Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tonight's the night--let's live it up

The two songs that I've been bouncing around to all day:

The Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feelin'."

I have a love-hate relationship with BEP singles; thankfully, after the "hate" of "Boom Boom Pow," the "love" of "I Got A Feeling" has arrived. Produced by dance music creator David Guetta, the song has feel good going out anthem written all over it. I spent a while thinking the "fill up my cup/Mazal tov" lines were my favorite part, but no--there are too many great parts to really have one favorite.

Ryan Tedder's "Battlefield."

Much--generally positive--has already been written about Jordin Sparks's version of this song, the lead single for her second album. It's songwriter Ryan Tedder's version of the song that I'm preferring at the moment, though; blame my unintended preference for male voices if you will, but this is the version of the song that really makes me say "amazing."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Run you over with my big black car

(Preface: You Don't Know Pop wrote about this song a while ago, but spotlighted a remix, so I still felt this post was needed/acceptable.)

It's easy to be tired of the '60s revival by now, but please don't go running away when I say that Jennifer Brown's new single, "Mr Running Man," is '60s-sounding: it has a lighter touch--instrumentally and vocally if not totally lyrically, though even the words are more cheeky than depressed or ominous--to it than most of the Ronson-inspired music we've heard in the past few years. Most of those songs have never had the energetic bounce and spring in their step that, say, the Pipettes' '60s-inspired songs did, even when they were mid- to up-tempo, and without that, for me, the possibility of fun seemed to plummet.

As her follow-up to her decidedly more serious Melodifestival entry, "Never Been Here Before," though, Jennifer Brown has released what might be her most fun and singalong-worthy song since--well, maybe ever (disclaimer: I haven't heard her 1994 debut album or her second album). The melody is good, but live, it doesn't seem too remarkable; add in the great production work, though, and with those "oh-oh-oh"s sounding like they're supposed to, and you've got Jennifer, with the help of Peter Kvint, making an up-tempo song that should be but probably won't be her biggest hit in years; it may not have the electronic touches of Pixie's "Mama Do," but, much as I like that song, it's a lot more joy-inducing than "Mama Do" is (though to be fair, the intended effects of the songs aren't identical). We were just talking about songs perfect for summer? Add "Mr Running Man" to the list.

To buy Jennifer Brown's single "Mr Running Man," go here (digital).

While we're talking about Swedish songs that do both '60s and singalong-ready bounce that seem made for summer, Fibes, Oh Fibes!'s "Love Child" has a music video now. The reason for posting it less so that you all will watch it (though it's worth doing that) but moreso so that you'll listen to the song if you passed on it the last time I praised it. Months on, it's still at "play it once and I find myself compelled to play it again and again and again" levels.

Addictive hold

We are a little less than a week away from what could be the biggest case of "I never really expected it to happen" pop justice for a Swedish song in the UK since Robyn got a pair of top 10 hits, including a #1.

As much as I fell in instant, unshakable love with Agnes's disco-pop "Release Me" the moment I heard it--the moment I heard those opening strings, probably--I never really thought its UK release would result in anything other than another song to add to the seemingly endless list of Swedish pop songs scheduled for British release, ignored by British media outlets, and then switched to a half-hearted small release at the last moment in recognition of the fact that they're guaranteed to flop. As much as I'm glad for September's success there, it didn't surprise me on anything near my levels of shock at seeing Agnes's "Release Me" sitting at #6 on the UK iTunes chart a day after its release.

If you live in the UK, you can buy the UK edit of "Release Me"--which, as I understand it, isn't having a physical release, so needs all the digital sales it can get--from iTunes here. Regardless of where you live, you can buy the most complete Swedish edition of the album from which "Release Me" comes, Dance Love Pop, here (physical) or here (digital). It's joyous disco-pop meets uplifting luscious '80s poppy R&B made by Anders Hansson, whose role in Sweden in the '80s you could maybe roughly compare to a member of SAW's but who has continued to be an important if not always fully acknowledged pop hitmaker there (though over the past year the success and quality of his work has become increasingly hard to ignore).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tygget godt og grundigt i den spist op

What new Danish songs are getting spins from me at the moment?

Sys Bjerre feat. UFO, "Ta dig sammen": Sys Bjerre is a female singer-songwriter who makes songs with a summery lilt to them but often with melancholic undercurrents--maybe Lily Allen (mainly first album, but touches of the second) meets Veronica Maggio, though that's pretty off. I should really write something about her debut album, released in the fall of last year, at some point, but let's ignore it for a second because her new single, part of a Coca-Cola promotion, is a departure from her earlier sound. That's no surprise, though: it's produced by Thomas Troelsen and, though not fully in his traditional style, mixes Sys Bjerre's summer singer-songwriter pop with Troelsen's beats--here more '90s percussion than '80s synths--to great effect, creating, along with UFO's raps and some hip-hop influence, an end result that is perfect for this time of year. Download it for free, completely legally, here; click "ja" to say that you're over 18 and "Download sommerens hit" should be right in front of you. A click there will bring up a zip containing the mp3.

Mohamed Ali, "Rocket": the third place finisher on Danish X Factor's debut single is this vaguely RedOne-inspired pop song. It's not something for him to go international with, but fans of international pop may find it a pleasant addition to their summer playlist, though Mohamed's youthful voice and the song's style mean its demographics will probably skew young. Listen to it on YouTube here and buy it here (digital).

Thomas Holm, "Nitten": male singer-songwriter with a keyboard riff meets electro in this comedic song about poor Thomas's bad luck (though don't let that title, which translates to "Nineteen," somehow lead you into expecting the singer to sound like a boy--Thomas's deep-ish voice is that of a man). Been meaning to write about this one for a while, but it's one that has kept slipping through the cracks: it's not instantly exciting, but it has something special about it that sticks with you and makes you come back to it. Listen to it on YouTube here and buy it digitally here.

Joey Moe, "Yo Yo": a song I wouldn't recommend everyone reading this rush to listen to, but if you enjoy your bleepy electro-influenced R&B, you might like "Yo Yo." It's probably trying to be on the edgy side but falls more towards trashy fun. Listen to it on YouTube here or here and buy it here (digitally).

I've been waiting for this for a long time

Months and months after its debut, the best American boy band song properly released in years--only fighting for that title against New Kids on the Block's "Twisted," which was never a single--has a music video. V Factory's "Love Struck" is helped in no small part by the fact that it's co-written by Darin and one of his collaborators for his last album, sounds like a Darin song, and still has Darin on backing vocals, but as Swedish as the song's credentials may be, it's exactly the sound American boy bands should be making (and the American boy band singing Swedish-penned songs combination is one that gave us some of the best songs of the last boy band boom).

Edit: people outside the U.S. can watch the video in lower quality here.

Seeing an American boy band in a music video doing bits of a dance routine while performing a song that I can actually legitimately stand up for as great is an experience that triggers all the right nostalgia parts of the brain, but "Love Struck" is still modern. I keep hoping the song, which has struggled up towards the bottom end of the chart, will fully take off: with more of a promotional push, it has the potential to become a mid-size hit, even if my dreams of a smash are probably pie-in-the-sky. For a while, I hoped that the release of Fame (yes, it's a movie remake of what you're thinking of) might provide a boost, with one of the group's members having a significant role in the movie from what I understand. With Fame's release not until the end of September, though, that seems too far away to be helpful.

To some extent, though, even cracking the top forty of mainstream radio airplay, as they've done for the past three weeks ("Love Struck" currently sits at #37), is an achievement in this environment. The long time it's taken other songs to take off, though, means that despite it slipping in radio plays this week, I can't stop myself from thinking there's still a chance for this song to do even better.

In short: best effort at doing the boy band thing--speaking of technical, traditional boy bands--that the U.S. has had for quite some time.

V Factory's debut single "Love Struck" is for sale now at major U.S. digital stores.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

With every step it's harder to believe

(Eurovision post coming soon!)

Thanks to Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, and Allison Iraheta, I've felt more invested in this season of American Idol than last year. Still, if you gave me a choice between the Cathy Dennis co-written winner's song, "No Boundaries," on sale on iTunes in its studio version by the two finalists on May 22 (and also co-written by Kara DioGuardi)...

...and Heidi Montag's "Blackout," also a Cathy Dennis co-write, available on iTunes as of today...

there's no contest as to which I'd rather listen to. I actually like last year's song, but Cathy and Kara, I know there were probably certain parameters you were given, but really?

Of course, if neither of those are to your liking, you could go with several songs from Glee, Fox's new comedy which debuted after Idol but won't continue until this fall. If you've ever wanted to hear glee club versions of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" (the female lead on this debuted the main female role in Spring Awakening)...

(that video will only play for Americans, I think, but you can hear parts of the song and see parts of the scene in the trailer; obviously, spoiler alert for anyone planning on watching the show)

...or Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" (sung in peppy upbeat style by the rivals earlier in the show)...

(ditto on only being accessible to Americans)

you're in luck.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lost a dare to David Hasselhoff

It's officially confirmed (and as Robpop stated earlier): Aqua's new greatest hits (out June 15) will have three new songs on it, including "Back To The 80's," which is the lead single and comes out May 25, as well as sixteen remastered older songs. The group performed the song at a comeback concert which took place almost a year ago.

To be honest, it's fine but I don't madly love it; still, I'll have to hear the production details to know what it's really like.

If you live outside Scandinavia (and in one of the countries on the list on this page, which includes the U.S.), want their greatest hits, and are willing to pay high import prices, you can pre-order it here.

Don't want to turn up any demons between us

I avoided writing about Elin Lanto's "Spider's Web" when Alex first told me about her performance of it because, well, I felt like it was her falling off the popstar path she was on, a classic case of ditching one's style completely when it isn't selling in favor of one that might seem more credible.

In retrospect, I might have been slightly harsh. If "Spider's Web," created by Klas Wahl and George Nakas (Stonebridge feat. Therese's "Put 'Em High," Therese's "Time," Dannii Minogue's "Good Times," Victoria Beckham's "Let Your Head Go"), was the take-off point for the rest of the album, I'd be disappointed, but its electro-meets-acoustic ballad sound is one I could see myself loving as a deviation from the primary style that still bears enough of that style's traits to fit on Elin's album.

After that one performance of "Spider's Web" a few months ago, we heard nothing from Elin--understandable, perhaps, given that none of her singles have done as well as they deserved to do, but still saddening. There's been no update on her official site or MySpace for quite some time and the album that was supposed to come out received no mention anywhere.

There's good news, though: Pitchline, of Velvet's "Take My Body Close," "Come Into The Night," and "My Destiny" and upcoming songs with Magnus Carlsson, have just reported that they've done a song with Elin for her upcoming album (as well as posted a picture of a blonde Elin recording in their studio)! "My Destiny" may be a ballad, but that news means we should probably be optimistic about Elin keeping her dance-friendly sound.

If you missed out on Elin's great music from 2008, start with the Minogue-esque "Speak 'n Spell," which comes complete with a video with numerous popstar moments. There's something slinky and cool about "Speak 'n Spell" which sets it apart from other Swedish dance-pop music. Ideally, it's the direction I'd prefer Elin continue in, much as I love Pitchline's '80s-sounding hands-in-the-air dance-pop anthems, but we've yet to hear Pitchline do anything along these lines; plus, if there's still an attempt to push Elin internationally going on, I expect the style being pursued will be much more party-oriented. Still, I'm glad to have any news at all, and Elin working with Pitchline is potentially a great thing.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Can you feel the rhythm in my heart?

I wasn't planning on writing anything until Eurovision was over, but I had to make a few notes in the middle of the contest:

Thank goodness Sweden sorted out the backing vocals. I'm still not expecting the song to do very well, but I got my goosebumps back--they reminded me why I love the song.

Iceland's song has been connecting with me when performed live in a way I never expected based on the national final or the studio version. If there's a ballad I want to do well, it's this one, I'm starting to think.

The real reason I had to jot something down quickly: I've yet to mention my deep and abiding love for Germany's entry here. It's usually the non-Swedish or Norwegian song I play the most in studio and, if it's having a good day, can be just the song I play the most, period. I know, I know, I'm crazy, but I LOVE it.

I really like Turkey's entry, too. It is part of the whole post-Helena Paparizou trend, but it's a great example of it (and I don't always fall for this type of song--see Armenia's entry last year not properly connecting to me).

Speaking of semifinal one entries, I still like Romania and Finland's songs, which have yet to be performed tonight.

I'm expecting the UK entry to do way better than it deserves to do and I'll be hoping Bosnia doesn't win--I want to like the song, as by rights a revolutionary-sounding pop-rock song should be exactly the sort of thing I love, but it never becomes truly stirring.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Every night I'm by the telephone

I wrote about Le Kid, the new Swedish pop group composed of Anton Malmberg Hård af Segerstad, Cocktail Studios' Märta Grauers and Felix Persson, and two other members last March. In the time since then, my enthusiasm for "Telephone," swooshy modern pure pop with elements of both disco and '80s electro-pop-rock but an ultimately fresh feeling, has dimmed not one iota--if you love Swedish pop, go listen to it now (the band's members frequently work with Anders Hansson, if that will get you interested, and fans of Velvet's "Sound Of Music," BWO's "Right Here Right Now," and Agnes's Dance Love Pop should love "Telephone")--but no further word about the group had been forthcoming.

I was thrilled, then, to see Oswalds Popcorn mention a new song of theirs, "Mercy, Mercy." A quick Google search reveals that a music video (made by the creator[s] of the videos for BWO's "Right Here Right Now" and Teron Beal's "Dance At My Funeral" [a song which I haven't properly written about here yet but is by the people behind Swingfly's "Singing That Melody," though it's more subdued and less full of singalong-inducing joie de vivre than Swingfly's song]) is currently being made for it, so I presume "Mercy, Mercy" will be their debut single. If it's even better than "Telephone," we're all in for a treat.

Tries to cover up all of her mistakes

There's really only one reworking of a Frankmusik song that I don't love to bits, and that's "Confusion Girl." Of course, I was never madly in love with the original, so I think it's less a case of a great song being made less good (as of the moment, I've accepted the new version and even found my appreciation of it increasing week by week) but more an abundance of other songs by him that I find better. Still, maybe the playing down of eccentricity (though not total elimination of it) will let the song, Vince's next single, really take off. The video certainly looks like it's shaping up nicely:

Frankmusik's debut album, Complete Me, may feature primarily and possibly only songs we've heard before (though likely in reworked versions), but it's still one of my most anticipated albums of the year.

Put on your brake lights

Big thanks to Conor for the following news, taken from American Idol Extra via MJ's Big Blog: Blake Lewis is releasing his second album in October 6 (on Tommy Boy Records, information that is not new), preceded by a single, "Sad Song" (a "song for the broken-hearted"), in a few months.

He says it's pop-electro, but also everything he didn't get to do for his last album, elaborating on that point by saying that it's edgy and that he's writing all the songs and working with some great producers. As I've said before, I'm not positive that the record an independent Blake wants to and will make without any sort of commercial pressures being placed on him to moderate his personal preferences and push him towards the mainstream will be an album I'll love as much as his debut (which I loved to an almost unhealthy extent), but I can't help being excited by this news.

He also performed a cover of Rihanna's "Disturbia" on the show.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I need a ticket right away, don't care how much I have to pay

With four words, you're going to know in advance whether you think Industry's "My Baby's Waiting," which you can now listen to in full thanks to the music video, is the best new thing you've heard all week or something you have no interest in hearing: Steps meets the A*Teens.

(Credit to Chart Rigger.)

Personally (and despite just suggesting that the style alone would be enough to indicate the song's quality, which isn't actually the case), I think "My Baby's Waiting," made by TEN (whose Tysper, Grizzly, and Mack where responsible for many of the A*Teens' songs) is the pure pop sound done right. I still have real doubts about the single, out June 18, taking off in the group's native Ireland or the UK, but I'd love to find myself shocked and incorrect.

Because I'm crazy bom

Today's Eurovision results aren't quite as pleasing as the first semifinal's, but they're still better than I'm used to. Ideally I'd have found room for Hungary and Ireland to qualify (I like Cyprus's song, but the singer? No thanks) and ditched Croatia and Lithuania, but neither Hungary--camp disco, though not as camp as the '00s benchmark of Deen--nor Ireland--'80's female-sung pop-rock meets bouncy early '00s teen pop-rock--was anything better than a second-tier song in my eyes. A few quick comments on the other qualifiers from the night:

Norway: have I properly written about Alexander Rybak and "Fairytale" on here yet? The first time I heard it, back before the Melodi Grand Prix, I found the incredible buzz among Eurofans about it incomprehensible: it was fine, sure, but no more--"and I thought I was supposed to be a sucker for strings in a pop song and a young male face!" was my confused reaction to its popularity. Before the MGP final came around, though, I was completely sold. It's a great song, one perfect for the contest--pop with basically "Western" or "Nordic" style and sense of melody but with that so-called "ethnic" flair--but one that I can imagine myself playing outside of that context, too. Alexander is a great performer, too, and, if the song should do as the oddsmakers predict and win the whole contest, I think it would easily be my favorite winner of this decade. Given the songs predicted to do well in the final, it's most likely the song I'll be cheering for on Saturday.

Ukraine: song + performance = kind of the definition of a hot mess, but the mental, schizophrenic "Be My Valentine! (Anti-Crisis Girl)" has quickly risen through my personal rankings in recent days (it's now become one of very few songs I play just whenever and not only when I'm in a Eurovision mood), and I expect my opinion of it to keep improving. The staging isn't the perfect slick delivery of last year's "Shady Lady," but Ukraine always knows how to put on a show; this time, that show includes giant spinning gears, half-naked men in Roman gladiatorial getup, and Svetlana strutting over to a drumset and vigorously playing it while her centaurions push it to the center of the stage. Maybe Sweden could take some notes--not go all the way, but get yanked a bit more in the direction of Ukraine, which generally does bold, eye-catching, stage-filling, memorable-in-a-good-way performances more reliably than most other countries.

Azerbaijan: Arash's music makes a natural fit for Eurovision and, as Len pointed out, "Always" could be by Antique (Helena Paparizou's original group): it's a catchy mid-to-up-tempo pop song with Mediterannean flourishes. I really, really like it, really want it to do well, and yet somehow find myself rarely inclinded to actually play it on my own.

Greece: I've praised the combination of Sakis Rouvas and Dimitris Kontopoulos who knows how many times on here, but I've also said that this isn't quite up to their usual standard. It's still decent, though, with a welcome harder electronic dance production style. Sakis has energy, but he often seems to not be able to channel it, resulting in moments where it seems like he's lost or out of sync. I'm hesistant to say that it would be better with another performer because swapping him out for someone else could easily be a setback, but if the selection was careful enough, there is some room for improvement on that front.

Albania: also a case of electronic production that is better than the song but a song that is still good and with a performer who has some noticeable flaws but who changing out might have resulted in someone with even more problems (in Kejsi's place, I didn't get the feeling of confidence from her movements that I would have preferred). I kind of prefer the original Albanian lyrics, I think, at least in the chorus, but I may completely change my mind on that in a day or two.

Moldova: the instruments and the performance gave me flashbacks to Ukraine's "Show Me Your Love." Danceable, shoutalong-friendly chorus, and more infectious than I originally thought it would be.

Denmark: yes, it's a Ronan Keating-written song, a style that's never popular among Eurofans, but as far as middle-of-the-road radio pop from Denmark goes, this is better than the country's entry last year. I like it. Don't love it, but it deserves its place in the final.

Estonia: I want to like this haunting ballad more than I do, but sadly, I'm not properly connecting to it yet. Once again, though, I song I wanted to see progress and a song I have some degree of appreciation for.

That's probably roughly my order of preference of the qualified tracks, too, give or take a few places for some of them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If somebody's going to make it, then the somebody oughta be you

As KulPop wrote about earlier, a-ha have a new single, "Foot Of The Mountain," out. If you like Norwegian pop-rock groups not afraid to incorporate electronic elements and '80s influences into their periodically soaring songs, though, you might also want to check out DonkeyBoy and Nixon.

I wrote about Nixon's "Tiffany" several times last year and I've yet to hear anything from the group that rivals that perfect debut single. The lead single for their new album, "Fireflies" (listen on MySpace, buy on iTunes internationally), doesn't change that and doesn't use those electronic elements quite as much as I'd like, doesn't ever fully take off--or maybe it flirts with soaring at the expense of a grounded melody. It's good, though.

Shortly after writing about Nixon for the first time last year, Chris recommended DonkeyBoy, a less-than-ideally-named fellow Norwegian group, and their song "Broke My Eyes," which I don't think I wrote about but should have. It's taken DonkeyBoy a year since then to get out their debut single, but it was worth the wait. I'm not sure how, but "Ambitions" (listen on MySpace, buy digitally internationally here) that single, has taken off on Norwegian iTunes. I meant to recommend it ages ago, but kept not having the time. Luckily, though, as usual, Nick of #1 Hits doesn't let anythig slip through the cracks and featured it. "Ambitions" is a bit less pop-rock, a bit more electro, and features distinctive, often higher vocals, but most importantly, a great mid-tempo '80s-touched melody. If you only check out one of these two songs, make it this one.

On a not at all related note, Norwegian pop-R&B singer Elisabeth Carew, who you might remember from her American-sounding "Destructive" from last year, finally has another single out. It's called "Even If The Rain" (listen to a clip on MySpace) and, though not revolutionary, has a nice electro-pulse backing and sweet mid-tempo pop&B melody. It's available on iTunes internationally, along with b-side "Thunder."

Monday, May 11, 2009

We can wait up all night

Since Aqua reformed, we've been waiting a long time for anything to come about as a result. Now, finally, the group has a greatest hits album set for release June 15 in Denmark and Sweden, and supposedly it will have some new material on it (earlier articles reported the group was working on several songs), or at least one new song. I don't speak any Danish, but that's what I'm taking away from "en stribe helt nye ørehængere" (if you do know the language, though, please let me know). Read the official information on CDOn, which doesn't have an official tracklisting posted yet.

Is it possible to love with a broken heart?

A few random bits of news about new-ish songs:

I just noticed that you can stream many of the Dolly Rockers' songs on Last.fm, including, most importantly, the studio version of "How Did I End Up With You" (or "How Did I End Up With U?" or "How Did I End Up With You?" or "How Did I End Up With U"--Last.fm-concerned me is suffering). While you're there, if you've not listened to them before, give "Gold Digger" a try, too; their debut single, "Je Suis Une Dolly," is good, too, but it has a much more "novelty single" sound. In other news about the British girl group, the picture on Popjustice from a photoshoot with them looks great.

It looks like Måns Zelmerlöw's new single is "Hold On." Good song, although not one of my ultimate favorites on the album. "Forever" is crying out to be a summer single, although maybe that's more in my head than in terms of what Swedish radio would actually play.

This Must Be Pop's discovery Jonas Oakland has a new single out (it should be on international iTunes stores shortly). It's called "Stay," is Swedish disco-dance-pop in the vein of his first single "Beat Of My Heart," and is for sale now. Definitely one that's just for the hardcore Swedish pop addicts, but I thought some people besides me might like to know. Stream it on his website.

Speaking of things you lovers of poppy dance music from Scandinavia are likely to enjoy, I'm so grateful to Scandipop for pointing us all in the direction of Friðrik Ómar's (a.k.a. the male half of Eurobandið and the singer of "Eldur," the second best song in Iceland's 2007 national final) "I Wanna Know." It's another Örlygur "Öggi" Smári (the man behind Páll Óskar's comeback and Eurobandið's "This Is My Life") creation and, though not quite as great as "This Is My Life," it is definitely enjoyable; it also seeks a different vibe, less celebratory and more pensive, saddened but hopeful dance. Listen to it on his MySpace.

I've been playing Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad," featuring Leighton Meester, a decent bit these past few days. Melismatic's description of the song, "cookie-cutter power-pop emo glitter," is unbeaten.

Guess you better go and get your armor

There's been a lot of buzz, and often deservedly so, around some up-and-coming British female pop artists. There are, though, some new female American singers who have songs that have caught my ear lately. They don't share much in common beyond the fact that they're women, American, and making pop, but I've been meaning to write about the songs for long enough that I'll take any sort of gathering principle, flimsy as it may be, as the basis for a post.

I've mentioned Kimberly Cole's "Superstar (Smash It)" before. Featured in the TV show Dollhouse (though there with an actress pretending to sing it and Kimberly appearing as a backing singer), the song is vaguely Britney-esque--maybe just to say that it's up-tempo pop created electronically with some nice deep pulses and floatier effects on top of those melding with a catchy if sometimes very processed vocal part.

If "Superstar (Smash It)" is in some distant way a bit like a Britney song or two, Kristinia DeBarge's "Goodbye," based on a sample of Steam's "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" (a song your average American will know quite well from sporting events), shares a similar proximity to some of the things Rihanna has done. It feels like it has slightly less edge than Rihanna's work--even, say, "S.O.S.," which is maybe its closest cousin--though part of that may be a function of Kristinia's voice being much more "average" in its tone than Rihanna's, but it sounds great playing on American radios and is very much a welcomed force there.

The niche Kaci Battaglia seems to be trying to carve out for herself is one a bit akin to the one Willa Ford chased in the Britney, Christina, and Mandy battle of the late '90s, though Kaci's "Crazy Possessive" isn't in that Cheiron-mimicking style. It, too, is one of the songs you could maybe push into that "S.O.S."/"Womanizer" style (which there really needs to be a better name for) and even uses Britney's line "I got your crazy," though Kaci positions herself as the supposedly more aggressive, less clean-cut option in comparison to "Goodbye." The thing is, though, that I actually think the censored version is a lot catchier than the original version (which I could have sworn I heard at some point but now can't find to confirm that fact). Anyway, "Crazy Possessive" is totally ridiculous (and totally different from her earlier material), but I've also had way too much fun listening to it recently.

Out of all these songs, though, Brooke Hogan's (yes, the daughter of Hulk Hogan and she of one previous album) "Rough Me Up" (featuring Flo Rida) is the closest to "Womanizer." It could even be by the same producers--I've yet to read anything about who created it. I'm not sure if the American public can ever be sold on the idea of Brooke as a popstar, but from the sound of it in the below video clip, I'll be buying the song the day it comes out--I love it and it's the sort of music that would make me welcome having her around the fringes of the music scene.

Jessica Jarrell is, at fourteen, the youngest of these singers, but her "Armaggedon," featuring a welcome mix of piano and strings in addition to the usual electronic production, is great. It's the least "club song" sounding out of all these tracks, though it's got some speed to it--it's just mixed that speed with some ballad elements. I wasn't too sure about some of the vocal processing in the chorus the first time around, but I've since grown to accept it.

Cheating a bit to include a singer who's already fairly if not unshakably established, we've got Jordin Sparks and her new Ryan Tedder-penned "Battlefield." Yes, it sounds like Ryan Tedder--think Leona Lewis's "Bleeding Love," Beyoncé's "Halo"--but there are enough tweaks to the formula (including making the song more mid-tempo than we're used to from Tedder) and the parts of the song (including the key line of the middle 8, "Better go and get your armor") add up to something good enough on its own that I've been playing it off and on today. I've been pretty excited for Jordin's new album and "Battlefield" does nothing to change that.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I took the boy she thought she knew and made him disappear

Magnus Carlsson has begun work on his next album, recording songs written by Pitchline (the makers of Velvet's '80's-tastic dance-pop songs "Come Into The Night" and "Take My Body Close"), with the technical assistance of Emil Hellman of SoundFactory (a name you may recognize from some Melodifestival artist-friendly remixes). He did three songs, including two named "I'm Doing OK I'm Doing Alright" and "When Our Love Is Gone."

In other Swedish artist news, turnaround (thanks!) clued me in to the fact that clips from Jonathan Fagerlund's new boy pop album Welcome To My World (out May 20) can be listened to here. I'm surprised (though not necessarily complaining) at how electronic much of it sounds, but there are still also some more "typical Jonathan" tracks, as well as hints of that more "organic commercial pop" past sprinkled throughout. Also of note is that Idol runner-up Alice Svensson duets with him on "Save Our Yesterdays."

An unfamiliar face and the grass looks greener to you

Video check in!

Gathania's "Blame It On You," which I wrote about back when it was named "Blackout," is set for a UK release on June 15. The accompanying video has just come out. It's still the song, from the Von Der Burg Productions team behind September, which is the real joy, but how amazing does Gathania look in that leather outfit with her hair up in the laser scenes? I don't want to read too much into the video, which is basically just pop froth, but it is nice to see the whole "gorgeous girls flashing some skin" angle actually being ultimately used in a semi-empowering way--not, as I said, that this is some big statement that would hold up to academic dissection, but it's just a nice little change from what I was expecting.

I love the Catchy Tunes label--not all their releases do as well as they should, but I'm so grateful somewhere exists that enables great Swedish dance-pop to have a home. Despite probably all logic (well, it might do well in Eastern Europe), they've apparently still got some hope in Marie Serneholt's "Disconnect Me" (which I still think is better than most people think it is), revealing a video for the song. Sure, you won't be mistaking it for a big budget American or British video any time soon, but I'm mainly grateful that someone is trying to breathe some life into the song at all. Incidentally, the single cover for "Disconnect Me" is still surely one of the best of the year so far. Marie is and has the potential to be such a great popstar; I really hope she finds some success, be it with this song or one in the (preferably near-ish) future.

Everywhere else on the Internet has already written about VV Brown's strummy summery pop "Shark In The Water," so all I really have to say is this: yes, it's great. Out on June 8 in the UK, according to Popjustice.

Speaking of Popjustice, their line "That was simultaneously the most gay and the most straight thing we've ever seen" is exactly what I thought when I saw the UK version of the video for one of my favorite singles of last year, the '80's-sounding dance-pop song "In The Heat Of The Night" by Star Pilots.

Monday, May 04, 2009

It's getting too much

Apologies for disappearing for a few days--it's that time of the year where offline life always manages to interfere with online life. I basically spent the weekend listening only to a-ha (inspired by KulPop's news about their new single), Sugababes, and songs by Richard X and Xenomania--pseudo-retro. Doing some sort of special is tempting, but that ground has been covered pretty often.

Coming up soon (this week) should be my hopes for and thoughts on Eurovision.

Until then, I leave you with the mindboggling news (stolen from the PJ forums) that Frankmusik is apparently making music for/with Holly Valance. No, really.

Lest we all forget, Holly's State Of Mind was one of the best albums of this decade. Talk about a killer lead single.