Thursday, September 23, 2010

From the Meat Dress to the Military: Lady Gaga as Political Activist

I'm hardly a blanket defender of Lady Gaga, but I do want to chime in on a bit of debate over her role in the recent Senate discussion (or lack thereof) on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." A friend of mine, who like me is strongly on the side of eliminating the outdated, discriminatory law, wrote the other day that she resented Gaga's actions, "because she is a joke, and she hurts the cause on the right. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe are NOT going to be swayed by Lady Gaga being disrespectful of the military when she speaks at rallies, or protests with service members in uniform. Constituents who can sway people voting no are not swayed by Lady Gaga. People who like Lady Gaga care what she thinks, not people who can actually effect change on this issue." It's a legitimate opinion, but one to which I feel moved to respond in rebuttal.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Ke$ha Project: 'Red Lipstick'

I have a confession I need to make; one that has caused me countless hours of tormented soul-searching and sparked a number of arguments - a few of them heated - with friends and fellow music-lovers; a secret I've hidden for long enough, and one I really ought to have let out a while ago. I know it is liable to send even my most open-minded and explorative readers rocketing toward the "exit" door or button, or barring that will likely inspire deep pangs of doubt as to just what musical sensitivities and opinions you may have been trusting, if any. All I can say before I pull my little Montgomery Clift is that I am, believe it or not, entirely sane, and I do stand firmly behind what I'm about to type, as a critic or at least educated observer of pop music and music in general (in other words, no, ye of flattering faith, this is not irony or intellect-free surrender to the senses...sorry), and if you'll hear me out, now and over time, I intend to defend what I put down here with evidence, analysis and commentary every bit as thought out as the most searching bits of this blog endeavor - and I do use "defend" rather than "persuade," may I point out.

All right, here goes. My dirty little secret confession:

I love Ke$ha.

Still with me? Awesome. Like I said, I plan on thoroughly expounding upon this appreciation as I continue on with the blog, and at some point at the very least one will be able to understand my rationale even without necessarily buying a word of it. And that's enough for me.

Well, someone's buying it...a lot of someones. The 23 year old songwriter from Nashville has gone from nobody to chart-busting Top 40 behemoth in the time it takes an American Idol to go from nobody to chart-buster to has-been (that is, approximately 6-12 months). I'll admit it, too...I'm so over the singles from her debut set, Animal, that I'm actually looping back around to appreciation again. The radio overplays the four top ten singles (which is, in itself, quite a feat) ad nauseum, and anyone would be excused for shutting her off thinking those were the entire representation of this annoyingly stylized-monikered, Jack Daniels-loving upstart with dirty hair.

But they're NOT. Aside from the fact that Animal is actually, despite what tag-along critics would have you believe, a pretty good pop album, and a great debut album, there exists, out in the world, a veritable horde of unreleased Ke$ha tracks. I don't mean like that leaked "demo" of Britney's "Telephone," I mean, for the most part, full-on, mostly- to fully-produced tracks (Ke$ha is not solely a singer, of course, but is equally into songwriting - she wrote The Veronicas' "This Love," among others - and production, with iconic producer Dr. Luke as a mentor). There are different genres represented, too: some are the electro-pop of Animal, while others are more formulaic pop songs one might write as a label's in-house songwriter; others still have a more rock edge, varying from teeny-bop Hoku-style rock to more along the lines of the Donnas; then, finally, there are the ever-so-thrilling experimental pieces, which I particularly love and am especially excited to discuss and share.

But I actually started writing this in the first place because a friend of mine said she needed a reason to wear red lipstick tonight, and the idea finally took root. So here, without further ado, is your first bit of unreleased Ke$ha goodness, appropriately titled "Red Lipstick." This one is from her rocker-chick side, certainly, but what I love most about it is how fun, amusing, and typically Ke$ha (dear God, that dollar sign is going to be the death of me...more on that later) her asides are. This is an artist who truly has a great time in the studio, and it comes across on the best of her records with a glee that has captivated millions (and millions of those dollar signs, too) and made her an inescapable star who may just have gotten too big too quickly for a musician who is not, I strongly believe, destined to be a flash in the unforgiving pop music pan. More on that later, though. Now, to my friend and to all of you, I'm gonna put on m-m-m-m-m-m-my "Red Lipstick!" Enjoy. (Just try it.)

Ke$ha - 'Red Lipstick'

Download this MP3 - (Right Click)

Single Review: Ingrid Michaelson "Parachute"

There are few artists whose music I am willing to purchase sound unheard, based simply on an earned trust that the likelihood of enjoyment is worth the risk. When a new single from Ingrid Michaelson popped up this week on iTunes, I wasted no time clicking over to the download page, where I was momentarily distracted by the first few rather polarized user reviews that, frankly, made my purchase even more certain. It seemed that dear Ingrid had - horror of horrors - gone pop.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kelly Rowland - "Rose Colored Glasses" (Music Video Review)

By Kurt Bitter, Vertigo Shtick contributor

I really like the direction that Kelly Rowland has taken her music. She’s jumped on the electro-dance-pop locomotive fueled by The Fame Monster’s seemingly endless supply of steam. (I wonder to myself whether or not Lady Gaga would have reached the same level of fame had Britney’s Blackout received the attention that it deserved. To me, Blackout is very clearly an inspiration for The Fame Monster; had Britney’s personal issues not dominated the media during the months surrounding the album’s release - did you know that the Associated Press wrote her obituary after her involuntary hospitalization? - the general public would know that The Fame Monster is not nearly as revolutionary as Gaga would like for us to believe.)

Kelly Rowland

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Look: Kylie Minogue "Get Outta My Way" Video

Is everyone ready for the premiere of Kylie Minogue's new video tomorrow for "Get Outta My Way," the second single from the Aussie pop queen's latest album Aphrodite? Well, guess what: it's here now. Vertigo Shtick contributor Kurt Bitter and I had something of a heated discussion over video of a performance Minogue did of the song last week on America's Got Talent, in which I saw an obvious homage to Madonna's iconic 1990 MTV Video Music Awards performance of "Vogue" with a nod to Britney Spears' chair dance phase, while he saw one clandestine pop star and original, spot-on precision choreography.

The video is decidedly all those things: it's "Vogue" meets "Stronger" meets "Slow" (with lighting design by "Can't Get You Out of My Head"), complete with tightly sculpted blonde (and occasionally black) voguers, chairs galore, and a 41-year-old singer who has rarely looked sexier. And with the frightening gold knuckle jewelry adorning her right hand, when Kylie Minogue is ready to dance I'd get outta her way too.

What do you think? Sound off in comments!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

First Look: Cee Lo Green - "Fuck You" Music Video

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly derive any more pleasure from Cee Lo Green's addictively fabulous single "Fuck You," the official video emerged today, and it's all sorts of awesomeness. Seems Green called in the three urchins from Little Shop of Horrors for backup for a time-traveling journey through one man's lifelong exploits with a gold digging hottie. It all goes down in a sleeker version of the diner from Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video, making use of helpful pop art lettering that littered the diva's cluttered, nine-minute opus that very nearly collapsed under its own weight.

Note to Gaga: THIS is how you make a pop culture "masterpiece."

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