Tuesday, August 31, 2010

HOT & FRESH OUT THE KITCHEN


FANTASIA - "BACK TO ME"


I'm not going to get in to any of Fantasia's personal drama (there are plenty of other places you can go to get all of that info) but I am going to tell you about the American Idol winner's third album, "Back To Me [+digital booklet]". 

The title of this new record is appropriate because she has come back strong with a collection of solid and smooth r&b songs and brings her own special spin to each one.

This is a great song off of the album and she's gotten some assist from Cee-Lo Green:

The Thrill Is Gone - Fantasia

KATY PERRY - "TEENAGE DREAM"


Katy Perry is off to a great start with her summer smash hit song, "California Gurls (feat. Snoop Dogg)" which was a nice kick off for her third album, "Teenage Dream [Explicit]".

She began her career as Katy Hudson singing Christian-rock before taking on her mother's maiden name and becoming Katy Perry (to avoid any apparent confusion with actress, Kate Hudson) to belt out secular music.

This follow-up to her 2008 hit album, "One Of The Boys" has her returning to the sound that worked so well for her previously. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it does make this album seem really not much more that a collection of a few potential singles surrounded by a lot of filler. Despite that, I'm sure this CD will keep Ms Perry at the top of the charts for quite a while.

The title track appears to be her next hit single:

Teenage Dream - Katy Perry

And here is the trippy music video for her first hit off of the album:



MATTHEW DEAR - "BLACK CITY"



Matthew Dear is better known as a electronic producer and a remix artist but he is taking center stage on his new album, "Black City".  His sound is a combination of house beats mashed up with his distorted vocals and grooving techno pop music.

Although he was born in Texas, he grew up in Michigan where as a teenager, he was inspired by the electronic music scene there.

He has also created music under the names, Audion, False and Jabberjaw.

Here is a sample of his music off of his latest:

Honey - Matthew Dear

USHER - "VERSUS"



"Versus [+digital booklet]"  is Usher's follow-up EP to this year's release, "Raymond V Raymond [+digital booklet]". I'm not sure why this was necessary because his other CD just came out only five months ago but this collection would, according to the artist," explore the subjects of being newly single and being a father".

There are seven new songs plus two remixes which includes the Justin Bieber single,"Somebody To Love Remix".

I like this song off of his new record in which he teams up with Jay-Z:

Hot Tottie - Usher Featuring Jay-Z

Sunday, August 29, 2010

MY TUNE OF THE DAY


The Tune: ABC - "The Look Of Love (Part 1)" (1982)

I know this is another oldie but so waht. . .who cares? it's still a great song.that makes me want to get up and dance.

Every time I hear it, It takes me back to when I was near the end my teenage years and preparing to enter my twenties. Life seemed so much simpler then. All it was about was having a good time and I certainly had more than my fair share. I have no complaints though. Life's still good, it's just . . . different.

ABC were part of the eighties version of the boy band, like Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet who had great songs but were all too cool and sophisticated that they didn't need to be bothered trying to dance unlike the next decade's version of these bands who used cheesy choreography to distract people to the fact of how badly their music sucked.

Join me in my spin down memory lane:

The Look Of Love - ABC

Thursday, August 26, 2010

BLUE EYED SOUL MEN

Although hardly a new trend, it's been around since Elvis hit fame by covering popular R&B tunes, but there seems to be a recent crop of  young soul singers who aren't African-American that have been popping up lately. They have all taken the old-school rhythm and blues that they were exposed to as kids and have re-interpreted it into a new sound that combines classic soul with a current pop and hip-hop feel.


ELI "PAPERBOY" REED


Hailing from Brookline, MA., Eli "Paperboy" Reed and his band, the True Loves had put out two independently released albums before his major-label debut , "Come And Get It" that was produced by Mike Elizondo who has worked with such diverse talents as Eminem, Fiona Apple and Gwen Stefani.

As a youngster, Eli grew up listening to early rock and roll, pop and country but it was his father's purchase of a box set by Ray Charles that was his introduction to soul music and truly changed his life.

He taught himself how to play the piano, guitar and harmonica and after finishing high school, Reed traveled the south and landed in Clarsdale, Mississippi where he immersed himself in to the local club scene. He brushed up on his performing skills and learned all about the blues and soul from the veteran performers. While there, he also got his nickname, "paperboy" because of his habit of wearing his grandfather's newsboy hat.

I"m trying to warm to him but it's just coming across like he's trying a little bit too hard to project a soul sound. I do think he's talented but I also think he's needs a little bit more time to grow as an artist and polish up his vocals.

Here's one of his tunes. What do you think?

Just Like Me - Eli "Paperboy" Reed

This is the music video of Mr. Reed performing with his band the title track off of his latest album:




MIKE POSNER


Twenty-two year old, Mike Posner, who had a top ten hit this year with, "Cooler Than Me" has just released his debut album, "31 Minutes To Takeoff".

He was born and raised in the Motor City and at sixteen he went to the Recording Institute of Detroit while still in high school. While attending college, he worked with DJ Benzi and Don Cannon and released his first mixtape and soon after was offered a recording contract with Clive Davis' label, J. Records in 2009.

Although his music leans more towards hip-hop, there is definitely a R&B feel to his sound. The jury is still out on Mr. Posner because at this point he seems more like a poor man's version of Justin Timberlake but who knows? Who would have thought that former mouseketeer from a cheesy boy band would become a music superstar? I know I certainly didn't.

This is a song I like off his new CD:

Please Don't Go - Mike Posner


MAYER HAWTHORNE


My personal favorite is Mayer Hawthorne. His terrific debut album, "A Strange Arrangement" came out last year but I don't think it got nearly enough attention as the album or he actually deserves.

Mr. Hawthorne, who is also from Michigan, was born Andrew Mayer Cohen in 1979 and he came up with his stage name by taking his middle name and using the name of the street he grew up on.

He first started as just a way to entertain his family and had no intention of actually becoming a singer. Mr. Hawthorne is not formally trained but he played all of the instruments, wrote the songs and produced his first album. He drew influence from classic soul artists he admired as well as singer/songwriters such as Curtis Mayfield, Motown's Holland-Dozier-Holland and Smokey Robinson.

I love his smooth falsetto and his confidence as a performer. I think he is the real deal and will be around for a long time. He even found time to perform and record hip-hop under the name, Haircut.

Here is a favorite song of his:

I Wish It Would Rain -Mayer Hawthorne

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

BOOTIE SHAKIN' BOYZ

Gay white rapper, Cazwell's latest song, "Ice Cream Truck" has a new music video out and it's hilarious!

He spoofs the typical rap videos decorated with scantily clad women doing provocative moves and has replaced them with sexy young men in their underwear.

Talk about meltin' your popcicle.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FOCUS ON: BJORK


One thing that is safe to say about Bjork: people are certainly not ambivalent about her music. Either you feel that she is a talented artist with a unique dulcet vocal or that she is someone who is just making a lot of irritating noises. I am of the former point of view and I just love her special and very different approach to making music.

She has taken all of the many musical influences that she has been exposed to in her life and combined them all to create her own individual sound  Her voice expresses so much emotion and can go from a small yelp to a wailing scream. Bjork is unafraid to experiment with her songs or with her image which she is constantly surprising her audience with a strange and unexpected twist in her look.

Bjork Guomundsdottir was born and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1965. As a child, she studied classical piano in school. A teacher sent a recording of Bjork playing to, at the time, the only radio station in Iceland. After hearing it, a record company offered Bjork a recording contract and at the age of eleven, her first album was released in 1977.

She performed in a variety of different bands as a teenager which included a punk band called, Spit and Snot. In 1984, Bjork joined the band, KUKL, which means "witch" in Icelandic, that was made up of musicians who had also been in many other groups. The band included Einar Melax on keyboards, Einar Benediktsson on vocals/trumpet and Siggi Baldursson on drums. By 1986, KUKL evolved in to The Sugarcubes which added bass player, Bragi Olafsson and Bjork's then-husband, Thor Eldon on guitar.

The Sugarcubes released their first album, "Life's Too Good" in 1988. The album was an international success which helped put the Iceland music scene on the map. Thor divorced Bjork and married Magga Ornolfsdottir who joined the band to play keyboards after Einar Melax left the group in 1989. The Sugarcubes went on to record a total of three highly regarded and influential albums before they disbanded in 1992 but all have remained friends and are all still involved in the management of their record label, Smekkleysa ("bad taste" in Icelandic).

Bjork headed to London to begin work on a solo career. She met with Nellee Hooper, who had produced such artists as Massive Attack, Soul II Soul and Sinead O'Connor, and together they completed the album, "Debut" in 1993. Although, this was far from her first musical endeavor, the title was to signify the start of something new. The sound of this record was a big departure from her work with The Sugarcubes which uses house, trip-hop and even some jazz arrangements for some of the songs. The album was a huge critical and commercial success that included the hit songs, "Venus As A Boy (LP Version)" and "Big Time Sensuality (LP Version)".

In 1999, the director, Lars von Trier asked Bjork to write the musical score for his upcoming film, "Dancer in the Dark (New Line Platinum Series)". It is a musical drama about an immigrant worker trying to save up money to pay for an operation for her son to prevent him from going blind. Mr. von Trier soon asked Bjork if she would play the lead because he was convinced that only the composer of the songs could properly play the part. She was hesitant but soon agreed and co-starred along with French acting icon, Catherine Deneuve.

The film premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d'or and Bjork received the award for Best Actress. The music from the film was released on the soundtrack, "Selmasongs: Music From The Motion Picture "Dancer In The Dark"`" and the song, "I've Seen It All" was nominated for an Academy Award. Bjork performed the song on the 2001 award telecast wearing the infamous, "swan dress" which got her more attention than the actual performance. Despite the success of her first film, Bjork stated that the filming was too physically difficult and emotionally draining and that she would never do another major role.

Bjork is currently involved with performance artist, Matthew Barney and they have a daughter, Isadora. She also has a son, Sindri that she had with ex-husband, Thor Eldron.

She has released seven albums to date and has sold over fifteen million CDs during her career. She is also well known for her creatively innovative and sometime, controversial music videos. She collaborated early with a couple of directors who went on to later have successful film careers. Spike Jonze, who directed Bjork's 1995 video, "It's Oh So Quiet" has made the films, "Being John Malkovich" (1999) and "Where the Wild Things Are" (2009) and Michel Gondry who directed.several of her videos went on to make, "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition)" (2004) and "The Science of Sleep" (2006) which Mr. Gondry offered Bjork the female lead but she declined.

Bjork can be strange, temperamental and complicated but that's what makes her such a compelling and fascinating artist. I look forward to being confused, enchanted, and pleasantly surprised by whatever new musical direction she decides to take on next.

Here are a few of my favorite songs from this performer:

Play Dead
Big Time Sensuality
Venus As A Boy
Army Of Me

And here is the very strange but visually stunning video for "Human Behavior (LPVersion)" that was directed by Michel Gondry, and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Music Video-Short Form:

Monday, August 16, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MADONNA



Can you tell which one of these pictures above was taken earlier this year and the other one over twenty-five years ago?

If you can't tell, well that's exactly the point.

Madonna turns fifty-two today and she hasn't changed a bit.

She still is a powerful force in entertainment. I have always loved how she is always looking forward while taking things from the past to create something fresh and new.

No news about any new music but she is working on directing her second feature film,"W.E." which is about the relationship between England's King Edward VIII and the American socialite, Wallis Simpson, who he gave up the throne to marry.

There are so many of her amazing music videos that I love that it was hard to pick only one that best represented her but I think this one is it:


Madonna - Vogue [Video]
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And here she is doing the song during her last concert tour, showing the world that she still got the moves:



Happy Birthday, girl. Keep on doing your thing.

Celebration - Madonna

Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE FIRST TIME: PART FIVE

BRANDY - "BRANDY" (1994)

Brandy Norwood was raised in Carson, California and first started her career as an actress. She first appeared on the short-lived television show, "Thea" and later would star in her own hit sitcom, "Moesha" that ran from 1996 to 2001.

Music was in her blood however, as her father was a gospel singer, her brother, Ray J. who also is a singer, has made some hit recordings and rapper, Snoop Dogg is her first cousin. Although she attended the Hollywood High Performing Arts Center, she managed to get a recording contract with Atlantic Records on her own after auditioning.

At the tender age of fifteen, she released her self-titled debut, "Brandy". Despite her age, the album was mature sounding, hip-hop flavored soul that was filled with great songs and a solid production. It spawned three top ten hits, including "Best Friend ( LP Version )" and "Baby ( LP Version )". and had two number one's on the R&B charts. The album would go on to sell six million worldwide.

Brandy has released a total of  five albums and won a Grammy award for her hit duet with Monica, "The Boy Is Mine" (1998).

This was her first single and one of my favorites:

I Wanna Be Down.mp3

DURAN DURAN - "RIO" (1982)


This English pop-rock band was formed in Birmingham by keyboardist, Nick Rhodes and bassist, John Taylor with original lead singer, Stephen Duffy in 1978. The band's name was inspired by a villainous character in the film, "Barberella".

After numerous personel changes, drummer, Roger Taylor, guitarist, Andy Taylor and new lead singer, Simon LeBon were added and became the final line-up. None of these "Taylors" are related, by the way.

The band released their first album, "Duran Duran" in 1981. The album had hit singles in the UK with "Planet Earth" and "Girls On Film" which was helped by the controversial music video that featured scantily clad women mud-wrestling plus depictions of sexual fetishes and it would end up being banned by the BBC. An edited version would be played on the new U.S. music channel, MTV and it did create some buzz for the band here but not much radio play.

Duran Duran released their second album, "Rio" in 1982. While it enjoyed huge success in England and the rest of the world, it stalled in the United States. After re-releasing the album, promoting it as a more dance oriented rock record and putting out a stylish music video for their single, "Hungry Like The Wolf", the band finally hit. The song went to number three on the U.S. charts and Duran Duran became one of the first bands to capitalize on the music video to help create their image and as an extension of their music. "Rio" also landed in the top ten of the albums charts and started a long string of hit albums and singles in the United States and around the world.

Members of the band over the years have departed, been replaced, returned and left again but Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon have remained throughout.

Duran Duran has gone on to sell over one hundred million albums and have released thirteen albums so far, with a new one being produced by Mark Ronson to be out, possibly later this year.

Enjoy their first U.S. hit:

Hungry Like The Wolf.mp3

This is the music video, that was shot in Sri Lanka, that helped shape their image:




PET SHOP BOYS - "PLEASE" (1986)



Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe met at an electronics store in Chelsea, London in 1981. Discovering that they both had an interest in dance music, they decided to team up and create some music together.

At first, they were going to call themselves, "West End" because of their love of the area in London but eventually settling on the "Pet Shop Boys", which came from friends working in an actual pet shop.

Neil worked for Smash Hits, a British music magazine and he was assigned to interview the Police in New York. While there, Neil met up with dance producer, Bobby Orlando and gave him a demo tape of his band's music. Bobby O loved it and produced a song, "West End Girls". It became a minor club hit in San Francisco and Los Angeles though it did not do well in Britain.

They signed with Parlophone Records after a lengthy negotiation to sever contractual ties with Bobby O in 1985. Stephen Hague produced a re-recorded version of "West End Girls (2001 Digital Remaster)" and although the single got off to a slow start, it eventually went to the top of the charts in the UK, as well as many other countries including the United States. Their debut album, "Please" was released shortly after and would go on to sell three million copies.

The Pet Shop Boys have released ten studio albums, which their latest, "Yes" came out in March 2009, as well as four best selling remix albums all entitled, "Disco". They would also produce music for Dusty Springfield (who also did the smash hit duet with the boys, "What Have I Done To Deserve This? (2001 Digital Remaster)"), Boy George ("The Crying Game") and Liza Minnelli ("Losing My Mind").

They are even in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful duo in UK music history.

This is their first single:

West End Girls.mp3

ABSENT FACES IN POP MUSIC

I had read a interesting article recently in the Los Angeles Times about the difficulties of a new generation of Black female singers being...