Thursday, September 29, 2016

HOT TRACKS


The Weeknd, who became one of the biggest pop acts of 2015, has just dropped a new track. "Starboy" is an unexpected collaboration with the French dance duo, Daft Punk and will be the title of his third album due in November. With a low throbbing electro-beat, the song is a dark examination at his struggles dealing with the overwhelming fame and success that came his way during that time. Be sure to check out his appearance on the season opener of "Saturday Night Live" on October 2nd where he will be the musical guest.

In the dramatic video for the track, it begins with the twenty-six year old Canadian killing off his former image before revealing that he has cut his trademark hair and struts around in a slick new style.





Fellow Canadian, Nelly Furtado had one of the hottest songs of  2006 when she teamed up with Timbaland and they produced a worldwide smash with "Promiscuous". She's been relatively quiet for a little while now but recently resurfaced earlier this year on a duet with Blood Orange for a song on his latest album. Then she dropped a tune "Behind Your Back" in July which she called an "appetizer" for her upcoming record.

Furtado has just released the official first single from "The Ride", her sixth studio album which is tentatively scheduled for early next year. Furtado says the beat-heavy ballad "Islands of Me" is about "narcissism, lust, isolation and altruism." and she premiered the song live during the New York Fashion Week kickoff party.

"Islands of Me" - Nelly Furtado (2016) mp3

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

BEYONCE: THE FORMATION TOUR


The last time I went to a concert at Dodger Stadium was back in 2008 to see Madonna's Sticky and Sweet Tour. Due to the horrendous traffic to get in to the venue (which caused us to be late for the show), lousy sound system and the inability to see what was happening on stage, I swore I would never go back there to see a show.

Well, I have found myself returning to the scene of the crime to witness Beyoncé's Formation Tour on September 14th. Only the Queen Bey had the power to lure me back. Now I still think that a colossal baseball field makes it virtually impossible for a performer to connect with their audience but Beyoncé certainly tried to make it work. Using a towering, LED lighted vertical parallelogram that served as a stage prop as well as flashing images and projecting what was happening on stage upon it, this helped somewhat to draw us in to her glittering orbit.

After an army of female dancers strutted out on to the stage, Beyoncé ascended from below, kicking off the show with "Formation", the slinky first single off her critically acclaimed recent album, "Lemonade". The emphasis of the show was on those eclectic new songs and she covered most of them with highlights included the Jack Black penned, guitar-driven "Don't Hurt Yourself", the unrepentant electro-soul track, "Sorry" and the unexpected country-pop of "Daddy Issues".

But she certainly didn't forget her older material. While some of the songs were done in abbreviated forms, she performed full versions of her hits "Run The World (Girls)", "Me. Myself and I", "Drunk in Love" and  "Crazy in Love". Girl power was on full display as Beyoncé once again had an all-female band, background vocalists and dancers by her side on this tour.

During one interlude, which Bey changed from one revealing bodysuit in to another, the stage was awash in purple as Prince's version of "Purple Rain" played in honor of the late artist. 

Throughout the show, Beyoncé was determined to give you an incredible array of spellbinding effects that you couldn't believe was coming from her stage. That ranged from massive blasts of fire (which you could still feel the heat from as far away from the stage as I was) shooting in to the air, several firework displays shot in to the sky and on the actual stage and a powerful shower of colorful confetti that covered the entire arena.

Perhaps the most amazing moment in the show came near the end when the entire front of the stage was transformed in to a shallow pool of water with Beyoncé and her ladies splashing about during energetic performances of "Freedom", Destiny Child's, "Survivor" and "End of Time". I wonder if I was the only one concerned that if Bey dropped her mic during these numbers that we would be witnessing a high-profile electrocution.

By the time a drenched Beyoncé reached her final song of the night, "Halo" (and one of my favorites from the singer) alone on stage, she looked physically and emotionally drained yet quite content. She knew that she had given her all and left the audience, judging from their enthusiastic response, with a thrilling, magical and memorable evening.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A "PERFECT ILLUSION " FROM LADY GAGA


After briefly setting aside her pop music glory to pursue some acting and trip the light fantastic with the legendary Tony Bennett to record a collection of jazz standards, Lady Gaga is back to reclaim her crown. She has just dropped a new song "Perfect Illusion" and it's another surprise move from the glittering, over-the-top artist.

With writing and production assistance from Mark Ronson, Bloodpop and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Gaga has crafted a blistering raw dance-rock track instead of the usual slick pop extravaganza. She delivers a full-throated vocal assault on the song without the aid of any noticeable correction to sweeten her voice.

While I appreciate the low-key approach and change of pace from Gaga, I must admit to still being underwhelmed by "Perfect Illusion". The song is certainly catchy but I don't know if I would really pay much attention to it if it wasn't from the Lady. I know it will grow on me and makes me even more curious about her upcoming album. Check it out and judge for yourself:

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

CULTURE CLUB TOUR 2016


Culture Club, the British new wave soul group led by the flamboyant, gender-bending vocalist, Boy George, burst on to pop scene and ruled the charts beginning in 1982 before imploding due to in-fighting and George's growing drug addiction a few short years later. The group managed to kiss and make-up for the first time in 1998 and now all the original members (which include Roy Hay on piano and guitar, Mikey Craig on bass and Jon Moss on drums) are on their first major world tour together in fifteen years.

I caught one of their West Coast stops on August 27th at the Hollywood Bowl and the band's sound was greatly enhanced with backing by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra who also opened for the band. The last time I heard George live, during a Halloween event in West Hollywood last year, the singer sounded raspy and had difficulty hitting all the notes.

When the group came out performing "Church of The Poison Mind", the Boy, in the first of three costume changes, wearing a wildly colorful, over-sized hat with matching suit, was in fine voice with three amazing female vocalists helping to fill out the song. Their hits came in a steady stream with "I'll Tumble 4 Ya", "It's a Miracle", "Time ( Clock of The Heart)" and "Miss Me Blind". Culture Club even performed a couple of songs from Boy George's solo efforts with his versions of Bread's "Everything I Own" and "The Crying Game".

During one of the costume changes, there was a surprising and quite moving moment with a brief musical tribute to David Bowie. As images of the late singer from his Ziggy days flashed on video screens, the band performed "Life on Mars?" as an instrumental with backing from the L.A. Phil which sounded amazing.

The Boy was in good spirits, making jokes about our political race and announcing some of the famous faces in the crowd (which included Sting as he told a silly, semi-uncomfortable story about him) although he appeared to almost get in to some sort of scuffle with a person in the front row but quickly dismissed them. It seems the notoriously feisty singer has actually mellowed with time.

The show closed with a re-working of their minor 1984 hit, "The War Song" which George recalls the group receiving a lot of flak back then for the over-simplistic message but now quite proud of how timely the tune has become. Culture Club came back out by audience demand and performed an encore of their best-known song, "Karma Chameleon" and closing the evening with a hard rocking cover of T. Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)". It was a really fun trip back down Memory Lane with one of my favorite bands of the '80's.

Here is the music video for "It's a Miracle" which featured highlights of the group's career at that point:



And here is Culture Club performing live recently in Australia one of favorites songs, "Black Money", which George said during our show that he has no idea what it means. And he wrote the song:

ICONA POP ARE "GIRLS GIRLS"

Those Swedish musical party-girls, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, otherwise known as  Icona Pop are back with a new club-banging anthem. ...