to my favorite version of the song and watch the video.

Even if you don't agree, why you'd want to watch the video should be fairly self-explanatory (yes, I realize he's the generic Abercrombie & Fitch mail order model, but that's good enough for me). The video, though, includes the album version of the song, which lacks the bounce and piano riff of my preferred remix (though it's the tweaking sort of remix, not the total reworking kind). I'm not actually sure which remix it is since its length doesn't line up exactly with any of the tracklistings I can find and the quality is slightly subpar, but I still prefer it to the original.

On an unrelated note, "You," the lead single for Bosson's latest album (with the single being from 2006 and the album from 2007), still holds up as one of my favorite Swedish pop songs of this decade and probably my favorite Bosson song ever...and when a song manages to win out against "One In A Million" (both, incidentally, produced by Bassflow long before I was aware of that fact, and with the former being introduced to me by Catchy Tunes Of Sweden), you know it's got to be great. Forget the video--just switch away from it and listen to the way the song soars over that Europop beat. Please, Bosson, come back soon and come back with music like that we can write off "Wake Up" as just a one-off.

Monday, April 13, 2009

If you want my b-body come get, get it now

I realize disappearing for a few days and then returning with a post on a subject you've already read about all over the Internet is not exactly the way to keep people excited, but Booty Luv's new single "Say It" is too great for me to let pass without a mention.

Receiving its first play on the radio last week, the lead single for the British dance-pop duo's second album has had me throwing my hands in the air rave-like since I first heard it (which, much like air drumming to the drum roll into the last chorus of Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You," is apparently not a good thing to do while driving--who knew?), but it's also a step towards a greater pop consciousness for a group which was already infectiously fun. Add some stuttering (something I'm always a sucker for) and a siren and you've got something I'm guaranteed to be playing all year long.

I knew they'd been doing some work with Swedes with their album, but I didn't know for certain that that extended beyond the one song I've written about before. "Say It" is apparently produced by Airborn, a Swedish production configuration I'd never heard of before but includes Didrik Thott, who I'm pleased to hear involving himself again in dance-pop after a lot of serious guitar-based productions. If they work with fellow Swede Carl Ryden again, we've got a real trend going.

"Say It" is, ridiculously, due out in August.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Baby, tell me why you wanna leave it all behind

Are you on pins and needles to hear new September material? So on pins and needles that you'd brave the world of shady low quality live performance clips on YouTube? If so, press play below to listen to "Leave It All Behind."

Edit: a higher quality clip of the performance (thanks, Damian!)

This is probably as good a time as any (well, slightly less good than when it was actually released and therefore relevant) to say that I love the UK mix of "Can't Get Over" more than the original version, despite it ditching the main instrumental hook--it's much slicker, catchier, bouncier, harder-hitting, and generally better in my eyes.

(With, once again, credit to Aces.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

It may be wrong...

Is South African R&B girl group Jamali's reworking of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," titled "Love At First Sight," cheesy as you can possibly imagine? Oh yes. Would I have it any other way? Absolutely not.

It's not the only cover on the third album by the three girls of the group, who lost on Popstars but who have gone on to be far more successful than the winners: "Knowing Me, Knowing You," the lead single, is an unsuccessful attempt at modernizing and claiming a pop song from decades past by shoving a nominally African beat underneath it. It's impossible to listen to without not only thinking about the original version but also thinking how unexciting the song sounds in this version.

"Love At First Sight," on the other hand, reminds you of how great the original is while also working in its modern format. "Modern" might be a bit of an overstatement--like the Young Divas' first album, there is still something a bit '80s about the melodies at work here, but the production has been updated. Somewhat. A bit.

There is something not only cheesier but also cheaper about "Love At First Sight" than the aforementioned Young Divas album, but the song is so adorable in its cheesiness that it's the good kind of pop froth: bubbles of pop bliss rise, dance, catch the light for a few moments, and then disappear with no trace left behind but the smile on your face.

To buy Jamali's third album, 3rd Base, go here (physical).

Next up: maybe a round-up sort of post.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do

The gorgeous Alesha™ is releasing "Let's Get Excited," my favorite not-yet-a-single song from The Alesha Show, as her next single. The video is basically just choreographed group dancing and the occasional shot of a shirtless guy...

...but isn't that what every video would be like if I were in charge?

"Let's Get Excited," like "The Boy Does Nothing," is exactly the sort of song--bubbly and quirky but more mainstream than you'd think--that makes me glad we've got a popstar like Alesha capable of delivering it properly.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Of all the lonely people, I wanna be loved by you

Adem just reviewed Erik Hassle's album. It's a great review that perfectly captures why this album is so exciting and why I fell so in love with it and hopefully many others will too.

In other words: go read it.

I don't know, yeah, probably

It's true that by ordering the special edition of Måns Zelmerlöw's second album, MZW, before we had any idea what was "special" about it was probably a case of setting myself up for disappointment. The first difference we heard was the color of the text on the front cover: yellow instead of white (thanks, Aaron).

"OK," I thought to myself, "that's fine, whatever--surely there's got to be more."

When CDOn updated its description of the special edition to say that the content of the special edition was the same as that of the regular edition and that the only difference was that the special edition contained a "more exclusive booklet," I figured that was my dose of disappointment (edit: I should mention that if you buy the iTunes deluxe edition you get acoustic versions of "Hope & Glory," "Cara Mia," and "Maniac," with "Maniac" being the only new release out of those). Sure, I'd paid extra and would have liked some extra music or something, but hey, a more exclusive booklet--that had to mean it was bigger, with more photos or something, right?

Wrong. The booklet included with my newly arrived special edition has to be the same as the regular edition one, considering there's nothing "extra" about it. In fact, the only difference I can find in the entire package is the gold text instead of white text on the front of the CD case and "SPECIAL EDITION" written in small letters in the top left corner of the back of the case (along with a number).

Of course, having my physical copy of the album does mean that if I'd ever had the urge to see Måns strip from a tux to a sleeveless black top before lounging around on stairs and going into a showgirl-accompanied version of the last verse of Robbie Williams's "Kids" in as good a British accent as he can manage, I now have a video of that...though that's on the regular edition too, I presume, since it follows the advertised "Et maintenant" performance. And I can't really say I'd ever felt that urge.

All they really had to do was include that Let's Dance picture of Måns (you know the one) and I would have been happy. Or included a full performance of him doing "Hero," and then I would've been really happy.

Since Måns already posted the writers and producers for the album, the only things credit junkies might be interested to know are that Jeanette Olsson sings backing vocals for "A Stranger Saved My Life," Anna Nordell/Anorah sings backing vocals on "Hope & Glory," "One Minute More," "Saved Again," and "Home," and Dhani Lennevald of the A*Teens--who worked on Hani's good "Wait Forever"--did "co-vocal editing" on "One Minute More" and "Saved Again" (presumably because he's hanging around with Ishi, I think).

The only other Måns news is something I already told Paul about and that Schlagerprofilerna introduced me to: Måns was contacted with the opportunity to appear in the musical Chicago in London's West End. The last thing I read about it was that he hadn't said yes "yet," but I'm not too caught up on my Måns news. I have to echo Schlagerprofilerna's sentiments in saying that that show doesn't feel like the right fit for him--none of roles seem quite right, whereas Schlagerprofilerna's suggestion of the Zac Efron role in Hairspray feels perfect--but I'm hardly going to begrudge all you UK residents the chance to see him live if it ends up happening.

Did you even know my name? Did you ever really care?

There is only one thing I've been trying to say
It may come as a surprise:
My baby has your eyes

Annie's new Italo-disco cosmic pop single "Anthonio" is out May 4 and will be available digitally internationally.

(With thanks to Aces.)

Saying it takes two to brave the weather

Run over to Chart Rigger right now if you want to hear Swedish songwriters Ten doing the purest pop sound they've done since the A*Teens --Robbie's posted a clip of Irish/British group Industry's upcoming single "My Baby's Waiting" (due out in May) and it's such an unexpected dose of poppiness I nearly fell out of my chair.

All you Eurovision-philes will want to note that Donal Skehan--of Irish national final '08/"Double Cross My Heart"--is one of the members.

As I mentioned in the comments over there, Ten are knocking it out of the park lately: Erik Hassle's album and now, though it may be premature to judge based on that short clip, this. I wish they'd bring their official site back so we can keep track of all the stuff they're up to.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Give me your heart, give me your soul, give me your heart

In case this post and the one below it don't make it obvious, I was checking in on the Romanian charts today. It's something I don't do nearly as often as I should. Romania's music charts don't feel full of hits to me like, say, the Swedish charts do, but the prevalence of generally good even if not mega-international-success-in-waiting house-meets-chill dance-pop (not bouncy cheery Europop like Danny's "Tokyo" or swooshy '80s dance pop like Velvet or Star Pilots) means that those charts are generally easy and pleasant to listen to. At times, they run the risk of just washing over you, but it's a nice sort of wave even then.

Starting with something from nearby country Moldova, we've got the latest project of former O-Zone member Radu: he's co-created DJ Layla featuring Alissa's new song "Single Lady." This isn't catchy fun dance-pop in the vein of former bandmate Dan's "Crazy Loop," being much more that typical Romanian gentle house-influenced style, and so isn't as straight-up pop-style catchy, but it's a good listen if you enjoy this sort of music...and I do.

I used to be able to count on Akcent (minus one member at this point) for at least one brilliant (and brilliantly ridiculous) song per album. Songs like "Kylie" and "King Of Disco" made them the closest I was going to get to a spiritual successor to O-Zone, and the slightly more "Romanian" sounding "Jokero" was great as well. I feel as if they've been unable to deliver that one killer single recently, though. "That's My Name" is fine, but it lacks the impact of their earlier hits, which had poppier hooks--it's that "washes over you" side of things.

With Akcent not delivering in quite the same way, Crush & Alexandra Ungureanu have a chance to challenge for favorite Romania act going if they play their cards right. Their latest single is "2Nite We'll Rise," taken from their second album, which takes its title from their brilliant 2007 single "Hello" (which I'm still upset I didn't find out about until too late to make my 2007 singles countdown). Their style is still generally that gentle house-influenced one, but when they're at their best, the beats are often a bit stronger, the hooks better, and the tone more intriguing.

Swiss-Romanian singer Keo is more on the pop (maybe light pop-rock) side of things than he is electronica, but even with his new single "Falling High" that side of Romania's music scene can be seen.

Inna has a new-ish (few months old) single called "Love" out, but her single from late last year, "Hot," is still much better and, since I never wrote about it here, here it is instead. It's got that typical Romanian commercial radio dance sound, but the hook is memorable and it becomes hypnotizing if you hear it enough times.

Gettin' busy

A song sits around for a while, going unused, and then you've got two people releasing it at once.

Two singers have semi-recently done versions of Swedish writers Play Productions' (i.e., the people behind Linda Bengtzing's "Alla flickor" and "Hur svårt kan det va?", but also more outside the schlager genre) "Candy." It's an urban pop song with a clubby beat.

One of them is Polish artist Patti, who Bobby of Don't Stop The Pop tipped me off to. Her version is a duet with a male singer named Stefano. Her version seems to have become available early this year. "Candy" isn't her only song worth hearing, though; check out electro "Press Play" and "Don't Waste My Time" her MySpace. I'm looking forward to hearing more from her.

The other is Romanian artist Claudia, who released her version late in 2008.

(If you know any versions--beyond the Play Productions demo--please let me know!)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Used to save them troubles for another day

Erik Hassle has a new video for "Hurtful" out. Not much happens in it, but it's much better than the original one: Erik's music is far more accessible than that first video made it seem, whereas this video strikes a much more accurate balance between arty and accessible.

That review of the album I've been promising and promising for forever really is coming.

In other Swedish music news, Fibes, Oh Fibes! have a new single, "Love Child," out (well, out soon). It's '60s-ish (though not in the Amy Winehouse/Mark Ronson way--it's more pop-rock-ish, emphasis on the "ish") and semi-jaunty. Listen to it here. On the first listen it passed me by, but on further listens my opinion has improved so much that I'm now wondering when the rapid upward trend is going to stop.

Sebastian's new single is "Stay Forever." I like "Wake Up Where Your Heart Is" a lot more, but as we all know my taste doesn't usually align with the Swedish public's.

Instinct says I'm where I need to be

It's true I didn't fall hard for writer and producer Brian Kennedy's last work with Jesse McCartney--"It's Over" was "fine" for me. Still, anyone who in the space of one year can give us Rihanna's "Disturbia," Chris Brown's "Forever" and "Electric Guitar," and Jennifer Hudson's "If This Isn't Love" is obviously someone worth keeping an eye on.

I'm glad to report that I'm much more taken with Brian's latest work with Jesse. "Crash & Burn" is, like "Body Language," a new song for the re-edition of Departure, but, unlike "Body Language," it's not straight-up kitsch. "Crash & Burn" doesn't cry out "I am DIFFERENT from what you are used to hearing. I have something you've never heard before. Listen to me!", but it's had me playing it over and over again.

A piano meets more electronic beats, some cute and floating along the top of the song and others buried deep at the bottom of it, which push out the piano for the bridge and chorus (or chorus and post-chorus, which might be a more accurate description). The second part of the middle eight flirts with entering the realm of the floating electro-pop glory that Chris's "Forever" did, but the song pushes forward with its momentum too much to ever completely pause and surrender to the moment. That's a good thing, though: the deepest pulses and the "oh, oh, oh"s from Jesse are so quick-paced that "Crash & Burn", though not hugely quick in tempo, ends up feeling much quicker than it is due to the insistency of it. The end result is a pop-R&B song that is vaguely dancey without being dance, tormented without wallowing in torment, forward pushing without losing restraint, pretty and fluid without lacking structure or energy.

Oh, and catchy. Part of that is due to those great "oh, oh, oh"s mentioned before--choppy but still human--but the bridge or the proper chorus (depending on your perspective) delivers a proper catchy melody that doesn't rely on repetition.

The title might lead you to think that the musical accompaniment to the on-the-path-to-destruction relationship the narrator's engaged in would be melodramatic. Jesse stays in his comfort zone, though. He's never required to deliver vocal fireworks or, for that matter, emotional fireworks; he gently begs for a truce in the opening verse, but the closest he comes to letting you see the moment when the pain hits him is in those "oh"s, short and bittersweet. That actually works for Jesse, though all the contrasts throughout the song cause a strange juxtaposition of nearly celebratory beats sometimes bubbling up (particularly at the end of that middle 8) and more plaintive but lovely verses.

In short? A pretty modern mid-tempo pop song with a few production tricks up its sleeve and a great bridge/chorus melody--complete with the perfect pause before Jesse sings "S.O.S.," emphasizing the first letter in just the right way--that make it something worth repeat plays. It's more like "Forever," "Electric Guitar," and "If This Isn't Love" than "Disturbia," but all his work is starting to give me a real sense of what Brian Kennedy is best at and who he is as a music maker...and I'm liking what I'm hearing.