Thursday, August 31, 2006

Let it out, tell me what you really mean

A hodge-podge post this evening, since I didn't get to put up part two of the Blue special until this afternoon.

Things you will no longer have to hear me rant about:
  • Heinz Winckler. His official website has now been updated (even if it does take forever to load now), so I'll stop complaining about lack of official news from him (and stop posting random pictures, too). If I do decide to get his album, I'll probably post up a review of it, but that should be about it.
  • Who Wants To Be A Superhero? The completely ridiculous yet incredibly funny television show has now ended (Feedback won--all is right with the world!), so no more offhanded references to it (until the movie version of it comes around...). Of course, there are a couple of reality TV singing competitions coming up, so a few mentions of those may slip in here and there.
However, you will probably hear a good deal about McFly and Anthony Callea when they get ready to release their next albums, so be prepared for that (though I will try to keep it to a minimum and do more "formal" posts). Oddly, even though I've preordered them, my enthusiasm for Clay Aiken and Jesse McCartney's next albums has diminished; hopefully, they'll restore my faith and you'll also get to hear about those (both come out on September 19).

In further random news, Abby from Poptext has returned; I had just started reading her site when she took her sabbatical, but in the meantime I've caught up on it--that is writing, you all. If you haven't visited Poptext before, you definitely should.

The had-disappeared MySpace page of Billy Phillips, who I wrote about a little while ago, has returned! Visit it here, though he only has one song up now ("Only In My Dreams").

I mentioned Alex Vargas a few days ago and, though I was originally planning to wait to post this until I had a high quality version for you all, I've decided it's too good a song to hold onto any longer, below-average audio quality or not.

Diamonds In The Dirt--mid-tempo pop-rock with a piano, but that doesn't begin to get across the nature of this track. I might be crazy, but I think this has chart potential--at least, I hope it does. It's not the sort of track you're going to get all giggly and excited about (if you're ever the type to giggle), because it's more serious than that, but it's a bit moving and a bit sweeping and definitely more than a bit good. Writing inspiration is lacking tonight, so I'll just really recommend you listen to it.

As before, here is his MySpace and keep on the lookout for his EP, whenever it is released.

Up next: the three-day special on the only Turkish singer I know anything about--unless I decide to push it back a week.

Been on every stage in every place

Part two of the Blue feature, now that Z-Share is back up and working (I decided just to give it its own post instead of editing it into the one below)! The songs today were never singles in the UK, I think, though "Only Words I Know" was released in some countries.

After The Show--the cutesy side of Blue. Midtempo and centered around the boys asking "if you're still gonna care for me/after the show, when I'm no longer on MTV." You could criticize the sentiment as manufactured if you wanted to, but why bother when the song is this boppy and cute? I have a soft spot for it, too, because I associate it with the end of one of my favorite seasons of Speech and Debate, when coaches were forced to move on to other jobs--it was a bit of a stretch, but the similarities to me at the time (between worries about what will happen after a group's music career ends and the group breaks apart and what will happen after the tournaments end and an almost-family breaks apart) gave the song a little extra meaning. The song is questioning the future and unsure about what will happen, but it's far from depressing--it's not exactly happy, but it might cause you to smile.

Only Words I Know--dancier (though not really much faster) and less cute than "After The Show," "Only Words I Know" has a lot of singing by an unnamed female vocalist. It's also Latin-influenced and features gimmicky use of Spanish. The album insert contains some atrocious misspellings of the Spanish phrases used here, unless it's just informal Spanish that I'm unfamiliar with ("onde" instead of "donde," "gutsa" instead of "gusta," "um" instead of "un," "querio" instead of "quiero," "qui" instead of "aqui")--for a group that built so much of their success on appealing to non-English speaking countries, I was surprised that there literally must not have been anyone who spoke Spanish proofreading the lyrics. That doesn't detract from the song, though.

The Gift--another cute song, probably a little slower than "After The Show." This one has piano backing and, though it still has percussion and tiny electronic noises, it's more minimal than "After The Show."

To buy The Best of Blue, which has the first two songs featured today, go here (physical) (make sure to get the version with two discs--the "fan edition"--if you want today's songs); to buy "Only Words I Know" digitally, go here; to buy 4Ever Blue, which has "The Gift," go here (physical) or here (digital)

Next up: if nothing else comes up, that three-day special I mentioned on Tuesday...I'll see if I can do some sort of mini-post tonight.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

There's a space inside that's just as empty as it was

I can't get Z-Share to work right now, but as soon as I can, I'll edit this post to include today's's all typed up, ready to go, so hopefully Z-Share starts working again soon! If it doesn't, I'll probably end up using YouSendIt or Sendspace. Maybe eventually I'll just have to register for EZArchive, because I really like the idea of being able to preview a track before downloading it--I'm just reluctant to register for something.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One for the money and the free rides

I wasn't really sure what to post today, so I was scrolling through my music library trying to decide, when I reached "Blue." I'd never really planned to do a post on Blue, but why not? I've somehow ended up with more Blue music than I ever would have expected--enough to make me realize that, though they are often criticized, they have a good number of good songs; yes, there's a lot of filler on their albums, but that shouldn't detract from our perceptions of their best work, should it? (All right, a bit hypocritical on my part, but it's what I try to do.)

Blue were a four person boyband (made up of, from left to right, Duncan, Antony [who was coincidentally featured yesterday], Simon, and Lee) from the UK. They were active from around 2001 to 2004, when they split up (one rumor I think I remember hearing was that Elton John advised them to do so, but I don't know if that's true) and pursued solo careers. If you've ever seen Love Actually, they're mentioned several times in it--they are Billy Mack's primary competition for Christmas #1. Blue's music was supposedly edgier than "typical" pop, and I guess it did incorporate more R&B and funkier backbeats than some of their competition's songs.

All Rise--Blue's debut single. You can definitely hear that they're trying to be "edgy" but it works. It's about the Blue boys putting a girlfriend on trial for lying, probably cheating, etc., and so is filled with lots of courtroom references. The video is also worth checking out--look, they're sitting in darkness and Simon has his hat on backwards! Clearly, they are "hip" and "edgy." But then, there's so much posing--and even choreographed group dances (which there really aren't enough of today)!--that you can't help but smile; pretend if you want, Blue, but we know you are a boyband--and we love that you are.

Bubblin'--a little more dance-oriented than "All Rise." In fact, I think the video gets it just about right: it feels like the sort of song that should be danced to at a pool party, or at least the music video version of a pool party. It also features some guest rapping by a woman, but that's actually a nice change in comparison to the rest of the song, and it's not exactly hardcore rapping either.

U Make Me Wanna--mid-tempo, but sort of balladish, especially in comparison to the previous two songs. It's at least a little more romantic, even if just in sound and not message, than "Bubblin.'" Once again, at risk of sounding like I spend all my time watching Blue music videos, I have to recommend the video. I love the concept; it's not meant to be arty or groundbreaking in the sense that would appeal to critics, but even music videos for songs like this have visual elements that can be appreciated (and no, I am not talking about the band members that appear in such videos). The setting--an old-fashioned boat--is perfect for this type of romantic song; the lighting once the boys reach the boat gives you the sense of the sun only being partly in the sky, which really helps create that romantic aura; the wardrobes, backdrops, movements (natural here, not choreographed as in "All Rise"), and even the colors (of the ocean, the wood of the boat, and the clothes) fit perfectly with the feeling of the song. That's not to say that boybands can't be experimental with their videos, but rather that there is definitely an aesthetic value to music videos like this, which, while not being surprising, are elegantly done. I think the middle 8 of both the song and the video aren't quite up to par with the rest (I appreciate the attempt to change up the pace, but it doesn't quite work), but it's still good.

If You Come Back
--a ballad, but it--like the best ballads--never drags. Credit for any success this song has has to go to Lee, because it's probably his singing on the bridge (OK, Antony does two lines there which contribute--I think that's who's doing what, anyway) and chorus that elevates the song. There are tiny hints of that supposed "edginess" in some of the backing tracks (listen to the beginning), but by the time we get to the chorus, it's pure, sweet, regular boybandness--but not in a boring or overdone way.

To buy Blue's albums, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: I originally planned to include three other songs in this post, but it turned out to be a lot wordier than I expected, so I'll get to the others tomorrow--some non-singles, finally (and if you don't like Blue, I'm sorry--it'll be over soon :) )! After that, I think we might head into a three-day special centered around a Turkish singer.

Don't make this complicated

Hey all! Sorry about not posting last night--first, we lost power, but I managed to type this up (that's why it's on the short side--I was trying to finish it before my computer's battery died) and was almost ready to publish it when we lost our Internet connection. There will be another post tonight in addition to this, to get us back on schedule :)

Edit: oops, the dangers of trying to post very early in the morning--links for the songs are now added!

Antony Costa used to be a member of very successful British boyband Blue. Now, he's gone solo, competing to represent the UK at Eurovision and releasing one single so far, "Do You Ever Think Of Me." He's also released an album, Heart Full Of Soul, which is available in Japan and was either not released in the UK or didn't do very well there. His style is pop with what I suppose could be called "adult contemporary" or "MOR" influences, although I don't really like using that description since nowadays it seems to be code for "boring." I wasn't a huge fan of his single, but I was really impressed with the B-sides, which apparently also appear on the album. I don't think they would have been better single choices, but I do enjoy them more than "Do You Ever Think Of Me" (although that could just be because I prefer happier songs).

Shine Your Light--a mid-tempo song that beams (as you might expect from the title) happiness and rays of sunshine. It's simple, yes, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and by the end that seeming "simpleness" is deceptive, as there are several Anthonys singing (one doing the chorus lyrics, one "ooo"-ing, and one that sounds sort of distant, as if talking over a phone or radio). Never overwhelming or pressuring, it's the sort of song meant to be played as you step out of your house on a bright sunny day or accompanying a music video of people running through fields.

Learn To Love Again--also mid-tempo, though the instrumentation's pace picks up a little bit in the chorus. It doesn't have the sunshiney sound of "Shine Your Light," but it is meant to be inspirational--a "keep going, you'll make it" sort of song.

To buy Antony Costa's album Heart Full Of Soul, go here (physical) or, to get the B-sides, go here (digital).

Next up: maybe those rock-ish songs.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I like my girlfriends in short skirts with longer hair

I had intended to post about the Click Five today, but choosing the best of their songs was just too challenging a task; I'll probably write about them later, when I have a post more fully planned out--it'll probably stretch over a couple of days. As it is, though, I'm about to head out (my birthday today!), so here's a bit of an update on some artists.

Ben Adams, formerly of a1, continues to rotate songs on and off of his MySpace with remarkable frequency. His single, his B-sides, and his album sampler were all great, so I really hope he gets a chance to release his album. Many of the songs he's added, though, have been more low-key and balladish, not experimental and fun like his former music, so I'm worried about what the album will be like if it ever is released. Even more worrying: his official site no longer seems to exist (unless it's just my Internet being weird...). He'll get his own post later, so for now, no songs from him.

Another popstar whose official site, after not being updated for forever, has disappeared: Darius. I know he's not too popular among pop circles, but I love his music. Here's the third single from his first album, Dive In (which you can purchase here physically or here digitally); it's mid-tempo, acoustic-guitar pop that people would probably call "middle of the road," but it has so many little background effects and is so catchy that I can't help smiling when I hear it.

Incredible (What I Meant To Say)

You can now purchase Switch 22 songs! Go here to do so. I posted their "Electric Girl" earlier--good dark electro-pop--and that's still probably by favorite song of theirs, but here's another good one (low audio quality, sorry!) that isn't available for purchase.

The Day She Gave Up On Me

Alex Vargas (pop-rock) has a new set of songs up. Sadly, this means the excellent "Diamonds In The Dirt" can no longer be listened to, but keep on the lookout for his new EP--hopefully it'll be on that. Here's one of the songs that you can't hear anymore (low audio quality); "Diamonds In The Dirt" will probably appear here at some point in the future, but I'm hoping the EP will come out soon so you all can hear it in high quality.

All The Way

Jim Verraros has two unreleased songs on his MySpace. "Dirty Criminal" is a bit danceish and good; "You Make It Better," despite not being the dance style that I really like Jim doing (it's pop-rock), is good, too. When do we get another album? The amazing site Spark*Pop posted a remix of one of his songs a few months ago; I don't like to repost a song posted elsewhere so quickly, but I adore this remix; the only bad thing about it is that I don't want to listen to the original again after hearing this version! It's only three and a half minutes, but you'll be worn out by the end of it. Buy his album Rollercoaster physically here (no remixes) or go to iTunes for the remixes. More on Jim in the future.

You Turn It On (DJ Strobe Global Club Edit 2)

Next up: possibly rock-ish stuff with remixes.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pass the smiling faces with the hidden rage

Ricky Martin is one of those popstars I don't really follow as a person; I'm sure he is one, but I just don't pay attention to his personal life or him at all, outside of his music. Regardless of what anyone might say, "Livin' La Vida Loca" is a great song. In fact, his albums tend to have a lot of good songs on them. His 2005 album Life, though, is pretty clearly an attempt to break away from the music he is famous for. Whether he's incorporating rap or reggaeton, Ricky avoids returning to the sound of "Livin' La Vida Loca" and "She Bangs," most likely in an attempt to gain credibility. It is a shame that the music of his past would probably never succeed today--at least on a similar scale--but somehow the changing music market has forced Ricky in a direction that has resulted in some--well, at least one or two--very good songs. The album overall feels like it could use a shot of that energy and exuberance from his past, though.

Til I Get To You--This is the song that almost makes it worth it (or at least tolerable) that Ricky had to abandon all sign of joie de vivre. In fact, if the whole album, or even half of it, were this good, I wouldn't mind the change at all. "Til I Get To You" exemplifies Life's difference from Ricky Martin or Sound Loaded; just compare it to "Livin' La Vida Loca" or "She Bangs" and you can hear that Ricky's abandoned dancey exuberance and glitter for this big, atmospheric sound; he even admits he's "gonna change in a new direction," and he has--he's lost some of his cheekiness and cheesiness (which works here, but is unfortunate elsewhere). The chorus here is great--not quite soaring, but it feels huge, like it's sung at the bottom of a desert canyon, not in a happening night club where ladies throw themselves at an oiled-up Ricky Martin.

Drop It On Me--Ricky's reggaeton-influenced song. It's pretty clearly meant for dance halls. If you're in the right mood, it's good. I mentioned earlier that Ricky had lost his cheekiness--as this song's tone shows, that doesn't mean he's claiming to have lost interest in the ladies, but just that he seems to be positioning himself as a bit of a dominator, someone women can't help but be drawn to--I think of cheekiness as having an aura of fun about it, and that's something Life's songs are lacking.

I Don't Care--the lead single from Life. It pretty much went nowhere on the U.S. charts (I'd venture a guess that most Americans don't even know about it), though apparently it did better in the UK. It's definitely got a Latin flair, but I wouldn't really call it pop--maybe R&B with Latin influences. It also, unfortunately, has rapping in the middle. It's OK for that style, but the real reason I included it is that I wanted you all to hear the original version before moving on to...

I Don't Care (Norty Cotto Clubber Mix)--cheers for popstars releasing EPs with remixes! That's not done nearly often enough. There were two remix EPs for "I Don't Care," one of "reggaeton mixes" and one of "club mixes." This speeds up the song, makes it eight minutes long, and gives it more club-esque or glitzier electronic backing.

I Don't Care (Pt. 2) (Norty Cotto Mix)--as you can probably guess by the names, these two mixes are similar, although this one comes from Ultimix. Still faster, still glitzier (more so, probably), but a little more intense (and more pounding), which it has to be, since it has five and a half minutes to fit in the dancey-ness of the above remix. Sadly, the first minute, with little of Ricky's vocals, may be the best part, but it's still good overall.

To buy Ricky Martin's album, Life, go here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "Ricky Martin"); to buy I Don't Care (Club Mixes), go here (physical, but it's vinyl, not a CD) or here (digital; only valid for U.S. residents); and to buy Ultimix 119, you'll probably have to try eBay, unless you are a DJ, in which case go here.

Next up: I'm not positive, but I'm leaning towards one of my favorite bands of the moment (I have mentioned them before).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Solo quiero conversar, solo quiero conocerte

Spanish-speaking songs today, but hopefully good music crosses language boundaries.

Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" is a very good contender for "Most Overplayed Song Of The Summer." However, that doesn't stop the Colombian songstress from having some very good songs in her back catalogue.

Ciega, Sordomuda--in some ways, this isn't a "typical" pop song; it has horns, Shakira's usual ululations, and is sort of dramatic-sounding. The chorus, though, is catchy and bouncy (much of the song has an up-and-down feeling), and Shakira does have a way with the sound of words, even if some of her metaphors can be odd at times. It's essentially about being madly in love with someone and being completely helpless because of it.

Minerva is a Spanish singer who originally released this song in 1995. 11 years later, a remix is causing a resurgence of interest in the song.

Llorando Por Ti (HSP Radio Mix 2006)--dance-pop with a female singer. There's a moment in the middle where the song feels as if it's about to stop, but don't worry--there's more left! This version seems a little less techno than the original and puts the singing in more of a prominent position.

Reik is a three-person group from Mexico that has had success in some Latin American countries and on the US Latin charts. I found out about them when I was in Costa Rica--the radio was playing the song while I was on a crowded, chatty bus, so I couldn't hear most of it, but, about thirty seconds from its end, I managed to make out enough to realize that it wasn't the reggaeton we'd been hearing the entire trip; in fact, it sounded pretty poppy! I wrote down all the lyrics I could make out (all seven of them) and managed to find it when I got home.

Que Vida La Mia--the first time I heard this in its entirety, my reaction was "they still make music like this?" Yes, there are guitars (acoustic), but there's something about the song that makes it seem like a throwback to the old boyband days (and by old I mean late '90's and very early 2000's), with only the slightest hint of updating to accomodate modern trends--maybe it's the vocals? The melody? I'm not sure, but whatever it is, it makes for a sweet, simple, happy song that's catchy pretty much throughout.

You can buy Shakira's Donde Estan Los Ladrones? here (physical) or the single "Ciega Sordomuda" here (digital; you'll have to search for "Shakira"); a compilation CD with the remix of Minerva's song here (physical); and Reik's first album, Reik, here (physical) or here (digital; only valid for U.S. residents).

Next up: music by a Latin American singer, but in English this time.

In case anyone was wondering where Clay Aiken's hairstyle had gone to...

...apparently Heinz Winckler has stolen it.

(Keep in mind I like both of those artists, so that's not meant to be snarky.)


It seems the release date for Heinz's Moment of Truth album has been moved back to September 4. I've yet to find a site selling it that will ship outside of South Africa, but if you do live there, you will eventually be able to order it here.

This is the cover artwork for it. I can't see that logo without thinking of the Hogwarts crest and the logo for the band in School of Rock.

I swear I don't usually think this much about pictures, but when you don't give me anything else to go off of, Heinz (your website is still advertising your tour with Phixx!), this is where my mind is going to go.

Music later today!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Remember loving me, remember letting go

Have you ever wondered what it would sound like if each member of sadly extinct British boyband V did their own version of ballad "You Stood Up?" No? Nor had I, so I realize this is sort of a cop-out post, but I have a lot to do (and I spent an hour watching Who Wants To Be A Superhero, which is sort of like America's Next Top Model for people who want to have a comic book written about their superhero identity and, even though I don't read comics, it truly is great television--drama! tears! treachery! people running around in ridiculous outfits! I probably shouldn't even have watched that, but I thought it was the finale; apparently that's not until next week--hopefully Feedback wins instead of Fat Momma), so, sadly, that's the post for today. I really should have better things this weekend, though, and more time!

You Stood Up (Original)

You Stood Up (Aaron's Version)

You Stood Up (Ant's Version)

You Stood Up (Kevin's Version)

You Stood Up (Leon's Version)

You Stood Up (Mark's Version)

You Stood Up (Acoustic)

You Stood Up (Live)

To buy the V's single for You Stood Up," go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: Gareth B-sides, Spanish music, or the closest to rock I'll ever post here--most likely one of those.

You can't hold me back no more

This better not be the album cover (I don't think it is--it's from the second album promo stuff, it looks like). Not sure how I feel about the title, but whatever; bring on November 6!

Real post coming later today.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Are you listening?

(Young) Guys with guitars today: Hanson and Tyler Hilton--Hanson because I heard "Mmmbop" on the radio a few days ago and Tyler Hilton because I didn't want to post just one song.

Hanson are, of course, most famous for their debut single "Mmmbop." They've never quite managed to replicate its commercial success or infiltration of pop culture, but they've continued to release good songs (even if their photo gallery seems to imply they are a little too serious now).

Lost Without Each Other--this is the song that might even surpass "Mmmbop" on my list of Hanson favorites (I don't have all of This Time Around, so I guess it's theoretically possible there's an even better song on that album somewhere). The boys are older, so don't expect the high-pitched singing of before, and this song doesn't have the summery gloss of "Mmmbop," but it really catchy. The drum (and piano, in the beginning) keeps the song going, but it's when the guitars hit and the chorus arrives that the song is at its best moments.

This Time Around--a last-minute addition to today's post and the title track to their second album. It's slower than "Lost Without Each Other."

Tyler Hilton is a young singer/songwriter whose success in the U.S. has been far from vast or mainstream. He's known for appearing on TV series One Tree Hill (in which you could also hear his music) and in the movie Walk The Line (if you look at his album cover, I bet you can guess who he played). Also, if you've ever looked at the picture for iTunes' "Teen Pop Essentials" and wondered who that was next to Justin Timberlake, Jessica Simpson, and Britney Spears, here's your answer: Tyler. That's overplaying his role or fame in the teen pop world, but I suspect they based their decision to include him in the picture on looks, not popularity. His voice has a rough edge that makes his music sound different from much of the pop popular among teens, as does the folky edge on many of his songs.

Kiss On--a track from his second full album, The Tracks Of Tyler Hilton. Catchy in an acoustic guitar sort of way, and probably the best out of the Tyler Hilton songs I know (which I admit to not be all of them).

How Love Should Be--Tyler's latest single. I'm not sure what it means that it was released in May 2005 and there's no new album yet; maybe he just likes to take more time with his music? It's not as catchy or as fun as "Kiss On" (which isn't exactly a barrel of laughs itself, but does seem, despite its subject, to take itself less seriously). It's a little generic pop-rock for me, to be honest.

To buy Hanson's Underneath, go here (physical) or here (digital); to buy Hanson's This Time Around, go here (physical) or here (digital; only valid for U.S. residents); to buy Tyler Hilton's The Tracks Of Tyler Hilton (sometimes referred to as The Tracks Of), go here (physical) or here (digital); to buy Tyler Hilton's single "How Love Should Be," go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: I'm not sure. At some point in the next couple weeks, there should be a special on a particular boyband, but that definitely won't be tomorrow. Maybe some B-sides?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I was in a band, but you never were a fan

As I've mentioned before, I'm worried I won't like Matt Willis's whole debut album--the non-singles I've heard off of it haven't blown me away, though they've been good. However, I love "Up All Night" and "Hey Kid;" "Up All Night" is definitely my favorite of the two, but "Hey Kid"--released this week--is great as well. I think I remember Matt describing his sound as "stadium rock," but I don't think that's quite right--it's pop that wants to be stadium rock, or pop stealing shamelessly from stadium rock, but whatever it is, it's fun. Since "Hey Kid" has just been released and I don't want Matt to be dropped, I'm not going to post it, but instead a Matt song that I might (depending on the day) like even more than "Hey Kid".

Rock Ya--this is a B-side to "Up All Night," and when I first heard it, I was really surprised--it's great quality for a B-side. As a warning, if you don't like Matt's singles so far, you probably won't like this song--it's in a very similar style. The chorus is great, with its drumroll leading up to an overemphasized syllable practically shouted by Matt, and the verses and the bridge work well, building and putting you in almost complete pop-rock overload. For a while, you're left wondering why it's called "Rock Ya," although Matt does finally get around to using that phrase in the middle 8; when the chorus returns after that, the phrase gets carried over into it, giving the song that extra boost it needs to carry you along to the end. I don't think I can understand half of what Matt is saying here, but that doesn't seem to harm the song; it might actually improve it, since the lack of clear lyrics (and the silliness of the lyrics when you can understand them--"I said I like your tan"?) makes it clear the song is all about getting caught up in the fun of the music, not listening to any supposed message.

You can buy "Rock Ya" digitally here or physically on the "Up All Night" single here; Matt Willis's most recent single, "Hey Kid" can be purchased physically here or digitally here; given that it's at #22 on the iTunes download chart, I'm worried--I don't know if I can take another popstar in limbo.

I've been meaning to say this for quite some time, but I keep forgetting, so finally: thanks to Advice For The Singer At Heart for linking to me; it's a great blog (that actually knows proper music terminology and all!) that you should really check out if you haven't already.

In a random note, I cannot stop listening to "Lovelight"--will I even like it once the talking over it is gone? I don't know--it might just be on repeat because I'm dead set on determining whether it's a good song or not, or maybe because I'm amused by the DJ saying "take it to the bridge" in a nice offhand reference to JT; I'll keep you posted on my good-or-not decision.

Next up: possibly a Hanson song.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Ain't no need to audition

Credit for introducing me to the focus of today's post goes to Russkipop, which featured him back in March. Sergey Lazarev (on the right) was one-half, along with Vlad Topalov, of Russian duo Smash!! (I don't know that much about Smash!!'s history, but I like to imagine that some Russian music producer decided it was a shame Wham! wasn't around anymore, found two attractive guys, chose an onomatopoeic word reflecting collisions, upped the ante by adding two exclamation marks instead of one, and released them upon the world). After a couple of years of success, Smash!! split up and Sergey and Vlad decided to pursue solo careers. Sergey was first out of the gate with his album, as Vlad chose to release one more album under the name "Smash!!" before recording under his own name.

Fake--when I first listened to this song, I liked it, but I didn't think it would have any staying power. Surprisingly, months later, I am still listening to it. Yes, the lyrics are somewhat ludicrous (and there aren't even that many of them), but when has that ever hindered a good pop song? Good electro backing, catchy chorus--even the half-spoken, half-sung parts are catchy. According to his official site, "Fake"--the fourth single from his album Don't Be Fake--has been released to UK clubs. Crazy as it sounds (I still can't believe I'm writing this), I really recommend this song; it's, for lack of a better word.

In other news, two new songs by these two young men have been revealed. I'd still have to give "The Rejection" and "Give Me Danger" the edge in my favorites of theirs contest, but they are good. I don't want to refer to them by name (I'm hoping that anyone who finds out about them because they read this blog is likely to buy them once they are legally released, as opposed to finding them here because of googling and not buying them once they're available, even though they'll probably be everywhere quite soon--given that this is an mp3 blog, I don't know what makes this different than any other post, but whatever), but they are here and here (links removed since I just found out the EP is available to buy from iTunes today; since it's newly released, I don't want to post download links for it); for more details, go to Arjan Writes (see the blogroll on the right).

I would give you a site for buying Sergey Lazarev's first album, Don't Be Fake, but I don't know any sites that sell it and I don't know much about Russian music stores, so the best I can do is recommend eBay; to buy the first EP by the latter group (which doesn't have the songs featured today), go here (digital; only valid for US residents) or to iTunes.

Next up: Matt Willis releases "Hey Kid" tomorrow, so I might write a bit about him, or post about Vlad or Smash!! (and I'll try to use fewer parantheses).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

So much has changed

I suppose the theme of today's post could be "what could have been." Songs aren't always born fully formed--they often go through a period of demos, alterations, new recordings, and more alterations before their final form is reached. These are two pairs of songs, the final form of which you probably (at least for one) already know but the earlier incarnation of which you might not be familiar with.

McFly - Memory Lane (Album Version)

McFly - Memory Lane (Original Version)

This track is from British band McFly's second album, Wonderland. The album version is good pop with guitars. The original version, however, takes out some of the guitars (listen to the beginning, for example) and uses a "skipping record" effect at the end. It's also more than a minute shorter than the album version. The style of the album version does fit in better with Wonderland overall (and I think I prefer it), but the original version, considering it's not fully produced, does have some appeal of its own; if nothing else, you can see how songs evolve.

Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way

Backstreet Boys - No Goodbyes

If you start with "No Goodbyes," you'll instantly think you know the song--the music is just like that of one of the most famous boy band songs--but, to the casual listener, something seems a little off. By the time you get to the chorus, you're sure to recognize what's different: the lyrics! The line "I want it that way" is used, but it's not the chorus's tagline; instead, "no goodbyes" is uttered repeatedly. By the time this song made it onto the Backstreet Boys' amazing Millennium album, it was "I Want It That Way." It's a little bit of a surreal experience; the song is so familiar and yet so different--the boys now "love it" when they hear their girl say "I want it that way," instead of feeling they "never want" to hear her say it.

Next up: hopefully a post with more than the novelty (i.e., you've pretty much heard it before but here's a slight difference) appeal of today's--some actual new music, maybe that Russian song I mentioned.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Don't try to tell me that I won't go far

Today I'm featuring someone who I would have referred to as a MySpace artist, but recently his MySpace page has disappeared from the face of the planet: Billy Phillips (who I found out about thanks to this site). From what I can remember, he's from the UK, in his teens (sixteen? seventeen?), and has been in two singing competitions (one in which he had to impersonate a famous singer and one which was a local version of Pop Idol). I snagged today's songs when they were free downloads from his MySpace page and I like them a lot--they're sweet, mildly pop-rock tunes--so hopefully the page's disappearance isn't a bad sign.

Bright White Lights--this might be the most uptempo out of today's songs, though it's still probably midtempo. It's an inspirational, overcoming-odds type of song--sort of like Alistair Griffin's "Bring It On" in sentiment, if not quite in sound (the backing instrumentation on Alistair's song is maybe more subdued and overall Alistair's is "boppier").

Girl Like You--another midtempo song, this time with a smoother and catchier sound. I think I might prefer the bridge to the chorus, but it's definitely a good song.

Only In My Dreams--you didn't really think we'd get through these without a ballad, did you? Ballads aren't my favorite thing, but every artist seems to feel inclined to do some. That said, this song might be tied for my favorite out of today's songs, so it's a pretty good ballad--simple and sweet (and, very importantly, not boring!). "Only In My Dreams" and "Girl Like You" are probably what I'd classify as "comfort songs"--not the sort you listen to when you want to dance or pump up your energy, but instead when you just want to curl up and listen to some music. That's not a bad thing at all--just a reflection of falling into a certain subgenre of pop.

I'm Flying Again--also balladish, also sweet.

Since, as far as I know, Billy has no albums to buy and I can no longer direct you to his MySpace account, the best I can do is point you to the South Coast Idol page (for a competition in which he took second), where you can find out about the contest and a bit about him.

Next up: I'm not totally sure--maybe a Russian song (in English)? Or something else entirely.

Friday, August 18, 2006

An empty room with all the windows smashed

In the much-played video for their song "Chemicals React," Aly and AJ say they feel like they are walking on broken glass, which, of course, immediately made me think of this song.

Annie Lennox - Walking On Broken Glass

I've never listened to any of Annie Lennox's solo material besides this album, but boy have I listened to this song a lot. I think it's the first song I remember hearing on the radio and liking (I have an awful memory, though; for all I know, I pretty much had no childhood). Years have passed, but I still like it, even if part of my attachment to it is nostalgia. The strings are great, and they (along with the piano) are probably the main reason for my love of the song. I do like the vocal melody; it avoids getting in the way of the instrumentation but is interesting enough to keep the song from getting boring.

Next up: this is a comparatively short post, I know, but I was out and about for pretty much the whole day. I'm not sure what tomorrow's subject will be, but at some point expect to see those Spanish songs I mentioned yesterday, some remixes, and Gareth Gates again (I realized that, though I'd been avoiding writing about him because I'd already featured him, I've written about Clay Aiken, Will Young, Heinz Winckler, Jim Verraros, Anthony Callea, Jesse McCartney, and probably even more people more than once already, so he's fair game again...I'll try to wait a little while longer and get some new people in first, though!).

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Holding hands with him and sitting closer than six inches

I was tempted to just post a picture of Benji, caption it "America has a new favorite dancer," and make that today's post, but I decided against it--there's just too much to report on today (the fact that I couldn't find a picture of him perfect for what I was looking for has, of course, nothing to do with it).

Do you all remember Anthony Callea, the amazing Australian Idol contestant who has released one (very successful) album so far? There's news about his upcoming second album; you should note that it's not from an official source, but it's probably fairly reliable (though record labels can change their mind, so I wouldn't take anything as a given). All the details can be read here (the same site also gets credit for today's photo), but apparently it will be two CD's--one slower and ballady (for the "older" people) and one more fun and uptempo (for the "young" people--I didn't make that distinction--the record exec did!). My first reaction: brilliant. Not only do I get twice as many Anthony songs as I was expecting, I'm guaranteed that they won't all be ballads! Why don't all popstars do this?

And then it occurred to me: what other spiky-haired Idol runnerup who I love released a double CD set for his second album? Gareth Gates. Now, don't get me wrong--I love that album and I think Gareth did a lot better than most people think, but please don't let what happened to Gareth happen to Anthony. There are already enough great popstars whose futures are in question--this album better sell by the bucketload.

So that this is still sort of an mp3 blog, here's Anthony's cover of the Lionel Richie song "Angel." Before Anthony was on Idol, he posted some songs on his website; this was one. Keep that in mind--this wasn't a fully produced song (it was basically a demo), but I still quite like it.


I planned to post the Jonas Brothers' album track "7:05" today. I was even thinking I might say I kind of liked it and could see where Popjustice was going with its "Mmmbop" comparison; it's not as full of energy and exuberance and doesn't make you quite as happy to be alive as that song, but it does have a similar feel to it. That was the plan, anyway--but then the video for their "Year 3000" cover came on and I got all upset again (still illogically). The video is viewable here and it is to the Busted video pretty much what their version of the song is to the Busted version--borrowing certain elements (right down to the cheap animation) while still whitewashing and continuing to lack the energy and spunk of the original. Don't get me wrong; I'm not calling Busted's original video a masterpiece and it isn't so much the video that upsets me (their video might even be better than Busted's; I don't know) as it is being reminded of the cover's existence (which you can see my thoughts on here). I'm still looking for someone to talk me out of being irrationally upset (and I really mean that).

Oh well. Here's the song anyway.


Update: apparently, the Jonas Brothers have also covered LFO's "6 Minutes" on their album. I don't know the original, so I can't compare them. I'm not going to condemn them just for a cover (even though I tend to not like covers more than I like them, I don't automatically hate them--I just posted a Lionel Richie cover, after all), but I'm curious as to how the two versions compare, so I thought I'd post the Jonas Brothers version; hopefully, someone who knows the original can compare them.

6 Minutes

Unintentionally, today's post seems to have evolved into including a lot of covers. Clay Aiken has posted his cover of "Without You" on his MySpace. This song is going to be on the album, so I'm not sure if this is going to be the single or if he's just previewing the album. He can clearly sing, but...dare I say it? I'm a little underwhelmed, though it's not because of him; I just think I would have preferred a different song. This isn't even near CD-quality audio, which will probably surface at some point, and I sort of feel bad about posting this, so I may take it down at some point, but for now, here's Clay singing "Without You."

Without You

You can buy Anthony Callea's first album, Anthony Callea, here or on iTunes (but it doesn't have "Angel"); the Jonas Brothers' album, It's About Time, here (physical) or here (digital; only valid for US residents); and preorder Clay Aiken's second album, A Thousand Different Ways, here.

Thanks so much to POPtastic! for linking to me. How much do I love that site? An awful, awful lot...I'm honored to be in the links section.

Next up: I'm not sure--I only posted one of the songs I was planning to post today, so maybe I'll post the other one tomorrow, or maybe I'll do a couple of Spanish songs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gonna take you in a new direction

Just a random conglomeration of songs today, united by being from already famous artist's MySpace sites and not being whole high-quality songs (they're either incomplete or lower than CD quality). There are a bunch of MySpace artists I want to introduce at some point, but they're not the focus of today's post...with one exception.

Jesse McCartney is making a rather quick reappearance on this blog. With his album due to released on September 19 (the same day as Clay Aiken's), it's about time we got at least an idea of what another song on his album (besides "Right Where You Want Me") sounds like. This MySpace site is streaming a minute-long clip of "We Can Go Anywhere", but, if you don't want to go to the site or would prefer to save the clip, you can go here. If you've heard his past material and his current single, this song won't surprise you much. It's unclear whether this song is for the album or the soundtrack to Keith, a movie Jesse starred in, though it is listed on an unconfirmed Right Where You Want Me tracklisting.

I love Heinz Winckler's music. I really do. But this upcoming third album, Moment Of Truth, is really starting to worry me. The lead single, "Another Day," is all right, but I'm not madly in love with it. His MySpace site is streaming three other songs from his album, and I can't say I'm really impressed by any of them. At this rate, I might not even end up buying the album! Maybe they sound a lot better in high quality? ...I think I'm making excuses. Please, Heinz, post a song I really love on your MySpace so I have a reason to look forward to the album! I really want to.

Here's the exception to the "already famous" guideline for today's post: Switch 22. They were on Zappin' It To Ya yesterday and, since I'm quite upset with Son Of Dork for being rude to them, they deserve all the publicity they can get. I really like "Electric Girl" (I don't know if this is CD quality, but it is higher quality than you'd think from the first couple of seconds)--they almost sound like Phixx in a couple of parts, which is a good thing. If you like their music, you can visit their MySpace or their very well-designed official site.

You can preorder Jesse McCartney's new album, Right Where You Want Me, here and, if you happen to live in South Africa, you can preorder Heinz Winckler's new album, Moment Of Truth, here.

Thanks to The Goggles Do Nothing for linking to me; I started reading that site for its Eurovision coverage and really like it (plus, she likes Project Runway and the amazing Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, which may be my favorite TV show this year).

Next up: I was originally also going to write about Jim Verraros today, but I found a couple of older songs by him, so he'll probably get his own post again at some point. Tomorrow might be a couple of songs by some young male artists, one who's been mentioned by me before and one who hasn't.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So the crowd gets silent I start to play

Pop songs can be based on any number of instruments--synthesizers, guitars, or--the focus of today's post--pianos. Pianos can often be overpowering in songs--drown out the singer and taking away the vocal-based aesthetic that I so love. However, when used properly, they can add a lovely melodic element to songs, magnifying their power and giving them a very timeless sound. Even though the piano-based pop song is far from dominant in today's world, there are a good number of artists making such songs, so these are only a few of the many out there.

Billy Joel - Piano Man--could I get any more stereotypical? The interesting thing about this song is how much, despite the title and Billy Joel's reputation as the Piano Man, the piano takes a backseat to Billy's voice. It's clearly there the whole time, but it's also not the main focus; in fact, the harmonica parts are possibly even more prominent than the piano, which provides a simple-sounding backing.

Five For Fighting - The Riddle (You & I)--bringing us quickly up to the present, we have this song, which is currently working its way through the U.S. charts. John Ondrasik's (the man behind Five For Fighting) distinctive high voice is, as with Billy's, the focus here, but the piano seems more noticeable here. On the strength of this song alone, previous Five For Fighting singles "Superman" and "100 Years" have reentered the iTunes top 100 chart. "The Riddle" is in a vein very similar to those, though it's more happy and hopeful sounding than them.

The Fray - Over My Head (Cable Car)--right, so I can't get too excited about this song. I blame VH1, which had The Fray as their "You Oughta Know" artist (I'm getting frustrated with that program in general; it seems like VH1 is just taking artists popular in the UK and then promoting them as their own discoveries--Daniel Powter, KT Tunstall, James Blunt, and Corinne Bailey Rae have all been "You Oughta Know" artists at some point). From the moment I heard this song, I knew it was destined to do well and be overplayed, and for some reason that made me less inclined to like the song. It's that sort of meaningful-sounding piano-based pop/rock which will probably soundtrack television shows for at least a decade.

Jon McLaughlin - Industry--moving outside of the Hot 100, we have major-label signed but still indieish artist Jon McLaughlin (but not indie in the sense of a certain type of guitar-based sound). His songs are beautiful but there's also a bit of fun or passion in them--maybe something that I feel is missing from The Fray's song. The chorus has a bit of an anthemic feel. Midway through the song, there's a sudden quieting followed by an amazing build up; then, suddenly, the song feels like it stops, and you're left in the lurch, wanting more, before the chorus returns for one last go-round.

Jon McLaughlin - Praying To The Wrong God--one more Jon McLaughlin song; the audio quality on this is somewhat subpar, but the song is good enough that I thought I should include it (even though I think CD-quality sound will add a lot to this song). The piano is still clearly important here, but the song is maybe a bit more pop-sounding than "Industry." The lyrics and melody could easily be used by any major pop artist, so I have hope that, even sung by a relative unknown, this song could do well if released as a single; I know that might be somewhat unlikely (it might not be the instant attention-grabbing introduction a "new" artist needs, and I have no idea as to Jon's future plans), but I can hope, right?

To buy Billy Joel's album Piano Man, go here (physical) or, for The Essential Billy Joel, here (digital); for Five For Fighting's most recent album, Two Lights, go here (physical) or here (digital; only valid for US residents); for The Fray's first album, How To Save A Life, go here (physical) or, for just the single, here (digital); and for Jon McLaughlin's albums, go here (physical; hopefully, his self-titled first album will be in stock again soon).

Next up: the next post will probably be sort of random--some clips or low-quality versions of new or newish songs by famous artists.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I've been searching all around the world

Happy Monday! Weeks are never easy to start, so hopefully today's dance-pop music will help provide a little energy. There's a good chance you've heard most of it before, but aren't dance songs often better after you know where they're going? That's my excuse, anyway.

You Know--This song, by SuperJupiter, has been featured on Popjustice and Arjan Writes, and it is totally worthy of having tons of promotion. SuperJupiter is a Norwegian group and, if this song is anything to go by, they make amazing dance music (or, as they describe it, "electro rock"). The chorus, though clearly dance, is practically anthemic. It's due to be released October 9.

Oh La La (Original Extended Mix)--by Morandi, a Romanian group (yes, I realize the picture is only of one person; I think that's the singer, and there's only one other person in the group). It was originally released (as "Beijo") in Portuguese in 2005 and now this, the English version, will be released in September. The lyrics in the chorus here are (in what seems to be one of my favorite phrases) both completely ridiculous and completely brilliant; whoever thought of rhyming "Kournikova" and "Casanova" deserves some sort of award. In addition to Anna, this song also manages to namecheck Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Angelina Jolie in the space of maybe five seconds. It's a six-minute-plus song that, like much dance-pop, is pretty repetitive, and yet it's never boring. You can order the single for "Oh La La" here (you'll have to search for "Morandi").

Summerlove--this song, sung by David Tavare (and often called "Summer Love"), is apparently huge in Spain right now, so I apologize to anyone who's had to listen to it a million times already. It's a cover of "Remember" by the Underdog Project and it's not quite as get-up-and-dance as either of the previous two songs; it's dance music, but it's also very chill. It sort of exemplifies that "summer song" idea. Upon first listen, I wasn't really impressed, but it has a way of growing on you and getting stuck in your head. This version is the radio edit, I think; it's shorter and has female vocal accompaniment. At first, I preferred this version, which is almost a minute longer and doesn't have the backing vocal; it must be a remix of some sort, but I don't know which one. Now, though, I think I might like the radio edit better. You can go here to order a compilation CD with the radio edit.

Big thanks to Dïgï†al €ä®gäsm for linking to me; I've recently developed a huge remix addiction and that site, along with Spark*Pop, is my main source for feeding it.

Next up: maybe that grouping of random piano-based songs I keep referring to.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Why you tryin' to do without me

My usual computer is getting fixed today, so I've had to postpone the post I was planning; it should happen tomorrow, I think, and will be less pop-for-preteens sounding (though there's nothing wrong with that genre by itself). For today, though, I give you a boyband.

LMNT were made up of the guys not good enough to make it into MTV's Making the Band's final band, O-Town. Now, my first reaction on hearing this that they must be truly awful, but really, in theory, there's no reason they couldn't have been better than O-Town, or at least decent--Liberty X outsold Hear'Say, after all. That, though, is not the case for LMNT. They released one album, All Sides, and were featured on a couple of Disney soundtracks; the never really made it into the consciousness of most kids, let alone the general public. And, generally, for good reason. However, there is at least one song of theirs that is worth hearing.

Juliet--there are about a million and a half reasons why I should not like this song. It is bargain bin boyband-ness. There's some innuendo it (only a bit) that would (I hope) go over the head of any ten-year-old girl, and that in and of itself is fine--innuendo less indirect thant this is a staple of pop songs--but I get this awful mental image of the four guys sitting around and conspiring how they were going to sneak dirty thoughts about their preteen audience into the song (though I know that's probably giving them too much credit, as I doubt they wrote this song). There's a bizarre DJ voice in the middle of it (admittedly for only one line) that is so weird and not necessary; it's like the (exaggerated) voice you would expect LMNT to use if they were attempting to rap, but they aren't. It's also dated for two reasons: its music and its lyrics (paging people? So very '90's).

And yet, I cannot help it. I like this song. It's ridiculous on so many levels, but it is also ridiculously cute; I can't help smiling whenever I hear it. The electronic backing effects (sort of rapidfire in parts) are probably critical to the song's appeal. As a warning, though, it is definitely aimed at a young audience, which should already give you an idea if you're even open to liking it.

You can buy LMNT's album, All Sides, here (physical) or here (digital; I'm really surprised to see their album on a Danish site--did they try to make it in Europe at some point?). However, I would not recommend it. For some reason, I did (I blame deceptive 30 second previews on iTunes) and the rest of All Sides isn't like this in style or "quality." One of the songs has a half-decent beat, but it has the worst lyrics ever (really. I think so. I might even post it some day just so I can go into how awful the lyrics are).

Next up: the dance-pop I promised earlier, if my computer comes back.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gotta break down the wall that hides you

I've been thinking a lot about covers lately, so I thought I'd make today's focus a man who you can't really discuss without discussing covers: Bryan Rice. Bryan Rice is a Danish singer that Popnation Street introduced me to, or at least reminded me of, since I'd actually read about him earlier in relation to Shayne Ward. His first album, Confessional, is ballad-heavy, and for some people might be bland, but it's pretty good. You might not want to listen to the whole album at once, unless you're really in a ballad mood, but there are some definite stand-out songs. A lot of Confessional's songs have been sung by other people (sometimes before Bryan, but most often afterwards), so I've provided some other versions just for comparison's sake.

Homeless Heart (Amanda Stott version)
Homeless Heart (Bryan Rice version)
Thanks to Popnation Street, I know this is not written by Bryan Rice, but I'm not sure whether Amanda's version or Bryan's version was released first (and so I don't know who technically covered who; I think Amanda's was first, though). The Amanda Stott (a Canadian singer) version is low-quality in sound (sorry about that). It's a ballad, and a really pretty one. The two versions are pretty similar, except for one being sung by a woman and one by a man. Sweet, delicate, piano-lead verses and a sort of catchy chorus. This is probably the best song on Bryan's CD.

No Promises (Shayne Ward version)
No Promises (Bryan Rice version) (I had to delete this song and reupload it; if there's still a problem with it, let me know)
I know people were disappointed to learn that Shayne Ward's (a winner of the UK's X Factor, a TV series that's basically replaced Pop Idol) second single was a cover, but I really liked it. It's sort of a ballad, but it's also bouncy, which helps it stand out. That bounce is what's missing from the Bryan Rice version, which is why I think I'd have to give Shayne the edge here. Yes, Bryan's version has that point where the song almost stops and then picks up the pace, like Shayne's does, but it lacks some of the backing instrumentation that gives Shayne's version that extra edge and energy. It's a good song whoever does it, though.

Not Enough (Alexander Klaws version)
Not Enough (Bryan Rice version)
Alexander Klaws won Germany's version of Pop Idol and, when I was listening to his third album, I realized this song sounded familiar; I eventually realized Bryan Rice had also sung this song. It's mid-tempo. Alexander brings some (though not a bunch, luckily) of his third album shoutiness to the song, as well as a bit more of a backing beat and "edge" (comparatively).

In Your Room (Bryan Rice)
I haven't heard any covers of this song. I wouldn't want a megastar to cover it and release it as a single, but I think it could be turned into a decent album track for someone (if people are set on continuing to use Bryan Rice songs, that is, and whoever covers it would probably want to make some changes to it...of course, if artists are going to start releasing covers, I can think of some more upbeat songs I'd probably prefer to have covered first). It's a midtempo song that feels sort of balladish, but I think it might be my second favorite song on Bryan's album.

If you're looking for Bryan Rice songs besides these, I'd probably recommend "Confessional" and "Can't Say I'm Sorry" (which has a piano part that reminds me of something you'd hear in a Gavin DeGraw song and might someday make an appearance on this blog, since I feel I sort of cheated Bryan by posting covers-related songs instead of his best songs, though many of those covers or covered songs are his best).

You can buy Bryan Rice's album, Confessional, here (physical; you'll have to search for "Bryan Rice") or here (digital); Amanda Stott's second album, Chasing the Sky, here (physical) or here (digital; only valid for US residents); Shayne Ward's album, Shayne Ward, here (physical) or here (digital); and Alexander Klaws's third album, Attention!, here (physical) or here (digital; you'll have to search for "Alexander Klaws").

Next up: to counterract the slower pace of today's songs, probably a couple of fun dancier songs (though, if you read Popjustice, you've probably heard them before).

Friday, August 11, 2006

There's something I wanna ask

Jesse McCartney, what is this? You are not a bad-looking boy, but this is not a good photo. Maybe it's the angle of your face. I don't think it's the new haircut, although that's possible. The hoodie doesn't help. I love hoodies; they may be one of the greatest inventions of all time--perfect for those days when you just want to roll out of bed, throw something on, stumble across campus, and fall asleep in the back of the classroom. So, hoodies--great, but for an album cover? They are not flattering, Jesse. Combine its bulge, the hood making it look like you have no neck, and the angle of your face (which makes it impossible to tell what your facial structure might actually be)--well, I think you can see where I'm going with this. Practically any picture I've seen of you is better than this one. And don't even get me started on the shady (both literally and figuratively) background you are standing in front of. I understand if you want to be seen as a "serious" "artist" and don't want to pose, say, on beaches or pulling your shirt down anymore, but really, can't you come up with something that is at least flattering, and possibly creative?

Why has no one said anything about this? This cover has been floating around the blogosphere for weeks and all I've heard are positive comments. Maybe I'm out of touch; after all, I'm not really a fan of the new Justin Timberlake cover either.

Anyhow, onto some music. I should note that Jesse McCartney's first album, Beautiful Soul, does have some ballads and songs that sound different from the ones here, but I tend to prefer his cheesy happy pop, so that's mainly what today's music is.

Beautiful Soul--Jesse McCartney's most famous song. It's pretty much pure pop, right down to the tiny bell "ding"'s and tambourine shakes in the background. It's also filled with such cliched sentiment that it's easy to resist at first; I did, brushing it off as simply generic feel-good fluff--and that it might be, but it's so happy sounding that, eventually, resistance becomes futile. The middle 8 is a complete change of pace--not a dance break, unfortunately, but a little edgier-sounding.

She's No You--Jesse continues the "let's make the girl feel better about herself" theme. The lyrics here are, if possible, even more over-the-edge in cliche than in "Beautiful Soul" and whoever thought they would be romantic was definitely wrong (see that pretty girl over there? and that one? and that one? and the one on the magazine cover? look at all these gorgeous girls around me! but don't worry, your personality makes you the best), but the song is still good. Includes some "oooo"-ing, which is always a good thing.

Get Your Shine On--Jesse's attempt at a dance song, or at least dancier. I think All Music or iTunes (which might be the same thing) compared this song to Michael Jackson, and though Jesse and MJ's voices don't sound alike, that at least gives you an idea of how this song is different from either of the previous two. It's also maybe a bit funkier and faster. If you're getting tired of the sentiment in the two previous songs, try this one; Jesse's still impressed by a girl, but there's a different vibe to it this time.

Because You Live--this is slower and more ballad-ish than "Beautiful Soul" and "She's No You," but it still feels like it forms a trio with them, sort of in style but mainly in the emotion behind it.

Take Your Sweet Time--I wasn't originally planning on including this song, but threw it in at the last minute because it's at least a little different from the rest of the Beautiful Soul music I've included here. It's a ballad that's not quite as extravagent as the previous songs; less backing instrumentation, and generally more low-key.

What's Your Name?--probably my favorite song on Beautiful Soul. I suppose it, too, is like "Beautiful Soul" and all the other songs like it, but I think it's the most fun and the catchiest. The beat is mid-tempo, but the words come pretty fast in the verses. It doesn't have all the cute background noises of "Beautiful Soul," but it's still happy and summery.

She's No You (Neptunes Remix)--sadly, this remix does not make "She's No You" an amazing dance song; essentially, it just adds some rapping and makes the beat more R&B. If nothing else, it's amusing for the fact that the rapped lyrics were given the OK to be on the soundtrack to a Disney television show and the reference to "Jesse Mac."

Best Day Of My Life--the previous song and this one are included mainly because I wanted to try to provide a few songs that were at least a little rare (i.e., not on his main album); I don't know that they're that great, but they're all right. This song is from a movie soundtrack and can also be heard in a live version on The Beautiful Soul Tour CD. It's a little less exuberant and summery than most of the other songs provided here, but it, too, is mid-tempo and about (shocking!) Jesse being in love with a girl.

Right Where You Want Me--the lead single from Jesse's upcoming second album. It's definitely a departure from his previous songs. It's not (to use words I seem to use in practically every one of these descriptions) as happy and summery; it's a bit moodier, and Jesse's voice seems different--harsher, maybe? I suppose you could call it a maturer sound; it's maturer in theme, too. It's not as instantly lovable as "Beautiful Soul" or "What's Your Name?" but it's a grower and it is good (even if the video is sort of creepy; the performance parts are fine, but whenever Jesse's riding his bike or car next to the girl, there's something weird about it). Can anyone tell me what Jesse's delivery of "I can hardly stand the thrill" (especially the "thrill") reminds me of?

You can buy Jesse McCartney's first album, Beautiful Soul, here (physical) or here (digital; search for "Jesse McCartney") and pre-order his second album, Right Where You Want Me, here (physical).

Next up: I'm not totally sure--possibly pianos, possibly some '90's music...or something else entirely.

(It occurred to me that many of Jesse's album and single covers aren't actually that good; who is his publicist? The album cover might look better in a bigger version, but I still don't think I'll be a big fan of it.)