Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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. "Girls Girls" delivers the duo's signature sing-shout sound with a throbbing tropical beat. With a co-songwriting assist from fellow Swede, Tove Lo, this shimmering jam will make a cool addition to the summer much like Icona Pop's last major pop hit, "I Love It". Check out this lyric video that features selfies from the singers and their fans:

Monday, June 19, 2017

BUCKINGHAM + MCVIE: TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME?


This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the release of one of the biggest selling albums of all-time; Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours". Recorded during a difficult time of personal upheaval within the group with the divorce of bass guitarist John McVie and keyboard player/vocalist Christine McVie along with the romantic break-up between guitarist and vocalist, Lindsey Buckingham and singer/songwriter, Stevie Nicks. Even Fleetwood Mac's co-founder and drummer, Mick Fleetwood was dealing with martial problems as his wife at the time was having an affair.

Yet despite all of the emotional chaos for each member of the band, somehow all of this tension set off a profound creative spark. While all four singles, "Go Your Own Way", "Don't Stop", "You Make Loving Fun" and the number one hit, "Dreams",  made it to the top-ten on the U.S. pop chart, every song from this near-perfect album received some radio play. "Rumours" would become a world-wide massive hit, go on to win a well-deserved Grammy Award for Album of The Year and to date, has sold more than forty million copies.

Now two members of the group, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie have just released a self-titled album. After coming out of semi-retirement to rejoin Fleetwood Mac in 2014, McVie hit the recording studio with Buckingham to help get herself back in to the groove. This proved to be successful sessions with new material coming together for a potential new Fleetwood Mac album. The project was put on hold to start the Fleetwood Mac On With The Show tour. Stevie Nicks was going to contribute songs for the Fleetwood Mac album after their tour but decided to pursue her own career retrospective project, "24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault" and tour for that album. Deciding not to wait for Nicks, Buckingham and McVie continued on with the project as a duo.

"Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie" is a solid album bringing a familiar, comfortable vibe by merging Buckingham's experimental style and McVie's smooth pop sound. While it's just the two musicians' name of the project, two other members of Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie participated on a number of the tracks. This duo will be hitting the road this summer starting on June 21st in Atlanta to promote the record. Listen to the first single, "In My World", a Buckingham lead song and "Feel About You" which features McVie on vocals:



Friday, June 16, 2017

NEW SOUNDS

BETH DITTO


Beth Ditto, the fiery, big voice behind the alt-punk band, Gossip, has officially become a solo artist after the group mutually decided to come to an end last year. The Arkansas native had dabbled with EDM on her 2011 self-titled EP but has returned to her musical roots with her just released debut, "Fake Sugar". This collection of country-lite rockers and electrifying dance tunes features lyrics that touches on her Southern upbringing, life as a queer feminist artist and her almost four-year marriage to Kristin Ogata. Enjoy the video for the first single, "Fire":



PERFUME GENIUS


One way to describe the visionary music of Perfume Genius is that he is the star-child of Kate Bush and David Bowie. Born Mike Hadreas in the suburbs of Seattle, WA, he was victimized as a young child due to being openly gay and even received death threats. Hadreas found solace in music and learned to play the piano. After dropping out of high school, he moved to New York in an attempt to experience a more open-minded, creative environment. Hadreas soon returned to Seattle where he decided to pursue a life in music on his terms. Reborn as "Perfume Genius", he created songs inspired by his sexuality and the dangers that confront gay men in contemporary society. For his fourth album, "No Shape", Perfume Genius has created another bold art-rock expression on his views of love and relationships. Here are the music videos for two singles from the album, "Slip Away" and  "Die 4 You" which perfectly display this artist's inventive gift for performance art.





Finally we have some new music from the glam-disco outfit, Scissor Sisters. it's been almost five years since we last heard anything from the group, which still consists of Babydaddy, Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, and Del Marquis, and they have come together with producer, MNDR for a good cause. The song, "Swerlk" was created to pay tribute to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting one year ago with a sassy dance-floor remembrance. It is being released in conjunction with GLAAD with proceeds from the sales benefiting the Contigo Fund, a non-profit organization for LGBTQ individuals.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A SALUTE TO PRINCE


It's hard to believe that it's been a little over a year since we lost the phenomenally talented musician, Prince. He would have turned fifty-eight on June 7th and the world still hasn't seem to have recovered from the tragic passing of this truly iconic artist.

I just recently caught up with watching this year's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction and my favorite part of the program had nothing to do with any of the inductees. It was a brief musical tribute to the Purple One by Lenny Kravitz that blew me away. I have to say it's the absolute best out of the many tributes paid to Prince to date, so please check out Mr Kravitz performing inspired live versions of "When Doves Cry" and "The Cross":

Saturday, May 27, 2017

YOUR SONG


Americans probably know Rita Ora more for her fashion-forward looks on a red carpet (including her recent appearance at the Met Ball), her acting roles ("Fast & Furious 6", "Fifty Shades of Grey") or for her short stint as the host of the revived "America's Next Top Model" show. However, the twenty-six year old Brit began her career as a singer with her first two singles from her 2012 debut, "Ora", "How We Do (Party)" and "R.I.P." going to number one on the UK pop chart. Although she provided the hook for Iggy Azalea's hit, "Black Widow", Ora's own music didn't get much attention here in the States.

Ora is wanting to change that and has just released a new song entitled "Your Song".  This is her first solo single in two years and seems to be the first music from her long delayed follow-up album (although part of that had to do with her successful lawsuit to release herself from contract with Roc Nation Records). The singer has teamed up with a fellow Brit who is quite popular here, Ed Sheeran along with producer, Steve Mac to help write this song. The Sheeran connection is interesting and will certainly get people to pay some attention but I don't think "Your Song" is strong enough to get Ora to stand-out in this tough pop musical landscape.

"Your Song" - Rita Ora (2017) mp3

And as a bonus, here is the video for Ora's 2012 first single, "How We Do (Party)' which I really liked and don't know why it didn't do better here:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


U2 are in the middle of a thirty anniversary tour in celebration of their 1987 album, "The Joshua Tree". This critically acclaimed record, produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, reached number one in over twenty countries, won two Grammy Awards including Album of The Year, sold over twenty-five million copies and, most importantly, turned the band in to full-fledged rock superstars.

This number one flashback is "With or Without You", the first single from the album which stayed in this position for three weeks and became U2's first number one hit in the U.S. Bono wrote the lyrics that details his struggles with being a rock musician and a family man and how he can, ultimately, manage to be both. With his inspired vocals and The Edge's electrifying guitar work, the song builds to an intensity that makes this rock ballad soar to an incredible height. The follow-up single from "The Joshua Tree" , "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" also made it to top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NEW SOUNDS

CAMILA CABELLO

After leaving one of the hottest girl-groups out right now, Fifth Harmony last December, Camila Cabello has wasted no time getting her solo career in order. The twenty year-old singer has already hit the top-twenty this year by providing vocals on Shawn Mendes' "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and Machine Gun Kelly's "Bad Things". And now she has dropped her first single as a solo artist. "Crying In The Club", using an island-flavored beat and a sample of Christina Aguilara's "Genie In a Bottle", is about the power of music helping to make it through heartbreak. This mid-tempo ballad is hardly groundbreaking and if it makes you think of a Sia track, that's because the singer co-wrote the song with Cabello along with current hit-makers, Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat and Happy Perez. Let's see what else will come as Cabello's debut album, "The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving." is due out this fall.



KATY PERRY

Katy Perry has just released a third song from her upcoming fifth studio album, "Witness". But what makes this tune, "Swish Swish" most notable is that it may be a swipe at fellow pop princess, Taylor Swift who apparently penned a thinly-veiled attack on Perry with her 2015 song, "Bad Blood". Just like Swift, Perry does not confirm nor deny this claim but will say it's about anti-bullying with a '90's inspired dance beat. She was the musical guest on the season finale of "Saturday Night Live" and here is a live performance of the song:



IGGY AZALEA

The Aussie rapper, Iggy Azalea is back trying reignite her music career with a new track. Her latest single, "Switch", that features Brazilian pop star, Anitta delivering the hook, is certainly catchy but I don't know if it's enough to get her back on the pop chart. Time will tell but have a listen to judge for yourself:

"Switch" - Iggy Azalea featuring Anitta (2017) mp3

SELENA GOMEZ

Finally, we have my favorite out of this batch of new songs. Selena Gomez has returned with "Bad Liar", a slinky, beat-driven ballad from the team of Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter who brought us the singer's hits, "Good For You" and "Hands To Myself".  Using the bassline from Talking Heads' 1977 song, "Psycho Killer" as inspiration, the song has Gomez singing about unconvincingly denying her feelings for a new love interest.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

Miley Cyrus has certainly caused a little whiplash with her drastic image shifts. She was introduced as the cute "Hannah Montana" character then becoming a more natural, sweet country-rock princess before shocking everyone as a raunchy, pot-smoking provocateur. Now the twenty-four year old singer has evolved once again. With a semi fresh-scrubbed, drug-free persona and leaving hip-hop far behind, Cyrus has returned to her pop-rock roots with a new song, "Malibu". Inspired by a reconnection with her former fiance, actor Liam Hemsworth, the guitar-driven song is about her falling in love again. I really like this and find "Malibu" a refreshing sound for pop radio.



Here are some recent music videos of follow-up songs from artists with new albums on the horizon:







I had mentioned earlier of TLC releasing new music but there is another female r&b group from the '90's also making a comeback. En Vogue, who brought us such hits like "Hold On", "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" and "Don't Let Go (Love)". are back with a new single, "I'm Good". Now down to a trio which includes original members, Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron along with Rhona Bennett,  the song may not be as memorable as when they were riding high on the charts but it features a classic soul vibe and their perfect harmonies. En Vogue's seventh studio album, "Electric Cafe", which feature production assistance from Raphael Saadiq and the group's original founders and producers, Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, is due out later this year.

"I'm Good" - En Vogue (2017) mp3

Finally, let's go back in time with a few of my favorite songs from the 1990's:



"Can We Talk" - Tevin Campbell (1993) mp3



"Get On Up" - Jodeci (1996) mp3

"All Night Long" - Faith Evans featuring P. Diddy (1999) mp3

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

WANT YOU BACK


The Haim sisters, Este, Danielle and Alana, have been performing music together professionally since they were children, singing and playing multiple instruments at churches, hospitals and weddings. The group known as Haim released their first major label album in 2013 , "Days Are Gone", a fascinating collection of songs they wrote inspired by their musical parents' 1970's rock albums and modern pop and hip-hop.

After taking their time, Haim has finally returned with some new music. "Want You Back", which is once again produced and co-written with Ariel Rechtshaid, is a tasty slice of classic California rock made for the 21st Century.

This first single will be on Haim's second album "Something To Tell You" which is due out on July 7. Be sure to catch the band previewing their new music live on May 13th as they are slated to be the musical guests on that evening's episode of "Saturday Night Live" with host, Melissa McCarthy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

NEW SOUNDS

NAO


After thrilling the crowd during her first appearance at this year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts event, it's clear that the British electro-soul singer, Nao seems to be on the verge of jumping to the next level. The helium-voiced, twenty-nine year old artist (her name is pronounced "neigh-yo" and it's a variation of her given name Neo Jessica Joshua) has continued to build momentum ever since she released two EP's, "So Good" in 2014 and "February 15" the following year. 2016 saw her drop her acclaimed debut album, "For All We Know" with the singles, "Bad Blood" and "Girlfriend" helping it reach the top-five on the U.S. dance chart. I'm quite sure that Nao is a name you will be hearing a lot more from. Enjoy the music video for "Girlfriend" and a live performance of "Bad Blood":





KHALID


Khalid is another young artist pushing the boundaries of soul music by merging other genres with it to create something different. The now nineteen year old spent his early years living in various places due to his mother serving in the army. After settling in El Paso, TX, Khalid Robinson studied singing and musical theater in high school. When he decided to pursue a music career instead of going to college, his mother, who sang with the U.S. Army band, supported her son's decision. He released his debut album, "American Teen" earlier this year after the positive response of his 2016 first single, "Location" which the tune reached the top-twenty on the pop chart and top-ten on the r&b/hip-hop chart. With his career off to a great, promising start, Khalid has made sure his mama ain't got nothing to worry about.

Monday, April 17, 2017

THE RETURN OF THE POP PRODIGY


Lorde has already given us a little taste of her upcoming second album, "Melodrama" with "Green Light" , a song burning up the charts right now.  In an in-depth profile written by Rolling Stone writer, Jonah Weiner for the New York Times Magazine, the young singer discusses what she had been doing in the four years since her breakout debut album, "Pure Heroine" and the fascinating process involved in the creation of her new music which is due out in June.

Click below to read:

The Return of The Pop Prodigy

As a bonus, here is another song from the album, "Liability", a ballad she performed live during her recent appearance on an episode of "Saturday Night Live":

Saturday, April 15, 2017

WAY BACK


TLC, one of the biggest girl groups of all time that ruled the charts back in the 1990's,  has just returned with new music after taking a recording hiatus following the tragic death of member, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in 2002.  With the use of Kickstarter to help raise funds to record what will be their fifth and (apparently) final album, the surviving members, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas have released the first single, "Way Back" that features a rap verse by Snoop Dogg. The song delivers a nostalgic vibe with lyrics that reminisces about the past while name-checking some musical greats like James Brown and Michael Jackson. This is a great jam that really should return TLC back to the charts.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

WELCOME BACK

BLONDIE


Blondie began as a scrappy New York punk band in the mid-'70's before "Heart of Glass", their worldwide smash rock/disco hybrid, transformed them in to a slightly glossier pop-rock outfit yet they managed to maintain their rebellious spirit. The group, with a line-up at the time that featured Nigel Harrison on bass guitar, Jimmy Destri on keyboards, Frank Infante on guitar, Clem Burke on drummer, Chris Stein on guitar and his girlfriend at the time, Debbie Harry who was the official voice and unofficial face of the band, enjoyed mainstream success for a few years before jealousy, in-fighting and Stein's near-fatal illness drove them apart by 1982.

Each member went on to explore their own musical endeavors, including Harry's moderately successful solo career, before the original five band members of Blondie (which includes Gary Valentine on bass before he was replaced by Harrison in 1977) came back together first for a few live performances in 1997, an international tour the following year and then a new album, "No Exit" in 1999 although Valentine had left the band again before the recording of it.

Now down to Harry, Stein and Burke (with Leigh Foxx on bass, Matt Katz-Bohen on piano and Tommy Kessler on guitar filling out the rest of the band), Blondie has kept plugging away ever since and are preparing to release their eleventh studio album, "Pollinator" in May.  The first single, "Fun" features the early propulsive energy of the band while feeling quite modern.



DEPECHE MODE


The members of the British band, Depeche Mode dabbled in rock and acoustic before moving on to exploring synthesisers in the early '80's. The quartet, consisting of Martin Gore, Vince Clarke, Andy Fletcher and Dave Gahan, helped usher in the new wave-synthpop scene in England and reached the top twenty on the UK chart with "New Life", "Dreaming Of Me" and "Just Can't Get Enough" from their debut album, "Speak & Spell" in 1981. Due to his apparent discomfort with their pop success, Clarke left Depeche Mode although he quickly went and formed Yazoo ("Yaz" in the U.S.) with Alison Moyet and later Erasure with Andy Bell. Clarke was replaced with Alan Wilder in 1982 and he remained with the band until 1995.

The sound of Depeche Mode has evolved over the years with the utilizing of more guitars and offering songs with far weightier subjects. The trio have just released their fourteenth album, "Spirit" and are speaking on these politically charged times. The first single, "Where's The Revolution" pretty much says it all. The band has returned to filmmaker, Anton Corbijn to create the video for the song.



Wednesday, April 5, 2017

RANDOM SIGHTS + SOUNDS

After her New Year's Eve performance fiasco, Mariah Carey seems eager to put that out of people's minds with some new music. Clearly inspired by her recent break-up with former fiance, billionaire James Packer, "I Don't" is a bitter "her" side of the story backed up with an old-school r&b beat with YG adding a rap for a modern touch. I'm really digging the song but the cartoon sexuality in the music video is just too much. The forty-six year old mother of two directed this clip and it simply features endless shots of herself in ridiculously revealing outfits gyrating and flipping her hair seductively. I know the over-the-top, sexy diva image has always been her thing but it's getting a little sad now. "I Don't" is the first of several singles that will be released throughout the year with an album that will likely happen depending on how well these songs do.



And here is a far more classier Carey paying loving tribute to the recently departed George Michael with an incredible live version of his ballad, "One More Try":



Here is a collection of some dynamic music videos of recent songs I've been digging:











Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 NATIONAL RECORDING REGISTRY

Judy Garland's classic ballad from "The Wizard of Oz", Barbra Streisand's classic ballad from "Funny Girl",  the original version of "Hound Dog", a collection of the greatest hits by the Eagles and the debut album from N.W.A.  are just some of the recordings that have just been inducted in to the National Recording Registry.

Since 2002, the Library of Congress have selected sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important that informs or reflect life in the United States. The twenty-five selected this year feature a wide range of music, commentaries, radio programs, comedy albums and speeches. To date, there have been 475 recordings placed in the National Recording Registry.

Here is the complete list of the twenty-five recordings being inducted in the 2017 National Recording Registry:

The London cylinder recordings of Col. George Gouraud (1888)

Lift Every Voice and Sing” (singles) - Manhattan Harmony Four (1923) and Melba Moore & Friends (1990)



Puttin’ on the Ritz” (single) - Harry Richman (1929)

Over the Rainbow” (single) - Judy Garland (1939)



I’ll Fly Away” (single) - The Chuck Wagon Gang (1948)

Hound Dog” (single) - Big Mama Thornton (1953)



Saxophone Colossus” - Sonny Rollins (1956)

"The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds", announced by Vin Scully (September 8, 1957)

Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” - Marty Robbins (1959)

The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery” - Wes Montgomery (1960)

People” (single) - Barbra Streisand (1964)



In the Midnight Hour” (single) - Wilson Pickett (1965)



Amazing Grace” (single) - Judy Collins (1970)



American Pie” (single) - Don McLean (1971)

All Things Considered” - first broadcast (May 3, 1971)

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” - David Bowie (1972)

The Wiz: Original Broadway Cast Album” - (1975)



Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)” - Eagles (1976)

Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha” - (Gunter Schuller, arranger) (1976)

Wanted: Live in Concert” - Richard Pryor (1978)

We Are Family” (single) - Sister Sledge (1979)



Remain in Light” - Talking Heads (1980)

Straight Outta Compton” - N.W.A (1988)



Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (All-Night Vigil)” - Robert Shaw Festival Singers (1990)

Signatures” - Renée Fleming (1997)

Monday, March 27, 2017

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ARETHA AND DIANA



I didn't realize this but two iconic female vocalists (and two of my all-time favorites) celebrated birthdays over this past weekend.

"The Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin turned seventy-five on March 25th while MISS Diana Ross turned seventy-three yesterday. I know it may not be polite to tell a woman's age but there's no reason for them not to be proud. I could go on and on about what amazing talents they are or how much each has greatly influenced popular music but there is no need. It's simply old, wonderful news.

To celebrate the day of each of their births, I have presented my very favorite songs from each performer. Enjoy:




Monday, March 20, 2017

25 SONGS THAT TELL US WHERE MUSIC IS GOING


It's a pretty bold move to try and identify what direction popular music is heading but for the New York Times Magazine's annual music issue, they have selected twenty-five songs that may possibly let us in on that idea. Not all of these songs are new, as some are a few years old or have been remixed to address our modern times but what many of these songs appear to share in common is a search for identity and where do we fit in this complicated and increasingly isolated planet.

I know this will sound like a really scratched record but there is no denying that this current state of political turmoil has made that question even more relevant and will effect the type of music that will come from artists in the future. Songs that reflect unease, desperation, sadness, outrage and anger will certainly be a more common occurrence as the divisive actions of this administration continues to unfold. Time will tell but in the meantime, check out these innovative and powerful songs.

Click below to read:

The Music Issue: 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going

CHUCK BERRY (1926 - 2017)


Chuck Berry, the guitarist who took country and rhythm and blues and merged them with his inventive guitar solos and dynamic showmanship to help create what we know as rock & roll, passed away on March 18th at the age of ninety. With his signature "duck walk" he did when he played, Berry was an innovative artist who broke down the deep musical and racial divide at the time in this country and helped integrate teenagers through his music.

Berry was born and raised in St. Louis, MO and was interested in music at an early age, performing for audiences while a student in high school. However, his fledgling career as a professional musician was briefly derailed after he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to a reformatory for young men until he was twenty-one. Berry formed a singing group while there and was so good, he was allowed to perform occasionally outside of the detention facility. After he was released, Berry started his music career again, developing his unique guitar style and played with giving country music a blues makeover.

Berry's big break came in 1955 when he traveled to Chicago and met blues great, Muddy Waters. He suggested that Berry meet Leonard Chess of Chess Records and the record executive became very interested in the young musician. The first single released was "Maybellene", a reworking of a traditional country tune, "Ida Red" that was made famous by Bob Wills in 1938. The song went straight to number one on the R&B chart and sold over a million copies. The following year a song Berry wrote, "Roll Over Beethoven" actually crossed over and reached the top forty on the pop chart. Berry soon went on tour with other popular rock acts of the day like Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers and he became a major music star.

More hits followed, "School Days", "Sweet Little Sixteen", "Rock and Roll Music", "Little Queenie", "Back In The U S A" and his most famous, "Johnny B. Goode". Berry even made appearances in two early rock & roll films, "Rock Rock Rock" and "Go, Johnny, Go!". But his successful career took a hit when he was convicted of violating the Mann Act and eventually sentenced to a year and a half in prison in 1962.

By the time Berry was released from jail, the British Invasion in the U.S. had begun and these acts were covering many of his hit songs which brought interest back to the originator. While he did record several albums during this period, they were not nearly as successful as in his glory days. But Berry remained a top concert draw and went around the globe performing. In 1972, Berry released a live recording of an innuendo-laden, novelty song, "My Ding-a-Ling" and this would become Berry's first and only number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Chuck Berry received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984, a Kennedy Center Honor in 2000 and was one of the first group of musicians to be inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Berry had continued to perform all these years although he was recently only playing once a month at a restaurant bar in St. Louis.

Here are a few classic moments from the pioneering musician, Chuck Berry performing live:



Sunday, March 12, 2017

STARGATE PRESENTS "WATERFALL"


You may not know who Stargate is by name but you are very familiar with their music. What do Beyoncé‘s "Irreplaceable", Ne-Yo's "So Sick", Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music", Katy Perry's "Firework", Selena Gomez's "Come & Get It", Fifth Harmony's "Worth It", Wiz Khalifa‘s "Black and Yellow" and Coldplay's "Hymn for the Weekend" all have in common?

These are just a very small number of songs that the Norwegian production team of Tor Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen have been creating that have found their way on the international pop charts since 2001. Now after years of writing and producing for other artists, Stargate has decided to release some new music under their own name.

And for the official first single under their recording contract with RCA Records, the duo have brought together two of the hottest singers in pop music right now; Sia and P!nk. On "Waterfall", these two vocal powerhouses do not disappoint with them trading verses in this slinky love jam of yearning for another touch from a lover. I certainly think that Stargate has another hit on their hands. Have a listen:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EDM + POP

EDM (or "electronic dance music") has slowly become a dominant force in pop music over the last few years. At first, these musicians would discover their own vocalists to sing on their dance tracks which in turn created new pop music stars. And as soon as these DJ/producers found amazing success on the charts, established artists began seeking out this talent to help them create their music. Now these EDM artists are attempting to expand their sound, merging with different genres of music to create something fresh.


Calvin Harris was one of the first artists to move successfully from the dance floor to the pop charts. Born Adam Wiles, he began as a DJ in his native Scotland before moving towards creating his own music in his teens. The award-winning Harris has become an international star with his own albums and producing dance-pop tracks for such distinguished acts like Kylie Minogue, Pitbull, Scissor Sisters, Mary J. Blige and Rihanna, who he has helped reach the top of the charts several times with "Where Have You Been", "We Found Love" and with last year's smash, "This is What You Came For". With his latest, "Slide", Harris is actively trying to bring together electronic dance and hip-hop with vocal assistance from Frank Ocean and the Southern-based outfit, Migos, currently riding the charts with their hit, "Bad and Boujee".

"Slide" - Calvin Harris featuring Frank Ocean and Migos (2017) mp3


Stephen Bruner, or as he is professionally known, Thundercat, may not exactly be considered an EDM artist as he has performed and produced wildly eclectic styles of music throughout his career including jazz-fusion, alt-rock, classic R&B, hip-hop and even heavy metal. But the Los Angeles native bass guitarist has an electronic pulse beating through his recently released third studio album, "Drunk", a collection of fragmented, eccentric and musically diverse tracks. One highlight is "Show You The Way", a '70's inspired, funky, slow jam that features vocals from two icons of that era; Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald. This sensual track will fit perfectly on either the dance floor or in the bedroom.

"Show You The Way" - Thundercat featuring Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald (2017) mp3



Finally, we have the Chainsmokers, one of the hottest EDM acts of the last couple of years, who have teamed up with one of the biggest rock groups of the last decade, Coldplay.  On the very catchy, "Something Like Like This", the duo,  Alex Pall and Drew Taggart, bring their throbbing beats that blends nicely with Chris Martin's vocals which gives us the best of both bands. This song will appear on the Chainsmokers' debut studio album, "Memories. . .  Do Not Open"  due out on April 7th and on Coldplay's upcoming EP, "Kaleidoscope" which features leftover tracks from their 2015 album, "A Head Full of Dreams" and is expected in June. Here is a clip of this super-team performing the song live at the recent Brit Awards:

Friday, March 3, 2017

GREEN LIGHT


I must admit I have been very impatient waiting for some new music from Lorde, the New Zealand artist who came on the scene in 2013 with her thoughtful, electropop album, "Pure Heroine" and the worldwide smash single, "Royals".  I keep forgetting she was just sixteen when it came out and surely needed some serious time away after her whirlwind success to simply be a teenager.

I suspected something was on the horizon when it was announced that the now-twenty year old singer will be the musical guest on the March 11th episode of "Saturday Night Live" and today a new single was released. "Green Light", co-written with Jack Antonoff of the bands, fun and the Bleachers and producer and fellow New Zealander, Joel Little, surprises as it's much more like a dance-pop anthem than the dark and far edgier material that first brought her to our attention. I guess hanging out with BFF, Taylor Swift has inspired Lorde in more ways than one. Yet let me be clear that it still feels and sounds very much like Lorde which is a very good thing. I really loved the track the first time I heard it and I'm sure the rest of the world will respond in kind.

The title of her forthcoming second album has been revealed to be "Melodrama" and due sometime later this summer with a tour to follow. For now, enjoy the music video, directed by Grant Singer, which features just the singer wildly dancing in the streets and on top of a limo:

Monday, February 20, 2017

I'M IN "LOVE" WITH LANA DEL REY


After a few years out of the spotlight, Lana Del Rey is back on the music scene and has dropped "Love" in to the world. With writing and production assistance from Rick Nowels and Benny Blanco, the thirty-one year old vocalist has returned to the ethereal glam-pop styling that initially caught our attention back in 2011.

"Love" was at first teased to the public on February 17th but was rushed out after leaked versions hit the web. The lyrics might travel down familiar territory about the difficulties of being young and desperately in love but Del Rey elevates the tune with her girlish yet highly emotive vocals. I'm really digging this dramatic song, which sounds like nothing else happening right now in pop music, and expect this will make a big impact on radio. I can't wait to hear more with Del Rey's fifth studio album due out sometime later this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

AL JARREAU (1940 - 2017)


Al Jarreau, the smooth jazz vocalist who also dabbled in pop and soul music, sadly passed away on February 12th at the age of seventy-six. He had just announced his retirement from live performing just two days before his death due to declining health.

Born in Milwaukee, WI , Jarreau found his love of music in the Church. His father was a minister and his mother was the pianist while he and his siblings performed during services. After earning a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation, Jarreau worked as a counselor in San Francisco while occasionally singing with a jazz trio after hours. He latter teamed with guitarist Julio Martinez and they became a popular act in the Bay Area. It was at this point Jarreau decided to pursue music full time.

Jarreau soon headed to the Southland where he made a name performing at nightclubs and on television variety shows. He was signed to Warner Bros. Records and released his debut album, "We Got By" in 1975 to rave reviews. Jarreau would win the first of his seven career Grammy Awards for his first live album, "Look At The Rainbow" in 1977.

In 1981, Jarreau released "Breakin' Away" which would help the singer crossover to the pop and soul worlds and became his biggest selling album at over a million copies sold. The single, "We're In This Love Together" reached the top-twenty on the pop chart, the top-ten on the r&b chart and would win Jarreau the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. He would also win Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance for "(Round, Round, Round) Blue Rondo à la Turk" from that album as well.

Other career highlights include performing the theme song for the popular late '80's television romantic comedy-drama, "Moonlighting" which reached the top-thirty on the pop charts and he was one of the participating pop singers who lent their voices on the charity single for African famine relief, "We Are The World" in 1985.

But Jarreau was admired most as an outstanding live performer and since the beginning of his musical journey he would tour extensively in countless concerts and jazz festivals, dazzling audiences around the world in the process. The singer even appeared in the role of Teen Angel in "Grease" on Broadway in 1996. He was a great talent who will truly be missed. Enjoy a small sample of the amazing music of Al Jarreau:

"We're In This Love Together" - Al Jarreau (1981) mp3

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

THE 59TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS


I knew there was no way we were going to get through over three hours during one of music's biggest nights without politics somehow making it's way on to the stage of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. And of course it did, subtlety with an image of the Constitution being projected at the end of Katy Perry's performance of her new song, "Chained To The Rhythm" and quite aggressively during A Tribe Called Quest's number where they, along with Anderson Paak, Busta Rhymes and Consequence, referred to "President Agent Orange" and urged the audience to continue resisting his outrageously divisive policies. There were also inspiring messages of tolerance and moving words on the importance of the arts in speeches from Beyoncé during her acceptance of the Best Urban Contemporary Album award and from the Recording Academy President, Neil Portnow.

James Cordon, the host of CBS' "The Late Late Show", took over the hosting duties of the Grammys this year and brought a much-needed new energy to the show. No offense to LL Cool J but the comedian kept the show light and breezy (and just in time considering the political climate) with his infectious enthusiasm and cheerful good humor. But he could still be cheeky with a funny bit involving his parents and their "cheat dates". Cordon is a true music lover which is evident from his very popular "Carpool Karaoke" segment (which he couldn't resist squeezing in to the show by doing an all-star version of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" but it would really seem unavoidable with so many of the top music people in the audience)  and appeared to be just as thrilled to be hosting as he was watching the performers.

And music was the real focus of the evening and there were plenty of outstanding performances to witness. Adele kicked off the show with a flawless rendition of "Hello" but ran in to some trouble during a tribute to George Michael with a reworking of "Fast Love" (an odd choice out of all of his songs). She was so unhappy with her performance that she insisted on stopping in the middle and starting over. Adele triumphed in the end but was still quite visibly upset despite the enthusiastic response. Other highlights include Bruno Mars who also did double duty with a slick, old-school funk performance of his own song "That's What I Like" before showing off impressive guitar skills on a cover of "Let's Go Crazy" during the tribute to Prince. Ed Sheeran astonished as a one-man band as he did his new single, "Shape of You", Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood brought some fiery soul to country with "The Fighter" and the duet of John Legend and "Color Purple" star, Cynthia Erivo performing the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" during the in-memoriam segment was absolutely breathtaking. Get them to a recording studio ASAP!

I wasn't particularly impressed with the teaming of Metallica and Lady Gaga which was just loud and inaudible with the technical difficulties not helping and while I was thrilled with the celebration of the Bee Gees and the fortieth anniversary of their "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, the performers involved (which included Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly and Little Big Town) underwhelmed.

But it was Beyoncé, hardly surprising, who left a spectacularly memorable impression. Merging bold religious imagery with a hallucinogenic flower-child vibe, the singer, resplendent in a revealing, golden gown and the glow of impending motherhood, took over the show for nine minutes with a amazing production of two songs from "Lemonade", "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles" that featured video projection, the usual army of female dancers and dazzling visual effects that made a statement in more ways than one.

There was much made of the Adele vs Beyoncé showdown but it was the British singer who ultimately was the big winner taking all five of the Grammys she was nominated for including Album of The Year while the expectant mother received only two from her nine nominations. Now while I think "25" is a good, solid album but I completely agree with Adele 100% that "Lemonade" should have taken that top prize for it's innovation and craftsmanship. It was a slight to an album that will long endure as a groundbreaking work. But I couldn't help being moved just as much as Beyoncé by Adele's graciousness, honesty and genuine affection for the singer. Adele proved to me she was a winner just by being endearing, humble and a class act.

Here is the complete list of winners from the 2017 Grammy Awards:


Album of the Year: “25”, Adele
Record of the Year: “Hello”, Adele
Song of the Year: “Hello”, Written by Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin (Adele, artist)
Best New Artist: Chance the Rapper
Best Pop Vocal Album: “25”, Adele
Best Pop Solo Performance: “Hello”, Adele
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: “Stressed Out”, Twenty One Pilots
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin”, Willie Nelson
Best Urban Contemporary Album: “Lemonade”, Beyoncé
Best R&B Album: “Lalah Hathaway Live”, Lalah Hathaway
Best R&B Performance: “Cranes in the Sky”, Solange
Best Traditional R&B Performance: “Angel", Lalah Hathaway
Best R&B Song: “Lake By the Ocean”, Written by Hod David & Musze, (Maxwell, Artist)
 
Best Rap Album: “Coloring Book”, Chance the Rapper
Best Rap Performance: “No Problem”, Chance the Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
Best Rap/Sung Performance: “Hotline Bling”, Drake
Best Rap Song: “Hotline Bling”, Written by Aubrey Graham & Paul Jefferies, (Drake, artist)
Best Country Album: "A Sailor’s Guide to Earth", Sturgill Simpson
Best Country Solo Performance: “My Church”, Maren Morris
Best Country Duo/Group Performance: “Jolene", Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton
Best Country Song: “Humble and Kind”, Written by Lori McKenna (Tim McGraw, artist)
Best Rock Album: “Tell Me I’m Pretty”, Cage the Elephant
Best Rock Performance: “Blackstar”, David Bowie
Best Rock Song: “Blackstar”, David Bowie
Best Alternative Music Album: “Blackstar,” David Bowie
Best Metal Performance: “Dystopia”, Megadeth
Best Dance/Electronic Album: “Skin”, Flume
Best Dance Recording: “Don’t Let Me Down”, The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Culcha Vulcha”, Snarky Puppy
Best New Age Album: "White Sun II", White Sun
Best Gospel Album: "Losing My Religion", Kirk Franklin
Best Roots Gospel Album: "Hymns", Joey + Rory
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: "Love Remains", Hillary Scott & The Scott Family
Best Gospel Performance/Song: “God Provides”, Tamela Mann
Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: “Thy Will”, Hillary Scott & The Scott Family
Best Latin Pop Album: "Un Besito Mas", Jesse & Joy
Best World Music Album: "Sing Me Home", Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble
Best Children’s Album: "Infinity Plus One", Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Best Spoken Word Album: "In Such Good Company: Eleven Years Of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox", Carol Burnett
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: "Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom", Ted Nash Big Band
Best Jazz Instrumental Album: "Country for Old Men", John Scofield
Best Jazz Vocal Album: "Take Me to the Alley", Gregory Porter
Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, John Scofield
Best Musical Theater Album: "The Color Purple"
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media: "Miles Ahead"
Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", John Williams
Best Song Written for Visual Media: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, Justin Timberlake
Best Instrumental Composition: “Spoken at Midnight”, Ted Nash
Best Arrangement, (Instrumental or A Cappella): “You and I”, Jacob Collier
Best Arrangement, (Instruments and Vocals): “Flintstones”, Jacob Collier
Best Recording Package: "Blackstar", David Bowie
Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: "Edith Piaf 1915-2015", Edith Piaf
Best Album Notes: "Sissle and Blake Sing Shuffle Along", Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle
Best Historical Album: "The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series, Vol.12 (Collector’s Edition)", Bob Dylan
Best Engineered Album, (Non-Classical): "Blackstar", David Bowie
Best Remixed Recording: “Tearing Me Up (RAC Remix)", Bob Moses
Producer of the Year, (Non-Classical): Greg Kurstin
Best Surround Sound Album: "Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement", Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony
Best Engineered Album, (Classical): "Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles", Mark Donahue and Fred Vogler
Producer of the Year, (Classical): David Frost
Best Orchestral Performance: “Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9”, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Best Music Video: “Formation”, Beyoncé
Best Music Film: "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week the Touring Years"

Sunday, February 12, 2017

CHAINED TO THE RHYTHM


Katy Perry has just dropped some new music. After a promotion to find disco balls hidden across the globe and share their findings, the dance-flavored track, "Chained To The Rhythm" was released on February 10th.

The thirty-two year old singer (currently revealing her natural blonde hair) co-wrote the song with Sia and producer, Max Martin and features Bob Marley's grandson, Skip who provides vocals. While the tune is catchy and features lyrics questioning our complacency while there is trouble brewing in society over a dancehall beat, it still feels a bit lightweight and predictable. Perry had indicated last year she was ready to explore new, challenging musical horizons with her upcoming album but so far her output to date, including the 2016 Olympic anthem, "Rise", has been pretty safe.

Perry will be making an appearance on tonight's Grammy Awards and will perform "Chained To The Rhythm" live on the show.

The lyric music video is a bit odd but clever. It involves a hamster and food being prepared with miniature furnishings. See if you can make the connection:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 OSCAR NOMINEES FOR BEST ORIGINAL SONG

With the show just a few weeks away, the Oscars have announced who will be performing the nominees for Best Original Song during the telecast. This year, all the songs will be represented on the program with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer of "How Far I'll Go" from the Disney animated film, "Moana", will perform the song along with the voice of the title character, Auli'i Cravalho. "The Empty Chair" from the documentary, "Jim: The James Foley Story" will be sung by writer, Sting. Justin Timberlake will do his inescapable pop hit, "Can't Stop The Feeling" he co-wrote for the animated film,"Trolls". And Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling will be spared embarrassing themselves in front of their peers by trying to sing live in front of them. Oscar-winner John Legend, who actually makes his living as a singer but made an acting appearance in the film, will perform the two songs nominated from the musical "La La Land", " "City of Stars" and "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)".

And who do I think will take the prize? Well, if it's a "La La Land" sweep as predicted, then " City of Stars" would be the best bet. If not, then perhaps Justin's feel-good "Trolls" song might sneak in there for the win. My personal choice would actually be "City of Stars" as it's a lovely, well-written, Hollywood-styled ballad that will stand the test of time.

But I guess we will have to tune in on February 26th to see who really wins during the 89th Annual Academy Awards.  Here are the five nominees for your listening pleasure:

"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)" from "La La Land", Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul



"Can’t Stop the Feeling" from "Trolls", Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster



"City of Stars" from"La La Land", Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul


"The Empty Chair" from "Jim: The James Foley Story", Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting



"How Far I'll Go" from "Moana", Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK


"I'm a Believer" by the Monkees was the number one song during this week in 1967. This popular song, written by a then relatively unknown singer-songwriter, Neil Diamond, remained in this position for seven weeks, became the best-selling record of that year and was one of the few singles to ever sell over ten million copies. This was the band's second number one, following "Last Train To Clarksville", and they would make it to the top of the U.S. pop chart one more time with "Daydream Believer" later that year.

The story behind the Monkees' creation is certainly unusual. Due to the intense popularity of the Beatles, producers, Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider thought the idea of a television program about a rock group might work. After a talent search, British singer, Davy Jones who had performed on Broadway in "Olivier" was the first cast with American actors, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz, who all also had experience as musicians, soon followed.

This fab foursome became "The Monkees" and the comedy series about a struggling L.A. rock & roll band and their wild adventures while seeking fame hit the air in 1966 and ran until 1968. The ironic part was that this fictional band became a very successful real-life musical act. During the height of their fame, the Monkees' records outsold the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. After the show's end run, the group continued to record and tour together before disbanding in 1971.

However, the show enjoyed an incredible afterlife through syndication and overseas broadcasts. This created a demand for the Monkees particularly after MTV ran a marathon of the show in 1986. Dolenz, Jones and Tork went out on the 20th Anniversary Tour, the first of many reunion concerts, that year with Nesmith sitting out due to prior commitments with his own band. The trio recorded a new album "Pool It!" the following year and hit the road on a global tour.

Nesmith would reunite with the group rarely throughout the tours but for the Monkees' 30th anniversary, the original four came together in 1996 and recorded "Justus" their first album of original material since 1968. After Davy Jones' death in 2012, the surviving members would embark on a U.S. tour later that year and honored the late singer during the concerts. A 50th Anniversary World Tour just began in December with Dolenz and Tork but Nesmith will join the group on dates when time allows.

Monday, January 23, 2017

PROTEST SONGS OF A NEW GENERATION


I really try to avoid making my political views public but the election of that vile man to the highest office in the country has made me realize I cannot and must not remain silent. I think he's completely unfit for President, I do not support most of his outrageous agenda and I strongly believe he is not concerned about the best interests of a majority of the people he's supposed to be representing. I know I am not alone in this point of view just from the incredible number of people out in the streets protesting the day after the inauguration. Many artists have been inspired to create music to peacefully protest this new administration and to inform them we will not be ignored or pushed around.

I am sharing a few of my favorite songs from a variety of different musicians who are all very concerned about not only the future of this nation but of the entire planet.







"I Give You Power" - Arcade Fire featuring Mavis Staples mp3

Also be sure to check out the Our First 100 Days Campaign which will release a protest song every day over the first one hundred of this presidency. Click below to make a donation to get a subscription with proceeds going to a variety of charities to aide in their fight against the sure-to-be damaging policies of this administration.

Our First 100 Days

Saturday, January 21, 2017

TAKE TWO: KATE BUSH


Kate Bush, the theatrical art-rock performer who first came to fame in her native England in the '70's, never made a major impact here in the states but was a highly revered artist in much of the rest of the world. After an incredible thirty-five year absence from the stage, Bush returned to live performing in 2014 with "Before The Dawn", a multi-media concert which had a twenty-two date residency at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. With all the shows selling out in a record fifteen minutes, it's clear this ethereal songstress was deeply missed.

Bush came from a gifted family, her mother was a traditional Irish dancer and her father was a pianist, so it's no surprise she displayed talent. The aspiring musician taught herself how to play the piano as a young child before eventually writing her own music and lyrics. When she was sixteen, Bush began recording demos of her material and sent them to several record labels but none were interested. However, David Gilmour of the the progressive rock band, Pink Floyd got his hands on her work. The intrigued musician (along with his friend, Andrew Powell who would go on to produce Bush's first two albums) worked with the young singer to record more professional sounding demos, even paying for the sessions. The new tracks were sent to EMI Records and they quickly signed Bush to the label.

At nineteen, her debut album, "The Kick Inside" was released in 1978 and the single, "Wuthering Heights" (based on the Emily Brontë novel) she wrote went to the top of the UK and Australian pop charts. While Bush became a sensation throughout the globe, the album didn't even chart in the U.S. Her record label wanted to capitalize on her rapid success and a follow-up album, "Lionheart" was rushed out later that year. Most of the songs had been written when she was a young teen and while the record was warmly received, it did not do nearly as well as her debut.

It was not until her fifth album, "Hounds of Love" that Bush became noticed in America. The song, "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)" would become her only top forty hit here in 1985. The album received worldwide critical acclaim and became one of her biggest sellers.

After her 1993 album, "The Red Shoes", Bush took an extended period of time away from public life. It would not be until 2005 that the artist would resurface with new music. "Aerial" was a two-disc set and while Bush did minimal promotion, the album was still a commercial success and even charted in the U.S. , peaking at number forty-eight on the album chart.

Bush's last studio albums were both released in 2011. "Director's Cut" contains restructured and re-recorded songs from her "The Sensual World" (1989) and "The Red Shoes" albums while "50 Words For Snow" featured all new material. This past November, a live album of her "Before The Dawn" concert was released.

I have always loved the dramatic flair of Kate Bush's music but understand completely why she was not a bigger name here in the states. While her image was certainly video-friendly during the MTV era, Bush's poetic and occasionally esoteric songs was just a little too out-there for American consumption at the time.  Here are two of my favorite from this singular artist:

"Running Up That Hill" - Kate Bush (1985) mp3

"This Woman's Work" - Kate Bush (1989) mp3

Bush began using the music video early in career as a creative extension of her music. As a bonus, here are a few clips that display her innovation and unique vision:





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. ...