Wednesday, February 29, 2012

JFF - Tanlines, "Real Life"

GET READY for some JUNGLE JAMS! I'm talking about power POP for fans of Ke$ha, Major Lazer, El Guincho, & Delorean.  Welcome to Real Life- this track is BANGING  (on those bongos, baby).

I've adored Tanlines since I heard Bejan on the Kitsuné Maison compilation back in 2009 (& Professor Murder before that... wow, I feel old). After blasting Real Life on repeat, I'm officially super excited for the release of their album Mixed Emotions.

While we all wait, check out Tanlines' web page & try to catch them on tour.  Also, get out your drums & DANCE TO THE BEAT.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kyla La Grange Entices Us with a "Vampire Smile"

Kyla La Grange was not on my radar until quite recently, when I heard her haunting folk POP song Heavy Stone. But the big "wow" moment came when I heard her despicably sinister love song Vampire Smile. At once serenading & violently threatening her lover, Kyla instantly won me over with her vocals & especially her lyrics:

"Baby I need a friend,
but I'm a vampire smile, you'll meet a sticky end
I'm here trying not to bite your neck,
but it's beautiful

and I'm gonna get so drunk on you and kill your friends
you'll need me & we can be obsessed
 & I can touch your hair and taste your skin,
the ghosts won't matter 'cause we'll hide in sin"


I must admit that I prefer Kyla La Grange's twisted and beautiful music to that of her contemporary, rising folk POP singer-songwriter Birdy.  Kyla has all the ingredients; she is edgy & candid, kind & cruel.  Moreover, her visuals are rich & emotive; watch the seriously nightmarish music video for Vampire Smile below.

Prepare to be both moved & spooked.



It's been a while (a few weeks) since I heard new music that truly affected me (read my rant about disappointing POP here), but in Vampire Smile I finally heard something that irked me & inspired me. So thank you Kyla - you've saved me from my recent musical cynicism.  We look forward to hearing more from you.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Madonna is a "Girl Gone Wild"


Your MADGEsty, you are ever so clever, changing the name of MDNA's second single from Girls Gone Wild to Girl Gone Wild to (allegedly) prevent a lawsuit from Girls Gone Wild creator, Joe Francis.

I quite like the song, particularly in comparison to Gimme All Your Luvin. Relative to that track, Girl Gone Wild is smooth and slinky due to the production work of Italian cousins Benny and Alle Benassi. Still, it's not perfect. The song is a bit under-produced. It could certainly use an extra sonic layer. Having loved the duo's work on Kelis' Brave and Chris Brown's Beautiful People, I'm surprised that Girl Gone Wild seems sub-par, as though it was pieced together from their leftover pile. 

Lastly, I wish that Madonna's words were more meaningful. Where are the analytical and introspective lyrics that made the Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dance Floor albums so profound? Hopefully, they're within the rest of MDNA.

What do all of you think?

Unapologetically,

Gregory

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marina Reviewed: Countess "Homewrecker"

Minna: I am happy to report that Homewrecker is available for free download, bespeaking good faith in the diamond fanbase. Along with the perfectly pitched verse "I don't belong to anyone," this is all that pleases me about the song. Homewrecker finds Marina embracing the "sing-talk" method popularized by artists like Ke$ha ("wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy") & Lana Del Rey ("um, do you think you'll buy me lots of diamonds?") However, for a woman of great insight, throwing out platitudinous statements like "deception & perfection are wonderful traits" just makes her sound melodramatic. The high-brow, bouncy production is danceable & radio-friendly, but on Marina it sounds insincere.

She doesn't need to wear the same outfit to the POP prom, no matter if it's totally in-style at the moment. Marina is best dressed in what fits her best.. & what accentuates her unique style.


Gregory: Please don't hate me, Diamonds, but the first thing I thought of when I heard Homewrecker by Marina & the Diamonds was the humorously cheesy Chic C'est La Vie by Countess Luann from the Real Housewives of New York. Marina employs the same spoken-word phrasing the Countess thought was classy, but was actually trashy - "boys and their toys and their six inch rockets." GaGa already gave us the disco-stick, girl.

You could do so much better, Marina. You're immensely talented, intelligent, and analytical. Also, your voice sounds a bit rusty and slightly off-pitch, so please smoke fewer ciggies. Your glorious, operatic chops are to be treasured and pampered.

Unapologetically,

Gregory & Minna

JFF - Grouplove, "Love Will Save Your Soul"

2012 just began but indie pop band Grouplove are having a pretty good year already! This March they begin touring with Young the Giant - they're scheduled for America's monster music festival Coachella - AND they were recently named MTV Artist of the WeekThough best known for their songs Colours & Tongue Tied, my favorite song from their debut album is the upbeat & rhythmic Love Will Save Your Soul.

Check out it out below:



I hope you are humming along by the end... like me.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Thursday, February 23, 2012

JFF - Britt Love, "Come With Me"

Britt Love has surely found her musical match in production team Youth Kills, who sprinkle a magical disco/futuristic flavor to all the tracks they touch (how, we do not know, but we're guessing fairy dust).  By now hopefully you have read 7 Reasons Britt Love Needs a Solo Career & have familiarized yourself with the POP starlet.  Need another Britt hit?  Thankfully, last year she released an amazing full song entitled Come With Me that is available for free download.  It's a little bit Kylie, a little bit Robyn, a little bit 90s Scandinavian POP, & a ton of energy.  And talk about a chorus!  I've been chanting "come with me / come with me / let's go where only love goes" for hours.


Do you like what you hear?  Download the full track in high quality from her Facebook Page (LIKE the page then click on FREE DOWNLOAD under the default picture).  Then hit the lights, & dance the night away!
Unapologetically,

Minna

Remembering World POP Icon Ofra Haza


Today I wanted to take the time to honor the life of global POP star Ofra Haza, who passed away 12 years ago today.  Born in Israel to a Yemeni family, Ofra's musical career spanned decades.  She released over fifteen albums, including the internationally acclaimed Shaday in 1988.   During her solo career she experimented with an endless variety of musical styles, including dance, electronica, folk, rock, & orchestra, always updating her sound.  Known as "the Madonna of the East," Ofra Haza was an international POP star at a time before the internet, before mp3s, before iTunes, & before Youtube.

Few people who read this blog may have ever heard of Ofra Haza, but as someone who grew up listening to her music, I wanted to share one of her most extraordinary & famous songs, Im Nin'Alu.  This is a remarkable POP ballad; once you listen to it, you will understand why it remained a top 10 hit in Europe for weeks in 1988 (hitting #1 on the Eurochart Hot 100).  It is truly timeless.  Watch & listen below.



Ofra passed away on February 23, 2000, from pneumonia related to AIDS.  Thankfully, the world she sang for will always have her music, despite her untimely death.

Rest in Peace, Ofra.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

POP Disappointments


As I write this post, I am anxiously writing a scholarship application for my Masters program, so please pardon my brevity.

The internet is alive with a cacophony of criticism about Rihanna & Chris Brown's new collaborations.  Yes, because Birthday Cake couldn't be worse, Rihanna decided to feature her "ex," Chris Brown, singing "Girl I wanna f*ck you right now / it's been so long & I've been missin your body."

Yes, that's right folks. Just when I thought the mainstream POP world couldn't get much more dissatisfying (Dr. Luke & RedOne give everyone the same song, Lana Del Rey collaborates with Azealia Banks), Rihanna & Chris Brown come along to top the Disappointment Game.  I'm dumbfounded.  The Prophet Blog best discusses the repercussions of Rihanna as a role model to millions in the post Rihanna Disappoints the World, but what concerns me more is the question of morality in the music industry.  Why the hell is the mainstream music industry capitalizing on Rihanna & Chris' history of domestic abuse?  Is this not the lowest of the low?  Why is this okay?

It's not okay. And, for the record, Gregory & I always wanted this blog to be a constructive place to promote good music from all over the POP spectrum.  If the mainstream POP acts keep up this crap, you'll be hearing a lot less about them on Unapologetically POP.

Shame on everyone involved in this.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Monday, February 20, 2012

JFF - Better in Slow Motion

As the great Dave Chappell, my father's hero, once said: "everything looks better in slow motion."  Well, I'm not sure about everything... but here are 4 music videos that without slow motion would be... well, to put it simply, kinda whack.

Kids of 88 - Just A Little Bit
Soft-core tween porn for wannabe werewolves? Bizarre at best...



Fun. - We Are Young ft. Janelle Monae
Your typical Saturday night debauchery & destruction... amplified.


Hey Champ - Cold Dust Girl
All the hormones of Just A Little Bit... with a lot more sweat.


Chromeo - Hot Mess
My favorite music video of 2010 also happens to be in muted slow motion.


Any thoughts? Any favorites?

Unapologetically,

Minna

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Neon Gold is Hittin' the Road

Okay, so this is not extremely new news, but it's totally blogworthy (especially since Neon Gold began with their own blog!): indie POP pioneers Neon Gold Records are going on tour... and it just so happens that we will be attending their closing show at the Masquerade in ol' ATL. Needless to say, we cannot wait to see this killer line-up & write a liiiive review!

For more information, downloads, & tour dates from the Neon Gold Tour, check out the Neon Gold Blog.

I'm especially excited for newcomer St. Lucia.  Is anybody else catching the Neon Gold Tour??

Unapologetically,

Minna

90s Sundays - Aqua

Although perhaps best known for their international hit Barbie Girl, Scandinavian POP geniuses Aqua are so much more than a Matel-lawsuit.  Their 1997 album Aquarium is full of so many obnoxiously happy POP goodies that chosing justone for 90s Sunday is like selecting one flavor at the ice cream store.  But it's settled: Happy Boys & Girls, Aquarium's opening track, encompases the album's uber-upbeat feel pretty damn well.  For those of you who did NOT own this album, I suggest you listen to the song below.  For over 10 years it has cheered me out of my deepest funks.

So get up and DANCE boys & girls!



Unapologetically,

Minna

Friday, February 17, 2012

JFF - The Dirty Tees Remix of Beyonce's "End of Time"

The Dirty Tees have remixed Beyonce's "End of Time" for the DIVA's remix competition. They did a gorgeous job. The fusion of piano and synths is absolutely energizing.  Make sure to vote for their remix HERE.

Unapologetically,

Gregory

Thursday, February 16, 2012

JFF - Stream fun.'s new album!

It's here: fun.'s new album Some Nights is online for streaming!  Jeff Bhasker's beats are all over it & Nate Reuss's voice has never sounded better.  So far, this is my happy album of 2012.  It's indie POP worth waiting for.

Stream the album below.  And, of course, we're curious to hear what you think!

Unapologetically,

Minna



Link: CLICK HERE.

Dancing with Whitney - Party Playlist


Listening to all the radio tributes over the last few days, I've realized how much of a dance-POP artist Whitney Houston was. All I knew/remembered of her work in that genre were I Wanna Dance With Somebody and I'm Every Woman, as well as the radio dance remixes of 1998's It's Not Right, But It's Okay and My Love is Your Love. Fortunately, Youtubing her work has done two things for me: 1) Jogged my memory - How did I forget about How Will I Know? and 2) Inserted new songs into my memory that I never knew about - I'm loving I'm Your Baby Tonight. I don't know if it's just me or a generational thing, but I always thought of Whitney as balladeer, first and foremost. However, the reality is reversed. She was primarily a dance-POP singer. In fact, her music stood right beside the other greatest dance-POP performers of the '80s and '90 - Michael, Janet, Prince, and Madonna! It was her dance recordings that enabled Whitney to become the first black female artist to be played on MTV, thereby breaking down racial and gender barriers. Now, I'm aware that artists like Rihanna, GaGa, and Usher's fusion of POP and electronic dance music was very much influenced by the work of Whitney.

I love when singers with big, powerful voices aren't afraid to record uptempo tracks. Some may think that fast, multi-layered production will overshadow the talent's vocal abilities, but I believe it actually enhances them. Whitney's catalog serves as proof! To celebrate Miss Houston's contributions to DANCE-POP, I've compiled a party playlist full of dance-tastic Whitney tunes! Enjoy, and let me know if I left anything out!

Unapologetically,

Gregory
 
1. "How Will I Know" from Whitney's 1st album, Whitney Houston, 1985

2. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" from Whitney's 2nd album, Whitney, 1987

3. "So Emotional" from Whitney's 2nd album, Whitney, 1987

4. "Love Will Save the Day" from Whitney's 2nd album, Whitney, 1988

5. "I'm Your Baby Tonight" from Whitney's 3rd album, I'm Your Baby Tonight, 1990

6. "I'm Every Woman" from The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album, 1993

7. "Queen of the Night" from The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album, 1993

8. "Step by Step" from The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album, 1997

9. "It's Not Right, But It's Okay" Thunderpuss Radio Remix from Whitney's 4th album, My Love Is Your Love, 1999

10. "My Love is Your Love" Jonathan Peters Radio Remix from Whitney's 4th album, My Love Is Your Love, 1999

11. "If I Told You That" ft. George Michael from Whitney: The Greatest Hits, 2000

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Album Review: "Our Version of Events" by Emeli Sandé



EMI UK has kindly shared a preview of Emeli Sandé’s new album, Our Version of Events. While I am grateful for the opportunity to review such a hyped record and artist, I’m not going to compromise my viewpoint. To be frank, I find this to be a lackluster album. Emeli’s voice and lyrics are gorgeous, but the production is far too simplistic. Many of the songs blend together and sound the same, topically and sonically. Looking at Emeli, you’d think the music would be as edgy and cool as her hair and clothes, and for many, her aesthetic will draw them to her music. With that said, a few songs did stick out from the rest of the blandness…

1.     My Kind of Love – This is the only song on the album solely written by Emeli, meaning that there are no co-writes. She’s presenting herself, melodically and lyrically, completely unadulterated. Emeli does so with the magical touches of Emile Hayne, the man who produced the majority of Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die. I wish that Emile had produced the rest of this record, inserting the layers of instrumentals, moody synths, and choral music that made Lana’s album so interesting.  On My Kind of Love, the drama of Emile’s intricate production enhances the power of Emeli’s voice and the mood she’s trying to create. 

2.     Clown – This is one of the few pure piano tracks that caught my attention. It’s very well written. It really feels like Emeli’s heart is in this song. You can hear it in the vibration of her voice, as well as in the up and down of the melody. I love the sad Clown metaphor (obviously, as I wrote a song called Clown over a year ago).

3.     Read All About It (Part III) – This is another piano track that stuck out. Emeli sounds like she’s about to cry as she sings, thereby immediately grabbing my heartstrings. I love the opening line, “You’ve got the words to change a nation, but you’re biting your tongue / You’ve spent a lifetime stuck in silence, afraid that you’ll say something wrong / If no one ever hears it, how we gonna learn your song? C’mon c’mon, c’mon.” I really relate to the words, as I imagine many will. At times we’ve all felt too shy to say/do something worthwhile. Unfortunately, as beautiful as the verses are, the chorus doesn’t soar to capitalize on the tension built within them. Melodically, this song could be GREAT, but it’s stuck somewhere between okay and good.

River, yet another piano ballad, has the same great verse structure as Next To Me, but with a chorus that’s not as catchy. Daddy sounds like a not-as-good version of Madonna’s Frozen. Heaven's production should be synthy and danceable, not instrumental. This brings me to my next point – this album has little variety. If you want to maintain a particular song-style, then make sure to have rich and varied production to compensate for the lack of diversity. Better yet, include some slow songs, some mid-tempos, and some dance tracks. Emeli is a fantastic vocalist and lyricist. She would sound utterly powerful cloaked in a Calvin Harris We Found Love sound-scape. 

While Emeli is quite a poet, I wish she wrote about more than just love. The only breaks from that subject are the following: 1) Hope, co-written with Alicia Keys, which is about our generation’s/society’s problems. It’s a pretty song, but nothing spectacular. Such a great message deserves a fantastic melody and production. 2) The aforementioned opening lines of Read All About It (Part III), but even that turns into what sounds like a love song.

If Emeli and EMI put together a re-release, I hope that they team up with a Calvin Harris-type so that Emeli can capitalize on all of her talent, and in doing so, entertain us with an emotional, heart wrenching dance number.  In fact, Emeli’s collaborators for her next album should be Emile Haynie and Calvin Harris/Benny Benassi/Junior Caldera, as well as Liam Howe and/or Greg Kurstin, both of whom enrich a piano foundation with lots of colorful and textural elements. I would love to hear Emeli make the most of her massive potential. She's got a lot to offer, and talent like hers does not come along every day.

Let us know what you think if/when you listen to the album!

Unapologetically,

Gregory

The Good Natured Help Make Valentine's Day Tolerable

Happy Valentine's Day dear readers!

This day gets a bad rap, & I understand fully.  Thankfully, there are a million & one great reasons to ENJOY Valentine's Day- regardless of your relationship status.  Reason #1 is here: POP Noir punks The Good Natured are releasing a free download, Raindrops, for their fans today!  Check them out on their Facebook page (Update: click here for the free download).

To our friends in the UK, make sure to check out The Good Natured on tour.

Now go grab your chocolate & enjoy!

Unapologetically,

Minna

Monday, February 13, 2012

JFF - Katy Perry, "Part of Me"



Katy Perry's new song, Part of Me, hits iTunes today (Katy-cats rejoice!).  Here are our thoughts on her new single:

Gregory: I'm a bit tired of Katy's candy-coated iteration, but I love this song. It's beautiful and emotional, yet strong and empowering. Most importantly, it's oh so catchy! Here's my breakdown: okay bridge, good verses, GREAT chorus. I just love it.

Minna: I'm not emotionally prepared for the Complete Confection radio onslaught.  I think the Katy-character should take a break & honor her first divorce in other ways than an illustrious chart-topper.  That aside, Part of Me is not terrible.  Its message is positivity.  The chorus is catchy & endearing.  But the line "you're never gonna break my soul" has me wishing Perry would write more & collaborate less.  Also, Dr. Luke, we're sick of the obligatory guitar riff.  It's not fun anymore.  It's distressing.

Unapologetically,

Gregory & Minna


Sunday, February 12, 2012

'90s Sunday - R.I.P. Whitney Houston

1963 - 2012

I find it slightly disturbing that our society values celebrities so much more than everyone else. Whitney's death warrants attention because of her talent and impact on POP music. However, I don't think she deserves more news airtime than the arrest of a suspect in a gay man's videotaped beating. I'm saying this as a writer of a POP music blog, which makes me feel even more crappy. I justify this sense of discomfort by telling myself that I write about all aspects of music, of which celebrity is but one. Therefore, I should be able to dedicate a proper post to a person whose music has affected many lives.

Many performers have had a greater impact on me. I've been more saddened by the death of other POP stars. Still, that doesn't take away from the influence Whitney has had on many. Known as "The Voice," many (including my parents), say Whitney Houston had the best voice they'd ever heard. I disagree, but of course understand the immense talent that this woman possessed. Also, her body of work is deep and memorable. Songs like I Wanna Dance With Somebody and I'm Every Woman still end up on our dance playlists, side-by-side with tunes by Rihanna and GaGa. Whitney was able to last beyond a few years of relevance, recording hits over multiple decades. One of my first musical memories is constantly singing I Will Always Love You in the shower (it was my favorite song at age four, and my sister happily teased me, as a result). Later on, Whitney continued her successful streak with the irresistible Heartbreak Hotel, It's Not Right But It's Okay, and a song that still breaks my heart, My Love is Your Love. Not many performers (regardless of talent level) are able to have careers long enough to impact multiple generations, so Whitney and, most importantly, her team should be commended for such a feat.

It's strange how people laugh at talented messes like Michael, Amy, and Whitney until they die, at which point they venerate them as if they were their biggest fans. I see things in shades of grey. Whitney, like many entertainers, was troubled and insecure. Why else would she turn to drugs and surround herself with enablers who would give/tell her what she wanted just so they could have a piece of her, the vile parasites they were? Obviously, she was self-medicating to numb the pain. With that said, she was extremely talented and made some irresistible, timeless POP music, the reason she was on our radar in the first place. However, it's not one or the other. It's both. I don't understand why some people will only see her as a self-destructive mess, and why others (who solely want to remember Whitney for her voice) feel they need to ignore her faults and insult those who point them out? Whitney was (and will be) a musical ICON, but she was also a druggie who was never the sharpest tool in the shed. Just as I won't forget her music,  I'll always remember when she stupidly and snobbishly told Diane Sawyer that "Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get THAT straight. Okay? We don't do crack...We don't do that. CRACK IS WHACK." Afterwards, when Diane read the headline alleging that Whitney had spent $730,000 on drugs, the singer responded, "I want to see the receipts from the drug dealer that I bought $730,000 worth of drugs from. I want to see the receipts." Um, yeah, Whitney. AS IF a drug dealer prints out a receipt after ringing up the cash register; it's not Walmart! The only thing WHACK was Whitney, and I think it would be a shame to forget her troubles. That would be a waste of a valuable lesson to those who use or will ever consider regularly using drugs. I'm not here to preach; I'm all for experimentation. However, it's one thing to occasionally snort a little something just to try it out. It's another to do it on the regular. 

Whitney's marriage to Bobby Brown was simultaneously heartbreaking and amusing. Not only did Bobbaaaaaaaayyy (remember "Being Bobby Brown?" Television gold...) most likely introduce the druggie lifestyle to Whitney, but he always needed an ego boost around his superstar wife. I found it ridiculous when Whitney attempted to appease him by calling Bobby the "King of POP, hip-hop soul, R&B funk" in acceptance speeches. Is that even a genre? Lastly, we'll never forget Whitney's favorite stage prop - a sweat rag. Typically, standing and singing isn't physically exhausting, but I guess a little white powder (allegedly) makes the air feel a bit more humid.

The good comes with the bad. There's no need or reason to let one outshine the other. And to be honest, I found Whitney's antics nearly as entertaining as her music. I'm not attempting to diminish her talent or musical impact. I just believe in accepting the whole package, extremes and all. Her voice is/was a huge part of that package. There is a reason she was the first female singer to be called a DIVA, and it's not because of her rider demands or her attitude. It was because of her ability to fuse massive vocal prowess with the POP genre. For that, she will long be remembered. We will always love you Whitney, sweaty high notes and all! Let's end this post with one of my favorite Whitney songs, shall we? This is today's '90s Sunday pick - 1999's My Love is Your Love. I couldn't find the radio/dance version, but below is the original produced by Wyclef Jean (of the Fugees).

Unapologetically,
Gregory

Saturday, February 11, 2012

JFF - "Insomnia" by L2


L2 has sent us their new video for Insomnia, which we've posted below. This POP sister-duo reached out to us at the very beginning of our blogging lives, so we couldn't be more excited to keep you up-to-date with their tunes! Like their other music, Insomnia is pure dance POP, but with a slight rock edge. It's filled with blips and bleeps that keep our heads nodding and our bodies moving. The video, directed by Matt Alonzo (who also directed Far East Movement's Like a G6), is a bit low-budge, but in a cheesy-cute sort of way that puts smiles on our faces. It's filled with thrones, laser-lights, and sequined shoulder-padded hoodies (where can I get one?).

Each song that we receive from L2 is better than the last, so we're really excited to hear what these sisters have up their sleeves! If you like Insomnia as much as we do, you may buy it on iTunes by clicking HERE.

Good luck, girls!

Unapologetically,

Gregory

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

JFF - Antoinette + the Kings Men, Demo

Photograph by Olivié Pacman
Antoinette + the Kings Men is a musical and artistic project by a talented, exploratory woman from the British Isles. Antoinette, a character who personifies "the madness within each and every one of us," pens experimental POP that makes you weep. Her demos unfold in chronological order, developing a very personal, relatable, & modern fable.

This music is extraordinarily original. The only comparison that comes to mind is Natalie Merchant's equally confessional 1995 Tigerlily album. But one of the most important differences between Antoinette & other established POP acts is the fact that the Kings Men are a true community. They are in constant communication, creating fan art and promotional videos, & supporting one another through social media. Each and every fan is as unique as the artist herself.

For more of Antoinette's music, check out her Soundcloud for demos as candid and unconventional as the early work of Marina and the Diamonds. Our favorite is the mellow & melodic Miaow Or Never. Listen below:


Stay tuned for more music & visual art coming out of this exciting experimental POP project. For more information & to join the Kings Men community, check out the Antoinette + The Kings Men Facebook page.

Unapologetically,

Minna

JFF - Born This Way, Kids of 88 Remix

Kids of 88 (great name guys!) are another solid indie POP act to hail from New Zealand. This duo caught my attention back in 2010 with their teen-friendly (aka: horny) anthem Just A Little Bit, which would have been my jam at age 16 after hearing it on the CW (sheesh, back in my day, it was still the WB).  Not surprisingly, Just A Little Bit was later featured on MTV's Teen Wolf.

But Kids of 88 have potential to expand beyond a limited tween fanbase.  My proof: GaGa is a tough act to remix, but these boys pull it off with style. Their remix of Born This Way, below, demonstrates a true ear for sound - featuring a fun fusion of afrobeat, new wave, and pretty damn danceable disco.  Check it out.


In case you don't have it in your iTunes collection yet, click here to subscribe for a free download of their punchy 2009 single My House

Kids of 88 just announced that they will be releasing their second studio album later this year.  We're pleased!  And hey, since Lady GaGa will be playing Auckland, New Zealand in June, maybe Kids of 88 will get to meet her & do some more remixes! (we can wish)

Unapologetically,

Minna

Madonna, Super Bowl, Ageism


It is time for me to address Madonna’s Super Bowl performance. I must say, I really enjoyed it and think she did quite well. She certainly has an eye for detail and keeps up to date with modern staging far more than her younger contemporaries. Is Madonna the greatest dancer? The greatest singer? No. She’ll never have Janet or Michael’s razor-sharp moves, and she’ll never have Whitney or Celine’s voices, but she possesses a little bit of everything. She is a jack of all trades, master of none, but she works hard enough on her voice and dancing to make the most of her natural talents in both areas. Yes, she slipped once or twice, but even Beyoncé, an incredibly gifted dancer, has slipped multiple times in concert (see below). It’s difficult to dance in heels on stairs, not to mention faux-risers. Regardless of how skilled a performer one is, s/he will fall eventually. Most importantly, Madonna looked like she was having fun on stage. She smiled. You can tell she genuinely enjoys performing, and her energy is palpable, even through the television screen.


Madonna is a more conscientious performer than Rihanna will ever be, and I feel as though Rihanna wouldn’t receive even half of the insults thrown Madonna’s way after the halftime show. This brings me to my next point: the blatant ageism I find so incredibly offensive. I've seen it from acquaintances and celebrities alike. Someone on Facebook wrote, “not quite sure if I am horrified or in shock at this halftime show with Madonna.” Seriously? You’re horrified? The British rapper, Professor Green, tweeted “Somebody please just ask Madonna to put some clothes on? She can sing when she's 80, it's not her voice I find offensive.” Really, Professor? You don’t seem to be offended when it’s a 20-something writhing half-naked next to you on (and off) stage. People act like Madonna’s strutted across the stadium nude, when in fact, she was EXTREMELY covered up. The only bits of skin visible were between the end of the sleeves on her T-shirt dress and the long gloves she wore, as well as the spaces between her skirt and thigh high boots. That adds up two four bits of visible skin, each of which didn’t exceed six inches in length. I actually expected her to show some more flesh, seeing as she is MADONNA! As stage outfits go, hers was rather conservative.

With all that said, Madonna does not own her age, so how are others are expected to respect her as an older woman in POP? While watching her most recent video for the new single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” I felt as though she was trying to compete with Rihanna. I wanted to scream at her, “You don’t need to compete with Rihanna. You are SO MUCH MORE, both as a contributor to POP culture/POP art and as performer, than RiRi can ever hope to be.” It wasn’t the way that Madonna was dressed; rather, it was the way she carried herself. She twisted her hips around like a 20-year-old idiot at a frat party while holding a baby doll on her boob (which she thankfully did NOT bring to the Super Bowl). I don’t feel that I’m being ageist, because I equally dislike this behavior from the 20-year-old Rihanna sorority crowd. Acting juvenile isn’t any more acceptable or attractive when coming from someone who is actually juvenile (a little something I call Psi Sigma Stupid). I like Madonna as a fierce, ferocious woman, like she was in the Open Your Heart, Vogue, Justify My Love, and Human Nature videos. (Do you remember the line in Human Nature, "Would you like me better if I was a man?") Those clips are representative of her early career. Though she was young, she was always undeniably mature, elegant, regal, and poised, no matter how much (or little) she was wearing. The same applies to the videos/songs from Madonna's Ray of Light yoga queen era, American Life army sergeant phase, and Confessions on a Dance Floor disco ballerina period, the latter of which was masterful. From the very beginning, it was her composure that made her a class act.

Unfortunately, it seems as though she’s trying to regress into something she never was for the sake of staying relevant, when the fact is, she will ALWAYS be relevant, as she is an ICON with hits and pop-cultural impact in every decade since her debut. Madonna acted as a POP trailblazer for feminism; why can’t she do the same for the anti-ageist movement? She has the potential to, once again, impact culture from a brand new vantage point, teaching our society that one can be overtly sexual AND powerful as an older human being. Instead, she desperately tries to remain youthful, constantly getting plastic surgery (allegedly - I think her eyes were stretched onto a northern area of her forehead) instead of redefining what it means to be sexy by saying “You can be a HOT, beautiful and powerful wrinkly older woman (or man!)  without resorting to the idiotic, infantile tactics of the young!” How great would that be? She could empower an older generation that has been disgraced and suppressed by our youth-centric society. Since her divorce from Guy Ritchie, she’s continually dated 20-something year old men, saying “age is just a number.” If that were true, her romantic/sexual exploits would be sampled from every age bracket, yet they’re not, so clearly age is NOT just a number to her. Go to a therapist, woman, and learn to OWN YOUR AGE in the same way you’ve owned your gender and sexuality. You could still better our society through pop-culture if you took the same risks you did earlier in your career with regard to sexuality and feminism.

My point in writing all of this is to stop people from making simplistic, mindless judgments. If you feel a certain way about someone, recognize the pros and cons and explain your sentiments. Don’t just insult someone to entertain yourself. By doing so, you’re only adding to our world’s omnipresent vapidity. This is something that I need to learn as well, so let’s do so together, shall we?

Unapologetically,

Gregory

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Elton John & the King's Court



I am a huge Elton fan - so when His Royal Highness King Queen Elton John (all bow in reverence) starred with American idol winner Melanie Amarro in a Superbowl ad this year, I quite obviously had a moment.  I have listed the main reasons this commercial is brilliant below:

- The Spice World-era golden platform heels ---->
- The "Pepsi for ALL" populist zinger
- The humorous jab at POP star deification 
- The inclusion of a gay icon on a testosterone-packed football event (Note: my sports-loving boyfriend said he would have preferred an Elton John halftime performance!)
- Like Madonna, Sir Elton reminds us that he is always relevant.  The end.

Unapologetically,


Minna

Monday, February 6, 2012

Trend Alert

I may know nothing about fashion, but I do know that everyone who is anyone these days is wearing some form of fuzzy animal ears on their head.  Snoop Dogg, Ke$ha, P!nk, Rihanna, & Katy Perry have all been spotted dressed up like childish cartoon animals.  
Even everyone's hipster daydream, Zooey Deschanel, is rockin the animal accessory.

So advice to any aspiring singer-songwriters: if you want to be taken seriously, you better run to Urban Outfitters for some bunny ears.  Fast.


Unapologetically,


Minna

Track UnderRATED: "Radio" by Beyoncé


I miss Beyoncé's Sasha Fierce era. When she was promoting that album, I felt as though she was simply jumping on the GaGa bandwagon, sporting shoulder pads and all types of pantless-stilleto ferociousness.  But now that she's past all that, I want it back! Sasha Fierce was her strongest, most popular iteration, and unsurprisingly so. Beyoncé took sonic risks (Single Ladies and Diva sounded like nothing we'd ever heard before, yet, they've become her signature) but also satisfied the mainstream, all while keeping the gays happy. This brings me to Radio, the most gaytastic track from the I Am...Sasha Fierce collection! Produced by Jim Jonsin (who also produced the second most gaytastic song on the album - Sweet Dreams), this song's heavenly, angelic atmosphere is created by Jonsin's genius synthy soundscape. Radio perfectly captures everything Beyonce's about - it has a hip-hop beat, but it's sped up and surrounded by electronic blips that make her the dance diva who us gays love to WERK IT to in da club (whilst pretending to be her). The lyrics possess the same balance. Beyoncé is ghetto-fabulous one second, singing

                               I be on the hotline, like erryday
                               Makin' sure the DJ know what I want him to play
                               You know I got my top back and my beat low-oh
                               Rockin' my Styna shades and turnin' up my radio-oh
                               Turn up my radio, radio, radio....

And a romantic waxing poetic the next,

                               He's the only one that Papa allowed to hang out in my room
                               With the door closed we'd be alone
                               And mama never freaked out when she heard it go BOOM
                               'Cause she knew we were in the zone

                               Hold him in my arms and look out of my window
                               (Under the moonlight)
                               And he be keepin' me calm so I'd never let him go
                               He's got a place in my heart

Okay, so there's still a little swagger in there, but you get what I'm saying. One moment, she's utterly casual, and the next, she's the most elegant woman in the room. That dichotomy is what I love about Bey!

This song is so good, it's still begging to be a single. I mean, seriously, it's called RADIO for heaven's sake! Instead of the atrocious Video Phone (which I respect for it's sonic experimentation, all while acknowledging how bad of a song it is) or the mediocre Ego, Bey and her team should have released Radio and done up a gorgeous single cover and video with hip-snapping choreography. (Can you snap your hips? I can...I think...Reese?)

Enjoy!

Unapologetically,

Gregory


Sunday, February 5, 2012

'90s Sundays

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinéad O'Connor

This week's post is dedicated to a woman who's been in the tabloids lately for her extremely short marriage. Most people of our generation, however, don't remember why she's newsworthy in the first place. Well, here is your answer. Sinéad became famous when she kicked off the '90s with this gorgeous cover of a song that was originally written by Prince! This version encapsulates everything that '90s music was about - it's emotionally stirring and heart wrenching in a way that most people associate solely with indie music these days, yet it's soaring singalong melody is pure POP purrfection. Plus, Sinead's soft voice is the ideal accompaniment to the angelic, atmospheric production. I don't remember much from 1990 (as I was two years old, after all), but for some reason, this song seems utterly familiar. 

Everytime I listen to Nothing Compares 2 U, I laugh at a particular moment, and you can probably guess which one. When Sinéad unintentionally breaks the seriousness of the song by belting, "I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant" with a southern twang, I crack up. I mean, she's Irish! Irish and Southern twang? Those are not two things one would ordinarily associate with one another.

Anyhow, as cuckoo as Ms. O'Connor may be (and really, aren't we all? RELATEABLE!), she's a passionate fighter when it comes to issues she believes in. A devout Catholic, she's spoken against the Church with regard to the molestation issue. She even burned the cross while performing on SNL! Girl has gravitas! Furthermore, she's bisexual, which makes me like her even more. 

I won't pretend to know any of Sinéad's other music. To me, she will always be a one hit wonder, but not in a derogatory sense. I truly appreciate her outspokenness, and am glad that she had such a beautiful song to shoot her voice of morality into the limelight. 

Enjoy the rest of your weekends (with some Sinéad)!

Unapologetically,

Gregory

P.S. Make sure to check out the video, below. It's absolutely iconic. Everyone from Janelle Monaé (in Cold War) to Marina and the Diamonds (in I Am Not A Robot) to Kelis (in Brave) have utilized this slick yet simple video treatment.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Madonna: Leader & Misleader


On the very rare occasions that history & POP music overlap, a little part of me jumps for joy. Madonna's new movie, W.E., is such a circumstance.

Everyone knows that Madonna is back this year - album, single, Superbowl performance and all. And since Madonna is back, so is her ego. Most Madonna fans laugh off any scathing, blatant, or untrue remarks Madonna makes to the mainstream media, as "aw, good ol' Madonna!" as though her unbridled self-righteousness is merely a harmless aspect of the POP star persona. This tactic has never worked for me, though I respect Madonna as an artist.


W.E. coincides with Madonna's big POP comeback. The film centers around the famous American socialite and divorcee Bessie Wallis Warfield, otherwise known Wallis Simpson, with whom King Edward VIII fell in love, eventually abdicating the throne to marry her. Madonna seems to have taken quite a fancy for the Wallis character. "I love her," she gushed during her recent interview on 20/20. Madonna seems to view Wallis Simpson as a vastly misunderstood woman who found herself "trapped" in a world of "decadence." Her effort to portray Wallis as an imperfect human being is commendable. Yet, during "years of research," Madonna never came across any "evidence" of Wallis being a Nazi sympathizer.

Oh dear... There Madonna goes again?

Sorry guys, not this time. Her behavior shouldn't just be laughed off as "good ol' Madonna." These statements are very irresponsible at a time when regular teachers, professors, & historians everywhere are struggling to keep World War II relevant to a new and highly irreverent generation of students.

Wallis & Edward with German chancellor Adolf Hitler.
Let's get this straight: Madonna is not dissuaded by Wallis and Edward's high-profile visit to Adolf Hitler in 1937 (above), nor Ms. Simpson's public friendships with Nazi advisers, nor Simpson's alleged affair with Joachim von Ribbentrop, who was charged with war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials (for which he was convicted & hanged). The fact that Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt distrusted Wallis and Edward's pro-German politics does not resonate with her. Oh, and remember the numerous documents on Wallis' Nazi connections released by the FBI in 2003? Madonna dismisses the FBI as "notorious liars." Clearly, reality doesn't seem to be important to Madonna... Nor does the fact that her new movie is basically reducing political history to the level of Hollywood gossip.

Perhaps W.E. reveals the most disturbing fact of all: that POP stars can live pitifully and blissfully detached from reality.

Madonna, we're thrilled that the Windsor romance captured your imagination and inspired you to write a film... but just admit that W.E. depicts Wallis as you & only you perceive her! Try it out loud. Practice it in the mirror. I promise it's not as hard as it seems.

As for the rest us, let's appreciate Madonna's wisdom where it lies: in her iconic POP career and knee-jerk dance moves. As for the big questions of historical or political relevance... please, trust your teachers. At 53, they may look at bit different than Madonna does, but I promise you, they are all the wiser for it.

Unapologetically,

Minna

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Numb" But Full of Feeling


Massively moving & under-exposed Swedish POP artist Vanbot released her video for Numb last January and honestly, I have not been so affected by a music video in a long time.  It is simultaneously luscious, emotional, and redolent.  Vanbot beautifully captures the idea of the human as a blank canvas against a stunning palate of blues and greys.  As for the song, Numb flows seamlessly with the undulating melody.  Like Robyn, Vanbot evokes the complex emotions of loneliness and vulnerability... with the dancefloor as her arena.

Vanbot's incredible creative team warrant a shout out; Numb is directed and edited by Samuel Axelsson, Josefine Alm and Susanna Johansson, with artwork by Samuel Axelsson, styling by, Therese Lögdal, and lighting by Sara Arnald.

Watch the video for Numb below.



Vanbot will be playing at the SXSW Music Festival this March in Austin, Texas.  If you will be heading there, make sure to pencil her in.

Unapologetically,

Minna